Category Archives: Book Review
There are two basic classifications of atheist. The negative atheist simply remains unconvinced that God exists. The atheist doesn’t affirm the existence of any deity, but never explicitly denies the possibility one may exist somewhere.
Most folks I argue with here fall into the category of negative (sometimes called “weak”) atheist. It is often asserted that this is the default position in life and one should remain at this point until evidence is presented to the contrary. Of course, every weak atheist I encounter is absolutely unimpressed by any evidence affirming the existence of God. Such evidence is either believed to be faulty or denied outright as having any significance to judging the existence of God.
More interesting is positive (or “strong”) atheism, which is the explicit proposition that God doesn’t exist. As weak atheists remind us constantly, the burden of proof is on the one making the positive claim. Therefore, when the theist encounters a strong atheist, the burden of proof shifts and it is up to the strong atheist to prove that God doesn’t exist.
Not surprisingly, there are few strong atheists. It’s an extremely difficult position to defend, since the strong atheist has given himself a nearly impossible burden of proof. However, I found Geoffrey Berg at my local library when browsing for another title; Berg attempts to defend strong atheism by formulating new and improved proofs that God is incompatible with logic. He published a book called The Six Ways of Atheism: New Logical Disproofs of the Existence of God. I thought it would be interesting, so I picked it up. Read the rest of this entry
Not many outside of their little camp (Pulliam, Loftus, Long, Carrier and a few others that are only known online for this stuff), think they offer much of substance. Yet he gets so angry when people disagree.
I used to think it was funny, and I used to think it was legitimate. I no longer do. I think his rants are not out of anger or frustration, but because their suppression of truth (don’t read this…there’s no need to respond to non-scholars…why waste your time on this drivel, etc.) and angry attitudes attract those who are actually afraid to deal with the issues comprehensively themselves and would rather rely on their idols to deal with the issues for them.
It goes like this:
Internet Infidel A: This is the greatest book ever! I may not have read it, but these guys have degrees in important fields of study like the history of ancient science, psychology and dentistry, so they must be right. Christianity is doomed and irrational!
Triablogue: We’ve written a 250-page response showing some of the flaws of this book.
Internet Infidel A: Oh? Wow, could Christians write such a long response…it’s surely not well thought out…or is it? Do any of them have doctorates in dentistry? Well…I do claim to be a rational person and should probably read it…first though, let’s see what Loftus and friends have to say about it.
Loftus: What idiots! These guys aren’t scholars. Don’t waste your time reading their critique. They just want to claim that you are destined for hell and therefore can’t reason legitimately, etc.
Internet Infidel A: Loftus is probably right. They are just saying that I’m going to hell. They probably haven’t said anything new against our views anyways…we’re validated in still saying this is the best book ever…This is the best book ever! Christianity is doomed and irrational!
And that’s the type of person that Loftus wants to keep in his fold, because they are the type who will continue to support him and his goals of influencing college aged ignorants.
I was wondering when I’d see a Catholic response to New Atheism. Most books I’ve seen have been by Protestant authors, though I know Dave Armstrong has done a continuing series on his blog addressing an atheist on YouTube, and recently detailed the Top 10 Atheist Arguments and exposed their fallacies.
Now, Patrick Madrid has released a new book, The Godless Delusion, with coauthor Ken Hensley. Madrid’s book tackles philosophical objections to atheism, and isn’t a defense of theism per se. Madrid took note of some atheists commenting on his book at RichardDawkins.net. Fascinatingly enough, none of them had actually read the book. User xwizbit seems the lone voice of reason:
I have to point out that when I was (an admittedly very wishy-washy and doubting) Christian I challenged myself to test my faith against a reading of The God Delusion, for various and sundry personal reasons. It hammered home what I was already secretly thinking about god, and turned me into the radical atheist I am today.
Nevertheless, had I merely mocked and jeered at the book, I’d still be wandering about in a fog of confusion instead of splashing in the waters of a clear-thinking oasis. Is it too much to ask that we might dare to challenge a book by reading it and then commenting?
After all, thankful as I am to Mr Dawkins, I at least read his book before wholeheartedly embracing it!
Which, of course, meets with invective of its own, despite the fact that xwizbt all but recanted this position in the very next comment (after having read the introduction). This one from user TrumpetPower!:
xwizbt, in this case the very description is more than ample to dismiss the whole thing as purest nonsense: “With remorseless logic, wit, skill, and boundless, joyful enthusiasm it lays waste that stronghold, routs the enemy, occupies the high ground for Christ their king, and dares anyone to retake it.”
Anybody who thinks it’s a good thing to occupy the high ground for an ancient zombie hero in a religious snuff porn anthology isn’t deserving of serious consideration.
Defending the indefensible: sharp critique of a book that one hasn’t read. And a statement that clearly shows this person doesn’t understand anything about the Christian faith.
And an anonymous commenter said this:
It’s astonishing. Believers come about their superstition via faith, which has nothing to do with reason. Then they pretend that they can defend their faith with reason. It just makes no sense to me. All they should do–all that they are entitled to do–is to stand there and say “I have faith”. That’s it.
While most atheists scream at us to defend our faith, this guy says that we aren’t even entitled to defend our faith. Obviously, he doesn’t actually understand what faith is. Actually, no atheist I know of knows what authentic faith is. Faith and reason are certainly not incompatible; where did this serious error in logical thought originate? That might make an interesting e-book some time in the future.
For someone who disagrees with much doctrine and practice within the Catholic Church, I’m starting to find some common ground with its apologists. Dave Armstrong’s recent critique of the atheist interpretation of Scripture (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5), for example. I’ve found another one that I agree with over at Mark Shea’s blog.
Steve Wohlberg, one of the leading proponents of the eschatological interpretation known as historicism, has written a book called The Trouble with Twilight, and launched a website to promote the material. Mark Shea talks about how both Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling received ideas for their respective fiction from “visions.” Then the novels basically wrote themselves. Wohlberg continues:
When those mesmerizing tales first burst into the brains of these two women, neither was an established writer. Both were novices. They weren’t rich either. Now they are millionaires many times over. Their experiences are similar, with common threads. Both of their novels are permeated with occultism. Based on this, it’s appropriate to wonder, is there a supernatural source behind these revelations? If so, what is it?
I looked through a lot of online material about Steve Wohlberg. I can find no evidence that he’s ever wrote fiction. I have. I’ve written fiction for classwork in high school (which always received high marks). Out of high school I wrote two unpublished stories and started (but never finished) two others centering on a high school freshman who becomes a vigilante hero in the tradition of Batman. I tried my hand (but never finished) fan fiction, an untitled crossover between the TV shows Quantum Leap and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Maybe one day I’ll finish that story. Prior to my conversion to Christianity, I wrote three erotic stories under two different pseudonyms (I’m not linking to them, but you can find them if you know what to search on; I won’t deny authorship if you come up with the right stories).
My point is that I have written, and can write, fiction. I’m familiar with the process. Wohlberg obviously is not.
When writing fiction, if the characters are well-defined, the story shapes itself. It’s like I become a reporter, merely relaying the actions of my characters to the audience through words on a page. For all the fiction I’ve written (yes, even the erotic fiction), the action took place almost before my eyes, and I just wrote what I saw. Characters have a way of taking on a life of their very own, whether they are occultic or normal, whether they are integral to the story or just a side character that appears in a single scene.
For this reason, most of the fiction workshops found in Writer’s Digest magazine focus on developing compelling characters. Once the characters have been developed, the rest usually takes care of itself.
Finally, after lots of hem-hawing around, I purchased The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails by John W. Loftus and company. So far, I’ve read the introduction and wasn’t impressed.
I wasn’t going to do an answer to the introduction, since all Loftus was doing was outlining the themes that will addressed later, as well as riding some of his favorite hobby horses (“Christianity has been refuted in every generation; they just re-invent the faith!” and “Modern Christians would be tried by the historic Inquisition for heresy!”). But there were two points worthy of addressing: Loftus misused Alvin Plantinga’s argument that Christianity is a properly basic belief, and he quoted a sound bite from William Lane Craig that doesn’t do justice to Craig’s full beliefs on how the Holy Spirit interacts with actual evidence for the Christian faith.
So, my thoughts on the introduction can be found here. Look for chapter one to be reviewed soon!
In a tribute to Paul Kurtz, John W. Loftus can’t resist throwing in some shameless self-promotion. He says of his book The Christian Delusion that it is “helping to significantly change the religious landscape.” I have a Google Alert set up for that book. And I’m not getting many hits. At all. Most hits just contain the words “Christian” and “delusion” together in the same article. The only reviews are atheist. I know of two upcoming Christian reviews, one by Randal Rauser and the other by Jason Berggren. I think that J.P. Holding is going to do a refutation for an upcoming E-Block Newsletter and I’m planning on doing one on this site.
Four apologists, and the rest of the faith community seems to be ignoring this work. Way to change the religious landscape!
Since I added the link to my answer site for John W. Loftus’s The Christian Delusion to my sig line on Theology Web, I decided that it might be a good idea to actually put some content up there.
Maybe tomorrow I can start adding some answers to the bonus material. I’m sure I can answer the essay about God and animals (see Gen 9:5 and Rom 8:22; animals are punished for the sins of Adam). Usually, when one defines terms, the will of God becomes clearer. There are multiple things we could mean when we say “God’s will.” But I won’t get into that now; the essay on the will of God could take a completely different turn.
John W. Loftus, who I’ve been spending more time on than I ought to, has recommended a book by Robert Price called The Case Against the Case for Christ.
Obviously, The Case Against the Case for Christ is a chapter-by-chapter refutation of Lee Strobel’s popular The Case for Christ. Strobel’s book was one of my inspirations to enter apologetics ministry, so I’m very interested in Price’s rebuttal. Problem: the book is a little pricey (no pun intended). At $25 via Price’s website, I really can’t afford it. Maybe it will come down, or I’ll be able to find it in the library. (Top Secret is the only book by Price in my local library, so that doesn’t look promising.) Or, maybe my writing career will finally take off and I’ll be able to afford more luxuries. (Yes, right now a book is a luxury. I have a sad life right now.)
I did, however, want to touch on something that Loftus said in his recommendation of Price’s new book, because I’ve heard this from atheists before:
[W]hile Strobel acts like he’s setting out to test the “claims of Christ,” he does no such thing. Strobel is being disingenuous, Price tells us, because “his true intention becomes clear by the choice of people he interviewed: every one of them a conservative apologist!” So Strobel is not uncovering facts as a reporter would do. No, he’s “soliciting opinions he already wants to promote. The irony is that, if anyone in Jesus’ day had actually done what Strobel claims to be doing, seeking out informed authorities to interview, there would be no need for such exercises in apologetical futility.” (p. 12)
The title of the book is The Case for Christ, not The Case for and Against Christ with Balanced Commentary on All Sides of the Issue. The second is lame and wouldn’t have sold millions of copies.
I’ll say this plainly. When you’re arguing for something, you are not obligated to explore what the other side says unless you are doing so to anticipate objections–which you then reject.
If John Loftus was accused of murdering someone, how would he want his case presented by his defense attorney? Would he want:
- Character witnesses that only say what a gnarly dude he is
- Complete refutation of the prosecution’s forensic evidence
- A plausible scenario that explains the prosecution’s case while leaving him completely innocent
Or, do you suppose that Loftus would want:
- Several character witnesses that say he’s awesome, and a couple of girls he dated once in high school then never called back
- Lukewarm treatment of the prosecution’s forensic evidence that admits Loftus could have done it based on this evidence
- A plausible scenario that explains the prosecution’s case while leaving him completely innocent, with the disclaimer that the prosecution’s case is equally credible and perhaps even more plausible
I’m wild guessing here, but I think Loftus would want his laywer to present the first case. Yet he expects Lee Strobel to present the second case. Why?
I’ll say this again: when presenting an argument in favor of something, you are under no obligation to give treatment to alternatives–unless you are anticipating and then rejecting major objections to the case you are attempting to build. That is what Strobel did in The Case for Christ. He is not trying to entertain alternative theories, though as I remember he did try to anticipate objections to his work.
Many theists, myself included, argue that God is self-evident. There is much positive evidence all around us, in the form of creation itself, for the existence of God. The fact that the world operates on natural laws, the evidence for fine-tuning of the universe, and the very fact that there is something rather than nothing all point to the fact of God. Atheism is not a default position that one arrives at for lack of theistic evidence. It is a willful, moral decision that one makes, and then spends the rest of his natural life supressing the knowledge of God in rebellion.
Much of the published critiques of the New Atheism have focused on their arguments. But, Jim Speigel is changing that. In his new book, The Making of an Atheist, Speigel makes the case that I just alluded to: that atheism is a willful and moral choice to rebel against a self-evident God.
It makes me happy that an author has finally stopped critiquing atheism’s hollow and unconvincing arguments and attacked the reason why there are atheists at all.
I think that people need to hear some of these things. I think that more authors need to paint atheism as a moral choice. Or, more appropriately, a choice made because the person actually lacks morals to begin with. Rather than learning what is acceptable to God, the atheist desires to go his own way and make his own morals. I see this repeatedly in exchanges with atheists: “Why is homosexuality immoral?” “Rape isn’t a moral issue.” “Adultery is acceptable if both spouses are into it.” “What’s wrong with incest?” (All statements I’ve witnessed atheists making.)
I’ve generally noticed that a common thread runs through most “moral” reasoning that comes from atheists. Freedom to have sex with whomever one chooses, free of any restrictions. For example, the ongoing objection in this post on courting from Daniel Florien seems to be the fact that Mary and Ted will have no sexual contact, including kissing, until they are married. Why is that a bad thing, exactly?
I have two posts in the works related to the thesis of Speigel’s book. One is on the atheist penchant for redefining terms. When did “faith” start to mean belief despite evidence to the contrary? And another specifically relating to the utter decline of sexual morality in the atheistic community is on its way. Can you believe that many atheists think incest is perfectly all right given modern birth control?
Despite statements like that, atheists take exception to the portrayal of atheists as immoral. Now, where would anyone get the idea that atheists are immoral? Certainly those that don’t believe in God, monogamy, or prohibitions on incest are fine and upstanding pillars of morality.
Jim Speigel’s book should be very interesting indeed!
It is time to post some final thoughts on The Sins of Scripture by John Shelby Spong. The former bishop of Newark continues with the sin of certainty: that Christianity is the only way to God. He contends that this was never the intention of the early church, that this was a political move by Constantine in the development of later creeds.
If one is to accept that the Bible is the Word of God, which Spong does not, then one is left only with one conclusion: that Jesus is the only path to God. This is summed up beautifully by John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” Spong, however, is free to come to a different conclusion since he does not accept the Bible as God’s Word. And he comes to a vastly different conclusion.