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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Best J.P. Holding Quote EVER

J.P. Holding was one of my inspirations for entering apologetics ministry.  Before I saw his site, I had no idea that Christians even did things like that.  I love writing, I love arguing my point, and I love teaching people things.  Apologetics seemed to offer that, and an opportunity to serve God while doing it.

I was in.

I’ve seen an evolution in Holding.  He used to be extremely sarcastic and derisive toward anyone who disagreed with him, including creating a Screwball of the Month Award for atheists who used the dumbest/most ignorant arguments against Christianity.  Though he still does much of that, his main site has had most of that material expunged or edited for Christian charity.  Mostly, he keeps the sarcasm at bay.

He’d never admit it, but I think he finally started listening to the other side and realized that Christian charity is most important when dealing with outsiders.  They know we’re supposed to “turn the other cheek,” and they basically expect us to be doormats on account of that command.  Let’s give them what they expect–and more.  And, above all, “so far as it depends on you [the Christian], live peaceably with all” (Rom 12:18).

In certain places, however, the sarcasm flies freely.  Though J.P. has said a lot of sarcastic gems in the past, this has to be the best retort hands down:

God as a constant fixer-upper is the contrivance of a lazy and ignorant generation that thinks the whole purpose of being omnipotent is to be able to create rational beings and then entertain them. (source)

I laughed for 5 minutes straight.  I still chuckle reading back over for the hundredth time.  Thank you, J.P., and keep fighting the good fight!

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What Type of Evidence is Required to Believe Extraordinary Claims?

How many of us have said,  “I’ve been meaning to do [something], but [this] got in the way.”  I’ve been guilty of that many times, especially around the house.  I keep “meaning to,” but something else happens.

Wives are pretty forgiving here–or at least mine is.  Provided that [this] is reasonable, and not, “I just had to beat my high score at Yahtzee, and after 10 hours of rolling those dice, I finally did it!”

Supervisors at work are much less forgiving, even if [this] is extremely reasonable.  “I meant to get that paperwork faxed over, but four people called off for lunch rush and of the people that showed up, no one knew how to run the drive-thru register except for me!”  Those who have worked in fast food know that what I just said is a very legitimate reason for missing office work, but they also know that no district manager would actually accept that excuse.

In the world of blogging, “I’ve been meaning to write a post on [something], but [this] got in the way” has far less severe consequences than it does in the corporate world.  Usually, another blogger ends up writing the post, generally making the exact points that you would have raised.  Then comes the inevitable internal groan, “Why didn’t I just write the post sooner?”

Today, as I read over the usual blogs, I discover that the post I’ve been meaning to write on the so-stupid-it-burns talking point that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” has already been written by Dr. Randal Rauser.  Although I’ve disagreed with Dr. Rauser in the past, in this particular post he is 110% spot on.  This paragraph sums up my own points to people about this claim:

The problem starts with this: who decides what is “extraordinary”? Without an absolute, objective standard this principle collapses into “Anything that appears really implausible to me requires extraordinary evidence” and that in turn collapses into “No evidence will be good enough to convince me of something I find really implausible”. In other words, this is a recipe for an irrational dismissal of any evidence counter to what one already accepts.

Literally, all the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” talking point ever does is allow the atheist to dismiss with a simple hand wave anything that he doesn’t want to believe–the existence of God, the Resurrection, any miracle in the Bible, or whatever else they don’t want in their worldview.  All they need to do is class whatever their opponent says as “extraordinary,” and whatever evidence or argument offered in support as “not extraordinary.”  BAM!  Case dismissed faster than a pothead’s lawsuit on Judge Judy.

All that is required to believe any claim, extraordinary or not, is sufficient evidence.  Period.

Questions Theists Can’t Answer, the Bible

Another question from that old Reddit thread that has questions designed to stump theists:

If the Bible is the word from God, and the word from God is perfect, why does it need interpretations? Why don’t you stone adulters or avoid wearing clothes made from mixed fibers as stated in the Bible? Why don’t you sacrifice animals to your God? 

This is really two questions. First, Why does the word of God need to be interpreted? And second, Why don’t Christians adhere to the Old Testament Laws? Read the rest of this entry

Questions Theists Can’t Answer: God and Rest

Let’s take a look at a question theists allegedly can’t answer from an old thread on Reddit.  Warning: it’s lame.
“On the seventh day, he rested.”

So many thing wrong with that one statement, who would a god need to rest?

I don’t need to drink Pepsi, but I do.  I don’t need to blog, but I do.  I don’t need to pain miniatures, but I do.  I don’t need to watch The People’s Court everyday, but I do.  Shall I go on?

No where in the Bible does it say God needs to rest.  It says that he does rest.  Big difference.

A day is a measure of time on Earth, who did not exist.

It does now.  What’s your point?

If he worked for 5 days on one planet, thats pretty damn slow, at that the rest of the universe would take a lot longer that 14 billion years.

Actually, Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth.  Genesis 1:2 says that the earth is there now, formless and void.  So everything–the universe, the earth, etc–existed before Genesis 1:2 continues the narrative.  Verses 3-31 show God ordering what already exists.

We can prove that the solar system took billions of years to form and used only 2 things, gravity and time.

Okay.  So no matter or energy involved there?  Just gravity?  That’s an amazingly dense statement.

With that in mind, why would a god, any god make things by just waiting around for gravity to do what it does naturally? And theists will just say, “oh well god made gravity and put the wheels in motion”, ok well thats not how it says he does shit in the bible, so one of them must be wrong.

The Bible describes God as active in nature and using nature to achieve his ends.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit, which represents the active hand of God moving in the world around us.  The book of Colossians describes it best:

He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (1:15-20, emphasis added)

Preeminence and sovereignty don’t always imply an active hand in every single detail that transpires, but it does imply that God worked everything to create what he desired.  In him, it all hold together.  It’s possible that both the people who say God set it in motion and the Bible which describes God as active are both correct.

And thats essentially the first thing in the bible, how can they assume anything else to be true after that?

Begging the question.

I told you this was lame.

Convincing Skeptics to Believe

John W. Loftus discussed what it would take to convince him to believe. The discussion was prompted when Jayman, a Christian, asked  Loftus if he witnessed a bona fide miracle, would he then believe in God? Let’s look at the hubris displayed in the answer:

I have said that it would take a personal miracle for me to believe. I didn’t say what kind of miracle nor did I comment on the other things that would have to accompany that miracle. Let me do so now. . . .

Let’s say the miracle was an anonymous one, like the resurrection of my cousin Steve Strawser, who died at 58 alone in the woods of a massive heart attack, or the skeptic Ken Pulliam who died in October. I would believe in a supernatural reality, yes, but an anonymous one. I don’t think I could conclude anything different. But it would be an anonymous god who did it. I could not conclude much about this god other than that he could raise the dead. (emphasis added)

Once telling us that a miracle would convince him, he qualifies that by saying that a miracle is only evidence of a supernatural entity, but the identity of said entity is still open for conjecture. Then he backtracks:

So I would need more than a miracle, even though that scenario is already far fetched to begin with. (emphasis added)

After the miracle, Loftus wants God to take credit for it, by making a personal appearance (of course). Loftus further considers that proposition:

But let’s say that along with such a miracle I am told by this deity to believe exactly the way Jayman does about Christianity. That presumes even more than that a miracle occurred, since there are so many brands of Christianity around, some accusing the others of heresy. Would I believe then?

Assuming that the miracle came, the worker of the miracle has shown himself and taken credit, then he tells Loftus to believe exactly as a specific Christian believes. Meaning God’s power has been demonstrated, and then asserts his authority. Does Loftus submit?

So, if I experienced a personal miracle I would require more than just that to believe in Jayman’s god. I have so many objections to the Bible and the biblical god I would have to reconcile what I know with what this deity told me to believe. I cannot even understand why any god would require me to believe in the first place! At that point I would be forced to chose between Jayman’s god and a trickster conception of god, and the trickster god would have to be my choice given what I know. (emphasis added)

Wow. Don’t miss Loftus’s  this:

  1. An incontrovertible miracle occurs.
  2. God himself appears to Loftus and takes credit.
  3. God tells Loftus which Christian denomination is correct in all doctrinal points.
  4. However, Loftus doesn’t think that any branch of Christianity is correct.
  5. Loftus assumes that the deity who appeared and worked the miracle is now tricking him.

In conclusion:

If I was convinced Christianity is true and Jesus arose from the grave, and if I must believe in such a barbaric God, I would believe, yes, but I could still not worship such a barbaric God. I would fear such a Supreme Being, since he has such great power, but I’d still view him as a thug, a despicable tyrant, a devil in disguise; unless Christianity was revised. (source, emphasis added)

This is quite educational. My conclusion: John W. Loftus is an arrogant and unrelenting narcissist who has put himself in place of God. In his own words, Loftus has said, “Even if God himself proved his existence beyond a reasonable doubt and told me that Christianity is true, I’ll believe it but I’m still not going to worship God.”

Literally, John Loftus has just told us that he knows better than God. Only on the Internet can you witness egos this big first hand.  And, this proves that no one is in hell kicking, screaming, and crying to be let out (as I’ve frequently argued).  Loftus would rather be there then to bow down and worship God.

I don’t think I can add anything further. This speaks for itself.

Consistent Atheist: Meet Tom

Guest Post by Tom Scanlon

All right, I’m new to blogging so you’re going to have to give me some room.  My name is Tom Scanlon, and I’m an atheist.  But I feel like I’m different than most atheists in a very important way.  I consistently apply the attitudes and methodologies that led me to atheism to all areas of my life.

My life is pretty messed up because of that, but I don’t care.  I’m actually happy because I’m 100% consistent in all of my conclusions about life–no matter how weird they are.  In the coming weeks, I’m going to post about that, so you’ll see just how messed up things are.

Cory and I used to go to school together and we reconnected through Facebook.  I saw Cory had a blog and I talked to him about how to start one, since I was thinking about doing one about how consistent my atheism has become.  When I heard that you have to update blogs fairly regularly to get traffic and build loyal readers, I balked because I don’t think I have that much to say, or that I’ll even post that often.  So, being a gracious friend, Cory agreed to let me post every now and again to his blog.

So, hi, everyone!  I thought I’d start out with a brief introductory post and then maybe later this week or something I can put up a post about applying the methodology for rejecting Christianity to my personal life, and why it messed stuff up so badly.

All my posts will be under the Consistent Atheist category of the blog, so click on that to check me out.  Also, I got my own page.  All right, that’s it.  Hopefully I’ll be back around Friday or so with my first post.

The Textbook Example of Strawman Arguments

A strawman argument is basically arguing against something that’s easier to debunk than what your opponent actually said.

For example, John W. Loftus calls this one of the most asinine claims made by Christians:

It’s claimed that people like Dawkins, or Hitchens, or Harris don’t know enough to reject Christianity. How much should a person know about a religion or the various branches of it in order to reject it? Really. I’d like to know. (source)

If that’s the way that Christians actually articulate this objection, then yes, that’s asinine!  However, I don’t think that anyone is saying this in spirit, even if they are in words.

What I think they are trying to get across is that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris don’t know enough about Christianity to adequately criticize it.  Dawkins is the prime example–one of the arguments central to The God Delusion is the second grade retort, “Well, who made God then?”  That’s pretty sad coming from a man of Dawkins’s caliber.  He’s a decorated scholar and an eminent scientist; you’d think he’d realize that philosophy has long progressed past that point.

It’s undeniable learned scholars such as Dawkins venture into territory which they are not as familiar with as they should be before taking the plunge.  Maybe they know enough to confidently reject Christianity–they probably know at least as much about Christianity as I do about Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Roman Catholicism and I reject all of those.

However, before I try to criticize something, I attempt to become familiar with what it actually argues.  These guys don’t.  They stick to surface-level arguments and barely take a nick out of those.  Much of what they do is argue by outrage, which is the direct opposite of the rational inquiry that they always call for.

