Debate 025: Glen and Blair discuss basic Christianity

“Glen” (real name not used) is a former Atheist. Glen converted to Christianity six months ago. Glen used to run a freethought group in Alabama, but agreed to stop running it if I debated him. I agreed. Glen offered the first volley.

I must admit that I was rather disappointed with Glen’s first volley. I expected better from a former Atheist. In my experiences, I have found that so-called former Atheists were often very weak Atheists, were theists simply “mad at God,” or were borderline agnostics or pantheists, and not as educated on the issues of Atheism versus theism.

 

Glen Rebuttal #001:

I will be affirming the reasonableness of Theism and Christianity as an alternative to Atheism/Materialism.

Some opening remarks:

These arguments are not offered as the main reasons for belief, but presented as aids to remove barriers of doubt or confusion so that our natural will to believe and faith can take over and grow. The Bible, the Gospels, and the community of faith is the main substance and goals of belief.

These arguments for belief in God, etc. as the ultimate basis for human existance are not presented as replacements to scientific theories and do not preclude secular pursuit of explainations, just as science can not give us ultimate or spiritual truth.

Cosmological Arguments:

Everything we know of in the material universe has a begining and end. We know of nothing finite, temperial and material exempt from this principle. Evidence for a “Big Bang point to a beginning for creation. This points to a time, before which there was nothing. How do we propose to show the origin of something from nothing? A transcendent creator is the only satisfying solution to this dilemma.

Would not the Creator equal or surpass its highest creature: humanity with its facilities for intelligence, love, and justice?

Our ability to concieve of the universe as different or not existing points to the condition of its contingent finite nature, in need of an absolute, necessary, infinite creator beyond itself.

The fundamental forces of nature and the properties of subatomic particals are such that if they were slightly different it would make the existence and evolution of life impossible. Science has not discovered a reason for this, it is a fact most easily accounted for by an intelligent creator.

Arguments from Human Experience:

How can we have a sense of moral right and wrong over and against our own desires and those more powerful than us without a God that has made us with this capacity? While science may be able to show our physical evolution and account for our basic mental powers deriving from a lower primate, our higher abstract reasoning and desire for justice go beyond what can be explained by natural selection. The moral sense in us and enshrinded in religion points to a basis for right and wrong beyond what we desire and what would be dictated by survival of the fittest.

Christian beliefs:

Miracles are not an impossibility or irrational if there is a personal creator existing beyond the natural realm. Supernatural claims are only impossible in a closed material system. They can not be ruled out on a metaphysical basis without a philosopical bias that goes beyond what the facts show.

Natural laws (such as gravity, etc.) do not prevent an intelligence from acting to change a course of events. Laws of nature can only provide absolute predictions under specific conditions.

Regarding the central christian claim about Christ, If he had not been raised from the dead then you must account for reports of his appearences with more improbable claims of mass hallucinations, etc. People proclaiming his resurrection would have faced dangers from persecution, why would the first Christians have done this for what they knew was a lie? How could christianity have gotten started with a failed Messiah without the resurrection? Can you name any successful religious movements based on failed messiahs? There were several failed Jewish Messiahs, Why did not Christianity meet the same fate as them unless it was true.

Paul claimed to have been a Jewish opponent of the early Church, yet he converted and passed on the churces earliest claims about Jesus’s post crucifixian appearences within 10 years of jesus’s death. Why could not Jewish opponents of Jesus not have discounted his claims or those of his followers?

Logic of belief:

No single person can investigate and study every subject to the point of near certainty on all claims. Most knowledge will be in the form of beliefs based on outside sources. Beliefs are justified in light of:

  1. The source being a respected authority on the claim.
  2. The claim does not conflict with first hand knowledge, logic, or prier deeply held convictions.
  3. The claim is of ultimate concern, involves ultimate risk or rewards and a decision one way or the other is required.

Faith commitments are deeply held beliefs involving matters of ultimate concern.

Argument from Human Experience:

Our awareness of sin or guilt, our felt need for forgiveness point to needs the Gospel addresses. Our desire for Justice or life beyond death can not be satisfied by a purely naturalistic worldview.

The shortcomings of this life can not be addressed in our present condition, why would a creature evolve that has desires out of all proportion to what can be provided for in life, unless this is not meant as the whole of existence?

 

Response to Glen #001:

GLEN: “The Bible, the Gospels, and the community of faith is the main substance and goals of belief.”

What will you have of other sacred texts and scriptures? Do you place validity and the “goal of belief” upon the sacred texts of the other religions of the world? Why are the Bible and the gospels contained therein the only reliable source for such a goal?

What is your take on the “goal of belief” for such scriptures as the Kaffir, Kebra Nagast, Koryak, Kitab-I-Aqdas, Book of Shadows, Apocrypha, Vedas, Qur’an, Akaranga Sutra, Tanakh, Upanishads, Zend-Avesta, Nihongi, Shri Guru Granth Sahib, and the Tao-te-Ching (just to name a few)?

GLEN: “These arguments for belief in God, etc. as the ultimate basis for human existence (sic) are not presented as replacements to scientific theories and do not preclude secular pursuit of explainations (sic), just as science can not give us ultimate or spiritual truth.”

If that is the case, then you cannot make the scientific claim that “God exists.” If you make god to be a fact, then that fact is testable by science. To make science ineligible to test the “fact” of god, then you must make god so obscure and obsolete that he or she becomes irrelevant to the very goal of belief. If you make fact claims as to the existence of god then I will call upon the scientific evidence to support such facts. I offer this as a warning so you are prepared to present the scientific evidence behind the scientific claim that god exists as a fact.

Items like the Virgin Birth, Immaculate Conception, resurrection and other claims that are made by religions (Christianity specifically) are testable by science because they are presented as fact to the religious community. The very effort of trying to prove a God or any of the miracles is an effort of science by the religionist. If you open such items up for scrutiny in an effort to prove them as actual, then you must be willing to open them up for scrutiny from the scientific community. The religionist can either leave his claims in the realm of faith or he or she can state them as facts and open them up to scientific investigation.

GLEN: “Everything we know of in the material universe has a begining (sic) and end. We know of nothing finite, temperial (sic) and material exempt from this principle.”

The emphasis here should be on the “we know of” section of your statement. Research into quantum physics has yielded some interesting things when it comes to the whole mindset of causation. In the world of quantum physics things at the quantum level occur without a cause – random effects. Even when it comes to the Big Bang, we only know what has occurred 10-43seconds after the Big Bang. Prior to that we have reached a mathematical and knowledge singularity. Fortunately, science does not simply return to faith in order to explain anything prior that point – science continues to look for the answer and remove the mathematical singularity.

I find it rather intriguing that creationists insist upon using the rules of science, and especially physics, in order to restrain the debate for the scientist, and yet they insist that those same rules do not apply to their specific creator. It’s a form of cheating, if you ask me. It’s akin to someone setting the rules of a game and then saying that they are exempt from those rules.

You cannot use science to justify a creator if the creator is immune to the rules of science.

GLEN: “Evidence for a “Big Bang point to a beginning for creation. This points to a time, before which there was nothing.”

This is not a factual statement. This is a statement of speculation. Scientists admit that they do not know what happened prior to the Big Bang. As I stated above, we can only go as far back as 10-43 seconds after the Big Bang. Prior to that we cannot reach mathematically. Scientists continue to research and collect data that will help them go to the Big Bang itself and before that.

Not too mention that many scientists disagree on whether the Big Bang was “the beginning” or was “another beginning” in a chain of many – a cyclic universe. Many religions also believe in a cyclic universe, so this is not a new idea at all. The evidence for the Big Bang is clear and it would be intellectually dishonest of anyone to state that the Big Bang did not occur. The Big Bang itself is a fact.

