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.

What would be very useful would be a book containing just the salient arguments without necessarily also providing all the detailed historical points ( though they could be referenced) or the opposing apologetic arguments. For example:

1. Adam and Eve , the Garden of Eden, and the entire creation story ( without necessarily having to understand the scientific basis for the universe)

2. The Exodus

3. Noah and the Flood

4. The Virgin Birth ( The entire Christmas Story)

5. The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus

6. A brief discussion of the problems with the Synoptic Gospels and John

7. End times and the resurrection of the believers.

8. Etc....

I acknowledge that all these topics are covered in these books, and I know that in "The Christian Delusion" you state that at some level discussions of these points can be construed as moderate argument and as such may be easily defended, but my sense is that to be able to convince those with who I am familiar the detailed logical arguments you present are likely to be more than they are willing or able to absorb and or comprehend. However, if there were a concise, pointed set of arguments for which there would be no adequate response ( other than the God Did It response), it would a much more effective challenge to their beliefs ( i.e. The Christmas Star and the idea that 2 of every animal on the planet were on the Ark.) I do read your Blog, and I know these points are often discussed there, but the people I am concerned about do not read Blogs or use Face Book.

Finally, there are a some points I would like to ask you about that I did not see addressed in anything I read:

1. The re-population of the planet from the 3 couples ( 4 if you include Noah and his wife). Aside from the obvious problem with the mating between family members, how do Christians account for all the varied races and genetic make-ups of the peoples of this Earth? (Tower or Babel not withstanding, which to my understanding God only confused their languages).

2. If the Bible is the inerrant word of God, why does there even need to be more than one Gospel? Wouldn't the story have been given to the writer of Mark (or whoever would be first) as the definitive history of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven of Jesus? It seems that the fact there even needs to be more than one account would illustrate it's falsehood.

3. What would happen if Jesus returned tomorrow? Given there are millions of people born every day in this world, many ( if not most) of them would not have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and will not have even had a chance to accept Jesus as their personal savior, so would God just wipe out the un-saved 5+Billion people just because they hadn't had the chance to believe?

Thanks for taking the time to read this email, and thank you for the work you do and have done.

I am in the same position as your final conclusion in "Why I Became and Atheist"

Paraphrasing from your text: "Atheism is a very unsettling conclusion to me, in one sense. It means I have no hope in a resurrection, that I no longer have the hope that there is someone outside the space-time matrix who can help me in time of need or give me guidance." " But on the other hand it was a conclusion" . " And it was very relieving to me to finally reach a conclusion"


Jeffrey Kuhn
Cincinnati, Ohio.


My response:

Jeffery, I read your thoughtful email.

Thanks first for your encouragement. That means a great deal to me.

Thanks also for the three solid points that could be addressed at the bottom portion of your email.

I'm sorry to hear how your hopes and dreams were shattered because of that senseless killing. The great earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal was one that made no sense to Voltaire in his day. So was WWI and the Spanish Influenza outbreak in 1918 for many others in Europe. Sometimes one lone act of senseless murder can have more of an impact though.

You asked me for some books to read that were more readable. Perhaps the ones I list in this link might be of help, along with the books listed in the sidebar.

Now as to your main point. Perhaps my books are harder to understand than I aimed at; that at times I overshot my college student audience. At least you were able to understand enough that they helped you. And you did what any reader should do who desires to develop a deeper reading comprehension, by doing further research. Good on you!

The reason I aim a bit higher than the teeming masses is to reach the educated masses. There are people who are ignorant and unaware they are ignorant, who are certain they're right about their religion. They are simpletons. They do not trust anything I say as an atheist and are not reading books by atheists. They cannot be helped. Not by me. In order for me to help them they first need to get educated and become moderates or progressives or liberals. They know I'm wrong simply because the Bible says otherwise. Writing for them is largely fruitless and will never change their minds.

As best as possible, when aiming at the educated person in the pew, I try keeping it simple without being simplistic. I can't bring myself to make it simpler lest, in my own mind, it becomes simplistic, and a simplistic writing will be laughed at by the audience I wish to target. That's just me. For now. It might change.

There are levels of writing and scholarship. At the very top are scholars writing very difficult material for other scholars, some of whom are known as scholar's scholars. That's not me. I don't aspire to do that. I don't even call myself a scholar or a philosopher (although some others do). No believing scholar has ever changed his or her mind either. They have way too much time and money invested in what they do. If the goal is to change minds, writing for them is largely fruitless and will never change their minds either.

I write for an audience somewhere in the middle. I seek to understand the important work of scholars and to bring it down so college students and educated people in the pew can understand it. One should not be asked to do it all. I can't. Everyone has a role to play. This is where I play.

I would like to share this email of yours and my reply on my blog. Surely others will share helpful perspectives too.


Cheers, John W. Loftus