You are on page 1of 170

1

Table of Contents
Introduction
1 A Summary of My Case Against Christianity

Page
5
6

PART ONE: PERSONAL REFLECTIONS


2 Excerpts From Letters to Dr. Virgil Warren
3 A Letter to Dr. James D. Strauss
4 A Word About My Deconversion.
5 Were We Former Christians? It Depends.
6 Ex-Christians and the Church of Christ
7 How I Got To Where I Am Today
8 What is My Motivation for Debunking Christianity?
9 Are We Angry Atheists?
10 On Dealing With Apostates Like Us.
11 Im a Freethinker First, and an Atheist Second.
12 Don't Quote Homer To Me!
13 What If Im Wrong?
14 The Plight of the Preacher.
15 No More Funerals!
16 Brenda, My Former "Sister-in-Christ" Visited Me.
17 Interview with Infidelis Maximus.
18 The Friendly Atheist Interview.
19 Some Advice for People Who Leave the Faith.

23
32
37
40
43
45
48
56
58
63
64
65
67
70
72
75
77
79

PART TWO: ADDITIONAL ARGUMENTS


20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37

Where's The Beef? And Where's the Evidence?


Absence of Evidence and the Evidence of Absence
The Argument From the Scale of the Universe.
The Fall of Adam Is No Answer to Evil
Chess and the Problem of Evil
The Parental Analogy
Can Prayer Change the Past?
Christianity and Philosophy
The Achilles Heel of Christianity
Two Problems with Calvinism
The Pharisees: Were They That Bad?
Preterism: an Admission Jesus Failed to Return
Embarrassing Elements in the Gospels
How Can God Judge Us All Fairly?
Biblical Scholarship Leads to Greater Doubt
The History of Christianity Debunks Itself
Christians are Fearful of Doubting
Pascals Wager Revisited

82
84
86
102
104
106
108
114
117
120
124
127
129
131
134
136
138
139

38 The Problem of Animal Suffering Revisited


39 The Virgin Birth Revisited
40 The Problem With Liberal Theology
41 An Atheistic Ethic.
42 Why I Reject Reincarnation

142
149
151
157
166

Introduction.
This book is a companion volume to my book, Why I Became an Atheist: A
Former Preacher Rejects Christianity. This one is intended to answer some leftover
questions from that other book. Here you will find some more personal
reflections on my journey from preacher/apologist to atheist, along with some
more arguments, just as the subtitle suggests. I just want to further complete my
story and add to my arguments by filling in some more of the details. There are
some sections in this book that didnt make it into that other book. There are also
a few Blog posts included in this book from www.debunkingchristianity.
blogspot.com (Debunking Christianity, or DC), which have been edited and
revised somewhat.
Ive grouped several sections together in Part 1 as Personal Reflections, and
other sections in Part 2 as Additional Arguments. I make no pretension to have
each section successively flow from one to the other. Nor do I think Ive said all
that needs to be said. [Youll have to forgive any typos since I didnt have a
proofreader, and Im not good at it myself].
If youve purchased my other book and liked it, then upon buying this one
youre probably a fan of what I write. Thank you very much! I hope I dont
disappoint you in this one.
Perhaps there might even be a few of my fans who have the financial means
to step up to a big challenge. Let me preface this challenge by reminding you of
two facts. Fact One: Every year a lot of money is spent on lawyers costs to build
up the wall of the separation between church and state, something which is very
much needed given the many attempts to breech that wall by believers. Fact Two:
Christian benefactors have helped to change the religious landscape of America,
in part, by buying copies of Josh McDowells Evidences books and giving them to
Christian campus ministries to hand out to students for free. While I know we
need the litigation to defend our rights as non-believers, if youre a fan of my
previous book and have the financial means, please consider buying up copies of
that book (or others that you like) and handing them out to secular campus
groups so they can give them away to students for free. Or, you can donate
money for this express purpose to them, or to me. I think this strategy is
something that secular people with financial means can do that might be more
effective in changing the religious landscape in America than what litigation can
do, although we need the litigation. In any case, it would be money well spent,
with long term benefits.
You could also donate money to me personally so I can continue buying
books and continue my studies unhindered from having to get a second job,
given these hard financial times. I have a lot more to say! You can help me say it.
John W. Loftus
September 2008

1. A Summary of My Case Against Christianity


In what follows I want to summarize my case against the Christian faith. As a
former student of James D. Strauss at Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln,
Illinois, I credit much of my approach to three things he drilled into us as
students, but in reverse. When doing apologetics, he said that if you dont start
with God youll never get to God. Hes not a presuppositionalist because he
doesnt start with the Bible as Gods revelation. He merely starts from above
by presupposing Gods existence, and then he argues that such an assumption
makes better sense of the Bible and the world than the alternatives. Again, if
you dont start with God youll never get to God. Since thats such an
important, central issue, Ill focus on why we should not start from above with
the belief in God in the first place, but rather from below, beginning with the
world. If successful, then my argument should lead us to reject the existence of
the God who is supposed to confirm the biblical revelation.
The second thing Dr. Strauss drilled into us was his argument that we dont
need more data, we need better interpretive schema. What he meant is that we
evaluate the details of the historical and archaeological evidence through
interpretive schema. The need to come up with more data, or evidence, isnt as
important as the need to better evaluate that data through the lens of an
adequate worldview. While the data are indeed important, the big worldview
picture provides the necessary rational support to the data. We need to be
specialists in the big picture, not the minutia. I agreed then, and I agree now,
except that the better interpretive schema that supports the data is not
Christianity, but atheism.
A third thing Dr. Strauss drilled into us is that all truth is Gods truth, and
by this he meant that if something is true, its of God, no matter where we find it,
whether through science, philosophy, psychology, history, or experience itself.
All truth comes from God wherever we find it. There is no secular/sacred
dichotomy when it comes to truth. There is no such thing as secular
knowledge at all, if by this we mean beliefs that are justifiably true. Neither
sinful, nor carnal, nor secular knowledge exists as a category because such
knowledge isnt true. All truth is sacred and it comes from God alone, whether
we learn it inside the pages of the Bible or outside of them in the various
disciplines of learning. Therefore, since not all truth is to be found in the Bible, it
follows that the Christian apologist must try to harmonize all knowledge, since it
all comes from God. Strauss argued from above that the Christian worldview
is what best interprets these other truthssomething I now deny. My claim will
be that the lessons learned outside of the Bible in other areas of learning debunk
the Bible by continually forces believers to reinterpret the Bible over and over
until there is no longer any basis for believing in the Christian worldview.
My claim is that the Christian faith should be rejected by modern, civilized
scientifically literate, educated people, even if I know many of them will still
disagree.

There are probably many Christian professors who have had some serious
doubts about the Christian faith, like Drs. Ruth A. Tucker, James F. Sennett and
Terence Penelhum. In her book Walking Away from Faith: Unraveling the Mystery of
Belief and Unbelief, Ruth A. Tucker shares her own doubt and how she overcomes
it, hoping to challenge unbelievers to reconsider what they are missing. But in
one place in her book as she was contemplating her own doubt, she candidly
confesses what sometimes crosses her mind. As a seminary professor she wrote,
There are moments when I doubt all. It is then that I sometimes ask myself as
Im looking out my office window, What on earth am I doing here? Theyd fire
me if they only knew.[1]
My friend James F. Sennett, a former student of Dr. Strauss, is another one
who has seriously struggled with his faith, as seen in his, as yet, unpublished
book, This Much I Know: A Postmodern Apologetic. He confesses to have had a faith
crisis in it, and wrote his book as a first person apologetic, to answer his own
faith crisis. In chapter one, called The Reluctant Disciple: Anatomy of a Faith
Crisis, he wrote, I am the one who struggles with God. I am the Reluctant
Disciple. Once I had no doubt that God was there, but I resented him for it;
now I desperately want him to be there, and am terrified that he might not be.
Prompted by a study of the mind/brain problem, he wrote, Sometimes I
believed. Sometimes I didnt. And it seemed to me that the latter condition was
definitely on the ascendancy.
Christian philosopher Terence Penelhum has also expressed his doubts in A
Belated Return, in Philosophers Who Believe, ed. Kelly James Clark (Downers
Grove: IVP, 1993). He says there are serious inner clashes between the
philosophical and religious strands in my psyche. They derive from the fact that I
find myself an unrepentantly philosophical being, which puts me at a mental
distance from most of my fellow Christians. I have become aware of the
multiplicity of religious and secular worldviews, each supported by reasons,
each felt and experienced, many institutionally developed and expressed, and
each having resources for fending off and explaining away the claims of the
other. I have found it easy, professionally, to assume the stance of each and all of
them for pedagogical purposes. And I think it a mark of human enlightenment to
be able to enter imaginatively into these alternative visions, since each of them is
a vision that is lived by rational beings.
Penelhum continues, As a philosopher, I find that my intense awareness of
the multiplicity of rational alternatives makes me feel deep alienation from
fellow Christians who appear to be blessed with certainty, and with a correlative
perception of the obvious falsity of such alternatives. To be frank, I do not feel
their certainty to be a blessing: better, surely, I cannot help telling myself, to be a
Socrates tentative than a pig without questions. (p. 234).
Penelhum has serious problems with some theological options, which
seem to me totally closed, and the consideration of them to invite justified
ridicule from the most sympathetic enquirers. Here he mentions the historical
Fall of Adam and Eve, and a physical ascension into heaven. He says, we know
too much to continue to encase our Christian teachings in antiquated
cosmologies in the way such options require. (p. 235).
With me I just stopped struggling. It required too much intellectual
gerrymandering to believe. There were just too many individual problems that I

had to balance, like spinning several plates up on several sticks, in order to keep
my faith. At some point they just all came crashing down.
Let me begin by talking about control biases. They do just what they
indicate; they control how one views the evidence. Everyone has them, especially
when it comes to metaphysical belief systems where there isnt a mutually
agreed upon scientific test to decide between alternatives. Many times we dont
even know we have them, but they color how we see the world. They can also be
called assumptions, presuppositions and/or control beliefs, depending on the
context. As Alfred North Whitehead wrote, Some assumptions appear so
obvious that people do not know that they are assuming because no other way of
putting things has ever occurred to them. They form the basis for the way we
See things.
Having the right control biases are essential to grasping the truth about our
existence in the universe. Psychologist Valerie Tarico explains that it doesnt
take very many false assumptions to send us on a long goose chase. To illustrate
this she tells us about the mental world of a paranoid schizophrenic. To such a
person the perceived persecution by others sounds real. You can sit, as a
psychiatrist, with a diagnostic manual next to you, and think: as bizarre as it
sounds, the CIA really is bugging this guy. The arguments are tight, the logic
persuasive, the evidence organized into neat files. All that is needed to build
such an impressive house of illusion is a clear, well-organized mind and a few
false assumptions. Paranoid individuals can be very credible. [2]
Since having them dont by themselves tell me what to accept about the
specific evidence for Christian miracle claims, I also need to examine that
evidence, although time wont permit me here. But I do so in my previous
book.[3] I consider them as the historical claims they are. I examine them by
looking at the internal evidence found within the Biblical texts themselves. I
consider what these texts actually say and scrutinize their internal consistency.
Wherever relevant, I also consider whether the Old Testament actually predicts
some of these events. Then I examine these claims by looking at the external
evidence. I consider any independent confirmation of these events outside of the
texts. Lastly I subject these claims to the canons of reason using the control biases
I will briefly argue for here. I conclude from all of this that the Christian faith is a
delusion and should be rejected. Then I describe why I am an atheist and what it
means to live life without God. I present a whole case, a comprehensive case, a
complete case, from start to finish, as a former insider to the Christian faith.
I argue that I think skepticism about religion in general, and Christianity in
particular, is the default position. Anyone who investigates religion in general, or
Christianity in specific, must begin with skepticism. Anyone who subsequently
moves off the default position of skepticism has the burden of proof, since doing
so is making a positive knowledge claim, and in the case of Christianity a very
large knowledge claim that cannot be reasonably defended with the available
evidence. This best expresses my set of control beliefs from which I derive two
others:
1) There is a strong probability that every event has a natural cause; and,
2) The scientific method is the best (and probably the only) reliable guide we
have for gaining the truth.

Since I need sufficient reasons and sufficient evidence for what I believe, I
have an anti-dogma, and an anti-superstitious bias. No inspired book will tell
me what I should accept. My first question will always be Why should I accept
what this writer said? That doesnt mean in the end I might not conclude there
is a supernatural realm, only that I start out with these assumptions. Christians
will bristle at these control biases of mine and cry foul. They will argue that if I
start out with a predisposition against the supernatural bias it predisposes me to
reject their religious faith, and they are right. It does. They claim that with a
supernatural bias I will be more likely to accept the Christian faith, and that too
is correct, although there are still other supernatural worldview contenders.
Nonetheless, since this is crucial, let me offer several reasons that I think are
undeniable for adopting a skeptical rather than believing set of control biases in
the first place.
In every case when it comes to the following reasons for adopting my control
biases the Christian response is pretty much the same. Christians must
continually retreat to the position that what they believe is possible, or that
what they believe is not impossible. However, the more that Christians must
constantly retreat to what is "possible" rather than to what is probable in order
to defend their faith, the more their faith is on shaky ground. For this is a tacit
admission that instead of the evidence supporting what they believe, they are
actually trying to explain the evidence away.
1) Sociological Reasons. The sociological facts are that particular religions
dominate in separate distinguishable geographical locations around the globe.
John Hick: it is evident that in some ninety-nine percent of the cases the religion
which an individual professes and to which he or she adheres depends upon the
accidents of birth. Someone born to Buddhist parents in Thailand is very likely to
be a Buddhist, someone born to Muslim parents in Saudi Arabia to be a Muslim,
someone born to Christian parents in Mexico to be a Christian, and so on. [4]
The best explanation for why this is so is that people overwhelmingly believe
based upon when and where we were born.
Since there are no mutually agreed upon scientific tests to determine which
religion to adopt, or none at all, social cultural and political forces will
overwhelmingly determine what people believe.
Because of this sociological data I have proposed something I call the
outsider test for faith. Test your religious beliefs as if you were an outsider, just
like you test the beliefs of other religions and reject them. Test them with a
measure of skepticism. If you dont do this, then you must justify why you
approach other religions than your own with such a double standard. The
Outsider Test is no different than the prince in the Cinderella story who must
question 45,000 people to see which girl lost the glass slipper at the ball last
night. They all claim to have done so. Therefore, skepticism is definitely
warranted.
William Lane Craig explains geographical religious diversity by arguing, in
his own words, it is possible that God has created a world having an optimal
balance between saved and lost and that God has so providentially ordered the
world that those who fail to hear the gospel and be saved would not have freely

10

responded affirmatively to it even if they had heard it. Craig argues that if this
scenario is even possible, it proves that it is entirely consistent to affirm that
God is all-powerful and all-loving and yet that some people never hear the
gospel and are lost. [5] Notice him retreating to what is merely possible? Hes
trying to explain the evidence of global religious diversity away. The probability
that not one of the billions of people who have not heard the gospel would
respond if they did hear the gospel can probably be calculated, if missionaries
kept records of their efforts. To claim what he does against the overwhelming
evidence of missionary efforts belies the facts. Contrary to Craig, when we look
at the billions of people who have never been given a chance to be saved
because of when and where they were born, his scenario seems extremely
implausible, to say the least.
2) Philosophical Reasons (1). Arguments for Gods existence arent
conclusive or persuasive. They dont lead exclusively to theism but at best to
deism, which I might happily concede and then argue that a distant God is not
much different than none at all. Besides, moving from deism to a full-blown
Christianity is like trying to fly a plane to the moon. And the theistic arguments
dont lead us to a particular brand of theism either, whether Judaism, Islam or
one of the many branches of Christianity.
When it comes to Gods existence our choices can be reduced to these: 1)
Either something has always existed--always, or, 2) something popped into
existence out of absolutely nothing. Either choice seems extremely unlikely--or
possibly even absurd. There is nothing in our experience that can help us grasp
these two possibilities. But one of them is correct and the other false. We either
start with the brute fact that something has always existed, or the brute fact
that something popped into existence out of nothing. A third view is that, 3) Our
existence in the universe is absurd to the core.
William Lane Craig used the word bizarre to describe this problem when
he wrote, I well recall thinking, as I began to study the Kalam Cosmological
Argument, that all of the alternatives with respect to the universe's existence
were so bizarre that the most reasonable option seemed to be that nothing
exists! [6] We must all recognize that we really dont know why something
exists rather than nothing at all. Agnosticism is the default position. Anyone
moving off the default position has the burden of proof, and I maintain that
moving from agnosticism to atheism is a much smaller step than moving to a full
blown Christianity. Since the larger the claim, the harder it is to defend,
Christianity has a huge and near impossible burden of proof.
Christians want to argue for the belief in a triune God, even though no sense
can be made of the trinity that is both orthodox and reasonable. This God was
not free with respect to deciding his own nature, even though Christians want to
think of God as a free personal agent; who as a spiritual being created matter,
even though no known "point of contact" between spirit and matter can be
found; who never began to exist as their brute fact, even though according to
Ockhams razor a simpler brute fact is to begin with the universe itself; who
never learned any new truths and cannot think, since thinking demands
weighing temporal alternatives. This God is everywhere, yet could not even
know what time it is since time is a function of placement and acceleration in the

11

universe (and if timeless, this God cannot act in time); who allows intense
suffering in this world, yet does not follow the same moral code he commands
believers to follow.
3) Philosophical Reasons (2). The Christian defender of miracles has a near
impossible double burden of proof.
As the late J.L. Mackie wrote: Where there is some plausible testimony about
the occurrence of what would appear to be a miracle, those who accept this as a
miracle have the double burden of showing both that the event took place and
that it violated the laws of nature. But it will be very hard to sustain this double
burden. For whatever tends to show that it would have been a violation of a
natural law tends for that very reason to make it most unlikely that is actually
happened. [7]
In Douglass Geivett and Gary Habermass edited book In Defense of Miracles
they labeled part 2 as The Possibility of Miracles.[8] Notice how they must
retreat to what is possible, not what is probable? Of course miracles are possible
if there is a creator God, but what we want to know is if they are probable. By
definition they are not very probable. We are asked to believe in the Christian
God because Biblical miracles supposedly took place, but by definition miracles
are very improbable. We cannot bring ourselves to believe in the God of the Bible
unless we first believe those miracles took place, but we cannot bring ourselves
to believe in those miracles because they are by definition very improbable.
John King-Farlow and William Niels Christensen argue that just because we
dont experience miracles today doesnt mean that throughout the history of
mankind God has done a plethora of them, and will do so again when the time is
right in the future. [9] They are asking us to believe against the overwhelming
present day experience of nearly all modern people that things might turn out
differently than we now experience. Is this impossible? No, not at all. But again,
its not probable.
Take for example the story that Balaams ass spoke to him. If todays
Christians lived back in that superstitious era they wouldnt believe this
happened unless there was good evidence. But because they read about it in a socalled inspired book they suspend their judgment and believe it. Back in
Balaams day they themselves would not have believed it, until Balaam made his
ass talk in their presence.
Besides, Christians operate by what Harvard trained Biblical scholar Hector
Avalos describes as selective supernaturalism. [10] They believe the Biblical
miracles because they favor them, while they are skeptical of the miracles they
dont favor in other religions. Why the double standard here? At least Im
consistent in being skeptical of them all until a supernatural explanation is
required by the evidence, and I havent seen any evidence that requires a
supernatural explanation yet.
4) Scientific Reasons (1). Science proceeds based upon methodological
naturalism. Methodological naturalism assumes that for everything we
experience there is a natural cause. Paul Kurtz defined it as well as anyone when
he wrote that it is a principle within the context of scientific inquiry; i.e., all
hypotheses and events are to be explained and tested by reference to natural

12

causes and events. To introduce a supernatural or transcendental cause within


science is to depart from naturalistic explanations. [11]
This is what defines us as modern people. In todays world all modern
educated people base their deductions on the method of naturalism in a vast
number of areas. Before the advent of science in previous centuries people either
praised God for the good things that happened to them, or they wondered why
God was angry when bad things happened. If someone got sick, it was because
of sin in his or her life. If it rained, God was pleased with them, if there was a
drought God was displeased, and so on, and so on. Science wasnt content to
accept the notion that epilepsy was demon possession, or that sicknesses were
sent by God to punish people. Nor was science content with the idea that God
alone opens the womb of a woman, nor that God was the one who sent the rain.
Now we have scientific explanations for these things, and we all benefit from
those who assumed there was a natural cause to everything we experience. We
can predict the rain. We know how babies are produced, and how to prevent a
host of illnesses. There is no going back on this progress, and it is ongoing.
Christians themselves assume a natural explanation when they hear a noise in
the night. They assume a natural explanation for a stillborn baby, a train wreck,
or an illness.
Christians like Alvin Plantinga object to the use of methodological naturalism
in many areas related to their faith. He argues that the Christian scientific
community should pursue science in its own way, starting from and taking for
granted what we know as Christians. [12] But see what hes doing here? He is
forced into retreating to Bayesian background factors to support a weak position.
Hes trying to explain the evidence away. Hes retreating to what is merely
possible: that while methodological naturalism has worked very well in
understanding our world, its possible that it doesnt apply across the board into
the Christian set of beliefs hes adopted. And hes right. It is possible. But again,
how likely is it that it works so well on every other area of investigation but that
it shouldnt be used in understanding his background beliefs too?
5) Scientific Reasons (2). Astronomy had confirmed that the universe is 13.7
billion years old and arose out of a cosmic singularity. No account of the
development of this universe can be harmonized with the creation accounts in
Genesis except that these accounts were pure mythic folklore. Archaeology has
disconfirmed that there isnt any evidence for Israelites being slaves in Egypt for
four hundred years, or that they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, or that
they conquered the land of Canaan. Geology confirms the slow evolutionary
development of life in the sedimentary rock layers on a planet nearly 5 billion
years old, just as astronomy confirms the slow evolutionary development of
galaxy, star and planet formation. Geology also disconfirms that there was ever a
universal flood which covered the earth. Neurology confirms that strokes,
seizers, and other illnesses stem from a brain malfunction and hence disconfirms
that there is something called a mind or soul. If there is an immaterial mind
where is it located? Sam Harris points out that if God created us with a mind
then there is no reason to expect that he also created us with a brain. Modern
medicine has achieved astounding results that such superstitious practices like
exorcisms and blood letting and supernatural healing are delusional. The late

13

Carl Sagan, said, We can pray over the cholera victim, or we can give her 500
milligrams of tetracycline every twelve hoursthe scientific treatments are
hundreds or thousands of times more effective than the alternatives (like prayer).
Even when the alternatives seem to work, we dont actually know that they
played any role. Voltaire said: "Prayer and arsenic will kill a cow." Psychology
confirms that who we are and how we behave are determined to an
overwhelming degree before we reach the age of accountability. People are not
evil so much as much they are sick. There is no rebellion against God. If God is
omniscient then like the ultimate psychotherapist he knows why we do
everything we do. There can be no wrathful God.
6) Biblical Reasons (1). The Bible is filled with barbarisms that civilized
people reject. A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite mans wife
(Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped,
she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a
virgin who was not pledged to be married was raped, she was supposed to
marry her attacker (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), not to mention the pleasure of
dashing of children against rocks, and genocide itself (Psalm 137:9).
That God is a hateful, racist and sexist God. Christians think Militant Muslims
are wrong for wanting to kill free loving people in the world, and they are. But
the only difference between these Muslims and the Biblical God is that they
simply disagree on who should be killed. According to Sam Harris, it is only by
ignoring such barbarisms that the Good Book can be reconciled with life in the
modern world.
7) Biblical Reasons (2). The Bible is filled with superstitious beliefs modern
people reject. In the Bible we find a world where a snake and a donkey talked,
where people could live 800-900+ years old, where a woman was turned into a
pillar of salt, where a pillar of fire could lead people by night, where the sun
stopped moving across the sky or could even back up, where an ax-head could
float on water, a star can point down to a specific home, where people could
instantly speak in unlearned foreign languages, and where someones shadow or
handkerchief could heal people. It is a world where a flood can cover the whole
earth, a man can walk on water, calm a stormy sea, change water into wine, or be
swallowed by a great fish and live to tell about it. It is a world populated by
demons that can wreak havoc on earth, and also make people very sick. It is a
world of idol worship, where human and animal sacrifices pleased God. In this
world we find visions, inspired dreams, prophetic utterances, miracle workers,
magicians, diviners and sorcerers. It is a world where God lived in the sky
(heaven), and people who died went to live in the dark recesses of the earth
(Sheol).
This is a strange world when compared to our world. But Christians believe
this world was real in the past. My contention is that ancient people werent
stupid, just very superstitious. Christopher Hitchens puts it this way: One must
state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where
nobody had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and
fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable
demand for knowledge. [13]

14

I can propose scientific tests for what I consider superstitions. I can compare
what a meteorologist says about the weather with someone who plans to do a
rain dance, and test to see whos right more often. Thats science. The results of
reason and science have jettisoned a great many superstitions. Testing and
comparing results. Thats science. I can do the same for the superstitious practice
of blood-letting, for exorcisms, for people who claim to predict things based on
palm reading, or tea leaves, or walking under a ladder, or breaking a mirror, or
stepping on a sidewalk crack. I can even test the results of someone who gets a
shot of penicillin when sick with the person who refuses this and prays instead.
Thats science. And we modern people are indebted to science for these things.
Its what makes us different from ancient people.
Voltaire said, Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few
are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the time. In the Bible there are so
many superstitious beliefs held by the Gentile nations at every period of time
that superstition reigned in those ancient days. I dont think any modern person
should be able to conclude anything other than that. The beliefs of these nations
were so prevalent that Gods people in the Bible regularly joined in the same
practices and worshipped these gods and goddesses. If these nations were so
superstitious that Israel regularly joined them in their beliefs, then it seems
reasonable to suppose the beliefs of the Israelites, and later the Christians, were
also based upon superstitions too.
We who live in the modern world of science simply dont believe in a god of
the sun, or moon, or harvest, of fertility, or rain, or the sea. We dont see omens
in an eclipse, or in flood, a storm, a snakebite, or a drought, either. Thats because
we understand nature better than they did, by using science. We dont see
sickness as demon possession, nor do educated thinking people believe in
astrology to get an insight into the future. Nor do we think we are physically any
closer to God whether were up on a mountaintop rather than down in a valley.
But every nation did in ancient days. Now its possible that ancient Jews and
Christians were different and believed because of the evidence, but how likely is
that?
8) Historical Reasons (1). If God revealed himself in history, then he chose a
poor medium (the past) and a poor era (the superstitious ancient past) to do so. If
you know that much about the craft of the historian, she is dealing with the stuff
of the past in which many frauds and forgeries have been found. This justifies a
skeptical outlook upon what has been reported to have happened. Almost
anything can be rationally denied in history, even if the event happened.
Consider the following historical questions: How were the Egyptian
pyramids made? Who made them? Why? Was Shakespeare a fictitious name for
Francis Bacon? Exactly how was the Gettysburg battle fought and won? What
was the true motivation for Lincoln to emancipate the slaves? What happened at
Custer's last stand? Who killed President John F. Kennedy? Why? Who knew
what and when during the Watergate scandal that eventually led to President
Nixon resigning? Why did America lose the war in Vietnam? Did George W.
Bush legitimately win the 2000 election? Did President Bush knowingly lead us
into a war with Iraq on false pretenses? What about some high profile criminal
cases? Is O.J. Simpson a murderer? Who killed JonBene Ramsey? Is Michael

15

Jackson a pedophile? Can we say we know the answer to any one of these
questions such that wed be willing to go to hell if we got it wrong?
Hector Avalos argues that historical studies are fraught with serious
problems. When it comes to the non-supernatural claim that Caesar was
assassinated by Brutus in Rome, in 44 A.D., he argues, We cannot verify such an
occurrence ourselves directly and so we cannot claim to know it occurred.
When it comes to whether or not King Arthur actually existed, he argues, our
contemporary textual evidenceis nearly nil. If this is the case with nonsupernatural historical investigations, then it is compounded so much more
when it comes to the so-called supernatural events in history. [14]
This is compounded much further when we consider Gotthold Lessings
ugly broad ditch: Miracles, which I see with my own eyes, and which I have
opportunity to verify for myself, are one thing; miracles, of which I know only
from history that others say they have seen them and verified them, are another.
ButI live in the 18th century, in which miracles no longer happen. The
problem is that reports of miracles are not miracles.[they] have to work
through a medium which takes away all their force. Or is it invariably the case,
that what I read in reputable historians is just as certain for me as what I myself
experience? [15]
When dealing with the problems of the historian, William Lane Craig argues
that, first, a common core of indisputable historical events exists; second, it is
possible to distinguish between history and propaganda; and third, it is possible to
criticize poor history. Craig concludes: neither the supposed problem of lack of
direct access to the past nor the supposed problem of the lack of neutrality can
prevent us from learning something from history. [16]
Notice again how Christians must argue about what is possible here? Such a
conclusion is a meager one; that knowledge of the past is possible. Even if true,
and I think it is, there is a lot of doubt for any supposed historical event,
especially momentous and miraculous ones.
9) Historical Reasons (2). The History of the Church is Strong Evidence
Against Christianity:
- The Crusades/Holy Wars. For centuries the church sanctioned the
slaughtering of infidels in the name of their God beginning in the eleventh
century against various peoples. The major goal of the first one was to recapture
Jerusalem from the Muslims. The history of the crusades and the deeds done in
the name of Jesus are atrocious.
There have been many other wars waged in the name of Jesus and the
churchtoo many to list. The Spanish Conquistadors conducted a holy war
against the inhabitants of the Americas demanding them to either acknowledge
the Church as the Ruler and Superior of the whole world, and the high priest
called Pope or else, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall
make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you
to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses; we shall take
you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as
such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we
shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that

16

we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord [17] In
2002, President George W. Bush called his anti-terrorism war as a "crusade.
- The Inquisition. The angelic doctor Thomas Aquinas argued from the Bible
that heresy was a "leavening influence" upon the minds of the weak, and as such,
heretics should be killed. Since heretical ideas could inflict the greatest possible
harm upon other human beings, it was the greatest crime of all. Heretical ideas
could send people to an eternally conscious torment in hell. So logic demands
that the church must get rid of this leavening influence. It was indeed the
greatest crime of all, given this logic. So, the rallying cry for over two centuries
beginning with the 12th century was convert or die!
- The Witch Hunts. Christian people actually believed witches flew threw the
night, met together with others, and had sex with the devil who left a mark on
them. Once accused it was extremely difficult to be declared innocent. Any
testimony from others could be discounted because she may have cast a spell on
them to say she was innocent. No evidence was needed in most cases, and in
most cases no evidence was found. Torture was all that was needed to extract the
confessions, and it was especially harsh against accused witches because it was
believed their magic could help them withstand greater pain. Once they were
forced to confess they were also tortured to find out who their accomplices were,
so others were implicated. Witch-hunters were mostly paid for their services by
confiscating the property of convicted witches, so they had a vested interest in
finding them guilty. Convicted witches were then killed by strangulation or by
being burned alive.
- Manifest Destiny. This was a phrase associated with the territorial
expansion of the United States during the 1800s. It expressed the general belief
that God had given them the divine mission to spread democracy on the North
American continent. It was supposedly both obvious ("manifest") and certain
("destiny"). As such it legitimized western expansion and the rape, pillage and
slaughter of Native Americans.
- Slavery in the American Antebellum South. Former slave Frederick
Douglass said, "I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed
with my legs." Enough said.
There is no justification for God to have allowed his followers to think they
were pleasing him by acting in these terrible waysnone! If God was perfectly
good, he would've said, "Thou shalt not engage in religiously motivated wars to
spread your faith, nor steal land, nor kill witches and heretics, nor buy, beat, or
own slaves" (KJV version!), and said it as often as he needed to do so. Then the
church couldnt justify all of this horrible violence.
My question is who's at fault here? I'll even grant that human beings are
"wicked," and that God knows this about us. If God knows this about us, then
why wasn't he crystal clear about what he wanted believers to do? God is at fault
to some degree for the misery and suffering caused by Christians who failed to
understand his directives. Add to this the poor job that the Holy Spirit has done
in the life of the church, since he's supposed to guide Christians by
"illumination," and you see one of the reasons why I reject Christianity. Not only
has God failed to communicate effectively, but the Holy Spirit has failed (and
continues to fail) to do his job.

17

Just ask Christians how they themselves would feel if they were the ones
being burned at the stake for heresy, or beaten within an inch of their lives by a
Bible quoting slave master. Surely their own arguments that these Christians of
the past merely misunderstood what God wanted them to do would fly away in
the wind with the smoke of their flesh, and with the drops of their blood.
10) Empirical Reasons. The problem of evil is as clear of an empirical
refutation of the Christian God as we get. James Sennett has said: By far the
most important objection to the faith is the so-called problem of evil the alleged
incompatibility between the existence or extent of evil in the world and the
existence of God. I tell my philosophy of religion students that, if they are
Christians and the problem of evil does not keep them up at night, then they
dont understand it.
If God is perfectly good, all knowing, and all powerful, then the issue of why
there is so much suffering in the world requires an explanation. The reason is
that a perfectly good God would be opposed to it, an all-powerful God would be
capable of eliminating it, and an all-knowing God would know what to do about
it. So, the extent of intense suffering in the world means for the theist that: either
God is not powerful enough to eliminate it, or God does not care enough to
eliminate it, or God is just not smart enough to know what to do about it. The
stubborn fact of intense suffering in the world means that something is wrong
with Gods ability, or his goodness, or his knowledge.
Christians believe God set the Israelites free from slavery, but he did nothing
for the many people who were born and died as slaves in the American South.
These theists believe God parted the Red Sea, but he did nothing about the 2004
Indonesian tsunami that killed million people. Christians believe God
provided manna from heaven, but he does nothing for the more than 40,000
people who starve every single day in the world. Those who dont die suffer
extensively from hunger pains and malnutrition all of their short lives. Christians
believe God made an axe head to float, but he allowed the Titanic to sink.
Christians believe God added 15 years to King Hezekiahs life, but he does
nothing for children who live short lives and die of leukemia. Christians believe
God restored sanity to Nebuchadnezzar but he does nothing for the many people
suffering from schizophrenia and dementia today. Christians believe Jesus
healed people, but God does nothing to stop pandemics which have destroyed
whole populations of people. There are many handicapped people, and babies
born with birth defects that God does not heal. As God idly sits by, well over 100
million people were slaughtered in the last century due to genocides, and wars.
Well over 100 million animals are slaughtered every year for American
consumption alone, while animals viciously prey on each other.
Take for example the 2004 Indonesian tsunami killed a quarter of a million
people. If God had prevented it, none of us would ever know he kept it from
happening, precisely because it didnt happen. Any person who is supposed to
be good would be morally obligated to prevent it, especially if all it took was a
snap of his fingers to do so.
Stephen Wykstra argues that its possible we cannot see a reason why an
omniscient God allows so much suffering. [18] Were told God is so omniscient
that we cant understand his purposes, and this is true, we cant begin to grasp

18

why there is so much evil in the world if God exists. But if God is as omniscient as
claimed, then he should know how to create a better world too, especially since we do have
a good idea how God couldve created differently.
There is no perfectly good, all-powerful, omniscient God of Christian
theology.
Most Christians do not believe in the God of the Bible anyway. Christians
believe in the perfect being of St. Anselm in the 11th century A.D. after centuries
of theological gerrymandering. The Bible isnt consistent in describing its God,
but one probable description is as follows: rather than creating the universe ex
nihilo, the biblical God fashioned the earth to rise out of the seas in divine
conflict with the dragon sea god, sometimes called Rahab, as in Job 26:9-12. This
God is merely the god of the gods, who like the other gods had a body that
needed to rest on the 7th day, and was found walking in the cool of the day in
the Garden of Eden. Yahweh, the god of Israel, probably emerged out of a
polytheistic amalgamation of gods known in the ancient Near East in pre-biblical
times. In the ancient Near East, all pantheons were organized as families, and
Yahweh was simply one of the members of that family. Some biblical authors
consider Yahweh, the god of Israel, as one of many gods fathered by Elyon
whose wife was Asherah, to whom was given the people and land of Israel to
rule over (Deut. 32:8). This God was responsible for doing both good and evil,
sending evil spirits to do his will, and commanding genocide. As time went on
Yahweh was believed to be the only God that existed. Still later Satan was
conceived as an evil rival in order to exonerate Yahweh from being the creator of
evil. Still later in the New Testament the God of the Bible was stripped of
physical characteristics and known as a spiritual being. As theologians reflected
on their God they came to believe he created the universe ex nihilo. Anselm
finally defined him as the greatest conceivable being. But Anslems God is at
odds with what we find in most of the Bible.
Christians claim to derive their beliefs from the Bible, which had a long
process of formation and of borrowing material from others; in which God
revealed himself through a poor medium (the past) in a poor era (the ancient
superstitious past); who condemns all of humanity for the sins of the first human
pair, who commanded genocide, witch, honor, heretic killings, and who
demanded a perfect moral life when such a life is not possible, given that we are
fleshly creatures kept from knowing Gods purported love and power by an
unreasonable epistemic distance; became incarnate in Jesus (the 2nd person of
the trinity), even though no reasonable sense can be made of a being who is both
100% God and 100% man; found it necessary to die on the cross for our sins, even
though no sense can be made of so-called atonement; who subsequently bodily
arose from the dead, even though the believer in miracles has an almost
impossible double-burden of proof here (its both improbable being a miracle
and at the same time probable); who now chooses to live embodied forever in
a human resurrected body (although there are many formidable objections to
personal identity in such a resurrected state); to return in the future, even though
the New Testament writers are clear that the end of all kingdoms and the
establishment of God's kingdom was to be in their generation; and will return
where every eye will see him, which assumes an ancient pre-scientific

19

cosmology; who sent the third person of the trinity to lead his followers into "all
truth, yet fails in every generation to do this; who will also judge us based upon
what conclusions we reach about the existence of this God, which parallels the
ancient barbaric thought police which is completely alien to democratic
societies; and who will reward the saints in heaven by taking away their free
will to do wrong, and by punishing sincere doubters to hell by leaving their free
will intact so they can continue to rebel.
What Would Convince Me Christianity is True? Lets say the Christian faith
is true. Lets say that even though Christianity must punt to mystery and retreat
into the realm of mere possibilities to explain itself that it is still true. Then what
would it take to convince me?
When it comes to sufficient reasons, I need to be able to understand more of
the mysteries of Christianity in order to believe it. If everything about
Christianity makes rational sense to an omniscient God, then God couldve
created human beings with more intelligence so that the problems of Christianity
are much more intellectually solvable than they are.
Short of God creating us with more intelligence, God couldve explained his
ways to us. He couldve written the mother of all philosophical papers by
answering such problems as, why there is something rather than nothing at
all?, why people deserve to end up in hell, and questions about the atonement,
the trinity, divine simplicity, the incarnation, the relationship of free-will and
foreknowledge, and how its possible for a spiritual being to interact with a
material world. He couldve explained why there is such suffering in this world
if he exists. He couldve explained why he remains hidden and yet condemns us
for not finding him in this life. He couldve helped us understand how its
possible to want all people to be saved and yet not help people come to a saving
knowledge.
Short of helping us to understand these mysteries, the only thing left is to
give us more evidence to believe, and less evidence to disbelieve. Let me offer
some examples of what I mean.
Present Day Evidence. God could reveal himself to us in every generation in
a myriad of ways: What better way to show us that he exists than what the book
of Acts says he did for Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus! He could become
incarnate in every generation and do miracles for all to see. If people wanted to
kill him again and he didn't need to die again, he could simply vanish before
their eyes. He could spontaneously appear and heal people, or end a famine, or
stop a war, or settle an important question like slavery. He could raise up John F.
Kennedy from the dead for all to see. He could restore an amputated limb in full
sight of an crowd of people which would include all of the best magicians along
with the Mythbusters and James Randi, who would all find fault if fault could be
found. He could do any and all of the miracles he did in the Bible from time to
time, including miraculously feeding 5000 men with their families. The list of
things God could do in each generation is endless.
Furthermore, Christians would be overwhelmingly better people by far. And
God would answer their prayers in such distinctive ways that even those who
dont believe would seek out a Christian to pray for them and their illness or
problem. We wouldnt see such religious diversity which is divided up over the

20

world into distinct geographical locations and adopted based upon when and
where we were born.
Prophetic Evidence. God couldve predicted any number of natural disasters
(if he didnt have the power to create a better world which lacked them). He
couldve predicted when Mt. St. Helens would erupt, or when the Indonesian
tsunami or hurricane Katrina would destroy so much. It would save lives and
confirm he is God. Then too, he couldve predicted the rise of the internet, or the
inventions of the incandescent light bulb, Television, or the atomic bomb, and he
could do it using non-ambiguous language that would be seen by all as a
prophetic fulfillment. God couldve predicted several things that would take
place in each generation in each region of the earth, so that each generation and
each region of the earth would have confirmation that he exists through
prophecy. God could've told people about the vastness and the complexity of the
universe before humans would have been able to confirm it. He could have
predicted the discovery of penicillin, which has saved so many lives, and if
predicted it would have speeded up its discovery.
Scientific evidence. God couldve made this universe and the creatures on
earth absolutely unexplainable by science, especially since science is the major
obstacle for many to believe. He couldve created us in a universe that couldnt
be even remotely figured out by science. That is to say, there would be no
evidence leading scientists to accept a big bang, nor would there be any evidence
for the way galaxies, solar systems, or planets themselves form naturalistically. If
God is truly omnipotent he couldve created the universe instantaneously by fiat,
and placed planets haphazardly around the sun, some revolving counterclockwise and in haphazard orbits. The galaxies themselves, if he created any in
the first place, would have no consistent pattern of formation at all. Then when it
came to creatures on earth God couldve created them without any connection
whatsoever to each other. Each species would be so distinct from each other that
no one could ever conclude natural selection was the process by which they have
arisen. There would be no hierarchy of the species in gradual increments. God
couldve created fish and mammals, but no reptiles and no amphibians. Then the
theory of evolution could never have gotten off the ground, since the gap
between fish and mammals wouldve made evolutionary conclusions extremely
improbable. There would be no rock formations that showed this evolutionary
process because it wouldnt exist in the first place. Human beings would be seen
as absolutely special and distinct from the rest of the creatures on earth such that
no scientist could ever conclude they evolved from the lower primates. There
would be no evidence of unintelligent design, since the many signs of
unintelligent design cancel out the design argument for the existence of God.
God didnt even have to create us with brains, if he created us with minds. The
existence of this kind of universe and the creatures in it could never be explained
by science apart from the existence of God.
Biblical Evidence. Someone couldve made a monument to father Abraham
that still exists and is scientifically dated to his era. There would be
overwhelming evidence for a universal flood covering "all" mountains. Noahs
ark would be found exactly where the Bible says, and it would be exactly as
described in the Bible. The location of Lots wife, who was turned into a pillar of
salt, would still be miraculously preserved and known by scientific testing to

21

have traces of human DNA in it. There would be non-controversial evidence that
the Israelites lived as slaves in Egypt for four hundred years, conclusive evidence
that they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and convincing evidence
that they conquered the land of Canaan exactly as the Bible depicts. Plus, there
would be no Bible difficulties such that a 450 page book needed to be written
explaining them away, as Gleason Archer did.
Evidence specific to Jesus. There would be clear and specific prophecies
about the virgin birth, life, nature, mission, death, resurrection, ascension, and
return of Jesus in the Old Testament that could not be denied by even the most
hardened skeptic. As it is there is no Old Testament prophecy that is to be
considered a true prophecy that points to any of these things in any nonambiguous way. The Gospel accounts of the resurrection would all be the same,
showing no evidence of growing incrementally over the years by superstitious
people. The Gospels could've been written at about the same time months after
Jesus arose from the dead. And there would be no implausibilites in these stories
about women not telling others, or that the soldiers who supposedly guarded the
tomb knew that Jesus arose even though they were asleep (how is that really
possible?). Herod and Pilate would've converted because they concluded from
the evidence that Jesus arose from the grave. Setting aside their respective
thrones, both Herod and Pilate would've become missionaries, or declare
Christianity the new religion of their territories. Such evidence like a Turin
Shroud would be found which could be scientifically shown to be from
Jerusalem at that time containing an image that could not be explained away
except that a crucified man had come back to life.
Now, I wouldnt require all of this to believe. I cannot say how much of this I
might need to believe. But I certainly need some of it. The more evidence there is
then the more likely I would believe. But the reasons and the evidence just arent
there, period.
------------------------------Postscript:
Someone asked me: "John, you say we must follow the evidence, but haven't
you said elsewhere that even if you were to admit that Christianity was proved
to your satisfaction that you would not follow it? Could you explain how that is
following the evidence?"
Gladly. The belief system that the evidence supports is to be considered part
of the evidence itself, and as such, it should be included when examining the
whole case. If, for instance, the evidence supported accepting militant Islam,
where I am called upon to kill people who don't believe, then I must make a
choice between the evidence that led me to believe and that belief system itself.
And such a belief system, even if the evidence supported it, renders that
evidence null and void. I would have to re-evaluate the evidence and consider
whether I misjudged it, or that I'm being misled, or something else. In other
words, a rejection of such a belief system like militant Islam trumps the evidence,
for I cannot conceive of believing it unless the evidence is completely
overwhelming, and there is no such thing as overwhelming evidence when it
comes to these issues. The same thing applies to Christianity, since inside the
Bible I find such things like divinely commanded genocide, child sacrifice, and
witch killings.

22

----------------Notes:
[1] Ruth Tucker, Walking Away from Faith: Unraveling the Mystery of Belief
and Unbelief (Downers Grove: IVP), 2002, p. 133.
[2] Valerie Tarico, The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love
and Truth (Seattle: Dea Press, 2006), pp. 221-222.
[3] John W. Loftus, Why I Became An Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects
Christianity (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2008).
[4] John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the
Transcendent (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), p. 2.
[5] William Lane Craig, "Politically Incorrect Salvation." In Christian
Apologetics in the Post-Modern World, eds., T. P. Phillips and D. Ockholm,
(Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1995), pp. 75-97.
[6] William Lane Craig, Must the Beginning of the Universe Have a Personal
Cause?: A Rejoinder, Faith and Philosophy, Vol. 19, No. 2, April 2002).
[7] J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1982), pp. 18-29.
[8] Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas, eds., In Defense of Miracles: A
Comprehensive Case for Gods Action in History (Downers Grove: InterVarsity
Press, 1997).
[9] John King-Farlow and William Niels Christensen, Faith and the Life of
Reason (Dordrecht-Holland: D. Reidel, 1972), p. 50.
[10] Hector Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies (Amherst, NY: Prometheus
Books, 2007), p. 194.
[11] Paul Kurtz, "Darwin Re-Crucified: Why Are So Many Afraid of
Naturalism?" Free Inquiry, (Spring 1998), 17.
[12] Alvin Plantinga, Methodological Naturalism? Parts 1 & 2, which can be
found at www.arn.org, and in the journal Perspectives on Science and Christian
Faith (49: 1997).
[13] Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons
Everything, (New York: Twelve, Pub., 2007), p. 64.
[14] Hector Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, pp. 117-120; 154-162.
[15] Gotthold Lessing, On the Proof of the Spirit and of Power, Lessings
Theological Writings, Tr. Henry Chadwick (Stanford CA.: Stanford University
Press, 1956), pp. 51-55.
[16] William Lane Craig, Apologetics: An Introduction (Chicago: Moody
Press, 1984), pp. 145-149.
[17] From the Requerimiento, 1510 CE, written by jurist Palacios Rubios, of the
Council of Castile.
[18] Stephen Wykstra, Rowes Noseeum Arguments From Evil, in The
Evidential Argument From Evil, ed. Daniel Howard-Snyder (Bloomington and
Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), pp. 126-150.

23

2. Excerpts From Letters to Dr. Virgil Warren


Dr. Virgil Warren was a Professor of Theology at Manhattan Christian
College, Manhattan, Kansas, during the time the following correspondence took
place. What hes doing now I dont know, but I wish him well. The following
letters to him reveal the extent of my doubt at the time these letters are dated. I
chose not to share his responses here because in the end they didnt help me,
although he tried very hard. Besides, I didnt seek to get his permission to share
them.
Letter One, August 9, 1993
I have recently been wrestling with the nature of Scripture when faced with a
cousin who teaches Biochemistry at a Naval Base in Colorado, and is a theistic
evolutionist. I am fairly convinced that Genesis chapter one is not meant to be
taken as a chronological history of the act of creation. It is a theological statement
about Godthat he is the creator of all things. Howard Van Till Jr.s book The
Fourth Day spells this out in detail. However, once I admit myth into the record
why do I stop with just the first chapter or two? The issue of Cains wife, the city
he built, and the mark that identified him to others has recently become a
Kuhnsian anomaly to me. The text reads as if other people were around before
Seth was born who replaced Abel through whom the Messiah would come.
Another historical difficulty concerns ancient records that showed people lived
10,000-35,000 years old, while the Bible depicts people as living 600-900 years
old. In mythic cultures the age of a person would show importance, not historical
longevity. The alternatives are either that the earth spun around the sun nine
times faster than it does today, or that even though the curse demanded that men
die, they didnt attend a funeral for centuries due to their pure genetic makeup
neither of which can be affirmed by science. Was incest the rule at one time,
which later was condemned? Then too Ive wondered about the flood. What
would an ancient persons cosmology demand us to believe when he tells us that
the whole world was engulfed in a great flood? Why would God flood the whole
earth, when apparently North America wasnt yet inhabited? Then there is the
problem of many races and languages supposed to be explained in part by the
tower of Babel. I have always believed that incident to be historical. But when
faced with the amount of evidence for an ancient earth and the equal possibility
of theistic evolution I wonder if that story has mythic elements in it too.
The relationship of faith to reason demands that I think about these
possibilities. Reason tells me that a God who has always existed would find less
joy in creating a world with the snap of his fingers than in watching the progress
of creation and overshadowing it till it brought forth the apex of his creation:
man. Of course such questions lead me to wonder about the historicity of Adam
and Eve, and a serpent that walked and talkedquestions which Ill focus on
later, although they always lurk in the back of my mind.
The real anomalies are deeper when we begin with an understanding of the
progressive nature of Gods revelation. For example, Isaiah 40-55 most likely
shows the culmination of Gods teaching to the Israelites that he alone is God

24

(monotheism vs. henotheism). But the word for God, elohim, is plural, gods.
And, in Genesis 1:26, God says: Let us make man in our image. [Christians
were able to use this to argue for the doctrine of the trinity, but as Alan Hauser
argues, the concept of the trinity could not have been in the mind of the writer
or the writers audience. And, wind, not spirit, is the best translation of ruah
in Genesis 1:2. See, The Genesis Debate, ed. Ronald Youngblood (Baker, 1990, pp.
110-129)]. In some of the Psalms we read only that he is the God of the gods
(Ps. 86:8; 95:3; 96:4,9; 135:5; 136:2; 138:1). Why didnt the text deny the existence
of any other gods at this point? Either the authors of the Psalms didnt quite get it
yet (even though what they wrote was not false), or God was still in the process
of teaching them the whole story. It certainly looks as if the Hebrews started out
believing in a plurality of gods, which was progressively brought down to the
belief in just one God.
Anyway, the difficulty arises once we see the progressive nature of Gods
revelation that other things were progressively taught to the Hebrews too. My
question is this: At what point did the Hebrews have a developed historiography
such that they could sufficiently separate the historical from the mythic? In
eastern ancient lands there was little distinction, as if it didnt matter. When do
the texts demand that they understood such a distinction? How much nonhistorical myth is in the Bible? What about Jonah? Then too, how could we have
the exact words of Job and his friends when it was poetrydo people usually
speak in poetic sentences? How would the author know what went on before
Gods throne when the accuser spoke with God about Job? Job is clearly not
apocalyptic literature, so what is it?
Consider the nature and origin of sacrifice. The pagan conception of sacrifice
was to appease the wrath of the gods by offering up something of value so that
men were spared their wrath. At times they would even offer up children on the
altar. The Hebrew conception was better since their sacrifices included
thanksgiving, and were in response to a redeemer God. But not even Abraham
was aghast that God would demand he sacrifice his son Isaac. We today would
not believe that such a demand would come from the voice of God. Then there is
Jephthahs apparent sacrifice of his daughter without a trace of condemnation or
pity.
I have seen the progressive nature of Gods teaching in the issue of slavery. In
Exodus 21:21 we read of the humane treatment demanded of a master to his
slave, but in the process God declares the slave is his property. The idea of a
person being someones property is really repulsive to us now in light of
Galatians 3:28 (along with women). But such a viewpoint took time to be
understood by the church through the centuries. Perhaps the same will be said of
womens leadership in the church. Just as Exodus 21:21 can now be said to rest
on a cultural misunderstanding by Moses, one wonders if the same could be said
of Paul when he spoke about women.
Letter Two, August 23, 1993
Dr. Warren,
Let me say how much I appreciate the time you took to respond to my letter.
Jack Cottrell, I feared, mightve condemned me. At minimum Jack might place
me on a mental blacklist. One of his former students, Blair Yager, preached at the

25

Northmen this year and he condemned preachers and teachers who questioned
the historicity of Genesis 1-11. Blair teaches at Roanoke Bible College. His topic
was: Thy Word is Truth, but in reality he preached a different sermon that
shouldve been titled: My interpretation of Gods Word is truththe tragedy is
that I dont think he knew this. Jim Strauss wouldve sent me a cryptic set of
bibliographies with little recommendation as to where I should start reading.
Rarely does Jim answer specific questions. Instead Jim sees each question as a
part of something larger that he attempts to answer. Perhaps Im wrong about
both of these men whom I respect. You however, have taken my questions
seriously and offered specific answers in a lengthy response for which I am
grateful. You are a scholars scholar. I know Ill never be completely satisfied in
the quest for intellectual curiosity (Deut. 29:29). But you have made a
contribution to my thought.
CONCERNING EVOLUTION. I gave my cousin Larry Strawser a copy of
A.E. Wilder-Smiths book, The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution and
asked him to comment on his treatment of the origins of life. Wilder-Smith
argues that life simply could not arise out of a combination of proteins plus
electricity plus water. Wilder-Smith used chemical descriptions to argue his
pointspoints which I had a difficult time following. My cousin is for me what
communication theorists call a credible witnessnot that I always believe
what he says, but that he has a Christian faith, is an associate professor of
Biochemistry, and hes no intellectual slouch. Months went by until I received a
box full of Xeroxed articles from many different science publications, and six or
seven books and Xeroxed parts of books. He had also included a 34-page letter.
Basically he said Wilder-Smiths writings are so outdated that he showed no
evidence of anything written in his field since the 40sexcept, of course, his
own literature.
After receiving this material I set out to read much of it, although I couldnt
understand some of it because it was too technical. What I could understand was
very convincing on one major issue: that the universe was approximately 12-15
billion years old and that the earth is approximately 4 billion years old. Evidence
like the Grand Canyon, and intercontinental drift, was convincing on the age of
the earth. The evidence of starlight sent 12-15 billion light-years ago was
especially convincing. Not to accept such an age for the universe is to believe that
most of the starlight in the sky was never sent by any existing starthat God
somehow sent to earth thousands of points of light that had no source because
such a source did not exist that long ago to send the light.
I began to wonder about this possibility and about how God works. Do I
experience a God who takes his time to shape history and people, or one who is
in a hurry to get things done? I serve a God in whom time is not a factor. He has
always existed and will always exist. So why should it be a theological difficulty
to accept such a vast amount of time for his creative handiwork, if evidence
points in that direction? God still assures us that he will bring history to its
rightful close in his time.
You stated in your letter that any form of progressive creationism that
required such vast amounts of time wouldbe eliminated because of the
Genesis genealogical constraints. The question might arise that if Genesis 1-3 is
mythic in form, then why is it impossible to suggest biological evolution took

26

place up to the point of Adam & Eve? What if God progressively created several
humans and then chose Adam & Eve out for a test in the Garden of Eden?
Several other questions arise about the origin of mans sin, death, and other
elements of the Fallthings I am not prepared to give up, although I am
pursuing the theological implications that might follow from such questions.
The Roman Catholic Church of Galileos day learned an important lesson
about the relationship of faith to science that caused them to lose credibility in
the eyes of many thinkers of that day. So when Darwin published his Origin of
the Species in 1859 the Catholic Church gave it considerable more thought than
did Protestants. According to John Hardon in The Catholic Catechism (Double
Day, 1975), Darwinism as such had only minimal impact on Catholic thought,
whereas it struck many believers in evangelical Protestantism like a tornado.
Catholic thinkers have come to agree that evolution of the first mans body from
lower species is compatible with the faith. (pp. 91-93). Of course they have an
open canon found in the traditions and teachings of the church that may have
helped them overcome the onslaught of the secularists. Progressive revelation
hasnt stopped in their understandingit now comes through the church.
Coupled with the present day crisis in hermeneutics over authorial intent,
Catholic theologians have a point in saying that most of what we know is already
interpreted for us as we stand in our respective traditions. An inerrant Bible
simply is not enough, as witnessed by the Jehovahs Witnesses who deny
Christs deity.
Letter Three, October 31, 1993
Thank you for your important comments on my questions. You have given
me a great deal of food for thought. Let me offer some thoughts on theses issues.
Im not a scientist, so I have to listen to what they conclude, never forgetting
the limitations of scientific methods. When I see that Christian scientists accept
the theory of evolution (i.e. progressive creation) as the method God used to
create, then as theologians our task is to see the implications for the Christian
faiththats where our expertise lies. Can they be harmonized or not? One thing
for sure is that I reject the god of the gaps epistemology. Hence, Im not
threatened if evolution were shown to be true. Just because science might be able
to explain childbirth, a thunderstorm, or the origin of the universe, that still
doesnt adversely affect the theologian who maintains that God is the one who
opens the womb, controls the weather or creates man and the universe. The
scientist AT BEST can only answer the how questions/he cannot tell us why
various phenomena ultimately occur.
Another thing for sure is that atheistic evolution cannot stand on its own. I
used to say that until evolution can stand on its own I dont need to ask God to
save the phenomena. My view was tantamount to asking reason to stand on its
own in explaining the universe (the metaphysical why question). But since I
dont require this in any other area of thought its unfair to demand scientific
reason to do so here.
Perhaps the reason you have never been bothered by the problem of Cain is
that you have never seriously entertained the supposition that God used the
process of evolution to create the universe. But once you seriously weigh such a
possibility, then you would see the difficulty. Howard Van Tills The Fourth Day

27

(Eerdmans, 1986) is totally convincing that astronomy teaches us the antiquity of


the universe. The Copernican Revolution was made possible by the assumption
that the stars operate by the same laws that apply on earth. Since that
assumption has proved so fruitful to understanding our solar system and galaxy
it would be absurd to reject that assumption when examining other aspects of the
stars that teach us about the age of the universe.
Based on that assumption scientists can tell a stars luminosity, brightness,
size, temperature, chemical composition, distance from us, and its velocity from
us. They can also measure a stars remaining life history. Using these findings as a
basis, scientists can calculate that the universe is about 12-15 billion years old.
Van Till concludes: To deny that stellar evolution has occurred and is now
occurring is to demand that the universe behaves incoherently. (p. 70). To do so
is a denial of authentic cosmic history (pp. 236-240). Hes convincing for he
adequately understands the philosophy of science as he expounds the results of
that scientific understanding.
On the nature of O.T. fulfilled prophecy there are several options available. 1)
One might be that the N.T. writers were simply wrong in many of their
interpretations. Hence, maybe the Messiah hasnt yet come, or that no Messiah
exists. 2) A second option is that the way they interpreted O.T. prophecy is
correct and it serves as a model for interpreting all texts since the authors were
inspired interpreters with inspired methodology. Once we claim the N.T. writers
were correct in their interpretations then its extremely difficult not to canonize
their interpretive methods, including some Midrash, pesher, etc. 3) A third
option is possible based upon the fact that the methods for interpretation have
changed over the centuries, some for better, some for worse. God foreknew what
the methods of interpretation would exist at the time of Jesus, so when God
prophesied of Jesus he knew in advance which hermeneutical principles would
force people of that day to the conclusion that Jesus was the Messiah. A
particular difficult N.T. interpretation might be incorrect based upon the
grammatical-historical method, and yet still be a confirmation that Jesus was its
intended object for N.T. era people. I suspect that the reason you stretch the
meaning of fulfillment in Matthew and Paul to include corresponds to, or
bears the implications of, and also why you understand quotations as mere
illustrations of a point that Paul makes is because those interpretations are not
based upon the grammatical-historical method of interpretation. Yet you must
feel that the N.T. authors must be forever correct! The point is that the use of
these quotations in their writings added force to their conclusions in some way
otherwise we must explain why they used them.
In the Hosea 11:1 case Ill admit that Matthew uses fulfilled in a wide
variety of ways, but contextually his use of Scripture is an apologetic to the Jews.
So in some way his contemporaries must have seen such a use of Scripture as
evidence of the nature or mission of Jesus. The question we must ask is how his
interpretation confirms these facts. What is the point of the quotation? What does
it add to Matthews narrative? What does it confirm about Jesus? There is simply
no way on grammatical-historical lines that Hosea 11:1 could be used as evidence
of the nature or mission of Jesus. It just isnt there. Matthew 2:15 uses the verse so
loosely that it would show evidence of nothing at all to us today were we the
ones weighing the claims of another Messiah. It teaches us nothing at all about

28

the Messiah that Matthew hasnt already told us. We today would be extremely
puzzled by Matthews interpretation of it, were it not for the prior commitment
that Matthews interpretation must be forever correct. I however, dont think it
has to be forever correct, although Matthew must be correct in the points he
makes apart from the interpretation (that Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt
and that they stayed until the death of Herod), along with the point he made
based upon the interpretation (that Jesus was identified with the nation of Israel
as their ruler and shepherd, etc).
Letter Four, January 30, 1994.
Let me say that I really appreciate your friendship and willingness to
correspond with me about some very important topics. You should know that I
have been open with you about my doubts and questions because I needed to
talk this over with someone I respect (truth as a question John Castelein would
say). When I am teaching or preaching however, I stick to what I can proclaim
(truth as proclamation), and I dont purposely try to discuss things that
produce doubts in my students minds. In cases where I think Ill be
misunderstood I usually keep quiet, but I might ask certain questions without
committing myself to certain answers.
Some of the issues Ive been struggling with are not purely intellectual. Could
you tell? They are also emotional, social, and spiritual problems having to do
with the present state of the church in America and the possibility that after all
my studying I may not have a significant role in that church. Someone recently
said that all I have to do is to take another church and my doubts will be put
aside. We now attend the Pleasant Lake Baptist Church where my cousin Jeff
preaches, so Im becoming doubtful that a Christian Church will have me. What I
really want to do is to teach, and I find it strange and bewildering that some
students became professors right out of seminary without any further degrees
because of family ties and a fathers name recognition.
You reiterated the point that the problem regarding evolution is not about the
antiquity of the universe, but one of biological complexification. But Howard
Van Till in The Fourth Day merely suggests that it would be incoherent that a God
who created the universe over this length of time would turn around and create
man by fiat. If God took his time to create the universe then why wouldnt he
also create living creatures with greater complexification during the same length
of time? In other words, what reason can be given for the different ways God
created? Is this the same God? If so, then there must be a good reason why, after
taking so long to create the universe with less complexification, he took an
instant to create the apex or crowning work of creation with all of our
complexification? Why did it take God so long to create the stuff of the universe,
which is less valuable and presumably less complex to create, than it did to
create the most valuable and highly complex creature(s) to inhabit that universe?
One thing Im sure of is this universe is 12-15 billion years old. Now what
follows?
About O.T. prophecy. Dont get me wrong here. Scripture means one thing,
not two, that is, apart from double fulfillment prophecies, allegorical
interpretations, apocalyptic images and typologies. Scripture has only one
legitimate meaning in the same utterance. But what exactly does the word

29

fulfill mean in Matthew 1:23; 2:15, & 2:23? It sure seems like Midrash to me. In
one sense preachers do this all of the time in retelling some of the events of the
Bible. All I am saying is that over time our methods for discerning correctness
have changed (its an epistemological not an ontological problem). Properly
interpreted the authors didnt write anything wrong, but if we were to judge
them by our standards of hermeneutics they wouldnt measure upthat is, we
would be laughed at by our contemporaries if we employed the same methods in
scholarly studiestry it and see!
Thank you for your time and trouble. You have made a contribution in my
thought. I must confess that reason is demanding more of a magisterial role in
what I believe. Part of this can be justified due to the fact that a reasoning creator
is the basis for our confidence in our reasoning powers. Yes, sin does distort our
thinking. But since reasoning is involved in the act of interpretation, I have
become more open to denying certain standard interpretations of Biblical issues.
How do we decide when reason tells us one thing, and the way the church
interprets the Bible tells us something different? This tension will always be ours.
Letter Five, March 19, 1994.
I suppose that when we begin to merely restate our present thinking on an
issue then weve said all that we can say without further study and reflection. So
our conversation is probably at a close.
Regarding evolution. I can conceive of a viewpoint in which a creator God
factors chance into his creative handiwork resulting from prior natural laws
firmly established beforehand. Arthur Peacock claims that God has the power to
lock in the results of selected chance events whereas other results are left to
disappear before the next level of complexification. Chance is Gods radar beam
sweeping through the diverse potentialities that are invisibly present in each
configuration in the world. Chance is the way of exploring the range of potential
forms of matter. Peacock writes that the natural causal creative nexus of events
is itself Gods creative action. (See his Creation and the World of Science, Oxford,
1979).
Of course we want to affirm that Gods action can and does transcend this
nexus of events. But why is it that we must insist upon the sharp distinction
between naturalistic chance and progressive creation? That there is a distinction
must be admitted by every Christian, but what isnt so clear is the point you
seem to make that there is a very sharp distinction between these two methods of
viewing Gods creative handiwork. It is here where I find one comment of yours
puzzling indeed: In the case of originating a life form like man, no amount of
time could generate the effect because nature lacks the mechanisms for doing it.
If a result comes by creation, it is necessarily instantaneous. Apparently you
either reject or cant understand how God could use naturalistic chance for his
ends. Yes, I agree that man can only be the result of the creators handiwork
theres no question about thisbut I utterly fail to see why his creative
handiwork must be necessarily instantaneous. I totally agree that evolution
cannot stand on its own because the mathematical odds reduce it to a probability
of zero. But when I examine the signs of the universe I am led by the little
evidence available to understand how God may have created the universe
through a slow evolutionary process.

30

A similar puzzling statement of yours reads: natural causes operating


randomly are not adequate for explaining the origin of the truly new and
therefore the kinds of results already present. Of course, I agree, but thats not
the point here. Your view seems to limit the omnipotence of God. Why is it that
God cannot use the naturalistic process in his creative handiwork? It seems that
your God is not able to control the results of chance for his higher purposes over
an evolutionary time period such that the final results are his. Your God must
create instantaneously or not at all. I myself see this as a false choice. It also
seems to be incoherent, and Biblically inadequate. (Sorry).
Now I dont deny that God couldve created instantaneously, but I simply
cannot fall back on that as an explanation for what we see in front of us. God
couldve flooded the whole earth in Noahs day, but I now seriously doubt that
he did. In 150 days we are to believe that water somehow drained off the earth
till it was completely drythe chronology here is difficult to discern because
the story seems to draw upon two or more traditions. This water began at a
height of 20 feet above the highest mountainnot Ararat, but Mt. Everest at
about 5 miles high! Can we comprehend how much water this represents?
Where would the water have gone? Sure, God can do anything, but there were
certainly easier ways to accomplish the same feat dont you think?
Again, God couldve stopped the sun in Joshuas day (phenomenologically
referring to stopping the earth in the sky as it revolves around the sun), but again
I seriously doubt it. In Joshuas day the earth was viewed as a huge flat circle of
land with the stars hung in a bubble in the sky. The people of that time saw no
difficulty for God in the heavens to stop the path of the sun indefinitely. But
consider that the 25,000 mile round earth wouldve had to brake from traveling
at nearly 1050 MPH to a stop. Mountains wouldve tumbled and gravity
wouldve increased till the men fighting on both sides couldnt even move. There
are other disastrous consequences regarding ocean tides, the seasons of the year,
the distance maintained between the earth and the sun, etc. Where are the
records from other cultures that speak of such a day? Perhaps God fixed all of
this too, since he can do anything. At some point we have to ask not what God
couldve done, but what the evidence leads us to understand what he actually
has done. Again, there wouldve been hundreds of other ways for God to help
Joshua that are less troublesome.
But some will respond that the words easier and less troublesome are
meaningless terms when referring to an omnipotent God. Such a viewpoint leads
us back into the original question of whether we should believe God does
whatever he can do. Presumably God could reduce the amount of evil in this
world without hindering free will (fewer earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, floods,
and famines). A God in whom the concepts of easier and less troublesome
are meaningless surely could eradicate more evil than he presently does. Since he
doesnt do this I conclude its no longer a matter of what God can do but what in
fact he has chosen to do for reasons we dont understand. The alternative of
course, is that he cant do as much as we think.
As to fulfilled prophecy in Matthew I still must question whether we should
use scripture the way Matthew interprets the O.T. When questioned about this
you responded in effect that Matthew wasnt interpreting Hosea 11:1 but making
his own point. Now thats an interesting retreat. Matthew used it for rhetorical

31

effect? Ill grant that this is the true result of his words, but I doubt that he
understood it as such. What was Matthews intention? Matthews gospel reads as
if he was making a case for Jesus as the Christ. Dunn stated in The Living Word
that Matthews use of the sayings of Jesus is similar to the way he used the O.T.
in that: the texts used were often significantly different in sense from the
original. It was evidently quite an acceptable procedure in Matthews time to
incorporate the interpretation into the saying itself by modifying the form of the
saying. (pp. 115-122). All Im saying is that today we think this way of
interpreting the O.T. is wrong.
My problem is that I earnestly desire the truth whatever the result. I do not
concern myself with the results just yet, although I know Ill have to face them
sometime. Right now I just want to make sense of it all, results be what they may.
At times when I consider the possible results they scare me, but thats only
because they are unfamiliar to me. This is natural. The real question for me right
now is the truth question. If the answers upset other cherished beliefs then Ill
have to re-examine my answers and perhaps revise them in order to maintain
those cherished beliefs. On the other hand, my answers might cause me to give
up on some of these cherished beliefstheres no way to tell at this point which
way Ill go. But as time permits I am committed to finding answers that produce
the least amount of tension among the things I believe. Its a really tough job
since I have a finite mind and am swayed by my passions and the evil one at
large.
I know that I started out writing you with questions, and that now it seems as
though Im settling on some answers that are not your answers. If that is so,
please dont be offended that Im taking off in a different path than what youd
like. We dont share the same basic assumption that the universe is
approximately 12-15 billion years old, which seems to affect the way I see God at
work in our worldagain, the issue is truth, not whether it affects my view of
God. While I dont acknowledge it, what you write does keep me from going off
too far too quickly.
I am definitely leaning to the left of evangelicalismif Im not already in the
mainstream. Anyway I do appreciate your comments because they give me hope
that someday Ill look back and be thankful. I simply cannot bring myself to
enter the ministry again when I wonder where my questions will take me and
what church might want me. My writing is on hold too while I search out a more
or less consistent view of things. Probably the best bet for me is for me to teach
several introductory classes in a secular college somewhere.

32

3. A Letter to Dr. James D. Strauss.


Strauss was my mentor at Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln, IL (19791982). This letter reveals the full extent of my doubt at that time, although I never
sent it to him. I just didnt want to hurt him, since he seemed to have such high
hopes for me. Now it no longer matters because he knows Im an atheist. I wrote
this letter during the month of August 1996. If any of the readers of my book
Why I Became an Atheist want to conclude I jumped from being a fundamentalist
to an atheist in one large leap, this letter will dispel such a conclusion.
August, 1996
Dear Jim,
I wanted to write to you to let you in on my thinking of recent years and
update you on our lives. First off, I am extremely sorry for not responding more
than I did when you had your heart attack. I was wallowing in self pity and
depression and found it hard to care about anything. The last time you saw me I
showed you a shelter for the homeless in Angola, Indiana, and introduced you to
the executive director. I was the president of the organization. Well, something
happened that I never thought could. The director accused me of rape. I was
personally devastated, although, as time goes on I realize that many people
simply didnt believe her lies--lies akin to Potiphers wife in Genesis. It was like
the Clarence Thomas--Anita Hill routine, but it happened one year before
Thomas was trashed (I did find watching their problems cathartic).
This totally shook my confidence in what I thought I knew, how to get along
in life, and what goals to pursue. For a few years I tried doing various things
with little success. I was able to teach in an adjunct faculty position at GLCC for
several years--until recently when they decided not to use my services any more
because of my view on baptism. I also teach ethics, philosophy, logic, and
philosophy of religion classes in an adjunct faculty status for Kellogg
Community College, Battle Creek, MI, and Tri-State University, Ft. Wayne
campus. For what its worth, Im in the Whos Who Among Americas Best
Teachers 1996. I was nominated by a student who is listed in Whos Who
among Students...
Our family did not go to church this summer very much at all. We attended a
Baptist church where my cousin preached. He left for another church and chaos
reigned in his stead. Nearly ten families left the church over how some elders
were dealing with conflict. I didnt want any part of it, either. Come Fall well
look for another one. No Im not a Baptist, nor am I unstable or fickle. I felt
rejected by the Christian Church people.
I want to share with you in bibliographic format some of the reading Ive
been doing to let you know where I am in my theological thinking. If you have
time to comment then Id appreciate it. Please, dont send any long
bibliographies since I wont read most of the books on huge lists--never did. But
if you can suggest a few notable books that might be helpful (3-5) -- I might
actually read them. :-)

33

To tell you where I am, let me begin by saying that I have just finished
reading John Robinsons Honest To God, and liked it! What has happened to me
theologically? The watershed for me, and I suspect for others who have changed
their assumptions, is the factual and historical reliability of Genesis 1-11. That is
it. But before one can begin to seriously engage these chapters he or she would
first have to be convinced that all truth is Gods truth. This is something that you
taught me. Arthur Holmes book All Truth is Gods Truth is a good discussion too.
Otherwise, people who reject this basic viewpoint will simply say that the Bible
teaches something different than that--whatever that is.
The steps leading to a change in my thinking took place as I seriously looked
at Genesis chapter one. Only then was I able to re-consider chapter two, and so
on. Im sending you my research on the creation accounts. So Genesis one is the
key. If that chapter is mythical in genre, and late in origin, then what about the
stories that follow? The question I asked myself is this: Why is it that way back in
Abrams life and before, we must demand that ancient people had adopted the
kind of historiography that Judeo-Christians later adopted? Its obvious that their
notion of God evolved, so why not their notion of history? Anyway I had read
Bernard Ramms book The Christian View of Science and Scripture and knew the
options for harmonizing science and Genesis. But it was Howard Van Tills book,
The Fourth Day, which led me to see that the universe was 12-15 billion years old-it was as old as scientists say it is. From there I read Henri Blochers book, In the
Beginning and learned there were some magical statements and certainly nonhistorical items in Genesis 1-3, even on a conservative account. Blocher defends
the historicity of Adam and Eve, but upon hindsight, he does so on shaky
ground, once he admitted to the wisdom genre (as he calls it) of chapters 1-2.
In the meantime, I read Four Views on Hell, ed. William Crockett, and came
away thinking conditional immortality was the preferred option (defended by
Clark Pinnock). This is an important conclusion when it comes to rethinking my
faith--for otherwise my questions would have been hamstrung by a fear of
everlasting punishment in hell if I got it wrong. The loss of the fear of an eternal
conscious punishment allowed me to pursue my doubts. Another key
assumption is that faith has nothing to fear from the truth--so I pursued my
questions with intensity. [I have since come to deny the existence of such a hell-conditional or metaphorical. It just doesnt square with what Freud has taught us
about the depths of our subconscious motivations. Because of Freud we now
know that people do bad deeds because of faulty thinking patterns and
experiences that happened even before the age of accountability--we know this!
Prior to Freud actions were judged prima facie as indicative of peoples conscious
deliberate attempt to be bad. We also know that once we understand these
subconscious motivations and background experiences that we can find a love
for people who commit evil deeds. Since God understands all of these hidden
motives, past experiences, and faulty thinking patterns, then he completely
understands why people do what they do. Hence, in a post-Freudian world, we
can no longer talk about a wrathful vengeful God who seeks our destruction
because we disobey our parents, shoplift a tool, or tell a lie to escape a
confrontation (I use these easy examples here because examples like Jeffrey
Dahmer, Hitler, Stalin, are harder for us to comprehend--but only to us, not to

34

God, who understands all, and cannot help but love all, since religious traditions
abound in teaching us that God is love.)].
I devoured several books and commentaries on Genesis 1-11. John Gibsons
Genesis 1-11 was read too early in my development. I rejected it. But Bernard
Andersons Understanding the Old Testament hit a nerve, and for the first time I
understood a liberals view on the Old Testament. There was much there that
made me think. The Meaning of Creation by Conard Hyers is simply a superior
book--it explains many of the questions I was asking. Donald Gowans From Eden
to Babel: Gen. 1-11 is a short book but sufficiently explained to me the origin of
Cain, his wife, and the city he built. The Genesis text assumes there are other
people around, Gowan explains, because just like the four gospels, which used
separate pericopes to emphasize particular themes, the final editor of Gen. 1-11
wanted to emphasize the depth mankind had sunk in sin, so he drew upon that
story involving Cain and inserted it here for that purpose. Claus Westermanns
little Creation book summarizes his findings in excellent ways and sees Gen 1-11
as a unit describing mans sinfulness out of which the following chapters show
Gods mercy. Gordon Wenhams commentary on Genesis 1-15, even as a
conservative one, gives up interesting ground in various ways to the liberal
argument. He admitted to the presence of similar stories at least 1000 years prior
to the earliest that Genesis could be written. Now, which conservative would
argue that such stories could filter down that many years by ancient peoples
without change? Wenham emphasizes that the CONTENT of Genesis is antimythical, and I definitely agree. But this doesnt win the argument, because the
real debate concerns whether the first few chapters have the same genre as myth,
which explicitly speaks to the issue of the factual historicity of the accounts.
Westermann simply says that the stories are myths, but he continues: To
oppose myth and history in such a way that history presents what actually
happened, while myth presents fiction, is utterly unhistorical. It is much more
perceptive to see that in the early period of mankind it was not possible to speak
of what actually happened in any other way. (p. 13). I also devoured Ronald
Youngbloods The Genesis Debate but found myself agreeing with the liberal side
in every chapter. This book discusses several issues including: Was Evolution
Involved in the Process of Creation? [Notice here the perceptiveness of the
question itself--no dichotomy here!) and Were there People before Adam and
Eve?
Of course, I re-examined the doctrine of the Bible again. Clark Pinnock in The
Scripture Principle began the quest anew. I noticed in James Dunns Evidence for
Jesus (which I used for an Apologetics class) that the Gospel book of John
contains much that couldnt have come from the lips of Jesus. He showed the
difference between John and the synoptic accounts both in the style of Jesus, and
the content of his teaching. John often has Jesus in long discourses while the
synoptic gospels have him speak in epigrams, proverbs and parables. In John the
content is about himself (I ams, etc)--not the kingdom, while in the synoptic
gospels he speaks often about the kingdom and little regarding himself. In John,
as you taught me, the kingdom becomes eternal life. Dunn defends Johns
Jesus but only by admitting that it is a theological elaboration of history--that the
discourses of Jesus in Johns gospel are meditations on a typical episode or
teaching in the life of Jesus. Here he granted too much.

35

So I read James Dunns article on The Authority of Scripture According to


Scripture and his collection of essays in The Living Word (Fortress Press, 1987).
After reading him I could no longer affirm inerrancy. Paul J. Achtemeiers The
Inspiration of Scripture, and even John Stott with David Edwards Evangelical
Essentials led me further away, because I was agreeing more with Edwards rather
than Stott. Especially problematical was a lack of any cogent explanation of the
atonement. James Barrs Beyond Fundamentalism was the clincher. I happened to
be ready and primed for his discussion--a discussion with which I almost totally
agreed. Barrs book ought to be mandatory reading (I havent read his more
scholarly book on the same topic).
From here I was open to the possibility that there is no personal devil, and
Walter Winks Unmasking the Powers was convincing at that point. I am planning
to read The Origin of Satan by Princeton scholar Elaine Pagels.
As you can guess many things are up for grabs now. I have serious doubts
about the free will defense to the problem of evil. John Hicks Irenaean theodicy
is the best Ive seen so far, except he too used the free will defense in part of his
argument. See Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy ed. Stephen Davis.
There are other issues I am about to look into. The first concerns the destiny of
the unevangelized--I lean toward universalism now. I will read John Sanders
book, No Other Name for insight on this, and More Than One Way?: Four Views on
Salvation in a Pluralistic World, eds. Okholm & Phillips [Zondervan, 1995 (with
contributors Hick, Pinnock, McGrath and others)]. Another issue concerns
Christology. I will look into Hicks The Myth of God Incarnate, Michael Goulders
Incarnation and Myth, and Stephen Davis Encountering Jesus. I have read E.P.
Sanders The Historical Figure of Jesus with a great deal of agreement--his
discussion of the Nativity stories is convincing. He also disputes whether there
were twelve disciples. I will read John Dominic Crossans The Historical Jesus, and
Who Killed Jesus?
All of this leads me back to Robinsons Honest to God. He said that three
scholars led him away from traditional Christianity: Tillich, Bonhoeffer, and
Bultmann.
I have just briefly described my intellectual/spiritual journey. But there are
four scholars with whom I am in agreement on many issues. Pinnock, Barr, Hick,
and even Bultmann. Where Pinnock is too conservative I go with Barr, then with
Hick, and even Bultmann. Concerning Bultmann, Bishop Robinson said he was
wrong on three issues (p. 35), and on these issues I agree with Robinson: 1)
Bultmann is too inclined to make blanket statements (no modern man can
accept...); 2) He discredits too much of the gospels as historically expendable;
and 3) His reliance on Heideggers existentialism as a replacement is historically
conditioned. But a student of Bultmanns has recently come out with a very
detailed discussion of the New Testament evidence for miracles -- the book is by
radical scholar Uta Ranke-Heinemann, titled Putting Away Childish Things
(Harper & Row, 1994)---there is much food for thought here. Of a more general
nature I am reading Robin Lane Foxs book, The Unauthorized Version that
discusses the whole Bible from a similar perspective, and Karen Armstrongs
book, A History of God.

36

The hardest thing for me now is that of leaving friends and a conservative
community behind--nearly 25 years in the making! Its a wonderful but terrible
thing to grow out of a position that held you in its grip for too long.
The world-view question? That too is in a bit of flux right now. I now realize
that James Sires catalog is too simple (The Universe Next Door, IVP, 1988). There
are a great deal many more world-views than he examines. There are people
who argue that their world-view is consistent even though they hold to various
items chosen from several different world-views as presented by Sire. You can
call me a Deist if you like. I think this terms fits me best -- a view of reason in
which all things are judged by the light of natural revelation that is from God by
the mind, conscience, and religious traditions. I can be a deist that allows for
miracles, since the common denominator among deists is the belief in whats
reasonable. Although, I now feel the force of David Hume like never before. By
Sires definition I am also a theological existentialist, although I reject the idea
that meaning is created in the subjective world. For me meaning is objective. But
I do believe that the Biblical stories and events are from God as teachings to
progressively lead us to maturity in objectively seeing that God is love. At times I
am also led toward panentheism or Process Theology. Arthur Peacocke in
Theology for a Scientific Age, and Ian Barbours Religion in an Age of Science (Gifford
Lectures 89-91 Vol. 1) point me in that direction.
I am writing you because you were instrumental in my earlier years, and I
owe you an accounting of what Ive done with that which you started in me. I
dont look for an argument, or agreement. Maybe there is a comment or two you
might find the time to make. If not, thatll be okay, I suppose. One thing I dont
need to hear from you is the comment you make about people who leave
fundamentalism: He never had faith in the first place, otherwise he wouldnt
have lost it. Since you arent a Calvinist, I never quite understood that
statement--only a Calvinist could make it. Surely you cant mean to say that if I
was grounded in what I believed I wouldnt have left it? In the first place, I was
very much grounded in what I believe. But more to the point, such a statement
assumes what needs to be proven--that what I believed in 1982 was the whole
truth. Furthermore, a great many theologians much better than I have changed
their minds, including John Hick (who used to be conservative) and Clark
Pinnock, (see James Wall ed. How My Mind Has Changed, Eerdmans 1991). Most
theology students start out conservative and shift toward liberalism as they
learn. If there is something wrong with this, then it has to stand or fall on the
issue of truth.
If nothing else, here lies a test case in the mystery of conversion. What makes
someone change his or her mind? Although I have passed through a conversion,
not even I can tell you how it happens, exactly. Perhaps it happens as a result of
a crisis, plus information, minus a sense of Christian community? Im not sure
how my crisis prepared me, but I do know I was angry with God for allowing it,
and at his people for seemingly not to care.
I talked to a woman who taught at our local High School who described a
personal crisis to me and said she read anything she could to deny Christianity,
but in the end just couldnt deny it. That thought also sticks with me. Maybe I
attempted and succeeded at something she failed at--except that I still claim the
name Christian; I just deny traditional Christianity.

37

4. A Word About My Deconversion.


The way many Christians deal with ex-Christian skeptics like me is very
troublesome. My present doubt is explained away both intellectually and
emotionally. That is, I either was not well-grounded in what I formerly claimed
to have believed, or deep down inside I still believe.
Calvinistic Christians will quote some Biblical passages that lead them to
think I was never grounded in my faith, like when Jesus was explaining the
Parable of the Sower. Matthew has him say, But since he has no root, he lasts
only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he
quickly falls away. (13:21). [Non-Calvinistic Christians dispute their exegesis of
the relevant passages. Ill just let these Christians debate the issue, like they do so
many issues. But the question Ill raise here is this: where is the supposed
guidance of the Holy Spirit to help believers understand the Bible on this issue?
In fact, there have been killings and wars between Christians down through the
centuries because the Holy Spirit didnt properly do his job on these debatable
issues, by offering his guidance to Christian people. Why the lack of guidance?
This is best explained by denying that there is a Holy Spirit].
People like me stand as a witness against how Calvinistic Christians interpret
passages like this one, because I was indeed well rooted in my faith. And as well
see throughout this book, there are other delusions that Christians believe too.
This is only one of them. While experience is not the test for truth, our
understanding of the truth must be able to explain my personal experience of
having faith and then rejecting it. Those who deny my personal experience in
assessing the Bible here are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Wasnt
Pauls experience of conversion itself supposedly an argument for the truth of
Christianity (Acts 9, 22, & 26), according to them? Experience has always been a
check on Biblical exegesis, whether it comes to Wesleyan perfectionism,
perseverance of the saints, second coming predictions, Pentecostal miracle
workers, and so on. The whole science/religion discussion is an attempt to
harmonize the Bible with what scientists have experienced through empirical
observations of the universe.
I know there will be Christians who will reject the claim that I was a Christian
believer at one time. So I began this book by stressing that I was truly a believer
at one timea very passionate one. I have written articles for Christian
publications defending Christianity. I also have cassette and video tapes of some
of my sermons, along with many church newsletter articles I wrote. There are
many Christian people who know of my former faith who can be consulted on
this, along with the churches that I served as a minister.
Besides, when Christians judge me as never having been a Christian in the
first place, arent they doing what the Bible forbids? Matthew 7:1: Judge not,
that you be not judged. James 4:12: There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is
able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor?

38

Since it seems clear to people who have known me that I was a strong
believer at one time, the other option is to deny that I am an honest skeptic right
now. Im in denial, one could be heard to say. It seems as though what Christians
believe takes precedence over the testimony of people, when that testimony
contradicts what they believe. Thats a little bit strange when those same
Christians will claim to believe the testimony of the early disciples to the
resurrected Jesus, even though their testimony contradicts what we know about
the regular ordered laws of nature.
I dont deny there are dishonest doubters. Some of them dont know that they
are being dishonest, but they are. They are dishonest to themselves. Perhaps
because of a horrible accident they just refuse to believe in God, even though
they know deep down inside that it wasnt Gods fault. But this isnt me.
Some others know they are being dishonest, but they profess doubt anyway.
It should be obvious that if someone is a dishonest doubter they must benefit
from doing so in some way. Lacking any benefit in professing doubt would
render such dishonest professions unnecessary. But wherever there is some
benefit for doing so, then there will be dishonest doubters. But this isnt me.
I think that a better case can be made that there are more dishonest Christian
believers in American society than there are dishonest atheists. Since there must
be some kind of benefit to claiming something that isnt so, the question is, who
stands to benefit the most by being dishonest?
Gay people need to have courage to come out of the closet because they
fear that doing so would cause them problems with the moral Christian
majority. Its much easier to come out and declare oneself a Christian, because
thats respectable in the heartland of America. Confessing Christ in our small
town cultures isnt what it used to be in the early few centuries. But doing so
today actually has many social benefits, in my opinion.
In small town cities across America, it takes more courage to declare oneself a
skeptic or an atheist than a Christian believer, I think. And consequently, since
the social benefits are clearly against minority thinking, then two things follow:
1) There are more dishonest professing Christians; and 2) Those who profess
minority thinking, such as skepticism and atheism, are more likely than not
being honest, because doing so actually denies them various social benefits. I
have personally experienced this with the business that I own. If I were truly
dishonest, I would turn around and profess Christian faith so that my business in
this small town might thrive again.
Many Christians have walked away from their faith:
www.ex-christian.net, where you will read several ex-christian testimonies
every week.
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html, is almost encyclopedic with
regard to testimonies and websites for former Christians. Steve Locks also
maintains: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/testimonials.
Edward T. Babinski, Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former
Fundamentalists (Prometheus Books, 2003).
Dan Barker, Losing Faith In Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. (Freedom From
Religion Foundation, 1992).

39

Joe Holman, Project Bible Truth: A Minister Turns Atheist and Tells All. See
www.ministerturnsatheist.org/
Ludovic Kennedy, All in the Mind: A Farewell to God (1999).
Skipp Porteus, Jesus Doesn't Live Here Anymore: From Fundamentalist to
Freedom Writer (Prometheus Books, 1991).
Robert M. Prices story, From Fundamentalist to Humanist (1997) found here:
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/humanist
Michael Shermer, How We Believe (Freeman, 2000), pp, 2-15.
Scott R. Stahlecker, How To Escape Religion Guilt Free (2004).
Charles Tempelton, Farewell To God: My Reasons For Rejecting the Christian
Faith (McClelland & Stewart, 1999).
Look the following men up on the Internet and read their deconversion
stories: Farrell Till, G. Vincent Runyon, Lee Salisbury, Ray Billington, Bob Hypes,
Ransom L. Webster, Douglas Larson, Allan Nielsen, and Craig Cunningham.
All the members on my blog have been ex-Christians and/or ex-ministers,
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ and you can read their stories
there.
For absolute must reading on the so-called unique nature of the Christian
experience, see Edward T. Babinskis essay on this at the Secular Web:
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/experience, where Ed
examines Josh McDowells claims about this.
Those who have left conservative Christianity:
John Hick, in More Than One Way, eds., Okholm & Phillips (Zondervan
1995), pp. 29-59.
Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again For the First Time (Harper, 1994), pp. 1 19; and The God We Never Knew (Harper, 1997), pp. 11-31.
John A.T. Robinson in Honest To God (Westminister, 1963), pp. 11-28.
James Wall, ed. How My Mind Has Changed, (Eerdmans, 1991).
Andrew Furlong, Tried for Heresy A 21st Century Journey of Faith,
[http://myhome.iolfree.ie/~andrewfurlong]

40

5. Were We Former Christians? It Depends...


Christians who come to my blog deny that we were ever Christians. We deny
this. At one time we were all members in different churches, from various
denominations (anyone who doubts this can check our respective church
registries). At one time we had a former member of the World-Wide Church of
God here at DC. I am not opposed to having anyone who claims they were a
former Christian to be a team member here, whether Catholic or Jehovahs
Witness, or Seventh Day Adventist. As an atheist I no longer make judgments
about whether someone was a Christian. If they say they were one that's good
enough for me. Judging whether someone is/was a Christian is something
Christians do, not me. If you think other groups who claim to be Christians are
not really Christians, then start a Blog called, I know who the real Christians
are! I know what they should believe! I know how they should act and vote!
Then provide us the link so that we can sit by and watch the ensuing
debate.and laugh (sorry, but thats exactly what I would do).
I am a former member of the centrist Christian Churches/Church of Christ
(not the leftist Disciples of Christ, and not the right-wing non-instrumental
Church of Christ). Some Christians think my former church group is a semiheretical sect, and the reason is because of their view on baptism. But not
everyone within Church of Christ circles adheres to the strict interpretation of
Christian baptism being necessary for salvation (there is a swelling movement
otherwise). I was personally let go of my teaching responsibilities at Great Lakes
Christian College, Lansing, MI, for a couple of essays on Christian baptism, so
maybe this helps Christians who visit here decide about me, if it matters at all.
And to a large degree it doesnt matter whether Christians who visit DC think
we were former Christians, although we think such a view is very ignorant. They
still have to deal with our arguments. So if youre a Christian and you think we
were never Christians in the first place, dont harp about it. Itll do you no good.
Itll just produce tension and frustration between us. You see, we know
differently. It'd be like us claiming you really do not believe as a Christian. Who
am I to make that judgment?
Christians who think this way about us are deluded, and that's only one of
the delusions they have. Many of the other things they believe are delusions too.
Maybe they ought to begin interpreting the Bible in light of the evidence instead
of interpreting the evidence in light of the Bible? For starters, maybe Calvinistic
theology is wrong? Many Christians reject such thinking. Start there.
I'll tell you what, for those of you who think there is no such thing as an exChristian, start a Blog and argue for Calvinism, or the once saved always saved
doctrine. Invite Arminian Christians to debate this with you. Then when you all
come to an agreement about this issue come back and tell us what it is. I just let
Christians debate this issue. Dont ask us how the Bible is to be interpreted here,
and dont quote a Bible verse to us that is interpreted differently by Arminian
scholars. Instead go debate other Christians who disagree with you. We do not
believe the Bible. So quoting a Bible verse will not show us otherwise. Again,
since we are all former Christians we know otherwise. We have personal

41

experience that the once save always saved doctrine is false, okay? You will not
convince us otherwise, so dont even try. Keep it to yourself if you believe
otherwise, okay?
Your interpretation of the Bible on this issue needs to consider the evidence of
every member at DC. Its very interesting to us that Christians will reject our
personal testimonies to the contrary and at the same time believe the personal
testimonies of ancient superstitious people in the Bible who claim to have
experienced miracles, even though their testimonies are all contrary to our
experiences in the modern world where there are no miracles happening today.
Christian, you can always investigate our claims. You can talk to people who
know us (including past preachers and teachers, parents, siblings, friends, and
people we ourselves converted to the Christian faith!); you can listen to our
sermons; and you can read our Christian writings.
So, to answer your specific question, were the team members here ever really
Christians? Well it depends on the particular perspective you want us to respond
to.
There are two perspectives to describe our lives as former Christians. On the
one hand, from our former Christian perspective, we can describe ourselves as
having been believing Christians, in that, just like other professing Christians
(the only kind we ever see) we experienced salvation, regeneration, the Holy
Spirit, and answered prayer. We believed and accepted Jesus substitutionary
death on the cross for our sins. We believed Jesus bodily arose from the dead and
would return to earth in the parousia. We repented from every known sin, again
and again. We confessed Jesus is Lord. We prayed the non-Biblical sinners
prayer (where is that in the Bible?) by inviting Jesus to come to live inside us. We
claimed to have a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ, just like every
other Christian. Like you do now, we tried to live a spiritual life in gratitude for
Gods grace by reading the Bible and obeying what we read in it. So we
evangelized, tithed, attended worship services, Bible studies, and became leaders
in our respective churches.
Some of us were ministers, pastors, and preachers. Others were Sunday
school teachers, superintendents, elders, deacons, and/or Bible study leaders. I
taught people who are now in ministry. There are at least three men presently in
the ministry because of my influence.
For you to reject our testimony you will probably have to reject the testimony
of someone you know right now in your church whom you look up to as a
Christian who may reject Christianity in the future. The problem is that you just
may not personally know someone like that, yet. But the chances are that you
will. Then what will you think?
On the other hand, from our present skeptical perspective, the Christian faith
is false and based upon ancient superstitions. We believe we were deluded about
it. We were never true Christians in the sense that there is no truth to
Christianity. If being a Christian means that we had a personal relationship with
God-in-Jesus Christ, then we never had such a relationship, for such a
supernatural being is based upon non-historical mythology. There is no divine
forgiveness because there is no divine forgiver. There is no atonement because
Jesus did not die for the worlds sins. There is no God-man in the flesh to believe
in. Our petitionary prayers were nothing but wishful hoping. And we believe

42

this is true about any Christian who claims to be a Christian too. By this same
standard there are no Christians, either, because there is no Christ, no Messiah,
no God-in-the-flesh, no Holy Spirit regeneration, no devil and no heaven to go to
when anyone die.

43

6. Ex-Christians and the Church of Christ


Some people have noticed what my friend Kevin Harris describes as an
inordinate amount of ex-Christians coming out of the Church of Christ. I've
noticed this for several years but have no statistics, it's just anecdotal.
I've heard this quite a bit elsewhere so let me offer some comments about it:
In the first place, this perception may be wrong. Just because some vocal atheists
like Farrell Till, Joe Holman, and myself came from the Church of Christ, that
doesn't mean there are an inordinate amount of ex-Christians who come from
that background (Bloggers at DC who were from the Church of Christ include
Joseph, along with former members Zach Taylor and Scott Burgener). To know
whether this is the case or not, someone needs to do a scientific poll about it. If
this perception turns out to be true, it just may be a coincidence, that's all.
In 1963 Farrell Till came out rejecting his former Christian faith. He came
from the Church of Christ background. Since he was among the first former
ministers to do so, he has probably had a greater impact within the Church of
Christ itself, and for a longer period, just as Dan Barker (1984) and Charles
Templeton (1999) did among the people who knew them from their ministries.
It's probably about influence. Maybe I attract Church of Christ people here at DC
because I was one of them. When a beloved minister and friend leaves the faith
he will probably lead others who knew him to follow the same path. So if it turns
out there are more ex-Christians who came from the Church of Christ, it may be
because of the influence of Farrell Till.
Maybe instead, since it is well known that Till was from the Church of Christ,
people start looking for this same connection with other ex-Christians, much like
people think the full moon causes strange things to happen on earth, when in
fact it doesn't. What really happens is that people just seem to remember that the
moon was full when a strange event took place, that's all. I play 8-Ball, and pool
players seem to think more 8-Ball shots are missed than any other ball, since it's
the final shot in the game. The truth is it's more likely that all numerical balls are
missed about equally. It's just that we only remember the times we miss the 8Ball, because it can be painful to lose a game because of it.
It's as if some Christians are looking for some kind of psychological basis for
the rejection of Christianity, based on what denomination ex-Christians come
from, in order to claim Christianity was not rejected because of the evidence
against it. It just might be the case that there are less defectors from Calvinistic
churches, not because they are more grounded in their faith, or because their
theology is right, but because they have developed an almost impregnable
theology, a castle built in the sky that never has to touch down to earth. It might
be more correct to say there are more defectors from Arminian churches (which
includes Church of Christ people) than from Church of Christ people, per se.
Maybe the rejection of Calvinism is the first step on the road to reject Christianity
as a whole? And the defection from Arminianism is that last noticeable step?
What is the Church of Christ known for? It's known for their claim to restore
New Testament Christianity (as if that's desirable or even possible). They claim
the Bible is their only creed, and as such they are known as "people of the book,"

44

stressing the need to get "back to the Bible" in everything they do. At times it
may seem they are backward because of this, and they are. But if Christians
really believed the Bible they should have the same goal, I think. The two
conservative branches of the Church of Christ really study the Bible intensely.
They really try not to cherry pick from the Bible, like others seem to do more of, I
think. The Bible is everything to them. Now I happen to think if you study the
Bible, it debunks itself! So if more ex-Christians come from the Church of Christ,
I see this as a compliment to the Church of Christ's desire to read, study and
follow the Bible as best as they can.
Whether an inordinate number of ex-Christians come from the Church of
Christ or not, their personality types may contribute to their outspokenness. It
may be because they have many fundamentalist black & white type personalities
in their churches to begin with. Fundamentalist type personalities don't like
mysteries. They want to reach clear cut answers. And they want others to believe
what they do. So some of us are naturally outspoken when we leave. And if
that's the case, you just may be hearing more from us than from others who leave
the Christian faith, that's all.

45

7. How I Got To Where I Am Today.


Let me give my readers a history of what led me to do what Im doing in
debunking Christianity. I have always liked to write. Like any artist, I like
looking at the picture I create when I craft something with words. While I have
never kept a daily journal of my life, I have written articles, church newsletters,
letters to the editor, and handouts to my students. What Ive created is an
intellectual history of my life.
I decided to compile what I had written into a book, and be done with it. I
wanted to put the past behind me, so to speak, and move on. So I did that. I
placed all of my key Christian articles and handouts and letters to the editor into
a spiral bound book. I wrote something about why I changed my mind, and I
concluded with what I believed at the time. I sold it in a local bookstore.
But it didnt look very professional and I kept rewriting it. So I found a selfpublisher who would publish my book, Trafford Publishing, the same one this
book is published by. They would hand me 40 copies to give out and to sell.
They would also put it on amazon.com and borders.com.
At that point I added several sections to it. It was titled From Minister to Honest
Doubter: Why I Changed My Mind, and published in 2005. I sent a few out, and got
some good reviews from it. But it wasnt my best work. I initially just wanted it
available to people who knew me. I just wanted to explain to them why I had
changed my mind. If others liked it, then that didnt matter too much. It was
aimed at people who knew me, and most of the church people I had in mind to
read it were not intellectuals. So I didnt feel it was necessary to cover several
objections to what I had written. It was a general survey, for the most part. When
I wrote it I was a soft agnostic, or if forced to choose, an existential Deist.
I sent out some emails about my book to people whom I thought might be
interested in it, and Edward T. Babinski responded very positively. He noticed I
was a former student of William Lane Craigs, something I had merely
mentioned. I didnt think listing the professors I had studied with was that
important, but Ed jumped on that and was very interested in reading what I
wrote. So we traded books and began an initial exchange of emails.
Ed encouraged me to discuss my book at a particular online Christian forum,
so I did. But I was so unfairly and grossly treated there that I quit in a huff. Then
being the stubborn person I am, I decided to come back with a vengeance. And I
did. There I cut my teeth on my first Christian forum, and it was ugly. I had
naively expected a fair discussion, but I was verbally assaulted. Until then I had
not done anything on the web. I was new to it. This reaction intrigued me, and I
wanted to see if I could break these barriers down. I wanted to see if I could
present my arguments in ways Christians would understand.
This experience got my argumentative juices flowing again. And rather than
leading me closer to Christianity, it led me to become an atheist. So I revised my
book in 06, and renamed it Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist
Explains. I geared it to people who didnt know me, covering more territory and

46

more arguments, this time defending atheism. I was still curious to see what
arguments would work and which ones wouldnt. I was also testing my own
arguments against what Christians might say in response, and I learned some
things in the process.
I had initially written my book to end a period in my life, my former Christian
life. But it seems as though it only led me into defending what I wrote against
objections.
After awhile at that Christian forum I tired of the back and forth mudslinging.
I still wanted a reasonable discussion of the ideas. At the suggestion of Ed
Babinski I started my Blog. For some reason it took off. Jeffrey Jay Lowder of the
Secular Web had just started the Secular Outpost, blog, which was a sister site to
theirs. And he linked to my Blog.
When I first started the Blog in January '06 I wanted to choose a title that best
described what I intended to accomplish that would also grab people's attention,
so I chose the present title, Debunking Christianity. It has done its work well.
When you see it listed on another blog or website it grabs your attention. It has
increased our traffic.
This title also best describes my goals. My goals are negative ones. I do not
intend to defend atheism, per se, even though I am an atheist, but to argue against
evangelical Christianity, which is the most obnoxious type of that faith held by
the majority who are so cocksure of their views. I'm merely claiming that their
type of Christianity is a delusion, something every non-Christian and liberal
Christian can agree with me about. This is my niche, and I hope I'm doing this
well. To those who disagree with these goals I respond that by having narrow
goals of this type I can better achieve them. Larger goals are harder to achieve,
because the larger the claim is the harder it is to defend. My goals allow me to
focus on one thing and to do it well. My primary goal is to knock conservative
Christians off of dead center...to make them question their beliefs. Where they
end up after this is not my immediate concern. There are other sites and other
books that can take up where I leave off. But I'm doing the hard work, not that
debunking evangelical Christianity itself is difficult, but that getting these
Christians to acknowledge that their faith is delusionary is indeed difficult. And
I've been willing to take the barbs thrown my way (not with pleasure) for this
purpose.
Then I began inviting people on DC who shared these same goals, and
developed quite a nice list of contributors, beginning with exbeliever. Some team
members merely wanted to become contributors in order to post their
deconversion stories, while others have come and gone for various reasons, and I
thank them all for their contributions.
But the title of the Blog also leads to some confusion. One such confusion is
that it sounds offensive. It sounds as if we are hostile to Christian people
themselves. It sounds like a personal attack. But we're not at all hostile to
Christian people, unless provoked, and I have been provoked quite a bit simply
because the Blog exists. We try our best to be cordial and polite, although this is
difficult to do in the midst of these types of debates, especially when dealing
with a belief system we think is akin to Holocaust deniers and Flat Earth Society
members. It's hard not to ridicule what we think has no solid evidence for it, but
we try really hard not to so.

47

The title may also lead Christians to think we are ignorant, since skeptics have
tried to debunk Christianity for millennia to no avail. Some Christians have
shown up, read one post, and blasted us without seeing the depth of our
arguments. They in turn soon realize that we do know what we're talking about.
No one can say all that he or she knows in one post. So because we leave
something out, a Christian might retort with a Bible passage as if we've never
considered that before. It doesn't take long for that Christian to see we have
considered it and rejected something about it.
The title also sounds as if we are hostile toward the Christian faith, so it
provokes hostility in return. Well, in some real sense we are a bit hostile to
Christianity. We think it causes harm in many ways, yes. But even though this is
true in varying degrees, we try to dispassionately argue against it. We are testing
our arguments against what Christians can throw at us, and we have learned a
few things in our debates. I personally love to learn from others no matter what
they believe, and I do. No one has a corner on the truth. We admit this. If we are
wrong show us. That's all we ask. Although we no more think we are wrong
then others who disagree.
As former insiders to the Christian faith we reject it with the same confidence
that Christians reject the faiths of all other religions, even other branches of
Christianity. The rejection is the easy part. We all do it. My claim is that
agnosticism is the default position when it comes to affirming what we believe,
which merely claims "I don't know". Anyone moving off the default position has
the burden of proof, for in doing so that person is making a positive knowledge
claim. When I argue for atheism I too am affirming a positive knowledge claim
that must bear its own burden of proof. But in moving from agnosticism to
atheism I am taking a very small step when compared to moving up the ladder
to a full blown evangelical Baptist Christianity (as but one denomination among
many), past pantheism, panentheism, deism, theism, Christianity, and
evangelical Christianity itself.

48

8. What is My Motivation for What Im Doing?


A Blogger named WarrenL asked me some pointed questions about why Im
debunking Christianity. He started with the following two questions:
WL: As I understand it you spent a good portion of your life assenting to
Christianity and now with your book and regular articles it appears you plan to
spend a good portion of it debunking Christianity. (1) What is your motivation
for this? (2) It seems that religion will always be a part of our culture. Do you see
any good or value in Christianity?
Question #1: My motivation for debunking Christianity on the web is pretty
much the same as any Christian apologist, except I dont do it to glorify God, and
Im not taking anyone to heaven with me. Mainly it took me a lot of time and
money to learn all that I have, so it would be a waste not to share it with others.
Furthermore, Christian apologists want to know that their beliefs are true, and
one good way to do that is to get in the ring and argue for them. In doing so, they
learn things and find better arguments to defend what they believe. This
describes me too. Some want to make a name for themselves, some want the
satisfaction of winning an intellectual contest (the competitive urge), while others
want to gain some respect from their perceived peers, and still others promote
themselves to make some money off what they write. So the motivations of us all
are multifaceted.
I personally like an intellectual challenge. Can I describe what I believe in a
way that makes some sense to those who disagree? Thats quite a challenge, and
I like to try since our control biases are so diametrically opposed to each other.
I am a teacher. Since Ive spent a great part of my life being educated about
Christianity why not use what Ive learned and not waste it? As a teacher Im
against people believing in wrongheaded Christian ideas that I tend to think are
based upon ignorance, although thats the stuff that maddens me, since many
apologists dont seem ignorant at all! What is it, I ask myself, that makes us
believe different things where each side has this strong tendency to think the
other side is just plain ignorant? This is where discussing and debating these
things intrigues me to the utmost, and so I try again to explain why I see things
differently. In the process I get a better glimpse of what it takes to cross that great
divide between us, and I test my own explanations of why I see things the way I
do. How can we each be so sure the other is wrong? That intrigues me like
nothing else I know.
I also believe that life it better from my perspective, having been a former
Christian myself. I can be more...well...human. Church people are stuffy people
who are so judgmental. I only realized how much this is true after leaving,
although I thought it was true while still in the church. There is a life to be lived
to the fullest, and Christians are afraid to do this. I love the freedom to live like I
want to without the fear of hell or the judgment of other Christians. Dont get me
wrong here, I still am every bit the honest and good person I was before (without
the so-called help of the Holy Spirit), but I no longer feel guilty for what I think

49

about, whereas Christians always seem to struggle with thoughts of hate, greed,
lust, and the like. I only have to be concerned with what I actually do, not what I
think about. I no longer have to give of my hard earned money to fund a church
building in hopes God will multiply it back to me. I dont have to worry about
what Ms. Peabody thinks if I go play pool at the bars, and I no longer have to
waste so much of my time attending church, reading the Bible, praying, and
evangelizing. I no longer have the overwhelming guilt when I failed in these
tasks, either, nor do I need to confess my failures in these tasks with tears in my
eyes to God. If someone does get in my face I dont have to be a mild mannered
man, but I can tell him to get the hell away from me, and I can say it like I mean
it. I can waste away my time watching TV without guilt if I want to. I can drive
over the speed limit if I want to without fear of God's judgment, although I
hardly do this at all. I also love the freedom to think for myself without feeling
like I must justify everything I believe in the Bible (have you recently tried to
come up with a view of hell from the Bible that passes the moral test?). And I
love the fact that my thinking is not hamstrung by fear of being cast into hell,
because I'm a freethinker. I also love being good to people just because I want to,
and not because I have to, and I am. Even as an atheist I have solid reasons to be
good without God.
I want to help people who are struggling with their Christian faith to know
there are others out there like me. As I was thinking my way out of Christianity I
did it alone with my books. I read things. Then I thought about them. And I read
some other things. But I struggled, and struggled. I only sought to talk to a very
select few people about my doubts, because most all of the people I knew were
Christians, and I didnt want to be branded as a heretic, or shunned, nor did I
want to create doubt in anyone else, since I wasnt sure what I would end up
believing at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. So my books and my Blog are to
help people discuss these things. Its to let them know there is light at the end of
the tunnel, and that others like me have come out of the tunnel and were okay.
Its okay to doubt. Youll be fine. In fact, I believe its better over here.
I believe there are inherent dangers with religious beliefs. They dont always
materialize, but they do have their impact in various ways. There are political
reasons, which I dont touch on much at all. There is a large voting block of
evangelical Christians in America that help elect our local and state and national
governmental officials. This large block of evangelical Christians also participate
in letter campaigns to change public policy in ways I dont approve of. Atheists
generally think Christian theism inhibits scientific progress, creates class
struggles, sexism, homophobia, racism, mass neurosis, intolerance and
environmental disasters. There are some dispensationalist Christians in America
who believe the Jews are somehow still in Gods plan. So they defend Israel no
matter what they do, which fans the flames of war between the militant Muslims
and the US.
Finally, listen to Robert W. Funk and Robert M. Price's motivations for
debunking Christianity. Robert W. Funk in his book, Honest to Jesus (p. 19)
wrote:
As I look around me, I am distressed by those who are enslaved by a
Christ imposed upon them by a narrow and rigid legacy. There are millions
of Americans who are the victims of a mythical Jesus conjured up by modern

50

evangelists to whip their followers into a frenzy of guilt and remorseand


cash contributions. I agonize over their slavery in contrast to my freedom. I
have a residual hankering to free my fellow human beings from this
bondage. Liberation from fear and ignorance is always a worthy cause. In
the last analysis, however, it is because I occasionally glimpse an unknown
Jesus lurking in and behind Christian legend and piety that I persist in my
efforts to find my way through the mythical and legendary debris of the
Christian tradition. And it is the lure of this glimpse that I detect in other
questers and that I share with them.
Robert M. Price wrote this:
We are viewed as insidious villains seeking to undermine the belief of
the faithful, trying to push them off the heavenly path and into Satans arms.
But this is not how we view ourselves at all. We find ourselves entering the
field as the champions and zealots for a straightforward and accurate
understanding of the Bible as an ancient text. In our opinion, it is the
fundamentalist, the apologist for Christian supernaturalism, who is
propagating false and misleading views of the Bible among the general
populace. We are not content to know better and to shake our heads at the
foolishness of the untutored masses. We want the Bible to be appreciated for
what it is, not for what it is not. And it is not a supernatural oracle book
filled with infallible dogmas and wild tales that must be believed at the risk
of eternal peril. [The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Prometheus,
2005), p. 15].
As far as the second question of WarrenL goes, yes I do see some good in
Christianity. It has saved marriages headed for divorce (although it can create an
oppressive family structure where the wife is dominated and must obey her
husband). It has changed rebellious teenagers who were hell bent on doing
drugs, sex, and crime (but there are other down-to-earth reasons why they
should change). It offers a heavenly comfort (even if it is a false one) in believing
that God can help Christians and will bring them to heaven (although it also
requires believing that our neighbors, friends, mother, father, siblings, and
cousins might spend forever in hell). But I see nothing about it that a good solid
does of reasoning couldnt have accomplish in the same way.
Christians have a false and irrational hope, but just dont know it. They are
simply deluded into thinking their lives have some grand ultimate purpose. So
whos better off? Someone who lives a life of delusion, doing things because they
think it will matter for eternity, along with the daily guilt for not having lived up
to those standards, or someone who lives with his or her feet planted squarely on
the ground with the only reality that is to be had?
-----------------------------------------------WarrenL offered an intelligent and thoughtful response to what I wrote
above, so Ill respond to his further reflections here.
WL: Motivations are indeed multifaceted and I do agree with all those listed.
But I have always believed that the heart of Christian apologetics is to provide an

51

answer for the hope we have, as opposed to simply presenting an argument.


That implies that a question needs to be posed first.
JWL: What's wrong with me providing a response to those Christians who
provide an answer for the purported hope they have? If the Christian hope is
true, then I should change my thinking and my lifestyle, according to them. So
Christians are telling me I should change, and I respond by telling them I don't
have to because the arguments are not there. So because of the claims of
Christianity I should respond. At least I'm not just ignoring them. I'm giving
them a response.
WL: What I do notice is that Christians address a range of diverse topics;
atheism, Islam, Mormonism, Roman Catholic theology etc. You on the other
hand only address one, Christianity. Am I to assume that there is nothing else
that grips your interest as much as Christianity? If not then for something that
you have walked away from it sure dominates your life.
JWL: We merely have a specific limited topic here, to debunk Christianity.
The agenda of other Christian apologists is necessarily more general, because if
they are correct, then every other religion must be wrong. We'll let them argue
with every other religion. They can do that for us. All that's left for us to do is
debunk Christianity.
WL: Still, atheism by definition is in opposition to every theistic religion
regardless of what Christianity says about them. If your mission is successful and
you ever manage to debunk Christianity will you then turn your attention to
those other religions? I get the impression that in your mind perhaps the others
are not worth debunking because they have no merit.
JWL: As a former Christian apologist I debunked all of the other religions that
I had studied. I had previously rejected them as a Christian. Having already
done that, the only thing left is to debunk Christianity.
WL: There are many ideas out there that even you have to admit are at least
as or even more dangerous than Christianity. Why arent you as passionate
about those?
JWL: Militant Islam is presently far worse to me, although militant
Christianity has been far worse at some periods of the past. I'm not as
knowledgeable about Islam so I let others do it for me.
WL: Surely you disagree with more in the world than just Christianity. Why
is that your personal bug bear? It still seems that Christianity is the defining
centrality to much of your existence.
JWL: It is a rejection of a past I spent far too long defending. It's my way of
confirming what I believe, and at the same time helping others who suffer under
its wings like I did for far too long.
WL: I have tried to put myself in your position and I think that unlike you, if
I ever lost my faith, my pursuits would be entirely different. I wouldn't want to
waste anymore of my time in dissecting the Christian faith or trying to 'save'
those pigheaded Christians. But then you and I are very different.
JWL: Yes we are. I enjoy discussing and debating ideas, and I know the most
about Christianity. Debating sharpens my mind. And just like the artist who
looks as her finished painting and admires it, I like looking at what Ive created
too when I'm finished writing. I like looking at it and thinking to myself from
time to time Now thats good.

52

WL: I dont really know what Christian circles you moved in but I have
never been shunned for expressing doubts and I have had my fair share.
JWL: Translated: "I move in better Christian circles than you did (a standard
type rebuttal which I have no privy information to assess its merits).
WL: Are there any inherent dangers with atheistic views? May I suggest you
ask the 30-50 million victims of Stalin and Pol Pot. Even the grossest estimates of
the infamous Spanish Inquisition pale in comparison. Now I know that you are
not a that kind of atheist and that's not what atheism is about, so Ill try refrain
from lumping you in with Stalin et al as long as you distinguish between those
with true Christian ideals and those who have hijacked a distorted view of
Christianity for their own means.
JWL: But who speaks for Christianity? Who? There are at present 45,000
different denominations. To whom do I go to for information on what a Christian
thinks and behaves and to find which political party and which social issues to
support? Hijacking? Which ones? Amish people today would say that youve
hijacked Christianity. There was a time when Christians argued from the Bible
that they could own slaves as pieces of meat, and beat them within an inch of
their lives. This would have been the overwhelming majority opinion of their
day. If you believe what you do today, you would have been the outsider in their
day. They would claim that you had hijacked Christianity.
I believe there are evil people who will use any ideology to their own sadistic
ends. They come in all shapes and sizes, all colors, and all religions, or none at
all. The question is which ones are used most by these evil people to justify their
evil actions? Does atheism fare better or Christianity? I don't know. But my guess
is that percentage-wise, atheists are better educated than others, and better
educated people are usually better people toward others, even if there are
exceptions to this. While I don't have a statistical study on this, this stands to
reason. Better educated people know that violence breeds violence and that
nothing much is solved by violence. They would also have a much greater
tendency to rationally discuss the issues they wish to change, and to properly
evaluate the reasons why they might seek to do someone harm. Nevertheless,
there are people with Freudian "Death Wishes" everywhere, regardless of what
they believe. They are suicidal by degrees. Some Christians feel they have
committed the unpardonable sin, or that God cannot forgive them, so they no
longer care what they do to others, or themselves too.
WL: When I think of one of the greatest secular failures of all time, the USSR,
I can so easily apply the terms class struggles, homophobia, racism, mass
neurosis, intolerance and environmental disasters. Please dont tell me you
honestly believe that these will be eliminated by getting rid of Christian
(religious) influence. So just how does atheism address the natural tendency for
self preservation and dominance?
JWL: In the first place, secularism didn't fail with the demise of the USSR.
Leninism did. Lenin hijacked Marxism for his own power-seeking purposes.
Lenin does not speak for the rest of us atheists today. Modern atheism addresses
your worries through education and in understanding the different viewpoints
of others. Once that is accomplished we can no longer say of someone that they
are stupid and hate them merely because we have disagreements. Education
fosters tolerance. And while no one can be tolerant of everything, we can be

53

tolerant of different viewpoints, even while disagreeing with them. A heightened


tolerance level on BOTH sides of the fence would go a long way to resolving
differences around the world, between Jew and Muslim, between warring
factions in Africa, and even between Christians and atheists. For instance,
Christians think atheists cannot be trusted because they do not have a standard
for objective morality. But once you live next to an atheist, study at his feet,
and/or become her friend, you learn differently. Education means being exposed
to different ideas and different experiences. Tolerance is the result. Atheists also
promote laws that grant everyone the right to believe whatever they want to,
which would exclude any kind of theocratic rule, be it Muslim, Jewish or
Christian. I support the separation of church and state and do not want an atheist
intrusion into the public square any more than a theistic intrusion.
WL: I would particularly like to see the case that Christianity contains
considerably more violence and destruction than that of the other major
religions. Wheres the proof? I can similarly say that the history of a secular
worldview contains more violence and destruction than most of the other major
worldviews. Particularly if I lump in fascism, national socialism, communism
and the like.
JWL: If you as a Christian have to even make the case that Christianity fares
better than atheism, then you've already lost the debate, because it's not obvious.
Here's why: The Christian is the only one who claims that God the Holy Spirit
resides in him. And according to the Bible the Holy Spirit helps the Christian to
understand the things of God, and also helps him to behave. But Christians do
not act noticeably better than non-Christians, and it's partly because the Christian
doesn't seem to understand what God purportedly wants him to do. Where was
the Holy Spirit's guidance in the lives of the Christians during WWII, or during
American Slavery, or the Crusades, or the Inquisitions, or the witch hunts and
heresy killings? Hitler's Germany was a part of the Protestant Reformation.
Germany was a Christian nation! And yet we know what happened during
WWII. A Christian nation acted worse than non-Christian nations? You've
already lost the debate, because as a Christian you must claim that you alone
have a truly powerful God helping you to behave and think right. If Christianity
makes people better why isnt it obvious?
WL: The Christian God was definitely not created in our image. What would
motivate anyone to create a God other than one who caters to all our desires,
wants and excesses? Why create a God that we have no hope of pleasing in the
first place. Trust me if I was part of that committee we wouldnt have ended up
with the Christian God. Point in case - you spend most of your time trying to
prove how repugnant he is. And we created him, all by ourselves? How? Why?
To control; that can be done without religion. To highlight how weak and
incapable we are. Right.
JWL: The ancients were fearful of death and they pondered the mysteries of
their dreams. Life was dreadful and very demanding of them. People died
young. There were battles to be fought with the beasts and with other nations. So
they envisioned a God who was demanding. It's not that they wanted to create
an ice cream and cake giving God; it was that life was scary, hard and
demanding. There must be a dreadful, demanding, and hard God too. And in the
hands of the producers of religion who offered acceptable answers to life (priests

54

and prophets), it gave these producers power over the masses, for if the people
disobeyed God's messenger or priest, they would face God's supposed wrath. It
was all so quite convenient for the producers of religion who offered
explanations of dreams and the mysteries of a lifeless body. They gained power,
fame, and money over the consumers of religion (the masses). But if they created
a religion that was merely ice cream and cake, the people would no longer fear
the producers of religion, and the producers would not receive power, fame and
money. Besides, ancient people would not have believed in an ice cream and
cake giving God, anyway, since life was very hard, demanding, and scary.
WL: Actually I like being deluded (though obviously I don't think I am).
Within my worldview I can explain most of what goes on in my world. So please
don't try 'save' me and I'll try not to 'save' you. I'll try simply provide an answer
for the hope that I have. Albeit rather poorly.
JWL: But then what do you have to say about the Bill Craig's in the world
who argue that Christianity is correct, and I'll rot in hell if I don't believe? They're
trying to "save" me, even if you're not. So long as people like that are out there I
can argue against them all I want to. If that means you get caught up in the
middle between us, preferring to be left alone and also preferring to leave people
like me alone, I cannot control that. You don't have to listen in. You don't have to
assume that what I write is about you, either. It's only directed at apologists like
Bill Craig who think I'll rot in hell if I don't agree, and that's a charge I must
respond to, if for no other reason because my own life is at stake if hes correct.
He's claiming that if I disagree that's what will happen to me, and I object very
strongly to such a challenge on behalf of everyone who reads that challenge,
since it is so extremely guilt producing, and since many people don't know how
to adequately respond to challenges like that. But I think I do, and so I speak out.
Why is my focus on debunking Evangelical Christianity? A recent Barna Poll
shows that Most Americans take well-known Bible stories at face value. That is
one reason I focus on that which I do. According to Barna, two-thirds of
American adults take well-known Bible stories at face value. That's a lot of
people; 200 million of them (including children)! So I take aim at a very large
audience, which includes evangelicals, mainline Protestants, AND Catholics who
believe the Bible.
A former Blog member described why we at DC have chosen to debunk
evangelical Christianity in these words:
Not only is fundamentalist Christianity the greatest threat in the United
States to science, tolerance, and social progress, but it is also the most
prevalent form of Protestant Christianity to be found in our nation, whether
you like it or not. It is the fundamentalist religious right that holds the reigns
of the Republican party (which currently controls the nation, in case you
didn't realize), and it is this same fundamentalist religious right that lobbies
for the teaching of lies in public school and fights against funding for
embryonic research that could potentially save the lives of millions.
Whether you like it or not, it is this flavor of Christianity that makes the
loudest, most obnoxious, most dangerous impact on the world today, giving
us plenty of good reason to direct the brunt of our attacks in its vicinity.
I can, and I do argue against mainline and even Catholic Christianity. It's just
not my focus. My focus is on fundamentalism because the majority of Christians

55

believe the "literal" passages in the Bible, and because they have a zeal for
pressing their views upon me through economic and political power. Liberals are
not that much of a threat, period. They do not blindly accept what they read in
the Bible, and that's being more reasonable than fundamentalists, who have a
Bible verse for every problem, intellectual or social. I can agree with liberals on
this, so why bother with them?
Again, my goal is to dislodge the evangelical Christian off of dead center.
Once they are knocked off center they will be less cocksure and less of a threat to
my personal liberties. They will begin to think for themselves without blindly
accepting what they read in the Bible.
There is one factor in what I do that may be among the biggest motivators of
all. I like taking on challengesbig ones. Throughout my whole life people have
told me from time to time that I cannot do something, and I liked proving them
wrong. I also challenge myself. I want to see how good I can get at something.
Several years ago I started writing up some lessons about 8-Ball for our pool
league. The league operators begrudgingly copied them on the back of our score
sheets. When pool players in our area saw them, they laughed at
merepeatedly. Whenever I missed a shot they would say, Hey, Loftus, write
that up as a lesson next week will you? Sometimes people can be unmerciful,
and they can hold you down. Apparently only the pros could give advice about
pool, and since I wasnt a pro, I shouldnt presume to tell others how to play the
game. Who did I think I was? Its these naysayers who browbeat others into not
even trying to do well. But they motivate me. Those pool players are no longer
laughing. For five years I wrote monthly instructional columns for the best
national billiard magazine in America, and I have a book about pool that is
getting some excellent reviews.
Anyway, I hate being laughed at. Being ridiculed and mocked motivates me
like nothing else. Its like pouring gasoline on the flames of my passion. I want to
make these people eat their words. I know what I am capable of doing if I set my
mind to it. I get stronger when personally attacked. I even warned the very
people on the web who daily attacked me. But they ignored my warnings.
If you want to motivate me, just mock me. Belittle me. Harass me. Christians
have done this to me repeatedly on my Blog, and elsewhere. In my opinion they
are Christianitys worst enemies, for in doing what they have done, they made
me stronger. It motivated me to debunk the very faith that justifies their
treatment of me. Their actions convinced me they wouldve lit the fire that
burned me at the stake for heresy in a different era. So it made me want to go for
the jugular vein of their faith.
All I can say is that this motivated me. If these obnoxious Christians were
concerned about the Christian faith against my arguments they shouldnt have
personally attacked me like they did. They shouldve simply engaged me with
good arguments. It was they who motivated me to beef up the arguments in my
book. So let me just take a moment to thank those Christians who have
ridiculed me for also motivating me. To you I owe a debt of gratitude. Your
God must be very pleased with you. The question remains whether the sum
total of your individual efforts as Christian apologists will ever be in the plus
column after we factor in how you have helped motivate me to debunk the
very faith you each claim to defend.

56

9. Are We Angry Atheists?


I am not an angry atheist. I have nothing to be angry about. If I have ever
shown anger its because I was responding to what I considered to be willful
ignorance, idiocy and/or attempts to belittle me.
If we are angry, Christians will see this as a sign we are God haters.
Christians are looking for psychological reasons for why we dont believe,
because many of them dont think we reject their faith on intellectual grounds.
They believe we reject the Christian faith on emotional or psychological grounds.
R.C. Sprouls book, If Theres a God, Why Are There Atheists?, is typical of this kind
of thinking. Sproul claims that the nature of God is repugnant to human
beings. We want to be our own authority, and we refuse to acknowledge our sins
before a holy God.
I deny this explains why I don't believe. I just dont think the Christian God
exists. I am not a God hater. How can I hate God if God doesnt exist? How can I
hate someone like Jesus, whom I have never met in person? ;-)
To better understand us, the Christian merely needs to ask what s/he thinks
about Islam. Do you hate Allah? Are you angry with Allah? Do you refuse to
acknowledge his authority in your life? Are you in rebellion against him?
The point is that these kinds of questions are silly, arent they? They are silly
because Christians do not believe Allah exists. They do not consider themselves
in rebellion against Allah. They are not Allah haters, either. They just dont
believe he exists.
Thats us, when it comes to the Christian God. We just dont think he exists.
We don't consider ourselves to be rebelling against him, just as you dont
consider yourself to be rebelling against Allah.
Lets go a little deeper.
Lets say we are angry ex-Christians (again, I am not). What would we be
angry about? Some of us might be angry for wasting a good portion of our
lives on something that we finally concluded was a delusion. Christian, lets say
this described you in a few years. How would you feel about it, when you
couldve been doing something different with your life? That may describe some
of us. The time, effort and money we spent on this Christian delusion was simply
wasted. (I, however, dont think anything we do for other people, or any
learning we do is ever wasted). We might be angry simply because we felt
duped.
We might be angry at how we were treated by church people. We could tell
plenty of stories about abuse and mistreatment at the hands of leaders in the
church who hid behind the cloak of the Bible. People who have left the Catholic
Church because of molester-priests and the subsequent cover-up, have a right to
be angry, correct? Then there are Muslims who are angry because other Muslims
blow up their children while walking to school. We too may have been abused
by church people in some different, milder ways, but it is abuse just the same.
And if we are angry about it, we have a right to be angry.

57

There are other reasons to be angry. We could be angry for the way religion is
forced upon us by the majority through the law and upheld in court cases. We
could be angry at what Richard Dawkins describes as child-abuse in the form of
indoctrinating children to believe. We could be angry with how our tax money is
being used to support churches, or that churches don't have to pay taxes. We
could simply be angry at ignorance parading itself as education, or angry at the
inhibiting of science because of religious based beliefs and fears.
Whether were angry or not says nothing about whether Christianity is true. If
what we believe is correct, then we have a right to be somewhat angry for being
taught a delusion.
Besides, I see a great deal of anger coming from the Christian community.
According to many sermons preached in America every Sunday we are evil
doers, God haters, tools of Satan, and unworthy of any kindness at all, for we're
already headed to hell. As I just described in the previous chapter, I have
personally been viciously verbally attacked for arguing against Christianity. If
Christianity wins in the marketplace of ideas, why should Christians be angry
with me? Let the truth prevail. In a prior era Christians would burn me at the
stake for being an evil doer. And I was serious when I said I think some of these
Christians who have personally maligned me wouldve lit the fires!
The reason for anger on both sides of this great debate is because we're in a
cultural war of values over the hearts and minds of people, especially the
children. But we're simply not angry at God at all. We might be angry with
ourselves, those who led us to believe in the first place, church people who
abused us, and so on. But we're not angry with God. We don't believe the
Christian God exists.

58

10. On Dealing With Apostates Like Us.


Some Christians think they have Biblical precedent to scoff, mock and
malign those of us who are apostates from the faith because Jesus, Paul and
Elijah mocked their opponents. As I just said this very behavior motivated me to
do the best I could with my previous book. They do this especially with my
admissions of personal failure in it. Let me try to reason with them.
Other Christians argue against such tactics. Christians on both sides of the
fence can defend their views here, because there are Biblical stories and verses
that support both sides, just as Christians disagree about the relationship of the
church to the culture. See H. Richard Niebuhr's classic book, Christ and Culture,
where he shows there are six different ways Christians have sought to engage in
their culture, all based upon something said in the Bible. Christians see a
different Jesus in the New Testament texts. Jesus fits all sizes doesn't he? But to
think that the NT contains different and even contradictory approaches to
handling unbelievers is something they would never think of accepting. Many
times the Jesus that a Christian sees is based upon his own personality type. Not
only are interpretations of the Bible historically conditioned, but they are also
conditioned by what personality types we already have before coming to the
Bible. I maintain that the side a Christian takes with regard to how to treat false
teachers is more likely to be based upon his or her personality type. Hateful, selfrighteous, know-it-all, competitive, arrogant and angry people will simply have
the strong tendency to interpret the Bible the way they do.
Christians who use these tactics are ignorant. Using these tactics is based
upon imitating some ancient superstitious people, like Elijah, Jesus and Paul,
whom they hold no candle to. Charles Sheldon's 1896 book In His Steps, asked,
"what would Jesus do?," in order to spur Christians on to imitate his behavior.
This book has been widely criticized by Christian thinkers because Christians
cannot do what Jesus did, since they are not Jesus. Can we perform miracles?
Should we overturn the money changers tables and thrash them with a whip?
Jesus also shunned a Canaanite woman and called her and her people dogs,
because he said his mission was limited to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew
15:21-28). There are a host of things these Christians wouldnt try to imitate, like
telling women to be silent in the churches as Paul did (I Cor. 14:34), selling all
and giving it all to the poor (Luke 18:22; Yes, Jesus really meant this because his
ethic was an "interim ethic" until the Kingdom of God came, which the NT
writers believed was imminent in their lifetimes), or sending a slave back to his
master (Philemon), or even be an itinerant preacher like Jesus with no place to
rest his head (Matthew 8:20). These Christians merely pick and choose what they
want to imitate based upon what they want to do.
Even if Jesus, Paul and Elijah did what was right in taunting and demeaning
their detractors, there is a difference that makes all of the difference. They
supposedly knew with a much greater certainty than these Christians will ever
know that they were right. These Christians do not have the same assuredness

59

they did, to do what they did. Are you Jesus? No? Then you don't have the right
to do as he did.
The same hermeneutics these Christians use to interpret and apply the Bible
in dealing with false teachers, was also used to justify southern slavery. Get and
read William Swartley's book, Slavery, Sabbath, War & Women (Herald Press,
1984). This Christian book is really about hermeneutics. Its main thesis is that
there are two different ways of interpreting the Bible with regard to these four
different ethical issues. On the one hand you have the literalists, and on the other
hand you have those who stress Biblical principles over some of the literal
statements in the Bible. And guess what? The literalists defended southern
slavery, while those who stressed Biblical principles (like Galatians 3:28) were
against it.
The problem here is that Christians who berate and ridicule false teachers
because Jesus did argue based upon the same interpretive principles as those
Christians who defended southern slavery. Other Christians stress Biblical
principles like loving the way the Good Samaritan did, who was considered an
outcast, a half-breed, and a worshipper at a false temple.
In fact there are two good reasons for treating those who disagree politely,
like I do: 1) People will listen to you, which is the goal, isn't it? 2) You might
learn something in the interchange of these ideas, since no one has a corner on
the truth.
Certainty is unattainable when it comes to such issues, so it's best to at least
tone down the rhetoric. But on they go. They are right about everything.
Everyone else, even many other Christians are wrong, which is another
personality induced my-way-or-the-highway attitude of what an apologist is
supposed to do.
Actually we apostates can consider ourselves lucky. In a previous era they
would have tortured us and burned us alive. Atheists don't deserve apologies
because they are less than human. And once you demonize your opponent you
can do anything you want to them, and Christians have done just that.
Many people listen to what we say at DC because we say it respectfully.
Think about it. Many people cannot hear what these other Christians say because
they can't hear their words above the loud screams of their attitude.
Even if these Christians are right about Jesus, Paul, and Elijah, who cares?
We live in an opinionated society; one that values the free expression of ideas
and where educated and intelligent people realize we will not all agree. That's
the difference that makes all the difference.
These Christians should adjust their views, just like theyve done with their
liberal views on women when compared to Christians of earlier centuries. They
should adjust, just like they've done by condemning racism and slavery, unlike
those who justified these things in the American South. They should adjust, just
like they do with their liberal views of hell when compared to the Middle Ages.
They should adjust, just like they do with regard to their liberal and heretical
ideas of a free democracy when compared to earlier times of the divine rights of
kings. They should adjust, just like Christians have done who longer think the
Bible justifies killing people who disagree. They should adjust or die trying to
kick against the goads.

60

Exapologist had said to these Christians:


You're missing the point about the relationship between civility and
inquiry. It's not to prevent from hurting others' feelings, but rather to
prevent obstacles to finding the truth. People who care about
gaining/sustaining true beliefs and avoiding/discarding false ones realize
that a free and open exchange of ideas contributes greatly to that end. It's a
way for ideas to be scrutinized and refined through careful peer review.
When this sort of exchange is at its best, it's a thing of immense value. It's a
process that drastically increases the probability of acquiring truth and
avoiding error.
Unfortunately, this invaluable process -- which isn't even allowed in
many places -- is extremely fragile: it's very easy to stifle. For example, if
someone enters into this process and starts attacking others, then people
start to shut down, or they start a shouting match, or... Thereby drastically
reducing the probability of getting truth from the process -- or shutting
down the process entirely.
So you see, the reason why people don't like it when you start attacking
them is not primarily because it's unpleasant (although it is, but most grownups can handle that), but rather because you're stifling the free and honest
exchange of ideas, which in turn stifles their inquiry into the truth.
Now there are places that you can go that are against the free and
democratic exchange of ideas, and would prefer the unquestioned adherence
to the dogmas of a particular religion, silencing all dissent with violence -e.g., societies in which the Taliban is in control (or Calvin's Vienna). But the
people you attack aren't into that, for some strange reason.
Also, if you yourself are interested in increasing the probability of
gaining true beliefs and avoiding false beliefs, then (in addition to taking
some courses in critical thinking and logic) you need to acquire certain
intellectual virtues, such as the following:
-intellectual humility: "you know what? I don't know everything, and in
fact some of my beliefs might actually be false or otherwise unjustified."
A closely related virtue is:
-intellectual charity: "perhaps I should listen to and internalize the views
of others, and not unfairly characterize them to myself or others -- even those
whose views are diametrically opposed to mine. I should be able to explain
and defend their views before I evaluate them. After all, that way I can be
relatively confident that I'm not rejecting a view that turns out to be true."
Also:
- intellectual honesty and tentativeness: "I *think* that my views about x
are true and reasonable, but sometimes I have my doubts about it. For
example, there's this one argument Y that's pretty decent, and I don't know
what to say about it. What do you think?"
As you put these into practice and develop them, the probability of your
believing true propositions goes up dramatically.

61

Heres what a Christian Blogger named Touchstone wrote:


It isn't that we can't handle it. It just looks bad for Christian apologists
to come off that way. I don't agree with William Lane Craig on a lot of
things, but I think he has a good sense of his obligations as a representative
of Jesus Christ in how he acquits himself. He's clear and firm, but generous,
and projects an authentic air of good will in the works I've read from him. In
his debate with Ehrman he even went so far as to do a little treatment of
"Bart's Blunder" if I recall. It was actually a well made point, but very much
done in a charitable, if pointed way.
Why mock people who say Christianity is clearly false? Why not
simply point out their missteps dispassionately? Maybe you don't owe this
to the unbeliever at all. Maybe it is well within your rights to laugh like
Elijah did with the prophets of Baal or how God sits in the heavens laughs
[and] . . . scoffs at [unbelievers]. (Psalm 2:4). Fine, but that doesn't mean that
you must exercise that right. Doesn't your Bible say that Jesus felt a love for
an unbeliever (the rich young ruler"--Mark 10:21--Although, this might be
the only such reference in the Bible)? Is mocking and laughing at
indicative of this? What do you hope to accomplish by mocking and
laughing at an unbeliever? Will this help the unbeliever accept what you are
saying? Will this help other Christians feel better about their faith? Does this
honor God more than dispassionate reasoning? [Touchstone, by the way, is
now an atheist, and he thanks exapologist and myself for helping him see
the light].
In my book I revealed that I had an affair eighteen years ago as of this
writing, and some Christians seem to berate me for it. They seem to think it
discredits my arguments. Not so at all! Heres what a Christian named Jeff
forcefully said to those who berate me:
We are constantly told that the insulting personal rhetoric that is used
so readily in some circlesis justified because it accomplishes a larger
strategic goal, namely to publicly shame opponents of the Gospel so that (a)
they will be quiet and (b) they will be discredited in the eyes of the
audience . Now both of these seem like very flimsy justifications insofar as
(a) never actually happens, and (b), I think, overestimates the size of the
putative audience and underestimates its intelligence, but nevertheless, ok,
fine, I'll accept it for argument's sake. But what, exactly, is the rhetorical
advantage that is gained by criticizing and condemning someone for having
sinned? It seems to me that to argue that John has sin in his past says
nothing more or less than that he is human like the rest of us, and it's far
from clear how that in some way discredits his arguments. Can you imagine,
in a debate between, say, Witherington and Ehrman, if Ehrman were to
finish a lengthy case for his view and Witherington's response was
unfortunately, Bart, your position has no merit because I have hiddencamera footage that shows you kicking a puppy!"
Good grief, people. If you want to argue vehemently against John's
position, by all means do so, and if you think that calling him a moron or a

62

poopypants somehow puts you on the lofty pinnacle of unassailable


intellectual rigor, go ahead and indulge your belief in the validity of that
notion. But don't suppose for a second that because his sins have been
publicly disclosed and yours have not, that you are somehow justified in
presuming to stand on some sort of moral high ground and wield his sin as a
debate broadsword with which to win an argument. Even if you could win a
debate that way (and you can't), your victory would be hollow, because with
your own words against him you convict yourself -- just replace his sin with
yours in your epithet, and you'll find your sword turns in your hand to stab
its master with alarming speed and accuracy.
When someone is transparent enough to disclose personal information,
particularly when it is potentially embarrassing to them, it's a betrayal of
that person's trust to then throw that admission back in their face; to use it as
a polemical barb is intellectually bankrupt.
I'm not opposed to using ridicule. Sometimes there is nothing left to do
when all else has been said and done. Sometimes we must vent and laugh at
what can only best be described as a ridiculous position, like Voltaire did this in
his book Candide. But I am opposed to these offensive tactics being used on a
daily basis against those who disagree if the goals are to convince others of our
respective positions, and to learn from each other. These are my goals.
A final note. I have been using the term "logical gerrymandering" for a few
years now to describe what some Christians do in unfairly "redistricting" what
people like me say out-of-context, in order to gain an unfair intellectual
advantage, or to ridicule me. The first person I know of to use this term outside
of political spheres is Walter Kaufmann, in his 1958 book, Critique of Religion and
Philosophy, although he merely calls it "gerrymandering." Kaufmann knew in
advance there would be theologians who would gerrymander the words in his
book. He said: "This Critique is exceptionally vulnerable to slander by quotation
and critics cursed with short breath, structure blindness, and myopia will be all
but bound to gerrymander it." Kaufmann quipped:
"Quotations can slander;
if you gerrymander." [p. 219-220].
Of course, The Principle of Charity is pretty much the exact opposite way to
deal with intellectual opponents, and is akin to what Christians themselves
believe they should do with people in general (I Corinthians 13). It calls us all to
give a detractors argument the best possible interpretation before criticizing it. If
we followed this principle when dealing with our opponents, we will be less
likely to commit the informal fallacy of attacking a straw man, and thereby less
likely to make a fool of ourselves.

