Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ouray Brewing Company and Focus on the Family Center

Seen at the Ouray Brewing Company in Ouray, Colorado:  a T-shirt that said, next to a silhouette of the Christian messiah, "WWJB?"  (B is for brew.)  Sadly, they aren't selling it on their website.  But they're still awesome, as is Ouray and the San Juans (if you care, my little trip reporty here; Skeptic Blog report on the supervolcano geology of the area here.  You can't go wrong in this place!)  Indeed I needed a beer or three after this awesome hike to the aptly-named Bridge of Heaven (see below).  Here are some purty pitchers from the trip before I get to some more atheist-relevant material:



Above:  a view into downtown Ouray (it's down there somewhere).  Below:  a trail marker on the way to Bridge of Heaven in Uncompahgre National Forest in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado.
 



(You're sure you don't want to see more purty pitchers?)

On the way back to San Diego I first drove through Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family.  Out of curiosity I went to their bookstore.  The people there were very nice. 


But they have a whole section with titles like these:





This is emphatically a positive sign.  On their own turf, they're on the defensive.  They feel compelled to answer these arguments in their own house.

The one below is my personal ironic favorite to find in a Christian bookstore.






 
Who knows, I may pick up one or two of them to see what one-liner distractors they're being prepared with.  But the one I took the time to flip through in the store:




[Added later:  good timing, Mohler was just discussed on Friendly Atheist because he has a problem with the Clergy Project.]  I actually found Mohler's tone agreeable in the sense that his biographies are not ad hominem attacks, and he makes actual arguments (which I would ask him directly if he thinks this is more, or less common among secular people vs. theists).  Of course Mohler is still a  Sophisticated Theologian(tm) (see an example of Jerry Coyne's treatment of those).  The interesting thing about the more intellectual of the apologists (like William Lane Craig, or Alvin Plantinga who I've written about before, or Mohler here) is that almost invariably, they're non-literalists - and their trick is to use cultural context as a fudge-factor; that is, to assume a text outside the text.  Since the morality in the Bible clearly amounts to an odious understanding of morality (including the modern Christian conception of it), the apologists have to do this magic trick so you can that satisfies this equation:

Morality in the Bible + Cultural Context 
= Non-Odious Moral Understanding

That's still a weak trick.  Imagine this:  you're in a bookstore, and you pick up a book filled with horrendous tales of incest and plague, and exhortations to exterminate neighboring ethnic groups, and rules about how to treat your slaves - that is to say, it's loaded with incorrect answers to even the most basic moral questions.  What's worse, people try to tell you this book has the rules for how to live your life!  When you point out the slavery and genocide stuff, they get nervous and say, "Well, you have to take it with the cultural context."  Sure.  (I seriously put this to the Christians out there - if someone made this same argument with the Quran, or the Norse Eddas, or the Bhagavad Gita, why would this same trick not apply?) How about start with principles that you know and understand that you don't have to go through contortions to make into the basic rules that somehow, all decent humans beings know to follow?

Back to Mohler - he included biographical details on Dawkins that I didn't know before.  I sympathize with Mohler's concerns about preserving meaning and morality, but his fear that the basis of these evaporates with religion is flatly wrong.  Otherwise, all the data about non-religious peoples' behavior must be made up - and I and many other atheists leading meaningful lives must be hallucinating our sense of meaning and fulfillment.  Besides, does seeing something like this need to "mean" anything to make us glad we're lucky to be alive?
 



Icy Lake, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

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