Tag Archives: Atheism

How good are the atheistic arguments of Christopher Hitchens?

Investigation in progress
Investigation in progress

I thought that I would go over an opening statement from a previous debate featuring Christopher Hitchens to find out what atheists are like in debates. I used his opening speech from his debate with Frank Turek. The audio from that debate is here, at Brian Auten’s Apologetics 315 site.

Now the important thing to remember about a generic debate on whether GOD EXISTS is that there should be no mention of any particular God, such as the Christian God, and no mention of the history of any particular religion. All arguments that assume specific theological or moral doctrines or specific religious history are irrelevant to a debate on generic theism.

The question being debated is: does a God who created and designed the universe, who has all the traditional properties of God, such as omniscience, omnipotence, omni-benevolence, etc. exist? That is the question being debated in a “Does God Exist?” debate.

Frank Turek’s case for theism:

Frank Turek made 4 relevant arguments for theism, each of which alone would support his conclusion, that God exists:

  • the origin of time, space, matter and energy out of nothing
  • the fine-tuning of the physical constants to support the minimum requirements for life of any kind
  • the origin of the biological information in the first self-replicating organism
  • objective, prescriptive moral rules need to be grounded by the designer of the universe

And he also listed 4 features of the universe that are more consistent with theism than atheism (= materialism).

  • non-material minds that allow rationality that would be impossible on materialism/determinism
  • the mathematical structure of the universe and its intelligibility to the scientific method
  • free will, which is required for moral responsibility and moral choices, requires a non-material mind/soul
  • our first person experience of consciousness is best explained by a non-material mind/soul

Hitchens’ case against theism

To counter, Hitchens has to argue against God using arguments in one of two forms:

  1. The concept of God is logically self-contradictory
  2. An objective feature of the world is inconsistent with the attributes of God

The claim that God does not exist is a claim to know something about God, namely, that he does not exist. This claim requires the speaker to bear a burden of proof. In a debate on “Does God Exist?”, Hitchens must deny that God exists. Let me be clear: Hitchens must defeat the arguments for the claim that God exists, and then defend the claim that God does not exist, and support that claim using arguments and evidence.

Hitchens makes 2 basic claims:

  • There are no good reasons to believe that theism is true
  • There are good reasons to believe atheism is true

So far so good. But what are his good reasons for atheism?

  1. I personally don’t like Christianity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I personally don’t like Catholicism getting rid of limbo
    – Premise: I personally don’t like Hell
    – Premise: I personally don’t like some episodes in church history
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  2. The plurality of religions means that no religious claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: There are lots of religions
    – Premise: The religions all disagree in their truth claims about the external world
    – Conclusion: No religion’s claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
  3. I believe in one less God than you, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: You disbelieve in every God I do, except one
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  4. Religious people are stupid and evil, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Religious people are ignorant
    – Premise: Religious people are fearful
    – Premise: Religious people are servile
    – Premise: Religious people are masochistic
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  5. Evolution explains how life progressed from single cell to today’s bio-diversity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Modern theists like Turek believe in Paley’s argument, and argued it in this debate
    – Premise: Paley’s argument was refuted by evolution
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  6. God wouldn’t have made the universe this way, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: If God exists, then he would have made the universe my way
    – Premise: The heat death of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The extinction of species wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The size of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The amount of open space wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The large number of stars wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The age of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  7. Religion makes people do things that I don’t like, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Some religions do suicide bombing
    – Premise: Some religions do child abuse
    – Premise: Some religions do genital mutilation
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  8. If you speak a sentence, I can repeat the same words as you said, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Anything that you say is good, I can say is good too
    – Premise: Anything that you say is bad, I can say is bad too
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  9. Atheists are morally superior to religious people, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    – Premise: You don’t act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  10. If I believe in God, I would have to submit to an authority
    – Premise: If I believe in God, then I can’t do whatever I want
    – Premise: But I want to do whatever I want
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  11. I don’t like certain Christian doctrines, therefore arguments for God from science fail and therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I don’t like the atonement
    – Premise: I don’t like the virgin birth
    – Premise: I don’t like the incarnation
    – Premise: I don’t like original sin
    – Premise: I don’t like the resurrection
    – Conclusion: Arguments that are built on recent discoveries from the progress of science like the big bang, fine-tuning, origin of life, etc. are incorrect, and therefore God doesn’t exist

Andwering Hitchens’ case

  • The form of all of these arguments is logically invalid. The conclusions do not follow from the premises using the laws of logic, such as modus ponens and modus tollens.
  • Hitchens cannot complain about morality because he has no foundation for objective moral facts. What he is really expressing is that he personally does not like such-and-such a state of affairs, based on his own arbitrary personal preferences, and the arbitrary social customs that evolved in the place and time that he finds himself in. On atheism, “morality” is just describing what people do – either individually or as groups living in different times and places. There is no objective right and wrong, and no objective way we ought to be. All statements are subjective. They describe what the speaker personally likes and dislikes. Just like taste in foods or taste in dress – which varies by individually, and is influenced by time and place ARBITRARILY.

Specific comments about each argument:

  • Argument 1 tries to disprove God by arguing from Hitchens’ personal preferences about specific Christian doctrines. Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And there is no reason why God should be bound by the personal, subjective preferences of one man. In fact, the concept of God entails that his unchanging nature is the standard of good and evil. So, this argument doesn’t disprove God, it’s just a statement of personal, subjective preference.
  • Argument 2: Just because there are different truth claims made by different groups, doesn’t mean no one is correct. Mormons believe that matter existed eternally, and Jews believe it was created out of nothing. The big bang theory shows that the Mormons are wrong and the Jews are right.
  • Argument 3: First of all, the debate is a about a generic Creator and Designer, not any particular religious conception of God. So the argument is irrelevant. Moreover, Christians reject Zeus, for example, because Zeus is supposed to exist in time and space, and therefore could not be the cause of the beginning of time and space.
  • Argument 4: This is just the ad hominem fallacy. Hitchens is attacking the character of the theist, but that doesn’t show theism is false.
  • Argument 5: This argument can be granted for the sake of argument, even though it’s debatable. The point is that it is irrelevant, since it doesn’t refute any of Turek’s actual scientific arguments like the big bang, the fine-tuning of the physical constants, the origin of information in the simplest living cell.
  • Argument 6: Again, there is no reason to think that God should be bound by Hitchens’ personal opinion of how God should operate.
  • Argument 7: This is the ad hominem fallacy again. The good behavior of religious believers is not a premise in any of Turek’s FOUR arguments for theism. Therefore, Hitchens’ point is irrelevant to the debate.
  • Argument 8: The fact that the atheist can parrot moral claims is not the issue. Being able to speak English words is not what grounds objective, prescriptive morality. The issue is the ontology of moral rules, the requirement of free will in order to have moral responsibility and moral choices, ultimate significance of moral actions, and the rationality of self-sacrificial moral actions.
  • Argument 9: This is just the ad hominem fallacy again.
  • Argument 10: This is not argument so much as it reveals that the real reason Hitchens is an atheist is emotional. One might even say infantile.
  • Argument 11: Again, these specific Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And Hitchen’s subjective, personal preferences about Christian doctrine certainly do not undermine the objective scientific support for the premises in Turek’s 3 scientific arguments.

So Frank Turek talked about facts in the external world, and Christopher Hitchens mistakenly thought that his opinions and preferences about what he would do if he were God were interesting to us. They might be interesting to his psychiatrist, but they are not interesting to us.

Luke Barnes discusses the fine-tuning of the fine structure constant

Fine-tuning of the strong nuclear force and the fine structure constant
Fine-tuning of the strong nuclear force and the fine structure constant

Here is an article from The New Atlantis written by cosmologist Luke Barnes about one specific example of cosmic fine-tuning. (H/T Uncommon Descent via J. Warner Wallace tweet)

Excerpt:

Today, our deepest understanding of the laws of nature is summarized in a set of equations. Using these equations, we can make very precise calculations of the most elementary physical phenomena, calculations that are confirmed by experimental evidence. But to make these predictions, we have to plug in some numbers that cannot themselves be calculated but are derived from measurements of some of the most basic features of the physical universe. These numbers specify such crucial quantities as the masses of fundamental particles and the strengths of their mutual interactions. After extensive experiments under all manner of conditions, physicists have found that these numbers appear not to change in different times and places, so they are called the fundamental constants of nature.

These constants represent the edge of our knowledge. Richard Feynman called one of them — the fine-structure constant, which characterizes the amount of electromagnetic force between charged elementary particles like electrons — “one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man.”

[…]A universe that has just small tweaks in the fundamental constants might not have any of the chemical bonds that give us molecules, so say farewell to DNA, and also to rocks, water, and planets. Other tweaks could make the formation of stars or even atoms impossible. And with some values for the physical constants, the universe would have flickered out of existence in a fraction of a second. That the constants are all arranged in what is, mathematically speaking, the very improbable combination that makes our grand, complex, life-bearing universe possible is what physicists mean when they talk about the “fine-tuning” of the universe for life.

Atheists, both rank-and-file and expert, almost universally misunderstand the fine-tuning argument. They imagine that if the constants and quantities specified at the origin of the universe were different, then humans would just have green skin, or maybe forehead ridges, or pointy ears. Atheists tend to get their view of science from science fiction in novels or television or movies, and they base their worldview off of fantasies, since this is less thinking and feels better than letting the scientific evidence influence their worldview.

So what does the scientific evidence actually show?

Barnes explains:

The strong nuclear force, for example, is the glue that holds protons and neutrons together in the nuclei of atoms. If, in a hypothetical universe, it is too weak, then nuclei are not stable and the periodic table disappears again. If it is too strong, then the intense heat of the early universe could convert all hydrogen into helium — meaning that there could be no water, and that 99.97 percent of the 24 million carbon compounds we have discovered would be impossible, too. And, as the chart to the right shows, the forces, like the masses, must be in the right balance. If the electromagnetic force, which is responsible for the attraction and repulsion of charged particles, is too strong or too weak compared to the strong nuclear force, anything from stars to chemical compounds would be impossible.

Stars are particularly finicky when it comes to fundamental constants. If the masses of the fundamental particles are not extremely small, then stars burn out very quickly. Stars in our universe also have the remarkable ability to produce both carbon and oxygen, two of the most important elements to biology. But, a change of just a few percent in the up and down quarks’ masses, or in the forces that hold atoms together, is enough to upset this ability — stars would make either carbon or oxygen, but not both.

It’s very important that theists are well-equipped to explain how individual cases of fine-tuning work. We need to know what you lose if you alter these constants and quantities even slightly. You can read about some more examples in this previous post.

Is it true that Obama led a “scandal-free” administration?

Obama claims that his administration has been free of major scandals
Obama claims that his administration has been free of major scandals

When Barack Obama was running for office, he promised to deliver a high degree of integrity and transparency. His teleprompter told him that he was going to be free of corruption and lawlessness, and he dutifully read those words out to his adoring fans. But after 8 years of Obama rule, does reality match his self-congratulating rhetoric?

Consider this article from the Daily Wire.

It lists 11 scandals that occurred during Obama reign of error:

  1. Operation Fast and Furious
  2. Benghazi
  3. The IRS targeted conservative organizations
  4. The DOJ seized Associated Press phone records as well as phone and email records from Fox News reporter James Rosen
  5. The NSA conducted mass surveillance against American citizens without a warrant
  6. The Obama administration paid ransom to Iran for hostages, and lied to the American people about it
  7. Hillary’s email scandal
  8. The Environmental Protection Agency poisoned a Colorado river
  9. The EPA also broke federal law in promoting a regulation
  10. The GSA scandal
  11. The Secret Service scandal

Surprisingly, Obamacare is not mentioned, even though Obama knowingly lied to the American people over and over about the true intentions and effects of the law – intentions and effects that are now understood by Americans who are being driven into bankruptcy by the law. The massive stimulus grants to Obama bundlers for “green energy” corporations that later went bankrupt are not mentioned. Giving green cards to refugees from Islamic countries without doing the proper background checks who then went on to kill Americans in terrorist attacks, (e.g. – Orlando, San Bernadino), is not mentioned. And of course the Democrat fascination with illegal immigration caused them to catch and release illegal immigrants who went on to commit crimes, including the murder of Kate Steinle. A lot more could be added to the list.

I think numbers 3 and 4 from the Daily Wire list above really show the character of the Obama administration: (links removed)

3. The IRS targeted conservative organizations. In 2013, Lois Lerner, who directed the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organizations Unit, admitted that Tea Party organizations were targeted under the agency, but blamed it on lower-level employees. Such organizations were heavily scrutinized with invasive questions. Since then, Lerner and IRS commissioner John Koskinen have denied any wrongdoing and have stonewalled congressional efforts to investigate the matter, citing computer crashes for being unable to turn over related emails.

Meanwhile, a federal court concluded in August that conservative groups might still be facing targeted scrutiny from the IRS. It has also been reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) knew about the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups as early as 2011.

4. The DOJ seized Associated Press phone records as well as phone and email records from Fox News reporter James Rosen. In the AP’s case, the DOJ was investigating a story involving “a CIA operation in Yemen that foiled an al-Qaeda plot in the spring of 2012 to set off a bomb on an airplane headed to the United States,” according to the Washington Post. The DOJ seized two months of phone records from the AP without informing the news outlet.

“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Gary Pruitt, president of the AP wrote to Holder at the time. “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

In the Rosen case, the DOJ was investigating a story Rosen did involving North Korea and tracked “his movements and conversations,” according to Fox News, including phone numbers belonging to Rosen’s parents. The DOJ had listed Rosen as a “co-conspirator” under the Espionage Act in regards to the story—allegedly pressing a source for classified information. Rosen was never charged with a crime.

Fox News executive Michael Clemente called the DOJ’s actions against Rosen “downright chilling.” “We will unequivocally defend [Rosen’s] right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press,” Clemente said in a statement, per the Washington Post.

 

The news media has a very short memory. They don’t focus on the scandals for more than a night or two, if at all. But conservatives have a long memory for scandals, especially the ones where government was used as a weapon against us.

How to respond to an atheist who complains about slavery in the Bible

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

I often hear atheists going on and on about how the Bible has this evil and that evil. Their favorite one seems to be slavery. Here are three things I say to atheists when they push this objection.

The Bible and slavery

First, you should explain to them what the Bible actually says about slavery. And then tell them about the person responsible for stopping slavery in the UK: a devout evangelical named William Wilberforce.

Here’s an article that works.

Excerpt:

We should compare Hebrew debt-servanthood (many translations render this “slavery”) more fairly to apprentice-like positions to pay off debts — much like the indentured servitude during America’s founding when people worked for approximately 7 years to pay off the debt for their passage to the New World. Then they became free.

In most cases, servanthood was more like a live-inemployee, temporarily embedded within the employer’s household. Even today, teams trade sports players to another team that has an owner, and these players belong to a franchise. This language hardly suggests slavery, but rather a formal contractual agreement to be fulfilled — like in the Old Testament.3

Second, inform them that moral values are not rationally grounded on atheism. In an accidental universe, there is no way we ought to be. There is no design for humans that we have to comply with. There are no objective human rights, like the right to liberty (that would block slavery) or the right to life (that would block  abortion). Although you may find that most atheists act nicely, the ones who really understand what atheism means and live it out consistently are not so nice.

Atheism and moral judgments

Second, inform them that moral values are not rationally grounded on atheism. In an accidental universe, there is no way we ought to be. There is no design for humans that we have to comply with. There are no objective human rights, like the right to liberty (that would block slavery) or the right to life (that would block  abortion). Although you may find that most atheists act nicely, the ones who really understand what atheism means and live it out consistently are not so nice.

Dawkins has previously written this:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

(“God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85)

When people like Dawkins talk about morality, you have to understand that they are pretending. To them, morality is just about personal preferences and cultural conventions. They just think that questions of right and wrong are arbitrary. Things that are wrong in one time and place are right in another. Every view is as right as any other, depending on the time and place. That’s atheist morality.

What’s worse than slavery? Abortion!

Third, you should ask the atheist what he has done to oppose abortion. Abortion is worse than slavery, so if they are sincere in thinking that slavery is wrong, then they ought to think that abortion is wrong even more. So ask them what they’ve done to oppose the practice of abortion. That will tell you how sincere they are about slavery.

Here’s Richard Dawkins explaining what he’s done to stop abortion:

That’s right. The head atheist supports killing born children.

Obama’s weak Syria foreign policy produced the catastrophe of Aleppo

Neville Chamberlain Obama: peace in our time
Neville Chamberlain Obama: peace in our time

We elected a stupid man who doesn’t know how the world works. Although you would never know it from the mainstream media, Obama’s 8-year reign of error has been one foreign policy blunder after another. The retreat from Iraq, which created ISIS. The non-response to Russian aggression in Georgia and Ukraine. The disastrous interventions in Libya and Egypt. The deal to give Iran piles of cash to develop nuclear weapons. And his failure to react quickly to the Syrian crisis. Across the world it has been one failure after another, for 8 years in a row.

Here is the latest news from the far-left Washington Post:

THE BATTLE for Aleppo is ending in catastrophe, both for the tens of thousands of people who have been besieged there and for the future of Syria. On Wednesday, Syrian government and Iranian-led Shiite militia forces renewed attacks on the last rebel-held streets of the city, shredding a promiseto allow a peaceful evacuation. According to the United Nations, the pro-government forces have been executing civilians in the street or in their homes — including, on Monday, at least 11 women and 13 children. Thousands of men have been rounded up and gang-pressed into the Syrian army, or dispatched to an unknown but likely terrible fate. The United Nations’ term for this nightmare was apt: “A complete meltdown of humanity.”

The meltdown has several dimensions. One is the utter disrespect for the laws of war by the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian and Iranian allies. These forces systematically destroyed hospitals, including pediatric facilities; decimated civilian housing with bunker-buster bombs and chlorine gas; and refused to allow food or humanitarian aid of any kind into the besieged districts of the city. Aleppo represents “the death of respect for international law and the rules of war,” David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary who now heads the International Rescue Committee, was quoted as saying . It sets a horrific precedent for conflicts in the 21st century.

The fall of Aleppo also means the elimination of any prospect in the foreseeable future for the end of Syria’s war or the waves of refugees and international terrorism it is generating.

Who is to blame for this?

The far-left Washington Post says it’s Obama’s fault:

Above all, Aleppo represents a meltdown of the West’s moral and political will — and in particular, a collapse of U.S. leadership. By refusing to intervene against the Assad regime’s atrocities, or even to enforce the “red line” he declared on the use of chemical weapons, President Obama created a vacuum that was filled by Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. As recently as October, Mr. Obama set aside options drawn up by his advisers to save Aleppo. Instead, he supported the delusional diplomacy of Secretary of State John F. Kerry, whose endless appeals to Moscow for cease-fires yielded — as Mr. Putin no doubt intended — nothing more than a humiliating display of American weakness.

And it’s not just the Washington Post.

Is Barack Obama focused on protecting the American people?
Is Barack Obama focused on protecting the American people?

The far-left extremist UK Guardian, one of the most radically secular and progressive newspapers on the planet, featured an article by a far-left writer entitled “Barack Obama’s presidency will be defined by his failure to face down Assad“.

Excerpt:

In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic magazine earlier this year, President Obama said he was “very proud” of the moment in 2013 when, against the “overwhelming weight of conventional wisdom”, he decided not to honour his own “red line”, allowing Assad to escape accountability for a chemical attack that had killed more than 1,400 civilians.

Obama may be alone in this judgment. A year earlier, seemingly on a whim, he had set a red line on the use of chemical weapons at a time when none were being used. The red line was, in effect, a green light to conventional killing. But the regime called Obama’s bluff – and, predictably, he backed down. No longer fearing punishment, the regime escalated its tactics.

Nearly four times as many people were killed in the two years after the chemical attack as had died in the two years before. Obama’s abandonment discredited Syria’s nationalist opposition and empowered the Islamists. It helped Isis emerge from the shadows to establish itself as a major force. Together, these developments triggered a mass exodus that would displace over half the country’s population.

Everyone knows that the Obama administration bent over and bowed to the Russians and the Iranians from day one, with the “Russian reset” and the Iran nuclear weapons deal. Obama treated enemies like friends, and now we are seeing the consequences of his moral relativism and anti-American pacificism.

This part of the Guardian article is my favorite, because it really shows the fundamental problem – namely, that there is a complete disconnect between Obama’s high opinion of his own ability and the actual consequences of his policies in objective reality:

But in his valedictory press conference, last Friday, Obama defended his policy on Syria – albeit with logic whose fractures even his eloquence could not conceal. Inverting cause and consequence, he cited Russian and Iranian presence in Syria as his reason for not confronting Assad (neither was there in August 2013); he cited the disunion among rebels as the reason for not supporting them (they fragmented because they were denied meaningful support); and he cited the fear of deeper American involvement as his justification for restraint (even though a year later it would lead to a far bigger deployment across two states).

He really is in his own little world, where everything he does works fabulously well, because of his superhuman intellect. The man belongs in an insane asylum – never has someone so unqualified and incompetent had a higher opinion of himself, despite manifest failure that even the far left UK Guardian can see plainly. The American people elected an unstable clown who makes decisions based on delusions instead of evidence. And instead of correcting himself when his failures are known,  he persists in his delusions, casting the blame on everyone but himself. As if a narcissistic clown with no education and no resume ought to expect to be successful, and if he is not, then other people must be to blame.