Newspaper write-up of my debate with Jim Spiegel

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Here's a newspaper write-up of my debate with Jim Spiegel near Indianapolis. The church seemed fairly full, probably 400 people. A lot of young people were there. LINK.

The article mentions my vehicle broke down on my way to the church, and that Jim picked me up on his way. Yes, my van, the one pictured resting on the beach of Lake Mead when Sheila and I were there a few months back. I began my comments by saying God tried to stop me from coming tonight but the devil won ;-)

It threw a rod and needs another engine. Damn. I hate that. It's sitting at a mechanics shop waiting for another one to replace it. The mechanic found one that has 120,000 miles on it for $550, and the labor costs are $850. If you've been helped by what I do please consider helping me out on this. The one thing that has plagued me for years is money; not enough of it. Use "PayPal.Me/jwloftus" at PayPal. Please help.

Send 1 million dollars. I'll take less. ;-)

As you can see from the news article it was a civil debate between us. When dealing with respectful people who have some good arguments (as far can be expected anyway) I am friendly and respectful, especially in person. I may not always be that way online, since some people personally attack me and/or repeatedly spout off idiocies as facts.

A video of the debate is forthcoming so be patient.



Christianity is Unworthy of Thinking Adults: Three Decisive Cases in Point

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Case in Point One: Even Christians Agree Faith is Opposed to Reason

According to Paul in Colossians 2:8, “See no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy.” Jesus purportedly said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Luke 10:21). Paul wrote, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:18–25). Tertullian (160–220 CE) asked: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” In words reminiscent of Søren Kierkegaard, Tertullian wrote of the incarnation of Jesus by saying, “Just because it is absurd, it is to be believed . . . it is certain because it is impossible.” Martin Luther called reason “the Devil’s Whore.” As such, reason “can do nothing but slander and harm all that God says and does.” Immanuel Kant said that he “found it necessary to deny knowledge of God…in order to find a place for faith.” William Lane Craig agrees with Luther’s viewpoint. He argues that “reason is a tool to help us better understand our faith. Should faith and reason conflict, it is reason that must submit to faith, not vice versa.”

There is something wrong with a religious faith that needs to disparage reason like this. It's admitting Christianity cannot be defended by reason. If that's what they think, why should we think otherwise? Why should anyone? I see no reason to do so.

How Come Jesus Didn't Know Better?

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Mark, Chapter 3: Jesus and the demons
Even the most devout Christian believers have to admit that human imagination has been hyperactive in the creation of all other gods (but, oh not, not theirs). Thousands of gods have been invented throughout the millennia, and apologists for theism—well, the one true Christian theism—sometimes try to deflect suspicion by saying that all the other gods can be respected as symptoms of the human quest for God (capital “G”).

It’s even sometimes said that “we worship the same god”—but that is clearly a lie, a poorly designed dodge. The god that the Jews worship didn’t require the sacrifice of his son, and Allah is clearly not Trinitarian. Nope, these are different gods.

"Is Religious Faith Reasonable?" My Debate Opener Against Dr. Jim Spiegel

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This debate took place at the Fort Wayne Library last night. Videos should be forthcoming. See what you think.

Stealing from God: Causality, Part 1

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This is my second post on Frank Turek’s book, Stealing from God and the first one on his chapter on causality. Since he covers a lot of ground in this chapter, I’ll only deal with his major points.
As we saw last time, Turek conflates atheism with materialism. He therefore claims that atheists must say everything is physical. This of course includes every cause — and from that it follows either that the cause of the physical universe is itself physical, or that the universe doesn’t have a cause.

The first one can’t be true, however, since there would in that case have to be something physical before there was anything physical. And the second can’t be either, he says, since it makes no sense for the entire universe to just appear causelessly out of nothing. The only option that makes sense is the one atheists reject, namely, that the universe has a non-physical cause.

Bart Ehrman's Latest Book, "The Triumph of Christianity"

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I haven't read it yet, but it looks very good. It's getting a lot of five star reviews and accolades on Amazon. It seeks to explain the rise of Christianity from being a forbidden religion with just twenty peasants or so, in rural Galilee, to "the dominant religion in the West in less than four hundred years." See for yourselves: The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. Any comments from people who know of it?

