My Response To An Encouraging Email With Questions and Suggestions

Here is the email from Jeffrey Kuhn of Cincinnati, Ohio (used by permission):
Dear Mr. Loftus,

My name is Jeff Kuhn, and for the past several months I have been reading a number of your books, or books which you have edited, with great enthusiasm, and wanted to reach out to you directly with some thoughts concerning these works. So, hopefully you will indulge me for just this brief inquiry.

First, I want to say that I found all the works I read (The Christian Delusion, The Outsider Test of Faith, Christianity in the Light of Science, and Why I Became an Atheist) not only compelling but ultimately convincing, and that I am in agreement with the conclusions you and the other esteemed contributors present.

Secondly, and just for the record, I have no credentials in either Christian Apologetics or science. I am just a lay person (67 years old) who has been a Christian most of my life but has struggled mightily over the past 20+ years with the obvious conflicts between Christianity and science, the problems of suffering and evil in the world, the problems and conflicts in the world created by religious demagoguery and ideologies, and the lack of critical thinking of people who I know to be of more than average intelligence when it comes to accepting events which cannot obviously be true as stated in the Bible. (This one is especially troubling).

Ultimately it was single event which occurred several months ago in which a man in Florida, holding four young children hostage in a police standoff, killed all four (and himself) that was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. The children were 6 months, 6, 10, and 11. I cried for days after this event thinking what they must have been going through before they were killed and wondered how a merciful and loving God could find "Glory" in this event , and be either unwilling or incapable of preventing it. Certainly there have been larger and more tragic events in history that could have been averted by the God of Christianity, but this one event sealed the deal. So now I have rejected the entire concept.

But to my point. The books I read were very convincing and lay out the facts in such a way that it would be very difficult for any reasonable person who took the time to consider the information to not arrive at these conclusions. But, though it is stated the material is written for college level, the reading is difficult at times and the logic of the philosophical arguments sometimes is very circular and difficult to follow. I am a reasonably intelligent person, and well educated, but I have to admit there were sections I had to read several times, and do additional outside research, to understand the discussion.

Christianity Is Not Too Big to Fail


Helping it along…off the cliff
I sometimes hear the complaint: “Why do you care if I’m a Christian? I don’t care if you’re an atheist, so why can’t you just leave us alone?”

But we don’t, in fact, exist in a live-and-let-live-world. The evidence is substantial that Christianity is harmful to our culture and our health. Richard Carrier has made the case for this in his recent essay, What’s the Harm?, but we’re hammered by headlines almost daily about scary Christian aggressions against the world, e.g. provoking the end times and the rape of children in the church’s care.

Aquinas’s Abject Failure


There are quite a few things wrong with the first cause argument, but the worst thing about it — Aquinas’s attempt to show that the chain of efficient causation cannot extend back to infinity — is ignored by most critics. The claim that there cannot be an infinite causal regress is often disputed, of course, but Aquinas’s bizarre reasoning to the contrary is usually passed over — maybe for fear it would just be confusing to readers. Whatever the case may be, I think it’s worthwhile to be aware of it, especially given that Aquinas’s old argument is still touted by many.

The part I’m referring to is the following:

The Conclusion Driven Arguments of Cameron Bertuzzi of "Capturing Christianity" Regarding The Outsider Test for Faith, Part 1

It doesn't take much for people in the pew to mindlessly quote mine from the Bible and/or the apologetics based on it. But upon thinking just below the surface we find it's all a ruse, a sham. Christian apologists have a hidden agenda. Instead of getting better at arguing for their faith they are getting better at obfuscating (or obscuring) it from view. They have become experts in conclusion driven arguments. That's all they have. It's called special pleading, and it's all special pleading. It's special pleading all the way down. That means they base their arguments on double standards, one for their faith and a different one for other faiths. It's double standards all the way down since they would never allow other people of faith to do the same. It's faith-based apologetics, never reasoned-based apologetics; no matter what they say. It's always their faith seeking reasons, never reasons leading to their faith. It's all based on assumptions, all the way down. They never argue to their faith. They always assume it and argue based on it. All apologetics is therefore presuppositional. It's presuppositional all the way down.

Cameron Bertuzzi of "Capturing Christianity" seems to be a good enough guy. He's a wannabe Christian apologist though, who has goaded me a bit to deal with his three part disputation of The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF). He honestly admits he hasn't read my book on it, LINK, but that's where the intellectual honesty ends. In the Introduction to it I said it's "my final understanding" of the test up until it was published. He still hasn't read it, preferring instead what I wrote before I wrote my book.

The Most Horrific Examples of Moral and Natural Suffering Took Place in 1918

In the same year that World War I ended in 1918, which was a very good year, the most devastating plague hit the world in which 20-40 million more human beings suffered and died cruel deaths. On the heels of the most horrific example of moral suffering comes the most horrific example of natural suffering. God is good, right? Bullshit! God did nothing in either case. His only excuse is that he doesn't exist. LINK. [See tag below for more on WWI].

This Could Be Your Religion!

I've been sharing a weekly link of photos from Religion News Service that depicts people of different religious faiths from around the world. Some of them and their festivals are quite bizarre; the one highlighted here for instance [click it to read the caption]! The people pictured are sincerely and deeply committed to worship differently conceived religions and deities. They cannot all be right, although they could all be wrong. More pics here.

What does this global religious diversity say about a god who will judge us by what we believe (cf. John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10)? It makes a mockery of such a notion! No reasonable person can accept belief unto salvation. Only unreasonable people do. That's why Christians who worship such a god make all kinds of excuses for this statute of his. Catholics say it's not about belief but good deeds in keeping with belief. Some others say everyone will be saved in the end, while still others take the bite out of damnation by saying the final destination of unsaved sinners is not all that bad. Probably most Christians offer the excuse that God knows our hearts and is a merciful judge, with the implication that even I, a blaspheming apostate debunker, can and will be saved. But if so, such a judging god would be unfairly letting unsaved sinners into heaven who didn't obey this divine statute. Why did he state it in the first place?

If you still wish to maintain your god's stated policy of belief unto salvation from a terrible final destination, then think as you look at these photos. When you look at them ask yourself how your god is going to judge people who just happened to be raised to believe differently? What if they refused to be honest by re-examining their own inherited religion as outsiders do?

But more importantly, what if you're wrong and it's YOU who were raised to believe the wrong religion? What if YOU will face a future final judgment for not believing the true religion, if there is one? Wouldn't you want to know now, not later after you die?

The Cure-for-Christianity Library©


The atheist publishing surge since the 1990s

Mark Twain famously suggested that “…the best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible.” Penn Jillette added a little more bite: “Reading the Bible is the fast track to atheism.” But these days, there is much more homework available. I had hoped to include a bibliography in my book when it was published two years ago, but there wasn’t space.

That omission, however, turned out to be a blessing. In any book, of course, a bibliography is frozen, but that is not the case when it can be continually updated on a website. I decided to include the resources for further study and research on my book’s website, and rechristened it The Cure-for-Christianity Library©.

World War I Was a Christian Jihad!

Yesterday Dr. David Madison wrote a fantastic timely piece on how World War I killed god. Seriously! The horrors of that war--which led to WWII--are too terrible to explain away the non-involvement of a perfectly good all-powerful monotheistic God. He sat by and did nothing--NOTHING--while sixteen million people, mostly Christians, slaughtered each other. If you think for one minute our own free willed choices are to blame you just haven't thought about the nature and value of free will.

Anyway, as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I, you need to be confronted with the religious motivations for that war. They involved the certainties of faith. It was a Holy War, a Christian Jihad, one of a number of jihads stretching down through the centuries. Philip Jenkins documents this in The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade.

The War that Killed God Too. Seriously.


What does it take to get people to snap out of it?
It was Jesus himself who gave the clue that God would ultimately let us down. The prayer that he famously taught his followers includes the words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” To figure out what this means, we have to grasp the context of his preaching about the ‘kingdom.’ This may be hard to do, given the Jesus hype we’re so used to. George Federick Handel put Isaiah 9:6 to music, and helped give ‘our savior’ his holy glow: “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” It was Handel, by the way, who applied these words to Jesus—not any of the New Testament authors.

How Best to Bury Christianity? by Robert Conner

Here are some brute facts. There are twenty-seven documents in the New Testament. Twenty-one are letters, but only seven are generally regarded as authentic—the rest are either forgeries or misattributed. The four gospels are anonymous—in no case does the writer name himself. There is near universal agreement that the gospels were written decades to a half-century or more after the events they purport to relate and almost certainly contain no direct eyewitness testimony. No original of any New Testament document is known to exist. Although the exact dating of the earliest running-text copies of the gospels still extant is a matter of dispute, they date from no earlier than 150 to 200 years after the life of Jesus.

Dr. David Madison's Book Now Has a New Foreword, Written by Me!

If you love what Madison writes here at DC, as I do, you now have another reason to get his book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith. I was honored to write the Foreword for it. Two of your favorite authors for the price of one! ;-)

Another Weekly Reminder, You Too Could Be A Jamiat Ulema-e-Islamist...

...and you too could be demanding that Asia Bibi be hanged for blasphemy in Pakistan. That is, if you too rejected the need for objective evidence for the faith you were raised to believe, rather than embracing the only way to know which religion is true, if there is one. LINK. More Photos are found here.

A Jesus Cult’s Assault on Science


Pushing theocracy over democracy
One of the most baffling developments of our time is the love affair between Donald Trump and evangelical Christians. Not that Trump is even capable of love—and there is no evidence whatever that he possesses religious or moral sensibilities. Are they out of their minds? It would be hard to think of a better example of ‘selling your soul to the devil.’

In many cases, I suspect, evangelicals are simply driven by panic, as assaults on their worldview pile on. What a horror, for example, that gay people can now get married; the holy folks on the Christian right have no trouble believing that hurricanes are God’s wrath for such flagrant violation of ‘Bible law.’ Thrice-divorced Kim Davis—how’s that for thumbing your nose at Jesus?—became a folk hero for standing her Christian ground.

Evil and Foreknowledge


The problem of evil and the problem of reconciling God’s foreknowledge with free will are usually treated as if they were entirely separate issues. But treating them that way hides the fact that the most popular theist views on them are in conflict with one another.

The existence of evil is most commonly explained as a consequence of free will. This is consistent with the biblical idea of the Fall of humanity. God gave humans the ability to make their own choices, and that means that he cannot prevent us from acting badly. However, most theists also want to say that God knew ahead of time what his free creatures were going to do — and thus knew we would be sinful.

“This Howling Conflict between Mark and John”


Yet so many Christians don’t seem to have a clue   

Even when I was a teenage Bible enthusiast, I didn’t trust the gospel of John; there was something phony about his Jesus. Then one of my religion professors at college remarked that John’s Jesus “…always walks three feet above the ground—he isn’t real.” It was years later that I heard about the famous jab that Mary McCarthy leveled at Lillian Hellman, during an interview with Dick Cavett: “Every word she wrote was a lie, including and and the.” Could this apply as well to the author of John’s gospel?

The Top Five Books On Bible Prophecy

There's a great deal of crap out there about Bible prophecy. Read these five books in descending order instead:

Weekly Reminder: You Could Have Believed Differently

Here's a weekly reminder that you could've been raised to believe differently. Gone then is any notion people suffer eternally for believing differently.

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence

This is the title to a chapter I'm writing for my next anthology to be called, "The Case Against Miracles." William Lane Craig asserts that the "seemingly commonsensical slogan" above, as popularized by Carl Sagan and "beloved in the free thought subculture", is "false". [Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (p. 273)]. In online videos Craig says this slogan is "demonstrably false." When it comes to accepting a highly improbable event he argues we don't need "miraculous evidence" or "lots of evidence" or even "an enormous amount of evidence."

Craig offers an often repeated nauseating analogy based in winning the lottery. He says that by showing us the winning lottery ticket a friend can convince us she overcame the staggering odds by winning it. Hence, "the evidence for the winning pick is, indeed, extraordinary", says he, even though it's not a lot of evidence, or enormous amount of evidence or miraculous evidence. [Ibid.]

But wait just a minute! Craig's analogy is plainly false on three counts. Firstly, the odds that someone will eventually win a lottery over several drawings can be calculated, and eventually someone will win it. Given that so many people have won so many lotteries it's a somewhat ordinary claim about a somewhat ordinary experience requiring only somewhat ordinary evidence. How this is analogous to an extraordinary miraculous claim about an extraordinary miraculous experience requiring an extraordinary quality of evidence for it escapes me. Odds like winning the lottery are overcome every day. To see this just read David Hand's excellent book, The Improbability Principle, with a subtitle that says it all: "Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day."

Jesus the Magician Does it Again


…and the disciples still don’t catch on

“Professor McGonagall raised her wand again and pointed it at Snape’s desk. A large plate of sandwiches, two silver goblets, and a jug of iced pumpkin juice appeared with a pop…when Harry and Ron had eaten as many sandwiches as they could (the plate kept refilling itself) they rose and left the office, treading the familiar path to Gryffindor Tower.” J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

“Then Jesus ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full… Now there were about four thousand people.” The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 8

In Defense of David Hume On Miracles, Part 2

J.L. Mackie’s argument against miracles in defense of David Hume, to be found in the first chapter of his classic book The Miracle of Theism, is stated very well:

Dr. Gary Habermas Has "Highly Recommended" My Counter-Apologetics Book to His PhD Students

Gary Habermas is an evidentialist, one who believes the evidence shows both that Jesus arose from the dead and that God exists. He's presently working on 5000 pages of text for his magnum opus containing "almost all new material on the resurrection". He also teaches at Liberty University in the School of Divinity. This semester he's teaching the PhD class APOL 910—Apologetic Methodology and he told me he has "highly recommended" my book, How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist to his students. He requires his students to read 1000 pages for this class and my book is on the list of recommended books. Just saying!

Seven Problems With Biblical Miracles

I can think of at least seven problems with believing in the biblical claims of miracles.

1) We live in a scientific era whereas the claims of biblical miracles come from a prescientific era. New Testament scholar Rudolph Bultmann just calls them “myths” and says:
“The cosmology of the N.T. 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. The same objections apply to the doctrine of the atonement. How can the guilt of one man be expiated by the death of another who is sinless?” [R. Bultmann, in Kerygma & Myth: A Theological Debate, ed. Hans Werner Bartsch (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), pp. 1–7.]
My claim is that in our world miracles like a virgin birth, resurrection, and an ascension into the sky do not happen. What world are YOU living in? If these type of miracles do not happen in our day then they never happened in first century Palestine either. And that's the end of it.

Jason Pratt made fun of me by saying this is a "category error":
Remember folks, if televisions and electric light switches didn't happen in first century Palestine, they couldn't happen in our day either. And that's the end of it.
But it's a category mistake to equate ordinary events with extraordinary ones. It's a category mistake to equate ontology (i.e., what actually happened) with epistemology (i.e., what we have reason to believe). And it's a category mistake to equate the results of science with the results of god-explanations which, to date so far, have always been wrong so the theist must continually move the goals posts as science solves the gaps of the past and uncovers new ones.

The Lack of Faith of the Average Christian


Roger Olson, one of the theologians Lee Strobel interviewed in The Case for Miracles, laments the lack of faith he finds among the majority of his fellow believers. He correctly observes that in their everyday lives, they for the most part live as if God isn’t really there. Only when faced with something like a terminal illness do they turn to God. Even churches function much as secular institutions do: “Years ago, I noticed that churches were tending not to think biblically or theologically about the way they ran their operations…They’d ask, ‘Will this fit into our budget?’ regardless of any faith that more funding could come in.”

That average Christians don’t usually expect miracles, and that churches run their business based on realistic expectations rather than counting on supernatural intervention, is disturbing to Dr. Olson. Nevertheless, he believes he knows the reason why: “You see, there’s a certain unpredictability with the Holy Spirit, and we mainstream evangelicals have come to love predictability. We don’t want big surprises. We don’t want to open the door to something that will really shock us, because we can’t control it.” In other words, according to Olson, people behave as if God isn’t there because they don’t like the idea of something that is out of their control.

Is it any wonder why we think apologists are nuts!

