Reviewing A Lopsided Bar Room Book Discussion About a Belief System No One Holds, Complete With Annoying Corny Cheesy Humor, Part 2

I'm reviewing Randal Rauser and Justin Schieber's conversational style book, An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything.

I've previously mentioned the lopsidedness between Rauser and Schieber's academic credentials. This matters because breadth of knowledge matters, if nothing else. A self-taught person like Schieber cannot get the breadth that comes from taking the core classes required to earn bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees. It's the breadth of knowledge Schieber lacks, even if he has a fair understanding of the material in this book.

Let's turn a bit to its content. Rauser chose to make three chapter long arguments as did Schieber. Rauser's arguments focused on: 1) God, faith and testimony, 2) God and moral obligation, and 3) God, mathematics and reason. Schieber focused on: 1) the problem of massive theological disagreement; 2) the problem of the hostility of the universe, and 3) the evolution of the biological role of pain. These are all good interesting topics as far as they go.

Before they begin they talk about why god matters in chapter one. Now if I were Schieber and I were asked why God or gods mattered, I would say because people matter. God matters because there have been, and continues to be, a massive amount of suffering caused by the belief in God, or gods. That would be my focus, and I've edited a book on that topic with regard to Christianity, titled Christianity is Not Great: Why Faith Fails. Schieber doesn't feel the pain that belief in God or gods has caused. So he lacks the motivation to care. What he's doing is having an interesting dialogue for the sake of dialogue, and that's simply not good enough. Schieber says:
Ultimately, it matters little to me that readers are unlikely to have been swayed in either direction. I did not begin this dialogue with a primary goal of acquiring new notches on my atheistic belt. I began this project because I love the dialogue, the concepts involved, and the joy I get with exploring the mechanics of how arguments interact. (p. 206).
He needs to get some hypothetical fire in his belly for all of the people who have been burned because of god beliefs. For him this is merely an interesting discussion and that's it, because he lacks breadth. Treating god-belief as an interesting topic simply does not cut it. People have died and are dying because Rauser's god-belief is held by broadly two thirds of the world. Schieber should read more. I recommend the book by Elicka Peterson Sparks, The Devil You Know: The Surprising Link between Conservative Christianity and Crime.

Instead, Rauser and Schieber focus on why the existence of God is the intellectually responsible thing to discuss for intellectually responsive people, and that we should take classical theistic beliefs seriously. Get that? Neither do I. There ought to be over-riding reasons to take God beliefs seriously. Those reasons should be because there is good evidence to do so (which Rauser should have said, but couldn't, which by itself is telling), or in Schieber's case, because belief in God has produced, and still produces, harm (Schieber's missed opportunity). Then incredibly they choose to focus on a set of beliefs that conceptualize the classical theistic God. For them this god "is a necessarily existent nonphysical agent who is omniscient omnipotent, and perfectly good." (p. 27) There are three massively wrong things about choosing to focus on this classical view of god.

First off, why does the classical belief in god have more going for it, such that we should take it seriously? Well. I'll tell you. I don't know. And they give no good reasons to think so over the other god-concepts and religions in the world. They do so because they live in the Christian western world and that's it. This is misguided and Schieber let's Rauser get away with this. It's something I hammered home in my newly released book, Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End.

Second, no one, or practically no one, holds to the classical view of God in today's world. All of these divine attributes have been dissected into oblivion by theologians and by a-theologians. No intellectually aware person in today's world can use the words omniscience or omnipotence and assume people know what's believed by the use of those words. More importantly, after divine attribute definitions are provided, no one, or practically no one, believes just this minimal amount about their god. Believers always believe MORE than this about their God, that's because they are monotheists, not deists or polytheists. This is a significant point Schieber fails to realize. By failing to realize this Schieber fails to go for the jugular of Rauser's evangelical Christian faith, the one that has caused, and is causing, so much harm. Rauser does not believe in the classical god, that's why. He believes in a full-blooded evangelical faith. He did not first believe in the classical god either. Rauser first believed in the evangelical faith of his parents, then he came to believe and defend the classical god concepts. So Schieber will not cause any attitude change in Rauser, or his fellow believers, by dialoguing about this classical god-concept because it isn't why he believes! To see how to dismantle Rauser's faith correctly I have done so in our co-authored book, God or Godless?.

The third reason why discussing the classical god concept is massively wrong is because this god is most emphatically not the kind of god we see in the Bible. The only part that's correct is that god is an agent in the Bible. All other descriptions of theirs fail to describe the biblical god. In fact, there are biblical statements to the contrary about that god, where Yahweh is not all-knowing, or all-powerful, or non-physical, or perfectly good. Shall I quote them?