Friday, October 21, 2011

The Truth Behind the New Atheism: The Definitive Refutation


The following is a refutation of the book by Christian apologist David Marshall titled The Truth Behind the New Atheism:‭ ‬Responding to the Emerging Challenges to God and Christianity,‭ published by ‬Harvest House Publishers,‭ ‬2007‭.

This review that you are now reading has had a long history. [1] This is the fifth (and final) edition I will write. Why so many editions? Well, I am a perfectionist and I did not feel the earlier editions were up to par with some of my more recent reviews. [2] I felt that the writing could be improved upon, the layout needed to be cleaned up, some of the counter-arguments I felt could be improved and better written, and the review could be condensed in some places. What inspired these changes were some helpful suggestions by a Dr. Hiawatha (also known as “Dr. H”) who I met through the Customer Discussion forums of He is also a critic of David Marshall, though, one that actually seems to have earned Marshall's respect for one reason or another. After reading the previous edition of the review “Dr. H” emailed me and gave me several helpful suggestions/criticisms that I will take note of while writing this final edition of the review. Thank you “Dr. H” for your helpful input.

As a supplement to this refutation I'd recommend you read my rebuttal to an essay by David Marshall he titled The God Delusion: 160 Errors, Gross Exaggerations, and Highly Dubious Claims. This essay of Marshall's and my refutation cover much of the same ground as his book on the New Atheism but there are some arguments that were not used in the book if the reader has any interest. [3]

July 19, 2011

Chapter 1: Have Christians Lost Their Minds?

This first chapter delves into the accusation, often brought up by the New Atheists, that Richard Dawkins calls “blind faith.” Marshall opens his chapter with the following,

If the modern world is confused about anything, it is the idea that Christianity demands "blind faith."

That Christians have a soft spot (their heads) for faith unsupported by reason is a core tenet of the New Atheism. One of Daniel Dennett's chapters is called "Belief in Belief." "People of all faiths," he explains, consider it "demeaning" to ask God tough questions. "The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry." Christianity in particular, he asserts, is addicted to blind faith. He says this, ironically, without offering any evidence it is true - quoting no Christian philosopher, scientist, or theologian who thinks so.

In Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris calls faith "nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail." The title of Harris's previous book, The End of Faith, set the point clearly in the wood. The first two chapters, "Reason in Exile" and "The Nature of Belief," pounded it home. Harris wrote, "It should go without saying that these rival belief systems are all equally uncontaminated by evidence." One blinks at this. Why should the claim that there is no evidence for religion "go without saying"- in other words, be accepted with no evidence? Harris continues:

Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.

If opinions need to be supported by evidence, let's begin with this one. How does Harris know Christians don't support their beliefs with evidence? Dennett cites Pascal, Dawkins cites Harris, and everyone takes this alleged Christian doctrine for granted, but no one cites any Christians!


But what if this claim itself is held "not only in the absence of evidence, but in the teeth of evidence"? What if the real "blind faith meme" is the unsupported and false theory that Christians believe for irresponsible reasons? (15-16)

It's obvious Marshall very much disagrees with this claim but does he himself have any evidence to counter this claim about “blind faith?” Let's take a look and see...

Marshall begins by discussing what the bible says about faith. He chooses the story of Doubting Thomas, a story that is often cited to prove that Christianity demands blind faith. However, Marshall chooses to read this passage differently. He argues,

The story of doubting Thomas is often cited to prove Christianity demands blind faith. When the other disciples reported they had met the risen Jesus, Thomas (true to character as developed in the Gospel of John) found the story hard to swallow. "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails... and put my hand into his side, I will not believe," Thomas famously retorted. When he met Jesus he was told, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." By contrast, Jesus blessed those who do not see, and yet believe (John 20:25,27-29). Dawkins cited the same text in The Selfish Gene: "Thomas demanded evidence.. .The other apostles, whose faith was so strong that they did not need evidence, are held up to us as worthy of imitation."

There are several problems with taking this passage as a general repudiation of critical thought. First, Jesus did give Thomas - and the other disciples - enough firsthand evidence of his resurrection that they were willing to die for him (Thomas, reportedly in India.) Second, Jesus often did miracles, calling them "signs," which (even skeptical historians often admit) show strong evidence of historicity. In the very next sentence (usually omitted by those making the case for blind faith), John explains that the signs Jesus did were recorded "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ" (John 20:31). (17-18)

This is Marshall’s proof that the bible doesn’t demand blind faith? Miracles?! I am shocked Marshall has chosen this story as his proof that Christians demand evidence. There are two ways one can look at this argument. The first is you can take this story at face value and read what the bible says. Jesus first appeared to his disciples and they all believed without a hint of doubt. However, Thomas, who was not there during this event, remained skeptical. A week later Jesus appeared again and this time Thomas was present but he did not take a true skeptical view of the situation. He did not first eliminate other possibilities, such as a potential hoax, but believed after seeing Jesus, the same as the other disciples. A single individual having a little doubt is not a good argument against the claim that Christians do not rely on evidence. They don't as this story illustrates.

The second way is a true skeptical reading of the passage. There are numerous examples throughout history of people believing that dead men have risen from the grave and none of these reports have ever been confirmed. One must be highly critical of stories that defy our understanding of the laws of nature and our scientific understanding of the body. Because of this, the story should be discarded as irrelevant.

The very fact that people were willing to die for something they believed in is in no way proof of it’s truth. People have often died throughout history for things they believed were true but turned out to be false. One obvious example of this occurring is the story of Marshall Applewhite who led his followers in a mass suicide in 1997 because they believed a space craft was trailing the Hale-Bopp comet and the only way to save themselves from an impending disaster was to kill themselves in order for their souls to board the ship. [1]

Marshall continues,

Is it rational to believe things on the basis of human testimony? It'd be a pity if it weren't, because, as Samuel Johnson put it, most of our knowledge is based on "implied faith" in other people. Almost everything we know - not just about first-century Palestine, but about dwarf stars, neutrinos, state capitals, vitamins, and sports scores - we believe because we find the person telling us the information is credible. If trusting human testimony were irrational, we wouldn't be able to know much. (18)

Given the fact that Marshall is discussing the bible, it's clear he is arguing that the bible is an example of “human testimony,” but is this a rational claim? No, because there is a mountain of evidence confirming the facts that the gospels are not reliable accounts, and no one knows who actually wrote the gospels. Relying on accounts that are made by anonymous persons that cannot be confirmed are not reliable methods of getting at the truth. In addition, the very fact that there are such miraculous stories told throughout the bible, such as the above story about Doubting Thomas, the nearly countless contradictions, and the addition of many unhistorical events throughout the biblical narrative, these facts alone should give anyone pause before they argue that we can trust what the bible tells us. [2]

Neutrinos, state capitals, sports scores, etc. are all things that can be confirmed by numerous, independent sources. An individual curious about each of these subjects can investigate the claims made by vitamin companies, an individual can look up many different scientific peer-reviewed papers about stars and neutrinos. An individual can visit a state capital or even view pictures and find information about it from multiple sources.

Each of these investigations will turn up something that someone looking into the bible will not find: corroborating evidence from multiple sources attesting to the truth of a particular claim. This is particularly true with the more incredible claims of the bible, such as the resurrection, the disciples' alleged run-in with Jesus, and even several alleged historical accounts recounted in the bible, such as the Exodus, among others.

Marshall continues with his discussion about how the bible refutes this “blind faith meme.”

The other popular proof text used to support the contention of blind faith is Hebrews 11. In that chapter, the author describes faith as the "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (verse 1 NKJV). He adds that through faith we know that the universe was created "by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible" (verse 3).

To read this as an intellectual copout is a grave error. What does the author mean when he says faith "is" evidence? There's nothing mystical about this. It's clear and sensible. Evidence is a reason to believe something. Hearing about it from a credible source is the most common such reason. By faith we know not only that the physical world is made of "things unseen"-physicists now take a different path to the same conclusion-we know pretty much everything we do know. We'll talk more later about the role of human testimony in knowledge.

So even passages cited to defend the "blind faith meme" can easily be read to mean the opposite: that Christian belief demands evidence, though it is a broader and more social evidence than the scientific method in the strict sense allows. (18)

I'm confused by Marshall's interpretation of Hebrews 11. This passage says nothing of the kind. It does not in anyway say that 'faith is evidence.' While looking at my New International Version and New English Bible they interpret the text as follows:

Hebrews 11:1-3: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (NIV)

“And what is faith? Faith gives substance to our hopes, and makes us certain of realities we do not see. It is for their faith that the men of old stand on record. By faith, we perceive that the universe was fashioned by the word of God, so that the visible came forth from the invisible. (NEB)

While reading these passages is there any mention of anything that can be counted as evidence? No. They clearly are saying how faith gives them hope in what they believe to be certain. If one has evidence for something there is no need for hope. Hope is only needed if one has no evidence and is uncertain, which is why these “men of old” were so commended as they were. They had faith in their beliefs so much, even though they had no evidence for them, that their example should be a model for future believers. That's what this passage is saying.

Marshall continues with more examples from the bible. He writes,

The Bible also frequently appeals to reason, empirical facts, and experiment ("Taste and see that the Lord is good!" "Come let us reason together!"). Take a slow walk through the book of Proverbs. "Simpleminded" ones and "fools" who "hate knowledge" are rebuked (1:22). The Lord "gives wisdom," and "from His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (2:6). He used wisdom to create the heavens and the earth, and knowledge to form the oceans, the atmosphere, and its canopy of water vapor (3:19-20). Wisdom enters the heart of the good son, and knowledge is "pleasant to your soul" (2:10). (18-19)

These passages talk of wisdom and knowledge but Marshall is once again interpreting them incorrectly. The “knowledge” Proverbs 1:22 mentions is simply talking about Christian doctrine and the speaker is chastising those who refuse to accept the truth of his beliefs. The same goes for Proverbs 2:6, which is again referring to Christian doctrine and following god. None of these passages refer to any form of evidence for, or investigation into, these beliefs.

One verse Marshall cites seems at first glance to confirm his interpretation of faith. The passage is Isaiah 1:18: "Come let us reason together!" It almost sounds as if Marshall has finally found a passage that confirms his belief about Christianity and faith, but has he really? No. If you actually read Isaiah (which can be a bit difficult since Marshall neglects to tell his readers which verse this passage is from) it clearly shows how the people have rebelled against god and he is trying to convince them to obey him. The New English Bible sheds some light on the meaning of the passage when they interpret Isaiah 1:18 as “Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord." This has nothing to do with looking at evidence for some proposition, but god trying to convince his people to obey him.

After looking at Marshall's examination of the bible, it's clear he hasn't found a single passage that confirms his belief about faith. He distorts each of them. The fact of the matter is that Christians did not engage in critical inquiry and there is actually a lot of evidence in the bible that confirms this. [3]

Next, Marshall discusses Richard Dawkins' discussion of Richard Swinburne in The God Delusion. In this discussion Marshall, instead of offering an argument about why Dawkins is wrong, tries to dishonestly attack Dawkins' character.

To defend his claim that the Christian faith doesn't demand evidence, Dawkins quotes a "typical piece of theological reasoning" from Richard Swinburne, a colleague and one of the world's leading Christian philosophers. Swinburne explained why, in his view, we aren't surrounded by such an overwhelming number of miracles that we would have to believe. "There is quite a lot of evidence anyway of God's existence, and too much might not be good for us." Dawkins responds indignantly:

Too much might not be good for us! Read it again. Too much evidence might not be good for us...If it's a theologian you want, they don't come much more distinguished. Perhaps you don't want a theologian.

It's hard not to admire the pizzazz of these lines. This is the sort of touche moment that those who enjoy debate live for.

But in the interest of a good repartee, Dawkins misses Swinburne's point. Dawkins had just said Christian theologians don't have any evidence. Here Swinburne says, "There's quite a lot of it." Dawkins doesn't stop to look at Swinburne's evidence (he's written tons of books). He doesn't even pump his brakes in the rush to broadside the man.

In fact, Dawkins is brutal. When both men appeared on a TV show, Swinburne attempted, Dawkins says, to "justify the Holocaust." This is an ambivalent phrase. It could mean showing why Hitler was right to kill Jews. It could also mean, (as Swinburne meant), the far different and difficult task of asking why God may have allowed the Holocaust. Dawkins leaves the two potential meanings tangled, then ends with the borrowed quip, "May you rot in hell!"

On his Web site, Swinburne replies with remarkable generosity. "I am grateful to Richard Dawkins for having looked at some of my writings." He suggests, however, that Dawkins join the philosophical debate over God and suffering "and not try to win by shouting."

As for "too much evidence," one should earn the right to mock by thinking first. Can there be such a thing as too much evidence? From the point of view of a relationship, there can be. An honest husband may feel dejected if his wife insists on 24-hour streaming webcasts from his hotel room when he's on business trips. Swinburne meekly admitted he should have cited his explanations, and referred his assailant to them. I hope Dawkins does not mistake courtesy for weakness. (19-20)

At first glance, it appears that Dawkins was being very rude to Swinburne, but when you look closer it becomes clear that Marshall has severely distorted this entire situation.

Marshall makes it appear that Dawkins was the one who said "May you rot in hell" to Swinburne on the television show but Dawkins did no such thing. In The God Delusion Dawkins writes of this debate,

This grotesque piece of reasoning, so damningly typical of the theological mind, reminds me of an occasion when I was on a television panel with Swinburne, and also with our Oxford colleague Professor Peter Atkins. Swinburne at one point attempted to justify the Holocaust on the grounds that it gave the Jews a wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble. Peter Atkins splendidly growled, 'May you rot in hell.' [4]

It couldn't be more clear. Peter Atkins said this to Swinburne but that is very hard to discern from Marshall's book. It seems to me that Marshall was intentionally being dishonest since, as Marshall tells the story, Swinburne tells Dawkins on his website that he should “not try to win by shouting,” when referring to the debate, but it was not Dawkins who lost his temper with Swinburne and shouted the above comment. Maybe Dawkins did do some shouting during that debate, but he did not make that statement as Marshall makes it appear.

Next, Marshall claims that Dawkins failed to consult the many Christians through the ages who do define faith as Marshall describes, as relying on evidence.

McGrath is one of the world's leading experts on the history of Christian thought. If he says, "This is what Christians believe," he may be wrong. But it would be unwise in the extreme to simply dismiss his opinion without first doing careful research on how Christians actually see faith.

I've done that research, and McGrath is right. Great Christian thinkers across the centuries, and up to the present, no more agree with Dawkins's absurd definition of faith than do McGrath's theological friends. Justin Martyr wrote, "Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions." Origen pointed out that not everyone can drop everything and go on a research sabbatical: most people can and must believe on the testimony of others (the "implicit faith" Samuel Johnson referred to). But he argued that there was good evidence (in archaeology, history, miracles, and prophecy) that the Christian faith was, in fact, reasonable. Augustine argued that rationality was a prerequisite of belief. Therefore, "heaven forbid that we should believe in such a way as not to accept or seek reasons." Much of what we know, he added, is based on facts not visible to the senses. "But they are much deceived, who think that we believe in Christ without any proofs concerning Christ." Thomas Aquinas said Christianity was uncertain not because the evidence is poor, but because of "the weakness of the human intellect." William Law said that "unreasonable and absurd ways of life.. .are truly an offense to God." Johannes Kepler added that religion "cannot be but rational," since God is "supremely rational, and the human being is also rational, being created in the image and likeness of God." (21)

After looking up the quotes of the above men it's clear that Marshall has done the same wrong-headed thing he did with the bible. He took these quotes out of context or they don't seem to have anything to do with seeking rational reasons for your beliefs, like his quote of William Law, who looks to be saying that certain ways of life are offensive to god. How in the world does this statement have anything to do with investigating to ensure your beliefs are true?

Marshall fails to provide a direct quote for Origen so how can we truly know what Marshall is saying about about him is accurate? However, I do have a direct quote and it presents a much different view than Marshall claims. Origen said,

We admit that we teach those men to believe without reasons. [5]

Similarly, Marshall takes Justin Martyr out of context as well. He neglected to quote the following from the twenty-third chapter of his First Apology:

And that this may now become evident to you - (firstly ) that whatever we assert in conformity with what has been taught us by Christ, and by the prophets who preceded Him, are alone true, and are older than all the writers who have existed; that we claim to be acknowledged, not because we say the same things as these writers said, but because we say true things: and (secondly) that Jesus Christ is the only proper Son who has been begotten by God, being His Word and first-begotten, and power; and, becoming man according to His will, He taught us these things for the conversion and restoration of the human race: and (thirdly) that before He became a man among men, some, influenced by the demons before mentioned, related beforehand, through the instrumentality of the poets, those circumstances as having really happened, which, having fictitiously devised, they narrated, in the same manner as they have caused to be fabricated the scandalous reports against us of infamous and impious actions, of which there is neither witness nor proof – we shall bring forward the following proof. [6]

But what "proof" is he referring to? Nothing but the bible. Throughout his Apology the only "proof" he cites is scripture. Justin Martyr's argument summed up is not one of inquiry and evidence, but one of blind faith that the scriptures are true, and that's what he used as "evidence," when he never checked the reliability of such writings to begin with. According to Richard Carrier,

You can read Justin's two apologies back to front and never once find any other methodological principle or source of his faith [other than the scriptures]. (emphasis in original) [7]

Regarding Augustine, Marshall did not take him out of context per se, however, Augustine did believe that in some situations, if there were no rational reasons for a particular belief at that moment, faith must precede rational inquiry, and he did believe that revelation preceded reason.

Can we then say that Augustine subordinates reason to faith? Yes, in the sense that ultimate authority rests with revelation. [8]

This is not a view that meshes well with rational inquiry. It is the opposite.

Along with Marshall's failure to find any Christians to back up his claim, there are actually many Christians throughout history who have believed that one requires a 'leap of faith' to believe in god and other religious claims. Such examples include Søren Kierkegaard, Saint Peter Damian, St. Ignatius Loyola, Manegold of Lautenbach, and Walter of St. Victor. [9]

Next, Marshall quotes from the well-known skeptic in Michael Shermer who, Marshall claims, has evidence that Christians don't just believe for no good reason. Marshall writes,

But all this is irrelevant, some may say. Whatever dead white theologians or ivory tower intellectuals think, "real" Christians believe for no good reason, as everyone knows.

In 1998, Frank Sulloway and Michael Shermer asked 10,000 Americans, "Why do you believe in God?" and "Why do you think other people believe in God?" The two most popular answers to the first question had to do with "good design," the "natural beauty," "perfection," or "complexity" of the universe, and "experience of God in everyday life." Together, these two answers constituted just under 50 percent of the responses (and about two-thirds of the answers Shermer enumerated in his book).

Both answers, Shermer (a leading skeptic) recognized, are essentially rational. By contrast, when asked why other people believed, most people said because faith was comforting, gave meaning to life, or those other people had been raised to believe. So they saw their own beliefs as rational, but assumed (not surprising, considering the spread of the "blind faith meme") that others believed for irrational reasons. (23-24)

Marshall takes Shermer out of context, and he didn’t seem to bother to read the rest of the chapter. While Shermer does admit that many of these beliefs are “powerful intellectual justification[s]” for belief in god, Shermer goes on for several pages explaining why humans seem to see themselves as believing for rational reasons, while at the same time projecting emotional reasons for belief upon others. He goes on to explain how evolution seems to have primed humans to perceive design in the world, even when it's not present. Shermer writes,

Perceiving the world as well designed and thus the product of a designer, and even seeing divine providence in the daily affairs of life, may be the product of a brain adapted to finding patterns in nature. We are pattern-seeking as well as pattern-finding animals. One of numerous studies that supports this supposition was an experiment conducted by Stuart Vyse and Ruth Heltzer in which subjects participated in a video game. The goal of the game was to navigate the path of a cursor through a matrix grid using directional keys. One group of subjects were awarded points when they successfully found a way through the grid's lower right portion, while a second group of subjects were awarded points randomly. Both groups were subsequently asked to describe how they thought the points were awarded. Most of the subjects in the first group found the pattern of point scoring and accurately described it. Similarly, most of the subjects in the second group also found “patterns” of point scoring, even though no such patterns existed. […] Intelligent Design creationists are tapping into the intuitive understanding most people hold about life and the universe.

But there is a deep-seated flaw in this [design] argument that undermines the entire endeavor. If the world is complex and looks intricately designed, and therefore the best inference is that there must be an intelligent designer, should we not then infer that an intelligent designer must have itself been designed? [10]

At the end of the chapter Shermer sums up as follows:

If there is a God, the avenue to Him is not through science and reason, but through faith and revelation. If there is a God, He will be so wholly Other that no science can reach Him, especially not the science that calls itself Intelligent Design. (emphasis mine) [11]

It should be clear that Shermer is not arguing that these beliefs about design are “good reasons” for belief. He is arguing the complete opposite and cites scientific studies to back up his claim, along with giving a plausible evolutionary explanation for this pattern-seeking behavior that is so prevalent in humans, and why it's not good evidence for belief in a god.

Marshall continues with his discussion about faith with the following arguments,

In the Christian sense, faith means courageous trust in an object one has good reason to see as credible. As Pascal said, we must choose. But choice is risky and requires courage. And faith must not be lightly given, for "reason is a thing of God," as Tertullian put it.

Faith involves a continuum of four kinds of trust. First, we trust our own minds. There's no way to prove our minds work-this is often forgotten by people who uncritically praise the scientific method. Even to do math or logic, which are more basic than science, we have to take our brains more or less for granted. How could we prove them? Any proof for mind would depend on what it assumes: the validity of that endless electrical storm in the skull.


The second level of faith is trust in our senses. How do you know you're reading a book? Why do you think it's hot or cold, that starlings are looking for seeds on the ground, or the washing machine is running? Again, there's no way to prove your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin are giving you the real scoop about the outside world. At an extreme, you could be stuck in some "virtual reality" world with false impulses feeding untrue data to your brain through wires. Matter may be less real than it looks-ephemeral, like a cloud-but most of us find it reasonable to assume the cloud is really there.

Third, to learn anything, we accept "testimonial evidence" from parents, teachers, books, street signs, Wikipedia, and "familiar" voices transmitted as electronic pulses over miles of wire and electromagnetic signals, then decoded into waves in the air. Almost everything we know comes from other people in one way or another.

This is as true in science as anywhere. That's why terms such as peer review, footnotes, mentors, and review of the literature are not words of reproach, except when neglected. (27-28)

I would agree that we must trust our own minds, but even here faith doesn't play as strong a role as Marshall believes. Marshall also neglects to see the other side of the coin. If we cannot trust our own senses to give us an accurate picture of the world then how in the world can a theist use his "fallible" mind and senses to see design in the world? I could just as easily accuse Marshall of the same error. In addition, through our every day experiences we can see how our senses give us reliable information about our every day world on a constant basis (assuming you're not taking any substance that might alter your perceptions, etc.) and our senses are surely accurate enough to allow us to successfully navigate the world. This should make it obvious that they must be at least mostly right or else people might end up believing a piece of wood feels like wool or falling off cliffs on a constant basis, or any number of examples that would be proof of the unreliability of our senses. The fact that wood feels like wood and wool like wool, and people do not very often fall off cliffs, experience shows us that our senses can be trusted.

On the other hand, it is true that our senses aren't perfect, but we have the scientific method to help double check what we are experiencing is accurate. Science has shown us that we cannot always trust our senses with such examples as our mistaken belief that the earth is rotated by the sun and ghost sightings. However, through the scientific method we are able to check the accuracy of what we are experiencing with it's methodology that has proven to be reliable. And as it just so happens, this is exactly Marshall's and others theists' issue. They tout design as a reason for belief when the evidence tells us it's all in their heads. Science has corrected their faulty belief in seeing design in the world. Now, if only they would pay attention to these scientific findings.

But regardless of all this philosophical nonsense, the fact is that our minds are all that we have in determining the truth of things. Having said that, the scientific method is one of the most useful forms of gathering evidence and determining, as close to reality as possible, an accurate picture of the world and how that world functions.

This "testimonial evidence" that Marshall speaks of is deftly addressed by Victor J. Stenger. He writes,

Yes, [this is true of science] but we don't just take anyone's word for it. We test against independent observations. If I went up to a colleague and told him I solved some major physics problem, do you think he would simply accept that without insisting I prove it to him?

Of course we don't have time to independently test everything we hear, so we take the word of credible people. But that's because these people have already demonstrated their credibility by proving to be reliable in the past. That's why scientists and scholars of all kinds work so hard to maintain a good reputation. No one pays any attention anymore to Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, the chemists who announced to the world in 1989 that they had discovered cold fusion.

It also depends on what is the message. If an airline pilot flying over Yellowstone National Park reports seeing a forest fire, we have no reason to doubt her. But if she reports seeing a flying saucer whose pilot waved a green tentacle at her, I would demand more evidence.

Besides, much testimonial evidence is highly unreliable, as demonstrated by the hundreds of death row inmates who were convicted by eye-witness testimony and later exonerated by DNA evidence in recent decades. Physical evidence is what matters the most. [12]

In the final section of the chapter Marshall writes,

So faith isn't an intellectual aberration or disgrace. It is the normal functioning of a healthy mind, probing its environment in concentric circles, taking the wild world to its lips, learning to love and fear in reasonable balance, open to truth but wary of error. (32)

To a small degree I'd agree with Marshall here. The issue, however, is how much trust do you place in someone or something? Is it reasonable or not? Of course, the fact of the matter is, in most situations there is a certain amount of evidence one can examine to determine how trustworthy something is. Science and it's findings have a lot of evidence to back up its claims. Religion and the bible not so much as I've addressed already.

I've looked at each of Marshall's arguments for why he believes Christians do not rely on “blind faith” and I've shown how each of his arguments are flawed. Now that I've deconstructed his positive case it is time to make my own positive case for why Christians do have “blind faith.”

Earlier Marshall asked the following question,

Why should the claim that there is no evidence for religion “go without saying” -- in other words, be accepted with no evidence? (16)

I think the New Atheists and other skeptics have done a good job of showing the vacuous nature of the alleged evidence cited by Christians for their beliefs, therefore, they have nothing left but blind faith. However, the fact is that there are studies proving that people believe in god, not for intellectual reasons, but for emotional reasons, giving strong support for the blind faith claim. Several studies confirm this, but here is just one example. [13]

A study done in 2008 demonstrated that "making people think about events they had no control over radically increased their belief in God, but only when that God was presented as a controlling God. What's more, this happened because people who were made to feel like they had no control actually increased their belief that the Universe was not actually random." [14]

I've shown that each of Marshall's examples were bankrupt and I provided my own scientific evidence proving that Christians do, in fact, have blind faith. This reminds me of a quote by Michael Shermer that I think sums up this chapter well:

Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. [15]

Chapter 2: Are Scientists Too "Bright" to Believe in God?

Near the beginning of the chapter David Marshall sums up what will be the topics under discussion with the following,

First, is it true that Christianity discourages the attempt to understand the natural world? Second, are modern scientists really so unlikely to believe in God? Third, if so, why? And fourth, if many scientists are atheists, does that make atheism more likely to be true? (37)

Marshall begins by addressing the role Christianity and Christians played in scientific progress. He writes,

Early scientists were mostly zealous Christians. If the Bible teaches us to close our eyes to natural wonder, why did modern science arise among a church-educated elite steeped in such anti-intellectualism? How did they reconcile this stick-in-mud theology with their unabashed passion for understanding? […] Many skeptics seem to think science emerged from the so-called Enlightenment. […] The rise of science marked no sudden break in history. Like other accomplishments of Christian Europe, it grew slowly like a tree from roots deeply entangled in the humus of the so-called Dark Ages. (37-38)

On the contrary, the facts are quite different, though, as Richard Carrier explains, there are “kernels of truth.”

[M]odern science did develop in a Christian milieu, in the hands of scientists who were indeed Christians, and Christianity can be made compatible with science and scientific values. Christianity only had to adapt to embrace those old pagan values that once drove scientific progress. And it was Christians who adapted it, craftily inventing Christian arguments in favor of the change because only arguments in accord with Christian theology and the Bible would have succeeded in persuading their peers. But this was a development in spite of Christianity's original values and ideals, returning the world back to where pagans, not Christians, had left it a thousand years before at the dawn of the third century. Only then did the Christian world take up that old pagan science and its core values once again. And only then did further progress ensue.

Had Christianity not interrupted the intellectual advance of mankind and put the progress of science on hold for a thousand years, the Scientific Revolution might have occurred a thousand years ago […]. [1]

In addition to the above statement, one just has to look at the last chapter. Does the bible or any Christians cited accept the scientific method (critical inquiry)? No, they relied purely on their dogma as laid out in their bible without confirming the accuracy of their sources.

In the next section Marshall lists several reasons why he believes scientists are being irrational for disbelieving in god.

One might argue that evolution makes atheism more plausible. Scientists know more about the age of the earth and evidence for change in biology, and therefore realize better than the common man that nature can be explained without need for the "God hypothesis."

Are there any nonlogical reasons why American scientists (at least) would be less likely to believe in God? I can think of seven, some of which seem to explain the phenomena better. (41-42)

Marshall begins with his seven reasons,

1. Hostility Toward Religion

There may be a "selective disadvantage" to believers in the American academy. On the last day of class, my anthropology professor, an atheist who helped on my research and chatted about such issues, told his Chinese religions class, as if continuing our private conversation aloud, that anthropologists may have it in for the Christian faith. Indeed, Huston Smith says, "The modern university is not agnostic towards religion; it is actively hostile to it." He traces this animus to the claim to control knowledge, competition with the church for influence, and positivism, the idea that only facts proven by science are worth much.


I'm taken aback by the case of Richard Sternberg. Biologist Stephen Meyer, a prominent proponent of Intelligent Design, published an article in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington in August, 2004, arguing that the explosion of new body forms that appear in Cambrian rocks undermines evolution. The editor responsible for allowing this article to surface was shunned, lied about, and kept from doing research at the Smithsonian Institute. Milder forms of the same intolerance could act as a Darwinian mechanism by which people with "scandalous ideas" are kept out of the upper ranks in the United States. (42)

Marshall fails to cite a single case of any scientist disbelieving in god due to any kind of hostility. He cites a few opinions but no real evidence, except for the alleged case of persecution of Richard Sternberg. Let's take a closer look at this supposed evidence of “hostility.”

Since this final edition of my review is being written so long after the huge flop that creationists made out of the 2008 intelligent design puff piece, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the facts of the Sternberg case have been known for quite some time. [2] Because there is so much material available about this case I will only summarize it here.

The only truthful statement here was that Sternberg allowed a paper on intelligent design to be published in a scientific journal. What Marshall doesn't tell you is that Sternberg had ties to Stephen Meyer and the intelligent design movement. He also bypassed the proper peer review process and published the article himself. There is a lot to this story so that's all I will say about it and I will direct you to an excellent article on the subject by Ed Brayton. [3] Even though information was available about the incident at the time of the book's writing (even the emails countering these very allegations) Marshall failed to find out the other side of the story and swallowed the propaganda hook, line, and sinker. I wonder if Marshall will realize the irony about this and his insistence that “human testimony” is a reliable method of getting information? Doubtful.

2. Self-imposed Limitations

The scientist must bracket considerations not relevant to his research. This means assuming that God does not spike the petri dish (or, as biologist Ben McFarland told me, "You do another ten Petri dishes and publish what's repeatable!"). Just as a bone can turn into stone after years in the ground, "methodological naturalism" may fossilize into a philosophy. This doesn't mean we have "universal experience" against miracles, as David Hume assumed (how could he know that?). But the habit of setting miracles to one side may become hard to break. (45)

I believe the next category can also be addressed at the same time as the previous one.

3. Bias Against Miracles

Miracles involve unique experiences. They are not reproducible, and therefore offend what many see as the core of the scientific method. There is, of course, a distinction between "My job is to explain things naturally, and so far things have worked out," and "We haven't seen any miracles in our lab, so they don't happen." Miracles are a province of history, not science. Science is an adjacent province of history: Every experiment reported in a journal is, in the end, a historical report. But since scientists are not always philosophers, and every trade privileges its own, it may be easier for some scientists, or populists, to say, "Prove it to me scientifically, or I won't believe!" (45)

Both of these arguments essentially argue the same thing. Marshall believes that science is being unfair by rejecting the supernatural, but it's not unfair at all if one actually understands the scientific method (as Marshall clearly doesn't).

To quote Donald R. Prothero,

[S]cientists practice methodological naturalism, where they use naturalistic assumptions to understand the world but make no philosophical commitment as to whether the supernatural exists or not. Scientists don't exclude god from their hypotheses because they are inherently atheistic or unwilling to consider the existence of god; they simply cannot consider supernatural events in in their hypotheses. Why not? Because […] once you introduce the supernatural to a scientific hypothesis, there is no way to falsify or test it. (emphasis in original) [4]

Marshall's next reason is the following,

4. Doubt Instead of Discernment

Scientists are rightly offended by the arbitrary and silly nature of many miracle reports. Many babies have been thrown out with that bathwater.

In Jesus and the Religions of Man, I argued that miracles are different from "magic" in five ways. Miracles invite verification, usually historical, while magic often flaunts its irrational character. Miracles are usually practical, while magic is showy-bleeding statues, levitation, Mary in a loaf of bread. Miracles enhance human dignity, while magic undermines our humanity-it makes us bark like dogs, or "[affect] Godhead, and so loosing all" in Milton's words. Miracles point to God; magic to something or someone else. Finally, miracles come in response to requests, while magic makes demands. Like a fireman "running red lights," miracles actually affirm the dignity and reasonableness of natural law. But to some onlookers, "the rules" are being broken and therefore cheating is going on.

When Christ healed the sick, he didn't stand with the credulous masses against the men in white coats, or vice versa. The gospel bridges the gap between blind faith and the "hermeneutics of suspicion." By offering reason to the masses, and faith to scientists, Christ makes us all more fully human. (45-46)

Wow. That was a mouth full. The reason many scientists doubt and end up rejecting miracles is because of the reason I just gave above. However, there are many scientists who do seek to test supernatural phenomenon.

Allow me to once again quote Donald R. Prothero since he sums up this subject well,

[T]here have been many scientific tests of supernatural and paranormal explanations of things, including parapsychology, ESP, divination, prophesy, and astrology. All of these nonscientific ideas have been falsified when subjected to the scrutiny of scientific investigation (see Isaak 2006; also 2002 for a review). [Philip] Johnson loudly complains that the supernatural has been unfairly excluded from the debate, but this is clearly not true. Every time the supernatural has been investigated by scientific methods, it has failed the test. [5]

I could just as easily replace Johnson's name with David Marshall's in that next to last sentence, and Prothero is quite right. There are many good books that look at the scientific evidence for supernatural/ paranormal explanations and the result is always the same. There is none. [6]

Marshall continues,

5. Faulty Information

Some churches set young people up to lose their faith by teaching bad science. Sir Paul Nurse, 2001 Nobel Peace Prize laureate in physiology, says he abandoned religion in secondary school because his attempts to reconcile what he learned about life history to Genesis were squelched by his church. Wilson also felt forced to choose between biology and Christianity.

As a teenager, I enjoyed a religious comic book that depicted a cursing scientist losing his temper when a student disproved radiocarbon dating. A mollusk was tested and found to be thousands of years old, "and the thing was still alive!" I snickered smugly. But the subtext seemed to say, "If radiocarbon dating were accurate, it would undermine your faith." I wonder if I would have kept my faith if that were the only kind of apologetics I was exposed to.

I don't want to be too hard on pastors or parents who make such mistakes. No one owns a crystal-clear picture of reality. A little humility and curiosity go a long ways. These are modeled in many Christian homes, as they were in mine. (46)

I get the strong impression that Marshall is being a hypocrite. Yes, there is a lot of bad apologetics out there (Well, it's all bad, some is just more sophisticated than others. That sophistication often makes it seem like respectable argumentation, but it's not.), but the fact of the matter is that Marshall is guilty of what he condemns. Later on he makes use of long discredited creationist arguments that have long since been handily refuted.

Despite Marshall's more accepting attitude of scientific discoveries, and his ability to compartmentalize his religious beliefs and what (little) he knows about science, the fact remains that science contradicts all religious belief. Period. One may be able to harmonize science and religion, but I believe that it takes a tremendous amount of rationalization in order to do so.

Marshall now explains his sixth reason.

6. Presumption

Few scientists take the time to become experts on God. Dawkins quotes Albert Einstein as writing, "The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive." A Catholic clergyman responded that Einstein didn't know what he was talking about. "Some men think that because they have achieved a high degree of learning in some field, they are qualified to express opinions in all." Dawkins responded, "On the contrary, Einstein understood very well what he was denying."

But how was this unnamed theologian wrong? His point was that the opinion of an expert in one field is of little value in another if he hasn't studied it. Dawkins ignores the point-perhaps because it is so relevant to his own case.

Leading scientists at research universities work long hours. How much time does an 80-hour work week leave to study arguments for the historical Jesus, talk to missionaries about answered prayer, research the role of Christianity in reform movements, or even soak in Jesus' words very deeply? Great scientists of the past were steeped in the biblical texts. They didn't need to search "evil Bible verses" (see chapter 7) on the Internet to make up their minds about the nature of the biblical revelation. One biologist told me:

I actually think the "science game" is played such that if you don't idolize science you won't win the game. If you let other things in your life-God, a baby, or heaven help you, both-you are handicapped, and given the tenure process, probably tenure for life. I do kind of laugh at all the hand-wringing about women not going into academia. Some days, I just say to myself that means the women are smart, reasonable, free beings! (46-47)

First of all, one not need be a theologian, or even have a lot of knowledge of religion, to have an understanding of the basic beliefs of different religions in order to reject them. Second, the quoted biologist is unnamed and therefore can be rejected as simply someone's opinion. It's clearly a case of Marshall trying to cause his readers to look down upon the scientific establishment.

The final reason is as follows.

7. Ignorance

Scientists who take a radical stance against religion often reveal an ignorance of that which they speak about. Examples will appear throughout this book -- though I will have space to cover only a tithe of the errors I found in the works of Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris (not to mention the anti-God writings of other part-time theologians). My goal is not to show disrespect to those dedicated to studying the natural world. But let's not engage in credulous hero worship, either. Knowledge in one realm does not transfer to another without careful, humble study. Those who assume it does often heap a large serving of crow for themselves, as we will see. (47)

I'd agree this is plausible, however, most scientists do have at the very least an elementary understanding of religion and my response is essentially the same as it was for the last argument. Marshall has yet to show any cases of “ignorance” from any scientists. I also find this argument to be hypocritical. Here we have a mere Christian missionary (David Marshall) discussing evolutionary science among other sciences, and other topics which he clearly hasn't the faintest clue about. I shall get to these instances later. In addition, there are many other examples of theists who are guilty of being ignorant of science.

To sum up, I've demonstrated why each of Marshall's arguments in this chapter have been in error and science and religion are not compatible because of the overwhelming evidence for materialism and the fact that no religious/supernatural claims are supported by evidence.

Chapter 3: Does Evolution Make God Redundant?

Before David Marshall begins his fourth chapter explaining all of the supposed “problems” with evolutionary theory, he takes a few pages in this one to explain what he feels the New Atheists are largely correct about in their writings. Examples include the fact that the earth is four and a half billion years old, not six-thousand, and that evolution explains how and why all life is connected. However, even here Marshall makes some mistakes.

This chapter and the next have a similar theme. Marshall doesn't seem to understand why there is such hostility from scientists towards creationists/intelligent design advocates.

To begin this chapter Marshall writes,

Icons of Evolution, an expose of bad arguments for evolution by cell biologist Jonathan Wells, draws controversy like a magnet draws iron. In the copy I borrowed from the University of Washington library, a previous reader had scribbled in editorial comments. When Wells introduced Steven Jay Gould as "the world-famous expert," the reader crossed out "expert" and wrote in "dogmatist." "Darwinian research" was altered by similar point mutation to "Darwinian fraud." The Web site for the same book contains angry reviews by scientists who question, among other things, the author's honesty, writing style, religion (he's a member of the Unification Church), institutional associations ("a bunch of ideologues") and the credentials of anyone who agrees with him ("they seem to all be creationists, and therefore, hardly real scientists").

Most of the book argues the error of particular "icons": examples of evolution you come across in textbooks such as peppered moths, Haeckel's embryos, Darwin's finches, and four-winged fruit flies. But in the final chapter, Wells moved from evidence to attitude. He told the story of teachers and scientists who have been persecuted for arguing against evolution in public. Skeptics are denied funding, their articles rejected, and "eventually the critics are hounded out of the scientific community altogether."

Clearly, evolution is a contentious issue. Many worry that the theory undermines not only faith but also the ethical foundations of society (for reasons we will look at later). To many skeptics, arguments against evolution are an assault on science, pluralism, and democracy, not to mention foolish. (51-52)

David Marshall is obviously perplexed about why so many were angered by Jonathan Wells' book, Icons of Evolution, but it's really not that difficult to understand. The fact is that this hostility towards Wells' book is perfectly justified because of Wells' distortion (if not outright dishonesty) of the facts. [1] Not only was the book's contents highly inaccurate but there was also the question of motive. Why did Wells write the book? To help spread scientific knowledge? I must admit that as I wrote that sentence I had to stifle my laughter. No, Wells clearly wrote it due to religious and ideological reasons and this has been proven since Wells is a well-known member of the infamous Discovery Institute, a religiously-motivated “think” tank that spends its time trying to undermine the teaching of evolution whenever it gets a chance. [2] Wells has also admitted his bias against evolution in an article he's written titled Darwinism: Why I Went for a Second Ph.D. where he writes,

Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle. (emphasis mine) [3]

As mentioned by Marshall, Wells' mention of the long discredited cases of “persecution” at the hands of evolutionary “orthodoxy” is also a big tip off that his book was politically and religiously motivated. The facts are quite different. No intelligent design proponents have been persecuted for disagreeing. [4] Despite the propaganda they are not legit scientists. I will cover this issue in detail in the next chapter.

Marshall claims a few pages later that science has confirmed various parts of the Genesis story. He writes,

The world has often quarreled with Genesis, and gotten the worst of it. Let me give some quick examples.

The Book of Beginnings says the universe came from nothing. We have tried alternative theories: everything from an egg, elephants all the way down, "cosmic crunch," "steady state"-but the biblical idea of a cosmic origin has now been vindicated.

"All humanity came from one man and one woman," we read. Greek philosophers, Gnostics, Hindus, the Nation of Islam, and some Social Darwinists said no, people are a mixture of free and slave, of spiritual, psychic, and physical, different parts of the body of Brahma, or separately evolved species. Genetics has settled the matter in favor of Moses. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, notes that one of the surprises from research into human genes is the discovery that people of all races on earth share 99.9 percent of their DNA. This is unusual, he added: most animals are far more diverse. We are, he concludes, "truly part of one family." (55)

I'm sorry to burst Marshall's bubble but in 1988 Stephen Hawking, in A Brief History of Time, explained that at the quantum level general relativity is unable to describe the behavior of matter on such a small scale and so quantum mechanics are used in its place. When this is done there is no singularity, or beginning, and causes Genesis to be wrong. Hawking said,

[...] I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe – as we shall see later, it can disappear once quantum effects are taken into account. (emphasis mine) [5]

Once again, Marshall is reading way too much into a biblical passage. Genesis doesn't say anything about the genetic similarities between humans since the science of genetics wasn't known at this point in time. Even the story Marshall cites about Adam and Eve says nothing about any similarities between humans.

In sum, Marshall writes,

If not God, some ancient shepherd got a whole lot spot on. One could write a history of the human race, utilizing the deepest psychological and anthropological insights, based on the first three chapters of Genesis. It's not hard for me to believe that God speaks through Genesis. The question is, What does he mean to tell us about origins? (55-56)

Genesis cannot possibly tell us anything about origins given the fact that it was not written using any kind of facts about the world, but was largely based upon various myths that were being spread at the time of its writing. [7]

As I've shown, his above arguments are not accurate and Marshall does not understand the reason for the hostility towards creationists and intelligent design proponents. Marshall's knowledge of science is hopelessly out of date.

Chapter 4: Some Riddles of Evolution

David Marshall opens his chapter up with the following.

Science helps some people disconnect from God. We find the universe much older than our ancestors did. Life appears in roughly the pattern Genesis describes, but over vast periods, and "red in tooth and claw." Charles Darwin's theory seems, at first glance, to fit the pattern even better. When we study the bones, muscles, and genetic molecules in different animals, they appear related. Is the problem of life solved? Can we say, with Edward Wilson, that religion was "just the first literate attempt to explain the universe," and science has superseded it?' Thoughtful Christians who have responded to the New Atheism, such as Alister McGrath and Richard Swinburne, say the answer to the first question is yes, and the second no. I agree that the clearest evidence for the existence of God may not lie in biology. But I'm not quite prepared to admit Darwin entirely solved the mystery of life, and will now explain why. (61)

Marshall continues,

For most nonscientists, such as myself, the best reason to believe in evolution is that biologists agree it explains life. If a person has dedicated her life to a specialty, one wants to listen respectfully to what she has to say about it. Of course, if the subject is important-remodeling one's home, global warming, whether a lump is cancerous-a proactive person will read to evaluate expert opinion for herself, and after careful study, may even reasonably side with a minority view.

But trust is fragile and can be easily undermined. Any hint that scientists are too biased, any reaction that looks more like defending territory than seeking truth, is bound to undermine confidence in a theory. Reading up on evolution, one doesn't have to go far to come across troubling signs.


One of Darwin's arguments has, however, gained new life with debate over Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design is the idea that life exhibits features that can't be explained by evolution alone, and show evidence of having been designed. One Intelligent Design concept is what maverick biologist Michael Behe calls "irreducible complexity." This is the claim that some living mechanisms are too complex to arise by short steps. Kenneth Miller argues, in response, that the parts of a complex organ may have been used for other purposes, stepping stones along the path to development. For example, says Gould, the stubby appendages that developed into wings might once have been used to keep big animals cool, or small animals warm, or help them walk, catch insects, or attract mates.' Darwin also wrote of "functional change in structural continuity."

Theories, like deer, need predators to keep fit. In the best of worlds, Intelligent Design should be welcome to biologists who hope it will help keep evolutionary theory honest. But unlike Darwin, many on both sides of the controversy seem to go out of their way to insult opponents. A lot of social posturing goes on here in the name of science. (61-63)

It is here where we begin to see how deep Marshall's misunderstandings go into this evolution/intelligent design fiasco. For one reason or another, Marshall continues to see intelligent design as a legitimate theory that rivals evolutionary theory, but it's clear Marshall hasn't bothered to look very deeply into the issue.

Intelligent design is a religiously-motivated belief that postulates that some form of “intelligence” had to have a hand in the creation of the first life, if it doesn't also have a finger or two in the workings of evolution and natural selection itself. [1] The problem with this view is that it is unscientific due to its lack of clear mechanism for exactly how or why this “intelligence” tweaks this or that. Remember what Donald R. Prothero said earlier? He said,

[S]cientists practice methodological naturalism, where they use naturalistic assumptions to understand the world but make no philosophical commitment as to whether the supernatural exists or not. Scientists don't exclude god from their hypotheses because they are inherently atheistic or unwilling to consider the existence of god; they simply cannot consider supernatural events in in their hypotheses. Why not? Because […] once you introduce the supernatural to a scientific hypothesis, there is no way to falsify or test it. (emphasis in original)

Science makes use of these protocols in order to ensure accurate results. Intelligent design fails to meet these protocols and it is therefore deemed unscientific.

In order to drive the point home I shall quote Kenneth Miller,

At first glance, design seems to explain everything, because the principle of an all-powerful designer can be used to account for anything. This is one of its main frustrations to science. By definition, design cannot be tested, cannot be disproven, cannot even be investigated. The arguments for design are entirely negative in nature, and the writings of Johnson, Berlinski, and others confirm this in briefs that assert only the insufficiency of the evolutionary mechanism. Evolution doesn't work, they say, so the only alternative is design. (emphasis mine) [2]

Marshall mentions Michael Behe and Kenneth Miller but doesn't seem impressed by Miller's rebuttals to Behe's work. [3]

It becomes more and more clear how out of touch with reality Marshall is the further you get into this chapter because he then says the following,

In the best of worlds, Intelligent Design should be welcome to biologists who hope it will help keep evolutionary theory honest. (62-63)

How in the world can it possibly keep the science of evolution "honest" when the people who advocate it use dishonest tactics in trying to get intelligent design to be accepted? The scientists that are misquoted [4] and taken out of context are a staple of creationist arguments; the often inaccurate and sometimes outright dishonest attempts at distorting scientific facts [5] are all very good reasons why intelligent design and its advocates should in no way be said to help the scientific community remain "honest." That statement completely blows my mind and shows just how little research Marshall did for this book.

Marshall continues from the last paragraph quoted,

In June 1996, iconoclastic mathematician David Berlinski wrote an article called "The Deniable Darwin" in Commentary magazine. A who's who of disputants on both sides, including Dawkins and Dennett, responded three months later. Dawkins mocked Berlinski as a "creationist" (a charge Berlinski denied). Dennett described Berlinski's arguments in scatological terms. He also mockingly suggested that the paper was a scam to hoodwink "earnest creationists" into making fools of themselves. The point in both cases was not scientific, but social: to draw a line between scientific "brights" and credulous, "creationist" dims. The two correspondents appealed to the atavistic fear of being picked by the wrong team. These responses were the mirror image of the book borrower who scribbled out "expert" and wrote "dogmatist." (63)

As we saw in the last chapter, Marshall cannot seem to grasp why scientists are so hostile to creationists and intelligent design advocates. It's because of the above noted instances of dishonesty and their attempts to sneak religion into schools under the guise of “science” with intelligent design. It may not seem like it to Marshall, but these scientists have every right to be angry at those people who spread this anti-evolution propaganda and take legitimate scientists' work out of context in order to further their religious agenda.

The reason Dennett and Dawkins mocked Berlinski was because in the article he wrote he was spreading the same misunderstandings about evolution that most other creationists do. Here is part of the article Berlinski wrote,

In its most familiar, textbook form, Darwin's theory subordinates itself to a haunting and fantastic image, one in which life on earth is represented as a tree. So graphic has this image become that some biologists have persuaded themselves they can see the flowering tree standing on a dusty plain, the mammalian twig obliterating itself by anastomosis into a reptilian branch and so backward to the amphibia and then the fish, the sturdy chordate line - our line, cosa nostra - moving by slithering stages into the still more primitive trunk of life and so downward to the single irresistible cell that from within its folded chromosomes foretold the living future.

This is nonsense, of course. That densely reticulated tree, with its lavish foliage, is an intellectual construct, one expressing the hypothesis of descent with modification.

Evolution is a process, one stretching over four billion years. It has not been observed. The past has gone to where the past inevitably goes. The future has not arrived. The present reveals only the detritus of time and chance: the fossil record, and the comparative anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry of different organisms and creatures. Like every other scientific theory, the theory of evolution lies at the end of an inferential trail.

The facts in favor of evolution are often held to be incontrovertible; prominent biologists shake their heads at the obduracy of those who would dispute them. Those facts, however, have been rather less forthcoming than evolutionary biologists might have hoped. If life progressed by an accumulation of small changes, as they say it has, the fossil record should reflect its flow, the dead stacked up in barely separated strata. But for well over 150 years, the dead have been remarkably diffident about confirming Darwin's theory. Their bones lie suspended in the sands of time-theromorphs and therapsids and things that must have gibbered and then squeaked; but there are gaps in the graveyard, places where there should be intermediate forms but where there is nothing whatsoever instead. (emphasis in original) [6]

If that doesn't sound like creationist claptrap I don't know what does. No evidence in the fossil record? Is Berlinski serious? Has he never heard of the transitional fossils Tiktaalik roseae and Archaeopteryx? I will spare my readers from quoting the article any more. It just continues to get worse.

Marshall continues.

In The God Delusion, Dawkins does offer arguments against Intelligent Design. But he seems to resent the idea of a challenge. The following quotes both appear on page 125:

The creationists are right that, if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin's theory. Darwin himself said as much: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."

Searching for particular examples of irreducible complexity is a fundamentally unscientific way to proceed: a special case of arguing from present ignorance.

A hundred or so words, and a subject subtitle, separate these two statements. Were irreducibly complex organs to be found, Dawkins admitted in the first, evolution would be ruined. He quoted Darwin as saying the same (always a safe way to proceed), and implicitly challenged critics to find such organs. A few sentences later, he said the search for evidence both he and Darwin admitted would overthrow evolution is "fundamentally unscientific." (63)

Marshall has taken Dawkins out of context here. He also cut off the last part of the first quote which seems to me changes the meaning of the passage. What Dawkins actually said is (with the missing part Marshall excludes in italics),

The creationists are right, that if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin's theory. Darwin himself said as much: 'If it could be properly demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.' Darwin could find no such case, and nor has anybody since Darwin's time, despite strenuous, indeed desperate, efforts. Many candidates for this holy grail of creationism have been proposed. None has stood up to analysis. [7]

Marshall is at least forthcoming about mentioning how a “hundred or so words, and a subject subtitle, separate these two statements” but what Dawkins was saying is how no one, from Darwin's time to the present, has been able to demonstrate irreducible complexity and how every single case of this irreducible complexity has failed. He wasn't 'challenging' anybody. He was simply stating a fact. In the next section where Dawkins is quoted after his discussion of irreducible complexity, titled The Worship of Gaps, Richard Dawkins explains the intelligent design proponents' strategy. He says in part,

Gaps, by default in the mind of the creationist, are filled by God. The same applies to all apparent precipices on the massif of Mount Improbable, where the graded slope is not immediately obvious or is otherwise overlooked. Areas where there is a lack of data, or a lack of understanding, are automatically assumed to belong, by default, to God. The speedy resort to a dramatic proclamation of 'irreducible complexity' represents a failure of the imagination. Some biological organ, if not an eye than a bacterial flagellar motor or a biological pathway, is decreed without further argument to be irreducibly complex. No attempt is made to demonstrate irreducible complexity. Notwithstanding the cautionary tales of eyes, wings, and many other things, each new candidate for the dubious accolade is assumed to be transparently, self-evidently irreducibly complex, its status asserted by fiat. But think about it. Since irreducible complexity is being deployed as an argument for design, it should no more be asserted by fiat than design itself. You might as well simply assert that the weasel frog (bombardier beetle, etc.) demonstrates design, without further argument or justification. That is no way to do science.

The logic turns out to be no more convincing than this: 'I [insert own name] am personally unable to think of any way in which [insert biological phenomenon] could have been built up step by step. Therefore it is irreducibly complex. That means it is designed.' […] The reasoning that underlies 'intelligent design' theory is lazy and defeatist – classic 'God of the Gaps' reasoning. [8]

These two statements of Dawkins' were discussing two different issues. In one, Dawkins was explaining how no one has yet to find any irreducibly complex biological systems. Not a single argument made by any creationist or intelligent design advocate has been proven to be unsolvable by evolutionary theory. In the second, he was explaining how lazy and unscientific this method of using “god of the gaps” reasoning is to fill in the gaps of our knowledge and why it wasn't good science.

Marshall continues with the same propaganda he used in chapter two about Richard Sternberg. He says,

At times like this, the scientific community can resemble a tree fort with a sign affixed to the wall: "Gurlz Kepe Out!" Only instead of girls, the excluded party is identified as creationists, fundamentalists, or even (in one strange instance) Republicans.

In 2006, the U.S. House Committee on Government took up the case of Dr. Richard Sternberg. A biologist with the National Institutes of Health, Sternberg edited an obscure Smithsonian Institute journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. In 2004, Sternberg made the mistake of publishing a paper (after vetting it with three other biologists) by Intelligent Design proponent Stephen Meyer. The article questioned the ability of evolution to explain the Cambrian Explosion, the sudden appearance of many distinct animals in the fossil record about 570 million years ago.

Another sort of explosion took place at the Smithsonian. Colleagues launched a campaign to smear and, if possible, get rid of Dr. Sternberg. Sternberg's boss hinted the biologist should quit. When Sternberg failed to follow this prompt, colleagues tried to force him out via numerous cuts and inconveniences: taking keys away, demanding extra paperwork, circulating rumors (was he a closet fundamentalist, or even a Republican?). (64)

Marshall says later,

Implicit social threats should make us more, not less, determined to think through questions about faith and science honestly. Nor should we pay attention to people who waste time debating whether Intelligent Design or evolution are "real science" or not. David Bohm once defined science as "openness to evidence." The best scientist-or theologian-is not someone who shouts, "Heresy!" when he hears strange views, but one who listens carefully and responds with reason and evidence. When it comes to ultimate questions, "openness to evidence" is the definition that counts. (65-66)

I've already dealt with this issue about Sternberg but I wanted to highlight it because it's central to Marshall's argument in this chapter. For some reason he believes that these intelligent design advocates are unfairly being persecuted and attacked by other scientists because they want to protect their sacred cows, but that is not accurate in the least. I discussed already why so many scientists are angry towards these individuals. It's because they spread false information, and incidentally, Marshall is also guilty of this as we'll soon see.

The fact is that the real scientists (and this is not an attempt on my part to kick those with opposing views out of the 'club') do have evidence against these creationists. It's just that Marshall doesn't wish to listen to any of it (or if he does listen, to see it as a valid critique of creationism).

The real scientists are not just calling anyone names who disagree with them, but respond with entire books against the fraud that is intelligent design/creationism and online articles and websites as well. [9] If Marshall has a problem with scientists' frustrations over those who endorse intelligent design perhaps he should actually attempt to refute their arguments against I.D. instead of trying to make scientists look bad. The fact is that it's the intelligent design crowd who ignores the arguments and evidence against their "god of the gaps" mentality.

Next, Marshall discusses issues in origin of life studies. He writes,

The origin of life has not been explained, long research and bold claims aside.

Dawkins assures us that considering the vast size of the universe, the origin of life is no problem. With the air of an heiress tossing gold coins to gutter snipes, he asks, What if the "spontaneous arising" of a DNA-like molecular code were so "staggeringly improbable" as to occur just once on a billion planets? He calls this "the most pessimistic estimate," adding that he doesn't believe the origin of life was really so touch-and-go. The universe holds more than a hundred billion galaxies, each with a hundred billion or so stars. The "magic of large numbers" makes it likely that even on such a "pessimistic" scenario, a billion planets in the universe host life! This argument, Dawkins tells us calmly, "completely demolishes" any need for design to explain the first living creature.

This move, which Dawkins also made 20 years earlier in The Blind Watchmaker, is a staggering bit of magic, pulling a rabbit (or its ancestor) from the cosmic hat. Actually, the "most pessimistic" estimates of the origin of life from nonlife by natural processes are a lot more pessimistic than that. Some researchers have concluded that "something equivalent to DNA" simply can't arise by chance, even if every atom in the universe were itself a universe, stewing and frothing for a hundred times the wait since the big bang. Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, said it was "almost impossible" to give a probability estimate. Francis Collins, who took over from Crick as head of the Human Genome Project, admits that no plausible mechanism has even been found yet. Paul Davies called the spontaneous self-assembly of DNA "ludicrously, almost unthinkably-small," adding that "the origin of life remains a mystery." Biologist Fazale Rana notes that modern cells require for some 300 different proteins, a source of sugars, nucleotides, amino acids, and fatty acids to all be placed together in working order. Probably not all of these would be needed for the first life, but much of it likely would. (66-67)

While many scientists do have their doubts, many are optimistic that we will discover the likely mechanisms by which the first life came about. The citing of these scientists is nothing but a logical fallacy: an appeal to authority, and doesn't prove anything. It's just their opinions. Furthermore, one has to double check to see who is being cited because not all “experts” are equal. Marshall cites Collins, who is much like Marshall, in that he favors the “god hypothesis” over any natural explanation, which I've shown is unscientific. Collins said in a 2006 debate with Richard Dawkins in Time Magazine,

By being outside of nature, God is also outside of space and time. Hence, at the moment of the creation of the universe, God could also have activated evolution, with full knowledge of how it would turn out, perhaps even including our having this conversation. The idea that he could both foresee the future and also give us spirit and free will to carry out our own desires becomes entirely acceptable. [10]

This view is unscientific because there is no way one could test such a hypothesis. It's an ad hoc explanation at its finest. He also cites Paul Davies, whose book he cited was from 1983! That's a horribly outdated source if you ask me. At least the other book he cites, Origins of Life (2004), by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, is more recent, but it is a book published by a Christian publisher (NavPress). Ross and Rana are also Christian apologists. Given these facts it's obvious they're going to paint the situation as bleak as possible.

Later on he says, after a few more pages of quoting more scientists about how difficult the origin of life problem is,

I am not making a "God of the gaps" argument. Not that there is anything unscientific about such an argument. To paraphrase Deng Xiaoping, it doesn't matter if a cat wears a lab coat or a bishop's robe, so long as it catches mice. Gaps in the power of a hypothesis to explain facts need to be filled, and some wounds in the surface of nature may be too large for anything but God. But the usual picture is of gaps narrowing as science progresses. Primitive man sees a bolt of lightning, and thinks Zeus is quarreling with Hera. Then Ben Franklin comes along and we learn about static electricity and paths of ionized air. [emphasis mine] (68-69)

As I said before, Marshall is taking a page out of the intelligent design hand book and is making use of the good old “god of the gaps” argument, even though he strangely denies it.

It is true that there are still some issues surrounding origin of life studies, but the situation is not as pessimistic as Marshall and the scientists he quotes make it appear. [11]

To quote Richard Carrier,

[I]f biogenesis was an inevitable random accident (and therefore well within the threshold even for trials, not just events), is exactly what we observe, a coincidence that suggests the conclusion: natural biogenesis was a likely outcome of the universe. But things would be different if we could predict that this is also exactly what God would do. If we could deduce from the definition of God that he would make the universe so vastly big and old, and so numerously populated with stars and planets and moons, and wait ten billion years or so before thinking to create life somewhere, and then do this with a single-celled (or even pre-cellular) string of commonplace naturally-chaining organic molecules of relatively simple construction, and then noodle around with these single-celled life forms for three billion years before thinking of the idea of assembling them together to make multicellular life forms (or if God had already clearly communicated all this to us before humans could have guessed it, or if he otherwise proved he did all this), then we could say that Intelligent Design was more likely than natural accident (as I believe a proper Bayesian argument would show).

But the evidence all goes the other way: for all of these things are 100% expected if life was a natural accident, but not at all expected if a God did it (much less a God who had specific plans in mind for humans, who are neither single-celled nor essentially strings of proteins), since a God has so many other ways to do it (in fact, infinitely many, if we grant his omnipotence--and in any case, so many more obvious and efficient ways to do it, and thus more expected ways of doing it...I can think of five just sitting here). And that completes the actual argument in my book: even though we cannot ascertain the exact probability of biogenesis, all the evidence is exactly as expected if it was indeed an accident (and thus had a probability within a reasonable threshold, but not at all expected (in other words, not at all predictable) if it was intelligently designed. In fact nothing points to the latter at all, except the event's improbability.


[T]here have surely been enough trials (events of amino-acid chaining) in enough places to make biogenesis not just a likely accident, but virtually inevitable. And yet even at its most improbable (if we imagine just one chain of amino acids randomly occurring in all the universe to date), it still wouldn't be improbable enough to conclude it was an act of design. For even by the creationist William Dembski's own calculation, over 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000 events have occurred in this universe, purely by accident, that are even less probable than that. And if they weren't designed, why would life be? [12]

Marshall continues with trotting out arguments from intelligent design proponents. This fact alone should tip off anyone reading this book that these arguments are pure nonsense, and anti-science propaganda. Two of his sources are books written by intelligent design advocates in Lee Spetner, who wrote the book Not By Chance! Shattering The Modern Theory of Evolution, and Giuseppe Sermonti, author of Why Is a Fly Not a Horse?, published by none other than the anti-evolution propaganda "think" tank, The Discovery Institute. He also cites long-discredited intelligent design advocate Michael Behe, among others.

Marshall continues,

The origin of the species is generally explained as follows. Creatures bear young. Sex distributes genes in a "white elephant" fashion, causing offspring to differ. As descendants struggle to survive and propagate, variations are sorted out to the advantage of candidates more fit in a given environment. The most profound differences-those that lead to the innovation that made Noah's Ark the wild place it was-are introduced by more or less random copying errors, or mutations. This theory, we are told, is the central, unifying truth of biology.

But can mutations pull their weight in it? They're being asked to produce the innovations that created all life, from squirrels to squid. Dennett says mutations don't even occur once in a trillion "copyings." Actually, it's more like one in a hundred million. But it's extremely hard to find mutations that make an organism more complex and fit. Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti says baldly, "Their effect in all instances is to demolish... transgressions of the kind needed by Darwinian evolution have never been documented." (69)

The fact is there are enough mutations, and most mutations are neutral, not harmful. In fact, there doesn’t need to be many mutations in order to cause large changes. Even just one mutation can cause large changes in body structure, as was demonstrated in 2002. [13]

Very large mutations are rare, but mutations are ubiquitous. There is roughly 0.1 to 1 mutation per genome replication in viruses and 0.003 mutations per genome per replication in microbes. Mutation rates for higher organisms vary quite a bit between organisms, but excluding the parts of the genome in which most mutations are neutral (the junk DNA), the mutation rates are also roughly 0.003 per effective genome per cell replication. Since sexual reproduction involves many cell replications, humans have about 1.6 mutations per generation. This is likely an underestimate, because mutations with very small effect are easy to miss in the studies. Including neutral mutations, each human zygote has about 64 new mutations (Drake et al. 1998). Another estimate concludes 175 mutations per generation, including at least 3 deleterious mutations (Nachman and Crowell 2000). [14]

His second question asking where the mutations are that cause an organism to become more fit will be answered later, since both questions hinge upon the same misunderstanding, but it all comes down to selective pressure.

Marshall continues by citing more discredited intelligent design arguments. He writes,

Spetner echoes Sermonti: "There aren't any known, clear examples of a mutation that has added information." Many biologists heatedly disagree, and he's debated the question quite a bit online. Some claim to have found bacteria which, having lost the ability to wiggle to food, regain it by a second mutation. Others find evidence for past productive mutations in the genome. But at least it seems painfully hard to find favorable new mutations that add information even to viruses or bacteria, and more so among multicellular organisms. (70)

Once again, this is entirely false. There are many instances of mutations adding information. Here are some examples:

1. It is hard to understand how anyone could make this claim, since anything mutations can do, mutations can undo. Some mutations add information to a genome; some subtract it. Creationists get by with this claim only by leaving the term "information" undefined, impossibly vague, or constantly shifting. By any reasonable definition, increases in information have been observed to evolve. We have observed the evolution of

* increased genetic variety in a population (Lenski 1995; Lenski et al. 1991)
* increased genetic material (Alves et al. 2001; Brown et al. 1998; Hughes and Friedman 2003; Lynch and Conery 2000; Ohta 2003)
* novel genetic material (Knox et al. 1996; Park et al. 1996)
novel genetically-regulated abilities (Prijambada et al. 1995)

If these do not qualify as information, then nothing about information is relevant to evolution in the first place.

2. A mechanism that is likely to be particularly common for adding information is gene duplication, in which a long stretch of DNA is copied, followed by point mutations that change one or both of the copies. Genetic sequencing has revealed several instances in which this is likely the origin of some proteins. For example:

* Two enzymes in the histidine biosynthesis pathway that are barrel-shaped, structural and sequence evidence suggests, were formed via gene duplication and fusion of two half-barrel ancestors (Lang et al. 2000).
* RNASE1, a gene for a pancreatic enzyme, was duplicated, and in langur monkeys one of the copies mutated into RNASE1B, which works better in the more acidic small intestine of the langur. (Zhang et al. 2002)
* Yeast was put in a medium with very little sugar. After 450 generations, hexose transport genes had duplicated several times, and some of the duplicated versions had mutated further. (Brown et al. 1998)
The biological literature is full of additional examples. A PubMed search (at on "gene duplication" gives more than 3000 references.

3. According to Shannon-Weaver information theory, random noise maximizes information. This is not just playing word games. The random variation that mutations add to populations is the variation on which selection acts. Mutation alone will not cause adaptive evolution, but by eliminating nonadaptive variation, natural selection communicates information about the environment to the organism so that the organism becomes better adapted to it. Natural selection is the process by which information about the environment is transferred to an organism's genome and thus to the organism (Adami et al. 2000).

4. The process of mutation and selection is observed to increase information and complexity in simulations (Adami et al. 2000; Schneider 2000). [15]

Next, Marshall asks why new mutations haven't evolved to help out humans in this day and age. He writes,

Where are the helpful mutations? With millions of mutations over a century, why hasn't science built a better fruit fly yet? Or turned one into a moth? Surely there would be a Nobel Prize in that.


To the extent that the difference between man and chimps is genetic, where did the information that coded for all the needed changes come from? Mutations? To say the word and think the problem is thereby solved turns common concepts of faith and science on their heads.

It's often said people and chimps share 98.5 percent of their DNA. The actual figure appears to be 96 percent. Still, that represents thousands of useful changes. All of them took place when the number of people on Earth was a tiny fraction of what it is today. The human race is thought to have passed through a "genetic bottleneck" of some 10,000 individuals before leaving Africa. Even if our evolving population was a hundred times larger on average, that means the numbers alive today are a hefty proportion of the pool from which all these changes are supposed to have come. In 40 million years, a hooved wolf is thought to have evolved into a slinky crocodile-like aquatic beast, then into sperm, humpback, killer, and blue whales, living in small numbers and having few calves.

Evolution doesn't know its work is done. It doesn't know it shouldn't turn us into whales, teach us to eat grass like cows, or to glide like flying squirrels. For any direction evolution might take, given all it achieved when numbers were small, one might expect hundreds of useful mutations in every generation, fitting us for many new tasks.

Where are those mutations?

You might expect innovations to show up first among athletes. They specialize in new "adaptive roles": throwing a screwball, tackling punters, holding feet still while swimming upside down to music. What mutations have appeared to help out? Did Gaylord Perry have special sweat glands on his hands that allowed him to throw a spitball without artificial lubrication? Did Pele have mutant bone structures on his forehead that let him send a "header" into the goal? A web between fingers and cow-like skin on the hand might allow a baseball player to catch balls without a glove-and find reproductive opportunities in every major league town. (71-73)

If this passage does anything it should cement in the minds of the readers how poorly Marshall understands evolution. Evolution relies on selective pressure, or natural selection, which cause the more helpful mutations to flourish. What selective pressures are there that would create these adaptations that Marshall is asking for? There aren't any. Therefore, this is a pointless objection to evolution.

Marshall continues with more bad arguments against evolution.

Richard Dawkins, like Darwin, takes issue with the argument from irreducible complexity. This is the idea that some organs require a minimum number of parts to work-if there is just one less part, nothing good happens. Michael Behe believes such organs are a problem for evolution. He finds it hard to imagine mutations suddenly creating several new structures and fitting them together in a complex system. Dawkins replies:

"What is the use of half an eye?" and "What is the use of half a wing?" are both instances of the argument from "irreducible complexity...But as soon as we give these assumptions a moment's thought, we immediately see the fallacy. A cataract patient with the lens of her eye surgically removed can't see clear images without glasses, but can see enough not to bump into a tree or fall over a cliff. Half a wing is indeed not as good as a whole wing, but it is certainly better than no wing at all.

This answers the wrong riddle. The question isn't what happens when half the complete structure is missing. The question is what happens when half its parts are missing. What good is an eye without an optic nerve? (74)

I see no real difference between “structure” and “parts.” The point is that an animal that can partially see, or partially fly, is better off than not being able to see or fly at all and greatly aids in its survival. Even Marshall's example is incorrect. An eye does not need an optic nerve to function and there are species living today who don't even have an optic nerve, only photosensitive cells. [16]

At the end of the chapter Marshall sums up.

So what can we say about evolution and God? Certainly not that evolution disproves Christianity.


I come to the question of origins and design with mixed bias, and I think a pretty open mind. On the one hand, I'd probably prefer to find clear fingerprints of God in biology (though Dr. Louis's image of self-assembling Lego blocks is also attractive). Most conservative American Christians are skeptical of the story of evolution, as usually told, and that's my spiritual home. On the other hand, Christian biologists are often confident of evolution: I have heard engaging and brilliant ideas as they verbalize "faith seeking understanding." If I'm irritated with the arrogance of Dawkins, I also find myself bothered by the logic-chopping Phillip E. Johnson sometimes seems to engage in, and feel the scientists (that is what they are) at Discovery Institute could be more forthcoming on, for example, their Theory of What Really Happened. Both sides discredit themselves at times by forcing all science into a theological cage that depends on what great Christians thousands of years ago already saw as a naive reading of Genesis, and some atheists by "No Bleevurz Aloud"-type postings on the doorpost of Le Club Scientifique.

So what is my Theory of What Actually Transpired (THWAT)? My theory is I don't know, and neither (perhaps) does anyone. Darwin was a great scientist, but the origin of the species remains rather mysterious. The pattern of evidence roughly resembles the days of Genesis, and roughly resembles Darwin's theory. But it is also unlike what either Christians or atheists expected. Species do not, for example, change as gradually as Darwin anticipated-something dramatically new appears, then remains much the same for long periods. (76-77)

Near the beginning of the chapter he said how he is "not prepared to admit Darwin entirely solved the mystery of life," and would "explain why," but that explanation never came. All his readers got was a mouth full of regurgitated creationist propaganda and arguments that contained no answers to the "riddles of evolution." Just more "god of the gaps" arguments. These "riddles" should be solved but it will never be solved with this silly theistic nonsense. It will be time for Marshall's eternal nap before the Discovery Institute ever formulates an actual theory (that is, if they ever do) about how I.D. is a true science and how to determine just how god did the designing and why, questions that true science answers and evolution does pretty damn well in that department.

This entire chapter was nothing but one long rambling "god of the gaps" argument, and his use of old hat creationist nonsense (mutations not creating any "new" information) doesn't help his case either.

But there is an even more unfortunate side effect of Marshall's obvious support of the Discovery Institute. Marshall may talk of being unbiased and in favor of other views as being "open minded," but this is precisely the propaganda campaign that the intelligent design movement has been advancing in recent years with their film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008). That, along with the very well known fact that the Discovery Institute's main goal is not academic freedom but one that is much more nefarious: the overtaking of science and the destruction of the genuine scientific method, and replacing it with an immaterial (ie. theistic) world view, as exposed in the Wedge Document. [17]

Surely Marshall is aware of these facts, but it seems to me, as with the many other facts he ignores in favor of his religious beliefs, he is deaf, dumb, and blind to those goals. I think Marshall is dumb, but not that dumb. He must know of their goals, but like all the other evidence that's shoved aside in favor of his silly beliefs, maybe he just ignores everything that doesn't fit inside his own little distorted view of the world - including Discovery Institute's true motives.

I don't know why Marshall would support such a group, but the fact is that evolution does undermine belief in god because it undermines the bible, the very essence of Christian belief about how god created humans. If this creation story is inaccurate, it causes believers to ask what else in this “holy book” is also inaccurate, and in turn begins to make the believer question other beliefs they have been taught. [18]

Chapter 5: Did God Evolve?

David Marshall opens this chapter with the following lines,

In 1512, Michelangelo completed a painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome: God reaching down to create Adam. But is that what really happened? Or did the creative spark fly the other way? Did Adam, or the selective forces by which he evolved, create God? One of the goals of evolutionary philosophy is to revise Genesis in the latter direction. In Breaking the Spell, Daniel Dennett depicts God as a work of human and evolutionary art.

Dennett's book is interesting because, while Dawkins vaguely refers to the evolution of religion, Dennett offers ideas about how it could have happened. Borrowing pigments from anthropologists Scott Atran and Pascal Boyer, psychologists Paul Bloom and William James, and the early work of sociologist Rodney Stark, Dennett paints the origin of religion.

This work, I will argue, fails badly. At its best social science sketches a recognizable outline of man, missing perhaps a few appendages. But even in describing human nature, the hindsight of social science often proves muddier than the foresight of Michelangelo's teachers, such as Paul and Augustine. When it comes to God, Dennett and his informants fail to see what stands above them in plain sight, holding out his arm to give life. (79)

Marshall doesn't agree with this evolutionary view of religion and he lays out why. He writes,

Dennett mentions several well-known writers who have written on this subject, including Karen Armstrong (History of God), Rodney Stark, and Emile Durkheim. But read these sources carefully, and this argument against God backfires, rolls down the hill, and threatens to crush its makers.

One gets a hint of this, first, by a close read of Durkheim's classic Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Durkheim, an unbeliever, noted that beliefs have "varied infinitely." Like Dennett and Dawkins, he concluded from this that none "expresses (truth) adequately." But earlier in the same work, he noted that among Australian tribes, one idea-the Supreme God-was "fundamentally the same everywhere." God was always "eternal," "a sort of creator," "father of men," "made animals and trees," "benefactor," "communicates," "punishes," and was "judge after death." The aborigines "feel his presence everywhere." This idea didn't come from one culture alone. Tribes separated by long distances worshipped the Supreme God by names that showed no linguistic connection: Bunjil, Daramulun, Baiame, Nuralie, Kohin, Mungan-ngana, Altjira.

If inconsistency shows all religions are false, what should we think when scattered tribes agree in so much detail about God? Shouldn't that make us suspect that one religious idea is true? Or does the argument only work when it favors atheism? (88-89)

Marshall goes on after this citing several examples of various cultures who have beliefs about god that are similar, but does this actually prove religion to be true? No it wouldn't for the simple reason that just because large numbers of peoples' beliefs about something mostly agree does not make it true. If this were true the testimonies of alien abductions (whose stories are all very similar) would be convincing. Does Marshall accept the occurrence of alien abductions? I doubt it. Even if it were true that there is a tremendous similarity between beliefs in god around the world that would not make the existence of god more likely.

Despite what Marshall argues the fact is that beliefs about gods are not the same everywhere. To quote anthropologist David Eller,

As we look around the world of gods, we find just as much diversity and just as little continuity as in all other religious domains. Some religions that refer to or focus on gods believe them to be all-powerful, but others do not. Some consider them to be moral agents, and some do not; more than a few gods are downright immoral. Some think they are remote, while others think they are close (or both simultaneously). Some believe that the gods are immortal and eternal, but others include stories of gods dying and being born.

To begin, not all gods are creators, nor is creation a central feature or concern of all religions. The Kaguru of East Africa spoke of a god named Mulungu who was a universe creator, but the people did not know the story of this creation nor care very much about it (Beidelman 1971). The islanders of Ulithi in Micronesia made claims about several gods, none of whom were creators, and their religion contains no creation story at all (Lessa 1966).

Further, not all gods are moral agents or guarantors of human morality. The Konyak Nagas believed in a sky god called Gawang or Zangbau who is a highly personal being and is invoked in daily life and the main social occasions in culture; he is the protector of morality and punishes wrongdoing. On the other hand, the Azande of Africa had a god named Mbori or Mboli, who Evans-Pritchard (1962) tells us is morally neutral and not really interested in human affairs. The ancient Greek gods are renowned for their questionable ethics, involving themselves in seduction, rape, deception, and many other immoral actions. [1]

Clearly, there is much more diversity between the beliefs about the gods of various cultures than Marshall would have his readers believe. If this is the case (and it seems to be), then his argument is entirely undermined by these facts.

Marshall also discusses his thoughts about the origin of religion. He says,

Sniffing out the intent of others, what Dennett calls the "intentional stance," was crucial, the "irritant around which the pearls of religion grow." Anything that moves in a complex way, we tend to see as having "agency," or intent.' Hear a rhythmic creak at night, and we say, "It's just a branch scraping the gutter." But patterned, unscheduled bumps make us sit up in bed, suspecting a leopard, thief, or ghost. Notice how that last word sneaks in. Fear of "bumps in the night" was a useful survival mechanism. Our brain extrapolated by creating "virtual images" of unseen beings, and the first haunting occurred. (81)


I find this phase of the story (which Dennett has adapted from Pascal Boyer and Paul Bloom) interesting and fairly plausible. (82)


But this can't be the whole story even of "primitive" belief. What about out-of-body experiences? Miraculous cures? Answers to prayer? When I asked 77 longtime Christians why they believed in God, 42 of them (54 percent) circled the answer, "I have had a supernatural experience that taught me the reality of the spiritual world." I have, too. And while under examination, in some cases miracle is probably used as a synonym for amazing or mysterious event, I've also heard many firsthand stories that, if true, pretty much rule out materialism as a possible explanation for reality. (82)


[After discussing several cases of alleged supernatural phenomenon Marshall writes] My point at the moment isn't to argue that such experiences are real. It's that primitive man must have had them, too. Even so experienced a psychologist as Scott Peck met patients whom he became convinced were literally possessed. Surely earlier generations had an excuse to make the same diagnosis! Apart from William James, the social scientists Dennett relies on generally ignore such experiences. But we can't ignore them if we want to understand the origin and basis of "primitive" religion. (83)

I don't think anyone is ignoring these experiences. For example, in Religion Explained, by Pascal Boyer, he does discuss supernatural phenomenon so he is not ignoring anything. Most scientists, like Boyer, look to explain these stories in terms of natural phenomenon. It's not that they're ignored, they are rejected (there is a difference) because these stories may or may not be entirely accurate (and here's that old issue of “human testimony” again) due to the passage of time and humans' oftentimes fallible memory. After all, it's been well documented the many issues with human memory and how it's not very reliable. [2]

There is also the issue of the burden of proof. To date there has never been any scientific evidence of any supernatural occurrences. If they do not occur now, why should we believe they did occur in the past? If supernatural phenomenon occurs at all surely it's on-going and does not just occur in certain time periods, especially not with all of the stories of supernatural phenomenon occurring throughout all periods of history. This is proof people believed in the supernatural throughout the past also, but due to our more advanced technology we are better able now then they were to determine whether or not these experiences were true representations of reality. All evidence to date shows they are not. [3]

These experiences coupled with our innate and common tendencies to see “design” in the world, as was discussed earlier, is some of the best evidence pointing to the fact that humans created gods and not the other way around.

Before I close out this chapter I'd like to share some experiments that seem to conclusively prove that these many supernatural experiences are not external, caused by supernatural agents or events, but are internal, caused by the normal or even abnormal functioning of the brain. [4]

Blanke and colleagues stimulated the right angular gyrus, also called the inferior parietal lobule, during surgery on a 43-year-old woman with epilepsy. This produced an OBE in which she saw her trunk and legs from above. Blanke proposed that the OBE was produced by disrupting the part of the brain responsible for feeling and knowing the position of the body. While this area is part of the parietal lobe, it is at the angle of the temporal and parietal lobe and is inside the area reported by Penfield to produce psychical experiences. [5]

Another more striking incident occurred that highly suggests that religious/supernatural experiences are caused within our brains, and not by external supernatural phenomenon.

In a single case report, a 25-year-old female had intractable TLE [temporal lobe epilepsy]. The seizures were characterized by a repetition of religious statements and a compulsive kissing behavior. The auras, seizures, and religious thoughts were virtually eliminated after the removal of the right amygdala and hippocampus. [6]

Clearly, these experiences were caused by her brain, which is why they mostly stopped after those parts of her brain were removed.

I have examined each of Marshall's arguments against these naturalistic explanations for religion and have found his facts to be completely inaccurate. Belief about gods throughout the world vary greatly and natural explanations explain supernatural phenomenon much better than the hypothesis that religion and its claims are true.

Chapter 6: Is the Good Book Bad?

In this chapter David Marshall tackles the many criticisms of the bible by the New Atheists. He writes,

Dawkins offers four critiques that are popular among modern secularists: (1) The biblical God is cruel. (2) The Bible has nothing to teach enlightened society about right and wrong. (3) It presents women as "property." (4) The book is not even coherent, but a "chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjoined documents."' Like a tour guide dragging a gaggle of gawking Baptists through Amsterdam's red light district, Dawkins takes his readers on a tour of the Bible's "wild side" to make these points. (96)

Marshall's first critique has to do with Richard Dawkins' illustration of some horrific biblical passages. Marshall writes,

Dawkins carries us on a breezy gallop through the Old Testament, stopping to see sites that illustrate the theme of the tour. He tells the story of how residents of Sodom tried to rape angels, and Lot offered his daughters instead. "Whatever else this strange story might mean, it surely tells us something about the respect accorded to women in this intensely religious culture." Actually, the story took place in Sodom, which was about to become an object lesson for sin, not for unbridled religiosity. But it's true women had few rights in most of the ancient world.

This is better illustrated at Dawkins's next stop, the horrific story of the man who set his concubine outside to be raped and murdered in his place, then cut her in pieces and sent them to the 12 tribes of Israel (Judges 19-21). "Let's charitably put it down again to the ubiquitous weirdness of the Bible,"' Dawkins suggests.

Why not put it down to the ubiquitous weirdness of people? One might as well blame Darwin for finches dying in the Galapagos. Dawkins seems under the strange assumption that the author approves of these episodes. He makes the same assumption with the story of the foolish Jephthah, who won a military victory, then sacrificed his daughter (Judges 11): “God was obviously looking forward to the promised burnt offering.” But the last verse of the book sums up the author's true editorial position: “In those days there was no king is Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (97-98)

It looks as if Marshall has distorted the meaning of the text. Dawkins' discussion was hinging upon the fact that child sacrifice is horribly cruel, not how 'weird' it is. [1] When you read the text of Judges 11 this sacrifice is not something that is looked down upon, or condemned. Even Jephthah's daughter doesn't protest to her being sacrificed! That right there should tell you how common this act of sacrificing children was. Marshall claims that the author protests, but this verse comes at the very end of the book of Judges, when many other stories had been discussed between Judges 11 and the end. How does Marshall know the author is condemning this sacrifice specifically? He doesn't.

Besides, is there any evidence in Judges that this sacrifice was condemned by anyone? No. To quote Thom Stark,

Here is a clear example testifying to Israelite belief in this period that Yahweh would give victory in battle in exchange for the satiation of human sacrifice. Why does Jephthah make this vow? Because the Ammonites were a formidable enemy, and Jephthah needed that extra divine boost in order to ensure a victory. Note that the text does not condemn Jephthah. Yahweh does not stop Jephthah from sacrificing his daughter. Moreover, according to the text, Yahweh is engaged in this whole affair, because after Jephthah made the vow, “Yahweh gave them [the Ammonites] in-to his hand.” Moreover, Jephthah is expressly one upon whom the spirit of Yahweh is said to have rested. In the New Testament, the book of Hebrews lists Jephthah as one of Israel’s great heroes of faith. […]

Certainly, Jephthah laments that it turned out to be his beloved daughter whom he had to sacrifice, but his daughter doesn’t! She sees that because Yahweh had given him victory, it is only right for him to keep up his end of the bargain. She takes the news of her impending inflammation rather well, all things considered. This shows that these assumptions were a normal part of life in that period. Human sacrifice to the deity was taken for granted; it was not a “rash” aberration. […]

Child sacrifice was considered noble in this world precisely because it was the greatest possible sacrifice that could be made. Children who were made subject to sacrifice weren’t despised by their parents; they were beloved. Sacrificing them was very hard, and that’s precisely the point! That’s what the ancient deities wanted – hard sacrifices. So when the story goes that Jephthah lamented having to sacrifice his daughter, that is the point of the text. Yahweh required a real sacrifice, and it hurt Jephthah, just as it was supposed to. But as Jephthah’s own daughter said, the bigger picture was the security of Israel, and she was happy to sacrifice herself for that cause. (emphasis in original) [2]

Next, Marshall discusses Dawkins' treatment of the near sacrifice of Abraham's son Isaac. Marshall responds,

Christians and Jews have long seen Isaac's harrowing experience on the mountaintop as a turning point in history. In two historical senses, Dawkins's own argument depends upon it.

What kind of morals can we derive from this story? First of all, God was saying, “No more human sacrifice!” This dramatic scene marked the end (in the causative sense) of ceremonial religious murder. True, as Dawkins points out, there are two later instances in the Old Testament of men promising to sacrifice the first living thing they see when they come home from war, which turns out to be their children (one carried out). This kind of morality tale, common in Greek tragedy, was probably a way of warning people not to make rash promises. Again, there is no suggestion that the two men who did this were heroes. (100)

It appears that one of these two sacrifices Marshall mentions was the story he just told about Jephthah’s daughter, and as I've already shown, Stark has refuted Marshall's sorry excuse for this cruelty about this being a “rash” decision. It wasn't.

In addition, there are other cases of child sacrifice even after this alleged “turning point in history.” In fact, god demands a sacrifice of all the first born sons as early as Exodus 22:29-30: "Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. You must give me the first born of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers from seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.” (NIV)

Marshall begins another discussion about another case of human sacrifice. He writes,

The Old Testament rails against abuse of children. The Canaanites were driven out of their land because of sin, the greatest of which was to “burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:31) – this is thought to have been carried out as a “foundational sacrifice” to bless new buildings). Yahweh warned the Hebrews that if they repeated the crime, they would suffer the same penalty. (100-101)

Marshall once again tries to discount this case of human sacrifice by claiming that it was against god's orders and the text does say this, but there is a large issue that Marshall clearly isn't aware of.

To quote Thom Stark once again,

Yes, here are two clear condemnations of child sacrifice, the first of which (12:31) is explicit that children are not to be sacrificed to Yahweh. Case closed? Nope. These portions of Deuteronomy are late compositions, belonging to the Deuteronomistic corpus, which scholars date to the seventh century BCE. [...] In fact, these texts in Deuteronomy were composed long after the time of Elisha after the institution of child sacrifice in Israel had fallen into disrepute due to its condemnation by the prophet Jeremiah in the seventh century. [3]

As we've seen, Marshall cannot claim any of these texts wholly condemn child/human sacrifice. In the cases examined by Marshall he wrongly interpreted the texts, or as in the case with the last example, the text was written much later, long after this practice had fallen into disuse. Therefore, it cannot be used as an example of a condemnation of sacrifice during the time Marshall would like. Human sacrifice ended much later than he would like to admit.

Next, Marshall begins his discussion about the bible and morality. He writes,

Having visited such horrors, Dawkins gathers the tour group around and generalizes the lesson as follows. All right, he says, some parts of this book may be fine, but obviously others are less so. How do Christians pick and choose? They must have some other criterion by which to sort good apples from bad. If they have that superior criteria, what do they need the Bible for?


I find the argument doubly astounding. The criteria by which Christians read the Bible is supposed to be a mystery? Note the first six letters of the word Christian: C-H-R-I-S-T. That Christians see the life of Jesus as the interpretive principle by which to read the Bible shouldn't come to a surprise to anyone who has wandered into a church and glanced at a stained glass window! (102-103)

I am perplexed by Marshall's argument. How can Jesus be the lens through which Christians interpret scripture, especially on the issue of morality, when in many cases Jesus acts immorally himself? For example, in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus vows “to come back to exact revenge upon those that do not follow him.” [4] In Matthew 10:34-36 Jesus says, "You must not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a son's wife against her mother-in-law; and a man will find his enemies under his own roof.“ Jesus also cannot be found to condemn the institution of slavery anywhere in the bible. Even Christians recognized this fact. One example is Thornton Stringfellow who wrote in his book, Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery,

I affirm then, first, (and no man denies,) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command: and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction, under the gospel dispensation; and that the principle relied on for this purpose, is a fundamental principle of the Mosaic law, under which slavery was instituted by Jehovah himself [...] [5]

Given these facts, how do Christians choose between the “meek and mild” sayings of Jesus and the above passages (which are by no means the only ones)? Marshall's argument fails tragically because it does not even begin to answer the question.

Marshall claims that the bible, not evolution, is the true savior of morality. He writes,

While it's good to see scientists at Harvard and Oxford rediscover universal moral intuition, chillingly, Dawkins finds it hard to explain why we “ought” to obey it. [Richard] Dawkins and [Marc] Hauser seem to see morality as one more bit of data about the evolution of a particular species. I may feel it is immoral to let a child drown. But if I see that feeling as an accidental product of evolution, like my appendix, what if I want it out? And if I'm late for work, and the child belongs to a competing race – threatening not just jeans, but selfish genes – it's hard to see how evolution furnishes any argument for saving her.


One could conclude, as some have, “So evolution gives us guilty feelings when we steal candy from children. Now that I understand the blind forces that produced this emotion, and the fact that it has no transcendent value, I'll take what I want.” Evolution doesn't help at all.

Dawkins mires us in an even deeper problem, from which the Bible rescues us. (104-105)

There are a few problems with this argument. First of all, Marshall completely misunderstands the concept of the selfish gene. Just because our genes are “selfish” doesn't mean humans act selfish at the social level. To correct this misunderstanding I will quote Robert Wright who writes,

[T]hose genes that are conductive to the survival and reproduction of copies of themselves are the genes that win. They may do this straightforwardly, by prompting their vehicle to survive, beget offspring, and equip the offspring for survival and reproduction. Or they may do this circuitously - by, say, prompting their to labor tirelessly, sterilely, and, and “selflessly,” so that a queen ant can have lots of offspring containing them. However the genes get the job done, it is selfish from their point of view, even if it seems altruistic at the level of the organism. (emphasis in original) [6]

Given this fact, in experiments scientists have even taken note of many cases of altruistic behavior, even towards individuals who were composed of the “out group.” Based upon experiments done with non-related chimpanzees and humans, the test subjects helped others without seeking any reward for themselves.

In one experiment done with semifree-ranging chimps in Uganda, a chimp struggled to open a door locked by a chain. The researchers wanted to see if a second chimp would release the chain to help the first get food. Three-quarters of the time, the chimps in a position to help did just that. “The crucial thing here is they help without any expectation of being rewarded, because they don't benefit from their helping,” lead researcher Felix Warneken [from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology] explains.

The same pattern showed up in a similar experiment with chimpanzees and humans: When a person with whom they had no prior relationship struggled to reach a stick, the chimps handed it to the person even when it required climbing up to a tall raceway. The chimps helped people just as often as 18-month-old German toddlers did in a similar set up involving a person struggling to reach a pen.

“The main finding is that humans and chimpanzees share altruistic tendencies,” Warneken says. In terms of evolution, he adds, this similarity suggests that the two species' common ancestors has these inclinations before culture developed.

And that tells us something about human nature.”There's a widely held belief that humans are selfish in the beginning and only through socialization do we turn into somewhat altruistic individuals,” Warneken says. This work suggests our nature contains the seeds for both types of behavior. [7]

The second issue is that Marshall doesn't seem to understand this moral sense. In his book Moral Minds Marc Hauser contrasts the foundation of our moral sense with the foundation of our innate ability to pick up language. Just as humans are able to pick up language, humans seem innately capable of picking up moral systems, not the rules themselves. Just as humans aren't born knowing the different words of the English language, but innately have the framework for language, we have a similar scaffolding for our morality. Hauser writes that, “we are born with abstract rules or principles, with nurture entering the picture to set the parameters and guide us toward the acquisition of particular moral systems.” [8]

It's not as if, now that we've come to recognize this moral sense, we no longer need our various systems of morality. Human beings, despite the push we might get from our innate instincts at times, still need to utilize the moral systems developed by humanity.

Marshall also neglects to recognize that Christians (and other theists) are not immune from the dilemma he's put forward. The fact is, believers and non-believers are in the same boat. With believers choosing the scriptures they follow (whether the "good" or the "bad"), there surely are no absolutes with religion. Due to each person's ideas, moral sense, upbringing, etc. they choose what morals they want to follow. Believers are not immune to this dilemma at all. The fact is that all people choose to follow the rules of society and cooperate or they don't. It's also a fact that religion often inspires individuals to rebel against that moral sense to murder others, and despite religion, there are many believers who are known to have lied, cheated on their spouse, stolen, and committed other immoral acts. Given these facts it's all too clear that religion does nothing to solve the problem of rebelling against the morals and rules of society.

Next, Marshall disputes the argument made by Dawkins that the bible tells us to love only our in-group. He says,

Dawkins's most astoundingly wrongheaded reading of the Bible may be his claim that care for others is only meant for “a narrowly defined in-group.” Here he borrows liberally from an article in Skeptic magazine by “physician and anthropologist” John Hartung, entitled “Love Thy Neighbor: The Evolution of In-group Morality.” According to Hartung, the Hebrew command “Love your neighbor as yourself” just meant “love another Jew.” “Thou shalt not kill” meant “Don't kill other Jews.” Foreigners were fair game. Dawkins even claims that the humanity of women and of other races is “deeply unbiblical,” and an error we are only beginning to rise above. Quoting Hartung, “The Bible is a blueprint of in-group morality, complete with instructions of genocide, enslavement of out-groups, and world domination.” Even Jesus, Dawkins argues, “limited his in-group of the saved strictly to Jew.”


As we will see, Sam Harris says the New Testament was written by people who hated Jews. Hartung and Dawkins say Jesus hated Gentiles. That covers everyone! The New Testament must be a very hateful book. So how did so many verses such as, “Love your enemies” and “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) slip past such a fine net of vitriol? In fact, the index to the NIV Bible contains 6 ½ pages of citations to verses containing the word “love” or its cognates – over 700 references! (105-107)

On the contrary, it blows my mind how Marshall can accuse Dawkins and Hartung of not reading the bible. Clearly, it's Marshall who hasn't read the bible because there are many very obvious examples of group privileging throughout the bible.

Obviously relations with people outside of one's own race or tribe can be complicated, and they did rarely accept others, however, the bible definitely contains many more examples of group privileging. Take these three verses for example, though these are by no means the only ones:

I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac. (Genesis 24:3-4, NIV)

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:6, NIV)

We will not give our daughters in marriage to the foreign population or take their daughters for our sons. (Nehemiah 10:30, NEB)

Hector Avalos shows why the passage “ Love your neighbor as yourself” does mean another Jew. He writes,

This oft-cited proverb is first found in Leviticus 19:18, which reads in whole: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

However, as Harry M. Orlinsky, the prominent scholar of Hebrew, has deftly noted, the Hebrew term re 'eka, which translates as “your neighbor,” is actually best understood as “your fellow Israelite.” The verse's final instruction to love your fellow Israelite as yourself, therefore, follows logically on the instruction not to hate anyone of your kin (bene 'ammeka) in the first half of the verse. Thus, the verse does not obligate universal love, but, in fact, is premised on privileging love for fellow Israelites over love for non-Israelites. [9]

Even Jesus mostly limited his ministry to only fellow Jews. It's true that Paul was a large influence on preaching to gentiles but the question is whether or not Jesus taught this and it seems there is very little evidence to support this. In the gospels themselves Jesus limited his ministry to Israel (Matt. 10:5-6); he never called for disciples in Gentile territories, and there are only a few instances (if they are even authentic in the first place) when Jesus supposedly had contact with Gentiles; and the early Christians had mixed views about the inclusion of Gentiles into their group.

To quote historian Paula Fredriksen, “During Jesus' lifetime, Gentiles scarcely figured at all in his mission […].” [10]

Next, Marshall discusses the role of women in the bible. He says,

Feminism is a core value of our age. Not surprisingly, the New Atheism swallows the popular myth that the Bible enslaves women. Thus, Dawkins tells us, “women are no longer regarded as property, as they clearly were in biblical times.” […] In the Old Testament, women acted as prophets and queens, and took the initiative for good and ill. Two Old Testament books bear the names of women – Ruth and Esther – and neither lady is a drawing room daisy.


It's even less plausible to describe the women of the New Testament as “property.” Gender roles are complex, and the pure wind of feminism does not blow as cleanly through Paul as some would like. But Paul tells husbands to “stop depriving” their wives of sexual pleasure (1 Corinthians 7:5 – no female circumcision?). He assumes women will worship (unlike lawn chairs). He tells husbands to love their wives and give their lives for them (Ephesians 5:25-28).

Walter Wink summarized the gospel data: “In every single encounter with women in the four Gospels, Jesus violated the mores of his time...his behavior towards women...was without parallel in 'civilized' societies since the rise of patriarchy roughly three thousand years before his birth.” (108-110)

First of all, Marshall is once again guilty of what is commonly called “cherry-picking.” He's pointing out all of the verses that support his case, while ignoring all those that don't (and there are a lot of them). Such examples include the following:

Corinthians 14:34: “[W]omen should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.” (NIV)

1 Timothy 2:11-12: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (NIV) [11]

1 Peter 3:5-6: “They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 11:8-9: "For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." (NIV)

Ephesians 5:22-24: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to your husbands in everything." (NIV)

Colossians 3:18: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (NIV)

Genesis 3:16: "To the woman he said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.'” (NIV)

Second, while Jesus may have been more accepting of women, women were treated as “property” in biblical times and were considered second-class citizens and this is clear throughout the entire bible. The laws of Moses were entirely patriarchal; women could not own property; women themselves were even viewed as a form of property. Exodus 20:17 makes this clear when it says, “You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, his ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor. (NIV)

To quote Thom Stark,

For instance, the Decalogue is addressed entirely to males. It doesn’t say, “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife or husband.” It says, “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife,” and it lists the wife in the middle of a list which includes other property, such as his house, mule, and slaves. [12]

Furthermore, women were clearly valued less since the price of both adult women and girls was less than that of a man. [13] Finally, I think this paragraph of Stark's does well to refute Marshall's argument entirely,

Even still, [Marshall] appeals to almost every story of a good woman in the Bible as evidence that the Bible isn’t misogynistic. But nobody’s claiming that every text in the Bible is always and only misogynistic. Pointing out that a story here or there gives a more or less even-handed perspective on women doesn’t mean that other texts, particularly the legal texts (which are the ones that are supposed to be most directly divinely inspired, by the way), aren’t misogynistic. Moreover, what [Marshall] fails to see is that most of these “good women” are good precisely because they submit to the patriarchal institutions that are in place, such as Ruth. [14]

To sum up, Marshall's statements about women and the bible are too one-sided and he ignores the many passages that speak disparagingly of women. His defenses of the various atrocities were factually flawed and suffered from the same lack of understanding and knowledge of the bible that Marshall accuses the New Atheists of.

Chapter 7: What Should an Atheist Do About Jesus?

In this chapter Marshall attempts to refute the several claims about Jesus that are spread by the New Atheists and other skeptics, such as questioning Jesus' existence. Marshall begins by addressing Richard Dawkins and his view of the gospels.

The Gospels, Dawkins tells us, are “legends,” written “long after the death of Jesus” and copied over many generations by scribes with their “own religious agendas.” No one knows who those scribes were, but they “almost certainly” never met Jesus. The first four books of the New Testament were chosen “more or less arbitrarily” from a dozen or so candidates, including “Gospels” of Thomas, Peter, Nicodemus, Philip, Bartholomew, and Mary Magdalen (Dawkins offers an endorsement of these alternatives by no less than Thomas Jefferson). But all “Gospels,” Christian or Gnostic, were “made up from start to finish.”

Jesus was one of many such “charismatic figures” of the day, around whom legends accumulated. The Christian story was borrowed from other religions and stitched together by Paul of Tarsus. Jesus probably never claimed divine status. Even if he did, he may have been “honestly mistaken.”


The Gospels do three things to disarm all such criticism. First, they pass strict historical interrogation with flying colors. (N.T. Wright's acclaimed Christian Origins and the Question of God series may be the best material on this.) Second, they portray a person who convinces those with the most acute insight into human nature that, as M. Scott Peck put it, “no one could have made up the man described.” Like fingerprints on a windowpane, the Gospels reveal the complex and unforgable identifying marks of a unique mind. And third, as we will see in the following section, they have changed the world for the better. (116-117)

Those are some very strong claims. Let's see how Marshall plans on defending them. He continues,

Each of the Gospels, Dawkins supposes, was “copied and recopied, through many different 'Chinese Whispers generations' by fallible scribes who, in any case, had their own religious agendas.”


[Robert Funk said the “oral tradition” circulated for two decades before being written down.] But look at the dates. Two decades? I just attended my uncle's fiftieth wedding anniversary, at which stories were not circulated, but told first hand, about events that happened six decades ago. [Paula] Fredriksen claimed the Gospels were written 40 to 70 years after the events they describe. Most skeptical scholars say Mark was the first Gospel written, about 40 years after the fact. Other scholars put the dates a bit earlier. (117-118)

Marshall does not note which “skeptical scholars” argue that Mark was written 40 years later, but the consensus seems to be that the gospels were written much later than Marshall argues. [1] The approximate dates are as follows:

Mark: 65-80
Matthew: 80-100
Luke: 80-130
John: 90-120

Even if Marshall were correct about his dates, the fact of the matter is that it doesn't take much time at all for errors and exaggerations (if not outright myths) to develop and distort a story. There are examples in history of this taking mere days or weeks, so twenty years is more than enough time for errors to creep into the stories. [2] That's not even accounting for the the fact that memory is not always very reliable.

Marshall argues next that those who knew Jesus must have still been alive when the gospels were written. He writes,

Most wandering countercultural movements are made up of young people. Jesus' followers were probably in their twenties or teens. Those who dodged the brisk scythe of the Grim Reaper could easily have lived decades after the writing of the first Gospels.


Many of Jesus' first followers would have been alive, and ready to talk, when the Gospels were written. Nor would it have been hard for Luke (say) to track them down: The Christian community was a compact, highly social group, like an extended family. Everyone knew who the elders were, and who had walked with Jesus. In such a tight-knit community, it would have been child's play to look them up. (118)

Without taking into account the fact that memory is often unreliable, and stories can be dramatically distorted within such a short period of time, the average life-span of someone in the ancient world was 46 years old. Because Marshall is assuming the age of those who “walked” with Jesus Marshall's argument is one assumption built atop another assumption and is highly improbable.

To quote Richard Carrier,

In the ancient world, the average life expectancy (for anyone who survived to age 15) was 46 years, while fewer than 1 in 20 would live to 70, and fewer than 1 in 200 would live to 85. Any witness, who survived the war and was at least fifteen years old by 35 A.D. (and thus could recall events of previous years with any kind of reliability), would probably be dead before 75 A.D. (having only a 34% chance of survival, even without an intervening war and persecution), and would almost certainly be dead by 100 A.D. (with only a 1.5% chance of survival, and that's again without an intervening war and persecution, which would have reduced the probability of survival a great deal more). […] Likewise, Josephus himself says 20 years is enough time for witnesses to no longer be available to rebut a story (Life 360; cf. Jewish War 1.15 & Against Apion 1.55). [3]

Furthermore, there is no evidence that, even if Jesus' original disciples lived until the writing of the first gospels, those in the ancient world fact-checked what they believed. To quote Richard Carrier once more,

It was the same in antiquity, [the modern New Age community strongly prefers to trust emotion and intuition and to distrust reason, critical thought, and skeptical investigation [and] that the same community carries significant emotional hostility toward both skeptics and their methods] and the earliest Christians were clearly more analogous to modern New Agers than modern skeptics (as I'll demonstrate in Chapters 13 and 17).


For the difference between acceptance and rejection may very well have been a result of adopting different strategies of judgment. That is, in fact, what both modern New Agers and ancient Christians blame as the very reason skeptics reject their claims – as we can see, for example, in 1 Corinthians 2: skeptics can't see the truth because their methods blind them. […] Therefore, Christians didn't respect those methods. To the contrary, they regarded them as a handicap that one had to discard in order to be saved.


For that reason we cannot rest any argument on what “we” think “they” would have done. Rather, we must examine the evidence for what they actually did. And we have no evidence that any Christian in the first hundred years did anything like what [Marshall] expects as far as “checking the facts” is concerned. […] Moreover, when we look at the evidence of what they actually did do, we find essentially the opposite of what [Marshall] claims. [4]

Marshall's next argument is about why the gospels can be trusted. He writes,

Not only were the Gospels written while eyewitnesses were still alive, they sound like eyewitness reports. Read a few paragraphs at random. You can cut the tension with a knife. Jesus is subject to nitpicking, entrapment, barbed comments, and catcalls. “Is not this the carpenter?” (Mark 6:3). He's accused of low status, sin, breaking the law, failing to pay taxes, lack of education, madness, and black magic. Find me a hagiographer who writes like this. As Peck put it, most of the Gospels “reek of authenticity.”

The Gospels give names, surprising replies, and facts about Jerusalem only an inhabitant or archaeologist would know, like the details about the pool of Siloam or Jacob's well. (119)

As I just discussed, it does not appear likely that the “eyewitnesses” were still alive when the gospels were written. Marshall's claims to authenticity are purely subjective and contradict the facts. Are novels and films not written in the same fashion today? Are heroes or main characters not subject to “entrapment” or “barbed comments” in today's entertainment media? Of course they are. The same likely occurred in the past as well.

Just because a story mentions authentic locations and landmarks doesn't mean the overall story is true. The same is done in today's entertainment media. How many fictional stories have been written that take place in a city that exists in reality, or in the backdrop of an actual event? There have been many. According to Marshall's argument that would make the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor an accurate portrayal of everything that took place, when there were many historical inaccuracies.

Marshall continues,

Dawkins swallows what I call the “neo-Gnostic myth” hook, line, and seaweed. The Gospels were chosen “more or less arbitrarily,” he tells us, from a sample of a dozen or more including such “Gospels” as “Thomas, Peter, Nicodemus, Philip, Bartholomew, and Mary Magdalen.”

Thomas probably comes first in his list because radical scholars consider it the best potential source of alternative “Jesus material.” Thomas is not, however, a Gospel in any important sense. Analyzing the work line by line, I found Thomas shares only four to seven characteristics out of 50 that define the Gospels. It was less a Gospel than any other ancient work I studied – even China's kung fu epic, Journey to the West.

Gospel means “good news” (Greek, euangelion). At a minimum, a Gospel should therefore tell a story. Dawkins is under the impression that this work does. “The Gospel of Thomas,” he writes, contains “numerous anecdotes” about Jesus abusing magical powers “in the manner of a mischievous fairy,” turning playmates into goats or mud into sparrows, or miraculously lengthening a beam for his father the carpenter. To pre-empt the expected retort, he adds, “It will be said that nobody believes crude miracle stories such as those in the Gospel of Thomas anyway.”

What needs to be said is that the Oxford professor of the public understanding of science and his reputable publisher have got the wrong book! These stories are found not in the Gospel of Thomas, but in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. The former contains no stories at all, which is one reason it isn't a Gospel. And this kind of sloppiness is one reason Dawkins is not a historian. (120-121)

Out of the “50” points that a manuscript supposedly needs in order to be named a gospel, Marshall lists only the one, about it needing to tell a story. What are the other 49? He doesn't say. It also seems that even this criteria is purely subjective. Does the Infancy Gospel of Thomas not tell a story? Of course it does. It tells of Jesus' life when he was a boy. I will point out, however, that Marshall is correct in that Dawkins did mistake the Infancy Gospel of Thomas for the Gospel of Thomas. Of course, this error is very minor and it's easy to see how one could get the two documents confused. It's also ironic that Marshall makes the comment about how this is the kind of reason why Dawkins isn't a historian. I could level the same accusation towards Marshall with his absurd criteria for historicity. No truly objective historian would ever accept Marshall's criteria for authenticity. In addition, his horribly poor “research” skills leave much to be desired as I've demonstrated as well.

