Response to “Nine Not-so-Good Reasons To Be an Atheist”

Response to “Nine Not-so-Good Reasons To Be an Atheist” August 13, 2018

Here’s something new—apologetics from a Muslim source. Pakistan Today recently ran the article, “Nine not-so-good reasons to be an atheist.” Since Islam is the official religion and 96+ percent of the population is Muslim, I assume that this article is defending Islam. Nevertheless, with the exception of a few British spellings, this is just what an American Christian apologist would argue. Since the focus of this blog is Christianity in the West, I will respond to these arguments as if they came from a Christian apologist.

Here are nine “not-so-good reasons to be an atheist” that, in the words of the author, “leave a lot to be desired.” See if you agree with me that the problem has been overstated.

“1. There’s so much suffering in the world.”

This comes in many forms: There’s no justice in the world. Faith is rewarded to the same degree as unbelief. The resources are so unjustly distributed among people. If an omniscient, omnipotent and an all-good God doesn’t choose to prevent evil, He’s not all-good; if He is unable to prevent evil, He’s not omnipotent. All these arguments feature anthropomorphism—casting the deity in the image of man.

In the Bible, God is very much cast in the image of man. God walked in the Garden of Eden like an ordinary man. God regretted making Man. God lied. God got a good thrashing by Chemosh, the god of Moab. Abraham changed God’s mind on Sodom. Moses talked with God “face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”

The Bible evolved over time. In the early years, the Bible’s religion was polytheistic. Yahweh was similar to the Greek and Roman gods, only gradually becoming omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.

But anthropomorphism isn’t as interesting as some of the arguments alluded to. The Problem of Evil is indeed a problem for Christianity. An omniscient god could achieve any purpose he wanted without causing any pain. And a god who desired a relationship with humanity wouldn’t be hidden—excuses for his hiddenness are what you’d see if the god were manmade.

Good and evil are themes of mankind, not of God. Good and bad (like hot and cold, beneficial and harmful) are relative terms. . . . An Absolute God cannot be judged according to something else.

What absolute god? You give me a proposition such as “Yahweh is a good god,” and I must evaluate it. I judge claims for Yahweh, just like the Christian or Muslim would judge the claims for a god foreign to their worldview. And when I judge claims that Yahweh is good, he fails that test by his own holy book (more on genocide, evil, human sacrifice, and slavery).

“2. Belief in God is an accident of birth.”

You would probably believe in Allah if you were born in Pakistan, probably in Jesus if born into a Christian family, in Krishna or Vishnu if born to a Hindu Brahmin. In much the same way as the Greeks believed in Zeus, or so the argument goes.

Yes, that correlation does indeed exist. I’ve written about this very argument: “Your Religion Is a Reflection of Your Culture—You’d Be Muslim if You Were Born in Pakistan.”

Here’s the author’s concern:

The fallacy at play here is called the genetic fallacy: trying to invalidate a position by showing how a person came to hold it. The accident of birth theory—whether true or false—in no way invalidates all belief in God.

The genetic fallacy is about the origin of something (think genesis). Here’s an example: “Hitler was a bad man and he was a vegetarian. Therefore, vegetarianism is bad.” There is no plausible cause-and-effect link.

But the argument here doesn’t fail by that reason. “You would probably believe in Allah if you were born in Pakistan” is indeed a true statement. More than 96 percent of Pakistanis are Muslim, and a baby born there today will likely grow up to be a Muslim adult.

We can shoehorn correlations like this into an absolute statement like “People tend to reflect the religion of their environment so therefore all religious belief is false and a mere cultural artifact,” but that’s not my claim. I say instead that people tend to reflect the religion of their environment, and this gives weight to the naturalistic hypothesis that religious belief is a cultural artifact. There’s no fallacy here.

“3. I am throwing in my lot with science.”

While science is wonderful in many respects, it’s a mistake to think that it addresses all aspects of humanity. . . . [For example,] there’s no matter-only explanation of consciousness yet. Probably there never will be.

Let’s assume that this is correct, and science will never fully explain consciousness (which I doubt, but forget that). So what? You think that supernaturalism will? Supernaturalism has never explained anything that we can verify as true. Countless supernatural “explanations” have been overturned by scientific ones based on evidence, and the opposite hasn’t happened once.

“4. How can one believe in flying gods and the like?”

Starting with the question of whether to believe (or not believe) in God means that one has already skipped a vital question; namely: what does one mean by the word ‘God’?

Good point—that is an important question. There are 45,000 answers within Christianity. Even Islam, which isn’t as fragmented, has more than just the well-known Sunni and Shia denominations. Like Christianity, there are also nondenominational Muslims who don’t fit into the handful of large denominations.

But that was an aside. The author has a different concern:

It pays immensely if this is addressed and the childish concepts of gods are ruled out.

So childish is your concern? Seriously? Are there god concepts that are not childish?

Yes, there is much metaphysical or philosophical dust thrown up about God, but that doesn’t mean it’s not at root childish. I remember hearing world-famous theologian William Lane Craig arguing that the noncanonical gospels didn’t deserve to be canonical because they were nutty. He asked, Did you know that the Gospel of Peter has a walking, talking cross?

But Craig is living in a glass house. Has he ever read his own stuff?? It’s insane—floating ax heads, talking donkeys and snakes, three gods who are instead just one god, and an “all-good” god who condones slavery, demands human sacrifice, and drowns everyone.

Try seeing Christianity as an outsider. Only because you’re accustomed to your own view do you not see that it looks childish from the outside (in its own way) as all the others do.

Concluded in part 2.

He’s your god; they’re your rules—
you burn in hell.
— seen on the internet

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Image via Lex Kravetski, CC license

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  • ThaneOfDrones

    The author of that piece dismisses “childish” concepts of God. I think he is mistaken about how many believers hold such childish god-conceptions; I would estimate it as a majority. In the comment section I asked if he thought that such childish believers were better off sticking with their childish religious beliefs over atheism. Sadly, the author doesn’t seem to respond to comments.

    • So far he hasn’t responded to my email yet, either.

      • Possibly for his own safety. I doubt it’s very beneficial to delve too deeply into these subject matters, in a place like that.

        • Perhaps. I don’t know what it’s like for journalists there. Ah, well–it’d be fun for him to drop by and chat.

        • Very much so. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a number of Internet friends from that part of the world, and I value the insight they give me into the broader picture of humanity. It also helps me appreciate so much more the freedoms given to us by our society.

          May we always maintain them, and may they spread and be a “blessing” to all humanity.

        • carbonUnit

          Perhaps he is a closeted atheist and this is a way to (poorly) seed some atheist concepts while scoring points and not getting in trouble. Sort of the way we have seen religious leaders speak out rail against various “immoral” behaviors only to find that they’ve been engaging in one or more of those behaviors.

    • TheNuszAbides

      I think he is mistaken about how many believers hold such childish god-conceptions; I would estimate it as a majority.

      if this includes those who never really consciously affirm the belief, but will have a knee-jerk double-down tribal reaction if pressed in some way (i.e. would rather make nice with their folks or spuriously defend the honor of family/friend believers), i would concur – a vast majority, even. and as Bob said, how many examples are there of a non-childish god-concept anyway?

  • Tawreos

    “All these arguments feature anthropomorphism—casting the deity in the image of man.”

    Genesis 1:26 – Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

    I wonder why man would think god looked like a man?

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Xenophanes

      But mortals suppose that gods are born,
      wear their own clothers and have a voice and body. (B14)

      Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black;
      Thracians that theirs are blue-eyed and red-haired. (B16)

      B15 adds, probably in a satirical vein, that if horses and oxen had
      hands and could draw pictures, their gods would look remarkably like
      horses and oxen.

      • Greg G.

        As soon as I saw “Xenophanes”, I thought of horse gods.

    • Great example!

      • al kimeea

        no, the like appearance is a metaphor

    • carbonUnit

      Maybe God does look like man and we are just The Sims.

      • al kimeea

        The Matrix is a documentary.

    • Allah may be described as being in some way less anthropomorphic, I’m not sure. Muslims don’t have the Incarnation at least. I believe man is still said to be created in his image. That isn’t usually meant literally however.

      • TheNuszAbides

        it’s not like the phrase “made in _____ image” has ever had an unambiguous meaning anyway.

        • Apparently the original Hebrew is that we’re “God-like”, although that still isn’t very clear.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i heard, in more than one sermon before growing up, that “we are enjoined to be Christ-like.”

        • Yes. That at least is more clear, though they ignore the more negative stuff Jesus is portrayed as doing in the Bible. At least it sure wasn’t brought up when I was a boy.

        • Greg G.

          If we are made in God’s image, why are we visible?

          I stole that from Facebook.

  • Grimlock

    While science is wonderful in many respects, it’s a mistake to think that it addresses all aspects of humanity. . . . [For example,] there’s no matter-only explanation of consciousness yet. Probably there never will be.

    Let’s assume that this is correct, and science will never fully explain consciousness (which I doubt, but forget that). So what? You think that supernaturalism will? Supernaturalism has never explained anything that we can verify as true. Countless supernatural “explanations” have been overturned by scientific ones based on evidence, and the opposite hasn’t happened once.

    I think this touches on a large issue. Namely what we mean when we talk about something “explaining” something. A couple of criteria that I find relevant for establishing whether something is a good explanation are these:

    1) Suppose A is supposed to be an explanation for B. In that case, B should follow from A. (I.e. A predicts B.)

    Consider an example. A throw a rock. My explantion for the rock’s behaviour is the theories of classical mechanics. In that case, the behaviour of the rock follows from classical mechanics.

    2) Suppose that in order to explain phenomena C, I have to appeal to a set of entities D = {d1, d2, d3}, or E = {e1, e2, e3}. I have independent evidence for the existence of d1, d2, d3, e1, and e2, but I don’t actually know whether e3 exists. In this case, everything else being equal, D is the superior explanation because it doesn’t appeal to entities not in our existing ontology. Basically, if we can explain C without appealing to something we don’t have evidence for existing, that’s an advantage.

    Of course, appeals to God “explaining” things (or supernatural phenomena in general “explaining” something) gets in trouble if one finds these criteria to be reasonable. To see why, consider typical examples of God explaining something.

    Does it follow from the existence of an omni-god that the universe was fine-tuned to spawn life? I don’t see how. Does it follow from the existence of an omni-god that Jesus rose from the dead? (Or any other alleged miracle?) Nah. Seeing as we lack the confirmed existence of supernatural phenomena (defined, roughly, as entities that ultimately reduces to/is supervenient on/consists of mental phenomena), all supernatural explanations gets in trouble with criteria (2). (Which can also be framed in Bayesian terms, I think.)

    My point? Appeals to an omni-god doesn’t work too well as explanations.

    • Grimlock

      A bit off-topic, but spinning off of this.

      So, an omni-god doesn’t explain much of anything, because very little follows from the existence of such a being. What can the theist do? Why, be more specific about what kind of god exists of course!

      Thus, in addition to being an omni-god, the god apologists talk about is morally perfect, really wants humans to have libertarian free will (which a morally perfect omni-god might plausible lack: http://spot.colorado.edu/~morristo/whats-so-good-about-moral-freedom.pdf ), and also decided that the best way to demonstrate its existence is by an unverifiable miracle. Oh, and don’t forget, it’s obviously a trinity.

      Okay, that’s… cool, I guess. Here’s an analogy to show why this might not be such a great move.

      Suppose I’m about to toss a six-sided die. The die can be blue, red, green, or yellow, all of which is equally probable. Also, the eyes on the die can be eyes circles, triangles, stars, or squares. Again, all of which are equally probable.

      You then proceed to guess that I will toss a die and get 4, 5, or 6. The prior probability of you being correct is now 0.5. Okay, that’s not too bad. But now you decide to guess that I’ll toss a red die that, and it will show 4, 5, or 6. Now the prior probability is 1/2 * 1/4 = 1/8 = 0.125. Since you’re feeling lucky, you also guess that the eyes on the die are triangles, so now the prior probability is 1/2 * 1/4 * 1/4 = 1/32 = 0.03125.

      What happened now is that the initial hypothesis (“toss a die and get 4, 5, or 6”) got more complicated (“toss a red die with triangles for eyes and get 4, 5, or 6″). It also got vastly less probable.

      The same is going on when the theist makes their god more complicated. Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that the prior probability of a being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and ontologically non-contingent (read: fancy way of saying “created all other stuff”) is 0.5 = 50 %.

      But now that being has to be morally perfect, and that means it has all these various moral properties. Thus reducing the prior probability drastically. Also this being really wants to create free beings. And fine-tune the universe. And prove its existence with an unverifiable miracle. It’s also a trinity (as opposed to being composed of a literally infinite other possible number of persons). And so on. At this point, the prior probability of such a god, even if we started out at 50 %, is getting really, really low.

      So maybe making your god have more weird properties ain’t such a grand idea.

      • ThaneOfDrones

        An omni-God could explain literally anything.. Since anything is possible, any particular thing becomes infinitesmally probable. That includes even wild-ass stuff that anyone would reject, such as ‘Last Thursdayism.’ (the universe was created last Thursday, with everything in progress and even the memories of past times created.) Sure, an omni-God could do that I suppose, but why would He do it that particular way?

        • Grimlock

          Sure, an omni-God could do that I suppose, but why would He do it that particular way?

          Precisely!

        • Otto

          That is a point Sean Carroll made in his debate with William Lame Craig. Craig pointed to the ‘fine tuning’ argument for god. Carroll rightly pointed out that why would God need to fine tune anything? He could literally make it anyway he wants, fine tuning in Carroll’s opinion actually works against an Omni-God.

        • Grimlock

          I saw a video of Justin Schieber summarizing an argument that’s arguing that it’s improbable that God would choose a system that needed much fine-tuning. (Video is imbedded in this Counter-Apologist post: http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/2018/02/responding-to-cameron.html ) And that’s even disregarding the point Carroll makes that you mention.

          I’m now not sure if I buy that argument presented by Schieber, though. I’ll have to rewatch the video.

        • Otto

          I will check it out

        • Grimlock

          I listened a bit to the video, and I think I have an issue with the arguments. There is an assumption that the laws of nature are stringent, as opposed to lax, in the sense that the life-permitting range of the initial conditions is small.

          But that depends a bit on how we measure life. Let’s say that the life permitting range is 0.01. It could be 1, so clearly the range could only be up to 0.01 smaller than it is in terms of absolute value. But it could also be a hundred times smaller, i.e. 0.0001.

          Which of these ways of measuring “stringency” do we employ? For the former, sure, the conditions appear stringent*, but not so for the latter. Because in that case, no matter how stringent you set the conditions, you can always choose an arbitrarily more stringent condition. (For an analogy, consider the natural numbers. No matter which number you choose, there’s always an infinite set of numbers larger than that.)

          I guess the argument is nice if one assumes that the initial conditions are indeed stringent, and it certainly appears to undercut many (if not all) formulations of the fine tuning argument.

          *But I agree with Sean Carroll that this is an appeal to knowledge we simply do not possess. (Which I hope is a fair representation of his position.)

        • Otto

          I don’t know if you have listened to the Sean Carroll/WLC debate but if you haven’t I think you would enjoy it.

        • Grimlock

          I did. It was delightful. It’s been a while, so maybe it’s time for a re-watch. And I do mean watching. The moment where Carroll draws forth a picture of Alan Guth holding up a piece of paper is priceless. What a nice way to counter Craig’s inevitable selective citations of Vilenkin.

          Sean Carroll is really fantastic. So far his new podcast show is definitely not disappointing!

        • Otto

          Yeah I have heard the Joe Rogan shows he was on…I need to check out his podcast. The Alan Guth part was fantastic. It used to be that I would see theists refer to the Borde Guth Vilenkin Theorem all the time as if it proves the Bible…not so much anymore.

        • Tommy

          Exactly. Fine tuning presupposes limitations. Like Carroll said, if God had to arrange matter in a certain way to create stars or planets or had to create a universe out of matter, then it would just be appealing to naturalism.

      • Doubting Thomas

        So, an omni-god doesn’t explain much of anything, because very little follows from the existence of such a being.

        I don’t think this is the case at all. Just imagine what you would do if you were all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing. Diseases? Wiped out. Your friend is hungry? Magic up a burger. A child is burnt in a fire? Snap them up some new skin.

        The problem isn’t that very little follows from an omni-god. It’s that so very much does follow and yet we see none of the things we would expect. Hence the need for apologetics.

        • ThaneOfDrones

          Just imagine what you would do if you were all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing. Diseases? Wiped out…

          But with such a God, why would disease exist in the first place? Remedial actions imply an earlier imperfect state.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Agreed, but that’s just another unfulfilled expectation that would come along with an omni-god.

        • Tommy

          But with such a God, why would disease exist in the first place? Remedial actions imply an earlier imperfect state.

          Yup. Along with the fine tuning argument: “With such a God, why would he fine tune anything in the first place? Fine tuning implies an earlier imperfect state.”

        • Grimlock

          I’ll note that I bucked the convention a bit there, and didn’t include all-loving in the definition of an omni-god. (Partly so that I could include moral perfection later on.)

          But I agree, once you allow for that (to “explain” why God supposedly loves us, or whatever), suddenly more follows than just what the theist wanted to explain. Clearly another flaw with appealing to God as an explanation. Nice.

      • Greg G.

        What happens to the probability when the attribute of counting how many times a man shakes his peepee at the urinal to make sure he isn’t diddling is factored in?

        • Otto

          My understanding is more than 2 is a problem.

        • epicurus

          3 is the number thou shall count. Just follow the rule of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch:
          And the Lord spake, saying, “First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.”

        • Greg G.

          Sometimes a guy can accidentally count to 3. Nothing left to do but start over until you get it right.

        • Grimlock

          Hmm, not sure. Maybe there’s a rule about that in Leviticus?

    • Doubting Thomas

      I think there is only one requirement for a good explanation: That it’s correct.

      I can explain anything if I just make shit up. That doesn’t mean my explanation is good. That is the problem with supernatural explanations. None have been shown to be correct. Since that’s the case, I’ll treat them just like the made up explanations.

      • Grimlock

        Well, I was thinking more in terms of what makes us be more confident that an explanation is correct. So obviously it’s better if an explanation is correct.

        The “making stuff up” part seems to me to be covered by the second criteria.

    • God wouldn’t need to fine tune the universe for life. He could make life if the universe were hostile to life–he’s God, after all. Fine-tuned universes are a clue against an omnipotent god.

      • Well said!

        What’s to stop life from existing in the heart of stars or the twisted space-time of singularities or the raw vacuum of the endless void? Only little things like physics*—which should be nothing for God to overcome. According to believers, He’s no more limited by the restrictions of nature than were comic book writers in the Forties; and just like them, He’d need no fine-tuning to do whatever He wanted. This argument of creationists is (like most of them) a boondoggle that they never take to its logical end.

        *As far as we know right now, of course.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Yep. They have a whole category of life now called ‘extremophiles’ that live in places where most living organisms can’t go even with technological assistance.

      • Grimlock

        I’m not sure if I agree with that way of phrasing it. Instead, I’d phrase it more like Otto did, paraphrasing Sean Carroll.

        Perhaps like this:
        1. The universe is such that its physical conditions permits life.
        2. Given theism, life could exist somewhere the physical conditions permits it, and somewhere the physical conditions doesn’t permit it. Thus, the probability of physics permitting life given theism and the existence of life is less than 1.
        3. Given naturalism, life could only exists if the physical conditions permit it. Thus, the probability of physics permitting life given theism and the existence of life is 1.
        4. (After some mucking about with Bayesian equations.) Life exists and physics permits life. Give this, naturalism is more probable than theism.

        I guess my point is that physics permitting life is the key here. I don’t see how fine tuned the universe might be contributes to the reasoning.

        But perhaps you had a different line of thought in mind, and I just went off on a tangent. That’s been known to happen.

        • It’s been a while since I saw Sean Carroll take WLC to the cleaners, so I’ll trust your memory on his approach.

          What seems more natural to me is something like this: to marvel that we got very lucky with the constants of nature and as a result have intelligent life is precisely what you’d do if you lived in a godless world. In a world with an omnipotent god, what’s to marvel about? That god could do anything, including making life in a world that, if left to ordinary physics, would be lifeless.

          I don’t know if that’s just a restatement of what I had before, but perhaps that clarifies?

          I’m not rejecting your approach, just stating the idea in a way that seems more approachable to me.

        • Grimlock

          It should be noted that I have no idea if what I wrote is what Carroll had in mine. Rather, it’s how I’d phrase a similar objection myself. Probably heavily influenced by Lowder.

          I’m not sure if it’s a restatement or not, but it certainly seems similar. I think I wanna give it some thought… (Gotta do something while getting to work, right?)

        • Phil

          In a god perfect world you would expect pi to be 3.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      I read a way of describing it: “Since it explains *everything*, it explains *nothing*.”

    • epeeist

      Namely what we mean when we talk about something “explaining” something.

      Currently trying to read Nozick’s Philosophical Explanations and finding it hard going.

      I like Hempel’s Deductive-Nomological model for explanation, though it does get some stick. One starts from some initial or antecedent conditions and one or more “laws of nature” (the explanans) and proceeds deductively to the explanandum.

      • Grimlock

        At this point, it should be noted that you seem far more well-read when it comes to the philosophical literature on explanations! I suspect my views are somewhat naive and simplistic.

        • epeeist

          when it comes to the philosophical literature on explanations

          Maybe when it comes to explanations in science, otherwise I wouldn’t be sure whether I am better read than you.

          As I said, there are criticisms of Hempel’s ideas. Philip Kitcher has an alternative which may be more generally applicable – http://fitelson.org/woodward/kitcher_eu.pdf

        • Grimlock

          Apologies for the late response. I wanted to read through the article first.

          It was very interesting! Quite a lot of different tangents that came to mind reading it. I’m definitinitely going to have to read the article again in a while to process it properly. Not sure if I grasped the unification idea.

          I found the asymmetry problem curious, and suspect I’m missing something. It seems to me that the problem shows up if we have a set of premises and a conclusion, and then switches one of the premises with the conclusion, where the new conclusion no longer follows from the premises. My immediate thought is then that the asymmetry stems from the asymmetry of the usage of the premises.

          To use the example of the flagpole, where among other things, the height of the flagpole (plus premises P) is used to explain the length of the shadow (conclusion), yet the length of the shadow (plus premises P) fails to explain the height of the flagpole. But it seems to me that the height of the flagpole can contribute to reach other conclusions (C). (Along with other premises Q.) I wonder if not the height of the flagpole could be explained with the length of the shadow, P, Q and C.

          If so, the asymmetry problem arises because the explanatory scope of the premises in a premises-conclusion pair is artificially restricted.

          Did that make any sense whatsoever, or am I babbling incoherently?

    • Tommy

      A Cliff Note version: One cannot offer the supernatural as an explanation for phenomena if one cannot explain what the supernatural is.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Now atheists can be found under most rocks and it’s no more fashionable because of being rare.

    And why do you suppose atheists would be hiding under rocks? Could it be because in God-soaked places like Pakistan, religious leaders tell their sheep that it is acceptable to despise, harrass, or even kill nonbelievers?

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Yeah, the author neglects to mention the ‘rocks’ atheists are found under are the piles of stones thrown at them to kill them by rabid theists.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    If an omniscient, omnipotent and an all-good God doesn’t choose to
    prevent evil, He’s not all-good; if He is unable to prevent evil, He’s
    not omnipotent. All these arguments feature anthropomorphism—casting the deity in the image of man.

    Before you expend too much effort on criticising anthropomorphism in religion, it is clear to me that the author should have said anthropocentrism. He’s still wrong.

    • Anthropomorphism (“man-shaped”) does seem like what he’s concerned about, not anthropocentrism (“Man-centered”). Or do I have my definitions wrong?

      • I think you are correct. IMO, all human religions are (by definition) anthropocentric.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        A case could be made either way: -morph, ‘like man’s shape’, -cent, ‘as man does’

      • ThaneOfDrones

        Since he was talking about omni-properties, I didn’t think that’s what he was on about. Omniscience and omnipotence are not really anthropomorphic traits.
        But then he goes into morality; good and evil. Our concepts of morality are certainly anthropocentric. If a lion kills another lion we don’t call it murder.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      I think you are both right. Anthropomorphism is correct in the original context, but the arguments also tend to lean on anthropocentrism without proper justification.

    • Grimlock

      But what about animorphism?

  • ThaneOfDrones

    While science is wonderful in many respects, it’s a mistake to think that it addresses all aspects of humanity. . .

    He walks around this rather gingerly, which makes me wonder which parts of science he might be denying. Acceptance of evolution is very low in Islamic countries, for example. But he doesn’t go into specifics.

    • You know, I’m of the opinion that science isn’t a “thing” on its own; it’s a way of looking at the world, a guiding philosophy that structures thinking and helps weed out bullshit. I’ve yet to find any aspect of life where the scientific method isn’t applicable and beneficial. If it doesn’t address every aspect of humanity, please give me an example. No one ever can, except for vague platitudes.

      As an aside, this opinion always gets me in trouble with philosophers, but I have to ask them: When is the last time a philosophical question was ever answered?

      • ThaneOfDrones

        Science is a useful epistemological toolbox. It is good for finding out what is true.

        Not all things in life are about what is true. Some things are about what is good or bad, or what is beautiful or ugly. I.e. values questions. In these cases science can give you a solid factual floor, but it cannot replace the values part.

        • Obviously all of this is just my opinion, and I have no desire to sway others to my view, merely to explain what I think and how I feel.

          With that out of the way, IMO, raw aesthetic enjoyment (on the receiving end) does not fall under the scientific method, but the creation of such things can be improved by it. Artists and other creators must practice to become skilled, for example, and doing it in a methodical way is far wiser than just trying anything and seeing what sticks. Social interactions, and I’d even say romantic relationships can be improved by having a scientific perspective (every experience is an experiment that can educate). Romantic and sexual attraction, being mostly automatic and instantaneous behaviors, cannot be improved in such a way, but the choices we make in regards to these emotions can be.

          And for me, values are definitely under that scientific banner. We’ve evolved empathy and altruism, which were the beginning of our ideas of good and bad behavior, but all the rest, the foundations of our societies, etc., can definitely be improved by following the steps of the scientific method.

          Ask questions, try to learn more about the subject at hand, make guesses, perform experiments (which in many cases means examining experiences), and then form our ideas and ideals from the results; repeat as needed. I think this actually comes rather naturally to people in many situations, even if they don’t realize that those are the steps of the scientific method.

          Now, I am not claiming that people consciously or consistently follow those steps when deciding what is good or bad, when forming their values or seeking pleasure or when interacting with others, but I do believer that all such things can be improved by those steps and that we follow them far more often than we realize.

      • TheNuszAbides

        by “ever answered” do you mean absolutely, uncontroversially, irreversibly wrapped up and solved? probably only get an affirmative response from a devotee of early Wittgenstein: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wittgenstein/#NatuPhil

        presumably some philosophers would respond to your question with something along the lines of a standard ‘philosophical question’ being: “what is a useful question regarding [topic X]?” i.e. the answer will be/include a question, but the distinction will not necessarily be trivial.

        AFAICT it mostly depends on whether the discussion is undertaken by people with a mutually-agreed-upon definition of philosophy itself, concept of where philosophy ends/begins and other activities/prospects/subjects begin/end, etc. the same is true (though probably to a lesser degree) of science (e.g. classic disingenuous apologetics include conflating the scientific method with the production/use of technology such as nuclear weapons).

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      Scientism! Does anyone actually think science addresses all aspects of humanity?

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Science is a reliable method of answering questions, no more and no less.

        They don’t seem to get that.

    • epeeist

      Acceptance of evolution is very low in Islamic countries, for example.

      Especially those where pictures of fishing lures are available.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        ??

        • epeeist

          You don’t know Harun Yahya, author of The Atlas of Creation. This shows live and fossil animals and plants and claims they haven’t changed therefore evolution is false.

          It contains a number of ridiculous errors the most famous of which is a picture of a supposed caddis fly, which in fact is a picture of a fishing lure.

        • Greg G.

          which in fact is a picture of a fishing lure.

          Harun Yahya swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Oh, myyyyy……

        • ThaneOfDrones

          I have a copy of AoC. The production values are amazing.

      • Greg G.

        Have you ever seen a fishing lure give birth to a puppy? That disproves evolution.

  • igotbanned999

    Next up, 10 good reasons not to be an atheist in Muslim theocracies:

    Reason 1: You like your right thumb?
    Reason 2: You like your left thumb?
    Reason 3: You like your right index finger?

    You can probably guess the rest

    • ThaneOfDrones

      #11 is the one that really scares me.

  • carbonUnit

    Note that the Pakistan Today article has a Discus comments section, so if you want to mess with them over there, you can!

    • eric

      I would not recommend Pakistani citizens do that. It’s one of the countries where you can hypothetically be executed for blasphemy. I’d hate to see anyone write a thoughtful response to the article and end up in jail (or worse) for it.

      Nice lopsidedness, eh? Mainstream Muslims can write articles attacking atheism with crappy logic, but any (in-country) responder runs the risk of punishment up to and including death.

    • Illithid

      Apparently, in the right circumstances, I’m a troll. I blame you.

  • Kev Green

    “The accident of birth theory—whether true or false—in no way invalidates all belief in God.”

    Obviously this is correct. But, let’s look at it a little differently. If you’re born in a non-Western part of the world you will most likely not become a Christian. If being a Christian is the only way to escape eternal damnation then the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants will burn in Hell simply because of where they were born. This doesn’t invalidate the existence of the Christian God. But, it does make Him and His followers racist assholes.

    • Otto

      If one religion was able to evidently differentiate themselves from other religions I would think a map could not be drawn of world religions with such clear lines of delineation. No that doesn’t put the nail in the coffin, but it is rather telling.

  • Greg G.

    Are you sure the Pakistan Today article isn’t tongue-in-cheek?

    It pays immensely if this is addressed and the childish concepts of gods are ruled out.

    That’s basically how I do it. I rule out the childish gods. There are none left.

    • No, sorry. That’s cheating.

      • TheBookOfDavid

        Not cheating, as much as holding the author accountable to his own arguments, particularly #1. Saeed chastises atheists for imagining god in the image of man, before immediately ruling out “childish concepts of god”. His description not only places arbitrary anthropomorphic traits on god, and limitations upon a being of infinite scope and complexity, but exposes himself to charges of idolatry. Saeed emphasizes this point by taking a creator who should transcend all notions of sex and gender, and stuffing Him in the malebox.

        • On a tangential note, I’ve wondered why monotheism is seen by some as some sort of culmination, as if that’s the mature way of seeing god and all those silly ancient people thought that there was a god for every phenomenon in nature. Why is there any maturity at all when the whole thing is invented?

        • Bob Jase

          Plus the fact in even in ‘monotheistic’ religions there is always an evil god (but don’t call him that) and hosts of minor gods (they’re called angel & demons & saints).

          Monotheists lie to themselves about this constantly.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Tongue-in-cheek about religion is not a good idea in a place like Pakistan.

      • Greg G.

        I just saw that Vienna passed Melbourne as the most livable city. I don’t expect to see Islamabad on the list soon.

  • Ctharrot

    Just found this draft relic buried in the html code of the article:

    “10. Not being an atheist means never being forced to write a fawning article about theism to avoid jail time for yelling, ‘There is no God named Allah, and Mohammed turned a big, fat profit!’ after sneaking an off-brand, black market wine cooler at my cousin’s wedding. Seriously, what was in that stuff?”

    • MR

      There are no secrets, Bob.

    • Hmm. That would definitely not be PC in that publication.

  • Michael Neville

    an “all-good” god who condones slavery, demands human sacrifice, and drowns everyone.

    But Craig’s god is “all-good” by definition. Craig claims that his god’s every action is automatically good and moral, even if god is doing something which, when done by anyone else, would be universally denounced as evil and immoral. As Yossarian noted: “That’s some catch, that Catch-22.”

    • Tommy

      God orders a bunch of people killed = good and moral
      A man orders a bunch of people killed = evil, immoral, and, ironically, ungodly.

  • Religion has always been our biggest problem. If we can’t eradicate it then we need an Atheist Republic to escape from it. Because the next Crusades could plunge the world into darkness forever. http://www.AtheistRepublic.Org

    • Grimlock

      I’d say that climate change is a bit more of problem than religion nowadays, to be honest. (Not that they’re entirely independent of each other.)

    • Otto

      What is an Atheist Republic? Could you elaborate?

      • Ctharrot

        I both do and don’t want to read the answer.

        • Otto

          It is like you read my mind

      • ThaneOfDrones

        Sounds like a brand of T-shirt. Abercrombie and Fitch may be losing adherents.

    • Susan

      Religion has always been our biggest problem.

      That’s a little vague and unsupported.

      This looks like spam.

      Also, you seem to have upvoted yourself.

      • Ctharrot

        Oh, c’mon, Susan. Nothing says “definitely not sketchy” like a self-upvote on a click-baity comment.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    Islamic apologetics is like Christian apologetics without the 300 year head start in obfuscation.

    • Grimlock

      Whenever I’ve seen Islamic apologetics, it’s been pretty indistinguishable from the standard Christian ones. Kalam, fine tuning, and perhaps an appeal to knowledge in the Quran that couldn’t possibly be exist at the time of its writing. Not very convincing, in other words.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        It’s the same core nonsense, but Christian apologetics has at least been part of the public discourse long enough to feign avoidance of certain rebuttals. This is why people fluent in apologetic failings see them as being largely the same, but novices find Islamic argumentation more absurd on the face of it.

        • Grimlock

          That makes sense.

          Though let’s be honest. A lot of Christian apologetics is in fact at the same level, where the apologists doesn’t actually understand the arguments that they’re presenting.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          No doubt. Frank Turek, come on down!

      • Bob Jase

        Apologetics – one size fits all gods.

      • eric

        Yet the two groups don’t see the irony of using the same arguments to arrive at contradictory and logically inconsistent conclusions…and insisting those arguments are sound.

        • Grimlock

          To be fair, at least some of the attributes of their gods seem similar, so I guess some arguments like Kalam “works” for both.

          On the other hand, it’s really amusing to see both some Christians and some Muslims quote parts of the Torah that they both use, and claim that it hides a “scientific truth”, thus invalidating either the Bible or Quran.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i’ve encountered an insistence that there is a one-way valid argument for the Quran being false relative to the Bible. paraphrased, it’s that the Quran affirms the truth of other scripture but the Bible leaves no room for the Quran’s affirmations to be relevant.

          as far as i can tell it’s predicated on the mere fact of conflicting scriptural statements, though i haven’t seen the statements in question clearly cited. it’s mainly used for the purpose of a “well, they can’t both be true” comparison. and in any case the use of scripture arguendo isn’t generally compelling/fruitful for discussions between atheists.

        • Grimlock

          That’s a very peculiar way to argue!

          How do you usually go about it when arguing with people about alleged “scientific truths” in religious texts?

        • TheNuszAbides

          i’m not familiar with any “usual” in this context; the only person I’ve observed using that Quran-falsification thingy is the narrowly-notorious “presupp troll” Sye Ten Bruggencate; it was merely an aside in a debate with Matt Dillahunty, and a brief bystander comment thread (possibly in google hangouts or youtube) attempted to clarify the logic.

      • Raging Bee

        Kalam is kind of a Muslim-y-sounding name. I wonder if a lot of those apologetic/theological arguments weren’t invented by Muslims (along with algebra and trigonometry) during Europe’s Dark Ages.

        • Grimlock

          Kalam originated with a Muslim scholar. From Wikipedia:

          The argument is a variant of the unmoved mover in Aristotelianism; it is named for medieval Islamic scholasticism because Craig, arguing against the possibility of the existence of actual infinities, traced the idea to 11th-century philosopher Al-Ghazali.

  • From what I’ve seen, Islamic apologetics are similar to Christian ones. I suppose that isn’t a surprise. However, they also claim various scientific insights in the Quran.

    • Grimlock

      Have you ever discussed the scientific insight in the Quran thing, and if so, how did it go?

      • Not really no. I’ve read about them though. They’re either so vague it can mean a lot of things, or what people already knew then.

        • Grimlock

          Agreed.

          I got into a discussion on it once. It didn’t get far.

        • I once got an offer to share it by a Muslim after debating someone else-who was a Baha’i actually. They claimed that the Quran is more advanced in truth than the Bible. So my disagreement with that sparked this. I simply argued that the Quran is equally false. After winning it, this Muslim wanted to debate me once again on a similar matter essentially. No thanks. Debate on the Internet tires me greatly.

      • RichardSRussell

        I haven’t done so, but I strongly suspect that it too would be something along the lines of how “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth” was a complete scientific treatise on the workings of quantum mechanics, only expressed in terms comprehensible by the ignorant people of its time.

  • Otto

    OT: Dave is continuing his rebuttal on Bob’s posts. The latest is his opposition to Bob’s objection to Biblical Free Will.

    His first point is you have to think like a Hebrew. (Is that similar to ‘Walk like an Egyptian’? I think there could be a song here…)
    Then he moves on to Bob just doesn’t understand how to rationalize the Bible properly and somehow the Devil blinds Bob to the process, but ultimately it is Bob’s fault anyway.

    • Then I’m going to say that the devil made me do it.

      And if the Holy Spirit is in charge of giving people faith (so that none may boast), I’m just a pawn here. I feel like Job.

      • Kevin K

        Well, to be fair, he’s not a Calvinist, so it’s not entirely Yahweh’s fault. Your godparents (whoever they were) were supposed to be in charge of your religious instruction.

    • I’m waiting for him to say how unfair I was for banning him here. (You gotta take two shots in the Dave Armstrong drinking game when he says that.)

    • Kevin K

      Try to imagine how little I care what he says.

      • Otto

        But he is talking about the actual Devil…how could you not be scared?

        • ThaneOfDrones

          Because the actual Devil does not actually exist.

        • Otto

          Oh…nevermind

        • Kevin K

          Remind me to be petrified after I finish mowing the lawn. But after my nap, OK?

        • Michael Neville

          I won’t be doing anything after supper tonight. If you’d like, I could put in 30 to 45 seconds of petrification for you.

  • Liz

    I’ve heard Christians try to justify things like the flood and the various massacres Israel carried out by saying that its justice in action- we accept prison time or even the death penalty for murderers so why shouldn’t we accept this version of cosmic justice? But the evidence we see is that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent to crime, and that restorative justice is more effective than simple punishment when it comes to reforming criminals. So this argument becomes less workable as a means of justifying God’s horrible actions. If He made us the way we are, how come when we use our minds to study and understand the world, we get further away from how the Bible and Christianity says things are?

    • eric

      we accept prison time or even the death penalty for murderers…

      But collective punishment does not only punish the evildoer, it punishes the innocents who happen to be ‘next’ to them. I don’t know of any modern western cultures that think doing that is moral, if it can be avoided. And while us humans might end up in situations where it’s unavoidable because we can’t always identify the evildoer, and we can’t always target them specifically, God doesn’t have those limitations on his knowledge or power. So collective punishment should always be avoidable for him. So if He does it, He does something we pretty much all consider evil – punishing innocents when doing that was avoidable. And according to the Bible, he does it quite often.

      So okay, I’ll grant your Christian friends the point that God punishing the murderer is no more immoral than us punishing a murderer. But that’s not the problem with God’s genocides in the bible. The problem with them is that God punishing an innocent is no more moral for him than it would be for us.

      • The idea that a hurricane is part of God’s justice makes him a pretty inaccurate marksman.

      • Liz

        Exactly. And that brings us to another issue. They would say that those people God killed in, say, Jericho, were not innocent. But their only apparent crime is rejecting God. It doesn’t say they were living evil lives, just that they didn’t turn to God for help like Rahab did, so they get wiped out. We can easily say that’s abhorrent, particularly when we compare it to modern examples like Rwanda or Srebrenica to try and better understand it. We are rightly horrified at the idea of someone wiping out a whole group of people just because they bear the name “Tutsi” or any other identity. But somehow when God does it, it’s acceptable?

    • Otto

      Take any Christian specific teaching and apply to some other part of Christianity and they are incompatible. The worldview is inconsistent with itself as well as reality.