Let’s conclude our critique of William Lane Craig’s essay “The Absurdity of Life without God” (part 1 here) by examining a few more of WLC’s claims.
Craig tells us that we are morally adrift without God. How can we live without objective morality? How can we live in a world with the Auschwitz experiments of Josef Mengele? He says, “My heart was torn by these stories [from the concentration camps],” and yet how does God help? Craig imagines that we live in a world with Auschwitz and God! Throwing God into the mix does nothing to remove the Holocaust from history; instead, it demands an answer to the question, What the hell was God doing while Auschwitz was in operation?
As for objective morality (moral truth that is correct independent of whether anyone believes it), this is just his fantasy. He is quick to proclaim it, but he’s done nothing to justify this bold claim.
From the “Wait—this guy is a professor?” category, consider this example in which he clarifies what objective morality is:
[The Holocaust] would still have been wrong, even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in brainwashing or exterminating everybody who disagreed with them, so that everybody in the world thought the Holocaust was right and good.
Let’s think this through. We have our world, where everyone says the Holocaust was wrong, and we have Bizarro World, where things are identical except that everyone says the Holocaust was right. Each world has a William Lane Craig, and they are identical except for opposite views on this one issue. Where is the objective grounding for either view? Neither debater could point to anything to convince the other. Craig’s own example therefore proves my point: there is no reason to imagine objective morality.
Is atheism absurd?
In part 1, we saw how Craig will drop the word “ultimate” in phrases such as “ultimate purpose” or “ultimate meaning” and declare that purpose and meaning don’t exist in the life of the atheist. I agree that I see no ultimate purpose in life, but there’s plenty of purpose. One is left to puzzle over whether in ignoring any distinction between the two he’s deliberately deceptive or just a sloppy writer.
He also plays games with “absurd,” a critical word in an essay titled, “The Absurdity of Life without God.” According to the dictionary, he’s saying that life is meaningless, ridiculously unreasonable, or incongruous without God. That’s obviously what he means when he quotes Bertrand Russell saying that we must build our lives upon “the firm foundation of unyielding despair.”
Yet again, millions of atheists would disagree, but set that aside for now and go back to the definition of “absurd.” It actually has another meaning:
In philosophy, “the Absurd” refers to the conflict between (1) the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and (2) the human inability to find any.
And this definition actually works. It’s simply the observation that there is no inherent or ultimate meaning in life. So in that sense, life is absurd without God.
So Craig either makes a rather obvious and uninteresting point (there is no reason to imagine ultimate meaning in life) or a false one (life has no meaning). Worse, he may be deliberately switching between the two as benefits his presupposition.A rare moment of insight
We wade through paragraph after tedious paragraph as Craig marvels how atheists think Reality wasn’t cobbled together just for their benefit. But Craig is sensible when it suits him. Using the example of feminists annoyed with the conclusions of Freudian psychology, Craig says,
If Freudian psychology is really true, then it doesn’t matter if it’s degrading to women. You can’t change the truth because you don’t like what it leads to.
Yes! It doesn’t matter whether you like the truth or not! The truth is the truth, and you’re stuck with it.
Why does the essay not reflect this obvious fact, and why bury it almost at the end? If this idea had been in the first paragraph, it might have informed the essay and grounded it in reality.
And insight lost
But when thinking sensibly doesn’t suit him, Craig rejects it.
Do you understand the gravity of the alternatives before us? For if God exists, then there is hope for man. But if God does not exist, then all we are left with is despair.
Completely backwards. Don’t introduce an alternative until you have shown that it’s viable. This is like wrestling with the consequences of life with the winning Powerball lottery ticket versus without it. First, let’s see if you have such a ticket.
We finally reach the end of Craig’s long essay, wanting only to make it out with our sanity intact. In the very last paragraph, he acknowledges the elephant in the room and admits:
Now I want to make it clear that I have not yet shown biblical Christianity to be true…
You got that right, pal.
But what I have done is clearly spell out the alternatives. If God does not exist, then life is futile.
Wrong. Life is ultimately futile.
There is no reason to imagine that God exists or that you have that winning lottery ticket. Get over it.
It seems to me that even if the evidence for these two options were absolutely equal, a rational person ought to choose biblical Christianity. It seems to me positively irrational to prefer death, futility, and destruction to life, meaningfulness, and happiness.
No, what’s irrational is groping for an option that is not first well supported by evidence. Craig finds what he’d like to be true and then rearranges the facts to support that conclusion. This is not the argument of someone honestly searching for the truth.
And notice the debater’s trick. He feigns a concession (“even if the evidence were equal”) to make us more accepting of the ridiculous argument that the Christian claims and atheism are equally likely. And yet he admitted in the same paragraph that he has done nothing to defend his Christian conclusion. This entire bloated essay simply says that it would be nice if God exists. Stated less charitably: it would please Craig if God exists.
Religion imagines that it has something to add to the conversation when its answers to life’s Big Questions change based on where they’re asked! Ask “What is life’s purpose?” in a Buddhist country and you’ll be told it’s to cease suffering and reach nirvana. In a Muslim country, it’s to submit to Allah. In a Christian country, it’s to learn about and praise God.
Craig is determined to justify his childish view of reality. He’s made clear that no argument would change his mind. For anyone who finds his arguments enticing, however, I encourage them to put on their big girl panties, grow up, and demand that supernatural claims be backed with serious evidence.
Seeing life accurately can be daunting, but it’s also invigorating. Problems get solved only by seeing them as they are, not as we wish they were.
Dance like no one’s watching,
love like you’ll never be hurt,
sing like no one’s listening,
live like it’s heaven on earth.
— William Pukey
Image credit: Håkan Dahlström, flickr, CC