Ugly Stuff Craig Has Said

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 29, 2009 in William Lane Craig

I’ve written many favorable things about Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig. I should probably take a moment for some criticisms, lest people think I have too much in common with him! (I don’t.)

I’ll get to my criticisms of his arguments for the existence of God, later. For now, I’ll just list some things he’s said that don’t even require much comment from me:

  • Speaking of proposed regulation in Europe that would ban certain types of discrimination against gays, Craig says, “Can you imagine? A Catholic adoption agency would be forced, under penalty of law, to give little children to male homosexual couples living together – men who might well be sexual predators or child abusers!” …because gays are usually sexual predators and child abusers, and there’s wouldn’t be measures in place to keep children from being placed with bad parents, as there are with heterosexual adopters. Riiiiiiiight.
  • Craig said the election of George W. Bush was “a tremendous victory… for people who believe in Biblical values… this was a night for tremendous rejoicing.” I wonder if he still thinks this now that Bush is widely considered to be one of the most immoral and incompetent U.S. presidents in history.
  • Craig thinks “homosexual behavior is one of the most self-destructive and harmful behaviors a person could engage in.”
  • Whenever he speaks about hell, he must admit he believes that (1) his loving God will torture forever most people who have ever lived, because they hadn’t heard of Jesus and didn’t see evidence of Yahweh in the world around them, and that (2) either some finite sins deserve an infinite punishment, or else the damned remain damned forever because they continue to deny Jesus forever even after they realize they are wrong, and that (3) it was infeasible for God to create a world in which even one more person freely chose to believe in him. What horrid and evil bullshit! It’s amazing how dogma can twist a bright mind like Craig’s.

In fairness, I’ve said some ugly shit in the past, too – but, I’ve either recanted (most of that happened when I realized my invisible friend wasn’t more real than anybody else’s), or else I’ve defended my controversial statements. I invite Craig to do the same.

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

anselm March 29, 2009 at 10:29 am

Regarding your criticisms of Craig:

1) I agree his assumption that gays would be more likely to be abusive than heterosexuals was unwarranted, but that is a separate issue from whether Catholic agencies should be denied a religious conscience exemption and forced to arrange adoptions by homosexuals.

2) Bush is “widely considered” to be one of the most “immoral” presidents in U.S. history by people such as Keith Olbermann (great intellect that he is)–somehow I think Craig would not find that a persuasive reason to change his mind (as he should not). On the question of competence, that would seem to be entirely separate from whether Craig shared Bush's values–Bush could implement those values incompetently but Craig could still logically admire Bush's values and prefer his values to Al Gore's and John Kerry's.

3) On the absurdity of life, Craig is not saying that atheists necessarily FEEL their lives are absurd–but that all lives (including Craig's) are objectively absurd if God does not exist, and any subjective meaning we attach to them would be a game of pretending.

4) On point 4, were you going to present evidence or argument against this, or just your opinion against Craig's?

5) On hell, I'm not familiar with Craig's detailed views on this, although I don't believe he asserts that those in hell are “tortured”–just that they are eternally separated from God. Since those in heaven will be worshiping and praising God forever, why would an atheist want to spend eternity in heaven doing that even after he realized he was wrong about God's existence? In any event, I find Greg Boyd's “annihilationist” interpretation of hell to have the most scriptural support (see http://tinyurl.com/c44qws ) and in that case, those who reject God will cease to exist after death, which should give them no cause for complaint–since that is what, on atheism, they believe is going to happen to all people anyway.

  (Quote)

toweltowel March 29, 2009 at 11:31 am

“I agree his assumption that gays would be more likely to be abusive than heterosexuals was unwarranted, but that is a separate issue from whether Catholic agencies should be denied a religious conscience exemption and forced to arrange adoptions by homosexuals.”

Right, those are two separate issues, which is why only one of them is being singled out for criticism.

Defending religious conscience exemptions due to horrifyingly loathsome bigotry about gays is like criticizing Israel due to horrifyingly loathsome bigotry about Jews: a legitimate position defended with the most odious and indefensible kind of prejudice.

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 29, 2009 at 2:02 pm

1) Yeah, my disagreement was with his assumption that gays are more likely to be sexual predators and child abusers than homosexuals.

2) Bush is widely considered to be one of the worst presidents ever by historians. Of course, Craig does (apparently) support the values of Bush – and I think the values of Bush are ugly. :)

3) Hmmmm… maybe. Sometimes he sounds like he's trying to say more than that.

4) Wow, do you really think homosexual sex is one of the most self-destructive and harmful behaviors one could engage in??? I can think of a pretty long list I'd put ahead of homosexual sex…

5) Annihilationism is certainly less ugly than Craig's views, yes.

  (Quote)

anselm March 29, 2009 at 2:57 pm

1) Good, then we are in agreement, too :) Craig should not make such an assertion without anything to back it up; and religious organizations should get conscience clause exemptions

2) “Worst” and “immoral” are two different things. And historians are in no position to judge a president as “history” 2 months (!) after leaving office. Truman was considered a failure in 1953 and a great president 40 years later.

4) No, I didn't say I thought that, but the statement is not just self-evidently “ugly” unless we know he has nothing to back it up (maybe he doesn't)

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 29, 2009 at 3:14 pm

2) Oh, I can certainly give an argument that Bush was immoral, but I'm sure you've heard it all before.

4) It's not self-evidently ugly, but I think it's not hard to come to that conclusion. We can all think of hundreds of things – murder, rape, female circumcision, self-mutilation, torture, terrorism, sexual molestation, child abuse, drunk driving, etc. – that are more destructive than gay guys blowing each other.

  (Quote)

anselm March 29, 2009 at 3:22 pm

2) Well, sure, on the Christian view we are all “immoral” to some extent (“Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven” as the bumper sticker goes); I just think it is very hard to argue that Bush was more immoral than all the other presidents (especially when you consider Nixon, Harding, LBJ, Clinton, etc., etc., etc.).

4) I think Craig said “self-destructive,” so the self-mutilation would fit; other items would be things like drug abuse, alcohol abuse, etc. Now that I consider it, promiscuity in general (not just homosexual promiscuity) tends to lead to self-destructive outcomes, so I guess we agree again :)

  (Quote)

Brandon March 29, 2009 at 7:47 pm

<3) … all lives (including Craig's) are objectively absurd if God does not exist, and any subjective meaning we attach to them would be a game of pretending.>

As if there's something fundamentally wrong with subjectively labeling your life as meaningful based on your relationships with others, for instance!

I will never understand the apologist assertion that “the meaning of life” is only worthwhile if it's objectively assigned to us as opposed to a meaning we derive from life on our own.

  (Quote)

toweltowel March 30, 2009 at 1:11 am

It's not even clear to me what the apologist assertion is supposed to mean. After all, claims about the meaning of life are very nebulous and very hard to understand. But here's my best interpretation:

* If there is no purpose bestowed upon humans by some higher power, then the most reasonable or appropriate sort of emotional life is one characterized by the following kinds of feelings or attitudes: despair, listlessness, melancholy, resignation, impassivity, indifference, detachment, anomie, maybe liberation from guilt or Sartrean “nausea”.

But why should anyone accept this claim? If I knew someone who first became convinced that there was no higher purpose to life, and subsequently developed that sort of emotional life, I wouldn't admire that person or think of them respondingly appropriately to their beliefs. I'd think of them as immature and somewhat ridiculous. I strongly suspect common sense agrees with me on this, and I haven't encountered any reason to doubt what seems to be common sense on this point.

So the apologist assertion is implausible on its face and in need of strong support before it can be taken seriously.

  (Quote)

busterggi March 30, 2009 at 6:26 am

I''ve argued with many true believers who still insist that Dubya was the greatest president since Saint Ronald, that Jesus made him president and that Obama was put into office by Satan.

There is no reasoning with these people.

  (Quote)

Kevin March 30, 2009 at 11:03 am

Regarding Craig's comment that life without god is meaningless: When he says this in his book Reasonable Faith, he isn't claiming that atheists live without meaning, but that they do so by borrowing meaning from the religious realm. Atheism alone, he says, can't provide meaning, so atheists unwittingly sneak it in from religion, religious concepts, ways of thinking, etc. This is the rough equivalent of what he and other apologists say about ethics–that atheists may behave well, but they can't justify their behavior without recourse to god.

Not that I agree with him, but let's avoid the Straw Men.

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 30, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Okay, then I misunderstood Craig. I'll remove that complaint.

  (Quote)

marcion March 30, 2009 at 7:11 pm

“because gays are usually sexual predators and child abusers”

Only an idiot would think otherwise. If you are a freak enough to do it with another man, will anything really restrain you from raping a child? no. nor an animal! In fact, there is no such thing as homosexuality, but all homosexuals are really bisexuals or omnisexuals. they'll have sex with anything that moves. they pick up AIDS among their own sex then spread it to the opposite sex too, because they are nothing more than unrestrained immoral sexual orgyers. just look at the catholic priests. they're fags and they rape children.

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 30, 2009 at 7:16 pm

I still don't know what you're doing, but you are certainly entertaining, marcion.

  (Quote)

MountainKing April 2, 2009 at 12:00 am

I wrote a comment before on a similar remark by anselm but somehow most of my posts get lost somewhere. He (and other apologists) are correct to point out that theres no objective meaning of life if you define objective meaning to be applied from “outside”. Then they “sneakily” interchange objctive meaning and meaning to prove their point that atheism can´t apply meaning to somebodys life even though it only can´t apply OBJECTIVE meaning. The problem is that they make a second, secret assumption: meaning has to be objective meaning to be the correct, real one. Without that they only prove that people who don´t believe in supernatural beings can´t give theor lives a meaning that only an existent supernatural being can give, that´s not much more than a tautology.

  (Quote)

anselm April 2, 2009 at 6:22 am

This issue was extensively discussed in the comments section to the March 18 post, if you want to check that out. Below is the main point I made there:

“The idea is that without God all life is objectively meaningless (regardless of the subjective meaning we invent to make us happy), because then humankind is a doomed race in a dying universe. All of our little projects are meaningless because after the heat death of the universe, it will ultimately make no objective difference whether we ever existed.

And indeed, some of the most prominent atheist thinkers who delved deeply into atheism's implications came to similar conclusions, e.g., Bertrand Russell:

“That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's salvation henceforth be safely built.” (in “A Free Man's Worship”).

That doesn't mean an atheist is not subjectively happy–who could judge that anyway from the “outside”? I can see how there would be a feeling of liberation in knowing there is no accountability to traditional moral standards and we are free to engage in the “transvaluation of values” as Nietzsche called it (“freedom from ancient prohibitions” as the original post put it). This feeling could certainly be called a form of happiness. But the question is whether Camus is correct that this feeling does not compensate for the objective meaninglessness of life without God (once that fact is fully and frankly confronted).”

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 2, 2009 at 10:49 am

Yup!

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 2, 2009 at 11:07 am

This is like saying that a party, or a sexual encounter, or a marriage does not have objective value because it will come to an end. Well, if that 's what you mean by “objective”, then fine, but that doesn't mean that a party or a sexual encounter or a marriage doesn't have meaning.

  (Quote)

anselm April 2, 2009 at 11:22 am

Well, of course you can define “meaning” however you like (e.g., the activity is “meaningful” if it gives a temporary boost of endorphins to the people participating), but if the human life in which the activity takes place is doomed to cease to exist, and the universe in which all humans live is doomed to cease to exist, then it ultimately has no significance and it makes no difference whether that life or that universe ever existed at all, as Bertrand Russell recognized. And as he said, the only logical response to that existential reality is “despair.”

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 2, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Lol! How does the emotion of despair follow logically from anything?

Even if the universe is doomed to heat death, what we do here and now is significant in the only way anything can be significant: it is significant to sentient beings for whom certain things are significant! If you need your own actions to have eternal significance a trillion trillion trillion trillion years from now and beyond, that is awfully demanding!

  (Quote)

anselm April 2, 2009 at 2:30 pm

“Lol! How does the emotion of despair follow logically from anything?

Even if the universe is doomed to heat death, what we do here and now is significant in the only way anything can be significant: it is significant to sentient beings for whom certain things are significant! If you need your own actions to have eternal significance a trillion trillion trillion trillion years from now and beyond, that is awfully demanding!”

Very Sisyphean attitude there! Camus would be proud of you :)
(But Bertrand Russell agrees with the theists on this one).

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 2, 2009 at 4:01 pm

And I disagree with Bertrand Russell, though he is entitled to his opinion. The universe is tremendously beautiful and amazing and meaningful and significant to me, and when you tell me it's all meaningless because it will end one day, that doesn't compute for me.

Our discussion reminds me of this.

  (Quote)

anselm April 2, 2009 at 4:33 pm

“And I disagree with Bertrand Russell, though he is entitled to his opinion. The universe is tremendously beautiful and amazing and meaningful and significant to me, and when you tell me it's all meaningless because it will end one day, that doesn't compute for me.”

Since it's your blog, I think you deserve to get the last word :) Thanks for the opportunity for dialog

  (Quote)

Richard_tich April 4, 2009 at 10:14 am

Logic leads to beliefs, not emotions. Of course, beliefs may cause emotions, but those emotions do not follow logically from the beliefs that caused them.

  (Quote)

Richard_tich April 4, 2009 at 10:35 am

Meaning is subjective, like morality. It exists only in minds, be those our minds or God's. The meaning that your belief in God gives you is still just your own subjective meaning, regardless of whether God exists.

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Yeah. I went to a meeting on the meaning of life and argued that meaning is, always and everywhere, a mental phenomena. It\\'s a kind of event that happens – as far as we know – only in brains, and perhaps only in the brains of sentient beings. There may be a way to derive objective meaning from these facts, as Alonzo has derived objective morality from the facts about desire in sentient brains, but I haven\\'t seen a way to do this yet because the semantic for \\"meaning\\" and \\"morality\\" are so different.

  (Quote)

anselm April 4, 2009 at 4:56 pm

You're right, I probably shouldn't have used the word "logically"–perhaps "inevitably" would have been better. For example, assume atheism is true, and that we know that in 5 minutes all life on earth will be wiped out in a nuclear holocaust. I would certainly be in despair, and it seems to me that would be the inevitable response of any sane person.

  (Quote)

anselm April 4, 2009 at 5:00 pm

I don't agree. If God exists, then he is a necessary being with an eternal mind, and as our Creator the meaning of our existence flows from him. For example, even a human being whose mind cannot experience what we would typically call "subjective meaning" (e.g., a severely brain-damaged or mentally handicapped person) would have a life with objective meaning equal to any other human being if God exists.

  (Quote)

toweltowel April 5, 2009 at 11:24 am

But as I said in an earlier post, responding to atheism with despair doesn't look like a reasonable response. It looks like an immature response, more like crying when a scoop of ice cream falls on the ground than like crying when your parents die.

  (Quote)

anselm April 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Camus and Russell certainly don't endorse crying like a baby, but instead soldiering on with a stiff upper lip in full recognition of the absurdity of human existence in the absence of God; so despair, while an acceptance of the bleakness of human destiny, doesn't necessitate an immediate emotional response of blubbering. But actually I respect their response because it frankly faces the grim reality of life when "God is dead." Most people would not be capable really looking this in the face–as Pascal pointed out, the human capacity for denial is tremendous, so the preferred psychological strategy is "distraction" (as indicated in the comic strip Luke linked to in another comment).

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk April 11, 2009 at 5:47 am

anselm: I don’t agree.If God exists, then he is a necessary being with an eternal mind, and as our Creator the meaning of our existence flows from him.For example, even a human being whose mind cannot experience what we would typically call “subjective meaning” (e.g., a severely brain-damaged or mentally handicapped person) would have a life with objective meaning equal to any other human being if God exists.

Your argument rests on far more that God’s existence, it makes presumptions about the nature of God, and the centrality of the concerns of Homo sapiens in his scheme.

  (Quote)

Anselm April 11, 2009 at 8:19 am

Reginald Selkirk: Your argument rests on far more that God’s existence, it makes presumptions about the nature of God, and the centrality of the concerns of Homo sapiens in his scheme.

Yes, but if God exists, he exists as a being with maximal excellence and maximal greatness in all possible worlds (see http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/02-03/01w/readings/plantinga.html), which would include the compassion and concern an omnibenevolent being would have for such disabled person.  As that person’s Creator, they would derive the same meaning for their lives as the lives in the rest of his Creation.  On atheism, however, such a person’s life has a meaning limited to her ability to supply subjective meaning from her mind (which in my example, is practically nonexistent).  Which is likely why atheist ethicists like Peter Singer see no problem in euthanizing such lives in certain circumstances–on their view, such lives have little to no “meaning” anyway.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk April 21, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Anselm: Yes, but if God exists, he exists as a being with maximal excellence and maximal greatness in all possible worlds (see http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/02-03/01w/readings/plantinga.html), which would include the compassion and concern an omnibenevolent being would have for such disabled person.

You’re going to have to decide which God you are going to defend. If you are going to defend the onmi-whatever God, I will be obliged to point out that the God of the scriptures is not omnibenevolent, as he is guilty of performing and commanding many immoral acts such as genocide, rape, etc.

  (Quote)

Eugene Curry August 5, 2009 at 9:54 pm

“Whenever he speaks about hell, he must admit he believes that (1) his loving God will torture forever most people who have ever lived, because they hadn’t heard of Jesus and didn’t see evidence of Yahweh in the world around them…”

Craig has said that he subscribes to a “narrow inclusivism” and thus doesn’t believe that a person must have explicit faith in Jesus in this life to be accepted by God in the next.  So your above critique seems off.

  (Quote)

lukeprog August 6, 2009 at 7:21 am

Eugene, can you point to anywhere Craig has explained his particular views on who will and won’t be saved?

  (Quote)

Eugene Curry August 6, 2009 at 10:49 am

Craig seems to vacillate on this issue. In one of his Q&A articles http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5681 he stated that he once supported C.S. Lewis’ (rather wide) form of inclusivism but that does so no longer, favoring a Molinist approach instead. But that article was written about two years ago (it’s “Question of the Week” #8 and the current QotW is #120) and in his debate with Hitchens a few months ago he affirmed a “narrow inclusivism”. I don’t know the time index where he made this statement but it was after the opening statements and others have noticed it too. http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?amount=0&blogid=1&query=Craig+inclusivism

  (Quote)

Eugene Curry August 6, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Alright, Craig discusses the ultimate fate of those never exposed to the Christian gospel in his debate with Hitchens at time index 1:33:08 through 1:34:53 on the BIOLA DVD.

  (Quote)

Eugene Curry August 8, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Not to hog the comment thread, but in light of Craig’s debate with Hitchens I also wonder if the belief that “the damned remain damned forever because they continue to deny Jesus forever even after they realize they are wrong” is really “horrid and evil bullshit”. Hitchen said that if Christianity is true and there is a heaven he would still want no part of it, comparing it to a celestial North Korea. Maybe Lewis was on to something in The Great Divorce.

  (Quote)

hoy December 4, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Luke,

I know that this is reviving an old thread, but I recently discovered this blog (good job, btw).

At the end of your post you say:
“Whenever he [Craig] speaks about hell, he must admit he believes that (1) his loving God will torture forever most people who have ever lived, because they hadn’t heard of Jesus and didn’t see evidence of Yahweh in the world around them, and that (2) either some finite sins deserve an infinite punishment, or else the damned remain damned forever because they continue to deny Jesus forever even after they realize they are wrong, and that (3) it was infeasible for God to create a world in which even one more person freely chose to believe in him. What horrid and evil bullshit! It’s amazing how dogma can twist a bright mind like Craig’s.”

Would you please include a link to an article in which he defends his positions (I thought that his debate with Bradley was good for this)? Would be nice to see the opposite side of view.

  (Quote)

lukeprog December 4, 2009 at 7:42 pm

hoy,

Yeah, you can check out his debate with Bradley and the paper they both cite in that debate.

  (Quote)

Andrew June 19, 2010 at 3:22 pm

What’s morally wrong with being a sexual predator? I like it!!

  (Quote)

Jamma September 6, 2010 at 1:00 am

I read this whole post, and I woul djust like to say that this is probably themost fair-minded and respectful post that I have seen on this subject. What I mean by respectful is being relativley cordial with those withwhom you disagree. I love the debate as I am a seeker – I want to know what really is (not just my opinion of what that means)- even if my own reasonings and beliefs are wrong. However, most blogs and youtube comment sections give me the impression that it’s just a bunch of junior high schoolers bantering ad-hominem arguments – and rarely if ever actually offering arguments. Thank you for keeping this relativley respectful (except for a couple of creepy comments – and thank you “andrew” for the “”being a sexual predator…I like it” comment (yuk!).

I will try to come back and read, learn, and possibly participate.

Thanks!

  (Quote)

Leave a Comment