Monday, May 23, 2005

Chapter 3: Evolution explains life, so God isn’t needed

Interviewee: Walter L. Bradley, Ph. D.

As good journalists often do, Strobel opens this chapter with a compelling story. He recounts the story of how Ronald Keith Williamson is wrongly convicted of a murder in Oklahoma. The clinching evidence came from the matching of his hairs with some found on the victim’s body. Convinced by the prosecution that the hair sample was irrefutable proof of his guilt, the jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to death row. However, spending nine years in prison, DNA testing of the hairs cleared him and he was set free. The reason that Strobel opens with this story is to prove that sometimes what appears to be scientific fact isn’t. Then he goes on to say that this story parallels the theory that life started naturally, with no need for divine intervention. In a sense, he is claiming that the naturalistic theories of evolution are faulty in much the same way as “hair evidence” in murder trials (that is, hair evidence before DNA testing was developed, I presume.)

He then goes on to establish the link between atheism and evolutionism, citing Richard Dawkins as saying that Darwin “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Strobel even sites his own motivations for embracing evolution in his high school biology class: “I was more than happy to latch onto Darwinism as an excuse to jettison the idea of God so I could unabashedly pursue my own agenda in life without moral constraints.” I’m not going to bother refuting this point, or Strobel’s former motivations, though I think he is a bit narrow in the assumption that evolutionists are necessarily atheists. Evolutionary theory, like all branches of science, is simply concerned with natural explanations. In Chapter 2, even Dr. William Craig agreed that scientists seek natural explanations. On the other hand, Craig also thought that we should appeal to the supernatural beyond the frontiers of our knowledge of the beginnings of the universe; as here Strobel and his interviewee argue that we should appeal to the supernatural to beyond the frontiers of our knowledge of the beginnings of life on Earth.

At this point Strobel makes an interesting statement: “Everyone concedes that evolution is true to some extent.” He then explains that he accepts the evidence of the adaptability of bacteria to antibiotics, and the breeding of animals and such. Fine, as long as the adaptations restrict themselves to the boundaries of species. This is called micro-evolution. This is in contrast to macro-evolution, or the development of new species from old. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that macro-evolution is nothing more or less than the cumulative effects of micro-evolution over millions of years. There have been several papers written on this topic, so I’m not going to get into it here.

Then he goes on to make an interesting statement that: “I knew that if scientists could convincingly demonstrate how life could emerge purely though natural chemical processes, then there’s no need for God.” Surely he does not mean that when the origins of life are figured out, he will conclude that there is no need for God? That could be a dangerous bet. Of course, he goes on to say “On the other hand, if the evidence points in the other direction towards an Intelligent Designer, then Darwin’s entire evolutionary house of cards would collapse.” Mr. Strobel must have never read Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” because if he had, he would know that Darwin hardly even begun to speculate about the origins of life. His theory was that all life on earth had developed from a common ancestor though a process of evolution and natural selection—a theory which Strobel has already accepted in part if he affirms the truth of micro-evolution. Even if life were proven to be of divine origin, Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection would still stand.

It is not until this point when the interview with Dr. Walter L. Bradley commences. Bradley uses a number of arguments to disprove the idea that life could evolve from a natural chemical source. I will address them one by one below (note that these are not all headings that are used in the book—a whole section is not devoted to each claim in the book):

Spontaneous generation has proven impossible; therefore life could not have come from nonliving chemicals.

Spontaneous generation is the term used to describe the idea that living things could form spontaneously from nonliving matter. For example, it was once commonly believed that maggots formed from rotting meat. This was famously disproved by Francesco Redi one hundred years before Darwin wrote the “Origin of Species,” as Bradley says. Today no one believes that spontaneous generation occurs, and no one (besides creationists) believes that this is necessary for the natural development of life. The early development of life is referred to as abiogenesis, and it doesn’t involve the spontaneous arrival of even the simplest of cells from a random mix of chemicals—in fact there are several steps between the chemicals and living cells. I can’t really do justice to the topic, but if you want more information check out

Miller’s “life in a test-tube” experiment was based on faulty data; therefore life could not have come from nonliving chemicals.

In this experiment, which is famously touted in high school biology books, scientists Miller and Oparin attempted to simulate the early creation of life on Earth by mimicking the conditions on early earth. While they did not actually create life, or even claim to, their experiment did yield some of the amino acids—which are vital to life as we know it. However, they went on the assumption that the early Earth atmosphere contained ammonia, methane, and hydrogen—in other words; they assumed the theory of the atmosphere of the early Earth that was in vogue at the time. Bradley points out a major flaw in the experiment: NASA has, since 1980, affirmed that the early Earth atmosphere was more likely composed of water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. These gasses are too inert to work in Miller’s experiment. Therefore life could not have naturally developed in the conditions of early Earth.

Or could it? Skeptic that I am, I checked the NASA website for verification of Bradley’s claim. What I found was a press release with this headline:


I can’t blame Strobel for not mentioning this, since his book was published in 2000, and this press release came out in April 2005 (a month prior to this writing.)

Among the statements in the article are as follows:

“This study indicates that the carbon-dioxide, hydrogen poor Mars and Venus-like model of Earth’s early atmosphere that scientists have been working with for the last 25 years is incorrect . . . In such atmospheres, organic molecules are not produced by photochemical reactions or electrical discharges.”


“In the new CU-Boulder scenario, it is a hydrogen and CO2 –dominated atmosphere that leads to the production of organic molecules, not the methane and ammonia atmosphere used in Miller’s experiment, [University of Colorado Professor Owen Toon] said.”

The CU-Boulder studies found that there was much more hydrogen in the early Earth atmosphere than they had previously supposed—making it favorable to the development of life. It turns out that Bradley’s observation was right on the money, but is now obsolete. This serves as an example of how solutions to unanswered scientific questions are best found, not though an appeal to the supernatural, but rather through further experimentation and study.

Moving on . . .

Next Bradley goes on to discuss various ideas about the mechanics of how evolutionists say that life on earth evolved. He mentions The “Random Chance” theory (which no one believes anymore), “Chemical Affinity” (that the chemicals needed for life were inevitably attracted to one another), “Self-ordering tendencies” (that life formed from self-organizing matter), “Seeding from space” (the idea that life originated somewhere else and ended up on Earth. I quite agree with Bradley that this only postponed the question of how life came to be.), “Vents in the Ocean” (that life originated near hot-springs in the ocean), and “Life from Clay” (that live evolved in clay rather than in water—I don’t really get this one.) I’m not going to get into detail on these, as I don’t have the time. I’m going to skip to the real crux of the matter.

Intelligent Design

Naturally, the discussion turns to the Intelligent Design theory, just like in chapter 2. As this chapter review is getting rather long, I’m not going to bother going into any detail on ID. For what I know of it, it just sounds like some Christians embrace both evolution and creation. (As opposed to the Biblical literalist creationists, who think God created the world in six literal days. Their view is not even mentioned in Strobel’s book.) There are some things that are not yet completely understood about the mechanism of evolution, so there is even some room for the God of the Gaps. Hence the ID proponent’s appeal to what they call ‘irreducible complexity.’ I say that if you even want to believe that a god has guided evolution, more power to you. Just don’t tell me that your belief is a scientific theory.


Not convinced. Actually, I don’t even think the objection for which the chapter was named was even adequately addressed. Most of the chapter was did not even address evolution, but abiogenesis—the origin of life. As I mentioned before, even proving a divine origin for life would not disprove evolution. It could still be believed that God just got the process started. Nor would proving a natural origin for life prove that no god exists. It’s just that such a proof would point towards the credibility of a belief that there is no intelligent creator, which is what I think Richard Dawkins meant when he said that Darwin’s theory helps to make atheism intellectually fulfilling.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

in light of the 'problem of evil'

Here is an interesting bit of writing I found that both theists and atheists should be able to appreciate:

The Perfect World

Friday, May 13, 2005

Chapter 2: Since miracles contradict science, they cannot be true

Interviewee: William Lane Craig, Ph. D. in philosophy and theology

I’ve noticed that although the wording of this objection is misleading (see the pre-read impressions) the issue is cleared up in the chapter. I think this chapter started off very well, with a good definition of the word miracle. Craig defines a miracle as “an event which is not producible by the natural causes that are operative in the place and time the miracle occurs.” He is also straight on the point that miracles do not contradict science, but that science is the pursuit of natural causes and not supernatural ones. And he notes that miracles should not be difficult for even a scientifically minded person to believe—assuming that they believe in the Christian God. If God exists, it is not unthinkable that he would intervene in nature from time to time. Fair enough. He even, to my surprise actually (I thought maybe Strobel would just assume that his audience believed in God), outlines a few of the arguments for the existence of God in the chapter.

There is one point made in the chapter about the necessity of extraordinary evidence to back up extraordinary claims, such as the resurrection. He tries to disprove the idea that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” by comparing the improbability of the resurrection with the improbability of a set of six numbers in a lottery. After all, that any particular set of six numbers should come out of the lottery is very improbable. And the news source needs to show no extraordinary evidence that is was indeed those six numbers that popped out of the machine! Therefore an extraordinary event does not need to be backed up with extraordinary evidence. There is a serious flaw in this argument. It was a perfectly ordinary event for six random numbers to pop out of the machine, and unless the lottery was a fraud any set of six numbers should be equally improbable. I can say with some confidence that it is a whole lot more improbable for a person to rise from the dead than it is for them to stay dead (or for his followers to be mistakenly convinced that he had risen from the dead--just take Elvis sightings as an example!) And the news people should have nothing to gain in lying about it either, so it’s perfectly rational to trust that they are not deceiving us about lottery numbers. Now, if there was a physic who claimed that she could predict what numbers would come out beforehand, that would be an extraordinary claim which would require extraordinary evidence! We do not have extraordinary evidence regarding the resurrection, only the records of claims.

Next Craig gives us another definition of faith. He defines it as “trust or commitment to what you think is true.” He has an idea of a very rational faith. Anyone who is committed to an idea has faith. Maybe what many of the more intellectual Christians believe (such as C. S. Lewis) but this definition is often not what is meant by the word faith. In a rational way, may Christians call ‘faith’ what is more accurately called ‘justified belief.’ But faith in the Bible is irrational faith—belief without evidence, belief without ‘sight’. At least, this was the faith argued for by St. Augustine—as to distinguish the faith of demons—whose faith is rational because they have seen lots of signs and know that God is real—from the belief of Christians, which is supposedly voluntary. As Kreft said in Chapter 1: “Unlike reason, which bows down faithfully to evidence, faith is prejudiced.”

Next, Craig offers five of the classic arguments for the existence of God. The arguments he gives are as follows.

The First Cause Argument

This argument, as presented by Craig goes as such:

P1: “The universe and time itself had a beginning at some point in the finite past”

P2: “But something cannot come out of nothing”

C: “there has to be a transcendent cause beyond space and time which brought the universe into being”

Predictably, Craig equates the “transcendent cause” with the evangelical Christian conception of God. He rather glosses over the issue of where God came from, by saying that God never had a beginning, therefore he was uncaused.

I have some major problems with this argument, and that is that it appeals to the “God of the Gaps” theory, which basically states that “What we know we call science; what we don’t, we call God.” We just don’t know what came before the Big Bang, and it could be that we will never know. Perhaps there is some sort of “uncaused cause” out of which the Big Bang came, but it’s quite a leap to assume that it is a god, much less a particular conception of God. For all we know, it was some sort of catalyst that was destroyed in the process of creation. Until we have pushed the frontiers of science to the time before the Big Bang (or until, possibly, the Big Bang is overthrown by a better theory) the possibilities will be limited only by human imagination.

The Fine-tuning Argument

Craig presents this argument as follows:

P1: “The Big Bang was . . . a highly organized event which required an enormous amount of information.”

P2: “At the very moment of its inception, the universe has to be fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of life like ourselves.”

C: There must have been an Intelligent Designer.

I have a few observations to make on this argument. First, had the factors involved in the creation of the universe not been favorable to life, we would not be here to contemplate the reasons for our existence. I wonder how he defines “highly organized” in P1 above. Strobel suggests the possibility that there are other universes, but Craig simply dismisses the idea because even if it were true we have no way to verify it. He claims that the only reason the skeptics form such hypothesis was to avoid the idea of an intelligent designer of the universe. This is after he agreed, earlier in the chapter, that science is interested in natural explanations to phenomena—not supernatural ones. Interestingly we can’t verify the existence of his God either, though he holds this as self-evident.

The Argument from the Existence of Morality

Craig’s presentation of this argument:

P1: Objective moral values exist

C: God must exist

When Strobel asks for a definition of objective moral values, Craig replies that “Objective moral values are valid and binding independently of whether anyone believes them or not.” If God didn’t exist, Craig asserts, then “moral values are simply the product of socio-biological evolution.” I find it interesting that he does, at least, acknowledge that moral values could evolve naturally. But then he states that if that were the case, then moral values would be no more than opinions and tastes, like “Broccoli tastes good.” He doesn’t say much to support this assumption (that evolutionary morals would only be a matter of individual taste), however. I don’t have time or incentive here to explore the evolution of morality, though much has been written on the subject elsewhere.

Actually, the idea that moral values come from God faces a problem that is not mentioned in this book. It is the classic challenge that Socrates thought up: “Is an action good because the gods (God) command it, or do the gods (God) command it because it is good?” Take, for example, the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. According to the account, as a test of his faith God commands Abraham to take his son Isaac up onto a mountain and kill him as a burnt offering. As the story goes, Abraham gets to the point where he is holding the dagger above his son, preparing to slaughter him—but the angel intervenes right at the last moment. Now as far as Abraham knew, there would be no intervention. Would it have been morally wrong to murder his son because God commanded him to do it? If so, then morality really does not come from God, because God commanded Abraham to commit a morally reprehensible act. And this would mean that there is a standard of morality external to God, to which he is subject. If not, then the very notion of “objective moral standards” is meaningless, because morals would be relative to the will of God.

That being said, how do you judge the actions of a woman who is deluded into thinking that God wants her to, say, drown her children in the bathtub? She knows that to do such a deed would be reprehensible evil, and yet she thinks that God said to do it. Should she follow her own judgment—that the act is wrong and she shouldn’t do it—or should she follow what she perceives as the will of God? How do you judge such an act?

The Argument from the Resurrection

Here is Craig’s Argument:

P1: If we can believe in God, then we can believe in miracles.

P2: Miracles point toward the existence of God.

P3: If Jesus was raised from the dead, miracles exist.

P4: Ancient documents testify to the resurrection of Jesus.

C: God exists.

Nevermind the testimony of many Biblical scholars, most of them theists, who doubt the reliability of these ancient documents (all of which make up New Testament material.) Even assuming the authenticity of the documents themselves, it does not follow that the claims made in the documents are accurate. This argument suffers from both circular reasoning (prior assumption that God exists), and begging the question (of the accuracy of biblical documents).

The Argument from Personal Experience

P1: People have experienced God in their personal lives

C: God exists.

Logically, this argument is begging the question (that it is actually God that the people experience.) However, I don’t think that this is even intended to be a logical argument. It’s an emotional appeal. As I’ve decided that I’m not even going to try and argue about the authenticity of others’ personal experiences, there is not much I can say about this. I can’t believe on the basis of someone else’s supposed experience of God. Most Christians I know will likely agree with me on this point.

Closing and Verdict

The chapter concludes with an appeal to the certainty of Craig as to the truth of his beliefs, and an appeal to Revelation 3:20 (“Behold I stand at the door and knock . . .”). Backing this certainty is the evidence of lives changed by Christianity. Actually, I would be greatly astonished if a dramatic change in a person’s beliefs and worldview did not greatly change their life. In fact, I would wonder about the honesty of their belief if there were no change. This effect is seen regardless of the actual truth of the beliefs, as shown by the fact that this claim of changed lives is not limited to Christianity, or even religion itself.

At least, Strobel does recognize that atheists may very well be good and moral people in this during the discussion of “objective morality.” I guess he did not fit this category as an atheist, as shown by his reference to his “living in the mire of immorality as an atheist” near the end of the chapter. But at least he recognizes that atheism is not equivalent to immorality.

I’m not convinced by the arguments in this chapter. I did however, find it to be a worthwhile challenge to read and respond to it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Chapter 1: Since evil and suffering exist, a loving God cannot

Chapter 1: Since evil and suffering exist, a loving god cannot.

Interviewee: Peter John Kreeft, Ph. D.

I was partly surprised that in the introduction he does interview Templeton, who is an agnostic former Christian. I’ve never read Templeton’s book, though Strobel paints it as a hateful diatribe against Christianity. It may be an interesting next read.

Anyway, this chapter is supposed to answer Templeton’s objections that the suffering in the world disproves the existence of God. Strobel interviews Peter Kreft about this problem of evil. Kreft shows some good thoughts in the interview, makes some nonsensical statements about atheism, and also gives a few arguments about how the existence of evil is not incompatible with the existence of God.

I’ll start with his arguments.

A bear, a trap, a hunter, and God.

In this analogy, a hunter finds a bear in agony in a trap, has pity on it, and tries to set it free. The bear, naturally, can not comprehend and resists the hunter. In the analogy, a suffering human is the bear, the merciful hunter is God. Interesting point to make is that, in all likelihood the bear has every reason in the world to mistrust the hunter. And who placed the trap to begin with? Maybe it’s just a bad analogy, at least if the bear is held responsible for misunderstanding the intentions of the hunter. Another point of breakdown in this analogy is that the hunter has reason to fear the bear—an angry wounded bear is a force to be reckoned with! The hunter is putting his life in danger, while on the other hand God would be totally shielded from any harm.

Faith and Prejudice

Here it gets interesting.

Kreft says: “The Bible says, ‘Seek and you will find.’ It doesn’t say everybody will find him; it doesn’t say nobody will find him. Some will find. Who? Those who seek. Those whose hearts are set on finding him and following the clues.”

No skeptics allowed? Skeptical seeking wouldn’t count here as true seeking, because in order for this to work you must have already decided what you will find before you start. This negates any reason to search anyway, if you’ve predetermined “who” you will find. No thanks.

Kreft confirms my suspicion that belief is a prerequisite for this search with a later statement:

“Unlike reason, which bows down faithfully to evidence, faith is prejudiced.”

As an example of what he means by prejudice, he says that he wouldn’t believe a policeman who said that his wife had been caught chopping people’s heads off. Because he is prejudiced; because he knows she is not likely to do something like that. Sorry Kreft, that’s not faith. That is reason based on past experience. This is another bad analogy.

On a side note, how can someone who has not had previous experience with a person (or God) be expected to trust them unreservedly from the start? Trust is something that is gained though experience.

Supreme Good

Next he gives that classic argument that if Templeton is upset over injustice, then he must have in mind some standard of justice. Kreft calls this standard the “Supreme Good” and then says that this is also called God. This is begging the question. For one thing, any notion we may have of a supreme good is a human construct; it does not come from outside of us. Everyone has a notion of what the words ‘good’ and ‘evil’ mean, but not everyone mean exactly the same things by the words. It is like ‘hot’ and ‘cold’—though everyone has similar notions of these terms, they often don’t refer to the exact same temperatures as hot or cold. One person may feel perfectly comfortable in a room, while to another person it will be uncomfortably warm. Everyone’s view of exactly what the “supreme good” looks like is different. People, unless they are psychopaths, empathize with the sufferings of other people and feel that is wrong for people to suffer, and unjust if that person could not have possibly done something to deserve it. And there are certain issues that are in definite dispute as to their moral status. Take killing for example: I’ve never spoken to a person who thinks that cold-blooded murder is moral. But what about killing in self-defense, or to protect one’s family? Or abortion, the death penalty, or wartime killing? Many who believe some of these are moral hold others to be immoral. Where is the “objective moral standard” here?

Besides, “Supreme Good” is an abstract concept. I seriously don’t think Kreft or Strobal really that believe their God is an abstract concept . . .

Free Will Argument

Next he gives the standard Free Will argument, which says that it is really humans’ fault that there is suffering, not God’s. This world of suffering is what humanity chose. But he says that if there is no free will, and no possibility of moral evil, there can be no choice except to obey--and therefore no love. Later he talks about heaven as being the place where we will be compensated for all our sufferings. I wonder if he thinks there will be no free will, and therefore no love, in heaven. No sin is allowed in heaven. It will be perfect, right?

Good from Evil

He claims that good comes from suffering, and uses the sacrificial death of Jesus as an example. Generally, this is only an example that works for conservative Christians, and as I’m not, I’ll not bother going into more detail here.

The Suffering of the Innocent

He then asks the question of why a loving god would watch while an innocent child is hit by a truck. Judging from the example he choose to explain, he seems to says it was allowed to teach the child some lesson though suffering. The analogy he gives is of his daughter pricking her fingers with a pin trying to sew a Girl Scout badge. Of course she finally succeeds and is proud and elated that she did it all by herself, forgetting about the pain. He doesn’t say what sort of lesson or character development was learned by the child who was hit by the truck in the original question.

The Suffering God

This one says that God feels all our sufferings. Every tear is his tear. This one I just don’t buy. If I had cancer and were suffering terrible pain, I doubt it would do me any good whatsoever to know that my father was—even by his own choice—feeling that pain as well. I’d be a whole lot more interested in relief than in the knowledge that someone else “feels my pain.”

There is a bit more to the chapter, but this about sums up the arguments. The best appeals are the emotional ones, talking about how God has shaped his life though painful experiences, etc. I’ll not say anything to attempt to invalidate the personal experiences of the author and his interviewee, though personal anecdotes don’t prove anything.

He also made a couple of comments about atheism (and evolution) that showed a total misunderstanding of the whole issue from that view. He actually tried to argue that the existence of evil in the world proves the existence of God because if the atheists were right about there being no moment of creation (i.e. if the universe is eternal), then it must have been evolving for an infinite amount of time and should be perfect by now. But evolution does not tend toward some human ideal of perfection! Dr. Kreft is here only displaying his ignorance of evolutionary theory.

Next, he says that atheism robs death of meaning, and therefore robs life of meaning. Oddly, that’s exactly the opposite of anything I’ve heard from an atheist. Death is the final end of life—and the finiteness of life makes every moment all that more precious to the atheist! This guy has obviously not seriously considered the atheist’s point of view. And neither has Strobel, apparently, though he is supposed to know all about how an atheist thinks. Well meaning Christians who read this book should know that atheism is not equivalent with nihilism, as it is all too often characterized in Christian propaganda.


Not convinced. For one thing, I’ve heard rebuttals to all the arguments that he has presented, and most of his analogies are bad. The free will argument is the most convincing argument in the chapter, though it still has problems. What about natural disasters? Did evil human will bring on the tsunami, for instance? My point being that there is suffering that occurs that has nothing to do with human choice. So the argument by free will is not sufficient to explain suffering.

The problem of evil is one that has mainly only supported my atheism after the fact. When I believed in God, I could believe that somehow he had reasons for all the suffering that were beyond my understanding. Why would I worship a God that wasn’t so far above me that I could never figure out his thoughts and reasons? This is the stance I took as a believer. But it works if, and only if, one is convinced that God (the Christian God, specifically) actually exists. And at this point I’m far from being convinced of that.

I think that the best reason that the problem of evil points to the non-existence of God is that the suffering in the world, natural disasters and all, is totally consistant with a universe that is unaware that we exist and indifferent to us. The wrongs done to humans against each other are a result of people taking care of their own interests without regard to others. This is why any decent civilization has laws against robbery, and insider trading. Postulating a creator God who is all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful makes the whole thing so much more complicated than it has to be.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Case for Faith: a review

The other day I was in a bookstore with my Mom. She seems rather intent on finding more or less subtle ways of exposing my to Christianity lately. She asked me if I would read The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel. In return, I asked her if she would read a book of my choosing if I read her book, and she agreed. I've picked a book out for her, though I haven't given it to her yet (I've picked Why Atheism, by George Smith). I have now read the intros and chapters 1 and 2 of Strobel's book. And I've decided to get the most out of it by writing a fairly thourough review, chapter by chapter. I'm doing it mainly to thoroughly scrutinize his arguments and provide rebuttals. I will be posting these here on my blog every few days, as I have time to write and revise my chapter reviews. I've started with my pre-read impressions:


The Case for Faith: Pre-read impressions

The blurb on the cover says that this is “A journalist investigates the toughest objections to Christianity”

A journalist—ok, fair enough. Not likely to have expertise it the subject matter, as journalists usually are more interested in communicating facts than studying them.

Investigates—if The Case for Christ is any indication, I doubt there will be much actual investigation. I expect to see interviews and such with Christians, Theologians, and perhaps former atheists who have converted for such or such reasons. But I don’t expect to see any interviews of present Atheists or religious skeptics, or even liberal Christians. It will be a one-sided investigation.

Toughest Objections to Christianity? I will examine this when I see what issues he is addressing.


Good, descriptive table of contents. I will write my impression to each of these “toughest objections” before reading.

Objection 1: Since evil and suffering exist, a loving god cannot.
Ah, the problem of evil. This is an interesting one, but it was not a major that turned me on to atheism—though it has strengthened my position. I’ve heard lots of answers to this one. It is a worthwhile argument for atheism however, as it greatly simplifies life if you don’t have to try to make sense of preventable, senseless suffering in light of a good god.

2: Since miracles contradict science, they cannot be true
This one I have never heard before. I can see where the misconception comes from, however. When doing scientific analysis, bringing in supernatural causes to explain things doesn’t explain anything. Miracles are just useless to science. That’s no proof that they never happen, but as none have been really verified, we have every reason to be skeptical that they do happen. Especially in the light of the fact that most every phenomena which used to be clearly miraculous or supernatural now has a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation.

3: Evolution explains life, so god isn’t needed
Straw man. Evolution doesn’t even address the issue of god. It provides a natural explanation of how species evolve, or on a grander scale how the universe evolves. Whether or not God exists or is needed is irrelevant. A lot of Christians both acknowledge evolution and believe in God.

4: God isn’t worthy of worship if he kills innocent children
This one is worth considering, but I would think it should have been addressed in chapter one. It is an extension to the problem of evil. Strobel is getting two objections for the price of one.

5: It’s offensive to claim Jesus is the only way to god
It wouldn’t be offensive, assuming that god is real and there was evidence to support the exclusivity claim. As is, there is no more support for it than there is for the claims of other religions. No evidence, just blind faith.

6: A loving god would never torture people in hell
Perhaps the best objection listed so far. Doesn’t the idea of eternal torturous punishment make God sound, well, pretty darn sadistic?

7: Church history is littered with oppression and violence
Too true. While not negating the claims of Christianity, per sea, it I think it does shed doubts on the Christian claims to morality.

8: I still have doubts, so I can’t be a Christian
No comment. Not relevant to my situation, and not really an objection to Christianity at all. Except for the apparent inability of god to give assurance to his followers.

Note: all these objections are objections to Christianity, not to “faith.” I think this book should be called The Case for Christianity, not The Case for Faith.

Also, I have lots of objections that are not listed here, that I think are tougher than the ones he’s listed. Like:

If complexity cannot exist without a designer, who designed God? (I would not call the Christian concept of God simple.)
Is an action good because god said so, or does god say so because the action is good

I have more—my point is that Strobel is not really addressing the “Toughest Objections to Christianity,” as he claims. I expect that this book is not designed to convince skeptics but to shore up the faith of doubting Christians. We shall see.


Check back soon for my review of Chapter 1!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

sad news in the paper

This morning I was flipping though the local newspaper. My eyes caught the headline:

Parents on trial in child's death
Indiana case will touch on religion

I found this intriguing, and read on . . .

FRANKLIN, Ind, -- The trial of a couple whose ailing newborn daughter died when they rejected medical treatment in favor of prayer may focus more on facts than faith. . . .

. . .The couple belong to a church that advocates prayer and faith healing over medical intervention. Instead of seeking a doctor's help, prosecutors said, the parents called church elders to their home to pray for the child, who died less than two days later.

Naturally, the couple did what the Bible said, and only that. According to the church they belong to (The General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which I never heard of before) they take these verses literally:

Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:14-15)

Fortuately, most Christians no longer trust in prayer to the extent that they rely on it exclusively when their children are deathly ill. In practical matters of life and death such as this, scientific thought has overtaken faith in the miraculous. Unfortunately they are also mostly likely to attibute cases like this to some kooky cult, and never think to apply this lesson on the failure of prayer to their own religion.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Happy Day of Reason!

The Offical Website of the National Day of Reason

This is where you can go to find the history of the NDR and find out where there are events in your area.

National Day of Reason on

Also interesting information, and a discussion of the tension between the National Day of Reason and the National Day of Prayer.

Unfortunately there are no event scheduled within a reasonable drive from my home. So I'm observing the day by writing this blog, and by wearing my "America: It's not a Religion Thing, It's a Freedom Thing!" t-shirt. And maybe I'll visit the library :).

Monday, May 02, 2005

you might be an atheist if . . .

These are original, but I'm not saying they all apply to me.
I need help! Think of more and put them in the comments. Thanks :)

  • You might be an atheist if you have ever tried to sell your soul on eBay.

  • You might be an atheist if your list of heroes includes Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson. (Or you may be a Deist :-p)

  • You might be an atheist if “god” means less to you than “dog,” or if you have a bumper sticker that says “Dog is my co-pilot.”

  • You might be an atheist if you have ever been expelled from Sunday school.

  • You might be an atheist if you’ve ever mentioned the babblefish as proof of the non-existence of god.

  • You might be an atheist if the idea of life after death makes no sense to you.

  • You might be an atheist if you write Thomas Paine or Carl Sagan quotes on gospel tracts you find in bathroom stalls. (I do this. lol)

  • You might be an atheist if you’ve said that you serve the IPU only, bless her holy mane.

  • You might be an atheist if you’ve joked about going to hell.

  • You might be an atheist if you do not worry about what anyone else thinks of that lustful thought that just ran though your mind. ;)

  • You might be an atheist if you've ever baited Christians on internet forums. (This does get old after a while.)

  • I need more ideas!