Did Jesus Really Exist?

jesus-thumps-up1The purpose of this post is to expand the on-going debate from an older blog posting, in which many constructive ideas and explanations were bounced around as to the historical verisimilitude of the Jesus story.

Armchair theologians are fond of recalling nuggets of received opinion that stand as unqualified proof that the Jesus of the new testament was a living, breathing single individual who really did perform miracles and preside over a ministry as not only detailed in scripture, but in the narrative of ancient historians such as Josephus.

These third party sources are widely sighted as corroborative proof that Jesus and the Nazarene, as a distinct organised group violently opposed to Roman rule, to which Jesus belonged, were known to and written about by independently reliable sources of information vouchsafed by references made in their extended works to other figures from antiquity, such as various Roman Caesars.

To that end, commentary from Nick, in what I have to say is one of the most succinct explanations of why these historical reference points are not to be considered as the hard evidence of Jesus’ existence as they are often said to be, asserted the following:

Most of the scholarly works on the Testimonium Flavianum agree that it is either partly inauthentic or wholly inauthentic. Origen was clearly familiar with the Antiquities, and writes about a far less significant brief possible allusion to Jesus via James, and yet he not only makes no mention of the Testimonium passage, he further characterizes Josephus as not believing in Jesus the Christ–totally inconsistent with the transcriptions of the Testimonium we now have. Indeed, we don’t have any reference at all to the Testimonium passage from any of the early church fathers until Eusebius, writing about three centuries after the supposed time of Jesus. So 1) the authenticity of the passage is highly suspect. 2) Even if it had been authentic, it would have been written decades after the time of Jesus, based on, at best, second-hand information taken from unreferenced sources of unknown reliability. And 3) As the story goes, the creator of a vast cosmos of (at least) a hundred billion galaxies comes to our tiny speck (after a few billion years) and actually lives among us for a while. Given the limitless power at his disposal, why are we having to scratch for a pathetic few highly-suspect crumbs of transcriptions of second-hand stories written long after the fact? Does that really sound like the modus operandi of a god? If he came to this planet to reveal himself, why did he do so in a secretive way that leaves behind the exact same lack of hard evidence that we typically have for personages of myth?

You can read the rest of Nick’s reply here, but PRETTY PLEASE WITH A CHERRY ON TOP reply in this comment block and not the original Greg Koukl thread linked here–which is too long and off-topic already. Thanks!

219 comments on “Did Jesus Really Exist?

  1. Just so those new can read the originating post that led Jim to the decision to create another thread, here it is:

    “Guys, blame it on my clinical impatience, but I’m not hard-wired to forever search. I confess, I’m addicted to Google (as Jim knows), to results, to answers. I’m not motivated by the intellectual exercise or the journey – I’m driven to actually KNOW the truth about the existence of God, outside faith alone (happy Jim?!). I want answers and I want to then confidently share them with others, PRO or CON. Perhaps I won’t like the answers if I’m being intellectually honest, but perhaps you won’t either (if you are too). Just to carry through a theme of sorts, the world never ceased being round when mankind believed it to be flat. I’m looking for the round truth.

    Since my last post, I’ve been thinking (that’s progress, right Jim?). If I could get to the bottom of just ONE thing relating to Christianity and its truth claims, what would that be? What would make a difference and be most convincing if I could find an answer (supported by solid Christian and non-Christian historical data)? Thinking it through, I settled on the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. If the Christian message was and is true, it all hangs on this pivotal claim, does it not? If Jesus was NOT raised from the dead, then there is no need to consider Christianity to be any more legitimate than Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Paganism, Mormonism, Islam or even your blessed atheism. If indeed it could be proven that Jesus was raised from the dead, it would distinguish Him from every other religious founder, none of whom were believed by their orthodox followers to have been raised from the dead. If Jesus was, he couldn’t have raised himself; dead men stay…well…dead. Somebody had to act upon Him, just as Jesus claimed to his disciples ‘Abba Father’ would.

    So, Jesus made certain claims: here’s who I AM, here’s what will happen, my Father will vindicate me, you’ll see me rise from the dead. Well, who could vindicate Him? Seems like only God. Wow, He then rose from the dead followed by multiple Resurrection appearances to multiple witnesses. What does that mean? That means what He taught was most likely true, so it just might be a worthwhile exercise to go back and examine His teachings. The New Testament writers provided just that, a first-hand credible eye-witness account for the life and teachings of Jesus. If He claimed Scripture to be the infallible, inspired Word of God, it seems to follow we’d be wise to take Him at His Word.

    Papa Jim, I respectfully submit we sharpen our focus within this blog to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and follow the evidence. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take the “pro-Resurrection” side. Deal? Not sure how big your biceps are, but I think you’d probably even let me win an arm wrestling match here.

    Sports fans, I seriously cannot think of a single better topic to debate that more pivotal. If you’re up to it, I am. If you’re not, why?”

    Let the debate begin…

  2. Okay, Nick, after a little research, I’m back like a bad rash. The fact we all have opinions is important, backing our opinions UP becomes even more important, don’t you think? So let me address a few of your “opinions” just to get the ball rolling (disclosure statement: I’m NOT an expert, but I am fairly proficient in research…so forgive me in advance if I point you to scholarly evidence backing up any claims or refutations I may present):

    (N) “Most of the scholarly works on the Testimonium Flavianum agree that it is either partly inauthentic or wholly inauthentic.”

    (T) Wrong. Most say it is partly, none wholly. That’s among scholars, not hacks… see Christopher Price’s article at http://www.tektonics.org/jesusexist/josephus.html for a rundown of which parts are considered authentic and which are not. Let me give you another source, http://www.bede.org.uk/Josephus.htm.

    (N) “Origen was clearly familiar with the Antiquities, and writes about a far less significant brief possible allusion to Jesus via James, and yet he not only makes no mention of the Testimonium passage, he further characterizes Josephus as not believing in Jesus the Christ–totally inconsistent with the transcriptions of the Testimonium we now have.”

    (T) Not quite. It’s only inconsistent with one line in it that is agreed to be one of the inauthentic pieces. The demand for a “mention of the Testimonium” passage is contrived. Ancient authors frequently alluded to works of others; in many cases they did not even name the author. If anything, the fact that Origen says Josephus does NOT believe Jesus is the Christ indicates that he was familiar with the passage as the scholars believe it existed in Josephus originally.

    (N) “Indeed, we don’t have any reference at all to the Testimonium passage from any of the early church fathers until Eusebius, writing about three centuries after the supposed time of Jesus.”

    (T) And why is this a problem? We lack references to countless ancient works until hundreds of years after they were written, and we certainly don’t have every line of works like Tacitus’ Annals quoted in other sources. You can’t make up the rules only to serve your position. Fair’s fair, right? Nick, I’d suggest you carefully review point 9 in the article by Price linked above.

    (N) “And 3) As the story goes, the creator of a vast cosmos of (at least) a hundred billion galaxies comes to our tiny speck.”

    (T) Oh please…this is a theological issue that has nothing to do with Josephus. Straw man.

    (N) “Given the limitless power at his disposal, why are we having to scratch for a pathetic few highly-suspect crumbs of transcriptions of second-hand stories written long after the fact?”

    (T) We aren’t. The evidence serves just fine.

    (JIM) “To that end, commentary from Nick, in what I have to say is “one of the most succinct explanations of why these historical reference points are not to be considered as the hard evidence of Jesus’ existence as they are often said to be,” asserted the following:”

    (T) To the end of that end, commentary from Christopher (linked above), bares a little more scholarly weight than Nick’s personal, succinct opinion (no offense, Nick). An appetizer:

    “THE The most important extra-biblical references to Jesus are found in the writings of Josephus. Although some have questioned the authenticity of the passages, modern scholarship has rightly recognized that one of them is completely authentic and the other, though embellished by Christian scribes, provides an authentic core of material confirming much about Jesus. This article thoroughly examines the authenticity of the disputed reference to Jesus, the Testimonium Flavianum referred to hereafter as the “TF”.” Nick and Jim, please read this article in its’ entirety…then we can continue if you’d like. Otherwise, I’ll be happy to link you to a “salvation prayer” if you’d like. ;D

  3. Was Jesus a real person?

    There are people who have 1) a nagging need to know the answer, people who 2)already know from faith the answer is yes, and people who the answer 3)makes little difference. I’m in category 3.

    Make no mistake: I am interested in evidence pointing either way, but because we are so far in the future, and because the bible was written 30 years after christ died, any investigative leads we may have in jesus existence may be bad ones. Think about the lifespan of people in that time… to write a book about someone’s life 30 years after they died is to include a mixture of false memories, hopeful memories, conjecture, etc.

    If he’s real… my Uncle Bart is real but his stories about how he tackled a bear in the woods and came away with a scratch is not. What matters to me is not the existence of Jesus, but the religion and the rationale behind accepting it.

    Speaking of rationale and acceptance, Todd brought up the resurrection of Christ as an important facet of Christianity. It certainly is a cornerstone of the faith, and I say faith because you would need a LOT of faith to believe:

    That after being tortured, flogged, nailed to a cross, asphyxiating to death, having your ribs pierced with a spear until you bled, wrapped in linens (further asphyxiating any breath you might have had) and enclosed in a stale tomb for three days, that ANY human being would survive.

    Could Jesus have survived such an ordeal? If he never died and was just close to death, then he never REALLY died for any sins and none of us are saved. Could Jesus have really died and come back to life? No one has ever spontaneously restarted their brain functions without medical intervention. Why would the Bible include stories about his coming back? Well, why does any story include a miraculous ending? Its a great story. It’s a message of hope and inspiration to those who believed in Christ’s message. That whole message of love thy neighbor… great message. Christ’s disciples don’t want the message to end, so they keep the message alive by keeping christ supernaturally alive, and tie it in with the eclipse that happened during the crucifixion. Am I saying that’s what happened — NO! — but it certainly is a reasonable argument, and a more likely reason than … Z O M B I E JESUS!

  4. Here a couple more rebuttals: Format: T = Todd K=Kaybee

    T: So, Jesus made certain claims: here’s who I AM, here’s what will happen, my Father will vindicate me,”

    K: It would not have been difficult to predict that the Roman government was none-too-pleased about Jesus going around and stirring up the natives. It’s also not too hard to vouch for your sky-dwelling-Dad vindicating you when no one else can have two way communication with him. This is poor proof.

    T:you’ll see me rise from the dead. Well, who could vindicate Him? Seems like only God. Wow, He then rose from the dead followed by multiple Resurrection appearances to multiple witnesses.

    K: I think Jesus, if he was real, would definitely have died from crucifixion. However, I think it highly unlikely he would have risen from the dead, and you would too. I think if you got a call from the cementary that even ONE dead person had vacated their grave, you’d freak out!

    T:What does that mean? That means what He taught was most likely true

    K: No, it does not. There are several possibilities as to how people claim they saw Christ after his death, and none of them require the leap to the supernatural. 1) People made it up 2) Grieving people had a hallucination 3) Christ didn’t really die 4)Christ really wasn’t crucified — perhaps a look-alike died on the cross 5) Christ received medical treatment after being pulled down from the Cross or 6) Christ was pulled down off the cross early because a disciple bribed the guard to bring him down. … there are so many different way the story could have been told.

    T:so it just might be a worthwhile exercise to go back and examine His teachings.

    K: For his day, Christ had some good teachings, but I would say he also had some craptacular ones. Ask my ex-fundamentalist Christian fiancee, he knew of some doozies.

    T:The New Testament writers provided just that, a first-hand credible eye-witness account for the life and teachings of Jesus.

    K: They provided an account. Eye-witness accounts are not AUTOMATICALLY credible because they are too easily falsified. For example, everybody agree that a leprachaun just appeared on the screen, but Jim missed it by logging in 10 minutes too late. Dammit Jim you missed the leprachaun! We all saw it! And now Jim has missed the leprachaun forever. Sorry jim.

    T:If He claimed Scripture to be the infallible, inspired Word of God, it seems to follow we’d be wise to take Him at His Word.

    K: I guess this is the biggest flaw: you never ever ever take people at their word. That’s how people in Nigeria make money from email scams. That’s how gullible gets written on the ceiling. That’s how people make money off ponzi (sp?) schemes. And that’s how magicians get you to believe that they’re using magic, not mirrors or slight-of-hand. You know better than to believe any of these things ‘on their claims’. Even with magic, where you see it happen before your eyes, you think, ‘there has to be a trick to it’. Why suspend logical reasoning at the doorstoop of religion?

  5. btw – i go back to work tomorrow, so i may disappear for awhile. i trust you’ll all carry on the torch of conversation. :-D

  6. Hi Todd,
    I see we’re on to a new challenge. At least this one holds the possibility of being relatively short.

    (T) What would make a difference and be most convincing if I could find an answer (supported by solid Christian and non-Christian historical data)? Thinking it through, I settled on the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.

    (N) So, I take it you prefer to skip right over establishing that the Jesus character described in the Bible actually existed, and go straight for the Resurrection story. Interesting approach. When you say “solid” Christian sources, were you planning to use stories from the Bible to confirm the truth of stories from the Bible?

    But yes, by all means, let’s have a look at that non-Christian historical data on the resurrection. I don’t recall ever having seen that before.

    (T) If the Christian message was and is true, it all hangs on this pivotal claim, does it not?

    Does it? As I understand it, there are some liberal Christians who read the Bible as metaphor, and I’ve heard that some of the early Christian sects, like the Corinthians and Carpocratians, didn’t include the resurrection. Would you consider the message attributed to Jesus totally worthless if there was no actual crucifixion, or even no actual Jesus?

    (T) If Jesus was NOT raised from the dead, then there is no need to consider Christianity to be any more legitimate than Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Paganism, Mormonism, Islam or even your blessed atheism.

    (N) Okay, but last I checked, Mormonism is one of the many varieties of Christianity.

    (T) If indeed it could be proven that Jesus was raised from the dead–

    (N) Ah, I think I see how this is going to go. Your proof that he was raised from the dead is going to rest heavily or entirely on the inability of anyone to absolutely prove he was *not* raised from the dead after his crucifixion (which would require acceptance of his existence and crucifixion). That would explain why you wanted to skip over the issue of whether Jesus existed.

    (T) –it would distinguish Him from every other religious founder, none of whom were believed by their orthodox followers to have been raised from the dead.

    (N) I’m pretty sure Horus, Krishna, and Mithras, for starters, were reputed to have resurrected–if you are only talking about central religious figures. But countless minor figures in many mythologies have also returned from the dead. (Didn’t entire cemeteries empty out in one Bible story?) Even in real life, there have been many accounts of people who were mistakenly thought dead, coming “back to life”, sometimes at their own funerals. And if you accept unsupported testimony, even Elvis has had a hard time remaining dead. Of the countless back-from-the-dead stories humans have had, I’m not clear why you think this particular obscure one should be so astounding, distinctive, or important. Did any historians back then find it noteworthy?

    (T) If Jesus was, he couldn’t have raised himself; dead men stay…well…dead. Somebody had to act upon Him, just as Jesus claimed to his disciples ‘Abba Father’ would.

    (N) So you take the view that God and Jesus were distinct individuals.

    (T) So, Jesus made certain claims: here’s who I AM, here’s what will happen,

    (N) This is the same alleged Jesus who claimed his second coming would occur within the lifetime of some of the people present back then? What happened there?

    (T) my Father will vindicate me, you’ll see me rise from the dead.

    (N) Or rather, you won’t see me rise from the dead, but I’ll swing by sometime afterwards.

    (T) Well, who could vindicate Him? Seems like only God. Wow,

    (N) I thought the Bible described Jesus as a worker of miracles (raising the dead, healing the sick, walking on water, multiplying fish, converting beverages, cursing trees, etc). So with these miracle powers at his disposal, he was unable to vindicate himself? He couldn’t convince his own followers during his lifetime? I mean, I guess that’s how the story goes, since supposedly not a single one of his own disciples sat watch for his resurrection, but still, isn’t that odd?

    (T) He then rose from the dead followed by multiple Resurrection appearances to multiple witnesses. What does that mean?

    (N) I guess that would mean that out of all the possible ways God could have vindicated Jesus–and himself–he reportedly chose a method that would leave behind nothing but conflicting stories handed down from, and by, mostly anonymous people of unknown gullibility, unknown mental stability, unknown veracity, and doubtful impartiality, describing a modest miracle, performed in secret, which was wholly unremarkable for myth-men of that age and before. It’s not the way I would have gone, but then, I’m not infinitely intelligent.

    (T) That means what He taught was most likely true, so it just might be a worthwhile exercise to go back and examine His teachings. The New Testament writers provided just that, a first-hand credible eye-witness account for the life and teachings of Jesus.

    (N) Last I heard, we don’t have anything which establishes the identity of the gospel writers. Some of the epistles from Paul are signed, but he never claims to have met Jesus. And when the stories include bits like Jesus agonizing alone in the garden of Gethsemane, or flying around with Satan, is that supposedly all from eyewitnesses too?

    (T) If He claimed Scripture to be the infallible, inspired Word of God, it seems to follow we’d be wise to take Him at His Word.

    (N) So, we can trust what Jesus says because it’s recorded in Scripture, and we can trust Scripture because it’s infallible, and we know it’s infallible because Jesus said so, in Scripture, which is infallible, according to Jesus, and round and round it goes. (Name that fallacy)

    But if Scripture is infallible, why are there different versions of Scripture, and disagreements between books within versions. What about all the gospels and epistles which were deemed non-canonical, and destroyed? The process of gathering and eliminating manuscripts for the Bible continued through the synods of the fourth century. It’s curious that the infallible, inspired word of God would have to come about through committees, lobbying, wrangling, and power politics.

    (T) …I respectfully submit we sharpen our focus within this blog to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and follow the evidence.

    (N) If the “evidence” is going to be the Bible, then that would be a suggestion that we follow the Bible, in which case–been there, done that, no thanks. But if you think you have some objective evidence, or rational demonstration supporting the Jesus resurrection story, I’d be very interested to see what you’ve got. And if this is what matters most to you, then it would certainly make sense to put all your focus here.

    But I don’t see why this matters so much to you. The crucifixion story is all about redemption for the fall of mankind, is it not? But do you also require a literal fall in a literal Garden of Eden, with a talking snake and all that? If you can have an allegorical fall, can’t you similarly have an allegorical redemption, perhaps from an allegorical savior?

  7. The Jesus story was the last of the religious edifice whose shadow cast over my thinking, when I still described myself as Christian, lapse Catholic–circa 1989. It seemed there was an intellectual line of demarcation between articles of religious faith–the sermons, the ceremonies, the procedures, the incense burners–and the common denominator which many religions shared in the story of Khristós. I laboured under the assumption that there was a clearly discernible separation between denominational beliefs and an open ended faith, that the creator of the universe might just have decided to appear on Earth in human form.

    It took the best part of the last 20 years for me to pull the loose ends of that line of thinking together into exactly what Nick has described above. It may take Todd and others longer than they actually have left alive, to figure out what to me now is self-evident for themselves. This is a shame, but it need not be inevitable that a rational belief in the truth is ultimately doomed to buckle, under the weight of arrogant religious certainties. What is of ultimate significance to me, is that I was that Catholic, who went along with it all out of group solidarity and left the thinking to Church hierarchy–and yet I still got out eventually–so why shouldn’t the same be true for others?

    Kaybee, I know, was once up to her elbows in the cult of Christ and look at her now! Happy and superstition free for, what, 5 years and counting?

    The point is, Todd, we like you because you ask the questions we would once have asked, with a similar disinterest in the answer. You are no doubt extremely capable of turning that statement around on me–and with no second thought for the fact that it is not me, or anyone else on my side of the debate, who make outrageous claims, based upon received opinions about the slight-of-hand skill level involved in making water appear to turn into wine and why this somehow means we are all saved from the imaginary fears of long dead neophytes who pantomimed authority by obfuscation and unidirectional ad hominem.

  8. At the risk of stepping on Todd’s response to Jim’s question here, I’m going to say I think the most relevant question regarding the actuality of Jesus is whether we have anything which provides any more confirmation of the existence of the Jesus described in the Bible than we do for ordinary humans or for characters which we consider mythical.

    Would the lack of such confirmation *prove* Jesus did not exist? It would not be proof like a mathematical proof, but this is a case where such a lack of evidence *can* be the basis for a reasonable conclusion that no such Jesus existed.
    If we were talking about some obscure nobody, then yes, his invisibility in a barely-literate backwater province in a primitive age could be highly plausible. And in fact, we actually do have records of many people back then named Jesus, or Iasus, or Iasua, or Yeshua, or Yesup, or Jesuph, or Joseph, or Jeshua, or Joshua, or Jehoshua, or Jehosephat, or any of the other countless regional variations on “Joe”. It even appears that some of them had incidental resemblances to bits of Bible Jesus. Josephus, for example, writes of one Jesus, son of Sapphias from Galilee, who led an uprising of mariners and poor people, and another Jesus, son of Ananus, who for seven years cried “Woe to Jerusalem”. He was scourged and brought before the Roman prefect (or procurator) who asked him who he was and where he came from but he made no manner of reply and the prefect dismissed him as a lunatic. There is also a non-Christian account of an earlier Jesus, son of Pandira, a magician in Egypt who had five (if I’m remembering that right) disciples and who claimed to have been born of a virgin named Mary.

    So I’m just going to grant, right out that there may have been one or more ordinary Joes which could have formed the basis of some sort of composite character with supernatural embellishments which formed the basis of the Bible Jesus stories. But when we ask whether Bible Jesus was “real”, I don’t think what we mean by that is “did there exist some other person or persons with similar names but different attributes from the Jesus portrayed in the Bible”. What we want to know is whether, specifically, the Son of God, miracle-working, sermonizing, multitude-leading, government-challenging Jesus, as described, actually existed.

    I previously offered “there are no sperm whales in my closet” as an example of an easily demonstrable negative proposition. Well, if a supernatural cosmic God came to the settings of the Jesus stories, with the mission of teaching about and establishing himself, that would certainly be the proverbial very big fish in the very small pond, so any argument that such a God-human could have been there without leaving anything attesting to his existence (outside of the storybook we know him from) is essentially an argument against the divinity of that person or against his putative mission–either of which would negate crucial identifying qualities of Bible Jesus, as described. So if we don’t find evidence where there should be evidence, then either some parts of Jesus will have to be amputated, or his character will die a rational death from which he can only be resurrected by faith (a la Tinkerbell).

  9. From comment 2:

    (N) “Given the limitless power at his disposal, why are we having to scratch for a pathetic few highly-suspect crumbs of transcriptions of second-hand stories written long after the fact?”

    (T) We aren’t. The evidence serves just fine.

    Evidence isn’t one of those words you throw into an statement of unsubstantiated merit as if it re-punctuates that which has been axiomatically proven to be true in your favour—least of all when the only source of your proof is the very text you are seeking to validate, despite compelling reasons to mistrust the origins of that text.

    You wouldn’t—and I would insist that you were right to refuse—that a science text book be allowed to reference Flavobacterium as having been proven to have evolved in the last 50 years, simply based upon evidence only found within the works of those with a vested interest in developing Flavobacterium based products—yet that is exactly what you are insisting, over and over again, with no new reasoned argument to do so, that you be allowed to do with the facts surrounding the very existence of the central characters in the book which you claim to be infallible and unalterable despite that we have proven it isn’t and has been.

    A person of religious faith might live a perfectly good life and believe they are being judged from beyond the grave by composite characters from folklore. But the actuality or otherwise of those characters has nothing to do with the actions of the believer—whether they think it does or not—and what’s more clinical physiologists can prove it. Using procedural observation and evidential logic. Hence the actual definition of the word, meaning proof—not what you want it to mean, as in anything you wish were true taking primacy over that which you can prove to be so.

  10. Todd:
    On a house keeping note, wordpress automatically alerts me to a comment from anyone which is awaiting moderation if it contains more than two links—the anti-spam engine automatically blocks comments of this kind until I OK them.

    I approved a comment from you for publication but have yet to see it appear in-line. If this means it has been lost, I’m sorry about that—but I don’t administrate the wordpress server. I don’t want you to think it was deleted because that just isn’t what this blog is about and I guess after this amount of time you’d appreciate that—but if it doesn’t appear in the next 24 hours, I’ll message wordpress admin and see what’s going on.

  11. HOLY COW! I just now was able to log in. Let’s just gang-pummel the poor Christian, huh?! Gimme a little time to respond, okay? I have 20 answers to provide Nick on the other thread (which I’m working on right now) and then I want to respond to Kaylee from her posts, then you Nick, then you Jim. Not so easy taking three on at one time! I WILL respond, though, one at a time…refusing to cave in under the pressure of the onslaught of misdirected opinions.

    Jim, just a quick comment on your post 8…God agrees with you. He doesn’t have much use for religion. Remember, I grew up Catholic too…and left 10 seconds after my exit to college. Traditions, denominations, hierarchy, Hale Mary’s, an intercessor wearing robes…all that. Nope, Jim, defending “religion” is not my fight. It’s all about Jesus, the voice of God taking on human flesh. Just wanted to be crystal clear, my friend. I defend the God-Man Jesus, who was and is. The One who never hurt anyone. The One who came to save, not condemn. The One who took YOUR place on the cross. You know, “justice” is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. I accept the latter, you don’t. God makes the offer, you reject. That truly bums me out…it really does.

    What trait of Jesus do you take issue with? Decency? Justness? Morality? Righteousness? Holiness? Faithfulness?

    While Jesus’ existence can and will be proven, faith does come into play, too. Hebrews 11 actually defines faith, per God, “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” An amazing thing happens when you exercise a little faith in God…He’ll actually meet you right where you are. The fact is, a relationship with the living God is our hearts only true desire. If you don’t have Him, you’re going to be forever on your search…you will never be satisfied. Continue to argue with God and continue to live a life out of sorts.

    Sorry, guys (and gals), much to your chagrin, God really is…with or without your blinders on. Jim, you believe you figured out the self-evident. Sorry, but you are deceived. It took me 42 years to figure out the truth. Since you’re about 10 years behind me in age, you can still win the race. I hope your proudest boast in day is that you beat me to the truth that God is really, really real YEARS before I did.

    Until then, I’ll continue to shine the light on the truth, Jesus.

  12. Nick. I think Todd is rumbled. He’s doing that thing of distracting someone he disagrees with so they spend so much time dealing with their queries, they’re not able to be out there dealing with people who actually want to listen. It’s very sad, but I suspect we’ve been tricked into thinking Todd is one person—when his mix of writing style and interchangeability between receptiveness to evidence and regurgitation of utterly illogical shit would suggest he is in fact several people—an organised group of some kind who see themselves as doing the word of their God.

    I could be wrong. He could just be the strangest person in the world—possibly suffering some kind of undiagnosed mental condition—but either way I won’t be responding to him again. Here or anywhere else. The basics just aren’t sinking in; it’s pointless. Or as someone once wrote of Gordon Brown, he’s all broadcast and no receive.

  13. You know, as I sit here neglecting time with my family so that I might respond to Nick’s post from the other thread, I read your disrespectful posts, Jim, where you first call me dishonest, and then you accuse me of being a front for an organized group. I’m not used to having my integrity attacked, so excuse my heated response.

    What’s just wrong about this, Jim, is that you accused me of this before in our private email communications and I answered you. I told you that you were wrong then…I’m just me. I also told you in that email that I am very capable of conducting research. I try to give credit where credit is due (and have), but in many cases it doesn’t actually seem appropriate to do so (as I also said in our private email) because this blog doesn’t seem to be one where footnotes are required within every post. If I had that wrong, I apologize.

    Jim, just because I write something you don’t like, you resort to your bullying tactics. Well, as much as my heart has been into taking the “dissent” side to your view, I now question whether or not you ever WANTED an alternative point of view. I guess the best thing for this blog is for everyone to just AGREE WITH JIM. That’ll make for some great and engaging discussion, Jim.

    Now, out of respect to Nick, I am going to go back to my homework and WILL respond to his post, tonight. I respect greatly the amount of time Nick put into his response (doubly so as it has taken me almost the entire day to prepare a thoughtful response). While I do not agree with his position, and am working on detailing why. Nick, unlike Jim, throughout your posts I have never once considered you to be assaulting me. Thank you.

    I’m under no obligation to continue, under no obligation to prostate myself to your sniper fire, Jim, and am under no obligation to defend my integrity, the “myself” whom you think must be “myselves.”

    My post to Nick will be my last. Congratulations, Jim, you won. You’re a big, big man wielding a big, big stick. You’re king of the hill, the God of this blog, the smartest man in the world. You are your own deity…forgive me for giving you the credit that you might be interested in a running debate where more than just one opinion is considered.

    The Gospel According to Jim Gardner.

    The mere man who defeated God Almighty.

    We should all bow in awe.

  14. Sorry, Nick, but I had to post my response to you within this thread because Jim made the decision to block me from the other thread (for whatever reason, I don’t know…his movie).

    Take care.

    Todd

  15. Nick, I’ve tried to post my response several times. Apparently Jim does not want it posted. My email address is within the other thread. You can contact me separately if you’d like to see it. Sorry for the need to circumvent this blog. Very strange.

  16. Todd:

    For the record I have not withheld any postings to the blog or prevented anyone from posting whatever they wanted to post. There are currently zero posts pending moderation in my admin control panel. As and when any become flagged for moderation they will be allowed through without hesitation whomsoever submits them, unless they are clearly spam which the askimet filter has missed.

    Please see comment 12 for possible technical reasons as to why some postings may have vanished. If they have not materialised as of tomorrow morning I will contact wordpress admin.

    You remain free to leave comments on anything and everything and continue the debate on this blog as before—but for myself personally I refuse to engage with you further on these topics of debate if you are determined to ignore what myself and others have taken the time to explain to you.

    EDIT: April 2009. Todd is in fact now banned from posting. Please continue reading this thread to see why.

    You are belligerent to anyone who explains why you are wrong by passively aggressively restating the same received opinion you arrived here with some months ago. You have learned exactly nothing while telling anyone who has taken the time to read what you have written everything they need to know about what Christians like you really believe and why they believe it, i.e., anything and everything that you are told to believe by anyone who can dress up the same tired nonsense about magic men and revisionist history in new language and the vocabulary of born-again Protestant evangelicalism.

    I have tried time and again to encourage your opinions but you just don’t have any of your own. I am sorry if you feel let down and humiliated but this isn’t a chaplaincy, this is a blog about the tactics the same people who have brain washed you are out there, as we speak, trying to use to brainwash others and you are the living proof that they are succeeding.

    I genuinely wish you all the luck in the world—but that’s all you’ll get from me as of exactly now.

  17. Nick:

    I would respectfully ask that you continue the debate with Todd in these comment threads so that I might read them along with everyone else in the interest of open information—but if you do prefer to discuss this further with Todd via private email that is of course your prerogative—but please come back soon and remember that there is an open offer of a contributor post-enabled account on this blog for you at anytime, if you choose to accept it.

    Jim.

  18. Hi Todd,
    Mercy, looks like things got hot around here while I was away. And I’m sorry to see you felt under some pressure to respond quickly. I did not mean for this to cut into your personal life. I sometimes forget this is probably a matter of greater importance and personal investment for you than it is for me. I just had a few short responses this time, and then I’m off for a day or two. Maybe more.

    [re: my remark that most scholarly works on the Testimonium agree that is it either partly or wholly inauthentic]
    (T) Wrong. Most say it is partly, none wholly. That’s among scholars, not hacks… see Christopher Price’s article at http://www.tektonics.org/

    (N) So, Christopher Price is a Josephus scholar? And the eighteen Josephus scholars (and there are more) that Winter and Millar list as being “against authenticity” (they have a separate section for partial interpolation) in their book “The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ” (Excursus II, page 428), those are all, as you say, “hacks”? And when your Christopher Price reports “Feldman, surveyed the relevant literature on the TF between 1937 to 1980 and found that of 52 scholars, 39 found some portions of the TF to be authentic”–which would mean that roughly a quarter in that survey reject the TF entirely–are you saying those were all “hacks” which Feldman nonetheless included in his literature survey of people he believed to be scholars? Can you see why that might appear a tad unlikely to me?

    [regarding Origen’s lack of mention of the TF]
    (T) …The demand for a “mention of the Testimonium” passage is contrived. Ancient authors frequently alluded to works of others; in many cases they did not even name the author.

    (N) I’m making no demand that any of the early church fathers make reference to the TF. I merely think it is a peculiar thing that at least eleven of them discussed Josephus, but not a single one of them before Eusebius talks about the TF. For the past few centuries, it has been a passage of enormous interest and controversy, but back then, apparently not so much.

    (T) And why is this a problem? We lack references to countless ancient works until hundreds of years after they were written,

    (N) The supposition here is that the TF should have been of particular interest to the early church fathers, at least enough to call attention to the passage in pointing it out to other church fathers. And given the number of them who had exposure to Josephus, it seems likely at least one of them should have run across it. But I fully grant, it’s pure speculation how they would have felt about a historian’s reference to Jesus. Perhaps they were so up to their eyeballs in Jesus talk that they simply would have found it tiresome.

    [As the story goes, the creator of a vast cosmos of (at least) a hundred billion galaxies comes to our tiny speck…]
    (T) Oh please…this is a theological issue that has nothing to do with Josephus. Straw man.

    (N) Merely because you failed to see the relevance, doesn’t mean it was irrelevant. For the sake of any 3rd party readers who might also have had trouble following along, my response to Josephus as establishing the historical Bible Jesus had three parts. 1) the passage has serious authenticity problems. 2) even if you hold that some of it is original, it’s still hearsay from unreferenced sources written by someone who wasn’t even born during the putative time of Christ. and 3) even being as generous as possible, this passage isn’t remotely up to the task of establishing that an actual God came to our planet and lived with us for a while. At the very best, it establishes that Christians had become a noticeable sect. But how odd that a smallish cult should be more successful in getting noticed than was the God who started it.

    [Given the limitless power at his disposal, why are we having to scratch for a pathetic few highly-suspect crumbs…]
    (T) We aren’t. The evidence serves just fine.
    (Price) “The most important extra-biblical references to Jesus are found in the writings of Josephus.”

    (N) So I take it you feel the at-best-partly-forged, unreferenced, hand-me-down, hearsay in Josephus is sufficient to establish the reality of a God-man. I think that tells me something about the difference in our minimum acceptable standards for what would qualify as robust and rationally compelling evidence. But if you needed nothing better than this to convince you of the truth of Christianity, I can only say it is a wonder that you remained an atheist for as long as you say you did.

  19. I never ceases to amaze me how many Christians describe themselves as having once been atheist. The only conclusion I can come to about this, is that the definition of the word is misunderstood and used to describe someone before they were “born again”—which of course describes far more Christians than it does the minority, mostly American, who describe themselves as evangelical.

    Ultimately, of course, it’s understood that no one could recede from an understanding of evidence to a state of mind where they operate as if truth and fabrication have switched places—but, as I say, it does seem to crop up a lot, as if there is something inherently more appealing about basing the Christian argument from the standpoint of having once been God-less, rather than it being something they discovered of their own fruition on top of existing indoctrination. Interesting use of selective recollection the pattern seeking brain chooses to use. Highly evolved self delusion. Amazing, really!

  20. Nick, you’re obviously an expert in matters relating to Josephus, at least from a self-anointed perspective (anointed yourself using Del Monte, eh?).

    Unfortunately, your arguments are terrible. Perhaps you may…just may…read below and recognize that you just don’t know it all. Perhaps in not knowing all, you might just realize, even if it’s in the back recesses of your very thoughtful mind, that you may be (and are) wrong about the existence of God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.

    (N) And the eighteen Josephus scholars (and there are more) that Winter and Millar list as being “against authenticity” (they have a separate section for partial interpolation) in their book “The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ” (Excursus II, page 428), those are all, as you say, “hacks”?

    (T) No, they’re way out of date. Sorry, Nick, the book is by Emil Schurer, not Winter and Millar — and Schurer lived 1844-1910. The persons listed as “against authenticity” are from dates ranging from 1841 to 1966, with only two past 1929, and sorry — that list is NOT “Josephan scholars” (eg, specialists in Josephus, like Feldman and Thackery) but includes people with broader interests.

    (N) And when your Christopher Price reports “Feldman, surveyed the relevant literature on the TF between 1937 to 1980 and found that of 52 scholars, 39 found some portions of the TF to be authentic”–which would mean that roughly a quarter in that survey reject the TF entirely–are you saying those were all “hacks” which Feldman nonetheless included in his literature survey of people he believed to be scholars? Can you see why that might appear a tad unlikely to me?

    (T) Being a hack and being a scholar are far from mutually exclusive. In any event, you’re obviously unable to deal with the fact that scholarship on this matter has moved on from the position you hold dear.

    (N) I’m making no demand that any of the early church fathers make reference to the TF. I merely think it is a peculiar thing that at least eleven of them discussed Josephus, but not a single one of them before Eusebius talks about the TF. For the past few centuries, it has been a passage of enormous interest and controversy, but back then, apparently not so much.

    (T) Yes, you are making such a demand, and rephrasing it another way (which is what you have done here) won’t change it. You say it is “peculiar” but don’t explain why (I’m not interested in hearing it now anyway, as you’ve proven to be a fraud when it comes to presenting facts). As reconstructed, the TF contained nothing that any pagan or critic would have disputed about Jesus. The modern interest is no analogue; it has come about only because the idea that Jesus did not exist is itself an idea that has ONLY RECENTLY EMERGED.

    <<<<(T) And why is this a problem? We lack references to countless ancient works until hundreds of years after they were written,

    (N) The supposition here is that the TF should have been of particular interest to the early church fathers, at least enough to call attention to the passage in pointing it out to other church fathers. And given the number of them who had exposure to Josephus, it seems likely at least one of them should have run across it. But I fully grant, it’s pure speculation how they would have felt about a historian’s reference to Jesus. Perhaps they were so up to their eyeballs in Jesus talk that they simply would have found it tiresome.

    (T) Though you are trying to be sarcastic, you hit the nail on the head. There’s just nothing in the TF (as reconstructed by the scholarship) that would have served them ANY purpose. They did not have people who doubted Jesus existed to deal with. They did not have critics who denied that Jesus was crucified or went on trial, or even that he did miracles; critics like Celsus agreed that Jesus did miracles, but they attributed that to him being a magician. The TF offers nothing of apologetic value and nothing relevant to the concerns of Origen or any of the others. Distorting the truth is not a sport, Nick, no medals awarded here. Sorry.

    (N) Merely because you failed to see the relevance, doesn’t mean it was irrelevant.

    (T) It is thoroughly irrelevant to the matter of whether or not Josephus mentioned Jesus as a person who existed, which is all anyone tries to prove when appealing to Josephus. Nick, you can’t name even one scholar who has ever tried to use Josephus to prove that “an actual God came to our planet and lived with us for a while.” Not one. This is your own self-serving imagination.

    (N) So I take it you feel the at-best-partly-forged, unreferenced, hand-me-down, hearsay in Josephus is sufficient to establish the reality of a God-man.

    (T) No, that’s YOUR false apprehension of what is being argued, not our argument.

    ……

    OKAY SPORTS FANS, it’s over-and-out for me. I’ve made a gallant attempt to defend the faith and help you guys get out of your own way. Unfortunately, you remain blind and lost. I’m very sorry about that, too. After months of trying to present the truth, it’s obvious your hearts are hardened and you don’t want it. For any skeptics reading this (atheists, agnostics…even Christians who may not really know ‘why you believe what you believe’), I encourage you to read through all the threads within this blog relating to this running debate.

    “The truth shall set you free.”

    The evidence has been presented by both sides…you are on the jury…the decision is now yours. Upon review, you will recognize the defensiveness and close-mindedness of the atheistic position, especially relating to evidence provided COUNTER to the lie they stubbornly hold onto in an ostrich-like manner (that there is no God).

    A word to the wise…STOP ARGUING WITH GOD. It’s a futile, meaningless, self-defeating, miserable, tiring, hopeless exercise. He made you. He made the universe. He swings a bigger stick than Jim, Hitchens, Dawkins and all the other truth-deluded souls denying His existence…combined. They are wrong; Jesus was (and is) right. Judgment day will come. NOTE TO YOU: You really DON’T want to be in Jim’s camp when it does, I promise. Be condescending here if you wish…and go to bed tonight full of your self-absorbed opinion that YOU are God and He is not. Or, get over yourself and crack open the Bible to Luke. Just read this one book of the Bible and learn the character of Jesus and what he had to say about the truth. It’s amazing how many people DON’T believe in God by NOT reading the Bible. And if you want to hold the position (like Jim does) that the Bible was written by a bunch of illiterate goat herders, you’re a fool.

