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This is an atheist website primarily. There is of course, plenty of common ground with science lovers and skeptics, since many people came to atheism after taking science courses in school, though by all means that is not the only or even most prevalent way to arrive to atheism! Critical thinking and the use of reason, and realizing that it is best to believe that for which there is evidence, has led many out of theism as well. And since critical thinking, reason and the scientific method are hallmarks of skepticism, we do discuss here subjects which have historically belonged in the realm of "skepticism" such as Bigfoot or UFOs or magnetic bracelets, etc. But besides those traditional subjects for skepticism, I honestly never could tell what distinguishes skepticism from the practice of scientific thinking. The Skeptic movement clearly states that they are separate from atheism. While they claim that the world is natural and one should shun supernatural explanations in favor of looking for natural ones, they claim that "Is here a god" is outside the realm of skepticism because it is a supernatural claim. I think this is contradictory.

Sharon Hill, a geologist and skeptic who has the blog Doubtful News and participates actively in meetings and podcasts, has written a Media Guide to Skepticism, as a draft, and is asking for comments:

Media Guide to Skepticism

~ DRAFT FOR COMMENT ~

This is the first draft of a document intended to serve the entire Skeptical network/community. We are soliciting comments on this document to be incorporated into the second draft. Please send your comments and suggestions to comment(at)doubtfulnews.com with “media guide” in the subject line. Comments will be open until March 1st. In March, a final draft will be published.

 

She lists the following tenets:

 

A Skeptic subscribes to a number of tenets.

  • Respect for knowledge and truth.
  • Science is the best method we have to obtain reliable knowledge.
  • The world is natural, not supernatural.
  • Promotion of reason and critical thinking.
  • Awareness of how we are fooled.

She also writes about what skepticism is NOT, aiming to clear misconceptions:

  • Skeptic is not the same as “cynic”.
  • A Skeptic is NOT closed-minded.
  • Skeptic does not equal “atheist”.
  • Skeptic does not mean “denialist” or “truther”.
  • Skepticism is not a religion.

This is what she wrote about skepticism not being atheism. Bottom line, god is out of bounds. It seems to me like the usual exceptionalism allowed to religion. Here it is:

Many are [atheists], but not all. Skeptics are a diverse group so lack of religious beliefs should not be assumed. Skepticism can be applied only to testable claims, not to untestable ones such as “There is a God who controls everything”. Since we can’t test for a God who is supernatural, the question of “Is there a God?” is outside the realm of science. However, more specific questions can be asked such as “How did the earth form?” Humans must accept many things on “faith” – that the people we care about will be there for us, that we won’t die tomorrow so should plan for the future, that the other driver will follow the rules of the road – so applying skepticism to everything in life is not always the best policy. There may be other factors to consider.

To me, this is contradictory to the claim that the world is natural! What do you guys think?

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I guess we are a predominantly more mature website =)

Not that we are under assault by immature jerks (of any persuasion) but we tend to moderate the place when they do show up. Glad you appreciate.

Thanks for the compliment, dude! :-))

The scandal of the evangelical intellectual’s mind

February 21st, 2013 Posted in Theology | 1 Comment »

A reasonable response to the accusation that the evangelical mind is insufficiently expansive is to ask to what dimensions its critics would like to see it expanded. That question springs to the lips when considering Biblical scholar Peter Enns’s contention that evangelical minds are not only confined, but are required to remain in confinement. “The real scandal of the Evangelical mind,” Enns writes, “is that we are not allowed to use it.” Evangelical scholars, he claims, must come to “predetermined conclusions.”

On its face this is wildly untrue. An evangelical poetry professor is free to conclude, contrary to popular opinion, that Emily Dickinson was not so original. An evangelical metallurgy professor is free to conclude that two metals bond at lower temperatures than previously believed. Most evangelical scholars have freedoms identical to those enjoyed by Catholic and Jewish and Buddhist and atheist scholars.

What Enns means is that evangelical scholars will be censured if their research impinges on evangelical dogma. This is not entirely accurate either; several members of the Jesus Seminar were members of evangelical congregations, and their careers were only aided by their collaboration in that heretical enterprise.

So what Enns really means is that evangelical scholars are expected to conform to evangelical dogma if they wish to teach in institutions that require dogmatic adherence as a condition of employment, or if they seek the approval of evangelicals who are not willing to subject dogma to scientific proof-testing. Which sounds a bit like the sailor complaining that his duties don’t include mountain-climbing.

Enns’s underlying complaint (alongside many others who conflate rebuttal with censure, and who collectively fill the internet and bookstores and who are not, as a movement, suffering from paucity of audience) is that most evangelicals refuse to adjust their dogma when confronted with putatively contradictory scientific proof.

In this Enns represents a narrow-minded view, however, borne of a strain of anti-intellectualism, ironically, birthed during the Enlightenment. The Western intellectual’s devotion to reason seduced him into reductionism, and ultimately, the crude materialism that is the thoughtless proving ground of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other surprisingly unoriginal “new atheists.” Reductionism informs the verse-parsing that is the domain of modern evangelicals: Let’s take another look at the 97 verses that prove predestination/free will/adults-only communion.

Materialism, meanwhile, animates modern evangelical intellectuals embarrassed by their brethren who oppose teaching evolution in schools, or who aren’t adequately troubled by God’s wholesale slaughter of heathens in the Old Testament: We can’t ignore archeology and anthropology and a whole host of ologies that appear to contradict our theology.

It makes sense that Scripture would be relevant to one’s understanding of God, and that nature’s ordering can reveal things about its author. The problem is that Enns and his comrades teeter over a trap that ensnares the atheists who despise them, in that they elevate reason from God-given tool to arbiter of what is God, while sublimating mystery to a more socially acceptable, arms-length wonderment.

You have to understand that the Old Testament writing about the destruction of the Canaanites has a certain socio-political context, don’t you see, and really we must get beyond all this “God-breathed” business, but let’s not forget that God is big and wonderful in that you still have to be pretty awesome to set the forces of evolution into motion.

Enns summarizes his bind well: evangelicalism (used to, at least) connote an ambition to sustain dogma “by intellectual means.” Bible studies, sola scriptura, throwing off rituals for the steady reason of the Reformation fathers, and all that. But here’s the rub: “These intellectual means are circumscribed by Evangelical dogma.”

But this has always been at the heart of the Christian enterprise, and it’s surprising to find Christian scholars who are surprised by it. The knowing of God, a fundamental element of our faith tells us, extends beyond the senses. This is the rebuttal to atheist materialists, namely, that it is unimaginative and irrational to conclude that nothing exists beyond the senses simply because one’s senses cannot detect it. Once you accept this conclusion, the door has been opened to miracles, to dualities, to the heart of a father who says to Christ, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” It is open to a God-breathed book that sometimes seems to contradict the evidence man thinks he has scratched from the tombs of the ancients.

And so the Christian intellectual lives with mysteries. Further, he doesn’t find these onerous, because his intellect is expansive enough to contain seeming contradictions, to leave to God what is God’s domain, and to toil in the fields assigned to man.

Doone, Iagree entirely with this post. The only thing I would add is the muslim or buddhist or others evangelical (is that so describes them ).

How do you guys stay sceptical with your atheism?

Joe, when I define the term an answer follows almost immediately. In OED:

sceptic (archaic & North American) "a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions".

sceptical (US skeptical) not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations: ....

My skepticism (doubt) preceded my atheism by about sixty years, and preceded my agnosticism by about ten years.

I first doubted in 11th grade in Catholic schools. I remained a "flexible" Catholic, and in my third year in college quit and chose agnosticism. About fifty years later, long retired, I chose atheism.

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