Why don’t the faithful debate each other?

May 24, 2012 • 12:28 pm

Maybe I frequent the wrong websites, but I see far more debates in which atheists are pitted against the faithful, or creationists against evolutionists, than those in which the faithful debate each other.  That is, do we ever see liberal theologians like John Haught debate conservative ones like William Lane Craig about whose idea of God is right? Why not pit a Muslim versus a Christian to argue whether Jesus was the son of God? Or a Catholic versus a Christian to argue about hell and morality?

Maybe these things take place, but I doubt that they do with the frequency of the faith-vs.-nonbelief debates. (I’m willing to admit I’m wrong if I’ve missed tons of stuff.)

But if religion/religion debates are infrequent, why is that? Because, I think, religious people realize that by attacking someone else’s superstition, they undermine their own.  By exposing the lack of evidence for the other guy’s faith, you inadvertently expose the lack of evidence for your own. That, after all, is what John Loftus’s Outsider Test for Faith is about. Even liberal theologians usually avoid direct attacks on other faiths, for they know intuitively that no matter what you call it, revelation is still revelation, and it ultimately comes down to stuff that you make up because you like the way it makes you feel.

Still, it would afford me hours of delight to see a Muslim argue with a Christian about whose faith was right.

223 thoughts on “Why don’t the faithful debate each other?

  1. it would afford me hours of delight to see a Muslim argue with a Christian about whose faith was right.

    Both ancient and recent history suggest such arguments are rather bloody.

    1. than those in which the faithful debate each other.

      Why would they debate each other when they can just kill each other? It’s very traditional and theologically correct. The penalty in the bible for being an apostate, heretic, or atheist is death.

      The only way the religious have found to settle their theological disputes are violence, war, and genocide.

      Xianity started with a murder. Jesus: “I’m god”. Romans and Jews. “No you aren’t, you are going to be dead on a cross.”

      This is true even today. Northern Ireland, Iraq, Sunnis and Shi’ites, India and Pakistan, Israel and everyone else in the middle east, Moslems versus Coptic xians, and so on.

      1. ..India and Pakistan..

        The conflict between India and Pakistan is not at its base a religious conflict, but a political conflict onto which religion has been grafted after the fact. First, about the myth of “Hindu India” vs “Muslim Pakistan”: The number of Muslims in India is almost exactly the same as that in Pakistan, and there is no religious oppression of the kind religious minorities in Pakistan have recently suffered, though admittedly, it is not all rosy. Even the religious extremism in Pakistan is a relatively recent phenomenon: though Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, rallied for the creation of Pakistan on pseudo-religious grounds, his agenda appears to have been mainly a race or ethnicity based one. He was no devout Muslim, and once Pakistan had been created, tried to keep the country as secular as possible.

        1. Hindu vs Muslim violence in India escalcates – Topix

          2 posts – 10 May
          Seventy people were killed in Gujarat province on Thursday, as Hindu mobs attacked Muslims and torched a mosque and other Islamic …

          Yes, I’m sure there is no religious violence in India or Pakistan between Hindus and Moslems.

          Too bad those 70 people are dead. It would be interesting to ask them exactly why they were killed.

          1. Yes, I’m sure there is no religious violence in India or Pakistan between Hindus and Moslems.

            I don’t know why where you read that in my post. As I said, it is not all rosy. However, what you pointed to is a black swan incident from 10 years ago: an incident which had a variety of causes, only a few of them religious. I fail to see what that has to do with my argument that the disputes between India and Pakistan are of a political nature, and certainly not of a religious nature. Religion was grafted on to in only much later, in the 80s, when the Pakistani intelligence agencies tried to use world events to foment Islamic religious fervor against India in Pakistan, and parts of Kashmir (and notice that this did not work with all but a miniscule minority of Indian Muslims).

            And as I said, Pakistan, at least recently, is moving very quickly towards becoming a theocracy.

            1. Raven did not specify between India and Pakistan, it could be read as either or both between and within.

            2. Really? From what I’ve heard the partition of India in 1947 was rather unpleasant, and that had a strong religious component…

              1. Yes, the partition was rather unpleasant, and there were riots. But none of these riots were on, so to say, “theological issues”. When thinking about that violence, you have to remember that Jinnah did frame the question as a “Hindu vs Muslim” one, in spite of his later attempts at trying to make Pakistan a secular state, and when millions of people get displaced out of their lifelong settlements, it does not take even a straw to break the proverbial camel’s back.

                Any claim about the conflict about India and Pakistan has to deal with the uncomfortable fact that India has a higher (or just a little bit smaller, depending upon your source) Muslim population than Pakistan (an in fact, with the exception of Indonesia, a much larger Muslim population than any “Muslim” country in the world). This is no “Christian Europe” vs “Muslim Middle East” or even “Christian America” vs “Muslim Middle East” conflict we are talking about.

        2. You’re saying it’s political, but the political lines are coincident with the religious ones. If Hinduism had died out when the muslims arrived, there’d be no Pakistan or Bangladesh, it’d just be India. And if the Hindus had eradicated the muslims when they first arrived, it’d be the same, there wouldn’t be a conflict like today, except maybe between Super Hindu India and Muslim Afghanistan.
          It’s, at it’s base, a religious struggle. Thats why the mobs that occasionally ransack each other’s town aren’t muslim on muslim mobs, it’s a religiously based struggle, hardly matters that it’s become political too.

            1. Also, “Muslim” Bangladesh achieved this by teaming up with “Hindu” India.

              To repeat what I said earlier, conflicts in the Indian subcontinent have rather more complicated origins than just “Hindu” vs “Muslim”. The biggest threat so far to the Indian Union, for example, was when some of the most conservatively “Hindu” Southern states almost came to the brink of secession in the 60’s. Of course, this was not on the question of “religion”; the North is no more or less “Hindu” than the South, but on the question of (you guessed it right) language, yet again.

              1. Sorry about what looks like sock-puppetry here: for some reason, WordPress logs me in with slightly different nicknames depending upon how I log in (though my email addresses in the two cases are the same).

            2. That two muslim states separated hardly means that there’s no Hindu-Muslim strife.

              And on language, Pakistan and most of India speak effectively the same language, hindi and urdu, they’re supposed to be fairly mutually intelligible (as opposed to English and German, or Spanish and Italian, maybe they’re more like Spanish and Italian a few thousand years ago, diverging dialects).

              I’m not saying that if there were no muslims or no hindus, that there’d be no struggle on the subcontinent, but to say that it’s not something that stems from religion seems silly. Pakistan exists today because of Islam, and it’s not because of politics that they’re able to send mujahideeners into India, they’re recruiting by sect, not by economic policy.

              1. …but to say that it’s not something that stems from religion seems silly. Pakistan exists today because of Islam, and it’s not because of politics that they’re able to send mujahideeners into India, they’re recruiting by sect, not by economic policy.

                In fact, I find it rather silly to argue that religion was the most important factor in the creation of Pakistan. Firstly, Jinnah’s main agenda was a ethnic and political one: he argued for two “nations” existing in India, not for two religious groups. Secondly, if Hindu-Muslim strife in India is as common as you make it out to be, why isn’t there another call for a new “Pakistan” in India? Please bear in mind that India still has about as many Muslims as Pakistan, and as a group they have as much political influence today (perhaps more) as they had before partition.

                Thirdly, this whole issue of Pakistan’s state sponsored terrorism in India is a relatively recent phenomenon (around the 80s), before which the sub-continent was mostly terrorism-free. I think it is rather clear here which was the cart is: the Pakistani intelligence agencies saw an opportunity in the globally resurgent Islamic terrorism to give a religious twist to their geo-political goal of wresting Kashmir, and put it to use.

              2. However, I do agree with you that this approach of using religion to further geo-political aims seems to have become a victim of its “success” in Pakistan. I am pretty sure that if Pakistani and Indian governments were to decide to dump the Kashmir issue to foster better relations, the response from the Indian side would probably be based on a historic military distrust of Pakistan (especially after Kargil in 1999), but the response from a rather influential section of the Pakistani public would probably be on the lines of expressing anger at having succumbed to “Hindu” India.

    2. nb: I was NOT asking for combat. I am referring, as is obvious, to a verbal debate on stage.

      1. You’re not ADVOCATING combat, but, hey, when that’s the level of one’s problem-solving skills, combat is often what you get. L

      2. No doubt this would be the very politest, most civil debate, since there would be none of those strident, militant, dogmatic, rude “new atheists” to lower the discourse.

      3. Personally, I don’t see the point in debating such things. As a Christian, I think it is much more important to try to quietly and lovingly live one’s faith (and lead by example) rather than to try to verbally bludgeon someone over esoteric scriptural matters. For instance, I have been impressed with the character of some people of all different beliefs and non-beliefs, thus, the thing I care most about is how the person wrestles with the high ideals of their faith (or their personal philosophy) and manages to embody those ideals in their everyday life.

        1. So you would have no interest in a discussion with a Muslim about “esoteric scriptural matters” like whether Jesus was God or whether he died to save humanity from sin? You feel it doesn’t matter whether someone believes that or not as long as they are a good person?

          1. Arguing with someone over their theological beliefs when one’s knowledge of one’s own theological beliefs may be incomplete, inadequate, or inaccurate seems rather pointless. I think it is far better to try to improve one’s own theological understanding and practice and let God unfold and correct whatever needs to be understood by each person as they make their own way forward.

            1. “I think it is far better to try to improve one’s own theological understanding…”

              Isn’t the only way to improve one’s understanding of something to know when one is wrong about it? How exactly do you do that with theology when all claims are equally valid?

              1. It’s not that all claims are equally valid and therefore cannot be given deeper consideration. Religious ideals need to be put into practice in order to gain a fuller (more correct) sense of what they mean.