    If you doubt Jesus existed, died, was buried and was raised from the dead, do yourself a favor and visit http://www.garyhabermas.com. Invest the time to view the debates, study the papers, follow the evidence and come to your OWN conclusion instead of letting free(less) thinkers like Jim do your thinking for you. God is real. God is love. And yep, YOU can have a deep, personal relationship with Him. Your life on this earth is “but a blip.” Deny God, and spend eternity regretting you did. Accept His grace, and salvation can be yours. Jesus made it REAL difficult to be saved, too (not)…He invites you to “just ask.” Just ask…He’s so awesome! Imagine standing in line waiting to be crucified because you deserved it…and all of the sudden someone taps you on the shoulder and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll take your place.” And does. That’s what He did…FOR YOU…how about dropping to your knees and giving credit where credit is due, eh?

    Sermon’s over. God loves you. Jesus too. The Holy Spirit in spades. All you have to do is invite God into your life, accept that Jesus died for your sins, ask for forgiveness and repent. That’s it. And your life will change forever (and I do mean forever)…for the better. Being absent a relationship with Christ is miserable…just like your life is now. Being full of Him is unbelievably fulfilling. Try it, you’ll like it. Or don’t…pray to Jim instead…your loss.

    Alright, Jim…go ahead and leave a final post. I know you won’t be able to resist…you’ll want to lob the insults fast and furious in a very clever way, I’m sure (you are indeed a talented writer, I’ll give you that). Ready, aim, FIRE! Have at it, Bud…get out them stones and heave away. Then delete this thread, maybe, because I’m sure you won’t be able to publicly stand the scrutiny over the fact I’m right, and you’re wrong, in all matters relating to God.

    I’ll leave you with one last suggestion, atheists, read Psalm 94:8, then read the entire Psalm.

    I pray you all come to the right conclusion, and Jesus, the I AM, is it.

    Todd

  21. Wow…

    I would leave this post up just as proof of how ridiculous religious people get.

    I get being irritated that we don’t ascribe to your point of view, Todd — obviously, that goes both ways, as I’m irritated too that you asked about the resurrection and then went lambasting away on your ‘believe or die in hell’ rant.

    You won’t bully me to go back into religion, and I actually LIKED my religion from childhood. There are aspects of faith that do not make sense, and as an adult I became tired of ignoramuses shoving ‘believe or else’ bullying down my throat because the only evidence they had was the bible, which has been proven to be a FALLIBLE document.

    I stand by my initial assessment of you, especially with your sermon — you are not genuine, and you are not seeking answers. In full religious devotion, I asked questions and defended my faith at the same time. I even lived side-by-side in happy oblivion of some of my ‘compromises’ between religious reasoning and rational reasoning. I chose to live with those compromises but eventually found myself wanting clearer explanations, so I asked more questions, and deliberated more, and came up with more compromises. I thought you were on to something when you inquired about the resurrection, but I see where this has gone.

    If you need something to do with your time that will make you feel like you’ve spread the word of jesus, why don’t you go volunteer at a charity or help an old lady or something. Really, at this point, you’re wasting your time, because you don’t want answers, you want us to convert. Well, none of us are likely to be points on your church ‘conversion’ scorecard, so, i’d advise you go do something else.

  22. Hi Todd,
    It appears this discussion has become upsetting for you. Sorry to see that. I do usually try to give warning about the possible consequences of examining one’s basis for belief. But also usually, my warnings are confidently brushed aside.

    (T) Unfortunately, your arguments are terrible. Perhaps you may…just may…read below and recognize that you just don’t know it all.

    (N) I came to that recognition many years ago. As I’ve said before, an axiom of science is that we do not have a conduit to Truth, and perhaps you will recall my saying that I’ve changed my position many times before. It was only when I was a Christian that I labored under the delusion that I had a lock on Truth.

    [re: And the eighteen Josephus scholars (and there are more) that Winter and Millar list as being “against authenticity” (they have a separate section for partial interpolation) in their book “The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ” (Excursus II, page 428), those are all, as you say, “hacks”?]
    (T) No, they’re way out of date. Sorry, Nick, the book is by Emil Schurer, not Winter and Millar

    (N) Todd, you’ve previously complained that when you point out where someone got something wrong, you were given no recognition for that. Well, here’s some vindication for you. Yes, I absolutely misread my notes. The author attribution properly goes with the Excursus, not with the book which included it in later editions. This Excursus is the last revision (shortly before Winter’s death) from his 1968 article in the Journ. of Hist. Studies 1 (pp. 289-302). And sadly, my notes aren’t clear about the contribution of Fergus Millar. So yes, I definitely blew the author attribution on that reference, and it might have required an extra step for anyone wanting to look that up, so thanks for setting that straight for everyone.

    (T) The persons listed as “against authenticity” are from dates ranging from 1841 to 1966, with only two past 1929, and sorry — that list is NOT “Josephan scholars” (eg, specialists in Josephus, like Feldman and Thackery) but includes people with broader interests.

    (N) What makes a person a Josephan Scholar is having studied and published about Josephus. Having additional areas of study does not negate that. And how about that Christopher Price you cited? Is he a specialist scholar in Josephus, or do you have a different standard for your experts?

    (T) Being a hack and being a scholar are far from mutually exclusive.

    (N) In that regard, I find it interesting what a high percentage of scholars who hold the TF as entirely authentic also just happen to be Christians.

    (T) In any event, you’re obviously unable to deal with the fact that scholarship on this matter has moved on from the position you hold dear.

    (N) I hold no position dear on this. My current feeling on the TF is that it is an inauthentic corruption to an indeterminate extent, and thus untrustworthy. I don’t have a position on whether it was a whole cloth insertion, a total, possibly gradual, overlay of some prior passage which is now unrecoverable, or a multiple revision overlay in which some original bits may be recoverable. I was merely showing there are grounds for reasonable doubt regarding your claim that there are zero scholars who hold the passage should be rejected in its entirety. But the question of authenticity is overshadowed by the larger problem of being, at best, unreferenced hand-me-down hearsay.

    [re: the absence of early reference to the TF]
    (T) Yes, you are making such a demand, and rephrasing it another way (which is what you have done here) won’t change it. You say it is “peculiar” but don’t explain why (I’m not interested in hearing it now anyway, as you’ve proven to be a fraud when it comes to presenting facts).

    (N) And there it is. The sound of a mind slamming shut. But fraud… really? You mean because I got the author attribution wrong for the book (but not the Excursus)? Is that the basis for your charge that I misrepresented facts in order to perpetrate some insidious deception? Do you think I deliberately got the author attribution wrong because I thought that would be an effective cheat to somehow make my case sound more convincing? Or is it merely that I’m undermining the Christian “facts” you believe in–which you hold to be unquestionable Truth–which puts me in the category of malicious deceiver in your eyes. At least that I could understand. Christianity can be very like a drug sometimes–the feelgood worm in your head that hijacks your defenses for its own protection. When it is threatened, it whispers that you are the one under attack. (Sadly, again, been there, done that.)

    (T) The modern interest is no analogue; it has come about only because the idea that Jesus did not exist is itself an idea that has ONLY RECENTLY EMERGED.

    (N) I’m pretty sure the controversy is not so recent and not tied only to unbelief. I think it was Bishop Warburton of Gloucester who called the TF a particularly stupid forgery, back around 1770. And in matters of rationality, the recentness of an idea counts no more against it than the popularity of the older ideas counts for them. But you already knew that.

    [Perhaps they (church fathers) were so up to their eyeballs in Jesus talk that they simply would have found it (the TF) tiresome.]
    (T) Though you are trying to be sarcastic, you hit the nail on the head. There’s just nothing in the TF (as reconstructed by the scholarship) that would have served them ANY purpose. They did not have people who doubted Jesus existed to deal with.

    (N) And yet, they discussed the more insignificant and oblique Josephus reference to Jesus via James, and other Josephus works that contributed nothing to establishing the existence of Jesus. I leave it to the reasonable reader to decide how plausible it is that they would have had universal yawning disinterest in the TF allusion to their revered lord and savior.

    (T) The TF offers nothing of apologetic value…

    (N) On this we agree. But as obvious as that seems, you’d be surprised how often it shows up on apologetics websites.

    (T) Distorting the truth is not a sport, Nick, no medals awarded here. Sorry.

    (N) Again, I’ll leave judgement to the reasonable reader to decide whether I’ve been guilty of truth distortion. (Are you seeing yet why I would not take this to private mail?)

    [Merely because you failed to see the relevance, doesn’t mean it was irrelevant.]
    (T) It is thoroughly irrelevant to the matter of whether or not Josephus mentioned Jesus as a person who existed,

    (N) If all you wanted to establish is that Josephus mentioned some guy named Jesus, I’ll go further and readily grant that he mentions several people by that name.

    (T) which is all anyone tries to prove when appealing to Josephus. Nick, you can’t name even one scholar who has ever tried to use Josephus to prove that “an actual God came to our planet and lived with us for a while.” Not one.

    (N) You are absolutely correct. I can’t name a single scholar who has done that. But somehow, that hasn’t stopped a multitude of non-scholars from trying to use Josephus to prove exactly that. In fact… wait-a-minute, how did we get on the subject of Josephus in the first place? Why, didn’t it have something to do with establishing secular evidence that Bible-Jesus (the God-man) actually existed?

    (T) This is your own self-serving imagination.

    (N) Or perhaps it’s my faulty memory. I sure thought the topic under discussion was the reality of Bible-Jesus.

    [So I take it you feel the at-best-partly-forged, unreferenced, hand-me-down, hearsay in Josephus is sufficient to establish the reality of a God-man.]
    (T) No, that’s YOUR false apprehension of what is being argued, not our argument.

    (N) Mercy. I must have completely lost the thread. Okay, so as we dispose of Josephus, I take it we have broad agreement that nothing in Josephus establishes that the God-man Jesus, as described in the Bible, ever existed. Glad we could settle that. But that still leaves open the question of whether there is any objective evidence or rational basis for believing that Bible-Jesus was anything more than a myth.

    (T) OKAY SPORTS FANS, it’s over-and-out for me. I’ve made a gallant attempt to defend the faith

    (N) There is no necessary nor possible rational defense of faith. Faith and reason are in different domains.

    (T) Unfortunately, you remain blind and lost.

    (N) I’m am always open to the possibility that I could be wrong. But I have standards for showing that to be the case (reasonable standards which many have met before). Merely asserting I’m wrong isn’t sufficient. And your confidence that it is we who are wrong suggests you give no serious consideration to the possibility that it could be you who is wrong.

    (T) “The truth shall set you free.”

    (N) That quote has a particular irony for those of us who are ex-Christian atheists.

    (T) The evidence has been presented by both sides…

    (N) Uh oh. Apparently the evidence for one side didn’t make it to my local webserver.

    (T) He made you. He made the universe. He swings a bigger stick than Jim, Hitchens, Dawkins and all the other truth-deluded souls denying His existence…combined. They are wrong; Jesus was (and is) right. Judgment day will come. NOTE TO YOU: You really DON’T want to be in Jim’s camp when it does, I promise.

    (N) And when all else fails, fall back on threats. I feel sure I’ve seen this movie before.

    So what do you think? Did Torquemada the Inquisitor get the thumbs-up? Did his life of ardent devotion to God get him his place in paradise? How about Gandhi? You think he’s roasting on a spit now? You previously contrasted grace and justice. Do you believe the two are distinct? Do you hope they are?

  23. To Kaybee, with love:

    (K) I would leave this post up just as proof of how ridiculous religious people get.

    (T) Because my opinion is dissents from yours translates to being ridiculous? Interesting.

    (K) I get being irritated that we don’t ascribe to your point of view, Todd — obviously, that goes both ways, as I’m irritated too that you asked about the resurrection and then went lambasting away on your ‘believe or die in hell’ rant.

    (T) Not true. Be honest, please, who put the brakes on this party? Read my post 13, sentences 4 and 5 especially, and then read posts 14 and 15. Then perhaps apologize for accusing me of leaping from the resurrection to a rant. Forgive me for defending myself along with my faith. If, by the way, you’re sincerely interested in exploring resurrection evidences and honestly giving Jesus a fair day in court, you have my email address. I’d especially be happy to discuss (your) post 4. You risk so much on a set of misinformed, non-researched opinions.

    (Jim, don’t bother posting your cut-and-paste “I’d appreciate the discussions staying within this blog” request. Kaybee can read, and she wouldn’t take me up on the offer anyway.)

    (K) You won’t bully me to go back into religion, and I actually LIKED my religion from childhood.

    (T) That’s funny…me being accused of bullying. You poor, defenseless atheists. If defending God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit from the likes of you, Nick and Jim goes down as bullying, Webster’s needs to change the word’s definition. Look, Kim, here’s the deal…you transitioned from childhood to adulthood and lost faith along the way. Congratulations…that makes you about 100% normal. Perhaps your fiancé played a role. Perhaps he represented all that can go wrong with religion because he didn’t know squat about Jesus’ and his teachings. Perhaps those touting the Gospel of Debauchery turned out the light for you, too. Only you know. But why throw the baby out with the bath water? Why not at least read one book of the Bible, Luke, and learn for yourself? I suggest Luke because he’s a “just the facts” kind of guy.

    (K) There are aspects of faith that do not make sense,

    (T) Yes, you’re right. Jesus didn’t say, “Figure it all out and then follow me.” Quite the opposite. That’s why it’s called faith. After you extend a little, it will start making sense.

    (K) Nobody and as an adult I became tired of ignoramuses shoving ‘believe or else’ bullying down my throat…

    (T) I would too. That said, Christ never bullied a soul.

    (K) …because the only evidence they had was the bible, which has been proven to be a FALLIBLE document.

    (T) No it hasn’t, Kim. That’s false. You are misinformed and I’d be happy to discuss ANY Bible difficulty you have if you are genuinely interested, off-blog. I won’t even tell Jim or Nick that you’re actually interested in that thing called truth. It’ll be our secret. Even if you post back saying, “Never, Never, Never!” you can still secretly email me. Today, tomorrow, next year. Or not. Just wanted to make the offer.

    (K) I stand by my initial assessment of you, especially with your sermon — you are not genuine, and you are not seeking answers.

    (T) Just because I have answers to yours that you don’t like?

    (K) In full religious devotion, I asked questions and defended my faith at the same time. I even lived side-by-side in happy oblivion of some of my ‘compromises’ between religious reasoning and rational reasoning. I chose to live with those compromises but eventually found myself wanting clearer explanations, so I asked more questions, and deliberated more, and came up with more compromises. I thought you were on to something when you inquired about the resurrection, but I see where this has gone.

    (T) See my response including the question,“Who put the brakes on this party?” Please? Would you? You wanted clearer explanations, and you deserved to get them. Just because you didn’t get satisfying answers does not mean there aren’t any. Come on, Kim, seriously. You’re risking so much on so little…and I AM onto something regarding the resurrection. I just wasn’t able to go down the path of discussion before getting shut down. One can only be attacked and minimized so much. How would you feel? I mean, give me some credit…I’ve hung in there for months as the lone Christian. I would have hung in there for months more before getting the Heisman. Hear me, the resurrection can be PROVEN using non-Christian data. Christ died, was buried, and was raised from the dead. You have my email address.

    (K) If you need something to do with your time that will make you feel like you’ve spread the word of jesus, why don’t you go volunteer at a charity or help an old lady or something.

    (T) I do.

    (K) Really, at this point, you’re wasting your time, because you don’t want answers, you want us to convert. Well, none of us are likely to be points on your church ‘conversion’ scorecard, so, i’d advise you go do something else.

    (T) I guess you’re right, perhaps my time here was a waste of time. Perhaps not. As Pascal waged, I have everything to gain and nothing to lose (if I’m wrong). If you’re wrong…well, you know the rest of the story.

    I do wish you well, Kim.

  24. To Nick, with love and a bit of irritation:

    (N) What makes a person a Josephan Scholar is having studied and
    published about Josephus.

    (T) Wrong. By that description Chris Price is a Josephan scholar. Nyet, it’s a specialty title.

    (N) And how about that Christopher Price you cited? Is he a specialist scholar in Josephus, or do you have a different standard for your experts?

    (T) I assumed (wrongly) you might actually read the article and would recognize that Price USED real Josephan scholars as sources…something you have not done in any of your arguments, save by indirect appeal to an outdated list.

    (N) In that regard, I find it interesting what a high percentage of scholars who hold the TF as entirely authentic also just happen to be Christians.

    (T) And in that regard, I find it interesting that the leading Josephan scholar, Feldman, is Jewish. Hmmmn. (I once had a professor who submitted, “An appeal to reputed bias is the resort of someone who has no answers.” Thanks for reminding me of his truism, Nick…I just loved that guy.)

    [(T) In any event, you’re obviously unable to deal with the fact that scholarship on this matter has moved on from the position you hold dear.]

    (N) I hold no position dear on this.

    (T) Come on Nick…sure you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be promoting it, however wide you cast the net under the label of “inauthentic”.

    (N) I was merely showing there are grounds for reasonable doubt regarding your claim that there are zero scholars who hold the passage should be rejected in its entirety.

    (T) There isn’t any such reasonable doubt, Nick, save by appeal to people who are either outdated or else not specialists in Josephus. Hit the refresh button on your research, please.

    (N) But the question of authenticity is overshadowed by the larger problem of being, at best, unreferenced hand-me-down hearsay.

    (T) Hmmn. Nick, we have a problem here, don’t we? By your definition, nearly all of history EVER RECORDED is now “unreferenced hand-me-down hearsay.” Good job, Amigo. In one fail swoop, you just threw out nearly all of Josephus, Tacitus, Livy, etc. (But hey, it’s your movie.) By the way, the “hearsay” argument, as it was used by Paine, is also contrived. Paine made up his own rule on that so he could reject the NT. Hearsay is rejected in American courts of law today not because it is unreliable but because you can’t question the witness, and there are exceptions to that rule that the Bible fits under.

    (N) And there it is. The sound of a mind slamming shut.

    (T) There it is — the sound of a white flag waving.

    (N) But fraud… really? You mean because I got the author attribution
    wrong for the book (but not the Excursus)?

    (T) No, it’s because you tried to get away with using the authority of those sources without mentioning how badly out of date they were, and how they mostly were not Josephan scholars. You knew most people wouldn’t have the time or recourse to look up those books. (I did…what can I say?…I’m a sucker for the truth.) Your passive-aggressive denials aside, you’ve been caught, and are either incompetent at research or trying to hide the truth. I’d like to vote for the former, but if you keep this sort of thing up, I’m going to have to side with the latter.

    (N) I’m pretty sure the controversy is not so recent and not tied only to unbelief. I think it was Bishop Warburton of Gloucester who called the TF a particularly stupid forgery, back around 1770.

    (T) Yes, it is recent, and tied to unbelief. You’re trying to mix together the idea of Jesus not existing with something else, the genuineness of the Josephus reference, which is an entirely separate issue. Warburton was not promoting the idea that Jesus did not exist.

    (N) And in matters of rationality, the recentness of an idea counts no more against it than the popularity of the older ideas counts for them. But you already knew that.

    (T) It did count, however, when you were making an objection earlier about why certain quotes were not used by church Fathers. Once again you’re masterfully shimmying past the real point.

    (N) And yet, they discussed the more insignificant and oblique Josephus reference to Jesus via James, and other Josephus works that contributed nothing to establishing the existence of Jesus.

    (T) Citations? The church Fathers barely used Josephus, and you are not answering the point that the TF as reconstructed contained nothing useful to their purposes. Just posturing in amazement is not an answer, Nick. Nothing in the TF would answer pagan charges they were dealing with. What did they need to quote it for? To prove Jesus existed? No one doubted that. To prove he was crucified? No one doubted that. Man, you need to make an argument, not an assumption.

    (N) On this we agree. But as obvious as that seems, you’d be surprised how often it shows up on apologetics websites.

    (T) Umm, modern ones that answer Christ-mythers. Once again you forget the recent nature of the debate that makes the TF of interest, which it did not have in the time of the Fathers.

    (N) If all you wanted to establish is that Josephus mentioned some guy named Jesus, I’ll go further and readily grant that he mentions several people by that name.

    (T) Nickster, you’re trying to be funny….and failing.

    (N) You are absolutely correct. I can’t name a single scholar who has done that. But somehow, that hasn’t stopped a multitude of non-scholars from trying to use Josephus to prove exactly that.

    (T) Nonsense. You do bear the gift of aggressive ignorance, don’t you? Again, you’re mixing two arguments. Proving a man named Jesus existed would be a first step in getting to an eventual defense of Jesus as a God-man, especially when dealing with people who adhere to the Christ myth.

    (N) There is no necessary nor possible rational defense of faith. Faith and reason are in different domains.

    (T) Only for you; in truth, faith (pistis) meant loyalty, and that was based on evidence, Amigo.

    (N) So what do you think? Did Torquemada the Inquisitor get the thumbs-up? Did his life of ardent devotion to God get him his place in paradise? How about Gandhi? You think he’s roasting on a spit now? You previously contrasted grace and justice. Do you believe the two are distinct? Do you hope they are?

    (T) I think this is called “hurling the elephant.” The fact is, Nick, you don’t know what you’re talking about regarding Josephus, so please stop. You’re just dancing around avoiding the issues. And believe me, you don’t want to step into the Spanish Inquisition realm, you’ll quickly become embarrassed. Reader, you be the judge. As for me, I judge Nick’s arguments to be empty and transparent. He’s just in love with his own opinion. Good for him. Truth trumps Nick, though.

    (T) Nick, if you put as much energy into honest investigation versus obstinate denial (of the Historical Jesus), perhaps you might arrive at the right conclusion. You guys are so bent on destroying God that you become blind to truth. It’s a real shame.

    (N) It appears this discussion has become upsetting for you. Sorry to see that. I do usually try to give warning about the possible consequences of examining one’s basis for belief. But also usually, my warnings are confidently brushed aside.

    (T) Don’t be sorry for me, Nick. I’ve examined the basis for my belief. I could not be on more solid ground. The consequences of HONEST examination have been very rewarding. You should try it sometime! (But, as usual my atheist friend, I’m sure my warnings of honest examination will be brushed aside.)

    [(T) “The truth shall set you free.”]
    (N) That quote has a particular irony for those of us who are ex-Christian atheists.

    (T) Nick, I didn’t say, “The lie shall set you free.” Please read my post again…it’s “the truth,” man, “the truth!” (Wow, you’re so proud of claiming the title “ex-Christian atheist.” Congratulations, Nick, kudos to you. You’re a real free thinker, man! You’ve intellectualized yourself right out of salvation. That’s honorable, for sure. I bet you have great joy in your life now that it has zero purpose or meaning. Ahh, yes, something to be extremely proud of…I’m almost jealous.) Look, Nick, just honestly investigate the REAL Historical Jesus, will ya? Stop lying to yourself…I can tell that you’re WAY smarter than that, truly. A quick question…have you ever actually read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation? You don’t have to answer, but before you commit intellectual suicide, you really should. And guess what? You’ll find that you don’t read the Bible, it reads you.

    (N) Are you seeing yet why I would not take this to private mail?

    (T) Yes, because you’d prefer to write “for the reader” instead of having the self-confidence to hold a private conversation that might turn this from your preferred “intellectual shoving match” to one where we can peel back the onion and get to the heart of the matter…the TRUTH you find so elusive. Instead, you like scoring debate points. Admittedly, I do too. But I think dealing with matters of the heart along with those of the mind are well worth exploring. As much as I have frustrated Jim, and he me, I’ll give him props for engaging privately. Neither of our minds changed, but at least it was civil. Something positive happens when you “go real” and escape the temptation of arguing to impress others. That’s all…nothing more, nothing less. With that, I leave behind my perpetual invitation to contact me off-blog.

  25. Hi Todd,
    Happy to hear you were not as upset as it appeared from your post.

    [to K]
    (T) Hear me, the resurrection can be PROVEN using non-Christian data. Christ died, was buried, and was raised from the dead.

    (N) To claim it *can* be proven is much less persuasive than to actually prove it. But wouldn’t it be more sensible to first establish that Bible-Christ actually existed?

    [re: I hold no position dear on this.]
    (T) Come on Nick…sure you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be promoting it,

    (N) I’m not selling or seeking to enhance the popularity of my position–though I do have an interest in diminishing the popularity of so-called scientific Christianity, and the corrosive influence of Creationists on public policy. But as a general principle, I regard the purpose of argumentation to be a competition between positions. My job is to be the most effective and reasonable advocate for my position I can be, so that if it goes down to a superior argument, it will not be because it was poorly represented. And on those occasions when my positions have been bested, I discard the defeated position, adopt the superior position, and become just as vigorous an advocate for it in the next contest.

    [But the question of authenticity is overshadowed by the larger problem of being, at best, unreferenced hand-me-down hearsay.]
    (T) Hmmn. Nick, we have a problem here, don’t we? By your definition, nearly all of history EVER RECORDED is now “unreferenced hand-me-down hearsay.”

    (N) First, we do actually have referenced sources, eyewitness testimony, firsthand diaries, routine secular documentation, converging testimony, and other much-better-supported accounts for many episodes of history. But second I would say that the content of the testimony, and its implications, also needs to be taken into account. If accepting bare testimony without supporting evidence can have dire consequences (like, for example, in a capital crimes trial) then we set the bar for acceptance a great deal higher than we would for plausible mundane information which requires no action on our part. And if the testimony is self-serving, bizarre, or inconsistent with other testimonies, we have good grounds for considering the testimony suspect. And if the testimony is self-contradicting, or conflicts with what we know of reality, then we have reasonable grounds for rejecting the testimony.

    [(N) And there it is. The sound of a mind slamming shut.]
    (T) There it is — the sound of a white flag waving.

    (N) I can usually at least make a plausible guess as to what you mean, but that was just wonderfully sense-free. Did you imagine somehow that, right there, I conceded the rational superiority of the Christian position?

    (T) …you are not answering the point that the TF as reconstructed contained nothing useful to their purposes.

    (N) I thought I agreed with your statement that it offered nothing of apologetic value. If I neglected to do that, I’ll do that now.

    [(N) If all you wanted to establish is that Josephus mentioned some guy named Jesus, I’ll go further and readily grant that he mentions several people by that name.]
    (T) Nickster, you’re trying to be funny….and failing.

    (N) That irrelevancy aside, I am conceding as much uncontroversial ground as possible here to expedite progress towards the more ambitious and interesting issue of establishing the reality of Bible-Christ.

    (T) You do bear the gift of aggressive ignorance, don’t you?

    (N) I have, in the past, been the most effective advocate I could be for some positions which I now hold to be in error. It is likely that some of the positions I hold now will fall at some point. If someone has a superior position, that person will only be doing me a favor by demonstrating that, but I do require that it be a rational demonstration. If you want to call that aggressive ignorance, suit yourself. Interesting, though, that you would call it a gift.

    (T) Proving a man named Jesus existed would be a first step in getting to an eventual defense of Jesus as a God-man, especially when dealing with people who adhere to the Christ myth.

    (N) Excellent. Then we needn’t bother with Josephus at all, since I’ve already stipulated, without reservation, that there were plenty of people by the name of Jesus, or whatever the non-Greek equivalents were, in that general region back then. So there’s no need to prove step one, and we can consider it nailed down. Step two?

    [(N) Faith and reason are in different domains.]
    (T) Only for you; in truth, faith (pistis) meant loyalty, and that was based on evidence, Amigo.

    (N) If I want to be a rational person, I must not have loyalty to any particular interpretation of evidence, nor any particular conclusion. More than that, I require all my rational beliefs to include a suicide mechanism in the form of falsifiability–a description of a state of affairs, which, if observed, would provide ample grounds for abandoning belief in that proposition.

    [(N) So what do you think? Did Torquemada the Inquisitor get the thumbs-up?… You think he (Gandhi) is roasting on a spit now? You previously contrasted grace and justice. Do you believe the two are distinct? Do you hope they are?]
    (T) I think this is called “hurling the elephant.”

    (N) I think that is called, “dodging the question”

    (T) The fact is, Nick, you don’t know what you’re talking about regarding Josephus,

    (N) All I need to know at this point, for the purposes of this discussion, is that we don’t need him.

    (T) And believe me, you don’t want to step into the Spanish Inquisition realm, you’ll quickly become embarrassed.

    (N) Another confident assertion. Will we see the usual lack of follow-through?

    And the realm I was exploring was your beliefs about God’s judgements. Replace Torquemada with any sincere Christian who has committed abominations against other humans, and replace Gandhi with any non-Christian exemplar of humanitarian virtues. How do you think they will be judged by God?

    If you have suspicions about where I’m going with this, I’ll tell you right now. If you say God (meaning God-Jesus-Ghost) judges solely on the basis of worship of God, then that would tend to reinforce the contrast you made between grace and justice, and it would appear you worship a vain and unjust God. If you say God judges based on a record of goodness to other humans, then that would render Christian belief, faith, and worship unnecessary to salvation, and it would also mean that some people who sincerely believe they are saved are actually doomed. And if you dodge and say you don’t know what God would do, then that says plenty about your qualifications to make your other confident claims about God.

    (T) Reader, you be the judge. As for me, I judge Nick’s arguments to be empty and transparent.

    (N) It is my goal to make my arguments as clear and transparent as possible. I would be a poor advocate for a position if I presented it obscurely, and it is in my interest to make it as easy as possible to identify any defects in my position.

    (T) Nick, if you put as much energy into honest investigation versus obstinate denial (of the Historical Jesus), perhaps you might arrive at the right conclusion.

    (N) By the same token, I might arrive at a right conclusion by consulting a Magic 8 Ball. Hitting upon a right conclusion isn’t as important as having robust, error-minimizing, rational protocols for establishing reasonable confidence that you have hit upon a right conclusion.

    (T) You guys are so bent on destroying God that you become blind to truth. It’s a real shame.

    (N) Here is what I do see. I see a world geography and history which has many different religions and sub-sects, all purporting their own unique claims of Truth, and each of them having truths which are fundamentally incompatible with the truths of virtually all the rest of them. Logically, this means the overwhelming majority of humans who have embraced religious truths must have been in error, so the mere fact of having sincere belief in a particular religion establishes nothing. If we are to determine whether any religion does have some correspondence to reality, that must be established on independent grounds–from outside the bubble of religious conviction. That much I see clearly.

    So are there independent rational grounds for concluding that one of these religions corresponds to Truth? That’s the part I have not yet seen. You suggest that is due to blindness, but that leaves me wondering: is this, by any chance, a form of blindness which only afflicts rational people?

    (T) Wow, you’re so proud of claiming the title “ex-Christian atheist.”

    (N) Pride in something not really of my choosing would be misplaced. Here, it was a reminder of why tossing out a Christian platitude would have no effect on me–aside from wry amusement.

    But we have both indicated having made the transition across the Christian/atheist divide. One reason I did it was to indicate knowledge and experience regarding the transition in one direction. I originally thought you might similarly be suggesting you had knowledge of a rational path in the other direction, from atheism to Christianity, but your modesty about describing it leads me to think you must have had some other reason for claiming you previously had a mindset like ours.

    (T) Congratulations, Nick, kudos to you. You’re a real free thinker, man! You’ve intellectualized yourself right out of salvation.

    (N) Salvation from what? Anything demonstrable?

    (T) That’s honorable, for sure. I bet you have great joy in your life now that it has zero purpose or meaning.

    (N) It has whatever purpose I choose to give it.

    (T) Look, Nick, just honestly investigate the REAL Historical Jesus, will ya?

    (N) If you propose the way to do that is to read and believe the Bible stories, then the same appeal can be made for any storybook from any mythology. All that’s lacking is a rational justification for doing so. Now, if you are suggesting I should investigate the fully independent historical sources which can confirm the existence of Jesus, as portrayed in the Bible, then I would be happy to do so. Just as soon as they materialize.

    (T) A quick question…have you ever actually read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation?

    (N) Every word of every version? No. I’ve read more, in more versions, than most Christians though. I’ve also read from an assortment of other mythologies.

    [(N) Are you seeing yet why I would not take this to private mail?]
    (T) Yes, because you’d prefer to write “for the reader” instead of having the self-confidence to hold a private conversation that might turn this from your preferred “intellectual shoving match” to one where we can peel back the onion and get to the heart of the matter…the TRUTH you find so elusive.

    (N) I do prefer the accountability that comes from holding a dialog in public. And when you call me a blind, lying, deluded, ignorant, fraud, and such, I can let your insults and personal attacks pass right through me because I am at peace with letting the reasonable reader decide whether I deserved those. But your suggestion that I prefer public dialog because I am insecure and trying to avoid the truth would seem to imply that there are things in support of the truth which cannot be said in public. Is that really what you are suggesting?

    (T) Something positive happens when you “go real” and escape the temptation of arguing to impress others.

    (N) I don’t know what that “something positive” would be.

  26. Jim, since everyone here is determined to keep communications “on-blog” and not off, and since you declared you would no longer post within this thread, I just thought for the benefit of all readers that I might post for you (and answer) the “off-blog” email you sent me today so that everyone’s wishes might be fulfilled (“your wishes are my command”). So, if you don’t mind, I’m simply going to copy and paste your email exactly as sent…and will respond here:

    (J) I don’t hate you, Todd. I just don’t understand why someone would
    rather lie to themselves for false solitude than admit the truth and
    live in peace and happiness free of superstition and imaginary fears
    of paternal judgement. There is no right and wrong, only truth and
    fantasy.

    Evidence, dear boy. Evidence!

    (T) Glad you don’t hate me. That’s good to know (man, just as I was starting to enjoy the evenings where I didn’t just sit in my chair shaking my head back and forth).

    Jim, let’s just agree on one small fact, you are not the least bit interested in evidence. You have a preordained set of conclusions at which you’re determined to arrive, pure and simple. At this point, you wouldn’t follow the evidence if your life depended on it, of that I’m certain.

    HERE’s the reality: you reject God, not because of your own “more rational and compelling” evidence (that there is no God), but because you prefer to live your life as if “there may as well not be a God” (your words). It’s way more convenient to do so (that I’ll agree) and holds you nicely unaccountable. You don’t have to do any of those things that God supposedly commanded you to do. Atheism can be a sort of manifesto of moral liberation to the rules. And the rules that are most objectionable are those that basically say, “Thou shalt conduct thyself with responsibility, chastity, mutual fidelity” etc. It’s easier to concoct an excuse to deny God that “sounds” reasonable and “free thinking” than it is to face the fact courageously and accept the cost that comes from doing right at the expense of self-interest. That’s the truth here (and you know it). But unfortunately for you, your self-deceit won’t make the true, living God go away. Nope, He’s still right in that room of yours, watching every single move you make, with or without your belief in Him. Ironically humorous, I think.

    Jim, you’re curiously adept at boldly attacking God, “religion” and Christianity, but you stop way short of presenting any compelling reasons to adopt atheism. Maybe I missed something over the last multiple months, but I just don’t see how “your side” explains life at all, or provides any roadmap(s) that might guide us through it. You tell me, Jim, what are the fruits of atheism? How is your life any better? More productive? Joyful? Hopeful? Meaningful?

    Here’s my take. I think you and yours recite (in Pavlovian-fashion) three cardinal virtues of atheism: 1) it represents the ascendancy of reason over superstition, 2) it offers a rational and scientific explanation for the universe, as opposed to the mystical and mythological explanations offered by “religion,” and, 3) atheism liberates its adherents from the arbitrary, arcane, and sometimes abusive moralities offered by traditional religions. These are the big three, right (readers)?

    Well, the funny thing is…considering you to be such a free-thinking man of science and reason…your worldview ends up being more ideological than scientific in nature. It actually cannot explain the most foundational questions of our existence. My worldview (with a Supernatural God) explains the ORIGIN of the universe, yours doesn’t (how many times have I asked, “Where did all your multi-verses come from, Jim?!”). My worldview explains the ORIGIN of life, yours doesn’t. My worldview delivers a rational explanation for (and we’ve never even talked about this one) the ORIGIN of consciousness, yours doesn’t. My worldview provides the BASIS for morality, yours certainly doesn’t. Being a dedicated atheist, you may choose to “keep the faith” and wait on a day when atheism “can” explain these things, but it’s exceptionally unlikely. In the end, atheism actually explains nothing of substance, “free thinking” as it is (ironic, isn’t it?).

    So who’s really lying to himself, Jim? Is it really me, or are you just projecting? I have tried to imagine what value atheism has, either practically or philosophically, and have come up empty. In fact, it is hard to think of one positive thing that atheism can contribute to human thought or human life.

    In all respects, your beloved atheism is totally bankrupt.

    Todd

    (And just for the record, Jim, I carry no false solitude, hold no superstitions and have no imaginary fears of parental judgment. Your straw man, not mine. What I DO have is an extremely fulfilling relationship with God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit; you could too, but I assume never will due to a super-sized helping of pride — accepting such fulfillment would be “beneath” you, being such a free thinker and all.)

  27. Hi Todd,
    On the theory that your characterizations of atheism also pertain to me, I’m going to take the liberty of weighing in on your post to Jim.

    (T) [to (J)] At this point, you wouldn’t follow the evidence if your life depended on it, of that I’m certain.

    (N) The general public has easy access to this forum, so even if you sincerely believe that one or more people here would not consider your evidence, there is always the possibility there will be others who will.

    (T) HERE’s the reality: you reject God, not because of your own “more rational and compelling” evidence (that there is no God), but because you prefer to live your life as if “there may as well not be a God” (your words). It’s way more convenient to do so (that I’ll agree) and holds you nicely unaccountable. You don’t have to do any of those things that God supposedly commanded you to do.

    (N) In my case, I was only too happy to try to please God, though I admit, I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what it was that he wanted. If that had been the only consideration, I probably would have remained a Christian. I made no decision to reject God, any more than I made a decision to reject Santa Claus. My belief just evaporated when exposed to rational scrutiny. It’s like when you see something in very dim light, and maybe you convince yourself it is an animal, or a person. But then the sun comes up and you see it’s not. It is very hard to go back and resurrect your previous belief after that.

    (T) Atheism can be a sort of manifesto of moral liberation to the rules. And the rules that are most objectionable are those that basically say, “Thou shalt conduct thyself with responsibility, chastity, mutual fidelity” etc.

    (N) There are many different paths to atheism. I accept it is possible to arrive at it because of some libertine outlook, but others, from rational atheists to many Confucians, clearly adhere to a code of conduct born of values and principles.

    (T) It’s easier to concoct an excuse to deny God that “sounds” reasonable and “free thinking” than it is to face the fact courageously and accept the cost that comes from doing right at the expense of self-interest.

    (N) So there is no self-interest in your belief. You find no joy in your relationship with your god. You gain no feeling of comfort, no sense of protection from harm, suffering, and ultimate doom. You have no anticipation of infinite bliss in a paradise hereafter. Is that what you are saying?

    (T) But unfortunately for you, your self-deceit won’t make the true, living God go away. Nope, He’s still right in that room of yours, watching every single move you make,

    (N) He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake. Except it isn’t for goodness’ sake, is it? It’s for the sake of the goodies.

    (T) …you stop way short of presenting any compelling reasons to adopt atheism. …I just don’t see how “your side” explains life at all,

    (N) Did you know that lack of belief in leprechauns also contains no explanation of life? Did you know that still isn’t enough to make them real?

    (T) You tell me, Jim, what are the fruits of atheism? How is your life any better? More productive? Joyful? Hopeful? Meaningful?

    (N) Are you saying your way provides more hope, joy, meaningfulness, and general life satisfaction? Because that sure looks like a powerful motive of self-interest to me. And if a lack of belief can only be justified on the basis of its benefits, then what do you get from your unbelief in Santa Claus?

    (T) Here’s my take. I think you and yours recite (in Pavlovian-fashion) three cardinal virtues of atheism: 1) it represents the ascendancy of reason over superstition,

    (N) I can see how reason leads to atheism, and I haven’t yet seen how reason can lead to theism, so to me, it appears there is a connection in one direction. But atheism doesn’t lead to, imply, or represent reason. Atheism can be the result of following a godless religion, and I’ve known godless new-age supernaturalists and spiritualists who believe in all manner of unsupported, undemonstrated phenomena.

    (T) 2) it offers a rational and scientific explanation for the universe, as opposed to the mystical and mythological explanations offered by “religion,” and,

    (N) Again, no necessary connection either way. I’m not a believer in Big Bang cosmology, and I have no explanation for the universe, especially since it seems very possible that attempting to explain this universe on the basis of properties within this universe could be inherently nonsensical. Conversely, Big Bang Christians and evolutionist Christians do exist. There is no inherent conflict between science and faith so long as they are kept in strictly separate domains.

