Here's a Rough Draft of My Introduction to a New Anthology

My next anthology can already be found on Amazon, titled Christianity in the Light of Science: Critically Examining the World's Largest Religion. It's scheduled to be released at the end of July. I just finished a rough draft of my Introduction and thought I'll publish it for faithful readers at DC, and to whet your appetites. Perhaps you may want to comment and/or spread the word. As with everything in the book there is a word count and we're already over it, so I kept my intro to a minimum. [Later I may share the paragraphs I had to delete.]


This new anthology is the fourth one in a series of books I’ve edited. My first three are named after New York Times bestselling books by the so-called new atheists. This present anthology honors the late Victor Stenger, and his book, God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist (Prometheus Books, 2007). My publisher thought this anthology didn’t need to be named after Stenger’s book. However, I still consider it to be part of that same series.

In this present volume the world’s largest religion and her many sects are critically examined by the results of science. Like my other anthologies this one contains new substantive essays written by superior authors on many of the most important issues relevant to its theme. I am honored and very grateful to have such well-qualified authors agree to write chapters for it, as with the previous ones. I am particularly grateful for David Eller and Valerie Tarico, who have been able to write chapters for all of them to date.

The chapters in this book reflect Stenger’s commitment to using the tools of science to critically examine the God hypothesis, and for communicating the results to the rest of us. He started out as a research scientist in the field of particle physics and ended up publishing twelve books on physics, quantum mechanics, cosmology, atheism and the relationship of science to faith, and many essays. I am particularly pleased Vic tried to reach the educated masses, and not just the elite scholars. His career was an excellent example of Karl Marx’s aphorism: “The point is not merely to understand the world, but to change it.”

Editing this book has brought more joy to me than the others. The reason is because of who it honors. Vic was a friend of mine even though we never met. Vic was the most approachable new atheist who responded to my emails, wrote blurbs for my books and chapters for them. Vic deeply cared about the same kinds of issues I do. When I told him I was considering editing this work in his honor, he submitted a chapter for it in advance. It’s his last known essay. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to write chapters for it as I had planned, due to unforeseen difficulties.

In this anthology we are critically examining Christianity (or Christianities) in light of science. This has been a major theme of mine, first seen in Why I Became an Atheist, where I devoted no less than three full chapters to science and faith (6, 13, 15). Science plays a significant role in my anthologies. In The Christian Delusion there are five chapters on it (2, 3, 5, 9, 15). In The End of Christianity there is whole part of the book titled, “Science Puts an End to Christianity,” with four chapters (11-14). In Christianity is Not Great there are nine chapters on science and faith, with a whole part of the book dealing with it (2-4, 10-15). If there are related subjects not treated in this present volume then check out the others.

Even as much as I’ve dealt with science and the Christian faith there are still many other topics unaddressed, because they do not deserve any additional thought, like the location of the Garden of Eden, or the Tower of Babel, or the pillar of salt supposed to be Lot’s wife, or where Moses parted the Red Sea. The reason is because in these cases, and many others, there has to be some sort of credible evidence to begin with. If there was a scientific court convened to address these kinds of issues as lawsuits, the judge would dismiss them out of hand due to the lack of evidence. The same thing can be said for a multitude of Christian claims such as an axe head floating on water, a great fish swallowing a man, a staff turning into a snake, a talking snake and donkey, the sun standing still in the sky and even backing up. Likewise for other claims, like snakes losing their legs due to divine punishment, or ancient people living 900 years, or shoes that didn’t wear out for forty years in a wilderness, or a mass of millions of people being fed “manna” for forty years from heaven who were led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Jumping to the New Testament there’s no credible evidence for the many miracle claims we read there, having to do with a shadow or a cloak or clumps of clay or a pool of water healing anyone, or that a man was bit by a poisonous snake who shook it off unharmed.

The truth is that many modern churches reject a literal six-day creation in which the sun was said to have been created on the fourth day, just as they reject the belief that Jesus literally ascended into the heavenly sky dome to sit at the right hand of God, just as they reject a literal eternal conscious torment in hell located the depths of the earth, and a literal Devil who rebelled against God. Not all of them, but it seems to be the wave of the future. Many of them don’t believe in modern faith healers, or in any of the many end-time apocalyptic doomsday threats, while a growing number of them no longer even think non-believers are going to be punished when we die, but welcomed into heaven.

Back in 1948 New Testament scholar Rudolph Bultmann conceded that these kinds of superstitious beliefs could no longer be maintained in a scientifically literate world:
The cosmology of the N.T. [New Testament] is essentially mythical in character. The world is viewed as a three-storied structure, with the earth in the center, the heaven above, and the underworld beneath. Heaven is the abode of God and of celestial beings—angels. The underworld is hell, the place of torment. Man is not in control of his life. Evil spirits may take possession of him. Satan may inspire him with evil thoughts. It is simply the cosmology of a pre-scientific age. To modern man . . . the mythical view of the world is obsolete. It is no longer possible for anyone seriously to hold the N.T. view of the world. We no longer believe in the three-storied universe. No one who is old enough to think for himself supposes that God lives in a local heaven. There is no longer any heaven in the traditional sense. The same applies to hell in the sense of a mythical underworld beneath our feet. And if this is so . . . we can no longer look for the return of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven. It is impossible to use the electric light and the wireless and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries, and at the same time to believe in the N.T. world of spirits and miracles.
There are other things Christians are not within their epistemic rights to accept, which are written about in this book. Let me introduce it at this book.

In Part 1 the authors critically examine religion in general. Since Christianity is a religion (and not a relationship, unless you consider a pretend game to be a relationship) the authors object to the thinking required to believe in religion. In chapter 1 Guy P. Harrison argues that even Christians can learn how to think like scientists, which is a good thing even if it doesn’t cause them to automatically abandon their religion (but it should, eventually). In chapter 2 David Eller argues that the origins of religious faith are rooted in our evolved brain, which tolerates a whole host of known cognitive biases, and as such, should be questioned. Sharon Nichols in chapter 3 challenges people of faith to abandon their religion altogether.

In Part 2 the authors present the cosmological and evolutionary evidence which does not support Christianity. In chapter 4 Victor Stenger shares a brief history of ideas about cosmology and how Christianity failed by incorrectly understanding the cosmos. In chapter 5 Phil Halper and Ali Nayeri show that, contrary to the claims of Christian theologians, modern cosmology does not support the idea of an absolute beginning to the universe. In chapter 6 Abby Hafer shows from the actual data why intelligent design is not science, and why it doesn’t even pretend to be.

In Part 3 are four chapters that critically examine crucial beliefs of Christianity. In chapter 7 Robert Price and Ed Suominen argue that there was no Adam and Eve, and as a result no original sin and no need for a savior from sin. In chapters 8 and 9 Julien Musolino argues there is overwhelming evidence against the belief in souls, while Jonathan Pearce argues human beings do not have free will. The upshot of the arguments in this part of the book destroys Christianity, I think. For any Christianity worthy of the name requires a savior from sin who is freely accepted by people who have souls that will live forever in a heavenly reward.

In Part 4 the authors present archaeological evidence that disputes much of the history presented in the Bible. In chapter 10 Joshua Willms looks at the evidence of marine archaeology and refutes the local flood interpretation of Genesis 7. In chapter 11 Rebecca Bradley destroys the credibility of the Exodus from Egypt by Moses and the Israelites. In chapter 12 Robert R. Cargill fills in the other details we’ve learned from archaeology that destroy the history recorded by the Bible. In chapter 13 Rene Salm presents an up-to-date summary of his book on Nazareth archaeology, showing that it did not exist in the time of Jesus.

In Part 5, the authors focus on claims by Christians in the New Testament. In chapter 14 Aaron Adair examines attempts to use astronomy to verify New Testament stories of the Bethlehem star, the darkness at the death of Jesus, and Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus (i.e., meteor explosion) and shows those stories about Jesus are pure, unscientific myth. In chapter 15 Valerie Tarico shows there is no reason to think petitionary prayer works. Then Joe Nickell has the last word in chapter 16 with an updated summary of the evidence showing the Shroud of Turin is a fake, hence there is no hard evidence Jesus arose from the dead.