One of my favorite atheist podcasts is from The Thinking Atheist. Seth, the proprietor of TA, is a former Christian who is now an outspoken atheist apologist. He is both thoughtful as well as, at times, maddeningly blind to his lapses into some of the typical straw men and caricatures of Christianity used by anti-theists. I guess we all do that to our ideological opponents.
In one of Seth’s recent posts entitled Ten Questions About God, he provides an incisive list of questions that he feels he SHOULD have asked himself as a believer, and he asks us to do the same.
I have given each set of questions a Difficulty Rating, from 1-10, where 1 is an easy no-brainer, and 10 is a question which I find very challenging to my faith, and have no good answer for. Ready?
- External – historical or scientific inaccuracies
- Internal – too many textual variants or obvious interpolations and other later edits
- Internal – logical inconsistencies
In this last category falls the serious objection known as “Jesus’ failed prophecies,” which is discussed in one of the most challenging books on leaving faith that I have read, former Wycliffe missionary Kenneth Daniels’ Why I Believed.
In The Evil God Challenge – Flipping Arguments, I attempted to outline Stephen Law’s argument against the existence of a good God. In this post, I present the arguments that undermine Law’s argument. Enjoy.
1. Theodicies are NOT arguments FOR a good God.
In the EGC, Law is not debating any of the traditional philosophic arguments FOR the existence of God (though he does argue against the Moral Argument elsewhere).
Instead, he takes the theodicies created to defend Christianity against the Problem of Evil and flips them to show that in many instances, they show an equal possibility of an evil God. The problem here is that these arguments are not meant to show that a good God’s existence is probable, only that it is logically possible that an all good God and evil could logically exist.
One new emphasis that came from the seemingly exhausted subject of God’s existence was what atheist and philosophy professor Stephen Law calls “the evil god challenge.” He discusses it at length in this episode of the Unbelievable Podcast (worth listening to).
As I understand it, the Evil God Challenge is not a challenge to the existence of God, per se, but to the arguments supporting a GOOD God. That is, Stephen feels that, for this argument, you don’t have to defeat the arguments for theism, but only for the Christian version of a Good God.
Specifically, Stephen argues that if the arguments for an omnipotent evil god are as a likely as those for a good god, then both arguments can be dismissed as spurious, since accepting one or the other would violate the Law of Non-Contradiction – or at least, you would have no real reason to say that a good God is more likely.
Making headlines in atheist circles is the fact that one of the former members of John Loftus’ team over at Debunking Christianity has left atheism and ‘reconverted’ back to Christianity. In Autobahn To Damascus, Darrin Raspberry outlined some of his reasons for reconversion, and those reasons lead me to make the following observations.
1. All world views have weaknesses
Can Christianity satisfactorily answer all ultimate questions? I don’t think so. There are many issues which apologists and theologians have wrestled with over the centuries, and many of these are still disputed, having no absolute or complete answers.
I love the whole debate scene, and I have listened to a lot of Christian and non-Christian news podcasts, and narrowed down my favorites to Guide: Favorite Podcasts for Christians. Now, I want to venture out into the land of my ideological opponents. Here’s my list so far. Most of these I got from the list at Podcast Alley.
Last Update: 06.07.12
In Part I, I generalized that, since the impact of being wrong about God is high, it doesn’t matter how unlikely it is, it is still a high risk.
But that oversimplification is not entirely true. If it was, that would mean that all unconfirmable claims about the life to come, by any and all religions, would be equally binding, or just as important or risky.
If the Biblical God makes demands with consequences we can not confirm with empiricism, are they any different from the claims of Buddhism, Islam, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
What we really need is a better measure of how likely such claims are to be true. Can that be done without direct empirical evidence? YES. We must not ignore historical, ethical, and logical support for or against faith claims, and in so doing, discriminate between pretenders and contenders.
Below, I address this objection, which can be stated The lack of empirical support for faith means ALL FAITHS ARE EQUALLY IMPROBABLE and on par with fairy tales.
In a stunning press release, Intelligent Design group The Group for Order and Design In Science (GODIS) has proposed that the structure of the HIV virus could not have arisen by natural processes, and was therefore engineered.
"Our calculations are quite revealing," stated Rex Numero, chief statistician at GODIS. "We were inspired by Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s accusation that perhaps HIV was created by the US Government, and we immediately set about calculating the likelihood that HIV could have arisen from natural causes. As it turns out, the HIV virus is irreducibly complex in many areas. Therefore, it MUST have been engineered."
Often, people bring up the argument that atheism or religion lead necessarily to evil. Here, I assert that both history and logic support the arguments that atheism and certain kinds of religion (Divine Command religion, specifically), combined with man’s predilection for abusing power, DO lead to violence, both logically and evidentially.
However, Christianity, in a form that does not involve a commitment to Divine Command theory (such as St. Thomas Aquinas‘ view), does NOT lead necesarrily to evil, and perhaps necessarily to GOOD.
