On an episode of a Christian radio program The Things That Matter Most, William Lane Craig spoke on the subject of ‘Is God Real or Imaginary?’ Of course, being a theist, Craig posits that God is real. Fine, but what follows disgusted me to no end, as Christian apologetics in regards to atrocities assigned to his minions in the Old Testament are wont to do.
About 9 min into the show, Craig tries to explain why he feels Dan Barker’s journey to atheism is wrong. He seems to think the problem lies in a rigid belief that the Bible is inerrant, and once that rigid position is broken it is more reasonable to believe that the Bible may be wrong here and there than to cross over to the ‘Dark Side’ known as atheism…
‘The Bible is not an accurate record of what God is like, that the ancient Israelites in writing these narratives got it wrong about God.’
OK. If the Bible is wrong about God, how can he speak about God in an authoritative way at all? If the Bible is NOT inerrant, then you must pick and choose what you want to believe and there is no basis which is not arbitrary! This is just nonsense. His suggestion that this is an argument against the inerrancy of the Bible and not the existence of God is correct, but he doesn’t go to the obvious conclusion that if the Bible is wrong here and there, and you do not know exactly where or how many of these places there are, you have to throw the whole thing out. In fact, Craig throws the Old Testament out, but as we’ll see, he arbitrarily claims that the New Testament is okay even though it suffers from exactly the same issues.
Twelve minutes in, Craig answers the questions of God committing genocide.
‘God is not bound by the same moral duties we are. Our moral duties are established to God’s commandments to us, that in virtue of being commanded to do this or that that we have certain moral obligations or duties…. So it would be wrong for me to whip out a gun and shoot somebody for no reason at all. But if God wants to strike me dead right now that’s His prerogative…. But when God commands the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanite clans they are acting as God’s moral agents under his command and so I feel that God has the right to command them to do something which in the absence of a divine command would have been wrong… it becomes their moral duty.’ (Emphasis mine.)
So, God says do as I say, and not as I do. God should set an example for His creatures!!!! At the very least, God should do His own dirty work, especially if he doesn’t want His creatures going around doing the things that under ordinary circumstances He commands them not to do! Does anyone out there understand this idiocy? It gets better:
‘Moreover God had good reason to give this command. He waited for 400 years while the Israelites were slaves in Egypt [Blogger’s note: there is no extra-biblical record of the Israelites ever having been slaves of Egypt.] until the Canaanite nation was so wicked and so debauched that it was right for divine judgment.’
Why kill them then? What happened to free will? Is God so bloodthirsty that he just couldn’t wait to judge them and decided to cut things short? The whole argument collapses under its own inanity. Who says that when the Israelites wrote that God commanded them to slaughter the Canaanites that they didn’t write it to claim a pretext for their actions to steal their land, much like today’s phantom WMDs? This event was nothing more than an invading army claiming ‘God is on our side!’ that history is so full of. The Canaanites lost and history is written by the victors!
‘He used the armies of Israel as His instrument of judgment upon these clans in Canaan knowing that ultimately their extermination would be better for Israel in the long run [Blogger’s note: Says who? Talk about rationalistic bullshit!], they wouldn’t be contaminated by their influences, that these persons were deserving of judgment. And in the case of innocent people who might have been killed that even in their case God has the right to give and take life as He sees fit.’
So, kill them all and let God sort them out, is it? Is this compatible with a merciful and loving God? Absolutely not! Anyone that thinks this has a warped and deviant sense of the words ‘merciful’ and ‘loving’!
Back in the good ol’ biblical days, when someone said God told them to do something, they were taken at face value. Now, our first reaction is to question their sanity. I find it interesting that there are no provisions in any penal code I know of that allows one to be found not guilty by reason of God! Paul Hill claimed he was commanded by God to kill abortion providers, yet he was executed for his crimes. But, if it’s in the Bible it’s not only okay but mandatory! This is the most disgusting apologetics! I could barely get through this bullshit. It’s SICK!
Now for the punchline:
‘…the [Canaanite] children, by being killed are really, in one sense, better off if we believe that children go to heaven, as I do, than they would be allowing them to live on in the circumstances in which they were.’
I’ve said it many times: religion allows the suspension of our normal moral limits on actions to the point of atrocity. It soothes our consciences in order to rationalize committing the most terrible crimes. Remember, Hitler assuaged his own guilt by claiming he was doing God’s work numerous times. Why wouldn’t a merciful and loving god allow the children to be adopted by the Israelites? Wouldn’t this be a much more humane solution? Certainly, the children of Canaan wouldn’t have been able to taint the Israelites with their ways, unless one believes that somehow the wickedness of Canaanites is genetic. (Well, Christians believe that sin is inherited, I suppose, but as I’ve said before, even the IRS isn’t that nasty.) But for Craig, infanticide is just fine when he can be guiltless by passing off the responsibility for the act to God. Had he been there, Craig’s spear would have been the most stained with Canaanite blood. How noble a warrior he would have been, sending babes to Heaven!
Let’s get it straight once and for all: the only morally defensible position to take regarding killing whether commanded by God or not is to REFUSE TO COMPLY! Craig’s terrible arguments stem from a bad premise, that no matter what God tells you to do it is your duty not to question the command. He has to go through hoops to make the arguments work, and never take a step back to see if it makes any sense or is at all moral when he’s finished. Religion has a propensity for devaluing human life. His inability to see that he is clearly in the wrong speaks volumes about the lifting of moral limits to enable the absolute worst in humanity to come to the fore. This defense didn’t work at Nuremburg and it doesn’t work with me. I reiterate: there is no allowance made in any modern legal system for being found not guilty by reason of God!
A God such as Craig’s is not good because of its acts, but is simply defined to be good. Any act of such a God will then always be good, making the word meaningless. I’ve been told that I should not judge God (as if God exists) by the same people that believe God to be good, just and loving. yet to call God good, just and loving is itself a judgement. Judging the acts of God, should such an invisible creature exist, is completely correct. If these acts are consistent with what we would call good, just and loving, then the perpetrator is good, just and loving. I fail to see any reason to think that God’s acts as outlined in the bible as being consistent with these traits. Thus, the Abrahamic concept of God is not good, loving or just. QED.
Even though by now he has abrogated any right to speaking on morality, Craig deals with it at about 21 min. He feels that an evolutionary basis for morality is an illusion, something that serves only to help in perpetuating the species:
‘But there’s nothing about this [evolutionary] morality that makes it really objectively true; it’s really just an illusion. And in that case the rapist or the pedophile or the homophobe or the racist doesn’t really do anything wrong when he goes against the herd morality. He’s just acting unfashionably, and there’s no [ultimate] moral accountability.’
He’s right, it is just an illusion, a necessary framework of rules that allows members of our species to work cooperatively with other members in groups. But these rules really do exist and are innate in each of us. How else can a social survival strategy be successful? But to say it is just unfashionable, like an awful red and blue paisley shirt, is an ad hoc evaulation. If he doesn’t think prison is more serious than relegating the shirt to the back of the closet, he should ask Kent Hovind how life is. Even though Craig acknowledges premoral behavior in many social mammalian species, he refuses to see the evolutionary origins of morality and dismisses them just because they don’t fit with his belief system rather than relying on something a little more substantial like experiment to base his decision. What he doesn’t seem to see is that being moral just because it is God’s commandment makes morality arbitrary and on God’s whimsy. Where’s the objective truth in that that he seems to need? An evolutionary basis for morality explains why atheists are experimentally found to be just as moral (and in Craig’s case, I would suggest more so) than theists. His position explains nothing, as is per usual with religion.
Ultimate accountability does not exist. Just because Craig wishes it were so doesn’t mean a hill of beans. It’s a nice thought, Hitler toasting like a marshmallow in hell, but that’s all it is. Just something to soothe the human psyche by saying ‘Hitler’s get his just desserts.’ The universe is completely indifferent to what humans do no matter how terrible the actions are. Welcome to reality. Deal.
About 33 min. in he says
‘… I don’t think that ultimately the belief that God exists is based upon evidence I think that it is primarily based upon the witness of God’s Holy Spirit.’
Huh? He means it is primarily based on, as David Hume would say, ‘sophistry and illusion.’ ‘God’s Holy Spirit’ is unverifiable bunk, no more valid than ‘speaking in tongues’.
‘…Anyone who, at the end of his life, ultimately rejects God or the Gospel of Christ… doesn’t do so on lack of evidence… He does it because he deliberately ignores or suppresses the testimony and work of the Holy Spirit in his heart.’
And there it is: that inability for the theist to get their mind around the idea that atheists simply do not have that feeling anywhere. The feeling of the ‘Holy Spirit’ is produced purely in their own minds, as functional MRI has clearly demonstrated. The human psyche can do some amazing things, and we interpret them in ways which are not always valid. For instance, near death experiences can seem very real to those that experience them, but the fact that such experiences can be reproduced in subjects subjected to high g-forces in centrifuges points to a less than supernatural explanation. A believer can have feelings about their concept of God, but this in no way can be used as evidence for the existence of God since we know of no way in which the imagination is causal in creating anything in reality.
Theists view us atheists much like many people view the Amish. The Amish don’t deny the existence of cell phones or other modern conveniences. It’s just that they don’t believe in their use. Atheists are actually much different. It’s not that we atheists do not have any use for deities and are denying something we know on some level exists, it’s that we have no reason to believe that there are any deities at all! Like the great Laplace said to Napoleon, ‘I have no need of that hypothesis.’ For some reason, theists can never get their minds around this. Theists, get it through your skulls: I do not deny a god that I know somewhere deep down exists, but reject the hypothesis that God exists due to lack of evidence in favor of the null hypothesis. The burden of proof is always on the one positing existence, and no one has ever made even a promising case for God’s existence. This is the theist’s strawman of the atheist: ‘Look at me! I reject God because I want to live a hedonistic lifestyle! But deep down in my heart I know He exists and will judge me, but I only want to live for myself!’ The technical term for this line of reasoning is ‘bullshit’.
Craig uses a version of the antiquated and much debunked First Cause argument (known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument) which has long since been invalidated (Quantum Mechanics killed it early in the 20th century). Saying that because the universe had a definite beginning therefore it had a creator is simply ‘premature curiousity satisfaction’ (I love that term), an unwarranted blind leap of faith. This is not at all the same as having faith in methodological naturalism and the scientific method. Nobody likes not knowing, but sometimes it’s the only legitimate and intellectually honest response. Over-reaching in conclusions and seeing what you want to see in the data is unworthy of anyone, but typical of theist apologetics.
Craig goes on to speak on the New Testament’s validity (ca. 46 min):
‘…the drift of New Testament scholarship in the last 50 years or so has been solidly in the direction of confirming the accuracy of the New Testament records of the life of Jesus. I think that most scholars would say that we can treat the gospels very seriously as historical sources for the life of Jesus of Nazareth.’
I had tears streaming from my eyes from laughter at hearing this! Oh, my! What ‘scholars’ has this guy been reading?!?!? I think that the FACT that there are NO contemporary sources of the Jesus myth should be a clue to the story’s validity, and not a supportive one at all either. That NONE of the Gospels was written anywhere near the time of his supposed time on Earth, the earliest of the gospels having been written ca. 70 CE! We don’t even have a clue as to their true authorship! Even the Gospels themselves (chosen by a committee, for crying out loud) disagree with each other significantly! This is cherry picking at its most bizarre and are facts that Craig conveniently and completely ignores.
Throughout the show, the commentators seem to revere this guy (who I had never heard of before) and say that Dawkins and Harris don’t have any right to go against such great minds as Craig, Einstein and Hawking. Let’s get one thing straight: Craig is no great mind. I was appalled and disgusted at his ridiculous idea that sending kids to God is okay and if I actually believed in doing debates I would take him on any day. From everything I heard on this show I deem him to be a mental lightweight espousing the most idiotic apologetics. Associating Craig with Einstein and Hawking demeans two truly remarkable minds. Second, Einstein’s and Hawking’s philosophies have no room for an Abrahamic god. Einstein was pointedly clear on not believing in a personal god. Third, to cast Dawkins outside of the company of Einstein and Hawking greatly underestimates his influence. Harris won’t be far behind, and he is very young to already have so much influence in his own right. And Darwin is the most important mind ever to have existed.
I really do like Lael Arrington as a person, one of the hosts of the show. We email each other back and forth, not necessarily about the show. I have always applauded their choice of guests. How many radio shows with a decidedly Christian slant would invite the likes of Dan Barker and Sam Harris as guests? But religious people do have a blind spot when it comes to applying logic to their own beliefs, something that I’ve spent my whole life doing. Their bias becomes apparent when they are talking about their guest after the interview. In this case, their comments were glowing and they could find no fault with Craig. This is disappointing and I wish I was with them during those sessions to set them straight. People such as Craig do not have the moral right to criticize humanism when they so easily devalue human life. If you think that Christians aren’t capable of genocide, just listen to Craig. If he ever got it into his head that God was commanding him to kill, it would be a bloodbath.
But, who am I to question God’s commandments? I’m just a lowly human. The problem is, there is no God. The universe is exactly as we would expect in the absense of a deity. And even if by some amazing chance that there were, I would still question. If there were a creator, and it didn’t want me to question, it shouldn’t have given me an intellect with which to reason and free will with which to apply it. Whether or not you believe in a creator, people, you have both of these, so use them and dont’ just listen to this asshat!