17 August 2012

Nobody cares about William Lane Craig

Today over on Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta has a post talking about why atheists pay attention to creationists like Ken Ham. He says,
We go after Ham because, whether it’s right to take the Bible literally or not, more than 100,000,000 Americans already buy into that lie and he’s one of the ringleaders.
It’s the same reason atheists love to quote horrible Bible verses. It’s not because we think people should take random lines (in and out of context) from the Bible at face value; it’s because so many people already do.
But it's his next paragraph that hits home for me:
This is also why I don’t find it useful to pay attention to what “sophisticated theologians” have to say. Most Christians aren’t paying attention to them, either, so why bother debating a version of Christianity so few people even know about?
Isn't that the truth? How many Christians have the slightest idea who Alvin Plantinga is? Alister McGrath? Even Francis Collins is probably way more famous for being the 'human genome guy' than for anything he's said about Christianity.

Which brings me to William Lane Craig.

I admit, I'm totally guilty of paying way too much attention to William Lane Craig. If you do a search for him in the search bar on the right of the page, you'll find way too many posts about him and his various apologetic arguments.

Ladies love that Stallone-like smile
It's not that I don't think it's worth talking about those things, to an extent. I do. First-cause arguments, moral arguments, and all the other lame 'proofs' of God's existence that Christians throw out are worth discussing from time to time, and WLC happens to be one of the premier apologists on the... uh... well, the apologist 'scene', whatever that is. He's made such a ruckus that Richard Dawkins felt it necessary to write an op-ed explaining why the guy is not worth debating... which for better or worse didn't stop Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris or Stephen Law, among others. Atheist blogs, including mine (embarrassingly) have been and are afire with posts criticizing his arguments. Just about every well-known atheist Youtuber has spent some time on him.

But really, in the big picture, William Lane Craig is much more influential in his deluded mind than he actually is in real life. Unlike the new atheists he so derides and mocks as philosophically unsophisticated (as though he's some authority on the matter), he's never had a book on the New York Times bestseller list. Hell, I imagine that the vast majority of Christians familiar with him couldn't even name one book he's written. He's mostly famous for 'debates', for which he always insists upon using a 20-minute-presentation format... which to me looks more like a monologue than a debate.

His Facebook page has a shade over 5,000 likes. Richard Dawkins' has over 186,000. Sam Harris, over 117,000. The late great Christopher Hitchens has several pages that collectively top 200,000 fans. Craig once appeared in Lee Strobel's unintentional comedy The Case for Christ movie, and... well, that's about it. He teaches at Biola, a tiny evangelical college ranked 170 in 2012 (Dawkins, of course, taught at Oxford). His 'scholarly' articles on natural theology are available online from Leadership University, an online-only evangelical degree mill.

In other words, I think that in light of Hemant's comments, we're spending way too much time on this guy. The overwhelming majority of Christians have no idea who he is or what the Kalam Cosmological Argument is. Hell, most of them probably don't even know what the regular cosmological argument is. Christians like having quasi-academics like Craig around because, when they're challenged on the basis for their faith, it's easier to just recite some sophisticated-sounding argument than to actually think critically. But in the big picture, the William Lane Craigs of the world are a niche of a niche in evangelical Christian circles.

Personally, the book that was most influential in my rejection of belief in gods was Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. The most powerful counter to Craig's 'objective morality' argument comes in the form of books like Frans De Waal's Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved; and understanding why humanity has 'sought God', as theologians like to claim, can be understood from an evolutionary and anthropological perspective like that in Pascal Boyer's excellent book Religion Explained. Yeah, we can address arguments like Craig's from time to time. But I think we should focus more of our energy into spreading science and reason, because viewing the world as it actually is, and not how some wish it to be, is the fastest route to realizing that religion is a farce.

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