bookmark_borderMust-Read Paper on the Confusing Terminology in the Philosophy of Religion

Philosopher Dale Tuggy has written an incredibly helpful paper which seeks to help clarify some of the confusing terminology in the philosophy of religion regarding God vs. gods. Key terms defined in this paper include deity, godhood, ultimate, the Ultimate. So far as I can tell, his modest proposal for terminology does not appear to beg the question in favor of western monotheism vs. other religious beliefs such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Hellenistic polytheism (think: Zeus and the ancient Greek pantheon), Jainism, and so forth.
Of special interest to readers of this blog is how atheism and naturalism fits into his proposed schema. Using his definitions for ultimate, god, and deity, the following terms are of interest:

  • naturalistic adeism: This is the view that (i) there is nothing with supernatural powers and so no deity; (ii) no god; and (iii) no Ultimate.
  • adeistic ultimism: This is the view that (i) there are no deities; (ii) there is no god; and (iii) there is an Ultimate.
  • monodeistic ultimism: This is the view that (i) there is exactly one deity; (ii) there is no god; and (iii) there is an Ultimate.
  • polydeistic, non-ultimistic atheism: This is the view that (i) there are many deities; (ii) there is no god; and (iii) there is no Ultimate.

It would be an interesting exercise to apply Tuggy’s proposed terminology to analyze the famous quotation attributed to Stephen Roberts:

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

For example, based on Tuggy’s distinction between a deity and a god, one could interpret Roberts in a variety of ways. One option would be to interpret it as a statement about belief in deities. In that case, the statement becomes:

“I contend we are both adeists, I just believe in one fewer deity than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible deities, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

I am not certain, but I think this is a faithful “translation” of Roberts’ quotation using Tuggy’s terminology. I’ve seen countless atheists use the Robert’s quotation (or something like it) to compare a dismissal of Yahweh or Allah with a dismissal of Zeus, Thor, Quetzcoatl, etc. Now, as Tuggy points out, on his terminology, godhood implies deity, but deity does not presuppose godhood. For example, Yahweh is a god (and so also a deity), whereas Zeus is a deity but not a god. This is because, on Tuggy’s view, godhood implies ultimacy; Yahweh and Allah are ultimate whereas Zeus, Thor, et al are not.
The upshot of Tuggy’s deity vs god distinction is that it helps clarify Roberts’ “one fewer god” argument. As an argument for dismissing non-god deities, it it looks promising. As an argument for dismissing “gods” (as defined by Tuggy), it looks dubious. The arguments for the existence of ‘mere’ deities would seem to have little, if anything, in common with the arguments for the existence of a god (in Tuggy’s sense of “god”). Or so it seems to me. This is just my kneejerk reaction: please share your thoughts in the comments section on whether Tuggy’s terminology is helpful, if you actually read Tuggy’s paper.
Dale Tuggy, “On Counting Gods” Theologica: An International Journal for Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology 2017: 188-213.

bookmark_borderReply to William Lane Craig on Evangelical Support for Trump

I’ve published an article on my political blog, Data-Driven Politics, which should be of great interest to many Secular Outpost readers:
William Lane Craig on Evangelical Christian Support for Donald Trump
On a related note, I’ve also published on that site my Presidential Effectiveness Dashboard, which is a work in progress, and likely also to be of interest. Link to latest version:
Presidential Effectiveness Dashboard (Trump): Economic Metrics Added

bookmark_borderLinks: Two Metaethical Arguments for Atheism from John J Park

Park, John. “The Moral Epistemological Argument for Atheism.” European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 7, no. 1 (n.d.): 121. doi:10.24204/EJPR.V7I1.133.

Abstract: Numerous supposed immoral mandates and commands by God found in religious texts are introduced and discussed. Such passages are used to construct a logical contradiction contention that is called the moral epistemological argument. It is shown how there is a contradiction in that God is omnibenevolent, God can instruct human beings, and God at times provideus with unethical orders and laws. Given the existence of the contradiction, it is argued that an omnibenevolent God does not exist. Finally, this contention is defended from several objections.

Park, John Jung. “The Problem of Error: The Moral Psychology Argument for Atheism.” Erkenntnis, n.d. doi:10.1007/S10670-017-9900-8.

Abstract: The problem of error is an old argument for atheism that can be found in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. Although it is not widely discussed in the contemporary literature in the Philosophy of Religion, I resurrect it and give it a modern spin. By relying on empirical studies in moral psychology that demonstrate that moral judgments from human beings are generally susceptible to certain psychological biases, such as framing and order effects, I claim that if God is responsible for making human beings such that we have these biases, this means that God is not a perfect being. The findings in empirical moral psychology create a problem for the existence of God, traditionally conceived.

bookmark_borderLink: “Slavery, Southern Conservatism, and Darwinian Natural Right” by Larry Arnhart

“Some of the opponents of Darwinian moral naturalism insist that morality requires a transcendent source in religious belief. But in this debate over slavery, we see that such religious belief–at least as coming from Biblical revelation–does not provide us reliable moral guidance. Cobb was able to show that the Bible–both the Old Testament and the New Testament–sanctioned slavery. (Recent books by Mark Noll and Eugene Genovese have surveyed the history of Southern proslavery arguments based on the Bible.) If the Bible cannot resolve such a moral debate, then we have to appeal to our natural moral experience that does not depend on religious belief. Darwinian science indicates how such moral experience might be founded in our evolved human nature.”

bookmark_borderLatest from Paul Draper: “Atheism and Agnosticism” for SEP

Here’s a topic which generates no disagreement at all: how to define the words “atheism” and “agnosticism.”
I am honored to have been listed in the acknowledgments.
ETA: Comments on this post will be heavily moderated. My goal in having a comments box on this post, as with all posts, is to have informative comments. I would hope that most of the comments are educational in the sense that I or other readers can learn from them, much as I would expect to learn from a letter to the editor of a publication like Scientific American or a journal.

bookmark_borderAnnouncing New Blog: “Opposing Trump”

I’m going to be spending less time blogging about the philosophy of religion in order to spend more time blogging about President Trump.
Since one can be a consistent atheist and a Republican–see, e.g., Robert Price–I am not going to mix anti-Trump politics with the atheistic focus of the Secular Outpost. Instead, I have decided to create a new blog which I am calling Opposing Trump, a new team blog which will feature writers from a broad spectrum of viewpoints, from atheist to Christian and from Libertarian to DemocratIf you’re interested in reading this new blog you can find it here:

bookmark_borderLINK: My Guest Post at Randal Rauser’s Blog

UPDATED: Part 2 is now available.
Randal Rauser was kind enough to allow me to write a guest post for his blog. The post is about the consequences of skeptical theism and is going to be published in two parts. The first part is available now, the second will be available in a couple of days.
Here is Part 1
And Part 2
I know that he is frequently the recipient of this kind of praise, but it bears repeating: Randal is to be admired for seeking out and interacting with people who hold positions very different from his own. To be honest, though, he and I agree about a great deal. I told him once that I think that we agree about just about everything except the existence of God. We definitely agree about the value of carefully considering the arguments of those with whom we disagree and the need for civil and reason-based dialogue.