Is Life Absurd Without God? A Reply to WLC’s Influential Article.

Is Life Absurd Without God? A Reply to WLC’s Influential Article. April 16, 2015

I recently wrote about an atheist who gushed about the irresistibly incisive philosophical arguments of Christian apologist William Lane Craig (WLC). He signed his letter to Craig, “Your biggest atheist fan.” This atheist said that Craig’s essay “The Absurdity of Life without God” kept him awake at night because it “completely shattered my worldview.” We’d better take a look at this life-changing essay.

(The full essay is in Craig’s 2008 book Reasonable Faith, and I’m guessing this isn’t much changed from the 1984 first edition. The version I’m responding to is online and a little shorter.)

William Lane Craig Reasonable FaithThe foundation of the problem

Craig begins by recounting how he first learned as a child that life is finite. He said, “I was filled with fear and unbearable sadness.” That his own death was far in the future did nothing to sooth the problem. Whether his death was hours or decades away didn’t matter—it was eternity or nothing.

Here Craig tips his hand. His life’s work is dedicated to resolving that little boy’s fear of death. He might’ve confronted the problem of death by being a doctor or cancer researcher. He might’ve explored religion and spirituality as a skeptic to see if any discipline offered tangible truth about the afterlife. But he has made clear that following the evidence where it leads isn’t his goal.

And following the evidence is certainly not what he’s doing in this essay. He finds no ultimate meaning, value, or purpose in atheism (which sounds right to me) and then flails about as if we can do something about that. It’s like wishing that 2 + 2 = 9 and then spending your entire life concocting a justification for your new view of arithmetic.

How does reality work?

WLC whispers truths about reality as if his dreadful realizations may not be expressed in polite company.

“My life is just a momentary transition out of oblivion into oblivion.… This thought is staggering and threatening: to think that the person I call ‘myself’ will cease to exist, that I will be no more!” (Well, yeah. Your life and death are not really that big a deal. Welcome to reality.)

“And the universe, too, faces death.… As it [expands], it grows colder and colder, and its energy is used up. Eventually all the stars will burn out and all matter will collapse into dead stars and black holes.” (You’re seriously anxious about the fact that there will be no more stars in 100 trillion years? No one but you loses sleep over this.)

“Mankind is thus no more [ultimately] significant than a swarm of mosquitos or a barnyard of pigs…. Man and the universe are without ultimate significance.” (Yeah. Get over it.)

And again we have the perspective of the young boy shocked by these realizations for the first time. This is a boy growing up in America, smart enough to do well in school and build a career. This is a boy granted the luxury to fret about existential issues like eternity, the eventual death of the universe, and Mankind’s lack of ultimate significance. Sounds like someone needs a hug.

Contrast these First World issues with Third World issues and consider a child with real problems—orphaned by a tsunami in Haiti, forced to serve as a soldier in the Congo or a sex slave in India, or dying of malaria in Niger. WLC’s handwringing about the eventual death of the universe doesn’t amount to much by comparison.

An elementary error

Another category of concern is with the meaning of life. Read these quotes and see if you have the same objection I do.

This is reality in a universe without God: there is no hope; there is no purpose.

Life is utterly without reason.

If God does not exist, then you are just a miscarriage of nature, thrust into a purposeless universe to live a purposeless life.

In a universe without God, good and evil do not exist.

No, what you mean to say is that there is no ultimate hope, purpose, reason, good, or evil. People find plenty of the ordinary kind. Look up those words in the dictionary—they don’t need any transcendental or absolute grounding.

It’s not that Craig doesn’t understand the issue. For example, he asks, “[A person’s life] may be important relative to certain other events, but what is the ultimate significance of any of those events?” Here, he contrasts importance from the standpoint of that person with ultimate importance—not a difficult distinction to make. But in dozens of other instances, as in the quotes above, he conflates the two ideas.

Here’s an example where he conflates the two in the very same sentence: “If God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless” (emphasis added). It’s hard to imagine how this confusion has survived in this essay since he wrote it three decades ago. He’s either a sloppy writer or he intends to deliberately mislead the reader.

In part 2WLC’s essay has a number of points that need responses.

Somebody is looking out for me, 
keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me…
I believe they know everything I’ve said and done and they still love me.
And, I’ve concluded after careful observation that the person keeping score is me.
— Adam Savage

Image credit: See-ming Lee, flickr, CC

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • LauraTee

    When I read his point about being terrified at learning of death as a child, it instantly reminded me of one of my dad’s favorite stories from my childhood. When I was about three years old, he decided to teach me about the solar system. He explained about how Earth is a big ball spinning in space around the sun, and that there are other planets doing the same thing.

    I immediately burst into tears and hysterical sobs, screaming, “I DON’T WANNA SPIN IN SPAAAAAAACE!”

    Had I followed the same path as WLC, I assume I’d be a hollow earth proponent .

    • I fear that WLC’s shenanigans are more harmful than yours would’ve been.

  • Carol Lynn

    I have never understood what the “ultimate purpose” is supposed to be or why it’s attractive at all. As far as I can make out, the most desired end point is to exist somewhere overwhelmed by the wonderfulness that is god and thanking him for eternity that I am not one of the poor souls that I am aware of being tortured elsewhere. (If that’s not your definition of heaven/hell, I don’t really care. The whole concept of heaven/hell is absurd and off-putting no matter what spin is put on it.) I’d rather face oblivion than that! I prefer to make my own purpose for my actual life, thank you.

    Do they have so little imagination, and such a distorted sense of ego, that they cannot conceive of a universe without them? It got along just peachy without them before they were born and will do the same after they die.

    • LauraTee

      To me, the concept of each person having an ultimate purpose is terrifying (and I spent a lot of time as a kid worrying about it). What if I fail? What if I do it wrong? What if I do one thing when I’m supposed to be doing another? What if my ultimate purpose involves doing something I would feel awful about?

      I’m amazed by the fact that anyone could take comfort in that level of responsibility. The idea that I just exist and ultimately have no significant permanent impact on the world or universe around me is incredibly freeing.

      • I suppose if someone’s initial thought was of the “it’s not fair” variety, where the universe owed him something more than just living for a moment in time and then that’s it. But c’mon–don’t we get over that when we grow up?

        • LauraTee

          Most of us do; I think it’s tied to the development of empathy, causing us to see that we’re not the most important thing in the world. Unfortunately, empathy and humility don’t sync very well with a worldview that the creator of the whole universe is intensely interested in everything you do every moment of the day.

        • TheNuszAbides

          well … it’s not like i claim to have grown up.
          i don’t think i resent the universe, although these things can be awfully subtle …

      • Michael

        As an atheist, I fully accept that I hold very uncomfortable beliefs so I think that trying to rationalize that atheism is actually more comfortable misses the point. No atheist in the world would pick a finite life over an infinite one. I would even say that I have no problem with the notion of heavenly bliss as long as we could alter the notion of hell and doing away with the convervative belief that one must simply accept something as true as a prerequisite for going to heaven.

        • LauraTee

          I’d say it misses the point when it comes to whether or not theism is true. But I hear a LOT of arguments based on fear, like WLC’s here. When the argument against atheism is basically, “I’m terrified of the implications of atheism,” then I think it makes perfect sense to counter that argument.

          And I’m pretty confident in saying that I’d pick a finite life over an infinite one (actually just talked about that exact topic with a friend the day before yesterday, oddly enough).

        • Michael

          But I dont think this is what Craig is saying. He admits that the conclusions of atheism scared hism as a child and then he talks more about what those conclusions are, but reading over it again, at no point does he say that he believes in god because of that fear and discomfort of those conclusions. Please correct me if I am wrong.

          I agree that you would pick a certain finite life over a certain infinite life, but all things being equal only a crazy person would pick the former over the latter. Its not too hard to think of a version of the afterlife that you would pick over having a finite life.

        • LauraTee

          He’s not saying it explicitly, but it seems like the natural end of these lines of thought. Sure, statements like “If God does not exist, then you are just a miscarriage of nature, thrust into a purposeless universe to live a purposeless life” and “Mankind is thus no more significant than a swarm of mosquitos or a barnyard of pigs…. Man and the universe are without ultimate significance” are arguably just true, but Craig isn’t simply rattling them off for no reason. The implied ending of those ideas is, “and therefore, God must exist.” He finds the ideas so disturbing that they must not be true. There’s no reason to bring it up otherwise.

          And now I think I get your point about the infinite life thing; I was thinking of it really literally, like never being able to die, not about having an afterlife.

        • Benjamin Bastin

          I actually find it very difficult to think of a version of the afterlife that I wouldn’t eventually tire of even if it takes 10^100 years. I don’t like that life is short, but I’m perfectly happy knowing I won’t exist forever.

        • Kodie

          Popular culture is always good for making up what heaven would be like, but infinite life vs. finite life? I’m over it. People think they have to pack a lot of stuff in before they die, but it’s not like you get to wistfully page through a photo album of your life after you die. When you’re dead, it’s not like you’ll still be wishing to be alive so you could finish that book or tell someone you love them one more time, or eat another bowl of ice cream, so what is the difference?

        • MNb

          I repeat what I quote from WLC’s article above:

          “The Necessity of God and Immortality”
          This is the header. Underneath we find:

          “But the child’s insight remains true.”
          And what is this insight?

          “the prospect of death and the threat of non-being is a terrible horror.”
          Hence the Necessity of God and Immortality.

        • katiehippie

          So why does he bring up his fear and discomfort if that has nothing to do with how why he believes? It sounds like he’s using his fear to scare other people.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i agree insofar as the bodhisattva concept is way more coherent than anything monotheism has come up with. no matter how many weighty tomes the RCC puts its ~imprimatur~ on.

        • MNb

          “No atheist in the world would pick a finite life over an infinite one.”
          Wrong. I do. And so does my atheist son.

        • RedQueen

          “No atheist in the world would pick a finite life over an infinite one.”

          This atheist must certainly would pick a finite life over an infinite one. I don’t fancy being around at the heat death of the Universe.

        • Jackson

          Not only being around for it, but having to exist for an eternity after the heat death of the universe!

        • Derrik Pates

          An infinite life would eventually get infinitely boring. The fact that life is finite is part of what makes it interesting. You’d get very tired of chocolate if you got infinite chocolate, I’d bet.

        • Greg G.

          What if you got 72 sex organs for your 72 virgins so you could have 72 simultaneous eternal orgasms?

        • Kodie

          Be careful what you wish for?

        • Wouldn’t work for me. I’d want to continuously say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

          What could be more satisfying?

        • Kodie

          Say that 72 times fast!

        • … while having sex with one of your virgins.

        • Kodie

          I don’t know how long you have to live before chocolate gets boring permanently. I get bored of things and then it comes back around. Some people are addicted, and they are continually chasing some feeling they had once and can’t get it back, which I can imagine happens with chocolate (or anything one indulges in), but I would say most people are generally content in their happy little ruts, and then once in a while, they might say “it’s been a while since I had a good piece of chocolate cake”. If that’s all you ever ate, it would probably be boring that you’d actually look forward to eating an apple for a change, not even a very good apple, just something besides cake.

