William Lane Craig Provides the “Scholarly” Basis for Holy Horror

WLC2

manicstreetpreacher finally has his answer as to what one of America’s top Christian apologists has to say about the butchery of the Old Testament.

IsraelitesCanaanites

Is the good loved by the gods because it is good, or is it good because it is loved by the gods?

- Plato

Earlier this year, I reported on the Craig/Hitchens debate at Biola University.  I had been wondering about Craig’s views on evolution for a while, but during the debate he finally revealed that he did not accept Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.   According to Craig’s “science” based on John Barrow and Frank Tipler’s The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, evolution was so “improbable” (surely Craig’s favourite word in the English language) that the sun would have burned out long before Homo sapiens could have evolved.

Craig has stiffened his position in the last couple of years.  During his 2007 debate in London against embryologist Lewis Wolpert, author of Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Craig stated  that he “neither believed nor disbelieved” in evolution, but had reservations over it on the grounds of improbability.

In the Hitchens debate, however, Craig rubbished evolution completely.  I suppose it was the only way he could overthrow Hitchens’ “98,000 Year Wait Gambit” that in order to believe Christianity in the light of what we now know about the origins of the human race, you have to believe that Homo sapiens crawled painfully on their hands and knees for tens of thousands of years with low life expectancy and massive infant mortality with God watching with folded arms before finally intervening with a human sacrifice in a very remote part of the Middle East, the news of which still hasn’t permeated large parts of the civilised world.

As I wrote at the time, even to me as a non-scientist this was “a load of anthropic bunkum”.  Richard Dawkins convincingly argues that the Anthropic Principle is similar to evolution: it is an alternative to the design explanation.  We on Earth just happen to be lucky that our planet possesses the right “Goldilocks qualities” of being “just right” for life to emerge.  After all, physical parameters ought to be irrelevant to an omnipotent God; he could have designed us to survive in a cold, hard vacuum if he wanted.

In addition, Craig appears totally ignorant of the fact that evolution is about small steps producing gradual, but ultimately massive change over very long periods of time.  Improbable, my foot!  Far from Craig “following the evidence wherever it leads” as he is so proud of saying, he is massaging the scientific evidence to ensure that his fantasy of the universe being designed with him in mind can remain in tact.

My other great Craig-curio was what he thought of the atrocities of the Old Testament.  Craig teaches at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University where I understand that the students are taught that the Bible is free from error in all its words.  I’ve always wondered what Craig made of the God-ordered massacres of the Old Testament, however, in the debates I have seen up until now; he has always cordoned off that topic.

I was mildly disappointed that Hitchens did not tear Craig in half like he usually does at the lectern.  Craig smugly declared himself the victor of that clash.  However, as good as it would have been to see Hitchens wipe the floor with his opponent he showed Craig as a right-wing fundamentalist.  It was almost like watching Ted Haggard or Pat Robertson adopt the guise of a “serious scholar” as Craig harped on about the Gospels’ promise of eternal life as embodied in the resurrection of Jesus.

Continuing this gradual breaking down of Craig’s shell, I recently came across this audio clip of Craig on YouTube replying to The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation author Sam Harris (homepage / The Reason Project) and his objections to the barbarism of the Old Testament:

You will note that Craig says that rather than being an argument against the existence of God, the violence in the Old Testament that was apparently mandated by God is a question of whether the Bible is inerrant.  It is open to debate as to whether the Israelites correctly interpreted the word of God in slaughtering all those poor Canaanites.

However, Craig well and truly lets his veil slip by stating that the Israelites were carrying out the will of God in dispensing with his enemies after emerging from 400 years in Egyptian captivity!  Craig admitted that their acts would have been immoral but for the fact that they were ordered by God.  The acts of murder and genocide became moral because God had ordered them.

Craig even admits that God has the right to end the lives of everyone on Earth this second if he so chooses.  Talk about self-imposed slavery!

I couldn’t believe my ears and wanted further proof that this really was Craig’s view.  After all, this is a man who argues that objective moral values such as the wrongness of rape and torturing a child can only come from God and therefore the existence of objective morality is an argument for the existence of God.  As Craig puts it:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist;
  2. Objective moral values do exist;
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Seeking further evidence, I came across this article on Craig’s ironically titled website, Reasonable Faith, written in response to a couple of email questions on the violence of the Old Testament and discovered that it just keeps on getting worse.

For your shock, if not your consideration:

[T]he problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives.  The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them.  Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder?  No, it’s not.  Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder.  The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

God can do anything.  Even make genocide morally right:

On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command. [My emphasis]

This segment clearly demonstrates that Craig knows that murder, rape and torture are wrong independently of any divine command.  But he says that they can be morally right if ordered by God as per Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma quoted at the head of this article.

Do you see what Craig has done there?  He has totally undermined his own argument that without God there can be no objective morality!

Craig goes on to explain that the destruction of unclean races by a super-race favoured by God is a virtuous thing (three guesses who tried to put that one into practice in the last century?):

By setting such strong, harsh dichotomies God taught Israel that any assimilation to pagan idolatry is intolerable.  It was His way of preserving Israel’s spiritual health and posterity.  God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel.  The killing of the Canaanite children not only served to prevent assimilation to Canaanite identity but also served as a shattering, tangible illustration of Israel’s being set exclusively apart for God.

The murder of children is all fine and dandy as long as we think that God wants it.  It was for their own good and they’ve actually gone to a better place:

Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation.  We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.  Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

But please spare a thought for those poor child murderers:

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites?  Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement.  Not the children, for they inherit eternal life.  So who is wronged?  Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves.  Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children?  The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

Someone please pass me a bucket.  I’m about to blow chunks over all this moral relativism:

But then, again, we’re thinking of this from a Christianized, Western standpoint.  For people in the ancient world, life was already brutal.  Violence and war were a fact of life for people living in the ancient Near East.  Evidence of this fact is that the people who told these stories apparently thought nothing of what the Israeli soldiers were commanded to do (especially if these are founding legends of the nation).  No one was wringing his hands over the soldiers’ having to kill the Canaanites; those who did so were national heroes.

