A Summary of My Case Against Christianity

As a former student of Dr. James D. Strauss I credit much of the approach in my book to three things he drilled into us as students, but in reverse.

When doing apologetics he said that “if you don’t start with God you’ll never get to God.” He’s not a Van Tillian presuppositionalist because he doesn’t start with the Bible as God’s revelation. He merely starts “from above” by presupposing God’s existence, and then he argues that such a presupposition makes better sense of the Bible, and the world. Again, “if you don’t start with God you’ll never get to God.” Since that’s such an important, central issue, I’ll focus on why we should not start “from above” with the belief in God in the first place, but rather “from below,” beginning with the world. If successful, then my argument should lead us to reject the existence of the God who confirms the Biblical revelation.

The second thing Dr. Strauss drilled into us was his argument that “we don’t need more data, we need better interpretive schema.” What he meant is that we interpret the details of the historical and archaeological evidence through interpretive schema. The need to come up with more data, or evidence, isn’t as important as the need to better interpret that data through the lens of an adequate worldview. While the data are indeed important, the big worldview picture provides the necessary rational support to the data. We need to be specialists in the Big Picture, not the minutia. I agreed then, and I agree now, except that the better interpretive schema that supports the data is not Christianity, but atheism.

A third thing Dr. Strauss drilled into us is that “all truth is God’s truth,” and by this he meant that if something is true, it’s of God, no matter where we find it, whether through science, philosophy, psychology, history or experience itself. There is no secular/sacred dichotomy when it comes to truth. There is no such thing as secular “knowledge” at all, if by this we mean beliefs that are justifiably true. Neither sinful, nor carnal, nor secular “knowledge” exists as a category because such “knowledge” isn’t true. All truth is sacred and it comes from God alone. Since not all truth is to be found in the Bible, it follows that the Christian thinker must try to harmonize all knowledge wherever she finds it. According to Strauss, the Christian thinker must view all knowledge gained outside of the Bible through the lens of the Christian worldview and reject anything that does not conform to it. He argued “from above” that the Christian worldview is what best interprets these other truths, something I now deny. My claim will be that the truths learned outside of the Bible in other areas of learning debunks the Bible. That which we learn outside the Bible continually forces us to reinterpret the Bible over and over until there is no longer any basis for believing in the Christian worldview. We cannot harmonize what we find in the Bible with that which we find outside the Bible.

My claim is that the Christian faith should be rejected by modern, civilized scientifically literate, educated people, even if I know many of them will still disagree.

There are probably many Christian professors who have had some serious doubts about the Christian faith, like Drs. Ruth A. Tucker, and James F. Sennett. In her book Walking Away from Faith: Unraveling the Mystery of Belief and Unbelief, Ruth A. Tucker shares her own doubt and how she overcomes it, hoping to challenge unbelievers to reconsider what they are missing. But in one place in her book as she was contemplating her own doubt, she candidly confesses what sometimes crosses her mind. As a seminary professor she wrote, “There are moments when I doubt all. It is then that I sometimes ask myself as I’m looking out my office window, ‘What on earth am I doing here? They’d fire me if they only knew.’”

My friend James F. Sennett is another one who has seriously struggled with his faith, as seen in his, as yet, unpublished book, This Much I Know: A Postmodern Apologetic. He confesses to have had a faith crisis in it, and wrote his book as a “first person apologetic,” to answer his own faith crisis. In chapter one, called “The Reluctant Disciple: Anatomy of a Faith Crisis,” he wrote, “I am the one who struggles with God. I am the Reluctant Disciple.” “Once I had no doubt that God was there, but I resented him for it; now I desperately want him to be there, and am terrified that he might not be.” Prompted by a study of the mind/brain problem, he wrote, “Sometimes I believed. Sometimes I didn’t. And it seemed to me that the latter condition was definitely on the ascendancy.”

With me I just stopped struggling. It required too much intellectual gerrymandering to believe. There were too many individual problems that I had to balance, like spinning several plates on several sticks, in order to keep my faith. At some point they just all came crashing down.

Let me begin by talking about “control beliefs.” They do just what they indicate; they control how one views the evidence. Everyone has them, especially when it comes to metaphysical belief systems where there isn’t a mutually agreed upon scientific test to decide between alternatives. Many times we don’t even know we have them, but they color how we see the world. They can also be called assumptions, presuppositions and/or biases, depending on the context. As Alfred North Whitehead wrote, “Some assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know that they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them.” They form the basis for the way we “See” things.

Having the right control beliefs are essential to grasping the truth about our existence in the universe. Psychologist Valerie Tarico explains that “it doesn’t take very many false assumptions to send us on a long goose chase.” To illustrate this she tells us about the mental world of a paranoid schizophrenic. To such a person the perceived persecution by others sounds real. “You can sit, as a psychiatrist, with a diagnostic manual next to you, and think: as bizarre as it sounds, the CIA really is bugging this guy. The arguments are tight, the logic persuasive, the evidence organized into neat files. All that is needed to build such an impressive house of illusion is a clear, well-organized mind and a few false assumptions. Paranoid individuals can be very credible.” (The Dark Side, p. 221-22).

Since having control beliefs don’t by themselves tell me what to believe about the specific evidence for Christian miracle claims, I also need to examine that evidence, although time won’t permit me here. But I do so in my book. I consider them as the historical claims they are. I examine them by looking at the internal evidence found within the Biblical texts themselves. I consider what these texts actually say and scrutinize their internal consistency. Wherever relevant, I also consider whether the Old Testament actually predicts some of these events. Then I examine these claims by looking at the external evidence. I consider any independent confirmation of these events outside of the texts. Lastly I subject these claims to the canons of reason using the control beliefs I will argue for here. I conclude from all of this that the Christian faith is a delusion and should be rejected. Then I describe why I am an atheist and what it means to live life without God. I present a whole case, a comprehensive case, a complete case, from start to finish, as a former insider to the Christian faith.

I argue that I think skepticism about religion in general, and Christianity in specific, is the default position. Anyone who investigates religion in general, or Christianity in specific, must begin with skepticism. Anyone who subsequently moves off the default position of skepticism has the burden of proof, since doing so is making a positive knowledge claim, and in the case of Christianity a very large knowledge claim that cannot be reasonably defended with the available evidence. This best expresses my set of control beliefs from which I derive two others:

1) There is a strong probability that every event has a natural cause; and, 2) The scientific method is the best (and probably the only) reliable guide we have for gaining the truth. Therefore, I need sufficient reasons and sufficient evidence for what I believe. As a result I have an anti-dogma, an anti-superstitious and an anti-supernatural bias. No “inspired” book will tell me what I should believe. My first question will always be “Why should I believe what this writer said?” This doesn’t mean that in the end I might not conclude there is a supernatural realm, only that I start out with these assumptions. Christians will bristle at these control beliefs and cry “foul.” They will argue that if I start out with an anti-supernatural bias “from below” it predisposes me to reject their religious faith, and they are right. It does. They claim that with a supernatural bias “from above” I will be more likely to accept the Christian faith, and that too is correct, although there are still other supernatural worldview contenders. Nonetheless, since this is crucial, let me offer several reasons that I think are undeniable for adopting a skeptical rather than believing set of control beliefs in the first place.

In every case when it comes to the following reasons for adopting my control beliefs the Christian response is pretty much the same. Christians must continually retreat to the position that what they believe is “possible,” or that what they believe is “not impossible.” However, the more that Christians must constantly retreat to what is "possible" rather than to what is “probable” in order to defend their faith, the more their faith is on shaky ground. For this is a tacit admission that instead of the evidence supporting what they believe, they are actually trying to explain the evidence away.

1) Sociological Reasons. The sociological facts are that particular religions dominate in separate distinguishable geographical locations around the globe. John Hick: “it is evident that in some ninety-nine percent of the cases the religion which an individual professes and to which he or she adheres depends upon the accidents of birth. Someone born to Buddhist parents in Thailand is very likely to be a Buddhist, someone born to Muslim parents in Saudi Arabia to be a Muslim, someone born to Christian parents in Mexico to be a Christian, and so on.” The best explanation for why this is so is that people overwhelmingly believe based upon “when and where we were born.”

Since there are no mutually agreed upon tests to determine which religion to adopt, or none at all, social cultural and political forces will overwhelmingly determine what people believe.

Because of this sociological data I have proposed something I call “the outsider test for faith.” Test your religious beliefs as if you were an outsider, just like you test the beliefs of other religions and reject them. Test them with a measure of skepticism. If you don’t do this, then you must justify why you approach other religions than your own with such a double standard. The Outsider Test is no different than the prince in the Cinderella story who must question 45,000 people to see which girl lost the glass slipper at the ball last night. They all claim to have done so. Therefore, skepticism is definitely warranted. I defend this test from several objections in my book.

William Lane Craig explains geographical religious diversity by arguing, in his own words, “it is possible that God has created a world having an optimal balance between saved and lost and that God has so providentially ordered the world that those who fail to hear the gospel and be saved would not have freely responded affirmatively to it even if they had heard it.” Craig argues that if this scenario is even “possible,” “it proves that it is entirely consistent to affirm that God is all-powerful and all-loving and yet that some people never hear the gospel and are lost.” Notice him retreating to what is merely “possible?” He’s trying to explain the evidence of global religious diversity away. The probability that not one of the billions of people who have not heard the gospel would respond if they did hear the gospel can probably be calculated, if missionaries kept records of their efforts. To claim what he does against the overwhelming evidence of missionary efforts belies the facts. Contrary to Craig, when we look at the billions of people who have never been given a chance to be “saved” because of “when and where they were born,” his scenario seems extremely implausible, to say the least.

2) Philosophical Reasons (1). Arguments for God’s existence aren’t conclusive or persuasive. They don’t lead exclusively to theism but at best to deism, which I might happily concede and then argue that a distant God is not much different than none at all. Besides, moving from deism to a full-blown Christianity is like trying to fly a plane to the moon. And the theistic arguments don’t lead us to a particular brand of theism either, whether Judaism, Islam or one of the many branches of Christianity.

When it comes to God’s existence our choices can be reduced to these: 1) Either something has always existed--always, or, 2) something popped into existence out of absolutely nothing. Either choice seems extremely unlikely--or possibly even absurd. There is nothing in our experience that can help us grasp these two possibilities. But one of them is correct and the other false. We either start with the “brute fact” that something has always existed, or the “brute fact” that something popped into existence out of nothing. A third view is that, 3) Our existence in the universe is absurd to the core.

William Lane Craig used the word “bizarre” to describe this problem when he wrote, “I well recall thinking, as I began to study the Kalam Cosmological Argument, that all of the alternatives with respect to the universe's existence were so bizarre that the most reasonable option seemed to be that nothing exists!” We must all recognize that we really don’t know why something exists rather than nothing at all. Agnosticism is the default position. Anyone moving off the default position has the burden of proof, and I maintain that moving from agnosticism to atheism is a much smaller step than moving to a full blown Christianity. Since the larger the claim is the harder is it to defend Christianity has a huge and near impossible burden of proof.

Christians want to argue for the belief in a triune God, even though the no sense of the trinity can be made that is both orthodox and reasonable; who was not free with respect to deciding his own nature, even though Christians want to think of God as a free personal agent; who as a “spiritual” being created matter, even though no known "point of contact" between spirit and matter can be found; who never began to exist as their “brute fact,” even though according to Ockham’s razor a simpler brute fact is to begin with the universe itself; who never learned any new truths and cannot think, since thinking demands weighing temporal alternatives; is everywhere, yet could not even know what time it is since time is a function of placement and acceleration in the universe (and if timeless, this God cannot act in time); who allows intense suffering in this world, yet does not follow the same moral code he commands believers to follow.

3) Philosophical Reasons (2). The Christian defender of miracles has a near impossible double burden of proof.

As the late J.L. Mackie wrote: “Where there is some plausible testimony about the occurrence of what would appear to be a miracle, those who accept this as a miracle have the double burden of showing both that the event took place and that it violated the laws of nature. But it will be very hard to sustain this double burden. For whatever tends to show that it would have been a violation of a natural law tends for that very reason to make it most unlikely that is actually happened.”

In Douglass Geivett and Gary Habermas edited book titled; In Defense of Miracles they labelled part 2 as “The Possibility of Miracles.” Notice how they must retreat to what is possible, not what is probable? Of course miracles are possible if there is a creator God, but what we want to know is if they are probable. By definition they are not very probable. We are asked to believe in the Christian God because Biblical miracles supposedly took place, but by definition miracles are very improbable. We cannot bring ourselves to believe in the God of the Bible unless we first believe those miracles took place, but we cannot bring ourselves to believe in those miracles because they are by definition very improbable.

John King-Farlow and William Niels Christensen argue that just because we today don’t experience miracles doesn’t mean that throughout the history of mankind God has done a plethora of them, and will do so again when the time is right in the future. They are asking us to believe against the overwhelming present day experience of nearly all modern people that things might turn out differently than we now experience. Is this impossible? No, not at all. But again, it’s not probable.

Take for example the story that Balaam’s ass spoke to him. If today’s Christians lived back in that superstitious era they wouldn’t believe this happened unless there was good evidence. But because they read about it in a so-called “inspired” book they suspend their judgment and believe it. Back in Balaam’s day they themselves would not have believed it, until Balaam made his ass talk in their presence.

Besides, Christians operate by what Harvard trained Biblical scholar Hector Avalos describes as “selective supernaturalism.” They believe the Biblical miracles because they favor them, while they are skeptical of the miracles they don’t favor in other religions. Why the double standard here? At least I’m consistent in being skeptical of them all until a supernatural explanation is required by the evidence, and I haven’t seen any evidence that requires a supernatural explanation yet.

4) Scientific Reasons (1). Science proceeds based upon methodological naturalism. methodological naturalism assumes that for everything we experience there is a natural cause. Paul Kurtz defined it as well as anyone when he wrote that it is a “principle within the context of scientific inquiry; i.e., all hypotheses and events are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events. To introduce a supernatural or transcendental cause within science is to depart from naturalistic explanations.”

This is what defines us as modern people. In today’s world all modern educated people base their deductions on the method of naturalism in a vast number of areas. Before the advent of science in previous centuries people either praised God for the good things that happened to them, or they wondered why God was angry when bad things happened. If someone got sick, it was because of sin in his or her life. If it rained, God was pleased with them, if there was a drought God was displeased, and so on, and so on. Science wasn’t content to accept the notion that epilepsy was demon possession, or that sicknesses were sent by God to punish people. Nor was science content with the idea that God alone opens the womb of a woman, nor that God was the one who sent the rain. Now we have scientific explanations for these things, and we all benefit from those who assumed there was a natural cause to everything we experience. We can predict the rain. We know how babies are produced, and how to prevent a host of illnesses. There is no going back on this progress, and it is ongoing. Christians themselves assume a natural explanation when they hear a noise in the night. They assume a natural explanation for a stillborn baby, a train wreck, or an illness.

Christians like Alvin Plantinga object to the use of methodological naturalism in many areas related to their faith. He argues that Christian scientific community should “pursue science in its own way, starting from and taking for granted what we know as Christians.” See what he’s doing here? He is forced into retreating to Bayesian background factors to support a weak position. He’s trying to explain the evidence away. He’s retreating to what is merely possible; that while methodological naturalism has worked very well in understanding our world, it’s possible that it doesn’t apply across the board into the Christian set of beliefs he’s adopted. And he’s right. It is possible. But again, how likely is it that it works so well on every other area of investigation but that it shouldn’t be used in understanding his background beliefs too?

5) Scientific Reasons (2).

Astronomy. This universe is 13.5 billion years old and arose out of a cosmic singularity. No account of the development of this universe can be harmonized with the creation accounts in Genesis except that these accounts were pure mythic folklore.

Archaeology. There isn’t any evidence for Israelites being slaves in Egypt for four hundred years, or that they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, or that they conquered the land of Canaan.

Geology. Confirms the slow evolutionary development of life in the sedimentary rock layers on a planet nearly 5 billion years old, just as astronomy confirms the slow evolutionary development of galaxy, star and planet formation. Geology also disconfirms that there was ever a universal flood which covered the earth.

Brain Science. Confirms that strokes, seizers, and other illnesses stem from a brain malfunction and hence disconfirms that there is something called a mind or soul. If there is an immaterial mind where is it located? Sam Harris points out that if God created us with a mind then there is no reason to expect that he also created us with a brain.

Modern Medicine. Has achieved astounding results that such superstitious practices like exorcisms and blood letting and supernatural healing are delusional. The late Carl Sagan, said, “We can pray over the cholera victim, or we can give her 500 milligrams of tetracycline every 12 hours…the scientific treatments are hundreds or thousands of times more effective than the alternatives (like prayer). Even when the alternatives seem to work, we don’t actually know that they played any role.” Voltaire said: "Prayer and arsenic will kill a cow."

Psychology. Confirms that who we are and how we behave are determined to an overwhelming degree before we reach the age of accountability. People are not evil so much as much they are sick. There is no rebellion against God. If God is omniscient then like the ultimate psychotherapist he knows why we do everything we do. There can be no wrathful God.

6) Biblical Reasons (1). The Bible is filled with barbarisms that civilized people reject.

A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite man’s wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who was not pledged to be married was raped, she was supposed to marry her attacker (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), not to mention the pleasure of “dashing of children against rocks,” and genocide itself.

That God is a hateful, racist and sexist God. Christians think Militant Muslims are wrong for wanting to kill free loving people in the world, and they are. But the only difference between these Muslims and the Biblical God is that they simply disagree on who should be killed. According to Sam Harris, “it is only by ignoring such barbarisms that the Good Book can be reconciled with life in the modern world.”

7) Biblical Reasons (2). The Bible is filled with superstitious beliefs modern people reject.

In the Bible we find a world where a snake and a donkey talked, where people could live 800-900+ years old, where a woman was turned into a pillar of salt, where a pillar of fire could lead people by night, where the sun stopped moving across the sky or could even back up, where an ax-head could float on water, a star can point down to a specific home, where people could instantly speak in unlearned foreign languages, and where someone’s shadow or handkerchief could heal people. It is a world where a flood can cover the whole earth, a man can walk on water, calm a stormy sea, change water into wine, or be swallowed by a “great fish” and live to tell about it. It is a world populated by demons that can wreak havoc on earth, and also make people very sick. It is a world of idol worship, where human and animal sacrifices pleased God. In this world we find visions, inspired dreams, prophetic utterances, miracle workers, magicians, diviners and sorcerers. It is a world where God lived in the sky (heaven), and people who died went to live in the dark recesses of the earth (Sheol).

