Tag Archives: atheists

Van der Weyden’s Last Judgement Spooked Atheist Peter Hitchens in Broad Daylight


Scoffing, he said, ‘Couldn’t these people think of anything else to paint?’

If there ever was a case of art in the cause for Christ then this anecdote will certainly qualify.

In fact, as Peter Hitchens put it in his book , 500 years after his death Van der Weyden was still earning his fee.

Stumbling across The Last Judgement

The story starts with Hitchens and his girlfriend visiting the u in Beaune in search of fine foods and wines. Being seasoned travellers they strayed off the beaten path to explore the ancient hospital.

According to their Green Michelin guide, Roger Van der Weyden’s fifteenth century polyptych  , was a must see. So he and his girlfriend hoofed it to find it.

Upon coming across the apocalyptic altar piece Hitchens’ instinct was to scoff. He then leaned in to peer at the details of the painting–and gaped.

What struck Hitchens was the naked people in the painting didn’t appear to be from the fifteenth century A.D. Nor did they appear to be tribesman from the Neolithic Age. Nor any remote age for that matter.

They appeared to be his contemporaries. And “one of them is actually vomiting with shock and fear at the sound of the last trumpet.”

How The Last Judgement Changed Hitchens

Hitchens points out that this didn’t lead to a mystical experience. No vision or swoon. Just a sense that religion was real. It was current. Not distant or remote. But something just as important as the study of economics or psychology.

If not more important.

The other effect that Van der Weyden’s altarpiece had on Hitchens was that it gave him a sense that he was among the damned. If there were any damned. And like the feeling any good horror novel would give, Hitchens was scared.

Unlike a good horror novel, however, Hitchens couldn’t close the altarpiece and sink into the comfort of a bed or couch with the horror gone. This time his conscience had been spooked, and the fear remained. Yet he began to think very clearly.

Hitchensexplains that fear is a gift. It puts us on high alert when physical danger is near. It could be during a motorcycle accident, in a car surrounded by an angry mob or when a soldier is shooting into the crowd you are in. Whatever the situation, fear keeps us sober and calm so that we make wise decisions.

People who are blind to fear miss the danger. In this case, their rebellion towards a gracious God.

Hitchens walked away from Van der Weyden’s altarpiece chastened. And a little embarrassed. Embarrassed that it was fear that motivated him to seek God and atone for his sins. But he regards that the lesser of two evils.

Well said, Mr. Hitchens.

Your Turn

Has a piece of art–a painting, a novel, a play–ever scared your conscience? Did it play a part in driving you back to God?

Please comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Peter Singer: An Unparalleled Impoverishment of Human Life


What you must know about Peter Singer is he’s simply and uncompromisingly working out the implications of living in a truly secular society.

To say  is an atheist is a gross understatement.

Often accused of sensationalism, this Australian philosopher advocates some strong, provocative lines of thought.

Yet, he’s dead serious.

What you must know is that Singer is simply and uncompromisingly working out the implications of living in a truly secular society.

How’s he doing that? He approaches ethical issues from a secular preference utilitarian perspective.

Eh? Let me explain.

A Sophisticated Argument for Suffering

Outside the academic arena, Singer is best known for his book , published in 1975.

The serious objective of this lib movement book is to minimize suffering in all animals. How he defines animals is where Singer’s philosophy gets interesting.

Since severely retarded humans show diminished or lower mental capacity and are, in a sense, less self-aware than say a gorilla, Singer argues that animals should have rights based on suffering rather than intelligence.

Likewise, pigs and birds can be as intelligent as children.  In other words, discrimination based on fur or feathers is no different from discrimination based on skin color.

Three Surprising Conclusions

Singer’s philosophy begins in a broad . It culminates in a narrow preferentialism. This leads him to some startling conclusions. , Robert P. George, Singer:

1. Defends the moral right to kill newborns afflicted with retardation, hemophilia or even cleft palates.

2. Supports breeding large numbers of children to be killed in infancy in order to harvest organs for transplantation.

3. Sees nothing wrong with sex between multiple partners, animals and corpses.

Now, you must understand, these are morally permissible stances as long as no one–eh, I mean, animal–is suffering.

How to Rationalize the Murder of a Newborn

Thus, Singer says that since a  rationality, autonomy and self-consciousness, killing it ISN’T equivalent to  who wants to go on living.

How so? Well, since the fetus up to week 18 can’t suffer or feel satisfaction there is nothing to weigh against a mother’s preference to have an abortion.

Furthermore, since a newborn up to a certain age is less self-aware than some fish, if a mother faces a life of hardship based on her child, she has the right…the preference…to kill it to minimize her future suffering against the newborns suffering.

That is a secular utilitarian calculation based on preference.

What is fundamentally relevant for Singer is the capacity of humans and non-human animals to not suffer. Singer writes in :

Human babies are not born self-aware or capable of grasping their lives over time. They are not persons. Hence their lives would seem to be no more worthy of protection that the life of a fetus.

Favoring Free-Market Murder

Now, many admire Peter Singer as a person of intellectual honesty. Princeton colleague  he lives up to the implications of his principles:

He’s not an ogre or crank and his a fair-minded debater who doesn’t smear or distort his opponents positions. He tells the truth as he sees it. He alone possess the virtue of intellectual honesty.

Thus, he can’t be accused of being a Hitler or Stalin. That’s because he doesn’t want totalitarian genocide. Instead, Singer advocates preferential homicide.


Now, Singer says, we must remove Homo sapiens from this privileged position and restore the natural order. This translates into more rights for animals and less special treatment for human beings. There is a grim consistency in Singer’s call to extend rights to the apes while removing traditional protections for unwanted children, people with mental disabilities, and the noncontributing elderly.

As an atheist, Singer underscores the importance of reason, broadmindedness, consistency and compassion. That’s what he brings to the table. But all at the expense of feelings, human dignity and personal meaning.


In the end his philosophy is one-sided and distorted. It plays into the Culture of Death because it distrusts the province of the heart, fails to discern the true dignity of the human person, and elevates the killing of innocent human beings — young and old — to the level of a social therapeutic.

Yet, if Singer were a true atheist–which he is–then he’d argue that the idea of dignity or personal meaning are human inventions because it is Christendom which has exalted man above animals.

Singer is simply casting off all residue of Christianity. And he’s attempting to live by his secular creed.

My Reason for This Post

This post is the first in a series on understanding atheists. I start with Singer because he’s extreme. And often rebuffed by fellow atheists. And I’m curious how atheists respond to him. That’s why tomorrow I’ll publish a 10-question post with atheist –the bonus question being about Peter Singer.

Understand: I’m not rooting around for provocative statements. I simply want to know how atheists think. What they like. Think of it as a polite cocktail party where we all walk away with a better view of each other.

Now, while we wait for tomorrow’s post, why not share your thoughts about Peter Singer. I look forward to hearing from you. Brutal and all.

Russell’s Tea Pot, Snuggies and Talking Frogs

Guest post by Rob Powell. Part of a series on truth.

Bertrand Russell was a genius.

He had a , was a pioneer in several fields and employed a sharp mind–and even sharper wit.

For all his achievements though he may be best remembered in internet culture today for his teapot analogy…

It goes a little something like this:

Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake.

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes.

But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.

His point is well taken, that you can’t prove a negative–but nobody believes there is a vessel of 3 degree Kelvin Earl Gray floating around between the Earth and Mars.

Russell goes on to say that:

If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

Dr. Russell is implying that the only reason we don’t think it’s crazy to believe in God (who’s negation we can’t prove either) and not the teapot is that our parents, pastors and polite society have brainwashed us into thinking God is real.

In reality, Russell would say, God is no more real than a celestial teapot, unicorn, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

He’s just more socially acceptable.

So what’s the difference between God and this imaginary teapot–and where does this cute little analogy ultimately break down? Let’s take a look.

The Brittle Tea Pot Analogy

There are many hidden assumptions to this comparison but a primary one is that if something is real then science should be able to document it.

We’ve talked about scientism before because it has been a perennial favorite amongst the “brights” since the Enlightenment.

So Russell makes his teapot so far and distant that science can’t detect it–but that doesn’t make it God-like.

In theory we could go to the coordinates of the teapot and take it’s picture. Even if we didn’t know exactly where it was we could scour the range of coordinates and given enough time and effort we could find it or rule out its being in a certain area or at the very least based on its size and the volume it’s contained in say we are X% sure it’s not between Earth and Mars.

But since God is unembodied we could know the exact location of every quark in the universe and still not know where God is and He could still be real or at least authentic to the description given to Him in those ancient texts.

What Russell has done is placed on God the burden of being scientifically detectable in order to be real. But he offers no reason why God can’t exist without fulfilling this requirement?

Is God Less God-like If He Is Uncaliperable?

Dr. Russell is also comparing something with no proof for its existence outside of his fanciful testimony meant to be a zinger to something who’s existence we do have good arguments for.

The ontological, teleological, cosmological, moral…these arguments have kept our greatest thinkers busy for over a thousand centuries.

The list of theists is long and illustrious and will make any honest skeptic pause.

This doesn’t make God real but it does mean that you can be a rational human being and believe in God. Not so much for his teapot.

The Tea Pot Is Under Strain

Let’s ask a question: When is lack of evidence evidence of lack?

Suppose you enter a cozy one room cabin and someone asks you if there are any Kodiak bears in the room. If you don’t see, hear, or smell any Kodiak bears you can assert with confidence that there are no Kodiak bears in the cabin.

But what if you enter the cabin and someone asks you if there are any gnats in the room? You can stare and listen but you will have a much shakier foundation to affirm that there are no gnats in the cabin.

In the first case we can go easily from “I don’t see any bears” to “there are no bears”. In the second case we can only go from “I don’t see any gnats” to “I don’t know if there are any gnats.”

The difference between the two is our epistemic situation, which in broad terms is the limits on our ability to know something through our primary sources of knowing (sense, memory and reason).

Using the terms we usually do around here we could say we’re atheistic about bears in the cabin but remain agnostics about the gnats.

Three Reasons for Our Evidence of God

What Russell is trying to do is stretch our atheism about the teapot into atheism about God. But is that a legitimate analogy? In order for that argument to work two criteria have to be met.

1. If God exists then we would expect there to be evidence for God.

2. If there is evidence for God then we would expect to have knowledge of this evidence.

We deny the bears in the cabin because we expect sufficient evidence to know if bears were in the cabin–but we lack it.

We are less sure about the gnats because even though we lack evidence for them we wouldn’t necessarily expect to have any evidence if they were there.

So with respect to God we would have to expect to have evidence of His existence but lack it to affirm atheism.

But should the skeptic expect to have this evidence? Here’s three reasons why they shouldn’t.

1. Sin

People are fallen and flawed and have wilfully and purposefully closed their eyes toward God. We do this because we are proud, licentious, and wicked people in desperate need of a savior.

A crystal clear example of this is atheist Thomas Nagel saying, ” I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers… It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want a universe like that.”

Could a mindset like that cause him to knowingly or not close his eyes to evidence for God?

2. Demands for unreasonable types of evidence

God could better prove His existence by painting a vibrant picture of Jesus in a different color Snuggie up in the clouds every Sunday from 11 to noon.

Or maybe he could cause frogs to say John 3:16 instead of “ribbit”.

Whatever the demand the implication is that God has a moral obligation to people to make Himself more clearly–even ridiculously!–evident because then more people would believe in God and avoid hell.

This leads us to the last reason.

3. Humble versus forced submission to God

God doesn’t desire that people merely acknowledge His reality but that they have a redemptive, meaningful, ongoing relationship with Him. He wants to be every bit of our Lord and Father–not just our acknowledged reality.

Would cloudy Snuggie clad saviors and talking frogs lead more people to this type of relationship? Maybe, but I doubt it. We are still bent toward evil and incapable of doing good on our own.

It might just lead to more people like the demons who acknowledge Him but refuse to submit to his authority.

What separates God from Santa Claus, tooth fairies, teapots, and other imaginary beings is that where we can’t necessarily expect to know about evidence for God we would expect to know about evidence for the others.

But our epistemic situation is better.

Evidence of God Superior to Evidence for Tea Pots

We would expect to find factories at the North Pole, orphans getting quarters under their pillows and astronauts telling us about the teapot they left on the wing of Mariner IV.

Now I’ll admit the other option for the teapot could be that it just spontaneously popped into being from nothing in a solar orbit and while that would be extremely more likely than the entire universe doing the same trick (which atheists also believe) nobody really believes that could happen (which makes you wonder why it’s okay for the universe but not a measly teapot).

Which leads me to one final thought.

The crux of this argument is that there is no good reason to believe in the teapot other than widespread indoctrination. Russell is asserting that blind  puts faith and reason at odds–and reason must triumph.

You knew we would get here eventually but enter Jesus as the anti-teapot. The uniter of heart and mind.

God saw fit to come to earth in the form of Jesus and become very detectable so that we might know Him, repent, believe, and live in redeemed relationship with Him.

The historicity of the life of Christ allows us to have a reasonable faith. We can study His life, His words, and the lives of the people He interacted with.

In Russell’s analogy he’s given us no reason to believe him about the teapot. If the teapot’s creator had authored a now ancient text describing the out of sight teapot we could study it.

If we had reason to believe the author we’d have reason to believe in the teapot. The same must be said for Jesus. But in Jesus’ case, his life, death and resurrection exist not as dogma but as historical evidence. In other words, facts. Not so for the tea pot.

Who Is the Number One Atheist? (Does It Even Matter?)


Let’s pretend Time magazine published an issue called The Number One Atheist of All Time.

Who’s picture do you think would be on the cover?

Christoper Hitchens?

Dan Barker?

Richard Dawkins?

Sam Harris?

Maybe Thomas Huxley, Charles Darwin or David Hume…

Or 9th century A. D. religious critic …

Or even 5th century Athenian philosopher Socrates who was, for political reasons, accused of being ‘atheos’ (“refusing to acknowledge the gods recognized by the state”).

What Makes These Atheists Great?

They’ve all published and advocated substantial arguments against the existence of God (except perhaps Socrates who didn’t really publish anything).

But what other qualifications make them a good candidate for the number one atheist? What metrics would help you find that atheist?

IQ? Logic of arguments? Level of publicity? Strength of outside voice?

Maybe it’s who they’ve debated…and the number of debates they’ve won. Or the number of best-selling books they’ve written against the existence of God…or for the proof of evolution.

Perhaps we also measure the depth of their hatred or the  intensity of their bitterness. Calculate the number of times they can say the f-word in a sentence. Or count the number of theists they’ve tortured and murdered.

No doubt a person who excelled in all these areas would make a fine atheist. Maybe even the best.

But are these good indicators to measure the worth of the all-time greatest atheist? To be honest, I don’t think it really matters. Or that I even really care.

What’s important is this: Once God sets his sights on someone–whether a staunch, heavy-weight atheist or a lightweight, equivocating agnostic–that person is toast.

Take Saul of Tarsus, for example.

My Vote for Number One Anti-Christ

Before his conversion, Saul was a model opponent of Christianity. He had the pedigree:

Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee. 

Furthermore, he was bred in the proper intellectual environment: the Mediterranean sea town Tarsus [modern day Turkey], a city well-known for it’s emphasis on knowledge.

He sustained a drive to advance up the Jerusalem temple leadership chain.

He even violently persecuted the followers of Jesus. In fact, the first time Saul makes an appearance in the Bible he is standing over the stoning of Stephen.

And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 

So while Saul of Tarsus might not of been an atheist, he was by all standards a critic of Christianity. An anti-Christ if you will, who was systematically picking off the early church one-by-one.

And he looked unstoppable, which terrified first century Christians.

My Knees Would Buckle in the Face of This Anti-Christ

I have to confess: I would cower, too. And I have something else to confess: I sometimes waver when I think of contemporary opponents of Christianity.

People like Dawkins or Hitchens or Barker.

But there need be no alarm. Even the fiercest opponent of first century Christianity was no match for God:

And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” 

After this menacing meeting with Jesus on the Damascus road the same Saul who breathed threats and murder eventually wrote [after his name was changed to Paul] this:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Don’t Take Saul’s Conversion Lightly

This former Pharisee and Jew went from unconditional disgust for Gentiles [a disgust all Jews held] to a relentless drive to bring them the gospel

A gospel he found prior to his conversion to be a ridiculous corruption of the messianic truth in the Old Testament canon…

A gospel that opposed everything he’d been taught to believe.

Yet, not only did he affirm the truth of this gospel…but he surrendered his life to this gospel and went on to spread it through the Mediterranean region, planting churches and growing believers.

What makes someone do that? Simple: Paul’s conversion is a testament to the irresistible call of God upon a believer’s life.

That’s Why They Call It Irresistible

The same kind of call former atheists like A. N. Wilson, Anthony Flew,  and  experienced.

No matter the amount of intellectual backbone an atheist has…no amount of vicious threats or personal conviction or danger to a person’s life can resist the gracious sovereignty of God when he chooses to open the eyes and soften the heart and apply the work of Christ to an unbeliever’s soul.

In the end, the number one atheist of all time doesn’t stand a chance against the spirit of God–whether in this life or the next.

A. N. Wilson: An Atheist’s Slow Return to Religion

A short story on a noted atheist’s long return back to Christianity.

A. N. Wilson’s conversion might be old news–but it’s profoundly emblematic of ex-atheists.

That means it’s useful to us here at Fallen and Flawed.

Let me show you what I mean.

Brief History of Wilson’s Conversion to Atheism

In April of 2009, this 59-year-old English writer rediscovered his faith.

A faith he formerly denounced in his late 30s.

Legend has it that –during dinner with Wilson–probed the writer:

So – absolutely no God?

Nope, I was able to say.

No future life, nothing ‘out there’?

No, I obediently replied.

And that creedless catechism sealed it. Wilson could officially declare: “At last! No more silly talk about the incarnation. Jesus’ resurrection. The afterlife.”

He was done with that load of baloney. That nonsense.

But there was just one thing. He couldn’t shake the sense that there was more to life than just material.

There’s More to Religion Than Argument

Skeptical to the core, Wilson even struggled with his non-belief. And when he did–just like a devout saint cracking open the New Testament–he brought down his copy of David Hume’s .

But even the monarch of anti-supernaturalism and his literature couldn’t keep the doubts at bay.

What Wilson found was that after the novelty of his dramatic abandonment of faith wore off, he felt bleak and muddled more than ever. Religion wasn’t about argument alone. Religion embraced the whole person. Body and soul.

Further Doubts Rise

Then there’s language. Darwinian materialists suggest that language evolved. Yet, :

Where’s the evidence? How could it come about that human beings all agreed that particular grunts carried particular connotations? How could it have come about that groups of anthropoid apes developed the amazing morphological complexity of a single sentence, let alone the whole grammatical mystery which has engaged Chomsky and others in our lifetime and linguists for time out of mind?

At the bottom of Wilson’s critique is this: Materialism can not adequately explain our complex world. Christianity, on the other hand, as a working blueprint for life, can.

Tell this to an atheist and you’ll get a blank stare. Or a sweeping, scaled-down explanation that demonstrates one thing: They don’t understand what they’re talking about.

Bold assertion. But hear me out.

What Makes *Truly* Useful Parenting Advice

Long ago I didn’t have children.

Yet, I freely gave parents child-rearing advice. Turns out, bad advice. The advice I shared pre-children amounted to a vigorous lack of understanding. A wholesale existential bankruptcy when it came to raising children.

Now that I do have children, I actually understand what it means to struggle with discipline or irregular infant sleep patterns.

What was the difference? I’ve looked a sobbing 5-year-old girl in the face and told her she couldn’t ride her bike. I’ve sat beside an infant soothing his restlessness well past midnight.

The Issue That Put a Tin Hat on Atheistic Ambitions

Interestingly enough, the issue at stake here was the same issue that ate at a unbelieving C. S. Lewis.

That issue is nothing more than morality.

Wilson’s acute crisis with non-faith happened while he was writing a . At some time while writing he realized “how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood.”

Injustice simply didn’t make sense in a creedless society and ethics as a human construct was absurd.

Final [Somewhat Interesting] Thoughts

A. N. Wilson, at one time, was one of my favorite fiction writers. Books that topped my list were his biography on the apostle and .

However, it was  that always most stuck out to me, a book that proclaimed the decline of faith in the western civilisation. In fact, Wilson went so far to say towards the end of the book that at the end of the 20th Century we were witnessing a robust decline in professions to the Christian faith.

Not surprising.

What was surprising to Wilson, on the other hand, was that in the face of ferocious persecution, compelling objections and disruption within the ranks, it persisted.

“It” being God. The very Being, in the end, Wilson couldn’t escape.

An Open Letter to Skeptics

In which I write a very nice letter to my friend, the skeptic.

Dear Skeptic,

I apologize for not writing sooner, but I wanted this to be a meaningful response. Not one kicked out in an hour.

See, you level–like many others before you–a serious accusation at Christians that’s worth a deliberate, thoughtful reply.

A reply that evaluates every inch of your accusation…addresses the perception behind this accusation…and then corrects it.

Why Am I Doing This?

I think it may help you understand us a little better, because we’re all here to understand each other, right?

Well, let’s see how I do.

First, the Accusation

What is the accusation I’m talking about? Nothing more than we Christians like to change the subject on you.

Now, I confess: We do. At least I do. And I’ll tell you why in a minute. But right now I want to explore something else…

I want to unpack your perception of why you believe we change the subject. Tell me if I get it right.

See, you accuse Christians of changing the subject and suggest the reason why is that we can’t answer your objections.

Perhaps this is true in some circumstances. But let me suggest another option:

We change subjects because it’s pointless.

At some point in our discussion–and I’ve seen these struggles between believers and skeptics long enough to  know when it’s happening–we have to draw the line and say this person isn’t open to an earnest conversation.

He isn’t interested in my beliefs…he’s looking for a fight.

Or he’s looking to get his kicks from making Christians stumble. Or maybe he’s simply looking for a platform to display his arrangement of arguments and sophisticated intelligence. In the end, he’s just looking to snub and ridicule another person’s beliefs.

How Do I Know Your Motivation?

It’s easy to see. So often you’re asking the right questions. Questions like, “Is there eternal life? Did Jesus rise from the dead? What do I need to do to be saved?”

But unfortunately, you’re not looking to understand our position. You’re looking for a soft spot. And when you think you find that soft spot–you punch it…

You demand we give you a systematic explanation that satisfies you. We explain, you find another soft spot–and punch that one. Ad infinitum.

The sad thing is you’ve already answered those questions for yourself–in the negative, which is fine–but now you demand Christians intellectually gratify you.

Sorry. But we’re not obligated to do that.

This Is All We’re Obligated to Do

All we’re obligated to do is deliver a clear, graceful . To warn you of the consequences of rejecting that gospel. And to alert you to the danger of bowing down to men like Einstein, Aristotle or Plato.

Men who scientifically, logically and philosophically can walk circles around most Christians like me. But men who are morally inferior to the conquering Messiah.

The conquering Messiah who . Who walked on the earth. Who died. And who  [Warning: PDF].

Indeed, I wish I had the stamina and intellectual resources to answer your every objection. But thank God, I’m not obligated to do that.

I do try to evaluate each discussion. Answer honest objections. Discern the the sincerity of each question: Are they seeking? Or are they looking for a fight?

If it’s the latter, then it’s pointless to argue. It’s pointless because you are dead to the truth. Blind to reason. And doomed to stumble in intellectual darkness.

And it’s only the gospel that will pry your eyes open.

If you accuse me of being insane, irrational or simply naive, so be it. I glory in that accusation…in that association with the risen Christ.

Why I Change Subjects on You

Furthermore, when I change the subject on you, it doesn’t mean I can’t answer the question. More than likely it just means the subject you want to fight over is peripheral. And I won’t squander emotional equity on peripheral arguments.

Yet the subject I want to shift the conversation to–the wrath of God appeased on the cross of Christ–is the real issue.

And the issue I’m willing to die for.

It’s like fighting over the color of the seats while the plane is going down in flames. Let’s land this wreckage first then squabble over what remains. [Forgive me. I’m terribly pragmatic.]

I Won’t Neglect This to Satisfy You

Listen: I do have a biblical obligation to give a . To explain why I believe what I believe. Especially to those who come in a posture of humility–whether fans or opponents of the faith.

But I’m not obligated to gratify antagonistic, self-righteous opponents of the Cross. . And I won’t.

Neither am I required to appease your moral shock or intellectual grievance over my beliefs. This is simply part of the territory. The Bible plainly states:

Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense []…but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles [].

If I do try to fight…if I do try to answer your every objection…we will go around in circles. And I’ll neglect the most precious, joyful privilege I’ll ever have: Confessing Christ and explaining the law of the cross.

Understand, I’m horribly self-conscious about this letter. That I missed an angle. Or flubbed a point. But I hope at least I’ve edged our understanding of each other an inch in the right direction.

If not more.

I’m confident you’ll let me know if I did. Or didn’t. That being the nature of this type of communication. Looking forward to hearing from you.


Demian Farnworth

P.S. Please, share your thoughts. Brutal and all.

10 Questions with an Atheist: John Loftus

Part of the 10 Questions with an Atheist series.

John Loftus was a philosophy instructor at a secular college when he decided to walk away from Christianity.

It wasn’t easy.

The only thing Loftus had known since he was 18 was learning, teaching and defending Christianity.

During that time he had chased several divinity degrees and a PhD. Launched an apologetic journal. Sat under William Lane Craig. Even served as Senior Minister at Angola Christian Church in Indiana from 1987 to 1990.

But in the space of five years–1991 to 1996–Loftus endured a major crisis, crawled through boxes of new information and searched for the caring, loving Christian community that just wasn’t there.

It was these  him to reject Christianity. This is his story.

1. How would you describe yourself: atheist, agnostic or skeptic? Explain.

Thanks for wanting to learn from me. I appreciate this and would hope other Christians would follow your example rather than just blasting people like me.

Let me state for the record that I consider myself first and foremost a freethinker who especially approaches all religious claims with skepticism. All such claims are extraordinary and so they require a lot of evidence before I will believe them, just like evangelicals do with Catholic claims of miracles at Lourdes.

Skepticism is not a belief system. It’s an approach to truth claims, a reasonable one at that. Skepticism is founded squarely on the science of human nature, psychology, and the science of culture, anthropology, for starters.

We human beings are woefully illogical and gullible and trusting. We adopt the beliefs of the culture within which we were raised. We don’t understand things very well. What we believe we prefer to believe. We don’t see things correctly. What we see is filtered by what culture we were raised in.

We won’t even seriously consider we were led to believe something that is false. In fact, we may be personally offended and think anyone who disagrees is ignorant or stupid. That’s how entrenched some cultural beliefs can be. To see this argued for I recommend Jason Long’s book, the Religious Condition. .

Based on these scientific studies we should be skeptical about what we believe. We should be skeptical about that which we were taught to believe. We should test claims and see if they have independent corroboration through science.

If after approaching a truth claim with skepticism it passes muster, then the skeptic has good reasons to accept it. So the skeptic does accept certain claims to be true. No one can be skeptical of everything. It’s just that each truth claim he tests for himself must pass the test of skepticism.

Such skepticism has led me to atheism. There are no supernatural entities or forces at all, although since I cannot state that with a measure of certainty I’m best described as an agnostic atheist.

 2. When did you know you were an agnostic atheist? Did it scare you or was it a non-issue?

The process I went through was long, almost thirteen years. I went through several stages representative of the history of Christian theology itself, until I came to my present position today.

I questioned the Biblical accounts of creation, then Genesis 1-11, and then other portions of the Bible began falling like dominoes. I became a deist, an existential liberal, a full blown agnostic and then an atheist.

What finally tipped the balance for me was why there didn’t seem to be a reasonable initial solution to our existence. The best explanation for this state of affairs was that it happened by chance. An eternally existing fully formed triune divine being who has never learned anything did not explain anything at all for me.

While I was relived to come to this conclusion, the initial process was the most agonizing. It was indeed scary because of the eternal threat of hell. So I had to be very sure I was correct, so sure that I would be willing to risk the threat of hell if I was wrong. And I do. That’s how sure I am Christianity is a delusion. That should say something I think.

And I had invested so much time and money in my education with a hopeful career and many Christian friends that it was also scary to decide to leave that community and my goals.

It can be a painful thing to leave the faith. We like our comfort-zones. We don’t want to leave a community of friends. They won’t come with us. We leave alone. It’s literally like a divorce. I then had to reinvent myself.

 3. Ever suffer persecution as an agnostic atheist?

I am personally attacked every single day because I argue against Christianity. That’s why I am forced to moderate comments on my blog.

I want a decent respectable discussion of the ideas that separate us or none at all. If it is opened up for anonymous comments the Blog would degenerate into a name calling free for all on both sides.

It appears that some Christians feel personally attacked because I disagree with their ideas and that’s a non-sequitur. Since I begin my book as a “tell all” account of my personal life they have used that information to personally malign me at every occasion they can.

My initial reactions to such abuse were polite but then degenerated as I wallowed in the mire with them. I’ve since become inured from such attacks and I ignore them for the most part.

It would seem that the Christians who do so probably cannot deal with my arguments so that’s the only thing left they can do. There are several blogs dedicated to maligning me personally and hardly ever seriously engage my arguments. One intelligent Christian wrote me about one such blog writer: “You clearly have gotten under his skin and he clearly feels that he cannot take you on intellectually or else he would make each blog post a critique of your work – either that or he is childish.”

The way I have been verbally attacked leads me to think that if they had the political power of the church during the Inquisition they would’ve lit the fires that burned me at the stake while singing “Kumbaya.”

 4. What do you want to accomplish with your life?

I have several personal, private goals, like being happily married to my wife Gwen until death do us part. She’s perfect for me.

Other than that I want to change the religious landscape in America bit by bit, one person at a time. I think we’d be better off without religion, especially the fundamentalist kind. I really do, although it’s probably never going to go away.

I do think that just as the liberalizing tendencies have changed Christianity down through the centuries, they will continue to do so into the future. As such, fundamentalists will be forced to choose to live in the backwoods without having much political power.

What’s interesting to me is how Christianity is debunked in every generation but rather than admit their debunking and leave the fold Christians reinvent their faith in light of skeptical arguments.

The Christianity of today is not like the Christianity of a hundred years or a few centuries ago or like the earliest varieties of Christianity in the beginning few centuries. The Christianity of tomorrow will not look like the one that exists today, either. They will think their version is the correct one and that the Christians of today were wrong about several things, possibly significant things. Too bad we cannot compare those Christianities because they are not here yet.

You see, since death ends my life I must give everything I can to the present one. That’s all I have. And I want to make a difference for my children and their children and their children because I care about them. I do not want it to be said in the future that I didn’t do my best for my future great- great- great- Grandchildren. I want them to remember me with fondness for what I did for their future.

And it’s too bad that if I’m right about death no one will ever know that I was, because we won’t wake up after death to realize that death ends it all.

We go where dogs and parasites and sharks go when they die. Any account of heaven that leaves all other living creatures out of it is seriously deficient, but then having mosquitoes and skunks in heaven would be deficient as well.

 5. Who are your heroes? Why?

My wife. She’s my main encourager and motivator. My rock. She believes in me like no one else.

My intellectual hero by far is . He is dismantling evangelical Christianity like probably no one has ever done in any generation. He has the knowledge and the recent tools at his exposure.

And he treats Christianity with respect. He writes both scholarly and popular books. My philosophical heroes on a very short list in modern times are Michael Martin, William L. Rowe, Paul Draper, Keith Parsons, Theodore Drange and J.L. Schellenberg. My heroes in the recent past are Bertrand Russell, and J.L. Mackie.

When it comes to debunking Christianity one of my heroes of the past is , and in the present day I must mention , my friend.

Among Biblical scholars of today Hector Avalos and his efforts stand head and shoulders above others. I also respect the efforts of Edward T. Babinski (who first encouraged me), Robert M. Price, and Richard Carrier.

David Eller, an anthropologist, is the one voice that should take atheism into the future. He should be one of the main spokespersons for atheism. There are others.

And not to mention the so-called “,” I appreciate the way they have grabbed the attention of believers in America. Like many minorities of the past someone had to stand up before the world and say unabashedly with force that the Emperor has no clothes on. I appreciate their courage and conviction.

Now people are looking seriously at our claims and there are even shelves for atheist books in major national bookstore chains because of them.

 6. What would you like to accomplish with your blog?

I think I already answered that in question #2. Needless to say I believe the Blog will outlast me and be a force for debunking Christianity long after I’m gone, as long as there is an internet.

I want to treat Christianity with respect while I debunk it as a delusion, i.e., as false.

Believers with doubts now have a place to be able to learn from us and express themselves in a respectful environment. In the church doubts are not expressed, nor are questions encouraged. So they have little option but to look on the web for answers, and you know the answers we’ll provide them.

 7. What’s your favorite part about being an agnostic atheist?

My favorite part is being able to do what’s right because it’s right and not because I have to find a Biblical passage that tells me it’s right. I can think for myself.

I don’t have to try to justify what I do from the Bible. I don’t have to try to justify why I never tithed the whole ten percent (Christians do not do this by far–as a former minister I know they don’t), or why I never spent enough time in prayer, or why I did not give thanks for everything, or why I did not evangelize all of the time, or why I didn’t do more in response to my belief that God sent his son to atone for my sins.

And I no longer have to gerrymander what the Bible says in order to make the unreasonable and improbable believable. I never could figure out how Jesus could be 100% God and 100% man, nor was there any cogent way to understand how Jesus atoned for my sins, nor do I have to try to justify why there is so much evil in the world if there is a perfectly good and omnipotent God, nor do I have to justify my belief that women are equal to men from the Bible, or why slavery was okay in the Bible but not now, or why genocide was a command that a perfectly good God who cares for every individual person commanded.

 8. Are there any Christian concepts that you respect?

You mean distinctively Christian concepts, don’t you, since we all share many other concepts and ideas. There are no distinctively Christian concepts that I accept. The ones I do accept I do so because of other reasons.

I think marriage should be monogamous between two committed people. I think it’s better to tell the truth and to forgive people who do you wrong. I fully accept democratic capitalism, the rights of all people to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness until someone harms another person or group, and I support the first amendment, for starters.

But when it comes to respecting distinctively Christian ideas, it’s hard to do. I do treat these ideas respectfully, but I do not respect them at all. I do recognize certain Christian scholars who are experts at mental gymnastics and I marvel at the contorted reasoning they use to support these ideas, so I respect their intelligence at defending delusional beliefs, yes.

But the beliefs themselves are complete and utter hogwash, most notable Plantinga’s Reformed Epistemology, which if that was the very first issue he ever wrote about in his career would probably have been ignored even by most Christian scholars.

There are, though, several major Christian thinkers who have proposed what I called the “,” (some others are mentioned in a comment by Heyzeus7 below mine).

I have to respect Christian thinkers who can do this for their faith even if I think what they defend is utterly false.

 9. Does it irritate you when Christians try to share their faith with you?

Not at all, unless they simply quote the Bible to me and refuse to think about the ideas they believe based on what they quote. Bible thumpers are complete ignoramuses and do irritate me.

10. Were you ever a Christian? Would you go back?

This first question is a double-edge one. On the one hand I believed the Bible and trusted in God’s salvation, studied what I thought was his word, prayed daily, and sought to share my faith, yes. I was a Christian in the same sense that any believer you know, including yourself, professes faith in Christ.

But on the other hand, from my perspective today, I was never a Christian, if by that one means someone who was actually in a saved relationship with God-in-Christ. I was never Christian in the sense that there is no truth to Christianity.

If being a Christian means that I had a personal relationship with God-in-Jesus Christ, then I never had such a relationship, for such a supernatural being is based upon non-historical mythology. There is no divine forgiveness because there is no divine forgiver. There was no atonement because Jesus did not die for the world’s sins. There was no God-man in the flesh to believe in. My petitionary prayers were nothing but wishful hoping.

And this goes for any professing believer, too. You are not a Christian, either, because there is no Christ, no Messiah, no God-in-the-flesh, no Holy Spirit regeneration, no devil and no heaven to go to when you die.

Would I ever go back? Not to evangelical Christianity, that’s for sure. I left that for good.

Your Turn

John, I want to thank you very much for taking the time and being so frank and honest. This was a very compelling and rewarding read. Anyone have any questions, comments or concerns? Have at it.

The Unflinching Solution to Spiritual Blindness

Part of the 10 Hard Truths about Being Born Again series.

People who reject Christ are blind: “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 

In the last several weeks I’ve seen this truth come to life over and over again.

In a sense, it grieves me. And in another, it humbles me.

It grieves me because I so bad want the light to shine in their hearts so unbelievers see Christ.

It humbles me because I can’t do anything about it.

Only a work of God can open their eyes. Only a work of God can give them life. Only a work of God causes the human heart to see the truth and beauty and worth and glory of Christ.

That work is called the new birth. And it has nothing to do with my desire. Or my effort. Yet…

In , speaking to Paul, Jesus says, “I am sending you to open their eyes.” The solution to spiritual blindness is plain: God opens the eyes of the blind through people who share the good news with love.

People like Al. Ryan Karpeles. . . Don at . . .

People who–in spite of rejection and ridicule–boldly proclaim the worth, the glory and the way of Christ.

I want each and everyone of you to know that your support and your witness means the world to me. You encourage me. You cheer me on.

More importantly, you make me proud because people will be born again through the living and abiding word, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you faithfully share.

10 Questions with an Atheist: Luke Muehlhauser

Part of the 10 Questions with an Atheist series.

When Luke Muehlhauser was 19, he got depressed.

He confesses he probably got depressed because all he did was work at Wal-Mart, download music and watch porn.

Mind you, Muehlhauser is a pastor’s son. Born and bred under Christian parents, education and church services.

His struggle was honest and continued for the next 3 years through the help of his father, friends and an enviable bent to understand his Christian faith.

But ultimately, it just didn’t make sense.

Book after book and discussion after discussion, Muehlhauser couldn’t cling to his belief in the existence of God.

Muehlhauser celebrates his deconversion, but also relishes his 22 years as a Christian. In fact, he feels it allows him to “.”

On his blog , Luke makes a point of criticizing atheists as much as he does theists. A weak argument is a weak argument no matter who it comes from.

In addition, he maintains an impressive list–448 and counting–of .

Luke, thank you for your time. And thank you for your thoughts.

1. How would you describe yourself: atheist, agnostic or skeptic? Explain.

I’m a skeptic because the vast, vast majority of truth claims on any subject are false. I’m also a gnostic atheist because I “know” gods don’t exist the same way I “know” fairies don’t exist. I can’t prove the non-existence of either, but I’m pretty sure they don’t exist, having looked at the evidence. But all beliefs come in degrees (see: ). A creator god is extremely improbable already, but an all-good, timeless, spaceless, magical god who sent himself to earth to sacrifice himself to himself to appease himself is even more improbable. In contrast, I’m pretty agnostic about the existence of Buddha, Jesus, Apollonius of Tyana, and Yeshe Tsogyal as historical persons: I just don’t know.

2. When did you know you were an agnostic skeptic? Did it scare you or was it a non-issue?

On January 11, 2008 I admitted to myself I could not believe in God. That decision came slowly, and it was terrifying. I’d been taught that without God, life was meaningless and miserable. I did everything I could to believe. For every atheist book I read, I read 5 books by the best Christian apologists (, , , …). But in the end I had to admit I had no better reason to believe in God than to believe in fairies. Only much later did I find out that there is plenty of joy and purpose without God.

3. Ever suffer persecution as an agnostic skeptic?


4. What do you want to accomplish with your life?

Travel, learning, deep relationships. There are also some open issues in meta-ethics to which I’d like to contribute.

5. Who are your heroes? Why?

No heroes live up to the myths we create around them, but…  saved a billion lives by studying how the world really works and applying his knowledge.  worked out the details of a radical option for human progress. ,, and  are criticizing destructive systems in entertaining and successful ways.

6. What would you like to accomplish with your Common Sense Atheism blog?

I’d like to show why theism is nonsense, and why most of what is said by atheists is also nonsense. I criticize bad atheist arguments very often on my blog.

7. What’s your favorite part about being an agnostic skeptic?

That’s like asking, “What’s your favorite part about not believing in fairies?” So instead I’ll tell you what my favorite part about being a critical thinker is. I no longer fear the truth. I’m no longer worried that new discoveries will overthrow my dogmas – because I have none. I am always excited by the truth, even when it overthrows something that is precious to me.

8. Are there any Christian concepts that you respect?

Everything specific to Christianity is pretty bad. But I admire some values from earlier traditions that also make their appearance in certain flavors of Christianity: non-violence, generosity, love…

9. Does it irritate you when Christians try to share their faith with you?


10. Were you ever a Christian? Would you go back?

I was a Christian for most of my life. I would go back if I found good reasons to believe.

Bonus question: What’s your take on Singer? Thumbs up or down? Explain.

Singer is popular for his work on animal rights, but he would be less popular if people knew Singer thinks it’s okay to kill retarded kids. At the meta-ethical level he defends evolutionary ethics, which is absurd and rightly dismissed by Christian apologists. At the normative level he defends preference utilitarianism, which is unworkable. I’m glad he gives so much to charity, but I say thumbs down. If you want to read a decent atheist ethical philosopher, try , , or .

Luke, thank you for your time and your honesty.  I especially appreciate your openness.

Now, anybody have any comments or questions for Luke? Ask away. Looking forward to hearing from you.

10 Questions with an Atheist: Robert Madewell

Part of the 10 Questions with an Atheist series.

Robert Madewell is an atheist living in Northern Arkansas in the United States.

He was raised as an evangelical Christian and even had an interest in the ministry.

However, in the process of asking questions and reading the Bible, he found Christianity to be false and rejected the belief in God as superstition. During his deconversion process, he’s even tried many different denominations. His blog is called .

Everyone, welcome Robert Madewell.

1. How would you describe yourself: atheist, agnostic or skeptic? Explain.

All three. Atheism is believing there’s no God. Agnosticism is having no evidence that God exists. Skepticism is examining the evidence before you believe it. I have identified as either an atheist or an agnostic (among other things) at different times in my life. I now identify as an atheist. Those terms are not mutually exclusive. Most atheists that I know personally would identify as all three as well.

2. When did you know you were an atheist, agnostic, skeptic? Did it scare you or was it a non-issue?

It’s hard for me to pin down an exact date when I realized that I was an unbeliever. It was a gradual process. However, I’ve been identifying as an atheist for a little over 2 years. I have swung over the belief and unbelief fence several times. I have identified as evangelical free, baptist, pentecostal, seventh day Adventist, transcendentalist, agnostic, and atheist during different periods of my life.

Yes, I was scared at first. When your world view comes crashing down, it’s not comfortable. I really prayed hard that God would make his presence known to me. When that didn’t happen, I realized that there’s really nothing to be afraid of.

3. Ever suffer persecution as an atheist?

No, not by my definition. Which is surprising considering where I live. I live in the middle of the “bible belt” in the United States. I am not hiding my unbelief. I often confront ministers in my area. It’s no secret how I believe.

So far, I’ve had lots of fun being the local skeptic. I’ve learned much more about Christianity by being the skeptic than I did by being a christian.

4. What do you want to accomplish with your life?

I want to promote critical thinking and science in Northern Arkansas. I’m a man of limited means, so I’m not sure what to do. But, activism for critical thinking is sorely needed in Arkansas. Promoting atheism is not my goal, however, promoting the tools I use to examining belief systems is.

5. Who are your heroes? Why?

I have lots of heroes. My Dad’s my biggest hero, because he’s my Dad. My Grandfather was a great critical thinker (except when it came to religion). I guess my biggest hero outside of my family would be . Randi has done more than most to promote critical thinking and skepticism.

6. What would you like to accomplish with your blog?

The original purpose of my blog was to investigate the superstitious aspects of religion. I’m not sure that I have stuck to that purpose. I’d like to get back to that goal.

7. What’s your favorite part about being an atheist?

That’s a hard question. I’m not sure that life as an atheist has turned out to be all that different than life as a theist, in the long run. I guess that if I have to answer the question, my answer would be my new outlook on life. Also, I no longer have to worry about the “thought crimes” as much as I did as a christian. I no longer worry if my thoughts will send me to Hell. Thoughts are totally harmless as long as they remain just thoughts. Besides, who can control their thoughts completely anyways?

8. Are there any Christian concepts that you respect?

Sure! Loving your neighbor as much as yourself () is the best verse in the entire bible. Jesus quotes it in the new testament several times. If everyone practiced that verse, the world would be a much better place.

9. Does it irritate you when Christians try to share their faith with you?

It depends. If the christian is just looking to proselytize and won’t consider any arguments, then I am not interested. But, if he/she wants an honest discussion, then I’m all for it. I do not respect the dismissive attitude that I get from many Christians in my area.

10. Were you ever a Christian? Would you go back?

Yes, I was a fundamentalist. My father is an evangelical minister. I was indoctrinated. I think that I have always been a critical thinker. I would ask my Sunday school teachers some very hard questions. I think the hardest question I ever asked was, “What is God?” I actually got in trouble and was punished for asking that, because, I wouldn’t accept the stock answers. That’s when I realized that if the belief system couldn’t hold up to simple inquiry, then that belief system is likely false.

It’s possible. I won’t deny it. I have jumped that fence many times. It could happen again. However, I don’t think it’s as likely that I would now as it had been in the past. After all, I am human and as a human we all have a tendency toward believing superstition. I am no different. I think that my study into critical thinking in the past two years makes that possibility slimmer, though.

Bonus question:What’s your take on Peter Singer?

Singer is not well known in the United States. I don’t know enough about him to say one way or the other.

Your Turn

Robert, thank you for the time and thought you put into answering these questions. I especially appreciate your openness.