WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN
I am not a Christian, because Christianity is based on the Bible, and I find the Bible to be anything but the Word of God.
If a book really were inspired by God, it would be intelligible, consistent, and moral, and not the muddled, contradictory, immoral mess the Bible is.
Here's a very basic contradiction:
The Bible emphatically claims the end is near. "The end of all things is at hand" (1 Pet 4:7), "the time is near" (Rev 1:3), "the time is short" (1 Cor 7:29), "in these last days" (Heb 1:2), "watch therefore" (Mt 25:13), "he will not tarry" (Heb 10:37), "I come quickly" (Rev 22:20).
Is it not abundantly clear that the Bible writers expected the world to end in their generation? But, it's 2,000 years later; the world continues. Clearly the Bible was wrong; the end was not near. The Bible did NOT speak the truth.
But Christians have no problem rationalizing away the very plain meaning of the passages I cited.
If God wrote a book, it would not contradict known scientific facts.
Rabbits do not chew the cud, camels do not have undivided hooves, ostriches are not cruel parents, and the earth is not flat, held up by pillars. (Lev 11:6, 11:4, Job 39:13-16, 1 Sam 2:8).
If biblical writers are "inspired" to make such blundering errors about physical reality, why should we trust their claims about spiritual reality?
A God-inspired book would teach that men and women, though different, are equal in value, with equal rights. The Bible does not teach that.
Leviticus 27:3-5 values a man at 50 shekels, a woman at 30.
Genesis 3:16 establishes the woman's role as subordinate: "And thy desire shall be unto thy husband and he shall rule over thee."
If God wrote a book, its teachings on divorce and remarriage would be consistent and humane, not contradictory and oppressively judgmental.
In 2 Samuel 5:13, divorce is OK. In Mark 10:11, it's not. In Matthew 19:9, it's not, except for sexual immorality. Where is the consistency? This is divine guidance? I don't think so.
I know people who have found happiness in a good second marriage. I'm happy for them. But Jesus brands them as adulterers. (Mk 10:11)
A real book of God would not present obviously mythological stories as literal truth, such as the Noah's ark story.
Nor would these stories include malignant lessons such as: every human being on the planet, with the exception of Noah's family, deserved to drown, and, animal suffering on a massive scale, is irrelevant.
Myths teach lessons. Those are horrible and false lessons.
A real book of God would not contain prophecies that failed.
According to the Bible, Hazor and Tyre were supposed to be destroyed and put out of existence (Jer 49:33, Ezek 26:21), but they are easily found in any atlas. They continue to exist.
Nor would a real book of God claim fulfillments for prophecies which were clearly talking about unrelated events.
The virgin birth prophecy (Isa 7:14): Jesus' birth could not be a sign to King Ahaz, as the prophecy claimed it would be, because Jesus wasn't born until hundreds of years after King Ahaz died!
The Bethlehem prophecy (Mic 5:2-6): The messiah in question here was supposed to deliver the Jews from the Assyrians. Jesus had nothing to do with the Assyrians.
The Judas betrayal prophecy (Ps 41:4-9): The speaker calls himself a sinner, so this passage cannot be referring to Jesus, who is supposed to be a sinless person.
These are not predictions miraculously fulfilled; they are simply correlations deliberately drawn by the writers. The New Testament writers just pull out what they want from the Old Testament, point out similarities, and allege there is an overall divine, prophetic pattern to it.
The fact that many of their claimed fulfillments do not match the original predictions accurately, betrays the writers' subjectivity, and shows them to be rank propagandists.
A liberal minister I talked to, who is not impressed with biblical prophecy, put it best. He said, "Yeah, well, we could write it that way too, if we wanted to, couldn't we?"
A book of God wouldn't favor one group of people over all others. "The Lord hath chosen thee to be a special people above all people that are on the face the earth." (Deut 7:6)
There's your basic recipe for war – people thinking they're special to God, with God-given rights over other people and their land.
Question: Is the spiritual is more important than the physical? "Oh, absolutely," the Christian would respond. Then, I would ask the Christian: Why does your God say in Leviticus 21:16-23, that physically handicapped people "must not... approach the altar, and so desecrate My sanctuary"?
That's not God talking. That's stupid humans talking. The real God judges people by their behavior, by their character, not by their physical defects.
Slavery is a categorical evil, yet the Bible supports it.
It tells slaves to obey their masters "in all things" (Titus 2:9), "just as you would obey Christ." (Eph 6:5) Does that sound like good advice to you? Is that a message supporting human dignity? The Bible gives the Hebrews permission to buy slaves, and to keep their children as possessions. (Lev 25:44-46) Are human beings property? The Bible values the life of a slave as less than the life of a free man. (Exod 21:29-32) Would the real God teach such a thing? Of course not. Any book that supports the institution of slavery, is morally bankrupt.
A real book of God would not preach hatred toward gay people, calling their relationships an "abomination," and prescribing the death penalty for them in the Old Testament. (Lev 20:13)
That kind of intolerance, for people who are simply different from the majority, in a morally neutral aspect, is an indication, not of God's morality, but of people's bigotry.
Here are some biblical quotes you do not hear at church or Sunday school:
"Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." (Ps 137:9)
"Put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep." (1 Sam 15:3)
"God said to the others, Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children." (Ezek 9:5-6)
"Behold, I will corrupt your seed and spread dung upon your faces." (Mal 2:3) That's the biblical God speaking!
Here's Moses speaking – "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately." (Num 31:17-18)
Is this the morality of the real God?.... Or of barbarians claiming to speak for God?
A book of God would not hold people responsible for the sins of someone else. (2 King 5:27)
In fact, Christian theology (Original Sin and the Atonement) is based on this same cockeyed concept of guilt: We are responsible for Adam's sin, and we are redeemed by Jesus' death. (Rom 5:19)
That is morally and theologically ridiculous. I have nothing to do with what an alleged Adam did thousands of years ago. And Jesus could die a thousand deaths and that would not mitigate whatsoever the responsibility I have for any crimes I commit.
Everyone is responsible for his or her own actions. That's what a real book of God would teach.
Guilt-mongering, and then offering third party redemption, is but a control technique for some people to maintain control and status over others.
A real book of God would provide a better answer to the problem of evil than the Book of Job, which answer amounts to: "You have no right to ask, you puny human."
It would not hold up an atrocious character such as David as a man after God's heart. (Act 13:22) David was a voyeur, an adulterer, a murderer.
Cal Thomas, a conservative Christian columnist, wrote an article praising David's righteous repentance compared to President Clinton's waffling repentance.
First of all, Clinton never murdered somebody, as David did.
And secondly, Clinton's sexual ethics that so outrage Christians, were standard operating procedure for David: 2 Sam 5:13 – "And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem."
Somehow, for conservative Christians, David and Solomon with their numerous wives and concubines, are righteous men.
A real book of God would not regard obedience as a greater virtue than understanding. Obedience is not an intrinsic virtue, as Genesis would have us believe.
Obedience to what?! That's the question. The world is full of ideologies and alleged Gods demanding people's allegiance. The key is using discernment to decide which God or ideology is worthy of that allegiance.
Nor would a real book of God regard belief as a greater virtue than good behavior. It's easy to believe. It's hard to behave well consistently.
Nor would it value simple-minded credulity so highly: "Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe." (Jn 20:29) I say blessed are those who use reason, compassion, and good judgment to make decisions, not blessed are those prone to sheep-like behavior.
A real book of God would have a mature understanding of forgiveness and not demand the killing of an animal (!), or a blood sacrifice. That is such a primitive concept!
The very essence of Christian theology – Jesus being killed for our sins – is just so spiritually primitive and obtuse.
People need to grow up. A power so great and awesome as God is not going to have the small-minded, egotistical, barbaric mind-set of the biblical God.
A real book of God would have a spokesperson teaching realistic ethics, and not Jesus making utopian statements, advising people to forgive endlessly, to take no thought for the morrow, and not to resist evil. (Mt 18:22, Mt 6:26-34, Mt 5:39-42)
If you think I'm misunderstanding Jesus, foolishly misinterpreting these passages, that that's not what Jesus meant, I say I am in fact interpreting these passages properly. You are distorting them, forcing them to make sense, even though, as written, they do not make sense... because you presuppose Jesus would only teach sensible things.
The trouble with Christian hermeneutics is that they presuppose sensibleness and divine wisdom, and a verdict of nonsense is a priori prohibited. The Christian always asks, "How do we make sense of this passage?" He never asks, "Does this passage make sense?"
But the honest meaning of a passage is what the words actually say and what the writer intended, not what you'd like it to mean, or what you think ought to be there, or what would make sense if the words were a little different.
A real book of God would inspire us to work for the ideals of humanity, rather than to trust in wishful thinking and the efficacy of prayer.
In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says, "And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." That's not true. That's not reality. That's NOT how the real God works.
Jesus is just selling dreams.
A real book of God would be never, ever teach a concept such as Hell, a place or state of eternal, ongoing, punishing, for only one lifetime of evil, never mind just because a person won't believe screwy theology.
Jesus says in John 3:18, "He who does not believe is condemned already."
He says in Matthew 25:4, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire."
Hell is the single worst and most immoral doctrine of Christianity. The teaching of that doctrine is the greatest failing of Jesus as an alleged spokesperson for God.
A God who allows the Holocaust of WWII is a God that makes one think, and question, and doubt, and search for faith. But a God who has a Hell is CLEARLY, OBVIOUSLY, UNAMBIGUOUSLY, a monstrously cruel God, not a loving God.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE CHRISTIAN BRAIN THAT YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND THIS SIMPLE LOGIC – A GOD WHO TORTURES ANY CREATURE FOREVER, IS NOT A LOVING GOD!!!!!
I believe in a God of ultimate justice. Eternal annihilation for evil people, makes sense to me. But Hell does not. In no way is that a rational God, a just God, or a loving God.
A real book of God would reveal a God of compassion, understanding, and justice, not the egotistical, jealous, vengeful character we find in the Bible. (Exod 20:5, Nah 1:2, Zeph 3:8)
The essence of its God would be reason and compassion, not egotism and a desire to dominate and control. Those are characteristics that reflect a man-made God.
In short, if God wrote a book, you can be damn sure the Bible ain't it.
I think the real God speaks to us through common sense and a good heart, and can only be deeply dishonored by a book like the Bible.....
And, if you are a Christian and you're thinking, "Oh, he's taking a lot of those quotes out of context," …I have no respect for you. None at all. Unless you examine those passages and then explain just what the context is that changes the very plain meaning of those quotes.
Any Christian who uses that fuzzy, generalized, horse-manure "out of context" defense, without making the effort to explain how the context specifically invalidates my statements, is a person without integrity.
I am a theist. A 95% theist, a 5% agnostic. I have a little doubt about God, because there is so much natural evil in the world, and because, try as we might, we humans cannot know there is a God. We cannot get tangible evidence or proof. We can only be convinced by the weight of reason and plausible interpretations of the world we find ourselves in. We must live by a faith in God rather than by a knowledge of God.
But, if there is a God, as I believe there is, I have no doubt, not one iota of doubt, that He is not the Christian God, and, that He is ashamed of Christians for the nonsense they believe to come from Him.
I am a modern theist.
Barbarians from thousands of years ago are not going to dictate to me what to think about God.
Nor is a flawed, religious fanatic like Jesus going to determine for me what God is like. I have too much respect for the real God.
JOUSTING WITH CHRISTIAN APLOGISTS
Christianity contains many harmful ideas––male chauvinism, homophobia, the literal efficacy of prayer, the doctrine of Hell, etc. And these ideas persist because otherwise rational people have been culturally conditioned to accept Christianity as a valid belief system in the first place; they feel compelled to give the bad ideas some credence.
In practice, many Christians have already moved on from the bad notions and have become liberal Christians. They intuitively don’t take the misanthropic teachings seriously. They don’t think gays are evil, or that non-believers will go to Hell. Nevertheless, the more effectively Christianity itself as an overall belief system is refuted, the sooner the bad ideas will dissipate and the sooner people will gravitate towards a more reasonable worldview, be it atheism, or hopeful agnosticism, or "Soft Theism."
Ever since I left Christianity decades ago, I’ve been jousting with Christians. Through hundreds of informal debates I’ve found that the most effective way to change their minds is to argue from their worldview––use the Bible against itself. Point out its many contradictions and immoralities. Christians care what science says, but they care more what Jesus says. You have to operate more from within their worldview.
Recently I’ve managed to engage with some top Christian apologists: Hank Hanegraaff, Hugh Ross, William Lane Craig, and Peter Kreeft. All four men I readily admit are smarter than I am, but let’s see if their defenses hold up against some of my criticisms.
Hanegraaff has been the “Bible Answer Man” on the radio for over 25 years. He is a biblical inerrantist, and is obviously very experienced at answering people’s questions. As is my practice I went in fully prepared, having read many of his books and studied his material. And, as usual, I had to tread a fine line, trying get my points in yet not wear out my welcome. We talked for 3 hours that evening and he invited me to continue our discussion the next day, for 3 more hours.
I claimed biblical prophecy was phony, citing two major ones as demonstrably false. The Bethlehem prophecy predicts that the messiah will be born in Bethlehem.  But if you read Micah 5, this messiah was supposed to be a military leader delivering the Hebrews from the Assyrians. Jesus was not a military leader, nor did he have anything to do with the Assyrians.
The virgin birth prophecy predicts that Jesus will be born of a virgin.  But if you read Isaiah 7, this messiah was supposed to be a sign to Ahaz. Jesus could not have been a sign unto King Ahaz, since Jesus wasn’t born till 700 years later!
Hank responded by saying that Christians often make too much of prophecy. And that these instances were not so much specific predictions as they were foreshadowings of Jesus, the ultimate messiah. They were more “prophecies of type.” I said, in that case they are not particularly impressive, and certainly don’t represent miraculous predictions proving Christianity.
I claimed the Bible was full of contradictions. I cited David committing only one sin all his life (the Bathsheba episode)  set against David committing another grievous sin (taking a census against God’s will).  Hank said we have to give to give the writers the benefit of the doubt, otherwise their writing would die the death of a thousand qualifications. I didn’t see how that statement addressed my claim that this is an unequivocal contradiction refuting biblical inerrancy.
I asked Hank if he thought it was fair that my agnostic sister, my atheist friends, or I myself, a firm non-Christian, all deserve Hell. He said he is not in a position to make that judgment, that that’s up to God. I immediately said, “But you agree with that judgement, so you are in effect making that judgement yourself!” I forget exactly what he said––not condemnatory words, but kind ones––but it was really no answer. I have no way of knowing for sure, but I strongly suspected that he was very uncomfortable during those moments, and in some subconscious way, to some degree, realized how irrational his belief system is.
Hugh Ross is a legitimate astrophysicist. He is a conservative Christian, president of an organization called “Reasons to Believe” which focuses on science and nature to find evidence supporting the Christian God.
As an astrophysicist, Ross is definitely not a Young Earth Creationist, but, he does believe the Flood was a literal event. The average atheist… even the average Christian… would say, “Oh please, give me a break. Tens of thousands of animals restricted to one boat, taken care of by just one family, for a full year?! That’s ridiculous. This is a story, it’s mythology, it’s not an actual event.” I would agree with that opinion, and I was prepared to argue the issue with what I thought were slam dunk arguments.
I asked, “How did the kangaroos get to the ark? Did they hop over the ocean?”
He responded by positing a huge local flood, “worldwide” only in the sense of “the known world at the time.” It was not a global flood. Kangaroos and penguins did not have to reach the ark. Furthermore, insects were not included because the animals on the ark were only those species capable of a relationship with humans, as the Hebrew word suggests. (Or so Ross claims, despite Genesis 6:19 which says, “and of every kind of thing that crawls on the ground”) Thus, the ark held probably less than 5,000 animals, not the tens of thousands people suppose.
I asked, “But how could it be just a local flood if the mountaintops were covered with water?  Water seeks its own level.”
He responded by claiming the Hebrew word there can be interpreted as “elevated hills.” Noah looked out and saw only water to the horizon. So probably a hundred miles of surrounding water was all that was necessary. It doesn’t have to be a global flood. It’s simply a flood that went to the extent of his horizon.
I asked, “How did one family feed all the animals? An elephant needs 300 pounds of food a day! How did Noah store the meat for the carnivores? What did the last two lions eat when they got off the ark? The last two gazelles!? How did any animals find any food at that point? The land had been under water for a full year!”
I don’t remember some of his responses here, but I’ve always found when I can’t remember an answer to a pointed question, then the answer never made sense to me, otherwise I would have remembered it. He did say something about Noah somehow processing the food, and that maybe he had extra gazelles on board.
Though hypothetically possible, his answers were in my view thoroughly unrealistic. To his mind, the excrement problem was a simple matter of opening sliding doors. To my mind, that’s a cartoon version of reality.
I left our session disappointed, in that my arguments seemed to have so little effect on him. But I quickly regained my default perspective: The point is not necessarily to change that particular Christian’s mind, but to get the arguments on the table, and available to others, so that those on the fence can make their own decisions. I have material on YouTube on all four of these men, if you want to see how the arguments played out in detail. Arguments that challenge these top apologists, will work well with the average Christian.
I note that Ross’s modus operandi is exactly what his organization’s name implies. He looks for “Reasons to Believe.” And does not look for reasons not to believe. A classic case of confirmation bias. What he does is gather, valid, often detailed, scientific information, and then retrofits it to vague biblical passages, and considers that yet another confirmation of his belief system. If a passage talks about the heavens being stretched out, he interprets that as confirmation that the Bible knew that the universe is expanding. 
Some years ago Michael Shermer made a great point in a debate he had with Ross: The very first sentence of the Bible contradicts science! “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.” The fact is the earth didn’t show up till billions of years after the universe first showed up. But Ross responds, the phrase “heavens and earth” is a phrase that means essentially “the universe,” “the entire heavens.” We must interpret the phrase in light of the frame of reference of ancient people, not our frame of reference. Christians are very agile in defending their beliefs with tenuous yet possible interpretations of passages.
William Lane Craig
William Lane Craig is an evangelical Christian who runs ReasonableFaith.org, an online apologetics ministry. He has engaged in formal debates with numerous top atheists, including Hitchens, Harris, and Krauss. These debates can be found on YouTube.
I think Craig is the best Christian apologist out there. Sam Harris has referred to Craig as "the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.”  My theory is that that unease is probably due to the fact that the atheist mindset and the Christian mindset mix like oil and water. It’s almost like they are speaking two different languages. Their starting points are so different. To perhaps oversimplify, the atheist regards science as the ultimate measure of reality; the Christian regards a realm beyond science as ultimate reality. At any rate, Craig usually comes out victorious in the eyes of his followers.
I approached him after one of his lectures, and asked if he’d be willing to answer questions from me, a former Christian. He agreed, when his schedule allowed, which was 8 months later. During those 8 months I did an additional massive amount of preparation, reading more of his books, watching all his YouTube debates, taking careful notes so that I knew his position on every issue.
Craig made it clear at the outset that he is not interested in defending biblical inerrancy, that that is an in-house debate. He’d rather answer my questions focusing on Jesus and the essentials of Christianity.
I claimed the Bible is male chauvinistic, citing a passage where women are unclean for a week after giving birth to a male child, but unclean for two weeks for a female child.  He cited Genesis 1:27 as affirmation that the Bible regards all humans made in the image of God and therefore equal in rights. I gave him an analogy: If someone says all men should have equal rights, but then later says, but of course Blacks should sit at the back of the bus, what does that make the first statement? Just rhetoric.
I claimed the Bible supports slavery. He claimed it was not slavery but indentured servitude, actually a helpful social safety net, enabling people to pay off their debts and support their families. I quoted Leviticus 25:44-46, where it clearly allows the Hebrews to own non-Hebrew slaves, and refers to them as “property,” for life. I also cited Exodus 21:29-32, which clearly establishes the Bible’s view that the life of a free man is of more worth than the life of a slave. He had no answer to this, other than to say that that passage at most may refute inerrancy but does not refute Jesus as the Son of God. I responded that it does refute Jesus because Jesus never conscientiously, specifically, repudiated these bad passages, as he must, if he is the source of true wisdom and morality.
We discussed Richard Dawkins and genocides.  Dawkins, if you don’t know, refuses to debate Craig, on the basis that Craig is morally reprobate to intellectually defend Old Testament genocides. Craig went through the whole litany of rationalizations: The evil Canaanites deserved judgment. The babies went to heaven, thus saving them from a bad life. The command was not to kill the Canaanites but to move them out of the land. Craig supported divine command theory: If God ordered it, then it was moral. My position was: Such orders are unconscionable; therefore God did not command it; this is just self-serving human beings talking.
He wished me well, and mentioned that he struggles with some of these same issues. I had told him earlier that I myself do not struggle with them, that the clear answer to me is to reject the biblical God.
Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. Like the other gentlemen, he has written a slew of books, and is highly regarded in his Christian community. I remember someone introducing him to an audience as “the C. S. Lewis of our day.” High praise indeed. Lewis, if you don’t know, is an icon for Christians, as James Randi is for skeptics.
Kreeft is a traditional, middle-of-the-road Catholic. I had talked to him 20 years ago. I emailed him and asked if he’d be willing to continue our dialogue, now 20 years later. Initially he declined, but I cited 1 Peter 3:15 where it says Christians should always be willing to defend their faith. So he agreed and after our meeting invited me to return the following week. We ended up meeting weekly for a couple of months. I relished this opportunity, because I could go over my notes on what we both said, what our arguments were, and follow up on them the following week, until, invariably we ended up agreeing to disagree.
I claimed the Catholic Church could not represent God, or be any kind of moral beacon, because of its history: the Inquisition, the Crusades, corrupt popes, child molestation, etc. He said the Church is like a hospital. It may have bad doctors, bad equipment, bad systems, but that does not refute sound medical principles. The Church is like a hospital for sinners. I told him it was too much for me; I’d look elsewhere for a better hospital.
I told him that I found him to be a very credulous person believing many of these Catholic miracles, the appearances of Mary, flying saints and such. He said, if there is a God, certainly he can do miracles. Why not? I responded, logically yes, but I don’t think He does. I’ve never seen one.
I asked if he thinks Gandhi is in Hell, given that he very specifically rejected Christianity in favor of Hinduism. Kreeft said that was an intellectual mistake on Gandhi’s part. Gandhi believed in love, and Jesus was the personification of love, so Gandhi in effect actually did believe in Jesus. I responded that I don’t think the Bible gives you that kind of latitude.
And my atheist friends? Going to Hell? Kreeft said, let’s take two contrasting atheists. Camus, a moral atheist, is likely in Heaven because he believed in love and compassion. Nietzsche, an immoral atheist, is more likely in Hell. I responded, but isn’t that a liberal position, not a traditional one? He said that on this issue he is a liberal.
I claimed Jesus telling his disciples they can move a mountain by faith is Jesus selling dreams.  He said Jesus is using figurative language; he is not giving us magical technology to literally move mountains. He meant it figuratively. I argued the context shows he was speaking literally, not figuratively. Peter walking on water until he loses faith and starts to sink, is another example of Jesus teaching the literal power of faith.  But you cannot walk on water because of your faith.
I characterized Jesus as a religious extremist, constantly overstating for the sake of impact, at the expense of accuracy.
I claimed Jesus was flat wrong when he said your prayers will be granted. Mark 11:24––"Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."
Kreeft had a very clever response. Jesus meant it eschatologically. He meant, in the end, all your prayers will be answered. I argued that if he meant that, he would have phrased it differently. That eventually things will work out, not that whatever you ask for, you’ll get.
The most salient point we discussed (because it’s such a versatile and pervasive defense of bad passages) was “progressive revelation,” the concept that God reveals Himself and proper morality in stages. I kept pointing out horrible laws and commands by God in the Old Testament, and Kreeft insisted that humans are morally obtuse and that was all primitive man would handle at the time. You don’t teach quadratic equations to kindergarteners.
I countered with an example that shows that was not the case. In Numbers 15:32-36 a man is found gathering wood on the Sabbath. The people weren’t sure what to do with him. They asked Moses and God tells Moses to stone him to death. Here, the people were ready to move on morally (they asked for advice), yet God pushes them right back into barbarism. I told Kreeft that experiments show even Monkeys are capable of compassion, forgoing food so as not to give their companions in the next cage an electric shock. Surely primitive man had enough compassion to see that it was not necessary to kill the poor guy, brutally.
So on most points we cordially disagreed. But we both enjoyed the discussion. Talking about Socrates, we recalled how amusing we found Steve Martin’s skit, “The Death of Socrates.” Socrates drinks the hemlock but only afterwards finds out from his friends that hemlock is poison. “Oooh,” he howls, “I don’t know things specifically. I only know things in general!”
I think a key element in Christianity’s ongoing viability is the work of Christian apologists such as these men. They are highly adept at rationalizing, and providing ostensibly plausible answers. Many Christians look to them and think, “Well, it doesn’t quite make sense to me, but smarter men than myself seem to have good answers.”
To combat their work I think the atheist community needs to step up individually and engage with Christians more. I don’t mean devoting your life to it, but just step up your level of engagement to maybe a few times a year. Approach the person having a burger at McDonald’s reading a bible. Approach the picnic table near you where people are talking about religion. “I overheard you talking. Can I ask you a question?” Christians are usually happy to talk about their religion.
Of course, be civil. You might be thinking, “That’s a load of horse manure,” but say, “I strongly disagree with you on this point.” And use the Bible against itself, what I call the McKinsey approach (Dennis McKinsey, author of The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy). Point out to Christians its contradictions and immoralities. Make them defend the indefensible. The Bible is the Achilles heel of Christianity.
Some good references: Deuteronomy 13:6-10 (intolerance), Leviticus 25:44-46 (slavery), Psalms 137:9 (cruelty), Mark 11:24 (prayer), Revelation 14:11 (Hell). Atheists may like to discuss the existence of God, but I think arguing such a broad topic is not nearly as effective as pointing out specific immoralities in their own Bible.
Maintain a broad perspective. They are not going to give up their religion right in front of you. And they are generally going to hide the fact that you might be having an effect on them. I once received a letter out of the blue from a Jehovah's Witness telling me he left his religion, 16 years after I talked to him.
Keep in mind something McKinsey said to me years ago. “But you can't convert them in twenty minutes. This is one of my big beefs with the atheist, agnostic, humanist groups. They go up and they talk to a guy for thirty minutes. They say, ‘Well, I gave him all my best arguments. He just up and left. Didn't change at all.’
I'm sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, you're going to convert a guy in thirty minutes from beliefs he's held for thirty years!?’ You got to give him some stuff, let him think about it, give him some more stuff later, let him think about it. Just like you've got Sunday school, week after week.”
I responded, “And then maybe a couple years later, when he has some sort of experience, he might remember what you said... and something might click, a light bulb will finally go on.”
* * *
On a personal note, even though I am what I call a “soft theist” (I believe in the probability of a non-intervening general God not tied to any particular religion), and even though I engage with Christians in a congenial way in order to sustain the dialogue, I am, underneath, angry. I am furious. No less so than Dawkins and Krauss. I hate Christianity’s bad ideas and the harm they cause. I hate the idea that traditional faith is regarded as a virtue. Let’s get past political correctness and call Christians out on their nonsense, or at least influence them towards liberal Christianity, so that they feel free to drop the bad ideas and keep only the good ones.
1. John 7:42, Micah 5:6
2. Matthew 1:22-23, Isaiah 7:14
3. 1 Kings 15:5
4. 2 Samuel 24:10
5. Genesis 8:5
6. Isaiah 44:24
7. From “The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig” at University
of Notre Dame, April 2011, at 27:48
8. Leviticus 12:2-5
9. Deuteronomy 20:16-17, 1 Samuel 15:3, Ezekiel 9:5‑6
10. Matthew 21:18-21
11. Matthew 14:29-31
Here’s an argument I don’t think Ross can wiggle out of, having to do with the fact that cows exacerbate global warming. In his book Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job, page 65, Ross writes, “Job 39 brings to mind another way to manage the human contribution to global warming. This passage includes a list of bird and mammal species that seems random at first glance and yet, on closer examination, clearly proves otherwise. Each of the creatures listed once played a unique and significant role in the launch of civilization. The ostrich, for one, can help us again.” And he goes on to extol all the benefits of ostrich meat, clearly implying God’s intent and plan behind all this. Page 68: “The book of Job highlights the theme that God has marvelously designed the universe, the earth, and all its life in such a way as to harmonize ethics and economics.”
OK! Ostrich meat instead of beef. Great idea… but where does it say in the Book of Job that God encourages the eating of ostrich meat? Nowhere! Instead, here is what Leviticus 11:13-16 says: ”These you shall regard as detestable among the birds. They shall not be eaten; they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture… the buzzard… the OSTRICH...”