The world seems to be full today of Christians, some well meaning, and some obvious charlatans, who make their livings in the field of Christian Apologetics.  For reference, let’s look at the definition of “apologetics”. From Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

1:   systematic argumentative discourse … in defense (as of a doctrine)

2:   a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity

So for the purposes of this discussion, apologetics collectively offers a series of arguments for the existence of god, for the truth of the Christian religion, and for various specific matters of theology.  As with any logical argument, they must be evaluated based on:

  1. Whether the premises of the argument are valid. As an example, if an argument starts with the premise that all men are stronger than all women, it may be disproved by identifying even a single example of a woman who is stronger than at least one man.
  2. Whether the logic of the argument is valid.  Independently of whether the premises are true, the logic of the argument must support the conclusion based on the premises.  As an example, if we say that there is a correlation between A and B (the premise), therefore A causes B, the argument is faulty, because correlation does not imply causation.

These (Un)Apologetics are my attempt to answer the apologists’ arguments. My arguments are (in most cases) neither new, nor unique, but rather are just a composite of (in some cases) my own reactions, and in many other cases, information I’ve learned since my deconversion. I shall try to credit others when possible/appropriate.

As a general observation, one must wonder if the apologists really believe in the validity of their own arguments. They have a multiplicity of supposed “proofs” for the existence of god. But if any one of those arguments was sufficiently rigorous, there would be no need for any others.

But in spite of all the existing “proofs” for god, numerous apologists continue to spend their careers developing and refining new ones. And that’s because none of the arguments, whether old or new, actually stand up to any real scrutiny. They are all just different exercises in sophistry, appealing to those who are predisposed to theism, but failing on one or more factual or logical grounds.

When Does Human Life Begin?

The essence of the pro-life argument against abortion is their belief that “life begins at conception”. They declare that this isn’t just their opinion; science itself says so. They claim that biologists are in broad agreement on this fact. And if we’re simply talking about the organism itself, they’re 100% correct. When an egg is fertilized, and becomes a zygote, it is unquestionably a new life – one that (if all goes well for it) will eventually develop into a living, breathing person.

So, since the zygote is alive, and since we’re talking about human zygotes, they reason that the zygote is a human life, and that abortion is therefore the intentional taking of a human life (i.e. murder).

But this argument pretends that there is no significant qualitative difference between the “humanity” of the zygote, and that of a living, breathing person, when in fact, the differences are enormous and profound. So the more critical question is whether the zygote is truly a “person”. That’s a question that science alone can’t answer, because determining what truly defines a person, is a philosophical, not a scientific question. Science can only describe the qualities and nature of a zygote (or embryo or fetus).

Pro-lifers will argue that our humanity/personhood is defined by our DNA. Our DNA IS different from all other species, but some fairly significant mutations can occur, and the person is still considered to be human. But at conception, the function of DNA is to manage the workings of the cell, but more significantly, it provides the instructions that will cause this cell to eventually develop into a baby. The DNA is not the person, it’s the instructions for creating the person.

Humans are complex beings, with numerous traits that distinguish us from other animal species. Many, of course, are physical traits. Our bodies have a variety of features that are obviously different from even our closest related species, but those physical traits don’t define our personhood. We could lose all our limbs, and have numerous internal organs transplanted (sometimes with animal parts) or have organs replaced with mechanical substitutes, and few, if any, would argue that we are no longer persons.

Carrying that to the extreme, there is only one feature that is inextricably linked to our personhood – our minds. If a person suffered severe trauma, such that most of the body could not survive, but we could transplant their brain into a machine which could keep it alive, allowing it to interact with the outside world, that PERSON would still be alive. Conversely, we already have numerous examples today in which a person may lose all brain function, with their body otherwise unharmed. We can keep that body alive through the use of machines, but unless there is some reasonable hope of recovery, we don’t. Instead, we decide that their human lives have effectively ended, and we unplug them.

A person is the sum total of their experiences, memories, personality, intelligence, emotions, values, etc. When someone loses all brain function, those things are lost with it. The “person” is gone.

I’ll note that this is not the case for someone who is unconscious or in a temporary vegetative state. They may no longer be aware of their environment, potentially being temporarily non-sentient. But in this case, the “person” still exists within the unresponsive brain.

So if personhood ends with the loss of the mind, it follows that personhood doesn’t begin until the mind exists. So when does that happen? Unfortunately there is no black and white answer to that. On one extreme, the zygote clearly has no mind. On the other extreme, a newborn baby clearly DOES have one, as evidenced by (among other things) the fact that it’s capable of learning.

The fetal brain begins to develop at about 3 weeks, with the first neurons forming. At 5 weeks, a neural tube has formed. Electrical activity in the brain begins at about 8 weeks, which begin to initiate involuntary muscle movements in the womb. By 10 weeks, there is a recognizable brain structure, but it’s smooth, without the characteristic folds of a fully-formed brain. The fetus still has no cerebral cortex, and is non-sentient (i.e. unaware of either itself or its environment). While it may respond to external stimuli, the reactions are purely reflexive. It can feel no pain.

The onset of sentience occurs around 24 weeks. It is only then, that the fetus begins to become AWARE of external stimuli, including feeling pain, etc. But while the fetus is sentient, it is not yet sapient. It can feel, but it cannot think. It has no memories, no emotions, no personality, etc. It is still not yet a “person”. For that, the fetus requires not only sentience, but some degree of sapience.

And this is where things become VERY gray. Gradually over about the next 16 weeks, the fetus evolves from being merely sentient to becoming sapient. That evolution continues after birth, and in fact, the brain takes decades to fully mature. There is no single moment that defines the transition to sapience. Therefore there is no clear-cut moment at which we can say that the fetus’ human life (aka its personhood) has begun. But we know it’s not before about 24 weeks,

In my discussions with abortion opponents, they will commonly argue that these aren’t the same. If someone is in a persistent vegetative state, and it’s determined that there is little to no hope of recovery, that’s entirely different from the fetus, which has a pretty good chance of becoming a fully functioning person. While that’s true, that doesn’t change the fact that the early term fetus is NOT YET a person. Terminating the pregnancy does not kill a person, just as terminating life support for one who is brain dead, does not kill a person (that person is already gone).

Between the 1973 Roe v Wade and the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decisions, the various states allowed unrestricted abortions until around 24 weeks (give or take, depending on the state), with later exceptions for severe fetal abnormalities, or to protect the life/health of the woman. The 24 week threshold is not entirely a coincidence. Those laws have typically been based on fetal viability, but it’s not surprising that fetal viability would be correlated in part to brain development. While advances in medical technology will likely continue to improve the viability for younger (earlier-term) fetuses, these are unlikely to accelerate the onset of sentience.

But given those laws, my perception is that they gave plenty of time in the overwhelming majority of cases, for women to become aware of a pregnancy, to decide if they wanted to carry it to term, and to get an abortion if not.

At the risk of inviting the “no uterus, no opinion” reactions from women, I personally think those laws were pretty good, and I’m uncomfortable with suggestions that abortion ought to be completely unrestricted, because I agree with abortion opponents, that the personhood status (from a philosophical and scientific perspective) isn’t materially changed when a baby leaves the womb and takes its first breath. (Though obviously the LEGAL personhood status DOES change at that moment).

A primary argument from many pro-choicers, is the right of women to bodily autonomy. I absolutely agree with it, but I think the argument becomes weaker as the pregnancy continues. The woman has that right, but early in the pregnancy there is, as yet, no “person” in the womb that could have any competing rights. Late in pregnancy, however, that’s not the case. At that point, there are valid ethical questions as to whether bodily autonomy should take precedence over protecting the life of a sentient being.

I draw an analogy to a situation in which I’m holding onto someone to prevent them from falling off a cliff. At that moment, the other person is completely dependent on me for their survival. But do I have an obligation to give up my own autonomy, and continue holding them? If I can do so without risking my own safety, most people would agree that it would be unethical to let that person fall to their death.

It’s really not much different than if one is driving along, and a person walks in front of your vehicle. Even though you have the legal right of way, you also have a legal obligation to attempt to avoid hitting that person, IF you can do so without significantly endangering yourself or others.

These competing interests were overtly recognized in the Roe decision, and resulted in laws that adopted a reasonable balance between those interests. Since the Dobbs decision, many states have abandoned that balance, and rejected any notion of a right to bodily autonomy, while absurdly granting rights to a single cell.

It is my opinion that we need to restore the balance that was established by Roe. I believe that women should have an unrestricted right to abortion for about the first 24 weeks, with later exceptions for cases of severe fetal abnormality, and to protect the life and health of the woman. The approximate 24 week threshold is not based on viability considerations, but rather the criterion of sentience discussed above.

I do not support unrestricted abortions throughout pregnancy. And for what it’s worth, I believe that those who push for this are hurting the greater cause, by shifting the debate to that extreme position, rather than focusing energy on the more moderate position that has pretty widespread support. I see little chance that pro-lifers will be persuaded by any argument that denies personhood considerations for late term fetuses, or declares that those considerations are completely irrelevant in the face of rights to bodily autonomy.

The Moral Bankruptcy of William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is well known as a purveyor of sophistry. I only recently came across his bizarre and reprehensible take on the ancient Jews’ campaign of genocide against the Canaanites, as detailed in the Old Testament.

From Craig:

“So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgment. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalising effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.”

With this one repugnant statement, Craig (a snake oil salesman who has the nerve to lecture nonbelievers on matters of morality) instantaneously obliterated any pretense of holding the moral high ground.

The full text of Craig’s contemptible article may be seen here:


Richard Dawkins further elaborated on Craig’s repugnant opinion in the following article.


The Criterion of Embarrassment


Christian apologists will frequently argue that the Criterion of Embarrassment adds credence to the Bible. The argument is essentially claiming that any stories which cast a protagonist in any sort of unfavorable light, are less likely to be fabrications. A couple of commonly cited examples include Peter’s denial of Jesus and the fact that the first reported witnesses to the resurrection were women (who were considered less credible than men).

The former example is a poor one for the simple reason that Christian theology is built on the teaching that humans are imperfect and weak. If Peter was portrayed in a consistently flawless manner, it would undermine the entire theology.

The latter example might be valid if it weren’t for the addition of other supposed resurrection confirmations by men.

The Problem

What apologists ignore is the fact that their beloved criterion is a double edged sword. If the embarrassment criterion lends credibility to certain passages, its reverse should likewise induce considerable skepticism. By definition, if supposedly embarrassing stories somehow add credibility, positive stories (especially ones that are fantastic in nature) written by members of the early Jesus cult should be inherently and significantly suspect. So the flip-side corollary to the Criterion of Embarrassment, is the Criterion of Embellishment. In today’s vernacular, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Hence the claims of miracles, and the resurrection itself SHOULD engender significant skepticism among Christians.

Christianity is certainly not the only religion whose sacred text tells some truly tall tales. And commonly, adherents of each religion will argue that THEIR fantastic tales are credible, while those of other religions are fabrications. Everyone believes that:

  • My religion is logical and true.
  • Every other religion is false, if not downright silly.

So for EVERY world religion, a small minority of the world population believes it’s logical and true, while a strong majority of the world’s population believes it’s false, if not downright silly. What they all have in common is a healthy skepticism and critical thinking regarding other religions. They instinctively apply the criterion of embellishment to other religions, while holding their own religion to an entirely different standard, with a VERY low bar for standards of credibility.

The Argument from Fine Tuning

The Argument from Fine Tuning comes in a variety of forms, each making the claim that various features of our planet, our solar system, the universe (including a variety of physical constants) exist within an extremely narrow range of values that allow life to exist. They argue that these are each individually unlikely, and are virtually impossible collectively unless they have been intentionally fine tuned.

Some of the arguments are obviously absurd. One example is the fact that the Earth is located within the ”Goldilocks zone” in terms of its distance from the sun. If we were significantly nearer or farther from the sun, life as we know it would not be possible on Earth.

But when one considers the fact the universe has an estimated trillion trillion stars, most of them probably having multiple planets, there are likely many trillions of planets within their respective star’s Goldilocks zones. We’re here in part, because Earth just happens to be one of them.

Most of the other arguments involve discussions of some pretty advanced Physics. Very few of the proponents of the Fine Tuning Argument have any Physics education whatsoever. So they don’t actually understand the argument at all. They’re not equipped to evaluate it critically, so it sounds compelling, and, of course, it suits their agenda.

And while I have a BS in Physics, that degree (and the fact that it was several decades ago) doesn’t qualify me to address most of those arguments either. Fortunately I don’t have to. Qualified physicists have already done a pretty thorough job of refuting it. I recommend Victor J. Stenger’s ‘The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning’, which addresses each of the supposedly fine-tuned parameters, and shows that either the parameter could not have had any other value, or that the parameter could have varied far more than the Fine Tuning Argument claims, while still allowing for life in the universe.

Why Do Atheists Care?

In response to criticisms by atheists, theists frequently ask the question, ”Why do atheists care?” This is often supplemented with ”Why do atheists spend so much time attacking a god in whom they say they don’t believe?” Some further express the opinion that either we hate god, or we’re just trying to convince ourselves of our disbelief. Those opinions are, of course, logical fallacies (attacking the motives).

I won’t presume to speak for all atheists, but for many of us, the answer to the question of why we care is simple. We care because of theists’ incessant efforts to:

  1. Install their icons in our public spaces
  2. Teach their mythology in our science classes
  3. Push prayer in our public schools and government meetings
  4. Discriminate against others based on narrow-minded prejudice (cloaked always in sanctimony)
  5. Set public policy based on the musings of ancient men.
  6. And for many, transform our nation into a theocracy

The moment theists cease these efforts, is the moment I stop caring.

The Gospel According to Me

Here’s a new gospel, given to me by the one true god.

1. You humans have finally developed enough for me to reveal myself to you.

2. I’m actually not the only god. There are lots of others like me, but they have absolutely no involvement in your universe.

3. All the thousands of other gods worshiped now and throughout human history are false, being nothing more than human inventions.

4.  I caused the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago, and then left things totally alone to happen as they may, according to the natural laws of the universe. I know a lot of you want to know how I did it, but I’m not going to tell you. You’ll probably figure it out eventually.

5. Life began autonomously on earth, and on millions of other planets throughout the cosmos.  The origination of life on any given planet is pretty unlikely, but I made the universe big enough, (with over a trillion trillion planets so far), that the development of life on numerous planets was a statistical certainty. Earth just happens to be one of them, due to nothing more than random luck.

6. Once life began, it evolved naturally into the wide diversity and complexity you have today… and that includes humanity. 

7. Mankind is not the culmination of all of creation.  You’re really nothing special.  There are far more advanced (and better behaved) species on other planets.  And over the coming billions of years, the humanity of today’s earth will be forgotten, having long since evolved into various species that you can’t even imagine today.

8. There’s no afterlife for mankind.  You live for a while, and then you’ll die. Period. But don’t get upset about it – Nothing is forever … well, except for me.

9.  I don’t care what individual humans do with their lives. Every person has to figure that out for themselves. But I’ll offer just a few words of friendly advice, which you can take or leave as each of you sees fit:

A. Try to enjoy your life for the short time you’re on earth.

B. Don’t look to me for your purpose. Like I said, I don’t really care. Each of you has the freedom to decide your own purpose and meaning.

C. Try to help other humans when and where you can. For better or worse, you’re all in the same boat.

D. You don’t need religion. As I said, none of your gods are real. I am, but I have no need or desire to be worshipped. And there’s nothing in it for you anyway. I’m not going to intervene in your lives, I don’t want to be your friend, and (as I also said) there’s no afterlife.

E. Stop acting like your national boundaries are a big deal. You’ll all be a lot happier when you realize that you are one people and one planet.

F. Take care of your planet. It’s the only one you’ve got (so far) and you won’t survive if you turn it into a wasteland.

That’s it.

The Ontological Argument for God

Classic Version of the Ontological Argument

The Ontological Argument for God was first advanced by Saint Anselm, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1033 to 1109. in the Proslogium:

[Even a] fool, when he hears of … a being than which nothing greater can be conceived … understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his understanding.… And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For suppose it exists in the understanding alone: then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater.… Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is no doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.

In standard logical form, this can be written as:

  1. God is defined as a being of which none greater can be imagined (that is, the greatest possible being that can be imagined).
  2. God exists as an idea in the mind.
  3. A being that exists as an idea in the mind and in reality is, other things being equal, greater than a being that exists only as an idea in the mind.
  4. Thus, if God exists only as an idea in the mind, then we can imagine something that is greater than God (that is, a greatest possible being that does exist).
  5. But we cannot imagine something that is greater than God (for it is a contradiction to suppose that we can imagine a being greater than the greatest possible being that can be imagined.)
  6. Therefore, God exists

It didn’t take long for Anselm’s argument to attract criticism. Gaunilo of Marmoutier raised the objection that one could use Anselm’s argument to show the existence of all kinds of non-existent things. Gaunilo substituted “island” for “being” as an example:

Now if some one should tell me that there is … an island [than which none greater can be conceived], I should easily understand his words, in which there is no difficulty. But suppose that he went on to say, as if by a logical inference: “You can no longer doubt that this island which is more excellent than all lands exists somewhere, since you have no doubt that it is in your understanding. And since it is more excellent not to be in the understanding alone, but to exist both in the understanding and in reality, for this reason it must exist. For if it does not exist, any land which really exists will be more excellent than it; and so the island understood by you to be more excellent will not be more excellent.”

Gaunilo had the right idea, but chose a poor example, as one can argue that it is impossible to conceive of a perfect island, since the opinions about perfection of an island are subjective (as in the ideal temperature) and even within any one person’s vision of the perfect island, one could propose additional (qualitative or quantitative) features, that might make it even better. Conversely, the Christian God is purported to be all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, perfectly just, etc. Some of these traits, such as omnscience, cannot, by definition, be improved upon. It is impossible to conceive of a being knowing more than everything. Other traits, such as “perfectly just” might be arguable on the basis that, like the perfect temperature on an island, it is subjective, because people often disagree on matters of justice. But the simple response to that argument is that human opinions on justice should not be confused with some absolute standard of justice. I think this is a valid position for the purposes of the Ontological Argument, though it has issues in other apologetics arguments, which utilize the circular argument that God’s justice is perfect because he’s God.

So given that Gaunilo’s analogy failed because of the subjective nature of the perfect island, we can easily substitute some other object, which is not subjectively defined. We could postulate a “perfect 1 meter gold sphere”. This hypothetical object would be 100% solid gold, with no impurities, would be EXACTLY 1 meter in diameter, and would be perfectly spherical (to a resolution down to the atomic level). Per Anselm’s logic, the “perfect 1 meter gold sphere” MUST exist in reality, since an imaginary “perfect 1 meter gold sphere” would be inferior to a real one, and hence would be imperfect. And of course, the 1 meter size was an arbitrary choice. We could just as easily postulate a 1 billion km diameter perfect gold sphere. Neither perfect gold spheres nor gods can simply be imagined into existence.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) explained the specific logical flaws in both Anselm’s and Descartes’ arguments. Kant attacks Anselm’s premise 3’s claim (that a being that exists as an idea in the mind and in reality is greater than a being that exists only as an idea in the mind). In The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant rejects premise 3 on the ground that existence does not function as a predicate (i.e. as a PROPERTY) of any object:

…It is absurd to introduce—under whatever term disguised—into the conception of a thing, which is to be cogitated solely in reference to its possibility, the conception of its existence. If this is admitted, you will have apparently gained the day, but in reality have enounced nothing but a mere tautology. I ask, is the proposition, this or that thing (which I am admitting to be possible) exists, an analytical E.g., or a synthetical proposition? If the former, there is no addition made to the subject of your thought by the affirmation of its existence; but then the conception in your minds is identical with the thing itself, or you have supposed the existence of a thing to be possible, and then inferred its existence from its internal possibility—which is but a miserable tautology. The word reality in the conception of the thing, and the word existence in the conception of the predicate, will not help you out of the difficulty. For, supposing you were to term all positing of a thing reality, you have thereby posited the thing with all its predicates in the conception of the subject and assumed its actual existence, and this you merely repeat in the predicate. But if you confess, as every reasonable person must, that every existential proposition is synthetical, how can it be maintained that the predicate of existence cannot be denied without contradiction?—a property which is the characteristic of analytical propositions, alone.

