Showing posts with label Darrin Rasberry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Darrin Rasberry. Show all posts

Darrin Rasberry, A Former Team Member at DC Now Claims to Be A Christian

[Written by John W. Loftus]
Yep, so long as this is not a ruse. Darrin was never an atheist in the first place though. ;-) I wish him well. That's the power of the delusion. It has a pull on some of us to return to the fold. He writes about it here. When I first invited him to DC Darrin wrote this Greetings. Darrin and I traveled together to the 2008 EPS Apologetics Conference which I wrote about here. Hey, people believe and disbelieve for a wide variety of reasons, and that's it. There is no need to discredit his conversion. Why do Christians try to discredit our deconversions?
Edit: If you see the smiley face after the second sentence above I'm being sarcastic. I'm saying about Darrin what Christians ignorantly say about people like me who leave the faith. Unlike them I don't mean this seriously.

A List of Former Team Members of Debunking Christianity

[Written by John W. Loftus]Someone recently asked me for a list of former Bloggers. I started DC in January of 2006, four years ago. Some Christians took notice and I was pummeled every single day by some of them, mostly by Calvinists, and in particular presuppositionalists. A Ph.D. student helped me argue with them, so I soon invited him on as a team member. His handle was exbeliever. Since this worked well I began inviting others as team members. Some of them didn’t work out too well, just wanting to post their deconversion story or promote their book and that was it. Others stayed for a few years. While I haven’t listed them all, team members here at one time included (in no particular order) Hector Avalos, Dan Barker, Farrell Till, Ed Babinski, Joe Holman, Jason Long, Valerie Tarico, Ken Pulliam (Former_Fundy) Marlene Winell, exapologist, Harlan Quinn, Harry McCall, DagoodS, Matthew Green, Spencer Lo, Kenneth Daniels, Bart Willruth, Darrin Rasberry, Dennis Diehl, Robert Bumbalough, Bill Curry, Craig Duckett, Paul Harrison, Glenn Kachmar, Troy Walker, Theresa, Glenn Dixon, Zac Taylor, Sharon Mooney, Scott Burgener, Anthony, Shygetz, Touchstone, Evan, WoundedEgo, Brother Crow, nsfl, and a few others who posted once or twice. A few of them already had their own Blogs while a few others moved on to Blog themselves. Others dropped out of Blogging for one reason or another. It became time consuming for me so I took it back in September of 2009. You can do a "Search This Blog" for their names to see what they wrote.

Darrin Rasberry Interview: A "Searching Agnostic"

[Written by John W. Loftus] DC Blogger Darrin wrote the foreword to Ray Comfort’s latest book, You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can’t Make Him Think. It's an interesting interview. Enjoy.

The Moral Argument Revisited: Further Thoughts on Bill Craig's Presentation

In this article, I will revisit some thoughts I made last week about Dr. William Lane Craig's morality argument for the existence of God. The critique has been adjusted to answer the top two or three objections presented in the post, and also adds some additional thoughts I've had over the past week.

As you may recall, Bill's argument goes like this:

1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
2) Objective moral values exist.
3) Therefore, God exists.

First, some definitions.

Value def. "An idea by which one guides his or her life." (Craig 172)

Moral value def. "A value that can be identified as good or bad." (Craig 172)

Moral duty def. "A binding idea that one ought to do, in which doing so is 'right' and not doing so is 'wrong.'" (Craig 172)

Objective moral value def. "[A moral value] that is true independent of what people think or perceive." (Craig 173)

We assume objective moral duties, mentioned on page 175, are similarly defined, though Bill doesn't define that term himself.

To begin, one might note what the difference is between something that is "good" or "bad," and something that is "right" or "wrong." Craig seems to define the former (i.e. "objective moral value") as something nonbinding on a human being. For instance, Bill states that it is good for one to become a chemist, doctor, etc., but since one may choose only one profession, all of these professions, while good, are not binding on someone.

Bill then dives headlong into wondering whether "objective moral values" exist, slipping in the word "evil" for the word "bad," and including the Holocaust as an example. If a moral value, by Craig's definition, is not binding, how does this example relate to the thesis presented? If it isn't binding, it isn't objective by Craig's definition of the word. It directly depends on a human being, on the situation the human finds himself in, and so on; becoming a Nazi is not a choice one makes in the same sense as becoming a chemist or doctor.

Bill corrects himself without knowing it on page 173 by pointing out that being a Nazi is wrong, i.e. that it is something one ought not to do, i.e. that it is a moral *duty* under his terminology. So it seems to me, first of all, that there is a bit of equivocation going on between "moral value," and "moral duty." But no matter; Craig presents a similar argument on page 175 for objective moral duties, so we'll dismiss this for now and get straight to the heart of the matter, and take "objective moral values" to encompass both (although we will, as Bill does, mostly appeal to duty).

Premise (1) states that "If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist." As I stated before, we are not presented with evidence to verify this statement. All we have is a parade of arch-materialists like Richard Dawkins and crew, who present men as some kind of DNA-propagating birdbrained cretins lacking any sort of identity they think they have, because we evolved from beings that did not have that identity. One wonders whether they will state that we are really underwater, because our ancestors were all underwater, but whatever. They deny the identity of man as a rational being, by means of their own (mistaken) behavior as rational beings. Besides, the only thing that can be reached here is, at most: "If evolution is true, objective moral values do not exist," not Premise (1).

In addition to this, a regiment of philosophers is brought before us, who, like Nietzsche, already buy Premise (1). This is simply an appeal to authority, and also can't substantiate the premise.

Continuing on, the objection made in my earlier post was that I presented a false alternative; that objective moral values proceed from the identity of God, not from God's decree or from some other means independent of man and God. Very well; objective moral values can be divided into these two possibilities:

(1) Proceeding from or coexistent with God (by whatever means)
(2) Not proceeding from nor coexistent with God (by whatever means).

Craig dispenses of (2) entirely on page 178 and 179.

We are now left with the following statement from this information:

"objective moral values exist if and only if God exists"

Of course in this case, Premise (1) is automatically valid: if God does not exist then objective moral values obviously do not exist.

The problem is now in Premise (2) for this consideration: "Objective moral values exist" is equivalent to "God exists."

So the argument turns from

1) If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
2) Objective moral values exist
3) Therefore, God exists.


1) If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
2) God exists.
3) Therefore God exists.

The argument thus begs the question, and is invalid.

Someone wondered in the previous post why I said that the proof as Craig presents it does not prove that God is the moral lawgiver: Bill himself recognizes this difficulty on page 172 right after his introduction, but states that the conclusion that the morals come from God "tends to be implicit" in Premise (1). Bill leaves it at that, as he realizes the stove here is quite hot; that very point, i.e. the implicit direct relation between God and objective moral value as Bill defines it, is what makes the argument beg the question.

As an aside, I do believe in objective moral values, although my definition for objective is "that which is based in reality," which is not necessarily Craig's definition. Since men ultimately exist in reality and have situations ultimately based in reality, and since men have a solid identity and their situations have a solid identity, objective moral values proceed from this. This doesn't itself rule out God, for a God could have brought us about with this identity, but it doesn't demand the need for a God, either. In my own opinion, God must be proven by different means, and I have not seen an effective proof (if God is well-defined to begin with).

I am looking forward to another good discussion on this important topic! I enjoyed the civility and focus when I first brought this up, and I want to thank everyone on both sides for maintaining it. :)



Another new member for the blog! My name is Darrin Rasberry, and I am a student at Iowa State University and a personal friend of John's. I am a nontheist and a former Christian, and I hope I can get to know all the rest of you (on both sides of the debate) much better as people and as deep thinkers about important ideas. Other than theology and philosophy, I study mathematics, a subject in which I currently hold a Master's and which I teach to college level students; I additionally am a storm chaser (my primary hobby) and lover of literature and fantasy/sci-fi games. I just crossed the big 3-0, but I don't feel a hair over 18, and likely never will.

Unlike many other nontheists, my loss of faith happened literally overnight in an emotional fit. I deconverted to Deism and then Agnosticism when I was 18, having been convinced that the Bible preached that Calvinism "stuff" which, being from Wichita Falls, Texas originally, I thought died out close to the last time the Puritans were mentioned in my pre-1865 American History class. Convinced I was being fed lies, I left the fold, vowed to declare to God that I denied the "evils of Calvinism" for Him. Imagine all you hold dear being swept from you in one night - that's what happened that evening. The pain was worse than losing any relative who has died; worse than losing those friends and family who did not appreciate my heretical move; worse than anything I've experienced so far in life. Like the few "Calvinist deconverts" I've met, my values stuck for a while, but I could never see any way out of what I saw when I actually read the Bible completely on my own for the first time.

Many Arminian holders to the P in TULIP will likely doubt all of this, which is fine, but for a moment I'd ask you to let go of your control beliefs and think about the anguish you'd feel if somehow someone were to show you something that would undermine all that you believed in just a few hours. Yes, I received Christ and was baptized at the age of seven; I prayed, believed, told others, lived as much of the regenerated life as I could. But my heart couldn't hold Calvinism, and even though my arguments have expanded well beyond that subject (arguments which may - or may not! - have caused me to deconvert later), that emotional response ended everything. I am not hiding from my sins - being grounded in morals from a philosophical basis, I know I've done them, and if I owe to God for them then I will accept my just desserts (or if Methodism is right, say "phew!"). But I have a mind for truth, not conditionality, and like John, I have not seen sufficient responses to the non-Christian position, on many different grounds far outside of the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate.

Looking at different arguments for God outside of Scripture reference, I eventually came to atheism from my Deist/Agnostic beliefs. With my "examine everything theologically major" neutral point of approach, I must honestly call myself agnostic to other significant theological God(s) (i.e. from some Islam sects I haven't studied, Hinduism, Judaism, theological Buddhism, etc.), so I now call myself "nontheist." I'll regain the "atheist" tag when I examine all the major Gods which have examinable definitions to begin with; any conversion to any religion is not probable by a long shot, but hey, if I go Section 8 and start preaching the word of Brahma or whatever, I'll spare the audience and start my own blog. ;)


Unlike many in the recent "New Atheist" movement, I am interested in approaching the ideas of many religions from a neutral position (or, if you're Calvinist, from as neutral of a position as possible). After all, if we ask Christians to apply the Outsider Test to their worldview, we ought to be consistent and apply it to ourselves. I traveled to the evangelical conference in Providence with John as a result of this thought, and got to meet and befriend the most respected evidentialist apologists out there - including an opportunity to talk Kalam, the Moral Argument, and Calvinism with Bill Craig and Paul Copan two-on-one for over an hour and a half. I made good friends with them and many others, including Mary Jo and Roger Sharp, whom I hope I convince to share a message board with the idea of holding civil standards of scholarly discussion.

John and I went to one of the top places in the world where we could find people to help us see how nonbelievers are seen from the Fundamentalist Christian "outside," and not only did we survive, but we still "nonbelieved" afterward! I would challenge not only Christians to take John's challenge, but my fellow nontheists as well, so long as the people you find aren't of the "no religious neutrality" types of Calvinists or their "alpha-male" counterparts that roam as an undesirable subset of the Arminian and Catholic camps.

Once you see that the good-hearted and open Christian scholars, although mistaken, are not wholly unreasonable, you'll open yourself to better standards of research and respect and reach a level of thought more in tune with a Quentin Smith, Hector Avalos, or Bart Ehrman rather than a Dawkins or Hitchens. The latter two are, of course, every bit as smart as the former, but the same level of respect and dedication to consistent, philosophical thought and scholarly analysis is quite different, and it shows.

John mentioned I may have trouble with the title of this blog, as my ultimate aim isn't to debunk Christianity, but merely to analyze the ideas Christianity (or any religion) present critically and temper those ideas with the greatest minds the opposition has to offer. The reason I am interested in your religion is that it is both a very important, deep claim, and also it serves as probably the best portrait available of how people both think and feel.

I ultimately decided to join this blog because there is one area where I become quite rabid in regards to fundamentalist Christianity, or at least with some portions of the group: politics. It is unfortunate that some of the best minds in the field of Christian scholarship advocate ideas such as Dominionism and Theonomy; even though they are minority rule, we may be a terrorist attack or two away from those who believe America is a Christian Nation finally getting their way and, say, stoning all of us nonbelievers in a public square (see Dr. Gary North).

Nonetheless, my postings and replies to questions on that particular subject will be scant - their theology is the deeper basis. I do not think I could ever debunk a two thousand year old religion completely out of existence, and I do not wish to "deconvert" a single person (although that won't be a necessarily awful side-effect ...), but if I moved one advocate for theocracy to a more liberal system which caused her to abandon that dangerous notion, I'd have accomplished one of my goals. Other than that, my posts should be considered "discussing Christianity," in accordance to the approach I wish to take.

I differ with John on quite a few points, but John is still the atheist who holds my point of view as close as I've personally found. To introduce a bit of controversy to some of the nonbelieving crowd here to clarify why I feel a bit isolated as the kind of atheist unwilling to walk with the "brights," here are some controversial points in my own worldview (i.e. "control beliefs!"):

*A belief in a knowable reality and groundable morality;

*A belief in human free will not described either by the common notions of "compatible" or "libertarian";

*A belief that Christ was a historical person, based mainly on the explosion of the early Church and the inability of the gigantic genetic fallacies inherent in the Christ Myth hypothesis to explain the historical Christ away, although with the belief that the historical Christ was distorted by legend;

*A belief that Paul authored a few of the letters attributed to his name, including I Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, Colossians, etc., and perhaps served as the primary theological influence for the Book of John;

*A belief that engaging less informed, more preachy believers (see: Ray Comfort) in a nice but decisive manner about nonbelief is necessary, given their word - not the scholar's word - is what is being preached to the "masses" who have the power to gang up on us at he polling station.

My writings may appear critical, even harsh; however, I intend to attack no person unless first attacked (I will even try to withhold on this point unless good people I know, like John or Hector, are unfairly personally attacked).

As long as nothing is forced on anyone via law, I take Dr. Will Provine's point of view in that recent Creationist documentary which probably saw more time in the cutting room than all its theatre airtime combined, "Expelled":

"I don't care what they end up as being. I don't care if they end up being religious Young-Earth Creationists if they have thought their way through the issues to get there. I'm all for them."


Thanks for enduring this (rather long) post. I leave the floor to you now. You may ask any question you like, so long as it is civil; as long as John approves, all marks of overriding arrogance and personal attack beyond an occasional hiccup of temper or attitude for obvious nonserious show from either side will be removed by me from any of the blog posts I make. I'm here for the facts - not the fights. I hope you will be, too, and I'm interested in the discussion of the evidences and arguments from both sides.

-Darrin Rasberry


P.S. Some may realize I am unafraid to post my real name (yes, "Rasberry" is my real name, take a look at the Iowa State Mathematics grad student page!) and that any potential job, unlike, say, a self-employed writer like John's, would carry the risk of being rejected based on a quick search of my name from any potential employer. This is especially "risky" given that I'm looking in the storm-rich area of the Midwest for teaching, so I can drive my car into tornadoes on stormy afternoons right after work. If an employer rejected me for having an approach to religion that their top scholars respected, though, it would come out sooner or later - and better sooner, because I would not work for someone willing to decide an unrelated job position on religion in the first place. I am unafraid of where I stand in regards to religion, and having my name as-is here displays that IMO. Speaking openly also helps me remember to hold my tongue and continue my pledge to treat everyone fairly. I would invite as many nonbelievers as are reasonably able to introduce themselves with their real names as well, if they have not done so already ...

My Review of the Apologetics Conference

[Written by John W. Loftus] Darrin Rasberry (who is a Ph.D. student in math at Iowa State University) and I went together to the Apologetics Conference 2008, sponsored by the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

This was not a professional conference aimed at scholars but it was still an excellent conference which provoked much thought. We first arrived Friday afternoon and attended Mary Jo Sharp's presentation across town at the Evangelical Philosophical Society National Conference. Mary Jo argued that Christianity did not borrow from the stories of the Pagan mystery religions. She was well informed and made the point that there are some definite and significant differences between these pagan mystery religions when compared to the stories about Jesus. Whether this leads to the conclusion that Jesus must therefore have existed based on her argument alone is left unresolved. She said this was only one part of the whole argument and she didn't have time to go into the other parts. The other parts are 1) "an examination of the Jewish revolt against complete assimilation of the Jews into Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty which resulted in bloodly battles;" 2) "The origination of Christianity out of the matrix of first-century Jewish monotheism;" and 3) "A review of the beliefs of the earliest Christians, namely the apostle Paul, which point to a disgust of pagan religious practices." These three other parts she didn't attempt to present. She did a good job on this! [To read my critique of her "Loftus-Wood Round Two" criticisms on the problem of evil, here's my response].

We walked in just as this was starting and without realizing it I sat down next to Bill Craig near the front. There was someone sitting between us. I saw him and he saw me at the same time. He blurted out "Are you John Loftus?" I had my hat on and he wasn't quite sure it was me since he didn't expect me there. In the quietness of the meeting room everyone heard him say this and saw his reaction to me. And he was genuinely glad to see me again. Wow! What a relief that was, especially after all I write against his arguments. He asked what I was doing there and all I could say was, "I don't know." And I told him how I hitched a ride with Darrin. In any case this was relieving to me. Bill is a warm person who genuinely cares about people regardless of our disagreements. He had to leave just as Mary Jo finished so I didn't talk with him afterward.

But I did have a good conversation with Richard G. Howe, Philosophy and Apologetics professor and director of the Ph.D. program at Norman Geisler's Southern Evangelical Seminary and Bible College. They had their own apologetics conference earlier in November in which Howe did a presentation on the new atheists where he included me among them! You can see where he did this in his Powerpoint presentation. That's pretty cool, I think. Richard has been assigned the task of reviewing my book in their Christian Apologetics Journal. Richard was genuinely glad to meet me, and I him. I wonder what he'll say about my book?

Probably the most interesting friendship I struck up was with Gary Habermas. He is unlike what I expected, although I don't know why I expected anything different. He was warm, witty, funny, and genuinely friendly toward me. He does not think he has any kind of notch on his belt for helping Antony Flew change his mind, and he openly admits Flew is a long way from Christianity. He says they talk all of the time. I believe he really is a great guy and enjoys people with no ulterior motive. His presentation on the resurrection of Jesus on Saturday morning was probably the most powerful one I had heard before. I actually liked it so much I bought his book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, and he signed it. I'll be reading through it and commenting on it as I go, so watch for it.

I was disappointed that my friend Mark Linville didn't stay around after giving his Thursday night talk on "A Moral Argument for God," but I did buy the DVD. And I had to choose between attending Michael Murray's talk on "Is Belief in God a Trick of Our Brains?" and Dr. Greg Ganssle's talk on Richard Dawkins, so I also bought Murray’s DVD. I did get to meet Dr. Murray and talk with him at some length. He is a warm and extremely intelligent man who freely admits he doesn't have all of the answers. His latest book, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Oxford University Press, 2008) for him is supposed to be a "conversation starter not a conversation stopper." He and I have had some email discussions and he offered some good advice on the book I'm presently writing on the problem of animal suffering for Christianity (more on that later). He seemed actually glad I was going to attempt to further the conversation by writing about it! He is one Christian that is a joy to talk to.

Dr. Greg Ganssle (lecturer at Yale University), did a fine talk on Dawkins's The God Delusion book. It was fair and balanced. He claimed Dawkins criticisms of the traditional arguments for the existence of God do not work. He claimed that Dawkins's argument that the influence of Christianity on the world has been mostly negative doesn't fit the facts, since the "record is mixed" and it's not as bleak as Dawkins would have us believe. Then Ganssle focused on what he calls Dawkins's best argument and admits it's a good one. In his handout it's this:
1 A universe made by God would be different than one made by natural occurrences.
2) Our universe fits better with a naturalistic universe than with a theistic universe.
3) Therefore our universe is more likely to be a naturalistic universe than it is to be a theistic universe.
Ganssle says Dawkins's argument is about "fittingness." "A natural universe with complex life would included a long period of biological development through a process something like natural selection," whereas a theistic universe would most likely not (emphasis his) include a long process of biological development. There are many other options in a theistic universe for the creation and development of life." So he granted Dawkins his argument! It's just that he went on to argue that the world is ordered and susceptible to rational investigation by conscious agents who have significantly free agency in a world with objective moral obligations, and that these facts fit better within a theistic universe. Afterward I asked a question about these other so-called facts. I said something to the effect: "Why do these other facts fit better in a theistic universe when the theistic notion of God has the same problems? Theists must explain how God can be rational, free, self-conscious and must explain where God got his morals from too. So there are problems wherever the buck stops." My point was that if he grants Dawkins's argument then these other so-called facts are not an answer to Dawkins since we all have the same problems. He recognized this and said Christians must deal with these problems and that they have done so. Afterward we talked more about it.

Some of the Christians heard that two atheists were in attendance and I'm pretty sure they could find out who we were if they asked around. These Christians were warm and friendly toward us. A few of them treated me like some sort of celebrity, taking my picture and asking questions. That was interesting and a bit strange to me.

On Saturday afternoon after the conference was over Paul Copan asked Darrin and I to come into the presenters room for a discussion and some food. Bill Craig, James Sinclair and Gary Habermas joined us. What a delightful conversation we had about the issues. Gary and I talked about the resurrection and we found it interesting how much we were able to grant each other: that I think Paul wrote I Corinthians and Galatians, and/or if needed that a deistic god existed, and how he could grant me that most of the ancient people were indeed superstitious. He asked me a few questions and said he would tell his students how I answered them. Since Habermas maintains he has read everything written about the resurrection he asked me about my chapter on that topic. I had to candidly confess I didn't think that he would find anything new in it, but he said he's going to get my book and read it.

Darrin was the focus of Bill and Paul though. I think they thought he might be more open to their arguments. Perhaps they thought I was a lost cause! ;-) They discussed the Kalam argument and Calvinism. Darrin will tell us later how he thought it went. But Darrin thinks Calvinism is entailed by the Bible and that Calvinism is what led him to reject Christianity; that is, if Calvinism is true then Darrin wants nothing to do with Christianity. So Bill and Paul were actually trying to explain to Darrin how that Calvinism was not the correct interpretation of the Bible. I interjected with this comment: "So, you're trying to convert an atheist by convincing him that the Bible doesn’t support Calvinism," and I smiled. They said it's not unheard of, and Bill said to me, "you were an Arminian so you could explain to Darrin why we're correct about this.” He remembered my background. But I was of no help to him. I said I now think the Bible was written from different perspectives and that we can see both trains of thought in it, some supporting Calvinism and some supporting Arminianism because it's inconsistent with itself. He leaned back disappointed in my answer.

All in all it was a rewarding trip, but unfortunately I came away from it more convinced than ever that Christian theism is a delusion—a conclusion I’m sure they are disappointed to learn, even if their reception toward us was warm and winsome.

What I've written only highlights some of my experiences. Thanks to a few of you who donated some money on the sidebar to help pay for my expenses (I still need some financial help since I didn't work while I was gone and there are bills to pay). Paul Copan even refunded my money for registration. Thanks also to Abdu Murray of Aletheia International who let me stay the night with him and for sharing with me his story of how he left the Muslim faith for Christianity. He bought my book and I look forward to his response to it.