Atheism and the Case Against Christ: Chapter 13

How does McCormick conclude? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We have come to the end of our journey and what do we find? McCormick’s book is extremely lacking. In fact, I find it one of the most lacking books out there for someone of the education level of McCormick who should know better. Even when it comes to his subject of philosophy, McCormick still makes numerous blunders.

In this chapter, McCormick tells us that it should have been a trivial matter for God to make the resurrection believable for reasonable people. (Loc. 4220) Of course, note that McCormick never defines what a reasonable person is. Are people who believe in the resurrection unreasonable? It would seem so since we believe in the resurrection. If we believe in it, then it can be believed by reasonable people. If we are not, on what grounds? Is it that anyone who believes in it is unreasonable, but then McCormick’s criteria could never be met because any atheist who came to believe in it would become ipso facto unreasonable.

So what does he mean?

McCormick also has something on the kinds of atheism that are out there. Thankfully, he says an atheist is someone who affirms the non-existence of God. (None of this lack of belief nonsense) McCormick thinks in fact that ultimately, all religious systems collapse when his kind of analysis is used. I suppose that if you treat a religious question in a haphazard way and ignore the best positive evidence and build up straw men constantly against the belief then, yeah, it would collapse pretty easily. We could say the same way that macroevolutionary theory easily collapses. Just define it how you want, build up some straw men, ignore the positive evidence, and presto! You have outdone the scientific community.

What evidence then does he think is left for God? Well of course, you could deal with the Thomistic arguments, the ontological argument (Which I don’t accept but include in the interest of being thorough), the argument from beauty, the argument from conscience, Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Intelligent Design argument, the moral argument, the argument from religious experience, etc.

Or you could just ignore them and hope they go away.

McCormick wishes to do that by pointing to a survey that showed most philosophers find the arguments for God’s existence unconvincing. Do they? The survey certainly looks convincing. Unfortunately, closer analysis shows some problems, as William Lane Craig points out.

He doesn’t footnote his claim, but undoubtedly what he has to be referring to is the Chalmers and Bourget survey of philosophers that has gotten a lot of press. When this survey came out I was immediately puzzled because I thought, “I never received any such survey.” Neither did any of my colleagues at Talbot. There are seventeen professional philosophers on our campus. None of them were surveyed. I wondered exactly who received this survey. Well, when you look into it what you find is that this survey only was sent to 1,972 philosophers – less than 2,000 philosophers. It was sent to faculty only from 99 selected departments of philosophy. Just 99. Only 62 out of the 99 were in the United States. The rest are foreign – in Europe and Australia and so forth. Of the 1,972 that were surveyed, do you know how many actually responded? Less than half. Only 931 philosophers completed this survey. Yet this is supposed to be a comprehensive study of the belief of philosophers about God.

Rodney Stark, who is a sociologist at Baylor University, has pointed out that in his professional training for sociology he says that unless a survey has a response rate of 85% you are not to trust the results of that survey. This survey had a response rate of less than 48%. A mere 931 philosophers. If you look at the list of institutions to which this survey was sent, it was almost entirely secular universities. It wasn’t sent to places like Talbot, or Wheaton, or Westmont, or even many Catholic institutions. So far from exposing the intellectual deficiency of Christian philosophers, the appeal to this survey, I think, shows the intellectual deficiency of John Messerly’s argument. Here he just cites some survey without looking into it in any detail to see whom it was sent to, how many people it was sent to, how many responded to it. Instead he just cites something that confirms what he already wanted to believe. It really shows the intellectual deficiency of his own argument.

One could say that you don’t want to send this to evangelical and religious institutions because they’re biased, but then you’re just saying you’re going to include all professional philosophers who are not religiously inclined and then ask them if theistic arguments are convincing. How is this a fair examination? Is it that again, religious people don’t count?

Of course, McCormick thinks that even if you find a proof of God convincing, how do you close the circle to say which God is the real one? Christians and Jews and Muslims all have answers for this. McCormick doesn’t like the answers, but he needs to show that they are false.

McCormick thinks the teleological argument fails because of the problem of evil. Of course, this is not the classical teleological argument but the modern one. He tells us that in debates, theists have been at great pains to establish that the creator of the universe is possibly good willing or benevolent or morally perfect. (Loc. 4367.)

Really? It would be nice to see an example of this. Do I just need to take it on faith?

McCormick also tells us that centuries ago, God showed Himself regularly. Now, He hides Himself so we can believe by faith. Really? God showed Himself regularly.

God showed Himself to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph, after that, there was 400 years of silence. He was there during the Exodus and the conquest, but in the time of many of the kings of Israel and Judah, there was often silence. After the return from Babylon, there was another 400 years of silence and then Jesus came. Most of history after that has had some miracles taking place and such, but nothing like the time of the apostles.

McCormick’s claim is a misnomer. It seems to be happening everywhere in the Bible because those are the points worth talking about. Imagine reading a book about the history of war in America. You’ll find a historian writing about every time America went to war. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear America was perpetually at war and we never stopped fighting. That would be false. The historian is often just focusing on the times of war instead of the times of peace because those are the times worth writing about.

As we conclude, it has to be said that there is nothing in McCormick’s book that presents a real challenge. McCormick has ignored the best evidence against his position and built up straw men regularly. It’s amazing anyone takes this seriously.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

McCormick’s Gaffe

 

Sense and Goodness Without God: Part 13

What is one of the worst arguments you will ever read? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As we continue our look at Richard Carrier’s book, we will come to what I think has to be one of the worst arguments out there for atheism. As one of my friends told me when I shared this argument “We have found the banana argument of atheism.”

On page 273, Carrier says “Since there is no observable divine hand in nature as a causal process, it is reasonable to conclude that there is no divine hand. After all, that there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt is sufficient reason to believe there are no such creatures, and so it is with anything else.”

Yes. That is an actual quote.

Question. Does anyone want to live in a world where the only things that exist are things that are flying out of Richard Carrier’s butt?

I don’t think so.

It’s hard to believe that this is being used as an argument but alas, it is.

Carrier goes on on the next page to give more of his favorite argument style which is “I would not create a universe this way. Surely an all-knowing God would also not create the universe this way. Therefore, an all-knowing God did not create the universe.” This argument will work if you assume Carrier is a person of supreme intelligence who’s highly capable of creating universes on his own. Other than that, it’s not impressive at all.

Carrier also says he would make it a law of the universe that if you did good, you got rewarded and things went better and if you did evil, you suffered. This sounds good at the start, but now we have a problem. We are usually told that atheists condemn Christianity because you are rewarded for being good. Why would Carrier’s universe not be any different?

Let’s consider two situations. Person A is a Christian in this universe and person B is a person who is an atheist in Carrier’s universe.

A: Sure. I’ll help that little old lady across the street. I want to have a good reward in Heaven after all!

B: Sure. I’ll help that little old lady across the street. I want the universe to be good to me after all!

What we could start asking ourselves at this point is either person really doing good? Does either person really care about the little old lady, or is each one of them merely looking out for their own self-interests? If that is the case, then are they really doing a good activity?

Now to be sure, I think we should be doing good activities even if we don’t always have good motives. Many of the times we do the good even if we don’t want to or don’t feel like it because we know that that will eventually help us build up the good attitudes that we ought to have.

Carrier’s universe is one where anyone could see results in this life for doing good deeds. Thus, the majority of people would be doing good deeds simply for the benefit of getting ahead. Everyone would be acting out of self-interest instead of focus on others. In what way would we consider this a good universe? Do you want to live in a universe where people help you because they think it is just the right thing to do and that your cause is a good one, or do you want to live in one where your being helped is a means to someone else’s desires being fulfilled? In some ways, we could say that you are being treated as if you were being raped.

In fact, Lewis long ago in the Problem of Pain wrote about what kind of chaos we would live in in a world where people could not do evil. I suspect he would have something similar to say about the universe of Carrier.

Carrier also says God cannot blame him for being an unbeliever if millions of Jews got to see miracles all the time and Carrier never gets to. Yet I wonder where did millions of Jews get to see this all the time? We only know of three periods in Israel’s history according to Scripture where miracles were abundant.

The first was the Exodus.

The second was the time of Elijah and Elisha.

The third was the time of Christ and the apostolic age.

Want to guess what the mindset of most of the people was in these times?

If you guessed, unbelief, move to the head of the class.

And keep in mind, most atheists when given any evidence of a miracle will just dismiss it. Even Peter Boghossian in his book says that if all the stars in the sky spelled out a message from God and everyone else saw it in their own language, that MIGHT be suggestive. He could still be experiencing a delusion.

If Carrier does not want to believe in Christianity, he will more than readily find any excuse.

And as most of us know when confronted with excuses, they don’t convince.

Carrier also says a perfect being would not create an imperfect universe.

Why?

Seriously. Why?

To begin with, can a universe be perfect? Especially since in an Aristotlean sense, matter is always in a state of flux and thus, always has potential, and thus, can always change. That which is perfect cannot change can it?

Of course, this could be a problem for Carrier since he never defines perfect. As it stands, I have long argued that in fact God created the universe imperfect because He knew that man would fall so why create it perfect from the get-go?

On page 280, we start getting into one of the biggest problems I have with pop Christianity today. That is the idea that God is supposed to be your bud, your pal.

No. No He’s not.

He’s supposed to be your Lord and King. We have too often made a kind of “Buddy Jesus” which has not built us up any in discipleship, but rather lowered God down. It is this kind of belief system that makes so many of us treat God so lightly instead of with reverence and awe.

Carrier does say on 281 that if his children asked him to butt out, he would.

Well God is doing for Carrier exactly the same thing. If Carrier doesn’t want God to be a part of his life and will argue against him, he’ll get what he wants. I also suspect that’s why miracles don’t get as much attention here in America as they do elsewhere. We’ve asked God to butt out.

I also wish to point out that on page 282, we are told that if anything needs ridiculous contrivances to defend it, it is not likely to be true.

These are ridiculous contrivances like the argument from flying monkeys and the argument from big boobs. Carrier actually made an argument against God based on women having large breasts? Yes he did. If you need to see that, just look here.

I contend that because of this, atheism is not likely to be true.

So we end this chapter with Carrier asking that if his presentation has not been convincing, what would be?

Well for starters, a detailed refutation of all the theistic arguments and why they fail and then a better explanation for the existing of the universe.

As it stands, in all of this chapter, not once are theistic arguments argued with. Not once.

So when we continue this series again, we’ll be looking at morality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters