In Defense of William Lane Craig

What follows is my four part defense of Bill Craig placed into one long post. I thought I'd put together all of the relevant posts and comments for further reference.

It's good to see Jeffery Jay Lowder blogging again. In a recent post he defends Bill Craig from the popular twin objections that he is not a good philosopher and that he is dishonest. I agree with Jeff on both counts. I think we need to be clear on what the objections are to his philosophy of time. They come from science. Craig is not a scientist. And as far as Craig being dishonest goes, it is much more likely that he sincerely believes because of any number of cognitive biases that are working in his brain, just like they do in all other believers. When it comes to public debates however I have suspected he fudges the truth. But this is a hard charge to make stick, since in a debate format the goal is to win, something he learned back in his High School debate teams. Bill Craig is a good man, a good philosopher, an honest man, and my friend, even though I think he is delusionally dead wrong.

• MrCheese says:
December 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm (Edit)

The amount of damage he causes is unforgivable. Just because he believes his own lies, doesn’t mean he is innocent. Rick Perry, WBC or the Pope might genuinely believe what they say, they are still bad people.

• anteprepro says:
December 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm (Edit)

I would say, to the contention that Billy Lane isn’t dishonest or incompetent, one need only look at two of his more notable arguments brought up in the last year at Pharyngula:

-His argument against animals fully suffering while simultaneously admitting (but not acknowledging that he has admitted) the suffering of non-human primates.

-His argument justifying divine-mandated genocide by saying the victims deserved it and the only REAL victims were the culprits.
Both are stupid arguments that obviously fail. Both reflect a certain level of amorality. And both are arguments that he has defended. (Pain here, and genocide redefended here ). It takes either incompetence or dishonesty to defend the blatantly wrong with yet more blatant errors, and to dismiss legitimate objections out of hand. So either he is incompetent or dishonest. Or Billy Lane is just trolling us all (though I guess that would be a form of dishonesty).

As for defending him because he is proven wrong by science and isn’t a scientist: He uses science to support his arguments, and attempts to address the science that refutes his argument in order to add more credibility to his argument. Bringing up that he isn’t a scientist isn’t a defense against that: It is further damning him for trying to present himself as an authority on scientific matters.

• Marnie says:
December 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm (Edit)

Hmm, I agree with the first item, though I will say this: Craig is a good philosopher (far better than I) but he is a bad communicator. In debates, he loves to throw around philosophical jargon and obscure references which may reflect his extensive education and research but it alienates people who are interested in the substance of his arguments. I think it’s akin to chopra style arguments, where big technical terms are thrown around to impress people who don’t know that field of research but people who do understand, see that the arguments are actually really lacking.

On the second item, I do consider him intellectually dishonest. For instance, in his debate with Sam Harris, Craig regularly dismissed arguments from Harris as being irrelevant to the topic and simply declined to address them. He sets up arbitrary lines in the sand so that he doesn’t have to actually address his opponents points. I think he knows that he cannot answer those arguments. If that’s not intellectual dishonesty, I don’t know what is.

From what little I’ve seen of Craig, and I’ll concede that I’ve only read a couple things he’s written and seen that one debate, he relies on these two evasive maneuvers to give the impression he’s made airtight arguments when he hasn’t done anything at all. By some definitions, I believe this makes him both a bad philosopher and a dishonest one.

• Gordon says:
December 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm (Edit)

He has said that his arguments are not what convince him, the Holy Spirit is. So at the very least it is dishonest of him to present his arguments as if they were convincing when they are not even sufficient to convince him!

And I dont think my conception of a “good man” overlaps at all with a man who’d defend genocide.

• 'Tis Himself, OM says:
December 10, 2011 at 3:07 pm (Edit)

Craig is an excellent debater. However debate is a horrible way to resolve a truth claim. All debate shows is who is the best debater.
I’ve seen videos of Craig’s debates. I was appalled by his lack of scientific knowledge, particularly of cosmology. I’m an economist by education and experience and I know more about cosmology than he does.
His style is to tediously drag out pompous syllogisms, which his opponents ignore because they are irrelevant, and which the audience has trouble understanding. The combination of incomprehension plus his loud voice makes the audience think he has “won” the debate, and this impression is reinforced since he always declares that he has “won” whether he has or not. He also uses the Gish Gallop, knowing a claim he can make in a minute will require ten minutes to refute.
He may be honest, but he’s skirting dishonesty very closely.

• anteprepro says:
December 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm (Edit)

And I dont think my conception of a “good man” overlaps at all with a man who’d defend genocide.

Which is ironic, coming from the man who loves to harp on the fact that there is no objective morality if atheism is true. Gotta love that atheist non-objective morality is more similar to the morality Christians love to take credit for, than the morality one can get from a literal reading of the Bible.

• Camels With Hammers says:
December 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm (Edit)

Quite often the problem I have seen is that Craig is put up against people who are not philosophers or not scientists and who are ill-equipped to answer either the philosophical arguments or their scientific components he is marshaling.

• Angra Mainyu says:
December 10, 2011 at 4:01 pm (Edit)

While I make no claim that he’s being dishonest or that he is a bad philosopher, honestly I find your claim that he’s a good man difficult to buy.

For instance:
William Lane Craig:

That’s why I went on to offer the second, better solution: that the rejection of Christ as Lord and Savior, being a rejection of God Himself, is a sin of infinite gravity and proportion and therefore plausibly does merit infinite punishment. So seen, people are sent to hell, not so much for murder and theft and adultery, but for their rejection of God.

So, Craig judges that those who – for instance – fail to believe that Jesus is a the son of a superpowerful creator – and the same being as the creator! -, after being exposed to Christian doctrine, deserve infinite punishment for their failure to believe. (which isn’t even a choice, but leaving that aside).

On top of that, he’s clearly implying that non-theism – at least, after exposure to Christian doctrine – is far worse than murder.
He may well believe that – for instance – murderers also deserve infinite punishment, of course, but if so, it’s not for the murder itself, but for rejecting God by killing people against his will.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that adulterers, thieves or even murderers deserve infinite torture (Craig apparently doesn’t want to call Hell “torture” because he thinks that’s a negatively loaded word; of course, the characterization is accurate), but rather, I’m saying that Craig spreads hatred by comparing non-belief negatively with respect to murder.

That’s an example, but more cases can be found on his website.
It’s true that that’s what his religion says.

But that is no excuse for his promotion of such beliefs (in fact, there are even Christians who reject the idea of Hell, or the claim that non-belief merits infinite punishment, but even if there weren’t any, the point remains).

• Reginald Selkirk says:
December 10, 2011 at 4:06 pm (Edit)

I think we need to be clear on what the objections are to his philosophy of time. They come from science. Craig is not a scientist.
I’m not clear whether you are saying Craig’s philosophy of time comes from science, or that the objections come from science. Hopefully the latter.

Craig makes claims about time, infinity, probability and cosmology which he claims are solid science and mathematics, but he seems to cherry-pick only those bits that agree with the conclusion he wishes to defend. His use of science and mathematics is very selective and atrocious. The things he says about infinity, for example, are nonsensical.

• jwloftus says:
December 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm (Edit)

Whoa everyone, hold yer horses.

The mark of a delusionally dead wrong person is that he is sincere in being wrong against the overwhelming evidence. We cannot point to the fact that there is overwhelming evidence against what that person believes and conclude he is dishonest with the facts. I was a delusionally dead wrong sincere person at one time too. Those of you who have never been deluded by a religion may not know what this means. I do.

Do flat earthers know they are wrong?

Do 911 conspiracy theorists?

Here’s a better perspective. I do not doubt the sincerely of the inquisitors since on their view the greatest crime of all was to send people to hell because of one’s own heresy, which could infect other people. They thought it best to kill them so their heresy would not send others to hell.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the 911 suicide bombers.

As to whether these people are good people, as I claimed of Bill Craig, it depends on whether said persons ever inflicted harm on others, and Bill has not done that. His ideas may cause harm. That I’ll agree with. But he treats people well.

