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.
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.