• David Marshall’s 144 Errors, Gross Exaggerations, Highly Dubious Claims, and Lack of Comprehension in Critiquing The God Delusion, Part 8

    #145 (Quoting Hartung): “The Bible is a blueprint of in-group morality, complete with instructions for genocide, enslavement of out-groups, and world domination.” (258)

    The irony is that Hartung and Dawkins both admit that evolution furnishes no reason to care about “out-groups.” As I show in detail (p. 135-188, see also Jesus and the Religions of Man, 61-86 and 113-158, and the works of Vishal Mangalwadi and Rodney Stark, also Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, etc.), the Bible has done more to teach the world to care for “out-groups,” and to liberate slaves, than any other intellectual force on earth.

    Here, Marshall fails to address the statement that was made! I’ve also refuted in my review of The Truth Behind the New Atheism each of Marshall’s arguments about evolution, in-group privileging in the bible, and the claim that the bible has done much to better the world.

    #146 Does morality evolve ever upwards? “The American invasion of Iraq is widely condemned for its civilian casualties, yet these casualty figures are orders of magnitude lower than comparable numbers for the Second World War. There seems to be a steadily shifting standard of what is morally acceptable . . . Something has shifted in the intervening decades. It has shifted in all of us, and the shift has no connection with religion.” (268)

    Many dubious assumptions seem to be operating here. If we’re going to compare wars, why not compare the American War for Independence with World War II? Atrocities were seldom committed in the great European wars of the 18th Century, and even in General Sherman’s March to the sea in the American Civil War, hardly any rapes or murders of civilians seem to have occurred. (As Winston Churchill points out in History of the English-Speaking Peoples.) By contrast, one or two hundred years later, even the “good guys” killed two hundred thousand civilians in the bombing of Dresden, and a hundred thousand each in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Which direction was the “wave” flowing in those years? It is absurd to depict a retreat from the very recent high point of barbarism that was the struggle with Nazi and Communist holocausts as some sort of fundamental advance in human morality.

    It is also questionable that any positive (if potentially ephemeral) move forward since then is unrelated to religion. What made World War II particularly vicious was the ruthless ideologies of the Nazis, the Japanese Empire, and Soviet communism — all of which had an ideological, and often anti-Christian or anti-Jewish, edge to it. The passing of those fevers in part seemed to represent a return to an earlier and more humanitarian consensus, which included respect for traditional religion-based morality. And as George Weigel shows in The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism, the end of the Cold War, if not victory in the Second World War (though that is arguable, too), had a lot to do with Christianity.

    First of all, Marshall ignores Dawkins’ main argument in this chapter. He’s still discussing how Christians fail to get moral guidance from the bible. Second, I’d consider this to be another example of nitpicking. Third, this little game Marshall plays all depends on which wars you’re comparing. Fourth, I think it’s a little silly of him to compare the civil war with the dropping of the atomic bomb, one of the most powerful bombs created, which killed 40,000 to 75,000 people. Fifth, I’d say Marshall is wrong about the trend in violence based upon studies by various social scientists and as presented by Steven Pinker in an article titled A History of Violence, which has turned into a brick of a book called The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011). For my purposes I will cite Pinker’s online article. He writes in part,

    Some of the evidence has been under our nose all along. Conventional history has long shown that, in many ways, we have been getting kinder and gentler. Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets for frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution—all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, concealed when they do occur, and widely condemned when they are brought to light. […]

    Yet, despite these caveats, a picture is taking shape. The decline of violence is a fractal phenomenon, visible at the scale of millennia, centuries, decades, and years. It applies over several orders of magnitude of violence, from genocide to war to rioting to homicide to the treatment of children and animals. And it appears to be a worldwide trend, though not a homogeneous one. The leading edge has been in Western societies, especially England and Holland, and there seems to have been a tipping point at the onset of the Age of Reason in the early seventeenth century. […]

    At the widest-angle view, one can see a whopping difference across the millennia that separate us from our pre-state ancestors. Contra leftist anthropologists who celebrate the noble savage, quantitative body-counts—such as the proportion of prehistoric skeletons with axemarks and embedded arrowheads or the proportion of men in a contemporary foraging tribe who die at the hands of other men—suggest that pre-state societies were far more violent than our own. It is true that raids and battles killed a tiny percentage of the numbers that die in modern warfare. But, in tribal violence, the clashes are more frequent, the percentage of men in the population who fight is greater, and the rates of death per battle are higher. According to anthropologists like Lawrence Keeley, Stephen LeBlanc, Phillip Walker, and Bruce Knauft, these factors combine to yield population-wide rates of death in tribal warfare that dwarf those of modern times. If the wars of the twentieth century had killed the same proportion of the population that die in the wars of a typical tribal society, there would have been two billion deaths, not 100 million. […]

    On the scale of decades, comprehensive data again paint a shockingly happy picture: Global violence has fallen steadily since the middle of the twentieth century. According to the Human Security Brief 2006, the number of battle deaths in interstate wars has declined from more than 65,000 per year in the 1950s to less than 2,000 per year in this decade. In Western Europe and the Americas, the second half of the century saw a steep decline in the number of wars, military coups, and deadly ethnic riots.

    Zooming in by a further power of ten exposes yet another reduction. After the cold war, every part of the world saw a steep drop-off in state-based conflicts, and those that do occur are more likely to end in negotiated settlements rather than being fought to the bitter end. Meanwhile, according to political scientist Barbara Harff, between 1989 and 2005 the number of campaigns of mass killing of civilians decreased by 90 percent. [53]

    Finally, I’ve refuted Marshall’s nonsense about Christianity being the reason for the betterment of society in my review of his book.

    #147 Are we more advanced than our great-grandparents? “But most of us in the twenty-first century are bunched together and way ahead of our counterparts in the Middle Ages, or in the time of Abraham, or even as recently as the 1920s. The whole wave keeps moving, and even the vanguard of an earlier century (T. H. Huxley is the obvious example) would find itself way behind the laggers of a later century.” (271)

    What moonshine! Compare what John Wesley in the 18th Century had to say about black Africans (“punctually just and honest in their dealings; and are also very charitable,” industrious tradesmen who are likely to make good astronomers) with what social Darwinists in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries had to say about “crude, immoral hoards” who cannot really be called human at all, and deserve extermination. Compare Francis of Assissi with almost anyone in the 21st Century. Great modern moralists — Gandhi, Tolstoy, King, the six year old black girl in New Orleans who prayed for racists who were threatening her at the entry to her school – invariably see themselves as disciples of ancient sages – if not Jesus, then Buddha, Lao Zi, or St. Francis.

    Maybe we are less cruel than earlier ages, now that most Nazis and communists have been laid to rest. But as C. S. Lewis points out, different cultures specialize in different virtues. We may be less cruel, but are also less courageous, than a 19th Century teetotaler who refused a shot of whiskey when he had his leg amputated, or lazier than Ben Franklin’s readers. Read accounts of earlier generations, and one notes both differences and similarities, but differences do not always make us look good.

    Certainly, the claim that we are morally in advance of our ancestors suggests no great advance in humility or wisdom.

    Marshall, I’m sorry to say, has no idea how to make an argument. Anyone can pick out a handful of quotes in any age to prove their point. Even though in our modern world where human rights for all people is a beloved principle in this day and age one can still find many acts of human rights violations. This doesn’t mean, however, that we have not progressed in the area of human rights over the last few centuries. One must look at the whole picture, not just a few scattered voices here and there.

    But to address Marshall’s point more directly, and to hammer home my point, Marshall needs to brush up on his history because the quote of John Wesley’s is from the 18th Century, a time in history when Britain transported “the greatest number of Africans” to the New World. [54] Clearly, Wesley was a minority and he did not represent the overall view of most people in the world.