It always brings a smile to my lips when apologists claim that God can be the only source of objective morality, yet when a sceptic pulls out a nasty passage from the Good Book, they go all relativist on you and say things like, “Well ok, but things were a lot different back then.  Genocide, rape and slavery were the norm…”

No, genocide, rape and slavery were not morally right, even for people living 3,000 years ago.  Perhaps books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy were the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of their day when simply compiling a short list of reasons to kill your enemies was an improvement over the general barbarity of the time.  But values such as self-sacrifice, charity and love were still admired while murder and rape were reviled.

If we are unable to say that it was morally wrong of Moses to issue an order to his troops, as Thomas Paine put it in The Age of Reason, “to butcher the boys, massacre the mothers and debauch the daughters,” (Numbers 31: 13 – 18) then conversely, we cannot say that him leading the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt was morally right either!

Craig’s response continues by contending that Osama bin Laden has it soooooo wrong:

Now how does all this relate to Islamic jihad?  Islam sees violence as a means of propagating the Muslim faith.  Islam divides the world into two camps:  the dar al-Islam (House of Submission) and the dar al-harb (House of War).  The former are those lands which have been brought into submission to Islam; the latter are those nations which have not yet been brought into submission.  This is how Islam actually views the world!

No, Dr Craig, those nineteen pious men who showed your pious nation the social benefits of this level of blind faith on 11 September 2001 were not trying to convert anybody that day.  They were exacting what they saw as retribution from their god for America’s decadence and moral depravity.  Rather like the Israelites exterminating the Canaanites in fact.  If you are in any doubt as to this, perhaps you should take a look at this clip from two men whom you worryingly resemble:

Craig’s final conjecture can only be settled once and for all by force of arms:

By contrast, the conquest of Canaan represented God’s just judgement upon those peoples.  The purpose was not at all to get them to convert to Judaism!  War was not being used as an instrument of propagating the Jewish faith.  Moreover, the slaughter of the Canaanites represented an unusual historical circumstance, not a regular means of behavior.

The problem with Islam, then, is not that it has got the wrong moral theory; it’s that it has got the wrong God.  If the Muslim thinks that our moral duties are constituted by God’s commands, then I agree with him.  But Muslims and Christians differ radically over God’s nature.  Christians believe that God is all-loving, while Muslims believe that God loves only Muslims.  Allah has no love for unbelievers and sinners.  Therefore, they can be killed indiscriminately.  Moreover, in Islam God’s omnipotence trumps everything, even His own nature.  He is therefore utterly arbitrary in His dealing with mankind.  By contrast Christians hold that God’s holy and loving nature determines what He commands.

The question, then, is not whose moral theory is correct, but which is the true God?

Why don’t you and the Muslims settle it once and for all by stepping outside, Dr Craig?  This has clearly been the approach of certain Jewish rabbis in the upper quarters of the Israeli Defence Forces which continue to this day, not least during Israel’s military strikes against the Palestinians at the start of 2009.  As Hitchens reported in March this year:

I remember being in Israel in 1986 when the chief army “chaplain” in the occupied territories, Rabbi Shmuel Derlich, issued his troops a 1,000-word pastoral letter enjoining them to apply the biblical commandment to exterminate the Amalekites as “the enemies of Israel.”  Nobody has recently encountered any Amalekites, so the chief educational officer of the Israeli Defense Forces asked Rabbi Derlich whether he would care to define his terms and say whom he meant. Rather evasively – if rather alarmingly – the man of God replied, “Germans.”  There are no Germans in Judaea and Samaria or, indeed, in the Old Testament, so the rabbi’s exhortation to slay all Germans as well as quite probably all Palestinians was referred to the Judge Advocate General’s Office. Forty military rabbis publicly came to Derlich’s support, and the rather spineless conclusion of the JAG was that he had committed no legal offense but should perhaps refrain in the future from making political statements on the army’s behalf…

Now, it’s common to hear people say [that violent passages in the Bible are] not intended to be “taken literally.”  One also often hears the excuse that some wicked things are done “in the name of” religion, as if the wicked things were somehow the result of a misinterpretation.  But the nationalist rabbis who prepare Israeli soldiers for their mission seem to think that this book might be the word of God, in which case the only misinterpretation would be the failure to take it literally.  (I hate to break it to you, but the people who think that God’s will is revealed in scripture are known as “religious.”  Those who do not think so must try to find another name for themselves.)

Possibly you remember Dr Baruch Goldstein, the man who in February 1994 unslung his weapon and killed more than two dozen worshippers at the mosque in Hebron.  He had been a physician in the Israeli army and had first attracted attention by saying that he would refuse to treat non-Jews on the Sabbath.  Now read Ethan Bronner’s report in the March 22 New York Times about the preachments of the Israeli army’s latest chief rabbi, a West Bank settler named Avichai Rontzski who also holds the rank of brigadier general.  He has “said that the main reason for a Jewish doctor to treat a non-Jew on the Sabbath … is to avoid exposing Diaspora Jews to hatred.”  Those of us who follow these things recognize that statement as one of the leading indicators of a truly determined racist and fundamentalist.  Yet it comes not this time in the garb of a homicidal lone-wolf nut bag but in the full uniform and accoutrement of a general and a high priest…  The latest news, according to Bronner, is that the Israeli Defense Ministry has felt compelled to reprimand Rontzski for “a rabbinal edict against showing the enemy mercy” that was distributed in booklet form to men and women in uniform (see Numbers 31: 13 – 18).

