Dr. David Madison, Debunker Par Excellence!

I'm a big fan of former Methodist minister and biblical scholar Dr. David Madison, who no longer believes. He understands how best to debunk Christianity. It has to do a great deal with the Bible. Since the Bible makes atheists out of readers--doing so will shock you to the bone--then how much more does reading what Madison says about the Bible. He honors us at DC by writing weekly essays on Friday, plus so much more, as he's also an administrator.  He honored me by asking for a Foreword to his book three years ago, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief (2nd ed. 2018). With his permission, here it is:


 Things have to make sense. When it comes to loving my husband and children, I am a sentimentalist. But not when it comes to figuring out how the Cosmos works. For that we need hard evidence, not personal feelings and prayer rugs.” (p. 25) So says biblically trained scholar Dr. David Madison in this unequaled, educational, and entertaining counter-apologetics book that exposes ten of the toughest problems for the Christian faith as unworthy of thinking adults. In it Madison expertly presents a cumulative case against Christianity, which is the best way to compel childlike believers to abandon their make-believe fantasies. While it’s written for pastors and their fleeced flock in the pew stalls, Christian philosophers should definitely pay heed since most of them are biblically illiterate, mindlessly defending the wacky doctrines derived from unevidenced ancient pre-scientific fairy tales.

I am very humbled, honored and happy Madison highlights my work in this book. He even partly derived its schematic and title from something I wrote. So when asked if I would write this Foreword I couldn’t refuse, nor did I want to, as it’s probably the biggest honor an author could ask of another. Yet, despite all the honoring going on, my aim is to get people interested, no excited, to read Madison. I’m not saying if you like what I do you’ll love what he does, although that’s a good start. No. It’s rather, you’ll love what he does, period. I know I do.

Everyone interested in investigating and analyzing the complete undeniable palpable falseness of Christianity should be reading Madison-- and everyone should be interested! However, as Madison acknowledges, Christians “assuredly have a long history of not paying attention.” (p. 29) “Even if they’re not oblivious, they are just not interested.” (p. 33) He notes there are probably no atheist books on a shelf labeled “Our Atheist Critics” in Christian bookstores. To underscore the point he asks why Christians everywhere are not clamoring to get a copy of Bertrand Russell’s book, Why I Am Not a Christian. “Why aren’t they curious to see how their religion might have gone off the rails? Don’t they want to find out what one of the smartest guys of the 20th Century had to say about their faith?” (p. 29). No, comparatively speaking almost none of them do.

Still it’s my hope to introduce Christians and others to Madison, an ordained Methodist minister who became an atheist. They should listen to those of us who have left the Christian fold and found the intellectual freedom to follow the evidence wherever it leads, rather than remaining zombies who just quote-mine from the Bible and the diverse theologies developed from it. What did we learn on the way to heaven that caused us to walk away from any hope of seeing our loved ones again after we die? Surely Christians should want to read one story or two, along with the arguments that convinced us to leave the fold of our upbringing. Surely! Don’t say it isn’t so. But it usually isn’t so, unfortunately.

Unlike most evangelical pastors Madison’s deconversion (as we call it) began as a young lad when he learned not to take the Bible literally. He did so “after soaking up the scholarship of The Interpreter’s Bible” which is a massive twelve volume work, containing the liberal scholarship of the 1950’s. He became “obsessed” with learning about the Bible and trying to find out how to determine which parts were from his god, from those parts that weren’t. A youth with that kind of passion can and does find himself studying his faith at higher and higher levels. I did. So did Madison.

He earned his terminal Ph.D. degree from Boston University School of Theology in Biblical Studies, focusing on the Old Testament. To graduate he had to show reading proficiency in the languages of the Bible, both Hebrew and Greek, along with French and German, the languages of some important modern schools of biblical scholarship. So don’t tell me he’s ignorant. That option isn’t available to you.

But haven’t enough whistleblowers gone on record showing Christianity to be false, a delusion, deserving no more importance than other religions, with no truth to its doctrines of faith? Hasn’t it already been debunked by so many others before us? Well, yes, it has, from David Hume to David Friedrich Strauss, to people like Thomas Paine to Robert Ingersoll, to the first wave of “new atheist” authors, including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett, and now a second wave of “new atheist” biblical scholars, including Bart Ehrman, Hector Avalos, Robert Price, Burton Mack, James Crossley, Richard C. Miller, and Matthew Ferguson to name a few, which now includes David Madison. If so, is there really a need for yet another book like this one? Yes, most definitely, and Madison forcefully tells us why:

We’re still flogging the horse because it’s not dead. We are up against a major world religion with 2,000 years of momentum behind it–but with plenty of cracks and weaknesses to be exposed and exploited. We keep writing and speaking because–well, because we each have something to say in our own way.

The next atheist author could be a perfect match–the very voice, just the right message–for folks who are at the tipping point, who won’t take much nudging to walk away from Christian silliness. There can never be too many atheist books, given what we’re up against. We keep writing and speaking because of the frightening possibility that we may be fighting a losing battle. (p. 35) 

In his book you’ll read about ten tough problems for Christianity. They fall into two categories. In the first half Madison discusses five problems that plague Western monotheism in general. In the second half he discusses five problems that are peculiar to Christianity. Madison rhetorically asks:

Any one of the problems is probably sufficient to falsify Christianity. Maybe, with a lot of heavy lifting and straining, you could overcome one or two, but all ten? (p. 35).         

Of course not! Not honestly anyway. It’s David Madison against all the Christian apologetics in the world down through the centuries, and my bet is on him, hands down, no iffs ands or buts about it. 


Now it’s time for some polemics, telling readers what I especially like about Madison’s book and approach to changing the world. 

He Sees Value In Debunking Christianity. I’ve seen atheists justify what they do simply because it’s what they do best. I get that. Many of us do this when it suits us. So it’s no surprise that some atheists are looking down on people who debunk religion when compared to others who are trying to build a better atheist, humanist or secular society. We’re told the latter are doing the harder work, the necessary work and the more important work.

Madison disagrees, as I do. I don’t disparage any atheist from doing anything that helps build a better secular society without god, so I see no reason why atheists should disparage what Madison and I do. I think we need all kinds of different approaches. Debunking a religion can help build a better society anyway, since it takes away the religious motivation for rejecting homophobia, gay bashing, sexism and misogyny, or even racism. In fact, a world without religion would automatically be a better place, even if we couldn’t say it would be a perfect place.      

He Knows What Counts As Evidence. What is the evidence for Christian theism and its last century offshoot evangelicalism?  I have argued for a test to help believers examine their own faith fairly and honestly, seen in my book The Outsider Test for Faith. Madison endorses it, as any reasonable person should. It’s designed to help believers see the need for requiring sufficient objective evidence for their faith. But what’s meant by evidence isn’t always apparent.

I was asked to define faith recently. So I said: It’s accepting an extraordinary claim as true, such as a virgin having birthed an incarnate son of God, without sufficient objective publicly verifiable evidence, or even the need for sufficient objective publicly verifiable evidence. Then I was asked what I mean by objective evidence. So I said: That’s precisely your problem. You don't know what evidence looks like. Just imagine what would convince you of such a claim in today's world. THAT! Or just imagine what it would take for you to believe the same claim coming from an ancient Chinese religion. THAT!

So the test also helps believers see what is meant by sufficient objective evidence. In other words, the outsider test helps believers twice-over. It’s both a test and a teaching tool. The test helps believers to accept the requirement for sufficient objective evidence (all by itself a hard task!). But it goes on to teach believers what is meant by forcing them to consider how they reasonably examine the other religious faiths they reject. It teaches them to apply the same single standard across the boards to their own religious faith as outsiders or nonbelievers would, without any double-standards or special pleading.

Philosophical argumentation will not do, as I argued in my book, Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. I’ve seen atheist philosophers of religion debate with Christians how hot hell is, and how long sinners will suffer in it, in order to deal with Christian justifications of the doctrine of hell as not being too harsh, or too long, or something like that! One might as well discuss the attributes of superman’s powers. How can he can fly without any apparent propulsion faster than a speeding bullet, or move the earth off its orbit? How can his eyes see through walls? Wait just a minute here! Does such a being exist in the first place? That’s what we really need to know whether it’s Superman or a god of some kind.

The only kind of evidence that counts when it comes to the god of Christianity is either scientific evidence based on the scientific method that such a god exists, or historical evidence based on the historical method showing the Bible is a god’s divine revelation and/or the church is his divine agent. Subjective testimonies are only evidence of a subjective state of affairs. They are not relevant to the objective world of evidence where scientists and historians work. Madison is an expert in the Bible so his expertise counts. His conclusion, like mine, is the evidence conclusively shows the Bible is definitely not god’s divine revelation.

His Cumulative Case Approach. I think his book and writings are doing what needs to be done to disabuse Christians of their faith. We cannot have a piecemeal approach to debunking Christianity, debunking one belief or doctrine at a time. We must assault Christianity as a whole with a cumulative case. Nothing else will do, even if it means we cannot be experts in every area we write about. I liked what a guy named GearHedEd said about the problem we as atheist writers face:

Apologetics is damage control applied to an incoherent myth, designed to try and explain difficulties away. It’s like trying to compress a balloon between your hands. Every time you think you've squeezed it down, it pops out in another direction, and you can't cover all the bases simultaneously. 

But we must try. It’s the best approach we’ve got. 

His Firebrand Approach. He is a firebrand atheist, no doubt. He doesn’t think there is an ounce of truth to the Christian gospel story, and he’s not afraid of bluntly saying so, or treating Christianity like we treat all other religions we cannot stomach. We can see it in how he ridicules his former religion. He’s agreeing with the advice of atheist philosopher Stephen Law, who said,

I for one would much rather understand what my intellectual opponent really believes about me than have them disguise it. After all, if a Christian really believes that, as an atheist, I am hell-bound, they surely have a moral duty to warn me. I understand and appreciate that. I think we atheists should be similarly honest. I consider Christian belief … to be pretty ludicrous: scarcely less ludicrous, in fact, than many other religious belief systems that [Christians] would probably find ludicrous (such as Mormonism and Scientology, for example). 

          He Doesn’t Care That Much If Christian Intellectuals Take Notice. No doubt Madison would like it if they did, but he doesn’t really care since he’s dealing with deluded people, all of them in some measure. So it doesn’t matter what university they graduated from or how many degrees they earned. He doesn’t need their validation as a credential to be proud about. They’re all deluded. Why should we care about their intellectuals (or better, obfucationists) so long as we’re reaching people?

I remember the atheist reaction upon the publication of the co-written book I wrote with Dr. Randal Rauser, God or Godless?: One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions. It received wonderful reviews of my performance. Robert Price wrote:

Rauser is the big loser in these single-serving debates. He relies on rhetorical flash. He is clever and humorous, and he knows it…Loftus, by contrast, writes with unpretentious clarity, common sense, and broad but inconspicuous erudition. As I read I continually imagined pop after pop as Loftus systematically punctured Rauser’s arguments. 

Dustin Lawson, a former disciple of Josh McDowell who became an atheist, wrote this:

I finished God or Godless? I have a hard time believing that I used to be like this Randal guy, so often avoiding answering his critic’s tough questions even though he thinks he is answering them. It was like he was in the ring getting beaten up but he didn't realize it. It is hard to believe I used to be like him, but I know I was. 

But a few atheists somehow needed validated by Rauser and played down how badly he got beat and befriended him. They treated him nicely in hopes he would take notice of them. And he did. They ended up debating him and co-writing in two books with him. Their debate performances and book efforts were below par, as I have written about elsewhere. They were mostly unprepared and outgunned by an expert obfuscationist.

      Now I don’t begrudge them for wanting to have the limelight with Rauser, since they lacked the academic credentials to do so (one with a master’s degree, two with bachelor’s degrees, and one with no college degree at all). I do begrudge the underhanded way they did it, by not speaking truth to power, Christian power. They failed to tell Rauser how badly he was beaten by me. They let him off the hook in order to gain the validation of a delusional obfucationist. They failed the rest of us who are trying to make a difference. Christians decide who is a worthy opponent, and that’s what I’m saddened about. So they made it easy for Rauser to choose easy targets.         

          He Writes So the Average Intelligent Person in the Pew Can Understand. Now this is both important and significant. I don’t begrudge scholars who write for other scholars at all. Yes, do that! We need atheist scholars in every intellectual discipline to respond to believing scholars by using the appropriate technical language that can include symbolic logical notation and Bayesian math.     

It’s just that the times are urgent. We don’t know how long we’ve got on earth before the end is brought down upon us due to theocracies, religious wars, and religious stupidities causing it to end by design or neglect. On this see Phil Torres book, The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us about the Apocalypse, for ten ways our world might end if we aren’t vigilant and careful. Our goal should not merely be to understand and discuss ideas endlessly, but to change the world (paraphrasing Karl Marx).

        So there is an urgency to reach average intelligent people rather than just the scholars, who are the least likely people to change their minds. 

He’s Changing the World By Debunking The Major Obstacle to a Sane and Safe World. Madison is a happily married gay man who struggled with his sexuality at first, but finally came out of the closet. Many people like him who have been oppressed and harassed by the white evangelical heterosexual sexist and even misogynistic class, are focused on arguing for significant change to these LGBTIQ, feminist social abnormalities. One atheist philosopher, Louise Antony, put it this way, “I am a feminist first and an atheist second.” I liked that, although I also see another side to it.

 David Madison, like me, thinks the best way to undercut these abhorrent homophobic and sexist attitudes is to take away the only possible justification for them found in the authority of the Bible as a god’s word. Debunk the Bible as a divine authority and gone is the linchpin for justifying them. In other words, Madison goes for the jugular vein. 

His Humor. He’s a biblical scholar who writes very well with flare and a grin. Go figure! Most of them are dry and boring. You’ll see it throughout his book. Enjoy this as an extra bonus. He could have been a comedian.