The End of Christianity (the long awaited sequel to The Christian Delusion) is now available in bookstores (and I'm assured will soon be available in kindle and other digital formats). Delusion was an awesome book. End is even better. Indeed, I think the two volumes together amount to a decisive refutation of Christianity. A bona fide litmus test. No rational person can read both volumes and not walk away a skeptic. That won't stop the irrational (just see The Infidel Delusion). But at least from here on out we'll be able to call a spade a spade.
The End of Christianity is edited by John Loftus and includes 14 chapters by 11 authors, every one a Ph.D. in his or her respective field, with the sole exception of Loftus (and even he has several graduate degrees in religion). Everything I said about Delusion holds double for End: I loved it as I was reading it even in earlier drafts, and I have been anticipating its publication for a long time. Yet again you'll all want a copy, trust me! Buy it and read it. And if you like it, give it a customer review on Amazon, critical or laudatory.
We'll need honest Amazon reviews to counter the inevitable Christian tactic of low-starring it and lying about it to dissuade fellow Christians from reading it. To give you an idea of what I mean, there were 10 (count 'em) "one star" reviews of Christian Delusion--go ahead and read them, and compare what they say with the actual contents of the book, since these critics display almost every single marker of delusional reasoning that Delusion's early chapters catalog! As before, I'd rather have valid criticisms in there if any.
There are two overlooked typos to correct in the first printing (besides a few others that are self-evident): on p. 343, "a moral system, we have a sufficient motivating reason to obey" is supposed to read "a moral system we have a sufficient motivating reason to obey," and on p. 300, "that qualia are improbable on NID" is supposed to read "that qualia are improbable on ~NID." That said, what follows is a summary of the book's contents (responses to critics, once there are any worth responding to, will appear eventually on its companion website).
Of course I'm Richard Carrier, and this time three chapters are mine. The last of these is "Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)," a formal, peer-reviewed philosophical defense of my moral theory in Sense and Goodness without God. This shall be for a long time the go-to chapter for arguing and defending my theory of moral facts. It includes deductive syllogisms establishing every key point, and extensive argument and references. There is no room left for any rational objection. To those keen on that issue, I believe this chapter alone justifies the price of the book. As per my usual style, I aimed to make it a tour de force on the subject.
My other two chapters use Bayes' Theorem to demonstrate, conclusively, that Christianity is very probably false. One (Christianity's Success Was Not Incredible) summarizes and expands on my argument in Not the Impossible Faith that Christianity makes no sense as the genuine revelation of a Divine Caregiver, but perfect sense as a purely cultural product of its time and place. The probabilities I plug into Bayes' Theorem here are unarguable, even by an honest fundamentalist. So rejecting its conclusion requires bold-faced irrationality. The second (Neither Life Nor the Universe Appear Intelligently Designed) is another deliberate tour de force refuting the Design argument in every major form, including the Fine Tuning Argument, the Argument from Improbable Biogenesis, and the Argument to Irreducible Complexity, as well as arguments from mind, beauty, and intelligibility. I strove to make this chapter so tight and decisive as to be required reading on the subject, and what you should always refer Christians to when debating any design argument. In my opinion, that argument is now done for. RIP.
John Loftus contributed two chapters: the Introduction, which is quite a good read (only at a few points repetitive) surveying Christian attempts to avoid the Outsider Test for Faith since the publication of The Christian Delusion, and showing how doomed these desperate defenses demonstrate Christianity is; and Christianity Is Wildly Improbable which makes a startlingly good point of the fact that the Christian worldview requires believing a hundred more absurdities than any other major religion. In fact it is, in comparison with other faiths, alarmingly bizarre. Why anyone bothers to continue defending it boggles the mind.
David Eller also returns, with two chapters of his own. First up is Christianity Evolving: On the Origin of Christian Species, which shows how variable and changing Christianity really has been, and that in fact Christianity (originally a sect of Torah-observant messianic Jews) died out long ago. What now passes for Christianity is a field of diverse mutants bearing almost no similarity to the original. Then in Is Religion Compatible with Science? Eller argues that it depends on what you mean by "religion," "science," and "compatible," surveying several definitions of each and settling on the most important ones, showing that really, religion and science can no longer rationally coexist in the same mind. Though Eller's chapters are among my least favorites, that's not saying much, because they are still excellent and well worth the reading. They make valuable points that help nail down the book's thesis quite well, that Christianity is simply done for as an intellectually respectable belief system. Both his chapters combined produce a simple realization. Science leads to ever-increasing agreement. Christianity leads to ever-increasing disagreement. Do the math.
Hector Avalos returns with a chapter (Why Biblical Studies Must End) summarizing the conclusions of his excellent book The End of Biblical Studies. He shows that Bible translations distort the true meaning of the text, in fact they often do so deliberately, concealing the fact that the Bible is no longer relevant to modern life; that scholars avoid informing laymen that the text itself is corrupt and impossible to fully reconstruct; that archaeology has refuted or failed to confirm most of it; that "literary" appreciation of the Bible is a specious and disingenuous attempt to keep a dead book relevant; and that the Bible isn't even relevant to modern fundamentalist religion, as it presents a theology and worldview that no fundamentalist even really believes anymore.
Backing him up on that last point are Jaco Gericke (with Can God Exist if Yahweh Doesn't?) and Valerie Tarico (God's Emotions: Why the Biblical God is Hopelessly Human).
Gericke takes the approach of a biblical scholar and demonstrates that the Bible does not merely anthropomorphize God metaphorically, but quite literally. He adduces dozens of passages that only make sense if God really does have body parts and human mental limitations, exactly as the texts say he does. He concludes by showing that God is only presented in the Bible as an ancient middle eastern despot, with all the same culturally peculiar (and quite outdated) quirks that those leaders had, right down to still being obsessed with personal honor and valuing terrorism as a proper tool of government, and reading from scrolls in heaven (God, you see, still hadn't invented the book).
Gericke's overall thesis is simple: clearly the character of Yahweh in the Bible is as fictional as Zeus, who is described in all the exact same ways. But if the God of the Old Testament is a fictional character, Christianity is necessarily false. Because Jesus can't be the son of a God who doesn't exist. Nor can he be any God at all if he thinks the Old Testament God actually existed. And yet in the Gospels Jesus repeatedly assumes this without blush. Simple math.
Tarico takes the approach of a psychologist and corroborates Gericke's conclusion that the Old Testament God is only understood (and only ever speaks and acts) like an ancient middle eastern despot, but more importantly, Yahweh very strangely thinks and acts exactly like a mammal, and not just any mammal, but a male alpha primate. But why should that be? Emotions only make sense as the ad hoc products of evolution for the purpose of aiding survival, yet God neither evolved nor needs the machinery of emotion to survive. God isn't even a social species, so why would he have the neurochemistry of one? Tarico delightfully educates the reader on the nature of human emotions, as science now understands them, and then amusingly shows how weird it is to think God has them. The conclusion is clear: the God of the Bible only makes sense as the creation of outdated and very peculiarly human assumptions, not as the alien cosmic omni-thing he really would have to be if he were an eternally existent being beyond all nature.
The late Ken Pulliam then contributes a chapter, his last published work, demonstrating The Absurdity of the Atonement. He takes on the standard theories Christians have resorted to (primarily the Penal Substitutionary Theory, though he mentions others) in their desperate attempt to make sense of why a God would need to give himself a body and then kill it, just to forgive us (and that for his own manufacturing defects, no less). He shows these theories to be incoherent and indefensible, exposing the entire core doctrine of Christianity to be absurd.
Philosopher Matt McCormick then contributes The Salem Witch Trials and the Evidence for the Resurrection, showing that we have far more evidence that real witchcraft occurred at Salem than we do that Jesus rose from the dead, even if we grant the evidence for the latter that Christian apologists claim there to be. In other words, rather than point out how most of the evidential claims made by Christians today are bogus (like that we have eyewitness accounts of it--we don't), McCormick says (in effect) "Okay, let's assume you really do have all this amazing evidence you claim to have...we still have better evidence that witches practiced witchcraft at Salem!" He then explores the consequences of that. This ties very nicely into the Outsider Test for Faith, essentially forcing Christians either to admit that the evidence for the resurrection is simply inadequate, or to become even bigger nutbags by insisting witches haunt the world with their evil spells. McCormick's chapter is perhaps a bit imbalanced (he spends too much time on preliminaries), but his point is well made by the end.
Robert Price then returns to follow that up with Explaining the Resurrection without Recourse to Miracle, where he takes the same tactic (granting the apologists nearly every premise) and confirms a point only mentioned by McCormick, that even though we can no longer know what really happened at (in McCormick's case) Salem, we nevertheless have plenty of perfectly reasonable natural possibilities that can't be ruled out, and Price shows that the same is true for the resurrection of Jesus.
Price and I together already refuted the attempt to argue there is enough historical evidence to believe Jesus rose from the dead in our two chapters in The Christian Delusion (so start there if you want the whole story). There we show how most of the evidence there is claimed to be really isn't there, and what is there really doesn't support the conclusions drawn. But here Price shows that even if we hadn't proved all that, Christianity is still untenable. I was actually quite impressed with how easily and deftly he defends here the swoon and mistaken identity theories, even using the Gospels as proof texts. He fully confesses he doesn't think any of this happened, since he doesn't really think the Gospels are honest accounts of anything. He merely shows that even if you do think that, a miraculous resurrection isn't even the most plausible account of what the Gospels themselves report. He's right.
Price also adds a little Afterword: Changing Morals and the Fate of Evangelicalism that is brief but spot on, and I don't want any readers to miss it. It got tucked in at the back of the book between my appendices with syllogisms on moral theory and the book's endnotes, where it might easily get overlooked. You will find it a rewarding read. I'll say no more.
Keith Parsons gives us a comprehensive refutation of the morality of hell (in Hell: Christianity's Most Damnable Doctrine). A noted professor of the philosophy of religion, Parsons famously announced he regarded Christianity so decisively refuted by now that he was wasting his time on it. This is one of his last publications on the subject (he's moving on). He addresses defenders of hell as diverse as Tertullian and C.S. Lewis, and concludes the doctrine simply isn't rationally defensible. Any Christianity with a doctrine of hell in it is nothing more than morally bankrupt.
Last but not least, Victor Stenger contributes a chapter on Life After Death: Examining the Evidence, approaching the issue as a physicist and scientist, and taking on Dinesh D'Souza's latest (and lamest) book-long defense of belief in an afterlife. Stenger's endnotes provide a valuable trove on the subjects of reincarnation and NDE's. He crucifies D'Souza point-by-point. No resurrection will be to follow.