Monthly Archives: March 2010

Why They Left the Faith, part II

John W. Loftus recently made a post detailing why he and the Debunking Christianity staff left the Christian faith. I posted brief answers to the dilemmas that Loftus touched on here. At the end of the post, Loftus invites more deconversion stories in the comments. I thought I’d look at some selected deconversion stories. Starting with Lee, who said:

I left because I could no longer believe the old testament “laws” actually came from God . . . they’re too primitive, too unjust, too much like witch-doctoring. And my realization came when I was doing my regular “read through the Bible” routine. “Wait a minute–I don’t believe this–this can’t be true . . .” and then the whole house of cards came tumbling down.

Starting off with argument from outrage. By what standard are OT laws “too primitive, too unjust, too much like witch-doctoring”? By modern standards. That means the underlying assumption here is that our society is right, and their society is wrong. Reading between the lines, Lee seems to be saying that they would have been better off if they were more modern–like us. This is known as cultural imperialism.

To understand the OT laws fully, we need to understand the context of the society in which they were written. Compared to other ANE cultures, the OT laws were head-and-shoulders above what the rest of Canaan was practicing. If you were a citizen of the Palestinian region in the time of Mosaic law, you wanted to be an Israelite.

Paul Copan has a great article answering this objection here. Read the rest of this entry

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Media Sensationalism and the New Pedophile Priest Scandals

Maureen Dowd wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times about the Catholic pedophile priest scandals that seem to be a dime a dozen now. This piece first came to my attention via Atheist Revolution, writing:

A priest molested 200 deaf boys and was ignored by Ratzinger. 200 deaf boys. Just when I think this sick enterprise cannot possibly get any worse, we learn not only that this happened but that the victims have spent 30 years of their lives trying to get the church to pay attention to them!

Then Cardinal Ratzinger was informed about this abuse and chose to look the other way. How can anyone reconcile this with the whole infallibility thing?

Regular readers know that I’m not apt to defend the Catholic Church. I am deeply sickened by moving priests who molest little boys from diocese to diocese, hoping no one will actually catch on. I’m sympathetic to the missions of SNAP and BishopAccountability.org. I think that something needs to change.

That said, I also believe in correctly representing those that you criticize. Dowd isn’t doing that at all. Neither is Vjack.

But should it surprise me? Nope. I’ve proven Vjack wrong before, and he keeps repeating the same mistakes. I’m thinking that he’s not going to take the correction here, either.

With regards to “the whole infallibility thing,” papal infallibility should be properly defined.

Papal infallibility is the dogma in Roman Catholic theology that, by action of the Holy Spirit, the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error when he solemnly declares or promulgates to the universal Church a dogmatic teaching on faith or morals as being contained in divine revelation, or at least being intimately connected to divine revelation.

And it goes on:

This dogma, however, does not state either that the Pope cannot sin in his own personal life or that he is necessarily free of error, even when speaking in his official capacity, outside the specific contexts in which the dogma applies.

Not to mention that the actions which Vjack wishes to contrast with papal infallibility occured when Benedict was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, before he was Pope. This is not a valid comparison. Even so, no one has ever claimed that the Pope is free of sin, only that he cannot teach error (though I should remind everyone that I disagree with that position vehemently).

But, Catholic theology aside, what about the fact that the future Pope looked the other way when faced with this case? Thing is, he probably didn’t. This is being misrepresented by the media. Grossly. Jimmy Akin has analyzed the available documents and presents a more accurate version of events here.

Again, I’m no fan of the Catholic Church. It seems to me that some of the criticisms in the Father Murphy case are unwarranted. But, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this man did molest boys by his own admission. He still deserved more punishment than just being moved to another diocese, though since he had to live with his mother some may argue that may have been punishment enough.

Both the civil authorities and the Catholic Church are to blame here. The police knew about the case and had investigated, but nothing ever came of it. And the Church should have done much more than just move Murphy to another diocese and call it a day.

Was it really necessary to open a trial with the purpose of defrocking an ill and frail old man who is a threat to no one some 30 years after the offenses took place? If civil authorites built a case against a murderer who had killed someone 30 years ago and recently suffered a second stroke leaving him in poor health, no one would bat an eyelash if the authorities elected to not prosecute the offender. Why is this different? (I’m really looking forward to your answers.)

Summary View of Why They Left the Faith

John W. Loftus from Debunking Christianity made a post summarizing why he and other members of the DC team left the flock. Most of these are fairly typical objections to Christianity.

  • Loftus left because he couldn’t reconcile the Genesis creation account with the scientific knowledge.
  • Robert Price left because of New Testament textual criticism.
  • Exapologist left because of the failed prediction that Jesus would return to the generation to which he spoke.
  • Ken Pulliam left because there is no cogent explanation for the Atonement.
  • William Dever left because of biblical archeology.
  • Bart Ehrman left because of the problem of evil.

The trick is that none of these alleged problems are irreconcilable. Read the rest of this entry

James Hartline Nails It!

I follow James Hartline on Facebook. I’m not necessarily proud of that fact. I could cite numerous problems that I have with the man just from his status updates. But, every once in a while, he posts something that is dead-on. Here is his most recent status update (posted 3/24/10 at approximately 9:30pm EDT):

Jesus already built the kingdom. What He now requires is obedient servants to live in it. The Father in Heaven did not send His only son to become a bloody offering upon the cross so that human beings could claim heavenly benefits while wallowing in demonic rebellion.

Unfortunately, it is often the practice of the so-called “popular” preachers to claim that God wants to help us live better lives (yes, this is a direct reference to Joel Osteen), or that God wants to make known our purpose within the framework of his plan (yes, that’s a direct reference to Rick Warren). But that isn’t necessarily the case. Read the rest of this entry

The Worst Argument Against Christianity

I’ve seen numerous variations of this argument perpetrated against Christianity. It essentially boils down to, “Christians disagree about some moral issues. Therefore, Christianity is false.” Thomas, of the WWGHA blog, puts it this way:

The fact that there are all of these schisms in Christianity proves that there is no God. For if there actually were a God, the answer to every question about God and Christianity would be crystal clear. God would say which side is right in every debate. There would be no confusion, no questions.

The premise that there are schisms in Christianity says nothing about the veracity of the same. Further, it is illogical to conclude that there is no God from that premise alone. Of course, I’ve spent much time and effort debunking the claims of the WWGHA sister site here, so I can’t say that I’m surprised that they’re making an argument like this. Most of their arguments are shallow and fallacious. I will show why this is a fallacious argument:

The theory of evolution has many debates raging within the scientific community about some of the specifics. Most scientists, for example, think that natural selection is the agent by which evolution occurs, but some think that there may be a different agent or another acting in concert with natural selection. Some scientists think that evolution can explain the origins of life by a gradual step-by-step process, but many don’t believe that evolution is a sufficent explanation for origins. And, of course, Ida: need I say more?

Here’s the big question: Does any of that detract from the truth of evolution? Any fair-minded scientist would say “No.” Thomas would probably concur, since his blog often touts new evolutionary discoveries. Which leaves only one question for Thomas to answer: Why the double standard?

Irony

On the radio, DJs record and play things from various media outlets for their sign on/sign off routines, usually without telling us where it came from. One DJ in my hometown would play a favorite quote of mine: “Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.” I have no idea where it came from, but it was the first thing I thought of when I read this:

Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people’s business. I live by the golden rule: Treat others as you’d want them to treat you. The religious right wants to tell people how to live.

This would be from the great philosopher Jesse “The Body” Ventura. It was quoted in Playboy‘s Novemeber 1999 issue. I’m relaying the quote from here, not from the original source. Just in case my wife reads this, I want that to be perfectly clear!

Anyway, Ventura’s statement pretty much tips the irony meter. I’m glad he lives by the Golden Rule, but the Golden Rule’s source is religious. The most common phrasing of the rule comes from the King James Version of the Bible (Mt 7:12)! It may not have originated with Jesus, but Jesus did make it famous.

Way to not let religion guide your life!

A Few Things Atheists Should Know About Christians

Mark from Proud Atheists has compiled a handy list of things that atheists should know about Christians. I thought I’d take a peek at the list. It is an interesting way to peer into the mind of the average atheist, to see what he thinks of the average Christian. I bet that he completely misunderstands us, as per usual. Let’s see if I’m right. Read the rest of this entry

This Made My Day

I read this comment from Omninerd.com, and it made my day. This is my favorite part:

And if you plan on defining your atheism as some mere “lack of belief”, this is not satisfactory. People and their positions are not defined by what they are not. That’s a really clever way to get out of blame and the burden of proof for your claims against theists and theism, but it’s just sophistry.

This I agree with  whole-heartedly. Atheists are lazy debaters. Instead of making the positive assertion that there is no God (which they all believe), they insist on defining atheism as a lack of belief in any god. As to why they do this, the writer hit the nail on the head. They do it because the burden of proof is on the person making a positive claim. Therefore, by simply saying that they don’t believe in God (treating this as a given, not an actual claim), they are circumventing the need to actually prove that there is no God, something they know they can’t do.

The responses about to this, all from atheists, are very instructive. I especially like this one, from the most open minded skeptic of the group, obviously:

I stopped reading after that first sentence. Wrong! Religion is a superstition. Atheism is the lack of belief in any superstitions, ie: god/s and/or religions. Based on your first sentence I will assume the rest of that statement is as just as rediculous and not worth the time and effort to read it. Nice job.

Religion is superstition. Okay. The writer actually addressed your points in the body of the comment, but you wouldn’t know that since you didn’t actually read what was written. Gotcha. But theists are the close-minded ones.

This one is classic atheist:

What a wonderful display of Christian ignorance and bigotry. Way to go retard.

Name calling: what you do when you have no actual response to the argument. How is what was written an example of ignorance or bigotry? You got nothing except name calling? Cool.

Then, of course, there was Brian Sapient trying to clarify that he doesn’t believe that all theists should be locked in mental institutions:

I believe that theism is similar to a mental disorder. In some cases (note some, not all) people who believe they speak to God and that God speaks back are suffering from grandiose delusional disorder. I believe that certain anti-psychotic drugs could help people who worship a god. In some cases a theist could be helped with a therapist. In extremely severe cases a person might be best treated for their theism by receiving in patient treatment at a care center set up for such a delusion. Society doesn’t treat theism as a mental disorder because it has reached a degree of normalcy, otherwise it qualifies under current diagnostical terms as a delusional disorder.

This is why I don’t respond to Sapient anymore. He’s not worth the effort. Sorry that the writer mischaracterized your position, Brian. He thought you wanted all theists locked up in an institution, and clearly you only think some should be locked up. Duly noted.

There was one long reply, which I skimmed. It seemed to me that the reply simply quoted the original comment, and then told the writer he was wrong as a matter of course. Naturally, the writer is wrong because he is a theist, and we all know that atheism is the correct worldview. No reasonable evidence is given to back that claim up, it is just assumed wholesale and all dissent from it is labeled as unreasonable, bigoted, or ignorant. Nice arguing, atheists!

Atheists Redefining Morality

I’ve often said that atheists have a penchant for redefining terms. The most frequent use of this tactic is seen by redefining “faith” to mean “belief without supporting evidence.” Faith is trust, no more and no less. It’s repugnant to see former believers continuing that redefinition, even though they know better.

But atheists, by their own reckoning, are also free to not only redefine established terms but also free to redefine morality. This is because they are no longer “shackled to a Bronze Age mythological belief system.” The comments to this post from Daniel Florien serve to show just how far this can be stretched. Read the rest of this entry

Catholicism Amuses Me

Okay, during Lent Catholics must abstain from eating meat on Fridays, unless they don’t have to. Headache…