Sunday, October 23, 2011

In defense of Atheism--A Critique of Richard Dawkins and William Lane Craig

Many know Richard Dawkins as an outspoken advocate of atheism and author of "The God Delusion." He is a well known speaker and has debated the subject of Christianity with many learned theists, including the Archbishop of Canterbury--but he refuses to debate the Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig. Because of this, Dawkins has been labelled by Craig and others, as a coward for not stepping up to take that challenge.

Now, in my view the debates are moot anyway, since the arguments have already been refuted long ago, and I too have offered refutations to WL Craig's arguments on this blog. In his defense, Dawkins claims he does not want to debate anyone who is willing to defend the slaughter of the Canaanites as being necessary --yet he has already debated others who have these same beliefs, including two archbishops of Canturbury--so this excuse makes no sense.  It makes no sense because as Christians, they cannot "disown" as Dawkins puts it, the parts of the bible that reveal the god ordained slaughtering of the innocents. (Deuteronomy 20: 13-15,) To do so would be to negate the authority of the bible--and it would become meaningless. Many scholars however, acknowledge that much of what is written about in war, and in other circumstances, is exaggerated hyperbole--and especially in the case of the slaughter of the Canaanites, the language used is full of bravado, is exaggerated, and is said to be hypberbolic.  Why, as the authors of "The Bible Unearthed" have shown, using  archeological evidence, the battles probably never even happened in the first place.   Jesus however, never "disowned" any part of the Old Testament, and did not claim the OT to be anything but the word of God.  He did not "disown" the so called word of God--and neither can Christians, or they would not be Christains.   Christians seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place concerning this issue, because if we consider some of the bible to be hyperbole, then all of it comes into question and can be considered as such. We have no way of knowing what is hyperbole and what is not. But if they take it literally, then their bible reveals a god who is not at all "all-loving" as he orders the slaughter of innocent women and children. Hmmm.... If Christians disown the slaughter of the innocent Canaanites, they might as well disown the torture and murder of the innocent Jesus as well--perhaps that is hyperbole too. That is, if Christians claim the story of the slaughter of the Canaanites is merely "hyperbole"--then we can say the same thing about the supposed torture and death of Jesus on the cross, and his so-called "resurrection." Perhaps it is just hyperbole too--it never really happened.

Furthermore, according to Christians, Jesus used hyperbole many times, such as when he said "prayer moves mountains." We know that doesn't happen either. Perhaps it is also his use of hyperbole when he claims to be the son of god.  When Jesus said that "me and the father are one"--that too could just be hyperbole--as when I say that "me and my grandmother are one. "  I say this because my grandmother and I share the same philosophy--just as Jesus claimed that he shares the same philosophy with his father. But, it would not mean that I am my grandmother, nor that Jesus is God.

Nevertheless, WL Craig, whom I now label as the "king of strawmen, " (as that is his favorite fallacy) offers weak arguments that can easily be taken apart; but what sets him apart from other apologists is his rhetorical skills. He does not win debates on whether what he is arguing for is the truth or not--it is purely by rhetoric. Now, if Dawkins can be criticized for not being willing to defend his position--so can the apologists. To illustrate how hypocritical many so-called apologists for Jesus are, note what the Christian blogger "Wintery Knight" --the blogger that does not take critical comments on his blog--mentioned in a recent post:

"I don't mind that atheists think atheism is true, and that theism is irrational. That's their view, and they are entitled to hold it and speak it and teach it. But I think that Came is right to say that they should also be willing to defend it in public. Dawkins is clearly not willing to defend his views, and that tells me that he has no reasons to believe them."

Wintery Knight is a blogger who will NOT take comments against his own views, and edits comments to suit his fancy. In other words, he too does not defend his views against criticism. Talk about hypocrisy--but he is not the only one. There are quite a few Christian bloggers out there that are unwilling to post comments from people such as myself because I know how to take apart their arguments and make them look ridiculous. Some of them are Tom Gilson at "Thinking Christian", "Wintery Knight"--and my favorite, JW Wartick, at "Always Have a Reason." Now, there are a few, such as Bill Pratt at "Tough Questions Answered" and Ray Comfort at "Atheist Central" that still do take my comments, and I commend them for that, but for those that do not--they are no different than Dawkins and WL Craig. You see, Craig has also refused to debate certain scholars, as he will not take up the challenge of debating his former student, John Loftus over at "Debunking Christianity", because Craig knows that Loftus knows what he knows!!  Craig has no problem debating people he feels have less knowledge than he does, or weaker rhetorical skills, but Craig refuses to debate Loftus--why? Because he knows Loftus would make a fool out of him.  Craig claims he does not want to debate a former student--which, like his arguments, is just a weak excuse. Craig et al. are hypocrites and cowards, and have no business "defending" their faith against criticism--when they cannot take criticism.

As my mother said long ago--if the theists can't take the heat, they should get out of the kitchen. I would debate Craig anytime, and I know I would make him look ridiculous. And to show I am not interested in the publicity, I would do it over the internet as a podcast--anonymously. Would Craig take up the challenge? If he has read my blog--he knows that it would be in his best interest not to take up the challenge because his weak arguments would be defeated.

Theists need to step up their game if they wish to keep up with scholars such as myself--because the cracks in their armor are showing, and I see feathers peeking through.


Paul Baird said...

Go here for the Facebook 'Unbelievable' forum where this has been debated to death.

Anonymous said...

Great article Cathy. If I were WL Craig I would be afraid to debate you as well. However I no longer debate faith with because true believers are like debating the existence of Santa Clause with a 5 year old . They are that ridiculous,and I find it a waste of time. They shroud themselves in ignorance while claiming wisdom. sbj1964

A is for Atheist said...

@ sbj1964

Thanks for the positive feedback. I agree, that some true believers are like 5 year olds--but sometimes debate and having them really think about the absurdity of their beliefs does make something click in their minds. I know this to be true, because as a professor, I have "converted" many such students. It's one of the reasons why I keep doing what I do.

The Truthful Heretic said...

Your blog and posts are always a joy to read, especially the logic parts which is very rare to find in my opinion among bloggers. I have learned much, and for that I thank you.

I laughed when I saw you called Craig the king of Strawman. He is indeed that, and the fact that his ad hominems are carefully placed which confuses both audience and the opponent in the debates stands for that.

This comes to light when one reads what he has written. 100 pages, wasted on Kalam for example. I think he has written it that way so that nobody would read it! What bothers me is his dishonesty, which is disgusting, and he mostly gets away with it.

A is for Atheist said...

@ The Truthful Heretic

Thank you for your comment. I agree with you that Craig is dishonest, and I too find his antics quite disgusting.

I hope that Craig takes up the challenge in a debate against John Loftus--but I doubt he will-- because he knows John would not let him get away with his lies.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding writing as always Cathy. I don't see how you have the patience to argue with someone like JT Wartick. Dawkings won't debate Craig probably because it's just too frustrating. That's one of the reason Carl Sagan refused to debate Christian theologist. But I'm glad to see you on the front lines. The world is changing because of people like you Dawkings, Myers and many more. Keep up the great work. Something wrong with my google account.
Rocky Harper

A is for Atheist said...

@ Rocky

Thanks for the feedback. I critique and make comments on christian blogs so that others, especially those that are "sitting on the fence" so to speak "see the light" of Christianity for what it is--made up stories used to control and manipulate the masses. If they can see that it makes no sense, and realize the consequences of these beliefs, they are more likely to realize their faith is utter nonsense. I know this to be true, as I have seen the light in the eyes of many of my students. I hope you get your google account to work again...:)

Anonymous said...

I’m curious to see if you are true to your stated words about allowing opposing comments onto blogs. I wonder if you can make it through this entire letter without missing a word, actually trying to hear what’s being said. We’ll see in your response I guess.

I’d like to start with one of your examples from the above blog entry, just to propose a possible alternative understanding. Do you know for certain that all the Canaanites were innocent? Is there any reason beyond your belief and desire to think so that makes this so? Did you know for sure that all the Canaanite's hearts were pure, innocent, etc.? If there is a God, is it too far-fetched to believe that he could know the hearts of his creation or that he knew what was best in a larger sense? Just because you don't think it's just, does that mean it isn't? Have you ever seen a collective group of people who are completely and blindly against God (you’ve certainly encountered some that are blindly for God, as have I), refusing on principle and hatred to ever come around, refusing even a possibility that they are wrong about God? They exist, even today, feeding off each other’s hate. I have personally hated God for something I thought he took from me. It’s all-consuming, isn’t it?