          As far as I can tell, life is pretty long enough to know what you’d get bored of if you had forever. Most people … I hesitate to use the word “waste”, but if life was really too short, then why do people still look forward to anything? It’s because staying alive is the chore. If you didn’t have to do anything to stay alive, if you didn’t have to work, or eat healthy, or run your kids all over the place making sure they turn out to be well-rounded educated active adults with productive interests (at least for their college applications), you’d have time to do all that dreamy stuff you say you’d do when you have the time. For many people, the image of heaven is a lot like retirement, except you’re not too old and worn out and tired and running out of time to do everything you’d have liked to do before. You can’t do anything when you’re a kid unless your parents take you to do them, and then almost as soon as you’re old enough to make choices, you have to earn a living, and then you’re all settling down with a spouse and probably having kids, and then you’re obligated to sit in that cubicle or whatever until that magical day when you get to retire. Maybe if you do a fantastic job of raising those kids, they’ll be independent and trustworthy at an early age. But you don’t want to put too much pressure on them or they’ll freak out. It’s a dance.

          Anyway, I don’t think people think of eternity, and it’s kind of an immature idea. I think most people relax about aging after a while and get used to the fact they’re closer to the end than the beginning. There are things most people don’t do anymore when they’re old because it’s been a long time since they had the freedom to, and the most they might want is another whole life to just goof off and get around to that stuff they never made time for (or made a lifestyle around excuses never to get around to them). So let’s be generous and give everyone 100 years to live, and then by the end of the second hundred in a place where they’re safe and healthy and do not have any other cares, and by the end of the second hundred, they’ll have gotten used to the fact, if they didn’t at the end of their first hundred, that their time is up. If all you can do is extend life, that’s not what people want. Living takes effort and resources. Fun and leisure come at a cost. That’s where these rich people retire early and say they’ve earned it, they planned well, they’re young enough still to not need too much help from anyone else. Most people retire too late and scrape out their remaining years on a fixed income – so what if we all lived longer, it would be like that, only harder. What people want is to earn that bonus life where all they get to do is whatever they always wanted to do.

          Don’t get me started on well, life is short and you have to do that stuff while you’re alive, because as I said, that’s not really in the cards for most people to make choices and set their lives up like that. Most people can’t quit their job and chase their dreams, or abandon their family and start over without compromise or obligation to others. I’ve been trying and it’s not going so well, so I might as well have done something else.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmQDIne3CLo

      • katiehippie

        Do christians in the U.S. ever worry that god will want them to do something like some of the awful things in the old testament? They always seem quick to condemn someone who does something awful by saying they aren’t true christians. But if anything god tells you to do is by default moral, then who are you to question god? How do they know that god didn’t tell someone to kill their kids. God has mysterious ways, god has a plan. God’s plan could involve you next time. That would be scary if I believed in the bible.

      • TheNuszAbides

        i would have preferred to reach that conclusion early on, rather than most of my ‘deconversion process’ being very private/circle-of-friends-based anti-authority and anti-responsibility activities. but i don’t mean to complain [much]; i never got scooped up or taken in by a sadist or long-con control freak or other manipulator/dominator, which is damned fortunate since even today i’m pretty gullible for my level of education.

    • smrnda

      I find the idea of ‘ultimate purpose’ silly.

      Take areas of human achievement like art, cinema, music, literature, engineering. If someone went out and said “the purpose of music is X” that would piss off all musicians and all serious fans of music, since declaring the purpose of music to be X *limits* music rather than expanding it. The purpose of music is up to the musician and the listener. Any decent human artifact can serve many purposes, and sometimes people find a purpose or a meaning that the creators did not intend.

      • I imagine, though, that Christians would say that different rules apply in the case of religion. Manmade diversions like art and literature can always be tweaked, but we already have from the horse’s mouth the correct way to worship our supernatural creator.

        Or something.

        • TheNuszAbides

          never look a god-horse in the … no, don’t like where this is going.

      • TheNuszAbides

        that’s a sweet analogy; i’ll be borrowing it, thanks.

  • Playonwords

    Reading WLC’s terrible screed I have to wonder why this guy is considered to be a philosopher, because in the elements you examine here he comes off as little more than an emo teen bewailing the fact that he has no importance. Whilst reading it I wanted to take him by the shoulders, shake him and say, “Stop your mithering – and get over yourself,”

    “My life is just a momentary transition out of oblivion into oblivion.… This thought is staggering and threatening: to think that the person I call ‘myself’ will cease to exist, that I will be no more!”

    So what? Such a thought is better than imagining an eternity of the perfection where nothing changes; WLC cannot conceive of the ennui that would come upon you and the horror of not being able to end it.

    “And the universe, too, faces death.… As it [expands], it grows colder and colder, and its energy is used up. Eventually all the stars will burn out and all matter will collapse into dead stars and black holes

    What is the point of this invitation to gloom? If death is an end we will not be here to see this, but neither will we be round if another universe bursts into being.

    “Mankind is thus no more [ultimately] significant than a swarm of mosquitos or a barnyard of pigs…. Man and the universe are without ultimate significance.”

    Guess what William? Mankind is not special, it never has been and it never will be. If mankind were raptured from this earth then another species would evolve and replace us as the technically adept species.

    I used to get night terrors about this sort of thing when I was 14, I grew out of it. Life had to be lived no matter what happens when we reach the condition we call death.

    • I felt a sense of “gotcha!” when I read, quite early in the article, about his childhood angst over death. I suppose I have to hand it to him to lay his cards on the table and not lie about this, but doesn’t this look like the fretting of a child? “I don’t want death to exist, so I’ll support Christianity–or indeed anything–that promises to resolve that problem.”

      • Jenn

        This is unfair. He never says that the reason he believes in god and the afterlife is because of fear, as you are claiming he does. This is somewhat disingenuous.

        • Playonwords

          My parallel was that I felt night terror when, at 14, I faced the same conundrum. The problem is I overcame that doubt but WLC has not. He may not have been afraid, but it reads exactly as if he was.

          His prostration before his deity seems to be based on his inability to grasp the massive extent of time and space or to see how the deity he follows is worse than the dissolution he is so willing to deny.

        • Benjamin Bastin

          They rarely admit to it, but they often tip their hands as WLC did here

        • No? I think he kind of does.

          If your point is that I may be stretching it a bit to say that he’s still that same little boy, using his new intellect to create a world that avoids the death he fears, OK. But just a bit. He all but admits precisely that.

        • Jenn

          I dont think he does at all. To quote Mnb´s summary above (this is also a reply to him):

          “But the child’s insight remains true.”
          And what is this insight?
          “the prospect of death and the threat of non-being is a terrible horror.”

          He is stating that his insight as a child that the prospect of death and the threat of non-being is a terrible horror reamins true. I don´t agree with this, however, nowhere does he say that because of this insight, one should believe in god or that this is one reason why he believes in god as you are claiming when you say:

          ¨”I don’t want death to exist, so I’ll support Christianity–or indeed anything–that promises to resolve that problem.”

          Could you quote anything where he attributes this insight to a reason or warrant for belief? I think you are really trying to push a point that is just not there and it would be nice to see you be objective and admit this mistake.

        • I don’t see what the problem is. If your point is that he nowhere says, “I’ve never grown up emotionally past the little boy stage, and my Christianity is harnessed to assuage that little boy’s fears,” I agree.

          I’m doing a little amateur psychoanalyzing here. But I think my inference works.

        • MNb

          No psychoanalyzing needed at all. WLC says it himself: “The Necessity of God and Immortality”. It’s obvious that he doesn’t present this as a logical argument, but as an emotional and psychological motivation. In a similar way the atonement doctrine (Auschwitz commander Rudolf Höss going to heaven) was the trigger that lost me for christianity before I started to think about logical arguments.

        • MNb

          You conveniently neglect the header (which I mentioned in the summary you mention):

          “The Necessity of God and Immortality”
          Says it all. WLC needs his god to avoid the horror of not existing.

          “nowhere does he say that because of this insight, one should believe in god”
          No, WLC expresses his emotional and psychological motivation.

          “or that this is one reason why he believes in god as you are claiming when you say:”
          BobS didn’t claim that. He was talking about WLC’s emotional and psychological motivation.

        • Ann Kah

          He may never say it, and it he may not even realize it himself…. but it is a perfectly sensible conclusion based on the evidence that he provided. A lot of religion is fear-driven, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that his is any different.

        • Kodie

          Does he give another reason?

        • MNb

          It’s not unfair at all. I quote from WLC’s article:

          “The Necessity of God and Immortality”
          This is the header. Underneath we find:

          “But the child’s insight remains true.”
          And what is this insight?

          “the prospect of death and the threat of non-being is a terrible horror.”
          Well, the child’s insight according to MNb (I was 9 or 10) is that death is nothing to fear at all – when you’re dead you’re not there to suffer from it. You didn’t suffer from non-existence before you were conceived either. It’s the surviving closed ones who suffer from you being dead, exactly because they still live.
          I suppose that I was lost for christianity before I even understood it. The difference between MNb and WLC is not that he is much more intelligent than me (he is); it’s existential fear, something I totally lack.

        • TheNuszAbides

          and he never outright says that making this particular presentation is the best way to engage the fear/insecurity of his audience, either.

    • TheNuszAbides

      WLC cannot conceive of the ennui that would come upon you and the horror of not being able to end it.

      or, for the people who seem irrevocably “into that kind of thing”, the parallel with the Lotus Eaters.

  • Without Malice

    Where do you begin to make a counter-argument to such a totally stupid and vapid proposition. Do single cell creatures worry about whether their lives have meaning? Do the “lower” animals? Probably not. But we humans – who are made up mostly of single cells that don’t even know they exist, but wtould go on happily existing even if our brains were removed, as long as they had a rich supply of nutrients – have developed a brain powerful enough to ask questions that have nothing to do with our survival. Unfortunately, our brains are not yet powerful enough to see through the bull shit that religions try to pawn off on us as answers to the questions our brains ask about our own existence. As for myself, I think that without happiness life is rather absurd; and not only absurd, but also burdensome. Christianity is one big guilt multiplier that tells people they are all dirty rotten sinners who will spend and eternity in torment if they don’t admit they are sinners

    • Without Malice

      I hate it when my comments get posted before I’m finished making them. As I was saying: Christianity is one big guilt multiplier that tells people they are all dirty rotten sinners who will spend an eternity in torment if they do not admit they are sinners and spend most of their time worrying about whether or not they are saved or if their loved ones are saved. Where’s the happiness in that?

      • Kodie

        How to win souls pawns:

        First, they play on your fears, and then they tell you what you have to do. Then you do it, because you’re scared not to, then they play on your loyalty and say go get some more sinners to clean, then you bring them, and feel like a winner!

        • Kodie

          And if you can’t bring any, you feel “sad” but superior to those who are too rebellious to admit they are meaningless. You’re serving your purpose just by trying. Failing at it is prophesied in the bible under “pearls before swine”.

        • Without Malice

          Yeah, and as soon as you feel like a winner some other husker comes along and tells you you’re still in need of salvation and that the church you just joined is ruled by Satan himself. I was a Mormon, and then a Pentecostal, and then a Lutheran, and toyed with the idea of becoming a Catholic until one day while reading the bible I had a sudden revelation that it was all BS. I think it was Numbers 31 that finally did it. That and the idea of hell that lay on my heart like a heavy, immovable stone and could not be reconciled with any idea of a loving God.

        • Greg G.

          That reminds me of the guy who was stranded on an island for many years. One day he was able to signal a passing ship and they came to the island.

          The rescuers wanted to get the others. They were told there were no others, it was just him. They asked why there were three buildings up the slope.

          He replied, “The one in the middle is where I live, the one on the left is where I go to church, and the one on the right is where I USED to go to church.

        • Without Malice

          Thanks for the good laugh Greg.

        • Pofarmer

          Numbers 31, I’ll have to look ot up. Numbers 5 is a favorite of mine.

        • I recommend Leviticus 14. There’s nothing amazingly evil about it, but good luck explaining how that mess could have come from God.

        • Pofarmer

          Ya know what else is funny. The priest at my kids school is “teaching them the bible”. Of course they don’t ,make it all the way through. We generaly talk about what they talked about that day. He generally skips Numbers 5, and the other inconvenient passages where say, a she bear kills 40 kids. I think the skipped the slaughter of the middianites, as well. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the kids.

        • MNb

          Hehheh – didn’t I predict you so a couple of months ago?

        • TheNuszAbides

          prophetic!

        • Without Malice

          I don’t blame that priest, many parts of the bible are just too embarrassing to mention. He probably skipped the part about how the tribe of Benjamin was almost totally wiped out by their fellow Jews because of what a few of its men did. Pretty ugly story.

      • MNb

        There is an edit function ….. I agree with you on christianity tending to rob people of happiness.

        • Without Malice

          And edit function? Damn! Why don’t they put that in bold print so us old folks with failing eyesight can see the damn thing? Thanks for the tip.

      • TheNuszAbides

        one big guilt multiplier

        it’s debatable what ‘good bits’ i retain from my church upbringing but that is definitely one of the shitty bits that i still haven’t fully shaken (or haven’t been able to reprogram into something clearly useful to myself or others).

    • MNb

      “I think that without happiness life is rather absurd”
      Ah ….. for me realizing that life – Earth – is full of absurd things just is an extra motivation to squeeze happiness from it. Shit happens without any effort; to deal with it adequately is what requires the effort.

  • Ann Kah

    Each of us has the potential to have a life that is full and meaningful TO US. None of us can see the entire “big picture”, and nobody has been able to provide any evidence at all that life in the service of one deity or another is any more “meaningful” than life spent otherwise.

  • Kodie

    It looks like fame is related. People don’t want to live in their dopey small town, they want to get out, they want to see their name in lights, or something. Weird that in a smaller town, people might even get to know you better than in the big city. Religions act like those small-town actual people don’t matter, it has to be god to be considered meaningful.

    Most people live pretty dull, non-famous lives, but suppress their dreams, like when you were a kid and people gave you attention because you’re a kid, and you dreamed of being a rock star or an actor or someone whose name people recognize. This fascination with fame affects some people in dangerous ways to stand out, like murderers getting their names in the paper. This religious need to have god’s eyes upon you and guiding every move you make, to be interested and judging every feeling that you have, that nobody else cares, seems like a desire to be famous when you aren’t, and never will be. Talented celebrities will often say fame is more of a side-effect; some people never really wanted that much attention, but they are focused on their craft. Their craft that draws people to theaters and art galleries and watching interviews on tv, and buying books, music, fashion to imitate them, and consumer versions of professional sports jerseys with their favorite player’s name and number on the back. In popular culture, these are the things that people give more meaning to, and then again, a religious person would say that glory should be to god, and so many celebrities do, in turn, thank god for their position, and by the way, all their regular human fans too.

    People just don’t seem to be comfortable going through life thinking they mean nothing very special to anyone. When the proselytizers comfort someone who is alone, hungry, homeless, etc., that’s the first thing they want that person to know: Jesus loves you anyway. These people feel like they don’t mean anything and society has discarded them, and there’s a person right in front of them feeding them soup who lets them know a total stranger died 2000 years ago because he thinks you’re very special. I don’t, I just want you to have a relationship with him.

    • MNb

      “but suppress their dreams”
      Ah, I can wholeheartedly recommend not suppressing your dreams. Sure, at least 90% of my dreams never were realized. But it’s the few that were that count.

      “People just don’t seem to be comfortable going through life thinking they mean nothing very special to anyone.”
      I can understand this; I’m neither. So I made and make a great effort to mean something very special to some folks. Now I’m getting older I realize that can be done in many, many ways. Also I realize that you don’t need to stand out (like famous people) to do so. A garbage collector also makes an important difference. We humans just way too often forget to make that clear to those people.

      • smrnda

        On dreams, we can also look at people who achieved things that were kind of their dreams who ended up depressed and suicidal. I try to keep that in mind when I think about the value of achievement and public acclaim.

      • Kodie

        It’s not really that people suppress their dreams, it’s that when you’re a child, you’re encouraged to dream as big as possible, and that’s really cute. They don’t come right out and tell you what you have to do, and should start right away if that’s what you want to do, to become whatever kind of ballerina or football player. When you are older and didn’t practice, then you’re too old to start getting serious, and you still have these dreams, and someone says, “get real!” You’re not a child anymore.

        I have failed personally at my dreams, I have made nothing of my life. I am a tool. I don’t care how many people say they appreciate me and what I can do for them.

    • Pofarmer

      Can social media replace God?

      • smrnda

        In a sense I think it can. If a purpose of a god belief is to feel important and connected, enhancing social connections can go a long way. I don’t think it’s people really looking for fame and celebrity, it’s just the usual wanting to matter to someone and feel connected. And for more introverted people, social media might be better than in person.

        I mean, I have had the experience of being published in a few peer reviewed academic journals. In a sense, that’s a small taste of some kind of fame, but it really didn’t change my life in the sense of making me feel ‘wow, life is great.’ But being relatively well connected socially definitely is what makes me feel good about life.

      • Kodie

        As long as people think I care what they ate for lunch, possibly. They just want someone else to care what they ate for lunch, and nobody did for a long time.

      • It seems to have approximately the same level of randomly-targeted wrathfulness.

    • TheNuszAbides

      some of them are clever enough to enjoin each other to ‘be christlike’ – e.g. to see our fellow creatures as special, the way yahweh and/or yeshua and/or a saint or fifty supposedly do/did but which unconditional regard is clearly impossible for us puny Fallen folk … nevertheless, strive for it! in exceptional circumstances this can produce a truly generous true believer.

      • Kodie

        The phrase “exception to the rule” pops to mind. For the bulk of them, I’d say they get their good deed for the day out of the way pretty early and feel good about themselves. Very few people are thoroughly foul, at the other end of the curve.

  • wtfwjtd

    I’ve seen MNb make the comment that it takes a HUGE ego to be the type of Christian that WLC claims to be, and WLC’s essay bears that out. Ugh, I don’t find this attractive at all; it makes Christianity even more repellent than it already is. Swelled head, anyone? No thanks.

  • MNb

    “I was filled with fear and unbearable sadness.”
    There we have it. I did not feel fear and sadness at all. WLC’s belief has nothing to do with reason and holy spirits.

    “Mankind is thus no more [ultimately] significant than a swarm of mosquitos or a barnyard of pigs.”
    Thinking you are is a sure sign of arrogance – very unchristian.

    “what you mean to say is that there is no ultimate hope.”
    We have to grant it WLC: he used the word utterly. I agree with that. The more reason to make the best of the few decades I actually have got. It’s what House said to his friend at the end of the last episode: “now how do you want to spend the last few months of your life?” That’s the key question and I do not hesitate to point out that WLC has badly wasted a lot of his given time fretting about something unavoidable.

    • jgmitzen

      >Thinking you are is a sure sign of arrogance – very unchristian.

      I don’t know… I’m an atheist and I tend to think I’m more important than a swarm of mosquitoes.

      I think WLC is really on to something. Think of it this way: what true predators does mankind have left? We’ve wiped out most of them, except maybe sharks and bears, and Stephen Colbert’s working on the bears. The one true enemy we have left is DEATH ITSELF. If everyone spent their time like WLC does constantly thinking about and fearing death, they WOULD find an ultimate purpose. We’d realize that every second we spend fighting and killing each other, we’re AIDING OUR ENEMY. We could take all of the world’s resources poured into war machines and utilize it to FIGHT DEATH. Maybe everyone everywhere could spend every waking minute fighting death. Maybe we’d dismantle entire economies the way peacetime production gets diverted to war materiel during wartime and devote it all to fighting death. Maybe it’d be illegal to devote your time to anything other than fighting death. No more Twilight books… yay!

      And eventually we could achieve functional immortality for the human race. Yay! But we wouldn’t be done yet. What about all of the poor unfortunate souls who poured their lives into the cause but didn’t get immortality themselves? Obviously we have a moral responsibility to RAISE THEM FROM THE DEAD. Once we get passed all of this quantum silliness and get back to a good old clockwork universe, we can eventually uncover the equations for… everything and build supercomputers powerful enough to determine the precise state of everything here at a certain time… including the state of a formerly existing person’s brain. We can reconstruct their minds and bring them back! Probably just in a computer, but better than nothing! And then THAT will be the fulfillment of the species… achieving immortality not only for those living at the time, but for all those who ever lived. We can BUILD OUR OWN HEAVEN.

      Imagine my surprise when I learned a Russian philosopher,

      Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov, had the same ideas in the 1800s: “Fyodorov advocated radical life extension, physical immortality and even resurrection of the dead, using scientific methods”.

      • Kodie

        They have actually invented a place better than living forever, and that is why hell has to be in place, because living forever can be horrible. I don’t think life is great, and we tend to forget how great life isn’t for a lot of people who practically welcome death. Life is hard, and religious people know it. At least they did. You wouldn’t want your suffering to be extended, what would we do about food and jobs for people when they live forever and don’t stop being born? If you live a life of suffering and sacrifice, religion is a story about how you didn’t live and die like that in vain, and you get a dream world to live in that’s perfect with no worries. Extended living on earth will never compare to that.

      • MNb

        “The one true enemy we have left is DEATH ITSELF.”
        Not just because you say so and because you use capitals death is my enemy, let alone a true one. Immortality would be my enemy.

        “We can BUILD OUR OWN HEAVEN.”
        Good for you. I decline. Thanks, but no thanks. And I’m far from the only one who thinks so.

        http://www.levenseindekliniek.nl

        Yup – a legal euthanasia clinic.

      • Without Malice

        Children born at the end of this century can reasonably expect to live 150 to 200 years; if we haven’t wiped ourselves out by then fighting over religion. After that, who knows.

      • Greg G.

        I once saw an argument that Jesus was actually preaching such a world. The Kingdom of Heaven/God was something to be achieved by humans on Earth.

  • MNb

    “the prospect of death and the threat of non-being is a terrible horror.”
    Actually I have been close to death at least twice; I suffered from extremely high fever. It didn’t feel like horror at all, not during the experience and not afterwards. And I know what fear is; I suffer from claustrofobia and acrophobia. God never helped me to deal with them, psychology did and does.
    I suppose it’s too late for WLC to make that choice.

  • Pofarmer

    I went through this big time with my now 14 year old. He was terrified if death. I explained it over, and over, and over. We all die, it’s how we live that matters. Din’t fear death, embrace life. The reality is, there is much more than likely nothing on the other side of death. That’s just the way it is. And this is true about all the bunk about ultimate purpose. Funny, my ultimate purpose should be to live my life groveling to someones idea of a diety.

    • MNb

      How is your son doing now?

      • Pofarmer

        Actually very well. Considers himself a skeptical atheist. He is a member of darkmatter 2525’s youtube channel

    • Otto

      I understand you son’s trepidation but I will take ‘non-existence’ over the Christian dogma of the afterlife. It was never very comforting for me even when I did believe it as a child.

      • Pofarmer

        The thing is, in my exprience, it’s never just about Heaven, it’s also aboit avoiding Hell, and no one can ever be certain that they’re really good enough to avoid Hell. Who needs that constant questioning?

        • wtfwjtd

          “…no one can ever be certain that they’re really good enough to avoid Hell.”

