Bad Atheist Arguments? Let’s Investigate 16 of Them. (Part 3)

Bad Atheist Arguments? Let’s Investigate 16 of Them. (Part 3) April 29, 2019

This is part 3 of our look at a Christian’s list of 16 supposedly bad atheist arguments (part 1). Take a look and see if your critique is the same as mine. We’ll pick up with #9.

Argument #9: Science disproves God

“This is one of the most broad arguments in the list. There are many fields in science, and some concepts about God are completely unrelated to those fields. What exactly is being said here? There needs to be more detail given before any substantial discussion can take place.”

Here again, there’s a glimmer of good advice. “Proves” or “disproves” are tough claims to defend. It’s not smart to say that science disproves God since science never proves or disproves anything. Science is always provisional.

And again this is an uncharitable Christian response. It’s an easy out to declare your opponent’s argument invalid or flawed so you can dismiss it, but that’s cowardly or even dishonest. A better response would be to encourage the atheist to recast the argument to be more defensible so that any valid elements of the atheist argument could be considered.

That improved atheist argument would be something like this: we don’t need a disproof of unicorns to go through our lives believing that they probably don’t exist. Science hasn’t proven they don’t exist, but that’s where the evidence points. Absence of evidence (assuming you’re looking where you’d expect evidence to be) is most definitely evidence of absence. Christian claims for God fail by the same logic.

Argument #10: Stories of Jesus changed like the game of telephone

“You know the game of telephone? You start with a sentence and then it gets changed after being passed down from person to person? Well, that’s what happened when stories of Jesus were passed from person to person.

“This objection does not take into account the communal aspect of oral tradition—people could check their stories against one another. The objection also causes the reliability of all ancient history to be called into question.”

Yes, people could check their stories against one another, but when they differ, who’s right, if anyone? What authority do you consult? The game-of-telephone analogy applies during the period of oral tradition, when there were no written documents to be that authority. Sometimes the Jesus story was simply shared person to person—who validates it then? And when the story was told within a group, a listener might interject a correction, but without a reliable authority, this debate could settle on the erroneous version as easily as the correct one.

This objection fears that the sinking of Jesus claims would drag down all of ancient history as well, but consider the difference between conventional ancient history and the gospels. Not much rides on the accuracy of Julius Caesar’s Gallic War or Livy’s History of Rome. If historians found errors, the consensus view of that historical event would change, and life would go on as before. Few laypeople would know or care. Compare that with the discovery of a major, dogma-threatening correction to the Bible.

If you remove the supernatural from the lives of Alexander the Great or Caesar Augustus, you have their remarkable accomplishments as documented by history. But take away the supernatural from the gospel story, and you’re left with an ordinary, uninteresting man. Jesus is nothing without the supernatural.

Historians today debate what sources the gospel authors used. How old were they and how reliable did the authors think they were? Were they trying to document history, write literature, or create holy scripture? We don’t even know who the gospel authors were. We’re used to giving the gospels a pass on these points, since rigorous historical standards didn’t exist back then.

Except that they did. The Secular Web gives as an example Roman Antiquities. This book was written in Greek, just like the gospels, but it preceded the gospels by a century. The introduction to that book shows that ancient authors could indeed identify their sources and thoroughly critique their reliability. They could write biography, showing warts and all, rather than just flattering hagiography. The gospels have none of this. (So much for archaeologist Sir William Ramsey’s famous 1915 conclusion, “[Luke] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”)

Finally, the game of telephone understates the amount of change in the oral transmission of a story. The game of telephone passes a message of a few sentences from person to person in a few minutes. The gospel story is far longer and more complicated, and its period of oral history was decades long.

(Click for more on the gospels’ reliability and the game of telephone and how historians would treat the supernatural in the gospels.)

Argument #11: If you grew up somewhere else you would believe something else

“This is one of the most common objections to Christianity—if you grew up in a middle eastern country, you would be a Muslim, not a Christian! While this concept does have some truth in it, it packs a load of unsupported assumptions. It also has little effect on the question of if God actually exists or not.”

Ten countries are 99+ percent Muslim. What’s the likelihood that a baby born and raised in one of those countries will become Muslim? Religion is learned as a cultural trait, like customary attire or language. A Pakistani baby doesn’t evaluate Urdu against other languages to pick the best one; it just learns the language of its environment. The same is true for religion.

As for the question of whether God exists, this argument shows that belief in Allah doesn’t need Allah to exist. The same is true for belief in other gods. Natural explanations are sufficient to explain religious beliefs, and when people adopt a religion, it’s almost always the religion of their culture.

(Click for more on religion as a reflection of culture and how Christianity would fare if people didn’t learn it as children.)

Argument #12: Atheists can be good without believing in God

“This statement is true in the sense that people who do not believe in God can make choices that are moral choices. But the statement ignores the grounding of the good—the question of what caused the existence of objective moral duties. [What do atheists suppose] caused “good” and “bad” to exist in the first place?”

What objective moral duties? William Lane Craig defined objective morality this way: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” I’ll grant that moral statements can be deeply or universally felt, but that doesn’t make them objective by this definition.

The dictionary makes the same point. Look up morality, good, evil, or similar words, and you won’t find an appeal to anything objective. The Christian can’t assume objective moral duties but must first show (1) that they exist and (2) that humans can reliably access them.

As for what caused good and bad to exist in the first place, evolution explains human morality. We’re all the same species, so we have a intuitive sense of morality that’s largely shared. We’re a social animal (like wolves or elephants), so we praise pro-social concepts like trust or compassion.

Concluded in part 4.

Scientists do not coddle ideas.
They crash test them.
They run them into a brick wall
at seventy miles per hour
and examine the pieces.
If the idea is sound,
the pieces will be those of the wall.
— unknown researcher

.

Image from Jamison Riley, CC license

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  • eric

    #9 and #10 fit into the previous category ‘mistaking who has the burden of proof’. #12 fits into the previous category of ‘assuming what you should be arguing for’ (in this case, objective morality).

    But #11 is new! In a subtle way. Atheists don’t point out the correlation between birth time/location and religious belief to try and disprove the existence of a deity; they do it to argue that religion looks very much like a human invention. So deists and agnostics are safe, only theists pushing a specific, sectarian view of (a) god are in trouble with this one. The fact that human religions have all the trappings of cultural beliefs gives us reason to be skeptical of any particular sect’s specific, otherwise unsupported, claims. Consider JPII’s comment about evolution: “The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.” The flip side of his point is that when religions don’t converge, this is a significant argument against them. And they don’t, in fact, converge.

  • JustinL

    “This is one of the most common objections to Christianity—if you grew up in a middle eastern country, you would be a Muslim, not a Christian! While this concept does have some truth in it, it packs a load of unsupported assumptions. It also has little effect on the question of if God actually exists or not.”

    This entire series is one giant strawman, and this illustrates why. The author’s representing (or misrepresenting) these “arguments” as being against the EXISTENCE of gods, which they would be bad arguments for, but is not how I ever see them used. However, each one of them WOULD be a good argument against BELIEF in gods or at least against the reliability of religious claims.

  • Polytropos

    #9: If it’s stated as “science disproves god”, then yes, this is a bad argument. Science does not disprove god. But science does disprove a lot of things in the Bible, which is allegedly the word of god. It also shows us how the natural world works, and what causes natural phenomena. Every single time we investigate something, we find there’s just no need to invoke a god hypothesis.

    #10: Firstly, the people who wrote the gospels copied from each other (and maybe other source material), so they obviously did check their stories against one another, and yet they still wrote quite different, incompatible accounts. Their checking process self-evidently didn’t ensure reliability or even agreement. Secondly, if we’re talking bad arguments this one is a real doozy: “The objection also causes the reliability of all ancient history to be called into question.” I don’t think this guy knows how history works.

    #11: This argument shows that religious belief depends on the believer’s cultural background rather than the truth value of their belief, and if Linn wants to refute it he’ll have to do better than “yeah, but god could still exist”. By that logic, any of the many gods worshipped by people around the world could exist, and Christians don’t accept the existence of other gods. To refute the argument, Linn would need to prove his god is a special case.

    #12: Linn and WLC seem to think morality has to be something like a Platonic form which exists independently from the humans who practice and define it. But why on earth do we need to go down the rabbit hole of neo-Platonism when we can easily provide a compelling evolutionary explanation for morality? Once again, the burden of proof is on Linn here. He claims a phenomenon which looks perfectly natural is actually supernatural, and it’s up to him to support his claim with evidence.

    • Damian Byrne

      The objection also causes the reliability of all ancient history to be called into question.” I don’t think this guy knows how history works.

      It’s a bluff from the Christian theist. I’ve run into this argument so many times before on a different forum, and my response is always the same – unlike with you guys and your Jesus character, I don’t have an emotional attachment to the likes of Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great or whoever else. If it turns out we don’t actually have good reasons to believe what is currently taught about Caesar or Alex, then guess what? I’ll be perfectly okay with saying that. I wouldn’t fall into an existensial crisis at abandoning what I previously believed about someone from a couple thousand years ago.
      The Christian can’t say the same. The Christian can’t admit to the possibility that their historical methodology when applied to Jesus might be in error.
      So any time you see this argument, call their bluff. Say “Okay, there’s a possibility that what is currently taught about Caesar is wrong. Can you say the same about your Jesus?”

      • Polytropos

        You’re right of course. There’s no point discussing the historical method with people who use this argument, because they’re not interested in it. All they want is for us to acknowledge that, sure, it’s possible the Jesus story was based on a historical person, then they can tell themselves they’ve won the debate.

        • While that, of course, would not be the same as their Jesus existing.

        • Polytropos

          As far as that goes, they’re prepared to take what they can get.

        • I suppose it’s something to build on in their view.

        • al kimeea

          or his PapaSelf, which is where they’re heading

        • Indeed.

    • On morals it’s worse than that, since by Craig’s definition they must be independent of thought yet he claims they come from God (who’s a pure mind, he’s said).

      • Polytropos

        Yikes. Doesn’t anyone proof-read what he writes before they send it to the printers?

        • I have yet to see anyone note it. Of course, I haven’t watched or read everything he’s been in.

  • Doubting Thomas

    But take away the supernatural from the gospel story, and you’re left with an ordinary, uninteresting man.

    I think you’re giving Jesus too much credit. Take away the supernatural, and you’re not left with ordinary and uninteresting. You’re left with either a sadistic delusional egomaniac or a lying con artist.

    • Michael Neville

      So you’re saying that non-supernatural Jesus would just be another professional clergyman.

    • Possibly, but the life story of a mortal Jesus and the supernatural tales that grew up decades after his life might be very dissimilar.

      • carbonUnit

        Yet Thomas Jefferson was interested in the former.

  • rationalobservations?

    Appartfrom being a list of mainly straw man arguments unfamiliar to most atheists, the basis of Christianity rests upon the absolute and complete absence of any form of authentic and original 1st century originated historical evidence of the existence of “Jesus”.
    Any discussion of the 4th century originated religion of Christianity and first 4th century originated bibles founders for lack of evidence.

  • Ficino

    Not much rides on the accuracy of Julius Caesar’s Gallic War or Livy’s History of Rome.

    Roman historians have long considered most of the early parts of Livy to be legend.

  • Jason Boreu

    I don’t find your rejection of objective morality in and of itself a very strong argument. I think it’s much more productive to point out that a god doesn’t make morality any more objective at all, it would be basically based on this god’s opinion.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Sounds like the Euthyphro dilemma

    • Couldn’t they respond that the opinion of an omniscient god is perfect?

      My demand that Christians demonstrate objective morality rather than handwave it into existence has worked in that they always slink away in one way or another.

      • They could (and do) but that wouldn’t by itself make him the source. By Craig’s definition, he can’t be, since it wouldn’t be independent of thought. Your demand is reasonable though.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          How can ‘objective morality’ be demonstrated to be real, please?

        • I didn’t make any claims about that.

      • Jason Boreu

        Couldn’t they respond that the opinion of an omniscient god is perfect?

        They could but that would still be just an opinion. A perfect opinion is still an opinion. And a objective morality cannot be based on a opinion, even a perfect opinion.

        The problem i see with your tactic of arguing against objective morality instead of their supposed base for morality is that you are inevitably granting their assumption that a god is a valid base for objective morality, which it isn’t.

        • I’m bypassing the question of God as a required basis for objective morality, accepting it for the sake of argument, but I see your point that we don’t necessarily want to cede anything.

          But what then is objective morality? If you’re rejecting “God’s considered opinion,” what’s left? Is objective morality just out there, somewhere, hanging in the ether?

        • Jason Boreu

          But what then is objective morality? If you’re rejecting “God’s considered opinion,” what’s left? Is objective morality just out there, somewhere, hanging in the ether?

          What’s left is one pointing out to the theist that the notion of “God’s considered opinion” as the proposed “objective morality” makes no sense since it’s opinion(subjective) being passed as objectivity and therefore objective morality is a incorrerent concept.

          Objective morality doesn’t makes sense even in the theist’s own worldview.

          If objective morality, according to the theist, is not based on someone’s opinion or is independent of the observer than it cannot be based on God’s opinion/God’s observation.

          A common theist cop-out is to arbitrarily define God as being a objective source without any justification but if the theist can arbitrarily declare him to be objective than one can do the same about any human authority at which point the theist’s only card is to deny objective human authority and special plead a objective God authority.

        • Pofarmer

          Don’t expect theists to go and start making sense of their world view. Then they wouldn’t be theists.

      • Phil

        Maybe someone has said this before but here goes. For morality be objective it must be independent of a god. So how can a god be moral that wipes out the entire population of the world, save for the chosen few, and then says you shouldn’t kill? Which is the objectively moral teaching here?

        • Yep. Whatever guides God doesn’t seem to be objective morality.

  • Rudy R

    The objection [to communal aspect of oral tradition] also causes the reliability of all ancient history to be called into question.”

    Christians, and historical scholars at large, expect special dispensation to formal logic that is universally applied in historical methodology. In other words, Christians rely on historical scholarship’s flawed methodology as proof that Jesus existed. Their common rejoinder is that the methodology mythicists use to support their Jesus position would also apply to Caesar and Alexander the Great. So the historical methodology bar must be lowered, so historians can all agree that Jesus, Caesar and Alexander existed.

    • What I want to see is a clear explanation of their truth-winnowing algorithm. Then we can try it out in an unbiased fashion on people we think existed (Alexander) and people we think didn’t (Paul Bunyan). If it works reliably, then we can try it on Jesus.

    • That’s ridiculous, naturally, as there’s far more evidence for them.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Far more *reputable*, *non-plagiarized* evidence.

        My opinion…

      • Rudy R

        Of course it’s ridiculous to compare historicity of Jesus to the historicity of Caesar and Alexander, but the comparison is made. If you can’t accept the one, then you can’t accept the other. This binary choice isn’t logical. Each person proffered to be a non-fictional person should be justified on it’s own merits. That’s why probability theory should be integral to historical methodology. For example, one could come to the determination that Caesar was 51% probable to have existed and Alexander was 75% probable, while Jesus could be 49% probable. This all or nothing approach to accepted historical methodology is flawed.

        • That’s true, you can’t judge them all the same.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Their common rejoinder is that the methodology mythicists use to support their Jesus position would also apply to Caesar and Alexander the Great.

      Scholarly type Christian apologists have all but abandoned the 10/42 apologetic.

      https://celsus.blog/2012/10/14/ten-reasons-to-reject-the-apologetic-1042-source-slogan/

      • Lex Lata

        Matthew Ferguson is a national treasure–a must-read for anyone interested in fair, civil, thoughtful, and scholarly discussions of epistemology, historiography, miracle claims, and the records of antiquity.

        It’s a bummer that he hasn’t been posting much recently (although I understand why).

      • Here’s another, from Richard Carrier:
        https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/2689

        • Ignorant Amos

          Aye, I’ve got that one too, but since it merely cites and links to Matthew’s article, which is a very comprehensive dig at the apologetic and has been revised to include the capitulation of some well know Jesus scholars, I just cut out the middle man for those here.

          To get a detailed attack by Carrier, ya have to go to his book. For example, Carrier takes apart the nonsense E.P. Saunders writes, that there is more evidence for Jesus than for Alexander the Great. He does this on pp. 21-24, OHJ.

          To see his article supplementing the comparison with Caesar that Ferguson has done and which I pointed out before, Carrier links to one of your articles…

          https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/7862

          To see the comparison with Spartacus…

          https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/7924

          To see a comparison with Hannibal…

          https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13785

          Pilate and Herod are addressed here….

          https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11435#5

        • That’s a helpful collection.

          When the Christians themselves would make a distinction between a historical account and an account full of magic or miracles, I wonder why they keep making this “you’d have to throw out history” argument.

          Kidding! I know why.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Polytropos and eric have already suggested my response to #9:

    Argument #9: Science disproves God

    Who makes this argument? No one I know. And I’m a scientist.

    Rather, it has been theists who argue that science proves God, and then the sceptic has to point out that no, it doesn’t. For example, creationists, who are pretty common, claim that life is too complex to have occurred without divine intervention.
    Isaac Fucking Newton, who contributed a great deal to our understanding of planetary orbits (“circular” heliocentric orbits attributable to earlier Greeks and to Copernicus, and elliptical orbits due to Kepler), still attributed the spin of planets to God. Thereafter the nebular hypothesis developed to explain away even that.
    In fact the entire history of science has been putting supernatural entities out of work.

    • Michael Neville

      In fact the entire history of science has been putting supernatural entities out of work.

      A couple of thousand years ago it was obvious there were gods. How else could you explain phenomena like earthquakes and volcanoes or even mundane things like the Sun traveling across the sky and the winds blowing? But over the centuries supernatural causes were replaced with natural origins. The flow has been in one direction only. Supernatural explanations were superseded by natural explanations but never once has a natural explanation been changed to a supernatural explanation. The gods have become superfluous.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Now there’s a coincidence…”superfluous”…or is it the supernatural at work.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Science just closes the holes in which gods have been hiding…making them superfluous as the explanation the once were to explain natural phenomena. Hopefully, some day all the holes will be filled and the weaseling religious scoundrels will have nothing to point to and claim “god-did-it!”.

      • Kodie

        And why is it Christians don’t deny all science? It’s been pretty popular response to say “science delivers” on such like computers and satellites and whatever, but Christians only selectively think scientists are trying to “disprove” Christianity, so then reject those specific areas of expertise, i.e. evolution and climate change. I don’t even know how human-made climate change offends Christians particularly, except for the overlap in conservatism, i.e. coal industries and oil, and driving the biggest cars/SUVs, etc., and whatever other excessive resource-using behaviors. Secondary, I don’t know what mindset is susceptible to be anti-vax, but other than these 3 things, most Christians seem to accept how science works, and nothing science does in these other areas (like even AI!) seem to interfere with their beliefs such that they need an alternate scenario to explain how this or that works. As a 4th, maybe the overuse/misuse of scientific findings to overstate the objection to abortion, which is rather egregious to manipulate the work scientific research has done, while rejecting and accusing other bits of science to suit their agenda.

        I would not say science disproves Christianity, but I do not fail to notice that Christianity picks and chooses and manipulates science to support their agenda, so this dishonesty is what I notice the most.

        • Ignorant Amos

          And why is it Christians don’t deny all science?

          Like you say, cherry-picking these days. But that hasn’t always been the case. Remember that some of the stuff readily accepted by a lot of Christians today, they had to be brought kicking and screaming to accept historically.

          Church Fathers thought they had the answer to everything in The Goat-herders Guide to the Galaxy (Buybull).

          As Tertullian explained, scientific research [inquisitio] became superfluous once the gospel of Jesus Christ was available:

          “We have no need of curiosity after Jesus Christ, nor of research after the gospel. When we believe, we desire to believe nothing more. For we believe that there is nothing else that we need to believe.” ~De praescnptione haereticorum (On the Rule of the Heretic)

          http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/ea0_trad.htm

          It’s been pretty popular response to say “science delivers” on such like computers and satellites and whatever, but Christians only selectively think scientists are trying to “disprove” Christianity, so then reject those specific areas of expertise, i.e. evolution and climate change.

          Well, even a lot religious nutjobs have a modicum of a basic education. But it’s hard to deny such things when one is actually using them. Regarding the stuff they deny, it’s easier to believe the bullshit of a slightly more persuasive, what one believes to be an intellectual, Christian nutjob.

          I don’t even know how human-made climate change offends Christians particularly, except for the overlap in conservatism, i.e. coal industries and oil, and driving the biggest cars/SUVs, etc., and whatever other excessive resource-using behaviors.

          All sorts of reasons. Mostly because those that deny it are gullible and are being played. Mostly because they don’t give a fuck…end-times will bring on Armageddon and the Rapture.

          Drollinger also teaches that climate change caused by humans is impossible in light of God’s covenant with Noah after the Flood: “To think that man can alter the earth’s ecosystem– when God remains omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent in the current affairs of mankind — is to more than subtly espouse an ultra-hubristic, secular worldview relative to the supremacy and importance of man,” he wrote recently.

          Ralph Drollinger is an evangelical minister who has insinuated himself into the DC power structure by holding weekly Bible studies for members of Congress.

          https://cleantechnica.com/2018/04/05/why-white-evangelicals-dont-care-about-climate-change/

          Secondary, I don’t know what mindset is susceptible to be anti-vax, but other than these 3 things, most Christians seem to accept how science works, and nothing science does in these other areas (like even AI!) seem to interfere with their beliefs such that they need an alternate scenario to explain how this or that works.

          Oh there are more than those three. Anti-vax nutters are the same as those that believe that prayer will do the job rather than proper medical attention. Then there are those with the stem-cell research hangups. The manipulation of genes is meddling with gods design. Young Earth Creotards have to ignore a whole raft of science in order to square that circle spinning between their ears. Those are just off the top of my head.

          As a 4th, maybe the overuse/misuse of scientific findings to overstate the objection to abortion, which is rather egregious to manipulate the work scientific research has done, while rejecting and accusing other bits of science to suit their agenda.

          We’ve seen plenty of that here…ffs, even atheist Gary plays that game. And same-sex marriage is another area they fuck with the research and data.

          I would not say science disproves Christianity, but I do not fail to notice that Christianity picks and chooses and manipulates science to support their agenda, so this dishonesty is what I notice the most.

          Yer not wrong there…and it isn’t a recent phenomena either.

        • Kodie

          I will read and such all the rest, but in the US, anti-vaxxers are using fake science to support their reasoning not to vaccinate their kids. It doesn’t seem to be mostly on religious objection. It is scientish (what I call anything that looks like it resembles scientific research), but not necessarily religious objections to getting vaccinations. To compare, the Discotute implements scientish tricks to fool Christians into thinking their objections to evolution are intellectually sound, but I don’t see anti-vax coming from religion, but a marketed alternative science just the same. They may be those nature-lovers, the kind that will not buy disposable diapers and will buy or make their own organic baby food. I don’t have a clear fix on the typical demographic of anti-vaxxers in the US, but don’t strike me as fundies.

        • Kodie

          Some things, I don’t think they deny, but just oppose. Like, I think they would not say stem cell research doesn’t produce the results it does, just that it’s wrong on the misinformed belief that these are people you’re killing to do the research and invent cures for diseases that actual humans have. Anti-vax nutters seem to come from a wide swath of the population, including people who deny their children other medicines on the premise that god will cure them, but also seems new-age-y too, not wanting to inject chemicals into one’s child that don’t belong there, or whatever.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Some things, I don’t think they deny, but just oppose.

          Indeed. Depending on the flavor of theist, there is a spectrum. Like those that don’t deny evolution, but it was still a god that lit the blue touch paper that sparked it all off. Or that climate change is a thing, but it is part of a gods plan. And so forth.

          Like, I think they would not say stem cell research doesn’t produce the results it does, just that it’s wrong on the misinformed belief that these are people you’re killing to do the research and invent cures for diseases that actual humans have.

          Well, not really. At least for many anyway.

          Aren’t embryonic stem cells more effective than adult stem cells at treating diseases?

          No. In fact, just the opposite is true: there are more than 70 conditions currently being treated with adult stem cells, and zero with embryonic stem cells. Despite the media hype of the early 2000s, embryonic stem cell research has proven to be useless at treating medical conditions. When tested on animals, embryonic stem cells turned into tumors. As biological engineer James Sherley once explained, “Figuring out how to use human embryonic stem cells directly by transplantation into patients is tantamount to solving the cancer problem.”

          https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/what-christians-should-know-about-embryonic-stem-cell-research

          The whole stem cell argument is ridiculous anyway. The embryo’s that are donated for the research are those that are to be discarded by couples in IVF treatment anyway, so they were never getting to be a person. It is analogous to organ donor-ship.

          Muslims and Jews take a different tact on the subject, due to their different believes on when the soul enters. All fuckwittery of the highest order.

          Anti-vax nutters seem to come from a wide swath of the population, including people who deny their children other medicines on the premise that god will cure them, but also seems new-age-y too, not wanting to inject chemicals into one’s child that don’t belong there, or whatever.

          Agreed. The MMR scandal for example, had nothing to do with religion per se, it was quack doctoring.

          That said…religion is still an anti-vaxxer issue for some.

          Today, all 50 states have some sort of law requiring, at the very least, certain vaccines for students, with exemptions based on medical reasons. Almost all also grant religious exemptions, and 17 allow parents to opt out based on personal or philosophical beliefs.

          Some religions deem vaccination obligatory, but the interrelations between religion and vaccination is varied and complex depending on the vaccination and the belief system.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccination_and_religion#Current

        • Greg G.

          Aren’t embryonic stem cells more effective than adult stem cells at treating diseases?

          No. In fact, just the opposite is true: there are more than 70 conditions currently being treated with adult stem cells, and zero with embryonic stem cells.

          What that fails to explain is that they learned to use adult stem cells by studying embryonic stem cells.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Of course, but that wouldn’t fit their disinformation remit.

          We are dealing with lies by omission.

    • Polytropos

      You have to wonder whether Linn has ever actually been told by an atheist that “science disproves god”, or whether it was more along the lines of “science disproves the Biblical creation myth” or “science disproves the flood”.

      • eric

        You have to wonder whether Linn has ever actually been told by an atheist…

        I’ve only read a few apologetics books, but all of them IMO were geared towards a Christian audience. I don’t think these are intended to convince any nonbelievers to reconsider, so much as they are geared to make believers feel better about their beliefs.

        In a weird way, they’re sort of the religious equivalent of mansplaining.

        • Polytropos

          I think so too. Apologetics seems to be a field where the stated goal isn’t the same as the real goal. The real goal is to make people who already believe feel like their belief is justified.

        • Michael Murray

          Apologetics always remind me of the person who comes out first at the political convention to rouse the faithful. Not the person, or at least not the speech, you send out to convert the waverers from the other party. Used to drive me mad over at Strange Notions when they kept using apologetics articles in their purported “dialogue” with atheists. But when I complained I was told they found it hard to get atheists to write articles for them. I wonder why …

  • Lex Lata

    1. “This objection does not take into account the communal aspect of oral tradition–people could just check stories against one another.”

    This is so naive it’s adorable. Human beings are astonishingly imaginative and credulous. We gossip and gab, mishear and misstate, exaggerate and embellish, forget and fabricate. The notion that oral traditions are somehow stable and self-correcting is simply wishful thinking. Even today, with essentially real-time and near-zero-cost access to invaluable hoards of written information and analysis, we believe and perptuate all kinds of goofy nonsense.

    2. “This objection also causes the reliability of all ancient history to be called into question.”

    Well, in a sense, yeah. Professional historians of antiquity work with what they’ve got, and none of them uncritically accept works of the time at face value. They understand they’re involved in a provisional, corrigible, probabilistic endeavor. They worry about issues of origin, oral transmission, translation, transcription, author bias, etc., and do what they can to find corroboration in other records and archaeological sources.

    What they don’t do, as a general matter, is accept the innumerable ancient accounts of miracles, magic, monsters, and deities as historically accurate.

    • eric

      what??? Are you implying that ancient people lied? And told fictions? How dare you!

  • RichardSRussell

    Actually, all 4 of these are bad arguments for atheism (the idea that there are no gods). #9 is just a bad argument, period (altho it’s not one that I’ve heard any actual atheists actually make), and #10-12 don’t address the question of God’s existence at all. They’re not arguments for atheism, they’re arguments against the particular religion the person you’re talking to might hold. And, seen as such, I think they’re entirely good ones.

  • Ancient historians already question the reliability of many sources. That’s part of their job. It’s Christian conservatives who have to defend the Bible no matter what. I doubt they would take Tacitus’s word for it that Vespasian performed miracles (although they will cite him as some independent evidence for Jesus’s existence, and he makes this claim too- it allegedly was within his lifetime too, unlike Jesus).

    Proof is a hard thing, but some facts indicate God doesn’t exist. First, that all minds we know of have physical bases. Second, the course of science leading away from supernatural explanations. Third and most promising, a number of divine attributes being incompatible.

  • abb3w

    William Lane Craig defined objective morality this way: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” I’ll grant that moral statements can be deeply or universally felt, but that doesn’t make them objective by this definition.

    I think “valid” can be shown in some instances, in so far as there are values that can be shown to arise as legitimate consequence of explicit premises. EG, from the explicit premise “Eating cheese is morally better than not eating cheese”, it would validly follow that “eating this grilled cheese sandwich is better than eating this garlic pepper hummus sandwich”.

    The problem seems more at “binding”. As I do not accept the starting premise, I feel no obligation to stop eating my hummus sandwich, no matter how much you Praise Cheeses.

    As for what caused good and bad to exist in the first place, evolution explains human morality.

    In turn, evolution may be shown to be a result from the open-system expression of the second law of thermodynamics; and the second law of thermodynamics can be derived via statistical mechanics, through an application of probability.

    There might be some interesting implications lurking at the interaction of Statistical Mechanics and modern Quantum Mechanics if QM-style complex probability amplitudes are considered; however, the math for that is sufficiently far off the deep end that I can’t even come close to following the papers that touch on the topic.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    This is a phenomenal blog post on the contrast between the gospels and contemporary history. I’d encourage everyone to read it.

    https://celsus.blog/2013/08/18/ancient-historical-writing-compared-to-the-gospels-of-the-new-testament/

    As for “objective” morality, what makes it so silly is that it is self-defeating. If there is an objective standard that we are somehow attuned to, all we could ever say is whether a behavior aligns with it. We could never evaluate the standard itself to determine that it is actually good. This negates the value it was ostensibly concocted to provide.

    • NS Alito

      As for “objective” morality, what makes it so silly is that it is self-defeating. If there is an objective standard that we are somehow attuned to, all we could ever say is whether a behavior aligns with it.

      Aye, Matt Dillahunty has to point out individual agency whenever someone says or implies the moral thing to do is follow God’s laws. “How do you determine that God’s laws are moral if your own individual judgment is insufficient?”

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        That’s a great way to put it. I’ve watched w lot of Matt but hadn’t comes across before.

  • Joe

    William Lane Craig defined objective morality this way: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.”

    I’d say a better definition is “whether a particular individual believes in them or not”. I can’t see how something nobody believes in can be moral or immoral.

    Objective morality would mean that there are moral acts that exist that no human knows. Also that unknown future moral acts already exist.

    • True, that’s a very important caveat. He would probably say God always knew though.

      • Joe

        Yes, I forget they start from a position of god existing and basically looking at everything at once, which is the wrong place to start from. It’s highly circular, which is why he’s not so keen to point it out.

        Morality that is based around the concerns of an omnipotent super being makes no sense to me as a human, as opposed to morality that is focused on human behavior.

        • Well, they claim not to. He says objective morals exist and thus God does. I’ve never seen him show that, nor how they would get us to God too.

          I agree, especially the demands they believe that God makes.

        • Joe

          They also say morals are part of god’s nature (to get around the Euthyphro dilemma). So they’re saying god’s nature exists, therefore god exists.

        • Yes, it can get circular fast.

        • Greg G.

          But then God’s nature is arbitrary. It is what it is so one cannot say it is good or bad. There is nothing to compare it against. Calling God’s nature good is simply being obsequious.

    • epeeist

      Objective morality would mean that there are moral acts that exist that no human knows.

      Not sure I completely agree with this, rather than “there are” I would probably say “could be”.

      Also that unknown future moral acts already exist.

      Well yes, committing oneself to objective morality also commits oneself to moral realism. I would go further and claim it also commits one to the horn of the Euthyphro dilemma which says that god approves of acts because they are good (rather than that they are good because god approves of them). In other words, if objective morality exists then Paul’s god is merely a gatekeeper and not its promulgator.

      • Joe

        Not sure I completely agree with this, rather than “there are” I would probably say “could be”

        Of course there could be, but there are so many possible moral behaviors that there probably would be. Just my choice of language.

        .. would go further and claim it also commits one to the horn of the Euthyphro dilemma which says that god approves of acts because they are good (rather than that they are good because god approves of them)

        Which is why I hate the terms “objective and subjective” when it comes to theistic models of morality. Moral acts are either “in line with god” or “out of line with god”. The terms “good and bad” are meaningless. Morality is like ticking a box, and has nothing to do with intent, consequences or moral reasoning. We get a glimpse of this wen it comes to the concept of hell: all transgressions get the same punishment.

  • Michael Murray

    Argument #12: Atheists can be good without believing in God

    This doesn’t demonstrate anything about the existence of God. It could just be a sad fact about homo sapiens that the only way to get them to be good was to invent imaginary gods. Not that I think it is.

  • NS Alito

    Argument #9: Science disproves God
    Because I learned about evolution in Catholic school, I was somewhat surprised at how much energy Creationists and fundies spent trying to “disprove Darwin”. To me, the research areas that are most of a threat to religion are (1) anthropology, (2) behavioral psychology, and (3) analysis of brain activity behind belief.

    We have more than enough information that people are prone to believing untrue things, and how the brain is structured to preserve it.

    • Ignorant Amos

      We have more than enough information that people are prone to believing untrue things, and how the brain is structured to preserve it.

      I just received yesterday, my recently ordered copy of “Apparitions of Jesus: The Resurrection as Ghost Story” by Robert Conner, who is a regular commenter on Debunking Christianity.

      http://tellectual.com/Apparitions-of-Jesus.html

      Favorably reviewed here…

      http://pelicanist.blogspot.com/2019/02/holy-ghost.html

      I started reading it last night and I struggled to put it down. Eventually time caught up with me and I had to set it down at page 80, it being a small book, that’s about half way through. It is a fascinating read about the culture of ghost belief in antiquity and how those beliefs were taken seriously by societies in general. It quotes how belief in ghosts can be demonstrated within the texts of the bible. The book shows how mentally, “people are prone to believing untrue things, and how the brain is structured to preserve it” and is well footnoted and referenced.

      Conners book, coupled with my other recent read, Dr. Darrel Ray’s “The God Virus” and John Loftus’ “The Outsider Test for Faith” has me flabbergasted at how in this day and age, their are millions that can’t be rationalized out of their delusion. And it is a delusion that needs to be recognized as such by healthcare professionals.

      • Thanks.

      • NS Alito

        At this late stage in life, with all I’ve learned about how a healthy, well-cared-for human brain works under stress, fatigue and sleep loss, and considering my struggle with my stable full of neuroses, I’m toying with the conclusion that sanity is a myth.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I’m toying with the conclusion that sanity is a myth.

          Anno what ya mean…am an ex-serviceman dealing with my own mental demons…and solipsism is a bugger too.

          A watched the new reboot of the Twilight Zone episode, “Six Degrees of Freedom”, last night…that sort of stuff is matrix style headfuck, though a did call it early on in the episode, to the annoyance of my partner.

          Watching the “Seal Team” episode “Rock Bottom” just before it didn’t help much either…fortunately a was able to vent at the telly while watching our weekly topical debate program “Question Time”…the couple of bottles of Pinotage a had helped take the edge off too.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Question_Time_(TV_programme)

          Kept me off here, which is always a good thing.

        • We watch reruns of QI. I like the trivia element, but sometimes the fluff gets annoying.

          Maybe something’s telling me that I should just watch documentaries.

        • Ignorant Amos

          QI is another favorite of mine. Though I preferred Stephen Fry hosting it.

          I don’t mind the fluff, there are other shows that are more serious when that’s what I want.

          Netflix is a good resource for documentaries that I’ve recently discovered.

        • Greg G.

          That’s crazy talk. We am perfectly sane.

        • Pofarmer

          You might be right. Can’t get the link up, but basically Paula White went full on Evangelical crazy at the National Prayer breakfast and vowed to cast out Demons and put a “Hedge of Protection” on the President. Reminds me of an article title “Reality is an hallucination we agree on. “

        • A good Christian man like Trump needs a “hedge of protection”? I’d have thought he’d be surrounded by special forces angels already.

      • anne marie hovgaard

        Well, the only reason it’s not considered a psychotic delusion is that it’s a common belief; it’s learned behavior not something you come up with on your own. Plus, something that is true of most of the population can’t be abnormal. Religious beliefs are not different from psychotic delusions in any other way, they just don’t “count” towards a diagnosis unless you invent your own.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Indeed.

          Religious beliefs are not different from psychotic delusions in any other way, they just don’t “count” towards a diagnosis unless you invent your own.

          Something that Robert Conner gets into in his latest book I’m reading at the moment and he cites numerous medical papers in support of his conclusions.

  • Ignorant Amos

    Off topic @disqus_HOKynBthUD:disqus, I never thought I’d see the day that the homophobic DUP would field a lesbian candidate in the local elections and that she would get elected to council.

    • epeeist

      Yes, I noticed that. I also noticed that (so far at least) the DUP and other Unionist parties have lost seats in the local elections (BBC page) while the Alliance, Green and other parties gained seats.

      On the mainland it would seem that, according to May and Corbyn, that the vote for pro-Remain parties and the trashing of the Tories, Labour and UKIP mean that the population want Brexit to be completed.

      Using that kind of logic makes me wonder what Arlene Foster is going to say if her party does lose councillors.

  • DanD

    Is slaughtering an entire village, men, pregnant women and children, and keeping the virgins for yourself “good”? Is chattel slavery (as long as they aren’t of your religion) “good”? Is killing a tree because it isn’t bearing fruit out of season “good”?

    These aren’t the same scale, but they’re all things that god does in the bible. Many Christians will say yes, these are good, because god did them. By that definition, an atheist cannot be good, because we aren’t in compliance with the “will of god”.

    For myself, I choose to make the most moral decision I can, regardless of outside input. Given my upbringing, that also tends to be most in line with modern society (if significantly on the liberal side). I may not be good, in the opinion of Christians, but I am happy with my choice.

  • Simon Lizardo

    With all those arguments debunked, what particular evidence, then, is needed in order to be considered as evidence for God’s existence?

    • epeeist

      what particular evidence, then, is needed in order to be considered as evidence for God’s existence?

      Not our problem. If someone is making an ontological committent, which theists are doing by claiming that their god exists, then it is down to them to present evidence. All we need to do is check whether it stands up to scrutiny.

      • Simon Lizardo

        What “tools” do you use to evaluate arguments?

        • epeeist

          The usual ones, whether the person making it has backing for their claims and has a warrant to connect the claim to the data.

        • MR

          What tools would you use to evaluate an argument? What evidence would you expect from me if I told you that fairies do indeed exist or that someone told us that they have evidence that their god, not the Christian god, was real. What tools would you use to evaluate the argument and what evidence would you advise me to demand in order to accept it as true?

        • Kodie

          The tools a Christian would use to evaluate your fairy claim is “Nah, I’m good.”

    • epeeist makes a good point about the burden of proof. But here is a blog post series I wrote exploring what evidence it would take to convince an atheist of God.

      https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2018/02/25-reasons-dont-live-world-god/

      • Simon Lizardo

        Alright. Thank you

    • Rudy R

      I like Matt Dillahunty’s response best to this type of question: I don’t know, but an all-knowing god would know what evidence would convince me of his existence.

      • Ignorant Amos

        That’s the answer I give too. With two additions.

        I don’t know. But…

        1. An all-knowing god would know.
        2. An all-benevolent god would want to.
        3. And an all-powerful god could get it done.

        Am all chuffed Matt Dillahunty takes the same line, because I think he’s a very clever guy.

    • Greg G.

      It is not that my standards of evidence is hard to reach. I am sitting in my living room surrounded by a hundred knick-knacks or so, and I accept that all of them are real. I just need some clear and unambiguous evidence that can distinguish an extant thing from an imaginary thing. There’s a pewter wizard with a staff and a crystal ball that I accept as real though I do not think Gandalf is real.

      Evidence supported by fallacious reasoning doesn’t work. Some have actually said that since God created the earth, the earth is evidence of his existence. it needs to be shown that God created the earth unambiguously.