Does Christianity Offer the Best Basis for Science?

There’s an argument I’ve run across several times, that theism, and specifically Christianity, forms a much better basis for science than does atheism. Indeed, some people go so far as to claim that only Christianity provides a foundation for science. Matt Slick at CARM lays it out well (though Don Johnson Ministries makes a similar argument). After listing a number of influential scientists who were Christians, Slick writes:

To many Christians, the idea that God existed and brought the universe into existence meant that the universe could be understood because God was a God of order and his character would be reflected in creation (Rom. 1:20).  Instead of a Pantheon of gods who ran the universe in an unpredictable fashion, Christianity provided the monotheistic bedrock (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8; 45:5) upon which the scientific study of nature could be justified.  Many Christians expected to find the secrets that God had hidden in the universe and were confident in being able to discover them.  This is a critical philosophical foundation that is necessary if an emerging culture is to break the shackles of ignorance and superstition in order to discover what secrets exist in the world around them.

This emphasis on order seems odd, since one of the main features of Christianity is miracles, that is, violations of natural law. Without at least the resurrection of Jesus, there is no Christianity. Add to that the various miracles Jehovah, Jesus, and various and sundry saints are said to have performed, the common notion that God sometimes responds to prayer by performing additional miracles, and weekly transubstantiation in church, and you get a picture of reality in which any regularities, any laws of nature exist only so long as a malleable deity permits them to exist.

If scientists like Kepler and Newton saw the Christian God as fundamentally one of order rather than caprice, and drew inspiration for their scientific pursuits from that, fine. But that’s hardly the only type of Christianity out there. I doubt that theirs was even a majority view. But in a time and place where pretty much everyone was Christian (and where not being Christian often carried either social stigma or legal penalty), of course Christians are going to be the ones doing science.

It seems to me that Taoism is a much better match for Matt Slick’s description than Christianity. You could, I think, make a strong case for the notion that the Tao is natural law. There’s certainly the notion that you can either go with the Tao, or you can wear yourself out trying to go against it.

(Yes, this still leaves the question of why so many scientific discoveries came from Europe rather than China. But that’s an interesting question for another day. I suspect that the fact that Europeans wrote American history textbooks has something to do with it.)

I suppose it wouldn’t do to mention alchemy and algebra, whose prefix “al” betrays their Muslim origin. Or the fact that a large proportion of visible stars have Arabic names.

I also don’t see why it takes a whole religion or worldview to want to figure out what makes the world tick. Anyone can see that day follows night, summer follows spring, rocks always roll downhill, never up, and that oaks only come from acorns. Clearly there are some regularities, and these can be investigated. We’re curious creatures; figuring stuff out is fun.

There’s a related claim to the one that Christians founded all the sciences: that Christians founded all the major universities. I haven’t checked this, but I see no reason to doubt this claim.

This brings me to my final point: let’s grant, at least for the sake of argument, that Christians, motivated by their understanding of God as a lawmaker, got all of the sciences started; that most or all of the major universities were founded as institutions to learn how God set up the universe; that Christianity is the only religion — the only worldview — that could have kickstarted science this way, and that out of those beginnings grew science as we know it today… so what? Why keep religion around today?

A scaffolding is essential when beginning a new building. But after a certain point, it needs to go. I was on an all-milk diet for the first, crucial part of my life, and that helped make me into the person I am today. But that doesn’t mean that I should continue to drink milk as an adult; I especially shouldn’t be on an all-milk diet.

Whatever benefits religion may once have provided to science, these days it just gets in the way, from creationism to anti-gay “conversion therapy” to faith-based climate change denialism. It’s time to jettison it.

The Last Superstition: The First Cause

Chapter 3: The First Cause

If you thought Feser’s “Unmoved mover” argument was just mental masturbation, the sort of sophistry that gives philosophy a bad reputation and evokes the image of a tweed-wearing ivory tower professor using five-dollar words to ask meaningless questions, then you can skip his First Cause section, because it’s more of the same.

He begins by asking,

In order for the universe to undergo change, it obviously must exist. In particular, it must persist in existence from moment to moment. So why does it do so? [p. 109]

In the previous section, we saw that Aquinas assumed, as so many did, that objects in motion stop of their own accord, and need something to keep them going; and that Newton showed that that’s not a general rule, it’s just the way things usually play out on Earth.

Feser’s question here seems to stem from the same source: that there has to be some sustaining force for the universe to not collapse on itself and disappear in an instant. It seems that “things are the way they were a moment ago” isn’t the sort of thing that needs an explanation. If the universe did disappear, that would be a big change, something that required an explanation.

But Feser prefers to go on for a few pages about essences and “creating cause[s]”. I’ll spare you. The main question is, if B caused A, and C caused B, what happens as you go up the chain of causes?

No, the only thing that could possibly stop the regress and explain the entire series would be a being who is, unlike the things that make up the universe, not a compound of essence and existence. That is to say, it would have to be a being whose essence just is existence; or, more precisely, a being to whom the essence/existence distinction doesn’t apply at all, who is pure existence, pure being, full stop: not a being, strictly speaking, but Being Itself. [p. 108]

I’m not sure why the above is a better ultimate explanation than “it’s just that way” (I mean better in the sense of helping us understand the world around us, not in the sense of being emotionally satisfying.)

You might wonder why, if the cause of the universe is, ultimately, existence, why we need a separate word, especially one with as much baggage as the word “God”. In the next paragraph, he tells us: the first cause is the prime mover, and “Hence, equally obviously, the First Cause is God. [p. 108]”

The Supreme Intelligence

True to form, Feser starts and ends this section with several pages of complaining about New Atheists and others. When he finally gets around to making his argument, he starts by raising the question of why the universe exhibits any regularities:

But there is no way to make sense of these regularities apart from the notion of final causation, of things being directed toward an end or goal. For it is not just the case that a struck match regularly generates fire, heat, and the like; it regularly generates fire and heat specifically, rather than ice, or the smell of lilacs, or the sound of a trumpet. It is not just the case that the moon regularly orbits the earth in a regular pattern; it orbits the earth specifically, rather than quickly swinging out to Mars and back now and again, or stopping dead for five minutes here and there, or dipping down toward the earth occasionally and then quickly popping back up. [p. 114]

This seems equivalent to asking, “why is it, in the general case, that things left to their own devices act in certain ways but not others?”

He continues:

And so on for all the innumerable regularities that fill the universe at any moment. In each case, the causes don’t simply happen to result in certain effects, but are evidently and inherently directed toward certain specific effects as toward a “goal.” [p. 115]

Note the teleology — or, if you will, the question-begging: things behave in a certain way, so that must be their end-aim, purpose, or “goal”. But you can’t have a purpose without someone deciding what the purpose is:

Yet it is impossible for anything to be directed toward an end unless that end exists in an intellect which directs the thing in question toward it. [p. 115]

I believe this is known as painting a target around the arrow: the moon orbits the earth, therefore its purpose is to orbit the earth. But since you can’t have a purpose without a mind, someone must have set it up that way.

Could such a Supreme Intelligence possibly be anything less than God? It could not. For whatever ultimately orders things to their ends must also be the ultimate cause of those things [p. 117]

By this logic, the architect who decided to assemble bricks into a house — that the house is the end goal and purpose of the bricks — is also the person who baked the bricks. It seems apparent that Feser is not interested in following evidence and logic wherever they lead, but rather in finding paths to his favorite conclusion. That is, apologetics.

Series: The Last Superstition

It’s Too Soon to Ask for Evidence, and What Is Evidence, Anyway?

Let’s take a peek over at Eve Keneinan’s post Keeping Track, which recounts a Twitter discussion between her, @MrOzAtheist, and Mark Houlsby, about Houlsby’s assertion that

There is no evidence for God. Therefore God does not exist.

Here’s a representative excerpt from Keneinan’s recap/rebuttal:

But evidence is an epistemological concept, pertaining to knowledge, to how we know that something exists or not, and what its properties are. Existence on the other hand is a metaphysical or ontological concept.

And another:

His claim that MH1: There is no evidence for God is already defeated by AMH1: It is possible there is evidence of God that has not yet be discovered.  I of course hold there is evidence for God, and plenty of it, [and so on, and so on]

And this (emphasis added):

I and others have attempted to refute this argument by arguing “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” We proffered plausible counterexamples: such things as protons (at one time), intelligent life in the Andromeda galaxy, and black holes (at one time). We argued that it is overwhelmingly likely that there are things for which we do not yet have evidence.

Go read, or at least skim, the whole thing if you’re curious.

In my experience, this sort of argument isn’t at all unusual for the more intellectual, ivory-tower sort of apologist. But here’s the thing: Keneinan says that “at one time” there wasn’t evidence for black holes. That “at one time” was on the order of a century: it was 101 years ago that Karl Schwarzschild discovered the radius around a collapsed star that bears his name.

A hundred years ago, we couldn’t sequence DNA because we didn’t know its shape and didn’t understand its role in reproduction. Hell, we hadn’t even isolated insulin yet.

Keneinan uses the word “galaxy” in the full knowledge that everyone knows what that is, and why it’s difficult to find life there. But a hundred years ago, we didn’t know that those fuzzy blobs in telescopes were in fact other cosmic islands of stars like our Milky Way. We didn’t know about the expanding universe or the Big Bang.

Meanwhile, we’ve had Islam for 1400 years, Christianity for 2000, Judaism for over 3000, and they’re still stuck on “well, you can’t disprove God” and “what constitutes evidence, anyway?”

You’d think that if there were any solid evidence for God, it would’ve shown up by now.

Even the Faithful Have Given Up on Faith

Over at The Way of the Mister, Brian Dalton makes an important point:

I’ve often heard the argument that “I don’t have enough faith to believe in {evolution/the Big Bang/atheism}”, and maybe you have, too. Hell, it’s the title of a book by apologist heavyweights Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.

“I don’t have enough faith” is usually presented with a good dose of sneering at the fools who believe in such obvious fairy tales as evolution. But saying “I don’t have enough faith to believe in something so utterly ridiculous” implies that faith is something that you use to believe utterly ridiculous things, something you resort to when you don’t have evidence or reason.

I expect someone will say “Ah, but we’re talking about two different types of faith, here. One is a vulgar, colloquial form, closer to naïveté or even gullibility, than to the pure, sublime sort of faith that allows contact with God.” I don’t buy it, because it’s always presented as “I don’t have enough faith”, never “I don’t have the kind of faith that would allow me to believe in evolution”.

Consider, too, that religious institutions — high, low, and everything in between — love the idea of physical evidence for religious claims, especially things like miraculous cures of diseases, but also glossolalia (speaking in tongues), demonic possession, and other forms of supernatural intervention. No one ever seems to exalt those of Jesus’ disciples who, unlike Thomas, didn’t ask for evidence: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

People pay faith a lot of lip service, but that’s all it is. In every area where we can see the results, we’ve figured out that evidence and reason are far more reliable pathways to knowledge than faith is. If you were considering lending me money, and I suggested that you take it on faith that I’ll repay the loan, rather than running a credit check, you’d laugh me out of the room.

Faith has failed. It failed a long time ago. It’s just that people don’t want to admit it, because it allows them to believe in gods and miracles.

Apologetics of the Day: God Hides to Show He Exists

So I ran out of good podcast episodes, and was listening to The Mar. 18, 2014 episode of Bryan Fischer’s Focal Point (or, as George Orwell might have put it, the Two Hours’ Hate).

He started by railing against Bill Maher. For those who missed it, Fischer, along with the rest of right-wing America, got upset at Bill Maher for pointing out that the God of the Bible, the one who drowned every single person on earth, is a psychotic mass-murderer with anger issues. Apparently you’re not supposed to call attention to that.

On his show, Fischer pointed out the logical flaw in Maher’s reasoning by saying that he , and since God didn’t actually murder him right then and there, that proves that God is merciful and kind.

God allows Maher to continue living after saying these things, Fischer explained, is in order to give Maher an opportunity to repent and ask forgiveness.

“Bill Maher might have thought he was being hip and kind of trendy and kind of cool and all of that,” Fischer said, “but he is going to be judged for those careless words. God hopes it doesn’t come to that. God could, by all rights, take him right now and Bill Maher would have to face judgment by the end of the day. Why doesn’t He do that? Because He is patient with Bill Maher. He doesn’t want to have to do that. He wants to give Bill Maher the time to come to his senses and to come to a place of repentance

Yesterday, Fischer continued in this vein (starting around 2:31 in the podcast; dunno about the video):

[t]he reason that God doesn’t judge us the moment we commit a sin is because he is patient. He is kind, he doesn’t want to judge. He is slow to judge, but abounding — slow to anger, but abounding in loving kindness and mercy. And he is patient with all men because he wants all men to come to the knowledge of the truth. He doesn’t want any to perish. That’s his heart.

And so that’s what I explained about Bill Maher: why does God let Bill Maher get away with those kind of profane, blasphemous rants? Well, it’s because he loves him, and he’s extending patience to him and he is hoping that by giving Bill Maher enough time, he will come to the place of repentance. […] Just simply speaking Biblical truth about God’s heart toward those who are clearly his opponents, hostile to him, why he lets them get away with so much? Because he’s patient, does not want any to perish, wants all men, including Bill Maher, to come to the knowledge of the truth.

One thing I noticed is how Fischer tells us what God wants. Apparently the rule is that when God does something bad, like kill everyone in the world in a flood or fail to stop the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, you’re not allowed to say that God is a murderer, or indifferent, or like that; the “mysterious ways” rule applies. But when God does something good, like cure someone’s cancer or fail to reduce a talk show host to a pile of ashes, go ahead and talk to your heart’s content about what’s in God’s mind.

But mainly, I noticed that according to Fischer, the real reason God didn’t murder Bill Maher is because he wants Maher to “come to the knowledge of the truth”, i.e., that God exists. And so God didn’t do anything. Because what better way to show someone that you exist than by remaining hidden and not doing anything, just like a thing that doesn’t exist? That’s just logic theology.

Paul Taylor’s Fickle Exactness

Paul Taylor, who helps Eric Hovind run the family misinformation mill in the absence of his father Kent, accuses people who think Noah’s Ark was just a story of not having done our homework:

Question 1: How did they all fit on the boat and who put them in there? Don’t forget that there were two of each specie(sic) (male & female) 

[…] The questioner makes a more serious error, however, by not actually reading the Bible. If he had read the account in Genesis, then he would have realized that the biblical account does not even refer to “species.” Instead, it refers to kind. The Hebrew word for kind is mîn. For this reason, creation biologists have started to use their own technical term for this grouping of creatures—baramin. The Hebrew bara means “created,” so baramin is a created kind.

Got that, scoffers? Specific words have specific meanings, and unless you’re careful to use just the right word, you’re arguing against a straw man!

For example:

Question 4: Didn’t Noah have to wait for many years to get the snail on-board?

Noah did not take invertebrates onto the Ark, only animals with lungs (Genesis 7:15). Invertebrates can survive such conditions.

Spineless, lungless, eh, what’s the dif’?

Anatomical snail diagram
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Aside from the absence of a spine, note the presence of a rather large lung, which Taylor says doesn’t exist.

Of course, that’s just a diagram. That snail lung could be as fictitious as dragons and unicorns. How about a photo?

Snail lung. Photo by salyangoz, from here.

Yeah, but that’s ‘shopped. I can tell by the pixels. Pixels are scoffers. Well-known fact, that.

Paley’s Computer

(I could’ve sworn I wrote about this earlier, but I can’t find it in the archive now. So sorry if this is a duplicate.)

Let’s say you’re visiting a foreign country, along with a native. As you’re wandering the forest, you see a mechanical watch on the ground. You pick it up, open it, examine its mechanism, and wonder among yourselves how it might have come to be in the forest, who designed it, who manufactured it, and so on.

After walking a bit further, you see a computer in a glade, its LED lit, its fans whirring, its power supply connected to an array of solar panels, its monitor showing a CAD tool with plans for a watch. It says “Dell” on the side.

You ask your guide about this device: who designed it? Who built it? Who decided to install it in the woods, of all places, and why? He says, “It’s always been here. As far as anyone can tell, it’s been here since the beginning of time.”

Satisfied, you nod your head and move on.


This is, of course, ridiculous. A computer is a big complicated thing whose presence demands an explanation, and you can’t get around that just by saying that it’s always been there.

For those who didn’t recognize it, what I’ve done here is to combine two common Christian arguments. The first is Paley’s Watchmaker, which says that a complicated thing requires a complicated designer.

The second adapts the Kalam argument to Paley’s watch. Briefly: the First-Cause Argument says that life/the universe/everything is a big complicated thing that didn’t just happen on its own, and therefore demands an explanation. If everything has a cause, we can ask what caused life, and then ask what caused that, and what caused that, and so forth. Eventually, we’re bound to come to the Ultimate Cause, which has no cause of its own. And hey, let’s call that God because that’s what we’re trying to prove.

At some point, someone realized that if everything has a cause, then it’s fair to ask what caused God, and what caused the thing that caused God, and so forth. So the argument was modified to say that everything that begins to exist has a cause, and BTW God is eternal and therefore never began to exist, and therefore doesn’t require an explanation.

I hope I’ve demonstrated, above, that being eternal is not sufficient for not requiring an explanation. Heck, the four-color theorem, Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, Pascal’s last theorem are all eternal, yet they’re all complex entities that demand an explanation. If “it’s eternal, therefore it doesn’t require an explanation” were true, math class would be a lot shorter. In other words, Kalam is basically a very fancy and roundabout way of saying “I don’t need to explain God because shut up is why.”

(Some people might object that I’m casually using “cause” and “explanation” interchangeably. Yes, I am. Because for my purposes, they’re close enough that the distinction doesn’t matter.)

No, what short-circuits the infinite regress of explanations is when we get to something simple enough not to require further explanation. An explanation for Paley’s watch might be “the watch was designed in the same way as a ship’s rigging or a water pump, but smaller, more delicate, and more complicated.

But if “God” is the ultimate simple explanation, perhaps a principle of logic, like “0 = 0”, then that god loses a lot of the attributes that people who want God to exist really want that god to have. Like caring about their welfare. Like being aware of them, or indeed, of the Milky Way galaxy. Like being capable of noticing those sorts of things. Which “0 = 0” doesn’t. I’ve had people tell me that there are arguments to show why the Ultimate Uncaused Cause must necessarily have been a Jewish carpenter who was executed 2000 years ago, but somehow they never got around to presenting these arguments.

Christians Are Better than Their Religion

I had a lengthy discussion with one Nathanael Brown. (I’m sorry that the discussion is disordered, that you have to read it bottom to top, and there isn’t good threading. Blame Twitter.) Since this started in the context of demonstrations on the National Mall, both for and against, about whether the Bible’s rules about marriage and divorce should be written into US law.

He allowed that US law is not the same as God’s law, but with a caveat:

So I used Jeff Dee’s approach and asked what that meant: specifically, whether this was a threat, and what will happen to me after I die if I don’t accept Jesus. Would I be sent to hell, and would there be suffering?

He was very reluctant to answer directly:

I kept asking, and he kept ducking the question, hiding behind such fig leaves as Bible quotations and

and

In short, Nathanael came across as very reluctant to either face up to the ugly side of his belief, or either defend or condemn the “worship or burn” system. The closest he came was when asked why he’s not condemning God’s threat, when he’d surely condemn a mugger’s “your money or your life”:

I’m pretty sure that at some level, he recognizes that some Christian beliefs are immoral: that it’s not right to torture people, especially forever, especially for a “crime” as minor as not believing in a god for which there’s no good evidence. That just ain’t right. But at the same time, I’m guessing that he’s been brought up to believe that you’re supposed to believe these things, and to believe that they’re good; that you’re not supposed to question God or the Bible, and you’re certainly not supposed to think any of it is wrong.

This is the sort of thinking that leads people to defend genocide, and I can only hope that Nathanael eventually grows out of his mental prison and starts examining his beliefs honestly and critically.

I’m convinced that he’s better than his god, as are the vast majority of Christians. But he just won’t let himself realize that.

Shit My Bible Says: The Multiple Deaths of Judas

In case you don’t remember how Judas dies, here’s Matthew 27:3-10:

3When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

5So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

6The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

Or, if that’s not how you remember it, it’s understandable, since Acts 1:18-19 says:

18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

The most obvious difference is that in Matthew, Judas hangs himself, while in Acts, he falls into a field and bursts. But there are other differences: in Matthew, Judas throws the money into the temple; in Acts, he uses it to buy a field. And in Matthew, the Field of Blood is called that because it was bought with blood money — payment for Jesus’ blood — while in Acts, the name “Field of Blood” comes from the fact that it was soaked with Judas’ blood.

Now, if you were desperate to prop up the dogma that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, and wanted to reconcile these two passages at all costs, you might note that Acts doesn’t explicitly say that Judas didn’t hang himself, and Matthew doesn’t explicitly say that he didn’t burst open, so hey, maybe both of those things happened.

You know, just like how if some conspiracy site says that Obama is a lizard-headed alien who gave instructions on the best way to invade Earth at his last State of the Union address, and the CNN article doesn’t explicitly say that that didn’t happen, then hey, the two are perfectly compatible, right?

But of course that would be silly. So let’s see what earnest apologetics site CARM has to say on this subject:

So, what happened here is that Judas went and hung himself and then his body later fell down and split open. In other words, the rope or branch of the tree probably broke due to the weight and his body fell down and his bowels spilled out.

Or the Restored Church of God:

Acts 1:18 describes what occurred after Judas hanged himself in Matthew 27:5. His body began to decay as it hung from the rope. Eventually, his corpse fell, and “burst asunder” when it hit the ground—he literally burst apart.

Or christianthinktank.com:

since suicide by hanging was usually accomplished (at least by poorer people) by jumping out of a tree with a rope around one’s neck, it was not unusual (nor is it uncommon in India today) for the body to be ripped open in the process. I hesitate to say that this was exactly what happened, but it is certainly a plausible explanation.”

Never let it be said that apologists aren’t an inventive bunch.

And if you enjoyed that, as a reward for making it all the way through to here, I present you Trektonics Apologetics Ministries’ definitive proof of the absence of any contradictions in Star Trek.

More Christians Endorse Genocide

You may remember that an editorial by Richard Dawkins in which he explains why he won’t debate William Lane Craig, has caused a bit of a tempest in the religious teapot. At issue is the fact that Craig has defended divinely-commanded genocide in the Bible, not just once but twice, and Dawkins doesn’t want anything to do with a man who can espouse such odious views. Picky, picky.

Just as a reminder, here’s some of what Craig wrote:

So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives. The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them. Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder? No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

In other words, killing hundreds or thousands of men, women, and children is murder. Unless God commands it, in which case it’s not just okay, but mandatory.

By setting such strong, harsh dichotomies God taught Israel that any assimilation to pagan idolatry is intolerable. It was His way of preserving Israel’s spiritual health and posterity. God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel. The killing of the Canaanite children not only served to prevent assimilation to Canaanite identity but also served as a shattering, tangible illustration of Israel’s being set exclusively apart for God.

These children had to die because their parents worshiped the wrong gods and were thus impure.

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

This part is so disgusting that I can’t even muster the snark to make fun of Craig. It’s like saying that we should shed a tear for the poor Nazis who were ordered to gas Jews.

It seems to me that when an otherwise-respected person says something stupid or reprehensible, the right thing to do is to denounce the stupid idea, even while acknowledging the person’s other accomplishments. See for instance the firestorm that erupted over Dawkins’s comment about elevatorgate, or when PZ Myers criticized the idea of humanist chaplains.

So how have Christians responded to Craig’s abhorrent rationalization of mass murder? I haven’t seen any of them repudiate his views. Instead, I see comments like Tim Stanley’s at the Telegraph:

Dawkins writes that he is so disgusted with Craig’s thesis that he cannot possibly agree to meet him in person. “Do not plead that I have taken these revolting words out of context,” he adds. “What context could possibly justify them?”

Actually, the context is called “Christian apologetics”, and it’s been around for centuries.
[&hellip]

Ergo, Craig’s purpose in writing this piece is to unravel the paradox of a moral Bible that also includes lashings of apparently random violence. Craig stresses that these passages of the Bible are difficult for us to read because we are not of the age in which they are written – they are just as alien to us as Beowulf or the Iliad. That’s because Christian society has been shaped by the rules of life outlined in the New Testament, not in the section of The Bible in which this massacre occurs. Far from using this passage to celebrate the slaughter of heathen, Craig is making the point that the revelation of God’s justice has changed over time. The horrors of the Old Testament have been rendered unnecessary by Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. That’s why the idiots who protest the funerals of gay soldiers or blow up abortion clinics aren’t just cruel, they’re bad theologians.

See? It was the Old Testament god, not the New Testament god, who’s much nicer. Which is not to say that it was wrong of the Old Testament god to have thousands of people killed. That’s just par for the course.

And jbarham at TheBestSchools.org Blog:

Now, I do not mean to defend the book of Deuteronomy, or even to defend Professor Craig’s defense of that recalcitrant book. But I do think it is a little rich that Dawkins should seize on Craig’s more or less unexceptionable exercise in Christian apologetics as a means of wriggling out of what had clearly become for him a very disagreeable situation.

(emphasis added.)

Really? Excusing mass murder is “unexceptionable […] apologetics”?

This is also cited without comment (and therefore, I assume, tacit approval) at Uncommon Descent by “News” (whom I strongly suspect of being Denyse O’Leary).

And Christians have the gall to accuse atheists of having no morals? As some guy once said, take the plank out of your own eye before complaining about the speck in your brother’s eye.