How NOT to Prove the Ancient Jesus Cult

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Making up stuff doesn’t mean you win
According to the resurrected Jesus, speaking in Mark 16, baptized Christians should be able to cast out demons, drink poison unharmed, pick up snakes, heal people by touch—and “speak in tongues.” But the faithful can breathe a sign of relief: This is a fake Jesus quote, included in the fake ending of Mark’s gospel, 16:9-20; these verses were added later, by whom and when, we do not know.

This list gives us an idea, however, of the mindset of the early Jesus cult that wanted Jesus to preach this message. Christians today—those outside Pentecostalism, that is—may draw a blank about “speaking in tongues.” But it’s not hard to find the apostle Paul’s guidance on the topic, in I Corinthians 14. Richard Carrier has defined “speaking in tongues” as “babbling in random syllables,” and it would appear that Paul was less than enthusiastic about it himself, although he bragged that he spoke in tongues more than anyone else (v.18).
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Jim Hall from the Atheist Edge Interviews Me

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Another good interview. Enjoy. It includes some video of Aron Ra and others shooting pool with me.

William Lane Craig On The Probability Version of Suffering

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Magician Eric Chien

The video below on the probability version of suffering was written by William Lane Craig and produced by his staff at Reasonable Faith. The question is whether an omni-god exists or not. Don't allow Craig the magician to draw your eyes away from that question with the deception of misdirection. For Craig the magician cannot use the existence of an omni-god to solve the problem of suffering for the existence of an omni-god, since whether an omni-god exists is the issue. Nor can he use his unevidenced believing background indoctrinated information.

Furthermore, Christians like Craig are still focusing on the wrong problem. We keep hearing how they (i.e., Alvin Plantinga) have answered the logical problem of suffering, and it's nauseating (and probably false). But when they turn away from it to the probability version of suffering they don't answer the real problem. It's not just suffering we're talking about. The real problem is that the amount of horrific suffering in the world makes the existence of an omni-god improbable. <-- See the link then ask yourself if the video addressed the points made there. While the video gives lip service to the phrase "so much pointless suffering", it expresses the problem like this: "Suffering provides empirical evidence that God's existence is highly unlikely."

So there are two kinds of misdirection going on. Craig the magician 1) uses an omni-god, at least in part, to solve the question of the existence of an omni-god given the existence of so much horrible suffering, and he does so 2) with a strawman version of the real problem. If you don't see what's going on you're not paying close enough attention. With this magician's trick exposed for what it is, enjoy the show:

Best Atheist Advice Ever #9: Andrew Hall's Interview

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I was asked to talk on best advice I ever received for Hall's podcast, Laughing in Disbelief. I wanted it to be different so I chose something GK Chesterton said (14:37 minutes).

Dr. Nick Trakakis Recommends My Book "Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End"

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Dr. Nick Trakakis, one of the most important philosophers of religion in today's world, and author of "The End of Philosophy of Religion," surprised me recently with the following message:
Hi John, I'm currently reading your book Unapologetic book and thoroughly enjoying it. Suffice it to say that I am in wholehearted agreement with you. I actually find it very sad to see a discipline (the philosophy of religion) I have cherished for many years being debased and distorted by so-called Christian philosophers. Like you, I have now finally and happily found my place in the atheist community.

I seem to be moving towards a strange kind of atheism, whereby (i) the personal theistic conception of God is rejected as incoherent, but (ii) even if it turned out that I was wrong and there is such a God after all, I still think that such a God should be rejected, in Ivan Karamazov style: “no thanks, you can have your ticket back”.

I’m slowly making my way through your "Unapologetic book", it’s quite fascinating, loving the Nietzschean hammer style."

My Recent Atheist Edge Interview

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Now here's a great interview with a provocative title!

The Ten Well-Founded Axioms of Atheism, A Compilation of My Words, By John Constantine

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John Constantine lives in Johannesburg, Gauteng. On Facebook he did me an honor by posting my words into a list of "ten presuppositions of atheism." As you might guess I love them! I was meaning to do this same thing but never got around to it. I'm not claiming to have originated these concepts. But someone is reading my works! As a quibble, I wouldn't call them "presuppositions" but rather axioms. What other axioms are foundational to atheism? Below I'll suggest a few more. Let's be creative and find some new ones.

William Lane Craig On "Why Don’t Professional Historians Come to Believe in Jesus’ Resurrection?"

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Look how long William Lane Craig's answer to this question is! LINK. It appears that the more words required then the more obfuscation we see. It shows how much he needs his "answer" to be true as opposed to the correct answer.

The correct answer to this question is simple and easy. Professional historians are held to the standards of probabilities. So it stands to reason that a miracle like a resurrection from the dead is extremely improbable, to say the very least. Neither Jewish nor Christian historians conclude otherwise, even though they are theists. It takes the special pleading of an apologist to do so. Don't just take my word for it. See Bart D. Ehrman's argument.

The Gospels Writers Didn’t Care What Jesus Would Do

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So, just what were they up to?

Christians turn to the gospels to read the story of Jesus, and they assume that the stories are God’s honest truth—so to speak. Scholars, however—even devout scholars—want to know where the gospel accounts came from; after all, they were written decades after the events described. But it’s good enough for believers that God inspired the authors, so how could they not be accurate? In Caravaggio’s superb depiction of divine inspiration, an angel guides the right hand of Matthew as he writes.

But insistence on “scriptural inspiration” is an example of special pleading, that is: our documents don’t have to meet standards of evidence that are expected of other histories—because, in effect, God wrote them. No scholar would accept that argument to prove the accuracy of, say, David McCullough’s biography of John Adams, i.e., God inspired him. No: especially with someone as important as Jesus, rigorous standards of evidence must be used. Special pleading is cheating.

How Indoctrination Can Set You Free, by Bill Flavell

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If you were indoctrinated into your religion, why doesn't that make you suspicious? Why don't you recognise that indoctrination is not evidence that a belief is true? On the contrary, why don't you treat indoctrination as a red flag? Why don't you see beliefs that are not supported by evidence but have to be drummed into small children as prime candidates to be questioned? Why don't you see that beliefs you are instructed NOT to question are the very beliefs you SHOULD question? If you think at all, indoctrination should be the trigger to doubt a belief, not to double-down and defend it with your life. Indoctrination works on children but only works on grown-ups if they let it. Don't let it. --On Facebook.
Exactly! This! If you were indoctrinated then that's a very strong reason to investigate your indoctrinated religion for the first time, as if you were a non-believer. In fact, doing so should be considered a rite of passage into adulthood. All you have to do is start by honestly admitting you were indoctrinated!

My Interview with The Naked Diner, Episode 158

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Jack and Andy talk interview me about the fallacious nature of religious thinking, and my upcoming anthology, “The Case against Miracles”. I've never liked my own interviews but there is a lot of good information in this one! Enjoy.

Praise God for Mosquitoes!!

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Parasites like mosquitoes kill and kill again. Praise Jesus!

"Mosquitoes are our apex predator, the deadliest hunter of human beings on the planet. A swarming army of 100 trillion or more mosquitoes patrols nearly every inch of the globe, killing about 700,000 people annually. Researchers suggest that mosquitoes may have killed nearly half of the 108 billion humans who have ever lived across our 200,000-year or more existence." LINK. Isn't your god good!

The Five Stages of Bible Grief

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Brought on by actually reading it

Bart Ehrman, with several best-selling books about the Bible to his credit, has taught undergraduates:

“… part of the deal of teaching in the Bible Belt is that lots of my students—most of them?—have very conservative views about the Bible as the Word of God. A few years ago I used to start my class on the New Testament, with something like 300 students in it, by asking the students a series of questions, just for information:

• How many of you in here would agree with the proposition that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (PHOOM! Almost everyone raises their hands)
• OK, great: Now, how many of you have read the Harry Potter series? (PHOOM! Again, almost everyone raises their hand).
• And now, how many of you have read the entire Bible? (This time: scattered hands, here and there, throughout the auditorium)

A Discussion with Marty Sampson, Gary Habermas, and Mike Licona On the Resurrection

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Marty Sampson, formerly of the worship team "Hillsong" is in the throes of doubt. I know one other person who became a blogger here at DC, who eventually emerged from doubt as a Christian. Check his story out right here. So I don't predict how Sampson's journey will go. I wish him well on his journey. I know that belief is powerful and bolstered by a whole lot of very strong social ties that can be extremely hard to break away from, even if there are an overwhelming number of good solid reasons to walk away from it. So I won't accept praise or blame for his final decision even though I'm in contact with him.

I was honored to join in a discussion with apologists Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, known as experts resurrection apologetics, at Marty's request. I like Gary and Mike both as persons. I've met them both on two or three occasions. Habermas even recommends my last book to his PhD students LINK. But they are wrong. I think I made that case.

Does ‘Sanctity-of-Life’ Rule Out Abortion?

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The collision of theology with real-life crises

I was a teen-age Bible geek, way back in the 1950s, in rural northern Indiana. My devout mother was not a fundamentalist, however, so I escaped that infamy. Quite the contrary, even at that early age I developed as aversion to the letters of the apostle Paul. There was no one to tap me on the shoulder and warn me: if you don’t like Paul, Christianity probably isn’t for you. My dislike for Paul had not diminished years later when I selected my major in the PhD program at Boston University; I chose Old Testament to escape excessive study of Paul. I would realize my mistake many years later, since Paul’s theology plays a major role in the falsification of Christianity.

Cameron Bertuzzi of "Capturing Christianity" Avoids Answering Questions

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Marty Sampson of "Hillsong" posted this on Instagram. See what Cameron Bertuzzi thinks is a sufficient response:

CC:

A few thoughts:

(1) Interesting use of legos.
(2) This is why it’s important that we continue to emphasize that questions aren’t arguments.
(3) Maybe I should start saying that incredulity isn’t an argument either.
(4) Christians have not been silent on passages like these (e.g., see Copan and Flannagan’s book).

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Kit Alcock:

I think it's obvious what the implicit argument here is, or at least one can do a charitable construction of such an argument

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CC:

The most that we’d have is a syllogism, there certainly wouldn’t be a defense of the premises.

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Kit Alcock:

Right I agree with that, I just think that that can often be achieved by setting out the argument for them

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CC:

But this is kind of missing the point. The point is to get the person asking questions to think logically. To help them think about the connections between their statements and their conclusions. To get them to consider whether their statements are supported by more than their own credulity.

It depends on the situation. Just giving them a reconstruction that’s valid isn’t necessarily going to help them give valid arguments in the future.

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John Loftus:

This final answer of yours makes no sense if you're trying to actually help the doubter. The goal isn't to teach them to offer articulate arguments. Your goal should be to answer their objections.

The Rules of Engagement At DC

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Some angry Catholic apologist has been tagging our posts with his angry long-winded responses. I know of no other blog, Christian or atheist, that allows for arguments by links, especially to plug one's failing blog or site. I've allowed it for about a month with this guy but no more. He's not banned. He can still come here to comment. It's just that we don't allow responses in the comments longer than the blog post itself, or near that. If any respectful person has a counter-argument or some counter-evidence then bring it. State your case in as few words as possible and then engage our commenters in a discussion. But arguments by links or long comments are disallowed. I talked with David Madison who has been the target of these links and he's in agreement with this decision. He's planning to write something about one or more of these links in the near future. So here's how our readers can help. I've deleted a few of these arguments by link. There are others I've missed. If you see some apologist arguing by link flag it. Then I'll be alerted where it is to delete it. What's curious to me are the current posts he's neglecting, like this one on horrific suffering. If he tackles that one I'll allow him a link back.

What if Scientists Conclude There is a Creator After All?

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The universe has defied what scientists have expected time after time. Even so, no ancient pre-scientific book contains the answer to the beginning of the universe. Not one important scientific discovery was learned by reading the Bible. So the odds it might do so in the future are abysmally low. In fact, most scientific discoveries were opposed by people who read the Bible. What needs to be understood is that a scientific fact consistent with the Bible is not one that was predicted by the Bible, or considered established by the Bible. So if science discovers there is a creator after all, it would be a finding consistent with the Bible and other sacred religious texts. But since the Bible never told us how to discover it, or predicted the scientific method would lead to this discovery, it wouldn't confirm the Biblical claim of creation by the biblical god. It would be a discovery that accidentally coincided with it, that's all.

Is Science Inconsistent with Naturalism?

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In “The Explanatory Emptiness of Naturalism” (another essay in Gilson & Weitnauer's anthology True Reason, which I mentioned a couple of posts back), religious philosopher and “former atheist sociopath”* David Wood, argues that, in order for there to be science, naturalism must be false. There are various reasons why he claims this is the case. These include the usual suspects, such as that naturalism is inconsistent with our ability to reason and that it cannot account for the uniformity in nature which science requires. (I've previously covered these issues, or something closely related to them, and rather than repeating myself have placed links below.)