• anteprepro says:
December 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm (Edit)

The mark of a delusionally dead wrong person is that he is sincere in being wrong against the overwhelming evidence.

Indeed. But being wrong in the face of overwhelming evidence is not the mark of a “good philosopher”. (Just as someone ignoring wide swaths of literature relevant to their various theses, in order to further their theses without dealing with contradictory evidence, would never be considered a “good scientist”).

• jwloftus says:
December 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm (Edit)

Ahhhh, philosophy! I have little regard for that discipline even though I was trained as a philosopher. Only scientifically minded philosophers get any respect from me. But philosophers like Craig don’t share this same perspective. They are equally deluded into thinking philosophy can answer the questions that only science can. So, does it say much that Craig is a good philosopher given this criticism? Perhaps not. But when it comes to doing philosophy under these age old scholastic strictures, he is.

• anteprepro says:
December 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm (Edit)

Okay, well, I suppose that explains that, lol.

• David Marjanović says:
December 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm (Edit)

I think we need to be clear on what the objections are to his philosophy of time. They come from science. Craig is not a scientist.
Then why does he keep talking about science? Why does he keep talking about things he doesn’t know enough about to understand them?

Bill Craig is [...] a good philosopher,

If he doesn’t know that the argument from ignorance and the argument from [in this case Biblical] authority are logical fallacies, he’s an exceptionally bad philosopher. If he does know it, we get to the next point…

an honest man,

Then why does he participate in debates? As you write, “in a debate format the goal is to win”, not to figure out which ideas are wrong.
and my friend

Then please reciprocate that. Friends don’t let friends make arguments from ignorance.

…especially not as painfully embarrassing arguments from ignorance as Craig keeps making.

So, does it say much that Craig is a good philosopher given this criticism? Perhaps not. But when it comes to doing philosophy under these age[-]old scholastic strictures, he is.

1) Those strictures are, of course, a big part of the problem. In the age of scholasticism, it was generally agreed that it’s possible to learn something about the world by just thinking about it – that observing it is not necessary. Craig behaves acccordingly, which means that he doesn’t even try to remedy his ignorance about the very topics he keeps talking about.

2) Even the scholastics knew, in theory anyway, that the argument from ignorance and the argument from authority were logical fallacies.

• jwloftus says:
December 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm (Edit)

Here is the standard response to people who argue against the god of the gaps reasoning:

It's written by Robert Lamar titled, “Is there anything wrong with ‘God of the gaps’ reasoning?”

Basically from memory he argues that if the gaps are huge and seemingly impossible to bridge then there is nothing wrong with using it.

• articulett says:
December 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm (Edit)

The fact that Bill Craig refuses to debate you and makes silly excuses for not doing so makes me pretty sure that he doesn’t believe his arguments as much as he claims to.

It reminds me too much of Sylvia Browne refusing to take Randi’s million dollar challenge.

Craig seems quite aware that his magical beliefs could be as unfounded as those he rejects… and that his “uncaused first cause” does not lead to “Jesus: the 3-in-1 bible-god.”

He strikes me as someone who would rather continue to believe and promote a lie rather than someone able to cede that he might be as mistaken as those of other faiths that he is sure are mistaken. He is more interested in what people believe than what is actually true. Moreover, he imagines himself saved for his beliefs (and damned if he doubts them) so he has quite the vested interest in continuing to fool himself and others. He makes his living doing so.

Sure he’s delusional– but he has quite the vested interest in remaining so. Tom Cruise is delusional too. What woo isn’t? The delusion isn’t the thing I dislike about woo – the bigger problem is their denigration of those who speak the truth.

• Amontillado says:
December 10, 2011 at 6:31 pm (Edit)

This is true. Against peers like Shelly Kagan and Stephen Law he doesn’t fair nearly as well.

• jwloftus says:
December 10, 2011 at 6:31 pm (Edit)

articulett, thanks for being here. I appreciate it.
I can’t psychoanalyze people very well. I just have to look at what they say. Behind his excuses for not debating me Craig probably just thinks I’m dangerous to Christianity. So he does not want to introduce me to Christians by doing so. Perhaps he also thinks it would bring upon him shame.

• Angra Mainyu says:
December 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm (Edit)

As to whether these people are good people, as I claimed of Bill Craig, it depends on whether said persons ever inflicted harm on others, and Bill has not done that. His ideas may cause harm. That I’ll agree with. But he treats people well.

While he’s clearly not done harm on a level comparable to that caused by inquisitors or the 911 suicide bombers, Craig causes harm – and a lot – by means of promoting those ideas (e.g., if I say that you deserve to suffer eternal torment for being an atheist, and people believe what I say, I’m causing harm. And if I spread that belief with regard to millions of people rather than just you, I’m doing more harm).

That aside, the example I gave you is merely one among many.
So, it seems that the question is whether the amount of harm he does to people who do not deserve it is compatible with the claim that he’s a good person.

It seems to me that the answer is negative:

While there are obviously people who do a lot more harm than he does, it seems to me Craig is not just the average Christian in terms of the harm he does:

Craig is capable of persuading other people, helping harmful beliefs endure and even spread; also, he clearly is intelligent enough to realize that his claims have no basis.

He’s being irrational, but I’d say he is being immoral for remaining irrational and causing a considerable amount of harm in that manner.
Moreover, he’s done that for decades, and insists on the same claims – even though he’s had more than enough time to think things through.
I understand that he is your friend and that he treats you well in person (though you’re a non-theist and he implies that non-theism is far worse than murder, claims non-theists deserve infinite torment for that, etc.); also, I have no reason to suspect he doesn’t treat his family and those around him reasonably well.

However, given the previous considerations about how he promotes harmful beliefs, my conclusion still is that he’s not a good person.
He’s a very intelligent person who uses his intelligence to do considerable harm to people who don’t deserve to be so harmed, even if he fails to realize that because he’s being culpably irrational.

• eNeMeE says:
December 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm (Edit)

Written by Robert Lamar titled, “Is there anything wrong with ‘God of the gaps’ reasoning?”

…ug. I couldn’t read past about half-way, where he’s saying anthropologists and archaeologists are about the same as intelligent design theorists. And that not being able to accelerate past ‘c’ is a perfectly legitimate ‘gap’ – which fails to be representative of a ‘god of the gaps’ type of gap.

• DR says:
December 10, 2011 at 6:51 pm (Edit)

Mackie pretty much demolished most of Craig’s arguments 30 years ago. The fact that Craig continues to make claims that he cannot support makes him a bad philosopher and an academic fraud. Period.

• David Marjanović says:
December 10, 2011 at 8:05 pm (Edit)

Basically from memory he argues that if the gaps are huge and seemingly impossible to bridge then there is nothing wrong with using it.

How about the principle of parsimony? A god is a huge package of huge assumptions.

culpably irrational

The ethics of belief…

• Angra Mainyu says:
December 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm (Edit)

The ethics of belief…
Kind of; personally, I don’t go as far as Clifford in his moral condemnation of religious belief, but consider the matter on a case by case basis.

• Which Way Is Up? says:
December 11, 2011 at 1:12 am (Edit)

People who so easily defend the shit that’s in the Bible can just as easily be led to do the shit that’s in the Bible.

• Mike Gantt says:
December 11, 2011 at 5:28 am (Edit)

If any atheists are to make any significant headway against Bill Craig among the open-minded, it will be those who do so with the attitude toward him held by John Loftus and Jeffery Jay Lowder.

• jwloftus says:
December 11, 2011 at 7:47 am (Edit)
Thanks Mike Gantt.

• DR says:
December 11, 2011 at 10:16 am (Edit)
No: I reject this. I’m sorry, but in science, a person who continues to repeat arguments which have been soundly debunked is considered a crank. The same should be true of “philosophers”. That it isn’t is an indictment on the philosophical profession, not an excuse for bad scholarship.