I should have a reasonable hope of putting an end for ever to this sophistical mode of argumentation, by a strict definition of the conception of existence, did not my own experience teach me that the illusion arising from our confounding a logical with a real predicate (a predicate which aids in the determination of a thing) resists almost all the endeavours of explanation and illustration. A logical predicate may be what you please, even the subject may be predicated of itself; for logic pays no regard to the content of a judgement. But the determination of a conception is a predicate, which adds to and enlarges the conception. It must not, therefore, be contained in the conception. 

Being is evidently not a real predicate, that is, a conception of something which is added to the conception of some other thing. It is merely the positing of a thing, or of certain determinations in it. Logically, it is merely the copula of a judgement. The proposition, God is omnipotent, contains two conceptions, which have a certain object or content; the word is, is no additional predicate—it merely indicates the relation of the predicate to the subject. Now, if I take the subject (God) with all its predicates (omnipotence being one), and say: God is, or, There is a God, I add no new predicate to the conception of God, I merely posit or affirm the existence of the subject with all its predicates—I posit the object in relation to my conception. The content of both is the same; and there is no addition made to the conception, which expresses merely the possibility of the object, by my cogitating the object—in the expression, it is—as absolutely given or existing. Thus the real contains no more than the possible.

A hundred real dollars contain no more than a hundred possible dollars. For, as the latter indicate the conception, and the former the object, on the supposition that the content of the former was greater than that of the latter, my conception would not be an expression of the whole object, and would consequently be an inadequate conception of it. But in reckoning my wealth there may be said to be more in a hundred real dollars than in a hundred possible dollars—that is, in the mere conception of them. For the real object—the dollars—is not analytically contained in my conception, but forms a synthetical addition to my conception (which is merely a determination of my mental state), although this objective reality—this existence—apart from my conceptions, does not in the least degree increase the aforesaid hundred dollars.

By whatever and by whatever number of predicates—even to the complete determination of it—I may cogitate a thing, I do not in the least augment the object of my conception by the addition of the statement: This thing exists. Otherwise, not exactly the same, but something more than what was cogitated in my conception, would exist, and I could not affirm that the exact object of my conception had real existence. If I cogitate a thing as containing all modes of reality except one, the mode of reality which is absent is not added to the conception of the thing by the affirmation that the thing exists; on the contrary, the thing exists—if it exist at all—with the same defect as that cogitated in its conception; otherwise not that which was cogitated, but something different, exists. Now, if I cogitate a being as the highest reality, without defect or imperfection, the question still remains—whether this being exists or not? For, although no element is wanting in the possible real content of my conception, there is a defect in its relation to my mental state, that is, I am ignorant whether the cognition of the object indicated by the conception is possible á posteriori. And here the cause of the present difficulty becomes apparent. If the question regarded an object of sense merely, it would be impossible for me to confound the conception with the existence of a thing. For the conception merely enables me to cogitate an object as according with the general conditions of experience; while the existence of the object permits me to cogitate it as contained in the sphere of actual experience. At the same time, this connection with the world of experience does not in the least augment the conception, although a possible perception has been added to the experience of the mind. But if we cogitate existence by the pure category alone, it is not to be wondered at, that we should find ourselves unable to present any criterion sufficient to distinguish it from mere possibility. 

Whatever be the content of our conception of an object, it is necessary to go beyond it, if we wish to predicate existence of the object. In the case of sensuous objects, this is attained by their connection according to empirical laws with some one of my perceptions; but there is no means of cognizing the existence of objects of pure thought, because it must be cognized completely á priori. But all our knowledge of existence (be it immediately by perception, or by inferences connecting some object with a perception) belongs entirely to the sphere of experience—which is in perfect unity with itself; and although an existence out of this sphere cannot be absolutely declared to be impossible, it is a hypothesis the truth of which we have no means of ascertaining. 

The notion of a Supreme Being is in many respects a highly useful idea; but for the very reason that it is an idea, it is incapable of enlarging our cognition with regard to the existence of things. It is not even sufficient to instruct us as to the possibility of a being which we do not know to exist. The analytical criterion of possibility, which consists in the absence of contradiction in propositions, cannot be denied it. But the connection of real properties in a thing is a synthesis of the possibility of which an á priori judgement cannot be formed, because these realities are not presented to us specifically; and even if this were to happen, a judgement would still be impossible, because the criterion of the possibility of synthetical cognitions must be sought for in the world of experience, to which the object of an idea cannot belong. And thus the celebrated Leibnitz has utterly failed in his attempt to establish upon á priori grounds the possibility of this sublime ideal being. 

The celebrated ontological or Cartesian argument for the existence of a Supreme Being is therefore insufficient; and we may as well hope to increase our stock of knowledge by the aid of mere ideas, as the merchant to augment his wealth by the addition of noughts to his cash account.

Descartes’ Argument

René Descartes (1596-1650) had proposed a simpler version of the ontological argument:

  1. Whatever I clearly and distinctly perceive to be contained in the idea of something is true of that thing.
  2. I clearly and distinctly perceive that necessary existence is contained in the idea of God.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Descartes’ formulation clearly suffers from the same flaw as Anselm’s, in declaring existence to be a predicate in his conception of God.

Plantinga’s Argument

Alvin Plantinga reformulated the Ontological Argument, adding semantic devices that are designed to obscure the logical flaws. His version is as follows:.:

  1. A being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in W; and
  2. A being has maximal greatness if it has maximal excellence in every possible world.
  3. It is possible that there is a being that has maximal greatness. (Premise)
  4. Therefore, possibly, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good being exists.
  5. Therefore, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists (axiom S5).
  6. Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.
  • Point 1 is a simple definition.
  • Point 2 makes essentially the same error as both Anselm and Descartes, by equating “Maximal Greatness” of a “maximally excellent” but otherwise hypothetical being as one that actually exists in every possible world. And this definition is already begging the question, by setting the criterion that a god can only be maximally great, if it is impossible for it to not exist.
  • Point 3 is identified as a Premise, and completes the act of begging the question. To rephrase it, he’s saying that it’s possible that a god exists in every possible world. Left unstated is the possibility that this being exists in no possible world, or only in some possible worlds. So points 2 and 3 stack the deck for the conclusion. He’s saying that it’s possible that every imaginable world has a god. That statement is obviously false, as we KNOW that we can imagine a world without god. Since this premise is false, his Ontological argument fails.

Gödel’s Argument

Kurt Gödel developed an updated form of Anselm’s original argument, using modal logic, shown here in its original mathematical notation.

Wikipedia provides a translation of this to standard English:

As noted, Gödel developed this as an update to Anselm’s argument, and he has not solved the key problem. Axiom 5 (“A5”) declares that necessary existence is a positive property. This is equivalent to Anselm’s claim that the greatest possible being that one can imagine (and who actually exists) is superior to the EXACT same being who does not exist. This notion was refuted earlier in the discussion of Anselm’s argument.

Craig’s Argument

William Lane Craig has an alternative form of Plantinga’s ontological argument:

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
  3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
  4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
  5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
  6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
  7. Therefore, God exists.

Craig provides some definitions of his terminology in his post: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/misunderstanding-the-ontological-argument/

Craig defines the “possible worlds” term as follows: “To say that some entity exists in a possible world is just to say that such an entity possibly exists. It isn’t meant that the entity actually exists somewhere. Look again at my explanation: “To say that God exists in some possible world is just to say that there is a possible description of reality which includes the statement ‘God exists’ as part of that description.””

Note that Craig is using the “Maximally Great” terminology, which he defines as ” A maximally great being is one that has, among other properties, necessary existence. So if it exists in one world, it exists in all of them!”

So in premises 1 and 2, he inherently includes the criterion of existence in every possible world. But by starting out with that terminology, Craig’s first statement is already guilty of begging the question. He’s declaring that it’s possible that a god necessarily exists in every possible world (which he expressed later in step 3). Those statements are clearly false. We can obviously conceive of worlds in which no god exists, so it’s a gross error to state that it’s possible that every imaginable world has a god. Every statement after his first point is therefore moot. Craig’s argument is sophistry of the worst sort.

While all of these formulations of the Ontological argument are fatally flawed, the most recent forms seem to have gone out of their way to hide the flaws through use of deceptive semantics within their premises. I doubt this was unintentional.

The Big Bang and the Laws of Thermodynamics

A popular argument by apologists is the claim that the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics prove the universe had a creator.  The argument goes as follows (from  “The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics and the Origin of the Universe” Dr. Danny Faulkner, 2019)


“The first law of thermodynamics is the familiar conservation of energy principle. That is, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Through countless experiments, we discover that the amount of energy at the beginning of any experiment is equal to the amount of energy at the end of the experiment. Similarly, extensive experiments have demonstrated that matter is conserved as well. However, we know that matter merely is a form of energy, as revealed by the famous Einstein equation of equivalence, E = mc2, where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light. Therefore, to be absolutely correct, one ought to speak of the conservation of mass-energy. But if we restrict ourselves to processes that do not involve conversion between matter and energy, then we can view the conservation of energy and the conservation of matter as different manifestations of the first law of thermodynamics.

The second law of thermodynamics is different. It states that, while energy is conserved, energy becomes less useful over time. What makes energy useful is the difference, or gradient, that exists between the energy at two different locations. We can exploit that energy gradient to operate engines to do work, much as biological systems use energy gradients to sustain life. The natural tendency is for energy gradients to decrease with time so that energy becomes less useful to do work. Physicists define entropy to measure the degree that energy is less useful. Thus, more entropy corresponds to less useful energy. According to the second law of thermodynamics, the entropy of the universe must increase with time.


The first and second laws of thermodynamics are well-established, and they appear universally to apply. Of course, there is no problem with the two operating simultaneously today, but a startling conclusion results if we extrapolate them into the past. If the first law of thermodynamics has always been true, then the universe must have always existed. Otherwise, sometime in the past energy must have spontaneously appeared when none had previously existed. But this would violate the first law of thermodynamics. Hence, the first law of thermodynamics requires that the universe be eternal. But what if we extrapolate the second law of thermodynamics into the past? If the universe was eternal, there would have been more than ample time for the universe to have already reached its maximum state of entropy, with no useful energy remaining. The fact that today we can use heat engines and that biological systems operate today reveals that the universe is far from the maximum entropic state. Therefore, the universe cannot be eternal, and hence the universe must have had a beginning in the finite past.

Resolving the Contradiction

But this produces a contradiction: the first law of thermodynamics demands that the universe be eternal, while the second law of thermodynamics demands that the universe cannot be eternal. Both laws appear to be fundamental and inviolate, so there is no way one law can be made subordinate to the other. One could hypothesize that in the past one of the two laws did not apply, but that would be a departure from the way in which the natural world is known to operate. The physical world today follows these two laws (and others), so any past departure from how the world now works would have amounted to a non-physical operation. Another word for non-physical is metaphysical. There is no physical mechanism whereby physical processes would suddenly change. In fact, such a change would undermine the underlying principle of physical processes (and makes science as we know it possible). Thus, if physical processes changed at some time, it must have had a cause outside of the physical. That is, the origin of the universe requires a radical departure from how the physical world operates Hence, the origin of the world is beyond the realm of science, as science is the study of the physical, or natural, world, not the metaphysical or the spiritual.


Many physicists (including astronomers and cosmologists) are aware of this problem. Therefore, those committed to naturalism have attempted to explain away this problem by appealing to quantum fluctuations. However, as I have discussed elsewhere, there are problems with this explanation. Ultimately, consideration of the first and second laws of thermodynamics in the past leads to the conclusion that the origin of the universe is a metaphysical or spiritual question, not a physical one. Therefore, using science, we can conclude that the origin of the universe is not a question that science is equipped to answer on its own. Since science can’t tell us where the universe came from, the only consistent way to study the origin of the universe is to realize that the Creator God exists and that he is not part of the physical universe. He is transcendent. The God who made all was not himself created. This is exactly what the Bible says: ”All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). One ought to begin the study of the origin of the universe with God.”


There are several problems with his argument:

The First Law: Faulkner concludes that the First Law necessarily demands that the universe must have always existed. But to be clear, the First Law only requires that the matter/energy of the universe always existed IN SOME FORM. It says nothing about what that form was. Some Physicists believe that to be the case – that the Universe existed prior to the Big Bang, but was compressed into a tiny volume (the Mother of All Black Holes). Other theories describe different conditions prior to the Big Bang. But there’s simply nothing inherent to the Big Bang that demands an utter absence of matter & energy beforehand.

The Second Law: Faulkner states that “If the universe was eternal, there would have been more than ample time for the universe to have already reached its maximum state of entropy, with no useful energy remaining.”  Here, Faulkner makes the mistake of applying the Second Law as it applies to the universe as it exists today. The Second Law allows for entropy to be constant, if the system is in equilibrium. Our universe today is NOT in equilibrium, but there’s no reason to assume that to be the case prior to the Big Bang. If, for example, the Mother of All Black Holes hypothesis is correct, those conditions could have persisted indefinitely with no loss in entropy until, for whatever reason, some instability initiated the Big Bang). String Theory also posits steady-state conditions that preceded the Big Bang. Faulkner discusses this, but inexplicably dismisses String Theory, not because it has been discredited, but because there are issues that still need to be resolved.

We don’t know yet what caused the Big Bang, or what conditions preceded it. There are various hypotheses, and there is still much to be learned. There are a variety of hypotheses which are not contradicted by the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.  And it’s entirely possible that we’ll one day find a better hypothesis that fits with all observations (those already made, and those yet to come), fully consistent with the Laws of Thermodynamics.  

Faulkner, however, wishes to throw in the towel.  Because we don’t yet have all the answers, he leaps to a God of the Gaps conclusion. He declares that, because science hasn’t YET answered the question. Science CAN’T answer the question. History is, of course, replete with questions that could not be answered by science … until they were.

Faulkner is welcome to believe what he wants. It’s fine if he wishes to go with “God did it”, but that conclusion is neither supported, nor demanded by science. Worse yet, Faulkner undoubtedly knows this.

No, Atheism is Not a Religion

Many theists claim that atheism is a religion, but that claim is inherently a dishonest one. As evidence, they often refer to the following Merriam-Webster definition of religion.

re•li•gion \ri-ˈli-jən\ noun

[Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back — more at rely] 13th century

1       a : the state of a religious 〈a nun in her 20th year of religion

b       (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural

(2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2       : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3       archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness

4       : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

They acknowledge that definitions 1 and 2 don’t apply to atheists, and they focus on definition 4. But let’s dissect the definition.

  1. Is atheism a cause, principle, or system of beliefs? One can certainly define it as a cause for some, as well as a principle. It is not a system of beliefs, however. “Atheism” only defines one thing that the person does NOT believe in. It says nothing as to what the atheist DOES believe. But given this was a statement of “or”, this part of the definition is applicable to atheists.
  2. Is the disbelief in god(s) held to with ardor and faith? Well that depends on the person. Many atheists give little thought to their atheism, just as they give little thought to their disbelief in Santa Claus. Some (obviously including this author) give it much more thought. We argue against theism because we object to theist attempts to insert their religion into our schools, install their icons in our public spaces, and attempts to set public policy based on the musings of primitive men. So yes, there can certainly be some ardor involved. But if the atheist is arguing against theistic claims, and overreaching (noted above) by theists, that’s not the same as saying that the beliefs themselves are held with ardor or faith. As we know, many of the American founding fathers were theists, but were adamantly opposed to theocracies

    Is there faith involved? Those who argue that atheism is a religion say yes, claiming that the atheists hold their beliefs with blind faith. But that’s only remotely true for SOME atheists. Atheism is commonly subdivided into two forms: Gnostic Atheism, where individuals claim to KNOW there are no gods, and Agnostic Atheism, where individuals argue that we cannot know for certain whether god(s) exist, but who choose to disbelieve in god(s) due to the absence of objective evidence.

    One could reasonably argue that the gnostic atheist is acting on faith, when he claims (in the absence of proof) to know there are no gods. But it’s absurd to ascribe faith to the agnostic atheist.

I’ve seen no surveys on what percent of atheists are gnostic vs agnostic. I fall into the latter group, as do the vast majority of atheists I know, or whom I’ve had discussions with on social media. It’s rare that I come across gnostic atheists. Christian apologists seem to be of the opinion that most are gnostic atheists, based on the misinterpretation of (sometimes intense) vocal opposition. But as I’ve noted, intense opposition to unsupported theistic claims, and to theist overreach is not a valid indicator of atheistic gnosticism.

So in summary, the claim that atheism is a religion is applicable, at most, to gnostic atheism, which I believe is a small subset of the atheist population.

But this brings us to the other major problem with the claim. Even if we stipulate that gnostic atheism is a religion (under definition 4), it is not a religion in the same sense that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. are religions (under definition 1).
In fact, if we go back to Merriam-Webster, we can see an enormous difference in the meanings, by looking at the examples:

Examples of religion in a Sentence

  • Many people turn to religion for comfort in a time of crisis.  
  • There are many religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.  
  • Shinto is a religion that is unique to Japan.  
  • Hockey is a religion in Canada.  
  • Politics are a religion to him.  
  • Where I live, high school football is religion.  
  • Food is religion in this house.

Those who argue that atheism is a religion, are using it in the same sense that hockey, politics, football and food are religions, NOT in the same sense as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Shinto. The use of the word “religion” under definition 4, arose as a metaphorical term, rather than in any literal sense.

It’s both logically and semantically wrong to claim that theistic religions and atheism are qualitatively the same, when one isn’t using the same definition of the word. Equating the literal religions of Christianity, Judaism, etc. with the metaphorical religions of atheism, hockey, etc. is patently absurd. And it’s dishonest.

God is Not Good

A common claim of Christians is that “God is good.” Some go even further, saying, “God is good – always.“ The two variants are assumed to be synonymous, as I’ve never heard any suggestion from believers that God is good just some of the time.

This claim can be evaluated in two ways:

  1. From analysis of the objective evidence in everyday life.
  2. From the Biblical record.

In neither case does the claim stand up to scrutiny.

Objective Evidence from Everyday Life

Simply put, there is no objective evidence that a loving, just, or merciful god is engaged in the affairs of mankind. Disease and natural disasters inflict untold misery and death upon humanity. Believers are smitten with equal frequency and severity as nonbelievers, in spite of any amount of prayer. The only apparent difference between believers and nonbelievers is their interpretation of events.

If there is a natural disaster, in which 1000 men, women, and children are killed, but one nonbeliever and one believer are spared, the former, while being happy about his own survival, will mourn those who were lost. The latter carries that a step further, praising god for saving him. He believes that he and that other guy were singled out by God to be saved. He and his family will declare that “God is good.”, while those believers who lost their own loved ones will sadly chalk it up to “God has a plan.” … a plan which allegedly required the untimely deaths of 1000 men, women, and children, who all just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Disasters happen with some regularity, and many millions more suffer and die from all manner of diseases, with prayer having no statistically measurable effect. The objective evidence therefore indicates that either there is no god, or that he is indifferent to the suffering of his children.

That’s not to say this evidence means that God is bad. The problem of suffering, as well as that of evil in the world, has been a major topic of theological debate for two millennia, and I won’t try to argue that here. I’ll just conclude that there is no objective evidence that god is good. At best, the evidence shows that he is indifferent. The Biblical evidence tells a different story, however.

Biblical Evidence That God is Not Good

Note: all Bible references in this article are from the NRSV.

The Bible condones a number of practices that most modern civilized people (including most Christians) abhor. This includes rape, slavery, genocide, and the subjugation of women. Few would consider a world leader who condoned these things to be a good person.


The Old Testament unequivocally condones rape, as long as the victim is female, unmarried, and not betrothed

Relevant verses

Deuteronomy 22:22-29

If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

But if the man meets the engaged woman in the open country, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. You shall do nothing to the young woman; the young woman has not committed an offense punishable by death, because this case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor. Since he found her in the open country, the engaged woman may have cried for help, but there was no one to rescue her.

If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.

So we have several specific cases here:

A man is caught having intercourse with a married woman (verse 22): Both are executed, with no apparent regard for whether it was consensual.

A man is caught in town having intercourse with a betrothed woman (verses 23-24): The presumption is that it was consensual (since she did not cry out), and they both are executed.

A man is caught outside of town having intercourse with a betrothed woman (verses 25-27): Since it happened outside of town, she is given the benefit of the doubt (as to whether she cried out), so only the man is executed.

A man seizes a non-betrothed virgin, and is caught having intercourse with her. Well in this case, his “punishment” is to marry the object of his desires.

Many Christians have claimed that this does not condone rape, but rather it was the merciful solution for a woman who had been sullied, and who would likely have trouble finding a husband as a result. But that argument fails on three counts.

1. Few women would welcome being forced to marry their rapist, so in that sense, it’s hardly a mercy.

2. As noted previously, most modern civilized people view rape to be an evil act, regardless of the marital or betrothal status of the victim. So unless we’re all just misguided on that, the more appropriate “absolute moral guidance” would have been for God to direct that rape is unequivocally wrong, and a rape victim is blameless, and remains unsullied.

3. Furthermore, any justification for the position on rape, collapses in light of other Bible verses.

Other Christians have argued that the word “siezes” as used in the case of the non-betrothed woman is a poor translation – that the original Hebrew version used the word “tapas” which was commonly used to mean taking hold of someone or some thing (though not generally by force). They conclude that the Bible was discussing consensual sex in this case

But if that’s true, it doesn’t help their case, because it leave the rape of a non-betrothed woman completely unaddressed. If true, the the rapist would presumably face no consciences whatsoever for his actions.

Genesis 19:1-8

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. He said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the square.” But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.” Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

So here, Lot (our hero) offered up his virgin daughters to be gang-raped. Lot, of course, was spared from the destruction of the city, having been judged to be a righteous man (In spite of offering his daughters to the mob). The Old Testament condones rape of women, as long as they’re neither married nor betrothed.

Numbers 31:1-18

31 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the Israelites on the Midianites; afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your number for the war, so that they may go against Midian, to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.” So out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe were conscripted, twelve thousand armed for battle. Moses sent them to the war, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for sounding the alarm in his hand. They did battle against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, in addition to others who were slain by them; and they also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. The Israelites took the women of Midian and their little ones captive; and they took all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods as booty. All their towns where they had settled, and all their encampments, they burned, but they took all the spoil and all the booty, both people and animals. Then they brought the captives and the booty and the spoil to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the Israelites, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.

Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation went to meet them outside the camp. Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, “Have you allowed all the women to live? These women here, on Balaam’s advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the Lord in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves. 

So this story covers two atrocities: genocide against the Midianites (discussed later in more detail), and rape of their virgin captives (verse 18), with the rape commanded by God’s own prophet Moses.

The New Testament, as far as I’m aware, is silent on the topic of rape. So the only reasonable conclusion is that the Bible condones rape, as long as the victim is female, and neither married nor betrothed. The harsh position on rape of married and betrothed women appears to be due to the perceived harm to the husbands and fiancées, rather than to the actual victims.


In the rules for warfare, Deuteronomy 20:16-17 states:

But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded,

I previously mentioned the genocide inflicted by Moses’ army against the Midianites. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. The book of Joshua chronicles an entire campaign of genocide against the kingdoms of Canaan. Moses and Joshua led the slaughter of most of the people of Canaan, summarized in Joshua chapter 12:

The Kings Conquered by Moses

12 Now these are the kings of the land, whom the Israelites defeated, whose land they occupied beyond the Jordan toward the east, from the Wadi Arnon to Mount Hermon, with all the Arabah eastward: King Sihon of the Amorites who lived at Heshbon, and ruled from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Wadi Arnon, and from the middle of the valley as far as the river Jabbok, the boundary of the Ammonites, that is, half of Gilead, and the Arabah to the Sea of Chinneroth eastward, and in the direction of Beth-jeshimoth, to the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, southward to the foot of the slopes of Pisgah; and King Og of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaim, who lived at Ashtaroth and at Edrei and ruled over Mount Hermon and Salecah and all Bashan to the boundary of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and over half of Gilead to the boundary of King Sihon of Heshbon. Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the Israelites defeated them; and Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land for a possession to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The Kings Conquered by Joshua

The following are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the Israelites defeated on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir (and Joshua gave their land to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their allotments, in the hill country, in the lowland, in the Arabah, in the slopes, in the wilderness, and in the Negeb, the land of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites):

To be clear, Joshua did not just take the kings. He slaughtered every man, woman, and child in those kingdoms. From Joshua 11:19-20:

There was not a town that made peace with the Israelites, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; all were taken in battle. For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts so that they would come against Israel in battle, in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

But Joshua did leave some Canaanites alive, for the sole reason that he eventually became too old to finish the job. So God handled the rest, by just driving them out of Canaan. One must wonder why God didn’t just drive EVERYONE out of Canaan in the first place. This is recounted in Joshua chapter 13:

The Parts of Canaan Still Unconquered

Now Joshua was old and advanced in years; and the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land still remains to be possessed. This is the land that still remains: all the regions of the Philistines, and all those of the Geshurites (from the Shihor, which is east of Egypt, northward to the boundary of Ekron, it is reckoned as Canaanite; there are five rulers of the Philistines, those of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron), and those of the Avvim in the south; all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians, to Aphek, to the boundary of the Amorites, and the land of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon, toward the east, from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo-hamath, all the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon to Misrephoth-maim, even all the Sidonians. I will myself drive them out from before the Israelites; only allot the land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have commanded you. 

The Great Flood would, of course set the record for genocidal acts if it was actually true. And the genocide against the peoples of Canaan was purportedly all at God’s direction. And for that reason, many Christians (Evangelicals at least) defend it, because, they say, God the creator has the right to kill (or order to be killed) anyone he chooses. But that rationale essentially gives god a free pass to do whatever he wishes. On this topic and others, Christians have often argued that mere humans are unqualified (i.e. have no standing) to pass judgment on their creator. But if that’s true, it’s a two-way street. If we are unqualified to judge God to be evil, then we are equally unqualified to judge him to be good.


The Bible unequivocally condones slavery. Conservative Christians frequently will falsely justify it with the claim that it wasn’t slavery as practiced in the US South, but rather was just an indentured servitude, established as a means to pay debts. But that’s only partially true. Jews could be kept as indentured servants. And Mosaic law forbade the enslavement of other Jews as slaves, but non-Jews were fair game. Leviticus 25:44-46 explicitly authorized buying and selling slaves from neighboring nations.

As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness

Deuteronomy 20:10-11 describes, in the the laws for waging war, a directive to enslave any who surrender to the army of the Israelites.

When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you at forced labor.

Exodus 21:1-11 institutionalized slavery, laying out the rules and regulations in the conduct of slavery:

The Law concerning Slaves

These are the ordinances that you shall set before them:

When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,” then his master shall bring him before God.  He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life.

