It's Presuppositionalism All the Way Down!

How do believers know there's a god? Because of supposed miracles. Yet miracles are impossible in the natural world without a supernatural god (i.e., a natural explanation is required when there is no god). Therefore believers have to presuppose god to verify miracles. Presupposing a god to justify unverifiable miracles--which in turn provides the reason for believing in god--is what we mean by the delusion of faith (i.e., pretending to know things you don't know). Apologists can try to claim they're not presuppositionalists all they want, but they are preuppositionalists nonetheless.

Dr. Richard C. Miller On Fantasy, Bayes and the Impossibility of Miracles

Dr. Miller recently began blogging at Hume's Bible, an important resource for the rest of us. In his most recent post he writes On the Impossibility of Miracles. This is something I've been addressing.

Miller starts by saying, "We measure human rational sanity by one’s consistent success in distinguishing clearly between fantasy and reality" and then gives an example with regard to alleged miracle claims. "Miracles, by very definition, are natural, rational impossibilities." "For, if a claim had empirical support, would we not classify such a proposal as indeed natural, not supernatural?" So he goes on to say, following Hume,
Here we may choose to end the argument, claiming a quite reasonable conclusive victory. Miracles, by very definition, are natural, rational impossibilities. When someone claims a miracle has occurred, we respond by saying that “there must be some rational explanation.” By doing this, we are implicitly recognizing as a society that miraculous claims are essentially irrational, i.e., a miraculous proposition contains one or more a priori contradictions with regard to its constituent terms (Italics mine).
This last phrase of his is very interesting. If we wish to assign a non-zero mathematical prior probability to a miracle claim, we cannot do it. For doing so means assigning a mathematical probability to something that is contradictory. Reading his explanation is worth the price of a click and a share.

The Nasty, Get-Even God of the New Testament


A few items that the cherry-pickers don't pick

On a recent post here I asked how the apostle Paul could possibly have known that there are “spiritual” bodies; this claim, of course, is yet another clue that his grip on reality was shaky at best (and I do exclude his hallucinations of the risen Jesus as a source of data). But a Christian apologist had a simple answer: that God had told him. Silly me, why didn’t I think of that? But let’s play Spot-the-Flaw: “My advice to believers who are sure they felt a god or heard a god’s voice is to be skeptical and remember that believers have been hearing those same whispers from many gods for many centuries.” (Guy Harrison, 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God)

Here's How To Bring Science Down To Philosophy

Here's yet another attempt to bring science down to the level of controversial philosophical opinions. I call bullshit! The money quote:
I think it is helpful for students to realize that there is a lot more agreement and objectivity in philosophy, and a lot more controversy and subjectivity in science, than they think. This is perhaps the most obnoxious misconception that I routinely encounter… The problem is that in all of their prior classes in science, students encounter the settled truth of science. LINK.

Empirical Proof that Christianity Is False?


Split-brain patients are individuals who have had the corpus callosum (which connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain) severed. This causes the individual to have two centers of both perceptual and motor activity. Each side of the brain may give a different answer to the same question.

In the video clip below, neurologist V. S. Ramachandran discusses a split-brain individual whose right hemisphere believed in God and whose left hemisphere did not.

Where the Bible Gets it Really Wrong


The batshit crazy theology of the apostle Paul: four texts

John Loftus has displayed his skill at backhanded compliments with his comment that “…it takes a great deal of intelligence to defend Christian theism, because Christianity cannot be defended without a great deal of mental contortionism” (The End of Christianity, p. 92).

Apologists do indeed rise to the occasion. They have a broad menu of absurdities to choose from, but their ultimate challenge must be the writing of the apostle Paul.

Of course, Paul has a lot going for him: the high drama of his Damascus Road conversion (we find three versions of this episode in the Book of Acts—but Paul never mentions it in his letters); nothing could hold him back from preaching the gospel: “Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits…” (II Corinthians 11:24-26)

And of course, he got to be a “saint”—which tarnishes that coin considerably.

Quote of the Day by Phasespace

What I reject are the claims made by the people who claim to speak for God. I reject the notion that you know what you are talking about. I reject the notion that you or anyone else has any sort of connection to such a being. I reject the notion that the existence of a god of some kind is self-evident. This is a far cry from rejecting the actual being, if it exists. The evidence suggests and is much more parsimonious with the conclusion that religion is an attempt to understand the world and our place in it, before we understood how to understand. Or at least before discovering more reliable methods for attempting to do so.

