The creepy delusions of William Lane Craig

When I first read William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith (back when it was in the second edition), my gut reaction to reading the first chapter was, “this guy is a total lunatic, I didn’t know he was so crazy.” I basically said so in my first post reviewing the book, and then when I turned my post series into a big fat article for Internet Infidels, Keith Augustine made me tone it down so as to not scare off the Christians visiting the site.

Part of my negative reaction to Reasonable Faith was the dishonesty of it. When Craig is addressing mixed audiences, he presents himself as a scholar who’s just following reason and evidence where it leads, and whose claims are all grounded in mainstream scholarship. Here, for example, is how Craig started off his opening statement in his debate with Eddie Tabash (Craig was speaking second):

It’s worth underlining the fact that the debate tonight concerns which view is the truth. We’re not here to talk about which view I like the best, or which view appeals to me the most, but which view is the truth. So how do we discover truth? The answer is that we must use logical arguments, formulated according to the basic rules of logic which have governed all valid reasoning since the time of Aristotle. Emotional appeals and powerful rhetoric may move juries, but they’re philosophically useless at helping us get at the truth.

Reading Reasonable Faith, it’s clear that Craig didn’t really mean what he said about using logical arguments to get at the truth:

I think Martin Luther correctly distinguished between what he called the magisterial and ministerial uses of reason. The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel…. Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa (pp. 47-48 in 3rd edition, though wording is virtually unchanged from the 2nd edition).

When I first started telling people about this aspect of Reasonable Faith, a lot of them, both atheists and Christians, had trouble believing it, because it’s so at odds with the persona Craig puts on the rest of the time. He’s deceiving people, plain and simple.

More recently, though, I’ve realized there was another part to my reaction: I was just plain creeped out. This is the really creepy part:

When a person refuses to come to Christ it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God’s Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God (p. 47).

How could Craig possibly know this? How could he possibly know that out of all the non-Christians of the world, not a single one of them is kept from converting by intellectual difficulties? How could he possibly know that out of all the non-Christians in the world, all of them want nothing to do with God, or would want nothing to do with God if only they had a good reason to think he existed? The answer is that Craig doesn’t know any of this, and in fact countless non-Christians know he’s wrong, and some have probably told him so, but Craig doesn’t care. Craig is committed to his notions about what’s going on in other people’s heads, no matter what the evidence is. He’s delusional.

What’s more, it’s a pretty creepy delusion. Many Christians believe crazy things about what God did thousands of years ago: casting humans out of paradise over an incident involving a talking snake, ordering blood sacrifices and executions of people who break religious taboos, killing his own son as a sacrifice to himself. And many Christians believe crazy things about the future: that non-Christians will burn in Hell forever and that Jesus is coming back one day.

With those beliefs, though, I can reassure myself that they only apply to the distant past, vaguely defined future, and an imaginary afterlife realm. I can reassure myself that most Christians (not all, unfortunately) compartmentalize quite a bit, mostly avoid believing anything too crazy about the real-world present, and mostly aren’t going to do anything too crazy based on their beliefs.

Craig’s delusions, however, involves what’s going on in the heads of billions of real people alive today. They involve real people who he’s going to be interacting with ever day. They involve me, and not just what’s going to happen to me come my death (or the apocalypse or whatever), but me right now. That’s profoundly creepy.

It’s creepy because it falls outside the normal (if half-assed) constraints that normally apply to religious beliefs. It’s creepy in the way a lot of behavior that falls well outside normal rules of behavior is creepy. The kind of behavior that makes you wonder, “I’m not sure if this guy is dangerous, but since he’s ignoring the normal rules of behavior sane people follow, what else might he do?”

Put another way: Greta has a great post called “Listening to the Hair Dryer” where she imagines someone claiming that their hair dryer is telling them to volunteer twice a week at a homeless shelter. It would be kinda nice in a way, but it would also be kind scary, because you’d be wondering what the hair dryer is going to tell them next. What if it tells them to start shooting redheads?

This isn’t a perfect analogy for religion, because in practice we can bet on religious believers compartmentalizing and not taking the faith-based approach to certain subjects, i.e. not taking the faith-based approach to what’s going on inside the heads of anyone and everyone who disagrees with them. Once that assumption is violated, though, you’ve kinda got to start wondering what their hair dryer will tell them next.

  • jamessweet

    The answer is that we must use logical arguments, formulated according to the basic rules of logic which have governed all valid reasoning since the time of Aristotle. Emotional appeals and powerful rhetoric may move juries, but they’re philosophically useless at helping us get at the truth.

    Leaving aside the dishonest of it, even taken at face value I do not entirely agree with this statement. Logical arguments are better than emotional arguments, of course, but empirical arguments are even better. In fact, if one makes an apparently sound logical argument that contradicts empirical observation, one can be fairly certain there is an as-yet-uncovered flaw in the logical argument.

    Logic has it’s place, and of course self-contained mathematical systems (such as formal logic) are beautiful in that within their own domain it is one of the few places where we can unabashedly assert that a certain proposition is proven without a doubt, that there is not one iota of uncertainty. But when trying to discern truth about the real world, logic is merely one tool among many. Empiricism is the only safe bet.

  • karmakin

    When that line is crossed, when the ugly stuff goes from being downplayed (and often quite hard) to being accepted and even embraced, that’s when I back away slowly.

    That’s the hallmark of one scary person. Craig, needless to say. Is one VERY scary person.

  • David Marjanović

    How could Craig possibly know this?

    It says so in the Bible, in some letter ascribed to Paul, IIRC. AFAIK, this is one of the relatively few topics on which the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, at least within the actually monotheistic parts of it.

    • mikmik

      The hair dryer told him.

  • David Marjanović

    I second comment 1.

    Craig, needless to say. Is one VERY scary person.

    Well, no – because he lacks political or financial power.

    • karmakin

      Let me put it this way…if I had friends or family that said the sorts of things that he said (I don’t), I’d try to keep them as arm’s length as I possibly could.

  • ttch

    The Holy Whatchamacallit clearly supports this mindset, e.g.,

    Romans 1:20 (New International Version, ©1984):

    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    Psalm 14:1 (New Living translation):

    Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!

    Both wrong of course but when WLC and many other theists argue with active atheists, their position is that you are consciously lying and corrupt so any tactic is fair.

    But of course there are thousands of religions. There are theists who claim that the existence of religion shows that humans have in their hearts a “God-shaped hole” that can only be filled through worship of the real God. This means that when a pagan finds comfort in worshiping an idol, this is evidence for the existence of the God that prohibits worshiping idols!

    Ah, what do you expect?

    • Chris Hallquist

      You know, Christians really need to come up with a better metaphor for becoming a Christian, one that doesn’t involve filling holes.

      • jamessweet

        Nobody is actually gay. It’s just that some men have a God-shaped hole in their butt.

    • F

      When I get a sound system installed in my cardiac ventricles and connected to a subvocal mic, then Psalms-author can call me a fool.

  • raven

    Craig is a monster. The fundies create a lot of monsters.

    Among his major monstrosities is the defense of the (mythological) Canaanite genocides (killing babies is OK because they all go to heaven) and claims that animals can’t feel pain, an ancient doctrine that is provably false.

    All his arguments start with the Presupposition that the bible is all true. How do we know jesus ascended into heaven as god. The empty tomb. You know, the one in that work of fiction called the NT. They go downhill from there.

    The fundies have never produced even a second rate theologian or thinker. The closest is probably Rushdoony, the psychopathic xian Dominionist madman who whose proposed theocracy starts by killing 99% of the US popualtion

  • Peter

    I finally realized, much later in life than I should have, that a tiny amount of actual data trumps all the logic in the world. Logic is a great tool, but it’s only useful to the extent that it’s applied to reality.

  • raven

    Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”

    The wise and brave say it out loud and often.

  • raven

    No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God (p. 47).

    It’s the other way around.

    I was a xian for decades. It was fundie monsters like WL Craig that woke me up and started me on my way out of the religion.

    Xians. Making atheists since 33 CE.

  • Anteprepro

    On the subject of delusions about the present: 61% of Evangelicals are absolutely confident that demons and angels are active in our world. The same number are absolutely confident that miracles happen even today. And 60% of Americans claim to pray daily. I’d say that’s roughly the same level of delusion as William Lane Craig playing Bible psychic/psychologist.

    Well, no – because he lacks political or financial power.

    He is taken seriously as a scholar by at least some people, even a disturbing number of atheists who should probably know better. So, if the right people take him as a serious authority on the subjects that he babbles about, he can influence people who do have political and financial power.

    when WLC and many other theists argue with active atheists, their position is that you are consciously lying and corrupt so any tactic is fair.

    That does explain a lot. Lying for Jesus is good, because atheism is bad. Even when you need to lie to show why Jesus is good enough to make lying for him good, and need to lie about why atheism is bad enough to warrant lying about as well. Theists truly do love their circles. And their lies.

  • Patrick

    The neat thing about the Craig quote is that it makes Christianity falsifiable.

    P1: If Craig’s Christianity is true, then I believe that God exists, even if I publicly deny this.

    P2: I have direct knowledge of what I do or do not believe.

    P3: I don’t believe that God exists.

    Therefore, Craig’s Christianity is false.

    If even one sincere non believer exists, then Craig’s Christianity is false. You, the reader, know whether or not you are a sincere nonbeliever. You therefore are in possession of an irrefutable defeater for Craig’s religious views. Its not one he’s obliged to accept, but its certainly one YOU can accept.

  • Anteprepro

    If even one sincere non believer exists, then Craig’s Christianity is false. You, the reader, know whether or not you are a sincere nonbeliever.

    Not good enough for Craig and his ilk. All Craig needs to do is say that our belief is subconscious and by definition unknown to us. Unfalsifiable? No evidentiary support? Sure, but that’s no problem to him, because these two are the theopologist’s bread and butter.

    • Patrick

      Can one subconsciously believe something? I’m not sure it can be done.

      • raven

        Can one subconsciously believe something? I’m not sure it can be done.

        How does Craig know what people believe subconsciously? Mind reading, telepathy rays, torture, voices in his head?

        If you ask him, chances are he will quote the bible passages that say all people really believe in jesus. It’s circular logic, the bible says it so it is true. Standard Craig nonlogic.

        Craig and his cults of religious fanatics all claim the bible is irerrant and written by god. If so, finding contradictions and false statements should falsify that. Which is quite easy. Never stops them from making the same claims the next day.

        Craig’s audience isn’t normal, educated, and intelligent people anyway. He is just part of the fundie echo chamber, playing people’s beliefs back to them.

        • mikmik

          They can be either non-normal, educated, and intelligent, or normal, non-educated, and non-intelligent. Actually, placing ‘non’ with any of the three would qualify a person for William ‘Two Citation’ Craig fan qualification.

          Two Citation? Ah, another of his pompous dishonesties: William Lane ‘Two Citations’ Craig: Acedemic Midget

  • Brad

    Might sound creepy, but this isn’t a particularly unusual position, I hear variations of it all the time in my Evangelical church.

    I fully expect to get a face-full of it if/when I come out as an atheist to my family and friends.

  • kraut

    “The answer is that we must use logical arguments, formulated according to the basic rules of logic which have governed all valid reasoning since the time of Aristotle.”

    Logical arguments based on a false or flawed premises still lead too results that are wrong empirically.
    Creationist base their logic on a false premise, and logically arguing from that premise produces one thing only: A steaming heap of bull.

  • Azuma Hazuki

    Craig is, and has always been, a lying dishonest sack of crap. What Billy boy doesn’t address, and indeed misdirects or outright flees from whenever it’s brought up in debate, is the evidence, the textual and archaeological evidence that proves him wrong.

    I spent entirely too much time analyzing this freak, and being unable to crack him until I finally admitted to myself that he is not respectable or reasonable, that he is indeed as weak and evil-minded as he seems and worse. His confident-sounding statements, and especially his insistence that all opposed are evil or choosing evil, can cow people, but those brave and persistent enough to do the actual research have a tool to overcome it.

    Craig is also a bully. The Lincoln-Douglas debate style is the only place in which he shines, and he does it with the good old Gish Gallop. He knows how to game the system. And even then, he isn’t able to hold up against certain people, most notably Shelley Kagan recently.

    I wonder how much of this he actually believes? Still, at least he’s not as much of a dapper little sociopath as van Til was, ugh.

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  • Mathew Toll

    There is a widely circulated youtube video of WLC talking about the ‘shifting sands of evidence’ and how despite wherever that evidence seems to take you the primary fount of all knowledge is the ‘witness of the holy ghost’. So you are quite right to point out the disingenuous of his public persona at debates with non-Christians.

  • jlh

    I think most of your arguements are very lacking due to the fact that you do not really understand what Craig is talking about, often. Dr. Craig is likely a lot smarter than you and your attacks on personal character that are all based on such trivial basis of article content that, at least on this page, hardly do anything to at least state specific ideas about the points being made. You are vague. I think Dr. Craig is saying all of his words to the public and his works are made public and I am 100% certain that everything in this article is the work of an amateur and I think you should stop. As for me, I could possible beat Ken Jennings at Jeopardy. I have credentials. Have a nice day.

    Listen to how intelligent that sounds. It isn’t intelligent, at all, and I am being serious. I think Craig is being a lot more straight-forward than you. He is a philosopher and a theologian and that typically requires something along the lines of a personal outlook on life, otherwise known as a philosophy, and he is likely confessing his philosohy of what he thinks is true in life and btw, you are so wrong that you are pathetic, because the Bible is the source he is using, always, when he is speaking about church doctrine. This pertains to you because you can’t figure out how Craig even knows why people reject the Holy Spirit when they go to Hell. That last part is a hint btw.

    • Chris Hallquist

      (1) Sure, theoretically, every member of Craig’s debate audiences could buy his books and read what he says when he thinks only Christians are listening. But in fact people don’t do that, so it’s not surprising Craig counts on them not to.


      (3) Yeah, if you base your judgments of me based on what your holy book says about people like me, rather than actually knowing me, you are a deluded creep.

      • jlh

        jst dn’t s ny chrrnc n ny f yr rgmnts. ws n thst bfr ws Chrstn nd m ls ntllgnt ngh t srsly cnsdr tw sds f n ss, dspt wht th tpc s nd ‘ll rvlt my pstn bsd n vdnc. T b spcfc…. Y r t vg, whch spcfclly mns… y r nt spcfc ngh ll. Th sbstnc f th pst y hv rpld wth dmnstrts n ntr lck f tlrnc fr rlgn, s wll s yr ccstns bt Crg’s thnkng, whch wld b ppld t mny Chrstns, ncldng myslf. Th thr thng, whch thnk s n vn mr ccrt ndctr f hw mtr y rlly r s y r mkng n rgmnt bt Crg bng crzy bcs h blvs n th Bbl. D y rlz tht f thr s n gd tht y r ctng lk trbl-bsssd nml tht bgns mnstrtn vrytm t dscvrs vws tht cntrdct ts wn. n fct, t s xtrmly lkly tht y r th xtct sm wy pltclly. knw fr fct m wstng my tm wth y. Y phlsphclly jst dn’t hv “t” nd by t m rfrrng t yr brn pwr tht pprntly rvls tht f ctfsh.

        • jlh

          Why wld y dt my pst t stt nnsns? Y r shmlss btch. Y dn’t vn cr f vryn thnks y shld tk mr prd n dctn nd stp prtndng t knw wht y r tlkng bt. Y bvsly hv n ndrstndng f Chrstnty tht llws y t ndrstnd hw t mk t XTRMLY LGHBL tht y d nt knw scrptr wll t ll, bt y r dfntly hrd-hdd ngh t prbbly d t gn whl rfrrng t th sm vrs. m nt jdgmntl nd cn cn sly s y-t-y wth n thst wh hs bjctns tht hv rcvd mr thght thn sm f th thngs y r syng. sbmt tht y r bjctvly wrng nd t s bvs. trly blv tht cn rs svrl, bjctvly bttr cnsdrtns tht wld b mch mr “fthshkng” thn ny f th thngs y hv sd. wld fnd t mrly dsppntng f yr rsns wr s bd s thy r, bt nstd y r jst wrng nd r shmlss, xygn-strvd bby bt t.

          And… banned, for being insulting while having nothing of substance to say, plus the misogyny. See comment policy. – Hallq

  • R

    Nice article, totally agree with what you’re saying here. That guy is really manipulative in the way he twists other’s words to suit his needs, and warps logic in order to suit his argument. It’s simply baffling that anyone is dumb enough to eat up what he shits all over the stage

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