Calling Out And Debunking William Lane Craig's Smears Against Infidels and Apostates

Is William Lane Craig a philosopher? Some atheists seem to want to dismiss him as strictly a theologian and in no way a philosopher but sometimes he clearly attempts to make strictly philosophical arguments. By strictly philosophical arguments I mean ones whose premises make no necessary appeal to any presumed religious authorities but theoretically could be entertained by any open rational mind. Even if one’s conclusions are false or one’s arguments badly formed, one could be considered to be engaged in philosophy based on one’s methods of reasoning, if nothing else.

But the following advice from Craig to a doubting Christian is appalling and anti-philosophical to its core. He recommends, essentially, to assiduously avoid atheist writing as “literally pornographic“. Whatever his methods of presentation in debates and in books, the mind that could write the following is deeply hostile to everything that the historical philosophical tradition and the ideal of philosophical practice stand for or should stand for. Here he is discussing the atheist website Internet Infidels, Craig writes:

Be on guard for Satan’s deceptions. Never lose sight of the fact that you are involved in a spiritual warfare and that there is an enemy of your soul who hates you intensely, whose goal is your destruction, and who will stop at nothing to destroy you. Which leads me to ask: why are you reading those infidel websites anyway, when you know how destructive they are to your faith? These sites are literally pornographic (evil writing) and so ought in general to be shunned. Sure, somebody has to read them and refute them; but why does it have to be you? Let somebody else, who can handle it, do it. Remember: Doubt is not just a matter of academic debate or disinterested intellectual discussion; it involves a battle for your very soul, and if Satan can use doubt to immobilize you or destroy you, then he will.

I firmly believe, and I think the Bizarro-testimonies of those who have lost their faith and apostatized bears out, that moral and spiritual lapses are the principal cause for failure to persevere rather than intellectual doubts. But intellectual doubts become a convenient and self-flattering excuse for spiritual failure because we thereby portray ourselves as such intelligent persons rather than as moral and spiritual failures. I think that the key to victorious Christian living is not to have all your questions answered — which is probably impossible in a finite lifetime — but to learn to live successfully with unanswered questions. The key is to prevent unanswered questions from becoming destructive doubts. I believe that can be done by keeping in mind the proper ground of our knowledge of Christianity’s truth and by cultivating the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Via The Secular Outpost, which is a fantastic atheist blog filled with highly qualified philosophers and other academics. Secular Outpost is associated with Internet Infidels, who are being called a source of evil writing. Secular Outpost also dug up from Craig another cheap dig made at Infidels’ expense, wherein he essentially uses them as an example of the epitome of damnable people.

As to his remarks about apostasies being due to “moral and spiritual lapses” and intellectual doubts being “convenient and self-flattering excuse[s] for spiritual failure because we thereby portray ourselves as such intelligent persons rather than as moral and spiritual failures”, all I have to say to him is a hearty, “Fuck You, Dr. Craig”.

There is only one way to really enrage me in these matters and it is to try to impugn my deconversion on the grounds that I supposedly was just too much of a sinner to stand being a Christian any longer and that my doubts were insincere. Nothing could be further from the truth. I scrupulously, in many ways, sacrificed for the sake of my Christian ethics a youth I will never get back and desperately believed in the contemporary Evangelical Christian ethos. That this mind-closing, genocide apologist would dare question my sincerity or those like me on the cursory information he hears in testimonials makes me so furiously indignant.

Now not everyone stayed as conscientiously pious as I did before deconverting. But I fully respect their process of discovering the falseness of Christianity just as much as I do my own. Here’s how I explained, in reply to the writings of another condescending apologist, why experimenting with alternative sexual ethics from the restrictive and counter-natural Christian ones can be a rationally valid road to discovering, intellectually, that Christianity is false:

While it is possible that more than just two of the unbelievers he questioned may experience their disobedience to puritanical Evangelicalism’s excessive strictures as “moral compromise”, it is dubious of him to assume that it is immoral to “change one’s creed to match one’s deeds”.  It seems more morally mature to me that young people who dofind positive values in premarital sexual activity as part of dating and growing up in general come to explicitly reject the value judgment that this is inherently sinful.