What is not a fact is what happened before the Big Bang itself. This is where creationists try to get into the game. Instead of having evidence for creation, they try to poke holes in current theories and hypotheses. What happened before the Big Bang is a hypothesis: not a theory. That is why research continues in this area. The best source of information on current theories and hypotheses as well as ongoing research is via NASA’s Origins Program (www.nasa.gov).

GLEN: “How do we propose to show the origin of something from nothing? A transcendent creator is the only satisfying solution to this dilemma.”

This is a bold assumption to make. There is zero evidence of such a creator. Let’s play along for a second and assume that such a creator exists. Which one? What would incline one to believe that such a creator is the Bible-God? Why would one assume that such a creator is the Vedas-God? Which religion can make the positive claim about the creator? Are the deists correct?

The cosmological argument (first cause) has been mulled over for thousands of years. If a god is the only satisfying answer then why is there so much argument and contention over this? Apologists still exist because none of these dilemmas have been successfully resolved, much less satisfied.

Again, we see that the argument refuses science to evaluate this creator and the creator is coincidentally and conveniently immune to the very science that the creationist insists on using to prove his or her point.

This argument also incorrectly assumes that the universe had a stagnant beginning, that it is not cyclic.

GLEN: “Would not the Creator equal or surpass its highest creature: humanity with its facilities for intelligence, love, and justice?”

This is another assumption based on a fallacy. First off, the assumption is that a creator actually exists. The second is that the creator has to surpass in human-like abilities. The only requirement for such a creator is the ability to create. Even if you could prove a creator you could never prove the human-like qualities of such a creator.

Before you could even try you have to define those qualities and establish your very definition of god the creator. Before we continue we really need to establish that. What is your definition of god the creator? What qualities does it have? Where does it live? How long has it been alive? Was it created (since science applies to all and nothing is immune)?

GLEN: “The fundamental forces of nature and the properties of subatomic particals (sic) are such that if they were slightly different it would make the existence and evolution of life impossible. Science has not discovered a reason for this, it is a fact most easily accounted for by an intelligent creator.”

This is another argument based on a false premise. The false premise is that everything in the universe is “perfectly aligned” for things to exist as they are. The problem with humans and specifically the human mind is that it wants to see patterns where there are none. This is why we see Jesus in a tortilla in Mexico City and the Virgin Mary in spilt ice cream in Paris. This is why we see shapes in the clouds and the bark of a tree. This is why we cannot recognize a concave face, because our mind cannot process it – the mind needs pattern.

The universe is actually chaotic. Random events occur all the time and disturb the apparent pattern of the universe. As humans we have a hard time thinking of time in extremely long intervals. We only see fifty or sixty years of the universe instead of billions of years. The pattern that we see is only a pattern that is in place at this time.

The universe is full of random atoms and free electrons. The universe is full of quantum physics and quantum mechanics that violate known laws. Just a few months ago scientists saw the Second Law of Thermodynamics violated on the quantum level. This is not “design,” but random chaos that we want to see design and pattern in.

We can see the chaos in earthquakes, rogue comets, stray asteroids, solar flares, volcanic eruptions, tornados, and many others. Even on the genetic level we see randomness, which is the very key to evolutionary biology. It is random chaos that drives evolution.

Even if it were conceded that such “perfect alignment” existed, it would not denote an intelligent creator. If anything it would denote an unintelligent creator. There are so many problems and idiocies that you can’t help but laugh at this so-called “intelligent” designer. As Steven Weinberg said, “Even a universe that is completely chaotic, without any laws or regularities at all, could be supposed to have been designed by an idiot.

Another assumption in this argument is that this “perfect alignment” was created in order to sustain a special creation. That’s a bold assumption, indeed. The fact that we are here is not because it was designed this way, but because it happened this way. It is the laws of the universe that have helped produce life.

It is an equally bold assumption to say that if the laws of nature were any different that life would not exist. It may be fair to say that we might not exist, but to say that nothing could exist if they were different is an assumption of the grandest scale. It’s akin to saying that life could not evolve on a planet with less or more gravity than the Earth because the Earth is somehow “special.” Life has evolved on Earth in some of the craziest places – places we never expected to find life thriving.

The quest for knowledge has eliminated a lot of things that were considered “designed.” Remember when things like rain, lightning, fire, earthquakes, and other such things were considered “designed?” Zeus designed lightning, etc. Now these things are no longer considered to be the act of design by gods, but things derived from natural phenomenon under the laws of nature.

Do you not consider it strange that a creator would design such a vast universe solely for the amusement of watching man survive on the stage with good and evil? Why go through all the hassle of creating such a vast universe? Why not just create a playground for Man and put it in a large observatory? Seems like such a waste of space for a designer. God, if he were an interior decorator, would be fired for his blatant misuse of space.

Perhaps the bigger and more important question for the creationist to answer is “Why?” Why would your god create a universe? Why would your god create life? What’s the point?

Steven Weinberg also brought up another good point, “…to conclude that the constants of nature have been fine-tuned by a benevolent designer would be like saying, “Isn’t it wonderful that God put us here on Earth, where there’s water and air and the surface gravity and temperature are so comfortable, rather some horrid place, like Mercury or Pluto?

GLEN: “How can we have a sense of moral right and wrong over and against our own desires and those more powerful than us without a God that has made us with this capacity?”

The question I am more inclined to ask is, “Why do you need a god to make you moral?” Is not the law a higher and more powerful authority than us? Does not the law of the land of a society fit such criteria? After all, no one is above the law.

The origin of morality has been a point of contention for a long time. Morality changes from society to society and era to era. What we see as immoral in the United States is seen as routine and normal in another country. What another country sees as immoral we see as perfectly normal and moral.

Where in the Bible does the Bible-God define morality, anyway? The morals of the Bible are far from our view of moral. Where is the morality in stoning people to death? Where is the morality in the trading of slaves? Where is the morality in the sacrificing of bulls because the “odor is pleasing unto the Lord, thy God.” Where is the morality in the Global Flood and the Tower of Babel?

The question you should be asking yourself is why you need a reward waved in front of you in order to behave yourself? I have to admit that I feel a sense of apathy for those that require a carrot to be wagged in front of their face in order to coerce good behavior from them. I often sense a fear from those whom I know that the only thing holding them back from being immoral is a belief in an afterlife and getting the ultimate reward for good behavior.

This is also rather ironic considering the source of this so-called morality. Nowhere in the Bible is morality defined by the Bible-God. The only things offered to man are Commandments. The Commandments are not guidelines on how to be moral – they are direct commands from a “superior officer,” if you will.

The Bible does nothing to help us with everyday moral dilemmas that we encounter in our lives. Thinking these moral dilemmas through rationally and logically is what helps us solve them. Stroking the Bible and hoping for the Bible-God to speak to you directly cannot solve situational ethics.

As for the Bible-God giving us a moral compass: where did you get such an idea? Where in the Bible does it say that the Bible-God gave us a moral compass? The knowledge of right and wrong, in the Bible, came from the Tree of Knowledge. The Bible-God denied man the knowledge of right and wrong. If you want to give credit for a moral compass in man, then you need to give that credit to the serpent in the apple tree and to the whimsical folly of Eve. If you re-read Genesis you will notice that the Bible-God was very mad that Adam & Even had gained such knowledge. That is the source of Original Sin. The Bible-God did not give man a moral compass.

GLEN: “While science may be able to show our physical evolution and account for our basic mental powers deriving from a lower primate, our higher abstract reasoning and desire for justice go beyond what can be explained by natural selection.”

That is simply not the case. Science has addressed this issue in great detail. The major turning point for human morality (more accurately the societal interpretation thereof) is based entirely on one thing: the recognition of time.

It is our recognition of time that has allowed us to develop a heightened sense of morality compared to the majority of other species. Through our recognition of time we became aware of the consequences of our actions. We became aware that plants grew seasonally and we could take advantage of that (the advent of agriculture). We became aware of the fact that death is final (the advent of burials and grieving).

Because we recognize the effects of our actions, this has given us great insight into morality. What is obvious when one looks at our laws and moral guidelines, they all resolve around the preservation of the species, which is exactly what our biological drive is. Seatbelt laws, child restraint laws, laws against murdering, and every other law ties in directly to the preservation of the species.

Our morality is the offshoot of our drive to preserve the species. Some of those morals are self-preserving, as in every biological species, and others are for the greater good of the entire species (or society, as appropriate).

Now that the human genome has been mapped, many scientists are beginning to think that a lot of morality is genetically ingrained into the human brain. The rest of morality is memetic, but the memetic morality is based entirely on the preservation of the species.

Our societal morality is also equivalent to the preservation of the species, but of a particular part of the species: clan, city, country, race, etc.

One thing that we can say for sure is that religion is not the cause of morality and does not guarantee morality. One need only look at the history of religion for confirmation of this. One need only look at prison statistics to know that religion does not cause morality. I’m not making the claim that religion makes one bad – but I am making the claim that religion does not make one good. When one’s perceived religious morality is based on a book supposedly written by a god, and that book is full of immorality, then it is easy to see why one’s religious moral compass would be out of whack.

GLEN: “The moral sense in us and enshrinded in religion points to a basis for right and wrong beyond what we desire and what would be dictated by survival of the fittest.”

I fail to see this connection at all. As I pointed out, our morality and laws derive directly from survival of the species, which derives directly from the survival of the fittest. Even the primates grieve for the death of a troop member – showing that they understand that death is final. Many primate troops, especially bonobos, have developed a social moral structure to help resolve conflicts. Elephants have shown signs of a moral compass – but creationists are quick to call such a moral compass in primates and elephants “biological instinct” and yet reject that claim when it comes to the animal homo sapiens. Why is that?

Why do creationists insist that moral behavior in other animal species is “instinct” and yet our own moral behavior is not “instinct?” Perhaps the problem is not religious morality, but the inability to recognize that the human being is an animal?

GLEN: “Miracles are not an impossibility or irrational if there is a personal creator existing beyond the natural realm.”

They are irrational if they cannot be proven. There is more evidence for cold fusion and Big Foot then there is for miracles. I don’t believe in Big Foot, so why should I believe in miracles?

Miracles speak against the very nature of Christian theology, anyway. How can we have free will if the Bible-God intervenes in our lives? If the Bible-God intervenes and gets involved in our lives then our free will is for naught. Christian theology wants it both ways: free will and godly intervention. The two contradict each other and cannot coexist peacefully.

I challenge you to present scientific evidence for one miracle.

GLEN: “Supernatural claims are only impossible in a closed material system. They can not be ruled out on a metaphysical basis without a philosopical (sic) bias that goes beyond what the facts show.”

Is the universe a closed material system in your view?

Nothing can be ruled out on a metaphysical basis. We know that. The burden you have is not to prove that the impossible can happen in the metaphysical. Your burden is to prove that the metaphysical exists in the first place.

Philosophically and rationally we know that miracles are impossible. There is not one single documented miracle that has been proven scientifically. There are no videos, pictures, or evidence of miracles anywhere. There are a lot of so-called miracles from the past that were never properly investigated, and those are the ones that seem to perpetuate in Christian mythology. Modern claims of miracles are disproved on a monthly basis around the world. Most are found to be frauds and the rest are found to be normal phenomenon.

I find it rather funny sometimes to listen to Christians (or any other religious group) after a disaster. There are fifty dead bodies splayed out in the street and the sole survivor states, “It’s a miracle! God saved me from dying!”

Miracle? If God intervened at all he should be held accountable – not given a thumbs-up for sparing a single life.

GLEN: “Natural laws (such as gravity, etc.) do not prevent an intelligence from acting to change a course of events. Laws of nature can only provide absolute predictions under specific conditions.”

Laws of nature on a quantum level cannot provide absolute predictions under specific conditions. What about unspecific conditions?

If “an intelligence” intervenes then that intelligence should leave a fingerprint that can be identified and tested. If “an intelligence” intervenes in our personal lives and changes events then time has no meaning, free will has no meaning, and life has no meaning. What is the point of life if our destiny is already pre-programmed by the great designer in the sky? What is the point of life and making decisions if at any time the creator can jump in and screw it all up for us?

Do you not find it rather strange that miracles always happen in trailer parks? Do you not find it rather strange that miracles always happen in the backyards of crazy old coots? Do you not find it rather strange that miracles always happen in places where they are not needed?

Where was the miracle on 9/11? Where was the miracle during the Holocaust? Oh yeah… those were Jews – they weren’t privy to miracles from the Christian version of the Bible-God. But I digress…

GLEN: “Regarding the central christian (sic) claim about Christ, If he had not been raised from the dead then you must account for reports of his appearences (sic) with more improbable claims of mass hallucinations, etc.”

Can you provide any witnesses to such? The gospels were written a minimum 40 years after the supposed death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a common misconception that the apostles/disciples wrote the gospels, but that is not the case. The church assigned the names attributed to the gospels in the late 4th Century. The church guessed.

There is not a single non-Biblical witness to the life and after-life of Jesus. Nowhere in history is there any documented case of Jesus by any writer or historian of that time. When Jesus gave up the ghost and the ground shook and opened up and the skies turned dark… no one seemed to notice. Not a single Roman or Jewish writer or historian noticed that Jesus was walking among them and performing miracles. None of them noticed that Rome had crucified Jesus. None of them noticed his ghost walking around after three days.

The story of Jesus is a mythological tale based on the stories of many Pagan religions. I used to think that Jesus was at least a historical person – a rabbi, perhaps. Then I actually did the research. The only logical conclusion I could make and maintain my intellectual honesty was to conclude that Jesus was 100% myth.

If you want to get into the historicity of Jesus, please let me know. I’m well versed on the subject and have read many books by believers and non-believers. I have also attended lectures by the Jesus Seminar. When I looked into the historicity of Jesus I did not take it lightly.

GLEN: “People proclaiming his resurrection would have faced dangers from persecution, why would the first Christians have done this for what they knew was a lie?”

Why would they know it was a lie? How many people believe in UFO abductions? Not all of the UFO abduction believers have been actually abducted.

If your argument is that willingness to die for a cause makes the cause true, then you must concede that the following causes are true because of the willingness of their followers to die:

  • Nazi Germany
  • Pol Pot
  • David Koresh
  • Heaven’s Gate
  • Islam and suicide bombers
  • Taliban

I could name a lot more, but I think you get the point. Willingness to die for one’s beliefs does not make those beliefs true. If it did then every belief held by humans at one time or another would be true. Men died for their belief in Zeus because they thought it to be true. Men died for Mithras because they believed his death and resurrection to be true. Men died for Isis because they thought his resurrection and the Second Coming were true.

You must also take into consideration the advancement of science. 2,000 years ago the age of skepticism was not even in consideration. There was no reason to doubt claims of miracles, paranormal activity, or supernatural intervention. Every religion of the time had miracle claims, virgin births, resurrections, second comings, and other familiar themes. There was no reason for them to doubt another religion making the same claims.

GLEN: “How could christianity (sic) have gotten started with a failed Messiah without the resurrection? Can you name any successful religious movements based on failed messiahs?”

Christianity was nothing more than an obscure sect of Judaism for almost 300 years. It was not the resurrection or the truth of the theology that set it up as the “up-and-comer” of the new millennia. What established Christianity was the declaration by Emperor Constantine that Christianity was the “official” religion of Rome. Without that most scholars agree that Christianity would probably have not survived. Christianity has a Pagan Roman Emperor to thank for its longevity.

As to successful religious movements based on messiahs, there are several that survive to this day. The most prominent messiah-based religion is Hinduism.

GLEN: “There were several failed Jewish Messiahs, Why did not Christianity meet the same fate as them unless it was true.”

As I said above, the reason for the success of Christianity was not its theological truthfulness, but the aid of a Pagan Roman Emperor. Of course the aid of the Roman Emperor Constantine was the final step in the success of Christianity. The first step was the demise of the Temple at the hands of the Romans. Prior to the destruction of the Temple, Christianity was nothing but a sect of Judaism – not even referred to as Christianity. The Temple priests kept the sect in check. With the destruction of the Temple came the destruction of the Jewish hierarchy. There was no one to keep the Jesus sect in check and it expanded. It is for this reason that the majority of the gospels originate after 70 AD – after the destruction of the temple.

GLEN: “Paul claimed to have been a Jewish opponent of the early Church, yet he converted and passed on the churces (sic) earliest claims about Jesus’s (sic) post crucifixian (sic) appearences (sic) within 10 years of jesus’s (sic) death. Why could not Jewish opponents of Jesus not have discounted his claims or those of his followers?”

Do you know why the Jewish priests denied Jesus? Do you know why the Jews still reject the messianic claims of Jesus’ modern-day followers? Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy of the Tanakh (Jewish “Bible”). The Jews were waiting for a sword-wielding messiah to deliver them from their oppressors. The prophecies were very clear about what the messiah would and would not be. The prophecy was clear that the messiah would be human – not the Son of God. No messiah would be the Son of God. Any messiah claiming to be the Son of God or God himself was a false messiah.

Jesus didn’t get in trouble because he upset the money tables at the temple or spoke about the “greater commandments” or any of that. Jesus got in trouble because he was being called the “Son of God,” which made him a false messiah under the prophecy.

GLEN: “No single person can investigate and study every subject to the point of near certainty on all claims.”

That is why we make our conclusions based on what we know – not on what we don’t know. You have no evidence of God, and yet you make the claim that God exists. You are basing your conclusions on what you don’t know.

I will at least grant you the possibility of a god existing. I’ll also grant you the possibility that Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFO abductions, pink unicorns, Leprechauns, and elves exist, too. We can believe in the possible or we can accept the probable. God is possible, but he is not probable. There is no evidence to support belief in god; therefore there is no reason to believe in god.

GLEN: “Beliefs are justified in light of: […] 3. The claim is of ultimate concern, involves ultimate risk or rewards and a decision one way or the other is required. […] Faith commitments are deeply held beliefs involving matters of ultimate concern.”

I disagree with your assessment that a belief is justified if it relates to your #3. By that very logic then Nazism is a justified belief system.

Even if the belief were justified, it does not make the belief true. Horoscopes meet the requirement of your #3. Are they true because over 70% of Americans read and believe them?

GLEN: “Our awareness of sin or guilt, our felt need for forgiveness point to needs the Gospel addresses.”

Elaborate on this, please. Why do you feel that the gospels address such?

GLEN: “Our desire for Justice or life beyond death can not be satisfied by a purely naturalistic worldview.”

Our desire to win the lottery cannot be satisfied by a purely naturalistic worldview, either. Whether or not our desires can be addressed by a worldview does not make an alternate worldview true. I desire to be rich and perfectly healthy in a world that is totally peaceful without disease and conflict. Does that mean I should forsake reality for an imaginary world that makes me feel better about my desires?

Our desire for justice is reflected in our man-made (thus natural) legal system. Our desires for life after death are just that – desires. We recognize that our life is a one-way trip (because of our recognition of time) and we don’t like that. Some of us deal with it and others make up stories about an afterlife where life goes on for eternity while groveling at the feet of a deity in white robes with angels and cherubs playing harps and streets of gold.

Sure it all sounds nice and wouldn’t it be great if it were true – but desiring it does not make it true.

GLEN: “The shortcomings of this life can not be addressed in our present condition, why would a creature evolve that has desires out of all proportion to what can be provided for in life, unless this is not meant as the whole of existence?”

Have you ever seen a monkey trap itself because of desire? If you place a piece of salt into a tube and basin, the monkey will reach into the tube and grab the salt in the basin. Unfortunately, he cannot get his hand out of the tube because it is balled up around the block of salt. The monkey will starve itself to death before it ever realizes that all he has to do is release the salt to get his hand out of the tube.

Are you suggesting that because the monkey has desires out of proportion to what can be provided that the monkey has an existence beyond this life?

My desires can be provided for in this life. I have no desire to live in an afterlife. I have a hard enough time staying entertained as it is now – what the heck am I supposed to do for eternity? ;-)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – desire for an afterlife does not make an afterlife true. Desire for things beyond this world does not make a creator true.

I would like to ask you a couple of personal questions. You are under no obligation to respond, but I personally think they are relevant to this conversation. If you disagree you are more than welcome to disregard them.

You mentioned that you converted to Christianity about six months ago. You also mentioned that you got divorced six months ago: coincidence or connection?

 

Glen Rebuttal #002:

BLAIR: “Do you place validity and the “goal of belief” upon the sacred texts of the other religions of the world? Why are the Bible and the gospels contained therein the only reliable source for such a goal? What is your take on the “goal of belief” for such scriptures as the Kaffir, Kebra Nagast, Koryak, Kitab-I-Aqdas, Book of Shadows, Apocrypha, Vedas, Qur’an, Akaranga Sutra, Tanakh, Upanishads, Zend-Avesta, Nihongi, Shri Guru Granth Sahib, and the Tao-te-Ching?”

Insofar as these other religions conflict with Christianity and each other, only one can be true and since I am a Christian I am only concerned with its truth.

BLAIR: “…you cannot make the scientific claim that “God exists.” If you make god to be a fact, then that fact is testable by science.”

I am not trying to put the concept of God forward as a scientific fact or theory, but as a valid philosophical explaination. I don’t think God can be found under a microscope, or in a test tube, or through a telescope. But the facts of science can be used to argue for or against an intelligent cause for reality.

BLAIR: “Items like the Virgin Birth, Immaculate Conception, resurrection and other claims that are made by religions (Christianity specifically) are testable by science because they are presented as fact.”

Actually those are miracle claims in the distant past, so they can not be tested today like what a rock is made of. All we know of these events are what has been written down and like other recorded events from the past must be judged by historical research.

BLAIR: “The emphasis here should be on the “we know of” section of your statement. Research into quantum physics has yielded some interesting things when it comes to the whole mindset of causation. In the world of quantum physics things at the quantum level occur without a cause – random effects. science does not simply return to faith in order to explain anything prior that point – science continues to look for the answer and remove the mathematical singularity.”

saying the Big Bang was caused by a quantum event, is just as speculative as inferring an intelligent first cause, we have never observed this cause for something like the Big Bang, there is no evidence for quantum physics as a cause for the Big Bang.

BLAIR: “You cannot use science to justify a creator if the creator is immune to the rules of science.”

Like I said I am positing God as a credible philosophical concept, not a scientific theory for events inside the universe.

BLAIR: “Not too mention that many scientists disagree on whether the Big Bang was “the beginning” or was “another beginning” in a chain of many – a cyclic universe. Many religions also believe in a cyclic universe, so this is not a new idea at all. The evidence for the Big Bang is clear and it would be intellectually dishonest of anyone to state that the Big Bang did not occur. The Big Bang itself is a fact.”

I do not dispute the Big Bang theory, I just think a creator is a reasonable cause for it.

BLAIR: “This is a bold assumption to make. There is zero evidence of such a creator. Let’s play along for a second and assume that such a creator exists. Which one?”

As far as the truth of theism any name for God works for me.

BLAIR: “This argument also incorrectly assumes that the universe had a stagnant beginning, that it is not cyclic.”

There problems with a cyclic view of origins, such as the 2nd law of thermodynamics, also it just results in an infinite regress of causes with no real explaination of the fact of the universes existence and its properties.

BLAIR: “The second is that the creator has to surpass in human-like abilities. The only requirement for such a creator is the ability to create. Even if you could prove a creator you could never prove the human-like qualities of such a creator.

Would not a creator equal or surpass what it creates?

BLAIR: “Before you could even try you have to define those qualities and establish your very definition of god the creator. Before we continue we really need to establish that. What is your definition of god the creator? What qualities does it have? Where does it live? How long has it been alive? Was it created (since science applies to all and nothing is immune)?”

God would be the creator, he would be eternal otherwise he would not be God, a created creator would not be God, like a married person would not be a bachelor, it’s a self contradiction.

BLAIR: “The false premise is that everything in the universe is “perfectly aligned” for things to exist as they are. The problem with humans and specifically the human mind is that it wants to see patterns where there are none. This is why we see Jesus in a tortilla in Mexico City and the Virgin Mary in spilt ice cream in Paris. This is why we see shapes in the clouds and the bark of a tree.”

I am not refering to patterns, but the properties of subatomic particals and the strengths of fundamental forces, if these were changed we could not exist, why do they assume these properties? Changing the laws of nature would effect things like Solar output or the ability of carbon atoms to link up. Without a certain range of values in the laws of nature life would be physically impossible.

BLAIR: “Perhaps the bigger and more important question for the creationist to answer is “Why?” Why would your god create a universe? Why would your god create life? What’s the point?”

For his own glory and to share existence with us.

BLAIR: “The question I am more inclined to ask is, “Why do you need a god to make you moral?” Is not the law a higher and more powerful authority than us? Does not the law of the land of a society fit such criteria? After all, no one is above the law.”

Laws just make things legal or illegal. They reflect what a society thinks is right or wrong. Surely passing a law does not automatically make something right. People have a sense of what is right and wrong over and against what they desire or what a group desires.

BLAIR: “Where in the Bible does the Bible-God define morality, anyway? The morals of the Bible are far from our view of moral. Where is the morality in stoning people to death? Where is the morality in the trading of slaves? Where is the morality in the sacrificing of bulls because the “odor is pleasing unto the Lord, thy God.” Where is the morality in the Global Flood and the Tower of Babel?”

The Bible does proscribe morality in some of the 10 commandments, the Golden Rule, Proverbs, etc. These other things you list are just social, economic, or religious customs, they can and do change.

BLAIR: “The question you should be asking yourself is why you need a reward waved in front of you in order to behave yourself?”

I never said we needed a reward to be moral, I think Christianity does proscribe good actions because they are good not because of a reward.

BLAIR: “Our morality is the offshoot of our drive to preserve the species. Some of those morals are self-preserving, as in every biological species, and others are for the greater good of the entire species (or society, as appropriate).”

Morality proscribes our relations with God and other people, survival of the species is something else, it’s a biological necessity, its important, but morality is what we do over and above survival, maybe even in spite of survival.

BLAIR: “Miracles speak against the very nature of Christian theology, anyway. How can we have free will if the Bible-God intervenes in our lives? If the Bible-God intervenes and gets involved in our lives then our free will is for naught. I challenge you to present scientific evidence for one miracle.”

Miracles do not alter your actions, they just add on new objects and events.

BLAIR: “Philosophically and rationally we know that miracles are impossible. There is not one single documented miracle that has been proven scientifically. There are no videos, pictures, or evidence of miracles anywhere. There are a lot of so-called miracles from the past that were never properly investigated, and those are the ones that seem to perpetuate in Christian mythology. Modern claims of miracles are disproved on a monthly basis around the world. Most are found to be frauds and the rest are found to be normal phenomenon.”

There may be a lack of enough evidence for miracles for you, but this does not make them impossible. “A sufficently advanced intelligence can do things that would be indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke.

BLAIR: “Where was the miracle on 9/11? Where was the miracle during the Holocaust?”

Those are are evil human acts not miracles.

BLAIR: “Can you provide any witnesses to such? The gospels were written a minimum 40 years after the supposed death and resurrection of Jesus.”

Paul wrote in the 40s and 50s and he passed on accounts about the resurrection from the first Christians that knew Jesus, like Peter and James, as well as his own account, thats closer in time to 30 AD than the Gospels. Except for political and military leaders I doubt you have many accounts from that time about any first century person.

BLAIR: “There is not a single non-Biblical witness to the life and after-life of Jesus. Nowhere in history is there any documented case of Jesus by any writer or historian of that time. The story of Jesus is a mythological tale based on the stories of many Pagan religions. I used to think that Jesus was at least a historical person – a rabbi, perhaps. Then I actually did the research. The only logical conclusion I could make and maintain my intellectual honesty was to conclude that Jesus was 100% myth.”

There are two references by Josephus a Jewish historian but this is disputed, I think Tacitus refers to Jesus and his followers but thats 115 AD. http://www.tektonics.org/jesusexisthub.html

BLAIR: “If you want to get into the historicity of Jesus, please let me know. I’m well versed on the subject and have read many books by believers and non-believers. I have also attended lectures by the Jesus Seminar. When I looked into the historicity of Jesus I did not take it lightly.”

Tell me how many Biblical scholars liberal or otherwise, from the Jesus Seminar or not that reject at least a human Jesus. I know of 2 or 3.

BLAIR: “Why would they know it was a lie? How many people believe in UFO abductions? Not all of the UFO abduction believers have been actually abducted. If your argument is that willingness to die for a cause makes the cause true, then you must concede that the following causes are true because of the willingness of their followers to die:”

My point is that the very first Christians, Jesus’s followers like James, Peter and Paul would have been in a position to know if the Resurrection was true of false, yet they were willing to put themselves in danger for preaching what you say is false.

BLAIR: “Christianity was nothing more than an obscure sect of Judaism for almost 300 years. It was not the resurrection or the truth of the theology that set it up as the “up-and-comer” of the new millennia. What established Christianity was the declaration by Emperor Constantine that Christianity was the “official” religion of Rome.”

Christianity was becoming a major religion before being recognized by Rome, otherwise it would have made no sense for Constantine to recognize it.

BLAIR: “As I said above, the reason for the success of Christianity was not its theological truthfulness, but the aid of a Pagan Roman Emperor. Of course the aid of the Roman Emperor Constantine was the final step in the success of Christianity. The first step was the demise of the Temple at the hands of the Romans. Prior to the destruction of the Temple, Christianity was nothing but a sect of Judaism – not even referred to as Christianity.”

Paul was preaching to and converting Gentiles 15 or more years before the destruction of the Temple. It would have not mattered to Gentiles anyway.

BLAIR: “Do you know why the Jewish priests denied Jesus? Do you know why the Jews still reject the messianic claims of Jesus’ modern-day followers? Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy of the Tanakh (Jewish “Bible”).”

An article I saw 2 years ago said there was not a single view on what type of Messiah 1st century Jews expected, it argued that some did expect a suffering Messiah. Also Jesus’ first followers were Jewish so they must have thought he fullfilled the scriptures.

BLAIR: “I disagree with your assessment that a belief is justified if it relates to your #3. By that very logic then Nazism is a justified belief system. Even if the belief were justified, it does not make the belief true. Horoscopes meet the requirement of your #3. Are they true because over 70% of Americans read and believe them?”

You are ignoring points 1 and 2, I fail to see how Nazism or Astrology are of ultimate concern.

BLAIR: “Elaborate on this, please. Why do you feel that the gospels address such?”

The Gospels offer forgiveness of sin and reconcilation with God.

BLAIR: “Our desire to win the lottery cannot be satisfied by a purely naturalistic worldview, either. Whether or not our desires can be addressed by a worldview does not make an alternate worldview true. I desire to be rich and perfectly healthy in a world that is totally peaceful without disease and conflict. Does that mean I should forsake reality for an imaginary world that makes me feel better about my desires?”

You do not have to forsake reality to be a Christian, it just requires you to see our lives in a larger context. I agree that desiring something does not make it true, but ridicule and ignorence does not make it false.

BLAIR: “Have you ever seen a monkey trap itself because of desire? If you place a piece of salt into a tube and basin, the monkey will reach into the tube and grab the salt in the basin. Unfortunately, he cannot get his hand out of the tube because it is balled up around the block of salt. The monkey will starve itself to death before it ever realizes that all he has to do is release the salt to get his hand out of the tube. Are you suggesting that because the monkey has desires out of proportion to what can be provided that the monkey has an existence beyond this life?”

I fail to see how a monkeys desire for salt is out of proportion to what it can attain in its life.

BLAIR: “My desires can be provided for in this life. I have no desire to live in an afterlife. I have a hard enough time staying entertained as it is now – what the heck am I supposed to do for eternity? ;-)”

So if you were offered eternal life in a transformed body you would reject it?

BLAIR: “I would like to ask you a couple of personal questions. You are under no obligation to respond, but I personally think they are relevant to this conversation. If you disagree you are more than welcome to disregard them. You mentioned that you converted to Christianity about six months ago. You also mentioned that you got divorced six months ago: coincidence or connection?”

I have been divorced for over 4 yours so it has nothing to do with my recent conversion. I have always been interested in religion and Christianity. In fact before this my beliefs ranged from agnosticism to pantheism, I never was an atheist for very long. My conversion started when I was reading a book “Where Darwin meets the Bible: Creationism and Evolution in America” It presented different views on origins and while I am still in general an evolutionist I began to guestion my Materialism only view of reality. I discovered I had 2 sets of standards in judging beliefs, a low set for things I wanted to believe in and a higher set of standards for things I rejected, it was after I rejected my double standard that I gave Theism another look.

I do not have access to a computer right now so it is kind of hard to respond to extremely lengthy arguments, maybe we could keep it going if I only addressed 1 or 2 issues at a time and if we did not go over the same ground.

Here is a question: What would it take for you to take theism and christianity seriously, these a seperate but related subjects. I think what would cause me to change my views would be if it could be shown that 1st century Christians did not worship a resurrected Jesus. Another issue: Is science the only way to truth? Doesn’t it have built in assumptions that can not be proven, that are just accepted without question such as naturalism or materialism?

I’ll give Blair a few points. 1. There is not any convincing evidence for miracles from a nontheist point of view at least 2. There is not alot of evidence from the first century (outside the Bible) for the life of Jesus. My point concerning miracles is that any argument against there possibility is based on the unprovable assumption that the material world is a closed system.

 

Response to Glen #002:

GLEN: “Insofar as these other religions conflict with Christianity and each other, only one can be true and since I am a Christian I am only concerned with its truth.”

Have you even read the sacred texts of the other religions? You really should. Many of them make similar claims that Christianity does – virgin births, resurrections, second comings, etc. What makes the Bible true and these other books false?

The only reason that you are concerned with the truth of Christianity is because you, like most Americans, are a victim of geography.

If you had converted in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, or any other similar country you would be discussing the “truth” of Islam and trying to prove that Allah existed. If we were having this discussion in India we would be discussing the “truth” of the Vedas and the many incarnations of Vishnu. If we were living in Tibet we would be discussing the historicity of Buddha instead of Jesus.

It is your geographic location and the mainstream religion therein, that has established what you are “concerned with,” not any accuracy or truth thereof.

If you would take the time to read the sacred texts of the other religions in the world you would find that Christianity is not unique in any way whatsoever. Just reading the sacred texts of extinct religions (the ones we call mythology) shows many parallels and there are many ideas stolen and incorporated from religions that preceded Christianity by thousands of years.

GLEN: “I am not trying to put the concept of God forward as a scientific fact or theory, but as a valid philosophical explaination (sic). I don’t think God can be found under a microscope, or in a test tube, or through a telescope. But the facts of science can be used to argue for or against an intelligent cause for reality.”

The gods of the philosophers have failed for thousands of years. If they hadn’t – we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place. Anyone can wax philosophical and feel better about their beliefs, but when it comes to proving something in the positive, we must resort to scientific proof.

In order to aver that intelligence created the universe, you must be able to prove that intelligence exists in the first place. If you cannot prove the intelligence, then you are leaving the door open to hundreds of other possibilities.

If god cannot be examined or proven, then he is superfluous at best and certainly irrelevant.

GLEN: “Actually those are miracle claims in the distant past, so they can not be tested today like what a rock is made of. All we know of these events are what has been written down and like other recorded events from the past must be judged by historical research.”

The fact that they are in the past does not exclude them from scientific testing. We know that virgins cannot become pregnant without copulation or the insertion of sperm through scientific method (in vitro fertilization, for example). Virgin births are not scientifically possible except with the help of science. If Christians posit that god used in vitro fertilization, then that eliminates the miracle aspect of it, doesn’t it?

GLEN: “saying the Big Bang was caused by a quantum event, is just as speculative as inferring an intelligent first cause, we have never observed this cause for something like the Big Bang, there is no evidence for quantum physics as a cause for the Big Bang.” (sic)

I didn’t say that the Big Bang was caused by a quantum event. What I said was that in the world of quantum mechanics and physics, events occur without a cause. The “first cause” does not always apply on the quantum level. This fact alone extinguishes any hope that the “first cause argument” has toward proving god. The very argument is that because “everything has a first cause, then so must the universe, therefore the first cause is god.” The first premise of that argument is null and void because not everything has a first cause.

GLEN: “I do not dispute the Big Bang theory, I just think a creator is a reasonable cause for it.”

You have yet to show that it is plausible, much less reasonable. Thinking it is so, does not make it so.

GLEN: “As far as the truth of theism any name for God works for me.”

That’s not good enough. Which god created the universe? Yahweh? Allah? Vishnu? Since you are asserting the positive of Christianity we can assume Yahweh is your god of choice. Now all you have to do is define that god for us. We cannot debate the validity of god is you are using a generic term that has no meaning.

GLEN: “There problems with a cyclic view of origins, such as the 2nd law of thermodynamics, also it just results in an infinite regress of causes with no real explaination (sic) of the fact of the universes existence and its properties. (sic)”

As I’ve stated already, the Second Law of Thermodynamics has been shown that it can be violated on a nano scale. That it implies an infinite amount of restarts of the universe is only a problem for those that want a creator involved somewhere. While I’m not personally inclined to accept the cyclic universe hypothesis, I cannot eliminate it as a possibility, especially in light of new discoveries in the physical violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

GLEN: “Would not a creator equal or surpass what it creates?”

Not necessarily. Look at the number of paintings that sell for thousands of dollars that were created by lower life forms. There are paintings made by elephants, chimpanzees, worms, and many others. While it can be argued that an earthworm surpasses its creation, it must be equally noted that the earthworm is not aware of its creation. The earthworm is not aware that it is even creating. Because of this lack of awareness, it can be equally asserted that the earthworm does not surpass its creation. Have you ever seen the earthworm art? It’s really neat – the earthworms are covered in paint and deposited on a canvas. They “create” some very unique paintings.

GLEN: “God would be the creator, he would be eternal otherwise he would not be God, a created creator would not be God, like a married person would not be a bachelor, it’s a self contradiction.”

How can a god being created be a contradiction? If a god creates a god and that god creates the universe, is not the created god still the creator of the universe? I fail to see how this is a contradiction.

You have also failed to define your god. I’ve asked this of you three times now and I have yet to get an answer. Using vague statements like “would be the creator” is not a definition of god. Define your god.

GLEN: “I am not refering (sic) to patterns, but the properties of subatomic particals (sic) and the strengths of fundamental forces, if these were changed we could not exist, why do they assume these properties?”

This still does not change the premise of my argument. If the universe had formed differently, then we would not exist – that is correct. Something else would exist instead of us. The arrogance here of the theist is that the properties of the universe posit that they were made that way “just for us.”

After all, isn’t it the very same properties of subatomic particles that establish the pattern in the first place?

Life evolved on the planet Earth because it is “perfect” for life to evolve. Why didn’t life evolve on Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus or Neptune? Life didn’t evolve there because the conditions were not right. Were those planets ignored by your god and not made perfect for life? Life evolved here because the conditions were right for it – not because the conditions were “designed” right for it.

GLEN: “Changing the laws of nature would effect things like Solar output or the ability of carbon atoms to link up. Without a certain range of values in the laws of nature life would be physically impossible.”

The laws of nature as they exist would be different and different examples of life and patterns would arise. The arrogance in this argument is that only life as it exists now is the “final form.” If the laws of nature were different then the life and patterns within that natural setting would also be different. It’s as if the theist thinks that when we find life in another solar system that there will be humans, zebras, antelopes, kangaroos, and penguins walking around.

The diversity of life is a shining example of how these different laws of nature and the environment force about different shapes, forms, modes, and others in life and geology. A human cannot survive in the depths of the ocean because it is not “perfect” for us. A fish cannot swim out of water.

This isn’t because of design; it is because the life evolved to survive in its environment.

GLEN: “For his own glory and to share existence with us.”

That’s it? So we’re nothing more than the result of an egotistical artist that was looking for company to share? Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t seem very god-like. Are we nothing more than god’s ant farm sitting on his dresser?

GLEN: “Laws just make things legal or illegal. They reflect what a society thinks is right or wrong. Surely passing a law does not automatically make something right. People have a sense of what is right and wrong over and against what they desire or what a group desires.”

That is my point exactly. People have a sense of what is right and wrong and they don’t need a Bible to tell them that. The laws are extensions of that inherent morality that we have – the laws elaborate on that morality and help to preserve the species. Laws do not necessarily make things right or wrong, but they emphasize my point that our moralities, and our laws based upon that morality, are a reflection of our biology – to preserve the species. It does not exclude the argument that laws are a higher authority.

GLEN: “The Bible does proscribe morality in some of the 10 commandments, the Golden Rule, Proverbs, etc. These other things you list are just social, economic, or religious customs, they can and do change.”

The Golden Rule is not biblical – it existed for thousands of years before the Bible. Proverbs is not a moral base, either. As to the Decalogue, there are only three of the ten that speak to moral issues, and those were moral issues long before the Tanakh was ever written. How is “thou shall have no other gods before me” a moral issue?

Where is the Bible is morality defined? The Decalogue is not a definition of morality or a guideline of right and wrong. The Decalogue is “commandments,” not guidelines. The Decalogue contains commands from Yahweh – not moral guidelines. The Decalogue cannot help us at all in dealing with everyday moral issues that come about and they are of no use at all in situational ethics. Even the famous “thou shall not kill” is contradicted on a daily basis – so much so that new versions of the Bible say “thou shall not murder” to avoid the contradiction contained therein. That’s not translation – that’s politics.

GLEN: “I never said we needed a reward to be moral, I think Christianity does proscribe good actions because they are good not because of a reward.”

That is in direct contradiction to Christian theology. You have to follow the commandments and the message of Jesus in order to get into Heaven – if not then you go to Hell. The carrot – the reward – is entrance into Heaven. The followers of Yahweh and Jesus are threatened with Hellfire if they do not behave themselves. The Bible doesn’t say to follow your conscious or your moral compass – it gives direct commandments. As I said before, the Bible does not define morality in any way – it just gives commands that must be followed – nothing more than laws.

GLEN: “Morality proscribes our relations with God and other people, survival of the species is something else, it’s a biological necessity, its important, but morality is what we do over and above survival, maybe even in spite of survival.”

You are correct that morality proscribes a relationship with the Bible-God. Perhaps you meant that it prescribes your relationship with your Bible-God?

The survival of the species is inherent in our morality and the laws of our societies that we use to define our morality. The preservation of the species is inherent in almost every law that we have and those that do not preserve the species tend to be religiously based laws, such as the law that makes it illegal to own “marital aids” in the state of Alabama.

Morality is directly related to the survival of the species and the preservation of the species within its environment. That is why morality varies from society to society in many cases.

GLEN: “Miracles do not alter your actions, they just add on new objects and events.”

They don’t have to alter your actions in order to make free will null and void. If the outcome of the event is modified in the form of a miracle then your choices were for naught and they did not affect the outcome. The whole premise of free will is that our choices affect the outcome. If the outcome is modified by miracle, then our choices cannot be said to affect the outcome.

GLEN: “There may be a lack of enough evidence for miracles for you, but this does not make them impossible. “A sufficently (sic) advanced intelligence can do things that would be indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke.”

There may be a lack of enough evidence? There is no evidence at all. The burden of proof for the evidence of miracles is on the person that claims miracles.

I’m surprised you quoted Clarke in your statement. Clarke was saying a negative thing about miracles – not a positive.

GLEN: “Those are are evil human acts not miracles.” (sic)

I didn’t say they were miracles. I asked where were the miracles? Where was the miracle on 9/11? Where was the miracle during the Holocaust? Why did the Bible-God (or any god for that matter) not intervene? This is why I want a definition of your god. How can we debate your god if we do not have any definition of your god?

If you think about it, 9/11 was evidence against the Bible-God for other reasons as well. There were thousands of Christians praying for a miracle on 9/11. There were 19 Muslims praying for success on 9/11. The only prayers answered on that day were the prayers of just 19 Muslims. Perhaps you should be worshiping Allah?

GLEN: “Paul wrote in the 40s and 50s and he passed on accounts about the resurrection from the first Christians that knew Jesus, like Peter and James, as well as his own account, thats (sic) closer in time to 30 AD than the Gospels.”

The dates of the letters attributed to Paul are a point of contention among biblical scholars because there are no originals – not way to prove their date. The earliest known copy of the letters has been dated to the late 50’s.

GLEN: “Except for political and military leaders I doubt you have many accounts from that time about any first century person.”

That is incorrect. There are many stories and tales about people during the time. There is certainly a greater collection of works about political and military leaders, but they do exist for those not in such fields. What is remarkable is that not a single one of them wrote about Jesus. No one seems to want to address that issue for some reason.

GLEN: “There are two references by Josephus a Jewish historian but this is disputed, I think Tacitus refers to Jesus and his followers but thats (sic) 115 AD. http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_01_01_01.html”

There are many references to Jesus way after the fact. The writings of Tacitus are referring to what he has been told – he is not an eyewitness to Jesus.

Josephus is not an eyewitness, either. In the works of Josephus that mention Jesus they are way out of place and out of character. No one uses Josephus as proof of Jesus until after Eusebius gets a hold of the works of Josephus. To this day there are two versions of Josephus – one that includes a reference to Jesus and one that doesn’t.

Eusebius said that it is okay to lie in order to bring people to Jesus. It is thought among most scholars that Eusebius forged the entry in Josephus. Josephus was a Pharasitic Jew and would never have referred to Jesus as the “messiah” or “son of God” if he did write about him.

It’s funny that you gave me a link to Tektonics. Tektonics wrote an article about me, saying I was “big dog of freethought in the South.” LOL

GLEN: “Tell me how many Biblical scholars liberal or otherwise, from the Jesus Seminar or not that reject at least a human Jesus. I know of 2 or 3.”

It is correct that most biblical scholars recognize at a minimum Jesus as a man. However, this speaks against your argument in the first place. Biblical scholars cannot reconcile the metaphysical aspects of Christianity and they reduce Jesus to a man – a rabbi and nothing else. Do you not find it compelling that biblical scholars can only aver Jesus as a man and nothing more?

I disagree with biblical scholars because they are only using the Bible as their source of information in their conclusions on the historicity of Jesus. They do not take into consideration the lack of non-biblical evidence and they certainly do not take into consideration the amount of borrowed mythology from pagan religions.

GLEN: “My point is that the very first Christians, Jesus’s (sic) followers like James, Peter and Paul would have been in a position to know if the Resurrection was true of false, yet they were willing to put themselves in danger for preaching what you say is false.”

Unfortunately, none of the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection wrote anything down. How could they know if the resurrection was true if they never witnessed it?

GLEN: “Christianity was becoming a major religion before being recognized by Rome, otherwise it would have made no sense for Constantine to recognize it.”

Constantine recognized it because Christianity was the religion of the city. Constantine felt that his power lay in the city – not the army. Christianity as a whole was disenfranchised and in turmoil. Christians were fighting each other over dogma and doctrine. Christians were sent to the lions not because they were Christians (although that did occur sometimes because of the law against monotheism), but because they were the criminal element of Rome.

Christians were the cause of the great fire in Rome because they were rioting against each other over doctrine. Constantine intervened and established the Council of Nicea to pull together the followers of Arius and his detractors.

Even the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t deny this.

GLEN: “Paul was preaching to and converting Gentiles 15 or more years before the destruction of the Temple. It would have not mattered to Gentiles anyway.”

I think it would have and most historians think it would have also. The reason that Christianity resorted to the gentiles is because the Jews rejected it. Even Jesus rejected the gentiles at first. Do you remember the story about the gentile woman on the road that asked Jesus for help and he admonished her? It was after that she embarrassed Jesus that he agreed to help her. She said, “Even a dog gets the scraps under the table.” She and Jesus recognized the place of the gentiles. Jesus came for the Jews – not the gentiles. The gentiles were second best.

GLEN: “An article I saw 2 years ago said there was not a single view on what type of Messiah 1st century Jews expected, it argued that some did expect a suffering Messiah. Also Jesus’ first followers were Jewish so they must have thought he fullfilled (sic) the scriptures.”

The disciples were common Jews – not priests. None of the priests accepted Jesus as the Messiah because they knew the Tanakh and what prophecies were to be fulfilled. Jesus does not fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah for the Jews.

GLEN: “You are ignoring points 1 and 2, I fail to see how Nazism or Astrology are of ultimate concern.”

So in order for a belief to be justified it must meet all 3 requirements? Your list of three items is a checklist?

GLEN: “The Gospels offer forgiveness of sin and reconcilation (sic) with God.”

I asked for an elaboration and I got a rephrase. The gospels are not the only thing that addresses our need for forgiveness or our recognition of morality (what you call sin and guilt).

Please elaborate on why you feel that the gospels address this.

GLEN: “You do not have to forsake reality to be a Christian, it just requires you to see our lives in a larger context. I agree that desiring something does not make it true, but ridicule and ignorence (sic) does not make it false.”

Ridicule and ignorance do not make something false; that is true. What does make something false is a lack of evidence. There is 100% lack of evidence in regards to god (whatever name you attribute to he/she/it). Until evidence surfaces, it is rationally acceptable to deem the claim of god as false.

GLEN: “I fail to see how a monkeys desire for salt is out of proportion to what it can attain in its life.”

You asked why a creature evolve that has desires out of proportion to what can be provide for – and you used that as evidence of a creator. The monkey has a desire for the salt, but it’s abilities and what it can provide are out of proportion to its desire – it does not have the intellect to figure out that releasing the salt will free it of the salt trap.

How does this show a creator?

GLEN: “So if you were offered eternal life in a transformed body you would reject it?”

I’d have to read the fine print first, that’s for sure. What do I do? Where do I live? What is it like?

No one knows what the afterlife of Christianity is like. Do you? What does Heaven look like? Where is it? What goes on there?

GLEN: “I have been divorced for over 4 yours so it has nothing to do with my recent conversion.”

My apologies: I thought you had said that you were divorced six months ago.

GLEN: “I discovered I had 2 sets of standards in judging beliefs, a low set for things I wanted to believe in and a higher set of standards for things I rejected, it was after I rejected my double standard that I gave Theism another look.”

Then you are correct in stating that you were not an Atheist for very long. It also explains your fickle nature when it comes to religiosity. A skeptic should have the same standards of skepticism and inquiry toward every subject and every side.

GLEN: “What would it take for you to take theism and christianity (sic) seriously, these a seperate (sic) but related subjects.” (sic)

I already take theism seriously. If I didn’t take it seriously we wouldn’t be having this conversation and I’d probably be a theist.

As to Christianity – it’s just another version of theism among thousands. To prove Christianity I’d be happy if Jesus came down and just had a cup of coffee with me. I think that would be enough to prove Christianity for me. God himself could just come on over and we could talk a few things through.

GLEN: “I think what would cause me to change my views would be if it could be shown that 1st century Christians did not worship a resurrected Jesus.”

Of course they worshiped a resurrected Jesus. If that is the only premise of your belief, then there are a lot of other religions that worship a resurrected god. The point is not whether they worshiped a resurrected Jesus. The point is whether there was any evidence of the resurrection in the first place. People worship false stuff all the time – worship of something does not make it true.

GLEN: “Is science the only way to truth?”

Science is the best way to truth. I won’t assert that it is the only way, because we do not know everything. What I will say is that looking for facts and discerning the truth from facts is the best way to arrive at the truth or to at least get closer to it. Religious thought cannot achieve that because it has too many borders that it is not willing to cross. How can you get at the truth of god if you make your god immune to inquiry?

GLEN: “Doesn’t it have built in assumptions that can not be proven, that are just accepted without question such as naturalism or materialism?”

The assumptions in science are based upon observation. I assume that the sun will rise in the morning because it has risen every day that I’ve been alive and has been recorded as rising every day in history as well. There is no reason to question this assumption, but it is logical to say that it is possible that the sun will not reveal itself the next morning.

Glen offered a counter-rebuttal to my last email, but his last line ended the debate and he offered to let me have the last word. I saw no point in responding to his last rebuttal.

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