Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 3 (Can Atheists Have Purpose?)

Nick Peters continues his review.


While in a sense I do agree that to say there is purpose in the atheist universe is false, it is not the argument I’d use. I’d instead focus on an argument based on goodness, of which morality is an offshoot, and instead ask the atheist why he thinks X is good. I notice that atheists often have a hard time defining goodness while saying their system can produce it. Despite having said that, this is the question Krueger has raised so let’s look at what he says.

Krueger starts by saying that it’s not clear what Christians and other theists mean by the term. At this point, I have to wonder, “If this is unclear, then why are you writing about it?” Of course, most of us have seen that lack of knowledge is no reason for an atheist to not write on something.

Krueger also says the predestination robs life of purpose. He does at least state that not all Christians agree with predestination. Yet even if one does believe in it, Krueger does not give an argument thinking that if it was already determined before birth, there can be no purpose. Anyone I know who holds to such a view of predestination would simply say “the glory of God.” Krueger ends this section saying that if predestination is the case, then no theologian has ever shown how life could have meaning. It’s quite a strong claim. It’s also an amazing claim to make in light of the fact that he never cites or even names a theologian throughout the book and it would require him to have done exhaustive reading on the subject.

Next Krueger goes after the doctrine of original sin saying that many Christians promote the view that man is basically evil. This is not the same however as saying Christianity promotes this view and again, there are no sources given. I think man’s inclination to evil, but man is good ontologically in that he bears the image of God. It’s worth noting that Krueger also starts this section with loaded language by saying that because of this doctrine all people are condemned to eternal torture.

Ironically, he also goes after salvation by grace in one of the most bizarre looks at it I have ever seen. To start with, Krueger says on this view, one is saved not by works, but by God’s arbitrary decision, which has not been established, although some followers of predestination could hold to something similar. For Krueger, if you have done nothing to deserve salvation, why be moral? The answer is simple. Because one loves God and wants to promote His glory and that this is our correct nature as human beings to seek the good as the good and act accordingly.

Next, Krueger says that following God’s will does not bring purpose since this is slavery. This is assuming that slavery is understood as Krueger understands it, a major assumption. I have no problem saying I am a slave of Christ and I have great purpose in life as I wish to promote my master’s glory.

He also argues that God’s will cannot be determined. It is unclear what he means on this. If he means the sovereign will of God, then I agree. That cannot be known without word from God, such as in prophecy. If he means morality, that can be known to a degree, but even then there are still gray areas. Krueger again points to areas of disagreement as if this establishes a lack of truth. (Question. Does that mean then that areas of agreement should be taken as truth?) One wonders if when atheists disagree that that means atheism is false. We could say “But all atheists agree with macroevolution and that there is no God.” The answer could be “So what? Christians all agree that God exists and that Jesus rose physically from the dead, but they’re still wrong because they disagree on secondary issues.” The sword cuts both ways.

Finally, to close one part, Krueger says the theist cannot show that there is a God. This will of course be dealt with later.

Krueger next says that the purpose of life to some Christians is to avoid Hell. I agree this is not the purpose. I also wonder about some Christians who think the end goal is to get to Heaven as they understand it. Our purpose is the glory of God, the greatest good. Heaven is going to be the realization of that greatest good so that in that sense, Heaven is our goal. However, I see Heaven as being in the manifest presence of God exalting Him for all eternity and enjoying His love. Heaven is defined by God. Our end goal is not a place but a being, the being of God.

Krueger next says that many Greeks led purposeful lives without knowing that God exists, but this is just a misunderstanding along the lines of the moral argument. One does not need to know their purpose for them to have a purpose. One does not need to know the source of morality to know morality.

Krueger does get one thing right in this chapter saying “Whether or not there are no gods is an issue that should be decided on the basis of its truth, not on the basis of whether it is pleasant or useful to believe in gods.” I agree entirely. It would be nice if Krueger treated the question as seriously throughout the book.
Krueger also says that the question of the meaning of life is misleading. It assumes that all people have the same meaning. I agree we should avoid assumptions and it would be good to have them established. Krueger does not spend time interacting with them at all unfortunately. He just throws them out and leaves them for the reader to consider. That’s fine for a teacher in a classroom, but for one making an argument for his position, he needs to deal with them.

Krueger does give a definition in the next part for meaning when he says “Let us define a purpose of life as that part of life which productively shapes the course of one’s life and the selection of goals according to certain criteria.” This is too vague however. Is there any way one could argue on this definition alone that Hitler’s purpose was not to kill Jews for instance? This does boil down to relativism.

Krueger in fact on the very next page argues that “the aspect of creative, positive contribution can be found in any activity.” He quickly makes an exception for criminals, but why? What are they doing? They believe they are living productive lives and are doing so according to one’s criteria. The key word is productively. What does that mean? Productively for who? If it has to be productive for the whole, why should I care?

Krueger also says that an accomplished logician once told him that “the secret to happiness is to find something you liked doing and then find some way to get paid doing it.” Would the same work for a criminal? Krueger would obviously think otherwise, but then I could say to him “So what if I treated this statement of yours the exact same way you treated Jesus’s statements?”

I also believe Krueger gives a wake-up call for the church in saying that purpose
can often be difficult for some theists as they don’t want to change. It’s easier to sell Bibles an raise donations. Krueger has pinpointed a tendency in the church to just go to a worship service, sing a few hymns, listen to a sermon, and then think that you’re doing good. He is absolutely right in this. If we believe our purpose in life is the glory of God, we ought to be living like it is. That will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

On page 84, despite all Krueger has said, he says the meaning of life is what we choose to give it. Again, if that is the case, then we can put Hitler and criminals in the camp of following their meaning to life. Hitler’s meaning was to make the world a better place by eradicating all Jews. Who is Krueger to say he was wrong?

In conclusion, once again, Krueger doesn’t deliver. While there are points made, these are only incidental to his argument. The sad reality however is that so many churches are not fulfilling their purpose that the average Christian is unaware of how to answer Krueger. If we believe in purpose, let us live like it is so.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 2

Nick Peters continues his review:


Now we get into something more entertaining. It’s Krueger’s look at morality. At the start, Krueger says “The view that atheists cannot act according to a legitimate system of ethics is, while erroneous, quite common.” Let me reply with my own position. “The view that the moral argument states that atheists cannot act according to a legitimate system of ethics is, while erroneous, quite common.” Yes, Krueger. You have started off with a straw man. The moral argument is not about if one can be good without God, but if one can have an ontological and epistemological basis for goodness without God.

Krueger says that most theists say that atheism should be abandoned since it cannot account for morals. He contends that theism on the other hand cannot account for morality. If he is right, he believes that theists can no longer raise the charge against atheists. The problem is that theists could very well do that. It would not be the strongest argument and be a tu quoque, but if both views are unsatisfactory, then both are unsatisfactory.

Krueger’s plan is to show that God is not the source of morality and that the Bible is not an adequate basis for morality. The first we will deal with when he presents it. Of course that will be done for the second, but let us state at the start that the Bible teaches morality but it is not to be seen as the source of morality. One can have morality apart from the Bible.

What’s Krueger’s great argument? Why it’s the Euthyphro dilemma!

Because we know in 2,500 years of thinking since then that no theist has addressed this dilemma….

Krueger presents the two horns. Is something good because God wills it? This is a view I do not hold as I agree that it becomes circular. The good is what God wills. That does not tell us anything more about the content of goodness itself and what it means to be good. It is just a tautology.

The same problem applies to saying the good is God’s nature. I agree that God’s nature is good and in fact I agree that what God wills is good, but what I seek to know is what the good itself is. Krueger states that one must then state they have no standard of ethics or that God is not the source.

Or one could go with a more Aristotlean view of Natural Law theory and describe goodness as that at which all things aim and go from there realizing that God is goodness to the full. A good metaphysics based on Thomism could help with that. Krueger embarrassingly says about his argument that, “No theist has ever been able to overcome this strong objection to the view that God is the source of ethics.”

Krueger obviously knows this after going through a round of interviewing Sunday School teachers….

Next, Krueger goes after the Bible. First, he points to a system of rewards and punishments in the Bible stating that this is about self-interest and not ethics.

Unlike modern America where we reward people with bonuses on the job and such for doing good and punish them with jail time for doing evil. Obviously, a truly ethical system says nothing about the consequences of the actions.

Krueger also speaks about the vagueness of the Bible. The commands are too vague. The problem is that Krueger is thinking all of the texts are absolutes in every case and there are no general principles.

Krueger also faults the Bible for not speaking about many issues we have today: Like abortion, contraception, and organ donation. Also pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, right to privacy, etc. Thus, an ancient document is faulted because it doesn’t tell Krueger everything he wants to know. That’s not the role of the Bible, however. It is not meant to teach men how to be good, but to teach them about Christ, and from there, they will want to be good hopefully.

Krueger then lists unethical teachings of the Bible, such as how the Bible says to resist not evil. (See links below for this and other issues noted here.) Also of course, there’s slavery.

There’s also the charge that Jesus was racist since when speaking to the Gentile woman he said it is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs. Never mind that he did heal the woman.'s daughter as asked . Krueger adds that today, compassionate people consider racism immoral. Why? No reason given. They just do.

Next we have the typical rants on genocide with Genesis 7, Deuteronomy 20:16, Joshua 10:40 and 11:20, and 1 Samuel 15. (Sample links below)Then references to God punishing people by forcing them to be cannibals. (See links below again)hen more teaching that since we should obey all authorities, Martin Luther King Jr. could be suffering eternal agony then for standing up to the government and God obviously appointed Hitler and Mao.

Then we get to kidnapping and rape. First on the list is Numbers 31 where Moses supposedly tells the soldiers that they may rape the daughters. (Chapter and verse please Krueger?) There’s also Deuteronomy 21:10-14 as expected. Finally, Judges 21:10-24.

Krueger also says the Bible sanctions killing innocents during war time (Since we all know the Geneva Convention was in place back then) using Isaiah 13 as an example.

Next, we have verses on women. There’s the common headship passages from Scripture. Also, Krueger states that Leviticus 12 has childbirth as a sin and obviously having a girl makes one twice as sinful. Krueger tells us that scholars tell us that the idea of clean or unclean does not refer to hygiene but one’s relationship to the divine. Which scholars? Beats me. He never cites them.

Next is Leviticus 19:20-21 and Deut. 22:23-24 and 28-29. Krueger describes the test for virginity in Deut. 22:13-21 as barbaric. (Obviously) Numbers 5:11-31 reportedly has an agonizing adulteress test. Finally, the Ten Commandments include a wife among one’s possessions.

Once again, Krueger tells us that today, compassionate men and women believe that men and women should be considered equals. Upon what basis? Well, none is given.

Krueger also says the Bible is contradictory on ethics. Can one love one’s enemies and send them to Hell? In essence, yes. God gives people what they want and is for their best good.

Krueger also looks at name-calling such as calling someone a fool which supposedly goes against Colossians 3:8 .

What about lying? We have the hilarious notion that Jesus says in John 18:20 that he always taught in synagogues and the temple, but this is false since he taught a sermon on a mountain. The text also says he said nothing in secret, but obviously he did teach things in secret. Of course, there’s John 7 as well and Luke 23:43 is a source of lying since Acts 2:31 says Jesus descended into Hell. Also mentioned are 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 and 1 Kings 22:20-23. Ezekiel 20:25-26 is used to show that God gave the people bad laws.

Should we honor our parents? According to Krueger, Luke 14:26 says we shouldn’t. His source on what the word miseo means in that verse is Darrel Henschell. (Who??) Most horrific of all however is that in John 2, Jesus refers to his mother as “woman” twice. GASP! THE SCANDAL!

Krueger looks at possible objections. The ideas are modern entirely. I agree that we should not appeal to feelings. I do think however that the atheist needs his own system of ethics, which Krueger will get to now.

What are they? Well there’s Kant. Kant believed in a good will and Krueger says that what is important is one’s motive then. Fair enough. If my motive for torturing children is that it brings me pleasure, is that good? To be sure, motive is a part in ethics, but it is not the only part.

Kant also said that one should only will as a principle what they think should be universalized. So let’s look and see what I could do with this. I will it as a principle that I treat myself as the highest good. I think everyone else should also treat me as the highest good. Krueger could say that I am not treating the principle rightly. I could respond saying I just did the exact same thing he did with the biblical aphorisms. I think there is some truth to Kant’s idea, but there are problems as well as there are with any aphorism.

Then of course there’s Utilitarianism, which is also vague and then has some problems. Consider the case of an island with 51 stranded people. 50 are men and one is a woman. The men decide they will increase the maximum pleasure of themselves by raping the woman regularly. Her unhappiness will not outweigh their happiness. Would this be immoral on Utilitarianism?

The problem with the Utilitarian ethic is that it only looks at consequences. It does not pay attention to the other aspects. Consequences are part of a system, but not the whole. Also, pleasure and pain are quite vague. We all know of pleasures we ought to avoid, and we all know of harms we ought to allow. Wine can be a good pleasure, but too much makes you drunk, a bad outcome. Pain is generally to be avoided, but we all know we’d have a painful but necessary surgery.

Also, in listing all of these, Krueger does not give a criterion for goodness. Note that this was the objection of the Euthyphro dilemma. Krueger himself must answer it. How is he to define good? If he cannot, he is just taking ethical systems and saying that they are good, but upon what basis? What is this goodness? Krueger never tells us. There is no interaction with Natural Law thinking whatsoever. No theistic sources are ever cited.

I conclude that Krueger has not made his case and even granting other ethical systems, they still need a basis for goodness and that is only in theism.

(JPH note: Here's just a sample of links answering Krueger's silly claims. Since I know this is all over his head -- having dealt with him before -- we'll leave it at these, because if he ever sees this, they'll keep him busy for years.)

http://www.tektonics.org/TK-C.html (entry under Cannibalism)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 1

For this week's Forge entry I'll turn the reins over to Nick Peters, who will present us with a multi-part critique of one of my old whipping boys -- Doug Krueger.

In our modern age, we have the plethora of new atheists writing against religion. While it could have been thought that poor research was something that would belong to the new atheists, it turns out that Krueger back in 1998 had already set the standard. While one would expect to see argumentation against the other side, keep in mind that in this work, Krueger cites ZERO apologists in this one.

However, let’s see what his case is and to be fair, he does start off with the right place by asking the question of what atheism is. The sad reality is that apparently, he doesn’t know.

Krueger gives two definitions. The first is that one does not assent to theistic belief. The second is that the theistic belief is false. The reality is that the second answer is the correct one. Many atheists have been trying to hedge their bets lately by saying that not holding theistic beliefs makes one an atheist.

However, that would mean that this computer is an atheist. My cat is an atheist. A rock is an atheist. If not having theistic beliefs makes one an atheist, then all manner of unintelligent beings are atheists. (Okay. That might not differ too much in some cases, but there are some obvious absurdities.)

A belief should say something about reality rather than the belief itself. Saying “I do not hold theistic beliefs” tells me something about you, but does it say anything about your view of reality. Are you saying “I believe the views of theists are false?” If so, then are you not an atheist since the a before the word theist stands for negation?

It’s just a lot easier to not really assert anything and leave the burden of proof to the theist. Does the theist have a burden of proof? Of course, but so does the atheist. Anyone making a claim has one. Fortunately, Krueger does take the route of affirming that there are no gods.

Krueger goes on from there to list a number of statements about what atheism isn’t. Again, no sources are given. Who are these people raising some of these objections? No idea.

The first is that people become atheists so that they can do whatever they want. Krueger rightfully says that people should adopt beliefs because they are true. Of course they should, but one would hope that Krueger would realize that this isn’t always the case. To say it should is not the same as to say it is.

I, for instance, would not deny that I am sure that many Christians become Christians for emotional reasons. That does not mean that their belief is false. Some are Christians because they were raised that way. That also does not make it false. I also believe there are some atheists that do want to live the way they wish and if God is real, they realize that that cannot be the case.

Krueger also says that atheists do not hate God. Well in the sense that they think He is not real, they don’t. However, there are some who do despise the Christian concept of God and give thanks that He is not real, such as Christopher Hitchens.

The next is that an atheist is one who worships satan. For this, I would really like to know the source. Now as a Christian, I do believe that an atheist is in fact doing his work that in the end serves the cause of satan, but I do not believe he is actively worshipping the devil.

Krueger also says the atheist does not worship anything. While he thinks the idea of having something viewed as ultimate in one’s life is vague, what is vague about it? What does Krueger really want in life? It could be anything. It could be pleasure, sex, money, happiness, power, etc. Whichever one it is, that could be said in a sense to be the one Krueger lives his life in devotion to.

Krueger also says someone is an atheist because they had a fight with a religious authority. Let’s keep in mind that in Loftus’s autobiographical portion of his book, he mentions the way the church treated him as having an impact on him becoming an atheist. Now of course, this is not a rational reason to become an atheist, nor do I think it’s common, but it can happen.

The last is that all atheists believe the same thing, whatever X is. Now in a number of cases, atheists believe different things. They can have different stances on politics, morality, philosophy, science, etc. However, they are all united on one thing. They all deny God’s existence.

Krueger says that it is common for Christians to assume someone is a spokesman for atheism and then criticize that person. He does list Nietzsche, Marx, and Sartre as people who have been attacked. He also says some have gone after Kierkegaard, who was a Christian. The only thing he doesn’t mention is who these Christian writers are. Not one is mentioned. For something common, one would think he would take the time to show an example.

Krueger goes on to state that atheism is not a worldview or a philosophy of life, but just a part. After all, you don’t believe that there are unicorns. Is that your worldview?

Because we all know the existential relevance of unicorns and God are exactly the same.

God is seen only as the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, creator, provider, sustainer, and judge of the universe and the ground of all being. Unicorns are seen as magical horses that have a horn coming out of their heads. Obviously, these two are quite similar.

Of course, many Christians do not take God seriously and many atheists sadly take Him more seriously than Christians do. Unicorns are not the same because there is not as much relevance to one’s view of reality with that question as there is with the God question. If you find out there are unicorns one day and you’re an atheist, well you’ll have to rethink your worldview, but you could still find a way to be an atheist. If you find out there’s a God and you’re an atheist, you do have to change your worldview. Everything else has to be reevaluated.

Next time, we shall have some fun looking at Krueger on morality.

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Forge Posting Schedule

So, now that we're done shaming Christian Lindtner, as noted the Forge will now enter a phase of reduced posting. I'll be sure and get in at least one post a week, though it may be on any particular day I get the urge to rant about something. If nothing else, Friday will be the date for a post so that everyone can get some extra oomph for the weekend. (hee hee) It's been interesting trying to produce this much writing every week, and it was a test to see how far that could go without affecting quality. In my view, it's a good time to reduce that output before things get too thin.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shaming Christian Lindtner, Part 7

In this last part, Lindtner goes off in all directions talking about everything from Bolsheviks to genocides in Asia to Jewish "ethnocentrism". Then for icing on the cake his credits include references to people who refute Holocaust deniers.

So that's it for now. If you want to join in on the fun, though, one of Lindtner's groupies -- who has posted here in comments -- is taking a shellacking from me at TheologyWeb (link below), where after 3 days he still can't argue for a pre-Christian date for any Buddhist source and still can't seem to use a (pseudo-)scholarly source that wasn't published when Kersey Graves was in diapers.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shaming Christian Lindtner, Part 6

This part was interesting inasmuch as Lindtner was asked why he changed his mind on these issues. The short-winded answer is that he claims to have looked into it more. Kind of funny that this all happened just as we were publicly crucifying him.

Another hilarity is that he offers the standard misreading of "eye for an eye" as a warrant for revenge when it was actually intended to stop blood feuds (though by the NT era, it was abused as Lindter describes).

One more part to go - at least I haven't needed any nausea medication yet.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Shaming Christian Lindtner, Part 5


Turns out Linthead is not an entirely reformed character. Yes, he does flip flop from his prior pose on the gas chambers; now he says they existed. But, er, that darned "Holocaust religion," he says, has inflated that number of Jews killed. Not 6 million, as the real historians say. Some lower number, which I think he did offer, but which I couldn't quite hear for sure since he has this tendency to mumble or trail off, and though his English is good, either his heavy accent can make him hard to understand in English...or maybe the sound quality was not that good.

At any rate, he blames the Bolsheviks for initially inflating the numbers, and everyone else for going along with it. I'm obviously not expert enough to defend the six million figure on my own, but it takes a lot more that paranoid suspicion to rebut it. Will he have more than that in Parts 6 and 7?

You already know that answer.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shaming Christian Lindtner, Part 4

Lindtner continues to pose himself as a reformed character, but in Part 4, he does an end-around and a flip flop at the same time, which is an anatomical feat only he could perform. Note first his previous denial of gas chamber:

Are we to believe, like most people do, in the rumours about some physically and technically impossible gas chambers in which millions of Jews were killed - even though no one to this day has been able properly to locate such places of horror on the map?

Near the end of Part 4, Lindtner indicates there it is “universally accepted” (!) that there is no “physical evidence” of these gas chambers, but…er…it would still be a “huge mistake” to say there was “no mass murder”. Because they shot people en masse.

Uh HUH. I didn’t deny the Holocaust, I just denied how they did it. Riiiight…

Part 5 will apparently have more on this, so we may have a lot to report Friday. There’s also in Part 4 another historically fascinating (frightening) original speech, this time from Heinrich Himmler.

I think matters are summed up well by a reader also following this situation:

Why did Lindtner solidify his position against the holocaust for so long without doing an in-depth study of the issue in the first place? Should he not have made sure of what he was saying before he said it? If he was so incredibly ignorant of data against his position regarding the Holocaust, a series of events which occurred not even one hundred years ago in his own backyard (Europe), why should anyone trust his analysis of ancient Christian (or even Buddhist) documents?

It seems to me that in his heart, Lindtner is the kind if person who just enjoys stirring up controversy. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn someday that he doesn't actually have any real beliefs about any of these things.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shaming Christian Lindtner, Part 3

Flip, flop. Flip, flop.

In part 3 of his 7 part series, Lindtner has the appearance of having gone full circle -- from denier to debunker of deniers -- as he spends all of this one discussing and affirming evidence for mass murder of Jews by the Nazis (and refuting claims of one denier).

It might be nice if it weren't so transparently self-serving.

On the side, if there IS any reason to watch these too-late mea culpas, it's for the strictly historical interest of listening to the recordings offered in a couple (at least) of Hitler making speeches. You really can't grasp the evil power of Hitler as a speaker until you've actually heard him speak. Personally, such charismatic speakers don't make an impact on me at all, but I can see how easily he'd have influenced some of the dumb bells around these days -- like the ones on YouTube.