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out without debt, without payment of money.

Exodus 21, verses 20-21 and 26-27 address the penalties (or lack thereof) for violence against a slave.

Exodus 21:20-21

When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.

Exodus 21:26-27

When a slaveowner strikes the eye of a male or female slave, destroying it, the owner shall let the slave go, a free person, to compensate for the eye. If the owner knocks out a tooth of a male or female slave, the slave shall be let go, a free person, to compensate for the tooth.

So there can be no question that slavery was condoned and firmly institutionalized in the Old Testament. The New Testament has several mentions of slavery. Jesus told the Parable of the Unforgiving Slave, and The Parable of the Faithful Slave

Matthew 18:23-35

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 24:45-51

“Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In their Epistles, Paul and Peter repeatedly tell slaves to obey their masters, and/or masters to treat their slaves kindly.

Ephesians 6:5-9

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.

And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.

Colossians 3:22-25

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality.

1 Timothy 6:1-2

Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved.

Titus 2:9-10

Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.

1 Peter 18-25

Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Colossians 4:1

Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Then, in his letter to Philemon, Paul says he is returning Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, but encourages Philemon to set Onesimus free.

Philemon 1:8-21

For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Onesimus was obviously a Christian, and a close personal friend of Paul, so Paul’s request to Philemon was an isolated instance. In all other cases, Jesus, Paul, and Peter tacitly condone the institution of slavery. None of them indicate any issues with the institution of slavery (whether it be the enslavement of non-Jews, or indentured servants). None of them even hint that slavery, in any form, is wrong.

So in summary, the Old Testament codified the institution of slavery, and the New Testament condoned it. This fact was routinely used by US slave holders to defend the practice, and was almost certainly a factor in the establishment of slavery in the American colonies, beginning in 1508, and its persistence here, for over 350 years. 

Subjugation of Women

The Old Testament is firmly patriarchal in nature, viewing women as little more than property. As discussed above:

A virgin who is raped is forced to marry her rapist.

Men are allowed to have many wives, but a woman may have but one husband.

Lot offered his virgin daughters to be gang raped, rather than allow his male visitors to be gang raped by a mob.

The Ten Commandments clearly reflect the view that a woman is the property of her husband (Exodus 20:17):

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Women can be sold by their fathers into slavery, as concubines (Exodus 21:7-11):

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out without debt, without payment of money.

And women are consistently viewed as being inferior and subservient to men. 

Genesis 3:16

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
    and he shall rule over you.”

A husband could divorce his wife, but a wife could not divorce her husband. And a woman who is divorced and then remarries, is viewed as having been defiled, such that she may not remarry her first husband if her second husband dies or divorces her. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

Laws concerning Marriage and Divorce

 Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house and goes off to become another man’s wife. Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession.

The New Testament likewise views women as subservient to men, having been created from man, and FOR man. They are overtly told to be submissive to their husbands, and told to remain silent in church. Some relevant verses below:

Ephesians 5:22-23

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior.

1 Corinthians 11:1-9

I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head—it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

1 Timothy 2:13-15

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Titus 2:3-5

Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.

1 Peter 3:1-2

 Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

Other Biblical Evidence
God is a Narcissist

God gave to Moses, 10 Commandments, along with hundreds of rules within Mosaic Law. Of these, much of the Mosaic Law became obsolete, as Jesus claimed to have fulfilled the law. The 10 Commandments are consistently viewed as being the keystone of Old Testament Law.

Depending on which version of the Old Testament is used, God commands us in either 3 or 4 of the 10 Commandments to (in some form or fashion) “Worship Me.” In abbreviated form, a common version of the 10 Commandments is as follows (with the first 4 focused on worshiping Him):

  1. You shall have no other Gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourselves an idol
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
  5. Honor your father and your mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not give false testimony
  10. You shall not covet

The choice of 10 as the number of commandments is, of course, arbitrary, but among the 10, it seems there should have been room for proscriptions against rape, slavery, and genocide.

Using even one commandment to demand our worship is the act of a narcissist; four such commandments indicate an extreme narcissist. Christian theology teaches that God created us with the primary expectation that we worship him… and the penalty if we fail to do so, is an eternity of unspeakable torment. This is not a “good” being. It is an extreme sociopathic narcissist.

The Story of Job

Job is often held up as the ideal example of patience and faithfulness to God. In chapter 1 of the Book of Job, he is a prosperous man with a wife, seven sons, and three daughters. God boasts to Satan of the righteousness and faithfulness of Job, but Satan argues that it’s easy for Job to be faithful, because he has been so blessed. God claims that Job would be faithful even without those blessings. This leads to a bet as to who is right, and God gives permission to Satan, to take everything from Job.

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Satan then proceeds to take everything from Job:

13 One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was still speaking, another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Even after all of this, Job remains faithful to God. God thought he had won the bet, but Satan wasn’t done. In Chapter 2, Satan argued that Job still had his health, saying they should take that from him and see what happens, and does so, again with God’s permission:

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan,“Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lordsaid to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

Then, over the next 39 chapters, Job laments his misery, and debates his faith with his friends, but he never blamed God for his plight. Instead, Job remained faithful to God.

So God won the bet, and In Chapter 42, restored all Job had lost, and more … except of course for the children, whom God replaced with even better children (though I can imagine no good parent who would happily accept the loss of any child, just because they had another).

10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days.

So while Christians hold up this story as a model of faithfulness, the picture it paints of God is damning. God subjected Job to unimaginable misery in a game of sport. This is not the act of a good and loving father, but rather of a sociopath.

Elisha and the Mauling of Boys

In 2 Kings 2:23-24, The prophet Elisha is mocked for his baldness by a group of boys, and responds by having them mauled by bears.

23 He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!” 24 When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

This is not the act of a loving, kind, merciful, or good God.


There are many other Bible passages that could be added to this analysis, but I think those already discussed are more than enough to refute the claim that God is good. The Bible instead describes a god who is a narcissistic sociopath, who created us with the overarching requirement that we worship him, under penalty of an eternity of unspeakable torment. He sanctions rape, slavery, genocide, and the subjugation of women. He tormented Job in a game of sport. He caused bears to maul 42 boys, merely because of a childish insult to his prophet. If the Old Testament is to be believed, he is NOT good.

Apologists have two common responses to these conclusions. I’ve already noted and refuted the first – the claim that mere humans, by their inferior standing, are unqualified to place judgement upon their own creator, which if correct, means we’re also unqualified to call him good.

The second common argument is that we cannot judge God by human standards. They argue that morality is defined by God, and applies to humans, but not to God himself. God is declared to be good by standards that apply only to him, and that humans can’t possibly know or understand those standards. But if that’s true, the claim that he is good has no meaning. Like it or not, we’re speaking a language of humans, and the word “good” only has meaning within that context. To say that “God is good”, where “good” is undefined, has no more meaning than declaring that “God is grgthbtf”.