Argument From Outrage

“Answering The Outrage: Responding to anti-theistic moral objections to God”
By C. David Ragland, Jr.
a contributor


Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites
Artist: Nicolas Poussin

Opening thought:

While perusing resources to address this topic, something occurred to me. As Christian writers/bloggers we needn’t assume that every thing we produce has to be in a formal, traditional format. After all, our goal is to inform and not necessarily to impress anyone with our scholarly discipline.

That said, what follows is meant to be informative, give due credit to those who have produced the source material, and take our readers through the process of finding ‘good’ answers on the aforementioned topic. In short, we are hereafter merely stringing together comments, quotes, links, and videos that speak to the issue at hand.

Let’s get started . . .

“The God of the Bible is a good God who demonstrates His love for people by giving His Son for the salvation of those who believe (John 3:16). The New Atheists, however, think differently. They question God’s goodness by raising abundant complaints about Old Testament (OT) ethics.” – Paul Copan [read more]

“Emotional criticisms of Old Testament history and the events recorded therein are almost entirely derived from ‘arguments from outrage’ This type argument fails to logically support a premise. All one ends up proving from this type of argument is that they ‘appear’ to be genuinely outraged and nothing more. If anti-theists want to substantiate a claim that God showed himself to be evil in the Old Testament, they must do better than this.” – C. David Ragland, Jr.

What is an argument from outrage?

An argument from outrage is considered an inappropriate rhetorical device because it does not anticipate the audience or listener forming their own conclusions. Although an emotional appeal is recognized as a legitimate rhetorical device, called “pathos,” doing so without also incorporating the elements of logic or ethics into the argument is considered to be one of the three rhetorical fallacies.

A logical fallacy occurs when the writer or speaker fails to logically support their point of view. There are several types of logical fallacies in rhetoric including red herrings, hasty generalizations and non sequiturs. Emotional fallacies include group thinking, flattery and scare tactics. In addition to the argument from outrage, ethical fallacies include scapegoating, personal attacks and guilt by association. (“What is an Example of an Argument from Outrage? |” – What’s Your Question?. Accessed February 7, 2015. )

J. P. Holding, President of writes:

“Many critics of the Bible use of a tactic called “argument by outrage” (if you like Latin phrases, call it argumentum ad cerebrosus, per a reader’s suggestion). It runs more or less like this:

The critic finds some event in the Biblical text that they find morally offensive: The slaughter of the Canaanites; the stoning of the man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath, eternal punishment.
The critic recounts this event in such a way as to imply that by itself, the event is enough of a moral outrage that there can be no argument or counter to it.” [read more]

Why doth the Anti-theist rage?

“Let’s stop and ask ourselves a question. Why does someone like Richard Dawkins even care to address the actions of the God of the Bible? Why do people like him and the late Christopher Hitchens spend any time at all addressing moral matters? Their sanctimonious nattering and moral outrage seems to contradict their view of the “pitiless, purposeless universe” they claim we all live in.” – C. David Ragland, Jr.

Dawkins writes:

“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” – Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

In response to this we can look to . . .

“I find it ironic that atheists should often express such indignation at God’s commands, since on naturalism there’s no basis for thinking that objective moral values and duties exist at all and so no basis for regarding the Canaanite slaughter as wrong. As Doug Wilson has aptly said of the Canaanite slaughter from a naturalistic point of view, “The universe doesn’t care.” So at most the non-theist can be alleging that biblical theists have a sort of inconsistency in affirming both the goodness of God and the historicity of the conquest of Canaan. It’s an internal problem for biblical theists, which is hardly grounds for moral outrage on the part of non-theists. If there is an inconsistency on our part, then we’ll just have to give up the historicity of the narratives, taking them as either legends or else misinterpretations by Israel of God’s will. The existence of God and the soundness of the moral argument for His existence don’t even come into play.” – William Lane Craig [read more]

Yes, Richard Dawkins is not pleased with God:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction. Jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic-cleanser; a misogynistic homophobic racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal….”

“Well, no need to finish the quotation; you get the idea. Dawkins seems to have chosen God as his sworn enemy. (Let’s hope for Dawkins’ sake God doesn’t return the compliment.)” – Alvin Platinga – The Dawkins Confusion

For another good answer to Dawkins:

“Let me focus explicitly on the end of Chapter 4, since Dawkins presents in it what he calls “the central argument of [his] book” (p. 157; all quotations and page numbers are from the 2006 edition). I have tried to take Dawkins’ statements in context, but please correct me if you think I’ve been unfair. His argument is as follows:

“Life is too complex to have come about by pure, random chance
It is therefore tempting to believe that it was created by an “intelligent designer”(p. 157) like other complex things
However, this belief is false because a designer would be more complicated than the thing designed, and “the whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability” (p. 158)
Darwinian evolution shows how life “with [its] spectacular statistical improbability” could have been produced (p. 158)
There is no analogous argument for physics, but the anthropic principle allows us to take “more luck” into account than we normally would in most arguments (p. 158)
Probably a better argument for physics does exist
Therefore, “God almost certainly does not exist” (p. 158) I’d like to point out two central inconsistencies in this argument. In addition, I’d like to examine whether Dawkins’ arguments are purely empirical and derived wholly from scientific evidence and reason, or whether they contain an element of “faith”.” – Neil Shenvi [read more]

Enter the Hitch-slapper . . .

In another shrill, ugly effort to convince us how evil religion and specifically Judaism and Christianity are, Hitchens writes:

“As a convinced atheist, I ought to agree with Voltaire that Judaism is not just one more religion, but in its way the root of religious evil. Without the stern, joyless rabbis and their 613 dour prohibitions, we might have avoided the whole nightmare of the Old Testament, and the brutal, crude wrenching of that into prophecy-derived Christianity, and the later plagiarism and mutation of Judaism and Christianity into the various rival forms of Islam. Much of the time, I do concur with Voltaire, but not without acknowledging that Judaism is dialectical. There is, after all, a specifically Jewish version of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, with a specifically Jewish name—the Haskalah—for itself. The term derives from the word for ‘mind’ or ‘intellect,’ and it is naturally associated with ethics rather than rituals, life rather than prohibitions, and assimilation over ‘exile’ or ‘return.’ It’s everlastingly linked to the name of the great German teacher Moses Mendelssohn, one of those conspicuous Jewish hunchbacks who so upset and embarrassed Isaiah Berlin. (The other way to upset or embarrass Berlin, I found, was to mention that he himself was a cousin of Menachem Schneerson, the ‘messianic’ Lubavitcher rebbe.) However, even pre-enlightenment Judaism forces its adherents to study and think, it reluctantly teaches them what others think, and it may even teach them how to think also.” – Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

Rather than directly responding to this snarling antisemitic drivel, let’s just watch Craig spank Hitchens:

Craig vs Hitchens Debate:

An historical thought that brings us Paine . . .

We speak of the New Atheists and their denigrating remarks, but such moral outrage is ‘nothing’ new (Ecc. 1:9) and, as we see below, Deists engaged in this iniquitous pastime as well:

Thomas Paine writes:

“The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonourable belief against the character of the divinity, the most destructive to morality, and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist. It is better, far better, that we admitted, if it were possible, a thousand devils to roam at large, and to preach publicly the doctrine of devils, if there were any such, than that we permitted one such impostor and monster as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and the Bible prophets, to come with the pretended word of God in his mouth, and have credit among us.

Whence arose all the horrid assassinations of whole nations of men, women, and infants, with which the Bible is filled; and the bloody persecutions, and tortures unto death and religious wars, that since that time have laid Europe in blood and ashes; whence arose they, but from this impious thing called revealed religion, and this monstrous belief that God has spoken to man? The lies of the Bible have been the cause of the one, and the lies of the Testament of the other.” – Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

In response to Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Rev. Richard Watson, D.D. writes:

“ . . . You profess yourself to be a deist, and to believe that there is a God, who created the universe and established the laws of nature, by which it is sustained in existence.

You profess that from the contemplation of the works of God, you derive a knowledge of his attributes and you reject the Bible, because it ascribes to God things inconsistent (as you suppose) with the attributes which you have discovered to belong to him.

In particular, you think it repugnant to his moral justice that he should doom to destruction the crying or smiling infants of the Canaanites. Why do you not maintain it to be repugnant to his moral justice, that he should suffer crying or smiling infants to be swallowed up by an earthquake, drowned by an inundation, consumed by a fire, starved by a famine, or destroyed by a pestilence?

The Word of God is in perfect harmony with his work, crying or smiling infants are subjected to death in both. We believe that the earth, at the express command of God, opened her mouth, and swallowed up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, with their wives, their sons, and their little ones.” (“» A Rebuttal to Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason”.” Accessed February 7, 2015.) [read more]

“Dr. Watson herein makes an excellent point regarding Paine’s curious, biased failure to address natural calamities. We would add: All of nature travails in pain together. (Rom. 8:22) This is the natural course of events and the state in the world we live in. Moreover, this is the result of the sin curse upon all of Creation. (Rom. 8:20 – Rom 8:22; Gen 3:17-19; Gen 5:29; Gen 6:13; Job 12:6-10; Isa 24:5,6; Jer 12:4,11; Jer 14:5,6; Hos 4:3; Joe 1:18) Did Thomas Paine choose to lament these facts? Why the disparity of interests?” – C. David Ragland, Jr.

Do Anti-theists have a moral leg to stand on? . . .

“Can we be good without God? At first the answer to this question may seem so obvious that even to pose it arouses indignation. For while those of us who are Christian theists undoubtedly find in God a source of moral strength and resolve which enables us to live lives that are better than those we should live without Him, nevertheless it would seem arrogant and ignorant to claim that those who do not share a belief in God do not often live good moral lives—indeed, embarrassingly, lives that sometimes put our own to shame.” – William Lane Craig [read more]

The Moral Argument

Atheists Trying to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too on Morality

I leave everyone with this for now . . .

“My closing thought on this topic is to announce that I will not likely ‘ever’ bring closure to this topic. This resource presentation is just the beginning” – C. David Ragland, Jr.

Moral Objections to the Old Testament – Peter J. Williams, PhD

Scripture and Slavery by J. P. Holding

In Christ,
C. David Ragland, Jr.

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