Consider the possibility that if God knew (it's possible that a being of which nothing greater can be conceived could easily know that) they were never, ever going to come around, that their hate was so entrenched in them that they’d never leave it, what would he do if he thought that those who still had a chance to love him where in danger of either being affected by this hate or destroyed by it? What if this being knew that the Canaanite children who were innocent (by your definition) at that time would have grown into a culture so predisposed against God that they too never would have had a chance to know him for who he really is and all of them would have chosen other than God. Is it possible that God actually spared their eternal lives by removing them from their temporal ones? If eternity really was (and is) on the line and doing something that seems horrible on this side of death would actually prevent something infinitely worse on the other side, would you consider it as a possibility that a loving being would choose pain now over greater and longer-lasting pain later? Don't we allow small hurts for the people we love (like say, children?) to prevent bigger hurts later in life when the consequences are worse?

I don't claim to know why God commanded Israel to do it, I am just curious to know if it's even a possibility to you. If so, could there be other possibilities aside from what you've chosen to believe? Atheists don’t tend to believe in an afterlife, which automatically predisposes you against the idea that trading a “deserved” life here for an eternal life there would be preferred by the one who allegedly created and loves his creation. I realize that by virtue of your chosen system of belief, you necessarily see this life as all you’ve got, but if God were real, would that not be a rational possibility? But if this life really isn’t all we’ve got, if there is an eternity, I think it’s safe to say that it would be a possibility.

to be continued...

Anonymous said...

And by the way, if the battles in the OT "probably never even happened in the first place", then the Canaanites weren't slaughtered at all and neither you nor Dawkins have much to complain about do you? Then it really IS just a spook story. So if they did get slaughtered, you’re mad, and if they didn’t, you’re still mad. We're stuck trying to make sense out of something that is written in the OT that is difficult to make sense of, and we don't have the option of making crap up like the Muslims or the Mormons, writing ourselves blank checks to skirt around human inventions. We know we're stuck trying to make sense of those parts of the Bible, but hope and trust that we'll understand more of it someday, much like a Darwinist thinks that with enough time they'll be able to explain away say, irreducible complexity or find the fossil record that explains away the Cambrian Explosion. Maybe both entities will, maybe they won't, but at least extend the same courtesy to Christians that you atheists demand.

Why should anyone trust another person like you who has nothing to do with their own existence, still can't definitively explain why they are here with even the best arguments or ideas available to them (which are just piggy-backing or flat-out borrowed from a humanity which has spent thousands of years trying to figure it out) and is left with the only purpose for their lives being to tear down a belief system that at its cumulative core is love? Why would anyone in their right mind trust someone who is motivated and blinded by hate? You take one more step into the dark every new day, just like everyone else on the planet. There’s tons we don’t know yet because none of us have been on the planet for very long, nor will we be.

Is your purpose in life to hate Christians and Christianity enough that people will join you in your hate of people whose stated purpose is to learn to and practice love? You may not agree with the manner in which justice or love are played out and no one save possibly Jesus has ever been reputed to love or judge flawlessly. If you actually wanted to understand, maybe you could more humbly entertain other options besides the Christian God being a made-up jerk and all his followers a bunch of manipulative morons. I mean seriously, if the writers of the OT were trying to win friends and influence people, why would they have made up or included such difficult to explain events while claiming to serve a loving God? If it seems to you that it contradicts itself, wouldn’t it be pretty obvious to them too? I think they’d have avoided a lot of stories had they been trying to concoct a system of mind and behavior control, don’t you? Like perhaps never allowing a woman a prominent and highly-respected role in the leadership of God’s people. After all, it was a patriarchal society and world. Wouldn’t they avoid making a woman look valued and heroic? Well, strangely enough, they didn’t. Deborah, Ruth, Esther and plenty of others.

You’ve even gone so far as to call us out-and-out liars. Even if we’re all wrong, misinformed or delusional, I am not a liar and I know large numbers of others who aren’t either. I mean well with my actions toward people. I try to choose the best thing for others, even when it’s hard, which has been widely thought to be what love is in action.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you don’t know what love really is or what kind of sacrifice it takes to love even when you know you're not going to be loved back. Do you understand love completely? Do you have the ability to have a truly eternal perspective or even a comprehensive perspective of the present from your porch swing down here on earth? Would you have the courage to do the most loving thing in a tough situation simply because it's the loving thing or the true thing, or do you value something more than love or truth?

