Monthly Archives: April 2010

Loftus- Why I Became an Atheist, Part: 1

Got the book for Easter, along with two of Michael Martin’s books. A little humorous, because as I celebrate the resurrection, I’m reading about why I am wrong about doing so. I will try to do a post per topic in each book, but no guarantees. So here is the first post on Loftus’ book.

I started Loftus first, as he came highly recommended. But through the first 4 chapters, I’ve actually been disappointed. He had a rough time that cause him to fall from his “faith,” but wants to entirely attribute his “deconversion” as he calls it to his intellectual fallout. But it surely appears, at least at face value, that it was in fact the emotional problem he had that aided his intellectual disbelief. For those of you who don’t know his history, he grew up a nominal Christian, and knew of nothing else. He got into drugs, but then found Jesus, who became his new high, and that was in fact how he preached it. He went to Bible college, got a few Masters degrees, even one under Bill Craig, and went into ministry as a pastor. He succumbed to the openness of a co-worker and had an affair, and instead of the Church rallying around and supporting him through his sin, they condemned him, and not his actions, and even though he repented, that wasn’t good enough. This was just the beginning. He continued to find problems at other churches, and eventually he started to stop attending.

Now as one can see, it is indeed a sad story. He found redemption in Christ and lived as best he could to please Him, and we all fail at this, and when he failed, his church did not treat him very well at all. In their correspondence, Norman Geisler apologized to Loftus for the church’s behavior, and does not at all blame him for his reaction. So while the church messed up and surely didn’t follow Christ’s example. Indeed, it is a heart-wrenching story that one, as a Christian, hates to hear. But this was not the part that I was disappointed by. This was actually eye-opening, because all I had known before hand was that Loftus was trying to follow in the footsteps of Paul Copan and become an apologetic leader for the church, and then the next thing we knew, he was promoting atheism. So this story was moving and enlightening, as I realized it wasn’t that he just looked into it and doubted, but had other reasons to doubt as well. And not only this, but that he went down kicking and screaming, for 13 years nonetheless.

The part that was disappointing was the chapter on morality. He attacks Divine Command Theory(DVC) by proposing the Euthyphro dilemma, and says that this puts the proponent of this theory in a tight place. He quotes Craig as biting the bullet. Yet, as a former Christian, it seems he should know that many theologians consider this a false dichotomy. There is a third possibility, viz. that God commands are good because He is good, that it is part of his nature. And in the same way that we are human, and can’t act apart from our human nature’s, God is good and can’t act apart from that. His response is that this begs the question, since how is God good if there is no good other than God to compare his good too? But this can be applied to us being human as well. How do we know what human; is apart from ourselves? We can call it whatever we want, the name is arbitrary, but the proposition or state of affair that hold for one to be “human” seems to be just that, the state of affairs such that one is “human.” So to say that “God is good” is more of an identity statement rather than an attributive statement. He is the measure of good, just as we are the measure of human.

But then he goes on to basically dismiss the natural law theory of Aquinas in less than a paragraph, which he admits is the most popular view in Christianity today, that says that morality is innate to us, that God has “put it on our hearts” and this is our intuition of right and wrong. He simply states that this does not make Christian morality superior to any other morality, and that if this is true, anyone can grasp it. Well, this seems to be a straw man. I know of no proponent of multiple objective moralities, so either Christian morality is true or it isn’t. There is no better than or worse than, it either is or isn’t. I also have never heard anybody say that you must be a Christian to be moral. Usually the argument from morality says that we all observe objective right and wrong, not that only Christians do. So it seems he is surely attaching a straw man.

And this is what disappointed me, and I hope improves as I continue reading. As a former Christian, I hoped that he would only look at the real issue, rather than attacking fake versions of it to make his arguments seem strong, the way Dawkins and Haris and Dennet and Hitchens often do. But that is exactly what he resorts to when speaking of morality.

So… more to come on the next few chapters. I will try to do a post per topic that he discusses and some thoughts on it.