Further, this contention is supported by both logic and historical evidence, with exceptions, of course (we argue from the norm, not the exception). Syllogisms examined below.
William Craig’s Reasonable Faith has a nice article on the FSM, and why this approach to dethroning the Christian concept of God is really intellectually weak, is worth reading. My summary below.
While reading a recent critique of the new Atheism in The Noise of Reason, I discovered a hidden gem of history – the story of Liberal, Missouri.
Liberal, MO, named after the Liberal League in Lamar, Missouri (to which the town’s organizer belonged), was started as an atheist, “freethinker” utopia in 1880 by George Walser, an anti-religionist, agnostic lawyer. He bought 2000 acres of land and advertised across the country for atheists to come and
“found a town without a church, [w]here unbelievers could bring up their children without religious training, ” – and where Christians were not allowed. His idea was to build up a town that should exclusively be the home of Infidels…”a town that should have neither God, Hell, Church, nor Saloon.” Some of the early inhabitants of Liberal even encouraged other infidels to move to their town by publishing an advertisement which boasted that Liberal “is the only town of its size in the United States without a priest, preacher, church, saloon, God, Jesus, hell or devil.” (from Atheism and Liberal, MO)
Well, how did that little experiment turn out? It’s more incredible than you could imagine.
American Vision, one of my favorite home-schooling, Christian world view sites, has a good summary of why institutional atheism leads to a type of theocratic totalitarianism. Of course, this sort of statement will automatically cause the logic circuits in the atheists brain to fry, and they will probably immediately and uncontrollably start ranting about how “atheism can’t be theo-anything because there is no God in atheism,” but in my summary below, whenever the author I am summarizing writes ‘theocrat’ (he’s being purposely provocative), just substitute ‘autocrat.’
Remember the The Blasphemy Challenge, sponsored by The Rational Response Squad, who were giving away 1001 copies of the movie The God Who Wasn’t There to people who will create a video of themselves denying the existence of God, and especially, the Holy Spirit? They posted their videos on YouTube.
So, what should Christians make of this atheist antic? I watched all of the videos, and have some comments
Atheists and secularists love to trot out the canard that religion has harmed more people than it has helped, and has been at the root of many or most world concflicts. However, in Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history, Dinesh D’Souza,Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, argues that actually, atheism is responsible for more murders in history. His points are summarized below. Read more
One of my top three favorite magazines, Wired, has a really good piece on The New Atheism this month. It covers the mouthpieces at the head of this movement (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett), as well as articles on other notable atheists including Steve Olson, Penn and Teller, and Warren Allen Smith.
Was doing some reading today, and came across the word “assertoric,” which forced me to the dictionary. As it turns out, it is a word typically used in philosophy, and I found the definition below. What is notable about it is not just the interesting three types of arguments, but the fact that they were written by the now infamous Anthony Flew, the great atheist philosopher who recently decided that he had to be an agnostic based on his appraisal of the philosophical arguments, and wrote about it in There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.
An assertoric proposition in Aristotelian logic merely asserts that something is (or is not) the case, in contrast to problematic propositions which assert the possibility of something being true, or apodeictic propositions which assert things which are necessarily or self-evidently true or false. For instance, “Chicago is larger than Omaha” is assertoric. “A corporation could be wealthier than a country” is problematic. “Two plus two equals four” is apodeictic.
~ Flew, Anthony. A Dictionary of Philosophy – Revised Second Edition St. Martin’s Press, NY, 1979
There are the basic world view questions:
1. Origins: Where did life and humanity originate?
2. The Problem: Why is there suffering, sickness, and death?
3. The Solution: What is the cure for man’s suffering, esp. his existential lonliness?
Questions of Meaning and Value:
4. How does an atheist assign meaning to human activity? Is all meaning subjective, or do some activities have self-evident and objective worth and meaning. If so, what are these activities, and how to you arrive at their value?
5. Are humans of more intrinsic value than animals? Why or why not?
6. How does an atheist determine what is moral or immoral, right or wrong. Is there any objective standard or principles?
Questions of Worldview:
7. What type of government does atheistic philosophy translate into? How does it understand the relationship between man and government? What type of government structures flow from an atheistic world view? Does it merely rely on someone else’s system of thought, like the assumptions of naturalistic science?
8. How does atheism view religions and religious faith? What about metaphysics? Is atheism purely materialistic and naturalistic?
9. Who are the authoritative writers/books of atheism? What are the central tenets of atheism, and if they have a “greatest commandment,” what is it? For example, arguably, Christianity’s is “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Questions of Revelation:
10. What happens after we die?
This post is part of a series on Can we be good without God?
In Part I introduced and gave an overview of the question under consideration. Moving on to our first point, we must first DEFINE our term ‘good’ so that we don’t waste time talking past one another.
When we say ‘good, what exactly do we mean? Ethical or moral? Subjective or objectively true? Situational or absolute? Pleasure-inducing or health giving? And good for whom? Humans, animals, the planet?
For the sake of argument, I want to use what I think is the common use of the word ‘good’ in this context – that is, MORALLY good.