Christian Reading List

by Frost on June 11, 2012

The last time I went to church was over ten years ago.

Like most families today, religion was always a negligible part of our lives. We certainly didn’t ‘belong’ to a Church, my siblings and I never went to Sunday school, there were no bibles in our house, and there was no talk of God or Jesus or Hell unless someone stepped on something sharp or got their finger caught in a door.

But we still adhered to one vestigial tradition: The Christmas Eve Mass.

Every December 24th, we spent the afternoon at my Grandfather’s house and walked over to his church  for the five o’clock mass. The mass lasted about one hour, and I vividly remember how long and excruciating it was. I thought: What the hell are we doing here? It’s CHRISTMAS! We should be doing FUN stuff!

My brother and sister felt the same way. Even my father always seemed to be going with the flow, never really offering any concrete or passionate answer to the question of why we had to go.

Then, one year, we arrived a bit later than usual, and had to stand in the back. We weren’t the only family of Christmas Eve Christians in our neighbourhood, and for that one night the ranks of the faithful had swelled to the point that the church had to turn away the people who showed up right on time.

The next year, without any discussion or acknowledgement, we dawdled a bit more than usual. We arrived at 4:50pm and, wouldn’t you know it! The pews and standing section were all full. Aw shucks! We all went back home to eat and drink and play and speculate on what shiny new presents we would have the next morning.

And thus was born a new Frost Family Tradition. Over the next decade, we ‘accidentally’ missed more than half of the Christmas Eve masses. Who knows for how many dozens of generations my Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic family trees had practiced their religions, and now we have replaced them our sad new ritual: Pretending to try to go to Church, once a year.

My story is not unique. I have exactly one friend who is a practicing Christian, and the fact that he actually goes to Church with his family on Sundays (some Sundays) is cause for much laughter and mockery from the rest of us, his post-Christian friends. Ho ho ho! Josh still believes in God! How quaint and adorable! That an otherwise bright and reasonable man can believe in a…a… sky fairy! Hah! Please stop, my sides are hurting.

The attitude of the modern non-Christian towards faith is a combination of confusion, ignorance, disdain and pity. To our generation, Christianity is a relic of a bygone era of ignorance and superstition. With a great and admirable effort, we tell ourselves, we have managed to crawl up out of the darkness, and into the light. We have replaced blind faith in fantastic mythical beings with science, rationality and empiricism. We are finally free to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and harmony, since we no longer have Christianity holding us back.

And yet, if this were the case – that Christianity is false, it’s teaching were maladaptive, and we’re better off without it – why is it that Western Civilization has been going completely and utterly to shit ever since we discarded God from our public and private lives? Does the modern atheist ascribe this to coincidence? Does he hypothesize that, had we not transcended Christianity, our families would be more dysfunctional, are governments and citizens more bankrupt, individuals more lonely and alienated?

(Actually, the average person in our generation is wholly unconcerned with the above, and believes that the greatest crisis facing our civilization is a lack of recycling or some such cuntery. Sometimes I forget that most people still regard the New York Times as a basically trustworthy news source.)

So maybe you think the literal teachings of Christianity are false. But it’s a hubristic and incurious man who dismisses it outright. Consider:

- Christianity has been intricately tied to the history of Europe, and by extension the world, for the past two thousand years. It’s impossible to understand one without the other, so a solid grasp of Christianity is necessary for any thinking man, whether or not he believes Jesus was the son of God.

- European civilization thrived for a millenium under the spiritual guidance of the Christian Church. When Christianity was abandoned and bastardized in the past century, Europe and her former colonies began decaying to the nadir they now approach.

- Many, if not most, of the contemporary writers over the age of thirty-five who I read and respect, are Christians. Readers, do you feel confident enough in your wisdom to dismiss without consideration the most firmly held beliefs of Dalrock, Mentu, Vox, Ulysses, and Bruce Charlton? I didn’t think so.

What I take from all of the above is that I owe it to myself and to the Christian intellectuals I respect (living and otherwise) to bone up on some religious studies. And what’s more, I like to learn about new things. I know close to nothing about Christianity.

So I decided to put together a reading list:

I’m going to start with a pair of books by authors I already respect and admire:

- Orthodoxy, GK Chesterton

- The Abolition of Man, Peter Hitchens

Then I’m going to jump right into The Bible. I’m carrying two copies across the 800 kilometer walk to Santiago De Compostela, one in English and one in Spanish, and I’m going to read and translate on the fly.

Next up are the apologists:

- The Irrational Atheist, Vox Day.

- The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, Edward Feser

And throughout it all, some light fiction for when my brain is half asleep:

- The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

- The Lord Of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

- The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

- The Fate Of Empires, Sir John Glubb

Sounds pretty spiritual, huh? A one month pilgrimage to a holy city, weighed down by a (digital) pile of books constituting a crash course in the Christian religion. Well, maybe it will be. But for what it’s worth, here’s my estimate of the outcome:

p(I immediately become a devout and practicing Christian) = .05

p(I decide that Christianity is ultimately a powerful force for good in the world, even if I ultimately don’t believe the Bible was written or inspired by anything supernatural. Perhaps I join a Church in a decade or two and raise my children to be practicing Christians) = .20

p(I decide that Christianity is neither true nor useful, and that the world needs a new, traditional, post-Christian belief system to fulfill the role that Christianity played for so long) = .649

p(I grow a neckbeard and embrace militant atheism) = .001

In any event, I’ll arrive in Santiago De Compostela a wiser, better man.

Christian readers: Any suggestions for additions to that reading list?

Heathens: Feel like learning something new? Load up your Kindle and come along for the ride.

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Summitt June 18, 2012 at 1:18 pm

One thing I am considering is changing how I belief about beliefs.

What does that mean? I’ll tell you. In What Use Far Truth Professor Robin Hanson (link:http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/05/what-use-far-truth.html) provoked a largely unmet, but surely contentious challenge that because it is a well known fact that:

A) Almost all believe about things far (death, the future, God, etc) are fashion statements.

B) People almost never have influence over their far futures. (IE, if the median believer in the singularity will do nothing to personally bring it about)

C) Some far beliefs that serve as fashion statements are more adaptable than others.

So we have A. B. and C. If you object to any of these, let me know and we’ll hash out the premises.

Religious observance and belief have a large effect on altruism, charity giving and happiness. Average Seculars give less in both real dollar terms and percentages than Average Religious adherents. See the above link to several studies for details. Religious belief and observant behavior is more adaptive to your and your community than other Far beliefs.

The question ultimately becomes: What is truth for? Is truth an intrinsic good, or is truth a extrinsic good ? If truth is good in itself, then you should believe the truth EVEN IF the truth is a basilisk that will kill you with its stare. If truth is only good as it is good for your and your loved one’s own benefit then when it comes to far truths that you have no control over, letting yourself believe things with low probabilities of being true can be good for your health. An example of this is Christianity.

If you think truth is all that matters then consider Hanson’s follow up http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/05/stories-are-like-religion.html

Fictions are like religion in that they affect our beliefs about far truth. People who consume fiction think the world is more just, meritocratic, and that their values are more likely to be right.

Pushed to the logical conclusion (though I can see many ways to wiggle out, none that seem honest though) there are two options: Either reject narrative (of which religion is a subset) in the search for truth or try to become more religious.

This ties into how Nassim Taleb thinks about belief. People do have beliefs in the way we think even if we believe we do. Beliefs are only as good, per Taleb, as they influence adaptive behavior. With that in mind, we should adhere to the rites and rituals that bind our behavior to be most adaptive to our current position.

Anyway, That’s what I’ve been chewing on. I hope it helps you.

Andrew Summitt June 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm

To add, I know you are a ne0-stoic and if you find yourself believing in a personal creator (to clarify: I don’t, but I’m playing with Robin’s ideas on far truth, so I may later) Either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox are congruent with the ideas of Late Roman Stoicism. The Early Catholic church latched onto the stoic idea of logos (In the beginning was the Word…) and made it personal and concious. Indeed, one way of reading Jesus is the love child of Epictetus and Diogenes . Nassim Taleb is Eastern Orthodox and that sect is easiest for atheists as it defines God as that which is not. IE God is that which is NOT limited, NOT comprehensible, etc. By defining something by properties it does not have it is easier to believe in that something (or so I’m told) .

