On Assessing Triablogue's Review of "The Christian Delusion"

I've had enough contact with Triablogue authors to know that I will never get in the last word. And I do not consider them honest in dealing with me. They will quote things out of context and misrepresent me because as Calvinists they do not think I deserve any respect at all. After all, if their God has foreordained me to hell then they have the right to heap additional abuse on me, and they have done so (this is such a nice version of Christianity developed by angry men for angry men, isn't it?). In any case they have written an online book of 257 pages against The Christian Delusion (TCD) so I think some response is needed, especially since I'm seeing links pop up all over the net linking to what they wrote.

I contacted the contributors of TCD to see if any of them would like to respond to this hatchet job of an online book. Here are some of their comments:

Count me out. It's an endless treadmill.
I have looked over their objections, and they are pretty superficial.
I tend to agree that it is a fruitless venture, but if I have time I may inspect their work and see if there is a worthwhile response from my perspective. If so, I might attempt something.
It’s a treadmill because they don’t honestly care about what is real (which in their minds is a foregone conclusion)—just about winning arguments. I’d rather spend my energy writing for people who are engaged in some kind of growth process.
The “criticisms” are rather inept – they quote “scholars” who still assume Moses wrote the Pentateuch! I find it impossible that anyone who is aware even a little of modern biblical studies would take such criticism seriously. If they do, well, then one needs a book to educate them.

Still, two or three of us will respond within a few weeks to their ignorant criticisms of our chapters.

Most of us have better things to do than respond to such drivel. If their arguments are considered good ones then it goes to show you that when it comes to faith any argument will do.

I find it amazing that some people think this is a good rebuttal to our book. It isn't, not by a long shot. No wonder Christians have the edge. They respond to every skeptical book with three or four or ten book-length responses. Since they always have the last word and because people cannot think through the issues, the last word is what seems the most reasonable.

In the first place they do not know how to write a book review, but I'll leave that aside.

What strikes me as a common criticism of TCD is that there are fifteen chapters in the space of 419 pages, and as such, it isn't as in-depth as whole books written on each of the topics we cover. Well I'm here to tell you that this is simply not an informed way to judge anthologies especially since each chapter in TCD has plenty of footnotes for further reading (did they not notice them?). For people who wish to truly evaluate the case we make in each chapter they must read the works listed in the footnotes. It's that simple. We DO know what we're talking about. Each chapter serves as an introduction to each topic. Get it? And we reference whole books on the topics we write about. I consider the chapters in TCD to be superior introductions to each topic. But you should also read the works we footnote for further information and argumentation. To criticize any chapter because of the limited space available to the author without exploring the works in the footnotes is, well, not reading it thoroughly or engaging it very deeply.

Okay so far?

Let me make just a few comments for now on overall impressions of The Infidel Delusion with a focus on pages 1-10.

Over and over we read where atheists have no right to make moral judgments if there are no absolute objective morals. This is simply false. They are ignorant to say otherwise. But this is true of most Christians.

Then too, the authors are Calvinists which I think is a reprehensible theology, as I posted here.

Over and over the authors contrast their brand of Christianity with atheism which is left undefined but understood by them to be equivalent to metaphysical naturalism. I don't think they truly know what atheism is, as I explained right here, and again here.

Besides, the options before us are not between their brand of conservative Calvinism and non-belief. The options are myriad with everything in-between. There is Arminianism, moderate and liberal Christianities, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Orthodox Judaism, Islam, and many eastern religions to choose from. So it really does not make a whit of difference who is making a particular argument against their brand of Christianity. The argument either stands on its own or not. They cannot assert, for instance, that an atheist cannot make this or that kind of argument because he has no standard for morality, since Process Theologians can make that same argument as can Arminians like Christian philosopher Victor Reppert (which they have repeatedly attacked) or liberals like James McGrath. Then too, the Triabloguers forget that the reason why there are moderates and liberals and process theologians is precisely because many of them grew up as conservative Christians and found the arguments we have expressed in TCD to be telling against their faith. It's precisely because of these arguments that led us away from conservative Christianity in the first place.

Now to pages 1-10.

Steve Hays asks me on page 4 to justify my assumptions. Well, if he read Why I Became an Atheist then he would see that I did just that.

I wrote in the Introduction to TCD that this anthology is
“an extension of my previous one, Why I Became an Atheist (WIBA), which I think of as important background reading for the chapters in this one, although you don’t need to read it in order to understand and benefit from this present book. All the themes in this present book expand on issues raised there.”
That's what I wrote. But Steve ignores it. So while it's true that most people would not need to read WIBA to benefit from TCD, the authors of this online book should have done so if they wished to criticize it.

Jason Engwer on page 7 writes:
The book frequently criticizes the Bible for being unclear, and it‘s often suggested that we can‘t reliably discern what scripture means (17-19, 52, 378). Everything from pro-homosexual to Nazi interpretations of the Bible are cited, and it‘s often suggested that we can‘t reach a reliable conclusion about which interpretation is correct and which isn‘t. Yet, the authors of The Christian Delusion often tell us what scripture means and why it‘s supposedly wrong. They sometimes refer to scripture (and other sources) as clear even on disputed points, if what‘s supposedly clear is something they want to criticize.
But let’s understand this better, okay? In areas where it’s obvious we should expect a perfectly good God to communicate his will better, he didn’t do so, which caused a great deal of harm done in his name by the church (think Inquisition, crusades, witch hunts, Christian attempts at genocide during the Thirty Years War directed at other Christian groups, Slavery, the treatment of women, and denial of the democratic ideals of the freedom of religion and of expression). But in other areas through good sound Biblical scholarship we can discern what the Biblical authors probably meant to say. Take for instance their claim that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. We know this is simply ignorant.

On page 9 Paul Manata faults the book because our claim is that there is no such thing as Christianity (singular), only Christianities (plural), and yet we also claim Christianity (singular) is a delusion. But the fact is that precisely because Christianity is a cultural phenomenon we think all Christianities are a delusion. No version of Christianity can pass the Outsider Test for Faith and we give ample reasons that if extended to other forms of Christianity would debunk them as well.

On that same page Manata claims “the last two chapters have no bearing on whether Christianity is a delusion.” Really? Surely whether Christianity is beneficial to society bears some relationship to whether it’s true. I mean, you really wouldn’t want to hold to something as true from a perfectly good God if it wasn’t beneficial to society, or would you? The point of the last part of TCD addresses this concern, which is a hotly debated one and therefore needed to be addressed. Christianity is not necessary to society. We don’t need it for morality. We don’t need it in politics, as Dr. Avalos shows with regard to Hitler who embraced a particular form of Christianity called “Positive Christianity,” which was responsible for the mass murder of six million Jews. Why would someone want to embrace faith in Christianity if that's what it produced?

Furthermore, the two last chapters in TCD are examples of the delusional thinking Christians have used to defend their faith, so they are indeed relevant to the book as a whole. Christians have repeatedly come along after social/political/scientific changes and claimed it was Christianity that produced these changes. The arguments of the last two chapters show this is not the case, nor is it the case when it comes to the rise of democracy, feminism, environmentalism, and animal rights.

I'll have more to say at a later time. This should be enough for now. If the other contributors want to chime in then that will be their decision. I'll mainly focus on answering their objections to the four chapters I wrote.

To read my next post on their online book click here.