25 Reasons We Don’t Live in a World with a God (Part 3)

25 Reasons We Don’t Live in a World with a God (Part 3) February 26, 2018

Do we live in a world with a god? There are many reasons to reject that idea (part 1 here).

Let’s continue our survey with the next clue that we live in a godless world:

5. Because nothing distinguishes those who follow god from everyone else

A few years ago, I visited a museum exhibit of the jewelry of Russia’s imperial family, the Romanovs. The focus was on the Faberge jewelry, with several of the famous Easter eggs as the centerpiece, but there was more. I was most taken with the Christian icons—paintings and statues of religious figures, crosses, and so on—from Tsarina Alexandra. She was extremely religious, and as Tsarina she performed daily religious rituals, humbled herself by embroidering linen for the church, read little but religious material, and consulted wandering “men of God” like Rasputin.

Her devotion did nothing to help her family, and they were murdered shortly after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

We can find many other examples where Christians took to heart Christianity’s promise of answered prayer. Christian faith was strong on both sides of the U.S. Civil War, and yet roughly 700,000 died, about as many as in all other wars involving the U.S.

Francis Galton conducted an innovative prayer experiment in 1872. Since “God save the king” (or something similar) was a frequent public prayer, members of royal families should live longer. Few will be surprised to hear that they did not.

I recently wrote of hypocrisy from a radio ministry on the question of prayer. The ministry first mocked atheists’ stupidly observing that God didn’t save the lives of Christians in a Texas church shooting, along the lines of, “Who doesn’t know that Jesus promised tribulation to his followers rather than luxury?” But six weeks later, the ministry was asking for prayers to speed the recovery of a staff member with a serious injury, insisting now that prayers do benefit believers.

If there’s a God, then they got it right once—prayers and devotion from believers should have an effect. Here again, the pro-Christian evidence you’d expect doesn’t exist.

6. Because televangelists make clear that prayer doesn’t work

Watch a televangelist show. You will see periodic appeals that first ask the audience for prayers and then for money. Sometimes you’ll see a text crawl across the bottom with the phone number euphemistically labeled “prayer request” (which sounds better than “place to give me money”).

But doesn’t that sound strange? If prayers get God to do something, then the televangelist could just pray himself. Or, if the power of prayer is proportionate to the number of voices, the televangelist could just harness the audience to turn his small voice into a holy airhorn. God’s actions make any human generosity pointless. What could money do that God couldn’t?

Televangelists make clear the uncomfortable truth: prayer doesn’t work. Money (or filthy lucre, if you prefer) does. A real god who claimed that prayers work would deliver on that promise.

7. Because Christians want help from the government

The U.S. Constitution is secular, and the separation between church and state is made mandatory with the First Amendment. Even if crossing the line weren’t unconstitutional, what would it say about the weakness of Christian claims that it needs to lean on the government to support itself?

Despite the prohibition, Christianity isn’t content to stay on its side of the back seat. Think of the accommodations it already gets: the President has been obliged to issue a proclamation declaring a National Day of Prayer since 1952, “In God We Trust” is the national motto, conservative voters punish politicians who aren’t sufficiently Christian (bypassing Article VI of the Constitution, which prohibits a religious test for public office), and the IRS has for years failed to revoke churches’ nonprofit status when they violate the Johnson amendment’s prohibition against politicking from the pulpit. Conservatives are continually pushing for Creationism and prayer in public schools, “In God We Trust” displays in government buildings, Ten Commandments monuments and manger scene displays on public property, the ability to deny service and government licenses to people their god doesn’t like, and prayer to start meetings in venues from Congress down to city councils.

Christians who value the rights that Western society grants us today—voting, no slavery, no torture, non-coercive marriage, freedom of (and from) religion, freedom of speech, fair trial, democracy, and so on—must remember that these all came from secular sources. Biblically based society would have none of these (more here and here). Don’t think that Christianity is the foundation on which is built American democracy; instead, American Christianity is permitted by the Constitution (more).

When Christian leaders push against constitutional limits on religion, they admit that Christianity’s arguments are so weak that they need to push the government to support their cause. A real God wouldn’t need such help.

Continued in part 4.

When religion is good, I conceive it will support itself;
and when it does not support itself,
and God does not take care to support it
so that its professors are obliged
to call for help of the civil power,
’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
— Benjamin Franklin

Image via roobislem, CC license

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  • LeekSoup

    Bob, those arguments about prayer aptly summed up why I finally quit Christianity last year. After decades trying to make it work I finally admitted that it doesn’t. Prayers don’t get answered, believers don’t get protected or healed, no one gets tipped off about predatory pastors. It all falls down in the face of reality.

    • Glad2BGodless

      It’s really hard to get them to admit that prayer doesn’t work, and it’s really hard to get them to admit they don’t actually expect it to work. But, as Bob points out in his essay, they also want to say it’s wrong to expect it to work. How the hell they could make their position on this any more contradictory or worthless, I can’t imagine.

      • Doubting Thomas

        I’ve had Christians tell me they knew prayer worked because they didn’t get what they prayed for. When you define every possible outcome a success, it’s pointless to say that prayer works.

        • Glad2BGodless

          No matter how cynical I get, I just can’t keep up.

        • “My car works” or “the light bulb works” use a very different sense of “works” than they do when they claim that prayer works.

