A Christian tries to save my soul by answering my hard questions about religion

In 2014 I published a piece in The New Republic (click on screenshot) which, despite the title, which I didn’t choose, described ways to turn religious peoples’ debate arguments back on themselves.

Part of that article involved using a “no-god of-the-gap” arguments, asking religious people to answer a series of six questions. The bit below is from my piece:

But we can play the Gap Game, too. There are huge gaps in believers’ understanding of God, and in those lacunae, I claim, lies strong evidence for No God. Here are a few religious gaps:

  • Why would the Abrahamic God, all-loving and all-powerful, allow natural evils to torment and kill people? Why can’t he keep kids from getting cancer, or stay the waves of tsunamis?
  • Why, if God so ardently wants us to know and accept him, does he hide himself from humanity? And, since modern humans originated over 100,000 years ago, why did God wait 98,000 years before sending his son to redress our sins—and then to only a small portion of humanity within a hundred miles of Jerusalem? Or, if you’re sufficiently sophisticated to see God not as a bearded spirit but as The Ground of All Being, why isn’t that Ground obvious to everyone?
  • Why would an omnibenevolent God consign sinners to an eternity of horrible torment for crimes that don’t warrant such punishment? Official Catholic doctrine, for instance, is that unconfessed homosexual acts doom you eternal immolation in molten sulfur. That’s unconscionable. And would a loving God really let someone burn forever because they were Jews, or didn’t get baptized?
  • Why is God in the Old Testament such a narcissistic bully, toying with people for his amusement, ordering genocides in which innocent women and children are killed en masse, and demanding the death of those who work on the Sabbath? How does that comport with the God that Christians and Jews worship today?
  • Why didn’t Jesus return during his followers’ lifetime, as he promised?
  • How do any believers know for sure that their faith is the right one, especially given the presumed penalty for guessing wrong?

Now I didn’t think that these questions would flummox more “sophisticated” believers, but they were designed to plant doubts in the minds of the more open-minded believers, or of those on the fence, and help them realize the intellectual vacuity of Abrahamic religion.

And, sure enough, six years later a Christian came out of the woodwork, emailing me a long screed yesterday giving his answers to the questions above (the writer is a man). To be fair, the guy spent a lot of time on the answers, even quoting the relevant Biblical passages. But the email turned out to be too long to post here.

Instead, I’ll just show you how he answered  three of the questions above (they’re in bold below, and stuff from the email is indented). I’ll say a few words (flush left after my initials), and let readers respond. I have the writer’s complete email with the answers to the other three questions, and will be glad to send them—without the sender’s name—if you’re interested.

If you respond, please be polite: the gentleman did, after all, have my salvation in mind. But be as hard-nosed as you want in the answers. Afterwords, I’ll inform the sender of the comments on this site so he can see the responses.  I have of course eliminated the name or any identifying aspects of the sender; the point here is to address arguments, not “out” a believer.

Here we go, with the sender’s words indented, with all words exactly as sent: typos and other errors are the sender’s.

In this article from 2014 you said that no theologian could provide credible evidence to the “gap” in believers understanding of God. I have a rebuttal to your six gaps. I know it will probably not change your mind about a thing, but if anything I hope that it enlightens you to the fact that some Christians will research and formulate comprehendible arguments. If it means anything to you know this; even as a stranger, i sincerely do hope that you will think about these things and I care enough about your salvation that I bothered to do this for you.

Q) Why would the Abrahamic God, all-loving and all-powerful, allow natural evils to torment and kill people? Why can’t he keep kids from getting cancer, or stay the waves of tsunamis?

A) This question is easily answered by the most simplistic Biblical concept there is. Loving God=freedom for people, freedom=choice. Humanity chose to rebel against God and the consequences is separation from God=death(Gen 3). God holds all things together (Pslm 75:3)therefore going against him, rebelling, sinning and going our own way leads to death(Rom 6:23). He dwelt among us in the garden which was perfect and God(Gen 1:31) (Gen 3:8) and kept all things Holy, once His presence left death and decay gripped all creation. Satan is the accuser, the liar, the murderer of the human family(Jn 8:48) who holds the power of death(Heb 2:4). Because of his pride he first rebelled against God and has sinned from the very beginning(1 Jn 3:8), and he uses that very same pride today to get people to not believe, masquerading as an angel of light(2 Cor 11:14) making sin look fun and beautiful, lying that we will not die for disobeying God (Gen 3:4). The key is though, that God has been using redemptive work ever since the days of Noah (Rom 8:21). All of the Biblical story points to Jesus and how it is God’s plan to save us from the punishment and judgement of our sins by becoming a perfect man (Heb 9:11) fulfilling all of God’s law and dying on the cross, rising again to bring us to life through him (Jn 6:40). So the all loving God was able to make a way for anyone that believes in the Son to live forever by reconciliation with the Father again(Jn 3:16) (Rom 10:9).

Suffering is a permanent sickness for the earth until we go to our true home, heaven (Rom 8:18-26). Even Jesus was not exempt from suffering. It is used as an instrument of obedience. As Wayne Jackson from The Christian Courier says ” all sunshine and no rain creates a desert”. We use suffering as a means to bring glory to God by persevering, enduring, and to become patient, compassionate, loving, kind, and yes even joyful which are all qualities God desires to see arise out of us from trials. The child that gets cancer has hope, hope in Life with Jesus eternally (Matt 19:14). The tsunami victims have hope if they cry out to God to be saved (Pslm 34:17). God also promises we are not alone during life’s trials(2 Cor 1:3-7)(Heb 4:16). Jesus told us that in this fallen world we would suffer but he has overcome the world(Jn 16:33) so we can overcome the world through him( 1 Jn 5:5). Life is not all about the materialistic. There is another life beyond this. Plus God can heal providentially with medicine, wisdom for the doctors, and for the complex design of the human body and immune system are all ways he can work through natural law. It is foolish to think that if God created the world that all of the resources we have available are not created by him either. Who would understand it better than the one who created it all? With no God, cancer consumes the child and they have no hope, no more life, just a cruel and unfair “chance” that is uncontrollable and uncalculated in an uncaring universe.

