The empty chair

Richard Dawkins reports that William Lane Craig is leveraging Dawkins’s fame into publicity for himself. Since Dawkins is being unhelpful with this project and refusing to debate WLC, WLC is attempting to use this refusal itself as a fame-pump. That reminds me of something I once saw in a restaurant (and by “once” I mean “sometime in the 1980s”): a framed letter from the White House saying Reagan wouldn’t be accepting the restaurant owner’s invitation to eat at the restaurant.

In an epitome of bullying presumption, Craig now proposes to place an empty chair on a stage in Oxford next week to symbolise my absence. The idea of cashing in on another’s name by conniving to share a stage with him is hardly new. But what are we to make of this attempt to turn my non-appearance into a self-promotion stunt?

Hilarity? That’s what I make of it.

But Craig is not just a figure of fun. He has a dark side, and that is putting it kindly. Most churchmen these days wisely disown the horrific genocides ordered by the God of the Old Testament. Anyone who criticises the divine bloodlust is loudly accused of unfairly ignoring the historical context, and of naive literalism towards what was never more than metaphor or myth. You would search far to find a modern preacher willing to defend God’s commandment, in Deuteronomy 20: 13-15, to kill all the men in a conquered city and to seize the women, children and livestock as plunder.

Hmmmmmmm…would you? Far and wide? I think Richard, in a departure from his usual practice, is falling into the mistake of thinking that the vast majority of modern preachers are liberal. I think he temporarily forgot what he usually knows quite well: there are still a lot of very illiberal preachers around. Liberals are a small minority of preachers.

But that’s a minor point. His main point is a good one. It’s that Craig defends a genocidal god, and is thus a moral horror.

Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t. Even if I were not engaged to be in London on the day in question, I would be proud to leave that chair in Oxford eloquently empty.

WLC should ask Eric MacDonald to debate him. He would have another empty chair to boast of.


  1. Flea says

    I think Richard, in a departure from his usual practice, is falling into the mistake…

    I don’t think so. He is obviously using a rethorical device here.

  2. Gingerbaker says

    The empty chair reminds me of my favorite joke:

    A man tells his waiter “I would like a cup of coffee, no cream”.

    The waiter returns a minute later and says apologetically, “I’m sorry, sir, but the kitchen has run out of cream. Would it be all right if you had your coffee with no milk?”

  3. Mbee says

    Does Mr Craig not realize that when you debate nobody (ie an empty chair) you cannot declare yourself a winner. I’m sure this won’t stop him claiming to have won the debate however.

  4. Adrian says

    I think that’s awfully hypocritical, when Mr. Craig has never been willing to debate me. In fact, he’s never even responded to me. Perhaps I should take the obvious step of publicly debating an empty chair–that will show him.

  5. Aliasalpha says

    I think WLC would have a fair chance against an empty chair. A chair with the words “Proof or GTFO” carved on the seat however…

  6. robzrob says

    Perhaps disapproving people should, before they get up and walk out of this event, take THEIR chairs up to the stage and leave them there.

  7. says

    One thing seems clear in all of this. William Lane Craig is a powerful walking advertisement why being a Christian is an intellectually untenable thing to be. He is himself living disproof of his arguments.

  8. Tim DeLaney says

    I saw WLC and Sam Harris at Notre Dame, and I thought Sam mopped the floor with him. WLC just parroted the same canned speech he always gives (The topic was Objective Morality), while Sam talked quietly and earnestly about the real world around us. I admit to being biased, but I noticed that the students around me, presumably Christian, seemed unimpressed with WLC.

  9. Tim Groc says

    Chris Lawson:

    The ultimate WLC debate: him vs. a stage full of empty chairs.

    Or more preferably, a room full of empty chairs.

  10. Scote says

    “Tim DeLaney says:
    October 22, 2011 at 7:23 am

    I saw WLC and Sam Harris at Notre Dame, and I thought Sam mopped the floor with him. ”

    I think Sam did ok. The problem, though, is that Sam’s own undefined “Greatest Good” utilitarianism is highly problematic, so it made for an inadequate counter.

  11. says

    Last week’s Sunday programme on Radio 4 is still available on Iplayer.

    “William Lane Craig is in the UK on a debate tour advertised with a campaign on Oxford buses saying ‘THERE’S PROBABLY NO DAWKINS’ to draw awareness to the fact that Dawkins and other Atheists have declined to debate with him. Andrew Copson from the Humanist Society, who will take part in the Cambridge Union debate with Craig, tells us why he will not debate face to face and William Lane Craig explains why he has embarked on the tour.”

    I heard Andrew Copson giving his reasons for not debating and it did sound like that he thought he would be out-debated by Craig. He sounded like he was afraid of Craig’s debating skills.

  12. Nogbert says

    Should you wallow in the nether reaches of you tube or with irony meters set to minimum sensitivity peek at fetid fundy forums you will quickly realize that the slithy tove’s game plan is actually working fairly well.

    Remember his job is to minimize the hemorrhaging of young college kids from the cult. Amongst his target audience this cowardly custard Dawkins taunting appears to be working quite well.

  13. says

    Unfortunately, I suspect that WLC’s tactic will work with some people, maybe a lot of people, and not just the choir. It implies fear or lack of conviction on Dawkin’s part, and leaves him open to mocking. Most of the people who could be persuaded to react in such a way likely won’t ever see Dawkin’s response.

    And I think Nogbert just beat me to saying roughly the same thing.

  14. says

    You mean like Becky?

    First of all, why are you obsessed trolls so damn humor impaired? Second of all, what refusal? Gee, look at that–there isn’t one! Come back to reality, troll.

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