          When my family had a “dying year” here a few years ago (we experienced the death of several family members in a short span of time), I saw this very thing play out on several death beds, and it is tragic to watch. It deeply affected all of us, and my then 12-year-old daughter also noticed. Like your son, she faced up, at a young age, to the fact that death is the end of us, period. No doubt, it’s very humbling, and for those experiencing it at a young age, it can be very difficult. But once you work through it, it’s also very liberating, and facing reality is a far better way to live than the fantasy-world of pretend.

        • Pofarmer

          Hey, keep on McGraths ass, BTW. IMHO he is an arrogant jerk.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’m surprised you guys haven’t gotten banned yet.

        • Pofarmer

          Me to. I figured I was walking a pretty fine line when I basically called him out as an apologist. Not sure he “got it” though.

        • wtfwjtd

          Now that I think about it, he probably ought to send you guys a thank-you card, you guys probably quadruple the comments on his posts.

        • wtfwjtd

          Oh wow, I just noticed something, while reading a few more comments over there. Whenever you guys score a direct hit on that guy’s battleship, he just…disengages, and don’t answer that particular comment. How amusing.

        • Greg G.

          He left a couple of links to two articles on a recent book by Thomas Brodie. All he did was say how wrong Brodie was without giving a single example of his wrongness nor refuting anything. I’m trying to think of a polite way to point that out.

          There are just so many times you can say “parallelomania” before it becomes a mantra. When it becomes a mantra, you have a pattern that needs to be explained.

        • Greg G.

          I’ve been arguing against the go-to passages in the epistles that JHers use. A couple of days ago, I pointed out that 1 Thessalonians 2:15 lists Jesus before the prophets where it says they were killed and that was consistent with the theory I presented, whether it is an interpolation or not. One responder pointed out that it is not necessarily saying it is the temporal order. Of course, it still undercuts their use of the verse. But how do you think they would respond if the order was reversed in 1 Thessalonians 2:15 and a mythicist used that argument?

        • wtfwjtd

          I saw part of that, I don’t think they quite “got it”. I saw a lot of those dudes reading stuff back into the epistles from the gospels, especially the whole thing about the Lord’s Supper. Paul says he dreamed it up in a vision from the Lord, plain and simple. It’s kind of ironic, we atheists let Paul speak for himself, and it’s the theists who have to come up with all sorts of convoluted explanations of just why he didn’t mean exactly what he said. Pretty silly, actually.

        • Greg G.

          I entered the conversation on that just talking about the internal evidence, not realizing it was a hot topic on mythicism for them.

        • Susan

          Link?

        • wtfwjtd

          Here’s you a link Susan, but I don’t know how to make it go to the right place in the comments:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/01/mythicist-eisegesis-in-1-corinthians-11.html#comment-1972673264

          I’ve been posting a little over there, the comments thread is quite long.

        • Greg G.

          To get the URL for a specific comment, hover over the “Share” link at the bottom until three icons pop up. One is Twitter, one is Facebook, and one is a chain link. Right click on the chain link for the context sensitive menu and select “Copy Link Address”, which might be worded differently in various browsers.

        • wtfwjtd

          Let’s try this Greg, this was one of my favorite replies of yours that was met with crickets:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/01/mythicist-eisegesis-in-1-corinthians-11.html#comment-1971663412

        • Greg G.

          Yep, the link worked.

        • Susan

          Thanks, wtfwjtd.

        • Greg G.

          I think it started HERE.

        • Pofarmer

          He has been in a couple of sneering debates over at DebunkingChristianity. I figured you recognized who it was.

        • Greg G.

          I have known who he is for years and have interacted with him a few times in other venues. Not enough that he would likely remember me, I expect.

        • Greg G.

          I recall seeing some McGrath comments on Why Evolution is True and Jerry lowered the ban hammer on him for comments he made about Jerry on James’ own blog.

        • Pofarmer

          Wow.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep, and when you try to point it out, they totally defend it as a continuation of the tradition, or an explanation of Pauls tradition or some cockamamie thing.

        • wtfwjtd

          “…when you try to point it out, they totally defend it as a continuation of the tradition, or an explanation of Paul’s tradition or some cockamamie thing.”

          And yet, I was just told that the traditions and dogma of the Catholic church don’t mean a thing. Go figure.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep, and I’ve got Randy Gritter, on Strange Notions, trying to argue with me that the Catholic datings of the Gospels are more accurate than the current historical scholarship. Lol. On one blog the other day, I had Scott telling me that I was screwed up because I had been exposed to too much Catholicism, and hadn’t experienced biblical Christianity, and on another blog, the same fricking day I had a Catholic telling me I needed to experience the one true Catholic and Apostolic Church. Lol.

        • wtfwjtd

          “…I had Scott telling me that I was screwed up because I had been exposed to too much Catholicism, and hadn’t experienced biblical Christianity, …”

          Ha! What the fuck does he think Catholicism is, astrology? Sheesh. And where does he think Protestantism came from? I’ve heard of the argument from ignorance, but this is just ignorance, period. And then to get it from the other side on the same day? Lol is exactly right.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, shit, I’LL argue that Catholicism is, well, EXTRA biblical. They take made up stuff onto their made up stuff. That’s how they get all teh crazy about Mary and the Saints and etc. They believe they are the arbiters of biblical truth, and the keepers to the keys of the supernatural elements of Christianity.

        • wtfwjtd

          I think the reason they think that way, is because they are about the oldest form of Christianity still in existence. Without Catholicism there would be no Protestantism. None of this means they are right, of course, but to them it gives a sense of extra legitimacy.
          I totally agree, they generally double-down on the crazy stuff, and take the supernatural elements of Christianity to the extreme.

        • Pofarmer

          “Without Catholicism there would be no Protestantism.”

          There’s a dream.

          Randy Gritter asked me “Why would the Gentiles be interested in a Jewish messiah.”

          My reply? “Why are YOU interested in a Jewish messiah?”

        • katiehippie

          Catholicism really gets pounded into kid’s brains. My ex went to catholic school until he was 13. Now he never goes to church, says he hated catholic school and yet argued with me that you did indeed have to pray to Mary and the saints. Later on he yelled “protestant” at me like it was this awful insult. I just laughed at him. And now I’d laugh even more because that label doesn’t exist for me now.

        • Pofarmer

          Good for you.

        • katiehippie

          If you’d only believe in (insert faith here), you’d understand like I do!!!!

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s what is so funny,Christians themselves can’t coherently explain what they believe, and then get all huffy when we non-believers have the audacity to point this out.

        • katiehippie

          But it’s all ok, because they have a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus really gets around.

        • wtfwjtd

          I love it when Christians pull the old “it’s not a religion, it’s a personal relationship” canard. Pure bullshit.

        • Pofarmer

          Personal relationship with your inner voice.

          I love these threads where theists don’t pop in.

        • Pofarmer

          Oh, I think I understand fine.

        • Pofarmer

          Surely you aren’t saying they are arguing for a predetermined position?

        • Greg G.

          They wouldn’t even consider the evidence that the passage might be an interpolation. It supports the HJ so it has to be true. There are so few verses in the epistles that can be construed as support HJ, they have to fight for every one of them.

        • Pofarmer

          “There are so few verses in the epistles that can be construed as support HJ, they have to fight for every one of them.”

          Uh, yep. And how many verses argue for a celestial Savior, or a savior out of time? Or a warrior savior coming to kick some ass? I think you did a pretty good collection the other day of a good deal of them. In comparison, the celestial arguments are so many, and the Earthly arguments so few, that it almost seems a slam dunk. There’s what, fewer than a half dozen passages HJ proponents have to latch on to?

        • Greg G.

          The main three are Galatians 1:19 “James, the Lord’s brother”, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 “God is mad at the Jews because they killed Jesus according to his plan”, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 “Jesus appeared to Cephas, the 12, the 500, James, and Paul”. 1 Corinthians 9:5 is a “little brother” to Galatians 1:19.

          There are a few “the Lord said” type verses but I showed a verse like that which is clearly a quote from Isaiah so “the Lord” means the Old Testament in those cases and provided the corresponding scriptures.

          I have been trying to move the conversation to the Gospel of Mark to show the passages that are obviously literary and not historical and gradually move to those that sound plausible but can be shown to be literary, too. But I think I might try to blow their minds by demonstrating that the Josephus passages on Jesus and John the Baptist are all Christian interpolations.

        • Pofarmer

          “But I think I might try to blow their minds by demonstrating that the
          Josephus passages on Jesus and John the Baptist are all Christian
          interpolations.”

          Surely, surely McGrath already understands that. If not, he is simply an apologist.

        • wtfwjtd

          And yet they think that every time the name “Jesus” is mentioned it presents an insurmountable problem for JM’s. Can you say “confirmation bias?”

        • Greg G.

          I was reading the comments on one of James’ articles from around 2012. There was a flurry of comments from about five months ago. McGrath banned someone arguing a Christian position against an atheist. I don’t blame him a bit for banning that troll. The troll came back with a new name once and maybe twice. The atheist seemed to be a regular.

        • Otto

          This is exactly my point. I was never reassured that I was doing the right things. And then certain versions of Christianity says you don’t have to ‘do’ anything…you just have to believe. So then the question becomes am I believing the right things. And not just for myself. When I was 11 and in Catholic school my father died. He wasn’t Catholic and wasn’t terribly religious. According to the Catholic theology I was taught he was quite likely in hell or at least not in heaven. Now if you asked the Priests they would say they didn’t know for sure because it was ultimately up to god… but that wasn’t exactly reassuring. I know I spent many a night obsessing about these issues at 11-14 years old. That is not something an 11 year old should need to be dealing with.

        • Pofarmer

          “Now if you asked the Priests they would say they didn’t know for sure because it was ultimately up to god… ”

          Yeah, they were lying.

        • Greg G.

          I read someone’s account of the death of their father who had been a fire and brimstone preacher his whole life. When he was on his deathbed, he was frightened about going to hell. That is not something an 80 year old should be dealing with either.

        • Otto

          Bingo…I have often said I wouldn’t treat my worst enemy that way, but as a Christian I was expected to view God as all loving and all merciful when everything in me screamed that it didn’t make sense. Many people I care about have these fears and that makes me angry that we were lead to believe this dreck.

        • Tailored

          The absolute guilt and fear I see in religious people over perfectly normal human traits is saddening and even maddening sometimes. We are all human and we all make mistakes, it’s how we learn from them and our efforts at being the best we can everyday that matter. The agony I see in people over the fact that they aren’t perfect is ridiculous. They create their own suffering and it doesn’t have to be. And when they are good and create something beautiful or accomplish something grand they “give the glory to god” and negate their own efforts like they aren’t worthy of the benefits of their work.

        • Scott_In_OH

          Yeah, “salvation anxiety” is what I’ve heard it called, and it’s definitely a real thing. Some of Libby Anne’s (Love, Joy, Feminism) early posts were about it, and it was very familiar to me.

          Eventually, it became another bit of evidence for me. How/why could a loving God let His beloved children dwell in this kind of fear and self-doubt? Why didn’t He just speak up and clarify, “You’re fine. Keep doing what you’re doing”?

        • Kodie

          The way I understand it, in practice, is that your fear of hell is what agitates your moral compass to do the right thing and feel good, and feeling good about your decisions is the revelation that you are doing it right and going to get into heaven.

          In practice, most people feel pretty good about shitty decisions and making their life better at the expense of others, from very minor slights to justifying treating them like they deserve to have their lives wasted to make yours better, like calling people lazy or telling them they ought to get a job or a better job or work harder at their 3 jobs, and not have so many children, so don’t fuck at all, because you can’t afford to fuck and we won’t provide any means to prevent fucking to turn into consequences you’re going to feel guilty if you do anything about them, so we’ll force those children to be born into poverty or broker them so an advantaged family can take care of them unless they’re biracial or defective in any way. So don’t fuck, don’t fuck outside your race, don’t let the woman do anything that might harm the fetus, and she better be married but not take a job from a man who needs to support his family unless some woman tricked him into fucking her but they weren’t married, then he should be allowed to force her to have the baby and take it away from her, or doesn’t have to work his job so she can drive a BMW and get her nails done twice a week, but god forbid she should work and hand that child care over to someone else, money which she’s supposed to be spending on healthy meals for the child and spending all her time not earning money taking care of it, and really how much should that cost, but not on school supplies, the teachers should buy those with the money we don’t think they deserve anyway.

          People feel really great about those decisions.

        • Tailored

          Exactly, christians claim to live by the moral compass that jesus set forth (only he didn’t, other people did well after he was supposed to have lived) but they justify their bigotry with false and circular logic all the time. It’s blatant how contradictory and hypocritical they are but to them they are godly. “The ends justify the means” is an all too common theme amongst the religious. Quite scary if you ask me.

      • Tailored

        I hated the thought of heaven. It sounded so boring and stupid. Who cares about streets paved with gold. Gold only has meaning in a monetary sense and in paradise there should be no money, no purpose for gold. Sitting around listening to angels sing all day every day for an f-ing eternity?? No thanks!

        • Otto

          One of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes is when the guy dies and goes to the afterlife. He gets everything he wants. When he gambles he wins every time. At first he is absolutely delighted. Then he gets bored…then he gets agitated and finally he is despondent. He goes to the guy in charge and says ‘I thought this was supposed to be heaven…but I am miserable’. The guy responds …’who said this was heaven?’

        • Tailored

          That’s funny! I haven’t seen that one, I need to rewatch that show. It always left me thinking.

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s a classic, I love it. Rod Serling was a master story-teller.

  • MichaelNewsham

    “The world is so big, and I am so small,
    I do not like it at all, at all.”

  • Otto

    It seems to me Craig is philosophically attempting to use the solution Cpt. Kirk used in the Kobayashi Maru scenario. Craig doesn’t like the inevitable outcome, so he changes the rules of life to eliminate death from the equation.

    Maybe I should try this at the bank. After I spend all my money I will go to the teller and explain that they can’t let me run out of money because it would make my financial experience absurd. I can’t wait the see the look on their faces.

    • Nice Star Trek tie-in! Unfortunately, Kirk’s professor(s) saw that he did indeed get the victory, while Craig wins only in his mind.

      • Otto

        I always found that funny…if I cheated my professors would have never considered it a win.

  • Greg G.

    So what is God’s ultimate purpose? Is it just to have others to have a controlling relationship with? If God has no ultimate purpose, if God’s life is objectively meaningless, how can he give us an ultimate purpose and objective meaning?

    If others give our life meaning, then we don’t need a God for it.

    • jgmitzen

      This is a more brilliant counter-argument than anything WLC’s ever come up with!

    • Kodie

      He’s pretty pathetic.

    • MNb

      God’s ultimate purpose is you joining him in Heaven.

      • wtfwjtd

        One would think that God could make the instruction manual on just how mankind could get to his Heaven a little clearer, what with him being omnipotent and all. Oh well, nobody’s perfect, I guess.

        • MNb

          It’s the best of all possible instruction manuals. It’s by definition, because god is omnipotent and omniscient and hence cannot but choosing the best of all possible instruction manuals (Leibniz) .

      • Otto

        So what is stopping him? And why didn’t he just start us all there and cut out the BS?

        • Kodie

          It doesn’t make sense to live first, if this is a test, it’s a poorly designed one. If we were to be who we are when we got to heaven, it would be the worst – so many things we can’t do anything about, and can ask god his mysterious reasons and feel better? It’s sad enough on earth when there are things you can’t do anything about, but at least we can try to feel good about collectively contributing to an attempt to fix something that’s wrong with this world. If you get to heaven and forget about earth, it’s selfish – your pain is over, your struggles are met with an awesome reward, but you can’t control anything at all. If god wipes your memory, then you aren’t who you are and all your life was for nothing anyway. You wouldn’t be able to remember how you even got there or what you did any more special than anyone else to deserve it.

          I made a post recently about how Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten the fruit yet, and didn’t know evil or good. They didn’t know how good they had it, or that they could ruin it. When warned of death from eating the fruit, they didn’t know what that even was. So I kind of think heaven will be a lot of blank slates, and god learned from his mistake not to keep any fruit trees or talking snakes up there. It will be unfuckupable. But is that paradise? These theists tell us god makes things unpleasant sometimes so that we can realize the good times, which Adam and Eve had no comparison to. If you can remember at all what life on earth was like and who you are (or what’s the point in getting depressed over not living eternally?), you may enjoy heaven sometimes, but it would probably be a depressing place sometimes, despite itself, like not having fun at a party because your brother has cancer, and your daughter is addicted to crack.

        • Greg G.

          “But Adam and Eve still should have obeyed God even if they didn’t know right from wrong” is the argument I get back.

        • Kodie

          My idea is they were designed already fallen. They defied god and listened to a talking snake, and purposely did something they were told not to do by the being they recognized was their creator. God got all upset at their disobedience, which is what happens when you’re fallen, not when you’re not fallen. Unfallen people are perfect creations of god, so how could they reasonably defy an order? Curiosity? The ability to be influenced by your peers and other talking animals to make poor decisions? These are the qualities of fallen people that get us into trouble, these are not supposed to be the qualities of people who are not fallen.

        • MNb

          “if this is a test, it’s a poorly designed one.”
          It’s the best of all possible tests. It’s by definition, because god is omnipotent and omniscient and hence cannot but choosing the best of all possible tests (Leibniz) .

        • adam

          Then it would have no one to torture for eternity….

        • MNb

          You must deserve it. God is a bit picky .

        • katiehippie

          That’s my thinking. This life means nothing at all if you are a theist.

      • Without Malice

        If it were the will of God – an all-knowing and all-powerful being – that all should be saved, then all will be saved. It is impossible for the will of an all-knowing and all-powerful being to not be fulfilled, just as it is impossible that anything in a world created by such a being could ever happen that was not in accord with his will.

        • MNb

          Sorry, I forgot to add . See, I’m pretty sure GregG is less than thrilled with that prospect.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, I think that would be a fate worse than death.

    • phantomreader42

      So what is God’s ultimate purpose?

      The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

    • RichardSRussell

      Eric Hoffer’s classic 1950 book The True Believer advances the premise that mass movements like Nazism, Communism, Christianity, ufology, etc. provide their followers with essentially the only meaning they ever get. With promises of more to come if they only stick with the program.

      • Pofarmer

        But, as soon as that promise is fulfilled many will go looking for another movement. That’s why Chriatianity is set up perfect, the carrot is always just out of reach. I think a good example of a mass movement with an expiration date was the moon landings and the space race. For a while science education and technical occupations reigned supreme. As soon as we had fulfilled that, it was back to business as usual. Hard to believe how much our attitudes have back slid

        • RichardSRussell

          But, as soon as that promise is fulfilled many will go looking for another movement.

          Indeed, Hoffer makes that very point with regard to all the TB goons in the lower ranks of German Communism (nominally the mortal foes of the Nazis) who just changed uniforms and became good little TB goons for the Nazis after they crushed the Communists. They were after something larger than themselves to be part of, to give their lives the meaning they felt it lacked, and they didn’t much give a damn about the ideology it supposedly represented.

        • Pofarmer

          And, I think that is why it’s so hard to promote unbeleif in general, people want another system ready made to jump into, and there just, isn’t, at least in the U.S. I’m a loner, so I get by.

        • adam

          While you may be a loner, you are not alone.

  • cracked actor

    Being newly non-Christian, I’d be lying if I said these types of questions aren’t still in the back of my mind- but I know that “God” certainly isn’t the answer.

    • If you find that I treat any of Craig’s arguments unfairly, let me know. Or if you have insights into why they’re appealing, though wrong, that would be interesting.

      • cracked actor

        In all honesty, I think you are very fair, and I don’t see anything wrong at all in what you are saying- I’m simply still cleaning up the remains of my deconversion. Craig’s arguments are appealing because they appeal to our selfishness and need to feel like we’re part of something beyond- perhaps that’s what I’m still in the process of letting go of. I’m working on focusing on what is right here, right now, and my role in it. Instead of thinking “how will this affect me later? how would *insert supreme being* view this?”, I am re-programming myself to think “how will this affect me, others, and the world in general, now and later when I’m gone? will it?” It’s quite a shift in worldview, but I’m working on it. 🙂

        • MNb

          “they appeal to our selfishness”
          As a Dutch lifelong nonbeliever I don’t get this. Christianity is all about being unselfish – Jesus being the perfect embodiment of unselfish love and stuff. How does that work?

        • Otto

          IMHO…it is selfish because we (when I was christian) think that Jesus (the creator of the universe) is so worried about us that he was willing to create this existence AND the spiritual existence after death all for humans…and specifically me. Why should I help my fellow man and not harm others? Not because it is the right thing to do and I have empathy for others…but because Jesus told me to and if I don’t do what he wants things may not go my way after I die.

          Nor do I think Jesus was the embodiment of unselfish love…he expects and requires love back… it is not unselfish.

        • Pofarmer

          Not only does he expect love back, if he doesn’t get it he will punish you.

        • MNb

          Neither do I think so, but I thought that christians made that claim. On internet I’ve met quite a few who did.
          Thanks for your explanation.

        • Otto

          They make the claim but like everything else it doesn’t hold up when examined. Christians can be very unselfish…their god not so much.

        • I’ve considered this personally, and it seems to me Christian thought is a mass of contradictions. We’re humble before Christ, though also the most special thing ever. We’re the crown of creation, though also the cause of its fall. God loves people unconditionally, so long as they love him back-a huge condition. Etc.

        • Otto

          it seems to me Christian thought is a mass of contradictions.

          Exactly…Christianity is not internally consistent. I don’t know of one Christian belief that isn’t contradicted by some other Christian concept.

        • Without even getting into all the different sects as well. G. K. Chesterton said in Orthodoxy the criticisms of Christianity were inconsistent and thus invalid, such as complaining that its militaristic, or pacifistic. This is really a demonstration of Christianity’s inconsistency though, as the critics really can find such diverse opinions. I don’t know that any other faith has that much internal disparity. There’s now something like 40,000 Christian sects in existence, and they’re all over the place doctrinally.

        • Otto

          I would be happy to keep this argument within any particular sect’s beliefs. I still doubt there would be one internally consistent belief even then.

        • Oh, I don’t disagree, I’m just saying the inconsistency goes even further.

        • Otto

          I haven’t read his book but my criticism of Christianity’s consistency has nothing to do with militarism/pacifism. Sounds like a red herring argument.

        • Pofarmer

          “Sounds like a red herring argument.”

          We are talking about Chesterton, after all.

        • That was just an example he used. Like critic A says that Christianity is militaristic, while critic B says it’s pacifistic, and claimed this was inconsistent. Of course the problem is that Christianity’s inconsistent, and thus the criticisms are too at times.

        • cracked actor

          Believers are nothing like their Jesus. What I meant by that was the selfishness of thinking some all-powerful being loving, caring about, making things happen for, etc specifically you, a single human being. When people thank god for saving them in a disaster, when many others died. Stuff along those lines.

        • MNb

          Thanks.

        • Otto

          My wife has had this same issue. I grew up Catholic so I was relieved when I finally came to the realization it was all bunk. My wife still struggles with the finality of it all. But I told her ‘whatever we believe does not change the outcome’. Maybe there is some kind of existence after death (I don’t believe this but I can’t be certain either). The question for me is whether Christianity is true. There may be some Deistic god…but the odds that the Christian god is real are the same as the odds that the Hindu or the Greek gods are real…nil.

        • Christianity was never that big a deal for me when I considered myself a part of it, so this is new thinking for me.

          I look at Craig’s “reality is unpleasant, so let’s just adopt a different reality” as childishly weak thinking and wonder how it could be attractive. But maybe if you’re already in and your mental drawbridge is down to let in unsupported claims, it’s not hard.

  • arkenaten

    Craig is the ultimate philosophical joke. His standpoint on DCT is all one needs to know about this colossal Arse-Hat whose grating pitch and un-modulated, whining condescending voice are enough to cause one’s fillings to dislodge.
    He is a Dickhead of the first order. Many Christians seem to love him. Need one say more?

    I just wish I was allowed to leave ad hominum comments as then I might write what I really think of him.
    Oh, well, c’st le vie.

    • MNb

      “Many Christians seem to love him. Need one say more?”
      DCT was the first thing, before Kalam, I read from him. It’s so reminiscent of nazism that even Dutch orthodox-protestants (who played a major part in resistance) prefer to neglect WLC. Plantinga is much more popular.

      • You mean it’s like the fuhrer prinzip made into theology?

        • MNb

          Yup.

        • That makes sense. As I recall, Hitler had plans on making a new religion with himself as the savior after winning. I’m sure that won’t surprise anyone.

        • wtfwjtd

          Your comment makes me wonder: Is God an atheist? I wonder if he wonders who the hell created him, and if he needs to worship him(it) or not?

        • Greg G.

          I have made that argument. How would God know that there isn’t a more powerful being who hides from him for ineffable reasons? How does God know that he is omnipotent and it is not the hidden being doing his tricks while creating an illusion that God himself is doing it?

        • Susan

          How does God know that he is omnipotent

          This was one of the first thoughts I asked myself about an omniscient agent. How wouId it know it was omniscient? I was about nine when I asked myself that. It’s an obvious question that proceeds immediately from the claim.

          The other obvious question I asked myself was on what basis a human could make or accept that claim.

          Of course, that was the devil trying to deceive me.

          EDIT: To change ‘omnipotent’ to ‘omniscient’.

        • Kodie

          If god doesn’t know something, then nobody else needs to know. He can always say “I know but I’m not gonna tell!” These people all think they can go up to heaven and ask him the unanswered questions, like, ‘why did you let these bad things happen?’ and get a reasonable, sufficiently acceptable answer that will not totally suck, but the truth is he can say nothing. What makes them think it’s ok to question god once you’re in the clubhouse? I thought the knowledge of good and evil bit, the part where you go to heaven and have no pain or worry or guilt or suffering, the part where you must have forgotten completely who you are, would be humble enough to trust god’s wisdom not to be so forthright and expect a straight answer.

          God says he’s omnipotent probably because of spellcheck, actually.

          The real answer I was starting to write was about what Christians actually do when nobody but god is with them (and maybe another person) – they don’t think “god can see me, even here, he’s omnipotent” until after they’ve done something they feel guilty about doing after they did it. His omnipotence is an essentially ineffective way to control people from doing things you don’t think they should be doing when you’re not there to judge them to their face. That’s why they’re so afraid of god getting thrown out of schools, like, literally, humans can make laws telling god he’s not welcome to look in, and therefore, can’t protect them from drugs and school shootings, etc. God’s kryptonite is apparently the material they use to construct public bathroom stalls. Or, maybe they rationalize that god’s not watching them poop, so he’s too polite to see whatever else might be going on at the toilet.

          [EDIT: Sorry, my essay was about omniscience because I’m not reading too well today.]

        • Susan

          God says he’s omnipotent probably because of spellcheck, actually.

          Great comment front to back. But that’s my favorite line.

        • I presume that a god would believe in itself, and if uncreated like Christian theology usually claims, it’s no wonder it’d also have a massive ego, since it really would be the greatest and most important being around. As for worship, being a god might be very boring, and a huge ego would explain a desire for worship. Having free-willed entities could be a way of it relieving that boredom, since they could do new, interesting things. Still no excuse for making them suffer, of course.

        • Greg G.

          How would God know whether there is a god who hides from him for the same reason he hides from us, whatever the reason is?

        • According most Christian theology God’s omniscient, so I assume he would. Of course it’s all big assumptions.

        • Greg G.

          A sufficiently powerful being could give a clam the illusion of omnipotence.

        • That’s true, and the being might just believe that it knew everything also.

        • Kodie

          But what if god is middle-management. Like, other planets with life on them have their own gods… I mean, even earth has thousands of gods, but per se, let’s keep it to the common monotheistic abrahamic one, for the sake of argument. He had created his world, and is mediocre at his job, but he has managers of his own delegating him what he’s to do about this or that. He’s getting kickbacks from satan, and nobody is the wiser. Someone is always breathing down his neck for TPS reports, and he takes his frustrations out on us. Maybe OT god got fired, and they hired a temp for a while who thought he had a brilliant new solution to the age-old problems. God doesn’t seem to be one for existential angst, the “why am I here, what does it mean, is there an incentive for doing a good job or do I just have to show up? Is there anything else or is this all there is?”

        • Well some religions (including Christian sects) have a whole celestial bureaucracy. Marcionism claimed the OT God was a different entity from NT. The universe being run by some committee would explain a whole lot…

        • wtfwjtd

          And Christians get mad when you remind them that Christianity is polytheistic.

        • Pofarmer

          Catholics hate it when you point that out. If they’re not, what’s all this talk of Satan and the Saints about? How are there not just Gods and demi Gods?

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, yeah, you have God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Satan, Angels, Saints, spirits…not to mention Mary. Looks like more than one god to me.

        • Pofarmer

          But according to Catholics, They don’t worship Mary, they “venerate” her. They don’t pray to the Saints, the pray for the Saints to intercede with Jesus on our behalf, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

        • wtfwjtd

          As we both know, that’s just word games. When you look up the definition of “venerate”, you find synonyms such as “worship”. And ’round and ’round they go.

        • Susan

          They don’t worship Mary, they “venerate” her. They don’t pray to the Saints, the pray for the Saints to intercede with Jesus on our behalf, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

          The catholics have a different word for everything. They think that’s enough to show a difference.

          But there is no difference that makes a difference.

        • Kodie

          What makes them gods? Powers? It sort of just looks to me like people don’t want to bother god with all their bullshit, so the labor is subdivided. I think like, ask Mary, and maybe she can help, but if it’s important enough, she’ll put the call through to god. I used to have a job like that a few times. I also used to have, and blocked this out!, one boss who was a tyrant sort of like god, who would throw a fit if someone didn’t interrupt him if he was anywhere in the building, even in the bathroom. Not allowed to take a message, not allowed to give this person directions or schedule information or anything if they asked for him by name. Whereas, most bosses appreciate it when you can handle the sorts of questions it’s your job to handle and keep these people from bothering them if they didn’t absolutely have to.

        • wtfwjtd

          I think people build up all these layers of beings around God, because they know that the Big Man really can’t be bothered with all their petty bullshit. Hence, like you said, the belief in delegation via “lesser” gods.

        • smrnda

          I wonder if part of it is that people feel kind of silly being a fan of the One Big Popular Thing. The god at the top is like Superman. People feel cooler if they are into more obscure gods who have more of a *cult* following. And being into particular gods or saints is like being part of a fandom.

        • wtfwjtd

          “People feel cooler if they are into more obscure gods who have more of a *cult* following. And being into particular gods or saints is like being part of a fandom.”

          I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but I’d say there’s a high probability that you’re on to something there. Now that you mention it, I have heard religious people talk in very similar terms used in fandom about their particular favorite deity or saint.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, you called it, got myself banned from McGraths blog. Apparently he doesn’t like having his snark returned. It wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t hide his apologetics behind the “secular scholar” label. And he badly over states his case, IMHO. like when he said that Paul had family who were Christians before him, and rather than show the passage, he berated me. Why? Because the passage says kinsmen, which could be second cousins twice removed for all we know.

        • You guys are getting banned from blogs without me?

          Don’t expect me to invite you to my next bar room fight.

        • Pofarmer

          I dunno why McGrath has to be such an insufferable prick. I’ve corresponded with the likes of Bart Ehrman,mMathew Ferguson, and Sean Carroll, and they will take a minute to at least point you in a direction and not immediatley berate somebody for not having a PHd.

        • I assume this is the “Exploring Our Matrix” McGrath?

          I took a quick look and the posts looked boring. Does he get into interesting stuff sometimes?

        • Pofarmer

          Yep, that go. Nah, standard apologetics. You can follow my profile and find the ones we were commenting on.

        • Greg G.

          I’ve only been active under one article but he does take positions on social issues in opposition to fundamentalists and conservatives.

          The article I began discussing was about the Eucharist passage in 1 Corinthians 11. I pointed to two different lines of internal evidence that it may be part of an interpolation. They didn’t want to have a rational conversation about that because they use it to support HJ. McGrath immediately started accusing mythicists of citing interpolation all the time and that was my rationale. I don’t see where HJ hangs in the balance of whether that passage is an interpolation.

        • Greg G.

          He has been OK with me for the most part. He went tone troll on me a bit, saying I should be more obsequious with what I say. Most of what I have said has been stated matter-of-factly, except for some of my interactions with Mark who asked stupid questions that I say we have no information on so he started with “in other words” responses that were so far into crazy land that I gave him a “Maybe” question. Then he tried to make that my position.

          Occam Razor joined in with a similar line and I began to respond to him the same way but then he got into some intelligent discourse, so I regretted my initial responses.

        • Pofarmer

          For someone who argues on the progressive christian channel, he argues like a fundie.

        • Greg G.

          He projects that accusation a lot, too.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Occam Razor joined in with a similar line and I began to respond to him the same way but then he got into some intelligent discourse, so I regretted my initial responses.”

          This is one of the reasons I like to stop in over there occasionally, it gives me a different view point and sometimes forces me to sharpen my thinking on various topics. A good way to keep you on your toes.

        • Greg G.

          One guy kind of berated me for mentioning Ephesians and the gospels and that I should have picked up on that for some reason. I had noticed that their arguments were centered around the “authentic” Pauline epistles. But I don’t see why the counter argument should be limited to only the writings they use for support. If the pseudo-epistles offer evidence of what other Christians, that is “not Paul”, of the day thought, then it should be on the table.

          But I like the fact that the recognize that the gospels are too late and unreliable to support their position but they hate it when someone points out that they are still reading stuff from the gospels back in to the epistles.

        • Pofarmer

          I called out one poster on reading the Gospels into the Epistles, and he never responded. Won that one.

        • wtfwjtd

          At least, most of the dudes that post over there recognize that this is a reasonable position, and you don’t have to whip that dead horse again(and again), I’ll give them credit for that much. Some of them still try and do it and hope you don’t notice, but…that’s another topic.

        • A Christian that argument can’t withstand an attack from a canonical book of the Bible?? Not much of a Christian argument.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yeah, that’s kind of apologetics in reverse, or something. Those guys over there have a different point of view than many Christian posters here, that’s for sure.

        • Greg G.

          I think I came close last night. I said something about the “scholarly consensus”, after deleting most of what I had typed out, because the guy resorted to that after I had rebutted everything else he threw out. If that is your final answer, why debate in the first place?

          I also responded to one of his posts with what he had responded to me earlier in the day with only two or three words changed to make it correspond to the topic. He said it didn’t make any sense. I responded that it was the kind of response I was getting and was nearly verbatim to one of them. He came back with something like “Yes, but it made sense when I said it.”

          Fortunately, Real Life ™ offered something else to do the rest of the evening.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, I saw that little interaction .

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, I couldn’t let you guys have all the fun, I joined in the discussion over there this morning after Greg had been sparring with Occam Razor:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/01/mythicist-eisegesis-in-1-corinthians-11.html#comment-1978078014

          I hope I did that right, if it don’t go to Occam Razor’s post let me know and I’ll try and fix it.

          Anyway, he was arguing that it wasn’t at all unreasonable for Paul to claim to be equal in knowledge about Jesus, even though they had supposedly spent lots of time with him and he hadn’t. I posted that, frankly,that viewpoint made Paul look petty and foolish, and undermined his credibility. To my surprise Dr McGrath joined in the discussion at that point. We traded a few posts, and for this conversation at least it stayed civil.

          Sorry about the ban hammer, I guess Greg and I will have to push forward on our own, dammit.

        • Greg G.

          Romans 16:7 (NRSV)
          Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

          The footnote for the word “relatives” says “Or compatriots“.

          Compare that to:

          Romans 16:7 (NIV)
          Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

          Some might argue for:

          Romans 16:13 (NRSV)
          Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother—a mother to me also.

          It would have been easier for him to type the 11 characters that spell out “Romans 16:7” instead of the answer he gave. OTOH, it was probably easier to type his response than to look it up first to type the 11 characters.

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, Okay, so Paul had a few kinsmen that were “in Christ before (he) was.” So what? How does this help the historicist argument?

        • Greg G.

          Someone mentioned Paul’s relatives and Pofarmer asked for a cite. McGrath went off about him not being knowledgeable about the subject matter. I think he was tired of us pointing out problems with the verses they use for support of HJ.

        • wtfwjtd

          Ah, I see. IOW Po got a shoot-the-messenger response instead of something substantial. That’s not the first time I’ve seen that over there, unfortunately.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep, and he wanted to equivocate about archaeological evidence of possible tomb sites being archaelogical evidence for a tomb, or Jesus at all. Plus, there’s a problem with the Gospel account of the tomb. It seems Hebrew tombs,didn’t have round stones until sometime in the second Century, which presents several problems.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ve read Carrier’s take (and others) on the tomb(s) and the problems they present. If I were a hard-core historicist I would avoid this topic, as I see nothing here to help historicity’s case at all.

        • Kodie

          A few years ago, I was playing a game/series of games for a few weeks with an Egyptian theme. During that time, I took a liking to Thoth because I liked his bird head. Not too long after that, I was at the Museum of Science, and they had a special temporary Egyptian exhibit with a real mummified teenaged girl, and a fake camel you could sit on (for kids – the whole museum seems geared for elementary school children), and an interactive archaeology game not unlike Oregon Trail in a few ways but the controls were difficult. Anyway, the exhibit was kind of neat but no photos allowed, and some of it was cheesy, but anyway, this meant they had related items in the gift shop, and for a long time I considered getting a token of some sort to Thoth, but I couldn’t find something I actually wanted that was affordable for a token – stuff in that price range was bullshit. But I just like his bird head! There are many games with an Egyptian gods theme but that one had the most appealing Thoth.

          I think for Catholics, they like the idea of a saint being a person like themselves, with a person’s name, specially dedicated to something they like – travel, gardening, animals, etc. When I was a kid, Greek and Roman mythology was sort of a thing. I feel like we might have even studied them in school, maybe at the planetarium? The god of this, the god of that, the goddess of spring, the god of lightning, etc., something appealing for everyone’s mood and personality. Spirit animals are another thing… maybe not so serious, but people often have a favorite animal they admire the qualities of. I like elephants, and I recently in the past few years discovered out of all the “animal prints” that come and go in fashion, I like snakeskin the best, and I don’t know if that means I like snakes better than cheetahs or zebras, but maybe I do.

          Having a variety of gods, saints, etc., gives everyone something to like. You don’t have to say there is one god encompassing all qualities, you want to stand out, you want someone who understands you and likes the things you like, whereas the monotheistic god is sort of generic. He doesn’t specifically like animals, for example, or trees, or seafaring. People really do like their totems, their tattoos, their symbols for who they are and what speaks to them. And I don’t even like birds that much, it’s just weird, I think it’s cool to have a bird head though.

        • Pofarmer

          Just one of the many things that drives me batshit crazy about the Catholic Church. They think being evasive and pedantic is a feature.

        • Greg G.

          The religion came full circle. When the ancient Hebrews became monotheistic, the gods of their myths turned into men but left some remnants like Noah being able to curse his grandson’s descendants. Combining the bad gods and good gods made their one god send lying spirits. By the time 1 & 2 Chronicles were written, Satan was becoming a separate character again. Demons came back in Tobit 3:7-8 and the story is referenced in Mark 12:18-27, Matthew 22:23-33, and Luke 20:27-38. Tobit’s exorcism of the demon Asmodeus with the angel Raphael’s help, is not like the New Testament exorcisms where a spirit inhabits a person.

          The posers powers attributed to Satan are greater than the powers of the ancient Greek gods combined, yet they don’t allow Satan to be called a god or they would not have monotheism. That’s theist logic.

          PS: The instructions for the exorcism are given in Tobit 6:16-18 and performed in Tobit 8:1-3. It involved putting fish guts on the embers of the incense.

        • wtfwjtd

          Great points Greg, I watched a deal on PBS one time that explained how the 3 Abrahamic religions finally got ’round to monotheism. This was late ’90’s, maybe early ‘2000’s, and it really got me to start thinking in the direction that maybe, just maybe, it was all made up.

          Isn’t it also true that the OT “Satan” character was portrayed more like God’s enforcer in other literature? In other words, not the embodiment of evil as Christianity imagines, but a persona that acts more as a protector for God’s “stuff”.

        • Greg G.

          These are the Old Testament verses that use the Hebrew word “satan”: Numbers 22:22, Numbers 22:32, 1 Samuel 29:4, 2 Samuel 19:22, 1 Kings 5:4, 1 Kings 11:14, 1 Kings 11:23, 1 Kings 11:25, 1 Chronicles 21:1, Job 1:6, Job 1:7, Job 1:8, Job 1:9, Job 1:12, Job 2:1, Job 2:2, Job 2:3, Job 2:4, Job 2:6, Job 2:7, Psalm 109:6, Zechariah 3:1, and Zechariah 3:2.

          Except for the verses in Job where Satan and God are betting on Job and Satan only does what God allows and the verses below, the word is translated as “adversary” or in that sense in the King James Version.

          Psalm 109:6 (KJV)
          Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.

          Psalm 109:2-8 (KJV)
          2 For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.

          3 They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.

          4 For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer.

          5 And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.

          6 Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.

          7 When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.

          8 Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

          The context shows that the Satan is like a plaintiff’s attorney against the Psalmist’s enemy.

          Zechariah 3:1-2 (KJV)
          1 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
          2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

          Satan here seems to be the DA while the angel of the Lord is the defense attorney for Joshua.

          1 Chronicles 21:1 (KJV)
          And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

          Compare to:

          2 Samuel 24:1 (NRSV)
          Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, count the people of Israel and Judah.”

          God seems to have a split personality. Satan is God when he is angry. God isn’t a Trinity because Satan is also a part, like a Quadrinity.

        • Yeah, instead of asking where Cain’s wife came from, better to ask what happened with Yahweh’s wife Asherat.

        • David Young

          From Lilliths line, Adams first woman is where Cains wife is supposed to have come from

        • I’ve heard that Adam and Eve simply had more children after Cain and Abel, with Cain’s wife being one of his own younger sisters. Either way though, sibling incest ftw.

        • David Young

          Not necessarily, Sophia(an Archon in Abrahams Teachings and the Angels in Christianity) gave birth to Yahweh
          Check out the stories of Sophia, it will show you were the confusion arises.
          All of the Abrahamic Stories come from the “Mystery Schools” and were taken by the Romans who invented the concept of the THEOCRATIC STATE, I have not found who it was that used the story of Mohamed, I think there is a good possibility it was the Khans left over from the Mongol invasion, it is an area were there isn’t a lot of definite info left around to make it clearer.

        • David Young

          your talking about Yahweh, son of Sophia as compared to Elohim, the supposed true and formless god

          As I posted kodie above, check out the “Other Bible” and the Sophia stories

        • Kodie

          I stand out so much that other people get mistaken for me.. hah. I think I saw you post that to wtfwjtd though. My name is easier to spell and I have a face.

        • That’s what the Gnostics said, yes. Marcionist belief was very similar, with Yahweh as a separate, lower entity from Christ. Orthodox Christians disliked this so much they may have put up the Nicene Creed specifically against it.

        • Pofarmer

          Now you’re into Mormonism.

        • Kodie

          Maybe there are no original religions left. We’ve thought of all of them.

        • Pofarmer

          Oh, I’m sure there’s more in the well.

        • David Young

          where do you think the Fables they reinvented into religion came from?

        • David Young

          “other planets with life on them have their own gods.”

          your are talking about the Mormon teachings there, check it out, then look into the same theory from Scientoligists, it should give you one hell of a WTF with an ear to ear grin

        • smrnda

          This would make for a decent TV show.

        • David Young

          you should check out
          “The Other Bible”
          and the stories of “Sophia”.
          your question was answered a couple of thousand years ago by the Gnostics that asked the same question .

        • MNb

          Try it on some fundies, if you enjoy the spectacle of having them foam on their mouths. It worked well for me a couple of times.

        • David Young

          I have experienced the same response when you hit them with that reality bomb.

          If you really want to see foam and fire, take a look at the Exiting out of babylon story and look at where the rivers are in the story and look at some maps of babylon, you will find there not in the right place for the story.
          Now take a look at the rivers around Cairo Egypt, they ARE in the right place for the story if you do some research you will find that cairo was built by the romans and guess what they called their City.
          “Babylon” !
          the fact that the city was built around the time that jesus was supposed to be preaching sort of throws a serious rock at every thing they believe to be REAL.

        • That would just confirm Hitler’s evil for them. No human should call themselves God-he doesn’t like the competition.

        • MNb

          It does indeed confirm that, but that’s OK with me. Mean as I am I begin with conceding that point: “Yeah, Hitler was an evil guy trying to play for god.” I’m not arguing that Hitler was a good person. So I reply with something like “you still worship an immaterial version of Hitler if you defend DCT”. They don’t appreciate that, I can tell you. What typically follows is that they bring up “arguments” why god can do so. Then I repeat their own arguments, replace god with Hitler and creation with Germany. On DCT the analogy is perfect.

        • Yes, they would have difficulty I’d say.

        • I had to look that up. From Wikipedia:

          The Führerprinzip, German for “leader principle”, prescribed the fundamental basis of political authority in the governmental structures of the Third Reich. This principle can be most succinctly understood to mean that “the Führer‍ ’​s word is above all written law” and that governmental policies, decisions, and offices ought to work toward the realization of this end. In actual political usage, it refers mainly to the practice of dictatorship within the ranks of a political party itself, and as such, it has become an earmark of political Fascism.

          Sounds like Nixon’s, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

        • Yep. In the case of God, it translates into “whatever God says is right” a form of moral relativism any dictator would be proud of.

    • He is a Dickhead of the first order.

      But do you know how long that takes in the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes to rise to Dickhead of the First Order? We’re talking years.

  • It is interesting to me how atheists are commonly portrayed as selfish. Yet on the other hand, you have Christians like Dr. Craig, who feel that the universe has no meaning unless it’s literally all about them. The amount of selfishness that takes is staggering. Further, the idea that a god gives you this ultimate meaning, morality and so on is simply a massive assumption. I find the idea that his supposedly all-good, all-powerful, all-wise god made humanity, blamed us for our inherent flaws, and punishes those who fail eternally far more absurd than an atheistic universe. All things have an end, including the stars themselves. Now that can humble you, but even if it doesn’t, no amount of denial will change this.

    • Otto

      Same thing with arrogance…they say atheists are arrogant and yet they think all of the entirety of the universe was made with them in mind…and they are personal friends with that creator.

      • True, I can’t think of anything more arrogant than that, really.

  • Leah Eld

    Ah, an emotional appeal to emotion: God not existing is a scary idea. Therefore God exists.

    • David Young

      and that is the crux of their problem.

      it is called “Emotional Issues” !

  • Sven2547

    WLC is good at talking and bad at logic. He is very impressive and intelligent-sounding to people who haven’t heard and considered the arguments before.

    • David Young

      he isn’t bad at logic, his circular logic works well for him.

      He has great problems with RATIONAL thought and Rational Logic !

  • Margaret Whitestone

    He can’t handle reality so fantasy must be real.

    • David Young

      Welcome to the Roman Pagan religion called “Christianity” !

      “So it is Written, So it shall be ”

      the Roman Magic Concept that Belief can makes things ion the mind become physical objects, and the concept that things written in words become real because they were written !

      If this reminds you of some 6 year old girls from your childhood don’t be to amazed, this IS what they believed back then and it has a great deal to do with the fact that the majority of the populace was pretty much retarded from inbreeding, and you wonder why all those towns you go through that have the serious believers that all seem to look alike !

      Surprise, surprise !

  • Rob

    The more intelligent an apologist is, the more evil he must be, surely. WLC is pretty smart.

    WLC, like most apologists, has had his arguments publicly shredded, judiciously and with prejudice, by his own peers. Yet give him a new audience, and he sees no need for new arguments. I believe I just called him a liar. I certainly tried to. He bears false f*cking witness. Better?

    This single point ought to be enough to lob a hefty j’accuse or two in their direction, but, frustratingly to me, no one seems to consider this idea. As if the anti-apologists are afraid of putting themselves out of work, despite that being the only noble goal for them to pursue.

    • Martin Zeichner

      I think of WLC as the vaudevillian of apologists. He seems to think that nobody has heard his jokes before so he can keep doing the same act for decades.

    • Just to consider all options, is it possible that WLC isn’t a liar but is actually self-deluded? That he’s so immersed that he believes that his own BS forms a solid and compelling argument?

  • Pofarmer

    Maybe I’m just more sensitive. Doing field work the last few days and hearing radio adds for Vacation Bible Schools, “Prayer walks”(whatever the fuck that is)’ bike blessings, teaching kids how to “live out their faith” at some church I didn’t get the name of. Don’t ever remember any of this before.

    • Greg G.

      Whatever happened to truth in advertizing laws?

      • Pofarmer

        Speaking of which. Was it to you or me that one of the commenters on McGrath’s blog said we had a predetermined bias against Jesus historicity, or something very close to that? How can someone who claims a dude who was the Son of God Rose from the Dead 2000 years ago is a reasonable story accuse anyone else of bias, ever? And how does McGrath get by with calling himself a “Secular Scholar” or NT scholarship generally a “secular enterprise” when folks like Ehrman estimate that over 95% of the participants are believers?

        • Greg G.

          I saw that one aimed at you. It seems like a projection when aimed at someone who believed for decades the same thing they believe but was persuaded to change opinions because of the evidence while they have believe the same thing they were told to believe when they were four years old.

    • wtfwjtd

      I know Po, like me you live in an area that’s saturated with this stuff. You have to somehow figure out how to let most of it roll off your back, at least somewhat, or it may eventually suffocate you. I’m lucky, whenever me and the wife are together and we’ve seen some silly ad or slogan like you are talking about bandied around, most of the time we manage to find a way to get a laugh out of it and go on. Maybe you can figure out a way to do this with one or both of your boys; it might be good therapy for all of you. Or, maybe you already are. Yes, I know, every now and then something will really chap your ass and it’s hard to deal with, but that’s one of the prices we pay for living in Jesus-land.

    • Otto

      I think it is both, I am more sensitive… but my area has always been religious but not “in your face” religious. It is becoming more and more in your face. When I was a kid here nobody talked about religion, certainly not teachers in our public schools. Now my 12 year old can’t go hardly a day without school mates talking about god or their religion. And I have had to go and address the principal about teachers insinuating about hell, etc….and while I did this I noticed the principal had a prayer from some Saint tacked to her bulletin board. I told her bluntly that teaching children about hell is abusive. She was taken aback but obviously couldn’t argue much being as she was acting as a gov’t rep.

      You would never see businesses promoting their religious beliefs…now it is common.

      • Pofarmer

        Yep, my son, who has let classmates know he considers himself an Atheist, has kids proselytize to him and one invited him to his church. He generally laughs at them.

    • Let’s hope you’re just more aware of it, not that it’s more widespread.

  • MNb

    Oho, WLC really is a frightened little rabbit caught in the spotlight. Via the Friendly Atheist:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/garbage-in-garbage-out

    “I remember vividly that when I first became a Christian I was very careful about what I read because I knew that there was material out there which could be destructive to my newfound faith and that I had a lot, lot more to learn before I was ready to deal with it. Do we forget that there is an enemy of our souls who hates us intensely, is bent on our destruction, and will use anything he can to undermine our faith or render us ineffective in God’s hands? Are we so naïve?”

    • Craig’s generally pretty open about the fact that he doesn’t really believe in following the evidence wherever it leads. His apologetics are an attempt to justify what he already believes, i.e. to rationalise, although he obviously doesn’t use that word. He states openly that he’s doing this. It doesn’t seem to bother Christians much though.

    • I love reading hard-hitting Christian apologetics. Am I wrong in my atheism? Then change my mind and do it quickly!

      I’ll never get my head around the fact that an honest search for the truth isn’t what the other guys are doing as well.

      • There’s such a thing as hard-hitting Christian apologetics? I’ve never seen it.

        • Greg G.

          Does the Inquisition count?

        • You got me. Neither have I. I should have said, “what purports to be hard-hitting Christian apologetics.”

        • Bricabrac

          There was that bloke who punched a student. Does that count as a “hard-hitting apologetic”? :p

  • Martin Zeichner

    WLC’s essay is does nothing but reveal his own narcissism.

    “Waaaah Waaaaah I want to be significant. I want to be important to the universe.”

    That and name dropping philosophers and playwrights. Please. Grow up.

  • ImRike

    I can’t see a difference of purpose in THIS life with or without a god. It’s the NEXT life that’s going to be so wonderful, that these christians are looking forward to. Well, if I had a more wonderful life coming up ahead of me, then there wouldn’t be much purpose in the present life, would there?

  • Dennis Smith

    Dr. Shelly Kagan, a philosophy professor at Yale had a debate/discussion with Dr. William Lane Craig on the topic “Is God Necessary for Morality”. During the question and answer portion, Dr. Kagan addresses this same claim that life without eternal, cosmic purpose based in immortality thus has no purpose or significance.

    Dr. Kagan challenged Dr. Craig to explain why, if life does not have cosmic, eternal significance in the face of the “heat death of the universe”, as Dr. Craig puts it, it has NO significance. Dr. Craig simply reiterated his contention but was unable to explain or argue why no cosmic significance meant no significance.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RbfIMudPaA

    However, the point is that this is not a proof or even really an argument. Suppose life feels unlivable unless there is the sort of purpose that is supposedly bestowed by immortality. Suppose as human beings, based on our cognitive evolution, there seems to be a necessity for this sort of purpose. That’s fine, it’s arguable, but fine. It could be an illusion, a cognitive bias we can learn to overcome. However, it in no way is an argument for what is true. It may be a reason to explore an hypothesis, but it’s not an argument or a proof.

    Just because we feel the need or necessity for this sort of purpose does not mean it must exist or that God must exist.

    • Dennis Smith

      The issue is still, “Does God exist”. If “he” does, then the purpose of life can be crafted in that context. If he does not, however, we might wish to have a “cosmic” purpose and significant or to craft that purpose in terms of immortality, it’s just not the case and it’s best to face that and deal with it rather than creating fantasies.

    • Dennis Smith

      Craig uses arguments which are attempts at an argument from the best explanation. The question is what he is trying to explain and is it really the “best” explanation.

      • The_Wretched

        WLC still has a number of logical fallacies at the center of his arguments. If the ‘best available’ is fraud, then it’s reasonable to assume his conclusions are wrong or wrongful.

    • “I’d like God to exist so therefore he does” is a pretty weak argument.

  • Al Gray

    William Lane Craig’s view that life is meaningless without God seems quite incoherent. Firstly, what does “without God” actually mean? If WLC is suggesting that conscious rational beings can actually exist in a reality in which an intelligent Creator does not exist, and is thus asserting that such beings cannot enjoy any kind of meaning and significance to their lives, then he is acknowledging the validity of atheism as a worldview: it really could be the case that complex, rational, conscious beings can exist without God also needing to exist. If that is the case, then he is undermining his own credibility as a Christian apologist, given that Christian apologetics argues against such a possibility. So, if we are to credit WLC with logical consistency, then we must infer that when he says “without God” he means “without belief in God”. Thus he is pronouncing judgment on atheists’ subjective response to reality. He cannot do this. If an atheist is able to extract meaning from reality, then who is WLC or anyone to say that that person cannot do this?

    The question of atheism / theism is a matter of truth. I am not at all convinced by the philosophy of naturalism, which undergirds atheism. Such a philosophy makes extraordinary claims in its attempt to explain reality in purely physical terms. This methodology cannot, in my view, explain the validity of reason itself. This is a debate within epistemology. What irks me, however, are the judgments made by certain Christian apologists – such as William Lane Craig – concerning the personal attitudes of atheists. As a Christian, I have no right to claim that atheists cannot have a sense of meaning in life, or that they are amoral – even immoral (even though I would agree that the philosophy of naturalism can only provide a subjective basis to morality). Likewise some atheists make assumptions about those who believe in God, which really fall outside the realm of logic. These include such statements as: “You know you are wrong”. “Your belief is merely the result of wishful thinking” (as if atheism cannot also be!), “You can’t cope with life” (never mind the fact that most atheists live in the most sheltered countries in the world), “You just believe what you were taught as a child” (never mind the fact that some of us became Christians despite a fairly oppressive religious experience as children. This is certainly true in my case, in which my views were formed through personal conviction, and tested in a university environment hostile to belief in God).

    Arguments should not be built on subjective judgments. The question of the existence / non-existence of God is a matter of objective truth. WLC should focus on that, not on trying to second-guess the feelings of atheists.

    • MNb

      “This methodology cannot, in my view, explain the validity of reason itself.”
      Correct. It’s just an assumption. It could be formulated more precisely, but that wouldn’t change a bit. Every coherent view must be build upon assumptions. By definition you cannot argue that they are true or untrue. Compare Euclides’ axiomata. If you could prove one of them it would cease to be an axiom. That’s one reason I don’t have any use for the word “truth” in this context.
      Exploring this path any further would make my comment irrelevant for yours, which I otherwise OK with (and I’m a 7 on the scale of Dawkins).