Lee Strobel Quotes Me, Sort Of

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 4, 2010 in General Atheism

William Lane Craig’s new apologetics book for the everyman, On Guard, opens with a forward by famous Christian apologist Lee Strobel:

on guard forewardWho was that atheist commentator who said that Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child? Why, that was me, Luke Muehlhauser. Unfortunately, Strobel does not provide my name or my website. If he did that, Christians might actually visit my site and start having doubts about their Christian beliefs. And we can’t have that, can we?

This reminds me of J.P. Holding boasting that “someone” wrote a thorough response to all his arguments, but not mentioning who that someone was, so that his Christian readers couldn’t look up those counter-arguments. (That “someone” was Richard Carrier, by the way.)

Then again, maybe I’m asking too much. It’s a tiny foreward, and it’s not the sort of book that has footnotes or anything.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

ChristianJR4 March 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm

That statement of yours (ie. “Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child”) has been used everywhere. Seriously, people everywhere took that line of yours. Biola University used it on their website, Dr. Craig used it in his newsletter, tons of people on YouTube used it when I uploaded a segment from the debate. And then there’s all the blogs that used it too. By the way, your review of the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology was also used in Craig’s newsletter.

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Justfinethanks March 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Then again, maybe I’m asking too much. It’s a tiny foreward, and it’s not the sort of book that has footnotes or anything.

Not really. If it’s a popular level book, not including citations is fine for general statements (e.g. “Even atheists agree that Craig won the day.”) But if you are going to make a word for word quote, it’s a matter of simple integrity to cite where it came from. Perhaps Strobel slept through his Journalism Ethics and Standards class back in J school.

Without a citation, how am I supposed to know:
1) Whether or not the author still holds that view.
2) Whether or not not the quote was taken in proper context.
3) Whether or not person quoted had the ethos implied in the framing of the quote.
4) Whether or not the quote is even real?

Now, I think that none of these things are actually issues for quote as it was used, but readers of the book who aren’t familiar with this blog won’t have any reason to think that.

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Thomas Reid March 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm

That’s raw, you should have received credit Luke.

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The Crocoduck Hunter March 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Eh, Lee Strobel is a slimy bastard. I wouldn’t expect anything less.

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lukeprog March 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Luckily, people can Google the phrase.

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lukeprog March 4, 2010 at 2:02 pm

ChristianJR4,

Yeah, but now it’s in print. :)

I think it was Tom Stoppard who said, “It’s better to be quotable than to be honest.” Luckily, the two are not mutually exclusive.

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Justfinethanks March 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm

There’s also this bit from the first chapter:

I recently saw one Web site where the person provided a list of the books that had persuaded him that Christianity is bunk—followed by the remark that he hopes to read them someday!

Again, a citation would be nice. I don’t even have any reason to believe this person actually exists at the moment.

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Joshua Blanchard March 4, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Yet another similarity between John Loftus and bad Christian apologists.

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2009/09/more-criticisms-of-outsider-test-for.html

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Kenny March 4, 2010 at 3:23 pm

You have to admit it’s still pretty cool to see something you said in real live print.

BTW, nice site, but I seem to be having some trouble looking at a lot of the articles and/or the comments to said articles. When I scroll down (usually to the part that has a book cover with “What is Morality” on the side), the article or comments disappear. As a result, I may not be posting that much.

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Zak March 4, 2010 at 3:37 pm

This seems to be a very common tactic of Christians these days. I know that PZ Myers always comments on how AiG will just characterize him as “an atheist blogger”, but never link to his blog when they quote him. And the Internet Infidels have been trying for years to get Christian sites to link to their site, with no luck. Though, they always link Christian sites.

Regardless, pretty sweet that you were quoted! At the least, I suppose that means Strobel, or one of his friends has seen your site?

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Jeff H March 4, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Yeah, Strobel definitely should have given you credit – even just mentioning your name would have been nice. Of course, Strobel isn’t known for his credibility; I once heard him say, “I love to snort cocaine off of hookers’ tits!” Such a man just is not to be trusted.

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John W. Loftus March 4, 2010 at 3:51 pm

In your case Joshua I don’t link to you because you are a liberal Christian obnoxious asshole. My book was written to evangelicals. You don’t like it. Fine. But stop criticizing it for what it wasn’t meant to do.

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RD Miksa March 4, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Good Day Luke,

Just two quick comments:

First, congratulations on being quoted, it is a high compliment that you deserve for your fine work.

