What to do about odious, but popular, religious beliefs?

Evangelical blogger Randal Rauser has written not one, not two, but three blog posts calling Richard Dawkins cowardly and immoral for refusing to debate William Lane Craig. Rauser’s “If Dawkins believes what he says about Craig…” premise, almost like he’s trying to give atheists advice, reminds me of Greta Christina’s “Letter to Concerned Believers,” but he raises some questions that are worth answering. First:

There are two billion Christians on planet earth. Most of them accept the Canaanite genocide narratives at face value and thus believe that in that particular instance God sanctioned genocide. A minority of Christians like me don’t read them in that way, but that’s irrelevant to the fact that millions do.

The problem with this is that Rauser ignores a very large and important group of Christians: the group that’s totally oblivious to the existence of the Canaanite genocide narrative. My money’s on them being the real majority position, or at least the plurality position. And in the US at least, my experience has been that most Christians, any time you bring up anything nasty from the Old Testament, are just going to say, “Oh, but that was the Old Testament, and I’m really more about Jesus,” without staking out a coherent view. Moving on:

And that’s the problem for Dawkins. Craig’s view on genocide (and that of a majority of Christians) may indeed be reprehensible and ridiculous. But the reality is that this view is not like Holocaust denial which is a fringe position that can best be dealt with through neglect. This is indeed the view of millions of Christians and thus is one well worthy of Dawkins’ expert refutation.

Rauser is treating the issue as one of agree to debate Craig vs. ignore the issue entirely (“neglect”). But Dawkins is hardly ignoring the issue. He also discusses the Canaanite genocide in The God Delusion, mainly for the sake of making the point that people don’t really get their morality from holy texts.

Dawkins is taking basically the right approach there, and Rauser makes a third mistake which shows why:

I spoke with a friend of Craig’s just today who informed me that in one single debate he conducted forty-seven people became Christians. In other words, forty-seven more people became converts to the position that Dawkins views as the moral cousin of holocaust denial.

This is where we get some real nonsense. The position Dawkins is saying is the moral consequence of Holocaust denial is that its A-OK for God to order the extermination of an entire tribe of people, and that he has in fact done so in the past. But that’s not the view Craig would have been trying to win people over to.

Put another way: without even knowing what debate we’re talking about, I can tell you that Craig did not say “I think God once ordered the extermination of entire tribes, and ordered the execution of homosexuals and blasphemers, and sends everyone who doesn’t accept Jesus to Hell, and I think all that’s just fine.”

No, if any of those topics came up in the debate, you can count on Craig to have insisted they were irrelevant (though I think they usually are), and probably not even own up to his views on them. This is one reason why I think, if the goal is to combat Craig’s odious moral views, doing a debate a debate on the existence of God, doing the debate Craig wants, would be pointless. Craig would just evade, evade, evade throughout the debate.

Of course, Dawkins could say “Okay, let’s do a debate on the topic ‘Resolved that the Bible is full of immoral teachings.’” Craig would probably refuse, though, because Craig doesn’t really want to be stuck defending the whole Bible. Few Christians do. With issues like these, Christians basically fall into three groups: those who aren’t aware of them, those who avoid thinking about them, and those avoid talking about them. (There’s also “those who admit the Bible is wrong about some things,” but they tend to not like to think or talk about the bad stuff either.)

This is why what Dawkins is actually doing, writing about the issue in small doses, just trying to make people aware of certain things, makes sense. It completely messes up Craig’s strategy of “declare the issue irrelevant and hope it goes away.” That’s the key thing, much more important than rebutting Craig point-by-point.

I know the reason I’m so opposed to Christian fundamentalism comes more from reading what the fundamentalists have to say than what atheists have to say. Similarly, this Freethought Blogger said that he thought Dawkins’ take on Craig was over the top–until he read Craig’s response. Every time Craig is forced to talk about this stuff, he turns more people off.

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  1. How many people read the Guardian newspaper, quoting Craig’s views on killing children?

    How many people are going to read Craig’s response in the Guardian, explaining why genocide is acceptable?

    Nobody, as the Guardian would never publish such an article.

    1-0 Dawkins.

  2. The link at the end doesn’t work.

  3. Also, I would LOVE to read Craig’s response.

  4. I spoke with a friend of Craig’s just today who informed me that in one single debate he conducted forty-seven people became Christians.

    Does anyone actually believe this story? It seems to me this is just another example of lying for Jesus.


  5. Chris Hallquist

    Link fixes. The “response” I referred to unfortunately wasn’t an article written by Craig, but an article quoting things Craig said in a talk. You can read it here. It would be nice if someone could find the video for said talk, otherwise, we’ll see if Craig posts anything on his website about it.

  6. “…saying Craig does not have the worthy credentials.”

    Dawkins never said that, of course. I have noticed that whenever someone questions Craig’s validity as a scholar (as in, accuses him of not doing scholarly work), people respond by citing his credentials, like that means anything.

    Additionally, did Craig say anything actually “refuting” Dawkins accusations? It sounds more like he just plain admitted it: “the salvation of these children, who were far better dead…than being raised in this Canaanite culture.”

    :shock: Just replace “Canaanite” with “Jewish.”

  7. CRAIG
    We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.

    As the Bible says, greater love hath no man that that he is happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.

    Why all the big fuss about Jesus dying for our sins, when Craig assures us Jesus was happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy?

    When Christians go on and on and on about Jesus dying for our sins they should read William Lane Craig who doesn’t forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.

  8. wld lk t xpln wht ppl rfr t s “Th Gspl” r “Gd Nws”. n ths xplntn, wll dscss Gd’s grc, whch nfrtntly s mny ppl d nt ndrstnd r hv nvr bn clrly xplnd.

    nfrtntly, mny ppl ttnd Chrstn chrch rglrly (r ttndd n n th pst) bt hv nvr bn clrly tght wht th Bbl strsss s th mst mprtnt dcsn tht n cld vr mk. t s nly n mkng ths dcsn tht n ctlly bcms n f Gd’s chldrn nd s “svd” frm Hs trnl jdgmnt. Ths dcsn dls wth wht s rfrrd t s “Th Gspl”. f y hv nvr hrd “Th Gspl” bfr, hr t s. rnd 33 D, Jss Chrst, wh s Gd ncrnt, pd th prc fr vry sngl prsn’s sn n hstry by dyng th dth f crcfxn t th hnds f th Rmns. H wllngly dd fr vry prsn’s sn tht hs vr lvd nd vry wll lv. Tht nclds bth y nd m. H wllng dd dth tht w dsrv fr r mrl flrs n lf. Jss ws brtlly btn, whppd, mckd, spt pn, nld t wdn crss, nd thn dd. Thr dys ltr, H rs frm th dd, s H frtld Hs dscpls (grp f fllwrs). Jss thn scndd nt hvn frty dys ltr. H crrntly lvs wth Gd, Hs fthr, n hvn tdy. Drng ld Tstmnt tms (tms prr t th brth f Jss Chrst – B.C.), ppl hd kn wrnss f thr mrl glt, s ny hnst prsn stll ds tdy. knw tht hv wrngd mny ppl nd hv flt dp-std glt wthn mny rs f my lf. Mny ppl drng ld Tstmnt tms scrfcd nmls t Gd s frm f lmtd tnmnt fr thr mmrl ctns. Gd ftn ccptd ths scrfcs, bt nly n tmprry nd lmtd wy. vr tm, Gd chngd ths xtrmly lmtd frm f tnmnt, s H hd plnnd frm th vry bgnnng f tm. Mrvr, Gd snt Hs n nd nly sn Jss Chrst dwn t th rth. Snc Jss ws bth snlss nd blmlss, H wllngly dd n th crss s n nlmtd tnmnt. t ws n Gd’s wll fr Hs sn t d n ths wy. Ths nlmtd tnmnt s vlbl t ny prsn wh whl-hrtdly rpnts f thr sns (mrl flrs) nd thn sks Gd t prsnlly pply Jss’ ndsrvd dth nd rsrrctn s pymnt fr thr sns. t s mprtv hr tht n blvs th crcfxn f Jss Chrst ws ltmtly n ct f Gd’s grc. Gd dd nt hv t ffr n scp frm r mrl glt nd trnl pnshmnt. Hwvr, Gd s grcs. H hs cmpssn nd lv fr ppl tht s ndscrbbl. Gd wnts t “wp th slt” cln fr s, n rgrds t r mrl flrs. Thrgh ths ctn, w cld thn ntr prsnl rltnshp wth Hs sn Jss Chrst nd scp hs trnl jdgmnt. Th Bbl rfrs t mrl flrs s ‘sn’, r mssng th mrk f Gd’s prfct stndrd f mrlty. “Sn” s n ncnt rchry trm fr n rrw tht mssd th trgt. Gd s lvng n th prst sns f th wrd nd wld lk t grnt s vctry vr th sns tht stll hnt s frm r pst. ll w hv t d s ccpt ths gft f grc frm Hm. t s fr.

    Gd prmss s wy t bcm mrlly blmlss nd gn ntrnc nt hvn ftr lvng r physcl lv hr n rth. Hr s wht w mst wllngly d n r prt. Frst ff, w mst trly blv tht Gd s grcs nd xtndd Hs grc by llwng Hs n nd nly sn t d s rnsm fr r sns n th crss. W mst dmt t Gd tht w hv fld mrlly drng r lftm nd tht Jss Chrst’s brtl dth n th crss s th nly scrfc tht cld vr frgv r sns. ftr mkng ths dcsn (ccptng Gd’s grc), w r mmdtly frgvn f ll pst, prsnt, nd ftr sns. n ddtn, w wld b grntd ntrnc nt hvn ftr r physcl dth hr n rth. W wld thn lv wth bth Gd nd Hs sn Jss frvr. W wld b grntd t s ll f r lvd ns wh hd md ths dcsn drng hs r hr physcl lvs n rth.

    Y cld mk ths dcsn tdy. Pls d nt wt fr th “prfct tm”. Y cld sk Gd fr trnl frgvnss thrgh pplyng th dth nd rsrrctn f Jss t yr lf wthn th qtnss f yr bdrm tnght. Ths s th mst mprtnt dcsn tht y wll vr mk.

    S y mght b skng, “Whr n th Bbl ds t xpln wht hs jst bn smmrzd?” Hr r sm pssgs clrly sttng tht Jss sks prsnl rltnshp wth s:

    “tht f y cnfss wth yr mth Jss s Lrd, nd blv n yr hrt tht Gd rsd Hm frm th dd, y wll b svd; fr wth th hrt prsn blvs, rsltng n rghtsnss, nd wth th mth h cnfsss, rsltng n slvtn.
    – Rmns 10:9-10

    “Thrfr rpnt nd rtrn, s tht yr sns my b wpd wy, n rdr tht tms f rfrshng my cm frm th prsnc f th Lrd; “
    - cts 3:19

    “Fr Gd s lvd th wrld, tht H gv Hs nly bgttn Sn, tht whvr blvs n Hm shll nt prsh, bt hv trnl lf.”
    – Jhn 3:16

    s lng s y rpnt f yr pst sns (mrl flrs) frm th hrt, cnfss wth yr mth tht Jss s Lrd, nd pply Jss Chrst’s dth nd rsrrctn n th crss s pymnt fr yr sns, y r grntd trnl lf wth Gd n hvn. Y cn mk ths dcsn t ny tm, nywhr. Y cn mk ths dcsn ln wth Gd r wthn grp sttng.

    Pls knw tht n cnnt st th fnc n mkng ths dcsn f ccptng Gd’s gft f grc. f n chss nt t dcd, h r sh hs stll md chc. Ths wld b lk rcvng chck (hrng “Th Gspl”) bt nvr ndrsng nd cshng t n t th bnk (prsnlly pplyng Jss’ dth n th crss nd rsrrctn twrds n’s sns).

    “H wh blvs n Hm s nt jdgd; h wh ds nt blv hs bn jdgd lrdy, bcs h hs nt blvd n th nm f th nly bgttn Sn f Gd.”
    - Jhn 3:18

    Th rslt f nt chsng t ccpt Gds gft f grc, whch ffrs trnl lf wth bth Hm nd Jss n hvn s clr. Y wll lv th rmndr f yr lf hr n rth prt frm Jss Chrst nd Hs mpwrmnt. Y wll thn fllw yr lf pln nd nt Hs pln fr y. ftr y physclly d, y wll thn b brght t drk plc whr thr s “wpng nd gnshng f tth”. t s plc f trnl rgrt. Hr, y wll rmmbr ths vry lttr nd hw y wr tld th trth bt chs nt t rpnt nd bgn prsnl rltnshp wth Jss Chrst. Rmmbr, f y chs nt t dcd, y stll hv md chc. Y cld b dgnsd wth trmnl llnss tmrrw r b th rcpnt f hd-n cllsn whl rtrnng hm n tht ll t fmlr, tw-ln hghwy ths Frdy nght. f y r cnsdrng strtng yr prsnl rltnshp wth Jss Chrst, pls d nt wt t mk ths dcsn. Y nvr knw wht tmrrw wll brng.

    Th fllwng pssg tlns th nly rqrmnts Jss Chrst hs st t bth gn trnl lf nd bgn prsnl rltnshp wth Hm whl y r stll lv hr n rth. H mks t crystl-clr n th Bbl wht s rqrd…

    “tht f y cnfss wth yr mth Jss s Lrd, nd blv n yr hrt tht Gd rsd Hm frm th dd, y wll b svd; fr wth th hrt prsn blvs, rsltng n rghtsnss, nd wth th mth h cnfsss, rsltng n slvtn.
    – Rmns 10:9-10

    Gd hs pln fr yr lf. Y cn wtch ths pln nfld nc y ccpt Hs gft f grc. Ths grt pln nvlvs yr lf xprnc whl hr n rth nd cntns ftr yr physcl dth n nt hvn.

    “Fr knw th plns tht hv fr y”, dclrs th Lrd, “plns fr wlfr nd nt fr clmty t gv y ftr nd hp. Thn y wll cll pn M nd cm nd pry t M, nd wll lstn t y. Y wll sk M nd fnd M whn y srch fr M wth ll yr hrt.”
    - Jrmh 29:11-13

    Pls cnsdr wht hv sd hr. m nt sr f y hv vr md ths dcsn bfr, bt ndd t mk sr tht y hd th fcts. f y shld dcd tht y wnt t lrn mr bt th lf f Jss nd gn bttr ndrstndng f thntc Chrstnty, strngly rcmmnd rdng th bk f Jhn wthn th Bbl (NSB r NV trnsltn).

    n clsng, hr s vrs tht smn nc shrd wth m tht fnlly brght m nt rltnshp wth Gd drng n xtrmly lw pnt physclly nd mtnlly. Th ndrstndng f Jss’ dsr t knw m prsnlly chngd my lf frvr. Hr t s:

    “Bhld, stnd t th dr nd knck; f nyn hrs My vc nd pns th dr, wll cm n t hm nd wll dn wth hm, nd h wth M.”
    - Rvltn 3:20

    Yay spam! – Hallq

  9. Thanks, Hallq. I think vowel removal, Old Testament style, is an appropriate response to the post by “Paul”.

    Thanks, Steven Carr. That sums it up fairly nicely.

    To All: Considering Craig’s conceit, moral bankruptcy and devious rhetorical tactics, isn’t it time that all reputable professionals refused to debate with Craig on his terms?

    Wouldn’t it be appropriate to routinely respond to such “challenges” from Craig and his henchmen with a widely broadcast offer giving him the chance to respond to critiques of his ideas in a more objective and scholarly format: academic style rather than snake oil salesman style?

  10. “Considering Craig’s conceit, moral bankruptcy and devious rhetorical tactics, isn’t it time that all reputable professionals refused to debate with Craig on his terms? ”

    I agree completely. It’s a shame that any reputable scholar agrees to debate a guy, who openly admits that the arguments he presents are not actually why he’s a Christian, and that if they’re defeated, he’d just dismiss the refutations since it’s the Holy Spirit that tells him Christianity is true!
    that alone reveals that Craig’s whole project is a sham, and this guy has no clue what intellectual honesty is, or what being an intellectual is, for that matter, despite the fact that he likes to champion himself as one.
    But what’s even worse is that Craig is shameless enough to project his own dishonesty onto his opponents by urging his followers to question their honesty and ask them things like “If I defeat your arguments, would you accept Christianity?” Now that comes from a guy who makes in perfectly clear(in the very same chapter of his ill-named “Reasonable faith” book) that if the same question is posed to him, the answer would be “No”!
    The sheer shamelessness and hypocrisy of this hack is beyond belief. Add to this his genocide apologetics, and one may be forgiven for wondering what the nature of his pathology is. “Craig Syndrome” seems like an appropriate name for it. The science of medicine will no doubt be the only field this nut-bag will impact.