The following text began as a good faith effort to document my experience reading through this book. As an unbeliever, I naturally anticipated a fair bit of collision between my views and those expressed by David Limbaugh, so it was important not to lose track of the points that demanded consideration. The book was a gift from my loving and devout mother in an effort to convince me of the truth of Christianity. My own upbringing was safe and comfortable, well-provided for by my affectionate and supportive parents; and it was defined by devoted Christian observance.
Throughout childhood and adolescence, I recognized and suppressed any information that appeared to challenge my faith. It was not until college, in an associate-level biology class, that the veil began to unravel. Academic credit depended upon a rudimentary understanding of the theory of evolution, which proved devastating to my worldview. Like countless other former believers, the foundation of my life was finally beginning to erode. You may, if you wish, question my objectivity; but know that the transformation of my view of reality was unwelcome to me and even painful. I grieved the loss of my former convictions.
Years of open-minded if skeptical study have produced a materialist position of which I’m fairly confident, but unlike the believer’s profession of faith, bears no sentimental weight. I freely admit that I may well be mistaken and am prepared to adjust my view as I discover new information, precisely as any self-aware (albeit woefully limited) person should do.
I have done my best to make the following text intelligible on its own, but some areas may require reference to the book itself in order to appreciate my point. My responses often contain quotations, remarks and excerpts of prominent anti-religious figures of the 21st century, this is due to the fact that the discussion of the nature of reality is on-going and greater than any of its individual interlocutors. The points I reiterate from thinkers like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and others are simply the most recent or well-articulated retorts in this enduring discourse, still awaiting response from the faithful. Backward regressions through previous stages of the argument are a waste of time.
I hope any reader sincerely interested in alternative perspective finds this valuable.
(Author’s words in bold text)
- pg.5 I hadn’t begun to seriously study scripture or Christian doctrine – The book begins by setting up the author as an ardent unbeliever but the he quickly makes the silly and contradictory statement that he’d never taken a scrutinous interest in scripture. A proper basis for disagreement cannot be attained without requisite knowledge of the refuted subject. Lacking awareness of the information on either side simply relegates the individual in question to neutrality; a sort of spiritual free-agent status. This may seem like a minor objection, but it actually is consequential. An empty scale can be tipped to one side with a minuscule addition, and may teeter back and forth with each tiny increment in either direction. The process of constructing opinions works in a similar way, which is why it is not uncommon to find fervent believers or unbelievers who have switched camps many times over. The author reiterates the point on the following page, I knew, after all, that I hadn’t really given the Bible a fair reading. Finally on pg. 23, the author terminally undermines the facade of his alleged skepticism. – “I have never doubted the existence of a creator God, nor the existence of miracles.”
- pg. 8 …mainstream culture’s disdain and disrespect for the intellectual integrity of Christianity is unwarranted. – The author employs this sleight of hand to paint Christians as the underdog; the timid recipients of ridicule and harassment from society. The truth is that 75% of Americans professed adherence to Christian faith according to Gallup in 2015. There has never been a US President without affiliation to a Christian confession, nor has any President since Eisenhower failed to attend the National Prayer Breakfast, an event that has become nearly a week-long, invite-only festival of state-sponsored religious dispensation. There is persistent reverence for holy writ in our courts, on our currency, and even in professional sports; not to mention the tax-exempt status enjoyed by religious organizations. Alleviating the burden of property and income taxes may be beneficial for the general small-town church, but also provides a highly attractive opportunity for industrious hucksters with a bit of charisma and dubious moral character to capitalize on a major financial loophole. Limbaugh comes back around on pg. 25 to say, I am also convinced that Christianity is under attack in our culture and throughout the world. He’d do well to remember that the primary antagonist to Christianity is Islam, not secularism; though this realization would be scant comfort to the author. Virtually all objections against one hold true for the other.
- pg. 10 In the first pages of the booklet we learned that the Bible consists of sixty-six books written by some forty different authors over a period of about 1500 years. The authors came from every imaginable background – kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen and scholars. It was written on at least three different continents in three different languages – Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic – yet, there is a thread of continuity from Genesis to Revelation. – This sounds incredibly impressive until one discovers the laborious process by which the accepted versions of the Christian Bible were compiled, the first official volume not being published until 400 years after the purported advent of Jesus of Nazareth. To think that the process of the Bible’s authorship was a linear and unblemished one is pure delusion. Many books held as divinely dictated for centuries were eventually removed from the canon and deemed apocryphal. It is surprising that modern Baptists and Evangelicals approve (or don’t know) of the Vatican’s 17th century revision to the holy text, given their typical revulsion of antiquated Catholic tradition.
- pg. 16 There is no substitute…for reading the Bible in its original form –Surely Limbaugh means to say, “in its English-translated, King James Version.” Or perhaps the reader expected to believe that the author learned Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic to properly prepare himself to digest the text in its “original form”? Perhaps if he had, he would have noticed the Hebrew word “almah”, meaning “young woman” has been quite impactfully mistranslated (in the case of Mary) in the King James Volume to say “virgin”. Maybe he would have more to say about Judas’ belief that Jesus was a traveler from another solar system, or Solomon’s disbelief in the afterlife. Maybe he would have disagreed entirely with the Vatican’s decision to discard the aforementioned heretical texts.
- pg. 16 …my friend – apologist extraordinaire – Frank Turek – Frank Turek consistently displays, and makes a living arguing against, a misinformed caricature of scientific materialism. He opportunistically employs the shady debate tactic of starting numerous rhetorical fires and accusing his opponent of total forfeiture if they choose not to extinguish each and every one.
- pg. 16 I still had nagging issues about evil and pain and suffering in the world. The notion of eternal damnation also continued to bother me. – These problems should indeed bother everyone very deeply. Carefully consider the “Impotent or Evil” argument. Sam Harris presents this with poignant clarity in his debate with William Lane Craig at Notre Dame.
- pg. 18 Author cites passages from French Christian mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), famous not only for his contributions to math and the physical sciences, but also for his disingenuous bit of bet-hedging known to history as Pascal’s Wager. Somehow I doubt this philosopher’s half-assed Magnum Opus will make an appearance in this text. Upon completion of the text, it appears this assumption holds true.
- pg. 19 Some of them (philosophers), intoxicated by human pride and the desire to place man “on an equal with God,” foolishly think the chief good can be found in man. – To think that philosophers who dispute God’s rule, actions or existence are motivated by a narcissistic desire to be his equal is an exercise in self-deception, and an ironic one at that.
- pg. 26 The Bible itself rejects anti-intellectualism. It exhorts us to engage our minds. “Love the Lord your God with all your mind!” – The irony here is staggering. The author quotes a passage instructing the reader not only to believe that God exists, but to love and give him praise, while masquerading its message as an appeal to the intellect. It is remarkable to see that the quote does not say, “Question the Lord thy God with all your mind!” I quote theological liberator Martin Luther, “Reason is the devil’s harlot. It can do naught but harm and slander everything God says or does.”
- pg. 30 The author quotes Fulton Sheen, “He appeared, He struck history with such impact that He split it in two, dividing it into two periods: one before his coming and one after it.” – Sheen and Limbaugh both show a galling ignorance of the history of their religion. Anno Domini (BC/AD dating) was not proposed until the year 525 by a Scythian Monk, nearly three centuries after Christianity became the official faith of the Holy Roman Empire, and was formally adopted by an English Benedictine Monk in the 8th century. Sheen is no stranger to hyperbole, he propagated unverifiable quotations attributed to Albert Einstein in which the physicist appears to praise the Catholic Church for its moral integrity during Adolf Hitler’s campaign of European domination. This forgery was eventually exposed for what it was, but it’s easy to see how readily some use deceitful fabrications when it appears to suit their cause.
- pg. 31 “Few of His words or actions are intelligible without reference to His Cross.” – The author again quotes Sheen who echoes C.S. Lewis in making a dangerous pronouncement about the secular value, or rather the absence of any, of Christ’s message. His position in history depends solely on the veracity of his purported miracles and the divinity of his origin.
- pg. 32 “Satan brought death into the world” – Who brought Satan into the world? Presumably God created Lucifer with lucid awareness of what he would do, and created Hell as a dwelling of everlasting and otherworldly agony for when the predestined coup d’état ran its course. Either God has complete control and is the creator of existence or not, but to lay the blame for evil upon Satan is to have it both ways. Both of these, of course, depend on the unsafe assumption that God exists.
- pg. 39 Peter wants us to know that he isn’t purveying “myths”, but providing factual, eyewitness accounts. – Granting the notion that Jesus was a real person, none of the gospels were written within the lifetime of any person who knew him. The earliest known fragment dates to around the year 125A.D. The author goes on to explain that, “Nothing could better underscore the importance of the writers getting their facts straight than their affirmed conviction that men’s eternal destiny could depend on their accuracy. Not only were they intellectually sure these things occurred, they experienced them with the full array of their physical senses.” – Put aside, momentarily, that the authors of the text in question could not have experienced these events first hand. Did they (or Limbaugh) wonder if the deity was short-sighted to put his perfect message of salvation in such existential jeopardy? How could an infinite being fail to safeguard his word from impurity or clumsy misplacement? And what of forgiveness for ignorance of the revelation, a doctrine preached by at least some of Christianity’s many discordant sects? Would more souls not be saved from eternal damnation had the gospel not been spread to begin with?
- pg. 52 “God gave the Israelites only enough manna for one day. It was not about Him, it was about them” – …concludes the author, after admonishing mankind not to presume to interpret the will of God.
- Pg. 56 “It is not just unbelievers who are sometimes mystified by the seeming harshness of God in certain Old Testament stories; it is also troubling for many Christians.” – This should confuse and disturb anyone who cares to look, believer or otherwise. A deity who instructs his chosen creatures to exterminate one another, enslave their captives, mutilate the genitals of their own children, stone homosexuals to death among myriad other horrible crimes, then is hailed as a God of mercy, love and grace should attract a fairly critical response. This impulse is not to be dismissed with the suggestion that, “one should not attribute human attributes, motives or logic to God.” If this is the God who designed us in his image, isn’t it reasonable to surmise that our logic would emulate his rather than rendering much of his will unintelligible or mysterious?
- Pg. 58 “What do the revisionists make of the Jesus who made a whip of cords and drive the moneychangers out of the Temple (John 2:15)? “[Jesus] talked about hell more than anybody else,” said Pastor Timothy Keller. “You want to blame hell on Paul or somebody nasty like that, I’m sorry. Go take a look.” “This idea that Jesus is meek, mild, indifferent, and non-judgmental is the stuff of myth.” “Jesus tells people to repent. He tells people to quit their jobs and follow him. He tells a demon to shut up. He picks a fight with Sunday school teachers, He tells His mom He’s busy, He rebukes the wind, he kills 2000 pigs, he curses and kills a tree, he tells people they’re going to hell.” – Given the incoherence and often amoral nature of the man’s behavior, all value in his words depends solely on the truth of his divine origin. This emphasizes C.S. Lewis’ point that any man who said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. If he is not the Messiah, he’s either a madman or something worse.
- Pg. 59 “Certain liberal critics,” – Not the first glimpse of disdain for the political left in the text, and surely not the last.
- Pg. 60 We need to “show a zealous concern for the cause of Christ” and stand for the Truth, which includes opposing “iniquity with a deep, compelling revulsion.” – This is not quite an explicit call for violence, but it seems to betray the image of the patient, open-handed envoy of Christ and recommend a nearly Inquisitional intolerance of any behavior or opinion deemed unwholesome.
- pg. 61 Exodus 21 – “If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death.” – The author describes the spurious moment of “clarity” when he discovered that the “nuanced rule” in modern law was derived from this antiquated and embarrassingly superstitious passage. These 28th and 29th verses appear amidst a tedious catalogue of crude laws, punishments and prohibitions which reveal more brutish savagery than ancient wisdom. No attempt is made in the surrounding text to give a sane explanation as to why the meat of the slaughtered animal is to be discarded. Such a waste would surely be devastating given the scarcity of resources in their time and place. Never mind the author’s blissful indifference to the execution of the bull’s owner.
- pg. 68 Consider: Christians believe that God is one, yet He is also three. We believe that Jesus is God and also man. We’re assured that God is in control – He’s completely sovereign – yet we are responsible for our own actions… – The author goes on to write four paragraphs littered with exasperating contradictions and divine inadequacies with which Christians must contend. Throughout the text, the author heroically endeavors to rationalize each issue mentioned in this section, but fails to provide plausible explanations for many, and cannot apply consistent logic to many more (e.g. opportunistically exploiting results of radiocarbon dating technology when it can be made to support his view while castigating the practice in all other cases)
- pg. 70 Just as Christianity’s paradoxical teachings paradoxically bolster the credibility of Christianity’s truth claims, the apparent unlikeliness of Christianity’s grand plan of salvation increases its believability. – A well-known priest and Christian apologist once said, (“endearingly or annoyingly”, as Christopher Hitchens put it) “I believe it because it is absurd!”
- pg. 71 First, let’s recognize that no sinful human being can save himself. Not one of us is without sin, so we better hope Christ can do it in our place or we’re out of alternatives. But how can God do this for us and still give us the credit? – The author invents the non-dilemma out of thin air that personal redemption is unthinkable by any method individual, as opposed to vicarious. By dint of being born human post-original sin, we are not holy enough to be good people and save ourselves from eternal torture; a pure sacrifice had to be made. This should incite one to question, “Who devised this rule and for what purpose?” The only answer seems to be that this counter-intuitive transaction was designed by God, for the purpose of impressing his meager creation with a demonstration of his masochistic generosity. But why does mankind need God to suffer in order to be rendered pure? Who would object to undoing the crucifixion and recommending hell never be created to begin with? Let us not forget, original sin was evidently God’s design.
- pg. 72 [Quote from Christopher Hitchens about the moral character of imposed responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus] What Hitchens seems to have overlooked is that we are not condemned for Christ’s death but for our own sinfulness. – Limbaugh despicably insinuates Hitchens’ ignorance of the doctrine of original sin. Mere sentences after this cynically lifted quotation, Hitchens continues, “I must accept that this sacrifice was necessary compensation for an earlier sin of which I also had no say and no part.” Limbaugh displays here either dismal journalistic work ethic or a deceitful ploy to make an opponent of Hitchens’ stature appear sloppy and uninformed.
- pg. 75 In the end, no matter how much our intellect tells us that Christianity’s truth claims are valid, for salvation we must surrender and place our trust in Christ, and that’s a matter of the will, not the intellect. – This would make perfect sense, but the author has yet to make any factual case in favor of Christian doctrine with which to appeal to the intellect. Every assertion thus far presupposes that God exists and that the Bible is divinely dictated. He goes on to say that, “Our faith is based on abundant evidence, rationally weighed and considered.” As of page 75, no such evidence has been presented.
- pg. 81 There’s something else that reinforces my belief system more quickly than anything else: the sheer extensiveness and pervasiveness of evil in the world. – The author fails to elaborate upon this fascinating and counter-intuitive conclusion, then promises that it will be explained in Chapter 13. Contrast the Christian view of the fall with the humanist’s view of the perfectibility of mankind. The humanist worldview, whether consciously or not, presupposes that man can be his own god – he has the ability to remake and perfect himself over time. But as the last century has shown, these godless ideas have led to totalitarian regimes that enslave and murder millions. Even if you deny that godlessness has led to this depravity, you will still have a difficult time making the case that mankind is on a linear path to enlightenment. – No quotation is offered from any humanist thinker or author proclaiming that human beings are “perfectible”. Perfection is an abstract concept at the end of the path of self-improvement (it is redundant to clarify that this path has no end), and virtually no progress of any kind is linear. Humanism simply emphasizes the value and potential goodness of people, and seeks rational solutions to human problems. The tyrannical “godless” dictatorships of the 20th century appear to show what happens when god is absent from society, but in fact they simply reveal the horror of religious fervor when the head of state assumes the role of god. Only a system that is religious at its core demands prostrate submission from its subjects, and for the contents of their hearts and minds to be rendered dutifully unto Caesar, Czar, King, Fuhrer, Lord or God.
- pg. 82 Is it fair for the Bible to teach that we are intrinsically evil and then for Jesus to instruct us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)? What He’s telling us is that He is the standard of perfection. He is telling us, in effect, how rigid the standard of perfection is, that we cannot possibly attain that standard through our own power, and that we need to surrender to Him in order to grow spiritually and morally. – The author performs contortions to make this impossible assignment seem reasonable. You may soften the message if you choose, but in doing so you forego taking the Messiah’s words at face value. So much for belief in the “literal” truth of the Bible. And what of the warning not to presume to interpret the will of God? One would at least expect God to say what he means if the fate of his beloved creatures depends on receiving his perfect, unadulterated message.
- pg. 88 As to the second question – does the Christian’s liberation from the Law render it a nullity? – Jesus Himself provides the answer: “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” – The typical Christian response to questions about Old Testament barbarism is to dismiss it as antiquity, and claim that Jesus’ crucifixion alleviated the need to enact pre-Christian doctrine. This book has fully debunked this pervasive misunderstanding. The life of Jesus was nothing if not a vindication of the old books, and dutiful adherence to their edicts is still incumbent upon the believer. In light of this indefinite obligation and in accordance with the law as stated in the Pentateuch, Christians are required to stone to death non-believers (even their own siblings or children) and put decadent cities to the sword, not sparing the life of even the livestock. On page 236 the author reminds us of Jesus’ endorsement of Old Testament doctrine. Jesus affirms the authenticity of the Hebrew canon and instructs His disciples to honor it (Matt. 5:17-18)
- pg. 89 Is there an inconsistency in Christianity’s teaching that man is totally depraved yet entitled to dignity because he was created in God’s image? No. God made us in His image for a purpose and He made us redeemable through the blood of His Son. – To absolve God of his responsibility in original sin is absurd. He designed man with full awareness of what he’d do, and engineered the penalty and redemption for the resulting sin before any of it was set into motion.
- pg. 90 There is nothing contradictory about God’s being one in essence and having three united Persons in that essence. It is a mystery, but not a contradiction. – This concept is only coherent if you accept in the first place the notion of God’s omnipotence and infinite power, which atheists reject. It is impossible to make rational sense of the Trinity to a non-believer, it must be accepted on faith. A common inconsistency amongst Christians in general and Limbaugh in particular is that they cannot seem to decide whether faith for its own sake is a good thing. They often sermonize over the significance of faith as a human virtue, but deride it when making foolish pronouncements like, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”.
- pg. 92 (Giving Up Life to Gain It) – We are getting a far superior life in exchange for the one we are shedding, and this is for our own sake, not for Christ’s. As Paul declares, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philip. 1:21) – This statement expresses clear disregard for the significance of our physical reality in exchange for reverence of the hereafter. This life is but a stepping stone, a preparation for eternity.
- pg. 93 While being wealthy, comfortable or powerful is certainly no bar to eternal life…Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” He could be implying that rich people might not be as likely to turn toward Him. – He could indeed be implying this, but who are we to soften and distort the words of the Messiah, God-made-flesh, just because we find the intolerance of his exact words disturbing? He did not use an analogy of something unlikely, he used an analogy of something utterly impossible. This passage states, in no uncertain terms, that if a person is sufficiently wealthy (an abstract metric), that he or she cannot be saved from eternal damnation. Countless prolific priests, pastors and evangelists have amassed lavish wealth in the material world and one wonders how they respond to this passage. Perhaps they deem their own self-imposed damnation a noble sacrifice so that many more may be saved.
- pg. 101 (It Was an Honor for Us to Suffer) – The author relates a heart-wrenching story about two Christian women raised in Muslim countries who were subjected to the sort of horrific cruelty to which Christianity has not lowered itself in centuries. The author fails to recognize the double standard at work. From a Christian perspective, the same divinely-commanded behavior the other way would be justified or even dignified. The crime of the Muslim is not the act itself, but carrying it out in the name of the wrong god against the wrong people, which paves the way for another glaring but common error. Yahweh and Allah are simply discordant versions the same entity, transmitted for worship to antagonistic populations.
- pg. 103. We surely grasp the importance of loving God, but what about the biblical teaching that we also “fear” Him? – The author goes on to offer a great deal of sanctimony and redefinition of the word “fear” to mean something closer to reverence and loyalty, not much importance hinges on this wordplay. Hitchens rightly describes the estuary of love and fear as the “essence of sadomasochism, the essence of the master/slave relationship”.
- pg. 106 The Bible is inerrant, even though human beings originally wrote it, they were writing under the power of the Holy Spirit. But biblical inspiration does not guarantee that later copies were without error, and indeed, a number of minor – and substantively insignificant – mistakes have been found in them, as we’ll see in Chapter 9. – To say that the Bible is without error is to say that its message could not be improved. Unless the author means this as a declaration of his support for slavery and murder of non-believers, it seems safe to suggest some helpful revisions to scripture. Apart from this, who inspired the books of the Bible that were eventually deemed heretical, and could the human author have known at the time that he was being misled?
- pg. 108 How is it possible that God is in control over His entire creation, and yet we retain our free will and are responsible for our actions? – The author cites many passages that emphasize God’s sovereignty and unlimited power. He goes on to explain why it is important for man to exercise his free will for good, “God’s control over each human being’s fate, then, is rightly balanced with the moral responsibility each human has to respond appropriately to God.” – He then toys with the paradox of Judas becoming the unwitting vehicle for God’s plan through his own volition, bringing unspeakable shame upon himself through the ages for doing what someone had to do in order for Jesus to be sacrificed and redeem mankind (and as Hitchens notably points out, performing the redundant task of identifying a well-known and prolific local preacher). Finally, he leaves us with the wholly unsatisfactory and conflicted non-conclusion, “One explanation was offered by Luis Molina in the sixteenth century. It is that God is omniscient, He knows exactly what any creature He creates will do in any set of circumstances. Therefore in bringing about those circumstances, He is exercising His sovereignty while preserving the human actor’s individual liberty.” – To possess certain knowledge of a person’s future action is to comprehend the illusion of his agency. The choice has already been made. The fact that the person in question is yet unaware of that choice is irrelevant. The idea that God possesses this knowledge and is the creator and supervisor of this person means that he, and no one else, designed the circumstances of the choice and the choice itself. This is the antithesis of individual liberty, not the preservation of it. A simple raccoon trap functions by placing a piece of food inside a container beyond a small opening. The raccoon may pass its open hand through the aperture, but is unable to withdraw its closed fist with the morsel enclosed. Its only means for escape is to simply relinquish the food, but the raccoon more often succumbs to its determination. In this analogy, the faithful raccoon must only abandon the enticing notion of human agency to safely pass through the constricting passage of belief in a supervising, omnipotent deity. The problem is trivially easy to resolve and its consequences are entirely self-imposed by the believer who chooses to view free will as God-given. At the time of this writing, incendiary discussions transpire within the academic community over the neuro-biological viability of free will. Should the concept ever be irrefutably undermined, and the public understanding shifted, I have no doubt that the faithful raccoon will finally release its coveted guise of free will and claim that divine determinism had been part of the plan all along.
- pg. 113 The Bible is consistent in affirming that everything God made is good. Even after the fall, all of creation is still good. – THC, caffeine, alcohol, psilocybin, DMT, opium, cyanide, malaria, Staphylococcus, E. coli. and Satan himself are among God’s creation. Surely the faithful would take issue with at least a few of these.
- pg. 113 The Bible tells us that Satan is in control of the world (1 John 5:19) – How did God allow this to happen? It’s as though he’s constructed existence for the sake of theater, every actor going through the motions as directed, but for whose amusement?
- pg. 129-133 (Christ’s Suffering had to be Real) – Limbaugh explains at length the enormity of God’s sacrifice by taking human form and coming to Earth to serve, die and be resurrected for the salvation of man. This was done to save us from hell due to the harm done by original sin. We have established that human free will is not possible with an omniscient supervising deity, so original sin was a component of God’s design. He chose the means by which he would correct his own error for which we were blamed and condemned, now we revere his masochism disguised as benevolence.
- pg. 134 “Jehovah” – Modern misrendering of the Hebrew name “Yahweh”
- pg. 147 The Bible is truly divinely inspired, it is infallible, it is indestructible, it is inerrant. – The failure to sufficiently make sense of the paradoxes the author mentioned (free will, evil in the world, contempt for the wealthy), and the many more he did not (circumcision, natural disasters, ignorance of the revelation, Elisha’s curse upon the children) makes this statement false in its own terms. An ordinary person, as Sam Harris says, could improve the Bible in five minutes. This should not be a true statement about a book written by the omniscient creator of the universe.
- pg. 149 Critics have resorted to new attacks, arguing for example that certain prophetic books couldn’t have been written by their known authors because they lived before the prophecies occurred. – This is not a problem for the eventual authors documenting the alleged fruition of Old Testament prophecies, as they lived many years after the supposed events, and turning the conclusion into Holy canon is as simple as claiming that the prophecies came to pass. He circles back on pg. 275 to say, “They (critics) also twist themselves into pretzels to deny that certain books were written by biblical authors at the time there were said to have been written.” – He burns a great deal of mental fuel emphasizing this point, but again, this is not a problem if the eventual authors of the books that verify the fulfillment of the prophecies know how to make them come out right. I have not seen him acknowledge this palpably obvious pitfall, much less offer an adequate safeguard for it.
pg. 154 The Zoroastrian and Buddhist scriptures as well as the Koran, says Orr, “are equally destitute of beginning, middle or end. They are for the most part, collections of heterogeneous materials, loosely placed together.” – This cynical sneer against faiths which, each in their own minor ways, are slightly more coherent than Christianity, forgets or ignores that the Christian doctrine itself was constructed by means of a non-linear chipping-away of excess material centuries after the “fact”. It also worth reminding them that Orthodox Judaism (people of the Talmudic tradition, reverent of the Pentateuch) regards Christianity with an analogous insouciance as the author expresses for non-Christian religions.
pg. 164 “Heathen Gods were fickle, of dubious morals and doubtful character,” writes Dr. Peckham – This insinuates that there were other gods. I’ll extend the benefit of the doubt and assume Dr. Peckham is speaking metaphorically.
pg. 212 Thus, whether we use liberal or conservative dating, the gospels and Acts were written in the first century. – The earliest dating of any gospel manuscript by a non-clerical source is 125AD. The latest is 250AD. There are a number of notable inconsistencies between them that suggest these were not derived from eye-witness accounts. Moreover, Limbaugh expresses disbelief in the reliability of scientific dating methods elsewhere in the book and does not address the problem of utilizing them to verify the age of ancient manuscripts while discrediting their application to fossilized organic remains.
pg. 236 The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was enormously significant because they included copies of the Old Testament dating from more than a century before the birth of Christ. – Again, the author is obviously quite happy to hypocritically employ the use of carbon dating technology given to us by modern science when it happens to suit his needs. This is a persistent condition which one encounters in most believers. He also does not see any conflict in asserting that the original manuscripts or “autographs” of the New Testament gospels were destroyed due to the degradation of their materials, while explaining the matter-of-fact survival of much older written work under ostensibly similar conditions.
pg. 257 With the advent of the postmodern era and with culture’s concomitant assaults on the very concept of truth, the subject has become an integral part of apologetics. – Limbaugh makes a repetitive effort throughout the book to portray atheists, agnostics and free thinkers as silly by accusing them of excogitating over the mere existence of objective truth.
pg. 258 “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians – Incredible claims have been made without supporting evidence. There’s a critical difference between claiming something did not occur (what non-believers are generally accused of doing) and acknowledging that the event has not been sufficiently proven (what non-believers, for the most part, are actually doing).
pg. 260 They (non-believers) often defend their outlook as an expression of individualism, with arguments such as, “I don’t feel comfortable when you talk about ‘truth’ per se. What is true for you may not be true for me.” – This objection is almost invariably raised from the other side, so it’s striking to find a believer complaining about the tactic. A famous example of this is Bill O’Reilly’s interview of Richard Dawkins. Scientific materialists have a naturally persistent tendency to prioritize objective truth over personal belief.
pg. 261 Darwinian evolution would purport to explain the development of biological systems; human behavior would be understood through Freudian psychology’ and Marxism would interpret historical and economic events in the context of the material world. If nothing else, these ideologies shared a self-important arrogance in providing all-encompassing explanations for the questions they claimed to answer. – Limbaugh accuses naturalistic theories, which reveal the pitilessness of nature and the triviality of human existence, of “self-important arrogance” while propagating an ideology which has expressed hostility to discovery and enlightenment throughout the ages and teaches people to believe that the very cosmos was created especially for them. It is precisely the other way about. Science has not accepted a natural explanation (or indeed a need) for a “first cause”; a fact that delights the faithful to no end. It is religion which claims totality of wisdom and knowledge. Limbaugh continues, “Postmodern skeptics critique all worldviews except their own.” – The intellectual dishonesty on display has reached an appalling high. For one thing, “Post-modernism” and “the academic community” are not to be used synonymously. Science proceeds in the pursuit of objective truth and adjusts its database with each new discovery. It is the faithful who seek confirmation bias. They have the end in sight, and the information obtained along the way must conform.
pg. 274 Some liberal critics harbor an anti-supernatural bias that rejects the possibility of miracles outright, and because this presupposition infects much modern biblical criticism, I want to address it briefly. – Author continues, “I believe part of the problem is human pride, exacerbated by modern man’s scientific and technological advancements.” – Limbaugh implies that the most rational base assumption is that supernatural forces are at work, and that miracles are merely deliberate fluctuations within the natural order rather than suspensions of it. If miracles were natural events with supernatural intent, there wouldn’t be anything unusual or remarkable about them. Instead, we hear reports of inanimate objects becoming living creatures, transmutation of fluids, conjuring of food from thin air, mammalian parthenogenesis, and resurrection of the dead. These are not mere fluctuations of the natural order. If these events could be replicated and observed in laboratory conditions, no so-called “anti-supernatural bias” would exist; they would be sufficiently proven and would not have to be taken on faith. But the fact is that no one living has ever witnessed any of these events, so extraordinary evidence would be necessary to assume that they are or ever have been possible. The only evidence we have is the biblical assertion of truth. This cannot be believed on its own merit by a non-Christian. Limbaugh also divulges explicit contempt for scientific discovery and the advent of technology. One might expect more gratitude from someone who benefits from modern marvels such as airplanes, smartphones, dental care, home security and air conditioning; none of which could be possible without the centuries of diligent application of the scientific method which have elapsed since the limited lives of the nomadic and superstitious scribblers who gave us the Christian testaments.
pg. 276 Much like Darwinists, liberal critics insist they will go wherever the facts take them, but their presuppositions won’t allow them to go in certain directions, and they take gigantic leaps of faith as they avoid the pathway of truth. This is why Norman Geisler and Frank Turek titled their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Whether it’s the naturalists’ belief, against the best known evidence, that the complexity of creation does not point to an intelligent designer, their nearly blind faith in innumerable non-existent “missing links” (transitional evolutionary forms), their unsupportable idea that the fossil record really supports their worldview, or their willingness to accept that matter was created from non-matter or that life sprang from non-life, they need more faith than Christians. I am not the slightest bit discouraged by the ridicule that the cultural elite will heap upon these arguments, for truth is not defined by popular opinion, especially in an age that is hostile to the very concept of truth. – In this diatribe of scientific ignorance, the author regresses the state of the current discussion many stages by raising points that have been conclusively refuted and now await the presentation of better responses. He claims that the best known physical evidence suggests intelligent design; a contention which raises a number of Occamist questions. Why would an infallible creator give immediate priority to a plethora of life which he ultimately decimates in order to clear way for his most special creation, mankind, all-the-while exterminating ninety-nine percent of every unique type of life on Earth? Why would the creator choose to place his special galaxy on a collision course with its nearest neighbor? Why would the creator watch his chosen creature suffer and die miserably for the first hundred or so thousand years of its existence before finally revealing himself to them and providing sometimes sensible but often savage instruction? The author says that the theory of evolution depends on the existence of fossilized “transitionary forms” between species to complete the record, illustrating his ignorance of the fact that every fossil is a transitionary form. The naturalistic worldview is constructed through reference to the fossil record, not like the feeble, retrospective effort to make the facts fit that Limbaugh seems to suggest. Evolution does not suggest that life jumps from one distinct form to the next, rather that genetic variability results in minor mutations, and some mutations can be more or less useful for survival depending upon the circumstances of the creature’s environment. Acknowledge this, and you’ve acknowledged everything evolution needs to operate in the natural world. Finally, regarding the insinuation that science draws strength from “popular opinion”, how many times have you heard a Christian say, “Two billion people can’t be wrong” to support their personal faith? Popular opinion is the only difference between religion and mythology.
pg. 277 David Hume says that if someone told him “that he saw a dead man restored to life,” he would question which is more probable: that the witness is deceiving us or himself, or that the resurrection actually occurred? Because experience teaches that the first explanation is more probable than the second, he must reject the truth of the resurrection. Hume’s argument seems circular, i.e, that he would not believe his lying eyes even if he witnessed a miracle himself because he possesses a fixed, intransigent bias against the supernatural. – If the author cannot be relied upon to give a plausible interpretation of Christ’s words, why expect him to fairly interpret his philosophical opponents? David Hume makes the perfectly rational assertion that the likelihood of miracles must be weighed cautiously when they’re experienced second or third-hand, the author then extrapolates the non-sequitur that Hume could never be convinced of supernatural intervention in spite of any amount of first-hand experience or demonstrable evidence.
pg. 280-286 Limbaugh spends the remainder of the chapter exhausting the evidence supporting the death and resurrection of Christ, but nowhere mentions the advent of many graves of “holy people” in Jerusalem opening in unison as their occupants return to life (worded so ambiguously in Matt. 27:52-53 as to appear to have happened at the moment Jesus died and after his resurrection). This event would have attracted more attention than any modern cover-up could possibly hope to conceal. Instead, this unprecedented cataclysm barely registers as a footnote in the archive of miracles in the attention of the faithful.
pg. 289 Having virtually defied science – arrogantly stretching it beyond its limits into the realm of philosophy, religion, and metaphysics, and treating Charles Darwin as a saint of their naturalist faith – they have no way to explain what can best be explained by supernatural intervention. – Anything challenging to our awareness of reality is easier explained by magic than by natural means, yet coherent scientific models have been painstakingly uncovered for every aspect of the natural world that once depended on metaphysical explanation (with the notable exception of a first cause, if such a thing is in fact necessary). When all else is stripped away and in light of the evidence against supernatural intervention, the only reasonable conclusion is that sufficient information must be brought to bear before creation can be legitimately considered as a viable explanation for the origin of reality. Once again in the same chapter, the author expresses contempt for the efficacy of carbon dating, upon which depends his entire concept of a biblical timeline as illuminated by historic artifacts. He appears to see no irony in defaming scientific inquiry when it opposes his religious view and utilizing it hypocritically when it can be massaged to fit his perspective. It is a waste of time to argue earnestly with such unabashed intellectual dishonesty.
- pg. 289 [Speaking about the fundamental precepts of evolution] I believe far fewer people would accept these improbable theories if our cultural and academic elite didn’t relentlessly drill them into us from childhood while heaping ridicule on those showing the slightest skepticism of the dominant orthodoxies. – The hypocrisy of Limbaugh’s objection is astonishing. Though my own experience may be indicative only of American education south of the Mason Dixon Line, the author, true to form, has this equation precisely backwards. Children are subjected to compulsory religious indoctrination and rarely receive comprehensive formal tutelage on the topic of evolutionary biology until high school or college. He even bewilderingly employs religious language to jeer at the authorities he accuses of dogmatic adherence to “improbable theories” (referring to the scientific communities as “dominant orthodoxies”, elsewhere calling evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins an “anti-god evangelist” and referring to Charles Darwin as a “saint of naturalist faith”). This must be recognized for what it is, ludicrous nonsense deployed in a cynical effort to rally underdog sympathy to the cause of Christianity, and it’s especially fascinating that many Christians embrace evolution as a component of intelligent design, and God is all the greater for his unfathomable ingenuity. Perhaps a conversation about reality would be more productive if the faithful could come to some consensus on which points they do and do not agree.
- pg. 290 They [Young-Earth Creationists] subscribe to different scientific theories, even if one might find those outside of the mainstream of scientific consensus, or they question the unprovable assumptions used in dating techniques or other generally accepted scientific theories. – The author does not explain his contempt for the standard dating methods of mainstream science. The colloquial favorite I encounter in discussion with believers is that the same radio-carbon dating technology from which we derive our timeline of pre-history, when applied to living tissue, generates wildly variable readings which render the practice fundamentally unreliable. The problem with this objection is that it’s informed by a basic misapplication of the tool. One does not discredit the utility of the telescope due to its failure to facilitate the examination of subatomic particles or conversely the electron microscope for being utterly useless in providing a broad picture of the cosmos. The author goes on in the following sentence to say, “Even if ‘young earthers’ are embarrassingly wrong…” helping to reveal the breadth of the schism between even the most aligned subsects of the faithful. Given the enormity of Limbaugh’s claims and the vacancy of supporting evidence, one might expect him to extend the benefit of the doubt to his compatriots.
- pg. 290 The movement’s critics claim intelligent design is unscientific by definition because it can’t be tested by the scientific method. Well, neither can atheism, but do these same critics deem that fatal to the plausibility of atheism? – The author makes the mistake of confusing atheism for a school of thought in itself. Atheism is not a world view, or a proposed explanation for the origin of the cosmos (as Limbaugh seems to imply) or even a positive declaration about belief. It describes only the absence of belief of a divine supervising authority (a – without, theist – belief in personal deity). To say, “I believe that there is a God.” is to make a declaration about reality, and should be supported by an explanation as to why. Atheism signifies merely the vacancy of such a belief. Atheism is often necessarily accompanied by scientific and philosophical schools of thought which do contain positive injunctions about the world such as humanism, scientific materialism, secularism, cultural pluralism and multitudes more; each presenting unique and worth-while opportunities for discussion.
- pg. 297 In the section Science and The Bible, the author reiterates some points made by Evangelist Ray Comfort (aka The Banana Man, a name bestowed upon him for his amusing if pitiful ignorance of the origins of genetic engineering, a feat made possible through evolution). He says that scripture revealed that the Earth is spherical, “It is he that sits upon the circle of the Earth”. (Isaiah 40:22) and that scripture anticipated the Second Law of Thermodynamics, “For the heavens vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment.” (Isaiah 51:6, Psalms 102:25, Heb. 1:11) – The foresight of the first verse seems to depend on whether the authors of Isaiah had a word to describe a sphere (e.g. ball/globe/orb). As it happens, a circle is a two-dimensional object, and actually suggests that the Earth is flat. It is possible that this is simply a linguistic limitation, but it is not clear as to why God might have seen fit to inform the scribes of the Earth’s roundness, but not the wrongness of human slavery and sacrifice. The author interprets the second verse as awareness of the concept of entropy, but it would be more surprising if a statement like this had not been made given the apocalyptic language employed in discussing the end of days throughout the entirety of scripture.
- pg. 299 Author recites first and second laws of thermodynamics and concludes, Since we still have available energy right now, this leads, inescapably, to the conclusion that the universe had a beginning in time. – There’s nothing at all controversial about this. He goes on to offer some more insight provided by Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble with surprisingly little antipathy. He then speculates, at the time of its origin, the universe must have possessed an enormous amount of usable energy that has been decreasing since.He uses this to surmise that an intelligent creator must have been the catalyst. You are free to believe that a supreme being caused the Big Bang, but this only gets you to deism (the belief in a non-intervening “Prime Mover”), and is itself subject to the “god of the gaps” fallacy. The author anticipates this objection and offers some contrition which amounts to an understandable effort to save face. It is a separate claim altogether to argue that such a being supervises and intervenes in human affairs.
- pg. 301 Michael Behe argues that biochemical systems by their very nature are irreducibly complex, comprising “a single system composed of several well-matched interacting parts that contribute to basic function, wherein removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. – Some naturalists claim to have refuted Behe’s theory, but their arguments require preposterous leaps of faith. – A practice which the author cannot seem to decide whether to protest or recommend. – Only intelligence can account for the vast amounts of information found in the genome and the integrated machinery in the cell. – If one comprehends the early conditions of primitive life and the fundamental mechanics of evolution, one realizes that DNA does not refute the reality of evolution but aligns with it perfectly. It is worth reminding the believer, so awed by prophecy, that Darwin’s theory of evolution precedes Crick and Watson’s illuminating discovery of the double helix structure of DNA by nearly a century. Evolution via natural selection is the accepted theory of life because it has managed to anticipate with stunning clarity fields that were later to emerge such as neuroscience and behavioral psychology. These fields and others are so densely packed with mind-expanding revelations that one fears for the author’s faith should he ever scratch the surface of what he’s been avoiding. The theory of irreducible complexity, contrary to Limbaugh’s estimation, has been conclusively refuted without reliance on any unnecessary assumptions. Experiments have been done with flagella-less bacteria, in which a control group is exposed to selection pressure favoring mobility. The experiment runs for thousands of generations and, lo and behold, flagella of increasing sophistication are shown to emerge.
- pg. 305 “Theoretically,” says Fazale Rana, “one gram of DNA can house as much information as nearly one trillion CDs.” – The method by which this information was ascertained is unspecified. I once heard, from a source that seemed reputable at the time, that the amount of unique genetic data separating us from our nearest primate relatives is approximately 10mb (about the file size of a three minute song at standard fidelity). The accuracy of either claim is difficult to verify, so luckily little importance hangs in the balance.
- pg. 305 The section on applied mathematics employs the smokescreen argument of extreme odds by explaining that there hasn’t been enough time in existence for the DNA of the T4 bacteriophage to have evolved naturally. This argument appears impregnable without requisite understanding of physics. Consider: The odds of each molecule in a single pebble lining up in a given sequence are so infinitesimal that it would take eons to construct even a solitary one. But the catastrophic error of anthropomorphizing natural processes is a persistent one. The odds are only insurmountable if we give physics and evolution the presumption of foresight, but the fact is that these things arose one piece at a time by a process without intent, making the “odds” irrelevant. This concept was refuted brilliantly by YouTuber and science enthusiast Thunderf00t. To paraphrase, this is like asking, “What are the odds of a ball that, when dropped, will fall in any direction other than down?” The odds of the ball falling straight down successively despite all other possible directions compound with every run of the experiment, but it is useless to report the drastic improbability of this outcome. The results are not governed by chance, they are governed by natural processes, namely gravity in this case. For another thing, what does the anti-evolutionist make of the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance? Bacteria and fungi responsible for infectious diseases (some of the creatures over whom mankind was allegedly given dominion in the Garden of Eden) are becoming increasingly impervious to modern medical intervention. The more of our antibiotic drugs they’re exposed to, the more impervious they become to their effects, making the impending threat of a catastrophic “super bug” a mere matter of time. The biological explanation for this is that the microorganisms that are susceptible to the administered treatment are killed, but any that have mutated resistance to the drug live to propagate the drug resistant gene(s) creating a bottleneck effect and causing the trait to dominate the population. The alternative explanation from an ideology hostile to Darwinism is unclear.
- pg. 306 One major challenge to Darwinism is the Cambrian explosion, in which almost all major groups of animals that we know to exist began to appear in the fossil record abruptly and fully formed in strata from the Cambrian period (500-600 million years ago). – It is true, that life on Earth began to appear with incredible profusion during this event, estimated to have lasted for 13-25 million years (a span of time approximately 65 to 120 times as long as Homo sapiens have existed, for reference). It would be truly astonishing if the fossilized remnants of any creature, fully formed in its modern state, were discovered from this period; but no such fossil has ever been found. Virtually all unique life of which we have record from this epoch have been extinct since before even the dinosaurs began to emerge. Scarcely a chordate can be found amongst the enchanting relics of this era, much less fish, reptiles, birds or even mammals. This is the sort of evidence that must be presented if the current understanding of evolution is to be undermined. A scrupulous believer might ask, “Why don’t we see any of the creatures from the Cambrian Period in nature today?” A scrupulous non-believer cannot help but ask, “How can a good-faith argument for design be based on such patent fraudulence?” Also, note once again that the author appears to have no qualms about accepting the carbon dating for this period.
- pg. 321 God permits evil to exist for the same reason he allowed it to arise in the first place: because he can’t destroy evil without eradicating free will, which is necessary for a moral universe. – As pointed out in earlier responses, free will cannot exist if there is an omniscient and omnipotent creator. The author’s statement is utterly essential to the belief in god’s supremacy and benevolence, but it relies squarely on a distinct impossibility. If the author were sufficiently educated on the subjects of evolutionary biology and neuroscience, he would admit that human free will is more deterministic than we like to believe; that our biology and environment mechanically drive our behavior in directions that are largely unconscious to us. The believer’s best solution to this otherwise impenetrable predicament, quite ironically, is to embrace material determinism and give credit to the creator for devising it. This would mirror Luis Molina’s explanation as to how human free will is possible with an all-knowing god, but the faithful refuse to relinquish the notion that we retain personal agency. This would, however, exacerbate the problem of eternal damnation. How unthinkably cruel would such a destiny be if it were predetermined? What appears to be a logical Mobius strip, (e.g. People go to Hell because they choose their path -> People choose their path because they have free will -> People have free will because God has given it to us -> God gave us free will so that we may choose our path) is closer to logical musical chairs, as not all of these things can simultaneously be true. Even if we relax our standards of what constitutes free will, the choice with which we’re presented refutes the creator’s benevolence ever more sternly. We may choose to disbelieve the revelation if we prefer an eternity of unfathomable suffering. No loving deity could frame “salvation” in such a way. To profess loyalty to this theology is to yield at gunpoint. This dynamic makes it too plain to see why heresy trials were carried out so naturally by the Inquisitors. Surrender under threat of torture is, after all, the example by which they’re led.
In spite of the book’s glimpses of clarity and innocuous exaltation, the preceding pages stand as a protracted highlight reel of David Limbaugh’s evident confusion, opportunism, hypocrisy and ineptitude. He begins by establishing a framework of his own meticulous scrutiny and propensity towards unbelief, only to swiftly undermine himself by admitting that he hadn’t given the Bible (or Christian faith) a fair chance, nor had he ever had any strong doubts about the supernatural.
The author agonizes repeatedly and at length over the oppression of the faithful in the modern world, seldom neglecting an opportunity to insult the political left in order to score points with his demographic. Limbaugh claims that an anti-Christian agenda has been deployed by the media and academic elite, that Christians are the meek recipients of unjust ridicule and contempt, that the truth claims of scripture are valid and that critics of religion have cynically distorted science in a conspiracy to confuse the public. He aligns himself with frauds, pseudo-intellectuals and demagogues. He denigrates his philosophical opponents and distorts their messages. He makes abjectly false claims about the history of Mosaic monotheism, he produces implausible interpretations of Old Testament laws and the words of Christ himself while admonishing the reader not to presume to interpret the will of the lord. He omits mention of inconvenient passages (e.g. the burial of Moses, the punishment for unbelief, Elisha’s curse upon the children) and fails miserably to make coherent cases regarding the authorship of the Bible, the triune essence of God, human free will, objective morality or evolution.
Furthermore, the author reveals a perfect absence of rational empathy for adherents to disparate faiths. He repudiates their beliefs without (obviously) any possible means to disprove the validity of their doctrines, or without noticing that there are many faithful non-Christians with equivalent or superior conviction to his own, thoroughly convinced that they possess the correct sacrament. This perfunctory disregard is advantageous to the author, as too comprehensive a case against other religions could yield damning implications about his own. The author’s faith is exclusive and demands supremacy, regarding atheists, agnostics and even pious adherents of other religions as doomed unless they convert with utter sincerity.
Much of Limbaugh’s argument depends upon a lack of awareness of certain fundamental concepts, too strong a determination to be convinced by dubious propositions, and the necessity to take the most essential points on faith with a tacit reluctance to admit that this is what he’s doing. Limbaugh, no doubt in homage to the God of the Old Testament, appears to oscillate capriciously between love of thy neighbor and scorn for his iniquities. He detests the supposed arrogance of scientists and philosophers while propagating a worldview in which a conscious being with infinite power called the universe into existence for the benefit of our wretched, sinful selves.
The evident purpose of this book, given its content and scope, is not an appeal to skeptical unbelievers, as it offers nothing to someone disinclined to take astronomical assertions at face value. It does, however, contain a deluge of mouth-watering, sanctimonious confirmation bias for those already convinced of Limbaugh’s contention. This and all other literary projects intended to vindicate Christianity must make resolution of the free will/omniscient creator problem its central objective. All other points are superfluous until sense can be made on this front. All one can do in the meantime is withhold judgment, not subject ourselves to believing in anything which raises more questions than it answers and use our natural, if not God-given, reasoning faculties to their fullest extent.