In Defense of William Lane Craig, Two by John W. Loftus

Hey, I confess, I like getting a rise out of people. I like to provoke thought too. Previously I had written in defense of William Lane Craig. It provoked some good thoughts. So let’s do this again. Why not? I’ve got some time to kill.

I just want to argue in this post against the claim made by some atheists that Bill is culpably wrong and that he knows it. This is emphatically not the case as much as some atheists would like to think. He is delusionally dead wrong. But he sincerely believes. I know him personally and have talked with him on several occasions even after deconverting. As a friend he would not look me in the eye and say the things he does if he didn’t believe. That’s my informed testimony. You may not like it, but that’s my claim. If anyone thinks differently then tell me how you know him to say otherwise.

I hear Christians say the same exact things about us as atheists. They claim we really believe, that we are culpably wrong, and that we’re just angry with God–their particular one mind you.

Why all of this psychoanalyzing? I think it’s just ignorance of the facts on both sides. Yep, that’s right, ignorance. Just as it’s ignorant to say Christians like Craig know they are wrong so also it’s wrong of them to say we know we’re wrong.

It just makes each side of this debate feel better about themselves, that’s all. We like to think the other side knows differently because we cannot see any other conclusion than the one we’ve come to accept. But I say get over it to both sides.

Christians like Craig are deluded but they really believe just exactly as if they were brainwashed. We must face this fact honestly. Look at the phenomenon of brainwashing and you’ll see it quite clearly. No one in his right mind would embarrass himself to the public at large by saying genocide is acceptable unless he really believes the Bible, you see. Pat Robertson has said some really stupid things too. Why would they do this unless they really sincerely believed?

There is a difference between being rational and being ignorant. A person can be rational and yet be ignorant. Bill Craig and Pat Robertson are rational people even though they are ignorant. Given all that they believe they are rational to defend the things they do. The problem is that they are ignorant about that which they should believe, really ignorant! They were raised to believe in our Christian culture. They cannot see things differently. Their delusion puts up an almost impenetrable wall that deflects all objections to the contrary. So that’s why I rationally deal with their beliefs. I try to treat them as human beings by reasoning with them even though they have that almost impenetrable delusional wall in place. If I can’t reach them then by attempting to do so I can reach believers who are more open-minded, and they do exist. Other atheists do things differently and that’s okay since we need all kinds of responses.
Until we accept the fact that people like Craig really believe and then treat their arguments seriously we will not be as effective as we can in reaching believers who are reading what we write. It takes all kinds of approaches and I embrace them. It’s just that this is my niche.

But Craig really believes. Cheers.

• Peter Grant says:
December 11, 2011 at 7:50 am (Edit)

I agree, it’s not lame Craig’s fault and we shouldn’t blame him, but the fact remains that he is still lame.

• sqlrob says:
December 11, 2011 at 7:55 am (Edit)

There is a difference between being rational and being ignorant. A person can be rational and yet be ignorant. Bill Craig and Pat Robertson are rational people even though they are ignorant.
They have been exposed to the facts. They are not ignorant.

• manocheese says:
December 11, 2011 at 7:56 am (Edit)

I know he believes. I keep having to tell theists that I know they believe but that doesn’t make them right. My point on your last post is that it does not free him from the responsibility of his actions.
Charles Manson wasn’t lying when he said he thought the Beatles were talking to him. I think you’ve started with a good point, but that taking his argument seriously takes it too far.

• Gordon says:
December 11, 2011 at 7:58 am (Edit)

I dont doubt he believes in christianity, I just think his debating tactics are dishonest. I dont hold the position that “WLC knows christianity is not true but defends it anyway”. The positon I hold is “WLC knows that the arguments he uses in a debate are not what convince him”

I think he absolutel believes in the claims of christianity, but not for the reasons he’ll present in a debate.

And that seems dishonest to me.

• Mike Haubrich says:
December 11, 2011 at 7:59 am (Edit)

I have gotten frustrated with the smug self-congratulatory belief of my fellow atheists that we are atheists because we are “rational” and theists are “irrational.” I think it is a self-congratulatory “we can stop now” attitude. I can’t think of anyone who truly believes he or she is “irrational.” It all makes sense, doesn’t it, when you start from the correct presuppositions.

I think often of Craig’s Syllogism. It is tight and self-contained, but can only be accepted if one already believes that there is such a thing as “objective morality that needs a creator.” Of course, it doesn’t occur to believers that they really need to defend their position that there is such a beast as “objective morality” before they can demonstrate that the syllogism is applicable.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not entirely “rational.” I am aware that I have presuppositions based on my experiences and perceptions. My perception of the reality of the world doesn’t fit with the idea of a purposefully created world and universe and that is why I am an atheist. This makes it easier for me to see that the Christian, Jewish and Muslim belief system is based on mythology but I can’t pretend that I have made a detailed analysis of all the data available.

I no longer am all that interested in whether or not God is a real entity, I haven’t seen anything since I became an atheist to convince me that it exists and I feel confident that I can leave it at that. I am an apatheist in that I think that as an agnostic there is no longer any reason for me to think that it exists. I am more concerned about the way that a religious belief colors the world of the sorts of true believers such as Craig and Robertson influence people into doing damage to the rest of society.

• mikespeir says:
December 11, 2011 at 8:35 am (Edit)

“They were raised to believe. They cannot see things differently.”

I wish more of us understood this. That’s the way I was. I wasn’t dishonest in believing, I was constitutionally incapable of not believing. True, I eventually came around, but it was the result of a gradual eroding of my confidence in the Bible and the Christian faith. Even then it probably would ever have happened without some stout emotional jolts that loosened my emotional ties with the Faith and allowed me, for the first time, to look back with a degree of objectivity at the outrage of what I had been calling TRUTH. It was a pretty weird confluence of events and influences that opened the door for me. For so many others, that door will be forever sealed.

It’s sad, I know, but there are people who really cannot help believing. It’s sad in that it drives them to see others of unlike mind as, basically, monsters. Things are changing, but we’re going to have to reconcile ourselves to the reality that it won’t happen all at once, overnight. It won’t happen within the next several generations. None of us will live to see the work finished. But unless there’s some kind of catastrophic world-wide reversal that drives people back into the fortress of faith and superstition, it will happen. William Lane Craig will have descendants who will be ashamed to admit the ancestry.

• 'Tis Himself, OM says:
December 11, 2011 at 10:05 am (Edit)

Craig believes. I have no trouble with that. I know lots of people who believe. I also know the reasons they give for their beliefs are either fallacious or rely on faith. Faith boils down to “I really want to believe this and so, despite the lack of evidence to support my belief, I still believe.”

One of my problems with Craig is his use of pseudeoscience, pseudohistory and appeals to emotion to support his beliefs. He’s been told his cosmological ideas are flat-out wrong but does he find out what cosmologists are actually saying? Not only no but hell no! He continues to use the same fallacious arguments despite being told over and over again these arguments are fallacious. That’s not honest.

Then there’s his unsupportable ideas about morality. He claims his god is absolutely moral and then tries to justify obviously immoral acts by said god. Here he is discussing the God-ordered Canaanite genocide:

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

I thought we atheists were supposed to be the nihilistic ones. Why doesn’t Craig commit suicide so he can get to Heaven quicker? Or is he not in a hurry to get there?

The old “everything God does is okay” argument was shot down by Epicurus around 200 BCE. The problem of evil continues to exist despite Craig’s desperate hand waving, tap dancing, and fallacious arguing.

• Rob says:
December 11, 2011 at 10:48 am (Edit)

I would not dispute that WLC believes what he says he believes. But he is still a dishonest jackass.

Here’s why. He argues in Reasonable Faith that his beliefs are immune from arguments. The ghost voice he hears in his head overrides any counter-evidence or argument. Yet he then goes on to say that other folks should be persuaded by arguments!

For instance, if a Muslim claimed they heard the voice of Allah testifying to the truth of the Koran, Craig would try and argue against the Koran.

He is a hypocrite. Arguments cannot persuade him, yet arguments should persuade others.

• Marnie says:
December 11, 2011 at 12:47 pm (Edit)

Here is the problem I have with Craig.
1. Craig is a well educated and skilled philosopher
2. If #1 is true then he knows a sound argument from an unsound argument
3. If #2 is true he must, on some level, realize that his arguments are not sound
Therefore, on some level, Craig is willfully dishonest in his arguments

This is what keeps me from cutting Craig any slack. I understand that we are talking about lifelong indoctrination and cognitive dissonance, but some part of him must realize that he wouldn’t accept arguments like his own, that opposed his views so why does he accept those arguments from himself?

This is not the same arguments as saying that atheists secretly believe in god and are mad at him. That’s just an illogical statement. I am making no judgement of Craig’s beliefs, I’m making a judgement of his arguments in favor of his views. It would be like a skilled and experienced surgeon suggesting reiki or homeopathy and arguing that either is scientifically sound. The surgeon should know the scientific method, should know what constitutes evidence, and is willfully choosing to ignore what he or she knows to propagate an idea that he or she has some emotionally vested interest in advancing. That individual may feel deeply that there is something to either treatment but acting as though either has existing empirical evidence to support them is intellectually dishonest.

• Kevin says:
December 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm (Edit)

I fail to see how the terms “rational” and “delusional” could describe the same person, especially when it regards a single issue. Please explain.

• steve oberski says:
December 11, 2011 at 1:51 pm (Edit)

Could your unwillingness to admit that Craig is at best dishonest and at worst actively evil, be a result of cognitive bias ?

• Mike D says:
December 11, 2011 at 1:57 pm (Edit)

I think a lot of us just find him to so willfully ignorant that he figure he must just be dishonest. He purports to be this highly educated theologian, but he repeats arguments that suffer from elementary fallacies and repeats scientific/factual errors even after being corrected innumerable times. He makes little effort to accurately understand his opponents’ arguments, responding to caricatures and straw men instead.

Worse, he assures his readers that even if he were convinced his arguments were wrong, he’d believe anyway. If all the evidence were against him, he’d believe anyway. Why? Because he feels that his experiences were real.

So I concur, he’s a True Believer. Dishonest? Maybe not. Disingenuous, definitely. You can’t claim to be committed to reason and then proudly proclaim that no amount of reason will undermine your faith.

• J. J. Ramsey says:
December 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm (Edit)

They have been exposed to the facts. They are not ignorant.

Two words: Morton’s Demon

• mikespeir says:
December 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm (Edit)

At some level I agree with you, Marnie. At another, I don’t think it’s all quite so simple. We flatter ourselves if we think our psyches are simple input/output engines: data in, data out; garbage in, garbage out. Our minds do a lot of behind-the-scenes tweaking that we don’t even recognize. Far too often data goes in and garbage comes out. Our biases do this tweaking, and we’re usually oblivious to it. In short, if we badly want something to be true, we’re halfway home to finding that it is true. And the process of getting there seems so perfectly rational to us.

• Marnie says:
December 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm (Edit)

I don’t disagree with you. As I said, years of indoctrination and a healthy dose of cognitive dissonance probably pay a big role in craig’s justifications. I don’t think that gives him a pass on intellectual dishonesty. He has the tools at hand to assess his arguments. He applies those tools to other people’s arguments. He may not be willing to admit that his arguments don’t pass his own criteria for proof but that doesn’t absolve him of using unsound arguments.

• Kingasaurus says:
December 11, 2011 at 2:22 pm (Edit)

I agree that Craig is an authentic believer.
But because of this, ANY tactic, honest or dishonest, that gets more people to accept Jesus is what matters. He doesn’t care.

He’ll do anything to accomplish that, which is why I find him incredibly slimy. Anyone who thinks lying for Jesus has zero negative moral implications is an extremely dangerous person, John. Especially someone with Craig’s high profile.

• Andrew G. says:
December 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm (Edit)

I don’t think it’s reasonable to claim simultaneously that someone is both deluded and rational – by any sane definition they are mutually exclusive.

• 'Tis Himself, OM says:
December 11, 2011 at 6:16 pm (Edit)

Andrew G.
One can be quite rational about one’s delusions. I can have the delusion that there’s a monster living under my bed but it can’t come out. So I make the rational assumption it can’t grab me if I make a running dive into bed each night and jump out of bed each morning. I can’t look under the bed to see if there is a monster there because if I got my head close enough to see then the monster could grab me. So I make the rational decision not to look.
• sunnydale75 says:
December 12, 2011 at 1:56 am (Edit)

Given WLC’s rationalization for god’s genocidal actions, I’m surprised he isn’t all for abortion. It sounds cold to even think it (I certainly don’t believe this), but if the death of children=their salvation–aside from begging the question of why god allows them to be born in the first place–those fetuses that are aborted get saved and go to heaven.

• Jeffrey says:
December 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm (Edit)

A lot of the accusations of “dishonesty” come from an ignorance of discourse. Athiests, by nature, have no interest in apologetic discourse. However, people like Craig treat apologetics with the same amount of clout that athiests treat the scientific method and reason. Apologetic discourse easily misleads people into thinking their reasons are rational and reasonable. He believes, and believes that belief has inherent value; his discourse by no means makes him dishonest.

This discourse-collision cannot ever lead to shared understanding because the rules simply aren’t the same. Craig’s ignorance and use of apologetic discourse do not make him “culpably dishonest.” He’s just one of the many people who have accepted a faulty system of reason.

In Defense of William Lane Craig, Three by John W. Loftus

It looks like this will be a series of posts so let me start numbering them. It has been claimed that Bill cannot be rational and that he is evil. Let me respond to both accusations.

What makes someone rational? Is it having the truth? Is it that only people who have the truth can be rational; that the word “rational” is equivalent to the word “truth”?

I think not, not by a long shot. Why? Because none of us are completely rational. I shouldn’t have to defend this notion at all. Psychology shows us this time and time again. Additionally there are people who have the truth who have no good reason apart from luck to have it. Let’s say they were taught the truth but apart from believing what they were taught cannot justify why it is the truth.
So the best way to understand what it means to be rational is that a person can use logic to arrive at sound conclusions given a set of assumptions. That we all have assumptions is a basic bedrock of philosophy, all of us. Some assumptions are better justified of course, but we cannot place all of our assumptions on the table at the same time. We just have to assume some things and from those assumptions draw the proper implications using logic.

I think Richard Dawkins argued (or was it Christopher Hitchens?) that Pat Robertson was right to draw the conclusion that hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment upon New Orleans for their sins given what he believes. That’s being rational. Drawing the proper conclusions based upon what one assumes or believes to be true. Dawkins argued that Roberton was rational and other believers were not rational because they did not draw the proper conclusions. I think Dawkins was correct.

So is Bill Craig rational when he justifies the Canaanite genocide? Yes, by the same standard. It’s because Craig believes the Bible just as Roberston does. Of course, believing the Bible is bat shit crazy, but that’s besides the point.

Now let’s look at whether Bill is evil. An evil person is someone who does evil deeds. Bill has not done any. So he is not an evil person. We lock up evil people in prison. Craig is not is prison. And while he justifies a divine sanctioned genocide in the Bible he would emphatically deny any genocide in today’s world for the same reasons any good person would–because it is not divinely sanctified and because doing so is evil.

Atheists who think Craig is evil should really think twice about the freedom of speech which they espouse. Is pornography evil? Gambling? The free expression of ideas might lead wackos to do terrible deeds because of others who express themselves, but people who express those ideas would be horrified if anyone actually acted upon those ideas. Bill would be horrified if anyone participated in genocide, as but one example.

I know I’ll have to revisit this but that’s enough for now.

Bill Craig is both rational and not evil. He is a good man.

• DR says:
December 11, 2011 at 7:56 pm (Edit)

Anyone who defends genocide has to be considered evil. I think you’re letting the personal affection you have for the man cloud your judgement, John. The very same arguments he’s made were made to justify the Holocaust and Apartheid, don’t forget.

• Peter Grant says:
December 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm (Edit)

I’ll grant that his behaviour is rational in a sense, given the whacked-out a priori premises he’s operating under, but this doesn’t actually make it good. His whole moral character gets shaped by his beliefs, I’ve noticed he’s a bit of a homophobe for starters. This may not be his fault, strictly speaking, but it certainly doesn’t make him good.

Also, I think I’ve mentioned it before, lame Craig is lame.

• Improbable Joe says:
December 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm (Edit)

What does thinking that Craig is evil have to do with freedom of speech? He can pretend to be as horrified as he likes… hell, he can even BE as horrified as he likes, but it doesn’t change the fact that he defends genocide. Feeling bad doesn’t make you less evil… it makes you MORE evil.

• eNeMeE says:
December 11, 2011 at 8:23 pm (Edit)

We lock up evil people in prison.

I think this is generally false, unless you’re setting up a definition. People who break the law sometimes get locked up, I guess, but there are a lot of evil people running around freely (under pretty much any moral system I can think of).

To be clear, you’re arguing that ‘defense of genocide’ is compatible with goodness? …I would disagree.

Also, he’s not being rational as his lack of non-Christian (or Jewish, not sure which) baby killing is condemning most of those folks to hell when they could have gone straight to heaven if only he’d killed them. Works for Caanite babies, so why not anymore?

• david says:
December 11, 2011 at 8:33 pm (Edit)

” An evil person is someone who does evil deeds.”

That’s too narrow a definition. It’s also evil to help create an environment of hatred, oppression, and prejudice. To make it really, really clear, consider the nazi supporters who did not themselves operate the death camps. Enbablers are also guilty. The same principle, at much lesser intensity, applies to your friend Craig. Rationalizing away the genocides described in the bible helps create a modern environment that also allows genocide. “The bible says it’s OK…”

• Marnie says:
December 11, 2011 at 8:48 pm (Edit)

Well, I have to take issue with the argument that if someone does something “evil” he goes to jail. I don’t actually buy into the idea of “evil” as a real concept. It is an easy way to strip someone of humanity but what does it mean? Someone can act immorally, unethically, selfishly, dishonestly, violently, irrationally, criminally, or a myriad other possibilities. These are actions that must be assessed contextually. You may act violently in self defense, or criminally to feed your family. Neither is inherently evil even if you end up going to jail for it. Your society may consider it immoral and illegal have a same sex marriage, but doesn’t make it evil. I can be legal to beat a dog (I’m not saying it is) but that wouldn’t make beating a dog right.

It’s a strawman to even discuss how “evil” someone is, both the people who are calling Craig evil and those defending him as not evil, without first coming to a mutual decision about what the word “evil” means.

I do think it’s unethical to justify genocide for the same reason it has always been wrong to justify slavery, even when it was legal and considered moral by societal standards. Regardless of time and place, and regardless of public sentiment, both are ethically unjustifiable. Attempting to justify either cast doubt on a person’s moral integrity.

• sqlrob says:
December 11, 2011 at 8:58 pm (Edit)

Given a set of beliefs and coming to the logical conclusion from those initial axioms? You’re right, that’s rational.

When those beliefs are contradicted by reality, and it has been shown to them? Not rational.

• ShaunPhilly says:
December 11, 2011 at 9:40 pm (Edit)

There is a distinction between consistency in being rational and rational after a set of assumptions. So while I agree that nobody is completely rational, the fact that people like William Lane Craig seem to be avoiding the application of rational methodologies to the foundations of their worldview is, for some, the same as being irrational.

I think what drives me crazy is watching Graig in a debate, perhaps due to that delusional shield referred to in part 2, which seems to allow him to allow rebuttals and facts to slide past him without absorbing them. It looks like dishonesty when seen from the point of view of an observer who highly values truth and honesty in discussion. Of course, I’m sure we all do it to some degree.
But his defense of genocide is the worst of it. As Matt Dillahunty (as well as others) has said, the inability to recognize that such things are evil is a sign that religion does blind us to true harm. If Craig were a truly good person, he should be able to see the horrific nature of the events described in the Bible, but his lenses prevent this perception. Does this make a person evil? Perhaps not, but it at least makes them morally compromised.

• Angra Mainyu says:
December 11, 2011 at 9:54 pm (Edit)

On the issue of rationality:

I think first we need to keep in mind the difference between saying that someone is irrational and saying that he’s being irrational.
That Craig is being irrational in many cases involving his faith is evidenced – for instance – by the fact that he’s insisted for decades on arguments that have repeatedly been shown to fail – from the Kalam Cosmological Argument to arguments for the resurrection of Jesus -, combined with the fact that he obviously has the intelligence to understand the replies, and/or to figure out on his own that they fail.

Assuming he’s not being dishonest – an alternative hypothesis -, it seems rather clear to me he’s being irrational for that.

On the other hand, he’s not being irrational when he correctly points out weaknesses in some of the arguments of his opponents – for example.

As for the fact that Craig believes in the Bible, that seem to be irrational too.

It seems to me that believing in the Bible is not always irrational, though.

For instance, it’s not irrational for children to generally believe what their parents tell them. And if they’re told that the biblical god created the world, etc., and when they grow up they have to do 16 hours a day of hard work and have no time and/or knowledge to even raise questions and assess the claims, their belief would persist.
That’s ignorance, but not necessarily irrationality; whether they’re also being irrational would depend on the attitude to those claims, which could be evaluated how they would react if they were to assess those claims (my hunch is that usually, they’re being irrational, but not always; just a hunch, though).

However, Craig is intelligent and surely has spent more than enough time assessing the Bible and pondering objections to Christianity to conclude that Christianity is not true.

I’m surprised, however, by your claim that “believing the Bible is bat shit crazy, but that’s besides the point.”.

Okay, you then agree that Craig is being bat shit crazy for what he believes in; then, it seems to me that we’re using the term “rational” in a way that differs from the way I understand it.

While I would not go as far as to say that believing in the Bible is always bat shit crazy – see my example above -, I do say that believing in the Bible is in many cases – including Craig’s, for sure – bat shit crazy, which would not be beside the point as far as I can tell: I would understand “bat shit crazy” as a way of saying he’s being very irrational.

Of course, I do not doubt that he can reason properly, and often does so.

Perhaps, more than disagreeing on whether he’s being irrational, we’re using the word “irrational” differently.

Side note: I don’t have a general theory of what constitutes rationality, but that’s not required in order to make assessments of rationality (if it were, it seems no one could ever make any assessment of rationality, because any such theory would have to be evaluated against our intuitive assessments of rationality in the first place)

• Daniel Schealler says:
December 11, 2011 at 9:59 pm (Edit)

I always liked A C Grayling’s conception of the word ‘rational’ as rational, setting the ratio or proportion of the strength of our beliefs in balance against the evidence for those beliefs.

With that definition in mind, I think I’m justified in regarding Craig as irrational.

Note that ‘irrational’ in this sense should not be read as implying ‘stupid’. I don’t think Craig is a stupid man. Far from it. I think he’s far too clever by half.

I like this definition of ‘rational’ because it distinguishes between rationality and logic.

The argument you present above presents a case that Craig is, or at least that he attempts to be, logical – in that the conclusions he draws are sequitur from the premises in which he believes. And I’d agree with you there.

However, I do not think that the strength of his beliefs in those premises have been properly proportioned against the available evidence for those beliefs. As such, I consider him to be logical but irrational.

As for ‘evil’ – I don’t like the word evil to begin with. It’s a technique for other-ing someone, nothing more. I distance myself from it, and wish people on my side of the theism question would stop using it to denigrate others.

That said, I do think that some of the conclusions Craig draws about morality – both in the abstract sense as well as how morality should be applied in specific cases – are profoundly mistaken and would lead to some pretty horrific consequences if consistently applied throughout society…

Which in my view makes him wrong – although perhaps I shouldn’t use the category of truth in my criticism… So no, not wrong. But I think that his arguments and thinking as supplied about morality are profoundly unwise and should be met with uncompromising public criticism.

How’s that?

• sqlrob says:
December 11, 2011 at 10:08 pm (Edit)

It seems to me that believing in the Bible is not always irrational, though.

You sure about that? (warning: large PDF)

• Angra Mainyu says:
December 11, 2011 at 10:32 pm (Edit)

On the issue of morality: I’m not sure if I’d use the word “evil”; while it may be used as a synonym for “not a good person”, it might also be used as implying a particularly great degree of immorality.
That aside, as I explained earlier, I do not believe he’s a good person.

Granted, a good person might do some bad things sometimes.

However, if someone does bad things persistently, and if they are considerable bad, that rules out his being a good person.

Now, he’s been promoting views such as the view that there is no no-culpable non-belief, or that unbelief (and generally “rejection of God”) is an infinite sin that merits infinite punishment, that same-gender sex is immoral and same-gender marriages ought to be banned, etc., for decades.

And he keeps doing it, while using irrational religious beliefs in an attempt to support such views, and while he has more than enough intelligence and time to realize that those beliefs are untenable.

Moreover, since he’s intelligent and respected – and a superb debater, at least in oral debates -, he seems to have a significant impact in terms of his ability to influence public opinion.

He realizes that, and yet he keeps promoting such views regardless.
Given that, in my assessment, he’s not a good person.

Regarding the argument from prison – so to speak – “we” don’t lock up all of those who aren’t good people.

“We” lock up some people who aren’t good people, but not all of them; not everyone who is not in prison is a good person, even if they have committed no crime.

Some people who are not good people may not have committed any crimes because they’re being prudent and do not want to risk imprisonment, or simply because the immoral actions they regularly engage in are not criminalized.

In the case of Craig, the immoral actions he regularly engages in are not criminalized – and there are good reasons for that, since the overall consequences of criminalizing speech would in most contexts be worse than those of allowing it, even if immoral.

That does not mean that said actions are not immoral.

To put a more obvious example, someone – say, Bob – might legally promote a constitutional amendment in the US intended to limit most political rights to male WASPS.

Let’s say he’s very intelligent, has had ample time to think about it, no one is coercing him, etc., and he dedicates billions of dollars and spends decades promoting that agenda, who – he claims – is morally right.

His actions would not be criminal – or even illegal -, but they would be immoral.

Moreover, it’s clear that Bob is not a good person.

Now, that’s only an extreme example; I would not suggest that Craig’s promotion of his agenda is as bad as Bob’s promotion of his.
However, my point is that the fact that Craig is not acting criminally, or even illegally, does not entail that he’s a good person.

As for the claim that he would be horrified if someone engaged in genocide, I agree as long as it’s a human or similar being doing it.
However, he would surely not be horrified if a ban on same-gender marriage persisted or were imposed where it’s legal, and I’m not sure whether he would be horrified if, say, his claims about atheists contributed to the mistrust on atheists – which seems to reach levels comparable to rapists.

But regardless, he’s still responsible for the predictable consequences of his actions, which do not need to involve wackos doing terrible deeds.

The most common influence is not on wackos, but on the general population, and takes the form of an assortment of limited – yet unjust – types of discrimination, rather than genocide or other extreme behavior.

So, given the previous considerations about the agenda that Craig promotes, in my assessment, he’s not a good man.

Granted, you might have different intuitions on the matter, and make a different assessment.

All I can do is give my reasons as well, but probably we will not see eye to eye on this.

Regarding your other questions, my take on them is:

a) Is pornography evil?

As long as we’re talking about consenting adults, it usually isn’t immoral.

However, some kinds of exploitation are immoral – and taking advantage of someone who consents because of some needs may be so in some cases.

In any event, it has to be considered on a case by case basis.

b) Gambling?

I’d say not usually, though taking advantage of a compulsive gambler often is immoral.

So is gambling excessively when one has responsibilities, like a family to raise.

So, I’d say not usually, but it has to be assessed on a case by case basis.

• EvilDonthePirate says:
December 11, 2011 at 11:39 pm (Edit)

Well, John, you’re inviting a shitstorm, but bravo. It’s been fun to follow.

Let me just say that I was once an evangelical Christian and most members of my family still are. My father, especially, is committed to the evangelical belief system. He is a good man who has spent his entire life working his ass off and sacrificing so his family could have a better life. He’s generous, and despite not being a rich man by any means he readily gives from what little he has to help those who are less fortunate. I respect him for that. He’s a good man, if there ever was one.

However, he also thinks gay marriage should be banned and has made opposition to gay marriage a litmus test for any politician he might vote for. I find this contemptible, but I don’t think he is an evil man. He is a victim of a false worldview that he has been convinced is true. He has so much invested in this worldview that it would be too devastating for him to even question it’s legitimacy at this point.

I don’t say this to excuse his behavior. He is wrong on gay marriage and many other points. But that does not mean he is evil. He is a good man who wants with every fiber of his being to do what is right. The problem is he has committed himself to a belief system that is flawed to its core.

So John, I know where you are coming from when you call William Lane Craig a good man. I don’t doubt your assessment just as I would ask anyone not to doubt my assessment of my father. After all, I know him better than anyone but my mother. Craig and my father are good men, but they are completely wrong.

• sunnydale75 says:
December 12, 2011 at 1:40 am (Edit)

I can agree that he’s rational and not evil. A good man? That’s questionable and certainly separate from any question of his rationality.

• grumpyoldfart says:
December 12, 2011 at 1:41 am (Edit)

His logical errors are pointed out to him and he repeats them in later debates.

He thinks children should be murdered rather than grow up worshipping the wrong god – and he thinks their murderers are the real victims!

In his books he will say one thing while defending his god, and then contradict himself when refuting an atheist argument. For example, in chapter three of his book “On Guard”:

* He makes one point by saying that the universe consists of “all of space-time reality including all matter and energy.”
* But a few pages later when attempting to make another point, he says, “The universe is just the collection of all these [fundamental] particles arranged in different ways.”
Either he “honestly” forgot about space, time, and energy, or he’s a “liar for Jesus”.

• Alex Songe says:
December 12, 2011 at 2:04 am (Edit)

@sqlrob, I think you may be overreaching in your definitions of rationality. Being rational means having reasons or justifications. They do not have to be correct, they just have to be reasonably justified. WLC holds a different “worldview” with a wildly different epistemology. If you pay attention to his debates, he always mentions personal experience as the actual reason he believes. He’s convinced that the phenomena of his personal experience matches the metaphysical explanation he gives, and that everything else is viewed in light of his metaphysics and his epistemology. For him, consistency takes primacy over evidence for a valid worldview. Now, we think we are far more justified in a different worldview with different metaphysics and a different epistemology. Appeals are made to empiricism rather than to direct personal experience and pre-existing metaphysical views.

I think what question I’m trying to raise is “How many mistakes can one make before being considered irrational?” This is why Loftus tries to make the distinction between “truth” and “rationality”. We can show when someone is being unjustified in their reasoning as a group, and we all have conflicting ideas on many things. Are you going to narrow the field of those considered rational that they must agree with everything that you feel is justified? One is only irrational within a certain context or if there is a general pattern where someone does things for which they do not have reasons that they find compelling.

To say that Craig is rational means that generally he applies reason.

I think this is true, as it only takes 1 error before you can prove anything. When you want to appeal to empiricism, you’re making the (I think justified) claim that it is reasonable to value evidence above all else. With just this one error, one can be sufficiently justified in a host of claims. One thing that works with empiricism is its tolerance for error. A fact about the world can be wrong, but if you rely on many facts you won’t end up with systemic failure’s like Craig’s.

