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4/29/2006                                                                                       View Comments

A handful of Christian arguments & tactics

This is a transcript of the podcast that is available by clicking here.

Hello, you're listening to the ex-Christian Monologues, a podcast from ExChristian.Net for April 30, 2006.

When Christians show up on this site, it is usually to argue. Rather than present positive evidence for their beliefs, they choose instead to throw out what I call side arguments on a variety of topics. These side arguments are not necessarily meant to show that Christianity is true, but they are meant to show that non-belief is an untenable worldview. Instead of presenting any positive evidence for the existence of a God, a Jesus, angels, devils, etc., they'll attack from different angles. The following is not meant as a comprehensive covering of all the possible apologetic directions Christians are in the habit of taking, but just a few of my favorite.

For instance: Hitler was supposedly an atheist.

Well, actually, the evidence shows he was a Catholic.

Hitler makes reference to God over 70 times in his autobiography, Mein Kampf.

Here are a few things he wrote and said:

Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.Mein Kampf, Vol 1, Chap II

Everybody who has the right kind of feeling for his country is solemnly bound, each within his own denomination, to see to it that he is not constantly talking about the Will of God merely from the lips but that in actual fact he fulfills the Will of God and does not allow God's handiwork to be debased. For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties. Whoever destroys His work wages war against God's Creation and God's Will.Mein Kampf, Vol II, Chap X

“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. And as a man I have the duty to see to it that human society does not suffer the same catastrophic collapse as did the civilization of the ancient world some two thousand years ago—a civilization which was driven to its ruin through this same Jewish people.Speech given April 12, 1922

And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exploited.Speech given April 12, 1922

May God Almighty give our work His blessing, strengthen our purpose, and endow us with wisdom and the trust of our people, for we are fighting not for ourselves but for Germany.Speech given Feb 1, 1933

At the head of our [National Socialist] program there stand no secret surmisings but clear-cut perception and straightforward profession of belief. But since we set as the central point of this perception and of this profession of belief the maintenance and hence the security for the future of a being formed by God, we thus serve the maintenance of a divine work and fulfill a divine will—not in the secret twilight of a new house of worship, but openly before the face of the Lord.Speech given Sept 6, 1938

Nazi soldiers had “gottmituns” or “God with us” engraved on their belt buckle. There is a nice selection of Nazi religious photos available at nobeliefs.com.

For more details on Hitler’s religion check out Hitler’s Religion by Anne Nicol Gaylor & On the Trail of Bogus Quotes by Richard Carrier.

Now, was Hitler a "True Christian™?" By his words he appears to consider himself a Christian. Who are we to judge another man's heart? He certainly didn't consider himself an atheist, and that's the point of this little section.

Okay, enough on Hitler. On to Stalin. He was an atheist.

And, he was monster.

Interestingly enough, from 1894 to 1899, he attended the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Tiflis. Apparently his early ethics were partly derived from, or at least influenced by, the Bible.

Now, I'm reminded all the time, by Christians, that just because there are hundreds and hundreds of Christian leaders living today who have been caught stealing, or in adultery, or molesting Children, etc., that doesn't mean that all Christian leaders are despicable criminals. Then, there are the hundreds of thousands of criminal acts, wars, murders, tortures, crusades, heretic and witch burnings, and other cruel travesties against humanity, committed by Christian leaders during the past ten centuries. Supposedly that doesn't prove that Christianity is false either!

Okay, fine. Just because there are uncountable Christian leaders who have done, and are doing, horrible things, I'll admit that that doesn't mean Christianity is false or that all Christian leaders are bad. However, it does seem to indicate that there is no special magic in Christianity—no sanctifying, all-powerful Holy Spirit of God who is powerfully leading His people into holiness and truth.

As an ex-Christian I don't claim to have "the truth." I'm only claiming that I am no longer convinced that there is any truth in Christian claims, especially claims of flying, fiery chariots; or world-wide floods; or talking donkeys; or demons, ghosts and angels; or war in the heavenlies; or an unconditionally loving, undead, flying savior with a fiery sword shooting out his mouth to slay the wayward at the end of the world, and... Well, you get the point.

So, let's be consistent. Stalin was an atheist, and he was a demented mass-murderer. Does that mean that all people who reject Christian beliefs are sick, demented mass-murderers? Because if it does, then 2000 years of Christian horror makes all Christians evil.

Here's my point: since there are good people and there are bad people under every umbrella, it seems likely that no single worldview, or religion, has yet presented the cure for all the world's ills. Christianity has not been supernaturally successful in making bad people into good people. There is no magic pill, or magic holy book. I guess we'll all just have to keep working at making the world a better place, slipping and tripping along the way, instead of sitting around on our laurels waiting for a magical, mystery God to rapture us out of here.


Okay, next argument. Supposedly America was founded as a Christian nation.



No, not really. The words Christian, God, religion, and church do not appear in the Constitution of the United States.

The third Article in the Bill of Rights, which became the First Amendment, says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814, stated that “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.”

Aricle 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli says, "The United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."

Although some modern Christian apologists have gone to great lengths to throw doubt on this section of the Treaty by referencing the very real confusion that exists between the English the Arabic versions, Joel Barlow's English translation of Article 11, as recorded in the certified copy dated January 4, 1797, clearly contains this entire statement. Article 11 was read before, and passed unanimously by, the United States Senate, was signed by President John Adams and was approved by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, without a hint of controversy or discord. This document remains perhaps the earliest and most definitive statement as to the "Founding Fathers'" view of the secular nature of the American government.


Perhaps my favorite Christian argument is the one that says: prove to me that god does not exist.

This is the popular Christian fallacy of shifting the burden of proof.

When someone claims something exists, it is up to him or her to prove it. To say, "Prove to me God does not exist" is to already assume that which has yet to be proved. In other words, the person is virtually saying, "God exists—prove that HE doesn't exist—you can't prove He doesn't exist, therefore God exists."

Let me illustrate another way. Prove that George Washington didn't exist. That statement is assuming there is a person called George Washington who exists, and then challenges the other to prove that he doesn't exist. The person is assuming that which he or she hopes to prove, namely, the existence of George Washington. The genuine questioner would phrase the inquiry something like this: "I've heard that there was a person named George Washington. What evidence do we have demonstrating the actual existence of this person?"

When a Christian says, "Prove that God doesn't exist," the Christian is assuming the existence of this god, demanding proof to the contrary, and then intimating that if no disproof can be offered, then that somehow proves that the god exists.

This is clearly circular reasoning.

For additional information on logical fallacies, visit Wikipedia.org.


Next we move on to "The Universe is so complex it must have been designed" argument.

How many times have you heard something along the lines of: "Surely you don't think all this just appeared here by chance?"

This is known as the Argument From Design.

It is a matter of dispute whether there is any element of design in the Universe.

Briefly, the Argument by Design is a belief that the existence of something as incredibly intricate as, for instance, a human being, is so improbable that human life itself is evidence of a deliberate, divine act.

But, if humanity is so improbable, then surely the existence of a being capable of fashioning an entire universe is even more unlikely.

If a creator created the Universe, then what created the creator?

And if the creator just "is" and was never created, then why not apply that same reasoning to the Universe itself?

Stephen Hawking, in his book "A Brief History of Time", explains his theory that the Universe is closed and finite in extent, with no beginning or end. He writes:
The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the Universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the Universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the Universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the Universe should have looked like when it started—it would still be up to God to wind up the clock and choose how to start it off. So long as the Universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the Universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundaries or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?Stephen Hawking


The Argument From Design is sometimes called the Watchmaker Argument. By analogy, if a watch is found on the beach, it can be assumed that it was created by a watchmaker. So, since the Universe is much more intricate and complex than a watch, then the Universe must have a creator.

The Watchmaker analogy is flawed. Since a watchmaker creates watches from pre-existing materials, and God is claimed to have created the Universe from nothing, these two kinds of creation are fundamentally different. The analogy quickly breaks down.

Also, a watchmaker makes watches, but if further along the beach we find a nuclear reactor, we wouldn't assume that was created by the watchmaker. This argument, rather than suggesting one creator, would suggest quite a few creators, each responsible for a different part of creation, or a different universe, if you allow the possibility that there might be more than one.

Here's the biggest flaw in this argument: We assume the watch was created, or designed, by a watchmaker, because the watch is orderly. The watch stands out in contrast to the natural randomness of the beach. Then the argument takes a flip-flop and says that the Universe is not naturally random, but orderly, and thus it must be designed. So which is it? Does the beach, which represents the Universe in the analogy, show order or randomness? The Watchmaker argument is just plain inconsistent.

Is it unlikely for life to exist? Perhaps. But how unlikely is it for any of us alive today to exist? Knowing how human reproduction works, with the nearly infinite number of possible genetic combinations that reside in our parents, and in their parents, and so on, back generation after generation, to somehow culminate in the birth of you and me, well, let's compute the chances of that actually happening. Yet, with all those odds against us, here we all are. No matter the odds that might be against it, every week we hear of someone winning the lottery.

In conclusion, there's always the insults.

When Christians start to lose an argument they often resort to insults to distract or change the subject. Ignoring the insult is sometimes difficult, but there are a few Bible verses that may help get the discussion back on track. Remind that Christian of these verses:

Proverbs 12:16, "A fool is quick-tempered"

Luke 22:65, “And they threw all sorts of terrible insults at him.”

James 1:26, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

You've been listening to the Ex-Christian Monologues, a podcast from exChristian.Net.

75 comments:

Deamond said...

I once read something on the Internet, I think it was about answers to biblical questions, like why dinosaurs don't exist etc.

In one of the pages there was an example, and this was meant as an answer to the question "How do you know God exists", the writer said you wou can see design everywhere.

As an example, he pointed out how you can tell that Mt. Rushmore wasn't formed by erosion.

And I thought, "Ah Ha! You just admitted that the faces weren't made by erosion whereas he rest of the mointain was."

If Everything was designed, then there would be no way to tell the difference between something that was designed and something that wasn't, because nothing wasn't.

And, since the mountain itself was formed by random erosion and the faces were actually intentionally carved, and the faces are evidence of design and erosion is a sign of random force, then God didn't design anything.

Kind of like trying to argue about how good an artist Picasso was by saying "You see this? This is a Dhali painting. Dhali was a huge fan of Picasso (Dhali was a surealist. Amongst other things he painted melting clocks. He also wanted to be as famous as Picasso. But he painted in a completely different style). Now, only a great master like Picasso could have inspired such a masterpiece. I mean, look at the realism! Not like this painting over here. The colours are all wrong and the hands look like a child drew it, and the eyes are on the wrong side and the mouth is way off." "Uh, that IS a picasso!"

tigg13 said...

I like to turn the "watch maker argument around. Its not as though somebody just up and decided to make watches. You can trace the evolution of watches from the quartz crystal back to back to the spring wound and then, back to hour candles and sun dials. At no one time did anyone come up with a complete design for a watch all on their own. It was a process of inspiration, good timing and (dare I say it) random luck. So, while watches are complex, manufactured devices, the reality of their existance is based on a unplanned, unforseeable chain of events.

Just like everything else.

brigid said...

Wasn't it Paley who first proposed the watchmaker argument? He wrote that upon strolling through a meadow, we come across a watch and a stone. We know that the watch had a designer and a maker, and the watch is an analogy of creation. But if we want to show that "creation" had a "creator", we have to use the stone, not the watch.

Okay, now go and look at nature and tell me it was designed intelligently. Look at disease; birth defects; Down's syndrome; retardation; insanity. Intelligent design? That's a joke, right?

Hi ubergeek. I like it when you talk to me. And why in the god's names do you call yourself a geek? You call yourself the opposite of what you are? Okay, so I'll call myself the Blessed Virgin.

The Trained Observer said...

The watchmaker argument is backwards. Any engineer will tell you that complexity is not a sign of design simplicity is. There was a great article in Free Inquiry recently that substituted a broken pane of glass for “the watch.” The designed smooth parallel surfaces and right angles are a startling contrast to the “chaos” of the broken edge.

Bentley said...

Thats the argument christians use when backed up against a wall!

What was there before watches, Sundials, yea Jesus might could have handled that one!

The only reason a watch was invented was to keep up with the movement of the Earth.

In other solar systems, there's probably no need for a watch, unless it's time to go to church, I sure as hell hope not!

emptycan said...

Dave, your reference to Hitler's religion was a good information to me. I just re-realized how terrorably and effectively monotheistic religions (like xnity and islam) could remove people of concience against madness of killings. I worry about the future of world. It is bad that there are still many missionaries who are spreading the pervert religions and making other nations their victims.

brigid said...

When people become christians, they hand over their minds, hearts, and consciences to the group. They are no longer individuals and are perfectly capable of following the group into murder or suicide.

Jim said...

Most of the stuff written in this article I've come across over the years of doing my own research into the Christian fraud. However let's just assume while you are reading this that Jesus was a real mortal being.(He certainly wasn't the son of God via a virgin birth as Christianity will have you believe) This mortal Jesus was never a Christian as Christianity never existed at this point of time. The New Testament said he was Baptised by John the Baptist. As Christianity never existed at the time then one has to ask. What Faith was this supposed Jesus baptised into? I see all Christians today as first class idiots who let others do their thinking for them. Cheers Jim Lee

Lorena said...

Brigid said, "When people become christians, they hand over their minds, hearts, and consciences to the group. They are no longer individuals and are perfectly capable of following the group into murder or suicide."

Most definitely. This is what I tell my fundy husband often. He follows the rules to perfection, and when something goes wrong, he justfies himself by the rule. When we argue about it, I say to him that he would have made a perfect follower of Hitler.

Jim said, "I see all Christians today as first class idiots who let others do their thinking for them."

That's exactly what I was. I was an idiot. I only broke away when I decided to stop being lazy and think for myself.

mq59 said...

Jim,

A baptism-like ritual (the "mikva") was required for Gentiles to convert to Judaism. John the Baptist insisting that Jews needed to be baptized was a commentary on the state of religious practice in his day and a foreshadowing of what was coming next (Christ).

theotherian said...

Hi all, I was jumping around the blogs and I found this one. I actually went to a conservative Christian university, so I thought it was interesting to read stuff from "the other side" so to speak. Of course I've read the Paley's watch argument, derived from the teleological argument from the existence of God. While I didn't think that either argument was the most convincing, I thought that it had some good points. The basic idea that design suggests a designer seems likely to me, but the points that have been made about whether or not the universe actually exhibits design are food for thought. So thanks.

It sounds like you've met some pretty lame Christians. I mean, it seems fair to allow for people to interact with the world in different ways, i.e. to allow some to be ultra-intellectual, others to be more experiential etc, but in my opinion that doesn't give anyone the justification for totally abstaining from being thoughtful. For example, I hope that any Christian who compares an atheist to Hitler gets a rude awakening from their listener. Besides the fact that they are committing the informal logical genetic fallacy, they are opening themselves up to the same criticisms they are leveling against an atheist. For example, if Hitler being an atheist made him as evil as he was, then the same argument could be leveled against Christians for the (horribly misunderstood) crusades.

So yeah, unfortunately there are a bunch of boneheads out there, on every side of the fence, not just the Christian side. So it seems that while some Christians may not be the brightest bulbs in the box, it could still be an open question whether or not intelligent Christians actually exist.

Regarding the idea of the beginning of everything. There is an ancient idea called the unmoved mover, which I imagine that at least a few of you are familiar with, and I believe it goes back to Plato, though I may be mixing up my ancient Greek philosophers. Basically, the idea was that as Plato was grappling with the idea of where everything came from, he saw an infinite regression, something he realized was not possible. So he came to the conclusion that even though everything in his experience had a cause, there must necessarily be one thing that did not have a cause. He called this the unmoved mover, or the causeless cause. If the universe itself is the unmoved mover, then it becomes subject to the same criticism as God does. Further, if Hawking is right and we find that the universe "doesn't need God," we still have not answered the question of whether or not God exists. We have actually only decided that the origins of the universe cannot positively prove his existence. However, I think that God better explains the circumstances of the origins of the universe, and these are the circumstances: either the world/universe had a beginning, or it did not. If the world did not have a beginning, then the universe is infinitely old. If the universe is infinitely old, it is impossible to reach any given point in time because there would be an infinite distance to traverse between any point. This becomes self evident when we consider that the universe would stretch out infinitely into the past. However far back you go, there would still be farther to go. So now turn that idea around. If we were infinitely farther back into the past (which would could not be, because history by definition is finite, but for the sake of argument we'll allow this for a moment.) we could never get to this current point in history, because it is infinitely far away in the future. Again, by definition, that infinity could not be traversed. Hence, by the rules of logic, the universe must have a cause.

Where what we understand in the universe fails to account for what we know to be true (namely, that by definition the universe must have a cause in history, because history is finite and must necessarily have a beginning) we must turn to something that is neither dependent on the universe nor the universe itself. By this reasoning, we must assume that something outside and separate from the universe exists because it cannot be bound by the same rules as the universe. This is the beginning of my belief that God must exist. No, we haven't gotten as far as the Christian God, or a personal God or anything like that, but this line of reasoning leads me to believe that something separate and distinct from the universe must exist, and the most likely explanation is a creator of some kind. Oh, and I want to call attention again to the fact that if you want to disqualify this line of reasoning by saying that I have moved the problem of infinity on to God rather than onto an inanimate universe, I would again like to mention two things; first, that this objection disqualifies the universe as an uncaused entity in and of itself (i.e. if God cannot exist because he is uncaused, then the universe cannot exist because it is uncaused. You can't have it both ways) and also because I have made a key distinction: God must be separate and distinct from the universe in order for the idea of being uncaused to make sense.

So this is absolutely more than enough writing for anyone to write, not to mention for anyone to read. I'm not nearly as qualified as someone like Stephen Hawking, nor as someone like J.P. Moreland, N.T. Wright, or Alvin Plantinga. So thats probably enough horrible reading punishment for anyone, if anyone is even left. At the very least, you have the advantage of a dissenter to make your discussion more meaningful than simple agreement with each other. Thanks for listening, and if you made it this far, I'm so sorry for my long-windedness. :-)

Michelle said...

I won't pretend to believe that I can address the bulk of your post Theotherian(?); I'll leave that the more educated ex-christians here.

But what you said at the beginning of your post, that some christians are not very smart, is very interesting.

Christians purport that once someone accepts christ into their "heart" as their personal savior, god's holy spirit enters that person. The holy spirit is essentially god, supposedly. God is said to be omniscient, supposedly. So, how is it that when someone has god's "spirit" inside of them, it doesn't make them any smarter? Wouldn't some of that mind-boggling amount of knowledge about every event that ever occured about every living (or non-living) thing rub off on its host a little bit?

I'd appreciate it if you could shed some light on this!

Forever and ever said...

Most excellent.
Looking forward to more.
This guy has a million dollar voice.

Welcome to the church of logic.

Surely the lord has blessed your work webe with this man of logic coming aboard.HA HA

Hitler doing the work of the lord.?
G Bush doing the work of the lord.?
Dangerous stuff.

Well presented.
Thanks again

.:webmaster:. said...

"I think that God better explains the circumstances of the origins of the universe..."

That about sums up the bulk of your post. Why not just be honest and say, "I don't know, but I believe."

At this point in human evolution we simply cannot know some things. The limitation of our minds, bodies, knowledge, etc., makes it impossible to go much beyond our own moon right now. We've got a long way to go to getting a real good grasp on the Universe. We're not a whole lot better than our ancient ancestors who looked up at the night sky and thought the stars were gods and that thunder and lightening was evidence of their anger at something.

Even if it is true that there must be a causeless cause, that does not imply that that cause must be a conscious supernatural entity, and especially not that any such entity must match the description favored by any particular religion.

J. C. Samuelson said...

That was a pretty concise description of some of the many obtuse arguments that are often proposed by Christians to support their positions. Good stuff!

Theotherian,

Thanks for a well-written, well-mannered post. The WM did sum up your argument pretty well though, and he's right - you could've left off with that. All the same, I'll never begrudge anyone the chance to philosophize.

Just a couple things...

"...either the world/universe had a beginning, or it did not. If the world did not have a beginning, then the universe is infinitely old. If the universe is infinitely old, it is impossible to reach any given point in time because there would be an infinite distance to traverse between any point. This becomes self evident when we consider that the universe would stretch out infinitely into the past. However far back you go, there would still be farther to go."

Not necessarily. I don't think cosmology has solved the issue you bring up, though there has been quite a bit of interesting discussions on the topic.

Of note, is that you can have infinite space that has a finite beginning. The Theory of Relativity allows for the collapse of three-dimensional space into a singularity at a finite point in the past. In a singularity, things can still be infinite and yet have zero separation between any two points.

Confused yet? It's a mind-bender, that's for sure.

I think it was Hawking that pointed out that at a singularity, all we know about physics breaks down.

There's a lot more to this, but I'm not really up on my cosmology. So in short, space and time are two separate but equally important dimensions. It is possible to have infinite space and finite time, leaving the question of cause/creation open in spite of having an infinite (boundless) universe.

"God must be separate and distinct from the universe in order for the idea of being uncaused to make sense."

Well, sure. However, the universe requires no such separation from itself in order for the idea of being uncaused to make sense. Thus, the universe doesn't need a prima mobile (God) in order to exist.

The bottom line is as the WM said, it is a matter of faith to believe in a God that necessarily must exist outside the physical realm. That being the case it is pretty much pointless, but a sometimes enjoyable pastime, to discuss whether such a being actually exists or not.

Brigid/Blessed Virgin (blessed maybe),

You're a sweetheart, you know that? I like talking to you too. All the same, I took a test that confirmed that yes indeed, I am not only a geek but an UBER geek. The doctors say there's no cure, but it's not fatal so I can live with it. :)

boomSLANG said...

"Further, if Hawking is right and we find that the universe "doesn't need God", we still have not answered the question of whether or not God exists."

However, if a "God" exists and the universe doesn't need said "God" as an explanation, then it would be reasonable to conclude that man---who would in no way come close to being as "complex" as such a system as the entire universe---would not "need" said God as an explanation either. If we "don't need" said God either, then by definition and function, "it" is most certainly not a personal being even IF "it" did exist. If it is not a personal being, then whether "it" exists, or not, is totally immaterial from our perspective. Said "God" is essentially "dead weight". So in other words: Who cares? (Mind you, this has has zero to do with the existance of "Biblegod", who "is" an alleged "personal being".)

So--while it was refreshing seeing a post that didn't come across self-rightious and bigoted---it seems we're still back to square one: If there is evidence that the Christian god exists anywhere outside of someone's head, I'd love to here it.

brigid said...

Hello to all.

Lorena, you are married to a fundy? You just shocked my pants off, and that aint easy. Just out of morbid curiosity (tell me to shut up) do you two get along in the bedroom? Baby, for the life of me, I cannot imagine sleeping with a christian. I aint kiddin, I would get it on with a Clydesdale before I came within spitting distance of a christian. Do talk to me, and I'm sorry if I pissed you off. Really I'm sorry, but I'm a big dummy with my mind on sex all the time.

Theotherian: the universe is infinite in all directions. It goes infinitely into the past (which means there is no past) and infinitely into the future (which means there is no future). But we can travel the distance between any two points. We can identify two points, and the distance in time and space between them, without contradicting the infinity of the universe.

I also believe that the universe is not only infinitely large, but also infinitely small. Makes your head spin, huh?

ubergeek.......I become fonder of you with every passing hour. Hey, don't you wish that more people like theotherian would show up here? I like these debates, but you know......I do not live by intellect. My life is mine to live as I choose, and I do not need philosophy to back it up. I do not need to justify anything. I do not need to win an argument. The existence or non-existence of a god means nothing to me. Why do we need supernatural beings? I have my friends, and I have my Mistress, and I can assure any passing christian that my life is as precious to my as theirs is to them.

Okay, before I start quoting Walt Whitman, I better stop. Love you 'geek.

brigid said...

To Lorena, Theotherion, and Ubergeek. I made a posting to all of you but somehow it wouldn't transfer to the article. It still exists--you can click on "Post a Comment". I hope you read it; this has happened before and I want to cry.

Lorena said...

Brigid,

You are one perceptive woman. In many ways I am lucky because I don't know any different. But I often hope it could be better...a lot better (the sex I mean).

On the other hand, he is not a macho man. He is kind, gentle, understanding, and he gives me room to be who I want to be. For a fundy, he is an absolute treasure. I don't know how many men would like to live with an opinionated, restless woman like me.

But the issue I mentioned is a problem. And I argue that it is caused by his fundy beliefs. The way he sees god translates to his everyday life. Let me illustrate.

I send him an email asking him to make supper. The email contains instructions on making, say, quick pork chops. I make a mistake and instead of 1/4 teaspoon of salt I type 2 teaspoons.

He doesn't question the amount of salt. He follows the instructions to the letter and if the food sucks, it is my fault because I wrote the recipe (common sense is never applied).

Then when we argue about it, I tell him that he behaves like the loyals of Hitler. And I tell him that just as he didn't question the "salt," he is failing to question the church's teachings as well.

Anyway, so goes my life.

Lorena said...

Brigid,

For more information on the issue you raised, you can read this entry from my blog:
http://exfundamentalist.blogspot.com/2006/04/everybody-was-having-sex-but-me.html

theotherian said...

Howdy all, thanks for struggling through my [not concise] post. I'm the kind of person that thinks out loud, so if you wanna talk with me, you're really in for it. :-(

Anyway, when Webmaster (name? sorry) said summed up my argument, I think that on at least one hand he was very perceptive:

"I think that God better explains the circumstances of the origins of the universe..."

That about sums up the bulk of your post. Why not just be honest and say, "I don't know, but I believe."

As others observed, we are talking about ideas where our knowledge is incomplete, so of course our beliefs are going to play a major role. My argument was not meant to be a deductive argument, but was rather an inductive argument. And lets be honest, when we are talking about areas where there is no available deductive argument, our presuppositions are most likely going to determine our conclusions.

Less complicated question first: how can a Christian, supposedly indwelt (sorry, Christianese, which looks surprisingly like Chinese when written out...) by the Holy Spirit still not be smart? At least, this is how I understand the point of Michelle's post.

Well, the answer is fairly straightforward I think. Basically the Christian life is first and foremost a process. That is, conversion to Christianity does (at least according to orthodox belief) mean the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for every believer. BUT, it does not mean an immediate and complete change for every (or even necessarily any) Christian. So we should not expect all Christians to immediately become geniuses. Anyone here disagree based on their experience? Didn't think so. :-) Further, Christianity is not a "Well gosh, now I'm a Christian so God does my living and growing for me." If this was true, there would be little to no reason for most of the New Testament epistles to have ever been published.

In a nutshell, part of the job of the Holy Spirit is indeed to illuminate Christians even in the context of knowledge. BUT the Holy Spirit does so in conjunction with the effort of the Christian. And we all know that many, perhaps most people in America have little to no interest in growing their intellect. Sadly, the same is true of many Christians, and I think that it is fair to say that doesn't make them better Christians.

Now, back to Cosmology and the inductive argument for God. You will never hear me deny that faith plays a major part in being able to believe in God. However, I do not believe in blind faith. I have reasons and evidence for believing in God, just as many or (gulp) all of you have reasons and evidence for not believing. The question is, who has the more convincing evidence.

Okay, easy and less important arguments up front. The massive appeal of religion. The overwhelming majority of humanity believes in a god or gods of some kind. Why? If design is present in the world, a logical step would be to say that the majority of humanity pursues religion because it was designed into us. Further, the presence of morality supports a theistic worldview. If no God exists, I can't think of a convincing reason to call an action "right" or "wrong". And the emotivist answer doesn't seem to pose a satisfying solution, because I don't just not like torturing babies for fun, but I know that people ought not to do it.

Further, the problem of evil actually supports a theistic worldview. Unless there is a conception of goodness, evil does not exist. In order to make the argument against God by using the problem of evil, one must first believe that there is objective evil. In order to believe that, one must first believe in God for the same reason morality without God doesn't make sense. A little bit of a tangent on this one is to point out that people are quick to condemn God because of the presence of evil, but slow to praise Him for the presence of good. If the presence of evil is damning for God, why don't we get confused about the presence of good?

While I agreed with the weakness of teleological arguments for God taken by themselves, taken in conjunction with the other arguments I believe that we do find design. The universe does seem to be heading somewhere, life does seem to have a purpose, and why in the world does the universe obey all these rules anyway? Its what you might expect if a personal being designed it all.

Finally, and perhaps amazingly to many people, I believe that history itself may provide the most compelling arguments for the existence of God, and especially for the justification of Christianity as the one true religion. The reason is simple. If we evaluate Jesus' life and the records about it as we evaluate the rest of history, I can find no better explanation for the evidence than that Jesus did indeed die, and on the third day rise from the dead.

Okay, so I sketched (emphasis on sketched) an inductive argument for the existence of God for you. Again, this is a long post, and I really tried to shorten it by briefly outlining arguments, so please be charitable towards the arguments. That is, please try to understand them in the best possible light before setting up straw men. I'm really glad that you guys seem interested in discussing, and I'm sorry that I didn't get to address all the posts about cosmology but #1 I won't pretend that I totally understood every argument I heard, I'll have to think on some and #2 there are about a million of you, and somewhere around one of me. :-) Thanks again for listening, and I'll respond when I can!

theotherian said...

Oh, and one more thing. As far as cosmology goes, I was trying to do some more research and I found this site. I'm familiar with William Lane Craig, and I've actually even met the guy. Hes... well... really really smart. Doesn't necessarily mean that he is right, but I was impressed. Anyway, wish that I could hand you a copy of some of his books, but they aren't free, so try and piece it together from this article. And we're all busy, so do what you have time for. :-)

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/billramey/kalam.htm

tigg13 said...

Theotherian, your evidence is interesting, but its mostly circumstantial:

"Okay, easy and less important arguments up front. The massive appeal of religion. The overwhelming majority of humanity believes in a god or gods of some kind. Why? If design is present in the world, a logical step would be to say that the majority of humanity pursues religion because it was designed into us."

First, I think you'ld agree that most of the world's religions are based on superstitions. What you're calling design is really nothing more than humanity's need to label the unknown. (Its a lot less frightening that way.) And I don't see this as design so much as a psychological defense mechanism. A good example of this can be found in your first posting where you take an unknowable phenomenon (the nature of time) and admit that you are more comfortable thinking that some god must have been the first cause at the beginning of everything. Likewise, humanity felt more comfortable thinking that gods caused the rain and made flowers bloom rather than facing an un-named unknown.
Now, if everybody had an unexplainable need to believe in some guy nailed to a cross, then you might be able to say that there is a god and he designed us to believe in him.

Second, religion has very often been used as a powerful political tool for controlling the masses. Those in power have always benefitted from supporting a belief in supernatural beings. Particularly if these being "wanted" the rulers to stay in power. This has as much to do with the "popularity" of gods as anything.

"Further, the presence of morality supports a theistic worldview. If no God exists, I can't think of a convincing reason to call an action "right" or "wrong". And the emotivist answer doesn't seem to pose a satisfying solution, because I don't just not like torturing babies for fun, but I know that people ought not to do it."

There are lots of animals that are bigger, stronger, faster, more perceptive and more dangerous than human beings. And yet, we have dominated all life on this planet for several thousand years. Why? Two reasons: we're smart and we work well together. But working together is more than just tolerating one another. It requires strong social tools like bonding and trusting and sharing. Christians like to talk about morality like its some big, magical thing. But, in reality, its really just a combination of empathy, sympthy, honesty, generosity and compassion. Nothing mystical or un-natural about these things; they're just part of the building blocks necessary for building the social skills that our species needed to survive and prosper.

"Further, the problem of evil actually supports a theistic worldview. Unless there is a conception of goodness, evil does not exist. In order to make the argument against God by using the problem of evil, one must first believe that there is objective evil. In order to believe that, one must first believe in God for the same reason morality without God doesn't make sense."

The "problem of evil" does not require belief in absolute evil. In fact, its quite the contrary. The problem states that:
1. If there is an absolute good (god), then there must be an absolute evil.
2. And if god created all that exists then god must have created absolute evil. ('cause evil is part of all that exists).
3. But how could absolute good create absolute evil?
If you throw out the notion of absolutes (and god right along with'em) the problem goes away.

So, what is evil? I like to think of it as a standard or a label that we apply to things that we consider really, really bad. It exists in the same way that humor, affection and beauty exist. We know what they are, we know them when we see them, but you can't bottle them and show them off to other people. They are all apart of our personal, subjective perspective of reality.

"The universe does seem to be heading somewhere, life does seem to have a purpose, and why in the world does the universe obey all these rules anyway? Its what you might expect if a personal being designed it all."

No, its what you'ld feel more comfortable believing in rather than facing the possibility that there isn't anyone "at the wheel" and no purpose that would make any sense.

"If we evaluate Jesus' life and the records about it as we evaluate the rest of history, I can find no better explanation for the evidence than that Jesus did indeed die, and on the third day rise from the dead."

The records we have of Jesus's resurrection come from copies made from unknown originals written by biased people whome we cannot identify. We can't even be sure there ever was a Jesus.

You want a better explanation? How about Emperor Constantine formed the council of Nicea in 325 AD (a committee of government appointed experts) to better define what christianity was (because it was really eclectic back then) and they picked and choosed and rewrote and edited the literature they had available (whether it was authentic or not) and created a book which would satisfy the Emperor (not god) as the basis for the official christian church. All dissenting literature was destroyed and anyone who objected or found fault with the book was told to like it OR ELSE! Subsequent generations of the church refined and retooled the book until it was more or less self-reliant. Does this sound at all plausible?

You seem to be very intelligent. You should explore beyond the boundaries of what you've been told. I think you would benefit greatly from this.

tigg13 said...

"Whome" should be "whom"
sorry :).

Truth0r said...

theotherian,

I would like to thank you for not being a typical Christian who presents little to no empirical evidence for their belief. I would like to continue this theme of discussing ideas while not trying to force anything on anyone.

While science cannot explain human ethics, at this point in time, that does not necessarily mean God is its driving force or creator. I think Marc Geddes makes a good point in the quote below by suggesting that evidence leads one to believe our minds are likely “equivalent to the physical processes at work in the brain.” If that’s the case, then it would help make God one more step removed from our daily existence.

“to scientific rationalism, there are no supernatural forces at work within the cosmos. Only natural physical forces, operating according to the laws of physics. Human bodies and brains are physical objects. And so all of our thoughts (including our value systems) could be described in terms of physical processes occurring within our brains. The scientific, materialist perspective takes some getting used to when we attempt to apply it to our own minds. To this day many intellectuals and religious folks alike still have difficulty coming to terms with the idea that we are equivalent to our bodies and brains - that all the wonders of consciousness can be explained through entirely natural processes and there are no supernatural elements at work.

But the evidence for the materialist scientific perspective is over-whelming. For instance drugs and illness clearly alter our mental abilities and states. Specific brain injuries result in specific mental disabilities. It seems very likely that the mind is equivalent to the physical processes at work in the brain.”



I believe it is probable that there is a mathematics of morality and maybe even to the purpose of life. The way I see it, morality is based on what is most beneficial. In most actions taken I go through tons of calculations/scenarios to help determine what will be the best outcome based on past experience and observations. Again, Marc puts it well: “The two great themes of morality then are Harmony and Expansion. On the intrapersonal level Harmony manifests itself as the harmonious functioning of a sentient being as a whole - loosely 'Health'. And expanions (moving towards ones values) manifests itself as 'Happiness'. On the interpersonal level we perceive Harmony as 'Altruism' - people interacting together to help each other. And the movement towards an enhanced range of action for all translates to the fourth fundamental value - increased freedom or 'Growth'.”

If you want to understand some of the reasons why I am interested in this theory, then I HIGHLY recommend reading from this link for a healthy introduction into some enlightening concepts.

http://www.transhumanism.org/index.php/th/comments/towards-a-science-of-morality/

I have some qualms with total acceptance of Christianity and list a few reasons why in this link.
http://www.exchristian.net/testimonies/2006/04/my-anti-testimony-or-i-was-christian.html

Countless actions of God don’t make sense to me anymore. Combine that with all the apologetics involved with the Bible, the hypocrisy and corruption of today’s and yesterday’s church with Occam’s Razor and it leaves you doubting.



Theotherian wrote:
“That is, conversion to Christianity does (at least according to orthodox belief) mean the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for every believer. BUT, it does not mean an immediate and complete change for every (or even necessarily any) Christian. So we should not expect all Christians to immediately become geniuses. Anyone here disagree based on their experience? Didn't think so. :-)”

I stand to reason that along with intelligence can come morality and not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of allowing a being to confront needed changes in one’s life has the same effect as being open to new ways of thinking and new approaches that produce more beneficial results. Again, if we take the materialist scientific perspective or something similar to it, then we can see that it’s not God doing the change but the power of the individual’s mind. I know that’s very humanistic but I only throw it out as food for thought.

Another quote:
“The overwhelming majority of humanity believes in a god or gods of some kind. Why? If design is present in the world, a logical step would be to say that the majority of humanity pursues religion because it was designed into us. Further, the presence of morality supports a theistic worldview. If no God exists, I can't think of a convincing reason to call an action "right" or "wrong".”

As Dave (WB) said earlier, we’re still very primitive in our understanding of the universe. Tell me what is easier: explaining our reality in terms of religion or science? What takes less work? I have the answer; It’s religion.

To address your second question point - based on the links I have provided I’m not convinced you’ve looked hard enough to know why we consider certain action’s “right” or “wrong.”


That was my attempt at being concise. =) It’s stinking 4a.m. and I’m not investigating any other points until a later time.

.:webmaster:. said...

Theo. A lot of words to say:

"Well, the answer is fairly straightforward I think...I believe"


"Formal logic as most people learn it is deductive rather than inductive. Some philosophers claim to have created systems of inductive logic, but it is controversial whether a logic of induction is even possible. In contrast to deductive reasoning, conclusions arrived at by inductive reasoning do not necessarily have the same degree of certainty as the initial assumptions. For example, a conclusion that all swans are white is obviously wrong, but may have been thought correct in Europe until the settlement of Australia. Inductive arguments are never binding but they may be cogent. Inductive reasoning is deductively invalid. (An argument in formal logic is valid if and only if it is not possible for the premises of the argument to be true whilst the conclusion is false.)"—Reference.Com

You made a few dogmatic sounding statements—statements Christians frequently use to describe the Christian life and process—but you failed to offer any references supporting your dogmatism.

You present your opinions cogently, but your foundational method is shaky at best, so all I keep coming away with is someone who expresses their opinions well.

Summation: "I think...I believe."

.:webmaster:. said...

"It (evil) exists in the same way that humor, affection and beauty exist. We know what they are, we know them when we see them, but you can't bottle them and show them off to other people. They are all a part of our personal, subjective perspective of reality."

Thanks Tigg. A concise and accuarte analogy for defining evil. I'll remember this one.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Brigid,

Yes, actually I do wish that, of the faithful that do show up here, more of them would be like Theo. Less liklihood of conversations degenerating into a "dog"-ma fight.

I live my life less by a well-defined, conscious philosophy than by the seat of my pants. But it's fun to philosophize and it helps me work out a better definition of what I think about topics like this. Besides, I really like some of the conversations that result.

I think we'd be great friends if we lived near each other. You're quite obviously a passionate individual who most likely wears her heart on her sleeve (when she's wearing anything, that is ;)). We have a couple things in common: you like sex, I like sex, you like women, I like women...we're made for each other! ;)

BTW, it may be hard to do but if you're a bit patient, eventually the posts you make will show up on the main site. Sometimes it takes hours, others minutes.

Love back at ya, sweetie!

boomSLANG said...

"Further, the presence of morality supports a theistic worldview"


"Evil", as it pertains to religious dogma, is presumably supposed to be objectively defined. "Evil" is "wrong"; "Holiness" is "right." This is objective? Bull. There's hundreds of denominations/sects of Christianity, NONE of which completely agree on what is "wrong", and what is "right". It's completely subjective, just like ALL religious dogma. We, as the human race, might be able to get away with saying "wrong" is simply doing unnecessary harm to others; "right" is minimizing harm to others. The idea that morality is "Divinely" inspired is a joke. There are things that we, as a civilized society, have evolved to know are "wrong" that are NOT in the Holy Bible, or any other holy book. Tell me, how is this possible if our "divine baby sitter" didn't spell it out for us in his "word"? Waiting.

brigid said...

Lorena, hi sweets. Your husband does really sound decent....but,uh, a bit slow? That recipe shit made me laugh. I intend to check out the site you gave me.

I am so pleased that you responded to me. And if you are "opinionated" and "restless" then we are sure to get along.

I am deeply involved with a woman who I am proud to call Mistress. I belong to that woman body and soul. To please her is my greatest pleasure. But she has never, never hurt me; she has never so much as raised her voice to me.

'scuse me Lorena, I am getting emotional and maybe not thinking real clear. I have heard how some christian men treat their wives and it makes my flesh crawl.

I like men; really I do. There is no such thing as a 100% lesbian. I have my boyfriends; even Mistress has a boyfriend. But I could not bear to be "bossed" by a man, and being bossed in the name of jesus is a horror beyond words.

I hope you continue to write to me.

brigid said...

Okay, I had to get my feelings under control.

Ubergeek, it is always good to hear from you, and you are right, my heart is on my sleeve. It is damned inconvenient. My feelings can turn on a dime and I can cry and curse like a Russian whore.

I was sorry that Theotherian did not respond to me--I thought I had some good points. Anyway, the thread has gone into the problem of evil. The problem of evil is all about the suffering of the innocent, children especially. A just god would not sit by and watch the innocent suffer, otherwise god is not just. And if we say that god has some secret reasons for the suffering of the innocent, that makes it worse. What kind of all-powerful god needs to hurt people in order to reach his goals? But the plain reality is that the innocent suffer.....senselessly. I cannot believe in the christian's just god because I have a heart.

Here is where I get called an existentialist: without god, there is no objective right or wrong. Any "moral" act must be one of our own choosing, and involves neither reward nor punishment. People like me just about go nuts when they look out at this world and know that our pains and pleasures have no meaning. I never tire of saying that I quit the church when I learned about the inquisition.

Did you ever hear about Gertrude Baniszewski? Google up and get sick, baby. And now I got to go because I'm whimpering.

boomSLANG said...

Hey Brigid, welcome back. Don't feel bad, my post on personal/non-personal god concepts got glossed over too. I guess that could be a common "tactic", too? Anyway, if your "pleasures" have meaning to you?.... that's all that matters. And only a shallow bigoted a$$-hole(sorry god) would care whether you share those pleasures with a man, or a women. Give Mistress a high-five, or a little pat on the ass for me. lol.

Peace, boom.

brigid said...

Lorena? Hi, I left a post at "everybody was having sex but me". Let me ask you something.......do you laugh about this now, or are you still pissed? I can laugh about the church, but it is still an angry laugh--sarcasm and mockery.

boomslang, your name sounds vaguely obscene. I love it. About all this "proof" about god's existence.....we can offer all the proof we like about the existence of a creator, but it will never add up to the christian god, or the jew god, or any other god. The best you can come up with is some deist prime mover.

catholic theology has been running this game for centuries. Aquinas had some claptrap in the summa about how god's essence is the same as his existence--he is his own essence and his own existence--in other words, it is god's nature to exist, and not possible for him not to exist. It's a word game and means nothing. Anyway, from this dubious beginning, aquinas goes on to comment on everything from killing heretics to virginity.

The very idea that a god exists and is presiding over this absurd world is enough to loosen my bowels. I think I need to go the ladies' room.

See you honey.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Tigg13,

Very, very, well put.

Theo,

"And lets be honest, when we are talking about areas where there is no available deductive argument, our presuppositions are most likely going to determine our conclusions."

That is among the most reasonable statements I've ever seen come from the mind of a modern Christian. That said, I'm going to respectfully disagree.

Our presuppositions certainly determine what we hope to (or think we'll) find, and our willingness to accept certain knowledge as valid or invalid. However, to say that they are entirely responsible for determining our conclusions doesn't take into account new knowledge that change our original perceptions.

Those who cling to what they suppose to be true in the face of new and contradictory information are engaging in what many would call dogma.

Dogma: A doctrinal notion asserted without regard to evidence or truth; an arbitrary dictum.
http://dict.die.net/dogma/

Anyone who has been "converted" from one idea or worldview to another can attest to this.

"Basically the Christian life is first and foremost a process."

Every life is a process. We all learn and grow according to our "gifts." If a certain philosophical point-of-view helps a person to grow and learn, that's fine. However, when a particular philosophy is determined by a select few to be the only valid course for all, conflict will arise.

"If design is present in the world, a logical step would be to say that the majority of humanity pursues religion because it was designed into us."

First off, this statement assumes design, which I'd simply like to point out is not at all a settled issue.

Briefly, the design inference revolves largely around irreducible and specified complexity, along with the alleged fine-tuning of the universe, and of course, the designer.

While complexity and fine-tuning can be argued in scientific terms by those qualified to do so, the designer element is by definition outside the scope of anything but philosophical inquiry. That means that we can't even have a discussion about design without assuming a designer. Do you begin to see the problem?

Incidentally both Behe and Dembski, while giving lip-service to the idea of a non-divine designer, state quite explicitly they cannot see how design could be accomplished by anything other than a divine being. But I digress.

Second, this statement (and the paragraph that frames it) appears to be committing the bandwagon fallacy, or argumentum ad populum. That is, since many people believe in gods, gods must exist. This doesn't follow.

"If no God exists, I can't think of a convincing reason to call an action "right" or "wrong". And the emotivist answer doesn't seem to pose a satisfying solution, because I don't just not like torturing babies for fun, but I know that people ought not to do it."

How about species survival? There are even some animals that appear to display some sort of altruistic or "moral" behavior. Are we to assume then that God gave them moral sensibilities?

Ask any ten random people what they believe is moral. Let's assume they're totally honest with you. Although you'll get nearly all of them to agree on some fundamentals (murder, theft, incest), you'll also find a great deal of diversity in what each believes defines a particular act as immoral, as well as some disagreement over what should be considered immoral in the first place.

Ask any ten Christians the same thing, again assuming they're totally honest with you. I'm willing to bet you'll find similar results.

"...I believe that history itself may provide the most compelling arguments for the existence of God, and especially for the justification of Christianity as the one true religion. The reason is simple. If we evaluate Jesus' life and the records about it as we evaluate the rest of history, I can find no better explanation for the evidence than that Jesus did indeed die, and on the third day rise from the dead."

You make a couple pretty big leaps in this paragraph, and now you're sounding more like a standard Christian apologist.

Your qualifying remark here - "...If we evaluate Jesus' life and the records about it as we evaluate the rest of history..." - is simply another way of saying we should accept the biblical record based on the documentary evidence. Even accepting the Bible as a remarkably well-attested document doesn't mean we necessarily must accept everything written in it as true or accurate in every respect.

Supernatural events and mythical creatures are part and parcel of ancient writings. By the logic you present here, we should accept these things as true as long as there is enough attestation to the manuscripts themselves.

In simpler terms, it's a huge leap from believing the mundane aspects of the biblical account occurred to believing in supernatural events (including Jesus' alleged resurrection). It's an even bigger leap to assume that documentary evidence proves God's existence, or that Christianity is the "One True Faith."

J. C. Samuelson said...

Hey Brigid,

"...without god, there is no objective right or wrong. Any "moral" act must be one of our own choosing, and involves neither reward nor punishment."

Well said! My problem is getting out my thoughts succinctly. I read too much, so I tend to get wordy.

"People like me just about go nuts when they look out at this world and know that our pains and pleasures have no meaning."

No meaning? They mean something to somebody, and as long as we're open we can learn from each other. And love is enough meaning in itself. Sappy? Sure, but I still believe it's true.

brigid said...

I'm sorry Ubergeek, but I expressed myself badly. I meant our pains and pleasures have no meaning in a moral sense, or in a transcendent sense. Whatever meaning we ascribe to these things is limited to finite experience, and does not matter to any imaginary deity we might appeal to for either comfort or justice.

I want to tell you a story. Several years ago, a friend of mine was committed to a mental hospital. She was seriously depressed and had tried to kill herself. After several months, her doctors granted her a christmas furlough, and when she got to her parent's house she went and hanged herself with a length of chain.

When I got the news I almost went to the nuthouse myself. I fell to the floor and screamed like a banshee and pissed my pants. My big sister got me to the emergency room where they got me quiet, and after an hour or so I left with a prescription for Valium. I finally got myself pulled together, but I never got over the grief. Every time I go to her grave, I sob like an idiot.

'geek, believe me when I tell you that I can feel pain just like the next woman. But I look into the empty sky and I know that there is no god who wants to comfort me. I am alone with whatever pain I have to endure. I have my friends, and I have my beloved Mistress, but to say that we will have our answers in heaven makes me want to start throwing and breaking things. Bill Shakespeare wrote that life "is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". That is about all I am able to believe in.

Well damn, now who's sappy? Shit. Thanx for listening. Big Hi to Lorena.

Truth0r said...

I just want to say that I'm enjoying reading many of these thoughtful posts. I appreciate all of you taking time to provide meaningful input. It gives me things to think about.

theotherian said...

Alright, sorry that its been about a week since I've posted, but Its been a busy week. And again, with just one of my posting one side, and the rest of you posting the other side, please don't be too annoyed that I won't answer even close to all of your arguments. I love discussing, but I can only handle so much very time-consuming discussion with a computer screen. Again, this will be long. The bottom part is my favorite, because I think it is the most interesting. It addresses the evidence of history.

First, I grant that deductive arguments are more convincing. The problem is not that I can't present a deductive argument for the existence of God, the problem is that you won't agree with all of the premises. See the Kalam cosmological argument and the link I previously posted for a deductive argument. Further, the problem of evil was then presented as a deductive argument on the atheist side. But again, there is a disagreement on the premises. I do not grant that there is an absolute evil. As a matter of fact, in the tradition of Augustine (and modern day, in the tradition of C.S. Lewis) I would claim that evil in and of itself is not actually a thing, but is rather a perversion of what is good. This is evident in the fact that we don't find people desiring evil for the sake of evil. To elaborate, people desire or do something evil with the expectation that good will occur to someone, even if it is simply pleasure on the part of the evil doer. And pleasure is not an evil thing, but a good thing. As such, with evil being a perversion of what is good rather than being a thing itself, God is not subject to being the creator of evil. God's good creation has been perverted by others - see humanity and yes, even satan.

Ethics: As I have researched, I have come to the conclusion that any sort of hedonism or utilitarianism must be rejected, because (1) some things which are pleasurable are obviously wrong and (2) because I can use these systems to justify murder. First, there are some people who are mentally ill and get pleasure out of things which society labels wrong, such as murder or rape. Basically, if what is right is subjective, then we have no way to communicate with each other what is right, and anarchy rules. It is no use claiming that what is better for humanity is what the unrighteous should do, because we have no justification for caring to do what is better for humanity. As a matter of fact, if we are depressed, then we might get pleasure out of dying and taking as many people with us as possible. Misery loves company. Finally, if you argue that we ought to do what is best for humanity, you are now appealing to an objective standard, that human life is valuable and we ought to respect it. But why? My pleasure doesn't necessarily justify that. So should I do it because its my duty (deontological ethics). But why is it my duty? Does someone make it my duty? And deontology doesn't seem to account for the whole of human existence. For the failure of subjective ethics to justify or condemn an action by itself, it does seem to at least occasionally corroborate what is right. The idea of duty, much like Kant's assertion that a truly significant moral action is only one that you struggle to do also fails to account for the whole of human existence. Also emotivism, that right and wrong are actually statements of feeling about certain actions. And yet our societies are not built this way. If a man steals my wallet, I want it back not just because I don't like having my wallet stolen, but because that wallet is mine, and contains some of the product of my work, which I own (see John Locke) and I am entitled to that, and no one should be allowed to take it away from me. Yes, this does have something to do with the necessary constructs of society (a contract with society, if you will) but the constructs of society still fail to address value questions. For example, there is no compelling reason to believe that what is good for society is truly good. If we look at it objectively, I can see no reason to assign positive value to what is good for society, or even to consider my continued existence a good thing. Bertrand Russel is one of the few atheists who took atheism to what many believe is its logical conclusion, and gave up trying to assign value to anything. Of course, he continued living, which means he didn't go all the way, but there it is.

I'm going to take a quick break to point out that some of what I have just said was basically putting thoughts into the atheist's head, which isn't always a nice way to go. Please don't take it personally, I can only speak as best I can from my perspective, and this is how I have evaluated the arguments and their logical conclusions. Take it or leave it, I still respect your point of view. :-) And also, I have tried to take a sampling of what I have read from you plus a little of what else is out there for ethical theory and answer it, this is still not comprehensive.

Alright, so what ethical system should we choose? I think that Aristotle and his virtue theory have it right, and here is why. First and foremost, it is the only system that is internally coherent. The idea that we should find the virtuous person and be like him supposes something objective. And as shown above, a subjective ethical theory opens us up to obvious inconsistencies, not to mention that it renders ethical discussion incoherent. There is a virtuous person, and we ought to be like him. This solution also provides a theory with a reasonable origin for objectivity. We must ask the question of where our ethical standard has come from, and ethical theory is necessarily personal. It doesn't govern the interrelationships of rocks and glaciers, it governs the actions of human beings, which are fundamentally different. Apples do not come from orange seeds. So ethics and morality must be governed by an individual. And Virtue theory when applied to God is not subject to the criticism of being aritrary, because it is not a condition that God set, but is God's state of being. Neither God nor morality are logically prior, they are the same thing. I also believe in virtue theory because its what Jesus taught. :-)

Another important note on belief and inductive argument. Mr. Webmaster, you are subject to that same criticism. Forgive me if I misjudge you, but I assume that you are a scientific naturalist because that seems to be the tone of the website. So why are you a philosophical naturalist. Why? Either your reasoning is circular and you believe that scientific naturalism justifies itself (which is unfalsifiable, which is widely recognized to generally be an indicator of either shoddy reasoning or falsity itself) or you believe in the verification principle. But the verification principle simply moves the criticism back a step to the verification principle itself. Basically, you are a philosophical naturalist because you believe that this is the best explanation to the way things are. You can't prove it, you can only make a statement of belief about it. As a matter of fact, the tools of philosophical naturalism are science itself, which by definition can only address the material world. Science cannot reject the supernatural or the immaterial because it cannot address them in the first place. Philosophical naturalism rejects the supernatural and immaterial because it believes that they don't happen. The philosophical naturalist may argue that science will eventually explain every question, but this is patently untrue because I can ask immaterial questions, like "why should I do x?" Science, at this point, is simply mute, because the question does not make sense. However, I ask this question every day as I make decisions.

Finally, the most exciting part. History!

The New Testament is far and away the best attested ancient literature. Period. First and foremost, the sheer number of available manuscripts far outstrip any other piece of ancient literature, and the amount of time between composition and our first available documents are again by far the shortest of any ancient work. The earliest piece of the New Testament we have appears in the early to mid 2nd century, a fragment of the Gospel of John which most scholars date to about 90 AD. This means that less than 100 years and possibly as few as 40 have elapsed between the writing of this book and the first available manuscript we have. Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus appear around 250 years after the completion of the New Testament. There are over 20,000 partial and complete ancient copies of the New Testament. Want to hear some comparisons? There are 8 ancient copies of Herodotus, none closer than 1300 years to the original manuscript. There are 20 copies of Tacitus, none closer than 1000 years. 20 copies of Livy's Roman History, none closer than 900 years. And yet the general trustworthiness of these non-biblical texts is generally unquestioned. Further, Within these 20,000 + NT manuscripts, there are about 150,000 variants. Sounds like a lot, right? Not really. First of all, if the same variants occurs in 5000 manuscripts, it counts as 5000 variants. So we can get rid of most of these as repetitious. As a matter of fact, Bruce M Metzger in his book "The Text of the New Testament" tells us that of all these variants, only about 20 are of any significance, and none of them affect any core doctrine of the Christian faith. It is widely accepted by textual critics that we can be certain that the New Testament we read today is in no way significantly different from the original text that was written.

So what was written? First, the Gospel of Mark was most likely written before 70 AD. Obviously there is some disagreement, but scholarship tends to lean towards 70 or before, at least because Mark was supposedly written before any of the other Gospels which were in large part dependent on Mark. Tracking the movement of ancient texts suggests that 20 years (the approximate time between the writing of the first Gospel and the Gospel of John) is simply not enough time for the tradition to have developed so far. The important point is that if Mark was written before the fall of Jerusalem, the historical claims in Mark would have been subject to verification. For example, was the tomb of Jesus really empty? Well, yes, and here are a few reasons. Number one, Christians were making this claim before the fall of Jerusalem. Which means that anyone could have gone and seen if the grave Jesus was buried in was actually empty. They wouldn't have forgotten where the grave was, because the tombs of Jewish holy men were venerated. Whether or not all the Jews believed in Jesus, at least some of them did, and would have venerated his tomb as a prophet's. His tomb could not have been lost. And besides the four gospels and their statements about the empty tomb, we have Paul's witness in 1 Corinthians 15, universally accepted by scholars to be a genuine epistle of Paul written about AD 50-55. Definitely close enough to Jesus' death to be verified. So whether or not we can trust the Christians to report accurate history, we can listen to the witness of history as to whether or not there is an answer to the Christian's claim of the empty tomb. The silence speaks loudly.

I'm a little bit tired of the claim that the earliest Christians either could not or did not write accurate history. To say that they could not write accurate history is to assert that they were liars, and nothing less. The reason for this is that there is a heavy emphasis on truth and historical events in the earliest Christian writings. A good example of this is the Gospel of John, where "truth" is one of John's main themes. Paul writes "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain." Paul staked his whole faith on the reality of history. And if the most prominent followers of Jesus were liars, why? It didn't make them rich, it didn't make them powerful, and it did make them dead. Usually in a horrible way.

Next, I don't know how much biblical history you've actually read, but Jesus studies since the enlightenment have been divided into three main phases. These phases are the first, second and third quests for the historical Jesus. The first quest basically denied that we could know much about the historical Jesus besides what we wanted to make up. Albert Schweitzer ended this quest with the aforementioned observation. The second question basically denied that knowing anything about the historical Jesus mattered. The third quest, which is now picking up a lot of steam, asserts that we can know a lot about Jesus, and we know it by placing him in his Jewish context. The funny thing is that this new quest and the direction of current scholarship is becoming more and more optimistic about what we can know about the historical Jesus. The field generally agrees that Jesus really existed, that he really had a ministry, that he really did miracles (whether they were truly miraculous or a sort of placebo is another matter) that he really was crucified, and that his followers really did believe in Easter. These are some pretty significant statements. There are the additional findings of archaeology confirming the general trustworthiness of the narrative books. All the names are right (though Quirinius in the beginning of the Gospel of Luke remains unnacounted for) and the places are all accurately described. And that is just the beginning.

But for now, its the ending. My laundry is long done and is now all wrinkled probably, so I've gotta go. Thanks for hanging in there again, and hopefully you all still want to talk. Sorry that I didn't get to everything that you guys brought up, and sorry that I'm not the smartest guy in the world so I could give you the perfect answers, but that would probably take some of the fun out of it anyway. You guys have a good night, and I'll get back to you when I can!

Oh, and by the way, everyone gets confused about this, but theotherian is actually the other Ian, so you guys can call me Ian instead of Theo if you want. Or just think of me as a character on the Cosby Show.

Night!

brigid said...

Theo, you are long-winded and you belong in a pulpit, not here. When people talk so much, as you do, it indicates bullshit; it indicates that you are trying reinforce bullshit with lengthy arguments.

Just 2 observations: the sheer number of your manuscripts does nothing to validate them. It just means that people back then were indulging in a lot of pleasant fiction. I do not care if there are 500 billion manuscripts

I am familiar with the argument that the disciples would not die for a lie. theo, the deaths of the disciples are legends. No one knows how they died, and for that matter, no one knows if they or jesus existed in the first place. You are relying on scripture to prove scripture, and on religion to prove religion. Christians have really no defense of christianity, they can only preach.

Face it, sweetie.....if you are going to be a christian, you have only faith; not proof; not arguments.

brigid said...

Okay, theo, I am disappointed that you didn't show up. You're not capitulating to a girl, are you?

Since I got the floor, I wanted to add a few more things. I guess verbosity is catching.

Your appeal has been to the sheer number of nt manuscripts. Of course. This stuff was written and circulated among the ignorant and superstitious masses. The amount of stuff that was written counts against the nt, not for it. People wanted to read about miracles and heaven and hell. You mention there are only 20 copies of Tacitus; 20 copies of Livy. How many people in the ancient world wanted to read that stuff? In this world, ancient or modern, the good stuff is rare; the cheap stuff is plentiful.

There are lots of objections to your bible being the word of god. Some minor stuff: matthew quotes a non-existent prophecy (2:23) Both mark and john leave out the immaculate conception. Did they not know about it, or not believe it to begin with? The virgin birth, after all, is a core doctrine. All 4 gospels have different versions of jesus' last words. These are just a few of the discrepancies that point to the bible as human, not divine.

The major thing is the wild notion that before god could forgive the smallest of our misdemeanors, his combination human/divine son had to be butchered in a roman exection, and if we find that ludicrous, he will burn us in hell forever. That is not just ludicrous, that is crazy; and theo, I do not care if you have a pile of manuscripts that reaches from here to the moon, it is still crazy. I do not care if all 6.5 billion people on earth believe every word of the bible, it is still crazy.

I think the point has been made

Dano said...

Brigid wrote:
"The major thing is the wild notion that before god could forgive the smallest of our misdemeanors, his combination human/divine son had to be butchered in a roman exection, and if we find that ludicrous, he will burn us in hell forever. That is not just ludicrous, that is crazy; and theo, I do not care if you have a pile of manuscripts that reaches from here to the moon, it is still crazy. I do not care if all 6.5 billion people on earth believe every word of the bible, it is still crazy.
I think the point has been made"

BRIGID. Isn't it amazing how even the Christians who come onto this site, who are smarter than the rest, and still have functioning brains, so conspicuously dance around and pretend not to see that the whole "God knocked up a virgin so he could have a special son (What are we? Chopped liver?), in order to sacrifice that son to himself, to atone for sins that he invented himself," SCENARIO, as pagan thinking, and a collation of pagan myths that show up in the very first creation stories?

Even the ones who will spend days here talking about a bunch of stupid Jewish history, will never address the most obvious irrational aspects of their religion. I have a theory, that they think, if they totally ignore the problem in YOUR paragraph above, it will go away.
Dan (Agnostic, Humanist, Rationalist)

Dano said...

Brigid wrote:
"The major thing is the wild notion that before god could forgive the smallest of our misdemeanors, his combination human/divine son had to be butchered in a roman exection, and if we find that ludicrous, he will burn us in hell forever. That is not just ludicrous, that is crazy; and theo, I do not care if you have a pile of manuscripts that reaches from here to the moon, it is still crazy. I do not care if all 6.5 billion people on earth believe every word of the bible, it is still crazy.
I think the point has been made"

BRIGID. Isn't it amazing how even the Christians who come onto this site, who are smarter than the rest, and still have functioning brains, so conspicuously dance around and pretend not to see that the whole "God knocked up a virgin so he could have a special son (What are we? Chopped liver?), in order to sacrifice that son to himself, to atone for sins that he invented himself," SCENARIO, as pagan thinking, and a collation of pagan myths that show up in the very first creation stories?

Even the ones who will spend days here talking about a bunch of stupid Jewish history, will never address the most obvious irrational aspects of their religion. I have a theory, that they think, if they totally ignore the problem in YOUR paragraph above, it will go away.
Dan (Agnostic, Humanist, Rationalist)

.:webmaster:. said...

Theo-Ian said: "Mr. Webmaster...I assume that you are a scientific naturalist."

Label me whatever you'd like and continue to post long, complicated posts, but in the end all you've said is that you prefer to believe in Christianity.

I no longer believe in talking snakes, chatting donkeys, flying fiery chariots, world-wide floods, magically refilling pots of food, flying undead god-men, or any of the other fantastic, wonderful, amazing, myths from any culture. Of course I could be mistaken, and in the near future giant flying locusts are going to sear the ground and kill most of humanity. Not to mention that big animal with all horns that wants to rule the world. In fact, I don't believe in golden fleeces or cyclops monsters either, though I do appreciate the imaginations of the men who invented these myths.

Anyway, I consider myself a non-theist, an atheist if you prefer. I'm all for "what could be." I love a good story. But, until I get more evidence of what is, rather than what might be, I remain a skeptic of Bronze Age, tribal, cultic, magical deities.

brigid said...

Dano,too bad this went south--I liked hearing from you. I thought maybe you would come back and check it.

I asked my priest those very things when I was just a girl: why did god have to kill his son before he could pardon those who broke the laws that he made himself in the first place? He had no answer, and he got a little pissed. I still chuckle about that.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Ian,

"..brevity is the soul of wit..." Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2.

Although your argument was well-written, it was much longer than necessary. Like you, many of us can only handle so much time sitting in front of a computer screen engaged in very time-consuming discussion. Some of us spend entirely too much time in front of the computer!

For all your words, however, the webmaster is still right that you are still simply saying that you prefer to believe.

In addressing your comments, I will try to refrain from repeating myself, though it appears that some repeating may be necessary.

"I do not grant that there is an absolute evil...I would claim that evil in and of itself is not actually a thing, but is rather a perversion of what is good."

I think it's safe to say that most of us here could agree with this assessment quite easily.

"See the Kalam cosmological argument and the link I previously posted for a deductive argument."

For the sake of brevity, see a refutation here

"Basically, if what is right is subjective, then we have no way to communicate with each other what is right, and anarchy rules. It is no use claiming that what is better for humanity is what the unrighteous should do, because we have no justification for caring to do what is better for humanity."

Are you trying to say that we need God to justify caring about the future of our society, or humanity as a whole? As should be apparent, society is made up of people who by necessity (for survival) became (mostly) cooperative agents. This cooperative arrangement is absolutely necessary for species survival and for us to thrive. If we did not "care" for our neighbors, they will not "care" for us, and suddenly *poof* we (as a race) are on the brink of extinction.

What is right is largely subjective because each society determines what is most advantageous to its continuation/survival and ability to thrive. When societies are in conflict, either they find a way to mutually agree to certain standards, one absorbs the other, or one is obliterated.

When it comes to the finer points of ethics (that is, those that don't directly affect survival or our ability to thrive), there needn't even be a debate.

"As a matter of fact, if we are depressed, then we might get pleasure out of dying and taking as many people with us as possible."

First, ethics/morality are not likely to stop anyone depressed enough to commit a murder-suicide. We are also not discussing mental illness or its implications. Ethics and morality are warped just as surely in someone suffering from a mental affliction as are their other thoughts. I've been there. I know.

Second, it might be said that survival itself (and thriving of course) is pleasurable, and that our seeking to improve our chances by caring for our neighbors would be part of this.

What I'm saying (I'm hurrying so this may not be clear - I'll elaborate later if necessary) is that ethics and morality do not need God in order to exist or be communicated from one human or society to the next. They can have evolved from a perfectly natural instinct for survival.

As for the portion of your post dealing with history, you really did not need to write all of that out. Most of us are familiar with how well-attested to the Bible is. I still maintain (and you have not rebutted the argument) that this adds nothing to an argument for the existence of God. By that logic, any document that meets some arbitrarily assigned amount of attestation should be believed as true, even if what it says is outlandish.

"I'm a little bit tired of the claim that the earliest Christians either could not or did not write accurate history."

Historical accuracy by ancient standards was much lower than it is today. To demand (or assert) that ancient peoples - even Christians wanting to be truthful - wrote with the same degree of accuracy as modern historians and without bias is ludicrous. Even historians today can't escape being at least mildly biased, and in some cases make mistakes themselves, even in this so-called Information Age.

I'd expound more on this but I really have to run.

Maybe more later. Love to all - 'specially Brigid.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Ian,

I have a few more comments, and some more time. By the way, in the following remarks, I'm assuming you're a proponent of objective morals as provided by God through the Bible. If that's inaccurate, then I've gotten the wrong impression from your post. Let me know.


"...if you argue that we ought to do what is best for humanity, you are now appealing to an objective standard, that human life is valuable and we ought to respect it."

and

"If we look at it objectively, I can see no reason to assign positive value to what is good for society, or even to consider my continued existence a good thing."

I suppose in a strict naturalistic sense this can be considered potentially valid. The natural world is a brutal place, and does not care if you live or die.

On the other hand, none of us views our own lives (or more broadly, society) objectively. At least, not on a regular basis. When we do, we are struck with how insignificant we are in relation to the universe. While this feeling can certainly be uncomfortable, it is no more an indicator of the validity of Christian belief than is the vastness of the universe.

I agree that valuing humanity as an objective concept would necessarily imply an objective standard. However, humanity is made up of billions of subjective individuals, trying to thrive and survive in a brutal world. Furthermore, those members of humanity that do not contribute to our ability to survive and thrive (or are actively working against it for their own gain), are not usually valued. Sure, we give lip service to the notion that "they're people too," but deep down we really don't care whether those folks live or die. Naturally, they feel the same about us. Once again, this is subjective value judgments in action.

Values arise subjectively because each of us assigns our own value to people and possessions based on what we feel. There are those who value possessions more than people, and those who value others more than themselves. And of course, there are those who value nothing but themselves. Another consideration is that in most cases we assign value in degrees. For example, your wallet is valuable to you for the reasons you mention, but your family might be more valuable than everything your wallet contains and/or represents. That is, if you are presented with a choice between giving up your wallet or your family, you'd likely choose to give your wallet - gladly. Why? Not ethics or morality as defined by the Bible, I assure you, though you may later describe it that way.

Another example would be a situation in which you might be compelled to lie to protect someone from harm. Bearing false witness is a sin, being one of the Ten Commandments, yet I'm quite sure that if some menacing person carrying a gun came to your door asking to see a member of your family, you'd lie your silly ass off to protect them.

And yes, strictly speaking it is true that we assign value based on the measure of pleasure we get from something. However, this isn't necessarily a predictor of behavior either. For example, we may not value money very highly under normal circumstances, where in other cases the temptation may be too great and we wind up doing something we feel deep in our hearts is reprehensible, all for the sake of the money we claimed not to value.

And since the topic of this discussion is related closely to Christianity, I submit that being a Bible-believing Christian does not insulate you, or equip you for battle against temptation any better than any other ethical system, even a humanistic or non-theistic one. In fact, I might go further and say Christianity enables a person to cave to temptation, since they believe that they will receive divine forgiveness. Perhaps you've heard of priests centuries ago claiming exemption from civil law?

Finally, what of the ethical systems which eschew personal possessions entirely? Even your Bible advocates giving up concern for, and pursuit of, worldly possessions. What does that say about your feeling that your wallet shouldn't be stolen because it's yours? It is notable you didn't say it's unethical because of your belief in God and His commandments. So much for morality and objective ethics issuing from the Word of God.

On Ian's History...

"To say that they could not write accurate history is to assert that they were liars, and nothing less. The reason for this is that there is a heavy emphasis on truth and historical events in the earliest Christian writings."

Truth and accuracy, though related, are actually mutually exclusive. It is possible to be completely honest, totally sincere, and absolutely wrong. The authors of the Gospels (and the other books) needn't have been liars. This implies the intent to deceive. All that needs to be considered is that they reported events according to their understanding of them. A simple forgotten word could change the meaning of any one of Christ's reported sayings. As an example of loose standards (by today's measure), you may be familiar with Eusebius' quote of Papias:

"And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements."

What Peter seemed to be concerned with is communicating to Mark what he probably considered to be the substance of Jesus' message. Mark may have reported accurately what Peter told him, but that does not mean Peter was concerned with accuracy. Peter needn't have to have been dishonest, either. Peter had an understanding of Jesus' message that was his, and perhaps shared by some of the other apostles. Furthermore, since Peter is thought to have died before the Gospel of Mark was written, then we have to consider not only Mark's memory but Peter's. Finally, Matthew and Luke borrowed quite heavily from Mark, meaning that some of the same inaccuracies crept from one Gospel to the next, preserved in such a way that today Christians stand in awe of the "remarkable consistency" between the accounts.

The point is that attestation does little to confirm the accounts directly, mostly indicated excellent preservation of the original texts. In short, although the Bible has been on the world's Best Seller list for nearly two millenia, it adds nothing to an affirmative claim of God's existence.

Well, I've got to go to bed now. Have a great day tomorrow!

J. C. Samuelson said...

Clarification...

"Furthermore, those members of humanity that do not contribute to our ability to survive and thrive (or are actively working against it for their own gain), are not usually valued. Sure, we give lip service to the notion that "they're people too," but deep down we really don't care whether those folks live or die. Naturally, they feel the same about us."

When I wrote this, I was thinking primarily about those who actively work against our survival. There are those who do not contribute but are valued, of course.

Nevertheless, I still maintain that this is a subjective matter.

Truth0r said...

As others have said, you can believe what you want to believe.

I think we've reached the point now where we're not understanding or agreeing with each other's arguments.

I don't see evidence of a god being active in our daily lives at all. We've given reason why we have difficulty taking the Bible at face value.

If there's a god out there, I think it should be clear which god we should worship. Why does it have to be so confusing if that god really wants to be known? Nearly every religion thinks they have it right and put others down; Whose to say anyone has it right? Tolerance of other beliefs is welcome.

People can believe what they want to believe, but please let's not try to force a belief onto another.

GOP Christian said...

You do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God. O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Even children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. The word of the LORD.

Truth0r said...

Religious Right-wing GOP Christian Ministries,

Keep spreading hate and fear and then see how many people join you. The main way you'll with converts is with love. Your approach is disgusting and it appears to me you have not even bothered to understand our concerns.

Have fun living in your own little world.

Truth0r said...

with = win

Liquid Drain-0 said...

Religious Right-wing GOP Christian Ministries, I read some of the information on your blog site. Here's what I found within minutes of visiting your site.

"Thursday, May 04, 2006

Teen-Sex-Free Porn
Teen Sex Free Porn - 8:29 AM

Welcome to the Teen-Sex-Free Porn movement, where porn stars and anti-porn activists unite! We can unite because we all agree, child pornography is wrong. Nobody likes child pornography, anti-porn activists don't like *any* porn, much less child porn, but even porn stars agree child pornography is bad for porn's reputation, so both sides can come together and support this movement to free porn from teen-sex."

http://teen-sex-free-porn.blogspot.com/

Yeah, you freak. You actually have the audacity to come onto this site, and tell people they are going to hell and are damned forever, and then... your religious beliefs, have no problem siding with porn stars as long as they are supporting your views on one topic?

Well, if that's the case, why not get a bunch of terrorists to side with you on "one" topic, I mean, does it really matter what else those people do?

You hypocrite, what a loser.

And, you said:

"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:"

Your god is a manipulating bastard, literally speaking. Why don't you go find somewhere else to throw stupidity around, perhaps over at some christian site, I mean, many of them are willing to accept anything blindly without even asking a question to see if your words are worth the time. As for me, you are a waste of bandwidth, and cognitive energy, your words are as useless as your manipulative gods', perhaps this post will "flush" your waste down the proverbial cyber-toilet.

Truth0r said...

Fantastic post, Liquid Drain-0.

Thanks for the help in fending off this jerk.

Liquid Drain-0 said...

Hey Truth0r, my pleasure, it seems the resident idiot of that post above, and the blog members are united in idiocy :-)

If they succeed in shutting down a part of the sex industry, it will have a dramatic impact on the social lives of many religious leaders.

Well, without the option for going out and getting their flesh fix, I suppose we'll see more and more religious leaders turn to church members for assistance in meeting their sexual needs. The only way to hide a secret, is to confide in someone who has as much to lose - church members ;-) Have a great one.

4given said...

The ways of God are without fault. The Lord's words are pure. He is a shield to those who trust Him. Who is God? Only the Lord. Who is the Rock? Only our God. God is my protection. He makes my way free from fault. -Psalm 18:30-32

Who is Christ to you?

Warnepiece said...

To answer your last question 4Given, he's a mythological character created by semi-literate men a little less than 2000 years ago. His invention as the "son of god" was generated in the hopes of drawing more people (more people means more power and eventually more money)to a very obscure cult that was vying with other religious sects with their own prophets.

The only reason you make all the claims about god is because someone brainwashed you enough when you were younger to believe unquestioningly in the book written by those same semi-literate men. Here's a clue...it was made up in order to control people, not to enlighten them, same as it is today.

Who is god? Depends on whom you ask. Allah? Thor? The Great Spirit? Yahweh? Jehovah? Ra? Take your pick...they are ALL man-made.

4given said...

Where does it say in the Bible that God is man made, and all the men that wrote it were just making everything up? The Bible contains everything one would need to know for their whole lives, and their afterlife. so i would think there would be something in it about that if it were true.

And why do you say I'm brainwashed? you act like my christianity is a disease or something. And yes, when i was younger, I did recieve Christ as my personal savior, I wouldn't think of calling it brainwashing.

And yes, other religions do have different gods. Most of them were real people who lived before them that were wise, heroic, or just, worth remembering. But they weren't actually gods, they called them that. I'm talking about GOD. You know, "Alpha and Omega", the first and the last, ring a bell?? HE was the author of the Bible. The men that wrote it(ex:Moses, John, Paul, etc.)were writers inspired by God. They were regular people with regular problems. They didn't even know their work would be part of the Holy Scriptures one day.
And the Bible wasn't made for controlling people. It's a story. It's God's master plan for mankind. It tells what happened, what is happening, and what will happen for eternity. We either accept it, or reject it. It's your choice.

Wes said...

"And why do you say I'm brainwashed?"

That's easy. Because you say stuff like this:

"The Bible contains everything one would need to know for their whole lives, and their afterlife."

-Wes.

4given said...

OK...
so why do you call that brainwashing?

Wes said...

Simple. Because you were taught to believe that christianity and the bible are true from other bible-believing christians, even though there is zero impirical evidence to support any of it (outside of the bible, and 'I Believe...'). You believe the bible/christianity to be truth just as every other religious adherent believes their repsective creeds and doctrines to be truth. Why? Because you're religious mindset is nothing more than a product of the heavily christian social influences that you have been exposed to, and nothing more. If you were born in India, you would most likely be Hindu, right? And you'd be here at this site proclaiming that Hinduism is truth... -Wes.

Wes said...

"The Bible contains everything one would need to know for their whole lives, and their afterlife."

You should put the "I Believe" statement before all that. I don't know how you can make such a blatantly ignorant claim. Sure, there may be bits of global wisdom in there, but there's nothing in there that is unique or original to YOUR religion. And how can you apply the bible to the afterlife? Have you been there? Where is your proof that the bible is all you need to know for the afterlife? On what authority can you make such a claim? See where I'm going? You're going to fall back onto your beliefs to form your rebuttal here because you have no choice but to do so. You have NOTHING to base your claims here, except "I Believe", and that just leads you back to the bible (where your beliefs originate), and that makes this whole debate circular and meaningless. You have not thought it out before you penned that statement; you are just simply parroting out the same rhetoric that every christnut does when visiting here, without contributing anything of any real value. -Wes.

Astreja said...

4given: And yes, other religions do have different gods. Most of them were real people who lived before them that were wise, heroic, or just, worth remembering. But they weren't actually gods, they called them that.

How is this different from the god of the Bible? What, other than years of Christian indoctrination, predisposes you to think that ???? was not merely some proto-Canaanite warlord who kicked butt and became a legend to the ancestors of the Israelites?

And how can you (presumably a human mortal like the rest of us here on this site) be in any position to actually identify an "Alpha and Omega" if one existed?

4given, I doubt very, very much that you are privy to any spectacularly superior knowledge of Life, the Universe and Everything. All you have is a dusty old book that you've stapled to the inside of your brain with your own fears and hopes.

Words are unable to prove the existence of gods. Stop trying to use the Bible to prove itself -- It just makes you look foolish.

Astreja said...

Addendum: The "????" should be the Hebrew characters for Yahweh. They show up fine on the post preview but not on the published comment.

4given said...

Okay, before this gets any further, I wanna say that "I" am not a religion. It doesn't matter what my religion is, what's important is whether I have Christ or not. So Wes, if I was born in India, then I WOULD most likely be Hindu like you said. I probably WOULD proclaim that my religion would be the right way to go. But if I had trusted Christ as my savior, it wouldnt matter what my beliefs and customs were anymore. So it doesn't matter what your "religion" is, whether you were catholic, baptist, jewish, or hindu, etc. If you know Christ, you're in.

Wes, you want to know the proof about the afterlife. It's all in the Bible! (yes, I'm back to that subject) What do YOU believe happens after death? Well, "I Believe" that you can know for sure where you're going after death. It's in the Bible. And I know, you don't believe in the Bible. But you know, there are so many scholars and historians that have tried to prove the Bible wrong for years. They can't do it.

Astreja, you asked for evidence of an Alpha and Omega.
Rev.22:13- I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
I believe it because it's from the Bible. That's the strongest evidence I can come up with.

Wes said...

Thanks for proving my point better than even I could. -Wes.

.:webmaster:. said...

The God of the Bible exists because the Bible says He does.

The Bible is true because the God in the Bible says it is true.

What don't you get, Wes? It makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

Oh, and scholars have been trying to prove that Allah doesn't exist, and you know what? THEY CAN'T DO IT!

Wes said...

Then I guess I must be mentally challenged or something! Yikes! :-) -Wes.

Astreja said...

4given, the following has been said a gazillion times but bears repeating. Please listen this time.

Quoting from the Bible proves nothing. Nothing at all. The book cannot be used to prove the existence of gods, worldwide floods, talking snakes, or people rising from the dead. What you may call a "miracle" is, in our eyes, further evidence that the Bible is primarily mythological rather than factual or historical.

The book is a compilation by many authors, many of whom are unknown. Some parts, such as the flood myth, were plagiarized from earlier works. (q.v. the Akkadian epic of Atrahasis).

Other parts of the Bible are attributed to specific people but probably written by somebody else. It is unlikely, for instance, that any of the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses.

And, to add insult to injury, the Biblical canon was assembled several hundred years after the alleged birth and death of Jesus. This happened at the first council of Nicaea, in the year 325. The books you have in your precious little Bible were the lucky ones -- Many others were voted off the island by the three hundred or so clergy in attendance at the meeting. So your alleged "truth" depends very much of the whims of a group of men who assembled at the command of the emperor Constantine.

You can quote from the Bible till you're blue in the face. You can rock back and forth in your chair and clutch the book to your chest and whisper "I do I do I do believe in Holy Spooks." We won't try to stop you. But neither will we believe you.

Astreja said...

4given: Astreja, you asked for evidence of an Alpha and Omega.
Rev.22:13- I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
I believe it because it's from the Bible. That's the strongest evidence I can come up with.


No, that isn't "evidence" at all. You're quoting a book which I personally think is sub-standard fiction.

If that quotation "proves" the existence of an "Alpha and Omega" (whatever that is), then Detective Comics #27 proves the existence of Batman and Fellowship of the Ring proves the existence of Frodo Baggins. In my experience your god is no more and no less real than the above-noted characters.

Oh, and for the record, my initials are AO. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Sorry I just wanted to see where the post led. I believe what I believe because I believe it is the truth. Since I know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west...if I believed that it did not and that it rose in west and set in the east...then I would be wrong. Just a thought. (Did not tell you anything at all did I. *shrug* He said I was going to.)

boomSLANG said...

Anony-non: I believe what I believe because I believe it is the truth.

That's nice...totally redundant, but nice. Now, this may come as a shock to you, but John Travolta believes what he believes, because he believes it's the "truth". Now, is that some astonishing disclosure? 'Point is---what is "believed" to be "true", is not always what IS "true".

Personally, I "believe" you are BOTH mistaken in your "beliefs", however, if either, or both of you could offer convincing evidence that your "belief" is true---beyond in your head---I'd be happy to change my view of your "beliefs".

Anony-non: Since I know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west...if I believed that it did not and that it rose in west and set in the east...then I would be wrong

Well, if you believe the sun "rises", you're wrong, regardless. It only appears to "rise"--evidence that some Bronze-aged misconceptions have carried into the 21 century in the form of "adage"..i.e.."Hey!...did you see the 'sunrise' this morning?"..or, "Let Jesus into your heart!"

Now, back to your point---you "know" that the sun "rises" in the East, do ya? Yes, there is objective empirical evidence that the sun first becomes visible in the East, because of the direction in which the earth revolves. We know this because of "scientific inquirey". Furthermore, this phenomena is readily available to EVERY human being, not a "select few", hence, why the issue isn't currently being debated. Think about it. There is no "DOUBT".

Now, if you "know" that your Jesus exists in the same way, there would likewise be objective evidence to put forth as to "test" your "Jesus" hypothesis. But guess what, Anony?...guess what MikeG, Pray4U, Unblinded, Pat, and any other Christian reading this??? THERE ISN'T ANY. 'Nope....there is no evidence, thus, I disbelieve your fantastic mystical claims.

Good day.

Agki said...

Lorena said: " This is what I tell my fundy husband often. He follows the rules to perfection, and when something goes wrong, he justfies himself by the rule. When we argue about it, I say to him that he would have made a perfect follower of Hitler."

Have you read Chris Hedges's book "American Fascists"? Hedges went to James Kennedy's church and watched the way the women behaved in family units. The only difference betwen them and Muslim women is the burka. They are trained from childhood to be subservient and submissive to men.

Agki

Godless said...

All very good comments and I can't read them all, but to the next reader I say this..

I can't disprove the existance of a god, that's just stupid. But it's ignorant to accept any improbability without probable evidence. In contrast, the intelligent way to think of spirituality is to simply say "I don't know." And then to live well, possibly in search for that answer, and hope for the best.

As it is, religions create friction because of group seperation, superiority complexes, encrouchment, and so on. The harm of a "harmless" religion is it's ability to foster harmful users of its power. It would be better if the general public could see the unseen harm as of yet and simply toss religion as another form of communistic dictatorship style of rule.

Come out of the barbaric superstitious past and evolve with the rest of the intelligent community. Throw off the shackels of dogmatic violent domination and embrace the species as one under a peaceful search for knowledge, understanding, and survival. As one we can sustain, divided we will commit suicide.

webmdave said...

epic

webmdave said...

I will not argue religion. It is totally a mind game. However, I would give all of you a big hug and say to you that truly every one believes something. I hope all of you are happy in your position..

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