Michael Shermer Calls Me A Skeptic!

In a recent article for The Huffington Post, Michael Shermer, the founder of The Skeptics Society, called me a skeptic! Admittedly, he didn’t use my name, but he did define my position. Here’s how he defines skepticism:

In principle, skeptics are neither closed-minded nor cynical. We are curious but cautious. Or, I often hear, “Oh, you’re a skeptic, so you don’t believe anything?” No, I believe lots of things, as long as there is reason and evidence to believe.

Being a skeptic just means being rational and empirical: thinking and seeing before believing.

Skepticism is the rigorous application of science and reason to test the validity of any and all claims.

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Why I Love Being Wrong

One of the most common phrases I hear about research scientists is that they love to be wrong. Why? Because when they are wrong, it means there’s a good chance they have discovered something new. This new data, which does not fit the current paradigms, can lead them to a breakthrough discovery. So being wrong can quite literally lead to fame and fortune.

By contrast, of course, the common perception seems to be that Christians absolutely hate to be wrong. Rather, Christians (especially conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist ones) appear to have a high need for certainty that they are right.

Think about it: don’t these words all seem to go together?

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Is God a Mystery?

Many people think that God is basically mysterious.

This is both a pop sentiment, like, “OMG! God is like, so, you know, mysterious! I mean, God is GOD, so that’s BIG!”

And it seems to be the careful explanation of sophisticated thinkers. For instance, a famous hymn by William Cowper begins with the stanza:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

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Unicorns and Morals: Let’s Be Consistent

Imagine overhearing someone say:

“I love my unicorn Billy. He is the best imaginary friend! He always encourages me when I’m feeling down and he makes the rainbow shine so bright. Billy is the best unicorn friend ever!”

Clearly, this is a delusional set of beliefs and it sounds simply crazy. Why? Because Billy the Unicorn does not exist. Unicorns in general do not exist. Neither do Flying Spaghetti Monsters. As Richard Dawkins explains:

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The Reason for God by Tim Keller – A Book Review

The Reason for God, by Tim Keller, is an outstanding response to the biggest questions of our day. (In the very unlikely chance that anyone is wondering: no, there is no connection whatsoever between Tim Keller and this website).

Tim Keller is the highly regarded pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, a church with weekly attendance around 5,000. Redeemer has planted dozens of other churches and is generally considered to be one of the most influential churches in America. From the first page, then, Keller has earned substantial credibility for his excellent track record of addressing people’s toughest questions in one of the world’s great cities.

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Is Christianity Just Wishful Thinking?

One of the most honest and heart-wrenching objections to Christianity that I’ve ever heard goes like this:

“I would absolutely love to believe that Christianity is true. The idea that I am unconditionally loved, that I will live forever in paradise after death, that an all-powerful God will hear my prayers, that someone good is looking after me, and all the rest… I would love to believe that message is true. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. It sounds like wishful thinking, and I’m too realistic for that.”

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Christian Hypocrisy and Unbelief

The problem of Christian hypocrisy is a major reason for unbelief. As Ghandi perceptively noted, “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.” In the same line of thought, one …

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The Problem of Blind Faith

In talking with skeptical students around Boston, I have learned that few things drive them as crazy as Christians with a blind faith. They are perplexed: “How can your core convictions be completely divorced from reason and logic?”

Three examples, just from the past year, illustrate the problem:

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If you were born in another country, would you still be a Christian?

One very common question about Christianity goes like this:
 “If you were born in another country, a place like Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Iran, would you still be a Christian?”

The presumptive answer, from an honest look at the demographics, is simple: it would be very unlikely. (Though you might be surprised to learn that in 2000, 60% of all Christians lived in Africa, Latin America, or Asia).

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Arguments that Hurt

Our experiences, perhaps more than anything else, powerfully shape our lives and our beliefs. There’s a reason “love at first sight” is a cliché, but “love after multiple, rational deductive tests” is not.

If you’ve been hurt by a church or by Christians, you know what I’m talking about.

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