William Lane Craig thinks atheists aren't real

I'm not sure why I visit Reasonable Faith. It's sort of like a train wreck – you just can't look away! On the site, Craig has a Q & A column in which he assuages the doubts of believers with a powerful combination of academic-sounding rhetoric and obfuscatory logical fallacies.

This week, a reader asks a very reasonable question:
If an [sic] sincere atheist thinks God is a fairy tale, how can he be blamed? If belief is not a choice, no one can be blamed for not believing.
Belief is indeed not a choice. Our beliefs arise out of our best understanding of the information presented to us. If someone is convinced that the evidence is squarely against theism, they can't magically make themselves accept the existence of gods anyway. In fact, this realization was pivotal in my de-conversion. I never outright rejected my faith – I simply reached a point where I didn't believe any of its tenants to be true, and I was unable to hold on to my faith.

So what's William Lane Craig think about this? It's the old, "atheists aren't really atheists" canard. We don't actually think theism false – we're just believers in denial, because we want to sin.

Now we can agree that a person cannot be held morally responsible for failing to discharge a duty of which he is uninformed. So the entire question is: are people sufficiently informed to be held morally responsible for failing to believe in God? The biblical answer to that question is unequivocal. First, God has provided a revelation of Himself in nature that is sufficiently clear for all cognitively normal persons to know that God exists.
In Paul’s view God’s properties, His eternal power and deity, are clearly revealed in creation, so that people who fail to believe in an eternal, powerful Creator of the world are without excuse. Indeed, Paul says that they actually do know that God exists, but they suppress this truth because of their unrighteousness. 
That's right, the existence of anything and everything is unequivocal proof that God is real, and if you don't see that, you're just in denial. And notice that he mandates that it's an "external, powerful Creator". You couldn't possibly believe in a pantheistic God, polytheistic gods, that nature is infinite (a la Hinduism) or that nature itself is "at bottom" and simply is. By Craig's logic, it's not just atheists who are fooling themselves – it's every culture in human history which didn't adopt a monotheistic religion (i.e., the overwhelming majority of them).

But wait, it gets better. There's also the infamous inner witness:
Second, wholly apart from God’s revelation in nature is the inner witness which the Holy Spirit bears to the great truths of the Gospel, including, I should say, the fact that God exists. Anyone who fails to believe in God by the end of his lifetime does so only by a stubborn resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing that person to a knowledge of God.
You couldn't possibly have a transcendent moment and simply attribute it to biology, and you certainly couldn't think that you experienced the presence of gods or spirits and not immediately know that Jesus is the One True God. And you most definitely could never question the authenticity of those experiences and then be sincerely convinced, in the face of overwhelming evidence, that you were mistaken.

This ties eerily close to my earlier post about confirmation bias. Craig has never stopped to put his holy ghost experience in any context other than his own narrow, ethnocentric viewpoint. People all over the world, throughout all of human history, have claimed to have been visited by gods and spirits of all kinds. And guess what? They describe their experiences the same way modern Christians do. Moreover, much of these experiences can be explained by science, such as the sensed-presence effect. But no. According to Craig, those experiences couldn't possibly be his brain playing tricks on him, and people couldn't possibly be just as sincerely convinced that some other god or spirit had visited them and was the One True God. And of course, Craig couldn't possibly be a victim of confirmation bias.

This is really the level of "reasoning" that apologism has stooped to; remember, Craig is a highly regarded and sought-after apologist among modern Christians. To those of us without the God glasses on, his arguments are absurd. But Craig's arguments are powerful evidence of just how much an otherwise intelligent individual can submit to a compartmentalization of ideas, never subjecting his own beliefs to the rigor with which he dismisses the beliefs of others.


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