Advertisements

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.

AdamK said:

I left because I couldn’t continue to participate in the phoniness of seminary and witness the corruption of the magisterium. All that lying and keeping up of appearances would not be necessary if the church was founded on anything real. And Catholic sexual “ethics” would be a joke if it weren’t so cruel.

This guy has a point. First, the Catholic pedophile priest scandal broke in the United States. The fallout from it is still strong after all these years. Now, Ireland has one of its own brewing, and there’s one in Germany that may have involved the Pope when he was still an archbishop in Munich.

But he loses me when he says that “lying and keeping up of appearances would not be necessary if the church was founded on anything real.” That premise doesn’t follow.

If my dad has taught me responsibility and ethics from an early age, and later on I deviate from his teachings and end up in jail, does that mean that my dad doesn’t actually exist? According to this argument, my dad is a figment of my imagination. If my dad were real, then the ethics he taught would have stuck and I’d be an honest, productive member of society. Right?

That’s the problem with this line of reasoning. Just because many priests are child molesters and belong in jail isn’t proof that God is imaginary. It’s proof that humans have a fallen nature, which we give into all too often–many times with disastrous consequences. The Bible teaches this exact point in Romans 7 and Ephesians 2:1. This argument really makes a case for the accuracy of the Bible in describing the human condition, but I know that no atheist would actually want to argue that.

Ryan Anderson said:

For me it was after I read the footnote on Mark 16:9. I’d never given much thought to how illogical most of genesis was, but for some reason, the idea that the resurrection story was missing from what was likely the oldest record of Jesus didn’t sit right. (emphasis added)

The “short ending” of Mark cuts off chapter 16 at verse 8. Verses 9-20 were believed to have been added by later redacters, since they do not appear in the earliest MSS. J.P. Holding has a fuller discussion here.

Ryan may be long on doubt for Christianity, but he’s short on reading comprehension. It is clear from the text in Mark 16 up to verse 8 that Jesus rose from the dead. Read especially verse 6. It is clear what happened from the text–the Resurrection isn’t missing at all.

Mike D. said:

I left Christianity because the theology made no sense to me. I read Hebrews, which essentially explains it, and it left me with more questions than answers.

What does blood sacrifice have to do with anything? If Jesus is God, how can God sacrifice himself to himself? And isn’t he the one who cast humanity out of Eden, cursing all humankind? And isn’t he the one who decided for some reason that blood sacrifice was a requirement for forgiveness? How can he sacrifice himself to himself to pay a debt he determined for a curse he put on us?

When I read stuff like this, there is only one reaction. Quantum mechanics makes no sense to me, but it would be very shallow for me to say that it is false on that basis alone. But many critics of Christianity claim the theology makes no sense to them and use that as the foundation for the falsification of the whole thing. That is extremely shallow argumentation.

Mike said:

I left after several frustrating personal experiences made me strongly question how I can have a relationship with someone who I can’t see, hear, touch, or communicate with. How can a relationship exist if the communication is one-way? Then, I started to see that many Christians, including myself, had the same problems and moral shortcomings as any one else, even though we claimed, according to The Bible, that we are supposed to have better morals than the rest of the “world.” I also then realized that it’s not so crazy to suggest that maybe The Bible is not the inspired, inerrant word of God, and that there it has several problems.

First off, we as Christians have a strong foundation for our morals, but we don’t have better morals than everyone else. That’s not a correct claim. It isn’t surprising that many Christians have the same moral shortcomings as everyone else. We aren’t better than everyone else. No one should claim that we are.

With that in mind, this is the same objection that AdamK had, just rephrased.

AndreLinoge had a very, very telling comment:

I left Christianity while believing it was true. I just couldn’t take the guilt and fear any longer so I made a break for the fence. It was years later that I finally saw that many of Christianity’s tenents were….untenable. I still wonder how people believe in talking animals, Noah’s Ark, floating axe heads, Jesus flying into the sky, etc. (emphasis added)

The obvious anti-miracle bias aside, he’s basically saying “I kept sinning and I didn’t want to stop, so I left Christianity.” I assume so he could live life the way he wants to rather than the way that Christ has taught that he should.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a terrible Christian and I sin a lot. The difference between me and most is that I recognize my sin as such and don’t try to justify it. That’s a step in the right direction. If only I could let go of some of the more stubborn sins. Perhaps God will show me a way in his time. As the song goes, “He’s not finished with me yet.”

It’s one thing to look for a way out within the grace that God has offered and another to run the other way so that you can keep sinning guilt-free. Alas, Andre has opted for the latter.

Walter said:

My journey out of Christianity began with a hard look at Yahweh’s moral character in the Old Testament; especially since Jesus and Yahweh are supposed to be, sort of, the same person. Later, my study of biblical criticism finally convinced me that the bible is just a collection of human texts and not the harmonious revelation of a creator god.

I don’t know Walter from Adam, but I will put money on the table that says he read plenty of Bart Ehrman, but he’s never heard of Bruce Metzger. Funny how most skeptics’ studies of textual criticism revolve around Ehrman and not Metzger. Metzger has done more work on textual criticism than most any other scholar, and is largely responsible for the United Bible Societies’ standard Greek New Testament, which is one of the two main critical texts that underlie nearly all modern translations.

The examination I’ve done of textual criticism has convinced me of the integrity of the text of the New Testament. I studied Metzger, F.F. Bruce, and later on Dan Wallace (who is a contributor to the excellent Parchment and Pen blog, a service of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries). I had never heard of Ehrman until later, but as near as I can tell he is not on par with the other names I had just mentioned as an authority on the subject of textual criticism. Ehrman is a historian while the other names I mentioned are documentary experts.

The majority of these deconversion stories are just fluff and excuses. People don’t want to believe that God exists and guides their lives, and so they find the flimsiest excuses to not belive. No matter how solid these reasons sound, they never stand up to scrutiny.

Advertisements

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on March 31, 2010, in Apologetics, God, Theology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Dear Cory,

    “Starting off with argument from outrage. By what standard are OT laws “too primitive, too unjust, too much like witch-doctoring”? By modern standards.”

    Actually, our society is very lacking itself. Something should cry in every man that those laws were unjust without any reference to any time period.

    “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.”

    That doesn’t make them moral, my friend. The most quiet of two noises is not silent.

    “This guy has a point. First, the Catholic pedophile priest scandal broke in the United States.”

    You only agree with this man when he speaks against another belief system you don’t agree with.

    “According to this argument, my dad is a figment of my imagination.”

    The “dad” in the analogy was lived with, seen, experienced. What people believe about the Church’s foundation relies on hearsay, tradition, indoctrination, on “I’ll take their word for it”.

    “Just because many priests are child molesters and belong in jail isn’t proof that God is imaginary.”

    You’re absolutely right.

    “Quantum mechanics makes no sense to me, but it would be very shallow for me to say that it is false on that basis alone.”

    Quantum mechanics is complicated, counter-intuitive and demands brain power, but at the end of the day a lot of the claims can be proven to be true (provided a set of axioms most would argue are obvious, unlike religious axioms), as in all domains of science. Religion and Christianity are absurd to most, to put it simply. Everyone can understand what they claim is true, but it doesn’t make sense most of the time. You don’t have to be a genius to understand the Jack and the Beanstalk, but you still won’t think it makes sense. That doesn’t warrant a comparison to quantum mechanics. Take for instance 3=1 (trinity). Though I’m not saying that it can’t possibly be true, but we don’t even have evidence to support it.

    “People don’t want to believe that God exists and guides their lives, and so they find the flimsiest excuses to not belive.”

    There is no excuse needed to not believe, excuses are needed to believe. Of course, there are always atheists which I am not (agnostic), who will believe with 100% certainty that God doesn’t exist, which they can’t prove. I just don’t believe he exists (“believe he exists” vs “believe he doesn’t exist”), as I don’t believe in fairies (I don’t have to make up excuses not to, do I?). There’s always the possibility that there is a God, as there is a possibility that there are fairies.

    I agree with most of the other parts I didn’t respond to.

    • “Starting off with argument from outrage. By what standard are OT laws “too primitive, too unjust, too much like witch-doctoring”? By modern standards.”

      Actually, our society is very lacking itself. Something should cry in every man that those laws were unjust without any reference to any time period.

      “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.”

      That doesn’t make them moral, my friend. The most quiet of two noises is not silent.

      Well, there’s a lot of assertion here with little in the way of actual argument. Unless you can back this up, you are now arguing from outrage. That’s a logical fallacy, by the way.

      “This guy has a point. First, the Catholic pedophile priest scandal broke in the United States.”

      You only agree with this man when he speaks against another belief system you don’t agree with.

      So?

      “According to this argument, my dad is a figment of my imagination.”

      The “dad” in the analogy was lived with, seen, experienced. What people believe about the Church’s foundation relies on hearsay, tradition, indoctrination, on “I’ll take their word for it”.

      Not by a long shot. Evidence for God is all around. Historical evidence for the Resurrection is plentiful. Naturalism is quite counter-intuitive. My comparison stands.

      “Quantum mechanics makes no sense to me, but it would be very shallow for me to say that it is false on that basis alone.”

      Quantum mechanics is complicated, counter-intuitive and demands brain power, but at the end of the day a lot of the claims can be proven to be true (provided a set of axioms most would argue are obvious, unlike religious axioms), as in all domains of science. Religion and Christianity are absurd to most, to put it simply. Everyone can understand what they claim is true, but it doesn’t make sense most of the time. You don’t have to be a genius to understand the Jack and the Beanstalk, but you still won’t think it makes sense. That doesn’t warrant a comparison to quantum mechanics. Take for instance 3=1 (trinity). Though I’m not saying that it can’t possibly be true, but we don’t even have evidence to support it.

      Not even close to my point.

      “People don’t want to believe that God exists and guides their lives, and so they find the flimsiest excuses to not belive.”

      There is no excuse needed to not believe, excuses are needed to believe. Of course, there are always atheists which I am not (agnostic), who will believe with 100% certainty that God doesn’t exist, which they can’t prove. I just don’t believe he exists (“believe he exists” vs “believe he doesn’t exist”), as I don’t believe in fairies (I don’t have to make up excuses not to, do I?). There’s always the possibility that there is a God, as there is a possibility that there are fairies.

      It’s obvious fairies don’t exist. But God is quite another story. If it’s plainly obvious that he is false, then why are atheists and agnostics the clear minority? And, more importantly, why does biblical revelation concerning unbelievers (such as Rom 1) seem to hit the nail right on the head?

      • ” If it’s plainly obvious that he is false, then why are atheists and agnostics the clear minority?”
        Well CLEARLY if the majority believes something, it’s true. Do you not proof read your points, or is that really your best argument against the “God/fairies” analogy? I honestly thought even you would have a better argument than that. Oh, and if a book written by man happens to describe something pretty well (at least according to you) it’s perfectly logical to conclude the other absolutely ludicrous claims the book makes are viable.
        I must say, for a “Christian philosopher” you seriously seem to have missed an intro philosophy class somewhere.