Vincent Torley is Our Deluded Anti-Intellectual Person of the Day

Vince is smarter than your average bear, I'll admit, and respectful. But he's no less deluded than the others. I think he was gunning for this award so I'll grant it to him. Congratulations Vince, or something. ;-)

I wish I had a dollar every time a Christian said God acts like a wise parent to his children. In a futile attempt to alleviate the problem of suffering, Christians almost always say God allows us to suffer, sometimes intensely, to teach us to trust him, or to love deeper, or to strengthen our moral character, or to discipline us for our sins, or even to complete the sufferings of Christ, whatever that could possibly mean (Colossians 1:24), and so on.

Torley rejects the parental analogy since he rejected Dr. Abby Hafer's response to the question, "Why is God obligated to help someone who rejects Him?"

Hafer had used the parental analogy in answer to the question, saying,
The same reason a parent is obliged to help her children, even when they reject her. Parents bring their children into the world. According to this person's world view, God brought humans (and animals, and plants) into the world. Human parents have this very obligation toward their children--to keep helping them, even when they reject you. And by and large, parents do this. So--is God actually *less* moral, dutiful, strong and self-controlled than your average mother? LINK. Dr. Hafer is the author of the incredibly good book, The Not-So-Intelligent Designer.]
"I don't buy the argument, because the analogy is a flawed one," says Torley. Well, now, if this doesn't prove there are too many ways to play the game called Christian apologist, I don't know of them. Whatever the problem is, answer it by saying whatever needs to be said to save one's faith from refutation.



Robert Conner

No one knows for sure what the hell the gospels mean and no one ever has. That, I believe, is the only logical conclusion a completely disinterested reader of the gospels could reach now or could have reached nineteen centuries ago. In point of fact, Christians were in disagreement about what even constituted a real gospel for at least the first two centuries after the death of Jesus. Of the twenty or so gospels—and possible versions of the current fourthat are known or suspected to have been knocking around in Christianity’s infancy, only the Big Four were finally declared “canonical” and those four are in substantial disagreement at various seemingly crucial points. If, as evangelicals are wont to claim, the Holy Spirit used human authors to pen a record for the ages on which belief could be firmly based, then the Holy Spirit made a right shit job of it.

Five Major Signs Your Brain is Made Stupid By Faith

This Is Your Brain on Drugs was a large-scale US anti-narcotics campaign by Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) launched in 1987, that used two televised public service announcements (PSAs) and a related poster campaign. Here's the original 30 second commercial:

I want people to consider the drug metaphor for faith, taking our cue from Karl Marx who described religious faith as the opiate of the people, as I argued previously. When you watch the commercial hear him say "This is your brain on faith." That's what I think. Here then are five major signs your brain is made stupid by faith:

1) When faith makes you denigrate or deny science.

2) When faith makes you think you don't need evidence to believe. (Just think Alvin Plantinga).

3) When faith makes you deny the need to think exclusively in terms of the objective probabilities.

4) When faith makes you deny the need for sufficient objective evidence in favor of private subjective experiences.

5) When faith makes you think it has an equal or better method at arriving at the truth than scientifically based reasoning. Any questions?

Smart People Saying Stupid Things


Loftus’s observation that faith makes smart people say stupid things reminded me of two instances I’d previously come across. The first involves Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and the author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. As some here may already know, Collins, a geneticist and defender of evolutionary theory, “knelt in the dewy grass… and surrendered to Jesus Christ” as a result of seeing “a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall” while hiking in the Cascade Mountains. That he considers a purely emotional reaction like that as a reason for accepting the claims of Christianity shows just how unscientific a scientist can be. (How would he respond to someone who denied evolution based on nothing more than emotion?)

How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth

I once taught a hermeneutics class for a Christian college using a book titled "How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth." In a comment to a friend recently, I wish I would have taught them to do this:

Here's how you should read the Bible. You need to read it as if you're listening in on a phone conversation where you cannot hear the person on the other end. You know they're saying something, so you have to reconstruct it from listening to the person you can hear.

