Dr. Richard Carrier, world-renowned philosopher and historian, explains the four reasons he does not accept the Christian religion, describing four facts of the world that, had they been different, he would believe. Those four reasons are God's silence, God's inaction, the lack of evidence, and the way the universe looks exactly like a godless universe would, and not at all like a Christian universe would, even down to its very structure. Dr. Carrier addresses all the usual replies to these claims, in ways you might not have heard before, relying on his wide experience in debating and studying these issues all over the world for more than 15 years. A perfect book to introduce yourself, or your friends, to why fewer educated people are embracing Christianity than ever before.
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This isn't an attack, or emotional vitriol. It is based entirely on the rules of logic and presents a calm, clear, and unassailable case for atheism. I was impressed with the author's step-by-step analysis as well as the contemplation, and ultimate rejection, of Christian ideals in a careful, thoughtful manner.
As Carrier states in his introduction, he is willing and able to change his position if evidence were forthcoming. Unlike creationists and certain brands of apologists (like William Lane Craig) who steadfastly refuse to let the evidence lead them to truth but seek to force the evidence to lead them to their pre-established biases towards their particular faith. Take this quote from Craig during his debate with Mark Smith. In response to a hypothetical question,
"Dr. Craig, for the sake of argument let’s pretend that a time machine gets built. You and I hop in it, and travel back to the day before Easter, 33 AD. We park it outside the tomb of Jesus. We wait. Easter morning rolls around, and nothing happens. We continue to wait. After several weeks of waiting, still nothing happens. There is no resurrection- Jesus is quietly rotting away in the tomb."
Craig's unabashedly honest reply (which, ironically, reveals the depth of his deceit, was, and I am paraphrasing:
"Yes, I would still believe. The internal witness of the holy spirit trumps any and all external evidence against Christianity."
Also, from Reasonable Faith, page 35-36:
"When a person refuses to come to Christ it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God’s Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God."
Carrier immediately sets himself out from his opponents by a candid description of his position and a glimpse into his profound intellectual rigour and integrity.
A quick read at under 100 pages, the evidence and reasoning provided are sound. This is no hollow chest-beating piece from a sophist attempting to sell snake-oil as diamonds. This is a clear, level-headed and fair analysis of why religion has yet to prove itself true and must spread through violence and indoctrination. Furthermore, as these flaws within Christianity can be linked and pointed to
The author's first argument is from divine hiddenness and silence. Why does god refrain from telling humanity his plan? Why are there so many Christian and Muslim sects if god has a single message and plan for the world?
Common rebuttals appeal to free will, which is completely inadequate for explaining why religious believers, who have clearly NOT CHOSEN to reject or deny god's message, receive such conflicting and inconsistent messages. Wouldn't the Mormons, Hindus, Muslims all receive the same revelation? Based on the Christian belief held by most adherents (and demonstrated by CS Lewis in Mere Christianity), god's plan is for humans to fix a fallen world. Funnily enough, his actions (or more accurately, the lack thereof) completely belie his goals. Let's not forget that god is (allegedly) NOT the author of confusion, as illustrated in 1 Corinthians 14:33. CS Lewis, among others, have claimed that our conscience is the method by which god speaks to us, which again does not address the different moral conclusions reached by so many believers and non-believers.
Free will doesn't explain why he supposedly appear to prominent characters in the Old Testament. As Carrier states, physicists do not nullify the free will of those who seek out more information about the big bang or any other theory. A loving god would, likewise, ensure that everyone had the correct message before simply giving up on them as lost causes. As such, the basic claims of Christianity have been disproven by reality.
Other arguments include god's inaction. A god (or any supernatural causes) are unnecessary to explain the natural laws of the universe or why bad things happen. For if there was a tri-omni god, there would be no evil or suffering. Creation would begin and end with heavenly bliss. Free will fails to defeat this for obvious reasons (and less obvious ones, such as the difference between free will and free action), most prominent among them the fact that humans routinely deny freedom to those who harm others.
Fine tuning fails because a god would not need to fine tune the universe for life. This argument, while instinctively pleasing and convincing upon first blush, ignores the vast amount of the universe that is NOT conducive to any life, let alone human life. Without civilisation, we wouldn't have been able to propagate as successfully as we have. Why would a god allow his cherished creation to dwindle to a mere 10,000 and teeter on the brink of extinction? Not only is this atrocious design, but demeans the scientists and altruists throughout history who have striven to make life better.
The use of mathematics further solidifies Carrier's position, although it will likely seem too esoteric for those who have not taken courses in probability.
For further essays by Carrier, I encourage you to read the following compilations.