Monday, March 28, 2011

Could God Value Anything?

The following is a question I submitted to professional theologian William Lane Craig through his website  The question pertains to Craig's persistent use of the Moral Argument for the existence of god despite the fact that this argument has been shown to fail on multiple levels.  Here I attempt to show one more flaw in the Moral Argument.  If Dr. Craig responds to my question, I will be sure to post his response below.

Dr. Craig,

One chief component of The Moral Argument for the existence of God is that there must be objective value assigned to human life in order for objective moral values to exist.  Such objective value can only come from God.

The value of something, from an economic perspective, is the price that an individual is willing to pay for something.  Essentially, that which someone is willing to give up for something else.  For instance, the value of a Kobe steak, to me, is $90—that is, I would be willing to give up ninety of my dollars in exchange for a Kobe steak, but not ninety-one of my dollars.  Or, the value of staying out too late with co-workers at a bar on a Wednesday night for a married man may be one hour of the silent treatment from his wife—that is, he would be willing to stay out too late if the cost of doing so was that his wife would not talk to him for an hour, but not if she refused to talk to him for a week.  (Granted, for some married men this would be a benefit, not a cost!)

God is the perfect creator of the universe.  Perfect, meaning that God cannot possibly improve and cannot lack anything. 

If value is what we are willing to go without in exchange for something else and God cannot go without anything, how, then, could God assign value to anything?

It seems to me that the ability to assign value requires the willingness to go without something.  God cannot be without anything.  Therefore, the ability to assign value could not be possessed by God, much like the ability to sin or the ability to be wrong could not be possessed by God.

Thank you,

Ben Doublett

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Response to "Why Are Atheists So Angry?"

On March 10th, Rabbi David Wolpe, a well known Jewish apologist who has appeared in debates with Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins among others, published an article on the Huffington Post website entitled Why Are Atheists So Angry?  This was the second such atheist-bashing article to appear on the Huffington Post website in as many months.  I emailed the Rabbi in response to his article (which can be found here:  Here is that email
Dear Rabbi Wolpe,

I am writing in regards to your recent article on the Huffington Post website entitled Why Are Atheists So Angry?  I myself am an atheist and I frequent the Huffington Post website, but I am attracted mainly by your writings.  I am actually an avid follower of yours; despite not sharing your views on the existence of a god and the value of organized religion.  I have read your book, Why Faith Matters and watched many of your debates and other videos on YouTube. I find your style of communication to be both effective and engaging.  

I was, however, rather distressed and disappointed in your most recent article.  While there are, to be sure, many atheists who are frustrated with religion and its promoters, I hardly think it is fair to paint with such a broad brush and castigate all atheists as 'angry' based only upon comment sections on a website.  It seems like such a sweeping generalization should have come with a caveat that most, or at least not all, people whom you have interacted with who lack religious faith are not angry people. 

In fact, I would go further, and say that perhaps nonreligious people like myself are, on balance, less angry than some who do have faith.  Did you consider as you were writing the article the images of protests in the Islamic world from a few years ago after cartoons of the prophet Muhammad were published in a Danish newspaper?  Call atheists angry all you want, but I sincerely doubt any of us have ever held up a sign that says, "SLAY THOSE WHO INSULT CHARLES DARWIN". 

In the article, you mention your previous post about talking to children about god.  While it is true that some of the comments left on that article were over-the-top, perhaps some of the criticisms were valid.  After all, wouldn't a better way for parents to approach the subject of religion simply to be to tell their children, when asked, that different people believe in different gods and others don't believe in any, and that when they are old enough, they can make up their own minds?  It seems to me this would be better than teaching ones children that there is a god or teaching them that there is not.  Parents have the responsibility to teach children how to think, not what to think. 

You have done great work communicating your position on religion through various mediums to secular audiences.  I wonder, is insulting and generalizing about that same audience the best way to continue that work, or were you simply letting off steam? 

There are lots of crazy, angry people on the internet.  There are angry Democrats, angry Republicans, angry Christians, angry Jews and angry Muslims.  But we do not elevate our discourse on any subject by taking the worst of a single group and painting the whole demographic with that brush.

Thank you and I look forward to your response,

Ben Doublett

EDIT:  Within a few hours, I received the following response from Rabbi Wolpe

Dear Ben,

Thanks for your response and your kind words.  I intended to convey my surprise not at atheists the world over, but at those who responded on HuffPo and other religion sites.  If you look at my comment on the article which I posted yesterday, I noted that the responses to this article were thoughtful and measured.  In case you can't access it, this is what I wrote:

"This has been an interestin­g experience for me. The comments I read (I grant I have not read them all) have been much more thoughtful­, much less abusive, than the posts I mention above, for which I thank the posters. Three brief points:
1. As one who was for many years an atheist, a devotee of Bertrand Russell, and who has publicly debated with mutual respect (I hope) with Christophe­r Hitchens, Stephen Jay Gould, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and others, I am neither angry at the idea of atheism or disrespect­ful of it.
2. What I question was why the atheists who posted felt it necessary to seek out religion articles, (they are easily avoided by HuffPo users) for not argument, but abuse. Those who doubt this should check the posts on the previous articles mentioned. There were considered and wise comments as well, but a very high percentage of hot anger.
3. Judaism, and the Hebrew bible, are far less condemnato­ry of atheism than of idolatry. And pride of place is given to the exhortatio­n to lead a good life, even above belief. I still maintain that it is dogmatic to discount the supernatur­al, just as it is for believers never to entertain the possibilit­y that there is no God. But kindness and goodness come first: To all who share that, believers and atheists and everyone in between, I offer my respect and appreciati­on."

  I strongly disagree about teaching children about all religions and having them make up their minds, which I think unrealistic and impractical, but that is a discussion for another time.  Curiously, I didn't think my article was either insulting or antagonistic, but I suppose this is very much a question which side of the street one inhabits.
  In any case, you are certainly right; there are too many angry religionists, and some of them are within a whisper of advanced weaponry, which scares me as much as it does you, and should everyone.

 Once again, I appreciate your comments --

Best Regards,