        • Otto

          Words have completely different meaning in Godworld. For some reason a Christian site has been on the front page of the Non-Religious channel here recently with the post about how to get rid of porn. In the comments someone said that if people would just get married and have sex, porn wouldn’t be a problem. He also said when you get married only one person has to want to have sex because when you get married you give your body to the other person (with Bible verses to back this up of course). I made a snarky comment about how consent isn’t a concern in his religion. He said it IS consent, just a different kind…then proceeded to accuse me of defining words improperly.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Unlike their logic, Christian porn is well-used by the time they discard it.

        • JP415

          “A theory that explains everything, explains nothing”
          ― Karl Popper

        • TheNuszAbides

          ah, beat me to it!

        • TheNuszAbides

          ah, beat me to it!

        • TheNuszAbides

          “all prayers are answered”, another non-explanation rivaling “God is by definition impossible to question”.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “all prayers are answered”, another non-explanation rivaling “God is by definition impossible to question”.

      • I was most taken with the Christian icons—paintings and statues of religious figures, crosses, and so on

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I’m also amazed that they can hold these incompatible ideas in their heads without having them explode–prayer works and it doesn’t; God loves you but he’s a dick; and so on.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      Did you ever try praying to Joe Pesci?

      • It worked for George Carlin!

      • al kimeea

        He looks like he gets things done!

      • Glad2BGodless

        Oh fuck! All this time I’ve been praying to Joe Piscopo!

        I have GOT to start paying attention.

  • Glad2BGodless

    The pastor at my former church couldn’t get from the car to the curb without a wild-eyed warning to his congregation that he was probably going to be dragged off to jail soon because he was too bold to water down the Gospel.

    • A tangential thought: I recently read a post (from No Longer Quivering?) that revisited a long Focus on the Family essay written before Obama was elected about what 8 years of Obama would produce–it was little short of overturned cars burning in the streets and makeshift barricades (I may be misremembering some details). That author dexterously sliced through the nonsense (and in policy/law areas that I’m not comfortable commenting on).

      In short, very, very little of their fever dream came to pass.

      • Glad2BGodless

        Probably by now they’ve published their update with a shame-faced apology.

        • That’s a good point. Conservative Christian sources are eager to be as honest and transparent as possible. I’m sure they jumped on the problem and admitted their error quickly.

    • Otto

      Yeah…because or jails and prisons are full of people convicted of the crime of preaching the gospel. What a douche.

      • Greg G.

        I’ve noticed that jails and prisons are filling up with youth pastors doing some extra-curricular activities with youths.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Not often enough.

        • Pofarmer

          But more Jesus will solve all societies ills.

        • Glad2BGodless

          If duct tape doesn’t fix it, you’re not using enough duct tape!

        • Michael Neville

          If it moves and it shouldn’t, use duct tape. If it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40.

        • RichardSRussell

          Those 2 plus chocolate make a complete tool kit.

        • Michael Neville

          The ills will not be solved unless you Jesus hard enough.

        • Pofarmer

          More cowbell!!!!!!

        • Glad2BGodless

          I met Will Ferrell once, at an art museum. He shook my hand while a friend took our picture. The whole time we posed for the photo, he was talking to me in a low voice, deliberately creepy and intimate, almost whispering in my ear. He told me over and over that I didn’t have to get my picture made with him if I didn’t want to. He said this in exactly the manner that you imagine Will Ferrell saying it.

        • Otto

          ‘You need more Jesus!’…Jesus is probably what they name their d***

        • Otto

          That takes the meaning of ‘preaching the Gospel’ to a whole different level.

      • Glad2BGodless

        He really, really is. And his devoted sheep can’t cash out their retirement funds fast enough to shove the money into his hands.

    • Kevin K

      HA! I’ll bet the rubes ate that up. And filled the collection plate.

      • Glad2BGodless

        Sadly correct. Sunday after Sunday, there would be some trusting retiree forking over a check for $40K or $50K in response to some urgent need of the church. And he knew perfectly well that the giver had robbed their retirement fund to supply the gift.

        • Kevin K

          It’s really sad. Barnum underestimated the rate at which suckers are born by at least an exponent.

        • Glad2BGodless

          I could go on and on. He holds a doctorate *koff koff* in theology *koff koff* from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He never tires of reminding his flock how fortunate they are to have a “trained theologian.”

          And he has the most unconvincing hairdo to be found anyplace outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

        • Kevin K

          Heh. You need to look at Ernest Angley. That man’s wig dates to the 1930s.

  • Halbe

    Christians be like:
    5. Yes, we are all sinners. But, if you do Christianity right™ you and the people around you will see a real change in your life.
    6. You’ve got it backwards. Money is a tool used by God to spread his Word, through (amongst others) televangelists. God uses all kinds of worldly tools to save us!
    7. Again, you have it backwards. Christianity is a (no, the) way to make government better, not the other way around. Duh!

  • Ficino

    I am told by classical theists that they know their God exists because of Act-Potency, the principle of causality, the doctrine of divine conservation, the distinction between necessary and contingent existence, the distinction between essence and existence, the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

    If I don’t affirm these doctrines, they say, I’ve signed on to the thesis that everything is IRRATIONAL. Nothing can exist if one thing does not exist necessarily; we cannot know anything if something does not know everything; no essence can be actualized unless something purely actual actualizes it; all this is God; etc.

