In this edition of the podcast, Aidan is speaking to Eric Pratt, a former radical member of the Mormon Church. Born and raised in Utah, Eric was a follower of Mormonism for over 20 years, including two years spent as a proselytizing Mormon missionary. In this intriguing audio, Eric tells the story of his indoctrination into, and his escape out of, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Eric also talks about the infamous founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, what it was like to be a missionary, the prevalence of misogyny within religion, living a moral life as an atheist, and much more. A prequel of sorts to this episode is also available, see episode 82 – Project Extra: The Legacy of Christopher Hitchens.
Abraham is the common patriarch of the three major world religions. Indeed, Abraham was supposedly a man of such faith in God that, when commanded to do so, he would have sacrificed his son, Isaac, to prove his devotion. Such fanciful tales are easily dismissed, but Aidan’s guest, Bernard Lamborelle, argues that the Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – very likely do have a real story to tell about a covenant, but not a religious one. Instead, an earthly tale, argues Lamborelle, would later be adapted and obscured until a simple handshake between Abraham and a mortal lord became a story which proclaimed a divine covenant with the almighty. Lamborelle’s industrious research resulted in a book, The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification, which takes readers back to 3,500 years ago, to a time when men of power were viewed as living gods. Using a holistic, literal, and secular interpretation, this historical essay first demonstrates that the Abrahamic narrative from Genesis is far more coherent when considered from the standpoint of a mortal lord alongside the establishment of an earthly, rather than divine, covenant. In this episode, Aidan and Bernard discuss the fascinating reframing of Abraham’s covenant, the implications that the adoption of such an understanding could have for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and a great deal more, including the battle between the forces of secularism and religious literalism.
Bernard has very kindly made the book available via Smashwords for a period of 30 days following the release of this episode. Head to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/766677 and simply enter the code HG64L at the checkout. The offer expires on 16 March 2018.
On Thursday 18 January, I appeared as a guest on Miracles and Atheists, a live Facebook show in which believers and non-believers engage in civil discourse. I discussed atheism, my view on miracles, the collision between religion and secular values, Christopher Hitchens, faith healers, and much more. A replay is available – my guest spot begins at around 02:36:00.
In this edition of The Aidan Project, Aidan examines Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal (1623–62) was a talented French mathematician, physicist, inventor and writer, but he is most famous for his theological work. Pascal’s famous wager argues that it is rational to believe in God, because the benefits of this belief being justified when you die are vast: Entry into heaven, avoidance of hell. By contrast, said Pascal, even if God does not exist, the costs of living as if God does exist are trivial. To not believe in God, therefore, is irrational. Whilst it also means you will never know that God does not exist if He, in fact, does not exist, you risk fiery damnation if He does exist. Your life is a bet, believed Pascal, and, on the balance of probability, there is only one way to place it – on belief. In a mathematical sense, if we believe in God, and He exists, the rewards are infinite, and if we are wrong, the losses are hardly worth worrying about. If we do not believe in God, but we are wrong, the punishments are potentially infinite. Aidan examines the merits of Pascal’s Wager, and explores its common criticisms. Place your bets. Further reading: Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (London: Transworld, 2006). Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great, (New York: Twelve, 2007).
A scene from the religious satire, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979, directed by Terry Jones.
My latest podcast, Notes on Belief, in which I argue that beliefs matter and are open to reasonable scrutiny.
The phrase, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” was famously offered by Carl Sagan as a response to beliefs formed despite a lack of tangible certification. Christopher Hitchens, likewise, stated that, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
These quotes typify my approach to unsubstantiated claims and superstitious beliefs. I released a podcast on June 15, Notes on Belief, which was well-received by the majority of those who heard it (and listened to the argument carefully). As I was so grateful to receive such positive feedback, I have decided – in case you missed them – to point out a selection of other Aidan Project podcasts in which irrational religious beliefs are rightly challenged. I am quite sure that more such episodes will follow, as there are no shortage of theocratic outrages deserving criticism, in the past, in the present and, inevitably, in the future.
It is imperative that society tackles the issues surrounding belief honestly. No free pass for religion, ever. My mission is to speak candidly and to challenge abhorrent ideas.
Liberalism does not mean rolling over for fear of causing offence. Liberalism means standing up for decency and veracity in pursuit of a just world, not apologising for the obscenities of others. I want to do something during my fleeting existence that, even in the most minute way, pushes society towards a brighter future. It is a rather modest, microscopic, contribution amongst such a vast array of discourse, but it is my own.