At least Craig is correct when he says at one point in the article that many Old Testament scholars are sceptical that the conquest of Canaan was an actual historical event, but that’s hardly the point.  The Bible is supposed to be a document containing timeless social and moral codes while portraying the actions of people we ought to admire.  In this exercise, it fails miserably.  As he and Hitchens discussed in their Biola debate, Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov wonders whether “without God, all things are possible.”  But as Hitchens argued, surely the corollary is true: that with God, all things are thinkable as well.

If one of the world’s foremost Christian apologists can issue such a grotesque defence of Yahweh that contradicts all of his own arguments for the divine source of human morality at a stroke, then it is unsurprising that PhD graduates in the 21st century will fly aeroplanes into buildings believing that they are morally right to do so and will be rewarded by God in the afterlife.

I don’t say that all religious people are mad, bad or sad per se, but they very often can be when it comes to their religious beliefs.  As the Nobel Laureate physicist Steven Weinberg famously once said, “With or without religion, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things.  But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

William Lane Craig is living proof of this.

UPDATE 06/04/2010:

Since publishing this piece, I have come across a podcast on this topic as part of the “Reasonable Faith: Conversations with Dr William Lane Craig” series that Craig’s website produces  if you can bear it.  Lukeprog over at Common Sense Atheism has posted an excellent discussion.

I have also found this comment by Richard Dawkins posted on the debate forum of his website:

Theological justification for genocide Part One

Richard Dawkins >> Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:22 am

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767

One of our commenters on another thread, stevencarrwork, posted a link to this article by the American theologian and Christian apologist William Lane Craig.  I read it and found it so dumbfoundingly, staggeringly awful that I wanted to post it again.  It is a stunning example of the theological mind at work.  And remember, this is NOT an ‘extremist’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘picking on the worst case’ example.  My understanding is that William Lane Craig is a widely respected apologist for the Christian religion.  Read his article and rub your eyes to make sure you are not having a bad dream.

Richard

That just about says it all.

(H/T: Steven Carr)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

23 Responses to “William Lane Craig Provides the “Scholarly” Basis for Holy Horror”

  1. PaulJ Says:

    The Craig audio clip is pretty horrendous: God doesn’t have to be moral – he can do evil if he wants (and I squirm at Craig’s use of “judgement” as a euphemism for callous murder). I’d been under the impression that William Lane Craig was a formidable debater and probably the foremost Christian apologist. But what I’ve seen, heard and read of him makes me think he’s simply repeating the same mantras regardless of his debating opponents’ points. Much of what he says seems to be phrased in a pre-emptive semantic manner to get around specific logical objections to his arguments (“everything that begins to exist has a cause” for example).

    And I agree with you about his justification of God-sanctioned atrocities. The kind of morality he advocates makes me feel unclean.

    Incidentally, going back to the audio clip, Craig says that you can disprove the existence of God by showing that there’s a logical contradiction in the biblical concept of God, like a round triangle or a married bachelor. What about the Trinity? “1+1+1=1″ ranks fairly high on the logical contradiction scale I would have thought.

  2. Richard Morgan Says:

    MSP finally has his answer, but manages to got it mostly wrong all the same.
    “improbable” (surely Craig’s favourite word in the English language)”
    What a strange coincidence. It’s also one of Dawkins’ all time favourite words.

     “in a very remote part of the Middle East,”
    This is one of those meaningless sound bites. “Remote” – makes it sound kind of insignificant.
    But, pray tell me – remote from where? From whom? Meaningless noises again from Hitchens.

    “still hasn’t permeated large parts of the civilised world”.
    OK – name me three parts of the civilised world where Christianity is completely unknown. The civilised world, ok? Your choice of adjective. If you are unable to reply satisfactorily, you should withdraw this sort of statement.
    “a cold, hard vacuum if he wanted.”
    What awful science! How can a vacuum be either cold or hard?

    “his fantasy of the universe being designed with him in mind ”
    Where has he made that claim? Or even anything faintly resembling it?

    “This segment clearly demonstrates that Craig knows that murder, rape and torture are wrong independently of any divine command.” 
    This is catastrophically false. I would say even embarrassingly false.
    Craig endlessly repeats for all who want to listen that God is the source of all absolute moral values. He knows that murder, rape and torture are wrong because for him the very notions of rightness and wrongness issue from God. In that video he is quite explicit : “Our moral duties are established by God’s commandments to us.”
    He is speaking as someone for whom all moral values come from God, and regardless of whether you agree with him or not, your case against him is completely unfounded. You try to turn him into a moral relativist, which he is not. (A fact which seriously irritates the likes of Hitchens and….er, you.)

    “Do you see what Craig has done there?  He has totally undermined his own argument that without God there can be no objective morality!”
    Not at all, you try to make it look as if he is being self-contradictory by putting words into his mouth which he has never uttered. Looks like it’s straw man time again. Where can you quote him as having said that “murder, rape and torture are wrong and I know this simply because I’m a nice guy”?
    You may make that claim because you have grown up in a Judeo-Christian society imbued with Judeo-Christian moral values which you claim for yourself while denying their origins.
    In fact you base your entire killer argument on a (wilful? I hope not) misreading of one phrase : “which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin.” Everybody and his uncle knows that for Craig murder as a sin is derived from the Ten Commandments : “You shall not murder.”

    “No, genocide, rape and slavery were not morally right, even for people living 3,000 years ago. ”
    How do you know? One of the very first errors that historians learn to avoid is judging ancient societies by modern values. And if you are so sure, it sounds suspiciously like you are appealing to absolute moral values.

    “But values such as self-sacrifice, charity and love were still admired while murder and rape were reviled.”
    Once again – how do you know that? What are your sources for making those assertions concerning human societies living 3000 years ago? I’m not saying that you’re totally wrong there, but I am saying that I don’t know what the socially accepted moral values were at that time. I’d like you to share your information with me on that one, please.

    “Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov wonders whether “without God, all things are possible.”  But as Hitchens argued, surely the corollary is true: that with God, all things are thinkable as well.”
    To be a true corollary, Hitchens would had to have made some kind of inference that follows logically from the proof of the prior proposition. So “all things are thinkable”is not a corollary at all, just a pure Hitchensian invention.
    Why do you imagine that he needed to line up “possible” with “thinkable”?
    Never make the mistake of thinking that Hitchens uses words innocently. His words are carefully chosen to create a specific effect. That’s his job, after all. Unfortunately by the arbitrary association : “possible – thinkable,” by shifting the goal posts, all he has succeeded in doing is scoring…… an own goal.

    “I don’t say that all religious people are mad, bad or sad per se,”
    What is the point in adding “per se”?

    “With or without religion, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things.  But for good people to evil things, that takes religion.”
    This is perhaps one of the most famous and one of the most stupid atheist slogans I have heard, because nobody is all “good” or all “bad” and everybody can do good or bad things, with or without religion. And why should being a “Nobel Laureate physicist” add any weight at all to the credibility of his comments on human nature? Or is this the old argument from authority? He knows so much about physics that he is particularly well-placed to make swingeing remarks about morality and religion? I’m sorry but I fail to see the connection.

    “William Lane Craig is living proof of this.”
    Oh. So he is a good person doing “evil things”. Nice one.

    • pbasch Says:

      Just one small quibble, not dealing with the substance: “a cold, hard vacuum if he wanted.” What awful science! How can a vacuum be either cold or hard?
      These are terms commonly used to describe a vacuum – cold, in its traditional sense of “low temperature” is how vacuum in interstellar space is described, and a ‘hard’ vacuum means a very, very vacuum-y vacuum, i.e., with a very, very low density of matter. In other words, the vacuum created by my household vacuum cleaner would not be a hard vacuum, but one created in the lab might be, and vacuum in interstellar space certainly is.

      • manicstreetpreacher Says:

        Thank you for your comments on this and other threads, pbasch. I think that this is the only one that requires a response from me.

        The line about “a cold, hard vacuum” comes from US physicist Victor Stenger’s excellent book first published in 2007, God, The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist.

        (I discuss Stenger’s first debate against WLC held at the University of Hawaii in 2003 here. Executive summary: Stenger mopped the floor the Craig and their debate is a perfect example of how easily Craig can be beaten if his opponent has done their homework.)

        The line is by Stenger’s friend, Martin Wagner the final nail in the coffin of Stenger’s annihilation of the fine tuning argument.

        We can quibble of the syntax of the phrase (Craig certainly loves to do that), but essentially the FTA makes no sense whatsoever. An omnipotent deity could have designed his creations to live in the air-less, atmosphere-less, gravity-less, temperature-less wastes of space. Why does he need to worry about physical parameters?

        Finally, the FTA is a classic case of the religious running to catch up with modern science and declaring by fiat that it is evidence of a divine design (I wonder why they have never done the same with germ theory?)

        The apologists look at the improbability of, and hostility towards, life in the universe and say, “Oh look, it is evidence for a creator God who designed the physical constants of the Universe with just us in mind.”

        But if we reversed the empirical data and the Universe was teeming with intelligent life with whom it was easy for humans on Earth to contact, the margin of physical parameters of the Universe was much wider and initial conditions of the Big Bang were irrelevant for the development of life, the apologists would still say, “Oh look, it is evidence for a creator God who designed the physical constants of the Universe with just us in mind.”

        MSP

  3. PaulJ Says:

    MSP finally has his answer, but manages to got it mostly wrong all the same.

    Far be it from me to usurp MSP’s position on his own blog, but here’s my take on Richard Morgan’s comments:


    “improbable” (surely Craig’s favourite word in the English language)”
What a strange coincidence. It’s also one of Dawkins’ all time favourite words.

    Hardly strange. When you’re talking about probabilities, the word “improbable” will, in all probability, come up in the course of debate. Probably.

    ”in a very remote part of the Middle East,”
This is one of those meaningless sound bites. “Remote” – makes it sound kind of insignificant.
But, pray tell me – remote from where? From whom? Meaningless noises again from Hitchens.

    The point Hitchens makes is that according to the story God sent his son to appear not to the political movers and shakers of the day, but to a bunch of shepherds and fishermen.

    “still hasn’t permeated large parts of the civilised world”.
OK – name me three parts of the civilised world where Christianity is completely unknown. The civilised world, ok? Your choice of adjective. If you are unable to reply satisfactorily, you should withdraw this sort of statement.

    Looking at world maps of religions I see a vast swathe in the north of the African continent that’s overwhelmingly Islam, and I imagine many of the inhabitants would be insulted to be described as uncivilised. China – predominantly Hindu and Buddhist. Japan (hardly uncivilised), Shinto and Buddhist. Indonesia, Islam again. Christianity’s penetration is only overwhelming in the West.

    “a cold, hard vacuum if he wanted.”
What awful science! How can a vacuum be either cold or hard?

    Far from being “awful science” this phrase is used by scientists – just Google it.

    “his fantasy of the universe being designed with him in mind ”
Where has he made that claim? Or even anything faintly resembling it?

    Craig does use the fine-tuning argument, which resembles this fantasy more than faintly.

    “This segment clearly demonstrates that Craig knows that murder, rape and torture are wrong independently of any divine command.” 
This is catastrophically false. I would say even embarrassingly false.
Craig endlessly repeats for all who want to listen that God is the source of all absolute moral values. He knows that murder, rape and torture are wrong because for him the very notions of rightness and wrongness issue from God. In that video he is quite explicit : “Our moral duties are established by God’s commandments to us.”