I have no doubt that, in a slip of many tongues, Christians have probably said that the New Atheists don’t know enough about Christianity to reject it.  However, that isn’t correct.  These men don’t know enough about it to criticize it.  I have a feeling that, while the formulation may have been incorrect, the articles by my fellow apologists would clearly explain that these men have seriously misplaced criticisms due to profound misunderstanding of basic Christian doctrines, theology, or arguments.

And that makes this a strawman argument from John Loftus.

Do I Only Have to Reject One More God to be an Atheist?

There is one particular atheist argument that I hear quite regularly that inspires within me a desire to smack the smug person who says it right in the back of the head, as though he were Tony DiNozzo and I were Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

The argument runs a bit like this:

You are an atheist to thousands of gods.  I’m only an atheist to one more god than you are.

The speaker is acting as if I only have to take one small step and I’ll be free of this Vulcan mind-meld of Christianity and I can live my life like a “normal” person.  But atheism isn’t just lacking belief in one less god than the Christian.  Atheism is lacking a belief in any sort of deity.  In other words, atheism is rejecting the Divine.  Let’s explore that for a moment, because it is far deeper than rejecting “just another god.” Read the rest of this entry

Marian Dogmas Don’t Appear Before the Sixth Century and Other Things I Never Said

I heard nothing from the self-proclaimed Catholic Champion, Matthew Bellisario, for quite some time on the blog post where I exposed the gross fallacies committed by him and his friend when arguing against a Protestant commenter.

I made what I had admitted to be an erroneous statement about the Marian super-devotion.  I stated that it can’t be found before the sixth century; however, I have since offered a retraction.  I heard nothing, so I assumed the issue was closed.

Then, on a lark, I checked the comment section of Bellisario’s blog, on the post where he called me out.  I discovered that it wasn’t over with.  He and commenter scotju made some additional remarks, of which I was blissfully unaware until this afternoon.

Why?  Because I hate comment sections.  Many of the folks who use them aren’t the brightest bulbs.  I only read the comment sections which I believe will provide some amusement to me.

My own comment sections are limited to 30 days per post.  I’ve contemplated removing them all together, on the logic that if you have something to say, you should have the guts to e-mail it to me.  Start a direct conversation instead of posting and running, as so many commenters do.  I can usually predict the post-and-runs.  (In fact, I’m betting the comment on this post from Georgie will be a post-and-run.)

Thank God I have a set of really good regular commenters.  Boz and Alex always have food for thought.  Not-a-Scientist isn’t bad, either, though he doesn’t comment very often.  I haven’t decided what I think about Ben Finney yet, but he has intelligent comments thus far.  So, thanks, guys.  I may not always respond, but I always think.  Some of the flood from DaGoodS’s blog has generally been good, too, even if I think that they’re trying excessively hard to ignore or downplay the points I’m making on the allegedly impossible questions.  You know, in the service of their atheism.

So, if I only sporadically check my own comment sections, then I’m really not going to check the comment sections of others.  Let’s take a peek at a few of their claims.

After “dismantling” my argument, Bellisario says, “True, and we can see Corey is nowhere to be found now.”  Okay.  So I vacated the premises.  I’m gone.  I’m scared of Bellisario and scotju’s obvious superiority of logic.  Or was it something else?

Something else.  That comment was made on February 25 at 7:28pm.  I made the retraction on the 24th at 8:13 am.  Bellisario issued a barb an hour later.  Scotju chimed in six hours later.  Then, less than a day after that, Bellisario whines that I’m nowhere to be found.

I’m sorry for having two children.  I’m sorry for having better things to do than check Bellisario’s crappy blog.  Please forgive me!  Internet apologetics isn’t the only thing I do with my life!  I prefer the company of my kids and my wife to the cold ramblings of a stranger’s keyboard.

Then, Bellisario says something that contradicts earlier charges.  He says, in regard to Protestant “groupies” that take claims at face value, “After all, if you believe that ‘sola scriptura’ nonsense, why bother to read church history?”  This is funny from someone who claims to read my blog when he waves my apology away by saying:

Corey, lets be honest here. You have made this claim more than once on your blog. Do you want me to go back and link to every time you have made this claim? You have said this numerous times, so it is not an isolated “mistake.” It is a firm postion that you have held for some time on your website.

If he was such a careful reader of my blog, then he would know a few things.  First, I have no groupies.  Who the hell comments on my blog and agrees with me, besides Sister Maria, who (by the way) is Catholic?

No one.  Everyone who comments here disagrees with something that I’ve had to say, including people I know in real life (like Craig French and Nate Reid).  I have no groupies.

Next, Bellisario would know that, while I used to be adamant about sola scriptura, I have seriously come away from it.  I believe that we should follow prima scriptura, which means Scripture should be in the first place.  The problem with sola scriptura is that you need to establish an hermeneutic, which is basically a traditional way to interpret it.  Otherwise, you run the risk of having everyone interpret Scripture their own way, and that’s the anarchy that Catholics whine about with sola scriptura.

There’s no need to re-invent the wheel every generation, which is what happens with pure, unadulterated sola scriptura.  That’s what we see a lot of in Protestantism today, which is a sore spot with me right now and one of the reasons I’ve been burned out on apologetics.

This evolution should have been apparent to regular readers, which Bellisario obviously isn’t.

How firm is this alleged position that I supposedly held about the Marian dogmas not appearing before the sixth century?  Well, I did a wee bit ‘o site searching.

In 2009, Bellisario wrote regarding Jame White and Mary, asserting that the early church (which to me, by the way, means first or second century) did pray to Mary and revere her in the same way as Catholics do today.  As “proof,” he offers up a quote from the sixth century.  Hmmm.  Sixth century.  Sounds familiar.  I wonder if Bellisario is the source of this make-believe position he insists I hold?  I replied:

Sixth century isn’t “early.” Bellisario offers nothing in his entire post earlier than this quote to back up his assertion that the early Christians paid special attention to Mary. Prayer to Mary, and the Marian dogmas, are simply not traceable to apostolic times in any form. I have no doubt that Mary was held in special reverence, but I doubt very much that prayers were offered to her the way that the Catholic Champion suggests. (source)

Where in that did I say that the Marian dogmas didn’t appear before the sixth century?  Oh, that’s right: I didn’t.  I said that they weren’t traceable to apostolic times, which I meant (but wasn’t clear) the modern formulation.  “In any form” was too extreme, and I shouldn’t have said it.  Either way, that’s a big difference between what I actually said and what Bellisario says I said.

Bellisario questioned me:

What? 6th century is not early? Says who? I find it quite amusing that the only argument this guy can provide is that this writing just isn’t early enough for him. Yet none of these guys have anything from this period attesting to their heretical beliefs. I have given a source from the 500s attesting to a Catholic practice and it just isn’t old enough for this guy. Is this the best this guy can do? Well as we know that is about par for the likes of James White’s fans don’t we? (source)

And I reply:

But I can provide Scriptural evidence for my beliefs, which dates back to the apostles. He’s providing non-inspired writings 500 years after the fact. I think that I am justified in asking him for earlier attestations. Asking me for earlier attestations is just deflecting the question, not answering the charge. (source)

Where’s my claim that nothing on Mary appears before the sixth century?  Did I miss it?

Other than those examples, I’m really not finding anything else on the introduction of the Marian dogmas.  So I don’t think Bellisario can make a case that I’ve said this repeatedly.  I can’t even find where I’ve said it all, except for that one time–which would make it an isolated mistake.

Am I going to get an apology?  Doubt it.

That’s all for now.  I’ll disseminate scotju’s counterpoint in another post.

If Life Were Like a Game…

If real life were like Dungeons & Dragons, atheism wouldn’t be an option.  Especially if you challenged a god by temple desecration and lynching followers.

Here’s a novel idea for an awesome web comic.  Replace the Knights of the Dinner Table with the Four Horsemen.  I bet it would look something like this: