Tag Archives: david g. mcafee

A Christmas Gift for William Lane Craig – Five Reasons Your Specific God Probably Doesn’t Exist

A Christmas Gift for William Lane Craig – Five Reasons Your Specific God Probably Doesn’t Exist

By David G. McAfee

On Friday, Christian apologist and philosophical theologian William Lane Craig published “A Christmas gift for atheists – five reasons why God exists,” in which he insists that most atheists “have no good reasons for their disbelief.” He then lists five numbered statements he says are meant to answer atheists’ “repeated slogan” that “There’s no good evidence for God’s existence!”

But Craig’s time-tested “defenses of Christian theism” fail for a number of reasons. His statements do not represent “evidence” for the existence of a God – and certainly not for his particular deity. Instead, his age-old “proofs” consist mostly of long-debunked arguments from ignorance and appeals to philosophical assumptions.

In October, Craig gave some advice to a Christian who read Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings and was subsequently finding it “hard to believe in God.” Craig’s response was to tell the confused person to, “Quit reading the infidel material.” So, in honor of Craig’s own efforts to limit the availability of secular material to Christians, I thought it would be appropriate to republish Craig’s best defenses of the Christian God in their entirety and make them (and my responses) available to everyone. Since I don’t generally speak in absolutes, I’ve called my response, “A Christmas Gift for William Lane Craig – Five Reasons Your Specific God Probably Doesn’t Exist.”

1.  God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe.  Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning. Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

Craig makes a number of assumptions in this point, the first of which is that philosophical arguments constitute real evidence. When asked for evidence, for instance, that a particular person committed a particular crime, would a prosecutor merely assert that, philosophically speaking, the crime must have been committed? Craig then uses these vague “philosophical arguments” to misrepresent all atheists’ various positions by asserting that they believe the universe “merely popped into being,” while ignoring the logical conclusion that his deity would have had to do the same. In essence, he makes the centuries old mistake of claiming that the universe is too complex to exist without a Creator. But what is by definition more complex than the universe? A being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfect. He somehow doesn’t see the need for a designer there, though.

2.  God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life.  That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range.  There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature’s laws and the desperate maneuvers needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.

Craig’s (and others’) assertion that the universe is “fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life” simply plays on the very basic and well-understood illusion of apparent design. It ignores that the fact that earth is our only data point for life, and that even here the environment could easily be less harmful, less wasteful, and much more conducive to life. It also ignores the fact that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes with different physical constants. In the end, this argument is best-refuted by Douglas Adams, who says, “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”

3.  God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.

Saying we get our morality from religion is like saying we get our trees from houses, because it’s completely backward. Religion gets its morality from humanity, not the other way around. We have morals because our ancestors realized the importance of cooperation. Without it they wouldn’t have survived on a long-term timeline. But cultures throughout history fused their religious origin mythologies with their local laws in order to ensure adherence. These various religions’ holy codes are nearly impossible to change, which is why it’s often the religious groups that hold back scientific progress and civil rights progress. The so-called holy books provide moral codes that necessarily become antiquated and irrelevant after a period of time, which is why the stagnant morals of any holy book will always work to inhibit our own moral evolution. Today, in modern times, we have a system in which people are employed by the government to investigate, arrest, prosecute, and detain offenders based on the violation of laws that are as fluid as our ideas and can be amended as such. So, when Craig asserts that the Christian God best explains morality, I’d be forced to ask why, if God gave 10 fundamental rules that outline how human beings can live happy and moral lives, rape and slavery are mentioned in none of them and the first four are about preserving God’s name?

4.  God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact.  Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave:  God raised Jesus from the dead.

Occam’s razor states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Aside from the fact that Craig has attempted to misrepresent the understandings of “most historical scholars,” his problem lies within assuming that the most likely result of an empty tomb is a being miraculously resurrected from death through a mysterious connection with its father/self. More likely scenarios include a stolen body, a mismarked grave, a planned removal, faulty reports, edited scriptures, etc. No magic required.

5.  God can be personally known and experienced.  The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives.

“Down through history [Muslims] have found through [Muhammad] a personal acquaintance with [Allah] that has transformed their lives.” Your personal religious experience can and should be disputed in the same way you might dispute the alleged personal experience of a Bigfoot believer or someone who claims to have been abducted by aliens. Your strong feelings, anecdotal accounts, emotional reactions, and scripture are not evidence of the supernatural. Believers often forget that most atheists used to be religious, that many non-believers used to think they had a personal relationship with their God and they used to “feel” the power of prayer. They’ve since learned that it was all a farce, that their feelings were internal emotions and not some external force.

The Vatican Christmas tree is lit up after a ceremony in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 14, 2012. (REUTERS)

The Vatican Christmas tree is lit up after a ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican December 14, 2012. (REUTERS)

Exposing Christians To Secular Material: Response To William Lane Craig

Exposing Christians To Secular Material: Response To William Lane Craig

By David G. McAfee
 

Christian apologist and philosophical theologian William Lane Craig was contacted this week by a Christian who read my book, Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings, and was subsequently finding it “hard to believe in God.” Craig’s response: “Quit reading the infidel material.”

The question, posed in this week’s Q&A section of Craig’s site, was published alongside Craig’s answer and entitled, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” The anonymous questioner stated that he or she “wants to believe in God,” but is having trouble believing after being exposed to Disproving Christianity, Richard Dawkins, and atheist friends.

“Hi, Dr. Craig, I’m currently reading ‘Disproving Christianity’ by David McAfee. I’ve also been listening to Richard Dawkins. I want to believe in God, but I’m having trouble with my faith. I’ve always been a Christian, but since I started talking to my atheist friends, I find it hard to believe in God. When I think about it, it doesn’t make much sense to me to belive in a creator of the universe. It makes even less sense for me to believe in a God who intervines in our lives. Please, I want to believe in God, any suggestions?”

Craig begins by saying that he is “utterly baffled” by how many “ill-equipped” Christians expose themselves to material that is destructive to their faith.

“I remember vividly that when I first became a Christian I was very careful about what I read because I knew that there was material out there which could be destructive to my newfound faith and that I had a lot, lot more to learn before I was ready to deal with it,” Craig wrote. “Do we forget that there is an enemy of our souls who hates us intensely, is bent on our destruction, and will use anything he can to undermine our faith or render us ineffective in God’s hands? Are we so naïve?”

Craig goes on to offer the questioner four “suggestions” to help resolve his or her crisis of faith.

  1. “Make first and foremost a recommitment of your heart to Christ.”
  2. “Quit reading and watching the infidel material you’ve been absorbing.”
  3. “Begin a program of equipping yourself in Christian doctrine and apologetics.”
  4. “Attend some apologetics conferences.”

If Christianity is the transcendent truth and superior to all other faithful and non-faithful worldviews, as Craig believes, then why does it need to be protected from criticism? Why do Christians, in Craig’s view, need to “equip” themselves before being exposed to such material?

My view is the opposite. Where Craig says “believe,” I say investigate. I would never encourage an atheist to avoid the Bible, for example, out of fear that its strong arguments might compel that person to believe. In fact, I frequently encourage the opposite approach: I recommend believers and non-believers alike educate themselves about all of the world’s religions, including a basic understanding of the traditions’ core tenets and Holy Books.

If you study comparative religion, it’s more difficult to be religious because the great faiths are all very similar at the most fundamental level. Each organization has similar cult beginnings and “prophets,” they each began as local and cultural myths before being applied to a global context, and they are almost always spread through a combination of violence and proselytization.

Non-believers don’t have to be fearful of theistic material because there’s simply no evidence for the existence of deities, therefore every argument is automatically philosophical in nature and regards a general “higher power,” and not any specific deity – like Jesus or Allah.

All that said, I’m encouraged by the original questioner. This person decided, against Craig’s advice, to seek out material from someone else’s perspective. They didn’t let the fear of damaging faith keep them from exposing themselves to multiple sides of possibly the longest debate in human history. For any other believers who wish to do the same, please send an e-mail to DisprovingChristianityPDF@gmail.com for a free PDF of my first book, Disproving Christianity.

"Garbage In, Garbage Out"

Q&A on William Lane Craig’s website.

Highlights From The Great Lakes Atheist Convention In Toledo

Highlights From The Great Lakes Atheist Convention

By David G. McAfee

Last weekend, I attended – and gave a talk for – my very first atheist conference, the Great Lakes Atheist convention in Toledo, Ohio, which ran from Aug. 16-18. I’d like to start by saying that the group that sponsored the event, led by Barbara Williams, did an incredible job planning and implementing this first-time convention.

The event featured a number of well-known speakers, including author and former pastor Jerry DeWitt, atheist blogger and co-founder of Skepticon JT Eberhard, and political activist Zack Kopplin. Rebecca Vitsmun, known for her post-tornado interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, also showed up as a last-minute addition at the end of the convention. Continue reading

48% Of Americans Think Non-Religious Trend Is Bad For Society

48% Of Americans Think Non-Religious Trend Is Bad For Society
By David G. McAfee
 

Nearly half of U.S. adults think that the growing trend of non-religiosity is a “bad thing,” according to a survey released Tuesday by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

When asked whether having “more people who are not religious” is a good thing, a bad thing, or doesn’t matter, 48 percent of Americans said the trend was a bad thing, compared to 11 percent who said it was good and 39 percent who were indifferent. The findings are based on a nationwide survey of 4,006 adults conducted in March and April.

“[T]here has been a modest uptick over the past decade in the share of U.S. adults who say they seldom or never attend religious services,” the Pew Forum said in an announcement. “The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion also has grown in recent years; indeed, about one-fifth of the public overall – and a third of adults under age 30 – are religiously unaffiliated as of 2012.”

The survey, which breaks down answers by the religious denomination, found that white evangelical Protestants are especially likely to say the growing number of people who are not religious as a negative thing for American society, with 78 percent reporting the trend as a bad thing. Majorities of black Protestants (64%) and white non-Hispanic Catholics (56%) said the same. Fewer than one-in-ten in each of the three groups says the trend is a good thing for society, according to the Pew Forum.

Even among the non-religious, the survey showed that the trend of non-religiosity is not considered a good thing. Only 24 percent of those who have no religious affiliation said it is a good thing that more people are not religious, while 19 percent said it was bad and a 55 percent majority said it doesn’t make much difference for society.

This report is based on telephone interviews conducted March 21-April 8, 2013, among a national sample of 4,006 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

Growth of the Nonreligious

Growth of the Nonreligious

From Iraq To Texas: A Humanist Activist Comes To America

From Iraq To Texas: A Humanist Activist Comes To America
An Interview with David G. McAfee
 

Secular humanist activist Faisal Saeed Al Mutar grew up in Iraq as a common enemy in the ongoing civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Now, he finds himself living in Texas, which is fraught with its own brand of religious zealotry.

Faisal founded the Global Secular Humanist Movement in September 2010. GSHM, which encourages humanist values, critical thinking and scientific inquiry over faith, mysticism and dogma, has more than 185,000 “likes” on Facebook. Continue reading

Christian Rock Band Frontman Arrested For Hiring Hitman To Kill His Wife

Christian Rock Band Frontman Arrested For Hiring Hitman To Kill His Wife
By David G. McAfee 
 

Tim Lambesis, the lead singer and co-founder of Christian heavy metal band “As I Lay Dying,” was arrested on Tuesday by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for soliciting an undercover detective to kill his wife.

The SDSD said they initiated an investigation into Lambesis on May 2 after reports that he was soliciting another individual to kill his estranged wife, who lives in Encinitas, CA. Lambesis was charged with solicitation of another to commit murder after an investigation conducted by the Encinitas Detectives, the San Diego Fugitive Task Force and the Sheriff’s Special Investigation Division.

As I Lay Dying has repeatedly affirmed that each of the members of the band are Christian and, on the band’s Frequently Asked Questions page, Lambesis responded to a question about whether or not As I Lay Dying was a Christian band. He said he wasn’t sure of the difference between five Christians playing in a band and a Christian band.

“If you truly believe something, then it should affect every area of your life. All five of us are Christians. I believe that change should start with me first, and as a result, our lyrics do not come across very ‘preachy,’” Lambesis wrote. “Many of our songs are about life, struggles, mistakes, relationships and other issues that don’t fit entirely in the spiritual category. However, all of these topics are written about through my perspective as a Christian.” Continue reading

So-Called Psychic Sylvia Browne Falsely Predicted Death Of Amanda Berry

 So-Called Psychic Sylvia Browne Falsely Predicted Death Amanda Berry
By David G. McAfee
 

Self-proclaimed psychic and medium Sylvia Browne falsely predicted the death of Amanda Berry, who was kidnapped in 2003 and escaped from her captors earlier this week, reminding the world of the damages that can be caused by high-profile psychics who pretend to have a supernatural gift.

Browne made the prediction in 2004 on Montel Williams’ syndicated television show, where she was a weekly guest for many years. Browne reportedly told Louwana Miller, Berry’s mother, that she could “see” Berry’s jacket in a dumpster with “DNA on it.”

“She’s not alive, honey,” Browne told Miller on The Montel Williams Show. “Your daughter’s not the kind who wouldn’t call.” Continue reading

Science Makes Good On Religion’s Lofty Promises

Science Makes Good On Religion’s Lofty Promises

By David G. McAfee

For thousands of years, religions have been making promises they can’t fulfill. From the claim that prayer can heal the sick to the promise we can live forever after death, religions offer the world to those filled with wishful thoughts, but provide little more than the occasional inspirational word. Scientific discoveries, however, have begun to fill that void and make good on many of religion’s seemingly impossible offers.

An afterlife is something that most religions advertise, in one way or another. Because we have knowledge of our own impending death, humans are susceptible to this type of belief.  But believing doesn’t make it so… and to date there’s not a shred of evidence to support any idea of life after death. But, industrial designer Gerard Moline has come up with a way to combine that romantic notion with reality. Continue reading

Buddhist Religious Violence Worsens In Burma: Report

The Burmese Buddhist-controlled government and military killed more than 1,000 Rohingya Muslims in the last year and has continued to forcibly promote Buddhism and discriminate against other minority religious groups, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The report, which highlights the status of religious freedom globally and identifies those governments that are the most egregious violators, also includes recognition of severe atheist discrimination in a number of countries.

In Burma, Theraveda Buddhism is the dominant religious tradition and Muslims and Christians reportedly make up 8%-10% of the population. In contrast to common representations of Buddhists as inherently peaceful, minority religious groups are subject to pervasive surveillance, imprisonment, discrimination, societal violence, destruction or desecration of property and censorship of religious materials by Buddhists, according to the report. Continue reading

‘Better off Damned’ reviews Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer

REVIEW: Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer.