Does Carrier give us any good reasons to be godless? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
It’s been awhile since we’ve gone through Carrier’s book, but it’s time to continue. This time, we’re going to at least start a look at his reasons to be godless. Carrier starts off with his conclusion that God doesn’t exist based on years of study and investigation and examining all the evidence of every argument presented in its defense.
All of them? Every single piece of evidence for every single argument?
So that means that for proponents of Intelligent Design, for instance, Carrier has read every book, every article, and heard every lecture on the topic?
That for Craig’s Kalam argument, Carrier has also done the same with that one?
For Aquinas’s five ways, that Carrier has read every book and philosophical treatise on the topic?
Well aside from this unbelievable claim right at the start, I can inform you I went into this chapter eager to receive a good argument against the positions that I normally use. So therefore I set out to find a refutation in there against the five ways of Aquinas.
Which weren’t covered….
Well, maybe those just aren’t commonly used as much! Let’s look at the argument that Bill Craig uses, the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
Which also isn’t covered….
Could it be he deals with the ontological argument? I don’t like that argument, but Plantinga and Craig both like it. I think it’s fallacious, but it’s an important one that philosophers have had something to say about. Surely that’s there.
And no, it isn’t….
Well definitely the argument from morality! He has a chapter on morality later on. Surely there’s an argument at least here.
And again, there’s nothing….
I consider it quite important that a chapter claiming to show that there is no God at all does not argue with any of the arguments put forward. It’s just a statement of faith.
Would anyone find it convincing if I wrote a book and said “Some people make strong arguments that God doesn’t exist. Reality is, He does. I know this because I studied every argument against His existence and every piece of evidence used and found them all lacking.”
If you were convinced by that, shame on you.
On page 254, we also have a howler with him talking about religious claims and saying that they all believe love has something to do with the meaning of life. “On virtually everything else they disagree–so virtually everything else is probably false.”
It’s because of statements like this that philosophers everywhere should cringe when Carrier describes himself as one.
For instance, classical Buddhism is atheistic. Christianity is theistic. Since virtually everything else is probably false aside from love, we can assume theism is false, but we can also assume that atheism is false.
Islam says that you should kill the infidels wherever you find them. Christianity says you should love your enemies and forgive them. Neither of these have to do with the meaning of life, so both of these claims are probably false.
We don’t even have to stay there. Let’s go to worldviews.
Christianity and atheism both agree that there is a material world, but on everything else they disagree, so every other position is probably false. Therefore, again, atheism and theism are both false by Carrier’s argument.
More examples could surely be given.
On pages 254-5, we are told that atheism is simply a way of saying you lack God belief, but this does not work. Let’s consider for the sake of argument that God does exist. (Yes. Atheists reading this blog please try this thought experiment.)
By this standard, theism is true.
Now if atheism is lacking God-belief, then well, there are still atheists out there.
But in Greek, the a in front of a word is the negation of it.
Therefore, theism and atheism can be both be true. One claim and its contradiction are both true. In order to hold Carrier’s view, you have to deny the Law of Noncontradiction then.
Also, quite problematic is that the atheist is then seeking to make a statement not about reality but about their personal beliefs. If that’s all it is, why should I care? This atheism cannot be refuted because after all, you cannot refute one’s psychology in this sense. If I come to you and I say “I’m depressed today,” you can’t say “No you’re not! You feel great!” You don’t argue against the feeling. You argue against why I feel that way.
Yet despite this claim, Carrier does say he denies the existence of God as on this page he has the argument of “believers deny the existence of hundreds of gods. I just go one god further.”
“Gentlemen of the jury! You believe several persons in this room did not commit the murder. I just ask that you look at my client and go one person further!”
I happen to look at Carrier’s work and realize he rejects many views of atheistic cosmology. Unlike him, I just go one view further.
The same applies to views of atheistic morality.
On 257 Carrier says that there is no reason to think that God would need billions of years and trillions of galaxies to work his purpose, but that is what we’d expect in a godless universe.
How can we make this comparison though? We have no other universes we know of that we can compare to to say this is the kind of universe a god would create and this isn’t one? This is the way a universe will naturally run and this is an example of a universe that did not naturally run! The only way a comparative statement can be made is if there are two things to compare, and there aren’t.
On this page also, we see him argue that if he was God, he would give clear evidence, and yet he doesn’t see that, and since Carrier could not be better intentioned than God, then it follows that God does not exist.
There’s something amusing about making an argument against God based on what you’d do.
Let’s look at this claim of clear evidence.
There are many claims that we often think are quite clear and some people still deny. I think it’s clear that the material world exists. Some people deny it. Most of us would say it’s clear that other minds exist, but yet Solipsists exist. I would say it’s clear that it’s wrong to torture babies for fun, but yet moral relativists exist. Carrier and I would both agree that truth exists, but yet so do postmoderns who deny objective moral truths exist.
Basically, there are arguments to believe anything and while some people want to believe in God for emotional reasons, there are also emotional reasons some would have for not believing in God, such as anger at growing up in a highly fundamentalist home, personal evil in one’s life, or not wanting to believe in God so you can keep having sex with your girlfriend.
Now we’ll move on to some of Carrier’s complaints about religious texts, starting with the Bible, which is the only one we’ll cover. Leave it to others to defend their holy books.
We’ll start with Deut. 13:6-11. (Carrier mistakenly says it’s only 8-10)
6 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 9 You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.
Carrier might want to know we still treat treason seriously in this country. In Israelite society, they did too. They were under a covenant relationship with YHWH and to have someone come and move them away from that relationship would spell disaster for the populace. (As we see in their judgment later on.) Carrier will need to say more than “I don’t like this.”
“The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.”
This is Psalm 14:1 and yet Carrier does not consider that this is hyperbole. (Keep in mind at the beginning of the book, Carrier said you should read his own works with charity. Apparently, you are to do as he says, not as he does.) Had Carrier read the Psalm, he would have known that the Psalmist was not just describing atheists, but he was describing EVERYONE! He was saying all are corrupt and none do good. This is the way that Jews often thought. We can do the same when we get depressed and think about our problems and say things like “No one cares about me.”
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
This is one of the most often quoted passages by atheists and one misunderstood. It occurs to no one apparently that Jesus’s own followers had families whom they loved and according to Paul in 1 Cor. 9, many apostles took their wives with them on their journey.
So what is being said? It is a comparative statement. Your family is certainly a great and important reality in your life, but if you put it above the Kingdom of God, you are not going to be worthy of the Kingdom. The Kingdom must be your first priority.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18.
“49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49-50.
What of it? God is a God who judges. (Note I do of course contest that Mark 16:16 was part of the original writing) For Carrier to show that it is wrong for God to do this, he will need a better argument than “I don’t like it.”
Carrier goes on to state that since there is a threat delivered, it must be a wicked belief, because threats are the hallmark of a wicked creed. I suppose we must say the military has a wicked creed when they deliver a deadline to an enemy. A parent must have a wicked creed when they tell a child they will be spanked if they do something. Police must have a wicked creed if they warn someone about the consequences of their actions under the law.
Carrier says that Christianity started to flourish in 313 A.D. after the Edict of Milan. I would like to know how it even got to that point. It’s quite interesting to hear that Christianity was one of the most intolerant religions in history.
Why does Carrier say that? Because Christians denied the existence of the Roman gods and said there was only one God and he had revealed Himself in Christ. In other words, the Christians were killed for being intolerant.
It’s quite amusing isn’t it to read about people killing other people because those killed were not being tolerant….
Rome itself obviously was not tolerant since they could not handle dissent. (Where would Carrier find himself in Rome since he denies the existence of all gods? Would he be suddenly complaining that the Romans weren’t intolerant.) Yet Carrier sees Rome killing the Christians and decides that the Christians brought it upon themselves. It never seems to occur to him that maybe the people who were doing the killing were not the tolerant ones.
And Rome would have no problem with other gods, provided you included them in the Roman pantheon and still did your service to the emperor. Step outside of that and all of a sudden, you are not going to be tolerated. As has been said before, tolerance is always a one-way street.
Carrier says on page 266 that salvation belongs only to those who have faith in Christ is the very heart of New Testament teaching.)
Don’t get me wrong on this. Salvation by grace through faith in Christ is indeed an important teaching, but it is not the heart of the NT. It is a result of another teaching. That is the teaching that Jesus is the resurrected king of this universe. Trusting in Him for salvation is a result of having that prior belief. Does Carrier really know the NT he claims to critique?
Well that’s enough for now. Next time we’ll look further at Carrier’s reasons to be godless.