SnapThought – Wrested from My Hands

Icthus

My faith in Jesus was wrested from my hands by the three-pronged crowbar of God’s creation + God’s character + God’s texts. These three explode away from each other in a cloud of incompatibility. We have been given clear markers throughout Christianity of a man-made, not God-made, religion. In short, the scriptures and dogmas cannot live up to their billing, and much that is claimed never happened.

In talking to other believers and deconverts, I have found basically three sorts:  (1) Those who do not know the issues and rest untroubled. (2) Those who are aware of the dilemmas and, despite being unable to resolve them, choose a faith of forgetting instead. (3) Those whose faith died in a struggle that refused a surrender to apathy.

Comments

  1. The first two puzzle me as much as I am certain I bewilder them.

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  2. 3 here

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  3. Blane says:

    I have lived in all three states, and I can think of some sub-types as well: 1b – those who have received some instruction in Christian Apologetics who *think* they know the issues and *think* they have resolved them, and rest untroubled. 3a – those whose faith has died yet cannot allow this to upturn their lives and livelihoods, and 3b – those whose faith has died and who set forth to learn how to live openly and honestly with this reality.

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    • Blane,

      Excellent additions. I like the Hideout category.

      The apologetics folks seem like they could be in either 1 or 2, depending. They can definitely be 1b folks, as you’re saying. I’ve probably lived most of my life that way, but I had no real serious awareness of the inning and score.

      Apologetic types can also reside in 2 pretty readily, and I’ve dealt with them too much. They offer answers, but they know those answers don’t really cover the whole problem, and if pressed will admit it. But they like it. They like the faith and it doesn’t matter to them if it doesn’t add up. On the other hand, they tend to be less die hard and condemning about religion, so that’s good.

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  4. Most of your post pictures in your posts do show on my phone. However, like your recent post Quotation – Thomas Jefferson on the Gospels, this one doesn’t.

    Details (same for both):
    The pictures do not show on my Android phone (v. 4.4.2), in the WordPress app, or in Chrome browser.
    In Firefox (with various plugins) on my Windows PC, and in Firefox (no plugins) on my phone, a link shows in place of the picture. I can click the link and see the picture. (The links are labelled “Icthus” for this article, and “Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale_1805_cropped” for the other.)
    The pictures display as expected on both IE 11 and Chrome 33.

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  5. Matt, I suppose I would best fit as a number 2 even though I am a reconvert. I will tell you the final two problems I face (that I can think of at the moment). The first is the genocides. When I go back and read the text carefully, it’s clear God had a dual purpose in mind to both judge the Canaanite’s evil and to establish Israel as a nation. So, I am OK with this, the remaining problem is the killing of children. There is moral difficulty here, no doubt. Have you seen the Noah movie? Aronofsky classifies it as midrash, and he demonstrates wonderfully the morally messy nature of the universe. The truth is whether or not these children suffered and died at the hands of Israel, they would have suffered and died regardless as humans. Even Jesus Christ suffered and died. This does not make light of the issue. It’s serious and requires that the theist trust the Creator who is omniscient to be a just judge of the dead.

    The second issue is gay relationships. I’ve heard virtually every argument back and forth and I’m just lost on it. As an insider, a Christian, I cannot figure out an answer. However, I am very happy that the Gay Christian Network exists and provides a positive and humble environment for the conversation. I cannot judge anyone’s conscience who is type A or type B.

    Anyway, those are the two remaining issues I feel uncomfortable on.
    -Brandon

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    • “The truth is whether or not these children suffered and died at the hands of Israel, they would have suffered and died regardless as humans”

      You have to seriously rethink this position ! This is NOT mentally healthy ! I mean this with no disrespect , but if you really believe this , you need help.

      Many evil people throughout history have used this same logic to justify their crimes. I can’t stress enough to you that if this is the position you need to ease the pain of your troubling religious doubts, get rid of your religion !!!!

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      • kcchief1,
        What is not mentally healthy? Please explain yourself. Tell me what it means to be mentally healthy and what diagnosis you think I have.

        All I am saying is that if God ordered Moses to have entire tribes killed including the children, the truth is that they were already going to die. If God takes their life early or late, who are you to judge God? You think you understand reality that well? If so, I recommend turning away from this hubris.

        Death is already here, it is designed into this reality for some reason. It must be meeting some objective for this temporary universe which will also die expanding into the void. What objective is death meeting? Is this a good objective?

        And, I don’t have religious doubts. The lack of knowledge and understanding is what scares me. At least I’m not claiming to know.
        -Brandon

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        • OK, there’s one point you are missing, and missing really bad. The main deity character portrayed in the book known as the Bible has nothing to do with “God”. It is the self-justifying excuse an ancient people used to do whatever they felt would make their tribe’s behaviors look OK. To say that since (like all humans) these children would die anyway, it was OK for the ancient Hebrew tribes to viciously murder them using “God told me to do it” as a justification. If I followed your logic, I might have to consider Hitler and Himmler as wonderful proponents of population control. After all, all those gassed people were just going to die anyway.

          What marks human development into something more than hungry apes is looking at the act of smashing infants heads open against a wall and thinking it’s OK and realizing that it’s not OK, and having your clerics tell you it’s OK because “God” doesn’t like them is disgusting. There is no better term I could come up with than disgusting. That thing isn’t God. Get over it, think for your self, judge behavior by it’s effect on other human beings, not on whether or not some character in a book thinks it’s ok.

          Bah humbug.

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          • Mariah,
            I am sympathetic to your concern especially since I was an atheist, and I don’t want to have a heated argument because no one would benefit. Please, let me just share another perspective.

            I understand your argument that because this appears like other divinely-sanctioned ancient battles, God may have not in fact ordered the conquest of Canaan (which would include killing of its children). I would not disagree that Israel’s rules of engagement bore similarities to their contemporaries. But, your argument does not entirely rule out the possibility that God ordered this.

            I didn’t miss that point at all. What I was responding to is a different argument than what you present. This argument goes along with the story but then indicts God of immorality. This argument jumps the gun on indicting the very Creator of the moral fabric. Just going off scripture here: God is sovereign over life and death and is perfectly just when he is a judge. So, yes this is terrifying and frustrating! It makes us angry and suspicious, even theists!

            I am saying that just going along with the story, you would have to have hubris to try to indict the Creator of the moral fabric of the universe. You have no idea what omnibenevolence looks like in a universe like ours, which is temporary and filled with freedom and evil.

            Now, you further say that this logic permits killing. I don’t understand your case whatsoever! If people do evil in God’s name, they will receive severe punishment, it is very unwise to do this. Now, this was in response to me saying, it’s just a fact that these children would have died anyway. Yes, God gives life and takes life. God even gave Jesus life and allowed his life to be taken. Therefore, as a de jure objection, you have no right to judge the Creator.
            -Brandon

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          • Mariah, you’re right about the claims regarding god. Its a definition game, since it never comes with confirmation that their god is THE god.

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    • @anaivethinker, on Mar 10, 2014 you made a post on your own blog, “How I became an Atheist” In your comments above you claim to have reconverted but with 2 major problems. Why if I am allowed to ask, did you decide to reconvert ? Just curious.

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      • kcchief1,
        I don’t think I made a voluntary decision. I was compelled.

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        • Compelled how, and by what? (“By God” doesn’t cut it. I think you should be describing evidence, logic, and/or experience.)

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          • Ratamacue0,
            Ultimately it was ended up being not evidence, not logic, and not experience. These are all important to the human condition, but it was a complicated story that started by me seeing it was possible for Christianity to seem moral once again and then subsequently being persuaded that Jesus’ resurrection really occurred and explained the rise of Christianity. But, I did not understand God. As time went on I found that really I was just compelled to be a Christian theist. Something within me compels me like a wind, pneuma. At the present time, I look at the heavens and the earth in awe and get a sense that they were created, I think the Big Bang and Dark Energy are good signs for a created temporary universe consistent with the Christian deity, and I think my desire for justice and hope are signs for God. Also, the unexpected changes to me when I believed provide a self-testimony for this belief transforming my mind, entirely restructuring it to overcome some of the vices in me that I have always hated.
            -Brandon

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            • Brandon,

              I get what you’re saying. But there is a strong conflation of what you want to be true with what you’ll take as true.

              Experiences such as you allude to can be heard from proponents of all faiths. A non-unique point that cannot be considered a sound discriminator between spiritual truth claims.

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              • Matt,
                For yourself, do you think desire is sufficient to overcome the intellectual barriers you face? If not, then why do you judge me?

                If whatever compels me is not good enough for me, then should rationality be? Who would I believe, the atheists or the apologists? What objective evidence disproves apologists? Regardless, I am not based off of either one. They can duke it out with the tools of the Enlightenment to see who is more rational while I eat popcorn. And, I’m not sitting back here enjoying nirvana, the experience is not like that nor is it what keeps me here. What keeps me here is love!

                I think you know that when I first found out I was being naturally compelled, I resisted and tried to make a rational argument so that I could display it before you and prove myself. But now I am humbled and free.

                On your last point I agree with you that something external, as in rational discourse, is helpful if not necessary to discriminate spiritual truth. We know that the claims of religions cannot all be true since they contradict.
                -B

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              • Brandon,

                I’ve tried always to have a greater desire for truth than for being right. Certainly haven’t succeeded at that in many cases. But my departure came at tremendous personal cost, and it wasn’t something I wanted. So yes, I think I could claim that I put my wishes to the side to get to the bottom of everything.

                “Who would I believe, the atheists or the apologists?”

                I would say, don’t believe anybody. I developed a method of triangulation to eliminate the need to depend on an ideological camp at all. Venn sort of approach to determine what were the actual facts, what were the conclusions, what were based on real data, and what required a particular ideology. Its feasible. And that’s research.

                “What objective evidence disproves the apologists?”

                If you can be more specific, I’m happy to try to engage on that.

                “I resisted and tried to make a rational argument so that I could display it before you and prove myself. But now I am humbled and free.”

                Self referential claims are so bilateral. Christians feel free when they get saved. Deconverts feel free when they leave the faith. Both sides accuse the other of arrogance or closed mindedness, etc. All of this is a sort of static layer. That’s why I press back to brass tacks… the way we feel just doesn’t really matter. “Felt truth” is a commodity of every faith, plain and simple.

                “On your last point I agree with you that something external, as in rational discourse, is helpful if not necessary to discriminate spiritual truth.”

                Well, bravo, a point of commonality. 🙂

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    • Hi Brandon,

      Well, yes, if we are to believe the bible in historical terms, then one is faced with two difficult propositions about genocide.

      1. God ordered genocide.
      2. God actually invented genocide with the great flood.

      Yes, in both cases, women, children, the unborn, the handicapped, and the elderly were all killed. The issue of the unborn is particularly sticky in an evangelical world where we think God would have us respect the sanctity of life and the rights of the unborn. Repeat this with the killings of the Exodus night – directly in that case, by the angel of the Lord.

      One could ask a very simple question at this point: from a basket of unlimited possibilities, these were the best an infinite god could come up with?

      The killing of the firstborn demonstrates that god could be as surgical as he liked. It was a very selective “zapping.” Genocide was never necessary, in such case, since god *could* have simply zapped the evil folks and kept the young and/or the unborn alive. We are, after all, trafficking in miracle already in any of these bloody little episodes. So, at the time of the flood, god could have just chosen to kill the wicked and keep the young alive, etc. Or kill the people and leave the animals alive. Piece of cake really. Absolutely no need for a global flood, and likely no way to defend a global flood as the “best choice” from a basket of unlimited options.

      But beyond this, there was no reason that the world had to be created through a chaotic process, or that biology needed to arise through the unlimited suffering of evolutionary development. God really could have designed the world to operate without carnivores or bacteria or diseases, if we are talking about the “best of all possible worlds.” Indeed, that seems to be the type of world described in Genesis. But that’s not reality.

      The reality is that we have to accept that god chose the bloody route of evolution to develop life. The unborn have always been devoured before their lives began. The young have always faced grizzly death. That was all part of the design.

      Omni-benevolence just isn’t on the table.

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      • Matt,
        Well, I think there’s more than enough evidence to say Noah is mythical. I understand that there are many people in blogland that disagree with me, but I’m not persuaded that a historical Moses did not exist. So, yes these stories do trouble me. Judgment and justice scare me.

        You bring up good points about God’s actions. Supposing that God was omnipotent, why not blast out some magic? I think the best answer is because God would rather work from within and make things pedagogical. Although, I think some of God’s actions (as recorded in scripture) are completely mysterious. Atheists don’t believe in mystery unless it is scientific mystery, it is a double standard that we have applied to theology. O what hypocrites we are!

        “Omni-benevolence just isn’t on the table.”
        Maybe a little overconfident here?

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        • Brandon,

          “Supposing that God was omnipotent, why not blast out some magic?”

          But the biblical accounts say he was doing precisely that. Its just that he used the magic for a non-surgical sort of solution over and over again. If we take the Pentateuch as historical.

          “I think the best answer is because God would rather work from within and make things pedagogical.”

          I would pose the challenge of what the text actually claims, which is that such actions were taken (often) because his wrath was kindled, etc. Besides, the lesson if pedagogical would be that his character seems to allow and license suffering and slaughter as ways show himself. As an object lesson about his character, it works perhaps the wrong direction.

          The better explanation is simply that all the books are not coherent, and that the portrait of god changes throughout the various accounts, according to the perspectives of the different authors. I.E., god isn’t that way (we’d have to first ask which of the ways we meant), because the authors were telling stories from their cultures or speculating.

          We patch the differences in our portraits with theological “mystery”, but in truth there is little mystery to it. Men wrote the texts, divergent as they are, and unless demonstrated with suitable support, they were speaking only for themselves. Like everyone else who wrote biblical texts.

          Omnibenevolence doesn’t seem to be a character of god’s nature in the Pentateuch. We can talk about some other portrait if we wish, but the Yahweh of the Pentateuch just doesn’t fit the bill. And again, unless demonstrated to be somehow authoritative with sufficient support, those authors didn’t have any better authority than you or me.

          The evidence of their insight about the cosmos doesn’t indicate that they had any particular red telephone to the Big Man. They struck out as often as any other ancient culture did.

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          • Matt,
            Blasting out magic is precisely the non-surgical solution which did not occur. And, regarding pedagogy, yeah! God’s wrath was kindled! I also get angry when I see evil like child abuse victims in the hospital or medical examiner office. Don’t you?

            So, you are arguing that the books are incoherent because they have different perspectives? Why can’t it just be that at different points in history God’s unchanging character manifests differently because of the unique situations in history?

            And, you haven’t the slightest clue what omnibenevolence looks like for a temporary universe filled with evil. You should not be so arrogant, just drop a notch and at least say you don’t know.

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            • Easy Tiger…

              “You should not be so arrogant,”

              I don’t think I’ve attributed any negative qualities to your character or actions thus far. Lets keep it civil.

              In any case, calling someone arrogant is a sort of covering movement. Like protesting the goal post placement when coming up a yard short. Its just a sort of static in the discussion, where we could just talk reason.

              As to magic, this one is too simple. The great flood. The death angel slaying the unborn. The walls of Jericho. Ad infinitum. The Pentateuch records god as slaying many people quite directly via divine/magical intervention in the natural order. The point is that he chose the killing himself to be indiscriminant of the status of the slain.

              Yes, I get angry when I see evil and injustice, absolutely. Point of common ground, to be sure.

              On the texts… Look, religious texts claiming to speak from divine authority come cheap. How many religions have we had? With how much conflict between them? This background evidence means that any text claiming to be the real McCoy has to overcome a serious burden of proof: the high likelihood that it, like the others, is false. I don’t believe you can give any such evidence for the Pentateuch. Can you?

              Upon this we add the many historical and internal discrepancies of the texts, and the demonstrable way in which they seem to exaggerate their claims – about themselves as a people and their connection to some divine uplink. So the details of this case indicate that the prior probability of falsehood is worsened – not helped – by the specifics we know.

              You can get me to take the biblical texts seriously if you can provide some basis for thinking they were divinely sourced. Can you do that?

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              • Matt, I am calling your position intellectually arrogant. That doesn’t mean that your essence is arrogance, it is not a character attack. I should have specified this, I apologize for not doing so.

                Do you claim to be skeptical? Then, why not be skeptical about knowing anything whatsoever about omnibenevolence in a temporary universe filled with evil? The truth is you know nothing of creating universes and how to let people be free and how to regulate evil and so on. This is not a theodicy. It’s a call for intellectual humility.

                “You can get me to take the biblical texts seriously if you can provide some basis for thinking they were divinely sourced. Can you do that?”

                That depends entirely on what you mean by “some basis”. I cannot provide objective evidence for divine inspiration. And, this is not anything new in the history of Judeo-Christian scripture. The Creator is interpreted through signs that converge upon him. I cannot force an interpretation on you like I can evidence.

                -Brandon

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              • Brandon,

                Thanks for the caveats in your first paragraph. However, it matters very little to try to attribute a certain attitude as arrogant either. My position is pretty straightforward, and it is unapologetic to a large extent. If that’s arrogant, then I guess I’m OK with that.

                I’m happy to concede many things I do not know. My exodus from the faith was a very long and protracted concession. But that doesn’t require repetition where we are talking about known content.

                As to creating universes and letting people be free and the problem of evil, let me just present a simple challenge to the entire hypothetical proposition. If people have free will in heaven, yet there will be no sin and suffering, then that means there is a compatibility state between free will and non-suffering. That means we could be living in that world now. But we aren’t. That means God can conceive of and create a realm where we are free, yet do not suffer. But he didn’t. Unless we aren’t free in heaven. And if we are not free in heaven, then God doesn’t really care much about free will after all, since that’s the eternal destination. Either way, the snake devours its tail.

                Yet none of that makes either god or heaven real, and we still have evidence of neither. All hypotheticals, based on texts, which were written by men, who were conjecturing about unseen realities and beings. Nothing more. Just an extrapolation of a conjecture.

                As a former atheist, I have to chuckle a little, because you’ll probably have seen this coming. From your statement: “I cannot provide objective evidence for divine inspiration.” To which I must give the no-reference-needed rejoinder:

                What can be asserted without evidence, may also be dismissed without evidence… CH

                Sadly, we actually do have evidence. Mountains of it. And it is quite the other way. The prior probability is the other way. Our specific evidences of the Pentateuch are quite the other way.

                It is an account deep in the red, begging to be extended a line of credit on another very grandiose gambit, all over again.

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              • Matt, you have brought up most excellent points! Please let me further clarify on what I mean by “intellectual arrogance”. It is just being too confident in what one knows. If you hold a position, as supported by evidence, that is all well. I have no doubt in your intellect, not any. What this is, is inadvertently (or intentionally) making a believed position into a known position or appearing to be overconfident in the data. I get the impression that you know this much. Also, I would like to know about your exodus from faith if that is something you would be willing to share. Do you have a blogpost that summarizes it?

                “As to creating universes and letting people be free and the problem of evil, let me just present a simple challenge to the entire hypothetical proposition. . .”

                The moral complexity of this universe is no accident. However, you are prejudging the Creator by saying he should not permit evil and suffering. What if the Creator has objectives for this temporary universe that are met by permitting evil and suffering? You would either need to prove A) that these objectives do not exist or B) that these objectives are morally insufficient for permitting evil and suffering. A) seems pretty well impossible to prove. B) has two difficult problems: first you would need to know something about these objectives, second you would need to know what morality with which to indict the Creator. Which would you pick from – social contract, deonontological, consequentialism, or something else? How will you perform this moral calculus?

                The traditional argument is that the primary objective is freedom, but as you have pointed out, for an omnipotent Creator, there certainly exists a compatibility state between freewill and lack of suffering/evil. Indeed, this compatibility state is consistent with scripture in which at the eschaton, “. . . the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur. . . [then] Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. . . death will be no more; mourning will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” (Rev 20-21).

                We don’t know what these objectives are. Some of my thoughts are that they might be related to what God values from us as revealed in scripture. Repentance, love, justice, faith, trust, and so on. For those who accept grace when it is offered, the Creator will realign them towards producing what he values so much, so that one may resurrect to inherit eternal life in the new heavens and new earth.

                “Sadly, we actually do have evidence. Mountains of it. . .”

                Do you mind specifying what you mean here?

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              • Hey Brandon, getting late here, about to turn in. However, i will read and reply manana. Meanwhile, my exodus is described in my Journey pages. Cheers

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              • Confidence is scaled by the evidential weight behind various claims. In my Thesis section, I outline my central arguments based exclusively on high confidence datum. For example, data on the New Testament historical claims is weak, and hence somewhat inconclusive. But the Old Testament spans a much larger period of time, involves many claims that would leave notable fingerprints behind if they happened, etc. As we look at those claims, it is far easier to adjudicate a high confidence conclusion than dealing with the foggy NT period, which only covered a few years and involved far fewer grand claims with guaranteed evidence residuals.

                The moral complexity of the universe may well be an accident. Can you provide evidence to the contrary?

                “What if the Creator…” already begging the question. However, the issue facing your attempted resolution is that is equivocates on all normal meanings for good, right, wrong, moral, just, etc., essentially keeping one set of books for God and another for mankind. If god can do things that would be immoral if done by people, but we determine a way to define them as moral anyway, then we hinge the argument on equivocation. Its not that complicated in the end.

                I have four kids. If one of them is hitting the other with a stick in my presence, I am not a good parent for standing by and watching. I have the ability to stop it, the action is wrong, and if I love them both I will intervene. If I do not intervene, then my actions cannot be called “good parenting”. Yet with god we redefine “father” and “good” to give us plenty of stretch room, ever seeking refuge in mystery. But the need for mystery simply indicates that our assertions – that’s all they are, assertions – about who or what god is are incoherent and incompatible. Its not god in the dock, its our notion that there is a god, and that he is as we like to define him per the scriptures of the Bible.

                Freewill has little to do with a coherent argument one way or the other. Disease, natural disaster, and our evolutionary history see to that. The great killers are the biosphere itself and eking out life on a cooling planet.

                You’re citing Revelation… and there I have to say as I said before, the text is simply conjectures about God.

                My conjectures about god carry precisely the same authority as any book of the bible. And so do yours. Which is zero. These were men, writing conjectures about the unseen, until and if sufficient evidence to the contrary can be produced, which it will not be.

                The mountains of evidence pertain to creation history, the great flood, the exodus (didn’t happen), babel, the conquest of Canaan, second temple hermeneutics, gospel inflation, canonical formation for both Hebrew and Christian bibles, etc. This can be seen in the Journey pages of my blog if you’re interested, culminating in my Thesis.

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              • Matt, I will withhold responding to some of what you said until I get further into your journey. You have a lot to offer me. I understand the other part of the conversation is more philosophical or conjecture. But, I think it’s important to think about. . .

                “I have four kids. If one of them is hitting the other with a stick in my presence, I am not a good parent for standing by and watching. I have the ability to stop it, the action is wrong, and if I love them both I will intervene.”

                I don’t think you are talking about justice here. You are talking about prevention. You would take the stick away to prevent harm and to teach a lesson to prevent future harm. It makes you good to prevent harm, correct? Then, why did you bring 4 kids into this world where they will be harmed, they will suffer, they will have evil done to them? You failed to prevent harm, and that makes you evil. . .

                Wait a second! But, you have a reason why: because it’s worth the risk because you love them and value their love so greatly. There is a greater value than preventing evil and suffering, otherwise you would not bring children into this world.

                This is analogous to the situation with the Creator. There are values greater than creating a temporary universe without evil and suffering. I don’t know what these values are, but I think it could include many elements: to grow us in character, to give us an opportunity to accept grace, to give us freedom, to see how we will treat each other, to see how we will respond to the Creator. Will we have faith, hope, and love? To love the Creator is to love other people just as you love your 4 children.

                Another part of the equation is that the Creator will enact perfect justice. This justice is on a rain check at the moment, but will be delivered on the Day of Judgment. How will this look? I don’t know exactly, but I think people who fail to respond will be annihilated and those who do respond will be given new bodies in the new creation.

                What if we find ourselves unable to respond to the Creator? This is why Jesus came into the world, to ransom us from our captivity. I can testify to this grace. This is the most objective data point I can give you, Matt, that my life was transformed and many of my vices were destroyed and are still being destroyed when I was powerless to do so as an atheist. And, I wanted them gone at that time.

                So, the Creator’s omnibenevolence cannot be simply deduced. To find it we must think about why this temporary universe is more valuable than not permitting evil and suffering. Ultimately it is a mystery, but that doesn’t mean there is no reason. Also, we must consider the justice of the final judgment and the grace that is extended to us.

                This world will end whether by an expanding sun or by Dark Energy which is diluting the universe into nothing. But, the Creator can take all this matter and make something brilliant and new for those who want it, for those willing to risk it as he has risked it on us.
                -Brandon

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            • I also get angry when I see evil like child abuse victims in the hospital or medical examiner office. Don’t you?

              I would get angry. I would desire justice.

              I would not kill everyone in the hospital / medical examiner’s office / victim’s family.

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    • Brandon, I’m going to address two comments you made here. The first one is to Matt:

      “Matt, you have brought up most excellent points! Please let me further clarify on what I mean by “intellectual arrogance”. It is just being too confident in what one knows”

      Your comment reminded me of a comment you recently made to me on your Letter to Atheist thread. I will quote you here:

      “Victoria, God put people like you here to clear up misconceptions and to fight for women’s rights and to push for these solutions!”

      You sound pretty confident. 😉

      And this:

      “The first is the genocides. When I go back and read the text carefully, it’s clear God had a dual purpose in mind to both judge the Canaanite’s evil and to establish Israel as a nation.

      —-> So, I am OK with this.”

      Reading this reminded me of a video interview with neuorologist Vilayanur RamachandranI and a young man with TLE. The title is “God and the Temporal Lobes”.

      Note what this young man said while being interviewed. I won’t embed it because I haven’t figured out how to get the queue to work when I embed on comment sections. I’ve got it queued at 3:24. You only need to watch it through the 4:00 marker.

      http://youtu.be/5z4B5BYbjf8?t=3m24s

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      • Victoria,
        Jesus said if you judge, the same measure of judgment will be applied to you. So, I apologize for sounding overconfident. I was going to respond on that thread saying that it wasn’t meant to be taken as a statement of fact, rather belief.

        Now, I’m offended by the video link in which you would put words in my mouth to say that ethnic cleansing could be right. Have you ever read Deuteronomy? It was not ethnically driven whatsoever. It was divine judgment for their actions such as child sacrifice and idolatry. And, in scripture God holds Israel to the same standard, he is not partial.

        I actually think genocide as defined by the UN is a bad fit for what happened in the Old Testament. But, I just get tired of this argument. I’ve got to pick my battles in this discourse and talk about more important things.

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        • Brandon, there is no justification for genocide. NONE. I’m stunned that you would think so based on your assumptions that there is a god and some ancient book that is a myth. Stunned doesn’t even cut it. Inhumane. I’m very disappointed in you.

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          • Victoria,
            Victoria, there’s only one justification for doing what the Israelites did (in the story, we’re not even talking about archeology). If God takes you out of slavery from Egypt and parts the sea of reeds then feeds you manna from the sky, then yes there is one justification. IF THE CREATOR TELLS YOU TO DO SOMETHING YOU BETTER DO IT.

            The Creator made the very moral fabric of the universe and knows better than you, Victoria, you are a human with limited knowledge and you can’t even tell me if abortion is right or wrong.

            Go back and read the text, don’t think you can make sweeping generalities about “genocide” or judge me.

            Liked by 1 person

            • “If God takes you out of slavery from Egypt and parts the sea of reeds then feeds you manna from the sky, then yes there is one justification. IF THE CREATOR TELLS YOU TO DO SOMETHING YOU BETTER DO IT.”

              There is no archaeological evidence for which you speak, and this has been known for a couple of decades. Btw, have you read the neurological study that was done on 1,500 university students? “I Would Kill In God’s Name”

              “Abstract

              Data collected during the last 15 years for the Personal Philosophy Inventory from 1.48 thousand university men (n = 629) and women (n = 853) were analyzed to discern the response characteristics of individuals who stated “yes” to Item 136 “If God told me to kill, I would do it in His name.” The percentage of affirmative responses did not change significantly over time. The odds ratio for men: women for an affirmative response was 1.4:1. As predicted a four-way interaction for sex, weekly church attendance, history of a religious experience, and elevated complex partial epileptic-like signs was statistically significant. Of the men who reported a religious experience, attended church weekly, and displayed elevated complex partial epileptic like signs, 44% stated they would kill another person if God told them to do so.

              http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9293569?dopt=Abstract

              If you think that genocide is that way to change the world and make people more moral, and that you also believe that if the creator tells you to do something as immoral as this, then I recommend that you get a thorough neurological evaluation.

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              • Victoria, the bottom line is, if you are going to indict God or the Israelites, you need to do so from within their story. Frankly archeology is irrelevant to this indictment. If we bring archeology in many authorities think this entire story was fabricated, so there cannot be an indictment of God or Israel.

                The point is if God shows you amazing miracles, then tells you to do something, you better do it. This is not an auditory hallucination of a schizophrenic or some charismatic prophecy. Manna was literally falling from the sky! City walls literally fell down before their eyes!

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              • “Manna was literally falling from the sky! City walls literally fell down before their eyes!”

                And how do you know this Brandon “literally”?

                Yes — you appear to be having delusions. I stand by my recommendation.

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              • In the story, they were witnessing signs of God’s power. I’m not saying that it actually happened. I’m saying that if you want to indict God or the Israelites, you have to do so from within the story. You have to assume something about it is true. Otherwise, why think any of it is true? Then you have no indictment. If you assume the character, God, then you have no reason to not think that miracles occurred.

                Please don’t use insulting tactics. I am more qualified than you to say who needs a neurological evaluation. Besides what you want is me to get a psychiatric evaluation, not neurological.

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              • “Besides what you want is me to get a psychiatric evaluation, not neurological.”

                No, as I said, I stand by my recommendation if you seriously believe that your god is moral. Your god is antisocial, and this kind of antisocial behavior creates dysfunctional societies.

                You have not done your homework, Brandon. This is evident by your comments. What I gather you are saying here is that someone who feeds you and supposedly delivers you out of slavery can tell you to do horrid things to other people because ‘he’ fed your hungry belly. That tells me that had you been one of these characters delivered out of slavery and got a hot meal, or manna, or what ever got your dopamine flowing, that you owe your loyalty to this god (dictator), and therefore being immoral is justified.

                There is zero evidence. As one who has a PhD, you would think that you would at least find this of importance.

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              • No, it has nothing to do with dopamine. It’s not about pleasure or addiction, not everything is about that Victoria. The world does not revolve around dopamine otherwise I would not be here. This conversation is stressful to me.

                The Israelites witnessed miracles and could use rationality to conclude that this deity is powerful and serious. If God commanded the Israelites to conquer Canaan and explains that it is divine judgment and to establish them as a unique people, then it’s reasonable to do it. The reasoning is this: if the Creator really is that powerful, there is no reason to doubt that the Creator understands the moral fabric of the universe. So, the action cannot be immoral. It is God’s sovereign and just judgment on them.

                Look, in my first comment I said it was still a problem for me. It is, it’s troubling and terrifying and requires that I trust in God and hand it over to mystery.

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              • You say it’s troubling — you should be listening to that, Brandon. We have mirror neurons for a reason.

                “The world does not revolve around dopamine otherwise I would not be here.”

                I shared the research with you. Neuropharmacological studies point to dopaminergic activation as the leading neurochemical feature associated with religious activity. Hyperreligiosity is a major feature of mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, temporal-lobe epilepsy and related disorders, in which the ventromedial dopaminergic systems are highly activated
                http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16439158

                The Bible promotes a highly stratified, male-dominated society It is a huge problem. Neurologist Ian Robertson wrote in his book “The Winner Effect: How Power Affects Your Brain”:

                “Power changes the brain triggering increased testosterone in both men and women. Testosterone and one of its by-products called 3-androstanediol, are addictive, largely because they increase dopamine in a part of the brain’s reward system called the nucleus accumbens. Cocaine has its effects through this system also, and by hijacking our brain’s reward system, it can give short-term extreme pleasure but leads to long-term addiction, with all that that entails. Too much power – and hence too much dopamine – can disrupt normal cognition and emotion, leading to gross errors of judgment and imperviousness to risk, not to mention huge egocentricity and lack of empathy for others.”

                “The reasoning is this: if the Creator really is that powerful, there is no reason to doubt that the Creator understands the moral fabric of the universe. So, the action cannot be immoral. It is God’s sovereign and just judgment on them.

                That’s just it — there is no reason in this statement what so ever. In your Letter to Atheist post, there was ample information based on evidence presented to you from myself and others and you rejected it.. Everything you share is totally based on your belief — faith — nothing more. Had you been born in Saudi Arabia — you’d be spewing Mohammed rhetoric.

                But what I find interesting and troubling is that you take an ancient book and base your beliefs on this —using it as a moral guide when in fact, it is very immoral. It’s tribalism. It says if you don’t believe like us you die. Why doesn’t this bother you?

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              • Victoria, here’s one of the problems that we’ve sort of hit on before. You’re not accounting for how complex religion is by boiling it down to dopamine. I’m sure Dawkins gets a good dopamine surge writing antireligious rhetoric or when his biased audience starts roaring with applause. I’m sure any hobby atheist posting simplistic memes gets a good dopamine surge and a sense of intellectual and moral superiority. There is dopamine everywhere on both sides, and it proves nothing.

                You say the bible promotes a patriarchal society because you see people using the bible to justify this. But, it’s how they want things to be rather than actually taking the text seriously. I showed you that one cannot reasonably read Paul as a misogynist if you take the remainder of the New Testament seriously. Do you not take this seriously? Don’t blame the text, blame humanity.

                That’s one of the biggest problems with critics. They are biased because of the abuses of the text and then end up failing to grapple with what it actually says. They are blinded because of human evil.

                In your Letter to Atheist post, there was ample information based on evidence presented to you from myself and others and you rejected it.

                Victoria, I appreciate your message and I’m so happy that you engage with me, but you have not presented anything that is relevant to me changing my belief. I already knew how important dopamine is, and I knew about the psychology of the reward system. I know that all of human behavior and belief has a natural explanation in the brain. Even atheism does! Here’s what I reject: I reject that you hold a more rational worldview than I do. To be clear, I don’t consider mine to be more rational than yours either. We are both just humans trying to understand reality as best we can.

                . . . you take an ancient book and base your beliefs on this – using it as a moral guide when in fact, it is immoral. It’s tribalism.

                . . . the bible is a series of stories. If you have moral criticism, this is perfectly valid. But, no one has shown me conclusively that God is immoral. They are just asking too much of their intellect probably because they hate Christianity. That’s a psychological analysis for you – this whole “atheism” thing is largely due to hatred of Christianity and often for good reason because of human evil.

                What I would ask you to do is forgive us! Have mercy on us! Dig deeper into the text. But, if you choose not to that’s OK, I will love you regardless. And, it won’t be perfect because I am human.
                -Brandon

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              • “But, no one has shown me conclusively that God is immoral.”

                Herein lies the problem. You don’t see. Also, you swopped out a couple of strong addictions for religion. And as I mentioned to you in another thread — when you have a deep love for someone, including a god, other neurochemicals are involved besides dopamine. This kind of attachment to your god or belief system activated regions specific to each, as well as overlapping regions in the brain’s reward system that coincide with areas rich in oxytocin and vasopressin receptors.

                The studies states that both these reward neurochemicals deactivate a common set of regions associated with negative emotions, social judgment and ‘mentalizing’, that is, meaning the assessment of other people’s (and god’s) intentions and emotions. The study concluded that human attachment employs a push–pull mechanism that overcomes social distance by deactivating networks used for critical social assessment and negative emotions, while it bonds individuals through the involvement of the reward circuitry,

                “What I would ask you to do is forgive us!”

                This has nothing to do with forgiveness, Brandon. This has to do with a belief system that has NO evidence, yet people cling to it with all their being and do horrible things in its name, and will even justify killing and genocide. I spend my time debating this topic as well as Matt who has provided a proliferation information to the table, as well as others here. It’s not about being right. It’s the fact that your belief system is very toxic to society and has been for thousands of years. The fact that you cannot see this tells me that your reward neural circuity associated with critical social assessment and negative emotions, and an apparent addiction to your god has clouded your your ability to reason. Everyone else here sees this but you. Brandon, you have brought nothing to the table but your faith.

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              • “[You] swapped out a couple of strong addictions for religion.”

                Yes, Victoria! My values have completely rearranged. I worship the Creator instead of myself! I no longer worship success at work, instant sexual pleasure, and a stream of continual comfort. I no longer am so cynical that I cannot give money to charities and now I entrust them with my charity to help children in Haiti eat, get healthcare, and get an education. I am now able to call my parents and not argue or chastise them. I can now engage people with an openness and honesty and welcome being rebuked and humiliated. I now love my wife and am not on the brink of divorce. “Religion” whatever that means has completely transformed my life.

                David Foster Wallace, postmodern author said in a famous speech, “Because here’s something weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship – be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles – is that pretty much anything else will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. . .” (emphasis added).

                So, Victoria what do you worship? And, is it eating you alive? I implore you to search into yourself and give it serious consideration.

                “The study concluded that. . .”

                I don’t know who volunteered for this study, but I am much more social as a Christian theist. I actually love people for the first time. And, it’s not all pleasurable either! Christianity has so much more depth than what this single study could ever demonstrate. It has challenged me, made me suffer, made me angry, broken my spirit time and time again then mended it back in a better way. The emotions involved are not all positive neither are they all negative. I have been humiliated to the core, vulnerable, I’ve had to let go of the need to always be right, I’ve had to learn how to love again. This is what it has done and of course there is major rewiring going in my brain! I expect there to be some dopamine, GABA, glutamate, oxytocin, steroid hormones, epinephrine, nor epinephrine, and hundreds more neurotransmitters involved. I expect that the limbic system, the frontal cortex, the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe, the occipital lobe, hippocampus, amygdala and more are all affected in some way. Some parts atrophy some parts hypertrophy. Some circuits die, some are born.

                All of this neurobiology is irrelevant to whether or not Christian theism is true. You cannot know, I cannot know, but I do believe that it is true and I do know that it has transformed me into a different person, one that is finally capable and willing and loving enough to engage other people and to lay bare all of myself at the risk and certainly of facing a million negative emotions on the way.

                This is what I bring to the table: my testimony. You can value it or disregard it. You can hear it or blow it off as foolishness.

                This is what else I bring to the table: I know or at least know about virtually every argument ever written about Christianity and atheism. I haven’t seen anything new on the blogosphere. Some varied approaches, but none of it is essentially any different than what atheists have been saying for decades.

                Despite all this, I am where I am. -B

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              • Brandon, good for you that you turned your life around. Just keep in mind that you used religion and your belief in a god as a tool to do this. There are many, such as myself, who do not need religion or a belief in god to be pro-social.

                Out of respect for Matt and his request to stay on topic, I will not address the rest of your post here. Please feel free to email me, or we can discuss this further on your Letter to Atheist blog. My email addy can be located in my gravatar profile.

                All the best to you,
                Victoria

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              • *swapped

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              • For clarification: I did not intend for my last comment to be in quotes. I meant to only quote this from you:

                “What I would ask you to do is forgive us!”

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              • “Victoria, I appreciate your message and I’m so happy that you engage with me, but you have not presented anything that is relevant to me changing my belief. I already knew how important dopamine is,

                Remember Brandon, I shared much more information about the complexities of belief than just neurochemicals, and still you rejected what I presented at length — in detail — with sources, as well as what Howie, Mak, Arch, Daniel, John, etc., presented.

                You see — it appears that you don’t want to see.

                Liked by 1 person

          • *minus one Victoria at the beginning 😀

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        • Brandon, let me add that as a physician, there is no excuse for your lack of awareness about what happens to the brain when it’s damaged or atrophied because of negative living conditions — which can leads to anti-social behavior. Your god promoted war. Your god promoted the very environment that would lead to anti-social behavior.

          Why are you not keeping up with the neurological research? You have a lot more education than I do, so I don’t think you have an excuse for such lack of awareness. Your assumptions about genocide were not any different than that young man in the video who had a neurological disorder.

          You justified it.

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          • Victoria,
            Religion is too dilute with human evil for neurological research to substantially prove anything about its effects. Can it be bad? Yes, your personal history with the church is proof. Can it be good? Yes, I can pull out studies showing how protestant missionaries led to stable democracies and education and women’s rights in other countries (and published in a top tier sociology journal no less), I can find studies showing that religion is adaptive. I can find studies showing that it is psychologically helpful at the end of life. The 12 step program depends on belief in God (or “higher power” which basically is God-like).

            I don’t want to say this, but I think you are biased in your search to prove religion is harmful. It’s not your fault, you have been abused by it and so I am very sympathetic to you. I hate what you’ve gone through and what you read about. But, I’m convinced that this comes from the evil within humanity, not from God. I hope that you would be able to reconsider the possibility that religion can be good. Just look at Nadia Bolz-Weber, for example. Look at the environments she tries to create which are loving towards all people, no matter if you gay, homeless, poor, ugly or beautiful, alcoholic, sinful, it doesn’t matter. This is true religion!
            -Brandon

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            • @Brandon, @Victoria

              Wow, you guys have really been at it. I’m afraid that I was out of pocket today, but I have read the range of responses. I like the lively interchange of ideas, and such exchanges are entirely welcome here at Jericho.

              However, as moderator/host, I would like to take this juncture to refocus the discussion and hopefully tighten it a bit…

              Brandon, you have raised a range of arguments that tie back to a Divine Command (DC) theory of morality. I understand the proposition. Some would argue that DC is intrinsically a moral relativism. However, I don’t want to derail to that. However, I would like to move the discussion out of the realm of fairies and unicorns and into reality. We can debate DC all day, but this amounts to controversies about angels and pinheads unless a few very essential points are addressed.

              Your proposition depends on several premises:

              1. There is a god.
              2. Morality functions per DC from that god.
              3. Persons claiming to hear from that god a specific adverse command actually were hearing from that god (i.e., for genocide).
              4. Writers of the biblical texts faithfully recorded the events from #3.

              These premises are then being used to argue a conclusion or global model: that those principles can be generalized as a way of explaining the problems of evil we see in the present and how god deals with mankind generally.

              Now, I would like Brandon to specifically support his specific case for DC per these premises, per these questions:

              1. Let us simply grant that there is a god, for the sake of argument. Ontological, cosmological, whatever. (I don’t think these work, btw., and they only really get us to a deism at best). Again, for the sake of argument, lets put aside point 1.

              2. How would we know that morality functions per DC? There essentially must be an appeal to the scriptures. This is a dead dog until and unless Brandon can support the claim that the OT texts were divinely authored. Otherwise, we may as well run the same game from Koranic texts, or the Gita, etc.

              3. How do we know that the people claiming to have received a command to genocide – like a Moses – were not simply doing what James Koney has done in modern times in Africa? How many cultures have claimed divine warrant for their exterminations? Are still doing so? This is a cheap, cheap claim, made manifold times. The backlog of such events means that prior probability of fraud in such a claim is very high indeed. It is likely, unless we have strong evidence to the contrary, that anyone claiming DC for their military campaign is a deceiver and a fraud. We should not grant any claim of valid DC justification unless we have very, very good evidence of legitimacy. So Brandon, what evidence can you give that there has been a valid instance of DC-based genocide, and that some biblical character was indeed a real recipient of such a command and not a fraud?

              4. What evidence can Brandon give that the biblical authors faithfully recorded such events from #3? After all, we could imagine that there was a command given to Moses, but that the events were recorded unfaithfully, leading to a very wrong model of DC. So, how does Brandon know that the scriptures record a valid DC model stemming from actual events?

              I propose that this is all nonsense. Contrary to Brandon’s prior demurring concerning archaeological evidences, there is remarkable unanimity at this point among all mainstream biblical archaeologists, from Europe, the US and most critically – from Israel… the Pentateuch & Joshua are BS-laden pieces of work, recording a great deal of false events and very large exaggerations. The vote is very much in, and the question is quite settled. Likewise, any legitimacy of the creation account as either historical or scientific has been answered as well.

              No reason to debate angels and pinheads. Otherwise we may as well be talking about Fairy Command Theory. Or extracting a theology from the Brothers Grimm.

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              • @Matt, @Victoria

                Thanks Matt for graciously permitting our discussion on your blog. And, thanks for redirecting it. I want to approach this with seriousness, honesty, and respect.

                I hope you won’t mind if I try to specify what I’ve been arguing with Victoria which involves all of your proposed premises in one way or another.

                First off, it’s completely irrelevant whether or not the exodus and conquest of Canaan have a historical core. They could be entirely fabricated as you believe, Matt. In order for the atheist to argue that God issued an immoral command, they have to be willing to assume that it is true at least temporarily for the sake of argument. This is the only way to indict these Israelites and/or God both of which may or may not have existed. This is absolutely key to the whole thing, if you can’t accept this, then all else is moot.

                If this is arguing about angels on a pinhead, then arguing that God gave an immoral command is equivalently a waste of time.

                Now we can enter the story to analyze its morality. Right out of the gate I will admit two things: 1) no matter what I believe, I humbly admit that it is difficult to reconcile God ordering the death of children with omnibenevolence. Perfect justice and love and all the variables of life are impossible to imagine and that is part of the problem. 2) I reject all the versions divine command theory I have heard. I think what’s going on in the story is more complex.

                Here are the key points:
                God created the moral fabric of the universe.
                God was not just “another deity”. The very first thing we find out about God in scripture is that God is the Creator of the entire universe. The problem is that both theists and atheists don’t take this seriously enough. Take for example the Euthyphro dilemma: “Is it good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?” The answer is emphatically “yes” and “yes”. God created everything and this includes the very moral fabric of the universe, God decided what would be good at the moment of creation, but God also gives good commands because it is his character. God breathed meaning into the word “good” and breathed meaning into meaning itself. No law or concept or meaning supersedes God.

                God sufficiently demonstrated his power to the Israelites for them to obey his commands.
                God demonstrated his divine power to the Israelites. This was very, very important for convincing them to obey his commands. Immediately before the conquest of Canaan, Moses says, “For ask now about former ages, long before your own, ever since the day that God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of heaven to the other: has anything so great as this ever happened or has its like ever been heard of? Has any people ever heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and lived? Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before you very eyes? To you it was shown so that you would acknowledge that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. . . Keep his statutes and his commandments. . .” (Deu 4:32-40).

                A major reason for the conquest of Canaan was divine judgment.”
                The conquest of Canaan was for divine judgment and to dispossess the land to establish Israel. “When the LORD your God thrusts them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to occupy the land’; it is rather because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you.” (Deu 9:4). Then, “You must demolish completely all the places where the nations whom you are about to dispossess served their gods, on the mountain heights, on the hills, and under every leafy tree. Break down their altars, smash their pillars, burn their sacred poles with fire, and hew down the idols of their gods, and thus blot out their name from their places.” (Deu 12:2-3)

                The Israelites were rational to obey the commandment.
                So, imagine that you are an Israelite. Why would you obey the command to dispossess Canaan and to slaughter its inhabitants? Is it “because God said so”? Not at all! It’s because God has sufficiently demonstrated his power such that there is no reason to doubt that he is the Creator, even the Creator of the moral fabric. Therefore, what God commands is the right thing to do, it is not arbitrary. This is a rational line of thinking.

                It is impossible to know if this command is consistent with an omnibenevolent God who created morality.
                But, the more important part is whether or not this command which included killing children can be consistent with an omnibenevolent God. I don’t know why God would not want to save the children who are innocent of their parent’s crimes. It may have to do with future suffering in this ancient culture, that it was better for them to die. There could be a million other reasons. I don’t know what they are, but if God created the moral fabric of the universe and knows everything, then it would be trivial for God to have a perfectly moral and satisfactory answer. For anyone to claim to know what omnibenevolence would look like in this evil world is to claim what they cannot support, it is hubris, intellectual arrogance. It would not pass peer review in a science journal.

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              • Is it just me, or did Brandon just answer using the very premises that were just outlined without supporting any of them?

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              • 😉

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              • “. . . the creation account as either historical or scientific has been answered as well.”
                It seems clear that hyperliteralists fail to take the text seriously enough. The creation myth was never intended to give a scientific account several thousands of years before the Scientific Revolution, it was meant to counter other ancient creation myths with theological realities. There is no “answering”, just correcting the hubris of hyperliteralism.

                “. . . there is remarkable unanimity at this point among all mainstream biblical archeologists. . . the Pentateuch & Joshua are BS-laden pieces of work, recording a great deal of false events and very large exaggerations.”
                I need to gauge exactly what you saying since I haven’t read all of your journey section yet. Are you saying you are certain there is no historical core despite exaggerations and redactions?

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              • The Pentateuch and Joshua are of poor historical quality and much that they record very likely did not happen and or very likely represents substantial exaggeration. As such, they do not make good factual historical references, much less Is it credible to claim that they are divinely authoritative references.

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              • I guess what I’m seeing in you is that you don’t care to say the character of the story, God, issued immoral commands. You are more concerned with what actually happened which is perfectly fine. I don’t want to invalidate your greatest concern. As an atheist I was different, I was more concerned about the morality of God regardless of historicity.

                It’s interesting how we are all so different!

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              • Well, I see little point in debating Muslim theology if it cannot be demonstrated that the Qu’ran had divine authirship. Nor the BOM. If they are demonstrable contrivances and unsupportable as divine, then whence cones the serious theological project?

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              • In any case, you continue to cite these passages as not simply historical, but as representing actual divine content. You haven’t supported either contention, and until that has been done, these texts carry no more weight than Grimm’s fairy tales.

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              • Did you not read what I wrote? I never cited these as historical. I said in order to perform moral calculus on the Israelites/God you would have to enter the story regardless of its historicity.

                Yes, it’s the same as a moral analysis of Alice and Wonderland, of course that’s the case.

                If you are concerned with what actually happened, you have to look at other arguments. I do have reasons to think the Christian deity exists. They are not the type of reasons I can shove in your face and call you irrational for not accepting. Nor, are they reasons that can be published in a peer reviewed science journal. Nor, are they all just “inner” testimony type things.

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              • No worries.

                OK, so reference to your second paragraph, that’s precisely the point. And reference to the first paragraph, if these events are not historically real, then we can dust off any mythology and examine it for “mere internal coherence.” Heck, I have a whole shelf full of Tom Clancy sitting here, same thing.

                The difficulty is this… through all the meandering of the discussion here, it is clear that the *lessons of the OT* are informing your ideas regarding a theodicy of the present. Suffering in the world today has to be explained, and so does reconciling the supposed notions of omnibenevolence with omnipotence with a very non-ideal world, etc. In order to begin providing explanations, you have dusted off a book of myths and cited them as *real* explanations. But you may as well use the Quran or the BOM. They are as accurate.

                The explanation for all of this is that people wrote the books of the bible, and that is all. There was no divine input, not any more than in Clancy or Grimm or the BOM. They are entirely human products. And that means that all the propositions contained therein – including the hypothetical god model of a creator being with the Omni properties – is all just human conjecture about unseen and untestable things. Conjecture upon conjecture, and then complex explanations of the internal consistency of the conjecture.

                This is true because the texts are merely human in authorship. Human and nothing beyond. Now that is the best explanation for our texts given the prior probabilities of known human literature, and it requires no further specific supports because this prior probability is so very high. It is the person that proposes that *these texts are different* who has a great deal of work ahead of them.

                You seem to propose that the content of these books is not conjecture. You seem to propose that there both is a god and that it fits the hypothesis described by the conjectures of the biblical authors. And if you’re proposing that you have something beyond conjecture, on what basis? With what support?

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              • Matt, when I had deconverted I had concluded just as you have that the bible had no privilege over the Koran or the BOM or any other religious document. In fact, it made me angry how people didn’t realize that.

                Then, when I was persuaded that the resurrection explained the birth of Christianity, I was a blank slate. My approach was, “I believe in the resurrection, but everything else is up for debate.”

                So, I guess my belief in the resurrection is the anchor that made me take the rest of scripture seriously. Like it made me consider that it could be divinely inspired in various ways.

                No one can prove that anything is divinely inspired. However, one thing we can say is that religions are incoherent, that if one is true, the others are necessarily false.

                Christianity was started by evangelism about the resurrection,
                Islam was started by bloody wars and rejects the resurrection,
                and Joseph Smith fits the profile of a conman and Mormon theology contradicts Christianity.
                Hinduism is pluralist thereby doesn’t recognize the fact that religions all fundamentally contradict.
                Scientology was invented by a science fiction writer (Need I say more).

                Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t wisdom from all these traditions, there most certainly is. But, the contradicting truth claims means that if one is true, the other religion’s truth claims are false.

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              • OK good, I was hoping you’d go that direction.

                On a low view of scripture it doesn’t matter if there even is such a thing as divinely inspired texts. Doesn’t matter if they were inspired, but the event was real, and we have enough evidence to go by that it happened. And the BIG EVENT took place, it doesn’t matter if it was all two-bit tabloids that reported it. Right?

                Except the big event wasn’t really all that unique.

                Resurrections had already happened in the OT and NT. A lot happened at the time of the crucifixion. Every pagan culture reported them. I know, I know, those were different. And resuscitation isn’t resurrection and so on (yawn). But they were all different and unique, with no two alike. And until and if someone can prove that Jesus is still bodily alive, his was just a resuscitation too. Even ascending to heaven, on biblical cases, wouldn’t constitute an evidence of the identity claim. No matter.

                The bankruptcy is two fold.

                1. The past reliability of Jewish religious texts matters very much. They are the culture reporting this particular event, and their track record on Big Fish stories lies in tatters. They are Tall Tale Tellers. This history of wild conclusion jumping and gross exaggeration infects all of their religious documents. The prior probability on miracle reports is bad enough in any case. It is worse on Jewish authority. We have good reason to believe it was not true simply because it was a Jewish claim. And we already had good reason not to believe it.

                2. There is a crisis of meaning for the resurrection. What does it mean? Please attempt to explain the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection with no reference to the OT, nor to any NT text that leans on the OT. No borrowing of concepts. No sacrificial system, no substitutionary atonement, no original sin, nada. None of that can be borrowed if you wish to argue that the resurrection can stand in a vacuum of divinely revealed knowledge. If you cannot defend the OT content as being both (1) historically real and (2) divinely granted, then you cannot explain what on earth the resurrection actually means. What does it mean? It might be interesting, and it might be miraculous, but it doesn’t mean salvation unless god operates per a blood equation.

                Does god operation per a blood equation? How can you know?

                You very much need a divine source of information to *interpret* the meaning of this remarkable (and fictional) event. You can’t interpret the meaning unless you have a blood equation inscribed into the cosmos per god’s design. And you can’t have that unless the history and theology of the OT are intact.

                Please review my Thesis for the longer version, and the other Journey pages for more on the OT textual and historical status.

                Incidentally, the minimal facts argument is a sad sort of bunk. Just terrible. I have a long analysis of why theologians shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a data reduction analysis, but its not done and I haven’t published it yet. Hopefully soon. But I have an Easter project to do first. Anyway.

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              • Matt,
                I hope you keep in mind I can never argue something in such a way to suggest that my positive belief is more rational than yours. I can, however, argue against some of this to challenge your thinking. 😀 Some of what I wrote is a little feisty, so please don’t take those parts personal, my friend!

                You bring up three perfectly valid points/questions: what did the disciples mean by “resurrection”, the reliability of the OT, and the meaning of atonement/sacrifice/cross. For you I think the most important issue is the reliability of the OT.

                Reliability of the OT
                To be clear from the get go, I think the creation story fits the genre of ancient mythology and was intended to teach theological truths rather than scientific. And, I think there is more than sufficient evidence to say that the Noah and some other stories are also mythology or legend or whatever. And, the genealogies contained fabrications. Now, Abraham and Moses. . .

                Rant start. I have never in my life seen so much narrow-mindedness in skeptics. The capital T Truth is that not a single person knows for sure if there is a historical core in these stories. And, a democratic vote of “archeological authorities” to determine this is laughably unscientific and un-skeptical. “But, there’s no evidence!” Alright, so say there is currently no supportive evidence, don’t say there is no historical core beneath the ancient embellishment and redaction. Put on some intellectual humility like a true skeptic for crying out loud. /rant done

                But, you take the issue a step further and claiming that we need to prove a historical core for the text to be an interpretive reservoir for early Christians. What’s the rationale to this? Because, I’m sitting here brainstorming and I can’t think of any possible reason for this assertion to be true. So long as something was written and practiced and believed by the first century, why can’t it be a valid interpretive reservoir? We know that it was written, practiced, and believed long before Jesus via the Dead Sea Scrolls.

                On the resurrection
                I don’t prima facie disagree with the jist of your contentions about the resurrection claim and its uniqueness having no bearing whatsoever on it being a real event. And, I sympathize with your criticism of MF. But, there is more data and specifically framed questions for you to consider.

                Here, IMHO, is the most important questions to ask: what birthed Christianity and shaped its core beliefs? I think that the resurrection is an inflection point in history, an epicenter that shaped all of Christianity, just like Big Bang did to cosmology. Interestingly, both are signs pointing toward the Creator.

                These are some arguments from the very first video that piqued my interest in resurrection which was by NT Wright (YouTube video title = “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? Dr. N.T. Wright”):

                Why the modifications and the consistency?
                Afterlife beliefs tend to be very conservative. However, Christian views branched off in unique and radical ways and were very consistent. Here is a list of several ways that Christianity consistently modified the concept of resurrection from Judaism:
                1. Within religious movements there tends to be a spectrum of afterlife belief (i.e., Jews, Paganism). However, in Christianity there is virtually no spectrum of belief on life after death. There is virtual unanimity about resurrection.
                2. The Jewish conception of resurrection is imprecise, but the Christian conception is that of transformation to an incorruptible new body, an added precision.
                3. The Jewish conception of resurrection only occurred at the eschaton, whereas in Christianity Jesus was the “first fruit” of this resurrection, uniquely happening before the eschaton.
                4. Christians uniquely interpreted the resurrection as a call to change one’s life in the here and now, “Die to your sins and live to Christ”.
                5. In Judaism resurrection is a metaphor for the restoration of Israel, but in Christianity it is metaphor for baptism.
                6. In Judaism the Messiah was expected to be a warlord and never die thereby excluding resurrection, in Christianity the Messiah died and resurrected.
                The fact that these are unique mean nothing in themselves as we have already pointed out. The important question is, why did it happen precisely this way? Is there an epicenter of all this? Could it be that the disciples really did experience a mind-blowing phenomenon and called it “resurrection”?

                Another why?
                We have evidence of several other messianic movements which routinely ended with death of the leader. Why not admit their leader died and pick out a brother like James to be the new messiah?

                Four strange features of the resurrection accounts in the Gospels which point toward very early tradition:
                1. There is a sudden silence of quoting and alluding to scripture when we get to the resurrection accounts. This seems to point toward the Gospel authors using tradition that formed before reflection as opposed to, say, Paul who ransacked scripture to find prophetic support for resurrection.
                2. Women were the first witnesses of the tomb which indicates unmodified tradition as opposed to Paul who seems to have airbrushed women out of the formulated creed in 1 Cor 15. This supports unmodified early tradition.
                3. Jesus’ body is not “shining like a star” as in messianic prophecy. He appears like a human but with very strange properties for example the ability to enter locked rooms and the disciples have this reaction as if they know its him but barely recognize him. Why this innovation?
                4. There is a curious paucity of mention of the Christian hope of our resurrection in the Gospels. It seems to point toward using tradition that predates reflection on the meaning of the resurrection for us.

                More questions to consider: The ancients had language to describe visions and apparitions, why not use this to describe the phenomenon? There’s no particular reason to reject a vision or apparition. And, why didn’t the early church venerate Jesus’ tomb? For example, if he had been seen as an apparition, they might still venerate his tomb as was common at the time.

                Final remarks on this reply
                Matt, I realize I just blasted you with tons of information that you may even already know. I think the disciples and Paul experienced some sort of shocking an unbelievable anomaly. It was totally unexpected and changed their lives forever. It was some sort of body with nonhuman properties, so they could not think of any better way to describe the phenomenon than call it “resurrection” and when Jesus left them they described this the only way they could think of as well, “He ascended to heaven.”

                Now, about the “blood equation” stuff I could write 3 more pages to try to show you how sophisticated the idea of atonement and sacrifice really is and that it is not anything like “an equation” as the evangelicals have preached, but I think this much information is already challenging enough to go over unless you’ve mulled over it before.
                -B

                Like

              • Brandon,

                It would be good for you to consider the content of my thesis a bit, and perhaps you can respond directly there if you find points of weakness in my arguments.

                I have spent a very great deal of time with NT Wright, eventually “breaking Kindle” with the amount of markup I put in my eBooks from him. They files won’t even open now.

                Inflection point arguments from the growth of the church simply do not carry any water for me, and they shouldn’t, because they are entirely non-unique. Picture the Islamic version of such an argument.

                Still further, Wright and that whole camp fail in a very critical way. They never at any point offer criteria that actually work for Christianity, but which fail for cults generally. I’m not talking about the case being built – I’m talking about criteria.

                I may have to do a piece on criteria, because nobody I talk with from the Christian side of the fence seems to understand what I mean by this word. They always respond by case-building, and that is a waste of time.

                People need to stop thinking that their job is to build a court case – like the prosecuting attorney – and begin looking for the right type of balance scale by which to weigh the various points of information and feasible explanations. There are a lot of folks “weighing the case” with a single-pan balance scale…

                Like

              • Matt,
                “It would be good for you to consider the content of my thesis a bit”
                Found it. I’ll give it a read over and see where you come from.

                And, I’d like to see your case for needing the kind of criteria you describe. It seems you are describing a sort of ultimate litmus test that everything else fails but Christianity passes. By this you seem to reject the case-by-case approach that we use to adjudicate matters in law courts and with historical method and archeology and historical science (i.e., Big Bang). Should you decide to post something about your approach, I’d be interested!

                Like

              • “By this you seem to reject the case-by-case approach that we use to adjudicate matters in law courts and with historical method and archeology and historical science (i.e., Big Bang). ”

                No, just the opposite. But here I ask the question again, more piecemeal.

                What is the criteria in a court case? (Not asking what a case pro or contra looks like, I’m asking by what they are judged)

                What is the criteria in scientific matters? (same thing)

                Like

              • Matt, court cases are judged by differing standards of evidence such as “preponderance of evidence” or “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The types of evidence and chain of custody vary. For example, DNA became permissible evidence in the 90s. But, ultimately each case is different. There may be a “gold standard”. Video footage acquired by proper chain of custody + multiple eyewitnesses + forensic evidence will prosecute anything.

                As for science there are huge, huge problems in biomedical science as to what should be considered sufficient evidence. That’s why its estimated that the majority of the literature is worthless. It can’t be replicated. And, I understand this firsthand. I’ve been a biomedical researcher for roughly 2.5 dedicated professional years. I have done perfectly controlled experiments and gotten opposite results, and I mean with spot on internal controls. I think the biggest problem is that the systems we are studying are exceedingly complex to tease out causal relationships. And, when we reduce them (in vitro) its difficult to make this reduction relevant to the whole system (in vivo).

                So, I think there are problems saying what is “sufficient evidence” for both law courts and science. There are clear cut cases of sufficient evidence, but there are grey cases that rely more on a sort of the application of reasonable judgment. The more complex systems are more difficult to study.

                These are just some sort of “what can I think of in 10 seconds” ideas. But, still I’d like to know your thoughts on Christianity and evidence/criteria if you ever get a hankerin to blog it.

                Like

              • No. Criteria. Sufficient evidence *for what*?

                We can protest the results of all kinds of tests – but we’d be protesting against an objective set of demands…

                In crash testing, the criteria for collision safety pertains to established human injury metrics, like HIC scores. In court, we adjudicate based upon law. In science, we have criteria like predictive power, explanatory power, and repeatability.

                You continue to cite complexities, which I agree with. And you’re citing evidence types, which is still not the question. The question is criteria.

                Now, to adjudicate the question at hand, before the evidence is considered, what I am asking is simple: what is the criteria that you use when weighing spiritual claims against one another? Against what standard?

                It matters little what inspiration model one ascribes to – I’m not asking that. I’m asking, by what metric are you measuring the validity of Christian claims to inspiration and true theological insight versus Muslim or Hindu or Mormon claims of inspiration.

                Allah may be the one god, and Mohammed may be his prophet. On what criteria can you judge this false, and on what criteria do you judge the law of Moses to have come from the real god?

                Against what criteria?

                Like

              • Ohhhhhhh I see what you’re going for, Matt. I think maybe I can help you understand what kind of criterion I have used.

                To measure the validity of religious claims against each other we can use the laws of logic. I’ve already mentioned how they contradict each other such that if one is true, logically the remaining unique claims are false. For example, a religion that says to kill the unbeliever is not compatible with Christianity. A religion that denies the resurrection Jesus is not compatible with Christianity. A religion that says you must be married to attain the highest level of heaven which means owning your own universe is not compatible with Christianity.

                There are further criteria. Any religious claims that are tested and shown false invalidates a religion. This specifically cannot be an argument from silence or the intellectual gymnastics of Bart Ehrman. It needs to be a religious claim that really can be empirically tested. A great example is the Mormon claim that the Native Americans are descendants from Israel. Mitochondrial DNA studies refute this notion with certainty. Another beautiful example from Mormonism is that Joseph Smith translated Egyptian hieroglyphs before the Rosetta stone was put to use, and his translation was falsified!

                Other criteria can be found in the scientific and historical method as you mentioned. Especially when studying the inception of the religion we can apply things like explanatory scope, explanatory power, less ad hoc, etc. I’m sure you will recognize that this is straight out of Licona’s playbook. If you apply this to Paul I think the very least we can say about him is that he sincerely believed Jesus had “resurrected” and sent him to proclaim the gospel. Joseph Smith on the other hand seems to be gaining so much glory for being God’s prophet, he was able to reinstitute polygamy and commit pedophilia, he had monetary support, and religious and political power. A better explanation for Smith is that he was self-deluded and driven by his own desire for sex, money, and power. As much criticism as I deal him, I sympathize with him for being human.

                I understand from here the counterargument goes that a claim like resurrection goes against scientific knowledge. And, since it relies on eyewitness testimony and we know that this is very problematic (i.e., DNA exonerations), it cannot reasonably be believed. But, there is more data to be considered. . .

                One needs to consider a larger dataset. What do we even mean by “resurrection”? For me, the most helpful place to go is the Big Bang. The Big Bang is not proof of anything. It does, however, raise the possibility of a Creator. The Big Bang makes the Creator resistant to Occam’s razor. There is no way to rationally decide between an eternal universe and a Creator. Here’s an interesting question I like to interject at this point. Could a powerful and wise Creator make an eternal universe? Yes, of course! Then, why make an evident beginning? I think the beginning is a sign for us modern people. So, I step back and look at this and I’m compelled to think that there is a Creator and that the “resurrection” was precisely a powerful creative act just like the Big Bang. It was taking the matter that formed Jesus’ dead body and transform those quarks into something entirely new, an incorruptible body, given as the sign of Jonah to vindicate Jesus’ message and begin spreading it over the face of the earth so that all may see salvation.

                So, the criterion used here is to integrate the maximal amount of data and render it an interpretation. Not an explanation which can be intellectually forced on other people, but an interpretation of this universe. When I see the resurrection arguments, I don’t think of the resurrection as “the best explanation” which makes it a sort of intellectual game. The evidence is actually signs that point towards the resurrection, which itself points towards God, which fits in with a larger narrative that I am overall compelled to believe is true. I hope that was a more helpful response.
                -B

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              • Well, I think you’ve missed the question that I was asking. There is some conflation here, and some criteria that are afield of my question. And generally a criteria implies a metric plus a threshold, and I see no thresholds cited anywhere. Nevertheless, you are talking criteria at least, so this is progress. 🙂

                Your criteria – with which I do not intrinsically disagree – are focused largely around historicity or reasoning. But that’s not my question. Logical coherence is a requisite, good very glad. Arguments from evidence can falsify religious claims – very good, glad to hear this. Falsification is often ignored. Non-sequitur on meaning of big bang, conflation of existence with universe, etc., but let us leave that to the side.

                Now, back to the point I was asking. To re-quote:

                “Now, to adjudicate the question at hand, before the evidence is considered, what I am asking is simple: what is the criteria that you use when weighing *spiritual claims* against one another? Against what standard? It matters little what inspiration model one ascribes to – I’m not asking that. I’m asking, by what metric are you measuring the validity of Christian claims to inspiration and *true theological insight* versus Muslim or Hindu or Mormon claims of inspiration.”

                I am asking by what criterion you judge a “revelation” to be genuine. An example may help… Paul arguably gives us the bulk of Christian theology. Once dubious texts are eliminated in favor of undisputed texts, he does give us all of early Christian theology. So by what criterion do you judge Paul’s information to be more than mere opinion? We could ask the same questions about the gospel of John, arguably the second great locus of an “interpretive grid” surrounding the life of Jesus. Genuine, or false? Scripture, or not? Canonical, or apocryphal? By what criterion do you determine whether Paul was on target, or delusional?

                I am dangling a lure, incidentally.

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              • Matt, I’m very tired right now but I really wanted to reply to this because I’ve been thinking about it recently. Progress is always good. 🙂

                So, I’m trying to imagine the lure here hoping that I don’t end up on a cutting board and filleted. I think I finally see what you are going for. The threshold is difficult to define because it is not empirically accessible. Some have invented categories for “where” it is such as calling it the supernatural. If Christianity had a supernatural origin, and Islam had a natural origin, the former is true. I hope I’ve stressed well enough that I do not require the supernatural category, although I’m not rejecting it all out. I just do not require it. Also, we could replace “supernatural” with divine or maybe other concepts.

                There’s another category that gets mixed in these discussions, materialism. Of course it doesn’t make sense, who knows exactly what “materialism” should be and what the limits of space-time and matter actually are. I don’t find materialism to be a very helpful category. Typically its proponents artificially fix the limit to matter we currently have instruments to detect without any consideration of future instruments or higher TeV energies at the LHC. We discover new particles and conceive of all sorts of strange possibilities with our physical theories, whose is to say that will end anytime soon. That’s not to say we will somehow find proof of God, rather an admission of what is mystery.

                Since I’ve basically tossed aside these concepts, I need to come up with something else. This is what I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been thinking about the beginning of my own reconversion and the specific threshold I had to meet. I think it is this: otherness. Or, otherworldly. It’s a much less specific and much more modest idea than the sort of sharp divide and massive realm that “supernature” suggests. One needs first to consider it possible that Paul and the disciples experienced something with their five senses that was strange and otherworldly. It was confusing but exciting, maybe even terrifying for Paul. If you believe that much, that it was kind of strange phenomenon of re-experiencing the person Jesus with an otherworldly body that formed their interpretive grid, that they adopted the word “resurrection” to describe it, then you have crossed the threshold, you must now take the idea of the divine seriously.

                It’s a very simple idea, otherworldly, not meant to be construed into something as large and clunky as immaterialism or supernatural and similar as specific as divine, although it should subsequently make the divine be taken more seriously. Now, how exactly do you get there? I don’t think it’s a specific method. I think you need evidence, that evidence and historical considerations are the conduit by which you cross the threshold, but you need a background context as well. For me, the context was the idea that this religion can be moral, and that I didn’t need to have everything ironed out all at one time to keep risking it. At one point in time I agreed with Ehrman, that Paul only wrote 7 letters, the “undisputed”. And, I had a relatively low view of the Gospels. But, I believed that something otherworldly had happened and this formed the basis of Paul’s theology and also the impetus and meaning of Christian theology and afterlife belief.

                And, faith is a journey, it’s risky and extremely challenging and exciting even. OK, I’m tired. . . Let me know if that comes close to addressing anything you are thinking about.

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              • @Brandon,

                I think we’re talking about the subject I had in mind now. And your thoughts are good along those lines, and I like the fact that you’re willing to step outside of classical categories. But now to sharpen things a bit.

                I think that you would agree (I think) that there are a great many fraudulent claims to spiritual knowledge in the world, and that there always have been. People have experiences, and then they develop complex doctrines or theories to explain them, particularly as communities over time. This is evident in “false” religions, alien believers, sectarian cults, apocalyptic predictors, etc. I hope its a point we could agree upon that there is a great deal of bad information out there. People still believe they are correct however, and they are often willing to suffer and sometimes die for these knowledge claims. And they believe that the knowledge they have did not come simply from the machinations of human and community invention, nor from delusion. They think in many/most cases that this knowledge really did come from an “other-ish” source.

                Falsifiability

                Now, to circle back to your prior propositions regarding historicity and logical coherence. You cited in that instance some criteria of falsifiability. Ways to separate the spurious from the legitimate. We agree that these are possible and necessary for history, science, logic, etc.

                What is your criterion of falsifiability for spiritual claims?

                I have never heard an apologist give a reasonable proposition for such a criterion. All the time is spent on case building in favor of the Christian proposition. But until – and only if – it can be demonstrated that they have a valid criterion to winnow the real from the imagined in all these “whispers from the otherness,” the conclusion is simple. They do not know how to tell spiritual fact from spiritual fiction. If they do not have a clear means to falsify claims, why would it be believed that they know which claims to back?

                This is like a mechanic that certifies an aircraft is OK for takeoff, when he does not know what a malfunctioning aircraft looks like and has no checklist to go by. He spends his time telling you how good the paint looks, how comfortable the seats are, and how many people it can carry – but none of that is relevant. No checklist, no idea what malfunction looks like – no idea what he’s talking about.

                How then, do we falsify claims to theological/spiritual/otherworldly information?

                It must be done, and here is why… the Minimal Facts approach leans a ladder on an implicit argument, that if we can verify the resurrection, we have verified Christianity. That’s an interesting assumption, and it often goes unstated. The net argument looks like this:
                ~
                Premise 1: If Jesus was raised from the dead, then salvation is available to mankind.

                Premise 2: The evidence supports the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead, such that we may conclude that he did.

                Conclusion: Therefore, salvation is available to mankind through Jesus. (i.e., Christianity is true)
                ~
                No matter what is proven (or not) regarding Premise 2 utilizing tools of historical inquiry, Premise 1 is the question I am currently addressing. 100% of the claims being made about the *meaning* of the resurrection come from the “spiritual knowledge/revelation” category under discussion right now. And this premise must be supported, or the argument is bunk.

                We need some damn strong criteria to vet the whopper claim of Premise 1. I maintain that not a single apologist out there has any idea what a legitimate falsification criterion looks like for such claims. Which means the whole thing is but piffle, no better than the vacuous assertions of other faiths. You must, very simply, assume a revelation is legitimate to interpret one’s provincial miracle claims regarding what they mean.

                Maybe Jesus’ resurrection happened, but Satan did it to marginalize Judaism (it worked). Maybe Jesus’ resurrection happened, but the young man at the tomb in Mark did it – in which case his raising would mean nothing beyond what the resurrection enacted by Elijah meant. The point is that a resurrection doesn’t mean anything without a value assignment. Why does it mean that salvation came to humanity? The only reason we would think that was because we had embraced an interpreting grid – a set of revelations about what it meant – our scriptures.

                And if you are going to do that, why bother with evidence for the resurrection at all? Why not just say that we believe it without any evidence? You’re just assuming the text and doctrine on nothing anyway… We cannot verify the meaning part as true… We like it, so we choose it. Perhaps we think it sounds true-ish. But fact, this does not make. Not on the background of our nose-deep tradition as a species for unwitting fabrication and conclusion-jumping. This means that apart from evidences for the resurrection (which we don’t actually have), there is no argument for Christianity that escapes the trap of all religions: assuming that a normally false category of knowledge claims (revelation) happens to be true in our particular case. We have to simply credit other mammals as being true recipients of divinely sourced knowledge, without any verification their assertions besides our own sense of felt true-ish-ness.

                Hence, by what criterion will you certify and falsify the information of Premise 1?

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              • Wow, Matt, this is strong thinking! You offer two difficult but foundational problems:
                Supporting premise 1: “If Jesus was raised from the dead, then salvation is available to mankind.”
                And, “How then, do we falsify claims to theological/spiritual/otherworldly information?”

                As for premise 1, both Jesus and Paul gave interpretation of the cross. Jesus said:
                “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, NRSV, also see Matt 20:28)
                Paul said:
                “. . . they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement* by his blood, effective through faith.” (Romans 3:25a, NRSV)
                *also translated as place of atonement according to NRSV
                The question is, what would legitimate either Jesus or Paul’s interpretation? One argument is that they both performed miracles, so this is a sign of God’s approval of their interpretation. The problem is that we have little evidence for these miracles.

                The following is a digression on these atonement ideas that can be skipped by going to the next bolded section
                Let me digress for a moment. When I reconverted I believed in the resurrection, but the idea of the atonement was weird, I didn’t know what to make of it. I could say, “It was just a Jewish interpretation of the event.” Chalking it up to Jewish interpretation put up a wall especially because I hated the penal substitution theory of atonement. (I still reject it and find no evidence for it). Now, one thing that happened in my journey was that my belief in God changed. God was initially only weakly believed in and was a deistic and mechanistic power. Then, something dramatic happened and I believed in a personal God and this, I found, was key to understanding atonement.

                A personal God rather than mechanistic/deistic is key to understanding atonement.

                The idea of atonement introduced in Leviticus is actually very sophisticated. They sacrificed animals by exsanguination which is the least painful way to die. This occurred when a person “bore their iniquity” meaning took responsibility for their sin and requested forgiveness and mercy from God. The lawful sacrifices were precisely a proper and penitent means to request forgiveness and mercy from the Creator. The same goes for Jesus as an atonement. Jesus death provides a place to request forgiveness and mercy. This is not a game of divine bookkeeping, rather requesting from the personal God, please forgive me for hating your people and hating your creation. Please, have mercy on me. And, send into me your Spirit that I might love. God’s love and mercy are boundless in this respect.

                Also, some people criticize Judaism for portraying God as angry or jealous. This is “anthropomorphizing” and is primitive. I think this is wrongheaded. God is invested in his creation, so it makes sense that God will be angry when we are wicked and destructive. And, when we worship a created object or feeling or experience, we do not acknowledge the supremacy of God, so it makes God jealous. A sacrifice of atonement is the proper way of requesting forgiveness and mercy and it also placates God’s anger.

                What about the idea of ransom? The major question is, to whom is the ransom paid? Theologians have asked, is it paid to Satan who holds us captive? Is it paid to God who needs a payment of righteousness? My thinking is that the ransom is paid to humanity itself. Humans are self-captive to their own brains which drive them to all sorts of passions. Paul expresses this and I feel very connected to this idea in my experience. Believing in Jesus had the power to set me free. I think the belief and trust radically restructuring how I view the world and my subsequent interaction with it, people, animals, and creation. We do not need to invoke the supernatural, I think of it as the natural consequence of belief and trust.

                Next section
                So, how can we legitimate Jesus and/or Paul’s interpretation of the cross given the fact that we can’t prove miracles? I think this is where the resurrection, the sign of Jonah, comes in and provides reason to accept Jesus’ interpretation. And, if we take notice of Jesus’ view of Judaism, we should take seriously the interpretation using Jewish ideas of atonement. Here is the main argument as a syllogism:

                I. Jesus provided a powerful sign.
                II. Jesus interpreted this sign.
                III. Providing a powerful sign legitimates your interpretation of it.
                Therefore, Jesus’ interpretation is legitimate.

                I think the most likely contended premise is number III. I would agree if that’s what you think. Probably what it would come down to in less formal terms is trusting Jesus’ interpretation. This trust is an aspect of faith, but I think for someone breaking into Christianity from atheism, this trust might be a later development as it was for me, and the mere belief in the resurrection would be the dominant aspect of faith by which to build off.

                The second major question you raised was: “How then, do we falsify claims to theological/spiritual/otherworldly information?”
                A classic example of falsifiability is evolution. It has been said that if we found a fossil rabbit in the Precambrian layer, evolution would be falsified. In this vein, if we found a first century document that thoroughly refuted the resurrection and/or Jesus’ interpretation of the cross, then these would be falsified in the same sense. In both cases (evolution and Christianity) this amounts to discovering revolutionary new information by digging up something. Is this the sense of falsifiability you refer to?

                If this is not the sense of falsifiability you are referring to, can you express it in terms that would work for both evolution and Christianity as I have? This is because I assume you believe in evolution.

                Like

              • One critical problem for your proposition is that we have no direct access to Jesus. He didn’t write anything. He didn’t write anything ahead of his death, so there is no evidence that he actually foretold anything. That means there is no validation. The entire series of events were written up by other people, afterward, who told of both the event and the interpretation. Jesus isn’t in the equation, because we know his words by the same proxies as the interpretations.

                Go fish. 🙂

                Like

              • Touched up my prior comment a bit to clarify.

                Like

              • Sorry, Matt, my reply sounded rude. I should have just referred you back to what I was trying to say, I apologize. I think I’m blasting out replies too fast for my conscience again!

                Like

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      “The truth is whether or not these children suffered and died at the hands of Israel, they would have suffered and died regardless as humans. Even Jesus Christ suffered and died.”

      Oh, well, THAT makes it OK then — BTW, my neighbors have this kid who’s REALLY a brat, OK if I just go ahead and kill him now? I mean, he’s gonna die eventually ANYway, and it would really make my life a LOT easier! I could slip over there and snap the little brat’s neck and be back in my own yard before he hit the ground – what do you think –? Should I go for it? I’m pretty sure your god told me to do it, I mean there was this bright flash of light and I flopped around on the ground like a carp for a bit, foamed at the mouth a little, and heard voices chanting, “Kill kid! Kill kid!” so I’m pretty sure it’s sanctified.

      Like

  6. Sorry Matt,
    I didn’t handle Brandon’s comments in the diplomatic way you did. I just get very concerned when I hear someone make a statement like “they would have died anyway” . This type of rationale is very disturbing and has been used by non-religious and religious people alike .

    Next time, I will sit on my fingers or keyboard and let the Blog Host comment first. Please accept my apologizes.

    Like

    • No, no, doesn’t bother me. All angles help. I just want to make sure content remains the central thrust. I thought your observations had merit.

      Like

    • Ditto. What was so frightening is the parallel that can be drawn to not just what was going through the minds of the people who wrote the stories of the conquest of Canaan, but what was going through the minds of the people who got their followers to fly planes into skyscrapers in New York. I don’t see any real difference. Then we are faced with someone who claims that these lines of thinking are OK. Next statements are about how he is somehow propelled (assumedly by one of the godz) to accepting this kind of thing. I have to wonder, is this how those 9/11 terrorists felt? Would our friend join their ranks? Maybe he would not, maybe he would come to his senses before something like that could happen. Maybe he could use Abraham’s excuse and say that God stayed his hand? This is a problem that goes far beyond Mariah or Matt or our naive companion. How should humans behave? How should humans interact with the vast mysteries of the cosmos and bring that down to the city streets we live on? How should we deal with the concept of gods? Can we let them be excuses for our own bad behavior?

      But, by those very criteria, like KC Chief, I spoke harshly and too soon as well. Good deep thinking to you both!

      Like

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      If anyone needs to apologize for anything, KC, it sure ain’t you!

      Like

  7. I agree and will be mindful of this in the future.

    Like

  8. Hello everybody!

    Most Issues with the Bible will get diluted; if instead of the peripheral issues one concentrates on the core teachings of Moses and Jesus:

    36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
    Matthew 22:36-40
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A36-40

    All the peripheral issues should be interpreted within the scope of the above core teachings of Jesus or else rejected forthwith.

    This is a way of reconciliation between the Atheists who were previously Christians; the crowbar need not be applied.

    Does this help?

    Like

    • @Paarsurrey,

      I do not disagree with the Golden Rule in any way. I think that it is a fine principle to have central in a moral framework.

      But it can be found in nearly all cultures.

      It is not unique to the Abrahamic religions in any way. Its a principle derived from our intrinsic nature as a social species, the realization of how to best create a just and functioning society. Eastern religions had it before Christianity. The Egyptians had it before Moses I believe. Everyone has arrived at this.

      No divine appeal is necessary.

      And the fact that it is in the bible doesn’t in the slightest demonstrate that those texts had a connection to divine authorship.

      Yet the crowbar here was basically that the Creation and Texts are in thorough conflict with each other. Evil and an all powerful/good god are in conflict with each other. Creation and omnibenevolence are in conflict with each other. All three – these are puzzle pieces that explode away from each other the harder one tries to press them to one other. The Golden Rule doesn’t really touch on a resolution to this.

      Like

  9. paarsurrey, are you saying there is no issue with homosexuality from a christian perspective because of what you stated above ?

    Like

    • @KCC, remember, there are several “Christian” perspectives available in our world now. Much of what Jesus is quoted as saying is pretty good, but the best of it is contradicted by other NT writers, notably Paul. Now that’s OK, but since the religion is supposed to be about Jesus and his stuff, warping your brain to make Paul’s interpretations equal or better than Jesus’ ones by saying that God wrote all of it so anything published under Paul’s name is just as good as what some author quoted Jesus as saying. This trend is suspicious. Homosexuality is not a good thing for a small tribe trying to breed itself into a bigger one since it usually removes people from the reproduction pool. Other tribes around the world have discovered that often, within the contexts of their experience, the contributions to the overall good their homosexual members make far outweigh their (again, usually) non-reproductive nature.
      Some versions of Christianity are OK with homosexuality, some are not. You get to choose because fortunately none of them have an exclusive lock on the afterlife (assuming there even is one).

      Like

    • @kcchief1 :April 3, 2014

      I think better some Christian should respond to it.

      I think apparently it is not a core issue of any religion; though some may differ with me in this connection.

      Regards

      Like

  10. @ Mariah Windrider : April 5, 2014

    “Much of what Jesus is quoted as saying is pretty good, but the best of it is contradicted by other NT writers, notably Paul. Now that’s OK, but since the religion is supposed to be about Jesus and his stuff, warping your brain to make Paul’s interpretations equal or better than Jesus’ ones by saying that God wrote all of it so anything published under Paul’s name is just as good as what some author quoted Jesus as saying. This trend is suspicious.”

    I much appreciate your above words.

    The followers of Jesus must follow Jesus in the teachings he himself mentioned and acted upon and he must be treated as founder of Christianity.

    Paul’s interpretations should not be treated as equal to Jesus or better than Jesus.

    To make Jesus a god (while he was not) and then instead of following Jesus; if one is tricked into following Paul; one must be suspicious of Paul and must understand Paul’s game.

    I salute Mariah Windrider’s understanding of Christianity.

    If you don’t mind; please mention the name of your blog; I want to read more of your thoughts.

    Thanks and regards

    Like

  11. Hi Matt, I haven’t been around and about so much lately, so I missed this until now.

    I think your original post is a trifle patronising, if you don’t mind me saying so. Surely there are at least some christians in your experience who are (4) Those who are aware of the dilemmas and, despite being unable to fully resolve all of them, find that the dilemmas that most unbelievers face are even greater, and so choose what they see as the most rational option – to keep on believing.

    I believe I am in that category, and I’m sure you know others. The fact that you don’t agree with our conclusion shouldn’t blind you to that.

    I wonder how you would feel if I posted the following?

    “In talking to atheists and converts, I have found basically three sorts:(1) Those who do not know the dilemmas of unbelief and rest untroubled. (2) Those who are aware of the dilemmas of unbelief and, despite being unable to resolve them, choose in faith that it is OK to ignore them. (3) Those whose unbelief died in a struggle that refused to surrender to the spirit of the age.”

    I don’t think that BTW, but it is easy for us to build up our own beliefs by demonising or denigrating those we disagree with, pretending, even convincing ourselves, that they are all illogical and we have no dilemmas to answer. I don’t think that is what you actually think, but it seems to be the basis of this post.

    I’m sorry to be critical on my first visit for some time, but I’m sure you know I don’t wish to be unfriendly.

    Like

    • Hi UnkleE,

      I need to develop a response to your earlier response page to me, BTW. Haven’t forgotten, but I have been distracted I’m afraid.

      As to the fourth category, OK, if you want to propose that. The difficulty in my experience is that I haven’t met one. Perhaps if I had…

      As to the counter post, I wouldn’t presume to inveigh. By all means, proceed right ahead. I don’t think of all this as a “feelings” business, so it doesn’t bother me.

      As to demolition and denigration, I tend to range in my approach on various posts. The simple fact is that people of faith rarely respond to anything but a corner with no exits. We are fish that wriggle, and we resist any serious contemplation that the whole construct of faith might actually be wrong from the first brick. Yet I contend that it is. In many cases, the only way to penetrate the impressive layers of self-insulation with which we robe ourselves is to fire a shot too heavy and fast to dodge.

      Two other pages along such a line include the Pontius and the Isaiah-gate posts, if you are at all interested.

      In any case, I find patient dialogue a very good thing. Yet I find unremitting confrontation equally useful. It takes many voices and many tones. Some are wakened by whisper, and others only by pot banging.

      Like

      • Hi UnkleE,

        I need to develop a response to your earlier response page to me, BTW.

        Matt, which page of his are you referring to? Link?

        We are fish that wriggle, and we resist any serious contemplation that the whole construct of faith might actually be wrong from the first brick. Yet I contend that it is.

        I have been leaning hard toward this for a while. It’s very much a motivator behind my own research.

        Two other pages along such a line include the Pontius and the Isaiah-gate posts, if you are at all interested.

        @unkleE,

        FWIW, I find these posts rather damning of the trustworthiness of the scriptures, as they pertain to alleged prophecy fulfillment in Jesus. If there exists defensible Christian responses to the points raised, I’m quite interested to hear them.

        Like

        • Hi ratamacue0,

          I was going to ask about your blog, but I see you have posted and while I thought I was subscribed, I must not have been, so I missed out. Sorry. I’ll head back there when I can.

          There are too many points in those posts to answer them all, so let me make a general comment. We have to decide what question we are asking.

          If we are asking “Are the christian scriptures an inerrant set of documents?” then all the apparent anomalies Matt raises are relevant. In my opinion, some are actually misunderstandings, some have quite satisfactory answers and some do not. But since I don’t believe the christian scriptures are inerrant, none of that troubles me as much as it apparently troubles Matt.

          But if you are asking “What is the truth about God and Jesus?”, we don’t have to even think about inerrancy and inspiration. We just have to treat the scriptures as historians would treat any other documents of the time.

          And on that basis, they (and thus we) can make some very clear historical statements that Jesus existed, the gospels are useful sources for knowledge about him, he said and did many of the things recorded of him, he was believed by many of his contemporaries to be a prophet and miracle-worker, he really was executed by Pilate, his disciples had some sort of visionary experiences after he died and their belief in his resurrection formed a strong part of their subsequently successful efforts to win others to their belief.

          All that is conceded by most secular scholars, though of course there is variation, and a few who are more sceptical.

          And all that is quite enough, in my opinion, to justify belief in him.

          All the somewhat trivial historical difficulties, many of which can be easily explained and most of which make no difference to the historical conclusions I have outlined, are a diversion from the important question of what do you and I make of the historical evidence?

          I am happy to discuss individual matters if you wish, but I think we need the big picture first. Thanks.

          Like

          • UnkleE,

            I’m afraid this is a bit of a mischaracterization: “But since I don’t believe the christian scriptures are inerrant, none of that troubles me as much as it apparently troubles Matt.”

            As anyone that has been through my Journey pages should be quite clear about, my objections have little to do with inerrancy and everything to do with the falsehood of core claims of Christianity and the collapse of critical theological prerequisites for a salvific view of Jesus. The locus of my principle objection simple does not coincide with inerrancy.

            That does not mean my friends and readers are not inerrantists. And that means the content on my blog posts will certainly address and deconstruct claims that somehow it is. Just because I spend time on the notion because it is a hangup that other’s have doesn’t mean it was my hangup.

            Second point… You have characterized historicity issues for the gospels and/or the Bible as “the somewhat trivial historical difficulties”.

            You cannot be serious.

            Like

            • Hi Matt,

              I posted a reply to your three comments (down the page a bit) but it didn’t appear (or at least I couldn’t find it). I tried to post it again and was told it was already posted. Do you know what is happening? I have a copy so I can re-post if necessary.

              I’m sorry if I mischaracterised, but I wasn’t suggesting your objections were related to inerrancy (I don’t know what you think beyond what I have read). I was indicating the things that were a problem for you were not in general a problem to me because I don’t believe in inerrancy, and if there are errors then I haven’t a major problem with that in principle. I haven’t read all your previous posts to know if there are matters I do find a problem or not, I’m just speaking generally.

              I try to be serious. Many of the issues truly seem to me to be “trivial” in a historical sense – i.e. they are based on hyper-literal reading of texts that shouldn’t be read that way, they don’t stop historians from drawing historical conclusions and they don’t change any significant facts about the life of Jesus as determined by the historians and which I summarised.

              So I feel you are answering a relatively unimportant question (my first question above) and not addressing the second more important one.

              Hope that clarifies.

              Like

              • Unkle,

                If the historical situation facing both the gospels and the person of Jesus – not to say the entirety of the OT – could be accurately characterized as “trivial”, then we would not have the current pervasive divergence of Jesus portraits featured in the field of Historical Jesus studies. These portraits are so divergent that the situation has been termed as a crisis by some scholars, and a very brief overview of the criticisms of the field can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_Jesus#Criticism_of_historical_Jesus_research

                For more robust portraits of the diversity, one need look no further than Witherington’s “Jesus Quest” or “The Historical Jesus: Five Views” book, etc. Carrier provides further summary and observations in “Proving History”, etc. The very fact that there are such a wide range of optimists and pessimists in the field is itself an indicator.

                Research analysts know exactly what this kind of topology represents, because we have seen it many times over a range of very different problems. It indicates that we likely have an underdetermined and dubious data set. Not enough data, and the data we have is questionable.

                Whatever the *historical* problems are surrounding Jesus, they cannot fairly be characterized as “trivial.”

                Like

  12. @unkleE says:April 6, 2014
    “Hi Matt, I haven’t been around and about so much lately, so I missed this until now.

    I think your original post is a trifle patronising, if you don’t mind me saying so. Surely there are at least some christians in your experience who are (4) Those who are aware of the dilemmas and, despite being unable to fully resolve all of them, find that the dilemmas that most unbelievers face are even greater, and so choose what they see as the most rational option – to keep on believing.

    I believe I am in that category, and I’m sure you know others. The fact that you don’t agree with our conclusion shouldn’t blind you to that.

    I wonder how you would feel if I posted the following?

    “In talking to atheists and converts, I have found basically three sorts:(1) Those who do not know the dilemmas of unbelief and rest untroubled. (2) Those who are aware of the dilemmas of unbelief and, despite being unable to resolve them, choose in faith that it is OK to ignore them. (3) Those whose unbelief died in a struggle that refused to surrender to the spirit of the age.”

    I don’t think that BTW, but it is easy for us to build up our own beliefs by demonising or denigrating those we disagree with, pretending, even convincing ourselves, that they are all illogical and we have no dilemmas to answer. I don’t think that is what you actually think, but it seems to be the basis of this post.

    I’m sorry to be critical on my first visit for some time, but I’m sure you know I don’t wish to be unfriendly.” Unquote

    Hi unkleE

    I much appreciate your post; adding one more category to the Christian believers/deconverts and then adding three new categories to the Atheists and converts.

    Thanks and regards

    P.S. Please allow me to copy/paste your post in entirety with my comments in my blog paarsurrey under a title “Four categories of believers and deconverts and three categories of atheists and converts”.

    Thanks

    Like

    • Hi Matt, I don’t think you have really engaged with what I said, but I can understand as words are flying fast at the moment.

      As to the fourth category, OK, if you want to propose that. The difficulty in my experience is that I haven’t met one. Perhaps if I had…
      I am saying that #4 is exactly what I think. I have discussed with many atheists, read atheist books and blogs, thought about it, and I think I have heard and considered all main the arguments against God-belief. But I have also read and considered all the main arguments for God-belief, and I have concluded that there are more of them and that they are stronger and more fundamental. So I believe, but with some unanswered questions.

      So you have “met” someone who holds that view. And I feel sure I’m not the only one, really.

      As to the counter post, I wouldn’t presume to inveigh. By all means, proceed right ahead. I don’t think of all this as a “feelings” business, so it doesn’t bother me.
      Nah, I’m not proceeding with that. I already said I didn’t think it was right, just a parody to show that anyone can say things about others, but that doesn’t make them right.

      Thanks.

      Like

      • UnkleE,

        You seem to know of some argument for God’s existence beyond my exposure… what are you referring to in terms of reasons to believe? (genuinely curious)

        The difficulty is one of burden of proof, prior probabilities, and absence of any measured impacts of said deity via prayer, miracle, etc., which seems to stymie claims for a god that both exists and that actively interfaces with (changes) the world. I’ve not heard any sufficient accounting for these by any argument thus far. Many attempted definitions to prevent disproof, but nothing in the way of positive evidences.

        Thoughts?

        Like

      • UnkleE,

        Just one more caveat – I specifically confined my statements to Christianity, not simply god belief. So I think my prior comment should be expanded to include a validation of scripture. I.E., on what basis of evidence can you make “the big claim” that those texts are divinely inspired? Again, very high priors to overcome on this.

        Thanks

        Like

      • One last comment Unkle… this all goes back to the question I proposed previously regarding criteria of falsifiability. Since I haven’t responded to your response page yet, its pretty hard for you to know what that response was going to be. 🙂

        As a snapshot, I didn’t feel that any real criteria were given in your response page. You built a case for belief in a pointwise manner, but it fell short of criteria.

        In other words, by what criteria can the texts of Christianity be considered divinely sourced, and yet by which the texts of other faiths will come up as false? We have to have such criteria for any field of real objective research, yet I cannot find apologists who actively address this. Such a criteria would demonstrate what would make other religions wrong, but also what would make Christianity wrong. What criteria do you employ?

        Until and if a robust answer can be provided, I think those who continue to case build for Christianity apart from a falsifiability criterion are still playing with a partial deck, and they have not actually conceded the position in which they stand, nor how they have biased the outcome of their “studies”.

        Like

  13. @Matt) Brisancian : April 3, 2014 at :

    “I do not disagree with the Golden Rule in any way. I think that it is a fine principle to have central in a moral framework.
    But it can be found in nearly all cultures.
    It is not unique to the Abrahamic religions in any way. Its a principle derived from our intrinsic nature as a social species, the realization of how to best create a just and functioning society. Eastern religions had it before Christianity. The Egyptians had it before Moses I believe. Everyone has arrived at this.
    No divine appeal is necessary.
    And the fact that it is in the bible doesn’t in the slightest demonstrate that those texts had a connection to divine authorship.” Unquote

    I Googled for the Golden Rule and got the following from Wikipedia:

    “The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim,[1] ethical code or morality[2] that essentially states either of the following:

    • One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. (Positive form)[1]
    • One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (Negative form, also known as the Silver Rule).[1]

    This concept describes a “reciprocal”, or “two-way”, relationship between one’s self and others that involves both sidesequally, and in a mutual fashion.[3][4]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule

    You will please note that Jesus mentioned two Golden rules together in the core teachings; I repeat again:

    36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
    Matthew 22:36-40

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A36-40

    You have given comments about the second one that it is common in all cultures but you have not commented on the first Golden Rule.

    You observation is correct that it is found in almost all-religions and adopted by Atheists/Agnostics/Humanists also.

    The religions who have most mentioned it; I ascertain from the space allotted to it by Wikipedia and checked by Word Count somewhat as follows:

    Islam 1124 words: Christianity 843 words: Judaism 630 words

    Others are much less Atheism is far behind.

    Does this indicate that humanism is not limited to Humanists only?

    Now about the First Golden Rule:

    “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”

    Do you still believe in the First Golden Rule mentioned by Jesus and Moses? Please elaborate yourself fully on it.

    Thanks and regards

    Like

    • The first is not generally called “the golden rule” in the US.

      Neighbors objectively exist, as is easily demonstrated. Gods on the other hand are simply hypothetical constructs, until and if someone can provide actual and conclusive evidence. So I don’t think much of it.

      Like

  14. @(Matt) Brisancian :April 6, 2014
    “The first is not generally called “the golden rule” in the US.
    Neighbors objectively exist, as is easily demonstrated. Gods on the other hand are simply hypothetical constructs, until and if someone can provide actual and conclusive evidence. So I don’t think much of it.”Unquote

    Thanks for your response.

    I think you mentioned “God’s Words, I remain convinced; can stand very well on their own.”

    What is its context? Please

    Don’t you think there is some contradiction in your concepts?

    Please elaborate.

    This is just a friendly discussion.

    Regards

    Like

    • Ah, I see the confusion. Consider the comments as coming from a pilgrim at two different places on a journey, and that may help.

      The notion of thinking that God’s words can stand well was always my long held view of things as a Christian. That is, if the words of the biblical texts are from god, they will withstand any test.

      Along the journey, I did not find that to be the case. Little was left behind. I have to consider at this point that the words of the bible are not god’s words, and hence did not stand. God’s words still may have nothing to fear, but it does not seem that we have such words.

      My view now is that, if there is a god, he has been very quiet. The religious texts of the world are but people talking.

      Like

  15. @(Matt) Brisancian : April 6, 2014

    “Ah, I see the confusion. Consider the comments as coming from a pilgrim at two different places on a journey, and that may help.
    The notion of thinking that God’s words can stand well was always my long held view of things as a Christian. That is, if the words of the biblical texts are from god, they will withstand any test.” Unquote

    I think journey itself should keep one’s memory fresh; journey itself cannot negate one’s memory.

    What concrete proofs and evidences you found in your journey that “One-True-God does not exist” which changed your belief in the One-True-God (Jesus is not God as per his core teachings that I have already quoted)?

    I think you labored and suffered much but you did not make comparative study or religions and non-religions under some good principle on equal basis to both. You believe withered away without any good reason and if that is not the case then perhaps it should be still there.

    Regards

    Like

    • Without good reason?

      Hmmm. Perhaps you should re-read my journey pages.

      Like

      • Please mention the passage where its answer is.
        Will you please?

        Regards

        Like

        • @Paarsurrey,

          If you would, please give your criterion for falsifiability of religious texts as either divinely inspired or merely human in origin. However, the criterion cannot be circularly dependent upon the text itself or the author(s).

          Your answer will be the beginning of my response.

          Like

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      What concrete proofs and evidences you found in your journey that prove that there is no other god but allah? I’ve been asking you this, Paarsurrey, on every blog I can find you on, since our first encounter on Mak’s site, and you have yet to answer me.

      Like

  16. @(Matt) Brisancian :April 6, 2014 at :

    “If you would, please give your criterion for falsifiability of religious texts as either divinely inspired or merely human in origin. However, the criterion cannot be circularly dependent upon the text itself or the author(s).
    Your answer will be the beginning of my response.”

    One could be born in any religion or without a religion. It is beyond one to decide where to be born. Wherever one is born; that starts one’s journey to find the truth.

    The tools make easy for one to do a job. It is therefore important for one first to find a tool that gives equal opportunity to every religion to search.

    Using a tool and then making a comparative study of religions to find which one is the most truthful religion is therefore most reasonable and rational.

    I give here a principle of comparative study of religions which was suggested by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad- the Promised Messiah 1835-1908 in an essay that was read in a Conference of Great Religions held at Lahore in 1896; and was later published in a book form titled “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam” translated in many languages of the world.

    I give below the principle and its explanation in precisely his words:

    “It is necessary that a claim and the reasons in support of it must be set forth from a revealed book”
    “I consider it essential that everyone who follows a book, believing it to be revealed, should base his exposition upon that book and should not so extend the scope of his advocacy of his faith as if he is compiling a new book.

    As it is my purpose today to establish the merits of the Holy Quran and to demonstrate its excellence, it is incumbent upon me not to state anything which is not comprehended in the Quran and to set forth everything on the basis of its verses and in accord with their meaning and that which might be inferred from them, so that those attending the Conference should encounter no difficulty in carrying out a comparison between the teachings of different religions.”

    Mirza Ghulam Ahmad adhered to this principle and answered the five important questions set by the moderators of the Conference:
    1. The physical, moral and spiritual states of man
    2. The state of man after death.
    3. The object of man’s life and the means to its attainment.
    4. The operation of the practical ordinances of the Law in this life and the next.
    5. Sources of Divine knowledge.

    One could access the following link to read the book available online, freely:

    Click to access Philosophy-of-Teachings-of-Islam.pdf

    The Atheists/Agnostics/Skeptics don’t have a book to follow. They extol science to find answers to all the questions in the world. Although the questions don’t fall within the scope of science and would overburden it; yet they are open to answer with the condition that they quote some standards text book of science for the claims to answers as also to the reasons given specifying the discipline of science that legitimately deals with it.

    Please take your time for your journey of search and as to how the criterion is to be applied. Please read the small book mentioned above; that will provide ready-made solution to many questions that arise.

    Wish you good-luck.

    Thanks and regards

    Like

    • Paarsurrey,

      Thanks for the thoughts, but this does not answer the query I posed. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad may be a nice gent, but he does not seem to understand how to adjudicate claims in any objective sense.

      What I am asking is how one distinguishes fraud from legitimacy in religious claims – by what criteria?

      I’m not asking how a person might build a case to support a text, i.e. – “As it is my purpose today to establish the merits of the Holy Quran and to demonstrate its excellence.”

      This apologetic intention is universal to the religious, and it does not and cannot arrive at truth. A proper analysis must consider the strength of evidence for *and against* the claims made, and then one must adjudicate the question of reality per some criteria.

      By what criteria do you separate fraud from legitimacy in religious claims?

      Like

  17. Hi Matt,

    You made three previous comments directed at me, and I have tried to respond to them twice, and each time my comment hasn’t appeared. Perhaps they are both awaiting moderation? Can you check thanks?

    Also, I’ll be away for the rest of the week, so please be patient awaiting any further response.

    Whatever the *historical* problems are surrounding Jesus, they cannot fairly be characterized as “trivial.”

    Matt, you have taken what I said about one matter and applied it to another matter which I wasn’t addressing. So please let me clarify.

    1. You raised a lot of matters which allegedly show inconsistencies in the gospel records. ratamacue0 asked me about them, and there were too many to address in detail (and I don’t even know exactly which post he/she was referring to), so I tried to answer generally.

    2. I said that these detailed questions were sometimes based on misunderstandings and assumptions, and some could easily be explained while others could not. But whatever, they were relevant to the question of whether the Gospels are inerrant – i.e. contain no inconsistencies or errors. But, I said, this isn’t a question I have any wish to argue about because I don’t believe in inerrancy.

    3. I said the important question (for me at least, and I hope for both of you as well) was not inerrancy, but what we know about Jesus, and what we can reasonably believe. This is not a trivial question and there are certainly problems to be solved. To answer this question we need go to the scholars, and I cannot recall any of the books I have read by major scholars about the life of Jesus addressing the sorts of issues you raise in any detail (or at all). So these issues are generally unimportant for answering this question. And I stand by that.

    4. Now you raise the different scholarly opinions about Jesus or portraits of him. But this is a different question again. The scholars broadly agree on the matters about Jesus that I mentioned (there is obviously still a range, but I am talking about broad consensus). This is the evidence we must all deal with and draw conclusions from. I then said I found this historical evidence was enough for me to believe in him as son of God. That is true for some scholars, not for others. But we are here not talking about the evidence but the conclusions we each draw.

    So I believe what I said is consistent with the facts. The scholars agree broadly about the historical conclusions we can draw about Jesus. They, you and I may form different beliefs based on those historical “facts”. The matters you raise are generally not highly relevant to any of that discussion. I think they become a diversion from the more important question, though I am happy to discuss any particular one if asked. I hope that clarifies.

    In return, may I ask you what you think of the historical “facts” the scholars broadly agree on?

    Like

    • UnkleE, I’m not showing anything awaiting approval, not sure what is happening there. I’ll look at the remainder of your comment later on.

      Like

      • Thanks for checking. I don’t know either. There is one link in it, so maybe I’ll remove that and try again. See you.

        Like

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      unklE – your comments are not being moderated, Matt doesn’t moderate (anymore) – I had the same trouble earlier today, but at least I got a message telling me the comment could not be posted – it’s something within WordPress, and not having anything to do with Matt. BTW, I was later able to post the same comment that was earlier rejected, so, all I can say, is keep trying.

      Like

      • Yeah, this glitch is really irritating.

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      • Hi Arch, thanks for your thoughts. The problem for me seemed to be a link I posted. When I took that out, it was fine. Dunno if all links trouble WordPress (there is a setting for this Matt) or just this one.

        Like

        • Folks have posted links before, and it didn’t seem to be a hangup. Recently too. Its a glitch for which I can discern no pattern as yet.

          Like

        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          unk, I don’t think links are the problem – as I understand WP, it has a built-in spam deterrent, too many links, and your comment is rejected. But the default on that is 3, and as long as you’re under that, you should have no problem. Even then, Matt has the ability to raise that limit.

          Like

  18. No it didn’t “take” again. Very weird. Dunno what else to try.

    Like

  19. It said it was comment #6656, but it still didn’t appear. I’ll email it to you and you can see if you can make it happen. I’ll go on a short holiday. Sorry about all this.

    Like

  20. @ (Matt) Brisancian says:April 7, 2014 at :
    “A proper analysis must consider the strength of evidence for *and against* the claims made, and then one must adjudicate the question of reality per some criteria.” Unquote

    Sorry; I could not understand you well.

    What I observed from your journey is that your journey had been mostly remained within the limited circle of Christianity of Paul; not even what Jesus said or did; and to some extent to the OT Bible of Judaism.

    This only required reformation of where you were previously in; instead of attending to that aspect you opted to jumped to Atheism without considering a proper analysis or strength of evidence for *and against* the claims made by the Atheists, and or then adjudicating the question of reality per some equal opportunity criteria.

    I think it was a blind leap and uncalled for.

    I think you will agree to my point.

    Regards

    Like

    • No, afraid I cannot agree with your point. The difficulty here is that you have not understood the importance of how information is vetted, nor the claims and non-claims of atheism. Atheism simply states that religions have not made a sufficient case for their positive claims about their gods. Atheism does not – and I do not – necessarily make a strong claim that no god exists.

      Like

  21. @unkleE says:April 7, 2014

    “I said the important question was not inerrancy (of NT Bible), but what we know about Jesus, and what we can reasonably believe. This is not a trivial question and there are certainly problems to be solved.” Unquote

    I think I agree with unkleE that Jesus is more important than Bible; as it was not written by Jesus.
    Bible was written in Jesus’ absence when he traveled to India with his mother Mary.

    He did not know what Paul and the Church were doing in his absence.

    Hence Jesus is most important.

    Regards

    Like

    • I don’t believe claiming that Jesus made a trip to India is any more supportable than claiming that Jesus was born in Bethlehem or reappeared after his death.

      Like

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      Ah, Paarsurry, RE: “Bible was written in Jesus’ absence when he traveled to India with his mother Mary.” – you are always asking for “proofs,” which sadly, you never give me, so here’s one for you, complete with references:

      “Robert Van Voorst states that modern scholarship has ‘almost unanimously agreed’ that claims of the travels of Jesus to Tibet, Kashmir or India contain ‘nothing of value.'”

      Van Voorst, Robert E (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9-page 17.

      Now about your proof that there is no other god but allah – can I expect that soon?

      Like

  22. @ Naivethinker

    Then, when I was persuaded that the resurrection explained the birth of Christianity,

    This sentence, in reference to the resurrection, is your, Pièce de résistance if you like, and is the foundation stone of all of Christianity.
    The key part of this sentence is “when I was persuaded.” There is the allusion that this was a factual occurrence, yet you, nor anyone else, can provide a single scrap of evidence that would lead a rational person to conclude this literary event has any basis whatsoever in historical fact.

    You want or maybe need it to be true, thus you will believe so. For what reason I cannot fathom.

    But once you accept this, then naturally you are obliged, no matter how painful, to accept the rest of what your religion encompasses. Most notably the claim of divine inspiration for the Bible.

    Once this is done, then anything within its covers can be excused or justified on the basis that your god is perfect.

    Hitler and Stalin were monsters.
    Yahweh is a mystery and can neither be judged or questioned.
    And I will bet my life that any deconvertee would nod their head in agreement.

    Sorry, Brandon, in this regard, my dog has more integrity than you or your (fictitious) god.

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    • Arkenaten,
      Do you think your position is somehow the default rational position? HA! I don’t think so. The default is agnosticism on any issue. You must provide evidence to support your position. So, swallow your insults and start providing evidence. Until then, our dialogue will never be productive and that would be a shame. Follow the example of Matt, use evidence and reason.
      B

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      • Sadly, anaivethinker, no amount of evidence provided by an atheist like myself , John, Z, Violet,Ken or an agnostic like Matt,will ever make an indoctrinated *person like you reconsider for one moment. That revelation has to come from within.
        But to be honest and I could not care less. We are all entitled to our own beliefs.
        I am merely responding to your ignorant and ill informed takes regarding justifying the heinous actions of the Deity you claim is infallible, but have yet to provide a single morsel of evidence for its existence.

        The other problem , of course, is that you may well dump this garbage onto children who have no defense against the lies you peddle.

        You are not here for open genuine discussion,but rather to justify your own worldview and engage in a spot of proselytizing on the side.
        At least have the integrity to admit this.

        *in lieu of alternate words I might once have used.

        Like

        • Arkenaten,
          Saying that “no evidence will change me” is prejudging. And, if you think I am indoctrinated, you clearly don’t know my story. Prejudging is detrimental to any conversation.

          You said: “You are not here for open genuine discussion, but rather to justify your own worldview and engage in a spot of proselytizing on the side.”
          I don’t even know how to respond to this because it is so illogical and assumes moral high ground. You obviously have no idea who I am and why I am here.

          Here’s my assessment of you: you can’t think straight because you are an angry atheist. And, because you hate my position you hate me, you must dehumanize me. This justifies insults (dickhead, etc.) and prejudging. But, you should think of me as one of your brothers in humanity. I have come to my conclusions with a clean conscience, so please respect that. If you do this, you have no reason to be angry at me or necessitate prejudging me to make you feel superior. Then, we can have a productive conversation. Like I said, look at the example of Matt. He doesn’t hate me even though he disagrees with me. In fact, I may have coffee with him one day. Also, look at John Zande. I have plenty of good conversation with him. And, there’s many more good examples.
          -B

          Like

          • Dear Brandon…

            Arkenaten,
            Saying that “no evidence will change me” is prejudging. And, if you think I am indoctrinated, you clearly don’t know my story. Prejudging is detrimental to any conversation.

            There is a plethora of evidence refuting your position yet you hang on for grim death. Why, I could not fathom. There are myriad versions of Christianity already in play, as it were. Why on earth should you consider your version the right one? Let alone the right religion or right god?
            But I would wonder what evidence would it take for you to relinquish your faith? As faith does not require evidence, does it?

            You said: “You are not here for open genuine discussion, but rather to justify your own worldview and engage in a spot of proselytizing on the side.”
            I don’t even know how to respond to this because it is so illogical and assumes moral high ground. You obviously have no idea who I am and why I am here.

            You are punting a point of view (largely) to deconvertees for the gods’ sake, who have been in exactly the same position as you are now – apologist/fundamentalist. What on earth do you think you hope to gain by attempting to refute someone like Matt? It is risible.

            Here’s my assessment of you: you can’t think straight because you are an angry atheist. And, because you hate my position you hate me, you must dehumanize me. This justifies insults (dickhead, etc.) and prejudging. But, you should think of me as one of your brothers in humanity. I have come to my conclusions with a clean conscience, so please respect that. If you do this, you have no reason to be angry at me or necessitate prejudging me to make you feel superior. Then, we can have a productive conversation. Like I said, look at the example of Matt. He doesn’t hate me even though he disagrees with me. In fact, I may have coffee with him one day. Also, look at John Zande. I have plenty of good conversation with him. And, there’s many more good examples.

            First of all, I have little problem thinking straight and I don’t hate anything, certainly not you, whom I do not even know. Any ire I may display is directed at your theological position and the fact that you are called to proselytize the diatribe you believe is real. This I consider a human rights violation and thus, given the opportunity, I will always make a noise for those who are unable to defend against the crap you espouse. Mostly children.
            As for calling you a dickhead…well, I have been reminded by Violet that this is rude – whereas mentally and sexually abusing kids and teaching them Creationism or encouraging them to strap C4 to themselves and go and blow shit up in the name of Allah is Freedom of Expression I suppose?

            So, Brandon, I will no longer call you a dickhead as you obviously are not a dickhead and your well thought out theological worldview is based on Critical Thinking, comprehensive understanding of scripture, and a logical, common sense approach to the bible, and not that of a dickhead who would believe that dead people climb out of the ground, ( some even going Walkabout in the town, too!) long-haired blokes in nightshirts walked on water ,cured leprosy, sent demons into little piggies, cursed poor fig trees simply because he was having a bad hair day, and the original bastions of your faith, the Catholic Church are as honest as the day is long.

            No dickheads in that mindset, right? ‘Course not.

            The Ark

            Like

            • Ark, thanks for this response, the points you bring up are foundational and exactly what we should be talking about. I’ve been backlogged on posts and replies recently, and I will be away for a few days and may not get back for a while. But, I will get back to you.

              Like

              • Oh…be assured, I cant wait!

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              • Oh…I forgot to add. Please make sure any use of the word ”god”, in your forthcoming reply is simply generic, okay?
                Unless you have another breathtaking revelation and come back from your break with dynamic evidence to support your claims. Fair enough? super…

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            • Ark,
              You asked: “Why on earth should you consider your version the right one? Let alone the right religion or right god?”
              To address the second question, this entirely hinges on the epistemological meaning of “right ______”. The most important distinction we can draw is between what is belief and what is knowledge. Things that I know are in my memory and directly experienced. For example, I know that I drove to work this morning. I know that my hair is brown. Or, we might count knowledge as something that is very likely to occur given background knowledge/memory (i.e., science). I know that if I eat too much food I will gain weight. I know if I take a huge dose of heroin, I will die of respiratory suppression.

              On the other hand, I believe that the external reality exists, that other minds like my own exist, and in the value of love. (In other words, I don’t know these things, I believe them).

              Another thing I know is that religions make contradictory truth claims in such a way that if one is true, logically the other claims are false. For example, Islam claims that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Mormonism has a “works-based” salvation plan in which one good work is marriage itself (I guess Jesus and Paul weren’t going to get fully saved by Joseph Smith’s plan).

              With that background, this is where I started: I weighed the arguments for the resurrection and I believed it was true. A few things are noteworthy here. The first to mention is that I evaluated the arguments during a time when I had a hope that Christian theism can be moral for various reasons. That didn’t mean everything suddenly ironed out, far from it. It became a sort of intellectual risk. And, risky in other fascinating ways.

              What do I mean by “resurrection”? I mean that Jesus had been crucified and a few days later the disciples had strange but remarkable experiences of him back again. Not with a resuscitated mortal body but with a very strange new body that looked human. They did not know what to think about this, so they labeled the phenomenon “resurrection” because it was a category available to them via Judaism.

              Of course believing in the resurrection does not logical prove the existence of a creator deity, but it is consistent with a powerful and meaningful creative act. It made me take the idea of a creator deity more seriously. Then, I eventually realized that there is no reason to hold me back from believing in a creator deity that is responsible for the Big Bang and the resurrection. At that time I didn’t understand this deity and things like “atonement” were far away from understanding, but I took the intellectual risk and began a journey that has been a huge challenge. But, it has been worth it.

              As for your first question: “Why on earth would you consider your version [of Christianity] to be the right one?”
              There’s this idea that we need to determine all doctrines and if you don’t agree with me, you must be wrong! Sorry, you have the wrong version! This is absurd. If someone thinks I need to believe in their doctrine, I will refer them to what Jesus told the rich man. The rich man asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. What’s noticeably missing from Jesus’ reply is a call to affirm certain doctrine. Jesus basically said, “So, you’ve been moral, you haven’t murdered and so on; what you need to do is sell your possessions and give to the poor.” The rich man walked away upset because he loved his possessions. What Jesus was asking for was not doctrinal affirmation or a laundry list of deeds necessarily, rather Jesus required a deep transformation – the reordering of this man’s loves. Now, I am convinced that in order to have this kind of deep transformation, one must have a belief and a trust, but the point is, all this stuff about correct doctrine is just not as important.

              Does that mean I am “antidoctrinal”? No! I think that we should take a historically- and scientifically-informed approach to interpreting scripture to determine doctrine. But, I think it’s absurd to say that Catholics and Protestants cannot both be Christians. This is just an example of the effects of thinking in black and white that leads to certain intellectual arrogance and tribalism. There are typically not black and white approaches to interpretation, rather a spectrum of bad to good interpretations.

              You asked: “. . . what evidence would it take for you to relinquish your faith? As faith does not require evidence, does it?”
              Theologians have been trying to explain how faith relates to evidence for a long time, and I have never seen anything that recapitulated what happened to me. So, I came up with my own explanation. I was persuaded by argumentation, but after constant reassessment, I found the argument to be flawed. But, something within me compelled me to believe. I was at a cross roads, and I decided to risk it, at least temporarily until I could think it through. I decided to try to construct a flawless argument. I worked and worked and wrote a massive argument. But, when I finished something happened. . . it just felt empty. I realized that I don’t believe because of an argument. . . I was just compelled to believe.

              So, what does this mean? Wasn’t reason and evidence important? Yes! So, reason and evidence act as a conduit to faith. When I take communion, I am not going through arguments for resurrection and the historicity of the last supper. No! I am taking this as a symbol to remind me of the Creator’s amazing humility, love, sacrifice, and the creative act in resurrecting Jesus that ensures he will vindicate us, that I can trust him and look forward to the future new creation.

              Evidence is a conduit to faith, it is how I got here, and I suspect it could also bring me out. It brought me out when I became an agnostic/atheist many years ago before I reconverted to Christianity.

              You asked: “What on earth do you think you hope to gain by attempting to refute someone like Matt?”
              The dialogue has many purposes! Usually when I am objecting to an argument put forth, I am NOT arguing the opposite position. Rather, I am arguing towards the state of agnosticism. This is extremely important to realize. I am objecting to bad arguments, rather than trying to establish a positive claim.

              This is not the only way I argue and not the only conversations I want to have. If you take note of how I respond, you will notice that I often suggest “a different point of view”. In this way I am specifically NOT saying “You are wrong” (the de facto objection), I am saying “you should not be so certain about your conclusion” (the de jure objection), with the hopes of raising questions for the other person. It is my prayer that one thing I can do is make the antitheists reconsider the possibility that scripture might be moral even though it seemed at one point so obviously immoral.

              You said: “Any ire I may display is directed at your theological position and the fact that you are called to proselytize the diatribe you believe is real.”
              Your ire is understandable. I fully expect that if you have not concluded as I have, that I must be irrational, illogical, possibly immoral, and/or deluded. I certainly won’t hold this against you! Come to think of it, by the ethics I am called to, I can’t even hold insults against you!

              You said: “. . . whereas mentally and sexually abusing kids and teaching them Creationism or encouraging them to strap C4 to themselves and go and blow shit up in the name of Allah is Freedom of Expression I suppose?”
              I think we would agree that freedom of expression should not include anything that is directly harmful or leads to physical harm. This automatically excludes mental and sexual abuse and brainwashing towards suicide bombing. However, creationism indoctrination is not physically harmful in the same ways as the aforementioned. I was indoctrinated as a kid about creationism, but even then I could sense something wasn’t quite right about this whole thing. I rejected it as a teenager and it became an impetus to question everything else and ultimately led me to agnosticism/atheism. So, on the contrary, if you want more atheists running around, maybe you should be encouraging creationism indoctrination.
              -Brandon

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              • Yep…you are brainwashed.
                Go sit on the naughty step.

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              • I was indoctrinated as a kid about creationism, but even then I could sense something wasn’t quite right about this whole thing. I rejected it as a teenager and it became an impetus to question everything else and ultimately led me to agnosticism/atheism. So, on the contrary, if you want more atheists running around, maybe you should be encouraging creationism indoctrination.

                This is a horrendous idea. I didn’t react that way until decades later. Many others won’t, and may never.

                How about we teach what we think is truth, and critical thinking, instead of indoctrinating people with lies and misdirection, and secretly hoping the smart ones figure it out for themselves?

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              • Just a little hyperbole to make a point that indoctrination often backfires. Not suggesting a policy.

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              • Anecdotal evidence (one case–yours) does not prove that indoctrination often backfires.

                I hoped you were being hyperbolic, but your presentation (with bolded text) gave no indication that you were.

                So what point were you trying to prove with this non sequitur?

                Ark suggested you’re indoctrinated, and that such indoctrination of children is a problem. You say it backfired in your case (which helps no one else), so maybe it’s okay? But it seems it didn’t really backfire anyway, since you’re back to believing in at least the heart of it–without evidence–illogically–due (by your own admission) to some internal compulsion.

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              • Ratamacue0, should I not use hyperbole?

                And, yes the “indoctrination” if it can be called that in all reality did backfire. I’m nowhere close to the fundamentalism that I was surrounded by. I always felt like a half lost spectator.

                Also, I don’t buy the atheist fundamentalism saying that faith is irrational. And, I don’t buy William Lane Craig’s assertion that there is necessarily such a thing as reasonable faith in the way he argues. Why does faith always have to fit neatly into rational or irrational categories? It’s like both sides are hedging for a superior position that actually turns out to be irrelevant.

                So, I question BOTH sides! My own life is testimony, albeit an anecdote to you, that the relationship between faith and reason is complex and certainly does not have to be synergistic or dichotomous, but connected in a more complex way.

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              • should I not use hyperbole?

                Seriously? Reread my comment. Nowhere did I suggest you shouldn’t use hyperbole. But when you do, you should make a logical/sensible/rational point with it. You didn’t.

                And, yes the “indoctrination” if it can be called that in all reality did backfire.

                And yet, you’re still a Christian.

                Also, I don’t buy the atheist fundamentalism saying that faith is irrational.

                I’d venture to say that faith could be rational if that which is trusted is actually true. However, when it’s demonstrably false, then such faith is irrational.

                I’m just forming this analogy now, so we’ll see how well it holds: I think of faith like spackle. It’s fine for filling in holes. It’s not good for making a wall.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Regarding your analogy, are you saying that faith only fills gaps of knowledge? But, it can’t (or shouldn’t) be used to form the basis of an epistemology?

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              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                That’s what your god of the gaps is famous for. Epistemology, by the way, deals with justified belief, and I’ve yet to see anything that justifies yours.

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              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Question, Brandon – what’s your take on Lazarus, who was in the ground more than a full day longer than your hero (if he ever existed) allegedly was, and according to Martha, who should know, “He stinketh!” – when he did his Frankenstein’s monster walk outside the tomb, did he have a “very strange new body that looked human“? How much longer did he live after that? With all of the people, running around writing down everything Jesus did and said, why is it that no one thought to get their life-long questions answered about death – “What’s it like to be dead?

                You have no evidential answers to that, do you Brandon, just suppositions, and the reason is, that Lazarus is a literary device, a construct – Ark should be able to tell you about those – used for the express purpose of a “precursor,” foreshadowing events to come, showing a primitive audience, “See, it can be done – remember Lazarus?” (Actually, remember what we TOLD you about Lazarus –)

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              • Arch, I have no idea why Lazarus does not reference any sort of afterlife experience. Maybe Lazarus did not know. Maybe he had amnesia. Maybe there is no such thing until the general resurrection. Your guess is as good as mine!

                As far as Lazarus being a literary device. . . can it be both a literary device and true? Are these dichotomous somehow? If Jesus can rearrange quarks of water to make wine, then why not have the power to rearrange a quarks in a decomposing body to reanimate it?

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              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                “If –” wishes were horses, then beggars would ride —

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              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Even you should be able to see by now, Brandon, that as the layers peel away, you are compelled to continue concocting more and more bizarre scenarios, just to keep the story making some kind of sense, even to you.

                You just strike me as too intelligent for this, but maybe you’re so ego-involved by now, that you just can’t let go of it a second time and admit you were mistaken, twice.

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      • archaeopteryx1 says:

        The default is agnosticism? What a crock! (You’re not on VW’s blog now –!) None of us are born with any smattering of whether or not there is a god, or for that matter, even what a god is (or is not) – we have to be taught that, and in that regard, Ernestine Rose said it best:

        “It is an interesting and demonstrable fact, that all children are atheists, and if religion were not inculcated into their minds, they would remain so.”

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        • I’m actually inclined to agree with Brandon on this one.

          None of us are born with any smattering of whether or not there is a god, or for that matter, even what a god is (or is not) – we have to be taught that

          It seems to me that this says only that children are born ignorant of the question(s)–which seems closer to “I don’t know” (soft agnosticism) than anything.

          Regarding your quote, if it is indeed a “demonstrable fact that all children are atheists”, please do feel free to actually demonstrate, and prove me wrong.

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          • archaeopteryx1 says:

            Ask any child who has been raised in an atmosphere where no discussions of religion (or the lack there of) have ever taken place, what a “god” is, and you will have your demonstration. OR, you can fly here, at your expense, and listen as I ask one.

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            • “Is there a god?”

              1. Atheist: “No.”
              2. Agnostic: “I don’t know,” or “we can’t know.”
              3. Child: “What’s that?”

              I fail to see how (1) is closer to (3) than (2) is. Then, once the question is explained so the child understands, wouldn’t his/her new answer be (2) “I don’t know”?

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              • Ratamacue0,

                The trick is the assumption that atheism is a negative belief about the proposition of a god. But that’s not necessarily the case. You’re thinking of “strong atheism”. The other, “weak atheism”, is simply the absence of theistic persuasion.

                I found this link helpful:

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              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Looks like you’re having trouble too, Matt – “I found this link helpful:” was followed by no link.

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              • In the notification from the WordPress app on android, there was nothing after the colon for me. However, in Firefox on my PC, it shows as an embedded YouTube video.

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              • Thanks, Matt–now we’re getting somewhere.

                I was thinking of the spectrum (theist – agnostic – atheist), not the plane ((a)theist vs. (a)gnostic). The plane seems reasonable to me, but I do wonder if that’s common parlance–or if not, if it “should” be.

                Back to the question at-hand, I suppose the default position would be pure agnostic, with a quick transition to agnostic atheist.

                TBH, that makes me uncomfortable. Having been a Christian for a long time, the word “atheist” by itself connotes “strong atheism” or “gnostic atheism” to me. Is that unique to belivers? Or is it also true of the world at large?

                I’ve heard at least one apologist claim that the use of “atheist” to mean an unspecified “agnostic atheist” or “gnostic atheist” is a redefinition of terms, against common (dictionary) meanings–where it used to mean gnostic atheist. (And they may not even accept the plane idea.) What do you make of this?

                Like

              • I had a real hang up with the word too. Connotations and definitions can be difficult to parse. But most atheists that I’ve heard in debates make the same distinction that I made… being an atheist is having no belief in a god, literally a-theist. But one can also assert the strong position that there is no god. There are two definitions in Dictionary.com that seem to hit both:

                a·the·ism [ey-thee-iz-uhm] noun

                1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.

                2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Interesting how much “…once the question is explained so the child understands” sounds like religion being inculcated into their minds. Sounds to me like the circle within which you move is a bit theistically overloaded. Within my own circle one would more likely hear:
                1. Atheist: “What’s that?”
                2. Agnostic: “I don’t know,” or “we can’t know.”
                3. Child: “What’s that?”

                Like

              • archaeopteryx,

                Interesting how much “…once the question is explained so the child understands” sounds like religion being inculcated into their minds.

                I meant so he understands the question–not to nudge him toward an answer. (i.e. “Some people think…”)

                Sounds to me like the circle within which you move is a bit theistically overloaded.

                I’d say “moved”, but otherwise that seems like a fair assessment.

                Within my own circle one would more likely hear:
                1. Atheist: “What’s that?”
                2. Agnostic: “I don’t know,” or “we can’t know.”
                3. Child: “What’s that?”

                This reads to me like you’re being coy. But I hold that position weakly.

                Like

              • Matt,

                Regarding the dictionary definitions of atheism, it seems to me that it only includes weak (agnostic) atheism if “disbelief” includes “lack of belief”. By connotation, it seems to me that it doesn’t, but I’m not sure.

                Like

              • I think these discussions ultimately are unresolvable, because people choose their own definitions. Even the experts don’t necessarily agree. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “atheist” describes a person who does not believe that God or a divine being exists. which is a little ambiguous, but tends towards the “lacking belief” definition. But the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.” Because of its association with Stanford University, I regard the Stanford Encyclopedia as the most authoritative, but that is a personal assessment.

                If a person just “lacks belief” in God or gods then they do not agree with the proposition: “God or gods exist.” So I think it fair to ask if they would agree with the statement “No God or gods exist.” If they agree with that, then clearly their belief is not neutral, and they can reasonably be asked to explain their evidence for agreeing with that statement. If they also disagree with the latter statement, then they are truly neutral and cannot be reasonably asked for evidence for they have no belief either way.

                Another approach is the practical test of how strongly a person argues. If a person argues vehemently against belief in God, but not against disbelief, that is a fair indication they are not in the neutral position.

                I find most atheists are not in the neutral position.

                Like

        • Arch, that’s a great quote, and one I’ve seen before somewhere, but without a source cited. Thanks for that.

          Like

        • “None of us are born with any smattering of whether or not there is a god, or for that matter, even what a god is (or is not) – we have to be taught that”

          Hi Arch, do you have any good scientific evidence for this statement?

          Like

        • Arch, anthropology clearly demonstrates that cultures develop some kind of belief in gods. This is the natural tendency. But, this fact is totally irrelevant.

          What I mean by the default being agnosticism is saying that the rational starting position is to require that the burden of proof be assigned to both sides. If you claim there is no god, then you must bear the burden of proof and likewise if you claim there is one.

          This differs from scientific method which tries to demonstrate cause and effect by performing an experiment with the assumption that there is no effect (null hypothesis). This can ONLY be done because the factor in question can be controlled for in an experiment.

          This also differs from US law court cases in which the burden of proof is assigned to the prosecution. We are “innocent until proven guilty”.

          The question of deity cannot be controlled for in an experiment and is not a court case which we assign the burden of proof to one side to spare innocents from being punished. It is an open ended question for which the most rational starting point is to assume that one does not know for sure whether a god exists. If one does exist or does not exist, this must be proven either way.

          How does that sound to you?

          Like

          • archaeopteryx1 says:

            How does it sound? It sounds like you’re trying to sow seeds of doubt, THAT’s how it sounds.

            I have no idea what a god is, so if you want ME to believe in one, you’ll need to define it, prove it exists, prove its existence is significant, and then prove that yours is any better than anyone else’s.

            How does that sound to you?

            Like

            • Boom.

              Like

            • Arch, do you not understand that I can reverse your directive thereby applying it to you?

              You must prove that a god does not exist, by whatever definition of god you choose. It’s senseless to use the word, god, without having some kind of definition for it, ignosticism may be a comfortable place to retreat during rational discussion, but many atheists (i.e., Matt Dillahunty) have been smoked out of that corner. If you want to hide there forever, so be it. But, suppose you start with a definition of some sort:

              What is you proof that this god does not exist? What is your evidence? Otherwise you should take the position of agnosticism and commit to an atheist lifestyle, in other words live as if there is no such god, without being so certain.

              Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                What’s a god?

                Liked by 2 people

              • What does an atheist not believe in? 🙂

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                That’s not an answer, it’s a question.

                Like

              • Janelle says:

                anaivethinker,

                Why must Arch prove there is no god? You are the one making a big claim. Remember, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Janelle, that’s a good question. Arch does not have to prove anything if Arch is agnostic. It’s claiming theism or atheism is true or more rational in dialogue that both require burden of proof to be met. This is what you need to understand: both claims are extraordinary and require extraordinary evidence. Now, if Arch is just agnostic and casually lives as if atheism were true, but likes to criticize religion for fun, that’s ok. Bigoted but ok. But, if in dialogue atheism is somehow the default rational position, you need extraordinary evidence to back up this extraordinary claim.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                And if arch doesn’t know what a god is, and you maintain there IS one, then you need to define it for him —

                And i assure you, I don’t.

                Like

              • Arch, you are shifting the conversation to arguing about the existence of a deity, whereas this whole conversation has been about what is rational default position. You have provided only one argument for atheism being the default position: “Because children are born atheists.” This is fallacious. Children are also born not believing in the North Pole, cancer, and stupidity. But, all three of these just keep on existing regardless. You need sufficient reason to believe or disbelieve in these, otherwise you should be agnostic about them. No?

                If you really disagree, don’t just say I am employing some kind of tactic, who cares if I am or not unless this is some kind of game? Why not blast me with an awesome argument? 🙂 I would happy for you to do this, you know. Just deal it out, argue, provide evidence, provide reason. No games.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Once again, you are incorrect – “children are born atheists” says nothing about belief – children, much as myself, are born with no concept of what a god is, and therefore are god-free, or, a-theist (without god, for those who don’t know what atheist means –).

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                And I see you’re back to your sycophantic comment openings again: “Janelle, that’s a good question.

                Like

              • Brandon, not necessarily.

                If we have a notable backlog of background evidence that god hypotheses are contrived or false, then the background evidence makes it defensible to simply assume that further hypotheses are also false, until and if they can provide notable evidences in their favor.

                We exercise this type of thinking all the time with regard to mythical creatures. I need not defend a dismissal of a new improved leprechaun hypothesis. Bigfoot, same thing. I need not take some contrived position that I am a Bigfoot agnostic. The frequency with which people have historically invented fairies, goblins, leprechauns, etc., makes it reasonable to dismiss Bigfoot as non-existent until and if some notable contrary evidence can be assembled.

                It also holds with scientific propositions, such as alchemy or whatnot. After many attempts to turn lead to gold, one would not need to remain agnostic on the possibility. We reach a point where dismissal is the reasonable default, not a coin-on-edge neutrality.

                Agnosticism needs not be mandated as the only reasonable position where substantial background evidence exists.

                Liked by 2 people

              • Janelle says:

                anaivethinker, no offense but my kids can do better than this. Years ago, they believed in the tooth fairy. She was most certainly responsible for the “why?” behind the missing teeth and the newly found dollar bill. One day they found out the truth. They didn’t say, “No way. Mom, you have to prove to us that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist; after all, look, my tooth isn’t under my pillow.” No, they knew the extraordinary claim had been theirs; and with some sadness accepted the known facts of the matter. And BTW, we didn’t tell them to be tooth fairy agnostics.

                You are wrong. Both are not extraordinary claims.

                Liked by 2 people

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                They got a DOLLAR? I got a QUARTER!! Damned inflation!

                Liked by 1 person

              • Janelle says:

                Ha! I knew you’d mention the dollar, Arch. 😉

                Liked by 1 person

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Yeah, but that was just last WEEK!

                Liked by 1 person

              • Janelle,
                Why did your children suddenly disbelieve in the tooth fairy? My guess is that they realized that an equally possible explanation is that mommy is lying and she took the tooth. They did not magically come to knowledge that tooth fairies do not exist. If they somehow knew this, it would be extraordinary. As individuals we get a sense that the tooth fairy explanation is inferior and contrived, and as a society we dogmatically reject the existence of tooth fairies. We don’t consider them to exist, we don’t act as if they exist, but we don’t claim to know they don’t exist because this is extraordinary.

                Well, maybe “extraordinary” is not the best word. Maybe we should say “odd and unjustified”. It’s as if I went around saying, “I know there are no aliens. I know there are no ghosts. I know there is nothing supernatural.” That’s worlds apart from, “We should not believe in aliens, ghosts, or supernatural things.” At least we can think of reasons to disbelieve. It’s odd and unjustified to think that we have reasons to know of their nonexistence. We need a specific test to rule out the existence of an entity.

                So, where is the place between extraordinary and odd/unjustified? It is agnosticism.
                -Brandon

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                “”Truth does not demand belief. Scientists do not join hands every Sunday, singing, yes, gravity is real! I will have faith! I will be strong! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up must come down, down. down. Amen!
                “If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about it.”

                — Dan Barker —

                Liked by 2 people

              • Excellent quote.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                He’s just trying to shift the burden of proof – it’s an old theist ploy – Parsurrey tried the same thing on Mak’s site, until I challenged him to prove there is no other god but allah. I yawn at such tactics.

                Liked by 2 people

  23. Hi Matt, I’m having another go at replying, one question at a time. On April 6 you said:

    You seem to know of some argument for God’s existence beyond my exposure… what are you referring to in terms of reasons to believe? (genuinely curious)’

    I don’t think I know any unheard of argument, just the usual things. Put simply, I would say this. If there is no God, I’d expect there to be no universe, certainly not such a physically unexpected one. I’d expect no conscious beings, no human freewill, and I’d think that rationality and ethics would be based on natural selection (i.e. survivability) rather than truth. While I might expect religions to develop, I wouldn’t expect any claimed miraculous healing to be able to be verified medically. And I wouldn’t expect a person to live a life that Jesus lived, be resurrected and start the world’s biggest religion.

    I wouldn’t expect all these things because I think atheism is unable to satisfactorily explain any of them, whereas christian theism can explain them very well. So while I recognise that there are things that christian theism can’t easily explain (e.g. so much suffering in a world created by a loving God), they are really far less in every way. So on the basis of having an explanation consistent with the facts, christian theism wins hands down (for me).

    Like

    • @UnkleE,

      I could understand your inference to conclusion on such a background of supporting data. But I don’t think its really there the way you’re assuming.

      The universe is largely lethal to life, and life took a very long time to appear, with intelligent life taking even longer. Several very near all-life extinctions took place, and we’re here by the skin of our teeth. Not to mention the fact that we are here by a very gruesome and bloody evolutionary process.

      I am not aware of any medically verifiable miracles, so if you have legitimate sources for this, please share. But no New York Times Best Seller neurosurgeon type stuff, please. 🙂

      But my second contention is that “theism” doesn’t really mean anything concrete. It is very amorphous, and until it is well defined – like say, Christian theism – its pretty impossible to make much headway in discussing. My disbelief is with regard to specific religious frameworks. I could accept that there is a yet-undefined invisible being out there… but I must maintain that Christianity is still quite groundless and disconfirmed.

      Like

      • Hi Matt,

        I didn’t expect you to agree – not immediately anyway! 🙂 But thanks for discussing.

        How does the limited habitat for humans or the time for life to appear say anything about whether God set it up? I can’t see any logical argument that connects those things. And did you know that, granted the laws of physics, the universe couldn’t have been much smaller and still have life to appear? I’ve always thought these were among the weakest and most illogical of all arguments, and I wonder if you can offer any support for them.

        There are legitimate sources – I have some on my ‘Is there a God?’ website but I can’t post the link – though of course no study can “prove” the cause was supernatural. But a probabilistic argument can be made, and I have had a go at that on my blog (search for ‘nerd’ and you’ll find it).

        And why is ‘theism’ lacking concrete meaning? We know the meaning enough to disagree about it!

        Like

        • UnkleE,

          This is a textbook case. Theism, like faith, is a vector term for omnidirectional equivocation. You stated:

          “How does the limited habitat for humans or the time for life to appear say anything about whether God set it up?”

          On a generic theism that makes no specific claims about “god”, there isn’t a conflict. It could be a malicious theist god, for example. But this is disingenuous, and it plays the Christian/Theist sleight of hand, in which historical and textual Christian claims about god are set aside in favor of a “generic theism” to demonstrate a-la-Plantinga that there is no intrinsic conflict between the universe we see and “generic theism” (I’ll just call it GT, versus CT). Fine, fine. But this is dissimulating.

          Defend GT if you wish. Its nebulous enough to permit it. But know that any defense raised is not intrinsically transferrable to CT. The slides from GT to CT are simply equivocation.

          We have major conflicts between the universe we see and CT in two areas: the character of god vs suffering, and the specific ontological and historical claims of the text regarding the origin and nature of the world, which are correspondingly transmuted into allegory-that-once-was-considered-history. I’ll call this Once-History/Now-Allegory as OHNA.

          If you wish to defend CT, then you have to deal with OHNA honestly. OHNA indicates that a wide swatch of believers was historically quite misled about the texts, which conflicts with the character claims of CT’s god portrait. And the actual historical development of our world and species imply something other than a benevolent god, who, given unlimited options, could by definition have brought life into being without suffering (per the historically understood portrait of the OT).

          If you have a coherent defense, I’d love to hear it. But if this is all going to be OHNA and GT/NT slides, then there’s no reason to waste our time.

          Like

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      I had an afterthought, and wanted to reply to something Brandon said, but there was no reply button beneath his comment, so I’ll have to post it here and hope it makes sense. He said:

      “Arch, you are shifting the conversation to arguing about the existence of a deity, whereas this whole conversation has been about what is rational default position. You have provided only one argument for atheism being the default position: ‘Because children are born atheists.’ This is fallacious. Children are also born not believing in the North Pole, cancer, and stupidity. But, all three of these just keep on existing regardless. You need sufficient reason to believe or disbelieve in these, otherwise you should be agnostic about them. No?”

      He is confusing disbelief with unbelief. By definition, disbelief involves rejection of a belief – a child is not born rejecting a belief in the North Pole, cancer or stupidity, because it has no knowledge that anyone contends that those things exist, holds no knowledge of them in its mind, and thus, cannot reject a belief that they exist – instead, it holds an unbelief in them, as it harbors no reason to either believe nor disbelieve in them.

      Now Brandon, being – well, Brandon, will likely attempt to contend that that constitutes agnosticism, because he is striving mightily to move the burden of proof to the 50-yard line, but agnosticism involves viewing a contention and admitting to having insufficient knowledge or evidence to reach a conclusion one way or another, regarding that contention, but I maintain that one, such as a child, holding no such contention, nor possessing even any awareness of such a contention, cannot possibly be agnostic regarding that particular subject.

      Like

      • Well stated Arch

        Like

        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          Coming from the Master of Stating-Things-Well, high praise indeed —

          Liked by 1 person

          • LOL.

            I had a similar exchange with someone on the question of objective moral ontology the other day. I think much could be resolved by clarifying the meaning of four terms:

            1. Absolute
            2. Objective
            3. Subjective
            4. Relative

            If those are sorted, most of the issues tend to melt away, much like your distinction of unbelief and disbelief, or atheist and agnostic.We would also be well served if questions of god’s existence were handled more like questions of any other object’s existence, rather than as binary logical reductions. We don’t handle any other knowledge claims in this way, mostly because we all got past the old medieval strictures of thought long ago, but they are held onto in theology. There’s nothing else.

            Like

            • Re knowledge claims, would e.g. theoretical physics or cosmology stand as any sort of counter examples?

              Like

              • Rata,

                Not quite sure how you mean – could you restate? Theoretical physics and cosmology are both fields validated on preponderance of evidence, statistical certainties, 6-sigma confidences, etc. Math is math, but validating that the math correctly fits observation remains dominated by evidence bases just like the other sciences. Is that how you were meaning it?

                Like

  24. absence of any measured impacts of said deity via prayer, miracle, etc”

    On the contrary, there is some very good evidence for this (and I am just beginning to scratch the surface on this one). I could give youme references if you wanted them.

    on what basis of evidence can you make “the big claim” that those texts are divinely inspired?”

    I haven’t made that claim in any of my reasoning about God. I base my thinking on the historical evidence as concluded by the most respected secular scholars. I only come to a view about the Bible’s inspiration after I find reason to believe in God & Jesus.

    by what criteria can the texts of Christianity be considered divinely sourced, and yet by which the texts of other faiths will come up as false?’

    I don’t necessarily claim that all the other texts are false. I accept the views of the best historians about whether Muhammed existed and broadly did and said the things attributed to him; likewise the Buddha and Baha’u’llah, just as I do for Jesus. I draw my conclusions from that. And to grossly simplify, even if I accepted as totally true every one of those scriptures, that would still lead to the conclusion that Jesus was a higher and truer revelation than those other gentlemen.

    So the argument should be based on the falsifiable criteria of genuine historical evidence, and on that basis, Jesus belief is well justified (in my opinion).

    Like

    • @UnkleE,

      OK, then let us try a litmus test.

      I have equal authority and spiritual insight as Paul and John. What I say has as much doctrinal and spiritual authority as what they said.

      Do you agree?

      Like

      • Hi Matt, I don’t think that’s much of a litmus test really.

        1. Historians tell us Paul was alive at the time, knew Jesus’ brother and other disciples, and truly wrote many of the books attributed to him. I don’t think you pass any of those tests.

        2. John is a little more problematic, but we know the author of John wrote before the end of the first century and used sources (whether his own memory or others’) that go right back to the time of Jesus, that the broad outline of his gospel is the same as several other sources that are much earlier, and that he reflected to some degree the thinking of the second generation of christians. Again, you fail those criteria.

        3. Their doctrinal and spiritual authority rest on their historical credibility, their association with and acceptance by other early followers of Jesus, their position as apostles and the quality of their ideas.
        Again, you miss out.

        4. Almost 2000 years later, their writings are still with us and influence billions of people. Most people who try to live according to their ideas find that it works well for them, though of a course a few do not. Will your blog (or mine) still be around and influential in 2 millennia?

        I don’t mean to be nasty, just answering your question. So where do we go from here?

        Like

        • UnkleE,

          It was a litmus test, meant to check two things, and it worked.

          The first thing it was meant to check was whether you consider the texts to have some authority and spiritual insight beyond what a normal person (me) can generate. Your answer says that they do, and that what Paul says carries more weight than what I say. In short, on your answer, the texts do seem to carry special meaning or weight where theology and spiritual truth are concerned.

          The second thing it was meant to check is what criteria you personally use to evaluate such things. I’m going to summarize what I see in your four points here:

          A. Historical proximity (points 1-3). “If you know somebody who knew Jesus, your writings have more spiritual authority and accuracy.”

          B. Longevity of influence (point 4). “If what you write influences a lot of people for a long time, it must have been spiritually authoritative and accurate.”

          So, I’m not concerned about you being nasty… I’m just waiting for a legitimate criteria by which to judge spiritual authority and accuracy where theological writings are concerned.

          Knowing a guy who knew a cult leader bears no correlation to accuracy or authority, though a person who claims authority on such grounds does incur a black mark on his resume by doing so. Further, Paul disagrees with you. Him knowing somebody who knew Jesus is precisely not the reason he himself gives for having spiritual authority in his theological teachings.

          And on longevity, I believe the Jesus-denying Jews will have you handily beat there. And the Hindus will have Judaism beat. And while we are at it, perhaps we should talk about the divine insight of a Shakespeare or Ghandi, if longevity and breadth of impact are a legitimate criteria.

          But overall your reasoning is both (1) categorically errant and (2) logically circular… You are saying that the writers have spiritual or theological authority because of their historical proximity to the very leader that their writings are used to certify as legitimate. Category mistake. Circular verification.

          Again, I will make the nominal assertion: Paul and John were mammals precisely like me. My nominal claim is that Paul and John and me are no different where spiritual insight is concerned, and it requires no special proofs to make the nominal assertion. They were mammals, and absent any support for their statements, I will accurately label them as unverified conjectures in a wide ocean of theological musings.

          If you will assert otherwise, and you have, you need some much stronger juju than this muddle.

          Like

          • Hi Matt, I think this was a useful litmus test.

            The very first words I said were “Historians tell us”, and indeed what I wrote in my points #1 and #2 was based on historical scholarship – how credible the gospels are as history, how close the authors were to eye witnesses, whether other sources confirm what Paul and John say, etc. These are all things that historical scholars have examined and drawn conclusions on – that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul collectively give us useful historical information about Jesus and what his followers believed about him.

            Yet you trivialise all that historical scholarship into this caricature: “Historical proximity (points 1-3). “If you know somebody who knew Jesus, your writings have more spiritual authority and accuracy.”

            Then, when I get to #3, I build John & Paul’s spiritual credibility (which you asked about) on their historical credibility which the scholars affirm. Because they are credible historical witnesses to Jesus they can legitimately pass onto us what he said, and because they lived in the same culture and believed what he said, they can legitimately pass that on to us and interpret it.

            So my beliefs about Jesus are based on good historical scholarship while your statements about Jesus, here at any rate, are based on misrepresenting that scholarship.

            So I guess it was a useful litmus test, but I must say I am disappointed at the outcome. Of course I expected you would disagree, but not like this.

            Like

  25. Hi Matt, it seems that the problem was a link – once I removed that, I could post the comment.

    So now I wanted to ask you a question, please, based on your comment: “Atheism does not – and I do not – necessarily make a strong claim that no god exists”.

    There is a range of possible statements we could make about God-belief, for example:

    1. I am certain God exists.
    2. I think it is probable God exists.
    3. I think it is more likely that God exists than that he doesn’t.
    4. I think it is equally likely that God exists as that he doesn’t.
    5. I think it is more likely that God doesn’t exist than that he does.
    6. I think it is probable that God doesn’t exist.
    7. I am certain that God doesn’t exist.

    Whereabouts on the range would your current belief be?

    Like

    • @UnkleE,

      This looks like the Dawkins Scale… is that the source?

      My own view is that the Theist-Agnostic-Atheist scale isn’t the best representation. I think the two-axis model with Theism/Atheism on the horizontal and Gnostic/Agnostic on the vertical. If you’ve seen that diagram, that fits my understanding pretty accurately.

      On that scale, I would say that I am in the atheist-agnostic quadrant.

      But I don’t like the questions in the above because they all say “God”, and its anybody’s guess what that means. If we’re talking about the Judeo-Christian god, then I am a 7. If we’re talking about the deist god, then I’m a possible 4, with a heavy dependence on what the more specific claims about that deity are.

      But the reason I call myself an atheist (at last) is that I am without a belief in a god. I am an unbeliever in all the religions of which I am aware. Lacking a belief in a god(s), that makes me a non-theist, or atheist. It isn’t really a question of believing strictly the contrary, particularly for a nebulous entity definition. That’s why I prefer the two-axis paradigm over the single axis.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No I just thought it was useful myself. I have found that many atheists say they “simply lack belief in any gods”, which would place them at 4, maybe 5, but then argue with vehemence that suggests they are really at 6 or 7. It helps to clarify.

        So thanks for your answer, for tit does clarify. I have seen that two axis model before, I’m OK with it, but I think it is more confusing than helpful. It seems to me that, in mathematical terms, the G/A axis is highly correlated with the T/A axis, because G/A is included in T/A (it’s a bit like graphing xy against x).

        But notwithstanding that, your answer (4 for God and 7 for the christian God) explains your view well, so the exercise was worthwhile. I am, as you would expect, a 6 for the christian God and perhaps 5.5 for God generally, for I believe the historical evidence for Jesus and people’s experience of the christian God add to what we get from the philosophical arguments, etc.

        Thanks.

        Like

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      Again, I would have to add an 8th, not on your scale:

      “8. What’s a god?”

      Like

  26. “I’ll match the scientific evidence behind my anecdote, to the scientific evidence for the existence of your god, anyday.”

    So you don’t have scientific evidence then. But I do. Are you interested?

    Like

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      That would depend entirely on the credibility of the scientists, which I would hope would be greater than that of pseudo-Matthew, pseudo-Mark, pseudo-Luke, or pseudo-John.

      Like

      • Cognitive scientists from Oxford & Bristol Universities, Tsinghua University (China), Queen’s University, Belfast and the Univeristy of Michigan?

        Like

        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          That sounds rather generic to me – you don’t have to be so secretive with their names, we won’t tell anyone —

          Like

          • I’m not being secretive. I have specific references in mind. You have offered no science to support your comment, so I’m just wanting to check if you will accept the science if I take the trouble to present it. I’m not asking for carte blanche, just seeing whether you have a commitment to change your view if the evidence is in front of you.

            What do you say?

            Like

            • archaeopteryx1 says:

              I’m reasonably certain I’ve already addressed that question:

              “That would depend entirely on the credibility of the scientists, which I would hope would be greater than that of pseudo-Matthew, pseudo-Mark, pseudo-Luke, or pseudo-John.”

              Going to bed now, whatever you leave, I’ll get to in the morning. Don’t plan on losing any sleep over it.

              Like

            • archaeopteryx1 says:

              Amazing, unk – I resurrected myself this morning, and like a shiny-eyed kid, I rushed to the computer to see what unkleEasterbunny had brought me, fully expecting half a page of references, only to find nothing. I knew you weren’t real!

              And I should have mentioned this last night, but before you waste any more of my time, let’s be sure we’re on the same page – these references you offered but failed to provide, ARE scientists in some recognized and accepted field or another, who have confirmed scientifically that babies are born with a belief in a god, that IS what you’re saying, l isn’t?

              Like

              • Hi Matt, ratamacue0, archaeopteryx1 and any others still reading this thread,

                I said in an earlier comment that the scientific evidence didn’t support the view that religious belief had to be taught. Rather it suggests that religious belief is innate or develops at a young age. Children naturally believe in a creator God, an afterlife and mind-body dualism, and the specific content of religious belief is added to this basic core.

                A blog comment is insufficient to demonstrate what the science says, so I have summarised what I have found out so far on this topic in my own blog post. I won’t be discussing this further here, but I invite anyone interested in the science and in thoughtful courteous discussion to check it out at Is it natural for children to believe in God or do they have to be taught it?. You will find it includes the conclusions of scientists from all the universities I mentioned before, and a couple extra too.

                Thanks.

                PS Matt, if this appears, it seems that I can sometimes post links.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Ah, it “suggests“! Well, why didn’t you SAY so, that confirms it for me then! I’ll tack that up on the fridge door, next to my autographed copy of “The Ten Suggestions” —

                Like

              • This Harvard article puts it into perspective. No matter how you slice it and dice it — children, from infancy, look to their culture and caregivers for understanding and tend to accept the concept of religion and god as ‘truth’ even when it contradicts their own reasoning.

                http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news-impact/2012/05/why-do-kids-believe-in-god-but-not-harry-potter/

                And as I mentioned in another post — my best friend never thought about god as far back as he can remember, and neither did his siblings. The concept of god was not introduced to him during his upbringing and neither is belief in god generally accepted as ‘truth’ in his culture — hence a primarily atheistic culture.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Fascinating article, I’m surprised that Harris wasn’t included among unk’s panel of experts – no, not really —

                Liked by 1 person

              • Ache, thanks for taking the time to read the article. The thing about cherry pickers is that eventually the stains on their hands become quite apparent to others.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Oh, so now I’m “Ache”? Freudian slip much?

                Like

              • LOL — probably so. Between you and Brandon, I need a stiff drink, and I’m not much of a drinker.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                I responded to unk’s website article, but noted that it is “awaiting moderation.” So while awaiting, I thought I’d post it here, rather than risk adding to poor unk’s already overburdened traffic:

                How gratifying it feels to actually be quoted, even if it IS buried on a blog that likely will be rarely read! I suppose I should thank you for that.

                You stated:
                “It seems there is a broad consensus among cognitive scientists that the basics of religious belief – God as a creator, an afterlife and mind-body dualism – are innate. Some believe they are hard-wired at birth because of our evolutionary origins while others believe that early experience of life and the external world leads children to the religious predisposition.”

                I maintain that we should correct that to say, “It seems there is a broad consensus among (certain, hand-picked) cognitive scientists that….”

                I’ve already demonstrated, on Matt’s blog, that Christian Justin Barrett leaps to tall, unfounded conclusions in a single bound, and therefore cannot be considered as a credible source.

                Olivera Petrovich did, in fact, use a cross-cultural comparison (British and Japanese children), and found a belief she claims is inherent that a perceived agency is responsible for the existence of things, but this study was done among children of an age in which a large percentage of their lives are lived in a world of the imagination – American children straddle a broomstick, and suddenly, they’re riding a magnificent steed across a prairie; they’ve been known to yank out their own teeth, so the Tooth Fairy can overnight, compensate them for them; they leap out of bed on Christmas morning, to see what Santa Claus has left, and rivet their eyes to the ground to find the eggs the Easter Bunny has hidden for them to find. It’s a world populated with imaginary friends, but I’ve not noticed a “god” widely mentioned in the research above, as being one of them. Of course, no child can imagine something coming into being without a cause – how many intelligent adults truly understand the concept that the universe – the “Big Bang,” if you will – actually originated from nothing (i.e., quantum fluctuations)? That, totaled, the sum of all of the positive and negative energy in the entire universe, is equal to zero?

                I noticed that all of these children are of a verbal age, and I see no evidence that any of them were reared in a vacuum in which they had never heard of the concept of a god. I also saw no indication of studies done on pre-verbal children, that would indicate that children are actually BORN with an inherent belief, leaving the conclusions reached applicable only to children above a certain, and certainly verbal, age.

                You also cited studies indicating that children believe in an afterlife of some sort. Although this is admittedly anecdotal evidence, I recall, at five, learning that a young cousin had died. I vividly remember the shock of realizing that children could die at all – did that mean that I could die as well? My mother was honest when I asked, she said, “Yes, but not for a long, long time.” So far, so good —

                My point being that it shouldn’t surprise anyone to find that children in general can’t imagine a time when they would cease to exist – after all, they’ve existed all of their lives, haven’t they?

                Keleman and Bloom mention, “evolved components of the human mind tend to lead people towards religiosity early in life.” “Bloom sees several evolutionary causes that lead to religious belief.” I couldn’t help noticing that in December, 2008, he came out with an article entitled, “Free Will: Praying for Atheists,” which would give one cause to wonder just how unbiased his research might be.

                You further state that, “Like Bloom and Keleman, Hood believes this propensity to religious belief is a result of how our brains evolved.”

                Both of these authorities, then, share a common belief that evolution plays a great part in any belief in a being greater than ourselves. I’d like to offer a suggestion as to where that belief might just possibly have sprung:

                Liked by 1 person

              • Arch,

                I approved the comment when it first came through. Then when you emailed, I attempted to reply to you from gmail and it bounced – again, as before. However, I unapproved and then re-approved your post. If you still do not see it, let me know.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Matt, not clear what you’re talking about, but I was saying that my article was in moderation on unk’s site, not yours – I said I was posting it here while I was waiting. I haven’t known you to use moderation since I first came on board.

                Like

              • Oh, sorry. Yesterday or so you posted something with 3-4 links, and it was pending approval because of the sheer number of links inside it. I thought you were referring to that.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                No, no – I KNEW that that one would trigger the spam filter, and in fact, noted (to myself) just a short time later, that it was out of moderation.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                I couldn’t help noticing that Ark earlier commented that he had been banned from unk’s website. Before the “giant pimple” remark, I was willing to let that pass without a reply, but upon further consideration, I find I must add – one would think he would have become accustomed to that by now —

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Actually, as I was posting that, I was musing to myself that the video practically begged for Neuro to pop in with some correlation to dopamine (LUVS me some dopamine!), but much like unk’s moderating, that hasn’t happened yet —

                Like

              • UnkleE, indeed it did appear. Links tend to, most of the time. I wonder if perhaps WP is filtering against specific URLs that have caused trouble in the past?

                Like

            • archaeopteryx1 says:

              Sorry, meant to say, “isn’t it?” – the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.

              Like

  27. archaeopteryx1 says:

    I applied common sense, if THAT’s what you mean – you should try it sometime —

    Like

  28. So, no scientific evidence??

    Really, I adore comments like this; tinged with an asinine flavour that has that smug gloating attitude behind it.
    Very scientific. What the believer , once again, vainly tries to assert is:
    See, the nasty atheist is caught short again. Er…no. Not at all as a matter of fact.
    The believer just makes himself (in this case) look rather silly; especially as the god he genuflects to is not quite the same as the one the “others” bow and scrape to now is it, hmmm?

    So, substitute god for Whiskey Sour and ask a child who has never been exposed to Jack Daniels or any other brand of such nectar and ask the same question.

    Like

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      I’m still waiting for unkleEasterbunny’s gift of a panel of experts who can testify to a newborn’s knowledge of a god. I expected it to be on my pillow when I resurrected myself this morning, but I guess he was out bowing and scraping to a dead guy, who likely never existed.

      Like

      • Remember that Dianna Ross song? ”And I’m still waiting…..”

        Like

      • I am sometimes loathe to preempt, Arch but this will give you an idea….
        http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/interesting/do-children-naturally-believe-in-god/#more-751

        Like

        • Just want to preempt, too, as to not give any religious fanatic a toe hold on the link you posted. It states in the article that religion has been shown to promote well being — but fails to address what kind of religion and whether someone says they are ‘born again’ or had a religious experience. If it’s authoritarian religions or denominations, i.e., Abrahamic, that promote fear, then there’s going to be problems, such as atrophied hippocampus. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0017006

          And based on the study it may just explain why atheist tend to not fair as well, as they tend to encounter a lot of stress being unbelievers. Also wanted to mention that religion promotes community, and I’ve read studies regarding why women attend church more than men, and it’s because of community — and this also benefits children.

          I realize you were pointing out that children have the propensity to believe, and I think that Daniel Bennett and others have theorized quite well why that is. Christians use this as proof that there is a god. I should also note that my best friend is from Denmark. I’ve known him since 2007. He told me that he never once gave god a second thought when he was a kid. His siblings were the same way. All very well adjusted citizens of their country. He’s never prayed a day in his life. So, it is my opinion that environment play a big role.

          Like

          • You will have noted, I hope , I was critical of the post, if you scrolled down through the comments.
            I think studies like this suck. and sadly, unklee presents all his posts is such a fashion that is highly selective…so much so my teeth ache.
            He is also wont to back out when he knows full well his argument has lost all merit, though he will never admit to this.
            His interactions are all very similar and involve ‘consensus’ , experts, and ‘We can conclude, therefore…’
            Though similar experts on the other side of the fence are often disregarded. Finkelstein for example, and Carrier ( because Carrier doesn’t have a ”proper job”, apparently which makes his other qualifications unsuitable)

            Like

            • Perhaps I need some clarification, Ark. I thought you were countering Arch and his comment that children are born atheists.

              Like

              • Good, god NO!
                I agree with Arch 100%
                The link I provided was to alert Arch what ”experts” unklee was going to lay on the table hence my Jack Daniels analogy …and Barrett is a Christian.
                This is how he carefully frames his arguments.

                You must read his blog…He has banned me .

                it will make your teeth hurt.

                Like

              • Whew — OK. 😀 Apologies for the misunderstanding I know that you and Arch have had some ‘words’ between each other in the past, so wasn’t quite sure where you were coming from with this. I got a little confused I think when you said “I sometimes loathe to preempt”. Thanks for the clarification.

                Like

              • Words!! !
                Hell, he is a giant pimple on the bum of reason. My Arch nemesis.
                I am convinced he is really Donny Osmond in disguise. He still blames me for getting him /us kicked off of Chia-Alpha’s blog…just ‘cos he had the hots for her.

                Friggin’ pseudo-atheist-Catholic-Mormon blogger that he is. You are aware he is S.O.M’s Transvestite Auntie, I hope? They’re in cahoots….honest.
                Would I lie to you?

                Like

              • “I am convinced he is really Donny Osmond in disguise”

                Ouch. Can you go any lower, Ark? I say nay. Lol

                Like

              • 🙂

                Fortunately he never reads my comments and never lurks..so I am safe. riiiight!

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                giant pimple on the bum of reason?” That tears it! You…you talk funny!
                (Guess I told HIM!)

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                US?!! WORDS?!! US?!! SAY it isn’t so! Ark and I squabble in fun – sure, he got me thrown off a website (I was the good one!), but he apologize for that, and I was never mad at him in the first place, it just gave me an edge to pretend I was.

                Like

              • 😉

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                On the contrary, Ark was giving me a heads up as to what to expect in the way of evidence from unklEasterbunny.

                Like

              • I got it now, Arch. Thanks. Was having Ishtar Easter dinner with family, and I guess I missed a few posts. My bad. Been trying to keep up. Matt’s blog is rockin’ and rollin’ these days. You guys bring in the spice. As we say here in the South — Mmmm, Mmmm spicy good.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Speaking of spice, making some Jambalaya, with shrimp and jalapeno-Polish sausage next weekend, and Chicken Vindaloos the weekend after! Yum!

                Like

              • Yum, indeed. My parents live right on the Gulf Coast — and seafood prices are through the roof now. Didn’t detour them from having seafood for Easter dinner. I’m rather fond of gumbo, myself, especially if the roux is made right. Well, only if the roux is made right.

                Sorry for the OT, Matt.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                I considered gumbo, it was a coin toss – next time —

                As for the OT, hey, every comment boosts Matt’s stats and moves him up in the search engine ranks.

                Like

              • I know — but he’ll rope us back in every once in a while, which I can understand.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Well, until I see the shadow of the lasso —

                Like

              • Lol — I meant to write ‘deter’

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                I know, I caught that, but being the gracious gentleman that I am….

                BTW, you wanna know how Ark got started up with me? Over on Mak’s blog, he ragged me for more than six comments, because I had left an “e” off of a word. At first, I had no idea what he was going on, and on, and on, and on about, but finally I went back and reread my original comment, and there it was, a missing “e”! A freakin’ missing “e”!!! That boy ain’t right —

                Liked by 1 person

              • Lol — yeah, I figured he was having a bad hair day.

                Like

              • http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/clues/is-it-natural-for-children-to-believe-in-god-or-do-they-have-to-be-taught-it/

                Here you go…his updated post on the subject. PLEASE go and discuss it…

                Like

              • Ark — thanks for sharing the link. I read through the post earlier today when unkelE posted it. I read the links within the studies. None of this is new to me. I shared my thoughts with a Harvard link here in one of Arch’s post as well as pointing out about predominantly atheistic cultures that do not indoctrinate their children about the god concept. I didn’t share it for unkleE’s sake.

                I have been following this and other extensive dialogs with unkleE, and I personally don’t want to invest the energy with someone who clearly needs to believe in a god. It seems apparent to me that no matter what you share, it won’t sink in. I do not mean to come across as condescending. It just seems obvious to me after such lengthy discourse.

                One more note: Daniel Bennett mentioned that most people believe in the belief in god more so than god. And that we can see in other species besides ourselves that we/they can be driven to have certain behavior that serves no actual benefit to the one being driven unconsciously. He sites some excellent examples. Only need to watch the first 13 minutes to see a few examples.

                Like

              • Thanks , Victoria. Yes, you are so right.
                I am beginning to arrive at the conclusion that the , Brandons, SOMs and unklees of the world need to be politely, but firmly ignored.
                But the temptation…aaah! 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

              • Yes — the temptation, lol. But seriously, there is much benefit that comes from these discussions because other people are reading, and hopefully learning, so I do appreciate that people like you, Arch, Matt, John, and others take time out of their own lives to spread awareness and present the abundant information we have now. Perhaps 10 or 15 years ago we were not privy to this information so readily. We are now, so anyone who is presented this comprehensive information and still holds on to their beliefs with every fiber of their being — well — I find it telling.

                I have also come to the conclusion that Brandon is in the same boat with unkleE. SOM? Well, he’s just being SOM. 😉

                Like

              • They are a bunch, are they not?

                I was never that religous but never really doubted the historicity of characters such as Jesus and Moses. It was only after dipped into a bit of research about Moses that I discovered there was nothing other than the scribbles in the bible and the wild speculation from people like Martin Noth etc.
                And once I had poked this ant hill it has been a wild rid ever since.

                I learn things almost every day; things that one misses that are sometimes so blindingly obvious, yet so often sail right over our heads. And people like us are actively scouring and combing for info.
                Is it any wonder those on the peripherals are ignorant and often ambivalent?

                I was horrified to discover info about ACE schools.
                And they are here in South Africa!

                I can just thank my stars my kids are out of school…

                Like

              • Ark, I am stunned that ACE, which is like one of those parasites (metaphorically speaking) that Bennett mentions, still appears to be going strong. This is why I keep on keeping on with this subject. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t so much think that believing in god is such a negative thing, but it’s the toxic fallout that comes from organized religions and ‘educational’ systems like ACE that dumb our children down, using fear tactics and manipulations, and demand that children obey authority, and are pretty much forbidden to think and fend for themselves. It’s child abuse. There’s no getting around it, and I am disappointed in parents who are so steeped in their own need to believe in belief in god that they don’t realize the harm they allow to come upon their children. Leaves a stench in my nostrils.

                I’m with you in that I pretty much learn something new everyday; look forward to it and I never take it for granted. My past experiences — being duped by my culture’s belief system — has taught me a valuable lesson, and the experience has given me an even greater thirst for knowledge.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                “I have also come to the conclusion that Brandon is in the same boat with unkleE.”

                There may be hope for you yet, Pollyanna —

                Like

              • And you, too, Ebenezer Scrooge.

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Bah! Humbug!

                Like

              • *Pollyanna smile*

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Just too much to resist, isn’t it? I know —
                BTW – Cody (above) is the one I sent to your site for tunes; I gather he didn’t make it. My description of you must have scared him off.

                Like

              • Didn’t scare you off though. Must be because, like me , you have superior taste in music! lol….

                Like

              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                Well, that, and a fascination with the bizarre.

                Like

              • V,

                I agree with you on the time investment and it not being worthwhile. “What evidence can you present to one who will not accept evidence?” Or who moves the bar on evidence thresholds or burden of proof…

                Liked by 1 person

              • Matt, good point about moving the bar on evidence thresholds or burden of proof. Not all was lost in this thread. I’m sure there were others like myself who learned so much from you. Also, the icing on the cake was that I was introduced to a fantastic group — Quiet Company. Have been listening to them all afternoon. My thanks to both you and Cody. 🙂

                Like

              • “What evidence can you present to one who will not accept evidence?” Or who moves the bar on evidence thresholds or burden of proof…

                You do have a point. However, keep in mind that it can be useful for other readers to watch that process unfold, and for bad claims not to go entirely uncontested.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Concur!

                Like

              • “keep in mind that it can be useful for other readers to watch that process unfold, and for bad claims not to go entirely uncontested.”

                Ratamacue0, I couldn’t agree more. I wished I had been privy to this information during my deconversion. My deconversion process wouldn’t have taken so long, and I went through it alone and with no support. This is why I have the utmost respect for people like Matt who invest their valuable time and knowledge in these matters.

                Like

              • Oops, meant to write *cites

                Like

              • Jbars says:

                Neuronotes,

                “But seriously, there is much benefit that comes from these discussions because other people are reading, and hopefully learning” Yes! Exactly. Less than a year ago, I was one of these people. Reading discussions online helped me a lot during my deconversion.

                Liked by 3 people

              • Jbars,

                That is so reassuring to read. And congratulations. Deconversion is not for the faint at heart, especially if you were fully vested. Through the years, after my deconversion, I posted a lot of research on forums that I discovered while going through my deconversion. They were from lurkers — thanking me. One women shared with me that the research actually helped her dad avoid prison. She insisted that he get a proper medical evaluation. He’s fully recovered today after going through neurological rehabilitation. He had become hyper-religious after having a series of mini-strokes, and tried to kill his wife, (her mother), and himself. Thought god told him to do it. She said that had she not read the research I posted, and insisted on having tests done like MRIs and EEGs, they would have thought of him as just another madman (her words) and lock him away.

                That email has never left my mind, and made me aware that everything that is shared on this subject of religion, to help educate— has value — even when we are not aware who’s reading it.

                Thanks for sharing. 🙂

                Liked by 3 people

              • V,

                WOW – that’s an amazing story. Good for you. The one phrase I really, really liked from your comment: “fully vested”. Yes. Yes, we certainly were. 🙂

                Like

              • Thanks Matt. I know I may come across as a passionate hammer in some of my comments, and that everything looks like a nail. But that’s not really the case. I get red flags when I see comments, such as were posted in this thread, where a believer said that if the creator told you to do something you better do it, and puts it in caps. As you already know, I also lived with someone who became hyper-religious due to a neurological disorder, (my partner), before he committed suicide, so I know from first-hand experience the personality type, and how assured these people can be that they ‘know that they know’ the ‘truth’.

                I should also note that those who were or are fully vested in their religion, like you, me and Janelle were, is not an indication of hyper-religiosity — generally the result of a neurological disorder and/or traumautic brain injury.

                Liked by 2 people

              • I’m terribly sorry to hear of the tragedy you suffered.

                I appreciate your research contributions, and I’m glad you’re part of the community.

                Liked by 2 people

              • Ratamacue0, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I was reading on of your blog posts the other day, as someone had linked one of my posts in the comment section, and I was notified of this. I really admire your desire to question and weigh the information with critical thought. I also wish you the very best on your journey. I, too, am glad you’re a part of the community.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Thank you. 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

              • Hear, hear!

                Like

              • Jeesh, I should have proofed my comment to you, Jbars. I need to clarify. I meant to write that I received many emails from lurkers thanking me for the info I posted.

                Liked by 1 person

            • Jbars says:

              Neuronotes,
              Wow! what an incredible email to receive!

              Yes, helping to educate does have value. I’m a testimony to that!

              Thanks,
              Janelle (Jbars)

              Liked by 1 person

          • Once again, a wealth of information. Thanks!

            Like

            • archaeopteryx1 says:

              For some reason beyond comprehension, over(my)night, the Ark-man “liked” my comment (above) – my guess is, he just likes seeing his name in print. I DO hope that doesn’t mean he thinks we’re gonna start taking long showers together —

              Pimple!

              Like

            • Matt, I appreciate that. Dopamine hit. The hits you least expect are always the best. 😉

              Like

        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          Fascinating, his hero, Justin Barrett, leaps to tall conclusions in a single bound!
          Check THIS out:

          “…children across the world learn from an early age the difference between living and inanimate objects, that some objects care for them and respond to them, and that there seems to be order and purpose in the world.”

          I have no problem with this, the objects that care for them and respond to them are their parents and other loved ones, and the order and purpose in the world, is the order and purpose those loved ones bring to it. But then he leaps from that logical conclusion, to a more bizarre and unwarranted one:

          These and other facts naturally lead them to the conclusion that there is ‘at least one creative and intelligent agent, a grand creator and controller that brings order and purpose to the world.’”
          And finally, off the charts —

          “So it is natural for children to believe in a God who provides meaning, ethics and security, and to believe in an afterlife, and this natural belief tends to continue into adulthood.”

          I SURELY hope that THIS wasn’t his evidence

          Like

          • Yep…this is what you are going to get ‘hit ‘ with…..
            The arguments are so convoluted it does your head in.
            And why would anyone commission such a study unless they had ulterior motive?
            Just like the frigging Templeton foundation. It makes me sick.
            The, ”So its natural…’ quote has me reaching for the paper bag an spitting my coffee.

            Like

  29. archaeopteryx1 says:

    unklEgregious took his share of this discussion to his own blogsite (likely to increase his own traffic), where a commenter, One Skeptic, put him on the canvas for the count:

    “Those you engage in the main have different opinions yet it is evident throughout your blog, and the comments on other peoples’, that you display little interest in entertaining views that challenge your inherent belief which is based primarily on faith, not fact.

    “Your main goal comes across as merely proselytizing rather than engaging in meaningful discourse, and where your position is plainly in serious doubt, you have a tendency to adopt a patronizing and dismissive stance. This does not strike me as someone looking for genuine truth.

    “You already have your belief firmly in place and have not displayed an iota of genuine inclination to seriously challenge that viewpoint with open, balanced inquiry, rather you are continually seeking affirmation of faith.”

    It’ll take more than a BandAid to cover that! I suggest a full bodycast.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. archaeopteryx1 says:

    NObody’s gonna believe this — http://newsok.com/article/4568318

    Like

  31. archaeopteryx1 says:
  32. archaeopteryx1 says:

    When I was in, my dog-tag read, “Deist,” because in a country that prides itself on its Constitution, which includes a clause separating government from religion, a non-religious designation was not available to me.

    Like

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Michael Seidel, writer

Science fiction, fantasy, mystery and what-not

cas d'intérêt

Reflections of a Francophile

Two Wheels Across Texas

My Quest to ride through all 254 Texas Counties

The Curious Atheist

Freely Seeking Truth After Religion

Class Warfare Blog

I don’t want to start a class war; it started a long time ago and, unfortunately, we are losing.

Secular Wings

My freedom from spiritual abuse happened when I walked away from the abusers. My healing and recovery from the complex trauma of spiritual abusers, spiritually abusive faith and toxic religion happened while I was still a Christian and continues to this day. My deconversion came later after many many years of studying the Bible, Christian apologetics, cults and spiritual abuse. When I realized that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, the only honest thing I could do was to stop calling myself a Christian. What I write here, may be very different from what I’ve written in the past. It might also be repeats of the past themes. ~ Zoe

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Thoughts on History, Religion, Archaeology, Papyrology, etc. by Brent Nongbri

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