      • Well CLEARLY if the majority believes something, it’s true.

        Never said that. Thanks for putting words in my mouth.

        Let’s illustrate this with a thought experiment.

        A husband is late coming home from work. His wife switches on the news, and sees that along her husband’s route, there is a car driving the wrong way on the expressway. Concerned for her husband’s safety, she calls his cell and warns him that there is a nut driving the wrong way.

        He replies, “It’s not just one! It’s hundreds of them!”

        In other words, if you are the vast minority, maybe you’re not the enlightened one. Maybe you’re wrong. Did you ever consider that?

        Do you not proof read your points, or is that really your best argument against the “God/fairies” analogy? I honestly thought even you would have a better argument than that.

        Really, why should I bother to come up with a better counter? The God/fairies argument probably took him all of ten seconds, and I’m overestimating. Why should I tax my brain when the writer of the original argument didn’t? But, other Christian philosophers have wasted their time: “On the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorns, et. al.” It’s a four-part essay from Mariano, formerly of Atheism is Dead, now of The True Freethinker. Hopefully there’s enough meat for you in his argument.

        Oh, and if a book written by man happens to describe something pretty well (at least according to you) it’s perfectly logical to conclude the other absolutely ludicrous claims the book makes are viable.

        Well, there’s plenty of other reasons to believe what you claim are ludicrous claims aside from the fact that the psychology contained in the book is true. That’s just one of many reasons to trust the Bible.

      • Thanks for defending my point, Latinformouse. To Cory:

        “Well, there’s a lot of assertion here with little in the way of actual argument. Unless you can back this up, you are now arguing from outrage. That’s a logical fallacy, by the way.”

        You have not provided any reasons for saying those things about my post. My assertions are simply about morality, and I thought anyone would agree with me, your article is attempting to justify the laws of the OT anyway, trying to pass them off as “relatively just”. So you are admitting to their relative (to us) immorality yourself. Why is my argument a logical fallacy? I guess I’m not the only one who needs to back up my claims.

        “So?”

        So, that fact may suggest a biased attitude towards the truth. I wanted to show that, coincidentally, the only thing you agree with is something that attacks the Catholic Church which you probably don’t adhere to.

        “Not by a long shot. Evidence for God is all around. Historical evidence for the Resurrection is plentiful. Naturalism is quite counter-intuitive. My comparison stands.”

        Evidence? Like what? I mean, real evidence. I’ve read about historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. They suggest to me that something strange may have happened in that tomb that day (or may not have, it may all be a scam). Maybe people can raise from the dead, that doesn’t imply there is a God (héhé, that’s how hard I doubt). No need to jump to conclusions. As I’m sure you wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions about the miracle of Fatima. The milk miracles of the Hindus. The messages of Allah in the Muslim fruits. The Virgin Mary crying blood. The picture of Jesus weeping in a Catholic Church. All much more contemporary than Jesus’ resurrection. And please, don’t say even Satan can perform miracles. How do we tell the difference?

        You’re probably right, naturalism must be counter-intuitive (I don’t see the connection with my point though) since people do not come to it without researching and putting aside their preconceptions. You should try optical illusions, the truth is often counter-intuitive.

        “Not even close to my point.”

        Still seems pretty close to me. Why not?

        “It’s obvious fairies don’t exist. But God is quite another story. If it’s plainly obvious that he is false, then why are atheists and agnostics the clear minority? And, more importantly, why does biblical revelation concerning unbelievers (such as Rom 1) seem to hit the nail right on the head?”

        Would you argue that it is obvious Zeus doesn’t exist? You probably would. But the Greeks wouldn’t, I guess. Something must have changed since then to pull Zeus down to the rank of a fairy. I read your second post, and I have to admit that I like your analogy about the husband driving the car. You’re right. We might not be right. But a problem in that analogy is that the street has two ways. Only two. There are dozens of religions out there, maybe thousands have existed since the beginning of mankind (I wonder who the Neanderthals worshiped, they did bury their dead with funerals if I remember the lesson well). To use your analogy again there are millions of cars zooming by in hundreds of directions, colliding all the time. You can’t really talk about a minority vs a majority in such chaos.

        I know, I know, you can say that all the faiths are joined in their belief in the supernatural, while non-believers are the minority in that they don’t take part in (are undecided about) such beliefs. At least people like me have just decided to stay neutral to all parties, and in my case a little closer to the atheist.

      • You have not provided any reasons for saying those things about my post. My assertions are simply about morality, and I thought anyone would agree with me, your article is attempting to justify the laws of the OT anyway, trying to pass them off as “relatively just”. So you are admitting to their relative (to us) immorality yourself. Why is my argument a logical fallacy? I guess I’m not the only one who needs to back up my claims.

        “And I thought anyone would agree with me” is the key phrase to my entire point, and the entire reason that your argument is a logical fallacy. You are really assuming that any modern reader will agree with you, and few modern readers have bothered to look at the laws of the Old Testament in their social context. Viewed in that light, they make perfect sense. Paul Copan creates a better and fuller defense of that point here. And Copan touches on the point you think I imply: the Mosaic Law doesn’t embody the ideal morality, but it does point to the ideal morality. Perhaps the apostle Paul, in his numerous indictments of the Law, said it best in 2 Corinthians 3:6: “For the letter [of the law] kills, but the Spirit gives life.” We are meant to try to discern the spirit of the Law and follow it, rather than be held to the letter of the law. The letter can only lead to death (c.f. Rom 3:20; Rom 7; Heb 10:1).