    If for Craig the very notions of rightness and wrongness issue from God, and our moral duties are established by his commandments, then when God tells one group of people to murder another, Craig is clearly accepting the murder as a moral act.

    “Do you see what Craig has done there?  He has totally undermined his own argument that without God there can be no objective morality!”
Not at all, you try to make it look as if he is being self-contradictory by putting words into his mouth which he has never uttered. Looks like it’s straw man time again. Where can you quote him as having said that “murder, rape and torture are wrong and I know this simply because I’m a nice guy”?

    If you’re claiming that Craig does not know this without a specific “commandment” to which to refer, you’re basically saying he’s not moral. Craig states in the audio clip that God’s commandments override God’s commandments. This is a recipe for disaster: “These are my commandments, by which you shall be morally bound (until I change my mind, which I might).”
    This is the fundamental mistake that theists make when they claim that atheists have no basis for morality. Atheists get their morality from the same place that the Bible does – from the set of moral precepts that have evolved as mechanisms of survival in social groups. Unfortunately the Bible has added a lot of unnecessary and often repugnant distortion to what evolution has built up over millennia.

    “Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov wonders whether “without God, all things are possible.”  But as Hitchens argued, surely the corollary is true: that with God, all things are thinkable as well.”
To be a true corollary, Hitchens would had to have made some kind of inference that follows logically from the proof of the prior proposition. So “all things are thinkable”is not a corollary at all, just a pure Hitchensian invention.
Why do you imagine that he needed to line up “possible” with “thinkable”?
Never make the mistake of thinking that Hitchens uses words innocently. His words are carefully chosen to create a specific effect. That’s his job, after all. Unfortunately by the arbitrary association : “possible – thinkable,” by shifting the goal posts, all he has succeeded in doing is scoring…… an own goal.

    How about this then: “With God, all things are possible.” An example of such possibility is issuing a commandment, set in stone, that murder is immoral, and then adding a codicil “except when it isn’t”.

    “With or without religion, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things.  But for good people to evil things, that takes religion.”
This is perhaps one of the most famous and one of the most stupid atheist slogans I have heard, because nobody is all “good” or all “bad” and everybody can do good or bad things, with or without religion.

    Craig fits this well. To suggest that it’s OK to murder innocent children because they go to heaven so much sooner, is just plain evil.

    “William Lane Craig is living proof of this.”
Oh. So he is a good person doing “evil things”. Nice one.

    Yes he is.

  4. Richard Morgan Says:

    “Looking at world maps of religions I see a vast swathe in the north of the African continent that’s overwhelmingly Islam, and I imagine many of the inhabitants would be insulted to be described as uncivilised. China – predominantly Hindu and Buddhist. Japan (hardly uncivilised), Shinto and Buddhist. Indonesia, Islam again. Christianity’s penetration is only overwhelming in the West.”
    Very interesting, Paul : MSP’s word “permeated” becomes ” (overwhelming)penetration” under your pen, and my question simply asked “completely unknown?”.
    So the question remains without an answer. This is not surprising.

    “Craig does use the fine-tuning argument, which resembles this fantasy more than faintly.”
    How? Just saying so doesn’t make it so. (You must have heard that once or twice elsewhere, no?)

    “If you’re claiming that Craig does not know this without a specific “commandment” to which to refer, you’re basically saying he’s not moral. ”
    I’m not saying that, and you know that full well, but your Dawkinsian knee-jerk response implies that human beings are naturally “moral” and if they need to be taught or told what is right and wrong they are not moral. Meaning we don’t need a police force, or a national defense system.
    And your children can grow up without any moral guidance from their parents. Good luck!

    But after all that, I notice with some satisfaction that you don’t even bother to address my most important refutation : that Craig is not a moral relativist, and it was this that MSP was so delighted to announce to us. I take note of the fact that you can do no better.

    How about this then: “With God, all things are possible.”
    Bingo – I was sure somebody was going to fall for that one.
    Of course, that’s no problem for a Christian. All I can say is “Hallelujah – with God all things are possible.” That is so thrilling.
    All things are possible : MSP coming to Church with me one day in Toulouse, France going for a whole year without any major strike action, banks becoming honest – all things are possible! You betcha!

    “Oh. So he is a good person doing “evil things”. Nice one.
    Yes he is.
    I take it this remark is a knee-jerk reaction with no thought behind it, so I will leave it as it is.

    Take care and God bless.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Hello Richard

      I really don’t have anything to add to PaulJ’s very eloquent reply to your first post.

      However, I will make clear that, yes; I do think that William Lane Craig is at heart a good man, rational, intelligent, articulate and sane. I’m sure he loves his wife and children and is a good husband and father (apart from no doubt indoctrinating his offspring into the Christian faith without their expressed consent, but that’s for another post!).

      I just think that his religious faith and his belief in the teachings of the Bible, which he takes to be the inerrant word of the Creator of the Universe has poisoned his mind into defending the indefensible.

      If Craig read an equivalent defence of the massacres of Mohammed by a Muslim scholar, he would be appalled.

      As for my use of the term “per se” suffixing “irrational people”, as Sam Harris points out in The End of Faith, if you tell an intelligent Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that there you have invent a magical yoghurt that can turn people invisible, he will demand a high amount of evidence before he accepts your claim.

      If on the other, if you tell him that there exists an invisible, supernatural being somewhere in (or indeed out of!) the Universe that watches every living creature of every second of every day and will send him to a place of eternal punishment if he commits a wrong act during his life on Earth, he will believe this proposition on the basis of a series of ancient texts that lack both internal consistency and unity of style…

      MSP

  5. Richard Morgan Says:

    MSP – Oh dear – you too have fallen for that Sam Harris silliness.
    That’s a typical Harris straw man. I do not know one single person who was gambolling gaily through his religion-free life and one-day picked up the Bible, read it and said “Hallelujah – I’m a true believer.”
    The image he tries to portray is pathetically absurd.
    Show me one example of a previously “atheist as the default position” person who became a theist by sitting down and reading those “ancient texts” and I would have to seriously revise my ideas.
    But it doesn’t happen that way and never has.
    Also Harris’s image has an internal, integrated stupidity : who could tell an intelligent Christian “there exists an invisible, supernatural being somewhere etc etc”? An “intelligent Christian” already knows what he knows about God, for crying out loud!
    This argument by reductio ad absurdum is, in and of itself, absurd.
    You can do better than that, MSP.

  6. PaulJ Says:

    Show me one example of a previously “atheist as the default position” person who became a theist by sitting down and reading those “ancient texts” and I would have to seriously revise my ideas.
    But it doesn’t happen that way and never has.

    Are you suggesting that the Bible is irrelevant to Christian belief?

    Also Harris’s image has an internal, integrated stupidity : who could tell an intelligent Christian “there exists an invisible, supernatural being somewhere etc etc”? An “intelligent Christian” already knows what he knows about God, for crying out loud!

    Harris’s point is that an intelligent Christian appears to demand less in the way of evidence for his belief in the supernatural being than he would for more mundane claims. As you’ve already stated on air that evidence is not what you require for your belief, I’d be interested in what your belief is based on, in the absence of the sacred texts that according to you are not persuasive.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Damn, PaulJ, you’re good! Took the words straight from my keypad while I was writing an epistle to another atheist blogger!!!

      I’ve had another look at blog, which is great. Let me know when you want to do that podcast and we’ll arrange something. I have a lot of time on my hands, now I have moved to the back of beyond in Devon, which was the only place I could get a job in the recession!

      I’ve never come across Radio 4’s Beyond Belief until now. Do you reckon they’d give some airtime to a heretic like me?

      manic

  7. Richard Morgan Says:

    Are you suggesting that the Bible is irrelevant to Christian belief?

    No.

    the sacred texts that according to you are not persuasive.

    My conversion experience has been on-line since September 2008. Allow me to quote from it :

    A short time later, I went back to my DR documents and was
    amazed to discover that the words that almost leapt out at
    me from the pages were the Biblical references that had so
    embarrassed me before.
    Not David Robertson’s words – the Word of God.
    (…)
    It is so good to raise my eyes from the science laboratories and the books of philosophy and start to behold the glory of God.
    Science and philosophy are wonderful manifestations of the
    enormous capacities of the human mind.
    But the Word of God is Truth, and truth is what it took to set
    me free.

    Does that sound like I’m saying that “the sacred texts are not persuasive”?

  8. PaulJ Says:

    You can split theological hairs all you like.

    A recent (long) post by Chris Ray at Factonista has some fairly damning things to say about theology, and mentions Craig a couple of times:

    Why skeptics do not, and should not, waste their time with academic theology.

    I’m not sure I entirely agree Chris Ray. If theological debate is treated as a spectator sport it might actually serve some purpose.

    (OT: Ed, how about one evening next week for the podcast recording via Skype?)

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      That was an excellent article, Paul! Many thanks for posting the link.

      I’ll contact you through your email address about recording a podcast through Skype, but any time after 6:30pm on weekdays is fine with me.

      Give me a list of topics you want to discuss and I’ll get my thinking cap on.

      MSP

  9. antoine-marie Bourdon Says:

    the argument to say that the Bible is in error because it says that God commanded abrahamic people to kill other civilizations is totally laughable. Even if Dr. William Lane Craig said that this was right because it was commanded by God, it does not mean that is was a wrong thing to do, nor that it became good because it was commanded by God. It does not mean God had no moral reasons to command that.
    Imagine that Hitler had not tried to invade other countries, but would have started to kill people and to violate women and sacrifising children. Would not that have been a moral thing to do try to kill hitler to liberate the inhabitants of Germany if they were willing to be liberated?
    In the same way, would it be a moral thing to do to kill a civilization if every one of his people were corrupted people killing their children and worshipping demons?
    When God sent the flood to kill the inhabitants of the world, this was to judge the people because the evil was too spread over the world.
    The way it works in the fight between good people and evil is that evil people will try to kill good people and not to let them live in peace and to multiply as God has commanded. Moreover, they will try to corrupt them. In the end, evil will grow too strong and God will have to come to help his people again.
    When God commanded the hebrews to kill other civilizations, it was because he knew that these civilizations would have killed the hebrews otherwise or they would have corrupted them into worshipping some Gods because these civilizations were not just mere atheists or agnostists. They were devils worshippers which is way worse then to be just an atheist which is only to my sense ignorance of the actions of the spirit world.

    Again, cananiites had to be killed because they were evil people. They were not poor innocent people. The argument presented here doesn’t stand because it is right for God to judge the inhabitants of the world when they are wrong and to say the contrary is just another pride against God and it is a sin. But it might be right to intercede and try to prevent the judgment of God.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      antoine-marie Bourdon – Thank you for your comment. I’ll take your points in order.

      the argument to say that the Bible is in error because it says that God commanded abrahamic people to kill other civilizations is totally laughable

      Dr Craig’s argument that the Bible is free from error is totally laughable. And it doesn’t depend solely on God’s commandment to the Israelite’s to exterminate the Amalekites…

      It does not mean God had no moral reasons to command that.

      So the ends justify the means? How very Christian.

      Why can’t God do his own dirty work and use a flood or plague to carry out his wishes?

      Would not that have been a moral thing to do try to kill hitler to liberate the inhabitants of Germany if they were willing to be liberated?

      Yes. We should do something similar to Robert Mugabe to free Zimbabwe. Or at least take him out of office. I’m not advocating killing anyone deliberately.

      In the same way, would it be a moral thing to do to kill a civilization if every one of his people were corrupted people killing their children and worshipping demons?

      May be it would have been ok to dethrone and execute the ringleaders. But killing every man, woman and child seems a bit excessive, don’t you think?

      When God sent the flood to kill the inhabitants of the world, this was to judge the people because the evil was too spread over the world.

      Yes, and that was wrong of God as well. Why does he create people with flaws and then punish them when they fail.

      And what did the poor children and animals do wrong?

      Again, cananiites had to be killed because they were evil people.

      Weren’t they also God’s creations?

      They were not poor innocent people.

      According to the texts they were nasty people. Texts that were written by the victors. Do we really want to regard the accounts 100% trustworthy?

      The argument presented here doesn’t stand because it is right for God to judge the inhabitants of the world when they are wrong and to say the contrary is just another pride against God and it is a sin.

      Well, if you believe in the God of the Bible and agree with what Dr Craig says in the audio clip, then you believe that you are God’s plaything and he can do whatever he likes to you and he will be right no matter what.

      I for one am relieved to say that there is nothing that would even come close to convincing evidence for such a ghastly proposition.

      MSP

  10. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    I have since blogged on Richard Dawkins’ refusal to debate William Lane Craig here.

    After I published that piece, I came across this comment by Dawkins posted on the debate forum at RichardDawkins.net, courtesy of Steven Carr:

    Theological justification for genocide Part One

    Richard Dawkins >> Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:22 am

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767

    One of our commenters on another thread, stevencarrwork, posted a link to this article by the American theologian and Christian apologist William Lane Craig. I read it and found it so dumbfoundingly, staggeringly awful that I wanted to post it again. It is a stunning example of the theological mind at work. And remember, this is NOT an ‘extremist’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘picking on the worst case’ example. My understanding is that William Lane Craig is a widely respected apologist for the Christian religion. Read his article and rub your eyes to make sure you are not having a bad dream.

    Richard

    That just about says it all.

    MSP

  11. Gregory Magarshak Says:

    I like this blog. Mostly for the quality of the comments on it. I stumbled upon it by accident.

    Listen, I am very interested in this subject, but from the point of view of “is there a version of Judaism, Christianity or another religion which is completely true, miracles and all?” Because if there isn’t, then our discussion should be of a wholly different nature, treating these as cultural mythologies similar to those of the Greeks, Norwegians or stories of leprechauns.

    Thus, it seems to me that the most important task at hand is first refuting specific claims about God’s intervention in the world, made by the ancient writings of these religions. Very few people claim to know what happened back then by divine revelation — we all get it from these books. Simply refute the claims of the books based on 100 pieces of evidence, and that solves the question of whether the religious claims are true or not.

    If these books were indeed authored by God, I would expect them not to lie to us — otherwise a) why would we believe this god who we see is capable of authoring things which are found to be untrue after lots of laborious study, which generations of humans could not do, and b) hypothetically, why would an omnipotent, omniscient creator need to write a book with untruths? And more to the point, if this God cares so much about us following the laws (e.g. of the Old Testament) that we will be punished if we don’t, it seems VERY STRANGE that God let humanity lose sight of the correct interpretation and splinter into all these different factions and denominations.

    But the thing that makes me doubt the veracity of the Bible as an inerrant book the most, is the 100+ chains of evidence and reasoning that contradict many of its claims. Individually, they might only have an 80% chance of convincing me, but taken together, many of them seem to be pretty independent and “blind”, and the probability they are ALL wrong is exceedingly small.

    To all believers of a particular religion: how would you answer this? Would you just shut your eyes and ignore all the evidence against your claims e.g. that the world is 6,000 years old, or perhaps that there was a global flood that destroyed all fauna in the face of all this evidence against your beliefs? And if you don’t believe these parts of your book, then how do you pick and choose what to believe from it? How do you answer the challenge that a God that created the earth (and, as we now know, must have created the other 99.9999999999999999% of the universe) caused a book to appear that has, one way or another, now in a state that contains falsehoods and/or has let humanity completely lose sight of the correct interpretation of this book, despite being very serious (in the book) upon the point of following this or that commandment and law?

    I think this is the main issue of religions.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Hello Gregory

      Thank you for your kind remarks. I hope my blog provides you with much more interest and enjoyment yet.

      The holy books of all the world’s religions do not contain anything that could not have been known or imagined by the ancients who wrote them. Perhaps if they contained something that could not have been known at the time other than with the guidance of a supernatural agency such as a description of DNA or electricity and rather less talk about animal and the occasional human sacrifice, then we would have something worth getting excited about.

      The laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy ordering children to be stoned to death for heresy and insolence are as canonical as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Nowhere are they repudiated, even in the New Testament, which popular perception has it dispenses with Yahweh’s barbarism. However, so-called “liberal” or “moderate” believers re-interpret such passages as being applicable only for their times and can safely be ignored in 21st century secular society. That said, even the “literalists” cannot afford to take the God of the Bible at his word.

      Without any positive evidence to mark out one of the world’s religions as being true and all other religions as false, then the Bible and the Koran must be put aside on the same shelf as the Iliad and the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

      As to why followers of a particular religion continue to hold to the claims of their religion above all the thousands of other religions that they dismiss as manmade creations of deluded people and flying in the face of the same science that is saving their children from smallpox and polio: it’s called “BLIND FAITH”.

      They will always re-invent their God to conform to the evidence or re-invent the evidence to conform to their God. There’s no talking them out of it. Christopher Hitchens says that time spent arguing with the faithful is never time wasted. I say time spent arguing with a creationist is time spent hitting your head against a brick wall.

      Best wishes

      MSP

  12. Gregory Magarshak Says:

    But I just want to make one point clear: we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, the supreme creator of the universe. It’s just that (and many religious people would agree with me) a universe created by a God who had no further intervention in it, would look from our point of view exactly the same as a universe without any gods.

    Therefore, we need only concern ourselves with specific claims of God’s intervention in the world. The ones that are made up today by various people can be given short shrift because from our point of view, these people are no different than anyone else who could have made that claim, and if there is no other evidence. In this category, I would put Scientology, etc. — that is, religions whose creators clearly know they have made them up.

    But the ancient writings merit the effort it takes to disprove them. There is a difference between a suicide bomber who believes ancient scripture and decides to give up his life for it, and — for example — a disciple of Jesus that writes his gospel and then decides it is better to go to his death than to admit he kind of embellished the thing. These guys really believed it, and it is a valid question to ask why.

    Who knows how these stories get started. The point is, we need to be absolutely sure they are false and there is no hell, before we make such a bold move as to transgress against them. I think that every atheist who is blaspheming against God is implicitly claiming there is no one out there to punish him, and that is something that is almost impossible to prove. Transgressing an ancient book’s law also implies that you think it’s probably not real at all, if you stop to rationally think about it. Thus, I think atheists should really take up the task of DISPROVING these religions using our available evidence, and make it absolutely clear and put it up on the internet.

    I would like for there to be a site that conclusively disproves as many of the stories in the Abrahamic religions as possible. We need such a site, to be able to refer to when dealing with religious people. If they bring up scripture, ask them if they believe the flood occurred. If they do, ask them if they’d give up their beliefs if the flood was proven false. If we can really disprove that the exodus really happened as described in the Pentateuch, and document our reasoning for everyone to follow, I think that would save everyone a lot of time.

    Christianity is based on Judaism. If we disprove stories in Judaism, what will the Christians say then? Judaism has made-up stories but Christianity is still true? Similarly with Islam and the other Abrahamic religions, like Mormonism.

    I think we shouldn’t paint the other side as morons or deceitful. They are just as genuine and committed as we are. They just have a different point of view. The real way to resolve a dispute is by bringing evidence and compiling a convincing argument, and once you’ve done that, why not put up a website for all to see, that will allow others to refer to it and stop doing the same research over and over.

    In order of difficulty, I think you would need to conclusively disprove:

    1) The 6,000 age of the world
    2) Tower of Babel story
    3) A worldwide flood
    4) The story of exodus

    That should pretty much undermine the foundations of all the Abrahamic religions. Am I wrong? Why have these arguments about the morality of characters in the Bible? If God really exists, we can’t judge him.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      We cannot completely disprove the existence of the God of Abraham anymore than we can disprove the existence of Allah, Krishna, Zeus, Thor or Mithras. We also cannot disprove 100% the existence of Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That does not mean they have a 50/50 chance of existing as not existing, or even that their existence is remotely plausible.

      Why religious people hold to their beliefs in the face of such a lack of evidence and indeed overwhelming contradictory evidence is what fascinates me so much about the existence of religious faith. There seems to exist a partition in the brains of certain people where all rationality and demand for evidence goes out the window.

      Tell a man that you have invented a yoghurt that turns people invisible or his wife is cheating on him and he will demand an extremely high standard of proof in order for him to be satisfied of your claims. However, tell him that there is an all good, all powerful, undetectable being watching every creature, every moment on this planet and who will punish him with an eternity of torment after death and he will simply accept such an absurd proposition on the basis a collection of 3,000 year old text written and compiled by people to whom a wheelbarrow would have been an exciting new example of emerging technology.

      I don’t think that many religious liberals and moderates understand the mindset of extremists like the 9/11 hijackers. They were not psychopaths. They were not affected by social and economic deprivation. They were 19 very sane, rational and well-educated men who really believed in God.

      There are plenty of websites around refuting each and every story and character in the Bible. All you have to do is search Google. However, I invariably find that theists find some way of rejecting this evidence or saying that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. They start with the assumption that their particular holy book is the perfect word of their imaginary deity and argue from there. I the only benefit I get from such conversations is seeing them squirm when they’ve run out of arguments and make their excuses and leave, no doubt fearing they have purchased their one way ticket to the Third Circle.

      Such material is useful to atheists needing more arrows in their quivers or people sitting on the fence who have perhaps been brought up but religious parents but doubt their faith. They are the ones atheist commentators ought to be speaking to. The fundamentalists cannot be reasoned with; they can only be opposed in their efforts to foist their lunatic ideas on other people.

      MSP

  13. Gregory Magarshak Says:

    Look, no need to preach though. Simply lets set up a compendium of the “evidence of absence” along with rational, unbiased lines of reasoning and then anyone will follow the argument that disproves their favorite religion or story.

    We have so much science now, I think it’s lazy to keep handwaving back and forth about “morality this” and “ad hominem that”, just disprove the stories and get it over with.

    After all, there is a reason we find it preposterous that there was a world wide flood. Why not document that reason carefully for everyone to agree, and that’s all. Pontificating is not the answer.

  14. The burden of proof in absolute/objective religious morals | manicstreetpreacher Says:

    […] Lane Craig has written and recorded a disgusting tract arguing that Yahweh can arbitrarily alter his own moral law to command his chosen people to commit […]

  15. Sam Harris beats William Lane Craig in their debate on morality | manicstreetpreacher Says:

    […] does not want to debate certain issues such as the problem of the “unevangelised” and his own repugnant “divine command theory” in justification of Yahweh’s atrocities in the Old Testament, does mean that they are irrelevant […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers

%d bloggers like this: