Andrew Brown fails again

It continues to amaze me how this guy (and I have to bite my fingers to keep from calling him a moron) continues to get space at the Guardian to broadcast his inanities.  In his latest public embarrassment, Brown defends the odious William Lane Craig in “Richard Dawkins is wrong to call William Lane Craig morally repulsive.

As you probably know, Craig believes in the “divine command theory” of ethics: that is, whatever God decrees is moral simply because God decrees it.  So when God commanded that the Israelites massacre the Canaanites, and destroy women and children occupying the Promised Land, that was totally okay by Craig.  God said it; Craig believes it; that makes it right.

That’s a monstrous view, and who would want to afford somebody like that the privilege of a debate? Dawkins has refused to share the platform with Craig, but Brown takes Richard to task for that refusal. Craig’s view, as Brown sees it, is perfectly reasonable for a religious person:

The attack on Lane Craig does not just maintain that he is wrong to believe in heaven, but that his belief renders him so morally repulsive that no decent person should share a platform or shake hands with him. And I don’t see why.

In all the fuss about Craig there are two things mixed up. The first is whether God commands genocide. The second is whether he is able to take innocents to heaven. It is possible, and perhaps necessary, to get morally outraged about the first question. That’s the Euthyphro problem. But I think there is a transference of outrage to the second question, too.

Of course there’s a transfer of outrage, because the two views are of a piece.  For Craig, it is okay to kill innocents precisely because their sorrow will be redeemed in heaven! As Craig says:

Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation.  We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.  Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

Back to Brown:

The first thing to say is that there is genocide in our world. More generally, innocents suffer, and injustice is rewarded. If God does not exist, he is not to blame for this. If he does exist, he is in some sense responsible, and there is some mechanism, clearly not of this world, by which he can be forgiven. I don’t accept that our present state of comfort somehow justifies the sufferings of people who were sacrificed for it. We can’t, I think, forgive God or the universe for the horrors of the world that other people suffer. That would be precisely the sin of the Pharisees, or, as Swift put it, “When we are lashed, they kiss the rod, obedient to the will of God.”

There are two possibilities. Either the suffering of the innocent is meaningless, and goes unredeemed. Or it is eventually understood – and accepted – by them as meaningful, and so redeemed. It seems obvious that the second of these two possibilities would be better. That, on its own, is not grounds for believing it is true. But it is clearly more desirable.

Remember, Brown is an atheist.  Why is he justifying, then, this ridiculous argument?  Just because a possibility is more “desirable” doesn’t give it a shred of extra credibility, though of course “the assurance of things hoped for” is what faith is all about.

In fact, Brown goes on to equate atheists with Craig and other theistic apologists, since in both cases the problem of evil is insoluble:

There are people who claim to take this view, and claim that the problem of evil is a delusion of theism which vanishes if you put theism aside. But I don’t think they are sincere. Evil and injustice are insoluble problems whether or not God exists, if we look at them straight. A world without hope for the hopeless is quite as terrible as one which contains a hope.

If you believe there is no God, neither is there any possibility of redemption or setting such things right. All you can say to the victims is “tough luck”. That may be the world that we live in.

But I can’t see any reason for supposing that it’s morally preferable to one where justice is finally done, however incomprehensibly and invisibly to us right now. Such a world may not exist. But to believe in it can’t in itself be morally repulsive.

Well, evil is an insoluble problem under theism, but not under naturalism.  We are probably genetically hard-wired to be, at times, aggressive and selfish (as well as altruistic!), and social conditions also impel people to do evil acts.  (That, by the way, is no admission that it must always be that way: we’re genetically hard-wired to reproduce, too, but we have birth control.)  Yes, “tough luck” it is, but t least we can do something about it—something real and helpful rather than just sitting around making stuff up—as does Craig—about why God allows evil.

Brown’s view that Craig’s scenario isn’t morally repulsive is repulsive in itself.  Suffering is suffering, even if the suffering of children be redeemed in heaven (and note again that Brown does not believe in this stuff!).  So what if the children find salvation in heaven? They’re still suffering on Earth, and the parents of suffering children are also tormented.

God could not only give everyone heaven, but he could prevent such suffering on our own planet.  His failure to do so, when he has the power to fix things, is morally repulsive.  The naturalistic/humanistic view, in contrast, is not morally repulsive: it just sees things as they are, doesn’t blame a nonexistent deity, and then goes about trying to fix things.

Dear Guardian,

Contrarian views do deserve an airing in the press, but why Brown’s?  They don’t even make any sense. What’s more, he continually argues for positions that he claims not to believe. If you’re going to publish religious apologetics, could you at least find someone to do it who is religious?  And Brown is not only a hypocrite, but he can’t write, either.  If you publish him simply to inspire controversy without substance, then you might as well be The Sun.  Your lad Brown is the intellectual equivalent of a Page 3 Girl.

Yours sincerely, A concerned reader.

Oh, and over at Choice in Dying, Eric takes apart not only this piece by Andrew Brown, but another in which Brown seemed enormously chuffed to find a few “mistakes” in Steve Pinker’s new book.  What’s curious is not only that the “mistakes” aren’t mistakes, but matters of empasis or interpretation, and, more important, Brown reviewed the book without having read it.  What a Kw*k-like behavior, and how unconscionable for a professional journalist.

h/t: “J”

83 Comments

  1. Posted November 11, 2011 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    As far as I can tell, trolling the readership is a strong tradition at Comment Is Free. There’s ad-banner clicks to gather, you know.

    • Tim
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      That’s OK, Jerry’s link to Brown’s article is misdirected anyway – he’ll not be gathering any clicks directly from here!

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted November 11, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        Oh dear. I fixed it now, though. Thanks!

  2. Tim Harris
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Andrew Brown is dishonest, dishonourable, and contemptible (Oxford commas), and altogether a wonderful advertisement for the accommodationist mind, such as it is.

    • Posted November 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      You forgot to bite your fingers!

      • Tim Harris
        Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        chewed them all off but still couldn’t prevent myself…

  3. Jacob
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    As you intimate, those are two different problems here. One is a philosophical/ethical problem. The other is a factual problem. An atheist doesn’t have to explain injustice in the terms of the latter; the theist does. In fact, injustice accords well with the atheist worldview. It’s simply an unfortunate aspect of life.

    Actually, the theist has both a factual and ethical problem with evil. WLC’s arguments represent a doctrine that actively administers injustice. From an atheist perspective, there may be little hope for the hopeless, but in religious doctrine that same person may also be consigned to hell. A lot of ink has been spilled to explain why the religious view is actually a very just view, but any active reading of most religious texts reveals a doctrine that places far too much emphasis on superficial belief and too little emphasis on true ethics. I say superficial because, though it may feel very deep and powerful, belief isn’t half as important as how one actually acts.

  4. Rudi
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    The thing is, WLC’s beliefs, abhorrent as they clearly are, flow logically from the basic premise of his religion. At the very least, he is being honest about the implications of accepting the Bible as a factual account of reality – something which few, if any, other Christian apologists seem to be able to. Now, don’t get me wrong – I much prefer it this way: the Islamic world is a testament to what happens when religious doctrine is treated as real. But I think this is worth bearing in mind when contrasting WLC’s ravings with those of other, arguably more disingenuous Christian apologists.

    • Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

      Both you and Brown seem to be missing the point. Nobody is arguing that Crag’s conclusion is illogical (given his premises), they’re arguing that the conclusion is evil. Those other apologists may be disingenuous, but that’s because they reject the evil of the conclusion and try to paper over it by limiting or redefining God. Craig embraces the evil, and that is why he is repugnant.

      • Tim
        Posted November 11, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        Exactly. I refer to it as the moral reductio ad absurdum. If you debate opponent who embraces a conclusion that is self-evidently abhorent, but is a logical consequence of his premise, then s/he is not worth debating – and is a scumbag. Dawkins sees this in Craig and is quite right to not debate the asshole.

      • Tulse
        Posted November 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        But the conclusion is only evil if one doesn’t buy the whole “heaven will reward them” bit. If those innocents killed really do get to experience an infinity of perfect bliss, then the “evil” is literally infinitesimally small, homeopathically irrelevant.

        As I see it, the bigger problem is with the hell side of the equation, since nothing one does as a finite being could possibly warrant an eternity of torture.

        • Eddie Janssen
          Posted November 12, 2011 at 2:20 am | Permalink

          Why put people through an ‘earthly’ life at all? Why does God not skip this phase and puts us directly in heaven? No need for hell in this scenario.

        • Posted November 12, 2011 at 2:44 am | Permalink

          I can’t buy that. Getting brutally and painfully murdered, and then being rewarded by infinite, eternal Heaven, is still being brutally and painfully murdered while it lasts (with no knowledge of what is to come), and an infinitely good God would leave it out.

  5. Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    What is so irritating about the Guardian is not that they let Andrew Brown write from time to time – that would be fine – but that he is the EDITOR of an important section of Comment Is Free and therefore has power over what other people write.

    To get an idea of the sort of man we are dealing with, look at the back cover of his book, The Darwin Wars. There are five quotations, set out to look as though they are praise (‘puffs’, ‘blurbs’) for the book, by Steve Jones, John Maynard Smith, Stephen Jay Gould, Daniel Dennett, and me. If you look at what the quotations actually say, all except one have nothing to do with Andrew Brown or his book. Steve Jones’ quote is a well-known joke that he made long ago, Maynard Smith’s and Gould’s are attacks on each other, and mine is an old quotation from The Selfish Gene. The only one of the five quotes that mentions Andrew Brown or his book is Daniel Dennett’s. And he says, “I wouldn’t admit it if Andrew Brown were my friend. What a sleazy bit of trash journalism.”

    Why does the Guardian keep him on? I think we know. It can only be because he infuriates people, and that is good for drumming up custom.

    • Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:23 am | Permalink

      I reviewed The Darwin Wars for the Times Literary Supplement (sadly, no longer online) and ripped it to pieces. It was a truly dreadful book, but what else does one expect from Brown?

    • Rudi
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      The Guardian’s thinking might be cleverer than that. By employing such an overt faithiest, they acheive two diametrically-opposed outcomes: (1) assuring their religious readers that they are not anti-faith, while (2) provding regular fuel for atheists to continue tearing apart the nonsensical claims of religion (without appearing openly to be doing so).
      Not sure if I necessarily buy that explanation myself, but it could be worth considering.

    • Posted November 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I will say one thing for him – he’s commissioned me to write a few pieces for CisF belief and he’s never altered a word. Actually that’s two things for him, because I’ve been very rude both to him and about him, and he commissioned me anyway.

      • Saikat Biswas
        Posted November 11, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

        That’s commendable. His views are still a garbled mess.

        • Posted November 12, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

          That’s why I’ve been very rude to and about him!

          • Steersman
            Posted November 12, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

            What tangled webs we weave, When first we practice to deceive.

            Particularly when it is ourselves we start with. Along which line you’re probably familiar with Robert Trivers’ recent book on the topic, but maybe not this recent one by David McRaney. It’s titled You are Not so Smart and describes some “65 other ways you’re deluding yourself” and, while I’m not sure that I’ll buy all of his arguments, it would seem to be worth a look-through even if only because of the recommendation by Andrew Sullivan. Guess we all have our blind spots, some more obvious and odious than others.

            • Posted November 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

              Not just arguments, but actual science. The field of human cognitive biases has been going great guns in just the past few decades – we now have pretty solid science on just how blitheringly stupid you, I and everyone else actually are.

              This actually deals a serious blow to all theological arguments revolving around philosophical intuition (the intuition pumps of “if I think X, then I feel Y” and having your listener agree) – it turns out that philosopher’s intuition is not an impenetrable black box, but the product of evolution just like everything else about us, and entirely susceptible to analysis. Rather than just saying “if I think X, then I feel Y”, we can ask “if I think X, why do I feel Y?” and get actual answers to that question.

              It’s another exciting step in viewing the universe as inhuman, unfeeling and made of atoms!

              • Steersman
                Posted November 12, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

                Not just arguments, but actual science. The field of human cognitive biases has been going great guns in just the past few decades …

                Definitely some exciting discoveries and perspectives, particularly in the related and entirely relevant and topical cognitive science of religion. I wouldn’t be so unhappy [peeved, actually] with the AAAS and their egregious “Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion” if the discussion included such scientific perspectives on religion – and if Haught, who’s in there like a dirty shirt, was willing to consider such possibilities. Otherwise the program seems grossly and flagrantly misnamed and gives the flavour of discussions on “ultimate questions in whose presence religion is an honored guest and science must respectfully slink away”. [Dawkins; The God Delusion; pg 79]

                … we now have pretty solid science on just how blitheringly stupid you, I and everyone else actually are …

                Ever onward and upward; “In every way we are getting better and better every day” … hopefully. I look on it as similar to a process of zone refining.

                Rather than just saying “if I think X, then I feel Y”, we can ask “if I think X, why do I feel Y?” and get actual answers to that question. It’s another exciting step in viewing the universe as inhuman, unfeeling and made of atoms!

                Agree with several of your premises there, although I think the conclusion is a bit a leap of induction, if not of faith, that is not justified – really seems to hinge heavily on your definition of “universe”. Relative to which I remember reading many years ago an introduction to Gödel’s proof [Nagel & Newman] wherein they were discussing Russell’s paradox and the “fatal contradiction” that arose therein which suggested some essential limitations to logic and reason. Their conclusion was that:

                This fatal contradiction results from an uncritical use of the apparently pellucid notion of class. Other paradoxes were found later, each of them constructed by means of familiar and seemingly cogent modes of reasoning. Mathematicians came to realize that in developing consistent systems familiarity and intuitive clarity are weak reeds to lean on. [pg 24-25]

                And in the case of your description of the universe the questions become which parts of the universe did you have in mind and is it justified, as you appeared to be doing, to be ascribing the attributes of one part of the universe – the class – to all members of it. Whether the rest of the universe is “inhuman, uncaring and unfeeling” or not seems largely immaterial and irrelevant to the fact that some portion of it happens to be otherwise – presumably, as a case in point, Richard Dawkins wouldn’t be so offended, and for good reason, with William Lane Craig’s inhuman “philosophy” if that weren’t the case. Ockham’s razor, by which you seem to have reached that conclusion, seems to be a remarkably sharp instrument, but my own feeling, possibly based more on wishful thinking and vanity than on facts, is that consciousness is not something that will yield to its reductionist algorithm, that it may turn out to be as fundamental as mass or charge and justify a dualist perspective of one sort or another on the mind-body problem.

              • Posted November 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

                Haught, indeed. I was particularly struck in his 25 minutes on the video that his arguments were (a) “there might be a gap for God, we’re too low level to know” and (b) “Jesus is the telos of the Universe, my intuition tells me so.”

                That Wikipedia article is … beautiful! Well, the article needs serious polishing and referencing. But that this topic is actually a thing is most cheering.

                My paragraph about the Universe was a joke. A fairly obvious one, I thought at the time …

              • Steersman
                Posted November 12, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

                David Gerard said,

                Haught, indeed. … his arguments were … “Jesus is the telos of the Universe, my intuition tells me so.”

                Did he really say that? Just curious, although I would not be at all surprised and it would certainly be entirely consistent with the rest of his presentation and entirely consistent with Dembski’s statement that “Christ [is] the telos toward which God is drawing the whole of creation”. Curious also that he and others of his ilk, notably Edward Feser, make some efforts to distance themselves, and the Catholic Church, from such literalist perspectives but a close reading of their positions and statements suggests that the differences are more cosmetic than fundamental.

                But that this topic is actually a thing is most cheering.

                It is indeed. May their tribe increase.

                My paragraph about the Universe was a joke. A fairly obvious one, I thought at the time …

                Sorry – if I’d checked your site before I might have realized that. :-)

                But while that position seems to at least play a central role in various caricatures – of a “baby eating reductionists” flavour – by various theists who characterize and condemn science as scientism – most often when it conflicts with their dogma – it seems that there may be a grain or two of truth in the charges as some atheists and secularists seem to advance that position. I thought it important to raise the flag in support of a somewhat different perspective – a “battle for the hearts and minds” sort of thing.

              • Posted November 13, 2011 at 2:17 am | Permalink

                He didn’t say “telos”, but as far as I could dredge through his argument in real time that appeared to be what he was groping towards. Perhaps close textual analysis of a transcript will reveal just what he was saying … if someone else can bother.

  6. Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    Everything that I have ever read that tries to explain theodicy is a convoluted attempt to rationalize that which is not rational. Among the myriad attempts, Craig’s is the most repulsive.

  7. Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    Brown has just enough sense to spot that the religious are fakers, but he loves all the traditions and crazy ideas so much that he’s willing to play down any foibles the religious might have, such as child abuse or justifying genocide and mass murder.

    On the other hand, Brown can’t stand other atheists, because they keep reminding him he’s a fuckwit.

  8. penn
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    If he does exist, he is in some sense responsible, and there is some mechanism, clearly not of this world, by which he can be forgiven.

    This statement bugged me the most. Why does it logically follow that there is some mechanism for making god not morally culpable for genocide? How does an atheist see that as a reasonable argument? Maybe there is an omniscient omnipotent god who is just as morally imperfect as the beings he created. Plenty of gods have been morally imperfect, so why does an atheist assume that the truth is found in traditional monotheistic theology?

    Isn’t it clear to theists and faitheists that the easiest way out of the problem of evil is to drop the omnibenevolence? Then the argument becomes “You should worship god because he is real, he is powerful, and he will wreck your shit if you don’t.” That’s at least coherent.

    • Marella
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      So god needs forgiving now? I never heard that before. So he can forgive us for being imperfect, we can forgive him for being an asshole, and it’s all good? If he existed, which he doesn’t. Weird.

      Worshipping an evil deity would make you look like a coward, you’d have to grovel cravenly and promise to do what it wanted all the time. Oh yeah, right, so no change there then.

  9. TJR
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    You can’t help feeling that something is wrong when the paper that employs Nick Davies also employs Andrew Brown.

    The average Daily Hate article is better written and has a greater connection to reality than one of Brown’s.

  10. Alexander Hellemans
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Whyevolution is true says:

    “Brown reviewed the book without having read it. What a Kw*k-like behavior, and unconscionable for a professional journalist.”

    Well, clearly he isn’t a “professional journalist.” “Professional” means more than just making a living; just think of bankers (banksters).

  11. Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    If it is Brown’s position that Richard is worng to find Craig repulsive, it can only mean that Brown finds nothing repulsive about the mass rape of prepubescent girls by the tens of thousands following the total genocide of their parents.

    It is, of course, Brown’s right to not be repulsed by the worst possible imaginable horrors. He does, however, remove himself from civil society in the process.

    Apologists for genocide and child rape deserve to be publicly shamed for their espousal of repugnant insanities, ostracized from polite company, and closely monitored for signs that they are acting upon their statements endorsing the worst of the worst.

    Andrew Brown, how many Midianites have you dreamed of killing today, and how many Midianite girls have you dreamed of raping today?

    b&

  12. Nick Evans
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    With you until the comparison with the Sun. They’d never publish writing like Brown’s, he’s nowhere near clear or concise enough for them. The quotes that the Sun attributes to its page 3 girls (whose pictures are regularly accompanied by “their” views on the issues of the day) are far better written than Brown’s stuff.

  13. Nick Andrew
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    WLC says about genocide, “God commanded it therefore it is moral”. WLC also espouses the belief that God is somehow a prerequisite for the existence of morality.

    So how would WLC answer this question: “Since this act of genocide is moral for god to do, is it moral for us to do?”

    If he answers in the affirmative, of what use is his morality? A morality which justifies genocide isn’t worth having. But I doubt he will answer yes; at some level he must understand that it is wrong.

    If he answers “no” or “only when god commands it” I will follow up with the same question, changed to some act which would normally be considered good behavior. I’ll repeat with variations until he changes his answer. At some point WLC must change his answer to “yes, _X_ is moral”. But how does he know that, if it’s not explicitly commanded or refuted in the bible? He must be applying his own judgement. And his own judgement is something he can never use, when he starts with the premise that whatever god does is good by definition, and there can be no standard of morality which does not derive ultimately from god. If some question of morality could be answered without reference to god, that would destroy his argument.

    Ah, who am I kidding? He’ll handwave away the logical contradiction just like he ignores the counter-arguments in his debates. After the debate is over, WLC’s mind is as clean as it was before the debate started.

  14. Sigmund
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    I get the impression that Browns aversion to the gnus is simply an example of the cultural divide between science and arts that has been commonplace, in parts of Europe at least, for the past century. Brown is taking sides with the arts side, hence he is compelled to take issue with gnu atheism which is pretty much based on a scientific and skeptical approach to religious claims.
    While he is a rather extreme example of this sort of obstinancy, he is not the only one.
    As for his job – well, he’s there to troll up business, isn’t he?

  15. Scryptic
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Dawkins refused to debate WLC long before long before that dreadful piece about the Canaanite slaughter. The way I understood it, that vile theodicy was just another log on the fire; it was yet one more reason why to refuse debate with this person.

    I think Brown’s piece justifies Dawkins’s position. By merely giving WLC some exposure, we’ve been subjected Brown giving him yet more attention, and worse yet, the appearance of credibility that WLC so craves. Surely any reasonable person can see that Mr. Craig should be shunned.

  16. Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    In ’95, while he was the religious affairs correspondent of The Independent, Brown won the inaugural Templeton European Religion Writer Award

    His own quote: “as the best religious correspondent in Europe (unhappily this isn’t the one that pays a million dollars)”

    My quote: It is all very fishy

  17. Mary
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Atheists come in all stripes and colours

  18. Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Craig makes ‘God’ sound like Nixon: “When the President does it, that means it is not illegal…”

    Only with Craig it is, of course: “When God does it, it’s not immoral, unethical, abhorrent or completely wonky for no apparent reason…”

    Honestly, Nixon made more damn sense…

  19. Barry
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    The immorality of Brown’s and Craig’s reasoning is revealed when genocide is retrospectively attributed to God’s will. We saw this from the Sunnis with respect to the Kurds, we also saw this in Bosnia. When the forces of Evil claim God on their side it justifies all manner of evil.
    @mankinholes

  20. raven
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    The fundies have never produced a thinker, philosopher, or theologian in their own field that was any good.

    WL Craig is the closest one and everything he writes, over a 100 books and articles is presuppositional trash.

    Norm Geisler is the same way, except that he can be amusing. In a creationist courtcase, he once said that UFO flying saucers exist and are piloted by demons from hell, a common fundie belief.

    Rushdooney is the only theologian they produced. He was a psychopath. His xian Dominionism plan calls for overthrowing the US government, setting up a theocracy and biblical law, and slaughtering 99% of the US population. Most fundies are xian Dominionists, an example of his influence.

    • Marella
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      UFOs are piloted by demons huh, how has ‘Supernatural’ missed this one?

      • raven
        Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

        “UFOs are piloted by demons huh, how has ‘Supernatural’ missed this one?”

        Got me. I assume Supernatural is a “reality” TV program. If so, it is startling incompetent or saving demon piloted UFO’s for the season finale. Nothing screams reality TV like UFO’s piloted by demons.

        FWIW, the demons in saucers really is a common fundie belief. If you google the keywords, there are hordes of websites devoted to this topic. I’ve never looked at them too closely though. It’s weird enough just looking at the google summaries.

  21. Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    “There are two possibilities. Either the suffering of the innocent is meaningless, and goes unredeemed. Or it is eventually understood – and accepted – by them as meaningful, and so redeemed. It seems obvious that the second of these two possibilities would be better. That, on its own, is not grounds for believing it is true. But it is clearly more desirable.”

    Brown doesn’t understand Craig’s argument. WLC isn’t simply trying to find some kind of “bright side” for awful tragedies. He’s arguing that the tragedy was no tragedy in the first place. “Slay those children? No way! Oh, god said to? Okey-dokey!”

    Scary stuff.

    • Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      Exactly.

      Craig is the Brown Shirt who did his deeds with a smile upon his face and a whistle from his lips. Brown is a Quisling.

      Cheers,

      b&

    • Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      Now that I’ve finished reading, I’ll add that Brown’s got it backwards. WLC isn’t looking for a bright side; he’s the one saying “tough luck. It was god’s will – what are you gonna do about it?” Craig merely tries to paper over this with the fiction of heaven.

      Those of us who realize there’s no justice waiting for us on the other side – that there is no other side – are much more likely to be in the business of trying to effect justice here and now. I think atheists are less likely just to say “tough luck” and look the other way when confronted with injustice.

  22. dunstar
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    lol.

    I wonder how exactly does the Big Kahuna equalize evil up in heaven.

    Does he hold court akin to our court systems here on earth? Is there a prosecution and defense side? Do both parties get to present their sides and then present evidence? lol.

    God requiring evidence! Now that’d be awesome.

    And what if it was an innocent baby that was killed? Does the child grow as an actual adult up in heaven? or does the child remain a child up in heaven? If it remains as a child for all eternity, how would it present its case to the Almighty? Would God simply use his telepathic powers to read the baby’s mind of what had happened on Earth?

    lol.

    We need Mr. WLC to theologize more on these topics.

  23. Posted November 11, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    William Lane Craig has a god from Scooby Doo where the villain would always have got away with it if it had not been for those pesky kids.

    Craig’s solution, not one which seemed to occur to the Scooby Doo villains, is to have all the children killed.

    CRAIG
    God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel. The killing of the Canaanite children not only served to prevent assimilation to Canaanite identity but also served as a shattering, tangible illustration of Israel’s being set exclusively apart for God.

  24. Posted November 11, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    After being (proudly) kicked off the Choice in Dying blog by the fake-freethinker Eric MacDonald for lack of “civility” (actually challenging his cherished delusions directly) – we were thinking how much the anti-science folks use meta issues so successfully to deflect conversations into dead ends.

    Ad hominem attacks, rhetorical tricks, personalized comments and calls for politeness, tagging of science as scientism or a belief system, etc. — these are all clever and effective tactics for avoiding ever talking about facts, data and the real issues in the debate.

    One of the reasons these tactics are used is they work and one of the main reasons they work is that freethinker everywhere fall for them.

    The whole point to distract fro the real matters of fact and avoid emotionally frightening ideas by stirring up everyone else’s emotions.

    This is simple bullying and Eric MacDonald is a great poster child for how even “our side” can be controlled by, and use, these same tricks.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      What is your problem with Eric MacDonald? I mean it – please tell us how you challenged his cherished delusions. If he won’t give you space on his site, surely Jerry will allow you to tell your side here.

      • Posted November 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Eric kicked him off for being a dick in his loungeroom.

      • Posted November 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        There are people (blog commenters) who’ve been working up a little vendetta against Eric lately. “sleeprunning” sounds like one of them – same vocabulary.

        • Diane G.
          Posted November 11, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

          Why a vendetta? Any link that sums it up quickly?

    • Marella
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      You are incoherent, I do not understand what your problem is or how it is relevant to this post.

  25. Posted November 11, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I hate to admit, but I sometimes get Andrew Brown and Andrew Sullivan confused, since they both like to go after the New Atheists. But that’s unfortunate, since Sullivan is often right on many issues (he’s just got a hang-up about being all nicey-nicey with religion), whereas Brown is almost always disappointing. It’s sad, really, that a gay man could be compelled to be both Catholic and a Republican. What kind of cognitive dissonance is going on in that head!!

  26. Stonyground
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget that WLC thinks cruelty to animals is ok because when animals feel pain they are not self aware enough to be aware of it. Or something.

    Not quite sure that he can cite the Bible in his claim that there is an afterlife in Heaven. I know the NT says so but the OT says the opposite (Eccles. Ch9 Vs 4-10). Presumably he can claim that the NT abbrogates the OT, wouldn’t he have been on firmer ground claiming that for genocide instead of God says it’s OK?

    • Posted November 11, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      One of the early signs shown by violent sociopaths is gratuitous violence toward animals.

      WLC’s theodicy has violent sociopath written all over it. I’m not actually claiming anything here, but it’s an undeniable and disturbing observation.

      • raven
        Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        “I’m not actually claiming anything here, but it’s an undeniable and disturbing observation.”

        Well I will then.

        It’s true that a lot of sociopaths and psychopaths start with torturing and killing animals. Near where I lived, a kid went off the rails and killed his family and a few others. The neighbors said before that, they kept finding cats that had been doused with gasoline and set on fire.

        1. Craig defends genocide of babies and children.

        2. Craig claims animals can’t feel pain, because they aren’t conscious. Which is scientifically and by common sense false. Anyone who had a dog or cat could tell you that.

        3. Craig makes his living collecting and spouting lies.

        Is he a sociopath? Could be. It’s certainly not looking good here. I wouldn’t let him get near my children, pets, or houseplants in a zillion years.

        • Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

          Last paragraph = totally agree.

        • Chris Booth
          Posted November 11, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

          Raven, I am sure you don’t mean the last. What about that houseplant you have that says…”Feed me…”? (And WLC is certainly a wealth of fertilizer.)

        • Diane G.
          Posted November 11, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

          Besides, not all sociopaths are killers. Some are satified simply with manipulating others to enrich/satisfy themselves.

        • Posted November 12, 2011 at 2:33 am | Permalink

          Argument nicked for RationalWiki, with a credit :-D

        • Posted November 12, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

          Actually, most psycho/sociopaths are not violent. They don’t need to be, they are so effective manipulating others.

          The vast majority of violence comes from:
          - Inside a family
          - Is driven primarily by booze and sometimes drugs
          - Impulsive and not planned — well unless religious rationalizations accompany it.

  27. Ichthyic
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I have to bite my fingers to keep from calling him a moron

    Uh huh.

  28. Gareth Price
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    A lot of people take the view that life is not fair, but don’t make any efforts to try to fix things. I sometimes feel that this makes people agents of the unfairness. Some unfairness is random, unpredictable, unavoidable such as being struck by lightning; other unfairness is clearly the result of human actions.

  29. Myron
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    “Suffering is suffering, even if the suffering of children be redeemed in heaven (and note again that Brown does not believe in this stuff!). So what if the children find salvation in heaven? They’re still suffering on Earth, and the parents of suffering children are also tormented.

    What if God commanded us to kill our children without making them suffer, e.g. by killing them painlessly while they are asleep?

  30. Karl Withakay
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    If the divine command theory holds water, then ANYTHING god commands you to do is moral. An obvious question is, “What if god commanded you to rape a 4 year old child?” The divine command theory would hold that such an act, commanded by god is therefore moral. If the reply is, “God wouldn’t give such a command because it would be immoral!”, then you have just denied the divine command theory.

    The notion that the innocent go straight to heaven, therefore it is OK to kill them on god’s command is absurd on more levels than can be adequately commented on, but here’s a start. It seems to assume that these innocents don’t suffer in their deaths or that any suffering is also moral. It’s as if the only question is whether the killing itself was moral or not. (assuming the factuality of the story) Does Craig really believe the Israelites euthanized all those Cannanite children in the most humane way possible?

    Would it be morally OK for innocents to be savagely brutalized, tortured, and raped for hours or days before they are allowed to die if god commanded it and they got to go the amusement park in the sky when it was over?

    My revised ending to the story of god’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac would be that either god stays Abraham’s hand at the last minute and condemns Abraham for bind obedience of an obviously evil and immoral command or better yet Abraham refuses and is blessed by god for his willingness to disobey his god and suffer his eternal wrath rather than perform an evil and immoral act.

    • Steersman
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

      … or better yet Abraham refuses and is blessed by god for his willingness to disobey his god and suffer his eternal wrath rather than perform an evil and immoral act.

      And then Jehovah either does penance for half-a-dozen kalpas or, even better, falls on his sword for having put Abraham, and everyone else back to and forward from Adam and Eve, into that situation in the first place.

  31. Posted November 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    ( subscribing )

  32. abb3w
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    pret·er·i·tion /ˌpretəˈriSHən/
    “Noun: The action of passing over or disregarding a matter, esp. the rhetorical technique of making summary mention of something by professing to omit it.”

    …NTTAWWT.

  33. Steersman
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    To my mind what is really monstrous and odious about WLC’s position is that it opens the door to all sorts of equivalent claims. Why shouldn’t the Turks justify Armenia the same way and be let off the hook for the same reason? And likewise with Rwanda?

    Or, on a more personal level, why not absolve, if not venerate, all of the great many individuals who have killed others – notably the fairly recent case here in Canada where a bus passenger literally hacked the head off a seat-mate – because “Gawd” told them to do so? Seems to be a great amount of truth in the observation of a “forensic psychologist” – Martin Blinder – who asserted, based on a great amount of professional experience, that “People who talk to god are devout; those who think god talks to them are psychotic.”

  34. David Leech
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Remember, Brown is an atheist. Why is he justifying, then, this ridiculous argument?

    Seek and you shall find.

    Andrew Browns says “In 1995 I won the first annual Templeton prize as the best religious correspondent in Europe.”

    • David Leech
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Brown not Browns, I suck at the Interwebs:-(

      • David Leech
        Posted November 11, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        Sorry Michael Fisher didn’t see your post.

    • Posted November 12, 2011 at 2:26 am | Permalink

      Ah, an honest politician: one who stays bought.

  35. Posted November 12, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    FYI —

    Religion and government must not mix in America, experts say

    WASHINGTON — The separation of church and state in American public life is essential to ensure that U.S. citizens retain their civil liberties and that the nation retains its exceptionalism in the world, a group of experts told a forum Tuesday at the National Press Club.

    As the 2012 election season heats up, the experts voiced concern over the view held by some that the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion, allows religion to be mixed with governance, which they said is incorrect. They said that American exceptionalism stems in no small part from religious liberty.

    John Ragosta, author of “Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia’s Religious Dissenters Helped to Win the American Revolution & Secured Religious Liberty,” said that if the U.S. was categorically a Christian nation, then it would not have gotten the support that it has from people of other religious faiths. While Americans are more religious than the people of any other developed country, he said, religion must remain separate from secular government in the United States.

    Jamie Raskin, director of the Law and Government Program at American University’s School of Law and also a Maryland state senator, noted that the Constitution allows people to follow whichever religion they desire, but that government should make its decisions based on logic and science.

    “One must be neutral and not be classified as Christian, Muslim or Jew,” he said. He noted that it may be accurate to label America a Christian nation in a demographic sense, but such a definition extended to constitutional law would destroy secular traditions developed over 200 years.

    John Kinney, dean of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University and pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Beaverdam, Va., said that people today are using God to push their political and social agendas.

    “When we are dragging religion into politics, then we are not searching for truth, but we do it to support our agenda in order to preserve our position, so the necessity for separation of church and state is essential” he said.”

    Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/11/08/129705/religion-and-government-must-not.html#ixzz1dV5DOI3n

  36. Kharamatha
    Posted November 12, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Halt.

    “There are two possibilities. Either the suffering of the innocent is meaningless, and goes unredeemed. Or it is eventually understood – and accepted – by them as meaningful, and so redeemed. It seems obvious that the second of these two possibilities would be better. That, on its own, is not grounds for believing it is true. But it is clearly more desirable.”

    “But it is clearly more desirable.”

    What is it?

    “There are two possibilities. Either the suffering of the innocent is meaningless, and goes unredeemed. Or it is eventually understood – and accepted – by them as meaningful, and so redeemed.”

    -
    “Either the suffering of the innocent is meaningless”

    “Or it is [...] redeemed.”

    “It seems obvious that the second of these two possibilities would be better.”

    “[I]t is clearly more desirable.”

    Clearly.

    • Steersman
      Posted November 12, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      “Either the suffering of the innocent is meaningless”

      “Or it is [...] redeemed.”

      “It seems obvious that the second of these two possibilities would be better.”

      “[I]t is clearly more desirable.”

      Clearly.

      Seems the only way that it might be redeemed, in some small measure, is to ensure that the causes – the psycho-pathology of religion – that led to that horror story can never again sway the human mind.

  37. jose
    Posted November 12, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    “if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation.”

    So Craig doesn’t believe in the original sin? He doesn’t believe it was Jesus who cleared the way to Heaven?

    Why does he call himself a Christian?

  38. jose
    Posted November 12, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    ” We are probably genetically hard-wired to be, at times, aggressive and selfish (as well as altruistic!), and social conditions also impel people to do evil acts. (That, by the way, is no admission that it must always be that way: we’re genetically hard-wired to reproduce, too, but we have birth control.)”

    This is very confusing. That’s not what “hard wired” means. If something is highly malleable and in most cases completely up to our will, then the term “hard-wired” is meaningless.

    We are hard-wired to breathe. That is hard-wiring. Hard-wired to blink when someone throws water at our eyes. Then you have a term that means something.

    What I think you mean when talking about behavior is that our nature allows us to be selfish and also altruistic. Our behavior comprehends a wide range of possibilities upon wich we build our personality. We are not at all genetically hard-wired to reproduce. It’s as much an individual choice as what you’re going to be wearing tomorrow.

    • Posted November 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      I would say “not at all” is rather an exaggeration. We do have a certain tendency to reproduce, quite a bit more than “not at all”, which is individually variable. And, fairly obviously, selected for.

      • jose
        Posted November 12, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        I’m not talking about whether we have a tendency, but about whether that tendency is hard-wired or not (I think some feel that tendency to varying degrees -I don’t- due to diverse factors, among them education, economic resources and how much they like kids).


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