Wednesday, August 24, 2011

please follow

I've moved the igr website and blog so that everything is contained on one site with a new URL.

And I've started a second blog (as if I haven't already got enough to do with my time!).

So if you want to keep in contact, please try the following:

  • Is there a God website and blog - looking at questions about whether God exists, different religions, what is ethics, and fulfillment in life.
  • the Way? - written for christians who want to keep their faith relevant to our contemporary world while staying true to Jesus.

Thanks for those who've dropped by here. Hope to see you over at one of these! Ciao.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

why try to be good?

For most people throughout the world and throughout time, being good has been related to belief in God. God defined what is good and evil, and offered positive or negative incentives for following his decrees. But in our secular western society, what is 'good' and what is the motive for being good?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Farewell Middle East?

I have twice before (here and here) blogged about my favourite band at the moment, The Middle East. I am now devastated to report they have announced they are quitting.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

see change?

'Sea Change' was a popular Aussie TV series a few years back, in which a city lawyer quit her job and opted for the supposedly more laid-back life of a small coastal town. The term 'sea change" became common usage to describe the increasing number of people who decided to leave the rat race and the wealth it provided and give greater emphasis in their life to more personal values.

In an interesting set of articles, last Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald told the stories of a bunch of influential politicians who have found life more fulfilling away from the corridors of power.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Philosophical arguments for the existence of God

If you want to check out well-prepared and easy-to-read arguments for the existence of God, I recommend Existence of God.

Tim was an atheist until he studied philosophy at university to post-graduate level, but he found the evidence and the philosophical arguments so persuasive that he was convinced of God's existence. He is now a christian, and has set up his site to present the same arguments to others.

He covers all the standard arguments for God's existence - first cause, design, moral, ontological and two arguments about Jesus - and also considers five arguments for atheism. If you want a simple statement of complex arguments, I recommend it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

john dickson on why people believe things

People may hold their political, religious or ethical beliefs for all sorts of reasons, but we all like to think that we are very rational in the way we come to our own views. But some recent studies suggest few of us are as logical as we might think, as historian John Dickson reported in a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

the cost of climate change

Australia is currently engaged in (or suffering under?) a political debate on how we should address the issue of climate change. It isn't so long ago that many conservatives did not believe the scientific evidence that earth is warming at an alarming rate, and this will have disastrous consequences within a century. Then the argument shifted to whether the predicted changes were human-induced. Now we seem to be arguing about how much we should change our way of life, and how much we should pay, to address the problem. But the fact remains that Aussies, per capita, are among the world's biggest contributors to global warming.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Atheist myths?

Among many of the more militant atheists, there are a number of common claims made about religion. Some are fair, some are not, but they have become as entrenched as dogma. It is refreshing when one of their own argues for a more thoughtful and nuanced view.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

the exploits and adventures of david sloan wilson

David Sloan Wilson is an eminent evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University in New York. He is an atheist "but a nice atheist", he assures us, and he is interested in the study of religion from an evolutionary viewpoint and the use of evolutionary principles to develop community development programs.

I believe we can all learn something from him.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

fulfilled prophecy in the bible?

A long time ago I read a book which (primarily) examined a bunch of Biblical prophecies which had come true in verifiable history, and attempted to estimate the mathematical probability of this happening by guesswork. The book was Science Speaks, by Peter Stoner, a college professor of mathematics and astronomy, and I have just found it is now available on the internet.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

is belief in god declining?

The percentage of people believing in God is always of interest to me. What is the latest?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

is it natural to believe in god?

We all like to think we make good choices for good reasons. Those who believe in God like to think they are right in their belief, whereas atheists think believers are mistaken, sometimes even 'delusional'. Some atheists would like to see all God-belief eliminated because they believe it does so much harm.

Yet new scientific studies suggest it is 'natural' to believe in God.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

who owns jesus?

It is an interesting headline. "Jesus: a prophet of Islam" And it will be coming to a billboard or two in Sydney.

I wonder what impact it will have.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

dying for a story?

John Carroll is an interesting man. He is Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University in Melbourne, and a secular humanist who believes secular humanism has failed us. He has spent a lot of time reading the Bible and seeking to learn from it. He's even telling the church how it can improve its message to postmodern people.

What's going on?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

are we entering a 'post-secular' age?

"There are many problems in today’s society that cannot be resolved by the application of reason, logic or medical science." So says Professor David Tacey of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. "We are emerging from a long period of materialism and rationality," he says.

Is this true? Is it good, or bad? And why does he think this?

Friday, May 13, 2011

one hundred years ago, this day

One hundred years ago, this day, my father was born in Richmond in Melbourne.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

science and religion (again!)

A reader drew my attention to this brief debate on this topic, in which well-known atheist Sam Harris made the statement:

"We have Christians believing in the holy ghost, the resurrection of Jesus and his possible return – these are claims about biology and physics which, from a scientific point of view in the 21st century, should be unsustainable."

What is the basis of this statement?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

osama, obama and jesus

The death of Osama bin Laden is now old news. The US Government's wish to eliminate him is understandable. Whether it will change the terrorism equation much is questionable, but beyond my ability to answer. But what should be a christian's response to these events?

Friday, April 29, 2011

healing of cancer in the pelvis

What evidence would it take for you to believe a miracle had occurred? Do you think it would make a difference if it happened to you?

Lisa Larios didn't even know she had cancer. But when she found out she could walk again without pain, she certainly believed it was a miracle.

Monday, April 25, 2011

science vs religion?

I seem to becoming a fan club for cosmologist Martin Rees. I have previously written about his open-mindedness and the criticisms he has received for accepting prize-money for his contribution to science and "affirming life’s spiritual dimension".

Now he has come out strongly against those who wish to pit science and religion against each other.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

do miracles really happen?

When we get desperate, most of us would like to think that miracles are possible, that the incurable disease can be cured and those told they are beyond medical help can be healed.

But is there any hope that miracles are really possible?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

i want that you are always happy

The Middle East from Townsville are a very special band, perhaps the next big (alternative) thing in Australian music. Their much anticipated first full length album, I want that you are always happy, has now been released.

Does it live up to expectations?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

connecting lives

We all know that Africa is a troubled continent, often a legacy of European colonialism - poverty, AIDS, civil war and genocide are some of the worst problems. But most of us don't know what it is like to live with poverty.

Yet there is another side. Africans often seem to be such happy people. And there is hope for those in the grip of poverty.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

william lane craig and debates

William Lane Craig is a philosopher and a christian. In recent years he has specialised in public formal debates with many unbelievers - philosophers, Biblical scholars, scientists and others. He seems to win most of these debates, but some people think he clearly loses.

How can his performance be assessed so differently by different people?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

ECREE: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!" Ever since Carl Sagan said it, this aphorism (often abbreviated to the acronym ECREE) has been used to critique claims of miracles or the paranormal. It sounds neat and logical, and it can help you feel you have the 'high logical ground', but is it true?

Friday, April 8, 2011

further appreciation of martin rees

Last tear I blogged in appreciation of martin rees, where I expressed admiration for this eminent scientist who refuses to get involved in the religion-atheist "wars", and who thinks we cannot know whether God exists or not.

But now he has received a lot more appreciation - a million pounds worth, no less - and some people are very angry.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

archaeology and jesus

Archaeology can tell us a lot about the world of first century Palestine, where Jesus lived, and this is a great help in understanding the New Testament. But can it tell us much about one of the most basic questions of all: are the New Testament gospels accurate accounts of Jesus' life, based on eyewitnesses?

It turns out that it can at least tell us something, especially about the gospel of John.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

church is a heavy trip, man

We have seen that those who attend church or have a religious belief have generally better wellbeing in terms of health and longevity. But some things don't work out so well - at least in the US.

Friday, April 1, 2011

prayer vs anger

Jesus said his followers should avoid anger and make peace with enemies (Matthew 5:21-24); in fact we should love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us (Matthew 5:43-44). But does it work? It seems it does.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

galileo and historical myths

Last post I looked at the conflict thesis - the idea that christianity (or even religion generally) opposed science down through history. Let's look at a few more myths....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

christianity has always opposed science, hasn't it?

It's one of the hottest topics on the internet, and so many people know the answer. Christians oppose evolution, and they've always opposed science, even persecuting and executing scientists who opposed the church in the Middle Ages.

But it seems the conventional wisdom is badly distorted, sometimes even outright wrong.

Friday, March 18, 2011

atheists who believe in God?

A recent survey of religion in the US shows some curious and interesting results, including atheists who believe in God and christians who don't.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

the origin of life

The theory of evolution is considered by most scientists to be pretty well proven. It tells us how life developed via natural selection to the complexities we see today. But evolution doesn't explain how life began, and so far science cannot do so either. What should we make of this?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

believers live longer

(or does it just seem that way?)

In the last post I mentioned that, statistically, believers have greater than average health and wellbeing, as indicated by a number of measures. Here's some data from the US that shows that churchgoers live longer.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

prayer and healing

Photo: MorgueFile

People all over the world pray that God will help them in their time of need, including when they are sick. But is there any evidence that their praying achieves anything? It may surprise you to know that dozens of medical research studies have been undertaken in recent years to answer this question.

Friday, February 25, 2011

gordon trickett - an ordinary life?

Gordon Trickett died last month. No, I wouldn't have noticed it either had I not read his obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald. But he deserves to be remembered.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

libya: stop the crackdown

Unless you've been under a rock, you know that there's a lot of anti-government unrest across North Africa and the Middle East right now. Libya is especially volatile, with the dictator, Colonel Qaddafi, reportedly unleashing significant weaponry on protesting civilians.

Avaaz is an international human rights organisation protesting this repression and calling for UN intervention to stop the killing. If you want to sign an online petition in support, you can do it here.

Read more about Avaaz here and here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

atheist strategies

It used to be that no-one wanted to talk about God except christian evangelists. But now God has made a comeback, at least as the subject of best-selling books - by people who vehemently disbelieve in him. This is what some people call the "New Atheism".

What's going on?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

horror and forgiveness

When I wrote about forgiveness a week ago, I didn't know I was going to so soon come across a story of deep grief and amazing forgiveness.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

illegal immigration?

an old post (November 2009) revived to support my post yesterday

Photo: MorgueFile

For many years now, Australia has been the destination of "boat people" - refugees or would-be immigrants from troubled lands to the north and west. Decades ago they were from Vietnam, more recently from the Middle East, Afganistan and Sri Lanka.

And for the same period, debate has raged in Australia between those who want to keep out the "illegals", and those who want to offer help to people in distress. Elections have been fought over the issue, and opinions are highly polarised.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

politicisation of asylum-seekers

Australia is a relative rich and peaceful country. Elsewhere in Asia there are many countries which are either poor or not peaceful for some inhabitants (Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka, etc). Migration to Australia, sometimes by the hazardous route of long sea voyages in often unsuitable boats, provides an option for a better life for many people. But it also provides a political and ethical problem for Australians.

Monday, February 14, 2011

diary of hope?

Recent events in Egypt offer hope of a better future, hopefully.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

forgiveness

It is natural to want to strike back when attacked and hurt, whether by violent words or by violent actions. But christianity has always taught the importance for forgiveness and many non-christians are finding it an important part of their lives as they struggle to recover from the effects of deep hurts.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

did the universe begin? does it have a cause?

It's an age-old argument - what caused the universe? Some say there is no explanation other than God. Others argue that it didn't begin but has always been, others that they don't know what the cause is, but one day science may discover it.

Jim, who blogs at both Quodlibeta and Agent Intellect, reckons the latest scientific understanding of these two questions is a nail in the coffin of atheism. I think he's both right and wrong.

Monday, February 7, 2011

historical jesus for ordinary people

Most books about Jesus by scholars are long and detailed, with many footnotes. They are not always either succinct or readable.

Most books about Jesus aimed at the ordinary reader don't worry too much about what the expert historians have concluded.

Historian and author John Dickson has always been very readable yet also historically reliable. His latest book hits the mark again.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

is the universe designed?

The facts are not scientifically in doubt. There are a dozen or so physical constants (the strength of gravity, the size and charges of fundamental particles, etc) which control how our universe has developed since the big bang, and if some of them had been even a little different, the universe would have collapsed back in on itself long before now, or flown apart, or have remained a thin soup without stars or planets.

It makes some people think that the probability of all this occurring by chance is so small that it must have been designed. But others argue that the logic is all wrong and probability doesn't make sense in this case. How does the argument go?

Friday, February 4, 2011

the middle ages - more interesting than you think

For many people, history is boring - just a succession of dates and wars. I think it is probably often taught very badly at school.

But here is a history book which is anything but boring.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

is it possible i'm wrong?

Have you ever considered something you believe in and asked yourself: "Is it possible I'm wrong?"

If you're an atheist, have you truly considered whether there might really be a God despite what you think? If you're a christian, have you ever considered that you might be fooling yourself?

How would we ever know if we are really being honest with ourselves?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

who needs god?

The western world is in the process of deciding that it doesn't need God. Well, most of us that is, or at least, most of the time. But here's one atheist who thinks other people truly need God, even if he doesn't.

Monday, January 24, 2011

does religion poison everything?

Atheist Christopher Hitchens subtitled his book "How religion poisons everything". But does religion, specifically christianity, merit this comment? What is the evidence?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

peter norman deserved better

(An old post re-visited)

I've never been a great fan of the Olympic Games, but I take an interest in the fortunes of Australians who compete. And so I can remember the silver medal won by Peter Norman in the 200m sprint in the 1968 games. And of course I can remember the "scandal" of him standing on the dias with two black American athletes giving what was said to be a black power salute. But I didn't know the rest of the story until two years ago.

Photo from Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

where is god in natural disasters?

Yesterday I posted some information on extreme weather events which seem to indicate that global warming is having an increasing effect. But these natural disasters also raise the question of where is God at these times, and why does he allow them?

Monday, January 17, 2011

extreme weather

Australia has been experiencing some extreme weather lately.

In December, the first month of summer, we had a heat wave in Perth, with some bushfires, light snow in Tasmania, a cool Christmas in Sydney and torrential rain and flooding in Queensland.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

could jesus have been raised from the dead?

Just about the central claim of christianity, and probably the most contentious and difficult to believe, is that he was raised to life after he was executed. You'd think this would be a difficult argument to win in a debate, and yet christians have won many debates with atheists on the matter. (Some examples that come to mind: Gary Habermas vs Antony Flew, when he was still an atheist, and William Lane Craig vs many non-believers.)

Some time ago (1995), agnostic Jeff Lowder, summarised the debate and concluded: "On the basis of the available evidence (and the arguments I've seen), I conclude that a rational person may accept or reject the resurrection." But the debate about the resurrection continues. Here are a few recent highlights.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

hope

This beautiful video is worth watching if you have 6 minutes.

Hope from SNC CreativeArts on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

visions of jesus

After my last post on why believe?, I remembered some other interesting stories I had read. People from non-christian backgrounds, mostly Muslim, having visions of Jesus which led to their conversion.

So I did a bit of searching, and came up with these: