Review: Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists

Ebook compilation available

The atheist Twitter-sphere has been abuzz over Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists, and regular readers here know that I’ve been eagerly anticipating its publication. It came out almost two weeks ahead of its announced Nov. 1 release. I’d like to say I was happy about that, but I’m not.

A Few Words of Appreciation—But Only a Few

BoghossianBook250.jpgIt’s not that I’m completely dissatisfied with this book. Dr. Boghossian does three thing that I consider quite helpful. He takes a serious swipe at postmodern-ish relativism with respect to whether there is such a thing as truth, he makes a strong plea for rational thinking, and he recommends a Socratic approach to learning about religious beliefs.

All of this is excellent; in fact I’ve written previously on his similarity to several top Christian apologists in his Socratic methodology. The thing is, properly applied, these approaches have little to do with creating atheists. The other thing is how terribly improper Boghossian’s application is—not because it’s anti-Christian, but because of his irresponsible disregard for evidence and good reasoning.

I’ve already made that case in my many previous posts in this series. No one has seen fit to argue that I’ve gotten it wrong. Let’s see what happens when we look further into the book.

Boghossian’s Values, Continued

Throughout the book, Dr. Boghossian emphasizes rationality, willingness to revise one’s beliefs if new evidence or reasoning calls for it, and the epistemological deficiencies of faith. Elsewhere I have questioned his willingness actually to proportion his beliefs to evidence. Here I will zero in on his definition of faith, and ask whether that definition reflects rationality and attention to evidence on his part.

This is crucial, for if he gets faith wrong, then the entire argument of his book collapses. For this is not, in spite of its title, a manual for creating atheists. He really doesn’t recommend arguing people out of belief in God. On pages 76-77:

Trying to disabuse people of a belief in God … may be an interesting, fun, feel-good pastime, but ultimately it’s unlikely to be as productive as disabusing people of their faith. Attempting to disabuse people of a belief in their God(s) is the wrong way to conceptualize the problem. God is the conclusion that one arrives at as a result of a faulty reasoning process (and also social and cultural pressures). The faulty reasoning process—the problem—is faith.

Why Faith is “The Problem”

Faith is a faulty reasoning process because, as he defines it on pages 23 and 24, it is “belief without evidence,” and it is “pretending to know things you don’t know.” It’s not clear to me where these definitions came from, except that they are derived from and deeply colored by atheistic conceptions of reality and, of course, faith. Dr. Boghossian provides no citations, no references, no reason to believe that these definitions are correct; he expects us to take it on his authority alone.

Well, I overstated that a bit. He presents a list of straw-man usages of “faith” yanked utterly out of context, from mostly liberal theologians, New Age authors, and his personal interpretation of the difficult passage in Hebrews 11:1. (Had he looked at the way faith is used elsewhere in the same chapter of Hebrews he might not have made the mistakes he made there.)

And not only that: he also quotes John Loftus, born in 1950, a leading crusader against Christianity: certainly the one authority we would all rely on as proof that Dr. Boghossian got his understanding of faith right for all times, all people, all places.

And Why It Is Not

Both Loftus and Boghossian are, quite simply, wrong. Faith simply is not belief without evidence. If it were, then Jesus would be one of history’s greatest crusaders against faith. When he rose from the dead, he presented himself alive as a demonstration of his resurrection. If the disciples were expected to believe in his resurrection on “faith,” as Dr. Boghossian understands the term, then by showing himself alive, Jesus would have been destroying any opportunity for them to have “faith” in his resurrection.

The same pattern presents itself throughout the Bible. From the Exodus to the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, to the great signs and wonders that Jesus performed, to his resurrection from the dead, and finally to the miracles done by and through the apostles, there was evidence  for the reality of God all along the way.

So by Dr. Boghossian’s way of looking at it, the Bible is one of history’s great manifestations of an anti-faith religious text. The Bible presents faith as being directly associated with and the result of experience with evidences. Christianity down through the centuries has also conceived of faith as being directly tied to evidences and to reasoning.

[Update Nov. 11: several people have thought they’ve identified a flaw in my reasoning here, in my reliance as a Bible for a source. In this case, though, my reasoning here stands regardless of one’s belief in the truth of the Bible.]

One of the more comical things Dr. Boghossian does in his book is to lift an excerpt out of William Lane Craig’s teaching, in which Dr. Craig explains that the Holy Spirit can provide assurance of the truth of God, and then to posture this quote as if Dr. Craig had no regard for evidences or reasoning. Of course, some people disagree with the way Dr. Craig uses evidences and reasoning, but to present him as one cares nothing for them is simply silly.

And again, down through the centuries Christians have viewed faith as being integrally associated with good thinking, based on good evidences. (The following examples are from a chapter by David Marshall and Timothy McGrew in the forthcoming second edition of True Reason.) Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165), for example, wrote, “reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions.” Origen (ca. 184-254) writes,

in the Christian system also it will be found that there is, not to speak at all arrogantly, at least as much of investigation into articles of belief, and of explanations of dark sayings, occurring in the prophetical writings, and of the parables in the Gospels, and of countless other things, which either were narrated or enacted with the symbolical signification, (as is the case with other systems).

Other Christian thinkers emphasizing the importance of evidence and reasoning have included Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Pascal, Lock, Berkeley, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Ricci, Butler, Paley, Warfield, Greenleaf, and many, many more. Many more.

The point is that Boghossian’s definition of faith is idiosyncratic, tendentious, and formulated falsely yet conveniently for the purpose of undermining belief in God. It bears no relation to the evidences of actual Christian belief or practice. It entails that Jesus, the great promoter of faith, was at the same time the great destroyer of faith. It entails that no one noticed this massive self-contradiction in the teachings of Jesus until the age of the new atheists, or perhaps we could take it back as far as the life of Ambrose Bierce, perhaps the original “New Atheist,” who died (or disappeared, at any rate) just one hundred years ago. If it goes back further than Bierce I’m not aware of it, and Dr. Boghossian doesn’t care: his definition rules regardless of what anyone else has said concerning faith.

Thus in this we see him throwing to the winds his own stated value of proportioning one’s opinion to the available evidences. His hypocrisy stands revealed. And since his definition of faith is wrong, and since his whole book depends on that definition, his entire argument fails utterly.

Urging Extremism

This is not just about playing innocently with words. Dr. Boghossian recommends a set of “containment protocols” regarding faith, which include the following:

1. Use the word “faith” only in a religious context.
He recommends this on his own authority: it’s just wrong, he says on his own authority, to speak of having faith in one’s spouse. This is because “when the faithful are pressed on the definition of faith… they usually retreat to the words ‘hope,’ ‘trust,’ and ‘confidence,’ abandoning knowledge and certainty”—as if the importance of his recommendation follows from that observation.

2. Stigmatize faith-based claims like racist claims.
Specifically, he says, don’t let people of faith “sit at the Adult Table. Those at the Kid’s Table can talk about anything they’d like, but they have no adult responsibilities and no voice in public policy.” In other words he wants us muzzled; if we speak up we should be told, “You are pretending to know things you don’t know. Go to the Kid’s Table, this is a conversation for adults.”

8. Treat faith as a public health crisis.
“We must reconceptualize faith as a virus of the mind … and treat faith like other epidemiological crises: contain and eradicate.” Never mind that faith is positively associated with personal health in virtually every measure: Dr. Boghossian’s adoration of evidence has its limits, you see; and even though all the research shows that it tends to be good for physical and mental health, still it’s a “public health crisis because he says it is.

11. Remove religious exemption for delusion from the DSM.
This bears an extended quotation:

Once religious or delusions are integrated into the DSM, entirely new categories of research and treatment into the problem of faith can be created. These will include removal of existing ethical barriers, changing treatments covered by insurance, including faith-based to special education programs in the schools, helping children who have been indoctrinated into a faith tradition, and legitimizing interventions designed to rid subjects of the faith affliction.…

In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is [sic] refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.

At least he doesn’t suffer the flaw of being overly subtle. Now, if faith really were what he says it is, and if it really were a faulty epistemology, then there might be some reason to “contain” it. Still, to treat it as a “public health crisis” and to “stigmatize it” like racism, is dangerously extremist language. To call it a virus, to remove ethical barriers(!) regarding its treatment(!) is reminiscent of nothing quite so much as Soviet “psychological” approaches toward dissent.

This is the language of hatred toward the beliefs of not just millions but billions. And it would be so even if Dr. Boghossian’s view of faith were accurate; which it is not.

One Redeeming Virtue

If there is any good that could come out of a book like this, it would be this: it amounts to an excellent exercise for Christians who want to sharpen their thinking. In the hands of a skillful an well-trained Christian thinker, this could provide an outstanding case study in the irrationality of new atheism – that which claims supreme rationality, but (as my co-authors and I show in True Reason) rarely if ever succeeds in living up to it.

(The first edition of True Reason is available here (Kindle) or here (Nook), in e-book form only. The Kregel print edition’s release date has not yet been set, to my knowledge. The November 1 date on Amazon’s website is probably inaccurate.)

Tom Gilson

Vice President for Strategic Services, Ratio Christi Lead Blogger at Thinking Christian Editor, True Reason BreakPoint Columnist

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72 Responses

  1. SteveK says:

    Dr. Boghossian, sir. You are pretending to know things you don’t know about faith. Please sit quietly at the Kid’s Table until you’re ready to grow up.

  2. Denisha says:

    Thank you for this. I will enjoy reading your articles. I think I may look at the book just to exercise my faith aka knowledge of evidence and test it against his own logic. I find your articles helpful for understanding what types of things are relevant to a Christian blog. I’m trying to start my own as a female who loves apologetics!

  3. TFBW says:

    …legitimizing interventions designed to rid subjects of the faith affliction.

    Oh, boy — that’s some great progressive-era paternalism he’s got going there. I wonder what specific kinds of intervention he has in mind. Are lobotomies too old-fashioned? No doubt it won’t sound old-fashioned if it’s called “corrective neurosurgery”. Still, I’m thinking that a hefty dose of medication is probably more in keeping with the trends of the times. We’ve had anti-impotence pills, anti-depressant pills, and anti-attention-deficit pills, so maybe there’s an anti-religion pill in our future. Never do humans act so inhumanely as when they attempt to perfect humanity.

  4. Oisin says:

    He isn’t showing hatred towards religious people, he is showing pity and hopes to help people rid themselves of delusions. It’s important not to mix up your feelings with his, he just thinks religious people are incorrect in their faith, and once they abandon faith it will be obvious that the bible’s truthfulness cannot be justified. If he’s wrong, then the epidemic terminology just applies to atheists instead.

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    Oisin, you have a very strange view of what “pity” looks like.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    And you have a very, very scary view of how these “epidemics” ought to be handled, if you agree with Boghossian: people who disagree with people like me should take matters into their own hands. Or if atheism is the “epidemic,” then people like me should (not just are feared to do, as some theocracy-conspiracists claim, but really should!) remove atheists from “adult conversation.”

    So then, how about if Christians told you, “I’m sorry, Oisin, but these are adult conversations, and you do not belong at the Adult Table”?

    How dehumanizing! How belittling! How filled with hubris! How power-mongering! Yet based on what you’re saying, your position seems to entail that those who are right about God should do that to those who are wrong.

    “Pity” indeed. I pity you if you think PB is making any moral sense at all, but I’m not going to medicalize your “condition,” I’m not going to make you go sit in some little chair at some short squatty table, and although I disagree firmly with your position I am determined to treat you with respect as a human being, as far as this online medium permits.

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    Re: that last clause: blogging is severely limited: practically the only thing we know about each other is our positions, which means that’s about the only thing we can interact with, and it happens to be the point where we have the most differences. Not only that, but there are some positions for which I have no respect, such as the numbered points from PB in the original post, for example.

    I would still respect him as a fellow human being, made in God’s image and loved by God, and would express that respect to him if given the opportunity to interact with him as a person, and not just his positions.

    It’s challenging to get that kind of thing right on a blog. I’m trying with all my abilities to do so.

  8. BillT says:

    One thing that should be noted about Boghossian’s “containment protocols” is that they follow what we have seen coming from the political left and are informed by the same source. It’s the politics of personal destruction and it comes directly from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”. We’ve see many of the New Atheists use these same tactics. No one more so that Richard Dawkins who really popularized the idea that religious believers shouldn’t be reasoned with, they should be laughed at.

    Boghossian’s “containment protocols” follow the same methodology. First, redefine common words to your own advantage (and it should be noted that Boghossian’s definition of faith isn’t just a lie it’s “the opposite of the truth”) then “stigmatize faith-based claims like racist claims”, “treat faith as a public health crisis”, etc. It really follows Hitler’s fascism more closely than Stalin’s communism. It’s dishonest, manipulative and lacking in any sense of common decency. But common decency isn’t what they’re after. It’s power for power’s sake, just as we have seen many, many times from the secular left.

  9. Ray Ingles says:

    The Bible presents faith as being directly associated with and the result of experience with evidences.

    Hmm. Not all Christians agree with you on that. Some argue that the Bible actually says that “God produces not only the will to believe, but the act of believing itself.”

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    It’s a both-and situation, Ray.

    Besides, what do you care what other Christians think? Why don’t you look and see whether the Bible presents faith as being directly associated with, and the result of, experience with evidences? Or is that harder to Google and find a counter-example to?

  11. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom – No need to be snide. The article I linked to seems to make a pretty decent case for scripture arguing that faith isn’t a response to evidence so much as a prompting from God. A lengthier quote:

    “For example, in Acts 13 Paul preaches the gospel in Antioch. However, many Jews, filled with jealousy, revile Paul. In response Paul makes an astonishing proclamation: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles” (13:46). Suddenly, the Gentiles break out in rejoicing and gladness: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (13:48). Notice, the text does not say “as many as believed were appointed to eternal life.” Rather, Luke explains that God’s election or appointment determined who would and would not believe. God, not man, determines who will and will not believe in Christ, and until God regenerates the sinful heart of man, he will not respond in faith and repentance (cf. Acts 2:37; 16:14; 18:10). Yes, we repent and believe, but we do so only because God has previously appointed us to eternal life and has, at the appointed time, caused us to repent and trust in his Son (cf. John 8:47; 10:26).”

    I’d say the case is at least mixed…

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    Does the article say that it’s not a both-and? Really?

    Have you read the original source and determined that it’s not a both-and? Have you determined that the Bible pays no regard whatsoever to evidences? Have you determined that Jesus never presented reasons to believe? Have you determined that Paul never used reason or persuasion?

    Ray, I’m going to challenge your ignorance on this, and if you think that’s snide, then maybe the affront to your pride will goad you into looking something up in the original source rather than trying to mount a rebuttal based on someone else’s opinion, which happens not to be a rebuttal in this case.

    The classical Christian position on this is that God does indeed move to produce faith, as was taught in the article you linked to, but that he uses means to do so, including reasons, evidences, and so on; and further, that whether Christian faith is initiated by reasons and evidence or not, it is nevertheless entirely consistent with evidences and reasoning.

  13. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom Gilson –

    Have you determined that the Bible pays no regard whatsoever to evidences?

    I didn’t claim that. The case made in that column, though, seems to be that evidence is completely ineffectual unless God steps in and makes you accept it. If that were the case, then Boghossian’s perspective would be understandable – God hasn’t made him see it, so he can’t see it. So it wouldn’t be surprising that he’d see people with (at least, Calvinist) Christian faith as believing in things without any evidence (that he can see).

    Now, Boghossian isn’t restricting his terms to Calvinism, so to that extent he’s wrong. (I also don’t see religious faith as a “public health crisis”, and I agree that language is, at best, unhelpful – at worst, dangerous. “Stigmatizing” religious faith is not necessarily ‘extremist’, though.)

  14. BillT says:

    The article Ray quotes was written in answer to the question “Why is faith not a work?” This is a technical theological question centering on the initial reception of faith as part of salvation by grace rather than a work attributable to us. It doesn’t in any way address the role of evidence or reason nor does the fact that it is a gift preclude the role of reason in that acceptance.

    In summary….saving faith is sovereignly granted to the sinner and effectually applied within him. Therefore, we dare not call this initial faith in conversion a “work,” lest we attribute to ourselves what should truly be credited to God. As we reflect on our conversion to Christ, we do not boast in ourselves, but give God, and him alone, all of the glory, praise, and honor.

  15. BillT says:

    I guess one of the things I find puzzling about Boghossian’s position is that it seems to me his definition of faith apples to him and all non-believers just as aptly as to believers.

    Faith is a faulty reasoning process because, as he defines it on pages 23 and 24, it is “belief without evidence,” and it is “pretending to know things you don’t know.”

    So just how is non-belief in God any better supported by the evidence than belief is. It’s seems like it’s as much “belief without evidence” as the opposite position (if not quite a bit more so). And how is non-belief in God any less “pretending to know things you don’t know” than belief in God is. Seems like it should be, by Boghossian’s own reasoning, fair to “stigmatize (his) faith-based claims like racist claims” and to “treat (his) faith as a public health crisis”. Just sayin’.

    (Cue the “But atheism isn’t a belief” in 3…2…1.)

  16. Ray Ingles says:

    BillT –

    It doesn’t in any way address the role of evidence or reason nor does the fact that it is a gift preclude the role of reason in that acceptance.

    It does, in the sense that (in this conception) reason alone is insufficient to lead to faith. You won’t get faith from reason until and unless God “sovereignly” elects you to.

    In other words, even if there are reasons for faith, humans can’t reason themselves to faith. Using human reason, you won’t get to faith. From the perspective of pure human reason, faith looks unreasonable (1 Corinthians 1:18).

    So, like I said, “If that were the case, then Boghossian’s perspective would be understandable – God hasn’t made him see it, so he can’t see it.”

  17. BillT says:


    It’s a discussion of what faith is not. A work. Its a discussion of why we receive faith. By grace. I stand on my previous statement that it doesn’t address the role of evidence or reason nor does the fact that it is a gift preclude the role of reason in our acceptance. What it’s not, why it’s given and how it’s accepted are all different questions.

    It’s within a Calvinist understanding that though it’s a gift, by grace, that we still play a part in the act, though a passive one, of accepting that gift. There is a reason we do so. My personal insight tends to confirm that. It’s also with a Calvinist understanding that we are responsible for our all own decisions, Boghossian included. That is why, of course, you can draw your own conclusion.

  18. SteveK says:


    In other words, even if there are reasons for faith, humans can’t reason themselves to faith. Using human reason, you won’t get to faith. From the perspective of pure human reason, faith looks unreasonable (1 Corinthians 1:18).

    If by reason alone you mean “a logical thought process”, then I’m not impressed with this statement. Reason alone can’t get you to any knowledgeable truth. You first need to have knowledge of first principles such that your reasoning can lead to knowing the truth.

    God gave humans this knowledge – these first principles – in that we are made in his image. We bear that image today, even as sinners, and because of those first principles we will always know the value of putting our trust in God – which is faith – and be drawn to it.

  19. Victoria says:

    And in any case, the process by which God and a human being come into a covenant relationship with each other is still grounded in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ; the NT makes it clear that Christianity is anchored to Him, and specifically to His crucifixion, death and resurrection as real events that occurred in real human history, as Paul insists in 1 Corinthians 15, for example. One of the things that the Holy Spirit does in this process is to show us the significance of these things, and to show us that this is the way God’s plan of redemption is implemented. Another thing that the Holy Spirit will do is to lead you to the point where you see that you are in need of this redemption and invite you to humbly accept it. It is possible to resist this offer of grace (cf Hebrews 3:1-4:13), and people who do so give all sorts of reasons, such as casting doubt on the historicity and/or reliability of the NT documents, or an unwillingness to submit to the authority of a sovereign God, demanding that God performs some supernatural act just for them before they will believe anything (although I suspect that the die-hard materialist will be hell-bent on trying to explain it away as a natural event, which is probably why God doesn’t do as they demand – why bother? see Luke 16:9-31 and Luke 16:29-31 ).

    We keep trying to tell atheists and skeptics that faith in the full Biblical meaning of the concept is multi-faceted and that one cant simply take one piece of it alone – the pieces are inter-dependent to make up the whole – they never seem to get the point.

  20. Tom Gilson says:


    I’m trying in any event to understand what you’re trying to accomplish with this reference to the Holy Spirit’s role in producing faith. Are you saying:

    1. That this teaching represents the theological background for Boghossian’s position? If so then you’re wrong, because this position only describes a Christian view of faith (and not all Christians hold to it), whereas Boghossian’s critique is against all religious forms of faith.