The Illusion of Certainty, An Excellent Book by James Houk Now Available

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Somehow it slipped my mind to mention this when it was published in December 2017. So here it is. Anthropologist Dr. James T. Houk just published The Illusion of Certainty: How the Flawed Beliefs of Religion Harm Our Culture. I wrote a blurb for it:
This very powerful and informative book exposes the illusion of certainty borne of religious fundamentalism for what it really is, unsubstantiated ignorant beliefs that masquerade as certainty. Using several key examples, Houk illustrates that "virtually anything and everything, no matter how absurd, inane, or ridiculous, has been believed or claimed to be true at one time or another by somebody, somewhere in the name of faith." He proves that to adopt faith-based claims with blind certainty has caused untold misery and death and must be jettisoned from modern life if we want a good society. Excellent and highly recommended!
As you can tell, I think you should take a look then get it. I put it in the sidebar with other recommended books.

David Silverman Has Been Fired From American Atheists

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David Silverman just got fired as the president of American Atheists after allegations of financial conflicts and sexual assault. He was the president for about eight years. This is a sad state of affairs for us as atheists. If he did the actions he's accused of, and I have no reason to think otherwise, then he's done some real harm to people. LINK.

Lest Christians be giddy about this, let me remind them of what's in their own backyard.

God Gets a Big Fat “F” as an Author

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The Bible as Word of God: Fatal Flaw #2 (out of 5)
Surely one of the biggest PR challenges in Western history has been making the case that the Bible is The Good Book. Of course, the church had a free pass for a long time; it could get away with claiming the Bible as ‘word of God’ for the many centuries during which the laity had no access to scripture. The faithful could see scripture depicted on the ceilings and walls of the great churches and cathedrals: much larger-than-life, idealized portrayals of Bible heroes. It’s easy to get away with myth—and disguise the mistakes—when you’ve mastered awesome production values.

Stealing from God?

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A while back, I was told by a religious critic that I really needed to read Frank Turek’s Stealing from God. Well, I’ve finally accepted the challenge (even if it isn’t much of a challenge) — and thought it might be interesting to write a series of posts as a sort of running commentary on it.
Turek, though he doesn’t come right out and say so, is a presuppositionalist — he believes that, in order to make any meaningful claims, atheists have to appropriate concepts that only make sense if there is a God. That is why we “steal” from God — and why on his view atheism is self-defeating.

But even though presuppositionalism strikes me as rather desperate, I have to admit that the idea behind Turek’s book is pretty clever. In six chapters, he considers six areas in which the atheist supposedly steals from the Christian worldview: causality, reason, information and intentionality, morality, evil, and science. These six form (well, almost) the acronym CRIMES – the crimes against theism.

The problem is that Turek is a very bad judge of the evidence, and that that’s the case is obvious right from the start. In the introduction, he claims that atheists “must make a positive case that only material things exist” — something that would come as a surprise to such atheistic critics of materialism as David Chalmers and Thomas Nagel. Worse, he then lists eleven things that, according to atheism, must be “caused by materials and consists only of materials”:

Why is the Religious Right Obsessed With Abortion?

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This topic is hotly debated in one form or another on social media all of the time. Liberals seem unable to get their heads around the fervent, single mindedness that drives the religious right when it comes to the question of abortion. This single issue has developed into the "great divider". I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve followed a debate between the two sides on a topic such as corporate wars or guns in schools without abortion being brought up. Inevitably, someone pitches abortion as a counter argument. Perhaps according to the devout, there is no other form of senseless murder that compares to what they perceive as a continuous slaughter of unborn children. We might as well have wars if we’re going to kill babies.

When Clergy “Just Say No” to Christianity

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A Review of John Compere’s book, Outgrowing Religion
Pope Francis may, as a show of theistic solidarity, offer handshakes and hugs to leading Protestant, Jewish and Muslim clerics. Such posturing plays well with the faithful and the media. We’ve all seen the feel-good photo ops. (I wonder, are the Mormons ever included? Or do they still smell too much like a cult?)

The pope knows full well, of course, that the other theistic brands are wrong about God—and he could tell you why. They all could point out the errors of the others, and they all have teams of apologists to back them up. When the most devout theists disagree with each other—as much as they disagree with nonbelievers—why aren’t they embarrassed by the discord? Sad to say, the brains of these hardcore faith fanatics have been wired not to allow interference. Each brand specializes in capturing brains at the earliest possible age.

Bad Arguments in the Bible

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In The Truth about God, I discussed three kinds of problem in the Bible: its internal inconsistencies, its falsehoods, and its immorality. But bad arguments should perhaps be regarded as a fourth category — smaller than the other three (there aren’t many arguments in scripture), but nevertheless just as problematic. For why would God’s inspired word contain bad logic — especially when the topic is of the highest importance?

I'm Debating Dr. James S. Spiegel Twice in April.