Think of it this way. In all my days debating the Bible no one wins any debate with just a comment or two. Yet this is what we repeatedly see in the gospels in the case of Jesus. He always wins all of his debates with just a comment or two. In a few cases we read where his opponents walk off grumbling, so they were obviously not convinced. From this we know the gospels don't tell us the whole story. What is their story? We must reconstruct it. What would they have said in response? I think in many, if not most cases, I know. The same goes for all of the epistles, including Paul's authentic ones. When Paul argues against others who claim to be Christians you can bet they had their responses. What were they? In many cases I think I know. Can you do this? Have you ever tried? You realize these were smart people who had intelligent answers, right?

Look at the OT in the same way when it my comes to the prophets who denounced people. You realize there were other prophets who said different things and who denounced each other, don't you? How would people living in those times know which ones to believe? It would be very difficult for them. How do you know that the prophets who eventually won out were the true prophets of the true god?

When it comes to the destruction of whole peoples and the slaughtering of their babies, what would these people say to such a holy war? Have you ever seen the need for a complete genocide? Do you know any people worthy of nothing but slaughter?

Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.

My main point is that it was not obvious to the people of that day which god is the "real" one. The "real" god or gods surfaced later as more people grew to believe in them (just as some religious groups are larger than others, the largest one being the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages) who were retrospectively written back into what you now read in the Bible.


Robert Conner

Forget what they told you. You want the truth, follow the money. -- Roxanne Bland

I regard the sincerity of evangelical true believers in general as a truism and I doubt that many of their numerous critics would disagree. After all, why would anyone knowingly pour money into an empire of fraud? The question forced on me and (I suspect) many others is how to account for the one or two percent of evangelicals who should know better. Although the motivations of the evangelical horde are a constant topic of speculation among sociologists, political wonks, and psychologists, Levine raises a crucial question: “Who benefits from the study of the historical Jesus—to what end is the effort focused?” Helpfully, she also notes, “Politics and theology need not be mutually exclusive …”[I]

The Ten Well-Founded "Presuppositions" of Atheism

Robert Conner wrote something recently that prompted me to write this.

The Ten Well-Founded "Presuppositions" of Atheism:

1. We require sufficient objective empirical evidence before we will accept any claims of divine revelation.

2. We accept the general principle that any specific miraculous claim must overcome the strong presumption that it didn't occur based on the overwhelming cumulative evidence that miracles have not occurred.

3. We accept the view that believers must shoulder the burden of proof as outsiders to show their faith is objectively true, given that learning a religion as an uncritical child from one's parents in a religious culture is a notoriously unreliable way to know which religion is true, if there is one.

4. We accept the results of scientific clinical studies that have shown petitionary prayers work no better than chance, and reject personal antecdotal unconfirmed stories told by believers.

5. We accept that the laws of nature in the ancient pre-scientific world were the same as they are now, so we have a very strong presumption against accepting miraculous claims in the ancient superstitious world prior to the rise of modern science and the modern world.

6. We accept that which is objectively probable, and reject that which is merely possible.

7. We reject any and all double standards and special pleadings from religionists when they argue for their faith over the faiths of others.

8. We accept the overwhelming consensus of scientists as the surest guarantee of what is true, over any and all claims by religious leaders, scholars and their holy books.

9. We proportion what we conclude based on the strength of the objective evidence.

10. We accept the approach of methodological naturalism in assessing miraculous claims, whereby we seek out natural explanations for any and all events in question, given that doing so is the best and only way to know the truth in the midst of so many religious frauds, fakes, liars and hucksters.

Don Camp is Our Gullible/Deluded/Anti-Intellectual Person of the Day!

Don Camp has been commenting here for a few months. He's on a mission to save readers from hell. He's the answer man, always doing what he can to show why we are wrong. But if there was ever a gullible/deluded/anti-intellectual person then he is it. The special pleading word salad he makes out of pure bullshit is bizarre to behold. I cannot stomach it. Since he really thinks he has reasonable answers to the questions posed of him, I want others to see what faith does to an otherwise intelligent mind. It makes people stupid. I've argued this in one of my top ten favorite chapters, chapter 3, "Christianity is Wildly Improbable", for my anthology The End of Christianity. Camp is another example of this phenomenon. He proclaims he has psychic abilities to hear "voices" from "the other side"! He doesn't even know that's what he's doing, but he is. I've written about this psychic connection in the writings of Alvin Plantinga, in another one of my top ten favorite chapters, chapter 5, "Accept Nothing Less Than Sufficient Objective Evidence", for my book How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice From an Atheist.

You must read this to see it for yourselves, below:

Why is God obligated to help someone who rejects him?, Part 2

In reference to God's goodness in the face of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose, a Christian asked me this question:

Q: "Why is God obligated to help someone who rejects Him?"

Dr. Abby Hafer responds, author of The Not-So-Intelligent Designer:
The same reason a parent is obliged to help her children, even when they reject her. Parents bring their children into the world. According to this person's world view, God brought humans (and animals, and plants) into the world. Human parents have this very obligation toward their children--to keep helping them, even when they reject you. And by and large, parents do this. So--is God actually *less* moral, dutiful, strong and self-controlled than your average mother?

Robert Conner

The anthropologists got it wrong when they named our species Homo sapiens (“wise man”). In any case it’s an arrogant and bigheaded thing to say, wisdom being one of our least evident features. In reality, we are Pan narrans, the storytelling chimpanzee. - Terry Pratchett

Why is God obligated to help someone who rejects him?

In reference to God's goodness in the face of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose, a Christian asked me this question:

Q: "Why is God obligated to help someone who rejects Him?"

A: Who is obligated to help someone who suffers? The person who cares the most, who also has the most power or financial ability, has the greatest obligation to help a person who suffers, especially if that person's life depends on it, and especially if it demands so little from the helper.

So God has the greatest obligation to help the ones who suffer.

If someone only helps others based on tit for tat, where helping others has strings attached, then that person isn't a giving person at all. Hell, the worse person in the world can abide by that.

Of all the beings who could alleviate this suffering God could have had the greatest impact by stopping the hurricane dead in it's tracks before it materialized. No one would know he did anything, should he want to keep hidden from us.

If a god supposedly created the universe with its laws then s/he could even perform a perpetual miracle and keep all hurricanes away from us. But s/he's either lazy, uncaring, powerless, or doesn't even exist.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and God's Love in the Book of Job

If you want to see the kind of faith the biblical god demands then look no further than the story of Job.

Job's story is fallaciously being used to offer comfort to believers in the midst of the terrible suffering caused by hurricances Harvey, Irma and Jose. "God knows what he's doing" they say, "even if we don't understand his mysterious ways, because his ways are loving and kind."

The lesson however, isn't about God's love or kindness toward us. It's not meant to provide any comfort to us either. The real lesson is that god reserves the right to bring as much suffering into our lives as he wants, even to kill us, for whatever reason he wants, and we are not to question why. We are to have blind unquestioning faith that he has the right to mistreat us at will. He can do whatever the hell he wants to us simply because he's GOD. We're simply to take what he dishes out. It doesn't matter if we're good or not either. This lesson is missed by almost all believers.



Robert Conner

That the whisperings of a “Holy Spirit” would take precedence over evidence and its coherent analysis is quite literally unimaginable in any discipline other than evangelical Jesus Studies. Picture, if you can, the reaction should an academic historian reveal that his interpretation is being guided by the urging of a personal daemon. The ne plus ultra example of this epistemological whackadoodle is William Lane Craig, a Southern Baptist “analytic philosopher”—yes, you’ve just seen “Southern Baptist” and “analytic philosopher” used in the same sentence—who is on record as stating, “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the later, not vice versa.”[i]

If a god is punishing sinners with hurricanes then climate change deniers are sinners.

The most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic is headed straight for the beach houses of deniers Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and the Koch brothers. LINK.

If a god is punishing sinners with hurricanes shouldn't we expect that s/he could target sinners better than using the equivalent of a nuclear warhead? My mom, Sheila's sister, her best friend and many good people are in the path of hurricane Irma. Even the American military is better than a god, for they can target combatants with little or no collateral damage.

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up...Oh, Wait…


A review of David Fitzgerald’s Jesus: Mything in Action

Christians Aren’t Going to Blow the Whistle

A famous atheist once railed at me for giving a damn about the “Jesus Question”—that is, whether or not Jesus existed. It’s not a relevant issue—so he said, and it’s a waste of time to devote any energy to it. Really? Since about two billion people are obsessed with Jesus, it doesn’t hurt to find out if their obsession is warranted—especially if we suspect that something isn’t quite right. Religiously-biased scholars, as it turns out, have done their best to maintain a cover-up—of course, they don’t call it that; so okay, they’ve been sincere, pursuing their agenda without guile. But they have been covering up: the case for Jesus is deeply, sadly flawed.