    #148 Does Christianity deserve no credit for Civil Rights? “Although Martin Luther King was a Christian, he derived his philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience directly from Gandhi, who was not.” (271)

    This is wrong-headed on several counts. First, Gandhi was not a Christian, but he did believe strongly in God, whom Dawkins wants us to believe is a harmful delusion. Second, Gandhi was deeply influenced by Jesus, writing in his autobiography that the teaching, “If any man takes your cloak, let him have your coat, too” “delighted me beyond measure.” Thirdly, the Indian intelligensia as a whole was deeply impacted by Jesus long before Gandhi came along. Gandhi was affected indirectly as well. (See The Truth Behind the New Atheism, p. 137-141)

    Finally, of course as a Baptist preacher, Martin Luther King derived his philosophy from Jesus as well as from Gandhi. “I went to Gandhi through Jesus,” he explained.

    I address this argument quite extensively in my review of Marshall’s book so I will not address it here.

    #149 Is common humanity an “unbiblical” idea? “Then, too, there is improved education and, in particular, the increased understanding that each of us shares a common humanity with members of other races and with the other sex — both deeply unbiblical ideas . . . ” (271)

    Speaking from Oxford, founded as most great universities were by Christian theologians, it is striking that Dawkins fails to recognize the role the religion he is attacking played in universal education.

    He is also as wrong as you can be about the Bible and common humanity. In fact, as the great Chinese scholar Hu Shi, himself a skeptic, admitted, it was Christian missionaries who taught China the humanity of women. (For an account of the role the Gospel played in liberating women around the world, see my The Truth About Jesus and the ‘Lost Gospels’, p. 119-129.) St. Paul wrote, “In Christ, there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female,” at a time when those distinctions were far stronger than they are today.

    While there are some inclusive verses in the bible the bible is largely non-inclusive, as I noted earlier about the “Love thy neighbor” passage. His citation of Galatians 3:28 is also suspect. While many Christians like to paint this verse by Paul as being the first “Magna Carta,” or the first recognition of the principle of the common humanity of all people, this verse seems not to be referring to humans’ common humanity but to Paul’s view that all people have an equal opportunity to partake in Christ’s salvation. [55]

    #150 Or did evolution teach us that we are all human?” . . . both deeply biblical ideas that come from biological science, especially evolution.”

    In fact, evolution inspired a movement called “social Darwinism,” some of whose proponents suggestsed that Australian aborigines constituted a separate race from white Europeans. (Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler) Even John Hartung, whom Dawkins draws from on this subject, admits that evolution does NOT provide a basis for caring about people outside our own “In” group. “Evolutionists have not been able to devise a model for converting in-group morality into general morality.”

    In Christ, by contrast, “There is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, slave nor free.” Paul did not get this idea from Darwin, whose book would appear only 1800 years later. Anyway, Darwin argued that there is a fine continuum between individuals, such that no clear and fast line between species can be drawn. Dawkins himself points out that evolution undermines the idea that people as people should be privileged. He also points out elsewhere that he would not like a society run on Darwinian lines. It seems to me that Dawkins is fundamentally confused: he wants terribly to credit evolution for moral improvement, but usually remembers that the facts won’t bare that interpretation.

    This is yet another example of Marshall splitting up individual arguments into smaller issues in order to inflate the number of “errors.” Regarding his arguments I’ve answered his use of Galatians 3:28 in the previous section. I’ve also demonstrated in my review of Marshall’s book that it is possible to derive “out-group” morality from evolution and I’ve refuted his claim about Darwinism and Nazism. Humans and other animals are not purely “selfish,” but are also highly altruistic.

    #151 Did atheism have anything to do with the Gulag? “There is no evidence that (Stalin’s) atheism motivated his brutality.” (273)

    There is a great deal of evidence that atheism deeply influenced the immoral teachings and cruelty of communist ideology in general, and no reason to exempt Stalin. David Aikman, who did his doctoral work on “Atheism in the Marxist Tradition” (under the great historian of Soviet communism, Donald Treadgold), takes on this issue in his new book, The Delusion of Disbelief.

    I also studied under Treadgold (my BA “senior thesis” was a comparison of parallel documents in the Russian and Chinese revolutions in the original languages), and I’ve lived in both Soviet and Chinese communist societies. Dawkins’ view of this subject is naïve and mistaken. My rebuttal lies on pages 197-200 of The Truth Behind the New Atheism.

    I cover this absurd argument in my review of Marshall’s book as well.

    # 152 Is “end justifies the means” a Christian teaching? “His earlier religious training probably didn’t either, unless it was through teaching him to revere absolutist faith, strong authority and a belief that ends justify means.” (273)

    “The ends justify the means” is an ambiguous slogan. What ends? What means? Obviously some ends do justify some ends: the need for medicine to cure a sick child (an end) justifies going to the clinic to buy it. (a means to that end). Dawkins himself would, I think, assert that sometimes normally immoral means might also be justified by important ends — under some circumstances, one might perhaps steal the medicine, if the child’s need for it were dire enough, and if there were no other way, and no other child suffered because of the theft. Finally, there are cases in which NO ONE would assert that the ends justify the means. Only a madman, or a two-year old, would say one should dynamite Hoover Dam to retrieve a lost teddy bear of purely sentimental value buried under its foundation.

    So the slogan “ends justifies the means” needs to be carefully explained. What Dawkins seems to mean is that Christians teach that immoral means are generally justified if some good can come out of it.

    But Christianity has more often been blamed for denying a “consequentialist” “or “utilitarian” ethic, than for teaching one. In fact, the former term was invented by a Catholic philosopher, G.E.M. Anscombe, in her critique of the great atheist thinker, John Stuart Mill (along with Henry Sidgwick. Anscombe argued that this sort of morality was incompatible with Judeo-Christian thought. Probably the best-known modern advocate of utilitarian morality is the philosopher Peter Singer, an atheist, whom Dawkins quotes approvingly.

    All in all, it is highly improbable that Stalin was taught anything of the sort in a Russian seminary, anymore than I was in a Taiwanese one, and far more likely that he would have been taught that at Princeton, under Peter Singer.

    This phrase Dawkins has chosen is pretty vague so I agree with Marshall about that. But I’m not willing to guess as to what Dawkins meant by this. I will forgo tackling this argument.

    # 153 Was Joseph Stalin an unformed youth when he entered seminary? In any case, Stalin had already become an atheist BEFORE he entered seminary. He went there because it was the only education available, not because he wanted to be indoctrinated in patristic theology.

    Here is another example of Marshall’s nitpicking. He also failed to provide any quote whatsoever or even a page number, so I have no clue what he could be referring to. However, I don’t believe it’s true that Stalin was an atheist before attending seminary. According to biographer Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin read Charles Darwins’ On the Origin of Species during his days at seminary and only then became an atheist. [56]

    #154 Were Nazi soldiers Christian? “The terrible deeds (of the Nazis) were carried out by soldiers and their officers, most of whom were surely Christian.” (276)

    This is quite a Hail-Mary pass of an argument. I have seen statistics showing that the percent of believers among SS troops dropped dramatically during Hitler’s sojourn in power, though I was unable to locate them for this book. I did, however, locate figures for the percent of college students who studied theology, which went from 6 percent in 1933 to 2 percent in 1939. Obviously, Hitler discouraged Christian faith as much as he could among important social groups. Dawkins offers no warrant for supposing that most of the SS, who were responsible for much of the atrocities, were “surely Christian” – and given other trends in Nazi society, it is unlikely.

    He cites figures but fails to cite any sources. Because of this his argument can be dismissed as hearsay. Regarding the figures for the percentage of theology students I find this argument absurd. Just because a drop in the numbers of people attending a particular subject follows after an event does not prove the preceding event caused it. Despite Marshall’s pronouncements to the contrary, there is actually much evidence that the Nazis were Christians. See my review of Marshall’s book for the information.

    #155 Did the Catholic Church support the Nazis? “Or perhaps Hitler felt that he had to display some token sympathy for Christianity, otherwise his regime would not have received the support it did from the Church. This support showed itself in various ways, including Pope Pius XII’s persistent refusal to take a stand against the Nazis.” (277)

    To begin with, on the face of it, refusing to “take a stand” against Hitler is not the same as “supporting” him. (Especially when such a stand might cost your life.) If you’re in a bank when a robber enters with a gun, and you lie on the ground and do nothing to stop the robbery, it would be vile to accuse you of “supporting” the criminal, simply because you did nothing.

    But far from lying idly by while Hitler committed his crimes, in fact Pius XII did much, in his diplomatic way, to undermine the Fuhrer. Jewish author David Dalin, in The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis, argues that Pius was in fact responsible for saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews. The pope put several hundred Roman Jews up in his own papal estate! The chief rabbi was so impressed that he not only converted to Catholicism after the war, he took Pius’ name for his own baptismal name. It is an ugly slur indeed to accuse Pius XII of “supporting” the Nazis.

    I cover this subject fairly substantially in my review of Marshall’s book so I won’t say much here. Suffice it to say the Catholic Church and even the Pope supported the Nazis, even after the war during the Nuremberg trials.

    #156 Do “individual atheists” do evil in the name of atheism? “Stalin was an atheist and Hitler probably wasn’t, but even if he was, the bottom line of the Stalin / Hitler debating point is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don’t do evil things in the name of atheism.” (278)

    But Stalin wasn’t an “individual atheist.” He was one of millions, not only in the Soviet Union but in China, Cambodia, North Korea, Romania, Albania, Vietnam, Cuba, and other countries, who put a third of the human race behind barbed wire and mines, destroyed great art, transformed great cities into endless, soulless stretches of grey concrete, turned children against their parents, taught neighbors to distrust and hate one another, and tortured and murdered tens of millions of innocent people. To pretend that atheism had “nothing to do” with all this, is either ignorant or delusional. Again, Aikman, and my short discussion in The Truth Behind the New Atheism, are good places to start. See also chapter 3 of my Jesus and the Religions of Man, “Where Did Marx Go Wrong?”

    I cover this absurd distortion of history in my review of Marshall’s book in much detail so I won’t address it here.

    #157 “I cannot think of any war that has been fought in the name of atheism.” (278)

    Not explicitly, perhaps. Neither are wars fought “in the name of theism,” per se. They are not infrequently fought in the name of individual ideologies of which atheism or theism are a part – Islam, Christianity, communism, or democracy.

    On the contrary, the Crusades were taken up for largely religious reasons. If you look at the available sources about the first Crusade one of the reasons (aside from the attempts to punish for past abuses and to defend the church’s authority) was to reclaim Jerusalem, the “holy land.” This can easily be seen when you look at the available sources of Pope Urban II’s speech prior to the first Crusade. While there was no exact reproduction of Urban’s speech, the five different versions that were written down (and several years after the fact), there are clues as to the religious motive of the first Crusade.

    A few of the versions of Urban’s speech cite a clear religious motive for the Crusades: recapture the holy land. This is seen in one of the accounts written by Guibert of Nogent, who argues that certain places are more sacred than others:

    If among the churches scattered about over the whole world some, because of persons or location, deserve reverence about others (for persons, I say, since greater privileges are accorded to apostolic sees; for places, indeed, since the same dignity which is accorded to persons is also shown to regal cities, such as Constantinople), we owe most of that church from which we received the grace of redemption and the source of all Christianity. […] Most beloved brethren, if you reverence the source of that holiness and glory, if you cherish these shrines which are the marks of His foot-prints on earth, if you seek [the way], God leading you, God fighting in your behalf, you should strive with your utmost efforts to cleanse the Holy City and the glory of the Sepulchre, now polluted by the concourse of the Gentiles, as much as is in their power. [57]

    To quote Hector Avalos, and to sum up,

    In short, […] sacred space has been singled out as a prime motivator for violence in Christianity. The bounded space called Jerusalem receives its sanctity from belief in biblical tradition, especially that concerning Jesus Christ. All the propaganda meant to motivate people to fight was permeated by the idea that holy space existed and that it could not be inhabited by everyone. The belief that Jerusalem was special, a sacred space, was based on belief in unverifiable forces and/or beings (holiness, God’s commands). Thus, fighting for this sacred space during the Crusades constitutes a prime example of religious violence. [58]

    It should be clear. Religion, while certainly not the sole motivating factor, was a factor in the Crusades.

    #158 War over Scripture? Quoting Harris: “Because each new generation of children is taught that religious propositions need not be justified in the way that all others must, civilization is still besieged by the armies of the preposterous. We are, even now, killing ourselves over ancient literature.” (278)

    I’ve already dealt with the false claim that “religious propositions need not be justified.”

    Who is this “we” Harris speaks of? I haven’t killed anyone “over ancient literature.” Nor have any of Americas’ wars been fought on behalf of Scripture per se – though Christian opposition to slavery of various forms certainly has played a role in some of our conflicts. (And the Revolutionary War may have been inspired to some extent by the 18th Century love of the Greek and Roman classics, which are also “ancient literature.”)

    Any ultimate cosmology can be used to justify military expansionism, and many can be used to justify a noble self-defense. Jihad is not surprising from an evolutionary perspective — we evolve because the fittest struggle to survive.” Evolution, the theory that biological progress comes through violent struggle, is particularly well-adapted to tyranny – which of course does not mean that people who believe in evolution do not sometimes nobly oppose it.

    First of all, I’m not sure what Marshall is referring to when he says he’s dealt with the above “false claim.” I cannot find that quote anywhere else in this document. Second, his claim is clearly false. One series of wars human beings have justified with scripture are the Crusades as I explained earlier. Another example are the Crusades again because during the Crusades some Christians, on their way to the hold land, would needlessly kill Jews. A religious justification for the killing of Jews can be found in The Chronicle of Solomon bar Simson, which tell of Godfrey of Bouillon’s actions and how he was bent on “avenging the blood of the crucified one by shedding Jewish blood.” [59]

    #159 “Soldiers are drilled to become as much like automata, or computers, as possible.” (176) Dawkins explains further: “Computers . . . slavishly obey any instructions given in their own programming language.” (176)

    No one denies the role of authority in the military. But this is a silly caricature; a modern army in a democratic state trains men and women to think.

    Marshall has taken Dawkins out of context here, and he’s nitpicking again. First of all, the subject Dawkins is discussing is the origin of religion and he’s attempting to give a possible evolutionary explanation about why it evolved in the first place. Where he is quoted, Dawkins is discussing the fact that children are ‘programmed’ by evolution, so to speak, to obey their parents and other authority figures so as to ensure their protection. He writes,

    More than any other species, we survive by the accumulated experience of previous generations, and that experience needs to be passed on to children for their protection and well-being. Theoretically, children might learn from personal experience not to go too near a cliff edge, not to eat untried red berries, not to swim in crocodile-infested waters. But, to say the least, there will be a selective advantage to child brains that posses the rule of thumb: believe, without question, whatever your grown-ups tell you. Obey your parents; obey the tribal elders, especially when they adopt a solemn, minatory tone. Trust your elders without question. This is a generally valuable rule for a child. But, as with moths, it can go wrong. [60]

    One paragraph following the quote chosen by Marshall Dawkins writes,

    If I have done by softening-up work well, you will already have completed my argument about child brains and religion. Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal leaders tell them. Such trusting obedience is valuable for survival: the analogue of steering by the moon for a moth. But the flip side of trusting obedience is slavish gullibility. [61]

    All Dawkins is discussing in this chapter is the field of evolutionary psychology and some possible reasons why religion persists.

    Now that I’ve given the context of Dawkins’ argument it should be apparent how irrelevant Marshall’s criticism is.

    If I take Marshall’s criticism at face value I’d say he’s very much wrong. In the military if you do think you may end up getting killed because of it. For example, if a soldier believes the war in which he is being forced to fight is an immoral one and he refuses to fight, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, under Article 90, it says very clearly that if one “willfully disobeys a lawful command of his superior officer” they can be punished by death (in a time of war) or court-marshaled.

    To be jailed or put to death just because you object to killing others doesn’t sound much like an environment that tolerates freedom of thought, but more like the automata Dawkins refers to. This was Dawkins’ point and he is correct.

    #160 Does Dawkins’ refutation of God work?

    Dr. Field: “Perhaps I could give you one (what a unique situation–an atheist adding arrows for a theist’s quiver), although its possible you spotted this and simply put it under another category. Dawkins repeatedly asks the question in effect “if God created everything, then who created God?” He clearly doesn’t understand that the traditional view is that God need not be created, since God is a per se necessary being, that is, a being whose essence includes existence. I say he clearly doesn’t understand this since he never mentions it. It was the most glaring hole in his discussions of philosophical theology that I noticed. There are responses to that view as well, so I wish he had understood the view.

    ”Please get the error right: the traditional view is that existence is part of God’s essence. God is a being the very nature of which requires existence. This is something that Dawkins overlooks. There are problems with this view, but it is a blind alley for Dawkins, since he doesn’t recognize it.”

    This document was originally titled “159 Errors, Gross Exaggerations…” but he added this extra error after discussing Dawkins’ book with the above named philosopher who mentioned this error to Marshall, and only then did Marshall edit this document to add another error. Despite this, I do agree with this criticism, but because Marshall did not discover this error on his own, and I believe he only did it to continue to “pad” his document in order to artificially increase the number of errors, I will not count it as such.


    Working on this slight rewrite has been interesting. The vast majority of his arguments I’ve already tackled much more thoroughly in my extensive refutation of his book, The Truth Behind the New Atheism.

    After having gone through his entire document of alleged 161 errors (remember he typed the number 81 twice which raises the number to 161) how many legitimate errors did he expose in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion?

    Despite his boastfulness about how many errors Marshall claimed to have found the fact is that he only managed to find a grand total of 13 errors in The God Delusion (In actuality the total is 14 but as I noted above I was not going to count the error pointed out to him by Mr. Field). I don’t need to be a math whiz to see that if I were grading Marshall on this essay he would undoubtedly get an F.

    Out of each of the 161 arguments I decided to take a pass on 3 of them because I didn’t have the required knowledge to answer them.

    Now that I have those figures out of the way, how many errors did Marshall himself make in this essay? A whopping 144 errors were made.

    When Marshall’s book, The Truth Behind the New Atheism, came out many reviewers rightfully gave it a negative rating. One of Marshall’s complaints was that many reviewers were simply complaining about minor typographical errors, minor factual errors, such as whether or not a person named in Marshall’s book was a biologist or not, etc. While this is true of several reviewers Marshall himself nitpicked The God Delusion a grand total of 45 times!

    In conclusion, this essay of Marshall’s was terrible. All in all, Marshall made a total of 144 errors in his essay, and only managed to find a meager 13 errors in Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion.

    53. A History of Violence – accessed 4-11-12

    54. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World, by David Brion Davis, Oxford University Press, 2006; 90-91

    55. Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship, by Hector Avalos, Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2011; 108-112

    56. Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia’s Secret Archives, by Edvard Radzinsky, Doubleday, 1996; 36-37

    57. The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials, edited by Edward Peters, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998; 33-34

    58. Fighting Words, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2005; 185

    59. Ibid.; 201

    60. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin, 2006; 174

    61. Ibid.; 176

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist