More on “Raiding Parties”

raiding-party.jpg

Welcome to new visitors!  Feel free to comment, but please avoid ad hominem arguments (attacking the messenger, and not the message) and straw man arguments (deliberately misrepresenting someone else’s views). 

Please be charitable in attempting to understand arguments presented by me or other commenters (theist or non-theist).  Misinterpreting people, whether deliberately or not, isn’t very productive.  Asking for clarification is always a good idea if you aren’t sure what someone means.  Thanks!

P.S. I’ll try to follow my own advice as well.

As I noted previously in Comments on comments, a group of atheists from Richard Dawkins’ web site decided to conduct raiding parties on theist sites such as this one.  No big deal, of course, as blogs are a great example of the public square, but their planning wasn’t too stellar. 

Now they are re-grouping and getting more organized.  That is not a bad thing, because this time around they are, in general, trying to be more polite about it (whether that is pragmatism or true politeness is subject to debate, but I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt – despite the deliberate deceptions suggested by some of their commenters).

I addressed some of their arguments in Poor arguments to make with theists part 1 and part 2

It is interesting peering into their worldview.  I’m not necessarily going down the “atheism is really a religion path,” but they do seem to have a Messiah complex going.

Why, you might ask yourself, should we bother? Well theism is a real danger to global peace, and I subscribe to Sam Harris’ idea that moderates are silent (and largely unwitting) faciliators of religions virulent strains. But, you might further object, isn’t this just … you know …. evangelism.

In a very real (but perhaps overly dramatic sense) the fate of the species, perhaps the planet is at stake . Consider this a kind of global community service.

Yes, by all means, we need more peace loving atheist regimes like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot had.   

Perhaps this is just “Christianity week” for these guys, but this worldwide group has identified five web sites so far and they are all Christian.  Hmmm.   So as usual, the evangelical New Atheists have targeted the big, bad Christians – the ones who have spent millenia building hospitals, starting schools, developing science and the arts, helping the poor, ending the slave trade, improving the lot of women, praying for their enemies, etc. 

Seriously, where are their mission trips to Muslim countries?  If they are going to save the world, wouldn’t that be part of the program?  They aren’t even targeting Muslim web sites.  Do the “brights” seriously think Christianity is more of a danger to world peace than Islam?  Why not at least go to India and help the Dalits and try to eradicate the caste system? 

Methinks they doth protest way too much against Christianity and way too little with other religions.  I wonder why? 

Update: When the raid leader saw my comment about this on another blog he added a Muslim site to their list.  He noted on Dawkin’s site that it was listed precisely because I pointed out the gap.  I thought it was funny that the original post and comments were 100% anti-Christian, and funnier still that they added a token Muslim site with promises to add more just because of my comment.  I think they still don’t understand my point, though.

I think some reasoned dialogue with these foks could be interesting, but I would encourage them to do some serious self-reflection first to see what their real motives are.

94 thoughts on “More on “Raiding Parties”

  1. I vaguely know the name of Richard Dawkins. Didn’t he host “Family Fued”? I think he was in “Hogan’s Heroes” before that. Ahem.

    Ooh. Maybe some of ‘em will do me the honor of a raid!

    Neil said: Ha! I’ll send ‘em your way, ER.

  2. Thanks for the warning Neil. I’m still waiting for their justification that I should care about “global peace”, whatever that means.

    Evolution has gifted mankind with the ability to destroy ourselves, so why shouldn’t we do it?

  3. Yes, they’ve tried to “raid” our blog as well. We’ve been carefully noting how many of them actually provide arguments for the claims they make during their raid. So far, not one! For many of them this may be their first steps from Dawkins’s site out into the real world, and it’s sad to say that they’ve performed quite poorly so far. Let’s hope they’ll be a bit more productive tomorrow.

  4. Hello! I suppose I would be one of the “Raiders”, although I appear to have left my raiding gear back on the longboat. Ah well.

    Seriously, though.

    You ask about motives. Obviously I can only speak for myself, but I “know” some of the others through blogging and I would venture to suggest that you are perhaps being a little harsh.

    In any case, I contribute on atheist and theist sites because I enjoy it, and I’m interested in learning about other points of view. It can also be said that being involved in debates is a good way to better understand your OWN point of view- ie when you’re asked to justify what you say or think.

    I think you know how massive a strawman the Stalin comment was, so I’ll leave that alone.

    Oh, and a muslim blog has now been listed. I’m sure more blogs will appear as time goes by. The thread on the RD forum is only a few days old, after all!

    Neil said: Yes, it was listed precisely because I pointed out that your threads and comments were all against Christianity. (See Brian’s comment at Dawkins’ site). I could care less who you guys go after. I thought it was funny that it was 100% anti-Christian, and funnier still that you’d add a token Muslim site with promises to add more.

    Dan- “Evolution has gifted mankind with the ability to destroy ourselves, so why shouldn’t we do it?”

    That’s an interesting viewpoint. Care to elaborate?

    Will- “For many of them this may be their first steps from Dawkins’s site out into the real world, and it’s sad to say that they’ve performed quite poorly so far”

    On the contrary, many of “us” contribute on other sites, and I can give you examples of threads on the RD site where polite discussion proceeded for quite some time. Speaking for myself, I have my own blog, and contribute on a religious friend’s blog as well.

  5. Hi all,

    Hi Jonathan,

    For a party don’t you need two or more? So I hope no one minds a quick comment. (I will be back later, but it is late here)

    Neil wrote:
    “Methinks they doth protest way too much against Christianity and way too little with other religions. I wonder why? ”

    Is it because the Christian have the weakness argument, or is it that it is the religion that has been thrown at us from birth and as a result the one we know the most above? It is hard to debate against something from a position of ignorance (though this has not stopped many Christians rejecting evolution due to their ignorance and dogmatic teaching)

    Neil said: Straw man alert. Nice dodge. Let me know when you get back from your mission trips.

    However, you name your theistic god, and I will debate against it – though I think you believe in only the “one true God” right? All the others are false by your definitions (whatever they are), so why should I waste my time debating against gods you personally “know” to be false? – I’m sure your God would agree?

    Neil said: Cute, but another dodge. Other religions have exclusive elements as well. And lots of those guys are from Europe, so to play ignorance card on Islam is a bit weak (Not that we don’t need to be learning more of Islam as well!).

    Besides, shouldn’t it be the Christian telling the muslins and Jews that they are following the wrong god? The Christian’s are, after all, commanded to do so in their good book are they not? They also “know” the penalty for not following the one true God correctly – right?

    Neil said: Some free blogging advice: Think first, then type. Yes, we claim that message already. You guys focused exclusively on Christianity with all your links and comments. Got that? 1oo%! The Islamic link was only added because I posted a comment about the lack of diversity on another blog.

    Also, I believe this is a web-site promoting a fairy-tale without any evidence to back it up – am I wrong? I would love to see it. This would be a debate I would love to join you on… if you wish to welcome me.

    Neil said: Oh no, the fairy tale accusation? How will we ever respond to that? There is lots of evidence, but my guess is that you are trapped in the “I only consider empirical evidence” tautology of your own making.

    Oh, and the strawman of the “atheist regimes” is a classic… do you have any new arguments or evidence for your position? I hope so, I do not wish to go down the same old road…

    Must go for now.

    Lee

    Neil said: Please don’t post any more silly comments like this. I’m not sure I have time to do parts 3, 4, 5 and 6. I would have deleted this for being pointless and unproductive but then I’d be accused of “censorship” on Dawkins’ site, and we wouldn’t want that!

  6. Oh no. By all means, Neil, allow them all (except the really nasty ones that just come to trash talk). I don’t mean that sarcastically, either. You don’t have to create new posts necessarily, but to be able to read them and respond would be great.

    Truly, there is a ton of stuff that they could review to determine the extent of evidence in favor of Biblical accuracy. Though I admit I haven’t wasted a lot of time reading anything by Dawkins, Hitchens or Harris in regards to the wonders of atheism, I’ve heard a lot of interviews and they never seem to speak directly to that evidence, only that there is no absolute proof. Frankly, people have been convicted of capital crimes for far less proof than is available to support Biblical claims.

  7. I am jealous. Some of the dang near cripples, from fighting BS in our ranks, barely-on-eternal-life-support, near-heretics over at my place would look at these guys the same way Inbdian Jones looked at the proud, machete-weilding dude: Let ‘em show off, then shoot ‘em dead. No puny chickien-sh-t “atheist” is any match for someone who daily tries to destroy his own faith in search of the truth behind it.

  8. In a related note, check out this article on Dawkins as a cultural Christian….

    http://townhall.com/Columnists/DineshDSouza/2008/01/06/are_atheists_cultural_christians

    Neil said: I think many atheists run off the fumes of Christianity, so to speak, in that they actually agree with most of our moral principles and enjoy the religious (or irreligious) freedoms found in the West. It will be interesting to see how their views evolve in countries where Muslims are taking over.

  9. I thought it was funny that the original post and comments were 100% anti-Christian, and funnier still that they added a token Muslim site with promises to add more just because of my comment. I had no idea of the influence I have!

    Funny, why? What would be the point of attacking Allah on a Christian blog? Is there something you’d like to announce Neil:-)?

    It was a fair point, *tips hat*:-)

  10. Jonathan, why is Neil’s Stalin remark a stawman? A common anti-theist arguement is the violence, death, etc. allegedly caused by religion, i.e., the Crusades. Even if the crusaders had exterminated the entire population of Palestine they still would not have come close to those killed by the USSR or the PRC or Khmer Rouge [all avowed atheist regimes]. To accuse theists of being a cause of death and violence [without acknowledging the same is more true of atheists] is truely a hypocritical case of the “pot calling the kettle black”!!!

    Good question, Ivan. I can’t remember which New Atheist made the claim (perhaps Hitchens?), but I heard that one of them tried to pin those murders on religion as well. Not sure how he rationalized that!

  11. Ivan, the obvious answer is that Stalin wasn’t an authentic atheist. Never mind that, unlike Christianity, atheism does not have (and indeed could not have) an authoritative document listing what behaviors are consistent with atheism.

    It may be said — and it has already been argued here, in another thread — that the despotism of an explicitly godless Soviet regime had more of a basis in Eastern Orthodoxy than in the works of Karl Marx. It’s convenient, that all the ills of atheist regimes can be traced back to the religious cultures they tried to destroy.

    What’s inconvenient is that, for the atheist who believes that the materialist, natural universe is all that is, all our behavior, good and bad — and by this we must mean “desirable and undesirable” since the atheist can offer no explanation for objective morality — is the result of random chemical reactions: both our theism and their rejection of the same.

  12. Neil, I think you are setting up a few straw men here. Where I come from, Muslims only make up 0.6% of the total population, and they are not trying to introduce shia law or intelligent design into science classes – yet.

    Neil said: No straw men here. Brian’s lame after the fact attempt at diversity shows he realizes the criticism was legitimate. His plan was to save the world from religion, so why not be a little broader in your efforts? Your fixation with Christianity speaks volumes, and you guys have no rebuttal to it. I would just go meditate on that and not try to defend the indefensible.

    Also, Stalin etc may have been atheists, but Stalinism etc is not a requirement for atheism. Hitler also was not an atheist, and sucessfully used Christian anti-semitism to further his cause.

    You may want to consider carefully the bible’s position on tolerance here: “Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. “The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him.” (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)

    Neil said: If you are really interested I encourage you to study more of the OT. God has the Israelites clear out the Promised Land, which had been inhabited for 400 years by a spectacularly evil and unrepentent group of people. If you read the context you’ll see it wasn’t a command to go wherever they liked and do that. In fact, God sent other countries to overtake Israel later as punishment for their worshipping other gods and such.

    Maybe you could point out to us the supernatural being that made Stalin act the way he did.

    Bubba “since the atheist can offer no explanation for objective morality ”

    Have you any evidence that such a thing as objective morality exists? If so, why should there be a supernatural explanation for it?

    For the moral absolutists out there, can you justify why the bible considers homosexuality a stoning offence? (Leviticus 20:13 ) – I feel a relativist answer comming on

    Neil said: The OT listed about 15 offenses that God instructed the use of capital punishment for the Israelites. It seems logical to me that the stronger the punishment, the more serious the offense. Apparently God feels rather strongly about that sin. See Romans 1 if you want to know more about why that sin is so serious – http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans%201&version=31

  13. Marshal
    “Frankly, people have been convicted of capital crimes for far less proof than is available to support Biblical claims.”

    We are all ears, please provide some evidence then.

    Are you claiming there was a flood? that the exodus account is true(including god killing babies)? Are you claiming 6 day creationism? Are you claiming that jeusus actually fulfilled messianic prophecies such as micah 5:2) Are you claiming there is evidence that Quirinius was govenor of syria before 4 CE? Are you claiming the gospel writers were first hand witnesses to the the life of Jesus? Do you claim independant verification of his miracles? In fact any contempory non biblical source that specifically mentions the name Jesus would be a start.

  14. Billy, I believe the objective moral law is a self-evident maxim that needs no evidence. Those who tell us that it does not exist are either lying to us, lying to themselves, or indulging a sociopathic philosophy.

    Objective morality exists. As the moral law involves “ought” statements and as no set of “is” statements can ever logically be explained by an “ought,” the moral law can only be explained as a truth that transcends the natural universe. That explanation is thus, defitionally, supernatural.

    Some of your questions to Marshall strike me as odd.

    Why is it strange to believe that God allows babies to die? Has infant mortality been completely eliminated in the present day?

    Why is it strange to believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem? If Jesus was a historical figure — and, despite your questions, the most logical conclusion is that Jesus was — then He had to be born somewhere, right? Why is Bethelehem out of the question?

    What sort of “independent verification” of the New Testament miracles would satisfy you? Is it plausible, for instance, that a man could witness, say, Jesus raising a dead Lazarus and remain somehow neutral about that Jesus fellow?

    Your final question seems loaded, since Tacitus alluded to Jesus as “Christus” and since Josephus, who did mention Jesus by name, was born (barely) too late to be truly a contemporary of Jesus. A person can be beyond persuasion, but let me ask:

    What standards do you have to judge all historical claims that preceded, say, the Battle of Hastings in 1066?

    Do these standards include an a priori exclusion of all miraculous claims? I believe such an exclusion is based on circular reasoning and question begging: what would you say to justify that exclusion?

    What non-Biblical events would these standards exclude as ahistorical? Hannibal’s crossing the Alps with an army of elephants since (like the Gospels) the details in the various accounts aren’t easily reconciled? The existence of Hannibal, since we have about as many contemporary sources that mention him by name, too?

    There are other questions: how would you explain the origin and success of the early Christian church? Would you like to argue that the Christian claims about the miracles and Incarnation of Christ were added long after the fact? There’s zero evidence of a Christian church that pre-existed these claims, and you’d have to provide a plausible explanation for why these claims were accepted by an existing church after the fact.

    Or would you concede that the claim of the Resurrection was central to the Christian church from its very beginning? If you do, you have to explain how that church grew so rapidly despite opposition from both Jews and Romans: the obvious answer is that those claiming to be witnesses to the Resurrection were credible, but do you have a plausible alternative?

    But those we can get to at another time. The standards by which you would evaluate all historical claims would let us see one of two things: either the central claims of the Christian church don’t hold up to the very reasonable standards of someone who believes that we can be reasonably confident about some facts of ancient history, or someone’s cherry-picking.

  15. Ivan said- “Jonathan, why is Neil’s Stalin remark a stawman”

    Neil said- “Yes, by all means, we need more peace loving atheist regimes like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot had”.

    The fallacy in what Neil said is that he conflates atheism with the ghastly consequences of the regimes of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Essentially he’s saying- these regimes committed atrocities, these regimes were atheist, therefore atheism is bad. This is a logical fallacy.

    The question becomes did the regimes carry out their atrocities because they were atheistic? The answer is no. A regime is built on ideological precepts. But what are the precepts of atheism? A lack of belief in the supernatural. That’s essentially it. Atheism is NOT a belief system.

    What were the beliefs of those regimes? Communism was the main one. This was adhered to with dogmatic faith, against all evidence that the systems were not succeeding. The other major belief revolved around the cult of the personality. Russians and Chinese were taught to revere their leaders unquestioningly, to venerate them. An excellent example of a personality cult today is North Korea. In Japan fifty years ago, the citizens were taught to believe the Emperor WAS a god. This is NOT atheistic thinking.

    You might argue “religious persecution”. That is true in China, but the religion there became that of Maoism. In Stalin’s Russia, the Orthodox Church persisted, albeit in a reduced state. Religious worship was not outlawed. Many of the atrocities committed by Stalin and subsequent leaders were against the Jews. What atheist ideology fuelled that? None. It was due to the old prejudices, the biggest of which was the status of the Jews as Christ-killers. Another big killer in Stalin’s Russia was starvation. But this was due to the state’s blind adherence to Lysenkoism, a flim-flam theory on crop growth that did not have a shred of evidence to back it. The idea of evolution was discouraged by Stalin!

    Were there atheists in those regimes? Definitely. Were their leaders atheists? Probably. Were their acts provoked by their atheism? Did they kill in the name of “No-God”? They did not. The atrocities in those regimes were as a result of blind adherence to Communistic and other dogma. Their “religion” was totalitarian dogma. Also, I believe that an autopsy of Stalin revealed that he was probably insane due to neural damage, though I forget the precise details. That would also have been a factor.

    Ivan said- “To accuse theists of being a cause of death and violence”. Theism cannot be a cause of death and violence. RELIGION is. A theist merely asserts belief in some kind of god. Religion provides the dogma and ideological framework.

    Neil said: Jonathan, I’m not sure if you are misunderstanding on purpose or not. Please re-read my post. Brian claimed that “theism is a real danger to global peace” which certainly seems to imply that by removing it we’ll have peace. Isn’t that the point of your evangelical atheism?

    I just made what I thought was a simple observation: Plenty of evil and un-peaceful things have been done without the aid of religion. If you think that is a strawman then you don’t know what a strawman is.

  16. It isn’t my intention to deliberately misrepresent your position, so I apologise if I have. While it is true that “Plenty of evil and un-peaceful things have been done without the aid of religion”, you gave examples of specific regimes that you called atheistic, suggesting that you thought that the barbarities carried out by said regimes were due to their atheism. That was the implication that I took objection to, and sought to address. If what you are saying is that you do not think the atrocities of those regimes came about because of atheism specifically, then I have misunderstood you and apologise for that. I would however say that there are those who do believe atheism responsible, and it was that view that I sought to counter.

    Hope that clears things up!

  17. Thanks, Jonathan. Now I’m really glad I gave you the benefit of the doubt :-).

    Sorry if the original piece wasn’t more clear. As I noted in my piece on poor arguments to make with atheists (http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/11/20/poor-arguments-to-make-with-atheists/ ), I don’t go down the path of “atheists are immoral” (other than in the generic sense that we are all sinners). I know plenty of atheists who are (relatively speaking) loyal spouses, loving parents, etc.

    Peace,
    Neil

  18. “Neil said: Oh no, the fairy tale accusation? How will we ever respond to that? There is lots of evidence, but my guess is that you are trapped in the “I only consider empirical evidence” tautology of your own making.”

    What kind of evidence do you consider in everyday life? If you went to the doctor with an illness, would you not want all the empirical tests available? How would you react if the doctor said: “I had a vision last night that has convinced me you have malaria”?

    Would you rather fly on a plane that was designed by the empirical evidence of physics and engineering, or one designed on the basis of some dogma and gut feeling?

    Restricting yourself to empirical evidence is not a tautology. It has been shown to be a practical way to make progress in understanding the world around us in a way other approaches have not.

    If you (I hope) trust empirical evidence when you are in medical need, why abandon it when you want to understand the cosmos and our place in it?

    Neil said: Steve, I think you know that is a gigantic strawman but for grins I’ll answer it.

    For starters, perhaps you can show me where I ever claimed that I don’t believe in empirical evidence or have abandoned it? [Pause] Thanks, I didn’t think you could. Once someone understands the micro/macro distinction then we actually agree on most of what mainstream science has to offer (yeah, I know you guys think there is no distinction, but that is all part of the strawman).

    Yes, I consider empirical evidence and use it all the time. I love science and technology. All truth is God’s truth. I think it is cool how people work to see how God created the universe, whether they live in denial of him or not.

    But is that the only evidence I use? Of course not, and neither do you and your fellow atheists who fall back on the convenient empirical evidence tautology.

    You use logic all the time – just as you did in your comment above (ok, bad example :-) ).

    You use eyewitness testimony all the time. Before you tell me how it is unreliable, etc. like someone else tried to, consider this: Have you personally validated every scientific experiment that you believe in? If not, how can you know it is true? Because you trust those who gave you the information (rightly or wrongly).

    So while I think empirical evidence is swell, I use other methods as well – just as you guys do. I was an atheist / agnostic before becoming a Christian in my 20′s. I have done substantial research for the evidence for the Bible, the resurrection, etc. and am thoroughly convinced that Jesus is God and that He expressed himself clearly in the original writings of the Bible that have been transmitted to us in a reliable fashion. I found that human nature and the world in general is as He described it.

    In short, I trust what He says to be true – just as you trust what scientists have told you.

    So how about if you all dispense with the “We only trust empirical evidence” fallacy?

  19. One of the raiders missed my point about their fixation on Christianity and made this comment at Dawkins’ page:

    “Implying that someone is too cowardly to criticise a more aggressive religion than your own does not exempt you from the criticism. The fact that I haven’t flown to Zimbabwe to Heckle Robert Mugabe doesn’t absolve Gordon Brown from dealing with a criticism if I heckle him.”

    Of course, I never said we were above criticism. I mean really, how can someone spend any time on this site and say that? I spend much of my time criticizing what I see as wrong in the church!

    My point, of course is that if you claim to be trying to save the world by eradicating religion then perhaps you should focus on more than one religion – especially if another religion is much more active in non-peaceful endeavors.

    Unless, of course, they have other reasons for their fixation on Christianity . . .

    I’ll give him a pass on the idea that “heckling” will somehow produce any positive results.

  20. 1. Billy, I believe the objective moral law is a self-evident maxim that needs no evidence. Those who tell us that it does not exist are either lying to us, lying to themselves, or indulging a sociopathic philosophy.

    Hi Bubba, That’s not really a demonstration that they actually exist. Again, I ask you, what is objective about biblical law.
    Objective morality exists. As the moral law involves “ought” statements and as no set of “is” statements can ever logically be explained by an “ought,” the moral law can only be explained as a truth that transcends the natural universe. That explanation is thus, defitionally, supernatural.
    Well, no it doesn’t, and “ought” is subjective, not objective. Ought I to condemn homosexuality or not? I guess we will disagree on this because this is entierly subjective, and there is no unseen universal law that allows us to agree.
    Natural selection can provide a framework for widley held moral “values”, so again, I have to ask you? Why should it be supernatural? If you say that because you cant see how it can arise naturally, then that is jut a plea from ignorance, not evidence – wouldn’t you agree?
    Why is it strange to believe that God allows babies to die? Has infant mortality been completely eliminated in the present day?
    That’s not what I said. I said he directly caused it (exodus 11). Does this seem like a moral act to you? Forget the apologetics just now, I am interested to know if you think it is ever OK to kill babies

    Why is it strange to believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem? If Jesus was a historical figure
    Again, that is not my point. If you read Micah 5:2, it is about a ruler who will defeat the Assyrians. Many translations also refer to Bethlehem as a clan and not a town (from memory the NIV and RSV for example). What it does not do is claim that the messiah will be born in the town of Bethlehem (actually, there are two in Israel) as Matthew claims. It seems most messianic prophecies are taken out of context in an attempt to make it look like Jesus fulfilled them. Similarly, read Isaiah 7:14 in context – it refers to events around 724 BCE relevant o King Ahaz
    — and, despite your questions, the most logical conclusion is that Jesus was —

    Well, I’m not convinced about that, but am open to the possibility – coupled with an absence of non biblical evidence, and the shoehorning of Jesus into “prophecies”, I do have my doubts.
    What sort of “independent verification” of the New Testament miracles would satisfy you? Is it plausible, for instance, that a man could witness, say, Jesus raising a dead Lazarus and remain somehow neutral about that Jesus fellow?
    The bible would seem to think so, how ever, the question is, is that reliable? Paul never knew him, and you cant tie luke or john to him, and Matthew seems to be largely dependant on Luke. Jesus does actually say his followers will be able to do the same as him and more, so where are the healed amputees?

    Your final question seems loaded, since Tacitus alluded to Jesus as “Christus” and since Josephus, who did mention Jesus by name, was born (barely) too late to be truly a contemporary of Jesus.
    The problem is that Tacitus refers to CHRESTUS who was expelled from Rome. Many Scholars – including many christians – claim that Josephuss testimonium flavium is at least partially if not wholly a forgery. Evidence include its absence as an apologetic by the likes of Origen when discussing Josephus, and importantly the claim that he was the Christ. Josephus was a devout Jew, and this would have been blasphemy – the thing that jesus was crucified for.
    What standards do you have to judge all historical claims that preceded, say, the Battle of Hastings in 1066?
    Well, I could ask my historian friend philip. The problem is that history can be distorted by the victors (you may want to read up on constantine and the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus). If I remember correctly, we have autograph documents concerning the time of the norman conquest (we have no biblical autographs) Wee also have archaeologigal evidence of the battle and a change in architecture and destruction of saxon sites by the normans – and a lot more besides.
    I don’t necessarily believe that we have the definitive account of 1066, but how do the weaknesses in that strengthen the biblical claim?
    What evidence would you require if I said I can raise the dead?

    Do these standards include an a priori exclusion of all miraculous claims? I believe such an exclusion is based on circular reasoning and question begging: what would you say to justify that exclusion?
    A bit of a straw man here. I never said it rules out the supernatural. I claim it is insufficient to support such a potentially powerful realm of reality
    What non-Biblical events would these standards exclude as ahistorical? Hannibal’s crossing the Alps with an army of elephants since (like the Gospels) the details in the various accounts aren’t easily reconciled? The existence of Hannibal, since we have about as many contemporary sources that mention him by name, too?

    Again, History has problems, but that does not strengthen the christian case. Why then do you reject Koranic claims?
    There are other questions: how would you explain the origin and success of the early Christian church?
    Constantine used it to run his empire. How do you explain the existence of Hinduism that predates christianity?
    Would you like to argue that the Christian claims about the miracles and Incarnation of Christ were added long after the fact?
    You have do demonstrate the fact before you can even consider that, but the council of Nicea did a lot to shape doctrine
    There’s zero evidence of a Christian church that pre-existed these claims, and you’d have to provide a plausible explanation for why these claims were accepted by an existing church after the fact.
    Well no, you are trying to shift the burden of proof here. You claim that Jesus is the Messiah – YOU have to provide the evidence. Presumably there was a time before Hinduism and Islam – how did they become so powerful?
    Or would you concede that the claim of the Resurrection was central to the Christian church from its very beginning? If you do, you have to explain how that church grew so rapidly despite opposition from both Jews and Romans: the obvious answer is that those claiming to be witnesses to the Resurrection were credible, but do you have a plausible alternative?
    Again, the burden of proof is yours, but Constantine had a lot to do with the doctrine of the resurrection too. If he voted the other way, Jesus would not be considered divine
    But those we can get to at another time. The standards by which you would evaluate all historical claims would let us see one of two things: either the central claims of the Christian church don’t hold up to the very reasonable standards of someone who believes that we can be reasonably confident about some facts of ancient history, or someone’s cherry-picking.
    Well, I have shown that Tacitus and Josephus don’t stand up to scrutiny. The fact that a religion exists is not evidence of its truth. The questions you ask me have to be tackled by you concerning the prominence of other religions, so I would be interesyed in your answers and we can maybe investigate why you claim Christianity to be true – evidence or cherrypicking

  21. You know, the more that visit, the more the opportunity to share the Gospel to those who need it.

    You know it’s funny that more of these guys come closer to understanding and believe Quantum Theory than the existence of God, and certainly the Trinity. And there’s more evidence of God.

    Ever heard of Dr. Who? What parallels can we find there? :)

    The other thing that is really funny, is that when we DO give them (ample) empirical and historical evidence, they reject it. There’s no “ah-ha I’m going to have to consider that and go check it out.” So much for their doctrine of “brightness” and intellectualism. They don’t tend to do their research, just sound bites, as you say, and obscure internet links are copied and pasted back. The resources seem always commentaries and critiques on the evidence “against God” rather than actual, factual proof.

    For those who’s mantra is empiricism, their research, reasoning, and arguments tend to be grossly lacking. They come here and other places to “learn” about other beliefs, but really it’s only to argue and “seem smarter.”

    It’s funny about them adding Muslim sites to their list in order to be PC. Amusing.

  22. Neil”Have you personally validated every scientific experiment that you believe in?”

    That is not a defense of eyewitness testimony.
    If theories concening gravity were wrong, we could not send the space shuttle into space and bring it back again. Many scientific principles are validated every day eg selective breeding, drug resistence, tv sets etc.
    Scientific theories that do not explain reality tend to get rejected.
    Most importantly, if Steve wanted to he COULD verify any claim he wants to. Can you show the gospel authours knew jesus and didn’t have an agenda?
    I think this is why your question is a poor one

    Neil said: No, Billy, you completely misunderstood. The claim we get again and again is that atheists only rely on empirical evidence. I showed how that is completely false. Completely. In fact, for you to reason otherwise is more proof of my point.

    My point about eyewitness evidence is that Steve could not validate every scientific claim. He would not have the time or the resources. At some point he must rely on others. I’m not saying it is wrong to rely on others. Many of his sources may be accurate. I’m just pointing out the obvious, that you all rely on more than empirical evidence.

  23. Elisa, maybe you could provide some evidence. You seem a touch arrogant in your tone here. May this atheist remind you : 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear

  24. Billy, no time to respond to everything, but a couple things stood out.

    “Paul never knew him, and you cant tie luke or john to him, and Matthew seems to be largely dependant on Luke.”
    Unless you have reliable documentation that Paul says he never knew Lazarus, I don’t know how you can make that statement. That is simply an argument from silence. Same for Matthew and Luke.

    Actually, the alleged dependance claim is that Matthew and Luke relied on Mark. Again, that is because they had similarities. But if they were exactly the same people would cry plagiarism or redundancy. It is one of those allegations that proves nothing.

    “Constantine used it [Christianity] to run his empire. How do you explain the existence of Hinduism that predates christianity?”

    Bubba may respond differently, but Christianity had grown dramatically before Constantine came around. And they did it without shedding a drop of anyone else’s blood, and by shedding thousands of gallons of their own. The faith might have been better off without Constantine. We don’t always do so well when in the majority :-).

    The OT is filled with mentions of false gods. Why would it be odd that Hinduism or any other religion would exist at any time?

    “Presumably there was a time before Hinduism and Islam – how did they become so powerful?”

    Do you really need to know how Islam became powerful? The sword. Hinduism has plenty of coercion as well.

    “If he voted the other way, Jesus would not be considered divine”

    That is just false. The Gnostic heresy was heretical for denying Jesus’ humanity, not his divinity. There were plenty of other references to divinity before Nicea.

  25. Billy, Neil is right about the drift of my response. Maybe I should have been more clear, but by the “early church” I meant the earliest Christian church, the first generation or two of Christians, those who lived 250 years before Constantine was born.

    The divinity of Christ was already taught long before Constantine and Nicea, by such early Christian giants as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian — to say nothing of the claims in the New Testament itself.

    The tremendous growth of Christianity in this very beginning stage, of course, doesn’t prove that its central claims are true, but those who argue that they aren’t true should be able to account for that growth. Christianity was an offshoot of Judaism that broke from the highly valued Jewish customs in very significant ways, changing the weekly day of worship and changing the meaning of its rituals beginning with that crucial observance of Passover; and yet Christianity grew. Its founder was executed by the state in the most humiliating way possible; and yet it grew. The church was very heavily persecuted by the Roman regime; and yet it grew.

    (Some of your less decent atheist brothers have bumper stickers that read, “Too many Christians, too few lions.” We should not pretend that persecution of Christians didn’t happen.)

    Why did it grow? It had everything against it, and yet it grew. Why? We believe it’s because its leaders’ testimony of the Resurrection was credible; do you have a plausible alternative?

    To be clear, I didn’t ask only for evidence for the Battle of Hastings. I asked for standards by which we could evaluate all historical claims that predate that battle.

    You didn’t produce such standards. Asking whether your standards would preclude belief in Hannibal’s crossing the Alps (or even Hannibal’s existence), you write, “History has problems.” That’s not an answer.

    And about objective morality, I admit that I didn’t offer any evidence. My position is, I don’t need to, as the objective existence of a transcendent moral law is self-evident: by definition it needs no evidence.

    Certainly, we humans disagree about the details of the moral law, but that’s a reflection of our limitations, including our sinfulness. But I believe the existence of the law can be taken as a given: in the real world, everyone but the genuine sociopaths agree, even if some of us take the academic position that the law is either non-existent or subjective.

  26. Neil said- “Thanks, Jonathan. Now I’m really glad I gave you the benefit of the doubt :-).
    Sorry if the original piece wasn’t more clear. As I noted in my piece on poor arguments to make with atheists (http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/11/20/poor-arguments-to-make-with-atheists/ ), I don’t go down the path of “atheists are immoral” (other than in the generic sense that we are all sinners). I know plenty of atheists who are (relatively speaking) loyal spouses, loving parents, etc”.

    Fair enough! As I said before, I haven’t had a chance to read much of your blog yet. It’s good to see that you don’t hold the “atheists are immoral” opinion. I’ll be sure to ask for additional clarification if I need it in future.

  27. Unless you have reliable documentation that Paul says he never knew Lazarus, I don’t know how you can make that statement. That is simply an argument from silence. Same for Matthew and Luke.

    Paul claimed to get his knowledge though special revelation, therefore he never met Jesus, therefore he never saw Lazarus resurrected.

    Neil said: Huh? The Book of Acts tells the story of Paul’s encounter with Jesus 3 times, and I think Paul mentioned in at least one letter as well. Am I misunderstanding your point? What does this have to do with Lazarus? The last we heard of him, the Jews wanted to kill him because he was evidence of a major miracle. He may have died before Paul came on the scene. And the Middle East was a big place, and the Christians were eventually forced to spread out when the persecution (from people like Paul!) began.

    The raising of Lazarus is in the book of John 11-12, by the way – http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%2011-12&version=31

    (Not sure whether to feel bad for Lazarus or not – on the one hand, he knows Jesus is in control and will ultimately resurrect him again when he dies. On the other hand, the guy just gets resurrected and people want to kill him!)

    Mark appears to have followed Paul around, so may have got his info feom him -as did Luke. The important point I am making here is that they are not clear cut first account witnesses – that casts considerable doubt on their reliability – whould this do in a courts as someone seemed to imply? Would you accept such tesimony for islam?

    Neil said: Mark did travel with Paul some (they quarrelled, split, then reconciled). Mark spent a lot of time with Peter and the conventional wisdom is that his Gospel was based largely on Peter’s account. Matthew and John were eyewitnesses. Luke was a very accurate writer and, as you noted, a companion of Paul and an eyewitness to much of the book of Acts. Every book of the NT was written by a direct disciple or someone who worked under one.

    Actually, the alleged dependance claim is that Matthew and Luke relied on Mark. Again, that is because they had similarities. But if they were exactly the same people would cry plagiarism or redundancy. It is one of those allegations that proves nothing.
    That is a minor point compared to whether they knew jesus or not, and does nothing to show that they did – remember, they are your “witnesses” you have to vouch for their reliability

    Can you provide evidence of the growth of christianity, and how does this validate it?

    Neil said: I was clarifying your points and you ignore the clarifications and bring up several new points. I can’t take every comment and re-build the whole foundation of Christianity for you. You’ll have to explore some other sites if that is what you are looking for.

    Thanks for the homework assignment, but I think that you can do a little Googling and see how Christianity has grown over the centuries.

    If you want to read about the reliability of the witnesses I wrote a little bit in these spots – http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/02/22/exploring-christianity-part-2/ and http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/03/17/exploring-christianity-part-3/

    The OT is filled with mentions of false gods. Why would it be odd that Hinduism or any other religion would exist at any time?

    Well, you have not shown that yours is real, and Islam would certainly claim yours is the false religion.

    Neil said: Billy, it isn’t productive for you to make a claim, then dismiss a clear and accurate answer by bringing up a new claim. You asked, “How do you explain the existence of Hinduism that predates christianity?” and I gave you an answer. Unless you are claiming that the first one to claim something is true, then I’m not sure what your point is.

    BTW, ironically, Hinduism is false for several reasons. One of them is that they say other religions are true as well. But Christianity is exclusive. So Hinduism is wrong either way – if Christianity is right, then they are wrong. If Christianity is wrong, they are still wrong, because they claim we are right. I know there are many branches of Hinduism, but I’m friends with several and have close friends who are Christians from India, so I’m pretty confident that is a fair representation of their pluralistic views.

    The point though that I am making is that the questions that Bubba think are a challenge to me concerning the truth of christianity are more of a problem to him, because he is faced with the existence of other religions. If they are false and yet came into existence, then why should the fact that christianity exixts make it real – unless the Hindus are right and all things are one :-)

    Do you really need to know how Islam became powerful? The sword. Hinduism has plenty of coercion as well.

    Do you know how christianity became so powerful? The sword – A christian Emperor won a battle……….

    Neil said: History check – go study the centuries pre-Constantine. Again, you asked a question and I gave you an answer. If you want to dispute that Islam spread by the sword from its inception, then your argument is with the history books, not me. I never claimed that religions couldn’t spread by the sword, so I’m not sure what your Christian Emporer comment is supposed to mean.

    That is just false. The Gnostic heresy was heretical for denying Jesus’ humanity, not his divinity. There were plenty of other references to divinity before Nicea.

    Well, there were also references to him not being divine too. If Philip pops by, he can fill in the details for you, but the point is that it was people who decided, not god.

    Will pop back tomorrow if I have time. If not, Lee and Jonathan will keep you busy :-)

    Neil said: Let’s see, you say Jesus was only God because Constantine leaned that way. I show you how that was false and now your point is that it was people who decided and not God.

    People drew that conclusion based on the word of God – http://www.whatthebibleteaches.com/wbt_130.htm . That some people disagree with God’s word is not exactly a new concept. Yes, I know you don’t believe the Bible is true. But even skeptics should be able to see that the Bible claims Jesus’ divinity, whether they believe is it true or not.

  28. Billy, it would be very, very helpful if you took greater care in making clear when you’re quoting one of us. A consistent use of quote marks and/or italics would help.

    I will reiterate that I don’t believe that the mere existence of Christianity proves that the religion is true. It is simply that, in the specific circumstances in which Christianity flourished, it flourished quite inexplicably. J.P. Holding outlines the reasons why in a very lengthy paper, here.

    And, once again, I have been asking about the growth of Christianity at its very beginning, when Christians were being thrown to the lions. The fact that a Roman emperor endorsed Christianity 250 years later does not explain how it survived and even thrived in the first century.

  29. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for your reply; I will respond in full tonight if I can.

    I merely want to test if the following will be bold and italic before I write a long reply.

    Billy wrote:
    “Will pop back tomorrow if I have time. If not, Lee and Jonathan will keep you busy”

    It depends if I am welcome or not and there is a debate to be had.

    Also, how do you get those “Happy faces”?

    Lee

  30. Hi Neil,

    Great blog you have here…

    Neil said: Straw man alert. Nice dodge. Let me know when you get back from your mission trips.

    Two comments here. (No, three… nice humour)

    Firstly (ok, second following my humour comment but that wasn’t an important one)
    ” Straw man alert“

    I notice this is a common reply from you that seems to be employed to avoid the questions asked… the cry of “Straw man” is used when it is not seemingly warranted.

    Now debating logic is not my strongest point (you may discover this if you choose to debate with my for longer) and so if I am making this logical fallacy I would appreciate you highlighting where and why so I can improve my argument or understand the fallacy that I am making.

    Aside: You asked, I think, why “we atheists” debate the theists, and for me it is to better understand my own beliefs and to challenge them.

    Back to the “straw man alert” – You used it against me when I was asking you questions; I also gave a reason why I do not enter into a debate with the muslin against their holy text since I would be doing from a position of ignorance. OK, I then made a sloppy statement stating an example where a YEC rejects evolution because “they do not understand it, and that if given a choice between science and God, they will choose God” (this last comment has been stated to me in a debate and I do not see it as a straw man since I did NOT intend to suggest it was your position – I apologize if this seemed to be the case – Sloppy as I admit), but I do not want this to get in the way of the debate and main points (whatever they are, for me, it is: Does a theist God exist in the universe, and does this God still interact with mankind with the interests of man at “heart”.)

    Anyway, on the point of “straw man” responses, let’s try and have a working definition shall we?

    Straw Man Arguing against a position which you create specifically to be easy to argue against, rather than the position actually held by those who oppose your point of view.

    OK… now stated, let’s try and be good debaters?

    Secondly, “Nice dodge”

    When is a response a “dodge” or a valid reply?

    Since you consider it a “dodge”, can this be taken to be that you are not able to directly respond to my reply? Or is this your “shorthand” for “that’s rubbish not worth an intelligent response”?

    Neil said: Cute, but another dodge.

    This would now be a “dodge” on your part now would it?

    But thanks for thinking it was cute… it is probably the best complement I’ve had from a theist.

    Other religions have exclusive elements as well. And lots of those guys are from Europe, so to play ignorance card on Islam is a bit weak (Not that we don’t need to be learning more of Islam as well!).

    Erm… interesting. You are replying to my comment on your belief following the “one true God”, and you “knowing” all other gods are false, but you attack me by saying “so to play ignorance card on Islam is a bit weak”

    What was that definition of a “straw man” again?

    OK, I did state that my ignorance on the holy text of Islam is the reason why I cannot debate scripture with the muslin – however I will attack any theistic god who’s believers feel that their god takes an interest in current affairs of man and is interacting for the benefit of mankind (and His/Her believers).

    Neil said: Some free blogging advice:

    Excellent, I love it when it is free…

    Think first, then type.

    “Engaged brain first, then open mouth…” – this is what my old English teacher use to say to me…

    Yes, we claim that message already. You guys focused exclusively on Christianity with all your links and comments. Got that? 1oo%! The Islamic link was only added because I posted a comment about the lack of diversity on another blog.

    “You guys”?

    “The Islamic link was only added because I posted a comment about the lack of diversity on another blog”?

    What was that about “thinking first”?

    I did not come here via the Richard Darwin’s site (although I am now aware of it of course and indirectly I suppose it is the reason I found the link) I was made aware of this blog first by Jonathan on his Blog (who also showed me the RD link)

    So Neil, you are attacking the RD site and views – not mine.

    Again… please remind me of a “Straw man” argument?

    “Yes, we claim that message already” – so Neil, you agree with my points, but just wanted to attack a forum thread I am not involved in?

    Neil said: Oh no, the fairy tale accusation? How will we ever respond to that?

    You tell me, this is why I raised the point – though I did use a vulgar method to do so for brevity. I apologise for this.

    there is lots of evidence, but my guess is that you are trapped in the “I only consider empirical evidence” tautology of your own making.

    For someone who cry’s “Straw man” a lot at everyone else on this thread, you do like to try and use the straw man argument yourself a lot don’t you? Funny really.

    You know nothing about what I will consider as evidence, yet you have attacked me with this empty argument.

    I do have a few questions for you though before we continue.

    Do you believe in Alien abductions, landings and sightings in the modern era (last 50 years say)?

    Do you believe in ghosts?

    Do you believe in clairvoyants?

    If you don’t, why not?

    Neil said: Please don’t post any more silly comments like this. I’m not sure I have time to do parts 3, 4, 5 and 6. I would have deleted this for being pointless and unproductive but then I’d be accused of “censorship” on Dawkins’ site, and we wouldn’t want that!

    Silly comments? You now wish to insult me? (Surely I misunderstood this last comment.)

    My arguments are “pointless and unproductive” you say? Then please tell me why, since you have not been able to respond to any of my points in a constructive manner.

    Yours

    Lee

  31. Lee, I won’t respond to any points in your most recent comment, as it is just re-hashing a comment that was originally – and deliberately? – pointless. I’ll leave it up as a public service, though, since you have so clearly proven how faulty my argumentation and logic skills are.

    You are, however, welcome to start fresh with any on-topic comments. I hope you’ll agree that it will be more productive for both of us that way.

    And I do apologize for being so snarky originally. That was a little over the top. A little.

  32. Hi Neil,

    Lee, I won’t respond to any points in your most recent comment, as it is just re-hashing a comment that was originally – and deliberately? – pointless.

    Not sure if I should be hurt?

    It was not “deliberately pointless”, but it was an introduction from me, to your blog. The topic of the thread was pointless (if you do not mind me saying), so as they say in computing “garbage in, garbage out”

    Neil said: OK. When I see pointless posts I ignore them. But that’s just me.

    However, I would appreciate if you reply to just one of my points for the purpose of future debates (if you welcome it from me) with regards to evidence.

    Do you believe in alien landings (in the modern day), ghosts and clairvoyants based on their subjective and eye-witness accounts?

    If not, why not?

    Neil said: That is too broad a question. This will have to suffice: The Bible doesn’t specifically say there is not life on other planets, so however remote the possibility is I wouldn’t say it is impossible. I do believe in supernatural forces of evil, and those could easily manifest themselves in some personal accounts. I haven’t had any personal experience, though.

    I’ll leave it up as a public service, though, since you have so clearly proven how faulty my argumentation and logic skills are.

    Thank you for saying – another complement, I should come here more often, and sorry – I did not mean to “shame” anyone.

    You are, however, welcome to start fresh with any on-topic comments. I hope you’ll agree that it will be more productive for both of us that way.

    I agree and will, once I work out what are the current “on-topic” debates are hiding… are any talking about the evidence for the existence of the theistic god?

    Neil said: We’ve covered that a bunch of times recently. I put out links or list out the commonly known evidence (first cause, morality, logic, etc.) then atheists say they only consider empirical evidence, then I or Bubba point out that they can’t prove empirically that only empirical evidence is valid and that they do, in fact, consider other types of evidence on a regular basis, then they come back with “you don’t have any evidence,” or “that evidence is bad,” then they admit that they don’t know how the universe began or life itself, but they have faith that science will figure it out (love the “blind faith” and bias there), then the cycle repeats. It is getting tiresome, but I figure the lurkers / undecided folks can see where the facts and logic are.

    And I do apologize for being so snarky originally. That was a little over the top. A little.

    No problems, and no need to apologise… it’s good for the soul to “shout out” at times… just, as you know, it is better to shout at the argument and not the person.

    Have to go…

    Lee
    PS
    I live in Australia so you might see some “weird” posting times from me… it is the problem that arises from living at the “arse end of the Earth” (A quote from a former Australia PM)

    Neil said: Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself :-). An employee of mine lived in Singapore for a while and dealt with Australia a lot. He came back with an upside down map (sort of Australia’s view of the world).

  33. I’d like to comment on the idea that atheist writers are concentrating on Christianity.

    I think you will indeed find that the majority of atheists’ criticism of specific religions that you read is directed at Christianity and aspects thereof. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is that you all mostly read the English language.

    Most primarily English-speaking countries have an official Christian majority. Chances are that if someone is writing about religion in English, then the writer:
    - was brought up Christian, or at least around Christians.
    - is currently Christian, or has left Christianity, or has resisted efforts to convert the writer TO Christianity.
    - is far more familiar with Christian beliefs and practices than those of any other religion.
    - has experienced more Christian evangelism than any other kind of religious public discourse.
    - feels surrounded by Christians, for better or worse.
    This means that the writer is likely to be more qualified, and just as importantly, more motivated to use Christian examples of religious issues than any other kind. A writer likes to be driven and on firm ground. In an atheist’s case, most of the intended theist audience is also Christian.

    Perhaps because of this background, an atheist is more likely to have a specific beef with Christianity. Perhaps the source is annoying doorknockers, a paedophile priest or emotional baggage after childhood trauma from fear of Hell. These are not excuses to turn criticisms of religion in general into diatribes against Christians and Christianity. This certainly happens, and I sympathise with Christians when it does. Call it a type 1 argument (I just made that up).

    What ought to happen is the following: an atheist wishing to criticise religion needs a concrete example to demonstrate an issue. He/she most likely chooses a Christian example, because it comes to mind first and is defensible from the rampart of familiarity. Having used it, though, he/she carefully generalises the point so that it is clear to the theist reader that the Christian example is just that, and many or all religions have equivalent issues. This is type 2.

    The other possibility is that an atheist is responding to an apologist argument which specifically tries to make Christianity exempt from a general anti-religion argument (e.g. “Other religions do that, but not us.”). In that case, there is no alternative but to directly attack it. That’s type 3.

    Christians, please. When you see a Christian example used in an atheist’s writing, check to see which type of argument it is. If it’s a type 1, you have every right to call out the writer. If it’s a type 3 argument, respond by defending Christianity as your faith has been directly assailed, but properly so. But if it’s a type 2 general argument, as most of them ought to be, do not take it personally. Someone of another faith will read the example and recognise it as the equivalent of something in their own religion, and have to contend with the same basic argument. Believers are all in it together.

    Anti-religionists as a whole are not focusing on Christianity nearly as much as it seems. Keep in mind though that even if an argument seems unfairly directed against Christianity alone, that does not make it invalid.

    - SmartLX

  34. Hi SmartLX,

    Interesting possibilities, and maybe you are right about people who dismiss those arguments for the reasons you cited.

    But once again, it completely misses the point of my post.

    We don’t have to wonder about the purpose of the raiding parties. Brian spelled it out quite clearly. He and his team want to save the world from theism because it is perceived as a danger to global peace. He and his team focused exclusively on Christianity. For anyone who has watched what Islam is doing that is a complete and utter joke.

    He only added a random Islamic blog after I gigged him on another blog. Kudos to him for giving me credit, but not for missing the point.

    Not to get all Freudian on the world-savers, but it really makes me wonder about the obsession. It is almost as if you know we’re right and you dismiss the others as well. Just a hypothesis. Feel free to chew on that red meat over at Dawkins’ site.

    If your mission is serious, you’ll want to learn more about other religions so you can bring them down as well. Christian evangelists do that so they can understand people and their beliefs better.

  35. Hi Bubba,

    An “ought” statement is just a sentence fragment, properly followed by an “in order to” clause. “You ought to apologize to your wife, IN ORDER TO…” …ease her anxiety that you don’t love her; relieve her anger-tension-fear; introduce humor; get a thrill of egolessness and discover how easy it is to relinquish your desperately cherished positions and self-images.

    Of course, someone may consider that the more desirable IN ORDER TO is to win, to come out on top– e.g., “you should sulk IN ORDER TO…” …guilt trip your wife, maintain possession of the pretense that you’re right and she’s wrong, etc. Thing is, though, in so very many situations, the less altruistic instinct only seems more desirable to a less spiritually/emotionally mature mind, one which perceives much more limited possibilities. As someone has said (was it original with Dawkins…?), we have a real and marvellous “lust to be good.”

    Thus “ought” is a map of how to get from one “is” to another “is.”

    Even an arbitrary religious “ought”–say, “you should not nudely embrace your own gender”–is a sentence fragment properly finished with “in order to please God,” “in order to correspond with the transcendent order of things,” “in order to avoid disharmony with the recognition that Christ died for your sins.”

    Oughts unclarified by in-order-to’s enable one of our most unfortunate forms of psychological conditioning, the murky guilt trip.

  36. Sorry, forgot my conclusion: therefore, what’s objective, transcendent about any moral commandment? It’s relative to suffering, happiness, and all sorts of interesting subtleties which a “transcendent” moral law will tend to blur.

  37. I stated that murders have been convicted on less proof than that which exists to support the Bible and what it says. It was countered by Billy saying he was all ears, followed by some irrellevant (sp) questions. Bubba stepped in nicely with some points I was prepared to make, only said better than I could have. Billy then countered with the “many scholars” routine so popular in discussions like these. I’ve used it myself, but truly, it doesn’t wash as either an argument nor a counter. I’d much rather see how my scholars respond to your scholars. Some of those upon whom I’d rely are found in Stroebel’s books, and mention some of the same counters and refute them immediately, but I’ve never heard the reverse (not that they wouldn’t, only that I’ve not heard the reverse). There’s also the problem of the credibility of the scholars themselves. There are “scholars” that claim the Bible doesn’t prohibit homosexuality. Not being a scholar myself, I can only weigh the arguments and frankly, the “no God” factions don’t fair well against the “yes there is” factions. There’s a lot of flat out denial, as far as I’m concerned, by the no god guys.

    Plus, they argue from a position of the supernatural as an impossibility and then demand that empirical evidence to which Neil was referring. You really can’t prove with nature that which is outside nature. It won’t work. There is only testimony about the supernatural. Some foreign media reported on the miracle of Fatima, Portugal where there were 70,000 witnesses to the final vision. But there’s no physical evidence that it ever took place. Now, some 90 years later, there’s doubtful ANY witnesses to question. So we only have the media accounts, or rather, copies of it.

    It was said that many scholars think the Josephus bits are forgeries. Of course they do, but how can they prove THAT? All in all, debating the existence of God on a single thread is about as close to impossible as you can get. All we can do is point to things to look at, but it’s up to the seeker to look at both sides of every single argument on every piece of evidence. Thus far for myself, the no god guys are woefully lacking. They fair only so well with specific points and suffer greatly on the more comprehensive big picture.

    But guess what? The point of this thread isn’t concerning the existence of God or the validity of the Bible. It has to do with whether or not theists are more of a threat to civilization. And this point is absolutely a crock. Regarding people like Stalin or atheistic/secular systems like communism, their atheism, or lack of a belief in something greater than themselves as do Christians, allow for the types of decisions that have claimed so many millions of lives. One can “use” the Bible to justify any despotic act, but not legitimately since there is no Biblical justification that any reasonable person could ever find.

    An atheist, on the other hand, has only his own internally derived law with which to contend. He can change it any time it suits him since he invented it. Christian law is external in that the Christian bases his sense of morality on Scriptural teaching. It is fixed and unchanging and other Christians are around in massive numbers to hold him accountable as far as his use of Scripture in attempts to justify his despotism. If a gun is put to my head, I might reject Christian morality to save my life, but Christian morality still exists. But an atheist is not beholden to anyone higher than himself, so it’s no problem to reject his morality for expediency. How can he be held accountable since his morality might not have accounted for having his life threatened? There’s certainly no motivation to cling to a belief if there is nothing beyond this life or any deity to judge you after it’s over. In fact, it’s downright stupid and illogical. There’s simply no benefit to being moral beyond the grief one might take from those around him.

    The average Christian always thinks of accountability on an eternal scale and that keeps him in check. The atheist only need concern himself with accountability during the duration of his own existence on earth. Once accountability is removed, he is free to choose any course. This is not to say that the average atheist is sitting back awaiting his chance to go wild. It only explains why atheism is a greater threat to peace than Christianity.

  38. I have to clarify something I was trying to put across. The atheist morality only exists as long as the atheist wants it to. He can claim it still exists without him, but that’s really just his own opinion and not really true. I can say that because the next atheist might not believe the same things the first one did. But Biblical morality is always there. Interpretations might vary, but the actual truth, whatever that may be, is constant and not a matter of “my truth” vs “that guy’s truth”. And the various interpretations may all be close enough, but with the atheists each is a separate definition and unique to itself because it emanates from within the atheist rather than from without as does Biblical morality.

  39. Hi Neil. I’m not a member of the raiding party. I’m more like a hanger on who sauntered over. I notice in one of your comments above you talk about commonly known evidence such as first cause, morality, logic, etc. I don’t want to be accused of a strawman so can you point me to links which state what you mean by these forms of evidence please? The first cause argument as I know it states something along the lines of:
    Everything has a cause, to avoid inifinite regression their must be a first cause. We call that first cause god. Which has the false premise the inductive argument: Everything I’ve seen or heard of has a cause. The fact is there are things in this universe that happen without a cause, like excited electrons releasing energy and a photon. This is uncaused. Anyway, that’s probably not your argument so I’ll leave that for now. Even if the premiss were true it’s a long way from a god who kicks starts everything to a providential deity. But I’ll wait to see your argumentation.
    Thanks and hope I’ve not used any ad-homs or impoliteness.
    Brian.

  40. WOW…. there are just so many comments from theists. The only problem is that the thread has not focused on any one topic yet that I am aware of, other than the “welcoming” of atheists to the blog.

    However….

    Marshall Art wrote:
    The point of this thread isn’t concerning the existence of God or the validity of the Bible. It has to do with whether or not theists are more of a threat to civilization.

    Is this really the point of the thread?

    If so, I will join in on this topic for a while… I had thought (and hoped) the thread had more to do with the existence of God (and the validity of the bible) – you know, the foundations of the Christian argument?

    However, I will happily follow the debate wherever it goes.

    A few questions though to you Marshall…

    How do you select the “good bits” from the bible from the “bad bits”?

    If you see children in the street kicking a puppy – how do you know it is right or wrong?

    Is it right for animals to suffer for the “benefit” of mankind (either animal testing or the food industry) – how do you decide what is right or wrong on this matter?

    Is it right for two men to love one another in a “knowing” way?

    Does the bible have a view on these questions or do you (and other theists) have some morals “from within” to decide?

    Just questions for now, to learn more of your views first before we enter into a debate.

    It is late… must go

    Lee

    PS

    Jamaal,

    I went to your radicalmuslim site… not sure why you posted it – but I left a comment there all the same.

  41. I have to confess, I haven’t diligently read all of the comments here. Way too many for me!

    But I’ve been AMAZED at the number of atheists, agnostics and other ics and ists that claim they are open about God. Some even claim to be seeking Him.

    I will be glad to share my personal knowledge of God to anyone. I don’t want to hijack Neil’s blog here, so email me. In the interest of reducing spam, I won’t post my email address here, just follow the link to my blog and look at my profile.

    Neil does a great job of defending the Gospel, much better than I can do. I can only tell you what Jesus has done for me. But if you’re honest about being open minded and seeking, I hope you’ll listen to what I have to say.

  42. Marshall

    I stated that murders have been convicted on less proof than that which exists to support the Bible and what it says.

    Yes, the legal system sucks – buy a good enough layer and you get off with it. If you are black and poor, you are in trouble.

    Billy then countered with the “many scholars” routine so popular in discussions like these.

    Well actually Marshall, I did provide siome evidence as to why. Did you miss it. The many scholars thing was put in from experience, because I have come across many christians who resort to claiming an Atheist conspiracy – so, I was just letting you know that christians thik it id dodgy too. If that was all I said, you may have had a claim that I was being fallacious, however, the point that you are ignoring is that I provided reasonswhy. Do you think a Pharasee would call Jesus the christ?

    Some of those upon whom I’d rely are found in Stroebel’s books

    I wouldn’t consider Stobel particularly well informed – read here for reasons:http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/manufall.html .

    There are “scholars” that claim the Bible doesn’t prohibit homosexuality. Not being a scholar myself, I can only weigh the arguments and frankly, the “no God” factions don’t fair well against the “yes there is” factions. There’s a lot of flat out denial, as far as I’m concerned, by the no god guys.

    What is your point here? I have to agree though, the bible is anti homosexuality, but what is objective about that? The fact that there are disagreements over the issue argues against moral objectivity. I suspect too that you may be claiming that people who dont agree with you have an agenda. Can you back that up? I am not homosexual, but see nothing wrong with it. Can you tell me why it is wrong (in an objective sense – because god says so is not an argument)

    Plus, they argue from a position of the supernatural as an impossibility

    Strawman. We see no evidence for it, so please dont tell us what we believe.

    You really can’t prove with nature that which is outside nature.

    Since we only experience nature, then your claim is that if there was a supernatural, we cant know it. Therefore belief in it is irational. Have you ever personally witnessed a miracle?
    One can “use” the Bible to justify any despotic act, but not legitimately since there is no Biblical justification that any reasonable person could ever find.

    You seem to have ignored the verse that I posted where god commands extermination of non believers. I really dont see what the point you are making is. You seem to also be commiting a fallacy by labelleng only those who agree with you as reasonable.

    He can change it any time it suits him since he invented it.

    Sounds like some christians I know.

    is fixed and unchanging and other Christians are around in massive numbers to hold him accountable as far as his use of Scripture in attempts to justify his despotism.

    If that were the case, explain how the pope was allowed to indulge in the crusades or the inquisitions and strangle heretics? Islamic law is also fixed. Does that mean it is true because it is fixed?
    Many biblical laws also seem open to interpretation too, and this may result in an imminent split in the anglican church.

    So, again, what makes christian morality absolute?

    But an atheist is not beholden to anyone higher than himself, so it’s no problem to reject his morality for expediency.

    Sounds like a strawman and some christians I know too. We are actually generally quite a moral bunch of people. If there was no god, then there would be no one to be beholding too anyway. Are you actually saying that stoing homosexuals is a good law?

    There’s simply no benefit to being moral beyond the grief one might take from those around him.

    Tell me, what would happen to me if I decided to go on a killing and raping spree? Would society let me do it? Of course not – there is your reason to be moral

    Neil said: Hard to follow all that, so I’ll just comment on the last bit. That wouldn’t be a reason to be moral. That is merely self preservation masquerading as morality.

  43. Hi Bubba, sorry to be brief, but in some respects, Christianity offered hope to the poor and and desperate. The thought of eternal bliss is quite appealing – especially if you are familiar with suffering. I would hardly call it a metoric rise, Suetonius for example refers to it as a cult at the time of his writing

  44. Jamaal, your not a farmer by any chance? Just wondering where you got so much straw from :-)

    I generally find that theism is based in ignorance and often come across statements like ” I can’t see how naturalism can explain morality/life/the first cause/the eye……” This is befief because of ignorance, not because of evidence. Maybe naturalism wont be able to explain such things satisfactorally (altough it is doing and increasingly good job). However to say “I cant see how…” is not an argument that naturalism does not have answers. I also see no reason to include supernaturalism – where is the evidence? Again, lack of evidence does not mean there is no supernatural realm, but with out evidence, there is as much reason to believe in it as there is to believe in fairies.
    Provide some evidence and I will personally recommend you for a nobel prize.

    Neil said: Once again, the evidence is there – first cause, morality, teleology, historical, etc. But you wrongly deliberately limit your evidence to that which is empirical, a cute Catch-22 that “proves” supernatural things can’t happen. If you don’t find the evidence compelling, that is your call. But claiming we have no evidence reveals a deep bias.

  45. Hi Neil,

    What does this have to do with Lazarus?

    My original point was that Paul never actually knew Jesus. I perhaps did not make that clear enough. However, by extention, I was arguing that he was not a witness to the resurrection of Lazarus

    Not sure whether to feel bad for Lazarus or not

    Yes, I have often wondered about that – imagine being ripped from heaven and placed in smelly old Judea again :-)

    Neil said: OK, so we agree then your original Lazarus point was without meaning, because Paul never claimed to have met Lazarus or to have witnessed his resurrection.

    And I showed you how the Bible records at least three times how Paul met Jesus, so that point was wrong as well. If you are going to come back and say that you don’t believe the Bible, then save your keystrokes. I get that.


    Matthew and John were eyewitnesses.

    Well, that is a controversial statement to say the least. Can you show that it was really Matthew the disciple? Also, unless I am very much mistaken, there is no internal claim that the apostle John actually wrote the book of that name. There is a claim that the authour knew jesus, but it doesnt really say who it is, other than calling him the disciple that Jesus loved. Again, it is an assumption that Mark is the john mark that Paul and Barnabas quarreled over.
    Luke was actually a poor historian and disagrees with Matthew over the date of the nativity http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/lukejosephus.html#errors

    Neil said: Paul, I encourage you to broaden your research options a bit. Saying Luke was a poor historian just cost you more credibility points. My goodness, Josephus wrote The Jewish War and Antiquities after Luke wrote Luke and Acts. Your skeptic site started with a bad assumption then built his arguments from there.

    Neil said: I was clarifying your points and you ignore the clarifications and bring up several new points.

    Well, no, you have not clafified the point that the authors are reliab;le. The same points remain unanswered.

    Neil: Billy, I have a feeling that your sources for this were similar to the skeptic site above and the false Nicea claims below. Really, you should broaden your search engine a bit if you are really seeking the truth.

    If you go back through your comments you’ll see that you didn’t ask for information on the reliability of the authors. You just started making false claims about Lazarus and Jesus/Paul. Then you come back and say I have unanswered points.

    Even though you distorted my responses, I still offered two links about reliability. If you read them and don’t find them compelling, that’s OK with me. But it is unfair to say I didn’t answer your questions that you didn’t even ask originally, especially after I did provide answers.

    Neil said: Billy, it isn’t productive for you to make a claim, then dismiss a clear and accurate answer by bringing up a new claim. You asked, “How do you explain the existence of Hinduism that predates christianity?” and I gave you an answer. Unless you are claiming that the first one to claim something is true, then I’m not sure what your point is.

    There are no new claims here. There is an assertion that christianity is real because it has risen over the years. My point is simple – that does not verify its truth, as other religions that you consiuder false have also grown, and been around a lot longer than christianity has. So the problem has still not been addressed by you. Are you claiming its rise is evidence of it’s truth? That is how I interpret some of the comments made here. If so, then surly the same question applies to other religions. It is also a fallacy to assume that something that exists must be grounded in truth – what do you make of scientology? Is it grounded in truth?

    Neil said: Billy, once again, you asked about how Hinduism could have started before Christianity. I explained how in Biblical and secular terms. That’s it. I don’t know where you got the rest of that stuff.

    BTW, ironically, Hinduism is false for several reasons. One of them is that they say other religions are true as well. But Christianity is exclusive. So Hinduism is wrong

    I know what you are getting at, but the fact that christianity is exclusive does not make Hinduism wrong. A hindu would meerly claim that Jesus was one of many manifestations of god that he chose in a way that would reveal spiritual truth to a particular audience. Needless to say, I dont believe it either, but that does not demonstrate that it is false and that you are right

    Neil said: Just to be clear, I didn’t present that as evidence that Christianity was true, but that Hinduism was false (I’m not saying you were accusing me of that – I just wanted to point it out).

    Yes, I know they’ll make that argument, but it doesn’t hold. The Bible is crystal clear that Jesus was the Savior for all people who put their trust in him and that without him you face God and have to be accountable for your sins on your own. Saying that was for a “particular audience” is not supported by the text.

    so I’m not sure what your Christian Emporer comment is supposed to mean.

    That human politics was the reason for it’s spread. Once Constantine won, then the conversion of the natives really took place. Christianity was a lot smaller pre-constantine, so I don’t really see what your point is. The same thing that you claim spread Islam is the same thing that spread christianity, so how does this provide evidence that either are rooted in truth?

    Neil said: Once again, see the spread of the church before Constantine. The Council of Nicea was almost 300 years after the resurrection. Three hundred years! Now see how long it took Islam to spread by force, then compare the two.

    Your claim that Christianity only spread because of Constantine is not true. Christianity had grown dramatically even with the mass persecution and murders of its members and the attempts to eradicate the Bible. If Christianity was so small, why did Constantine care about it?

    People drew that conclusion based on the word of God –

    Well, it was actually a split decision and Constantine had the important vote. So, it was not a clear case of lets look at what the bible says – there was a genuine possibility of a different out come – you may then want to claim that god inflenced things, but that is going to open a huge theological can of worms

    Neil said: A split decision? There were two dissenting votes. Two. With ~300 or so in favor. So that is only a “split” in a hyper-technical sense.

    And the question wasn’t if He was divine, but the nature of his divinity. The DaVinci Code got the facts wrong in so many ways.

    But even skeptics should be able to see that the Bible claims Jesus’ divinity, whether they believe is it true or not.

    Well it does in some places, and not in others and that was part of the problem (consistency would be nice). It’s abit like the doctrine of the trinity – take out the johanine comma (not present in the earliest known manuscipts) and it is very difficult to support a trinitarian doctrine. Many christians are unitarians, so that is another sticky subject – it does nothing to convince the sceptic that there is any consistency in the bible

    Neil said: Unitarians believe different doctrines than Christians do, so appeals to them aren’t productive.

    Re. consistency: Can you show me where the Bible says Jesus is not God? If so, that would be a legitimate criticism. But just because some passages note or emphasize his humanity and others his deity does nothing to discredit the concept of the hypostatic union.

  46. I am not as erudite and educated as your commenters, Neil, so, I beg your indulgence.

    I want to bring up one point. I have heard atheists say none of the New Testament authors ever met or knew Jesus personally. That is just not true. Matthew was a disciple of Christ, as was John. James, who wrote the epistle of James in the New Testament, was the half brother of Jesus. Certainly he knew Jesus!

    As to whether there is physical or empirical evidence of God (or Jesus, if you will), Faith is the evidence of tings unseen.

    As Ulysses Everett McGill (from O Brother, Where art Thou?) said, “[I]t’s a fool who looks for logic in the human heart.”

  47. Hi Mark,
    The real question, which I dont think you got, is essentially – was Matthew actually that apostle? Was James actually written by James? Nowhere in John does it actually say that this is the apostle john. It seems tobe more a tradition that he wrote it – just like there is a tradition that Moses wrote the pentateuch, or that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes.

    Neil said: Billy, you might be interested in Can We Trust the Gospels? by Mark Roberts. It is scholarly yet approachable in answering questions like that. When you realize how the NT was formed it helps explain why the early church considered these texts to be reliable and how the authors were identified ( http://www.amazon.com/Can-Trust-Gospels-Investigating-Reliability/dp/1581348665/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1199890247&sr=8-1 )

    There is a big difference between faith and evidence. Why do you have faith in Jesus and not Mohammed? And why should I believe anything is true based on faith? Lets face it, it is an important question. If you are wrong and Osama bin laden is right, you will go to hell, so on what basis do you make a rational desicion that you are right and islam is wrong?
    Personally, I am compelled to reject both through lack of evidence.

    Oh no, I’m getting too sucked in to this :-)

    Neil said: Yes, it is an important question. It is important to define faith before answering those questions. “Faith” is used in the Bible as belief in something, or someone. It isn’t faith without evidence or in opposition to evidence. Check out the Book of Acts and see how the Gospel presentations point to facts and logic.

  48. Billy, I agree that Christianity offers hope to the desperate: Christ Himself said that a doctor comes to treat the sick, and He said that the spiritually poor are blessed. But the hope Christianity offers is very weak indeed if, at its very beginning, its central claim and the source of its hope was not plausible.

    Christianity’s central claim is a historical claim, namely that Jesus was crucified and that He rose from the dead. At the church’s very beginnings, this claim would not have offered much hope to the hopeless is it was easily refuted.

    Seas, you write that an “ought” clause ought to be followed by an “in order to” clause.

    (You don’t explain why the one ought to be followed by the other, only that this is how the idea is “properly” expressed. An atheist can offer no explanation for human logic, so I wonder what is meant by what is “proper”, but I digress.)

    You write:

    Thus “ought” is a map of how to get from one “is” to another “is.”

    This misses the fact that morality isn’t a mere map from one “is” to another, it teaches which “is” goals we are obliged to honor and those we are obliged to avoid.

    And, requiring every “ought” to be followed by an “in order to” is to create an infinite chain without any basis.

    We ought to do “A” in order to accomplish “B.”

    Why should we care about “B”? We ought to care about “B” in order to reach “C”.

    Why should we care about “C”? The chain never ends, according to your logic.

    More reasonable is the idea that, just as their are maxims in logic (e.g., non-contradiction), there are maxims in morality. For instance, there is reciprocity, the Golden Rule:

    “You ought to treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated.”

    I think this rule needs no justification.

    Moreover, any temporal “in order to” phrase that follows the Golden Rule begs the question of why we should care about that goal, and it often excludes very important instances of moral behavior.

    And, ultimately, if this rule can be rooted in an eternal, transcedent “in order to”, then the root of that “ought” and “in order to” chain must, in the end, stand on its own.

    If I could summarize:

    - Any justification of an “ought” statement by an “in order to” clause or an “is” statement begs the question, why should we care about that goal?

    - Like the rules of logic, if morality is real, there must be some moral maxims that need not be justified. The chain of “ought” and “in order to” must ultimately end in an “ought” that stands on its own.

    - Because the physical universe is only a set of “is” statements, these moral maxims — the “ought” statements that stand alone — must transcend the physical universe.

    In short, if morality is real, it is transcendent. I believe this conclusion is inexorable because, almost every time I see someone challenge the conclusion, they end up undermining the premise. It seems that any attack on the transcendence of morality ends up attacking the reality of morality.

    “Okay,” so an atheist might say, “morality isn’t real. It isn’t really real, it’s just a subjective construct of human psychology or human society, useful but in no sense objective.”

    Let them take that position, I say. But I insist that they draw the logical conclusions of that position, and I fail to see how the position can avoid nihilism as a conclusion.

  49. To correct myself from above: At the church’s very beginnings, this claim [of the Resurrection] would not have offered much hope to the hopeless if it was easily refuted.

  50. Bubba,

    Bear in mind that the pagan world at that time was rife with stories of resurrection and virgin birth, so there was no real shift in emphasis – another reason why I have my doubts that there is much truth in the jesus story. Justim Martyr even said “”And when we say also that the

    Word, who is First begotten of God, was

    born for us without sexual union, Jesus

    Christ our teacher and that He was

    crucified and died and rose again and

    ascended into heaven, we propound nothing

    new beyond what you believe concerning

    those whom you call sons of Zeus.

    Neil said: See tektonics.org for a good reply to the copycat religion claim. Also, please provide a link to Martyr’s whole context if you can.

  51. The quote in the original article above from the atheist was completely taken out of context. it doesn’t seem fair to do that when your basing a large part of your argument on it. I did some searching and found the original, here is the statement in entirety:

    “Why, you might ask yourself, should we bother? Well, the extreme forms of religious ideology are a real danger to global peace, and I subscribe to Sam Harris’ idea that moderates are silent (and largely unwitting) faciliators of religions virulent strains. But, you might further object, isn’t this just … you know …. evangelism.
    I have wondered about this myself, and I’ve been accused of it. I don’t think it is though. We are not offering an ideology to replace whatever they currently embrace, rather we are questioning the dangerous policy of founding important decisions on obviously mythical systems of belief. Atheists as we all know from bitter arguments on this site , embrace a pretty broad range of views.”

    I think if your going to welcome people to your blog and ask them not to provide straw man arguments….well you probably shouldn’t be guilty of that yourself.

    Neil said: Hi Rukind, this is what I copied and pasted from Brian’s original post:

    “Why, you might ask yourself, should we bother? Well theism is a real danger to global peace . . .”

    You can see it in the post above, along with his special smiley characters.

    Now, compare that to what is on Brian’s post now and what you pasted in your comment:

    “Why, you might ask yourself, should we bother? Well, the extreme forms of religious ideology are a real danger to global peace . . .”

    As you will note, Brian changed his post. Everybody got that? He changed his post, and now you are saying I misquoted him. But I quoted him word-for-word from what he originally wrote, gave plenty of context and provided a link. In short, I did my due diligence and sought to portray his views as accurately as possible.

    Is it fair for him to refine and add to his posts? Of course. I refine posts and comments all the time.

    Is it accurate to say I misquoted him or that I did some sort of straw man? Absolutely not.

  52. Re: following up on the above argument/point/observation that the Christian religion really didn’t spread until Constantine – guess I’m just kinda curious as to why a man who was arguably the most important & powerful person in the world @ the time would reject everything he was raised to believe & not only embrace but help spread the beliefs of an insignificant religion that the empire he headed had been trying to eradicate by force & violence for over 300 years.

    That he did what he did is a fact. I’m just curious as to his motives since he had nothing to gain & everything to lose.

  53. Hi Neil. I posted above as Brian, but forgot to distinguish myself from Brian C, leader of the raiding parties ™. Anyway, you haven’t posted links to your first cause arguments, etc so that I may not put straw all about the place when discussing with you.
    Thanks.

  54. Hi Brian E – I didn’t completely understand your comment. I have put links in other posts, if that is what you mean. I just came across this today that has a bunch if you interested. I just glanced at a couple, but my guess is that they can explain 1st Cause better than I can – http://rationalperspective.wordpress.com/theism/

    I don’t mind some threads getting a bit off topic, but by and large I appreciate if people will focus on the post itself. Otherwise it becomes a free for all. I like blogging, but it is down the list of most important things to do in life. Therefore, I can’t re-create the wheel every time someone new comes along. But don’t worry – we get to plenty of interesting topics.

    Good luck,

    Neil

  55. Hi Bubba,

    Thanks for responding to my points conscientiously. So, to keep my thinking straight and try to return the favor, the main points I’ve got to touch on now are: an atheist account of morality (“isn’t non-transcendent morality no morality at all”), of logic (…would you make a similar claim there…? I’m not sure), and of the golden rule. Only if I have space will I move on to an atheist account of yo mama.

    Part of my interest in this debate is to find out what I think, so some of my efforts will be more exploratory than gotcha. Beg your patience.

    By “properly” I meant to say only that every ought conceals an in-order-to. (Thanks, I was unclear). Why ought one to do something? If there is an answer to that question, there’s a reason. Any reason can be translated as “in order to,” even from some alternate formulation like “because.” “You should do as she says, because she’s your mother”–(Fallacious, obviously, but my point lies elsewhere)– this has many possible translations, for instance, “you should listen to what she says in order to be a good boy.” (The statement needs more unpacking, of course). Same thing goes for “you should do as He says, because He’s your Father.”

    But then, you argue,

    (Bubba says): The chain of “ought” and “in order to” must ultimately end in an “ought” that stands on its own.

    In order to avoid sleeping on the couch, I ought to apologize to my wife; the matter ends there. Why should I want to avoid sleeping on the couch? Well.

    It’s ultimately just a question of what we want to do, I freely grant. There are always reasons, good and bad, to do or not do something. Luckily there are excellent reasons for compassionate doings in the peace, joy, and beauty that they engender. UN-luckily, perhaps, to perceive these reasons lucidly (past coarser lusts and the illusory needs of our megalomania) requires the greatest subtlety of being. There’s our spiritual task.

    An ought without an “in order to” or a “because” or such-like is an ought without a reason. All you’ve transcended thereby is reason, logic, not “the physical universe.” There’s only one universe, namely all that is, a somewhat perplexing place which we sometimes describe physically and sometimes in terms of consciousness. (Since it makes little sense to speak of the existence of rocks water planets gravity without a mind to perceive them). Nothing transcends the universe, not math, not logic, nothing. Possible exception of yo mama.

    Evolution favors logic, favors making connections about how things work in our environment (i.e., the universe). I don’t understand why this is an insufficient account? Reasoning power increases with the complexity of the animal, observably; with evolution. And so, it seems to me as a layman, does empathy—at least as a general trend, maybe less straightforwardly than reasoning power. Empathy—the golden rule.

    Actually I think the golden rule contains an extra layer of calculation which our most fundamental ethical instincts don’t. When I vividly apprehend my neighbor’s being—with a mind somewhat free, at least momentarily, from distracting self-concern and worry—I perceive his happiness and suffering quite as if they were my own. I don’t have to proceed through a mental transaction of “how would I want him to treat me?” There’s no thought of “you” or “me” in that recognition of fundamental solidarity. Then I no more require a me-and-you calculation in order to help him out than the right hand requires one, as it has been said, to fly to the left hand when it’s injured.

    But then, has evolution “calculated” this transaction for us already? Is that what enables our immediate, non-transactional empathy…? Does my capacity to mirror my neighbor’s subjectivity originally derive (even a little more coarsely) from a rub-my-back-I’ll rub-yours transaction? That would be interesting to know. It wouldn’t rob empathy of its current dignity, though, its marvellous contribution to the well-being of others and to the delicacy of one’s own experience.

    Incidentally, maybe some of our moral intuitions do “transcend” reason. (Showing their evolutionary scars)? Given the opportunity to assassinate Hitler, my instincts would have rebelled, but would their advice have been good? Or there’s the question of our bias for family, tribe, nation. Those are limits we’re entirely capable of transcending, though, through nothing more than sensitive attention brought to bear on critters outside our circle. As I say, it seems that this capacity increases with the sophistication of the animal—can anyone more expert on evolutionary theory enlighten me there…? I’m much interested in this question.

    So, I will happily deny reality to “morality” if by that you mean something independent (transcendent) of considerations about happiness and suffering. A divorce from such considerations is precisely what characterizes religious vs. secular ethics, and it hugely wastes our society’s energy on non-problems like gay marriage when there’s plenty of real suffering to be addressed. (And it actively hurts gays, of course).

    In short, everything has reasons! We’re equipped with all kinds of elegant intuitive shorthand so we don’t have to make most of them explicit in our daily living. But that’s no reflection of a mind, a person, outside the universe. How does it provide us with an anyway more transcendent norm to say that a moral sense is from the nature of God, than that it is from the nature of us? Because then it might not apply to mosquitos? My best observation (who can know) suggests that mosquitos DON’T inherit a golden rule quite like ours from this God who made them. Even a cat with a bird appears sometimes (who can know) quite without consciousness of sin.

    You say:

    (Bubba said): Moreover, any temporal “in order to” phrase that follows the Golden Rule begs the question of why we should care about that goal, and it often excludes very important instances of moral behavior.

    Can you give an example of such an instance? Not gay marriage I hope! (Again, happiness and suffering are the most obvious “temporal” terms to contend with). (Sorry for all the scare quotes, I don’t like them either, I’ll try to find a better solution next time).

  56. This thread is moving faster than I can read it, let along reply. I will “pick off” points of interest – if anyone thinks I have missed something important, just tell me directly if you truly want a reply/input from me.

    Elisa wrote:
    You know it’s funny that more of these guys come closer to understanding and believe Quantum Theory than the existence of God, and certainly the Trinity. And there’s more evidence of God.
    Quantum theory is able to make amazing predictions that can be measured, empirically, in some cases better than one part in 10 billion. There are bucket loads of experiments you are free to try at home (you may need to build your own science lab though, but just ask your local church for funding.)
    I “believe” in Quantum mechanics because of these amazing predictions that have been repeatable tested, empirically, and independently by people who truly wanted to falsify them (Einstein hated Quantum mechanics all his life and tried to prove it wrong – he failed, if you think you know anyone else up to the challenge, then go for it).
    On a simpler note, I also believe the Sun will rise tomorrow – of course I have no proof for this claim but the 4.5 billion years of historical evidence in our solar system and an understanding of physics (plus I have 13.7 billion years of history in the universe – main sequence stars do NOT just disappear over night (unless you want to throw in a black hole, but we would notice that).
    So you claim there is “more evidence of God” – name it, show it.
    The best most theists normally come up with (and I know I am close to making a straw man here) will be picking the gaps in the current knowledge in science (and, you know what that is called) – is your God really confined to be merely the “God of the Gaps”?

    Neil said: “God of the gaps.” Gee, never heard that before. Is that worse than the “science of the gaps,” where “We have no idea where the millions of fossils are, but we’ll find them, and we have no idea how the universe came into existence, but it definitely wasn’t God and we’ll find that, and we have no idea how life came from non-life, but we’ll find that, and so on.”

    Elisa wrote:
    The other thing that is really funny, is that when we DO give them (ample) empirical and historical evidence, they reject it.

    Excellent, you do have “ample” empirical evidence – then let’s see it.

    Shall we keep it simple?

    What independent evidence do you have for the events that were supposed to have taken place at the crucifixion of Jesus? Earthquakes, 3 hours of darkness (covering the whole Earth?), dead saints getting up and walking around making themselves known. (Interesting, rising from the dead is not that big of a deal according to the bible…)

    I will accept historical documents not included in the bible. (I am aware of two sources normally quoted from the theist – I wonder if you have more) I will accept the bible as evidence only when you can prove it as a reliable source of evidence. (One debate at a time eh?)

    Of course, since no single eye witness account has ever convicted a criminal in a court of law (not in the UK or Australia anyway) – I hope you have a lot of convincing eye witness accounts, and also able to explain why many historical writers at the time did NOT notice anything strange that day.

    Oh, and if we have to take eye witness accounts, I assume you also believe in alien landings in America and ghosts… please confirm or deny this before we continue.

    Neil, I am still waiting for your reply to this question (or I have missed it). You cannot have one rule for one, and another rule for another… explain yourself.

    Neil said: You missed it. Go find it. I’m happy to dialogue, but am not your blog-nanny. I mean this in the nicest possible way.

    And your example is off base anyway. Just because people use a form of evidence doesn’t mean it is 100% reliable or the best form in every case. Is your premise is that we would never use eye witness accounts?

    I think we would if they were reliable. I can only assume that you have replicated every evolutionary experiment yourself and not just relied on others to do it for you.

    I think you have seriously misunderstood how this blog works. If you want to make a comment on topic, that’s cool. I do not drop what I’m doing to reproduce evidence for someone who doesn’t appear to be interested and is only playing out his script. How about if you convince me that you are a sincere seeker first?

    Billy wrote: Elisa, maybe you could provide some evidence. You seem a touch arrogant in your tone here. May this atheist remind you : 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear
    Nice quote… we’ve still seen no evidence from Elisa though have we?
    Billy wrote: Yes, I have often wondered about that – imagine being ripped from heaven and placed in smelly old Judea again
    That would not be a very nice thing for Jesus to do then would it?
    And what did finally killed Lazarus?
    Why didn’t anyone think to ask Lazarus what it was like “on the other side”?
    Does God have a grey beard or not?
    Maybe Lazarus went to hell… similar questions still come to mind though. What did Peter say at the Pearly Gates?
    You would also think someone coming back from the dead would make more “news”… it is the same for those dead saints getting up and walking around at the crucifixion of Jesus. No historian noticed (other than the bible writers of course)
    Too many plot holes if you ask me. Anyone care to show me why I am wrong?

    Neil said: Do you seriously think those questions will advance the conversation? I’ve provided ample links if you have real interest. I sense that you don’t, but hey, prove me wrong.

    Marshall Art wrote:
    The point of this thread isn’t concerning the existence of God or the validity of the Bible. It has to do with whether or not theists are more of a threat to civilization.

    Than what – non-theists?

    OK Marshall, I’ll try and tackle this one then…

    Before I do however, I need to know “what” I am debating against.

    Neil said: No, here’s a better idea: How about just staying on topic? The post was really not that complicated.

    I assume you are a theist, and a Christian one at that? (I do not wish to build these classical straw men now do I)

    So some questions:

    As a theist, what empirical evidence would be required to show you that you are wrong?

    How did you rationally chose the God you have?

    If someone had a different opinion, how would you convince them that their God is wrong, and your God is right?

    Thanks… more later

    Lee

  57. When does this become what the Bible calls useless argumentation? Especially when so many of the arguers are here for mischief? It reminds me of so many liberals: never offering anything superior to what they’re tearing down, but rather specializing in distracting nitpicking, word-splitting, and “debunking” as not only a means to an end but the end itself.

    Neil, you are a very gracious and patient man. But I fear your generosity of spirit and desire to spread the message of Christ is wasted on people whose purpose is to mock or even destroy it. Still, if anyone’s likely to reach someone, it’s you!!

  58. Great point, L&L. I was just thinking that as I responded to Lee. I ensure that trolls move on pretty quickly. If someone wants a sincere dialogue and isn’t just raiding with their little talking points script, I don’t mind the banter. I give the in-betweeners a little latitude.

    Yeah, they’re the same old tired arguments I outlined in the previous posts, but dismantling them is good practice and can be fun. But the traffic is more than I need.

  59. Checking in from another front defending against the atheist hoards .. OK, one straggler who ventured out on his own.

    One “Lee” tripped over his own feet and shot himself in the foot.

    Self-identified at the start as an atheist, then changed his spots right before my very eyes and claimed not only to be agnostic but suggested that he was still seeking.

    Dang it!

    I have radioed in for a replacement atheist.

    Over and out.

  60. Ha! I see “Lee” has been here! Consider his cover blown. If any of y’all want to see, get prayed up ’cause there are a bunch of liberal Christians and deists over at my place, and check out the thread under “Atheists Gone Wild.” But my feelers won’t be hurt if ya don’t. Oh, and Neil: if yer ears were burning, a couple of ‘em got to discussing yourself and your debating methods, but, in my opinion no one jumped ugly on your self.

    Neil said: Thx for the heads up. Hadn’t been over for a while. Yes, I do have quite the fan club, don’t I?

    Anyhoo, “Lee” appears to be a fraud. Dishonest anyway. Surprise — NOT, considering their own discussion of the raiding game plan.

  61. Erudite Redneck wrote:
    Anyhoo, “Lee” appears to be a fraud. b>

    A fraud? At what?

    Do you think I am a Christian?

    Cool… I didn’t know I had it in me.

    I am not part of the “raiding game”, I stated this – I am here to discuss God and the evidence for Him. Of course other stuff comes from this also.

    Dishonest anyway. Surprise — NOT, considering their own discussion of the raiding game plan.

    “Dishonest “? In what way?

    I have questions about God that I cannot answer. I look for evidence that I cannot find.

    The absence of answers and evidence means I doubt the existence of God… some call this position atheistic.

    Very strange indeed…

    Oh, and what game plan? Is their a great plan? Can someone share it with me?

    Lee

    Neil said: I let Lee’s comment post since ER posted one first. But I’d prefer the discussion move to ER’s blog. I would describe my interest level in this as low.

  62. I see the ad homminems are flying. Mr Redneck, in what way is Lee a fraud? Why do you find it so hard to believe that someone may find the arguments for god unconvincing? Why do you also find it hard to believe that although unconvinced, he is still genuinely interested. This seems a somewhat narrow minded and bigoted approach. It seems to me, you are an example of why some people are anti-christianity as opposed to indifferent to it.
    I suppose you think we all want to run away from god, well perhaps you should get out and actually get to know why people dont believe in him, rather than sit there making accusations that have no foundation.
    Also, what actually makes christianity better than atheism in any real sense?

    Neil said: Because it is true.

    Do you think that the ultimate truth should actually be nice – look at how ugly the natural world is. Have you ever seen a living human brain that is being eaten by a maggot, or a parasitic insect that has to eat other insects slowly from the inside out as they still live, because there is no other way for them to exist. So, why should reality be nice?
    Now, you guy could take this as an oportunity

    “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear” 1 Peter 3:15

    So, what is the use of christianity to society if it’s adherents dont do what they are supposed to do.

    Let’s face it, 2000 years of christianity and society is a mess – it doesnt work. Now you may claim that we are stewards of our own behaviour, and I would agree with that, but why then do I need christianity. What moral act can a christian do that an atheist cant?

    Neil said: You can’t worship God or do things for God’s glory and not their own. And a Christian can give a coherent explanation of morality.

    You need Christianity to be reconciled to a perfect and Holy God and to have your sins forgiven. Hebrews 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. You can face God on your own or with Jesus.

    If you really want to learn about Christianity, drop your script, stick around and take your time. Or search elsewhere.

  63. Hi SmartLX

    SmartLX wrote:
    I’d like to comment on the idea that atheist writers are concentrating on Christianity.

    edit

    Great post… I’ll have to remember to highlight the “type” of argument I am making.

    Neil wrote in reply
    But once again, it completely misses the point of my post.
    We don’t have to wonder about the purpose of the raiding parties. Brian spelled it out quite clearly. He and his team want to save the world from theism because it is perceived as a danger to global peace.

    Neil, what was the point of this post then?

    However, I must say that we are not all here on a raiding party to burn, loot, rape and all the other extra activities that the Vikings once enjoyed doing on their European tours.

    It is true I am hear because of the “advertising” done by Brian (via Jonathan) but I’m not on any crusade led by anyone from the RD forums. I’m an “independent”. .

    However, isn’t it a good thing that Brian advertised and brought more people to your blog?

    I for one am here for intellectual debate to learn more about my personal beliefs and what (and why) people believe in god. I have no axe to grind, I’ve never been religious and so do not come with any baggage of a bad childhood experience which I blame on a priest or holy book.

    OK… enough already.

    Lee

    Neil said: You missed the point. I just found it amusing how they have a complete fixation with Christianity and they don’t realize why. Increased traffic is a double-edged sword.

  64. Hi Neil,

    And your example is off base anyway. Just because people use a form of evidence doesn’t mean it is 100% reliable or the best form in every case. Is your premise is that we would never use eye witness accounts?

    Not at all – eye witness accounts can be very useful in the investigation into a crime and a court of law. I am merely wondering how you decide to accept one source of eye witness accounts over another.

    The eye witness accounts for aliens have not be re-written and mistranslated for over 2,000 years with an agenda to preach their religion/belief.

    Neil: You could not be more wrong. You have been seriously misinformed on this crucial topic. I encourage you to research it more before passing along such incredibly false information. For starters, see http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2006/12/04/how-many-times-was-your-bible-been-translated/

    By the way, if Christians had wanted to change the Bible to fit their “agenda” they could have done so to make it more palatable and even to save their lives. They could have changed the name of “Mark” to “Peter,” for example. They could have watered down bits or challenging portions. But they didn’t. Most of the difficulties you guys ask have been addressed for a long time. Do you seriously think these people didn’t notice the things you do? Also see http://www.tektonics.org/lp/nowayjose.html

    You can still see the uneditted videos and read the signed testamonies from such witnesses (Even one from a certain former US president who STILL confirms what he saw even to this day)

    Yet you can reject this evidence and accept the “eye witness” accounts from the bible – why and how? This is may question. Why should I accept a form of evidence that you reject (which is more abundant and less open to “fraud”)

    Neil said: This is a pretty weak “gotcha” path. You evaluate eyewitnesses with a host of factors. Some you believe, some you don’t. I haven’t researched the alien things so I won’t comment on those. One thing you seem to be missing is that while some people will die for a lie that they think is true (9/11 attackers), most people won’t die for something they know to be a lie.

    Read the Book of Acts or the history of the early church. These guys were not in it for the money. That doesn’t mean that it kept out all fakes, but it certainly makes it less likely. If you were about to be nailed to a cross to die for something you knew to be a lie, you’d probably reconsider.

    I think we would if they were reliable.

    So a former US president is a liar… maybe no surprise there then, but how can you trust 2nd hand accounts from 2,000 years ago anymore?

    I can only assume that you have replicated every evolutionary experiment yourself and not just relied on others to do it for you.

    I would not have a clue how to do such science, but I know a man who can.

    Also, it has been shown, whenever someone tries to cheat in science discoveries and make false claims they are very quickly shown to be frauds by other sciencists. Sciencists actually go out of their way to disprove theories of others. It is their job.

    Neil said: So you have reasons to trust them, right? My point is that you don’t play the alien card with that trust. You trust them because you have reasons to do so. And I have reasons to trust the Gospel writers. Many of them died for what they believed to be true, among other things. More here http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/02/22/exploring-christianity-part-2/ and here http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/03/17/exploring-christianity-part-3/

    I think you have seriously misunderstood how this blog works. If you want to make a comment on topic, that’s cool.

    I’m still trying to find out what “on-topic” actually is… please tell me. I am really shooting in the dark here. I do not wish to frustrate you… I am a “happy debater” – I just cannot seem to find the right topic.

    I do not drop what I’m doing to reproduce evidence for someone who doesn’t appear to be interested and is only playing out his script.

    I have a script? Can you tell me where it is so I do not have to do so much thinking? My brain hurts now…

    How about if you convince me that you are a sincere seeker first?

    How can I do that? And a seeker of what?

    I believe there is no God… I try and explain why I think there is no God. If I am wrong, I really, really hope some theist will show me where, because if they are right – I do not want my soul to burn in hell.

    The problem though I have is – which God and why?
    So do I need to tell you I first believe in your God in order to be shown evidence for your God? Surely this cannot be right?

    I am sincerely looking for answers to my questions though… I do not expect to find them on blogs, but you never know. You might be able to give me something that challenges me, either words of wisdom or a link to a more knowledgable site. More importantly, I am hoping there are many intellegent theist readers on your blog and one of them could maybe try and answer some of the questions.

    Until then, I will be a doubter. It only seems right.

    Lee

    Neil said: Fair enough. I’ve provided lots of links and information. Happy searching! I rest in the total confidence that if you are authentically seeking then you’ll find Jesus.

  65. ER-

    I think I have to defend Lee here. I’ve been debating with him for a while, and he’s a regular commenter on my blog. You certainly couldn’t describe him as dishonest, in fact he freely admits when he doesn’t know much about something. For instance on your own blog he said he didn’t know much about biology.

    Personally, I would describe myself as an atheist in that I think on the whole, the evidence seems to demonstrate that there is no God, or at least not one in the interventionist religious sense. However, I am open to evidence that might change my mind. Perhaps that definition better fits agnosticism, but an atheist is what I choose to describe myself as.

    Loath as I am to speak for Lee, I think the above definition is a fairly decent summary of his views (and I’m sure he will indicate if I am wrong). That defiintion doesn’t strike me as being at all dishonest.

  66. Neil, sorry I dconfusred things here. Sigh.

    Billy, my remark about Lee stemmed from a tempest at my own place, which, if you haven’t read, you need to, otherwise your comments here to me make no sense. The post is “Atheists Gone Wild.” This so confusing. Sigh again. And Neil, sorry again.

  67. Oh, but Neil, you had to have chuckeld at the idea of me being called a narrow-minded Christian. I’m one of those guys whose brain falls out once in awhile my mind is so open. :-)

    Neil said: Ha! Yes, we must be confusing to them.

  68. Argh just accidentally deleted my post, so to be brief

    Neil said: D’oh! I hate when I do that (too often!).

    Neil said: Because it is true.

    Not really an argument is it? More of a dogmatic statement. Again, what moral act can a christian perform that an atheist cant

    Neil said: I repeat: “You can’t worship God or do things for God’s glory and not their own.” Why must I repeat thing so many times with you? It is highly frustrating to have you completely ignore my responses. Don’t expect to see your comments posted if you do that again. It won’t because you’re an atheist, it will be because you are being a bad debater.

    Neil said: You can’t worship God or do things for God’s glory and not their own. And a Christian can give a coherent explanation of morality.

    I think you are going to have to define morality hee. You seem to think that an act is only moral if it glofifies god. That is circular reasoning that makes the apriori assumption that moral values flow from god. That is not my concept of morality.

    Neil said: That isn’t circular reasoning at all. It is an assertion. If you don’t believe it, that is fine. But it isn’t circular. You asked what moral things you can’t do that a Christian can, and I told you. Once again, you don’t like the answer so you throw out false accusations of logical fallacies, ignore the responses, etc.

    Neil said:

    You have totally ignored evidence that I have presented for a natural explanation and not provided any evidence of your own – another dogmatic statement

    You need Christianity to be reconciled to a perfect and Holy God and to have your sins forgiven. Hebrews 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. You can face God on your own or with Jesus.

    I’m aware of the dogma thanks. God is the source of moral values, we dont live up to them, so he sacrifices him self to himself to get round some laws that he set up himself.

    Surely then god is himself constrained by an external moral law – why not just forgive?

    Neil said: If you create your own universe then you can just forgive your creations for rebelling against you. God’s perfect justice won’t allow that.

    If you really want to learn about Christianity, drop your script, stick around and take your time. Or search elsewhere.
    Here we go again atheists dont believe because they dont want to (I also cire your comments to Lee that if he really wants to know Jesus he will). This allows you to insulate yourself from challenges – you just assume there is something wrong with atheists.

    Neil said: That doesn’t insulate me from challenges. How can someone possible claim I won’t take on challenges? My point is simple: If you are sincere in your search, I think you’ll find the truth. I’m not sure why you think that is so objectionable. I’m not trying to chase you down and make you believe. If this site is part of your sincere search that is fine, provided you play by the rules.

    Imagine I say, OK, I will pray (as I have done) and no revelation occurs (as is the case), Christians will probably tell me I was testing god, or you are not asking in accordance to what god wants (this seems to assume a non believer would have a better grasp of theology than most church leaders) or that my motives are not pure – it is simple – you keep blaming the non believer and you can ignore all those inconvienent problems.

    Neil said: That is an interesting hypothetical. Go ahead and put it to the test if you like. BTW, I’m not sure what you mean by “revelation.” Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” It doesn’t say you get some particular revelation or experience, though that is possible. If someone informed you otherwise they did a disservice to you.

    ER, It seems to accuse someone for being a fraud over minor differences in definition is somewhat over the top. If you had a clearer understanding of agnosticism, you would realise it is a spectrum of opinions, which can range from really not sure to dogmatic atheist (which I am sad to inofrm the makers of strawmen here is a very rare subset ). Functionally, it is the same as not believing in god. It is not like theism. You either are or you are not a theist

  69. I didn’t mean that as a swipe, Neil! Seriously. We ARE part of different traditions of our shared faith.

    Neil said: OK, thanks for the clarification. It is just that some of the “different traditions” believe the opposite of what we do on key topics. I didn’t want to see a nasty comment-fest started on a misunderstanding.

  70. Neil wrote to Billy
    Don’t expect to see your comments posted if you do that again. It won’t because you’re an atheist, it will be because you are being a bad debater.

    One way to ensure you only read what you want to read…

    Neil said: Come on, Lee, you are slipping. Just because I don’t like to repeat the same thing 3 times because someone is deliberately misunderstanding doesn’t mean I only read what I want.

    Erudite Redneck,
    Billy, yes a little over the top. But not much — not when dealing with one who insists on certainty. Peace.

    Who is this person you are talking about who is “insisting on certainly”?

    If you claim it is me, then you really do not know me or my beliefs.

    We may need to talk more… but at your place and not in Neil’s “home”

    The only certainty I have is that I am uncertain.
    (I also thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken)

    Neil said: At the risk of sounding egomaniacal, I’m pretty sure ER is talking about me. He and his buddies think I insist on certainty just because I focus on the essentials of the faith and because I point out things like truth being that which corresponds to reality. It is a convenient way to dismiss my views when I point out how they go in circles with the Bible.

    I do think you’ll like the folks at ER’s blog, but I must warn you that the doctrine is not very sound. And of course you are welcome here as well. Remember, I didn’t question your atheistic label. :-)

    Neil writes
    Fair enough. I’ve provided lots of links and information. Happy searching! I rest in the total confidence that if you are authentically seeking then you’ll find Jesus.

    Many thanks for the links; I will read as much as I can.

    But one question, how are you certain it will be Jesus that I will find? What gives you this “total confidence”?

    I have not stated “who” or “what” I am looking for… I’ve started looking for evidence for the existence of a theistic god. (Note, no mentioning of religion). However, we need a definition for our search – so I have used the bible as a starting point.

    Neil said: Good start. Maybe I jumped a square ahead. I assumed you meant you were searching for the one true God – if He exists – and that you’d submit to his terms if you found him.

    Acts 17:26-27 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

    Not sure where you live, but if you could find a person to sit down with you and have a real dialogue you might find that useful. Maybe you’ve done this already, but getting to know people at a Bible-believing church can be a good way to learn more in a hurry.

    You are welcome at my Bible Study Blog as well – http://bible1.wordpress.com/ .

    Now we enter problems… the Christians question what “evidence” means.

    However, I do not have this problem – I follow the scientific method.

    If someone here does not like the method, then they should return their computer to the store, go back to living in the dark ages, and may their god and prayers help them in their time of illness.

    Lee

    Neil said: Oh, Lee, don’t go out with a straw man. I don’t know one person who doesn’t like the scientific method. As we’ve demonstrated over and over there are other forms of evidence and you use them all day, every day. So do we.

  71. Neil (re: January 8 reply),
    Glad I’ve sparked some thought along new lines. I didn’t intend to answer directly to your post or to defend the raiders (I’m here with them, so I am one). I wanted to make an entirely general point. Of course I missed your point, I wasn’t aiming for the thing. It’s very nice, I’m sure.

    A related reason why some atheists really are focusing on Christianity, stronger I think than some unconscious feeling that it might be right, is that it’s the most successful, most embedded and flat out most powerful religion where they live. This makes countering Christianity a very attractive idea. Who doesn’t want to effect immediate change for the better in their own neighbourhood?

    Yet another is the sheer size of the worldwide Christian apologist community. What other religion has anything like so many people and organizations dedicated entirely to its intellectual defence? Christianity is where atheists find the most opponents, and the opponents most dearly spoiling for a scrap. The Jewish beliefs are even thrown in for free, so it’s two for one. Admittedly Islam is three for one, but it’s so much harder to find sites in English willing to debate with infidels.

    Again, these aren’t excuses or defenses, they are possible reasons. Take the atheist position to a conclusion: if we were to “win”, and Christianity were happily abandoned by billions, do you think we’d be satisfied and not go after the other faiths? Of course not, we’d go right on refuting. Christianity is not special, it’s not the critical objective and it’s not really what we want to counter; religion is. Christianity is merely the major instance of religion in my life and many others’.

  72. Neil, ol’ buddy. I wish you would explain to me how this doctrine, which is about the only one I accept because it is the only one that matters, is “not very sound.” You may recognize it, although it may not be your translation of choice:

    4(God) wants all people to be saved and to know what is true.

    5There is one God. There is also one man who can open the way between God and all people. That man is Christ Jesus.

    6He gave his life to set all men free. This matter was told at the right time.

    That would be 1 Timothy 2: 5-6, but you knew that.

    Now, we can argue, cuss and discuss what every single word of that means exactly — every single word — and neither of will get it exactly right, but both of us, by the Grace of God, will get close.

    We can argue, cuss and discuss the admitted inconsistencies I utter. You can be aghast that I dare admit that I doubt. You can be mad that I, in Christian liberty, question it, and everything else, including myself, and yourself.

    But you cannot, actually, argue with the doctrine itself without arguing with Paul, or his close follower who wrote it. And I will gladly argue with you if you add anything to it and insist that I agree with you in order to be a Christian.

    I accept that doctrine not “because it’s in the Bible and the Bible is God’s Word,” but because 1., I accept the testimony of Christian scholars that Paul or a close associate wrote it; 2., I accept, also attested by Christian scholars, that Paul said that he encountered Christ and was commissioned to go and tell that doctrine as the truth, and I believe Paul meant it when he said it; 3., I accept that, while the details are arguable, it is the central tenet of the faith; and 4., I accept it because I seem to know to the root of my being that 4.a., there is God; 4.b., I am not him; 4.c. I want to have communion with God; 4.d., I cannot by myself; 4.e., God must have bridged that chasm somehow if God loves me; 4.f., I seem to know to the root of my being that God loves me; and 4.g., the testimony of the ages and a greast cloud of witnesses echo in my mind and heart that Jesus of Nazareth is that bridge; and 4.h., I relax, that is, I rest, in repose, in all of that.

    None of *that* is “not very sound.” Take it or leave it. :-)

    Neil said: Hi ER – I’m risking oversimplication because I’m short on time, but I’ll give it a shot. Hypothetically speaking, someone could have a legitimate salvation themselves (i.e, trusting in the finished work of Jesus rather than their own “deeds”) but not be giving sound teaching to others. In other words, they are saved but their words give advice that is wrong in whole or in part.

    The criminal on the cross was fully saved, and could have pointed people to Jesus. But he might not have made the best teacher of the Old Testament and how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies.

    In the same way, it is theoretically possible, I suppose, that someone could be saved but still teach the heresy of universalism. That teaching could mislead people into thinking they go to Heaven no matter what, so why trust in Jesus?

  73. “Yes, the legal system sucks…”

    I wasn’t referring to the quality of a specific defense in a specific case. My comment assumed quality legal arguments, with quality evidence to arrive at a judge’s or jury’s decision. In fact, Lee Stroebel’s “The Case For Christ” begins with a case where a man was convicted using the evidence available, and later, it was found that there was a missing piece that would eventually lead to an aquittal of the defendant. Stroebel’s point in beginning his book with this story was to show how evidence can be used, honestly, and still be wrong, but that when all the available evidence is presented and honestly reviewed, the decision is usually undeniable. There are some 5000 pieces of manuscript that by themselves support what we call the New Testament, yet they are not the whole story. Neil offered links that speak to the reliability of the Gospels, and from my own study, they include archeology, testimonies from outside the faith, and other disciplines that when reviewed in total are just about second to a visitation by God Himself. In other words, more evidence and testimony than has been needed to render decisions in courts of law. Do you know of any figure in history studied more than Jesus Christ of the Bible? No other ancient figure comes anywhere near having the support for the truth of their words and claims as does Jesus Christ. Do the research. It won’t take long before your notions are shaken.

    “Well actually Marshall, I did provide siome evidence as to why. Did you miss it.”

    No. But I think you missed my point. Using the “many scholars” argument will have us doing the he said/she said until doomsday. The “many scholars” I’ve read respond to “no god” arguments and counter arguments eagerly. There it stops and I haven’t seen anything new to throw the ball back into “my” scholars court that they haven’t already covered. I hope that was clear…

    Oh jeez Louise, it’s later than I thought. I will return to finish up with your responses and Lee’s tomorrow.

  74. Neil said: This comment was deleted for violating 3 warnings (why I give so many chances is beyond me . . . I’m really too liberal sometimes).

    As with the last guy, go ahead and claim “censorship” if you like and release some endorphins. But you deliberately ignored my requests over and over and I really don’t appreciate having my time wasted.

    You are more than welcome to re-post if you follow the rules (also, please capitalize God when referring to the God of the Bible.)

  75. Neil,

    Neil wrote: Come on, Lee, you are slipping. Just because I don’t like to repeat the same thing 3 times because someone is deliberately misunderstanding doesn’t mean I only read what I want.

    Fair play… it was a cheap stab. I’m embarrassed now that I made it, so you are right to shame me. I’ll try not to do it again.

    Sometimes my jokes are not very good (actually – a lot of the time)

    Though you have to remember, we “atheists” have repeated ourselves a lot as well in debates like these because the “other party” deliberately misunderstands (or cannot understand?).

    So on this topic, we can agree.

    Neil said: No problem, thanks for the gracious response. I realize you all have to deal with the same sort of thing.

    Neil wrote
    At the risk of sounding egomaniacal, I’m pretty sure ER is talking about me.

    Oh… it must be me then who is the egomaniac – I wasn’t sure, so just assumed it was me. Not important.

    Neil wrote
    I do think you’ll like the folks at ER’s blog, but of course you are welcome here as well. Remember, I didn’t question your atheistic label.

    So far, so good – but the labelling has wasted valuable time… I mean, it is not like every Christian agrees, so why should every atheist?

    Neil wrote
    Good start. Maybe I jumped a square ahead. I assumed you meant you were searching for the one true God – if He exists – and that you’d submit to his terms if you found him.

    In a way I am looking… but not via the usual path the theist might have taken.

    I do not assume God exists first, and then look for the evidence. I look at the evidence, and think “What the heck does that mean?”

    As for submitting to His terms… well, any god has a LOT of explaining to do based on the evidence. Also, how do I know what “His” terms are?

    Neil said: Fair questions. First, let me say there is no one path. I know people who’ve come to faith in Christ in all sorts of ways – some dramatic and singular, and others long and winding (such as mine).

    His terms are in the Bible. You are a sinner, separated from a perfect and Holy God. His perfect justice demands life for your countless sins (and mine). But his perfect love provided a sacrifice on our behalf.

    The short and perhaps overly simplistic answer is that when you find the true God you won’t know everything but you’ll know a lot more. You’ll realize why you need to accept his terms. You’ll see the problem wasn’t that He didn’t leave enough evidence. The problem was that you were denying him in unrighteousness (I know that phrase is a turn-off, but I can’t help but say it).

    You’ll realize you are a sinner in need of a Savior and you’ll be overjoyed to know that Jesus is that Savior. You’ll recognize that deep down you knew all along that you couldn’t be good enough to “win God over,” and that, as Job discovered, God is the one who is in charge.

    As to your question below, you’ll see why you’ll want to worship him and that it isn’t an ego problem on his part.

    End of sermon :-)

    As for worship, why would any god need my worship, wouldn’t He already know how great he was?

    I do not ask the ants in the garden to worship me? Yet I have the power of life and death over them…. I killed thousands last week when they ignored my command NOT to enter my home…

    Neil said: Interesting illustration. Did you create the ants from scratch, in all their incredible complexity, and write your law on their hearts? Not to stretch this too far, but notice how you considered it a capital offense when they trespassed on your property, just as we trespass on God’s with our thoughts and actions each day.

    P.S. I hate ants. We have fire ants in Texas, aka “fallen ants.”

    Neil wrote
    Not sure where you live, but if you could find a person to sit down with you and have a real dialogue you might find that useful. Maybe you’ve done this already, but getting to know people at a Bible-believing church can be a good way to learn more in a hurry.

    Thanks… but I have learnt a lot already on that front. I’ve spoken to many Christians in my time – I once went out of my way to find them, I even chose to go to a Roman Catholic college just to learn more.

    Kind words, but nothing but wishful thinking is what I found on the evidence front. Zero convincing evidence for the scientifically minded person like me… but this has not stopped me looking. The internet is a wonderful thing is it not… all praise science?
    (This is normally where I am told it is because I use science, reason and logic is WHY I have not found a god… curious to me – since the scientific method has proven itself to work so well in many fields. And would God hide himself from such searching?)

    So I am not here expecting to be converted to any faith, but I am open to being surprised… I just like to think that people believe for a rational reason, and not just “because”.

    Neil said: Fair enough. The Bible applauds and encourages the use of reason. I appreciate that you include reason and logic along with science. The “science only” crowd tips their hand re. their motives.

    Neil wrote:
    Oh, Lee, don’t go out with a straw man. I don’t know one person who doesn’t like the scientific method. As we’ve demonstrated over and over there are other forms of evidence and you use them all day, every day. So do we.

    It wasn’t a straw man argument… it was a joke.
    (Maybe I should give notice of my humour?)

    Neil said: Sorry, my bad. It has been a serious week and I had a temporary loss of humor.

    BTW: Do you have a thread on “what is good evidence?” or the such like

    Lee

    Neil said: I don’t know if I did a specific post on that, but I’ve been thinking about doing one.

  76. “”Though you have to remember, we “atheists” have repeated ourselves a lot as well in debates like these because the “other party” deliberately misunderstands (or cannot understand?).”

    Atheists have been repeating themselves for the better part of 1700 years. The arguments may have taken on different forms but the fact remains, Christianity has survived all the attacks. It has been explained, defended & advanced by some extremely brilliant people.

    As for “deliberately nisunderstanding or “can’t understand”, that seems to be a two-edged sword.

  77. WOZ wrote:
    Atheists have been repeating themselves for the better part of 1700 years. The arguments may have taken on different forms but the fact remains, Christianity has survived all the attacks.

    I’m sorry – for 1700 years? Interesting… and how do you define “survived all attacks” – the Christianity of today is very, very different to that of say 600 years ago. Why is that?

    A few points though come up. Why 1700 years? Is that anything to do with when the bible was invented? (The selecting of books that suited ones own ideas?)
    Also, “atheists” have been going longer than just 1700 years – it just didn’t have a title (The names Epicurus, Democritus, and Lucretius come to mind)

    As for “survived all the attacks” – well, you are right in one respect – though the classical defensive argument used for much of the last 1700 years was to kill (in the most horrid of ways) the person who did not believe in your god. (Islam is still using this technique I believe in controls where it has full control – that’s religion for you)

    What examples of Christianity “winning the argument” in history? Just take a look at English History from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I… they were burning Christians for not believing in the “right” way to follow God – not a very good time to start a debate about atheistism now is it? Oh, and who can forget the wonderful arguments made by the Spanish inquisition?

    Also, Christianity was surviving the attacks rather will until scientific thinking came along, of course the church tried to suppress such ideas (Galileo comes to mind here as a turning point in history) but science just kept chipping away. Of course, Darwin really messed things up for God and this is why many are trying even today to suppress knowledge of evolution.
    This is not “winning the argument” by the Christian. It is losing… and is changing as a result – of course, some people need religion, and need faith in a reason for it all. I hope mankind can create a religion that is good for them and the rest of the world… one everyone can agree on. Christianity may evolve into such a religion – I would no problem with it if it did.

    Lee

  78. Hi Neil,

    Neil wrote: His terms are in the Bible. You are a sinner, separated from a perfect and Holy God. His perfect justice demands life for your countless sins (and mine). But his perfect love provided a sacrifice on our behalf.

    Somehow I knew you would say something like this.
    Until now I have been trying to focus on the existence of god alone in this discussion, not the bible. I have not been asking if this god is a Christian, Jew, Muslim or an invisible blue unicorn. If there is no evidence for a god, then all holy books are false by definition. If there IS evidence for a theistic god in the universe, then we can investicate if this god has written his (or her) wisdom in any book and test the validiatiy of such a book.

    I have no problem with anyone using the bible as evidence, but we would have to prove the validity of the bible first. Does this make sense and is this fair?

    Neil said: Yes, but my answer still applies. That wasn’t a “proof” on my part.

    This would also start down a different path of debate (which I would be happy to follow, but I’m no expert on the bible)… Some questions though come to mind.
    How do we know the bible is the “true word of God” and not some other holy book like the Koran? How should we read and understand the words in the bible? Why can’t even Christians agree on how it should be read? There will be many more… it would be an interesting discussion.

    Neil said: Yes, let’s get to all that and more! Fulfilled prophecies, archeological evidence, and more help us know it is true. We can compare to other Holy books to see how not all can be trusted. More to come . . . but I have to cut back a bit on blogging or my approval rating in the Simpson household will plummet!

    Neil wrote: You’ll see the problem wasn’t that He didn’t leave enough evidence. The problem was that you were denying him in unrighteousness (I know that phrase is a turn-off, but I can’t help but say it).

    I am denying God? I have already said I do not assume a god exists, I am looking for the evidence first (and found none). To say that it is me who is denying God and so this is why I cannot find Him seems, well, a little wrong. It is almost seems to be saying (trying to be careful with the straw), that I should accept God first, then look for the evidence. This does not seem right.

    Neil said: I see your point – it is fine to look for evidence first. I meant that when you find the evidence you’ll realize much of it was there all along (I know that sound a little cryptic but that’s the best I can do).

    Oh, and for information, I do try and to believe in God when I’m reading the bible sometimes. I think to myself “God exists, now lets read this chapter… erm, why would God do that? It does not make sense. Does it make anymore sense if I think man alone wrote this chapter… why yes it does.”

    Neil said: That is a fair approach, and by all means ask lots of questions. A study Bible might help (maybe you have one?). I like the Life Application Study Bible. They answer lots of the basic questions along the way. And here are a couple tips – http://www.4simpsons.com/The%20Bble.htm

    Neil wrote: You’ll realize you are a sinner in need of a Savior and you’ll be overjoyed to know that Jesus is that Savior. You’ll recognize that deep down you knew all along that you couldn’t be good enough to “win God over,” and that, as Job discovered, God is the one who is in charge.

    Erm… a few things here.

    Firstly, I have a problem with this “born into sin” bit…
    Can I ask, do you believe in evolution Neil? I do (of course, it has a lot of evidence going for it and I am an atheist after all). So all this business about sin causes me problems.
    (Note, I do not want to enter into a debate about evolution, that could be for another thread, but I need to know your belief to understand more in this discussion. Basically I’m asking if you are a creationist or not)

    Neil said: I believe in God, and that He created the universe. Any real “truths” we find were because He made it that way. Might be best to leave it at that for now :-).

    As for Job… well, that is an interesting book – a whole new thread could come from that alone.

    Neil said: Ha! Yes, that’s an interesting one.

    Neil wrote: Interesting illustration. Did you create the ants from scratch, in all their incredible complexity, and write your law on their hearts?
    Yes… can you prove that I didn’t?

    Neil wrote: Not to stretch this too far, but notice how you considered it a capital offense when they trespassed on your property, just as we trespass on God’s with our thoughts and actions each day
    Interesting… but I never said I was a fair and just god did I?

    The killing of the ants for breaking my command is evil… but it was my command, they they did not listern – they can eat the poison.

    Let’s move on… I’m sure you do not like the topic thinking that I am a god. (I do though)

    Neil said: Don’t worry, I got the joke!

    Neil wrote: P.S. I hate ants. We have fire ants in Texas, aka “fallen ants.”

    I don’t know what they are called over here… but fire ants does not sound nice.

    Cheers

    Lee

    Neil said: P.S. Nice work on the font stuff. Might be easier to read if you just did italics and had me do bold.

  79. “Actually, Neil, the doctrine espoused by Paul in the verses I quoted above appear to leave room for universal salvation.”

    Hi ER – I know, that’s the problem. It “leaves room for it” if you don’t read it in light of scripture and take it too literally (I know you don’t take the rest of the chapter literally!). “All” may just mean “all saved people”

    Universal salvation is a heresy, and it is dangerous to teach it.

  80. Neil wrote
    P.S. Nice work on the font stuff. Might be easier to read if you just did italics and had me do bold.

    OK… can do.

    Lee

  81. More for Billy if he’s still checking in:

    “I wouldn’t consider Stobel particularly well informed”

    Yeah, this has been said by others when offered his stuff to review. The thing is, I wasn’t using him as a source, but the people he interviews for his books. He includes many books and papers his interview subjects authored and it is they who are the authorities on the subjects he covers. Frankly, however, the quality of his interview subjects directly contradicts the notion that he is not well informed. He sought out experts in their fields. That you might not like what they have to say doesn’t negate their knowledge and authority on the topics.

    “What is your point here?”

    My point was to highlight that merely being referred to as a “scholar” does not take the ball into the end zone. The argument made by the scholar in question can still be crapola. Scholars are not beyond taking wrong turns in their thinking. So the “many scholars say” tactic doesn’t get it done, it doesn’t add credibility to the argument. As to the homsexuality issue, visit my blog where I’ve recently done three posts on the downsides of homosexuality. I cover it very generally but without referrence to my faith. I try to stay away from “the Bible says” when arguing this topic as well as abortion, just to avoid having my position dismissed as the rantings of a fundie. But I certainly don’t want to get into it here as it has nothing to do with the thread.

    “Strawman. We see no evidence for it, so please dont tell us what we believe.”

    Actually, it’s because atheists see no evidence for the supernatural that they claim they don’t believe in God or the Bible as a historical record. Hardly a strawman since you insist on proof for the supernatural. My point is that the supernatural cannot be explained using nature’s laws by virtue of the fact that it is outside of nature. I meant nothing beyond that.

    “Have you ever personally witnessed a miracle?”

    Can’t say that I have. But I also can’t assume those who claim to have witnessed one are wrong, particularly if they otherwise have reputations for honesty and credibility. In looking at the Bible, it is dismissed BECAUSE of the miracles and accused of being myth and fantasy because of the miracle stories. If the supernatural stuff had been removed, it’s likely to have had wider acceptance as credible historical record. But as you study the sources offered by myself, Neil and others, there is much that can support the credibility of enough of the Bible that the miraculous also gains credibility. Not absolute certainty, but greater credibility; raising the possibility of being true and factual.

    “You seem to have ignored the verse that I posted where god commands extermination of non believers.”

    Frankly, there’s too much to wade through to find the verse to which you refer. Suffice it to say that any exerpts that illustrate such a mandate was case specific, not a tenant by which all Christians or Jews must follow as a rule of any kind, and a reasonable and objective reader would understand that without much difficulty. To charge that I am dismissing those who disagree with me as unreasonable, is itself unreasonable.

    Almost forgot this one: “Do you think a Pharasee would call Jesus the christ?”

    None of them did, so why would I?

    “If that were the case, explain how the pope was allowed to indulge in the crusades or the inquisitions and strangle heretics?”

    No. I don’t feel the need to explain or defend the abuses of several hundred years ago. And it wouldn’t alter the point you seek to refute.

    “Islamic law is also fixed. Does that mean it is true because it is fixed?”

    No, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that the adherents are following an external law, not an internal made-up law. (for the record, I view Islam as a made-up and false religion for lacking the support Christianity has in abundance)

    “Many biblical laws also seem open to interpretation too, and this may result in an imminent split in the anglican church.

    So, again, what makes christian morality absolute?”

    Again, not the issue, but see again the part about the abundant support for Biblical reliability.

    “Are you actually saying that stoing homosexuals is a good law?”

    Wow! You must have inserted your entire arm to pull this one out from your backside! Where did THIS come from? But to help you out, my first blog entry at my place covers why this arrow should no longer be pulled from your quiver. Neil and others have also covered this exhaustively.

  82. Lee wrote: “Oh, and for information, I do try and to believe in God when I’m reading the bible sometimes. I think to myself “God exists, now lets read this chapter… erm, why would God do that? It does not make sense. Does it make anymore sense if I think man alone wrote this chapter… why yes it does.””

    I thought of something else that I want to expand on in a post some day. This may not apply to the things you had in mind when making that point, but it still might be of some use.

    When understanding a difficult part of a book it can help to consider the major themes and the parts that are clear. A central point of the Bible is the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. So when in doubt, think of the passage in that context.

  83. Hi Neil,

    Just to say… you not got rid of me yet.

    Just been rather busy at ER’s blog defending myself. (And probably not doing a good job)

    Neil wrote:
    When understanding a difficult part of a book it can help to consider the major themes and the parts that are clear. A central point of the Bible is the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. So when in doubt, think of the passage in that context.

    It is a bigger problem than that for me – but I will wait for the right thread to discuss further.

    See ya

    Lee

So, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s