Of course if someone engages in actually immoral behavior that person should not rationalize it as okay.  But for human beings who have been sexually mature in physical terms since they were 13 but who very well may not be socially, emotionally, or financially ready for marriage until their late 20s or 30s (if ever), it is quite healthy to reject an over burdensome and sexually repressive rule against all non-marital sexual experimentation, sexual love, sexual friendship, and sexual pleasure that would actually threaten to cause them arrested development.

Unfortunately so many people internalize religious moral standards so unquestioningly that even when they engage in sex as a good and positive thing in practice, they nonetheless conceive of themselves as sinning.  Rather than encouraging young people to take a healthy, morally conscientious, but nonetheless experimental, approach to discovering and developing their sexual expression in later adolescence and early adulthood, and to think through what they learn from such experiences about how to have the healthiest and most ethical sex they can, the religious prefer them to either abstain altogether or at least view themselves as guilty “moral compromisers”.

Would that more people felt completely comfortable and guilt-free in their entirely consensual, other-respecting, physically safe sexual encounters.  Would that morepeople were morally intelligent enough to learn from their experiences of positive value in unnecessarily banned things to reject the prohibitions against those things rather than themselves for engaging with them.

and

If you find that a value system is at odds with your own legitimate happiness and you are being an honest, rational person, you have every reason to doubt the legitimacy of the intellectual foundations of that flawed value system.  That’s what critically thinking, morally sensitive people do.  And even in cases where people are not changing their philosophical views to (justifiably) match their actual experiences of value, does Dyck ever consider that maybe genuine, intellectually abstract realizations can precede and motivate mature, intelligent, experimental changes in behaviors?

Dyck sees someone who claims an intellectual change of mind and assumes that he must have followed his loins to it rather than that an actual thought process may have come first, before his sexual behavior ever changed.  And Dyck also does not note the “convenient” coincidence that the freedom from their parents which young Americans experience in their early ’20s can coincidentally involve both freer thinking and freer behavioral experimentation without either causing the other to happen.  It is a period of general expansion of autonomy.  Young people are not staying mental children and only changing their views about the world because they are being mindlessly led around by their genitals.

And, finally, I want to turn the table on Dyck’s assumptions.  He never questions the legitimacy of the traditional behavior in which people return to church only when they get married and have children. He only laments that this previously reliable gravitational force may have less power over the present generation.  He never questions whether people’s return to faith after their period of youthful experimentation is as much a function of a convenient phase in which people (rationally unjustifiably) change their values to match their new behavior.

When it is actually beneficial in practice for people to reject fundamentalist Christian restrictiveness about sex, they leave the church.  When they are married and raising children, suddenly they endorse a system of values that conveniently allows that only married people can have sex and that their teenage and young adult children cannot.

Religious people of this sort are some of the worst and most blithe and uncondemned species of hypocrites out there.  They condemn the same healthy process of normal sexual development they personally benefited from while considering themselves especially devout and moral people for “repenting” of their ways when all they did was get married and find the church suddenly extremely convenient to their sexual goals of monogamy and their desire that their teenage and young adult children remain chaste.

As a young person, I suffered in my own psycho-sexual development under the repressive advice of such hypocrites (and of regular hypocrites too, like the youth leaders in my church who were sleeping together while teaching us about the importance of abstinence!).  And I admit I resent seeing people who were sexually active as teens now grown up, married, and hypocritically preaching unhealthy fundamentalist Christian values to impressionable, devoutly religious kids who are more conscientious than they ever were but who very well may not come out as emotionally well adjusted as they did, thanks to their warping influence.

Read more. And then more in a follow up post to that one:

I have news for the Drew Dycks of the world: less than 16% of Philosophy PhD’s say that they either lean towards or outright accept theism. It would take quite a bit of prejudice to assume that 84% of non-theist professional philosophers are all just spiritually hurting, “morally compromised” people.

And given this sort of general consensus among experts as to where reason leads with respect to the God question, it is reasonable to assume that a larger portion of those apostates, who started out as predisposed to religious belief by years of indoctrination and by deep social ties and yet deconverted after reading the New Atheists, were actually persuaded by the same sorts of rational considerations that persuade an overwhelming majority of specialists in philosophical topics.

And for more on the sincerity of my faith when I was a Christian, read the beginnings of my story in the posts:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

And for the religious sincerity of my deconversion, read my post Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith)

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Paulino

    Craig channeling the Church Lady

  • http://Templeofthefuture.net James Croft

    Good for you. I knew he was a despicable, cringing, cretinous windbag, but I had no idea he was so utterly devoid of scruples. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  • F

    Yeah, i was a pretty damn good christian up until the point i realized i was an atheist myself. i’d still make a good christian if i believed the claptrap.

    Any response i would make to Craig would involve quoting the President of the Navy:

    OK, this isn’t going to embed, is it?

  • Randomfactor

    As “pornography” has a very different meaning from “evil writing,” the people whom he is misleading will get an overly accurate assessment of Craig’s lying behavior the first time they run up against REAL skeptical/atheist websites.

    We cannot defame WLC any more thoroughly than the man’s own lies do.

  • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

    Nice; I wasn’t aware of that comment; thanks for the info.

    Maybe you’ve seen it already, but another one of Craig’s jewels is his comparison between the “sin” of “rejection of God” with murder, theft and adultery, implying that non-belief is much worse.


    William Lane Craig:
    That’s why I went on to offer the second, better solution: that the rejection of Christ as Lord and Savior, being a rejection of God Himself, is a sin of infinite gravity and proportion and therefore plausibly does merit infinite punishment. So seen, people are sent to hell, not so much for murder and theft and adultery, but for their rejection of God.

    So, Craig judges that those who – for instance – fail to believe that Jesus is a the son of a superpowerful creator – and the same being as the creator! -, after being exposed to Christian doctrine, deserve infinite punishment for their failure to believe. (which isn’t even a choice, but leaving that aside).

    On top of that, he’s clearly implying that non-theism – at least, after exposure to Christian doctrine – is far worse than murder.

    He may well believe that murderers also deserve infinite punishment, but if so, it’s not for the murder itself, but for rejecting God by murdering people.

    To be clear, I’m not suggesting that adulterers, thieves or even murderers deserve infinite torture (Craig apparently doesn’t want to call Hell “torture” because he thinks that’s a negatively loaded word; of course, the characterization is accurate), but I’m just adding another example of how Craig spreads hatred.

  • http://www.twitter.com/thedudediogenes thedudediogenes

    Is Craig a philosopher, and not just a theologian? I’ll grant that he is; he’s just a shitty philosopher! (No doubt BECAUSE he’s a theologian, with pre-existing committments. Or would that make him a sophist?)

    • Aliasalpha

      Rather than sophist, theologian or philosopher, perhaps he could simply be described as an arsehole

  • evilDoug

    Does Willy Three-Names have any significant stature as a philosopher, even in the US? When Richard Dawkins refused to debate him, R.D. opened his piece in The Guardian with comments about Craig being generally unknown. I saw many commenters on many blogs rejecting that idea, insisting that Craig is widely known. I’ve know who he is for some time, but solely because I follow news and blogs in the atheist community. Doubtless he has his following among the religious in the US. But elsewhere? The local library system, which serves a (Canadian and pretty right wing) city of over a million, has nothing by him, but lots of the works of Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett and Harris.
    ~~~
    When Craig decided he would debate an empty chair with Dawkins in absentia, I though perhaps Dawkins should do the same – more or less. I would recommend finding an old milking stool an putting a (none-too-clean) chamber pot (surely thunder mugs are still be be had in England) on it, in lieu of Craig. As thedudediogenes said, he’s just a … Well, perhaps – except for the philosopher part.

  • Aliasalpha

    Perhaps there needs to be more ‘literally pornographic’ atheism so craig can learn the difference. Logical arguments for the rejection of the god hypothesis written all over the bodies of people who are having hot, dirty, premarital sex

  • http://www.twitter.com/thedudediogenes thedudediogenes

    Only someone who has an interest in philosophy of religion or Christian apologetics would likely know him, outside of American Evangelical circles. He is a professor at a small conservative Christian university. He has basically two publications which an average philosopher may have heard of, both joint efforts with Quentin Smith.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Be on guard for Satan’s deceptions.
    So Jesus is Optimus Prime?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000116554958 sorenkongstad

    Hmm looking up the Etymology of pornografic I get
    “description of prostitutes” not “Evil Writing” as Will seems to imply?

    Am I missing something?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Wikipedia:

      The word is similar to the modern Greek πορνογραφία (pornographia), which derives from the Greek words πόρνη (pornē, “prostitute” and πορνεία – pornea, “prostitution”[4]), and γράφειν (graphein, “to write or to record,” derived meaning “illustration,” cf. “graph”), and the suffix -ία (-ia, meaning “state of,” “property of,” or “place of”), thus meaning “a written description or illustration of prostitutes or prostitution”. No date is known for the first use of the word in Greek.
      “Pornographie” was in use in the French language during the 1800s. The word did not enter the English language as the familiar conjunction until 1857 [5] or as a French import in New Orleans in 1842

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography#Etymology

  • blotonthelandscape

    Fuck him. This kind of apology kept me in the dark for far longer than I would have otherwise stayed. Genuine, healthy curiosity killed by fear of doubt. I feel the same way about my youth – sacrificed on the altar of evangelical christianity – and found my deconversion to be genuinely intellectual.

    So yes, fuck him, and to all those christians who might be persuaded by Craigs pretentious bullshit, do yourselves a favour and spend a few hours browsing the genuine, honest, thorough, self-critical and skeptical contributions by the internet infidels. You owe it to yourselves as human beings.

  • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

    So, basically, Craig knows that if his arguments are scrutinized, people will quickly realize that his big words just hide an even bigger hole in his arguments. He’s the wizard of oz. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Be a good little christian and Craig will do the thinking for you. I think many younger people, even those who are very devout, reject the idea that they are not even allowed see what the opposition has to say. It’s like abstinence only education. Once it’s out of bounds, it’s even more appealing.

    I only know Craig from his one debate with Sam Harris. I had never heard of Craig before it. I think this is why Dawkins refuses to debate him. I wouldn’t know the man existed if someone I respect hadn’t deigned to put his name next to Craig’s. Regardless, I was struck by how Craig spent the whole debate throwing around lots of esoteric philosophical terminology and writing off any argument as tangental to the debate and then declared himself the victor. He and Chopra have a lot in common that way. If you can’t make your argument in layman’s terms, and if you won’t address the opposing argument, you don’t have a legitimate platform.

  • anteprepro

    Wow, two pathetic arguments by Craig.

    Evil writing that corrupts by instilling doubt: He is either asserting that atheist writing has magical powers, or that atheist arguments are actually very compelling and logical enough that they should be avoided by those want to remain firmly Christian. Either way, to suggest that it isn’t it just misinformation or a waste of time, but an actual evil to be actively avoided is to both demonize us and to also admit that we are very influential/persuasive in our arguments.

    Atheists deconvert because they are immoral, and the intellectual reasons are just excuses: It’s an incredibly old, bigoted canard and inconsistent with reality. Atheists behave morally and there is no good argument to make that atheists have a worse basis for that moral behavior than Christians. I love when the Christians assume that atheists are atheists just because they want to break a few of Christianity’s more arbitrary rules. That always makes me want to boldly assert that Christians became Christians just because they didn’t want to keep kosher. It’s just as logical and consistent with observed reality…

  • Mitch

    So in other words dont question the bible and live in blind faith, ignorant and deludid. Which would explain Europe going down hill when Christianity took over and the rise of the Renaissance and Elightment Eras where they questioned religion and looked back before Christianity over took Rome and Europe. To the Great Acient days of Greeks and Rome, the use of Logic and Reason and common sense


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