Daily Archives: July 23, 2010
A side project that I’m working on, in addition to everything else, is to re-read (in their entirety) the books that are supposed to destroy not only Christianity, but theism in general. I’m creating a site, currently empty except for some cool pictures, where I will post my thoughts and links to the thoughts of others on these “masterworks” of atheism.
I’ve started with Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation, which is the shortest of all of the books. Harris makes a huge error in the opening pages of the book. This mistake might hold the title for the most idiotic argument against Christianity ever purported, and I’ve noticed that other atheists have propagated the error. Like a virus.
Although I will develop the argument more succinctly later, I wanted to take a moment to address it. Neal, a user who commented on John W. Loftus’s reactionary piece to The Infidel Delusion, stated that atheism cannot provide an objective moral standard, but Christianity does. Neal makes a serious philosophical error, though I don’t think he intended to. I think that he intended to suggest that Christianity, as it points to God, provides that as the ground for morals. Atheism isn’t able to posit objective morality, as much as it is synonymous with metaphysical naturalism. If the universe is all there is, then there is no transcendent realm to appeal to when looking for the ideal standard. The ideal standard ought to be, it does not exist in point of fact. “Ought to be” has no meaning in a universe where only the natural exists: nature is what it is.
The first reaction to Neal’s lengthy piece was from Jim, who said:
And atheism provides no objective criteria whatsoever. So even here Christianity is superior in that it provides objective foundations for society.
Sorry, Christianity doesn’t provide any objective foundations for society, either, except perhaps purely “within” Christian society.
There seems to be no evidence of any actual absolute objective morality. The universe doesn’t care what Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, or the Inquisition did.
Within human society, we have determined certain “objective measures.” Take the length of the meter, for example. The length of the meter is only as good as HUMANS desire to accept OTHER HUMANS declaration of the standard.
If a group of humans decides to have a different standard for length (the “foot” or “yard”) they are free to come up with their own objective standard for their group. Or they can redefine the length of the “meter” for their own group. What they CAN’T do is redefine the “meter” for a different group.
What Christians have done, allegorically is subjectively decided on the nature of a GOD who decides what the length of the meter is and then claim that they have the ultimate OBJECTIVE foundation for the definition of a meter.
You see what Christians are doing? They are simply using the creative power of their mind to invent something (SUBJECTIVELY) and using that creation as a foundation for OBJECTIVITY.
It’s quicksand . . .
Both Neal and Jim fall into the same trap, propagating the same error that I’m accusing Harris of: Christianity is not the foundation for morals. God is the foundation for morals.
To his credit, Jim corrects himself (kind of) midway through the post, shifting the source of morality back to God. This is the correct view. Christianity is, with qualifications that I won’t get into here, a series of interpretations of the same book. Being subjective in nature, therefore, Christianity cannot provide an objective ground for morality. As such, it is not the source of morals.
Jim, however, makes many serious mistakes. The underlying assumption of his comment is that philosophy and theology cannot provide any objective insight into who God is, and what he would command. That is, philosophy and theology don’t consist of real knowledge, just mere opinion. He also rejects the authority of Scripture, and in all probability, the very existence of special revelation. He also implicitly accepts relativistic morality, which is also false.
I hate it when people say that Christianity is the ground of all morals. That’s patently false. God is the ground of all morals. Christianity is, with some qualifications, subjective and therefore cannot be the ground of morality. God, who is the good, is immutable. Therefore, God is our ground for morals. Atheism cannot account for the existence of the material universe, much less provide a ground for objective moral standards.
Several of the contributors to Triablogue have launched an e-book response to The Christian Delusion, titled The Infidel Delusion. It is available for download from CalvinDude, here. I haven’t read it yet, but when I get a chance, I’ll probably comment on it.
It is telling that none of the contributors to The Christian Delusion care to comment on the refutation. They are interested only in monologue, not dialogue.
Loftus’s reaction, very emotional and not even in the same zip code as rational, can be found here. Two comments from Neal refute Loftus’s rebuttal perfectly. Here are the comments, combined for clarity:
“this is such a nice version of Christianity developed by angry men for angry men, isn’t it?”
What is evident from this posting is that the only one who appears to be angry is you.
“Over and over we read where atheists have no right to make moral judgments if there are no absolute objective morals. This is simply false. They are ignorant to say otherwise. But this is true of most Christians.”
I see you are a graduate of the Dan Aykroyd school of argumentation.
“Then too, the authors are Calvinists which I think is a reprehensible theology, as I posted here.”
You’d think that someone who touts the importance of scholarly creds wouldn’t make such an amateurish mistake as engaging in ad hominem fallacies. Or maybe you are just giving us autobiographical information here on your psychological makeup? What is not clear is what if anything it has to do with the truth or falsity of Christianity. You seem to think any argument from a Calvinist can be dismissed at the outset by the mere fact that it came from a Calvinist. In fact, this whole posting is nothing more than one ad hominem attack after another. Epic FAIL.
“Over and over the authors contrast their brand of Christianity with atheism which is left undefined but understood by them to be equivalent to metaphysical naturalism. I don’t think they truly know what atheism is, as I explained right here, and again here.”
Most people understand atheism as the belief that there is no God. Metaphysical naturalism is a consequence of atheism as it is usually defined. Your links failed to make any distinctions between atheism and metaphysical naturalism. As Hays said, metaphysical naturalism is a euphemism for atheism. If you disagree, how does atheism not entail metaphysical naturalism? And does not metaphysical naturalism entail methodological naturalism? It seems that you are merely attempting to escape some criticisms here.
“Besides, the options before us are not between their brand of conservative Calvinism and non-belief. The options are myriad with everything in-between. There is Arminianism, moderate and liberal Christianities, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Orthodox Judaism, Islam, and many eastern religions to choose from.”
But you titled your book “The CHRISTIAN Delusion”. Why should they be concerned about all these other religions in a refutation of a book that purports to be a critique of Christianity? And why should they respond to it in terms of what they consider to be weaker and heretical forms of Christianity?
“So it really does not make a whit of difference who is making a particular argument against their brand of Christianity. The argument either stands on its own or not.”
Hypocrisy. This coming from someone who thinks he can dismiss Calvinists because he doesn’t like “their brand” of Christianity.
“They cannot assert, for instance, that an atheist cannot make this or that kind of argument because he has no standard for morality, since Process Theologians can make that same argument as can Arminians like Christian philosopher Victor Reppert (which they have repeatedly attacked) or liberals like James McGrath.”
I thought you just said the argument stands or falls on its own, regardless of who makes it? Why do you bring up irrelevancies? Do atheists have an objective standard of morality or not? What process theologians and liberals have to say about Calvinism has no bearing on that question.
“In areas where it’s obvious we should expect a perfectly good God to communicate his will better, he didn’t do so, which caused a great deal of harm done in his name by the church (think Inquisition, crusades, witch hunts, Christian attempts at genocide during the Thirty Years War directed at other Christian groups, Slavery, the treatment of women, and denial of the democratic ideals of the freedom of religion and of expression).”
This argument is incoherent until you can demonstrate that you have an objective standard of morality by which you can judge all those things as evil. Until you can demonstrate that, your objection to those things amounts to little more than your personal preferences.
“On that same page Manata claims “the last two chapters have no bearing on whether Christianity is a delusion.” Really? Surely whether Christianity is beneficial to society bears some relationship to whether it’s true. I mean, you really wouldn’t want to hold to something as true from a perfectly good God if it wasn’t beneficial to society, or would you?”
Pragmatism is not a standard of truth. Something can be useful but be totally false. In order to determine whether something is “beneficial” or not, you have to have some objective criteria by which you can judge what is and is not beneficial. And atheism provides no objective criteria whatsoever. So even here Christianity is superior in that it provides objective foundations for society. The gulag was “useful” in Stalin’s Russia as were the gas chambers in Hitler’s Germany. Do you think these men did not have what they considered to be valid moral justifications? They each had a view of what would benefit their respective societies that I assume conflicts with yours. Why should yours prevail?
Not many outside of their little camp (Pulliam, Loftus, Long, Carrier and a few others that are only known online for this stuff), think they offer much of substance. Yet he gets so angry when people disagree.
I used to think it was funny, and I used to think it was legitimate. I no longer do. I think his rants are not out of anger or frustration, but because their suppression of truth (don’t read this…there’s no need to respond to non-scholars…why waste your time on this drivel, etc.) and angry attitudes attract those who are actually afraid to deal with the issues comprehensively themselves and would rather rely on their idols to deal with the issues for them.
It goes like this:
Internet Infidel A: This is the greatest book ever! I may not have read it, but these guys have degrees in important fields of study like the history of ancient science, psychology and dentistry, so they must be right. Christianity is doomed and irrational!
Triablogue: We’ve written a 250-page response showing some of the flaws of this book.
Internet Infidel A: Oh? Wow, could Christians write such a long response…it’s surely not well thought out…or is it? Do any of them have doctorates in dentistry? Well…I do claim to be a rational person and should probably read it…first though, let’s see what Loftus and friends have to say about it.
Loftus: What idiots! These guys aren’t scholars. Don’t waste your time reading their critique. They just want to claim that you are destined for hell and therefore can’t reason legitimately, etc.
Internet Infidel A: Loftus is probably right. They are just saying that I’m going to hell. They probably haven’t said anything new against our views anyways…we’re validated in still saying this is the best book ever…This is the best book ever! Christianity is doomed and irrational!
And that’s the type of person that Loftus wants to keep in his fold, because they are the type who will continue to support him and his goals of influencing college aged ignorants.