Video Response to Frank Turek’s Book, “Stealing From God”

Video Response to Frank Turek’s Book, “Stealing From God” October 25, 2016

videoFellow atheist blogger Jeffery Jay Lowder of Secular Outpost blog here at Patheos has a new video that responds to Frank Turek’s recent book, Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case.

Lowder recently debated Turek, and he repurposed his presentation for that debate into this video rebuttal of Turek’s book. I haven’t seen that debate, though I did listen to a recent podcast with Turek, and he praised Lowder highly as someone who was polite and provided a substantive argument.

Turek arranged his apologetic book using the acronym CRIMES:

  • Causality
  • Reason
  • Information
  • Morality
  • Evil
  • Science

Lowder, in his video, created his own acronym in response, VICTIM:

  • Value
  • Induction
  • Causality
  • Time
  • Information
  • Morality

Lowder’s video is a couple of hours long, though he has an index so you can jump to the parts that you find most interesting. Check it out here.

Man outgrows religion
by self-respect and self-awareness of capacity,
which overcomes misery.
And thus changes religion of misery into misery of religion.
— “The Misery of Religion” by Anton Constandse
(translated by commenter Mark Nieuweboer)

People don’t generally engage in moral reasoning
… but moral rationalization:
they begin with the conclusion,
coughed up by an unconscious emotion,
and then work backward to a plausible justification.
— Steven Pinker

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  • Jim Jones

    I think of these as granny books because they’re written to convince your granny. I never read one that I couldn’t reject in a page or two or at most one chapter.

    • That is an interesting angle. Who is the target audience for books like this? What is that audience’s goal/need in buying it?

      And do the authors know that the arguments wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny?

      • Jim Jones

        > Who is the target audience for books like this?

        Definitely believers. Why would a skeptic bother? It’s not like we are going, “I really want to believe in Jesus so I’ll buy this book”.

        > What is that audience’s goal/need in buying it?

        They want to be supported in their beliefs. They need affirmation. Don’t forget, if the school library buys a copy of The God Delusion they all lose their shit.

        > And do the authors know that the arguments wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny?

        Maybe subconsciously. And in some cases beyond a doubt. Note that Strobel never interviews skeptics for his “honest examinations” of religion. Here’s a short video of John Lennox who was puffed up by Conrad Black as a “great apologist”. See how good you think he is and decide for yourself. To me, these two ‘greats’ sound like giggling schoolboys telling dirty jokes!

        Conrad Black & John Lennox:

        • Lennox is indeed a disappointment.

        • wtfwjtd

          I enjoyed your posts about “the Childish Faith of John Lennox”.

          Frank Turek and his CRIMES argument (being “criminally bad”–ha, I loved that one too!) are only sop for the faithful. I had a relative actually give us this book, he thought it was very convincing. I knew it was even weaker than Strobel’s “Case for Christ”, as Turek is a Strobel wanna-be. What a waste of time.

        • As you know, I go back to old posts, polish them up with any corrections or new information, and publish them again to give me a break from writing. I plan on reworking my CRIMES series soon.

          Watching Lowder’s video is on my to-do list. It’ll be interesting to see what different take he has on Turek’s crime.

        • Philmonomer

          Just a heads up that the link “new video” doesn’t work (near the beginning of the blog post).

        • Ouch! Thanks for the tip. Link fixed.

        • TheNuszAbides

          in this context “great” must carry the context of “great at helping self-important white guys (or anyone who’s wary of getting on the bad side of self-important white guys) feel better about themselves”.

      • jimlefferts

        I believe they are targeted to the proverbial ‘choir’, simply as a crutch for their own comfort. They don’t need to really analyze the arguments. Turek’s brazen manner is enough to convince them that “hey, that sounds pretty strong, glad Frank is around to ‘slam-dunk it’ against all those super-angry atheists”. The ‘granny-idea’ correlates somewhat…from a reading perspective; but I think most of them (the grannies) would be repulsed by Frank’s abrasive and loud verbal approach.

        • Yes, I also find Turek pretty abrasive. Let a thousand flowers bloom, I guess.

  • Facebook User

    This book claims that atheists are using arguments that belong to and with belief in God to argue against God. In a nutshell that is not enough to prove atheists wrong. Contradictions are when one argument is against another so what if the reason atheists find themselves contradicting themselves is that the concepts of God and morality are incoherent? If atheists are actually trying to talk coherently about what is inherently incoherent then they succeed in vindicating atheism for they prove that God is self-contradictory confused nonsense. Turek like all self-styled believers keeps away from any prime and successful arguments against God and the wisdom of believing in God.

    Quote: Thanks to fellow atheist Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins now appears to affirm objective morality while maintaining his atheism. In his book The Moral Landscape, Harris takes the position that objective moral values really do exist, and they can be explained without invoking God. He claims that if we just use our reason, we’ll see that “human flourishing” is the standard by which we determine something is good or bad. Anything that helps humans flourish is good. Since reason and science can tell us what helps humans flourish, there is no need for God to ground objective moral values. If Harris is correct, it seems that he has successfully shot down the moral argument for God.

    My comment: Christians say that this account does not explain why we should care about the flourishing of others. They say that morality gets its authority from God. God is just and loving and so morality is grounded in his nature – the kind of God he is. This does not fit the doctrine that we must love sinners and hate their sin as if their sins say nothing about them as a person. If you cannot say your badness says something about you then it is the same for good. You are denying that bad or good deeds say anything about anybody. Thus you cannot say that God’s goodness reflects on him. You are only being saccharine and fake. But back to how moral principles are valid because God is good and just and loving. What is that saying? It is saying God is flourished. If God being flourished grounds morality then us being flourished and being able to be grounds morality as well. If there is no God then morality is indeed grounded in us. So the believers accidently prove Harris right!

    Quote: I asked Christopher to identify the objective standard by which he judged something to be evil. He kept avoiding a direct answer, so I finally just blurted out, “What is evil?” Without missing a beat, he quipped, “Religion!”

    My comment: It takes guts to be evil. Even being cowardly has risks. You fail to protect yourself. It takes faith. It is the case that you think something supernatural is protecting you and you are made magically powerful and safe through the evil. You may not realise it. That is a form of religion for it is a strong form of religious faith.

    Quote: Idols don’t really exist!

    My comment: So to worship God if he is not real or any unreal god is to waste worship. It is worshipping nothing. Christianity says that God is the one realest thing so it follows that if he is worshipped and he is not real then that is the worst idolatry of all. Worshipping Zeus is less risky!

    Quote: Don’t Atheists Just Lack a Belief in God? It’s been fashionable lately for atheists to claim that they merely “lack a belief in God.” So when a theist comes along and says that atheists can’t support their worldview, some atheists will say something like, “Oh, we really don’t have a worldview. We just lack a belief in God. Since we’re not making any positive claims about the world, we don’t have any burden of proof to support atheism. We just find the arguments for God to be lacking.” That is why the argument: “Christians are atheists towards all gods but one” is not only a good point but proves it makes less sense to argue there is one true all-powerful God than to argue that a god like Odin is real.

    Turek thinks that this is not saying anything about God’s existence but only saying that the atheist “I’m not psychologically convinced that God exists.”

    His point is that you thinking there is no case for God is not proof or evidence that you are right. But it is extremely weak evidence. It is still evidence. Evidence can be a hunch that you cannot put your finger on. The hunch is telling you that something is not right even if you do not know what it is. And if God is truth he is by definition bigger than any errors you make so thinking there is no case for God is a sign that he may not exist. It does not need to be good evidence to be evidence. Thinking there is no God is evidence that there is none. It is not the same thing as thinking Australia does not exist. Australia is not able to influence your mind and make sure you get information.

    He argues that everything lacks belief in God. Are squirrels atheists then? Why not? They are conscious beings – not as smart as us but they must have a degree of intelligence!

    Are atheists who say that atheism is a lack of belief in God thinking of belief as in trust? The difference between defining atheism as a lack of belief in God and as a lack of trust in God is that belief is about theory and trust is a personal assurance that God will deal fair with you and look after you. The latter is a denial that God is God so it is atheism in that sense.

    Quote: If atheists merely “lacked a belief in God,” they wouldn’t be constantly trying to explain the world by offering supposed alternatives to God.

    My comment: Atheists giving alternatives to God does not mean they just care about finding alternatives to God. Atheists give alternatives to atheistic theories about how the universe and life began. God is one alternative suggestion among many for testing and thinking.

    Quote: Atheism is a worldview with beliefs just as much as theism is a worldview with beliefs. (A “worldview” is a set of beliefs about the big questions in life, such as: What is ultimate reality? Who are we? What’s the meaning of life? How should we live? What’s our destiny? etc.)

    My comment: Atheism is simply about God. The consequence of that belief follow from atheism but are not atheism. How we should live? is the main part of a worldview but it does not follow that God or atheism helps with that question. It is the now that we have to work with – our future destiny if any is not what we are working with and in now. For more than a thousand years Judaism got by without worrying about us having any destiny other than death. Concern about the afterlife was only made part of the faith much later. There is no reason to agree with Turek that a worldview is about the things he lists. For some it is just about how we live. For gnostics it is just about our destiny. For theists it may be just about cherishing God – Jesus said to love God for his own sake and to love others only to please God so it is really only God who is loved. This doctrine makes other things pale into virtual nothingness. We should speak of worldviews not worldview. Each thing Turek lists is a worldview. He cannot call a collection of worldviews a worldview.

    Quote: No one created something out of nothing? To doubt the law of causality is to doubt virtually everything we know about reality, including our ability to reason and do science. All arguments, all thinking, all science, and all aspects of life depend on the law of causality.

    My comment: If no one created the universe out of nothing who cares? Something did.

    Quote: There are good reasons for positing God. If space, time, and matter had a beginning, then the cause must transcend space, time, and matter. In other words, the cause must be spaceless, timeless, and immaterial. This cause also must be enormously powerful to create the universe out of nothing. And it must be a personal agent in order to choose to create, since an impersonal force has no capacity to choose to create anything. Agents create. Impersonal forces, which we call natural laws, merely govern what is already created, provided agents don’t interfere. For example, gravity as an impersonal force can’t decide anything. It blindly does the same thing over and over…

    Comment: The cause does not need to transcend space and time and matter. A different kind of space time and matter or energy can cause what we have. And an impersonal force can choose in a sense. A person who is insane with drugs still acts like there is enough of a faculty there to choose. What can Turek do to refute the suggestion that our personalities and brains are comprised of countless regularities that blindly do the same thing over and over but we cannot notice for it is so complicated and works as if we are not blindly doing things?

    Quote: The cause must be beyond nature, which is what we mean by the term “supernatural.” John was quick to charge me with committing the “God of the gaps” fallacy. When we can’t figure out a natural cause, we plug God into that gap in knowledge and say that He did it. That’s not only wrong, it’s “lazy,” as many atheists assert. But that’s not what’s going on here. I explained that we are not basing our conclusion on a mere “gap” in our knowledge. Those of us who conclude that a theistic God is the cause of the universe are not arguing from what we don’t know (a gap), but what we do know. Since space, time, and matter had a beginning, we know that the cause can’t be made of space, time, or matter. In fact, the conclusion that there is a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, personal first cause flows logically from the evidence itself. If anyone is committing a fallacy, it is the atheist. Call it the “natural law of the gaps fallacy”—having faith that an undiscovered natural law will one day explain the beginning of the universe.

    Comment: You don’t need a miracle to explain the puddle on your floor. You don’t know how it happened. Saying its supernatural fills a gap or saying it is natural does. Which one is based on what we know? The natural. Filling it with a natural explanation is better than just leaving the gap. Leaving the gap is better than filling it with magic. Any other set up is just illogical.

    Quote: Krauss says the cause of the universe is not God—it is “nothing.” He cites happenings at the quantum level to dispense with the need for God. (The quantum level is the world of the extremely small, subatomic in size.) “One of the things about quantum mechanics is not only can nothing become something, nothing always becomes something,” says Dr. Krauss. “Nothing is unstable. Nothing will always produce something in quantum mechanics.”

    Comment: Seems to be saying that nothing is not really nothing. The idea that God made all things denies that there is simply nothing.

    Quote: While it is true that one can use bad philosophy, it is impossible to use no philosophy. In fact—and this is the essential point—Krauss, Dawkins, and the like can’t do science without philosophy.

    Comment: Good.

    Quote: For monotheism, the starting point is an unexplained God. For science, the starting point is the unexplained laws of nature.

    Comment: Both sides hold that it all boils down to unexplained laws. Even God didn’t and couldn’t make a law that he must exist and he didn’t make himself the way he is.

    Quote: God’s relationship to the law of causality is like that. It’s often misunderstood. Contrary to what many atheists seem to believe, the law of causality does not say that everything has a cause. The law of causality says that everything that has a beginning has a cause, or every effect has a cause. But not everything can be an effect.

    Comment: If something did not have a cause that does not mean it is a God.

    Quote: Human beings change, but logic doesn’t change. The laws of logic provide an unchanging independent measuring stick of truth across changing time, culture, and human belief. They are true everywhere, at every time, and for everyone. In fact, that’s why we call them laws—the laws of logic apply equally to all of us as do the laws of physics and math. Second, if we each had nothing more than our own private conceptions of the laws of logic, how could communication be possible?

    Comment: Life cannot work and we cannot co-operate without principles to agree on.

    Quote: If they say, “All truth changes,” ask them, “Does that truth change?” If they say, “All truth depends on your perspective,” ask them, “Does that truth depend on your perspective?” If they say, “You’re just playing word games with me!” ask them “Is that a word game? Why is it that when I use logic, you say it’s a word game, but when you use logic, you assume it’s gospel truth?”

    Quote: The absolute truth is that it’s impossible to deny the laws of logic without using them. They are the self-evident reasoning tools we need to discover everything else about the world. They are self-evident in the sense that you don’t reason to them, you reason from them.

    Comment: Good! All who oppose morality as an objective truth are in fact assuming it is! Everybody has a logic or morality or philosophy even if they do it badly.

    Quote: If Crick is correct, we’re not free creatures—we’re just molecular machines. We’re not really reasoning; we’re merely reacting.

    Comment: Computers can think! Reason is a reaction of a certain kind. The dog may have no reason but it acts as if it knows not to jump into the fire.

    Quote: Thoughts can change brain chemistry. In researching “cognitive therapy,” several studies confirm that psychotherapy patients can use their thoughts to create metabolic changes in their brains to overcome depression. So there’s some truth to the saying, “you can become what you think about.”

    Comment: Another proof that the fundamental Christian doctrine that you can love the sinner and hate the sin for the sin is not the sinner is a lie.