    2. That because (many) Christians hold this view, therefore Boghossian is right, at least in the case of those Christians, to view their faith as disconnected from evidence and reason? If so, then you are wrong for reasons already stated here: essentially, no matter what draws a person to faith in God, belief in God is still evidentially and rationally supported and supportable, and Christians from the time of Christ have always viewed it that way.

    3. That the answer and explanation I just gave in (1) or (2) is wrong and/or irrelevant? If so then you have misunderstood the purpose of the reference you have given us to look at together, because as has already been explained, its purpose is not to make reasons or evidences irrelevant.

    4. That you find this an odd teaching and you wonder how it fits in with reason and evidence in Christian doctrine? If so then I hope we’ve at least partially answered you; and if you want to explore it more for that reason please say so and we’ll gladly respond to you on that level.


    5. That you find this an odd teaching and you want to harass us with it? If so then please let us know so we won’t be confused and think we’re helping anything by trying to answer you.

    I hope it’s not #5. But it would be helpful if you would clarify.

    If it’s #1 or #2, it’s time for you to recognize that your question has already been answered and to move on.

    If it’s #3, and if you really want to understand better (which might mean that it’s actually #4) then please let us know.

  21. BillB says:

    Tom & all,

    Do you believe that it is possible in good faith to reject Christianity on the grounds of evidence (or lack thereof)?

    Growing up I was taught that no, this isn’t possible. Anyone who disbelieves must do so at some level consciously, for love of sin.

    Exposure to intelligent people online and at university lead me eventually to conclude otherwise.

    What do you think? Can a person honestly and in good faith believe (perhaps mistakenly) that the balance of evidence does not support Christianity?

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    Personally, I think it’s possible in good faith to reject Christianity on the grounds of evidence, as it’s possible to reject that Columbus is the capital of Ohio on the grounds of evidence.

  23. bigbird says:

    Can a person honestly and in good faith believe (perhaps mistakenly) that the balance of evidence does not support Christianity?

    This depends firstly on what evidence is available to that person. If they are not aware of much evidence, it seems quite likely they could come to this conclusion. I would say this applies to many people – largely because they aren’t aware of the evidence that exists.

    It might be clearer to ask if someone who has made an effort to search out and consider the widely available evidence (perhaps by a thorough reading of the major apologetics texts) could still in good faith believe that this does not support Christianity.

    I would say again that yes, this is possible. This is because evidence must interpreted and weighted, and everyone does this differently. Each person will assign a different weight to different types of evidence. Certain people will be convinced by lower levels of evidence than other people. It will depend on their upbringing and their professional training as well as their personality. It will even depend on timing – at different times in life we probably have a different bar for evidence.

    Ultimately, I don’t think it matters. Evidence will persuade some, and not others. But God has many ways of drawing people to himself, and externally available evidence is just part of the picture (or for some peoople, not part of it at all).

  24. Tom Gilson says:

    Yes, in all honesty bigbird’s answer was a lot more intellectually responsible than mine… .

  25. Profpop says:

    This debate, like many, boils down to semantics.
    For an understanding of the meaning and importance (or otherwise) of words like ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ and a description of what actually constitutes evidence, please visit my website:

  26. Tom Gilson says:

    Semantics? Profpop, your website presents the same historically, existentially, and logically inaccurate definition of faith as Boghossian uses. This isn’t about semantics, it’s about people on your side of the issue seeking to wrestle words’ definitions into distorted forms that have nothing to do with the way the words have been used by believers down through history, and everything to do with manipulation and maneuvering to give yourselves a strategic advantage.

  27. JohnB says:

    What is the difference between the words Faith and knowledge, as you would use them, Tom?

  28. Tom Gilson says:

    Good question, John B. I wrote something on that a few weeks ago.

  29. Blue rose says:

    Since, statistically speaking, belief in God(s) is the majority view of all humans on the planet (over 95% are theists of some stripe) and as mental illness is always characterized as a deviation of the norm, couldn’t atheism be considered a mental illness? I wonder how Boghossian would respond if we (theists) all decided to declare him mentally ill and help him “for his own good”. Somehow I think he’s take it as well as being made to sit at the kiddie table during discussions.

  30. BillB says:

    @Tom & bigbird

    I’m a bit surprised at your answers, though I agree with what you say. To me it seems self-evidently true, in fact, that an honest and informed person could fail to become persuaded by Christian evidence.

    But doesn’t this imply that God can send people to hell merely for being mistaken?

    I know you’ve discussed hell before, and I don’t want to go OT, so apologies if this is old ground.

  31. Tom Gilson says:

    Blue rose, I don’t think I could go where you’re suggesting. First, Hinduism, Buddhism, and tribal religions are not typically theist. Second, I’m not confident we ought to define mental illness as deviation from a norm like you’ve said here.

    I think there are a lot of things that could be said truly to Boghossian that he doesn’t like, but I don’t agree with medicalizing it. I’d rather approach it in terms of “wrong” and—though I haven’t said it before, I do think it’s true—”evil.” I think those are better descriptors than “sick.”

  32. Tom Gilson says:

    BillB, I’m going to start with one piece of a technical answer. People are not condemned for our beliefs but for our sin: our fundamental rejection of God. We don’t go to hell for being mistaken but for being morally and relationally separated from God.

    We are rescued, on the other hand, by believing that God is real, that he loves us, that we need him, and that he came in the person of Christ to die and rise again for us.

    So technically no, no one goes to hell for being mistaken; it’s our moral and relational status that takes us there.

    But that leaves open the question that I’m playing logic games: if belief is required for rescue, and if disbelief means non-rescue, then isn’t disbelief (and the possibility of being mistaken) really the crux of it after all? And the answer is yes. But I’m convinced there’s a moral/relational component to disbelief. “They suppressed the truth in unrighteousness,” it says in Romans 1:18-20.

    There is also a factor of God’s providential initiative in bringing people to faith. This is a long and complex issue and it could take us far off topic, I’m afraid.

  33. Blue rose says:


    I completely agree with you, I was just attempting to be facetious with Boghossian’s idea of belief in God as a mental illness. I wasn’t advocating the rounding up atheists or anything but I am willing to bet Boghossian’s wouldn’t be in favor of such an idea if it was coming from the other side.

    I was lumping in pantheism and animism into the theist category though I know they don’t properly belong there, I was using theism to refer to impersonal as well as personal notions of God(s). While not all deviations of the norm are considered a mental illness all mental illness(s) are deviations of the norm, which is why you don’t find many mental ill people in any given population.

    I probably find his suggestion that theism is a mental illness even more offensive than you do because I am mentally ill and so are most of my friends. I have been on medication for most of my life and have been in mental hospitals, which in my opinion are as close as you can get to hell on this earth. I honestly think Boghossian’s should spend a week in a mental hospital. I can almost guarantee his views on mental illness and theism would change after that.

  34. Patrick Reynolds says:

    The same pattern presents itself throughout the Bible. From the Exodus to the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, to the great signs and wonders that Jesus performed, to his resurrection from the dead, and finally to the miracles done by and through the apostles, there was evidence for the reality of God all along the way.

    All of the evidence you refer to are just stories in the bible. If you are going to consider that to be evidence then why not say that the stories in the Koran are evidence for Allah or that stories in the Mahaburata are evidence for Lord Brahma.

    There is no archaeological evidence, for example, that the exodus ever took place. Nor is there any evidence outside of the bible that Jesus was ever crucified in Jerusalem. None of the historians living at the time of Jesus record his execution or mention that people rose up from the dead and ran through the town.

    Other Christian thinkers emphasizing the importance of evidence and reasoning have included Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Pascal, Lock, Berkeley, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Ricci, Butler, Paley, Warfield, Greenleaf, and many, many more. Many more.

    None of them really discuss reasoning other than “Belief in God good. Non-belief bad.” Pascal’s wager is an excellent example of faulty reasoning. As far as evidence goes Christians produce the bible as evidence but they can’t or don’t present evidence that the bible is true. Again there is no evidence for the Exodus outside of the bible. Perhaps the bible is sufficient evidence for you but it is all supported by faith. Let’s not forget that the earliest New Testament document is from a couple of hundred years after the death of Jesus and none of the documents that do exist are exact copies of each other. They show countless changes, intentional or not, made by scribes in copying them.

    Christian apologists constantly redefine words. Randal Rauser, for example, whenever he discusses a topic, say X, first starts out by saying something like “Well, what do we mean by X? We can define X as…”.

  35. Tom Gilson says:


    I’m on my mobile. Someone else will have to do the necessary explaining. There’s be plenty to be done.

  36. Victoria says:

    Oh, where to begin, eh? 🙂

    Have you ever heard about Textual Criticism, the scholarly study of the transmission of ancient texts? Do you know how this has been applied to the Biblical documents, and the New Testament documents in particular? Based on what you wrote in your #35, I’d have to say no, or not much.

    I suggest you go away and study up on the topic – here is a good place to start

    The articles by Dan Wallace are particularly good
    Try these two:


    If Bart Ehrman’s popular level books are your only source of your information about the NT, then you should listen to what his peers have to say, here:

    You can also go to a good university library and get the definitive books written by Bruce Metzger (and yes, Bart Ehrman too ), if you don’t happen to like scholarly material written by PhD’s at Dallas Theological Seminary (Metzger was at Princeton, I believe). You can also look up Mark D. Roberts (a Harvard-trained theologian ) – he has a lot of accessible material here:

    you can also peruse the articles by Michael Kruger at

    As far as archaeology is concerned, try both and – the latter is much more secular, although Christian scholars and archaeologists contribute a lot. You have to subscribe to the review journal to access the library contents in depth, but I think summary articles are available.

    Lastly, while you are at the library, see if you can find a copy of
    The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History by Colin J. Hemer. You can get these books at Amazon if you are willing to part with your geldt for them 🙂

  37. Patrick Reynolds says:

    I suggest you go away That is what I like about Christians, they complain about how angry atheists are but it doesn’t take much to make a christian angry.

    @Victoria – Still not evidence for your particular God. If someone came up to you and said Allah or Lord Brahma was real what proof or evidence would you demand from, or require of them? That is what I am looking for here.

  38. Tom Gilson says:

    Patrick, you took that out of context.

  39. Tom Gilson says:

    The evidence I would request from anyone for their beliefs would be that which fits their beliefs. I wouldn’t ask for proof of miracles from a naturalist, but I might from a Muslim.

    The proof is not for the religion but for the claims the religion makes; and so it would depend on what it claims.

    Christianity makes strong claims that certain events happened in history, especially the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. That’s the relevant evidence you’re looking for, and that’s the evidence she steered you toward.

  40. Tom Gilson says:

    Furthermore, Patrick, your complaint in your first paragraph in #35 is misplaced. The question I was working on wasn’t “what happened in biblical times?” or, “Is there evidence for God?” It was, “what does the word ‘faith’ mean, and does that term’s definition involve evidence or not?”

    Definitions are conventional; i.e, the meanings we give to words are those that people conventionally hold. Those conventions develop through usage. There is a centuries-long history of usage of “faith” that has been deeply conditioned by the Bible. When the word “faith” was used in the Bible, it was used in evidential contexts. Note that I’m speaking of the literary context: how the characters were portrayed as understanding the term. The Western world’s understanding of “faith” has followed that convention down the centuries since then.

    And that is how the meaning of the word arose: whether the literature of the Bible is true or not, that literature determined the meaning of the term.

    Now on top of that, you chose a couple of items from biblical history for which archaeological evidence is sparse or missing. (There’s some very interesting work coming out on the Exodus, but to feature it here would be premature, since it’s not definitive enough yet.) You ignored the multiple and many items for which real evidence does exist.

    So when Boghossian says faith is evidence-free, everyone who has any awareness of the truth of the term knows that he (and other New Atheists in the past decade or so) made that up; it’s not the historic meaning of the term, it’s not the conventional meaning, and it’s not the meaning that applies to me or many others as persons of faith who present evidences for our beliefs.

  41. Tom Gilson says:

    You say, “None of them really discuss reasoning other than ‘Belief in God good. Non-belief bad.'”

    Do you believe in evidence yourself?

    If you read these writers—if you actually cared enough about evidence to form a knowledgeable opinion—you would know that you got that about as wrong as wrong could be.

    That’s what really impelled me earlier to say, “Wow.” I mean, really wow.

  42. Billy Squibs says:

    Patrick Reynolds,

    As Ben Witherington is fond of saying, “text without a context is just a pretext for whatever you want it to mean”.

    What was actually said was, “I suggest you go away and study up on the topic – here is a good place to start”. What then followed was a list of resources that you where encouraged to read.

    I can only think of a few possibilities why you wrote what you did. They aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

    1) You didn’t understand the comment and mistakenly took it the wrong way.
    2) You are prone to uncharitable readings.
    3) You brazenly demonstrated to us in ham-fisted fashion what dishonest quote mining looks like.

  43. Victoria says:

    I suppose I should have explicitly said what was implied by my suggestion – that you go away and read at least some of the material I linked to, and when you did, return to discuss what you had originally posted in the light of that information. It was not my intent to dismiss you – please accept my apologies for not being clear on that.

    If you read say the Dan Wallace material, you will find that NT scholars know exactly where the variations are, in some 5700+ NT manuscripts that have come down ton us over the centuries. You would have learned about the types of variants and their significance to reconstructing the original text of the NT; you would have learned that the vast majority of variants are either insignificantsuch as permutations of word order, which in a language like Greek, hardly matters; or not viable, as in obvious spelling mistakes (there ain’t no such Greek word 🙂 ). The remaining 1% or so are both meaningful and viable, and so have to be considered carefully, but according to NT scholars, none affect any core Christian teaching. NT scholars who specialize in the reconstruction of the NT text are in general agreement that we have today pretty much exactly what the original authors wrote, so your sweeping statement about the ‘countless number of differences’ and the implied untrustworthiness of the NT text does not bear up under the real facts of the matter.

    I could go on next to your statement about the oldest NT document that we have is ‘hundreds of years after Jesus died’ – I presume you mean the oldest complete NT collection, name Codex Sinaiticus, dated to 325AD or so. That is true, but there are numerous partial collections and fragments that date back to the 2nd century (I think you will find information on that on Kruger’s web site and Dan Wallace’s web site ( You could also head over to J. Warner Wallace’s web site ( and/or read his book Cold Case Christianity, where he discusses the chain of custody of the New Testament writings, and how they were passed down from the original authors in the middle of the 1st century, by the subsequent generations of Christians (we know about this from the writings of the Church Fathers, as Wallace discusses at length).

    Gotta go….if I have time today I’ll pop back in for more 🙂

  44. Patrick Reynolds says:

    @Tom Gilson – According to one dictionary source, faith is strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.. Faith is a belief in someone or something without having evidence to support that belief. If we have evidence for something then we don’t need faith. If I walk in on a murder scene and see a dead body and a policeman tells me that Frank did it I might have faith that the officer is correct. However, once I examine all the evidence, however, I might find that that the person wasn’t killed by Frank but by Alice instead.

    When the word “faith” was used in the Bible, it was used in evidential contexts. Note that I’m speaking of the literary context: how the characters were portrayed as understanding the term. The Western world’s understanding of “faith” has followed that convention down the centuries since then.

    Hebrews 11:1 talks about “the confidence of what we hope for” but nowhere in the entire chapter does Paul make any mention of evidence.

    You ignored the multiple and many items for which real evidence does exist.

    I’m sure many of the towns and people mentioned in the bible really existed but that does not make the supernatural parts of the bible true. Spiderman and Harry Potter both take place in real cities but that is not proof that Spiderman and Harry Potter were real.

    Do you believe in evidence yourself?

    If someone tells me that they have evidence for something but then refuses to articulate it then I doubt that the person really has evidence. I deal with Christians on other blogs who claim to have evidence for God but what I ask them what it is all they do is find reasons not to present it or discuss it.

  45. Tom Gilson says:

    Patrick, Hebrews 11 isn’t the only source of information we have about faith. It’s not even the only source we have in Hebrews. Neither is the Oxford Online Dictionary. (I’ve been presented with that one previously.)

    Your crime scene use of the word is a total distortion.

    With regard to the geographical references, I was responding to your claim that the biblical authors didn’t know their geography, which you implied stood as evidence that the Bible was false. I rebutted that briefly, which in the context of the argument did what it was intended to do: to counter your position that the biblical authors didn’t know their geography. If you think I was using that information to prove the Bible was true, then I would say you read it wrong.

    I haven’t refused to articulate my evidence. Feel free to explore this blog. There are many, many hundreds of articles here.

    You still haven’t shown any demonstrated interest in providing evidence for your position. Do you have a list of articles somewhere that you’ve written? Do you have any backing for your claims about Christian writers down through the centuries? Would you like to read a relevant aggregation?

  46. SteveK says:

    Atheist ‘mega-churches’ take root across US, world


    “The idea that you’re building an entire organization based on what you don’t believe, to me, sounds like an offense against sensibility,” said Michael Luciano, a self-described atheist who was raised Roman Catholic but left when he became disillusioned.

  47. robert says:

    The problem with your rebuttal of his arguement is that you claim Jesus presented himself after his ressurection as evidence. well, I’m sorry, but that in itself is a faith claim. You’re saying the evidence for christianity being true, is the story in the bible. which you believe to be true. Where is your evidence that it is true. do you believe Muhhamad is the last prophet because the koran says so. That’s just as much evidence as the biblical story of Jesus, if not more, because the koran, at least hasn’t been translated and retranscribed. It exsists in its original text. How do you determine that the koran is false and the new testament is true. and if it’s a feeling in your heart, them how do you account for the feeling in the hearts of many muslims. Also i thank you for posting this on your site. truly openminded discussion.

    Also if the bible is true, how did the koala bear get to Austrailia?

  48. robert says:

    Atheism doesnt mean there is no god, only there isn’t enough evidence to justify belief in god. There is a difference between the two statements: I do not believe in god. as opposed to the more extreme: I believe there is no god.
    I consider myself an atheist but am willing to believe in god if evidence comes along. So far i haven’t seen it. The universe is amazing, but it is only proof that the universe exists, it doesn’t prove that something even more amazing than the universe exists. Its hard enough to believe that something this mind boggling exists at all and im looking right at it, and now you want me to believe not only does this all exist but something even more unfathomable also exsists on top of it that created it. well what created that. if something has to be eternal why not the universe itself.
    Some want to say the universe itself is god. Well then i believe in the universe and you just reduced the definition of god down to mean something I already believe in based on evidence. why even use the term God.

    I think God was created to give a sense of authority to the law that the leaders were imposing onto people. Back then people would have had a hard time understanding why they should follow certain laws, “who are you to tell me what to do” well now we have democracy the people themselve give the leaders authority so we dont need a god to justify laws we just need rational debate to determine what is right and wrong.

  49. robert says:

    Also if you are saying Jesus didn’t want his disciples to excersize faith so he presented himself after his ressurection, than it stands to reason he probably wouldn’t want me to excersize faith either, and he would reveal himself to me, unless it was only his disciples, who already believed in him anyway, who need proof, the rest of use who don’t believe, we’re the ones that need the proof. Why not reveal yourself to us, and if you say pray about it; I already have, I have prayed, read the bible, gone to church tried to open my heart, I behave in as good a way i know how, Ive tried to meditate and Ive talked to people of faith. It just doesn’t hold water. I believe you guys believe, I believe the Muslims believe, i believe that the Mormons believe, and I believe you guys are all confused, after all, you can’t all be right, but you can all be wrong. It’s happened before “earth is flat” “sun goes round the earth” just cuz alot of people believe it doesn’t increase the likelyhood that its true. only evidence does that.

  50. robert says:

    Also i agree that the adult table and kids table analogy is needlessly insulting, but i do believe public policy debate needs to involve claims based on evidence, because if it allows for claims based on faith it is open to Muslim law just as much as it is to christian law or Buddhist law or you name it. If you want faith to be part of the debate you have to be willing to concede that it isn’t just your faith you have to be willing to accept all of them. The beliefs are so different we cannot go down that road. Faith needs to be a personal matter I don’t want to live under Muslim law, or Christian law. If there is a God, let him or her judge me after death and I’ll accept the consequences. Please don’t assume you know for sure what Gods law is and try to enforce it. That is an act of extreme pride. I’ll listen to what you think gods law is and i will live the best life i can, but public policy needs to be based on human rights outside of faith. If you believe in biblical law, live by that. Don’t force a Buddhist to live by biblical law. There is room for us all to live together one persons rights end where another persons rights begin, we can debate that all over but our constitution is clear you cant force me to adopt your beliefs any more than I should try to force you to adopt mine.

  51. Tom Gilson says:

    Robert @#50, your comment there prompted me to aggregate the various answers I’ve already made to that objection.

  52. Tom Gilson says:


    I don’t know where you got the idea this was about forcing laws on other people. But I do intend to enforce my discussion policy, specifically items 3 and 5:

    3. You are welcome to comment on any topic raised in the blog entry to which your comment is attached. This is not the place, though, to share just anything that’s on your mind. Comments introducing tangential or completely new topics for argument may be edited or deleted. (This applies especially to material that is deemed to be mere advertising for other sites.) …

    5. Call it a pet peeve of mine, or simply call it writing in educated English: the word “God,” when used as a proper noun, is to be capitalized. The same applies to other proper nouns, such as names of religions.

    Thank you for respecting me in this.

  53. Bill LaBarre says:

    Mr. Gilson,
    This is my first time seeing your blog. I’m sure you are busy so I will try to keep this brief (please don’t mistake my brevity for rudeness). I have read this post as well as your FAQ’s. But I’m still trying to understand how YOU see “faith.” Forgive me if I missed something.

    I understand that you believe “faith” should be (or was, in Biblical times) based in evidence. I thank you for pointing this out. If this is the case, then what is the difference between “faith” and “knowledge?”

    That is, anyone who saw the resurrected Jesus would not have needed “faith” in the more common modern usage of the word (as I believe Boghossian has used it). He would have experienced it and have first-hand knowledge. So what is “faith” according to the Biblical usage?

    Also (less important and only if you have time), do you not think the usage of the word “faith” as presented in the Bible would necessarily have changed over time since no one else had first-hand knowledge? Don’t you think that is why most people (whether or not they are using it correctly) see faith as something more like a belief in things not seen?

    Thank you in advance,

  54. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you, Bill, those are good questions. Here are a couple links to articles that might answer your questions on faith and knowledge.

    I’ll have to come back later to your question about the change of meaning over time. Thanks for giving me grace on that.

  55. L. Danang says:

    Define faith however you like. My question is- how do you decide what to have faith in? It obviously requires no kind of concrete proof. If I should believe in a book, based on the “fact” that the book says it is true. then do this: Western Union me $10,000 and I will send you a videotape of God coming down and telling me he is real. It is solid, undeniable evidence. Trust me- I’m telling you that I will send you this if you send me the money. OK- gonna do it? Why not? Doubt of some kind? Why? And why not apply the same rules of inquiry that you would use before wiring someone money, on the bible? It is so full of contradictions and outlandish commands to be horrible to other people, as to be completely laughable. If I came to you today with a similar story, you would probably feel that no on in their right mind could believe it without real evidence to back it up. Only the fact that you grew up being taught “normal” religious beliefs, and found that you got looked down on if you questioned things, could account for such an outlook. You would not accept anything similar proposed to you today, without much more solid evidence. If people do, then they will get scammed on a regular basis by all the con men out there. Use reason, or don’t. But you suffer the consequences if you don’t.

  56. Tom Gilson says:

    L. Danang, that’s a great question, and there are any number of resources you could look at to pursue it. If an answer is what you want, then I heartily recommend Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. Among other things, if I recall correctly he does a good job of dealing with so-called contradictions. He certainly does provide solid evidence.

    But Boghossian’s book began with his version of a definition for faith. His whole approach is based on his definition of faith. A writer such as myself who decides to take up Boghossian’s work and respond to it is going to talk about definitions for faith, or else he’s going to drift into unrelated territory.

    And my point throughout all this has been that Boghossian’s use of reason and evidence is horrifically bad. So while in this series I haven’t done much by way of demonstrating which faith one should choose, I think I have shown that Boghossian is a really poor mentor. You want to watch out for people who offer vaporous evidence and lousy reasons? Watch out for him.

    That’s what I’m focusing on through most of this series, by intentional choice.

  57. WriterWriter says:

    There is NO evidence whatsoever for “Jesus.” None. There is the error- and contradiction-filled bible. That is not evidence. The book cannot be the evidence for itself any more than Harry Potter is evidence for its creators.

    There is absolutely NO evidence whatsoever of any resurrection.

    There IS evidence the Adam/Eve story not only is not true, human mitochondrial DNA prove it not to be true. That, and the same story is part of many older religions.

    If Adam and Eve are recycled characters, then the “Jesus” story is firstly unnecessary – no “original sin,” so no need for “god” to recreate himself, send himself to earth, appear for 12 years, then disappear for 20 and turn up again.

    The virgin birth story is NOT true. It is possible a young Jewish woman became pregnant out of wedlock – shocking, I know. BUT, either she had human intervention or her child would have been female – NO amount of magic or conjuring could have made for a different outcome, unless your spirits have genes and DNA – which of course makes them human. Otherwise, your non-human spirits could not have contributed the necessary Y chromosome, so your “saviour” is a female. The story is ridiculous and unworkable. And then you try to make this offspring of the Royal line of Kind David, so now you have another problem, given that link would have had to pass through the father. The human father.

    The 40 years wandering story is also NOT TRUE.

    So yes, friend, when you say “faith” you are indeed pretending to know things you do not know and you are rejecting things that ARE fact.

    You’re welcome to dismiss this book, Peter and John but that doesn’t render their points invalid in any way. It only means you are unwilling to look at your “beliefs” logically, which is course what allows you to continue to be religious: religious devotion is necessarily based on fully-rejecting all real things.

  58. Tom Gilson says:

    WriterWriter1, taking a look at your first two paragraphs, is this parody? Same question for your line of argument attempting to prove the savior must be female: are you setting out intentionally to make atheism look bad? Or are you doing it unawares?

  59. SteveK says:

    Clearly this person is a WriterWriter of comedy.

  60. WriterWriter says:

    Tom Gilson and Steve K, you are more than welcome to provide your evidence and I look forward to reading it.

    Engaging immediately in ad hominem, however, instantly exposes your lack of evidence for your claims.

    You’re also welcome to provide – and I’m fascinated to hear it – a response to the question of whether spirits/angels/ghosts have genes or DNA and to propose how a human woman, with no human intervention produces a male. I’m curious to know, too, how this particular virgin birth story is the real one, when there are so many others; how do you differentiate?

    I make no attempts to prove anything. You allege this person existed, so the burden of proof is yours to support your statement.

    Genetics prove Adam/Eve did not exist. This is vastly and demonstrably supported by evolution. Given there are many versions, all earlier than your religion’s version, how to you substantiate that your Adam and Eve are the real deal?

    Being that Adam and Eve are conclusively not real, what is the purpose of “jesus,” if original sin is a myth?

    More to the point, if your god is omniscient, what is the point of recreating himself/itself and then killing that recreation: why wouldn’t your god just forgive his/its creations? It seems very convoluted, but then, given your god can be stopped by iron chariots, seems to enjoy genocide and child sacrifice, and has laid out pretty specific expectations as to slavery, including from where one may acquire slaves and how to treat them up to and including under what circumstances one can beat them to death, maybe not so omniscient after all.

    So please, provide any evidence and support you have, the bible, of course not included, as the book cannot be evidence for itself. I’m fascinated by how you will quantify biology.

  61. Tom Gilson says:

    Engaging immediately in ad hominem, however, instantly exposes your lack of evidence for your claims.


    What happens if you apply that principle to itself?

    But honestly, WriterWriter, your challenge here is so absurd I’m not even interested in handling it. You might walk away from the interaction thinking you’ve beat me. I can live with that. That’s better, in my mind, than wasting my time on it. Your mind is made up prior to having even given your questions serious thought, so I don’t think you’re a serious questioner, and in the end nothing I said here could affect your opinion anyway.

  62. Billy Squibs says:

    We get it, WriterWriter, you don’t believe. There is no need to give us a shotgun blast of assertions disguised as questions to make this point.

    I think that there are good answers to your questions. For example, as you seem to labour under the impression that Christians necessarily take Genesis to be a strictly historical account some may attempt to divest you of this notion. However experience tells me that when somebody opens with a line like, “There is NO evidence for X” I can’t help but think everybody’s time is being wasted.

  63. WriterWriter says:

    @Tom: I thought you wouldn’t.

    You’ve used the very commonly used methods of not having to provide any substantiation:

    “Your arguments are absurd.” OK, why are they absurd?
    “I’m not interested in handling it.” So, you’ve retreated?
    “You might walk away….” I’m not retreating; you are.
    “Your mind is made up…” No, I’m asking you to substantiate; therefore my mind is NOT made up.

    You assume here I haven’t given these questions serious though: on what grounds do you make that assessment?

    “Nothing I said here could affect your opinion….” I’m sorry to know you are so ready to retreat.

    Your reply here is standard fare of the religious when they have not considered these conundrums.

    I postulate I have proposed things here you have not considered and are experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance and thus retreating.

    No surprise my friend.

    At any rate, given you and the earlier commenter have no means of substantiating your “god” and your “Jesus,” to state Boghossian is off track, wrong, uninformed, etc., is useless.

  64. Tom Gilson says:

    I postulate I have proposed things here you have not considered and are experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance and thus retreating.

    For someone so interested in evidences, you ran rather too quickly to that conclusion. (I don’t believe for a minute that in your mind you’re only postulating it.)

    Do a search on this blog and see whether I’ve considered the matters of which you wrote. Spend a week or two at it, and then feel free to come back with evidence rather than rank speculation. I’ll remove you from the comment moderation list when you’ve shown that you’ve done that. Until then, your credibility is too low, and your argumentum ad fragenblitzen style is too uninteresting, for me to promote it by allowing you to post it here.

  65. Billy Squibs says:

    I thought you wouldn’t

    And that is because you have given us reason to doubt the sincerity of your questions.

    I’ll be perfectly honest when I say that we can’t provide you with sufficient evidence to change your mind, WriterWriter. (And please don’t take that comment out of context.) I’ll let people decide for themselves why I think this is so.

    (Hint: you aren’t interested in what we have to say)

  66. Kirk says:

    I concur with WriterWriter. Tom Gibson applied circular reasoning when he mentioned the resurrection of Jesus. I don’t believe the Biblical Jesus ever existed with the legend originating with Yeshu ben Pandera, aka Yeshu ha-Notzri, Jesus the Nazarene. The Apostle Paul, who was Apollonius of Tyana and learned of Krishna while in India, never mentioned the life of Jesus, only that he was hung from a tree, the same as Yeshu ben Pandera. The city of Nazareth either didn’t exist at the time of the Biblical Jesus or was sparsely populated and was used in the Canonical Gospels when people began to question where Jesus the Nazarene was from. The Canonical Gospels were written after Marcion’s Gospel to connect with Jewish beliefs and fulfill prophecy. The birth narrative is entirely mythical. Furthermore, Luke’s address to “Most Excellent Theophilus” was indeed Theophilus of Antioch. It doesn’t fit the Christian model, so they reject that claim.

  67. Tom Gilson says:

    Kirk: You missed this: my argument in this phase doesn’t depend on those things. It’s an argument from the literary-historical use of the word, not from the historical truth of the events. It couldn’t have been circular in the way you suggest, because it didn’t depend on the truth of the narratives, only on their existence and on their historical-literary effect.

    The rest of your comment is a list of bare assertions, unsupported by evidence, rejected by all credible NT scholars whether skeptical or believers in Jesus. We know where Nazareth was. The canonical Gospels were written long before Marcion. Paul showed no Hindu traces in his writings. We reject these speculations because there is no historical evidence for them, and plenty of historical evidence against. You reject that position, I suspect, because it doesn’t fit your anti-Christian model.

  68. Mesonychoteuthis says:

    I agree that Boghossian’s choice of words might not have been the best. He did, though, describe a behavior that is fairly common in Christians. I’ve spoken to several that’ve actually admitted to pretending to know things for the sole purpose of debate. The description appears to apply to countless more.
    Whether you choose to call this issue “faith” is not, from Boghossian’s view, a huge deal. If that’s not what your faith actually is, then it isn’t what’s being targeted. The issue that actually is being targeted is, though, something that exists and should be dealt with.

  69. Tom Gilson says:


    Boghossian’s “choice of words” includes, “whenever you hear the word faith, replace it with ‘pretending to know what you cannot know.’… it is definitive of faith that it is pretending.”

    In other words, whether that’s what my faith actually is or not, he’s telling me that’s the way it is. Sure, I’ve granted repeatedly (I mean repeatedly) that there are some for whom that description fits. I’ve also said REPEATEDLY (pardon me, you probably haven’t seen it, it wasn’t on this thread, so it’s not your fault, but I really have said it often) that my problem with Boghossian is that he makes this out to be the only way faith ever is. That’s wrong on multiple levels.

  70. BillT says:

    If that’s not what your faith actually is, then it isn’t what’s being targeted.


    …my problem with Boghossian is that he makes this out to be the only way faith ever is.


    Boghossian isn’t just addressing just those people who use faith “that way” he applies his definition to everyone everywhere who uses “faith” in any way. Otherwise, there would be nothing to talk about and no one would have published his book in the first place.

  1. October 29, 2013

    […] three months the Christian apologist Tom Gilson at has published no fewer than 11 blog posts criticizing Boghossian’s views and his […]

  2. November 11, 2013

    […] wish I could have charged money for every time I’ve answered the same objection to my review of Boghossian’s book. I wrote […]

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