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Historian: Fool or coward? For Dawkins, that is not an easy choice

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Further to “Dawkins speaks: Why he won’t debate William Lane Craig … Craig advocates “ genocide

In “Richard Dawkins is either a fool or a coward for refusing to debate William Lane Craig” (The Telegraph, October 21, 2011), historian Tim Stanley offers,

He likes to pick fights either with dunces (like the deliciously silly and obviously gay Ted Haggard) or with incredibly nice old Christians with no fire in their belly (like Rowan Williams). Dawkins has gotten away with his illiterate, angry schtick for so many years because his opponents have been so woolly. This is a damning indictment not only of him, but of the clerical establishment of Great Britain. But this time, he understood that he was up against a pro. In America, evangelicals have to compete in a vibrant, competitive marketplace of different denominations. That breeds the very guile and theatricality that are so sorely lacking among the Anglican clergy. In Craig, Dawkins met his match. Like Jonah, he was confronted by the truth and he ran away.

Stanley provides critical context for Craig’s treatment of Old Testament slaughters.

Craig’s purpose in writing this piece is to unravel the paradox of a moral Bible that also includes lashings of apparently random violence. Craig stresses that these passages of the Bible are difficult for us to read because we are not of the age in which they are written – they are just as alien to us as Beowulf or the Iliad. That’s because Christian society has been shaped by the rules of life outlined in the New Testament, not in the section of The Bible in which this massacre occurs. Far from using this passage to celebrate the slaughter of heathen, Craig is making the point that the revelation of God’s justice has changed over time.

Which is pretty much the standard view.

It’s hard to figure out why Dawkins, who holds forth regularly on religion, would not know that. Or …

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55 Replies to “Historian: Fool or coward? For Dawkins, that is not an easy choice

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    How dare you to pick on someone who would rather pick on children, with his new book of Darwinian fairy tales, than to debate a full grown theist.

  2. 2
    wgbutler says:

    BA77, it’s so obvious to me that Dawkins only debates when he thinks he can clearly win. The guy is a coward and a bully. You won’t ever see him on the stage with William Lane Craig or Stephen Meyer, but he’ll go after people like Wendy Wright.

    I guess that on some level, he realizes that his arguments are horribly deficient and this is why he avoids skilled opponents in much the same way that Dracula avoids sunlight.

  3. 3
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    The Bible in which this massacre occurs. Far from using this passage to celebrate the slaughter of heathen, Craig is making the point that the revelation of God’s justice has changed over time.

    Which is pretty much the standard view.

    Really? It’s the standard view that genocide is bad now, but was OK back then?

  4. 4
    Christian-apologetics.org says:

    Given your worldview Nick, how is genocide EVER wrong?

    Animals kill each other all the time, don’t they?

    And we don’t take then to court.

    Or are some animals more equal than other animals?

  5. 5

    This pernicious assumption that atheists have no morality is becoming extremely tiresome, and a smokescreen it seems to me behind which to avoid addressing serious problems with Craig’s apologetic.

    Genocide is wrong because it violates a pretty fundamental ethical precept that you should treat others as as you would wish to be treated.

    You don’t need a god to tell you that, you just need to be human.

    In fact on current showing, humans are more reliable than the available gods.

  6. 6

    Craig’s view appears to be that it’s OK as long as God commands it. A sin is only a sin if it is against a divine commandment.

  7. 7
    JDH says:

    Really? Do we have to go through this again?

    You may get sick and tired of the assumption that atheists have no morality. No one ever says any such thing. What we are saying, and this you must accept is true, is the atheists have no objective basis for their morality. If you can’t see the difference between those statements, I must conclude that you are foolish.

  8. 8
    junkdnaforlife says:

    Do you understand why Winston Churchill and Harry Truman were not tried for genocide based on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    Do you understand why, if the Canaanite culture was based on ritual child sacrifice, that it needed to be destroyed?

    Do you understand that the Canaanite children were victims of their parents evils, the choices their parents made, *the free will of their parents*, and not God?

    Do you understand that if you decide to develop a culture where throwing live children into a fire and watching them burn to death as their muffled cries of terror go unanswered, becomes a common routine that you should be destroyed?

  9. 9
    wgbutler says:

    Elizabeth Liddle,

    You and Dawkins aren’t fooling anyone. What’s going on here with the sanctimonious behavior and selective outrage is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the rather embarrassing fact that Dawkins is running away from a prime opportunity to debate a person whom many consider to be the prime apologist for Christianity like a little chihuahua with his tail between his legs.

    And what’s Dawkins excuse for not debating Stephen Meyer? Michael Behe? He’s a coward whose ideas and worldview can’t stand up to rigorous scrutinity.

    You do realize that the Bible is replete with descriptions of divine justice? We have scriptures describing a worldwide flood in which all of humanity except for 8 people are wiped out. We have descriptions of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. King David’s child with Bathsheba died as a punishment for their adulterous liason. The Israelites were conquered and carried away into captivity. Ananias and Saphira fell dead when they liked to the Apostle Peter about their donations to the church. The wicked are ultimately cast into hell.

    The Judeo-Christian scriptures are a package deal. We don’t get to be politically correct and pick and choose which passages we like and are valid and which ones are not valid. If we gutted the Bible in this way we wouldn’t end up with anything resembling Judeo-Christian theology and would only have an Oprah like feel good whatever makes you happy belief system.

    Demanding that a Christian apologist condemn and forswear large segments of scripture before supposedly having the opportunity to engage in a debate is unreasonable and nothing more than a cheap parlor trick intended to distract from the cowardice of the atheist.

  10. 10
    wgbutler says:

    Genocide is wrong because it violates a pretty fundamental ethical precept that you should treat others as as you would wish to be treated.

    Most of the recent examples of genocide that I can think of were carried out by atheistic regimes extremely hostile to Christianity. (Hitler hated Christianity and often described it as a scourge on humanity).

  11. 11
    KRock says:

    Hi everyone..

    I’m new to posting but have been reading the articleson this site for quite sometime and I ppreciate all the hard work you folks do at UD, keep up the good work.

    Hi Elizabeth

    I thought I would attempt a reply to your post, so here it goes..

    No one is saying you can’t be an atheist with morals. I would suggest that if naturalism is true, it would be ridiculous for anyone holding to such a worldview, to denounce war or genocide. It wouldn’t matter what values you decide to choose, because right and wrong would not exist, along with good and evil. Someone like Dawkins who is in the opinion that genocide is wrong, has no more validity than those who thought the genocide was a good thing.

    People like Dawkins never cease to amaze me, they’re always condemning God to be morally wrong in his actions, yet at the same time, stand by and claim that the abortions of millions and millions of babies is morally acceptable.

  12. 12
    NormO says:

    wgbutler:

    The Judeo-Christian scriptures are a package deal. We don’t get to be politically correct and pick and choose which passages we like and are valid and which ones are not valid.

    So you obviously don’t wear cloth woven of two different kinds of material? (Leviticus 19:19) And you must agree that women should be silent in church right? (Corinthians 14:34). And of course you fully support that a woman who is found not to be a virgin on her wedding night should be stoned to death right? (Deuteronomy 22:20,21)

    I could go on but seriously, you don’t think that modern Christianity picks and chooses? Give me a break.

  13. 13
    junkdnaforlife says:

    Norm, by picking out those passages, you are (I’m assuming) arguing for the sake of your position, that the God of the bible is true. Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus must also be, for the sake of argument, assumed to be true. This then, changes the game. It is not a cherry-pick quote-mine fest anymore. The resurrection of Jesus commands Christians to never stone women in any situation, ever. And since the most competent, loyal and trusted among him was likely the two Mary’s, then based on what Jesus taught, and grounding his authority in the resurrection event, women being silent in Church would then seem ridiculous.

  14. 14
    Sonfaro says:

    Two of those are old testament. -_-

  15. 15
    IRQ Conflict says:

    Yes, Norm needs to learn the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. So do a lot of accusers.

  16. 16

    I am not attempting to fool anyone, wgbutler. I simply followed the link in the Dawkins piece, and found myself in an essay by Craig in which he claims, inter alia, that a a wrong thing is not a wrong thing if commanded by God:

    So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives. The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them. Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder? No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

    On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

    To me, that is a clear reductio ad absurdum: if “divine command theory” leads to the conclusion that “an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin” is “morally obligatory” if divinely commanded, to me that says that “divine command theory” must be wrong.

    Even in its own terms. If there is an “objective morality”, then something doesn’t change from wrong to right merely because some deity says that wrong is right.

    I am certainly not “demanding that a Christian apologist condemn and forswear large segments of scripture before supposedly having the opportunity to engage in a debate” – that would be as foolish, IMO, as the demand made by people here, that I, as an atheist, provide the basis of my moral philosophy before having the right to critique a Christian’s moral philosophy. It is possible to see that a conclusion is clearly wrong before having in place the reasoning that leads to a correct conclusion, as any mathematician can tell you.

    What I doing is challenging the Christians here, especially those who seem to regard Craig as their champion, to justify what seems to me a self-evidently ludicrous bit of reasoning by Craig.

  17. 17

    You mean, “learn the first rule by which some Christian apologists distinguish between cherries”?

    Did you note that one of NormO’s examples was from the New Testament? Or does Paul not count?

  18. 18
    Bantay says:

    JunkDNAforlife….how exactly does the resurrection command women to be silent?

  19. 19
    Bantay says:

    JunkDNAforlife….whoops. I meant to say “how does the resurrection command Christians to never stone a woman?” is there a scripture for that?

  20. 20
    markf says:

    That’s probably true. You have to go back a bit to get Christian inspired genocide – which naturally involved killing less people because there were less people around and inferior technology for killing them.

    However, whatever anti-christian regimes may have done it is not relevant to the problem that the Bible appears to say that God sometimes recommends genocide. So either:

    * The Bible is sometimes wrong
    * We are misinterpeting what the Bible says – but is pretty explicit – at least in the English translations
    * God sometimes tells people to do evil things
    * Genocide is not always evil

    Take you pick! But don’t try to distract by talking about how atheists are sometimes evil or don’t have an objective basis for morality.

  21. 21
    wgbutler says:

    Elizabeth,

    I don’t regard Craig’s reasoning as ludicrous. I’m not saying that I agree with it outright, but on the surface it seems plausible and I’d have to think about all possibile ramifications before I completely endorsed the argument. Right off the bat, I can think of a few scenarios where that reasoning alone wouldn’t suffice, so I might add a few things to it, but that’s not to say that the basic argument is flawed, only that it might be incomplete.

    I realize that to your atheistic way of thinking some of this might be strange, but for the benefit of other readers allow me to point out an example of divine command theory being extremely valid. In Genesis 22 God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. On the surface this seems like an abhorrent command (imagine killing and sacrificing a young child, especially your only child), what could be more heinous? Nevertheless, Abraham, realizing that God was the supreme Authority, obeyed the command, rather than taking the Elizabeth Liddle approach.

    Scriptures in the New Testament (Hebrews 11:17) COMMEND Abraham for obeying God and also tell us that Abraham believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead.

    This was God’s final test, so to speak, of whether or not He would use Abraham as the ancestral forbear of the lineage through which the Messiah would come and all the nations of the Earth would ultimately be blessed. It was also a picture of the most beautiful act in history when God would eventually sacrifice His own Son for the redemption of humanity. Essentially, this one story is at the very core of both Judaism and Christianity.

    The point being that only God knows all possible realities and what the future holds. Things that God does or commands might not make any sense in the immediate present, but when you consider what will happen hundreds or even thousands of years down the road make alot of sense. God Warned the Israelites time after time not to intermingle with the pagans in their area or to adopt their ways. He knew that if they did this (“tolerated” paganism, if you will) they would eventually become weak and it would be a cancer that would ultimately destroy their nation (which it did). We see this same phenonemena happening over and over again in our modern societies, especially western nations like the United Kingdom and the United States.

    At any rate, pointing to this philosophical reasoning as an excuse to duck a debate really comes across as a grasping of straws. If this reaasoning is really so absurdly backwards and indefensible, Dawkins owes it to the atheistic community and world at large to show up and expose Craig for the moral monster that he is. But of course we both know that this isn’t the REAL reason why Dawkins isn’t showing up, don’t we?

  22. 22
    wgbutler says:

    markf,

    If you say so. But I have to say that it doesn’t really surprise me that that modern pagans (i.e. atheistic secular humanists who slaughter their unborn children by the millions, in many cases even unborn children who are near full term) would be so outraged at the destruction of an ancient culture where they also slaughtered THEIR children!

    http://carm.org/christianity/m.....-sacrifice

  23. 23

    “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?”

  24. 24
    Bantay says:

    JunkDNAforlife made this statement in his previous post.

    “The resurrection of Jesus commands Christians to never stone women in any situation, ever.”

    I’m just wondering where he got it from.

  25. 25

    In 2000, for women whose weeks of gestation at the time of abortion were adequately reported, 57% of reported legal induced abortions were known to have been obtained at <8 weeks of gestation, and 87% at <13 weeks. Overall, 23% of abortions were known to have been performed at 21 weeks

    http://www.policyalmanac.org/c.....tics.shtml

  26. 26
    Waynekent00 says:

    “This pernicious assumption that atheists have no morality is becoming extremely tiresome…”

    The question is not whether atheists have morality. A theist believes that atheists have morality because they were made in God’s image. The question is whether atheists have any grounding for morality within atheism.

    When a disciple of Mary Eddy Baker–someone who does not believe in the existence of the physical world–tires of the argument and seeks to end it by throwing a rock at you, those who accept the reality of the physical world may rightly ask, “And where did you get that?”

    Similarly, I believe it is fair for a theist to ask of a materialist where the grounding of their moral outrage lies and why they consider it authoritative. My worldview explains why we are moral creatures and why we ought to behave morally and the explanation applies to theists and non-theists alike.

    Materialism has no foundation for morality, (Tell me from an evolutionary point of view, what is so repugnant about one gene pool wiping out another gene pool?) yet materialists cannot deny moral realities because materialists are made in the image of God. So they bluster about what “everyone knows” and “everyone can see”, not realizing that it is because of the God who they deny that they can know and see. Like Hitchens and Elizabeth (apparently) they prefer to “misunderstand” the issue, objecting that atheists can be and often are moral people. Yes, of course, you just can’t explain it from within atheism. That’s the issue.

    And I really would like to know (from within atheism) why it is wrong to exterminate mammals if it helps ensure that my genes get into the next generation.

  27. 27

    The blog software interpreted some of the “less than” and “more than” signs as html tags, radically altering the sense of the above quotation. The quotation should read:

    In 2000, for women whose weeks of gestation at the time of abortion were adequately reported, 57% of reported legal induced abortions were known to have been obtained at less than 8 weeks of gestation, and 87% at less than 13 weeks. Overall, 23% of abortions were known to have been performed at less than 6 weeks of gestation, 18% at 7 weeks, and 17% at 8 weeks. Few reported abortions occurred after 15 weeks of gestation; 4.3% were at 16–20 weeks, and 1.4% were at more than 21 weeks.

  28. 28

    Really? Do we have to go through this again?

    You may get sick and tired of the assumption that atheists have no morality. No one ever says any such thing. What we are saying, and this you must accept is true, is the atheists have no objective basis for their morality. If you can’t see the difference between those statements, I must conclude that you are foolish.

    I am not foolish, and I have read both accusations.

    I reject them both, and I have said why. Atheists are as capable of deriving an objective morality from fundamental premises as non-atheists.

    And my argument is that the resulting ethical system is more objective, not less, because it does not depend on a subject choice of moral authority, but can be derived independently by anyone.

  29. 29

    The question is not whether atheists have morality. A theist believes that atheists have morality because they were made in God’s image. The question is whether atheists have any grounding for morality within atheism.

    If you think that atheists have morality because God put it there, then why does it matter whether they recognise that grounding?

    I think humans have morality because we evolved brains capable of understanding the point of view of other minds, what is something called “Theory of Mind” Capacity (ToM), and because we also developed a complex symbol manipulation system we call language which allows us to reify abstract concepts.

    But whatever the origin of our moral sense, it is clear that we have it. So why deny atheists the right (as some have done) to make an ethical critique of Christian moral philosophy?

  30. 30
    Sonfaro says:

    “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone”.

  31. 31
    Bantay says:

    Where does it say “the resurrection of Jesus commands… ” ? Perhaps I am mistaken, but as far as I know, the resurrection does not make commands.

  32. 32

    I realize that to your atheistic way of thinking some of this might be strange, but for the benefit of other readers allow me to point out an example of divine command theory being extremely valid. In Genesis 22 God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. On the surface this seems like an abhorrent command (imagine killing and sacrificing a young child, especially your only child), what could be more heinous? Nevertheless, Abraham, realizing that God was the supreme Authority, obeyed the command, rather than taking the Elizabeth Liddle approach.

    Which is what makes the story so dreadful. “I heard God telling me to do it” is not a defence against a murder charge in a court of law, and nor should it be, although it might be enough to convince the judge that you are not mentally well enough to be held responsible for your actions.

    I assume you agree.

  33. 33
    Waynekent00 says:

    NormO,

    Christians are no longer obligated to obey some of the O.T. laws because (for instance):

    1) The sacrificial laws were superseded by Christ’s “once and for all” sacrifice.

    2) Jesus countermanded the dietary laws.

    3) Some of the laws were intended to make intermarriage with other cultures difficult. Their purpose was served.

    It’s not a matter of picking and choosing. It’s a matter of discerning which laws were for a specific time and purpose and which are for all times and places.

    If you’re interested in a thoughtful consideration of the N.T. role of women, I recommend the following:

    http://christianthinktank.com/fem06.html
    http://christianthinktank.com/fem07.html
    http://christianthinktank.com/fem08.html
    http://christianthinktank.com/fem09html

    In my experience, the commonly held assumptions about the subjugation of women in the N.T. don’t hold up under scrutiny.

  34. 34
    wallstreeter43 says:

    Waynekent00, your post is exactly why I believe that the only truely honest atheist is a nihilist. there are good and bad atheists just as there are good and bad christians, but I dont see how in an atheistic worldview that you can honestly say why commiting a mass murder is any different than going to the movies on saturday to watch the number 1 movie on the charts.

    Right now our earth is being overpopulated with human beings and I cant see why in an atheistic worldview it would be wrong to kill off a few billion so that the rest of humanity could have enough resources to enjoy a better life.If we are just molecules in motion it would also just be recycling of materials.

  35. 35
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    1. Evidence please. Craig didn’t mention any child sacrifice.

    2. “Oh no, the Canaanites are sacrificing their children! Let’s help them…by slaughtering their children!”

    3. Mass bombing at least arguably had a legitimate military purpose, that of getting the enemy in WW2 to surrender so that the killing of both sides would stop. Hacking the children to death with bronze-age weaponry, after the battle is already won, is rather different.

    Look, I am really not very interested in the does-God-exist debates, but when I see people justifying genocide in order to protect some theological view, then I take notice, for such thinking is extremely dangerous. Let’s be honest, the doctrine of strict Biblical inerrancy is what is behind these defenses of the abominable. It’s not necessary to defend this stuff in order to defend the existence of God.

  36. 36

    Well, we aren’t “just molecules in motion”. We are a system of “molecules in motion” that is capable of consciousness, intention, love, morality, evil, art, science, generosity, imagination, and hope, just to scratch the surface of what that system of “molecules in motion” is capable of.

    To murder any one of us is to deprive a person of all they have planned and longed for and loved, and to deprive those who love them of something of immeasurable value.

    So committing any murder, let alone a mass murder, is considerably different from “going to the movies on saturday”.

    There is nothing that is not “truely honest” about this position. It’s just common sense.

  37. 37

    Thinking about this further: I think one problem theists seem to be having in comprehending the atheist position, is that they seem to think that abolishing mind/body duality necessarily “reduces” the mind to “molecules” or “atoms” or “quarks” or whatever.

    It doesn’t. A system of parts has quite different properties to that of the parts. In the case of people, one of those properties is the capacity for intentional behaviour that takes account not simply of possible long-term consequences to ourselves but also to others.

    This is perfectly consistent with a monist view of the mind. It simply requires the perception that the whole is not the parts.

  38. 38
    JDH says:

    Elizabeth

    It’s time to give up. Your insistence that somehow materialism admits an objective morality is ludicrous. You have hit the end. You either have to admit that materialism has no objective basis for morality, and be comfortable with that and your “choice” ( although I don’t see how choice can ever “evolve” because “choice” is neither random or stochastic ), or confess at least agnosticism. Its people like you that buttress my belief in the all knowing God. You are obviously intelligent. You present for the most part cogent arguments. But you are unwilling to give up the reality of consciousness (that gift from God which makes you human ), even though at the same time you vigorously deny its source. Please stop supporting the unsupportable. It will make your intellectual life much more consistent.

  39. 39

    It’s time to give up.

    Oh, really?

    Your insistence that somehow materialism admits an objective morality is ludicrous.

    Not from where I am standing. I take it you read my post here?

    (I do wish these conversations weren’t scattered over quite so many threads!).

    I laid out my reasoning quite clearly, and explained exactly what I did, and did not, mean by “objective”.

    You have hit the end. You either have to admit that materialism has no objective basis for morality,

    well, before I do that, I’d like to read a well-argued and persuasive rebuttal to the post linked to above.

    and be comfortable with that and your “choice” ( although I don’t see how choice can ever “evolve” because “choice” is neither random or stochastic )

    The capacity to make informed choices can certainly evolve. And indeed, our own decision-making processes involve stochastic mechanisms.

    or confess at least agnosticism. Its people like you that buttress my belief in the all knowing God. You are obviously intelligent. You present for the most part cogent arguments.

    Thank you 🙂

    But you are unwilling to give up the reality of consciousness (that gift from God which makes you human ), even though at the same time you vigorously deny its source.

    Well, of course I won’t “give up the reality of conciousness”! I’m conscious, so clearly conscious is real! I conch, therefore I am!

    I just think the capacity to be conscious of the world evolved. Possibly because God was smart enough to ensure it would, possibly because that’s what tends to happen down one lineage or other, once life starts evolving,

    Please stop supporting the unsupportable. It will make your intellectual life much more consistent.

    There is nothing “inconsistent” in my intellectual life. On the contrary, after half a century of thoughtful dualism I found monism was a much more elegant model, and didn’t actually involve giving up anything other than the prospect of an afterlife.

    Which doesn’t bother me at all.

  40. 40
    Eugene S says:

    “You don’t need a god to tell you that, you just need to be human.”

    You do. There is no human without God.

  41. 41
    Eugene S says:

    Elizabeth,

    You cannot judge anyone who has a different view on morality to your view e.g. that morality is objective. This is because you yourselves believe otherwise. Why not allow others have their own views on morality?

    BTW, did you respond on non-religious societies in another thread yet?

  42. 42

    You do. There is no human without God.

    Well, that reasoning seems somewhat circular to me!

  43. 43

    I do allow people to have their own views on morality, Eugene. I am simply challenging them to justify them.

    Could you give me a link to the thread you are waiting for a response to? I’ve been trying to catch up this weekend, but there are so many threads on this site, it’s difficult to keep track!

  44. 44
    junkdnaforlife says:

    The event does not command. The way I wrote it does look like that though. Rather, the resurrection event grounds Christ’s commanding authority.

  45. 45
    wgbutler says:


    Which is what makes the story so dreadful. “I heard God telling me to do it” is not a defence against a murder charge in a court of law, and nor should it be, although it might be enough to convince the judge that you are not mentally well enough to be held responsible for your actions.

    I assume you agree.

    Elizabeth – I don’t put the story of Abraham and Isaac in the same category as a mentally deranged psychopath claiming that God told him to kill someone.

    However if God really does exist, and if God tested Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac, and then blessed Abraham because of his obedience, then this is a prime example of Divine Command theory in action.

    The essential point is that this is pretty standard philosophical reasoning by Judeo-Christian theologists. For Dawkins to act all sanctimonious because Craig may write on such topics and use that as an excuse to not debate him is a bit self-serving. It’s nothing more than Dawkins throwing stones at Craig and a convenient excuse to cover up Dawkin’s fear at confronting Craig in a 1 on 1 debate.

  46. 46

    Elizabeth – I don’t put the story of Abraham and Isaac in the same category as a mentally deranged psychopath claiming that God told him to kill someone.

    However if God really does exist, and if God tested Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac, and then blessed Abraham because of his obedience, then this is a prime example of Divine Command theory in action.

    And your first paragraph shows you clearly why “divine command theory” at best doesn’t work, and at worst is an extremely dangerous concept.

    The essential point is that this is pretty standard philosophical reasoning by Judeo-Christian theologists.

    And as the juxtaposition of your own two paragraphs shows, clearly fallacious. To replace basic moral reasoning with some subjective and unreliable judgement as to whether the command in question is genuine or psychotic, is, well, nuts. And irresponsible IMO. If I thought you, or Craig, actually believed it, I’d be be more outraged than I am. However, I have reasonable grounds for thinking that you simply haven’t registered the dissonance, and wouldn’t actually act on an apparent “divine command” to commit genocide or murder your own child.

    For Dawkins to act all sanctimonious because Craig may write on such topics and use that as an excuse to not debate him is a bit self-serving.

    If you read his piece, it is perfectly clear (he says so explicitly) that he is not “us[ing] that as an excuse not to debate him”. The grounds he gives are lack of time or interest.

    It’s nothing more than Dawkins throwing stones at Craig and a convenient excuse to cover up Dawkin’s fear at confronting Craig in a 1 on 1 debate.

    So why does Dawkins say that that is not the reason he refused? “Well, the dog didn’t eat my homework, I just didn’t fancy doing it, but even if I had done it, the dog would have eaten it”.

  47. 47
    NormO says:

    Waynekent00:

    It’s not a matter of picking and choosing. It’s a matter of discerning which laws were for a specific time and purpose and which are for all times and places.

    wgbutler above, stated that:

    The Judeo-Christian scriptures are a package deal. We don’t get to be politically correct and pick and choose which passages we like and are valid and which ones are not valid.

    So, in his (or her) view, you don’t get to “discern” which laws are no longer valid and which are, it’s a “package deal”. There is no picking and choosing or discerning involved. I was responding to that absolutist view.

    With regards to your links, what you define as “thoughtful consideration”, I would call baseless rationalization. For example, your third link contains a discussion of a woman who was deemed an apostle of Christ, as if that is something amazing and noteworthy. There is even bold text proclaiming:

    “how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.”

    Wow, imagine that, a woman, a mere woman was found worthy to be an apostle. She must have been truly exceptional because, you know, there simply is no other way a mere woman could be considered an apostle. Yeah, that’s not exactly a glowing endorsement of women’s equality in the NT.

    Reminds me of a really funny sketch by Mitchell and Webb on The Good Samaritan (warning: totally hilarious but possibly offensive to some).

  48. 48
    junkdnaforlife says:

    Nick, child sacrifice did occur, (as well as “holy prostitution”):

    “A number of scholars maintain that there is significant evidence of living child and animal sacrifices made to Molech idols, based on numerous claims from the ancient Hebrews and Romans, coupled with the discovery of Molech statues with charred skeletal remains, as well as the graves of many children near certain Punic religious sites in North Africa, such as Carthage. Opponents of the theory of Punic human sacrifice suggest that these children died naturally, some perhaps in an epidemic and point to the few undeveloped fetuses amongst the other dead as evidence for this, though this remains speculative and unfounded.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaanite_religion

    Your statement here is actually the point:

    3. Mass bombing at least arguably had a legitimate military purpose, that of getting the enemy in WW2 to surrender so that the killing of both sides would stop. Hacking the children to death with bronze-age weaponry, after the battle is already won, is rather different.

    What it sounds like you are saying is you prefer blowing kids up to slicing them to death. (Although I know you are not actually saying this). But what this illustrates is the difficulty in which these topics can become. What you have just done is rationalize a situation in your head as to what situations and by what means we get a green light to kill children. And you are modern educated man. Now put yourself in the sandals of the ancient Hebrews. And if you are referring to intent by trying to distinguish between the ancient Hebrews and Harry Truman, specifically that the ancient Hebrews knowingly killed civilian children and that Harry Truman did not knowingly kill civilian children, then you are way off.

    The US issued Japan a warning, the Potsdam declaration which demanded Japan to surrender, (just as the Canaanites were warned). The Japaneses government (just like the Canaanites) ignored this. Truman then decided to drop the bomb on Hiroshima civilians and soldiers, (destruction of the Canaanites). Truman ordered what he knew would amount to, along with the killing of Japanese adults, the utter annihilation of Hiroshima children. And after Japan refused to surrender, he then ordered what would amount to the annihilation of Nagasaki children. Ugly stuff Nick. The difference between the old testament text and modern scholarship is that Hiroshima and Nagasaki do not get recorded solely as, “Harry Truman ordered the destruction of all Japanese men, women in children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” So some knucklehead a few thousand years from now can pick out that cite and claim that Truman was for genocide. Despite that fact that Truman ordering the destruction of Japanese men, women and children is what actually happened.

    *As to references to God, modern scholarship generally avoids mentioning any references in school texts. Take the history of MLK. It is not recorded in school text that MLK claimed to have heard the voice of God. And that when MLK was about to quit his mission until, (as he says), he heard “the voice of God,” saying, “Fear not I am with you.” And according to MLK, it was that very moment that he decided to push foreword. But it will not be recorded in any school text that MLK attributed his strength to move foreword with “God speaking to him.” However, in ancient text it would have read, God spoke to MLK and told to him to free his people, or some such. But these historical references to God get eliminated in modern school texts. Point being that: textual references of God have gone away ~= historical claims of God’s influence have gone away.

    (Back to the bombing), in this case, it was the threat of further nuclear action that inevitably initiated the Japanese surrender. One bomb was not enough, it took two. Now what if we had no bombs, the same way the Hebrews did not have bombs? Would the Japanese ever have surrendered? If it were not for the threat of nuclear force, would we have had to kill every last Japanese? After all, many Japanese civilians preferred suicide to surrender and capture. So the goal of nuclear force in this case was to demonstrate to the Japanese that they could be completely eliminated, thus stopping the war which would eliminate future deaths of countless humans and to stop the spreading of Axis powers, namely poisonous Axis ideologies. The Hebrew goal was to eliminate the spreading of a poisonous Canaanite culture based on child sacrifice and various other depravities. Remembering that this is at a time before police, courts, prison systems, nuclear bombs and the department of social services.

    For Dawkins to blur all of this to say WLC is for genocide to avoid debating him is clown stuff.

  49. 49
    Joseph says:

    Hey, perhaps morality is whatever one defines it to be…

  50. 50
    KRock says:

    Elizabeth is right, morality is whatever we make it to be, culture and the majority rule the day… But this however, would also mean that no one person would ever be able to claim their value judgment, to be morally supreme over another, only the path of our culture chooses morality’s direction, scary when you think about it. One day it might become socially acceptable to kill Christians, just look at our culture now, its already slaughtering unborn babies on a mass scale. How long before our culture targets the mentally challenged? With atheism (naturalism), the sky’s the limit. Utopianism, here we come…!

  51. 51
    junkdnaforlife says:

    Norm, all of this first must be taken in the context of Jewish orthodoxy, which was a patriarchal society. No one doubts the inequality of women in this context. But you have to ask yourself, did Jesus follow the same orthodoxy? Nothing anywhere suggests that He did. In fact it seems that women were the most loyal to him. After all, it was his male disciples who betrayed him, denied him and ran away. And it was the women who showed up at the tomb, (and this becomes very important, especially in the context of Jewish orthodoxy).

    Paul was instrumental in building a new Jewish Church based on a Jewish Messiah. So the inequality of women based on Jewish orthodoxy naturally overlaps into his foundational text. No one denies this. So when you cite:

    how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.”

    You are capturing the Jewish reaction to the actions of Jesus. This very statement, rather than paint Jesus as sexist, illustrates that Jesus acted apart from common Jewish orthodoxy with regards to the role of women concerning matters of faith. Naturally, the common 1st century man was resistant to this change. This is common for all people. People with power are reluctant to expand that power to others. But the important thing to remember is that Jesus did do this, and it stands, regardless of how 1st century Jewish/Christian men felt about it at the time. And as to why Jesus’s actions are more important than traditional Jewish orthodoxy in this context is due to the authority of Jesus, which is grounded in the resurrection event. One of the most important pieces in establishing the historicity of the resurrection event is the discovery of the empty tomb by women. Here the established inequality of women within Jewish orthodoxy actually makes the empty tomb narrative more historically valid. The argument being the criterion of embarrassment. If the role of Jewish women was such that women cannot bear witness, remain silent on matters of faith etc, then it follows that if the empty tomb story was an invention by early Jewish men, then they certainly would not have used women as the sole eye witness testimony for the discovery of the empty tomb. Women discovering the empty tomb, and Jewish men having to claim that, “no seriously, it was empty, the women found it empty”, would have been embarrassing to 1st century Jewish men. Inferring then based on what we know about the role of women according to Jewish orthodoxy, further overlapping into the writings of Paul combined with the four gospel accounts recording that it was women that discovered the empty tomb implies that the tomb being empty was likely true, and not an invention.

    Further if we establish historically that the tomb was empty, we now need an explanation as to why. Would the disciples have stolen the body? Unlikely, since the disciples themselves did not believe at first when the women told them that the tomb was empty. So they went to check for themselves. And upon inspection, it reads that a burial cloth was found by Peter (very important). The disciples stealing the body seems almost ridiculous upon further inspection, based simply on the recorded danger (Tacitus/Josephus) that they faced perpetuating this story and with no clear motive to do so. And certainly the Jews and Romans would not wish to steal the body thus perpetuating a myth that had intended to destroy.
    So would the once doubtful, cowardly and inept disciples have then conspired to steal the body and Jesus, hide it, and then claim that Jesus had rose again from the dead, only to face isolation, danger and death, sticking to their story until their very last breaths simply for an “I told you so,” moment. In this case, the simple fisherman would have committed the greatest fraud that the world has ever known. Unlikely.

    Dropping the final hammer is the Shroud of Turin. If you are unaware of what this is, go ahead and research it. What this archeological artifact does, along with its sister cloth the Shroud of Oviedo, is provide forensic evidence for the four gospel accounts of the Passion event down to the tiniest detail. And further, by defying all scientific explanation of mechanism for image formation.

    So the simple and cowardly disciples decided to subject themselves to all sorts of danger by perpetuating what would become the ultimate fraud on the history of mankind while managing to create an artifact to reinforce their epic fraud that would inevitably defy scientific understanding 2000 years later.

    Sure, lets go with that.

  52. 52
    Alan says:

    IT’S ALL ABOUT COWARDICE

    It is apparent from many comments here that Dawkins has succeeded to some extent in sufficiently muddying the waters, by taking the focus off his personal cowardice and onto spurious arguments about scriptures.

    If Dawkins wants to make such accusations against Graig, then he should have the courage to do so at the Sheldonian, where Craig can answer back. Let the audience decide what weight the Old Testament treatment of the Canaanites holds in the larger question of the evidence for Gods existence. Dawkins should have the courage to defend the arguments he makes in The God Delusion face to face with WLC, rather than hurl insults from the safety of his ivory tower.

  53. 53
    wgbutler says:


    And your first paragraph shows you clearly why “divine command theory” at best doesn’t work, and at worst is an extremely dangerous concept….

    And as the juxtaposition of your own two paragraphs shows, clearly fallacious. To replace basic moral reasoning with some subjective and unreliable judgement as to whether the command in question is genuine or psychotic, is, well, nuts.

    Elizabeth, your reasoning is wrong on multiple levels.

    1) I wouldn’t accuse Abraham of replacing his basic moral reasoning with subjective or unreliable judgement. Abraham had lived an entire lifetime of dealing with God face to face and had seen God bless him with abundant wealth, supernatural protection, and a child when he and his wife were well past the age of being able to have a child. He had witnessed the supernatural destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    No doubt when God gave him the command to sacrifice Isaac God did it in such a way that Abraham could not possibly mistake it for a weird dream or psychotic delusion. Abraham knew that God was real and that the command to sacrifice Isaac was real.

    This rather unique situation is markedly different from just about any case you could point to in modern history where a psychotic criminal claims they acted on a command from God, the Devil, an alien or whatever else. It’s also important to note that Abraham did not actually sacrifice Isaac, as God stopped him from doing so after his faith had been tested.

    2) God did not command the Israelites to “commit genocide”. He ordered them to wipe out a rival nation that had spent centuries practicing abominable pagan rituals and which would permeate Israel and influence Israel in a very unhealthy way if any part of it was allowed to survive. God is no respecter of persons or races. All men are made in the image of God and are judged by their behavior, not by the color of their skin or what racial creed they happen to be. Indeed, God used Abraham as a vessel to eventually bless all the nations of the Earth.

    Furthermore, God gave many commands to the NATION of Israel as a matter of course in how to conduct the affairs of the nation. This included the death penalty for various offences and how to wage war. But it would be a mistake to take commands given to a nation and say that applies to how an individual conducts his or her personal affairs.

    3) Christ makes it abundantly clear that Christians are to be harmless as doves and turn the other cheek when struck by an adversary. One time when His own disciples asked Him if they should call fire down from Heaven He rebuked them and told them that He had to come to save life, and not destroy it.

    Thus we see the Christian religion as an extremely peaceful religion and its adherents tend to be quite harmless. Indeed, throughout the course of history we have seen millions of Christians slaughtered by atheistic, paganistic, and Islamic regimes but by and large Christian nations have treated people of other worldviews in a similar fashion.

    At any rate, this makes for an interesting theological discussion but it really should have nothing to do with Dawkins debating the existence of God with Craig. If this is not the reason why Dawkins is avoiding Craig, why does Dawkins even mention this? The whole situation seems rather disengenuous. I really wouldn’t care much if Dawkins debated Craig or not except Dawkins has made a name for himself by chasing after easy opponents.

    Basically, Dawkins is an intellectual bully. He will take someone on if he thinks he can win, but otherwise he won’t put his credibility on the line. It’s fine with me if you want to think he’s hung on the moon, but I really have no respect for the man.

  54. 54

    I agree this has nothing to do with Dawkins debating Craig.

    It does have to do with what Craig says, and which Dawkins, like many others (me for instance) finds extremely disturbing.

    I have a question for you: if you saw God “face to face”, how could you be sure it was God you were facing?

    And if you told a third party that you had seen God face to face and he (if it was a he – I guess you’d know if you’d seen him) had commanded you to kill your child, how would you expect a responsible third party to react

  55. 55
    roundsquare says:

    Dear Liddle, your continued insistence that atheism can supply a basis for morality is simply unwarranted, you think that you have provided good solid grounds for morality within your atheistic paradigm when in fact all you did was give a subjective reason for why we should think that morality is objective in your Godless world view.

    You said morality is that which we ought to do. And you described that which we ought to do as that which benefits others no less then ourselves.

    Some questions are in order:
    1. How do you know your definition of morality is accurate? Is it something you proved in the lab, or something you worked out in your head?
    2. Why ought we to refrain from harming others?
    3. Why should anyone bother himself with what benefits others, put differently if a person can live selfishly and greedily all his life what should hamper him from pursuing such a lifestyle?

    Essentially what I am trying to get at is why should a person obey the golden rule if he can be selfish and still get all he wants?

    4. Finally in your view is harming people wrong because it really is or because you feel that it is?

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