Marshall continues,

Nor was there anything arbitrary about the selection of the four first-century Gospels in favor of their second, third, and even fourth-century “competitors.” (121)

Actually they were chosen arbitrarily. To quote Josh McDowell,

We don't know exactly what criteria the early church used to choose the canonical books. There were possible five guiding principles used to determine whether or not a New Testament book is canonical or Scripture. Geisler and Nix record these five principles:

1. Is it authoritative - did it come from the hand of GOD? (Does this book come with a divine "thus saith the LORD?)

2. Is it prophetic - was it written by a man of GOD?

3. Is it authentic? (The fathers had the policy of "if in doubt, throw it out." This enhanced the "validity of their discernment of canonical books.")

4. Is it dynamic - did it come with the life-transforming power of GOD?

5. Was it received, collected, read and used - was it accepted by the people of GOD? [5]

Each of these categories are entirely arbitrary. To quote Gary Lenaire,

There are problems with every one of the listed criteria. The first four categories are subjective judgments. We can't know if a book is authoritative if we don't know who the author is! We know the books are not prophetic because none of the alleged prophesies have been verified or proven to come true – absolutely none. We don't know if a book is authentic because the manuscripts were written many years after the events were said to have occurred. How can we know if a book is dynamic? Dynamic is just another way of saying “lively” [and is a pointless criterion for determining truth]. […] The fifth criteria can be approached somewhat historically. There at [sic] least two problems in applying this to one's faith, however. If you study how religious groups use a book, you are studying the conclusions reached by humans. The books they chose reflect their own religious views; this is another form of circular thinking. Naturally, they chose books that agreed with their particular religious group. We cannot know the perfect word of God by studying fallible humans, even if those humans are Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, or the Pope. [6]

The next subject Marshall tackles is the common argument that Jesus is nothing more than a myth. He writes,

To Dawkins, Jesus was “one of many such charismatic figures who emerged in Palestine around his time, surrounded by similar legends.” Since David Strauss's Life of Jesus in 1835, it has been common to say the stories in the Gospels are full of mythological or legendary elements.


Others compare Jesus to Apollonius of Tyana, a pompous windbag (his part best played, I have suggested, by Steve Martin) who, according to a second-century tale, chatted up local kings, then went off to India and witnessed levitating Brahmins, pepper-growing monkeys, and crested dragons.

Many efforts have been invested in finding legends that look like Jesus. The search has come up spectacularly empty. The failure of informed, intelligent scholars to find any parallel that is even remotely believable is really a success – like the failure to find jackrabbits in the pre-Cambrian. (123)

It's strange that Marshall says the “search has come up spectacularly empty” when later on he admits that Buddha has many similarities to Jesus. He says,

Marcus Borg compares Buddha and Jesus and finds them much alike. You can indeed find a bit of Buddha (moral teachings, psychological insights) the cynics (one-liners) and fourth-century Jewish miracle workers (miracles) in the Gospels. (124-125)

In addition, there are other individuals who bear striking resemblance to Jesus. The Roman god Romulus is said to have many significant similarities to the Jesus tale. Such examples are, among several others:

1. Both were incarnated gods (Romulus descended from heaven to become human and die).

2. Both became incarnate in order to establish a kingdom on earth (for Romulus, the Roman Empire; for Christ, the Kingdom of God, i.e. the Church).

3. Both were killed by a conspiracy of the ruling powers (Christ, by the Jewish and Roman authorities; Romulus, by the first Roman senate).

4. Both corpses vanished when sought for (in the earliest and canonical Gospels Christs' tomb is found empty).

5. Both appear after their resurrection to a close follower on an important road (Proculus on the road to Alba Longa; Cleopas on the road to Emmaus - both roads 14 miles long, the one leading to Rome, the other from Jerusalem). [7]

Mithras had a story circulating about him in which he participated in a "last supper," or "sacred meal," just as Jesus did. Adonis, Dionysos, and Osiris are said to have been killed, buried, and resurrected, just as Jesus is said to have been. [8]

For coming up “spectacularly empty” there sure are several characters who have much in common with Jesus, and these are not the only examples.

David Marshall begins a similar discussion to the previous one where he attempts to downplay the many similarities between the gospels and other legendary stories. He writes,

One of the latest crazes in Jesus spinning, developed by a few serious historians but more often in Internet conspiracy pages and the books that derive from them, is that the Gospels borrowed from earlier myths. Dawkins plucks this fruit readily: “All the essential features of the Jesus legend” are borrowed “from other religions.”

That is a historical claim, which requires historical evidence. Stolen money can be traced by serial numbers. But how do we know if an idea or pattern of action has been borrowed from an earlier source?

Just finding similar stories in two places doesn't prove copying. If I say, “The neighbor [sic] dog growled,” how do you know the claim wasn't borrowed from the legend of Cerberus, the three-headed canine that guards the gates of Hades? Or perhaps Buck in Call of the Wild, or Levin's dog in Anna Karenina? The literary growls came first. As Joseph Cambell shows in Hero with a Thousand Faces, motifs crop up in widely scattered cultures. Real life can “copy” myth, and myth can “copy” real life. […] As skeptics often remind us, people are “pattern-seeking” animals. (123-124)

This is easy to show why his argument is false. If we can find a sure case of a story that predates Jesus' time then that story is surely the earlier one, and we do have several examples of just a story. The story of Romulus who was said to have lived hundreds of years before Jesus. As another example, Buddha, as Marshall even admits, has many similarities to Jesus and was said to have lived several hundred years before Jesus' birth as well.

I have shown conclusively that the bible does contain some legendary elements and I've refuted Marshall's arguments about no other individual being like Jesus. The next question is whether or not Jesus is also a myth and whether or not the biblical writers borrowed those older stories to either create Jesus, or Jesus was a real person and those other stories became woven into the stories of Jesus over time. To those questions I must plead agnosticism. I don't believe there is a way to know either way for sure because there isn't enough evidence.

Chapter 8: Is Christianity a Blessing?

In this chapter Marshall's goal is to remind the New Atheists (and anyone else who read their books) about all of the great things Christianity has done for the world in order to counter the enormous bad its done. He mentions several main ways Christianity has impacted various parts of the world for the better, though spends about half of his time on India.

Marshall argues,

Men and women called by God to “play” the chords of the Gospel to make, mend, catalyze, and move things to where they belong in society. Of course, believers often strike “wrong” cords, or right cords out of key. From such discords arise inquisitions, witch hunts, and crass religious come-ons. But when Christians act on Gospel teachings in tune with the Holy Spirit to respond to the needs of the world, a higher-order “music of life” emerges.


Slavery has mostly ended, as Dawkins points out (with some 15 million exceptions). Women have become more equal. Most unbelievers would also agree, I think, that science, universal education, the spread of democracy, the erosion of caste in India and foot-binding in China have been among the biggest steps forward.

What if the Christian faith lay at the heart of each of these great reform movements? And what if radical, God-inspired compassion for members of the “out-group” turned out to be the engine of human progress? (136-137)

Marshall spends the next four pages on the various reforms in India and I would agree that much of what is said is true and Christianity did seem to have a good impact on India in several ways. However, in some places he clearly exaggerates the role Christianity played. He writes,

Martin Luther King said, “I went to Gandhi through Jesus.”

In a way, so did Gandhi.

It would be unfair to ascribe Gandhi's teachings part and parcel to Jesus, given his love of Indian scriptures. Gandhi was a syncretist, a Hindu, and a big fan of both Buddha and the Jains. Some of what he taught was at odds with Christianity.


But Gandhi was deeply influenced by Jesus in three ways. First, though offended when a convert in his area began insulting Hindu gods and drinking English booze, later he read the New Testament, and changed his mind about Christianity. The Sermon on the Mount “went straight to my heart.” Jesus' words about turning the other cheek “delighted me beyond measure,” he said, and Gandhi began trying to unify the Bhaga-vad Gita, the story of Buddha, and Jesus' teachings. […] Finally, Gandhi was also touched by Christ indirectly, through profound intellectual changes the Gospel brought India. (138-139)

After looking up Marshall's source for these claims about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi I found Marshall's claims to be exaggerated.

I'm sure King was influenced by Gandhi, though King himself tells us what first inspired his non-violent approach and it wasn't from Gandhi, but an anarchist in Henry David Thoreau. His essay titled On the duty of civil disobedience greatly inspired King. King said,

When I went to Morehouse as a freshman in 1944, my concern for racial and economic justice was already substantial. During my student days I read Henry David Thoreau's essay 'On Civil Disobedience' for the first time. Here, […] I made my first contact with the theory of nonviolent resistance. Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system, I was so deeply moved that I read the work several times.

I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting his idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement, indeed, they are more alive than ever before. [1]

A telling passage also highlights the fact that Jesus was not as influential on King as is often argued. Gandhi had a much larger influence. King wrote,

Prior to reading Gandhi, I had about concluded that the ethics of Jesus were only effective in individual relationships. The 'turn the other cheek' philosophy and the 'love your enemies' philosophy were only valid, I felt, when individuals were in conflict with other individuals; when racial groups and nations were in conflict a more realistic approach seemed necessary. But after reading Gandhi, I saw how utterly mistaken I was.

Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. Love for Gandhi was a potent instrument for social and collective transformation. In was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking. [2]

Clearly, Gandhi was a much greater influence since without him King would not have believed Jesus' teachings could be applied to the civil rights movement in the first place. The same can be said of Gandhi, in that other ideas were more important to his thinking:

Mohandas K. Gandhi […] built a unique ideology of non-violent resistance and peasant socialism from a series of semi-anarchist sources and linked them with Indian traditions. From Tolstoy he evolved his policy of non-violent resistance, from Thoreau he took his philosophy of civil disobedience, and from Kropotkin his programme of decentralized and autonomous village communes linking agriculture with local industry. [3]

In his autobiography Gandhi gave his opinion of Christianity,

The pious lives of Christians did not give me anything that the lives of men of other faiths had failed to give. I had seen in other lives just the same reformation that I had heard of among Christians. Philosophically there was nothing extraordinary in Christian principles. From the point of view of sacrifice, it seemed to me that the Hindus greatly surpassed the Christians. It was impossible for me to regard Christianity as a perfect religion or the greatest of all religions. [4]

Marshall quotes Gandhi as saying that the Sermon on the Mount “went straight to my heart,” and this seems to be the only evidence he has that he was inspired by Christianity. But it seems to me that Marshall needs more evidence than this. As Gandhi said,

But the New Testament produced a different impression, especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to my heart. I compared it with the Gita. The verses, 'But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat let him have thy cloak too,' delighted me beyond measure and put me in mind of Shamal Bhatt's 'For a bowl of water, give a goodly meal,' etc. My young mind tried to unify the teaching of the Gita, The Light of Asia and the Sermon on the Mount. That renunciation was the highest form of religion appealed to me greatly.” [emphasis mine] [5]

Clearly, Gandhi liked this verse, but appreciating a single verse can hardly be considered evidence of influence of the religion of Christianity or even Jesus as Marshall attempts to argue. In fact, Gandhi refutes this notion throughout his autobiography. For example, he writes,

Once [some Christian friends and I] began to compare the life of Jesus with that of Buddha. 'Look at Gautama's compassion!' said I. 'It was not confined to mankind, it was extended to all living beings. Does not one's heart overflow with love to think of the lamb joyously perched on his shoulders? One fails to notice this love for all living beings in the life of Jesus.' The comparison pained the good lady. [6]

Gandhi was a seeker, a man who obviously had an open mind and read of many different belief systems and took the bits he liked and disregarded the rest (as Marshall even admits). Besides, the non-violent attitude was taught by Buddha hundreds of years earlier so it's not as if Christianity possessed something revolutionary. Gandhi said the same thing himself, as quoted above. It seems clear to me that Marshall has greatly exaggerated any influence Christianity may have had, if any, and judging by the several times he mentions Christianity in his autobiography, and most of those instances are speaking of Christian friends or badly about it, I'd say the influence was miniscule at best, if it influenced his thought at all.

The next argument Marshall attempts is that Christianity was responsible for the abolition of slavery. I actually did quite a bit of research for this section of the book and wrote a pretty good piece, but Hector Avalos has since written an excellent article rebutting this entire section. Avalos' research obviously bested mine so I am citing his piece for this section, however, I was pleasantly surprised after reading the article for the first time since I discovered a few of the same errors as Avalos did. [7]

Avalos goes into much detail and his piece is very long so I will link to it in the footnotes, but in sum, Avalos writes of Marshall's take on slavery,

I don’t use the derogatory “hack” writer very often, but I think it is deserved when an author shows a complete disregard for the basic tenets of research and documentation. As stated at the outset, Marshall seems to work by reading a few secondary surveys and then selecting favorable quotes, whose accuracy he never checks. So, Marshall is a cut-and-paste artist, pure and simple.

More importantly, Marshall repeatedly represents as facts what he does not know to be facts, and that is as deep an indictment of intellectual integrity as one can find. Having accused some New Atheists of displaying “uncritical naiveté,” Marshall shows himself to be just another apologists who fails to live up to the standards he demands of others. Frankly, Marshall is a lazy-person’s apologist.

However, Marshall is not different from a Rodney Stark or other recognized apologists who say the same things Marshall does about slavery. Their case for the Bible’s role in the abolition of slavery is based on mostly careless research, a dismissal of the achievements of other cultures (e.g., Haitians), and a general disregard for the value of checking the primary sources. [8]

The next topic Marshall discusses is the role of Christianity in 'liberating' women. Marshall writes,

During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the Chinese began to wrap up the feet of little girls to make their mature waddle more “sexy.” For the rest of their lives, women hobbled on crippled feet. (This also made it harder for them to walk off, an important concern in a polygamous society!) The movement to ban foot-binding was begun by Christians, though their role is often obscured.

The status of women in a society may even be a function of how strongly the gospel has influenced that society.

[…] Note the United Nations's Population Briefing Paper. Researchers ranked the status of women in 99 countries by employment, education, marriage and children, and health. In all four categories, the ten countries in which the status of women was highest had a Christian background – except for Taiwan, which came in fourth in the “marriage and children” category. Among the lowest listings, none of the countries had a Christian heritage (apart from the complex case of Mozambique, which has a mixed religious population and came in seventh from the last in health, but fourth from the top in employment). (148)

Regarding the foot-binding of women in China, from my reading, I'd say he is partially correct, however, a major influence was due to “Chinese intellectuals” who “demanded reforms.” In addition, it was also due to the influence of the West and other nations' views of the practice. After a time foot-binding became “an object of international ridicule and evidence of China's barbarity and backwardness.” [9]

In addition, economics and personal interests were also large factors:

[Natural foot societies'] most interesting, and perhaps most convincing, argument was that footbinding went against women's personal and economic interests in every possible way. It weakened their bodies, restricted their freedom, prevented them from working effectively at home or in the fields, and made them easy targets for sexual assaults during wars. Worse, footbinding became an economic burden for the country as so many women, instead of working in the fields and factories, spent most of their time, money, and energy on their feet, bindings, and shoes. [10]

So, it wasn't just Christian missionaries but fellow Chinese who wanted reform, and the economic situation was a major factor as well, so to give Christianity such a large share of the credit as Marshall does would be a huge error.

As for the status of women in Christian countries, if you look at his source this Population Briefing Paper he cites is from 1988, a very outdated source if you ask me. The problem is that the facts contradict Marshall's argument. I've covered this much more extensively elsewhere but put simply, according to an updated 2009 UN “Gender Empowerment” study, the leaders in gender equality are Sweden, followed by Norway and then Finland. These three countries are some of the least religious in the world. For comparison, the united states, one of the most Christian countries, has a gender equality ranking of 37, according to the 2010 Human Development Report. [11]

Another source we can look at is history for how Christians have treated women. To give an example, allow me to quote historian Howard Zinn,

[A]ll women were burdened with ideas carried over from England with the colonists, influenced by Christian teachings. English law was summarized in a document of 1632 entitled “The Lawes Resolutions of Womens Rights”:

In this consolidation which we call wedlock is a locking together. It is true, that man and wife are one person, but understand in what manner. When a small brooke or little river incorporateth with Rhodanus, Humber, or the Thames, the poor rivulet looseth her name...A woman as soon as she is married, is called covert...that is, “veiled”; as it were, clouded and overshadowed; she hath lost her streame. I may more truly, farre away, say to a married woman, Her new self is her superior; her companion, her master...

Julia Spruill describes the woman's legal situation in the colonial period: “The husband's control over the wife's person extended to the right of giving her chastisement...But he was not entitled to inflict permanent injury or death on his wife...” [12]

Note how the above laws mirror the previous biblical passages we looked at in chapter six. David Marshall's next claim is that Christianity invented the university. He writes,

Christianity invented the university. Believers established almost all pre-Civil War American colleges and schools in Africa, Latin America, China, and India. Great European universities remain medieval towns shadowed by church towers. (149)

I would agree about the role Christians played in creating universities, however, their original use was to acquire “minds trained in canon law and theology to break heretics,” however they also had facilities for law, medicine, music, and philosophy. It seems the original motivation to create teaching centers was to proselytize, not for the sole benefit of education. [13] Even one of Marshall's own sources admits this. Alston Chase writes,

America's first universities were founded for the purpose of the propagation of the faith and the instruction of the young in the service of God. The purpose in founding Harvard University in 1636, for instance, was – according to the earliest known document – so that “every one shall consider the Mayne End of his life & studyes to know God & Jesus Christ, which is Eternall life.” [14]

Marshall's final argument I will examine looks at the role Christianity played in creating democracy. He writes,

The relationship between Christianity and pluralism is complex. Dawkins think the founding fathers of the American republic had little use for Christianity. Some Christian apologists say, “America was founded as a Christian nation.” Almost all the Christians I polled agreed that “America was founded on Christian principles.”

The founding fathers were of two minds about Christianity, as fair-minded historians admit. On the one hand, they often recognized the contribution the Bible had made to Western civilization and retained a great deal of faith themselves, in the understated style of the time. Modern democracy came at the tail end of a long process of growing pluralism in Europe, with Christian thinkers from Ambrose to John of Paris to John Locke playing key roles. (150-151)

First of all, most of the founding fathers were Deists, with only three of them who could be considered Christians. [15] Second, the founding fathers were not inspired by the bible, but Enlightenment principles. To prove this I will quote Chris Rodda discussing a study done by Donald S. Lutz,

From this chart it does appear that 34% of the documents included in Lutz's study cited the Bible. That's because they did. And, without Lutz's explanation of this figure, this chart seems to support the assertion that the Bible, more than any other source, influenced the political thought of the founders. So, the Christian nationalist history revisionists simply omit the explanation that follows.

"...From Table 1 we can see that the biblical tradition is most prominent among the citations. Anyone familiar with the literature will know that most of these citations come from sermons reprinted as pamphlets; hundreds of sermons were reprinted during the era, amounting to at least 10% of all pamphlets published. These reprinted sermons accounted for almost three-fourths of the biblical citations..." (1)

The 916 documents included in the study were not official documents, legislative proceedings, etc., but writings "printed for public consumption," such as books, newspaper articles, and pamphlets. Only items of over 2,000 words were included. Taking into account that three-quarters of the biblical citations came from the subcategory of sermons, which comprised only 10% of the category of pamphlets, the Bible is really in the same range as Classical influences for documents that weren't sermons. [16]

This would cause the bible (as Rodda explains above) to be knocked down to about nine percent, more in agreement with another historian in Frank Lambert, who says that “almost 90 percent of the references are to European writers who wrote on Enlightenment or Whig themes or who commented on the English common law. Only about 10 percent of the citations were biblical, with most of those coming from writings attributed to Saint Paul." [17]

To ram the point home that the united states was founded upon secular principles, not religious ones, allow me to quote John Adams from A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America:

The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature: and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had any interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of heaven, any more than those at work upon ships or houses, or labouring in merchandize or agriculture: it will for ever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses. (emphasis mine) [18]

To quote Richard Carrier on the above quote by Adams,

That’s a direct denouncement of the Law of Moses, which derived from an interview with God and the inspiration of heaven. He is saying they heeded no such things, but discarded them all, and derived American government directly from their own reason and observation, from the natural world alone. Though Adams does credit beside reason “morality and the Christian religion, without the monkery of priests” as helping to sustain America’s success, he never once credits any specific principle from that religion (like the Ten Commandments) as lying at the foundation of the U.S. Constitution. The idea isn’t even considered. Instead, volume 1 is entirely about the example and influence of Greece and Rome; volume 2 is about that of the secular Italian republics of the Renaissance; and volume 3 more of the same, followed by the precedent of the British Commonwealth.

In the words of his reviewer in the August issue of the 1795 American Monthly Review, the authors whom he considers as most influential in his survey are these: “Particularly among the ancients, Plato, Aristotle, Polybius, Dionysius Halicarnassus, Cicero, and Tacitus, among the moderns, of Machiavelli, Sydney, Montesquieu, Harrington, Locke, Milton, Swift, Hume, Franklin, Price and Nedham.” Moses is conspicuous for his absence. So is Jesus. Solon, of course (and in contrast), would be represented most significantly in the writings of Aristotle, as well as many of the others. And indeed an extensive section in volume 1 is devoted to Solon’s Athens, where Adams credits the first invention of representative government to Lycurgus of Sparta, and Solon with its improvement. No mention of Moses. [19]

As I've shown, Marshall's telling of history is more often than not way off the mark. Considering the handful of “good” things Christianity has done I would say Christianity’s influence on the world has mostly been for the bad, all things considered. To give some brief examples, there are the many horrific stories that have come from the immoral actions of Christian missionaries, [20] the Inquisitions, murdered abortion doctors, such as Dr. John Britton and Dr. Barnett Slepian in 1994 and 1998, respectively. Christians also enslaved millions of African Americans in the united states and around the world for centuries. Where was Christianity’s supposed abolitionist “influence” then? These examples are just a drop in the bucket as entire books have been written on the violence religion has caused and continues to cause. [21]

Chapter 9: Or a Curse?

In this chapter David Marshall's goal is to defend Christianity from the laundry list of atrocities that are so often brought up by the New Atheists. Marshall writes,

Whenever the effect of Christianity is discussed, five episodes are almost always mentioned: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution of accused witches, the slave trade, and pogroms against Jews.


“Saints are sinners, too,” some Christians respond glibly, then drop the subject as quickly as possible. That won't do. The claim isn't only that there are bad apples in the gospel barrel, or even that some criminals co-opt Christianity to do evil. The claim is that there's something in this faith, when taken seriously, that leads to the murder of the innocent. The charge demands honest consideration. (155-156)

Let's just see how 'honestly' he considers these crimes done in the name of Christianity. Marshall's first topic under discussion are the Crusades. He writes,

Let's begin by dropping one of the charges. By 1095, Europe had been under assault for four centuries. Muslim armies had conquered much of Byzantium, north Africa, and Spain, pushing into southern France, Switzerland, and to the gates of Rome. Pope Urban called on Europeans to liberate Jerusalem from its Turkish occupiers and go to the aid of the “Greeks” against Islamic imperialism. He complained that the “accursed race” of the Persians had “invaded the lands of those Christians and depopulated them by the sword, pillage, and fire,” enslaved, raped, and tortured the inhabitants, turned churches into mosques, and “dismembered” the Byzantine empire.

He was right. I see nothing vile about defending a friend against a bully at the risk of one's own neck. (156-157)

Marshall is obviously not a historian because he is basing his version of history on hearsay, not on facts. The truth is more complicated than Marshall makes it appear.

To quote historian Thomas Asbridge,

There is little or no evidence to suggest that these two world religions were somehow locked in an inevitable and perpetual 'clash of civilizations.' From the tenth century onwards, for example, Islam and Byzantium developed a tense, sometimes quarrelsome respect for one another, but their relationship was no more fraught with conflict than that between the Greeks and their Slavic or Latin neighbors to the west.

This is not to suggest that the world was filled with utopian peace and harmony. The Byzantines were only too happy to exploit any signs of Muslim weakness.


So what did ignite the war between Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land? In one sense the crusades were a reaction to an act of Islamic aggression – the Muslim conquest of sacred Jerusalem – but this had taken place in 638, and thus was hardly a fresh offense. At the start of the eleventh century, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, thought to enclose the site of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, had been partially demolished by the volatile Fatimid ruler known to history as the Mad Caliph Hakim. His subsequent persecution of the local Christian population lasted for more than a decade, ending only when he declared himself a living God and turned on his own Muslim subjects. Tensions also seem to have been running high in 1027, when Muslims reportedly threw stones into the compound of the Holy Sepulchre.


Two Arabic accounts offer important but divergent insights into these issues. Ibn al-'Arabi, a Spanish Muslim pilgrim who set out for the Holy Land in 1092, described Jerusalem as a thriving centre of religious devotion for Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. He noted that Christians were permitted to keep their churches in a good state of repair, and have no hint that pilgrims – be they Greek or Latin – were suffering abuse or interference. By contrast, the mid-twelfth-century Aleppan chronicler al-'Azimi wrote that: 'The people of the Syrian ports prevented Frankish and Byzantine pilgrims from crossing to Jerusalem. Those of them who survived spread the news about that to their country. So they prepared themselves for military invasion.' Clearly, al-'Azimi at least believed that Muslim attacks triggered the crusades.

In fact, on the basis of all the surviving evidence, the case could be argued in either direction. By 1095 Muslims and Christians had been waging war against one another for centuries; no matter how far it was in the past, Islam undoubtedly had seized Christian territory, including Jerusalem; and Christians living in and visiting the Holy Land may have been subjected to persecution. On the other had, the immediate context in which the crusades were launched gave no obvious clue that a titanic transnational war of religion was either imminent or inevitable. Islam was not about to initiate a grand offensive against the West. Nor were the Muslim rulers of the Near East engaging in acts akin to ethic cleansing, or subjecting religious minority groups to widespread and sustained oppression. There may at times have been little love lost between Christian and Muslim neighbors, and perhaps there were outbreaks of intolerance in the Levant, but there was, in truth, little to distinguish all this from the endemic political, military and social struggles of the age. [1]

It seems clear that Marshall's argument about self-defense is not as clear-cut as he'd like his readers to believe. Later on, Marshall tries to argue that the Crusades had no theological justification because Christians ignored the “loving” principles throughout the bible. He writes,

Influence is hard to pin down. How can we trace the flow of an idea from its intellectual origins through such a complex, ingenious and devious organ as the mind, and out into human actions?


Some ideas are explicit. The apostles John and Paul wrote about the divinity of Jesus, which is why Christians have always believed him divine. Jesus taught and healed, setting an example for his followers. Other doctrines are implicit, and their logic mixes slowly, like juices in a crockpot. The New Testament has little to say about slavery – it's taken for granted, but undermined by pervasive calls to love one another, talk about freedom, and the assumption that Christians form of unified spiritual family. Still other doctrines or practices grow up in the fact of commands against them, which we subvert for our own purposes. (158)

In actuality, there are clear precedents for Christian acts of aggression. The ideology of crusading was not just made up beginning in the eleventh century. The bible contains stories where holy war is condoned by god and even Jesus said he came not to bring peace but a sword (Matt. 10:34). This also contradicts Jesus' messages of love. Once again, Marshall ignores the big issue I discussed earlier: How do Christians choose between the two types of verses? The church authorities who eventually built the ideology of crusading relied upon the views of the Christian thinker St. Augustine of Hippo, who centuries earlier argued that “war could be both lawful and justifiable if fought under strict conditions.” [2]

The fact that the Christians acted as they did, even if the bible on occasion speaks of caring for one another, is no defense for the violence brought on by Christian ideology.

Marshall next discusses the Inquisition. He says,

It's harder to find warrant in the New Testament for torturing heretics.


In a sense, torture doesn't need to be “explained.” Making someone feel pain until he does what you want is what Daniel Dennett calls a “good trick,” and can be witnessed on any playground. Few, if any, civilizations have failed to make use of this trick.


Hopefully we have learned from history. Ma Bell's unofficial slogan “We don't care because we don't have to” sums up much that is wrong with monopolies, including religious ones. Torture is (at least) a radical form of poor customer service: Buy our product, or else! The government shouldn't be in the business of telling people where to go on Sunday. The church is better off getting knocked around by the media, or even the state, than enduring too much official love. Churches are at their best when they compete for market share through good works.

No one blames Buddha or Confucius for the Japanese Inquisition, which killed as many Catholics as the Spanish killed non-Catholics. Why blame Jesus when people do the opposite of what he taught? (159-160)

Historian of the Inquisition, Henry Kamen, writes that “Ferdinand's intentions […] will long be the subject of dispute” and so we may never know the entirety of the truth behind why the Inquisition was started. [3] Despite the issues with determining the precise cause of the Inquisition there were religious reasons behind many of the actions of the Inquisition because of its punishments upon those who failed to adhere to orthodox beliefs. For example, Martin Luther's ideas were rejected in Spain and the Inquisition punished those who were suspected of adhering to Luther's unorthodox views. The same occurred to a sect called Illuminism, which advocated a form of free-thought in religious matters. The Inquisition also banned books that contained unorthodox views. [4]

Did Jesus “sanction” the Inquisition? It seems that he did when he said such things as the following:

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus vows “to come back to exact revenge upon those that do not follow him.” In John 15:6 Jesus says, "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." (NIV)

Some verses in the bible, though not spoken by Jesus, are also said to have possibly inspired the Inquisition. One example is 2 Peter, which “warns against false prophets and damnable heresies,” and seems to give support to the idea of killing heretics. [5]

In sum, whether or not the bible was actually used to support or justify the Inquisition, it is wrong to argue that the bible contains no justification for it. It most certainly does. The actions of the Inquisitors took a page right out the of the bible in 2 Peter and John 15:6.

In the next section Marshall attempts to soften the impact of the accusation that Christians killed witches. He opens with the following,

Persecution of “witches” is another crime commonly and reasonably laid at the door of the church. Surely this evil wouldn't have occurred apart from religious dogma! Atheists, after all, don't believe in witches. (160)

He then makes the argument that,

Even atheists and skeptics such as Thomas Hobbes and Jean Bodin advocated the killing of witches, the latter of whom wanted it done in the slowest possible fire. (161)

There is a large problem with this argument because neither man appears to be an atheist and Marshall did not cite any sources for this information about their beliefs about witches. However, I was able to confirm that Bodin did write De la Demonomanie des Sorciers (or On the Demon Worship of Sorcerers). As for Hobbes, I did find this passage in the second chapter of Leviathan,

For as for Witches, I think not that their witchcraft is any reall power; but yet that they are justly punished, for the false beliefe they have, that they can do such mischiefe, joyned with their purpose to do it if they can: their trade being neerer to a new Religion, than to a Craft or Science.

In the case of Hobbes he has often been accused of atheism because of his anti-religious views and his harsh criticisms of the church, but one must remember that even Deists did such things during the Enlightenment. Just because an individual is a materialist or dislikes religion, that doesn't make one an atheist.

In response to Bishop Bramhall's criticism in his book, The Catching of the Leviathan, wherein he called Hobbes an atheist, Hobbes responded with the following,

Because he does not so much as offer any refutation of any thing in my Leviathan concluded, I needed not to have answered either of them. Yet to the first I here answer, because the words atheism, impiety, and the like, are words of the greatest defamation possible. And this I had done sooner, if I had sooner known that such a book was extant. He wrote it ten years since, and yet I never heard of it till about three months since; so little talk there was of his Lordship's writings. (emphasis mine in bold) [6]

Regarding Bodin, his views are also very much misunderstood, but it seems he was not an atheist. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says of Bodin's beliefs,

During his youth, Bodin received a Catholic education and he remained loyal to the Church until his death. Demonstrating his religious convictions, in a testament from June 7, 1596, he requested to be buried in a Catholic Church. Nevertheless, during his middle years, he was critical of the church hierarchy and occasionally expressed antipapal sentiments. On the basis of this evidence, his biographers have quickly labeled him a Protestant. Yet in his Lettre à Jean Bautru des Matras, a text based on his youthful religious ideas, it is clear that Bodin was not a pure Protestant, but rather a critic of the Roman Catholic clergy, its hierarchy, and some of its doubtful religious practices. Bodin was a fervent believer in the “true religion” which he considered “nothing other than looking to God with a purified spirit.” […] His antipapal sentiments, interspersed throughout his writings, have provided historians with evidence to label Bodin a Protestant. [7]

Clearly, neither man could be considered an atheist, and given their religious backgrounds and the religious cultures they were immersed in, it's not too surprising their views on witches.

Marshall writes,

What role did Christianity play in the persecution of witches? A more complex one than is usually assumed.

The Old Testament does seem to give explicit warrant for what would come: “Do not allow sorceress to live” (Exodus 22:18). Some modern witches argue, however, that the Hebrew term referred not to Wiccan herbalists, but “black magic.” (161)

There are actually several biblical passages that condemn witchcraft. Examples include Deut. 18:10-14; 2 Kings 21:6; Lev. 19:26; Lev. 19:31; Sam. 15:23; and Lev. 20:27. The rest of the chapter Marshall mentions a few examples of Christians throughout history who've condemned the murder of anyone considered a witch, and for the most part he looks to have his facts correct. Christians have sometimes aided “witches” but just as those few Christians during the slave trade who helped slaves, those few individuals' kind acts do nothing to soften the fact that many have been tortured and even killed because of this belief that comes from the bible that witchcraft and other forms of magic are evil. Just like slavery and the subjection of women, the killing of witches can be justified by the bible.

The next subject Marshall discusses is anti-semitism and he blows my mind when he actually tries to argue that the bible contains no justification for it! He writes,

Did Jesus only care about Jews, as [Richard] Dawkins claimed? Or is [Sam] Harris right that the gospel teaches us to hate Jews? […] But I don't want to be glib. Too many innocent people died. It's understandable if some of their descendants suspect the roots of the problem may lie in the New Testament. But let them read it honestly.


An outsider shouldn't talk as freely as members of a family. Rebuking Jews is a very Jewish thing to do. But later abuse of the Hebrew Scriptures to justify anti-Semitism is not only obscene, it is absurd. “Christ-killer”? The whole point of Christianity is that Christ laid his life down for the salvation of all peoples, “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).

Even in the book of John, Jesus is presented as Jewish. His mother is Jewish, the people he heals are Jewish, and he livens up a Jewish wedding with Israeli wine. He prays to the Jewish God and is raised to life to meet Jewish friends by the Sea of Galilee and catch kosher fish. The Nazis would hardly quote the teaching, also in John, that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Nor did they echo Paul when he explained his feelings about his people: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed...for the sake of my brothers” (Romans 9:3).

If you can read anti-Semitism into the New Testament, you can read it into anything. (163-164)

Let's take Marshall's advice and read the New Testament “honestly” because he sure doesn't. The justification for the hatred of Jews can be found in numerous places. For example, the depictions of anti-Jewish violence during the Crusades in The Chronicle of Solomon bar Simson tell of Godfrey of Bouillon's actions, how he was bent on “avenging the blood of the crucified one by shedding Jewish blood.” [8] The Chronicle also cites the following reason Christians killed Jews during the Crusades: “Look now, we are going a long way to seek out the profane shrine and to avenge ourselves on the Ishmaelites [Muslims], when here, in our very midst, are the Jews – they whose forefathers murdered and crucified him for no reason.” [9]

Unlike what Marshall's delusional belief about the subject is, you can find definite justifications in the bible for anti-Semitism. For example in John 5:18 it says, “This made the Jews still more determined to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but, by calling God his own Father, he claimed equality with God.” (NEB) In John 7:1 it says, “Afterwards Jesus went about in Galilee. He wished to avoid Judea because the Jews were looking for a chance to kill him.” (NEB) Other examples are Matthew 27:25 and Acts 2:22-23.

Aside from the evidence in the bible there are several studies that have confirmed a link between anti-Semitism and Christianity. In 1966 Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark (before he became an apologist for Christianity obviously) conducted a survey that showed how Christian belief influenced anti-Semitism. [10]

Marshall continues with his delusional argument. He says,

If persecuting Jews isn't taught, explicitly or implicitly, in the New Testament, why did anti-Semitism only appear among Christians and Muslims?

The answer, of course, is that it didn't. Jews were enslaved in Egypt. Queen Esther rescued her people from genocide in Babylonia. Clement of Alexandria, a second-century Christian, defended Jews against the bigotry of his pagan opponent, Celsus. Jews were the focus of Stalin's “doctors' plot” (though fortunately he died before this proscription for disaster was administered). In Japan, millions of copies of anti-Semitic books have been published. The Buddhist sect Aum Shinrikyo put out a tract called Manual of Fear: The Jewish Ambition – Total World Conquest, blaming the children of Abraham for the slaughters in Cambodia and Rwanda! (165)

As I've shown above, Marshall is spectacularly wrong about anti-Semitism and the bible and his attempts at deflecting blame from Christianity to other people is pathetic at best. He gives no sources for this information, but assuming it's true, so what? There are concrete links from Christianity to anti-Semitism as the above bible passages and study shows (in fact, there are more studies showing this link than I cite). It is absurd for Marshall to deflect Christianity’s role in the killing of Jews as he has.

The next subject under discussion is Marshall's take on the role Christian beliefs had in inspiring the Holocaust and the role of “Hitler's Pope,” Pope Pius XII. Marshall begins by arguing that many Christians risked their lives to save Jews. He sums up his argument as follows,

Such examples [of Christians saving Jews] could be multiplied: Martin Niemoller, who told Hitler to his face, “We too have a responsibility for the German people, laid upon us by God” […] But since Dawkins and Harris attack Pius in particular, as a Protestant, let me speak in praise of him and the Catholic Church. (166)

Something Marshall fails to tell his readers is that Martin Niemoller, and other Christians, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, had to leave the established Church to lead this resistance. Julian Baggini writes,

[…] a concordat was signed between the Nazi government and the Catholic Church in 1933. The collusion between the Protestant churches and the Nazi regime was even closer, helped by an anti-Semitic tradition in German Protestantism. Resistance came not from the established Protestant churches but by the breakaway Confessional Church, led by pastors Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These dissidents are justifiably held up by Christians today as shining examples of principled resistance to Nazism, but the fact that they had to leave the established Church to lead this resistance is no cause for Christian celebration. [11]

Marshall attempts to dispel the claims against Pope Pius XII and argues that he helped many Jews and saved "at least 700,000 [and possibly as many as] 860,000" from the Holocaust and that these are "hardly negligible numbers." A problem with this, however, is Marshall admits that this is "disputed" and I would surely call 700,000 to 860,000 "negligible" since it's been estimated that six million Jews perished in that nightmare called the Holocaust. (167)

Even worse for Marshall (and the Catholic Church) is, while there was surely a small group of Christians who tried to help the Jews, the vast majority helped and supported the Nazi government. Historian John Weiss writes,

The Confessing Church never attempted to protect Jews but only Jews who had converted to Christianity, that is, only Christians. Most Evangelical clergy did not even do this. Even after the killings and synagogue burnings of Kristallnacht in 1938, and even in the Confessing Church, the “majority did not oppose Hitler.” The German Methodist church attacked world Jewry for its “lying propaganda” and agreed with Bishop Dibelius that Hitler had saved Germany from an imminent Bolshevik revolution, bringing peace and stability, in happy contrast to the “bloody revolution” that had established the Weimar Republic. [12]

Regarding the role Pope Pius XII played John Weiss says how he remained entirely silent, even on the issue of the “Nazi's euthanasia.”

By March 1941 the Vatican knew that some seven hundred Polish priests had been sent to concentration camps, and many Catholics begged the pope to denounce the Nazis. He did not. Eighteen percent of all Polish priests were killed in the war. In short, Pius XII supported the Nazis' bid for lebensraum in Catholic, noncommunist Poland even if it meant the murder of priests, let alone Jews.

In August 1942 the Brazilian ambassador to the Holy See, a Catholic, attempted to persuade the pope to denounce the atrocities in occupied territories. He was supported by the Belgian ambassador, U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Under Secretary Summer Welles, and the British ambassador to Washington. Poland, Uruguay, and Great Britain also sent notes urging a statement of concern. Representing the American government, Myron C. Taylor delivered an official letter in September 1942 decrying the massacre of thousands in Poland, the killings in the Warsaw Ghetto, and mass executions in the camps. Such was the “butchering” of civilians, he wrote, that there “is not one Jew left in the entire district east of Poland, including occupied Russia,” adding that all Jews in the control of the Germans in the east were being shot. Taylor asked if the pope could help prevent such “barbarities.” In his Christmas message of 1942-1943 the pope responded, but managed not to condemn the Nazis or mention Jews.


[The pope did not protest when] in October 1943, the Germans took the Jews of Rome under the very eyes of the Vatican. The German Foreign Office feared the pope would protest, but to their relief he said nothing. Pius XII did shelter a few dozen or a few hundred Jews in the Vatican, the number is uncertain. But hundreds of ordinary Italians, secular and religious, rescued some 8,000 Jews, and priests, communists, and democrats helped. The pope also did nothing for the 265 Catholic and 70 Jewish civilians murdered as hostages in the Adreatine caves in March 1944, despite appeals from his own priests. Pius XII was pro-Nazi to the end. [13]

The Vatican authorities also helped Nazi war criminals to escape the Allies, “by means of the infamous 'monastery' or 'rat' line, as it was called by American intelligence officials.” During the Nuremberg trials Pius XII “appealed to the Allies to commute the death sentences of those condemned.” [14]

These facts do not put Pius XII or the churches in a very good light, no matter how much Marshall tries to count the few good deeds by a handful of Christians. The crimes of the Nazis, the support of the churches, and Pius XII's attempts to speak up for the Nazis during their trial outweigh any few good deeds that might have been done.

Marshall continues,

What about Dawkins's idea that the Nazis were “surely Christian”? One wonders what Dawkins would say to a “Hail Mary” argument like that in a student paper!

In fact, the percent of SS troops who belonged to the Catholic Church plummeted during the war. While six percent of university students studied theology in 1933, when the Nazis took power, that figure fell to only two percent by 1939. If the Nazis were so pro-Christian, why did young people stop studying Dawkins's least-favorite subject? More importantly, why did the Nazis kill thousands of Polish priests? Why did Dachau become “the largest religious community in the world,” as William O'Malley put it, with some 2,750 clergymen interned? How did a “solidly Catholic region like Bavaria...end up having no Catholic schools by 1939”? Why, in newly annexed territories, were children and schoolteachers forbidden from belonging to a church?

Hitler hated Christianity and planned to destroy it when the time came, as he explained in private. (168)

Just because Hitler was “anti-Christian” doesn't mean he wasn't a Christian. Christians aren't allowed some how to denounce or attack other forms of Christianity? It happens all the time. Some statements of Hilter's can be tied to least his unorthodox version. If this is the case, and Hitler wished to destroy Christianity as Marshall claims, these acts would be perfectly compatible with the argument that Hitler wished to purge the orthodox version of Christianity to make way for his Aryan version of Christianity. What is the evidence for this? Well, as Robert Wistrich writes about Hitler's hostility towards the churches,

Since 1937, it had seemed to Hitler that the churches were allies of Judaism rather than of National Socialism. They persisted, for example, in treating the Old Testament as a major source of Christian revelation, and they had rejected the cult of the “Aryan” Jesus. (emphasis mine) [15]

Hector Avalos writes of this “Positive Christianity” the Nazis believed in. This term dates back to the 1920's as even the Nazi Party Program, Point 24 says,

The Party as such reflects the viewpoint of a positive Christianity without being bound confessionally to any specific denomination. It battles the Jewish materialistic spirit. [16]

Avalos continues,

If one reads The Myth of the Twentieth Century, a treatise on Nazism by Alfred Rosenberg, who is credited with authorship of that Party Program of 1920, one will understand that he saw Positive Christianity as a restoration of the original and purer teachings of Christ. Indeed, Rosenberg tells us that Christ's life is what should be meaningful for Germans. Rosenberg repudiated the idea of Christ's sacrifice as a Jewish corruption, and saw Jesus as a great figure whose true work, the love of one's race, has been distorted by organized Christendom into a universal love, instead of a love restricted to one's racial group (especially as he interpreted Leviticus 19:18 and 25:17).

That is why Rosenberg called it “positive Christianity” (positive Christentum), which he explicitly contrasted to the “corrupt” form represented by the “etrusco-asiatic clergy” (etrusco-asiaische...Priesterherrschaft), which encompassed Roman Catholicism. Thus, for Positive Christianity, the mere word “Christianity” often meant the Judaized and clerically organized form seen in Roman Catholicism, which was not equivalent to what Jesus had in mind. Being opposed to “Christianity,” therefore, did not mean opposing the religion of Christ or opposing religion. [17]

Marshall mentions Hitler's “private” desire to “destroy” Christianity but does not list any sources. He is no doubt referring to Hitler's Table Talk, which allegedly contains the private thoughts of Hitler. The problem with using this as proof is that the reliability of some of the material is questionable. [18]

Furthermore, if Marshall does wish to think of Table Talk as a reliable source then he runs into a problem. That problem is the fact that Hitler supposedly said the following in the same book (translated by Richard Carrier), confirming the argument of Hitler's “positive Christianity,”

Christ was an Aryan. But Paul used his teachings to mobilize the underworld and organize a proto-bolshevism. With its breakdown, the beautiful clarity of the ancient world was lost. [19]

Carrier notes that the above passage in Table Talk refers to a belief by Hitler and the Nazis that Jesus was not a Jew, but was “fathered by a Roman legionary (a story that dates back at least to the 2nd century A.D.) and therefore he was a member of the master race.” [20]

After we survey all of the evidence Marshall's argument falls apart. Hitler was a Christian (even if he believed in a very “unorthodox” version), and he did not hate religion, only other versions of Christianity.

Marshall concludes,

What should we conclude? Not that any belief system is harmless. Every group of believers or unbelievers who gain power, especially a monopoly of power, oppresses: polytheists, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and yes, Buddhists. (How do these naive Westerners think the first Dalai Lama came to power?) No successful ideology is free from the shedding of innocent blood.

So what's the problem – ideology or human nature? (171-172)

While this is true, it does nothing to refute the fact that there are many actions that can be tied directly to Christian beliefs. Everything from the murder of Jews to the murder of abortion doctors, as Christian murderer Paul Hill explains in a piece he wrote titled Defending the Defenseless,

During the Nightline broadcast, I defended the shooting [of abortion provider Dr. David Gunn by Michael Griffin] on the basis of the Sixth Commandment (which not only forbids murder, but also requires the means necessary to prevent murder). It is not enough to refrain from committing murder; innocent people must also be protected. [21]

The fact that religion inspires violence is not debatable. There are too many cases that are proof of concept for it to be contested. Religion causes divisions among people and often contains beliefs that cause people to act sometimes in hostile or violent ways.

Chapter 10: What About the "American Taliban?"

In this chapter Marshall seeks to discount the great concern the New Atheists have about groups of fundamentalist Christians who are attempting to breach the separation of church and state and are working towards creating a theocracy in america. After explaining Richard Dawkins' discussion in The God Delusion about a pastor in Colorado named Keenan Roberts who runs “Hell Houses,” and how Dawkins believes that this is an example of what has become “mainstream” religion in America today, Marshall writes,

Dawkins may not believe in hell, but he believes in the tactic. With Sam Harris riding shotgun (or, one might say, pitchfork), he guides us through that Hell House of religious fanaticism called America. Among others, he interviews a Lutheran terrorist who shot an abortion doctor and his bodyguard. He tells about a boy who wore Christian “hate speech” on a T-shirt to school. He drops in on political figures who blame a lesbian for the destruction of New Orleans, or run on a platform of “intolerance,” “hatred,” and “theocracy.” […] A number of recent and popular American books confirm the general outlines of this story.” Michele [sic] Goldberg writes darkly in Kingdom Coming (New York: W.W. Norton, 2007) of a gathering theocratic storm. Kevin Phillips warns of American Theocracy (New York: Viking, 2006) – a book Dawkins cites. Chris Hedges paints a particularly dark picture in American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006). Sam Harris points to an article by sociologist Gregory Paul that suggests Christianity in America correlates to a higher rate of murder, unwed pregnancy, and, yes, abortion.


But while the United States no doubt has its share of fanatics and odious preachers, the general truth is radically different. Look closely at the facts, and it becomes clear that the critics not only are wrong, but generally don't even know what they're talking about. I will argue not only that Christianity has done America good in the past, but that serious followers of Jesus, far from being a threat to democracy or their neighbors, act as what Jesus called the “salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), preserving the best qualities of American society. (173-174)

David Marshall begins by complaining about a footnote in Dawkins' The God Delusion! He says,

Richard Dawkins's case against Christianity in America is essentially anecdotal, while Sam Harris makes use of more systematic data. […] Dawkins offers two stories:

In 2005, the fine city of New Orleans was catastrophically flooded in the aftermath of a hurricane, Katrina. The Reverend Pat Robertson, one of America's best-known televangelists and a former presidential candidate, was reported as blaming the hurricane on a lesbian comedian who happened to live in New Orleans. You'd think an omnipotent God would adopt a slightly more targeted approach to zapping sinners...

In a footnote Dawkins admits he's not sure if the story, which he found on the Web, is true. But “whether true or not,” it's relevant because “it is entirely typical of utterances by evangelical clergy...on disasters such as Katrina.”

One is numbed at first by the fatuity of the reasoning. Then, like drops of dew gathering around flakes of dust in the stratosphere, unease precipitates fast and furiously into questions.

First, how many readers trouble to read footnotes? Given that some don't, wouldn't it be better to admit uncertainty about something so basic as the accuracy of a damning quote in the body of the text?

Second, if the quote is so typical (and Robertson does say some very foolish things), why not offer one known to be accurate? It turns out this one was invented by the spoof Web site Dateline Hollywood, which explains on the site's “About” page:

Dateline Hollywood was founded in 360 B.C. As “Gladiators Weekly” to cover the booming entertainment industry in the coliseums of ancient Rome. Its pioneering analysis of the statistics of lion mauls and emperor thumbs up/down made it the original publication to take the business of entertainment seriously.

Third, isn't it a bit undignified for a respected Oxford professor to mine Internet “gotcha” quotes that he isn't sure are accurate to attack the faith that created his civilization? (And even his university?)


Dawkins then quotes Robertson (citing a BBC Web page this time) saying that God won't protect the people of Dover, Pennsylvania, because they voted proponents of Intelligent Design out of office. Dawkins concludes, “Pat Robertson would be harmless comedy, were he less typical of those who today hold power and influence in the United States.”

It is surprising how much of Dawkins' case against American Christianity is of this nature.


Of course, Dawkins's sloppiness doesn't prove his concerns about “Christian terrorism” and the “American Taliban” are entirely imaginary. But they show why we need to be wary of political pig-piles and generalizations from a distance based on a few suspect sources. (174-176)

Marshall has distorted this situation a bit here. First of all, the point is that Dawkins was being up front and honest with his sources of information. This is the footnote from The God Delusion and should help clear things up.

It is unclear whether the story, which originated at is true. Whether true or not, it is widely believed, no doubt, because it is entirely typical of utterances by evangelical clergy, including Robertson, on disasters such as Katrina. See, for example, The website that says the Katrina story is untrue ( also quotes Robertson as saying, of an earlier Gay Pride march in Orlando, Florida, 'I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you.' [1]

Second, Dawkins did offer an accurate quote in his footnote, which Marshall seems to ignore. Regarding the Dateline Hollywood article, perhaps Marshall should show some charity because Dawkins likely wasn't aware the website was a spoof. Many of these kinds of sites can sometimes be difficult to discern from legit news sources unless you really look around the website. But Dawkins did try to check his facts because he cites the Snopes article as saying the quote by Robertson was false. Even the article admits that the satirical Hollywood Dateline article seemed very genuine and fooled many people. The article also mentioned how Robertson has said similar things in the past, which helped lead to confusion regarding the fake article. The Snopes article said,

Good satire neatly straddles the divide between the believable and the incredible, and the Dateline Hollywood article quoted above achieved that balance so well that many readers mistook it for a straight news article. This acceptance was due in large part to U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson's history of making rather outrageous public statements on his 700 Club television program, including his recent call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. [2]

If Marshall could get past his biases against Dawkins maybe he could see the fact that Dawkins was up front with the information and was simply saying that he found two sources that contradicted each other and he was unsure of which one to trust. Instead of honesty all Marshall can see, it seems, is dishonesty and bad scholarship.

Marshall continues,

Dawkins spends three pages on Paul Hill, a Lutheran minister who was executed in Florida for killing an abortion doctor. […] And why does Dawkins spend so much time on Hill in a country where more than 200 million people see themselves as Christians? Are there no other ideological terrorists in America to worry over? There are. (177)

Marshall then mentions some other terrorists: “Jim Jones, a New Age Marxist;” The Unabomber, who Marshall claims “was a 'bright' if ever there was one.” He also mentions Timothy McVeigh and Buford Furrow, a member of the group Christian Identity, who Marshall claims is “hard to recognize as orthodox Christian.” (177)

Marshall says,

In a predominately Christian country in grave threat of conquest by the “American Taliban,” Dawkins finds one Christian terrorist who killed two people. No reasonable Christian would blame our skeptical or Muslim neighbors for the hundreds or thousands who have died at the hands of fanatics who place themselves in those camps. That Dawkins focuses on such an exceptional case to represent the danger of Christianity in America involves no small act of stacking the deck and a de facto admission of how hard it is to find American Christians who are also terrorists. (177-178)

This “argument” makes me laugh. There have been entire books on the subject discussing many examples of these “Christian terrorists,” some of which Marshall mentions in the beginning of this chapter. Other examples include the following: Dr. Barnett Slepian (an abortion provider) was murdered at his home by an anti-abortion supporter, James Charles Kopp. On Friday, October 23, 1998, Slepian had returned from the synagogue and was preparing soup in his kitchen when he was shot in the shoulder through a window. He died a few hours later. Kopp fled, but was arrested in France and extradited back to the US. He was tried and convicted of second-degree murder in Buffalo, New York and is currently serving a 25 years to life term of imprisonment. [3] On January 29, 1998, Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a security guard at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, was killed when his workplace was bombed. Eric Robert Rudolph, who was also responsible for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing, was charged with the crime and received two life sentences. On December 30, 1994 John Salvi, who was an anti-abortion activist, murdered receptionists Lee Ann Nichols and Shannon Lowney in an attack. Salvi was later found dead in his prison cell with the official report stating that Salvi's death was a suicide. [4]

[A] small but radical [group called] Army of God, has targeted abortion clinics and been involved in kidnappings, bombings, and shooting deaths. According to many reports, they have even been linked to the 280 anthrax threats that hit abortion clinics in October following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The poisonous mentality of this group was demonstrated when Army of God supporters met on January 21, 2001, in Bowie, Maryland, for its fifth White Rose Banquet. “During the event, numerous speakers called for violence against abortion clinics, approved of murdering abortion providers, and made jokes about killing homosexuals,” reported Church & State. Chuck Spingola complained, “Now, these people [homosexuals] are vile folks...If you deal with these people long enough, you understand the wisdom of god when he says they should be put to death.” Reverend Michael Bray, who served a six- year sentence for his involvement in abortion clinic bombings, was also awarded the title of “chaplain” during the event. [5]

These several examples are just the tip of the iceberg and shows just how distorted Marshall's perception of reality is when it comes to the number of “Christian terrorists” who commit horrible acts in this country. If Dawkins would have interviewed and written about every single Christian individual or group who have acted violently his book would be many magnitudes larger, so he obviously just focused on a few individuals. This is not in any way an “admission of how hard it is to find American Christians who are also terrorists.” It's actually very easy.

Next Marshall discusses the claim about whether or not Christians “want a theocracy.” He writes,

All right – so Christians are not going to establish theocracy through violence, nor does Christianity engender violence. But isn't it true that a major Christian movement, called Reconstructionism, aims to establish the biblical analogue of sharia law in American? [sic]

“If secularists are not vigilant,” Dawkins warns, Christians will establish “a true American theocracy.” But what evidence is there that American Christians want such a thing?

I grew up in conservative American churches (including the Presbyterian Church in America, which [Chris] Hedges describes as a particularly dangerous “schismatic sect”). I don't even remember anyone telling to vote Republican. Since then, I've visited over 300 fellowships around the world, almost all evangelical, of many affiliations. I know these people better, I think, than Jewish journalists from the Bronx such as Goldberg, or New York Times writers from Harvard Divinity School, such as Hedges. (As for Dawkins, I'd be happy to give him a tour of churches in Oxford if he'll give me a tour of pubs!)

In four-and-a-half decades, I don't think I've ever heard a Christian pastor advocate theocracy. Nor have I heard any tell us to assault unbelievers. I have heard pastors talk about loving our enemies. […]

What do Christians think about faith and politics? (179-180)

After you get Marshall's very subjective (and likely biased) opinions about what a certain number of Christians believe, he follows up with some actual studies, though they are very limited, and are studies he did himself with a very small group of people. He writes,

I surveyed two groups of conservative Christians. The first was at Westside Presbyterian Church, which belongs to the evangelical wing of the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country. […] The second was at Cedar Park Assembly, one of the most politically active and conservative large congregations in the Northwest. Almost everyone who responded to my survey was conservative politically and had been a Christian for more than three decades.

Given all that has been written about the “American Taliban,” how do you expect such members of the “indoctrinated elite” to respond to the statement, “America does not need a Constitution. The Bible provides the best specific rules for a legal system in a Christian country?” Of the 58 people who answered my survey, not one agreed. Over 90 percent thought, on the contrary, that the Constitution should be interpreted more strictly.

How should the Bible apply to public policy? I asked, “How does the Old Testament legal system apply today?” Most agreed with the statement, “The Old Testament legal system was for a particular period in history, and should not be applied wholesale to modern America.” Some were dissatisfied with the choices I offered and wrote in alternatives such as, “The Old Testament law was fulfilled in Christ, and its principles, though not necessarily its specific, historically limited consequences, are still very applicable.”

True, a large minority at Cedar Park (42 percent) agreed that “the government should favor Christian belief.” (Only two at the Presbyterian church thought so.) But that would be the status quo in England. Cedar Park is at the forefront of opposing same-sex marriage in Washington state. Yet, only 20 percent of these highly committed believers agreed that homosexual acts should be prosecuted. (Far fewer of the evangelical Presbyterians did.) Although Dawkins interviewed an American Christian who thought adulterers should be executed, no one in my survey even agreed that “witches should be put to death, as in the Old Testament.”

The claim that American democracy hangs by a thread – and is kept together by secular termites holding hands – appears greatly exaggerated. Out of 42 statements on the survey, the most popular was the claim that “America was founded on Christian principles.” While this can mean many things, it certainly doesn't mean American Christians think democratic and Constitutional government is a bad thing! (180-181)

First of all, Christianity can and does inspire violence as I've shown above and there is more evidence of this as well. [6]

Second, this survey by Marshall appears to only have had a mere 58 respondents! It is absurd for Marshall to think he has debunked the claim of the “American Taliban” by getting only 58 opinions!

I would agree that Dawkins is wrong in that this Christian extremism isn't “mainstream,” however, I do believe that Marshall has swung entirely too far in the opposing direction since he argues there isn't that much of a threat from Christians.

There is a minority of, more often than not, very politically active Christians who seek to break this “wall” between church and state and they often use political maneuvering in order to do so. Many Christian groups have attempted to pack the courts with sympathetic judges who will fight for their cause. Michelle Goldberg explains,

The entire Christian nationalist agenda ultimately hinges on conquering the courts. A remade judiciary could let state governments criminalize abortion and gay sex. It could sanction the reinstitution of school prayer and the teaching of creationism and permit the ever greater Christianization of the country's social services. It could intervene on the right's behalf in situations like the Schiavo case. It could intrude into the most intimate corners of Americans' private lives.

To take just one example, if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it could undermine the ruling Roe was based on, Griswold v. Connecticut. That 1965 decision, which struck down bans on birth control for married women (extended to unmarried women in 1972's Eisenstadt v. Baird), was the first to infer a right to privacy from the constitution. If the court ruled that no constitutional right to privacy exists, states would again have the latitude to make contraception illegal.

Without Griswold, some states might ban birth control pills, which many evangelicals consider abortifacients, since they can interfere with the implementation of a fertilized egg. That prospect would have been far-fetched just a few years ago, but recently contraception has been under attack nationwide. A rash of Christian pharmacists have refused to fill prescriptions for both the morning-after pill and for ordinary oral contraceptives - 180 such incidents were reported in one six- month period in 2004.


Some Christian nationalists seem to hope that the end of Griswold would open the door to the criminalization of all kinds of biblically incorrect sex. In 2003, Rick Santorum told the Associated Press,

[I]f the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold....You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong, healthy families.

Note what Santorum was objecting to. Not just abortion, or polygamy, or even adultery, but to the right to consensual sex within your home. If people do not have that right, then the potential for Christian nationalist intrusion into people's personal lives would be limitless. [7]

It must be stressed that Rick Santorum is not some obscure Christian hillbilly somewhere. He is, at the time of this writing, a lawyer and a former united states senator. However, when he made those comments he was a senator. A man who decides the laws that all americans will follow. And this man held these kinds of immoral and anti-freedom views?!

Even the Discovery Institute, the “think” tank I exposed in an earlier chapter, has ties to the Christian nationalist movement. Michelle Goldberg writes,

[W]hile [The Center for Science and Culture] calls itself a secular organization, the impetus behind intelligent design is unmistakably religious – something its own fellows freely admit to sympathetic Christian audiences. The Center for Science and Culture operates out of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that's funded in part by savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson, a leading patron of Christian nationalism. Ahmanson spent twenty years on the board of R.J. Rushdoony's Chalcedon Foundation, which advocates the replacement of American civil law with biblical law.


The Center for Science and Culture also aims, in a far more elliptical way, to put God at the center of civic life. Originally called the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, CSC speaks in two languages – one for the general public, and one for the faithful. Talking to the latter, it's been candid about its true, grandiose goal of undermining the secular legacy of the Enlightenment and rebuilding society on religious foundations. As it said in a 1999 fund-raising proposal that was later leaked online, “Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies.”

The proposal, titled “The Wedge Strategy,” began:

The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built....Yet a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art. [8]

It should be clear that this minority group of Christians is very powerful, very well-funded, and is very influential in politics. Many groups attempt to get bills passed that would break down the “wall” between church and state, the first stage of the religious right's attempts to force religious law on all citizens. [9]

Here are also a few more quotes by some highly influential individuals who wish to see the separation of church and state crumble and who wish to institute religious law:

"The republican party of Texas affirms that the united states of America is a Christian nation, and the public acknowledgment of god is undeniable in our history. Our nation was founded on fundamental Judeo-Christian principals based on the holy bible." - The 2004 Texas republican party. [10]

"Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ - to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.

But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.

World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the gospel. And we must never settle for anything less...Thus, christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land - of men families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the kingdom of Christ." - George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's coral ridge ministries. [11]

"When the founding fathers said 'One Nation under God,' they made the decision that they would submit to what God had put forward in his law." - David Gibbs, a graduate from Falwell's Liberty University. [12]

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do, to amend the Constitution so it's in God standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family." - the 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. (emphasis mine) [13]

The above quotes should worry anyone who values their freedom, particularly those of Mike Huckabee, who even tried to attain the highest possible position in government. It's the same thing Pat Robertson did in 1988 and as I type Rick Santorum (yes, that Rick Santorum who is quoted above) is running for president in the 2012 elections. [14]

There is a clear pattern of these right-wing religious extremists attempting to gain high offices within the government and gain more power. How Marshall can discount these facts is beyond me, but the above facts should be more than enough to convince any rational individual of the danger that these individuals pose to everyone who isn't a Christian in america (liberal Christians included).

The final section of this chapter that I will discuss is David Marshall's false accusations against Richard Dawkins and his claims of “child abuse.” Marshall begins this chapter with the following,

Dawkins tells how a boy in Ohio won, in court, the right to wear a T-shirt that says, “Homosexuality is a sin, Islam is a lie, abortion is murder. Some issues are just black and white!” Dawkins comments that the parents “couldn't” have defended their son's right to wear such a shirt, “because free speech is deemed not to include 'hate speech.'”

Apparently the judge in the case disagreed.

Such a T-shirt may not violate either school rules or the Constitution, but does, I think, violate the teachings of the apostle Paul, who said Christians should speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). But is this really “hate speech”? The shirt calls certain behaviors (abortion and homosexuality) wrong, and a certain belief (Islam) false. Why define the expression of such views has “hatred”? If the Constitution doesn't let us say something is wrong or false, what good is it?

On the very next page, Dawkins accuses a group of Muslims of a “tendentious lie.” Indeed that's about the kindest comment he gives on theistic religions (recall Dawkins's 23-adjective assault on Yahweh: “misogenist [sic], homophobic, racist, infantcidal, genocidal...”). So why is a 12-year-old American boy guilty of a “hate crime” for a frankness that earns a British professor fame and fortune? (184)

This complaint about Dawkins is just ridiculous. Dawkins' point was that the boy's parents couldn't sue the school on grounds of freedom of speech, so they had to take another route by arguing that it was against the boys “freedom of religion.” And as Dawkins rightly pointed out,

Once again, if such people took their stand on the right to free speech, one might reluctantly sympathize. But that isn't what it is about. The legal case in favour of discrimination against homosexuals is being mounted as a counter-suit against alleged religious discrimination! And the law respects this. You can't get away with saying, 'If you try to stop me from insulting homosexuals it violates my freedom of prejudice.' But you can get away with saying, 'It violates my freedom of religion.' What, when you think about, is the difference? Yet again, religion trumps all. [15]

Then in the next breath Marshall actually accuses Dawkins of hypocrisy! Dawkins related the story about how the Islamic world declared a jihad on a Danish newspaper. Dawkins writes,

I'll end this chapter with a particular case study, which tellingly illuminates society's exaggerated respect for religion, over and above ordinary human respect. The case flared up in February 2006 – a ludicrous episode, which veered wildly between the extremes of comedy and tragedy. The previous September, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. Over the next three months, indignation was carefully and systematically nurtured throughout the Islamic world by a small group of Muslims living in Denmark, led by two imams who had been granted sanctuary there. In late 2005 these malevolent exiles travelled from Denmark to Egypt bearing a dossier, which was copied and circulated from there to the whole Islamic world, including, importantly, Indonesia. The dossier contained falsehoods about alleged maltreatment of Muslims in Denmark, and the tendentious lie that Jyllands-Posten was a government-run newspaper. It also contained the twelve cartoons which, crucially, the imams had supplemented with three additional images whose origin was mysterious but which certainly had no connection with Denmark. Unlike the original twelve, these three add-ons were genuinely offensive – or would have been if they had, as the zealous propagandists alleged, depicted Muhammad. A particularly damaging one of these three was not a cartoon at all but a faxed photograph of a bearded man wearing a fake pig's snout held on with elastic. It has subsequently turned out that this was an Associated Press photograph of a Frenchman entered for a pig-squealing contest at a country fair in France. The photographs had no connection whatsoever with the prophet Muhammad, no connection with Islam, and no connection with Denmark. But the Muslim activists, on their mischief-stirring hike to Cairo, implied all three connections...with predictable results. […]

Demonstrators in Pakistan and Indonesia burned Danish flags (where did they get them from?) and hysterical demands were made for the Danish government to apologize. […] A bounty of $1 million was placed on the head of 'the Danish cartoonist' by a Pakistani imam – who was apparently unaware that there were twelve different Danish cartoonists, and almost certainly were unaware that the three most offensive pictures had never appeared in Denmark at all (and, by the way, where was that million going to come from?). [16]

Once you place everything Dawkins said in context it becomes readily apparent how foolish Marshall's complaint was. There was no hypocrisy here. Dawkins was entirely correct to call what these Muslims did a “tendentious lie.” They incited a riot based upon fake images that had no connection with the cartoonists or Denmark! The boy's t-shirt depicted views that are certainly bigoted and I find it very disturbing that Marshall wishes to argue that the t-shirt doesn't depict hate speech. It most certainly does. It condemns an entire group of people (homosexuals) based upon nothing more than how they've decided to live their lives (or how they were born)! I am appalled by Marshall's comments.

Marshall continues with his absurd complaints about Dawkins. He writes,

Similar hypocrisy is more ominously on display later in the book. Dawkins represents James Dobson (“founder of today's infamous 'Focus on the Family' movement”) as the “sinister” modern-day equivalent of the Jesuit who said, “Give me the child for his first seven years, and I'll give you the man.” Driving through Colorado, Dawkins spots a bumper sticker that reads, “Focus on your own damn family,” laughing in agreement. But mulling it over, he ponders, “Maybe some children need to be protected from indoctrination by their own parents (see chapter 9).”

Having read some of Dobson's books and listened to him on the radio over the years, I doubt he has ever advocated taking children away from their (nonabusive) parents. On the contrary, his listeners (among whom Dawkins is obviously not one) often hear him encourage parents to be intimately involved in the lives of their children. Dobson is precisely about focusing on our own families.

By contrast, in the final sentence of the line quoted, Dawkins admits his own intention to “focus on,” or intrude in, other peoples' families. He develops this idea (as promised) in chapter 9. In that chapter, he begins with the story of a Jewish child in Italy who was taken from his parents by the Catholic Church to be raised as a Christian. After telling us he “dislikes unfairness even more” than religion, Dawkins says that being brought up Catholic is “undoubtedly” worse than child abuse! Relating a few horror stories to justify the absurdity, he quotes, with (lightly qualified) approval, the following comments by psychologist Nicholas Humphreys [sic]:

Children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense, and we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible...than we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.

What happened to “focus on your own family”?

Dawkins began the chapter by horrifying us with the case of a child being taken from a family that taught him the wrong religion. Before many pages have passed, he wants us to feel horror for exactly the opposite reason: parents are allowed to teach kids any religion. The Catholics were narrow for saying only one religion was true. Dawkins is more broad-minded: he thinks children have a right to be indoctrinated into thinking they're all evil, no matter what their parents say.


But, you might remind me, the case of the Jewish child is true, while Dawkins has not kidnapped any religious children. (Nor do I expect him to – he lets his mouth and the zeal of his young friend Harris run away with him at times...or perhaps it is the other way around.) But the question is more than theoretical. Religious children in Communist countries were often taken away from their parents for precisely the reasons Dawkins gives. […] Pardon me if I find Dawkins's thinking on this subject a bit ominous.

Harvard psychologist Robert Coles, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Children of Crisis (the product of decades of research), doesn't share Dawkins's (or the Soviet state's) gloomy view of the role of faith in the upbringing of children. […] Coles tells down-to-earth stories of how Christian faith helps children he has come to know personally. He summarizes, “In 20 years of work among poor people here and abroad, I have found Christ's life a constant source of inspiration to this century's poor.”

Nor is all the inspiration just emotional. As DiIulio suggested, there is solid empirical evidence that religious faith not only makes people feel better, but also makes them act a whole lot better, on average. (184-186)

There is much to say about this section, but I will restrict myself to a few comments. First, Dawkins did not 'approvingly' quote Nicholas Humphrey. Immediately after the quote cited Dawkins follows up with the following,

Of course, such a strong statement needs, and received, much qualification. Isn't it a matter of opinion what is nonsense? Hasn't the applecart of orthodox science been upset often enough to chasten us into caution? Scientists may think it is nonsense to teach astrology and the literal truth of the Bible, but there are others who think the opposite, and aren't they entitled to teach it to their children? Isn't it just as arrogant to insist that children should be taught science?

I thank my own parents for taking the view that children should be taught not so much what to think as how to think. If, having been fairly and properly exposed to all the scientific evidence, they grow up and decide that the Bible is literally true or that the movements of the planets rule their lives, that is their privilege. The important point is that it is their privilege to decide what they shall think, and not their parents' privilege to impose it by force majeure.


Humphrey's point - and mine - is that, regardless of whether [the Inca girl who had been sacrificed] was a willing victim or not, there is strong reason to suppose that she would not have been willing if she had been in full possession of the facts. For example, suppose she had known that the sun is really a ball of hydrogen, hotter than a million degrees Kelvin, converting itself into helium by nuclear fusion, and that it originally formed from a disk of gas out of which the rest of the solar system, including Earth, also condensed...Presumably, then, she would not have worshiped it as a god, and this would have altered her perspective on being sacrificed to propitiate it. (emphasis in original) [17]

Second, it seems I have ended up killing two birds with one stone. Not only does Dawkins not necessarily “approve” of Humphrey's statement and Dawkins clearly explained his views about religion and children. He doesn't want to stop parents from teaching their kids religion, he only asks that they expose them to all points of view so they are free to make up their own minds. I've said more about this elsewhere. [18]

The final point in this chapter I will argue is how Marshall has misread Dawkins when he said being raised Catholic is “worse” than child abuse. Marshall's counter-argument, saying how religion is good for kids, is based upon a strawman. This was an “off the cuff remark” that Dawkins blurted out during a lecture and simply used this personal story as a segue to his actual point, which was the psychological harm of scaring young children with threats of hell and punishment. It's not that raising children in a religious environment in and of itself can be equated with the harm of sexual abuse. Dawkins writes, in context,

Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place. It was an off-the-cuff remark made in the heat of the moment, and I was surprised that it earned a round of enthusiastic applause from that Irish audience. […] But I was reminded of the incident later when I received a letter from an American woman in her forties who had been brought up Roman Catholic. At the age of seven, she told me, two unpleasant things had happened to her. She was sexually abused by her parish priest in his car. And, around the same time, a little schoolfriend of hers, who had tragically died, went to hell because she was a Protestant. Or so my correspondent had been led to believe by the then official doctrine of her parents' church. Her view as a mature adult was that, of these two examples of Roman Catholic child abuse, the one physical and the other mental, the second was by far the worst. (emphasis mine) [19]

As I've demonstrated in this chapter, David Marshall has badly misread Richard Dawkins on several issues. Even going so far as to put words in his mouth. That's what I'd call blatant dishonesty and it is appalling someone would publish such slander against another. He also horribly discounts the threat from powerful and influential members of the religious right, the so called American Taliban.

Chapter 11: Can Atheism Make the World Better?

In this chapter Marshall's goal is to convince the reader that secularism and atheism have been responsible for certain individuals' crimes; that the lack of morality evident in these secular philosophies can drive people to do bad things, and that atheism as a whole is bad for a society. Marshall writes,

But Stalin wasn't the only atheist of modern times. Nor did he emerge from a vacuum. What have atheism and Darwinian ethics done for the human race in general? Are there signs that, once freed from the “delusions” our ancestors suffered under, the human race will breath a big sigh of relief and finally make progress? Or does the “death of God” mean, as Dostoevsky warned, that “everything [including Gulags] is lawful”? (190)

The only “secular” terrorist Marshall mentions is Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. Marshall writes,

Ted Kaczynski was among the brightest of the brights: a Harvard grad who earned a Ph.D. Degree with a dissertation at Michigan State that won a prize for the best in math. He taught at the University of California Berkeley, then retied to the woods of Montana, from where he mailed incendiary devices to people working in technology. Over the years, his homemade explosives killed three people and maimed 23. (190-191)

Marshall continues to talk about what he believes influenced Kaczynski,

In Harvard and the Unabomber, Alston Chase, who took some of the same courses as Kaczynski, noted, “The Gen Ed courses in social science quickly introduced us to the relativity of morals and the irrationality of religion.” Readings included Marx, cultural relativist Margaret Mead, existentialist Jean-Paul Saetre, positivist A.J. Ayer, Sigmund Freud's antireligious (and naïve) venture into anthropology, The Future of an Illusion, and “countless other writers who had absorbed the messages of these doctrines.” The future Unabomber took German, where Nietzsche, who announced the “death of God” as clearly as anyone, was on the menu. […] Kaczynski wrote in what became known as The Unabomber Manifesto, “There is no morality or objective set of values.” (191)

There are a few problems with this claim. First, after getting a copy of Harvard and the Unabomber, Chase did not cite the Manifesto, but an essay Kaczynski had written for the psychology professor at the time, Henry Murray. This further shows Marshall's lack of scholarly talent. Second, these philosophers who Chase claims Kaczynski studied did not propose a world lacking in morality so it seems to me that Chase's thesis is unconvincing. Most of those philosophers were humanitarian in their views, and did not believe there was no morality, so it is hard to see how this bleak view could be learned from these individuals. Some of these individuals were also scientists and yet Kaczynski felt that science was partially responsible for the decline he believed he saw in society. Chase also cites the forensic psychiatrist Sally C. Johnson who said that Kaczynski was very angry at his family and that society is bad and he should rebel against it, and that these two beliefs “intertwined” while at Harvard. [1] Again, correlation does not prove causation and Chase fails to cite any concrete evidence that those courses prompted him to do anything. Third, and the most damaging to his case, is the fact that the 1953 general education syllabus Chase describes did not have the same reading list as the one Kaczynski had several years later. According to Todd Gitlin,

As for the Humanities 5 Gen Ed course ("Ideas of Man and the World in Western Thought") that Kaczynski took (I took it a year later), we read Aeschylus, Plato and Aristotle, the Gospels and St. Augustine, Descartes and Shakespeare, Kant and Hume, Dostoyevsky and Camus. (Chase does not trouble to investigate Kaczynski's 1958-59 reading list; he is stuck on his own 1953 version, which included Freud, Marx, Sartre and Camus. Of these, the only one to survive into the 1959-60 syllabus was Camus.) Scraping the bottom of a barrel of insults, Chase considers such a course "elitist." (What is Harvard supposed to be, populist?) He clucks at Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus because Camus observed that "the absurd is the essential concept and the first truth." But he overlooks Camus's refusal to succumb to the absurd; he extracted moral beauty from the effort, however doomed, to overcome it. [2]

Even if we ignore these damaging facts against Chase's case Marshall has not explained why, if this education is so damaging, more people do not act as Kaczynski did. Can Marshall only find a single secular terrorist?! If so, that would make Marshall a tremendous hypocrite since earlier he chastised Dawkins for supposedly only being able to find one “Christian terrorist.” However, religion has been linked to hundreds, if not thousands, of acts of violence throughout history. There is simply no comparison.

After making the previous argument about Kaczynski he moves on to Hitler and argues that social Darwinism was an enormous influence in his thinking, citing Richard Weikart's From Darwin to Hitler. Marshall writes,

What caused the Holocaust? Simple. Having rejected Christian morality, some of Darwin's followers derived their ethics from evolution with a positive sign.

Richard Weikart tells the story in From Darwin to Hitler.

Ernst Haeckel, the leading popularizer of evolution in Germany, argued that evolution held five implications for ethics: (1) Evolution proves mind is a part of body; (2) it implies determinism, since the soul can be explained by the laws of nature (as Dennett tries to do); (3) it implies moral relativism, since standards change over time (we “move on,” as Dawkins put it); (4) moral character must be at least partly hereditary; and (5) natural selection must somehow produce morality.


Hitler was not, then, a bolt out of the blue. In a society that had been seduced by Arthur Schopenhauer's “will” and Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche's “will to power” and contempt for Christian kindness, many Germans still went to church, but the fashionable ideas that moved society derived from evolution and the death of God. (194, 195)

First of all, this is a common argument that Hitler was influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche. If he was he distorted Nietzsche's views, no thanks in part to his sister who didn't seem to understand her brother's ideas and who did a great disservice to him by publishing various books that were a patchwork of Nietzsche's notes. Second, this caused several issues. It created many misunderstandings of Nietzsche's actual beliefs, which made his philosophy seem scattered and contradictory, and imparted views to him that he did not hold. [3] Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite and even advocated the mixing of races. He once wrote,

The Poles I considered the most gifted and gallant among the Slavic people; and the giftedness of the Slavs seemed greater to me than that of the Germans - yes, I thought that the Germans had entered the line of gifted nations only through a strong mixture with Slavic blood (XI, 300) [4]

This view can be found throughout “almost all” of Nietzsche's writings: “[T]he belief in the heredity of acquired characteristics and the conviction that race mixture might favor the attainment of culture – both in nations and in individuals.” [5] Clearly, this view is nowhere near those held by the Nazis.

Another common error regarding Nietzsche was his idea of the “will to power,” which Marshall seems to believe attributed to the Nazi atrocities. It is hard to see how this “will to power” influenced the Nazis (unless they just didn't understand it) because it was nothing more than a concept he developed to describe the psychology behind mens' actions. Nietzsche saw the “will to power” from two different perspectives,

First, he thought of it as a craving for worldly success, which he repudiated as harmful to man's interest in perfecting himself. Secondly, he thought of the will to power as a psychological drive in terms of which many diverse phenomena could be explained; e.g., gratitude, pity, and self-abasement. The phrase “will to power” is not yet used, except in one note, and Nietzsche far from approves of this urge. While one cannot, on the basis of the evidence so far considered, make any sweeping statements about Nietzsche's philosophy, it seems worth insisting that, at least at first, Nietzsche used the will to power as a principle to explain behavior – as a psychological hypothesis. More often than not, he used it to explain behavior he happened to dislike. (emphasis mine) [6]

It should be clear how badly Nietzsche's views have been distorted and it's unfortunate that Marshall aids in this distortion, and perpetuating long-debunked myths about how Nietzsche's philosophy supposedly influenced the Nazis.

Regarding the influence of evolution on Nazi thought, this is another claim that cannot be substantiated with any concrete facts. To quote Hector Avalos,

Contrary to Dr. Weikart’s claims, none of the seven major aspects of Nazism he has identified can be attributed to Darwinism as he has initially defined it: “the theory of evolution through natural selection as advanced by Darwin in The Origin of Species.”

Some Nazi policies may, indeed, have received Darwinian interpretations, but Dr. Weikart attributes to Darwin what clearly has a longer Christian history (e.g., Jews are condemned to inequality in Christian societies) or generalized history (e.g., territorial ambitions have been part of history for millennia). Such features have nothing or little to do with anything Darwin advocated in The Origin of Species, or in any of his other well-known works.

Dr. Weikart’s dichotomy between Darwinian materialism and spirit-centered Judeo-Christian ethics certainly cannot withstand scrutiny. There was no such thing as “the sanctity of life” in Judeo-Christian societies, if that means all lives were regarded as equally deserving of the same privilege to life. For example, the “sanctity of life” for homosexuals was no more guaranteed in some parts of the Bible than it was in Nazi policy.

The valuation of the immaterial part of persons may itself have contributed to the devaluation of human bodies in Christians societies, something evident in the practice and glorification of martyrdom.

Numerous exceptions, qualifications, and theological rationales could allow abortion or the killing of what we would now recognize as disabled persons in Christian societies.

Jews, in particular, were seen as unequal to Christians, and Jews were routinely killed or exiled for not being Christian. So how does the inequality of Jews in Nazi Germany differ from the inequality that Jews had experienced for at least 2000 years in Christian societies?

The survival-of-the-fittest idea was not only not uniquely Darwinian, but it was a routine part of American socio-religious and government policy toward indigenous populations. Many Nazis specifically referred to American practices, rather than to Darwin per se, to draw their inspiration.

To explain Nazi Germany one needs to focus on the sort of moral authority that would have motivated average Germans who carried out these policies. Clearly, the Bible and Christian history would have more authority than Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which Weikart makes the centerpiece of his formal definition of Darwinism. [7]

Finally, Marshall gets to his discussion of Stalin, Communism, and atheism, a claim I've dealt with on numerous occasions. Marshall writes,

The New Atheists understandably want to think atheism had nothing to do with all this [the destruction of “China's spiritual treasures” by Chairman Mao]. “There is no evidence that his atheism motivated his brutality,” Dawkins says confidently of Stalin:

Individual atheists may do evil things but they don't do evil things in the name of religion. Stalin and Hitler did extremely evil things, in the name of, respectively, dogmatic and doctrinaire Marxism, and an insane and unscientific eugenics theory tinged with sub-Wagnerian ranting.

With due respect to Dr. Dawkins, but more to the living and the dead, he should find another debating point.

First, why is it “insane,” from an evolutionary point of view, to kill people outside your genetic or community line? Male tigers do it all the time, and Dawkins tells us Jesus wanted us to do it, too. He's confused about that, but he knows it follows from his own premises.

Second, has Dawkins never heard of the term “dialectical materialism”?

Stalin didn't kill alone. Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, both Kims, Ho, Castro, Ceausescu, and Honecker were also atheists. In one-third of the world, Communist parties announced the death of God on billboards, chalkboards, radio waves, and blank walls. Secret worship services in homes, forests, and caves were forcibly broken up, along with the faces of many who attended. Millions were Tortured for Christ, as the title of a book by Baptist ex-con philosopher Richard Wurmbrand succinctly put it. They had rats driven into their cells, were made to drink urine for communion, or were put into the “carcer” (a cupboard with sides studded by steel spikes) for writing the name Jesus on a cell wall. Children of religious parents were kidnapped by the state and taught atheism in truly “Darwinian” state orphanages. None of that counts against the atheist record, according to Dawkins, because in some undefined sense these crimes were not “for the sake of atheism.” (197-198)

Marshall then brings David Aikman into the discussion, arguing,

David Aikman, former Beijing correspondent for Time magazine, wrote his doctoral dissertation on atheism in the Marxist tradition. Aikman examined the spiritual lives of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin, the founders of communism. He showed that the “systematic assault upon religious belief in Communist countries” had deep roots in the anti-God culture in which these men developed their ideas.

Marx was the prototype of all young men who go away to college and lose their faith under the influence of godless professors. The young Marx was sunny and pious. In college, he read Shelley and the romantics. Then he transferred to the University of Berlin and lost his faith in God. He was particularly enchanted by two popular romantic stories. The first was the tale of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods for the benefit of man and was punished for his impiety. (In his doctoral thesis, he quoted Prometheus: “In a word, I detest all gods.”) The other was the story of Faust, who sold his soul to the devil. References to these deeply anti-Christian myths are scattered throughout Marx's writings, but are most vividly reflected in his early poems. The motifs that occupied Marx, Aikman relates, were “doom, revenge, damnation, reaching for heaven, vying with God.” (198-199)

Earlier Marshall said “[n]one of that counts against the atheist record […] because in some undefined sense these crimes were not 'for the sake of atheism,'” but if anyone isn't properly defining their terms, it's Marshall and especially Aikman, whose work I've refuted in the past. (emphasis mine) [8]

In his dissertation, The Role of Atheism in the Marxist Tradition (1979), Aikman argues that anti-religious views or hostility towards god and/or religion is synonymous with atheism, which is why Marshall put so much emphasis upon the “anti-God” culture of the Enlightenment. For example, in his dissertation, Aikman writes,

This, indeed, is the case. The hostility towards religion in the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and many other Marxist writers, is a well-known characteristic of Marxist philosophy. Some scholars even when approaching the issue from a variety of perspectives, have concluded that anti-religion is the dominant characteristic of Marxism. H.B. Acton, for example, a distinguished professional philosopher, has put it this way:

“Marxism is an anti-religious philosophy first formulated by Marx and Engels, who did not, however, attempt such a closely reasoned account of their view as a whole as Plato and Epicurus or Spinoza did of theirs." (emphasis in original) [9]

Another example,

The anti-religious and anti-Christian expressions of Marx's thought, in their overt and explicit forms, are scattered throughout many of his writings of the post-1848 years, both in his correspondence and in his major works like Capital. They indicate that his atheism, though it ceased to be the specific topic of his writings, is a constant in his world view. [10]

And once more, Aikman says of Marx's poems written months before he converted to Hegelianism,

It is the thoughts they express, especially towards their own spiritual fates [the characters in Marx's play], that make Oulanem such a rich source for the understanding of Marx's own emergent rebelliousness towards God. (emphasis mine) [11]

Even in his 2008 book, The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, Aikman argues that,

[…] the twentieth-century ideologies that produced the greatest totalitarian evils, communism and Nazism, both grew out of a sustained philosophical rebellion against religious faith - in essence, atheism. That philosophical rebellion was birthed in the eighteenth-century French Enlightenment and first gained expression in political life during the 1789-1799 French Revolution; it attained its apotheosis in the Bolshevik regime that came to rule Russia after October 1917. (emphasis mine) [12]

It should be more than clear the problems with this argument. First, atheism is defined as the lack of belief in gods: a “without” or “not” and theos “god.” [13] Where does opposition to god/Christianity come into the picture? Atheism is nothing but a negative and contains no positive assertions, such as “I hate religion,” or anything else. Second, even without making use of this philosophical and logical blunder, Marshall and Aikman completely ignore evidence as to what caused the Communists to act as they did: their Marxist ideology.

Before I get to this, however, I want to address Marshall's misunderstanding of what dialectical materialism is. He seems to believe this somehow links atheism to Marxism but it's obvious Marshall doesn't understand what this term means. Dialectical materialism is simply a belief that:

1. Nothing but the material world exists, which doesn't even imply atheism anyway since atheism is only the absence of god belief, not the immaterial world. If it were true that atheism was synonymous with materialism we wouldn't see any atheistic religions, such as animsim, that also contain beliefs about an immaterial realm. This early religion doesn't contain beliefs in gods (theism) but does contain a belief in an immaterial dimension. Some atheists even believe in the supernatural, disproving the notion that atheism and materialism are one and the same. They are separate issues.


2. Historical change takes place based upon the tension between thesis and antithesis, which results in an advanced synthesis. This belief about history doesn't even need to be materialistic, but for Marx it was. In other words, materialism doesn't even logically follow from this dialectical philosophy.

Regarding the evidence that it was the Communists' ideology and not atheism all one has to do is look at history, and not the distortion of history as it's presented by these Christian apologists in Marshall and Aikman. When you look at the quotes of the Communists themselves you can easily see this influence. Here is Lenin speaking about the “combating of religion,”

The combating of religion cannot be confined to abstract ideological preaching...It must be linked up with the concrete practice of the class movement, which aims at eliminating the social roots of religion...It means that Social Democracy's atheist propaganda must be subordinated to its basic task - the development of the class struggle of the exploited masses against the exploiters. (emphasis in original) [14]

Here is another quote of Lenin's from a pamphlet titled Socialism and Religion from 1905,

Economic slavery is the true source of the religious humbugging of man...The proletariat of today takes the side of socialism, which enlists science in the battle against the fog of religion and frees the workers from their belief in life after death by welding them together to fight in the present for a better life on Earth. (emphasis mine)

Here is one more,

Religion is by no means the result of exceptional ignorance and darkness, just as it is not a question of simple logic, the result of false thinking. It has its roots in the social life, in the conditions of existence; it grows upon the soil of definite social relations and is determined by the class position in society of the one or the other group. - Communist Party Conference on Antireligious Propaganda, Article IX, April 1926 [15]

Last one,

To the query, “Does modern civilization need religion?” the Communist answer is “yes,” so far as decaying capitalist civilization is concerned. There, under the pressure of crisis, in an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear, religion serves as an escape mechanism for the classes which history has already condemned. - Julius Hecker, 1933 [16]

It was believed that religious belief was a necessary aspect of pre-socialist life but was not needed after the society transformed into a socialist one. The Communists’ attempts to create such a socialist society resulted in Stalin’s “Great Terror” and other atrocities since the population did not want to work on collective farms, and the Communists’ attempts to do away with all things they believed would hinder or be unnecessary in a socialist society, which included religion.

One thing you must ask yourself as you read through the above quotes: Do any of these mention atheism as the cause of their dislike of religion? No. It was their Communist ideology which caused them to believe that religion was a hindrance to their socialist utopia and therefore it had to go.

Aikman and Marshall's argument fails not only on logical grounds, but also historical.

Next, Marshall argues that secularism has been a bad influence upon the sexual mores of society, making use of Alfred Kinsey and Margaret Sanger, who he argues influenced society for the worst, by destroying the restraints placed by religion on our “libido.” (203-204)

Marshall writes,

Alfred Kinsey, another believer who lost his faith under the tutelage of a godless professor, cast off the inhibitions of his pious youth under the intellectual influence of William Wheeler (a Harvard etymologist who, like Edmund Wilson, followed Solomon's advice to “study the ant”). Kinsey's studies of human sexuality were published in what are called the Kinsey Reports, best-selling scientific books that helped launch the sexual revolution. Kinsey was a dedicated researcher, filming his wife in bed with students, among other innovations. His research methods have been panned for poor sampling (too many prison inmates and pedophiles) and gross ethical lapses. His results – he claimed ten percent of males were homosexual – inflated margins at the expense of the center.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of what became Planned Parenthood, published a magazine called The Woman Rebel, whose slogan “No Gods! No Masters!” succinctly summarized her philosophy. She believed that “ethical dogmas of the past” blocked evolution and “the way to true civilization.” This would come through sex, by which “mankind may attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world.” The rebel woman had “the Right to destroy” and “the Right to be an Unmarried Mother.” If Kinsey was the father of sexology, Sanger can be seen as the mother of the single-parent household – though she spent her own spare time chasing lovers across oceans. (204)

First of all, I would consider Marshall's take on Kinsey to be a biased personal attack. Second, the criticism of Kinsey's sampling has been addressed by one of the fellow researchers, Paul Gebhard, who in the 1970's removed all “suspect data” (prison inmates and pedophiles for example) from the results of the percentage of homosexuality and surprisingly came out with figures that were very close to the original. The original percentage was 37%, while Gebhard's newly figured percentage was 36.4%. [17]

As for Margaret Sanger, I'd agree she didn't always advocate the best ideas, such as eugenics, but overall, her mission was freedom and equality for women, which continues with Planned Parenthood, which does its best to help pregnant women and promote safe sex practices.

For Marshall to focus on only the negative (and in the case of Kinsey getting his facts completely wrong) and attack the character of these two individuals is despicable, rather than argue how their views somehow harmed society.

If their views somehow harmed society wouldn't we find the most Christian nations with the lowest incidences of STDs because of the Christian virtue of sexual abstinence? No, we actually see the opposite. According to the 2010 Human Development Index the least religious countries have the lowest rates of HIV infection in the world, such as Norway and New Zealand. [18]

Regarding the issue of single parent families, which countries host the most number of households that contain both parents? How does the united states, one of the most Christian countries compare to some of the least religious countries? Once again, Marshall would rather spew his propaganda than look at the facts. In 2007 the percentage of both parents living together with their children in the united states was roughly 70%. In some of the least religious countries, such as Finland the percentage was roughly 95% and in the Netherlands the percentage was roughly 83%. [19]

To sum up his chapter Marshall says,

In conclusion, I see no evidence that the world will be better without God. We can try to persuade ourselves Communism was a fluke, that it was “lack of reason,” not faith, that sent a third of the world into a murderous tailspin. We do share “deep conscience.” But the logic of ideas – you only go around once, moral relativity, we're all material girls and boys, man as a “survival machine” for genes, survival of the fittest, the relativity of morality, [didn't he already say this?] the tendency to exalt government to the throne of God – can and do subvert what we know is right. (206)

As I've demonstrated, the “facts” Marshall presented were entirely wrong. The facts actually prove the opposite conclusion as I've shown. With more secularism and less religion comes more social progress. Sociologist Phil Zuckerman points out this fact,

If this often-touted religious theory were correct - that turning away from god is at the root of all societal ills - then we would expect to find the least religious nations on earth to be bastions of crime, poverty and disease and most religious countries to be models of societal health.

A comparison of highly irreligious countries with highly religious countries, however, reveals a very different state of affairs. In reality, the most secular countries - those with the highest proportion of atheists and agnostics - are among the most stable, peaceful, free, wealthy, and healthy societies. And the most religious nations - wherein worship of god is in abundance - are among the most unstable, violent, oppressive, poor and destitute. [20]

As we've seen throughout this review Marshall more often than not didn't seem to do his homework very well and his assertions have been continually shown to be contradicted by the facts. Atheism and evolution did not cause the Communist and Nazi atrocities and it's been shown that the less religious countries have the greatest societal health.


The twelfth chapter, Consilience, didn't contain anything there that I felt merited a response. Most of it was Marshall repeating things I've refuted above and talking about the “limits” of science and other nonsense. However, I will say this. The fact is that science does a much better job of describing the world than religion ever has, or will, and as I noted above, these questions will never be solved with this childish and nonscientific “god of the gaps” mentality. Science will advance, slowly but surely, and will most likely answer most, if not all, of humanities' questions. Religion will only hold us back, just as it has over the centuries.

The Truth Behind the New Atheism was one of the first books published tackling the book explosion of the New Atheism and, after reading and reviewing a good number of these responses, I believe it is one of the worst argued.

My first review of this book was published on Arizona Atheist October 22, 2007 and it has gone through five major editions, with the present edition being the final one. In this final edition it was my goal to better investigate the arguments of David Marshall's and even though I've read the book cover to cover three or four times my research this time exposed even more blatant errors than I had previously been aware of. Why didn't I catch these errors a long time ago, you ask?

It's very simple. Over the years I've gained more knowledge and, as I alluded to in the introduction, I've gotten more skilled at writing these reviews and more skilled at doing better, more thorough research, which is the reason I wanted to rewrite this review one final time. With this review it was my goal to expose David Marshall's dishonesty, horrible scholarship (I'm not sure that word even applies here), and expose his many errors for the world to see.

When I first read The Truth Behind the New Atheism I had only been exposed to the arguments of Christian evangelist Ray Comfort and most of the arguments presented in this book I had never come across before. Now that it's been several years and I've read many more books and exposed myself to various Christian apologists these arguments seem like child's play and I've come to realize their flaws and how easily they are refuted.

With the new knowledge I've gained over the years I've attempted to convince Marshall to debate me and write a response to my review, to which he has declined each time. However, as I was finishing the touches on this final edition he contacted me and tells me he has finally addressed (in the previous edition) the first chapter of my review. [1] I was not impressed in the least with his response. If Marshall could not deal with my arguments in the previous edition he surely will not be able to handle my counter-arguments in this improved edition.

It has been a long road, but I've finally reached the end. I now lay The Truth Behind the New Atheism to rest. There it will lay, deconstructed and exposed, never again to be taken seriously by anyone. Amen!



1. I discuss this in several places. One is the predecessor to this current (and final) version of the review, which can be found here, as well as here.

2. Some of my latest book/essay refutations that I am particularly proud of are the following:

The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens

God: The Evidence: A Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Postsecular World

The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief

3. David Marshall's 144 Instances of Ignorance, Stupidity, Hypocrisy, and Lack of Comprehension in Critiquing The God Delusion

Chapter 1: Have Christians Lost Their Minds?

1. - accessed 7-19-11

2. Several books lay out this evidence. A few are as follows:

The Case Against the Case for Christ: A New Testament Scholar Refutes the Reverend Lee Strobel, by Robert M. Price, American Atheist Press, 2010

Who Wrote the Gospels?, by Randel McGraw Helms, Millennium Press, 1997

The End of Biblical Studies, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2007

Jesus, Interupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them), by Bart D. Eheman, HarperOne, 2009

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Anceint Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts, by Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman, The Free Press, 2001

The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself, by Randel McGraw Helms, Millennium Press, 2006

Biblical Errancy: A Reference Guide, by C. Dennis McKinsey, Prometheus Books, 2000

3. Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed, by Richard Carrier,, 2009; 329-351; 385-404

4. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin, 2006; 64

5. Not the Impossible Faith, by Richard Carrier; 396

6. Justin Martyr's The First Apology - accessed 7-20-11

7. Not the Impossible Faith, by Richard Carrier; 355

8. God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, Edited by David C. Lindberg & Ronald L. Numbers, University of California Press, 1986; 28

9. The Non-Existence of God, by Nicholas Everitt, Routledge, 2003; 3, 7

10. Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, by Michael Shermer, Times Books, 2006; 38-39

11. Ibid.; 44

12. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason, by Victor J. Stenger, Prometheus Books, 2009; 60

13. More Evidence Against The Making of an Atheist

14. Anxiety Over Loss of Control Can Increase Belief in God...and Government

15. Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, by Michael Shermer, Henry Holt & Co., 2002; 283

Chapter 2: Are Scientists Too "Bright" to Believe in God?

1. Carrier, Richard. Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science. The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails. Edited by John W. Loftus. Prometheus Books, 2010. 413-414

2. - accessed 7-20-11

3. Creating a Martyr: The Sternberg Saga Continues, by Ed Brayton, orginally published on December 19, 2006 - accessed 7-20-11

4. Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, by Donald R. Prothero, Columbia University Press, 2007; 11

5. Ibid.; 11

6. Examples include, Susan J. Blackmore’s Beyond the Body: An Investigation of Out-of-the-Body Experiences (1992) and Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences (1993); Terence Hines’ Pseudoscience and the Paranormal (2003); and James Randi’s Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other Delusions (1982).

Chapter 3: Does Evolution Make god Redundant?

1. Why much of what Jonathan Wells writes about evolution is wrong, by Alan D. Gishlick - accessed 7-20-11

2. Intelligent Design: Giving Science a Wedgie - accessed 7-20-11

3. Darwinism: Why I Went for a Second Ph.D., by Jonathan Wells - accessed 7-20-11

4. Expelled Exposed - accessed 7-20-11

5. The Illustrated A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking, Bantam Books, 1996; 67

6. 101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History, by Gary Greenberg, Sourcebooks, Inc., 2000

Chapter 4: Some Riddles of Evolution

1. NCSE Video Exposes Intelligent Design - accessed 7-21-11

2. Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, by Kenneth R. Miller, Harper Perennial, 2007; 126

3. Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, by Kenneth R. Miller, Harper Perennial, 2007

4. - accessed 7-21-11

5. - accessed 7-21-11

6. The Deniable Darwin, by David Berlinski - accessed 7-21-11

7. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin, 2006; 125

8. Ibid.; 128

9. A few examples include:

The Counter-Creationism Handbook, by Mark Isaak, Greenwood Press, 2005

The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters, by Ardea Skybreak, Insight Press, 2006

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools, by Eugenie C. Scott, Beacon Press, 2006

Index to Creationist Claims - accessed 7-21-11

10. God vs. Science - accessed 7-26-11

11. Sense & Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism, by Richard Carrier, AuthorHouse, 2005; 166-168

12. Statistics & Biogenesis - accessed 7-21-11

13. Evolutionary Body Change Demo Answers Creationists

14. The Counter-Creationism Handbook, by Mark Isaak, Greenwood Press, 2005; 51

15. Ibid.; 54-55

16. Ibid.; 65

17. The Discovery Institute's Wedge Document - accessed 7-21-11

18. I am well aware that evolution has been assimilated into Christian belief but the fact is that evolution contradicts the original Christian belief in human origins. The fact that Christians have to reinvent their beliefs is proof that evolution is a problem for Christian dogma. It is intellectually dishonest to include new scientific discoveries into a supposedly truthful revelation from their god about human origins as told in their bible. If this was a revelation from their all-knowing god, why didn't he include the fact of evolution? Not just evolution but all scientific discoveries are a problem for Christian belief. It is not a virtue to adapt to new discoveries when it comes to religion, it is a disgrace.

Chapter 5: Did god Evolve?

1. Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Freethinker, by David Eller, American Atheist Press, 2007; 14-15

2. Memory Distortion: How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past, Edited by Daniel L. Schacter, Harvard University Press, 1997

3. Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, by Terence Hines, Prometheus Books, 2003

4. Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking, by Thomas Kida, Prometheus Books, 2006

5. Did Man Create God? Is Your Spiritual Brain at Peace with Your Thinking Brain?, by David E. Comings, M.D., Hope Press, 2008; 355

6. Ibid.; 355

Chapter 6: Is the Good Book Bad?

1. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins; 243

2. Is God a Moral Compromiser? A Critical Review of Paul Copan’s “Is God a Moral Monster?, by Thom Stark, Self-Published, 2011; 63-64

3. Ibid.; 57-58

4. Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2005; 78

5. Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery, by Thornton Stringfellow, J.W. Randolph, 1856; 37

6. The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, by Robert Wright, Vintage Books, 1995; 162

7. Krakovsky, Marina. “Chimps Show Altruistic Streak.” Discover Magazine January 2008: 63

8. Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, by Marc D. Hauser; 165

9. Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2005; 140

10. Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews: A Jewish Life and the Emergence of Christianity, Paula Fredriksen, Vintage Books, 1999; 94

11. It is generally the consensus that Paul did not write 1 Timothy, but that it was written by a second-generation follower, who obviosuly wasn’t as tolerant of women as Paul. - Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart D. Ehrman, HarperSanFrancisco, 2005; 181-182

12. Is God a Moral Compromiser?, by Thom Stark; 96

13. Ibid.; 96

14. Ibid.; 96-97

Chapter 7: What Should an Atheist Do About Jesus?

1. - accessed 7-24-11

2. Jesus is Dead, by Robert M. Price, American Atheist Press, 2007; 36

3. Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?, by Richard Carrier, Chapter 7, Footnote # 31 - accessed 7-24-11

4. Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn’t Need a Miracle to Succeed, by Richard Carrier, Ph.D.,, 2009; 167-168

5. Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith, Vol. 1, by Josh McDowell, Here’s Life Publishers, Inc., 1979; 29

6. An Infidel Manifesto: Why Sincere Believers Lose Faith, by Gary Lenaire, Publish America, 2006; 90

7. Not the Impossible Faith, by Richard Carrier; 33

8. The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ?, by Earl Doherty, Age of Reason Publications, 2005; 15-16

Chapter 8: Is Christianity a Blessing?

1. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson, Grand Central Publishing, 2001; 14

2. Ibid.; 23-24

3. Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction, by Colin Ward, Oxford University Press, 2004; 12

4. Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Beacon Press, 1993; 136-137

5. Ibid.; 68-69

6. Ibid.; 160

7. See the Addendum near the end of my previous review of The Truth Behind the New Atheism

8. A Slave to Incompetence: The Truth Behind David Marshall’s Research on Slavery by Dr. Hector Avalos, originally posted 7-15-10. Accessed 7-25-11

9. Arching for Beauty: Footbinding in China, by Wang Ping, University of Minnesota Press, 2000; 38

10. Ibid.; 39

11. David Marshall is Refuted Again

12. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present, by Howard Zinn, Harper Perennial, 2003; 106

13. The Faith: A History of Christianity, by Brian Moynahan, Doubleday, 2002; 277

14. Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist, by Alston Chase, W.W. Norton & Co., 2003; 197

15. America is Not a Christian Nation, Part 2

16. Think the "Christmas Resolution" was Bad? Check Out H. Res. 888 -accessed 7-25-11

17. The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America, by Frank Lambert, Princeton University Press, 2003; 246

18. A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America - accessed 7-25-11

19. Christianity Was Not Responsible for American Democracy, by Dr. Richard Carrier - accessed 7-25-11

20. A Partial History of Christian Missionary Atrocities

21. Two good sources are: Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence: Religious Violence across Culture and History, by Jack David Eller, Prometheus Books, 2010 and Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2005

Chapter 9: Or a Curse?

1. The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land, by Thomas Asbridge, Ecco, 2011; 26-29

2. Ibid.; 15

3. The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision, by Henry Kamen, Yale University Press, 1998; 45

4. The Spanish Inquisition: A History, by Joseph Perez, Yale University Press, 2005; 69, 75, 72

5. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, Edited by Tom Flynn, Prometheus Books, 2007; 385

6. The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury Vol. 4; Now First Collected and Edited by Sir William Molesworth, Bart., John Bohn, 1840; 282

7. - accessed 7-26-11

8. Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos; 201

9. Ibid.; 201

10. Ibid.; 78

11. Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, by Julian Baggini, Oxford University Press, 2003; 84

12. Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happened in Germany, by John Weiss, Elephant Paperbacks, 1997; 313

13. Ibid.; 353-354

14. Ibid.; 390

15. Hitler and the Holocaust‭, by ‬Robert S.‭ ‬Wistrich, Modern Library, 2003; 135

16. Hector Avalos. Atheism Was Not the Cause of the Holocaust. The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails. Edited by John W. Loftus. Prometheus Books, 2010. 377

17. Ibid.; 377

18. Ibid.; 380-381

19. On the Trail of Bogus Quotes, by Richard Carrier - accessed 7-27-11

20. Ibid.

21. - accessed 7-27-11

Chapter 10: What About the "American Taliban?"

1. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins; 239

2. - accessed 7-28-11

3. - accessed 7-28-11

4. - accessed 7-28-11

5. ‭The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America, edited by Kimberly Blaker, New Boston Books, Inc., 2003; 9-10‭

6. Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2005

7. Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg, W.W. Norton & Company, 2006; 155-157

8. Ibid.; 83-84

9. David Barton's Lies in Action: Randy Forbes Reintroduces 'Spiritual Heritage' Resolution - accessed 7-28-11

10. Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg; 27

11. Ibid.; 41

12. Ibid.; 159

13. Huckabee's Stealth Theocracy - accessed 7-28-11

14. Rick Santorum 2012 Campaign For President Launches - accessed 7-28-11

15. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins; 23-24

16.Ibid.; 24-25

17. Ibid.; 326-328

18. Richard Dawkins and "Child Abuse" - Please don't forget to view parts 2 & 3 linked to at the bottom.

19. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins; 317

Chapter 11: Can Atheism Make the World Better?

1. Harvard and the Unabomber, by Alston Chase; 18-19

2. Gitlin, Todd. “A Dangerous Mind: 'Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist'
by Alston Chase” The Washington Post. March 2, 2003
- accessed 7-28-11

3. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, by Walter Kaufmann, Princeton University Press, 1974; 3-18

4. Ibid.; 284

5. Ibid.; 287-288

6. Ibid.; 185

7. Darwin and Hitler, by Dr. Hector Avalos - accessed 8-3-11

8. The Delusion of David Aikman: A Refutation of The Delusion of Disbelief

9. The Role of Atheism in the Marxist Tradition; 2-3 - accessed 8-3-11

10. Ibid.; 210

11. Ibid.; 124

12. The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008; 101

13. The Tao of Arizona Atheist: Atheism

14. And God Created Lenin: Marxism vs. Religion in Russia, 1917-1929, by Paul Gabel, Prometheus Books, 2005; 90

15. Ibid.; 75

16. Ibid.; 75

17. Kinsey: Sex the Measure of All Things, by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Indiana University Press, 2004; 285

18. Human Development Report 2010: The Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development,by the United Nations Development Programme, 2010; 197

19. Single Parents, Around the World, by Catherine Rampell, originally published on March 10, 2010 - accessed 8-3-11

20. 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a god, by Guy P. Harrison, Prometheus Books, 2008; 296


1. David Marshall Responds to My Review of His Book....Sort Of