        So, that fact may suggest a biased attitude towards the truth. I wanted to show that, coincidentally, the only thing you agree with is something that attacks the Catholic Church which you probably don’t adhere to.

        Again, so?

        Evidence? Like what? I mean, real evidence. I’ve read about historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. They suggest to me that something strange may have happened in that tomb that day (or may not have, it may all be a scam). Maybe people can raise from the dead, that doesn’t imply there is a God (héhé, that’s how hard I doubt). No need to jump to conclusions. As I’m sure you wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions about the miracle of Fatima. The milk miracles of the Hindus. The messages of Allah in the Muslim fruits. The Virgin Mary crying blood. The picture of Jesus weeping in a Catholic Church. All much more contemporary than Jesus’ resurrection. And please, don’t say even Satan can perform miracles. How do we tell the difference?

        Okay, this is tougher to answer. First of all, evidence like creation itself. Paul sums up my position best in Romans 1:18-23. The apostle writes:

        For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

        The fact that you’ve studied the historical evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection and believe that something extraordinary may have happened that day at the tomb is a step in the right direction. You really are assessing the evidence you have at hand. Why jump from that to the existence of God? Because the best sources for the historical Jesus are the gospels themselves, and in them Jesus makes many claims to deity. These claims all point to his Father being Yahweh from the Old Testament. So, if you trust that something happened that day, you in part trust what the gospels are saying, and the gospels are not ambiguous on the point of whose authority Jesus is speaking on.

        Miracles can and do happen. But, a person is likely to interpret these miracles given the framework of their own experience. The fancy word for that is one of my personal favorite words: “paradigm.” A Christian may see an image of Jesus in burned toast, while to a Roman Catholic that same burn pattern would look like an image of Mary. Catholics are more prone to see Mary, while Protestant Christians are more prone to see Jesus. It’s a matter of the traditions of each institution. Protestants dislike the Catholic Church’s “Mariolatry,” which is why they see Jesus rather than his Mother. A Muslim is going to attribute a miracle to Allah in the same way.

        I suppose that Satan can perform miracles. I once watched a movie where one of the characters said that Satan isn’t opposed to right, moral living, he is opposed to Jesus Christ. To tell the difference in miracles is easy. The Bible tells us that Satan is a liar and a deceiver, and that there is no truth in him (Jn 8:44). This means that a miracle that points us away from Jesus would be of the devil.

        However, I’m not so sure that Satan does perform miracles (see Deut 13:1-15). The Bible seems to indicate that God performs these miracles and then the prophet speaks false doctrine as a test. So, the examples of miracles that seem to contradict the Bible’s assertion that God is the One, True God would fall under the “test” category, especially when accompanied by a prophet who teaches people to go after another god (such as a miracle attributed to Allah).

        You’re probably right, naturalism must be counter-intuitive (I don’t see the connection with my point though) since people do not come to it without researching and putting aside their preconceptions. You should try optical illusions, the truth is often counter-intuitive.

        Since you’re basically agreeing to my point without offering any counterargument, I’ll just move on.

        Still seems pretty close to me. Why not?

        My point is that quantum mechanics is difficult to understand, as are the claims of Christianity. Many people (reference Ken Pulliam) try to argue that since the theological claims of Christianity are exceedingly complex and counter-intuitive, that makes them untrue. But I don’t think that’s very fair, or even a good argument. You could argue the same thing about quantum mechanics (a point you agree to), but that doesn’t say anything about the veracity of the claims it makes. You are trying to argue specific points of Christianity, which I’m not trying to do at all. The only evidence you could expect for something like the Trinity would have to come from special revelation, i.e. the Bible. You couldn’t discern that attribute of God from nature the way you can timelessness or omnipotence (though one might argue the Trinity is suggested by the simultaneous unity and diversity of nature, a la Francis Schaeffer). Therefore, certain specific doctrines of Christianity are not suitable for this comparison.

        Would you argue that it is obvious Zeus doesn’t exist? You probably would. But the Greeks wouldn’t, I guess. Something must have changed since then to pull Zeus down to the rank of a fairy. I read your second post, and I have to admit that I like your analogy about the husband driving the car. You’re right. We might not be right. But a problem in that analogy is that the street has two ways. Only two. There are dozens of religions out there, maybe thousands have existed since the beginning of mankind (I wonder who the Neanderthals worshiped, they did bury their dead with funerals if I remember the lesson well). To use your analogy again there are millions of cars zooming by in hundreds of directions, colliding all the time. You can’t really talk about a minority vs a majority in such chaos.

        I’ve seen a similar argument attempted against Pascal’s Wager. I don’t care for the Wager, but I care even less for that supposed refutation of it.

        Above, you admit that, based on the evidence, something special probably happened at the tomb of Jesus on that first Easter. As such, you are accepting that certain elements of the New Testament are likely historical. If you believe that these claims are historical, you have no rational basis for rejecting the words attributed to Jesus. And Jesus claims that he was sent by Yahweh of the Old Testament, and then backs that claim up by predicting the end of the Second Temple Era in a.d. 70 (see Mt 24, the Olivet Discourse) and his own death and Resurrection. In Isaiah 42-48, God himself repeatedly ties his deity to his exhaustive divine foreknowledge (EDF), i.e. his ability to make and fulfill prophecy. He tells the Israelites in Deuteronomy 18:22 that if a prophet’s prediction doesn’t come true, the word is not from the Lord. It is not unreasonable to conclude that since Jesus was speaking in the name of Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, his deity would also be tied to EDF. And we see in those examples that I cited that it is.

        By this token alone, and as I have discussed here, the differences between Jesus and other gods is striking in that most of these alleged deities do not have accomplishments tied to or verifiable by history and archeology. They take place in the metaphysical realms, like Mount Olympus or Hades (in the case of the Greek gods). The God of the Hebrew Scriptures most certainly has accomplishments presented as history, which makes him infinitely more verifiable than any pagan deity that you can name.

        Additionally, the opening chapters of Deuteronomy recap the Lord’s doings to further the advance of his people, Israel. These facts are also verifiable historically, though some do argue against it. The Exodus is generally accepted, for example, as historical, but there is by no means a clear consensus among historians one way or the other. The United Monarchy, as another example, has been argued as occurring only in principle but never in fact; most historians believe that the Northern and Southern Kingdoms never quite got along well enough for their to have ever been a United Monarchy.

        All that said, the veracity of Christianity stands unique among religions in that the claims it makes are historical and not purely metaphysical. That means that there is more evidence for Yahweh than there is for Zeus (in your example) or any other pagan deity, for that matter. We have the historical claims God makes about himself to supplement the metaphysical ones. If you can trust the history (and I’ll admit, there are some good cases against the historicity of some things in the Bible, but the Bible has been vindicated as reliable many times over in the past when it had been questioned), then it isn’t asking for much more from you to trust the metaphysical claims. Other religions give very little reason to trust their metaphysical claims, but God has given us much more.

        That means your revision of my analogy isn’t accurate. There may well be more than two lanes of traffic to pick from, but there are road signs, if one chooses to read them, that point the way to the correct lane. People don’t often read signs. Just today a rather rude customer yelled at me for not having tomatoes, and told me that I should have told him that there were none in my restaurant before he ordered. I pointed at the so-obvious-only-an-idiot-would-miss-it-larger-than-life-sign on the counter that said we had no tomatoes. He sneered, “That’s not good enough.”

        To me, that is how most atheists/agnostics/skeptics are about the Bible. The Bible points us not just to one of the many gods that mankind has constructed, but to the One, True God. Much like the tomato sign in my above illustration, it is so-obvious-only-an-idiot-would-miss-it-larger-than-life-sign that says the God of the Bible is the One, True God. And, like my customer, atheists are sneering, “That’s not good enough.”

      • “So, if you trust that something happened that day, you in part trust what the gospels are saying, and the gospels are not ambiguous on the point of whose authority Jesus is speaking on.”

        “Above, you admit that, based on the evidence, something special probably happened at the tomb of Jesus on that first Easter.”

        I never said anything of the sort. I said that maybe something happened, I am always open to any possibility. I would be open to that possibility even if there was no evidence to support it, though it would be much less probable to me. I used the word “maybe”, and I immediately also said that maybe nothing happened.

        Let’s pretend there was this guy in the middle ages who claimed to have a potion that would enhance all body functions that he was delivered by an alien from some far away planet where the grass grows blue. To support his claim, he took some of it, and entered a long tunnel, claiming that he would run at a speed of 100 miles/hr inside it and emerge from the other side sooner than any human being would be able to. Some people doubt this man even existed. Most people believe he existed and did get into the tunnel, and historical data seems to indicate that he did come out of it on time. Would you, faced with such evidence, believe everything the man claimed, down to the color of the grass on the alien planet? I personally wouldn’t, I would even doubt the power of the drink.

        “You are really assuming that any modern reader will agree with you, and few modern readers have bothered to look at the laws of the Old Testament in their social context.”

        I could agree that the laws of the OT were relatively just. I only assumed that anyone should agree with me that that fact doesn’t make them just. Morality shouldn’t be a function of time period. Especially to God who is not subject to human history. It should never be right to stone someone for adultery, or for disobeying their parents.

        “This means that a miracle that points us away from Jesus would be of the devil.”

        The Muslims could say the same thing about Muhammad, the Hindus about Vishnu. Then it’s easy to see everyone else’s miracles as false ones.

        “By this token alone, and as I have discussed here, the differences between Jesus and other gods is striking in that most of these alleged deities do not have accomplishments tied to or verifiable by history and archeology. They take place in the metaphysical realms, like Mount Olympus or Hades (in the case of the Greek gods). The God of the Hebrew Scriptures most certainly has accomplishments presented as history, which makes him infinitely more verifiable than any pagan deity that you can name.”

        Well, I have to say that you seriously damage my analogy about fairies and Greek gods. What I would say to this is that fiction is not always about fairies and goblins, I am a personal fan of crime novels. Look at the story of Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle picked a real place as his home, people go visit it regularly. Arsène Lupin in the Maurice Leblanc books travels to real places of France, and his adventures usually make some sense. That doesn’t make the stories real. And the bible does have many supernatural elements in it, though maybe the settings are not supernatural.

        I have to admit that the stories look much more real that those of the Greek and Roman gods, so, maybe the later are much more similar to fairies than the God of the Bible.

        I’ll read your stuff about the bible (why trust the bible or something, I’ve seen you link towards a couple times on this site, I failed to read it through the other day) before answering the bible vs signs part.

      • I never said anything of the sort. I said that maybe something happened, I am always open to any possibility. I would be open to that possibility even if there was no evidence to support it, though it would be much less probable to me. I used the word “maybe”, and I immediately also said that maybe nothing happened.

        Then I have nothing left to say except that I apologize for misrepresenting your position. It was not intentional.

        It should never be right to stone someone for adultery, or for disobeying their parents.

        Why not?

        “This means that a miracle that points us away from Jesus would be of the devil.”

        The Muslims could say the same thing about Muhammad, the Hindus about Vishnu. Then it’s easy to see everyone else’s miracles as false ones.

        Agreed. But, you picked out the easy point to answer. I went on to say this:

        However, I’m not so sure that Satan does perform miracles (see Deut 13:1-15). The Bible seems to indicate that God performs these miracles and then the prophet speaks false doctrine as a test. So, the examples of miracles that seem to contradict the Bible’s assertion that God is the One, True God would fall under the “test” category, especially when accompanied by a prophet who teaches people to go after another god (such as a miracle attributed to Allah).

        That you did not touch. Moving on:

        Well, I have to say that you seriously damage my analogy about fairies and Greek gods. What I would say to this is that fiction is not always about fairies and goblins, I am a personal fan of crime novels. Look at the story of Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle picked a real place as his home, people go visit it regularly. Arsène Lupin in the Maurice Leblanc books travels to real places of France, and his adventures usually make some sense. That doesn’t make the stories real. And the bible does have many supernatural elements in it, though maybe the settings are not supernatural.

        Thank you for acknowledging the damage I did to your case.

        First, Doyle did not pick a real place for Sherlock Holmes to live. Baker Street is a real place in London, however there is no address 221B. That actually has nothing do with anything, I just wanted to show off my knowledge of Sherlock Holmes trivia. Now, it seems as though you discount the Bible simply on what we in the apologetics business call “anti-supernatural bias.” [Disclaimer: I don’t agree with everything in that article!] I haven’t written much on miracles, but since I generally agree with Glenn Miller, I’ll offer you his huge section on miracles. That should answer most of your objections to my point, especially the one about the potential for biblical accounts being historical fiction (which is such a common objection that I should have an article on here about it!).

        Perhaps the world’s foremost philosopher of religion, William Lane Craig, comments on miracles here.

        And I await your reply to the Bible vs. Signs. . . .

      • Well, I can’t seem to find that article about why one should trust the bible, I saw a link to it in one of your previous articles and I read the first few lines, I think.

        Anyway, the quantum mechanics point:
        You know you don’t understand quantum mechanics. It’s complicated for most people, a scientist once said that if you think you understand it, it’s probably because you don’t. Religion is different. It makes unverifiable claims. Even if Jesus rose from the dead as many claim history seems to indicate, that does not validate what he said as I illustrated above with my analogy of the potion. Maybe that’s a trick he could do, héhé. I understand religion, at least basically. It isn’t too complex for me to comprehend. It is just illogical to me.

        I have to admit that I didn’t read the whole article http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/50 though it seems very interesting. I looked through it, read certain passages. Yes, the universe may seem to have been designed. By why the Judeo-Christian God? I understand that anyone should say “Maybe there is a force (forces) out there”, but why would it have to be so human as God seems to be? Why can’t it be a thinking thing (as Descartes said about himself), without emotions such as anger, jealousy, compassion? And how would that thinking thing have been created? Would it just exist? A thinking thing capable of creating the universe (and whatever else there is out there, who knows) could be, arguably, complex. How did it come into existence? Where did it get its powers from (designing the universe is one thing, but you’ve got to create it).

        Einstein (who was an agnostic but a little bit of a pantheist, I think) said that we should realize that we are like little children in a gigantic library with books in different languages. There are things which we cannot decide upon too hastily, things we don’t know.

        And to weaken the intelligent design claim (as Richard Dawkins loves to do-> by the way, an agnostic in theory, not really an atheist despite his own claims http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUGTAFKQLgw just to point out that he is not completely refuting the possibility that Christians are right when he attacks them), everything complex in nature comes from something simpler (if one trusts scientists who are very often right about these things: they’re the ones who objectively look at them and use logic to derive them). Our complex solar system was once a cloud of dust with very few chemical elements (the others being later fused in the sun at very high temperatures). Our complicated anatomy evolved from a primitive organism, and scientists seem to have been tracking down “life-enabling” molecules, if I read the article well. Though I’m not sure how certain they are of their theories. Everything was probably extremely simple in the beginning. The laws of physics could have existed or not have existed, we could have had other laws. If there were no laws, then we would have the law that “anything goes”, héhé. Why is order less likely than disorder? How do we know when there is disorder anyway? Wouldn’t we say that the order is more subtle if we couldn’t discern laws of physics? I’m changing the subject, I fear.

        I have to look at the other stuff, if the articles are that long, I’m not sure I will be able to read them all through, though.

      • From the same article http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/50 :
        “Miracles do not violate natural laws because those laws are simply man’s way of describing what happens “normally.” (Or, to say it another way, they describe how God “usually” does things). But natural laws do not tell us what cannot happen.”

        To tie it to our discussion: even if God exists, of which I am not convinced (the argument in the article is about the need for intelligent design, an unfounded need as I demonstrated in my previous post) the Bible still seems less likely than history books. God seems to have pretty often deviated from his “usual” way of doing things in the events in that book, something he doesn’t seem to have done much recently, in the last 2000 years (what notable open air miracle has happened since then (especially if you claim that the miracles I’ve mentioned were only performed to test our faith)? I mean, like parting the Red Sea, or flooding the world with more water than it carries after inspiring two animals of each species to gather around humans, or destroying a wall with a shout, or feeding 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish). Does it seem likely to you that God would have gone so often against his usual means then and not now? Well, it doesn’t seem likely to some, Catholic priests are never too hasty to declare an event is a miracle; the least eager (amongst the believers) to claim that the crying of the statue of the blessed virgin was a sign from God was a priest in the Church where it happened.

      • Let’s pretend the idea in your highway analogy was as to what was the right path to follow (in order to discard the paths taken by followers of other gods):

        Believing in the Judeo-Christian God because He seems (to you and me, others would argue otherwise) the most plausible amongst all other gods (since He is said to have influenced history and his actions take place in the physical world) is like believing in the story of Forrest Gump (you watched or read that?) because he influenced historical events in the story and traveled to real places. I mean, imagine you were told his story as fact rather than as fiction. And imagine he also did supernatural things.

        Would he be the right person to believe in because (supposing, of course, I’m pretending there is no one else) you could only compare him to Hercules, Cinderella, or Humpty-Dumpty?

  2. “Never said that. Thanks for putting words in my mouth.” Any time. My point isn’t that you explicitly said “Christians are right because they’re the majority,” but that you used an appeal to popular opinion, which has no bearing on the truth.

    “Really, why should I bother to come up with a better counter? ”
    Because yours sucked?

    “But, other Christian philosophers have wasted their time: “On the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorns, et. al.” It’s a four-part essay from Mariano, formerly of Atheism is Dead, now of The True Freethinker. Hopefully there’s enough meat for you in his argument.”
    Sadly, (I’m not sure if you’re aware of this because I”m not sure if you really read the stuff you link to) but 3 of the 4 pages in that series of “essays” aren’t accessible. I doubt I’m missing much though because the page you did link me to was merely a simplistic, clumsy retelling of the teleological argument. I know the argument, and I also know Aquinas said it a lot better than “the True Free Thinker.” It’s still hardly a convincing proof for your god over fairies. If you could find the other 3 pages elsewhere though, I’ll gladly take some time out of my lazy Easter Sunday to pick through it.

    • Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

      Sorry. I should have double checked. The True Freethinker is Mariano’s new site, and he implied in a personal correspondence he’d rather I link to it instead of Atheism is Dead. But, The True Freethinker doesn’t have everything up and running quite yet.

  3. “Why not?”

    Are you really asking me why we shouldn’t stone people to death? Well, I can’t answer that. Doesn’t something in you say it is wrong? There is no real logic behind morality, if you don’t feel it, it cannot be shown to you (think about a psychopath, it seems their brains are different). I said above (in my first comment):
    “Something should cry in every man that those laws were unjust without any reference to any time period.” It is certainly not provable.

    “First, Doyle did not pick a real place for Sherlock Holmes to live. Baker Street is a real place in London, however there is no address 221B. That actually has nothing do with anything, I just wanted to show off my knowledge of Sherlock Holmes trivia. Now, it seems as though you discount the Bible simply on what we in the apologetics business call “anti-supernatural bias.””

    Héhé, well, I guess I was wrong. I was under the impression that they showed his home on the history channel or something. Anyway, I don’t completely reject the possibility that supernatural things are possible. I just think it is more likely that the Civil war took place then that Daniel was not eaten by those hungry lions. My experience makes history look more likely than the bible.

    “Agreed. But, you picked out the easy point to answer. I went on to say this:

    However, I’m not so sure that Satan does perform miracles (see Deut 13:1-15). The Bible seems to indicate that God performs these miracles and then the prophet speaks false doctrine as a test. So, the examples of miracles that seem to contradict the Bible’s assertion that God is the One, True God would fall under the “test” category, especially when accompanied by a prophet who teaches people to go after another god (such as a miracle attributed to Allah).”

    Hmmm, well I wasn’t paying attention, I’m sorry. I just thought that a Christian would say that Satan was responsible for a miracle that didn’t support his faith. Well, in the passage of Deut that you’re talking about, God seems to be talking to people who believed in him in the first place. I did an online search, correct me if I’m wrong about the passage:

    “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

    That’s at least part of it. The Hindu religion is older than Christianity, I think (or is it Buddhism, I’m not sure). Why would God be testing them? They don’t believe in him the way Christians do. Though if you’re saying that God is testing Christians by performing those miracles, you have a point (though I wonder why God would further sink the Muslims, Hindus and Catholics into their faiths just to test other Christians, looks like favoritism to me). But in what way does a Catholic miracle contradict the fact that God is the one true God? In spite of everything people say, Catholics don’t worship Mary (or the saints, in principle), they ask for her help to obtain things from God. Why would the miracle of Fatima fit the bill?

    Anyway, I’ve got to run, I’ll answer the rest later, probably today. I didn’t read the passage “why we should trust the bible” yet.

    I’ve left out another point also, I realize now, the quantum mechanics point.

  4. “Why not?”

    I said above:
    “Something should cry in every man that those laws were unjust without any reference to any time period.” It is certainly not provable.

    Well, I can’t answer that. Doesn’t something in you say it is wrong? There is no real logic behind morality (one has to rest on assumptions as in any other discipline), if you don’t feel it, it cannot be shown to you (think about a psychopath, it seems their brains are different). The golden rule “Do not unto others…” is a good axiom. Another one is “Do not cause suffering”. I think it is wrong, for instance, to deny homosexuals equal rights. To exploit animals in any way (which is why I said earlier that our society is very lacking itself). To eat their flesh (though I do it myself, héhé). I would probably kill people if it was encouraged/accepted by society as it was in ancient times. As the terrorists probably thought their act was justified on 9/11. We will probably be seen as barbarians for all these things in the (far?) future. Why doesn’t God judge us to those standards as Christians (assuming there are still Christians) of the future probably will?

    “First, Doyle did not pick a real place for Sherlock Holmes to live. Baker Street is a real place in London, however there is no address 221B. That actually has nothing do with anything, I just wanted to show off my knowledge of Sherlock Holmes trivia. Now, it seems as though you discount the Bible simply on what we in the apologetics business call “anti-supernatural bias.””

    Héhé, well, I guess I was wrong about Sherlock Holmes. I was under the impression that they showed his home on the history channel or something.

    I don’t completely reject the possibility that supernatural things are possible. I just think it is more likely that the Civil war really took place then that Daniel was not eaten by those starved lions. My experience makes history books look more credible than the bible. I’ll read that article.

    “Agreed. But, you picked out the easy point to answer. I went on to say this:

    However, I’m not so sure that Satan does perform miracles (see Deut 13:1-15). The Bible seems to indicate that God performs these miracles and then the prophet speaks false doctrine as a test. So, the examples of miracles that seem to contradict the Bible’s assertion that God is the One, True God would fall under the “test” category, especially when accompanied by a prophet who teaches people to go after another god (such as a miracle attributed to Allah).”

    Hmmm, well I wasn’t paying attention, I’m sorry. I just thought that a Christian would say that Satan was responsible for a miracle that didn’t support his faith. Well, in the passage of Deut that you’re talking about, God seems to be talking to people who believed in him in the first place. I did an online search, correct me if I’m wrong about the passage:

    “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

    That’s at least part of it. The Hindu religion is older than Christianity, I think (or is it Buddhism (-> they have miracles too), I’m not sure). Why would God be testing them? They don’t believe in him. Though if you’re saying that God is testing Christians by performing those miracles for the Hindus and Muslims, etc, since he knows Christians will hear about them, you have a point (though I find it cruel of God to further sink the Hindus and Muslims into their faith simply to test Christians). But in what way does a Catholic miracle contradict the fact that God is the one true God? Non-Catholic Christians accept apparitions of angels, at least in the bible, acknowledging the apparition of Mary would not be elevating her to the level of God, I guess. In spite of everything people say, Catholics don’t worship Mary (or the saints, in principle), they ask for her help to obtain things from God (I was raised a Catholic). Why would the miracle of Fatima fit the bill?

    I am reading the passages and will answer the rest.

  5. I’m sorry, I came on the website and didn’t see a post I remembered submitting and thought I had not done so; now I see it, I submitted about the same thing twice.

  6. “All that said, the veracity of Christianity stands unique among religions in that the claims it makes are historical and not purely metaphysical. That means that there is more evidence for Yahweh than there is for Zeus (in your example) or any other pagan deity, for that matter. We have the historical claims God makes about himself to supplement the metaphysical ones. If you can trust the history (and I’ll admit, there are some good cases against the historicity of some things in the Bible, but the Bible has been vindicated as reliable many times over in the past when it had been questioned), then it isn’t asking for much more from you to trust the metaphysical claims. Other religions give very little reason to trust their metaphysical claims, but God has given us much more.

    That means your revision of my analogy isn’t accurate. There may well be more than two lanes of traffic to pick from, but there are road signs, if one chooses to read them, that point the way to the correct lane. People don’t often read signs. Just today a rather rude customer yelled at me for not having tomatoes, and told me that I should have told him that there were none in my restaurant before he ordered. I pointed at the so-obvious-only-an-idiot-would-miss-it-larger-than-life-sign on the counter that said we had no tomatoes. He sneered, “That’s not good enough.”

    To me, that is how most atheists/agnostics/skeptics are about the Bible. The Bible points us not just to one of the many gods that mankind has constructed, but to the One, True God. Much like the tomato sign in my above illustration, it is so-obvious-only-an-idiot-would-miss-it-larger-than-life-sign that says the God of the Bible is the One, True God. And, like my customer, atheists are sneering, “That’s not good enough.””

    Maybe the Roman (and Greek religion since Romans were inspired by Greeks) were more vague than today’s religions as says this article http://www.roman-empire.net/religion/religion.html or maybe they were not well integrated into history as the Bible may be, but their religion was followed by millions (billions?). Though there are accounts of the priestesses of Greek temples predicting the outcomes of battles. Haven’t the gods inspired the Greek rulers to do stuff (I don’t know, I’m just asking)? Haven’t they allegedly influenced the construction of Rome (again, not sure, just asking)?

    As we see today, the absurdities of their religion did not discourage their followers from practice. Even if Christianity’s case can be argued to be stronger, these other religion have to be taken into account. Your analogy was talking about minority vs majority (=a car driving on a highway vs everyone else was driving towards him), not about which religion makes more sense, points to the true God (=if one road seems more likely to lead to the right path). If you add up everyone who has followed any religion (that has ever exited) or even if you add up everyone who is following a religion right now (and of course include atheists and agnostics). I’m not sure Christianity will have a shattering majority http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/64621 . There IS chaos. Going back to your analogy, there are millions of cars zooming in hundreds(maybe thousands) of directions.

    If you want to start asking which one makes more sense to follow, I would of course say agnosticism. But you talk of road signs. I didn’t want to simply tell you, like all the atheists out there: “the Bible is not reliable, it’s myth” (Mark and the others on “Proud Atheist”, héhé) without looking into the article about why one should trust the bible. I can’t find it. Can you provide me the link? I mean, I agree that maybe the bible seems more likely than gods floating on Mount Olympus, seducing and marrying each other (though there are stories of fallen angels in Christianity, of Michael kicking Satan out of paradise; since I was maybe 7 years old I asked myself how people knew of those things, héhé), but again it’s (somewhat, not exactly) like Sherlock Holmes vs Cinderella.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: