Taking on William Lane Craig’s Questions

william-lane-craigIn my final (for the moment) answers to theist questions, I wanted to take on a couple of things that William Lane Craig said over at his website.  This isn’t a list of questions per se, just a response to an argument that a theist suggests for Christians to use on atheists that, I guess, he thinks will convince them of anything whatsoever.

Unfortunately, it’s likely only the most ignorant of atheists, the ones who have not encountered apologists very often, who would not provide perfectly reasonable answers.  Therefore I wanted to spend a couple of minutes addressing Luke’s questions and Dr. Craig’s responses, just to show how silly they really are.

The first part is a question for Dr. Craig from Luke and I’ll address those questions.

1)   Q. What do you mean by (you don’t believe in God)

I mean exactly what it says.  I don’t believe in God.  I don’t believe in any gods.  There are over 3000 gods that man has so-far invented for himself to worship, I don’t believe that any of those gods exist in the real world.  This really isn’t a hard concept to understand, except for the religious who can’t quite get it through their heads that people actually don’t believe in things that are not demonstrated to actually exist.

2)  Q. What reasons do you have to think that (there is no God)

This is where it starts to get dicey, especially once you realize that Luke has shifted the goal posts down field.  The first question asks why atheists don’t believe in God.  That’s a passive act.  Now, he’s changed to why do atheists believe God doesn’t exist.  That’s an active act.  I do not think this is a subtle or innocent move on Luke’s part and reading the text under this question leaves me no alternative but to think this was done knowingly and purposely.   There are many answers to this question, but the only one I have to present is the complete and total lack of objective evidence supporting the factual existence of any such god.  Prove God is real, I’ll believe God is real.  Fail to do so and I have no reason to take you or your claims seriously.  Nothing more needs to be said.

Dr. Craig, to his credit, actually does point out the problems with Luke’s questions.  Then he asks some of his own, aimed at Luke, which I will address now.

Questions to ask an atheist – What justification do you offer for the belief that “there is no God”?

I have no belief that there is no God, or gods.  I simply do not find the claims of the religious to be convincing that there actually is any god(s) in existence, any more than I find the claims that unicorns, leprechauns, Santa Claus or honest politicians actually exist in reality.  I do not reject the existence of gods in a vacuum, I reject the claims made by believers in gods as totally unsupported and irrational.  If you people would do a better job and actually present objective evidence, maybe I wouldn’t find your claims so ridiculous.

Questions to ask an atheist – Why are you so defensive?

I have a feeling this is coming back to the “angry atheists” fallacy that Christians like to trot out, that anyone who would dare oppose Christianity or any other religion must be some kind of socially maladjusted loser, but of course, that’s totally unfounded.  The only thing that some of us are angry at is the undeniable fact that the religious have caused harm to the society that we have to live in and we want them to stop hurting others.  Beyond that, he claims that all of the scientists Luke mentioned were theists.  First off, that’s not necessarily true, he soft-shoes around the fact that Darwin died an atheist, but the simple fact is, all of the scientists listed lived 150 years ago or more, at a time when being an atheist publically was particularly bad for your health. Whether they were believers or not, and some certainly were, they had to at least pretend to be believers in public or face financial ruin, social ostracism and possibly imprisonment or death.  Of course, had Luke tried to use modern scientists, that wouldn’t have been an issue.  The overwhelming majority of modern-day physical scientists are atheists.  Why?  Because it’s socially acceptable to admit being such today.

Questions to ask an atheist – Where’s the argument?

He finds that Luke is just making a series of statements and not an actual cohesive argument and I agree.  Of course, Luke’s statements wouldn’t mean a thing to atheists because they largely deal with Christian beliefs and Biblical claims, all of which atheists reject as nonsensical.  Unfortunately, lots of theists seem to think that everyone buys into the Bible and nothing could be further from the truth.  I don’t care how morality plays out in the Bible (depending on which creation story you like best).  Christians have yet to prove that the Bible is a historically valid book that presents factual reality in some demonstrable fashion.  Therefore, the Bible and all of it’s stories, aside from those which can be verified independently, are totally invalid when debating an atheist.  Luke had no argument, just a bunch of unfounded beliefs.

Questions to ask an atheist – What about your own sin?

Unfortunately, sin is a concept that is meaningless to atheists.  If there is no reason to think gods are real, then how can sin, actions or beliefs that violate the dictates of the gods, have any meaning?  Therefore any questions about sin, we can reject out of hand until some theist can show that it’s a valid concept.

Mostly, Craig does a good job addressing this particular theist, but Luke also states that any atheist who doesn’t answer his questions the way he thinks they ought to isn’t a “true atheist”.  Sorry, we’re not the ones that are throwing around the “no true Scotsman” fallacy like it’s going out of fashion, that’s the position of the theist.  There are no true atheists.  An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in gods.  The only way to be a bad atheist is to believe gods exist.  It’s a definitional thing.  Anyone who doesn’t believe in gods is an atheist.  Anyone who believes in gods is a theist.  You can’t be both, you can’t be neither.  Sorry that Luke is such a dishonest douchebag.  Amazingly, I think Craig actually gets most of his responses right on the money.  I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.

While I think Luke would shit his pants if he ever encountered an educated and skilled atheist, to be honest, I don’t think Dr. Craig does any better.  As I’ve shown in the past, he’s good at throwing around the philosophical masturbation but not so good at actually producing any real, demonstrable, testable evidence or any solid logical reasoning to support his claims.  I have no idea why anyone respects him, I find his arguments to be among the worst in apologist-land.

7 thoughts on “Taking on William Lane Craig’s Questions

  1. The sin question is something that I find the hardest to get through to theists. They seem to think sin is something other than just their morality which they are applying to someone else life. It does not mean its true, it just means they do not approve.

    Regarding your comments on Craig. I agree he is the worst apologist, I think the reason is that he tries to be the least dishonest of the lot and in doing so his arguments must be bad.
    My recent post The infidel talks to the infidel slayer

  2. I think to the first question, I would have asked the person asking it to define what they mean by God before giving an answer. I would still give pretty much the answer you gave. But forcing them to first define God gives me a little more to have fun with when I give them my answer. God is such a nebulous, ambiguous term. Not only have there been more than the 3000 Gods as you pointed out, but there are multiple versions of the Christian God.

    "The overwhelming majority of modern-day physical scientists are atheists. Why? Because it’s socially acceptable to admit being such today."

    Don't you mean the reason they are open about their atheism is because it is socially acceptable? Seems to me that the reason they are atheists is a different matter, and is for the same reason you are an atheist: lack of evidence for the claim that God exists.

    1. The problem is, most people don't know what they mean by God, they'll just give you a generic, vague answer that they learned from some guy in a pulpit. They really don't understand what it is that they think they believe. As you say, it is a very nebulous concept but it's also very fluid. It's hard to pin most theists down on what they really mean by God because as soon as they're backed into the corner, most have no problem simply changing their concept of God to get out of it.

      I'm sure that most scientists and freethinkers have always been atheists, they just couldn't admit to it publically. Their funding, their social and political standings, indeed their very lives, could be threatened if they didn't pay lip service to religious belief. Throughout history, you've probably had a lot of people who internally realized that religious and a belief in the supernatural were silly, they just didn't dare openly say so. Now, it's becoming much more socially acceptable and so people who otherwise hid their true beliefs now can be open about them.

      1. "I'm sure that most scientists and freethinkers have always been atheists, they just couldn't admit to it publically."

        When you say you are sure of this, what is the basis for you being so sure? What evidence do you have for it? I ask because I am not sure of this and I suspect that what you describe as being sure of is really your cover phrasing for expressing a belief. Because that is all it is if you haven't any actual evidence to support the claim.

        I am inclined to think just the opposite is true. Most of the scientists with whom I am familiar who lived prior to the twentieth century, and even many of those during the early part of that century, were believers. And I know this because they said so themselves. I've read a considerable number of biographies of scientists. I would say on balance that prior to the modern era where it is safe, even socially acceptable, to publicly express atheism, more scientists were believers than were not. Sure, there are famous exceptions. But there are at least an equal number of famous, well-known scientists from the early twentieth century and earlier who were believers.

        I don't know why you added freethinkers to the list. I was responding to your remark about scientists. You did not mention freethinkers in your original remark. You are probably right, thought, about this group.

  3. In your response to the question about why atheists are angry, I would have concluded it by referring the theist who says this to me to Greta Chritina's blog and/or book to see what many atheists are actually angry about. I think I would also direct them to the piece written by Austin Cline at the atheism.about.com site.
    http://www.amazon.com/Atheists-Angry-Things-That-
    http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismmyths/a/Atheis
    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christina

    1. I read her book, I still don't have any respect for Greta Christina herself, but I thought the book was interesting. She's got a new one coming out that I might take a look at sometime as well. There are a lot of things that atheists should be angry about religion, indeed, the religious ought to be equally angry about the abuses done in the name of various gods. The fact that there are so many theists who give religion an automatic pass, just because they're afraid that if they criticize someone else's beliefs, it opens their own beliefs up to negative comment, is really pretty pathetic.

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