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Spiegel is an apologist who believes atheists reject his god because of immorality, as argued in his book, The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief. I'm sure Randal Rauser disagrees with him about this. For details on both debates see the posters below:

Just When I Thought a Christian Apologist Couldn’t Go Any Lower

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“At long last, sir, have you no sense of decency?”
One of intrepid Christian apologists who haunts the Debunking Christianity blog has, in coming to his god’s defense, reached a new low of callousness. In response to my article about the Black Plague in the 14th Century, which killed a third or more of Europe’s population, he wrote:

“Yes, the Black Death and other epidemics throughout recorded history killed a lot of people - perhaps as many as 400 million altogether. That's still only 0.4% of the 108 billion people who have ever lived. Those who died of the plague died relatively quickly - within around four days or so. Compare that to cancer or Alzheimer's, and take your pick.”

Happy Secular Easter Bunny!

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For the past thirteen years, I've been returning to Spain. Although I've lived many other places for extended periods, Spain is one of my favorite places to reside. So much so that I lease an apartment in the Andalucian, seaside village of Torre De Mar every February, March and April. The timing isn't intentional, but usually I'm here for Semana Santa (Holy Week). No other country does Semana Santa any better than Spain in spite of the fact that it is one of the most secular countries in Europe these days. The grand processions that wind their way through the ancient streets for a week of festivities are impressive and the tradition is not going away any time soon. Semana Santa makes too much money for Spain. So what's the moral of the story according to this atheist who finds herself living everywhere but nowhere?

I'll Be Debating Jim Spiegel Twice in April

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Disproof of the Christian God, Without a Doubt

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The Easy Acceptance of the Very Terrible
When did doubt begin? H. L. Mencken thought that it could have happened at the get-go:

“There must have been skeptics at the ringside when the first priest performed his hocus-pocus, and no doubt, some of them, revolting against its transparent fraudulence, set themselves to find a better way to deal with flood, fire and famine.” (Treatise on the Gods, 1930)

Maybe so, but skeptics were outnumbered. In the ancient world, gods were imagined, invented and worshipped all over the place. With little understanding of causation, it’s no wonder. Earthquakes, volcanoes, thunder and lightening were warnings and curses from higher powers. Good things that happened—the return of spring and vegetation, crops and harvests—were credited to gods in a good mood.

A Charming Bible Story… and Its Bad Theology

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Mark, Chapter 2: another installment of the fantasy novel
Some gospel episodes are so irresistible that they end up in Bible books for kids, which may be the ultimate test of a story’s suitability for telling “the good news.” Preachers and Sunday School teachers get all the mileage they can from them.

One such story is reported early in Jesus’ preaching career, as events are portrayed in Mark’s gospel. Jesus had already achieved local fame:

“When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.” (Mark 2:1-2)

Wow! The end times are surely here! ;-)

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We know this from a recent poll. Happy days are here!

Dustin Lawson on my book "Unapologetic"

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Dustin Lawson just wrote me:

"I was looking into a doctorate in philosophy of religion at Ohio State University then I picked up and read your book "Unapologetic." Now, I am reconsidering."

Dustin is a former disciple of Josh McDowell, yes that McDowell, the father of Sean McDowell. ;-)

Famous Jesus Stories Keep Taking Direct Hits

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A review of Richard C. Miller’s Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity
Christian theologians have admitted for a long time—despite the anguish of church folks who believe in ‘the gospel truth’—that many Bible stories, always assumed to be history, really aren’t. “Well, you can’t take that literally,” we’re told; farfetched stories are re-categorized as metaphor or symbol, and we’re assured that they convey “deep spiritual truth” —even when they don’t all. But we can admire the ingenuity, although we do wonder if they don’t have better things to do with their time.

But this is a minefield: When you scrap one story, another that you
don’t want to scrap falls apart too. I have long argued that this is what happens with the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven. We know that Jesus floating up through the clouds to heaven didn’t happen because heaven isn’t up there. So we can be one hundred per cent certain that the body of newly alive Jesus never left the planet…unless he’s in orbit to this day?

Stephen Hawking: A Pioneering Scientist Has Died

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He was an atheist, surprise! LINk.

Is Sam Harris Redefining Morality?

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As most people reading this probably know, Sam Harris claims that morality is concerned with well-being, and thus that science can, at least in principle, determine which are the correct moral values. However, some critics have claimed that Harris is talking about morality in a non-standard sense, and that as a result his argument doesn’t work.

Whether Harris is redefining morality came up in a recent discussion between Matt Dillahunty and YouTuber Stephen Woodford. (I didn’t watch the whole video, but the question is briefly discussed starting at 1:12:54.)

When God Lived Just a Few Miles Up

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The never-ending reinvention of God
It’s really not a good idea to ignore your roots, but sometimes people have a vested interest in doing so—at least trying to. Christian theologians have made a mighty effort to overcome their roots, namely, the thought world of the Old and New Testaments.

We can look at puzzling, bizarre items of faith today and see their origins in the old texts. We marvel that the folks in the pews don’t balk at the stuff they’re expected to believe. For example, intense personal theism, the belief that nothing you do or think escapes God’s notice—which is embraced by Christians today as naturally as breathing—derives from ancient assumptions about the location, the proximity of the gods.

Before the Big Bang 7: An Eternal Cyclic Universe, CCC revisited & Twist...

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Evolution is Now Accepted By More and More Evangelicals! Yesterday's Liberals Are Now Today's Evangelicals, Go Figure!

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Evangelicals in the nineteen seventies rejected Karl Barth, women in leadership/teaching roles, the annihilation view of hell, inclusivist salvation, the mythical interpretation of the Genesis creation stories, the late dating of 2nd Isaiah and Daniel, and they especially rejected homosexuality and evolution. Any attempt to reject the historicity of the Garden of Eden story of Adam and Eve's fall into sin (from whence this all began) was rejected outright without a second thought. These liberal views are now being accepted by evangelicals while still calling themselves evangelicals rather than liberals.

Karl W. Gilberson said "The Evolution Wars Are Here to Stay and Heads Will Continue to Roll." Later I'll be sharing books by evangelicals, or former evangelicals, who now embrace evolution. It's something I never expected would happen. This dispute is taking place along with the debate evangelicals are having over homosexuality. It must be fun being an evangelical these days. Not! Evolutionary science and the acceptance of gay marriages is the wave of the future among evangelicals. You can count on it. Gone will be a historical fall into sin by two individuals named Adam (male) and Eve (female)--which never made sense anyway--and the prohibition against homosexuality. There are apparently no limits to their ability to find loopholes in the Bible so they can obfuscate their theology. It will become the new evangelical orthodoxy in the future, as I have predicted. Then amnesia will set in, and future evangelicals will claim true evangelicals always stood for these things! Their amnesia will provide quite the laugh to the rest of us, since we saw it coming. In fact, that's what they've been doing since the inception of their faith when it came to the question of who should be circumcised.

Choosing Hell

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“God won’t force you into Heaven against your will. If you don’t want him now here, you’re not going to want him in eternity.”
— Frank Turek

The above is an increasingly common idea among Christians: God is merely giving you the freedom to choose. The point, of course, is to avoid the criticism that God punishes nonbelievers by sending them to hell. Instead, God simply let’s some of us spend eternity apart from him. As C. S. Lewis put it, "the gates of hell are locked on the inside."

But as usual, the religious want to have it both ways. For, if hell is simply what the rest of us prefer, then why bother with trying to save our souls? If I’m simply not going to want to be with God, as Turek says, that means I’ll be happier in hell — so why try to convince me to go to heaven instead?

People Who Shouldn't Be Trusted As Experts in Religious Matters. Reviewing Mittelberg's Book "Confident Christianity" Part 13

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Earlier I had offered up Five Things That Disqualify People From Being Experts. Now it's time to mention several indicators showing who shouldn't be trusted as experts in religious matters. These are indicators, some of which are strong indicators, but on their own they don't necessarily disqualify people from being experts in religious matters, although they can. I've categorized them in four groups of indicators: Ignorance, Faulty Reasoning, Faulty Research, and Dishonest or Ulterior Motives. (I'm not going to provide examples in several cases so suggest them as you can.)

Dr. John Shook On Pragmatism, Commenting on Mittelberg's Book "Confident Christianity"

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Dr. Shook is a leading expert on Pragmatism. So I asked him to comment on Mittelberg's inability to distinguish between pragmatism and relativism. He offered one quick helpful comment:
Pragmatism says that anyone finding out what reality is like has to examine all available evidence pro and con, and then go get fresh evidence that tests the current view. Pragmatism is about the scientific method. It looks like relativism to someone who wants final answers right now. Only one pragmatist, William James, ever said that what is useful is true, and he only said that to make a helpful analogy, not explain the theory. If morality, not reality, is the topic, pragmatism is skeptical towards people who think they know the absolute rules for life. Test those rules by applying them in the real world - you will find out you actually know a lot less. Morality should serve what is good for all lives; lives must not be sacrificed for abstract principle.
There. Asking an expert. That was easy!