Category Archives: Atheism

Conversations with Friends: Possibly the Saddest Thing I’ve Read in a While

This friend is someone I haven’t known very long, but he is a seminary student, and I was drawn to his facebook page by the open discussion he has with theists and atheists alike about various topics.

I’ll call him CW.

His status updates often entailed provocative statements.  He never deleted or moderated dissenting opinions and seemed to welcome open debate.  This seemed like a good outlet for my desire to discuss religion with others so I joined in a few discussions.

They were good.  The first few were about hell and the Bible and God, and many of his friends were skilled at apologetics.  One quick thing I noticed about CW is that he was quick to ignore large statements I had made detailing an error in thought he had, and simply asserting that I had it wrong, or didn’t understand at all.

This puzzled me.

If I had it wrong, that’s unfortunate, but please point out specifically where I am wrong.  He never could.  One of the worst such occasions was “read your Bible”.  That’s it.  Implying that I had never read the bible or didn’t understand it, and this his understanding was superior, all without demonstrating it.

I felt that things we going well when CW was taking historical bible classes from seminary.  He was learning a lot of things that I had already studied that were quite damaging to Christianity. The fact that the bible was likely not a literal transcribing of events.  That the Torah was likely not written by Moses, nor was it likely that Moses ever existed in the first place.

Things were getting interesting on his facebook page as he espoused some of his professor’s teachings.  It made some of the bible literalists on his page squirm.  My friend was smart and I assumed that he was taking this knowledge in with the thirst for understanding that I knew he possessed.

But then something truly depressing happened.

I was distraught for almost a day over this.  In one fell swoop, in one facebook status, he basically denounced everything his seminary professors had taught him in deference to “the God he knew to exist”.  “How can anyone believe in a God that is weak like this” he said.  As profound as that statement was, he failed to reach the natural conclusion of that statement.  Oh, he denied belief in that God, but he embraced his own version of God, completely unsupported by anything other than what he believed to be true about his God.

“Blind faith at it’s worst”  I commented shortly after.  I was upset, and I didn’t feel like hiding my distain for what had just happened.  This is the faith that is so damaging.

When reality sharply presses against your faith, you can either let it be squashed, or you can pull it away and protect it, ignoring reality completely.   

When this happened with my friend, we had heated words.  We both apologized, but he concluded that “I have just finally come to the conclusion that faith is not something someone comes to by an ascent of the mind.”

And that was that.  The conversation is over.

To learn that there are people, smart people, in this world that will decide that furthering their understanding of a subject is not worth it if it threatens what they believe.  That knowledge is somehow evil, stemming from the Garden of Eden perhaps.

This is the true power of faith.  The true evil of it.  Convincing you that your own mind, and the minds of other rational people are the true enemy.

This was a wake up call for me.  Through my studies, I assumed that everyone would accept my position if I presented it in the way that I had learned it.  If we carved away all but true statements.  If we followed those true statements to their logical conclusions.  My reasoning is sound so this should be a simple matter of explanation.

Boy, was my bubble burst.  I was depressed about CW, who had lost something very valuable.  His mental vigor.  But I was more depressed about something else.

I had failed.

I did something wrong.  I didn’t explain something correctly, or maybe I derailed a part of the conversation.

But, in a few days after reading the conversation again and again I realized that I hadn’t failed.  There is nothing you can do against certain mindsets.  The mindset that “I can’t be wrong about this one thing” is something you can’t win.  I couldn’t have failed because there was no way to succeed in the first place.

This is something CW will have to come to without my prodding.  That faith isn’t a path to truth.  Believing something really hard, so hard that it’s above any criticism is irrational, and often leads to false conclusions.

I set my sights on the horizon though.  Maybe this wasn’t a loss, but a push.  And even if it is a loss, it’s not a reflection on my poor arguing skills or faulty logic.

And even if it were my fault, even if I drove this man into stubbornness, skepticism is growing worldwide.  I side with the Beatles:

Advertisements

The Marketplace of Ideas: Show Me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine

The post I wrote earlier tonight originally started as a big giant rant, but in writing it, I found that my ideas would be better communicated by splitting them up by subject.  Here is the second subject I had in mind.

I am a big fan of the marketplace of ideas.  You show me your ideas.  I’ll show you mine.  Let’s see whose sound the best.

To use a poker analogy.  You have your hand.  I have mine.  We can bet all we want, but if we really believe in our hand, I mean really believe in it enough to not get bullied out of the hand by overenthusiastic betting, then at the end of the day, we’ve gotta lay our cards down and see who has the winning hand.

In my conversations believers aren’t willing to do this.  They are either completely unwilling to showdown their entire hand (“I just believe I have the winning hand and you can’t convince me otherwise.  It’s just a matter of faith”), or they will show most of their cards, but claim to hold tight to the cards that actually “make” their hand.  They’ll show you the 7, 3, and J while claiming they still have two aces left that they aren’t going to show.  They will claim with absolute certainty to have the winning hand.

Maybe they actually do, maybe they don’t.  Who’s to say?

But there’s a lot to be said for why they wouldn’t be willing to show their cards in the first place.  If they actually do have the winning hand, what’s the harm of showing?  If their faith will actually stand up to the fire, why protect it?

I would say there are three distinct possible answers:

1.  They know that they aren’t the best cards.  This is possible, but unlikely.  I don’t think people typically hold strongly to ideas they know are wrong.

2.  They honestly have no idea what they actually hold and are embarrassed to be proven wrong.

3.  They are unwilling to risk the possibility they are wrong due to an emotional investment in their ideas.

I think the last two are especially probable, but this is a bad thing.  This keeps bad ideas alive.  This is what I seek to avoid.

We must get over our emotional ties to bad ideas.

We must not be embarrassed to admit defeat if that admission promotes better ideas.

Conversations with Friends: JN #1

Being new at being an atheist, I studied and studied every idea I could find on the matter of apologetics and counter apologetics.  I feel sufficiently caught up in order to talk to most believers and confront some of the popular sayings and mantras.  One thing I was not prepared for was the invincibility of faith.  It’s not, of course.  After all, there have been many converts, myself included.  But faith is a powerful foe.

I’ve been speaking on and off with two friends specifically about God.  One of them is a former youth pastor of my wife.  I will call him JN for anonymity.  He reached out to me in a very pastor-ly way.  Very nice, very friendly.

The stated purpose for him reaching out was just to ask some questions and see where my head was at.  I’m not sure what the end game actually is, but I figured this would be a good time to show that I was educated on the matters of God and stretch some of my brain muscles.  This should also go without saying, but a great bi-product of this type of discussion is that if there is a flaw pointed out in my thinking, I can correct it.  It’s a win-win for me.

At this point, this conversation has reached a few crucial nodes of discourse.

-JN thinks that faith in and of itself is beneficial.  I’ve pointed out it’s flaws, but the benefits haven’t been stated.

-JN believes that there’s no evidence that he could present to convince me.  While I agree with him in this particular moment, the evidence could be discovered one day that would convince me, or any other skeptic.

One important piece of agreement is the ways in which we can answer the argument from nonbelief:

Either

1.  God does not exist and believers are mistaken.

2.  Nonbelievers aren’t looking for evidence.

3.  Nonbelievers haven’t found the evidence for God’s existence, but believers have.

4.  God has not revealed himself to nonbelievers.

We can immediately rule out #2.  I would say that a lot of nonbelievers are looking for evidence of God, myself included.  If a theists questions this, we can merely ask for the evidence, and that should put that theory to rest.

#4 isn’t consistent with most God concepts.  Most theists would reject this one, while I am still open to the possibility that this could be the case.

#3 is where JN has landed.  Nonbelievers are looking, but looking in the wrong places, or in the wrong ways.  In this case, a simple matter of instruction should clear this up.  Ask the theists, show me God, or show me how to find the evidence for God.  They will say, “just open your heart” or “just believe”, but this isn’t evidence for God’s existence.  If it is, then this can be evidence for just about anything you wanted to believe.  Unicorns exist.  All you have to do to know that is to open your heart and believe that they exist.

I’ll use an analogy that my friend, JN, in this discussion actually gave me.  He said atheists are scanning the FM stations for God, and believers have found him on the AM band.

This is a great analogy.  Let’s expand.  The FM band in this analogy is the natural world, while God resides in the supernatural realm, the AM band.  Never mind, for the moment that God apparently manifests himself into the FM band from time to time which would be detectable by those of us scanning it.

So if the theist is claiming to see God on the AM band, wouldn’t the easiest way to reconcile this be for him to show me how to scan the AM frequencies.  Show me where the button on my radio is to change bands.

Instead, in this analogy, JN is basically saying “you just have to believe that the AM band is there, I can’t prove it to you.  You just have to have faith.”  This wouldn’t make sense at all if the AM band actually existed and if the theists actually had access to it.  He would just show me.  Or demonstrate that he could access it somehow.

In addition, there are millions of other people convincing me of other bands that exist.  There are muslims telling me to tune into the CM band.  Alien abductees telling me that their aliens speak to them on the ZM band.  And none of them can tell me how to tune my radio other than to just “believe”.

How can I reconcile this?

My only course of action is to deny that any of these other bands exist until someone has the ability to demonstrate to me how I can change my bandwidth.  Or at the very least that it is obvious that they are listening to another bandwidth.

But none can.

This defeats option #3 from above.  I am left with the fact that either #1, God doesn’t exist, or #4, he has not revealed himself.  In the case of #4, my life would be exactly the same as if he didn’t exist.

How to Apologetics: Godisimaginary.com

(Before you read this or decide not to, I would like to point out that at the end of writing this blog, I came to a very different conclusion that the one that I hoped to point out.  I will address it at the end of the post, and if you’re not interested in the subject matter, you may find my conclusion interesting.)

http://www.godisimaginary.com is one of my favorite sites.  It’s written for the layman, and while some of it’s arguments are admittedly bad, they are laid out in a clear concise and plain way.  The few fallacies and errors are easy to spot.

Whenever a Christian or Atheist puts together a popular well-thought out argument, there are always people on the opposing side who decide to undertake the challenge of debunking the entire argument, usually due to confirmation bias.  I want what I believe to be true so the things you state that contradict that CAN’T be true!

For today, I am going to be examining The Rational Choice’s attempt to debunk the “proofs” from http://www.godisimaginary.com.  So yeah, this is going to get really complicated.  Before reading this I would go read two things:

The first ten proofs presented by www.godisimaginary.com 

The Rational Choice’s first 10 rebuttals on this page.  It’s pretty short and I will be quoting from it quite a bit.

Proof 1

The Rational Choice accuses God Is Imaginary of a non sequitur.  The Rational Choice straw mans the argument into “Prayers aren’t answered therefore God doesn’t exist.”

The actual argument here is:  The Christian says he answers prayers God.  The Christian Biblical God cannot lie because he is perfectly moral.  Prayers are not answered therefore The Christian Biblical God does not exist.

God Is Imaginary is specifically arguing against the Biblical God and even says this in the first paragraph, “One way would be to find a contradiction between the definition of God and the God we experience in the real world.”

He’s showing a logical contradiction.  God cannot fail to answer prayers, tell us he’s going to answer prayers, AND be incapable of telling a lie.  Therefore if we show that God is not answering prayers either God is a liar (in which case he’s not the Biblical God), he hasn’t told us he’s going to answer prayers (in which case the Bible is untrue and the Biblical idea of God is false.

The Rational Choice then states that “He did not promise that He would give us whatever we desire.”

I was going to link to all the verses that explicitly say this, but I realize the God Is Imaginary already listed all the ones I was thinking of.  The Rational Choice dismisses all of these by stating that these verses are “taken out of context”, and don’t actually mean what they say they mean.  Jesus was just making a point about how God can use a tiny amount of faith to do impossible things.

Okay, sure.

It’s just a coincidence that in EVERY one of those verse, Jesus is illustrating this point by telling people that WHATEVER THEY ASK FOR THEY WILL GET.  He wasn’t telling people that what they ask for is what they get, only that if they have faith then God can do great things……such as getting them whatever they ask for.  Sorry, the context card is not going to work.

Proof 2

This was dismissed by The Rational Choice except to clarify “Also worthy to note here is that the writer seems to think that God must answer yes to every prayer…but where in the Bible does it ever say that? No where.”

But wait, a prayer is a request for God to do or give something, and Jesus in Matthew 21:21 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

This is about as clear as saying a “God will answer yes to all your requests” so The Rational Choice is demonstrably wrong here once again.

Proof 3

The Rational Choice makes the point here about a non sequitur and this time he’s actually right.  God is Imaginary’s point that other God stories and similar mythic tales to the Bible’s invalidate it does not follow, but it does point out a possible explanation for the Bible being a myth.

Proof 4

Okay maybe The Rational Choice’s charge of non sequiturs was more on the money that I originally was willing to admit.  This proof from God is Imaginary did not show that God doesn’t exist because “science”, but like the previous one, it makes a point. Science has never been debunked or negated by anything remotely resembling a supernatural phenomenon, whereas the inverse is almost always true.  Supernatural explanations get replaced with natural ones all the time.

Proof 5

The Rational Choice gives up here and screams “CONTEXT!” then moves on.  Here’s the problem with this context argument, or any argument regarding the Bible.  The Bible is not a coherent monolithic document.  It is easily taken out of context and can be used in almost any fashion to justify any action or belief.  So when someone gets it “wrong” it’s difficult not to see both sides of it, but to me that shows that this book is not divinely inspired also.  The fact that it’s such a confusing collaboration of documents containing justifications for all sorts of actions.  I think God Is Imaginary’s point that such a book doesn’t have the qualities of a divine document is accurate.

Proof 6

The Rational Choice is really good at dismissing or completely ignoring the point, and shoving it aside with a…rationalization.  Here he quarrels with God is Imaginary’s use of Rick Warren’s particular theology.  And again, he’s right that not every Christian agree with Rick Warren, but he missed the point.

The point is this.  God has free will in choosing what type of universe to create, what type of people to create.  He also has perfect knowledge.  Knowing exactly what consequences his actions will cause.  This illustrates that God knowingly created evil.  Not just “the capacity for evil”.  God directly, knowingly created evil.  This is far from a perfect plan.

Proof 7

Here, God is Imaginary compares the extraordinary nature of the biblical claims to similar extraordinary claims to equate how we should approach these types of claims.  The Rational Choice disregards this with “Just because the preceding stories are true/false, however, they have no bearing on the truth value of the succeeding story. He ends with another little rant against prayer.”

And while he’s right, he’s missed the point.  One being false doesn’t make the other false, but the manor in which we dismiss one as false is the same manner in which we can safely dismiss Christianity as false.

We have equal amounts of evidence (none) to support the equally extraordinary claims, so we should dismiss them all equally.

Proof 8

To be honest here, I side with The Rational Choice on this one.  God is Imaginary didn’t put forth a proof so much as he tried to debunk NDE as proof of God.  I don’t really have much to say about this except that I don’t know much about NDE’s except what comes from hearsay evidence.  I don’t think there is a scientific consensus about whether or not these actually occur.

Proofs 8 and 9

Nothing specifically addressed with these points because they are a reiteration of prayer.

Conclusion

I admit, I have come to a very different conclusion that I had hoped to on the onset of this quest.  My hope was to show how erroneous apologetics can be, but I came to a different conclusion.  Apologetics AND counter apologetics can both be erroneous.  I knew this of course, but the theist pointed out some very good problems with the atheist’s arguments.

To me, this is important.  We should seek to find flaws in arguments that we accept as valid.  This is the heart of skepticism and why I will be focusing my efforts less on being anti-God, and more on being a rational skeptic.  The two go together quite well because being skeptical naturally leads one to reject the claims of God that lack evidence, but my focus will be slightly more on promoting how to think better, rather than “how not to believe in that stupid God of yours.”

Skepticism: “I don’t believe in 2870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2869 gods.”

The quote is from Ricky Gervais.  He’s referring to his reply to theists who question his atheism.

“…they are nearly as atheistic as me.”

I have been having more and more conversations with believers now.  I am in the business of trying to challenge ideas.  My ideas, their ideas, all ideas.  Put them on the table and let’s talk about them.  Recently, a pastor friend of mine asked me this question.

“I would ask you the why is disbelief a virtue? What do we benefit from it?”

My response was probably not very convincing, and I am very critical of myself.  I always second guess the way I convey ideas because my goal is to convey them concisely, directly, and clearly.  I don’t think I did a very good job of that.

“Oh we benefit so much from skepticism. Even you, the faithful Christian! Haha. How much trouble have you saved yourself from being skeptical of all God claims. You benefit from being skeptical about Zeus, Buddha, Allah. You benefit by not believing in Santa and fairies and all sorts of things.

The way in which you benefit is that beliefs inform how we behave, so by you not behaving as if these things all exist, you behave more sanely. You act in a way that is more consistent with reality. You behave more rationally. You buy your kids presents because of your skepticism of Santa. Without that, your kids would be pretty upset.”

But I think that this point is a valid one.  We are all skeptical.  We all live in the realm of skepticism to a degree.  It’s because skepticism works, whether we have admitted it or not.  It worms it’s way into our decision making by the very virtue of it’s use.

The default position of non-belief is virtuous because it keeps us from believing every claim that is presented.  There are more ways to be wrong, and therefore more wrong claims that can be made, than there are more ways to be right.  So we should measure claims with a very accurate ruler.

And we see this in reality.  We see that there are many many many contradictory claims, specifically between the different religions, but even within them.  The different sects, and different theologies.  This doesn’t mean that none of them are right, but it does show that a whole lot of them are wrong just on the nature of the claims and the amount of them that contradict.

Theists would have to agree too.  Maybe even more strongly than I feel about it.  They believe so strongly that their God is the one true God that they disbelieve all other God claims on the basis of contradiction alone.

Skepticism makes two basic assumptions that I think are valid:

1.  We exist in a reality with properties.

2.  Our perceptions about this reality are sometimes right, and sometimes wrong.

But there are those that would claim absolute certainty of an idea.  Ideas that don’t have good enough reason to believe in, let alone claim certainty over.  Those that claim certainty of an idea are incorrect.  Not in the idea they believe in, but in the way in which they believe it.  Absolute certainty doesn’t exist, and even the Pope can be wrong about things.

It’s this acceptance that allows us to examine ALL ideas for truth, and consistency within the reality we inhabit.  In my 2nd blogpost I spoke about the nature of truth.

The second point I brought up in my response was that beliefs inform our actions.  What we believe has huge impact on how we behave.  For example, if I believed that Link for the Legend of Zelda was a true story, I might be inclined to take up my sword, go into the woods and try to help him out!  But this is nonsense, and my actions won’t do anything good or useful.

In the same way, religious beliefs that are false have consequences.  Religious beliefs are also extremely influential.  It’s important that we are skeptical of religious claims until they’re proven themselves correct.

This is why I encourage anyone that believes in a God to seriously question your beliefs.  When I was a Christian I believed in doing this to bolster my faith.  It turned me into a stronger skeptic, and someone with a firmer grip on reality, in my opinion.

Be skeptical.

A Completely Different Atheist reads “Letters from a Skeptic” by Greg and Edward Boyd – Preface and Invitiation

Some of you may be familiar with Steve Shives series, “An Atheist reads..” where he reads a theological book from an atheist perspective and basically refutes most of the main points.  It’s a great youtube series supplemented by notes, that you can find on his page here:  www.stevelikestocurse.com

My wife recently picked up “Letters from a Skeptic” and I decided that I was interested enough in this type of thing to do this myself. I’m no youtube video maker though so I decided to use my blog to discuss the books ideas.  So without further ado, let’s start with a brief summary of the idea of the book, and then I will jump into the preface and the inviting letter from Greg Boyd.

The book is by noted theologian Gregory Boyd and his father Edward.  It is a collection of correspondences between the two in which Boyd tries to answer his father’s skeptical questions about God and Christianity.  It’s an excellent idea for a book in that atheists and skeptics can find most of their contentions addressed, and theists can find most of the hard questions they are likely to hear from atheists.

In the end, Greg ends up converting his father after 3 years of letters.

I do think the title of the book should have been “Letters to a Skeptic” since Boyd initiates the conversations and subsequent letters, but that may just be nitpicky.  It’s not as if his father went out of his way to say, “hey answer all these questions for me” and then sent him a bunch of letters.  Like I said, that’s just a nitpick.

Onto to the preface.

The book starts out by Greg, who wrote the preface, describing his father as “exceptionally intelligent, intensely skeptical” and “very strong-willed”.  While I do think it’s sweet of the man to compliment his father, I can’t help but get the feeling that all of these complements have an undercurrent of ego riding under them.  “I convinced the most brilliant, hard-headed, intensely skeptical atheist!  Therefore, Christianity is true!” At the very least they reek of pandering.

This is even more odd when later in the book, in the first chapter even, Edward admits to being uneducated in philosophy and not firm in his beliefs.  More on that later.

Greg continues by giving a history of he and his father’s previous discussions and giving us some of his insight into how his father felt about religion.  That he harbored resentment towards church, and never showed openness to the gospels, etc.

He talks about how he felt led to open up the dialogue through letters. “what did I have to lose” he says.

I actually really appreciate Greg’s approach here and his reasoning.  I think opening up a dialogue with people you disagree with, specifically loved ones, can teach you how to be caring and loving while disagreeing with someone.  I think also that it takes some gall to put your belief system up to scrutiny and I actually respect that.

While I appreciate the approach, I don’t appreciate the reason for it.  Dialogue’s shouldn’t be only for convincing other people that you’re right and they are wrong.  It should be open that both sides are capable of being wrong, and that if Greg held a belief that his father showed to be unreasonable or that Greg did not have evidence or reason for believing it, that he would be willing to change or accept that he held it on faith.  I somehow doubt that Greg has this willingness to change when approaching his father with this, or that he has any intention of changing his mind at all.

Later Greg says,

“There, is of course, always a spiritual dimension in an unbeliever’s resistance to the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4), and reasons are never in and of themselves enough to convert an unbelieving heart.”

As an unbeliever, I completely disagree, obviously with the notion of a spiritual dimension, but more importantly to the idea that reasons alone aren’t enough to convince us.  This is utterly ridiculous.  Reasons alone ARE enough to convince someone to believe something.  Reasons are the only method, other than threats, that are enough to compel anyone to do anything.  A lack of reasons is why I became an atheist.  This is an arrogant attitude and implies somehow that unbelievers are ignoring good reason, or are spiritually stunted or possessed in a way that does not allow them to see the truth.  Provide me good reason and I will believe.

Also, Greg says

“This correspondence is an illustration of how the intellectual and spiritual elements of an unbeliever’s resistance to the Gospel can go hand in hand, and how a person can address both of these elements simultaneously”

I wonder how Greg intends to illustrate the spiritual elements of his father’s resistance, and how he addresses those spiritual elements.  I have a feeling that we’re only going to see the intellectual side of things.

The rest of the preface is just explanation of the editing process of the letters, and how editing of the letters he and his father wrote were crucial to making a coherent, clear, organized and thematically consistent book.  Understandable, but one does wonder exactly what might have been removed.  I wonder if anything that made Greg’s arguments appear weak was removed after the conversion of his father?  This is just speculation on my part, but it would not surprise me.  I will give Greg the benefit of the doubt though, and read it as if the letters are intact content-wise.

The last part of the preface is just “thank you’s” so I will move on to the letter from Boyd to his father.  The “Invititation:  To Dad, with Hope”

I don’t have much to say about this that hasn’t already been said in the description of the book and the preface analysis.  It’s a genuine letter to his dad to reach out and offer him a chance to challenge his son’s beliefs and have his son try to field some of the tougher questions of Christianity.

Boyd ends the letter with this:

“Having one’s faith challenged –whatever faith one holds — is always a good thing.  If it can’t “stand the fire,” a faith isn’t worth holding — whether it is Christianity or atheism.”

This is a sentiment that I very much agree with, and it’s pleasant to hear from the side of theism.  Often theists lean on the fact that faith should be unshakable or unmoving, but Boyd offers a view of faith that is potentially “not able to withstand the fire” and “not worth holding.”

I respect this view, and I hope that you do too.  I am not sure if Boyd is just playing lip service to this idea because in the preface he said he was led to “share the Christian faith” with his father.  This is slightly different than opening up the discussion in order for both sides to be tested.  So I am curious as to which one of these is his true motive, or is it possibly a combination of both?  Maybe it changed over the course of the 3 years.  I am not sure at this point, but I bet we will have a better idea of Greg’s motivation once we get into some of his reasoning.

That’s it for now.  Next time I will be dealing with the 1st official section of the book titled “Part 1:  Questions about God.”  Each part is broken down into multiple correspondences about distinct issues.  I am not sure how many of these issues I will be able to tackle per blog post.  It seems like 2 may be the limit, but they are pretty short so we’ll see.

Thanks for reading and please comment, and/or subscribe if you like what you’re reading.

Debate with William Lane Craig

I would like to formally announce myself as an atheist with this blogpost, and I think I have found a very creative way to go about doing so.  I have studied the arguments for and against God for the better part of 12 years, and I feel like I have a good grasp of the concepts.  I would like to explain to you the reasons why I am an atheist in a formal debate rebuttal with Dr. William Lane Craig.

The reason why I think this would be interesting is because Dr. Craig seems to be the best that theists can offer in terms of arguing for the existence of God.  He is an excellent debater, and often times his debate style alone causes atheists to lose the debate (despite my belief that they are more correct in their thinking).  They simply aren’t prepared to meet him point for point.  I think if you’re an atheist, you should understand the theist arguments, and be able to refute them.

For this exercise, I will be using Dr. Craig’s typical debate performance opening and rebutting it.  Obviously doing responses would be difficult because he responds specifically to his opponents, so I will leave it at the opening statements.  If any theist wants to respond to my opening, feel free and I will respond in kind.

I will use Craig’s opening with Christopher Hitchens because he seems to cover the broadest range of arguments in a relatively short amount of time.  You can view the opening here, and subsequently see how NOT to debate Craig if you watch the rest of the debate.  Hitchens fails miserably in a formal debate format, in my opinion.

Protip:  Skip ahead to the 13 minute mark to avoid all the introductions and get to what I am rebutting.

Without further ado!

“Thank you to everyone who hosted the fake debate.  I’d like to thank my brain for inviting me and hosting the event.  Thank you to Dr. Craig for not agreeing to have his opening used in this manner.

Tonight, I’m defending atheism. The lack of belief in a god or gods.  Atheism is not a belief system, it’s not a claim of truth.  It’s the disbelief of a claim. Therefore, I hold no burden of proof tonight, EXCEPT to rebut the arguments of Dr. Craig.  A lack of belief can’t be proven, or demonstrated except by tearing down the arguments of the belief itself.  Atheism can’t be proven, or demonstrated except by tearing down the arguments of theism.  If we remove the reasons to believe, we are left with no reason to belief.  This is what atheism claims.  We have no reason to belief.  Therefore, in order to “prove” atheism is true, and build up a case for atheism, we merely have to show that theistic arguments are not reasonable.  Atheism is the ground floor and theism is the building on shaky stilts, so to speak.

You may think this is a cop out, but allow me give an example.  Alien abductions are a claim made frequently in our society.  These people claim to have physical evidence, physical experiences, supernatural experiences.  Sound familiar?  In order to disbelieve these claims, we do not need to prove that the opposite is true (that aliens don’t exist).  We need merely to cast a looming shadow of doubt on the claims made by these people.  We need merely to have no evidence in their favor.

In an age where many God claims and various other supernatural claims are made, such as the existence of aliens, it is paramount for us to be doubtful.  All of the god claims in the world can’t be true.  Many of them are mutually exclusive.  This isn’t to say that none of them are true, but it is to say that the burden of proof is on the ones who are making the claims, not on the disbelievers to prove another explanation.

Tonight though, I make it my burden to discredit and tear down Dr. Craig’s claims.  If he hopes to be successful, he must prop them back up.

1.  Kalam

I will start with Dr. Craig’s first claim.  The Kalam Cosmological Argument.  Dr. Craig claims the the universe must have had a beginning, and that this is scientifically agreed upon to be the big bang. The beginning of our universe.  I agree.

My first point of contention is when he claims that there was “nothing” before the big bang.  First, this is not scientific.  Most scientists claim not to know what was before the big bang.  In fact, the phrase “before the big bang” may not even make sense within the context of our universe.  The Law of causality may not apply because we’re potentially talking about a “time” before there was time.  It’s up to Dr. Craig to demonstrate, using evidence, that there is such a thing as “before the beginning of time”.

My next contention is that even if we grant Dr. Craig that there was a “before the beginning of time” we don’t know very much about it.  Dr. Craig claims that we do.  He makes several claims about it.  He claims that the cause of the universe must exist in this “before the beginning.” That this creator must be is a being.  That it is uncaused.  I’m not even sure what basis this claim has.  That because it is outside of our time, space, and matter, it is therefore timeless, spaceless, immaterial. How does he know ANY of this?

It’s at least possible that if there was something that caused our universe to exist that it was not any of those things.  We don’t know that a cause had to be outside of all time, space and material, just our observable time, space and material. It’s possible that our universe came from the matter, time, and space of another universe.  If that were the case, the cause of the universe wouldn’t necessarily be a being, wouldn’t necessarily be outside of all time, all space, all matter.  Just the time, space, and matter of our observable universe.

I’m not asking you to accept this as an explanation, but only as a possible explanation.  Dr. Craig’s assertion is that it HAS to be uncaused, timeless, spaceless, and immaterial, yet I’ve given a plausible explanation in which uncaused, timeless, spaceless and immaterial are not definitive, proven traits of whatever caused our universe to begin.

So in summary, Dr. Craig must first demonstrate that there was a “before the beginning of time”, and then he must demonstrate that whatever was “before the beginning of time” couldn’t possibly have existed inside a separate plane of existence with time, matter, and space.  This is a heavy burden, and if Dr. Craig can manage to prop up his claims, he will definitely have surprised me, and the entire scientific community that disagrees with him.

2. Teleological Argument

This is a much simpler rebuttal.  Dr. Craig has not given any evidence in support of this claim except the improbability of life arising naturally in this way.  We can excuse this argument without evidence because it was given without evidence.  Improbability does not imply design, HOWEVER I think that this universe permitting life is less probable than Craig claims.

His figure is based on OUR life.  What are the odds that any particular universe could sustain any kind of life?  I’m sure they are much lower.  We are eager to look at our needs for life because it’s the only life that we’ve experienced.  It’s entirely possible that different kinds of life, requiring different universal conditions could’ve arisen from different universes.  It seems entirely possible that we have a need for the condition that the universe provides simply because the universe provides these conditions.

Consider a pothole filled with rainwater.  We might look at the shape the rain formed and say, “how improbable!  This water was designed to go in this hole!”, but it’s much more rational to believe that the water was molded and conformed to fit inside the hole.

In fact this is made more plausible by the fact that the universe was around for such a long time before conditions permitting the life we have knowledge of arose.

Dr. Craig must prove that the entire universe was designed to support our life, and that we did not arise naturally from the conditions of the universe.  Another heavy burden.

3. Morality

With secular morality, the moral standard relies on us.  I think that our moral standards are not ultimately objective in such a universal way of thinking about it, but I think they are objective in that they are an attempt at maximizing the overall well-being and survival of our species.  The survival instinct that is ingrained in us through natural means is the driving force for this.  In that sense, it may not be considered objective, but it is meaningful.

In theological morality, I don’t believe that objective morality exists in the way that Dr. Craig proposes that it does.  Let’s examine the words.  Objective, meaning something true apart from a mind, and value, something that requires a mind.  Values don’t exist if minds don’t exist.  Never mind the fact that we have seen no evidence yet for God’s mind, but even if we had, moralities based on God’s nature, or his commands would not be objective, but rather subjective to his standard of morality.  Even if God is moral perfection, who’s to say that God’s moral perfection is desirable?  It would still be a merely subjective idea of morality.  It would not only be subjective, but arbitrary in that morality is not defined in a way that is beneficial to anyone, but God perhaps.

Craig must demonstrate that morality is objective in the way that he claims it is, outside of minds (while relying subjectively on God’s), and that it’s also meaningful in some way.

4. Jesus  This is where he has completely derailed from reason and evidence and is content to rely on hearsay.  While the Bible may have some historical accuracies, there is no evidence for the claims made within the Bible other than hearsay.  This can easily be dismissed.  There’s no physical evidence for Jesus, for his acts, for his death, or his resurrection.  Dr. Craig must present this evidence rather than rely on baseless assertions and hearsay.  No reasonable jury would convict a defendant based on hearsay, so why should we believe things on hearsay.  Especially such extraordinary claims that fly in the face of what we know about the observable universe.

5.  Holy Spirit

Lastly, Dr. Craig continues this train wreck of a reasonable argument by appealing to his own senses and experiences as infallible.  The Holy Spirit, which speaks directly to him, and to everyone, yet he can’t demonstrate any real basis for this claim.  This is easily dismissed as well unless Dr. Craig can give us an example of this Holy Spirit.

So I have laid out my argument.  In summary, Dr. Craig has a lot of ground to cover.  He must provide evidence that:

There was a “time before time”.

There is a being outside of our universe.

It is not possible for a separate plane of time, space, or matter that exists outside of our universe.

The universe is explicitely designed for us.

Objective Morality exists, in the way that he describes it. As being dependent on the mind of God.

That this kind of morality is meaningful.

Jesus existed.

Jesus performed miracles, and was God.  This included resurrecting from the dead.

The Holy Spirit exists.

If Dr. Craig can not demonstrate these unreasonable assertions that he has made, then atheism, and doubt is the clear winner here.  We must not accept any of Dr. Craig’s claims without good reasons.

Thank you.