• John Keel says:
December 12, 2011 at 2:51 am (Edit)

Just hacking into the same groove as the previous commentors. I really can’t see how one cannot think that WLC is either quite irrational or profoundly dishonest.

I have only recently started reading your blog so I am not sure if you reply to comments but I would really like to understand why you defend this man the way you do. Obviously, he is your personal friend but come on, does that really blind you from seeing this man’s idiocy and/or irrationality and/or dishonesty?

How is it rational or honest to over and over and over again regurgitate arguments that have been refuted as many times and almost in as many ways as he has uttered them (especially considering WLC considers himself a top shelf philosopher)? How is it rational or honest to start your first and fundamental premise for one of your central arguments with: “Science tells us that the universe had a beginning…” without elaborating what ELSE science tells us (namely very good ideas and theories on what went on BEFORE our universe began), making it quote mining of the weakest and most dishonest kind? And to clarify, I find this degree of dishonesty – i.e. lying for Jesus, spreading misinformation about what science has to say on the origin of the cosmos and life, in the foulest manner misrepresenting time and again the arguments of opponents – evil.

This twerp is actively making the world a worse place to live in.
Looking forward to part 4 of your defense because the first 3 really haven’t met their burden of proof.

• Mike de Fleuriot says:
December 12, 2011 at 3:36 am (Edit)

Has anyone managed to get an answer from him, about whether or not, he would follow his God’s command to kill his child, a la Abraham? If he gives the Hitchens response to this question, then he is not evil, and if he gives any other response, then one should keep him away from people. It really is that simple, we have to live in the world, with people like this, and we need to know who we can trust and who we need to put on lists.

• Echidna says:
December 12, 2011 at 5:45 am (Edit)

WLC’s argument that evolution is impossible on the basis of statistics is dishonest. I don’t care how much you like the guy, he is making the world a worse place to live in, from my perspective. He is providing fuel for the anti-science idiots around the world, who collectively are hurting our very chances of survival. He inspires bigotry. Why are you defending him? How much damage does someone have to do before it is unacceptable?

• G.Shelley says:
December 12, 2011 at 10:22 am (Edit)

While there is no reason to think he has eve committed any evil acts, and it is therefore not reasonable to call him evil, he is an apologist for evil and we have every reason to believe that if he genuinely thought god had called him to perform some act that we would view as evil, he would do so, though I don’t think we can know if he could be persuaded of that, or if he would put it down to some psychosis.

• Scott Brickner says:
December 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm (Edit)

Defending genocide is an evil deed. We don’t put him in jail for it, because it’s only speech, and as “mere” speech, it must be tolerated. The benefits of free speech outweigh the cost of having a few cretins defend the indefensible.

Likewise, when NAMBLA defends pedophilia, we don’t put them in jail. Such defense is, nevertheless, an evil deed. Reasonable people properly condemn it, and reasonable people properly condemn a defense of genocide.

Craig’s defense is consistent with his beliefs, but that doesn’t make it rational. He starts from irrational assumptions — self-contradictory assumptions, which any logician will tell you, will let you “prove” anything.

• jwloftus says:
December 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm (Edit)

Scott please let’s get this straight. Craig condemns all genocides except the ones reported in the Bible because it’s his holy book–all of them, period.

And I do not think “any logician” can tell us what is self-contradictory about Craig’s beliefs. It takes a good understanding of what these beliefs are and a detailed philosophical analysis to do so. I haven’t seen any armchair logician do it yet.

• Angra Mainyu says:
December 12, 2011 at 2:39 pm (Edit)

@sqlrob (11)
Many people who believe that the Bible is true are not familiar enough with the Bible to find the contradictions, and do not have internet access.

In particular, someone who lived long before the internet existed – or modern technology, for that matter – and lived, say, in the situation like the one I described (see @9) in most cases wouldn’t have been able to find the contradictions.

In fact, they may well have been illiterate, and only familiar with the biblical claims that they’re told.

So, the previous argument is not affected, and it seems to me it’s quite improbable than believing in the Bible is always irrational. Ignorance can probably explain the belief in a number of cases, in my view, without irrationality.

• jwloftus says:
December 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm (Edit)

G.Shelley, I can guarantee you that Craig would never claim to hear God’s voice in favor of doing some act we would think is evil.

• Angra Mainyu says:
December 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm (Edit)

@EvilDonthePirate (13)
Craig is not (@12) in the same situation as your father, because:
a) He’s had a lot more opportunities to assess the truth of his beliefs – he has greater philosophical knowledge -, and the amount of damage he’s causing.

b) He’s causing a lot more damage, because he’s a lot more influential, and because he actually dedicates a lot more resources to promoting his views than your father does.

As I mentioned, I don’t think that doing something wrong entails that someone is not a good person; it has to do with the amount that is done, in terms of how wrong and how many times.

Perhaps, what your father has done wrong is not nearly enough to make him not a good person.

What do I know?

On the other hand, while the fact that you know him well puts you in a better position than most people to make an assessment, the fact that you’re emotionally involved puts you in a worse position than most people, so I couldn’t tell without more information about him.
So, I don’t believe that your father isn’t a good person, and I don’t believe he is one, either. I do not know enough to tell, so I make no claims on the matter.

On the other hand, I stand by my assessment of Craig, for the reasons given above:

I do not know Craig as well as his friends do, but I do know enough about him – because it’s in the public record – to make an assessment about his character.

By the way, the fact that someone is committed to a flawed belief system but is trying to do the right thing is not enough to make them a good person.

Counterexamples abound, both publicly known (e.g., many Catholic Inquisitors, radical Islamists, etc.), and not (e.g., my father seems to have fit the description: he was not always trying to do what he thought was right, but he usually was, and yet he was a bad person).

• michaelbrew says:
December 12, 2011 at 7:54 pm (Edit)

I’m confused as to how you would characterized WLC as both rational and “bat shit crazy.” It seems that those are a contradiction of terms.

• jwloftus says:
December 13, 2011 at 6:26 am (Edit)
michaelbrew, if you read these posts of mine you would understand.

In Defense of William Lane Craig, Four by John W. Loftus

I have been attempting to defend Bill Craig from several accusations. I have argued that Bill sincerely believes, he is not being dishonest with himself, that he is a good philosopher given the proper caveats, that he is rational given his set of delusional beliefs, and that he’s not an evil person. Let me recap and speak further about my claim that he’s a good person.

From personal knowledge my testimony is that Bill sincerely believes and is not being dishonest with himself. Unless someone knows him better than I do then my testimony should be taken seriously. He does not think he is wrong even though he is.

If Bill is considered dishonest with the facts then it has to do with the nature of a debate. In a debate the goal is to win much like we find in a courtroom contest between the defense attorney and prosecutor before the judge. While courts have general rules of ethics and etiquette, fudging the facts is what these opponents do. Slanting the evidence in their favor is what is required in hopes the truth (whatever it is) will be decided by the judge or jury. In a debate, just like in a courtroom, the task of each opponent is to keep the other one honest. If one opponent doesn’t do that, it is his fault. We may not like the fact that Craig wins most of his debates, but that’s how he learned to debate from his debate coaches in High School.

The mark of good philosophers is whether or not they provoke thought by advancing the discussion, that is, whether the arguments pass peer review and whether other philosophers see the need to discuss them. Craig has done that. If, by contrast, good philosophers must additional be correct in order to be considered good, then it depends on whether other philosophers can show him he’s wrong on his own terms. The fact that his ideas are still talked about in philosophy journals means some philosophers do not think he is wrong.

I think Bill is also rational since being rational means he can use logic to reach sound conclusions given a certain set of assumptions. It’s irrelevant whether his assumptions are utterly wrongheaded, and they are. There are plenty of people who cannot reason very well at all. These people are irrational, that is, not following the dictates of reason.