                For instance, Jesus was discussing Jewish theology with a number of Jewish theologians and was asked by one of them what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him what he considered to be the correct answer according to Jewish law. The theologian gave an answer and Jesus agreed. But then he asked Jesus what one word in his answer meant. (“And who is my neighbor?”) Jesus then responded with the parable of the good Samaritan and upon finishing it, asked the theologian which character in the story showed the best example of being a neighbor towards the robbed and badly wounded Jew. The theologian gave an answer that, up until this exchange, he probably would never have given in everyday life. (Samaritans were “outsiders” who were reviled by the Jews. Priests and Levites, on the other hand, were “insiders” and considered to be very important and respected members of the Jewish community.)

                The theologian was quite well versed in Jewish law, so Jesus certainly didn’t need to teach him the letter of the law. The question is, did he understand the law as well as he needed to? Jesus gave him a thought experiment to process in order to help him understand the law in a more helpful way, and thus give him a higher goal to shoot for in his everyday life. (“Go and do thou likewise”.)

                And that’s the whole point. Any serious effort at trying to more thoroughly understand one’s theology is going to require deeper thinking (and more involved and possibly difficult action) than just “all claims are equally valid so why bother examining them or doing more than just giving lip service to them?”

              2. ctcss:

                The parable of the good Samaritanboils down to “be nice. If you see someone suffering and you’re in a position to help, do so.”

                This is an example of a “fuller, more correct” understanding, achieved via deep theological consideration?

                Seems to me to be s pretty base, obvious ethical mandate. The bare minimum for participation in society. Not impressive.

                But it also has nothing to do with Wowbagger’s question, which was about what demonstrably reliable mechanism(s) you’d apply to ascertain where any flaws in your current understanding might be. The implication being, of course, that you have none, because there is nothing objectively knowable
                in theology in the first place. “All claims ate valid” whether you like it or not because none of you can demonstrate that the other guy is wrong. Or even just likely wrong.

              3. Thanks, musical beef; you said pretty much exactly what I was thinking – theology can’t be right or wrong, since there’s no way to support anyone’s claim. Mormonism, for example, is no more or less valid than Protestantism or Catholicism or Voodooism.

                Religions don’t challenge each other’s beliefs for the same reasons stage magicians don’t (as a general rule) reveal how their competitor’s tricks work – because they know they’re susceptible to exactly the same treatment.

              4. ctcss, what on Earth makes you think that any of this zombie snuff pr0n comic book fantasy you’re obsessing over is in any way even vaguely grounded in reality?


              5. @ctss
                I’m confused. You state that you should improve your understanding of theology through reflection and putting it into practice, not through discussion with others (which when it is someone who disagrees, is a debate). But in the example you give of the Pharisee gaining better understanding, he does so by, surprise, discussion/debate with Jesus.

        2. I suspect the reason “modeling” your faith seems better than “bludgeoning” people with rational arguments is that with faith one chooses which conclusion to accept based on what you think a person who chooses to believe it is like. A secular equivalent would be accepting (or denying) that global warming is taking place because one prefers the personalities and community of one group over the other. Nicer people are more likely to be right. You join a side.

          1. Ummm, no. What I said was that it is better to lead by example than by trying to argue someone into accepting one’s position. It’s not about associating with people one likes (that would be rather shallow), it’s about trying to live up to a higher set of ideals and goals even if those ideals and goals may not be easy to attain.

              1. The foundations of my beliefs are the concepts about God and God’s kingdom as I understand them from the various teachings and actions attributed to Jesus in the Bible. (Since I personally consider the attributes of his ministry to be quite admirable, I am very interested in following what he taught.)

                Beyond that, I am simply trying to understand those teachings and actions more deeply and to act in accordance with them. (A decidedly non-trivial and very involving task that will take a great deal of sincere effort on my part. So far I have a very long way to go!)

                So if you are asking me why I am not trying to follow someone else’s teachings instead of Jesus’ teachings, I am afraid that my time is already fully committed.

              2. In other words, you do not care if your beliefs about “God and his Kingdom” are true. Your starting point is that they are true.

                I was not suggesting you follow someone else’s teachings instead of Jesus’. I was suggesting that you expose your beliefs to scrutiny by challenging yourself to ask “Why do I think this guy is really talking about God, and Mohammed or Buddha or Jim Jones or S-Y Moon are not? And why do I think there is a personal God in the first place?”

              3. Since I personally consider the attributes of his ministry to be quite admirable, I am very interested in following what he taught.

                Then you are an evil monster who worships an evil monster.

                Personally condemning to infinite torture all men who look at a pretty woman and fail to gouge out their own eyes is not admirable, yet it’s what Jesus did right at the start of the Sermon on the Mount.

                Personally condemning to infinite torture all those who love their own families more than they love Jesus is not admirable, yet Jesus does this, too — multiple times.

                Personally promising to literally bring Hell to Earth in the form of Armageddon is not admirable, and yet that’s Jesus’s sole purpose in “life.”

                Declaring all those who aren’t with him are against him, and that a blood sacrifice be made at the foot of his altar of all his enemies is not admirable, but that didn’t stop Jesus from doing that as well.

                Antisemitism is far from admirable, but Jesus is one of the most virulent anti-semites in all of literature.

                And being a necromancing zombie with a penchant for compelling your thralls to fondle your intestines through your gaping chest wound is nasty and disgusting, not admirable…but that story is the most-often-cited reason why we should blindly accept that this steaming pile of maggot-infested bullshit is literally true.



              4. Ben, strictly speaking if you’re willing to start from the gigantic assumption that all that business about condemnation to hell is actually true, then Jesus is transformed from monster to saviour.

                But, yeah, the gospels definitely make Jesus out to be a bit less cuddly than people are usually comfortable admitting.

      1. I remember the first time a Southern Baptist explained to me the distinction between Christians and Catholics…

    1. I was born into a Catholic family and got sent to Catholic schools for twelve years before my parents finally let me attend a secular university. When I was in a catechism class in third or fourth grade, I remember very distinctly being told that I was not a Christian – I was a Catholic, and that people who called themselves mere Christians were probably Protestants and were all going to hell. This was in response to my asking, “Well, aren’t we Christians too?” in the childish naievete that assumed that “Christian” meant “follower of Christ” regardless of denomination.

      I ceased to be a practising Catholic – or Christian – not long after that. Although I continued to attend church for quite some time it was under duress and, spiritually, I was in a very different place during those wasted hours.

      “Wars of religion always make me laugh because basically you’re fighting over who has the best imaginary friend.”

      — Johnny Utah (as played by Keanu Reeves in Point Break [1991])

    1. Well, the Muslims pretty well kicked the Christians out of the M.E. and the Christians kicked the Muslims out of Spain. There seem to be at least local victories — and plenty of dead bodies.

  2. I’ve been asking exactly this question lately over at r/DebateReligion on Reddit. The most recent and blatant example came when a notorious creationist (at least, notorious there) posted a question to Christians who accept evolution. The thread has thus far generated 246 comments. So far as I can tell, three have been from Christians, representing two people. And yet we’re assured that most of the Christians hanging out at r/DebateReligion are intellectual, reasonable people who accept evolution. They just won’t actually disagree publicly with creationists, apparently. It’s pretty sad.

  3. There are plenty around, but they actually are dreadful to watch.

    See, for example, if you can find Rabbi Shmuley Boteach debating Michael Brown who is a Messianic Jew. Boteach debates for decibels and Brown fuddles around the messianic prophecy.

    William Lane Craig and Jamal Badawi–Christian versus Muslim–is similarly horrid.

    You would be much more educated and entertained watching the debate over who would win between the Flash and Green Lantern.

    1. Yes, such a debate might be amusing for a few minutes, but I really don’t think I’d be able to maintain interest for very long. Or contain my indignation.

    2. There is something about Rabbi Boteach that really sets my teeth on edge.

      Maybe it’s the “Darwin therefore Hitler” line that he takes, which coming from a Rabbi I find absolutely nauseating.

  4. There are a couple of WLC debates where he goes up against a Muslim (Jamal Badawi and Shabir Ally).

    There’s a UK-based Christian radio debating show called “Unbelievable” which is pretty good. The host is an evangelical (I think) but does a good job of being fair to both sides. They host quite a few Christian vs Christian debates.

    You’re right though when you say they don’t happen as much. However, to be honest I don’t really care as I find inter-theological issues pretty boring.

    We might be guilty of this too. I’d like to see some atheist vs atheist debates on certain topics!

    1. We might be guilty of this too. I’d like to see some atheist vs atheist debates on certain topics!

      So would I. Here’s a few I’d love to see:
      Bart Ehrman vs Robert Price on the historical Jesus.
      Mark Crislip* vs Ben Goldacre on the placebo effect.
      Richard Dawkins vs David Sloan Wilson on group selection.

      *the world needs more Mark Crislip

      1. the problem is, none of these have anything to do with atheism.

        How about Alain de Botton vs. Richard Dawkins on whether atheists need a temple devoted to naturalism.

        1. of course… that debate has already run on many blogs.

          including this one, IIRC.

          I really don’t see the gaps between atheists and theists in debate as even remotely comparable.

    2. Every debate between scientists that do not concern religion, are atheist’s debates. They are debating over who is right in regards to the nature of reality without invoking the supernatural, so I don’t see how we are equally guilty.

      1. Not necessarily equally guilty, but nevertheless I might want to see more public debates concerning atheism itself, rather than simply debates concerning godless concepts like science.

        E.g. “Are we in a position to deny God’s existence?” or something like that. Just for fun!

        1. Interestingly, this was the most common understanding what the the Global Atheist Conference was going to be – atheists talking about atheism – amongst people I told I was attending. Usually accompanied by something like ‘why bother?’

          They were somewhat surprised when I explained that it was a little bit broader than that; i.e. that it was a conference for atheists as opposed to one about atheism.

          1. Yes, and I suspect that my suggestion won’t appeal to everyone.

            I just think it would be nice to cover some theoretical issues once in a while in public debates. All I’ve come across between atheists is something like “should we be accommodating of religion?” and practical issues like that.

  5. Well, for starters, they all teach and argue almost entirely from authority, so it wouldn’t end up producing all that much. Its not like they use reasoning to teach their parishioners… its all presented as “this is what the holy book said, this is what you should do”, which is a big difference from teaching it like “this is what we think, and this is why we think it”. As you get older, you start having your own views… and either you find them in sync with whatever religion you’re in, or you shut up about it, or you find another church.

  6. …because they hate heretics more than they hate atheists.
    I frequented a fundamentalist Christian forum for years and to be honest most of them were respectful enough. The special ire of the Calvinists was reserved for the independent Baptists and vice versa. The occasional Catholic that ventured down there didn’t get treated with kid gloves.

    There is a special disdain which they feel against those who they think are right in a wrong way as opposed to wrong altogether.

  7. They don’t tend to debate much in academia, at least not that I’m aware of.

    But they’re constantly “debating” in the real world…every single one of those countless sects is the result of a schism that is the disagreeable conclusion of precisely one of those debates.

    Does Jesus want lesbians administering his holy sacraments, or will he fry fags in the flames? Episcopalians v Phelps.

    Did he make his grand exit some surprisingly-unknown time in the third decade of the first century, never to return since…or did he take an extended vacation in Pre-Columbian New York before flying in his magic spaceship to the stars? Mainline Christianity v Morons.

    Did YHWH cuckold a first-century Palestinian carpenter, or is that the worst possible imaginable heresy on so many fronts? Christianity v Judaism.

    You get the idea, I’m sure.



  8. Oh these arguments go on all the time! Walk into any Christian book store and you’ll see all sorts of literature as to whether belief X is right and belief Y is wrong. There are interfaith debates and dialogues (I’ve attended a few). And of course, there are murders in the name of theology (Shiite vs. Sunni, Catholic vs. Protestant, etc.).

    In the “good old days”, the losers of theological debates ended up getting burned at the stake….

    Then there was this:

    1. Thank you for this! They managed to camp up a hideous part of history, whilst reminding us just how awful it was.

  9. One further example: witness the debate over whether Mormons are “Christian” (I don’t think that they are but for me, that is Zeus vs. Thor type stuff)

    1. Meteorological gods Zeus (Jupitier, Jove) and Thor have the same day of the week named after them – Jeudi, Thursday!

      So, they are the same, they just had different stylists…


  10. Actually, interfaith debates are quite common – especially on college campuses and in university settings. These will often be called forums or expos, typically around a topic (like Jesus, how one is saved, the nature God, the path to redemption…). More common still is intra-faith debates among different sects or orders (Reformed vs. Orthodox Jews, Catholic vs. Protestant Christians, Traditional vs. Modern Muslims…) Of course, these are typically taking the same revelation and debating what its core meaning is.

    The reason these debates happen is that people genuinely believe their way is right. It is the same reason theists debate agnostics and creationists debate evolutionists. Each side believes the truth and some form of evidence is on their side and that their own faith’s revelation is the most valid.

    1. Bingo on the frequency of “Interfaith Dialogues,” as they call them. My favorite example is the one Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist priest, relates in “Living Buddha, Living Christ.” If I recall correctly, he was talking theology with some Christians, trying to make a point that Jesus was “a very enlightened fellow — he must have been a Buddhist!” One participant snidely accused Hanh of turning religion into a fruit salad, to which he innocently replied, “Fruit salad can be delicious!”

  11. In the neighboring French village of Pont-en-Royans, towards the end of the XVIth century, there used to be regular encounters between Catholics and Calvinists. They “debated” with steel. After their most prolific get-together, the River Bourne ran red with blood all the way down to the Isère. The nice thing about atheists is that we’ve never had a reputation for being murderous. Let’s do all we can to avoid another series of Religious Wars. In allowing the faithful to vent their hatred upon evolutionists, the latter individuals are no doubt saving human lives.

    1. The nice thing about atheists is that we’ve never had a reputation for being murderous.
      Except for the comparisons to Stalin, Mao and Hitler*.

      * Yes I know, but the people who make this argument consider him to be an atheist.

    1. Account here and here:

      Lewis argued that naturalism—the claim that only physical reality exists—is irrational and self-defeating. Anscombe sharply criticized the argument, claiming that it was confused and based on ambiguous use of key terms. … Lewis not only admitted that Anscombe got the better of the exchange, but recognized that his argument was wrong. Further … Lewis gave up on Christian apologetics. … Before this encounter, [Lewis] had been something of an intellectual bully who had become a hero to many because of his debating prowess and his cleverness in defending Christian faith. But Anscombe reduced him to a child by “cutting the bulling hero down to size.”

      1. Except that both of your links say it’s a myth that Lewis gave up on apologetics due to the debate.

  12. We mustn’t let this thread get too long without quoting Emo Philips’ “best God joke ever”:

    Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!” Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

    1. These jokes are funny because there’s some truth to them. I should know, having recently come out of the real only true church (take deep breath):

      Mine was the AALC/LLC branch from the 1973 schism in the non-federation faction of the Heideman branch of the Laestadian revival movement of Scandanavian Lutheran Christianity, which follows the Augsburg confession and has no quarter with those other Protestants who say crazy things about the Eucharistic wafer. Namely that it is merely representative of Christ’s body, rather than an actual hunk of flesh chopped off from who knows what part of a resurrected corpse that has actually been far out of range for organ donation lo these 2,000 years.

      And the whole, stinking mess was descended from the Roman Church, as opposed to the Eastern Church that gives us Greek Orthodoxy, among other things. And that whole, stinking mess is what was left standing after a bunch of other ideas about Christ’s incarnation, bodily form, etc. were clobbered into silence.

      I wrote a book about some of this history, An Examination of the Pearl. My “Lapsed Laestadian” userID above this comment hyperlinks to the web page that displays a free HTML copy while trying to convince you fork over a dollar to get it on your Kindle.

  13. Wow. Just wow! I’d say in recent years, we’ve learned to respect our differences more and have learned to unite more on common ground (at least in the United States). We still do debate and we have always debated.

      1. I would interpret that as meaning they’ve circled their wagons around a pile of buffalo dung to protect themselves against the opposition of science and reason.

      2. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheistic religions that stem from the same story in the book of Genesis. God formed a covenant with Abraham (the guy who nearly killed his son Issac). We all believe in prayer, and see it as important to obey God. We disagree on the role of Jesus, on the nature of Jesus, disagree on the nature of God (Trinity or no Trinity…which ultimately has to do with Christ’s nature). Within Christianity, we all generally agree that Christ came to die for our sins to offer us salvation. Generally speaking, we disagree with how grace is received, how it effects the person and our lives and the structure and authority of the Church. We can disagree about other things too, but those are the big ones that keep us divided.

        1. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheistic religions[….]

          Ha! Good one.

          If you seriously believe that any of the Abrahamic religions are monotheistic, then you’re about as stupid and / or gullible as they come.

          Never mind the whole Trinitarian dispute. If Hades and Set are gods, then so is Satan. If the Olympians are gods, then so too are the Heavenly Host. If Cerberus is a god, then the Beast of Revelations is one, as well. If Prometheus and Pandora, then Adam and Eve; if Romulus and Remus, then Abraham and Isaac. Samson is but Hercules with dreadlocks and a tan. Roman ancestor worship? Catholic saints and guardian angels.

          A few hundred years ago, a Jewish philosopher invented the first Abrahamic religion that could honestly be considered monotheistic, but he did so by completely doing away with the Bible and redefining the term, “God,” to mean what Carl Sagan meant with his favorite word, “Cosmos.”

          I hope you’ll forgive me — no wait…I really don’t give a damn what you think of me. But an “honest” Catholic spewing nonsense about the Abrahamic religions being monotheistic? God damn, but that’s rich.



          1. “A few hundred years ago, a Jewish philosopher invented the first Abrahamic religion that could honestly be considered monotheistic” — You mean Spinoza? (Just checking.)


          2. If we are going to define the term God on polytheistic terms, than theoretically yes, then angels and demons could be said to be gods. I’d say it is a stretch to call saints god’s. But the God of Abraham is distinct in definition to these beings. As such, in the Old Testament, first he reveals himself as a competing god merely more powerful than the pagan god’s. As revelation continues He reveals that the pagan gods either do not exist or at the very least are demonic beings – that is to say that their existance stems from Him though they have chosen to rebell. A much more difficult question to answer is why God would create anything knowing that thing would reject him and become evil. I mean, really, the problem of evil is the only truly compelling argument that God might not exist. Evolution doesn’t disprove God’s existance, it only is used by atheists to refute “first cause” and “design.”

            There are many brillant atheists. There are many pompous and not so brilliant atheists. There are many brilliant theists. There are many pompous and not so brilliant theists. That says nothing about what we believe, but says more about how deeply the average person thinks about things.

            1. I mean, really, the problem of evil is the only truly compelling argument that God might not exist.

              <snork />

              That, and the fact that you can’t even offer a coherent definition of the term, “god,” in the first place — let alone offer even a single hint of evidence that such an entity exists.

              Oh — and let’s not forget the fact that you’ve been sincerely citing an ancient anthology of faery tales that opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard; prominently features a story about a talking plant (on fire!) that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero; and ends with an utterly bizarre zombie snuff pr0n fantasy where the King of the Undead gets his rocks off by commanding his thralls to fondle his intestines through his gaping chest wound.

              Dude, if the Problem of Evil — something Epicurus conclusively proved centuries before Paul had an hallucinatory epileptic fit on the road to Damascus — is your biggest stumbling block to accepting reality over your childish fantasies, you’ve clearly not grown up enough to be told the truth about Santa, either.



              1. The problem of evil is not a stumbling block for me. It is merely the only compelling argument atheists have. Cartoonizing and making fun of people who disagree with you isn’t an argument at all. There was plenty of cartoonizing of ideas in the documentary “Expelled” of scientific theories about the origin of life. I’m sure you didn’t find those compelling or shaking. Why should I have a different emotional response to the same strategy?

              2. I take it, then, that you can provide a coherent definition of the term, “god”? One that doesn’t painfully obviously necessarily entail a logical contradiction?

                And that you have evidence that an entity matching the one in your definition actually exists?

                And that you can demonstrate that the Garden of Eden is not an enchanted garden; that there were no talking animals in it; and that YHWH was not angry and does not fit the common definition of the term, “wizard”?

                And that you can similarly demonstrate that the Burning Bush did not speak to Moses; that Moses was neither reluctant to lead the people of Israel nor a hero to them; and that the Burning Bush did not teach Moses how to wield the Rod of Aaron in such a way as to turn it into a snake?

                And that Jesus was not raised from the grave with his wounds intact and never once told Doubting Thomas to thrust his hand into Jesus’s sides?

                I’ll grant you that the Bible never explicitly details the sort of sexual gratification Jesus received from Thomas’s unusual hand job, but I’m sure you can understand how painfully obvious the subtext is.

                You may not like the fact that you’re a cartoonish oaf suitable for naught but being made fun of, but that’s your problem, not mine. But why should you find this surprising? You laugh at those silly Scientologists and their Xenu bullshit, no? Or the Morons and the con job that Joe Smith pulled on them? Or Mohammad riding a flying horse into the sunset, or Zeus getting it on with all those beautiful maidens?

                What on Earth makes you think that you’re somehow superior to all the rest of your fellow religidiots, regardless of your doctrinal differences?


            2. I mean, really, the problem of evil is the only truly compelling argument that God might not exist.

              I think that at least for any one (like, I assume, you) who follows a single religion, the most compelling argument for atheism should be the same arguments you use to say that the other Gods/and Goddesses do not exist. Why don’t Parbrahma, or Mahamaya or any of the other “One God/One Goddess” of the monotheistic Indian religions exist? Once you have an answer to that, try replacing Parbrahma or Mahamaya with “Yahweh”.

              1. First of all, I am a monotheist. The nature of what God is in monotheism is different than the nature of what a god is in polytheism. As such, I am a believer that it is only logically possible for there to be one God. [deleted because I got too long winded. To main point]
                But either way, the question is still why one versus the other? When I was in my early 20s I became intimidated by the quest to ensure I believed the absolute right thing. How did I know the God I believed in was the right one? What did I know about the other alternatives? I couldn’t just spend on afternoon in the library and become as equally knowledgable of my faith as I was in others. Moreover there were aspects of my faith I still needed to learn. But then I realized that I didn’t need to wait to make my decision. We often make decisions based on the best of our knowledge at that time. In fact, I don’t know when we don’t. And this realization has helped me to be more humble about my views and accepting of other’s views.

              2. And this realization has helped me to be more humble about my views and accepting of other’s views

                I can only hope that this humility does not come with the patently “humble” view that, for example, those monotheist Hindus who believe that “Mahamaya is the one true Goddess”, or atheists like most of us readers here, are going to hell just because of our beliefs.

              3. I’m a Catholic. I am neither a gnostic nor am I am I a Protestant. And as for my own spiritual life, the idea of eternal separation from God is the worst type of suffering their is. I do not imagine Hell some video game or cartoon caricature of Dante’s Inferno. I imagine it simply as a very dark, isolating lonely place where all my sinful passions torment. If I’ve been harboring a grudge at someone, I will suffer in my own anger. Whereas Heaven involves recognizing that my own heart longs more for God than anything else. Thus in abandoning the world, I open my heart to receiving, as Christ says “living water” which will cause me never to be thirsty again. Its not literal water. It is simply that the experience of feeling incomplete and wanting will be gone. It is greater than romantic love, but it requires that the individual grows to sincerely love God enough to abandon everything else. So the question is not religious affiliation and its not a one time conversion deal. It is a process. Do you long for God enough to abandon everything or would you prefer Hell? That is how I see it. The salvation from sin is simply that as a human individual, I find it difficult to truly abandon everything. I pursue lesser goods over greater goods. Thus it is through Christ’s grace that I progress through overcoming and abandoning my sins. Hense the idea of Purgatory. If I’m still sinning today, what makes me think that death will be enough to free me from that attachment? I cannot say that those who have been raised in a different culture and religion do not long for God in any manner nor can I say that they’re truly willfully rejecting Him. I cannot judge Him. I simply know that I have to follow where He leads. So while abandoning the Catholic Church would involve me rejecting God, those outside of the Church can be outside of it for different reasons.

              4. But again, all that boils down to is this: you think believing in your God is the most virtuous this for everyone needs to do. I fail to see given this is all so personal, you were claiming that there are no arguments for atheism. Think about it this way: if person A believed in fairies, but could show no evidence for their existence, would anyone take person A’s argument that ‘The only “a-fairiest” argument of any import is that there are loving couples who get separated.” seriously?

              5. Honestly Catholic: I am a believer that it is only logically possible for there to be one God.

                Absolutely there is only One God. And we know that that One God will burn in hell anyone who says that One God is three, that He has a son, or needs a little helper:

                Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the three; and there is no god but the one God, and if they desist not from what they say, a painful chastisement shall befall those among them who disbelieve.
                Original: لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ هُوَالْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ وَقَالَ الْمَسِيحُ يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اعْبُدُواْاللّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ مَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللّهِ فَقَدْ حَرَّمَ اللّهُعَلَيهِالْجَنَّةَ وَمَأْوَاهُ النَّارُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ
                لَّقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلاَثَةٍ وَمَا مِنْإِلَـهٍ إِلاَّ إِلَـهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَإِن لَّمْ يَنتَهُواْ عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ لَيَمَسَّنَّالَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِنْهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِي
                —The Qur’an (القرآن), Sura 5:72–73 (The Dinner Table, سورة المائدة)

              6. Honetly Catholic:

                The nature of what God is in monotheism is different than the nature of what a god is in polytheism.

                Also, I am not sure what that has to do with my comment. I was specifically talking about monotheistic religions in my comment. Contrary to popular beliefs in West, several Indian religions are about as monotheistic as Catholicism.

              7. Honestly Catholic: “I do not imagine Hell some video game or cartoon caricature of Dante’s Inferno.

                Then your beliefs are in conflict with the Church and the Athanasian Creed. Hell is where God tortures disbelievers in fire, as you will be burnt for your belief that God has a son and God is three.

                The Church professes her faith in the Athanasian Creed: “They that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire”

              8. I have to agree with Steve, HC. What you describe is very different from what I was taught as a Catholic.

                But you seem very sincere and firm in your beliefs. So, how do you know all this to be so? Where has all this come from? Teaching? Revelation? And what would it take you to change you views? Could you ever be persuaded that you God is in no way plausible?


              9. Honestly Catholic:

                And as for my own spiritual life, the idea of eternal separation from God is the worst type of suffering their is.

                I am not sure if I am reading it right, but is your claim that this non-suffering of “separation from God” (which many of us readers would suffer from in your view, especially those who rejected the Catholic Church after getting familiar with it) is somehow a greater suffering that the real suffering of say a cancer patient, or that of a malnourished kid living in a war-torn region of Africa?

                I hope that is not your view, for otherwise I think this is a rather demeaning and insulting view of human suffering, and lacks, from my point of view, any shred of humility. I’d like to think that I would much prefer not having to hold such views, if such was required to get to “Heaven”, even if I was convinced of God’s existence

    1. in recent years, we’ve learned to respect our differences more and have learned to unite more on common ground (at least in the United States)

      Seriously? So the fundamentalists have become more tolerant of the liberal Christians? Christians have become more conciliatory toward Muslims? Protestants haven’t been calling the Catholic Church the Whore of Babylon?

      I’m not sure what country you’ve been observing, but it sure isn’t the same one I’ve seen.

    2. So, how do you debate? Cause I’ve been following the debate within the Catholic Church on priests being able to marry, women being able to be priests, and the like, and it mostly follows the line of the Pope telling everyone ‘this is the way it is, shut up, or be fired’. And if you continue to disagree, you excommunicate yourself. It sounds like there’s no room for debate *at all*.

      1. Priestly celebacy is a discpline of the Latin rite of the Church. Those in the hierachy who have the authority to change the discipline aren’t. Anyone is free to argue why it should or should not be changed. No one is being excommunicated over it. Anyone who claims excommunication is involved is jat the very least uninformed.

        There have been many debates over whether it is theologically possible to ordain women as priests. Most of the concensus is that the Church does not have the authority to do this. Deeper into this though is an understanding of the role a priest takes. Is he merely the person giving the homily and saying words at the atlar or is his role more symbolic? Tradition says that he acts in persona Christe. He represents Christ. This also gets into the analogy in St. Paul’s epistle of the Church being the bride of Christ. Thus at the altar the priest is acting in the person of Christ as the bridegroom at the wedding banquet of the lamb. Christ dies on the cross for his bride and gives his body and blood to the church and we the Church in a feminine form receive Him and His grace. Thus, we also say it is only appropriate to call God He not because God has a penis (God is spiritual so that’s irrelevant) but because He acts upon creation, He calls it into being. As opposed to a mother nature (like Mother earth) which embody a more pantheistic view of the world because creations grows from it like a woman pregnant with young. Thus it is not that women are inferior to men, but it is that men and women embody different meanings and complimentary natures. We have a sameness (“at last bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”) but also a difference. and as Catholics we affirm this difference. Its not offensive to me as a woman, because hey: women stayed at Christ’s side when He died on the cross. Except for St. John, all the men fled. I am honoured to be a woman.

        Anyway I seem to be rambling so I better stop.

        1. That’s all sugar and spice within your own cult I’m sure. The problem is that you then feel emboldened to impose it on all the inhabitants of the planet. If you were steadfastly for keeping your cult practices strictly to yourselves, I would be inclined to defend your right to practice your fantasy as long as you weren’t thrusting it upon innocent children prior to the age of consent. Until you are able to constrain your practices to only applying to you and your fellow consenting adult cult members, I have no choice but to consider disgusting the slick slim that your are mired in.

            1. Um, that’s a response to Vatican views on abortion, contraception, and women’s rights in general. The Catholic Church is living in another century when it comes to these issues. And it pushes these views, hard, on non-Catholics worldwide.

    3. Well you’ve certainly found “common ground” with evangelicals in denying rights to gays and women.

      And while the catholic church is the undisputed master in aiding and abetting pedophiles within their organization, you certainly share “common ground” with most other religions in this area as well.

      So when it comes to bigotry and intolerance you have indeed learned to unite.

      You should be proud of yourself, ecumenicalism is alive and well among those who pretend to know things they don’t know.

    4. honestlycath.wordpress.com is no longer available.

      The authors have deleted this blog.

      This could be because honesty (as in intellectual honesty) and catholic are mutually contradictory.

        1. Yet, as is commonly a christian trait, you not only fail to apologize for the contradiction, you fail to formally acknowledge that the contradiction exists.

    5. What common ground?

      I suppose it means hating gays, atheists, science, scientists, and most of all REALITY.

      “We hate the same groups of people so we have common ground.”

      1. Hating anyone is wrong. Try not to be a bigotry hypocrite. A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one who exhibits intolerance or animosity toward members of a group. (thank you wikipedia for a nice clear definition) Be careful about hating a group of people because you think they’re all bigots. You just might have to admit that you’re a bigot yourself.

            1. By that standard, the United States is one of the most primitive places on Earth – Texas especially so.

              You are for something unless you are against it.

              1. I said I support the death penalty in primitive societies. The only way you could deduce that by that standard the US is one of the most primitive places on earth is if I claimed I supported it in the US (which I don’t) or if it the practice of it always implies that it is a moral practice (which it doesn’t).

            2. And all y’all “good Christians” have the gall to accuse the godless of the sin of moral relativism.

              Tell me, why should a Christian’s answer to violent primitivism be “Kill ’em all and let Jesus sort ’em out,” rather than a bit of sermonizing? Could it be that you know that Jesus is nothing but a really bad comic book antihero and that you yourself are primitive enough to think death and destruction are the answer to death and destruction?


              1. My opinion is not an example of moral relativism. According to my faith, the morality of an action is dependant upon: the object chosen, the intention and the circumstances. As such, if someone comes into my apartment and starts trying to rape me, my husband or myself would not be doing anything morally wrong to use a violent defense provided it is not excessive. If I invite a neighbor over and randomly start physically attacking my neighbor, I am acting immorally.

                Moral relativity is not the belief that the morality is relative a situation. It rather is the belief that differing moral conclusions of different cultures and individuals is evidence that there is no objective morally good or evil actions. There are only pleasant and unpleasant consequences to actions.

              2. Oh, what rank hypocrisy.

                First you declare that the suitability of state-sanctioned killing depends on how primitive the culture is; then you decry moral relativism as a position that the culture’s mores dictate what is moral; and then you have the gall to pretend that you’re not advocating moral relativism.

                You might be fooling yourself, but you sure ain’t foolin’ nobody else.


            3. Since I can’t reply to your reply (comment nesting doesn’t go that deep) I’ll reply to your comment here. <blockquote"I said I support the death penalty in primitive societies. The only way you could deduce that by that standard the US is one of the most primitive places on earth is if I claimed I supported it in the US (which I don’t) or if it the practice of it always implies that it is a moral practice (which it doesn’t)."

              Who is to judge whether a society is primitive or not? And by what standards do we judge whether a society is primitive? Is it technology? Is it ability to survive? Is is by whether a society lionizes the strongest or protects the weakest? Is it a matter of philosophical sophistication? Is it what invisible spirits they choose to worship?

              If you’re going to support the death penalty in some circumstances and not in others you are not making a stand at all. There are Christians who say that atheists are guilty of moral relativism, but the position you have staked out is a very slippery slope indeed. And yes, by the standards of how the United States treats the weakest members of its society, I do consider it primitive. The number of people on death row who have been proved, post trial, to be innocent, is proof enough of that.

              1. Then I will clarify what I mean. If the society has no other means of protecting the innocent, lethal force can be used. If allowing a serial killer to live means either allowing your entire tribe to be killed in a short period of time, or banishing him to the wilderness where his chance of survival on his own are slim, than yes, use the death penalty. When the death penalty becomes a vehicle of revenge, than it is immoral.

              2. If you would, please cite even one example of a society with the power to execute people in its name that did not also have the power to imprison or exile people in its name.

                Now, again, justify why it is better for said society to murder this person rather than imprison or exile him.

                Hell, I’ll even let you cite chapter and verse of your Wholly Babble if you like.

                What’s the Catholic justification for capital punishment?


        1. I’m sorry, honestly catholic, but you are derailing this thread with confessions of your own personal religious beliefs I expect you, at the outset, to give us the EVIDENCE that has absolutely convinced you that there is a God. You can’t post further until you give us that convincing evidence.

          You’ve posted 15 times on this thread; that’s really too much.

  14. Still, it would afford me hours of delight to see a Muslim argue with a Christian about whose faith was right.

    No it wouldn’t. Not unless you are a fan of gladiator contests and blood sports.

    Moslems and xians have been fighting and killing each other for over 1,000 years.

    Even today, it still goes on. One of the big casulties in the ME is ME xianity.

    1. Iraq had a lot of xians considering. It’s estimated that 2/3’s have either been killed or emigrated since the US invasion.

    2. There used to be a lot of Palestinian Arab xians. Same thing happened.

    3. The Egyptian Coptic xians are perennially under seige from the Moslems.

    4. Boku Harum in Nigeria, Moslem fanatics who reject modern science including the round earth, kill xians all the time in bombings aimed at churches and civilians.

    There has only been one act of terrorism near me. Someone firebombed the local mosque.

  15. and it ultimately comes down to stuff that you make up

    All faith claims reduce down to “voices in someone’s head.

    The voices in people’s heads all say different things.

  16. When I was a child, I used to pray to God for a bicycle. Then I realized that God doesn’t work in that way – so I stole a bicycle and prayed for forgiveness.

    — Emo Phillips

  17. What about American Christianity versus Christianity of other countries? Rich megachurches, televangelism, Jesus action figures, Americanized capitalist Jesus, anti-socialism, anti-healthcare, pro-war, anti-poor people. Christiamericanity is a very interesting denomination.

  18. It’s probably a good thing that all the various denominations of Christians hate each other as much or more than they hate total outsiders. If they ever settled their differences and decided to gang up the pagans, nonxtians, nonreligious, atheists and others we’d all be in trouble.

  19. For a variety of Christian/Muslim/Atheist discussions morals and doctrine check out the UK’s Premiere Christian Radio / Podcast “Unbelievable”.


    The have a wide range of guests and have informal debates. Granted, their is more than a little bias towards Christianity and it is common for their to be two Christian guests vs one atheist and such, but it is still a good show for both interfaith and, er, extrafaith (?) debate.

  20. I think you’re on to something there, Jerry. Awhile back it occurred to me that the reason the religious get so upset about criticism of any religion is that consciously or not they recognize that they have no real way to defend their beliefs.

  21. By exposing the lack of evidence for the other guy’s faith, you inadvertently expose the lack of evidence for your own.

    This is also why nobody treats Mormonism with the ridicule it deserves. ‘Cause what makes it ridiculous is that some people obviously made some shit up, and then it grew into an authentic religion with generations of faithful. Not a phenomenon you want to think about too closely!

  22. I think you’re probably right about why it isn’t done very often. I was watching a programme on the BBC last weekend about whether or not there’s a difference between a religion and a cult, and one of the Jewish panellists started talking about how the cults need to be viewed skeptically and in line with evidence, and the hypocritical ridiculousness was deafening.

  23. It’s called apologetics, Jerry. They (Christians) have cleverly avoided direct debate since they all use the same book they just devolve into quote-matches and agreeing on the ‘big picture’. They just talk past each other, reaffirming the biases of their respective markets.

  24. As part of my efforts to experience views other than those with which I already agree I regularly listen to the weekly Unbelievable podcast http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable
    where they often engage different Christian sects in discussion on issues of interest to both. For example, the title of last week’s show: “Was Jesus a Calvinist?” http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/unbelievable/id267142101

    PS As part of my regular innoculations against magical thinking I also listen to William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith podcast. He seems very careful to steer clear of any Christian intrasectarianism.

  25. I heard this morning that there’s been a run on a certain kind of chocolate chips by jews because a new method of cleaning the machines that produce them will render the chips non-kosher, and I thought: What a picky god! Why aren’t christians making fun of such nonsense?

    Because they’ve got their own nonsense, and if you’re going to use nonsense as a trip-wire for criticism, then lookout.

    1. Nice one!

      It’s worth remembering that the debate amongst Catholics in that episode resulted in one of the bishops admitting, “It’s all nonsense,” and leaving with some hippy friends in a VW camper van.


  26. About a millennium ago, Indian kings would hold these debates that pitted all worldviews (Hindu monism or Advaita, Buddhism, Jainism, various dualistic views) against each other; this included worldviews that denied the existence of divinity like Charvaka. Eventually a victor would be declared by the judges.
    Evidence for these comes from both foreign observers and from sect leaders (bragging about who they beat in such a contest).

    1. In fact, some of the most famous of these debates were sponsored about five hundred years ago by the Mughal emperor Akbar, one of the most “innovative” emperors to ever have ruled India in the last three thousand years. This is even more surprising since Akbar started life as a devout Sunni Muslim, but towards the end of his life, even started his own “religion” based on a distilling on what he though were the best features of all the religious views he had heard (which, it seems included all the major Indian and Abrahamanic religions, as well the atheist/materials Charvaka/Lokayata school.

  27. There was a story I just reread recently (I’ll be damned if I can find it now), about a skeptic who attended a conference on alternative medicine. The author said it was amazing to see speaker after speaker stand up in a united front against the evils of modern medicine despite the fact that they all advocated different and sometimes conflicting methods of alternative treatments. One person would stand up and say all disease was caused by calcium deficiencies and the rest of the panel would nod sagely, just as they did when other speakers stood up and proclaimed balanced chakras, or magnets, or homeopathy was the key to good health.

    It didn’t matter that none of them could agree because they all saw themselves as facing a common enemy.

    And yes, the parallels to various religions uniting against the threat of “secularism” were obvious.

    1. Craig also debated John Dominic Crossan in the nineties. The book is Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?: A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan

  28. As a former Baptist pastor for 25 years, we never debated other sects because we were too busy fighting with each other. Besides, all those other sects were headed for hell.:)

    I used to joke…when Abraham and Lot had their disagreement and parted company, you go your way and I will go mine….they were the first Baptists. Endlessly bickering and fighting.

    Other sects were mentioned quite often from the pulpit but there was no one in the crowd to counter what was said.

    1. Preacher: “OK, everyone stand up (all stand). Now, all of you who are Baptists, sit down (only one old woman remains standing). Ma’am, you’re not a Baptist?”
      Woman: “No. I’m a Methodist.”
      Preacher: “Why are you a Methodist?”
      Woman: “Well, my grandfather was a Methodist, and my father was a Methodist, and all my family are Methodists.”
      Preacher: “What would you be, then, if your grandfather, and your father, and all your family were idiots?”
      Woman: “A Baptist, I guess.”

  29. While the fundamentalists of some faiths consider theirs as the only true one, there are many who see no debate to be had as they see their faith as a personal view, not a universal one.

    Consider The Pluralism Project at Harvard, for example: http://pluralism.org/

  30. Decades ago there used to be a local TV show here in Seattle with a priest, a minister and a rabbi discussing the different perspectives of their religions. I used to watch sometimes, hoping for sparks to fly. Instead a typical exchange was like this:

    MODERATOR: What do your faiths say about murder?

    FATHER TREACY: Well, actually, the Catholic Church is against it.

    RABBI LEVINE: What a coincidence, we in Reform Judaism are against it too!

    DOCTOR FINE: Funny thing, us Protestants are opposed to it too.

    Then they all looked very pleased with themselves. They had had an Interfait Dialogue.

    Meanwhile I’d be shouting at the TV: “Virgin birth!! Discuss the Virgin Birth!!” But they never listened.

    1. The virgin birth is a non-issue to progressive Christians who know it didn’t make it into the Gospels until after the fall of the Second Temple.

      To understand contemporary progressive Christian views read Spong, Crossan and Borg.

  31. They used to. When I was a child, our ultra-conservative fundamentalist sect would regularly hold public debates with our arch-rivals, the Southern Baptists. I had the feeling, as a child, that one day the succession of these debates would eventually convince everyone of the obvious truth of our point of view and the world could be set right.

    It is all a tragicomedy to me now since, to a non-expert, our two sects would be indistinguishable. I guess that near identity made it all the more galling that they had the temerity to disagree with us on the nuance of a few points. We of course thought that Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, and every other belief different from our own was going to Hell as well, but our error-correcting energies were devoted disproportionately to those most similar to us.

    It is pretty obvious that they have toned all of that down now. I haven’t heard of a public debate with the Baptists or any other sect in ages. It was commonplace in my youth. They still think the other sects are wrong, of course, they just aren’t expending as much energy trying to convince these other sects of the error of their ways. It seems likely that it’s the recognition of the threat of a common enemy that is largely to account for this. No doubt the internet plays some role. When I was a child, I wouldn’t have known where to look for an atheist to debate if I had wanted to. The internet makes it hard not to encounter non-believers and their arguments, and it doesn’t take long to realize that they are clearly a more pressing threat to our belief than the Southern Baptists.

    While I think the Internet intensifies this trend, I think the trend started much earlier. My gut feeling is that it may have started with the Moral Majority, and the creation of a religious political faction. The collection of religious-political issues provides a kind of branding and glue that I think many people have come to identify with almost as much as their particular sect. On a practical level, Catholics and Protestants had an incentive to work together on shared political issues like abortion. Over time, I think this tactical banding together to achieve a political end has morphed into something like a common religious-political identity. Many of my Christian friends seem now to identify as much with the political agenda now as they did with the sect when I was younger.

  32. I am reminded of a story I read (not sure where) about an academic arranging a debate between two Bhuddist monks from different schools of Bhuddist thought. One was a respected, elderly monk and the other was a young,upcoming academic with a reputation for being an aggressive debater and pushing his point on and on until his opponent couldn’t find an answer. The debate began and the young monk pulled out an oranage from his robe, and thrust it under the nose of the elderly monk. “What is this?” he demanded.”What is this?” The elderly monk was thoughtful for quite a while and then said something to his translator. The translator said “He says “What is worng with this man? Do they not have oranges where he comes from””.

  33. It’s very telling, isn’t it? I think perhaps they’re all aware that, at the heat of the moment, one of them might just end up blurting out ‘but your beliefs are just made up!‘ and then they’d all be screwed.

  34. Jerry I believe you’ve got part of it right:

    As Sam Harris put it, “Faith is nothing more than the license that religious people give one another to believe such propositions when reasons fail.”

    This isn’t merely a license within a specific sect: The Liberals in various religions seem to give this license to one another.

    They recognize the “leap of faith” they are making, and do not hold so doggedly to biblical inerrancy. They recognize that this leap of faith is difficult to defend with evidence and reasoned argument. And to that degree there seems to a sort of assumed rule of behavior between the Liberals of various faiths: “Don’t criticize my faith and I won’t criticize yours. We both know that it’s not strictly defensible and it will be hard to argue against your faith without being hypocritical about my own. So, let’s just allow each other our faith…and not challenge each other.”

    Whereas it’s more a character of the conservative, dogmatic, fundy or literalists within each religion who are willing to go after the other guy’s faith. Mostly because they think reason and evidence does carry the day.


  35. Indeed, they surely don’t tangle with each other much, altho this Mencken quote suggests that maybe it did once upon a time:

    Of learned men, the clergy show the lowest development of professional ethics. Any pastor is free to cadge customers from the divines of rival sects, and to denounce the divines themselves as theological quacks.
    — H L Mencken, Minority Report (1956), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

    This is why I like the clip I linked to the other day so much. The Dry Branch Fire Squad’s leader, Ron Thomason, is, I think, religous, but he’s quite liberal too, having put his opinion of W in print, and sprinkles his routine with jabs at fundamentalists like he does here.


    Some of that is on their Live at the Newburyport Firehouse CD, where there’s also a funny line that makes reference to “Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell when they start preaching that bigotry and hate…” And elsewhere on the same CD he uses Australopithicine in a sentence.

  36. Still, it would afford me hours of delight to see a Muslim argue with a Christian about whose faith was right.

    Such “debates” usually include deadly weapons. No, usually such folks form “interfaith councils,” where everyone happily agrees to support each other’s belief in absolute bullshit.

    1. What an amazing representation of heresay based on the writings of absolute believers. There is not a single shred of credible truth presented by an obvious religious bigot.

  37. 1) These debates happen ALL OF THE TIME. They’re just pointless. Most of the time, it’s citing scripture to say “Oh, this belief is wrong”. However, if you’re a fly on the wall of some fundamentalist discussion, you can very likely stir up a debate on Calvinism vs Arminianism. In fact, part of my college years were spent in various theological debates.

    2) The model you have of why faiths don’t debate seems wrong. The real issue is that most religions see themselves as having a common-cause against secularism, and the average believer just believes in belief, rather than actually believing every talking donkey story. Inter-religious criticism does occur though. However, it’s not as intense as they consider other faiths more positively than atheism, and atheists are more adamant on science than liberal theists.

  38. Ah, I can see the debate now:

    Christian Guy: Jesus Christ was the son of God. My book says so.

    Muslim Guy: Mine doesn’t say anything about that. It says this Jesus fellow was a prophet, but not the son of God.

    Christian Guy: Well…. erm…. but MY book says he WAS the son of God.

    Muslim Guy: Well, but you see…

    And so on and so on until everyone at the event dies of boredom or decides to throw their chairs on stage just to see who Yahweh chooses to protect.

  39. The only issue of belief that should ever be debated is the acceptance of faith itself as a valid epistemology, which would end rather quickly once or is obvious to all involved that the devil himself couldn’t have sat down and planned a better concept for humans to not only accept, but whole heartedly embrace and exalt, which is the exact opposite of how to learn the truth about something.

    To debate morality, etc., is like constantly cutting off the tips of weeds, expecting the weeds to remove their own roots. Some will, but the vast majority will not.

  40. I once witnessed a debate between a CofE Christian and a Mormon. The CofE guy was very wishy-washy on specifics, whereas the Mormon was straightforwardly literalist. Of course, they argued completely past each other. Whilst CofE guy was clearly irrational on some level, he did at least have the intellectual honesty to accept the facts of science, and acknowledge that where science contradicts the Bible, the Bible loses.

  41. As Larry Tanner commented William Lane Craig vs Jamal Badawi is horrid. I did watch the first few minutes and I am dumbstruck, falepalmed to death that Craig could actually state the following with a straight face,
    “We cannot both be right. We could both be wrong maybe it’s the Buddhist’s that are right. Thus every one us us… needs to ask himself what reasons we have for thinking our persuasion to be true. Otherwise we run the risk of being self deluded.”

    It’s such a preposterous statement coming from someone that is about to defend Christianity.

    Hear it for yourself @2:35 http://youtu.be/h51YwIMxtrQ

  42. A direct answer to Dr. Coyne’s question, from Susan Jacoby’s “Freethinkers” (p. 316):
    “At the same time (the 1950s), the sectarian animosities once exchanged by Catholic and Protestant clergy were slowly but surely being replaced by the fog of murky tolerance that has since become the defining characteristic of America’s ecumenical public consensus.”

  43. I find it very interesting that so many people here are critisizing people of faith for quoting their holy books. It has been insinuated in various comments that it is rank foolishness to do so, and that people should think for themselves.
    So how come so many of you are quoting from various books? How does that make you different from any person of faith who quotes from a book?

      1. It is amusing, isn’t it? zanne clearly thinks the stuff in the Bible written 2000 years ago by ignorant, superstitious sheep herders should be shelved alongside books written by scientists in the non-fiction section of the library. Though amusing, it reveals the root problem in arguing with the religious: they want to have their holy book taken as “truth” in any argument. Take that away from them and they don’t have a leg to stand on.

    1. We usually quote a book because it has an especially cogent or well-written or controversial argument. We expect the reader to judge for himself whether the argument is right. We do NOT quote a book as a final authority on some question about the world, as if to end discussion of the matter.

      There are plenty of comments on this website shredding quotations from great scientists…see E.O. Wilson being shredded in one of today’s posts, for example. Show me a person of faith who shreds a quotation from his or her holy book….

    2. troll:

      So how come so many of you are quoting from various books? How does that make you different from any person of faith who quotes from a book?

      That is a simple and a cosmically stupid comment from a troll. It is claiming that science is a religion in a roundabout way.

      It’s just Religion is Religion and Science is a Religion too fallacy awkwardly expressed by a near illiterate.

      1. We don’t believe what we quote from books or websites about science are the holy and inerrant word of the gods.

      2. We are well aware that those books may be wrong, we may be wrong, and will modify our opinions based on future information.

      3. We don’t necessarily base our lives on quotes from Orwell’s 1984 or Stephen Hawking’s physics books. It doesn’t make us hate most of the human species or fear imaginary ghosts and demons.

      4. We aren’t going to go on a pogram, Inquisition, or crusade over those quotes and kill a few million people.

      It takes religion to make good people do bad things as Steven Weinberg points out. And the basis and instruction manuals of religions are their magic books.

      Science is not a religion. It is the basis of our modern Hi Tech civilization though.

      1. I was asking a question not leaving a comment. Get that straight please. I also wasn’t referring to everyone, just some of you.

        “It takes religion to make good people do bad things as Steven Weinberg points out.”

        I disagree with the above quote. There are so many wonderful people in this world who do not believe in any god, and sometimes they make incredible errors in judgement and do awful things. The decision to do something wrong often has nothing to do with religion. Instead of claiming “God told me to do it” or “my family went to church and that has ruined me”, maybe we should be accepting responsibility for our own actions.

        I would appreciate a response to my, “simple and a cosmically stupid comment”

        Thank you

        the Troll

    3. I cannot speak for the others here, but my use of quotations might help others render explicit why to use them.

      That is, a quotation is a piece of an argument, or an endorsement of the larger picture. It isn’t quoting from books that is a problem, then, it is that some books, particularly religious texts, are not terribly accurate. This especially compared with the claims of believers.

  44. Nothing unites irreconciliable people like a common enemy.

    Isn’t that how the united states came together from the immigrant mishmash that landed from europe? Fear of the redskins?

    Works both ways. Tell the average fundamentalist that you will join him in his efforts to ban Islam and he’ll have no problem with your atheism.

  45. A religious sectarian debate may begin with good manners and genial mutuality. However, when getting down to fundamentals it would end in name calling, war and unspeakable behaviour. It’s a religious thing that’s all. Any disagreement is an affront and punishable by annihilation. This is particularly prevalent amongst Christians, Jews and Muslims. If you include a disbeliever then the mayhem that would ensue would be incomprehensible. Yet the religious factions would have some common ground “we need to lose the vile infidel who has the audacity to rebuff our Gods”

  46. it’s called circling the wagons. As Dr. Coyne has said, calling each other out on the ridiculousness of each version of the invisible friend would expose the fatal flaws of all.

  47. I think you don’t see many mainstream christians debating creationists because most people recognize creationists are 1) stupid; and 2)crazy. Even though polls show large chunks of the American public tending towards a religious directed view of evolution, they still know that if you think Noah’s Ark is real, then you’re insane, and if you argue with a lunatic, then you’re probably a lunatic too, so most people just roll they eyes and avoid it.

    Kinda like with the May 21st is the End of the World people, every christian thought those guys were nuts, even though the only thing they disagree on is the date. No one debated them, they just laughed at them.

  48. when it comes to the faithful, the most common debates that I have seen by far are the fudementalist vs. moderate muslims. I remember being at one in college in Dublin, and I’ve seen a few since then.

    I think it only works when you’re working on the same subject, like the qu’ran (in my example), or science (like creationist vs scientists), but christian vs muslim would just be “my book is right! Nope, mine is!” end of argument

  49. Jerry,

    I think you can do a lot of good by promoting John Loftus. He needs someone of your caliber to open the door for him to do debates, get invited to confrences and keep his work in the public sphere. When someone calls you about doing one of these events, mention John. He’s more than qualified to rip the heart out of faith since he has viewed the question from the inside. With his books, that should be enough, but for some reason he is still sidelined. Could it be that his focus is too narrow? I don’t think so since the basis, as you so eloguently pointed out in your recent paper, of the distain of evolution by the faithful is rooted in religion. This is exactly what John discusses in his books. Doubt in faith, raises acceptance in evolution. Even the discussion of evolution with a family member pointed John in right direction. So, let’s give the man some props!


  50. A Scientologist looks at a group like the Branch Dividians and thinks it cultish nonsense but considers their own faith to be true, with no hint of irony.

    A Momrmon looks at Scientology and thinks it cultish nonsense but considers their own faith to be true, with no hint of irony.

    A Christian looks at Mormonism and thinks it cultish nonsense but considers their own faith to be true, with no hint of irony.

    and so on…

    Turtles all the way down…

  51. Let there be christian prayer contests.

    The winning christian gets two fish to share among ten thousand of their closest fiends. No fair snacking on stale jebus ovals between meals either.

  52. I have been coming to this blog for a few months now and really do enjoy the material. I usually find a posting that I can read during my breaks at work and before I eat dinner.

    There are two things I really like to read on this blog. The first is the different scientific viewpoints. I admit to being a novice when it comes to evolution. I believe in it but still want to learn more. As I know many people here are much more advanced than I am, what good books are there to get started and then in-depth? I was actually thinking of starting with a science textbook and MITs OpenCourseware on their Fundamentals of Science course.

    The second thing I really like about this blog is that it really gives an interesting perspective on people’s views of Christianity. I will say that I am an evangelical Christian, however; I am not here to debate anything. As said before, I believe in evolution and feel that the proof is too great to be denied because of what was written in a book thousands of years ago (in a different language, in a different culture, engaging a different context and to a different people than today)

    As said, I am not here to debate. I actually agree with much of the perspective here that says Christianity and religion in general are about power and control. Also, I agree much of the evangelical community at large is hypocritical, judgmental, ignorant, and exclusive. Religion HAS had a major part in most wars throughout the history of the world.

    I can go into detail about how I reconcile some of what I believe but I won’t. I will just say that what I see in Christianity is far from what is recorded as the Words of Christ in a Bible that the Christian is to follow. Jesus promotes peace, forgiveness, love, compassion, humility, giving to the poor, etc; we (the Church) would rather promote war, seek revenge, hate, judge, control, live in excess, etc. So, if I see all that is wrong, why would I remain?

    I remain because I see a style of life that is about love to be more freeing than the alternatives. Also, just because the branch has rotten away and wilted doesn’t mean that the root itself was wrong. I have no problems if you disagree with me.

    Again, I am here for discussion. I am here because I have slowly started to delve into the world of science and love it. I want to learn more about it. Ironically, I also have a solid foundation in my faith and love it. The two may or may not collide one day, if they do, I will cross that road when I get there.

    So, with that said, any recommendations on books to read or places to learn? I would love your input!

    1. You might want to take a moment to ponder how an entity as powerful and caring as your Christ would have to have been could since then be so incompetent and / or absent in the two millennia since his reported sightings.

      If you had even a fraction of the power of Christ, and even a modicum of human compassion, wouldn’t you be something other than completely absent?

      I mean, at the very least, you could set up a hospital where you mystically healed all the sick people you could lay your hands on. That would cement your reputation as somebody truly special, and it’d be trivial to leverage said reputation into a bully pulpit to set straight all those questions of whether one should love thy neighbor as thyself or bring hither all your enemies which would not that you should reign over them to be slaughtered at your feet.

      You might also want to ask yourself why even second-century Christians were obsessed with the endless list of ways that Jesus was just like all the popular pagan demigods of that time, or why there’s not a single account of any of these most remarkable events until at least decades afterwards — and that despite literally libraries full of stuff written at the time by people in and around Jerusalem.



      1. BG:

        Before I begin, I saw the pictures on the blog this morning and they are phenomenal. I must say you take a great picture!

        I was hoping to get into discussions more on recommended reading and websites for evolution than conversations about faith but I left myself open for it. Before starting any further; any recommendations you have on the topics, I got a few from another commenter.

        Also, I would like to think that I am not lumped in with the general Christian community. There are multiple reasons why and the first is that I have no problem doubting and keeping and open mind which I don’t feel much of the community at large does. I will not simply believe or disbelieve something because it is what I am told or because a few lines can be taken out of context to prove a point. I like to read, I like to blog, I like to learn and I like to come to my own conclusions. It’s actually this pathway that brought me to believing in evolution (though I still am trying to find how/if science faith can/will be reconciled in my life or if I need to keep them in two separate compartments).

        Now, I am trying to wrap my head around your comment about Jesus being absent in the last 2000 years. There is much about His supposed powers as recorded in the Gospel that do make me wonder. But that is not just Jesus, I often wonder about the power of God at large. I find myself constantly asking, “Why?” Why if we have a loving God and a God who wants peace, would He allow for a world to be rattled and plagued by hatred, corruption and death? Why if justice is so important to Him, do we see so much injustice in places such as Sudan, Israel/Palestine, and even in the states?

        When reading a Bible, I often ask the same questions about the periods of time that Scripture talks about. Why would God not just stand aside but seemingly advocate genocide in the Old Testament? Why would God promote homophobia?

        To respond to where God was in the last 2000 years (and before), I would say that He was seemingly absent because God should not and could not interfere on the scale that humans would like. For Him to do so would take away man’s decisions, man’s will and man’s choice to create nothing more than a puppeteer and caricature. I also said, “He was seemingly absent,” because Jesus does instruct His followers to be extensions of Him in society. Just a few examples will follow.

        First, a man whom I know that lives in Israel and drives to and from Jordan and Palestine to bring in children from the Arab World who have life-threatening heart ailments to get life-saving surgery in Israeli hospitals because their homelands don’t have the medical infrastructure.

        Second, a couple who decided to go to North Africa and begin opening orphanages to take care of children who were left on the street by their parents because they were unwanted for various reasons.

        Third, another girl I know who lives in Rwanda. She goes there to grieve and guide the people there to understand the genocide that plagued their nation years ago. She also promotes reconciliation between the people groups there.

        In all three areas, the people are Christian, however; they will not openly talk about any issues of faith unless asked about it. Their primary roles in their communities is that of compassion.

        Finally, in response to how God is portrayed in Scripture. I think most of the Christian community does not look at a Bible the way they would a piece of history. When I read books about Abraham Lincoln, I need to understand the context of the society he lived in so that I could get a better idea of all that he stood for. Most people don’t do this with a Bible. Instead, they read it figuring it will answer all of their problems today. They therefore pull it out of its context. Historically, most of the Old Testament was written by the Jewish people to the Jewish people when they were under Persian rule and Babylonian exile. Therefore, I feel that much was exaggerated in order to promote a nationalism and a patriotism for the Israeli people. What better way to build confidence than to remind people how God is for you in such powerful ways as winning battles with unwinnable odds and giving your people the power to wipe out whole cities and nations?

        Now that is not to say that I disagree with what is written in a Bible. I disagree that we should take it and promote it as a completely literal document that holds every answer to every question in every age. The answers it originally held were for the Israelites in the Old Testament. I do feel that the New Testament is a much different phenomena as much of it is a series of letters written to different people and Churches and we only have one-sided discussions. Again, we need to understand the concept of the cultures; is a follower of Jesus promoting slavery when telling slaves to obey their masters? Is he promoting male domination when saying women should not teach men and are saved by child-bearing? I think the answers are much more complicated because context needs to be taken into account.

        This is getting to be a very long comment and I apologize. I just wanted to respond and let you know that there is plenty on the topic of Biblical literature, character of God, and cultural contexts that I do wonder and ponder.

        I also hope you see that I am not here to debate but to converse. I do hope that as I learn more about science, I can also ask questions to understand more about the various fields and theories as that is my primary purpose here. I want to learn more and expand my horizons and am not here to merely troll and cause problems.

        Have a great weekend!

        Have a great day Ben and hope we can converse more!

      1. Thanks Steve!

        That is good advice and it sounds like a good place to start! I was thinking of the fundamentals course with the following instructors:

        Prof. Eric Lander
        Prof. Robert Weinberg
        Prof. Tyler Jacks
        Prof. Hazel Sive
        Prof. Graham Walker
        Prof. Sallie Chisholm
        Dr. Michelle Mischke

        It’s supposedly a little more complete as its under their OCW Scholar section. It contains some more content than the other three individual sections and is updated as well.

        1. Yea, try that one—it’s last year’s, not the 2004 one I linked. They say it’s on iTunes U but I don’t see it. Also on its own YouTube channel, etc.

          1. Caveat: The 2011 online videos are a bunch of excerpts, which are great if you’re actually going to plow through the course, but not so great if you want the executive summary. The 2004 lectures are complete and appear much better for the latter. You choose.

  53. Without a doubt this is one of my favorite blogs. I usually find time to read it on my breaks in the morning, at lunch, and in the afternoon at work.

    Now, there are two reasons that it may sound odd that I enjoy this blog. The first reason is I am relatively a novice to science. The second reason is that I am an evangelical Christian.

    So, first, why would a novice come to this blog? Because it was not long ago that I realized evolution was more than just some myth or delusion that a consortium of academics came up with. As I started to look at and seek answers on the topic of evolution, I found that there is mountainous evidence of proof in various fields. To me, the proof that evolution is more than just a story was too much to dismiss on the basis of what is found written in a book thousands of years old (not to mention written in a different language, from a different culture, engaging a different context and to a different people).

    Now, as a novice, I am coming here to ask for opinions on gaining a deeper understanding of the science. I was thinking about starting with a college textbook and using it alongside MITs Fundamentals of Biology online course to work through their curriculum. Along with this I would love recommendations of easy to read books.

    Second, why would an evangelical Christian come to this blog? Surely, I must be here to debate and prove creation! I must be here to defend my faith! I will say that I am here for neither! I can respect the opinions that the people have on this blog. I am really intrigued by the perspectives of Christianity, the Bible and religion presented on this blog and in the comments and I can say that I agree with many of them.

    I will say that I am a Christian because of what Jesus’ recorded words are in the Bible and not because of what mainstream Christianity has turned it out to be. His words are love, forgive, peace, humility, compassion while mainstream Christianity is judge, revenge, war, control and hurt. I feel His way is the best way to live while most of the Christian community has forgotten that message.

    I know that I am leaving myself vulnerable but I am here for discussion. I think for too long Christians and scientists have been at odds and I no longer want to add to that battle. While the two may or may not be incompatible, it doesn’t mean the adherents to faith and science need to be!

    So, with that said, I am enjoying getting into science and delving deeper. I admit some of the ideas may be difficult to reconcile with my faith but I will cross that road when I come to it.

    In the meantime, I look forward to hearing your opinions and recommendations and look forward to some great conversation.

    So, I will take a glass of scotch out of my cabinet and say, “CHEERS!”

    1. There are always five books I mention first whenever someone asks a question like this. Here they are, one on science in general, and four on evolution. None are too difficult for the average educated layman to read; all are fascinating.
      1) Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World” (how science works).
      2) Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True”
      3) Richard Dawkins’ “The Greatest Show on Earth” (two overviews of the convergent multiple lines of evidence for evolution).
      4) Donald Prothero’s “Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters” (the fossil evidence).
      5) Sean B. Carroll’s “The Making of the Fittest” (the DNA evidence).

      If you’re interested in specific topics, just ask; people on this list will be able to provide sources.

      1. Thanks Mark!

        I was looking at three of these to begin with anyway (Why Evolution is True, Greatest Show on Earth and Making of the Fittest). This confirmed what I was already thinking.

        I will probably get started on them early next week!

        1. To Mark’s list I would add:

          6) David Deutsch’s The Fabric of Reality (and very probably The Beginning of Infinity, which Peter Beattie has recommended, but I haven’t read yet as I’m still reading Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, which, so far, is also a book I’d recommend, but straying further away from your topic of interest). In any case, although Deutsch is a physicist, FOR is interesting in that it weaves together evolution with quantum physics and the theories of knowledge (epistomology) and computation (Deutsch’s research is in quantum computing).


    2. To these books I would add The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan. Since you identify yourself as a Christian I would also recommend that read Letter To A Christian Nation by Sam Harris, a short and concise book that will no doubt challenge your view of Christianity and may require a bit more courage on your part. Yet a third book along similar lines is The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

  54. The other day,I had averya similar thought as Jerry.

    I wondered why the real rift wasn’t between those who believed in an external god that intervened with human affairs and the rest.

    The rest would be those who believe god to be so external to both space and time that it cannot possibly interfere with human affairts, those who believe god to be so internal to be unable to say or do anything that is not said or done by belivers of the faith in question, and atheists who have gottenrid of the entire idea somehow.

    My hunch is that internalists are ofen atheist that just so happen to call their humanist values “God”. The real rift really runs betweeen them and and exernailists.

    I thought this to be such an accommodationist thought that I rather not air it. The fact that, of all people, Jerry Coyne it now airing this idea is putting me in a conundrum. Am I getting gnuish or is he getting softish lately?

    P.S.: I surely agree with putting the blame on Christians, for they should first of all debate each other, and why donÄt they do it?

  55. It really would be a case of “My argument from authority and special pleading is better than your argument from authority and special pleading!”
    “No it isn’t!”
    “Yes it is!”
    Ad infinitum.

  56. I think debate do occur, but at the point when the differing view points are not reconciled, either someone is disfellowshipped (or worse) or a new offshoot or sect arises.

  57. You actually have lot of those Christian-Muslim debates.

    Some of them are the ones between Muslim apologists such as Ahmed Deedat, Zakir Naik, Hamza Tzortzis and Christian apologists. Just go to Youtube and search.

  58. This thread is a little old so people might not see this now, but I found this short video on YouTube of William Lane Craig debating a Muslim student. They are literally arguing over whose God is greater. It’s funny and pathetic.

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