More on “Raiding Parties”

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Welcome to new visitors!  Feel free to comment, but please avoid ad hominem arguments (attacking the messenger, and not the message) and straw man arguments (deliberately misrepresenting someone else’s views). 

Please be charitable in attempting to understand arguments presented by me or other commenters (theist or non-theist).  Misinterpreting people, whether deliberately or not, isn’t very productive.  Asking for clarification is always a good idea if you aren’t sure what someone means.  Thanks!

P.S. I’ll try to follow my own advice as well.

As I noted previously in Comments on comments, a group of atheists from Richard Dawkins’ web site decided to conduct raiding parties on theist sites such as this one.  No big deal, of course, as blogs are a great example of the public square, but their planning wasn’t too stellar. 

Now they are re-grouping and getting more organized.  That is not a bad thing, because this time around they are, in general, trying to be more polite about it (whether that is pragmatism or true politeness is subject to debate, but I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt – despite the deliberate deceptions suggested by some of their commenters).

I addressed some of their arguments in Poor arguments to make with theists part 1 and part 2

It is interesting peering into their worldview.  I’m not necessarily going down the “atheism is really a religion path,” but they do seem to have a Messiah complex going.

Why, you might ask yourself, should we bother? Well theism is a real danger to global peace, and I subscribe to Sam Harris’ idea that moderates are silent (and largely unwitting) faciliators of religions virulent strains. But, you might further object, isn’t this just … you know …. evangelism.

In a very real (but perhaps overly dramatic sense) the fate of the species, perhaps the planet is at stake . Consider this a kind of global community service.

Yes, by all means, we need more peace loving atheist regimes like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot had.   

Perhaps this is just “Christianity week” for these guys, but this worldwide group has identified five web sites so far and they are all Christian.  Hmmm.   So as usual, the evangelical New Atheists have targeted the big, bad Christians – the ones who have spent millenia building hospitals, starting schools, developing science and the arts, helping the poor, ending the slave trade, improving the lot of women, praying for their enemies, etc. 

Seriously, where are their mission trips to Muslim countries?  If they are going to save the world, wouldn’t that be part of the program?  They aren’t even targeting Muslim web sites.  Do the “brights” seriously think Christianity is more of a danger to world peace than Islam?  Why not at least go to India and help the Dalits and try to eradicate the caste system? 

Methinks they doth protest way too much against Christianity and way too little with other religions.  I wonder why? 

Update: When the raid leader saw my comment about this on another blog he added a Muslim site to their list.  He noted on Dawkin’s site that it was listed precisely because I pointed out the gap.  I thought it was funny that the original post and comments were 100% anti-Christian, and funnier still that they added a token Muslim site with promises to add more just because of my comment.  I think they still don’t understand my point, though.

I think some reasoned dialogue with these foks could be interesting, but I would encourage them to do some serious self-reflection first to see what their real motives are.

94 thoughts on “More on “Raiding Parties””

  1. Hi Mark,
    The real question, which I dont think you got, is essentially – was Matthew actually that apostle? Was James actually written by James? Nowhere in John does it actually say that this is the apostle john. It seems tobe more a tradition that he wrote it – just like there is a tradition that Moses wrote the pentateuch, or that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes.

    Neil said: Billy, you might be interested in Can We Trust the Gospels? by Mark Roberts. It is scholarly yet approachable in answering questions like that. When you realize how the NT was formed it helps explain why the early church considered these texts to be reliable and how the authors were identified ( http://www.amazon.com/Can-Trust-Gospels-Investigating-Reliability/dp/1581348665/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1199890247&sr=8-1 )

    There is a big difference between faith and evidence. Why do you have faith in Jesus and not Mohammed? And why should I believe anything is true based on faith? Lets face it, it is an important question. If you are wrong and Osama bin laden is right, you will go to hell, so on what basis do you make a rational desicion that you are right and islam is wrong?
    Personally, I am compelled to reject both through lack of evidence.

    Oh no, I’m getting too sucked in to this 🙂

    Neil said: Yes, it is an important question. It is important to define faith before answering those questions. “Faith” is used in the Bible as belief in something, or someone. It isn’t faith without evidence or in opposition to evidence. Check out the Book of Acts and see how the Gospel presentations point to facts and logic.

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  2. Billy, I agree that Christianity offers hope to the desperate: Christ Himself said that a doctor comes to treat the sick, and He said that the spiritually poor are blessed. But the hope Christianity offers is very weak indeed if, at its very beginning, its central claim and the source of its hope was not plausible.

    Christianity’s central claim is a historical claim, namely that Jesus was crucified and that He rose from the dead. At the church’s very beginnings, this claim would not have offered much hope to the hopeless is it was easily refuted.

    Seas, you write that an “ought” clause ought to be followed by an “in order to” clause.

    (You don’t explain why the one ought to be followed by the other, only that this is how the idea is “properly” expressed. An atheist can offer no explanation for human logic, so I wonder what is meant by what is “proper”, but I digress.)

    You write:

    Thus “ought” is a map of how to get from one “is” to another “is.”

    This misses the fact that morality isn’t a mere map from one “is” to another, it teaches which “is” goals we are obliged to honor and those we are obliged to avoid.

    And, requiring every “ought” to be followed by an “in order to” is to create an infinite chain without any basis.

    We ought to do “A” in order to accomplish “B.”

    Why should we care about “B”? We ought to care about “B” in order to reach “C”.

    Why should we care about “C”? The chain never ends, according to your logic.

    More reasonable is the idea that, just as their are maxims in logic (e.g., non-contradiction), there are maxims in morality. For instance, there is reciprocity, the Golden Rule:

    “You ought to treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated.”

    I think this rule needs no justification.

    Moreover, any temporal “in order to” phrase that follows the Golden Rule begs the question of why we should care about that goal, and it often excludes very important instances of moral behavior.

    And, ultimately, if this rule can be rooted in an eternal, transcedent “in order to”, then the root of that “ought” and “in order to” chain must, in the end, stand on its own.

    If I could summarize:

    – Any justification of an “ought” statement by an “in order to” clause or an “is” statement begs the question, why should we care about that goal?

    – Like the rules of logic, if morality is real, there must be some moral maxims that need not be justified. The chain of “ought” and “in order to” must ultimately end in an “ought” that stands on its own.

    – Because the physical universe is only a set of “is” statements, these moral maxims — the “ought” statements that stand alone — must transcend the physical universe.

    In short, if morality is real, it is transcendent. I believe this conclusion is inexorable because, almost every time I see someone challenge the conclusion, they end up undermining the premise. It seems that any attack on the transcendence of morality ends up attacking the reality of morality.

    “Okay,” so an atheist might say, “morality isn’t real. It isn’t really real, it’s just a subjective construct of human psychology or human society, useful but in no sense objective.”

    Let them take that position, I say. But I insist that they draw the logical conclusions of that position, and I fail to see how the position can avoid nihilism as a conclusion.

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  3. To correct myself from above: At the church’s very beginnings, this claim [of the Resurrection] would not have offered much hope to the hopeless if it was easily refuted.

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  4. Bubba,

    Bear in mind that the pagan world at that time was rife with stories of resurrection and virgin birth, so there was no real shift in emphasis – another reason why I have my doubts that there is much truth in the jesus story. Justim Martyr even said “”And when we say also that the

    Word, who is First begotten of God, was

    born for us without sexual union, Jesus

    Christ our teacher and that He was

    crucified and died and rose again and

    ascended into heaven, we propound nothing

    new beyond what you believe concerning

    those whom you call sons of Zeus.

    Neil said: See tektonics.org for a good reply to the copycat religion claim. Also, please provide a link to Martyr’s whole context if you can.

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  5. The quote in the original article above from the atheist was completely taken out of context. it doesn’t seem fair to do that when your basing a large part of your argument on it. I did some searching and found the original, here is the statement in entirety:

    “Why, you might ask yourself, should we bother? Well, the extreme forms of religious ideology are a real danger to global peace, and I subscribe to Sam Harris’ idea that moderates are silent (and largely unwitting) faciliators of religions virulent strains. But, you might further object, isn’t this just … you know …. evangelism.
    I have wondered about this myself, and I’ve been accused of it. I don’t think it is though. We are not offering an ideology to replace whatever they currently embrace, rather we are questioning the dangerous policy of founding important decisions on obviously mythical systems of belief. Atheists as we all know from bitter arguments on this site , embrace a pretty broad range of views.”

    I think if your going to welcome people to your blog and ask them not to provide straw man arguments….well you probably shouldn’t be guilty of that yourself.

    Neil said: Hi Rukind, this is what I copied and pasted from Brian’s original post:

    “Why, you might ask yourself, should we bother? Well theism is a real danger to global peace . . .”

    You can see it in the post above, along with his special smiley characters.

    Now, compare that to what is on Brian’s post now and what you pasted in your comment:

    “Why, you might ask yourself, should we bother? Well, the extreme forms of religious ideology are a real danger to global peace . . .”

    As you will note, Brian changed his post. Everybody got that? He changed his post, and now you are saying I misquoted him. But I quoted him word-for-word from what he originally wrote, gave plenty of context and provided a link. In short, I did my due diligence and sought to portray his views as accurately as possible.

    Is it fair for him to refine and add to his posts? Of course. I refine posts and comments all the time.

    Is it accurate to say I misquoted him or that I did some sort of straw man? Absolutely not.

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  6. Re: following up on the above argument/point/observation that the Christian religion really didn’t spread until Constantine – guess I’m just kinda curious as to why a man who was arguably the most important & powerful person in the world @ the time would reject everything he was raised to believe & not only embrace but help spread the beliefs of an insignificant religion that the empire he headed had been trying to eradicate by force & violence for over 300 years.

    That he did what he did is a fact. I’m just curious as to his motives since he had nothing to gain & everything to lose.

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  7. Hi Neil. I posted above as Brian, but forgot to distinguish myself from Brian C, leader of the raiding parties ™. Anyway, you haven’t posted links to your first cause arguments, etc so that I may not put straw all about the place when discussing with you.
    Thanks.

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  8. Hi Brian E – I didn’t completely understand your comment. I have put links in other posts, if that is what you mean. I just came across this today that has a bunch if you interested. I just glanced at a couple, but my guess is that they can explain 1st Cause better than I can – http://rationalperspective.wordpress.com/theism/

    I don’t mind some threads getting a bit off topic, but by and large I appreciate if people will focus on the post itself. Otherwise it becomes a free for all. I like blogging, but it is down the list of most important things to do in life. Therefore, I can’t re-create the wheel every time someone new comes along. But don’t worry – we get to plenty of interesting topics.

    Good luck,

    Neil

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  9. Hi Bubba,

    Thanks for responding to my points conscientiously. So, to keep my thinking straight and try to return the favor, the main points I’ve got to touch on now are: an atheist account of morality (“isn’t non-transcendent morality no morality at all”), of logic (…would you make a similar claim there…? I’m not sure), and of the golden rule. Only if I have space will I move on to an atheist account of yo mama.

    Part of my interest in this debate is to find out what I think, so some of my efforts will be more exploratory than gotcha. Beg your patience.

    By “properly” I meant to say only that every ought conceals an in-order-to. (Thanks, I was unclear). Why ought one to do something? If there is an answer to that question, there’s a reason. Any reason can be translated as “in order to,” even from some alternate formulation like “because.” “You should do as she says, because she’s your mother”–(Fallacious, obviously, but my point lies elsewhere)– this has many possible translations, for instance, “you should listen to what she says in order to be a good boy.” (The statement needs more unpacking, of course). Same thing goes for “you should do as He says, because He’s your Father.”

    But then, you argue,

    (Bubba says): The chain of “ought” and “in order to” must ultimately end in an “ought” that stands on its own.

    In order to avoid sleeping on the couch, I ought to apologize to my wife; the matter ends there. Why should I want to avoid sleeping on the couch? Well.

    It’s ultimately just a question of what we want to do, I freely grant. There are always reasons, good and bad, to do or not do something. Luckily there are excellent reasons for compassionate doings in the peace, joy, and beauty that they engender. UN-luckily, perhaps, to perceive these reasons lucidly (past coarser lusts and the illusory needs of our megalomania) requires the greatest subtlety of being. There’s our spiritual task.

    An ought without an “in order to” or a “because” or such-like is an ought without a reason. All you’ve transcended thereby is reason, logic, not “the physical universe.” There’s only one universe, namely all that is, a somewhat perplexing place which we sometimes describe physically and sometimes in terms of consciousness. (Since it makes little sense to speak of the existence of rocks water planets gravity without a mind to perceive them). Nothing transcends the universe, not math, not logic, nothing. Possible exception of yo mama.

    Evolution favors logic, favors making connections about how things work in our environment (i.e., the universe). I don’t understand why this is an insufficient account? Reasoning power increases with the complexity of the animal, observably; with evolution. And so, it seems to me as a layman, does empathy—at least as a general trend, maybe less straightforwardly than reasoning power. Empathy—the golden rule.

    Actually I think the golden rule contains an extra layer of calculation which our most fundamental ethical instincts don’t. When I vividly apprehend my neighbor’s being—with a mind somewhat free, at least momentarily, from distracting self-concern and worry—I perceive his happiness and suffering quite as if they were my own. I don’t have to proceed through a mental transaction of “how would I want him to treat me?” There’s no thought of “you” or “me” in that recognition of fundamental solidarity. Then I no more require a me-and-you calculation in order to help him out than the right hand requires one, as it has been said, to fly to the left hand when it’s injured.

    But then, has evolution “calculated” this transaction for us already? Is that what enables our immediate, non-transactional empathy…? Does my capacity to mirror my neighbor’s subjectivity originally derive (even a little more coarsely) from a rub-my-back-I’ll rub-yours transaction? That would be interesting to know. It wouldn’t rob empathy of its current dignity, though, its marvellous contribution to the well-being of others and to the delicacy of one’s own experience.

    Incidentally, maybe some of our moral intuitions do “transcend” reason. (Showing their evolutionary scars)? Given the opportunity to assassinate Hitler, my instincts would have rebelled, but would their advice have been good? Or there’s the question of our bias for family, tribe, nation. Those are limits we’re entirely capable of transcending, though, through nothing more than sensitive attention brought to bear on critters outside our circle. As I say, it seems that this capacity increases with the sophistication of the animal—can anyone more expert on evolutionary theory enlighten me there…? I’m much interested in this question.

    So, I will happily deny reality to “morality” if by that you mean something independent (transcendent) of considerations about happiness and suffering. A divorce from such considerations is precisely what characterizes religious vs. secular ethics, and it hugely wastes our society’s energy on non-problems like gay marriage when there’s plenty of real suffering to be addressed. (And it actively hurts gays, of course).

    In short, everything has reasons! We’re equipped with all kinds of elegant intuitive shorthand so we don’t have to make most of them explicit in our daily living. But that’s no reflection of a mind, a person, outside the universe. How does it provide us with an anyway more transcendent norm to say that a moral sense is from the nature of God, than that it is from the nature of us? Because then it might not apply to mosquitos? My best observation (who can know) suggests that mosquitos DON’T inherit a golden rule quite like ours from this God who made them. Even a cat with a bird appears sometimes (who can know) quite without consciousness of sin.

    You say:

    (Bubba said): Moreover, any temporal “in order to” phrase that follows the Golden Rule begs the question of why we should care about that goal, and it often excludes very important instances of moral behavior.

    Can you give an example of such an instance? Not gay marriage I hope! (Again, happiness and suffering are the most obvious “temporal” terms to contend with). (Sorry for all the scare quotes, I don’t like them either, I’ll try to find a better solution next time).

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  10. This thread is moving faster than I can read it, let along reply. I will “pick off” points of interest – if anyone thinks I have missed something important, just tell me directly if you truly want a reply/input from me.

    Elisa wrote:
    You know it’s funny that more of these guys come closer to understanding and believe Quantum Theory than the existence of God, and certainly the Trinity. And there’s more evidence of God.
    Quantum theory is able to make amazing predictions that can be measured, empirically, in some cases better than one part in 10 billion. There are bucket loads of experiments you are free to try at home (you may need to build your own science lab though, but just ask your local church for funding.)
    I “believe” in Quantum mechanics because of these amazing predictions that have been repeatable tested, empirically, and independently by people who truly wanted to falsify them (Einstein hated Quantum mechanics all his life and tried to prove it wrong – he failed, if you think you know anyone else up to the challenge, then go for it).
    On a simpler note, I also believe the Sun will rise tomorrow – of course I have no proof for this claim but the 4.5 billion years of historical evidence in our solar system and an understanding of physics (plus I have 13.7 billion years of history in the universe – main sequence stars do NOT just disappear over night (unless you want to throw in a black hole, but we would notice that).
    So you claim there is “more evidence of God” – name it, show it.
    The best most theists normally come up with (and I know I am close to making a straw man here) will be picking the gaps in the current knowledge in science (and, you know what that is called) – is your God really confined to be merely the “God of the Gaps”?

    Neil said: “God of the gaps.” Gee, never heard that before. Is that worse than the “science of the gaps,” where “We have no idea where the millions of fossils are, but we’ll find them, and we have no idea how the universe came into existence, but it definitely wasn’t God and we’ll find that, and we have no idea how life came from non-life, but we’ll find that, and so on.”

    Elisa wrote:
    The other thing that is really funny, is that when we DO give them (ample) empirical and historical evidence, they reject it.

    Excellent, you do have “ample” empirical evidence – then let’s see it.

    Shall we keep it simple?

    What independent evidence do you have for the events that were supposed to have taken place at the crucifixion of Jesus? Earthquakes, 3 hours of darkness (covering the whole Earth?), dead saints getting up and walking around making themselves known. (Interesting, rising from the dead is not that big of a deal according to the bible…)

    I will accept historical documents not included in the bible. (I am aware of two sources normally quoted from the theist – I wonder if you have more) I will accept the bible as evidence only when you can prove it as a reliable source of evidence. (One debate at a time eh?)

    Of course, since no single eye witness account has ever convicted a criminal in a court of law (not in the UK or Australia anyway) – I hope you have a lot of convincing eye witness accounts, and also able to explain why many historical writers at the time did NOT notice anything strange that day.

    Oh, and if we have to take eye witness accounts, I assume you also believe in alien landings in America and ghosts… please confirm or deny this before we continue.

    Neil, I am still waiting for your reply to this question (or I have missed it). You cannot have one rule for one, and another rule for another… explain yourself.

    Neil said: You missed it. Go find it. I’m happy to dialogue, but am not your blog-nanny. I mean this in the nicest possible way.

    And your example is off base anyway. Just because people use a form of evidence doesn’t mean it is 100% reliable or the best form in every case. Is your premise is that we would never use eye witness accounts?

    I think we would if they were reliable. I can only assume that you have replicated every evolutionary experiment yourself and not just relied on others to do it for you.

    I think you have seriously misunderstood how this blog works. If you want to make a comment on topic, that’s cool. I do not drop what I’m doing to reproduce evidence for someone who doesn’t appear to be interested and is only playing out his script. How about if you convince me that you are a sincere seeker first?

    Billy wrote: Elisa, maybe you could provide some evidence. You seem a touch arrogant in your tone here. May this atheist remind you : 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear
    Nice quote… we’ve still seen no evidence from Elisa though have we?
    Billy wrote: Yes, I have often wondered about that – imagine being ripped from heaven and placed in smelly old Judea again
    That would not be a very nice thing for Jesus to do then would it?
    And what did finally killed Lazarus?
    Why didn’t anyone think to ask Lazarus what it was like “on the other side”?
    Does God have a grey beard or not?
    Maybe Lazarus went to hell… similar questions still come to mind though. What did Peter say at the Pearly Gates?
    You would also think someone coming back from the dead would make more “news”… it is the same for those dead saints getting up and walking around at the crucifixion of Jesus. No historian noticed (other than the bible writers of course)
    Too many plot holes if you ask me. Anyone care to show me why I am wrong?

    Neil said: Do you seriously think those questions will advance the conversation? I’ve provided ample links if you have real interest. I sense that you don’t, but hey, prove me wrong.

    Marshall Art wrote:
    The point of this thread isn’t concerning the existence of God or the validity of the Bible. It has to do with whether or not theists are more of a threat to civilization.

    Than what – non-theists?

    OK Marshall, I’ll try and tackle this one then…

    Before I do however, I need to know “what” I am debating against.

    Neil said: No, here’s a better idea: How about just staying on topic? The post was really not that complicated.

    I assume you are a theist, and a Christian one at that? (I do not wish to build these classical straw men now do I)

    So some questions:

    As a theist, what empirical evidence would be required to show you that you are wrong?

    How did you rationally chose the God you have?

    If someone had a different opinion, how would you convince them that their God is wrong, and your God is right?

    Thanks… more later

    Lee

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  11. When does this become what the Bible calls useless argumentation? Especially when so many of the arguers are here for mischief? It reminds me of so many liberals: never offering anything superior to what they’re tearing down, but rather specializing in distracting nitpicking, word-splitting, and “debunking” as not only a means to an end but the end itself.

    Neil, you are a very gracious and patient man. But I fear your generosity of spirit and desire to spread the message of Christ is wasted on people whose purpose is to mock or even destroy it. Still, if anyone’s likely to reach someone, it’s you!!

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  12. Great point, L&L. I was just thinking that as I responded to Lee. I ensure that trolls move on pretty quickly. If someone wants a sincere dialogue and isn’t just raiding with their little talking points script, I don’t mind the banter. I give the in-betweeners a little latitude.

    Yeah, they’re the same old tired arguments I outlined in the previous posts, but dismantling them is good practice and can be fun. But the traffic is more than I need.

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  13. Checking in from another front defending against the atheist hoards .. OK, one straggler who ventured out on his own.

    One “Lee” tripped over his own feet and shot himself in the foot.

    Self-identified at the start as an atheist, then changed his spots right before my very eyes and claimed not only to be agnostic but suggested that he was still seeking.

    Dang it!

    I have radioed in for a replacement atheist.

    Over and out.

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  14. Ha! I see “Lee” has been here! Consider his cover blown. If any of y’all want to see, get prayed up ’cause there are a bunch of liberal Christians and deists over at my place, and check out the thread under “Atheists Gone Wild.” But my feelers won’t be hurt if ya don’t. Oh, and Neil: if yer ears were burning, a couple of ’em got to discussing yourself and your debating methods, but, in my opinion no one jumped ugly on your self.

    Neil said: Thx for the heads up. Hadn’t been over for a while. Yes, I do have quite the fan club, don’t I?

    Anyhoo, “Lee” appears to be a fraud. Dishonest anyway. Surprise — NOT, considering their own discussion of the raiding game plan.

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  15. Erudite Redneck wrote:
    Anyhoo, “Lee” appears to be a fraud. b>

    A fraud? At what?

    Do you think I am a Christian?

    Cool… I didn’t know I had it in me.

    I am not part of the “raiding game”, I stated this – I am here to discuss God and the evidence for Him. Of course other stuff comes from this also.

    Dishonest anyway. Surprise — NOT, considering their own discussion of the raiding game plan.

    “Dishonest “? In what way?

    I have questions about God that I cannot answer. I look for evidence that I cannot find.

    The absence of answers and evidence means I doubt the existence of God… some call this position atheistic.

    Very strange indeed…

    Oh, and what game plan? Is their a great plan? Can someone share it with me?

    Lee

    Neil said: I let Lee’s comment post since ER posted one first. But I’d prefer the discussion move to ER’s blog. I would describe my interest level in this as low.

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  16. I see the ad homminems are flying. Mr Redneck, in what way is Lee a fraud? Why do you find it so hard to believe that someone may find the arguments for god unconvincing? Why do you also find it hard to believe that although unconvinced, he is still genuinely interested. This seems a somewhat narrow minded and bigoted approach. It seems to me, you are an example of why some people are anti-christianity as opposed to indifferent to it.
    I suppose you think we all want to run away from god, well perhaps you should get out and actually get to know why people dont believe in him, rather than sit there making accusations that have no foundation.
    Also, what actually makes christianity better than atheism in any real sense?

    Neil said: Because it is true.

    Do you think that the ultimate truth should actually be nice – look at how ugly the natural world is. Have you ever seen a living human brain that is being eaten by a maggot, or a parasitic insect that has to eat other insects slowly from the inside out as they still live, because there is no other way for them to exist. So, why should reality be nice?
    Now, you guy could take this as an oportunity

    “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear” 1 Peter 3:15

    So, what is the use of christianity to society if it’s adherents dont do what they are supposed to do.

    Let’s face it, 2000 years of christianity and society is a mess – it doesnt work. Now you may claim that we are stewards of our own behaviour, and I would agree with that, but why then do I need christianity. What moral act can a christian do that an atheist cant?

    Neil said: You can’t worship God or do things for God’s glory and not their own. And a Christian can give a coherent explanation of morality.

    You need Christianity to be reconciled to a perfect and Holy God and to have your sins forgiven. Hebrews 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. You can face God on your own or with Jesus.

    If you really want to learn about Christianity, drop your script, stick around and take your time. Or search elsewhere.

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  17. Hi SmartLX

    SmartLX wrote:
    I’d like to comment on the idea that atheist writers are concentrating on Christianity.

    edit

    Great post… I’ll have to remember to highlight the “type” of argument I am making.

    Neil wrote in reply
    But once again, it completely misses the point of my post.
    We don’t have to wonder about the purpose of the raiding parties. Brian spelled it out quite clearly. He and his team want to save the world from theism because it is perceived as a danger to global peace.

    Neil, what was the point of this post then?

    However, I must say that we are not all here on a raiding party to burn, loot, rape and all the other extra activities that the Vikings once enjoyed doing on their European tours.

    It is true I am hear because of the “advertising” done by Brian (via Jonathan) but I’m not on any crusade led by anyone from the RD forums. I’m an “independent”. .

    However, isn’t it a good thing that Brian advertised and brought more people to your blog?

    I for one am here for intellectual debate to learn more about my personal beliefs and what (and why) people believe in god. I have no axe to grind, I’ve never been religious and so do not come with any baggage of a bad childhood experience which I blame on a priest or holy book.

    OK… enough already.

    Lee

    Neil said: You missed the point. I just found it amusing how they have a complete fixation with Christianity and they don’t realize why. Increased traffic is a double-edged sword.

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  18. Hi Neil,

    And your example is off base anyway. Just because people use a form of evidence doesn’t mean it is 100% reliable or the best form in every case. Is your premise is that we would never use eye witness accounts?

    Not at all – eye witness accounts can be very useful in the investigation into a crime and a court of law. I am merely wondering how you decide to accept one source of eye witness accounts over another.

    The eye witness accounts for aliens have not be re-written and mistranslated for over 2,000 years with an agenda to preach their religion/belief.

    Neil: You could not be more wrong. You have been seriously misinformed on this crucial topic. I encourage you to research it more before passing along such incredibly false information. For starters, see http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2006/12/04/how-many-times-was-your-bible-been-translated/

    By the way, if Christians had wanted to change the Bible to fit their “agenda” they could have done so to make it more palatable and even to save their lives. They could have changed the name of “Mark” to “Peter,” for example. They could have watered down bits or challenging portions. But they didn’t. Most of the difficulties you guys ask have been addressed for a long time. Do you seriously think these people didn’t notice the things you do? Also see http://www.tektonics.org/lp/nowayjose.html

    You can still see the uneditted videos and read the signed testamonies from such witnesses (Even one from a certain former US president who STILL confirms what he saw even to this day)

    Yet you can reject this evidence and accept the “eye witness” accounts from the bible – why and how? This is may question. Why should I accept a form of evidence that you reject (which is more abundant and less open to “fraud”)

    Neil said: This is a pretty weak “gotcha” path. You evaluate eyewitnesses with a host of factors. Some you believe, some you don’t. I haven’t researched the alien things so I won’t comment on those. One thing you seem to be missing is that while some people will die for a lie that they think is true (9/11 attackers), most people won’t die for something they know to be a lie.

    Read the Book of Acts or the history of the early church. These guys were not in it for the money. That doesn’t mean that it kept out all fakes, but it certainly makes it less likely. If you were about to be nailed to a cross to die for something you knew to be a lie, you’d probably reconsider.

    I think we would if they were reliable.

    So a former US president is a liar… maybe no surprise there then, but how can you trust 2nd hand accounts from 2,000 years ago anymore?

    I can only assume that you have replicated every evolutionary experiment yourself and not just relied on others to do it for you.

    I would not have a clue how to do such science, but I know a man who can.

    Also, it has been shown, whenever someone tries to cheat in science discoveries and make false claims they are very quickly shown to be frauds by other sciencists. Sciencists actually go out of their way to disprove theories of others. It is their job.

    Neil said: So you have reasons to trust them, right? My point is that you don’t play the alien card with that trust. You trust them because you have reasons to do so. And I have reasons to trust the Gospel writers. Many of them died for what they believed to be true, among other things. More here http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/02/22/exploring-christianity-part-2/ and here http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/03/17/exploring-christianity-part-3/

    I think you have seriously misunderstood how this blog works. If you want to make a comment on topic, that’s cool.

    I’m still trying to find out what “on-topic” actually is… please tell me. I am really shooting in the dark here. I do not wish to frustrate you… I am a “happy debater” – I just cannot seem to find the right topic.

    I do not drop what I’m doing to reproduce evidence for someone who doesn’t appear to be interested and is only playing out his script.

    I have a script? Can you tell me where it is so I do not have to do so much thinking? My brain hurts now…

    How about if you convince me that you are a sincere seeker first?

    How can I do that? And a seeker of what?

    I believe there is no God… I try and explain why I think there is no God. If I am wrong, I really, really hope some theist will show me where, because if they are right – I do not want my soul to burn in hell.

    The problem though I have is – which God and why?
    So do I need to tell you I first believe in your God in order to be shown evidence for your God? Surely this cannot be right?

    I am sincerely looking for answers to my questions though… I do not expect to find them on blogs, but you never know. You might be able to give me something that challenges me, either words of wisdom or a link to a more knowledgable site. More importantly, I am hoping there are many intellegent theist readers on your blog and one of them could maybe try and answer some of the questions.

    Until then, I will be a doubter. It only seems right.

    Lee

    Neil said: Fair enough. I’ve provided lots of links and information. Happy searching! I rest in the total confidence that if you are authentically seeking then you’ll find Jesus.

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  19. ER-

    I think I have to defend Lee here. I’ve been debating with him for a while, and he’s a regular commenter on my blog. You certainly couldn’t describe him as dishonest, in fact he freely admits when he doesn’t know much about something. For instance on your own blog he said he didn’t know much about biology.

    Personally, I would describe myself as an atheist in that I think on the whole, the evidence seems to demonstrate that there is no God, or at least not one in the interventionist religious sense. However, I am open to evidence that might change my mind. Perhaps that definition better fits agnosticism, but an atheist is what I choose to describe myself as.

    Loath as I am to speak for Lee, I think the above definition is a fairly decent summary of his views (and I’m sure he will indicate if I am wrong). That defiintion doesn’t strike me as being at all dishonest.

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  20. Neil, sorry I dconfusred things here. Sigh.

    Billy, my remark about Lee stemmed from a tempest at my own place, which, if you haven’t read, you need to, otherwise your comments here to me make no sense. The post is “Atheists Gone Wild.” This so confusing. Sigh again. And Neil, sorry again.

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  21. Oh, but Neil, you had to have chuckeld at the idea of me being called a narrow-minded Christian. I’m one of those guys whose brain falls out once in awhile my mind is so open. 🙂

    Neil said: Ha! Yes, we must be confusing to them.

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  22. Argh just accidentally deleted my post, so to be brief

    Neil said: D’oh! I hate when I do that (too often!).

    Neil said: Because it is true.

    Not really an argument is it? More of a dogmatic statement. Again, what moral act can a christian perform that an atheist cant

    Neil said: I repeat: “You can’t worship God or do things for God’s glory and not their own.” Why must I repeat thing so many times with you? It is highly frustrating to have you completely ignore my responses. Don’t expect to see your comments posted if you do that again. It won’t because you’re an atheist, it will be because you are being a bad debater.

    Neil said: You can’t worship God or do things for God’s glory and not their own. And a Christian can give a coherent explanation of morality.

    I think you are going to have to define morality hee. You seem to think that an act is only moral if it glofifies god. That is circular reasoning that makes the apriori assumption that moral values flow from god. That is not my concept of morality.

    Neil said: That isn’t circular reasoning at all. It is an assertion. If you don’t believe it, that is fine. But it isn’t circular. You asked what moral things you can’t do that a Christian can, and I told you. Once again, you don’t like the answer so you throw out false accusations of logical fallacies, ignore the responses, etc.

    Neil said:

    You have totally ignored evidence that I have presented for a natural explanation and not provided any evidence of your own – another dogmatic statement

    You need Christianity to be reconciled to a perfect and Holy God and to have your sins forgiven. Hebrews 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. You can face God on your own or with Jesus.

    I’m aware of the dogma thanks. God is the source of moral values, we dont live up to them, so he sacrifices him self to himself to get round some laws that he set up himself.

    Surely then god is himself constrained by an external moral law – why not just forgive?

    Neil said: If you create your own universe then you can just forgive your creations for rebelling against you. God’s perfect justice won’t allow that.

    If you really want to learn about Christianity, drop your script, stick around and take your time. Or search elsewhere.
    Here we go again atheists dont believe because they dont want to (I also cire your comments to Lee that if he really wants to know Jesus he will). This allows you to insulate yourself from challenges – you just assume there is something wrong with atheists.

    Neil said: That doesn’t insulate me from challenges. How can someone possible claim I won’t take on challenges? My point is simple: If you are sincere in your search, I think you’ll find the truth. I’m not sure why you think that is so objectionable. I’m not trying to chase you down and make you believe. If this site is part of your sincere search that is fine, provided you play by the rules.

    Imagine I say, OK, I will pray (as I have done) and no revelation occurs (as is the case), Christians will probably tell me I was testing god, or you are not asking in accordance to what god wants (this seems to assume a non believer would have a better grasp of theology than most church leaders) or that my motives are not pure – it is simple – you keep blaming the non believer and you can ignore all those inconvienent problems.

    Neil said: That is an interesting hypothetical. Go ahead and put it to the test if you like. BTW, I’m not sure what you mean by “revelation.” Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” It doesn’t say you get some particular revelation or experience, though that is possible. If someone informed you otherwise they did a disservice to you.

    ER, It seems to accuse someone for being a fraud over minor differences in definition is somewhat over the top. If you had a clearer understanding of agnosticism, you would realise it is a spectrum of opinions, which can range from really not sure to dogmatic atheist (which I am sad to inofrm the makers of strawmen here is a very rare subset ). Functionally, it is the same as not believing in god. It is not like theism. You either are or you are not a theist

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  23. I didn’t mean that as a swipe, Neil! Seriously. We ARE part of different traditions of our shared faith.

    Neil said: OK, thanks for the clarification. It is just that some of the “different traditions” believe the opposite of what we do on key topics. I didn’t want to see a nasty comment-fest started on a misunderstanding.

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  24. Neil wrote to Billy
    Don’t expect to see your comments posted if you do that again. It won’t because you’re an atheist, it will be because you are being a bad debater.

    One way to ensure you only read what you want to read…

    Neil said: Come on, Lee, you are slipping. Just because I don’t like to repeat the same thing 3 times because someone is deliberately misunderstanding doesn’t mean I only read what I want.

    Erudite Redneck,
    Billy, yes a little over the top. But not much — not when dealing with one who insists on certainty. Peace.

    Who is this person you are talking about who is “insisting on certainly”?

    If you claim it is me, then you really do not know me or my beliefs.

    We may need to talk more… but at your place and not in Neil’s “home”

    The only certainty I have is that I am uncertain.
    (I also thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken)

    Neil said: At the risk of sounding egomaniacal, I’m pretty sure ER is talking about me. He and his buddies think I insist on certainty just because I focus on the essentials of the faith and because I point out things like truth being that which corresponds to reality. It is a convenient way to dismiss my views when I point out how they go in circles with the Bible.

    I do think you’ll like the folks at ER’s blog, but I must warn you that the doctrine is not very sound. And of course you are welcome here as well. Remember, I didn’t question your atheistic label. 🙂

    Neil writes
    Fair enough. I’ve provided lots of links and information. Happy searching! I rest in the total confidence that if you are authentically seeking then you’ll find Jesus.

    Many thanks for the links; I will read as much as I can.

    But one question, how are you certain it will be Jesus that I will find? What gives you this “total confidence”?

    I have not stated “who” or “what” I am looking for… I’ve started looking for evidence for the existence of a theistic god. (Note, no mentioning of religion). However, we need a definition for our search – so I have used the bible as a starting point.

    Neil said: Good start. Maybe I jumped a square ahead. I assumed you meant you were searching for the one true God – if He exists – and that you’d submit to his terms if you found him.

    Acts 17:26-27 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

    Not sure where you live, but if you could find a person to sit down with you and have a real dialogue you might find that useful. Maybe you’ve done this already, but getting to know people at a Bible-believing church can be a good way to learn more in a hurry.

    You are welcome at my Bible Study Blog as well – http://bible1.wordpress.com/ .

    Now we enter problems… the Christians question what “evidence” means.

    However, I do not have this problem – I follow the scientific method.

    If someone here does not like the method, then they should return their computer to the store, go back to living in the dark ages, and may their god and prayers help them in their time of illness.

    Lee

    Neil said: Oh, Lee, don’t go out with a straw man. I don’t know one person who doesn’t like the scientific method. As we’ve demonstrated over and over there are other forms of evidence and you use them all day, every day. So do we.

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  25. Neil (re: January 8 reply),
    Glad I’ve sparked some thought along new lines. I didn’t intend to answer directly to your post or to defend the raiders (I’m here with them, so I am one). I wanted to make an entirely general point. Of course I missed your point, I wasn’t aiming for the thing. It’s very nice, I’m sure.

    A related reason why some atheists really are focusing on Christianity, stronger I think than some unconscious feeling that it might be right, is that it’s the most successful, most embedded and flat out most powerful religion where they live. This makes countering Christianity a very attractive idea. Who doesn’t want to effect immediate change for the better in their own neighbourhood?

    Yet another is the sheer size of the worldwide Christian apologist community. What other religion has anything like so many people and organizations dedicated entirely to its intellectual defence? Christianity is where atheists find the most opponents, and the opponents most dearly spoiling for a scrap. The Jewish beliefs are even thrown in for free, so it’s two for one. Admittedly Islam is three for one, but it’s so much harder to find sites in English willing to debate with infidels.

    Again, these aren’t excuses or defenses, they are possible reasons. Take the atheist position to a conclusion: if we were to “win”, and Christianity were happily abandoned by billions, do you think we’d be satisfied and not go after the other faiths? Of course not, we’d go right on refuting. Christianity is not special, it’s not the critical objective and it’s not really what we want to counter; religion is. Christianity is merely the major instance of religion in my life and many others’.

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  26. Neil, ol’ buddy. I wish you would explain to me how this doctrine, which is about the only one I accept because it is the only one that matters, is “not very sound.” You may recognize it, although it may not be your translation of choice:

    4(God) wants all people to be saved and to know what is true.

    5There is one God. There is also one man who can open the way between God and all people. That man is Christ Jesus.

    6He gave his life to set all men free. This matter was told at the right time.

    That would be 1 Timothy 2: 5-6, but you knew that.

    Now, we can argue, cuss and discuss what every single word of that means exactly — every single word — and neither of will get it exactly right, but both of us, by the Grace of God, will get close.

    We can argue, cuss and discuss the admitted inconsistencies I utter. You can be aghast that I dare admit that I doubt. You can be mad that I, in Christian liberty, question it, and everything else, including myself, and yourself.

    But you cannot, actually, argue with the doctrine itself without arguing with Paul, or his close follower who wrote it. And I will gladly argue with you if you add anything to it and insist that I agree with you in order to be a Christian.

    I accept that doctrine not “because it’s in the Bible and the Bible is God’s Word,” but because 1., I accept the testimony of Christian scholars that Paul or a close associate wrote it; 2., I accept, also attested by Christian scholars, that Paul said that he encountered Christ and was commissioned to go and tell that doctrine as the truth, and I believe Paul meant it when he said it; 3., I accept that, while the details are arguable, it is the central tenet of the faith; and 4., I accept it because I seem to know to the root of my being that 4.a., there is God; 4.b., I am not him; 4.c. I want to have communion with God; 4.d., I cannot by myself; 4.e., God must have bridged that chasm somehow if God loves me; 4.f., I seem to know to the root of my being that God loves me; and 4.g., the testimony of the ages and a greast cloud of witnesses echo in my mind and heart that Jesus of Nazareth is that bridge; and 4.h., I relax, that is, I rest, in repose, in all of that.

    None of *that* is “not very sound.” Take it or leave it. 🙂

    Neil said: Hi ER – I’m risking oversimplication because I’m short on time, but I’ll give it a shot. Hypothetically speaking, someone could have a legitimate salvation themselves (i.e, trusting in the finished work of Jesus rather than their own “deeds”) but not be giving sound teaching to others. In other words, they are saved but their words give advice that is wrong in whole or in part.

    The criminal on the cross was fully saved, and could have pointed people to Jesus. But he might not have made the best teacher of the Old Testament and how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies.

    In the same way, it is theoretically possible, I suppose, that someone could be saved but still teach the heresy of universalism. That teaching could mislead people into thinking they go to Heaven no matter what, so why trust in Jesus?

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  27. “Yes, the legal system sucks…”

    I wasn’t referring to the quality of a specific defense in a specific case. My comment assumed quality legal arguments, with quality evidence to arrive at a judge’s or jury’s decision. In fact, Lee Stroebel’s “The Case For Christ” begins with a case where a man was convicted using the evidence available, and later, it was found that there was a missing piece that would eventually lead to an aquittal of the defendant. Stroebel’s point in beginning his book with this story was to show how evidence can be used, honestly, and still be wrong, but that when all the available evidence is presented and honestly reviewed, the decision is usually undeniable. There are some 5000 pieces of manuscript that by themselves support what we call the New Testament, yet they are not the whole story. Neil offered links that speak to the reliability of the Gospels, and from my own study, they include archeology, testimonies from outside the faith, and other disciplines that when reviewed in total are just about second to a visitation by God Himself. In other words, more evidence and testimony than has been needed to render decisions in courts of law. Do you know of any figure in history studied more than Jesus Christ of the Bible? No other ancient figure comes anywhere near having the support for the truth of their words and claims as does Jesus Christ. Do the research. It won’t take long before your notions are shaken.

    “Well actually Marshall, I did provide siome evidence as to why. Did you miss it.”

    No. But I think you missed my point. Using the “many scholars” argument will have us doing the he said/she said until doomsday. The “many scholars” I’ve read respond to “no god” arguments and counter arguments eagerly. There it stops and I haven’t seen anything new to throw the ball back into “my” scholars court that they haven’t already covered. I hope that was clear…

    Oh jeez Louise, it’s later than I thought. I will return to finish up with your responses and Lee’s tomorrow.

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  28. Neil said: This comment was deleted for violating 3 warnings (why I give so many chances is beyond me . . . I’m really too liberal sometimes).

    As with the last guy, go ahead and claim “censorship” if you like and release some endorphins. But you deliberately ignored my requests over and over and I really don’t appreciate having my time wasted.

    You are more than welcome to re-post if you follow the rules (also, please capitalize God when referring to the God of the Bible.)

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  29. Neil,

    Neil wrote: Come on, Lee, you are slipping. Just because I don’t like to repeat the same thing 3 times because someone is deliberately misunderstanding doesn’t mean I only read what I want.

    Fair play… it was a cheap stab. I’m embarrassed now that I made it, so you are right to shame me. I’ll try not to do it again.

    Sometimes my jokes are not very good (actually – a lot of the time)

    Though you have to remember, we “atheists” have repeated ourselves a lot as well in debates like these because the “other party” deliberately misunderstands (or cannot understand?).

    So on this topic, we can agree.

    Neil said: No problem, thanks for the gracious response. I realize you all have to deal with the same sort of thing.

    Neil wrote
    At the risk of sounding egomaniacal, I’m pretty sure ER is talking about me.

    Oh… it must be me then who is the egomaniac – I wasn’t sure, so just assumed it was me. Not important.

    Neil wrote
    I do think you’ll like the folks at ER’s blog, but of course you are welcome here as well. Remember, I didn’t question your atheistic label.

    So far, so good – but the labelling has wasted valuable time… I mean, it is not like every Christian agrees, so why should every atheist?

    Neil wrote
    Good start. Maybe I jumped a square ahead. I assumed you meant you were searching for the one true God – if He exists – and that you’d submit to his terms if you found him.

    In a way I am looking… but not via the usual path the theist might have taken.

    I do not assume God exists first, and then look for the evidence. I look at the evidence, and think “What the heck does that mean?”

    As for submitting to His terms… well, any god has a LOT of explaining to do based on the evidence. Also, how do I know what “His” terms are?

    Neil said: Fair questions. First, let me say there is no one path. I know people who’ve come to faith in Christ in all sorts of ways – some dramatic and singular, and others long and winding (such as mine).

    His terms are in the Bible. You are a sinner, separated from a perfect and Holy God. His perfect justice demands life for your countless sins (and mine). But his perfect love provided a sacrifice on our behalf.

    The short and perhaps overly simplistic answer is that when you find the true God you won’t know everything but you’ll know a lot more. You’ll realize why you need to accept his terms. You’ll see the problem wasn’t that He didn’t leave enough evidence. The problem was that you were denying him in unrighteousness (I know that phrase is a turn-off, but I can’t help but say it).

    You’ll realize you are a sinner in need of a Savior and you’ll be overjoyed to know that Jesus is that Savior. You’ll recognize that deep down you knew all along that you couldn’t be good enough to “win God over,” and that, as Job discovered, God is the one who is in charge.

    As to your question below, you’ll see why you’ll want to worship him and that it isn’t an ego problem on his part.

    End of sermon 🙂

    As for worship, why would any god need my worship, wouldn’t He already know how great he was?

    I do not ask the ants in the garden to worship me? Yet I have the power of life and death over them…. I killed thousands last week when they ignored my command NOT to enter my home…

    Neil said: Interesting illustration. Did you create the ants from scratch, in all their incredible complexity, and write your law on their hearts? Not to stretch this too far, but notice how you considered it a capital offense when they trespassed on your property, just as we trespass on God’s with our thoughts and actions each day.

    P.S. I hate ants. We have fire ants in Texas, aka “fallen ants.”

    Neil wrote
    Not sure where you live, but if you could find a person to sit down with you and have a real dialogue you might find that useful. Maybe you’ve done this already, but getting to know people at a Bible-believing church can be a good way to learn more in a hurry.

    Thanks… but I have learnt a lot already on that front. I’ve spoken to many Christians in my time – I once went out of my way to find them, I even chose to go to a Roman Catholic college just to learn more.

    Kind words, but nothing but wishful thinking is what I found on the evidence front. Zero convincing evidence for the scientifically minded person like me… but this has not stopped me looking. The internet is a wonderful thing is it not… all praise science?
    (This is normally where I am told it is because I use science, reason and logic is WHY I have not found a god… curious to me – since the scientific method has proven itself to work so well in many fields. And would God hide himself from such searching?)

    So I am not here expecting to be converted to any faith, but I am open to being surprised… I just like to think that people believe for a rational reason, and not just “because”.

    Neil said: Fair enough. The Bible applauds and encourages the use of reason. I appreciate that you include reason and logic along with science. The “science only” crowd tips their hand re. their motives.

    Neil wrote:
    Oh, Lee, don’t go out with a straw man. I don’t know one person who doesn’t like the scientific method. As we’ve demonstrated over and over there are other forms of evidence and you use them all day, every day. So do we.

    It wasn’t a straw man argument… it was a joke.
    (Maybe I should give notice of my humour?)

    Neil said: Sorry, my bad. It has been a serious week and I had a temporary loss of humor.

    BTW: Do you have a thread on “what is good evidence?” or the such like

    Lee

    Neil said: I don’t know if I did a specific post on that, but I’ve been thinking about doing one.

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  30. “”Though you have to remember, we “atheists” have repeated ourselves a lot as well in debates like these because the “other party” deliberately misunderstands (or cannot understand?).”

    Atheists have been repeating themselves for the better part of 1700 years. The arguments may have taken on different forms but the fact remains, Christianity has survived all the attacks. It has been explained, defended & advanced by some extremely brilliant people.

    As for “deliberately nisunderstanding or “can’t understand”, that seems to be a two-edged sword.

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  31. WOZ wrote:
    Atheists have been repeating themselves for the better part of 1700 years. The arguments may have taken on different forms but the fact remains, Christianity has survived all the attacks.

    I’m sorry – for 1700 years? Interesting… and how do you define “survived all attacks” – the Christianity of today is very, very different to that of say 600 years ago. Why is that?

    A few points though come up. Why 1700 years? Is that anything to do with when the bible was invented? (The selecting of books that suited ones own ideas?)
    Also, “atheists” have been going longer than just 1700 years – it just didn’t have a title (The names Epicurus, Democritus, and Lucretius come to mind)

    As for “survived all the attacks” – well, you are right in one respect – though the classical defensive argument used for much of the last 1700 years was to kill (in the most horrid of ways) the person who did not believe in your god. (Islam is still using this technique I believe in controls where it has full control – that’s religion for you)

    What examples of Christianity “winning the argument” in history? Just take a look at English History from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I… they were burning Christians for not believing in the “right” way to follow God – not a very good time to start a debate about atheistism now is it? Oh, and who can forget the wonderful arguments made by the Spanish inquisition?

    Also, Christianity was surviving the attacks rather will until scientific thinking came along, of course the church tried to suppress such ideas (Galileo comes to mind here as a turning point in history) but science just kept chipping away. Of course, Darwin really messed things up for God and this is why many are trying even today to suppress knowledge of evolution.
    This is not “winning the argument” by the Christian. It is losing… and is changing as a result – of course, some people need religion, and need faith in a reason for it all. I hope mankind can create a religion that is good for them and the rest of the world… one everyone can agree on. Christianity may evolve into such a religion – I would no problem with it if it did.

    Lee

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  32. Hi Neil,

    Neil wrote: His terms are in the Bible. You are a sinner, separated from a perfect and Holy God. His perfect justice demands life for your countless sins (and mine). But his perfect love provided a sacrifice on our behalf.

    Somehow I knew you would say something like this.
    Until now I have been trying to focus on the existence of god alone in this discussion, not the bible. I have not been asking if this god is a Christian, Jew, Muslim or an invisible blue unicorn. If there is no evidence for a god, then all holy books are false by definition. If there IS evidence for a theistic god in the universe, then we can investicate if this god has written his (or her) wisdom in any book and test the validiatiy of such a book.

    I have no problem with anyone using the bible as evidence, but we would have to prove the validity of the bible first. Does this make sense and is this fair?

    Neil said: Yes, but my answer still applies. That wasn’t a “proof” on my part.

    This would also start down a different path of debate (which I would be happy to follow, but I’m no expert on the bible)… Some questions though come to mind.
    How do we know the bible is the “true word of God” and not some other holy book like the Koran? How should we read and understand the words in the bible? Why can’t even Christians agree on how it should be read? There will be many more… it would be an interesting discussion.

    Neil said: Yes, let’s get to all that and more! Fulfilled prophecies, archeological evidence, and more help us know it is true. We can compare to other Holy books to see how not all can be trusted. More to come . . . but I have to cut back a bit on blogging or my approval rating in the Simpson household will plummet!

    Neil wrote: You’ll see the problem wasn’t that He didn’t leave enough evidence. The problem was that you were denying him in unrighteousness (I know that phrase is a turn-off, but I can’t help but say it).

    I am denying God? I have already said I do not assume a god exists, I am looking for the evidence first (and found none). To say that it is me who is denying God and so this is why I cannot find Him seems, well, a little wrong. It is almost seems to be saying (trying to be careful with the straw), that I should accept God first, then look for the evidence. This does not seem right.

    Neil said: I see your point – it is fine to look for evidence first. I meant that when you find the evidence you’ll realize much of it was there all along (I know that sound a little cryptic but that’s the best I can do).

    Oh, and for information, I do try and to believe in God when I’m reading the bible sometimes. I think to myself “God exists, now lets read this chapter… erm, why would God do that? It does not make sense. Does it make anymore sense if I think man alone wrote this chapter… why yes it does.”

    Neil said: That is a fair approach, and by all means ask lots of questions. A study Bible might help (maybe you have one?). I like the Life Application Study Bible. They answer lots of the basic questions along the way. And here are a couple tips – http://www.4simpsons.com/The%20Bble.htm

    Neil wrote: You’ll realize you are a sinner in need of a Savior and you’ll be overjoyed to know that Jesus is that Savior. You’ll recognize that deep down you knew all along that you couldn’t be good enough to “win God over,” and that, as Job discovered, God is the one who is in charge.

    Erm… a few things here.

    Firstly, I have a problem with this “born into sin” bit…
    Can I ask, do you believe in evolution Neil? I do (of course, it has a lot of evidence going for it and I am an atheist after all). So all this business about sin causes me problems.
    (Note, I do not want to enter into a debate about evolution, that could be for another thread, but I need to know your belief to understand more in this discussion. Basically I’m asking if you are a creationist or not)

    Neil said: I believe in God, and that He created the universe. Any real “truths” we find were because He made it that way. Might be best to leave it at that for now :-).

    As for Job… well, that is an interesting book – a whole new thread could come from that alone.

    Neil said: Ha! Yes, that’s an interesting one.

    Neil wrote: Interesting illustration. Did you create the ants from scratch, in all their incredible complexity, and write your law on their hearts?
    Yes… can you prove that I didn’t?

    Neil wrote: Not to stretch this too far, but notice how you considered it a capital offense when they trespassed on your property, just as we trespass on God’s with our thoughts and actions each day
    Interesting… but I never said I was a fair and just god did I?

    The killing of the ants for breaking my command is evil… but it was my command, they they did not listern – they can eat the poison.

    Let’s move on… I’m sure you do not like the topic thinking that I am a god. (I do though)

    Neil said: Don’t worry, I got the joke!

    Neil wrote: P.S. I hate ants. We have fire ants in Texas, aka “fallen ants.”

    I don’t know what they are called over here… but fire ants does not sound nice.

    Cheers

    Lee

    Neil said: P.S. Nice work on the font stuff. Might be easier to read if you just did italics and had me do bold.

    Like

  33. “Actually, Neil, the doctrine espoused by Paul in the verses I quoted above appear to leave room for universal salvation.”

    Hi ER – I know, that’s the problem. It “leaves room for it” if you don’t read it in light of scripture and take it too literally (I know you don’t take the rest of the chapter literally!). “All” may just mean “all saved people”

    Universal salvation is a heresy, and it is dangerous to teach it.

    Like

  34. More for Billy if he’s still checking in:

    “I wouldn’t consider Stobel particularly well informed”

    Yeah, this has been said by others when offered his stuff to review. The thing is, I wasn’t using him as a source, but the people he interviews for his books. He includes many books and papers his interview subjects authored and it is they who are the authorities on the subjects he covers. Frankly, however, the quality of his interview subjects directly contradicts the notion that he is not well informed. He sought out experts in their fields. That you might not like what they have to say doesn’t negate their knowledge and authority on the topics.

    “What is your point here?”

    My point was to highlight that merely being referred to as a “scholar” does not take the ball into the end zone. The argument made by the scholar in question can still be crapola. Scholars are not beyond taking wrong turns in their thinking. So the “many scholars say” tactic doesn’t get it done, it doesn’t add credibility to the argument. As to the homsexuality issue, visit my blog where I’ve recently done three posts on the downsides of homosexuality. I cover it very generally but without referrence to my faith. I try to stay away from “the Bible says” when arguing this topic as well as abortion, just to avoid having my position dismissed as the rantings of a fundie. But I certainly don’t want to get into it here as it has nothing to do with the thread.

    “Strawman. We see no evidence for it, so please dont tell us what we believe.”

    Actually, it’s because atheists see no evidence for the supernatural that they claim they don’t believe in God or the Bible as a historical record. Hardly a strawman since you insist on proof for the supernatural. My point is that the supernatural cannot be explained using nature’s laws by virtue of the fact that it is outside of nature. I meant nothing beyond that.

    “Have you ever personally witnessed a miracle?”

    Can’t say that I have. But I also can’t assume those who claim to have witnessed one are wrong, particularly if they otherwise have reputations for honesty and credibility. In looking at the Bible, it is dismissed BECAUSE of the miracles and accused of being myth and fantasy because of the miracle stories. If the supernatural stuff had been removed, it’s likely to have had wider acceptance as credible historical record. But as you study the sources offered by myself, Neil and others, there is much that can support the credibility of enough of the Bible that the miraculous also gains credibility. Not absolute certainty, but greater credibility; raising the possibility of being true and factual.

    “You seem to have ignored the verse that I posted where god commands extermination of non believers.”

    Frankly, there’s too much to wade through to find the verse to which you refer. Suffice it to say that any exerpts that illustrate such a mandate was case specific, not a tenant by which all Christians or Jews must follow as a rule of any kind, and a reasonable and objective reader would understand that without much difficulty. To charge that I am dismissing those who disagree with me as unreasonable, is itself unreasonable.

    Almost forgot this one: “Do you think a Pharasee would call Jesus the christ?”

    None of them did, so why would I?

    “If that were the case, explain how the pope was allowed to indulge in the crusades or the inquisitions and strangle heretics?”

    No. I don’t feel the need to explain or defend the abuses of several hundred years ago. And it wouldn’t alter the point you seek to refute.

    “Islamic law is also fixed. Does that mean it is true because it is fixed?”

    No, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that the adherents are following an external law, not an internal made-up law. (for the record, I view Islam as a made-up and false religion for lacking the support Christianity has in abundance)

    “Many biblical laws also seem open to interpretation too, and this may result in an imminent split in the anglican church.

    So, again, what makes christian morality absolute?”

    Again, not the issue, but see again the part about the abundant support for Biblical reliability.

    “Are you actually saying that stoing homosexuals is a good law?”

    Wow! You must have inserted your entire arm to pull this one out from your backside! Where did THIS come from? But to help you out, my first blog entry at my place covers why this arrow should no longer be pulled from your quiver. Neil and others have also covered this exhaustively.

    Like

  35. Lee wrote: “Oh, and for information, I do try and to believe in God when I’m reading the bible sometimes. I think to myself “God exists, now lets read this chapter… erm, why would God do that? It does not make sense. Does it make anymore sense if I think man alone wrote this chapter… why yes it does.””

    I thought of something else that I want to expand on in a post some day. This may not apply to the things you had in mind when making that point, but it still might be of some use.

    When understanding a difficult part of a book it can help to consider the major themes and the parts that are clear. A central point of the Bible is the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. So when in doubt, think of the passage in that context.

    Like

  36. Hi Neil,

    Just to say… you not got rid of me yet.

    Just been rather busy at ER’s blog defending myself. (And probably not doing a good job)

    Neil wrote:
    When understanding a difficult part of a book it can help to consider the major themes and the parts that are clear. A central point of the Bible is the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. So when in doubt, think of the passage in that context.

    It is a bigger problem than that for me – but I will wait for the right thread to discuss further.

    See ya

    Lee

    Like

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