Theology Under the Influence of OCD

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When you don’t bother to have your work checked…

"Can Appeals to Free Will Solve the Problem of Evil?" by Marilyn McCord Adams (1943-2017)

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Marilyn McCord Adams has recently died. She had taught at Rutgers University, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Yale University, and UCLA. She was an important Episcopalian philosopher of religion. Some of her work focused on the problem of suffering (as I prefer to call it).

In the video below Adams dismantles the attempt to shift responsibility for the suffering we experience off from God's shoulders unto human shoulders by appealing to human free will. From the outset I find her focus on the Christian Adam and Eve myth to be both ignorant and parochial. It's ignorant, because there never was an Adam and Eve. Shouldn't that bring an end to this myth, leaving philosophers of religion nothing to discuss based on it? [Source: Christianity in the Light of Science, Chapter 7]. It's parochial, because there are many different global beliefs that deal with suffering, and she doesn't give a thought to them, leading us to think this Christian myth is the only one worth discussing. [Her example justifies my call to end the philosophy of religion discipline in the secular universities. Source: Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End.] For Christians who accept this mythical story though, Adams does a good job. She finds two major reasons why free will solutions do not work.

1) The size gap. God is very very big. We are very very small. God's personal capacities far outstrip ours. Take for example good parents. They are ultimately in charge of their children, and therefore responsible for what they do under their charge. Likewise, God is ultimately in charge of us, and therefore responsible for what we do under his/her charge.

2) Human beings lack the relevant knowledge of pain and suffering to make fully responsible choices. Ignorance diminishes responsibility. In the garden of Eden therefore, Adam and Eve didn't have the relevant knowledge or experience to enable them to be fully responsible for what they chose.

Quote of the Day, by Sir_Russ

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The DC Debunking Christianity Team Is the Best!

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If you aren't reading the comments here at DC you're missing out on some superior thoughts and arguments by people who comment. I've said this before. See for yourselves then join them! Take a look at the three most recent comments (as of this writing):

Here's Zeta kraut on the Hebrews being asked by their god to slaughter the Canaanites so they could take their land away from them:
Since coveting the land of others is supposedly a no-no for the ancient Israelites, what better excuse is there to claim that their god gave the land to them? Why is it that an omnipotent god who could simply speak into existence trillions and trillions of celestial bodies in less than a day could not create a piece of new land for his "Chosen People" instead of exterminating the Canaanites? It is very obvious that this is simply fabricated history arising from wishful thinking.

I also find the racist concept of "Chosen People" obnoxious. Maybe Yahweh had no choice because he was assigned by a higher god (Deuteronomy 32:8-9) to take charge of the ancient Israelites?

Quote of the Day by Stephen Hawking On God and the Big Bang

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GearHedEd introduced this quote by saying: Hawking doesn't see God in imaginary time. He says so explicitly:
...if one knows the state of the universe in imaginary time, one can calculate the state of the universe in real time. One would still expect some sort of Big Bang singularity in real time. So real time would still have a beginning. But one wouldn't have to appeal to something outside the universe, to determine how the universe began. Instead, the way the universe started out at the Big Bang would be determined by the state of the universe in imaginary time. Thus, the universe would be a completely self-contained system. It would not be determined by anything outside the physical universe, that we observe. [Source requested in the comments].

How the Brain Tricks Us into Knowing about God

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The payoff, of course, is that we don’t


When believers set out to defend the faith, they commonly find themselves entangled in Christianity’s multiple, messy contradictions. When backed into a corner, we may hear—with sighs of exasperation— “Well, how did all this get here? It didn’t just happen!” God-the-creator is the default, retreat defense. “Whew, that should settle it! Don’t be daft, you silly atheists, you’re talking nonsense to claim there isn’t a Great Engineer behind it all.”

Question of the Day, by Gary M

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What evidence do you have that Yahweh is the Creator God? -- Gary M
For important, even essential background reading on this question, see Dr. Jaco Gericke's chapter 5, "Can God Exist if Yahweh Doesn't", in The End of Christianity. The paperback is $4.29. There's no excuse for not getting it now! There is no objective evidence for a creator, much less for identifying Yahweh as the creator.

Believers ought to honestly re-examine what they falsely believe is evidence for creation by their sect-specific god. For instance, the god of the gaps reasoning is not evidence of anything, except that there is a gap in our understanding. Just because scientists discover a mystery in the natural world doesn't mean believers get to substitute a bigger mystery, a non-natural spiritual one without objective evidence for it--their own sect-specific god. Never forget it was science that discovered these mysteries, not religion, and that science is the only path to travel if we hope to solve them. Science, not religion, has had an overwhelming track record, one that allows me to say it's the only way to know the nature of nature, its workings and its origins.

Also important, even essential background reading on Gary M's question--the best of the best on the topic of prayer--is Dr. Valerie Tarico's chapter 14, "If Prayer Fails, Why Do People Keep At It?" in Christianity in the Light of Science: Critically Examining the World's Largest Religion. There is no objective evidence for answered petitionary prayers, much less for identifying Yahweh as the deity who answers the prayers of all the believers in the world.

Since there's no objective evidence for answered prayers, as Tarico shows, why would anyone claim there's evidence that Yahweh created the universe (or any deity for that matter)? Wouldn't objective evidence for answered prayers be available if there's a god who expects us to believe s/he created the universe? If there's a god who doesn't provide objective evidence for answered prayers, which can be scientifically tested in real time a multiple number of times, how can s/he expect us to believe s/he created the universe without this present-day objective evidence? Why are we expected to believe in creation as a unique event in the far far distant past, one that science doesn't have much access to and might not be able verify due to it's very nature, without any objective evidence for answered prayers?

Makes sense of an omniscient god right? This makes the guy who shot himself in the foot out to be a smart person! The centuries old news is that an omniscient prayer-answering creator god does not exist. Neither does Yahweh. Never did.

Trust No One When Wanting To Know The Truth, Not Even God!

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In the comments Jason wrote:
Trusting what Mr. Loftus has to say about God and Christianity is like trusting that a harlot will remain faithful and true to you, only your odds are slightly better with the harlot.
Hi Jason, you need not trust anything I say, really. Just honestly think through and investigate what I say for yourself. If you disagree, then okay. But trust has noting to do with honestly thinking through and investigating the truth of your faith. Trust isn't something YOU should do either! You shouldn't trust your parents who raised you to believe, nor your preacher who was raised by his parents to believe, nor anyone else who was raised to believe by their parents. Parents are notoriously wrong about religion! In fact, no one should be trusted to know the truth about the nature and workings of the universe, along with which religion is true, if there is one. No guru, prophet, witch-doctor, shaman, faith-healer, Sunday school teacher, religious professor or secular professor. We shouldn't even trust what Richard Dawkins or Jerry Coyne tells us about the evidence for evolution. That's because it's the evidence that convinces, not the personalities behind it. [We can say we trust the consensus of scientists working in an area of study, since that's the highest level of confidence we can attain, or peer-reviewed papers, insofar as they show awareness of the current literature and evidence available].

Instead, you must honestly think through the important questions on you own. Investigate the truth as if you were never raised to believe. The very fact you think it's about trust rather than an honest investigation of the truth tells us you're not doing what's needed to know the truth.

Now I'm continually reminded that faith is trust, trust in some god or another. This is wrong-headed. The reason is because the god trusted is already the god believed to exist. Faith or trust in one's own god results in the same god as initially believed. So honest believers who are genuinely interested in knowing the truth shouldn't even trust their own god! You should literally and categorically trust NO ONE when honestly thinking through and investigating the nature and workings of the universe, along with which religion is true, if there is one. To read a rigorous defense of this kind of thinking check out this book. - Cheers

The Delicate, Dicey Task of Revising Revelation

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Theologians boldly rise to the occasion


What to do when God has favored you with new revelation? I don’t mean just a casual vision or two—but with a Cosmos-shattering revelation update: You have been given the word that God has revised a whole salvation scheme. How do you mesh this new scheme with the old system in place for centuries? We see the apostle Paul wrestling with this very task in chapter 4 of his Letter to the Romans.

All sophisticated theology is obfuscationist theology

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All sophisticated theology is obfuscationist theology, the goal of which is to obscure the unreasonableness of theology itself. Now imagine some atheist philosopher of religion thinking there is more merit to sophisticated theology over a hillbilly from Kentucky, and you see the problem with almost all atheist philosophy of religion.

Quote of the Day by Shay Chandler (On Facebook)

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Shay Chandler:
Why do some religious people take it personally when I say I'm an atheist? It's not like their God is the only God I don't believe in. I don't believe in any of them.
I've long ago concluded the word "God" (capital "G") is a name for a specific god, the god of Christianity. That is to say, when someone in the western world writes or says the word "God" without qualification (as opposed to "my god," or "a god" or "the Jewish god", etc,) that person is referring to Christianity's god. This is due to the Christianized cultural dominance of the word "God" as a divine conceptual being. So no, "God" is not Allah, nor is "god" "God" at all. They're all "gods"; culturally conceptual deities. In fact, the word "God" in these here parts is a loosely sect-specific parochial Christian deity encompassing the incompatible characteristics believed by different Christianities. Period.

Matthew W. Ferguson to Join Us

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Matthew W. Ferguson is a Ph.D. graduate student in Classics at the University of California, Irvine. He'll write for us here at DC for at least one planned post having to do with David Marshall's recent book Jesus is No Myth. Given the blurbs written for it by Craig Blomberg and Timothy McGrew, it looks like David Marshall is here to stay. I look forward to what Ferguson has to say.

Recently Ferguson opened up his life to us right here. At the end he wrote some encouraging and instructive words about living life in the shadow of death:
Life flies by quickly, and we never know when our last day will be. As someone who believes that our conscious experience is finite, it reminds me to make the most out of every moment. My life in this physical world is the only one that I will ever have, and I plan to cherish it to the fullest. I wish the same for all others who live with kindness and empathy.

What to do…with the brains evolution gave us

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Religion wins if we can’t teach our brains Good Thinking


In the musical My Fair Lady, lyricist Alan Jay Lerner punctured misogyny by showing it in full foolishness. Professor Henry Higgins is the ultimate “confirmed old bachelor” who is distressed by his attraction to Eliza Doolittle. He bluntly warns his friend Colonel Pickering, “I will never let a woman in my life.” Female heads, he declares, are “filled with cotton, hay and rags.” “Straightening up their hair is all they ever do. Why don’t they straighten up the mess that’s inside?”

But Professor Higgins was only half wrong. That is, all human brains, male and female, are prone to the cotton-hay-and-rags syndrome. Throughout the millennia, humans have been wrong about so much, and—sorry, Professor Higgins—men have been the major culprits. We can blame the men especially for the monotheism represented in the Bible—a major mess of contradictions, if ever there was one. But the fault lies not with gender, but with the brains that we owe to the clumsy evolutionary process. We have to work hard to outsmart our brains.

Faith-Based Puzzle Solving Vs Examining Evidence Objectively

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I have to admit it, of all the Christian visitors here at DC, Don Camp has been one of the best. He's polite and has more knowledge than most others who have commented here. And he's indefatigable. I had to limit him to ten comments a day lest he hijack my blog, for no other reason than that I cannot engage him as often as he requires. Did I say he's indefatigable? I challenged him to read my magnum opus, and he's doing just that, skipping some chapters and reading others thoroughly. He's also patiently taking the time to write responses to what I wrote on his blog.

I cannot shake him folks. Yet he's just as delusional as others who are not as knowledgeable or indefatigable or polite. One might ask why I'm highlighting him here, since it grants him more credibility that he deserves. So let me tell you why. I don't know. ;-) Maybe it's because he's likeable. Maybe it's because he can help make my case stronger, especially by articulating it better. Maybe it's because he might be reachable. Maybe it's because atheists who comment here might help him see the truth. Maybe he can be used as a test case in how apologists special plead their case when defending the indefensible. How about ALL OF THE ABOVE!

Camp recently wrote two posts on Moses and the Exodus that are instructive. Here is my best response. It probably won't work, but here goes anyway.

Quote of the Day by GearHedEd On Apologetics

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Apologetics is damage control applied to an incoherent myth, designed to try and explain difficulties away. It's like trying to compress a balloon between your hands. Every time you think you've squeezed it down, it pops out in another direction, and you can't cover all the bases simultaneously.

News Flash: All 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing!

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There is quite a bit of controversy about this decision too.

See for yourselves.

"No, the Crazies Aren’t Coming Out from Under Rocks" by Robert Conner

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This is an interesting read, written by Robert Conner. His final words:
No, the crazies aren’t coming out from under the rocks—they’re coming out of the churches and mosques, synagogues and temples, just like they have for the past couple of thousand years, and they’re bringing their crazy with them, a heaping platter of crazy with a steaming side order of crazy.

If I had to make a wager, I’d bet the inaptly named Homo sapiens is a dead man walking. LINK.

Paul the Apostle and the Hogwarts Factor

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For Paul, sin was a disease of the soul...he was sure he knew the cure

Why Do Atheists Bother?

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Joelyn:
Part of the problem with Evangelical religious beliefs is that some want to make parts of it public policy (e.g., eliminate marriage equality, reproductive rights, etc.)

Frankly, I couldn't care less about any one's religious delusion as long as they are law abiding, do no harm to minors (deny health care based on faith healing) and don't want to impose via public policies their religious strictures on my personal life. So as long Christian apologists enter the public square chewing on their religious delusions, I'll be right there chewing back. Why not? If they can compete in the marketplace of ideas, that's their problem not mine. Cheers!
Wayne Thompson:
Well said! It’s not simply because they knock on our doors with an invitation to church. They vote (which is their right as much as ours, of course). But, they also have PACs which pressure elected officials to get their religious-based agendas through Congress, even though the churches are not taxed like the rest of us.

When millions of delusional people think that an imaginary superman in the sky is in charge of everything, how can they be expected to take issues like Climate Change seriously or even try to understand it? After all, Climate Change wasn’t mentioned in their Bronze Age instructional manual, so why should they believe it? The Evangelical vote was largely responsible for why the world is now having to deal with a President Trump. These are the kinds of outcomes you get when people don’t base their beliefs upon evidence and use reason in making their decisions.
Don Camp (a Christian):
So, what has that to do with you?

I honestly don't get the new atheists' anger. So you don't believe. Okay. So you don't like people knocking on your door with an invitation to church. Say no thank you politely. What's the big deal?
Herald Newman:
It has everything to do with [us]. Delusioned people, who believe nonsense, are making the world a worse place because of that nonsense! I have every right to fight nonsense when it spills over into my life!
Found here. Enjoy.

Should We Trust NT Testimony That Jesus Arose from the Dead?

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Here's a Christian named Angie on Facebook about testimonial evidence of the resurrection of Jesus:

Angie: "One method of determining good evidence is the testimony of others. Courts use testimony all the time and consider it in making decisions. We have the testimony of several hundred people who saw Jesus after his death and burial. This must be considered in believing or denying this event. One day there might be an explanation of this, but not yet."

My response:" Would you and others keep your facts straight? We don't have evidence 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus. What we have is someone SAYING 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus."

----------------

Angie: "What's so preposterous about one's testimony? Used all the time in court as respectable evidence."

My answer: "We have no way to cross-examine this testimony. How do we know the results would not be exactly as we found out with Joseph Smith and Mormonism? You're asking us to accept non-cross examined testimony from a couple of different writers in the ancient distant past, and that's not reasonable for extraordinary miraculous claims."

Was Hitchens right: Does religion poison everything?

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No. But it does far more harm than good

Dr. Richard Carrier On Why You Can’t Cite Opinions On Whether Josephus Mentioned Jesus Before 2014

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Carrier presents the latest interesting scholarly findings right here.

Unplugging the Robo-Craig 5000

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One rainy afternoon, Johnny ventured to explore the attic and came across a dusty old bin buried under a mound of discarded boxes. Flashlight in hand, he managed to open the box, discovering a garbled collection of old toys, his father’s childhood companions.

“Daddy, daddy,” Johnny cried, awkwardly making his way down the attic ladder, one toy in hand, “What is this?”

“Why that’s my old Robo-Craig 5000, Johnny. Let’s plug him in and see what happens.”

His father took the toy figure from Johnny’s hand, attempted to dust it off, and plugged in the worn extension cord protruding from his back.

“Jesus under fire! Jesus under fire!” exclaimed Robo-Craig. “Position more radical than Borg!” “Lüdemann, Crossan, Lüdemann . Borg. Borg. Borr rr…” Robo-Craig sputtered to a halt.

“What’s he saying, father?”

“Those were some of his old play-friends, Johnny.”

Johnny shrugged. Disinterested, the boy sped off to program a science brainPop mod on his Android device.

Don Camp Knows His Indoctrinating Catechism Fairly Well. Now He Should Think Through It!

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Don Camp has roosted here at DC for some time now. I wonder what his motivation is. I hope he's here to test his faith against the evidence, but of that I can't say. He's a former teacher/professor of literature classes and his comments are respectful and polite. His arguments are always a brand of special pleading though, which he cannot see. What he's doing is spitting out the catechism he was taught at an early age, by mindlessly quote-mining from the Bible and/or the catechism theology built on it. He knows his catechism well even if he has never thought through it. Let's see if an atheist can make him think about it. Take a good look at what he said:
In the end, it is not what you believe that is crucial but who you believe. A person may believe all the doctrine he is taught as a kid in a Christian home and still not be a believer because he is not trusting in the person or the mercy of God.
Surely you have heard this said before. I said it. Every ex-Christian has probably said it. So Camp tells us nothing we haven't considered before. Nothing. Yet he may think it's profound. It's not profound at all. It's a mess of words intended to confuse truly inquiring minds and obfuscate (or hide) the truth from minds like Camp himself--who mindlessly wrote them!

Where do Camp's words come from? Is Camp plagiarizing someone else? No. Yet the exact words he used above are not found in the Bible either. In fact, there isn't a quote that comes close to saying this, nor is this the only thing we find stressed in the New Testament. Oh sure, belief is stressed, but so are two other things. First, in the epistles we find that if anyone teaches false doctrine or believes it, they are doomed to hell. Christians derive their doctrines from the gospels, just as surely as they do the epistles. So doctrine is stressed. Second, in the gospels obedience is stressed by Jesus. In the epistles obedience is stressed too. Paul demands it as an apostle.

So once again, where did Camp get these words? Well, I'm here to tell you it's in the catechisms we all grew up on when being indoctrinated by our parents in Sunday School, and catechism classes. Other than that I don't know where they originated from. Surely not from Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther or Zwingli. Do they make sense? No.

"John, which one of your books would you recommend for me to read?

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I was asked this question by a Christian who comments here at DC. I replied as follows:
It depends on your interest, and/or ignorance, so take a look at my book descriptions and see for yourself.

My challenge to you is to pick one, any one, and read through it. If you come to a book that does not tell you something significant you haven't considered before, then stop reading my books. But if each successive book does tell you something significant you haven't considered before, keep reading them until you're done with them all. If cost is a factor then get them at your local library.

Even if you should choose to read my co-written book, "God or Godless," because you want a Christian apologist to help you think through the issues, that won't help you! As Led Zeppelin sang, when the levee breaks "crying won't help you; praying won't do you no good." ;-)

You have no more excuses.

Be well.

Mythbusters Shows Why There's No Contest Between Science and Faith. Science Always Wins!

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Those of us who were fans of the program Mythbusters, hosted by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, were taught over the course of thirteen years how to think like scientists. In the episode below you'll see how they tested and debunked the moon hoax, the one that claims we never landed on the moon. After the mythbusters finished their tests anyone who continues believing there was a governmental conspiracy to fake a moon landing are nuts. Yep. Nuts. And they even say these people are nuts. That's N-U-T-S!

The same kind of scientific testing can be done to test the claims of Christianity. And the results are the same as the moon hoax theory. Anyone who continues to believe in Christianity despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that debunks it, is nuts too! The only excuse is that most believers are ignorant about this evidence. Be ignorant no more! Try reading just one book about this evidence, if you dare. Take seriously what Donald R. Burleson said when reviewing my recent anthology Christianity in the Light of Science for The American Rationalist.



Burleson talked about each of the chapters in it then concluded by saying:
All in all, this volume is a worthy collection of essays to the effect that science interacts with considerable violence against the claims of the Christian religion and, by extension of some of the arguments, against religion more generally...I would rate this book as a must-read for anyone interested in the matter of religion versus science. After all, it is a fundamental schism in human experience. As Bertrand Russell used to say (I paraphrase): In science there is knowledge, but in religion there is only opinion.

Michael Nugent to Debate William Lane Craig

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Michael Nugent is a writer from Dublin, Ireland, and chairperson of the advocacy group Atheist Ireland. He will debate William Lane Craig on March 21st. I've heard him talk and read some of the things he has written and think he'll do well in this debate. Kudos to him! We'll be watching.

Now I'm interested more than ever in the criteria Dr. Craig looks for in a debate opponent. I guess I still don't meet them. Oh, well!

How One Atheist Group is Using My Books

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Aaron Lietz and Jason Blair recently contacted me on behalf of the San Diego Coalition of Reason (which is under the United Coalition of Reason). They had a unique request concerning my anthology, The Christian Delusion. They contacted me with it, via email:

Is the Church really filled with hypocrites? No.

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But the apostle Paul noticed a few…

Still Another Testimony On "Why I'm an Atheist"

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Here is a link to an intelligent philosophically minded person's story of why s/he's an atheist. See if any of these reasons resonate with you. The site is named, Atheism And The City: Exploring Philosophy, Religion & Atheism In The Context Of Contemporary Urban Life.