New on Ebon Musings: The Apologist’s Handbook

Earlier this year, I called on readers to help me compile the “apologist’s handbook”, a list of responses given by lay and professional Christians to common atheist objections, in order to point out how some of those answers directly contradict each other. There were dozens of suggestions, some of them very good indeed.

Well, I’ve now compiled the best of those responses into a new essay on Ebon Musings. Go check it out!

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Why Atheism Is a Force for Good
Weekend Coffee: March 28
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Petrucio

    Ahhhh, the essays of Ebon Musings. The most awesome repository of awesomeness on the internet. Thanks dude.

  • Sharmin

    I like the essay. You’ve done a great job of concisely summarizing the different arguments and explaining them. I’m still working my way through the many essays at Ebon Musings, but all the ones I’ve read so far have been very informative.

    @Petrucio (comment #1): “The most awesome repository of awesomeness on the internet.”
    Yes, definitely.

  • Rick

    Ebon, I’ve read many of your musings and enjoy them greatly. I was wondering if you could set up the musings part of your site to either allow comments or to forward to a “comments” post here.

    I ask because one of the criticisms we atheists level against some controversial writers is that they write a blog post or other article where discussion is not allowed. Preventing discussion is seen as a weakness to the writer’s thesis–if the point cannot stand under discussion, it must be pretty weak.

    I know from reading your posts here that that is not your position generally. So could you post links on your musings to open comment threads here so that there could be no complaints of “He’s afraid to hear the other side…”?

  • Gaius Sempronius Gracchus

    . . . . some of those answers directly contradict each other.

    That could be a problem because, in that case, some of them are true.

  • cag

    Gaius Sempronius Gracchus #4, Your logic has some flaws. Just because 2 lies contradict each other does not make one of them true.

  • Monty

    Most of the statements contradict each other assuming God even exists in the first place. The contradiction, therefore, is just further evidence that both are false.

  • Chad

    Like the article. One very minor quibble, though:

    If Christianity was a coherent belief system that flowed from a consistent set of starting principles, this wouldn’t happen.

    It might not happen to someone who understood the starting principles; but no position is so correct that you won’t find somebody stupid arguing for it. Perhaps this should read, “This wouldn’t happen to someone whose beliefs flowed…”?

  • Gaius Sempronius Gracchus

    Cag at 5, contradictories cannot both be true and cannot both be false. Perhaps you are thinking of contraries. Contraries cannot both be true but can both be false.

    “Bill Maher is skinny as an anorexic rail” and “Bill Maher is fat as an overweight walrus” are contraries.

    They could not both be true and happen both to be false (I think he is probably at a good weight for a man his height).

    Likewise the pair of contraries “God is eternal” and “God is everlasting” are contraries that could not both be true (as theologians understand them, anyway) but would both de false if God were mortal and are both false since there is no God.

    On the other hand, “2 + 2 = 4″ and “2 + 2 4″ are contradictories.

    A pair of lies, by the way, need be neither the one nor the other.

  • Gaius Sempronius Gracchus


    Sabotaged by XHTML.

    I used the left and right arrows in that order together to mean “does not equal” and they just disappeared.

    That second bit of arithmetic should be “2 + 2 do not equal 4″.


  • Gaius Sempronius Gracchus

    Silly me.

    I meant a pair of lies cannot be contradictories and need not be contraries.

    Too long a day.

  • jack

    I very much enjoyed this new essay. It’s one of those things so useful for dealing with theists that I’d like to memorize it, if only my aging brain still had enough neurons for that.

    The part about the power of prayer brought to mind this delightful item I recently received from a friend. It’s a noteworthy warning to the devout: “Be careful what you wish pray for. You may get it!”

  • CharlesInSoCal

    Awesome! Thank you – I’ve been looking forward to this ever since the February OP.

  • HA2

    Gaius – I’m not sure I understand your comment. For example, “2+2=5″ and “2+2=6″ contradict each other. But neither is true.

    I think you’d have to be using some really weird restricted definition of “contradict” if you don’t agree with that. (Oh, wait. I think you are – in a later line, you say it’s “impossible for two lies to contradict each other”???)

  • Gaius Sempronius Gracchus

    HA2 at 13.

    Your two false (in fact, necessarily false) arithmetical claims are not a contradictory pair.

    There is not much to explain since it is only a question of definitions.

    Sometimes, these definitions are restricted to the realm of contingent propositions – propositions that are neither necessarily false nor necessarily true.

    But not always.

    In logic, a contradictory pair of propositions is a pair of propositions that (a) cannot both be true and (b) cannot both be false.

    In effect, they necessarily have opposed truth values.

    Hence any two propositions with the same truth value (in your arithmetical example both are false; likewise, both are false in the case of two lies) are not a contradictory pair.

    On the other hand, a pair of false propositions which could not be jointly true will qualify as a pair of contraries.

    So two lies will qualify as a pair of contraries if they could not, in any realm of possibility, both be true.

    And your two false arithmetic propositions are contraries since neither could be true at all, unless the definition is restricted to contingent propositions.

    Anyway, I meant only to be making a feeble joke when I started this.

    It’s pretty clear that Ebon meant that at least some (perhaps many) of the claims of Christian apologists are inconsistent with one another.

    Which, in logic, means either of a pair of propositions or of a larger set of propositions that they cannot (all) be jointly true.

  • TK

    How about this?

    God so loved the world that he gave his only son to be crucified and resurrected to save us from our sins.

    Therefore, Pilate and Judas and all the centurions are official saints for faithfully doing their part!

  • TK

    Oooh I got another….

    Everything that exists must have a cause
    God is the cause of the universe
    God didn’t have a cause, He always was
    Not everything that exists must have a cause

  • TK

    Hey Gracchus, are you a centurion?

  • Hendy

    Dang — thanks for the quote. Had no idea seeing my name was coming, especially since I hardly ever comment! It seems a little confusing as I read it now, as some of it might be missing. The idea I had in mind was more like this similar statement: LINK.

    Thanks again!