Some of the other reasons he offers also involve common complaints against naturalism, but in ways that are odd in this context. For example, he argues that naturalism is incompatible with the existence of the universe, and from this concludes that under naturalism it would be impossible to practice science! (After all, there first has to be a world before anyone can be a scientist.)

A Discussion with Apologist John Ferrer

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I think Ferrer has his PhD now. He has learned the ways of the Jedi well with the goal to obfuscate. Say it isn't so! I began a FB wall post with these words:
I have found that the important questions are always epistemological ones not metaphysical ones. For when discussing metaphysical issues what we conclude should never be stronger than the probabilities. We should think exclusively according to the probabilities, which are epistemological in nature and evidence based. Discuss.
James K. Walker “For when discussing metaphysical issues what we conclude should never be stronger than the probabilities.” What metric do you use to determine the probabilities that your statement is true?

John W. Loftus, James K. Walker philosophical gerrymandering and obfuscationism aside, let's focus on the so-called virgin birth of a redeemer baby/god in the ancient world where plenty of virgin born heroes and demi-gods were supposedly born. What we want is not mere testimonial evidence, and much less 2nd or 3rd hand hearsay testimonial evidence we cannot cross-examine for inconsistencies, colusion, disavowals, lies and distortions. We need objective evidence. And yet there is no objective evidence to be found!

Ferrer enters the room to the rescue:

Religion Photo of the Week On The Wrongs of Indoctrination

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Don't tell me people are not indoctrinated to believe. It happens to most all of us. Given that most people remain in their culturally indoctrinated faith and that most religious faiths are false at best, indoctrinating children is wrong! Teach your children to think like scientists instead, to question everything, to seek objective evidence before accepting a cultural or familial faith. In fact, reject faith itself. Accept only objective evidence for religious tales. If enough of it doesn't exist then suspend judgment. If there's a true faith it should have nothing to fear from this requirement:

What to Do about Your Dead-Again Jesus?

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The New Testament excels at self-sabotage
Knowing what we do about the Cosmos, what happens with cherished Bible stories? The British scholar A.N. Wilson remarked, about the Ascension of Jesus in Act 1, “…a man ascending vertically from the Mount of Olives, by whatever means of miraculous propulsion, would pass into orbit.” (Jesus, p. 3) In response to my Flash Podcast on the ascension, Scott McKellar wrote, “In the course of his ascension, at around 15,000 feet, Jesus began to wish he had brought a sweater. At 30,000 feel he felt weak from lack of oxygen. By 100,000 his bodily fluids were boiling away from every orifice. If he ever did return, it would be as a fifty-pound lump of bone and frozen jerky.”

Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson On Losing One's Religion

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A few weeks ago bestselling author Joshua Harris announced he's renounced his religion, saying "I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is 'deconstruction', the biblical phrase is 'falling away.' By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian." LINK. Then more recently Marty Sampson of the worship team Hillsong announced his religious faith "is on incredibly shaky ground." LINK. He names a few atheists he's been listening to. Guess who is one of them!

After Marty made his announcement I contacted him, and we're messaging a bit. I told him I know it's a struggle. I was there at one time. It's gut wrenching with lots of confusion and disappointment to consider my life was build on a delusion. I wept and prayed daily to god for months to help me and even send me a sign if he would. I received nothing in response.

People who wonder about the evidential weight of Conversion/Defection stories might be helped by reading what I've written previously.

For the record, in the years 1992-98 when I was in the throes of doubt myself, there was one song I played hundreds of times in hopes my god would reach out to me as I shouted out to him, "Shout to the Lord" (1994) by Hillsong:

Do Atheists Steal Key Concepts From the Christian Faith?

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This is the claim of Frank Turek, who made it into a list of the top ten Christian apologists. Franz Kiekeben, who writes here for DC, informs us that
Frank Turek...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 C.R.I.M.E.S. – the crimes against theism.
If you want to read a blow by blow rebuttal of these atheist "CRIMES" then read what Kiekeben said (first published here on DC). LINK. Pass it on. Refer to it when these claims come up. Refer to it often.

Christianity Gets Slam-Dunked

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A review of Tim Sledge’s Four Disturbing Questions with One Simple Answer
The Richard Dawkins 7-point scale, for rating the strength of belief or non-belief, has been widely referenced. Number 1 is Strong Theist, “I do not question the existence of God. I know he exists.” Number 7 is Strong Atheist, “I am 100% sure there is no God.” This is a useful guide, far more than many atheists realize. I am sometimes scolded by other atheists for ‘wasting my time’ debunking Christianity. “They never listen,” so I’m told. But note that Number 3 on the Dawkins Scale is Weak Theist, “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”

I’ve long maintained that Christians exist on a scale of 1 to 10, although I’ve never bothered to define each of the numbers, other than to say that the 10s are probably unreachable; these are the evangelicals and fundamentalists. Good luck trying to penetrate. But then there are the 5s, those who go through the motions out of habit, show up at church, but who have unvoiced doubts. They have noticed things that don’t make sense, and are skeptical of Preacher Answers. Just one book, just one article—about a big flaw in the faith—coming to their attention, somehow, can start the process of walking away.

Snake Worshippers! This Could Be You!

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All it would take is for you to be born in a Hindu family in Prayagraj, India. Then you too would worship snakes! You would be convinced they heal you when ill. You could not be talked out of your culturally adopted religion. And you would be going to hell for not believing in Jesus, according to theology. Wouldn't you want to know which religion is true, if there is one? There is a way. Reject it at your own peril.

“A Simple Misunderstanding that Changed the Course of History”

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The deep roots of Christian apologetics
“Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.” There is some truth to this claim, but not enough. Our distant ancestors—those who first believed that priests could channel gods—were not fools: they managed to survive in perilous environments, and that took some doing. Fools no, but not gifted with critical thinking skills either. They did have imaginations, however, and were thus very susceptible to stories—as we are today.

It seems we’re wired to become heavily invested emotionally in stories; modern examples include The Hobbit, Game of Thrones, Downton Abby, Harry Potter, and comic book superheroes; the characters grab us. We can’t get enough. But what if you can convince people that God himself had written a particular story? And that believing the story is the key for escaping death: you win eternal life if you accept the story with all your heart, mind, and soul. Religious professionals of all genres exploit this level of emotional investment.

The Amount of Horrific Suffering Makes The Existence of God Improbable

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Recently I participated in an online debate on an omni-god and suffering. My Catholic opponent mostly quoted from the Bible and Church fathers. Like so many others he had a strategy of nitpicking and using up my time in the cross-examination. Here are my opening and closing statements.

My 10 minute Opening Statement:

Believers will argue that not even a god could create a world without some minimal level of suffering in it. But what about the amount of horrific suffering that exists? That’s my focus.

Here’s the problem: If a god exists who is all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good, then the amount of horrific suffering in our world needs an explanation. Either this god isn’t smart enough to eliminate it, or isn’t powerful enough to eliminate it, or doesn’t care enough to eliminate it. The reason is that an all-knowing god would know how to eliminate it, an all-powerful god has the power to eliminate it, and a perfectly good god would want to eliminate it.

For the sake of argument what if such a god exists?

Is a Real Jesus Hiding Anywhere in the New Testament?

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A Review of R. G. Price’s Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed
It’s standard practice for art dealers to provide documentation that the works they sell are the real thing; ideally there will be a paper trail showing ownership back to the original artist. At the end of movies there are several minutes of rolling credits, hundreds of names, of all the people who helped make the film. At the end of any biography, the reader can find the sources used, commonly hundreds of them: this is where the information comes from—and any curious researcher can find them as well.

A couple of hundred years ago, Bible scholars began to grapple with the inconvenient truth that the gospels—those iconic titles, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—have no such anchors: No documentation, credits at the end, or identified sources. They seem to position themselves as history, but what’s the evidence for that?

The Claim That There Are No Atheists

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Instead of answering atheists' arguments, some believers just deny that there is such a thing as atheism. On their view, everyone knows that there is a God, and so-called atheists simply block out that fact because they don't want there to be someone who makes moral demands on them. (As everyone knows, we atheists just want to be able to do whatever we feel like, morality be damned — which explains why we are always robbing banks and torturing puppies.) But what reasons are there for thinking this is the case? Several have been suggested.

One common argument states that no one can consistently live like an atheist. So-called atheists obey moral rules, for example, which they should have no reason to obey. For according to atheism, it is said, it is no better to be kind and help those in need than to be a serial rapist and murderer. Yet many so-called atheists speak out against injustices in the world, and in doing so reveal that they are not true heathens.