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Review of Richard Carrier's "Why I am not a Christian"


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#1 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 06:24 AM

Kevin Brown at Diglotting has turned his attention to Richard Carrier's book "Why I Am Not A Christian". It doesn't fare well:

I have a self-published book of Carrier’s on my kindle, Why I Am Not A Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith, and so I thought I would give it a quick whirl while sitting out on the balcony in the sun. I knew I was in for a treat when I cracked the book open (can one use this language when talking about an e-book?) and saw on the first page Carrier saying that he has “become something of a world renowned atheist.” I had no idea!

The book consists of four main chapters, each of which is an explanation of a reason as to why Carrier rejects God. At the beginning of the first chapter, Carrier says,

If God wants something from me, he would tell me. He wouldn’t leave someone else to do this, as if an infinite being were short on time. And he would certainly not leave fallible, sinful humans to deliver an endless plethora of confused and contradictory messages.

This type of reasoning is what you essentially find on many pages of the book: I think God would do XYZ, God does not do XYZ, therefore God could not possibly exist. Yup, that is the main thrust of Carrier’s whole argument. God doesn’t do things the way I would, therefore he doesn’t exist.

The book is extremely light on knowledge of Christianity (Carrier only evinces a very rudimentary knowledge of C.S. Lewis’ brand of “mere Christianity”), and doesn’t even really attempt to touch the surface of theology and philosophy. The four reasons that Carrier provides in the book as to why he isn’t a Christian may be perfectly fine for him, but for those who desire an intellectual discussion of the issue, you will be sorely disappointed. This book makes Christopher Hitchens badly researched book, God is Not Great, seem like a veritable five-star intellectual discussion on Christianity.

There is no way that won't leave a mark.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#2 Evangelion

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 06:43 AM

It's an insult to Bertrand Russell that this amateur upstart has pinched his title.

This type of reasoning is what you essentially find on many pages of the book: I think God would do XYZ, God does not do XYZ, therefore God could not possibly exist. Yup, that is the main thrust of Carrier’s whole argument. God doesn’t do things the way I would, therefore he doesn’t exist.


:D

Apparently Carrier hasn't heard of the argument from incredulity.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#3 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 07:19 AM

It's an insult to Bertrand Russell that this amateur upstart has pinched his title.

The atheists were better in the old days, I tells ya.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#4 The Budster

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 08:09 AM

The book is extremely light on knowledge of Christianity (Carrier only evinces a very rudimentary knowledge of C.S. Lewis’ brand of “mere Christianity”), and doesn’t even really attempt to touch the surface of theology and philosophy...


Slightly tangential, but Dawkins and Myers have taken to directly mocking the notion that a knowledge of these subjects is necessary to debunk theism. Their meta-argument is roughly that arguing the details of textile technology is nothing but a distraction from noticing that the emperor is stark naked. It dovetails nicely with their generally angry outlook, since it allows them to make various cracks about "discussing the merits of imported versus domestic newt tongues for making love potions," and such like.

I'd like to see a cogent meta-counter-argument explaining where "sophisticated theology" comes into play. As a non-theologian, I'm ill equipped to make it myself: I can see Myers and Dawkins et al veering off the beam, but can't necessarily articulate where they went wrong exactly. Unfortunately I can see that their mockery is partly on target: a sizable chunk of apology appears in my view also to rely fatally on the assumption of what they're trying to prove; they really do take the form of "discussing textiles" instead of confronting the question whether the emperor's posterior is or is not showing.

In "The God Delusion," which in all honesty I haven't read, I understand it to focus mainly on origins. God's reason for being is to explain the unexplainable concerning origins; we now have explanations for those previously unexplainable mysteries; therefore, there's no need for God. And since beings only exist if they're needed, God doesn't exist. QED. On that score my first reply is, "Jessica Simpson!" Clearly useless beings have an annoying habit of existing. So putting God out of a job does nothing to attack the question whether He exists or not.

Dawkins of course thinks he's addressing a deeper epistemological problem; he believes that the only reason people believe in God today is their need to fill the gaps. His error is clear: practically nobody believes in God for that reason. It's as good a theory as any other, I suppose, for how primeval people went about inventing their myths and superstitions, but subsequent generations don't repeat that process anew. They believe in God (or their parents' gods) for the simple reason that their parents did. It's now communicated to them, along with other cultural elements, as part of their upbringing. If asked why they believe, most will say they "Just do." So attacking "God of the gaps" doesn't lay a glove on them.

American fundamentalists (and their overseas brethren) make Dawkins overconfident, because they do retroactively pin their belief on such things. I.e., they didn't start believing in God to fill gaps, but after the fact they did start hanging their faith on the idea that these gaps are proofs of God. It makes their faith easy to destroy, because the foundations are so shaky: instead of attacking what might even be an impregnable structure, you undermine the foundations and watch it fall like Jericho. It has the opposite effect on those of us who aren't fundamentalists, because he's not touching our building nor its foundations, but he is strutting around proclaiming himself conqueror of all he surveys. It makes one want to snicker and call, "Jettez la vache!"

But to my regret, it's not a complete response to Dawkins. If I personally pointed this out to him, he would turn the tables and reply, "So tell me, Mr. Jeenyus, why do you believe in God?" Any reply I make will get me skewered, since my main reason is... I just do. I have only indirect evidence to point to, such as the power and meaning of scripture in my life, and mumble mumble prophecy. I'm not the David to send out to slay him with a well-chosen apologetic sling stone. So while I see that his theological unsophistication causes him to miss the mark, I'd be interested myself in a more complete, cogent explanation of what this mark is that he's missing.

#5 Mercia2

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 03:36 PM

American fundamentalists (and their overseas brethren) make Dawkins overconfident, because they do retroactively pin their belief on such things. I.e., they didn't start believing in God to fill gaps, but after the fact they did start hanging their faith on the idea that these gaps are proofs of God.

There is a gap that Dawkins will never be able to fill because it is out of reach of time and physics - before the big bang.
Everything after that has to atleast appear random or man finds God through science and not through devotional and prayerful study and understanding, as God demands.

In "The God Delusion," which in all honesty I haven't read, I understand it to focus mainly on origins. God's reason for being is to explain the unexplainable concerning origins; we now have explanations for those previously unexplainable mysteries; therefore, there's no need for God.

Dawkins analogy is to be think of creation as a slow gentile incline rather than a steep cliff, i.e for atheists like him it is all about time. You have to challenge Dawkins on that level as well.

I'd be interested myself in a more complete, cogent explanation of what this mark is that he's missing.


I would have to watch it, lets hope someone else does and gives you a good reply.

The problem atheists have is that god’s thoughts and ways aren’t terribly convincing or impressive.

Yawn at the typically presumptious way the athiest thinks he can immediately discern Gods thoughts. Thats the only thing that is not impressive.

Edited by Mercia2, 27 April 2012 - 04:03 PM.

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/20950-holy-spirit-mercia/

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/4997-mark-of-the-beast/page__pid__439951__st__120#entry439951

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/14248-historicists-revelation-has-a-dual-fulfillment/




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