Frost June 19, 2012 at 6:01 am

Interesting. Do you have a book, blog, set of articles you would recommend as a starting point for diving into EO Christianity?

Andrew Summitt June 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm

The literature of Fyodor Dostoyevsky is generally considered a good entry point from the internet forums I’ve seen. Pre-Schism church fathers referred to Stoic Philosopher Seneca as “Our Seneca” so the tradition of respecting stoics goes back to the founding of the Catholic / Orthodox Church.

The stoic goal of Apatheia is still sought by EO monks and the Pope referenced stoicism more than once in his speeches so their influence still stands.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry for Apophatic theolog, the theology that defines god by negation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophatic_theology

The most common way for intellectuals to come to a Catholic understanding of God seems to be to think really hard about virtue ethics. It happened to Philosophers Mortimer Adler and Alistair McIntyre. It happened most recently to former atheist Leah Libresco over at unequally-yoked who is now a Catholic as of yesterday. Might want to read her blog. She’s liberal but when she was an atheist she was a whip sharp atheist and will probably be able to communicate Catholicism to outsiders.

Chuck Pylon June 16, 2012 at 12:21 am

Many good books here, which would make it a shame to exclude Alvin Plantinga. You won’t be disappointed.

Jason June 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Destined to Reign by Joseph Prince. Best book on Jesus I have ever read.

Mule Chewing Briars June 15, 2012 at 8:24 am

Let me suggest reading something from Eastern Christianity as well. There are those of us who felt that the West went off the rails in the Eleventh Century, when the Roman Church arrogantly separated from the rest of the Ecumenical Church and declared herself The One True Church, replacing the monastery with the university and prayer with rationalism. Once the Schism happened, the Reformation was inevitable. Once the Reformation happened, disestablishment, incredulity, atheism, and nihilism were inevitable.

Functional and Dysfunctional Christianity by Philoteos Faros is a good introduction to Eastern Christianity, especially as it differs from Western varieties. After that, Dostoyevsky and Alexandros Papadiamantis are good fiction writers, and the blog Glory To God For All Things is a good introduction. Father Stephen is one of the clearest Christian thinkers on the Internet.

James A Donald June 14, 2012 at 3:19 am

why is it that Western Civilization has been going completely and utterly to shit ever since we discarded God from our public and private lives?

States are naturally theocratic: Political correctness fills the political vacuum left by disestablishing the official church.

The founders proclaimed that congress shall make no law establishing a religion, or forbidding the free exercise thereof, but the states were free to each establish their own.

Then as the prohibition was extended to the states, religion threw god out, and claimed to be not religion but SIMPLY THE TRUTH, the truth supposedly being that women were equal to men and interchangeable with them, blacks similarly to whites, and justice was to take from the productive and give to feckless, and so on and so foth.

Frost June 15, 2012 at 5:29 am

James are you suggesting that 21st century America is actually a radical theocratic state? Don’t be silly. Now excuse me while I go light some candles, chant hymns and commence my recycling-sorting ritual.

Frost June 15, 2012 at 5:41 am

Actually this is a fine opportunity to share an anecdote that really highlights the spiritual, rather than practical nature modern environmentalism (and Leftism generally).

I once lived in a small town, the municipal government of which was one of the most openly Marxist in the country.

Sometime in the late 90s, the city built a shiny new recycling facility that necessitated the sorting of our garbage into – I shit you not – five different colours of bags. Plastics, glass, organic, paper, and other, if I recall correctly.

A few years after it opened, the utter pointlessness of the massive facility became apparent, and impossible to deny. It was shut down.

Nonetheless, the city councillors have defeated multiple laws that were proposed to end the sorting of garbage. To this day, heavy fines are disbursed to anyone caught with an orange peel in the wrong bag. And many such fines are disbursed, because the city employs a legion of inspectors to root through citizens’ garbage, seeking out those whose devotion to Gaia is insufficient.

Ahh, government by reason and science.

Will S. June 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

Environmentalism truly is a religion, as I have detailed here.

Josiah June 13, 2012 at 6:51 pm

“Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies” by David Bentley Hart is good.

Will S. June 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm
Will S. June 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Also, since you’re walking that pilgrimage, rent or buy these amusing films:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1305796/
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1441912/

And watch them back to back, in that order. :)

Simon June 13, 2012 at 9:03 am

Pensees is the greatest work of Christian apologetics. Read it.

Here, I’ll give you the link and all, just to make it that bit easier:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/18269

Start at: Section II – THE MISERY OF MAN WITHOUT GOD

No need for thanks.

JJ June 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm

I did not read that one, although I have read Dawkins, and Hawking. I do know that Gould wrote a book trying to reconcile the two forces, but it is hard to reconcile with those who you vehemently disagree with. Gould’s attempt was laughed at by both communities. I am unsure, does that suck, is it correct shaming? Either way, I get frustrated when someone cannot listen to what I am saying, but only think of how they are going to rebut my argument!

If you are going to have a dialogue, debate, argument, what is the point if you have no idea where the other is coming from? It takes time to see another’s perspective, and to come out of your own preconceived notions! For example, the geocentric model of the Universe was around for centuries, although it was wrong. Both sides of arguments have a weakness in that they get comfortable with their viewpoint, and never pass a certain point, feeling largely secure in the level of knowledge they possess.

I feel that with our technology, we think we have it all figured out. The Universe is huge! Whether Evolution, or a religion explains it will take a long, long time to figure out on our own! Or Christ comes back. Either way, to say we have it all figured out, and then try to figure it out is anethema to my mind. I don’t always agree, but I at least do an Internet search for an hour, if I can, on a topic before I make any initial judgement. Most people are content with not doing that, and going with the mainstream. Sometimes it works, but more often then not it entrenches very bad viewpoints. Over time, they form into insititutions that people will go to war over. In college, it was amazing how many students could get A’s by simply spitting out what they heard. People need more life skills than that.

Nothing worth while is easy.

Aurini June 12, 2012 at 12:10 pm

‘The Irrational Atheist’ is an excellent book. It didn’t convince me, but it certainly highlighted how unconvincing pop-atheism is. I highly recommend it.

Most of the writers I respect are – if not believers – at the minimum, they’re polite towards Christianity. Occasionally sniping at the silliness of the metaphysical beliefs, but supportive of the church community as a whole.

I also third (fourth? fifth?) ‘Mere Christianity’. And let’s not forget Lord of the Rings.

Frost June 13, 2012 at 7:53 am

Very much agree with your second sentence.

I just finished IA on the train yesterday. I was actually pretty disappointed. It’s well-written and entertaining, but no one needed to convince me that Dawkins peaked with Selfish Gene, and Hitchens is a bit of a cunt. I’d never heard of Sam Harris before, but he sounds like the archtypal marxist-atheist.

That’s actually the origin of my interest in Christianity. If communists hate it so much, there must be something too it.

Koanic June 13, 2012 at 7:58 am

Well then, congrats on being ahead of the curve.

JJ June 12, 2012 at 10:06 am

I’m looking at these six books in my hand right now:

The God Who is There: Francis A. Schaeffer
A Shattered Visage, the real face fo atheism: Ravi Zacharias
Maximized Manhood: Edwin Louis Cole (Every Man should read!)(If Every Woman Read, they would be scared to death of their tingling sensation, down there, they also would not know why!)
[The case for "the Real Jesus", "Creator", and "faith"] : These three By Lee Strobel

The Chronicles of Narnia might help you, as well as his novel The Screwtape Letters I do recommend.

However, Mere Christianity by CS Lewis is a significantly better read! Although it is an enormous book, I suggest you get the electronic version, paper/bound will be too heavy!

All these books are HEAVY READS! They are heavy on large, not normally used words. Although rare, these men make me need a dictionary from time to time. They were very learned men. Zachiarias is still alive but he is old.

Cole (Pastor) and Strobel (journalist) are still alive, and you don’t need a dictionary for that. The others were theological/ethics professors with enormous grasp on the english, and other languages. I would start with Cole and Strobel. Then maybe start Schaeffer and Zachiaris. Lewis always had a knack for a simplistic reading style. Even with the need for a dictionary at times. Maybe every ten pages. The other two, like every 3-4 pages. But if what you are concerned with is that important to you, you will read these front to back like I did.

In High School, I was becoming slowly agnostic. I could not compare the two ( Religion and Evolution; Both are religious views to me now)as equal in my mind with what I was being fed in school. I knew I had to make a choice. Find reasons to believe in the face of the competitor Evolution; or side with it, and reject my faith forever. I read ALOT! Mountains of books that I still obviously have!

I have rejected most if not all of Evolution. I have debated with biology majors, professors, archeologists; and I can hold my own. I’m no joke! I still cannot see it. Considering what I was thinking back then, it is a major accomplishment. I was dumbstruck, and could not believe that soo many would commit intellectual suicide. The purfidity of it all made no sense to me. How could people so learned go so far away from what is obvious? I found my conclusions, and I will not give you my arguments until I see you have read! However, this is because you need to come to you own conclusion! Like I did. I am not going to say that you will come to mine.

John Venlet June 12, 2012 at 8:18 am

Johnathan, I neglected one work, which I’ve recently read, and consider quite well thought out. Jacques Ellul’s The Subversion of Christianity.

Frost June 13, 2012 at 8:03 am

I like the title. i’ll check it out, thanks.

John Venlet June 12, 2012 at 8:14 am

Johnathan, you may find Lynn Harold Hough’s Adventures in the Minds of Men and The Civilized Mind, both of which are collections of essays, interesting. Hough was of the Methodist persuasion, but he’s not selling the Methodist church.

Another interesting work, tied to your thought “Christianity has been intricately tied to the history of Europe,…”, F.S. Marvin’s The Living Past, which encompasses more than just Christianity’s ties to history, but science’s ties, the industrial revolution’s ties, the Roman’s, Greek’s etc.

I thoroughly enjoyed Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.

Enjoy your hike.

Starets June 12, 2012 at 3:06 am

A couple of books that I found useful. Aquinas by Edward Feser, covers some of the same ground as The Last Superstition, but goes into more detail about Aquinas’ philosophy. Peter Kreeft has two condensed versions of Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae; difficult going at first, but once you get into it very interesting. Aquinas’ rational, philosophical demonstration of Christian theology I have found to be recently helpful in returning to faith.
I also liked Making Choices by Peter Kreeft.

Frost June 12, 2012 at 4:13 am

Thanks for the suggestions!

Cúchulainn June 12, 2012 at 12:03 am

And have a good time on your pilgrimage. It sounds pretty cool.

Frost June 12, 2012 at 4:12 am

Thanks man! Will do.

Cúchulainn June 11, 2012 at 11:58 pm

You might want to check out the writings of St. Augustine. I haven’t read any, but I’ve heard good things.

Simon June 11, 2012 at 11:29 pm

You have quite the dilemma, Frost.

You’re after purpose. You can either have true purpose, or a false purpose.

True purpose requires God, by definition. A false purpose can be conjured by any means.

If you reject the notion of God this time, I’m not quite sure where you go from here. We’ll see how you go, anyway. Good luck.

Cane Caldo June 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm

The University of Man linked to this post.

I don’t see how this journey can be a waste of time, whatever happens.

If I were going to be picky: I would keep the first two authors, but change the books to Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, and Lewis’ Mere Christianity. The Everlasting Man is what Lewis read that made him reconsider Christianity as a viable possibility (along with encouragement from his brother and Tolkien). The Abolition of Man is very good, but it’s actually more about boys’ education than about Christianity. Come to think of it, it’s a very good Manosphere book.

Frost June 12, 2012 at 4:12 am

“I don’t see how this journey can be a waste of time, whatever happens.”

My thoughts exactly.

And on this and multiple other recommendations, I will add Everlasting Man to the list, even though I already read it many years ago.

unger June 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm

You would do very well to add G.K. Chesterton’s ‘The Everlasting Man’ to the list – and read it right behind ‘Orthodoxy’. And I second C.S. Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity’ and Lee Strobel’s ‘The Case for Christ’.

Koanic June 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Case for Christ will make him doubt his faith.

But there are idiots apologizing for everything, but dint of sheer numbers. In this case I mean cro mags, as in Lee Strobel is one.

Koanic June 11, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Er, stronger in his doubt.

Dude I was talking to read that instead of Josh McDowell, nearly derailed the whole conversion. Had to emphatically explain that Strobel is for 100 IQs only.

unger June 12, 2012 at 3:06 am

I share your general opinion of Strobel, and agree that McDowell’s ‘Evidence That Demands A Verdict’ is indeed much stronger, but… it’s also out of print, replaced by another book aimed at the average Boobus americanus.

…that said, even those books give some starting point, some reason to believe that the historicity of the Resurrection can’t be dismissed out of hand.

Jack Dublin June 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm

You might consider ‘Mere Christianity’ by C.S. Lewis
As to fiction, I would start with Narnia. Besides that it seems a fine list.

Note: ‘The Abolition of Man’ is by C.S. Lewis. Hitchens wrote ‘The Abolition of Britain’.

Frost June 12, 2012 at 4:07 am

I wrote about Mere Christianity here:

http://www.freedomtwentyfive.com/2011/12/cs-lewis-mere-christianity/

Briefly: Good read, but here was my conclusion:

“I’m unconvinced.

Quite likely, I always will be. But I still enjoyed Lewis, and I have a greater respect for Christianity as a result of having read his book.”

imnobody June 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm

“The Reason for God” by Tim Keller is a good resource, although I found the last chapters very difficult to believe. But it has a short summary of the topics. Then, you can come with deeper readings.

ironchefoklahoma June 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm

If you get through half of that reading list you’ll be head-and-shoulders ahead of the rest of your tribe. The Chesterton will be a major score. I’ve heard good things about The Case for Christby Lee Strobel. One quibble: Abolition of Man is by C. S. Lewis, Abolition of Britain is by Peter Hitchens.

In the end, you will worship something. Your faith decision is what you’ll worship. Go forth and decide.

Frost June 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Ah yes, thanks for the catch.

I am very hostile to the idea of “faith” i.e. that I will “decide” to belief in something in the face of contrary evidence, or even ambiguity. If any God will earn my faith, it will be through cold, hard reason and evidence. But I’m under the impression that most Churches have renounced Fideism, so it seems they’re willing to play by those rules.

Rob June 11, 2012 at 11:09 am

Did you ever consider learning about the pre-judeo-christian belief systems? After all, civilizations rose and fell for thousands of years before christianity. And, of course, christianity borrowed heavily from them in countless ways.

Koanics full spectrum of posts. A good post: he agrees with it. A bad post: you’re an idiot.

Koanic June 11, 2012 at 11:33 am

No. And, you’re an idiot.

Frost June 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm

The Epic of Gilgamesh, a few books on classical mythology, and a primer on Norse mythology all rest eagerly on my Kindle. Any Pagan recommendations?

Koanic has a communication style that’s all his own, which is unfortunate because I spent a few months ignoring his comments before I realized he wasn’t an idiot. I don’t mind because I (and my commenters) have thick skin, but I’m rooting for the guy to get a better handle on presenting himself in a way that reflects well on him and his ideas…

Koanic June 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Ha, fair enough, I’ll think on it. Or at least, I should.

Koanic June 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

“This is a good post, because you’ve thought about the subject for a long time, are aware of your limitations and biases, and list good resources.”

Add, “and write genuinely from what you know”

Koanic June 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

This is a good post, because you’ve thought about the subject for a long time, are aware of your limitations and biases, and list good resources.

If I were approaching this from your position, my objectives would be the following, in order:
1. Verify or falsify the truth claim. Irrational Atheist, then Josh McDowell
2. (Optional) Evaluate the benefits.
3. (Optional) Understand the religion

I assume you’re doing it differently either because you assign such a low a priori probability to it being true, or because you have different mental hardwiring – less truth drive.

In any case, you may wish to reevaluate your reading order after finishing Irrational Atheist, which should significantly boost your probability for truth.

Frost June 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm

A very low a priori expectation of truth, yes.

I am open to theism. In fact, I am one solid refutation of the anthropic principle away from theism, or at least near certainty that this universe is the product of intelligent design. And then who designed our intelligent creators? More turtles?

But I am also convinced in my view of religions as mere adaptive phenomena. Howard Bloom’s The Lucifer Principle is a good summary of this argument. Even given the existence of an intelligent creator, the historical case for the divinity of Jesus strikes me as weak.

Koanic June 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Would you state your anthropic principle?

The one on Wikipedia is not what I suspect you’re referring to.

Frost June 12, 2012 at 4:05 am

I am convinced that the Universe appears fine-tuned for life:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe

Which leaves two options:

1) A Creator
2) Many parallel or serial universes, with random fundamental constants

But I see no conclusive evidence to rule out either.

Koanic June 12, 2012 at 5:42 am

If you’re between a multiverse and a Creator, you’re much closer to faith than I thought.

Personally, I find the multiverse stretches my credulity past breaking. If matter is self existent, then it has the divine property, which is pantheism.

In the absence of a good case for a creator, I would not go that route, but rather be skeptical of the anthropic categories imposed by the human mind. I would assume the entire question is a meaningless artifact, like the optical illusion of an oasis on the desert horizon. Then I would blow my brains out, because really, fuck deserts.

imnobody June 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Even the multiverse needs rational and coherent laws of nature. The fact that reality is rational, mathematical and coherent instead of chaotic, incomprehensible and formless. Atheist love to say that the Universe is absurd. I think that, to be that absurd, there is a lot of rationality and mathematics in it (remember that mathematics is a product of the human mind).

For me, it’s the multiverse what made me a theist when I was a convinced atheist. Not the fine tuning, but the multiverse. I found the fine tuning pretty conclusive but you cannot hear only one side. Of course, everybody (theist or atheist) has some argument to defend their position. The question is the argument is solid or only a rationalization. So I decided to read about the atheist’s response to the fine tuning. I thought: “Of course, they must have some good answer and this fine tuning thing is only a rationalization of people eager to believe”.

At that time, I had been an atheist for several decades, having been raised with Asimov and Carl Sagan’s books and having been told that:

- The Ockam razor was the way to discern between hypothesis and this excluded a Creator.
- Science is based on evidence and proof while religion and theology were not based on evidence but on unproven assumptions.

Then, I saw the scientists claiming that there are INFINITE universes (take that, Occam!) with NO proof or evidence about that, well it was very enlightening. It was like being the Pope engaging in an act of atheism. I felt cheated.

People like Hawking presenting hypotheses with no evidence as if they have been proved by science, when this was far from the truth (so people who don’t know about science think those things are proved because they come from the lips of the “greatest scientist of our times”). It seemed to me very dishonest and it made me sick.

I would have respected those people if they said: “We don’t know yet why the reason for the fine tuning”. But they didn’t say that. They said that the multiverse was obviously true and the issue was settled. They claimed that a creator was dismissed. And they made press releases saying that.

Then, I saw the light. These people are not the objective thinkers they want us to believe they are. These are people who, like most people, are ideologically motivated and are invested in a worldview so they rationalize everything that does not conform to that worldview (many theists are like this too but they don’t claim to be neutral beings that only follow science). It was seeing the charade of modern atheism, the hijacking of science in favor of a worldview. It was seeing that the fine tuning had not a good response if the multiverse (infinite universes with no evidence whose only goal was to dismiss a Creator) was the best they could come up with. And this made me a theist.

End of rant.

imnobody June 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

When I said “Even the multiverse needs rational and coherent laws of nature.”, I referred to the meta-laws of nature of the multiverse not about the laws of nature of our universe.

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