    Meanwhile, the Bible is a crock. And I think there are many discontinuities in Aquinas, though his followers insist that is not so.

    Was Voltaire right, that we should just work in a garden?

    I just became a senior citizen. And I see no compelling reason to affirm the God of classical theism, let alone Yahweh.

    If someone has proof of or a sound argument for God, let me have it.

    • The strength of Aquinas, IMO, is that it’s complicated and confusing, not that it’s right.

      • Glad2BGodless

        IMHO, the same can be said for the whole of apologetics.

        • Yes, but in a different way. Aquinas is messed up, but it’s hard to find the mistakes. Plantinga’s philosophical arguments are in the same category. (I find his modal ontological argument to be an odd blending of transparent bullshit and opaque philosophy.)

          Most apologetics arguments, however, are quite easy to dismantle, I think.

          That’s the Christian’s problem. He can give clear arguments (and how could God plainly exist and be eager to have a relationship if the arguments weren’t clear?) but then they’re unconvincing. Or he can slowly master the deep philosophical arguments that are no more correct but are at least opaque to hopefully slow down the atheist antagonist.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Philosophy became useless to prove stuff exists when the scientific method came along.

        • Glad2BGodless

          As has been remarked elsewhere about Newt Gingrich, an apologist is the stupid man’s idea of what a smart man sounds like.

        • Brilliant!

        • Glad2BGodless

          That’s just perfect — a field of study that requires hundreds of hours of reading before I can know for sure that I’ve wasted my time.

        • Otto

          ‘If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit’…comes to mind

        • Otto

          Funny how not once did anyone ever even attempt to teach Aquinas as a reason for God in Christian school. As has been pointed out by others…I don’t think apologetic reasoning lead any apologist to their own belief in God.

        • Apologetics is intellectual arguments to defend a conclusion you’ve already reached for emotional reasons.

        • Greg G.

          May I quote you on that statement? If not, I’m stealing it.

        • Help yourself! I’ve quoted you plenty of times.

        • Kevin K

          I’m always struck by the fact that even the folks over at aquinas.org do not declare that his 5 Ways are “proofs” for their god’s existence. Because … tautologically … arguments can be argued.

          Unless you can back up the argument with evidence … it’s just noise. Tiresome, shopworn noise.

        • TheNuszAbides

          so they’re essentially “Ways” to form a cozy bubble of artificial certainty?

        • Kevin K

          It’s why the less dishonest apologists (I know, an oxymoron) frame belief in god in terms of “reasonableness”. Which is nonsense. It’s not “reasonable” to believe that magic is real, and that the entire universe was built for the sole purpose of temporarily housing human souls so they can be properly sorted into their correct storage compartments.

        • al kimeea

          Bullshit artists refrain from clear concise prose to hide their Bantha poo-doo.

        • If they explained it clearly, we’d all know that it was BS. Where’s the fun in that?

        • al kimeea

          Well, most of us would know. As Cosmo has mentioned, he was quite upfront about his powers being only an act. Yet people begged to speak with the dead. smh.

          Belief in belief is quite pervasive. I’m not sure if we’ll be rid of it before the ‘verse is rid of us.

          Your explanations are fun and clear thanks to said odoriferous marketing

        • RichardSRussell

          “A deepity is a proposition that seems to be profound because it is actually logically ill-formed. It has (at least) two readings and balances precariously between them. On one reading it is true but trivial. And on another reading it is false but would be earth-shattering if true.” —Daniel C. Dennett, American philosopher

        • Kevin K

          Probably the best description of theology and theological discourse ever constructed.

        • I love that concept.

        • TheNuszAbides

          the whole of apologetics is confused, not confusing. (IMO)

      • Michael Neville

        You have to dig into Aquinas to spot the fallacies (his favorite is special pleading) in his “proofs of god”.

        • Kevin K

          My approach to Aquinas is to go line-by-line, and when you find the fallacy, you stop because there’s no need to go any further. It’s a pretty good approach to all of the apologists, actually.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          I like doing that to apologists. Oops, I found a blatant, identifiable fallacy in the first paragraph out of twelve?

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6cd67e18404c361640d8f1cd58852046408650733ec7ad7200de081dee9dc8ce.jpg

          They get so angry when you blithely dismiss them like that. They want to argue all the points, dammit!

        • Kevin K

          I quite agree. If they’re going to propose a lengthy, sophisticated, reasoned approach, then the whole thing has to fall together from the start.

          Find a fallacy — well, you need to start over, then. Come back when you’ve figured out where you went wrong.

          Of course, they never do. They just get mad and tell you that you have a closed mind.

      • Kevin K

        Mainly, Aquinas is verbose. There are something like 6 million words in the Summa.

        I particularly like the part where he declares that women are meant to be subservient to men because they were made second by God and out of a man’s rib. (He takes considerably more time to say this — but that’s his MO.)

        • Aquinas is verbose. There are something like 6 million words in the Summa.

          I haven’t read Aquinas. If I may be frank, you’re not sellin’ the idea.

        • Greg G.

          because they were made second by God and out of a man’s rib.

          Pseudo-Paul said it more succinctly:

          1 Timothy 2:13-14 (NRSV)13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

        • Kevin K

          Ah yes, Aquinas also makes that point as well as to why women must be subservient to men. Can’t trust the little bitches; they’ll get you into trouble with the boss.