63

11. I am a Freethinker First, and an Atheist Second.


Let me state for the record that I am a freethinker first, and an atheist second.
No freethinker faces a potential excommunication or heresy trial for not abiding
by the party line as far as I'm concerned. I left Christianity partly over this party
line attitude.
Where I agree with people, I agree. Where I disagree with people I disagree.
That's it. For instance, I do think Jesus was probably a historical figure in the 1st
centurya failed apocalyptic prophetunlike some other skeptics. But I learn
from everyone.
My goal is to debunk evangelical Christianity. This could be done by a Deist,
a new age pantheist, an agnostic or an atheist. Where we agree we agree. Where
we have our own disputes, we will dispute. Christians do the same thing when it
comes to differing views of Calvinism, eschatology, baptism, Pentecostal gifts,
church polity, and so on. But unlike them such disputes do not undercut a
common goal we have when it comes to Christianity.
I do not put up barriers between freethinkers so long as we share the same
goals. Where we disagree we will disagree, but our common ground is still that
we are freethinkers. We are not hamstrung by religious dogmas and creeds and
scriptures that define whether or not we are allowed in the group. We just ask
that people are able to back up their beliefs and defend them in areas where we
share common ground. Even if someone is out of bounds with what I think can
be rationally defended, I can still say, "but she makes a good case against
Christianity...she makes me think." So, while I do think Jesus existed, there is
nothing at stake for me in examining the question of whether or not he did,
except the truth. Thats what makes me a freethinker. I am free of dogma, free of
being hamstrung in what I can believe by a so-called authoritative inspired book.

64

12. Don't Quote Homer To Me!


I stopped in a national chain bookstore tonight, and as always I checked out
what's new among Christian books. As I was looking at the books in the
Christian aisle I got into a brief conversation with a young man who may have
initially thought I was a Christian. He asked me which church I attended. When I
said, "I don't attend church anymore," the conversation began.
It wasn't a different conversation than other conversations Ive had. At crucial
junctures in an argument he would quote from the Bible, like others do, as if that
settles the question at hand. However, I do not believe the Bible, so using the
Bible is not meeting me on common ground. I merely asked him how he would
feel if I couldn't reasonably answer one of his questions and then quoted from
Homer's The Iliad, or The Odyssey? [Chapter three, sentence 14]!? Or if I quoted
from Zeus, or Poseidon or Apollo? I said that's exactly what it sounds like to me.
I said he needed to be able to explain the reasons why he believes God exists, and
why God harshly judges us as sinners, and why hell is a fitting punishment for
my purported sins. To merely quote from the Bible as proof of what I should
believe sounds exactly like quoting Homer to me. So from now on I have a new
motto: Don't quote Homer to me!

65

14. What If Im Wrong?


What if Im wrong about Christianity? What then? Well, then I will go to hell,
however conceived, when I die. And what did I do to deserve to go to hell? I
sinned, I didnt believe in Jesus atonement, or in his bodily resurrection from
the grave.
Whose fault would this be? Mine? I have honest doubts. Am I to be blamed
because I couldnt understand Christianity? I tried with everything in me. I even
spent several years earning three masters degrees and studies in a Ph.D.
program to understand the reasons for my faith. If I tried to figure it out and I
wasnt supposed to try then maybe educated people dont have a chance to be
saved? If, however, Im just not smart enough to figure it out, then only
intelligent people who study it out have a chance to be saved. Maybe the only
people who have a chance to be saved are those who arent educated or who
arent very intelligent. But who gave us our mental equipment in the first place?
Didnt God create us? Does this mean that when were born some of us are
condemned from the start because of our mental equipment leading us to
believe, or not? If God gave it to us, and if only unintelligent people can be
saved, then its set in stone the day were born what the possibilities for each one
of us are.
What if Im simply deceiving myself? What if my doubts about Christianity
and my atheism arent honest at all, and my claim that they are is disingenuous?
Perhaps unconsciously Im rebelling against God. Well, Im simply not
consciously aware of any attempt to rebel against God, nor am I consciously
aware of any attempt to deceive myself at all. I have been a counselor in churches
where I served and I know how to dig into my own unconscious mind enough to
know that my doubts are honest ones. Thats all I can say.
But what if Im being deceived by the traditional devil to have these doubts?
Maybe he is playing tricks on me, making me think my doubts are honest ones,
when they are not? If thats so, then I have no chance to win a debate with him.
According to the traditional faith hes much too intelligent and powerful for me
to overcome. If he deceives me, then I am deceived. The question is why an allpowerful God didnt help me. The devil wouldnt have a chance against God, but
why does God do nothing to help me overcome my doubts? While I was
beginning to doubt I would pray regularly to God to help me overcome my
doubts. Then as my doubts were gaining a foothold on me I was praying that
God would help me know the truth. Later I prayed that Im not being deceived.
Now I just think out loud for the most part, by talking to myself. I also know
others were praying for me all along my journey. And now with this book I
know still more people will pray for me. If prayer overcomes, then why not here
with me?
Maybe I was being tested with several experiences like Job but I simply failed
the test? So my doubts are now my condemnation, and because of them Im
going to hell when I die. If I failed the test, then I failed the test, and thats all I
can say about it. But if God knew in advance (or had a pretty good idea) I would

66

indeed fail the test if certain things happened in my life, then why test me like
that? Why let the devil do what he did, if in fact it was a test? If it was a test then
it makes me feel like a pawn in a cosmic game of chess. Is this really what
happened? God was playing with my life just to win a challenge with the devil,
as in Job 1-2? Thats disgustingly like experimenting on captive prisoners with
new drugs and surgical procedures so that the science of medicine can advance.
But if I fail the tough test Im supposed to go the hell? This is simply immoral on
any level.
We humans disagree about all things that can be disagreed about. Some
things are much more important than other things. No wonder there are so many
different religions, and so many splinter groups of each religion, or no religion at
all! According to religious people, whether God is pleased with us and where we
will spend eternity are the most important issues of all. And its no surprise we
disagree. But if we cannot agree on lesser important issues, then why is it that we
should be any more logical when it comes to religious issues? The more
important the issue is to us, the more we cling to it and the more our emotions
run wild while we try to defend our viewpoint. It would certainly seem that the
more important the issue is to us, the less rational we are with regard to it, and
the less likely we are to give it up.
If this is all the case, then it is simply impossible for God, if he exists, to judge
anyone based upon what they believe. God cannot judge anyone for not holding
to the correct set of beliefs. Whether one believes the Koran or the Bible, whether
they are Mormon or Jew, whether they are Catholic or Protestant, there is simply
no way God could condemn someone for not believing the correct things about
religious issues. Period. Why? Because Im pretty sure most all of us are wrong
about many crucial issues. I could be wrong too. So why should God condemn
us for being wrong about religious issues, when were merely doing the best we
can?
If God exists he cannot even judge us for how we behave, because how we
behave flows out of that which we believe, and that which we believe flows from
the sum total of experiences and thoughts that we have encountered for as long
as we have been alive. I believe all of usevery single one of usdoes the best
we can given our gray brain matter, along with our life experiences. There can be
no harsh judgment from God, even if he exists. If I am wrong about anything I
have written, then I am wrong. For me, it is an intellectual matter. I think I am
right about what I believe, and I think Im right about what I dont believe.
If God does exist after all, may he be pleased with me for doing the best that I
can, given the nature of that which he has given us to work withwhich isnt
much.

67

14. The Plight of the Preacher.


Let me highlight the ministry here, since I was a pastor for about 14 years. I
had good experiences and I had some bad ones. Here are some of the things I
remember that affected me:
A guy named Jake hand painted a sign that he placed at the driveway
entrance to our church that read, Parking in the Rear. Well, we decided to put
a row of parking in the front of the church and laid out Railroad ties and stone.
Then I said, what about the sign? Fred, the head elder (and there is always the
head elder in any church who can make almost any decision he wants to) said
lets take it down and tell Jake a car knocked it down. Fred also had a regular
subscription to Playboy. I was appalled at the time. But in order to do any
effective ministry I had to work with him. His daughter was also important
among the ladies and she regularly lied. At some point I couldnt do it anymore
and I increasingly got frustrated that the only people they cared that much about
were the members of their own family. It was a family church---theirs.
At that same church one elder told me he doesnt appreciate any humor
coming from me while Im preaching (I can be a regular comedian). But thats
me. So I had a decision to make, cut out doing what I knew helped people listen,
or offend an important person in the church. It was tough but I couldnt change
who I was. I also had a guy who got up and left the church service if I ever
preached over 20 minutes. Another guy would criticize me for any grammatical
mistakes and the like.
Another church I served had two extended families who ran the church and
didnt like each other, yet neither one was going to leave the church. Their dislike
for each other affected every decision that was made. But before I even knew
these two families had a dislike for each other, one family had decided to
support me because they liked me. So the other side of the church immediately,
without giving me a chance, decided that they were going to drag their feet on
everything I did in hopes they could get a new minister whom they could claim
as their own.
In another church I served I got involved with a homeless shelter, and I was
its founding President. The people staying in the shelter started coming to our
church. But one very influential family didnt like it at all and threw their weight
around about it, causing stress and internal conflict between them and me.
When I left the ministry I got involved with a local church where my cousin
preached, as I mentioned in my other book. Soon afterwards the pastor himself
became jealous of me and told people he thought I came into the church to take it
over. The truth was I was hurting and I felt needed, that was all. But I was
treated like dirt by some of them.
That's only the surface. I could go on and on. If you want to see if Christianity
can be lived, become a preacher. I dare you.

68

Listen to what a Christian Blogger named Sandlestraps had to say about


being a preacher:
I too am a former pastor, though unlike John I am still a Christian, and
am actively involved in several lay ministries, using the skills I once used as
a pastor in the service of the church. And, like John, my experience as a
pastor was an often painful one, colored by the antics of critics who, while
devout in their own faith, often used that faith as a weapon against those
who disagreed with them about the nature of God. Spiritual pride is a very
real and dangerous problem in churches of all sizes, shapes denominations
and theological dispositions. People have an experience of God, and then too
often decide that that experience encompasses the nature of God, so they
seek to impose it on everyone else, even the pastor. When pride and
arrogance are the issue, there is very little a pastor can do about it. When
people decide that God agrees with them, to disagree with them is to
disagree with God, no matter the state and nature of your own spiritual life
or relationship with God. Because I preached against the notion that God
caused New Orleans to be nearly leveled by a hurricane and the floods
which followed because of its sins and wickedness, righteous members of
my congregation, after threatening me with bodily harm, publicly called me
an agent of the devil sent to deceive the church. This is because, in
disagreeing with them, I called into question the belief system in which they
experienced God. To them this called their entire religious life into question.
Their theology, and the experience of God which both came out of it and
helped to shape it, preceded my arrival in their church. By trying to pastor
them out of their arrogant and dangerous position I only cemented my role
in their lives as an enemy of God.
The pastor's job is a long and difficult one. He or she is not causally
responsible for all of the spiritual disease in the congregation, and cannot by
herself or himself cure all of the ills. But he or she can be trampled by them.
When dealing with pastoral ministry (as with all other things in life) there
are no absolutely right or wrong answers. Whatever you end up doing, you
could probably have done it better. However bad things turn out, they could
probably have been worse.
When I gave my sermon attacking the dominant theology of my church, I
gave a copy of it to every single pastor that I knew, along with my District
Superintendent (a United Methodist office between the bishop and the local
pastors). No clergy member found any potential problems in the sermon, so
I though that, while it might cause a little stir, it shouldn't divide the church.
But it did divide the church, which was an unintended and unforseeable
consequence of telling the truth as best as we understand it. Morally
speaking, I would be liable for the division if I would have reasonably been
able to predict it. But no one could have predicted what ended up
happening, because no one wanted to admit exactly how deep the troubles
were in that congregation.
A small church in a rural area, with jobs leaving the surrounding towns
left and right, the church was in real fiscal trouble. Attendance had been
dropping for years before I showed up, but some people came back to test

69

out the new guy. The consciousness of the church was grounded in the
mythos of ancient Israel, seeing its history in terms of its relationship with
God, and seeing God as the ultimate causal agent for anything that
happened to it. When good things happened, God was blessing the church
for being faithful. When bad things happened God was punishing the
church for its lack of faith. Because my theology, and the ethics derived from
that theology, was very different from that of the congregation, and because
so many bad things were happening to that congregation as a result of the
socio-economic climate in the broader community, the people felt that God
was punishing them for tolerating me.
While this is an extreme case, it is not entirely atypical. Pastors have
little real power over their congregations, and what power they do have
rests in the consent of the congregation. Their power comes from their
spiritual wisdom, their education, and especially their ability to persuade.
Each of these areas of power rest in part on the inherant reasonability of the
congregation. If a congregation fails to recognize good spiritual wisdom, the
value of education, and the validity of the pastor's theological arguments,
then that congregation will be unmoved by the pastor no matter what he or
she does.
I think Sandlestraps did what was right. His role is to tell the truth, and he
did. He didn't expect the fierce response, that's all. One never knows exactly how
people will react. You get blindsided all of the time in ministry, even when you
think you're doing the right thing. Later you may question what you did, but
people hit you from out of the blue that you never quite expected would. And
you can't always know what will bring out these kinds of responses, or how
intense they will be.
My cousin preaches in Las Vegas, NV, right now. Most of the people in his
church earn their living from the gambling industry. Do you think he should
preach against it? Naw. He would get fired, and so would any preacher who did.
Is it best then not to say anything about it and minister in other ways? Sure it is.
But here is a case where he knows what to do. In other cases a preacher doesn't
always know. But is he doing right?
Become preachers. Go ahead. I dare you.

70

15. No More Funerals!


My wife and I attended the funeral of a friend today. As a person, she no
longer exists, just like the many dead pets I've had down through the years,
except as skin and bones. She had accepted Jesus on her deathbed about one
month ago, and the preacher who led her to accept Jesus did the eulogy. She died
of cancer at the age of 43. She was way too young to die, but she lived longer
than many people do around the globe, as well as many people in the past too.
But this preacher. Ahhhh. I remember when I preached at funerals. I had a
captive audience. The survivors asked me to do the eulogy precisely because
they believed what I said would comfort them the most.
There is much I could say about doing funerals. I actually liked this part of
my "ministry." I felt needed. People leaned on my every word. I actually got very
close to some of the survivors because of doing funerals. Some of them even
"adopted" me into their family as a result. They would never forget me, and I
knew it.
What I would do is tell whatever stories I could about the deceased. There
would be many there who wouldn't know every story I told, but those who did,
liked remembering with me. If I didn't know the deceased very well, I would just
listen to those who grieved. They would tell me story after story about him or
her, and then I simply told those stories at the funeral itself. There was one old
codger that even his wife couldn't say much good about him, so I simply said
"Bill lived his life the way he wanted to," and everyone who knew him said I
adequately described him.
Of course, then I would read something from the Bible, have a devotional,
warn people about the judgment after death, say a poem, a prayer, and be done.
So I know what's it's like to preach at funerals.
But this preacher could only tell us one thing about our deceased friend, that
she had accepted Jesus one month before she died. That was supposed to sum up
her whole life. Nothing else was said about her by him, although someone else
did do this earlier.
His sermon was a warning about the judgment to come and he expressed the
hope of us meeting her in heaven if we too accepted Jesus. As evidence for the
fact that she had found peace, several times he mentioned how that she has a
smile on her face in the casket. Yes she did, thanks to the undertaker! I wondered
if he really thought this was any evidence at all for her being at peace in the
afterlife...I really did. If a smile on her dead face is evidence of her being at peace,
then it must not take much evidence for him to believe in a resurrection.
So here I am sitting and listening to what I consider, well, ignorant. I'm a
captive, and he's laying it on us all. He's spouting the kind of stuff I argue against
on a daily basis on my Blog. I'm being told by him that I'll go to hell if I don't
believe, and he said it with such confidence that he thinks anyone who doesn't
agree is ignorant (*ahem*). I want to ask him questions, like "how do you know
this? and so forth. But her family members like his message. My deceased friend
would've liked his message. It was their day to grieve, and this was apparently
the message that helped them to do so.

71

But I wanted to grieve too. Instead, the sermon angered me a little. It made
me want to argue, not grieve. I was there to pay my last respects, even though I
knew this is probably the message I would have to sit through. I could've stayed
away, but I wanted to show my last respects and to be there for her surviving
husband, who was closer to us as a friend than she was.
So I've decided. I will not attend any more funerals than I have to. I'll only
attend the funerals of family members (and very very close friends). I will only
go to the viewings/showings of others. I don't have to say why I didn't attend
the funeral. I just won't go to them anymore.
And if my atheist wife dies before me, then I just may do something with my
captive audience too, if I have a funeral for her at all (she doesn't want one
precisely because prayers, religious poems, and a sermon is what family and
friends will expect). After we laugh about her antics, since she's simply the
funniest and wittiest person I have ever known, and after we cry over her loss,
by remembering her many kind deeds and words, here's what I might say:
"Gwen was an atheist and so am I. When I've attended Christian
funerals I had to sit through sermons where I was told that if I won't repent
I'll go to hell. I was told that if I want to see the deceased again I should
believe in Jesus. But what if I used this opportunity to express several
reasons why I think such a view is false? I want you to live life like Gwen
did, as an atheist. I want you to have a better life like hers was, without such
a false delusional belief. I appreciate that you've come to show your last
respects, but this is my day to express to a captive audience how she lived
her life, and she lived a good life as an atheist."
Then I'd pause with a smile and say, "I won't do this, but how would you
feel if I did?"

72

16. Brenda, My Former "Sister-in-Christ" Visited Me.


A Christian woman I knew like a very close sister 35 years ago when I had
first become a Christian, contacted me recently. Today she was coming through
our area and we invited her over. She came over, met my wife, and we talked.
Her name is Brenda. Shes still the sweetheart I remember her to be. Shes on a
quest. Not that she has any doubt about her faith, because she doesnt appear to
have any real doubts about it. Her quest is different. It started about a month and
a half ago when a close relative of hers and former Christian had became an
agnostic. Since that time shes been on a quest looking for why anyone would
reject the Christian faith and become an agnostic. She read some things Richard
Carrier had written, found David Woods website, and then found mine. It didnt
take her long.
She didnt know an atheist, until now. Or, better yet, she didnt know
anyone who claimed to be an atheist. At first she was shocked to learn I was an
atheist, and that I argued against Christianity. But since she knew me, she
figured here was a great place to start understanding the mind of an atheist.
Let me give you some background. Thirty five years ago I did not have a
doubt about my Christian faith. It was at that time when I went to a summer
weekend spiritual renewal conference and slept out under the stars with a
mutual friend, named Steve. I distinctly remember that night in our sleeping
bags looking up at the stars. I told Steve, ya know, there is nothing that the
Devil could ever do to cause me to doubt my faith.
It was during these few short years when around the age of 18 that we went
to the coolest Christian youth group. They had a Christian band every Friday
night, in the era when Christian rock music had just started. Names like Petra,
Chuck Girard, Larry Norman, and Keith Green, were regulars, and we went
every Friday night! On Monday nights Nancy Honeytree led us in praise and
worship. A group of us also met on Wednesdays together, for prayer and bible
study. On most Saturdays we would go street witnessing downtown to people
coming out of bars. I personally hitchhiked around town just to witness to
anyone who would pick me up, and I led many of these drivers to accept Jesus.
The group of us planned a weekend retreat once where we had a great time.
We also acted out some of the Bible stories. Since I had long blonde hair at the
time, they chose me to play the part of Jesus. [For the very last two church
dramas I was in, I was King Herod for a Christmas musical, and then I was Pilate
in an Easter musical. Go figure, but true. From Jesus to Pilate in 35 years! In case
you didn't know it, I can sing very well].
Brenda said I write very well, and I thanked her. I asked her if she thought I
was polite at DC. She hesitated at first, but then when she felt comfortable
enough to open up to me she said I sounded like an angry atheist. I was quite
surprised at this, but that was her reaction. If I come across as an angry atheist,
then I apologize. I know I do get frustrated at times. When Im called stupid, or
ignorant, I fire back, thats true. And its not beyond me to cuss at someone when

73

I feel maligned, I know. So Im sorry. The truth is, I am not an angry atheist,
except with a few Christians that purposely provoke me on a daily basis. Other
than that, I have nothing to be angry about. Ive already expressed why Im
debunking Christianity earlier in this book, and Im not doing so because Im
angry at God or Christians in general. The title to my Blog suggests that I am, but
it is only titled that way to grab peoples attention, and it has done its job
effectively. Maybe Blogging is an outlet for me to express things I wouldn't do in
person, since I value people and I really don't want to offend anyone I personally
know.
She wanted to tell me a story about how her son was miraculously healed. It
was an amazing story, about prayer and a brain tumor her son had. It's a story of
how prayer stopped his seizers, and that it dislodged the tumor away so that a
second surgery could successfully remove it. The neurosurgeon told her that it
was a miracle. She wanted me to Blog about it, but I will not touch that with a ten
foot pole, and I told her why. I will criticize miracles, yes, but not personal ones
that a Mother believes happened with the son she loves so dearly. That would be
rude. She believes its a miracle, and thats all that I want to say about it. She
wanted me to consider that and change my mind.
I simply told her that as an atheist I am not saying I know there isnt a God. I
merely dont think God exists. He might. But I just dont think so. I went on to
tell her that if a God exists, then I am about 99% certain that he isnt the 3 in 1
Triune God of the Bible, though.
She said even though we were close at one time she was nervous to visit
with me, thinking she might not be able to argue with me. I, however, didnt
want to argue with her. I told her that most people I know and are friends with,
and work for, dont even know Im an atheist. I told her that I dont go door to
door with flyers and try to convince anyone at all. ;-) She smiled. In person, you
may not even know what I believe. The closer as a friend someone gets to me the
more they know about what I believe, thats for sure, and sometimes we get into
an argument, but not often at all.
Just seeing her again had the greatest impact upon me, for it forced me to
recall an era when I simply had no doubts at all about my Christian faithnone.
It made me remember those great times we had, and it was all because we
shared the same faith.
She had with her a picture of a few of us at a reunion in 1995, when I was in
the throes of doubt. We had a great time that day too. I had a ball cap hat on. She
wondered if I had lost some hair from it, because I always wore hats. When she
knew me 35 years ago I had a grey hat, like the one the scarecrow from the
Wizard of Oz wore. She liked my cowboy hat though, and said it looks good on
me.
During our visit Brenda said Im the same person, personality wise, and that
I was just as friendly toward her as I had ever been. She was somewhat surprised
by this, I think, since many Christians seem to think atheists are bad people, and
maybe I had changed.
She was also very surprised that on my Blog I have several links to Christian
sites that argue against usvery surprised, and pleasantly so. As she said this I
asked myself why there aren't very many Christian sites that do likewise, in the
interests of a fair discussion of these issues.

74

I asked her if she had read any atheist books, and she said she was not going
to contribute any money to people who write such books. She was only going to
read what they write on the web. Many times before she reads what an atheist
writes she says a little prayer that God would not let her be led astray by what
she is about to read, and I found that interesting. I decided Id give her the
Loftus/Wood debate DVD on the problem of evil, and I handed it to her. I
figured that since David Wood is debating me that she could see both sides, and
I didnt think that would offend her. When I gave it to her, her eyes lit up. She
had read what David and I had written on our sites, but became pretty excited
about seeing the debate for herself. Then I decided Id ask her if she wanted a
copy of my book, and she said she did. She asked me to sign it, and I did. I wrote:
To Brenda, with many many fond memories of my Christian past. Youre still a
sweetheart.
She asked me if I will ever regret writing what I do and leading people
astray. I pondered that question, but I dont think I said anything. What I
thought as she said it was how far apart I am from where I started. I went from
not having any doubt at all about Christianity to having practically no doubt at
all that it is wrong. Its amazing to me as well. But it happened.
As she left I asked her if she thinks my book might adversely affect her faith.
Shes never studied the things I have been educated in, so she may not have the
answers to my arguments. But she can do searches on the web, and she does
have some Christian apologetic books, even though she didn't know who
William Lane Craig was.
My purpose with good friends like her is not to change her beliefs. Personal
friends of mine are different than the people I write for. I like her just the way
she is. As a good friend I accept her just the way she is, with her beliefs. She just
wants to know how atheists think. If her faith is adversely affected by reading
what I write, then I can't do anything about that.
Brenda, thanks for coming by. Tell your husband hello from us. The joy was
all mine. Thank you.

75

17. Interview with Infidelis Maximus


I recently conducted an interview with John W. Loftus, proprietor of the
Debunking Christianity blog, one of the better anti-Christian sites on the net.
John is a former Christian apologist and present day atheist, so he's got an
interesting story to tell.
IM: You were once a Christian, but now frequently debunk evangelical
Christian positions. How would you describe your religious beliefs at this point?
JWL: I have none.
IM: Describe your journey from belief to unbelief.
JWL: It was torturous, lonely, and lengthy, taking about five years. I first
suffered a crisis. I was the President of a homeless shelter where a man
threatened my life because of some lies the Executive director spread about me,
and I really believed he was going to kill me too. In the midst of this I was
confronted with the scientific evidence for the age of the universe, which
eventually led me to see that the creation accounts in Genesis were nothing but
folklore, including all of the stories in Genesis 1-11. Then I had some terrible
experiences in the church, which in turn forced me to realize that there is no
Holy Spirit guidance in the lives of believers. This road eventually led me to
reject Christianity and all gods along with it.
IM: Tell us about your book, why you wrote it, what it covers, etc.
JWL: This book has a history. I decided to come forward after watching Mel
Gibsons movie The Passion of the Christ. I wanted people in my local area to
know I was no longer a Christian and to tell them why I changed my mind. So I
put together some essays, and handouts from my college classes into a spiral
bound book to sell in the local bookstore. Later I self-published a version of this
into a paperback book. In my thinking I was done with Christianity with that
book. Ed Babinski and I traded books and he encouraged me, and so I revised it a
couple of more times. To my delight people like it very much. Its a complete and
almost comprehensive case from an insider to the Christian faith that is unique. I
tell about my conversion, my deconversion, and what eventually led me to
become an atheist. I end it by describing what life is without God. I present a
cumulative case against Evangelical Christianity that covers all of the important
Christian beliefs that persuaded me to think differently, like Christian morality,
science and religion, the arguments for the existence of God, miracles, the virgin
birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the incarnation, the atonement, hell, the devil, and
Jesus supposed resurrection from the dead.
IM: Why do you run the Debunking Christianity blog site? What unique
value do you feel it brings to the world of unbelief?
JWL: I chose the name to grab peoples attention, and thats all. I wanted it to
be a place where Christians and non-theists can debate these issues in a more or
less respectful environment. I wanted Christian people to deal with the
arguments I couldnt answer. I wanted to test my own ideas too. I wanted to
allow other team members to do the same. Its a unique Blog because the team
members on it are all former Christians, ex-ministers and even ex-apologists,

76

who had privileged access to the inner workings of the church and who know
what Christianity is all about.
IM: Which religion do you think needs debunking worse: Christianity or
Islam? Why?
JWL: Christianity has already gone through an Enlightenment. Most
Christians do not take the Bible at face value because of this. They cherry-pick
their ethics and their beliefs from out of the Bible even though they claim
otherwise. They allow dissent too. They no longer kill heretical people who
disagree, like professing Christians did in the Inquisition. Islam has not had its
own Enlightenment. There are still an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the
Middle East who take the passages in the Koran at face value, so many of them
consider themselves to be at war with the infidels in a religious sense. In a
nuclear age like ours with people who have these beliefs, I consider Islam to be
the biggest threat to civilization, especially since its the fastest growing religion
today. I just dont know enough about Islam to debunk it like I do with
Christianity.
IM: How do you respond to creationists who claim the clockwork perfection
of the universe demands the existence of a designer?
JWL: In the first place, this universe does not show evidence of perfection.
The problem of evil is probably the greatest obstacle to believing in the good,
omnipotent God of Christianity. In my book this is probably my best chapter
where I argue this universe speaks with loud empirical evidence against such a
God. There is evidence of unintelligent design everywhere which cancels out any
claim to intelligent design. I also would say with others that the God-hypothesis
does not explain how the Christian God gained the information he had to create
such a universe. With others, I ask, who designed the designer? How is it
possible for some triune being to exist eternally without ever learning anything
or growing incrementally? That is absolutely baffling to me. Dr. William Lane
Craig even used the word bizarre when he first started studying the options to
explain existence. Its bizarre that something exists rather than nothing at all. We
must start with a brute fact, either choice we make. With the late Carl Sagan I
simply save a step, by starting with the brute fact of this universe.

77

18. The Friendly Atheist Interview


Hemant Mehta: How strong of a Christian were you?
John W. Loftus: For a long time I had no doubts whatsoever about the
Christian faith. I was a believer, not just to the bone, but to the very marrow. I
was as passionate as one could get about the faith. That passion was what
motivated me to want to study about my faith, to preach it, and to defend it.
HM: Was your change to atheism sudden or gradual?
JWL: Perhaps the more entrenched one is both emotional and intellectual,
the longer of a process it is. The process for me took about twelve years, perhaps
due to the fact that I suppressed my doubts, perhaps because I was involved in
the church, perhaps because of my education. After six years I became a liberal
existential deist, who simply chose to believe in God and the afterlife. Then I
became an agnostic. I wrote my first book as an agnostic in 2004. Then I became
an atheist shortly afterward.
HM: When your doubts began to form, how did you justify your religious
faith before finally abandoning it?
JWL: Out of ignorance; at least, thats what I think now. I was blinded by my
upbringing to believe. I was raised to put on God glasses, which only allowed me
to see the world through Christian eyes. I discounted disconfirming evidence. I
didnt understand Biblical archaeology. I didnt understand the nature of
historical studies when it comes to supporting a historical religion like
Christianity. I didnt understand the true nature of the ancient superstitious and
barbaric writings found in the Bible. I didnt understand science. I didnt
understand that philosophy can be used to confirm what I wanted to believe, but
that what I believed could not be sustained by a true reading of canonized Bible.
I simply read the wrong books. Because of a blinding faith I just could not see
things differently.
HM: What were some of the reactions you received when you told others
you were no longer a Christian?
JWL: You need to seek counseling. I feel very sad for you. Most of the
Christians I knew simply asked me what happened, why did you change your
mind? Thats what prompted me to write my book, to help them understand.
Christians who never knew me while I was a believer drill me with questions
looking for anything that might evidence I was never was a true believer in the
first place.
HM: Do you think a Christian audience will read this book or will it just
reiterate to atheists what we already know? How do you get Christians to take a
look at a book like this?
JWL: I think many Christians will read this book, because I wrote it with
them in mind, not the skeptic. I treat their beliefs respectfully, too, without
demeaning them for believing, because I myself believed what they did with all
seriousness. I have a unique pedigree among evangelical thinkers as I studied
under some of the best of them, like Dr. Craig, Dr. Strauss, Dr. Paul Feinberg, Dr.

78

Kenneth Kantzer, Dr. Stuart C. Hackett, and Dr. Ronald Feenstra. There are
many books written on both sides of this great debate that merely preach to the
choir. Mine is not one of them. Most skeptics who read it will see, for perhaps
the first time, how Christian apologists defend their faith. I dont think most
skeptics understand Christianity enough to be able to deal effectively with
believers. So skeptics will learn some valuable lessons and arguments if they
want to convince believers they are deluded.
HM: How could you convince someone to become an atheist if theyre not
quite religious anymore but not yet ready to abandon their faith?
JWL: I dont know what will convince any particular person to become an
atheist, since that which is considered convincing to people is person-related.
There is an irreducible personal element involved in whether an argument is
convincing or not, in the absence of a mutually agreed upon repeatable scientific
experiment. That being said, I think the arguments in my book will push the
reader in that direction. The major goal in my book is not to convince people to
become atheists, though, although I do argue for this. My major goal is to do the
hard work of pushing Christians off of dead center. I aim to dislodge them from
their certainties, to provoke them to doubt; intensive doubt if possible. Where
they end up after I get them to think for themselves, without reliance on dogma
or an authoritative inspired book, will be up to them. But I show them the way if
they wish to follow in my path.
HM: What changed the most for you when you became an atheist?
JWL: Well, I didnt become a serial-killer, if thats what you mean Im the
same person I was when I believed. Nothing much has changed in that
department, except I dont go to church activities and I no longer feel guilt for the
lack of tithing or prayer or evangelism or unforgiveness, and so on and so on. I
feel, well, human!
HM: Where do you agree and disagree with the New Atheists?
JWL: I am grateful for the awareness these men have created among the
English speaking world. Just like the gays had to grab our attention by being
obnoxious, so also Dawkins in particular, had to treat religion in demeaning
ways to provoke believers to really think about what they believe. He treats the
monotheistic religions just like everyone else does to dead gods like Zeus or
Apollo or Poseidon. We easily dismiss these mythical characters. Sam Harris
reminds us that the sole difference is that the majority of people alive today
believe in the God of the Bible. Now that these New Atheists have
accomplished this rise in consciousness I want to treat the arguments of the
believers seriously, and show why they are deluded to continue believing in a
non-threatening, respectful manner.
HM: Are you optimistic about the future of atheism?
JWL: Yes, very much so. I think its the wave of the future, even if it is
sloughing along at a slow but steady pace. There will always be believers, of
course, but skepticism will continue to rise in the polls.

79

19. Some Advice for People Who Leave the Faith


I get asked several different kinds of questions from people who are leaving
and/or have left the Christian faith. Here are some of their questions and my
advice.
1. Now that Ive left the fold I need help in dealing with the loss and to recover from
the toxicity of my former beliefs. Is there a resource to help me deal with it all?
Yes, Dr. Marlene Winells book, Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former
Fundamentalists and Others Leaving the Fold, is a great resource. She also holds
Release and Reclaim weekend retreats for people who need to recover from an
authoritarian religion such as Christian fundamentalism.
2. Should I come out of the closet and tell people I no longer believe?
If you do, you need to realize that people will still like you, depending on
how you treat them. But if they don't like you after you tell them they probably
didn't like you before. It just means you've given them an excuse to say so.
Realize also that Jesus was the first one to say believers should be willing to
forsake family for him, so if there is a problem it's because of what Jesus
purportedly said, and another reason to come out against such stupidity. Life is
difficult. Get used to it. When you realize this you will at least no longer be
troubled that it is. But you can choose your battles. Ask if you can live with
yourself in hiding. Many of your forbearers suffered a great deal to make your
life as a non-believer better. Some were burned alive. If they can do that for your
freedom to speak out, then such a difficulty as yours should be considered minor
and met with courage. Above all skeptics like me need you. If every skeptic came
out of the closet people would get used to it. There is safety in numbers. Please
do your part.
In the end though, this is your choice. Youve seen what I have done. But I
am not you. I understand that it can be difficult and painful to do so, and maybe
its just better for you if you dont right now. But do it sometime. Do it in steps.
Baby steps.
3. How do I tell my wife and friends at church?
What I did as I was becoming an unbeliever was to express questions that
would be considered on the fringes of that which wouldn't alert people to the
fact that I took these questions seriously. I would ask, "what would you say if
someone said this....?" And I would then ask a tough question, but accept their
answers as if that settles it. Then I would do it again, and again, and again.
Christian people thought of me as playing the "Devil's Advocate," and they
actually liked my questions since it gave them a challenge. I didn't really deceive
people by doing this. I merely expressed the questions I was wrestling with as I
was questioning these things myself.

80

I would express my doubts to your spouse by slowly introducing the subject


with several "Devil's Advocate" type questions when reading the Bible. How
long I'd do this (for days, weeks, or months) would depend upon factors I don't
know about any particular situation. After planting these seeds I would simply
tell him or her that I was struggling with doubt. Your spouse would probably
recommend a book or tell you to talk to the preacher, and I would probably do
this. I would ask the preacher some of my questions and tell him I'm struggling
with doubt. He'd likely offer you some advice and some books to read. Then
when the time is right I'd tell my spouse I no longer believed. It would not be a
shock if you progressed slowly, naturally. This doesn't mean you should tell
everyone at that point, just your spouse. Explain to him or her why you don't
believe. Have her read my book. ;-) Then see where things go from there. At
some point you'd have to play it by ear after that.
In sum: use baby steps. Ask tough questions. Play the devil's advocate. Talk
it out as you study it out. Tell them only as much information as they can process
just like when telling your child about sex. Tell them you bought my book so you
can see what the other side is saying. Then raise the questions in my book and
ask them to answer these questions. Ask them to help you answer them. First tell
them you aren't going to church anymore. Later tell them you don't believe much
of the Bible. Still later say you don't believe. Then lastly tell them you're an
atheist. Or, you can wait till you finally arrived at a position and blurt it out. The
second way has shock effect, but I don't recommend it.
I learned from someone that when a Campus Crusade for Christ minister in
Michigan told his wife he no longer believed, she told him in turn that she didn't
either! This is the exception rather than the rule, but interesting nonetheless. I
wish you well. There are no pat answers.
4. What can I say to convince my wife and family that Christianity is a delusion?
I think we have this initial desire to convince everyone that were right,
especially our family members. We have this need to convince them we're not
crazy, and I understand that. But I'm here to tell you that you're not crazy. You
know that you're not. You know that you're right. You don't need validated by
others. They may never come around. If youre frustrated by the fact they cannot
accept your arguments, stop being frustrated with this. You will not be able to
convince many people. Get over it. They are brainwashed. They must want to
listen. They must want to consider what you have to say before they will do so.
Perhaps after you initial arguments have fallen on deaf ears you should just be
friendly. Talk about the things you did before you changed, minus the religion.
That may be all you can do. If they reject you as a person there's not much you
can do about it. My advice is to learn to accept that fact. My brother first
suggested I seek counseling. I argued back, like others have done. Then we
dropped it and decided to talk about the things we have in common. That's my
recommendation. There is no smoking gun argument...none. Sorry.
Just remember back to when you were a Christian. What did you think
about skeptics and atheists? Think really hard. You probably attributed what
they believed to the devil, right? Place yourself back in that mindset as best as
you can. That's what your family may think of you and your arguments. They

81

think youre being used of the devil to deceive them. There's no use in beating
your head against the wall on this. People are deluded just like you once were.
You're going to have to accept this fact. They will probably never agree with you.
As a Christian you accepted the fact that non-believers didn't believe
without wanting to beat them up with your arguments. Now do the same thing
as an atheist with believers. It'll be better psychologically for you. As a Christian
you focused on people who were receptive to the gospel. Now do likewise as an
atheist with believers. Focus on those people who are receptive to the evidence.
Continue searching for better arguments, of course. Get into online chat rooms
and test your skills to express yourself there, and not with former friends.
Former friends will want to see if what you're going through is a mid-life crisis, if
youre in that age group. It will take years until they figure out it isn't. But you
stand as a witness on the other side now. Once they conclude this is not a midlife crisis they may consider your arguments and may do their own searching.
5. Are there resources to help me free my kids from the Christian delusion?
You may want to get and read Dale McGowans book, Parenting Beyond
Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion (2007). You should get
a subscription to Michael Shermer's Skeptic Magazine, since it contains a nice
sized section written just for kids.
Beyond that there are skeptical meet ups that may be in your area. Get your
kids to meet and play with non-believing kids. Do a search for these groups at
http://www.meetup.com/. There are also skeptical groups associated with
Center for Inquiry that would help introduce your children to skeptical children.
Dan Barker has also written a few books for young skeptics like Maybe Yes,
Maybe No: A Guide for Young Skeptics, and, Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong: A
Guide for Young Thinkers.

82

20. Where's The Beef? And Where's the Evidence?


I've been thinking about the evidence for the Christian faith. I recently saw a
movie called Zodiac, which was about the Zodiac Killer who murdered several
people in northern California in the 60's and sent cryptic messages to taunt the
police. While there was plenty of circumstantial evidence that Arthur Leigh
Allen was the killer, there was no physical evidence to prosecute him. The
investigators also had to deal with counter physical evidence, since there was a
set of fingerprints in the blood of a taxi driver which didn't belong to Allen, and
Allen's handwriting did not match that of the Zodiac letters. The killings and the
messages have stopped since Allen died, but the case remains open.
So I got to thinking about this case with regard to the evidence for the
Christian faith: What physical evidence is there that can be shown to support the
Christian faith? What is the circumstantial evidence that points to the Christian
faith? What is the counter physical evidence to the Christian faith?
As far as physical evidence goes, there is none. There are no miracles taking
place today, no incarnations, no documented scientific studies which show
prayer works, no DNA evidence nor fingerprint of God evidence. The
complexity of this universe may be considered physical evidence of a God here,
but the vast amount of evidence for unintelligent design surely counters this
evidence. Okay so far?
As far as circumstantial evidence goes there is quite a bit. Here we have the
rise of the church, the behavior of the early disciples who were willing to die for
their faith, archaeological sites where the early disciples lived and preached, and
documents purportedly coming from the early disciples. The reason these things
are considered by me to be circumstantial evidence is because none of them
confirms that Jesus is God in the flesh and arose from the dead. They only show
people believed he did and that they lived and preached in actual cities.
There is plenty of counter physical evidence, as I mentioned with regard to
science in section one of this book. When it comes to evidence there is evidence
that supports what one believes, and then there is evidence that needs to be
explained away in order to continue believing. Who has the most evidence to
believe on their side? Who has to explain away more evidence in order to
maintain what he believes?
There is religious diversity spread out into distinct geographical locations
around the globe. With regard to the sociological fact that we believe based upon
when and where we are born, Christians will argue its still possible they have
the correct religious faith, even though the odds are they don't. Educated
Christians will admit that the philosophical arguments for the existence of God
all contain some holes in them. They will also admit that miracles by definition
must be extremely rare events but believe it's possible that the Biblical miracles
took place anyway. How often should a rational person believe something based
upon a possibility? Christians will also admit that along with modern people
they too seek a natural explanation for every event that they experience in

83

today's world, but despite their own modernity they believe supernatural events
took place in the Bible. Christians may also admit the surrounding cultures of the
Israelites and Christians were superstitious to the core, but maintain against the
evidence that Gods people were not children of their times. Christians must also
admit that by today's more civilized standards God acted in cruel ways in the
Bible. Christians must also admit that history isnt exactly a science in providing
a clear revelation from God since they're dealing with a historically conditioned
text of the Bible. Christians will argue that until I can prove God does not have a
good reason for allowing suffering in this world, they can still believe God is
good. Isn't it clear here that Christians are explaining away the evidence?
The evidence for Christianity is just not there, while the evidence that must
be explained away to believe is a massive amount.
Of the meager amount of positive evidence that does exist for the believer,
mostly circumstantial, I am under no rational obligation to accept it. Christian
philosopher Kelly James Clark describes what Im looking for when it comes to
the evidence. He wrote: Sometimes, even when we dont have a better
explanation of the evidence, it is more rational to reject the best explanation on
grounds of implausibility. Indeed, most of us regularly dismiss claims that we
find wildly implausible, not due to careful consideration of the evidence, but
simply because we judge them antecedently improbable. We do this with reports
of UFO sightings, many reports of miracles and magic, and with tales of ghosts
and dragons.Inference to wildly implausible best explanations requires a lot of
evidence (emphasis his). Indeed, the evidence must preponderate sufficiently to
swamp our initial skepticism of the implausible hypothesis in question. And the
more information included in the hypothesis in question, the more evidence is
required to make it rationally acceptable. [Five Views on Apologetics, ed.
Steven B. Cowan, pp. 140-141]. So even if there is some paltry amount of
evidence for the Christian faith, I can still reject it based on the initial grounds of
implausibility. Given everything I have ever experienced and learned through
my studies, its wildly implausible to think God became a man, atoned for our
sins, rose up from the dead, and will cast all sinners into hell. Dead people stay
dead, for instance. Paltry circumstantial evidence cannot overcome this initial
implausibility. It would require a lot of evidence, and thats something
Christianity does not have on its side.

84

21. Absence of Evidence and the Evidence of Absence


In the comments section of my review of Stenger's book, The God Failed
Hypothesis, a person raised an interesting question:
The common aphorism "Absence of evidence is [...?] evidence of
absence" is the same fallacious logic used by those who believe in some
deity. There's no difference between the following two versions of the
Appeal to Ignorance:
* There's no evidence to disprove X, therefore X exists.
* There's no evidence to prove X, therefore X doesn't exist.
I've had this discussion before, and it can be complex. Is there evidence for
Christianity or not? There is evidence. But what is it evidence of? Stenger claims
science can test the evidence, and when it does, there is a lack of evidence for
Christianity. Christians dispute this, of course, but Stenger makes a good case,
nonetheless.
Most all of the evidence on behalf of Christianity is that science cannot
explain everything, i.e., "if there's no evidence to disprove X, therefore X exists."
If science cannot fully explain consciousness, the origins of morality, logic, the
laws of science, and the origin of this universe itself, Christians take this as
evidence that their faith is true. This is called the God of the gaps defense. God is
to be found in the gaps of our knowledge.
There are twin problems for this kind of defense. One problem, as Martin
Gardner explains, is that there will always be gaps in our understandings
[Science and the Unknowable, Skeptical Inquirer, Nov-Dec, 1998]. Therefore,
there will always be room for the theist to believe. The other major problem is
that the believer is demanding an unreasonable standard before the evidence can
actually show her faith to be wrong. The believer is demanding that the evidence
must eliminate all possibility that what the believer claims is true. That's an
impossible evidential standard, as I've already argued in my other book. In no
other area of belief do we demand this impossible standard.
What the believer should admit is that at best, "if there's no evidence to
disprove X, therefore it's possible that X exists." But you see, since there are a
great many things that are possible but not actual, such a conclusion doesn't gain
the believer much ground at all. What we really want to know is whether the
evidence favors what one believes, that is, which view is most probably based on
the evidence?
Furthermore, the scientist does not claim "if there's no evidence to prove X,
therefore X doesn't exist." What she actually says is this: "if there's no evidence to
prove X, then X probably doesn't exist." Does this appeal to ignorance in the
same way as the believer does? I think not. Consider how science confirms
theories. Science confirms theories based upon logical fallacies. Consider this
scientific argument:

85

If scientific hypothesis P is true, then experiment Q will obtain.


Experiment Q obtains,
Therefore scientific hypothesis P is true.
The form of this argument is invalid. It looks like this:
P-->Q
Q
.: P
This is a fallacy called affirming the consequent, and yet that's how science
proceeds for the most part when it comes to confirming hypotheses. Science
doesn't prove hypotheses even if the experiment obtains, because the hypothesis
could still be false even if it does. Perhaps the experiment didn't actually test the
hypothesis accurately? Perhaps premise one is a non-sequitur?
If this is true of science in general, then it becomes even more problematic
when science investigates metaphysical beliefs. When it comes to these beliefs
there comes a point when one person's fallacy is another person's anomaly.
Think of it this way. If the claim is that the Russian government massacred
800 people in a farmland near Moscow in 1968, and there is no physical evidence
that they did, what should we conclude? At that point all we have is the lone
survivor's claim. Whether he is believable depends on whether we believe the
tale he tells and what we think the Russian government might have done to the
people he claims were killed.
What about the claim that Santa Claus or an Easter Bunny exists? What
about the claim that Zeus or Apollo exists? There is no scientific evidence for
such beliefs. None. So we must examine those claims pretty much the same way
we would do with the claim that the Russian government killed 800 people in
1968, with an exception. We would have an additional problem with believing in
so-called supernatural beings, since we have seen them come and go depending
upon the culture of those who believe.
As best as I can determine it, the phrase, "absence of evidence is evidence of
absence," merely describes how science operates. Science looks for evidence. If no
evidence is found the scientist doesnt believe. Its that simple. That's all science
can say, and it has done it's job well.
In a debate with Pete Slezak, William Lane Craig argued that the absence of
evidence counts as positive evidence against x, only in the case that if x did exist
then we should expect to see more evidence of xs existence than what we do
see. Of course hes right about this. But is it not patently obvious, given the
arguments in my other book, that there isnt much evidence to believe when its
also is patently obvious God wants us to believe or hell punish us in the afterlife
if we dont? The evidence of billions of people who do not believe is powerful
evidence that there is simply not enough evidence! [About this point see
Theodore Drange and J.L. Schellenbergs arguments, both of which are discussed
in The Improbability of God, eds., Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier, pp. 337-379,
390-426].

86

22. The Argument From the Scale of the Universe.


Here Ill attempt to defend Nicholas Everitts argument from the scale of the
universe. His arguments can be found on pages 215-226 in his book, The NonExistence of God, which Ill be quoting from.
When we talk about the scale of the universe we mean both the vastness of it
and its age. When I look at pictures of the universe I conclude that we human
beings live on a mere small pale blue dot that will last a short while and then
cease to exist. For nonbelievers like me there is strong intuitive appeal that this
universe is not what wed expect if theism is true.
Nicholas Everitt makes an argument based on these facts from the scale of the
universe. He puts the question this way:
"Is the universe as it is revealed to us by modern science roughly the sort
of universe which we would antecedently expect a God of traditional theism
to create? The short answer to this is 'No'. In almost every respect, the
universe as it is revealed to us by modern science is hugely unlike the sort of
universe which the traditional thesis would lead us to expect." (p. 216) The
evidence, he says, by itself is not very strong, certainly not overwhelming,
but it is nonetheless significant. (p. 213)
Everitt writes:
Traditional theism would lead you to expect human beings to appear
fairly soon after the start of the universe. For, given the central role of
humanity, what would be the point of a universe which came into existence
and then existed for unimaginable aeons without the presence of the very
species that supplied its rationale? You would expect humans to appear after
a great many animals, since the animals are subordinate species available for
human utilization, and there would be no point in having humans arrive on
the scene needing animals (e.g. as a source of food, or clothing, or
companionship) only for them to discover that animals had not yet been
created. But equally, you would not expect humans to arrive very long after
the animals, for what would be the point of a universe existing for aeons full
of animals created for humanity's delectation, in the absence of any humans?
Further, you would expect the earth to be fairly near the centre of the
universe if it had one, or at some similarly significant location if it did not
have an actual centre. You would expect the total universe to be not many
orders of magnitude greater than the size of the earth. The universe would
be on a human scale. You would expect that even if there are regions of the
created world which are hostile to human life, and which perhaps are
incompatible with it, the greater part of the universe would be accessible to
human exploration. If this were not so, what would the point be of God
creating it?

87

These expectations are largely what we find in the Genesis story (or
strictly, stories) of creation. There is, then, a logic to the picture of the
universe with which the Genesis story presents us: given the initial
assumptions about God, his nature, and his intentions, the Genesis universe
is pretty much how it would be reasonable for God to proceed. Given the
hypothesis of theism and no scientific knowledge, and then asked to
construct a picture of the universe and its creation, it is not surprising that
the author(s) of Genesis came up with the account which they did. (pp. 215216).
Everitt argues that this universe is not what we would expect to find prior to
our discovery of the scale of the universe given the supposition of classical
theism, where "God decides to create a universe in which human beings will be
the jewel" of his creation, and of whom "God will have an especial care for
human beings." (p. 215).
He puts his argument into this form:
(1) If the God of classical theism existed, with the purposes traditionally
ascribed to him, then he would create a universe on a human scale, i.e. one
that is not unimaginably large, unimaginably old, and in which human
beings form an unimaginably tiny part of it, temporally and spatially.
(2) The world does not display a human scale. So,
(3) There is evidence against the hypothesis that the God of classical
theism exists with the purposes traditionally ascribed to him. (p. 225).
He admits the limited nature of this conclusion when he says, it is not a
proof of the falsity of theism. We can also add that as presented, it does not even
claim that theism is probably false, although, the argument is not negligible.
The findings of modern science tell against the truth of theism. (p. 226). There
is indeed a mismatch between the universe as revealed to us by modern science
and the universe which we would expect, given the hypothesis of theism. (p.
225).
The crucial premise seems to be the first one. A key supposition is that
human beings will be the jewel" of Gods creation, and of whom "God will have
an especial care for human beings." (p. 215). Its based upon what we would
expect from such a God given the purposes traditionally ascribed to him.
Hes asking us what we would expect to find before we had any scientific
knowledge about the universe, given the fact that mankind is the pinnacle of
creation in that universe. It concerns what one would predict based upon what
one believes, since being able to accurately predict something confirms what one
believes (whereas not being able to do so, is disconfirming evidence). As far as
what one should expect given the existence of some x, there is a big difference
between (1) finding what we expect to find given x, and (2) finding something
different than what we expect to find given x. When one thinks about this it
becomes obvious that (1) is to be considered evidence on behalf of x, whereas (2)
is to be considered counter-evidence against x. This argument is similar to Rawls
veil of ignorance. What would you expect to find give theistic assumptions
about Gods purposes before actually experiencing the world?

88

Everitt illustrates what he's doing with a figure like Robinson Crusoe, who
wonders whether or not after the shipwreck there is another survivor on the
island. Given such a hypothesis, Crusoe should be able to make some predictions
about what that other survivor would do, such that, if he did them Crusoe would
see signs that he did (like marks on the trees, whistling, singing, having fires at
night, and so forth). Things that confirm his expectations constitute evidence that
there is another survivor. Things that don't confirm his expectations constitute
evidence against there being another survivor.
What Everitt is Not Arguing For. Let me start by explaining what Everitt is
not arguing for. In an online chapter from Richard Purtill's 1974 book, Reason to
Believe, Purtill argues with an entirely different argument when he wrote:
Christianity arose when the universe seemed a smaller and cozier affair.
Now that science has shown us the true age and size of the universe, we can
no longer accept the idea of a God who is personally concerned with our
conduct or our consciences. If any creative power is the cause of the physical
universe it has no interest in us. The idea of God explains nothing and
changes nothing. For modern man, God is dead.
Purtill continues:
"Now this is hardly worthy of the name of argument. From 'the universe is
very large and old' it does not follow that 'God takes no interest in man'
unless we add further premises. And as we will see, these further premises
have no plausibility at all. But the emotional force of the size and age of the
universe, once it is imaginatively grasped, is very great. To many people the
universe, as science shows it to us, does not feel like the sort of universe
which would be made by a personal god. And since many people think
mainly with their emotions, there seems to them to be an argument."
This isnt what Everitt is arguing for. Purtill is discussing an emotional
argument where it seems as though God couldnt be that interested in us if he
created such a vast universe. He answers this difficulty by saying that since God
is infinite he can indeed pay attention to human beings on a tiny pale blue dot
called earth. And while I think this particular difficulty does indeed have a great
deal of emotional force to it from my perspective, I'd have to agree with Purtill
that it is a purely emotional one, and as such, is probably not an argument that
would convince believers. Everitt's argument is not an emotional one. It does not
suffer the same fate as what Purtill argues against.
That being said, I do not believe human beings are logical machines. We are
influenced to believe what we do by our social backgrounds, peer pressure
groups, dreams, aspirations and emotions. And as such there can be no complete
separation from what one feels and what one thinks. There will always be a
component of emotion included in our logical evaluations of these matters, and
vice versa. I know people, smart people, who can logically defend something
that they believe entirely for emotional reasons. How else can those of us who
disagree with the Mormons or the Muslims explain what they believe any other

89

way? And for this same reason the emotional force of the problem of
evil/suffering is not one to be taken lightly either.
Again, Everitt argues that this universe is not what we would expect to find
given the supposition of the classical God of Christianity, where "God decides to
create a universe in which human beings will be the jewel" of his creation, and of
whom "God will have an especial care for human beings." (p. 215).
Everitts argument is also not about whether certain present day beliefs about
theism are essential to theism. Peter van Inwagen wrote:
A lot of what theists believed about the mundus [the physical universe]
and its contents has turned out to be wrong: that the earth is at its center, for
example, that God had created it in essentially its present form about four
thousand years before the birth of Christ, that a living organism can exist only
if a rational agent has imposed the form definitive of its species on a
particular parcel of matter .... But none of these theses was essential to theism,
and theists, a few radical and intellectually marginalized Protestants apart,
gave them up with less fuss than atheists have generally displayed in giving
up the idea of a physical universe that has an eternal, uniform past. [van
Inwagen, "Reply to Sean Carroll," Faith and Philosophy, vol. 22, 5, 2005, p.
637].
Van Inwagens point can be granted. For there is indeed nothing on hindsight
that is essential to theism which demands a smaller, human scaled universe. In
one sense what theists consider essential to theism has and is continually
changing anyway, with the advancement of science. In any case, the issue
concerns what theists would've expected (and did in fact expect) prior to the
advancement of modern science with the discovery of the large scaled universe
we all live in.
The Argument Confirms My Expectations. There is just something about
Everitts argument that resonates with me. It confirms my expectations, and as
such confirms for me that God doesnt exist. I think the argument is a good one
even if theists and skeptics themselves might disagree with me. Its no reason to
cease making a particular argument merely because people disagree with you on
both sides of the fence. If anyone thinks this is not a good argument then please
tell me what a good argument against Christian belief looks like. Does everyone
have to agree that it's a good argument before it is one? In my view most
arguments between us serve only to confirm what we each separately believe
anyway. I don't even see a reason why my intellectual opponents must agree that
an argument is a sound one before it can be said to be a good one. Remember, a
sound argument is deductively valid with true premises. So until we can all
agree what makes an argument a good one, dont say this is not a good one.
Come up with the criteria you use to say this argument is not a good one, and
then I'll see how that applies to your pet arguments.
Richard Carrier apparently agrees with Everitt and me on this when he wrote:
For the Christian theory does not predict what we observe, while the
natural theory does predict what we observe. After all, what need does an
intelligent engineer have of billions of years and trillions of galaxies filled

90

with billions of stars each? That tremendous waste is only needed if life had
to arise by natural accident. It would have no plausible purpose in the
Christian God's plan. You cannot predict from "the Christian God created
the world" that "the world" would be trillions of galaxies large and billions of
years old before it finally stumbled on one rare occasion of life. But we can
predict exactly that from "no God created this world." Therefore, the facts
confirm atheism rather than theism. Obviously, a Christian can invent all
manner of additional "ad hoc" theories to explain "why" his God would go to
all the trouble of designing the universe to look exactly like we would expect
it to look if God did not exist. But these "ad hoc" excuses are themselves pure
concoctions of the imagination--until the Christian can prove these
additional theories are true, from independent evidence, there is no reason
to believe them, and hence no reason to believe the Christian theory. [Why
I Am Not a Christian, found at http://www.infidels.org/library, section 4,
Christianity Predicts a Different Universe].
I think Everitts argument is sound, and convincing, but as he admits, it does
not show theism is probably false. That being said, I think a stronger version of
his argument can be made against evangelical Christianity which believes the
Bible is Gods Word, regardless of whether or not they are young earth
creationists, although, given the age of the universe at 13.5 billion years, it
probably applies more to evangelicals who believe the universe is that old. Its to
evangelical Christianity I will henceforth argue my case, and as such, the rest
that follows should be considered my own argument, not Everitts, although I
use his argument as a basis for mine. I will attempt to draw the conclusion that
evangelical Christianity is probably false from what follows.
There is no understandable reason why God had to create such a large
universe on such a scale if the drama on earth is the most important game in
town. If God wanted a cosmic showdown with the Devil then all he needed to
create was a flat disk, or a huge room, or the earth alone, without any stars.
There would be no understandable reason for creating anything else, if the
struggle for human hearts was the main (and probably the only) reason for
creating in the first place, which is what I'm told. It doesnt make sense. Its not
what one would expect, even being cautious with what wed expect.
This argument depends to some degree on whether or not God might have
other purposes for creating such a universe even granting mankind as the jewel
of his creation, and whether or not, given the existence of an infinitely creative
mind, he wouldve made the universe on such a scale as we find it. I will deal
with these objections a bit later.
Biblical Support. Let me offer some Biblical support for the claim that human
beings are the apex of Gods creation. The Bible strongly indicates that humans
are so valuable to God that he created it all just for us. Then God visited us, died
for our sins, and accepts the saints into heaven and casts sinners into hell.
The Bible leads believers to think they lived in the center of the universe
which was small in scope, which I laid out in my other book. Just take a look at
what the Bible says about the universe. Read this with a pre-scientific, not with
an ex post facto post-scientific reader's viewpoint, and it's clear what they
probably believed. See diagram, below. This is especially so when we consider

91

that the creation account in Genesis 1 starts first with the earth being formed out
of the chaotic waters (not creat
created).
ed). Later (on the 4th day) the universe of stars is
created to surround it. It is very probable that pre-scientific
pre scientific ancient people
thought this way about the universe.

It doesn't take much theology to see that mankind is the apex, or the most
important reason for creation.. Take the following conclusions from scholars:
"The biblical view starts with the assertion that the eternal God has created
man, the most significant of all his created works." Man is not only Gods
creation, but the pinnacle of his creative
creative effortman is distinct, the high point of
Gods creative work, the apex of his handicraft. The progression of the created
things in Genesis 1 is climatic; all of Gods created work culminated in his
fashioning of man. - Ronald B. Allen "Man, Doctrine
Doctr
of" Baker Encyclopedia of
the Bible.
"Having first called the earth into existence with its various requisites for
human life, God then declared for the making of man. The impression that the
Genesis account gives is that man was the special focus of G
God's
od's creative
purpose. It is not so much that man was the crown of Gods creative acts, or the
climax of the process, for although last in the ascending scale, he is first in the
divine intention. All the previous acts of God are presented more in the natu
nature
re of
a continuous seriesThen God said, Let us make man. Then
Then--when?
when? When the
cosmic order was finished, when the earth was ready to sustain man. Thus while
man stands before God in a relationship of created dependence, he has also the
status of a uniquee and special personhood in relation to God." - H. D. McDonald
"Man, Doctrine of." Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.
Theology
"Man reflects God in a unique manner. Man is thus different from other forms
of created organic life, over which he has been given dominion...he
dominion...he reflects the
Creator in a way unparalleled by anything else in creation." - R.K. Harrison, "Old
Testament Theology" Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.
Theology
"Genesis 1:26-30
30 shows human beings as the crown of creation...the image of
God...probably means that God makes beings with whom he can communicate

92

and who can respond, because, in contrast to the rest of nature, they are like him.
So humanity receives the divine blessing and is given the role of God's viceregent...to have dominion or control over the future course of the world." - J.R.
Porter "Creation" The Oxford Companion to the Bible.
"The Genesis account of creation accords to man a supreme place in the
cosmos." - "Man," New Bible Dictionary.
"...the creation of humanity is surely accented as the climactic achievement of
Gods creative activity." - The Anchor Bible Dictionary (1:1166)
The reason I pulled these quotes out of dictionaries and encyclopedias, both
conservative and liberal, is because they usually express the prevailing
consensus on such matters, and each one of them was written by a scholar in
their own right who had published articles and books on this topic.
According to these scholars the creating of human beings is the culmination
of creation itself, the crown of creation, the apex of creation and as vice-regents
over it they are surely to be considered the reason for creation itself, if not the
most important reason for creation.
And they do so for good reason. Isaiah 45:18 says: For this is what the Lord
sayshe who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the
earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be
inhabited.
That is, the purpose of creation ("heavens" and "earth") was that it should be
inhabited. Coupled with the fact that in Genesis God tells human beings they are
the rulers of his creation and made in his image, they are the purpose for God
creating it in the first place.
The testing of our souls and redemption itself confirms this viewpoint. In the
case of Job the testing of his soul had significance for the unseen heavenly world,
or at least, so say evangelical commentators. God even visited earth in his Son to
redeem not only sinful humanity, who caused this whole mess (as provoked by
Satan), but creation itself, or so say conservative exegetes.
Pauls interpretation of the fall also supports this view, for he says it
adversely affected all creation (Romans 8:19-23): The creation waits in eager
expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to
frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in
hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and
brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the
whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the
present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of
our bodies.
Paul said all of creation (i.e. the universe itself and all creatures living in and
depending on that universe) was adversely affected by Adam and Eves sin, so
that means if Paul is correct, and if there are aliens, then they were also adversely
affected by what Adam and Eve did. This would strongly suggest that aliens are
also under our rule and that their status before God is below ours. Paul also
wrote that Christ is reconciling all things unto himself whether they be things in
earth, or things in heaven. (Col 1:20).
I think Pauls theology of the fall and of reconciliation demand that what
happens on earth through human beings as the apex of Gods creative

93

handiwork and through the God-man Jesus, affects all of creation, which
includes the whole universe, according to the Bible.
In the gospel of Matthew (16:19) we also learn that what the apostles bind and
loose on earth will be bound and loosed in heaven, and that could only mean the
church is Gods ruling representatives in the universe as a whole?
If passages as these (and others) do not indicate that what happens on earth
by humans is the most important game in all of creation, or that Christians who
believed the Bible before the rise of modern astronomy shouldve known better
than to believe what this implies, then I simply am at a loss for words. The word
delusionary comes to mind.
Consider also that when it comes to the problem of evil and the free will God
supposedly granted to human beings, its typically argued by Christians that
God wanted free willed creatures who could freely choose to love him, and as
such human beings are the only ones who can make that choice without being
directly in the presence of Gods power. It assumes humans are the reason for
God having created in the first place.
While the following words are not found in the Bible they are used by
theologians to describe the importance of the creation of mankind. What does the
dictionary say about them?
Apex
1. "highest point: the highest point of something
2. most successful point: the most successful part of something, especially
somebody's career or life
Culmination
1. highest point: the highest, most important, or final point of an activity
2. act of culminating: the arrival at, or the bringing of something to, a climax.
Climax
1. vti reach key point: to reach the most important or exciting point in
something such as an event or a story, or bring something to its most important
or exciting point
Crown
3. top-ranking title: a title or distinction that signifies victory or supreme
achievement
4. uppermost part: the top part of something, especially a hill
Now, does this suggest that the sole reason for creation was to create
humankind? I think so, for according to the Bible if the apex, or crown, or climax
of creation, humankind, was not created, then it would not be "good."
It is argued that Psalm 8 says otherwise. Some have argued that along with
Psalms 8; 144:3, and the ending of Job that man is insignificant, and thats true.
But insignificant compared to what? Human beings are insignificant compared
to God alone, but that says nothing against the idea that human beings are the
apex of his creation. Its entirely consistent for man to be the reason for creation
and at the same time for God to be so above mankind that the Psalmist can
wonder why God even bothers with us.
Others argue based upon Psalm 8 that human beings are "lower than angels."
But this is clearly based upon an obvious mistranslation and a misinterpretation.

94

Lets take a good look at Psalm 8:3-8 (New American Standard Bible):
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
The Psalmist is not conceiving of the type of universe we do today, as weve
seenby far.
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Notice this is a case of Hebrew parallelism for future reference below. The
first phrase is paralleled by the second one, even though no parallel phrase is
exactly similar in all respects. Man = son of man; thought of = care for.
This is basic wisdom literature exegesis here.
So if by the word man the Biblical writer thought of the phrase son of
man, then this same phrase, when applied to Jesus, must mean little more than
what it means here. If, however, the phrase son of man, when applied to Jesus,
means son of God, then all human beings should be considered "sons of God.
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
Again, a Hebrew parallelism. God is crowned with unique glory and majesty
that none other receives, so also God crowns man with glory and majesty no
other creation receives.
In any case, Hebrews 2 is obviously a misinterpretation of this Psalm, since
the Hebrew writer is speaking exclusively about Jesus as the son of man who
was made lower than the angels by virtue of being born a man. In Psalm 8 it was
humankind itself that was made lower than God. The author of Hebrews
understood Psalm 8 primarily as messianic and eschatological. Yet there is no
reason to read it as such in the Psalm itselfnone! In Hebrews, not . . . mankind,
as in Psalm 8, but Jesus is awarded this dominion in the world to come. That the
Hebrews author was not just now introducing this subject is made plain by the
expression about which we are speaking in Heb. 2:5.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (2:784),
has this to say about the thoughts of the writer of the book of Hebrews:
"He was thinking here primarily of Jesus (Heb. 2:9). No doubt the familiar
messianic designation Son of Man (v. 6) contributed to this understanding.
Thus, he asserted, while total dominion over the created order is not yet His,
Jesus is at last seen as crowned with glory and honor because He suffered
death. The One so crowned was made a little lower than the angels for the
very purpose of dying, that is, that by the grace of God He might taste death
for everyone. This last statement is best understood as the purpose of the
Lords being made lower than the angels in His Incarnation."
If anyone else misinterpreted a text in this manner Christians themselves
would laugh at him or her. The only thing the Hebrews writer does say when
comparing angels to mankind is this rhetorical question: Are not all angels

95

ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Heb. 1:14, and
this makes my point.
About Psalm 8:5, where it uses the word Elohim translated "God" above, The
Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (1:797) says this:
"The KJV followed the Septuagint (LXX) in translating this word
angels. The NIV has chosen heavenly beings, which follows the same
interpretation. Though in some cases lhm may refer to angels, this is not
its main meaning. Man was created as Gods own representative on earth,
over the Creation, but lower than God. David was amazed that God should
exalt finite man to such a place of honor.
There is a no word for word equivalence between Hebrew and Greek words
such that the LXX accurately represents the Hebrew lhm. Nonetheless its
illegitimate to base an interpretation on a Greek translation of a Hebrew word,
just as it is to base a belief based upon a mistranslation of the context of a whole
passage.
Evangelicals might want to affirm the fact that the author Hebrews renders
"Elohim" (gods) as (angels) suffices to clarify the meaning of the Psalm
within biblical theology (Heb. 2:7). But this opinion is nothing different than
saying this: "The Bible said it; I believe it; that settles it." Hebrews 2 is clearly
based on a misinterpretation of the text of Psalm 8 as well as a mistranslation of a
word in it. The Hebrews writer used the Septuagint translation which had
already previously rendered "Elohim" as . Is the LXX inspired? Tell me!
And does inspiration guarantee that what the Bible says is accurate even when it
can clearly be shown to be incorrect? How is this possible?
Biblical scholar Hector Avalos informs me about the translation of Elohim and
wrote this (via email):
The translation of 'elohim as "god(s)" in Psalm 8:5 is not controversial
anymore, and is accepted in the following translations:
NRSV: "lower than God."
REV: "less than a god"
NAB: "less than a god"
NJB: "less than a god."
To be more literally accurate, less than the gods would be better because
Elohim is plural. This is also the opinion of Mitchell Dahood, the Catholic
biblical scholar, in his commentary on the Psalms I:-1-50 (Anchor Bible; New
York: Doubleday, 1965), p. 51. He translates it, "Yet you have made him a
little less than the gods" (p. 48).
Man was created a little lower than the gods, which reflects a polytheistic
religious viewpoint. In order to soften the polytheistic implications of this
the translators do some interesting things with this Hebrew word.

96

You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;


You have put all things under his feet,
Again Hebrew parallelism. But notice the phrase works of Your hands here.
That phrase can only parallel the earlier phrase the work of Your fingers in
verse 3 above, and this refers to the heavens, which include the moon and the
stars.
Only one evangelical conclusion about the central role of man can come from
for a correct reading of Psalm 8, human beings are the highest creation, even
above angels. Man is just a little lower than God himself. If God created angels
they are below man.
All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
This is what the Psalmist thought all creation involved. Its crystal clear he
said mankind rules over all the works of Gods hands earlier, and here he tells us
what this means. There are no references to aliens or angels. Maybe he just didnt
think they existed or that they just didnt compare to the status of mankind, I
cannot say what he may have thought. But in either case, since the theists I write
to believe this Psalmist was inspired to write Gods words, then they have a
problem with the scale of the universe, for this Psalm affirms what Genesis 1-2
and Romans 8 affirm about mankind being the apex of Gods creation.
Even if angels are higher in status than mankind, they are not higher in status
with regard to the creation of this universe, the mundus (physical creation).
Angels apparently are like ghosts, not limited to the physical universe. We are
not told when angels were created. Genesis speaks only about the universe of
things that God supposedly created. And of them mankind is the highest
creation, the climatic reason for it all, which speaks directly to the issue of how
large we should expect this physical universe to be.
Christians can object that God had other purposes in creating the universe.
One such purpose in creating a universe that is old and vast is to demonstrate to
them His power and sovereignty based upon what Paul says in Romans 1:20:
For since the creation of the world Gods invisible qualitieshis eternal power
and divine naturehave been clearly seen, being understood from what has
been made
Yes, this is indeed part of Gods goal to be glorified, which is his preeminent
goal above all goals according to Calvin. This just means that God has several
goals: 1) To be glorified; 2) By displaying his power and his love for his creation;
3) by redeeming his human representatives from Satan and sin.
These are his main goals, and I dont deny them. These things are noncontroversial. Romans 1:20 does not say that Gods purpose in creation was to
show his power, only that his power is seen in creation. And even given that
Gods goal was to display his power in creation, it still does not say anything
about HOW God intended to display his power. Its clear in the Bible that Gods
power is seen best in redemption in his defeat of the mythical beast of Satan,
along with sin in the lives of his human representatives, the only ones made in

97

his image. Its very clear he created a world as a cosmic stage with man as the
apex for this redemptive drama to unfold.
Someone suggested there might be other goals for Gods having created this
present universe, like 1) to get people to wonder if there is a God who made all
of this, 2) to cause people to reflect on his glory and power (i.e. worship); 3) to
humble us; 4) to show us how important we are to him, how much he cares, etc
But if my argument here is successful then the scale of this universe is actually
counter productive to achieving these goals.
Here is a powerful analogy: Since theists are so fond of the parental analogy
when it comes to the problem of evil, let me offer one that actually works when it
comes to the scale of the universe. Lets say a great great great great great
grandfather makes a playhouse for his children to play in the size of the United
States, which no one else is to use until they are born. And they learn through a
last will and testament that he made it for them (evangelicalism). The playhouse
was created expressly and exclusively for them. In it are placed all kinds of
animals which have been living in it and reproducing at devouring one another
since he placed them in it. Birds, kittens, puppies, gerbils, hamsters, small turtles
along with various bugs as well as all kinds of predators like lions, tigers, bears,
spiders, scorpions, and snakes. They are told o do with it what they want (given
a few rules as the creator/great greatgrandfather). It does not belong to anyone
else.
These children would expect that this playhouse would be on a child's scale.
They would not expect adult things in it, like lions, tigers and bears, high
windows they cannot reach or see out, chasms they could not cross, levels they
cannot reach, or areas they could not even see, much less even visit. This is what
they should expect, and this is obviously so.
Now the great greatgrandfather might have reasons for doing otherwise
than they expect, but what would they be? It is, after all, the childs playhouse,
created on a childs scale. Not even other adults could figure out why a father
would create an adult scaled playhouse for children, much less could the
children themselves figure it out. So it would quite naturally lead the children to
question the intelligence or kindness of their great greatgrandfather (since they
cannot question his existence, which is what they would do if, like us, they never
saw him). But in our case with our universe we do question the existence of God
given our so-called playhouse, which was not created on a human scale.
God should have "gotten down to the business of creating humans right away
instead of wasting time on dinosaurs and sabre tooth tigers and wooly
mammoths" precisely because of amount of animal suffering that took place
prior to the arrival of mankind. I see an obvious connection with my analogy
here. It was a waste if man is the apex of creation, especially if there was so much
needless suffering due to the law of predation in the natural world (which is
morally baseless and unnecessary), there are no moral lessons for animals to
learn from their sufferings, and since there is no reward for them in heaven after
they die.
Historical Evidence for These Expectations. I also think there is historical
evidence that the church as a whole expected a smaller universe with the earth at

98

the center of it, although there are a few notable theologians who thought
otherwise. The evidence from Christian history is that they did in fact think the
earth was the center of a small universe with man the apex of creation based
upon Biblical passages.
An overwhelming number of Christians prior to the rise of modern science
believed they were on a fixed planet in the center of a very small universe
compared to what we have found. Just see Dantes universe as depicted in his
monumental poem, the Divine Comedy. This book was extremely influential in
depicting the universe as it was believed to exist by the masses of Christians
without being censored by the influential theologians and heresy hunters [see
Diagram next page].
"It is widely considered the central epic poem of Italian literature, and is
seen as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem's imaginative
vision of the Christian afterlife is a culmination of the medieval world-view as
it had developed in the Western Church. It helped establish the Tuscan dialect
in which it is written as the Italian standard. [Wikipedia, The Divine Comedy].
Dante's Divine Comedy was believed to depict the known universe. I don't
think this can be reasonably denied. This is how they thought about the world.
Take a good look at that universe. THATS WHAT MOST PEOPLE EXPECTED
PRIOR TO HAVING SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE. As such the force of my
argument is related to what they expected. If most people expected something
different than what was found then that's some pretty strong evidence for what
Everett, Carrier and I argue for, which is contrary evidence to the Christian
theistic hypothesis.
The church tried and convicted Galileo for his ideas and placed Galileos book
on the banned list. Descartes refused to publish his book The World after
Galileo was arrested and tried. Does that not count as slowing down the progress
of science? When it came to surgeries, the medical need for cadavers, and every
INNOVATIVE type of advance, I think Christianity either slowed the progress of
science or tried to stop it. Remember, every INNOVATIVE type of progress.
Stem cell research is just a recent example. Of course, in situations where the
church had no power to stunt the growth of science then thats a different matter.
In fact, given the Galileo debacle as propagated by the Philosophes of an earlier
day, precisely because God did not communicate to his people accurate
information about the true size and scale of the universe, the Bible and the
church lost credibility in the eyes of many people. The Galileo debacle has been
used rightly or wrongly as disastrous for the credibility of the church and the
Bible as a whole. Because God failed to tell us about the scale of the universe it
has led many to see the Bible as written by non-inspired superstitious people.
Some creationists, like Hugh Ross, claim God needed to create such a vast
and old universe in order for the earth to exist with the right conditions to
support human life as we know it. But this is the lamest argument of them all in
my opinion. Why? Because Ross and other Christian theists believe God is
omnipotent such that he created the laws of the universe in the first place! So if
God is this omnipotent deity and if he created the laws of the universe, then he
couldve merely created a small planet containing human beings; and that's it.

99

This is just obvious to me. But even if I grant them their point, it doesnt even
matter, for this same God is supposedly a miracle working God. Even if it was
metaphysically impossible for God to create the earth as it is without a vast
universe because he couldn't create nature's laws differently, then this says
nothing at all against God performing perpetual miracles. If he is a miracle
working God he could indeed have created a terrestrial biosphere that would
sustain human life even if the laws of nature would not allow it. All it would

100

take are a few perpetual miracles. As far as theists know, the laws of nature are
themselves just perpetual miracles created by God anyway.
Placing This Argument in a Larger Context. Finally let me place this whole
argument into a larger context. There is no good reason for God to have created
anything at all, much less a universe so vast and old. If God did create a world,
given his stated purposes in the Bible, it seems to me he would not create
animals in the first place, or if he did, he wouldnt have them exist for hundreds
of thousands of years before the apex of his creation came on the scene,
especially since animals are not needed, they experience a great deal of suffering
due to the law of predation (which is morally baseless and unnecessary), there
are no moral lessons for animals to learn from their sufferings, and since there is
no reward for them in heaven after they die.
This whole argument is but another example of where God did not
communicate effectively to his people. He did not clearly and unequivocally
condemn witch hunts, Inquisitional trials and tortures leading to death, or brutal
slavery. Nor did he condemn wars fought for religious causes like the Crusades.
Also, there is no clear prophecy that was stated prior to an event that clearly
applies to a distant future event that cannot be chalked up to mere wishful
thinking, or luck. God not only did NOT create our bodies with a stronger
immune system, he didnt even give us instructions from the get-go on how to
discover penicillin, much less even tell us that such a thing is possible and that
we should look for it while perhaps millions of people died before we discover it,
and thats just one such discovery.
There are so many things God did not tell us in advance that it sometimes
amazes me Christians think he exists. Let me just ask the believer to show me
something, anything, even one thing, that we find in the Bible that could not
have been spoken by an ancient person of his times, such that what he said could
only be attributed to his having divine knowledge. It cannot be done. The
evidence is that there is nothing in the Bible that could not have been said by a
human being living in that day and timeNOTHING. The Bible is a human
product coming from superstitious ancient people.
Christian responses to this problem are ex post facto ones, after the fact. They
claim an omnipresent God didn't have to create a small universe or the earth in
its center, and I understand their reasoning, given after-the-fact explanations,
once the facts have been established. But what Everitt and I are talking about is
what one would expect beforehand! Christians do the same thing with slavery.
Most Christians today claim the Bible was clear about slavery and that slave
holders in the American South were stupid about the Bible and immoral. But
again, that's ex post facto reasoning too. There were many powerful Biblical
passages that supported what they believed about slavery, just as there were
many powerful Biblical passages that supported Dante's Universe. It's obvious
that ex post facto arguments have little effect on this argument precisely because
they are ex post facto.
We should be privy to that which would provide a reason to doubt if not
knowing it would produce doubt. God did not tell us something about the scale
of the universe. So when modern science discovered it, such a discovery
undermined the credibility of the Bible and the church whose theology is based

101

on it. It's one of the major reasons why I reject Christianity today. The Genesis
creation accounts are myths. There is nothing in them about how or why the
universe began to exist. If God existed then he could've provided us with some
truth about this, but he didn't because the Bible is not from God.
Surely when freethinkers could actually begin expressing themselves without
the fear of boiling water being poured into steel boots where their feet were
lodged youd expect there to be some rage. Rage doesnt always lead to a fair
discussion of the ideas, as I know all too well. But my beef is not about whether
or not the Philosophes properly understood the Galileo affair, but whether or not
the theistic God would knowingly withhold information from his people
knowing that by doing so he misled themnot just about the scale of the
universe, but also about witches and heretics and black people who had The
Curse of Ham. Any idiot would see potential problems about such things, so
how much so should an omniscient God. Again, why, as but one instance, didnt
God ever say, Thou shalt not own, buy, sell, or trade human beings as slaves,
and say it as often as needed?
So I think the Argument From the Scale of the Universe, especially when placed
into this larger context, makes it "probably false" that evangelical Christianity is
correct.

102

23. The Fall of Adam Is No Answer to Evil


Whenever I raise the issue of the problem of evil inevitably it falls on deaf
Christian ears because most of them believe suffering is the result of Adam's sin.
Christians begin by assuming the Garden of Eden story is true, whereas I look at
this world and ask whether this world is one that a perfectly good God would
create. But let me try to answer this Christian objection briefly and directly.
One) Many stories in the Bible have their antecedents in the ancient past,
including creation stories, figures like Adam and Eve, a deluge like the flood,
Joseph with a coat of many colors, and the law of Moses itself, which all pre-date
their appearance in the Bible. These things are easily known and can be seen in
Tim Callahans book, Secret Origins of the Bible. The most probable conclusion is
that these stories are mythic folklore which continually developed down through
the centuries and were recast by each culture for their own distinct purposes.
Two) If God created Adam & Eve then he already placed within them the
fleshly and prideful curiosity to sin. Does anyone doubt that God could've
created them with a propensity to avoid sin like we avoid drinking motor oil?
Sure, we can still drink it, but it goes against our grain, and it's nauseating if we
do.
Three) If God has foreknowledge of what they did then why didn't he change
his plans, especially when so much horrible suffering, ending in Hell for billions
of people, would result? I have no doubt that such a God could've created a
heavenly world where there was no sin, where his creatures had incorruptible
bodies in a blissful existence anyway.
Four) If Satan is to be blamed for tempting Adam and Eve, then why did God
allow this? Do mothers sit by and watch their children play by a Cobra just to see
what will happen? No! Good mothers keep their children away from such evils
until they are ready to handle these situations on their own. A good mother
doesn't give her children more responsibility than what they can handle.
Five) If Satan first rebelled in heaven, then would someone please tell me how
it is possible to be in the direct unmediated presence of God's perfect love and
power and still desire to rebel against this God? Such a story makes Satan out to
be absolute pure evil and yet dumber than a box of rocks (not a bright person at
all!). I find it hard to believe there can be such a being because of this.
Six) There is no reason at all to punish carnivorous animals with the law of
predation because of a human being's sin. What did animals do wrong? If
animals do not serve an eternal purpose and if they have no moral lessons to
learn from tearing and eating one another, and being eaten by us, then why did
God inflict this suffering upon them? God could've created every creature on
earth as a vegetarian and made vegetation grow as plenteous as wild weeds do
today, and/or reduced our mating cycles for population control (rather than
sending a hurricane, tornado, fire or tsunami to reduce the populations of
creatures)!

103

Seven) What kind of justice is it to punish every creature on earth for what a
pair of humans did? Supposedly we are still under this curse of sin. This is
extreme to the utmost. No known laws of justice would think this was fair
punishment, and that's all we have to go on when considering whether or not
such a story was historical and reflects the behavior of a good God.
Eight) If God had given Adam and Eve enough evidence to believe that if
they sinned they would bring upon the whole earth this immense suffering, they
would not have sinned! There is no way they could know the full results of God's
punishment, and there is no way God gave them enough evidence to refrain
from sinning. This is easily shown. Let's just say several thugs stood over you
and said they were going to put you in the hospital with "so many broken bones
you won't be able to walk for a year," if you stepped over a line, and you
believed them too. Would you step over that line? Now I'm not asking for that
overwhelming kind of evidence, but it is clear that God did not give enough of it
to them. To claim that God did give them enough evidence is blind faith, for if he
had they would not have sinned.
Nine) If you believe God wanted Adam and Eve to sin so he could manifest
his glory for all eternity, then that's a different story, and it still depends upon
whether this event happened at all. But if this is what you want to claim then I'll
argue as Pierre Bayle argued: One might as well compare the Godhead with a
father who had let the legs of his children be broken in order to display before an
entire city the skill which he has is setting bones; One might as well compare the
Godhead with a monarch who would allow strife and seditions to spring up
throughout his kingdom in order to acquire the glory of having put an end to
them. Is that what a good king (or father) would do? If you say God abides by a
different morality than he demands of us, then all attempts to defend this God
fall by the boards.
Ten) There are other reasons. I'll just stop here.

104

24. Chess and the Problem of Evil


One of the most popular Christian arguments in defense of the belief in a
perfectly good omnipotent God in the face of intense suffering is that the atheist
does not have an objective or ultimate moral standard from which to press this
argument against the theist. I have tried and tried to explain why these are two
separate problems. In my latest attempt I said this:
On the one hand is the problem of suffering for you who believe in a
perfectly good omnipotent God. On the other hand there is the problem of
objective morality for those of us who do not believe in God. If you press the
second problem on me as an answer to your problem, then you are skirting the
issue of your problem. It's that simple. You cannot respond to your problem by
saying, "yeah, well you have one too," and I cannot respond to my problem by
saying, "yeah, well you have one too." I have dealt with my problem here. When
will Christians deal with their problem? Their problem arises from within the
things they believe. If they believe God is perfectly good and omnipotent, then
they need to explain why there is so much suffering in the world. This argument
is used by atheists, but it's not an atheist argument, per se. A Christian could
make this argument and ask his Christian teacher to give her an answer. Many
Christians have become panentheists because of this problem irregardless of
whether on not they ever talked to an atheist or read what one wrote.
But let me relate it to the game of chess. We call the game "chess" and we all
agree to its rules. However, lets say I make the chess pieces move differently
than the accepted rules and/or I set the pieces up differently than we presently
do. Lets say I reject the conventional rules of chess, okay? For the sake of clarity
Ill call the conventional game t-chess (as in theistic chess), and my game achess (as in atheistic chess).
I can still watch as two players play t-chess, and say someone made a bad
move, or that another move is better, even if I reject those rules and think the
rules of a-chess are better ones. You see, it does no good to say I need to accept
the rules of t-chess before I can criticize how someone plays by those rules. I can
still think those rules are ignorant and yet show how someone could play the
game of t-chess better.
Doing so is merely using the logical tool for assessing arguments called the
reductio ad absurdum, which attempts to reduce to absurdity the claims of a
person. The technique is to force a claimant to choose between accepting the
consequences of what he believes, no matter how absurd it seems, or to reject one
or more premises in his argument. The person making this argument does not
have to believe what the claimant believes to do this. In fact, he does not believe
the claimant and is trying to show why her beliefs are misguided and false to
some degree, depending on the force of his counter-argument. Its that simple.
Even though Ive made my main point here, let me go further. It does not
make any difference if the theist claims that God made the rules for t-chess, or
that God is the one playing the game of t-chess. I can still assess these theistic
claims by arguing that God did not make the rules and/or that if God exists he
does not play the game well.

105

When a theist claims God made the rules of t-chess, I can assess whether or
not God in fact created these rules by arguing that these rules are not good ones
based upon the believers own claim that God is perfectly good and revealed
these rules for believers to follow in a divinely inspired book. I can also
legitimately evaluate whether or not believers actually play by these rules and
whether God consistently plays by these same rules.
For the theist to effectively counter my arguments she cannot merely assume
God exists, or that he doesnt like the rules for a-chess. He can do this, of course,
but doing so skirts the issue at hand. The issue at hand is whether God exists,
and the rules of t-chess do not lead me to think he does. In fact these rules are
evidence against the existence of a perfectly good God, for the theist has to
explain away this evidence. The issue at hand is whether t-chess rules are good
ones based upon the standard of goodness laid out in Gods so-called inspired
book about the game, not by the standards of a-chess rules. So once again, the
issue isnt about whether the rules of a-chess are good ones. This is a distinctly
separate issue.
Lastly, let me drop the whole distinction of t-chess and a-chess, and just talk
about the game of chess as it is accepted and played around the world. Lets say
the theist claims God is playing chess and he makes a move. What if every world
class champion and every Grand Master thinks he made a bad move? What do
we do then? It depends on how bad the move is. The worse that Gods move is
then the less we can continue to believe God is omniscient, omnipotent, and
omnibenelovent. Thats called evidence, and if world champion chess players
cannot see the move as a good one, this is important evidence against the claim.
For my purposes lets consider the 2004 Indonesian tsunami which killed a
quarter of a million people. Who can look at this and be happy that it took place?
Who would actually walk among the bodies, smell the stench as they
decompose, and lift their hands in giddy praise for Gods goodness? Who can
watch as a mother holds the body of her dead son and the next Sunday during
worship say, Praise God for the wonderful tsunami he didn't stop from
happening! Who could watch as half naked kids stumble around from building
to building looking for their parents in the aftermath, and tell them to thank God
for what he has done with a million dollar smile on her face? Does any Christian
do this? We all intuitively recognize what is obvious. This was a bad chess move.
Actually there are some bad chess moves that not even an omniscient God
can make good, once he purportedly makes them. Some moves lead to a loss of a
chess piece, loss of positional strength, or checkmate, that even a novice chess
player can take advantage of. Thats how bad I think Gods moves are. And Im
supposed to believe there is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenelovent God?
No. There is overwhelming evidence here against such a belief.

106

25. The Parental Analogy


Okay, maybe I've lost my patience. Maybe I've heard too many
rationalizations from Christians to be polite anymore. Maybe I've been Blogging
too long. I don't know. But I'm starting to call some of their arguments asinine,
and that's unlike me to do so. But I mean exactly what I say. I think the truth is
that it's about the weakness of the Christian response to the Argument From Evil.
I'll call this the Parental Analogy. I maintain it's an asinine argument, and I'm
going to briefly explain why.
Christians repeatedly use this analogy referring to parents who allow minor
pain and suffering in their children's lives because a good parent isn't
overprotective, and that God is like a good parent. God as a loving parent would
also give his children the freedom and responsibility to make their own choices,
but also punish them when they do wrong. But this fails miserably.
Let me deal with the three aspects of this analogy. There is one more I'll
mention below.
If God created us and gave us freedom, then as a loving parent his moral
concern should be that we that we dont abuse the freedom he gave us in the
ways we do. The giver of a gift is blameworthy if he gives gifts to those whom he
knows will terribly abuse those gifts. Any parent who gives a razor blade to a
two year old is culpable if that child hurts himself or others with it. Good parents
give their children more and more freedom to do what they want so long as they
are responsible with their freedom. They should not give them the keys to the car
until they can legitimately be responsible to drive, nor buy them any beer until
they can legitimately drink responsibly. And if children abuse the freedoms
given to them, good parents will discipline them by taking away their
opportunities to make these choices. Its that simple. God fails miserably as a
parent! Admit it.
Furthermore, if my parents sat by and did nothing while my brother beat me
to death, and if they had the means to stop him and didnt, then they are morally
responsible for letting me die. They could even be considered accomplices. Your
God is not a loving parent.
Besides, why should we as human beings have to learn the consequences of
our actions by such draconian kinds of sufferings when we err? When my
children misbehaved or didnt understand the consequences of their actions, I
didnt send a proverbial hurricane their way. In fact, as a parent I sought to
protect them as much as I could from the extreme consequences of their actions.
A little pain was a good thing, so they could learn from their mistakes. But no
caring father would let them suffer the full brunt of their mistakesno father.
That's a miserable parent to allow this, so if the Christian wants to use this
analogy then by the same standards God fails miserably as a parent. My parents
weren't perfect, but they were much better than this God of yours!
In response many Christians argue that as a parent God knows what is best
for us in the long run, since he's purportedly omniscient. This particular third
aspect has more of a bite to it, granted, and I'm not calling this asinine. But
remember, I'm looking at what I see and I'm asking myself whether or not such a

107

good heavenly parent exists. And if I cannot begin to understand God's ways as
analogous to a parent, and if he wants me to believe in him, he should help me
understand his ways. It's that simple. Not communicating to children who seek
to understand is being an unresponsive parent. As children grow older it no
longer makes any sense for a parent to say, "because I said so," especially when it
supposedly comes from a being we don't really know exists in the first place!
Reflective and responsible children, if they are to be treated as the adults they are
about to become, require answers, reasons, and evidence. This is not what I see
from the God who supposedly is a good parent.
I've got other things to do than to waste any more time on this analogy. I
consider it dead in the water. The Christian God does not act like a loving father,
period. Stop this asinine analogy. You must come up with different analogies
than this one if you wish to defend your God from the Argument From Evil.

108

26. Can Prayer Change the Past?


At the present time there is an interesting discussion among physicists about
the possibilities of time travel, backward causation, and wormholes, leading
them to think there is no longer anything standing in the way of changing the
past. Times arrow is no longer thought of as going in one direction. Quantum
mechanics along with the Special and General Theories of Relativity allow for it.
According to toe Special Theory of Relativity, for instance, time is relative to the
speed of an observer. As an observer approaches the speed of light, time slows
down. With the possibility of time travel particles called tachyons (which travel
faster than the speed of light, thus reversing time), time travel is possible along
with changing the past. It may not be feasible to us, of course, but what about the
feasibility of God doing so, if he exists?
With this understanding I propose a mutually agreed upon scientific test for
petitionary prayer. It must be a mutually agreed upon test, by both atheists and
theists, or else one side wont accept it as a true scientific test for prayer.
Christians claim God answers petitionary prayer. If a petitionary prayer
comes to pass, then that prayer counts as evidence that their God exists and he
answers prayer. If it doesn't come to pass, then they can claim it wasn't God's
will to answer that prayer. Either way they win.
I believe, however, that petitionary prayer can be scientifically tested. The
test is simple. If God exists and if he has foreknowledge, then he can foreknow
the prayers of believers. If God answers prayers and if believers pray to change
tragic events of the past, then God can either change the past, or he can foreknow
these prayers and prevent the past from happening as events take place. So, I
have challenged people who believe in petitionary prayer to change the past. If
they cannot do this, then either God does not exist, or God does not have
foreknowledge. A third possible alternative is that God is not preventing the past
from happening because believers are not praying about the past, but with this
challenge of mine that can change.
To believers who are hesitant to pray for the past I want to ask them a simple
question: Do you believe God can prevent events in the past from happening
based upon his foreknowledge of your prayers today? Yes or No? If yes, then
pray. Whats the harm? I'll bet most believers have prayed for something in the
past anyway. Theyll pray for events that have already taken place. A believer
will pray that a child safely arrived at her destination all day long until he hears
that she did. If that child is supposed to arrive by plane in Dallas at 9:10 AM,
believers will continue to pray for a safe arrival until they hear from someone
that the child arrived, even though they might not hear about it for a few hours
later. But if the child already arrived safely, then it would make no sense to
expect God to answer any prayers after the fact. This is true even if the child did
not arrive safely. For if the plane crashed at 9 AM all prayers for the safe arrival
of the child after 9 AM are pointless, unless God can prevent, or change the past.
So all prayers for the safe arrival of that child should stop when that child either

109

arrives safely or she doesnt, unless believers expect God to do something about
the past.
My challenge is to have Christians pick any tragic event in the past everyone
believes took place, announce that they are praying to change it, and then watch
what happens. They must announce it in advance of praying for it, lest they
claim to have changed tragic events that no one ever believed took place in the
first place. It's a simple test. It could be to prevent the Holocaust, the terrorist
9/11 attacks, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, or any tragic event reported
in the daily newspaper. My prediction is that every single prayer to change every
tragic event in the past will fail, and that they will know that it failed. Every
single one of them. Without fail. I claim that this should be considered strong
evidence that either God does not exist, or that he does not have foreknowledge,
however conceived. Choose any event and let's them begin. Get millions of
Christians to pray. If that doesn't work, pick another tragic event...then
another...then another. My prediction is that nothing will ever change. Nothing.
Believers might respond that God doesnt answer all prayers, but what can
they say if God doesnt answer any of these prayers at all? Believers might also
claim that we should not test God. However, Moses asked for evidence that God
would be with him to lead the Israelites out of slavery (Exodus 4), Gideon asked
for evidence that God would help him conquer the Midianites (Judges 6), and the
prophet Malachi challenged believers to test God with their tithes (Malachi 3:10).
According to the Bible there is nothing wrong with asking for evidence to
believe. Even if some believers still want to maintain that they should not test
God, my challenge need not be seen by them to be a test at all. For if God can
either change the past, or prevent the past from happening based upon his
foreknowledge of their prayers, then they should pray to change tragic events in
the past simply to help alleviate the sufferings of people who lived in the past.
Moreover, since believers typically think prayer is more efficacious when there
are more believers praying for something, then they should get together to pray
to have God prevent a tragic event in the past from taking place. I'm merely
saying that believers should pray for the past just like they do for the future,
since there is no reason why God can't answer prayers for the past. And in both
cases they can end their prayers with the words, Thy will be done, too.
There are certain conceptions of God that this test will have a great deal of
force against. If a believer thinks God exists outside of time, as Boethius did, then
God can actually change what we consider to be the past based upon his
knowledge of the prayers of believers (there would be no time indexed prefix
fore to this knowledge of Gods because he would be present for all events
timelessly). Actually, with this conception of God there is no reason why God
cannot change any event in the past, even without someone praying to change it.
What reasons God might have for doing this I cannot specify. But Christians who
believe in petitionary prayer typically think God acts based upon their prayers.
Why else does Jesus tell them to pray that God would send forth workers into
the harvest, unless God wont do that if they dont (Matthew 9:37-38)? Abraham
purportedly argued God out of destroying all of the inhabitants of Sodom and
Gomorrah (Genesis 18), while Moses purportedly argued god out of destroying
the Israelites (Numbers 14). There is also a parable of Jesus, in which an unjust
judge answered a request because a persistent widow kept pleading her case

110

(Luke 18). This parable is meant to teach believers that they should continue to
pray for God to alleviate their sufferings, and not give up.
There are certain conceptions of foreknowledge that this argument will have
a great deal of force against. If a believer is a Molinist, then his God would know
what believers would be praying for regardless of whether the event actually
occurred yet. Based upon God's counter-factual knowledge of future free-willed
contingent actions, he could intervene to prevent tragic events regardless of
whether these events have occurred or not. Based upon this foreknowledge, God
could answer these, as yet, unspoken prayers, by preventing the events before
they occurred.
But this argument has force against any Christian theist who believes God
has foreknowledge. For if God foreknows the prayers of believers, then God
should be able to prevent the past based upon his foreknowledge of these future
prayers.
Some Objections:
One objection is that the past is already the result of Gods actions in the past
based upon his foreknowledge of the all the prayers of believers, both past,
present, and future. If God were to change the past, or prevent the past from
happening, he has already done it. If he did so in light of his foreknowledge of
our prayers, and he doesnt change his mind, then the past cannot be changed.
Let's make a distinction between A) history as we now know it, and
B) History as it will forever be. History as we know it, A, is the history of events
as we know them to have happened in the past. History as it will forever be, B, is
final history never to be changed. For all we know there only exists A, history as
we now know it. But what history ends up being B, as the result of the prayers of
believers, is a different thing entirely. Until God purportedly ends human history
and with it time itself, history as we know it, A, is always amendable due to the
prayers of the saints and based upon God's foreknowledge of those prayers. If
history can be changed, then the believer cannot say this particular history is the
will of God. He can only say that about final history, i.e., the history that goes
unchanged.
Of course, I see no reason why God cannot change his mind based upon
petitionary prayer, as weve seen with Moses and Abraham earlier. There are
many passages about God changing directions as the direct result of the actions
and prayers of believers in the Bible, for instance. God is described as changing
his mind in several passages in the Bible (Genesis 6:6-7; Exodus 32:10;
Deuteronomy 9:13; I Samuel 15:11; Psalms 106:44-45; Jeremiah 18:8-10; Joel 2:13;
Amos 7:3, and Jonah 3:10). And if that is true, then I see no reason why its not
equally true that prayers to change the past might help to change Gods mind. I
see no reason why the past is fixed and unalterable, given the present state of
physics, as I mentioned, and I likewise see no reason why God cannot change the
past if he is outside of time.
But even if it isnt possible to change Gods mind about the past, what
believers pray for can affect the past. All Im referring to when arguing about
prayer changing an event in the past is that prayer would be changing what God
foreknows, since he supposedly has foreknowledge of the future. Christian

111

philosophers such as George Mavrodes thinks the past can be altered and argues
that whenever he does something then he also prevents God from ever having
foreknown that he didn't do it. [Is the Past Unpreventable Faith and Philosophy
Vol. 1, no. 2, (April 1984).
Whether the past can be changed really isnt the issue here anyway, since Im
talking about whether God could prevent an event from happening before it
occurred based upon his foreknowledge of a future petitionary prayer. Here is
where the argument has some force to it. According to George Mavrodes we
prevent God from knowing something with every free choice we make. Since
God cannot foreknow what we do if we don't do it, we must do it for him to
know that we did. When we do, it prevents God from knowing we did
otherwise. So we prevent God from knowing everything we don't do.
If Mavrodes is correct that when he does something he also prevents God
from ever having foreknown that he didn't do it, then the prayers spoken after a
tragic event can be answered if and only if believers actually pray. By praying,
believers alter what God knows in the past, namely Gods foreknowledge of
what they do. In other words, if God can only foreknow what a believer does,
then he can only retroactively answer prayers spoken after a tragic event if and
only if they actually pray to change that event. If they don't pray, then there are
no prayers for God to retroactively answer.
Believers purportedly change or alter or prevent or determine the
past every single day by what they do. What do they change or alter or
"determine," according to Mavrodes? They determine what God foreknows by
their actions, and prayer is something they do. But God cannot foreknow what a
believer does if he or she doesnt do it. So they must do it to alter the past,
specifically what God knows about our future actions. By praying after a tragic
event occurred in the past believers are purportedly determining what God
foreknows from all eternity. And based upon his foreknowledge God can
purportedly prevent the past from happening before it happens. The problem is
that since God can only foreknow what believers do, he supposedly also
foreknows that they wont be praying for a particular event to be changed. But if
they do pray then God would have this foreknowledge.
Another objection has to do with the paradox of time loops, where
philosophers are debating whether or not someone can actually go back in time
and kill themselves. Or in our case, if a believer would pray that he died rather
than his daughter in a car accident. But I see no reason why God couldnt answer
that prayer, if a believer offered it, regardless of the time loop, for according to
believers, the one praying that prayer is resurrected so that he would still
remember offering that prayer. And as such, he really did pray that prayer.
Several suggestions have been offered about these types of paradoxes. Perhaps
God wouldnt answer those types of prayers, anyway. However, the notion of
backward causation does not involve time loops. Backward causation simply is
the claim that time can move in both directions, into the future as well as back in
the past. If an event causes something to happen in the future there is no time
loop, just as if an event that caused something in the past does not. It just means
that something in the future caused something in the past. In our case, it merely
means that God prevented an event in the past from happening, which was
caused by the future prayers of the believer.

112

The most serious objection is probably that if God did decide to prevent an
event in the past based upon his foreknowledge of the future prayers of
believers, then no one would know God changed that event. Thats a good
argument, since all knowledge about an event, even the prayers themselves,
would no longer exist. There would supposedly be no memory of those spoken
prayers too. Lets say believers prayed to change the 9/11 terrorist attacks and
God foreknew these prayers and prevented it. Then we wouldnt have any
knowledge of that event or the fact that anyone prayed to change it, since we
would be on a different time line. That is, the belief that God does not answer
prayers is unfalsifiable.
However, I see no reason why God couldnt allow the believer who prayed
to remember that he had prayed, so he could know his prayer was answered,
and I see no reason why people whose future is unaffected by the events not
occurring couldnt still have knowledge that they had prayed to prevent it. And
it is in this regard that I can still ask why no believer has ever claimed to have
had such a prayer answered. Although, Ill admit that if a believer did claim to
have changed the past because of a prayer, and if I had no memory of that event
ever occurring in the first place, I would not think his claim is a credible one.
Lets assume God does answer a prayer to change the past, and the prayer is
that a loved one does not die in a car crash a month ago. On this new timeline a
believer never remembers praying the request because the loved one never died.
At that point why would a believer care whether he remembers it or not? Would
anyone? No. Why? Because his loved one is still alive. So why not pray, even if
the results could never be shown to be positive? It shouldn't matter to believers,
if all they can say is that we won't remember having prayed for an event if God
answered your prayer. If that's their only objection, then they have no objection
to praying for the past. If prayers can help the sufferings of someone in the past,
and the past can be altered or changed, then Christian should have an obligation
to pray for events in the past.
Even if I grant that we probably wouldn't know if God answers such a
prayer, it doesnt change anything. For we could still know if God didn't answer
such a prayer. And thats the point of this test. My bet is that God won't answer
any such prayer, and that we will know this. My challenge is that believers can
select and pray for every single tragic event in the past, and nothing will ever
change. Not one. The believer will remember praying for something to change in
the past because no prayer will ever change anything in the past.
We never have to be bothered with how we would know if it if such a prayer
worked. Why? Because it will never work. Thats my prediction. Have believers
pray for 100 events of the past, anywhere from Lincoln's assassination to Jeffery
Dahmer's victims. Write them down. 100 events. I predict that after praying there
will still be 100 unchanged events on their list. They can say we wouldn't know it
if God did answer such prayer all they want to, but there are still 100 events on
that list. Or 1000 events. Or 1 million events. Depending upon how many events
they prayed for, they will all still be there. That's my prediction.
You cannot conclude God answered some of these requests but that we just
don't know that he did. Why? Because these events are still on their list. So pick
any tragic event in the past. Announce it. Pray for it. And we'll never see God

113

answering that prayer no matter how many times it is prayed for, and no matter
how many believers are praying for it.
And when prayer is tested in this manner it ALWAYS FAILS! ALWAYS.
As far as backward causation itself goes, and the potential unreality of time
goes, there is a great deal of literature on this topic with quantum mechanics,
wormholes, and tachyons. Backward causation is consistent with the theory of
Special Relativity.
Time is not fixed according to the current state of physics. Many conclude
from this that time is unreal. And if this is the case with your creator's world,
then he himself can change the past even after it took place. There is nothing
standing in God's way from doing so, since it already can (and probably does)
take place. You can also do a search for wormholes, time travel, tachyons,
backward causation, Omniscience and Free will, Special Theory of Relativity,
Quantum Mechanics. There is an interesting book out called Time's Arrow. Time
doesn't just move in one direction.
Now just apply this physics to God. If he foreknows prayers then he can not
only change the past, with all of the strangeness that might go with it, but he can
also prevent the past. If God is outside of time then prayers for the past are just
as likely to be heard and answered as prayers for the future.
It doesn't matter if praying to change the past wasnt mentioned in the Bible,
either. There are many things we have realized with the advance of modern
medicine and morality that we do differently because we know better that aren't
mentioned in the Bible. What does the Bible say about nuclear war, abortion,
assisted suicide, contraception, heart transplants, capital punishment, suing
another Christian in today's denominational world, and so on and so on.
Christians use Biblical principles to understand these things not explicitly
condemned in the Bible.
Maybe through contemporary science God is leading a new generation of
prayer warriors to pray for the past like never before? Why not?
The only problem Christians have with it is that they don't think it will
work, and they won't admit it. Christian, you dont really believe in prayer after
all, do you? That's what I think, and for good reason. Prayer doesn't work,
period.

114

27. Christianity and Philosophy


Many Christians have taken an unenthusiastic view of philosophy because
there are dangers in it for their faith. Paul said, See no one takes you captive
through hollow and deceptive philosophy... (Col. 2:8). Tertullian (160-220 AD)
asked: What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? Martin Luther called reason
the Devils Whore. Luther argued against the magisterial use of reason, in
which reason judges the gospel, and approved of the ministerial use of reason, in
which reason submits and serves the gospel. William Lane Craig agrees with this
viewpoint and argues, reason is a tool to help us better understand our faith.
Should faith and reason conflict, it is reason that must submit to faith, not vice
versa. [Apologetics: An Introduction, (Moody, 1984), p. 21].
Lets look briefly at what Paul wrote: the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the
intelligent I will frustrate. Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where
is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the
world?For the foolishness of God is wiser than mans wisdom (I
Corinthians 1:18-25).
According to Paul, God's intent is to frustrate the so-called wise people of this
world. God is simply using one of man's most prized possessions against him,
his own worldly wisdom, which is a wisdom that refuses to accept Gods
revelation of himself through the prophets, apostles and his son Jesus Christ.
Where does this worldly wisdom come from? It is something gained from
below, or from the ground up, apart from Gods special revelation, described by
Paul as the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this agein words taught by
human wisdomby the spirit of this world. (I Cor. 2:6-16). Gods wisdom, by
contrast, is something given to us from above, or from the top down, through
special revelation. Paul: We speak of Gods secret wisdom, a wisdom that has
been hiddenbut God has revealed it to us by his Spirit (I Cor. 2:7-10). And
according to him the man without the spirit does not accept the things that
come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot
understand them(I Cor. 2:12-15).
God's intent is to bring to nothing the understanding of the wise. God
accomplishes this by making the gospel of salvation appear so utterly foolish to
such worldly wise men that their pride simply won't allow them to believe it. It
is the perfect irony to frustrate those who claim to be scholars, philosophers and
wise men in any age.
This is an interesting claim. If Christianity is true, then God may be causing
the foolishness of the preached gospel to frustrate the wisdom of the wise, and
prevent them from believing. It presumes, of course, that Christianity is true.
And it admits that the gospel is foolishness, in some sense. And its certainly the
case that other religions could claim the exact same thing for their faiths too, if
they wanted.
Christians will claim that it isn't a matter of bringing us to believe in
something that we can't bring ourselves to believe in. It's a matter of

115

understanding the reasons why we can't come to belief through more and more
worldly knowledge. And how exactly do we know this is what God is doing to
the wise? Isn't this a conclusion of the intellect? And by arguing for this arent
Christians now making an intellectual case for faith here? Isn't their argument
that the gospel of salvation has been made to be foolish on purpose, to blind the
eyes of the wise? And so they want to convince the wise to see this? And once
the wise see this point the Christian hopes they will abandon their wisdom
and believe? Aren't Christians approaching unbelievers with reason here?
Paul apparently would want me to find God in the message of the gospel as
found in the pages of the Bible, versus philosophy texts. And how is it I should
come to this conclusion? Because Paul said so? What reasons, or intuitions, or
experiences are there to lead me to this conclusion? Surely there must be reasons
why we should do this with the Bible, rather than the Koran, or the Book of
Mormon. There must be reasons for choosing to hear God speaking in the Bible
over these other books. What are they? Unless there are some reasons I could
even choose my philosophy texts over the Bible. But if there are some reasons,
then thats appealing to wisdom from below.
The rest of I Corinthians reveals that the Corinthians argued about most
everything that could be argued about. Paul was making an argument that the
true Christians in Corinth would recognize Pauls letter as spiritual wisdom
from above and heed his advice. Those who didnt were carnal, or natural,
Christians. No wonder then, that when many Corinthian Christians rejected
Pauls advice in his first letter, they went on to deny Paul was an apostle too.
Because of this, Paul was forced into making a major argument in II Corinthians
that he was indeed a true apostle. They denied that his message was spiritual
truth, they denied Pauls charge they were carnal or natural Christians, and
they denied he was an apostle.
In II Corinthians Paul argues he truly was an apostle. He does so based upon
wisdom from below. Paul uses his experiences, his sufferings, his knowledge,
his conversion, and even a vision (chapter 12which no one else was privy to) to
bolster his claim that he was a true apostle. This is knowledge from below
which, because Paul wrote it, becomes for Christians, knowledge from above.
But it is knowledge from below. Elsewhere Paul affirms the value of
knowledge from below when he talks of nature (Acts 14:17) and some worldly
wise poets (Acts 17:28) leading people to God. Is there a conflict here to be
resolved? Or a necessary tension?
And thats where we are in todays world too. Christians see I Corinthians 1-2
as spiritual truth. But just like several of the Corinthians, I deny these words
are truths spoken from God through Paul. Now what? Here is where knowledge
from below comes in, just as Paul tried to defend his apostleship with
knowledge from below. Its this knowledge that shows me whether or not the
message is from above. And based upon wisdom from below I claim that I
Corinthians 1-2 is not wisdom from above.
Does God do this because of the supposed fall of Adam and Eve in the
Garden of Eden? Why would God now punish those who approach him with
reason, when God purportedly created us as reasonable beings? Why not put a
curse on stupid gullible people who will believe anything (like Adam & Eve
supposedly were?), and instead allow those who do seek him with reason to find

116

him? Why condemn the worlds intelligent population? Why not just provide
better reasons? This is so arbitrary! God might just as well have decided to keep
anyone who is tall or fat, blonde or brunette, male or female, hairy or muscular,
from finding faith. It just sounds like Christians now have been given an excuse
as to why they cannot convince the scholars and philosophers of any age.
This Christian position is ultimately anti-intellectual. Its saying our intellect
can eventually damn us to hell. What is the alternative way to assess the claims
of Christianity here? And when does the anti-intellectual nature of this quest
stop? Why does it stop as soon as we open the pages of the Bible? Why not
continue being anti-intellectual as we begin to read the Bible too? Why should
we use good hermeneutical principles to understand the Bible? If the Holy Spirit
leads us to open the Bible in the first place, then when facing any question about
life, why not just open the Bible and put our finger down on a verse for the
answer. Why not?
Aren't Christians themselves frustrated that God frustrates the "wise," since
they want more unbelievers to convert and be Christians? And don't they read
apologetics books to try to come up with better arguments to lead people like me
to faith? Why is it they'd like better arguments to save people from hell, but God
doesn't care to provide them? Does this mean Christians care more for skeptics
than God does? If you were God you'd provide better reasons, wouldn't you?
Why doesn't God do this?

117

28. The Achilles Heel of Christianity


According to Greek mythology, when Achilles was born his mother, Thetis,
tried to make him immortal by dipping him into the mythical Styx River. As she
did, she held him by one heel and forgot to dip him a second time so the heel she
held would get wet too. So the place where she held him was untouched by the
magical properties of the water and that part stayed mortal or vulnerable.
Achilles died from a fatal wound to his heel as the result of a poisoned arrow
shot by Paris. To this day, any weak point is called an Achilles heel.
We live in what has been described as a post-Christian society. As we just
have seen, there are modern ideas we have come to accept that make us who we
are, which we will never give up on. So we must move on, because we cannot go
back. From the vantage point of these ideas, we must reject the Bible, since we
cannot give them up. Genesis does not tell us anything about creation. We do not
live in a three-tiered universe, with heaven above and hell beneath the earth. We
also have serious reservations about ancient miracle claims in a superstitious age
when there were a plethora of such claims. People dont misbehave because they
are evil; they may just be sick. Punishment isnt what people need, so much as
healing and understanding, even if we would still want to separate criminals
from the general populace in prisons. A wrathful vengeful hateful God does not
exist.
Basically any major social idea that has changed the way we look at the world
will necessitate how we look at the Bible too. Male chauvinism is dead.
Democracy now reigns in the place of kingship, and all that goes with it. Plus,
the whole notion of justice has undergone major revisions, highlighted by the
civil rights revolution. Slavery is abhorrent to the modern ear. In a like manner,
and in the same vein, Sam Harris wrote, we could never return with a clear
conscience to the divine right of kings, feudalism, the caste system, slavery,
political executions, forced castration, vivisection, bearbaiting, honorable duels,
chastity belts, trial by ordeal, child labor, human and animal sacrifice, the stoning
of heretics, cannibalism, sodomy laws, taboos against contraception, human
radiation experimentsthe list is nearly endless.[1]
This can best be seen in Hector Avaloss book The End of Biblical Studies.[2]
Avalos argues that the Bible is irrelevant to modern people. The Bible is
irrelevant, insofar as it is part of a world radically dissimilar to ours in its
conception of the cosmos, the supernatural, and the human sense of morality.
The word irrelevant refers to a biblical concept or practice that is no longer
viewed as valuable, applicable, and/or ethical. His argument is that there is
really nothing in the entire book Christians call the Bible that is any more
relevant than anything else written in the ancient world. If his argument is
successful, then the Bible would become simply one of many ancient texts, no
more or less worthy of attention for its historical, moral, or aesthetic value.
Therefore, Avalos calls for an end of biblical studies as we know it. According to
him, We should now treat the Bible as the alien document it is, with no more
importance than the other works of literature we ignore every day.[3]

118

I think this is the Achilles heel for Christianity. The Achilles heel for
Christianity is the huge difference between the ancient mind and our modern
standards of reasoning, our hermeneutical understandings, our moral
consciousnesses, and our methods for understanding history, psychology, and
science. We reject the notion of an atoning sacrifice, whether animal or human.
We reject the way Matthew, Jesus, and Paul interpreted the text of the Old
Testament. We have better standards for judging purported historical events. We
reject the inadequate moral consciousness of an ancient barbaric biblical people
when it comes to slavery, women, and war. And we reject the whole nature of
superstitious thinking when compared to modern scientific thinking today.
Christians must either canonize these ancient biblical standards, and thus
perpetuate primitive thinking; come to some halfway house in between, which
satisfies neither house; or reject these particular ancient standards totally, like I
do.
I have actually heard of Christians who seek to canonize the biblical
standards of slavery for today. They will say slavery isnt wrong, if done the
biblical way. But the Bible says a slave owner can beat a slave within an inch of
his life so long as he doesnt knock out a tooth or an eye (Exod. 21: 2021; 2627).
If the slave owner does kill his slave, the only punishment was most likely that
he merely lost his property. These Christians are inconsistent on which issues
they canonize, which ones they hold a halfway house on, and which ones they
reject (like slavery). At least Pat Robertson is consistent when it comes to
explaining why people suffer. Hell argue the way that biblical writers did when
natural suffering takes place. Robertson has said that when evil strikes, God
allowed/caused it because of someones sin.
Modern science provides the fatal wound to the Achilles heel of Christianity.
Science proceeds on the assumption that there is a natural explanation for every
event. Every modern person does this, even Christians! When it rains on their
parade, modern Christians dont go off thinking God mustve sent the rain to
spoil their parade. If they cannot have a baby, modern Christians dont go off
thinking God must be preventing them from having a baby because theyve
sinned. These Christians will just go see a fertility doctor, if they have the money.
When we hear an unexplainable noise in the night, not even Christians will
believe theyve been visited by an angel. They will just assume the house
creaked, or the wind outside blew a tree limb against the house, or the dog
knocked something over. When it comes to prayer, before the advent of modern
medicine, Christians had to pray with faith when they were sick. Now Christians
just take a pill or go see a doctor. Before the rise of the mass production of food
in the Western world, Christians had to fervently pray give us our daily bread,
because they didnt know where their next meal was coming from. Now
Christians barely even remember to pray before meals, since daily food is no
longer a problem.
There is becoming less and less room for God, as we explain more and more.
We are less religious today because of science. And while there is no scientific
experiment that can show God doesnt exist, or that he doesnt work in this
world, we still operate on this scientific naturalistic assumption so often that it
makes secularists out of us all. If this assumption works so well and describes so

119

much, then this assumption probably has a metaphysical grounding to it,


although such a step cannot be shown from science itself. But its not a big step.
Since science has been so successful in its own domain, the same standards of
rigorous testing have filtered into all the other disciplines of learning. Is a boy
demon possessed, or does he have epilepsy? If we continued treating him as if he
were demon possessed, we may never help such a boy. Is a person sick or
oppressed by the devil? Again, by assuming a natural explanation, science helps
to fix things. Do we believe an incredulous story about some guy levitating, or
do we approach such stories as if there was a natural explanation? In this we are
different than the masses of ancient Greek or Roman people.
Empirical testing. Skepticism. Evidence. Proven hypotheses. Technical
precision. Specialized languages. Mathematical formulas. Peer-reviewed journals
and magazines. These kinds of things have infiltrated every major discipline of
learning in the modern world. We have more rigorous standards when testing
psychological theories, historical conjectures, journalistic investigative reports,
and claims of the miraculous. These are the things ancient people lacked, in
comparison to our modern scientific communities. Its the rise of modern science
that makes us all less religious today and which causes us to disbelieve the
specific claims of superstitious believers in the Bible.
I conclude then with Thomas Paine who wrote in his book, The Age of
Reason: Of all the systems of religion that were ever invented, there is none
more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to
reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity. Too
absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it
renders the heart torpid, or produces only atheists and fanatics. As an engine of
power, it serves the purpose of despotism; and as a means of wealth, the avarice
of priests; but so far as respects the good of man in general, it leads to nothing
here or hereafter. [4]
Notes
1. Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
(New York: Norton, 2004), p. 25.
2. Hector Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies (Amherst, NY: Prometheus
Books, 2007).
3. Ibid., pp. 1529.
4. The Age of Reason Part II, Chapter 1 (Redford: A & D Publishing, 2007), p.
133.

120

29. Two Problems with Calvinism


How did Calvin (and Augustine before him) come to the conclusion of what
is known as Calvinism? They argued for it from the Bible and from outside
sources, including Plato. Calvin reasoned that man is totally depraved, Gods
election is unconditional, Jesus died only for the elect, Gods grace is irresistible,
and once saved no man can reject his salvation (known as five-point
Calvinism).[1]
The strict interpretation of Calvinism is what I encounter the most online, in
which its believed Calvin argued that God sovereignly decrees everything that
happenseverythingand because of this, God can absolutely predict the
future (known as theological determinism). Calvin argued God has at least two
wills, one is revealed in the Bible, telling us what we should believe and do,
along with another secretive unrevealed will in which God sovereignly decrees
behind the scenes what he really wants us to believe and to do.
All of these doctrines are disputable on exegetical grounds, and Ill let nonCalvinists do that. There are several excellent books that take issue with
Calvinism from an evangelical Christian understanding.[2] Calvinistic theology
is based upon the exegesis of a historically conditioned set of canonized
documents purportedly being from God, even though a proper understanding of
history (and the documents that report that history) is itself fraught with so
many problems that several historians now claim we cannot know exactly what
happened in the past, nor what people believed in the past.
There are many problems with such a theology, but let me briefly mention the
two most serious ones. The first problem has to do with the Calvinist idea that
God sovereignly decrees everything we dothat everything we do has been
eternally decreed by the secretive will of a sovereign God.
This Calvinistic God has two wills, as I mentioned, one revealed in the Bible
and a secretive onethe real onethat decrees the things we actually do. But
both wills cannot be true at the same time. If the Bible says thou shalt not kill
and then God secretively decrees a man to murder someone, there is a
contradiction in what God actually wants him to do. Does God want this man to
kill or not? The contradiction is resolved for the Calvinist because she claims
Gods secretive will is his true will. But this means that, on Calvinistic grounds,
the Bible cannot be trusted when it tells us what God wants us to do. Calvinists
will respond that the Bible is used as a means to get people to do his secretive
will one way or another, good deeds or evil deeds. If, for instance, God says
Thou shalt not kill, it might actually lead someone to kill out of rebellion,
which is what God secretively decreed all along. And in this way, God needs the
Bible to accomplish his secretive will, which brings him glory or honor.
Calvinists believe that because Adam and Eve have disobeyed him (and all
humans as well), God has a right to do with us as he pleases, so there can be no
complaining about Gods dealings with us. We deserve everything bad that
happens to us, even hell itself, so why should God be concerned when we suffer
through an insignificant hurricane or a holocaust? Any mercy God extends to us
is undeserved, since we all deserve the fires of hell for our sins.

121

When it comes to our behavior, Calvinists will argue that human beings
desire to do the things that they do, and so God is not to be blamed when we do
evil deeds, even if God has also decreed that we should do them. However, if
God decrees that we do a deed, then he also decrees that we desire to do that
deed. Therefore, God decrees that human beings desire to do everything that
they do. We could never have desired to behave differently. So why blame us
because of God-implanted desires that cannot be our fault anymore than
marionettes on strings can be blamed for any of their actions.
The Calvinist will fall back on the idea that God is an artist and hes creating a
massive mural painting on a wall. In any painting there will be bright colors and
dark ones. There will be highlights and shadows. There will be points of focus
and points that draw attention to the points of focus. Gods painting is beautiful,
were told, and he needs all the colors to create it. Some humans will be points of
focus while others will be in the recesses, drawing attention to those focal points.
We who want to judge the painting simply dont understand what God is doing.
We have no right to complain if we are used by God to accentuate the beautiful
colors in the mural and are condemned to hell because, after all, we all deserve
hell. The end result will be a beautiful painting that brings him glory. Every color
is needed, and likewise, every evil deed and every condemned soul is needed, to
make this a beautiful painting and to bring him ultimate glory. Thats why
Calvin describes Gods decree as horrible, and it is.
If we argue that such a God does not care for us and is only interested in
himself, the Calvinist will respond that he has a moral right to be concerned with
his own glory over everyone else, since he alone deserves all of the glory. We
deserve none of it. The Calvinist will claim that we deserve nothingnothing.
And why is that? Because we are worms, miserable sinners deserving of
nothing. Any mercies God may want to offer us by decreeing such things that
bring us happiness, including salvation, are undeserved. They will claim we all
deserve to be in hell, so anything good we receive is because of Gods love and
mercy extended toward us. And why do we deserve to be in hell? The bottom
line is because it brings God the most glory. This is indeed horrible, decree. As
Calvin admits. But if God can decree us to desire to do evil deeds, then he can
also decree us to desire to only do good deeds. Why does our present world
bring more glory to God than a world where God decrees that all human beings
completely obey him? At this point the Calvinist punts to ignorance. She doesnt
know why. But its exceedingly implausible and wildly far-fetched to think this
world brings more honor to God than one where everyone obeys him, which is
what the Bible says he desires. Its much more likely the Calvinist God just
doesnt exist. With glory like that, who needs shame? Such a God is duplicitous
in his dealings with human beings for his own ends. Calvinism is morally
bankrupt as a theology. It denies the obvious, time and time again.
The Calvinist answer is that everything God does is good, even if we cannot
understand it. Every instance of human suffering brings about a greater good,
Gods glory. Everything that happens brings God glory. We are not to question
this or to complain. Hes creating a beautiful painting. God knows what hes
doing. We should trust him, they say. But why does a Calvinist think anyone
should trust her God? Why? What reasons are there for trusting such a God?
There are nonenone!not on Calvinistic grounds, since according to Calvinists

122

we deserve nothing from God at all! Their God can treat us any way he wants to
with complete and utter disregard for us as human beings, since we are
condemned as sinners going to hell. On their own grounds they cant even trust
him to be truthful with them, since the Bible tells them one thing and God
secretively decrees something different, which brings me to the second problem
for Calvinism.
The second problem has to do with the Calvinist idea that God sovereignly
decrees everything we believethat whether or not a person believes in
Calvinistic theology is decreed by their sovereign God. The bottom line here for
the Calvinist is that all of these specific Calvinistic conclusions were the ones that
God had secretly and sovereignly decreed that Augustine and Calvin should
arrive at from all of eternity. They could not have arrived at different theological
conclusions.
If so, how is it possible to trust any of these Calvinistic conclusions if we dont
have access to Gods secretive will? As far as the Calvinist knows, Gods
secretive will may be that they should be deceived in accepting Calvinism. Based
on their own theology they have no reason to trust Godnone. Their God is
already recognized to be duplicitous. God may be leading them astray, based
upon his secretive will, only to cast them in hell for his own glory. For all they
know, God may turn around and reward those of us who are skeptics, simply
because he secretively decreed us into unbelief too. For the Calvinist to proclaim
that he can indeed trust God just because God says he doesnt lie doesnt solve
anything, for the Bible is merely Gods revealed will, not his true secretive
sovereign will. So Calvinism is a theology that leads to total skepticism about
everythingeverything. Their God could very well be Descartes evil demon.
All that the Calvinist can say is that this is what God has led me to believe,
and thats why I believe it. Based upon her own theology there is absolutely no
guarantee that what she believes is true, or that its based upon the available
evidence. According to the Calvinist, I am an atheist because this is what her God
has led me to believe, and thats why I believe it. There would be no way either
of us could believe differently. Therefore the evidence for or against our
respective beliefs could be overwhelmingly against what we each believe, but
God decrees we believe what we do anyway. We would have no way to know
which of our views is correct, since we both cannot be right.
A Calvinist might object by arguing that even if her God makes her believe
against the total available evidence, such an admission still presupposes the very
existence of the Calvinistic God. Hence, it still assumes Calvinism is true, even if
all of the available evidence was against it. But this is an epistemological problem
concerning internal consistency, and the question is whether or not she can know
she is correct about her theology. If the Calvinist grants that the total evidence
could be against her belief, and that her position leads her to agnosticism about
the available evidence, what follows? Epistemologically, she should cease
believing. Its that simple. Such a person should reject Calvinistic Christianity
EVEN IF THE CALVINISTIC GOD EXISTS! Thats righteven if the Calvinistic
God exists! A person cannot continue to believe once its acknowledged, on her
own grounds, that she cannot know whether or not the evidence favors what she
believes. Based upon Calvinist grounds she has no reason to say the evidence
supports what she believes, and so there is no way to independently decide if she

123

believes correctly. If a Calvinist acknowledges this, she should be an agnostic. Its


that simple.
Let me personalize this. If God sovereignly decreed that I should be an
apostate, then he is his own worst enemy. With decrees like this, there must be a
great amount of internal conflict within the Trinity itself. Such decrees are
contrary to his stated desires (2 Pet. 3:9). In fact, that means God decreed I should
write this book and start my Blog. Maybe God should just see a shrink. If God is
completely sovereign, then God decreed what I am doing (and I could not have
done otherwise). Im leading people away from him. If Im effective, more people
will be in hell as a result of my efforts, and I cannot do otherwise.
The Calvinist response is that God purportedly decrees all of this because the
people who suffer in hell for all eternity bring him more glory than if they didnt
suffer in hell for eternity. But the belief in the eternal suffering of billions of
people for slighting God is one of the biggest problems atheists have with God,
and one of the main causes to malign him. How could the redeemed ever praise
him for this, especially when those who suffer will be their spouses, children,
parents, and friends? And God sovereignly decreed all of this? Its just plainly
obvious that this does not bring more glory to God than having everyone in
heaven. Why do they continue to deny the obvious in favor of their historically
conditioned understanding of ancient superstitious writings that were edited
until canonized, when the obvious stares them in the face?
People who do lesser crimes than their God get locked up in prison and/or
are executed. The fact that he is God and thus more powerful than us makes no
difference in the way he should treat us. It just makes him a thug, a despicable
potentate. Hes a devil in disguise, and unworthy of anything but disgust!
Notes
1. For a detailed look at John Calvins ideas, see Paul Helm, John Calvins
Ideas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
2. See Clark Pinnock, ed., Grace Unlimited (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship,
1975); Clark Pinnock, ed., The Grace of God, the Will of Man (Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan, 1989); and Jack Cottrell, What the Bible Says about God the Ruler
(Joplin, MO: College Press, 1984). An excellent debate on the subject can be found
in David and Randall Basinger, eds., Predestination and Free Will (Downers
Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986). See also Jerry L. Walls and Joseph Dongell,
Why I Am Not a Calvinist (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004).

124

30. The Pharisees: Were They That Bad?


The purpose of this section is to see the obvious bias that the New Testament
writers had when it came to the facts, in this case, the Pharisees. If there is
obvious bias with them, then why should we trust what the NT writers say in
other areas, especially about the resurrection of Jesus?
Virtually all of our knowledge of the Pharisees comes from three sources:
1) Josephus (c. 75-101 AD); 2) Various Rabbinic compilations (c. 200 AD); and, 3)
The New Testament (55-95 AD). Josephus account is brief and superficial (he
likens them to the Stoics). Rabbinic sources are too late to be helpful. The New
Testament is generally antagonistic toward the Pharisees. What we read in the
New Testament is a one-sided argument against the Pharisees. So, our three
sources provide neither a complete nor a straightforward picture of the
Pharisees. [Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Pharisees]. We cannot assume
the churchs traditional view of the Pharisees is necessarily correct at every point;
a genuine effort must be made to understand whatever evidence is available to
us. [Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible: Pharisees. To better understand them see
Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, C.K. Barrett, The New Testament
Background: Selected Documents, F.F. Bruce, New Testament History, and Alfred
Edersheim, The Life and Times of the Messiah, and Pharisees, in the Anchor Bible
Dictionary].
The Pharisees are largely presented in the New Testament as legalistic,
hypocritical, ostentatious, traditionalists, and self-righteous men. (See Luke 7,
12:1; 18; Matthew 5-7; 23). But have you ever wondered what the Pharisees
would have said in response? They are not as bad as a group that the gospel
writers make them out to be. After all, Jesus criticisms were not leveled at all
Pharisees; just to those who were acting hypocritically. But two good things can
be said of them generally.
First) They were patriots. This sect arose among those who fought for
Jerusalems independence in earlier years. They called each other neighbors
and were a close-knit group of largely middle class laymen who looked after
each other. Many were ordinary businessmen, some priests, and many were
scribes. They numbered about 6,000 in a nation of 500,000 people, and their
political power and influence varied depending upon who was king. They were
social conservatives and known as the peoples partyhighly respected by the
masses. They were committed to living clean separate lives, and to resisting the
corrupting influence of a pagan Gentile society. They longed to have their nation
purged from pagan culture. Hence, they were known as separatiststhe
meaning of their name. They defended and upheld the law, traditions, and the
ceremonies of their forefathers. This distinguished them from pagan influences.
Second) They were men of the book. They recognized the authority of the
Old Testament. They knew it well and sought to obey every detail. The leaders
and influential Pharisees were scribesexperts in the lawwho interpreted the
laws and oral traditions of the fathers. Josephus tells us that they were known for

125

the precision with which they interpreted the law and the strictness with which
they kept it (Antiquities of the Jews, 18:15).
Example: Handwashing. (Mark 7:1-5). Mosaic Law required bathing to
remove certain impurities before entering the temple. The Pharisees thought that
it would therefore honor God to do so before the Sabbath and festival meals, for
these days are special too. This reveals how carefully people thought about the
law and about observing the will of God. The law in principle covers all of life.
Pious first century Jews thought through every detail, so as to observe Gods will
in every possible way. [E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, 1993, p. 45].
The written law is very incomplete; in theory it covers all of life, but it often
lacks details. Consequently, it had to be extended and applied in all kinds of
ways(p. 209).
Example: The Sabbath Day. The Bible forbids working on the seventh day.
Various passages specify some of the things that count as work, such as lighting
a fire, gathering wood, or preparing food (Exodus 16:32; Numbers 15:32-36).
There is, however, no systematic definition of work. When it came to treating
people with illnesses or healing people on the Sabbath, the Pharisees forbad the
work involved in the treatment of minor ailments, so they found ways to achieve
desired results without actually working. On the Sabbath one could not treat a
toothache by applying vinegar, but one could put vinegar on food and eat it,
which would achieve the same result. While it was generally agreed that
transgressing the Sabbath was permitted if human life was at stake, the question
remained how serious must an illness be to justify treatment on the Sabbath.
[See E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, pp. 208-209]. When it came to
traveling on the Sabbath, they could only walk 3/5th of a mile (unless they took
a mat and laid down for a while).
There were purification laws, food laws, tithing and fasting laws. Practically
every area of human life came to be included and regulated by an abundance of
individual prescriptionsbelieving as they did that God had provided for every
circumstance that could arise. [New International Dictionary of N.T. Theology:
Pharisees]. It would be a mistake, however, to think that the Pharisees were
consciously trying to make life more burdensome for people. Evidence suggests
they had a passion for ceremonial righteousness, and a strong desire for their
nation to be a separate people from the error of paganism, which was what they
believed caused God to send their people into Babylonian Captivity.
Three areas of conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus:
One) The authority of the written law over against the oral law and the traditions of
the fathers. Adherence to the oral tradition, with its rules for interpreting the law,
was seen by the Pharisees as the way to the fulfillment of the written law. (New
International Dictionary of N.T. Theology). It was a way of honoring their fathers
(and the 4th commandment) whom they respected. But the oral law also led
them to the belief in the resurrection from the dead, with a final judgment of
rewards and punishments, along with the belief in a cosmic struggle with Satan
and his cohorts. In this sense the Pharisees were theological liberals as opposed
to the Sadducees who rejected the belief in the resurrection. The odd thing is that
Jesus (and Paul) also believed these thingsthings that stemmed from the oral
law! This makes Jesus somewhat inconsistent in his view of the relationship of

126

the two laws. And in this sense he too was a theological liberal! [See James Dunn,
The Living Word, Fortress, 1987, pp. 44-55). Jesus condemned the neglect of the
written law when it was in conflict with the oral law. But the Pharisees just
didnt think there was any conflict between the two!
Two) According to the New Testament, some of the Pharisees focused on ritual purity
whereas Jesus focused on a purity of the heart (Matthew 23). The charge is that they
had a misplaced focus. This was none other than a debate over spirituality, and
the Pharisees were unprepared (not unlike the Roman Catholic Church in the
time of the Reformation). Because of this, Jesus charged these Pharisees with
hypocrisy. According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Hypocrisy
was a new sin, a sin only possible in a spiritual religion, a religion in which
morality and worship were closely related. The prophets had denounced the
insincerity of worship, but even they did not denounce hypocrisy, i.e., religion
used as a cloak to hide treachery or dishonesty. (p. 2364). The question remains
then, were the Pharisees hypocritical? How can someone judge anothers
motives, which is what it is claimed that Jesus did? Most all of the Pharisees
would certainly deny it, although, just fulfilling ritual ceremonial rites to the
letter cannot reveal the heart of the person performing them, either way.
Three) The Pharisaical brotherhood (neighbors) disassociated themselves from the
common people, whereas Jesus was a friend of outcasts and those deemed to be sinners
(Matthew 9:11; Mark 2:16; Luke 4:16; 5:30; 7:34). In contrast to the masses, the
Pharisees considered themselves to be true Israel. Eventually this grew to the
dimensions of a caste distinction on the part of the Pharisees. [J. Jeremias,
Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus]. But in their defense, they just wanted to associate
with people who desired to fulfill the law. Poverty, and sickness were both seen
by the Pharisees to be signs of Gods judgment (Luke 7; 18). Whereas health and
righteousness were signs of Gods pleasure. And as separatists they disassociated
themselves from sinful lifestyles (tax-collectors, prostitutes, and enemies), and
few people throughout history have done any better.
The Pharisees and the Death of Jesus. There are several books published that
explore who killed Jesus. E. P. Sanders boldly writes: The High Priest and the
chief priests are the primary actors, and the Pharisees play no role at all. The
stories of Pilates reluctance and weakness of will are best explained as Christian
propaganda; they are a kind of excuse for Pilates action which reduces the
conflict between the Christian movement and Roman authority. [E. P. Sanders,
The Historical Figure of Jesus, p. 269-274; See also, John Dominic Crossan, Who
Killed Jesus? (Harper, 1995), and Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Putting Away Childish
Things (Harper, 1992, pp. 97-121)].

127

31. Preterism: an Admission Jesus Failed to Return


I think Preterism, or even partial Preterism, is a frank concession of the fact
that Jesus did not return as was expected from the earliest days of Christianity
until recently. Its one thing for skeptics to scoff, it's quite another to see
Christians re-invent their eschatology to accommodate this glaring problem.
Christians can debate what the Bible says about this all they want to. When
they come to an agreement, then I'll know which view to subject to criticism. In
the meantime let see what can be said about Preterism. Preterism places New
Testament eschatological fulfillment in and around AD 70 with the destruction of
Jerusalem by the Romans when the temple with its old covenantal sacrificial
system (the heaven and earth of the Jews) was destroyed, and the new covenant
with its heavenly Jerusalem (the new heaven and earth of Christians) was
inaugurated. Redemption was made complete and the Kingdom was
consummated, we're told.
But this new view is puzzling to me, and I have a few questions about it. Just
like the Jehovah Witnesses who say Jesus returned spiritually in 1914, my
criticisms are similar in kind.
In the first place, what was Jesus doing before he returned and inaugurated
his kingdom in 70 AD? Was he not already reigning over the believer's hearts? If
not, then what was he doing? Was there a time between 33 AD and 70 AD when
there was no covenant, no promises, no Christian moral standards to live by?
Were Christians still living under the Old Covenant until the temple was
destroyed? Was Jesus not yet the King reigning over Christians?
In the second place, what is the difference for the Christian in the supposed
return of Jesus in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem, if Jesus was already
reigning over their lives? Preterists think it made a difference because the
temple was destroyed along with their sacrifices, which leads them to say the
Kingdom was inaugurated at that time. But according to the book of Hebrews,
sacrifices had already ended in Jesus, and the Spirit had already inaugurated the
community of Christians by indwelling believers. If Jesus' resurrection is the only
proof that Christians needed, then the destruction of Jerusalem should have
proved nothing additional to them, as Christians. This would be the case even if
Jerusalem hadn't been destroyed! Think about it. If Jerusalem had never been
destroyed with the temple and the sacrifices, then what would have changed for
the Christian?
In the third place, did the destruction of Jerusalem prove anything to the
Jews? Hardly. Did they become Christians? It only shows me that the Biblical
God is barbaric in that he unmercifully destroys people for whom he hasn't given
enough evidence to believe. The Jewish religion did go through a major change,
though. But the Jewish religion was already supplanted by Christianity decades
earlier, according to the NT. The Jews just changed their views of sacrifices,
much like how preterists are changing their eschatology today because Jesus
failed to return. But why should any of these Jewish theological changes matter
to Christians?

128

Lastly, if the Trinitarian God has always reigned over his world, then what
difference did it make to the world in general that Jerusalem was destroyed in
70 AD? Presumably God (Father, Son, & Spirit) never had to ask anyone for
permission to reign over his world. The Bible claims he just does, and that he
always has done so. It really doesn't matter to God whether or not people
acknowledge that he does--he just does. So if preterists are correct that God-inJesus started reigning in 70 AD, then who is Jesus now reigning over that he
didn't reign over before then? Since his reign has always been over everyone,
then it can only mean that he began reigning specifically over Christians in 70
AD. But ever since the inauguration of the church he was supposedly already
their king!
So what difference did the destruction of Jerusalem make in the lives of
anyone at all with regard to the reign of God-in-Jesus? I see none.
Its worth quoting William Lane Craig's critique of Tom Wright's partial
Preterism (which occurred in his review of Wright's tome on the resurrection of
Jesus) at some length in this connection) [See Craig, William Lane. "Review of
N.T. Wright's Christian Origins and the Question of God, Faith and Philosophy,
Vol. 22, No. 2 (April 2005), pp. 241-242:
"...Wright defends in his earlier books [i.e. his books prior to his work on the
resurrection of Jesus]...the view that Jesus' prophecies of the coming of the Son of
Man in judgment were fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem.
Wright repeatedly asserts that Jews did not anticipate "the end of the space-time
universe" at the coming of the Kingdom of God, but a shift within history. I
wondered in reading those earlier works how Wright would interpret Paul's
teaching that the general resurrection of the dead would take place at Christ's
return (I Thess. 4:13; 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 51-54), teaching which was given prior to
AD 70. Surely Wright did not believe that the predicted (general) resurrection
took place in AD 70? Certainly not; Wright maintains that the second stage of the
resurrection remains future. But if that is the case, in what principled way can we
discriminate prophecies concerning Christ's return in AD 70 from those
concerning his final return? Are we really to think that Paul, writing in the AD
50s, took the return of Christ and the attendant resurrection to be something
different than the return predicted by Jesus and anticipated by the early church
(Mk. 13)?"
For a devastating critique of Wrights Preterism see Edward Adams, The Stars
Will Fall From Heaven: Cosmic Catastrophe in the New Testament and its World
(London: T & T Clark, 2007). Edwards argues convincingly that the people in
Jesus day literally believed in a cosmic catastrophe at the eschaton (end times, or
at the coming of the Son of Man) and that the stars will literally fall from heaven,
especially since they believed the stars were hung in the firmament which held
back water and was supported by pillars.

129

32. Embarrassing Elements in the Gospels


It has been claimed that the presence of embarrassing elements in the
Gospels must mean that God was behind the human authors, otherwise these
authors would not have written about them, like Peters denial, Pauls thorn in
the flesh, or even Jesus weakness in the garden of Gethsemane before the
crucifixion.
But there is an alternative hypothesis to consider whether such
embarrassments add credibility to the Gospels. The oral tradition and Q, which
the Gospel writers used to construct their accounts, were more faithful
transcriptions of what Jesus said and did. Since this is so, consider this
alternative hypothesis: The traditions about Jesus grew about him until he was
granted divine status as the decades progressed, and while there were attempts
to change these earlier stories, they couldn't change them all.
Compare Mark 10:18 where Jesus says, Why do you call me good? No one
is good but God alone", with Matthew 19:16, where Jesus' words are changed by
a later gospel writer to say, Why do you ask me about what is good? There is
only one who is good." Notice Matthew doesn't have Jesus say that only God is
good, because it would be a discrepancy with the fact that in Matthew's time
they were beginning to think of Jesus as God.
The thing about most of the so-called embarrassing comments in the Gospels
is that the context itself provides the answer for the reader. Lets say I write a
story about a hero and tell about a time someone smashed a pie in his face
without additional comment, or that his mother thought he was insane, or his
hometown rejected him, or that some people thought he was in collusion with
the devil, or that he was a glutton. It would merely be saying my hero faced
opposition and problems, but its clear that Im claiming hes a great man despite
that fact, and he overcame that opposition. So there is nothing embarrassing
about telling these stories in the context of my whole story. My hero still shines.
Other passages merely tell us something about Jesus, that his healings were
sometimes based on common medical techniques, or that they werent
instantaneous, since in the ancient world it was still considered a healing, and
thats what healers did. For them it would not be embarrassing to tell them, even
though for us today it is. Anytime Jesus couldnt heal someone it was always
explained as a lack of faith on other people anyway, so I see nothing
embarrassing in that.
That Jesus associated with lower class people is actually a praiseworthy
thing in the gospels since the Christian movement took off among the lower
classes (with notable exceptions). Even high class people can admire such a
person who is known as not being a respecter of persons. At least, thats what
higher class people say they admire, even if they dont want to emulate this
behavior.
The fact that it says his disciples faltered shows his patience with them in
teaching them how to be overcomers, and the gospels show how they did

130

eventually overcome. It would be like a Niki Cruz story, or a conversion


testimonial: "Look how bad I was, weak, sinful, and ignorant. But Jesus helped
me be what I am today." It serves the Evangelists purposes very well, since they
want to show how Jesus changes lives.
Others passages about Jesus, like the fig tree incident (which didnt offer
Jesus fruit out-of-season so Jesus cursed it and it withered), show he is allpowerful, and there is a moral lesson to be found there. Still others can be
explained by my earlier hypothesis. And still others are merely modern
embarrassments, like his racism, and his rudeness, which surely were not seen as
such to ancient people. And while the cross was a curse upon the crucified, the
story ends with him being resurrected, so Jesus, the hero, overcame death itself.
In fact, without the cross there would be no storyno faithno victory over sin.
Christian, just tell me if YOU are embarrassed by these incidents. Dont you
find them and the lessons learned from them to be positive and uplifting? If yes,
then they are not embarrassing after all. For me as an atheist the embarrassments
I find in the Bible are plethora, since it reflects ancient barbaric and superstitious
people.

131

33. How Can God Judge Us All Fairly?


Human beings on earth do not all have the same opportunities or the same
chances in life. Black people in America have not had (and still do not have) the
same chances to succeed in life. Many of them were born into slavery and died
slaves in American history. Neither have women had the same chances to
succeed. According to Aristotle men were natural rulers and women were
natural subjects, since women were essentially defective men. Rousseau
advocated that womens education should be designed entirely to make them
pleasing to men. Then there are people born into handicaps of all kinds,
including a reduced mental capacity.
On the one hand there have been people who were born with a proverbial
silver spoon in their mouths. They are good looking, not ugly; they were raised
by good parents who had everything. They have received the best of advice
throughout their lives and had the very best education available.
On the other hand others were born in a high rise apartment in Chicago by a
single mother on welfare and who was a drug dealing prostitute. Bullets fly past
them in the hallways from drug deals gone wrong. Many of these youths
experience a great deal of pressure to join a father substitute in a gang, lest they
be fair prey for all gangs. They receive no encouragement to better themselves
and cant bring themselves to think outside of their world.
Not everyone is tested like we read in the fictional story of Job. Why not?
Unless we are all tested in the same extreme manner how could God know how
we would respond? Some people are simply not tested in this mannermany of
them. And if God knows how we would respond before even being tested then
why is the story of Job in the Bible in the first place? Why test Adam and Eve?
Why are we even created on earth?
The disparity between the people in this world, from the Donald Trumps to
the hermit who lives in a run down shack in Nevada, calls out for an explanation.
If God exists, then why this disparity? 40,000 children die every day from
starvation around the world. While I was born into a good family I have never
gone hungry, even if I am financially a pauper compared to Donald Trump.
By very virtue of being born into a home my chances to succeed in life are
pretty much set, depending among some things like whether I was a female,
black, handicapped, mentally deficient, born in poverty, or raised by abusive
parents.
There are people born with natural talent, and others who struggle just to
walk and chew gum at the same time. There are a great many things in life that
most of us could never do by virtue of our birth and family upbringing. I could
never be a Tiger Woods, or a Michael Jordan, or a Johnny Archer (ranked the #1
pool player of the past decade).
Ive already argued for the Outsider Test for Faith where one adopts their
religion based upon when and where they are born, the accidents of birth. Now I
want to argue that those same accidents of birth overwhelmingly determine who
we will be and how successful we will be in life. Yes, there will be exceptions to
this, but once again Im asking for someone to explain the rule.

132

There have been successful businessmen for instance, who, when they
become Christians become successful preachers in large churches. Why? Because
they were taught to believe in themselves, were good looking, smart, and/or first
born children. There are second born children who are insecure and, well,
different than their older brother or sister, and they have a hard time being
successful because they were raised to be a little selfish and/or lazy, as but one
example. But I see the exact same kinds of attitudes brought into the Christian
faith that these same people had before being Christians.
There are so many psychological factors of our potential in life that are
determined by how we were raised and our genetic makeup that human beings
do not have the same chances in life. I could go on and on..on and on.about
how these factors overwhelmingly determine our chances to succeed in life.
As an atheist I find nothing strange about this at all. Thats just the way it is.
People get lucky and people get unlucky, and in-between. We should just play
the hand that was dealt to us the best we can. We cannot complain. All we can do
is to strive to be the best we can be in this world and be happy for whatever
success we can accomplish.
But what about the Christian? Several theistic explanations are offered for
this disparity, like Adams sin and the sins of the fathers being brought to bear
down on the children. But how does that explain Adams own household, in that
Cain (the second born) sought to kill Abel (the first born)? Or that Eve being a
woman was deceived first? That sounds pretty stereotypical, doesnt it? If so,
then neither Eves nor Cains chances in life were the same as Adams and Abels.
Eve and Cain had a propensity to do what they did by virtue of their birth (or
creation). Besides, why would Christians today accept an ancient oriental
standard of federal headship to explain how Adams sin was conferred on people
who had not yet been born? Christians today dont think this way about guilt.
No one assigns personal guilt to the son for what a father does.
Christians will say that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Of course
Christians must conclude this, even if Jesus hadnt said it. Why? Because if they
believe in a good God then they must see this disparity and they cannot conclude
anything else. But Im asking why this is so. Why does the rain fall on the just
and the unjust, and why does the drought fall on the just and the unjust. It just
all appears to fall by chance.
But the question remains from the Christian perspective, what did any of us
do to be born into the homes we were born into with our genetic makeup? What
did we do prior to birth? What did any of us do wrong before we were born such
that we were not born into a successful home with good looks, a very high I.Q.,
with talent oozing out our veins? Why does God purportedly give some of us a
chance to succeed and others do not have a prayer? Remember, before we were
born we hadnt done anything good or bad. What are Gods criteria for creating
some of us with a chance in life and others of us no chance in hell? Does he create
us into these homes by chance?
So, how can God judge us all fairly if we never had the same chances in life?
Oh, I know, he's supposedly omniscient. But that must mean that God has
middle knowledge (Molinism, i.e., that God knows what we would've done had
we had the same chances), but if that's the case, then again, he didn't even need
to create us on earth to test any of us at all! He could've simply foreknown what

133

we would do and condemn or praised us all accordingly. He could simply skip


this earthly existence entirely.
But the Molinistic answer still doesn't solve the problem, because both our
genetic makeup and social environment overwhelmingly determine how we will
act in this world and what we could be. I dare say that if God would create any
reader of what I'm writing today as another John W. Loftus into the same family
on the same day with all of the same genetic makeup and environmental
influences that I had, then he would probably be exactly like me today, and
doing what I am doing right now (or closely parallel). You the reader would
most likely have made every single choice I made throughout my life too, and I
can say that even granting metaphysical incompatibilistic human freedom. If this
is the case, then once again tell me how it's possible for God to judge us all fairly,
even granting omniscience? I'll tell you how...he can't!
The Calvinistic answer is actually laughable to me, in that God decreed this
world from eternity exactly as it is today, and it brings him more glory for there
to be this world than one in which everyone obeyed him and one where
everyone is successful. This makes no sense at all, and I find it hard to believe
intelligent people believe this.
I could go on and on, but Ill stop here. I know most all of the other Christian
responses. But they simply do not make sense to me at all.

134

34. Biblical Scholarship Leads to Greater Doubt.


I think a deeper level of Biblical understanding will lead progressively to
greater disbelief in the Bible as Gods word. Ive hesitated to say this before, but
this is now my conclusion. Am I saying that smarter people will eventually reject
the Bible as Gods Word? No, not at all. Am I saying that better educated people
will come to reject the Bible as Gods word? Again, no. Am I saying that
theologians and philosophers do not have a deeper understanding of the Bible?
Not at all. Let me explain.
When a person first becomes an evangelical Christian he or she has simple
faith in the Bible. For that person he or she believes God is actually speaking to
them through the Bible. This is a powerful experience that is extremely difficult
to overcome, for experiences are personal. The more a person reads the Bible the
more he or she believes God is speaking through it. For most people thats as
deep as they go all of their lives. They hear sermons, read devotional literature,
and hear personal testimonies from others that confirm what they believe. My
grandmother was one such person. She never read a Christian apologetics book
to my knowledge. Her whole life was spent as a believer because thats all she
ever experienced.
Rising above the masses of Christians there are others who read theology
books, since they want to know in greater detail how to make sense of what God
wants them to believe. Usually they read theology books within their own
denomination. Others read comparative theological books. Theology is done
mainly from within. Its an in-house area of study done from the inside with
faith. The only questions entertained are whether or not to switch rooms in the
house, not whether one should pack up their bags and leave the house
altogether. If they do decide to read something in defense of their faith they will
usually read a Christian apologetics book, from the hands of J. P. Moreland,
William Lane Craig, Paul Copan, Norman Geisler, Josh McDowell, or Lee
Strobel.
Rising above the layman variety of theological readers you have the college
and seminary type of student Christians who become pastors and ministers.
Operating once again inside of the Christian perspective they may read a
liberal book or a skeptical book or two, but it is done from the perspective of
showing why it is wrong. The red flags are up in their heads as they read. They
are looking for things they cannot agree with based upon other belief
background factors. [One Christian layman friend I wrote about earlier, Brenda,
said that every time she opened my book to read it she said a prayer that went
like this: Please God, dont let me be deceived as I read this book.]
Of course, at the very top are Christian philosophers, apologists, and
theologians who argue, debate and write tomes in defense of Christianity. These
thinkers read what the skeptics and liberals write and tell those in the "rank
and file" what to believe about their writings. These authors stand within some
denomination and feel the need to defend the faith to the Christian community
they are a part of. Their reputations are at stake, as is their livelihood. They are
well educated, smart, and they understand the Bible, but it is all done within the

135

confines of the Christian community who support them...it is all done from
within. They know the arguments against what they believe better than most all
other believers. They are keenly aware of the many problems to what they
believe and defend. So long as they stay inside the confines of the Campus
Crusade for Christ organization, who pays the bills, or a Seminary setting, or a
strong denominational tie of some sort, they will remain conservative, or, at least,
they will not express very many liberalizing tendencies or doubt. But if they
teach at a secular university, receive tenure, or are cut off from the conservative
church for one reason or another, you will see them shift to the left almost every
time. Some of them change their minds entirely. So I think many of these
evangelical apologists are but a stones throw away from giving in to massive
doubt. When being open and candid they will even express some serious doubts
about their faith. However, most of them probably won't even allow themselves
to entertain these doubts.
For the most part evangelical scholarship is very specialized. Christian
scholars who may know a great deal about philosophy do not know that much
about biblical criticism, like probably Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne,
while scholars in Biblical criticism don't know that much about philosophy. So in
this specialized atmosphere those Christian scholars who are working in one
field of study can lean on others who write in another area of study for the
defense of their faith, and vice versa. [Others like Geisler and Craig do know a
great deal about it all, though]. Christian philosophical scholars who may be
resting on the results from other Christian biblical scholars for the defense of
their faith may never have seriously considered the skeptical arguments about
Biblical criticism, and vice versa. This is why a general cumulative counterapologetics book like mine is needed, for I discuss the whole range of issues that
must be dealt with by all Christian scholars.
There is an undeniable leftward trend to biblical or Christian scholarship. All
one has to do is to observe the liberalizing and leftward trend of Biblical scholars
and seminaries. Most of these scholars entered seminary as conservatives but
progressively become liberals, pluralists and even skeptics. Seminaries which
defend inerrancy are relatively young and reactionary schools against the
liberalizing schools they once supported. Yale, Princeton, and Harvard, for
instance, were all started to train preachers. The testimonies of Michael Shermer,
Robert M. Price, Gerd Ludemann, Robert Funk, John Dominic Crossan, John
Hick, Marcus Borg, John A. T. Robinson, William Dever, Bart Ehrman and
Hector Avalos all provide individual evidence of this for their respective
disciplines of learning.
Where are examples of liberal or skeptical students of the Bible or theology
who have progressively become more evangelical or fundamentalist in affirming
inerrancy? Where are the liberal seminaries that have progressively become more
evangelical or fundamentalist in affirming inerrancy? Where are the secular
institutions that have reversed themselves and decided to become an evangelical
seminary instead? These things dont happen! Could it be that a deeper level of
Biblical understanding will lead progressively to greater disbelief in the Bible as
Gods word? I think so.

136

35. The History of Christianity Debunks Itself.


I just finished reading large portions of Brian Moynahan's book, The Faith: A
History of Christianity. I highly recommend it.
This book contains 800+ pages and was written by a highly acclaimed
journalist. Over at Amazon a reviewer from the Library Journal said this about it:
With more than 100 startling photographs, illustrations, and drawings, he
presents an unconventional and sensational chronology that reveals how
Christianity has often been its own worst enemy. The story begins,
dramatically enough, with Jesus on the cross, lamenting God's absence, and
ends after 766 pages with a cutting statement: "Christianity's self-inflicted
wounds still fester." In between, readers are exposed to every ugly event of
Christianity imaginable: Roman persecution, Constantine's conquest of the
church, heresy, Islamic invasions, slavery, crusades, inquisitions, the Bible as
a lethal weapon, persecution by the Reformers, witch trials, conquistadors,
persecution of missionaries, revolutions, fights between religions, and the
African slave trade.
What I'm finding is that Moynahan tells us the good that the church did, as
well as the bad. It's balanced and fair for the most part, implicating both
Catholics and Protestants in their crimes, and also praising them for the good
things they did. In any case, this is not a one sided history of Christianity. It
shares how clerics, friars, priests and Protestants argued over things like the
Inquisition, Crusades, the witch hunts, the conquering of the Americas, the
slavery of African peoples, and how there were various Christian responses, both
good and bad, to Stalin and Hitler.
As I read this book it becomes clearer to me that the history of the church is a
history of humans groping for truth, moral truth. The church learned it like the
rest of us do, through trial and error. They argued for it. They learned from their
mistakes. And the church is still learning from her mistakes. We all do. It
presents the history of the church in human terms. Christianity does not look like
a divine institution at all when you understand her history! The history of the
church looks entirely like a human enterprise. There is no real evidence it's a
divine institution.
If there was one lack in my education it was in the area of church history. I
had a two semester class in this subject as an undergraduate, and another two
semester class in it for graduate school. Since my focus wasn't in that area I took
the required courses. But as I remember them, they lacked in telling the whole
story about the church. Yes, we read about the Crusades, and the Inquisition, but
not much about slavery and the witch hunts. The focus was on theological
doctrine and the progress of Christianity through missionary efforts. Among
evangelicals, the whole progress of the church after the introduction of heresies
in the 2nd century A.D. is seen to lead up to the restoration of a true

137

understanding of the Bible once again, among true Christians in the 20th Century
church, and beyond. And so the history of the church is a history of errors (both
social and theological) precisely because she was led astray in the 2nd century
A.D.
My view now is that this is an absolutely inaccurate portrayal of church
history for many reasons that this book lays out in some detail. The history of the
church can actually be seen to demolish evangelical claims over and over. To
read the disputes Christians had down through the centuries is enlightening. To
say one has finally arrived at the truth is not only naive and simplistic, but
ignorant. One needs only to gain a good grasp of church history to see this, and
as an introduction I highly recommend this fair and balanced book for starters.
There are others. I could only wish that more Christians would become church
historians.

138

36. Christians are Fearful of Doubting.


I think its quite possible that fear is the main motivation behind the Christian
unwillingness to consider his or her faith to be wrong. Some Christians act like
they have even been personally attacked when reasons are offered against their
faith.
Here then, are three fears behind the Christian unwillingness to consider his
or her faith to be wrong, in no particular order:
1) Fear of being wrong about something they have invested so much time
and money trying to live it and to defend it. After all, if they are wrong, then
theyre wasting their time and their money. If, however, they didnt have this
much invested in any other historical question, such as who was the greatest
Football team ever, or who shot JFK, then they could dispassionately investigate
their faith without being so afraid of being wrong.
2) Fear of Hell. Of course, the biggest fear of them all is the fear of hell,
however conceived. As the Churchs threat against all sinners and all its
enemies, hell serves the holy purpose of cradle to grave intimidation. [Uta
Ranke-Heinemann, Putting Away Childish Things, Hell]. A Christian doesnt
even want to let doubt in the door lest it overtake him and consume him and
eventually send him to hell.
3) Fear of the social consequences. The Christian is in a community of
believers who share the same beliefs. They share life with believing friends.
These friends help each other. Sometimes those who have been Christians for
years dont know of very many others to turn to in times of need, besides other
Christians. So if they left the fold, whom could they turn to? They may believe
that atheists cannot be trusted to be moral, so the only people they could turn to
in need would be other Christians. Christians who are in the paid ministry, or
have as their vocation a teaching or apologetic ministry, like I did at one time, are
fearful of losing their whole livelihoods.
Christians could be skeptical of their faith, even if they only did so to see what
it "feels" like, in a hypothetical sense. But I wonder how many of them will even
attempt this. They just might be too scared to try. That's all they would have to
do, too. For how one views the evidential arguments changes everything. It's all
about control beliefs, assumptions, and perspectives. And the more a Christian
dialogues with a skeptic the more he or she knows the objections to the Christian
faith. At that point the only thing that needs to change is his or her perspective.
That's it. How he or she views the evidential arguments makes all the difference
in the world--it's all in the perspective. So consider this question one more time.
I just want to say that its better over here. There isnt this fear where I am. I
can dispassionately investigate the claims of religious truth without fear, or
without guilt--which is another motivator for the Christian. Someone said once
that "the truth will set you free." It did for me. I am free from the fear of
questioning. I'm free from Christian guilt, and it wasn't until I had rejected
Christianity that I realized how massive that guilt really was.

139

37. Pascals Wager Revisited


In my previous book Why I Became an Atheist, I dealt with Pascals Wager in
chapter 3. I want to share three of the main criticisms of it in what follows. There
is the evidential objection, the gamblers objection, the many gods objection.
The evidential objection concerns how much evidence Christianity should
have before I must take seriously the claims of Christianity. Keep in mind that
Pascals Wager is a purely prudential argument that is supposed to help us
decide what to do when the evidence is inclusive. Its meant as a tiebreaker when
someone cannot decide between skepticism and Christianity. The Christianity
referred to in this argument is of the conservative branches. Its meant to defend
the type of Christianity that promises an everlasting conscious torment in a fiery
hell. Other types of Christianity don't even apply, those affirming annihilation,
or universal salvation, since there isnt much to fear if one is wrong.
In any case, I judge that conservative Christianity has about a .00001%
probability of being correct, or 1 in 100,000. This is something I think one can
conclude from the arguments in my book. Given that I might be wrong in this
judgment, since I've been wrong before, I'll up it to a .0001% probability of being
correct, or 1 in 10,000. This probability has nothing to do with how many other
religions and gods there are. It's a probability based solely on the merits of the
evidence and arguments themselves. Others will judge this case differently, of
course. So my argument precludes Pascals Wager because we do not need a tie
breaker. The evidence is against the Christian claim, decisively.
Keep in mind what this means. It means that there is a 99.99% probability that
Christianity is delusional. [It also means that unless there is a religion with a
greater amount of probability then there is a .0001% chance this life is all there
is]. This makes Pascals Wager an argument a force akin to someone crying
"wolf," or someone else yelling "the sky is falling." Why should I take the bet if I
see no credibility in the warning?
Still, perhaps Pascal's wager has a good deal of force, the evidential objection
alone notwithstanding, since the payout is an infinite amount with an eternal
bliss if correct. But the force of it, if there is any, will only apply to people who
like to gamble, who like taking risks for the sake of taking risks, who dont mind
the low odds for a high payout, an eternal bliss.
This brings us to the second objection, what I call the gamblers objection.
There are two types of gamblers. There are risk-taking ones who love the thrill of
betting, just to bet, and then there are reasonable gamblers. When it comes to the
risk taking gambler there would be nothing we could say if she wanted to take a
risk and gamble against Pascals Wager, even granting Pascals argument. After
all, such a person is a gambler who takes risks. Such a gambler could still bet
fifty/fifty against an eternal bliss by living life as she pleases, in hopes Pascal is
wrong!
Let me focus on reasonable gamblers. Anyone who plays the very popular
poker game called Texas Holdem, for instance, knows what Im talking about
when I say there is a distinction to be made between the actual odds and the pot
(or money) odds. Actual odds are the mathematical odds of someones poker hand

140

winning the pot. The pot odds concern the ratio of the amount of a particular bet
to the total money in the pot at the time of that bet. If, say, someone must bet $5
in hopes of winning the pot, which has $200 in it, then the pot odds are 40 to 1,
which is the ratio of the money in the pot to the bet ($200 divided by $5). For
every dollar the gambler bets with such odds she has the potential of winning
$40. Such a bet is a good one even if the actual mathematical odds of winning the
hand are not large, because the risk is small in comparison to the reward. If, on
the other hand, someone must place a bet of $50 to win the same pot of $200 (or a
ratio of 4 to 1 pot odds) the bet is a bad one unless the actual odds of winning the
hand are much greater, for the reward is not worth the risk.
Lets say the two cards youve been dealt with are two spades, an Ace and a
King. Lets also assume that of the four other cards dealt face up on the poker
table two of them are also spades (say, 5 and 8). At that point you need for the
last dealt card to be either an ace (winning pair of aces) or a king (winning pair of
kings), or a spade (for a winning spade flush). The actual odds of one of those
cards being drawn last are a little better than 1 in 3. Lets assume that if one of
these cards is dealt last youll win that poker hand. Lets also assume you must
decide whether or not to place a bet of $4 on a pot that has $36 in it before that
last card is dealt face up on the table. Thats 36 divided by 4 equals 9; or 9 to 1 pot
odds. At that point you must ask yourself whether you should place that $4 bet.
The actual odds are against you 1 to 3, but the pot odds are in your favor 9 to 1.
Because of the pot odds you should bet the $4, and heres why: If you faced this
same situation seventy-five times and bet $4 each time for a total of $300, and
you won one time out of three bets (the actual odds), your gain would be about
$900 because of the pot odds.
Now lets consider the actual odds and the pot odds when it comes to Pascals
Wager. According to the Wager the payout is an infinite amount, so the pot odds
are extremely high; an eternal bliss. With the pot odds so extremely high its
argued I should place the bet. And what are we to bet? According to the
Christian faith I must bet it all, my whole life. I must die daily. I must take up my
cross and follow Jesus. I must be totally committed and have total faith. Thats
what Im called upon to do, daily, even to the point of guarding my very
thoughts. I must sacrifice that which I think about and I should not lust, hate,
covet, nor entertain any doubts.
But heres the problem. Good poker players only place reasonable bets. Thats
what makes them good poker players in the first place. And they win more often
than people who dont place reasonable bets, even if a risk taking gambler might
get lucky once in a while with an unreasonable bet. Hence, this is the key to
winning at pokeronly placing reasonable bets.
What makes any bet based on high pot odds a reasonable one? In the first
place, placing a bet based on the pot odds is only a reasonable one if the poker
player plays a certain number of hands. Its the number of hands that she plays
that makes a bet based on the pot odds a reasonable one. As indicated above,
placing a bet on the actual odds of 1 to 3 with the pot odds being 9 to 1 is a good
bet precisely because the poker player will continue to play more hands of poker.
As she does she will eventually win more moneyits all but guaranteed! But if
we are only going to play one hand of poker and we never play the game again,
then a reasonable bet must be made on the actual odds (the higher the better),

141

otherwise, the person making such a bet is nothing more nor less than a gambler
who simply likes the thrill of taking bigger and bigger risks for bigger and bigger
rewards.
Secondly, reasonable poker players should never gamble more than they can
afford to lose, even if the odds are fifty/fifty. A poker player must consider the
impact of losing everything she has when placing a bet. Even if someone might
think gamblers are not being unreasonable by wagering everything they own,
what reason would we say that a non-gambler should place this bet if the actual
odds are fifty/fifty? Who, for instance, would say its a reasonable bet to flip a
coin in the air with a fifty-fifty chance of winning when a person must bet
everything she owns, including his $350,000 house, $50,000 car, and her very
livelihood, for a chance of having the riches equal to everyone in the world,
making people like Bill Gates and heads of state like those of Saudi Arabia
paupers by comparison? While some people may indeed place this bet, its
certainly not a reasonable one demanded of everyone. The non-gambler whose
life is happy has no reason to risk that which she already has for that which
could be hers. And while wed think the person who lost this bet was foolish,
anyone who won it would also be foolish, even though she won. She would only
be lucky. For this reason poker players do not bet everything theyve got unless
they are pretty sure they have a winning hand. Pot odds are minimized as a
factor with a bet like this.
So if the actual odds for a winning poker hand in Texas Holdem are 1 in 3, it
does not matter what the pot odds are if this is the players last hand and if she
must bet everything she has! Pot odds only matter when the gambler can play a
number of hands and when shes not betting everything she owns. So when it
comes to Pascals Wager how many times can a religious seeker bet everything
for the chance of winning the eternal bliss pot? She can only do this one time!
And she must bet everything. There are no second chances. There are no more
hands to play. This would be it.
Since contrary to Pascal, I calculate the actual odds at much less than
fifty/fifty, and since contrary to Pascal, I consider my life to be happy just the
way it is, and since this is the only hand I will ever be able to bet on, I must bet
on the actual odds. Therefore, accepting Pascals Wager is simply a very bad bet.
The actual odds are extremely low for his bet. With those odds I will
undoubtedly lose everything I havemy present life!
The third objection to Pascals Wager is the decisive one, the many gods
objection. It eliminates the force of Pascal's wager, I think, since now we have
many religions and many gods all clamoring for our obedience; Muslims,
Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and so on, and so forth. One religion claims that
if you don't follow its god you will fry in hell, while another one makes the same
claim. Since many gods are threatening us with hell if we don't believe, then
Pascal's Wager cannot help us to decide between them. All of them offer an
infinite payout, too. All of them demand belief and obedience. Whom should we
believe? Whom should we obey? Pascals Wager does not answer this objection
on its own terms. We still must judge which religious viewpoint has the most
probability and such judgments are based on the accidents of birth, as Ive
argued with the Outsider Test for Faith. Hence Pascals wager failsbadly.

142

38. The Problem of Animal Suffering Revisited.


I have repeatedly talked about the problem of pain for sentient animals due to
the law of predation in the world as animals prey on each other for food,
including animal consumption by the top of the food chain, human beings. Due
to predation in the natural world there has been a horrendous amount of animal
pain for hundreds of thousands of years before the ascent of human beings.
There has been a great deal of slaughter due to our supposed need to eat animals
down to today. We hunt them, trap them for their furs, grow them for
consumption in intensive farms, and we experiment on them, sometimes in
grotesque ways. In the Bible we see where God supposedly even required
humans to sacrifice animals on altars to him. The amount of pain among the
animal world calls for an explanation for the reasons why a good God
supposedly created them. I argued that there was no need for animals at all, and
that there was no need for the law of predation in the natural world. God
couldve made every single creature a vegetarian (or vegan), and made
vegetation as plenteous as weeds are today.
I have asked what animals did to deserve the pain they experience. I have
asked what moral lessons they are expected to learn from their pain. And I have
asked whether they will experience an eternal bliss in a heaven made for them
that might help overcome the pains they experience on earth.
Christian theologians have addressed these questions, although there hasnt
been anything like a consensus among them about the best answer. Andrew
Linzey and Tom Regan tell us that of the answers given using the Bible, there
are alternative, initially plausible and yet mutually inconsistent ways of
interpreting the holy scriptures. [Animals and Christianity: A Book of Readings
(New York: Crossroad Pub., Co., 1988), p. xii-xiii). Indeed, that is par for the
course.
So let me mention several of the major Christian options and address them
below.
Option One. The traditional Christian answer is that animal predation and
pain entered our world through the supposed fall of Adam and Eve in the
Garden of Eden. Standing squarely in this tradition, Henry M. Morris and Martin
E. Clark claim that God cursed the whole earth and all of its inhabitants because
the human vice-regents on earth sinned. Before this there were no carnivorous
animals. All creatures ate fruits and herbs. But with the fall of man things began
to gradually change because of Gods curse. There was now a hostile
environment in a post-Edenic world (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:21; I Corinthians
9:9), and later, even more so in a post-Flood world (Genesis 9:1-3). In their words:
Pleasant flowering shrubs degenerated into noxious weeds. Many bacteria
originally helpful in various organic processes became deadly disease-producing
micro-organisms. Certain organisms planned for symbiotic relationships with
others declined in usefulness and became mere parasites. Certain plants actually
became poisonous.Similar changes began to take place among the animals, not
immediately, but gradually.As the plant kingdom began to suffer deteriorative

143

changes, it became more and more difficult for the animals to derive their
nourishment solely from the grasses and herbs. Gradually certain animals began
to obtain some of their proteins and other needed foods by killing and eating
animals smaller than themselves.eventually teeth and claws and other such
characteristics (perhaps originally intended merely to tear and eat tough roots,
bark, etc.) were modified and became established in certain varieties, and many
species of animals thus became carnivores. They tell us that the greatest
modifications were reserved for the drastic changes in environment following
the great Flood. After a supposed world-wide Flood, Morris and Clark argue,
God even authorized man to eat animals (Genesis 9:3-4). [The Bible Has the
Answer (El Cajon: master Books, 1987), pp. 116-120].
Of course, such an answer is simply no longer taken seriously by any
scientifically literate person, even by many other Christians. C.S. Lewis admits
that Carnivorousness, with all that it entails, is older than humanity. [The
Problem of Pain, chapter 9, Animal Pain]. Christian apologist/philosopher
Paul Copan has argued, based on the Bible, that there was animal death before
the fall of man, and that human beings and various animals were indeed meat
eaters before the Flood (despite Genesis 9:3). [Thats Just Your Interpretation
(Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001, pp. 150-152).
What Morris and Clark have done is to believe their literal interpretation of
the Bible despite what weve learned from the sciences. This is evident from the
title to their book. But Ive already shown in my other book that we should not
believe the Bible just because it says something. Their answer is wildly
implausible to modern scientifically literate people. Its simply amazing to me
the gerrymandering that they must do to believe in their literal interpretation of
the Bible. The cold hard truth is that the evidence overwhelmingly speaks
against their view. They must also deny that the present is the key to
understanding the past, which is a bedrock truth among scientists, without
which science would be rendered ineffective. And their answer still doesnt help
us understand exactly why animals should suffer simply because Adam and Eve
sinned. Again, as Ive already asked, what did animals do wrong to deserve this
punishment?
Option Two. C.S. Lewis speculates a different sort of answer based on a
Satanic corruption of the beasts prior to the existence of human beings. Having
rejected the traditional answer (Option One) Lewis speculates that some mighty
created power had already been at work for ill on the material universe, or the
solar system, or, at least, the planet Earth, before ever man came on the sceneIf
there is such a power, as I myself believe, it may well have corrupted the animal
creation before man appearedThe Satanic corruption of the beasts would
therefore be analogous, in one respect, to the Satanic corruption of man.
According to Lewis, living creatures were corrupted by an evil angelic being.
[The Problem of Pain, chapter 9]. By corrupted Lewis means that the beasts
were made to prey upon one another.
Ive already shown that the belief in Satan, or the Devil, belongs to the mythic
consciousness of ancient superstitious people in my other book. I have also
argued that if such a being rebelled against absolute goodness and power that it
makes him pure evil, suicidal and dumber than a box of rocks. Apart from those
arguments there is no Biblical text pointing C.S. Lewis in this direction, and

144

hence no biblical evidence that this is what happened. But more than this, A.
Richard Kingston informs us that if God entrusted to fallible angelic beings such
absolute control over creation that it was within their power to brutalize the
animal kingdom for all time, then he cannot be exonerated from all culpability
for what allegedly happened. Must we not go further and say that such action
would indicate either incompetence or the fact that the sufferings of the lower
creatures are unimportant in the eyes of the Creator? [Quoted in Animals and
Christianity: A Book of Readings, eds. Andrew Linzey and Tom Regan (New
York: Crossroad Pub., Co., 1988), p. 74].
Option Three. Another option is to say that animals have no souls, cannot
think, and therefore feel no pain. Rene Descartes, known as the father of modern
philosophy, had argued that all material bodies are automata, machines. Human
beings are machines with a soul that can think. The difference between human
beings and the animals is that animals cannot reason or think because they have
no souls. Only human beings have souls. Animals were like clocks with springs
which caused them to move and made noise. One reason he gives for thinking
animals cannot think is that if they thought as we do, they would have an
immortal soul like us. This is unlikely, because there is no reason to believe it of
some animals without believing it of all, and many of them, such as oysters and
sponges are too imperfect for this to be credible.it is more probable that worms
and flies and caterpillars move mechanistically than that they all have immortal
souls. [Animals and Christianity, pp. 50-51].
Descartes was understood by his followers, beginning with Malebranche, to
say that animals did not feel pain precisely because they couldnt thinkthey
were just machines. In a later letter to Marquess of Newcastle Descartes clarified
himself by saying that animals have life, since he regards life as consisting
simply in the heat of the heart. He also said he didnt deny that animals have
sensation, in so far as it depends on a bodily organ. [Animals and Christianity,
pp. 50-51]. But his followers either didnt get that message or they probably
thought pain is something more than a mere sensation which requires thought
and intelligence to detect. Since Descartes denied animals can think, it seemed
natural for people like Malebranche to take what he argued to an extreme and
claim that animals eat without pleasure and cry without pain. Descartes
followers used this as an excuse to torture, kill and experiment on animals. As a
result were told that experimenters administered beatings to dogs with perfect
indifference, and made fun of those who pitied the creatures as if they felt pain.
They said the animals were clocks; that the cries they emitted when struck were
only the noise of a little spring that had been touched, but that the whole body
was without feeling. They nailed poor animals up on boards by their four paws
to vivisect them and see the circulation of the blood which was a great subject of
conversation. [Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (New York: Avon Books, 2nd ed.
1990), pp. 201-202].
Voltaire responded to what Peter Singer has described as such a bizarre
belief in these words: Barbarians seize this dogthey nail him to a table and
dissect him alive to show you the mesenteric veins. You discover in him all the
same organs that you possess. Answer me mechanist, has nature arranged all the
springs of feeling in this animal in order that he should not feel? Does he have
nerves to be impassive? Do not assume that nature presents this impertinent

145

contradiction. [Philosophical Dictionary, ed., Trans. By Theodore Besterman


(New York: Penguin Books, 2004), p. 65].
There can be no doubt any longer that animals feel pain depending on their
central nervous systems. When subjected to pain stimuli we hear it in their
increased heart beats, breathing rhythms, and in the activity in the pain centers
in their brains. According to bestselling authors Temple Grandin and Catherine
Johnson, We know animals feel pain thanks to behavioral observation and to
some excellent research on animals use of painkillers. With regard to behavior,
dogs, cats, rats, and horses all limp after theyve hurt their legs, and theyll
avoid putting weight on the injured limb. Thats called pain guarding. They limit
their use of the injured body part to guard it from further injury. Animals also
can remember, show evidence of guilt, joy, fear, curiosity, and there is evidence
they think and draw conclusions. [Animals in Translation (Orlando, FL: Harvest
Book, 2005), 179-283)
Its amazing to us that anyone ever thought otherwise about animals, but it
was due primarily as the result of Christian theology which demanded an
answer to 1) the difference between man and beasts, and 2) the problem of
animal suffering. With the rise of evolutionary theory we now know we too are
animals, highly evolved ones, who feel pain just like them, sometimes intense
pain.
Option Four. God doesnt care about animals. God is indifferent to their pain.
In a debate I had with David Wood on The Infidel Guy online radio show, he
suggested that God just may not care that much about animals. This echoes what
Peter Geach has said in these words: The Creators mind, as manifested in the
living world, seems to be characterized by mere indifference to the pain that the
elaborate interlocking teleologies of life involve.Sympathy with the pains of
animals whose nature we share isa virtue in menBut it is not a virtue that
can reasonably be ascribed to the Divine NatureOnly anthropomorphic
imagination allows us to accuse God of cruelty in this regard. [Animals and
Christianity, pp. 53-55].
Of course, if this is the case, then Gods goodness is once again seen as
something different that our goodness. I am not indifferent to the pain of the law
of predation in the world. Nor am I indifferent to any pains of my dog or cat. Ill
do everything I can reasonably do not to hit a small animal while driving down
the road. Im against needless and unreasonable animal experimentation, and
most all of it is needlessmaybe all of it. And Im totally against trapping
animals, especially just for their furs, or in hunting them for their trophy heads,
or killing elephants for their ivory tusks. To say God is indifferent to these kinds
of things means I have no way to assess whether or not God is good. The only
standard I have for knowing whether God is good is based on my standards of
goodness. If God has an entirely different standard of goodness, then what can
that mean to me?
This view is simply repugnant to thinking people, that a perfectly good God
is indifferent to the pain of most of his creatures. How can a perfectly good God
not care when one of his creatures is suffering? Didnt Jesus say God cares for the
birds of the air (Luke 12:6-7) and that God feeds them (Matthew 6:26)? In order to
answer the problem of animal suffering by saying God doesnt care that much
about them, or that hes indifferent to it, means God isnt perfectly good. This

146

answer simply denies the omnibenevolence of God, and as such, isnt an answer
at all. It concedes the argument. It denies God is the kind of God demanded by
Christian theology.
Most Christians have disagreed with Wood and Geach, anyway. Based upon
a caring Creator, God is seen as a being who cares for all of that which he created
by virtue of the fact that he created them. While no Christian has to go as far as
Saint Francis of Assisi, he characterizes the complete opposite viewpoint. He
called all creatures, no matter how large or small, even crickets, by the endearing
terms of brother and sister, because they all had the same creator.
Option Five. One reason why its believed God may be indifferent to the
sufferings of animals is because God is much more interested in human soulmaking. John Hick makes this argument in these words: The justification of
animal pain is identical with the justification of animal existence. And from the
point of view of the divine purpose of soul-making, animal life is linked with
human life as the latters natural origin and setting, and origin and setting that
contribute to the epistemic distance by which man is enabled to exist as a free
and responsible creature in the presence of his infinite Creator. If, then, the
animal kingdom plays this part in this indirect way in the forming of man as a
child of God in this eighth day of creation, the process must be justified by its
success. [Evil and the God of Love (London: Collins, 4th ed., 1975), p. 350].
I have already critiqued Hicks views in my other book, specifically the whole
idea of the soul-making defense when compared to soul-breaking defense in
the face of an evil God, and the unjustifiable idea of epistemic distance when it
comes to gauging my wifes love for me if I withhold from her my love. In the
end, though, Hicks God is using animals as a means to an end. Their intense
suffering doesnt matter to God so long as they have been used by him to
produce human beings who can be made into his children. Now its one thing to
use inanimate objects as a means to an end. I can use a hammer to help nail
down a roof, for instance. The hammer feels no pain so theres no problem using
it as a means to an end. But when it comes to using sentient creatures as means to
an end, disregarding their inaudible cries for help, thats another matter. Ive
already questioned why God wants free creatures who love him in the first place,
or why he created anything in the first place, anyway. But if a theist can sit by
and watch as a fawn is slowly burned to death in a forest fire, or as a cat kills a
mouse, or as killer whales drown a humpback whale calf, and not question
whether her God is perfectly good and caring to all of his creatures, then Im
baffled.
Hicks God is a speciesist, who falls under all of the same criticisms that
human beings fall under when they treat animals with utter disregard and
disrespect. Peter Singers book Animal Liberation, is the Bible for this type of
criticism. Singer argues that discrimination against animals is unjust simply
because they belong to a certain species, just as we should be against any
discrimination against any human beings because of the color of their skin.
According to Singer the interests of all sentient beings are worthy of equal
consideration and respect depending on their capacities for thought.
Option Six. God may resurrect all sentient animals to a new life, either on a
new earth, or in heaven itself, thus rewarding them for their service to God and
to man. Early church fathers Irenaeus, John of the Cross and Athanasius all

147

believed this, as do some modern Christian thinkers like Keith Ward, and C. S.
Lewis (with regard to tamed animals).
Ive already criticized this answer with regard to the sufferings of human
beings. Compensating creatures for their tortures does not morally justify their
sufferings; otherwise someone can torture people and simply compensate them
for doing so. Likewise, I dont see how rewarding animals for their sufferings in
a heaven made for them makes their sufferings morally justifiable. I have also
criticized the probability of having resurrected bodies too. How is it possible to
resurrect any body, whether man or beast, if that body no longer exists due to
being completely eaten or burned to dust? Other problems emerge. Would there
also be a hell for animals that do wrong? Would we really want mosquitoes in
heaven with us? If not, then would they still be mosquitoes in a glorified body?
Or would there be separate heavens for each distinct species; a dog heaven, a cat
heaven, and so forth? These are ridiculous questions, if you ask me, but they are
entailed by such a bizarre belief.
Option Seven. The last option is the Ignorance Defense once again. Christian
apologist C.S. Lewis punts to that option when he wrote that the problem of
animal pain is outside the range of our knowledge. God has given us data
which enable us, in some degree, to understand our own suffering: He has given
us no such data about beasts. We know neither why they were made nor what
they are, and everything we say about them is speculative. [The Problem of
Pain, chapter 9, Animal Pain]. Professing Christian philosopher John Hick
concurs when speaking of sub-human life: We can glimpse only that aspect of
Gods purpose for His world that directly concerns ourselves. [Evil and the God
of Love (London: Collins, 4th ed., 1975), p. 353].
Granted, both Lewis and Hick offered some reasons for thinking animal pain
is not divine cruelty, but in the end they punt to ignorance. Lewis, for instance,
offers two initial reasons in defense of his Christian view. The first reason is a
deductive one unrelated to the evidence itself. He wrote: From the doctrine that
God is good we may confidently deduce that the appearance of reckless divine
cruelty in the animal kingdom is an illusion. However, I can easily reverse this
deduction of his. I deduce that from the evidence of animal suffering there is no
good God! Lewiss second reason is an argument by analogy. Lewis thinks he
has previously offered good reasons why human pain is not divine cruelty. He
claims the success of these arguments about human pain make it easier to believe
animal pain is not divine cruelty either, even if he cannot specifically say why
animals suffer. I, however, have argued that there is no satisfactory solution to
human suffering, so if my arguments succeed, as I think they do, there is no
reason to think there is any good solution to animal pain either. Having
mentioned these two reasons for thinking animal pain is not divine cruelty,
Lewis admits: After that, everything is guesswork. [The Problem of Pain,
chapter 9, Animal Pain]. And thats all he has left, guesswork, due to his
Christian control beliefs which Ive already argued against.
The bottom line, according to philosopher C. E. M. Joad, is that either
animals have souls or they have no souls. If they have none, pain is felt for which
there can be no moral responsibility, and for which no misuse of Gods gift of
moral freedom can be invoked as an excuse. If they have souls, we can give no
plausible account (a) of their immortalityhow draw the line between animals

148

with souls and men with souls?or (b) of their moral corruption. Moral
corruption for Dr. Joad, as I previously mentioned with regard to C.S. Lewis, is
the fact that animals are purportedly no longer in a state of innocence and prey
upon one another. Who or what corrupted them, Joad asks. Did they sin?
Hardly. Did the devil corrupt them? Joad rejects this as implausible. Ive
already looked at this answer and found it seriously deficient myself (Option
Two, above). Did mankind corrupt them through Adam and Eves sin? Again,
no, as weve seen (Option One)! Joad wrote: The hypothesis that the animals
were corrupted by man does not account for animal pain during the hundreds of
millions of years when the earth contained living creatures, but did not contain
man. [Animals and Christianity, p. 59.]
Now Im not asking Christians to explain everything, not by a long shot. I
cannot explain everything. But I do expect them to explain, well, a lot. What I
hear from them instead is that we cannot understand Gods ways; that we are
ignorant; and all we can do is guess about this, and guess about that. This is
simply not enough. Whether it comes to the beginningless existence of the trinity,
divine prophetic foreknowledge, the incarnation, the virgin birth, the atonement,
the general resurrection of our bodies, free will in heaven, the problem of evil, or
a great many other beliefs, Christians retreat to this position far too many times
for me to have enough reasons to believe. Period.

149

39. The Virgin Birth Revisited.


Catholic physicist Frank J. Tipler has argued that virgin births are not the rare
occurrences in history that we think they are, especially when there are examples
of it in the natural world with reptiles like Caucasian rock lizards, and also a
particular strain of turkeys, where more than 40 percent of all births are virgin
births. [The Physics of Christianity (New York: Doubleday, 2007), pp. 166-175].
He argues that its easy to induce a human oocyte (egg cell) to begin cell
division without being first fertilized by a sperm. However, he admits almost
all virgin birth children would be expected to be females. His focus is on the
probability of male children being born in a virgin birth scenario, and argues that
a male virgin birth is still possible, especially since females already have the
essential genes to create a male, based on other, non-X chromosomes. But he
admits this would be improbable. In one of his hypotheses he argues that the
probability of a male virgin birth in human history is about 1/120 billion, and
since he also argues that there have been approximately 60 billion human beings
(qua Homo Sapiens) who have lived on the earth since the dawn of time, its
probable there has been one, Jesus.
I dont have the capability to dispute Tiplers science, but I have some
questions and objections to what he wants to defend. I do wonder why he
includes the billions of people who have lived since the supposed virgin birth of
Jesus as part of his calculations. That being said, with his grasp of science maybe
he can also try to show how the shoes of Israelites never wore out for forty years
in the wilderness, or how a donkey talked, or how a woman turned into a pillar
of salt, or how an axe-head floated, or how Jesus could walk on water, or create
bread and fishes to feed the multitudes. Maybe he could even show how its
possible for someone to levitate, if that was in the Bible. But thats my point. Hes
defending something he believes based upon the religion he adopted inside of
his culture. He doesnt believe Jesus was born of a virgin because science leads
him to think so. He first believed in the virgin birth of Jesus and then he defends
it. This can be proved, since he also argues that the DNA needed for a virgin
birth supports his view that Mary was without sin (the Immaculate
Conception), and that her genetic constitution allowed her to be assumed into
heaven (the Assumption of Mary). [The Physics of Christianity, pp. 187-193,
and 218-225]. These two additional beliefs are Roman Catholic, and as such, one
must first be a Catholic to believe them. He also defends the physics of the
Catholic view of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (known as
Transubstantiation). [The Physics of Christianity, pp. 236-242]. But what
Protestant would become a Catholic just because Tipler argues these things are
all scientifically possible? None that I know of. If thats the case then why would
Protestants think that just because Tipler shows a virgin birth is possible it means
anything to them? Nothing he said shows the virgin birth happened in history,
since whether it did or not is a historical claim to be believed based upon the
credibility of the testimonial evidence.
The fact is that Ive already disputed the exegetical and prophetic basis for a
virgin birth among ancient Christian superstitious people, along with the

150

improbability that even if Jesus was born of a virgin we who are separated in
history by 2000 years would still be rational to reject such a miracle. This is
especially true when other famous figures in the ancient past were said to have
been born of a virgin.
Besides from all of this, if Tipler has shown the virgin birth to be a natural
event explainable by science then how can he still call it a miracle if it occurred?
It would now a natural event which does not need a God to perform it. By
explaining it, if he did, he explained it away. Such a natural event, if it occurred,
does not point to God.

151

42. The Problem With Liberal Theology


My focus is on Debunking Evangelical Christianity for several good reasons.
Let me stress at this point that one of the reasons I do is to dislodge the
evangelical Christian off of dead center. I say this is the hard part because it is.
Liberals will say that Ive chosen an easy target. Its easy only so far as the
arguments are against it. But it is also extremely tough to do. Once dislodged
from this center, former evangelicals can go in several theological directions. But
no matter what direction they travel after deconversion, they are less of a threat
to people with differing opinions because they know what its like to realize they
were wrong. They will also cease quoting a Bible verse to answer every problem,
and learn to think through the issues at hand for themselves without leaning on a
supposed inspired book.
The evangelical already rejects many cults, liberalism, pantheism, Islam. So by
leading them to reject their faith some will jump ship entirely and embrace either
agnosticism or atheism. Thats not what they all do. I didnt initially. I embraced
liberal theology in varying degrees for several years first. I even described myself
as an existential deist. Later on I described myself as a soft-agnostic, and later
still as an atheist.
For me, once I abandoned evangelical Christianity I started on a slippery
slope which ended in atheism. Its hard to remember how long it took me
because as I was struggling with my faith, I still sought to maintain it. And I kept
my struggles to myself, remaining in the church. But it was several years.
Now granted, deconverted Christians on this slippery slope do not slide
down to agnosticism or atheism like I did. But many do. Let me mention a few of
them: Robert M. Price, Gerd Luedmann, Hector Avalos, Michael Shermer, Farrell
Till, Dan Barker, Ed Babinski, Joe Holman, Valerie Tarico, and me. Others
slipped only so far as agnosticism, like Bart Ehrman, and William Dever. There
are other Christians who deeply struggle to maintain their faith in the onslaught
of philosophical and scientific knowledge, like Ruth Tucker, James F. Sennett,
and Terence Penulhum. I have also heard that Howard Van Till has rejected
Calvinism and adopted a more ambiguous position on religion.
Ill try to respond to liberal versions of Christianity and show why they
should be rejected as well as the evangelical views. I wont spend a great deal of
time on this subject since to adequately do justice to it I should take on one
theologian at a time. I intend instead to lump them all together for the most part,
and in so doing it will appear superficial to the liberals out there, but thats the
most time I want to spend on it for reasons Ive specified earlier. The bottom line
will be that if evangelicals dont have much by way of evidence for their faith,
liberals have even less evidence to believe.
As an atheist I am no longer in the habit of telling Christians what they
should believe. I tell them to hammer it out between themselves and come back
to inform me of the consensus, since Ill be waiting in the wings to debunk
whats left over. I agree with the criticisms the social trinitarians offer against the
anti-social trinitarians, and vice versa. I agree with the Calvinist criticisms of

152

Arminian interpretations of the Bible as well as with the Arminian criticisms of


Calvinistic interpretations of the Bible. I agree with the Protestant criticisms of
the Catholics as well as the Catholic criticisms of the Protestants. And I also agree
with the fundamentalist criticisms of the liberals as well as the liberal criticisms
of the fundamentalists. When they criticize each others views I think theyre all
right! Whats left is the demise of Christianity as a whole. After they fight out to a
draw in each disputed case there is nothing left for me to debunk except their
shared common belief in God (a non-trinitarian one) along with their religious
experiences as a pointer to God.
When it comes to the liberal/fundamentalist debate, I thought about starting
a Blog to let the liberals and fundamentalists fight it out! But then it dawned on
me that the liberals would win that debate, at least in my mind (the only mind
that counts is what each one of us thinks, correct?). In fact, in my other book I use
the writings of the liberals to debunk evangelical Christianity much of the time.
They simply are on the side of truth. They have better scholars.
Without wanting to do a great amount of research at this time on liberal
theology, let me begin by quoting from Wikipedia on it:
Liberal Christianity, broadly speaking, is a method of biblical
hermeneutics, an individualistic method of understanding God through the
use of scripture by applying the same modern hermeneutics used to
understand any ancient writings. Liberal Christianity is not a belief
structure, and as such is not subject to any Church Dogma or creedal
statements. Unlike conservative Christianity, it has no unified set of
propositional beliefs. The word liberal in liberal Christianity denotes a
characteristic willingness to interpret scripture without any preconceived
notion of inerrancy of scripture or the correctness of Church Dogma. A
liberal Christian, however, may hold certain beliefs in common with
traditional, orthodox, or even conservative Christianity.
Liberal Christianity was most influential with mainline Protestant
churches in the early 20th century, when proponents believed the changes it
would bring would be the future of the Christian church. Despite that
optimism, its influence in mainline churches waned in the wake of World
War II, as the more moderate alternative of neo-orthodoxy (and later
postliberalism) began to supplant the earlier modernism. Other theological
movements included political liberation theology, philosophical forms of
postmodern Christianity such as Christian existentialism, and conservative
movements such as neo-evangelicalism and paleo-orthodoxy.
The 1990s and early 2000s saw a resurgence of non-doctrinal, scholarly
work on biblical exegesis and theology, exemplified by figures such as
Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, John Shelby Spong, and Douglas
Ottati. Their appeal is also primarily to the mainline denominations.
The father of modern liberalism is widely considered to be Friedrich
Schleiermacher (17681834), and Norman Geislers description of his theology is
good enough for now:
As the father of modern liberalism, he influenced most major liberals
after him, among them Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889), Critical History of the

153

Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation; Adolf von Harnack


(18511930), What is Christianity?, and Julius Wellhausen (18441918), who
wrote Introduction to the History of Israel in which he defended the J-E-P-D
hypothesis of authorship/ redaction of the Pentateuch.
For Schleiermacher, the basis of religion is human experience, rather than
divine existence. We must have it before we can utter it. The locus of religion
is in the self. The inner is key to the outer. The object of religion is the All,
which many call God. And the nature of religion is found in a feeling
(sense) of absolute dependence, which is described as a sense of
creaturehood, an awareness that one is dependent on the All, or a sense of
existential contingency.
The relation of religion to doctrine is that of a sound to its echo or
experience to an expression of that experience. Religion is found in feeling,
and doctrine is only a form of the feeling. Religion is the stuff and doctrine
the structure. Doctrine is not essential to religious experience and is scarcely
necessary to expressing it, since it can be expressed in symbol as well.
As to the universality of religion, Schleiermacher believed that all have a
religious feeling of dependence on the All. In this sense there are no atheists.
In this he foreshadowed Paul Tillich.
Being primarily a feeling, religion is best communicated by personal
example. It is better caught than taught. Religion can also be communicated
through symbols and doctrines. But doctrines are accounts of religious
feeling. They are statements about our feeling, not about God, his attributes,
or his nature. So there is an endless variety of religious expression, due
largely to personality differences. The pantheistic expression results from
those who delight in the obscure. Theists by propensity are those who
delight in the definite.
The aim of religion is the love of the All, the World-Spirit. This is
achieved through loving other human beings. The result of religion is unity
of life. And its influence is manifest in morals. Religion produces a
wholeness of life, but it has no specific influence on individual acts. We act
with religion, not from it.
Likewise, the influence of religion on science is not direct. One cannot be
scientific without piety. For the feeling of dependence on the All removes
presumption to knowledge, which is ignorance. The true goal of science
cannot be realized without a vision arising from religion. [From the Baker
Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics].
No wonder fundamentalists attack the liberals for what they are left with...not
much. Their attack centers on why liberals even bother with the Bible itself. Why
not the Koran, especially since Hector Avalos, a Harvard trained Biblical scholar
has shown that the liberal deconstruction of the Bible has made the Bible
irrelevant to modern people. He claims they have made an end to Biblical studies
and they did it to themselves. I agree.
Dr. James McGrath calls himself a Christian in his Blog essay, "Why I Am a
Christian" [http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com]. Heres what he says:

154

I am a Christian in much the same way that I am an American. It is not


because I condone the actions of everyone who has officially represented
America, or that I espouse the viewpoints of its current leaders. It is because
I was born into it, and value the positive elements of this heritage enough
that I think it is worth fighting over the definition of what it means to be
American, rather than giving up on it and moving somewhere else. In the
same way, the tradition that gave birth to my faith and nurtured it is one
that has great riches (as well as much else beside), and I want to struggle for
an understanding of Christianity that emphasizes those things. And just as
my having learned much from other cultures is not incompatible with my
being an American, my having learned much from other religious traditions
doesn't mean I am not a Christian. Christians have always done so. Luke
attributes to Paul (in Acts 17:28) a positive quotation from a poem about
Zeus (from the Phainomena by Aratos [sometimes spelled Aratus].
Why am I a Christian? Because I prefer to keep the tradition I have, rather
than discarding it with the bathwater and then trying to make something
new from scratch.
My question is whether this is a reasonable conclusion to make. I think not. A
liberal Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist, could say the same things. She
could say, I don't agree with the historical underpinnings of my faith, nor the
intellectual reasons for my faith, but since I was born into it, I'll stick with it.
Sorry to insult Dr. McGrath, but this is nonsense (again, sorry). If one no longer
accepts the historical or intellectual underpinnings of her faith she should look
for a different one, or none at all. Period.
Liberal Christianity: A Dangerous Pretend Game.
Wounded Ego (on my blog) said this about Liberal Christianity: "It is, to my
mind, like a giant role playing game - only for keepsI think an excellent
illustration of the kind of illusion you are describing can be seen in the excellent
flick 'The Village.'" But let me say more...
James McGrath wrote: But when I ask myself "Why not be an atheist?", I
come back to a number of things. The power of an experience that really did
change my life. The teaching attributed to Jesus that we do to others what we
want them to do to us. The inspiring paradigm (which may owe as much to the
author of Matthew's Gospel as to the historical figure of Jesus) that there is a
third way of resisting injustice that avoids either passivity or taking up arms.
McGrath knows well enough that religious experiences like hes had are
experienced by people with differing faiths, so he also knows that such
experiences provide little or no evidence for his particular faith. HE KNOWS
THIS! Hes playing pretend, and like the paranoid schizophrenic who thinks the
CIA is out to get him, McGrath actually believes these experiences to be real
without any evidence for them.
Richard M wrote: Joseph Campbell said somewhere that fundamentalists
say religious stories are the truth, atheists say they are a lie, and liberals say they
are metaphor.

155

Actually atheists say these religious stories are delusionary, or false. I do not
question the sincerity of the claims of believers, just like I dont question the
sincerity of paranoid schizophrenics. They arent lies intended to deceive, they
are simply false. And liberal Christians are simply playing pretend with these
falsehoods.
Think of it this way. At Christmas time parents will tell their children that
Santa Claus will bring presents to them. They tell their kids Santa sees if they
are naughty or nice. When my kids were growing up I told them about Santa,
but I also told them we were playing a pretend game. They might not have initial
understood me when I told them were playing pretend, but as they grew
older and asked me if he really existed, I would always say No. Children love
to pretend. Its their nature, I think. So do adults, especially if they role play
while having sex. Is there value in playing pretend? Yes. It provides spice to our
lives. People pretend when they think positively, too, especially sports fans who
sit in the same seats, order the same food, and wear the same jerseys to the ball
games, as if thatll help their team win.
This discussion has made me think about playing pretend. I liked the movie
Toy Story, produced by Disney. The character Buzz Lightyear actually thought
he had supernatural powers and could fly. When he learned the truth he was
depressed to the point where he didnt try to help others out for a while. As the
movie progresses he learned to do what he could without any of his special
powers. I was going through my period of doubt when I first took my kids to
that movie, and I asked myself, is Buzz Lightyear better off knowing the truth? I
think so, and the reason is clear. Buzz Lightyear couldve gotten himself killed by
bouncing around on spoons and acting like he could fly through the air when he
really couldnt fly. He couldve hurt himselfbadly. The truth is always better,
come what may.
Some pretend games are foolish, period. Some provide the needed spice to
life, yes. But when pretending crosses over to the point where a person actually
thinks the pretend games are real, then I see dangersmany of them, depending
on the game being played.
So the question I put forward is whether or not pretending the game of
Christianity is playing a dangerous game. I think it is. Sure, it may provide a
certain spice to life, since having a heavenly father figure can provide comfort,
but it also sacrifices the intellect, encourages others to do likewise, and buttresses
the claims of other religious people to maintain their faith who do evil in the
name of religion.
Richard M said (on my Blog):
this is my main objection with the views if folks like Sam Harris and
Richard Dawkins. Much as I respect them otherwise, I think they err
grievously when they lump liberal religionists with conservative ones.
Atheists and secular humanists will find no better friends in the world than
reformed Jews, Unitarians, and the like -- they will be the ones who join
atheists to vote for atheist candidates, push to keep ID out of schools,
promote critical thinking and science education, support liberal social
causes, welcome Hindu prayers in congress, support physician-assisted
suicide, support same-sex marriage, ban coercive prayer from public schools,
and jump at the chance to send Pat Robertson a one-way ticket to Sheol.

156

Agreed! However, religious thinking adds several new areas of conflict to life.
We already fight over money, our kids, our spouses, our jobs, our races, our
genders, and our nationalities. But religions also provide additional areas of
conflict over sacred spaces, books, traditions, leaders, and gods [On this subject
see Hector Avaloss book, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence].
Granted, the liberal is probably not going to fight over these things, so she has a
benign type of faith, for which I can be thankful for. And Liberals help me
debunk evangelical Christianity with some great scholarship, for which Im
thankful for. But when the liberal participates in surveys where its claimed, say,
that 70-90% of the people believe in God, this bolsters those fundamentalists who
do fight over sacred spaces and gods. There has been a great deal of harm done
in the name of Christianity. So its like claiming to be a member of the KKK while
openly disavowing the beliefs of the KKK. Why do that?

157

41. An Atheistic Ethic


I am going to try to lay out a consistent atheistic moral philosophy. In my
opinion all ethical theories have some serious problems, some more than others.
Im going to present the one I think has the least amount of problems. Im also
going to try to answer as many objections as I can, and offer some reasonable test
case scenarios to show how this ethic can and does describe what we in fact do,
and what we ought to do. The theory I will lay out will be shot at by people on
both sides of the fence, both Christian and atheist. There is no one size fits all
when it comes to an atheistic ethic. Atheists disagree with each other on this
issue, as we do about politics. So I do not expect atheists to agree with me,
although many will.
Since I have already argued against the Christian ethic in several places, I
need to spell out my alternative, and I will here. In the first place, I want an ethic
that is based upon some solid evidence about who we are as human beings and
why we act the way we do. Any kind of ethic that tells us to do that which we
are incapable of doing, is too idealistic and guilt producing to be helpful to guide
us as human beings. Such an ethic, in my opinion, demands that we behave nonhumanly. I think the Christian personal ethic does just this, as one example. We
are not divine beings. Were human beings. The Christian ethic demands
complete selflessness, although it doesnt deny Christians ought to have selfrespect as Gods redeemed creatures. Still, Christians are to die daily with
Paul, take up their crosses and follow Jesus. Self-denial, self-sacrifice, and selfdiscipline seem to be the hallmarks of the personal Christian ethic in its most
basic and fundamental sense. They are to have sacrificial agape love for
everyone, although, Augustine argued that Christians are obligated to have this
kind of love for the closest of kin first, then their community, then their culture
and then finally to those outside their culture. That is, they have a primary duty
to love the people closest to them, but that they should love everyone. This
means showing people mercy, and giving people the needed justice they
deserve, depending upon the duty we have to each person as he is related to us.
According to Christian teaching, the Holy Spirit, the divine Paraclete, helps the
believers to fulfill the demands of agape love.
There is more to the Christian view, of course, including the killing of
heretics, and the beating of slaves. ;-) Still, its entirely unrealistic to expect
people to have agape love toward people just as Jesus did (if we presume with
them that Jesus is their idealistic model). It fosters guilt. It cannot be done, even
with the Holy Spirits help (presuming there is such a being). Plus there is strong
evidence down through the centuries that the Holy Spirit has not properly done
his job well among professing Christians (the only kind of Christian we see).
Furthermore, the Christian ethic is based upon a motivation that must be
judged from the Christian perspective to be a completely ill-founded and
unethical. The threat is hell, however conceived. Think of it this way, if there is
no hell and everyone will be rewarded equally in heaven when we die, then
Christians would not need to try to live the Christian ethic, and I doubt many of

158

them would care to do so at that point, especially when they want to do


something they know is against Gods will. Christians might want to claim
they obey because its the right thing to do, but just ask them one question on
this. Ask them if they would rape, steal and kill if God told them to do so, lest
they will be cast in hell forever. If they would obey God and rape, steal and kill,
then their basic motivation is to obey because of the fear of hell. However, if they
would not obey God by doing these things, then they do not obey God simply
because obeying God is the right thing to do. [Q.E.D.]
Christians will claim God would never command them to do these things, but
in fact the God of the Bible did do this. Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his
son. Would YOU obey God if he told YOU to do so? A female captive in war was
forced to be an Israelite mans wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who was
pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist
(Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who was not pledged to be married
was raped, she was supposed to marry her attacker (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), not
to mention the pleasure of dashing of children against rocks, and genocide
itself. More to the point, the fear of hell is not a good Christian basis for being
ethical. It would place the obedience to God on the same par with obeying a
robber who has a gun pointed at your head.
In conclusion, I argue that I want an ethic that is based upon some solid
evidence about who we are as human beings and why we act the way we do. The
Christian ethic is practically impossible to obey, and the motivation for obeying
must be judged to be based upon rational self-interest, which is basically the
same ethic I will be arguing for later, without the barbaric divine commands.
An Atheistic Ethic: What do Human Beings Want?
Let's begin by looking at what rational people want out of life. I think I know.
I think there is solid evidence that rational human beings want (or value) several
important things. Let me offer a list of them: we want power, love, friendship,
riches, health, freedom, significance, importance, self-esteem, affirmation,
approval, knowledge, understanding, long life, safety, good looks, sex, and so
forth. We want enough challenges to make us strong and enough pleasures to
motivate us to continue wanting to live. These things are undeniable, in my
opinion. They are obvious.
Maslow's pyramid of needs helps us to understand that there is a level where
its rational to have those needs. An eighty year old person who feels he should
look as good as a thirty year old is not being rational. Nor is a sixty year old guy
being rational who feels he should have the same sex drive as a twenty-year old,
and so on.
People whom I consider non-rational are, roughly speaking, people who do
not want these things, or want what they should know they cannot have. To say
the same thing another way is that a necessary condition for a rational person is
that said person significantly values the above listed things. A person cannot be
considered a rational person if said person has a flagrant disregard for wanting
these things. Non-rational people have a deep seated Freudian death wish that
is far below the universal human standard. While its probably true we all have
some degree of a death wish, those people who refuse to care about

159

themselves, or who refuse to continue living, or who do not care about the things
mentioned above to a significant degree are simply not being rational people.
Some criminals, for instance, may prefer being behind bars because they cannot
live on the outside world for various reasons, or they have some inner need to
punish themselves due to guilt or self-loathing. People who commit suicide, or
who want to die, or do not care about themselves, or anyone else, are people
whom I think are not being rational. They are hurting themselves, and that goes
against our instinct to survive and to live life to the fullest. Any person who acts
contrary to that survival instinct is not being rational in the sense that doing so
goes against a fundamental built-in principle to live.
Now, why do we want the above listed things? Why do we want power, and
love, and significance, for instance? May I suggest with Aristotle that the reason
why we value all of these things is because we want to be happy. According to
Aristotle happiness is the supreme good. We do not want happiness for any
other reason. It is an end in and of itself. We do not want power or love or
significance as ends in and of themselves. We want these things because having
them makes rational people happy.
To someone who asks me why they should want to be happy, or to someone
who asks what is the ultimate standard which tells me I should be happy, I
simply say you cannot rationally want anything else. Its impossible for rational
people not to want to be happy.
So I stand squarely in the happiness ethical tradition stretching back
beginning with Socrates/Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Mill, and up to the modern
day Virtue Ethicists. Happiness for these thinkers means holistic happiness.
It is not being a pig satisfied. It is not having mere hedonistic pleasure. The
more of the above list of things a person has, the happier that person is going to
be. Lacking in any one of them will reduce ones happiness by some degree, or
not having these things in sufficient kind and quantity will reduce a rational
persons happiness. Having riches, for instance, without any of the other things,
will not bring a person enough happiness. The happiest person will have all of
these things to the utmost degree.
If we want to be happy we must pursue them, and we must have some
acceptable degree of them all.
What About Ecclesiastes?
A Christian blogger named Logismous Kathairountes, commenting on my
atheistic ethic by saying:
"You've read the book of Ecclesiastes, right? That book is a negative
apologetic against the very thing you've just put forward. The author didn't
accept your axiom that worldly goods (money, sex, good looks, power, etc.)
lead to happiness, and so he set out to test them to see if they really did lead
to happiness. In essense, he had the things that you say bring happiness, as
much as anybody in the world at that time had them. He discovered that
worldly goods don't lead to happiness. That book is the record of an
experiment undertaken with the goal of testing the exact assumptions that

160

you make here. I'll add that my own experience matches up with that of the
author of Ecclesiastes."
Let me briefly comment. In the first place, I noticed you didn't say Solomon
wrote Ecclesiastes, even though it's obvious that if we believe what this book
says about the author it must be Solomon. Yet most all scholars claim Solomon
did not write it--many conservative scholars do not think so either. I find this
odd, since the whole argument is about the personal experiences of Solomon. If
these were not his experiences, and if this book is what we'd call today a "sockpuppet" for Solomon, then by whose authority should I believe what the author
writes?
In the second place, the phrase "under the sun" is used repeatedly in this book
to refer to life without God. Life "under the sun" is "vanity," says the author.
Notice here the superstitious and pre-scientific cosmology of the world according
to this author. According to him, as well as with all of the Biblical writers, God
resided above the firmament which was held in place by the mountains along the
edges of the earth, in which were hung the sun, moon, and stars and from which
water was released to send floods and to water the crops. No wonder they felt
closer to God when praying, worshipping or seeking God's guidance on a
mountaintop (cf., Balaam, Moses, Jesus, and so forth); that's where God lived. So
why should I care what the author says when he is wrong about cosmology?
Maybe he's just a superstitious person? Maybe I should take what he says with a
grain of salt (or a whole saltshaker full of it)?
Lastly, the message itself is only partly true; only part of the story--a half
truth. Yes, it is true that we will die and so there is no ultimate meaning to
anything we do in this life. Our life is ultimately in vain. Nothing we do in this
life will ultimately satisfy the longing for eternal significance, and in that sense
we cannot find complete happiness without such an assurance. "All is vanity" in
that respect. This I admit. That's the truth--the half truth.
But this fact has little to do with how I should live my life on earth. I should
still seek to be happy, even if what I do in this life will not be remembered when
human life and this whole universe dies a future heat death.
Christians talk as if they would commit murder, theft, rape and suicide if
there wasn't a God. However, they should consider the evidence of the many
former Christians who continue to lead happy productive lives even after
rejecting the existence of God. Why do you suppose this is true? Think about it.
We don't do these things because they're not rational and they don't bring us
happiness, as I am explaining.
My argument is that people who live as if there is an afterlife are living a
delusionary life. I'd much rather live with my feet planted firmly on the ground,
than live a delusion.
An Atheistic Ethic is not Claiming Selfishness is a Virtue.
Im not arguing for selfishness as a basis for an atheistic ethic. My dictionary
defines selfishness as being concerned with your own interests, needs, and
wishes while ignoring those of others. It implies that a person is out for himself
alone. It implies the unholy trinity: me, myself, and I. Rational self-interest is

161

something different. A selfish person will lack things that make him happy. A
selfish person will not gain the things in the list I mentioned earlier that make for
happiness. Being short-sighted, she is only interested in instant gratification, not
in the long-lasting benefits of being a good friend of others. A selfish person will
usually reap what she sows. She will experience loneliness, anxiety, guilt, selfdestructive tendencies, few trustworthy friends, depression, fear, paranoia,
disappointment with life, possible jail time, and a short life. To the degree she is
selfish she will be alone. She will be ostracized, and even banished from society.
She will not work well with others and probably be fired for laziness, or for not
getting along with co-workers. So she will probably not reap the financial
rewards she wants to make him happy.
What Im arguing for is different. Its a rational self-interest that seeks the
long lasting benefits of happiness. This means denying oneself instant
gratification for those better, more beneficial, long lasting goods.
An Atheistic Ethic: Rational Self-Interest
I think there is an element of self-interest in almost every act we do, which is
the position of modified psychological egoism, and might be better called
"predominant egoism." I view altruistic acts and self-interested acts on a
continuum, with one side representing acts that are almost completely selfinterested ones, and the other side representing those acts we would call
altruistic but which nearly all contain some self-interest in them. Let me present
my case.
To show this let me take some of the toughest scenarios, then in a later post
I'll deal with some objections to what Im saying.
1) How do you deal with the obvious counterevidence against psychological egoism
provided by, say, the firefighters on 9/11. What does it mean to say that their actions,
which apparently resulted in their risking their lives for others, were really selfish?
In the first place I'm not saying their actions were selfish. As I argued earlier, I
made a distinction between selfish acts and rational self-interested acts. Selfish
acts do not gain a person happiness in the long run.
These firefighters have been trained to do a job. Their reputation is on the
line. They have accepted the challenge of seeing how many people they can save.
They did not think they would die in the process. Besides, people do risky
behavior all of the time, most of it for fun. People enjoy taking risks and
accepting challenges, especially if they can get paid for it. They also love the
mutual respect from other firefighters (and policemen) for being a part of an
organization that saves lives.
Of course, some of them may have been operating from the delusion that God
will reward them in heaven. But if this life is all there is, and we will die one way
or another, then why not be remembered for doing great deeds? For the egoist
that might be the only way for your life to count. If however, someone shirks in
the face of responsibility, and saves his life while letting others die, he is known
as a coward from that day onward. Sometimes in such a situation as this, it's

162

better to die and be remembered as a great person than to live with the social
shame and loss of employment in the only job said person ever wanted to do.
2) What about the "Freedom Rider" who went south to work for civil rights at the
potential -- and actual -- risk of his life to benefit people he did not know, and in so doing
expanding their own political power and rights, lessening his own or those of his family
and friends.
What must be understood is that human beings enjoy a challenge. They enjoy
fighting a good fight and winning, like any contest. They also have a need to
belong. So they join causes to belong. Life would be boring if they didnt. Those
who fought and won can say they accomplished something great in this life.
Why was this considered a good fight? Because whenever the rights of some
people can be denied in a democracy then the rights of all people are at risk.
Many of them did so because they had friends who were black, so it was
personal with them. Many of them did so because they couldnt stomach their
own country. They mightve thought, If this was my country, and I am a partowner of its policies, then I object to what I am allowing to happen, since I value
freedom for all. I dont like who I am for allowing it. To deny anyone rights is to
deny everyone's rights to some degree. It's about the kind of country they
wanted to live in, and they valued the rights of everyone, because everyone
includes themselves and their kin.
Why should they care about anyone else? One good reason is largely because
they care for themselves. How many times have you heard that in order to love
others you must first love yourself? Once people do care for themselves, in the
rational self-interested sense I've previously argued for, they will quite naturally
love others.
3) What about the soldier who sees the war he is fighting is lost, but who continues to
fight on and even go on a 'suicide mission' out of a sense of honor or duty.
Once a soldier is in an army he gives up his rights to his own life. At that
point hes already committed to the possibility he might die. He was either
forced into the army (in other countries) or he volunteered. If he volunteered he
didnt volunteer to die, although some volunteers are not acting rationally in that
they just may want to die. He volunteered for the challenge. Some of these
volunteers saw no better option, given the fact that they needed structure in their
life and couldnt do well out in a free society. Some wanted the hope of an
education. Some are raised in military families who highly prize their service in
defense of their country, so they might not know anything different. Seeing how
his family highly values military service, he will probably do so as well. As a
soldier he is also trained to follow orders and its terribly difficult to disobey
such a command, since his mission may help save other soldiers in the field, and
since being a deserter brings shame upon him and his family as a punishable
crime. No one knows for sure its a suicide mission, either. And no one knows for
sure the war is lost, since a soldier on the field doesnt have all of the information
needed to make that judgment. Hes defending his homeland, his family and his
friends, even if the war is in fact lost. And since we are all going to die

163

anyway, what better way to die than to be a hero, since being remembered well
is the only thing a man has to live on after he dies.
4) What about the soldier who falls on a grenade to save his fox hole buddies.
Once the grenade hits the dirt this soldier is dead anyway, one way or
another. He must act instinctively, as he was trained to do. If he chooses to run
away, his life will never be the same, even if he does get lucky to save his own
skin, and that's not sure. The guilt will be unbearable if he lives. Like Sophia in
the movie "Sophia's Choice," she died the day she chose to save one of her
children while letting the Nazi take the other one away. So why not do what the
soldier was trained to do and save others by falling on the grenade? In the
process he will be remembered as a hero, and by saving others who will continue
to fight he will help protect those who will remember him back home.
5) Why should we care for pets?
Because they give us pleasure. It makes us feel loved. They make us laugh. To
hurt them is not acting rational. It would betray a hatred for oneself, and thats
not acting out of rational self-interest.
An Atheistic Ethic: The Christian Debate Stopper
salvationfound voiced what I was waiting for a Christian to say. He or she
wrote: If someone wants to kill and they feel the advantages outweigh the
disadvantages why shouldn't they kill?
I'm assuming here that he is talking about a premeditated unlawful and
unjust killing of another human being. My answer? Under these circumstances
then she will kill, because that's why people get murdered in the first place by
others who kill them. Since I'm arguing that every human being is motivated to
act from self-interest, then if these conditions obtain for someone, she will
therefore kill. And it doesn't matter what a person's religious or non-religious
beliefs are at that point, because these beliefs also factor into whether the
advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Whether one is a Christian or not,
people will kill under these circumstances.
There is no ethic that can stop someone from killing under these
circumstances...none. Since Christianity numerically dominates in American
society then a whole lot of Christians are killing other people. Men kill their
wives. Women kill their husbands and children. Others kill while stealing. Men
kill after raping a woman. Whom do you think are doing most of the killing
here? Christians. They are in the overwhelming majority. Why do they do this?
Because the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Some do so while in an
irrational rage, or because of paranoia, or due to drugs or alcohol. But they do it.
And so do atheists and agnostics.
Christians will say that the Christians who kill others are not "real Christians."
What can we make of this? According to such a definition a Christian is someone
who obeys the Bible? But how does that follow from the contrary idea that we

164

cannot earn our way into heaven? How can they have it both ways? Deeds mean
little to the evangelical mind in front of a merciful God. Evangelicals will claim
there is no deed God cannot forgive, so murder should be no problem for God.
Christians say a person must repent before he can be forgiven, but does that
mean they can fall away from God's grace, or that their repentance must be
perfect before God can forgive them? And does this mean they should search out
every possible sin and daily repent of it before God will forgive? Surely not.
Lewis B. Smedes [in his book Mere Morality] makes a strong case that God can
and does forgive suicide, and there can be no repentance after such a deed is
committed.
Christians can have an excuse whenever they want to do wrong. I know. As a
former Christian I knew God would forgive me if I did something wrong. So,
when I felt the advantages outweighed the disadvantages I did it knowing full
well God would forgive me.
Having said all of this, I dispute the basis of the question that was asked. I
claim that the advantages will never outweigh the disadvantages in unlawfully
and unjustly killing someone, period. Give me a scenario and I doubt that
rational self-interest will ever conclude the right thing to do is to kill someone
(except in self-defense, or in the defense of someone else). My position is that
people who kill are not acting rationally. Period.
An Atheistic Ethic: A Concluding Thought
I think Ive argued enough for people to get a rudimentary view of my
atheistic ethic. Let me sum it up so far and then conclude with a thought.
I previously said that we need an ethic that is based upon some solid
evidence about who we are as human beings and why we act the way we do. I
also argued that the Christian ethic is practically impossible to obey, and the
motivation for obeying must be judged to be based upon self-interest, which is
basically the same ethic I argue for, without the barbarisms in the Bible.
Then I argued there is solid evidence that people want to be happy, and that
non-rational people do not want those things that make for happiness.
I dealt with the book of Ecclesiastes, which claims we cannot find ultimate
happiness without God.
I distinguished between selfishness and rational self-interest.
I further argued there is an element of self-interest in almost every act we do,
certainly with our over-all life-plan itself, which is the position of modified
psychological egoism, better called "predominant egoism." To show this I took
some of the toughest scenarios and explained that there may be an element of
rational self-interest in them.
I answered the Christian question of why we shouldnt kill someone when we
think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages by claiming there will never be
such a scenario for a rational person here.
Let me just close this off by talking about the kind of character that rational
self-interested people need to be happy. It must be a stable character.
The late Louis P. Pojman argued that it is reasonable to choose and to act
upon an over-all life plan, even though there will be many times where I may
have to act against my own immediate or short-term self-interest in keeping with

165

that plan. To have the benefits of the moral lifefriendship, mutual love, inner
peace, moral pride or satisfaction, and freedom from moral guiltone has to
have a certain kind of reliable character. All in all, these benefits are eminently
worth having. Indeed, life without them may not be worth living. Character
counts, Pojman wrote, and habits harness us to predictable behavior. Once we
obtain the kind of character necessary for the moral life--once we become
virtuous--we will not be able to turn morality on and off like a faucet. With such
an understanding there is no longer anything paradoxical in doing something
not in ones interest, for while the individual moral act may occasionally conflict
with ones self-interest, the entire life plan in which the act is embedded and
from which it flows is not against the individuals self-interest. [Ethics:
Discovering Right and Wrong 5th ed. (p. 188)].

166

42. Why I Reject Reincarnation


Some professing Christians want to affirm reincarnation, rather than
resurrection. A book I have called The Reincarnation Sensation, by Norman
Geisler and J. Yutaka Amano (Tyndale, 1987), lists ten different models of
reincarnation. Since there are so many versions of it I cannot effectively critique
them all here. But there are three things I believe about it: 1) There is little
evidence for it that is in any way shape or form objective; 2) It is tied inexorably
to the whole pantheistic world view which thinks it is an evil to be escaped from,
and hence extremely depressing; and, 3) Any Western incorporation of it is like
mixing oil and water.
According to reincarnation theories Karma (literally, deeds, action, work)
determines ones future existence. It is the law of the universe; it is the cause of
what is happening to us in our present life. It is literally the principle that we
reap what we sow. Supposedly if we have been a good person we have good
karma, which helps us in the next life, but if we have bad karma it hurts us in the
next life. But the concept of Karma has a major problem. The problem concerns
good and bad karma which in turn produces a lack of a good reason to do social
justice. If your lot in life is dictated by your previous life, then to alleviate your
suffering in this life only means that your suffering is put off until the next life.
You will still need to suffer in the next life. So to help someone in this life isn't
really helping them at all! There will still be bad karma that must be atoned for in
the next life. It was this viewpoint that led to the caste system in India. And it is
this viewpoint that people like Mother Teresa fought against when they fought
hunger, poverty, and illnesses in the east. Few people over there have a reason to
help others, except that in so doing they are merely helping themselves in their
next lives. In other words, the only reason to help other people is selfish--to help
oneselfbecause when you help others you aren't really doing them any good!
The problem of evil for an easterner is the struggle to admit that there is no
good or evil--it's all in the mind. But how can that be when people do experience
real physical suffering? And how can there be good or bad karma if there is no
good or evil? Karma just is, well, karma...that all.
In the hands of westerners reincarnation leads them to believe things are
getting better with each successive life. Such a belief reflects hope in the future.
Who or what guarantees this hope? Where does this hope come from? Now I
grant that they can hope in the future. Everyone wants to hope for a better life.
But who or what gives them the right to hope in all of this? Who, if anyone, is
behind it all that gives them such a hope?
Where is the evidence for reincarnation? Even if I grant the possibility that
someone was able to recall a past life, and I'm not sure I do, it can be accounted
for by other possibilities. The reason why I doubt such things in the first place is
because there are all kinds of hucksters and con-artists out there who want to
make a name for themselves, and/or publish a book to make money, along with
the fact that there are many gullible people out there who will believe practically

167

anything if told by, what appears to be, a sincere person who is otherwise
intelligent. But the stories could be experiences someone had in a dream while
sleeping that just happened to be close to what they experienced in the waking
life. I have had such experiences where I saw something and felt as if I had been
there, only to later realize that I experienced that in a dream world that was more
or less like that. Here Im just applying Humes standards. It could also be from a
heightened sense of telepathy, or information communicated from the spirit
world, or God himself. None of these explanations require reincarnation.
The concept of Deja vu (French for already seen) describes the uncanny
feeling that you might have when you walk into a room and feel like youve been
there before, or youre in the middle of a conversation with someone youve just
met and feel youve met them before and/or had this conversation with them
before. According to Geisler and Amano:
Scientists tell us that this is a form of cryptomnesia; that is, a process
whereby a person forgets that she got her information from a past source (in
her present life) and comes to believe that this information is a memory from
a previous existence. There are times when the subconscious relates a
present event with a previous one that the conscious mind does not
remember. We think that we had been in a certain conversation before, when
in actuality the present conversation is so much like a conversation we had
in the past (i.e., same topic, atmosphere, etc.) that our minds fuse them
together. Researchers have also found a possible physiological basis for dj
vu. When data from the environment enters the eye, sometimes the
transmission of this information to the brain is delayed for a micro-second;
this leads the person to believe that she had seen it before. (p. 76).
For reasons Ill specify below, I just think it is much simpler to deny that the
personal testimonies lead one inexorably to the conclusion that those people
lived a previous life.
Consider some of the problems in reincarnation. One) Astronomy tells us
this known universe began with a big bang. So, when we follow out the
progression of the formation of this earth it was at one time a very hot ball of
gasses, which was forming all of the known elements. Only after it was formed
did life appear. Where did this life come from? How many life forms did it begin
with? Logically at one point there were just 1000 life forms, and further down the
line there were just 1000 human beings at one point. Now there are billions and
billions of life forms, and over 5 billion people on this earth. If one life form dies
and another one is born, then life forms are increasing at a very rapid rate. How
can they account for the increase in population among human beings if one dies
and another is born? Reincarnation sounds very much like a tit for tat, or a zero
sum game.
Two) If a rich racial bigot dies and then is forced to live his next life as a poor
black man in the next life, then how is this particular entity learning anything at
all if it or him doesn't remember anything at all? Let's say that one hour ago you
developed total amnesia. You don't remember a thing about your life prior to
that moment. It would be almost an equivalent experience, except for the fact
that you would have friends and family who tell you who you were. There are

168

no lessons to be learned unless there is memory continuity. For you cannot say:
I see now where I was wrong before. The only lessons you would learn would
be the ones you presently experience. The last lessons you learn are the only ones
you know. These are lessons learned on the other side, someone might object.
But the lessons we learn dont help us in this life.
Three) Eastern Reincarnation depends upon the pantheistic world view in
which we are trapped in a cyclical universe that has no beginning or end,
because time is unreal. We will literally someday in the future be reading these
same words over and over and over and over again in successive cycles. An
eternity of them! We will do this along with everything we have ever done, over
again, and over again, and over again endlessly. There is no escape from this
treadmill of eternal returns. When you think of this it is extremely depressing.
What difference will it make what you do with your life if you must do it over
and over again? Life itself is a trap from which you cannot escape, so why try?
And within each life you have no hope of getting better with each successive life.
In the next life you could be a rat. Maybe the previous life you were Albert
Einstein? Or C.S. Lewis, or Gandhi! You might actually be getting worse with
successive lives. In the next one you might be a serial killer who gets caught and
spends the rest of life in prison! Now there's a happy thought! [John Hicks
version is one in which God is bringing us through successive lives to bring
about perfection is us].
Those who believe in reincarnation in the West simply believe based upon a
few testimonies, which can be subjected to quite a bit of scrutiny. Then based
upon these testimonies they constructed a system that helps explain these
testimonies.
One particular theory is this: There is a creator God who wants us to love
each other and who increasingly sends life forms to earth to experience life on
earth. These life forms choose to come down here but once here must go through
100's of lives to see how much they can experience before the earth is consumed
by the expanding sun. While here they experience love, friendship, pain and a
great deal of suffering, depending on their particular life form, where they are
placed on the earth, and how they live their lives. In the end God brings them all
back to be with him to share what they've learned. It is a kind of schooling with
God and the experiences of life being the teachers to help them grow as life
forms.
With such a theory I have plenty of questions. Why eat meat? You may eat
your grandma who died earlier. Why are you doing that? They willingly chose to
be here and yet you don't give them a chance. You ought to be a radical animal
rights activist asserting that every animal should have equal rights under the
law, and an extreme radical environmentalist.
Furthermore, at what stage in the evolutionary chain does a life form first
come here? This is a very important question, because it indicates something
about the treatment one first needs to experience on earth. Some life forms are
eaten by others as soon as they are birthed, hatched or spawned (infanticide,
birds, fishes, etc). Did they do anything wrong up in heaven to deserve this?

169

What is the purpose of being born as a blind deaf imbecile for life? What can be
learned from that?
Some people have been burned at the stake and tortured for long periods of
time (witch trials, or prisoners of war). What could someone possibly do to
deserve this kind of treatment in a previous life? What could be learned from it?
Who would want to go through that in order to learn something? Why does God
allow that in the first place? Think of the sufferings of Jesus, for instance. What
did he or anyone ever do in any lifetime to deserve this treatment? Why would
anyone choose this fate? Why would any rational person choose to come to earth
knowing this fate might await them? Why would God send someone down to
earth knowing such a fate awaits them? This theory works only from a very
limited amount of suffering many have experienced in the West. It would,
however, be extremely depressing if you experienced these kinds of extreme
sufferings. Let's see, I'm suffering daily at the hands of my torturers, but I
willingly came here on earth to experience these things. That'd surely get you
through those tough times! No, on the contrary, you'd say: "Why did I want to be
here! I'm an idiot!" That would be additional mental pain piled up on top of the
physical pain. I believe that I am not here because of any choice of mine. I would
have chosen a different world. I was just thrust into this world. No one ever
asked me if I wanted to be here. Now I must make due.
Humans are genetically born into a time and place that pretty much
determines what they will believe, and their life choices are based to a very large
extent on their environment. So how could God expect them to do otherwise
than what they did given these things? How can God be displeased if we do
pretty much what these factors lead us to do?
Why doesn't God lead us to believe the truth of things? Why do so many of
us not know the truth of things? It would be simple, I think, to let all people in on
what's truly going on behind the scenes. But we don't know. Why is it hidden
from us and only a few people believe it--people whom others would label as
gullible?
Does God help us in this life? What reason does he have for doing so? We're
here to experience earth's existence, so why should he help us? Maybe we need
to experience the pain of desperately crying out to God and getting nothing back
but silence from him? There's no promise of help here--there can't be. And if
there is no promise of help, then why does anyone conclude in this life that they
should help others at all? How do we know that we should help others? What
ultimate reasons are there for doing so? Since God doesn't help us or
communicate to us in ways that are unequivocally known, then maybe we can
conclude that our particular existence in this life form is to help others learn life's
experiences. After all, life is "red in tooth and claw" in which the fittest survive.
That is, just maybe we are to inflict pain and suffering on others who came to
learn on earth? Why not? They came to learn, and maybe I came to teach them?
That, in itself would be a learning experience for us too!
For all of these reasons and more, I do not accept the concept of
reincarnation. When we die we die. End of story.

170