William Lane Craig Utterly Fails In Searching For Truth Given the Human Propensity To Fool Ourselves

Craig falsely claims there is a distinction between knowing Christianity is true and showing Christianity is true. He might legitimately say he knows he didn't do a crime he's accused of, since he knows he didn't do it despite the available objective evidence. But it is irrational for him to claim he knows Moses led the Israelites across the bottom of the Red Sea, or that a virgin birthed god's son, or that a savior arose from the dead regardless of any historical evidence. But that's what he's claiming when defending his Christian faith. He said:
A believer who is too uninformed or ill-equipped to refute anti-Christian arguments is rational in believing on the grounds of the witness of the Spirit in his heart even in the face of such unrefuted objections. Even such a person confronted with what are for him unanswerable objections to Christian theism is, because of the work of the Holy Spirit, within his epistemic rights—nay, under epistemic obligation—to believe in God.” [Craig, “Classical Apologetics,” in Five Views on Apologetics, ed. Steven B. Cowan (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), p. 35].
There are two major reasons to reject what Craig says. In the first place he's deceiving himself, and secondarily he's giving Christian believers permission to deceive themselves.

Cognitive biases are known for giving people permission to confirm our biases despite the fact they are false. So we must bring our reptilian brains to heel by demanding sufficient objective evidence that would convince an outsider. The mother of all cognitive biases is confirmation bias. It prohibits people from honestly seeking the truth.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing attitudes. The effect is strongest for desired outcomes, for emotionally charged issues, and for deeply entrenched beliefs. LINK.
We must question everything. That's the adult attitude. Be adults in your thinking. Children believe whatever they're told. To blindly believe whatever you're told is likely to produce false confidence in false ideas. You must require and even demand evidence sufficient for the claims being made. Period!

In my book The Outsider Test for Faith I argue we should approach our own (usually) indoctrinated religious faith from the perspective of an informed skepticism. This is something Craig utterly failed to do, and he utterly fails to tell others to do so in their search for religious truth:
Informed skepticism is an attitude, a skeptical attitude. It’s a reasonable attitude that reasonable people should adopt. The extent of skepticism warranted depends on (1) the number of people who disagree, (2) whether the people who disagree are separated into distinct geographical locations, (3) how their faith originated, (4) under what circumstances their faith was personally adopted in the first place, [Emphasis Added] (5) the number and nature of extraordinary miracle claims that are essential to their faith, and (6) the kinds of evidence that can be used to decide between the differing faiths. My claim is that, precisely because of these factors, a high degree of skepticism is warranted about religious faiths when compared to the objective results of science.

Informed skepticism is an attitude expressed as follows: (1) it assumes one’s own religious faith has the burden of proof; (2) it adopts the methodological-naturalist viewpoint by which one assumes there is a natural explanation for the origins of a given religion, its holy books, and it’s extraordinary claims of miracles; (3) it demands sufficient evidence before concluding a religion is true; and most importantly, (4) it disallows any faith in the religion under investigation, since the informed skeptic cannot leap over the lack of evidence by punting to faith.

Believers should begin by asking themselves how they first adopted their religious faith. Ask yourself who or what influenced you to believe? Under what circumstances did you adopt your faith? Did you seriously investigate your faith before adopting it? Did you consider other religious and nonreligious options? Or, like most believers, did you just adopt the beliefs given to you by your parents? If you merely adopted your faith for this reason, then it doesn’t matter if your faith originated with people who had sufficient evidence to justify the beliefs they passed on to you. You don’t know if they did until you examine the evidence for yourself with the OTF. It also doesn’t matter if you feel certain that your religious faith is true. Most all believers feel this way. Neurologist Robert Burton explains this misplaced sense of certainty in this way: “Despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process. Certainty and similar states of knowing what we know arise out of involuntary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of reason.”8

Burton says that the “feeling of knowing,” or certainty of conviction, should be thought of as one of our emotions, just like anger, pleasure, or fear. This feeling is unrelated to the strength of the evidence for what we believe. The feeling of “knowing” can be extremely powerful—so much so that our feeling of certainty wins despite contrary evidence that should mitigate it. Not only this, but our brain prefers to make up reasons to justify this feeling of certainty rather than follow the evidence to its reasonable conclusion.

Believers may object that if they assume the skeptical attitude it will automatically cause them to reject their religious faith, since doing so unfairly presumes its own conclusion. But I think not. So long as there is sufficient, objective evidence for one’s religious faith, even an informed skeptic should come to accept it. Many people are convinced every day of the truth of claims when the evidence suggests otherwise. If God created us as reasonable people, then the correct religious faith should have sufficient evidence for it, since that’s what reasonable people require. Otherwise, if sufficient evidence does not exist, then God counterproductively created us as reasonable people who would subsequently reject the correct faith. It also means that people born as outsiders to the correct faith (perhaps because they were born in remote geographical locations or during a time before the correct faith was revealed) will be condemned by God merely because of where or when they were born. This doesn’t bode well for an omniscient, omnibenelovent, but wrathful kind of god. Even apart from such a god-concept, the only way to settle which religious faith is true is to rely on sufficient evidence.

When Christians examine the claim that Muhammad rode on a flying horse, they should do so by way of a reasonable and informed skepticism, just as they should when considering claims such as levitating Buddhists or the magical properties of Mormon holy underwear or the existence of the Scientologists’ evil Thetans that supposedly infest our bodies. Christian believers should examine the specific extraordinary claims of Christianity using the same kind of skepticism. The OTF calls on people to do unto their own religious faith as they do unto the faiths they reject. It is a Golden Rule for testing religious faiths: “Do unto your own faith what you do unto other faiths.” It calls on believers to subject their own faith to the same level of reasonable skepticism they use when rejecting other faiths, which is the skepticism of an outsider, a nonbeliever (pp. 20-23).
Given what Craig tells us about his personal testimony, he didn't properly examine the gospel story he heard before adopting his Christian faith. Since he doesn't embrace an informed skepticism when examining a religious faith, Craig is also disqualified as a trusted expert in religious matters.

For me, like Peter Boghossian, it all comes down to the question of epistemology—that is, how can we know what we claim to know? When it comes to epistemological questions, Boghossian effectively argues that “Faith-based belief processes are unreliable.” After surveying several diverse and wildly improbable paranormal and religious beliefs held by believers around the globe, he said, “We are forced to conclude that a tremendous number of people are delusional. There is no other conclusion one can draw.” He goes on to say, “The most charitable thing we can say about faith is that it’s likely to be false.”

By contrast, reasonable people think exclusively in terms of the probabilities according to the strength of the objective evidence. The problem is faith, blind faith, the only kind of faith that exists on behalf of gods, goddesses, religions, miracles, and other paranormal claims. Believers claim faith is trust, but if so, there’s no reason to trust in faith. There’s no such thing as reasonable faith. To have religious faith is to have a misplaced trust in non-existent deities. Faith is the entrance ticket to the fantasy-land of religion. It keeps people childish in their thinking. Consequently, I’ve argued that a rite of passage into adulthood is to ask young people to examine their indoctrinated faith through the lens of an outsider, a non-believer, by demanding sufficient objective evidence for the first time in their lives.

In his book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Boghossian suggests a solution to this malaise in the Socratic Method, by dialectically asking a series of leading questions to get believers to realize they are pretending to know what they don’t know, just as Socrates did with the Sophist pretenders of his own day. Pretending. That’s Boghossian’s stipulative definition of faith.

Neither he nor I expect believers to agree, but just ask yourself what best describes what other believers are doing? Think of ultra-Orthodox Jews, militant Muslims, reincarnation/karma-believing Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, snake handlers, witchdoctors, psychics, and so on. Believers are pretending when they claim to know with 100% certainty that what they believe is true, when they can’t be that certain of anything else. The antidote for this faith virus, as Boghossian calls it, is to give believers an intervention by showing them they don’t know what they’re pretending to know.

Then ask yourself why you believe that a virgin named Mary birthed a god in the pre-scientific first century.

George H. Smith tells us in Atheism: The Case Against God: “In order to understand the nature of a philosophical conflict one must grasp the fundamental differences that give rise to the conflict.” True enough. Applied to debates between atheism and Christianity he identifies what it is: “The conflict between Christian theism and atheism is fundamentally a conflict between faith and reason. This, in epistemological terms, is the essence of the controversy. Reason and faith are opposites, two mutually exclusive terms: there is no reconciliation or common ground. Faith is belief without, or in spite of, reason.” (pp. 96-98) As such, “For the atheist, to embrace faith is to abandon reason.” (p. 100)

There was a time when I thought such a statement was foolish, ignorant, and at best philosophically naïve. But not any more. Smith is right. There is a good reason why atheists are described as non-believers. In fact, Smith goes further to say such things as:

“I am not merely arguing, as a matter of historical fact, that all attempts to reconcile reason and faith have failed. My position is stronger than this. I am asserting that all such efforts must fail, that it is logically impossible to reconcile reason and faith. The concept of faith itself carries a ‘built in’ depreciation of reason; and without this anti-reason element, the concept of faith is rendered meaningless.” (p. 101)

“I am arguing that faith as such, faith as an alleged method of acquiring knowledge, is totally invalid—and as a consequence, all propositions of faith, because they lack rational demonstration, must conflict with reason.” (p. 120)

Smith concludes, “With the preceding groundwork, we now arrive at what may be termed the central dilemma of faith: Insofar as faith is possible, it is irrational; insofar as faith is rational, it is impossible.” (p. 121)


John W. Loftus is a philosopher and counter-apologist credited with 12 critically acclaimed books, including The Case against Miracles, God and Horrendous Suffering, and Varieties of Jesus Mythicism. Please support DC by sharing our posts, or by subscribing, donating, or buying our books at Amazon. Thank you so much!