Thursday, February 09, 2012

Google celebrity atheists

1.0 out of 5 stars Full of Non SequitursOctober 15, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith (Paperback)
Let me preface this review by stating that I am currently going through a crisis of faith. I was raised a Christian but I'm now in my senior year at Princeton and am currently going through the phase where I have to stop believing things because I grew up believing them and start believing them for my own reasons. 

The whole "you just have to have faith" thing always seemed to be a copout, so I've been reading with an open mind a bunch of books and online articles on apologetics and atheism in an attempt to find the truth. Persuasive arguments exist for both sides, but this book is not one of them.

The first thing that struck me about this book is how obnoxious Dr. Carrier is. That doesn't necessarily mean his arguments are bad, but it did put me off. When he describes himself as a "world-renowned atheist", continually refers to his own work as incredibly important and well-written, and then plays the victim while simultaneously casting all Christians as ignorant and intolerant buffoons, it came across as very unprofessional and hypocritical.

But that wasn't why I didn't like the book. The reasons I didn't like the book were that it basically revolved around "God doesn't do things the way I would, so he doesn't exist" and he either didn't mention contradictory evidence/arguments at all or grossly oversimplified them. 

For instance, take his argument about how God allows evil, and therefore he doesn't exist. While he briefly brings up the "free will" counter-argument, his analysis is very simplistic and has a huge hole. Namely, that if God interfered every time we were about to do something bad, we wouldn't have free will at all. Freedom to only choose the right choice is not free will. And good can't exist without evil, just like the concept of light makes no sense without the concept of darkness. Under Carrier's God, we'd be like calculators: programmed to only give the right answer.

Or take his "God doesn't call me up and tell me exactly what to do in every situation, therefore he doesn't exist" argument. There's no mention whatsoever of C.S. Lewis's argument that our consciences are in fact God speaking to us, even though Carrier actually quotes Mere Christianity elsewhere in the book. 

Or take his refutation of the "The universe is fine-tuned for life" argument. He claims that the Universe is actually very inhospitable to life (black holes, vacuum, etc.) without even a mention that the scientific chances of a universe that permits life at all are about 1 out of 10^500 (let alone intelligent life), and that the current scientific theories to explain why ours does permit life (bubble universes, many worlds interpretation, etc.) all have big holes in them and have no data to support them.

Basically, it seemed like Carrier's default strategy is to make up a few analogies, conclude that Christianity is ad hoc, and then never even mention the counter-arguments that would frame Christianity as not only viable, but the logical choice. That wouldn't require that he recognize that these arguments are good ones: he could still set them up and refute them a la Quentin Smith. But to not even mention them or grossly misstate them is just bad.

I'm sure that Dr. Carrier has more elaborate and sophisticated reasons for being an atheist than are presented in this short, condensed book. But to me, Carrier's reasons for atheism as articulated here are no more persuasive than a Christian who claims that God exists "because the Bible told me so."

p.s. I found it very ironic that Carrier holds up the Big Bang Theory as a prime example of the triumph of an atheist, scientific worldview when in fact the Big Bang Theory was proposed by a Belgian priest. It also failed to find mainstream acceptance for decades because the predominantly atheist scientific community of the time thought that it was much more theistic than the previously popular steady-state model and refused to give it credence.

1.0 out of 5 stars Thats it?January 11, 2012
This review is from: Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith (Paperback)
This book was hard to stomach from the start. Ive read Carrier's blog from time to time and heard him speak so Im fully aware of how intelligent he is. However, right on page two he states:"Ive become something of a world renowned atheist...Just google my name and youll see what I mean." 
Looks like someone needs a big tall glass of calm-down juice! If Carrier is such a big deal then people will find out on their own, there's no need to bring out the marching band. 

In the first chapter Carrier attempts to argue that if God did indeed exist, He wouldn't be so hidden. But, how does Carrier attack this problem? Does he show that divine hiddenness is logically incompatible with the concept of God? Nope. He simply asserts that God should or shouldn't do things a certain way. However, since Carrier isnt omniscient(although its possible he might think so) then he cant claim to know how God should or shouldn't do things. God can see how things will turn out, Richard cannot. Carrier claims that if only God had made the gospel more clear then there would be no dispute that Christianity was true. Does he mean the gospel that says Jesus died for our sins and wants to bridge the gap between us and God? Seems pretty clear to me. 

Carrier's second chapter argues that if God exists then He has shown himself to be powerless. This argument contains more of the same. Carrier says over and over that if he were God then he would do things differently. Carrier says if he were God he would "turn all guns and bombs into flowers."(p18) Well that solves it! Nevermind the fact that by doing this God would be restraining us, but what Carrier doesn't realize is that we're not God's pets! He's not obligated to cater to us and make us feel warm and fuzzy. The Christian point of life is not to be happy but rather to have a relationship with God. Just think of raising children. Is your job as a parent to spoil them and cater to their every need? Of course not, unless you want them to grow up as selfish little brats who take advantage of everyone. Lastly, Carrier forgets that evil and suffering help us appreciate good. Just as darkness helps us appreciate the light. 

The third chapter is laughable. Carrier's argument is that even though the Bible claims that belief in Jesus saves, there is no evidence for this. He claims that "They cannot show a single believer in Jesus actually enjoying eternal life." (p28) Well gee Richard, since we're on THIS side of death, its a little hard to be able to gain evidence for the other side. Please disregard my earlier comment about Carrier being intelligent. 

The final chapter is Carrier's attempted refutation of the fine-tuning argument. He tries to illuminate the fact that our universe is an extremely hostile place and that a God would not have created it in this state. However, God did not create us to inhabit the universe but rather to inhabit this specific planet. So, in my opinion, the hostility of this universe is not an adequate reason to reject Christianity. 

You would think a "world renowned atheist" could muster up better assertions, or at least better arguments to support them. If these are the best reasons Carrier can come up with to defend his disbelief in the Christian God, then Im afraid his position is not warranted.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading these reviews.

  2. Carrier makes pretty much the same argument Ehrman makes against scripture. "God can't do it that way because I wouldn't." (paraphrase mine) One wonders how someone could possibly be so arrogant.

  3. It really does seem that many atheists are atheists because of the following syllogism.

    Major premise: If I were God, I would do X.

    Minor premise: X is not being done.

    Conclusion: Therefore, God does not exist.

    When in actuality, the proper conclusion is that that person is not God.

  4. Man, I actually wondered if this was a joke at first. Reading the arguments Carrier decides to go to town with is flat out amazing. More amazing is the fact that he apparently thinks these are really good arguments.

    Love the "google me" bit most of all, though. I wonder if Carrier even is cognizant of how he sounds when he presents himself, not to mention his arguments.