Second, and to be a bit more harsh, perhaps you should apply some of that God-given scepticism that unbelievers supposedly hold so dear to this situation, rather than seeing Christian conspiracies in every corner. Perhaps Mr. Strobel did not reference you because he wished to protect you from defamation/libel issues, which is taken more seriously in written print than electronic print. Maybe he thought that quoting you expressing such a negative statement might cause you some trouble with your atheist peers–an event felt by the likes of Thomas Nagel (Review of Signature in the Cell) and Richard Dawkins (Changing his website) when they took actions and made statements not agreeable to the atheists that were normally aligned with them.

Furthermore, the fact that both your name and your website, much like Richard Carrier’s, are easily and quickly found via an internet search further discredits your point. In addition, any search for reviews of the Criag-Hitchens debate brings up your post in the top ten. And finally, did you not just write that your website is in the top ten atheist websites, again making it easily found by an Christian with a computer.

Therefore, although it is obviously your website and you can do as you wish, I suggest a bit more self-scepticism and a little less pride.

Take care and God Bless,

RD Miksa
radosmiksa.blogspot.com

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Reginald Selkirk March 4, 2010 at 4:41 pm

RD Miksa: Perhaps Mr. Strobel did not reference you because he wished to protect you from defamation/libel issues, which is taken more seriously in written print than electronic print…

RD Miksa: Furthermore, the fact that both your name and your website, much like Richard Carrier’s, are easily and quickly found via an internet search further discredits your point.

Go ahead, refute your own point.

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Justfinethanks March 4, 2010 at 4:47 pm

RD Miksa: Perhaps Mr. Strobel did not reference you because he wished to protect you from defamation/libel issues, which is taken more seriously in written print than electronic print.

No, that’s crazy. There is no judge in the country crooked enough to fail to recognize that giving an opinion on the outcome of the debate could not conceivably be considered libelous.

Maybe he thought that quoting you expressing such a negative statement might cause you some trouble with your atheist peers

Really? You think Lee Strobel is highly protective of the social circle of atheists? He decides that avoiding his due diligence as a reporter is a small price to pay for knowing that Luke might be shunned for giving his his honest, thought out opinion on a debate, even though the outcome of a formal debate has nothing to do with the truth value of the topics being debated?

Absolute horseshit.

Furthermore, the fact that both your name and your website, much like Richard Carrier’s, are easily and quickly found via an internet search further discredits your point.

Oh, so he isn’t really making so that readers can’t find where the quote is originated, he’s just making it HARDER to see where the quote originated by making readers do the work that he should have done. Is that really better? I mean, even Biola University has the integrity to both cite Luke’s name and link to the original quote.

Also, do you really, honestly think that citing sources is unnecessary in a post internet world? Care to cite a professional researcher who shares your views. (Or maybe you can just quote him. I guess in the 21st century it’s the reader’s job to figure out where quotes come from.)

Therefore, although it is obviously your website and you can do as you wish, I suggest a bit more self-scepticism and a little less pride.

And for you, I suggest a little more thinking and little less defending apologists when they behave dishonestly.

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RD Miksa March 4, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Mr. Selkirk,

You will notice the difference that I specified between the threat of defamation/libel on written media in comparison to electronic media, which is what Luke’s website is.

Therefore, please read more carefully before claiming I have refuted myself.

Thank you.

RD Miksa

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RD Miksa March 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Hello Justfinethanks,

“No, that’s crazy. There is no judge in the country crooked enough to fail to recognize that giving an opinion on the outcome of the debate could not conceivably be considered libelous.”

Well, considering that a statement that injures the good reputation of a person’s character is defamation, and Luke’s statement that Hitchens got “spanked like a little child” could be seen as injuring Hitchen’s good reputation, then yes, the statement could be seen as defamatory.

“Really? You think Lee Strobel is highly protective of the social circle of atheists? Absolute horseshit.”

Actually, I never said that. I said it was a possibility, which is why I gave two alternate explanations to the situation. Please do not confuse a possibility with a certainty.

“Oh, so he isn’t really making so that readers can’t find where the quote is originated, he’s just making it HARDER to see where the quote originated by making readers do the work that he should have done. Is that really better?”

I never said it was better, just that alternative explanations may exist which may explain its reasoning.

“Also, do you really, honestly think that citing sources is unnecessary in a post internet world?”

No, unless sufficient reasons exist to do so.

“And for you, I suggest a little more thinking and little less defending apologists when they behave dishonestly.”

Well, same to you, except replace apologist with internet atheist.

In the end though, I think that the greatest difference between myself and the rest of the posters here is that I do not possess the ability to mind-read Mr. Strobel’s intentions from a long distance, as so many here seem to be able to do, and therefore I cannot say with certainty what his intention was, as so many here seem to be able to do, except by asking him, which no one here has done before jumping to their conclusions.

Take care,

RD Miksa

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 5:51 pm

RD Miksa: I cannot say with certainty what his intention was, as so many here seem to be able to do, except by asking him, which no one here has done before jumping to their conclusions.

How about his actions?

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cl March 4, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I hope you can take this with a grain of salt: while it’s great you got tagged in print for matters related to philosophy of religion, I tend to see where RD Miksa is coming from. I’ve had exactly the types of issues alluded to, and before even reading RD’s comment I thought your assumption was unfounded, perhaps even a bit narcissistic. You just assumed Strobel was motivated by similar concerns as Holding re Carrier, when as RD points out, your arguments are not hard to find. Further, the situation between yourself and Strobel is not such that his motivation to withhold a citation could be similar to Holding’s.

I’ve noticed a real decline in the “noise-to-signal” ratio lately, and by that I mean more about the blog’s popularity or what other people are saying about you than the “good philosophy of religion stuff” I’ll go out on a limb and say this blog became popular for. It’s cool that you’re “sixth most popular” one week then “third most popular” the next or whatever, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who doesn’t care as much about that as the “good philosophy of religion stuff”. Trust me, it’s really easy to caught up in the blog popularity circus or what other people are saying about a writer. While I don’t agree with you all the time, and I think you eschew valid objections at times, you’re thorough, genuine and dedicated to the subject matter in a way I’ve not seen from other writers.

I say skip all the drama, don’t get too self-absorbed and keep this blog meat.

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MC March 4, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Luke,

You are aware that apologists, professional and amateur, have mined, and will continue to mine–and with greater frequency, given the increasing prominence of this blog– quotes from you that criticize the arguments, claims, and statements of their enemies and opposition.

I know you’ll rightfully scoff at the suggestion that you should alter, tone, or curtail your criticism of atheists and their arguments in such a way that makes them “look better” and “more persuasive”, reserving your right to openly and publicly criticize atheists and secularists (and the arguments thereof) on your blog. You’re right to do as you please and, valuing fee speech, I wouldn’t make such a prima facie censorious suggestion: a bad argument is a bad argument no matter the source, theist or atheist alike.

But, as you know, as evidenced above, the increasing authority and prominence that you and your blog have is not unnoticed. Those who would wish to selectively quote you in order to injure or damage the reputation of people with whom they feel you are a part (given the right-wing conservatism of most of them), are apt to begin quoting you against your ideological and doctrinal allies (which, despite your iconoclasm, you do have). Your frequent correspondence and interaction with Christian philosophers may have numbed you to the fact that the vast majority of Christians interested in philosophy are interested in it for purely apologetic and confirmatory “reasons”, rather than the pure love for truth that a handful of those whom you’ve read and interacted with have.

You know that these people do not value truth for truth’s sake like you do, and will see attacks on atheists and arguments for/by atheists not as victories for truth, but as victories for them. Knowing this, and demonstrated by the first comment from ChristianJR4, perhaps you should understand the impact of what you say here and how it affects the image and reception of atheism and its rationality.

I know you might think that is a capitulation to sophistry (or white-washing, or propaganda), but keep in mind that you have apologists–edified and eager for more more “Antony Flew”-like quotes, retractions, and attacks on atheism–trolling your posts who are, by definition, sophists themselves.

In sum, perhaps think about guarding against apologetic contextomy.

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Charles March 4, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Strobel is a hack. You can quote me on that!

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lukeprog March 4, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Zak,

Yeah, Craig and Strobel and all those guys know my site. Even Plantinga has listened to my podcast.

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lukeprog March 4, 2010 at 11:58 pm

RD Miksa,

Did you read the last paragraph of my post?

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lukeprog March 5, 2010 at 12:01 am

MC,

I don’t think I was quoted out of context with regard to Hitchens, though. The part they quoted roughly sums up my entire post. Do you think I’ve been quoted out of context by an apologist somewhere?

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lukeprog March 5, 2010 at 12:03 am

Charles,

“As one atheist put it, ‘Strobel is a hack.’”

:)

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Jake de Backer March 5, 2010 at 1:11 am

Luke

How did you find out Plantinga was listening to your podcast? And that Craig and Strobel visit your site?

J.

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manicstreetpreacher March 5, 2010 at 4:17 am

Luke, you fawning Craigophile! A blight on this blog is your respect for an apologetic hack who continues to use bogus and refuted ad nauseum “arguments” to support a conclusion that said hack has by his own admission already been reached via warm fuzzy feeling inside that there was to be “something more” as opposed to reason and evidence.

While Hitchens did not come off as badly as your infamous soundbyte implied, I admit that he did “lose” the WLC debate. This was partly through his own lack of preparation and research on Craig’s “arguments”, but also because Craig does not debate his opponents has such, but executes premeditated hit-jobs on them.

Craig employed every single one of his dirty tricks at Biola: scientific distortion, quote-mining of authorities, dropping in too many points than his opponent can refute in the time allowed, patronising and intimidating erudition, demagogically pandering to the audience… the lot.

Hitchens was too respectful and had clearly been taken in by the Craig hype.

Dawkins was quite right to reject publically the prospect of a debate against Craig on the grounds that the man is simply a “professional debater” rather than a proper academic worth taking seriously.

MSP

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RD Miksa March 5, 2010 at 5:21 am

Good Day Luke,

Thank you for replying. Reference your question: yes, I did read the last line of your post and the fact that you wrote it as such forces me to conclude one of three things.

1 – Either you still think/believe that Strobel had malicious intentions, whether through an unwarranted assumption or mind-reading skills rather than actual evidence (like e-mailing Stroble or the book publisher and asking them why you were not cited, which would be real and hard evidence, the supposed corner-stone of atheistic believes) but that is fine because the book is just a small and insignificant one or…

2 – You admit that Strobel could have had non-malicious intentions in doing what he did, yet you still preceeded this admission (the last part of your post) with a caustic assumption and insinuation of Strobel’s malicious and cowardly intentions. Doing so, in turn, brings into question your own intentions in writing the post in the manner that you did and now casts you in a negative light. Or….

3 – You did not realize what you wrote and the manner you wrote it in, which leads me to question your rationality concerning personal and emotional subjects, thus leading me to potentially have a right to question your rationality on the assessment of other emotional issues.

I mean, for God’s sake, the publisher might have even forcibly removed the citation without Strobel’s full consent.

Anyway, I hope you respond and apologize for drawing unwarranted and hasty conclusions until you gain some real evidence about the matter, like e-mailing Strobel and getting a reason from him. If his reason is malicious, then I will condemn him as quickly as you.

Take care and God Bless,

RD Miksa

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 5:49 am

FWIW, here’s what I see;

RD Miksa: Take care and God Bless,

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MauricXe March 5, 2010 at 6:51 am

I’m gonna have to agree with MSP about the Biola debate.

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RD Miksa March 5, 2010 at 7:36 am

Good Day Hermes,

Again, many of the posters here amaze me with their mind-reading skills, for Hermes has just determined, without ever asking me (which would have been quite easy, it must be mentioned, ass he could have just asked me in this thread) that when I say God Bless, I actually mean Fuck You! This is, of course, news to me, as I simply end the majority of my posts with God Bless, but perhaps Hermes, via his mind-reading skills, knows me better. I am, furthermore, in awe of such rationality and clear-thinking reason that assumes malicious intent without evidence or adequate warrant.

Hermes, on a serious note, however, now that I have explained to you that my intentions were not as you insinuated, then I would like an apology on this thread.

Thank you and God Bless in a non-malicious and benign way,

RD Miksa

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lukeprog March 5, 2010 at 8:41 am

Jake,

Hearsay. People who work with those people told me.

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lukeprog March 5, 2010 at 8:42 am

manicstreetpreacher,

You seem to not have read all my posts where I tear Craig up for exactly those issues.

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lukeprog March 5, 2010 at 8:44 am

RD Miksa,

No. I will not apologize for saying that I don’t know what Strobel’s intentions were, nor for speculating about two possible reasons for his not citing me.

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manicstreetpreacher March 5, 2010 at 9:04 am

@Luke

I have read your posts where you haul Craig up for his questionable arguments and tactics. I actually posted those videos refuting Craig’s five arguments by Th1sWasATriumph on my blog as well.

