Posts tagged ‘atheism’

December 7th, 2015

When the Problem of Evil Makes Sense

by Max Andrews

I had recently received a message from a young gentleman named Erik who sent me the following message:

As an undergrad in philosophy the question of God almost always came up during class. During those times I took a lot of pleasure in using the problem of evil to dismiss the idea of the Christian God.

That was when I was an Atheist. Months later I reconverted to Christianity, but for a while up until yesterday I never understood the problem of evil…which really does come down to the problem of pain. I never really could understand why God allowed for suffering, until yesterday.

I had been praying for the past couple of months for God to reveal Himself to me. I would pray for hours, tears running down my face because I never would get an answer. I was depressed, I had fallen into nihilism because I didn’t feel like anyone cared about me…

I got into a pretty bad car wreck the other day. I should’ve been killed based off of what the Officer said, but I had been able to swerve and avoid colliding head on with a telephone pole. I had fallen asleep, and woke up just in time for me to swerve out of the way. Only the rear of my car was destroyed, but if I hadn’t woken up in time I wouldn’t be here typing this.

When the car finally came to a stop I was able to crawl out and call for help. When I was in the hospital I began to receive calls and visits from friends, family, and complete strangers. Never before had I received such an outpouring of love…

It was then that I realized that God had used this instance of evil to bring about a greater good. Even though I screwed up, God was there.

Through this instance of evil God answered my two prayers. He revealed Himself to me through the miracle of surviving, and he answered my prayers on not feeling like anyone cared for me… through the amount of love I received. I’m telling you this mainly because of your book on suffering. I read about your own personal struggles and how they have brought about changes to your character. Through this instance God has changed mine in a way that I would’ve never thought possible.

So now I understand why there’s suffering in the world. I would’ve never understood it until I as an individual went through it. Now I know God cares for me and exists, now I know that I am loved and have friends and family. All through this instance of pain, and personally I would go through it again each and every time because what it has done for me. Once again, thank you for your book, because it did help bring about more understanding.

May 20th, 2015

New EPS 2015 Conference Paper on the Moral Argument

by Max Andrews

column_leftDave Beck and I have had another paper accepted for this year’s Evangelical Philosophical Society’s annual conference. This year the conference is in Atlanta so I may try to attend it this year but if I’m unable to (contingent on funds and teaching schedule) Dave will be presenting the paper on behalf of both of us.

Date: November 18 at 9:20am

All of my [and our] previous papers have been concerning, primarily, the philosophy of science with the philosophy of religion in tow. Ethics is a new area of professional research for me but the paper will focus on both the ethics/metaethics of the argument and the logic and rationale.

Here’s the abstract to our paper “The Internal Logic of the Moral Argument”:

All of the theistic arguments have the following logical pattern: (1) identify a particular in need of explanation. (2) Eliminate all natural explanations. (3) Conclude to a non-natural alternative. The uniqueness of the Moral Argument, as an attempt to explain moral obligation, is that the non-natural alternative only emerges in the course of the argument and in two phases: (a) A best explanation phase in which neither natural/causal nor the human/free model works. (b) This, in turn, sets up the following dilemma: a fitting explanation must be personal (not causal) but it cannot be other persons because all persons are free and equal in relation to moral obligation. This forces the abduction to the conclusion that there must be a superperson somehow authorized to obligate persons.

The logic of the argument itself forces us to an inference to the best explanation that avoids the aforementioned dilemma: another person, but who is authorized to legislate ethics. In defending our argument we will construct a clear abductive argument, which factors in the set of all explananda. The explanans that we will infer to is a morally capable person and what is of paramount note is that this explanation does not take us fully to the Anselmian God. That is a task for further arguments and sub-arguments.

October 31st, 2014

10 Things That Annoy Philosophers

by Max Andrews

If you want to get under the skin of a philosopher there are a few ways to irk us. There’s more that just the annoyance of telling someone you’re a philosopher and they respond, “Oh, I took a psychology course in university!” Yes, that type of misunderstanding warrants the philosopher’s incredulous stare… just as these will:

10. “So, how will you make money? What do you do?”

Okay, so I’m not an engineer. I’m not a research chemist for a Fortune 500 corporation and I may not be able to work most blue collar tasks… However, I, and other philosophers, think (but there’s more!). For the philosopher, the act of philosophizing is not a mere intellectual exercise that could exist solely in consciousness. To the contrary, philosophy is a procedure and inquiry to the self, a “discovery and self-liberation.” The intellectual and cognitive acts of philosophy are participatory in their inquiry of the world. This would be very similar to the understanding that Socrates is the philosopher. He not only taught and philosophized, but he understood that the very act of philosophizing was an act of engagement with the world and it was a way of life.

9. The university administration putting philosophy in the periphery

Philosophy departments aren’t typically the big money-makers at university–typically. However, the university system needs to understand that the philosophy faculty, the philosophy students, and the discipline of philosophy in general is an investment rather than a moneymaker. I’ve seen firsthand that a university can divest in the philosophy department. Academia, the provost, the administrators, et al, need to view philosophy as the foundation by which a university is built and sustained.

August 5th, 2014

Q&A 42: Cultural Contingency and Religion – Causation or Correlation?

by Max Andrews

Q&A GraphicQuestion:

Would you be interested in putting together a blog response to this?

Jonathan D.



I recently listened to a paper on this topic whilst at the Tyndale Conference in Cambridge in July. Although the presenter was approaching this issue of cultural contingency of religion (or God being a “cultural chauvinist”) from a Reformed Epistemologist perspective. The paper is titled “Religious diversity and epistemic luck” by Max Baker-Hytch (PhD Philosophy, Oxford) and was published in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. For a more serious response and approach to the issue please check out Max’s article.

My response, I think, doesn’t let the atheist’s argument to get off the ground. The whole argument in moot, in my opinion. I think Max [Baker-Hytch] is much more charitable, which is needed on certain points.

Before I get to my quick and simple response I wanted to offer a brief commentary on a few irks about the video. At one point a “theist” (even the video maker didn’t get this one right–Hinduism is polytheistic–close but off by a few million). I find it hard not to think that this category error was intentional just to add to the confusion and bickering amongst the theists. It’s just disingenuous or ignorant.

February 26th, 2014

The Atheist Argument from Fine-Tuning is too Coarse

by Max Andrews

Believe it or not an atheist friend of mine has presented an argument from fine-tuning to demonstrate that God doesn’t exist. I think there are several different problem with the argument but I’ll be as charitable as possible to my anonymous friend @SkepticismFirst (SF).

Fine-tuning is something I’ve invested quite a bit of research in. My MA (philosophy) thesis was on the Fine-Tuning of Nomic Behavior in Multiverse Scenarios and I’m continuing that research right now in my PhD (University of Edinburgh). So, I’ve written quite extensively on this issue. Here are a few links to get the fine-tuning argument presented by the proponents of fine-tuning:

February 14th, 2014

Watching The Sunset Limited

by Max Andrews

So, my pal JT told me about this film The Sunset Limited, which is free on YouTube. The whole film takes place in the dank apartment of a subway janitor (Samuel L. Jackson) and a professor (Tommy Lee Jones). The professor is an atheist who tried to jump in front of a train but the janitor stopped him.

The prose begins in the apartment and the rhetoric is fantastic. The whole movie debates morality, the Bible, angels, God, the problem of evil, sin, etc. It’s a conversation and not an academic debate. They each have good points to make, which is why both Christians and atheists should watch it. For instance, the professor says, “Why not give up? God gives up. As far as I know there’s no ministry in hell.” Now, that objection has answers but rhetorically, wow, that’s hot! Also, the story about how the janitor became a believer (spoiler: beats a man badly) and the professor questions if disfiguring a man was worth his belief in God. It’s amazing.

The janitor isn’t the most educated person, scholastically speaking, but he’s very intelligent. Just watch out for his semi-Pelagian switching around in his rhetoric when they discuss original sin and the Bible.

November 7th, 2013

Truth Will Rise to the Top Through a Free and Open Exchange in the Marketplace of Ideas

by Max Andrews

The English poet John Milton did well when he said that “Truth will rise to the top through a free and open exchange in the marketplace of ideas.”  I am so encouraged when I have and see a substantive dialogue with someone concerning an issue.  This is certainly important in every day discussions, blogs, and teaching.  I assist in managing and teaching an Intro. to Philosophy course at university and I always encourage my students to make us work hard to convince them of what we believe to be true.  Do not simply sit there and take what I say and teach prima facie–challenge me, challenge the thoughts, challenge your thinking.

September 8th, 2013

What Does it Mean to Live the “Good Life”?—Counterpoints with PZ Myers

by Max Andrews

Summa TheologicaAtheist biologist PZ Myers recently shared his thoughts on how an atheist is to live the good life. He constructed his opinions as counterpoints to many Christian disciplines and virtues. In the end, the happy atheist is the one who is free from religion, whose ethics are framed around societal responsibilities. Sure, helping and loving one another is good but Myers lacks a purpose or end goal for the good life.

Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas are the leading thinkers when it comes to answering the question, “What is the good life?”  Both Aristotle and Thomas agreed that the good life is fulfilling one’s purpose in life but Thomas was the one who grounded the good life in divine love and purpose.

One of the common misconceptions of Christianity is that the goal of human life is happiness.  The chief end of man is to love and know God—fulfilling God’s purposes for each individual. Man’s end is not happiness in this world, but the knowledge of God, which will ultimately bring humanity to it’s intended purpose and end.

August 23rd, 2013

Recent Study Arguing that Atheists are more Intelligent than Religious People is missing Several Key Factors

by Max Andrews

The recent paper “The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity” published in Personality and Social Psychology Review argued that atheists tend to be more intelligent than religious people. The research has frontloaded the study on faulty assumptions and is missing a key factor—a correspondence of worldview to truth.

First and foremost, the research and data gathering is commendable but the assumptions and hidden premises within the study are unsound.

The study associates atheism as non-conformity when stating, “more intelligent people are less likely to conform to religious orthodoxy” (p. 16). This is a category error. If atheism does not conform to the religious majority it still conforms to the non-conformist minority. When this is applied in majority atheist societies, a la Scandinavia, it’s more so dismissed nonchalantly though this criterion is still applied elsewhere in more religious countries (pp. 17, 22). Therefore, non-conformity should not be a measure of intelligence because some societies are religious and others are not; thus, atheism can be either conformist or non-conformist depending on the country, so it can’t be measured that way.

August 15th, 2013

The Secular Outpost Reviews My Recent Debate

by Max Andrews

A friend of mine recently sent me the link to Jeffrey Jay Lowder’s Patheos blog “The Secular Outpost.” I’ve seen the blog a couple times in the past but I’m not familiar with it. I must say, it’s very nice to see a kind review. It was constructive and he demonstrated interaction with my material. That’s so refreshing! I’ve read other reviews from blogs and Mr. Lowder’s stands much higher than, say, John Loftus’ review. Loftus recognized that I was intelligent and that I was a strong opponent in BS. It’s okay if you chuckled there. It’s not offensive when you read where he’s coming from. No hard feelings, it’s just that Mr. Lowder’s is much more substantive.

Anyways, I don’t have much to comment on concerning Lowder’s review. Not many people use abductive arguments and so he found the need to reformulate my arguments [in a manner that he saw worked best, which was nice]. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case but I’ll provide a link to my use and formulation of the arguments. The other thing is that I didn’t defend some premises with much backing from the get-go. That’s a time issue. I wish I could’ve provided more but for my opening I was limited.