Robert Conner

To the dismay of the true believer it may be pointed out that disbelief in the resurrection begins in the New Testament itself and it begins even before the composition of the gospels. The earliest statement of Christian resurrection belief includes this flat denial of Jesus’ bodily resurrection by Christians: “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”[i] Or to quote Michael Goulder’s literal translation of anastasij nekrwn ouk estin, “there is no upstanding of corpses.”[ii] “Surely the very fact that Paul placed a lengthy list of eyewitnesses of the appearances of the risen Jesus at the very beginning of the whole discussion is most easily explained by the suggestion that the apostle feared some of his addressees entertained doubts on this matter.”[iii] “[Paul] wants to insist as vigorously as possible, no doubt for theological and apologetic reasons [emphasis added], that Jesus actually was raised from the dead and that he was seen by a particular group of people who were divinely appointed as witnesses to the resurrection.”[iv]

Can You Be Good Without God?, an Essay by Dr. Brandon Winthrow

This fantastic essay was written by my friend Brandon Winthrow. It reveals that most people think atheists like myself are more likely to be serial killers than others, even though that's far far from the truth. I want people who know an atheist to realize this is nothing but propaganda, meant to marginalize and dehumanize us merely because our existence threatens the certitude of religious faith. Denounce it for us whenever you can. Thank you! LINK.

Any Questions for Dr. Lawrence Krauss?

As the Executive Editor of the Secular Nation, the flagship magazine of Atheist Alliance of America, I'm honored to be interviewing Dr. Krauss in the next issue. What questions would you sincerely ask him if it were you?




Robert Conner

“Bad faith,” defined as the refusal to confront or acknowledge facts or choices, is the bedrock of Anglo-American apologetic Christian scholarship, the walking, talking incarnation of the phoniness, dissembling, evasion and casuistry of bad faith argumentation. Members of the Jesus Studies guild increasingly recognize that evangelicals in particular appear genetically incapable of sustaining any rational argument based on probability or coherent textual interrogation and nowhere are these disabilities more apparent than in the fundamentalist defense of the historicity of the resurrection. In point of fact, the Evangelical Resurrection Industrial Complex (ERIC) has churned out scores of scholarly tomes, hundreds of erudite disquisitions in professional journals, dissertations and commentaries, as well as debates and conferences beyond numbering, and the tsunami of dishonest verbiage shows no sign of receding. Fear not, however. I have no intention of dragging the reader through the miasma left in the wake of this fetid inundation. I wish only to suggest that evangelicals have permanently disqualified themselves from rational discourse and can henceforth be left to natter among themselves.

Why Conservative Christians Should Love Abortion


A couple of years ago, I published a blog post showing that if one accepts the explanations offered by apologists like William Lane Craig for some of the terrible things Yahweh commands, then one should want there to be as many abortions as possible. Since these explanations — or excuses — recently came up in the comments section here, I decided to re-publish that post. The conclusion is of course not meant to be taken seriously, but it does follow (with a few minor assumptions that would be unreasonable to deny) from the screwed-up views of these apologists.

Richard Carrier and Bayes' Theorem, One More Time

Richard Carrier and I may have found a partial agreement when it comes to the use of Bayes' Theorem (but maybe not).

Take this scenario:
It is impossible that as of this very moment all green highway signs will verbally discuss current events with us, if we stop to talk with them.
There are three ways to deal with this in Bayesian terms.

“God Can Do Anything”


As a sort-of follow up to my previous post, one more comment related to the problem of evil:

According to some believers, God can do anything – and that means literally anything. He can make square circles, married bachelors, and even non-Catholic Popes! In these people's opinion, to say that God is omnipotent is to say that logical impossibility is no obstacle to his power.

The Christian Knack for Insulting Our Intelligence


Why in the world do they believe such things?

Sometimes even Sunday school kids have the presence of mind to ask, “But where did God come from?” To which the assurance is always given, “Well, God has always been there.” But rarely do the kids—or even the adults—ever ask, “But how do you know that?” How do you KNOW that about God? Without the evidence it’s just another assumption—one of so many that derail religious thinking. Bertrand Russell punctured this lazy conjecture when he pointed out that it’s just as easy to believe in a universe that has always existed—as it is to believe in a god that has been around, uncreated, forever.