On the Incompatibility of Answered Prayers and Science by Daniel Mocsny

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By Daniel Mocsny: If outside influences like prayer or meddling gods cannot be excluded, then science cannot proceed - it won't work. The same experiment will get different results depending on who was praying somewhere in the world, or on the whim of some god. Science doesn't just assume that we only use natural explanations, it actually requires that only natural phenomena exist. Otherwise you can't reliably replicate a result. Replication is fundamental to science, and even more important for industries built on science, which replicate the same products billions of times.

Thus the very existence of science is strong evidence against the kinds of gods people worship - gods who intervene routinely in the natural order. The burden of proof is therefore on the theist to explain how we can have science and smartphones that undeniably exist, and at the same time we have their God whose existence and behavior would make science impossible. The plain fact that during the past two centuries the intellectual elite (i.e., those who actually have some claim to expertise on matters of religion, philosophy, and science) have indeed become overwhelmingly skeptical in regard to the existence of a "conscious Creator.”

Things the Clergy Won’t Tell You

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To protect thousands of different, conflicting Christian brands 


Let’s look at four forbidden topics.


 

ONE

 

Each Christian denomination—there are so many divisions, sects, cults—screens and vets those who rise to the rank of clergy. These are the champions of the faith, as it is preached across such a wide spectrum of conflicting versions. No individual congregation would tolerate any clergy who strays far from the orthodoxy cherished by that congregation. Thus we won’t find Catholic priests stepping into their pulpits on Sunday morning to explain that Mormonism or Methodism happens to be the right brand of Christianity after all. Of course not, because all clergy are paid propagandists for their own brand of the faith. That’s how they earn their living.

From Richard Carrier's Essay, "Establishing the Biblical Literalism of Early Christians":

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Richard Carrier establishes the fact that early Christians really believed their miracle stories, contrary to liberals who demythologize the Gospels like Rudolph Bultmann and John Dominic Crossan:

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Usually I don’t have to argue this because it’s obvious. But there are a few who have attempted to contend that early Christians—say, before the fourth century—never took the Gospels as factually true reports of events but only as allegorical tales, fables conveying a point or deeper truth—essentially, as edifying fiction. Some have even strongly asserted there is no evidence of anyone in that time ever treating the Gospels as historical fact. This is so wildly false I am astonished and perplexed by anyone saying this, particularly when they are erudite, well-trained scholars. But every once in a while this happens: someone assertively insists well-established premises of a field I’m in are false, requiring me to do the work of culling enough of the rather obvious evidence we otherwise take for granted just to put such things to rest and demonstrate that, yes, this time, the premise is a correct assumption of the field, not a sectarian contrivance or modern conceit (and remember, I am always ready to admit when it is not).

To be clear, my argument to follow is not that ancient Christians were radical fundamentalists who rejected every allegorical interpretation of tales in their Bible. Every Christian accepted some things in their stories were edifying fictions, or that they were both literally true and allegorically meaningful (I give extensive evidence of this in On the Historicity of Jesus, Chapter 4, Element 14). But my point here on out is that all extant Christian literature from the first two centuries of the religion, every single text that conveys any position on the matter at all, consistently insists the Gospels are substantially records of historical facts. And they often even insist that anyone who denies this is a loathsome fool damned to hell. Even if those same Christians will give an allegorical meaning of a story here and there, that does not counter my point: that none say the Gospels are wholly allegory, or that anyone can be saved believing they are. Ironically, their shrill insistence on this proves other Christians existed who did think the Gospels were entirely a sacred fiction. But we don’t get to read anything those Christians wrote. They were the enemy, all but erased from history, by that other faction of Christianity that came to dominate the world....We can therefore never say “early Christians simply did not regard the Gospels as historical records.” Put that claim to rest. The evidence against it is vast and unassailable. It simply is not true.

GUESSINGS ABOUT GOD: Robert Conner’s review of new book by David Madison, PhD Biblical Studies

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Books that question the validity of Christian belief and the historicity of New Testament stories appear regularly these days and they raise quite a few uncomfortable questions. Did Jesus really say the things attributed to him? Was Jesus even a real person? Did the gospel writers simply make up accounts of miracles like the virgin birth? Can we harmonize the contradictory resurrection stories? Do the gospels, written decades after the life of Jesus, record any eyewitness evidence? Who actually wrote the gospels? The gospel authors never identify themselves in their texts or speak in the first person—did they even meet Jesus? Over a century of critical study of the New Testament has raised many such thorny problems.

God Is Okay with Abortion—Devout Christians Tell Us So

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Without intending to!


A member of the congregation is hospitalized with cancer. So fellow parishioners organize prayer marathons to plead with their god to intervene—and it works! So they claim when their friend’s cancer has been defeated, after considerable intervention by medical professionals. What a relief that god granted their wish. 

 

But what are the implications of this belief? It’s a good idea to think it through.

In Defense of Richard Dawkins And On Being Right

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John Smith posted this quote on his FB Page by Michael Ruse, atheist philosopher of biology: "Dawkins's book The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course & it makes me ashamed to be an atheist. New atheists do the side of science a grave disservice, a disservice to scholarship." Others followed suit, including philosophers Tom Morris, Trent Doughtery, Ron Morales and Jonathan Blocker. I, on the other hand, have defended the so-called new atheists.

I responded: There is something grossly wrong about these evaluations. It fails to give credit where credit is due. Dawkins has been a defender of unguided evolution which destroys Christian philosophy in one fell swoop! So what if he tried reaching the masses, by-passing the elite philosophers? They are never convinced otherwise by other elite philosophers. Why can't Dawkins speak as a laymen philosopher like others? The one thing he has done is to change the minds of a massive number of people who are now former believers. People can talk about his lack of understanding if they want to, but if you don't think this world is in a better place because he wrote his book, then you fail to understand we are in a global crisis that can best be met with fewer believers in it.

Matthew Flannagan responded to me:

John W. Loftus it sounds like your saying something like this: so what if Dawkins work isn't of a decent intellectual calibre, it works in persuading lay people. Which is basically claiming to be a dishonest propagandists.

I responded back to him:

Matthew Flannagan let's say I've seriously studied the Christian faith at the highest levels for the longest time, and that I conclude it's bunk. Let's also say I've concluded the Christian faith causes significant harm. So I know it's bunk, and I know it causes significant harm. From this perspective what matters is that Dawkins and others are correct, regardless of whether they can adequately argue the case or not. I would prefer, by far, that they argue the case adequately, but it's enough if they don't. I defended this view in chapter 8 of my book, Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. It's titled, "It is Enough Just to Be Right!"

I have said a few things in defense of Dawkins at Academia. So far I've silenced them all. Here are a few key paragraphs from it:

My Jaded Response To More Philosophical Disproofs of God

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I received a message from Brian Holly on Facebook, asking me what I thought of two philosophical disproofs of God:
I’d like to present you with two arguments I believe are original - at least I have never seen them anywhere. First, an argument against the possibility of an omniscient being: An omniscient being must know all facts, and that must include the fact that he is omniscient, but he can’t know that he’s omniscient, because he has no way of eliminating the possibility that there is some fact unknown to him.

Second argument: if an omniscient, omnibenevolent God creates any world, he must create all possible worlds. Supposing, a la Leibniz, that God’s goodness requires him to create the best of all possible worlds. To do that, he must survey all the possible worlds. Now, consider, God’s knowledge of each of these worlds must be perfect and complete, down to every last wiggle of every last subatomic particle. But then it seems that there is no discernible difference between God’s perfect idea of a given possible world and that world as it would be if instantiated. So there is no difference between God’s thinking of a world and creating it. Gosh, isn’t metaphysics fun?
My Response: At this stage in my intellectual journey, I find these types of philosophical arguments to be nothing more than playing games that can only benefit Christian apologetics. See this paper instead: Does God Exist? A Definitive Biblical Case. [See Tags below for more].

The Trickster’s Apprentice, by David Eller

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My plan is to post something of interest every Monday morning. These posts will include excerpts from my books, submitted essays, posts made here in the past, and new ones. Enjoy.

The Trickster’s Apprentice

By David Eller


At the end of the first part of Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche has Zarathustra withdraw into his solitude, asking, “what matter all believers? You have not yet sought yourselves: and you found me. Thus do all believers; therefore all faith amounts to so little.” In a previous essay, I introduced the figure of the trickster, the mischievous, unrestrained, shape-shifting boundary-crosser to whom many pundits have likened Trump. I realize now that that essay was the first of a two-part musing on faith and following, inspired by this cross-cultural fact: people don’t usually follow tricksters. They may laugh at him (since, as I pointed out previously, a trickster is almost always a male, at least at first), they may be aghast at his disrespect of morals and traditions, they may dread his baleful influence. A trickster is always a destroyer, usually a creator, sometimes a buffoon or cautionary tale, but virtually never a leader. Who would choose the trickster’s world of chimeras, deceptions, and insatiable appetites? 

Theologians Squirm and Fret When We Ask for EVIDENCE

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Why does their god play hide and seek?

We can assume that some (many?) churchgoers read the gospels, but, it would appear, without critical thinking skills fully engaged. When the devout come across Mark 14:62, does it bother them that Jesus was wrong? At his trial, Jesus was asked point blank if he was the messiah, to which he replied: “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” The main thrust of Mark’s gospel was that kingdom of his god was so close. But obviously those at his trial did not witness the arrival of Jesus on the clouds. The apostle Paul was confident too that Jesus would arrive in the sky soon. He promised members of the Thessalonian congregation that their dead relatives would rise to meet Jesus—and that he too would be there to join them (I Thessalonians 1:15-17). So Paul was wrong as well.

Still On For Monday!

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I had said I would post on Mondays. I will do so! The posts just won't always be excerpts, past postings, or submitted essays. But for now, go ahead and share the most important reason you believe, or disbelieve. Go!

Daniel Mocsny's Rebuttal of Paul Moser's Definitional Apologetics, Which Obfuscates the Fact That Christianity is Utter Nonsense!

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Christian apologist and philosopher Paul K Moser is wrong, dead wrong, but at least he allows comments that disagree. I got to him though, when I said at the end of some extensive prodding, that what he believes is "utter nonsense." That comment was deleted. His main problem was that I refused to state what "objective evidence" is, putting it in quotation marks, as if he might not know. Then he chides me, saying "Note how you have ignored this key issue."

I have refrained from doing so, because doing so is an endless quagmire of me chasing him down the rabbits hole of this, then that, then this, then that, getting no closer to the truth. It's something believing philosophers of religion are experts in, and it's a trick called definitional apologetics, which obfuscates the truth. Here's a quote I wrote in my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End (p. 28):
Over the last decade I have found that one bastion for Christian apologists has been philosophy, especially the philosophy of religion. The scholars have honed their definitional apologetics in such a fine-tuned manner that when engaging them in this discipline, it’s like trying to catch a greased pig. Or, to switch metaphors, trying to chase them down the rabbit’s hole in an endless and ultimately fruitless quest for definitions. What’s an extraordinary claim? What constitutes evidence? What’s the definition of supernatural? What’s the scientific method? What’s a miracle? What’s a basic belief? What’s a veridical religious experience? What’s evil? They do this just like others have done over questions like, “What is the definition of pornography?” And then they gerrymander around the plain simple facts of experience. I would rather deal in concrete examples like a virgin who supposedly had a baby and a man who supposedly was raised from the dead.
The reason why I prefer to deal in concrete examples is because of how Christian philosophers use definitions to obfuscate their own theology. It isn't because I'm anti-intellectual. Nor do I think definitions are unimportant. I just want truth to prevail.

Anyway, Daniel Mocsny has written a nice rebutal of Moser's attempt which I highly recommend.

My Engaging Debate with Paul Moser

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Almost every time I have engaged Dr. Paul K. Moser on Facebook, he has berated me as being below him. This time was different, probably because it was noted that Dr. James Sennett had highly praised my first book, WIBA. 

Moser denigrated Dr. Daniel Dennett in this meme. It prompted a good discussion, starting with this response by Mark J. Mathews:

Richard Carrier and John Loftus express the same sentiment in their platforms. I'm also willing to engage their evidence for God's non-existence, if it's such a slam dunk. In fact, I'd be willing to resign my ministry tomorrow.

Okay, I thought. I'll respond. If Paul Moser reads and considers everything I said and linked to, I would think his faith took a hit. Two days ago I had posted my initial statement. Here's the rest of the engaging story:

Those First Copy-Cat Christian Theologians

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The imagined, invented Jesus of the New Testament 



The huge faith bureaucracy—aka the church—is guilty of many sins, but one of its major failings is deception. It specializes in diverting the attention of its faithful followers from what has been learned about Christian origins. Perhaps the greatest irony in this exercise in cheating is that major discoveries about Christian origins—including the unreliability of the gospel accounts of Jesus—have been made by devout scholars who had set out to prove that the gospels tell the true story of their lord and savior. 

 

But as professionally trained historians examined the gospels, it became clear that these documents fail to qualify as history. In 1835, David Friedrich Strauss published Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet (The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined), in which he argued that the miracle elements in Jesus stories were mythical. In 1933, Charles Guignebert published another major study, titled simply Jesus, in which he wrote: “It was not the essence of Jesus that interested in the authors of our gospels, it was the essence of Christ, as their faith pictured him. They are exclusively interested, not in reporting what they know, but in proving what they believe” (p. 53). He labeled the gospels “propaganda texts.”

The God of Miracles in the Bible Does Not Exist!

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There is no objective evidence for a god who did the miracles as reported in the Bible. Here is a good introduction to my book on it.
Accordingly, we can simply dismiss such claims and a god who reportedly did them, as I argued in a peer reviewed paper published by Internet Infidels.
For needed background information click on my name at Internet Infidels.
I hope this helps in your search for the truth! It should at least be interesting for you. If my readers know of anyone who thinks otherwise, and I mean anyone, please send them here! Cheers!

What Motivates an Atheist to be a Good Person?

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Every Monday morning I'm posting submitted essays, excerpts from my books, and some of the best posts of the past. This post today is one of the first ones I made to this blog back in 2006. Enjoy!

Many Christians will claim that atheists simply do not have an ultimate motivation for being good. What motivates an atheist to be a good and kind person? Why should we act morally? J.P. Moreland believes atheists can and in fact do good moral deeds, “But what I’m arguing,” he says, “is, What would be the point? Why should I do these things if they are not satisfying to me or if they are not in my interests? [Does God Exist: The Great Debate (Thomas Nelson, 1990), pp. 118].
C. Stephen Layman argues in a similar fashion. He points out that the main difference between secular and religious moral views are that “the only goods available from a secular perspective are earthly goods,” whereas a religious perspective “recognizes these earthly goods as good, but it insists that there are non-earthly or transcendent goods.” Secular ethics, he says, must pay for the individual here on earth. “By way of contrast with the secular view, it is not difficult to see how morality might pay if there is a God of the Christian type.” [The Shape of the Good: Christian Reflections on the Foundations of Ethics (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1991)].

They’re Picking on Religion, So Onward Christian Soldiers

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But a few Standards of Honesty are in order



While I was in the process of writing my 2016 book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Belief, I set up a Facebook page to promote it. When the book was published, I did weekly paid boosts to help sales. I specified the target markets, e.g.. atheists, secular, humanist. Even so—don’t ask me how—my boosts showed up on Christian Facebook pages. What horrible reactions! None of the enraged Christians showed the least interest in engaging in the issues I raised. It was all hate and hasty conclusions, e.g., you were never a real Christian, you’re a terrible person, you’re going to hell. I eventually gave up on the paid boosts. So I guess the Christians won that round.

Trump is a God—Just Not the One That Christians Believe, by David Eller

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Loki, the Norseman Trickster Chaos god
Beginning today, and every Monday morning that follows, I'll be posting submitted essays, excerpts from my books, and some of the best posts of the past. Today is a post by Professor David Eller. He's no stranger to readers of my books. He's one of our best and important scholars on religion. 
So as the author of an excellent book on Donald Trump, I asked him to write something for us all to ponder, especially in light of being a twice impeached one-term multiple indicted president. Dr. Eller sent me this:

 

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Trump’s greatest trick is convincing Christians he is not a trickster.

 

The slavish and really obscene worship of Donald Trump by his misguided acolytes is incomprehensible from a purely political or personal perspective: Americans do not typically grovel at the feet of politicians or erect golden-calf images of them, and Trump is obviously a more despicable person than most would-be leaders. 

 

However, as others have commented, Trump’s Svengali hold on his “base” makes more sense from a religious viewpoint: Christians and conservatives, who have been programmed to genuflect to power and who see him as a perfectly-flawed suffering servant display the same unquestioning commitment to him and his untruths as they do to their god and its untruth.

I Plan On Monday Posts

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My plan is to post excerpts from my books on Mondays. This will include excerpts from all of the authors too. I must resist the urge to revise most everything I wrote! Okay now, OPEN THREAD!

Is the Death of Christian Belief Coming Soon?

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Cheap knockoff superstitions are taking over



This really is a puzzle: why haven’t decent devout believers—by the millions—founded an organization called Christians Against Televangelism? They should be so appalled/enraged that televangelists have turned the faith into a showbusiness money-grab, enabling so many of them to become multi-millionaires. They’ve reimagined Jesus as big business, exploiting magical thinking found in the New Testament: believe in Jesus to get eternal life. This turned out to be a major made-for-TV gimmick. 

 

But televangelism is actually the crass culmination of the church’s centuries-long embrace of show business. Millions of churches have been built, the theatres—the stages—for performances. Among these are the spectacular cathedrals, with magnificent stained glass, paintings and sculptures. No one has been able to surpass the Catholic church, in terms of costuming, props, and ritual. All this makes it so easy to get away with magical thinking.

Absolutely Amazing!! Watch as a Hawk catches my squirrel friend and I save him from certain death!!

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LINK!! [Please subscribe to my YouTube channel.]

Can Christianity Survive—With So Many Problems and Scandals?

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2,000 years of momentum probably can’t save it



Surely the clergy, those most in tune with God, must be the happiest people on the planet: they enjoy a personal relationship with their creator, nurtured through years of prayer and pious study. How can their constant refrain not be, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it”? (Psalm 118:24) But this doesn’t seem to be the way things are working out. A few weeks ago I published an article here titled, The Morale of Christian Clergy Is Taking a Big Hit

based partially on a study that many clergy aren’t doing so well. Then I came across this article, United Methodist pastors feel worse and worry more than a decade ago:


“A survey of 1,200 United Methodist clergy found that half have trouble sleeping, a third feel depressed and isolated, half are obese, and three-quarters are worried about money...[they] feel worse and worry more than they did a decade ago.”


I suspect that the vulnerability of Christianity might be a contributing factor—and its weaknesses had not been so openly discussed just a decade ago, although that discussion had been stimulated in 2001 with the publication of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Sam Harris followed in 2004 with The End of Faith, and Christopher Hitchens in 2009 with God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Never before had the Christian faith been critiqued so publicly, so devastatingly—and other secular authors have been encouraged to add their insights. There are now well more than five hundred books—most published since 1999—that explain, in detail, the falsification of theism, Christianity especially. And, of course, the Internet has provided a platform for atheist/secular thinkers to spread the word that belief in god(s) is hard to justify.

Aesop's Fables in the New Testament

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It can be interesting to try to work out the sources used by the New Testament authors. Here are some examples from both the author of Matthew and the author of Luke-Acts that ultimately come from Aesop's Fables.

The first is about a fisherman and his flute. Matthew and Luke have matching words and phrases in a Jesus parable with children singing the song of the Aesop's fisherman to their friends.

The Fisherman Piping
A Fisherman who could play the flute went down one day to the sea-shore with his nets and his flute; and, taking his stand on a projecting rock, began to play a tune, thinking that the music would bring the fish jumping out of the sea. He went on playing for some time, but not a fish appeared: so at last he threw down his flute and cast his net into the sea, and made a great haul of fish. When they were landed and he saw them leaping about on the shore, he cried, "You rascals! you wouldn't dance when I piped: but now I've stopped, you can do nothing else!"
Comment:
This fable is mentioned in Histories of Herodotus, written around 430 BCE.
Matthew 11:16-17 ESV
16 "But to what shall I compare [ομοιωσω] this generation? It is like children [παιδιοις] sitting [καθημενοις] in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 17 "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not [ηυλησαμεν υμιν και ουκ ωρχησασθε εθρηνησαμεν και ουκ] mourn.'
Luke 7:31-32 ESV
31 "To what then shall I compare [ομοιωσω] the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children [παιδιοις] sitting [καθημενοις] in the marketplace and calling to one another, "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not [ηυλησαμεν υμιν και ουκ ωρχησασθε εθρηνησαμεν και ουκ] weep.'

The next example is a parable in the form of a joke where two examples set the expectation and the third reverses the expectation. The third expectation is like the Aesop's Miser who buried his treasure so that it was useless.

“My overdosing on religion was becoming a serious problem”

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It’s a problem for the world as well



When Christopher Hitchens died in December 2011, a volcano of Christian hate erupted. Devout folks who’d never heard of him suddenly found out that he’d written a book (2009) titled, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons EverythingThey spewed rage and invective on social media, savoring the idea that Hitchens was suffering—and would suffer forever—in the fires of hell. “Love your enemy” (Jesus-script, Matthew 5:44) has probably rarely been so widely ignored. Ironically, their fury probably drove sales of the book—which even now, fourteen years later, has a high Amazon sales ranking. 

 

It is my suspicion that most of these outraged folks are also unaware of the extensive role religion has played in poisoning the human experience. The gospel of John fueled anti-Semitism, no doubt inspiring Martin Luther’s murderous rage against the Jews, which in turn helped provide the Nazi rationale for the Holocaust. The Crusades were religion-motivated wars. Slavery was easily championed by good Christians who took their Bibles seriously. Our democracy is in jeopardy because obsessive-compulsive believers want to impose their understanding of god on everyone. The evidence of religious poison is on the news every day.

What are the Best Atheist Books?

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I am a follower of John Smith at Facebook, who writes some very good provocative stuff. This FB post of his to the left provokes some thought too. He suggests a few works he considers to be the best defenses of atheism. They are all sophisticated philosophical treatises. So here is my response:

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Whenever I'm asked what is my favorite color, or food, or the best exercise, or the best sport, or best rock band, I always say that it depends. One must state the criteria first. 

Perhaps I can state Mr. Smith's criteria for the best atheist books. It is "the most sophisticated philosophical defenses that only other philosophical intellectuals can understand."

Am I wrong?

The criteria certainly isn't "that which has done the most to change the minds of the most believers." Here's my take on it all. Please discuss!

Trying to Make a Horrible Jesus Quote Look Good

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But wishful thinking and tortured logic can’t make it happen



The high-profile, very wealthy televangelists—Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen come to mind—make us wonder if they really do believe in Jesus. They have played major roles in turning Jesus into big business. Their lifestyles don’t seem compatible with the ancient preacher portrayed in the gospels. Jesus, so we’re told, championed the poor and condemned the rich, e.g., Mark 10:25 (KJV): “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.Luke 6:20 (NRSVUE): “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:21 (KJV): “Jesus said unto him, ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me.’”

 

So pardon our suspicion that Copeland and Osteen—and many others—are phonies. They’re in it for the money.

Daniel Mocsny On Facts and Trump's Big Lie

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I'd love to find a planet where people agree on facts! As evidence that Earth is not that planet, a recent poll found that 63% of Republican Party members in the USA continue to believe Trump's Big Lie that he won the 2020 election. There's a phenomenon in psychology called denialism, a person's choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. There is also disinformation propagated by various individuals and organized groups with the aim of confusing people about the facts. For example, the disinformation campaign funded by fossil fuel companies and conservative think tanks has sown profound confusion about the facts of climate science, much as the Tobacco Institute earlier pioneered the same FLICC model to dupe people into doubting the health hazards of tobacco use. (FLICC: fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible / inconsistent expectations (demanding an impossible standard of proof from the other side while requiring little or no standard from one's own side), cherry picking, conspiracy ideation. I'd like to squeeze in a letter T for tribalism / team loyalty, but that would wreck the acronym.)

Religionists and denialists use similar methods, and are sometimes the same people. I suspect Trump's appeal to America's Christians is due to the preparatory work most of them received via religious indoctrination. They acquired the habit of trusting the verbal pronouncements of their team's authorities without evidence or fact-checking. All Trump had to do was move into the cognitive house already built.

Testing our Tolerance for Tedious God-Talk

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Why would a good, wise god put up with it?



The authors of the four New Testament gospels had a simple goal: to promote belief in the Christ they worshipped. Scholar Charles Guignebert, in his 1935 classic work Jesus, wrote: 

 

“It was not the essence of Jesus that interested the authors of our Gospels, it was the essence of Christ, as their faith pictured him. They are exclusively interested, not in reporting what they know, but in proving what they believe.” 

 

In other words, they were not historians, but propagandists. In fact, intensive critical study of the gospels has demonstrated that these documents do not qualify as history. Their authors don’t identify their sources, but it’s even worse than that. Matthew and Luke copied major portions of Mark’s gospel without mentioning that’s what they’d done, i.e., they plagiarized—and changed Mark’s text to suit their own agendas.

Daniel Mocsny On Faith and the Ontological Argument

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As an example, suppose a street vendor offers to sell me a Rolex watch for $50. A check online shows Rolex watches selling for $12,000 and up (way up). By coincidence, the street vendor's "Rolex" comes with no kind of certification. Instead the street vendor says "Trust me." The vendor provides no other evidence of authenticity. I would have to take the vendor on faith, since I have no evidence that the "Rolex" is real.
A watch whose authenticity I must take on faith is less perfect than a watch whose authenticity carries a bit more heft, such as appraisals by multiple independent experts (who don't stand to benefit from the sale, and who stand to lose if they can be shown to be wrong), along with a certificate of authenticity from a credible organization that has an incentive to be honest (such as being sued for damages if it issues false certificates). In the event of a dispute, I could probably get a court of law to rule on the authenticity of an expensive watch.
While I would never actually buy a Rolex when a $20 digital watch keeps time well enough, this example shows how something I can verify as genuine to a high probability beats something I have to take entirely on faith.
You can see where I'm going with this. A God whose only evidence is the preacher's command to "trust me" is less perfect than any God (or, perhaps, any thing) that doesn't require faith. Especially when the preacher or vendor who says "trust me" stands to gain if I do.
Thus if I imagine a perfect God, in line with the Ontological Argument, I imagine a God who doesn't require me to rely on faith.

Papias and Earliest Gospel Traditions

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In the first 2-3 centuries of the Christian religion, we observe astonishing creative diversity. As this essay reveals, this diversity characterized the movement(s) from the beginning, even in the the initial decades of Christian story-telling. When we read Papias (preserved in fragmentary form in Eusebius, EH 3.39), we find a messy description of earliest cultic "gospel" traditions. Circa 100 C.E., he composed a (since lost) five-book work titled Guide to the Master’s Sayings. Assuming his achieved prominence within nascent Christian communities even to undertake such a project and have it survive and quoted for centuries, we may surmise that Papias’s proximal acquaintance with these early story-telling communities began quite a bit prior to his published work, that is, in the late first century. 

The Eccentric, Inflated, Dangerous Theology of John’s Gospel

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Read it and weep—and get over it



Here’s a book title that would dumbfound many devout churchgoers: This Tragic Gospel: How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity. The author, Dr. Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr., states that the author of John intended his gospel to replace the earlier gospels (p. 180), and he refers to the “howling conflict between Mark and John…” (p. 13) Burton Mack wrote: “What a somersault, turning the page between Luke’s life of Jesus and the Gospel of John” (p. 175, Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth). Peter Brancazio notes that John’s gospel “will come as an astonishing surprise. Here the reader will encounter a radically different portrait of Jesus, both in terms of his message and his person” (p. 373, The Bible from Cover to Cover: How Modern-Day Scholars Read the Bible).

Magical Thinking Is Christianity’s Biggest Mistake

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There are plenty of other mistakes as well



If I were asked to debate a flat-earther, Holocaust denier, or someone who is convinced the moon landings were faked, I would decline the invitation. Nor would I debate an astrologer, the local store-front medium who tells futures using a crystal ball, or anyone who believes in chem-trails. All of these folks have been groomed in one way or another, by various kooks and quacks. 

 

They haven’t done/ refuse to do /don’t know how to do the study/research to find out how wrong they are.

I'm Taking a Break. I'll Be Back!

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I have some important things to do. So I'll be away for up to a month. You can continue to expect Dr. Madison's excellent Friday postings though!

I ask our readers to do the single most important thing to increase our readership while I'm away. If there are some posts of ours you like, link to them on Twitter, Facebook, and especially Reddit, like r/atheism, r/DebateReligion, or r/DebateAnAtheist.

I now declare this to be an open thread! Enjoy.

Asking for EVIDENCE for God: Why Is that So Hard to Grasp?

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Sentiments about Jesus do not qualify



According to the devout, evidence for their god is so obvious, “I feel Jesus in my heart!” “Just open the Bible, it’s right there.” “People all over the world have seen visions of the Virgin Mary.” “Every day I receive guidance from my god in prayer.” “The holy spirit fills me with joy during Sunday worship.” 

 

Please note these claims are usually made by people who have been groomed from a very young age to accept what they’re been told by preachers and priests. Or maybe they converted to Christianity as adults—which is no surprise, since the marketing of Jesus is a multi-billion-dollar business. There are thousands of churches ready to welcome converts into their grooming communities.

New Book Just Published: Guessing About God, By David Madison

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I am pleased to announce that my new book, Guessing About God, as of today, is available on Amazon, Kindle and paperback.  


 

Paperback: Here is the link.

 

Kindle: Here is the link.

 

This book is the product of a very fruitful, rewarding collaboration with Tim Sledge, author of Goodbye Jesus and Four Disturbing Questions with One Simple Answer

 

Guessing About God is Volume 1 in a reissue of my 2016 book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief, covering three problems:

Here Is How We Do the Ontological Argument Correctly!

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"Overall, I can conceive of a being than which is greater than the being in the Bible." --Jake Johnson on Facebook.

Open Thread On July 4th. Bring the Fireworks!

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Not that any thread left to itself doesn't end up discussing anything and everything! ;-)

I'm busy right now so don't send any comments for me to respond to.

Get ready, get set, GO!

On Thanking God for Cruel Randomness, by Rob J. Hyndman

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What follows comes from an online book by Rob J. Hyndman, titled Unbelievable. He says of himself: "I was a Christian for nearly 30 years, and was well-known as a writer and Bible teacher within the Christadelphian community. I gave up Christianity when I no longer thought that there was sufficient evidence to support belief in the Bible. This is a personal memoir describing my journey of deconversion....In this book, I reflect on how I was fooled, and why I changed my mind."
On Thanking God for Cruel Randomness

The practice of thanking God for safety and protection, for food and drink, for health and well-being, or for any other “blessings”, might appear to be a commendable habit, but it is actually deeply troubling because of what it implies.

A miraculously intervening God is an unjust capricious God, sparing some and saving others, apparently on a whim.

If God really was selecting people to protect on the basis of some bigger picture, then you would not expect the number of people who are killed in various ways to be subject to the rules of probability. However, I can predict with remarkable accuracy the road toll each year, the number of people who will be struck by lightning, the number of people who will be killed by shark attacks, and so on. Each of these causes of death has a certain rate of occurrence that is quite predictable.

It is not just the number of deaths that is predictable, it is the whole probability distribution of deaths that is predictable. If you know the average number of deaths by car accidents in a city, then it is possible to calculate all the percentiles for that city. For example, you can estimate the numbers of deaths that would be exceeded only once every ten years. When you do this for many cities, you find that the 1-in-10-year extremes are exceeded in approximately 10% of cities each year. This is exactly what you would expect if the world was random, but not what you would expect if anyone was in control.

Car accidents, diseases, and industrial accidents all follow the same probability distribution, known as the “Poisson distribution”. The Poisson probability distribution is based on the assumption that accidents happen randomly. It is simply not possible for tragedies to appear to follow the Poisson probability distribution while actually being controlled by God. Any interventions of God that interfere in the random processes would be detectable. If they are not detectable, then they are random and God is not involved.

If we accept that the world is random, and that bad things happen to everyone by chance, where does that leave God? Either he does not exist, or he has no power, or he does not care. Whichever of those answers you prefer, God does not deserve our thanks. LINK.

What Would Convince Us Christianity is True?

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We atheists are asked to imagine what would convince us that Christianity is true. The short answer is this: We need sufficient objective evidence that can transform the negligible amount of human testimony found in the Bible into verified eyewitness testimony. But it does not exist. Given the extraordinary nature of the miracle tales in the Bible, this requirement means the past has to be changed and that can’t be done. Let's explore this.

Consider the Christian belief in the virgin-birthed deity. Just ask for the objective evidence. There is no objective evidence to corroborate the Virgin Mary’s story. We hear nothing about her wearing a misogynistic chastity belt to prove her virginity. No one checked for an intact hymen before she gave birth, either. After Jesus was born, Maury Povich wasn’t there with a DNA test to verify Joseph was not the baby daddy. We don’t even have first-hand testimonial evidence for it since the story is related to us by others, not by Mary or Joseph. At best, all we have is second-hand testimony by one person, Mary, as reported in two later anonymous gospels, or two people if we include Joseph, who was incredulously convinced Mary was a virgin because of a dream--yes, a dream (see Matthew 1:19-24).[1] We never get to independently cross-examine Mary and Joseph, or the people who knew them, which we would need to do since they may have a very good reason for lying (pregnancy out of wedlock, anyone?).

The Morale of Christian Clergy Is Taking a Big Hit

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No surprise, given the mess their religion is in



 

1.     Christians can’t agree on who is right, what god wants

 

When Christians are off to church on a Sunday morning, they might have to drive past a few churches of other denominations. Apparently it never crosses their minds to stop at one of these—after all, “We’re all Christians, aren’t we?” But that’s exactly the problem: Christians have never been able to agree on what Christianity is. They’ve been fighting about this for centuries; the Catholic/Protestant divide is especially pronounced. We can be sure Catholics won’t stop at Protestant churches, and Protestants—with contempt and ridicule for the Vatican—wouldn’t think of stopping at a Catholic church.

Catholic Apologist William Albrecht Says I've Strengthened His Faith!

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Is this an honor or disgrace? What is going on in his head? What is the message he's telling others? On his Facebook wall Albrecht wrote:
An atheist that has made me a better theist is John W. Loftus. For atheistic books, it’s hard to top John. John is fierce, brutal, and ruthless in his critique of Christianity. This is what we need. We need our faith battered and hammered. If it can survive this battery and hammering and shine through, then you have further conviction for being a devout believer. It is my firm conviction that a seasoned Protestant debater would be devoured alive by John.

People have asked me if I intend to continue debating John. The answer is a strong and firm: YES. I will continue to demolish my friend in debate after debate until the day he is sat down in Mass as a believer. That would make it all worth it in the end. LINK

Further Discussions with Apologist David Geisler

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David Geisler: So John why did you say to me that it could be that God does exist?

Me: Because nonsense might turn out to be right even though it's nonsense.

John, I’m really disappointed. Your answers to me are so much nonsense.

Me: Sorry. You don't know what I know. What I know can be found in my books.

John, yes I read a few. You say something can come from nothing. That’s so irrational and stupid.

Me: What I don't say is that a fully existing triune God has forever existed with three eternal persons, which are inexplicable individually and corporately.

John, it’s illogical to conclude that quantum fields are the cause of everything, and say they do not have intentionality nor morality nor intelligence. Something or someone had to create us because we couldn’t just come from nothing! Now, if something can not come from nothing then the only conclusion you or anyone can come to is that something must’ve necessarily always existed. What’s illogical about this conclusion?

Me: My position is we don't know yet. That's a good enough answer at this point. When we don't know, we shouldn't prematurely jump to any conclusions.

Me: But we can, however, eliminate some answers, complex ones per Ockham's Razor. As I have said, your complex sectarian God-answer is one of the least acceptable answers because of the complex nature of a trinity--with the deified human side of Jesus joined forever at the hip to the 2nd person of the trinity. Your god looks exactly like the invention of ancient superstitious people, who required his people do barbaric deeds like child sacrifice, reigned like an ancient uncaring despot who showed no concern for his subjects as we see in the book of Job, who doesn't show any awareness of any medicinal knowledge prior to us discovering vaccines, pain killers, or antibiotics.

Me: You presuppose your concept of god with everything you write. That is illogical!

Me: Just stop your evangelizing. You are uniformed, illogical, and delusional, no different from other religionists like the Mormons.

The Bible Can Be a Believer’s Worst Nightmare

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And it’s a go-to book for sustaining ignorance and intolerance 



In my article here last week, I discussed six Bible texts that qualify as dealbreakers: upon analyzing these carefully, believers would be justified in saying, “Enough already,” and head for the exit. The cumulative impact of these six—and many more—should put traditional belief in the gutter. The feel-good Bible verses preached from the pulpit fall far short of cancelling the far too many terribly bad Bible texts. 

 

The worst nightmare becomes even more obvious when we step back and take a look at the big picture. There is no way the Bible meets the high standards that we would expect in a book written/dictated by a wise, perfect god. For a close look at this problem, check out Valerie Tarico’s article published in January 2018: Why Is the Bible So Badly Written?