Clay Rebuttal #001:
A friend alerted me of his recent discussions with you concerning Atheism and his argument for the existence of God. He is a good friend, an old friend, and out of care for him, and at his request, I went to view your conversation.
Hoping to find some provocative discussion, I read through what are common, yet good, arguments from a non-Christian vantage.
You are a bright man with an earnestness in your discussion, and I respect that. The reason I do is simply because I know that you are not a chemical random product of a chance universe. On the contrary, Atheists, by definition, must see life and morality and love and reason as a fool’s errand because humankind is simply a species at the top of the cruel food chain, amoral beasts living in some developed system of law which, ultimately, is simply an arbitrary game. Please, refrain from any absolute moral statement for fear of being exposed as a hopelessly inconsistent hypocrite.
You have dignity. You are a human being made in the image of the personal God of the Universe. You have a conscience and creativity that separates you from the flora and fauna. Your questions and analysis are not anything that hasn’t been wrestled with throughout the ages, and I am confident that scholarly secular history, archeology (a relatively new discipline) and the history Western philosophy challenge your positions at every turn. I know because I have studied them for years. By the Grace of God, He has opened my eyes to His reality. I cannot boast of any good behavior or moral reason that he has done so. This is His world, His reality, and His rules. His purposes are often far above our understanding, but also they are right in front of our eyes, like BOBBYMAC7 has seen. Sure, these events could be arbitrary. But just as sure, they could not be.
I would enjoy hearing your discussion. But more, if you truly are inquisitive about the condition of reality, if God is actually real, then search for Him like gold, dig for Him like treasure. Consider praying to Him to reveal Himself, and do not give up easily. I know that if you are His, He will open your eyes. I will seriously pray that He does.
Response to Clay #001:
CLAY: “On the contrary, Atheists, by definition, must see life and morality and love and reason as a fool’s errand because humankind is simply a species at the top of the cruel food chain, amoral beasts living in some developed system of law which, ultimately, is simply an arbitrary game. Please, refrain from any absolute moral statement for fear of being exposed as a hopelessly inconsistent hypocrite.”
I think you are confusing atheism with religion and a belief system. Atheism is nothing more than a lack of belief in gods. Nothing more to it than that. The beliefs and ideals that atheists hold are as unique as our fingerprints. I debate atheists more than I do theists on “beliefs”. Out of the six rebuttal pages only two are from theists, one is from an agnostic, and three are from fellow atheists.
I’m not sure where you are getting your definition for atheism – but it is far from the truth. Life is wonderful in my view. I get up every morning andlook forward to learning something new and watching my children grow up. I look forward to spending time with my family and friends. What I don’t do is get up and submit to an invisible man in Emperor’s clothes. Regarding love. our emotions are real and tangible. I can feel and have emotions. atheists are not automatons that are lifeless and cold-blooded. We are mammals just like you.
You obviously associate atheism with immorality and theism with morality. Why does morality need a God to dictate that morality?
I cannot be exposed as a hypocrite by responding because you do not know what atheism means.
CLAY: “You are a human being made in the image of the personal God of the Universe.”
Not to sound facetious. but you forgot to add, “in my opinion” to your statement.
CLAY: “You have a conscience and creativity that separates you from the flora and fauna. Your questions and analysis are not anything that hasn’t been wrestled with throughout the ages, and I am confident that scholarly secular history, archeology (a relatively new discipline) and the history Western philosophy challenge your positions at every turn. I know because I have studied them for years.”
There is a reason that Christian Apologetics are called “Apologetics.” They are apologizing for the loopholes in their beliefs and doctrine. Should we ignore those loopholes and continue on as if nothing is wrong with religious ideology? Should we not answer the questions that our conscious has? Should we not grapple with questions because someone else failed to answer them or answered them incorrectly? I grappled with my questions and I found the answers. I am not grappling anymore. I am secure in my atheism and secure in the answers I have found – because I worked hard for them.
Why are you sure that secular history, archaeology and Western philosophy challenge my positions? History has only shown religion to be and ideology that comes and goes. If you have studied them for many years then you should know basic Humanities and what our physical, emotional, and psychological needs are and what purpose religion serves in meeting those needs.
CLAY: “This is His world, His reality, His rules. His purposes are often far above our understanding, but also they are right in front of our eyes, like BOBBYMAC7 has seen. Sure, these events could be arbitrary. But just as sure, they could not be.”
When theists discuss their gods the words “above our understanding” always seem to come up. Why is that? Because religion is a way of explaining what we do not understand and what we fear. If you feel the need for religion to extinguish your lack of understanding then that is your prerogative. I personally choose to look into what I don’t understand and come to understand it. Should I shrug my shoulders and say, “to hell with it. I’ll never understand it.” Why is religion so defeatist in that manner? I don’t give up that easily. I have an understanding of everything I need to understand and everything I want to understand. Am I content? No. I am constantly searching for more knowledge and asking more questions so thatI can look for the answers.
CLAY: “But more, if you truly are inquisitive about the condition of reality, if God is actually real, then search for Him like gold, dig for Him like treasure. Consider praying to Him to reveal Himself, and do not give up easily. I know that if you are His, He will open your eyes. I will seriously pray that He does.”
I am an ex-Christian. I’ve been there before. I figured out what was wrong with religious ideology when I was in the seventh grade. I didn’t understand my atheism back then and kept it in the closet for a long time mostly from fear of repercussions. I am now confident in my atheism and I understand it. I have inner strength and courage – prayer is not necessary.
I haven’t “given up” – I have “left completely – never to return”.
Clay Rebuttal #002:
How I appreciate your diligence in breaking down my rather quick note to you. Had I known the effort you would employ, I’d have been more attentive to delivering carefully my position.
In this fast world, we all too often do not allow time to discuss eternal matters with any depth, so I appreciate your genuine desire to do so. It’s rare and special, thus my desire to think critically and carefully.
Be advised that my thoughts are aimed at the realm of ideas, not personalities or institutions. My position contends that people are gloriously made in the image of God, not merely in my opinion, but in reality, meaning that their individual personality takes its form from the personality behind the universe and behind all of reality, that being the personal Triune God who preceded the universe/creation/matter.
My first cause where I begin this discussion is with the infinite personal God, the Triune God of Biblical Christianity, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who came near in the Incarnation and who physically arose from the dead after having lived a morally perfect life. I contend that, based on the science of Textual Criticism and the generally accepted criteria for accepting creditable historical narrative, especially historical narrative from antiquity, the Bible is a reliable source. Though many would tout that is replete with errors, that is a new argument based on 18th century rationalism, the Emmanuel “Kantian” watershed, if you will. For every argument about gross inconsistency, there is an equally credible reasonable response to the contrary. These academic discussions wind up being intramural arguments not soon solved in front of the watching world. Blind faith has no home with me, or the bulk of biblical historians who see Orthodoxy as both reasonable as rational and historically valid. I ask that you bathe yourself in these various Orthodox approaches before you boldly wave the banner of atheism. I would start with the three larger arguments, the Ontological, the Cosmological and the Teleological arguments. Reasonably disprove them and effectively criticize their adherents’ work over the last 2,000 years before you say that you have concluded, without the shadow of a doubt, that based on all knowledge you have gathered, or that can possible be gathered, God is a psychological necessity for man but not an objective reality.
For example, the substitutionary atonement, the death of Christ on the behalf of sinful man as it’s called theologically, I contend is a real thing necessary to bridge the gap between morally broken man and the personal God who must have justice for harmonious relationship with man to be restored. That’s the reason the Faith says that Christ died for us. We could never merit the merit of Christ. He, our elder Brother, covers us by His moral perfection and death on our behalf. Without an able covering, we, sinful humankind, would never be able to withstand the absolute holiness of a perfect God. As I read the law, the 10 Commandments, I see that I have broken every one of them, hundreds of thousands of times in some cases. Objectively, compared to the Law, I am guilty of eternal death as a lawbreaker who must one day face an infinitely moral perfect and just personal God. Faith in Christ’s work on my behalf, “Christ’s blood shed for me” as we say in the Holy Communion, is a great mystery. Yet, it is what a believer in Christianity must humble himself under to be rid of the burden of guilt and shame that all humans face…ultimately from the common curse of death. That’s the good news of the Christian Gospel over and against all other religions…there is real restored relationship with the Creator where ultimate personality meets our fulfilled personality. The separation is bridged by the only one morally able to be the bridge.
This, I’m sure you know, is basic Christian theology 101. Yet, I must clarify my definitions because in the post-modern world, historically understood concepts are often twisted from their original intent. Vocabulary words mean things. They have historically understood definitions, and I want to agree/disagree over word usage before I strike off in a conversation and before we know it, we are not on the same page. That would be futile, as we would have quite different concepts in mind from the outset. For example, the reason I defined a classic understanding of the pre-existence of a personal Triune God and the need for a substitutionary atonement is so that I define myself from liberal Christianity, higher criticism or Bartism…take your pick of definitions.
Your letter to me used words I use, words like “wonderful,” and “love.” These are words that reflect morality, would you agree? To quote the late 20th century poet/philosopher, Madonna, if “we are living in a material world,” then how do you explain the obvious presence of the love you feel? Is it merely chemical deception? An atheist believes that we are random products of a chance universe, that we are simply biological results of chemical reactions, mammals, carbon and oxygen and the like. Are we computers of complex chemistry? If the beginning of the creation/matter was impersonal, how do you value the person? To speak of morality, love, language, communication, creativity…these are meaningless if we are simply matter. Anything precious simply doesn’t exist in a purely material world. There is no freedom, no dignity at all in a world without an ultimate personality as its first cause. The atheist’s world clearly can have no room for these concepts and concepts of justice and truth. They don’t exist in a material world. Nothing stands behind them. There is no transcendent personality to validate the urges.
I say that’s terrible! An atheist can’t make that statement because there is no morality, ultimately. For the atheist, there is no good, no bad. If this life is just a social construct created by man, evolving along with his chemical evolution as a means of keeping social order and restraining chaos in his devised system, then all of life is temporary. Justice, love, good and bad are arbitrary. Nothing stands behind anything except complex chemistry. How dare you, an atheist, ever make an absolute moral judgment!
God is necessary for personality, morality, and love. That’s why the theist begins here. It is consistent with his/her experience, for one. We see morality and immorality all around. We see love and hate. We experience longing and anxiety. Are these simply chemical reactions? Is there ultimately, as Woody Allen says, only sex and death? From your words, you seem to believe that there is more.
Everything begins either impersonal (Western materialism, Scientific rationalism, Marxism, Eastern religions) or personal, as Judeo-Christianity uniquely maintains. Biblical Christianity claims that God is there and that He is not silent. Life is thus meaningful because He is there. All questions are valid in this, our Father’s world. Honest answers to honest questions are there for the taking and debating. As the book of Colossians reads, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” All things. Atoms, reason, conversation, tensile strength, gravity, love and justice. God’s image in us is why we are who we are. How do you explain our individuality? Whereas Modern Liberalism ultimately calls God the whirlwind, in that He cannot really be known, Orthodoxy says that we can communicate with Him. Though God is infinite and we are finite, He is personal, as are we. The mammals are not personal. You and I are gloriously fashioned, and we can even debate His reality using language and emotions and reason, elements foolishly useless in a world of rigid determinism evolved from dust and ending in dust.
Now, if God is One personal entity, in three distinct Persons (Orthodoxy), why do I say that personality is needed in this life for morality and humanity? He communicates because He wants to. He loves because He wants to. Whereas in Islam, the personality of God disappears, Allah becomes totally arbitrary. Love and compassion are not fundamental to his being. We cannot love Allah as our Father. In contrast, the God of Christianity is true love as fundamental to Himself. Mohammed rejected the Trinity, and fear is the dominant feature of the Muslim, rather than love. In the Eastern religions, personality is lost in the Ground of collective Being. In Materialism, there is no ultimate answer for our personality. Thus, for morality to exist, there must be someone behind it. Morality is purely personal. Truth is purely personal. Where does the atheist stand on the absolute necessity of justice and love and morality in this world if in the end it is simply a chemical existence?
Why then the suffering and death and hate and cruelty in our existence if God is love and He made the world/reality? Great question. The scriptures contend that God is radically distinct from the creation. The creation has death and destruction, not an expression of God. In the creation, His divine power and divine nature are revealed, but He is not part of the creation. Sin entered the world. God is not its author. He is sovereign over evil, or He wouldn’t be God. We know that Orthodoxy claims that there is personality behind Evil, yet that personality is bound to move only where the particular providence of God allows. This is an ancient argument, “why evil?” but our limited perspective cannot exhaustively contain the mysterious purposes of God in history. We do know that God commands that believers avoid evil and that they are warned to be on their guard from it. We also know that we are told to simply resist the Evil One and he will flee. In the Last Days, it is the archangel, Michael, who defeats Satan, not God directly. The “B” team, if you will. So, evil will one day, in space and time, be no more. Admittedly, there are mysteries here.
But life is full of mystery. Have you traveled the globe extensively to find God absent? I doubt that you have. I know that you haven’t left the planet. Maybe He’s out there. How can you, a mere fragile man, dependent upon daily food and sleep and shelter be so confident that we are alone? And if we are alone, how dare you make any moral judgment.
I contend that your world of atheism is arbitrary and meaningless. In your world, you are meaningless. Yet, in my world, you and I have value because the personal God of the Universe has fashioned us to be in relationship with Him.
If for some reason the future finds my faith, on which I’ve constructed my entire being to be false, and then I will die like a dog and simply cease to exist. At least I’ve constructed a pattern of behavior where I function in a system of charity, forgiveness and self-denial for the material and psychological benefit of others. My existence would ultimately still be meaningless. If I’m right, I will inherit the Eternal Kingdom and be in a glorified body in the New Heaven and the New Earth with restored, perfect fellowship with my fellow Saints.
If you are right, then you die like a dog and simply cease to exist. Yet, if you are wrong, you risk being eternally separated from the personal God who freely offers ultimate meaning and peace through faith in Christ.
If the atom is our only related element, then emotions and morals and opinions and beliefs are mere illusion. They have no foundation in the universe, no reality.
You say that you were once a Christian. I say that, theologically, that is impossible. Either you are a Christian and are in serious sin and denial of your true state, or you had an experience with legalism, masquerading as Biblical Christianity, and you have rejected what you see as an intolerant, provincial morality-based system. I believe the later to be the case. You’ve actually never been exposed to the true faith or else you would see the rational errors in your rather pedestrian atheism. I know. I was once there, too. In my ignorance and pride I created my own reality in my head, living arbitrarily, synthesizing what I wanted to from a universalistic amalgamation of shallow studies. But God had mercy, and in His perfect love, He came near and opened my eyes, eyes that had tried to reject Him at many turns.
If you are His, my friend, you will not escape Him. He will drag you down and smother you with His compassion. Yet, if you openly parade around and foolishly claim that He is a stupid idea based on foolishly minded humanity and you encourage others to slander Him, you risk being destroyed. Though He will take no pleasure in it, it will be a moral necessity because He is perfect justice. The Law will find you guilty, deserving eternal death.
Consider this. In the privacy of own home, quietly pray that He reveal Himself to you. Ask for mercy, not miraculous signs. Ask that your heart be humbled. If He’s there, He will not deny you. If He’s not, you’ve simply played a game in a chemical, material experience with no meaning, so nothing is lost.
But, if I’m right, everything is to gain.
Response to Clay #002:
I wanted to start off by saying that I couldn’t agree more with your assertion that we, as a social species, do not discuss eternal matters in depth enough. Perhaps if we did there would be more skepticism in the world today. When I say skepticism, I do not mean to the point of total dismissal – but to the point of not taking things told to us without questioning sources and evidence. I mean Skepticism to the point of conducting our own investigations and verifying what people tell us to the best of our abilities. As the founder of the Mobile Atheist & Skeptic Alliance (MASA) I discuss these matters often and in great depth. Let me assure you that I am not about converting people. It is not my intention to convert people to atheism. Specifically because there is nothing to convert people to – there are no beliefs involved with atheism (as discussed in my previous message to you).
As a Constitutionalist I respect your right to have any opinion and your right to believe in any god or gods as you see fit. However, I do not necessarily respect your views. While that may seem harsh – it is the lifeblood of the Constitution as it stands. You have the right to believe what you want – but you do not have the right to have those beliefs respected. I hope this makes sense and does not come across as insulting, as that is not my intent. Simply put; I respect your right to believe in God – but I do not respect the belief in God.
You said, “…the Bible is a reliable source” based on the science of Textual Criticism and generally accepted criteria of creditable historical narrative. You further emphasized the historical narrative from antiquity. You then asserted that those whom aver that the Bible as not being a reliable source rely on something “new” as of the 18th Century and the introduction of Kantianism.
Let me assure you, that while Kant had some fine ideas, he is not the ultimate authority. Each of us, as individuals, is our own ultimate authority. When I first started reading and studying the Bible I had no idea who Kant was and I had never been exposed to Biblical criticism. As I was studying the Bible I realized the errors myself – I understood the verses instead of just reading them. I saw past the “faith in no errors” and viewed the scripture as what it is; an error-filled mythological account with some historical insignificata contained therein.
For every error in the Bible there has only been rationalization of that error and feeble attempts to justify those errors. Interpretation of the Bible has caused the formation of over 3,500 Christian sects alone – not including Old Testament Judaism and its sects. The Bible is not meant to be interpreted – it was written as a literal word, at least according to Biblical scholars.
Jesus himself insists that the Bible is without errors,
John 10:35 (KJV)
“If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken.”
So what happens if errors are identified in the Bible? How important is inerrancy to Christendom and Biblicists?
In his book Basic Theology, Charles Ryrie, a professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary, addressed inerrancy by writing,
RYRIE: “Can one be a biblicist and deny inerrancy? Not if the Bible teaches its own inerrancy… If the Bible contains some errors, no matter how few or many, how can one be sure that his understanding of Christ is correct? … Even if the errors are in supposedly “minor” matters, any error opens the Bible to suspicion on other points that may not be so “minor”. If inerrancy fails, other doctrines will fail, too.”
If inerrancy fails then core beliefs of Christianity come into question. If Genesis is discounted then the entire concept of Original Sin disappears. When Original Sin disappears then the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was in vain in dying “for our sins”. If the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was in vain then the identity of Christianity dies a slow death. Death finally comes when the Resurrection itself comes under fire when inerrancy fails. It is a historical fact that a less than total view of inerrancy among Christians has, at a minimum, resulted in a denial of some or all of the miracles of the Bible.
Apologist Clark Pinnock says in his book A Defense of Biblical Infallibility that,
PINNOCK: “The surrender of biblical infallibility would be a disastrous mistake having deadly effects upon the church of God and its theology.”
Apologist Professor Gleason Archer in his book A Survey of the Old Testament says,
ARCHER: “If this written revelation contains mistakes, then it can hardly fulfill its intended purpose, that is, to convey to man in a reliable way the will of God for his salvation. Why is this so? Because a demonstrated mistake in one part gives rise to the possibility that there may be mistakes in other parts of the Bible. If the Bible turns out to be a mixture of truth and error then it becomes a book like any other book.”
His point is simply, how do you know what is true or not? Every book contains some amount of truth, even if it is nothing more than the author’s name and publisher. Harold Lindsell in his book The Battle for the Bible says,
CLAY: “I contend that embracing a doctrine of an errant Scripture will lead to disaster down the road. It will result in the loss of missionary outreach. It will quench missionary passion. It will lull congregations to sleep and undermine their belief in the full orbed truth of the Bible.”
Even if we knew that only 10% was in error… which 10%? How do we know that what we are reading is not part of that 10%?
I think I’ve established the importance of inerrancy and how it affects not just the Bible but Christianity as a whole. What makes the claim of biblical inerrancy even more “suicidal” is the history of the Bible itself and how it was “formed”. In the book The Light of Reason, Schmuel Golding states,
CLAY: “First the NT was not written by any of the disciples of Jesus not by persons who even lived in that era. … When the church fathers compiled the NT in the year 397, they collected all the writings they could find and managed them as they pleased. They decided by vote which of the books out of the collections they had made should be the word of God and which should not. They rejected several, they voted others to be doubtful, and those books which had a majority of votes were voted to be the word of God.”
The three paragraphs below contain a serious error. I am leaving the error on the site so people can see it and be informed. The quote from Sisson’s book is out of context. The quote does in fact exist in Sisson’s book, but he is using it to quote a “myth” and then goes on to argue that it is not the case at all. While scholars may disagree with Sisson’s assessment, the quote is obviously unfair and incorrect to list here. My apologies to Mr. Sisson for taking his quote out of context. My apologies to readers for passing on incorrect information. I would like to thank Mr. Avery and Mr. Pearse for their diligent work in notifying me of this error. Your efforts are greatly appreciated gentlemen!
Imagine what the Bible would look like today if voting had gone differently? In the year 325, Constantine (a non-baptized Pagan) convened the Council of Nicea to settle disputes in the Church. The council changed Jesus from man to God in the flesh, they changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, and the Passover was changed to Easter. So what does this say about the Bible? It says that MEN, not god, composed the Bible. Apologist Richard Sisson, in his book, Answering Christianity’s Most Puzzling Questions (Volume 1), states,
SISSON: “In fact, after the death of Jesus a whole flood of books that claimed to be inspired appeared … Disputes over which ones were true were so intense that the debate continued for centuries. Finally in the fourth century a group of church leaders called a council and took a vote. The 66 books that comprised our cherished Bible were declared to be Scripture by a vote of 568 to 563.”
568 to 563? If 5 people had voted differently the Bible would be nothing like it is today. You would be reading books that you had never heard of – or perhaps there wouldn’t even be a Bible. What happened to the books that are mentioned in the Old Testament? The Book of the Wars of the Lord is mentioned in Number 21. Joshua 10:13 mentions the Book of Jasher. First Chronicles mentions the Book of Nathan and Gad while Second Chronicles mentions the Book of Acts of Solomon. Where did they go? Why were they not chosen? Were they deemed by vote to not be the word of God? If that is so – then why do books they deemed the word of God mention those books?
End of error
What happened to the extra books from the New Testament era? Books like the Gospels according to Hebrews, Judas Iscariot, Peter, Marcion, Matthias, Eve, and Philip. The Acts of Peter, Book of Judgment by Peter, Hymn of Christ, Magical Book by Christ, and the Letter to Peter and Paul by Christ. If a letter BY Christ didn’t make the cut one has to wonder what criteria these men were using to influence votes. These books have become collectively known as the Apocrypha. Fundamentalist and apologist Josh McDowell has an answer in his book Evidence That Demands A Verdict, “They abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms.”
Apologist E. M. Blaiklock in his book Jesus Christ, Man or Myth says,
BLAIKLOCK: “…the wildly extravagant stories found in the so-called Apocryphal gospels.”
Bottom line is these books were kept out because they did not have the political alliance behind them that the others did. And the others only had a five-point edge. How different the Bible would be today if the Apocryphal gospels had been included. I am often asked to look at the original Bible to verify accuracy and errors (blaming translations on errors). What original Bible? There was/is no original Bible. Even today NO original writings exist. So the next time you pick up the Bible think to yourself, “this is a book of writings that was put together by a group of men who read some ancient manuscripts that purportedly are accurate representation of the originals, which no longer exist.”
The Fundamentalist book Biblical Criticism states,
BIBLICAL CRICITISM: “For over 1,400 years the NT was copied by hand and the copyists, the scribes, made every conceivable error as well at times intentionally altering the text. Such errors and alterations survived in various ways with a basic tendency to accumulate. Scribes seldom left out anything lest the omit something inspired. There are now in existence, extant, in whole or in part, 5,338 Greek manuscripts as well as hundreds of copies of ancient translations, not counting over 8,000 copies of the Latin Vulgate.”
And the kicker? Not a single two are 100% alike. There are over 200,000 variants in some 5,000 manuscripts. Then come the versions that are derivative of these variants. Fundamentalists often like to say that the variants do not affect the material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice. But is that true? Perhaps an example would be pertinent here. Let’s take Second Timothy 3:16:
- NIV: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
- NASB: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.
- KJV: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
- DARBY: Every scripture [is] divinely inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
- YLT: …every Writing [is] God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that [is] in righteousness.
- WE: All that is written in the holy writings comes from the Spirit of God. The holy writings are good for these things: to teach people, to show them when they are wrong, to make them see what is right, to teach them to do what is right.
Talk about variations and versions! On to other things…
You mentioned that I should “bathe myself” in Orthodox approaches before I wave my atheistic banner so boldly. You specifically mention the Ontological, Cosmological, and Teleological arguments. Let me assure you that I have done so. All three arguments fail and offer no rational reason to believe in God as a reality. We know that a belief in god is a psychological necessity for humanity – that is not in dispute. Attempting to rationalize that necessity to make one feel better is not very scientific at all.
You seem to associate love with morality. This is often used as a defense in Christianity to justify Christ’s love and the love one feels for Christ. Love is an emotion that is often associated with the release of dopamine in the brain. The poet Madonna insists upon what atheists “believe” but she obviously knows not what atheism is or is not. Again, as stated in my previous message, atheism is not a belief. While some atheists may have beliefs, atheism itself is not a belief. She would have been more accurate to say evolutionists – but still there is that word belief to confuse the issue. If you ask me if I believe in evolution then I will answer neither yes nor no. That is similar to the question, “do you still beat your wife?” Either yes or no will result in a trapped mouse. Children are asked if they “believe” in the Tooth Fairy. I don’t “believe” in evolution… I KNOW evolution based on current evidence, data, etc.
POET MADONNA: “To speak of morality, love, language, communication, creativity… these are meaningless if we are simply matter. Anything precious simply doesn’t exist in a purely material world.”
This is, of course, absolutely ridiculous and reeks of emotionalism and speculative pop psychology. Human beings have a conscious and a propensity to care. To want and offer love. We are social animals – and social skills such as love, kindness, friendship, etc., are extensions of our social behavior. Other emotions are directly linked to our evolutionary instincts of flight or fight (anger, fear, etc.)
What I find amazing is that even after my initial message addressing what atheism is you still insist that, “For the atheist, there is no good, no bad. If this life is just a social construct created by man, evolving along with his chemical evolution as a means of keeping social order and restraining chaos in his devised system, then all of life is temporary. Justice, love, good and bad are arbitrary. Nothing stands behind anything except complex chemistry. How dare you, an atheist, ever make an absolute moral judgment!”
I dare make an absolute moral judgment based on my experience as a human being with a conscience and propensity to care. A human being with self-awareness whom knows how it feels when I am treated a certain way. If someone steals from me it makes me sad. It is this knowledge of my emotions, my self-awareness, which leads me to the conclusion that stealing is immoral because I didn’t feel good when someone did it to me. The Ten Commandments are not original. They were stolen from Hammurabi’s Code, which was written almost 1,000 years before the Ten Commandments.
Your arguments for morality are vehemently arrogant and presumptuous. Especially considering the incredible immorality displayed in the Bible. Does a murdering lunatic have the right to dictate morality? Would you let a murderer dictate morality to you? If you answered no… you better change gods really quick. Divine Right of Rule was left behind after the Feudal System crumbled. You also seem to be confusing morality with emotionalism in several cases. Emotionalism may cause us to override our internal and learned morality – but they are separate.
From this point there are several paragraphs of religious rhetoric that I skipped over.
CLAY: “Have you traveled the globe extensively to find God absent? I doubt that you have.”
You would doubt incorrectly. I have traveled all over Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas. If God is in outer space, as you speculated, then what was the point of the Tower of Babel? A simple arrow fired from a tower was enough to anger God and confuse languages. Imagine what rockets and the Space Shuttle will do! But wait – they have already escaped Earth’s atmosphere and pierced the heavens far beyond what a simple arrow could ever accomplish. And what did God do to retaliate against mankind when we pierced the heavens with our “technological” arrows? Nothing. God is not in outer space… he simply is nonexistent.
CLAY: “How can you, a mere fragile man, dependent upon daily food and sleep and shelter be so confident that we are alone?”
And you? How can you, a mere fragile man, dependent upon daily food and sleep and shelter be so confident that we are not alone? How can you be so sure that God is not an extraterrestrial race from Planet X? How can you be so sure that God is not a creator that created the universe and kept on walking – to never care what you or I do?
CLAY: “And if we are alone, how dare you make any moral judgment.”
And if we’re not alone how dare you make any moral judgment? To tell me that I am immoral because I do not believe in your God is a moral judgment. According to you morality is God-given. So what makes you, a simple man, capable of making such a judgment of morality? I dare to make moral judgments based on my experience in this world and by what I have learned through said experiences.
You then go into a version of Pascal’s Wager. I must admit that at first I thought I was in for a good debate, but up until this point you have only recited already defeated arguments. I expected better from you. You said, “If you are right, then you die like a dog and simply cease to exist. Yet, if you are wrong, you risk being eternally separated from the personal God who freely offers ultimate meaning and peace through faith in Christ.”
This question comes from the root of Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, and inventor – but he is well known for his religious argument called “Pascal’s Wager”. Pascal was looking for a way to convert his friends to his sect of the Roman Catholic Church called Jansenism. He devised an argument that he thought was foolproof and that would cause instant conversion to his religious beliefs. Amazingly, many theists today still think this argument is foolproof. Simply put, Pascal’s Wager goes something along these lines:
- Either the believer or the nonbeliever will be correct – one of them has to be wrong.
- If you are a believer and you are correct – then you will be rewarded with eternal life.
- If you are a nonbeliever and you are correct – then you will die and nothing will happen.
- If you are a believer and you are wrong – then will you will die and nothing will happen.
- If you are a nonbeliever and you are wrong – then you will be punished with eternal damnation in the pits of hell.
- Therefore, if you are a believer you have a chance of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven – even if you are wrong – you still have a chance of being right. If you are a nonbeliever you have zero chance. So why not be a believer? Just in case the believers are right?
Pascal’s Wager does not work – contrary to the persistent belief of some theists. Replace God with Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy and re-read the wager… does it still sound okay to you?
First, the non-believer must forsake truth in order to be a believer. Should I stop searching for knowledge and forsake the truth for a “chance” that I might be wrong? The sky is blue – that’s the truth. Should I forsake that truth because a religion says the sky is green and that if I’m wrong I could spend an eternity in hell? I’ll stick to the truthful blue sky, thank you.
Second, the wager does not specify which god to believe in. Do I believe in Zeus, Osiris, Jupiter, Allah, Jesus Christ, Mother Earth, Ra, or UFO’s? To which god to I sacrifice the truth in order to have a chance… just in case? Which sect of the Christian cult do I choose to follow? Do I choose Pascal’s Jansenism or do I go with the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Do I choose the Baptists, Mormons, Catholics, or Lutherans? Choices, choices, choices… there are over 3,500 sects of the Christian cult – each believing differently – which one will be right. Should they all sacrifice their beliefs for others… just in case?
Third the wager says we should believe something solely for the prospective reward. Should we sacrifice knowledge and truth for rewards? What happens if a religion offers a better version of Heaven and worse version of Hell? Should I leave Christianity for that one? If you we so afraid of being wrong – shouldn’t we be looking for the best Heaven out there? An example will probably illustrate this better.
You’re with a real estate agent looking at houses. Along comes Mr. Pascal from another agency that tells you, “If you send all your money to my agency, I will get you the best house in the world. Is it worth not sending me your money – what if I’m right… what if you really can get that house just on the money you have already?” Mr. Pascal has no pictures of this awesome house, he has no address, he has no detailed description of the house… all he can offer you is, “if you’re wrong you’ll miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime.”
So you give all your money to Mr. Pascal and wait… and wait… and wait… and wait. And the house never shows up. When you turn Mr. Pascal into the authorities for fraud they tell you that no one has EVER received the house that Mr. Pascal is selling – but billions of people have sent him all their money… just in case he was right. So ask yourself… would you give Mr. Pascal your money – just in case he was right?
I’m definitely not afraid of being wrong. I’m not wasting my time on Sunday going to church… just in case. I’m not wasting 10% of my hard-earned money on tithes… just in case. I’m not wasting precious time on prayer and other silly religious rituals… just in case. I’d rather take my chances on being wrong than sacrifice truth, logic, rationality, critical thinking, and knowledge.
From here you go into the “no such thing as an ex-Christian” because a true Christian would never leave the faith. How arrogant that sounds. I was able to see the errors of Christianity and the Bible when I was in the seventh grade. I find it incredibly ironic that I found the truth as a pre-teen and yet there are grown adults out there that are still as gullible as when they were five and believed in Santa Clause.
Well… I must admit that I am impressed. In a single letter you have managed to use almost every single Christian tactic there is. Usually they don’t come at me all at once like that. All of your “arguments” have been countered and reduced to ashes by others far more qualified than I. I countered these arguments from the seventh grade and on. I have been an atheist for sixteen years. For a powerful God… he sure is impotent.
Clay Rebuttal #003:
You have entered the Christian theological realm of the doctrines of “effectual calling” and of the “creation mandate” as commonly known in ecclesiastical jargon under the subject of God’s sovereignty in the discipline of systematic theology. I will be glad to touch on these perspectives.
If you will be patient, not suggesting that you are impatient, I will respond in time.
In the meantime, please formulate why, as an atheist, do you purport such a keen sense of morality and such staunch opinions if you say you believe in nothing? If there is no God, then there is no transcendent standard by which we gauge behavior, agreed? How do you then tell me that my behavior is right/wrong/good/bad? Was Hitler just acting out events in time, or was he behind something with a motive that we can criticize as wrong? Why was he condemned? Was his condemnation justified? What is justice? How do you know?
I must know how you respond before I can understand from where you begin your thinking. While I am very willing to take as long as need be in our tennis match, you must play by the same rules, namely basic non-contradiction and reason as defined by the weight of Western thought. Again, I am not chastening you…yet. You simply need to explain to me why you go on living without sliding into the modernist vague and aimless sentimentalism…”because I feel this and that…”
Response to Clay #003:
CLAY: “In the meantime, please formulate why, as an atheist, do you purport such a keen sense of morality and such staunch opinions if you say you believe in nothing?”
You are the second person to ask me this question (obviously not verbatim) today.
To understand humanity and the morality thereof you need to understand the cycles of society behavior and establishment. For example, I can answer your question as an individual, as a member of the human race (humanity), or as a member of many societies. These societies are:
- Immediate Family Society (spouse & offspring).
- Extended Family Society (all other relatives).
- Neighborhood Society (surrounding homes).
- Cultural Society (religion, sex, gender, activities, hobbies, etc).
- Village/Town/City Society.
- State Society.
- Country Society.
- World Society.
Each of us plays a different role in each of those societies. Within each major category of society are mini-societies that we participate in both directly and indirectly. As a member of each society – we are required to justify ourselves to said societies. Take away the society – and the need for justification (or morality – which is a higher form of justification) goes away.
Now since I obviously know where you are going with this let me first establish some requirement on the subject of “God is required for morality”.
What morals have your God dictated to you? Remember that laws of worship have nothing to do with morality – so “have no idols before me” is not a moral issue. Also remember that laws of justice have nothing to do with established morality – so stoning someone to death for adultery is not a moral issue. The adultery is the moral issue and not the punishment. Also remember that laws are not morality, either. So “eat no pork” is not a moral issue – it is a law. Please write down every moral established by your God.
The reason I ask this is because before you can assert that there can be no morality without belief in a God you must prove several issues:
- There can be morality with the belief in God.
- God is a good moral role model.
- God does not promote, condone, endorse, or sanctify immorality.
- God defines morality and the morals thereof clearly and concisely.
- God adheres to his definition of morality and the morals thereof.
Once you have done that then you can begin to assert that there can be no morality without belief in a God. Once you assert it – you’ll have to prove it. You will have to prove that atheistic religions (such as Buddhism) are immoral. Or you will have to prove that atheistic beliefs derive their morality from God.
CLAY: “If there is no God, then there is no transcendent standard by which we gauge behavior, agreed?”
If a standard is transcendent then how can we gauge it in the first place? God or no god is irrelevant at that point.
CLAY: “How do you then tell me that my behavior is right/wrong/good/bad?”
CLAY: “Was Hitler just acting out events in time, or was he behind something with a motive that we can criticize as wrong?”
“Acting out events in time” insinuates a fate – which of course thrashes free will. Hitler was a paranoid schizophrenic Christian who hated anyone and everyone that wasn’t like him (even thought he was technically a Jew). Hitler was immoral because society viewed him as immoral based on our societal views and acceptance of right and wrong. Whether those views were influenced by people religious beliefs is irrelevant because none of the aforementioned criteria have been met.
CLAY: “You simply need to explain to me why you go on living without sliding into the modernist vague and aimless sentimentalism…”because I feel this and that.”
I have to admit that this question has become rather tedious in answering it because of the assumption that morality required a God. The key word is assumption – because morality with a God has not been proven nor have any of the other criteria been met.
I had the un-privilege of meeting an exceptionally rude, obnoxious, and pushy Southern Baptist the other day that just went on and on and on with the same rhetoric I normally hear but with more “fervor”. After all, the Southern Baptist has a quota to meet in order to get into Heaven, you see. Anyway, the conversation began to turn ugly and he became rather insulting when he realized he wasn’t “having his way” with me. To end the conversation (at this point I was annoyed, irritated, and a little angry) I asked him two questions;
If you die will you go to Heaven and sit by your “father’s” side? [an emphatic yes with exaggerated head bobs from the SoBap]
Then what’s the point of living? [the conversation ended and he walked away]
Clay Rebuttal #004:
Well, where to begin? I call this a “lob” return in our tennis, an overarching, slowly developing response.
I first want to say that a “game” is truly not my intention in these discussions. Far from it. If it were trivia, fine. But I take this development in my life, discussing eternal matters over the Internet with an avowed atheist whom I do not know, with extreme concern for I believe that human souls hang in the balance. This is not a debate with you in my mind. Rather, it is a discussion where I hope to present faithfully a consistent epistemology, a theory of knowledge, based on the logical development of my subjects from the position of orthodox Christianity. I hope both sides will openly consider the position of the other logically.
As an orthodox Christian, not “Orthodox” in the Eastern Church sense, I hold to a certain epistemology that claims to maintain that Christianity is consistent with reality. It explains reality in the three basic areas of understanding, namely philosophy, history and science. There are topics within these categories that demand logical discussion inside of their discipline. For instance, under philosophy I include epistemology, logic, the mind, ethics (under which I include ontology and the philosophy of religion), skepticism, and truth. Areas of knowledge would be perception, memory, induction, and a priori.
Then there is the second category, history. Here I include higher criticism and textual criticism.
Last, there is science where I include evolution, biology, and physics. I hope that you agree.
So often, these conversations cannot happen because atheists and theists don’t share the same epistemology and the result is that we categorically differ on all areas of this discussion. Further, to jump from ethics to historical criticism to feelings, as I believe your eight-page response to me included, confuses the discussion. Let’s keep the disciplines intact.
I begin by relaying a certain sadness. Your level of intensity and your commitment to your position overwhelms me. I respect it, but genuinely wonder if Christianity will ever get a fair shake with you.
That said, you seem intelligent, but I must say clearly that I will only enter this discussion if you and I are willing to learn from each other, seeking truth, not showing off our intellectual muscles…which, for both of us, are not too developed. Your commitment must be towards genuinely working through these disciplines. I will not allow emotional content to overshadow these discussions. If so, I don’t see us going anywhere.
In this vein, let me apologize for your recent Baptist altercation. Hopefully, his motives were good, i.e., concern for your soul as he faithfully bore witness to the Gospel of Grace. Evangelism is a Christian command, though in his zeal, he may have not “loved his neighbor as himself.” Of course, orthodoxy has no tolerance for “winning points” with God, as you said, by such conversations. If that was his motive, he is ignorant of the Gospel. His duty as a Christian is to proclaim the Gospel in love, leaving the Holy Spirit to affect your heart. Again, there is no room for name-calling or emotionalism. A Christian’s confidence is in God, not himself. His duty is to be transformed by the renewing of his mind as he humbly submits to the will of God, even in these three areas of discussion. Your Baptist friend would benefit by this conversation.
Mr. Scott, we have some common ground according to our words so far: morality and conscience, which puzzles me given your materialist epistemology. Other than that, we don’t have much. I say this because our base commitment, our central philosophy (epistemology), has to affect every sphere of our three categories. Your materialist atheism, and my Christian orthodoxy, penetrate and move throughout our own discussions of philosophy, history and science. You realize that we separate from one another through every sphere, thus this is a difficult task.
The presuppositions of most people today, and I am including you here, include: (1) an ideological presupposition that man is the measure of all things and that human reason must be entirely autonomous; (2) the methodological assumption that the “scientific” method is the only valid means for ascertaining truth; and (3) an assumption of attitude that there is no knowable “absolute” truth, but that “truth” is always relative to the knower. Would you agree?
But if one desires to know the Bible’s message on its own terms, taking it for what it says about itself, then one cannot use these presuppositions. They are incompatible with the Scriptures, which presuppose that God, not man, measures all things, that human reason is dependent and cannot penetrate to the very bottom of things, but that ultimate and absolute truth is knowable, by way of personal relationship. Thus my former letter concerning Ultimate Personality behind reality. With regard to method, the Scriptures claim that things do not always work the same way, and that some events have non-earthly or supernatural causes. Now if these claims are true, then it is inappropriate to apply to Scripture a modernist, naturalistic, “scientific” approach which assumes in advance that there is no supernatural intervention, that the “system is closed.” In essence, one cannot evaluate the Bible’s claims to truth by using methods that assume in advance that these claims are impossible.
I attribute my understanding of this effect through the academic writings of Cornelius VanTil in his work, A Christian Theory of Knowledge and a more popular work, Let the Reader Understand, by Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton. Though VanTil’s work is a dense one, it best describes our landscape here, especially my presuppositions as they relate to your philosophy. I suggest these works to your study if you truly want to see where orthodoxy begins its epistemology. It does not begin with your discussion of inerrancy. I believe inerrancy is a valid position, but I do not begin with it.
Christian J. P. Moreland and Atheist Kai Nielsen attempted our discussion (a much better job!) in 1988 in their work, Does God Exist? I suggest you also have this book available for your adherents and detractors, both. It would be most fair. It calls for us all to be totally honest, in our motives and passions and calls us to look at all evidence on both sides, not focusing on only one side or on only part of the evidence. I will let them exhaust our details for the sake of time and discipline. They cover all the ground that we don’t need to fumble through, as I’m afraid we both would. Obviously, their conclusions will probably not move many Christians toward atheism or visa versa, but those on the fence will probably move one way or another. It is really a fine work.
Thus, I’m not going to go line by line down your eight pages. Rather I’m going to ask the overarching question, “Why are you so committed to your position and why are you so bent on trashing Christianity?” I’m just curious. What happened?
Secondly, you seem greatly influenced by the Graf/Wellhausen theory, the higher critical school. Those gentlemen gave it their best shot, but in so doing they made grand assumptions, imposing an evolutionary theory upon Israelite religion. They extracted biblical history and rearranged it. They separated sources. Now, I am aware that this position is well accepted in the liberal world (I grew up under its influence), but Donald Guthrie and William Albright, to name two contemporary critics, have proved conclusively that the higher critical school is inconsistent with both history and archeology, respectively. Guthrie proves that the “late” theory of the New Testament writings is false while Albright went out and dug up evidence that the Old Testament was written by who it claims to be written by. Granted, Albright’s work isn’t exhaustive, but it’s darn convincing. You must make their historic criticism and scientific discoveries known to your debates and you must acknowledge their discoveries in your own arguments.
Lastly, an interesting work for your camp: I suggest Jonathan Dancy’s Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology. By no means a Christian work, Dancy’s book correctly presents the status of 20th Century secular knowledge. It concludes that, ultimately, modernism has nothing to stand on. You should read this work, as your Society wants to be circumspect.
I say all this for one reason, namely, that the Christian theory of knowledge has just as much right to be accepted in the arena of ideas as yours. You cannot look down your nose at my position or me. Saying that my “God is impotent” and words like “gullible” when attributed to my belief system is juvenile and emotional, and it’s harmful to our discussion. When you were in 7th grade and you made your decision to be an atheist, a decision, which I suggest, wasn’t that sophisticated given your age, I would expect such comments. But given the true landscape of this discussion in the academy, let’s leave such brashness alone.
Mr. Scott, I say that your worldview will collapse in on itself. I say this because you have belief, a component of the theory of knowledge, the theory of justification, inconsistent with your beginning materialist, closed system philosophy. I say that your whole approach to epistemology won’t hold up. Why? For one, you say that “we are each our own ultimate authority”. How can this be and we still maintain a common foundation of truth, logic, and theory of knowledge? People whom carry this to its logical conclusion are in jail or committed or dead. Do you really believe this?
Secondly, to call the Bible “an error-filled mythological account with some historical insignificata” is an emotional value judgment that doesn’t sound rational. You have overstatements and rationalizations and sweeping statements that I don’t follow. Your saying that “there are no beliefs involved with atheism” commits you to a worldview, a commitment from which you depart in your approach, as evidenced by your free admission to hold conscience and morality. I believe that you have borrowed some capital from Western Theism, particularly Judeo-Christianity.
Further, some potpourri: you are aware, for instance, that the Resurrection doesn’t depend upon inerrancy? Also, you misunderstand Gleason Archer. He’s an excellent scholar, and I’m glad you mention him, but he sees no arguments with the “autographs.” Another; Christianity doesn’t rely on councils. Councils can provide good insight and summarize positions, but they are not authoritative. More, I say that, as mentioned earlier in a discussion of textual criticism, Golding’s argument is poo-poo and has been proved wrong by Guthrie, just to name one. For a correct orthodox presentation of the canon, I suggest The Origin of the Bible, edited by Philip W. Comfort, a collection of essays dealing with many biblical formulation issues.
Are you really serious about me following your reasoning when you freely admit, “we know that a belief in god is a psychological necessary for humanity” – a devastating admission! Rationalizing the necessity is science and scientific. More, your traveling “the globe extensively to find God absent” is consistent with your assertion of the psychological necessity. But the final “God is not in outer space…he simply is nonexistent”…this is belief and it has no basis in observation. Please. And for the record, God’s anger at those who built the Tower of Babel was not because they tried to fling arrows but was based on their trying to be God, their desire to be autonomous from Him, much like the atheistic position.
Of particular note, I am disturbed by your popular belief in the theory of evolution, a philosophically flawed “theory.” Your argument must admit that this is still theory as no transitional forms are documented, no answer for biogenesis exists, and the second law of thermodynamics has not been reversed. Evolution has no explanation of what mechanism results in the transitions, what causes the shifts. Darwin’s Black Box admits that biology is so complex that modern science cannot explain its complexity. Darwin on Trial, though written by a lawyer and not a scientist, exposes the theory further, regardless of Johnson’s academic discipline. Even Gould’s “Monster Mechanisms” had to be devised to replace the missing transitional forms. Your marriage to this position hinders your intellect and blinds you from the evidence…or lack thereof.
Mr. Scott, I don’t know where we go from here. I believe that there are valid, scholarly responses to every one of your questions concerning Christianity. Maybe you have been digesting the wrong sources? There sure are some out there! But I think it’s more than your sources. I think that Atheism is intellectually appealing to you because you choose it to be. You probably chose your position before you entered the argument. You cannot choose Atheism based on its intellectual appeal for there is none. And, I contend that I believe in Christianity on the same basis as you do Atheism that is by faith. Before all the evidence for all my questions was in, I submitted myself to Christianity.
As a former agnostic who grew up in Christian liberalism and higher criticism, I feel that I understand much of your position, your dissatisfaction with the Church to which you’ve been exposed, to Christians who haven’t extended intellectual arguments to you or who did not love you, and shallow or incomplete arguments for the truth claims of the Bible. Christians are often the worst example of Christian teaching, but not all are. A Christian’s only personal comparison is to be made with Jesus, from whom every one of us falls woefully short. Let Christ be the example. Our goal as Christians is, after all, to become more and more like him and less like our sinful selves.
The Christian Gospel is one of Grace, of hearts being metaphysically changed from “stone” to “flesh” by God and God alone in an “open system” of communication and providence. We say He’s there because we say we see with the mind’s eye. We see love though we can’t measure it. We see language though we cannot scientifically explain it. We are God’s work, both as creatures and as developing beings for no good reason other than for His Glory and our enjoyment. A Christian has no moral high ground over another human. In my heart and mind, I have no moral superiority over you. Only Jesus Christ does, and it is His life that compels us to witness to His Truth. After all, we say that He is that Truth. It is also He who calls us to investigate His world as we dig through philosophy, history and science. Again, maybe your Baptist friend needs to be reminded of all this.
I cannot argue you to this conclusion, for it is not within my power to do so, only God’s, but I can define logical arguments that reasonably show that Christianity is not the foolish mistake you unfairly present it to be. History is replete with excellent Christian minds, from Augustine to Anselm to Aquinas, to name three foundational contributors. Have you read Augustine’s Confessions? You are missing a wonder if fail to do so. In his work, you face one of the world’s brightest minds and most honest hearts. Your broad sweeps against Christian theism should be reserved in the face of such philosophical discovery. But there are many others, men who were brilliant, men who gave us the patterns from which we consciously or subconsciously approach our modern world. And they were ancient Christian apologists. Are you saying that they were foolish in their conclusions? Am I? For I, like they, have banked my entire life on the Truth of the Bible and the reality that a Triune Personal God stands behind eternity. The stakes are high. Let’s stop the games.
Ball’s in your court.
Response to Clay #004:
It seems that you are offended by some of my views on theism and more particularly Christianity. Let me assure you now that I will not dilute my views to appease to someone’s sensitivity regarding their theistic beliefs – just as I expect the same of you (and you came through). I’m sorry you find some of my views offensive – but I will not apologize for my views on theism. If my last response invoked this response from you then more than likely this response will cause you to terminate our discussion. If you wish to conclude this discussion because of this problem then that is okay by me. I will not hold it against you nor think any less of you. The choice is yours at this point. For now I will assume that you wish to continue and I will address your last rebuttal.
CLAY: “It explains reality in the three basic areas of understanding, namely philosophy, history and science. … I hope that you agree.”
Yes, I can agree with that. While I might nit-pick at the sub-categorization – I can agree with that premise.
CLAY: “I begin by relaying certain sadness. Your level of intensity and your commitment to your position overwhelms me. I respect it, but genuinely wonder if Christianity will ever get a fair shake with you.”
I’m not sure what you mean by a “fair shake” or why you feel any sadness for me. I can only assume that your sadness is from the Christian basis of “Christ denial”. I have heard of Christ yet deny him – so I am destined for hell because the only way to heaven is through Christ. Besides the obvious question of what happened to all the people that died before Christ was identified? Did they go to hell because they did not know Christ? Do stillborn children, mentally retarded, feral children, and lost tribes go to hell because they have never heard of Christ?
Does the spreading of the Gospel become “good” or “bad” with this knowledge? If the denial of Christ after knowledge of Christ is obtained results in eternal damnation then is not the very spreading of the knowledge of Christ condemning people to hell? As apologist and Biblicist Kenneth Boa states in his book I’m Glad You Asked (page 146),
BOA: “These concerns have led some people to the conclusion that those who have never heard about Christ will escape the judgment of God. If this is true, then Christian missionaries are not only wasting their lives but may be doing great harm by preaching the gospel to those who are unaware of Christ, they have brought people from a state of innocence to a state of moral culpability if they do not respond. This would mean that passages such as the Great Commission (at the end of Matthew, in which Jesus tells people to go unto all the world and preach the gospel) make no sense at all. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should have been kept a secret.”
R. C. Sproul addresses the same problem in his book Reasons To Believe (page 50),
SPROUL: “Since the native is not guilty of this we ought to let him alone. In fact, letting him alone would be the most helpful and redemptive thing we could do for him. If we go to the native and inform him of Christ we place his soul in eternal jeopardy. For now he knows of Christ, and if he refuses to respond to Him he can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse. Hence, the best service we can render is silence.”
I was a Christian early in my life so by Christian biblical standards I am already damned to hell because I have “rejected” Christ. So by this standard when I tell someone that I am ex-Christian they should make no effort to convert me because, by the very standards that forces them to spread the gospel in the first place, it is too late for me. So was the Baptist that confronted me really doing good, as you suggested? What if I had never heard of Christ until that point? I would, based on the interpretation of some, be comfortable in the non-knowledge that I would ultimately escape God’s judgment just as the stillborn, child, and mentally retarded are. Of course the lack of God’s judgment for “ignorance of Jesus” is only an interpretation because there is no scripture to back that up. The scripture clearly states that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ. As Robert Mounce says in his book Answers to Questions About the Bible (page 173),
MOUNCE: “If there is some third alternative, we know nothing of it from Scripture. The specter of a new-born babe suffering eternal punishment is entirely unacceptable in a moral universe.”
While it may be morally repugnant in a moral society – it is certainly not unacceptable from the scriptural point of view. The Bible does not allow for exceptions when in John 14:6 it states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, NO man cometh to the Father but by me.” It doesn’t say some men, most men, a few men, or even men and women. It says no man leaving no exceptions to the rule. So while the above arguments by Mounce, Boa, and Sproul sound feasible and morally correct – they are not supported by scripture.
By the sixth or seventh grade I had become somewhat of an atheist. Looking back on that part of my life I think it is probably more accurate to say that I had become agnostic. It was not until my late teens and early twenties that I fully understood my atheism and had a firmer grasp on why I had arrived at that conclusion. By my mid-twenties I had looked into almost every religion there is (there are a lot of them out there). Also during my mid-twenties I decided to come out of the closet when I realized that I could care less what everyone thought of my atheism. I was a closet atheist because I feared retaliation from the theistic community and from my family.
To this day there are still members of my family that refuse to talk to me because of my atheism. Earlier in my life that would have upset me – now I realize that it is their loss – not mine. My wife’s parents blame me for her atheism. What they fail to realize is that my wife was already agnostic when I met her but she was afraid to tell her parents. I would not have married her if I thought she were a devout Christian. I would not have placed either of us in the position of having to compromise our views and philosophies. While it could have been avoided for a while – sooner or later children would have forced the issue. Whomever “caved” would have held some resentment toward the other and created a gap in the marriage.
CLAY: “Your commitment must be towards genuinely working through these disciplines. I will not allow emotional content to overshadow these discussions. If so, I don’t see us going anywhere.”
Please elaborate on what you mean by “genuinely working through these disciplines.” I can assure you that I am not an emotional person. I live my life by logic and reasoning. It is for this reason that I was a mass casualty coordinator for a hospital – because I didn’t let emotions dictate my life and was able to use quick critical thinking to get us out of situations.
CLAY: “His duty as a Christian is to proclaim the Gospel in love, leaving the Holy Spirit to affect your heart. Again, there is no room for name-calling or emotionalism.”
Is it possible to convey the message of Christ without emotionalism? If one has truly accepted Christ as their savior then they convey a sense of emotionalism. Whether that emotionalism is elation, excitement, enthusiasm, or glee – the emotions are there. It is for this reason that I do not argue with the “power” of faith. Faith can be very powerful for those that believe on faith. That is why so many become offended when the very foundation of their faith is called into question.
CLAY: “Mr. Scott, we have some common ground according to our words so far: morality and conscience, which puzzles me given your materialist epistemology.”
Why do my views on morality and conscience puzzle you so? What is your definition of a materialist? I want to ensure that when the word materialist is used that we are saying and meaning the same thing.
CLAY: “Your materialist atheism, and my Christian orthodoxy, penetrate and move throughout our own discussions of philosophy, history and science. You realize that we separate from one another through every sphere, thus this is a difficult task.”
Very rarely are discussions of philosophy, science, and history easy. That is what makes them so intriguing in the first place. I have found that most of the time the discussions end in a stalemate. When it comes right down to it, all facts, evidence, and data aside, faith (or lack thereof) is what is left. And faith is a very powerful ideology, as I’m sure you can attest to. It is that very power of faith that usually prevents these discussions from extending over a prolonged period of time.
CLAY: “An ideological presupposition that man is the measure of all things and that human reason must be entirely autonomous.”
While many assume that man is the measure of all things – I do not. I think it is typically egotistical of mankind to assume such. While I base a lot of my personal philosophy on my person, as a member of mankind, that does not make me the “center of the universe”. What we have to realize is that philosophy, science, and theology are centered on man because we are the creators of those practices. We base reality on our perception of reality. It is for that very reason that science never states much with 100% certainty unless they are specific about the reality of that statement. The laws of physics are good examples. They are laws because it is understood that those laws are based on the reality of our physics, in this reality we call the universe. Should that reality change – so to might those laws of physics.
CLAY: “The methodological assumption that the “scientific” method is the only valid means for ascertaining truth.”
I will agree with that statement. I’m glad you put the word scientific in quotations. While science, as an “entity” provides great tools and resources – there are other means of ascertaining the “truth”. We don’t need science to tell us the sky appears to be blue. We can see for ourselves the sky appears to be blue. What we need science for is to tell us why the sky appears to be blue. Science tells us that the sky is not actually blue – it is every color except blue. Blue is the color that the sky reflects and the sky’s true color is every color in the light spectrum that is absorbed other than blue. So by claiming that the sky is blue, as most people, do – are we speaking the truth? Or are we speaking what we perceive based on our own reality?
CLAY: “An assumption of attitude that there is no knowable “absolute” truth, but that “truth” is always relative to the knower.”
I think the statement that there is no knowable absolute truth is more of a theistic or agnostic view, wouldn’t you? While “truth” is relative to the viewer based on their reality – we can know the truth based on that reality. Should that reality change then the truth will also change.
CLAY: “But if one desires to know the Bible’s message on its own terms, taking it for what it says about itself, then one cannot use these presuppositions. They are incompatible with the Scriptures, which presuppose that God, not man, measures all things, that human reason is dependent and cannot penetrate to the very bottom of things, but that ultimate and absolute truth is knowable, by way of personal relationship. Now if these claims are true, then it is inappropriate to apply to Scripture a modernist, naturalistic, “scientific” approach which assumes in advance that there is no supernatural intervention, that the “system is closed.” In essence, one cannot evaluate the Bible’s claims to truth by using methods that assume in advance that these claims are impossible.”
It is not necessary to evaluate the claims of supernaturalism in the Bible. If the Bible is to convey, as a God-breathed work, a doctrine of inerrancy, then it must be inerrant and sound. It is not inerrant and it is not sound. The claims made in the Bible are brought into question not necessarily because of their supernatural nature – but because the very thing that makes these claims is filled with errors, contradictions, and inconsistencies. If the Bible were 100% accurate with zero errors, no inconsistencies, and not a single contradiction then the claims of supernaturalism would perhaps be perceived with less skepticism.
In other words – there is obviously no way to prove if a god does or does not exist. We can look at the definitions of a god and through logic, philosophy, reasoning, scientific data, and evidence begin to break down those definitions and ultimately show said defined god as having a higher probability of non-existence. So when the Bible says god performed a supernatural event there is no way to prove either way if god exists in the first place, and if he does if that supernatural event actually occurred. But when the source of the account is erroneous then the likelihood and probability of said events and event creator decrease.
For example, the Christian God is defined by the act of the Global Flood. Since evidence shows that this global flood never occurred then the likelihood and probability of the defined Christian God decreases. While the Christian God has not been completely ruled out by this evidence – his likelihood and probability of existence has decreased.
You have taken the long way around the statement I hear a lot to the effect of, “It requires an infallible critic to question the existence of God or declare that the Bible contains errors.” Biblicist Clark Pinnock is a huge proponent of critics needing to be infallible themselves – to be equal to God. In other words, by those standards, one cannot criticize the Bible or question God unless they are infallible themselves. It takes someone whom is omniscient to say that God does not exist with certainty. As I stated before – it is not about certainty. It is about likelihood and probability.
The obvious mistake in this line of reasoning is that it assumes the very point in dispute. Because one alleges supernaturalism, omniscience, or inerrancy does not mean it is so. Biblicists assert the Bible is infallible and inerrant – and have yet to prove so. Christian philosophers assert that God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, et al – and have yet to prove so. If the Bible were indeed infallible and contained no errors then the assertion of requiring infallibility before criticism might hold some water. The Bible and the defined parameters of the Christian God are errant and therefore subject to the materialistic criticism of skeptics and scholars.
CLAY: “I suggest these works to your study if you truly want to see where orthodoxy begins its epistemology. It does not begin with your discussion of inerrancy. I believe inerrancy is a valid position, but I do not begin with it.”
If inerrancy is truly secondary then one’s faith or belief is irrelevant, is it not? Does it really matter if one goes to Christ, Mohammed, or Buddha? Does it really matter if one goes to God, Allah, Jupiter, Thor, Osiris, or Ra? If I am looking for a God then I expect the writings of that God to be inerrant. If a God is not powerful enough to make his sacred text 100% accurate then what good is he? I should base my decision on god on better criteria at that point. Which belief has the best heaven? Which belief has the easiest rules to follow? Which belief has the easiest hell to endure (just in case I muff it up)? Which belief fits my current lifestyle the best (this explains the 3500 plus sects of Christianity)? I think inerrancy plays a larger role then you would suggest.
For Christianity the basis is the Resurrection of Christ. If, through identification of errancy, it is shown that the accounts of the Resurrection are contradictory (as they have been), then the very foundation of Christianity is lost. If errancy is identified in Genesis and the accounts of Adam and Eve then the very foundation of Original Sin comes into question. And if Original Sin is eradicated then Christ died for naught and he becomes irrelevant to the Christian doctrine.
CLAY: “Thus, I’m not going to go line by line down your eight pages. Rather I’m going to ask the overarching question, “Why are you so committed to your position and why are you so bent on trashing Christianity?” I’m just curious. What happened?”
I am committed to my position because it is the most logical position there is. I am committed to my position because I have researched almost every religion on this planet and found that all are irrationally based and do not warrant my beliefs. Instead of seeing God in nature – I see nature in nature. Instead of praying to God in times of crisis I tell myself to get off my arse and do something about it. Instead of thanking God for my accomplishments I congratulate myself on a job well done. I have not seen any gods nor have I seen any evidence that insinuates that said gods even exist. I completely understand the reasons why people need religion and do not hold it against them. I simply do not have those reasons and therefore do not need religion.
I’m not bent on trashing Christianity. I am bent on protecting my personal freedoms from Christianity. I would be just as happy to sit on my couch and watch TLC and Discovery Channel all day long. Christianity has become an issue to me through no choice of my own. Christianity is attempting to put prayer in my children’s classroom. Christianity is attempting to hand the Ten Commandments in my children’s school and my city’s courthouse. Christianity is attempting to place its assumed higher morality upon me through legislation. Christianity is abusing the very thing that protects its followers – the Constitution of the United States (COTUS). As a Constitutionalist I am flabbergasted at the recent abuse of the Amendments by Christianity. Should others and I sit back and watch Christianity take control of this country and turn it into a Theocracy?
Non-Christians should be gravely concerned over recent developments in this country. The Christian movement is threatening the personal freedoms that are dictated and protected by the COTUS. While obviously not all Christians are involved and many are against this latest movement – who will make a stand? Who will protect our constitutional rights from those that abuse the very substance of what gives them their freedoms? Who will stand up at the PTA meeting and argue against the implementation of school prayer? I will.
I would rather sit at home and not have to be politically active. I would rather shut my web page down and not worry about Christians calling me a Satanist because their preacher told them that atheists are in league with Satan. I would rather go about my life and not feel threatened by “Bible Thumpers”. I would rather sleep in on Saturday and not have Jehovah’s Witnesses’ come to my door at seven in the morning. I would rather not receive evil glares because I am a known atheist. I would rather not have to defend my position of atheism every time I turn around. I would prefer to not get fired by my Christian boss because I’m an atheist.
Christianity is a “target” because it has made itself a target. One need only look at the Southern Baptist Convention and their recent attacks on Muslims, Hindus, and Jews for support of this. One need only look at Election 2000 to see the changing face of religionist politics and the move of the Christian religious right. The COTUS protects the Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Wicca, Shaman, and Atheist from a Theocracy and from suffering through the hypocrisy of Christendom in the public classroom.
Regarding your concerns over “what happened” (or more pointedly, “why are you an atheist?”) I can only say that it is not that complicated. To avoid regurgitation I’ll post my reply to this question from my web page. Keep in mind that my web page was designed to keep it simple for all visitors. If you need any further elaboration then please do not hesitate to ask for it.
ATHEISM AWARENESS: “Usually when I am asked this question people are looking for a sign that I was driven away from religion because of a psychological event or some traumatic time that I associated with the church, religion, or god. It’s not that complicated, though. I don’t hate god because someone close to me died or anything else like that. I would have to believe in a god in order to hate that god.
There are people out there that claim to be atheists because of emotional or psychological reasons (associated with a traumatic event). I call them “emotional atheists”. If you hate a god – then you at least have some belief (however miniscule) that the god exists in the first place. Seems kind of futile to hate something that you supposedly don’t believe in. To me, emotional atheists are not really atheists by all technical means of the definition. Many emotional atheists end up becoming “logical atheists.”
I am an atheist because theism cannot and does not provide the answers that I seek. Basic Humanities teaches us that as human beings we have needs. Physical, emotional, and psychological needs.
Our physical needs include the need for food, water, and shelter.
Our emotional needs include the need to feel loved, needed, and have a social circle.
Our psychological needs include the need to leave our mark on society (from writing a book to graffiti), the desire to know the origins of fear, the need for explanations, and the drive to answer a few questions:
- “Why am I here?”
- “Where did I come from?”
- What is the purpose of life?”
Man has tried many ways to take care of these psychological needs. Then one day someone came up with a “silver platter” answer that took care of everything in one sweep… a god. Didn’t matter what god it was. The point is the god answered those questions and quenched the psychological thirst of early man.
Shamanism is the oldest known “organized” religion in the world (approx. 27000-years-old). But man has been inventing explanations to help eradicate his fears longer than that.
Even the Romans and the Greeks needed peace through knowing – and they chose the path of gods – and lots of them. Everything had a god. They explained the things they were afraid of and the things they loved. Mothers would tell their children, “Don’t be afraid of the lightning my child, it is only Zeus moving around in the clouds.” Gods like Jupiter, Zeus, Mars, Nimrod, Mithras, Horus, Osiris, and Thor explained away fears in a simple way.
There was one other thing those invented gods did. They created positions of power and an infrastructure within the societies that believed in those gods. Suddenly the societies needed someone to explain the behavior of gods and to appease the gods when they were mad. They needed someone who could communicate with the gods and whom had knowledge of appropriate actions and sacrifices to keep the gods happy. And the priest was born…
Theism, in my view, is just too silly. It is too abracadabra, hocus pocus, and shazam! Instead of intelligently looking for the answers to those psychological needs – people just grab the easy answer off the religious silver platter. No thank you – you can keep your silver platter answers. I will not take the road more traveled and forsake my intelligent, rational, and critical thought. I will not forsake the search of truth for a psychological crutch.
I’m sure that calling theism a psychological crutch has upset a few people. Let me assure you that it is not a bad thing (usually). In the society in which we live most humans beings need theistic beliefs or some form of elevated spirituality. Could you imagine the psychological disaster we would face if the foundation of religion were stripped from under the feet of worshipers tomorrow? I’d rather not deal with that issue. Most people need a form of spirituality. There are, as I’m sure most people know, many forms of spiritualism without gods. These non-theistic religions and spiritualities resolve the same psychological needs but eliminate the following of an imaginary being that controls the lives of theists.
Why do you think that the church resists science so fervently? Why do you think the church called scientists witches and wizards in history past? Why does the church say that atheists are in league with Satan? Why do you think the church says that if you do not have faith and question god that he will punish you? Why does the church need to instill fear into the people? Because fear keeps a flock in line and keeps the flock members from thinking on his or her own.
I am an atheist because I refuse to take the silver platter answers that the religions of the world dish out. I will travel the road less traveled and find the answers on my own. I will investigate all possibilities and intelligently eliminate those that are irrational.”
CLAY: “Secondly, you seem greatly influenced by the Graf/Wellhausen theory, the higher critical school.”
They did not influence me at all. They make grand assumptions on the History of Israel based upon the very thing that I find erroneous. And it is actually the Graf/Wellhausen hypothesis (not theory) because it has not met any criterion to be called a theory.
I arrive at my own conclusions and conduct my own research. My views are my own and no one else’s. While others may have arrived at the same conclusions that I have – I do the research myself and make my own choices.
CLAY: “You must make their historic criticism and scientific discoveries known to your debates and you must acknowledge their discoveries in your own arguments.”
Since I consider most of Graf and Wellhausen’s work presumptuous I’m not really concerned about any of what their critics have to say. I have read some of Albright’s work and find most of his rationalizations and justifications rather ludicrous at best. He has a tendency, just like those that he accuse (Graf/Wellhausen) of re-writing the scripture to suit his fancy. He displays the typically characteristic style of apologists of not adhering to the same standards they impose upon the critics of the Bible. The say the Bible is error free then when an error is obvious they blame it on copyists. They say not to interpret the Bible that it should be literal but when a contradiction is presented they interpret their way out of it.
While epistemology is wonderful philosophical endeavor I’m not much of a proponent. I don’t need anyone to tell me how I should arrive at my knowledge and what my knowledge means. I look at what is available and I make my own conclusions. No single person influences me.
CLAY: “I say all this for one reason, namely, that the Christian theory of knowledge has just as much right to be accepted in the arena of ideas as yours.”
What exactly is the Christian theory of knowledge? Epistemology does not necessarily equate to Christian thought. Epistemology is simply a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity. Any specific association to Christianity is self-assigned. Why does the Christian feel a necessity to formulate a theory of knowledge that they can “call their own”? Knowledge is knowledge – why is there a need for separation?
CLAY: “You cannot look down your nose at my position or me. Saying that my “God is impotent” and words like “gullible” when attributed to my belief system is juvenile and emotional, and it’s harmful to our discussion.”
Those are my views and you only find them “juvenile” because they do not agree with your views. The Christian God, if he exists, is impotent and not worthy of worship. Where is God? If he’s really there why have the biblical miracles disappeared? Why does he not reveal himself? When debating the issue of faith a while ago with some fellow atheists we concluded that atheism does require some element of faith. It takes an element of faith to say with 100% certainty that a god cannot exist. The god in particular that we were discussing is the impotent God that created the universe then walked away and could care less about what happened. It was jokingly said that a great Supreme Being was walking along one day and had a bit of flatulence. This incredible Big Bang of methane created the known universe. He then went on to his universal sofa, popped a beer, and is watching cosmic soap operas. We affectionately call him the Universal God of Flatulence and Sofa-Sitting, or UGFSS for short.
It is my view that religion is an issue of gullibility. If you find that statement to be “emotional”, then so be it. I make that statement (and have that view) because of all the research I have done and what I have encountered in my lifetime. As I stated before I have no intention of watering down my views in order to appease the sensitivity of others. For example, let’s look at some of the things you have said:
CLAY: “I respect it, but genuinely wonder if Christianity will ever get a fair shake with you.”
You assume that Christianity deserves a “fair shake” at me in the first place.
CLAY: “Hopefully, his motives were good, i.e., concern for your soul as he faithfully bore witness to the Gospel of Grace.”
You make the fatal mistake that so many Christians have made (and why they have become targets) – that people actually want to hear the Gospel. You assume that my soul is in jeopardy and needs concern. Guilty until proven innocent?
CLAY: “Mr. Scott, I say that your worldview will collapse in on itself.”
CLAY: “People whom carry this to its logical conclusion are in jail or committed or dead. Do you really believe this?”
So my atheistic views are criminal?
CLAY: “You cannot choose Atheism based on its intellectual appeal for there is none.”
Just as much of a personal conclusion as I made regarding theism to be for the gullible and a psychological need.
CLAY: “Your marriage to this position hinders your intellect and blinds you from the evidence…or lack thereof.”
Funny, exactly what I said about creationism.
Are we not both doing the same thing? Are we not both present our personal views and ideas?
CLAY: “Mr. Scott, I say that your worldview will collapse in on itself. I say this because you have belief, a component of the theory of knowledge, the theory of justification, inconsistent with your beginning materialist, closed system philosophy.”
Why do you assume that my philosophy is materialistic and closed?
CLAY: “I say that your whole approach to epistemology won’t hold up. Why? For one, you say that “we are each our own ultimate authority”. How can this be and we still maintain a common foundation of truth, logic, and theory of knowledge? People whom carry this to its logical conclusion are in jail or committed or dead. Do you really believe this?”
My approach to epistemology has held up rather well and continues to hold up. I said that we are each our own ultimate authority because there is no God above us. But we are social animals and, as I indicated in the response to you about morality, those societies justify morality and sustain morality. By doing so also establish other standards such as science, religion, philosophy, etc.
I do not “believe” that. I have come to that conclusion based on what I have seen and done.
CLAY: “Secondly, to call the Bible “an error-filled mythological account with some historical insignificata” is an emotional value judgment that doesn’t sound rational.”
Of course it sounds emotional and judgmental to you – it is attacking the very foundation of your faith and placing you on the defensive. My statement about the Bible is accurate. The Bible is full of errors, contradictions, and inconsistencies. There are numerous mythological accounts in the Bible. There is some historical insignificata (such as the names of cities and actual historical characters). Therefore, the statement of “an error-filled mythological account with some historical insignificata,” is an accurate statement.
In my view to read the Bible and walk away without seeing the errors, inconsistencies, and contradictions and denying the evidence to the contrary is a betrayal of intellectual integrity and is not rational. Each of us has come to the same conclusion – that each other are irrational. We’ve made a lot of progress here, haven’t we?
CLAY: “Your saying that “there are no beliefs involved with atheism” commits you to a worldview, a commitment from which you depart in your approach, as evidenced by your free admission to hold conscience and morality.”
You’re really having a hard time understanding what atheism is. Atheism is nothing more than the lack of belief in a god and supernatural beings. That’s it. That is the only thing that ties atheists together is the lack of belief in a god. There are no beliefs involved with atheism. That does not imply that an atheist cannot have beliefs. It means that atheism is not about beliefs – but the lack thereof – when regarding gods and supernatural beings.
Atheism does not commit me or any other atheists to a worldview. There are atheists that do have a worldview – but it does not ride hand-in-hand with atheism.
I have beliefs (not many, though). If you ask me if I “believe in” something I will more than likely tell you no. People “believe” in God, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. Belief is a very potent word and insinuates a lot when used. I have come to many conclusions about life, morality, science, theology, philosophy, et al based on what I have researched, learned, experienced, seen, etc. I can say that I believe in the Constitution. I can say that I believe in Capitalism. But when I say those things I’m not really talking about a “belief”, per say, but more of an understanding and acceptance. I am saying that I appreciate and acknowledge those things and have come to the conclusion that they deserve my support. It’s just easier to say I believe in them.
I know atheists that believe in UFOs. I know atheists that believe in ghosts. I know atheist that believe in astrology. The only thing that ties them together is the lack of belief regarding gods and supernatural beings.
CLAY: “I believe that you have borrowed some capital from Western Theism, particularly Judeo- Christianity.”
Since I was a Christian in my early years – that is highly likely. But it is also irrelevant to the issue.
CLAY: “Further, some potpourri: you are aware, for instance, that the Resurrection doesn’t depend upon inerrancy?”
Then why are apologists, Biblicists, and fundamentalists so keen on defending it and proving inerrancy? Because if the Resurrection fails then so does the very foundation of Christianity. If Christ was not resurrected then what’s the point? That shows he was a man and not the Son of God. The Resurrection is extremely dependant upon inerrancy.
CLAY: “Another; Christianity doesn’t rely on councils. Councils can provide good insight and summarize positions, but they are not authoritative.”
It was the Council of Nicea that formulated and introduced the Triune God that you claim to follow. Had the Council decided to keep Jesus as a man instead of God in the Flesh you would be worshiping a Bi-God instead of a Trinity. The Creed of Nicea is still recited to this day. While modern councils may be nothing more than a political show of arms – the councils of ancient times built the very stage that you dance upon – and even choreographed your moves.
CLAY: “More, I say that, as mentioned earlier in a discussion of textual criticism, Golding’s argument is pooh-pooh and has been proved wrong by Guthrie, just to name one.”
Guthrie has not proved Golding to be wrong. Guthrie has simply presented his views and used what I guess you would call the Christian Theory of Knowledge to “reduce” Golding’s argument. While Guthrie’s arguments sound formidable they are nothing more than wanton rationalizations and justifications that amount to nothing more than personal opinion. You can go to hundreds of Christian archives and retrieve the same information that Golding presents. The information is historical and documented in a letter by Alexander to his home. Arius and the Arians documented the events leading up to the Council and the events afterwards because of the exile of Arius (as he disagreed with the founding of the Trinity).
CLAY: “Are you really serious about me following your reasoning when you freely admit, “we know that a belief in god is a psychological necessary for humanity” – a devastating admission!”
Yes I am serious. I take this issue very seriously. Take any Humanities class and this information is discussed. I also covered the subject in minor detail when I posted from my web page earlier. Scientists have also identified a part of the brain associated with religious thought – lovingly called the God Module. This is not something to be ashamed of nor is it mean to berate. I am simply stating what I know and what my view is.
CLAY: “But the final “God is not in outer space…he simply is nonexistent”…this is belief and it has no basis in observation.”
On the contrary it has everything to do with observation. I cannot smell God. I cannot hear God. I cannot taste God. I cannot see God. I cannot touch God. There is evidence against the very definitions of the Christian God and almost every other defined God. There is only one god that when I say it doesn’t exist requires faith – and that is the UGFSS. It is my observations that have led me to the conclusion (not belief) that God does not exist. The likelihood and probability of specifically the Christian God existing are less than 1%.
CLAY: “Of particular note, I am disturbed by your popular belief in the theory of evolution, a philosophically flawed “theory.””
So it’s okay for you to feel “disturbed” by my “belief” in a theory that you consider to be flawed but when I assert that religion is a psychological necessity and there are many flaws of the Bible it is juvenile and full of emotionalism? I feel so much better knowing that.
Since you have made that statement I’m going to assume that your knowledge of the evolutionary facts and supporting theory are elementary at best. To look at Biblical creation and evolution side by side and still choose creationism is to forsake one’s intellectual integrity. There is simply no comparison whatsoever.
CLAY: “Your argument must admit that this is still theory as no transitional forms are documented.”
Incorrect. There are multitudes of transitional fossils. What type of transitionals are you looking for? Are you looking for the elusive cat-dog or fish-lizard?
CLAY: “No answer for biogenesis exists.”
CLAY: “The second law of thermodynamics has not been reversed.”
The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics does not apply to life. Nor does it contradict the evolutionary or cosmological theories. This statement clearly shows a misunderstanding of the Laws of Thermodynamics and especially the 2nd Law. I have been debating a hardcore creationist that has conceded the fact that the 2nd Law does not conflict with evolutionary theory. He could not deny the formulas and evidence and still maintain his intellectual integrity. You can read the debate at Atheism Awareness.
Each of your “arguments” against evolutionary fact and theory have been addressed and shown to be invalid. I suggest you look further into the issue. A good place to start is the Talk Origins Archive.
I don’t want to get into another Evolution vs. Creationism debate here. I’ve already got a very long one going that is VERY involved and detailed. I also have a simplified one with a “beginner”. That doesn’t even include my numerous debates on the Forums and at local events.
CLAY: “Maybe you have been digesting the wrong sources?”
If you consider sources like William Arndt, Harold Lindsell, Charles Ryrie, James Boice, James Packer, Clark Pinnock, Gleason Archer, Josh McDowell, Don Stewart, Richard Sisson, David O’Brien, Maurice Baucaille, E. M. Blaiklock, Norman Ward, Peter Ruckman, Vernon McGee, Norman Geisler, Oscar Culmann, Robert Mounce, Dwight Pentecost, M. R. DeHaan, Henry Morris, Martin Clark, James Sire, R. C. Sproul, Kenneth Boa, and Larry Moody (to name a few) to be the wrong sources for the Christian perspective – then sure.
CLAY: “I think that Atheism is intellectually appealing to you because you choose it to be.”
Atheism is intellectually appealing to me because I refuse to forsake my intellectual integrity and forsake truth for mythology. You bet I choose it to be.
CLAY: “A Christian’s only personal comparison is to be made with Jesus, from whom every one of us falls woefully short. Let Christ be the example. Our goal as Christians is, after all, to become more and more like him and less like our sinful selves.”
Too bad Jesus wasn’t a very good moral example himself.
CLAY: “A Christian has no moral high ground over another human.”
If only you can convince the rest of Christianity about this. If only the conversion process and the corruption by missionaries would cease at the realization of that very statement.
CLAY: “In my heart and mind, I have no moral superiority over you. Only Jesus Christ does, and it is His life that compels us to witness to His Truth.”
Jesus has no moral superiority over me, either. He was just as corrupt as the next Tom, Dick, and Harry. It’s in the Bible – but most Christians refuse to see it. There are accounts in the Bible that place Jesus in a not-so-perfect position of immorality. If you have to ask me to give you the scriptures then you have not really read the Bible or you have subconsciously overlooked these passages in order to maintain your faith and deny your intellectual integrity.
CLAY: “I cannot argue you to this conclusion, for it is not within my power to do so, only God’s, but I can define logical arguments that reasonably show that Christianity is not the foolish mistake you unfairly present it to be.”
You have yet to do so. Christianity will ultimately fall among the other religions in the theistic graveyard. It won’t be long before Yahweh and Jesus are sitting next to Jupiter, Zeus, Thor, Ares, Ra, Horus, Mithras, and Mother Earth. To be discussed in a High School mythology class. Even as we speak Christianity is on the decline and non-theistic spiritualism is on the rise. It is only in the United States were the gullibility remains so high. Religiously speaking we are ranked next to Bangladesh when it comes to our views on science. We are the only industrialized nation that still has a large population that believes in literal creationism. We are a culture of gullibility. From Christianity to Astronomy to Psychic Hot Lines. It’s an intellectual shame and rather embarrassing. The British have no concept of fundamentalism and don’t understand what is going on over here. It’s rather ironic don’t you think, that Americans are fleeing for England to escape religious persecution?
CLAY: “History is replete with excellent Christian minds, from Augustine to Anselm to Aquinas, to name three foundational contributors.”
History is also replete with excellent Atheist minds, Muslim minds, Hindu minds, Jewish minds, etc. Just because there were wise Christians does not make Christianity any truer.
CLAY: “Have you read Augustine’s Confessions?”
I live 15 minutes from St. Augustine, Florida. Every bookstore down there sold his works. I’ve read Confessions and The Literal Meaning of Genesis.
CLAY: “But there are many others, men who were brilliant, men who gave us the patterns from which we consciously or subconsciously approach our modern world. And they were ancient Christian apologists. Are you saying that they were foolish in their conclusions?”
Their acts and achievement were not necessarily foolish. I don’t condemn the works of Isaac Newton and his contributions to physics just because he was a deist. His belief in a god, as a deist, was foolish – but at least he was intellectually honest with himself and admitted the faults in Christianity. His faith had a major grip on him though and he could not shake it. So he adopted a deistic view and left Christianity behind him. I think most Christians would be amazed to find out just how many people they claim were Christians were actually deists or Unitarians.
CLAY: “Am I? For I, like they, have banked my entire life on the Truth of the Bible and the reality that a Triune Personal God stands behind eternity. The stakes are high. Let’s stop the games.”
Since you have gagged me from presenting my opinions and views because you find them juvenile then I guess I cannot answer that question. But what the hell… Yes. I find your belief in the Triune God of Christianity to be foolish and a break in your intellectual integrity.
The stakes are only high in your view because you consider yourself eternally damned to the pits of hell unless you follow the teachings of your God and bow before him in submissiveness. You’ve mentioned several times my “attacking Christianity”. Christianity does not stand by itself (it just has the loudest mouth in the group). Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Shamanism, African Religions, Gnosticism, Hasidism, Jainism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, North American Indian Religions, Protestantism, Quakerism, Catholicism, Seventh-Day Adventism, Shakers, Sikhism, Sufism, Tantrism, Taoism, and Zen all stand next to Christianity in the booth of psychological necessity.
I never heard back from Clay.