Tom Flynn's Review of "The Case against Miracles"

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Tom Flynn is the editor in chief of Free Inquiry magazine, published by the Center for Inquiry. Has anyone seen his review of my anthology "The Case against Miracles" yet? I heard it is a very positive one! Congrats to every author who made it possible! It's probably the crowning work of my writing/editing career so far! LINK. To see some blurbs for it click here.

Where Was God When This Happened? Part 6

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The scandal of divine negligence


Christianity is totalitarian monotheism: God is watching carefully.

Nothing we do escapes his notice: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Moreover, prayer works because God can even read our minds. Christians believe in, love, worship, and sing songs to this God who pays such close attention to every human being.

On Memorial Day Let's Remember The Tulsa Race Massacre and The Civil War

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The Tulsa Race Massacre was a horrific event which took place 100 years ago today. The truth about it was suppressed for decades. Here's a well-done news report about it. We need to understand these terrible acts of white supremist violence to heal our country.



It was the same racist violence in the form of slavery that provoked the Civil War. If you want to see the lies that white supremacists tell themselves about the Civil War, along with some very persuasive rebuttals, read The Atlantic essay, Why Conferderate Lies Live On.

Two Concise Books that Demolish Christianity

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Handy guides to quick deconversion



I suspect many Christians weren’t quite prepared for the battering their faith would take in the 21st century, some of which is self-inflicted. Recently we’ve seen evangelical Christianity in suicide mode in its devotion to Donald Trump…of all people. What a bizarre turn of events. Trump, with no religious sensibilities whatever. 

 

But in the first decade of this new century, we saw the emergence of outspoken, articulate atheism. Books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens were best-sellers, and the impact has been substantial—at least in one respect: these works seem to have prompted a surge in atheist publishing. Sometimes I’ve been tempted to call it a “boom,” but perspective is needed. This surge/boom is still dwarfed by the ongoing glut of devotional books written by preachers intended for the mass market. In one pharmacy near me, there is a rack of devotional books—with an emphasis on the power of prayer—right by the counter for picking up meds.

Feser's The Last Superstition

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Lately, there's been quite a bit of talk here regarding Edward Feser's Five Proofs of the Existence of God. It might therefore be interesting to also consider an earlier work of his which covers some of the same ground, The Last Superstition. (The real reason I'm writing this, though, is that I haven't read Five Proofs, but just finished Superstition.) Billed as an answer to the New Atheism, Feser's earlier book is in reality a condemnation of pretty much all things modern — where by “modern” what is meant is everything since the days of Hobbes and Descartes. Feser regards the Enlightenment and all that followed as a disaster for humanity, and actually seems to regret the fact that we no longer live in medieval times. As one example of where he's coming from, consider what he says about Kant. He doesn't find everything about the old German professor bad: “His views on sexual morality and the death penalty, for example, are totally reactionary; that is to say, they are correct” (216-7). However, Kant's insistence on the autonomy of the individual and on treating persons as ends-in-themselves (as opposed to treating them as mere means), are, he says, “gruesome fortune-cookie expressions of modern man's self-worship” (219). (As Dave Barry used to say, I swear I'm not making this up. Feser really appears to find individualism repulsive.)

Where Was God When This Happened? Part 5

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The scandal of divine negligence

Christianity is totalitarian monotheism: God is watching carefully.

Nothing we do escapes his notice: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Moreover, prayer works because God can even read our minds. Christians believe in, love, worship, and sing songs to this God who pays such close attention to every human being.

Rauser Lacks Understanding, But That's What Faith Prohibits

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Finalized Book Cover of "Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist?

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Dr, Robert M. Price and I co-edited a book titled, Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? 
We're publishing with Hypatia Press. It will probably be available in a few short months, just after The Global Center for Religious Research (GCRR) hosts the 2021 International eConference on the Historical Jesus
We now have the final book cover. Thanks for the comments and votes. 
Here we are in about 2007.

The Importance of Atheist Activism

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Making the world a better place 

Christianity has been in our faces for centuries, thanks to confident, aggressive missionaries. Their obsession was celebrated in a hymn published in 1896, We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations. “We’ve a song to sing to the nations…we’ve a message to give to the nations…we’ve a Savior to show to the nations…” This enthusiasm is grounded in words attributed to Jesus himself:

 

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

 

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.’” (Mark 16:16)

Richard Carrier is On Fire!

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Richard Carrier with Me in Lafayette, Indiana (2013)
Richard Carrier is one of our most brilliant atheist scholars. Recently he wrote a debunking of the book of Daniel as a forgery, where he summarizes the reasons why all mainstream scholars think the Book of Daniel is a forgery. Especially see what he says about the disingenuous ways apologists ignore the truth in favor of their delusions! He also wrote a powerful essay debunking Thomism. Enjoy! Finally, Carrier wrote a blurb for my anthology on horrendous suffering:

Loftus has again produced a brilliant gallery of informed experts, now addressing the problem of evil from every angle, and with such power and depth that it shall be required reading for anyone promoting or opposing evil as a disproof of God.

Randal Rauser On Hitchens' Razor

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I've recently defended Hitchens' Razor. I think it's a superior viewpoint when looking at miracle claims. Breaking News!!! Randal Rauser doesn't think so, at all. Want to know why? It has to do with the evidence for an external world. Here it is, along with my argumentum ad twitter responses. I think it's one of my best Twitter taken downs.

Where Was God When This Happened? Part 4

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The scandal of divine negligence


Christianity is totalitarian monotheism: God is watching carefully.

Nothing we do escapes his notice: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Moreover, prayer works because God can even read our minds. Christians believe in, love, worship, and sing songs to this God who pays such close attention to every human being.

Incurable God-Addiction

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The church is the drug dealer

Last month the Gallup organization reported that, for the first time in America, membership is houses of worship had fallen below fifty percent. As Hemant Mehta pointed out, this doesn’t necessarily mean that people have become atheists; they may have dropped out of church but still believe in a god. Still, this confirms other data that indicate that the number of “nones” has been increasing, i.e., people who claim they have no religious affiliation.  

 

The grip of religion is slipping, and I suspect this may be traced to several causes:

Various Quotes of Mine On A Variety of Subjects

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Atheistic counter-apologists who argue online, or person-to-person, or through essays and books, ought to be given a more prominent place in secular/atheist organizations. These organizations either focus inwardly by trying to create better atheist communities, or they focus on helping to create a secular society from the top down through law and public policy. While these twin goals are important they neglect to reach outward to people trapped in their religious delusions.
----
When I argue that an omnipotent God should be able to do perpetual miracles, Christians ask how I can know what is metaphysically possible for an omnipotent God to do. Now it might be the case that the attribute of omnipotence is incoherent, but if we take our examples from what Christians interpret in the Bible, then we read of miracles like creation ex nihilo (out of nothing), a world-wide flood, a virgin birth and a resurrection from the dead. If such a God did those kinds of miracles then I see no problem for him doing a host of other things when it comes to naturally caused suffering. Take creation for example. Christians argue that a sustainer God is necessary for the continued existence of the universe, per Thomas Aquinas. This then, is an example of a perpetual miracle. If he can do this I see no reason he should not be able to avert all earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and pandemics too.

On Faith, Evidence, and Prejudices

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The act of accepting a proposition is not one of belief, or faith, if we have sufficient objective evidence for doing so. We nonbelievers proportion our conclusions on the strength of the evidence, per David Hume. We think in terms of the probabilities, not faith.

The way nonbelievers think of these terms is to equate the words belief (or faith), with blind belief (or blind faith).

This is not just a semantical argument. The way believers actually use these terms leads nonbelievers to this conclusion. That believers define them as involving some sort of trust, based on some level of evidence, is not how they actually use them in practice. If however, faith is trust, then there is no reason to trust in faith​.

Faith is hoping your god will rescue you, help you, answer your prayers, and\or save you based on insufficient objective evidence.

We must follow the objective evidence wherever it leads, regardless of the consequences for our current faith, prejudices, worldviews, religions, and moralities. It is irrational to reject objective evidence in favor of our current faith, prejudices, worldviews, religions, or moralities.

"You Wouldn't Be An Atheist If You Were Born in a Different Time and Place."

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Bonus: Quote from Robert G. Ingersoll below!!
If I had the time I would start a whole series of quotes with my responses to see how you would respond. Here's a Tweet by @EscapingAtheism · Apr 23:
Almost all atheists today wouldn't be atheists if they were born someplace else, in say, pre-Columbian America, or seventh century Africa.
My Tweet in response: 
This is true if we were indoctrinated in a religious culture without knowing any alternatives, and without being taught to think according to logic and reason based on objective evidence. Got it! Religious indoctrination that stifles doubt and eschews evidence is the problem.
A follow-up Tweet:
The sociological fact that we believe whatever religion we were raised to believe leads us to the null hypothesis of doubt. The burden is upon us all to follow the objective evidence wherever it leads if we wish to be honest seekers of truth. Most people are oblivious to this need.

Once Again On Childhood Indoctrination

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Childhood religious indoctrination should be rejected by all honest parents who believe their religion is shown to be true by the objective evidence, and is bolstered by a caring god who will  bring their children to salvation. That should go equally for Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants,  Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and every other religious sect.
Instead, all honest parents should just provide the thinking tools that will eventually lead their children to come to accept their religious faith.
The problem is that they cannot do this. They cannot trust their faith to be shown true by the objective evidence. They cannot trust their faith will be bolstered by a caring god who will  bring their children to salvation. Most importantly, they cannot specify the thinking tools that will eventually lead their children to come to accept their religious faith.

Where Was God When This Happened? Part 3

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The scandal of divine negligence

Christianity is totalitarian monotheism: God is watching carefully.

Nothing we do escapes his notice: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Moreover, prayer works because God can even read our minds. Christians believe in, love, worship, and sing songs to this God who pays such close attention to every human being. 

If God is so attentive—actually, so intrusive—then he cannot evade responsibility for our wellbeing. How can he just watch so many of the really horrible things that happen? Wouldn’t he want to do something?

Systematic Mythology 101

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“Welcome, students, to Systematic Mythology 101!” With little imagination, we humanists may readily describe a more honest human species, one better disciplined by discernment between reality and fantasy. In truth, such a species would never dignify any domain of human thought that is not yet under the governance of rational evidence and scientific method as even being informative in the enterprise of the mental construction of reality.
That more rational state of humanity may seem altogether unrealizable. Yet, we as a species appear to have little confusion when discerning the mythosystems of other societies, whether ancient or modern. Consider the shameless absurdity of Christian apologists who would have us believe that one, yes but one, garden-variety Iron-Age tribal society became the only ancient civilization not ever to have produced a central system of mythology, no folk-beliefs, no cultic deities, no myths of origins, no superhuman heroes, no ethnic tall tales, no religion. Unlike all of their ancient neighbors (e.g., the Sumerians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Persians), indeed, unlike any known pre-secular society, the classical Hebrew peoples produced no mythology; instead, they had a relationship with the only actual ontological god, knew the true origins of humankind, and, also altogether unique in ancient society, experienced and passed down purely historical accounts of supernatural phenomena. The apologist would have us dismiss the nigh-endless analogues and permutations of similar myths shared across the regions of ancient neighbors, insisting on a measure of otherwise unseen impermeable cultural isolation. And, of course, the Christian Bible, quite contrary to any other sacred collection of texts, preserves the survival of those alleged ontological truths for all of human posterity.

Almighty God? Not by a Long Shot, Actually

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Has he lost power since Bible days?

Devout folks who are even passingly familiar with the Bible know for sure that God acts boldly in human affairs. He wants to have his way, so he interferes and intervenes. This pattern was established right from the start; he used his stupendous power to create the heaven and the earth by decree, “Let there be light.” Eventually, among the humans he had created, he designated a “chosen people,” and ordered them about: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse.’” (Genesis 12:1-3) This was a hands-on God.

2021 GCRR International eConference on Religious Trauma

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The Global Center for Religious Research (GCRR) is hosting the 2021 International eConference on Religious Trauma, which will bring together specialists, psychiatrists, and researchers from all over the world to discuss the causes of religious trauma, as well as its manifestations and treatment options for those afflicted with the sometimes adverse effects associated with religion. The purpose of this multidisciplinary virtual conference is to advance the clinical and psychological understanding of religious trauma. This two-day conference will provide an interdisciplinary platform for scholars, educators, and practitioners to present their research to international audiences from all different backgrounds. And because the virtual conference is held online, scholars and students can attend from the comfort and safety of their own home without having to worry about travel and lodging expenses. To see more go to the LINK below. The tickets are $15, but you can get $5 off if you use the coupon code "Loftus". LINK

Where Was God When This Happened? Part 2

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The scandal of divine negligence

[Where Was God When This Happened? Part 1 is here.]

Please note carefully this Jesus-script, Matthew 12:36-37: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 

God is watching carefully. He doesn’t miss a thing. Moreover, prayer works because God can even read our minds. Christians believe in, love, worship, and sing songs to this God who pays such close attention to every human being.

Joseph's Dream and The Possibility of an Honor Killing

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Here is an excerpt from my chapter in The Case Against Miracles titled, "Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence."
Joseph was incredulously convinced Mary was a virgin because of a dream, yes, a dream (see Matthew 1:19-24), one that solved his dilemma of whether to “dismiss her quietly” or “disgrace” her publicly which would have led her to be executed for dishonoring him. Joseph’s dream is used in Gospel of Matthew’s narrative to help explain why Mary was not put to death for dishonoring him because of adultery. There are five other dreams in this gospel account which were all intended to save someone’s life. So, Joseph’s dream was probably meant to save Mary’s life too (Matthew 1:19-23; 2:12; 2:19-23; & 27:19). 

"God of Genocide? A Debate on Biblical Violence" The Text of My 12 Minute Debate Opener Against Randal Rauser

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There’s so much divinely caused and commanded violence in the Bible it can be said that the fear of an angry punishing God is its most prevalent theme, hands down. From the irrational and horrific punishments in the Garden of Eden, to the irrational and horrific punishments predicted in the book of Revelation, and everything in between, we see an angry, cruel, and barbaric god. That’s his usual mode of operation. If people obeyed they were rewarded. But woe to people who didn’t obey.

No wonder serious biblical scholars argue that the god of the Bible is modeled after ancient kings, who were themselves often cruel towards their own subjects. God is just like what we find in the story of Job. Job was a good man but God destroyed everything he had, and killed all his sons, daughters and servants,  just to win a bet with Satan. Such a wanton disregard toward a human being is utterly reprehensible and barbaric. Kings could do that. But a perfectly good god should not do it.

Tonight everything hinges on Rauser’s moral intuitions. His moral intuitions cause him to believe in two contrary irreconcilable propositions. On the one hand, he believes the Bible uniquely and unmistakably reveals the actions and commands of god. On another hand, he rejects the violence in the Bible which uniquely and unmistakably reveals a cruel god.

To accomplish this feat Rauser offers a scenario to show we can sometimes trust our intuitions, despite the lack of objective evidence. He asks us to consider a man who sincerely believed he was innocent of a crime even though all the objective evidence pointed to his guilt. Rauser claims the man is in a position to know he’s innocent because he personally knows that he’s innocent, even if the objective evidence points to him. So let’s picture this. There are several eyewitnesses along with video footage of the man killing someone with a gun he had purchased the day before, which was found at the scene of the crime with his fingerprints on it. With this objective evidence the man should honestly accept that he has a serious case of amnesia, or been drugged, hypnotized, or even lobotomized. He is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Rauser's Moorean Shift

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[Note: I watched some of a recent online interview with Dr. Rauser — just enough to get the gist — and wrote the following about his argument this morning. I wasn't aware that the debate with Loftus was already tonight. Maybe the following will be useful for those who watch it. I should also add that there may be additional details to Rauser's argument that this doesn't cover.]

In the book God? A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist (p. 124), William Lane Craig replies to the argument:

If God exists, gratuitous suffering does not exist
Gratuitous suffering exists
Therefore, God does not exist

by means of a so-called “Moorean shift,” in this case by arguing instead:

If God exists, gratuitous suffering does not exist
God exists
Therefore, gratuitous suffering does not exist.

(This is called a Moorean shift after the British philosopher G. E. Moore, who famously turned arguments for philosophical skepticism — e.g., that you might be a brain in a vat — around in this manner.)

What Craig is doing is pointing out that one can deny a premise of an argument if doing so seems more reasonable than accepting its conclusion. He thinks the existence of God is more certain than that of gratuitous suffering. Therefore, rather than accepting the conclusion that God does not exist, he finds it more reasonable to deny the claim that gratuitous suffering exists. Of course, we can easily disagree with Craig's use of this strategy here. The existence of gratuitous suffering (suffering that is morally unjustified and which therefore an all-powerful and perfectly good being would not allow) seems far more certain than the existence of the being himself. So there are good and bad uses of this strategy.

Tonight at 8 PM ET I'll Be Debating Randal Rauser On Biblical Violence

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This should be good! It will certainly be interesting.

12-minute openings
60 minutes of open dialogue
30 minutes of audience Q&A

The Divine and Human Violence In the Bible Creates Violent People

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There's so much divinely caused and commanded violence in the Bible it can be said the fear of an angry punishing God is its most prevalent theme, hands down. It creates angry self-righteous people who follow in the footsteps of an angry self-righteous god. The great agnostic Thomas Paine noted this: “It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man.” This is the point of Elicka Peterson-Sparks's book, The Devil You Know: The Surprising Link between Conservative Christianity and Crime. I wrote the following blurb for her book: 
Why is the United States such a violent nation filled with so much crime? The startling answer proposed by criminologist Peterson Sparks is that it’s due to the tremendous impact of the Bible and Christianity on the culture, institutions, and political life of the United States. She specifically indicts Christian theocratic nationalism for this, with its hateful, xenophobic, war-mongering, gun-toting, misogynistic, child-abusing, gay-bashing, get-tough-on-crime, right-wing nuts. This is the devil in disguise we already know, finally exposed for the evil it is. This book is a masterpiece! It should scare the hell out of you.
Below are several links to biblical texts proving the point, starting with Wrath Of God and Anger Of God, Consequences

Christians Have the BEST Magic!

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And the best holy spirit too

I do sometimes wonder how Christianity gets away with it. But it’s not such a mystery after all. The failure to think it through accounts for the endurance of piety and belief; the failure to look below the surface and simply ask, “Does this make sense?” In the Book of Numbers, chapter 21, when the people of Israel complained too much about their ordeal in the desert, God was so pissed off that he sent poisonous snakes to bite them. Then, on appeal from Moses, God recommended a solution, which turned out to be a magical bronze snake: if people just looked at it, they wouldn’t die of snakebite. “Well, yes,” even some of the devout may say, “that’s just quaint Old Testament folklore.

Where Was God When This Happened? Part 1

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The scandal of divine negligence


Please note carefully this Jesus-script, Matthew 12:36-37: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 

God is watching carefully. He doesn’t miss a thing. Moreover, prayer works because God can even read our minds. Christians believe in, love, worship, and sing songs to this God who pays such close attention to every human being. 

If God is so attentive—actually, so intrusive—then he cannot evade responsibility for our wellbeing. How can he just watch so many of the really horrible things that happen? Wouldn’t he want to do something? Tim Sledge has called it correctly:

Dr. Randal Rauser Asks Me for a Debate Rematch: "God of Genocide? A Debate on Biblical Violence"

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I was happy to be asked to debate him and have agreed! It should be fun and informative and challenging.
Previously we had debated the existence of God at his home church in Edmonton, Canada, on June 5, 2013. On May 4th we're going to debate again, this time at Modern Day Debate which has a Religion and Atheism Debates channel with 45.6K subscribers! Our debate proposition is this: "The Bible, with its divinely commanded violence, wasn't inspired by a perfect God."
I'm sure his material can be found in his just recently released book from "2 Cup Press", Jesus Loves Caananites, you know, the people Yahweh told the Israelites to slaughter back before his day. 

When asked, Randal told me to prep by re-reading our co-written book God or Godless. Okay, I will. I would love it if my readers would do so as well. It's a really good book! [Blurbs below]. 
Even though our relationship had deteriorated to the point that he blocked me from his Twitter feed and prohibited me from commenting on his blog (which in all honesty was my fault due to an utter frustation with his obtuseness), I asked Randal late in January to consider writing a blurb for my very last book on the incompatibility of God and horrendous suffering, to be released near Halloween. He agreed and I sent him the book files for review. He read them then shocked me with this blurb:
As a Christian apologist, I can say that there is no intellectual objection to Christianity more daunting than the problem of horrendous suffering. In this important new book, John Loftus has gathered a diverse collection of voices that seek to build a comprehensive, multi-pronged critique of Christianity based on this most difficult problem. No Christian apologist can afford to ignore it. -- Dr. Randal Rauser, Professor of Historical Theology, Taylor Seminary.
I'm supposing he has some answers to my anthology, we'll see. Got any advice?