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WLC Piñata!

May 19, 2010

In a previous post I tackled a little piece of the argument appearing in this article, concerning the biblical story of the slaughter of the Canaanites and how xians attempt to reconcile this story with their belief in a good god-concept. So I had limited my remarks to one little piece of this maniacal, genocidal apologetic, that led to shooting babies in the face as doing them a favor. Bad enough, sure! But there is so much more fun to be had at William Lane Craig’s expense.

In another part of the argument, WLC claims that atheists affirm an objective morality found in the bible and undercut their objections in doing so.

Now before attempting to say something by way of answer to this difficult question, we should do well first to pause and ask ourselves what is at stake here.  Suppose we agree that if God (who is perfectly good) exists, He could not have issued such a command.  What follows?  That Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?  That God does not exist?   Hardly!  So what is the problem supposed to be?

I’ve often heard popularizers raise this issue as a refutation of the moral argument for God’s existence.  But that’s plainly incorrect.  The claim that God could not have issued such a command doesn’t falsify or undercut either of the two premises in the moral argument as I have defended it:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

In fact, insofar as the atheist thinks that God did something morally wrong in commanding the extermination of the Canaanites, he affirms premise (2).  So what is the problem supposed to be?

It’s interesting that WLC begins this piece of rhetoric by assuming that the existence of his god-concept is already proven, and that nothing can come of this line of inquiry.

What follows?  That Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?  That God does not exist?   Hardly!

This disingenuous remark demonstrates why some believers are simply hopeless, that there is no point in debating them, that there will be no change taking place in their minds. If the god-concept makes no sense then yes, of course these ideas would also be tossed as nonsense. WLC claims them as if they were proven fact in order to attack the skeptic. So already we can see a shaky foundation to the apologetic that will follow.

So, to tackle the second idea, that atheists affirm his premise (unsupported claim, really) of objective morality.

In fact, insofar as the atheist thinks that God did something morally wrong in commanding the extermination of the Canaanites, he affirms premise (2).

There is a difference between affirming WLC’s assumption, and assuming it for the sake of argument. The skeptic considers the possibility, of this god-concept existing with its attached ethical system, in order to evaluate it. This is a concept that WLC ought to understand — yet he chooses disingenuity again and pretends the skeptic is doing something quite different.

What we can also see is how WLC’s argument is quite circular here; he begins by assuming the question at hand…

What follows?  That Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?  That God does not exist?   Hardly!

…and then moves from this to a fake argument, fake because it’s already been assumed…

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

…and then finishes with a plain lie about the skeptic’s position in evaluating the mess. And that would be enough, really, to demolish the lot of WLC’s rhetoric.

But beyond that, it’s worth considering just what the skeptic means by considering the supposed morality of the xian god-concept. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this god-concept might be real, and that it is described accurately in this bible. The skeptic takes the god-concept’s own moral system and evaluates whether the god lives up to his own standard. This stakes no claim at all on whether morality is objective or subjective; that is a diversionary tactic.

The revulsion any good xian would feel at such total genocide is reasonable enough, and seems to be shared by most modern-day societies, including some non-xian ones. They wouldn’t do that. They wouldn’t expect their god to do that. And yet, to accept this book uncritically, they must.

Most attempts at ‘reasonable,’ or ‘liberal’ xianity begin by throwing this notion of uncritical acceptance of the entire bible under the bus straightaway. What’s it now, a metaphor? They do a lot of that, shift bits and pieces from literal to metaphorical as a dodge. But a story like this doesn’t seem to lend itself to metaphorical transmutation. I suspect they would just have to toss it.

But regardless, once we introduce ideas like ‘some of this book is wrong’ or ‘some of this book can’t be taken literally’, this opens up the question of how does one pick and choose. That road may be for another show.

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