JAC:  Here the blame falls on humans and (naturally) Satan, with God unable or unwilling to intervene to stop natural evil. Humans, of course, were responsible because Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit, damning all their descendants to both moral and natural evil. Note that, unlike theodicy of “moral evil,” in which humans do bad things to other humans as an undesirable but necessary product of free will, free will here invoked only once: on the part of Adam and Eve. (You can’t invoke free will for stuff like cancer and tsunamis, which do not have any capacity to choose freely. Neither, of course, do we, but here we see the critical importance of libertarian free will in Christianity. If our “choices” are all determined by factors we don’t control, the whole explanation above collapses.)

Note, too, the Mother-Teresa-like concentration on suffering as a way to glorify God. This is barbaric. “The child that gets cancer has hope in eternal life with Jesus”? Not if the kid is too young to know about Jesus, much less accept him as a savior! And what about tsunami or accident victims that don’t have time to cry out to God to be saved? After all, as the writer said in another part of the email:

Not being baptized does not necessarily mean you will go to hell. Observe the thief on the cross. All he did was repent and that was last minute(Lk 42-43)! We all have been blessed with time to repent and come to Jesus(2 Pet 3:9). Then through acceptance of him, the Holy Spirit leads you to the decision of baptism and repentance(Matt 3:11)(Acts 13:24).

Not if you meet a sudden and unpredictable death, much less if you’re of a faith that doesn’t worship Jesus as the savior (e.g. Islam or Hinduism)!

Finally, if medicine and doctors are all products of God’s wisdom, why was He so late to bring antibiotics to our attention? Or, for that matter, why doesn’t he heal those cancer-stricken kids himself rather than rely on methods that aren’t always reliable? Why is suffering abated in some children but not others? But we must drop these questions and pass on.

Q) Why, if God so ardently wants us to know and accept him, does he hide himself from humanity? And, since modern humans originated over 100,000 years ago, why did God wait 98,000 years before sending his son to redress our sins—and then to only a small portion of humanity within a hundred miles of Jerusalem? Or, if you’re sufficiently sophisticated to see God not as a bearded spirit but as The Ground of All Being, why isn’t that Ground obvious to everyone?

A) He is hidden, or veiled, away from humanity because He is too Holy to be looked at without humans dying (Ex 20:18-20). He has revealed himself through His Word from which he spoke to prophets and patriarchs through dreams and visions and messengers (angels) see (Pslm 147:19) (1 Sam 3:21) (Isa22:14). Also creation displays God’s attributes and wonders and God is evident through all creation (Rom 1:20)(Pslm 19:1-2). In fact, we bear the image of the Almighty (Gen 1:27) and, God’s people also bear fruits that can only come from the holy spirit(Jn 15:16) which reveals a transformation that is visible for all to be recognized as coming from God(Matt 7:16) which shines a light for others to see (Matt 5:16). He also revealed himself through His Son Jesus (Jn 14:9) who was fully God and testified all that we need to know about God in our present state, more shall be revealed later, in eternity we will have all the answers we have ever sought(Pslm38:15). Jesus even says that there are some who would be unbelieving even while seeing (Jn 5:43-47),(Jn 20:29)(Jn 6:36).

Finally, we are to seek God with all our hearts, minds and strength humbly and confidently (Jer 29:13), (Matt 6:23), (Duet 4:29). God’s timing is His own and his ways are not our ways(Isa 55:8), the reason he waited was because everything had to be fulfilled perfectly for his redemptive plan (Matt 8:17), (Jer 33:14), (Acts 7:17), just as we are waiting now for Christ’s return (Jm 5:8). The area that He chose was foretold in prophesy (Pslm 130:8), (Rom 11:1-5) and the milage sure didn’t seem to make a difference for the spread of Christianity. We are now reconciled to Isreal from all nations and peoples who call on His name, great multitudes (Eph 2: 11-18) (Rev 7:9). Why is the ground not obvious to everyone? Because of our hard hearts. Our idolatry. Our carnal desires that we will not give up to taste and see. Our rebellious nature(Ezek 12:2)(Pslm 53:12). Seeking our own ways(Isa 53:6), inventing our own gods and following the god of this age(2 Cor 4:4)

JAC: First of all, several humans in the Bible (e.g. Moses, Abraham, etc.) did see manifestations of God without dying. But what I was talking about here was not a vision of God as a person, but the absence of well documented miracles these days when they were so frequent in Biblical times. (This is a question I discuss in Faith Verus Fact, even including the kind of miracle that would make me a provisional believer.) In the end, the writer expects us to accept God because the Bible says that there’s a God, and the Bible is TRUE. This is another instance of “begging the question” in the correct sense: assuming what you want to prove. The writer has no evidence that the Bible, as opposed to gazillions of other scriptures that make contradictory claims, is the truth.

Which brings us to the last question this Christian tries to answer.

Q) How do any believers know for sure that their faith is the right one, especially given the presumed penalty for guessing wrong?

A) How we know for sure that our faith is correct is that our God has revealed himself (Isa43:12)(1 Cor 4:1)(Duet 29:29)(Ezek 20:5). This was achieved by signs and wonders, prophets, his Holy spirit, his Word, his promises that have been fulfilled(Jos 21:45). No other God is like Him who created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1)(Col 1:16). No other “god” has ever or will ever be able to prove themselves and have faded and passed through the ages, but the word of the Lord endures forever (1 Pet 1:25). So therefore, if someone in a monotheistic religion believes all of this about the one true God, then they must believe Jesus is who he said he was (1 Tim 2: 5-6). If not, they are calling God a liar and the entire Christian religion is false. If Jesus didn’t create the New Covenant through his death and resurrection, then that means we cannot be reconciled to God. We would be stuck having to atone and sacrifice for our own sins which we would all fail at and be lost forever.

My point is Christians can be confident their faith is the right one through faith in Christ, the other religions are not even confident enough to know if they are saved or not! Even the most devout among them still question whether God will have mercy on them based on their actions, which still might not even be enough for salvation no matter how good they have been. But there is a contradiction: if God has revealed himself then how can one not know what God wants from them to be saved? Even better, how does any other religion have a superior way to salvation than God dying in their place for them? Trusting that Jesus is the way is how to be sure your faith is right(Jn 14:6). Jesus is Divine. Jesus is God. And to deny him is to deny God (1 Jn 2:23(Luke10:16).

JAC: Here we have more question-begging. We know that Christianity is the right faith because the New Testament says so, and the Bible must be true. If you doubt the Bible, you “are calling God a liar.” I’d put it more gently: the Bible is the word of humans, not of a god. The second paragraph assumes that we all want salvation, but some religions, like many kinds of Judaism, don’t believe in or expect an afterlife.

Oh hell, I’ll put in one more question and just a snippet of the sender’s response, just to show that he sees homosexuality as a sin:

Q) Why would an omnibenevolent God consign sinners to an eternity of horrible torment for crimes that don’t warrant such punishment? Official Catholic doctrine, for instance, is that unconfessed homosexual acts doom you to eternal immolation in molten sulfer [sic]. That’s unconscionable. And would a loving God really let someone burn forever because they were Jews, or didn’t get baptized?

A) First of all let’s get one thing strait: all sins are punished(Rom 5:12). Not just homosexuality but also lust, idolatry, murder, greed, selfishness, fornication, adultery, hate, theft, lying, idolatry, and blaspemers. No one is good, there is not one(Pslm 53:3). We all have weakness(2 Cor 12:9). Now this is considering that these sins are not repented of that we receive the punishment. . . .

Final thoughts [from the sender]:
• How, after fierce opposition and persecution to the early church, did Christianity spread so rapidly by so few men, with such little resources and survive 20 centuries and is still the biggest religion? Why risk your life and families life for something that is false, and why do so many people suffer for the name of Christ but are still zealous and faithful?

JAC: Lots of people have risked their lives and families for religions that this sender claims are false. QED

• The biggest humanitarian and philanthropic movements in history are influenced and supported by Christians and the church and some examples are: The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, World Vision International, Samaritans Purse, Water Missions International, Feed the Children, ect. Also most addiction services and many hospitals and nursing homes are started in the name of Christ with Christian values and ethics as their mission statement.

JAC: Do I need to point out that the argument above says nothing about whether the tenets of Christianity are correct? At best it says that belief in Christian tenets can motivate some people to do good. The same holds for the tenets of many faiths.

• Some of the most influential historical figures that have impacted society and made for a better life include: Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo Da Vinci, Mozart, William Shakespeare, Martin Luther King Jr, ect.
Ect. indeed!  I won’t bother to list the many historical figures or organizations who were Christians and did bad things. As the physicist Steven Weinberg famously said:
“With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.”

116 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Just wading through the first question/answer is proof plenty of and a great example of gaslighting. Suffering is a permanent sickness on earth? So the all powerful g*d can do nothing about that. Suffering is the instrument of obedience which means we are so stupid only pain can make us sit up and act right. Sounds like g*d is in charge of a dog show. He also allows great suffering where there is no failure of obedience – that seems fair.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Exactly – a rib woman at the beginning of time transgressed by eating a piece of fruit so now I’m going to sit back and watch millions of children starve to death. Seems fair

  2. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    In his answer to your first question he said:
    “Loving God=freedom for people, freedom=choice.” Basically, the common blame it on free will argument. A response to him: Heaven is perfect with none of this sinful rebellion, so it follows that those in Heaven have no choice to be bad and no free will. Do you really believe Heaven is a reward, when you are forced to become an obedient zombie with no free will?

    • Florent
      Posted August 24, 2020 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      That’s no problem for them. They made the choice to abandon free-will on earth to enjoy the glory of god in paradise. What’s not to love !

    • Posted September 23, 2020 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Thats not true. Genesis 6 its the story of how Angels who had free choice decided to come to Earth against God’s will and mate with humans which eventually cost a messed. They had tfree choice to do what they want to do but it doesnt mean they were free from the consequences of their actions. Same goes for us as well.

  3. Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    What I take away from this is the futility of trying to “win debates” about theological matters by means of rational argument. By way of contrast I’m currently reading Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1722), who takes a more direct approach: “I’ve been there and this is what I saw.”

    I’d heard of Swedenborg (one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost, was raised a Swedenborgian) but had never read anything by him. Though I’m probably more amenable to woo than most followers of this site (a world without woo is not one I’d want to live in, even if that were possible), I don’t believe in heaven or hell or in an afterlife at all. Yet—again in contrast to Jerry’s letter-writer—there’s something so matter-of-fact, so unapologetic and unrhetorical, about Swedenborg’s recounting of his experiences in heaven and his conversations with spirits and angels, that I’m giving him a wide berth in the suspension-of disbelief department.

    As some of you may know, Swedenborg was an influential scientist before he turned to mysticism in his late 50s. As one source has it “Not only did Swedenborg describe intricacies of the cerebral cortex but he also discovered the perivascular spaces, the foramen of Magendie, and the cerebrospinal fluid. He noted the importance of the pituitary gland or ‘arch gland’ in maintaining normal neurological function. Lastly, in a period where the cortex was given no significant function, Swedenborg developed the idea of somatotopic organization, and this was almost 100 years prior to Fritsch and Hitzig. It is on the shoulders of such great pioneers as Emanuel Swedenborg that we base our current understanding of the nervous system.”

    One of the chapters in the book is on “Children in Heaven,” and here’s a sample of Swedenborg’s unvarnished—I would even say “charming”—style in recounting his experience with same:

    “By a means of personal communication with children in the other life, I have been shown what their concepts are like when they are looking at various objects. It is as though everything were alive; so in the smallest concepts of their thought there is an inherent life. I gathered that children on earth have concepts that are much the same when they are involved in their play, for they do not yet have the kind of reflective thought that grownups have about what is inanimate.”

    Can’t say I’m buying into this afterlife business hook, line, and sinker, but a hallmark of wisdom, seems to me, is a willingness to be surprised.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      … (one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost, was raised a Swedenborgian) …

      I’ll give you this much, Gary: you’re taking the road less traveled ’round here. 🙂

    • Mike
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Yes the road less travelled. I don’t share Gary’s POV, but my reaction to his comment is not negative. By contrast, the “theologian’s reply” to JAC in this post makes me want to retch. I think the difference is that Gary is just telling us about what he thinks, whereas the theologian is telling us what we should think.

      • Jon Gallant
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        C.S. Lewis account of Heaven in “The Great Divorce” is compelling too, which qualifies him as a poetic writer, not as a travel guide. Or, to move to a higher level of abstraction, if anything could persuade me of religious belief, it would be Bach. But Bach too was not providing travel information.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      ‘Afterlife’ gave up its breath in the Large Hadron Collider in 2017. Then we had enough evidence to be certain that we are biochemical machines (just as evolution say). There is too little remaining interaction for any form of dualism pertaining to everyday life (and it is watertight due to the properties of particle physics).

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        And – I should note – this *was* a surprise if you compare the chaotic status of early particle physics in the 50’s and now!

      • Posted August 23, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        “People who will not believe divine truths unless they are convinced by the facts will never believe.”

        –Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 23, 2020 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

          “People who will not believe divine truths unless they are convinced by the facts will never believe.”

          Exactly. And this is somehow helpful? Maybe to you. For me it sounds like child speak.

      • Brian Davis
        Posted August 25, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        It’s too bad that there isn’t a sin force that controls particles’ transitions between good and evil. I’d fight hard to have the force carrying particle named the “theologon”.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      ‘A world without woo is not one I’d want to live in, even if that were possible’. It’s what we actually have. I find this comment utterly bonkers.

    • Posted August 23, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, but debates can be won, or rather minds can be changed. After a decade of discussion (not argument) with my best friend, he declared himself a nonbeliever. And I’ve met plenty of people who gave up religion when they learned about evolution (or read the God Delusion).

    • Laurance
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Skeptiwoo! Skeptiwoo! People who take skepticism really seriously and who will take the side of science but who still have a kind of fondness for woo.

      I myself have a real fondness for certain kinds of woo, but science always wins out for me.

  4. BobTerrace
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    When I see quotes from a severely flawed book of fiction and superstitions to make arguments that are cherry picking instead of logic, reason and common sense then his rebuttal is not to be considered as a worthy effort.

  5. Historian
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    In regard to suffering, the writer says:

    “This question is easily answered by the most simplistic Biblical concept there is. Loving God=freedom for people, freedom=choice. Humanity chose to rebel against God and the consequences is separation from God=death(Gen 3). God holds all things together (Pslm 75:3)therefore going against him, rebelling, sinning and going our own way leads to death(Rom 6:23).”

    This explanation for suffering and death is that humans rebelled against God and now must pay the price. God gave humans free will (that is, intentionally designed them with this attribute) and then used it to do the wrong things. Consider the implications of this. For God, humans are a science experiment, an object of his curiosity as to what humans would do under certain circumstances. But, humans do not act as he expects, which is to obey his every rule and to adore him in a fashion that Trump aspires to. Rather than fessing up to his faulty design of humans, like a frustrated and petulant child, he has to punish or destroy the cause of his dismay. How any human with a sense of dignity and self-respect could worship such a deity is beyond me and a reflection of another of God’s design flaws. Of course, a reconciliation of the conundrum of how free will and God’s omniscience can co-exist is not something I have seen religionists adequately explain.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      You’re last sentence is one of the main reasons I stopped believing as a teenager. That and the eternal damnation of people who never knew, nor could have known Jesus. Come to think of it, Noah’s ark also turned me off as even a kid can easily imagine why the story is a myth. And if a part of the bible is obviously untrue, then why isn’t half of it, or all of it?

      • Posted August 24, 2020 at 1:53 am | Permalink

        That reminds my of my favourite conversion story about Redbad or Radbod, ruler of the Frisians…

        “During the second journey of Saint Boniface to Rome, Wulfram (or Vulfran), a monk and ex-archbishop of Sens tried to convert Redbad, but after an unsuccessful attempt he returned to Fontenelle. It is said that Redbad was nearly baptised but refused when he was told that he would not be able to find any of his ancestors in Heaven after his death. He said he preferred spending eternity in Hell with his pagan ancestors than in Heaven with his enemies, especially the Franks.”

        I agree…

    • davelenny
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      As Mark R. points out, that last sentence is a lethal objection. If God truly were omniscient, then knowing the outcomes of free will, he designed us to fail, which makes the obsession with/punishment for human sin and rebellion bizarre and hypocritical.

  6. Mark Cagnetta
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I guess the Christian mind never fully matures. There is a gross lack of critical thinking and reason. I always revert to the Native American population. When Lewis and Clark encountered these people they found them to be very socialistic. There was no personal property. They shared! If they arrived here, oh, say 15,000 years ago, it was long before the Ten Commandments were awarded to the numbskulls wandering in a desert for 40 years. That would man they had a better system than what god devised. Thou shalt not steal. You don’t have to steal if sharing is an option.

  7. Dave137
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    On the later point regarding charitable actions, as an example Hitchens often pointed out that Hamas supplies public services as well — services which of course speak nothing on the validity of the group’s specific brand of Islam.

    Moreover, here, Hitch goes after the wider, bereft claims on religious charity:

  8. Claudia Baker
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    “the reason he waited was because everything had to be fulfilled perfectly for his redemptive plan”: how convenient!

    “the entire Christian religion is false”: true dat!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Whole thing’s a house of special-pleading cards, Claudia.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        Yup Ken, house of cards, and big pile of manure mixed together. I know that pile well, having been brought up strict Catholic. First thing I did when I shed the “faith” was move to California from Ontario at the age of 19 enrol at Cal State in East L.A., and smoke some dope with my new atheist friends.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 23, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

          Glad to hear it, Claudia. For a second there I was worried you were gonna tell me that 19-year-old you headed south just to kill some time. 🙂

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    In the last question/answer he justifies Christianity by saying the numbers validate it. So many people follow this religion it must be right. I guess that also validates Islam? Also validates Hitler and the Nazis of Germany? Trump must be good since he is president and Putin is even better?

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      One theory, which is mine, of why Christianity spread so quickly when it began is the death/resurrection of Jesus made sacrifices by humans obsolete. No more offering (wasting) your harvest and livestock etc. to appease the gods. So it was an economic boon to follow Christianity.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        Really the appeal was ever lasting life and a salvation from suffering that a few other mystery cults of the time also offered. You can see this by who joined up with these mystery cults, including Christianity: slaves, women, the sick, the poor – basically the disenfranchised of the time. It also offered caring for the sick outside of family (something that wasn’t part of the ancient religions around the Mediterranean at the time).

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 23, 2020 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, that’s a better explanation. But I still like my “theory”. 🙂

        • Posted August 23, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

          Another possible reason for the spread of Christianity was the punishment of “sinners” after death. If you’re in the lower class with no hope of improving your life, or you’re a slave, looking forward to reward in heaven is, of course an incentive. But, so is
          believing that wealthy and/or mean nonbelievers will get their comeuppance after death. Table turned.

          We are used to thinking that what we read in the King James Bible has been around in that form from very early on. The fact that it’s a translation that has been rewritten many times is usually disregarded. There were many different forms of Christianity in the beginning of this faith when it moved away from Judaism. It took a very long time for the Roman Catholic Church to standardize their belief system and rid the faith of heresies. In addition, there are a great many errors and story disagreements in the New Testament. that many Christians are unaware of or have excuses for.

          • Robert Bray
            Posted August 23, 2020 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

            shadow-joy, in anticipation.

      • Posted August 24, 2020 at 2:13 am | Permalink

        No that does not follow. There were still priests to pay a tithe to…

  10. Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    So according to this writer’s theodicy, all the natural evils of this world fall on people today because of a decision other people (Adam and Eve) made before we were born. We late arrivals never got the choice to stay in Eden. We are being subjected to suffering for their decision. I wonder if the letter writer lets his younger children suffer whatever abuses the older ones inflict, without even intervening to restore the younger to a better condition – out of respect for the freedom of the abusers.

  11. Publius
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    He is too Holy to be looked

    What does that even mean? It seems to that the only way this, or any of his responses, makes any sense at all if if you accept the first premise is that there is some kind of reality beyond the natural world. If you don’t accept the premise, the rest of what the theists say is nonsense.

  12. BJ
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    “…what I was talking about here was not a vision of God as a person, but the absence of well documented miracles these days when they were so frequent in Biblical times…”

    I’d like to write a quick note on modern “miracles,” and also ask readers here a question: is there a philosopher who has said what I’m about to say (far better and more succinctly, I’m sure)? There must be, but I’d just like someone to point them out so I can read their work.

    Anyway, some things do still happen that are so insanely coincidental or beyond our comprehension that they’re hard to see as anything but “miracles” or “divine intervention.” My answer to this is always that we have over 7.5 billion people on this planet, each experiencing a near-infinite number of “moments” every day. When you combine that many moments and people, every single coincidence and unlikelihood, no matter how seemingly impossible, is not only possible, but an possibly inevitable. Everything that can possibly happen will (probably) eventually happen.

    A cab driver who hit and killed a man twenty years ago and got away with it is accidentally killed by a female driver today, and the two accidents occurred in different countries divided by an ocean; and yet, the woman who killed him is the daughter of the man he killed twenty years ago! Surely, this is impossible, right? An example of divine retribution? No, it’s seeming statistical impossibility is overcome by the sheer number of opportunities for such an occurrence. Such a scenario was almost bound to happen at some point.

    Everything that seems “impossible” is likely to happen eventually, so long as it’s within the realm of physical laws.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      No particular philosopher needed, Beej, just the Law of Large Numbers.

      But if you’re looking for more, I’d recommend physicist Richard Feynman, particularly his book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, most especially Chapter 10 on cargo-cult science.

      • BJ
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        Ir’s a simple law of probability, but I was asking if a philosopher has brought it up as a counter to the idea of “miracles.” I should have been more clear. I assume someone has and would like to have it handy as a counter to the claim of “miracles” because someone has surely laid it out in far better language than I have.

        I will check out Feynman’s book. Thanks!

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

          There are a bunch of Feynman’s lectures on YouTube, too. In fact, Feynman’s books are mostly collections created from his transcribed lectures. Feynman wasn’t exactly whatcha’d call a sit-down-at-the-Smith-Corona-and-pound-out-the-keys kinda writer.

          Still, his books far outsold those of his sometimes collaborator/oftentimes competitor at Cal Tech, Murray Gell-Man, which never ceased to burn the latter’s ass.

        • Posted August 23, 2020 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          I think Hume’s discussion pretty much includes your argument.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      And that’s why we have statistics.

    • Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      See the Improbability Principle, a book by David Hand.

      http://improbability-principle.com/

    • Mike
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      I think part of what you’re describing is captured by the idea of the availability heuristic. We pay attention to instances we know about like the cab driver that satisfy our interest in these kinds of correlations. And we ignore the vast number other instances that don’t (the person killed was not a cab driver, or he never killed anyone, or the person who killed him was not related to the person he killed, etc.).

  13. bill
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    i’m a bit confused. we’re about to be given ” strong evidence for No God.”

    but then we seem to get strong evidence against only one, maybe some gods; the god of abraham, of an omnibenevolent god, of a god who wishes to be known, of jesus, of a god who requires faith, with a coda on religion.

    does the original article contain evidence of ‘no god’?

    i have my own questions for followers of the abrahamic religions:

    does your god permit evil?

    does your god kill innocents; advise such killing by others?

    does your god require voluntary faith?

    does your god require violence in his religion?

    does your god permit his message to be used for evil? does it permit misunderstanding of its teachings?

    does your religion require ‘free will’? if so, does your god supply perfect judgment to accompany this will?

    of course, these questions address more the nature of human concepts of god than the existence of one.

    i think there is evil in the world, using a number of definitions.

    i’m not able to state that humans have free will. i don’t accept doxastic voluntarism, and think bias is part of the human condition. at any rate, free will sans perfect judgement is a bull in a china shop.

    wouldn’t one need omniscience to be able to state there was no god?

    • BJ
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      “wouldn’t one need omniscience to be able to state there was no god?”

      Yes, this is correct. We cannot prove a negative and, in the interest of epistemic humility, any good atheist should be willing to admit that they cannot be 100% certain that there is no “god,” no “creator,” no “prime mover.” Similarly, we cannot prove that ghosts, fairies, or unicorns don’t exist.

      Richard Dawkins has discussed this extensively and said he is a “6.9 out of 7” when it comes to his certainty that there is no “god.” I agree with his definition of an atheist: one who lives their life as if there isn’t a “god,” as pondering the idea is pointless in the absence of any evidence and, until such evidence arises, there is no reason to consider it. Still, we cannot completely discount it; proving the complete absence of something is impossible. There could be a group of all-powerful unicorns on the very edge of the universe who guide our world and all other matter throughout the universe, but there’s no evidence for this, so I don’t bother considering its possibility.

      • bill
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        i don’t recall what his definition of a god is. seems like you’d have to exclude all the unknown and unknowable (unless deutsch is right about our abilities) to be certain, or limit your definition.

        • BJ
          Posted August 23, 2020 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

          Again, his claim is not, as you put it, “certainty,” nor is it that of any atheist who understands the concept of unfalsifiability. His claim is simply that there is no evidence of a “god,” and therefore there’s no point in living a life in which you’re constantly entertaining the idea.

          It’s the charge of the one who claims a “god” — any type of god, creator, prime mover, etc. — to give their definition and provide evidence for it.

      • grasshopper
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        “We cannot prove a negative.”

        There are no elephants in my pockets, and I can prove it. Unless they are invisible and formless elephants, of course.

        • BJ
          Posted August 23, 2020 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          I meant in relation to the concept of god (or similar ideas like fairies), but sure, there could be invisible elephants in your pockets! I would have to admit that it’s possible that (1) there is such a thing as invisible elephants, and (2) they can either defy the boundaries of physics or be very tiny. That’s just as unfalsifiable as the existence of a “god.”

    • Ugo Corda
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Even if there is a god, what are the chances that his characteristics coincide with those described by a particular religion? What are the chances that what he expects from us corresponds to what is described by a particular religion?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        I realize that’s rhetorical, and I’m not sure of the exact figures, but they round down to zero.

      • bill
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        are we speaking of this universe, or more broadly? but give me the charactistics of the real god and i’ll start the calculation.

  14. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    “… how to >>win debates<<”

    The title – which author PCC(E) had no choice not to choose – is no mistake, and the response illustrates the problem of “debates”.

    Debates are, by design, something of an argumentative athletics, with expectations of clear winners and losers. I think PCC(E) described – in his days at Maryland I believe? – the skill of reaching a conclusion one class day, then reaching quite another on the next day?

    Debates are not equal to truth finding.

  15. JohnH
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I recently saw three children (ages maybe 3 to 6, 7 years old at most) being reprimanded by their grandmother for playing in a car parked with open doors in their driveway. Now, that driveway is the children’s play area and their toys were scattered about. During the scolding the grandmother reiterated that she had told them not to play in the car. Of course, the children did not have the reasoning power of the adult and the grandmother, aware of this, tempered her wrath so that the children might learn a lesson. My immediate thought was why did an adult leave the car in their play area with the doors open if they didn’t want them to go near it? The cars are usually parked to the side and closed. Next, a comparison to Adam and Eve in the garden came to mind. The only difference was that the grandmother, not being an all loving God, did not curse the children and punish them and all their offspring with eternal damnation. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Well, actually Grandma did not have to punish them with eternal damnation because g*d already did that soon as they were born.

      • JohnH
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        Good point. Saved us a lot of damning.

  16. yazikus
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    With no God, cancer consumes the child and they have no hope, no more life, just a cruel and unfair “chance” that is uncontrollable and uncalculated in an uncaring universe.

    I feel like he’s almost close to something here – even if you give that the idea of god gives hope to the child with cancer, they are still consumed, it is still cruel, still unfair, and they lose their life. I maintain that putting in a ‘all part of god’s plan’ spin makes it measurably more cruel.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      +1

  17. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Whenever I see someone quoting from a book of fantasy tales I’m always inclined to quote from my favourite series of books Of fantasy (the Discworld series) and just say “the librarian said OOK”.

    Just one more thing, “ect” should be “etc”.

    • Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      It is fun to use well developed fiction to illustrate how ancient religions are just one other kind of fiction. Only some don’t know it. Wish I could quote Tolkien and George Lucas as readily as some god-wallopers can quote the Bible.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        Doesn’t that pretty much describe the Joseph Campbell oeuvre?

    • Posted August 24, 2020 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      “Just one more thing, “ect” should be “etc”.”

      Jerry was requoting the writer’s typo.

  18. Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    It is remarkable that all cultures have their own religions, saviors and the like. One could make the argument that indicates a knowledge in common with all cultures – as if there was something out there.

    I don’t think so, but one could make that argument.

    • Matthew
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      Theosophy. I’m not endorsing it, but that’s the core of the belief.

  19. Posted August 23, 2020 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    It is remarkable that all cultures have their own religions, saviors and the like. One could make the argument that indicates a knowledge in common with all cultures – as if there was something out there.

    I don’t think so, but one could make that argument.

  20. Robert Bray
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    ‘Some of the most influential historical figures that have impacted society and made for a better life include: Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo Da Vinci, Mozart, William Shakespeare, Martin Luther King Jr, ect.’

    Well. . . Lincoln was not a Christian, to the best of what we can understand about his ‘religion.’ He may have died a theist of some sort, but there is no good evidence that he was ever baptized a Christian or ever joined a Christian church. Therefore, according to your commenter, Lincoln now resides in hell.

    And, as Kenneth Clark observed, William Shakespeare was ‘the only supremely great poet who was without religion.’ Read his plays or go to the theatre to see them acted, oh ye faithful, and afterwards reflect that Shakespeare, too, is in hell, perhaps in the same circle as Lincoln.

  21. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The fallen world response is such a circular argument that really makes no sense. God is either powerless, cruel and unloving, or doesn’t exist. If he cannot do anything because it’s a fallen world, he is powerless. If he can do something but chooses not to because he wants us to figure it out, he’s cruel. How is it ethical to watch children die of cancer because some rib woman listened to a snake and bit an apple. Give your head a shake. You wouldn’t tolerate that from your fellow humans so why tolerate that from your god?

    • yazikus
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Exactly this. I think back to my days in accounting – where reconciliation is paramount. When you try to reconcile these things, you cannot.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Yes, God as ultimate GL!

  22. Desnes Diev
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    [J. Coyne] “In the end, the writer expects us to accept God because the Bible says that there’s a God, and the Bible is TRUE”

    One thing that God could have done if he/she/they/it cared about being worshipped is to update “the” Bible. After all, its texts are so obsolete that nobody really agree on what are God’s true words in the different versions.

    But it’s like if God preferred to send visions of Jesus or Mary to some few (mostly cognitively fragile) people than to do a meaningful act of presence.

    • jezgrove
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      And always to people who had already heard of Mary and Jesus. Now, if g*d had made a bit of effort (easy if you’re omnipotent, surely) someone on every continent could have simultaneously been given the same divine message. Of course, the Middle East-specific references would have been odd to someone in South America… That specificity and the Bible’s echoes of earlier nearby religious beliefs and traditions in the region around Jerusalem are precisely what humans living in that region of the world would invent – wouldn’t you reasonably expect the creator of the entire universe to have a wider vision? Funny how no nation has ever been told that they’re not the almighty’s chosen people.

    • Mike
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      I think Christians, Muslims, and Mormons all think of their holy books as updates of the bible. But like bad version control on GitHub, where the update competes with the legacy version for most downloads, and nobody can agree on which version runs best on the hardware. (/metaphor)

  23. mike cracraft
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    A study of ancient history will lead you to conclude that there is nothing original in Christianity. It was influenced by and copied from numerous pagan cults with hundreds and hundreds of deities that existed over 5000 years. It is useless to quote so many parts of the Bible that was essentially a recruiting text and a way of enforcing obedience and reward by threat of damnation.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      I think a lot of the “recruiting text” involves a reconciliation of our OCD nature in our misfiring brain circuitry we have as humans. Oh to be an alligator.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Whenever threads such as this one emerge on WEIT, I find it helpful to allude to Ben Goren’s guest post entitled ‘On the Historicity of Jesus.’ Authoritative, to put it mildly.

      • Mike
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        I miss Ben here.

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

          And Sastra…

          • Posted August 24, 2020 at 2:24 am | Permalink

            Where are they???

            • darrelle
              Posted August 24, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

              Sastra still drops by from time to time. As recently as weeks to maybe a few months ago.

              From what he said at the time Ben’s life got interesting enough that he gave up taking the time to stay involved at WEIT. Interesting projects, new marriage. Purely guessing on my part but I think perhaps he also felt that he had said all he had to say regarding religion and similar issues, and similar on the socio-political front. Plus he judged things so bad in the US he decided to spend his time battening down the hatches, as it were.

              Would be nice to see Ben check in every now and then. I’d love to see more of Sastra too.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        Maybe read Richard Carrier’s book of the same title.

  24. Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    A heroic effort to wade thru that thicket! There is no point in debating this person about such broad questions as theodicy and the like. They will always find ways to escape evidence and reasoning in such far-reaching matters. The faith of this one is far too strong.
    Funny, but that last statement would probably make him happy.

  25. Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    “Now I didn’t think that these questions would flummox more “sophisticated” believers, but they were designed to plant doubts in the minds of the more open-minded believers, or of those on the fence, and help them realize the intellectual vacuity of Abrahamic religion.”

    It’s really a list of issues that a believer must have answers that they also believe. I suspect that many so-called believers never even consider whether they believe their religion’s accepted wisdom on the individual issues. It’s probably more effective to get believers to think about what they “believe” in greater depth than to actually change minds directly.

  26. FB
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    “This question is easily answered by the most simplistic Biblical concept there is. Loving God=freedom for people, freedom=choice.” No, Satan and God would create two opposite kinds of freedom. Clearly Satan will allow us to rape, torture, and murder, but not God. How can Christians be sure that they aren’t worshipping Satan? Can Christians tell the difference between God and the Devil?

  27. Claudia Baker
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Don’t worry Jerry. If the Christian writer fails to save your soul, it will be much more fun in hell anyway. All your readers will be there for starters, and lots of other interesting people. I can’t wait to meet Napoleon!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Our host no doubt would have a bone to pick with Herr Doktor Sigmund in the brimstone down yonder. 🙂

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        I wanna see that encounter.

    • Posted August 24, 2020 at 2:28 am | Permalink

      I’d like to give that murderous brute a kick. 🤨

      • jezgrove
        Posted August 24, 2020 at 4:39 am | Permalink

        That’s no way to talk about our host, Dom! ;o)

  28. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m not interested in the details of superstitious insanity. But recently I learned that the myth collections at the time – of the upheaval of the Hellenistic Conquest – may have been written as political pamphlets. [One each for the west and east division of the Hellenistic empire: Manetho, Berossos.]

    The universe is spatially flat so is zero energy and expanding adiabatically so is zero work – on large scales all processes are spontaneous and that rejects ‘omnipotence’ magic.

    The biggest humanitarian and philanthropic movements in history are influenced and supported

    Not by religion, for sure. The top relative contributor at > 1 % of GNI is secular Sweden [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_development_aid_country_donors ].

    “Earlier this week, a new report released by the National Study of American Religious Giving put a rest to that myth that religious people are more charitable than the non-religious. It turns out nearly 75% of charitable giving by all Americans … benefits places of worship and faith-based charities. A lot of the money isn’t helping the poor and less fortunate. It’s going to the church.”
    [ https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2013/11/28/are-religious-people-really-more-generous-than-atheists-a-new-study-puts-that-myth-to-rest/ ].

  29. Posted August 23, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Any rationalization of how the world is and how God is described is at best disingenuous. No matter the outcome, a God with plans, power, and knowledge is the One who allows anything to come into being. A positive result, it was allowed. A negative result, it was allowed. The past remains unchanged, it had already been allowed. The future will come into being, it will be allowed.

    When it boils down to it, your God doesn’t give a fig about you, no matter how hard you pray, pay, or not.

    Or there is a nature visiting reality upon you and stories were invented to make sense of that seemingly random and callous reality.

  30. Mark R.
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    And it’s a simple fact that if this Christian from the woodwork were born as a native son in North Korea, or India, or Saudi Arabia, he wouldn’t be a Christian. One’s religion (or lack thereof) almost always reflects their country of origin.

    Also, as I am wont to say about people like this: they are adult children, just like our “president”.

  31. Mark R.
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Upon reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations I was struck by his deep faith and piousness. He constantly evokes the gods as loving and beneficial to humans and believes in all the Roman/Greek gods as fervently as any Christian today believes in the Abrahamic god. Christianity was growing during his lifetime, but he doesn’t mention it. Today, we call his gods myths; it’s not too hard a stretch to apply the same description to the bible and its god.

  32. rickflick
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    The answers he gives, especially the circular ones, show that religion is a

    delusion : “a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary”.

    Why then are people so prone to delusion? Is tRumpism a delusion? I’d say yes.

  33. sugould
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    What ‘turned me away from god’ more than anything was asking a few true believers what heaven meant to them. Was mostly, (paraphrasing)‘I’ll be up there and get to be a groupie for god and fawn over him for all eternity.’ Which made me think less of them and their god.

  34. Steve Pollard
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    A lot of great comments above. I find it interesting, and amusing, that so many believers are prepared to entangle themselves in the spiders’ webs of biblical quotations, when even the most amateur of those among us know a bit about who wrote them, when and maybe even why, and can refute their assertions in detail.

    People like our host’s correspondent can no longer get away with tacking biblical verses together and expect to get away with it. They are convincing nobody but themselves.

  35. KD
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes, it feels like atheists are the people in the audience at the play pointing out to the others that the back drop isn’t real.

    • KD
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      If atheists miss the point, then how hopeless and even more clueless is the Christian apologist?

      How would you convert someone to Jesus?

      If this video didn’t work, all the proofs in the world would fail, because the reason this video is effective is that it plays on something that precedes rationality in the human spirit.

      • KD
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        While the back drop and costumes in a dramatic performance are not “real” as we understand that term, they do play an important role in creating a context for the ritual. [And drama, of course, has its origins in religious rites of Athens.]

        Look at a college graduation. Does the graduate experience transubstantiation during the ceremony? Is the conferral of a degree meaningful in any context outside of social, anthropological and legal realm (e.g. biological or physical)? Is baptism any different? The first is predicated on conferring some kind of authority on institutions of higher education, the second is predicated on conferring some kind of authority on Christian institutions. . .

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 23, 2020 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, well, the playgoer suspends disbelief for the duration of the play; he or she doesn’t indulge that conceit afterward — or try to convince others of its veracity (let alone hold them liable for blasphemy should they fail to capitulate).

      Few atheists would complain should believers merely spend an hour at services on their Sabbath, singing and praying to their heart’s content. It’s when they endeavor to set public policy according to those beliefs that conflict ensues.

      • KD
        Posted August 23, 2020 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        Alas, but it works like this in practice:

  36. Geoff Toscano
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    So much to criticise; so easy as well.

    I’ll just ask one small question. If life is all about being tested and judged for the after life, then why would god interfere in any way in this life? If it influences us by punishing us then doesn’t that upset the issue of judgement going forward?

    Ultimately your correspondent provides what he thinks are the best responses to your perfectly valid points, and they don’t even get to the starting line. If these are the best apologists can do then it really is only a matter of time before Christianity fades into obscurity.

  37. Posted August 23, 2020 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I guess if one has decided to live in an imaginary world of bigoted superstition then reason isn’t one of your strong points.

    rz

  38. ronsch99
    Posted August 23, 2020 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Once one is able to ponder the immensity of reality, from quarks, quantum theory, General Theory, Entropy, the Christian Religion feels in comparison like having halted one’s education at kindergarten.

  39. Posted August 23, 2020 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    If the whole point of believing in this god is to make it to heaven, count me out.
    ” … Just consider for a moment what their [Christians’] heaven looks like. Endless praise and adoration, limitless abnegation and abjection of self; a celestial North Korea.”
    [Hitchens, Vanity Fair, August 1998]
    If I *do* get there – heaven forbid – will I be with my common law husband of 25 years or will he be with his (never-divorced) wife?
    Will I arrive there as the little kid (age 7) I was when my dad died? Or will I be the at-least-73yr-old daughter he won’t recognise? Will we be excused from some of that “Glory, glory, glory” singing stuff to catch up on the earthly time we missed out on?
    How the hell am I going to fill eternity?
    When I’ve read every book twice, learned every other language, mastered every musical instrument, indulged in every passtime yet with eternity still to endure, won’t I have to go mad in order to preserve my sanity?

  40. Posted August 24, 2020 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    I’ve got to hand it to you professor: I don’t know how you do battle with these people and their intellectually embarrassing, childish beliefs. I just wouldn’t have the energy.

    I’ve spend my adult life studying psychology, politics, law, religion, evolutionary bio, and neurology. Some study for my degrees, some study/reading for my own intellectual curiously which, thankfully I can devote myself to full time now. Putting all of them together gives me a view “behind the curtain” (Wizard of Oz style) to understand exactly *how* and why this “mind virus” (R.D.) infects humans.

    But actually explaining it to people, all the precursors, as you do, is more than I have time for. I take the easy route – just have (almost entirely) atheist friends.

    D.A., J.D., NYC

  41. Posted August 24, 2020 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    I read his first few sentences & get angry –
    “Humanity chose to rebel against God” -what the heck is “humanity”? Does humanity exist other than as an idea? For a start if we accept there were humans who rebelled, whatever that means, they were not everyone, they were only a small group in the Middle East!

    Even if they WERE everyone in the whole world, I am not everyone. It is like a teacher at school keeping the whole class in detention because of one person. If his god were so great it would be able to distinguish one rebel from a non-rebel. But why punish? Surely god should turn the other cheek?

    I suspect this fellow is a biblical literalist, which means ignorant.

  42. Posted August 24, 2020 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    His second point about it being impossible to look at god contradicts his first answer where he claims that god walked around in a garden with people. This betrays the Bronze Age origins of his god as just one of a family of God’s like the early Hebrews’ neighbours such as the Assyrians. Their religion evolved from the religions of the late Neolithic/Bronze Age.

    If god has a body, it cannot exist outside the universe. It also means that god cannot be omnipresent.

    Biblical literalists are terribly illogical people & cannot reconcile their scriptures because they are a mishmash of various sources written over a long period, by people who made their gods.

    His argument if we can call it that, is just “because Jesus”…!

    This is just ridiculous & incoherent.

  43. Posted August 24, 2020 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    He is hidden, or veiled, away from humanity because He is too Holy to be looked at without humans dying

    There’s a starman waiting in the sky. He’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow out minds.

  44. David B
    Posted August 24, 2020 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Regarding the argument that many people who did great and wonderful things were Christians, please look up the Spanish Requirement of 1513. ‘Nuff said.

  45. Posted August 24, 2020 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit that I didn’t read every word of this, but it seems to me that every answer given by the “Christian sender” is based on a quotation from the Bible (Old or New Testament), which, I think, can only be regarded by rationalists as works of fiction.


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