- Located in Sacramento, CA
- Professor, Dept of Philosophy, California State University
- His teaching website can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/mccormickphilosophy/
- he runs a blog, Atheism: Proving the Negative, at http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/
- Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Rochester
- Has studied the philosophy of religion, epistemology, atheism, and critical thinking for over 20 years
- About to release a book entitled Atheism and the Case Against Christ
- Has lectured extensively to student groups, at atheism and philosophy conferences, public groups, and others.
I have a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Rochester. I am an associate professor of philosophy at California State University, Sacramento. I have studied the philosophy of religion, epistemology, atheism, and critical thinking for over 20 years. I was raised in a protestant evangelical fundamentalist church, and I have studied Christianity since I was a child. I have published numerous articles in peer reviewed academic publications on the philosophy of religion, atheism, epistemology and Kant.
I developed and have been teaching one of the only university level courses on atheism in the United States. The course has been enormously popular with students, and as a result I have been the subject of numerous printed interviews and news articles. I am the author of a thriving blog, Atheism: Proving the Negative that receives several thousand hits a month. (www.atheismblog.blogspot.com) I have presented and worked to improve earlier versions of many of the arguments for this book on the blog. My views about atheism and religion are regularly sought out as expert opinions by many authors, newspapers, studies, blogs, and news sources. I have also spoken to university groups, student groups, and community groups on atheism, Christianity, and related topics. Many of the arguments and examples in the book have been honed in these public lectures. At CSUS, I received an Outstanding Teacher of the Year award in 2007. My ability to present issues in the philosophy of religion, Christianity, and atheism in an accessible, constructive, and entertaining fashion figured large in my winning the award. Years of teaching has improved my facility for finding clear, succinct, provocative, and vivid ways to express complicated conceptual points. And my research and teaching in epistemology and critical thinking have equipped me a detailed expertise about the workings of human rationality and irrationality.
My book, Atheism and the Case Against Christ, will be coming out from Prometheus Press in the spring of 2012. Here is some promotional information about the book:
"The belief of hundreds of millions of Christians that Jesus was resurrected from the dead is unfounded. Believing the resurrection on the evidence we have--primarily a small group of testimonial stories recorded in the Gospels-is inconsistent. In other cases such as the Salem Witch Trials where we actually have better evidence in terms of quantity and quality, we reject the analogous conclusion that they really were witches. That is to say, even by the Christian's own standards, belief in the return of Jesus from the dead is unreasonable.
Atheism and The Case Against Christ also gives a arguments that the information we have about the resurrection is unreliable: the alleged eye-witnesses would have been vulnerable to bereavement hallucinations, the Ashe Effect, Confirmation Bias, source amnesia, and an over-enthusiasm for miracles (the Lourdes Problem). Likewise, the transmitters of the story would have embellished, omitted, amplified, and filtered. Given the history of the manuscripts, even if there was a resurrection, the layers of doubt that intervene between us and the alleged event force us reject the central and essential doctrine of Christianity.
More generally, problems with ancient religions, miracles as acts of God, and faith force us to the broader conclusion of atheism. Its resemblance to so many other natural (not supernatural) religions and "dead" gods presents a problem for Christianity; performing miracles cannot be reconciled with the notion of God as the all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe; faith is an inadequate response to justify Christian or any other religious belief; and non-literal approaches to Christian doctrines like the resurrection must also be rejected.
There are many books about the history of Jesus, the resurrection, and atheism. But none of them frames the questions or answers them with the fresh, objective, and accessible insights of Atheism and the Case Against Christ. Is it reasonable for the people who believe that Jesus returned from the dead on the basis of the information that is available to them? Is the information about Jesus that has been relayed to us over the centuries of sufficient quantity and quality to justify the resurrection? What light does contemporary research about human rationality in behavioral economics, empirical psychology, cognitive science, and philosophy shed on the resurrection and religious belief? Would the all powerful creator of the universe use miracles to achieve his ends? What are the paradoxes or internal problems created by believing by faith?"
Matt would love to speak on the following topics:
- Are We Proving the Negative Yet?
"You can't prove a negative!" "But how do you know that there's no God?" Even people who call themselves atheists are shy about the notion of proof. In most people's minds, atheism just cannot be justified ultimately the way many other claims can. There's a fallacy lurking in these criticisms that I aim to expose and demolish. And I'll present an argument for the impossible: proving the negative.
- The "F" Word: The Foolishness of Faith
One of the most common responses to doubts, questions, or criticisms of religious views is to invoke the F word. Believing by faith, we are told, solves whatever problems there may be with the evidence. Not only is this response common, but believing by faith is widely treated as admirable and virtuous.
I'm going to lay what I think are the clearest and most devastating objections to believing by faith, and I'll frame the problems in ways that can even help the faithful believer see why they don't want to go there.
- Dead as a Doornail: Problems with Evidence for Life After Death
The vast majority of Americans believe in some sort of life after death. Many of them cite out of body experiences, near death experiences, and other unusual phenomena as evidence. There are even fundamentalist Christians and apologists like J.P. Moreland here who are citing these occurrences as evidence for an afterlife. Let's take a take a close look at what sort of evidence would be needed, what we have, what being dead is, and what really being dead is. The case we have from OBEs, NDEs, and other phenomena is really poor for life after death. OBEs and NDEs face a timing problem, an error checking problem, and several other challenges before we can take them seriously.
- Jesus and the Salem Witch Trials
It's frequently alleged, particularly by evangelical Christians, that there is a powerful historical case for the resurrection of Jesus. We can prove on standard historical grounds if Jesus was the Son of God. I'll explain why we must reject the resurrection story by the evidential standards that Christians and others already possess. If we accepted the historical argument for Jesus, we would have to accept that there were real witches during the Salem, MA witch panic.
For videos of past talks and debates, please check out the following links:
- "Did Jesus Return from the Dead?" Debate with Prof. Russell DiSilvestro at Bridgeway Christian Church. Sacramento, CA in May, 2010.
- Wrongology: Knowing My Own Mind
- Miracles and Probability from Lourdes to Lazarus, Sept. 21, Hinde Auditorium, CSUS
- Does God Want Us to Believe in Miracles? Sept. 20, 21, 22. Hinde Auditorium, CSUS
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