    (T) 3) atheism liberates its adherents from the arbitrary, arcane, and sometimes abusive moralities offered by traditional religions. These are the big three, right (readers)?

    (N) If you sincerely believed that God was commanding you to slay one of your children, would you obey, as Abraham reputedly decided to do? If you would obey any seeming order from your god, no matter how monstrous, then how is that morality? That’s just robotic compliance. That is also the age-old excuse for countless abominations (“I was only following orders”). Unwavering obedience is not the opposite of liberation from responsibility. It is, in fact, the very embodiment of it. On the other hand, if there is any conceivable command from your god which you would refuse, then you have your own moral code independent from your god–as do billions of other humans.

    (T) My worldview (with a Supernatural God) explains the ORIGIN of the universe,

    (N) “An unfathomable being did magic” is not even remotely an explanation.

    (T) yours doesn’t (how many times have I asked, “Where did all your multi-verses come from, Jim?!”).

    (N) How many times have you answered where your god came from?

    (T) My worldview delivers a rational explanation for (and we’ve never even talked about this one) the ORIGIN of consciousness, yours doesn’t.

    (N) And this explanation would be as “rational” as the Goddidit explanation of the universe?

    (T) My worldview provides the BASIS for morality, yours certainly doesn’t.

    (N) Did we cover this? I don’t remember, did you hold that God created the standard of moral goodness, or did you hold that he adheres to an independent standard of moral goodness?

    (T) In the end, atheism actually explains nothing of substance,

    (N) That is because it is a descriptive label which only exists because of, and for the benefit of, theists. People who have no belief in any god would never have had a reason to be identified as such, or to identify themselves as such, were it not for the existence of people who do believe in gods.

    (T) it is hard to think of one positive thing that atheism can contribute to human thought or human life. In all respects, your beloved atheism is totally bankrupt.

    (N) But is it irrational? All consideration of perks and goodies aside, that is the critical question. Can it be demonstrated that the most rational conclusion is that at least one god exists–especially when it is evident that the overwhelming majority of gods that humans have worshipped cannot exist (due to mutual incompatibility). If there is a rationally compelling demonstration which can elevate any of humanity’s gods out of the realm of myth, I have to wonder why the adherents of that god (/ those gods) have not trumpeted that demonstration to the world.

  28. Nick. Would you write a short blog on your main areas of dissatisfaction with Big Bang theory please? I’m sending you post enabled log in details. Thanks in advance.

  29. Jim, since my answer to you will be short, I’ll respond to your question first, then Nick’s.

    Nick, thank you for answering for Jim. Perhaps he can answer for you as a response to this post.

    (J) Todd. What, to you, would stand as proof there is no such omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipresent thing as what you refer to as Yahweh?

    (T) Being reincarnated as an ostrich.

    (T) Nick, you profess a desire for rational debate but degenerate your own arguments down to your precious favorite, the Santa Clause Refutation. I’m starting to assume at this point that you simply have nothing rational to offer. If you need to resort to defamation to hold your position, then you have no position worth defending. That qualifier aside, I’ll go straight to your last comment and try my best to answer:

    [(T) it is hard to think of one positive thing that atheism can contribute to human thought or human life. In all respects, your beloved atheism is totally bankrupt.]

    (N) But is it irrational? All consideration of perks and goodies aside, that is the critical question. Can it be demonstrated that the most rational conclusion is that at least one god exists–especially when it is evident that the overwhelming majority of gods that humans have worshipped cannot exist (due to mutual incompatibility). If there is a rationally compelling demonstration which can elevate any of humanity’s gods out of the realm of myth, I have to wonder why the adherents of that god (/ those gods) have not trumpeted that demonstration to the world.

    (T) That’s progress, Nick. Based on your “But is it irrational?” response, I’m pleased you agree atheism is a bankrupt worldview. We now have common ground. To answer your question, though, yes, atheism is irrational, as proven by Dr. Richard Dawkins himself, your de facto spokesman for scientific atheism. Let’s take a look at how he lays out his case for unbelief. I was reviewing again last evening, with incredulousness, his chapter 4 of The God Delusion, titled “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God.” You tell me how rational he is, deal? (At least he takes a stab at making case other than using Santa Clause, though.) He introduces his “Argument from Improbability,” and its reasoning distills to something like this:

    1. The universe we observe is highly complex.
    2. Any creator of this complex universe would have to be even more complex than it.
    3. It is too improbable that such a God exists; therefore, there almost certainly is no God.

    The first two statements qualify as acceptable premises, but you must agree that the conclusion he reaches simply does not follow from them. This isn’t legitimate reasoning, which “your side” stakes claim to. It is merely rationalization – that is, finding some plausible-sounding explanation for arriving at a conclusion already chosen. Dawkins is certainly free to disbelieve, as you and Jim are, but his conclusion was not derived through scientific or rational means. Rather, it hints at an underlying personal, philosophical faith choice to disbelieve. His rationalization reveals the choice to disbelieve for what it is – a personal, philosophical choice made APART from reason or scientific inquiry. I call it a “faith choice” because it involves choosing a foundational presupposition concerning a realm about which we have incomplete (but not insufficient) knowledge. Faith in God is way more rational than disbelief.

    Since Jim, fortunately or unfortunately, led me down the path of scientific inquiry due to his persistent claim that science and reasoning (of atheism) overcame myth and superstition (of theism), I figured I should investigate for myself how true his claims were (versus just taking him up on his word). There’s a great book by then-skeptic Francis Collins called, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.” I won’t spoil the ending (you can only guess), but suffice it to say he set out to investigate the rational basis for faith. Reluctantly, he found himself “forced to admit the plausibility of the God hypothesis.” Agnosticism, which had seemed to him a safe second-place haven, loomed like the great cop-out it is. He found that faith in God seemed more rational than disbelief, a conclusion not only plausible, but compellingly supported by evidence (which flatly controverts your premise that faith constitutes an irrational belief without evidence. It also reveals that the real conflict isn’t one of science versus God. It’s a conflict between those who allow and those who disallow the possible reality of God.)

    Sorry, Nick, you brought up the subject of “irrationality,” I didn’t. Jim brought up the subject of “proof,” not me. Contrary to any assumption you may have, I DON’T play ostrich and actually DO follow the evidence and actually DO read books counter to my view. Do you?

    Okay, I’m sure you’ve had enough of me for tonight. Let me leave you with a few questions. Please answer them honestly, even if just to yourself. What if there really is a God, but you just don’t know about Him? Are you willing to consider that possibility? Are you willing to ask Him if He’s out there? Something like, ‘God, I’m pretty sure you’re not there, I’m pretty sure you may as well not be, but if you ARE, would you show yourself to me?’ Are you willing to do that, Nick?

    I can still remember the night, just a couple of short years ago, when I shook my hands at God and despairingly cried out, “If you really ARE, if you really give a $#@!, why don’t you PROVE it and HELP ME?!” I’m dead serious. And He responded. Otherwise, I would be seriously dead. Like the miracle described in a different post, no one will ever take away from me the fact God responded…not in Santa Clause fashion, but in a very, real and loving way. He’s out there, and He responds to those who genuinely seek Him.

    So it’s not a question of rationality or irrationality or scientific reasoning, Nick, but a question of choosing, of making a personal faith choice that, once made, establishes the starting point for one’s reasoning (and personal relationship). Atheism isn’t founded on rationality or science or reason any more than theism is based on faith devoid of reason and rationality. You (all), too, have made a faith choice. You’ve just chosen differently.

  30. Nick, like a good Christian boy, I enjoyed a little “me time” reading the Good Book, God’s revelation to man. You know, the only book ever written that gives us accurate information about God, man’s need and God’s provision for that need; the test that provides us with guidance for life and tells us how to receive eternal life. Yep, the Bible can do these things, Nick, because it is God’s inspired Word, inerrant in the original manuscripts.

    Oh yeah, this is the same book that you guys disparage as being a “collection of fairy tales written by a bunch of illiterate goat herders.” Interesting, though, how this “collection” of 66 books written by about 40 authors, in three different languages, on three different continents, over approximately 1600 years carries through it such a seamless story perfectly describing all of the following: God’s dealings with the ancient Jewish people and the early Christian church, the great gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who fulfilled Jewish prophecies of the Messiah, it tells us about the salvation He accomplished through His death on the cross, His triumph over death in the resurrection, and His promised return to earth. Go figure, it is the only book that gives us reliable information about the future, about what will happen to us when we die, and about where history is headed. Pretty good for a bunch of illiterates, don’t you think?!

    Anyway, I digress. So I was having breakfast with God, and I found the Spirit of the Lord leading me to the Gospel of John (I’m pretty sure he never herded goats, but you may want to check with the goat-herder authority on that, Jimmy boy). So in John, Jesus is the ‘Logos,’ the Word of God who was with God and was God. Yep, God in the flesh, whose deity is amplified in His seven “I am” sayings (I am the bread of life; the light of the world; the door of the sheep; the good shepherd; the resurrection and the life; the way, the truth, and the life; the true vine). Check this out…I’m reading chapter three which is all about Jesus and this Pharisee named Nicodemus. You know how I’ve said before, “You don’t read the Bible, It reads you?” Well, I couldn’t help but to notice the irony. Nicodemus (ruler of the Jews), Pharisee, skeptic, unbeliever, even an eye-witness to Jesus’ miracles – and you, ‘Nick’, skeptic, unbeliever. So anyway, with my curiosity peeked, I read on.

    See, here’s what’s wild. This Nicodemus character came to Jesus in the night and confessed to Jesus something he’d never say in the presence of other dude-Pharisees …”Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for NO ONE COULD PERFORM THESE SIGNS YOU DID DO UNLESS GOD WERE WITH HIM.” Jesus went straight to the question that was on Nicodemus’ heart (because He has that crazy unique ability to know what you’re going to ask before even YOU do), and said, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Of course, Jesus was not being literal; He was talking about a “Spiritual rebirth.” Forgive me, Nick, I’m not intending this to be a Bible study, just providing some context for this epiphany that came to me.

    Even after seeing all Jesus’ miracles and confession that Jesus HAD to come from God because of them, Nicko-boy STILL didn’t become a follower of Jesus! He STILL rejected Him. So I said to myself, “Self, who do you think YOU are?! Even Jesus couldn’t get some of the eye witnesses to believe what He said to be true!!! That makes me feel a bit better. The ‘Nick’ then had it wrong, and the ‘Nick’ now has it wrong. While that bothers me because I do truly care about you, Jim, Kim and any other reader of this blog, and your salvation, I have to concede that it won’t be my words, or the Bible’s truth, or the Gospel (‘Good News’ BTW) of Jesus that wins you to truth, it can only be God. I think C.S. Lewis had it right when he wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end; those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.'”

    Coffee is for closers, Nick! Good morning from Asheville, North Carolina!

    xoxoxox,

    Todd

  31. Jim, good morning to you, too. My best to Lucy.

    Hey, you know how you say “Mumsy” and I say “Mommy,” you say “Tube” and I say “Subway?”

    Well, since you say, “The bible is a collection of fairy tales written by illiterate goat herders” and I say “The Bible is the inspired Word of God,” I was hoping you might be able to start up a new thread where we can put this issue to bed.

    Since you started it, please go first. Please create a new thread and defend your claim, deal? It’s one of those “put up or shut up” kind of requests. I’ll then do my best to refute.

    Thanks, Jim! You’re the best!!!

    Todd

  32. So when it comes to receiving answers to questions which, in your opinion, are simply wrong because they don’t tally with your preconceptions, we’re the ones who are being close minded. But when it comes to us wanting an answer to a genuine question about what you would consider compelling evidence against your own position, all of a sudden it’s comedy hour and Todd awards himself a get out of jail free card. You, sir, don’t understand anything.

    This is pointless. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Todd. You have all your work ahead of you. You have learned absolutely NOTHING in the time I’ve “known” you. We are completely wasting our time in even dealing with you on the same level ordinary people engage with each other because you are not an ordinary person—you’re a Christian fundamentalist. If you don’t see a problem with that there is exactly zero anyone here can help you with.

    Seek advice from the professional liars who made you that way or better yet someone who is trained in bringing people out of brainwashing cults. Either way, don’t come back here with your endless diatribe about how rationality and common fucking sense logic are sinful while wish thinking and special imaginary friends constitute something of worth. You are completely bat-shit, hoopla insane and you’re making the place look untidy.

    No one cares what you think. They care less for what I think. Opinions are like arse holes—everyone has one. All myself and Nick have tried to do is dig through the shit, including our own, and explain to you how rational enquiry works, independent of opinion, to arrive upon logical conclusions. Yet at every single step of the way you’ve either taken personal insult from the irrefutable truth or tried to force the out and out lies you’ve been spoon-fed by your magic books upon people who never tried to dispute your capacity to believe in belief.

    Could it be that the reason you didn’t want to answer the question is that you know the only reasonable answer would be everything we’ve been trying to explain to you for the past 3 months? Could it be that the answer to such a basic question is so blindingly obvious that the only way you can side step it is to pretend it wasn’t posed with the serious expectation of an actual answer, as opposed to yet more of what you think? We already fucking know what you think, Todd. What, on the other hand, we have absolutely no idea about, is why you continue to think that way despite having no good reason to do so and seemingly no reasonable excuse to continue doing so, other than that your superstitions are more precious to you than reality. If that doesn’t strike you as strange, there is absolutely zero point in continuing with this debate.

    It would be far better for you to stop discouraging others from commenting, for fear of appearing to be “on your side” simply because they happen to represent a religious view. There is nothing wrong with theological opinions when they add something to the debate. But you are not doing this. I know you want to, but you are not. I am sorry to be blunt and I am sorry that you might feel as if you have failed in some way—but even as you dismiss my question on God’s existence to you, in your closing paragraph you ask the same question of Nick—completely unaware of the gaping wide open blind spot in your reason for asking in the first place and with no attempt made to address the disparity.

    Simply put, proof of Yahweh’s existence would have to be nothing short of everything in the bible being proved to be 100% true. Not one mistake, not one omission. Complete, irrefutable word of the creator of the universe. If that is what His defenders say it is then that is what it is and if He is so incapable of correcting them for the mistakes made in His name, He is not the omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipresence you say He is. Therefore He may as well not exist.

    That does not mean I am saying “a god” definitely does not exist, but that thin last line of possibility is not the God you worship. You worship interventionist, prayer answering, white robed, NRA member, climate change denying, child abusing, fag hating, vote rigging, money laundering, holocaust denying Yahweh—to which Nick and myself, along with millions if not billions of others on this insignificant dot of DNA flopping around in space-time simply can not find any justification in worshipping, much less mollycoddle people who do. If you want to do that, go right ahead, but I’d appreciate it if you’d keep that shit as far away from me as possible, especially when your only reason for doing so is your inability to understand the reasons why you don’t need do.

  33. Good morning, Jim! Thanks for the post…good to engage with you again.

    (J) So when it comes to receiving answers to questions which, in your opinion, are simply wrong because they don’t tally with your preconceptions, we’re the ones who are being close minded.

    (T) You’re regurgitating my refutation above. At least I provided a “here’s why.”

    (J) But when it comes to us wanting an answer to a genuine question about what you would consider compelling evidence against your own position, all of a sudden it’s comedy hour and Todd awards himself a get out of jail free card. You, sir, don’t understand anything.

    (T) You’ve proven clinically allergic to truth, and to any answers I have thus far provided. So why should I give credit that your question was actually genuine? Whenever I refute your claims, or whenever I challenge you to defend yours, you either derail the discussion or fire back with a way-less-than-genuine derogating response.

    (J) …you are not an ordinary person—you’re a Christian fundamentalist.

    (T) Thank you. Definitionally, you’re right, I “actively affirm a fundamental set of Christian beliefs: the inerrancy of the Bible, Sola Scriptura, the virgin birth of Christ, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the imminent personal return of Jesus Christ.” You don’t. So what?

    (J) Seek advice from the professional liars who made you that way or better yet someone who is trained in bringing people out of brainwashing cults. Either way, don’t come back here with your endless diatribe about how rationality and common fucking sense logic are sinful while wish thinking and special imaginary friends constitute something of worth. You are completely bat-shit, hoopla insane and you’re making the place look untidy.

    (T) Oh…my…God! That was BEAUTIFUL, Jim! I now have a new screensaver! Thank you! In one fine rant, you’ve demonstrated the eventual outcome of where conversations tend to go with you (Nick, I’m not throwing all atheists into this bucket; you have thus far responded professionally). Wow, this was just text book! Absent a quality argument or defense, you predictably resort(ed) to name-calling, swearing and an AWARD-WINNING sophomoric tantrum. Brilliant!

    (J) No one cares what you think. They care less for what I think. Opinions are like arse holes—everyone has one. All myself and Nick have tried to do is dig through the shit, including our own, and explain to you how rational enquiry works, independent of opinion, to arrive upon logical conclusions.

    (T) Back the truck up, Jim. You’ve evoked the blessed name of your leader, Richard Dawkins, in prior posts. I think the reasonable reader would give me credit in honestly presenting his “logical conclusion” to his/your view (above), and I think I fairly refuted it. Now this demonstrates “true digging,” Jim. Boy, wouldn’t it rock the world if you did the same. Imagine if YOU actually DID read an author whom I’ve recommended, Gary Habermas, and lent me the same respect of “rational inquiry” and, even if you didn’t believe the claims within “In Search for the Historical Jesus,” you actually summarized the book and then provided a refutation to why you didn’t agree. So Jim, before you go preaching your holier-than-thou dedication to rational inquiry, why don’t you actually practice what you preach. Why? Because you’re honestly incapable of doing so. You have your opinion, your presupposition, your truth…and “By God, you’re not going to consider otherwise!” Good job, Jim, I bet you make all the atheists proud.

    (J) Yet at every single step of the way you’ve either taken personal insult from the irrefutable truth or tried to force the out and out lies you’ve been spoon-fed by your magic books upon people who never tried to dispute your capacity to believe in belief.

    (T) Reader, the evidence of debate is in…I’ll trust in your ability to assess where Jim has provided any “irrefutable truth” to his claims. Notice his evocation, once again, of “magic books,” and notice his immature ignorance of scholarship and absolute inability to defend his position that the Bible is just a “magic book of fairy tales.” He’s amazing.

    My challenge stands, Jim, start another thread with YOUR truth claim relating to the Bible being just a collection of fairy tales written by illiterate goat herders. Back up your claim. You won’t do it…because you know you’re just full of hot air and that your ignorant claim is defunct and absent substance. Jim, you’re a fraud, pure and simple. And you know what? I’m absolutely crazy about you! I really am. You know I’m sincere when I say that, too. It took Anthony Flew 82 years to discover truth, we can certainly be patient with you.

    (J) Could it be that the reason you didn’t want to answer the question is that you know the only reasonable answer would be everything we’ve been trying to explain to you for the past 3 months? Could it be that the answer to such a basic question is so blindingly obvious that the only way you can side step it is to pretend it wasn’t posed with the serious expectation of an actual answer, as opposed to yet more of what you think? We already fucking know what you think, Todd. What, on the other hand, we have absolutely no idea about, is why you continue to think that way despite having no good reason to do so and seemingly no reasonable excuse to continue doing so, other than that your superstitions are more precious to you than reality. If that doesn’t strike you as strange, there is absolutely zero point in continuing with this debate.

    (T) You know, Jim, all kidding aside, let me rephrase my answer to your primary question. Here goes: “Jim, what would it take? It would take me being physically and/or psychologically incapable of authentically following the evidence. It would require that I be blind to true scholarship. It would take me being utterly arrogant, purely prideful and so full of self-deceit and self-worship that I reject obvious evidence and HONEST investigation.” That, dear Jim, would be what it would take. But you own that operating reality, don’t you?

    (J) Simply put, proof of Yahweh’s existence would have to be nothing short of everything in the bible being proved to be 100% true.

    (T) That would take too long. Let’s make it easier…PROVE one thing false about the Bible, based on the original texts (not copies). Let’s start there.

    (J) That does not mean I am saying He definitely does not exist,

    (T) Thank you for your honesty here. Seriously. That at least means you’re agnostic and not atheist. That now makes you credible, at least.

    (J) …but that thin last line of possibility is not the God you worship—you worship interventionist, prayer answering, white robed, NRA member, climate change denying, child abusing, money laundering, holocaust denying Yahweh—to which Nick and myself, along with millions if not billions of others on this insignificant dot of DNA flopping around in space-time simply can not find any justification in worshipping, much less mollycoddle people who do.

    (T) I assume you jest. You are not describing the God of the Bible, nor Jesus Christ. Let’s be perfectly clear on that. You’re making an emotional assertion, not a logical one. To make such an assertion is unbridled ignorance. You can take it back if you’d like, or you can back up your aggressive claim with facts. Now, this may be your “opinion,” which is fine. As you say, “we all have opinions.” But let’s keep this real. I’ve maintained from the beginning that my foundation is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, the one who claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and backed it up. Perhaps you should seriously consider an authentic Bible study so that you might actually speak from your mind about the subject of Jesus and His teachings verses that other body part you referenced when saying “we all have…um…opinions.” The truth shall set you free, Jim.

    (J) If you want to do that, go right ahead, but I’d appreciate it if you’d keep that shit as far away from me as possible, especially when your only reasons for doing so is your inability to understand the reasons why you don’t need do.

    (T) Hang in there, Jim. Deep down, I do know you’re a closet-evidentialist. How about starting at square one? Let’s begin with those crazy illiterate goat herders. You say there are Bible difficulties and contradictions, and I agree…they exist. Opponents of Christianity often use them in their attempts to discredit Christianity. I submit, however, that the autographs (original writings) are inspired (not the copies). I submit there are answers and solutions to any contradictions you present. I stand by the Word of God. You totally discount it. To be committed to truth, Jim, let’s explore both sides, deal?

    Inspiration comes from God, and when He inspired the Bible it was perfect. We can trust it to be what it says it is: the word of God. That’s my claim, open to refutation.

    Jim. You’re the man with the plan, the dude with the direction, the author of authority, so roll up those British sleeves of yours and launch your attack. Let a new thread begin…

    In Jesus Name, Amen.

    Todd

  34. (T) That would take too long. Let’s make it easier…PROVE one thing false about the Bible, based on the original texts (not copies). Let’s start there.

    Hey, no problem. Where to begin? Oh here we go—Noah’s flood.

    That was almost too easy. Now it’s your turn.

    Q. Where is the archeological evidence of the exodus?

    Q. What is maximal entropy?

    Q. In what way is Yahweh uniquely different from every other mythical god?

    Q. If God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent, who is the devil?

    Q. Why does Mark’s gospel have two different endings?

    If I sound like I’m repeating myself that’s because you have, not once, answered any of these questions with a direct answer. You have, on every single occasion upon which you’ve been invited to respond, replied with utter shite about not being the one who is doing the attacking, while passively aggressively signing off with your fear vocabulary about everything being done in Jesus name, but you have not once actually answered any of these most basic of theological conundrums which you paradoxically claim to be inerrant.

    As for my being agnostic, in your view, this merely serves to underline exactly how deluded you are. You select the parts of text even which are right in front of you written on the very same day you are reading them and still only selectively reply to those parts which concur with your twisted imagination. What hope can the reader have that you don’t do the same thing exaggerated ten times over with texts you call scholarly, simply because of how long ago they were written—despite that you’ve had it explained to you time and time again that this is in and of itself reason enough to mistrust their historical accuracy, let alone their infallibility.

    As I’ve said time and time again to you, but failed each time to make you actually listen, your faith is not in question. Your right to make moral pronouncements on those who hold themselves to a higher standard than faith alone most certainly is. This is what you just don’t get and probably never will. If we were having this debate face to face, you’d be waking up in the car park with a crowd around you by now, but that would only seed some sort of moral authority back to you who least deserves it. So, in closing, my pious little close minded venner, I simply repeat the same advice to you I will always give to you until you actually get it into your melon full of magic. Read more non-fiction.

  35. Jim,

    Will you be creating another thread, perhaps titled, “Is the Bible fact, or fiction?”

    I say it’s fact. You say it’s fiction. I’m pretty confident truth can stand on its own two feet. The Bible has withstood the criticisms of the greatest skeptics, agnostics, and atheists down through the centuries, it it is able to withstand the feeble efforts of unbelieving critics like you today. Part of my loving duty to Christ is to find answers for those who criticize God’s Word. For, as Solomon said, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:5).

    My request for an additional post is founded in the belief we should actually ‘think’ about what we believe. God places no premium on ignorance, nor does He reward those who refuse to look at the evidence. On the contrary, He will condemn those who refuse the plain evidence He has revealed (Rom. 1:18-20).

    The truth is, Jim, there is not EVEN ONE demonstrated error in the original text of the Bible. This is not to say that there are not ‘difficulties’ in our Bibles. There are, and that is what I hope your next thread will be all about.

    You’ll have to do better than to just say, “Noah’s Flood, so there!” What about Noah’s Flood?

    How about starting with 2 or 3 specific “fiction claims” and let me respond. Then throw a few more my way. Let me respond. Keep ’em coming, there are answers. But please, Jim, stop pretending for readership’s sake that you’ve been pounding me with questions that I’ve avoided. Give me a break.

    Start a thread. Posit your claims (specific claims), and let me go to work.

    Or don’t.

    Call that being passive-aggressive if you’d like. It’s not. It’s simply calling you on the carpet and exposing your bias and lack of scholarship.

    Thanks, Jim.

    Todd

    (With such bold assertions made about the Bible being fiction, should we all assume that part of your formal education includes the study of Hebrew and Greek? Just wanted to know so that we can determine where the credibility of your opinion lies.)

  36. What about the ones I’ve just listed, Todd? How about we start with them? Oh, that’s right. You don’t actually read what’s in front of you do you. OK, how about this. Let’s start with the ones I’ve just listed. Is that better? No? OK. Well how about the questions I’ve just asked you? Yeah? OK, let’s do that then. Agreed? No?

    In that case how about you address the fact that you asked me to provide ONE area where the bible is clearly wrong and I provided 5? How about that? Let’s start there shall we? No?

    I think you see where this is going, Todd. Answer the questions or go away. The ball is in your court. If you can’t, don’t. If you can, great! But don’t brush me off because you can’t answer the basics. If you want to bury your head even deeper in the sand because I won’t start yet another thread for you to completely fail to learn anything from then so be it—but you still haven’t answered any of the questions because you still don’t understand what the question is—despite that I have spelled it out for you over and over again.

    You have, it seems to me, two options.

    1) Fall to your knees and beg Jesus to tell you the answers.
    2) Read more non-fiction.

    Based upon the evidence, which option do we think will produce the most reliable results?

  37. Dear reader, can you please, just please, join me in e-slapping Jim upside the head? Jim accuses me of not reading…hmmmn, allow me to copy and paste from my own extremely recent post(s):

    (T) My challenge stands, Jim, start another thread with YOUR truth claim relating to the Bible being just a collection of fairy tales written by illiterate goat herders. Back up your claim.

    (T) Will you be creating another thread, perhaps titled, “Is the Bible fact, or fiction?”

    (T) My request for an additional post is founded in the belief we should actually ‘think’ about what we believe.

    (T) There are, and that is what I hope your next thread will be all about.

    (T) How about starting with 2 or 3 specific “fiction claims” and let me respond.

    (T) Start a thread. Posit your claims (specific claims), and let me go to work.

    Jim, how you can accuse me of not answering your Big 5 based upon my post is, well, stupid. If I didn’t make myself clear, I’m asking for you to start another thread. Copy and paste your claims on over for all I care. I just ask that you back them up with what the specific problem with the original text is. I’ll then respond. How is that avoiding anything, Jim? You’re a mess.

    Apparently you don’t care enough to have an honest debate about Bible difficulties…I made the request for another thread (how many times now?), but apparently deemed my request wholly unreasonable. Should I assume that you are denying my request? Are you ‘demanding’ I respond within this ‘Did Jesus Really Exist’ thread? Call me crazy, I just thought it might be more appropriate and productive to get into what I assume will be a text-heavy debate about the Bible UNDER AN APPROPRIATE HEADING. I was even thinking we might be able to bring this thread back on point and dive into discussions relating to the Historical Jesus. But hey, it’s your movie.

    Forgive me for making the request, perhaps it was indeed irrational to do so. Mea culpa, I forgot which den I’m in.

    Todd

  38. (sigh)

    Jim, I don’t know why you engage with people like Todd. He’s not a scholar, he’s just a guy who see leprechauns and instead of taking medication tries to convince everyone else that leprechauns exist. Then he challenges you to ‘prove’ that the leprechauns don’t exist – but you can’t disprove someone else’s hallucinations!

    I feel like I’m reading a conversation with Ted Nugent (another kook who uses pretend logic).

  39. Jim, I see you’ve called for backup…you’ve been holding back “the Big Guns” I guess. That’s great…more “leprechaun” assertions. Nice, Sgw555. Way to add value.

  40. No, Todd. I’m just all out of dealing with you myself. I thought it might sink in how fucked you are if you hear it from someone else for a change. You are of course welcome to answer the questions at any time. Take as long as you need.

  41. I’ll consider the source.

    I accept your refusal to begin a new thread for what it is, an obvious deflection. My request still stands and I’ll happily engage when you actually want answers. You don’t. And to your left-flank, Sgw555, I’m not concerned about my being a scholar or not. Fact is, I have scholarly resources and take the time to actively research my responses. Now, do I think you (or Jim) would for a minute value my research? Nope. For example, “if” Jim had the cajones to go toe-to-toe regarding his bankrupt Bible claims, he’d get some no-kidding-around back-up supporting my answers. Oh, for example, to his question “Why does Mark’s gospel have two different endings?” I would invite him to read this article: http://www.bible-researcher.com/endmark.html#dissent

    Of course, Agent Sgw555, Jim would dismiss my back-up. It doesn’t address the leprechauns, I guess. Yessirreee, following that link and actually reading the article which more than satisfactorily answers Jim’s question goes into the “fiction category” I guess.

    Readers, can you see where there’s an incredible vacuum of credibility within this blog? Can you see how guys like Jim and Mr. or Ms. Sgw555 are minus substance when it comes to following the evidence?

    Yes, I’d be happy to answer Jim’s other questions, but why bother when he won’t credibly engage. He started the fight and won’t finish it.

    Vintage Jim.

    Todd

    Nick, I miss you.

  42. Hmmm. I see a lot of mental energy wasted here – on both sides of this non-argument. There is no more (and no less) verifiable evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is for Thor, Shiva, Mithras (whose mythology shares many elements with that of Jesus) etc..

    Until someone comes up with some evidence (any, at all), the argument is pointless – in my opinion.

    I don’t think that those with faith are doing themselves any favours whatsoever by engaging in such debates. To come out from behind the security blanket of “faith” (where you need not justify your beliefs at all) and subject your worldview to any form of critical investigation (whether philosophical or empirical) seems just to attract pity and ridicule.

    Likewise, those whose worldview is based upon observable reality are simply wasting their time – faith, by definition, is impervious to examination.

  43. I read the article; since you have access to ‘scholarly resources’, could you please translate the Greek references, because without a working knowledge of Greek, I don’t see how you or anyone else can use this piece of drivel (you’re really going to use a ‘critical article’ from 1894 as your big weapon here?) as proof of anything, let alone another discussion thread.

    RationalBritain is right (though perhaps we could use ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ as evidence of Thor and the other Viking gods!).

    And you know what Douglas Adams said about proving the existence of God:

    “Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful [as a Babel Fish] could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:

    “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

    “But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”

    “Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

    “Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed at the next zebra crossing.

    Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo’s kidneys, but that didn’t stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune when he used it as the central theme of his best-selling book, ‘Well That About Wraps It Up for God.’ ”

    Seriously, the only thing to be done here is laugh.

    Todd, you seem really upset about all this and I’m not sure why. If you were as convinced of your views as we are of ours, you’d be able to laugh about this, too. Which kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

  44. @Todd:

    Specific is relative – the onus to specify what, specifically, is under examination, is upon the person offering the evidence.
    To canvas those on the other side of the argument for specifics is pointless when you are supposedly the one with a point to prove – and serves only to cloud the issue in semantics.

    Put bluntly:

    1. If you wish to prove a point/theory/conjecture, then first clearly state that point/theory/conjecture – and then present evidence to prove it;

    or:

    2. Remove yourself from the type of discourse that requires the aforementioned evidence.

    To do otherwise is simply intellectually dishonest. In my opinion.

  45. RationalBritain, right out of the blocks you sentence yourself to the land of the misinformed. Based on your above post, I assume you hold that there is no verifiable evidence for the existence of Jesus, correct? And perhaps the “Jesus Myth” was borrowed from Thor, Shiva and Mithras?

    That certainly helps me know what I’m dealing with. Please confirm.

    Allegations of an early Christian dependence on Mithraism, for example, have been rejected on many grounds. Mithraism had no concept of the death and resurrection of its god and no place for any concept of rebirth — at least during its early stages…During the early stages of the cult, the notion of rebirth would have been foreign to its basic outlook…Moreover, Mithraism was basically a military cult. Therefore, one must be skeptical about suggestions that it appealed to nonmilitary people like the early Christians.

    As far as evidence is concerned, shall I assume you dismiss the New Testament as reliable information, and that I shouldn’t even go there? If so, you must also dismiss the reliability of the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, Homer, and the other great ancient authors. On the other hand, if you acknowledge the historicity and writings of those individuals, then you must also retain the historicity and writings of the New Testament authors; after all, the evidence for the New Testament’s reliability is far greater than the others. The Christian has substantially superior criteria for affirming the New Testament documents than you do for any other ancient writing.

    I want to list five reasons why I think we ought to assume that the gospels are reliable until proven wrong:

    1. There was insufficient time for legendary influences to expunge the historical facts. The interval of time between the events themselves and recording of them in the gospels is too short to have allowed the memory of what had or had not actually happened to be erased.

    2. The gospels are not analogous to folk tales or contemporary “urban legends.” Tales like those of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill or contemporary urban legends like the “vanishing hitchhiker” rarely concern actual historical individuals and are thus not analogous to the gospel narratives.

    3. The Jewish transmission of sacred traditions was highly developed and reliable. In an oral culture like that of first century Palestine the ability to memorize and retain large tracts of oral tradition was a highly prized and highly developed skill. From the earliest age children in the home, elementary school, and the synagogue were taught to memorize faithfully sacred tradition. The disciples would have exercised similar care with the teachings of Jesus.

    4. There were significant restraints on the embellishment of traditions about Jesus, such as the presence of eyewitnesses and the apostles’ supervision. Since those who had seen and heard Jesus continued to live and the tradition about Jesus remained under the supervision of the apostles, these factors would act as a natural check on tendencies to elaborate the facts in a direction contrary to that preserved by those who had known Jesus.

    5. The Gospel writers have a proven track record of historical reliability.

    The gospels are not only trustworthy documents in general, but as we look at some of the most important aspects of Jesus in the gospels, like his radical personal claims, his miracles, his trial and crucifixion, and his resurrection, their historical veracity shines through. God has acted in history, and we can know it.

    But I doubt you give two cents about truth, do you?

    Todd

    P.S. BTW, the recent debate between between William Lane Craig (theist) and Christopher Hitchens (not) at Biola University went exactly as we’d expect. Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent, with the occasional rhetorical jab. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child. Perhaps Hitchens realized how bad things were for him after Craig’s opening speech, as even Hitchens’ rhetorical flourishes were not as confident as usual. He did not even bother to give his concluding remarks, ceding the time instead to Q&A.

    What a pointless matchup, huh? One is a loudmouthed self-worshiping journalist and the other is a major analytic philosopher. You might as well put on a debate between Michael Martin and Bill O’Reilly. Kind of reminds me of the exchange within this blog. One side has truth and backs it up, the other just hurls the same ‘ol recycled atheist jabs, high-fiving themselves in their solo wonder.

    I love you guys, though!

  46. I know I’m going to regret this, but…

    You said:
    “The gospels are not only trustworthy documents in general, but as we look at some of the most important aspects of Jesus in the gospels, like his radical personal claims, his miracles, his trial and crucifixion, and his resurrection, their historical veracity shines through. God has acted in history, and we can know it.”

    This is the kind of spurious reasoning that gets people who try to ‘prove’ God into trouble.

    Even if I believe that the gospels are ‘trustworthy documents’ (and I don’t, any more than I think that someone reading PG Wodehouse books 2000 years from now should consider them ‘trustworthy’ accounts of ‘real life’), and even if I think there was some guy named Jesus who made a big impression on a lot of people (which I kind of do), going from ‘the gospels are true’ to ‘Jesus was resurrected’ to ‘GOD HAS ACTED IN HISTORY AND WE CAN KNOW IT’ is a flawed argument and leaves you open to people like Jim going postal on your behind.

    This leap from “the disciples would have [I notice you said ‘would have’, not ‘did’ – because you know full well that none of us can know how faithful the disciples were to any oral tradition] exercised similar care” to “See? This PROVES God exists!” only holds up if you (a) believe that proof of Jesus involves resurrection; (b) believe that resurrection happened; and (c) believe that Jesus was related to God in some way (and therefore anything that happened to him was a ‘result’ of ‘God’).

    I know you decided early in this discussion that if you could prove stuff about Jesus we should all take it as proof of God – but I’m pretty sure the rest of us didn’t accept that premise.

    And again, I’m not sure why you’re obsessed with ‘proof’ anyway. “By their works shall ye know them”, right? So if you’re so big on the New Testament, I’m pretty sure you should be out there doing good works rather than trying to make atheists look foolish.

  47. I couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying, Swelstead – but you’re forgetting one important thing. Todd (and all of his ilk) have a wild card clause in their argument contract which stipulates that at no time, if anyone should point out the completely obvious, is anything they say to be taken seriously, understood, processed or even so much as trusted to be remotely true unless they dress it up in the pre-approved Christian vocabulary.

    Non-Jesus-safe language is out of bounds. Only the word of the Lord it to be taken seriously—not that nasty humanist, rationalist, fact based “truth” stuff they bandy around on that internets. Why? Oh because, quote, “there is not EVEN ONE demonstrated error in the original text of the Bible”—that’s why, silly. Did you forget that? Apart, that is, from the parts of the bible Todd has decided he doesn’t count as utterly hypocritical, once he’s reminded of them. Those parts don’t count. They’re just “straw men” erected as “sophomoric tantrum[s]” upon his personal integrity as a “scholar”, or something.

  48. Evenin’, boys and girls.

    Lots of good questions to sink my teeth into. Off to do some research.

    In the meantime, Jim, thouest who ought not throw stones about ignoring questions, can I ask you for the dozenth time, “Where did all your multi-verses come from?”

    Just askin’…

  49. While you’re searching for an answer, thought you might be interested in the following:

    Anyone who appeals to infinite (or even just a very large number of) universes commits a form of the gambler’s fallacy, as described in the following example: Someone flips a single coin in an auditorium in the presence of witnesses ten thousand consecutive times and each time that coin lands with heads facing up. One committing the gambler’s fallacy says that outside the auditorium 210,000 (2 x 2 x 2 . . . ten thousand such multiplications) coins might possibly exist and that all these coins may have been flipped 10,000 consecutive times each. He further speculates that every coin outside of the auditorium produced a different set of results in their 10,000 flips than the one observed inside the auditorium. On this basis he concludes that the coin flipped in the auditorium represents that one possible instance out of 210,000 coins that the laws of probability state would produce ten thousand consecutive heads. He, therefore, would conclude that the coin in the auditorium still has a 50/50 chance of landing on tails, and would be willing to bet on tails for the next flip.

    The gambler here commits three major errors. He has no evidence that 210,000 coins must exist outside the auditorium. He has no evidence that all the coins outside the auditorium are flipped ten thousand consecutive times each. And, he especially has no evidence that all the coin flipping results outside the auditorium are different from those he has observed inside the auditorium.

    Where the coin sample size is only one, a rational conclusion to draw from 10,000 consecutive coin flips yielding nothing but heads is that the coin has been purposed or designed to always produce a heads result. Likewise, where the universe sample size is only one, a rational conclusion to draw from cosmic fine-tuning that is many orders of magnitude greater than anything humans can manifest in their creations, is that a Being must have purposed or designed the universe in such a manner that it can support physical life.

    In the case of the universe one can draw a stronger conclusion than one can for the coin. Whereas one knows that more than one coin exists, one does not know whether more than one universe exists. Moreover, one will never gain the technological capacity to scientifically discover the existence of another universe. Once observers exist in universe A, the theory of general relativity indicates that the space-time manifold or envelope of that universe can never overlap the space-time manifold of any other possibly existing universe. In other words, even if God made ten universes, one would forever lack the scientific means to detect any universe but his or her own. Thus, the sample size of universes for humans is one and it always will be just one. Therefore, the only rational option for human beings right now and at any time in the future, regardless of the speculations of theoretical physicists, philosophers, and others, is that there is only one universe and that God exquisitely designed the universe for the benefit of humanity.

    Returning to the gambler, one could argue that his greatest error upon witnessing 10,000 consecutive flips producing 10,000 consecutive heads was his failure to more carefully investigate the properties of the coin before placing his bet on the 10,001st flip. If he had done so, he would have seen additional evidence for purposeful coin design. For example, he might have discovered that the coin had heads imprinted on both sides, or he might have noted that it had been weighted so that the heads side would always land face up.

    Just like the gambler, astronomers and others can continue to make measurements on the universe. Such additional measurements will confirm the purposefulness of the universe for the support of physical life. Indeed, this already has been done. For the past forty years, the more astronomers have learned about the universe, the stronger has become the conclusion that it is exquisitely fine-tuned for the support of physical life and especially for the support of human beings.

    You’re a gambler, aren’t you, Jim?

  50. Oh, Swelstead – you’re right. With your gently presented inquiry, I can now vividly see how my analogy was a direct comparison to ‘an institution’ that expresses a belief in a divine power. You dot-connector, you!

  51. You guys are wearing me out! A persuasive bunch, you are.

    All this emotionless straight talk about science, evidence, science, evidence. It’s starting to really weigh on me, I have to confess. My “divinely inspired illiterate goat herders,” against your “just the facts ma’am” scientists.

    I’m beginning to arrive at your precious conclusion that Darwin may have had it right. You free-thinkers are not blind. Evolution exists. Evidence counts. Here’s a perfect sampling of what happens when science meets evidence…an evolutionary effect occurs, naturally. I guess you can say I’m begrudgingly “crying uncle.”

    Just the facts, Ma’am: As a result of the recent evidence in support of design, many scientists have ‘evolved’ to now believe in God. (WHAT?!) A survey in the journal Nature revealed that 40% of American physicists, biologists and mathematicians believe in God — and not just some metaphysical abstraction, but a deity who takes an active interest in our affairs and hears our prayers: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (HUH?!)

    The degree to which the constants of physics must match a precise criteria is such that a number of agnostic scientists have concluded that there is some sort of “supernatural plan” or “Agency” behind it. (SAY IT AIN’T SO!) Here is what they say:

    Fred Hoyle (British astrophysicist): “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

    George Ellis (British astrophysicist): “Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word ‘miraculous’ without taking a stand as to the ontological status of the word.”

    Paul Davies (British astrophysicist): “There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all….It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe….The impression of design is overwhelming”.

    Paul Davies: “The laws [of physics] … seem to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design… The universe must have a purpose”.

    Alan Sandage (winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy): “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”

    John O’Keefe (astronomer at NASA): “We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures.. .. If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.”

    George Greenstein (astronomer): “As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency – or, rather, Agency – must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?”

    Arthur Eddington (astrophysicist): “The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory.”

    Arno Penzias (Nobel prize in physics): “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.”

    Roger Penrose (mathematician and author): “I would say the universe has a purpose. It’s not there just somehow by chance.”

    Tony Rothman (physicist): “When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.”

    Vera Kistiakowsky (MIT physicist): “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.”

    Robert Jastrow (self-proclaimed agnostic): “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

    Stephen Hawking (British astrophysicist): “Then we shall… be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”

    Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.” Note: Tipler since has actually converted to Christianity, hence his latest book, The Physics Of Christianity.

    Alexander Polyakov (Soviet mathematician): “We know that nature is described by the best of all possible mathematics because God created it.”

    Ed Harrison (cosmologist): “Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God – the design argument of Paley – updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one…. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.”

    Edward Milne (British cosmologist): “As to the cause of the Universe, in context of expansion, that is left for the reader to insert, but our picture is incomplete without Him [God].”

    Barry Parker (cosmologist): “Who created these laws? There is no question but that a God will always be needed.”

    Drs. Zehavi, and Dekel (cosmologists): “This type of universe, however, seems to require a degree of fine tuning of the initial conditions that is in apparent conflict with ‘common wisdom’.”

    Arthur L. Schawlow (Professor of Physics at Stanford University, 1981 Nobel Prize in physics): “It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. . . . I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life.”

    Henry “Fritz” Schaefer (Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia): “The significance and joy in my science comes in those occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, ‘So that’s how God did it.’ My goal is to understand a little corner of God’s plan.”

    Wernher von Braun (Pioneer rocket engineer) “I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.”

    Carl Woese (microbiologist from the University of Illinois) “Life in Universe – rare or unique? I walk both sides of that street. One day I can say that given the 100 billion stars in our galaxy and the 100 billion or more galaxies, there have to be some planets that formed and evolved in ways very, very like the Earth has, and so would contain microbial life at least. There are other days when I say that the anthropic principal, which makes this universe a special one out of an uncountably large number of universes, may not apply only to that aspect of nature we define in the realm of physics, but may extend to chemistry and biology. In that case life on Earth could be entirely unique.”

    There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His MindAntony Flew (Professor of Philosophy, former atheist, author, and debater) “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of Deoxyribonucleic acid: the chemical inside the nucleus of a cell that carries the genetic instructions for making living organisms.DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”

    Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “From the perspective of the latest physical theories, Christianity is not a mere religion, but an experimentally testable science.”

    GOOD LORD, ENOUGH ALREADY!

    All these professors, mathematicians, physicists, astrophysicists, atheists, agnostics, philosophers, rocket engineers, microbiologists, cosmologists, astronomers, Nobel Prize winners…ALL BELIEVING IN GOD! Please, don’t they KNOW that God is for GOAT HERDERS only?!

    I remember a day when our God-believing club was EXCLUSIVE to non-rational impervious fairytale believers! Well, look what the dog drug in. A bunch of YOUR ilk! God-believing Bible-toting Jesus-loving converts! It’s just not fair!

    What’s a Christian to do, guys?!

    I think I’ll just pick up my ball and go home! I liked it better when I was the ONLY Christian in the lion’s den!

  52. There is no “searching for an answer” about it, fact allergy boy. I was doing something else for a bit. Shocking, I know.

    Multi-verse is one of a number of yet to be falsified theories on the nature of nature beyond the physical descriptions or “laws” which happen to exist in the universe in which we happen to exist. You should know all of this, by the way, because it’s part of a group of theories which includes the anthropic principal, in physics, which crop up in those thigh slappers your lot come out with every now and then as if they are cast iron proof of a first cause instigator, or transversely (when new information about those laws comes to light thanks to the very scientific method you dispute) become used as a bludgeon over the heads of those silly realists who were proven wrong again about something they previously had “faith” in.

    That is until you learn to avoid the issue altogether thanks to discovering the principal of maximum entropy—but we won’t mention that just yet in case it bursts your little infinite regress bubble completely and stops you from coming back for more ridicule.. ..sorry, I mean scholarly debate.

    Again, we’ve (admittedly only sort of) covered this before and, as I recall, you expressed what I presumed to be genuine gratitude for my taking the time to explain at least my understanding of this vital evidence against the existence of (at least what I presume to be) your version of god—which, I admit, I might not have phrased in a particularly scientific way, but I had presumed we both got there in the end, even after your goal posts moved left to right several times without you noticing. This, it would appear, was obviously not the case, so I will attempt to recapitulate.

    I’ll save everyone the Todd method of “proving” a point by bamboozling the thread with pages and pages of received opinion, (cut and paste from some work of Jesus fan-fiction). Although I happily acknowledge that much of what I learned on entropy is covered in the latest book by Professor Victor J. Stenger (which Todd won’t read because there are no colouring in pictures in it), “God: The Failed Hypothesis”, which differs only from Todd’s choice of source material in that it contains mutually corroborative, independently acquired evidence, as opposed to wish thinking, poetically referred to as ‘articles of faith’.

    Specifically, on multi-verse theory, I’m not aware of any serious person who has said they know “where multi-verses come from”. Of course we could suppose they were invented by the big guy who takes our invisible soul to where He lives when we die, but that hardly answers the question of who designed the big guy and is, in any case, complete bollocks, since there is no reason to suppose these levels, known as Tegmark taxonomy of universes, “came from” anywhere at all.

    Even if this weren’t complete bollocks and you could prove “God did it”, frankly I’d prefer it if He would just fuck off with all that hiding the evidence of His own existence business in the first place. All He’s doing is encouraging the self-appointed “religious scholars” to stand behind the same lies they wouldn’t take a second to call someone of another faith out on, were they guilty of exactly the same deception—and the only group in society it’s getting even more tiresome having to deal with than them, over and over again without the slightest sign of any progress, are the HIV riddled, child molesting, monotheists with three Gods, hypocritical, self-loathing Catholics.

    In the real world, we’re much better off looking at what the evidence tell us. As far as I am aware there is nothing proposed within what is also known as meta-verse theory which “requires” that any of the laws of physics be suspended for it to function as a working model on what may be “Beyond our cosmological horizon”—although objections about it contradicting, for example, Occam’s razor are compelling—and I tend to agree with them, despite that I appreciate what multi-verse theory suggests about infinite possibilities and therefore a theoretically (although highly improbable) state of affairs in which everything is both real and unreal, solid and amorphous, truth is lies and lies is truth; cats and dogs living together, forever and ever, amen—so to speak.

    Of course we have absolutely no way of conceptualising this, in any meaningful way beyond semantics, because our reality is entirely constrained within that very reality—and even then most of us, especially the religious, have little enough grasp on that, without, literally, introducing the paradox of organised chaos where everything can theoretically be participial to consensus.

    For the record, incidentally, Todd’s gambling metaphor is his attempt at paraphrasing a section in my book which deals with this very subject—although with a distinctly Todd twist on things, which is (naturally) just wrong and yet more proof of his failure to grasp basic logic.

    To be clear, I disapprove of mixing science fiction with science fact. Multi-verse theory is very, very interesting. But even if it could be proven tomorrow that it’s not a lot of science and mostly fiction, I wouldn’t be rushing into a Mosque, synagogue, super-mega-tongue talking tabernacle anytime soon—prostrating myself in front of Todd’s Freudian ego. That much should be obvious, but I suspect at least one reader out there still doesn’t see why not.

    Humans. What a bunch of dick heads.

  53. It’s interesting, Jim. You originally posted your (now) post 62 at 11:00pm EST, I then posted my (now) post 61 at 11:02pm. I deemed my (now) post 61 an appropriate reply to your (now) post 62. Amazingly, blog-master, the posts magically changed places within minutes of my (now) post 61 that was a response to your (now) post 62. Go figure. You can even see in the upper right hand corner that my post came in after yours. Guess you must have not liked the order. The ‘ol bait and switch, eh, Jim?

    Oh well. So be it. It’s your blog.

  54. I did it deliberately Todd. Because I’ve long suspected you wait for me to post so you can post immediately after to get the last word in and in your tiny mind “win”. But you can fuck off with that shit, basically. All I needed was proof. And you’ve just given it to me.

    Q. Where is the archeological evidence of the exodus?

  55. Todd, seriously… you can name every famous scientist ever known: it does not bring credible proof. Just because someone says it is true (or possible) doesn’t make it so.

    That, and I’m pretty sure there was some good old fashioned quote mining going on there.

  56. Wow. Rarely have I seen so many arguments from ignorance cut and pasted into one comment thread.

    Guys, you’re all still letting Todd drag you into semantics. By entertaining his questions that he knows there are no answers to, you are missing the fact that he has still not yet stated one single verifiable point that even comes close to a proof of his particular sky-daddy.

    Todd – science (which you seem to have a knee-jerk reaction to) does not even try to suggest that it has answers to the questions you’re asking of it. Science is the method of understanding the NATURAL world. It has no opinion on, or interest in, whatever supernatural stories you wish to believe. Nor does it comment on them – unless you attempt to engage it in debate about them, at which point it (repeatedly) asks you for proof.

    If you insist on continuing this discourse, I repeat my earlier ultimatum (which you ignored):

    1. If you wish to prove a point/theory/conjecture, then first clearly state that point/theory/conjecture – and then present evidence to prove it;

    or:

    2. Remove yourself from the type of discourse that requires the aforementioned evidence.

  57. Indeed, Kaybee! I’m with ya! He showed me! (spell check, though…it’s *applause*)

    From the top:

    (J) I did it deliberately Todd.

    (T) Thank you for your honesty. Apology accepted.

    (J) Because I’ve long suspected you wait for me to post so you can post immediately after to get the last word in and in your tiny mind “win”. But you can fuck off with that shit, basically. All I needed was proof. And you’ve just given it to me.

    (T) This is beautiful. Todd the Jim-post-stalker. BU-UUUSSSTED! You do connect all the dots, don’t you Jim?

    (Readers, sadly, Jim thinks a little too highly of opinion’s worth (to me). Don’t tell him, but I really don’t monitor his blog 24/7 just waiting for him to post. Dawkin’s wrote his “God Delusion,” Jim just authored his “Todd Delusion.” Brilliant! Shhhh, keep it our little secret. Let’s grant him this one.)

    By the way, Jim, I’m working on your answers. When are you going to begin the new thread?

    (DC) Todd, seriously… you can name every famous scientist ever known: it does not bring credible proof.

    (T) I’ll assume you’ve studied every one of the scientists and their own proof claims before dismissing them as “yet another Christian quack,” right? And refuted each one? Just checking. Can you please send me a link to your work? Thanks.

    (DC) Just because someone says it is true (or possible) doesn’t make it so.

    (T) Boy, you have me there, Douglas. That pretty much refutes all these scientist’s life works and conclusions. Jim should have brought you into this debate way earlier. Would have saved us all a bunch of time. Chalk one up for Team Atheist!

    (DC) That, and I’m pretty sure there was some good old fashioned quote mining going on there.

    (T) No, Douglas, I had them all memorized. I’m gifted in that way. You really have me reverse-engineered. Stop already, I give up! (Um, it’s called ‘Google’)

    (T) RationalBritain, didn’t realize you were the Sergeant of Arms here. Didn’t realize Jim anointed you to King of the Blog, blessing you with the power of ultimatums. Sorry, I missed that. I now understand why Jim hasn’t started a new thread titled “Is the Bible fact, or fiction?” He doesn’t yet have your blessing. Jim, can you please check with RB and see if he might approve? Thanks, Buddy.

    (RB) 1. If you wish to prove a point/theory/conjecture, then first clearly state that point/theory/conjecture – and then present evidence to prove it;

    (TP) Okay, Searg, since you’ve not given me any credit for anything within this thread or the other (lots of evidence over there), I’ll take my best shot at doing it your way. I feel a little bit like a child just learning to ride a bicycle with training wheels, so please be patient with me. It may take me a few times to get the hang of it, but let me try with some training-wheels effort:

    1. Atheists hate dissenting opinions.
    2. RationalBritain is an atheist.
    3. RationalBritain hates dissenting opinions.
    4. God dissents atheist opinions.
    5. RationalBritain hates God.

    Okay, this is kind of fun, let me try again:

    1. God created atheists.
    2. Atheists don’t believe in God.
    3. At one point, man considered the earth flat.
    4. Even when believing the world to be flat, it never ceased being round.
    5. Even when not believing in God, atheists never ceased being His creation.

    Alright! I’m starting to get the hang of it! Let me try one more time, ummmmn, bear with me because I’m going to type this out from memory, like I did with all the scientist citations, but here it goes:

    The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God

    This is an attempt to demonstrate the existence of God using logical absolutes. The oversimplified argument, which is expanded in outline form below, goes as follows:
    1. Logical absolutes exist.
    2. Logical absolutes are conceptual by nature, are not dependent on space, time, physical properties, or human nature. They are not the product of the physical universe (space, time, matter), because if the physical universe were to disappear, logical absolutes would still be true.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not the product of human minds, because human minds are different, not absolute. But, since logical absolutes are always true everywhere, and not dependent upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent mind that is authoring them. This mind is called God.

    1. Logical Absolutes
    1. Law of Identity
    1. Something is what it is, and isn’t what it is not. Something that exists has a specific nature.
    2. For example, a cloud is a cloud, not a rock. A fish is a fish, not a car.
    2. Law of Non-Contradiction
    1. Something cannot be both true and false at the same time in the same sense.
    2. For example, to say that the cloud is not a cloud would be a contradiction since it would violate the first law. The cloud cannot be what it is and not what it is at the same time.
    3. Law of Excluded Middle
    1. A statement is either true or false, without a middle ground.
    2. “I am alive” is either true or false. “You are pregnant” is either true or false.
    1. Note one: “This statement is false” is not a valid statement (not logically true) since it is self-refuting and is dealt with by the Law of Non-contradiction. Therefore, it does not fall under the LEM category since it is a self-contradiction.
    2. Note two: If we were to ignore note one, then there is a possible paradox here. The sentence “this statement is false” does not fit this Law since if it is true, then it is false. Paradoxes occur only when we have absolutes. Nevertheless, the LEM is valid except for the paradoxical statement cited.
    3. Note three: If we again ignore note one and admit a paradox, then we must acknowledge that paradoxes exist only within the realm of absolutes.
    2. Logical absolutes are truth statements such as:
    1. That which exists has attributes and a nature.
    1. A cloud exists and has the attributes of whiteness, vapor, etc. It has the nature of water and air.
    2. A rock is hard, heavy, and is composed of its rock material (granite, marble, sediment, etc.).
    2. Something cannot be itself and not itself at the same time.
    1. It cannot be true to state that a rock is not a rock.
    3. Something cannot bring itself into existence.
    1. In order for something to bring itself into existence, it has to have attributes in order to perform an action. But if it has attributes, then it already has existence. If something does not exist, it has no attributes and can perform no actions. Therefore, something cannot bring itself into existence.
    4. Truth is not self-contradictory.
    1. It could not be true that you are reading this and not reading this at the same time in the same sense. It is either true or false that you are reading this.
    5. Therefore, Logical Absolutes are absolutely true. They are not subjectively true; that is, they are not sometimes true and sometimes false, depending on preference or situation. Otherwise, they would not be absolute.
    3. Logical Absolutes form the basis of rational discourse.
    1. If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then truth cannot be known.
    2. If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then no rational discourse can occur.
    1. For example, I could say that a square is a circle (violating the law of identity), or that I am and am not alive in the same sense at the same time (violating the law of non-contradiction).
    2. But no one would expect to have a rational conversation with someone who spoke in contradictory statements.
    3. If Logical Absolutes are not always true, then it might be true that something can contradict itself, which would make truth unknowable and rational discourse impossible. But, saying that something can contradict itself can’t be true.
    4. But since we know things are true (I exist, you are reading this), then we can conclude that logical statements are true. Otherwise, we would not be able to rationally discuss or know truth.
    5. If they are not the basis of rational discourse, then we cannot know truth or error since the laws that govern rationality are not absolute. This would allow people to speak irrationally, i.e., blue sleeps faster than Wednesday.
    4. Logical Absolutes are transcendent.
    1. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on space.
    1. They do not stop being true dependent on location. If we travel a million light years in a direction, logical absolutes are still true.
    2. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on time.
    1. They do not stop being true dependent on time. If we travel a billion years in the future or past, logical absolutes are still true.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on people. That is, they are not the product of human thinking.
    1. People’s minds are different. What one person considers to be absolute may not be what another considers to be absolute. People often contradict each other. Therefore, Logical Absolutes cannot be the product of human, contradictory minds.
    2. If Logical Absolutes were the product of human minds, they would cease to exist if people ceased to exist, which would mean they would be dependent on human minds. But this cannot be so per the previous point.
    5. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on the material world.
    1. Logical Absolutes are not found in atoms, motion, heat, under rocks, etc.
    2. Logical Absolutes cannot be photographed, frozen, weighed, or measured.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not the product of the physical universe, since that would mean they were contingent on atoms, motion, heat, etc., and that their nature was dependent on physical existence.
    1. If their nature were dependent upon physical existence, they would cease to exist when the physical universe ceases to exist.
    4. But, if the universe did not exist, logical absolutes are still true.
    1. For example, if the universe did not exist, it is still true that something cannot bring itself into existence; that is, anything that did exist would have an identity, and whatever could exist could not be itself and not itself at the same time.
    2. Therefore, they are not dependent on the material world.
    6. Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature.
    1. Logic is a process of the mind. Logical absolutes provide the framework for logical thought processes. Therefore, Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature.
    2. Expanded: Logical absolutes are either conceptual by nature or they are not.
    1. If they are conceptual by nature, then they are not dependent upon the physical universe for their existence.
    2. If they are non-conceptual by nature, then:
    1. What is their nature?
    2. If it is denied that Logical Absolutes are either conceptual or physical, then there must be a 3rd (or 4th…) option. What would that option be?
    3. If another option cannot be logically offered, then the only options available to us are conceptual and physical.
    4. Since logic is not a property of physical nature (see point 5 above), then we must conclude that they are conceptual by nature.
    5. Simply “denying” that Logical Absolutes are either conceptual or physical nature isn’t sufficient.
    7. Thoughts reflect the mind
    1. A person’s thoughts reflect what he or she is.
    2. Absolutely perfect thoughts reflect an absolutely perfect mind.
    3. Since the Logical Absolutes are transcendent, absolute, are perfectly consistent, and are independent of the universe, then they reflect a transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind.
    4. We call this transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind God.
    8. Objections Answered
    1. Logical Absolutes are the result of natural existence.
    1. In what sense are they the result of natural existence? How do conceptual absolutes form as a result of the existence of matter?
    2. Logical Absolutes simply exist.
    1. This is begging the question and does not provide an explanation for their existence. Simply saying they exist is not an answer.
    3. Logical Absolutes are conventions.
    1. A convention, in this context, is an agreed upon principle. But since people differ on what is and is not true, then logical absolutes cannot be the product of human minds, and therefore are not the product of human conventions; that is, of human agreements.
    2. This would mean that logical absolutes were invented upon an agreement by a sufficient number of people. But this would mean that logical absolutes are a product of human minds, which cannot be the case since human minds differ and are often contradictory. Furthermore, the nature of logical absolutes is that they transcend space and time (not dependent on space and time for their validity) and are absolute (they don’t change) by nature. Therefore, they could not be the product of human minds which are finite and not absolute.
    4. Logical Absolutes are eternal.
    1. What is meant by stating they are eternal?
    2. If a person says that logical absolutes have always existed, then how is it they could exist without a mind (if the person denies the existence of an absolute and transcendent mind)?
    5. Logical Absolutes are uncaused.
    1. Since the nature of logic is conceptual, and logical absolutes form the framework of this conceptual process known as logic, it would be logical to conclude that the only way logical absolutes could be uncaused is if there was an uncaused and absolute mind authoring them.
    6. Logical Absolutes are self-authenticating.
    1. This means that logical absolutes validate themselves. While this is true, it does not explain their existence.
    2. It is begging the question. It just says they are because they are.
    7. Logical Absolutes are like rules of chess, which are not absolute and transcendent.
    1. The rules of chess are human inventions since Chess is a game invented by people. In fact, the rules of chess have changed over the years, but logical absolutes have not. So, comparing the rules of chess to logical absolutes is invalid.
    8. There are different kinds of logic.
    1. Saying there are different kinds of logic does not explain the existence of logical absolutes.
    9. “Logical absolutes need no transcendental existence: saying ‘they would be true even if matter didn’t exist’ is irrelevant, because we’re concerned with their existence, not their logical validity. Saying ‘the idea of a car would still exist even if matter didn’t exist’ doesn’t imply that your car is transcendental (reductio ad absurdum).”
    1. Why do logical absolutes need no transcendental existence? Simply saying they don’t need a transcendental existence doesn’t account for their existence. “Need” deals with desire and wants, which are irrelevant to the discussion of the nature of logical absolutes.
    2. Also, why is it irrelevant to say they would be true even if matter didn’t exist? On the contrary, it is precisely relevant to the discussion since we’re dealing with the nature of logical absolutes which are conceptual realities, not physical ones.
    3. The illustration that a car would still exist if matter did not exist is illogical. By definition, a car is made of matter and if matter did not exist, a car could not logically exist. By contrast, logical absolutes are not made of matter. The objection is invalid.
    10. “Logical abstractions do not have existence independent of our minds. They are constructs in our minds (i.e. brains), and we use them to carry out computations via neural networks, silicon networks, etc., suggested by the fact that logic – like language – is learned, not inbuilt (ball’s in your court to demonstrate an independent existence, or problem with this).” (…continued in next objection…)
    1. How do you know that logical abstractions do not have existence independent of our minds? Saying so doesn’t make it so. This is precisely one of the points about the nature of logical absolutes; namely, that they are a process of the mind, but are not dependent upon human bodies because human minds contradict each other and are also self-contradictory. This would preclude our minds from being the authors of what is logically absolute. Furthermore, if they are constructions of our minds, then all I have to do is claim victory in any argument because that is how I construct my logical abstractions. But, of course, you wouldn’t accept this as being valid. Therefore, this demonstrates that your assertion is incorrect.
    11. (continued from previous objection…) “Logical absolutes are absolute, not because of some special quality, but because we judge them using logic. Therefore, their absoluteness doesn’t arise from any special ontological quality (category error on your part).”
    1. You are begging the question. You use logic to demonstrate that logical absolutes are absolute. You are not giving a rational reason for their existence. Instead, you assume their existence and argue accordingly.
    2. Furthermore, when you presuppose the validity of logical absolutes to demonstrate they are absolute, you contradict your statement in your previous objection about them being constructs of human minds. They cannot be constructs of human minds, because human minds contradict each other and themselves.
    3. I do not see any category mistake on my part. The nature of logical absolutes is that they are conceptual, not physical. This is something I have brought out before so that their categories do not get mixed. The nature of logical absolutes is exactly relevant to the question.
    12. (continued from previous objection…) “Logical absolutes can be accurately described as conventions in communication. The fact that they are widely employed does not imply anything transcendental, anymore than the wide employment of the word “lolly” as something small and yummy implies that the word “lolly” is transcendental (non sequitor).”
    1. Saying that they are “widely employed does not imply anything transcendental” is inaccurate. Something that is transcendental, as in logical absolutes, would naturally be widely employed because they are valid. You have recognized that they are widely used, but they are because they are transcendent. They do not become transcendent because they are widely used.
    2. This still does not account for the existence of logical absolutes.
    13. (continued from previous objection…) “Logical processes are clearly carried out by material constructs, usually neural or electrical. They do this without any known “input” or “guidance” from anything transcendental, which makes you wonder why anything transcendental is needed in the equation at all (reality check).”
    1. You haven’t defined “material construct” or what you mean by neural or electrical (constructs). If you mean a computer or something of that kind, this doesn’t help you at all because humans designed them using logic. If you mean that they are the process of the human brain, you still haven’t solved the problem of their existence; since the implication would be that if our minds do not exist, logical absolutes would not exist either. But this would mean that logical absolutes were not absolute, but dependent upon human minds. Again, the problem would be that human minds are different and contradict each other. Therefore, logical absolutes, which are not contradictory, cannot be the product of minds that are contradictory.
    2. You don’t have to know the input or understand the guidance from anything transcendental for the transcendentals to be true.
    14. “Logic is one of those characteristics that any healthy human ‘has.’ It’s not free to vary from one person to the next for the same kind of reason that ‘number of eyes’ is a value that doesn’t vary between healthy humans.”
    1. Saying that logic is something that everyone “has” does not explain its existence. Essentially, this is begging the question, stating that something exists because it exists.
    2. The analogy of “eyes” is a category mistake. Eyes are organs. Different organisms have different kinds of eyes and different numbers of eyes. Logic is consistent and independent of biological structures.
    15. Logic is the result of the semantics of the language which we have chosen: a statement is a theorem of logic if and only if it is valid in all conceivable worlds. If the language is trivalent (true/indetermined/false), tertium non datur is invalid. Uniformity of the universe can be rationally expected in a non-theistic universe. If there is no one around with the transcendental power to change it, why should the behavior of the universe tomorrow differ from its behavior today?
    1. “Semantics of the language.” Semantics deals with the study of the meaning of words, their development, changes in meaning, and the interpretation of words, etc. But semantics by nature deals with the changing meaning of words and the often subjective nature of language and its structures. To say the absolutes of logic are a result of the use of the subjective meanings of words is problematic. How do you derive logical absolutes from the non-absolute semantic structures of non-absolute languages?
    Furthermore, simply asserting that logic is a result of the semantics of the language does not explain the transcendent nature of logic. Remember, the TAG argument asserts that Logical Absolutes are independent of human existence — reasons given at the beginning of the paper. Since language, in this context, is a result of human existence, the argument would suggest that logic came into existence when language came into existence. But this would invalidate the nature of logical absolutes and their transcendent characteristics. Therefore, this objection is invalid.
    2. If logic is the result of language, then logic came into existence with language. This cannot be for the reasons stated above.
    3. If logic is the result of language, and since language rules change, then can we conclude that the laws of logic would also change? If so, then the laws of logic are not laws, they are not absolute.
    4. Saying that “a statement is a theorem of logic” does not account for logic, but presupposes existence of logic. This is begging the question.

    WHEW! I need a break!!! RationalBritain, I look forward to receiving your equally detailed refutation.

    Thank you again, RB, for helping me get my arms around why I wasn’t getting through to all of you. God bless you! I’m a better ambassador for Christ knowing you!

    Take care now.

    Todd

    P.S. I’ve been waiting for hours now to submit this comment. Jim must be slacking. Since I do have a life, I’m just going to have to hit the ‘submit’ button now. Dang it.

  58. Three thousand, seven hundred and seventy two words and not a single one of them original or answering of a single question you were asked. You need help, Todd.

  59. That blockquote was supposed to contain Todd’s “Let me try one more time, ummmmn, bear with me because I’m going to type this out from memory, like I did with all the scientist citations, but here it goes:”.

  60. Boy, you guys absolutely have NO sense of humor. If you didn’t realize I was being wholly facetious with my ‘let me type this out from memory’, it is you who need help.

    At least historically Jim “got” my sense of humor.

    RB, you’re bringing down the curve.

  61. Todd:

    Inserting vague comments before plagiarised text that can later be pointed out as sarcastic if and when you’re found out is no less intellectually dishonest than the rest of your posting.

    Removing the pasted content from your posts leaves absolutely nothing of substance. I doubt you even understand the logical fallacies you’re regurgitating.

    If you wish to be taken seriously, please generate an argument of your own.

  62. And just for the record, since you guys don’t read, if you can’t harvest my humor from the text, let me spoon-feed it to you:

    (DC) That, and I’m pretty sure there was some good old fashioned quote mining going on there.

    (T) No, Douglas, I had them all memorized. I’m gifted in that way. You really have me reverse-engineered. Stop already, I give up! (Um, it’s called ‘Google’)

    Then, Mr. Smartypants offers this intellectual morsel:

    (RB) I particularly enjoyed the “Let me try one more time, ummmmn, bear with me because I’m going to type this out from memory, like I did with all the scientist citations, but here it goes:” before the blatantly plagiarised text. Most amusing.

    Then, Mr. Pile-on with Wrecklace Abandon serves up:

    (J) Who’d ‘a’ thunk it. A Christian Fundamentalist with zero intellectual honesty. I’m shocked and stunned.

    READERS, these guys are so busy high-fiving themselves with their own “Gotcha!” wit that they utterly failed to appreciate the humor. I’m actually embarrassed for them. I really am.

    I figured I’d hang in there to debate these guys, as their ignorance does not bother me in the least bit, but, I think with this exchange, I’m done. Free of the free thinkers. I’ll let them hang out telling each other how smart they are, how intellectual, how rationally advanced they are. I offer no further refutations past this post. I’m over you. You’re hopelessly lost.

    RationalBrain, YOU, in particular, crack me up. You are your own best company.

    With that, it’s over-and-out.

    God is still God, and you’re still not.

    Sorry.

    Todd

  63. Todd: I spent approximately two hours on comment number 62 because you asked me a question to which I foolishly presumed you actually wanted an answer.

    Within seconds of my posting it, you replied with utter nonsense you didn’t even write yourself which was completely dismissive of your own original question and nothing to do with my response. When I sought to redress this, by making a small time-stamp edit, you accuse me of dishonesty.

    You’re a wanker, we know that already. A straight up and down, no doubt about it, wanker. Of course, you’re a self confessed Christian Fundamentalist with imaginary friends who will torture people who don’t believe in you for all eternity. That much is clear. But it’s at the point now where unless you curb your inconsequential dreck, which you can’t even explain in your own words, I’m going to have to figure out some way of filtering your posts before they go live and remove them as necessary.

    Answer the questions and treat the debate with the same respect you seem to feel entitled to have without having done anything to earn it, other than broadcast other people’s opinion, superimposed upon what you laughingly call your own.

    You have had a week to answer one question. You now have one day left. If you can’t answer that question in less than 5 paragraphs, quoting references and verifiable evidence along the way, you’re out of here.

    Q. In what way is Yahweh uniquely different from every other mythical god?

    You said you could do it. So do it, or leave.

  64. I’m glad I made such an impression on you, Todd. Although you disappoint me by leaving the conversation with the classic fundie “you’re not listening/you have no sense of humour/I pity you/you wouldn’t know truth if it bit you on the arse” type parting shot.

    I guess it was unfair of me to ask repeatedly for an original argument or some evidence of a claim you made, considering I know full well you have neither. Of course, you might have surprised me by succeeding where countless great minds have failed over the centuries. But you didn’t. Nor did you answer a single question.

    It gets a bit tired after a while. At least most theists can muddle together some sort of argument of their own – but you disappointed me there as well. You are capable of nothing more than the regurgitation of long-refuted logical fallacies that you don’t even understand are fallacies. Your attempted sarcastic deflection from actual points of discussion does not camouflage that in the slightest.

    Which is, of course, why you now need to go and find somewhere else to paste other people’s arguments.

    Ta-ta.

  65. My.

    Poor Todd. What a soldier he’s been to deal with all the personal affronts within this blog; so typical of atheist bloggers. I would invite you all to come visit us over at TheologyWeb. Based on a quick read, I think you would last all of 10 seconds over in “our den.”

    Jim, in Todd’s absence (assuming he’s indeed through engaging with your blog; I hope he is), I will answer your question. To do so, we must first establish there is a God, the Creator of all. Then the question is, don’t all religions teach the same thing? Then, how do we know that Christianity is true versus other religions?

    Is there a God? I visit your blog. I see it. What proof do I need to establish the fact that an author of the blog exists? Nothing else beside the blog itself. The blog is absolute proof that there was an author, someone who started it all, a “beginner.” That would be Jim Gardner. I do not need to see Jim to believe that he exists. The blog is all the evidence I need. It would not be there if you did not exist, and so it is with the universe. The existence of the universe itself proves absolutely that there is a Creator. That’s one argument. If you would like more, come visit us.

    So, you ask, in what way is Yahweh uniquely different from every other mythical god? Well, how about considering the ‘nature’ of God. Some religions, like Islam, Christianity and Judaism, teach that God is the transcendent creator of the world, and as such, He is distinct and separate from his creation. Some religions, like Hinduism, teach that God and the physical universe are one in the same, right? Some religions teach that God is a ‘he,’ some say a ‘she,’ some say an ‘it.’ Mormonism, Shinto, and different tribal and pagan religions teach that there are many gods. Our Christian Science friends even believe ‘we’ are God.

    How about the different views of ‘salvation’ and what that really means. Judaism, Islam and Christianity teach that salvation means eternal life in heaven. To Buddhists it means an indescribable, almost nonexistent state known as parinirvana. To the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses it means everlasting life on earth. The goal of Hindus is to break free from the cycle of life, death and reincarnation and have their individual personality annihilated by becoming absorbed into Brahman.

    Consider ‘how salvation’ is obtained. The Bible teaches that salvation is a free gift given by a gracious God to all who receive it by faith. The Qur’an says salvation can be obtained if you submit yourself to Allah and His laws and your good works outweigh your bad works. Hinduism’s ultimate goal is to be obtained by achieving a certain state of consciousness in which one realizes his or her identity with God. Buddhism’s ultimate goal is said to be achievable to those who eliminate all desires, even the desire to live.

    But what about all those pagan Gods? In the first half of the 20th century it was common for scholars to suggest that the disciples borrowed the concept of Jesus’ resurrection from pagan sources. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that experts no longer consider this position tenable. The alleged parallels are spurious. Any similarities are far outweighed by the differences. The legends are not about historical personages, they are just symbols for the seasons. There is no text prior to the late second century of a mythical deity who rose from the dead.

    Moreover, there is no causal link between the pagan myths and the Jews. There was very little influence from the pagan religions in first-century Palestine. Jewish and early Christian thought was exclusive. Unlike most of the other religions of the time, they were not open to incorporating the ideas of other religions into their own. Therefore, the lines of influence are more likely to have run the other way. That is, it is much more likely that the 2nd and 3rd century pagan religions borrowed from Christianity than Christianity borrowed the resurrection from pagan religions. Historian Michael Grant summarizes the scholarly opinion, “Judaism was a milieu to which doctrines of the deaths and rebirths, of mythical gods seemed so entirely foreign that the emergence of such a fabrication from its midst is very hard to credit.”

    How do we know that Christianity is true and not some other religion like Buddhism or Islam? Jesus said it was. Jesus testified that the Bible, upon which Christianity is based, was without error (John 17:17), historically reliable (cf. Matthew 12:40, 24:37-39), divinely authoritative (Matthew 4:4-10), scientifically accurate regarding the origin of man (Matthew 19:4-5), infallible (John 10:35) and indestructible (Matthew 5:18). If Jesus was a prophet of God, as even the Qur’an teaches, or even if He was a good teacher, as so many are willing to believe, it would be wise for us to take His word on the matter. Jesus proved that He was the trustworthy Son of God by: His miraculous fulfillment of hundreds of Old Testament prophecies, His sinless life, His miracles and His resurrection from the dead. Buddha and Muhammad both admitted their sinfulness, performed no miracles, and both of their bodies are in their tombs to this day. Jesus’ grave is empty. He is the reliable authority on life after death and spiritual matters.

    Good day.

  66. H. Tirips:

    You start by saying you will answer Jim’s question, then abstract the question into semantics and answer your rephrased version of the original question by quoting scripture.

    That is not an answer. Please try harder.

  67. Oh, a quick aside:

    You seem to be attempting to remove Christian belief from paganism. I put it to you that Christianity is pagan. The triple god-head (the trinity), the ritual sacrifice of Jesus (the crucifixion), the eating of the god flesh (the eucharist) and the drinking of the god blood (the wine) are all demonstrably pagan and much, much older than the Abrahamic religions.

  68. H. Tirips:

    I can’t tell you how grateful I am that, at last, someone who knows their subject has piped up. You had me at “I will answer your question”.

    Unfortunately you somewhat lost me again after that—although I very much appreciate your honesty, when you admit that once upon a time it was acknowledged that the resurrection story was fabricated from myth. Todd got quite excited about that one back there and your reminder to us all of this point is much appreciated—although I’m unaware of any source material which retracts this fact, as you have stated, purely in the interest of better anthropology, as opposed to demands from within Christian apologetics. Please correct me on this.

    What I’m hearing is that, your current position on this, is that Yahweh is different from every other mythical god, to answer the supplemental question, simply because Jesus said so. That isn’t what I was hoping to hear. I was hoping you would sight the, quote, “abundance of overwhelming evidence” which Lee Strobel (and others) are so fond of referring to (without ever actually listing any of these so-called independent sources) which vouchsafe non-biblical references to Jesus of Nazareth—which is what the original point of this article was, before Todd flew hijacked passenger jets of received opinion into it.

    Yours, however I will grant you, is a an order of magnitude more contemplative and well rounded an argument than merely assertions of opinion, even if there is more than a little perhaps unintentional blending of theology with deism in there too. I’m similarly at a loss as to understand what theology, as a subset of philosophy, has to say about evidence from other scientific disciplines which contradicts what we now know to be true about the natural world, which we at one time seeded, through necessity, to supernaturalism.

    For example, we have an embarrassment of evidence which explains how we evolved from apes, and yet no theology exists on the original sin of chimps. We can prove we are evolved from apes—and perhaps as recently as just a few hundred thousands years ago—and yet you say that this gradual process took place, by your definition, at His behest and yet He did not place similar constraints upon “the lower orders of animals” as He did on us.

    Where does this leave the infallible word of God, on matters which are clearly fallible—and why should it be trusted, despite that in these matters of simple scientific fact the bible is simply wrong, that in others it remains inerrant? Surely that is just another kind of special pleading to which you would be as quick to point out in a religion other than your own, just as secular humanism is correct in doing of Christianity?

    Your responses to this and other areas of the blog are more than welcome and I will look in on your site as soon as I can.

    Thanks again.

  69. That whole ‘Logical Absolutes’ post was hilarious! I don’t know (or care) whether you intended it to be so funny, but it was so similar to the quote from Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy I posted, it was uncanny. It’s that kind of sustained satire that could really get you a job at The Onion, Todd.

    One thing I wanted to say though: I think atheists need to do a better job of coming across as nice people in discussions like this thread.

    I know – religious types make me furious, too. And people like the Duggars who teach their children that the Bible is literal truth and that science is wrong when it says the earth is more than 6000 years old are, in my opinion, committing child abuse and should be stopped. Immediately.

    HOWEVER, when atheists make fun of religious types, when they laugh at them and tell them they’re idiots, etc., it only adds grist to their (the Christians’) mill: “Aha!” they say to themselves, “Just as I thought! You can’t be a nice person if you don’t have religion! Atheists are godless heathens who would kill and eat their own siblings – if they could squeeze it in between orgies, that is!”

    But nothing could be further from the truth: the atheist lifestyle is actually much more morally exacting: it’s MUCH harder to be a kind and good person when you’re not doing it in the hopes of getting a prize (i.e. ‘heaven’) at the end.

    My point is that – at least in my opinion and experience – atheists try to proactively be good people (without threats of eternal damnation); when we’re mean to religious types in these kinds of forums, it obscures that message.

    (When my cousin, who is schizophrenic, starts saying odd/unbelievable/plain out weird stuff, it’d be mean to laugh at or condemn him. It’s not his fault that his brain is imperfectly wired. I kind of feel the same way about religious types.)

    Anyway.

  70. Todd:

    I know how to freaking spell the difference between present-tense verb conjugations and nouns.

    *applauds*

    As in… “Kaybee applauds RB”

    Sorry if I’m testy, but you’ve got bigger battles to fight than being the blog’s supposed spell checker. .|..

  71. Oh, I should have read the rest of the posts before I reacted so strongly. I can have knee jerk reactions to things like that. Sorry ( to todd)

    Anyway, HTirips, I liked your post, because you tried to answer the question the way you see it, and did so in an orderly, clear manner, without talking endlessly. I hope you stay because I think real conversations could happen with you here.

    Sgw555, I agree that atheists could use to be a bit kinder / use restraint, but we do get frustrated when people misrepresent our ideas and then bash over our heads a belief system that is true because it JUST IS. There’s a show in texas on youtube called the atheist experience, I believe, and the host is pretty good at staying to the top and not getting emotional. I’m not quite that Vulcan, but I work at it.

    Back to what I was saying before… I think there are people who are content to ‘believe’, and people who want the truth. Atheists are never unwilling to believe in God… we simply don’t see any hard evidence to do so. We often ask for examples of proof and I think religious people get irritated because the ‘proof’ they present is discounted.

    I think the fundamental problem is the misunderstanding of ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’. Religious people find things like the Bible a good proof, and perhaps do not understand why atheists would reject the Bible as a good piece of evidence… and get further frustrated with atheists who ask for proof and then deny the proof. We’re not trying to screw around, we just have a different definition of what ‘evidence’ is.

    For example: My mother wrote a journal about her ex-boyfriend. I read it and ask if its all true. “Yes, its true,” she says.

    Is it really true? My mother says it is, and my mother is a highly credible source. However, her perceptions of events are skewed by her involvement. Her recollection of events is skewed by inventive memories. And her flair for the dramatic makes me wonder if perhaps some of those stories weren’t just a little bit blown out of proportion.

    If I tell my mom I think she is lieing, I might get a slap to the face. So I don’t even dare wonder if its truth. She says its true. Okay, its true.

    Here is one example why the Bible is not ‘evidence’ to support a belief system. Just because the Bible says its true, doesn’t mean its so, and let’s not forget, my mother knows basic chemistry, so she’s theoretically a better source for information than the authors of the Bible.

  72. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I personally would LOVE to be able to believe in God (or even just a god). Life would be a lot easier if I thought there was a purpose or plan or even just someone paying attention. And it’d be comforting to think that someday I’m going to be reunited with the people (heck, and pets!) who I’ve lost to death.

    Plus, I’d have a set of rules for my life, and wouldn’t have to keep wondering, “Am I doing the right thing?”

    I guess that’s why I’m finding myself increasingly feeling sorry for these religious nuts – especially the ones who seem obsessed with finding ‘proof’, like Todd – because inside they’re scared, confused, lonely and a bit lost.

    You know, thinking about Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy (which I mentioned in a previous post), I was reminded of the Total Perspective Vortex concept. (For those of you unfamiliar with the TPV, it’s a concept in HHGTTG which involves suddenly making your brain aware of just how small you are compared to the entire universe. It’s considered a form of torture, because the human brain simply can’t process the notion of their relative insignificance in comparison to this huge, infinite universe.)

    To a greater or lesser extent, all of us wrestle with this, even on a planetary scale: ‘There are 6 billion people on the planet – how can I possibly matter one iota?’

    I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older – when I was 20 it was easy to believe I was going to Change The World; now that I’m almost twice that age, I can see I’ll be lucky to Change My Neighbourhood – I have more sympathy with the desire (nay, YEARNING) to attach oneself to something greater and more enduring than 80-odd years on a 100-million-year-old planet. I feel sorry for Todd because his whole thing about ‘proof’ isn’t really about trying to convince Jim (or any other atheist) to switch sides; it’s about his own desire to REALLY KNOW if there’s anything out there.

    Here’s the thing: Intolerance and hypocrisy are probably the two aspects of religion that atheists become most incensed about. “Religious intolerance is at the root of every war in history,” they say. “I’m tired of seeing these hypocrites who call themselves ‘Christians’ but who evidently think that the part of the New Testament which said ‘Love thy brother as thyself’ didn’t actually mean they have to be nice to anyone who isn’t white, straight, Christian and Republican…”

    So why are we SO intolerant of religious types? Doesn’t that leave us open to the same criticism?

    No, we should not be tolerant of people whose religion leads them to kill/hurt others in the name of their god. And there’s no question that atheists should add their voice to the discourse, because that’s the only way things will change. And I don’t think there’s a place for religion in government (I’d never elect someone who made their religion part of their brand as a politician).

    However.

    If Todd’s conviction (and again, I’m not sure it’s a 100% conviction anyway) is what keeps him from feeling like a random collection of molecules in an infinite universe, don’t we have a duty to practice what WE preach and be tolerant?

    I dunno…like I said, I think debate and discourse is important; I’m just not sure what’s gained by saying things like “Todd [or anyone], you’re an idiot.”

    Jim, I’m going to kill you for getting me sucked into this thread!

  73. I’m liking your willingness to share your internal dialogue and for the most part I know how you feel—but I don’t share the view that things would be so much easier if we really were being observed and judged and tinkered with by a god.

    Similarly, on heaven, I can’t imagine anything more like hell, than spending eternity surrounded by Christians.

    I do take to heart what you’re saying about appearing to come across as intolerant of religion simply for the sake of shaking a fist at the world and finding someone to blame. The problem with being overly considerate of other opinions is that while this is understandable when it comes to an individual person’s private faith—activist political Christianity isn’t about those personal experiences. It’s about prescribing naive idealism and casting blanket judgement upon anything which rationally and reasonably exceeds that panacea as if it is as evil or as blasphemous as that which clearly falls short of those ideals; ideals which we all happen to share in common regardless of religious credulity.

    The objections I raise about blind faith come from exactly the same place we all keep our moral objections towards palm readers, mind readers and celebrity astrologers who claim to be the real deal; who really do take money from people based upon demonstrable lies. The defensive cry which immediately goes up against these kinds of comparisons within the established religions, is that a lowly homeless shelter, soup kitchen volunteer and a private jet owning televangelist are at opposite ends of “real Christianity” and that it is as unfair to clump Pat Roberson in with all evangelicals as it is to clump Richard Dawkins in with all agnostic / atheists who also happen to be biologists.

    But the problem for Christians is not that people aren’t able to make this distinction for themselves, it’s that nothing gets done about the obviously hypocritical and dangerous elements at the extremes by those same so-called moderates who wouldn’t think twice about defending those same extreme views if they felt in doing so they were carry out the will of the Lord.

    If this sounds like a sweeping generalisation it’s a deliberate one, because the same can not be said of free thinkers. If Dawkins wrote books on how to play a better rock guitar solo he would rightly be opened up for criticism. But he doesn’t stray into areas in which he is not entitled to comment. Religion makes blanket statements about scientific reality all the time, which are more often than not simply false. If religion made statements about religion which were false, evolutionary biologists and those who show an interest in the natural world and in logical descriptions of how natural processes function, would not be entitled to comment.

    But the only religion devoid of compulsions upon its adherents with regard to specifically secular concerns, is Buddhism. Every single other religion is based upon a faith, not that Abba Father is watching and waiting, but that the hierarchy within that religion is uniquely placed to tell the congregation what Abba Father would have them do in glory and honour of His name. These are the middle men and women who filter ordinary harmless lunatics like Todd and tell them it’s OK to be confused about something which is, in fact, not confusing at all. Confusion is, if anything, actively encouraged. The ‘left behind’ series of books, for example, or the idea that it’s good to share in the Christ’s suffering. That doubt and challenges to ones faith from reason are to be embraced and treasured. Confession of this doubt is a virtue.

    Against that kind of locked-in anti-logic, the cold hard reality of reductionist naturalism seems indifferent and lacking in poetry to some. Not because it isn’t far more incredible to truly become aware of oneself, vibrating on the pie crust edge of this infinitesimally pale blue dot, somewhere in the vacuum of space-time—but because this very reality isn’t enough for some people, who are predisposed to cling on to childish fears and anthropomorphised icons of the Prefrontal cortex. They want what they were promised in the Lee Strobel books and the Rick Warren speeches and the redneck political rhetoric by the nice man on the TV they sent $50 bucks to build a new school for kids who want to learn about ‘Intelligent Design’.

    Religion is just another product being sold on the back of the same innate human gullibility as that which drives sales of Britney Spears discs, or designed to fail, overpriced consumer electronics. The only difference being that anyone who points out that the emperor is naked; that the music is heartless piss will burn in hell for all eternity. Because why? Because He loves you? Get fucked. You mean like he loved the Jews in Auschwitz? Or the good catholic men is masks, romping through the streets of Belfast? Or the desperate screaming passengers headed for the second tower? If that’s His idea of love, I’ll take my chances with peace, love and happiness given and received without preconditions placed upon my willing suspension of disbelief, thanks all the same.

  74. So many questions, assertions, so little time. That said, I’ll try to address some. I do not provide commentary to debate, but out of respect for the Christian point of view, I’m investing the small amount of time I really don’t have to provide some balance. You are welcome to take it or leave it; I’m not here to preach or win converts. I simply present my opinion and my truth. How you receive it is how you receive it.

    Forgive the staccato flow and seeming lack of transitions. I’m not seeking style points, it’s an issue of time, or lack thereof.

    First, a third party opinion. I’ve read through both threads pertaining to first, the attack on Greg Koukl, and second, this one. One could easily get the impression based on all of your recent posts that Todd was simply an unreasonable, emotion-filled, groundless “Jesus freak” whom never offered refutations of substance. That is thoroughly and completely unfair. Obviously his attempts to defend the faith did not persuade, but would one expect differently considering this is a blog dedicated to atheism. It’s interesting to go back to the very beginning; Todd was simply trying to defend a full-frontal assault on Greg Koukl, a good man. Perhaps he should have stopped at hello.

    Where is the archaeological evidence of the exodus? Loaded question. http://www.tektonics.org/af/exoduslogistics.html has a section about the sort of “evidence” a nomadic people would leave behind — which is basically, none. The Scythians roamed the plains for hundreds of years, but except for their rulers’ tombs, we’d have no idea that they existed archaeologically either.

    On archaeology, Millar Burrows, Ph.D., Yale University Professor, wrote an excellent book, ‘What Mean These Stones?’ If your inquiry is not meant to be a loaded question, and you are genuinely interested in archaeology and the Bible, it’s a must read. Here’s a quote, “Archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine.”

    In what way is Yahweh uniquely different from every other mythical god? Since my initial answer did not suffice, I’ll try again. You won’t like this answer either. However, it’s as succinct as I can possibly be. The answer? He’s not mythical is how.

    If God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent, who is the devil? A non sequitur. Not sure what the point is here.

    Why does Mark’s gospel have two different endings? Based on the question, it seems you’re implying this was some sort of problem, but it isn’t. It’s widely recognized (just check study notes in any study Bible) that Mark 16:9-20 is not original to Mark. Most believe Mark’s original ending was lost, just like many pieces of ancient works were lost. Some think it ended at 16:8. I personally agree with JP Holding who wrote an in-depth article on the subject, if you care to study further (http://www.tektonics.org/lp/markend.html).

    But anyway, we find in copies of Mark from the early church two “endings” appended, one a “shorter” version and the other the “longer” version that appears in the KJV. No one in the early church thought these were original to Mark or pretended they were, so if your point was going to be that this was some sort of attempt to fool someone, you’d be wrong.

    Why were they added? Probably because the Gospels were read liturgically (in services), and so it was thought good to round off the story with an ending to replace the one that was lost.

    Above, the following was posted, “…because you know full well that none of us can know how faithful the disciples were to any oral tradition.” Utter nonsense. We know a great deal about the process of oral transmission in the ancient world and in Judaism. To say otherwise is, as you all are fond of saying, either ignorant or “intellectually dishonest.”

    If God is so loving, why does He allow for evil and suffering? This is the most common question people have regarding God. Here is an interesting question for ‘you’ to consider. What do you propose God should do about it? To stop evil and suffering, God would have to stop every act that causes suffering. To do that, He would have to stop those who cause the suffering (adulterers, liars, murderers, criminals, fornicators, etc.). Wouldn’t that mean He would have to put a stop to you too? Haven’t you, by your own actions, caused some of the suffering that exists in this world? Haven’t you hurt somebody’s feelings (Todd’s, perhaps?). My friends, God has not destroyed evil because He would have to destroy each and every one of us. By permitting evil and suffering to continue, God is actually showing the world mercy.

    The Bible says that there ‘is’ coming a day when God will stop evil (2 Peter 3:7-13). He will judge sinners, put them away forever, and create a new heaven and a new earth where there will no longer be any death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). In the meantime, God is using the suffering that exists for good (Romans 8:28, Philippians 1:12). Often, when a person is suffering, they turn to God and receive the kind of help they truly need.

    Might as well touch on the subject of Jesus having existed, since that’s the intended topic of debate. How do we know He even existed? Of course the New Testament, which has proven to be a reliable historical record, attests to His life. On top of that, there are at least thirty-nine sources ‘outside’ of the Bible that attest to more than a hundred facts regarding Jesus’ life, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection. Take, for example, Flavius Josephus, a first century Roman historian (Todd rightfully cited and defended). He affirms, not only that Jesus lived, but that He was “a doer of amazing deeds,” that “Pilate condemned Him to be crucified to die,” that He was a teacher who “won over many Jews and many of the Greeks” and that He was reportedly seen alive by His disciples after His crucifixion. A second extrabiblical source would be the Babylonian Talmud. This collection of ancient Jewish writings mentions Jesus, even saying that He was killed on the eve of Passover, just as the Biblical account describes. The evidence is certain, Jesus of Nazareth was a real person.

    Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-c. 100), The Antiquities of the Jews, 18:3, “At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned Him to be crucified to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive.”

    I now have to run, but I would like to address one last subject that touches upon historical atrocities done in the name of Jesus. Jim, your last paragraph is riddled with such horrific events, even if they weren’t all done in His name. That said, it is a very fair question to ask, “How can you adhere to a religion that would advocate such events as the, let’s say, Crusades?” This is probably one of the top 3 questions seekers and skeptics (alike) rightfully pose. The Crusades, of nearly a thousand years ago, were certainly carried out in the name of Christianity, but the violence that occurred was carried out in direct disobedience to the teachings of Christ. Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). As Jesus was being arrested on the eve of His crucifixion, Peter pulled out his sword and struck the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. Jesus healed the man’s ear and told Peter to put away his sword (John 18:11). Even as Jesus was dying on the cross, He asked His Father to forgive His murderers (Luke 23:34). God’s kingdom was not, nor is it now, to be advanced with violence, pedophile priests, witch-hunts, ministers preaching hatred from the pulpits, massacres in Jerusalem, suicide bombers in London, hijacked planes in NYC, we could go on and on, couldn’t we? Look at the Vikings after they accepted Jesus as their god instead of Norse gods. To be fair, ‘professed Christians’ are not the only ones who can be blamed for the killing of innocents. Pot was a Buddhist until his death. Atheist governments bear responsibility for over 259 million deaths around the world, more people than all the wars of the past century.

    That said, I’ll leave you with this parting comment: Do not let the unchristian behavior of men a thousand years ago, or even today in Somalia and Darfur, keep you from receiving God’s FREE gift (Romans 6:23) of eternal life!

    Swelstead, I’m with you, I don’t know how I got sucked into this thread, but I hope I added some value. Kaybee, thank you for your kind words above. I tried to again answer as many questions as time permitted in an orderly, clear manner, ‘without talking endlessly.’ I think I failed on the last point.

    Good evening, all. In the spirit of full disclosure, I doubt very seriously I will have the time to be a regular contributor to this discussion. I will visit time to time, though. I just do not want to over-commit and under-deliver; my new year’s resolution.

    All the best.

    Brent Hardaway

  75. Multi-tasking at its worst. I was working on this post and emailing colleagues at the same time. How Brent Hardaway became part of my sign-off is beyond me. Ironically, he used to be an atheist too. (If this blog ends up being part of a Google search one day with your name in it, Brent, my apologies.)

  76. Gracious. It got active in here while I was away. Don’t have time to cover it all now, but maybe I can break it up and nibble at it. Going back to Todd’s posts 35 and 36:

    (T) Nick, you profess a desire for rational debate but degenerate your own arguments down to your precious favorite, the Santa Clause Refutation.

    (N) I consider it more like an analogy. With many parallels.

    (T) I’m starting to assume at this point that you simply have nothing rational to offer.

    (N) That one seems to bother you. I wonder why that is. Did you ever believe in Santa? If so, then that would give you some insight into my mindset, because you know what it is like to lose belief involuntarily. If not, then what does it have to do with you–at least, any moreso than any of the other mythical beings I’ve mentioned?

    (T) If you need to resort to defamation to hold your position, then you have no position worth defending.

    (N) Defamation? Of whom? A god I consider fictional? Or do you mean I am defaming you by, what, suggesting that your belief might be like the faith of a child? But if that is defamation, do you find the Biblical exhortation to have faith like a child similarly offensive?

    And in case you lost track, what I’m examining is the question of whether a rational or scientific justification for Christian belief can be made. That is not a defense of a position, it is not a position that needs defending, and really it isn’t even a position at all.

    [re: (T) In all respects, your beloved atheism is totally bankrupt. (N) But is it irrational? …. Can it be demonstrated that the most rational conclusion is that at least one god exists?]

    (T) That’s progress, Nick. Based on your “But is it irrational?” response, I’m pleased you agree atheism is a bankrupt worldview.

    (N) Your logic is flawed (not addressing a point does not imply concession–luckily for you) but your conclusion is not far wrong. I don’t consider atheism a worldview, and I think it has no inherent or necessary values or tenets. It is simply the cognitive absence of belief in at least one god. I will even grant that one can have a non-rational basis for such lack of belief. But the only way it is necessarily irrational is if there is any theistic conclusion which is demonstrably more rational.

    (T) To answer your question, though, yes, atheism is irrational, as proven by Dr. Richard Dawkins himself, your de facto spokesman for scientific atheism.

    (N) I am my own spokesman for my views.

    (T) Let’s take a look at how he lays out his case for unbelief. … You tell me how rational he is, deal?…He introduces his “Argument from Improbability,” and its reasoning distills to something like this:
    1. The universe we observe is highly complex.
    2. Any creator of this complex universe would have to be even more complex than it.
    3. It is too improbable that such a God exists; therefore, there almost certainly is no God.

    (N) Assuming that’s a fair representation, I would say that is not a rationally compelling argument for the non-existence of a god. So does does the existence of one bad argument against one particular god rationally demolish atheism? No. The only thing that can do that is a rational demonstration of the existence of at least one god.

    (T) It is merely rationalization – that is, finding some plausible-sounding explanation for arriving at a conclusion already chosen.

    (N) Rationalization might also include concocting self-satisfying post-hoc justifications, but in general usage the definition you have given there is excellent. But can you recognize a rationalization when you see one? They come in a variety of appearances.

    (T) Dawkins is certainly free to disbelieve, as you and Jim are, but his conclusion was not derived through scientific or rational means.

    (N) And millions of godless religionists also did not arrive at their lack of god belief through scientific or rational means. The existence of non-rational atheism is not in dispute. But neither does it negate rational atheism.

    (T) Faith in God is way more rational than disbelief.

    (N) All that is lacking for me to agree is the demonstration of that.

    (T) There’s a great book by then-skeptic Francis Collins called, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.” I won’t spoil the ending (you can only guess), but suffice it to say he set out to investigate the rational basis for faith. Reluctantly, he found himself “forced to admit the plausibility of the God hypothesis.”

    (N) I have heard many Christians claim they were reluctantly forced by evidence and reason to the conclusion that God exists. The curious thing is their uniform reluctance to actually present the evidence and reasoning.

    (T) Agnosticism, which had seemed to him a safe second-place haven, loomed like the great cop-out it is.

    (N) I agree that is how it is most often used. And I’ve already indicated I think it is an indefensible and self-demolishing position. But it’s got nothing to do with atheism.

    (T) He found that faith in God seemed more rational than disbelief, a conclusion not only plausible, but compellingly supported by evidence

    (N) And that evidence would be?

    (T) (which flatly controverts your premise that faith constitutes an irrational belief without evidence.

    (N) No it doesn’t. If he believes in God based on evidence and reason, then his basis for belief isn’t faith. Look back to your own definition of faith taken from your Bible. It’s patently not rational. It is the hopeful leap you take when evidence is lacking, or even contrary.

    (T) Let me leave you with a few questions. Please answer them honestly, even if just to yourself. What if there really is a God, but you just don’t know about Him? Are you willing to consider that possibility?

    (N) Already asked, and already answered. The scientific perspective, by its very nature, holds open every possibility unless and until it is foreclosed by demonstration that it is impossible.

    (T) Are you willing to ask Him if He’s out there? Something like, ‘God, I’m pretty sure you’re not there, I’m pretty sure you may as well not be, but if you ARE, would you show yourself to me?’ Are you willing to do that, Nick?

    (N) I take it you did not read my post in the other thread where I described one instance (out of many) where I offered up a prayer very much like that, back when I was a Christian. If you are trying to get me to do it now, I would say 1) I know this trick. I used to use this trick. The religious principle is “by practice ye shall come to faith”. In psych terms, it’s a mix of cognitive dissonance and modeling–if you can get a person to act as if he believes in a thing, that increases the likelihood he will come to believe in that thing. 2) The strength of this approach depends a lot on desire, so this is more effective on the hopeless, desperate, grief stricken, or agonizing. 3) This ploy also works best with the mentally vulnerable–children, the poorly educated, those with poor reasoning skills, drug addicts, and such. 4) You forgot to mention I should say this out loud, rather than just think it. (This increases feeling of commitment, reinforces the impression that I’m actually talking to someone, and hearing the words activates parts of the brain which wouldn’t be triggered by merely thinking them.)

    However, since I know how this works, I have no problem playing along. Since you thought it a good thing to do wish-casting for us, I figure the least I can do is reciprocate with my pretend prayer, so I said the following–and yes, out loud:

    “To the attention of the god of Todd: If you exist, and if you wish people to have rational belief that you exist, and if you deem Todd a worthy messenger, then perhaps you could help him in finding and articulating a rational demonstration of your existence. On the other hand, if you do not deem Todd worthy, or if you prefer faith-based belief, or no belief at all, or if you don’t exist, then nevermind. With all due sincerity, me.”

    As you can see, I set the bar low for your god. I didn’t ask for anything for myself, or for a personal audience with God, or any spectacular miracles. But if your god comes through for you, I will, nonetheless, come to belief by perfectly ordinary means.

    (T) I can still remember the night, just a couple of short years ago, when I shook my hands at God and despairingly cried out, “If you really ARE, if you really give a $#@!, why don’t you PROVE it and HELP ME?!”

    (N) I know I’m repeating myself, but is this how you came to believe, or did you already have belief in God by this point?

    (T) So it’s not a question of rationality or irrationality or scientific reasoning, Nick, but a question of choosing, of making a personal faith choice that, once made, establishes the starting point for one’s reasoning (and personal relationship).

    (N) Ah, I see how it works. First you make the leap of faith to the belief that God exists, and then the implications which flow naturally from that conclusion will render belief in God both sensible and reasonable. But do you recognize what that is? I give you back your own excellent definition: “finding some plausible-sounding explanation for arriving at a conclusion already chosen”

    (T) Atheism isn’t founded on rationality

    (N) It isn’t necessarily founded on it, and it isn’t always founded on it, but it can, nonetheless, be founded on it.

    (T) Nick, like a good Christian boy, I enjoyed a little “me time” reading the Good Book, God’s revelation to man. …[edit Bible story]

    (N) Quoting the Bible does not confirm the Bible.

    (T) …Check this out…I’m reading chapter three which is all about Jesus and this Pharisee named Nicodemus. … I couldn’t help but to notice the irony. Nicodemus (ruler of the Jews), Pharisee, skeptic, unbeliever, even an eye-witness to Jesus’ miracles – and you, ‘Nick’, skeptic, unbeliever.

    (N) What, you mean you didn’t make the more obvious connection to “Old Nick” (aka Satan) or maybe St. Nick (aka Santa, anagram of Satan)?

    (T) See, here’s what’s wild. This Nicodemus character came to Jesus in the night and confessed to Jesus something he’d never say in the presence of other dude-Pharisees …”Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for NO ONE COULD PERFORM THESE SIGNS YOU DID DO UNLESS GOD WERE WITH HIM.”

    (N) The fact of a character in a storybook saying something like that establishes nothing about reality outside the storybook.

    (T) [quoting the Jesus character] “Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

    (N) 1) Logically, that is the same construction as “Unless a man enters the lottery, he cannot win the lottery.” That doesn’t mean he will win if he does enter. It only means he cannot win if he doesn’t. 2) This quote appears to be a turnabout on the principle of needing to see in order to believe, suggesting that if you don’t believe, you won’t see. and 3) There are many sincere Christians who don’t believe in the need to be born again. Do you believe they are mistaken and doomed?

    (T) “Of course, Jesus was not being literal”

    (N) His character rarely is. He prefers to speak in riddles and parables.

    (T) “Self, who do you think YOU are?! Even Jesus couldn’t get some of the eye witnesses to believe what He said to be true!!! That makes me feel a bit better.

    (N) Good. I hope you found it similarly cheering when I made my previous observation that not a single one of his own disciples had enough faith in him to sit watch for his resurrection. If God came here as a God-man to use his miracle powers to establish the existence of himself, it appears that plan went as spectacularly awry as all his others.

    (T) I think C.S. Lewis had it right when he wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end; those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’”

    (N) I doubt you really think that’s right (it obviously wouldn’t apply to people who had never heard of God, for example). You just thought it was clever, and you liked the idea of God offering that terse, wry and understated quip as he tosses another screaming soul into the eternal torture pit, like tossing a log into a fire. That’s fine. Amuse yourself with that Chick tract ending. But threats do nothing to help establish a rational case for belief. Indeed, they are a strong indication you have no such case.

  77. Thanks again for your reply, H. Tirips. I’m sure Nick would be better at going toe to toe with you on biblical specifics than I. Plus I rather think it has been done to death in these matters, both here and elsewhere, that we already know how well humans are adapted to extracting whatever meaning they want to from text which appears to be specific to them, whilst in reality being quite broad and general.

    You might want to look up a Derren Brown demonstration of this effect, where he tells a room full of people he’s about to give them a personal “reading”. They take away a piece of paper to a private corner of the room to read it and come back when they’re done full of emotion, amazed that a relative stranger could know so many specific details about their inner thoughts simply from a sample of their handwriting or a personal affect, like a necklace.

    He then asks everyone in the room to swap the “reading” with the other volunteers, whereupon they realise all the pieces of paper have exactly the same text printed on them. It exposes a cold reading technique which forces our overdeveloped adrenal glands into crashing our disproportionately small frontal lobe every time—and it has worked as a means of mind control for hundreds if not thousands of years.

    Does this “prove” the bible to be fallible? I think the examples you’ve already given do that for us without the need for additional proof. For example, in Luke we’re told that Jesus asked His father to forgive them, “for they know not what they do”, yet in John He says no such thing. If anything He is desperately wondering when this torture is going to end. Asking, “why have you forsaken me?” Not, ‘why have you forsaken them?’—somewhat undermining the idea that He was never selfish and always thinking of others. Not to mention that this gives two utterly contradictory accounts of the single most important event in the life of Christ, both within the same supposedly inerrant tome.

    Mindful that you don’t want to become a full time contributor, perhaps we’ll leave it there for now—but you’re most welcome to come back as often as you’d like. It makes a change to have someone express specifics on faith, rather than their subjective opinions.

    Thanks.

  78. Wow, a creationist and a douche-bag. Didn’t see that one coming.

    I didn’t come here to debate you. Having read about as much of your ignorance as I could possibly stomach, I have decided that you really aren’t worth my time and the higher brain functions required to untwist your fallacies. That, and I enjoy watching paint dry more than I do going around in circles with someone who has no intention of seeing the other side. In the end, you’re going to continue believing in your sky fairy, some hocus-pocus, and goddidit attitude while I’ll continue being amazed at all this planet – and what lies outside of it – has to offer.

    Also, regardless of if you had those quotes memorized or not it was still quote mining. What interesting tidbits you left out. Many of those quotes are taken grossly out of context.

    Look, I’m all for people believing in God, reincarnation, ancestor worship, astrology, UFO cover up conspiracies, and what not. Just stop pretending it is real science in an effort to give yourself a false sense of being grounded in reality.

  79. From Todd, or Htirips, or whatever username: “God would have to stop every act that causes suffering. To do that, He would have to stop those who cause the suffering (adulterers, liars, murderers, criminals, fornicators, etc.). Wouldn’t that mean He would have to put a stop to you too? Haven’t you, by your own actions, caused some of the suffering that exists in this world?”

    Todd, if murdering is in the same category as hurting your little feelings, you need help. Or glasses. Or something. That’s apples and oranges.

    “Haven’t you hurt somebody’s feelings (Todd’s, perhaps?). My friends, God has not destroyed evil because He would have to destroy each and every one of us.”

    Todd, you’re the kind of person that throws out the baby with the bathwater. It couldn’t be ‘god intervenes to prevent mass catastrophe’. Why does it have to be so black or white? My 6th grade students have more moral delineation than all-or-nothing.

    ” By permitting evil and suffering to continue, God is actually showing the world mercy.”

    Dude. THat is some fucked up reasoning. That’s what I’d expect to hear from someone being abused. Or the abuser.

  80. Jim…
    Am listening to Bart Erhman’s lecture. One of the first parts of my questioning journey began with questions about translation errors and even meanings lost in translation.

    Thanks for the good link!

  81. Are you people serious? BART EHRMAN? :D The agnostic who’s still a fundamentalist?

    Any of you care to debate his merits — come see me at TheologyWeb and I’ll take him AND you down a notch….

  82. J. P. Holding:
    I don’t find anything in his lecture which Christians should have a problem with. He’s merely echoing what theologians have always known about the earliest artefacts and the problem of translation.

    If you’d care to link to the specific thread on your website you’d like us to come to and get taken down a notch, I’d be delighted to engage with you on areas where you are mistaken. Otherwise I’d appreciate it if you simply offered your contradictory evidence in this thread—that’s assuming you have any.

  83. What I enjoyed about Bart Ehrman’s lecture is that religious people seem more willing to listen to him. He provides a framework for skeptical reasoning by having such detailed and historically datedd knowledge about versions of translations. How scribes changed and mutated the Bible is a given, but religious people may not want to admit that to an ‘outsider’, or may not be willing to be open-minded about it. After all, you hear from day one that the Bible is the infallible word of god.

    Even on video, you can feel the palpable tension in the room as people start to … t h i n k. They start to wonder what else has been changed, and what they might believe Christ to have said, but did not. They start to wonder about why Mark and Luke had such differences.

    In particular I find the original ending of Mark fascinating: The women (I’m paraphrasing) go to Jesus tomb and find a man there. The man tells them that Jesus is gone but to meet him in three days at such and such point. And the women run and do not tell anyone what they have seen, for they are afraid.

    And the story ends there.

    Now think about it… if the story ended there… how exactly does Mark know this story? Either 1)Mark was one of the two women who saw Jesus grave 2)The story is incorrect; the women in fact did tell someone 3)The story is made up by Mark.

    … t . h . i .n. k. i. n. g…..

    I’m telling you, you can hear people’s brains blink on like dim lightbulbs, struggling for compromise and reason. Non-theists frequently brand theists as non-thinkers, just as theists frequently brand nontheists as hedonists, but I think every human being at their core has a need for things to MAKE SENSE. So deep is this core need, that human beings search for justifications, and try to make things feel right and FEEL logical no matter what.

  84. Before reading both of those two links would you mind if I asked you a primer question, Brett?

    When you say you were an atheist, do you mean you previously held to no particular belief system or that you were once convinced of the evidence and now you are not?

  85. On http://handheldfriendly.net/notes/To_An_Atheist_Of_Good_Will.html

    You seem to be extremely convinced of your own path towards your own truths and that is perfectly fine. It’s good to find your own proofs. But I’m not sure what you mean when you say, “They say you have the answers. God, all I want is to know the truth. My Christian friends say that will set me free. Whether it frees me or not, I need to know the truth!”

    It seems to me the truth you are searching for has already been revealed. If you want to filter that through a social network and the group solidarity of a shared experience that too is your prerogative—but it doesn’t make it axiomatically true that this is the only way in which those same truths might be understood, simply that you believe this to be so—and the Christian capacity to believe in belief without a rational basis upon which to do so was never in doubt, so I’m not sure what kind of question you are asking Him or why it is important that atheists ask themselves the same thing.

    I have this conversation with Christians all the time and it never ceases to amaze me how obvious the answer should already be. But the fact is you have anthropomorphised your internal dialogue and projected it upon the externalised ego, within and without of your entirely subjective opinion. This does not stand as proof that this is the only way in which the truth can be absorbed, least of all by those to whom you assert the moniker of atheist as if the very definition of that word carries the same gravity in the apostate as it does in the neophyte. It doesn’t.

    “We” get that Christians are concerned for us—we just don’t seem to be able to tell them “thanks, but we’ll be fine” without being accused of having a closed mind towards the evidence. Which is odd, considering that evidence, both empirical and logical, are secular definitions of a physical state—as opposed to articles of faith based upon metaphysical, unfalsifiable conjecture.

    By your own definition, therefore, in the words of your own article, the truth which you seek is in fact available to anyone—regardless of their credulity on what constitutes a demarkation between false myths and genuine proof that the only way in which the universe could have come into existence is at the behest of an omnibenevolent, omnipresent, omniscient being for which there is no reason to assume intervenes in our insignificant, hormonally imbalanced, pack mentality, simian derived lives.

  86. On http://handheldfriendly.net/notes/GCG_Summary_090414.html

    Without repeating myself from above, but keen to impress upon you flaws in your argument without wanting to appear dismissive of your honesty, it simply doesn’t follow that Jesus having existed or not therefore means one group of people are “open” and another group of people are “closed”.

    Tp put it another way, do you seriously think that the people who carried out torture during the Spanish Inquisition hadn’t read the sermon on the mount?

  87. Well Brett I read through the first link to ‘balance’ my Ehrman experience. I am quoting from the site:
    “(2) Luke, knowing of the second cry in Mark, supplies what else Jesus said in a process not unlike a lawyer or an investigator might follow up on such a detail. Now we could discuss and debate whether Luke made this second saying up (as I suspect Ehrman might argue) or whether he had access to sources (as I am inclined to think), but my point is that one can easily read Luke as supplementing Mark here not completely rejecting Mark’s portrait of Jesus.”

    Whether he had access to sources? How many years later was the gospel of Luke written AFTER the actual events? Would any of these eyewitnesses still be alive, with current human health and medical practices? Why would Luke need to supplement Mark? — Wasn’t Mark’s gospel ‘enough’? I mean, if it is the inspired word of god, one tends to logically think that Mark would’ve said all that needed to be said…. Mark had no guarantee anybody else would’ve written down a jesus gospel and would have wanted to make sure he included everything, right?

    Unless God KNEW Luke was coming and it was okay that Mark left out detailed information.

    Makes you wonder if God knows about other gospel writers that are coming that will add some more details. Hmm? It could be! Why not Joseph Smith?

    Additionally, while ‘scholars’ may know that the Bible has translation errors, I would argue the general populace is not aware of this… most folks are not even aware of the pagan history of Christianity… and Erhman is packaging and delivering information to the masses. Think of it as Luther and the Theses nailed to the door. Sure, Luther and his fellow monks knew of some of the problems in the church, but the laymen didn’t… until he slapped those problems up on a public door. Writing a book and doing talks are the tactics of today’s media.

  88. Hello Jim,

    When you say you were an atheist, do you mean you previously held to no particular belief system or that you were once convinced of the evidence and now you are not?

    My belief system was would would come to be known as “methodological naturalism,” which is atheistic. I progressed to the “formal operative” stage of reasoning quite young, so I was thinking about deep issues of where we come from (and secretly more important to me: why). I held to a scientific, measurable view of the universe, yet recognized the significance of Kurt Godel’s “first incompleteness theorem” when applied to any significant system (such as our universe). Godel basically proved that in such systems there were reasonable questions that were simply unprovable (from within the system). Anyway, my view was that religion and Christianity specifically had nothing to say to anyone who cared to use their brain. At a point in my college years, I came face-to-face with Christianity and in order to maintain my intellectual integrity, I had to humble myself to consider its arguments. But there were deeper things than mere intellect involved here: I had always been very sensitive to good and evil, and very much considered these in my heart; I might like to flatter myself to say that it was my mind that did this, but it was really my childhood rapes and abuse that made me so sensitive to these.

    Anyway, what I failed to mention in my later two link posts was that none of us can prove Jesus existed in the same sense that we can prove the PH of a fluid or the truth of a theorem. We depend on the records of eye-witnesses to help us “measure” history. Think of how the ancients “proved” the existence of “wind.” They had none of the tools or underlying theory that we have, so they did what they could: they noticed the wind’s effects on other things. My links are an attempt to do that for you. I can’t prove Jesus existed any more than I can prove that he didn’t — at least in the way that I think this thread is getting at — BUT I can prove to you that exists indirectly through what Jesus has done in my life. The second link in particular demonstrates this abundantly because there are few issues that people go through that are as personally challenging. So, in a very real sense, I am an “eye witness” to Jesus’ existence because you can see how he works in my life.

    Thanks for the question Jim, I hope this helps somewhat.

    Take Care Everyone!

  89. Hi Kaybee,

    I had wondered about that sort of thing myself early on. What I’ve come to discover is that the different Gospels are written to different audiences:

    Matthew was written to Jews. They were (are) expecting a Messiah who coming was written about in their scriptures, the Torah (what we call the Old Testament today)

    Mark was written to the Romans. It is written with an emphasis on Jesus’ power and it is concise downplaying things that would be of interest mostly to the Jews.

    Luke was written to the Greeks. It is detailed and systematic, yet also appeals to the heart. It is for the non-Jewish (Gentile) mind.

    John was written to believers. People who already know in their heart-of-hearts that there is a God. This version of the God news validates and guides the belief that there must be a god, to trust in the one true God: Christ.

    It is also possible to harmonize all of the Gospels (Good News, that is), and such a study is eye-opening. It is truly synergistic.

    Does this help Kaybee?

  90. Hi Jim,

    But I’m not sure what you mean when you say, “They say you have the answers. God, all I want is to know the truth. My Christian friends say that will set me free. Whether it frees me or not, I need to know the truth!”

    Yes, this really requires more words that I gave it: I very aware of the conflict between good and evil in the human experience even quite young (partly because I an inquisitive and partly because I was severely abused {by others more than my parents}). I was very aware of the paradox of good and evil withing myself which was intense enough that I feared for my sanity. It was here that I wanted to know the truth. In fact, I wanted to know the truth whether it meant that I was irrevocably damned or not. I wanted to understand why I was this way. THIS was the tender core that my intellectualism shielded. Until reason was able to pierce that barrier, I would allow nothing to see much less touch the inner (more important) part of me.

    Jim, you make a mistake in assuming that my belief is without reason. I agree that if “belief” (in the abstract) was all I needed, that there are countless ways to satisfy this. But I wanted more than that, and I could see that these other things, religions, humanism, science, even mathematics could not satisfy. I wanted “The Truth,” not simply “a truth.” However, as I wrote above, The Truth would need to be rational, it would need to be congruent in as many ways as possible and plausible in those places beyond my understanding. In that small page, I could give the reader merely hints at the months-long process of examining and cross-examining Christianity before coming to a point of personal decision. Because that is what it eventually comes down to: “belief” in the form of intellectual assent or acknowledgment is insufficient to engage the power of The Truth, it requires “belief” in the form of trust – am I going to let this information change my life? In the end, to maintain my integrity, I had to accept an then let The Truth change my life. Jim, people talk about “seeing, then believing,” well, for the Christian this is the start, there is some seeing {rationality}, but that once we have begun the processes of letting the truth I’m speaking of change us {believing it}, then *that’s* when we truly start to “see” things that were heretofore “invisible.” Neither pure logic 100% of the time nor pure emotion 100% will get you there, but humility and self-honesty is a necessary start.

    The important question that atheists and non-atheists all ask is: what does this all mean and where is my part in this? Jim, you would not be hosting this discussion if your atheism gave you a satisfactory answer to this, and neither would I have taken such risks as I have to find this for myself. It’s not Christians who want you to find this, it is your creator who built the question into all of us.

    With regard to “evidence” and “proof,” Jim have you considered that there are questions we can ask that we have no way of answering using methods developed and bound within the system itself? It was a sad thing for some thinkers and theologians to divorce faith and reason, because they are fully meant to go together. My faith is not blind, nor is my reason closed.

    Jim, what I have written on that page, to atheists of good faith, is a personal testimony, you are welcome to take it or leave it, but you cannot logically disprove it, it is my personal experience.

    Jim, I wonder if you and the other posters realize just how futile your discussion here is. You will never be able to answer the most important question of life by trying to prove or disprove God’s existence. In the scriptures he has made if very plain that his existence is patently obvious from nature itself and that we have no excuse to dismiss him with sophistry of the mind.

    Does any of this help?

  91. Hello again Jim,

    Oh, I recently updated that page, I found that it got cut-off about half way through, so there are other things you might want to read (or not).

    Jim, I did not share my experience as an attempt to argue anything thing with you or the other posters. Some things are simply beyond argument. My testimony is what it is. As a former atheist, I can assure you that atheism could not have gotten me through that experience, only Jesus could. As an atheist, I was headed for insanity and death {and I might very well have been one of those people who ‘go postal’}. I looked to atheism, and to a great many of the world’s other ‘isms’ {which are much as a variation on a theme}; only when I looked to Jesus did things start to make sense, and it was his power that has enabled me to survive and then to thrive in circumstances that destroy many (most?) people. So Jim, you and others have my “eye witness” testimony, you may judge it for yourself.

    It is possible that the people of the “Spanish Inquisition” had read the Sermon on the Mount, but we can all see that they did not apply it. Should we refuse a $20 bill from the bank simply because we know that fake twenties have been passed as genuine in the past? Of course not! This is a egregious example of wrongdoing, but I can think of worse perpetrated by non-Christian people who thought they were better. My point is not to argue that Christians are better than non-Christians (because they are not), my point is that using human failings by those who call themselves godly, does not logically negate the truth of their God’s existence. It does beg the question why their God allowed such a thing, and that is a good question.

    OK, so why did God let the Spanish Inquisition (and every other gross evil we can think of) occur. The answer comes in two intertwined words: Love and Agency. You cannot have love without the other: God so values love that he is willing to risk giving people the agency (free-will, free-choice) in order that it may exist. God could have made everything such that there would be no evil, nothing bad would ever happen, but such a universe could not support love. For love to exist, the beloved must have the choice to return the love or reject it. All the evil that has occurred {whether great evil, or common badness, or hurtful circumstances} has at its root that people choose to reject the One who loves them. The freedom to choose makes possible to the freedom to love or the freedom to reject, and this manifests itself in countless related ways: choosing to do good vs. choosing to do bad, selfishness vs. selflessness just to name two examples. The people of the Spanish Inquisition {and let us be gracious here} in their warped sense of “good” chose to inflict great harm on a some people. But let’s be fair, how many times even in the last century have we seen worse things done by equally sincere people done in the name of their god, “The State?” Evil is part of the human condition and only Jesus has the answer to this; atheism really can’t even enter that discussion in a meaningful way.

    Does this help?

  92. I don’t deny that Jesus is real to you. Similarly, I depart somewhat from other atheists in that I’m sure that beautiful almost transcendental experiences are something which many people genuinely experience—especially as a means of escape from inhuman treatment—and that framing that experience through a religious metaphor is useful to them. But it should be self-evident that the sky over Dachau was not filled with the same omnibenevolent Abba Father to whom this appeal is made.

    There may well be a Jesus who listens to and interacts with people who believe the best way to serve that inner conviction is to worry for the eternal soul of people who hold themselves to a higher standard of proof, than simply whether something is true or not, because it is written in an ancient book.

    It is true that “proof” is an amorphous word if you want to get all Karl Popper about it—but, again, this is not an ambiguity most people frame around their common understanding of the physical world. You are flatly asserting that Jesus, as described in a book which we can categorically prove to have been altered immeasurably from its original form, is not only more likely to have actually existed despite these alterations but that the only proof you need to corroborate this are your own inner convictions.

    To use a computer programming analogy, this simply doesn’t scale. You may be able to use brute force, to wedge certain theological arguments between metaphysics and ‘the mind body problem’, but by your own high standards of what constitutes ‘proof’ you have said more than I ever could about religious credulity. You can’t then assert that this very ambiguity is all the proof you need that faith is more constructive; more morally appealing than evidential logic. That is analogous to begging to be taken seriously as a Physicist while denying Newton’s methodology produced cast-iron ‘proofs’.

    You may well be a wonderful human being because you believe Jesus is working through you—but you have absolutely no right whatsoever to stand beside other Christians as if you speak as one, when they would make moral pronouncements upon me and my fellow free thinkers simply because we refuse to accept that the emperor is indeed wearing a sumptuous new robe. And yet that is the double standard you vehemently defend every time you witness for the same Jesus as Pat Robertson.

    You do not see the same kind of get out of jail free card given out so readily by secular humanists. You just don’t. Show me an atheist who defends the actions of Stalin, simply because he was irreligious and I’ll show you someone who is just as blinkered and tactless as Ted Haggard would know how to be. I do not defend these kinds of people simply because they describe themselves as atheist, when this is because they’re too lazy to get out of bed on a Sunday morning—more than because they’ve actually thought about “it” for themselves and come to the only rational conclusion you can possibly come to about these myths and legends and the people who use them to control the credulous into genuinely thinking this stuff is real.

    How many limbs have grown back after amputees have bathed in waters of Lourdes, or in the river ganges? Has this miracle yet to occur because the physically disabled lack enough faith? Why did He make them disabled in the first place? To test their faith? Against that kind of hermetically sealed, wilfully blinkered non-thinking, surely there is no dialogue to be had that those on the side of rationalism could be sure anyone on the side of a religious world-view could or would allow themselves to actually understand.

    I’ve raised more questions than I intended to when I began writing, so I’ll leave it at that—but please come back soon. I look forward to your reply.

  93. On a housekeeping note, can I ask anyone reading this if the embedded reply convention is better than flat threads? Should I return it to default or stick with this new wordpress feature for a while longer? Is it easier to keep track of the debate like this or in the old top-down format?

    The important question that atheists and non-atheists all ask is: what does this all mean and where is my part in this? Jim, you would not be hosting this discussion if your atheism gave you a satisfactory answer to this, and neither would I have taken such risks as I have to find this for myself. It’s not Christians who want you to find this, it is your creator who built the question into all of us.

    I am offended by the suggestion that a desire to seek the ultimate truth as to how our universe came to be must be filtered through an entirely human and therefore subjective lens for it to be considered true enquiry. I am similarly offended by the assumption that there has to be a meaning for my life to make sense. In point of fact I would personally be very disappointed if it transpired that there was a meaning to any of it—especially one as mundane and frankly childish as “big sky man he lets me do good bad things”.

    “Question with boldness even the existance of God; because, if there be one, He must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear” – Thomas Jefferson

    With regard to “evidence” and “proof,” Jim have you considered that there are questions we can ask that we have no way of answering using methods developed and bound within the system itself?

    Let’s suppose that it is true that there is some non methodological way in which a falsifiable hypothesis on a given system or interactions of that system with other systems, may be reached. How much less likely is it that such a methodology would have something in common with bronze-age superstitions than it would with procedural logic?

    Jim, I wonder if you and the other posters realize just how futile your discussion here is. You will never be able to answer the most important question of life by trying to prove or disprove God’s existence. In the scriptures he has made if very plain that his existence is patently obvious from nature itself and that we have no excuse to dismiss him with sophistry of the mind.

    In a strong field of competition for contradictory statements, in that one statement, you have said more than I could ever say about your capacity to accept any truths which contradict your own elective cognition.

  94. I know this is not technically my reply to give, but Kim is occasionally away for some days at a time and I want to speak up on her behalf.

    If you don’t mind me saying so, I think you’re being perhaps unintentionally condescending towards her knowledge of the bible. More than anyone else I’ve known, through this particular albeit limited conversational media, Kim has confronted her Christian upbringing with even-handed, contemplative reasoning and come out the other side free, awake and alive, despite the occasionally quite deep scratches inflicted by her religious demons.

    I’m not saying she doesn’t welcome clarification, but I’m not sure what acknowledging biblical discrepancies does to “answer” her points as much as it reinforces them.

  95. Hello Jim,

    There may well be a Jesus who listens to and interacts with people who believe the best way to serve that inner conviction is to worry for the eternal soul of people who hold themselves to a higher standard of proof, than simply whether something is true or not, because it is written in an ancient book.

    I’m sorry, the “there may well be a Jesus” part of your statement does not make sense. I believe that Jesus is a real person, who really is God, and yes, that God really does exist. I am convinced that this is objective truth. Jesus either exists and is God or does not, the two are mutually exclusive.

    “It is true that “proof” is an amorphous word…” Jim, it may seem as though I am playing a game with words or with this thread. I assure you I am not.

    You are flatly asserting that Jesus, as described in a book which we can categorically prove to have been altered immeasurably from its original form, is not only more likely to have actually existed despite these alterations but that the only proof you need to corroborate this are your own inner convictions.

    I do not accept the premise that “we can categorically prove to have been altered immeasurably from its original form.” Had *that* been the case, I never would have humbled myself to read the Bible. In fact, all reasonable evidence shows that the texts are spectacularly faithful to the oldest manuscripts, and there are many reasons that this is so discarding any of the supernatural ones. But that is another discussion…

    I am flatly asserting Jesus existence not merely by my own convictions (though they are important to me), but instead I am asserting his existence indirectly through what he has down in my life. He has made transformations in my life that (as a former atheist) I cannot attribute to atheism; I can only attribute them to Jesus. You may deny the relevance of this all you wish – until you have an impossible challenge to overcome, then the academic becomes very real.

    To use a computer programming analogy, this simply doesn’t scale. You may be able to use brute force, to wedge certain theological arguments between metaphysics and ‘the mind body problem’, but by your own high standards of what constitutes ‘proof’ you have said more than I ever could about religious credulity. You can’t then assert that this very ambiguity is all the proof you need that faith is more constructive; more morally appealing than evidential logic. That is analogous to begging to be taken seriously as a Physicist while denying Newton’s methodology produced cast-iron ‘proofs’.

    I’m sorry Jim, this statement is so general, I am not sure to what I should respond. What comes to mind immediately is to remind you that I am not attempting to argue you to my possession – instead, I am giving you “eye witness” testimony to existence of Jesus. It is certainly true that my “evidence” is circumstantial, but most of our important judgments are made with such evidence because non of us exists in a mathematical proof.

    I might add this to the possible question of “why shouldn’t logic reign supreme?” This goes back to the heart of God’s desire: love. Love is not logical in any of its many meanings, but it exists as a powerful force nonetheless. Just as love requires agency (free-will), the exercise of love requires trust (or to put this in Christian terms: faith, as the two are inseparably linked). Yes, God could have made it possible for us to prove that he exists in the mathematical sense of the word. BUT, that would destroy free-will as it applies to loving God. God loves his creation and desires our love in return. Would it still be love if, because we could prove God exists {and *all* that implies}, we chose to return God’s love? No it would not, it would be tantamount to forcing his creation to love him, because that is the logical end of being able to prove God’s existence irrefutably. Now, the fact that he does reveal himself in nature and in history and in records and in the changed lives of millions of people shows us that he does want us to use our rationality when it comes to judging whether he exists or not, and then deciding whether or not to love him. To use another computer analogy, it is beyond our ability to “prove” that {any significant} software is correct {in the mathematical sense}, but that does not stop us from judging that a piece of software is ready for shipment or not.

    You do not see the same kind of get out of jail free card given out so readily by secular humanists. You just don’t. Show me an atheist who defends the actions of Stalin, simply because he was irreligious and I’ll show you someone who is just as blinkered and tactless as Ted Haggard would know how to be.

    I’m sorry Jim, but yes you do see these kinds of people: everywhere! You may be thinking of secularists in the abstract, but secularists of the real world have killed multiplied millions of people. Their “get out of jail free” card is to deny that they are responsible to their creator by denying their creator’s existence.

    I do not defend these kinds of people simply because they describe themselves as atheist, when this is because they’re too lazy to get out of bed on a Sunday morning—more than because they’ve actually thought about “it” for themselves and come to the only rational conclusion you can possibly come to about these myths and legends and the people who use them to control the credulous into genuinely thinking this stuff is real.

    Yes, we agree that the intellectually lazy have no part in this discussion, and no excuse one which every way we discover the truth to be (if I am understanding what you have written correctly).

    Everyone should think through these issues themselves. I certainly did, and the fact that I chose to believe Jesus is not a reason to deny that I have thought the issues through. My testimony underscores the fact that I did not want Christianity to be the answer, but that when I considered it honestly, I found that it was. Once I made this discovery, I would have been a fool to not apply it to my life.

    The reason real Christians even share what they have been given is so that people can make an informed choice. People will make a choice to love God or reject him, but who would want them to make the choice to reject him by default? (Because, yes, we humans naturally reject God even as we suppress the “eternity” that he has placed into our hearts that causes us to seek whether God exists or not. Jim, would you deny that we have this built-in desire to know God {or at least know of his existence}; such can only be measured by ones own convictions and the working-out of the similar convictions in multiplied millions of people, which comprise human history.)

    How many limbs have grown back after amputees have bathed in waters of Lourdes, or in the river ganges? Has this miracle yet to occur because the physically disabled lack enough faith? Why did He make them disabled in the first place? To test their faith? Against that kind of hermetically sealed, wilfully blinkered non-thinking, surely there is no dialogue to be had that those on the side of rationalism could be sure anyone on the side of a religious world-view could or would allow themselves to actually understand.

    Of such waters I cannot speak, though I sense a great amount of bitterness in this paragraph.

    Where should I begin? Most certainly the answer will not be to your liking. Let me get personal again: Why am I partially blind? Why is my wife chronically ill? Why did we many of our children to miscarriage? Why doesn’t my gender and sex match like it does for normal people? I could go on:

    Of the last question, I have an answer for you that you could not have read in that second link; please read it now that I’ve updated it, if you would like my detailed answer.

    As to the other things, Jim we live in a fallen world. I wish it wasn’t that way, but when I came to understand this to be the case, most of my questions about the world’s ills fell into place. Our initial rejection of God’s love through disobedience to his “test” directive caused horrific ramifications. It destroyed our ability to love God without his direct aid and brought death into creation. But God was not just testing us, he was also putting us on display for the rest of creation; there are others who had to watch and learn (then and now). Rebellion against God did not start with humans, but it is through the Hi redemption of humans that all of creation will come to understand God more fully than would otherwise have been possible.

    Bad stuff happens, it even (and even especially) happens to “good” people, first because the world is prone to death, disease and disaster, and second because we have enemies who would use us as pawns in their rebellion against God. God overcomes these evils through his goodness and mercy, and what must finally be cleaned-up and contained will in the end demonstrate his justice. God uses these bad things in peoples lives to help us to grow into better people – better by *his* measure, not necessarily ours. What is better? It is what the Bible calls Christ-likeness – here let me give you a sample: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Kindness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. So yes, God uses these things to build our character, to build our faith, to understand what the important things of life are, to cause us to want to seek things bigger than ourselves – namely God himself.

    In my case, I am overcoming all of these things in my life, and I *know* in my spirit that this is not in-vain, because I have God’s own testimony within me that he is working all of these circumstances in my life to my good and his satisfaction. Jim, this last statement of mine will make absolutely no sense (logically or experientially) unless and until the reader comes to accept God on his terms. This is an example of “believing” allowing one to “see,” or as the Jesus himself said, “know the truth and it will set you free.” Jim and dear readers: I am free, free to overcome evil with good, free to live and free to die; are you?

    Does this help?

  96. I am not intending to be condescending. I am simply providing an answer to her question.

    I assumed that the question was asked in good faith; please assumed that I answered in kind.

  97. Brett,

    My whole point, and I think its a pretty important consideration, is that when Mark (a mortal being) decides to write down the life and times of the savior of the world, he shouldn’t leave out details, that other authors see fit to add in a decade later, and then more details a decade later, and then more details a decade later. If you accept that the later gospels are still the inspired word of god, I wonder how to draw the line in the sand. Is not the gospel of Mary or the gospel of Judas something to be considered? Why not the gospel of Joseph Smith? Or of Muhammed?

    How can you tell the difference between what is real and what is made up? How can you tell the difference between ‘god’s voice’ and the author’s imagination, or the author’s perceived ethical and moral views?

    I will not argue with Brett about whether there is or is not a God, because there is no way to absolutely prove that an invisible supernatural being is NOT standing over my shoulder right now. Maybe he only stands there where I’m not looking… I mean there’s all sorts of silly justifications one could slap on to it. I would instead argue that the attributes of God, being omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, are in conflict and do not rationally support the 4th descriptor, all-loving. When God fails to interceed to prevent an painful event that he KNOWS will happen, you see as ‘building character’. I see absentee parenting at best, and malevolence at worst.

    I will support this with a quote from Epicurus:

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

  98. Brett, if you feel that having faith in God is helpful to you, than keep at it, I suppose. It used to help me too, when I was up, and even when I was down, but I was a child who was trained to view the result of hard work, or sheer coincidence, as the divine hand of God.

    When I got older, I found it harder to justify why God saw fit to give me sun on my birthday, but not see fit to prevent a tornado from demolishing our southern suburbs? I mean, I know my Aunt was praying for her house to be saved but that prayer didn’t get answer… and sunshine on my birthday did? God’s priorities are messed up.

    And when you say that it is a test, or is a part of “god’s plan”, that makes me cringe. Do you truly think pain and suffering is a requirement for enlightenment? Could not God, the supposed creator of all this, not find a better way for enlightenment than through pain and misery? I don’t need the books in the library to bite me in order for me to learn from them, nor would I want them to. I believe in the old world, pain and suffering WAS the way to knowledge, sort of like telling a kid after they touch the hot stove, “Well you won’t do THAT again!”.

    But as a parent, would you really sit back and let your kid put their hand on a hot stove, just to teach them a lesson? Is that what humanity’s idea of education is? I’m certain you would not; I’m certain you would stop them and explain to not touch the stove. Now, if the child does it anyway, that’s a mistake they will learn from… but there is a difference between people seeking out dangerous behavior, and people who suffer from natural disasters, disease, loss, poor health, assault, car accident, and people who just plain get killed from circumstances beyond their control. How can a lesson be learned, or character built, when the person is dead?

    In the end, I’ve found religion to be good when you’re up, but hollow , false consolation when you’re down.

  99. DEAR Kaybee,

    Your argument is with the Author of Matthew, not with me. As I wrote, there are reasons for there to be more than one Gospel account. I know this is not an answer you will like to hear, but at some point we either take God at his word or we don’t – everyone bears responsibility for their decision.

  100. Again, DEAR Kaybee,

    I am sorry that you have had to see and experience such things, but are they so different than what is common humanity in general? You are in good company.

    Multiplied millions of people have found God to be faithful, but he frequently does not do what we might want him to do, or that which we have been taught to expect. I will not defend God’s faithfulness, as it needs no defense. You are free to accept it or reject it. God has set his own terms for reconciliation.

    I have presented (especially in my last link) powerful testimony of God’s grace. You can see from that decade long experience that God was not with me in some “easy” or “up” time, rather we worked through a set of issues that were very painful and challenging and that affected quite a number of people besides myself. {Frankly, it is nothing short of a miracle: in this case, the suspension of natural human nature through supernatural means.} I have testified that God is no “fair-weather friend” or “convenient contrivance” the purpose of which is to tickle my ears. No! Instead he is the one who loves me with a terrible love that will not permit any spot or blemish to remain in his beloved. This “action-verb” love will continue until I am completely whole and mature, lacking in nothing. I have testified to one example of how God’s life-process works in a real person, not some theoretical mathematical proof as is desired by many in this thread.

    DEAR Kaybee, and other gentle readers, I have no need to defend what God has done in my life. You are free to accept this or reject it as you will. My prayer is that it would help you come to Jesus for life and forgiveness, which was his desire for you from the first.

  101. We both agree that either the bible is the word of God or it isn’t. Since it is trivial to find hundreds of passages in the bible which flat out contradict common morality, not to mention common sense, it has to be presumed that if the bible is the work of God (upper case G to indicate Yahweh) He made mistakes in its dictation, translation and distribution; therefore He is not infallible.

    Please tell me why, in your view, this statement is false.

  102. Since it is trivial to find hundreds of passages in the bible which flat out contradict common morality, not to mention common sense

    Yes Jim, I agree. The Bible does contradict common morality and common sense.

    But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than mans strength. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

    and

    But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

    (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)

    If it is safe to assume that we who are posting to this blog consider ourselves “wise,” then it is safe to assume that those versus above were written about and to us.

    God is not a “go-along-get-along” being. He created things and He knows how they work and He has outlined expectations for His creation. As I’ve pointed-out before, we have all rebelled against Him and the standards He has set, so your statement does not surprise me in the least.

    We are to change to His morality and to His sense, He will not change to our rebellious and short-sited ways. Come now, wouldn’t you expect this?

    it has to be presumed that if the bible is the work of God (upper case G to indicate Yahweh) He made mistakes in its dictation, translation and distribution; therefore He is not infallible.

    Jim, you misunderstand how God has worked to create the Bible. He used many people from many walks of life, different educational backgrounds, different styles, spanning some 1600 years, some willing, some not so willing. He inspired people, He did not (in most cases) dictate copy. That the Bible is inspired is patently obvious to anyone who takes the trouble to read it with an open mind (as people here claim to posses). There are sixty-six books in the Bible, but is it very clear to any but the prejudiced that it was written by a single mind. The themes, sub-themes, (flawless) declaration of future history, the patterns: Jim there is none save Jesus who could have written such a thing.

    Jim, If you as an adult helped a couple dozen elementary school children to compose a set of interlocking essays describing the world and concentrating on a dozen or so main themes about humans and the human condition (which you described in detail to the kids) would it not be fair to say that you are the author of the work? It is also fair to say that they are co-authors too because they will be expounding your ideas in their style with their human foibles.

    As for whether the Bible was corrupted in translation, that’s a demonstrably well-proven fallacy. Greater minds than ours have made this claim for the last two millennial only to find that it was merely “wishful thinking.” Here is a surface argument: there are lots of embarrassing things in the Bible (OT/NT) to upset lots of powerful people, and in many cases those people had a hand in seeing that the manuscripts were copied correctly and that translations were made. Why do you suppose they left those embarrassing things are still in there?? In fact, there are so few errors of any sort (and the very few that exist tend to be letter-copy errors) that there is no ancient work, no human work of literature with so many manuscripts with which to cross-check and validate. The Bible sets the standard for the technical literary criticism for all other written works in human history. Period. Any cursory investigation will prove me correct; that you, Jim, make such an outrageous claim tells me that you either have not conducted such an investigation yourself or that you were hopelessly prejudiced.

    As for Bible translation into other languages, if you honestly desire, I can go into that as I have a bit of background there. However I will not waste my time with “make arguments.” As I said before Jim, I am not play a game by posting to your blog.

  103. With respect, the fact that the bible, as you rightly say, “sets the standard for the technical literary criticism for all other written works in human history”, isn’t in doubt. That doesn’t make anything written in it any more true than any other ancient text which uses allegorical myth founded in oral folklore to impart meaning upon natural phenomena for which humanity had to wait several thousand years to discover better descriptions.

    You can not, on one hand, insist that God intended for His children to write an infallible book and on the other hand use the fact that the book clearly is fallible as proof that it is divinely inspired. It’s circular reasoning gone wild and you know it. You wouldn’t take someone seriously for a single second if they insisted that a book on how to rebuild a gearbox contained strong advice on how to bake a better soufflé, so why the need to insist that for there to be an earlier alluded to “third way” of discovering axiomatic proofs than deductive reasoning and cause and effect, you must first accept that something demonstrably not true is in fact the only truth, has to be the single weakest non sequitur in the history of cognitive bias.

    Your want for there to be a connection between the real world and the mythical one is not in doubt. Your reasons for insisting other people share in your delusion, less they be missing out on some perfect truth, is exquisitely wrong.

    That is why I would suggest you were not in fact an atheist previous to setting yourself on this path because, clearly, you have never contemplated the true gravity of what you are allowing yourself to believe. You can say until you are blue in the face that you have, but you are not articulating it here—least of all by making blanket statements which simply are not true, while insisting that the very fact they are not true makes them more believable than the truth.

    Against that kind of infinite feedback loop there is no arguing. You have sealed yourself off entirely from evidence to the contrary of your position and called it faith. Again, that is your right and I would defend your right to think that way with every last kilojoule of my being so long as you keep it to yourself. The problem Christianity faces in the 21st century is the effort to take it out of the Church and into the schools, into the public discourse—not only on the demand of being taken seriously but on the demand of being taken more seriously than idioms based upon logic, economy of scale, rationalism, humanism and contemplative works of non-fiction.

    And so we have the likes of Sarah Palin and the American Families Association and Pat Robertson and Fox News and illegal invasions of non-Christian countries and Mordachi Vanunu and on and on and on until you can’t move in the so-called free world for people with a political agenda entirely informed by demonstrably false bronze-age propaganda. Defend that if you will, but don’t—as I’ve said before—make moral pronouncements upon those of us who see what it is, reject it for what it claims to be and yet miraculously continue nevertheless to live good and peaceful lives despite the best efforts of a telepathic Jewish magician from beyond the grave.

  104. With respect, the fact that the bible, as you rightly say, “sets the standard for the technical literary criticism for all other written works in human history”, isn’t in doubt.

    Excuse me sir? You made precisely the statement that the Bible could not be trusted because it failed the very sorts of tests upon which technical literary criticism is based.

    So at this point we agree that the Bible *has been* accurately transmitted to us, and so we now turn to its content.

    That doesn’t make anything written in it any more true than any other ancient text which uses allegorical myth founded in oral folklore to impart meaning upon natural phenomena for which humanity had to wait several thousand years to discover better descriptions.

    If it were as you say, then your statement would follow. However, you cannot prove that the Bible has its origin in “oral folklore” in fact it states otherwise of itself:

    For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

    Going all the way back to the beginnings, God inspired Moses to write:

    This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. (Genesis 5:1)

    These two versus alone demonstrate that the scriptures are not based on “oral history.”

    There are “less biased” external historical accounts that point-out much the same.

    As I’ve said, greater minds than ours have pondered questions such as these and they come to conclusions such as these:

    All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)

    Considering the radical, risky, embarrassing (to humans), and even *dangerous ideas* presented in the scriptures, it would not be in our (humanity’s) best interests to go to immense trouble to preserve this work and to risk giving our lives to live by its precepts – unless it was exactly what it says it is: The Word of God. Incidentally, that is why there has always been so much opposition to it: it is dangerous to *all* institutions of human origin; we flatter ourselves by claiming that such opposition is because these things are morally and intellectually beneath us.

    Jim, there are no new arguments being presented in this blog, none, and there will be no new ones either. I realize that is not going to sit well with you, but it is the truth (and it is really what motivated my prior comment about the futility of trying to “prove” Jesus’ existence, not some “slam” against you or your gentle readers). These questions and criticisms have been put forth for thousands of years when you consider both the Old Testament and the New – many, many greater minds have tried to prove God does not exist and that the Bible is not His Word, only to find themselves convinced otherwise. In fact, virtually all who we know have attempted this either validated God and the scriptures or lost their senses trying to discredit them (Voltaire comes to mind here). It is not that people cannot know these things, it is rather that they choose to ignore what they do know and close their minds to further knowledge, in the vain hope that they can escape their moral responsibility to their creator by feinting ignorance.

    Jim, my sense is that the true purpose of this blog is to promote atheism rather than a true, intellectually honest dialog about atheism vis-a-vis Christianity. It is OK to put forth unprovable suppositions about God, Jesus, Christianity, the Bible et al, it is even OK to ask endless and pointless questions about these things. But that an atheist can reason his way to accepting those things is anathema, and it is considered – axiomatically – to be unacceptable because it violates the presupposition that “everyone knows there is nothing to this Christianity thing.” I can say these things because as a former atheist, I *know* how we think, and you’re not fooling intellectually honest people, least of you’re not fooling God.

    Jim, I challenge you to read the first few chapters of the book of Romans, and then tell me that it is not relevant to our understanding of the human condition in ways no other book, no other religion, no other “ism” addresses. Romans is indeed a *very dangerous* book! God tells us in there those things we are afraid to tell ourselves but we know deep in our beings to be true; it does not sugar-coat. The writer Paul, is considered the premiere intellect of his time, and is ranked very high among all human intellects that have ever lived; he certainly deserves the respect of an august group of free-thinkers, wouldn’t you think? But think a little deeper when you read – where did Paul get this information? He didn’t get it from other humans, because what he says about humanity is not something we are willing to admit from the worst to the best humans, from the least sane to the most, from the stupid to the brilliant, and even from the foolish to the wise.

    Jim, it all boils down to this: you and your gentle atheist readers ultimately have an argument with the Living God, not with any of His imperfect followers. Your (collective and individual) rejection of Jesus is a rejection of God; your rejection of His Word is a rejection of God; your rejection of what He has clearly done in nature, and in multiplied millions of His followers (a great many who died for their relationship with Him) is a rejection of God.

    Jim, I care nothing of your rejection of me, anything I have written, anything that I have testified. Nor do I care for your acceptance of me or that of anyone else (not because I consider everyone worthless – no! because I consider God’s opinion above all others). I join Paul in saying “For me to live is Christ; to die is gain.” My approval comes from the One True God, and I know something that you and no other atheist can possibly know: I know beyond any doubt, none, that God exists and that He loves me, and that I am His and He is mine. No doubt, none. I “die” every day in uncounted ways so that others may be loved; I have presented my physical life many times for others without doubt of this; I am willing (and may yet be called upon) to lay my life on the line specifically to validate the truth of this (as many others have in the past). This is something you cannot say. Atheists are not prepared to die; true Christians are. You are not prepared to die; I am. Only Jesus can cause a person to live and die in this way; all other “ways” fall woefully short, and are in-vain because they deny the truth of God. If this is not a “proof” of Jesus’ existence, then what possibly could you want that would preserve the integrity of love and free-will? God has and will move Heaven and Earth that you might be reconciled to Him, but He refuses to make Himself mathematically-provable (as I’ve written before, that would render love and free-will {and ourselves, BTW) absolutely pointless).

    I imagine that this offends and upsets you. It is an unpleasant side-effect of truth that it can be offensive and upsetting to face: that’s precisely why most people put-off facing it for as long as they can:

    Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

    Jim (and gentle readers), Christianity regardless of what you might think or have been told is not a set of do’s and don’ts, it is not a moral imperative, it is primarily a relationship; it is a one-on-one relationship with God. The terms are very simple: we just need to admit that we’ve fallen short of (God’s) moral perfection (actually, anyone’s moral perfection will do, because we fall short of even our own expectations); then we need to accept that Jesus took the penalty from a just God that we should pay. But these are not “magic words,” to be able to say them with effect means that you accept that God exists and is personal, and it means that you understand yourself enough and can face yourself honestly enough to admit you need help (everyone does so don’t feel special). Once you have done this with honesty, with sincerity, He will revive your dead spirit, and place His own Spirit within you – then much of what seems confusing to you here (like things I’ve written) will begin to make sense. You can even start-out small like I did: “God, people claim that you exist, and that the Bible is your “word.” I’m not ready to accept these ideas, but if you *do* exist and if this *is* your word, then make it and yourself real to me as I read.” (And I proceed to read the book of Romans.) Jim, gentle readers, do this as I have said and prove me a liar; I dare you:

    For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

  105. Might I suggest the widely respected and renowned jurist Simon Greenleaf. He was a principal founder of the Harvard Law School, and the individual who defined the way western courts consider evidence (“A Treatise on the Law of Evidence (15 vols., 1842-1853). Perhaps this work of his would be a good place to start as he is an example of one of those who tried to systematically disprove God, Jesus, the Bible and Christianity – and failed:

    ‘The Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice’ or simply “The Testimony of the Evangelists” (1846)

  106. Brett,

    You are obviously fulfilled by your faith. However, you did not address my quote from Epicurus, so I will post it again.

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

    I would be very interested to read your reply to this comment.

    Brett, you wrote: “Christianity is primarily a relationship; it is a one-on-one relationship with God. The terms are very simple: we just need to admit that we’ve fallen short of (God’s) moral perfection”

    I find this mental attitude debilitating and abusive. I am supposed to admit, to my creator that created me, that I am imperfect. The perfect being created something imperfect? Then the perfect being is NOT perfect… God cannot be perfect if he creates something IMPERFECT. Oh right, the whole eating the apple bit caused us to be imperfect.

    So the perfect being that knows his creation will become imperfect allows this to happen, because he sees all, and the perfect being that IS LOVE, continues to punish future generations of innocent newborns by transferring the eternal badge of human original sin? The perfect being that condones and supports slavery, rape, and infanticide?

    “then we need to accept that Jesus took the penalty from a just God that we should pay–”

    No, I don’t. I didn’t ask for it and a blood sacrifice is a crappy way to solve problems. Surely the creator of the world could come up with a better solution than murder his son on the cross.

    “to be able to say them with effect means that you accept that God exists and is personal, and it means that you understand yourself enough and can face yourself honestly enough to admit you need help (everyone does so don’t feel special).”

    Yes, everyone needs help, but we need it from human beings, not imaginary sky friends. People who are unable to get love, compassion, acceptance, from others or themselves, or extremely susceptible to buying into the bull of religion.

    “Once you have done this with honesty, with sincerity, He will revive your dead spirit, and place His own Spirit within you – then much of what seems confusing to you here (like things I’ve written) will begin to make sense.”

    Unfortunately, that argument doesn’t apply with me because I started out the straight A student of your faith. I even scored so high on my final communion exam that I set a new record in our congregation for future graduates. I understand PERFECTLY how you feel, because I remember those feelings for myself. I also remember squelching the questions that did not make sense, and swallowing back the knee-jerk reaction to many of the problems in faith-based thinking and bible-based morality, because I WAS TOLD TO DO SO. I was told the answers you give me, and they HAD TO BE sufficient, because continuing to probe would have led to disgust and outcast. I’m a truly good girl (still to this day!) and don’t dare offending or hurting people’s feelings, so I did what I was told and eventually just numbed my thinking process.

    I can’t stop you from going ghostbusters on me and claiming that the devil has made me doubt, or that I simply don’t have ‘enough’ faith (whatever quantity ‘enough’ is, I’d love to know the scale of measurement). Really, I can’t stop you, but then you can’t also stop me from claiming that leprechauns live inside your cell phone and make the camera feature work. They’re very tiny. You can’t seem them when you look, either, because they go invisible.

    And please don’t write back about how you have a book that claims God is real, and I don’t have a book about leprechauns living in cell phones. I might feel the urge to write some divinely inspired cell phone manuals (inspired by the leprechaun god Absinthe) that would support my opinions. I think leprechauns would organize their thoughts into limericks instead of chapters.

    Brett, when it comes down to it, I think the supernatural world is nothing more than hocus-pocus, and if your God is real, he is not paying attention, or is not capable of the 3-omni- qualities attributed to him.

    Again, Jim — don’t like the reply format.

  107. Oh you’ve just decided that for us, have you? Thanks. Care to elaborate on why a world authority on folklore with over 250 published papers on the subject isn’t to your liking?

    Do you intend on giving us any further insight into why the man who, George Breslauer, dean of the UC Berkeley division of social sciences, said “..virtually constructed the field of modern folklore studies”, adding, “To call Alan Dundes a giant in his field is a great understatement”. How is he inadmissible as evidence which rises to your challenge and knocks it down in one fell swoop, exactly?

  108. You can suggest anyone you like, but you might be taken rather more seriously if you didn’t dismiss world respected scholars on the very topic you claim to know so much about, by instead suggesting the founder of Evangelical apologetics. Do you think we can’t use Google, or something?

  109. I challenge you to read the first few chapters of the book of Romans, and then tell me that it is not relevant to our understanding of the human condition in ways no other book, no other religion, no other “ism” addresses.

    On the contrary, I have found Romans to be just like every other religion and “ism”… full of hate and completely misunderstanding of the human condition. Just because you find it relevant does not mean others will. I have found nothing here worthy of anything more than contempt. Yes, I have read the bible. Front to back twice. The only redeeming part was Revelations. (I like dark fantasy, can’t get much darker than Revelations.)

    I consider God’s opinion above all others

    Another Christian with a direct line to God?

    I know beyond any doubt, none, that God exists and that He loves me, and that I am His and He is mine. No doubt, none.

    Delusions are a serious problem. Just because you fancy that a warm fuzzy feeling in your belly is your One True God making love to your soul doesn’t make it so.

    This is something you cannot say. Atheists are not prepared to die; true Christians are. You are not prepared to die; I am.

    Now wait a damn minute. Aside from your appropriate use of the semi-colon which I applaud, where do you get off telling someone they are not ready to die. Just because you think and believe with all of your brain that you have some misty ethereal substance hooked to your body and that you are right with your God, doesn’t mean you can start saying crazy things like this. Your belief is a fantasy cooked up over centuries. Death is, as far as we know, the end. That’s it. No evidence has EVER been brought forth to prove that there is anything about us that exists beyond the end of brain functions.

    In the end, I think there is one huge thing you are not understanding. No atheist is going to get down on his/her knees and start praying to your God. I could probably name quite a few cooler Gods we would like to see exist before we were to begin worshiping your half assed God. Who would want to worship a God who committed suicide to correct an error?

    I digress, atheists and typically atheist for one reason: there is no evidence for God or Gods. The warm fuzzies you feel when praying is only a reaction in your brain to doing such. For me, and I can probably count on most of the fine atheists posting/commenting here: we’re quite happy being heathens, no amount of proselytizing will change that.

  110. Well said, Douglas.

    Atheism is the logical default human state, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever to suggest a higher intelligence at work. It’s really very, very simple.

  111. Hello Kaybee,

    Sorry for the delayed response and my overlooking of your question:

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?”

    If this were true, then evil would be a greater power than good, and at some point it would seem that evil would completely overpower good such that good could no longer be found. Rather, evil is “spoiled” good. Evil is not able to stand on its own; it is actually a perverted form of good. For example, we lie in order to get our way (“our way” is “good” to us); we steal because we want something (a “good thing”) we do not have. Evil is not evil just for its own sake. Therefore, since evil cannot stand on it’s own, good must be greater. By (scriptural definition) God is good; that which is in opposition is evil. Therefore God is can overpower good. God is able so this is not an argument against his omnipotence.

    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

    Who says? Really, this is not flippant question. For malevolence to have any meaning in this context there must be an absolute moral standard.

    God is able but he is not always willing to prevent evil when we want him to. Epicurus is considering the problem from a purely human perspective, as if we set the standard of morality, and we set the priorities of God. It is very true that God is opposed to evil, but he allows evil to exist and to work its pain because this is possible outcome when sentient beings are given the gift of free-choice. And as I have written before, love cannot exist without the possibility that the beloved may chose to reject the lover (which is a form evil if you like: the “good” here is the promotion of the self over the one the self could love). For the present, good and evil exist side by side in humanity, and it is so that God can allow humans to choose or reject him. As some point in the future, God is going to fold-up the “game” and the problem of evil will be dealt with once and for all. It is at this point that final justice will take place and all who have perpetrated evil and not accepted the free pardon God offers in Jesus will be contained, separated from God and everything else. (In a sense, God will have given everyone what they want: Those who have rejected his pardon will have an eternity to spend with themselves without God, and those who have accepted this pardon will spend eternity loving the author creation.) To summarize, God is able, but he will not deal with evil on a timetable set by humans, but at the end of things, justice will be fully served.

    Incidentally, it is the sacrifice of Jesus that allows God to be 100% just while enabling him to be merciful. It is interesting to not that God is not fail. No, he is not. If he were fair, we would all be contained and separated from him because we all fall short of the moral standard he has the right (as creator) to set. It is because God is not fair that he provided a way to satisfy both the cause of justice and his desire to provide mercy: both of these are examples of his love for his creation.

    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

    I think I’ve covered this, but to recap: evil is spoiled good that is made possible because sentient beings have been allowed to accept or reject God’s love freely offered. Love has a higher priority in God’s estimation, and it is temporarily allowed to exist as people separate themselves into these two groups. Then, evil will be disposed of, and love will exist supreme in God’s creation.

    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

    I think I’ve covered this above.

    I wrote an essay about this sort of thing a some years ago if anyone cares to read it:

    Knowing Evil
    http://handheldfriendly.net/notes/Knowing_Evil.html

    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

    Of course Epicurus needed to put this “null” alternative in there for completeness, I imagine.

    Brett, you wrote: “Christianity is primarily a relationship; it is a one-on-one relationship with God. The terms are very simple: we just need to admit that we’ve fallen short of (God’s) moral perfection”

    I find this mental attitude debilitating and abusive. I am supposed to admit, to my creator that created me, that I am imperfect. The perfect being created something imperfect? Then the perfect being is NOT perfect… God cannot be perfect if he creates something IMPERFECT. Oh right, the whole eating the apple bit caused us to be imperfect.

    Kaybee, I think you missed or misunderstood my discussion about love and free-will. I’ve really covered all of this before. If you don’t understand love and free-will vis-a-vis God, then I can understand that you would find what I said “debilitating and abusive” – I certainly did at one time, but once I understood what God was “up to,” it all made perfect sense.

    I am supposed to admit, to my creator that created me, that I am imperfect.

    Yes Kaybee: The prototype of humankind, Adam, was made perfect in every way. In fact, had a free-will that worked perfectly well, except that he chose to use it to rebel against God. That’s what the “apple” was all about. God placed a test before his creation to see if they would choose to love him or not. Unfortunately, it chose to love themselves more through the act of deliberate disobedience. (Actually, the woman was deceived, the man simply disobeyed — that’s why his consequences are more severe). So, like a congenital disease, this propensity to rebel is passed-down through the male side of humanity (which has important consequences to Jesus that I’ll let you guess).

    To summarize: we are all prone to selfishness and rebellion and we get it from our fathers. Therefore Kaybee, like all of us, you are imperfect, through your “first” parents were created perfect in every way. This is not God’s fault, it is Adam and Eve’s, and each one of us ratify their decision by committing our own acts of selfishness and rebellion (sin, if you want to use Christian jargon). Again, this imperfection was possible because free-will was operative. The creation chose to fall, to become imperfect; the “apple” was a test of obedience that our parents failed.

    I really wish this were not so, that I was born a fallen creature, because I have experienced incredible agony over it. Here is a poem I wrote as I was considering this and first starting to deal with my abuse issues:

    Our Soul
    http://handheldfriendly.net/notes/Our_Soul.html.html

    So the perfect being that knows his creation will become imperfect allows this to happen, because he sees all, and the perfect being that IS LOVE, continues to punish future generations of innocent newborns by transferring the eternal badge of human original sin? The perfect being that condones and supports slavery, rape, and infanticide?

    Kaybee, I covered this above: we inherit a sinful nature, it’s a congenital disease. It was allowed to happen because love could not exist without free-choice. That this happened was a risk that God was willing to take because love is so important to him. We could have been all perfect with no possible way to turn to evil, but then we would be robots – perfectly incapable of loving. Keybee, I know it hurts, but you can’t have one without the other, it’s simply impossible.

    This perfect being does not support rape or slavery or any other evil, and as explained before he will handle all of it in due time. Kaybee, I was raped and abused as a child and nearly killed several times as a child: should I then be bitter to God about this? You know that I am not. God hates all these things and every evil; when a small child is hurt is deeply wounds God, and the cry of every slave is heard by him.

    Kaybee, every evil (and even simply bad) act will be paid for – there will be total, absolute, perfect justice. BUT because God knows that we could not accept this penalty (eternal separation) and have any kind of relationship with him (which he greatly desires). He made a way fully cover the penalty and provide a pardon for those who will accept it. Kaybee, a pardon is only offered to a guilty party; as I have written above, the consequence of our congenital “sin” disease is that we are guilty of rebellion by default. God’s provision for us, in his mercy, is to offer us a pardon. It’s simple, we can make a decision just like Adam did; only this time, we can choose life over death, whereas he chose death over life. And it may be for this very reason that everyone get’s the “sin” disease (why God didn’t stop it with Adam), because choosing or rejecting the pardon is our test of whether we will love God or reject him.

    “then we need to accept that Jesus took the penalty from a just God that we should pay–”

    No, I don’t. I didn’t ask for it and a blood sacrifice is a crappy way to solve problems. Surely the creator of the world could come up with a better solution than murder his son on the cross.

    The purpose of the blood sacrifice is to demonstration the extreme gravity of just how bad sin is. It requires the very life of an innocent to pay for it. God was preparing humanity to learn this leason through the animal sacrifice system, culminating in the act where God gave himself for us as the perfect sacrifice, once and for all in sending Jesus to the cross to die for us. It is this sacrifice that forms the basis of the pardon. No other being could have done it except God himself. The main reason Jesus, eternal God, creator of the universe, clothed himself with a human body and walked among us was so that he could die for us, taking our place as savior. Paul writes that just as through Adam, sin entered the world through one man, so with Jesus, salvation for all came through one man (God incarnate).

    Could God have come up with a better system. Maybe, but judging from what I know of how God meticulously and beautifully engineers things, I have my doubts, though I’m not thrilled with it any more than you are Kaybee. But, that’s that way it is, we are given the offer and way may leave it on the table if we wish.

    “to be able to say them with effect means that you accept that God exists and is personal, and it means that you understand yourself enough and can face yourself honestly enough to admit you need help (everyone does so don’t feel special).”

    Yes, everyone needs help, but we need it from human beings, not imaginary sky friends. People who are unable to get love, compassion, acceptance, from others or themselves, or extremely susceptible to buying into the bull of religion.

    I can see how people would feel that way. I would certainly have a “right” to feel that way given what I’ve gone through in life, but I don’t, and the reason I don’t I attribute to the life changing influence of Jesus the Christ. Call it “bull” or a “crutch” if you wish; it is the power of God at work in my life.

    Definition:

    “Religion,” man’s attempt to establish a relationship with God.

    “Christianity,” God’s plan to reconcile humanity to himself.

    “Once you have done this with honesty, with sincerity, He will revive your dead spirit, and place His own Spirit within you – then much of what seems confusing to you here (like things I’ve written) will begin to make sense.”

    Unfortunately, that argument doesn’t apply with me because I started out the straight A student of your faith. I even scored so high on my final communion exam that I set a new record in our congregation for future graduates. I understand PERFECTLY how you feel, because I remember those feelings for myself. I also remember squelching the questions that did not make sense, and swallowing back the knee-jerk reaction to many of the problems in faith-based thinking and bible-based morality, because I WAS TOLD TO DO SO. I was told the answers you give me, and they HAD TO BE sufficient, because continuing to probe would have led to disgust and outcast. I’m a truly good girl (still to this day!) and don’t dare offending or hurting people’s feelings, so I did what I was told and eventually just numbed my thinking process.

    I’m sorry you went through all of that because, as you’ve seen, none of it counts for anything. Paul had the same sort of experience; he was the “top of his class” in the Jewish system when he realized that it was all for naught. He gave it all up, counting his past accomplishments and advantages as mere rubbish when compared to a relationship with his creator by trusting Jesus with his life.

    Kaybee, with all due respect and tenderness, from your description I would say that you trusted all “Christian” things except Jesus. Unfortunately a lot of people do only to learn of its emptiness to their embitterment. Unfortunately, all too many people assume the “trappings,” the do’s the don’ts the doctrines, the dogma, the personalities, and many other things to be what Christianity is about. The truth is that Christianity is all about Jesus, and your personal relationship with him: between the two of you, you’ll work-out the details.

    Kaybee, I have to say that you’re on the right path: you’re “chucking” all of that “Christian stuff.” God will help you shovel it out the “door” of your life, in order to make room for Jesus in your heart. Please! Be rid of it, it will be the healthiest thing you can do for yourself right now. (By the way, feel free to get angry with God about it too – he can handle it, and he’s not happy with all the “Jeus junk” either. He’d rather you be honest about him than to try to cover yourself in holy-sounding platitudes. Kaybee, he dosen’t want any of *that stuff*, he wants *you*, and not as a *toy* or *thing* or even a *servant*, no, he wants you because he loves you.)

    I can’t stop you from going ghostbusters on me and claiming that the devil has made me doubt, or that I simply don’t have ‘enough’ faith (whatever quantity ‘enough’ is, I’d love to know the scale of measurement). Really, I can’t stop you, but then you can’t also stop me from claiming that leprechauns live inside your cell phone and make the camera feature work. They’re very tiny. You can’t seem them when you look, either, because they go invisible.

    “Ghostbusters???” I like that! :-)

    Kaybee, I told you what I think above. You were stuffed-into the mold of “cultural christianity” (or what I like to call “churchianity”). It’s a counterfeit for the “real thing.” Jesus and a personal relationship with him is where life is. It’s really pretty simple; even I can “get it.” (Which is not as funny as it sounds!)

    And please don’t write back about how you have a book that claims God is real, and I don’t have a book about leprechauns living in cell phones. I might feel the urge to write some divinely inspired cell phone manuals (inspired by the leprechaun god Absinthe) that would support my opinions. I think leprechauns would organize their thoughts into limericks instead of chapters.

    !!!!!!!! HA!!! :-) :-) :-) :-) I have no such book, unless you speak of the Bible (which you already know about)!

    Brett, when it comes down to it, I think the supernatural world is nothing more than hocus-pocus, and if your God is real, he is not paying attention, or is not capable of the 3-omni- qualities attributed to him.

    Yes, that’s what I thought too. Fortunately for me I only had to shuck-off atheism. You have had a bunch of “Christian crap” tossed onto you.

    Kaybee, with what you’ve been through it’s going to be hard for you to see the supernatural. The best that I can do is tell you that I’ve gone through a bunch of my own “crap” and Jesus got me through it. No suspending of “physics” kinds of supernatural acts (that I’ve noticed), but incredible amounts of supernatural assistance in my soul and spirit throughout my life. Think of it Kaybee, what’s harder for God: flipping the “spin” on a couple of quarks or changing the sort of life I’ve experienced from ashes to beauty? I think the answer is plain, BUT it goes against conventional wisdom (but God does *that* a lot!).

    Kaybee, I sense that you are in a difficult place in your life, and I can assure you that a lot of people are “pulling” for you. (The ones I know about are praying, and we shall see what God does here.)

    Take Care Everyone! (It’s bedtime for me!)

  112. Brett,

    Thank you for taking the time to address my thoughts calmly and considerately.

    There are a couple of things you said that I think are errors in logic. Will you respond to your quotes? (And sorry, I haven’t figured out how to do the cool ‘box’ for quoting what you said, so i’ll do it the old-fashioned way)

    Brett said:”That’s what the “apple” was all about. God placed a test before his creation to see if they would choose to love him or not. Unfortunately, it chose to love themselves more through the act of deliberate disobedience. (Actually, the woman was deceived, the man simply disobeyed — that’s why his consequences are more severe). So, like a congenital disease, this propensity to rebel is passed-down through the male side of humanity ”

    Brett, God already knew that Eve would be deceived, because he is omniscient. I know you are against Epicurus putting a human spin on things, but I find your spin on things to be just as human. You write that God wanted to see if humans would pass the apple test, but it is ONLY human beings that need to ‘test’ hypotheses; omniscient deities do not require tests because they already know the outcome: humanity = epic fail!

    I’m kidding with that last part – I don’t think humanity is an epic fail…. but the explanation that God needed to ‘test’ us is bogus. God did not need to test for information; he pre-knew the outcome. That’s what omniscience is!

    This is how I define malevolence: the Creator creates humans that he knows will disobey, programs humans with impulses and urges (desire for knowledge) and then punishes them with disease, pain, and no-more-free-meals at the garden buffet. … I’m supposed to view that as love? Love?

    Omniscience doesn’t need to TEST anything. Either
    1)he wanted us to fail by allowing the apple thing to happen or
    2)God is NOT omniscient.

    (My take on it is simpler: God is imaginary, human beings evolved, and the adam/eve story is a myth used to explain the human condition.)

    B: “We inherit a sinful nature, it’s a congenital disease.

    K:What is your proof that sin is a congenital disease, other than it sounding like a nice explanation?

    B:”It was allowed to happen because love could not exist without free-choice.

    K: If you mean God didn’t know if we would REALLY love him unless he gave us the free-choice to obey or disobey… that means God is not omniscient. This is again, a human spin.

    B: “That this happened was a risk that God was willing to take because love is so important to him.

    K:’Taking risks’ is a human spin. Omniscient Beings do not take risks. They know the outcome. So is God omniscient, or is he taking risks?

    Brett, I do not buy into your explanation of original sin, or God as omniscient, or that original sin is an STD. Since sin is an imaginary label to describe impulses, the need for a blood sacrifice is gruesome and unethical.

    B:”What you’ve been through it’s going to be hard for you to see the supernatural –”

    K: No, I believed in the supernatural for about 22 years. It wasn’t hard at all to do so.

    B:”The best that I can do is tell you that I’ve gone through a bunch of my own “crap” and Jesus got me through it. No suspending of “physics” kinds of supernatural acts (that I’ve noticed), but incredible amounts of supernatural assistance in my soul and spirit throughout my life.

    K: Your personal feelings are as swaying as telemarketing testimonials. Just because it worked for you doesn’t mean that it will work for me, or that it was even the product CAUSING the change. (For example, with exercise gadgets they always tell you to add appropriate diet changes to see ‘best results’.) Brett, I think it is more likely that your deep ability of introspection and self-counsel has led to the healing you have experienced. In my eyes, you do not give yourself enough credit for your own resiliency, and give far too much credit to an imaginary voice called ‘jesus’. I’m glad that you have been able to recover; I’m sad you do not realize this as a power that was always within you.

    B:”Think of it Kaybee, what’s harder for God: flipping the “spin” on a couple of quarks or changing the sort of life I’ve experienced from ashes to beauty?

    K: Brett, I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you brought up quarks, as electrons and atoms are such a freaking cool place of scientific exploration right now!! I just hope you’re not implying metaphysics as a serious science (more like deepak chopra using science jargon to sell books). Anyway, of course its easier for God to step in and spin ‘fate’ differently, but prayer/wish-thinking does not make the fates spin differently any more often than random chance, or ESP tests, or other such hocus-pocus.

    B:”Kaybee, I sense that you are in a difficult place in your life, and I can assure you that a lot of people are “pulling” for you. (The ones I know about are praying, and we shall see what God does here.)

    K: You know, I think you genuinely mean that, and I appreciate your warmth and generosity. You don’t need to pray for me, though, anymore than I would ask you to WISH for me. That sounds so silly… “Wish for me!” I guess its because we know wishing is just a fantasy-thing. I know you believe prayer to be a different thing, but please understand in my eyes, prayer = wish. Still, its nice to know you are thinking nice supportive thoughts. I think the world would be a much better place if we focused more on positive ideas than negative ones.

  113. Hi Douglas,

    On the contrary, I have found Romans to be just like every other religion and “ism”… full of hate and completely misunderstanding of the human condition. Just because you find it relevant does not mean others will. I have found nothing here worthy of anything more than contempt. Yes, I have read the bible. Front to back twice. The only redeeming part was Revelations. (I like dark fantasy, can’t get much darker than Revelations.)

    I didn’t say that I enjoyed what Romans had to say. I said that it speaks to the human condition in a way that no other belief system dares to do. God did not intend for it to be a soothing balm (at least not the first few chapters).

    When I humbled myself to read a part of the Bible, I did so with a sincere mindset of wanting to know the truth even if that truth indicated very bad things about me. For me this particular book cut to the core of my being because it addressed things I had been giving serious consideration to since I was a child. Remember, I also came to this place believing (as you seem to) that Christianity had nothing to offer to a thinking person.

    “Just because you find it relevant does not mean others will.” With all respect Douglas, I have to disagree with you here. What is presented in Romans applies to people universally: all people at all times, certainly everyone who is possession of enough mental faculties to tell right from wrong. So I submit that just because you find it “hateful,” does not mean it is not true or that it is irrelevant. You have chosen to for it to be irrelevant to your life, but multiplied millions through nearly two millenia beg to differ with you.

    You say you have read the Bible, that may or may not be good. I would say that the attitude of your heart will determine what (if anything) you receive for your effort. Please remember that the Bible claims to be the very Word of God, but please remember too that God is a person. If this is indeed true, should we expect to receive the rewards of intellectual and spiritual understanding if we approach it with a casual or haughty attitude? Even so, God is exceptionally gracious and very often speaks to all the the most hardened of hearts. Douglas, as a favor to me, would you please consider reading the first few chapters of Romans again asking God (even if you don’t believe he exists), asking him to reveal himself to you; do this sincerely wanting what he has to say, and you will get an answer. I *know* my God; he wants *all* people to come to him for salvation. He doesn’t make people just to destroy them. He does not play favorites: if he would accept someone like me, Douglas, he will accept you too or *any* of our other gentle readers here.

    Another Christian with a direct line to God?

    Yes Douglas. Scripture says that God, by his Spirit, takes residence in the body of those who accept Jesus pardon. How much more direct can one get? Douglas, I am not special; I am no better than any here and perhaps a good bit worse. The only difference is that I accepted the pardon. Douglas, if this surprises you, then you don’t have his Spirit in you, otherwise you would know without any doubt, just as I know without doubt – it’s unmistakable and like *nothing* else.

    Delusions are a serious problem. Just because you fancy that a warm fuzzy feeling in your belly is your One True God making love to your soul doesn’t make it so.

    Yes, Douglas, delusions are a serious issue. But I am not claiming any “warm fuzzy” feeling to be an indication of God. I didn’t do that as an atheist considering the claims of Christ and I have not over my twenty-something year walk with Jesus. In fact, I downplay the emotional aspects of my faith out of fear for the very concern you just presented. You are entirely right, a nice feeling does not a god make.

    So how do you explain me Douglas? If you read my second testimony (concerning my gender identity issues), I think you would find some interesting things that that would resonate with your mind and heart. In there you will see very little “warm fuzzies!” Rather, you will see how an infinite personal God works with a limited and flawed human, and brought a victory out of something that is very delicate and something most people cannot “get.” But my experience is just one of many, many millions, and in that sense it is more commonplace that I think most here would imagine.

    Douglas, I’m interested in truth; If I didn’t get it from Christianity, I would have dropped it long ago. I only have one life and I’m not even a little interested in wasting it on “good feelings” when there is truth to be ascertained.

    So Douglas, just because you assume that God does not exist, does not make it so.

    Now wait a damn minute. Aside from your appropriate use of the semi-colon which I applaud, where do you get off telling someone they are not ready to die. Just because you think and believe with all of your brain that you have some misty ethereal substance hooked to your body and that you are right with your God, doesn’t mean you can start saying crazy things like this. Your belief is a fantasy cooked up over centuries. Death is, as far as we know, the end. That’s it. No evidence has EVER been brought forth to prove that there is anything about us that exists beyond the end of brain functions.

    “Where do I get off telling someone they are not ready to die?” I get-off telling all of you that because it is the truth. God knows our hearts, and one of the reasons I brought up Romans is that it drives points like this home. Douglas, you might not like to admit it, but I am correct in my assessment.

    Douglas, you say I am making crazy claims. Search your heart; are you ready to die? If someone put a gun to your head and told you to renounce the “Big Bang” would gladly take the bullet? *You* would be crazy to die for a mere theory! Would you die early for the noble principle that your body is contributing to the “overload” of the earth so that some person younger (or perhaps more valuable by some measure)? Would you die for a “warm fuzzy” feeling in the pit of your stomach? No, I didn’t think so. Even as an atheist, I would not have done those things either; deep inside I know that human life was worth more than things like this. Yet Douglas, I *am* ready to die for Jesus; I know I am because his Spirit testifies in me that I am his and he is mine. You obviously do not have this assurance, but because you do not does not in any way negate that fact that multiplied millions of people have; it does not negate the fact that I have this assurance. Mere feelings don’t “cut-it” with me anymore than they do for anyone else here.

    Douglas, do you realize that there have been more Christian martyrs in the twentieth-century than in all others since Christ walked the earth? Multiplied millions of people have given their lives for a “warm fuzzy” feeling? When they could have easily recanted and been allied with the world instead of its enemy? What is at work here defies all rational explanation; so it seems reasonable to ask Christians why they would do this: the answer is Jesus. Were it not for God, we would be stark, raving, delusional people who did not even deserve pity for the damage their ideas could cause. BUT if they are truly children of the Living God, then this all makes sense.

    No evidence has EVER been brought forth to prove that there is anything about us that exists beyond the end of brain functions.

    Douglas, you are overlooking all the eye-witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It was the sign from God that he meant what he said about Christ, and he means what he says about any who accept his pardon.

    All of the Apostles were eye-witnesses of Jesus resurrection from the dead. All of them except one went one by one over a period of years to their torturous deaths. They died one by one as each was questioned for what they believe. Which one of them would have died for a lie? Even if one or two were “crazy” enough to die, the others would have “caught-on” that a lie is not worth dying for. And where were hundreds of other eye-witnesses, even among those hostile to Jesus and his followers; many of these were martyred too. Why would they die for a lie too? Though I am not an eye-witness in the sense that I have seen Jesus risen, I am an eye-witness to the power of Christ in my own life, and that fact has convinced me numerous times to count my life as nothing when I’ve needed to risk it for the safety of others. It is also sufficiently powerful for me to give myself away in the daily grind of living (which is often much harder than simply dying).

    In the end, I think there is one huge thing you are not understanding. No atheist is going to get down on his/her knees and start praying to your God. I could probably name quite a few cooler Gods we would like to see exist before we were to begin worshiping your half assed God. Who would want to worship a God who committed suicide to correct an error?

    I did Douglas; am I the single human exception to your atheist rule in all of history? But I’ll give you this: God had to ***really*** convince me that he existed, is personal and that he is worth my giving the most precious thing I own to him (my life). But he did, and I knew I was his enemy, and I knew that I would fail him, but he still accepted me.

    Who would want to worship a God who committed suicide to correct an error? So you would not revere a man who would give his life where yours was forfeit? Perhaps not; humans are selfish. Douglas, deep in your heart you know that you *could* worship such a God if you could do it with intellectual honesty. I don’t think that I am incorrect in my sense that you understand much more about pain and suffering than a great many people.

    I digress, atheists and typically atheist for one reason: there is no evidence for God or Gods. The warm fuzzies you feel when praying is only a reaction in your brain to doing such. For me, and I can probably count on most of the fine atheists posting/commenting here: we’re quite happy being heathens, no amount of proselytizing will change that.

    Oh Douglas, the evidence for God is already built into you. He’s the designer and he’s put that into everyone. My experience with atheists, and as a former atheist myself, is that you are desperately opposing the very notion of God (in yourselves and others) because it is simply too painful to face God. I *know* this; I was one of you! The intellectualism was really just a front protecting those parts he put in me that I could neither live with nor live without.

    …no amount of proselytizing will change that.” Douglas, never say “never,” my friend! There is always hope as long as you draw breath. :-)

    But Douglas we are not guaranteed to live another day! *Now* is the time to decide issues such as this. At least in your case you won’t reject God by default, and that is a (very) small comfort to me.

    Douglas (and gentle readers) God made you for himself and you will never find real fulfillment outside of him. Don’t discount what you haven’t really tried. You’ve seen the counterfeits, maybe you’ve even tried them, but Jesus is the reality that these others try to mimic.

    Take Care Everyone!

  114. Hi Kaybee, I hope you’re doing well today.

    I will respond in detail to your response as soon as I can. I just spent my “quota” of time responding to Douglas today. :D

    Oh, you can use the “cool box” for quotes by putting the text in between [blockquote][/blockquote] tag pairs (except use angle-brackets instead of square ones as I did. You should be able to see a list of XHTML tags that are permitted just about the textbox into which you type your text!

    Until later…

    Take Care Kaybee

  115. You’ve seen the counterfeits, maybe you’ve even tried them, but Jesus is the reality that these others try to mimic

    Does that include the Messiahs which mimicked Jesus before Jesus was thought up or just the ones made up after the others realised what a money spinner the Christians were on to?

    Come on Brett, give me a break. Are you cracking jokes or do you really believe this stuff? Because I hate to tell you this mate but in the real world the more something is explained the easier it becomes to understand. Whereas your particular brand of apologetics is having the opposite effect—at least on me. The more I read in general on what militant Christians like yourself actually allow themselves to substitute for wisdom, the more convinced I become that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

    Scripture is unadulterated drivel. The poetry you allude to in Romans just isn’t there. You’re imagining it. Your capacity to do as much is testament to the fact you are much better than the authors of the text were at denoting morality within allegory. If that doesn’t tell you something about the positive advancements in education driven by secular society nothing ever will—and I don’t mean that in a small way.

    You say that “God had to really convince me that he existed” but all you’ve written by way of explaining exactly how He did this is reiterate classic apologetics—and when you have it pointed out to you, all of a sudden, were expected to turn into “gentle readers”. Why should you be entitled to mollycoddling? Can’t you at least see why this kind of special pleading is exactly the sort of thing normal people are tired of seeing the religious get away with time after time?

    So you would not revere a man who would give his life where yours was forfeit?

    Again, classic trick questioning. You should be a script writer for some high profile Pastor. If a soldier lays across a hand grenade to save his platoon he is a hero worthy of the highest commendation. His platoon did not specifically ask him to do it, he did it because he was acting to serve the best interest of the group. We know that the soldier did this, because there were people there to witness him do it. They are reliable witnesses because they are still alive to give testimony in their own words.

    In 2000 years time, when their written testimony has been translated into an as-yet to evolve language, which shares only a minor resemblance to the ancient dialect ‘English’, in which it was originally written—with no direct translation for vital structural components of the sentence or grammar—tell me, Brett, how likely is that the original intentions of the author will be preserved? How easily could a paragraph of the document which deals with a minor detail, have become exaggerated into something utterly out of context?

    If you can answer that simple question with any intellectual honesty, you’re half way to understanding the work of a man you claim is “not a credible voice”, Alan Dundes, when he explains how all folklore evolves from oral myth.

    You say Jesus found you. I say you were as vulnerable when He did so as we can all be in our darkest moments of searching for the truth. You just happen to have settled upon the easy answers of religion whereas some of us used those turning points in our lives to find psychology and logic and poetry and music and art and other people just as fragile as ourselves.

    There may not be the same kind of warm cuddle at the end of a Bertrand Russell chapter, or any numinous inner glow to be attained, akin to a sacramental trance, in the words of a lecture on Quantum electrodynamics—but that doesn’t make these things any less incredible intellectual achievements than the frontal lobe externalisation of the ego which you project onto words like God in the same way humanists do on to concepts like the golden rule and axiomatic moral truisms such as peace, love and happiness.

    Have you, Brett Blatchley, ever so much as considered how much happier you would be in discovering the real truth, as opposed to blindly knowing the fiction?

    “Even a very small effect sometimes requires profound changes in our ideas” – Richard Feynman on mass increasing with acceleration.

    “..there have been more Christian martyrs in the twentieth-century than in all others since Christ walked the Earth..” – Brett Blatchley on why we need more religion.

    I rest my case.

  116. “If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.” – Bertrand Russell

  117. Brett, God already knew that Eve would be deceived, because he is omniscient. I know you are against Epicurus putting a human spin on things, but I find your spin on things to be just as human. You write that God wanted to see if humans would pass the apple test, but it is ONLY human beings that need to ‘test’ hypotheses; omniscient deities do not require tests because they already know the outcome: humanity = epic fail!

    Yes, God already knew this but Adam & Eve did not! That knowledge was an important part of the personal relationship God wanted with his “children.” The relationship they had with God is something we can only dream of! How poignantly hard their fall must have been!

    When you understand that God is a personality rather than an impersonal force, a great deal of what the Bible has to say about him starts to make sense. Even so, as rich as person-hood among humans, it is a small reflection, a shadow, of all that person-hood means when applied to God.

    As for the “apple” test, I should have been more clear. This was God testing Adam & Eve to see if they would obey his instructions. (God being the archetypal parent here.) Continued obedience was proof that they loved him more than themselves, and disobedience was a clear indication that they wanted to live independent of God. (They were warned of the consequences.)

    When you think of it, what could we give to a God who “has everything?” Love is the only meaningful thing. So how do you love a parent-figure who is bigger than the universe and doesn’t have any needs? Through personal communication and obedience. One of the ways we demonstrate love for God is to love other humans. And this love is an action-verb: it seeks the greatest good through the highest means for the beloved. This, is the love that God demonstrates to us and seeks to cultivate in us (his followers)

    Oh, BTW, I am not ‘against’ Epicurus, I just think that his quote was from an earthly rather than heavenly perspective. From where he was coming from, it was quite profound reasoning.

    I’m kidding with that last part – I don’t think humanity is an epic fail…. but the explanation that God needed to ‘test’ us is bogus. God did not need to test for information; he pre-knew the outcome. That’s what omniscience is!

    Kaybee, you’re very right here! God was not testing for information. The ‘test’ was to see if the relationship would ‘hold,’ a test that is not uncommon of our experience as children and then as parents!

    This is how I define malevolence: the Creator creates humans that he knows will disobey, programs humans with impulses and urges (desire for knowledge) and then punishes them with disease, pain, and no-more-free-meals at the garden buffet. … I’m supposed to view that as love? Love?

    Is it not amazing how a shift in perspective can change everything? The serpent tried the to define God as malevolent by implying that he was withholding something “good” from Eve and that he was lying about the consequences to disobedience.

    Kaybee, I felt exactly as you when I was first exposed to this when I was reading Milton’s Paradise Lost! But when I put my bias aside (I’m not implying you’re biased, just saying I was), I was able to see God as a type of parent and I could see some of the ‘bigger picture’ (reading Job) and things started to make sense.

    Omniscience doesn’t need to TEST anything. Either
    1)he wanted us to fail by allowing the apple thing to happen or
    2)God is NOT omniscient.

    Of all you are speaking of is God’s knowledge, then you are correct. But the knowledge was for the sake of humanity. God did not want us to know about good and evil by experience. That is, they were already briefed on right and wrong, but God did not want them to actually participate in wrong.

    Now I have to admit that some of this is truly a mystery, but is one that is bound closely to the fact that God wants a personal relationship with his creation, both corporately and with us as individuals. How all of this works between an infinite, sentient God and a finite set of limited, sentient beings *is* a mystery. But we have love as a strong clue!

    Also, as we see from the book of Job and other snatches of scripture, we are a part of a much bigger drama. We are display, so to speak, for the angelic host (an others we may not know about?). God is demonstrating his character to *all* of his creation, not just humanity (though we would appear to be ‘playing to his lead’ in this drama).

    (My take on it is simpler: God is imaginary, human beings evolved, and the adam/eve story is a myth used to explain the human condition.)

    OK, I accept that you believe that.

    I honestly don’t think that evolution can explain the human condition, and it’s one important reason I believe God. Of course, I have the testimony of his Spirit within me, which is much more powerful than mere reason (and as I wrote to Douglas below, this is not a “warm fuzzy” feeling, but an overpowering conviction that is like *nothing* else and is unmistakable).

    K:What is your proof that sin is a congenital disease, other than it sounding like a nice explanation

    Actually, my calling it that *is* speculation on my part since I’m not a medical doctor or researcher. However, our sin-nature has some important similarities, so it’s not an unfair comparison. It is passed from generation to generation through males. (Hmmm, I wonder if it has anything to do with genetic research that seems to indicate the the Y chromosome is really a degenerated (and degenerating) X chromosome??)

    Anyway, scripture makes clear that we all have a fallen nature and it has corrupted the “goodness” that God made us to be. This *is* at the heart of what we term the ‘human condition,’ and we are clearly slaves to it just as scripture teaches.

    K: If you mean God didn’t know if we would REALLY love him unless he gave us the free-choice to obey or disobey… that means God is not omniscient. This is again, a human spin.

    God did/does know, but our “parents” did not and we do not. Humans are the other side of this love relationship and it is paramount that we understand the implications of the free-choices we make.

    K:’Taking risks’ is a human spin. Omniscient Beings do not take risks. They know the outcome. So is God omniscient, or is he taking risks?

    Yes, I use the word “risk” in here as an imperfect description of what has actually occurred. What better word would you use to describe the fact that God so values freely-given love that he is willing to tolerate that his own creation might chose to reject him?

    Also, when we get into speaking of omniscience and choice, we start getting into deep waters where a full understanding is not possible for us due to our limitations. Just as we cannot perceive the true beauty of a hypercube because we are bound to 3 1/2 dimensions, there are aspects of omniscience and free-will that we can only hope to ‘understand’ by analogy. Since this concept seems important to you from the points you are making, perhaps a snip of an email I sent to a friend recently might help?

    (Please be kind and overlook my poor paragraph structures!)

    Calvin and Arminius were both Christian theologians that were trying to get their minds around the seemingly paradoxical ideas of predestination and free-will: Election and Agency. From what I can see, they both went to the extremes of the possible positions.

    Now that we understand more about the nature of the universe, especially time, we can reconcile the paradox of God knowing what choices we will make, yet gifting us with the ability to freely choose.

    Personally, I think they are both right and both wrong:

    Calvin holds onto the idea that once we are saved, we are always saved, because the decision once made is irrevocable. Yet to get to that position and to accommodate the word “predestined” he proposed that God had a set of people the he chose from the beginning to be partakers of eternal life. So Calvin had to rule-out free-will. Yet without free-will, love is meaningless (Calvin had to ignore some of scripture to come to these conclusions; in particular those that indicate our responsibility to choose.)

    Arminius reasoned from the scriptures that humans do have the freedom to choose whether they will accept God’s pardon in Jesus or not, yet he also reasoned that a person could “fall-away” from this saving grace and thus be irredeemably separated from God, essentially becoming an unbeliever again only worse: they would not be able to be saved again. (Arminius had to ignore some of scripture to come to these conclusions, in particular God’s sovereignty and ability to foreknow.)

    But now that we understand time better and realize that as its creator, God is *outside* of time, is not bound by its constraints. We can form a “picture” in our mind about how God can foreknow and yet humans can choose. Imagine ourselves, our lives, our decisions as being a line from one end of a paper to another. There are many such lines, each representing a human life. Adam and Eve’s line starts at the very end of
    one edge of the paper, but most lines start near the middle. Some lines are very long (the antediluvian people), others are very short (aborted children), most are around the same length, or groups of “common” lengths. Some lines will end at the other end of the paper, where time itself will end as we know it. Our lines progress from edge of the paper to the other and they meander this way and that as we make the various choices presented to us – let’s simplify this to consider that every decision a human makes in some way brings them closer to God or pushes them away. So we see the path of the lives of individuals, some come to God, some do not. All this time, we have been “on” the paper itself and cannot really “see” much. We are all compelled to move in the same direction – from one edge to another, and we cannot retrace our steps (though we can still at any point move toward or away from God). This is kind of a boring picture in that we can only experience our own path and perhaps know about the paths of others through records or communication with others on the paper
    who are near us. Zoom-out and above the paper, as if you were looking at it from a reading distance. This is one of God’s views; He can zoom-out because He is not bound by the constraints of time. From this vantage point, He can see ALL of humanity in one glance. He can see ALL of everyone’s decisions because He can see the full path that is traced upon the paper. He knows who decided for Him and who rejected Him. All of those for Him are the “Elect,” and those who “eventually” rejected Him (which He
    can see at a “glance” from this perspective) are those destined for destruction. An important point about this is that God’s vantage point allows Him to know all things of all of the history of His creation, including those most special things, the choices made by we humans. Just because He can “see” us and know our choices, does not mean that He caused us to choose a certain way. This perspective *can be* totally passive. Yet God is not passive with His creation; He is also willing and able to get down on “our level” at the surface of the paper and interact with us as we
    are making our choices. In fact, Jesus entered the constraints of time Himself for a period and has a path on this “paper” too. Also, with this special “overview” perspective, God can “predict” what history will have in store for us; He is less predicting it than He is actually seeing how it “worked-out” because He can see the beginning from the end. In fact scripture teaches that He does see the beginning from the end and if Calvin and Arminius paid a little more attention, they would not have needed to understand time as we do in our Einsteinian sense in order to draw these same conclusions.

    So for you, me, Yana, Abby, and Alix, we each have a “path” representing our choices and because God can step into and out of time, He can see all the choices will ever make, He can know every sin we will commit (so that Christ can pay for them *all*), yet we have the freedom to make the choices we do, and God can (and does) from time to time, help influence our choices. In some cases to make it easier for us to choose Him (for most people) and for a few (like Pharaoh) to confirm the hardening of their heart (He already knew Pharaoh would reject Him, but He made it *really* “stick” by further hardening Pharaoh’s heart for the sake of emphasis) Similarly, once God has seen that we have chosen Him, He can “lock” our decision “in” which is why no one, not even ourselves can “snatch us from His hand” as scripture teaches.

    So we can see that recognizing that God is not bound by the concept of time which He created, we can reconcile the paradox of how God can “Elect” us and yet we are free to choose to accept Him or reject Him, and that our freedom does not mean that we can lose our salvation once saved. This view actually unifies some of the most important parts of Calvin and Arminius’ ideas, and it fits scripture better than either. (Note there are places in
    scripture that indicated that God is beyond and not constrained by time in the way we are.)

    Obviously this is an imperfect analogy, but it does help me to get my mind around these things! I hope you found it helpful too.

    Brett, I do not buy into your explanation of original sin, or God as omniscient, or that original sin is an STD. Since sin is an imaginary label to describe impulses, the need for a blood sacrifice is gruesome and unethical.

    OK, Kaybee, but how do you explain the human condition through evolution? And as I have written, when you get to the root of the “human condition” you find sin and a broken relationship with God. Now, if you accept the Biblical view, then the sacrifice of the innocent is the only way.

    Also, I don’t think of “original sin” as being an STD! God invented sex and it was made good. As such is it no more an STD than muscular dystrophy (for example).

    But since you hinted at it, I think it would be helpful to point-out that “original sin” had nothing, *NOTHING* to do with our sexuality except in the symbolic sense that Adam & Eve’s nudity was an external indicator of their inner innocence. And when they lost their innocence, their shame was externalized in their realization that they were then naked. (See the subtle difference between nudity and nakeness here?) Anyway, my wife and I are *very* aware of the wonders of what God has given us in our sexuality and because of the righteousness he imputes to us as a result of Christ’s sacrifice, we are no longer naked in this, but nude – we very much invite him into our ‘marriage bed.’ (Which *might* seem scandalous to some of my fellow Christians!)

    K: No, I believed in the supernatural for about 22 years. It wasn’t hard at all to do so.

    Ah, but did you believe in the Supernatural (capital ‘S’)? From what you write, I think not. You know about God, but you don’t know God as a person. That’s the ‘rub’ and that’s what he wants to change. Kaybee, he wants *you* to love, and to love him, and for you both to enjoy each other forever.

    K: Your personal feelings are as swaying as telemarketing testimonials. Just because it worked for you doesn’t mean that it will work for me, or that it was even the product CAUSING the change. (For example, with exercise gadgets they always tell you to add appropriate diet changes to see ‘best results’.) Brett, I think it is more likely that your deep ability of introspection and self-counsel has led to the healing you have experienced. In my eyes, you do not give yourself enough credit for your own resiliency, and give far too much credit to an imaginary voice called ‘jesus’. I’m glad that you have been able to recover; I’m sad you do not realize this as a power that was always within you.

    Ha! I’ve never been compared to a salesman before – if you knew me better you would laugh too!

    Kaybee, thank you for your kind appraisal of me! BUT, I do understand myself enough to know that I could not have done what I write about in my testimonial by myself. Do you realize that a great many (too many) people in my position end up killing themselves sooner or later?

    Kaybee, I *know* my God, he is not some little inner voice. I’ve described this knowledge as a “conviction” from his Spirit to mine because I have no better way to describe something that is so *other* and *unmistakable* than any other human experience. This experience is universal to all people who have truly accepted God’s pardon in Christ Jesus. You would know it if you had it. That you don’t understand makes it clear to me that you don’t know him (as a person). This is no “slam” against you, just a simple observation. Please realize that because you have not experienced this is not indication that it does not exist. I could make claims that there is beautiful music surrounding us all the time, and you would think I was crazy until I gave you a radio that would enable you to access this music.

    You have (tenderly) congratulated me on my resiliency. Here is another snip of a note I sent to a dear friend recently that assigns the credit where it is really due:

    I’m ****amazed**** than I never had a nervous breakdown! I should have had more than one! I probably should have killed myself lest I kill others:

    I am like a small, signal-transistor, one built to faithfully reproduce gentle, subtle electrical changes, amplifying them to somewhat larger levels, that instead is outputing huge blasts of electrical current. Subjecting *this* type of transistor to *that* amount of current brings near instant destruction to the part. The process is insidious: more current means greater heat in the transistor, which makes the part pass even more current even more easily, which raises the part temperature even more. In a rapid, positive-feedback-loop called “thermal runaway,” the part quickly vaporizes itself. BUT, such a part can take this abuse, can amplify small signals to huge output levels IF it is cryogenically chilled: God is my liquid nitrogen, and I am not destroyed *solely due to His supernatural influence*. There are transistors that can handle subtle signals, and transistors that can handle gobs of power. Handling both at the same time is a **special** job that calls for *extreme measures*. This is where I am, but I have no idea why or what God is preparing me for in His future; there must be a reason for His special provision here.

    Kaybee, I’m one of those kids that could have easily ‘gone postal.’

    K: Brett, I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you brought up quarks, as electrons and atoms are such a freaking cool place of scientific exploration right now!! I just hope you’re not implying metaphysics as a serious science (more like deepak chopra using science jargon to sell books). Anyway, of course its easier for God to step in and spin ‘fate’ differently, but prayer/wish-thinking does not make the fates spin differently any more often than random chance, or ESP tests, or other such hocus-pocus.

    I was implying nothing more than that God is sovereign over inanimate parts of his creation, but his greater work is in shepherding his sentient creations.

    I agree, wishful thinking accomplishes nothing of great significance. That’s why I chat with God instead! :-)

    Yes, particle physics is really cool, but you know that they’re getting to the point where they (particle physicists) are starting to sound like theologians! Reality is just too weird!

    K: You know, I think you genuinely mean that, and I appreciate your warmth and generosity. You don’t need to pray for me, though, anymore than I would ask you to WISH for me. That sounds so silly… “Wish for me!” I guess its because we know wishing is just a fantasy-thing. I know you believe prayer to be a different thing, but please understand in my eyes, prayer = wish. Still, its nice to know you are thinking nice supportive thoughts. I think the world would be a much better place if we focused more on positive ideas than negative ones.

    Kaybee, you are *very* kind to say such of me.

    Frequently when I first mention that I pray for my non-Christian friends, I gently ask them to humor me and consider that I am ‘thinking nice thoughts in their general direction!’ But, you should see the sorts of things I discuss with God and where, when and how I do this – it’s a good thing he is patient with me! :-)

    Take Care Kaybee and Everyone (back to work for me!)

  118. Brett,

    You missed my whole point. God, if omniscient, never needs to TEST anything. You keep writing he wanted to see if Adam and Eve would obey his rules. Omniscience requires no testing.

  119. Brett,

    We are just going to have to agree to disagree on this whole thing. Reading your statements have left my jaw drop on several occassions. I have come to the conclusion that you are satisfied with your beliefs, and they work for you, and I have stated explicitly why I think they are unhealthy, unfounded, and irrational.

    My old points stand as a clear delineation.

    You referenced some new things: the story of Job, and evolution explaining the human condition. I’ll come back to this.

  120. On the story of Job: That’s a pretty horrible story. God comes off looking like a complete dick. If you are unfamiliar with the story of Job, he is a well-to-do man in the Bible. God and the Devil make a bet that Job will renounce God if Job loses material possessions. God bets Job will remain faithful.

    Aside from the apalling thought that human beings are nothing more than a cosmic game of checkers, God does more to Job than just take away his belongings or his wealth. He goes ahead and kills his family, gives Job horrible blisters, basically makes the man miserable. Finally the Devil declares Job to be ‘uncrackable’. The lesson learned is to admire Job’s faithfulness. He was unaware of the cosmic bet and yet he still held firm to his faith.

    My perspective is that God, omniscient, already knew that Job would remain faithful. Therefore, all God’s actions caused was suffering. The murder of Job’s innocent wife and children is supposed to be viewed as just another ‘test’ by God. Omniscience does not require testing. Furthermore, the definitions of ‘loving father’ and ‘suffering sadist’ cannot live side by side. This is the double edged sword that religion wants people to swallow. The only place where this ‘definition’ of love can exist is in an abusive relationship.

    As for evolution explaining the human condition, I’m not sure which qualities of humanity are supposed to be the ‘condition’. If you are asking about emotion, society, morality and ethics, this is an area where people are coming up with some great ideas. It certainly makes sense that community-living is more advantageous for survival… and it also makes sense that creatures that choose to play ‘nice’ will get more out of the community than creatures that choose to be deceitful or violent. The “i-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine” mentality. Creatures that are unwilling to play this social game would find themselves with less access to shared resources, and therefore less chance to survive, to find a mate, and to pass along their genetic material.

  121. Brett,

    You presume that I did not believe in the “S”upernatural with a capital s. I very much did. I realize now that it doesn’t matter if I type santa claus or Santa Claus… its still Superstition. With a capitol S. As in full of Shit.

  122. @Todd.
    Christ did NOT exist. The Christ myth is a “modern” retelling of the Horus myth – detail for detail.

    Secondly, None of those who wrote about said mythical man were alive at the time said mythical man was supposed to be around. The “gospel” of Matthew was written more than 60 years after said mythical man was dead. There were absolutely no eyewitnesses to any resurrection for two reasons: dead people do not come back to life; and this particular dead person never lived at all.

    I cannot fathom why humans cannot live their lives without relying on fantasy as a means of support. Belief in seriously flawed myths is infantile.

  123. Not to mention that it is almost trivial to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that every single war throughout the whole of human history was waged in defence of these provably false myths by people who deliberately ignored the abundance of evidence which explains why the human brain superimposes patterns onto folklore which simply don’t exist without indoctrination.

  124. It would appear so, Todd. Are you allowed to cut and paste other people’s work and pass it off as your own? No. Are you allowed to demonstrate a complete lack of interest in learning? No. Will I ban your new IP address at the first sign of any shenanigans? Without a second thought.

    Welcome back.

  125. Jim I agree with you in principle, but in the interests of accuracy don’t forget that the most murderous regimes of the ‘terrible twentieth century’ were in fact atheist! The powers that be are capable of atrocities regardless of their particular belief system so it is flawed to hold that against the street level deist!

  126. You guys so inspire me. You really do.

    And thank you. I’m honored by your reconsideration, Jim.

    So, to begin anew, I just wanted to remind you…I think it was Einstein who posited:

    ID = IQ
    __________

    GOD3 > U

    I may have the reference wrong, but the math still holds true.

    Anyway,one quick question regarding macro-evolution: Given enough time, do you really hold that “Rock, Paper, Scissors” will begin playing by themselves?

    You missed me, didn’t you?! Hope you still have a sense of humor.

    Later.

  127. Hi Todd, your comment “Given enough time, do you really hold that “Rock, Paper, Scissors” will begin playing by themselves?” is a false dilemma. Even if evolution by chance were not the organising force leading to complexity in the universe, that doesn’t mean your God is! It could have been Muluku or Brahma or Daksha or the Great Spirit etc etc.

  128. Michael, it is simply not the case that Naziism promoted rationalism and critical enquiry. Stalin did not encourage people to think for themselves and refuse to bow to authority derived from oppression and fear. So I disagree in the strongest possible terms that, “the most murderous regimes of the ‘terrible twentieth century’ were in fact atheist”. I think you need to go back and think that one through a little better.

  129. Or perhaps you should check your definition of atheism! Oh also you forgot Chairman Mao and his cultural revolution. The great leap forward, now there was a triumph of rationalism!

  130. Indeed, so you see my point. The definition of atheism is completely misused on both sides. I personal do not like having to define myself with a religious word for what I am not, as opposed to what I am. I much prefer ‘Free Thinker’, or ‘Secular Humanist’. I’m also a fan of ‘awake’.

  131. @WriterWriter from ToddTodd

    (WW) Christ did NOT exist.

    (T) Wow, sports fans, can you hear the hiss of the snake?! Okay, okay WW, we’ll ‘play atheism’ and pretend God does not exist. You win…I concede. Good job! (Note to self, call broker to see if ringside seats might be available for WriterWriter’s final debate with God on Judgment Day…the smart money’s on Jesus.)

    (WW) The Christ myth is a “modern” retelling of the Horus myth – detail for detail.

    (T) Be careful, here…you’re on some thin ice. I could go ahead and refute your baseless claim, but just for fun, let’s say, ummmm, “YOU go first!” K?! Give me some scholarly evidence that will make me stop thinking over and over in my head, “Oh man, not another aggressively-ignorant-baseless-claiming-poster-child-for-speculation-meets-wishful-thinking dude.” Please…pretty please, make this thought go away!!

    (WW) I cannot fathom why humans cannot live their lives without relying on fantasy as a means of support. Belief in seriously flawed myths is infantile.

    (T) “Oh-oh for Sir WW,” but Proverbs 11:21 and John 12:48 are going to present some real issues now, aren’t they? Yeah, good luck with that.

    And WW, just for the “I told you so” record, atheism will be abolished long before God won’t be, with or without your permission and/or acknowledgment.

    Night. Sleep well.

  132. ^Evil men go unpunished all the time! Besides isn’t it a little harsh to insinuate someone is evil for saying “belief in seriously flawed myths is infantile”? Why would you even be insulted by that unless you knew deep down he was right? I mean to be insulted you must see Christianity as a seriously flawed myth otherwise his comment wouldn’t have applied to you would it! Finally even if you did find him evil for insulting you, what about Matthew 5:39? Damn if you are going to try to throw scripture at least try to follow it yourself!!

    Religious people are funny.

  133. Nope, Michael, I wasn’t insulted at all. Please refrain from putting words in my mouth. I’m fully capable of speaking for myself, thank you.

    And just for the record, if WW chooses to dismiss Christ, his Creator, as a seriously flawed myth, it’s his ultimate problem with God, not mine (again, read John 12:48, Proverbs 11:21). If you think God doesn’t consider someone aggressively touting Jesus to be a myth as being an ‘evil man’,(you know, just assuming for a second that He was and is exactly who the Bible says He was and is, which He was and is), then you’re dangerously misinformed. No big deal, Bro, you’re just playing Judgment Day Roulette with all chambers loaded. Your free-thinking “awake” choice…that’s cool.

    Sad, but I guess it’s true, “You can lead an atheist to Scripture but you can’t make him think.”

    Ahhh, comeeer Michael, gimme a hug…you don’t believe in the Bible anyway, right? So why get your nose out of joint? Eh? Let’s tell some jokes instead…okay, I have one, “What do an atheist and a marshmallow have in common?”

    Night, chap!

    Todd

    (Oh, regarding Matthew 5:29, go ahead and slap me if you wish. I’m pretty sure I’d disappoint Jesus, though, and need to ask Him for forgiveness later. Sometimes my fallen nature creeps back up on me…you know how it goes.)

    [Jim, thank you, Sir, for letting me post again…it’s so nice and spiritually uplifting to hang around you boys – and girls – again. I’ve been hangin’ with Jesus so much lately that I almost forgot there were actually those who still argue with Him so much!]

  134. @Todd… Um, see, your arguments are flawed from the get go because you’re quoting from old, jumbled up, much edited/added to/deleted from compilations of opinion and social control, which, as interesting as they are, still don’t apply in 2009 in any but an allegorical way.

    Secondly, it is OBVIOUS from what and how you write that you are literally in fear of this floaty god thingie; you mention often that I will have to stand before your floaty god thingie and explain myself. I don’t live my life in fear of floaty god thingies. And besides, if your floaty god thingie is as omniscient as you seem to think, why the heck would it need to ask me anything?? That’s just a dumb waste of time for a thingie that can see/hear/konw all, wouldn’t you say?

    On the question of morality (I believe, as you’ve called me a snake – and male!) that you’re questioning mine. So here’s my question to you.

    IF (yes, you’re going to have to step out of your box now), you came to understand that there is no such floaty god thingie, would you then become a rapist/robber/murderer?? Seriously? It’s only your belief in the floaty god thingie that keeps you from being a creepy criminal?

    If you look at US statistics for religiosity you will INSTANTLY see that the more religious the people in a give state say they are (as in the percentage of admitted religious people) the higher the crime stats. So, one can extrapolate that religious people are statistically more likely to commit crimes – at least in the US, but I figure, humans being humans, that probably bears out everywhere.

    But anyway. I checked and I have two legs and two arms, so I’m not a snake, as much as I like snakes – especially the talking kind; they’re pretty cool. And I checked between my two legs and I’m pretty sure I’m not a man – or I’ve suffered a terrible accident…

  135. So, after I wrote the above response, I realised that this Todd feller represents exactly what I much dislike about religious types. Two characteristics in particular: assumption (yes, there’s an ‘ass’ in that) and arrogance.

    So Todd – and everyone else who’s reading Jim’s excellent blog (and my comments on it) here’s who I am.

    Eldest daughter of seven sisters an adopted (Chinese) brother and a step brother (two blended families). FIVE of my cousins – all first cousins – are currently active, working ministers. My grandfather, great-grandfather and great-uncle and the five greats behind him were all ministers – 8 generations and soon to be nine.

    My mother, father and step dad were all sunday-school teachers and the men were deacons. My Uncle is the only seller of church hand bells IN MY COUNTRY.

    One of my first cousins is the head of the largest church organization in my country (and no, I won’t say which to protect HIM). Two of my second cousins will be ministers shortly.

    I grew up in a church – literally: my father turned the sod for the building and helped build it. I went to kindergarten there and my mother had a school in the building, which was directly across a little city street from my house. I sang in the adult choir from the time I was 13 and was baptised at that age.

    The bible was the first book read to me and was a daily presence in our home. I can still read it, if I must, in English AND French.

    So Tom, because you’ve presumed that I am an uneducated, uninformed neophyte, I just want you to know that your presumptive, assumptive, uninformed stripes are GLARING.

    The main difference between your type and me – and Jim – is that, despite what is utter hokum to us, we would defend your right to believe what you will. I think it’s garbage as you know, but I appreciate the commitment people have to their faiths.

    Now. Go read something other than your bloody bible. You MUST be able to defend all aspects of an argument in order to argue well. You can’t. I can.

    To quote my brilliant youngest child, “My mind is so blue right now, even I’m not allowed in.”

  136. Top 10 reasons for posting today:

    First, to apologize for assuming you were a man. Sorry. I stand corrected.

    Second, I agree with you that Jim’s blog is excellent, even though I don’t agree with his worldview.

    Third, I appreciate your detailed family history…but find myself saying, “So?”

    Fourth, I’m not religious (you atheists always assume such), I’m merely a follower of Jesus, the One whom you reject (for now).

    Fifth, Romans 1 was written with you in mind…to a letter. You stake a claim in possessing true wisdom, but in reality you are an absolute fool to deny God.

    Sixth, fact is, God has given you over to the depravity of your heart. In the end, that’s way too bad for you. Sorry about that…you earned it, I guess.

    Seventh, an atheist’s awful life is a scriptural prophetic truth. Without Jesus, your life will continue to be miserable and hopeless (which it is and you know it), as sure as a terminal illness.

    Eighth, eternity will be a long time for you to be wrong…no rewind button on Judgment Day either, sorry to say.

    Ninth, perhaps it shouldn’t bother me in the least that you are wrong about the most important decision in life a person has to make, but it does (cuz I love you guys!…and gals…I love atheists!…you inspire my conviction in how purely prophetic and true Scripture is…here you are, the “brights,” thinking you’re so wise, yet you’re so brilliantly, illuminatingly “un”).

    Tenth, I fully recognize I can bring no one to faith, only the Holy Spirit can. I am Jesus Christ’s by calling. Obviously you are not (yet). Perhaps you will be between now and your death, I don’t know. It took ‘ol Tony 82 years to finalize his “Anthony Flew OUT OF the Cuckoo’s Nest” life-script, so why not you? I’ll pray for that, but only your willingness to actually hear, absorb as truth, and accept God’s free gift of salvation will determine whether or not this debate is worth your and my time. See, God makes the offer, you make the choice. Are you ready to hear some Good News?!

    (I think I can answer that, though, sadly. But, there’s always hope…and prayer.)

    You have a great evening, WW, okay? Jesus will keep the lights on for you!!

    Later.

    Todd

  137. Writer Writer, I agree with you’re last comments mainly, except you wrote

    “If you look at US statistics for religiosity you will INSTANTLY see that the more religious the people in a give state say they are (as in the percentage of admitted religious people) the higher the crime stats. So, one can extrapolate that religious people are statistically more likely to commit crimes – at least in the US, but I figure, humans being humans, that probably bears out everywhere.”

    What would happen if you added net worth/income as a third variable to this correlation? I’d like to look at the statistics in more detail but I would assume that people in poorer communities are both more likely to 1) Commit crimes and 2) Be religious thus making money the principle factor in the correlation. I mean I could be wrong and perhaps religion does infer an increased propensity to criminal behaviours (perhaps due to a basic belief that all people are sinners, and only God can bestow forgiveness, thus rendering earthly concepts of justice ultimately superfluous?) but I think the former would seem more likely!

    @Todd

    Check you definition of ‘religious’. I think you will find you are almost as religious as they come!

    Michael.

  138. Main Entry:
    re·li·gious
    Pronunciation:
    \ri-ˈli-jəs\
    Function:
    adjective
    Etymology:
    Middle English, from Anglo-French religius, from Latin religiosus, from religio
    Date:
    13th century

    1: relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity 2: of, relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances 3 a: scrupulously and conscientiously faithful b: fervent, zealous

    Michael, you’re right, only if by definition the “acknowledged ultimate reality or deity” is Jesus Christ.

    Specifically, though, there are many different “religions” (you know ’em all) and even within Christianity there are many different “sects” (of which I do not subscribe). Jehovah’s Witnesses call themselves Christians (and worship The Watchtower Group), the Mormons call themselves Christians and learn some kind of secret “celestial” handshake to get into the third Mormon heaven and become a God on another planet himself/herself, the Roman Catholics consider themselves Christian but rely on Traditions that are not Biblical, such as The Mass, Penance, Veneration of Mary, Purgatory, Indulgences, the Priesthood, the Confessional, the Rosary, Venial and Mortal Sins, and statues in the Church. I could go on and on about other non-Christian Christians. As a matter of fact, those ‘Christians’ atheists so often knock whom absolutely did horrible, egregious acts “in the name of Christ” were NOT following the teachings of Jesus. I hate to throw Catholicism under the Christian bus, but I think you can blame much of “said atrocities” on Rome, not Jesus.

    Thus, my qualifier of me being a “Follower of Jesus”…precisely to avoid being lumped into the same bucket as those you (perhaps) rightfully deem hypocritical. Just as you do not appreciate being thrown into the same bucket as Stalin and Lennon, I presume.

    Jesus Christ is the Word (God) who became a man. He added human nature to His divine nature. He is presently both human and divine, and, therefore, has two natures. Yet, He is one person, not two. He is not part God and part man. He is presently a man, one person, with two natures where one is wholly God and the other wholly man. (Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:5-13; John 1:1-3,14)

    And just to be clear, salvation is being saved from the righteous judgment of God upon the sinner. Salvation is obtained by grace alone (not works – Eph. 2:8-9), through faith alone, in the work of Christ alone (John 3:16). We are chosen for salvation by God (2 Thess. 2:13).

    The last sentence is the big, giant “wassup with that?!” for us all. You (atheists) for whatever reason that only God knows, are not (generally) chosen for salvation by God and this is why we are such a puzzle to you. You deem us gullible, blind, arrogant and assumptive (funny how that’s the knock atheists get from our camp, too) but we aren’t…we’re simply chosen by God to be on His team throughout eternity. The atheist, it seems, is for some reason not. Now I can hear you all now yelling, “How the %$#@ dare he!” Well, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just sharing Scripture that you guys don’t give credence to. I only share this with you to perhaps make sense why you are so wrong and don’t recognize or acknowledge it…because God hasn’t chosen you (it seems). If you believe in God (which you don’t), you have to believe in the other dude too…”the fallen one.” I subscribe that God has simply given you over to him (Romans 1:24) and you’re just a pawn in this spiritual warfare. You don’t believe it, thus you cannot comprehend it. That’s okay…it difficult for me to comprehend, too.

    Now, this all begs the question, if our all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God knew you were going to reject him and you’d be forever lost, why would I bother “witnessing” to you or debating with you. It’s simple…Jesus commanded it. See, it’s like God created this board game and knew from the beginning who were going to be on the “winning side” and who were going to be on the “losing side.” Stinks for the losers, but hey, it’s God’s movie, He created us, He can determine our respective roles (I’m the one with the rock-hard abs…well, maybe not). Now, here’s the wild card…He commands the “winning side” to offer the losers a FREE pass to the winning side…in so many words, we’re to go out and share the Good News, “Hey loser, you can come over to the winning side if you’ll just humble yourself for long enough to change jerseys.” See, I know that GOD knows there are those on your side whom He has CHOSEN to win in the end, and those who are allowed to follow in good ‘ol Lucifer’s tracks right up to Judgment Day (and just for the record so you don’t think I’m a total @#$%%$#@, I was one of the losers like you, except I ended up accepting God’s free gift – only 2 years ago – and changed jerseys, thanks be to Him). Once I checked my ego and pride in at the door, admitted I was a loser, asked for forgiveness, I was amazed at how clear everything became…which, BTW, is a Scriptural promise from God!

    So I understand why you guys are so blind to truth…it’s because God has not ALLOWED you through the Holy Spirit to come to Him (yet). Why? I HAVE NO IDEA! Do I pray that you will (even though Jim hates it when I pray for him), yes! Do I believe that the majority of you reading this will “find Jesus,” no way. But, I’m charged to be a pebble in your shoe by THE Creator God, and you’re charged by your God, Dr. “D” or Dr. “Self,” to do the same. So, we each make the other uncomfortable…that’s unfortunately, for now, what makes the world go ’round, huh?

    Okay, I’m sure I’ve incited enough atheists for one evening…so enough from me.

    Night.

    Todd

  139. Weird why everything went bold…? Sorry…wasn’t my intention. I’m really not an e-screamer.

    ;D

  140. Todd. you’re weird. You’ve written almost 2000 words about how you’re not religious but have done nothing other than prove you’re a presumptive radical, starting with a quote that pretty much defines you.

    As I said, all your admonishments that your weird god thing is going to punish me are stupid. Really stupid. IF it was gonna, it woulda already.

    There’s no floaty god bits. I don’t live my life in fear of being struck down and I know that dead people say dead and that people who never existed are characters in book.

    Besides… a TALKING SNAKE? C’mon! And WHO, by the way, was there to record that? HM? I didn’t know CNN was around at the time.

    But whatever. If that’s the sand you enjoy having your head in, breath deep.

  141. @Michael: Yes, there very probably is an economic correlation. However, to note, most crime statistics do not include white collar crime, because it is termed “victimless.” If you’re from the US, you’ll know what being a victim of a victimless crime feels like.

    There’s a piece on my blog about US stats… about a year ago. Archives. Richard Dawkins also notes it in his TGD book. .

  142. WriterWriter: A few weeks ago I invited a very well respected writer and scientist with whom I’ve exchanged numerous private e-mails in the past, to comment on this story and one other popular discussion thread. He specifically sighted Todd as the reason he felt unable to do so. You may already know this, but he used to be banned. He’s back because I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion. The reader can work out for themselves who is making the most sense and respond accordingly or simply move on. I will not be responding directly to Todd.

  143. Hey, if my conviction is getting in the way of otherwise productive dialogue, I’ll recuse myself.

    All the best,

    Todd

  144. You folks seem to be all concerned about alleged contradictions in the Bible, perhaps you could tell me why contradictions are absolutely not allowed in arriving at truth according to your worldviews?

    Cheers

  145. You still maintain your predictability, Jim. Haven’t lost your touch one bit. You see a title of a book like this and practically wet yourself (I GUARANTEE you haven’t read it), though it contains nothing new and nothing that has not been refuted before by scholars way smarter than you (or Ehrman).

    Ehrman’s been utterly spanked in every debate he’s had with “real” theists since his book was published. With Jesus Interrupted, Ehrman (unfortunately for his credibility) stepped far over the line of intellectual honesty and decency, using his platform as a popular author to disseminate much that he knows is incomplete and misleading information. Despite his pretense at scholarship, Bart Ehrman has proven himself, by this book, to be someone not in the least interested in truth, but only in using whatever means are necessary to deconvert as many Christians as possible.

    Ahem…sounds like someone else I know, J-I-M.

  146. @Sye T

    It isn’t a question of contradictions – the world revolves on those. It is a problem of attribution, falsification of facts, story writing, plagiarism, misrepresentation, theft, manipulation, fear mongering and an utter lack of falsifiable evidence for your floaty god thingie….

    Frankly, sir, your bible is its own worst enemy in that any reasonable study of that jumbled-together compilation very quickly reveals the massive, unbelievable holes in the various narratives. The bible’s best function is to disprove itself.

    You see, either all the fantastical stuff is true or none of it is. You can’t go around touting a talking snake, sexual angels, stories of the un-dead (Lazarus and your christ person), human-eating whales, blokes who can walk on water – or cause oceans to part – and invisible journalists (I mean whomever reported on “Adam” and “Eve” but then cherry-pick other stuff that doesn’t make sense to anyone who thinks for two seconds – i.e. sanctioned rape of daughters and murder of children.

    There is no reasonable evidence of any of those silly things, nor is there any logic to the whole. If there was one talking snake, there are more. If one guy can walk on water, others can too – and no, your christ person was NOT any kind of god thingie because, according to your bible, he was a descendant of the house of David. Even now in the middle east and in the UK, titles pass through fathers so explain to me how your floaty god thingie has a human ancestor!

    Your ‘saviour’ is a retelling of the Horus myth out of Egypt and your “Adam” and “Eve” is one of the oldest stories about.

    As for your “world view” comment, logic is not a “world view.” It is based in reasonable, observable analysis. A “view” indicates a perspective or bias or opinion. Logic has nothing to do with any of those. Religion fits every definition of bias and opinion – and coercion.

    You are welcome to believe what you will but I guarantee you a reasonable, open-minded look at what it is you say you believe will cause the whole to erode.

    Also, before you start coming down on me for not having a clue, please read my long comment above about my background and family….

  147. Writer, I understand your position to an extent but come on, if you want to denegrate someone on the basis of illogic then you must construct logic arguments yourself! The majority of what you write here is straw in the extreme, if you wish to refute the position of your opponent you must represent that position accurately. You claim logic is based in observable analysis, it is actually based in consistency, and completeness. If you accept the premise that there is a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, then everything in the bible can be perceived as perfectly logical. If you don’t accept it, then of course the bible and religion in toto seems ridiculous, however your disagreement is actually based in acceptance or non acceptance of the premise.

    Also if I came from a family of brain surgeons would you let me tinker inside your head on that fact alone?

  148. @Michael
    Actually, sir, many more brilliant, educated and erudite people than I have done exceptional, logical writing which convinces these people not.

    I am a small player in a large, much more educated field so wouldn’t presume to over-speak such people.

    You make a very good case; I hope you apply the same expectations to this fellow Todd….

    No amount of omniscience can explain a talking snake – or the need for a talking snake. There is no logic in claiming that your floaty god thing is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent and then repeatedly going on about how this being needs “familiars” to speak for it. THAT is not logical.

    As for your last comment, I take it that because I am not an actual minister myself, you deem my comments to be of no import? That, sir, is ridiculous. There is a vast difference between a life-long immersion in a religion – because that is exactly what I come from – and growing up around brain surgeons, whose work one would NOT observe on a day-to-day basis.

  149. Writer, I would apply the same expectations to Todd only so far as he would indicate the capacity to fulfill them. Unfortunately I dislike some of his positions quite powerfully and do not see the potential for much discussion with him.

    You claim I make a good case, yet you follow with the same arguments. If you accepted that the “floaty god thing is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent” then it very well could use “familiars” to spread its word. You don’t understand, if you accept that premise, it is ALL potentially logical. That is the reason that Scientology, Mormonism, Jehovahs Witness, Hindism, Buddism, Judaism, Christianity, Rastifarianism etc etc ad nauseum are able to thrive despite the fact that many of them would seem to the outsider completely illogical. Logic is a game of assumptions.

    Finally you state “I take it that because I am not an actual minister myself, you deem my comments to be of no import? That, sir, is ridiculous.”

    Of course that is ridiculous, but that wasn’t my actual position was it. It was an analogy (albeit an imperfect one) in response to your assertion that you should not be considered “clueless” because of your “background and family.” My point was that your background and family can in no way serve as a substitute to the actual quality of your work (arguments.)

    Your biggest problem seems to be a particular propensity to resort to straw man fallacies to make your points. This cripples the effectiveness of your argument. Perhaps a “life-long immersion in a religion” has rendered you too emotionally invested to come to a measured opinion?

  150. Writer said: ”It isn’t a question of contradictions – the world revolves on those.”

    So contradictions ARE allowed to arrive at truth according to your worldview?

    ”It is a problem of attribution, falsification of facts, story writing, plagiarism, misrepresentation, theft, manipulation, fear mongering and an utter lack of falsifiable evidence for your floaty god thingie….”,/i>

    Well, naturally I disagree with your assessment of my worldview, but those things you cite, are they absolutely wrong according to your worldview? If so, perhaps you could give me the basis by which you call anything absolutely wrong, if not, you have no argument.
    ”There is no reasonable evidence of any of those silly things, nor is there any logic to the whole.”

    Ah, I get it, you are saying that my worldview is illogical, perhaps you can tell me by what absolute standard of logic my worldview is illogical, how you account for that standard according to your worldview, and why that standard necessarily applies to my worldview?
    ”As for your “world view” comment, logic is not a “world view.”

    This I realize, the laws of logic are, however, universal, abstract, and invariant, I’d just like to know how universal, abstract invariant entities make sense in your worldview.

    ” It is based in reasonable, observable analysis.”

    Perhaps you could tell me where you saw that ‘A’ cannot be ‘not A,’ I’d like to have a look meself :-)

    Cheers

  151. Heads up! I’ve had some interest in taking part in the podcast, but I always welcome as many views as possible. Just a reminder for those subscribed to this thread to send your Skype username to thatjim@gmail.com if you want to take part.

    What I’ll then be doing is opening a Google Calendar which everyone who has mailed me with an interest in taking part will be added to, so everyone can put a pin the map and say what time and date they’ll be free to talk with me via Skype. Don’t worry your mail address won’t be revealed to anyone else who shows an interest, just the date and time you say you can make it to talk.

    Then, once we have enough people who can make it at the same time, we’ll get together and just chat. The resulting conversation will be edited as little as possible (literally just to remove unwanted “testing 1, 2, 3, can everyone hear me?” technical set-up) and then put out as a podcast on the howgoodisthat.wordpress.com blog and also mirrored on unenslaved.com

    Thanks to everyone who has shown an interest so far! Jim.

  152. The assertion that the majority of scholars think the TF is made up is a complete fabrication> It’s a distortion of what is common knowledge in the field. Teh major names and majority agree that Josephus said Jesus existed. The only issue is how much of the TF is tweaked, but almost no one anymore believes it to be a complete fabrication. I have quotes form major scholars saying this, its easy to find and I thin any myther argues this garbage about the majority think it’s “either partially or wholly fabricated” is just wording things in a sly way to manipulate the truth. Because it’s clear the majority believe Jesus existed, and that Josephus wrote about him.

    The trick is that most scholars agree there is some tweaking, whereas almost all agree Jesus existed and Jo talks about him, the myther words it as though the majority think he was made up and didn’t exist.

    There two Jo passages about Jesus. The other is the “brother” passage about James. There is no substantive arguemnt to discredit this passage. Many mythers have resorted to extraordianry claims and ridiculous to discredit it. The most absurd is it’s not the same “Jesus” as the one in the TF, which of course means admitting the TF was writtten by Jo. To avoid saying that they have to deny that James is the same James as the leader of the Christian chruch.

    if we keep following that tactic to it’s logcial aburdity we will have two totally different Christian religions evovling at the same time in the same place and headed by people witht he same names.

    Since they also resolve Paul’s meeting with a guy nmaed Peter in Galations and 1 Clement speaking of his generation knowing a guy name Peter by using the same tactic. So now we have three major chruch leaders name Peter running around, two James and two Jesus.

    no wonder my dissertation chairman,an atheist from Yale, when I asked what he thought of Doherty said “why do you waste your time arguing with idiots?”

  153. It’s a pity you didn’t post this first instead of the “all atheists are hate groups” diatribe you opened with in another thread, Meta. Thought provoking stuff indeed. Thanks!

  154. I had made the mistake of thinking Meta wanted honest debate. Look what I found while looking through my incoming links:

    http://atheistwatch.blogspot.com/2009/12/answering-jim-gardeners-jesus-myth.html

    Comments are moderated and blogger.com doesn’t allow replies longer than 4000 characters, so I have pasted my full reply here:

    Well first of all you spell the name of my blog wrong then you spell my name wrong and then you fail to post a link to my site so I don’t get a link-back to here which would’ve made me aware of the fact you’re all having this discussion about me in the first place. Then I see the omnipresence that is Zdenny has taken it upon herself to, yet again, speak on my behalf without accurately representing any of my actual views—and not even having the common courtesy to invite me to defend my position.

    So—seeing as we’re off to a flying start in the honesty and accuracy stakes—without even mentioning the infant school level of grammar and spelling that litters the rest of this article, let me start by saying one thing, which in the no-doubt endless diatribe which will follow my reply that I can guarantee no-one will even attempt to provide an answer for.

    There is no independent evidence whatsoever that a walking on water, miracle performing, born to a virgin carpenter by the name of Jesus ever existed. None. It is an article of Christian faith—not a matter of historical fact. If you have evidence to the contrary of this, my advice is to present it to the historical society as soon as humanly possible—because it is the single most important discovery in the history of the world.

    In the absence of such evidence, I will grant you that there may well have been what Josephus refers to as The Christos—meaning a movement of charismatic preachers, who espoused the values of peace, love and good happiness stuff. But the belief that Josephus alone corroborates the New Testament as a literal word for word account of the movements of one man has been proven, time and again to be a completely incorrect interpretation of the kind of work the Testimonium Flavianum was intended to be and how it was intended to be used.

    Despite assertions made on my behalf, by my detractors, I have always been and remain completely 100% open to being presented with evidence which would prove, categorically, that a man born to a virgin walked on water, performed miracles and arose from the dead. I would be a fool not to be impressed by evidence of such a thing having happened for a FACT. I would also immediately be given higely compelling reasons to believe that certain other truth-claims made on behalf of Christianity might also be therefore true. But I have never—not once, throughout the weeks, months and years of endlessly hammering away and listening to you people making the same circular arguments over and over again—NEVER have I been shown that such evidence exists.

    I have suffered as many ad hominem attacks as I have dished out. I have laughed and I have cried; I have been angry and I have been amazed. I’ve been given first hand accounts of people feeling a presence in their hearts and a life within their soul. I have heard about missionaries giving their life to help the sick and good people doing good things because it is good to be good. But I have never ever, not once ever, read a single sentence—from the stupidest creationist up to the most eloquent well read deist that there is—which simply and logically laid out the facts which prove that the evidence Christians claim to be in possession of actually exists. Not once.

    Every single time you people are pressed into a corner and given all the bandwidth in the world to explain your reasons for literally interpreting a bronze-age book of plagiarised Pagan astrology myths, you duck around it; argument about ‘pearls before swine’ making complete non sequitur arguments about closed minded atheists and cold hearted non-believers—but you never give us any reason to be anything other. You just emit one logical inconsistency after another—excuse after excuse as to why you can’t simply answer the most basic of questions even a child would have the honesty to ask.

    If Josephus thought Jesus was the messiah, why didn’t he just say so? Why did he call the only Jesus mentioned in any of his writing “the brother of James”—and even then in a completely different book to the Testimonium Flavianum—which does mention The Christos but not in relation to the brother of James; they are two different people.

    Why have countless biblical scholars, for hundreds and hundreds of years consistently encountered and wrote about these serious contradictions? Origen’s understanding of Josephus in the year 240 was that, “Josephus was not believing in Jesus as the Christ” and “he did not accept Jesus as Christ”. So why do Christians consistently point people in the direction of exactly the kind of evidence which proves the opposite of what they claim it does? Could it be as simple as that they aren’t interested in these matters of fact?

    The problem you people have is you’re so busy telling yourself what you believe is true, no matter what, that when you come under attack by “those evil atheists” you presume it’s because people don’t understand what you’re faith is about—but that’s exactly the opposite reason why we point out the flaws in your argument.

    It is precisely because there are so many blatant flaws in the supposedly inerrant and unalterable, perfect word of the creator of the universe that make the truth-claims of New Testament literalists so easy to dismiss. The fact that you don’t grasp this doesn’t change the fact it is true.

    I can guarantee that the replies to this post will echo exactly the same failures to address my actual point yet again that have been made a million times before. But I’d be delighted to be proven wrong—although, if you seriously think I’m going to take instructions on how to think and write properly from some blogger.com liar for Christ who still hasn’t figured out that when a word is underlined in red it means it is spelt wrong, dyslexia or not, then you truly do belong on your knees.

  155. Whoever is ‘writing’ that blog – the ‘person’ who said you were a crap writer – ‘replied’ to my response….

    Safe to say the ‘writer’ has a limited grasp on argument, proof, etc. etc…. and grammar and spelling… and, well, possibly sanity.

  156. Oh, this is absolutely beautiful:

    In response to the FACT that most of my reply was edited before it was posted, Metacrock said…

    this is not a dumping ground for a bunch of your spam. In that segment I made cogent argument that the majority of scholars accept the TF as valid proof that Jo believe Jesus existed, you did not answer that point.

    Most of the arguemnts you make one fins on every Jesus myther board and every Myther site, they have been refuted many many times. You never answer anything directly and you don’t seem to understand makes evidence valid or not.

    …when he knows full well I refuted the “cogent argument” he makes in the very section he refused to publish. I really don’t see how I could have illustrated the actual interest these people have in the facts any clearer if I’d tried.

  157. jesus may well have been a man of exceptional persuasion, but even he was not fathered by a god that is omnipotent. I am sure there shall be a individual reckoning ,very personal, and eternal in its decision. However such as Jesus and Joseph smith and the damned pope ,all of them, none are true deliverers of a divine word or any thing else save a propensity for persuasion.

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  159. Y’know how one knows someone exists or existed? EYEWITNESS reports.

    There are NONE in this case of this mythological figure; hence, endless discussion, assumption, persuasion, lies.

    There are no drawings, engravings or other such representations of this person; no historian at the time made any mention whatsoever of him; everything that was written about him was written at least sixty years and in most cases many more years than that later.

    “Jesus” is a remake of about 25 other previous mythological figures but is not, was not and never, ever will be real. He was, is and forever will be no more real – and must less and enjoyable character – than Harry Potter.

    Period.

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  164. I really don’t want to get too far into this, and I don’t care if you are a fervent atheist or a rabid christian, BUT.. as a historical fact, I always understood the existence of Jesus was well accepted, and that records of his trials under the Roman regime were documented. Whether he walked on water, turned water into wine, or whether he was a delusional, unemployed, ex-carpenter who hung out with hookers, I have no thoughts or opinions on. But I was certainly sure he did exist. Am I wrong? Like Did Pontious Pilate sentence a guy called Jesus to be crucified or not. One word answers please. Who or what he may or may not have been is another story.

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