What I don’t understand is your continued praise for the man. You have written that no one is qualified to debate him.

Take the ID debate against Ayala, which you handed to Craig. Granted, Ayala is an academic, not a debater and his thick foreign accent and broken English didn’t help. But Craig did his job for him by using grossly fallacious reasoning and discredited authorities.

Your stance towards Craig is like praising an Olympic athlete for roundly beating the opposition when you know full well that he is a doper?!?!?!?!

MSP

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RD Miksa March 5, 2010 at 9:38 am

Good Day Luke,

Two quick points:

1 – It is your website, so obviously you can do what you wish reference the apology.

2 – If you clearly read what I wrote, then you would realize that I was not asking you to apologize for not knowing why Strobel did what he did–if you had simply done that, then no apology would have been necessary. The apology was for “drawing unwarranted and hasty conclusions” via insinuation concerning Strobel’s intentions.

Take care and God Bless,

RD Miksa

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 9:59 am

So, it’s OK for one person to do do something unilaterally, but it’s not OK for others to respond without consulting them first?

Strange sense of morals you’ve got there.

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RD Miksa March 5, 2010 at 10:24 am

Good Day Hermes,

It is OK for one person to do do something unilaterally, but it’s not OK for others to ACCUSE said person of malicious intention without consulting them first?

If Luke had responded that he did not like what was done but did not know the reason for it, rather than making malicious and conspiritorial insinuations/accusations, then that would not have been a problem.

Hopefully that makes it clear.

Take care and God Bless…and I wonder if that apology from you will be forthcoming ref. the God Bless issue, but I will not hold my breath…which makes me wonder about your morals.

RD Miksa

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lukeprog March 5, 2010 at 10:34 am

manicstreetpreacher,

Craig is a very skilled debater. And honestly, if ‘cheating’ means using bad arguments, his opponents cheat perhaps even more than he does – simply by virtue of not caring much about logic. At least Craig’s arguments are logically valid, however strong you think the premises are. Most of his opponents’ arguments are irrelevant or invalid.

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lukeprog March 5, 2010 at 10:35 am

RD Miksa,

I don’t get it. I said it could be A and it could be B. I don’t see how that’s ‘drawing unwarranted and hasty conclusions.’

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RD Miksa March 5, 2010 at 11:08 am

Good Day Luke,

If what you state is true, and I do not doubt that it is, then you fall into this option that I wrote earlier:

“2 – You admit that Strobel could have had non-malicious intentions in doing what he did, yet you still preceeded this admission (the last part of your post) with a caustic assumption and insinuation of Strobel’s malicious and cowardly intentions. Doing so, in turn, brings into question your own intentions in writing the post in the manner that you did and now casts you in a negative light. Or….”

Take care and God Bless

RD Miksa

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RD Miksa March 5, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Good Day Justfinethanks,

???

RD Miksa

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Irony abounds.

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 12:52 pm

RD, you’ve said your peace. Your position is just not convincing at all. Why not just go away now?

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Joshua Blanchard March 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm

John W. Loftus: In your case Joshua I don’t link to you because you are a liberal Christian obnoxious asshole. My book was written to evangelicals. You don’t like it. Fine. But stop criticizing it for what it wasn’t meant to do.  

Yikes!

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Joshua Blanchard: Yikes!

Well, taking a neutral stance on Mr. Louftus’ presentation, there are Christianities, not a monoculture Christianity.

It would be impossible to address such a shifting set of often contradictory ideals and ideas all at once. As an example, Karen Armstrong’s comments that God is not a being. Many Christians would label her an atheist for such ideas. A few atheists have as well. Yet, she professes belief in a deity and as such is not an atheist.

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ildi March 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm

lukeprog: At least Craig’s arguments are logically valid, however strong you think the premises are.

Well, that may make him a good philosopher, but he would fail abysmally as a scientist.

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cl March 7, 2010 at 9:13 am

If Luke had responded that he did not like what was done but did not know the reason for it, rather than making malicious and conspiritorial insinuations/accusations, then that would not have been a problem. RD Miksa

I agree.

Yikes! Joshua Blanchard

I had that reaction, too. From what I hear, atheists are supposed to be the more rational ones, but I’ve seen enough name-calling and disrespect just this week to challenge that assumption.

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