J.A. Cover, who teaches at Purdue University, provides yet another example where I say, "If he doesn't think so, why should I?" One would think God's own apologists would agree the evidence is there to believe. But he says otherwise:
The divine authority of Scripture seems to me not something that one could really establish at all. Some of us came to believe it at our parents’ knee. (But then, how’d they come to know it?) To accept the authority of Scripture on the authority of my parents will work all right as an explanation of why I do believe it, but hardly works as a justification of the belief itself (why I should believe it). My own view is that no amount of historical scholarship can establish the inspiration and authority of scripture.
He asks,
what sort of evidence could there be about God inspiring the Gospel writers (say) or the selection of the Canon that would underwrite belief in those?...My suspicion is that Plantinga is right: our warrant in believing the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God owes to the work of the Holy Spirit. Full stop, pretty much. [Note 15, page 370, in Reason for the Hope Within, ed. Michael J. Murray.]
Later Cover admits the evidence can't even convince a non-Christian theist, saying: “We oughtn’t expect too much from an apologetic of miracles: there’s no forcing a theist to be a Christian.” [Ibid., Note 16, page 374].

Cover's views agree with what Christian apologist Vincent Torley recently said:
I believed that a Christian could make a strong case for Jesus’ having been raised from the dead, on purely historical grounds...I would no longer espouse this view....Whether one chooses to continue believing it (as I do) or not, one is forced to accept... that belief in the Resurrection cannot be built on the foundation of historical data, for it is a foundation of sand. LINK
Is it any wonder why the rest of us think these people are nuts! [Sorry, no I'm not!]

Quote of the Day By Aron Lucas On Faith

Aron Lucas commented on something in the Keith Parsons vs William Lane Craig Debate. David Marshall and other apologists tell us faith is trust based on evidence. But we know differently.
Around 2 hours a Christian questioner defines faith as belief without evidence. Craig is very frustrated in his response. He defines faith as trust based on evidence. This shows a real disconnect between how academic Christians define faith and how common people define faith. In his debate with Peter Boghossian, Timothy McGrew speculated that the overwhelming majority of Christians would reject the idea that faith is defined as belief without evidence. I think this shows that he’s out of touch with regular Christian folk. The questioner in this video and many regular Christians have no idea that apologetics is even a thing and are happy to base their belief on “blind faith.”

Keith Parsons vs William Lane Craig On "Why I Am Or Am Not a Christian"

I just realized I had only linked to an audio version of this debate earlier. Enjoy.

Why Don't YOU worship Durga, the goddess of valor, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge?

If you were born into a different culture you would. And guess what? They're just as sure of their gods as you are your god. More religion photos of the week here.

Why I Write and Write and Write About the Religious Right

I had a fairly close friend ask me the other day why I'm so preoccupied with the religious right. 

"Can't you write about something else?" 

Yes, dear friend, and I do. I write about long-term travel, philosophy, living debt free and alternative lifestyles, overcoming the restrictive limitations of cultural expectations, minimalism and more. I've even written two psychological murder mysteries and at least thirty plays, many of which have been performed on stage in front of  live audiences.

But, here's the deal. 

While everyone else gets sidetracked by all the other political issues, I've decided to keep my eye on the religious right. I know that's hard for most to understand either because they're religious and thus rarely speak out against religion on principle or they've completely forgotten how things used to be. 

Aron Lucas On "Hume's Maxim: How a 'Trivial Truth' is Too Strong for Christian Apologetics"

Aron Lucas earned a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2016, and is using his sharp legal mind to defend Hume's Maxim against apologists Michael Licona, Stephen Davis, J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig and Timothy & Lydia McGrew. It's an excellent piece of counter-apologetics! David Hume's maxim is this: "That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish." John Earman faults Hume for basically stating the obvious, but Lucas shows that "if Hume is to be faulted for stating the obvious, many of today's leading Christian thinkers should be faulted all the more for failing to see the obvious." Excerpt below:

Christianity Is Beyond Redemption


Apologists can’t help themselves…or the faith
When I look back, through a fog of nostalgia, at my own religious upbringing, it all seems like a harmless adventure. In rural Indiana in the 1950s we knew that religion was a great benefit to mankind; worshipping God was the decent thing to do, as was telling the world the good news about Jesus. It was a sheltered perspective.

My mother was a voracious reader, and everyone loved the local librarian, but had there been a conspiracy? Or was it just negligence: No one bothered to tell me about Thomas Paine, Robert Ingersoll, H. L. Mencken—or even Bertrand Russell, who, fifteen years before I was born, had delivered his famous Why I Am Not a Christian lecture. Criticism of Christianity was nothing new, but we were in a little cocoon. The 1950s are so long ago and far away: withering criticism of Christianity is now mainstream and in-your-face.