Sunday, December 25, 2005

Book: I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

I’ve just finished reading Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s apologetic book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. I enjoy reading and keeping up to date with apologetics, and I especially liked this book because the presentation was slick, the content easy to read, and topics were placed in logical order to form a cumulative argument for Christianity. Geisler and Turek argue that there can be only one form of truth. This is followed by arguments for the existence of God as well as for the truth of miracles and New Testament writings. The book caught my eye when I read comments on the back cover by other apologists. The following was a comment by Josh McDowell: “If you’re still a skeptic after reading I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, then I suspect you are living in denial!”

I’ve now finished the book, and am in the process of going through it again to take notes. I’m afraid, Mr McDowell, that I’m still an atheist, and as far as I know I don’t think I’m living in denial. I’m simply not convinced by some of the arguments that Geisler and Turek have put forward.

A major drawback was the chapters on biological evolution, which I found wrought with mistakes and misunderstandings of what evolution actually is. Not only do Geisler and Turek make the same mistake as Lee Strobel, in his book Case for a Creator, by falsely linking atheism with evolution, but they also make false statements about what biologists actually claim (e.g., that man evolved from apes, and that the first life suddenly appeared as a fully developed cell in a warm little pond).

I admit I’m no expert on evolution, but I do know something about the topic (I studied Zoology and majored in Botany while at university). I could easily pick out the mistakes in Geisler and Turek’s chapters on evolution because I’ve had some previous exposure in this field. Now this is what worried me: if Geisler & Turek made fundamental mistakes in their chapters on evolution – a topic that I’ve formally studied in the past – what other mistakes did they make with other topics in the book, topics that I know very little about? I was left wondering, for the rest of the book, if all of Geisler and Turek’s claims and premises in other chapters could be trusted.

At this present time I will give Geisler and Turek the benefit of the doubt. However, I’m working through the book more thoroughly and will later post my thoughts regarding some of their arguments.


Goji said...

Definitely give Norman Geisler the benefit of the doubt; he's got a doctorate in philosophy. So the sections that are more philosophical in nature (e.g., the two chapers on truth, the "Moral Law", the "SURGE", etc. are all done quite well. But remember, this book is written at a popular level. And I wouldn't say that the authors directly link evolution with atheism. After all, they do mention theistic evolutionists.

For a more rich discussion on these subjects, I would recommend J.P. Moreland's intermediate level book, "Scaling the Secular City". There are, of course, many others. But in the area of philsophy, here are some names you should concern yourself with: William Lane Craig, James Porter Moreland and Norman L. Geisler. I know there are others, but their names escape me for now.

Merry Christmas and God Bless

Kevin Parry said...

Thank you for your comments, goji. I must admit that philosophy is not one of my strong points, and that is why I'm in the process of going through the book more thoroughly, especially with regards to the cosmological and teleological arguments.

Thank you for posting the other references. My next step is to read a book from William Lane Craig - I think he writes more in-depth, and less for the layman. I’ve heard "Reasonable Faith" is a good start. I will also look out for "Scaling the Secular City" by JP Moreland – thank you for this reference.

Thank you again for the comment, and have a wonderful new year

vjack said...

Welcome to Atheism Online. I just added you to the directory. This looks like a great blog, and I look forward to reading more from you.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Kevin,

Nice book u got.

Evolution... a complicated subject indeed. There is one book that's edited by Michael Ruse(agnostic) and William Dembski(intelligent Design proponent) titled "Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA".

I think this book gives a better and common understanding with up-to-date jargon between intelligent design and natural evolutionalist.

I haven't got that book cos can't afford one yet. Will get it once, i save enough.


Keep writting.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that Christianity is based on faith? I am recently doubting some of the beliefs that I grew up with and had obviously adopted because I knew not of what the alternatives were; but as I contemplate these things I think about the universal question: "what is going to happen to me when I die?" So...through the Atheism view~ you can rot in the ground like a log or Christianity believes you spend an eternity either in heaven or hell."What hurt does it do living the life of a christian...if you turn out to be wrong you lived a good life of living for a reason, having a meaning for life or dying as an atheist to find your views were wrong and suffer the consequences of hell." One of my friends brought this up to me recently and even though I do acknowledge this, it's easier to say it when you do have complete certainty on the matter of there being a god. You see even if I decided to pick up christianity again there wouldn't be that strong faith that christianity is based on.I feel I would simply be going through the motions of a christian...unsatisfied and sceptic. If I am going to believe something I want to be behind it 100% and that is why it's really hard for me to be "on-the-fence". But I am also coming to realize that no matter how hard one tries to search for the answer he/she will never find it if they don't have faith. You see for me I am still on the "not convinced there is a god" side of the boat vs. "convinced there isn't a god", I am still leaning towards there being a god, but I feel like I don't have enough proof at this point in time. Have you read completely through the bible? Just wondering.

Anyway,I enjoy reading your opinions. It gives me a different point of view- the view of an atheist- as I am currently surrounded by non-secular views.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi anonymous.

Thank you for your comments. I also struggled with what you are going through right now, and I would like to comment on some of what you have said. If it is okay with you, I will respond to your comment with a new blog post. The only think I would say now is don't give up your faith too quickly. Think about it seriously, and do as much reading and thinking as possible before you make a decision.

To answer your question: no, I have not read the bible through from cover to cover, although I spent many years studying sections of it when I was a Christian. However, one of my goals this coming year is to read the bible through in its entirety.


Goji said...

Oh Kevin, believe me. William Craig writes far more in-depth than what you found in I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.

Reasonable Faith contains a very good overwiew of everything (I really liked it), but if you want to know more about his kalam cosmological argument in particular, then, although it's not nearly as updated as many of his newer works, I'd highly recommend his book by the same title: The Kalam Cosmological Argument. Please forgive me, however, when I say to ignore the negative reviews of it posted on Amazon. You have to understand that the book -- since it goes by that title -- has become the "hub", so to speak, of criticism (much of it confused, it would seem).

To get a taste for the level at which Dr. Craig can write, visit his virtual office for a while:

I think Craig's unique, really. He can write at many different levels, for the laymen and for the professors. Oh, and if you're interested in New Testament scholarship, then there are two books I can think of off hand that you must look into: The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright and The Son Rises by Craig.

Happy New Years, and take care.

Kevin Parry said...

Thank you goji for the website and various references. As I said earlier, philosophy is not one of my strong points, so the website you referenced will be a good start.

All the best

Anonymous said...

"I’m afraid, Mr McDowell, that I’m still an atheist, and as far as I know I don’t think I’m living in denial."

That's probably because you are still living in denial...

I'm not trying to be rude (although I don't doubt I am), however it sounds as if you disagree with Turk & Geisler now & you'll think of a reason later. How do you reason that they "falsly" link atheism with evolution. Sure not all atheist necessarily believe in evolution - some don't believe in God or evolution - but those who do clearly have no valid arguement against God (and apparently some are willing to admit that). You can't say that no atheist is an evolutionist, so what's your arguement?

Also, what do you say evolution "actually is" since according to you the authors' definition of it is "wrought with mistakes"? Frankly, I though their explanation of evolution made it seem more plausible than any other explaination I've heard! They definitly gave it th benefit of the doubt (something, as I'm sure you are aware, many less informed creationists would not do).

Anyway, I'll be checking back because I'm extrmely curious to read what the authors' mistakes were in their explaination of evolution. In the meantime, I'm going to read more on evolution so I can point out your mistakes. :)

Kevin Parry said...

Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you are willing to pop by again. I look forward to any comments you might make regarding my other posts.

With regards to your post, I would like to make a few comments.

Anonymous wrote:
“How do you reason that they "falsly" link atheism with evolution.”

While referring to evolution, on page 115, Geisler and Turek write:

“Believers in this theory of origin are called by many names: naturalistic evolutionists, materialists, humanists, atheists, and Darwinists (in the remainder of this chapter and the next, we’ll refer to believers in this atheistic evolutionary theory as Darwinists or atheists. This does not include those who believe in theistic evolution – i.e., that evolution was guided by God).”

If I’m interpreting this correctly, Geisler and Turek are only concerned about atheistic evolution per se, not evolution in general (as they exclude theistic evolutionists from their discussion). If this is the case, then doesn’t their problem lie solely with atheism? If so, then why are they attacking evolution? The very fact that there are Christians who believe in evolution (and in some cases, atheists who don’t believe in it) shows that there isn’t a link between evolution and a belief in a God (see my post 'Evolution and Religion', where I describe this in more detail). Evolution doesn’t disprove the existence of a God. For all we know, God could have created the first life and then allowed evolution to take over.

The biological definition of evolution is "a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations" What has this got to do with religion or a belief (or non-belief) in God? It is fallacious to link evolution with atheism, and this is what Geisler and Turek (as well as some atheists) do.

Anonymous wrote
"Also, what do you say evolution 'actually is' since according to you the authors' definition of it is 'wrought with mistakes'?"

Geisler and Turek do misinterpret evolution. On page 115, they write:

“Naturalistic evolutionists claim that this one-celled amoeba (or something like it) came together by spontaneous generation (i.e., without intelligent intervention) in a warm little pond somewhere on the very early earth. According to their theory, all biological life has evolved from that first amoeba without any intelligent guidance at all.”

First of all, they are referring here to the field of abiogenesis (i.e., the study of how life first arose). It is interesting to note that abiogenesis has very little to do with evolutionary theory at all; they are separate fields, but apologists seem to mix the two together. Anyway, be that as it may, no self-respecting biologist will ever claim that a one-celled amoeba came together by spontaneous generation in a warm little pond. This view was held in the 19’th century, but has long been abandoned by biologists. The current thinking is that self-replicating molecules formed the first life, which after a long period of time formed the first cells. Click here for a review of abiogenesis. Why are Geisler and Turek using outdated ideas?

Another mistake, if I may:

“Forget the Darwinist assertions about men descending from apes or birds evolving from reptiles.” Pg 115

Geisler and Turek are reinforcing another fallacy of evolution here. I can guarantee that you will find no evolutionist claiming that man evolved from apes. Evolutionary theory states that man and apes evolved from a common ancestor, and this ancestor was not fully an ape or a man.

One more, and then I will finish.

On page 189, Geisler and Turek state that racism and genocide is the logical outworking of Darwinism. They don’t explore the idea that maybe Hitler himself misinterpreted evolution (which he did) and then used a distorted idea of evolution to push his sick ideas.

The same can be said of Christianity. Hitler, in Mein Kampf, stated that he was acting in accordance to the will of God to kill the Jew. Does this mean that Christianity was responsible for the holocaust? No it does not, it just means that Hitler used an incorrect and distorted idea of Christianity to support his views. Both evolution and Christianity were misinterpreted here.

That’s all I have to say in this comment. Thanks again for responding. I see you want to read up on evolution. I suggest you visit TalkOrigins – they have some good papers there on what evolution actually is, and how it works. If you also want to also read up on some of the criticisms of evolutionary theory from a creationist point of view, you can visit Answers in Genesis. Take your time, read a lot, and make up your own mind.

I look forward to further comments from your keyboard!


Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do the the book in question, but I just discovered this site today and had a question about your personal (ex)beliefs in God, if you dont't mind answering one. It says here that you are an ex-Christian, meaning of course that you found Christianity unfulfilling as a belief and/or think that it is wrong. My question is this: When you were a Christian, did you ever personally accept Christ as the lord of your life and savior from sin, or did you merely belong to the group known as "Christianity?" That is, did you really believe in your heart that your sins had been forgiven and that you were saved, or did you simply go to church with your family on sundays. I ask because I have never before heard of someone who had a personal relationship with Christ leaving it later on. Don't get me wrong; I certainly dont belive that one should be a Christian without being able to intellectually accept Christianity. The fact is, real science and Christianity must go hand in hand for anyone to really believe it. I was just wondering what your faith actually was before you became and atheist. Thanks for your time.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi anonymous

Thank you for your comment. I would like to make a few comments regarding what you wrote. If it is okay with you, I will respond in the form of a new post.

All the best

Anonymous said...

Hey I was doing a research paper and came across your blog... You say you were once a christian. So then you know about sin and what happens if God isn't the top priority on your list, right (this isn't meant to be rude or disrespectful, I was just curious) okay so then why the drastic change, do you now not believe in the Bible or God or heaven?

Anonymous said...

"do you now not believe in the Bible or God or heaven?"

I vote for the answer "yes".

Anonymous said...

I do aagree that christianity is bunk ,but resseach on needs to be looked at

I was brought up in a Christian family and community, but had issues with the Christian Perception Of God --- I broke away from that religion whilst in my mid-teens.
Largly due to the Christian Perception Of God issues, I began to doubt God's very existence --- I then spent many years being an Atheist.
I eventually realized that it was Christianity that I had issues with, and that maybe God did actually exist, and was maybe not actually as per Christian perception --- I then spent several years being an Agnostic.
The truth about the trinity and how badly it is unrepresented in the Bible and amongst early Christianity.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I actually came a cross your blog when I tiped in the title of the book.
Just wanted to say: to find Christ Jesus is true prayer and asking Him. It is a spiritual matter, not a physical or scientific one. The thing with God is that, His existence contradicts men's logic! I am a Christ follower myself and also scientist, I can say that people in and out of the church building are kinda depressing. BUT I cannot say that I now reject God's existence when I first believed it!Even in science you cannot just do that..
Since you were in church before you must be familiar with what I am saying right? I just heard about the book and due to all the comments I ve read yet, I really want to read it but havent found a store yet. Anyways Good Luck in Your Life!

Jarica said...

Hey- was just reading reviews on the book "I don't have enough faith..." and came across your blog. I know you said you were in the market for a little heavier scientific content. My husband, who is totally a bio/chem nerd listed out some books that were helpful to his brain and I thought you might be interested in checking them out.

He said: "Collins (The Language of God) is great-has a doctorate in physical chemistry and is a theistic evolutionist, has a different perspective on science and God. Paul Davies has some good stuff (The Mind of God) and another later one on the Goldilocks theory (creation being just right), Hugh Ross has a great astrophysics side to it in "Creator and the Cosmos" and "Creation as Science" (mostly about creation and design, but leads to Jesus), Michael Behe's "Darwin's Black Box" is a great introduction to the design argument (especially from a Biochemistry side). Alister McGrath (The Dawkins Delusion) goes against the doctrine of Dawkins and is helpful to gain perspective on the atheist side of things. He's legit-PhD in molecular biophysics and one in theology. A good internet resource is, has lots of good apologetics lectures to download."

If you're still looking around at this stuff, might be worth your time to check these out.