This is a strange world when compared to our world. But Christians believe this world was real in the past. My contention is that ancient people weren’t stupid, just very superstitious. Christopher Hitchens puts it this way: “One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge.”

I can propose scientific tests for what I consider superstitions. I can compare what a meteorologist says about the weather with someone who plans to do a rain dance, and test to see who’s right more often. That’s science. The results of reason and science have jettisoned a great many superstitions. Testing and comparing results. That’s science. I can do the same for the superstitious practice of blood-letting, for exorcisms, for people who claim to predict things based on palm reading, or tea leaves, or walking under a ladder, or breaking a mirror, or stepping on a sidewalk crack. I can even test the results of someone who gets a shot of penicillin when sick with the person who refuses this and prays instead. That’s science. And we modern people are indebted to science for these things. It’s what makes us different from ancient people.

Voltaire said, “Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the time.” In the Bible there are so many superstitious beliefs held by the Gentile nations at every period of time that superstition reigned in those ancient days. I don’t think any modern person should be able to conclude anything other than that. The beliefs of these nations were so prevalent that God’s people in the Bible regularly joined in the same practices and worshipped these gods and goddesses. If these nations were so superstitious that Israel regularly joined them in their beliefs, then it seems reasonable to suppose the beliefs of the Israelites, and later the Christians, were also based upon superstitions too.

We who live in the modern world of science simply don’t believe in a god of the sun, or moon, or harvest, of fertility, or rain, or the sea. We don’t see omens in an eclipse, or in flood, a storm, a snakebite, or a drought, either. That’s because we understand nature better than they did, by using science. We don’t see sickness as demon possession, nor do educated thinking people believe in astrology to get an insight into the future. Nor do we think we are physically any closer to God whether we’re up on a mountaintop rather than down in a valley. But every nation did in ancient days. Now it’s possible that ancient Jews and Christians were different and believed because of the evidence, but how likely is that?

8) Historical Reasons (1). If God revealed himself in history, then he chose a very poor medium and a poor era to do so. If you know that much about the craft of the historian, she is dealing with the stuff of the past in which many frauds and forgeries have been found. This justifies a skeptical outlook upon what has been reported to have happened. Almost anything can be rationally denied in history, even if the event happened.

Consider the following historical questions: How were the Egyptian pyramids made? Who made them? Why? Was Shakespeare a fictitious name for Francis Bacon? Exactly how was the Gettysburg battle fought and won? What was the true motivation for Lincoln to emancipate the slaves? What happened at Custer's last stand? Who killed President John F. Kennedy? Why? Who knew what and when during the Watergate scandal that eventually led to President Nixon resigning? Why did America lose the “war” in Vietnam? Did George W. Bush legitimately win the 2000 election? Did President Bush knowingly lead us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses? What about some high profile criminal cases? Is O.J. Simpson a murderer? Who killed Jon Bene Ramsey? Is Michael Jackson a pedophile?

Hector Avalos, argues that historical studies are fraught with serious problems. When it comes to the non-supernatural claim that Caesar was assassinated by Brutus in Rome, in 44 A.D., he argues, “We cannot verify such an occurrence ourselves directly and so we cannot claim to ‘know’ it occurred.” When it comes to whether or not King Arthur actually existed, he argues, “our contemporary textual evidence…is nearly nil.” If this is the case with non-supernatural historical investigations, then it is compounded so much more when it comes to the so-called supernatural events in history.

Consider Gotthold Lessing’s “ugly broad ditch:” “Miracles, which I see with my own eyes, and which I have opportunity to verify for myself, are one thing; miracles, of which I know only from history that others say they have seen them and verified them, are another.” “But…I live in the 18th century, in which miracles no longer happen. The problem is that reports of miracles are not miracles….[they] have to work through a medium which takes away all their force.” “Or is it invariably the case, that what I read in reputable historians is just as certain for me as what I myself experience?”

When dealing with the problems of the historian, William Lane Craig argues that, “first, a common core of indisputable historical events exists; second, it is possible to distinguish between history and propaganda; and third, it is possible to criticize poor history.” Craig concludes: “neither the supposed problem of lack of direct access to the past nor the supposed problem of the lack of neutrality can prevent us from learning something from history.”

Notice again how Christians must argue about what is possible here? Such a conclusion is a meager one; that knowledge of the past is possible. Even if true, and I think it is, there is a lot of doubt for any supposed historical event, especially momentous and miraculous ones.

9) Historical Reasons (2). The History of the Church is Strong Evidence Against Christianity:

- The Inquisition.The angelic doctor Thomas Aquinas argued from the Bible that heresy was a "leavening influence" upon the minds of the weak, and as such, heretics should be killed. Since heretical ideas could inflict the greatest possible harm upon other human beings, it was the greatest crime of all. Heretical ideas could send people to an eternally conscious torment in hell. So logic demands that the church must get rid of this heretical leavening influence. It was indeed the greatest crime of them all, given this logic. So, the rallying cry for over two centuries was “convert or die!”

I understand how today's Christians gerrymander around the logical conclusion of these arguments. They say the Bible passages that call for the death of heretics and non-believers don't apply under the New Covenant. But if that's so, then why wasn't God clear about this such that Aquinas and two centuries of theologians got it wrong, causing such torment and misery? God did not effectively communicate his commands to his people. Doesn't he know humans well enough to do so? It seems an omniscient God needs some basic lessons in communication, or God isn't a good, or God just doesn’t exist.

Why didn't God (Jesus or the Apostles) specifically say, "Thou shalt not kill people if they don't believe the gospel (KJV)," and say it as often as needed? If that was the case, and if you were God, wouldn't YOU do the decent thing here?

- Witch Hunts during three centuries from 1450-1750 A.D. It was a response to the problem of evil as seen in the devastating Black Plague. They actually believed witches flew threw the night, met together with others, and had sex with the devil who left a mark on them. Once accused it was nearly impossible to be declared innocent. No evidence was needed. In most cases no evidence was found. Torture was all they needed to extract the confessions, and it was especially harsh against accused witches because it was believed their magic could help them withstand greater pain.

Why did God say, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" rather than say, "Thou shalt not torture, strangle, or burn witches (KJV)," and say it as often as needed? If that was the case, and if you were God, wouldn't YOU do the decent thing here?

- Slavery in the South. There is no justification for God to have allowed the slavery in the American South, or any slavery for that matter. None. If God was perfectly good, he would've said, "Thou shalt not trade, buy, own, or sell slaves" (KJV version), and said it as often as he needed to do so. But he didn't. Former slave Frederick Douglass said, "I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs."

Just ask Christians how they themselves would feel if they were the ones being burned at the stake for heresy, or beaten within an inch of their lives by a Bible quoting slave master. Surely their own arguments that these Christians of the past merely misunderstood what God wanted them to do would fly away in the wind with the smoke of their flesh, and with the drops of their blood.

10) Empirical Reasons. The problem of evil is as clear of an empirical refutation of the Christian God as we get. James Sennett has said: “By far the most important objection to the faith is the so-called problem of evil – the alleged incompatibility between the existence or extent of evil in the world and the existence of God. I tell my philosophy of religion students that, if they are Christians and the problem of evil does not keep them up at night, then they don’t understand it.”

If God is perfectly good, all knowing, and all powerful, then the issue of why there is so much suffering in the world requires an explanation. The reason is that a perfectly good God would be opposed to it, an all-powerful God would be capable of eliminating it, and an all-knowing God would know what to do about it. So, the extent of intense suffering in the world means for the theist that: either God is not powerful enough to eliminate it, or God does not care enough to eliminate it, or God is just not smart enough to know what to do about it. The stubborn fact of intense suffering in the world means that something is wrong with God’s ability, or his goodness, or his knowledge.

Christians believe God set the Israelites free from slavery, but he did nothing for the many people who were born and died as slaves in the American South. These theists believe God parted the Red Sea, but he did nothing about the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed ¼ million people. Christians believe God provided manna from heaven, but he does nothing for the more than 40,000 people who starve every single day in the world. Those who don’t die suffer extensively from hunger pains and malnutrition all of their short lives. Christians believe God made an axe head to float, but he allowed the Titanic to sink. Christians believe God added 15 years to King Hezekiah’s life, but he does nothing for children who live short lives and die of leukemia. Christians believe God restored sanity to Nebuchadnezzar but he does nothing for the many people suffering from schizophrenia and dementia today. Christians believe Jesus healed people, but God does nothing to stop pandemics which have destroyed whole populations of people. There are many handicapped people, and babies born with birth defects that God does not heal. As God idly sits by, well over 100 million people were slaughtered in the last century due to genocides, and wars. Well over 100 million animals are slaughtered every year for American consumption alone, while animals viciously prey on each other.

Take for example the 2004 Indonesian tsunami killed a quarter of a million people. If God had prevented it, none of us would ever know he kept it from happening, precisely because it didn’t happen. Any person who is supposed to be good would be morally obligated to prevent it, especially if all it took was a “snap” of his fingers to do so.

Stephen Wykstra argues that it’s possible we cannot see a reason why an omniscient God allows so much suffering. We’re told God is so omniscient that we can’t understand his purposes, and this is true, we can’t begin to grasp why there is so much evil in the world if God exists. But if God is as omniscient as claimed, then he should know how to create a better world too, especially since we do have a good idea how God could’ve created differently.

There is no perfectly good, all-powerful, omniscient God of Christian theology.

Most Christians do not believe in the God of the Bible anyway. Instead they believe in the perfect being of St. Anselm in the 11th century A.D. after centuries of theological gerrymandering. The Bible isn’t consistent in describing its God, but one probable description is as follows: rather than creating the universe ex nihilo, the biblical God fashioned the earth to rise out of the seas in divine conflict with the dragon sea god, sometimes called Rahab, as in Job 26:9-12. This God is merely the “god of the gods,” who like the other gods had a body that needed to rest on the 7th day, and was found walking in the “cool of the day” in the Garden of Eden. Yahweh, the god of Israel, probably emerged out of a polytheistic amalgamation of gods known in the ancient Near East in pre-biblical times. In the ancient Near East, all pantheons were organized as families, and Yahweh was simply one of the members of that family. Some biblical authors consider Yahweh, the god of Israel, as one of many gods fathered by Elyon whose wife was Asherah, to whom was given the people and land of Israel to rule over (Deut. 32:8). This God was responsible for doing both good and evil, sending evil spirits to do his will, and commanding genocide. As time went on Yahweh was believed to be the only God that existed. Still later Satan was conceived as an evil rival in order to exonerate Yahweh from being the creator of evil. Still later in the New Testament the God of the Bible was stripped of physical characteristics and known as a spiritual being. As theologians reflected on their God they came to believe he created the universe ex nihilo. Anselm finally defined him as the “greatest conceivable being.” But Anslem’s God is at odds with what we find in most of the Bible.

Christians claim to derive their beliefs from the Bible, which had a long process of formation and of borrowing material from others; in which God revealed himself through a poor medium (history) in a poor era (ancient times); who condemns all of humanity for the sins of the first human pair, commanded genocide, witch, honor, heretic killings, and who demanded a perfect moral life when such a life is not possible, given that we are fleshly creatures kept from knowing God’s purported love and power by an unreasonable “epistemic distance”; became incarnate in Jesus (the 2nd person of the trinity), even though no reasonable sense can be made of a being who is both 100% God and 100% man; found it necessary to die on the cross for our sins, even though no sense can be made of so-called atonement; who subsequently bodily arose from the dead, even though the believer in miracles has an almost impossible double-burden of proof here (it’s both “improbable” being a miracle and at the same time “probable”); who now chooses to live embodied forever in a human resurrected body (although there are many formidable objections to personal identity in such a resurrected state); to return in the future, even though the New Testament writers are clear that “the end of all kingdoms” and the establishment of God's kingdom was to be in their generation; and will return where every eye will see him, which assumes an ancient pre-scientific cosmology; who sent the third person of the trinity to lead his followers into "all truth,” yet fails in every generation to do this; who will also judge us based upon what conclusions we reach about the existence of this God, which parallels the ancient barbaric “thought police” which is completely alien to democratic societies; and who will reward the “saints” in heaven by taking away their free will to do wrong, and by punishing sincere doubters to hell by leaving their free will intact so they can continue to rebel.

To read What would convince me Christianity is True?, see the link.

58 comments:

David M. said...

You should remember that there are many notable atheists who have looked at your same data and come to a different conclusion. In the same way that you think arguments for God are not conclusive or persuasive, neither are yours. Of course they make perfect sense to you, they are your arguments!

The more I read the different entries on this blog, the more it comes to light that it isn't about evidence, but arguments. Just like debate team, you don't have to be right, just have a better argument. A lot of the arguments here are made so that they are unable to be refuted from a philosophical/debate sort of standpoint, but that doesn't mean they are right!

Lee Randolph said...

Hi John,
awesome article. I give it a standing ovation.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi david m,
The more I read the different entries on this blog, the more it comes to light that it isn't about evidence, but arguments.
what evidence are you talking about, John has effectively "crossed off" all the 'hard' evidence supporting christianity.

Argument is valid for reasoning. Logic and inference are essential to day to day life. I use logic and inference everyday to do my job and do my puzzles on my DS.

Logic and inference will tell you that if you two apples and add two more, you have four, then you can go the extra step to verify it.

The internal witness of the spirit is not evidence. It is an illusion, a personal bias, wishful thinking. If it were true there would be some way to verify it. Paranoids are convinced people are after them, but under closer scrutiny, it turns out not to be true.

JumpingFromConclusions said...

John,

That was a great post. You covered so much ground in it.

I hope I can find the time to order and read your book sometime, especially knowing you will go into even more detail about those topics in it.

Harry McCall said...

Great Essay John!

This reminds of the time I debated a pastor and apologists on the Bible back in 1989.
My thesis was the Bible was often totally inconsistent with itself. The debate ended when the pastor could not explain my examples and left defeated.

However, not to give up, he latter informed me that he was attending an apologetic conference hosted by the great conservative from Dallas Theological Seminary Dr. Gleason L. Archer. Archer had edited the “The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties” (now out in a new revised 2001 edition) and is described on the slip jacket as:
Dr. Gleason Archer offers carefully thought-out arguments for the unity and integrity of the Bible that should convince the skeptic and reassure the person who may be confused by the seeming discrepancies in Scripture.
I gave the pastor three questions on why the Pentateuch could not have been written by Moses (but was, in fact, and eclectic text compiled over hundreds of years). The pastor assured me that any of my questions could be answered by the major apologists at the conference.
At the conference, he gave the my questions to Dr. Gleason Archer who, after reading them (to the pastor’s disappointment) threw them on the conference table and exclaimed: “Who is this nut?” and walked off.
What is very significant about the social context of the Bible and its world of faith is that there is no word in the Bible for either “atheist” or “agnostic” since everyone believed in some god or gods (but usually just not the right one) so any apologetic debate was an “in house” debate on which faith (god) is correct.

In the end, the “Mighty Acts of God” which proved His existence are now echoes from a mythic past defended today by the faith and philosophy of apologists of whom many have a finical stake in the debate’s outcome.

Thranil said...

I'm definitely saving this post for future reference. You've highlighted many of the hard reasons why I finally rejected christianity and also why I finally accepted atheism. Well done, John, and thank you for your hard work on this site!

richdurrant said...

"You should remember that there are many notable atheists who have looked at your same data and come to a different conclusion."

Yes David that is true but it doesn't matter at all for John. If every single person but John came to a different conclusion, it still remains that John is not convinced by the evidence placed before him. It's terribly weak to say these things. It shows you are not trying to understand where John is coming from, but trying to figure out why he can't see what you see.

John, these are very well thought out arguments and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us. This is very meaty and hard to deal with the total article, so I must cherry pick at things:) For starters I also don't believe in the trinity as I understand Christianity does. I believe there to be a Godhead consisting of three separate beings, God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. the all are one in purpose but three separate individuals. I believe this to fit the scriptures better than one being with 3 different personalities.

GordonBlood said...

Obviously way too much here to bother doing a serious critique. I suppose the one thing that stuck out was the whole idea that God was originally a polytheistic being named Elohim. Now that is a position of some scholars, but to dogmatically assert that as historical fact is pretty bold to say the least. The idea that Yahweh was a child of El, is a terribly shoddy argument based essentially on a passage in Deuteronomy and a passage in the Psalms and a serious amount of gymnastics has to be done with the rest of the Old Testament corpus for it to stick. Certainly most of the biblical commentaries ive read do not accept the argument. Of course there are plenty of other issues but this seems to essentially be a summing up of the arguments John has made in the past, many of which im sure John would admit pre-suppose biblical inerrancy and such, which is fine as that is exactly what he is attacking.

Brandon Dahm said...

Howdy John, thanks for the summary. The clarity and pleasantness of the presentation is appreciated. I have one comment and one question.

First, in your book do you explain why and how you chose the control and number of control beliefs you did?

Second, it seems that the support for your claim that Christians retreat to the possible isn't representative of Christian apologetics per se, but is one aspect of apologetical arguments. Acknowledging the post as only a summary, so you couldn't offer all the support you have, I'll just comment on one example you gave to explain what I'm thinking.

You commented on Craig's claim that it is possible to distinguish between fact and propaganda, saying he is retreating to the possible. But he is just making a claim about history in general. He does offer arguments that it is probable in the case of the resurrection that it is fact and not propaganda. So he first argues that it is possible in general, and then attempts to do it in particular. It seems incorrect to call this a retreat, for he is just be thorough by treating general method before particulars.

b

p.s. I see Lessing is still in play. Guess that means I didn't convince you... maybe next time:)

John W. Loftus said...

Brandon Dahm said...So he [Craig] first argues that it is possible in general, and then attempts to do it in particular.

Well then, see what he must do? The first argument he must make is that it's possible to understand what took place in history, which itself is debatable. What if he's wrong about this, and it's possible he's wrong! Besides, no one argues we can have a completely objective view of the past. It is always colored by our present understandings.

Then he must argue that a particular historical event took place, which, as an argument, cannot rise any higher in probability than the strength of his general argument about history.

Then he argues for a supernatual conclusion, which introduces a strong element of improbability, since miracles are by definition improbable.

Not much there to think his particular argument about the resurrection is probable, and much less to stake my whole life on that conclusion.

Say, would you do a study on who killed Jon Bene Ramsey, or JFK and be willing in advance of your study to go the hell for an eternity if you were wrong? Would you? Yes or no? And that's about a non-supernatural historical event.

John W. Loftus said...

It's all about seeing things differently. I have on what Julia Sweeney calls her "no god glasses." And with those glasses on, everything makes better sense to me, and I've tried on the "Christian God glasses" for years for comparison. The real question is what glasses we should put on, and that was my argument in this post.

My starting point is different than Christians. They start with arguments for the existence of God. What they may not realize is that they assume what needs to be shown, and as such, they already presume God exists before they look at those theistic arguments, since before they even knew of these arguments they were already believers. How else can we explain why so many others stare those arguments in the face and do not blink? So like Dr. Strauss, they also start "from above."

I start "from below," since as soon as a person adopts a faith position she can argue for that position, at least sufficiently enough for her. Smart, educated people, can argue for most of anything. I gave plenty of reasons for starting with a healthy measure of skepticism, which concern the crucial issues Christians must deal with before they can start with their faith position "from above." On each of these crucial issues Christian apologists are reduced to saying, not that their answers are probable, but that their answers are possible. Yet anything not logically inconsistent is possible, so that gains the apologist no ground at all.

Christians have to say the issues I discussed are not important ones and that arguments for the existence of God are the important issues. But don't you think the issues I discussed trump the Christian's starting point "from above," given that whether or not someone accepts the theistic arguments depends upon whether or not they already believe? And if they do, all they have left is not probability, but possibility, which isn't much to base an apologetic or a faith upon.

Thranil said...

...And if they do, all they have left is not probability, but possibility, which isn't much to base an apologetic or a faith upon.

Yeah, but John, that's exactly what faith is: believing in something for no good reason. So having something be merely possible (like the existence of an invisible unicorn in my bedroom) is all that is needed for faith to thrive.

Brandon Dahm said...

Say, would you do a study on who killed Jon Bene Ramsey, or JFK and be willing in advance of your study to go the hell for an eternity if you were wrong? Would you? Yes or no? And that's about a non-supernatural historical event.

This is a complete red herring to what I argued. My claim was, it does not seem to be the case that Christians only retreat to the possible. I offered an argument for this from one of your examples. Am I right that at least for the example in question you grant that Craig does argue for the probable and not merely the possible?

John W. Loftus said...

While my question doesn't deal with your specific one, I see it as an important one nonetheless, which must be answered in this context, since we're discussing the probability one assigns to the conclusions derived from history. If not hell, would you be willing to go to prison for five years or live in abject poverty for five years?

Yes, Craig does indeed claim his argument about the resurrection is probable. But claiming this and showing this are two different things. I've just said that his claim cannot rise above the probability of his general argument about history, much less when the supernatural element is introduced. Besides, the cumulative case of the reasons I provided trump his claim anyway.

Cheers.

GordonBlood said...

"Besides, the cumulative case of the reasons I provided trump his claim anyway."
With all respect John for someone who claims to be a skeptic you certainly seems surpremely confident of your arguments.

Dillie-O said...

So where does all of this leave us Mr. Loftus? Does that mean that since all we have is what nature and science can test and repeat, that we are simply machines made of meat?

Where does the spirit, the conciousness, the soul play in all of this? Do you really believe that sum total of John Loftus comes to a paltry $1.54 or whatever it is they estimate if they grind you down into all your pieces?

It is things like this that make me doubt that your control belief of science providing the most reliable answer.

For some reason I get the impression that in your view God can't work with the natural order of things. If it has been shown that prayer lights up certain nerves in the brain, does that immediately mean that we have a purely natural event. Or is it probable that this is the effect of a different reality or dimension coming into contact with our own, as the divine and infinite is coming into contact with our mortal beings?

Thank you for this post. It is the other one I have flagged because it gives a good summary of things and I've been chewing on it all afternoon.

John W. Loftus said...

GB, I'm no more confident that Christians are deluded than you are that Muslims are deluded.

Brandon Dahm said...

John,

I didn't mean to imply your question wasn't important. I've been thinking about it, but I need to think about it some more. Thanks for the response.

Cheers.
b

Joe E. Holman said...

David M. said...

"The more I read the different entries on this blog, the more it comes to light that it isn't about evidence, but arguments. A lot of the arguments here are made so that they are unable to be refuted from a philosophical/debate sort of standpoint."

My reply...

Hmm...and can sky the existence of deities be conclusively proven or disproven? Is it not true that any sky god is "unable to be refuted" by the very nature of the case?

Sounds like a "pot calling the kettle black" issue here.

(JH)

Chris Helton said...

Fairly interesting post, John. I have a question for you, if you don't mind. From where exactly do you draw the following idea?

"This God fathered several sons including Yahweh, whose wife was Ashterah, to whom was given the people and land of Israel to rule over."

Also, what years did you attend LCCS? I know a few pastors who went to Lincoln around the same time you probably did; I wouldn't be surprised if we knew a few of the same people.

Take care,
Chris

John said...

Great post John!

David M. said...

JOhn,

I have to say that your muslim argument sounds a little like a last ditch effort. Maybe just because it was short, but sort of unlike your normal responses. Don't get so frustrated if you are conviced you are right!

Dave

zilch said...

dillie-o: yes, we are machines made out of meat. But that doesn't mean we can't think, and learn, and love. That's enough for me.

John W. Loftus said...

Chris, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 should be translated like this: "When the Most High (Elyon) gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all the descendants of Adam, he set up boundaries for the peoples after the number of the sons of God. The LORD's (Yahweh's) own portion was his people Israel."

According to Hector Avalos, in his book The End of Biblical Studies (pp. 43-44) a correct translation of this passage reveals itself to be polytheistic, to the core, for it says that the god Elyon gave certain nations with their boundaries to his sons, and Yaweh's portion was the nation of Israel!

As far as God's wife goes, see here.

I attended LCS from 1979-1982.

Cheers.

Shygetz said...

dillie-o said: So where does all of this leave us Mr. Loftus? Does that mean that since all we have is what nature and science can test and repeat, that we are simply machines made of meat?

Do you have a serious problem with that? Is it the medium that bothers you--you would rather your existence be rooted in something ineffable? Why?

Where does the spirit, the conciousness, the soul play in all of this?

The beauty of the evidentiary position is that it's ok to answer "I don't know". Consciousness is real, but we don't know exactly what it entails. The spirit and soul have no settled definition, so they are literally meaningless entities.

Do you really believe that sum total of John Loftus comes to a paltry $1.54 or whatever it is they estimate if they grind you down into all your pieces?

No more than you believe that your computer is worth $0.22 because that's the worth of it's elemental composition, or even that the Mona Lisa is only worth the $20 in paint and canvas. Something does not need an ineffable soul to be of greater worth than its components.

It is things like this that make me doubt that your control belief of science providing the most reliable answer.

Even in your critique of empirical rationality you instinctively rely upon empirical rationality as your gold standard. How can you demonstrate an answer is most reliable? Why, you must verify it compared to its competitors! And how can you possibly verify it? Why, with evidence!

The irony is, you know and accept that empirical rationality is the most reliable way to look at the universe. When you need to cut an apple, do you use telekenisis? Do you pray for God to cut the apple? Do you telepathically commune with the apple spirit to convince it to split in twain for you? No; cutting apples is something that you know really exists, so you readily (even instinctively) reach for the empirically rational solution--you get a knife. Where people run into trouble is with the questions that empirical rationality does not offer easy answers to--where did the universe come from? What is the basis of the human experience? They are all derivatives of the same question--what is beyond our ability to perceive? Indeed, we don't even know for sure how valid these questions are. But one thing we do know for certain--they don't really affect anything. This is the only reason you have the luxury of entertaining irrational ideas about them--because they are unimportant in any practical sense.

Does it not suggest anything to you that you wholly rely upon empirical rationality to answer every question where you know for a fact that the answer actually matters? People who engage in faith-based healing die at a greater rate than those who engage in evidence-based medicine. Even more so people who engage in faith-based driving, faith-based flying, or faith-based swimming. Yet, because your survival does not depend upon the answer, you are willing to entertain faith-based solutions to what you consider the "big questions".

Even in the Bible, the ancient Hebrews relied upon empirical rationality to settle the "big questions". When the Israelites started worshipping other gods and experienced a drought, did Elijah sit down with them and start debating the metaphysical properties of Yahweh vs. Baal? Of course not. They set up an altar and had a contest; if Baal could light the sacrificial fire, then Baal was great, and if Yahweh could light the fire then Yahweh was great. Baal didn't light the fire, Yahweh did, so Yahweh was again accepted as the God of Israel and the prophets of Baal were slaughtered (1 Kings 18:17-40).

I made Elijah's challenge before and I'll make it again. You take your faith in God and pray as hard and as long as you like. I'll take my "faith" in science and a butane torch--no prayers needed. First one to light a fire wins.

I'll even give you a head start.

John W. Loftus said...

Shygetz you're funny. I'll call the Elijah challenge by your name, "the Shygetz challenge." Any takers? ;-)

ChrisKG said...

Excellent post and discussion that followed. It’s also nice to read Joe’s comments and I look forward to reading more from him as well.

Lastly, John, I can’t wait for the new book. Is this a teaser from it?

John W. Loftus said...

Chris, this sums up half of my book where I defend my skeptical control beliefs. The other half deals with the specific evidences about the Christian truth claims in the Bible itself.

zilch said...

Okay, shygetz. You take the butane torch, and I will pray- and bring on the lox.

Darren said...

Here then are my two skeptical control beliefs: 1) There is a strong probability that every event has a natural cause; and, 2) The scientific method is the best (and probably the only) reliable guide we have for gaining the truth.

Two problems here that I spotted right away:

1) Miracles do not contradict natural laws. That's a false dichotomy invented by skeptics. A miracle is simply God doing what man could theoretically--if not actually--do provided he had the means.

2) There is a whole lot more to reality than what science can tell us. For example, can you scientifically prove that minds other than your own exist? No, you can't. That's a question for the philosopher, not the scientist.

In short, your "control beliefs" are nothing more than false premises, and your subsequent argument based on them fails.

Thranil said...

1) Miracles do not contradict natural laws. That's a false dichotomy invented by skeptics. A miracle is simply God doing what man could theoretically--if not actually--do provided he had the means.

If something is achieved through natural means, then how exactly is it miraculous or even something that should be attributed to a magical fairy in the sky? Let me put it another way: If a person can explain how something occurred using purely natural explanations, then what is the necessity of adding a diety to the picture?


2) There is a whole lot more to reality than what science can tell us. For example, can you scientifically prove that minds other than your own exist? No, you can't. That's a question for the philosopher, not the scientist.


Yeah, and? I mean we can engage in mental masturbation all day long, but any important (i.e. relevant) question will at some point lead to "how does this affect me in my life?" Well, if a deity of some sort that you worship appears to have absolutely no affect in the real world, then what's the point in even believing in said deity?

John W. Loftus said...

Darren, if you will respect our comment policy I will discuss these things with you.

You said…Miracles do not contradict natural laws. That's a false dichotomy invented by skeptics. A miracle is simply God doing what man could theoretically--if not actually--do provided he had the means.

Granted. I never said they did. Hume did though. How does this actually engage my argument?

You said…There is a whole lot more to reality than what science can tell us. For example, can you scientifically prove that minds other than your own exist? No, you can't. That's a question for the philosopher, not the scientist.

I dispute that there are such things as minds. There are such things as brains; that we know. But there is no evidence for the mind or the soul. Since anyone can defend practically anything what differentiates our beliefs is evidence. Lacking the evidence for the mind I don’t think it’s probable it exists. Take this for an example: If the mind is not located in space and time then why does it reside in the brain? Maybe it resides in my knee, maybe it exists outside of me on my shoulder? Maybe it comes and goes? Maybe the minds of people exchange bodies? Of course this is silly, but why do we need brains if there are minds?

In short, your "control beliefs" are nothing more than false premises, and your subsequent argument based on them fails

I think what I argued is coherent and based upon many of the very things you yourself accept as premises.

Darren said...

If something is achieved through natural means, then how exactly is it miraculous or even something that should be attributed to a magical fairy in the sky? Let me put it another way: If a person can explain how something occurred using purely natural explanations, then what is the necessity of adding a diety to the picture?

To paraphrase an example I once read:

Jesus healing the man with a withered hand could be described in wholly naturalistic terms as the spontaneous regeneration of muscle and nerve endings. In those terms, it's not particularly miraculous. What makes it a miracle is that it happened at Jesus' word.

Yeah, and? I mean we can engage in mental masturbation all day long, but any important (i.e. relevant) question will at some point lead to "how does this affect me in my life?" Well, if a deity of some sort that you worship appears to have absolutely no affect in the real world, then what's the point in even believing in said deity?

When you say, "Yeah, and?" yourare implicitly agreeing with my point that John Loftus places unwarranted faith in science. There are plenty of things worth knowing which need something other than science to provide the answers.

Darren said...

I was composing a more detailed point-by-point response when I noticed this whopper:

I dispute that there are such things as minds.

I actually did a double-take when I saw that because I thought for sure I had read it wrong. Do you similarly doubt the existence of emotions? Thoughts? Logic and reason? None of them can be scientifically proven, yet to deny their existence is self-evidently absurd.

But just for fun, if "The scientific method is the best (and probably the only) reliable guide we have for gaining the truth" then I'd love to see your defense of logic using the scientific method.

Of course, since the scientific method depends on logic, our only conclusion is that logic transcends science, and unless you're going to tell me that logic doesn't exist (but then, you did say that minds don't exist, so who knows), I think it's safe to say that "The scientific method is not always the best (nor is it the only) reliable guide we have for gaining the truth."

To be quite frank, John, your arguments here border on the irrational.

Chris Helton said...

John W. Loftus said... "According to Hector Avalos, in his book The End of Biblical Studies (pp. 43-44) a correct translation of this passage reveals itself to be polytheistic, to the core, for it says that the god Elyon gave certain nations with their boundaries to his sons, and Yaweh's portion was the nation of Israel!"

Thanks for the reply, John. That's the passage I figured you'd refer to, but I wasn't sure.

Do you know if Dr. Avalos interacts with Dr. Michael Heiser's work, in EBoS?


Regards,
Chris

John W. Loftus said...

Chris, No I don't. I've seen his stuff, but what I argue is that how we look at specific texts like this depends on which bias we've already adopted. Avalos's interpretation just seems obvious to me, whereas Michael Heiser's counter-argument gerrymander's around the plain meaning of the text due to control beliefs I reject for reasons I've stated here.

John W. Loftus said...

Darren, The Euthyphro dilemma applies equally to God when it comes to logic, I think. Does God create logic? Then he could create a different logic or none at all. He could create logic such that A does not equal A. If however, God did not create logic, then he must abide by the same standards of reason we must abide by--without an explanation for where it came from.

Read some of Steven Pinker's stuff and get up to snuff on these issues.

Chris Helton said...

John Said..."Chris, No I don't. I've seen his stuff, but what I argue is that how we look at specific texts like this depends on which bias we've already adopted. Avalos's interpretation just seems obvious to me, whereas Michael Heiser's counter-argument gerrymander's around the plain meaning of the text due to control beliefs I reject for reasons I've stated here."

OK, John. Thanks anyway.

Darren said...

Darren, The Euthyphro dilemma applies equally to God when it comes to logic, I think. Does God create logic? Then he could create a different logic or none at all. He could create logic such that A does not equal A. If however, God did not create logic, then he must abide by the same standards of reason we must abide by--without an explanation for where it came from.

Read some of Steven Pinker's stuff and get up to snuff on these issues.


A red herring, John? Too bad you didn't actually answer my argument. Since you suggest that the scientific method is the only means by which we can ascertain the truth, and since you can't prove the existence of logic with the scientific method, the only way you can remain consistent with your "control beliefs" is to deny the existence of logic, which is, of course, an irrational position.

John W. Loftus said...

The scientific method is based on reasons and evidence, silly.

I'm just answering a question with a question. Did God create logic or not. You're claim is that God is the source of Logic. Is he?

Darren said...

The scientific method is based on reasons and evidence, silly.

O.K. then, use "reasons and evidence" to prove that logic exists. But of course you can't, because any "reasons or evidence" you might present will necessarily assume that the opposite can not also be true at the same time and in the same sense; that is to say you have to assume the existence of logic for your "reasons and evidence" to have any meaning which, of course, begs the question if your goal is to prove the existence of logic.

I'm just answering a question with a question.

No, you're avoiding the question because you don't want to admit that I've just shot a very big hole in your argument.

Shygetz said...

I actually did a double-take when I saw that because I thought for sure I had read it wrong. Do you similarly doubt the existence of emotions? Thoughts? Logic and reason? None of them can be scientifically proven, yet to deny their existence is self-evidently absurd.


Just a guess here, but from actually reading the comment it appears John was saying that he disputes the existence of the mind as anything other than a property of the brain.

Evidence of the existence of logic as a formal system does exist, in the form of books, papers, etc. on the topic written by independent authors that agree on the tenets. It's existence is not dependent on the idea that something cannot both be true and be false at the same time; the evidence strongly indicates that logic exists, regardless of whether or not it does not exist. The applicability of the logic formal system as a model for fruitful inquiry of the universe exists based on our ability to use logical thinking to predict the future sucessfully.

Everything else you mentioned (thoughts, emotions, and the mind) are not formal systems, but rather are non-material phenomena that we can infer exist based on separate testimony from various individuals, as well as by the predictive nature of reported emotional states on measurements of physical properties of the human body (brain waves, pulse rate, skin conductivity, etc.) These data serve as evidence that emotions do exist, but all evidence points to them as emergent properties of the brain.

The fact that you use the phrase "scientifically proven" in your diatribe suggests you have no idea what science is about. We don't prove anything; we gather evidence, build models, and make conditional inferences. Mathemeticians prove.

The assumption of science is that the universe that appears to exist actually exists, and that our observations of the universe relate to the actual universe in some repeatable way. This assumption can only be supported by circumstantial utilitarian evidence (with it, we can predict the future), but what mountains of utilitarian evidence we have acquired! This assumption has led us to certain mathematical models, including logic. Science can present no evidence for or against solipsism or the Matrix; assuming that what we observe in some way approximates a universe that actually exists, we can justify a belief in logic. We did not assume logic; we assumed the universe and developed logic by observing how the universe works.

Sure, science does not lead to absolute certainty. Think you can do better? Then I will put Elijah's challenge to you. I still have sufficient fuel left in my butane torch to take the next few contestants, but after that I'm going to have to start demanding wagers. However, I'm not a prophet of a loving God so I won't insist on murdering you when I win.

Darren said...

Evidence of the existence of logic as a formal system does exist, in the form of books, papers, etc. on the topic written by independent authors that agree on the tenets. It's existence is not dependent on the idea that something cannot both be true and be false at the same time; the evidence strongly indicates that logic exists, regardless of whether or not it does not exist. The applicability of the logic formal system as a model for fruitful inquiry of the universe exists based on our ability to use logical thinking to predict the future sucessfully.

That's fine, but "Doubting" John was the one who suggested that the scientific method was the only means by which we can find truth. If he can't arrive at a coherent argument for logic using nothing but the scientific method then he has to admit that there are some things that transcend science, and that one of his "control beliefs" is therefore false.

The fact that you use the phrase "scientifically proven"...

Means nothing more than I am using informal conversational language in a blog discussion.

that atheist guy said...

This was a great post. I'm really looking forward to reading your book!

To Shygetz: sometimes I feel the need to post a comment, but you end up saying everything better than I could have. Thanks!

matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
matt said...

I don't get it. So I have to be as "smart" as you to understand there is no God, and certainly not the God of the Bible?

Because you say agnosticism is the default position, therefore it is? And, according to you, the distance from it to atheism is nearer than to theism?

You call it a " "Case" against Christianity" but I see nothing resembling a true case trial.

Of the one's I read; ex. "...the donner party...", is not a "case" at all. And very similar in circumstances to many examples in the new and old testament which are sufficiently explained.

You single out Christianity (which is inextricably tied to its predecessor Judaism, and simple faith before Judaism). Wouldn't your effort be more appropriately entitled "the Case against God" ? This way you do not seem to simply be an angry and bitter individual.

If theres one thing I've learned about "atheists" (of whom I do not believe in, and you can't prove to me they do exist), they don't care if their arguments are flawed logically, or based on the extent of finite human knowledge and understanding to date, just as long as the recipient believes in and accepts it.

Hmmmm, that's a somewhat evangelical attitude (wanting the message to be believed and accepted), is it not?

Papa Giorgio said...

I will hop in and comment on something quickly in regards to 1) Sociological Reasons when this was said: Since there are no mutually agreed upon tests to determine which religion to adopt, or none at all, social cultural and political forces will overwhelmingly determine what people believe.

I would not accept this premise. I think logic, being self-evidently true (like mathematics), unlike empiricism, is a great place for any culture to start in their quest to see if they are in a faith that is first of all, logical. All religions today know of at least other religious beliefs. Even in the deepest part of Taliban held territory, they still read the Quran, which mentions both the Jewish and Christian beliefs as well as some major doctrines from them. The only thing that would stop the truth seekers in that culture would be the threat of death. So often times the conversions to a belief that show the love of Christ in contrast to the murderous hate of Muhammad is in secret. These people step above their culture and seek to compare and contrast.

For instance:

(UPI) During the second one-week conference on Science and the Spiritual Quest (SSQ II) that ended Tuesday in New York, Oxford University psychologist Olivera Petrovich revealed preliminary research data suggesting that the knowledge of a creator might be intrinsic to human existence. Prof. Petrovich tested the ability of British and Japanese children to distinguish between physical and metaphysical explanations for certain images. For example, she would show the four- to 14-year old children a picture of a book on a table and ask, "Who put this book there?" The kids replied, "Mom."

Then she put a picture of the sun in front of them and asked, "Who placed the sun in the sky?" The young Britons answered, "God," and to Petrovich's surprise their Japanese contemporaries said "Kamisama (God)! He did it!"

As Petrovich pointed out, "Japanese culture discourages speculation into the metaphysical because that's something we never know. But the Japanese children did speculate, quite willingly, and in the same way as British children."

In an interview with the journal, Science & Spirit, the British scientist gave another example. The European and the Asian children were to look at the photograph of a dog and then asked, "How did the first dog every come into being." Again, both groups replied, "God did it." "This was probably the most significant finding," Petrovich reported. "But where did these Japanese kids get the idea that creation is in God's hands? This is absolutely extraordinary when you think that Shintoism (Japan's predominant religion) does not include creation as an aspect of God's activity at all.”

"My Japanese research assistants kept telling me that thinking about God as creator is just not part of Japanese philosophy."
The SSQII series of symposia and workshops organized by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, CA, will stretch over four years, with further events scheduled in France, Korea, Pakistan, Israel, Australia and Japan.

Its predecessor, SSQI held 1998in Berkeley, prompted Newsweek to marvel in a cover story, "Science finds God." As the news magazine wrote, "The achievements of modern science seem to contradict religion and undermine faith. But for a growing number of scientists, the same discoveries offer support for spirituality and hints of the very nature of God."


At any rate, the Metanarrative that is given here is interesting. Is atheism merely a cultural more that is neither as true or less true than any other religious belief?

Authors Francis Beckwith and Gregory Koukl respond to this self-defeating claim by pointing out that:

Sumner is making a strong claim here about knowledge. He says that all claims to know objective moral truth are false because we are all imprisoned in our own cultural and are incapable of seeing beyond the limits of our own biases. He concludes, therefore, that moral truth is relative to culture and that no objective standard exists. Sumner’s analysis falls victim to the same error committed by religious pluralists who see all religions as equally valid.

The authors continue:

Sumner’s view, however, is self-refuting. In order for him to conclude that all moral claims are an illusion, he must first escape the illusion himself. He must have a full and accurate view of the entire picture…. Such a privileged view is precisely what Sumner denies. Objective assessments are illusions, he claims, but then he offers his own “objective” assessment. It is as if he were saying, “We’re all blind,” and then adds, “but I’ll tell you what the world really looks like.” This is clearly contradictory.

Philosopher Roger Scruton drives this point home when he says, “A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely negative,’ is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.”

So even this first section must bow to the nature of logic, and this is the best test to determine which religion to adopt. All religions (cultural stories) can be false…. This includes the “scientific method,” but all cannot be right. And this grand narrative presented here means that someone has escaped the illusion of their culture and presents us with the real truth while at the same time saying all other cultures are wrong. Hmmmm. Something smells fishy here.

John W. Loftus said...

Papa thanks for commenting, but there is absolutely nothing self-defeating about using a test to decide what to believe if that test can be defended on its own apart from the conclusion we reach when using that test.

It’s simply not self-defeating to say we should doubt our beliefs. It is not self-defeating to say the odds are that we are wrong. After all, we're talking about the odds here. My argument is based on the facts of religious diversity spread around the globe into separate geographical locations, and that Christians evaluate other religions from "the outside." I'm arguing people adopt their religion based upon their culture (to an overwhelming degree), which should cause all of us to subject our beliefs to scrutiny, just like Christians do with other faiths.

J. L. Schellenberg deals with this same criticism of his argument for religious skepticism in these words: “Now this objection can be sound only if my arguments do indeed apply to themselves, and it will not take much to see that they do not.” He distinguishes between “bold, ambitious, and risky metaphysical beliefs” on the one hand, which tell us that “active investigation should cease,” since “the truth has been discovered,” from “the belief that some such bold ambitious, and risky metaphysical belief is unjustified.” The latter belief merely claims that such bold and ambitious metaphysical beliefs “have not successfully made their case; it bides us to continue investigation…because skepticism is always a position of last resort in truth seeking contexts.”

Cheers my friend.

Papa Giorgio said...

Diversity doesn't mean untruth.

Faiths that run counter to the laws of logic, are false.

The Christian-Theistic faith is judged by the same rules we judge all beliefs by.

This means that philosophical naturalism is not the judge, but philosophical naturalism is judged as well. Empirical science tells us nothing about historical events, just as it tells us nothing about God. It can tell us about the chemical composition of bleach, but it doesn't answer whether God's existence is logical or not. It must bow to being judged to see if it violates any of the laws, like circular reasoning.

Skepticism is healthy... and I think you may know (if not, you do now) that not enough Christians are skeptical of their own faith, or at least engage in answering the hard questions. But you aren't saying that you can never be sure about anything, are you? And your test is it by nature materialistic?

Questions aside, if you are born in India and have a belief that everything is an illusion, how do you build your house without violating what you believe and without accepting the Western understanding of nature, thus, rejecting (without explicitly knowing it) their own view? To say you do not exist violates the fact that a physical being just said they do not exist.

A great book that I can recommend (and I will buy yours soon to not only read when time allows, but also to support an author) is A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test. That books used the strength of philosophy to “test” Christianity.

In fact, William Lane Craig, in every debate that has been voted on at secular universities has won against atheists. The publishers of the book Does God Exist? The Debate between Theists and Atheists -- Prometheus -- say the theists in this debate won it.

I am not here saying that such victories prove that one view is right while the other is wrong, just like one cannot say that because there is diversity of views that no one view is right.

What I am saying is that when you say that theists “have not successfully made their case,” this statement is false. It has been made good enough to beat many of the brightest atheist minds today as well as to change the sound mind of the past “pope” of atheism, Flew.

Remembering that book now, Does God Exist?, makes me smile because one of the contributors for the atheist side was Antony Flew, now he would be arguing for many of the points from the theistic side. I say many, but not all.

You still haven’t shown me how you have escaped your culture in order to judge others.

By-the-by, you are now linked under my "Blogs I Watch."

John W. Loftus said...

Papa said…Diversity doesn't mean untruth.

Agreed, but it does mean the odds are we are wrong.

Papa said…Faiths that run counter to the laws of logic, are false.

I do not believe human beings are logical machines. We are influenced to believe what we do by our social backgrounds, peer pressure groups, dreams, aspirations and emotions. And as such there can be no complete separation from what one feels and what one thinks. Where’s the logic in that? Do you want to say that human beings must abandon their feelings when trying to solve an issue? That cannot be done. There will always be a component of emotion included in our logical evaluations of these matters, and vice versa. I know people, smart people, who can logically defend something that they believe entirely for emotional reasons. How else can those of us who disagree with the Mormons or the Muslims explain what they believe any other way? And for this same reason the emotional force of the problem of evil/suffering is not one to be taken lightly either.

There is no such thing as logic in the abstract. Logic is always used by someone, and as the emotional beings we are, there will always be an emotional component to what we seek to defend with logic. Given the nature of presuppositions isn’t it true that people begin using logic after adopting a presupposition? So while the logic might lead us somewhere, logic is used to defend that which we have already adopted. And doesn’t it sound strange that we must teach people the rules of logic? People do not think logically do they? What could that possibly mean? Could it be we are simply teaching them to play by our rules, our language game?

Logic does not give us our beliefs. Logic merely helps us to see the consistency of that which we believe. It's not that logic cannot help at all; it's that it doesn't help us that much. All of us hold to mutually inconsistent propositions and don't realize it, or won't admit it. If logic is helpful in coming to the true religious and metaphysical beliefs, then why is it that we all disagree with each other?

But more to the point. How do you propose to establish either the law of excluded middle or the law of non-contradiction? You do know of Gödel’s theorem don't you? You cannot prove these laws by anything inside those logical language games, just as you cannot prove math.

And the Euthypro dilemma applies to logic as well as morality. Must God abide by these laws of Logic or did he create them?

No one can provide a meta-justification for math after Gödel’s theorem. But we can pragmatically justify it, since we started out by adding apples and then by assigning a scribble we call a "number" to it which we all agree to. Likewise, can anyone provide a meta-justification for logic? Who would dare to provide such a justification for modus ponens, for instance? To do so one must use that which he seeks to justify, logic. The validity of inference is something dogs do. When we say to our dog, "do you want supper?" he draws the inference that we're about to set out his bowl of food. We might fool him, but that's the inference he draws. Why does something like that need some kind of meta-justification apart from the fact that this what he does?

We did not assume logic; we assumed the universe and developed logic by observing how the universe works.

And as far as logic goes, have you seen this?

Papa said…You still haven’t shown me how you have escaped your culture in order to judge others.

This is irrelevant to what I’m proposing. My proposal should be noncontroversial. I am only arguing for a way to test the truth claims of the various religious viewpoints. That test does not produce any one particular conclusion from which I must escape the results produced by it.

Papa said…By-the-by, you are now linked under my "Blogs I Watch."

Great! You seem reasonable and likeable. I may reciprocate next time I change things.

Papa Giorgio said...

I find many things you say interesting, but not in the way you think. I wish to give an example with some notes I put next to a boxed off portion in one of my philosophy textbooks (Philosophy: A Text with Readings, by Manuel Velasquez). The [boxed] additions are mine and will be followed by what I wrote in my book.

GROUPTHINK
The psychologist Irving Janis has coined the term groupthink to refer to the tendency of cohesive groups [psychologists?] to get increasingly out of touch with reality….

“Janis Gives the impression that he, unlike the rest of us, has somehow been able to evade the psychological forces that determine what (or how) the rest of us think – in other words, is this “groupthink” just psychologists thinking distortedly within their group[think]?”

So to comment on your post:

You said: I do not believe human beings are logical machines [is this a logical statement?... which laws of logic does this statement assume?]. We are influenced to believe what we do by our social backgrounds, peer pressure groups, dreams, aspirations and emotions [is you test influenced by your social background, peer pressure groups, dreams, aspirations and emotions?]. And as such there can be no complete separation from what one feels and what one thinks…. I am only arguing for a way to test the truth claims of the various religious viewpoints. That test [is this test influenced by your social background, peer pressure groups, dreams, aspirations and emotions?] does not produce any one particular conclusion from which I must escape the results produced by it.

Now, if there is disagreement and diversity about this “test” does this “mean the odds are we are wrong”?

John W. Loftus said...

Papa said...[is this a logical statement?... which laws of logic does this statement assume?].

A few of them that we agree on. What's the problem?

Pap said...[is your test influenced by your social background, peer pressure groups, dreams, aspirations and emotions?].

Are you saying that you rise about these things yourself? If so, that would be a very interesting claim indeed, but contrary to what psychology tells us. The best way to test anything is by asking for evidence. It alone can rise above these things.

Cheers.

Papa Giorgio said...

I can put my beliefs to a test. But what "culture" do you accept as the presupposition to your outlook. I will make my point with a question Dr. Kenyon was asked:



“What are the general presuppositions that scientists make who study the origin of life?”

Dr. Kenyon responded:

“Well, I think there are two general kinds of presuppositions that people can make, one is that life, in fact, did arise naturalistically on the primitive earth by some kind of chemical evolutionary process.

“The second presupposition would be that life may or may not have arisen by a naturalistic, chemical process.

“Now, if you have the first presupposition, then the goal of your research is to work out plausible pathways of chemical development to go to the bio-polymers, then to the protocells; and what would be likely pathways that you could demonstrate in the laboratory by simulation experiment.

“If you have the second presupposition, your still going to be doing experiments, but your going to be more open to the possibility that the data, as they [it] come[s] in from those studies may actually be suggesting a different explanation of origins altogether.”


I will elucidate even further with how some presuppositions can limit your answers to the all important questions. This limit is created by the secularized Western “scientism” that infect many skeptics:

“Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.”

Or, is it this:

“Science is the human activity of seeking logical explanations for what we observe in the world around us.”

So what you are saying is that your test is greater, or more perfect than the empirical method, right?

Patrick said...

Papa Giorgio-

I've never heard of Irving Janus, but that is not what "groupthink" means in modern social psychology.

To put it succinctly, it simply means that larger groups of people have more of a tendency to stop looking at alternatives than if they were all working individually.

"Groupthink" in and of itself is not a good or bad thing. If the group consensus is bad, then not looking at alternatives is bad, and so forth.

Incedentally, I think that most social psychologists would suggest that anonymous or near anonymous posting in a forum such as this would be one of the best ways to combat possible groupthink

So kudos to you for helping stave off groupthink.

Papa Giorgio said...

Patrick,

So you are saying that, for instance, when a large group (say, high school biology teachers) inform my son that life can come from non-life, that they have more of a tendency to stop looking at alternatives than if they were all working individually?

Got it.

By-the-by, Janis is the person who coined and founded groupthink.

Patrick said...

Papa-

Thanks for getting back to me so fast.

After a quick google of Irving Janis it seems my definition of groupthink is much closer than yours. Of course I believe in the innerancy of Wikipedia as much as the innerancy of the Bible, and I'm paraphrasing from memory my social psychology textbook. However, there is at least a useful quote from Janis at Wikipedia.

Rgardless, human psychology, and particularly social psychology is extremely complex. I think a typical text would describe groupthink in terms of a group of people conversing together on a deserted island with no other factors involved. I imagine that is to make a concept which in reality has many mitigating factors more easily understood.

The "classic" way to combat groupthink would be to split these castaways into several smaller groups to come up with ideas (to whatever problem you want to assign them).

It seems that high school biology teachers are subject to some constraints that would, in theory, lead to group think, but are also seperated into smaller groups which, in theory, combats groupthink.

Furthermore, Scientific theories are submitted for peer review, which, while not perfect, is a pretty good way to combat groupthink, and arguably the entire purpose.

I would argue that mega-churches in particular, and churches in general are much more fertile ground for groupthink.

My best,

Patrick

Aaron Smith said...

I read with interest the beginning of your page, but was disappointed with your conclusions because they were philosophical and not based on any "facts" to disprove Christianity. As a follower of Christ I enjoy a free exchange of ideas and although I believe the Bible is truth I do not believe it tells us everything, nor should. Remember that science and higher education through history have been propelled by religious institutions searching for knowledge.

One thing that is unacceptable in any arguement is a convenient but blantant lie to help your conclusion. I almost skipped section 6 on how Christianity must not be true because of barbarism, but read through and was alarmed to see that you directly state that(Deuteronomy 21:10-14)says "If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist" A careful and educated reading of the verse clearly shows the woman in this verse is not raped, but allows herself to be overcome because of her own desires. This in clear in Deuteronomy 25:15-27 You conveniently quoted the verses before and after, but didn't quote this: "25-But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. 26-But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worth of death, for just as a man rises again his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. 27-When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her." New American Standard Translation.

Please remove this portion from your page because anyone, regardless of their beliefs or "glasses", can see it is a gross misrepresentation to help make a weak argument.

I'll be interested to see if you post this. God bless you in your choices and search for the truth. I hope that an open mind and the Holy Spirit will guide you to Christ.

Aaron Smith

PS- Science is simply trying to learn what God already knows, uses, and created.

ismellarat said...

Harry, what were the three questions that had stumped Archer?