You think you've won arguments and “proved” points because you've made fun and cursed and ridiculed Christians in a way that others who share your basic viewpoint find entertaining and affirming in their mutual disdain. If ever there was a cold and heartless herd mentality, that’s it. Is your goal to win, to appear smarter, to "prove" that someone else is a fool or is it an actual, honest PURSUIT of truth? You don’t seem to be growing in knowledge, just in hate. Are you actually seeking to understand what we really do believe, because if you honestly are, you are far off in your assessment. Maybe you’re stuck. These Craigs, Behes, Lewises and Strobels aren't trying to hurt you or anyone else. They don't get a prize per conversion. They do it because they are trying to love and win open and honest hearts for the one they believe loved them first. Even IF they were misguided, that is their hope. You proselytize motivated by hatred of the opposition and a desire to win. We do so motivated by a God who tells us to love everyone, ESPECIALLY our enemies. You may love those who love you, but what credit is that to you? The worst people who've ever walked the earth have managed that much. All but a psychopath manages that much. You're actually TRYING to hate and pass on that hate. That's incomprehensible and incredibly selfish and cruel.

You think you are helping the world by ridding it of this Christian menace and replacing it with atheism? How? How does that further the views of say, fellow atheist Sam Harris, whose theory that our objective moral values are just there to further our survival capabilities? How would despair and hatred help anyone survive “better” or optimally? If nothing we do matters beyond this life, how could anything we do possibly matter in it? There’s no purpose to life at all then. In that case you’re peddling absolute despair and hatred and somehow in your mind you’ve convinced yourself that the Christians with their pathetic peddling of hope and love are the ones that need to be eradicated. If somehow hope could be replaced by the dismal “reality” of meaninglessness, you think that would actually help? How? Are you honestly trying to see what the world needs or selfishly attacking the thing that you personally have felt hurt and offended by?

There isn’t even the slightest bit of humility in your writing. You just mock others and twist the truth to suit your a priori opinions. You’ll probably accuse me and other Christians of the same thing, but in your mind that somehow tips the balance in your favor in your backwards economy. A legend in your own mind, you trust in no one but yourself. Why would any rational person debate someone who just wants to win, but doesn’t have any interest in going together in search of the truth?

Anonymous said...

A debate is for the benefit of its listeners only, but they rarely have an effect on the debaters. If you wanted to actually learn, I guarantee you someone like Craig would talk with you. He may be a bulldog in debate, but he’s a very kind person on the whole. Besides, no one ever really wins a debate, like no one truly wins a war, but you hope that your influence will be felt in the right direction and you hope to put a muzzle on evil or reveal deceit. At the moment, you are the enemy and someone like Craig is only going to debate someone with enough listeners that it would matter for eternity. You don’t have enough of an audience to matter right now. That’s not taking a shot, it’s just that only a handful of people have big enough names to warrant attention in this realm right now.

The problem is that not even the very appearance of God himself could convince you he exists. You’d create any explanation to not acknowledge even the possibility of God. That is foolishness. You couldn't possibly be wrong about this because you’re afraid to even entertain the possibility and even if you were clearly shown to be wrong on any point, you exhibit no evidence whatsoever of the courage to concede a single thing. There is nothing to debate with you because you believe you have all the answers and nothing left to learn that you can’t teach to yourself. I mean, your gifts, your wisdom, your knowledge are all because of you, right? You’ve done it all by yourself, right? There’s a decent barometer with which to measure someone’s emotional and relational maturity. It’s found in one's ability to say with increasing frequency, sincerity and humility, these three phrases: “I don’t know,” "I was wrong" and “I am sorry”. How easily do you say those things? And not just to who you love or who loves you.

Here’s the problem with what your attitude has been revealed to be in your blogs. You don't care about anyone else's freedom. You don't care about another human's “pain” at the hands of this cur-sed Christianity. You care about your pain, about how you were wronged. You care about sticking it to the God and Christianity that limited, hurt or "controlled" you and you figure the best way to do that is to try and discourage, tear down and destroy as many weak-minded Christians as you can. You're not about anyone else, just taking back what you think God or his followers took from you and paying him back for it. You're entirely about you and no one else. You're Max Stirner, but bitter. "Nothing is more to me than myself."

