Hey, Free eBook! Christian vs. Atheist Intellectual Cage Match


Cover of the book God or Godless.Today (and today only!) you can get a free eBook, containing a written (and thus carefully thought-out) debate between an Atheist and a Christian. John Loftus (an atheist with two masters degrees, in theology and philosophy, who studied under none other than William Lane Craig) and Randal Rauser (a Canadian evangelical with a doctorate in philosophy) engage in an organized back-and-forth debate on twenty topics in the book God or Godless: One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions.

You can, of course, buy it in print [here]. But this very day (July 1st) a special is on for the kindle and nook editions [although, it appears, only in the U.S. and select other countries]: if you grab it today, the book is free [see kindle and nook]. If you prefer the more generic eBook format, you can get that for free, too, at a Christian vendor [here]. (Although if you missed today, it’s still available on all three platforms for cheap through the end of the month).

Loftus and I have worked together on projects in this field over the years and he made use of my work and advice for some of the positions he takes. But overall, what you get here is what my blurb for the book says:

This is a fascinating and sometimes humorous intro to twenty common debates between atheists and theists. You’ll find countless rambling and confused versions of such debates online. But here you will find a clear, concise, well-written exchange on each. Keeping it short, the authors can’t include every point to be made, but they make a good show of where each side stands on these questions and why. If you want to continue these debates further, start with this.

Indeed, this book is an excellent starting point for any of the twenty debates included. I’d recommend starting any debate online, for example, by having both sides read the corresponding mini-debate in this book, and then continuing from there. And if you just want some ideas for how to debate these topics in general, or even to help you think about them in building your own philosophy of life, this book is well suited as a primer for the task. Even if you don’t think either side is making the very best possible defense of their position, it’s even a useful task to think through how you’d do it better, since both are representative of some of the best approaches. So even then it’s a good place to start.

The twenty questions debated (alternating between the philosophical and the biblical) are (1) the meaning of life, (2) whether early Biblical Judaism was actually monotheistic, (3) the reason to be moral, (4) whether the Bible promoted child sacrifice, (5) the value of religion in respect to science, (6) whether the Bible justified genocide, (7) whether theism or atheism explains the universe better, (8) whether the Bible promoted slavery, (9) whether human reason and knowledge require God, (10) whether the Bible is sexist, (11) whether love can exist without God, (12) whether the Biblical God cares one whit about animals, (13) whether even atheists “just have faith,” (14) whether the Biblical God was scientifically illiterate, (15) whether the power of music can prove God exists, (16) whether the Biblical God was a lousy prognosticator, (17) whether any miracles are real, (18) whether God is an incompetent creator, (19) the resurrection of Jesus (of course), and (20) whether God is an incompetent redeemer.

All interesting questions to see hashed out this way. Each side makes their case, then gets a short rebuttal, and then a quick closing statement, before moving on to the next. And today, you can get an electronic edition for free (links above).

Comments

  1. Jubal DiGriz says

    Just downloaded the book from Christianbook. I encounter many of those topic on my online meanderings, and while I feel I’ve seen pretty good to the best treatments by atheists, I’ve always felt that the Christian/theist arguments were not always as good as they can be. Being a skeptic first and atheist second I’m always looking at what the best arguments from the positions I disagree with are. I hope this Randal Rauser fellow acquits himself well.

  2. ROO BOOKAROO says

    A great gesture, Richard.

    Very often, a dialogue between knowledgeable speakers is more instructive and revealing than a one-sided written essay or book.

    The key of course is that the debaters be knowledgeable, in the best situation, even experts on both sides.

    Which boils down to the remark of old Plato that writing is deceptive, because it is fixed, engraved in print. Whereas a dialogue allows the brain to continue with a flow of unscripted associations and questions that a written piece cannot develop or examine.

    The drawback, that Plato did not consider, is that a good dialogue is not easy to provide or establish. There’s not always a Socrates or equivalent to sustain a live substantial back-and-forth.

    On the whole, even in Antiquity, when the genre was more popular, good dialogues in printed form were rare, and have remained rare.

    Since you’re so good at percentages, we could estimate the frequency of printed dialogues at a fraction of 1/1,000,000 (a pure shot in the dark), if that much.

    The trend is today more to first, laying down a thesis in a book or article, and then a flurry of answers, refutals, rebuttals, also in article, book, or TV postings. Two documents, at least, instead of one.

    When Arthur Drews published his earth-shaking The Christ Myth in 1909, the book gave rise to a torrent of critical answers by the top academics of Germany, Britain, France, and the US, mostly from 1909 to 1914, but that resumed from 1918 to 1940. Not a single dialogue to present both sides of the controversy, historicy versus non-historicity.

    When George A. Wells published Did Jesus Exist? in 1975/87, Bart Ehrman replied in 2012 with his own answer, copying the title, Did Jesus Exist?, but again no real dialogue. Although both Wells and Ehrman are alive, and speak the same language.

    It would be fun (for the rest of us) to have a similar dialogue between you (non-historicity) and R. Joseph Hoffman (historicity), whatever the feelings of both debaters for each other. The transcript would be instructive, and probably vastly entertaining. Something to consider, since poor Hoffmann is lacking in sparring partners on his blog, reduced as he is to publishing romantic poetry. Still his passion for the beauty and effectiveness of English would make him a valuable debater.

    However a check on YouTube does bring up a lot of music by pianist Joseph Hoffman, and no debate with R. Joseph Hoffmann. So a debate with him may not be an easy thing to arrange. Schade. (‘Tis a pity).

    • says

      I will never work with Hoffmann on any project. I do not trust him (for reasons explained here).

      But I would do such a project with someone else, even, for example, Ehrman, provided it is fairly moderated the same way the Loftus-Rauser exchange was. (Although I have caught Ehrman apparently lying several times to save face, and he repeatedly attacks my competence rather than my arguments, I at least trust he is sane enough for a dialogue book format or even an oral debate…if he lies again, I’ll just expose him again.)

  3. aziraphale says

    I live in the UK. Barnes & Noble made me jump through all the hoops, including giving my bank card details and selecting my country from a drop-down list. THEN they told me that the ebook is only available in the US.

    Not impressed.

  4. Corey says

    “Intellectual cagematch”? I agree with the cagematch part, but not the intellectual part. Really, is it so hard for Christian “philosophers” to argue without getting attack-y right out of the gate? First debate, Randall Rauser (a perfect name with which to appeal to the Larry the Cable Guy/Ultimate Fighting Championship demographic, btw), responds to Loftus by accusing him of finding it morally acceptable to hurt other people, and of being “desperate.” Rauser’s we-are-more-like-boots-than-rocks-therefore-life-is-meaningless-without-gawd argument sent Loftus into a panic because of the sheer logical brilliance and undeniable high probability that atheists have no morals or life meaning because boots have a purpose… WOW! Maybe that’s a good argument for why university philosophy departments need to be gutted and rebuilt from the ground up. A PhD thought that was thoughtful enough to put in a book….. lol.

  5. Matt Gerrans says

    I look forward to reading this, but it is unfortunate that they don’t seem to address the four major points in your book, Why I Am Not a Christian, Richard. “Whether theism or atheism explains the universe better” covers one of them, but it would be nice to have similar back-and-forth style coverage on why god is silent, why god is inert and why there is no evidence (real evidence, not “holy” books) of god, particularly as you point out, when these things are all predicted by the “holy” books. So maybe another question would be, why is reality not consistent with what is predicted by holy books?

  6. mobius says

    I have read the first five chapters of this book. At this point, I must say that I am rather disappointed with Randal the Christian. His questions have been trite, IMHO, and his reasoning simplistic. He is particularly bad at reading what he wants to hear into what others write. So far, I have seen nothing new in his presentations. These are the same questions I see being proposed by believers on religious forum threads , and the same answers that don’t show any real understanding of what atheists think.

    • Matt Gerrans says

      I’ve likewise read about as far and have the same impression. In addition, he employs the usual pedantic, cutesy lame attempts at passive-aggressive humor that only show he should avoid it. As usual, we see that the atheist engages the arguments, while the theist is often attacking the atheist instead of the argument, either overtly or more covertly. I would like it if Mr. Loftus would point these things out; so far he hasn’t, but maybe he will at some point later.

      I would also like to see John ask Randal where he learned of the specific attributes of God that he lists and why they differ what the Bible says. Did he get this “information” by direct divine revelation? We should not let people get away with describing their god without providing specific sources of that information. What is the point of arguing about the validity of something if people can just make shit up as they go?

  7. Bruce Grubb says

    Mr Carrier, remember how in one of your lectures you described Revelation as a “Five hour acid trip so bizarre if you actually made it into a movie it would actually outdo Eraserhead for the title of ‘Most Annoying Weird Movie Ever Made’. It’s basically the ramblings of a guy who has an hours long conversation with the dead spirit of Jesus who appears in the form of ********** up mutant that makes John Carpenter’s The Thing look cuddly.”?

    Well somebody has actually made Revelation into a movie…twice.

    The Book Of Revelation ( Full Movie ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ0qYVDJ7-4

    The Book Of Revelation ( Animated Full Movie ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVI9X9NPEjI

    and…its about as Annoying Weird as you said it would be. Especially the animated one as it is done in 3d so you get Uncanny Valley on top of everything else.

  8. Nicholaas says

    I’ve heard Rauser on the Reasonable Doubts podcast, and read some of his blog entries, and he certainly comes across as a petulant and whiny (primarily in his writings) – not to mention as clueless as is the status quo for most apologists. Still, Loftus rarely disappoints, so this should be worth-while.

  9. Bruce Grubb says

    There is there thing that has puzzled me. The cargo cults in general and the John Frum cargo cult in particular seem to be an example case for how the Christ Myth theory might have worked.

    According to the cult John Frum is a white literate US serviceman that appeared to the village elders on February 15, 1931.

    The closest thing history records is illiterate native named Manehivi who took up the name “John Frum” and caused problems 1940-1941.

    Around 1957 a schism group gave John Frum a real life brother Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh despite the fact Prince Philip doesn’t have a brother.

    There are are other cargo cults that have made known historical people their founder. The Rusefel (Roosevelt) Cargo Cult and the Johnson “Cargo Cult” are two such examples.

    Given there seems to be such a ready made set of examples…why are they not used?

    References:

    Worsley, Peter (1957) The Trumpet Shall Sound, pp. 153–9.

    Lal, Brij V.; Kate Fortune (2000) The Pacific Islands: an encyclopedia; University of Hawaii Press; ISBN: 978-0824822651; Pg 303

    • says

      They are. Robert Price has been making the comparison for years, and I will be as well, extensively citing the scholarship, in my book on the subject (On the Historicity of Jesus).

  10. stubby says

    Loftus did a good job. Rauser is obviously a smart guy so I wonder if he is delusional or a professional liar. From his retiring serial killer to a rather lame example of a miracle it was not an impressive effort.

  11. Corwyn says

    They accuse each other of logical fallacies. I would think that the advantage of a debate in book form would be that you could remove anything which could even possibly be thought to be a fallacy. Comes across more as Calvin Ball than an intellectual pursuit. I also confirmed the debate format to be particularly bad as an method of doing anything but sniping at each other. Better would be start with a single premise, and argue until agreement on that, then move on to the next premise. Most of the meat of any argument is in the premises and setup, therefore that is where time should be spent. What the debate format seems to do well is present a controversial subject and let proponents cheer their side on. I am sure it is great for book sales, but not a path towards truth.

    • says

      I agree. That kind of moderation in a debate would be superb. It just gets tendentious when everyone disagrees whether something is a fallacy. The solution is, in a manner like you suggest, syllogizing the argument (and having an opponent who won’t delusionally insist the sky is green). But that makes for a boring read. Although, IMO, we need the boring technical read to be produced first, and then popularize it in general writing. That’s how science works. Philosophy really needs to get on board. But don’t get me started on the defects of modern academic philosophy and its lack of meaningful standards.

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