• The Truth Behind the New Atheism: The Definitive Refutation, Part 4

    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 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

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist