Showing posts sorted by relevance for query What would convince us answers. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query What would convince us answers. Sort by date Show all posts

What Would Convince Atheists To Become Christians?; The Definitive Answers!

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I've kept track of some atheist answers as to what would convince us to believe. Christians say we refuse to believe due to our unwillingness to repent from immoral behaviors. I suppose ISIS could say the same damned thing while chopping off a head. Now don't get me wrong, I think we can legitimately reject religions based on how they treat living things, especially disenfranchised minorities under their control, like slaves, women, children, gays/lesbians, the poor, the aged and animals to mention a few. That's the main point of my anthology that everyone should read, which also explains why atheists spend so much time and effort debunking religion.

Here is the Christian challenge: "I don't believe that if God appeared to us, atheists would believe. For atheists can always make the case that the appearance of God was a hallucination, or a trick by super-advanced extraterrestrials."

Dr. Victor Reppert Is Our Gullible Person of the Day, Part 2

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These are Vic Reppert's two atheist talking points:
Here is my real point, which I think has gotten lost here.

There are two atheist talking points that don't mix. Here they are:

1) Look, guys, if God would just give us evidence of his existence, we'd believe in him. The only reason we don't believe is because he hasn't provided evidence of his existence.

2) God of the gaps arguments are always wrong. Any gap in our naturalistic understanding of the world should be dealt with by waiting for science to produce a naturalistic explanation, not by appealing to God.

But anything God might do to reveal his existence could be dismissed as a gap, thus leaving the atheist unaffected. The ban on god of the gaps arguments would allow the atheist to escape no matter what God did to convince us of his existence.

Peter Kirk on the Haitian Disaster: Defending the Indefensible

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I'm amused most of the time at what it takes to defend the Christian faith. I am even more amused when a defender of the faith lacks the required thinking skills to do so, like Kirk. Remember, he's the one who assures us that it wasn't God's fault for the Haitian disaster. Nothing personal here, but with critical thinking skills like this no wonder he believes. Let's take a look:

Dr. Victor Reppert Is Our Gullible Person of the Day, Part 3

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This is the final post of three on Victor Reppert, our ignorant gullible person of the day. [See the "Gullible" tag below.] Reppert again, about the gaps to god argument:
Look, when I raise this kind of question, I mean show us by providing evidence. Yes, God could sovereignly perform the act of causing Loftus to believe by going "Loftus, believe," and the next Sunday, Loftus will show up in church on his knees praying to God. But providing evidence is by definition not coercive. Of course God could shove belief in his existence down your throat if he wanted to. But could he give us a good reason to believe in his existence, such that no matter how disinclined we were to want to believe in a being greater than ourselves (so that we would have to admit we were not the supreme beings) whose commandments to us are our moral duties (however much we would like to avoid performing them). Wouldn't there be an escape clause available, no matter what we did?
Reppert says he has reservations about coercive belief, that his god only wants non-coercive belief. For one thing I don't see anyone refusing to believe in Reppert's god because he's bigger than they are. What utter indoctrinated ignorance that is!! Would Reppert say he rejects the existence of Allah due to the fact Allah is bigger than he is? I do however, see a good reason to disbelieve in any god that has commanded and taught the kinds of morality ISIS does, which can also be found in this religion. Any god that allows or commands or regulates slavery, or allows or commands or regulates how that women are to be treated as chattel, is not one I could stomach, much less believe.

Perhaps more to the point of non-coercive belief, if Reppert's god coerced belief in Moses, the Egyptian Pharaoh, Gideon, doubting Thomas, or Paul on the Damascus Road, which the Bible says he did without abrogating their free wills, then he could do it again and again. Surely Reppert knows of Theodore Drange's argument (from memory) that if there are people who want to know the truth it's not coercive to provide them with what they want. I find it extremely difficult to accept the faith-based claim that only a small number of people want to know the truth, such that only evangelicals like Reppert receive the needed evidence to believe.

Here is Andrew Lamprecht's Deconversion Story

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Andrew Lamprecht is a former Christian living in Adrian, Michigan, who is an aspiring author. Enjoy. See if his story resonates with you.

Andy Bratton, a Senior Minister Where I Formerly Served as His Youth Minister, Asks Why We No Longer Believe

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On Facebook I wrote this post:
Andy Bratton is now the Senior Minister of a Church of Christ in Kalkaska, Michigan. I knew him as his Youth Minister of that same church, when his father was the Senior Minister before him. He recently asked something of those of us who now doubt. Help him. Be courteous please, as he's a super great guy!

"So here is an honest question, not for judgment but for research sake. For the atheists or agnostics out there, what exactly is it about Christianity that cause you to reject it as a belief system? Is it personal research? Is it too outlandish to believe? Has the church hurt you in some way? Do you feel that there can't be a God because your life hasn't gone so well? I am simply curious. I am preaching a sermon series right now and it would help to understand. Thanks ahead of time for your answers."
Answers flooded in. Then Andy responded and I took him to task.

Haberdashery

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What do you call Parachuting Attorneys?
Skeet.

On another discussion, I saw a reference to the article by Dr. Montgomery regarding the application of legal principles to the claimed testimony of the authors of the New Testament Books. Mr. Packham has written an ample reply. (Read them if you are aching to read a Christian apologetic that makes reference to books with titles such as Wigmore on Evidence.)

As I was re-reading this article, it struck me that applying our legal system--specifically the American legal system of admitting evidence into the proofs, in order to substantiate the plausibility of the facts within the books of the New Testament does not help their reliability.

I understand the inclination to use the same method we see on TV, with its apparent deeply probing questions, and presentation of countering facts, and clever cross-examination, all with the result of bring forth the truth of what really happened before the credits roll in an hour or so. But the reality is that the way we allow testimony in a trial is not really designed to determine truth of ancient historical facts, nor was the New Testament designed to be 21st Century testimony in a trial.

It is like using a glove for a sock. Technically you probably can, but neither your foot, nor the glove will appreciate the effort.


The Glove

We initially look at the system being used—the American Judicial system.

We recognize that there comes a point of time in which two (or more) people cannot agree as to what happened, who is at fault, and/or how to allocate justice. Society created a system by which it attempted to resolve this problem in a manner that it hopes is the most fair to all involved. Part of that is digging out the most basic question of all—what happened?

First we make the trier-of-fact (either a judge or jury) as neutral to the outcome as possible. We do not allow the jury to get a “split” of any sums it awards. We keep family members and friends from being jurors or judges in cases their loved ones are involved. We attempt to remove (as much as humanly possible) any bias or prejudice from the person who must make the ultimate decision.

We recognize that a friend will have a natural inclination to find in favor of their friend.

Who were the neutral, unbiased individuals monitoring what was placed in the books of the New Testament? At what point did a person neither committed toward Christianity, nor against it, make the decision that a portion of a book, or a story or even a sentence either should or should not be included?

I want to be clear, I am not requiring that such an event should ever have taken place in the creation of the canon. But if we are using the legal system to make this determination, we need to recognize how the system works, including the method it uses to answer the simple question—what happened? And that method involves a decision-making performed by a person uncommitted to whether the events actually occurred or not.

Without that, we are not really using the legal system as an arbiter of the facts. I was surprised to see Dr. Montgomery confuse this fact. In his article he claims the Jewish religious leaders performed the tacit act of cross-examination (more on this later.) But then he states, “Such an audience eminently satisfies Given’s description of ‘both a cross-examiner and a tribunal.’” No, it does not! The cross-examiner is NOT neutral. The cross-examiner and the neutral tribunal, in our system is never the same. (It is possible that Dr. Montgomery was referring to those converted as the “neutral” and the religious leaders as the “cross-examiner” but this is not at all clear.)

Secondly, the practice strives to use only the best evidence available. This is the area of focus of Dr. Montgomery’s article and Mr. Peckham’s response. They discuss concepts such as hearsay, and ancient documents. Very good examples of what I mean by using the best evidence.

We are concerned, due to the fallibility of human memory, when a person testifies about what another person said. “Hearsay,” extremely simply stated, is a witness testifying as to what another person said. It looks like:

Witness: Joe told me—
Counsel: Objection! Hearsay.
Court: Sustained.

If we want to hear what Joe saw, we will bring in Joe to testify. How many times have we had the conversation where we thought someone said something that they claim they never did? I am certain my wife told me she would love for me to buy a big-screen television, yet oddly she makes the claim she never said such a thing!

We are concerned that the witness, even inadvertently, may introduce their own perception and alteration into what Joe said. We know the telephone game. One person whispers a statement to another and it passes around a circle of 20. We then hear how the statement is muddled and mixed up by the end. A picture of hearsay in action.

There are exceptions to the hearsay rule. Boring, everyday statements will slip through. “Joe said, ‘Hi,’” while technically hearsay, it is silly to exclude such trivial testimony. An exception, though, that highlights our concern for the best evidence is called “the Excited Utterance.” It is a statement that a person makes relating to a startling event, while under the excitement of the event, like this:

Witness: Joe staggered into my house, holding his chest with blood spurting between his fingers and exclaimed, “John shot me!”
Counsel: Objection! Hearsay.
Court: No, the exclamation was made during an exciting event, and clearly Joe was still in an excited state. Overruled.

The concept of denying hearsay evidence is the fear of introducing an element of dishonesty. The exceptions allow for situations in which it is hardly likely dishonesty would have a chance to occur. We doubt that Joe would be shot, and take a moment to reflect, “Now, I know I was shot by Sally, but it would be great to pin this on John, so I will rush in and blame it on John.”

We have all seen people’s immediate reactions to startling events. Their first reaction is genuine. There is no time for reflection. That is where the difficulty creeps in.

What if Joe says it the next day at the hospital? Is he still under the shock of the event? What about the next week? The next year. At some point, the court says, “Wait a minute. Joe is no longer in the state of shock.” We begin to question this exception to hearsay (and this is important) when the person has had an opportunity to pause and reflect upon what they would say.

We recognize that the next day, Joe might be more inclined to pin it on Sally, rather than John. Or he may not want to pin it on anyone. That time to pause and reflect causes a greater likelihood of dishonesty to occur. Therefore, we no longer want to hear what a witness says Joe said, we want Joe himself.

Think about the time to pause and reflect (and modify) between the events claimed, and the time it was written down concerning the books of the New Testament! In the article, this time is not even mentioned, but within a trial, it is extremely significant.

Mark: So Peter told me that Jesus said—
Counsel: Objection! Hearsay.
Court: How close to the time of the event did Peter tell you about it?
Mark: Oh, about 10 years.
Court: Sustained.

Worse we have hearsay within hearsay:

Mark: Jesus was baptized—
Counsel: Objection! Where did you learn that information?
Mark: Peter.
Counsel: Was Peter present?
Mark: Oh, no! Peter must have heard it from someone else.
Counsel: It is hearsay for Mark to say what Peter said, and even if it was not, it is hearsay for Peter to say what some unknown person said.
Court: Sustained.

Simply put—we want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. We don’t want testimony of what the witness hears someone else say happened. We want the actual eyewitness.

Bringing us to the Gospel accounts. We immediately see that, even if Christian conservative theological scholars are correct that the Gospel of Mark was information provided by Peter; using American rules of evidence, it is entirely hearsay and must be excluded. (Again, I am not making the argument we should use such rules to determine historicity—it is the Christian legal apologist that claims legal reasoning results in a verdict for the Christian faith.)

The Gospel of Luke must also be deemed inadmissible, as it is hearsay. (Luke 1:2). (Curiously, Dr. Montgomery dismisses Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger as being “secondary at best” yet does not explain why the Gospel of Luke is exempted from such treatment under the same strict application of the law.)

While traditionally, it is claimed that the Gospel of John was written by an eyewitness (the disciple) the book itself makes no such claim. In fact, the only statements would indicate that it was hearsay. (John 19:35; John 21:24)

The Gospel of Matthew likewise makes no claim to be an eyewitness, and Dr. Montgomery fails to even mention the fact that the author relies upon the Gospel of Mark in telling the story. That is hearsay (Matthew saying what Mark said) of hearsay (Mark saying what Peter said) of hearsay (Peter hearing of events such as the Baptism)!

Even if we make the leap, and assume the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, events are recorded that would necessarily come through hearsay evidence. Neither Matthew nor Luke was at the scene with the Magi or the Shepherds. John could not observe Pilate speaking privately to Jesus.

We start to see that using the legal system as our barometer does not help the Christian claim.

We sequester witnesses. This means only one witness can testify at a time and the other witnesses cannot hear what is being said. We want people to testify as to exactly what they remember they saw and not be influenced by other testimony.

Imagine Witness No. 2 who is fairly certain that the blue car went through a yellow light. But as he is sitting in a courtroom, Witness No. 1 states with resounding conviction, “That blue car went through a Red Light. A Red light, I tell you!”

Now Witness 2 begins to question their own memory. Did that light turn red, perhaps? Witness 1 seemed so certain. And it seems as if testifying differently is sorta calling Witness 1 a liar. So instead of Witness 2 testifying, “The blue car went through the yellow light,” they are far more likely to quantify their testimony, “As far as I recall the blue light went through the light as it was yellow, turning red. But it is possible it was already red before it went through.”

No longer are we getting the best eyewitness evidence. Even the witness, being as honest as possible, is starting to filter their own testimony.

Neither article addresses the problem of Witnesses 2 and 3 (Matthew and Luke) clearly being aware of Witness 1 (Mark). Did Matthew believe that the temple cleansing happened at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, but since Mark put it at the end, Matthew did as well? And what about Matthew and Luke modifying what Mark had to say? Are they correcting the other witness’ testimony?

We lose the independent testimony that the judicial system holds in high esteem.

A brief side note on “ancient documents.” At times, on Internet debates, I have seen the statement, “The Bible is accepted as evidence in a court of Law!” That is most likely true. (Although how a fact within the Bible could be relevant to a court case escapes me.)

When talking on this issue, we have to be careful to differentiate between “admitted as evidence” and “accepted as true.” The defendant could testify that they were abducted by aliens on the night of the crime, and therefore could not possibly be guilty. That testimony would be admitted. Simply because the rules of evidence allow it in, does not make aliens a reality!

The rules of evidence provide direction as to what can or cannot be provided to the trier-of-fact. They neither endorse, nor renounce that evidence. As the Bible is more than 20 years old, and of common knowledge, most courts would allow it in evidence if it was relevant in some way.

See, trials are designed to determine what happened in the immediate past. An accused is entitled to a speedy trial, to prevent evidence from deteriorating, or becoming lost. The reason that we allow documents more than 20 years old, is that they would have little bearing on events that occurred last year. We are focused on the immediate past, not ancient history.

In the same way, if relevant, we would allow the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, and the Communist Manifesto. When viewed in that light, is it all that remarkable that some court would mark “Exhibit One” on a Bible?

The third aspect of our glove—the American Judicial system—is that it is adversarial. It is designed and intended to bring out the truth by placing people on polar opposites, and have them argue for their position, and against their opponent.

We expect and pattern the system expecting that a witness will be cross-examined by a skeptic, that evidence will be presented against the other person’s position, that the litigants will provide argument directly contrary to the other’s position in order for the neutral to decide which is more plausible.

Where was the cross-examination of the authors of the New Testament?

Dr. Montgomery appears to recognize the fatal flaw in the application of the judicial system, by the lack of such a cross-examination, acknowledging that they were never literally placed in a witness chair. To avoid this, he asserts there was the “functional equivalent” of cross-examination by virtue of the Jewish religious leaders that would have confronted the Disciples.

Of course the one thing we do not have is a single scrap, or independent verification of any such “cross-examination.” Josephus lists the various sects among the Jews, and seems to be completely unaware of this group known as “Christians.” Pliny the Younger has to torture them to even discover who they are, and what they believe. Tacitus makes a passing mention of them as being scapegoats, but no statements as to the validity of their claims.

Where is this cross-examination? We would need to answer some very key questions, which frankly we have no information on:

1) When, in relation to the events, was the testimony stated?
2) To Whom?
3) Where?
4) Was a person contrary to the position present?
5) Did this person have means, opportunity and motive to respond?

Dr. Montgomery relies upon the Book of Acts to claim that it was within 2 months that the testimony was provided, and then to people who had the opportunity to respond. However, Acts was written long after these events happened. What we really need is a person who was aware as to whether the events of Acts happened at the time the Book was written.

If I write of events that happened in World War II, we need someone both aware of my book AND aware as to the reality of these events. One is not enough.

Where are these “functional equivalent” cross-examiners when Christianity was being spread through Corinth and Ephesus and Rome? Every time a missionary told of Jesus rising from the grave, was there a nearby Jewish leader who was aware of the events in Judea in order to “functionally” cross-examine the missionary?

The forest that is missed for the trees, in this allegation of “functional equivalent” of cross-examination is that trials are closed environments! We carefully limit the evidence provided to the tribunal by giving each side a full opportunity to examine each witness, but that is it. It is not a public forum or a free-for-all or a bar room discussion!

If Paul stood up and eloquently spoke out, stirring the emotions of a crowd, utilizing careful rhetoric, timing, humor and persuasive speech—the crowd is not sitting back saying, “Well, O.K. But let’s hear what he says when the Jewish leaders perform the ‘equivalent’ of cross-examination.”

Which brings us to…

The Foot

Is what the disciples and apostles were claimed to be doing both in spreading the Gospel, and writing the books the same as testimony?

We go to a party, and a friend begins to tell of a fish he caught. While we may suspect it was not quite that big, do we subject them to intensive cross-examination? Of course not! We recognize it for what it is—a fish story.

Or a person making a business presentation. Your child tells you of their day in school. Your teenage daughter tells you that she was out late with her boyfriend because of a flat tire. (O.K. That last one you might want to cross-examine!) Every day we have situations in which people communicate in a fashion that is not designed, nor intended to be testimony in a court.

Assuming the disciples were proclaiming events that happened in the recent past; it is placed in the form of persuasive speech—not testimony of disinterested answers about what one sees. When one agues persuasively, certain facts can be overlooked, inflections and emphasis made on specific events. It is far different than merely recalling facts.

What facts did they use? Jesus stated that those specific people would not receive a sign. (Mark 8:12) Or at best, just the sign of Jonah. (Mt. 12:39; Luke 11:29) Did the apostles refer to Jesus’ miracles? According to a book written many decades after the event, they did! (Acts 2:22) Which is it—was Jesus wrong and signs were received by the people or was the author of Acts wrong and signs were not received by the people? Careful cross-examination would be necessary.

Paul’s letters are replete with discourse over doctrinal issues. While mention is made of a few factual events, most is addressed to concerns regarding spiritual principles. If factual issues, such as the events of Jesus’ miracles, and the statements made by Jesus had already been testified and “cross-examined,” why wouldn’t Paul utilize them in his arguments?

It is as if Paul’s letters are the closing arguments, in which he never uses the testimony of the trial!

Further, assume that these disciples (or their close associates) wrote down the Gospels many years later. Were these intended to be the equivalent of testimony?

We can only speculate the intended audience of the Gospels. Were they documents designed to tell the story to non-believers and explain this phenomena surrounding the person of Jesus? Were they tales written to Christian communities to solidify the oral traditions?

I do not propose within this blog entry to even brush the alternatives that scholars have proposed regarding the writers, intentions or the audiences. However, within each of those possibilities, the type and depth of the quality of “testimony” of the Gospel changes.

For a most simple example—if the Gospels were written to non-believers, the writers would refer to common events in order to “place” or put markers within the story. In essence, give it a time and geography by which the non-believer would be familiar with the setting. However, if the Gospels were written to believers, they may not be as inclined to utilize such markers, as the believers were already convinced of the reality of Jesus. The believer would be far more concerned with what Jesus said and did, than where and when.

A different emphasis would appear, depending on the intended audience. (As we have both items within the Gospels, this is a matter of some dispute.)

Were the authors intending to write a defense of the reality of Jesus, or was the reality presumed? That would reflect different testimony.

Further, as pointed out, the gospels were written decades after the event. The authors may have forgotten, modified, been influenced by other oral traditions, obtained bad information through different witnesses, etc. How much was unintentional? How much was deliberate?

Frankly, to treat the Gospels as testimony is to treat them as static documents, complied at one time, and not provide the depth and interaction that we can now see. They are not simple, “This happened at noon. This happened at one. This happened at two.” There is a great more to them than that.

The Fit

Even with all that, if we apply the Legal system to the testimony of the disciples (with or without “functional equivalent” of cross-examination) it still fails!

We attempt to convince either a singular person (judge), a majority (civil) or a unanimous (criminal) tribunal. Christianity was present to the public at large, and not a singular tribunal.

From the very onset to today, Christianity has failed to convince a majority! It has offered its testimony. It has presented its case. And it has failed to convince its tribunal that the events of the First Century accorded as recorded in the Gospels. Why, in light of that simple fact, would one want to subject the disciple’s claims to our current legal system?

They did not convince a majority of Jews. They did not convince a majority of gentiles. Even taking the unverified claims of the book of Acts, Christianity for all its testimony was only convincing a few.

Now, one can justify that with the allegation that Christianity itself proclaims that only a few would believe. (Matt. 22:14) Find and good--then why use a methodology that requires a majority?

In conclusion, it appeared to me that the claims of the events of the First Century are mistreated in the attempts to use modern legal rules of Evidence in order to substantiate their existence. Honestly, it seems like a standard apologetic in which the claimant attempts to bolster the factual claims by making it look as if such claims were offered in a court today, they would preponderate.

They would not. It is not their fault—neither the system nor the claims themselves were intended to.

Green vs Engwer: Defending Visions

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Green Answers Engwer: The Argument over Visions


On this blog, I have put forth an essay series on the visionary origins of Christianity. I have decided to make it a five-part series, beginning with an essay on visions and four subsequent posts defending objections to my visions. Jason Engwer of Triablouge has seen fit to compose a rebuttal of what I have written on the subject of visions. In what follows will be a point-by-point rebuttal to what Mr. Engwer has written.

My Opening Debate Statement vs Wallace Marshall

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The details of the debate can be seen here on Facebook. Below is my 20 minute opening statement. Enjoy below.

Christianity or Atheism? Which Makes More Sense?

Three Definitive Answers To What It Would Take to Convince Atheists To Believe!

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Here is the Christian challenge: "I don't believe that if God appeared to us, atheists would believe. For atheists can always make the case that the appearance of God was a hallucination, or a trick by super-advanced extraterrestrials."

This bald assertion is akin to a second Christian claim that the reason atheists don't believe is because we are in conscious (or unconscious) rebellion against God, their particular God. Completely oblivious are they of the fact that they aren't in conscious (or unconscious) rebellion against Allah, or the Jewish God Adonai, or any other different God, or god, or goddess, or demon with their different (and bizarre) moral demands. Christians are narrow-atheists with regard to these other gods, so they judge them to be lacking in sufficient evidence just like wide-atheists do who reject them all. Christians themselves would scoff at the notion they are in rebellion against Allah, you see. So Christians who make this second ignorant assertion cannot be taken seriously if they also make the former ignorant one. The ignorance is one and the same.

Skepticism is a virtue anyway. I think intelligent adults should double-check their experiences to see if they comport with reality. Mature adults should question whether an experience that feels like God might be better explained as a hallucination or produced by aliens. What's wrong with doing this? Nothing I can see at all. I wish believers would do that with their own private subjective experiences, just as former believers like myself have done.

When it comes to believing despite the evidence, readers to consider that the reverse is actually the case, from what I've seen. I've seen Christians revise their faith so much in my lifetime, as the evidence shows one doctrine then another incorrect, that they would probably refuse to believe if scientists discovered the elusive Theory of Everything. They would just say God did it. So I think Christians are projecting upon atheists what they themselves would do in light of a massive amount of counter-evidence. They would still believe despite it. In fact, they already do.

Peter Kirk Responds To Assure Us God is Not to Blame for Haiti's Disaster

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I previously wrote: "We atheists do not revel in tragedy. We hate the fact that people suffer in this world as all people do. It's just that in times like these it's good to be an atheist. Earthquakes happen. That's all there is to it. What we revel in are attempts by Christians to justify God's actions. They are pathetic, all of them. And guess what? God isn't to blame for the Haitian disaster! Nope. God is completely good and loving towards us all. His ways are perfect. Atheists like myself and Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins, and Valerie Tarico have had a heyday with Christian responses so far." Link. Peter Kirk showed up in the comments with some answers.

Christian, Tell Us in Advance Which Prayers if Unanswered Would Count Against Your Faith

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I recently pointed out how a high profile prayer on national TV was not answered by God. I claim this as yet another piece of evidence that God doesn't answer prayers even if he exists, which he does not. So along come the Christian wannabe apologists, and guess what, surprise...

My Response to Ed Brayton of Freethought Blogs

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Ed Brayton says he welcomes disagreement. Does he? If we both started driving toward each other we could meet halfway in an hour and a half for a few beers and laughs. We are that close to each other in our views too. We are not world’s apart. I suspect he welcomes disagreement from people he considers his friends. Am I his friend? We shall see. While Ed appreciates my work very much (thanks so much Ed!) he recently answered two questions of mine and offered two basic criticisms of me. Let's start with the questions.

Let's do better

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Simply framing a coherent sentence that provides a possible response to a problem is not enough. We can do better than that. I see a sad tendency (on both sides of the fence, but primarily on the Christian) to “toss out” any conceivable rejoinder to an issue, followed by a sense of satisfaction that the argument was rebutted, succeeded by surprise that the opponent didn’t “bite.”

Frankly, if the Bible is the sole divine revelation, from the sole source of Truth, I am disappointed that Christians would be willing to reduce the standard of its viability down to “any possibility” rather than what is more likely.



I get the chance to see this almost every day. One side of a question will present their evidence, and appear to have a strong position. And then we hear the rest of the story from the opposition, and learn that things are not as clear as originally stated.

But once in a while, it becomes evident that there is no defense to the accusation, and the attorney is simply “grasping at straws.” Claiming anything, saying everything, all in the hopes of somehow stumbling on enough words to convince the judge or jury that, if they talk enough, there must be something worthwhile said which warrants a defense.

Yet in this debate—should that be enough? Any possibility? We never accept that in real life, why would we accept it in what should be the most perfect example of truth available on earth?

Imagine coming home and seeing your son, baseball bat in hand, a broken window, and a ball rolling around the living room floor. An obvious portrayal of the previous moments comes quickly to mind.

Upon being accused, your son assures you that the neighborhood bully, in order to defame your son’s innocence, had just picked up the ball, and thrown it through the window. You barely missed him. Deciding to pursue the matter, you confront the accused’s parents. They assure you that their son had been doing homework at the time, and couldn’t possibly be guilty.

Upon presenting those facts to your son, he claims those parents were lying to protect their son.

On and on you go, and every rabbit trail, every fact dug up, your son has an explanation—a possibility—to interpret away his own guilt. Would you buy it? Would you confidently state, “There is no WAY my son hit that ball through a window, because of the potential that some tortured manufacture of facts could be contrived to demonstrate his innocence”?

Or would you confidently state that there is always the slim chance of his innocence, the far greater likelihood is that he discovered windows make poor outfielders.

The clearest example of this is in the debate on inerrancy. An inerrantist will hold to any possible resolution of any contradiction, as if this would satisfy inerrancy. Resolutions that are bent, twisted and contorted to fit that particular moment, and just as quickly discarded in the next discussion.

Honestly? No body except other inerrantists are buying it. We understand their natural bias to manufacture a resolution. We see it in action by claims of people doing unbelievable things, and allegations of recording history in an unlikely fashion. Inerrantists would never accept these claims in a newspaper, but accept it to keep their Bible error-free. We see the double standard. What is ridiculed in the Qur’an is revered in the Bible. A great example of this is David’s Census.

(To save bandwith, the three accounts of this event are at 2 Samuel 24:1-25, 1 Chronicles 21:1-28 and 1 Chronicles 27:24. Please read at your leisure)

Having read such, I have a few questions. The first few are multiple choice to make it easy. (“A”= 2 Sam., “B”= 1 Chron. 21 and “C”=1 Chron. 27)

1. When did God get angry?
A. Before the census
B. God never gets angry.
C. Because of the census

2. Who incited David to take the Census?
A. God
B. Satan
C. Nobody.

3. What human mandated the census?
A. David
B. David
C. Joab.

4. Who protested against the census?
A. Joab and his captains.
B. Joab.
C. Nobody, Joab just did the census.

5. What was wrong with taking a census?
A. Nothing, God mandated it in Numbers 26:2
B. Nothing, God required it for taxes in Exodus 30:12
C. Nothing, they just did one in the preceding 23 verses!

6. How long did it take to do the census?
A. Nine months, 20 days.
B. Not recorded
C. Didn’t complete the census

7. Who all was counted?
A. All tribes
B. All tribes except Levi and Benjamin
C. Didn’t complete the census.

8. What was the number of the census?
A. 1.3 Million
B. 1.57 Million (with LESS tribes counted!)
C. Number was deliberately not recorded.

9. What stopped the census?
A. Done counting
B. Done counting
C. Wrath of God, census not completed.

10. Who took the blame for doing the census?
A. David
B. David
C. Not recorded, but apparently Joab. (COULDN’T be David. 1 Kings 15:5)

11. What was the first threat of punishment of God?
A. 7 years of famine
B. 3 years of famine
C. No threat, it just came!

12. What is the name of the Jebusite where the angel stopped?
A. Araunah
B. Ornan
C. Umm…What Jebusite? They should all be killed on sight. Deut. 20:17

13. What did the Jebusite do when he saw the Angel of Death?
A. Doesn’t say the Jebusite saw the Angel.
B. Just kept working, just kept working…
C. Excuse me? Jebusite? Didn’t David award Joab his position because he fought and killed the Jebusites? 1 Chron. 11:6

14. What did David buy from the Jebusite?
A. The Threshing floor and the oxen.
B. “the place” (just the floor?)
C. Are you crazy? THERE IS NO @#%%@ JEBUSITE! David would have killed him!

15. How much did David pay the Jebusite?
A. 50 shekels of silver
B. 600 shekels of gold
C. I’m telling you-- There is no Jebusite!

The test you cannot fail—all answers and no answers are correct. REGARDLESS of what you circled, you get 100% right! Depending on which particular passage you read is which answer you will provide.

We are not done. For the Essay portion of our quiz-- In your apologetic, discuss the theological implications of God getting so angry He desires to kill 70,000 people, but His nature of Justice mandates someone has to sin first. Also discuss the punishment of David’s sin being 100,000-200,000 OTHER people have to die. Also discuss Satan’s limitation of “tempting” others unless God allows it. Or (in the alternative) discuss the ramifications of Satan and God working together to allow God to kill 70,000 people for David’s sin.

If, in your apologetic, you claim that God and Satan worked together, discuss other areas in which the two entities worked together, and why each of the authors failed to mention the involvement of the entity’s enemy.

If, in your apologetic, you claim David was prideful and wanted to do the census, please give other examples (with citations) as to David’s pride, and explain why 2 Samuel states God was angry first. You should also address why this sin was not listed in David’s transgressions in 1 Kings.

If, in your apologetic, you claim that David bought more than the house, explain your use of the Hebrew word for “place” and why that entails an entire mountain.

If, in your apologetic, you address the differing numbers of the census, please provide archeological verification that in 1000 B.C. there were more than 50,000 people in the land encompassing Canaan. You should also address the ability of a nation with a possible standing army of at least 1.3 Million, as compared to other nations at that time, and why this military strength is non-existent in archeological records.

You may need to discuss the concept of “rounding” especially in light of all of 1 Chron. 27.

I have raised David’s Census to inerrantists. To give an example of the possibilities proferred, in an attempt to maintain inerrancy:

Israel’s sin angered God enough for Him to release Satanic temptation on David.

A unique resolution of this predicament. Note the precipitating cause: God getting Angry. In every other situation (that I am aware) if God is angry at Israel he sent an army to invade, pestilence, famine, floods, a whole variety of items with which to punish them. Why go through the charade of releasing Satan to make David sin, so God can punish Israel? Quite an indirect route for what should have been a simple 1-2 step. Israel Sins, God sends punishment.

This also creates the conflict in David taking responsibility for the sin of the census.

Is Satan beholden to God, in that he cannot act without God allowing it? Why did Satan want David to sin? Again, remember the precipitating cause, God’s anger. We assume Satan is this no-good, mean, rotten entity that wants everyone to sin at every chance. We forget the painted picture of a clever entity. If God was prohibiting Satan from tempting David, then got Angry, and then allowed Satan to tempt David, is it not likely Satan would have wondered why? And perhaps declined. Let God do his own dirty work.

And again, why the charade? If God could incite David to sin by himself (as 2 Sam. states) and God desired it, why involve Satan at all? If David wanted to do it himself (for pride) why was God angry FIRST and why not let David just do it.

The only apologetic that seems to work is to have God and Satan BOTH desiring David to sin. And this makes God and Satan having a mutual goal. Can we identify other mutual goals of God/Satan?

Obviously God incited David, but not directly. Satan was God’s instrument in this case. He has always used Satan this way. Satan is always pressuring/petitioning God for authorizations to both tempt and destroy mankind

Again, the problem that this was not Satan asking God to do it, but God wanting it done since he was angry. Further, the word used for incite, “cuwth” is the same word used when God did it in 2 Sam. As when Satan did it in 1 Chron. Most apologists say that God’s involvement was indirect, but Satan’s involvement was direct. The problem is that it is the same word. Are we re-defining the word because it warrants re-definition, or are we re-defining the word because we need to resolve a conflict? I go for the simpler explanation – cuwth means the same when it is used in the same situation with the same types of entities.

David delegated the task to Joab, so both were involved.

O.K., but why would the Author of 1 Chron. 27 leave out the important figure here, the King? ESPECIALLY in light of the fact that Joab protested the Census? Even more importantly, when (if it was the same author) 6 Chapters earlier he was more than happy to lay the blame on David and absolve Joab?

Where I do not buy this apologetic, is the claim that this is inspired Scripture. Between human authors, it seems feasible to have missed out important figures, like God, Satan and David. But if God had his hand in it, why are these most important facts missing?

And while we are on that, let’s talk about 2 Samuel missing Satan, and 1 Chronicles missing God in the story. Most apologists say that BOTH were involved, and this is not necessarily contradictory, as 2 Samuel just failed to mention Satan and 1 Chronicles failed to mention God. Can I say, “Huh?”

First (in explaining away “incite”) we have Satan chomping at the bit to get David to sin. But 2 Samuel fails to mention that important fact. Then we have God getting angry and “releasing” Satan. But 1 Chronicles 21 fails to mention that fact. So we say “incite” means two different things. (1 Chronicles 27 fails to mention EITHER of them!)

Now that we have demonstrated how diametrically opposed Satan and God are, we then claim that the authors failed to mention the involvement of these two enemies!

Facts that apologists feel are important to align the passages, the authors did not!

Look at this analogy. (I know it is not perfect. It is designed to point out that leaving out important details is unacceptable.)

Imagine this week you read in Newsweek that Pres. Bush ordered a sniper to kill Tony Blair. You then pick up Time which says Osama bin Laden ordered a sniper to kill Tony Blair. US News & World Report simply says a sniper killed Tony Blair. Would you look at those three reports and think, “Oh, these are complimentary. Clearly Bush had Osama in his control and then allowed bin Laden to hire a sniper”?

OR would you more likely determine that somebody screwed up in the News department in each of these magazines? I find it fascinating that apologists hold the inspired word of God to a lesser standard than they do to a Newspaper or a Magazine. What one would NEVER accept in a news agency, one GLADLY accepts in the Bible. I would think the word of God could be held to a greater standard and still sustain the test. Apparently not.

David’s sin was to disobey God’s voice speaking through his conscience.

Where does it state that God was speaking to David through his conscience? The point is that NOWHERE does it state that taking a census is wrong. Since census taking was not only performed before, but ORDERED by Mosaic Law (for taxes) if it is considered a grave sin in this situation, don’t you think it would be important to point out why? More on how grave of a sin later.

The number “7” (or the number “3”) is reputed to be a copyist error.

Oh, good. A copyist error. Then can anyone show me the copies that had a “3” rather than a “7?” What? There AREN’T ANY? Then how can I possibly say this is a “copyist” error? And which one (2 Sam. Or 1 Chron.) was the “copyist error?” I wonder if apologists ever get tired of trying to explain these situations for God.

Question: How many OTHER copyist errors are in the bible? Apparently there is at least one. (This one.) Since all the copies say “7,” than we can have other portions of the Bible that all the copies say the same thing, yet be a copyist error, right? Since we can’t tell? If this is a copyist error, and I claim that John 3:16 is a copyist error, how can you possibly argue against it?

There seems to have been two different numeric formats involved here, one of them rounding off numbers.

How can I tell the difference between a “rounding” and a copyist error, by the by? The rounding just does not fly. This was a CENSUS. This was not estimation. This was not a guess. This was not an approximation. Joab spent the most part of a year, going through all the land, and he comes back to his King with a “round” number?

And how can we “round” these numbers to get to these two figures (1.3 Million vs 1.57 Million)? Look:

2 Sam. 1 Chron.
Israel – 800,000 1.1 Million
Judah – 470,000 500,000

I get how 1 Chron. Would round up 470,000 to 500,000. (Again, as to the why is questionable) But how can the same “rounding” author round 800,000 to 1.1 Million? That doesn’t make any sense MAYBE if he had rounded to 1 Million, I could see it (although that is a factor of 20%, which would be significant.) But no.

Further, one should address the capabilities of a nation in 1000 BC with a possible army of 1.3 Million men. To say they would be a world-power is underestimating the capabilities.

Worse, if you are claiming consistency with 1 Chron 27, then there were MORE than 1.57 (or 1.3, I can’t tell which) Million men in this possibly army.

They would have decimated any army that came against them. Yet there are NO archeological remnants of such a world-power. Odd.

The Jebusite had a name in each language. Conversion to Judaism was possible. That’s probably why this Jebusite had both a Hebrew name and a Jebusite name.

Bit of circular reasoning here. We know he converted to Judaism because he had two names. He had two names because he converted to Judaism. What other converts from condemned nations had two names?

First of all, God ordered the elimination (Joshua NIV uses the word “extermination”) of the Jebusites. David was FIGHTING the Jebusites. (And apparently not winning with a 1.57 Million army!) Deut. 20:17 does not allow the possibility of “conversion.”

Let’s talk about our Jebusite. Many apologists gloss over this name variation, as little import. But is it?

This Jebusite was allowed to live. This makes him singular, if not unique. He owned land near the principal city, good real estate. He was loyal to King David. As pointed out, he could see angels. He owned land worth 600 shekels of gold (according to the apologetic) which some apologists claim would be the size of a mountain. This was one significant Jebusite! In fact, Solomon’s temple was eventually built on his land (according to some apologists). We do know how significant Solomon’s temple was.

Yet they couldn’t get this guy’s Name straight?

Part of my problem with the apologetic of this entire passage, is what is important to resolve a contradiction in one verse is immediately disregarded and contradicted to resolve a contradiction in the next verse. How can this guy be so important, on one hand, yet get his name wrong on the next?

This verse is a copyist error. The next is NOT a copyist error, but a “rounding.”

Why, oh why do Christians (and I was as to blame) hold the bible to such a slight standard? A standard we would not accept in a third-grader’s homework?

The Bathsheba-Uriah ordeal was David’s only major sin. Why wasn’t the census a major sin? Because God was primarily angry at Israel, not at David, who sinned principally because Satan put extra pressure on him.

Again, if God was mad, why involve Satan-->David-->Joab?

Who said Uriah was David’s only major sin? (1 Kings only mentions Uriah, not Bathsheba.) In fact, if one measures sin by the punishment, this sin was far, far worse. The Third worst individual sin ever recorded. And somehow the author of 1 Kings missed it. Wonder how.

According to the punishment due on Uriah, there should have been 2 deaths (David and Bathsheba) at the most. According to the punishment on the Census, there should have been 100,000-200,000 deaths! While 1 Kings may have downplayed the census, it is truly bizarre to have missed it.

He paid 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor and oxen, and then six hundred shekels of gold for the entire land.

Again, the facts that one author missed, but the other caught seem completely out of place. Imagine your spouse comes home and says that they bought a radio. Would you think it significant that they missed the fact the radio is in a new car?

As I stated, according to some, 600 shekels of gold would be the equivalent of buying a mountain! The very mountain of the Great Temple! 2 Sam. and 1 Chron. 27 Missed that? The purchase of the land for the Temple? The precipitating cause for where the Temple was to exist?

Now, I propose the following resolution for David’s Census:

There was a legend about a census during Kind David’s reign that resulted in a punishment on the people. At various times, and various places the legend modified, based upon who was telling it. Three different authors wrote it down. Being human, and hearing the legends from humans, they wrote different accounts.

Which is more likely? Human error on these accounts, or a tortured, twisted explanation that bends and turns according to the necessity of that exact clause at that exact moment, which, not surprisingly, happens to coincide with the bias of the person making the proposal.

If it weren’t in the Bible, every person would agree it was “human error” every time. That is why simply coughing out some words that would align one part of one clause of one story, while disregarding the more likely probability of human error is not persuasive.

William Lane Craig is an Epistemological Solipsist, Revisited

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Dr. Craig responds to similar questions I've raised about his claim that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit "trumps all other evidence" in his recent Q & A. Remember, I had claimed he was an Epistemological Solipsist and as such, similar arguments against both viewpoints apply. I made my argument here. Let me further comment on what he just wrote...

Dr. Craig wrote:
...most of our beliefs cannot be evidentially justified. Take, for example, the belief that the world was not created five minutes ago with built-in memory traces, food in our stomachs from meals we never really ate, and other appearances of age. Or the belief that the external world around us is real rather than a computer-generated virtual reality. Anyone who has seen a film like The Matrix realizes that the person living in such a virtual reality has no evidence that he is not in such an illusory world. But surely we're rational in believing that the world around us is real and has existed longer than five minutes, even though we have no evidence for this.
I find these examples to be strange ones, very strange. So let’s see if I can put this into perspective. He's arguing that since it’s rational to believe we’re not in The Matrix or that we have not been created five minutes ago, it’s also rational to believe in God without evidence. Is there truly no evidence against our beliefs that we were not created five minutes ago or that we're not living in The Matrix? These examples are bandied about among philosophers as if they are self-evident, including the evil demon and dream conjectures of Rene Descartes. We are told there is no evidence for what we believe about such things AND we are told by Reformed Epistemologists like Plantinga and Craig that these examples parallel their belief in the “great truths of the gospel.” Let’s look at these things in turn.

First, I think there is evidence to suggest we were not created five minutes ago, depending on what we mean by evidence. Evidence in its broadest conception includes anything and everything used to demonstrate the truth of a claim, which includes our arguments based on the things we’ve experienced. What we believe will be based on the probability of the evidence, all of it, as broadly defined. As such, I think there is evidence against the existence of a creator God. The arguments for the existence of God are not persuasive. I do not think such a God could create the first moment in time if he is somehow “outside of time.” And I do not think a spiritual Supreme Being could create a material world. Even if a creator God exists I find no evidence that he would create us into such a massively deceptive world five minutes ago anyway. Therefore there is evidence against our having been created five minutes ago. Now, could it be possible that we were created five minutes ago? Maybe. But if so, this is an very very slim possibility given the evidence.

The demon hypothesis of Rene Descartes, in which there might be a demon who is deceiving me right now, fails because of the same evidence just mentioned above with regard to God creating us five minutes ago. Descartes uses his extreme method of hypothetical doubt like a massive sword. The mere possibility that there is such a demon was enough to cast doubt on his knowledge about the external world. But why must we base what we believe or don’t believe on a mere possibility?

When it comes to the question of whether I’m dreaming right now a good case has been made by Norman Malcom [in his book Dreaming and Skepticism], and Bernard Williams [in his book Descartes], that there is a difference between dreams and our waking experience. The fact that we can distinguish between them presupposes we are aware of them both and of their differences. It’s only from the perspective of being awake that we can explain our dreams. Hence we can only make sense of this distinction if we are sometimes awake. And since this is the case, all of our experiences throughout our entire lives cannot be made up merely of a sequence of dreams.

What about the world depicted in The Matrix film? There are several responses to such a radical scenario which would upstage most every belief we have about our existence in this world. Such a scenario is a mere possibility, if it is possible at all, and a very unlikely one at that. I’d have to refresh myself on the story line but the story is just implausible. I see no reason why there would be any human resistance or knowledge of the Matrix at all by people living in the Matrix, since it determines all of their experiences…all of them. I also see no reason why a pill or a decision by Neo could make any difference at all while inside the Matrix. Apart from the story line itself I see no reason for the Matrix in the first place, and I see no reason why our bodies are better at fueling it than other sources. I’d have to watch the movie again to say more about it.

As David Mitsuo Nixon argued, “The proper response to someone’s telling me that my belief could be false is, “So what?” It’s not possibility that matters, it’s probability, So until you give me a good reason to think that my belief is not just possibly true, but probably false, I’m not changing anything about what I believe or what I think I know.” [“The Matrix Possibility” in The Matrix and Philosophy, ed. William Irwin (p. 30)]

So even if the Matrix is a possibility, it’s an extremely unlikely one. To overturn nearly everything we believe in order to believe it would be to go against the overwhelming evidence (as defined above) about that which we claim to know. In fact, it would be self-defeating to believe it, for if we did come to believe in the Matrix then how do we know that THAT world isn't just another kind of Matrix? That is, if the belief in the Matrix leads us to distrust most everything we experience, then what reason would Neo have for trusting the experiences he had while supposedly outside the Matrix in the so-called “real world?” When it comes to Neo knowing the real world in distinction from the Matrix he has been given no reason to think one world is real and the other is illusionary. The red pill could have been nothing more than a hallucinogenic drug, for instance. So Neo would have no basis for trusting those experiences supposedly outside the Matrix in the real world, and as such he would end up as an “epistemological solipsist,” not having any reason for trusting there is a world outside his mind, something I accuse William Lane Craig of being.

Here’s what Professor Craig additionally said…
Plantinga does not to my knowledge clearly commit himself to the view that the witness of the Holy Spirit is an intrinsic defeater-defeater. Such a thesis is independent of the model as presented. But I have argued that the witness of the Spirit is, indeed, an intrinsic defeater of any defeaters brought against it.
It is in this sense that I argue Craig is an epistemological solipsist. He claims that no other evidence can convince him or any other believer that they are wrong…none...apart from this so-called inner witness of the Holy Spirit, which always serves as an intrinsic defeater-defeater to this evidence.

Craig also wrote…
Many of the things we know are not based on evidence. So why must belief in God be so based? Belief in God and the great truths of the Gospel is not a blind exercise of faith, a groundless leap in the dark. Rather, as Plantinga emphasizes, Christian belief is part of the deliverances of reason, grounded in the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, which is an objective reality mediated to me from God.
Notice the impossibly huge leap Craig makes here. From the fact that we cannot be absolutely certain

(a) that we were not created five minutes ago, or

(b) that we are not living in a Matrix,

Craig claims,

(c) we can know with some real assurance that the Christian God exists and that the gospel is true.

I think a proper conclusion from what he’s argued can only lead him to conclude that since it’s possible that (a) and (b) obtains, it’s therefore possible that (c) obtains. But this is extremely problematic. As I’ve argued in my book, Christians repeatedly retreat to the position that what they believe is “possible,” or “not impossible,” rather than what is probable. When they do this they are admitting the evidence is not on their side. They’re trying to explain the evidence away. Just because all of these things are possible he cannot conclude that what he believes is probable. A possibility is not a probability. How he slips in a probability because of a possibility is beyond me. The inference does not follow. It's a huge non-sequitur.

Just look at the analogous belief he thinks he has assurance about. In my debate challenge I asked what a potenital Christian opponent would like to defend. Here is what Craig must be assured of, depending on how he answers each question:
Would you like to defend the existence of the social Trinitarian God (versus an anti-social Trinitarian God) of the Bible (which had a long process of formation and of borrowing material from others) who never began to exist and will never cease to exist (even though everything we experience has a beginning and an end), who never learned any new truths, who does not think (for thinking demands weighing temporal alternatives), who is not free with respect to deciding his own nature, who revealed himself through a poor medium (history) in a poor era (ancient times), who condemns all of humanity for the sins of the first human pair, who commanded genocide, who allows intense suffering in this world (yet does not follow the same moral code he commands believers to follow), whose Son (the 2nd person of the trinity) became incarnate in Jesus (even though no one has ever made sense of a person who is 100% man and 100% divine) to be punished for our sins (even though there is no correlation between punishment and forgiveness) who subsequently bodily arose from the dead (even though the believer in miracles has an almost impossible double-burden of proof here) and now lives embodied forever in a “spiritual” human body to return in the future, who will return to earth in the parousia (even though the NT is clear that the end of all kingdoms and the establishment of God's kingdom was to be in their generation), who sent the 3rd person of the trinity to lead his followers into "all truth" (yet fails in every generation to do this), who will also judge us based upon what conclusions we reach about the existence of this God and what he has done (paralleling the ancient barbaric thought police), and who will reward believers by taking away their freedom and punish the dammed by letting them retain their freedom?

Interesting hypothesis, if so. This is such a large claim. The larger the claim is, the harder it is to defend it.
In my book I marshal a great amount of evidence against that which Craig believes. I think I have more than adequately debunked any claim he has to believe AND ALONG WITH IT any degree of assurance that he has an inner witness of the Holy Spirit. What will he do with that evidence? Argue against it, of course. But what if he cannot argue against me on any issue that undermines a key belief of his? Will he continue to believe against it, despite the evidence? He claims he can and he will continue to believe. I think he should follow the evidence by rejecting his so-called inner witness of the Spirit.

Lastly Craig does say something about the evidence, when he writes:
What is true is that evidence, as it is defined in these discussions, plays a secondary role compared to the role God Himself plays in warranting Christian belief. Should we, then, ignore strong evidence if it shows that our faith is probably false? Of course not! My work as a philosopher exemplifies the effort to confront objections to Christian belief squarely and to answer them. But most Christians in the world don't have that luxury. For them they may have to hold to their Christian belief even though they lack an answer to the alleged defeater. What I insist on is that, given the witness of the Holy Spirit within them, they are entirely rational in so doing.
In essence what Dr. Craig is saying is that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit gives him all the evidence anyone needs to believe, even if he cannot show this evidence leads to God, and as I argued earlier, even if he cannot sufficiently defend the whole concept of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit (which I find extremely puzzling, but this follows from what he says, because this so-called inner witness trumps even his own attempts to argue sufficiently on its behalf). So, does Craig ignore the other evidence? No. But this other evidence is "secondary." He believes that the other secondary evidence confirms what he already knows to be true by the primary evidence of this so-called inner witness of the Holy Spirit. When it comes to this other evidence, believers do not need it to believe, period, even if this other evidence does not support the Christian witness of the Spirit. No Christian needs supporting evidence to believe, not him…not anyone. That’s his position and why I claim again he’s an epistemological solipsist.

Reason/Rationality In Religious Belief vs. Everywhere Else

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Background
I've been an faithful, fully-believing, daily-praying, personal-relationship-having Catholic for about 7 years. This past Christmas, out of the blue, I wondered if anyone wrote about Jesus other than the gospels. Doing what I always do, I googled it. I was not happy. I don't want to get into this, but suffice it to say that even if there are some who mention Jesus by name and refer to followers who thought reported to have seen him after death, I was still left with an immense chasm. The gospels told me about a verbally prolific man who traveled the country side for 1-3 years, healed sickness/blindness/demonic possessions, that news spread of him throughout the land, and that in the end he caused a heck of a commotion and died on a cross. On the other hand, I have reports of a man named Jesus and verification that he had posthumous followers. No reference to any miracles, confirmation of his brilliantly wisdom-filled parables and teachings or other facts about his life? It was enough to plant significant seeds of doubt.

Uncle Noah And His Magic Boat,

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Guest post by Matt Hensley:
I am fascinated at the things people are willing to believe. Not the crazy, end of the world sign holding type person, or the I was abducted and anally molested by space aliens type person, but by your average, walking down the street living in the suburbs perfectly ordinary in every way individual. Ask an average person if they believe in Bigfoot. Or the Loch Ness Monster. Most people don’t. They have a hard time believing that these things exist, because of the lack of evidence. People are pretty sure that if a colony of giant hairy men and women (other than hippies or bears) were living in the forests of northern California, we would have found them by now. If a giant fish monster were really living in a lake, someone would have caught one. People like proof. We like explanations that make sense. We prefer to know that things are real before we believe them, because they add stability to our lives. We don’t like the thought of unknown elements, possibly dangerous, running amok in our world, because we like stability and normalcy. But ask that same person, your banker or lawyer, for example, if they believe in god and the bible, the answer is usually yes.

My Interview of Professor Keith Parsons About The Philosophy of Religion

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Dr. Keith M. Parsons is on the faculty of The University of Houston--Clear Lake, where he is Associate Professor of Philosophy. He has written a number of books and essays and was the founding editor of the philosophical journal Philo. He also did very well in two debates against William Lane Craig. Keith has honored me with the opportunity to interview him on the philosophy of religion, a topic I'll be writing about in a book titled, Unapologetic: Why the Philosophy of Religion Must End. What prompted this interview was that I noticed he was teaching a Philosophy of Religion (PoR) class after saying he wouldn't teach these classes any longer, or so it appeared seen here. I want to let him clear the air in case he changed his mind (his prerogative if he so chooses), or correct any misunderstandings readers might have. Going beyond this I want to get his present perspectives on the PoR discipline.
The following interview took place as I asked Keith a question via email, to which he responded as his time allowed. Then I would ask him another one, and so on. This was not debate, because I was restricted to asking questions. Even though I threw a few hardball's it wouldn't be fair to characterize this as anything more than a discussion. I interviewed him for the purposes of learning his views more or less, and that's it.

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John: The first question I must ask is why are you teaching a PoR class? Is it just one class, or are there others? Didn't you say you would no longer do so?

I'm less than convinced

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My line of work affords me the opportunity to convince a variety of people to do various actions. I am acutely aware of motivating factors, and how they impact situations. We realize that we must interact with these motivations, because ignoring them will only bring doom.

It is fascinating to me, communicating with so many different people on so many different levels, as to what one person finds extremely significant, another finds completely irrelevant.

As deconversion stories abound, we see people, due to the variety available in humanity, question their long-held belief for various reasons. This should not surprise us, given the make-up of humanity.

I find it even more intriguing how others will criticize the deconvert for doing it “incorrectly.” As if there is only one proper way in which one can deconvert!

So what is that proper way? What steps must I follow to deconvert? Why is it that the way in which you are convinced; I must be convinced?


This is a deviation from my normal blog entry. No Bible verses. Only little cry for methodology. No hermeneutics. Never fear—I will be back in full form and function.

As I said, I am actively involved in convincing other people.

I convince clients. Perhaps they want to pursue a course of action that is not beneficial to their case. Perhaps they do not fully understand the implication or costs involved in a certain action. Perhaps they believe the practice of law is similar to what is on TV.

And in our discussion, we talk about motives. One of the first questions asked in a new divorce matter is whether there is a new love interest on the part of a spouse. Such a factor will have a huge motivating force. (Those with love interests tend to want to resolve the divorce quickly, even to the point of financial detriment.) Mothers tend to be motivated by maternal instincts; Fathers by finance. The most common tactic in the book is the man fighting for custody to scare the mother, and the female fighting for higher child support to scare the father.

I have seen clients motivated by greed, jealousy, revenge, money, principle, fear, anger, business direction, spouses, friends, parents, children and just about every facet in-between. And each must be deal with at their motivating factor. If a person is motivated by principle, there is no sense convincing them of the unnecessary cost of a matter.

I convince judges. Here’s a great feeling—going into court prepared to the hilt to argue a legal issue. And hear the Judge say, “I don’t find that very important. What I would like to see is some argument on this other legal issue.” One that frankly my position is not nearly as strong. What can I do? Argue with the judge as to what is more important? Or convince him that I will prevail on both the weaker issue, and then attempt to persuade him that the legal issue I originally wanted to argue is clearly the crux of the matter.

And each judge is different. Some follow the letter of the law, some the spirit. Some want the case to go away, regardless of how it is done. Some favor oral argument, some despise it. As we practice, we learn what the judge desires, and what persuades him or her.

I convince jurors. At times, the most difficult of all. We are presented with a mixed cross-section of the community, and are given only a morning to question them. Within that morning, we attempt to learn what they will find important, and what they will ignore. Then, with that little information, we spend the next few days using that data in the hopes to gain or prevent millions of dollars, or decades in prison.

Talking to jurors after a trial is always enlightening. Very often they will say, “You spent way too much time on this point” or “We were surprised you did not talk about this point.”

We think to ourselves, “I have been a trial lawyer for 15 years. My opponent has as well. We have each done 100’s of trials. The Judge has seen 100’s more. Clearly we thought these points were important, or those were not based upon our experience. Had we anticipated the jury would think completely differently, obviously we would have focused our attention otherwise.”

See, at that moment, with those few people, what all our experience(s) informed us was meaningless. To them certain items were persuasive and others were irrelevant. Because each jury has a different make-up; a different motivation.

If each of us look in our lives, we use different methods, different words to persuade different people—based upon our relationship, or their personality, or what they are interested in at that moment.

Why should deconversion be any different?

I read deconversion stories. I read them as a Christian (upon learning such a thing existed!) wondering what would make a person want to stop believing in something as obvious as a God. I read them while deconverting, to attempt to understand what I was going through, what to expect and what to avoid. I read them now because I find the story of the human race continues to enthrall me.

One concept that sticks out, almost universally, is the desire to investigate alternative forms of information. Either we were always reading Christian books, and discovered scholars in fields other than our particular form of Christianity, or creationists discovering scientific fields or historians reading secular history. Does this always lead to deconversion? Of course not! But I cannot think of a single deconvert that does not mention graduated levels of study of a broader spectrum during the process.

But what led a person to investigate originally? Perhaps for some, it was an incident or a tragedy that made them begin to question how God works. Or, for others, a personal struggle that brought them to the point of looking for answers. Perhaps a purely academic endeavor or an interest in debating the topic.

In every other aspect of our lives, humanity’s motivations are too varied to contain in a limited number of boxes—so, too, with deconversion.

Which brings me to the odd question: What makes a deconversion legitimate? Is a deconvert more justified in her action because she decided to engage in a study of the origin of Christianity, as compared to a homosexual that decided to investigate why God made him that way? Or is a scientist that discovers the viability of evolution a more suitable deconvert than a questioning parent who loses a child to disease?

There are two items that strike me as particularly humorous in this regard. First, for a religion that prides itself on faith, it certainly has a fascination and worshipful awe for intellectualism. “Thinking” one’s way out of Christianity is demanded, but “believing” one’s way into it is required. Second, since all deconverts have an equal degree of heathenicity, does it really matter by what method we started or traveled this path? “You were never saved in the first place” is equally tattooed to the homosexual deconvert, the scholarly deconvert, the scientific deconvert, or the {fill in the blank} convert.

So…you tell me. What is the “proper” way in which one becomes a deconvert?

What is disappointing about this discussion is how small the Christian God becomes. Even as humans we figured out that people are different. That their needs, wants and desires are different. Consequently, and certainly not surprisingly, what persuades them is different. To some, a series of books that is complied over the course of few centuries which contain amazing stories is enough. For others, in observing the world about them, they need more.

We are often told “Who are you to ask ‘Why?’ of God?” (“Often.” Heh heh. There’s an understatement!) Who am I? I am a person with different motives than you. I am a person that cannot sleep with “ultimate purpose” as a response to the Problem of Evil. I am a person that is not convinced a series of books with possible, not plausible, resolutions to contradictions qualifies as spectacular. I, like numerous other humans, am looking for more evidence that convinces me.

You, as a human, can figure it out. If you were selling me a car, or trying to date me, or persuade me to not see a Movie, you would understand that you must first learn what motives me. What persuades me. What is convincing to me. And your God cannot figure that out?

So many times we are told, “THIS is what God claims must convince you. THIS is what is persuasive.” And yet it turns out the “THIS” is exactly what persuades the person making the claim. Can’t God do better? Can’t God actually persuade someone else with evidence that convinces them and does NOT convince you?

Because we see that happen in life all the time.

If my deconversion does not meet your standard, if it was deficient and ineffective in some way, please; I ask you. Provide me with the “proper” way in which one can be a legitimate deconvert.

In Defense of William Lane Craig

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What follows is my four part defense of Bill Craig placed into one long post. I thought I'd put together all of the relevant posts and comments for further reference.