Autumn Reading for Jerry and friends

Japanese maple leaves.

Over at Why Evolution is True, Professor Jerry Coyne has been busy at work. He has not only outlined a scenario that would convince him of God's existence, but he has written an article entitled On P. Z. Myers on evidence for a god with a point-by-point rebuttal of P. Z. Myers' assertion (backed up by eight supporting arguments) that there was no amount of evidence that could convince him of the existence of any kind of God. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so I would like to congratulate Professor Coyne. Let me hasten to add that Professor Coyne is still a convinced atheist. As he writes: "To me, the proper stance is, 'I haven't seen a smidgen of evidence for God, so I don't think he exists. But I suppose it's a theoretical possibility.'" In the final paragraph of his post, Coyne declares: "I'm writing this post simply to continue a conversation that I don't think has yet run its course..."

Well, Professor, I'm something of a magpie. I collect good articles. The 200 or so articles I’ve listed below are the "creme-de-la-creme" so to speak, of what’s available on the Web. Taken together, they make a strong cumulative case, on philosophical and empirical grounds, that God does indeed exist, and that the benefits of religion vastly outweigh the multitude of harms inflicted in its name. (There’s even a case where an amputee gets healed! Curious? Thought you might be.) I’ve also included some good articles on God, morality and evil, which will interest you. The arguments for the immateriality of the mind are also significant: they serve to undermine the materialist argument that there can never be a good argument for the existence of an immaterial Intelligence, since all the minds we know of are embodied and complex. Interested? Please read on.

Table of Contents

Section 1 – Philosophical Arguments for God’s existence
Section 2 – Miracles
Section 3 – The Attributes of God
Section 4 – God, Morality, Goodness and Evil
Section 5 - Arguments for the Immateriality of the Mind
Section 6 - Mysteries of the Christian Faith (The Trinity, the Incarnation and the Atonement)
Section 7 – Religion: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Section 1 – Philosophical Arguments for God’s existence

1.1 General Overview of the Various Arguments for God’s existence 1.2 The Best Arguments for God’s existence

1.1 General Overview of the Various Arguments for God’s existence

PLEASE NOTE: The arguments in section 1.1 are NOT intended to be rigorous philosophical arguments. Nor do I endorse all the arguments contained therein - for instance, I'm no fan of the Ontological argument. The arguments in this section are simply meant to provide the non-philosophical reader with an overview of the arguments for God's existence. Readers who would like to see rigorous philosophical arguments should go to section 1.2.

Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God by Professor Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, S.J. From the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, SJ (Intervarsity Press, 1994).

The Justification of Theism by Professor Richard Swinburne.

The following two articles by Professor William Lane Craig are available at if you become a member (it’s free).

The New Atheism and five Arguments for God by Professor William Lane Craig. A highly readable “popular-level” article.

Theistic Critiques Of Atheism by Professor William Lane Craig. A more scholarly article.

1.2 The Best Arguments for God’s existence

The arguments I’ve listed here are the ones I feel are the strongest and the easiest to defend in the 21st century. For a more comprehensive listing, please go here.

1.2.1 The Modal Cosmological Argument

Background reading: Lecture notes and bibliography from Dr. Koons' Western Theism course (Phil. 356).
Highly recommended. Dr. Koons’ lecture notes provide an excellent overview of the cosmological argument, as well as replies to philosophical criticisms. Dr. Koons also provides a very readable summary of his own version of the cosmological argument (see below).

A New Look at the Cosmological Argument by Dr. Robert Koons.

Defeasible Reasoning, Special Pleading and the Cosmological Argument.
Dr. Robert Koons' reply to Graham Oppy's attempted rebuttal of Koons' original (1997) version of the cosmological argument.

Sobel’s Acid Bath for Theism by William Lane Craig.
A review of Logic and Theism: Arguments for and against Beliefs in God by Jordan Howard Sobel (2004).

1.2.2 Aquinas’ Second Way (The First Cause Argument)

Two Notions of the Infinite in Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica I, Questions 2 and 46 by Dr. Richard G. Howe.
In this paper, Dr. Howe addresses the question of why an infinite regress of causes which are essentially dependent on one another is impossible.

Thomistic Responses to Some Objections to Aquinas’ Second Way by Dr. Richard G. Howe. An excerpt:

In a previous EPS paper I dealt with one objection, viz., “Why Can There Not Be an Infinite Regress?" Other objections that I have encountered include: "Does the Second Way Commit the Fallacy of Composition?"; "Does the Second Way Commit the Quantifier Shift Fallacy?"; "Do All Men Call this God?"; "Why Is There Only One God?"; "Is God Good?"; and "Is the Second Way Based on an Obsolete Philosophical System?"

1.2.3 The Kalam Cosmological Argument

Scholarly articles for the existence of God by Dr. William Lane Craig. These articles, many of which deal with the Kalam Cosmological Argument, are available at if you become a member (it’s free).

The Kalam Cosmological Argument: Bibliography. A comprehensive listing of articles on the Kalam Cosmological Argument, going back to 1979. Available at Common Sense Atheism.

1.2.4 The Cosmic Fine-Tuning Argument

(a) Background reading on the fine-tuning argument (highly recommended)

Universe or Multiverse? A Theistic Perspective by Robin Collins. Well worth reading. See especially Part VI on the beauty of the laws of Nature.

God and the Laws of Nature by Robin Collins. (Scroll down and click on the link.)

(b) The most up-to-date refinement of the fine-tuning argument (comprehensive and very rigorously argued)

The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe by Robin Collins. In The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland. 2009. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 978-1-405-17657-6.

A Critique of Elliott Sober's Goals and Abilities Objection to the Design Argument by Daniel Lim, History & Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University.

Abstract: Recently, Elliott Sober has reconstructed the design argument as a likelihood comparison. Against this reconstruction he raises one primary objection. He claims that a design inference from an observation cannot be made without having independent evidence for the goals and abilities of the putative designer. I have two main worries. First, his objection is too strong and a strict adherence to his schematic for making design inferences eliminates some genuine cases of human design. Second, by refusing to countenance some form of prior probabilities, Sober either violates his own criterion for independent evidence, disregards context, or engages in circular reasoning.

1.2.5 Intelligent Design Arguments from Biology

(Note: the papers below contain no argument for God’s existence. They merely claim that we can identify certain patterns in Nature as having been designed by an Intelligence. Additional philosophical arguments are required to show that this Intelligence is God.)

Programming of Life by Dr. Don Johnson. This book describes how each cell of an organism contains millions of interacting computers reading and processing digital information, using digital programs and digital codes to communicate and translate information. Scroll down to see links to videos by Dr. Johnson. See here for a review by Robert Deyes. Dr. Johnson’s Web site is here.

Signature in the Cell. Web site by Dr. Stephen Meyer.

Prescriptive information (PI) by Dr. D. L. Abel. Scirus Topic page article – explains Abel’s key terms, which he uses in his articles.

The 'Cybernetic Cut': Progressing from description to prescription in systems theory by Dr. D. L. Abel. In The Open Cybernetics and Systemics Journal 2008, 2, 234-244. More definitions of key terms.

Constraints vs. Controls by Dr. D. L. Abel. In Open Cybernetics and Systemics Journal, 2010, 4:14-27.

The Universal Plausibility Metric (UPM) & Principle (UPP) by Dr. D. L. Abel. In Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 2009, 6:27. Published online 3 December 2009. doi: 10.1186/1742-4682-6-27.

The capabilities of chaos and complexity by Dr. D. L. Abel. In International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2009, 10:247-291. Published online 9 January 2009. doi: 10.3390/ijms10010247.

Measuring the functional sequence complexity of proteins by Kirk K. Durston, David K.Y. Chiu, David L. Abel and Jack T. Trevors. In Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 2007, 4:47. doi:10.1186/1742-4682-4-47.

Self-organization vs. self-ordering events in life-origin models by D. L. Abel and J. T. Trevors. In Physics of Life Reviews 2006, 3, 211-228.

Three subsets of sequence complexity and their relevance to biopolymeric information by David L. Abel and Jack T. Trevors. In Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling. 2005; 2:29. Published online 11 August 2005. doi: 10.1186/1742-4682-2-29.

Infinite Universe or Intelligent Design? by Professor William Dembski.

Design by Elimination vs. Design by Comparison by Professor William Dembski. Chapter 33 of The Design Revolution. This chapter demonstrates the inadequacy of a purely Bayesian/likelihood approach to drawing design inferences.

Specification: The Pattern that Signifies Intelligence by Professor William Dembski.

1.2.6 Aquinas’ Five Ways

Aquinas’ Five Ways are, in my opinion, philosophical rough diamonds. They need polishing. Below, I present polished versions of the Five Ways, for those who are interested.

'Whatever is Changing is Being Changed by Something Else': A Reappraisal of Premise One of the First Way by Dr. David Oderberg.
This is the best online philosophical defense to date of Aquinas' First Way.

Duns Scotus on the Reality of Self-Change by Dr. Peter King. In Self-Motion From Aristotle to Newton (Princeton 1994), 227-290.

Two Notions of the Infinite by Dr. Richard Howe.
In this talk on Aquinas' Second Way, Dr. Howe addresses the question of why an infinite regress of causes which are essentially dependent on one another is impossible.

Thomistic Responses to Some Objections to Aquinas' Second Way by Dr. Richard G. Howe.

Aquinas' Third Way Modalized by Dr. Robert Maydole.

Aquinas' Fourth Way by "oohlah" (Joe Ulatowski) on Praeter Necessitatum.

Aquinas on Perfection by "oohlah" (Joe Ulatowski) on Praeter Necessitatum.

Defending the Fourth Way by "Saint Sebastian" (Daniel Jones) on Praeter Necessitatum.

Teleology Revisited by Professor Edward Feser.
This is invaluable reading for anyone who wants to gain an understanding of Aquinas' Fifth way and how it differs from Rev. William Paley's argument from design.

Four Approaches to Teleology by Professor Ed Feser.
The article carefully delineates Aquinas's approach to teleology from that of materialists (who deny its existence); Platonists (who affirm its existence but locate it in a Mind external to the objects in which its is found); and Aristotelians (who affirm that it is real, but maintain that it is simply in the nature of things). Aquinas's position is intermediate between that of Plato and Aristotle: he agrees with Aristotle that teleology is intrinsic to objects, but unlike Aristotle, Aquinas thinks that the existence of final causes nevertheless requires an explanation, and he also thinks that this explanation must lie in the existence of a Divine intellect which conserves the order of final causes in being from instant to instant.


Section 2 - Miracles

(a) General articles

Miracles. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Dr. Timothy McGrew. An extremely comprehensive and fair-minded article. Essential reading. McGrew also critiques Hume’s arguments against miracles.

Comment on Van Inwagen's "The Place of Chance in a World Sustained by God" by Professor Alfred Freddoso.
Professor Freddoso diagnoses our contemporary difficulty in conceiving the possibility of miracles as stemming from an incorrect understanding of the relation between God and creatures. Two false views which Freddoso rejects are the occasionalist view (according to which God is the only active cause in nature) and the conservationist view (which says that God continuously preserves all things - some directly, and others indirectly - and that God is typically a remote rather than an immediate cause of events). Most modern Christians implicitly accept the conservationist view, and thereby saddle themselves with difficulties in accounting for miracles. Against these opinions, Freddoso upholds what he calls the concurrentist view: that the ordinary course of nature God's manner of giving rise to natural effects is to act with created agents as a concurring immediate cause of their own proper effects. This account makes miracles much easier to explain and counters the objection that miracles involve God doing violence to Nature.

God’s General Concurrence with Secondary Causes: Why Conservation is not Enough by Professor Alfred Freddoso.

(b) The Resurrection

The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth by Professor Tim McGrew and Lydia McGrew. In The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (ed. by William Craig and J. P. Moreland. The authors make an overwhelming case for the historicity of the resurrection of Christ. For a carefully worded refutation of Hume's logic, scroll down to the section entitled, "Hume's maxim and World-view problems".

Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus? A debate between Professor William Lane Craig and Professor Bart Ehrman.
Craig argues that on the basis of the historical evidence, the Resurrection is an event whose mathematical probability is not computable, but which is nevertheless the best explanation for the events that are reliably attested to have happened on Easter Sunday; Ehrman contends that by its very nature, the Resurrection cannot be considered a probable event.

(c) Post-New Testament Miracles

(Note: I have no wish to get into “denominational” arguments. I have listed the miracles below, simply because they are well-authenticated cases of miracles. As such, they certainly constitute powerful evidence for the existence of God, at the very least.)

The Making of a Saint. Article in The Globe and Mail, October 14, 2010.
How does the Vatican screen miracles? With great care, as it turns out, using doctors and scientists who don't know they’ve been hustled into the Vatican's saint-making – or unmaking – skunk works. One doctor unwittingly called into the canonization cause was Jacalyn Duffin, 60, a hematologist who is Hannah professor of medical history at Ontario’s Queen’s University. She describes herself as "an atheist who believes in miracles – these were inexplicable events."

The Flying Saint by Renzo Allegri. Article about the 17th century saint, Joseph of Cupertino.

It has been calculated that Joseph's 'ecstatic flights' took place at least 1,000 to 1,500 times in his lifetime, perhaps even more, and that they were witnessed by thousands of people. They were the phenomenon of the century. They were so sensational and so public that they attracted attention from curious people from all walks of life, Italians and foreigners, believers and unbelievers, simple folk, but also scholars, scientists, priests, bishops and cardinals. They continued to occur in every situation, in whatever church in which the saint prayed or celebrated Mass. It is impossible to doubt such a sensational and public phenomenon which repeated itself over time.

The Miracle of Calanda. Wikipedia article. Who says God doesn’t heal amputees? The miracle of Calanda is an event that, according to 17th century documents (see article), took place in Calanda, Spain in 1640: the documents state that a young farmer's leg was restored to him after having been amputated two and a half years earlier. The event is described in detail in the book Il Miracolo, by Vittorio Messori.
PLEASE NOTE: The miracle of Calanda is well-documented, but hardly compelling. I have included it as a counter-example to the commonly heard claim that God never heals amputees. There is good reason to believe that on at least one occasion, he did. However, the evidence for St. Joseph of Cupertino's miracles is absolutely compelling, making it reasonable for believers to take seriously accounts of miracles for which the evidence is strong, but not compelling. To suppose that thousands of people, including skeptics, who witnessed St. Joseph of Cupertino's flights on thousands of occasions, could have been mistaken about the saint's ability to fly, is absurd.

Eucharistic Miracles.
The official Web site of the Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association. Describes some extremely well-authenticated cases.


Section 3 – The Attributes of God

3.1 The Personality and Goodness of God
3.2 The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity
3.3 Paradoxes of Divine Omnipotence
3.4 God's Timelessness and Eternity
3.5 God's Foreknowledge
3.6 The Divine Omnisubjectivity

3.1 The Personality and Goodness of God

(a) Articles written from a Thomistic perspective, which attempts to deduce God’s goodness from the fact that God is Pure Existence

Classical theism. Blog post by Professor Edward Feser.

Law’s "evil-god challenge". Blog post by Professor Edward Feser.

God, obligation, and the Euthyphro dilemma. Blog post by Professor Edward Feser.

(b) Articles written from a Scotist perspective, which attempts to deduce God’s goodness from His infinitude

John Duns Scotus. Article by Thomas Williams in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
In section 2, Williams discusses how Duns Scotus argued for the Divine attributes, including His personal attributes of Intelligence and Will.

Duns Scotus on Natural Theology by Professor James Ross.

Analogy. Article by Professor James Ross.

(c) Articles written from a "personalist" theistic perspective, arguing that a personal Creator is the only good explanation for why the universe continues to exist and why the laws of Nature continue to operate (Swinburne) or for why the universe began to exist (Craig)

The Justification of Theism by Professor Richard Swinburne.

Is the Cause of the Universe an Uncaused, Personal Creator of the Universe, who sans the Universe Is Beginningless, Changeless, Immaterial, Timeless, Spaceless, and Enormously Powerful? by Professor William Lane Craig, in response to a reader’s question. (Note: Please see below for articles on the immateriality of the mind.)

(d) What it means to say that God is Love

Love by Peter Kreeft. What Does it Mean to Say that God is Love?

The One God by Bishop Alexander Mileant.
An explanation of the attributes of God, by an Orthodox bishop. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is, however, the deepest mystery of God; for it tells us about the inner life of God, and how God can be love.

(e) How one can know on a personal level that God is good

Book Review: The Elusive God by Paul Moser. Review by Brian Auten.

The Elusive God: Reorienting Religious Epistemology by Dr. Paul Moser. Book review by Bruce Russell, Wayne State University.

(f) Biblical Atrocities and the Goodness of God

Are Old Testament Laws Evil? by Paul Copan.

How could God command the killing of the Canaanites? by Paul Copan.

Biblical Atrocities by Vincent Torley. My own "take" on the subject – for what it's worth.

3.2 The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity

Making Sense of Divine Simplicity (forthcoming in Faith and Philosophy) by Dr. Jeffrey Brower, of Purdue University.
A number of contemporary philosophers have argued that divine simplicity is at least a coherent doctrine. For all their ingenuity, however, contemporary defenses of the doctrine continue to fall on deaf ears. Brower's purpose in this paper is two-fold: to explain why this is case, and to mount a new defense, one that succeeds where the others have failed to resolve contemporary concerns about the doctrine's coherence, once and for all.

St. Thomas Aquinas: The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity by Michael Sudduth.

William Lane Craig on Divine Simplicity by Edward Feser.

Playing Fast and Loose with Complexity: A Critique of Dawkins' Atheistic Argument from Improbability by Dr. Mark F. Sharlow.

This paper is a critique of Richard Dawkins' "argument from improbability" against the existence of God. This argument, which forms the core of Dawkins' book The God Delusion, provides an interesting example of the use of scientific ideas in arguments about religion. Here I raise three objections: (1) The argument is inapplicable to philosophical conceptions of God that reduce most of God's complexity to that of the physical universe. (2) The argument depends on a way of estimating probabilities that fails for the probability of an entity that creates natural laws. (3) The argument supposes that complexity arises from past physical causes; however, some forms of complexity known to mathematics and logic do not arise in this way. After stating these three criticisms, I show that some of these same considerations undermine Dawkins' critique of agnosticism. I close the paper with some remarks on Dawkins' conception of God.

3.3 Paradoxes of Divine Omnipotence

Anything You Can Do God Can Do Better by Yujin Nagasawa and Campbell Brown.
A bold and innovative approach to an old paradox relating to omnipotence: can God make a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?

3.4 God’s Timelessness and Eternity

Eternity by Professor Paul Helm. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Helm argues for the view that God is completely outside time, defending his thesis against objections from philosophers who find the notion of eternity incoherent, as well as philosophers (such as William Lane Craig) who contend that God became temporal when He created the world.

God, Time and Eternity by William Lane Craig.
Craig defends the view that God is timeless, considered in Himself, but that having freely chosen to create the world, He occupies all points in space and time, and may therefore be called omnitemporal.

3.5 God's Foreknowledge

Theological Fatalism Part 1 by David Misialowski.
A reply to Robert P. Taylor by a self-described "agnostic atheist". Taylor resolves the problem of reconciling foreknowledge and free will by denying the necessity of the past. What's especially interesting about this article is that even though he is a religious skeptic, Misialowki believes he can show that "no theist need fear the argument, heard so often from atheists intent on discrediting religious belief, that an omniscient God cancels human free will and moral responsibility."

Theological Fatalism Part 2 by David Misialowski.
This article defends an omni-temporal notion of God, in which God is present at all points in both space and time.

Theological Fatalism Part 3 by David Misialowski.
This article discusses some problems with Molinism, posed by modal realism.

Foreknowledge and Free Will by Dr. Linda Zagzebski. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Zagzebski contends that the argument for theological fatalism ("If God knows what I'm going to do, then my actions are not free") is a symptom of a more general problem in the logic of time and causation that needs to be addressed.

3.6 The Divine Omnisubjectivity

(The following paper by Professor Linda Zagzebski breaks new theological ground. I think it warrants serious consideration, which is why I have listed it.)

Omnisubjectivity by Professor Linda Zagzebski.
Does God fully know how we feel? Professor Zagzebski argues that He does:

In this paper I describe and begin a defense of the possibility of a divine attribute I call omnisubjectivity. Omnisubjectivity is, roughly, the property of consciously grasping with perfect accuracy and completeness the first-person perspective of every conscious being. I argue that omnisubjectivity is entailed by omniscience or, at any rate, by cognitive perfection. If God is omnisubjective, that would solve two puzzles of omniscience: (1) An omniscient being ought to be able to tell the difference between the different qualia of conscious beings, and (2) An omniscient being ought to be able to tell the difference between the first person and third person perspectives on the same state of affairs. Using the model of human empathy, I argue that it is possible for a being to assume the first person perspective of another being without assuming identity with the other being or forgetting who he is. I end by briefly identifying some interesting metaphysical, moral, and theological consequences of omnisubjectivity.


Section 4 – God, Morality, Goodness and Evil

4.1 Theories of Ethics
4.2 Can there be moral goodness without God? The Euthyphro Dilemma
4.3 The Problem of Evil

4.1 Theories of Ethics

Natural Law Theories by Professor John Finnis. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007.

Aquinas' Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy by Professor John Finnis. Article in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Why I am not a Consequentialist by Professor David Oderberg.
A systematic critique of consequentialism - an ethical doctrine which includes all of the various forms of utilitarianism, and which states that the fundamental aim of morality is to maximize value.

Modern Moral Philosophy by Elizabeth Anscombe.
A probing, thought-provoking critique of utilitarianism.

Self-Ownership, Libertarianism, and Impartiality by Professor Edward Feser.
Professor Feser does a skillful job of exposing the ethical inadequacies of libertarianism.

Cultural Relativism by Kerby Anderson.
A critique of cultural relativism.

4.2 Can there be moral goodness without God? The Euthyphro Dilemma

The Desirist’s Unsatisfiable Desires by David B. Hart. Article in First Things, October 2010. Key quote:

The real question of the moral life, at least as far as philosophical “warrant” is at issue, is not whether one personally needs God in order to be good, but whether one needs God in order for the good to be good.

C. S. Lewis and the Euthyphro Dilemma by Steve Lovell. Please scroll down to read the article.
The article addresses the question: are actions good because God commands them, or does God command them because they are good? According to what Lovell calls the Divine Nature Theory, morality is rooted not in God’s commands, but in God’s necessary and immutable nature, which is essentially good.

God as the Grounding of Moral Objectivity: Defending Against Euthyphro by Steve Lovell. Please scroll down to read the article.
The Euthyphro Dilemma (is x good because God says it's good, or does God say x is good because it is good?), has been used as an argument against Theistic Ethics for hundreds of years. Plato was the first to use it. Since then Bertrand Russell, Kai Nielsen and many others have sought to really push it home. My aim in this paper is to show that the dilemma (as posed by both Russell and Nielsen) is a false one. Theistic ethics does survive the Euthyphro dilemma. I take up and defend Aquinas' position: that God himself (or his nature) is the standard of goodness, and not his commands. This position avoids the dilemma since God's commands / morality will not be arbitrary (since they are/it is rooted in God's nature), and Goodness will not be in any sense anterior to God either.

God, obligation, and the Euthyphro dilemma. Blog post by Professor Edward Feser.

4.3 The Problem of Evil

Tsunami and Theodicy by David B. Hart. Article which originally appeared in First Things, March 2005, and was later re-printed in January 2010.
The author, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, writes against the backdrop of the Boxing Day tsunami on December 26, 2004, which killed approximately 300,000 people. Hart forcefully rejects the rose-tinted view that tragedies like these fit into some "Big Picture" and possess some ultimate meaning which God can fathom, even if we cannot. This, Hart maintains, is not the Christian view, and it is in any case profoundly immoral, as it turns God into a utilitarian monster who achieves His Grand Plan for Cosmic Harmony only by treating people like pawns on a chessboard. Unbelievers who declare that these terrible tragedies are utterly meaningless and abominable are right, Hart declares. Hart reminds us that the traditional Christian answer to the problem of suffering in the world has always started from the Fall of our first parents, which Hart describes as "an ancient alienation from God that has wounded creation in its uttermost depths, and reduced cosmic time to a shadowy remnant of the world God intends, and enslaved creation to spiritual and terrestrial powers hostile to God."

Debate between David Wood and John Loftus.
The topic: Does the extent of suffering in the world make the existence of God implausible? Well worth watching.

Loftus-Wood Round Two: Another Failed Argument from Evil by Mary Jo Sharp. A Christian review of the debate.


Section 5 - Arguments for the Immateriality of the Mind

5.1 Background Reading 5.2 Arguments against materialism

5.1 Background reading

Hylemorphic Dualism by Professor David Oderberg.
The author, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, U.K., rejects Cartesian dualism (according to which man is a ghost in a machine) in favour of an Aristotelian-Thomistic version of dualism, which can be summed up in the following nine theses:
(1) All substances, in other words all self-subsisting entities that are the bearers of properties and attributes but are not themselves properties or attributes of anything, are compounds of matter (hyle) and form (morphe).
(2) The latter is substantial since it actualizes matter and gives the substance its very essence and identity.
(3) The human person, being a substance, is also a compound of matter and substantial form.
(4) Since a person is defined as an individual substance of a rational nature, the substantial form of the person is the rational nature of the person.
(5) The exercise of rationality, however, is an essentially immaterial operation.
(6) Hence, human nature itself is essentially immaterial.
(7) But since it is immaterial, it does not depend for its existence on being united to matter.
(8) So a person is capable of existing, by means of his rational nature, which is traditionally called the soul, independently of the existence of his body.
(9) Hence, human beings are immortal; but their identity and individuality does require that they be united to a body at some time in their existence.

From Augustine's Mind to Aquinas' Soul by Fr. John O'Callaghan.
The thinking contained in this article is exceptionally perspicuous. The author demonstrates that belief in a soul does not imply substance dualism - the belief that soul and body are two things. On the contrary, every human being is a unity. An organism's soul is simply its underlying principle of unity. The human soul, with its ability to reason, does not distinguish us from animals; it distinguishes us as animals. The unity of a human being's actions is actually deeper and stronger than that underlying the acts of a non-rational animal: rationality allows us to bring together our past, present and future acts, when we formulate plans. When Aquinas argues that the act of intellect is not the act of a bodily organ, he is not showing that there is a non-animal act engaged in by human beings. He is showing, rather, that not every act of an animal is a bodily act.

Converting Matter into Mind: Alchemy and the Philosopher's Stone in Cognitive Science by Professor William Dembski. In PSCF 12, (December 1990). A brilliant explanation of why Christianity is irreconcilable with the “semi-materialist” view that there is no immaterial soul, and that the mind simply supervenes on the brain.

Conflating Matter and Mind by Professor William Dembski. From PSCF 43 (June 1991), p. 107 ff. Follow-up article on the same theme.

Mental Causation after Libet And Soon: Reclaiming Conscious Agency by Alexander Batthyany. In: Batthyany, Alexander & Elitzur, Avshalom C. 2009. Irreducibly Conscious. Selected Papers on Consciousness. Heidelberg: Universitatsverlag Winter.

Mind does really matter: Evidence from neuro-imaging studies of emotional self-regulation, psychotherapy, and placebo effect by Professor Mario Beauregard. In Progress in Neurobiology 81 (2007), pp. 218-236.

5.2 Arguments against materialism

(a) Arguments against materialism, based on the universality of our concepts

Is Intellect Immaterial? by Dr. Mortimer Adler. For Part 2, click here.
Dr. Adler argues that the brain is only a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for conceptual thought. That is, we cannot think conceptually without our brains, but we do not think conceptually with our brains. The brain is not the organ of thought as the eye and the brain together are the organs of vision, or the ear and brain together are the organs of hearing.

Concepts, Dualism, and The Human Intellect by Professor David Oderberg.

The idea is that intellectual activity - the formation of concepts, the making of judgments, and logical reasoning - is an essentially immaterial process. By essentially immaterial is meant that intellectual processes, in the sense just mentioned, are intrinsically independent of matter, this being consistent with their being extrinsically dependent on matter for their normal operation in the human being. Extrinsic dependence, then, is a kind of non-essential dependence. For example, certain kinds of plant depend extrinsically, and so non-essentially, on the presence of soil for their nutrition, since they can also be grown hydroponically. But they depend intrinsically, hence essentially, on the presence of certain nutrients that they normally receive from soil but can receive via other routes. Something similar is true of the human intellect...

For a start, concepts and what they constitute - propositions and arguments - are abstract, whereas potential material loci for them are concrete... Again, concepts are unextended; brains are extended. Here the idea is that concepts are not even categorially capable of location in a brain due to lack of extension... Further, concepts are universal, whereas material loci are particular. So the problem is how anything that is abstract, unextended, and universal could be embodied, located, or stored in anything concrete, extended, and particular.

Minds and Machines by Dr. Gerard Casey.
In this article, Dr. Casey addresses the question: Can a machine be said to think and, if so, in what sense? Dr. Casey concludes that it cannot: the power of conceptual thought is an immaterial power.

Aquinas's Proofs of the Immateriality of the Intellect from the Universality of Human Thought by Professor Gyula Klima.
An ingenious reconstruction of Aquinas' argument that acts of understanding cannot be bodily acts. Scroll down to page 19 to read the article. See also the comments by Robert Pasnau on page 29 and Professor Klima's reply on page 37.

(b) Arguments against materialism, based on our ability to form an infinite number of concepts

Hylemorphic Dualism by Professor David Oderberg.
Professor Oderberg argues here that our capacity to entertain an infinite number of concepts is at odds with the brain's finite storage capacity. He concludes that human beings' capacity to think cannot be explained purely in terms of their brains.

(c) Arguments against materialism, based on the formal specificity of our intellectual operations, (e.g. the mental operation of squaring a number), as well as the specific propositional content of our thoughts (e.g. "It will rain tomorrow.")

Immaterial Aspects of Thought by Professor James Ross. In The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 89, No. 3, (Mar. 1992), pp. 136-150.
In this article, Professor Ross argues that thought is immaterial because it has a definite, determinate form. As he puts it: by its nature, thinking is always of a definite form – e.g. right now, I am performing the formal operation of squaring a number. But no physical process or sequence of processes, or even a function among physical processes, can be definite enough to realize (or "pick out") just one, uniquely, among incompossible forms. For example, when I perform the mental operation of squaring, there is nothing which makes my accompanying neural processes equivalent to the operation of squaring and not some other mental operation. Thus, no such process can be such thinking. On the last page, in a footnote, Ross makes a similar argument for the propositional content of thought: when I think that it is going to rain tomorrow, there is nothing in my brain which unambiguously corresponds to this thought, as opposed to some other thought. A more up-to-date, expanded version of Ross's arguments can be found here.

Some brief arguments for dualism, Part IV by Professor Edward Feser.
This is a highly readable summary of Ross's argument, for the benefit of anyone who might find Ross's essay rather heavy going. Feser sums up Ross's argument in a nutshell: "The point is that an abstract concept could not, even in theory, be material, given that concepts are determinate and material things are indeterminate."

(d) Arguments against materialism, based on Intentionality

Intentionality by Dr. Pierre Jacob.
Article in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (Fall 2003 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Scroll down to section 9 - Can intentionality be naturalized? - for a balanced discussion of the relevant issues.

Some brief arguments for dualism, Part I by Professor Edward Feser.
In this blog entry, Feser gives a brief, non-technical exposition of the problems that intentionality poses for a materialistic account of thought: "Thoughts and the like possess inherent meaning or intentionality; brain processes, like ink marks, sound waves, and the like, are utterly devoid of any inherent meaning or intentionality; so thoughts and the like cannot possibly be identified with brain processes."

Some brief arguments for dualism, Part II by Professor Edward Feser.
In this blog entry, Feser continues his discussion of the problems that intentionality poses for a materialistic account of thought. Here, Feser points out that ever since the "Scientific Revolution" of the 17th century, materialists have steadfastly denied the reality of final causes as a feature of the natural world. He then argues that it is impossible to deny the reality of final causes, while at the same time affirming the reality of intentionality: "If materialism is true, then (given that it is committed to a mechanistic conception of the material world), there are no final causes, and thus nothing that inherently 'points to' or is 'directed at' anything beyond itself; and in that case, there can be no such thing as intentionality; but there is such a thing as intentionality; therefore materialism is not true."

Dennett Denied: A Critique of Dennett's Evolutionary Account of Intentionality by Professor Angus Menuge.
Professor Daniel Dennett has developed a sophisticated naturalistic account of intentionality, according to which our intentionality is derived from that of our genes, which have been shaped by the winnowing process of natural selection. In this essay, Professor Menuge identifies four problems with Dennett's account, and then presents positive grounds for saying that intentionality is a real but non-naturalistic quality, which is best explained by positing an Intelligent Designer of nature.

Intentionality and Causality in John Searle by David Thompson, Dept. of Philosophy, Memorial University, 1985.
Professor John Searle's account of intentionality is by far the most sophisticated account of intentionality from a materialist perspective. Searle has argued in his book Mind, Language and Society that intentionality can be a property of physical systems, such as our brains. In this article, David Thompson examines Searle's account of intentionality and finds it wanting. He concludes that Searle's attempt to naturalize intentionality is unsuccessful.

Immateriality and Intentionality by Dr. Gerard Casey, University College, Dublin.
In this paper, Dr. Casey investigate the notions of immateriality and intentionality with a view to clarifying their relationship. He concludes that intentionality is immaterial in this sense: even though it is a mode of being which supervenes upon a material base, it can be actualized only in the presence of a being with an immaterial receptive capacity.

(e) Empirical arguments against materialism
News and articles of mediumship, psi and survival every week.

Near Death Experience Foundation. NDERF Is the largest Near Death Experience Website in the world with over 2000 full-text published NDE accounts.

Is there life after death? An interview with oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long in Time magazine (22 January 2010), who has just published a book, Evidence of the Afterlife summarizing the results of a decade's worth of research on near-death experiences.

American Society for Psychical Research. For research, click here. For research on Near Death Experiences, click here.

British Society for Psychical Research. Click here for good research links.

Scientific Evidence for Survival of Consciousness After Death by Kevin Williams.
A massive collection of empirical evidence for life after death.

International Association for Near-Death Studies.
Another massive collection of empirical evidence for life after death. For an overview of research on near-death experiences, click here. To read an article criticizing the theory that REM intrusion and NDEs are one and the same, click here. For video and audio accounts of individuals' near-death experiences, click here.

You Tube Sample clip "Near Death Experiences" VER71.The speaker discusses a Near Death Experience described in detail by pediatrician and neuroscientist Dr. Melvin Morse. It concerns a young girl named Katie who was admitted to a mid Western American emergency room. She was said to have been under water for nineteen minutes and was comatose. She was hooked up in the ICU but was not treated. She came to three days later, and remembered the two doctors who worked on her. She described the operating procedure in detail and even drew pictures of it. (Go to Dr. Morse's Web site and click on "Children's NDE Drawings".)

Medical Evidence for NDEs by Pim van Lommel.
In his "Skeptic" column in Scientific American in March, 2003, Michael Shermer cited a research study published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal, by Pim van Lommel and colleagues. He asserted this study "delivered a blow" to the idea that the mind and the brain could separate. Yet the researchers argued the exact opposite, and showed that conscious experience outside the body took place during a period of clinical death when the brain was flatlined. As Jay Ingram, of the Canadian Discovery Channel, commented: "His use of this study to bolster his point is bogus. He could have said, 'The authors think there's a mystery, but I choose to interpret their findings differently'. But he didn't. I find that very disappointing" (Toronto Star, March 16, 2003). Here, Pim van Lommel sets out the evidence that Shermer misrepresented.

A Lawyer Presents the Case for the Afterlife - Irrefutable Objective Evidence (4th edition, online, 2006).


Section 6 - Mysteries of the Christian Faith (The Trinity, the Incarnation and the Atonement)

6.1 The Trinity 6.2 The Incarnation 6.3 The Atonement

6.1 The Trinity

The Blessed Trinity. Article from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Trinity.

6.2 The Incarnation

Jesus and the Identity of God by Bishop N. T. Wright.

Messianic Expectations in 1st century Jerusalem by Glenn Miller, M.S.

The Impeccability of Christ by Dr. John W. McCormick.

The doctrine of the Incarnation. My own “take,” for what it’s worth.

6.3 The Atonement

The Atonement by Robin Collins.

Why did Jesus Have to die for our sins? If you often have trouble explaining the doctrine of the Atonement, even to yourself, then this is the article for you. Article by Steve G., a sometime contributor at, the diary of a former atheist (a Web site that I strongly recommend to readers who are seeking the truth with an open mind).

Inclusivism and the Atonement by Dr. Bruce Reichenbach.
Article in Faith and Philosophy: Journal of the Society of Christian Philosophers vol. 16:1, (43-54), permanently copyrighted October 1999. Abstract:

Richard Swinburne claims that Christ's death has no efficacy unless people appropriate it. According to religious inclusivists, God can be encountered and his grace manifested in various ways through diverse religions. Salvation is available for everyone, regardless of whether they have heard about Christ's sacrifice. This poses the question whether Swinburne's view of atonement is available to the inclusivist. I develop an inclusivist interpretation of the atonement that incorporates his four features of atonement, along with a subjective dimension that need not include specific knowledge of Christ's sacrifice.

Understanding Atonement: A New and Orthodox Theory by Dr. Robin Collins. Scroll down to read the article. Here, Collins presents a morally compassionate theory of the Atonement, based on the Moral Exemplar theory of Peter Abelard. He criticizes both the Satisfaction and Penal theories of the Atonement.

Girard and Atonement: An Incarnational Theory of Mimetic Participation by Dr. Robin Collins. Here, Collins discusses the writings of the contemporary cultural theorist Rene Girard, who has presented a highly original version of Abelard’s Moral Exemplar theory of the Atonement. Excerpt:

Christians committed to peacemaking have long recognized that peace, nonviolence, and reconciliation are at the heart of the gospel. Yet, at the same time, the standard Western theories of the Atonement appear to paint a picture in which violence is at the core of the divine order of things. To elaborate, conservative and much traditional Roman Catholicism and Protestantism have promoted an understanding of the Atonement largely based on the Satisfaction and Penal theories of Atonement, or variations of them. The basic idea behind each of these theories is that the moral order of reality requires that God punish our sin--and hence render violence against us - by sending us to eternal Hell unless some substitute can be found to pay the penalty for sin.

The Reach of the Cross by Dr. William Dembski.


Section 7 – Religion: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

7.1 Christianity and the Advancement of Learning
7.2 Religion and Charity
7.3 How Religion has saved hundreds of millions of lives
7.4 Religion as a Force in Defense of Unborn Human Beings
7.5 Social Effects of Religion

7.1 Christianity and the Advancement of Learning

Christianity: A Cause of Modern Science? by Eric Snow.
In this article, Snow explains how Christianity, and in particular Puritanism, made Modern Science possible. While the Greeks, Chinese, Indians, and Islam all had what can be fairly called "science," their science lacked a systematized collection of knowledge about nature, obtained through the use of reason and sense experience alone, in order to discover the underlying laws of nature, which explain how nature is organized and which allow future accurate predictions about nature's processes or objects to be made.

Christianity and the Birth of Science by Michael Bumbulis, Ph.D.
The author holds an M.S. degree in Zoology from Ohio State University and a Ph.D in Genetics from Case Western Reserve University. Here, he argues that the Judeo-Christian world view played a crucial role in this birth. Bumbulis cites four lines of evidence to support this hypothesis and responds to objections at the appropriate places.

A Gift from the Middle Ages by Professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Excerpt:

According to historian of science Edward Grant, the creation of the university, the commitment to reason and rational argument, and the overall spirit of inquiry that characterized medieval intellectual life amounted to "a gift from the Latin Middle Ages to the modern world ... though it is a gift that may never be acknowledged. Perhaps it will always retain the status it has had for the past four centuries as the best-kept secret of Western civilization."

Did the Christians burn/destroy all the classical literature? by Glenn Miller.
Demolishes the widely held myth that Christians were book-burning bigots who destroyed the pagan classics. Demonstrates that on the contrary, the church - both East and West - actually was the main preserver of classical literature during these difficult times in world history.

My Hunt for Hypatia, Lady Philosopher of Alexandria by Article by Faith Justice.
The pagan philosopher Hypatia (355-415 AD), who died at the hands of a Christian mob, is often portrayed by feminists as a free spirit who was was murdered because she was a woman as much as because she was a pagan. The true story of Hypatia, which the author managed to uncover after twenty years of research, is much more interesting.

The Primary Sources for the life and work of Hypatia of Alexandria by Michael Deakin, Mathematics Department, Monash University, Australia.

The Life of Hypatia by Socrates Scholasticus, from his Ecclesiastical History. Socrates Scholasticus was a fifth-century church historian, who lived several hundred years after his more famous namesake, the Athenian philosopher.

7.2 Religion and Charity

Pagans, Christianity and Charity by Christopher Price.

Who Invented Charity? by Professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
The author mounts a convincing case that the charity of the early Christian Church was utterly different in both quality and sheer quantity from anything which preceded it in the pagan Roman world. Were it not for the Church of the fourth century, we would have no charitable institutions in our society today.

7.3 How Religion has saved hundreds of millions of lives

A Global Perspective in the Epidemiology of Suicide by Associate Professor Jose Manoel Bertolote and Dr. Alexandra Fleischmann.
Bertolote and Fleischmann point out that in Muslim countries (e.g. Kuwait) where suicide is most strictly forbidden, the suicide rate is close to zero (0.1 per 100,000). The suicide rate is highest in atheist countries such as China, where it is 25.6 per 100,000. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. If they were living under the atheistic regime of China, 450,000 of them would be killing themselves every year, or 45,000,000 per century. Anything that saves that many lives has got to be socially beneficial.

Live Longer, Healthier and Better: The Untold Benefits of Becoming a Christian in the ancient world by Professor Rodney Stark. In Christianity Today, Issue 57, January 1, 1998.
Reconstructing the Rise of Christianity: the Role of Women by Professor Rodney Stark. In Sociology of Religion, Vol. 56, Fall 1995.
The articles by Professor Stark describe how the Christian teaching of the spiritual equality of men and women, coupled with its prohibition of abortion and infanticide, improved the lot of women in the Roman Empire, and how Christians saved millions of Romans' lives by caring for the sick during plagues. In the Roman Empire, the male head of the household could order any female living in his household to have an abortion. What's more, a married woman who gave birth had no legal right to keep her child unless the male head of the household picked it up and set it down on the family hearth. Otherwise the child had to be placed outside in the street, where it would either die of exposure or be picked up by some unscrupulous rogue and sold into slavery. Girls were exposed far more often than boys: research has shown that the ratio of men to women in the Roman Empire was at least 120:100. "So what's your point?" I hear you ask. Here's my point. Population of the Roman Empire: about 60 million people. Annual number of births (assuming say, 40 births per 1000 people per year): about 2.4 million, or 1.2 million boys and 1.2 million girls, of whom 200,000 were killed. Enter Christianity: up to 200,000 girls' lives saved per year, or 20 million per century, or 200 million over a period of a millennium. Still think religion doesn't matter?

90 Million Missing Females, and a $45 Trillion Gap: The Fruits of Misguided Family Planning. Zenit Daily Dispatch, 24 July 2004.
Examines the social consequences of female infanticide in China and India, and of declining fertility rates around the world.

7.4 Religion as a Force in Defense of Unborn Human Beings

You can certainly be an atheist and pro-life, as the link below shows. However, it is undeniable that most people who are trying to stop abortion are religious. Religion therefore deserves most of the credit for trying to save unborn human beings.

Articles by Libertarians for Life.
Libertarians for Life was founded by an atheist, Doris Gordon, in 1976. The arguments against abortion on this Website are secular, philosophical arguments which do not in any way appeal to religion.

When Do Human Beings Begin? 'Scientific' Myths and Scientific Facts by Dr. Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D., of Libertarians for Life.

Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: What's Wrong With It? by Professor David Oderberg (a former atheist and now an ardent pro-lifer).

The Metaphysical Status of the Embryo: Some Arguments Revisited by Professor David Oderberg. In Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (2008): 263-76.

Abstract: This paper re-examines some well-known and commonly accepted arguments for the non-individuality of the embryo, due mainly to the work of John Harris. The first concerns the alleged non-differentiation of the embryoblast from the trophoblast. The second concerns monozygotic twinning and the relevance of the primitive streak. The third concerns the totipotency of the cells of the early embryo. I argue that on a proper analysis of both the empirical facts of embryological development, and the metaphysical importance or otherwise of those facts, all three arguments are found wanting. None of them establishes that the embryo is not an individual human being from the moment of conception.

Vince’s pro-life page. My own summary of why I believe that embryos are human beings.

What about abortion in cases of rape and incest? Women and sexual assault by Amy Sobie, in
Amy Sobie is the editor of The Post-Abortion Review, a quarterly publication of the Elliot Institute. The organization is a widely respected leader in research and analysis of medical, mental health and other complications resulting from abortions. She writes: "our research shows that most women who become pregnant through sexual assault don't want abortion, and say abortion only compounds their trauma." Website run by the Elliot Institute.
This is the Web's most complete source of information on the after-effects of abortion and post-abortion healing.

How I Became Pro-Life by Jennifer Fulwiler, a former atheist who gradually changed her mind on the subject of abortion.
An excellent pro-life Web site, with lots of factual information, testimonials, articles and videos.

Human Life International.
Human Life International is the largest international, pro-life, pro-family, pro-woman organization in the world.

7.5 Social Effects of Religion

Good Faith by Karl Zinsmeister, for the American Enterprise Online.
Makes a sociological case for the benefits of religion. Discusses areas such as substance abuse, marriage and family life, sexual behavior, altruism, health and happiness. Whereas the previous study compares sociological data between different First World countries (a procedure which is fraught with peril, as social conditions vary widely between different nations, and some countries lag behind others in terms of social trends), this report examines one country (the USA) and finds that socially aberrant behavior correlates with lack of religiosity.

Religion Provides Emotional Boost to World’s Poor by Steve Crabtree and Brett Pelham.
Gallup Poll results support the idea that the social and psychological benefits of religion are strongest in the world's poorest countries. In low-income areas, religiosity is linked to more enjoyment, less worry. Gallup Polls in 143 countries reveal that among countries where average annual incomes are $2,000 or less, 92% of residents say religion is an important part of their daily lives. By contrast, among the richest countries surveyed - those where average annual incomes are $25,000 or more - that figure drops to 44%.

7.6 Religious atrocities

Which Has Killed More People? Christianity or Gun Control? by Matthew White.
Essential reading for those who wish to get a balanced perspective on the harm wrought by religion. Matthew White's Web site on atrocities is extraordinarily thorough, comprehensive and fair-minded. White is not a Christian.

Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and Atrocities Before the 20th Century by Matthew White.

Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and Atrocities Before the 20th Century (Page Two) by Matthew White.

(Possibly) The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other by Matthew White.

Blame and Responsibility - FAQs by Matthew White.

List of wars and disasters by death toll by
A handy summary of who killed how many, and when.

Christian Atrocities: How bad were they and why did they happen? Links to useful articles. If you want reliable figures on the number of victims and a balanced discussion on the Christian Church’s degree of responsibility, then this is the place to go.