Now I’ll grant that notions about what constitutes a rational person involve complex discussions and distinctions. But given my definition Bill is a rational person. No doubt someone will say he’s irrational because he doesn’t follow the dictates of reason consistently in that if he did, he would see the Bible as little more than myths written by pre-scientific barbaric superstitious ancient agency detectors, and it is. But he doesn’t think this is the case because he’s ignorant. In fact, he told me a long time ago that he only reads books and articles in specific areas when researching for a project. He is a specialist, unlike me. I am a generalist. I read on a wide assortment of topics following my professor James Strauss. But as a specialist Craig probably still only reads books and articles related to his expertise. He is not a scientist nor is he a biblical scholar, nor can we expect him to be. So when it comes to the things he has no expertise on he punts to trusted Christian scholars who do, and these scholars all reinforce the Christians delusion, for what one doesn’t know anything about the other one claims to. If being rational means being an expert in everything then no one is rational. We all trust other scholars in other fields of research. And we all hold to mutually inconsistent propositions and do not realize it.

Bill is clearly not an evil person either. He has done nothing wrong. He would be horrified at any genocide in today’s world, something that is taking place in Dafar right now. And he would equally be horrified at a modern day repeat of any of the atrocities of the historic church of the past, including slavery in the old South, book burning, and so forth. He is an “enlightened” Christian who has learned, like we all did, from past mistakes. That’s because Christian morality evolves just like it does for the rest of us.
Which brings me to whether he is a good person. A good person is someone who is kind and helpful to the people he or she meets and knows. There is a widely known distinction between personal ethics and societal ethics. Where they meet in the middle these two categories become blurred, I know. But on a personal level, yes, Bill is a good person, kind and helpful to others. His societal ethics however, along with other Christians in a world of weapons of mass destruction, are another thing entirely. I fear his kind of societal ethics in our global society and I will fight them with everything in me. It’s one of the main reasons I debunk Christianity.

But on a personal level yes, he’s a good person.

• Angra Mainyu says:
December 12, 2011 at 4:13 pm (Edit)

For the sake of brevity, I won’t address the issue of rationality again: I would have to repeat the points about irrationality I made in the previous chapter of your defense of Craig, since there is nothing new to be added.

As for the distinction between personal and societal ethics when it comes to assessing whether a person is a good man, I disagree:
Let’s consider the example I gave earlier:

Let’s say Bob legally promotes a constitutional amendment in the US intended to limit most political rights to male WASPS.
Let’s say he’s very intelligent, has had ample time to think about it, no one is coercing him, etc., and he dedicates billions of dollars and spends decades promoting that agenda, who – he claims – is morally right.

His actions would not be criminal – or even illegal -, but they would be immoral.

Moreover, it’s clear that Bob is not a good person, even if Bob is kind and helpful to the people he or she meets and knows. Now, that’s only an extreme example; I would not suggest that Craig’s promotion of his agenda is as bad as Bob’s promotion of his.

But the point is that in order to assess whether someone is a good person, we shouldn’t consider only how someone behaves with respect to the people he or she meets and knows.

Given the considerations I explained in more detail in previous chapters of your defense of Craig (e.g., ), my assessment still is that he’s not a good person.

• eNeMeE says:
December 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm (Edit)

From personal knowledge my testimony is that Bill sincerely believes and is not being dishonest with himself.

If this is true, then he is irrational as despite correction from relevant people he continues to make false claims. If not he is dishonest. Pick one…

No, that’s what everyone is required to do in a courtroom. If caught taking the contrary position, penalties are imposed.

Also, in a courtroom the other side is given ample time to demonstrate their opponent is incorrect. And a lawyer that continually uses a false claim, given they’ve been corrected, to attempt to win cases would be considered incompetent. Debate and the courtroom are not analogous in a meaningful way.

…some philosophers do not think he is wrong.

Some climatologists do not think the consensus is correct.

I really do think you just like the guy too much. I don’t know all that much about him (certainly not enough to inspire a great deal of emotion, beyond my distaste for people who defend genocide) but his actions as observed really can’t be taken to demonstrate that he’s rational or good. Any personal actions he takes do not count, as rationality and goodness can be eliminated on the basis of pretty much any contrary act.

• Todd W. says:
December 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm (Edit)

Do you mean to say that you don’t think Craig is ever intentionally dishonest? Because I agree with your assessment that he is a sincere believer, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to claim that he isn’t intentionally dishonest at times.

For one thing, I would echo the sentiment of others who have pointed out that, when debating, the goal should be to discover truth–not to sacrifice or avoid truth in the name of winning the debate. I think Craig frequently and consciously sacrifices and avoids truth in order to win debates, and his debating tactics alone, in my mind, prove this beyond a reasonable doubt.

Even more than that though, I came across a specific bit of damning evidence against his honesty when I listened to one of his podcasts (I don’t do this regularly, I just thought I would give him a chance outside of a debate format). A listener had heard Hitchens point out that there is a 10-year discrepancy in the date of Jesus’ birth between the two gospels which record it, and asked Craig to respond to this. Craig, however, played dumb. He said he had never heard this before, and that the gospels don’t give dates, so Hitchens is clearly mistaken. I don’t think it’s reasonably possible that Craig has never heard of the “Herod died in 4 BCE, Quirinius’ census was in 6 CE” timeline problem between the Matthew and Luke accounts. He was lying.
In my mind, this doesn’t undermine his sincerity. Plenty of people willingly “lie for Jesus” figuring that the ends justify the means, and the important thing is winning souls for the kingdom no matter how you do it. This is clearly Craig’s position. He is a (probably sincere) liar for Jesus.

• kennypo65 says:
December 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm (Edit)

Thank you for this series of posts. I waited till now to comment because I wanted to read all of them first. My best friend in high school is now a Presbyterian minister. We are still friends today. I am an atheist and yet I consider him one of my closest friends. I respect him and consider him a good person, in fact he seems suprised and a bit embarrassed because my opinion of him is better than one he would give himself. I don’t judge people on their beliefs, but on what they do with them. He genuinely cares about people and wants the best for them, even if he does this from a mainstream Christian understanding. Thank you for articulating what I feel for him in a way I can’t.

• jwloftus says:
December 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm (Edit)

Thanks Kenny, it’s like the atheists who comment here do not have any Christian friends or something.

• Camels With Hammers says:
December 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm (Edit)

Thanks Kenny, it’s like the atheists who comment here do not have any Christian friends or something.


• Marnie says:
December 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm (Edit)

Thanks Kenny, it’s like the atheists who comment here do not have any Christian friends or something.

Well, that doesn’t really seem to be a fair or accurate statement. Something like 80% of the US population identifies as religious to some degree. There’s a big difference between taking issue with someone who publicly defends a literal interpretation of the bible and being friend with someone who is Christian, just as there is a difference between calling out Dawkins for things he has said and saying that “all atheists are mean.”

Craig makes a career of publicly talking about religion and how he believes the bible should be understood and why he thinks that you must have his idea of god in order to have morality. If he is going to tell us that he has the answers and that by his conclussions I cannot be moral without god then I don’t think I’m taking aim at all christians everywhere when I disagree emphatically.

• madisonburnett says:
December 12, 2011 at 8:27 pm (Edit)

Mr Loftus,
I do have to say that I am very impressed with your defense of Mr. Craig. However, I am somewhat disappointed that it took four parts before people started figuring out that figuring out your definitions of the various words being used was the main disagreements. You also give me hope that I’m not the only person out there who has the ability to see on both sides of the fence while using as little emotionality as possible lol. either way good job and I enjoyed the read.

• Bruce Gorton says:
December 13, 2011 at 12:30 am (Edit)

jwloftus says:
December 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm
Thanks Kenny, it’s like the atheists who comment here do not have any Christian friends or something.

What an assholish adhominem.

Were I still a Christian I would still view Craig as basically a bad person because of his dishonest tactics. It is hardly a judgement on all Christians to say so.

• John Morales says:
December 13, 2011 at 2:45 am (Edit)

I thought I had commented here, and received a response.
(Apparently not, I must have been imagining things!).