When I began my foray into religion and philosophy, I was concerned with one thing and one thing only: truth. There was never a point at which I sat down and selected atheism from the menu of favorable options. In fact, I don’t necessarily favor atheism. I’d like to think that a guiding and benevolent father figure looks out for me from above. That one day I’ll get to parade around in my underwear for all eternity with Phil Hartman and Chris Farley.
But, at the end of the day, it’s not about what I desire or find palatable. It’s about what strikes me as being true. What worldview seems to best comport with reality? Atheism, for me, is not even a choice, but a conclusion, however tentative, based on an honest appraisal of the world around me. In light of that, I prefer to follow the Buddhist wisdom of accepting things just as they are, rather than attempting to skew reality so that it conforms to my innermost wishes. Carl Sagan said it best: “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
The approach that I just described, the honest seeking for truth, seems to be the furthest thing from the Christian mindset. Let’s face it: anyone who’s a Christian either inherited their faith without ever rigorously questioning it, or came to believe as a result of some emotional incentive. I have yet to meet a single Christian who says, “I was a nonbeliever, until I investigated the truth claims of the Bible. And whad’ya know: logic, reason, evidence, science, history, and philosophy all bore it out!”
But, here’s the thing. I am perfectly fine with that. Really. Truly. What somebody else believes is none of my business, so long as they don’t impose it upon me. If it makes them happy and provides them a sense of comfort, who am I to interfere with that? I say, to each his own.
Now, of course there are things about the highly political, religious right that irritate me, e.g., their stance on gay rights, women’s reproductive rights, the attempts to inject creationist pseudoscience into the classroom, etc. But, as someone with an academic interest in religious studies, what really grinds my gears are Christian apologists–those who attempt to defend the faith on “intellectual” grounds. As an institution hellbent on defending the indefensible, theirs is the practice of shameless shell games, spin-doctoring, convoluted thinking, far-fetched rationalizing, baseless presumptions, careless conjecture, and all manner of fallacious argumentation. Basically, bullshit artistry masquerading as scholarship. 100%. Complete. Bullshit.
That they have the gall to insist that we atheists are unjustified in our disbelief, because we’re somehow oblivious to their oh-so-cogent “evidence,” is disgustingly disingenuous and insulting. Peddle your nonsense to the credulous if you must, but don’t pretend as though we ought to be equally gullible.
But, are their arguments really that bad, you might ask? YES. Yes, they are. One need look no further than the grand poobah of Christian apologists, William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig’s defenses of Christian belief are so bad that even Norm Macdonald is more convincing as Burt Reynolds in SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy. And he’s not even trying. Craig basically relies on sleight-of-hand trickery, as do most Christian apologists. But anyone with a modicum of critical thinking skills can see exactly how he pulls the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.
Craig’s misrepresentation of the physics behind cosmic origins has been noted here, where he flagrantly lies about the universe being created ex nihilo (out of nothing). In addition to that, I will discuss three other arguments of his that stink to high heaven so severely, even Jesus chokes on the fumes.
Beginning with Craig’s defense of the resurrection. In addition to appealing to the empty tomb, Joseph of Arimathea, and visions of the resurrected Jesus in order to prove the resurrection of Jesus–in effect, using the Bible to prove the Bible–Craig made this stunning statement during a debate with New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman:
Dr. Ehrman just assumes that the probability of the resurrection on our background knowledge [Pr(R/B)] is very low. But here, I think, he’s confused. What, after all, is the resurrection hypothesis? It’s the hypothesis that Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead. It is not the hypothesis that Jesus rose naturally from the dead. That Jesus rose naturally from the dead is fantastically improbable. But I see no reason whatsoever to think that it is improbable that God raised Jesus from the dead.
Background knowledge, of course, refers to our everyday experience of the world. And Craig really nails it. We don’t tend to witness people naturally rising from the dead. But, supernaturally? Oh, well, yeah. You can barely walk your dog or stroll through the supermarket without encountering a reanimated corpse these days. But it’s hardly any surprise in the face of magic. What the fuck was Dr. Ehrman thinking?
Problem is, Craig’s definition of evil is ad hoc, designed expressly for the sake of arriving at his desired conclusion. If there is no God, then there is no “way things ought to be.” There is only the way things are. Gratuitous and pervasive suffering only “ought to be” absent from the world if there is an all-powerful and loving God–an entity with both the ability and desire to prevent it. It is precisely because the world is not so that we atheists disbelieve in God.
Evil, therefore, would not be a departure from any divine plan, but a value judgment set forth by human beings, best described as “that which causes harm, misfortune, or destruction.” But the best part is this: By Craig’s rationale, Christian Bale’s character in American Psycho is a shining example of God’s glorious existence.
Lastly, we come to Craig’s defense of biblical genocide. Accordingly, all those Canaanites whom the Israelite soldiers slaughtered had it coming. They were steeped in impurity, so what’s an all-powerful and loving God to do but have them exterminated? It’s not like, in his infinite power and wisdom, he could conjure up a civil, non-violent solution. He’s not fucking Gandhi or Jesu… wait, whaaa?
But what about the children, Professor Craig? Why the innocent children?
If [you] 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.
Those lucky little fucks! Now, excuse me while I go on an infanticidal killing spree, so that more of God’s precious children can “quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.” I’m sure the parents won’t mind. After all, I’m just expediting their salvation!
Oh, but it gets better.
So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgment. 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.
By extension, I feel the sudden urge to give Hitler a hug. In fact, we should dedicate a memorial to the Nazi regime (those poor souls), with William Lane Craig hosting the opening ceremony. What could be more fitting for Christianity’s leading apologist than to be dressed in regalia that reads “God With Us.”
So there you have it, folks. Among defenders of the faith, that’s the best Christianity has to offer. I’d sure hate to see the worst. In all their works, whether written or spoken, there is no regard for the truth. There is no attempt whatsoever at objectivity. They seek only to defend what they already blindly believe, no matter how grotesque or outlandish. And they’ll lie, cheat, contrive, and deceive every step of the way. But, hey. At least they love Jesus. You can be forgiven for anything as long as you believe the right shit.