Vol. 3, No. 1
Summer 2021

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Genus Unbelief, Species Atheism: The Case for and Against Unbelief as a Master Concept for Non-Religion

Jack David Eller

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 1-24

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.01

Recent initiatives by Stein, Flynn, Conrad, and others have promoted ‘unbelief’ as a replacement, an ‘umbrella term,’ for concepts like atheism, secularism, and irreligion. In this essay I show that unbelief as it is currently construed cannot serve this function: it is simultaneously too broad (embracing not only irreligion but heterodox religious belief) and too narrow (focusing on religious belief to the exclusion of other types of belief), and it commits a taxonomic error of equating unbelief with categories above and below its level. However, I also argue that, once reformed and disciplined, unbelief is a valuable and essential tool, and I provide some resources and models for a future Unbelief Studies in the Credition Research Project and the literature on agnotology, as well as ethnographical material questioning the cross-cultural applicability of belief and unbelief. Finally, I charge Unbelief Studies with the mission not only to analyze belief but to criticize and ultimately banish it as a bad mental and linguistic habit that perpetuates mistakes and leaves individuals vulnerable to further faults while eroding social trust and facticity itself.

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Inference to the Best Explanation and Rejecting the Resurrection

David Kyle Johnson

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 26-52

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.02

Christian apologists, like Willian Lane Craig and Stephen T. Davis, argue that belief in Jesus’ resurrection is reasonable because it provides the best explanation of the available evidence. In this article, I refute that thesis. To do so, I lay out how the logic of inference to the best explanation (IBE) operates, including what good explanations must be and do by definition, and then apply IBE to the issue at hand. Multiple explanations—including (what I will call) The Resurrection Hypothesis, The Lie Hypothesis, The Coma Hypothesis, The Imposter Hypothesis, and The Legend Hypothesis—will be considered. While I will not attempt to rank them all from worst to best, what I will reveal is how and why The Legend Hypothesis is unquestionably the best explanation, and The Resurrection Hypothesis is undeniably the worst. Consequently, not only is Craig and Davis’ conclusion mistaken, but belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus is irrational. In presenting this argument, I do not take myself to be breaking new ground; Robert Cavin and Carlos Colombetti have already presented a Bayesian refutation of Craig and Davis’ arguments. But I do take myself to be presenting an argument that the average person (and philosopher) can follow. It is my goal for the average person (and philosopher) to be able to clearly understand how and why the hypothesis “God supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead” fails utterly as an explanation of the evidence that Christian apologist cite for Jesus’ resurrection.

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A Fruitful or Wild French Vineyard? Distinguishing the Religious Roots of Albigenses and Waldensians in the Twelfth Century

Ottavio Palombaro

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 54-73

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.03

Much like how fruitful and wild branches are mixed in the same vineyard, there is a great deal of confusion when someone tries to discern the religious roots of heretical movements grown out of the Middle Ages. Two peculiar cases are often associated by confessional literature: Waldensians and Albigenses, demonized by Roman Catholic literature or romanticized by Protestant and modern Medieval fictional literature. In the quest for historical accuracy this paper intends to argue for the supremacy of certain contextual theological beliefs rather than socio-economic features alone in discerning the true nature of these movements despite their similarities and common persecution by the dominant Catholic religion. While the Albigenses reintroduced the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, the Waldensians were driven by a return to apostolic Christianity. The study also points out the need to analyze those movements beyond a one-dimensional approach in order to see the heterogeneity inside each movement, especially in their progressive evolution through time. Results point toward the need to reject an ancient origin thesis for the case of the Waldensians, whereas still allowing, in their case, a possible proto-Protestant connection.

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Bayesian Reasoning’s Power to Challenge Religion and Empirically Justify Atheism

Richard Carrier

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 75-95

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.04

Bayes’ Theorem is a simple mathematical equation that can model every empirical argument. Accordingly, once understood it can be used to analyze, criticize, or improve any argument in matters of fact. By extension, it can substantially improve an overall argument for atheism (here meaning the belief that supernatural gods probably do not exist) by revealing that god apologetics generally operates through the omission of evidence, and how every argument for there being a god becomes an argument against there being a god once you reintroduce all the pertinent evidence that the original argument left out. This revelation further reveals that god apologetics generally operates through the omission of evidence. This paper demonstrates these propositions by illustrating their application with examples.

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Epidemics and Religion: From Angry Gods and Offended Ancestors to Hungry Ghosts and Hostile Demons

Louise Marshall

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 97-117

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.05

Throughout history, religious beliefs have been a primary way of understanding the experience of epidemic disease. This article offers a pan-historical and cross-cultural analysis of such interactions. The first section examines common structures and assumptions of religious explanatory models. These are characteristically two-fold, nominating both supernatural causal agents and particular human actions that have set these forces in motion. A society’s identification of the behaviors that would prompt the infliction of mass suffering and death upon an entire people reveals a great deal about the values and world view of that culture. Most revolve around definitions of the sacred, which could be polluted, profaned or neglected by deliberate or inadvertent actions, and acceptable standards of moral behavior. Defensive strategies vary according to the nature of the supernatural agency held responsible, from one or more angry gods to offended ancestors, hungry ghosts or hostile demons. The final section investigates the extent to which religion may be helpful or harmful in shaping responses to epidemics, including the present global pandemic of Covid-19.

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“Jesus is a Stranger Here”: The Healing Jesus Crusade and its Perception by the Muslim Community of Ede (Southwest Nigeria)

Raheem Oluwafunminiyi and Siyan Oyeweso

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 119-141

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.06

This article examines the nature of religious interactions in the Muslim stronghold town of Ede in southwest Nigeria between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority. In particular, it examines the conflict that arose between Muslim and Christian groups in the town over the famous Christian programme, “Healing Jesus Crusade” in 2011. The programme represents the height of religious misunderstanding in Ede as the situation almost degenerated into open conflict between Muslims and Christians during this period. This article looks at the fundamental and immediate causes of the conflict, as well as the nature of the conflict, its implications for religious interactions in Ede, and the methods adopted in resolving the conflict. Based on oral interviews and the use of extant literature, this article contends that the crisis surrounding the “Healing Jesus Crusade” was a manifestation of the “aggressive” Christian evangelism in the Muslim-dominated town of Ede, and the “radical” reactions of the Muslim majority to maintain the status quo of the dominance of Islam in the town.

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’Emet: The Paradox of Death and Afterlife

Zev Garber

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 143-167

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.07

This article by Garber represents Jewish thoughts on death and dying that were presented at the 28th Annual Symposium on Jewish Civilization sponsored by the Philip M. and Ethel Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization, Creighton University, and other sponsors, and delivered at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Conference title, “`Olam Ha-Zeh v-`Olam Ha-Ba’: This World and the World to Come in Jewish Belief and Practice.” The section on “Jewish Martyrdom” is mainly influenced by thoughts expressed in Chapter 2 in Garber and Zuckerman, Double Takes: Thinking and Rethinking Issues of Modern Judaism in Ancient Contexts.

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Crime and Sin in Early Medieval England

Hannah Purtymun

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 169-180

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Free

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.08

Early medieval society had complex views of crime and sin. In early medieval English society, concepts of crime and sin overlapped to a certain extant in terms of what “wrongs” were under either religious or secular jurisdiction, or which fell under both. An in-depth analysis of the definition of crime versus sin in early medieval English society has not yet been undertaken, a feat that is attempted in this article in the context of one of the worst crimes and sins: homicide. It is found that a crime can be defined as any act that is performed against the protection of the king, while a sin is any action that falls within the confines of the capital sins or can be considered either an affront to God or detrimental to the soul.

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Book Review: Faith After Doubt by Brian D. McLaren

Deena M. Lin

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 182-192

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Free

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.09

In Faith After Doubt, Brian McLaren formulates doubt as a means to enhance and enrich religious faith. In progressive fashion, doubt is reclaimed as a means to develop faith, such that believers can aim towards a greater solidarity with others and practice revolutionary love. By providing a nuanced analysis of faith, McLaren takes a phased approach where believers experience increased levels of wisdom and spiritual depth as they engage in different levels of doubt. This text may offer assistance to those who have been discouraged and fearful of entertaining doubt in their spiritual lives. Through invoking a healthy skepticism of inherited doctrines passed down by dogmatic Christianity, individuals are provided a means to further develop their faith as opposed to becoming disjointed from it. Much of this text constructs a progressive future for Christianity in an effort to ensure its relevance and continued survival. Beyond the complex analysis given to faith and doubt in this work, it is lacking a robust means to ensure that Christians will enact the revolutionary love McLaren aims to achieve. To impart such a vision of love requires practicing radical hospitality towards the most vulnerable, and believers cannot remain complicit to a toxic form of orthodoxy. Pursuing social justice aims necessitates an activist faith that critically probes dogmatic theology; and by making allowances for the faith commitments of all believers irrespective of consequence, this project remains a tepid means to further a truly progressive evolution of Christianity.

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Book Review: The Date of the Muratorian Fragment By John F. Lingelbach

Lucy C. Bajjani

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 194-197

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Free

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.10

This book seeks to put an end to the debate concerning the date of production of the Muratorian Fragment by applying the second phase of the Inference to the Best Explanation method. The author presents extensive research on the debates, a clear methodology, and his own conclusions on the subject. This is a book mainly about New Testament canons and church authority, but also church history and historiography.