You're revealing yourself to be a coward on the highest order with every blog you write. You say you "know" all these things in your words above and responses to people. What do you really KNOW for sure, Cathy? Are you that head and shoulders above the rest who have ever lived in your own intellect and understanding? Your pride in yourself and hatred of Christianity and whatever it has done to "control" you have made you every bit the blind human being you and your cronies accuse Christians of being. You're intentionally trying to damage people who pose no real threat to your own life and that is the height of hatred, cowardice and selfishness. What kind of a person does that to others? Dragging down as many people with you as you can. It is never truer than when conversing with the proud, the arrogant and the narcissistic; misery truly does love company. You are living like the lying woman from 1 Kings 3. You’d rather “win” in some distorted sense of the word than seek the truth for the truth’s sake alone. You mock what you refuse to even try to understand. Oh sure, there’s always the possibility that we are the delusional ones, but you claim to see the truth in all of this and yet you are the spiteful one! At least in our supposed delusion, we are told to and are trying to love others. What’s your clear-headed rationale for bitterness and hate? Seriously, what’s wrong with you?

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that if God does not exist, then none of this matters and we can fight on and on about how this world should function, how this life should be lived. If that’s the case, atheism will probably win out in the end. Let’s be honest here, making up your own rules to satisfy your own desires without pesky consequences and never having to do anything you don’t feel like doing really does seem like fun at times. Living for others, putting effort into their well-being and disciplining yourself to do what’s right even when you don’t feel like doing it is not always enjoyable or desirable at first glance. But the reality is that if God does exist, you are only helping people move further away from love and hope and a never-ending joy and into a permanent despair and sadness.

You may wonder what I want in writing this, because everyone wants something, right? I want you to knock it off, grow up and have some integrity. Is this really how you want to spend your one go-round? Hating? Deal with whatever your difficult past is as an adult, stop blaming God for what’s wrong with the world and your life, figure out where your hatred lies and rid yourself of it. Maybe then you can actually be free and stop chaining others to you as you fall further into despair.

I curiously await your response.

A is for Atheist said...

@ Anonymous

To respond to what you have written I have begun a series of blog posts in order to respond in a scholarly fashion. See the first post here:

Matthew said...

This argument assumes that if a person grants that one part of a document is contains hyperbole the whole document can be dismissed as hyperbolic.

That however pretty clearly does not follow as your own post shows when you state

"As my mother said long ago--if the theists can't take the heat, they should get out of the kitchen."

Here you use a figure of speech about heat and kitchens, you don't intend to be taken literally.

So I guess I can dismiss your whole post as an inaccurate lie can't I. After all you use a figure of speech in one part of it?

This is clearly a ridiculous hermenutical principle.

A is for Atheist said...

@ Matthew

Actually, I did not assume that if a person grants that one part of a document contains hyperbole, the whole document can be dismissed as hyperbolic.
I said:

"...according to Christians, Jesus used hyperbole many times, such as when he said "prayer moves mountains." We know that doesn't happen either. PERHAPS it is also his use of hyperbole when he claims to be the son of god. When Jesus said that "me and the father are one"--that too could just be hyperbole--as when I say that "me and my grandmother are one." (emphasis mine)

The key part being that I said PERHAPS. This illustrates that the Christians are faced with an epistemological problem since Jesus often used hyperbole. In the case of Jesus' assertion that he and the father are one, Christians take this literally to mean that Jesus is god, but Christians also claim that Jesus uses hyperbole--so how do they know if Jesus is using hyperbole or not when he says that "he and the father are one."? Given the nature of the claim (For more details you can read my post on the trinity. See the first link below.) the best explanation would be that he is using hyperbole since the other option is illogical.

As you say, when one uses a figure of speech, they do not intend for it to be taken literally--thus the epistemological problem with reference to the trinity--is it to be taken literally or as hyperbole. As I said before, given the nature of the claim the best explanation would be that he is using hyperbole, since the other option is illogical. I consider this to be within the realm of hermeneutical principles--the science and art of interpreting texts. I am also using Traditional Hermeneutics and in particular to Philosophical Hermeneutics which refers primarily to the theory of knowledge. Now the Christian apologists' use of Biblical hermeneutics is an attempt to salvage the Bible from inconsistency and contradiction, and inaccuracy in general. They apply hermeneutic consistency which refers to analysis of texts for coherent explanation. When a better explanation goes against their faith and proves that their interpretation is not the best explanation, the evidence and proof is rejected. As a matter of fact, I just wrote a post dealing with Christian apologetics that illustrates this point. See the second address below.

At any rate, "I said PERHAPS. This illustrates that the Christians are faced with an epistemological problem since Jesus often used hyperbole. In the case of Jesus' assertion that he and the father are one, Christians take this literally to mean that Jesus is god, but Christians also claim that Jesus uses hyperbole--so how do they know if Jesus is using hyperbole or not when he says that "he and the father are one."?"

The first link:

The second link:

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