          Again, using about 10,000 words to say what took Paul 21.

        • TheNuszAbides

          so she should have been skeptical, but he was right not to be?

        • Greg G.

          Paul was more egalitarian in Galatians 3:28, if my memory isn’t too sleepy.

    • Greg G.

      We are all Christians now. We converted when presented with an argument from J.B. Here goes:

      1. can sperm be made by Man? Nope. I win. http://disq.us/p/1qgxnju

      • Glad2BGodless

        Wait! I can make… Oh. That’s probably not what you meant.

      • Kevin K

        I’ve been trying to figure out who that guy used to be. His arguments are the same, his style exceedingly familiar. It’s a fairly new account — gotta be someone who was previously here and had his head handed to him (if not the ban-hammer). Just haven’t been able to put my finger on it.

        Too erudite for “Frank”. Maybe “skl” having shed his wolf’s clothing to reveal the wolf underneath. Dunno.

        • Greg G.

          J.B. was here under that name about 5 month ago and he had some posts elsewhere about a year ago, but he was idle (or using other socks) in between. One that caught my eye mentioned that his eighteen year old’s birthday, which surprised me because I thought his arguments were as naive as those of a high school sophomore.

          Then I remembered that Gr*g the fake lawyer used to mention his son. I floated the idea to Susan but she didn’t think it was him.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Isn’t it quaint how they hide their light under a bushel basket?

        • Greg G.

          I haven’t seen anything else to make me think it was Gr*g. Susan thought the guy was very familiar with her.

        • Kodie

          He’s not dopey enough to be FL.

        • TheNuszAbides

          GtFL is deeply dopey and JB just doesn’t try hard at anything.

        • TheNuszAbides

          fairly sure the same initials and icon made a brief appearance last year claiming to be dropping by to give Fred K support; Fred then said he didn’t know what the guy was talking about.

    • Otto

      Basically those are a bunch of unsupported assertions, and that is before they subscribe to the particular god they do. All that is just attempting to define God into existence.

    • Joe

      Act-Potency, the principle of causality, the doctrine of divine conservation, the distinction between necessary and contingent existence, the distinction between essence and existence, the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

      You can be ignorant of those metaphysics, or completely reject them, and still live a full and happy life. Reject and ignore science however, and your outcomes are considerably worse.

      • TheNuszAbides

        … unless your existence is buffered by a sufficiently deluded/hypertribal/captive community that effectively (or directly) bankrolls your shenanigans.

    • Chuck Johnson

      “Was Voltaire right, that we should just work in a garden?”

      In Voltaire’s day, maybe so.
      The religionists still had a firm grip on Western civilization and “Tending our Gardens” was a metaphor for “Biding Our Time”.
      But a lot has changed since Voltaire’s day.

      • Ficino

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlVD-jrq_Yk

        But of course, Leonard Bernstein was a bisexual limousine liberal who patronized the Black Panthers, so his work must be vilified. /s

        • Chuck Johnson

          Thanks.
          It took me many years to learn the source of that catchy little tune which opens the Dick Cavett Show.
          “Glitter and Be Gay”

    • Chuck Johnson

      The classical theists have had many centuries to hone their skills at being fraudulent, deceitful, ignorant and arrogant.
      They raise the practice of logical fallacy to a high art.
      They have learned how to make their words and phrases seem so lofty and divine.
      Time is running out for these fraudsters.

      • Ficino

        I have made a list of 34 problem areas in Aquinas. That’s *areas* not individual arguments. I’m unhinged, right? So far I think I need some more logic. But as far as I can see, many of the problems arise from language, both Aquinas’ treatment of “be/exist” as a perfection, his tendency to equivocate while claiming not to, and his doctrine of analogical predication of names/predicates of God.

        I do confess though that I find many criticisms of Thomism on atheist discussion boards failing to represent a Thomistic argument accurately. It takes a while to gain familiarity with Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics.

        • Otto

          Just out of curiosity, can you give some examples of how atheists misrepresent the argument or explain what you mean further? I am sure you are right but I would like to know more of what you are getting at.

        • Ficino

          One example is when atheists attack Aquinas’ First Way by saying that Newton disproved it, since Newtonian physics treats rectilinear locomotion as going on forever, without need of a mover to move the object along every stage of its course. But Thomists have a wider sense of “motion” than locomotion, since “kinesis” in Aristotle also includes alteration, growth/decay and sometimes, generation/corruption. So Thomists can get around Newtonian objections.

          I can think of some other examples of atheists’ missing the point, but I have to get breakfast ready!

        • Kevin K

          Thomist’s “wider sense of motion” still denies the physics. Alteration is contained within classic Newtonian physics — I mean really, the first law of motion contains the caveat “unless acted upon by an outside force“. Growth/decay is entropy and the laws of thermodynamics — again, not their friend. Generation/corruption is also a gross misunderstanding of the laws of thermodynamics — and I’m not sure how this is any different from “growth/decay”.

          They should put down the ancient texts and start looking at the modern ones — but that would involve math. They’re basically trying to argue against the need for math. And denying that the smart fellows who have done the math know what they’re talking about.

          Like I said. Classical theists are pains in the ass. And not critical thinkers.

        • Ficino

          Kevin, many skeptics say things like yours above. Then the Thomists reply that science with its mathematical models has “nothing whatsoever to do with” metaphysics or whatnot. Edward Feser is very fond of the phrase, “nothing whatsoever.” His disciples are, too. Some of the Thomists also retort that the skeptic misunderstands modern physics. Then there is a lot of backing and forthing.

          Since I only managed a semester of college calc and a semester of physics, I have no clue.

          Another example is this long exchange over on the Classical Theism board. Someone named StarDustyPsyche has propounded similar arguments against Thomas’ Ways on several theistic boards. Eventually, SDP gets banned on the grounds that he says the same things over and over, “despite having [his] errors pointed out multiple times.”

          http://classicaltheism.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=927

          On Feser’s blog a while ago I asked whether anyone was familiar with the work of James Ladyman. Ladyman is trying to come up with a metaphysics that is deeply conversant with modern physics. Most of the respondents who said anything said that Ladyman doesn’t understand this, that or the other thing. Again, I had no clue.

        • Kevin K

          Well, when theologists say that, what I translate that to is “I don’t understand the physics and don’t care to try.”

          So, we’re at loggerheads.

        • Ficino

          Some of the Thomists claim to be Ph.D.s in physics or math, and they say the skeptics don’t understand the physics. Again, I have no clue.

          That’s why I try to look for disconnects within Thomas’ oeuvre itself or collisions with Aristotle, where the justification for Aquinas’ departure from Aristotle doesn’t seem sufficiently established. The usual response is either “Why are you indulging in this irrelevant exegesis” or “No, Aristotle in fact really held that …”

          Some day I may start writing up what I’m trying to put together, though at this point I’m not sure whether I have all the bases covered and/or whether the effort would be worthwhile.

        • Otto

          My question to them…If the skeptics don’t understand the physics, we know a lot of skeptical scientists do understand physics, so how come they are not on board with this?

        • Susan

          we know a lot of skeptical scientists do understand physics, so how come they are not on board with this?

          That’s easy. The skeptical scientists don’t understand the metaphysics.

        • Otto

          Fair enough…then my next question is demonstrate you do…;)

        • Susan

          my next question is demonstrate you do….

          Well, of course they do. The only reason you don`t recognize that is because you don`t understand the metaphysics.

          Millions of words and it always comes down to that.

        • Ficino

          Yes, the merry-go-round goes round like this. And it ain’t so merry.

        • Otto

          This is why I left Christianity, all these Christian authorities who contradict each other. They all think they know the mind and composition of God but they contradict each other. When they can either all get on the same page and/or demonstrate their God claim over the others I will then take them a little more seriously. Why don’t Catholic apologists debate Evangelical apologists? Because deep down they know they are equally full of shit.

        • Greg G.

          When they can either all get on the same page

          Jesus prayed exactly for that so that the world would be impressed enough to believe. It has been the biggest prayer failure in the last 2000 years.

          John 17:20-23 (NRSV)20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

        • Otto

          The Nun who taught me was convinced everyone would come back to the Catholic Church. I am sure that Bible verse was part of the reason why.

          Now that would be a miracle.

        • Kevin K

          Whenever anyone says that they have advanced degrees in physics and are also a Thomist, I would say “evidence required”. Seriously, those two propositions are incompatible.

          Most of the time, when some theist claims to have a “physics” degree, they’re in someone’s IT department. Probably doing break-fix. “Have you tried rebooting it?” Being employed by the Geek Squad doesn’t quite cut it.

          In the meantime, the real theoretical physicists who are working the real problems in the real world are almost universally atheists. Because “god” is a hidden variable … and there are no hidden variables.

        • Greg G.
        • Kevin K

          Sounds like my IT department … oh wait, that’s ME!

        • Otto

          If science has nothing to do with metaphysics why do they start with a scientific premise?

          If there is one thing atheist counter apologetics do is they go in too deep before opposing the arguments. The bullshit is usually right in the beginning.

        • Kevin K

          Of course, the problem with “metaphysics” (at least in the way theists use the term) is that … well … again, it’s not actually a “thing”. There is “physics” and there is “imaginary shit”.

          If they’re trying to say there is a scientific discipline that is “higher” than physics which demonstrates the existence of non-natural (super- or other-natural) things … they’re talking nonsense. Because the claim is that their supernatural things interact with this universe in the here-and-now. If so … there would be physics to account for it. There isn’t. The only other explanation is “imaginary”. No excluded middle. It’s real and amenable to empirical investigation — or not real.

        • TheNuszAbides

          I wonder if they have something that could be called Plato Envy … the guy more or less staked out a massive field of ‘meta’ (or at least his writings were the earliest with such scope that survived long enough to be preserved/boosted by early Xian thought-leaders) it seems to me that all intellectually-bent theists have wanted to piggyback on any of his ideas that evoke a transcendent/perfect/’unphysical’ mind as something ‘Real’ rather than merely abstract philosophical models/tools.

        • Joe

          So they simply choose not to accept the atheists’s arguments? Or add an extra metaphysical layer on top of a naturalistic one?

          I can dismiss their arguments just as easily then. Or posit super-metaphysics which is above metaphysics.

        • One of the highlights of the Carroll/WLC debate was when Carroll noted that you don’t find the words “transcendent cause” in a cosmology textbook; what you find are differential equations!

        • Kevin K

          I think WLC (forever William Lame Craig in my book) was the first to popularize the egregious misuse of science in service of his fantasies. But he certainly hasn’t been the last.

        • Greg G.

          I think Henry M. Morris preceded Lame in the misuse of science to support his creationism fantasy. I doubt Morris was the first, though.

        • Kevin K

          I think Morris and others of the old-school creationist stripe are more into creating their own alternative science, aren’t they? T-Rex ate coconuts? The Grand Canyon demonstrates The Flood™? The Second Law of Thermodynamics proves …. something-something-something everything decays. They’re just making shit up. That’s not “misusing” science as much as it is bludgeoning it with a club, leaving nothing but a bloody pulp on the floor.

          To me, Craig is far-more subtle — maybe because he invokes (and then artfully mangles) science that most people don’t understand. Guth, Valenkin, et al, are hardly household names.

          Craig did crack me up when he wrote an entire book meant to overturn Einstein’s relativistic concept of time … and didn’t use a single equation to back up his assertion that instead there was something he called “God’s Time”. I’m sure the Nobel Committee will get around to awarding him the physics prize any day now.

        • Greg G.

          The creationists point to the geologic strata as evidence of the Flood. I don’t think Craig’s use of science is much different. Is the Ice Canopy different in kind than God’s Time?

        • Kevin K

          The ice canopy is the same in God’s Time, but your GPS doesn’t work. It keeps giving you directions to the nearest church.

        • Greg G.

          No, Siri, I said “beer joint”, not “church”.

        • A physicist can put on a philosopher’s hat (depending on how you define philosophy) and make important contributions. Arguably, that’s what Heisenberg did with his uncertainty principle (I’m handwaving here).

          But the opposite is not true. A philosopher couldn’t put on a physicist’s hat unless they were a physicist! And in that case, we’re back to the previous example.

          And it goes without saying that WLC isn’t a physicist.

        • Kevin K

          I completely agree. “Philosophers” (which is to say theologians) like to stray from their lane — and directly into oncoming traffic. It’s Dunning-Kruger territory.

          FWIW: I think you’re thinking of Schrodinger.

          Heisenberg actually backed up the principle with math. So, not a philosophical position. And it’s very specific to what it deals with — it’s certainly not about “anything goes”, which is the common misunderstanding of it. It merely acknowledges there are some limitations on just how fine-grained human knowledge can be — about the position and vector (direction-velocity) of subatomic particles. There’s hardly any “philosophy” in there (the philosophists will object that it’s all philosophy — point conceded so as to not derail from the main point).

          Schrodinger’s dead-not-dead cat was a thought experiment designed to denigrate the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics — but that interpretation is currently considered to be the stronger of the alternatives (there are actual surveys conducted). In the same way that Fred Hoyle coined the term “Big Bang” as a mockery of the concept, only to later see the term become accepted as the short-hand for the accepted-demonstrated science.

        • I’m happy to agree that Heisenberg wasn’t doing philosophy at all, but “philosophy” is defined lots of ways. Plantinga defined it as “thinking hard about something.” Like you, I don’t feel like getting into a definition war.

          Good point about the Dunning-Kruger connection.

          Schrodinger’s dead-not-dead cat

          Can we say it was an undead cat?? Bwahahaha!

        • epeeist

          Plantinga defined it as “thinking hard about something.”

          Necessary but insufficient. Personally I would say “asking good questions and eliminating bad answers”.

        • epeeist

          Oh and off topic but enormously more substantive than anything Clement and Korus Destroyus are producing – https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/28/cosmic-dawn-astronomers-detect-signals-from-first-stars-in-the-universe

        • “Cosmic dawn: astronomers detect signals from first stars in the universe”

          cool!

        • Joe

          So when god said “let there be light” there was a 180 million year delay before anything happened?

        • Kevin K

          Yes…both dead and not-dead at the same time. Zombie cat probably qualifies. I likes brainz…

        • Glad2BGodless

          I would buy that t-shirt.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Are we absolutely sure he’s even a philosopher? What do real philosophers think of him?

        • Great question. I wonder what someone with an independent reputation (that is, not just from within his religious community) like Daniel Dennett would say.

        • Susan

          I wonder what someone with an independent reputation (that is, not just from within his religious community) like Daniel Dennett would say.

          You’re right that Dennett has an independent reputation but he’s also known as one of the Four Horsemen.

          That philosophers (who aren’t members of the Four Horsemen) don’t pay attention to him is very relevant.

          He’s a big deal in the philosophy of religion, which isn’t a big deal in philosophy.

          Sadly, Plantinga seems to be the best they’ve got.

          Craig is no Plantinga.

          And Plantinga isn’t very impressive.And he’s the best they’ve got.

        • I’ve read more WLC than Plantinga. Have you read enough of Plantinga to have an opinion?

          I recently read Richard Carrier’s evisceration of Plantinga’s “About 2 dozen” arguments list. Nice.

        • Jan S

          Nobel Committee needs just one more God month to finish the evaluation 🙂

        • TheNuszAbides

          i had never heard of the guy until i started combing through talkorigins. holy crap …

        • Glad2BGodless

          That debate is a thing of beauty.

        • I still haven’t recovered from the fact that WLC got into a debate about cosmology … with a cosmologist!

          He might as well have gone into the ring with Mike Tyson.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Maybe he thought he was going to debate a cosmetologist. Sometimes WLC’s eyelashes look to me like they’ve had a little help.

        • Yeah. If I had a nickel for every time I made that mistake …

        • Glad2BGodless

          That might explain his fascination with the Collagen Cosmetological Augment.

        • Susan

          I still haven’t recovered from the fact that WLC got into a debate about cosmology … with a cosmologist!

          He wobbled a little but he just went back to repeating his bubble arguments as though Carroll hadn’t already dealt with them. I think I saw a little sweat on his upper lip which is something for the Master Debater.

          But then he just went back to his routine. It was a disaster.

          I can’t bear to check in on WLC’s post-debate analysis. Did anyone else? I’ll bet he declared victory for the exact, same reasons he always does.

          That debate was an embarrassment as was his debate with Shelly Kagan on morality. Unless you’re routing for your champ, in which case, he can do no wrong. As long as you don’t bother to listen to his opponent and deal with the problems.

        • He has a podcast called Reasonable Faith. The transcript of his podcast “analyzing” the results of that debate are here:
          https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/science-philosophy-and-the-sean-carroll-debate/

          I may have listened to it, but I forgot what he said. Bravo if you’ve got the stomach to wade through it.

          What I found vomit-inducing in many of his post-debate analyses was the gentle condescension. Something like, “Honestly, Kevin, I was amazed at the shallowness of his argumentation. And the X argument–really? That was dismissed by Plantinga’s Counterclockwise Modal Metaphysical Bullshit Argument thirty years ago!”

        • Susan

          Bravo if you’ve got the stomach to wade through it.

          Not any more. A few years back when I’d never heard of him, I used to.

          Something like, “Honestly, Kevin, I was amazed at the shallowness of his argumentation. And the X argument–really? That was dismissed by Plantinga’s Counterclockwise Modal Metaphysical Bullshit Argument thirty years ago!”

          Yep. That’s all his fans need to hear to feel confident that Yahwehjesus is an intellectual conclusion.

          Of course he knows, that that’s unacceptable in his own field (philosophy). But his fans don’t. And there’s a huge market for him for that reason.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Does anyone know exactly how much WLC and the rest of the clowns in the apologetics circus put in the bank at the end of the day?

        • Susan

          I prefer not to think about that.

          🙂

        • I’m guessing WLC does fairly well, giving his professorship(s), his lectures, and his books. But the bottom line for him, I think, is that he’s shielded that inner little boy from his childhood fears of dying. He’s made it clear in his writings that that’s his goal. I’m a little surprised that he doesn’t try to cover that up.

        • Susan

          the bottom line for him, I think, is that he’s shielded that inner little boy from his childhood fears of dying.

          It’s impossible to know what motivates him. There’s lots of money and prestige if he’s just good at manipulating others who want to shield that inner child from fears of dying.

          While it’s possible that he’s truly motivated by that, I have no reason that his motives (at this point) are any different from a television healing preacher.

          He’s found a niche. He might be sincere. But without enough evidence, I have no reason to assume either way.

          He’s dishonest. That much is clear. What motivates that dishonesty can be any combination of factors.

        • The part about the little boy’s fears of dying driving the adult wasn’t mere speculation. It came from WLC himself.

          More here:
          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/04/is-life-absurd-without-god-a-reply-to-wlcs-influential-article/

          There is more than just that, of course, as you note.

        • Susan

          The part about the little boy’s fears of dying driving the adult wasn’t mere speculation

          I know. I’m too familiar with WLC.

          I’m just saying that it looks as much like standard manipulation for one’s own purposes as it looks like a sincere position.

          It’s as possible that he’s a snake oil salesman with philosophy degrees and debate skills as that he’s actually talking about himself when he refers to that little boy.

          We do know he’s dishonest. What motivates that dishonesty, only he knows.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Doing well by doing good is a motto that never goes out of style. I have to think that the big sacks of money help WLC and other apologists keep their focus.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Trying to guesstimate the degree to which grifters are taken in by their own con is a minor pastime of mine. I think that needle can move over the course of their career.

          I am pretty sure WLC means what he says about his fear of death, and I think he’s a skilled speaker who knows that the things that move him will also move many of those in his audience.

          I read somewhere — maybe on your blog? — that simply reminding people of their mortality causes them to feel more negatively toward atheists.

        • Tangent: the article below talks about two WW2 fighter pilots, one an American hero and one Japanese, whose biographies don’t check out. The article talks about source monitoring, the idea that “people store facts separately from where they originate.”

          “Imagine that you start telling me today about this thing that happened to you when you were 6,” he said, “and some of the facts are there, and some of the facts are a bit exaggerated. By telling us this story, you’re basically taking the memory out from storage, adding to it, shaping it and then packing it up and sending it back to memory — including images of things you created but were not really there.”

          What begins as a fabrication, an exaggerated detail, can be repackaged enough that it sticks, indistinguishable from the truth, even for the lie’s creator. It’s a terrifying thought, especially for a journalist who relies so often on other people’s memories, but it’s also frightening on a personal level. There are stories I’ve told so many times I would swear by them, and yet it’s possible I’ve tacked on whole icebergs of detail over the years.

          What I take from this is that claims that seem to be obvious lies from the outsider’s standpoint can (now) seem to be true from the teller’s standpoint. That is, they’d pass a lie detector because they believe their lies.

          https://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/enemy-world-war-ii-fighter-pilots-told-a-gripping-tale-of-peril-and-reconciliation-and-then-there-was-the-truth/

        • Glad2BGodless

          Very interesting, and kind of spooky. It seems to me like it knocks another brick out of the notion of an eternal, unchanging soul.

        • Pofarmer

          Too damned much. The worse ones are the apologists hiding as biblical scholars.

        • I’m glad someone is doing it. I don’t bother because (1) it’s a hard slog and (2) summarizing the argument in a blog post might not make for an interesting blog post. Have you read Richard Carrier’s stuff? He responds to a lot of philosophical arguments, most recently to Plantinga’s “about two dozen” arguments.

        • Kevin K

          I used to follow Carrier, but he’s the atheist version of Aquinas. Takes 10,000 words to say something I can say in 10.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Yes.
          A lot of the foolishness and absurdity gets promoted by inappropriate use of the language. Honest mistakes combined with deliberate deceit.

          Trying to make God logically credible has been a long struggle and it continues to be unsuccessful.

          Talking philosophically or theologically involves endless talk and discussion and little empiricism is included.
          The empiricism of modern science is killing magical thinking.

        • eric

          “It takes a while” is itself a counter-argument to any claim that God is obvious or known by all of us or that the evidence of our senses would naturally lead us to the conclusion that he exists. These things can only be true if it does NOT take a while to get the argument.

          The same is true about communicating his presence. The observed fact that many humans argue over the message leads to the conclusion that whatever message is being sent (if any) isn’t clear. Evidence for a clear message would be few people arguing over what it means.

        • Ficino

          Yours above, and observations like others made on here – e.g. why don’t scientists agree on theism? why don’t even theologians agree on theism? – provide powerful pragmatic cautions to anyone bowled over by systems like Aquinas’ or his modern spokesmen.

          Over on Roll to Disbelieve, Captain Cassidy pointed out that a system that claims to be perfect is [pretty nearly always?] a broken system.

      • RichardSRussell

        The classical theists have had many centuries to hone their skills at being fraudulent, deceitful, ignorant and arrogant.

        Indeed, over the course of those centuries they’ve heard about every question imaginable, and they’ve come up with answers for all of them. Some of them are even right.

        • Halbe

          Some of them are even right.

          Maybe, but most of them are not even wrong.

    • Kevin K

      Well, the “principle of causality” isn’t actually a thing, when you get right down to it. So, they’re off to a bad start.

      Act-Potency is Aristotle, who, sad to say, has been proven wrong. A guy by the name of Galileo — it was in all the papers; maybe they missed it.

      Similarly, the distinction between “necessary” and “contingent” is just sophistry, meant to cut-off the question “if everything that comes into existence has a cause, what caused god?” Infinite regress is not the theist’s friend. Defining or declaring something to be “necessary” doesn’t make it so–how do they know that their god doesn’t have a creator? Because they say so? Yeah — evidence required. It also is the fallacy of the excluded middle — where’s the proof that the universe isn’t a creation of Todd, an 8th grade science student at Mstil!!&slr Middle School, one of a race of universe-building aliens? Until you can disprove Todd, you haven’t proven “god”.

      And defining that “necessary” thing as a supernatural something-or-other doesn’t answer the ontological question of “what is it made of?” Nor the question “how did it come into being fully formed with a brain-like ability to reason and plan?” Nor the question of “why would an eternal necessary thing wish to create contingent things?” Nor the question “if the necessary thing wanted to create souls for heaven (the ultimate end-point, after all), why didn’t it just do that and save itself a universe’s worth of effort?”

      Classical theists are pains in the asses. And poor critical thinkers.

    • RichardSRussell

      I just became a senior citizen.

      So what were you before, a junior citizen? Just wonderin’.

  • Glad2BGodless

    Caption for the photo above: “Is that a cannon in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”

  • RichardSRussell

    conservative voters punish politicians who aren’t sufficiently Christian (bypassing Article VI of the Constitution, which prohibits a religious test for public office)

    In fairness, that restriction is on the government, not on individual citizens. For example, when your mom says “You watch your tongue, young man!”, she’s not violating the 1st Amendment.

    Otherwise, excellent observations, as always.

    • Lark62

      Yes, the religious test is on government “only christians can be on the ballot” or “must believe in a deity to hold office.”

      Individuals can consider anything they find relevant when choosing who to vote. I would prefer to vote for people with enough critical thinking skills to know imaginary friends are make believe.

      • Greg G.

        I would prefer to vote for people with enough critical thinking skills to know imaginary friends are make believe.

        Unfortunately, it is difficult to be candid about that without committing political seppuku.

  • Lerk!

    And don’t forget, the “guarantees” Jefferson believes come from a “creator” as described in the Declaration of Independence, which Christians seem to think came from their god, are antithetical to Biblical principles! The Christian’s god, if their book is to be believed, guarantees none of those things, instead promising persecution and possible loss of life, and being a slave to Christ in exchange for liberty from Satan. Pursuit of happiness? That’s Hedonism! It’s the last thing a Christian should be thinking about.