John Rebuttal #001:
I just wanted to ask you a few questions if that is okay. I am a Christian and I am currently studying atheism. I am not intimidated by atheism or afraid of it. I just don’t understand the reasoning behind it.
I am not going to try to dispel any of your arguments. That would probably be a waste of time for both us since I think we are both very firm in our beliefs. That being said, my first question is why do you think we exist?
What is our purpose for living? I would also like to know what you think happens to us when we die? Are you really not concerned about what might happen after death?
I guess that is my first series of questions. This more along the lines of reasoning and logic. First of all, do you believe in the supernatural? It’s okay if you don’t; I am just wondering. If you do, do you think that our simple, finite minds should be able to comprehend an infinite supernatural Being? Do you think that there are certain supernatural things that cannot be explained by natural reasoning or by science?
Finally, I would like to ask you about the rise of Christianity. I know that you made arguments against changed lives being evidence for the truth of Christianity. You said that other religions have witnessed changed lives. I am not going to dispute that. I would simply like to ask you to explain the change in the 12 apostles lives after the resurrection of Christ. How do you explain the incredible rise of Christianity led by these 12 men after the death of Christ? 11 of the 12 were killed for believing in Christ. Why would these men die for a lie?
That is all the questions that I have for now. I would like to ask some more in the future, but I would like to hear your response to these first. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Response to John #001:
Thank you for your non-proselytizing questions. I appreciate your inquisitiveness without resorting to proselytizing and evangelizing. Thanks again!
I’ll answer your questions as presented.
JOHN: “I am not intimidated by atheism or afraid of it. I just don’t understand the reasoning behind it.”
Just for clarification, you should have no reason to be intimidated or afraid of atheism. Do you mind if I ask why you felt compelled to say that? Have you run across people that are afraid of atheism or intimidated by it?
Also, the “reasoning” for an arrival at atheistic views differs for each person. The only thing atheists have in common is their atheism, which is nothing more than a lack of belief in gods and supernatural beings. Beyond that, each atheist is as unique as a fingerprint with different ideologies, philosophies, convictions, and thought processes.
JOHN: “Why do you think we exist?”
We “exist” to procreate and perpetuate the species.
JOHN: “What is our purpose for living?”
Our “purpose” is to perpetuation of the species. The greatest fallacy of humanity is to search for a “purpose” to our lives. We want there to be more than there is because we are wishful thinkers. We almost need to think there is “more to life than this”.
JOHN: “I would also like to know what you think happens to us when we die? Are you really not concerned about what might happen after death?”
What happens when we die is that our body begins to decay rapidly. Cell growth ceases (except fingernails and hair for a slightly longer period) and decomposition begins within hours of death. Depending on the environment the composition can be rapid or prolonged. I’m sure you know the science behind death so I won’t go into detail.
If you are referring more to what happens to us “after” we die in the metaphysical sense, then the answer is simply, “nothing”.
I’m not concerned at all about what might happen after death. There’s no reason to be concerned. I will lead a good life, I will raise my children to be moral human beings, and I will pass on my knowledge to them.
JOHN: “Do you believe in the supernatural?”
No, I do not believe in anything supernatural. However, I do grant that anything is possible. I prefer to deal in probability instead of possibility. If we believe in everything that is possible then we’d be a bunch of raving lunatics going on-and-on about leprechauns, pixies, fairies, unicorns, Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster, alien abductions, ESP, and more, and more, and more, and more.
I don’t automatically dismiss them, but I have to be convinced. There are many “paranormal” events that have been explained by science and yet people still latch on to the paranormal explanation. That’s akin, in my view, to still insisting that lightning is caused by Zeus. There are a lot of supposedly paranormal events that have enough evidence against them to dismiss them completely, though.
JOHN: “If you do, do you think that our simple, finite minds should be able to comprehend an infinite supernatural Being?”
Why shouldn’t we? If said supernatural being interacts with the universe, then said supernatural being should leave some sort of “fingerprint”. The trick, of course, is finding the “fingerprint” and being able to test for a supernatural cause. This is why we are at the mutual position of not being able to prove each other’s side. You can’t prove a god exists and I can’t prove that a god doesn’t. What we have to rely on in that case is what we “do” know and base our conclusions on that. We can’t (or at least shouldn’t) base our conclusions on what we don’t know.
JOHN: “Do you think that there are certain supernatural things that cannot be explained by natural reasoning or by science?”
No. There may be things that we deem as supernatural that we cannot currently explain, but to say that we may never explain them, or to attribute supernaturalism because we cannot explain them currently is not what science is or what I personally feel should be our methodology.
JOHN: “I would simply like to ask you to explain the change in the 12 apostles lives after the resurrection of Christ. How do you explain the incredible rise of Christianity led by these 12 men after the death of Christ? 11 of the 12 were killed for believing in Christ. Why would these men die for a lie?”
Why would people commit mass suicides for lies? People die for lies all the time. The Germans died willingly on the battlefield for a lie. People die for their beliefs all the time, even when those beliefs are false. Muslims die for their faith all the time, does that make Allah just as “real” as Yahweh?
Of course your premise is that the stories relayed in the Bible are factual in the first place. The rise of Christianity had nothing to do with the 12 original apostles in all actuality. The original “Christians” were nothing more than a sect of Judaism (which, in a way, it still is to this day). There were two things that helped to perpetuate this sect into mainstream, and ultimately, to what we know Christianity to be to this day. The first was the destruction of The Temple in 70 CE by the Romans. This event decapitated (temporarily) the Judaic hierarchy. This allowed the sect of Judaism to step up and fill the void.
The second was the Pagan Roman emperor, Constantine. Constantine needed to bring the Roman Empire back together and had two choices. He could choose the religion of the Centurions, which was Mithraism, or he could choose the religion of the cities, which was Christianity. Constantine decided that the power of Rome lay in the cities and not in the Army and chose Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Of course Constantine had to get Christians to agree on what Christianity was and wasn’t. Christians were killing each other over disagreements about doctrine, dogma, and ideologies. Constantine convened the Council of Nicea in 325 CE. He placed all the “leaders” into a building and placed it under siege. No one could go in or out and no food was brought in. The foundation of Christianity was created in less than 24 hours under armed guard and threat of life. Out of the Council of Nicea came the following staples of Christianity: Jesus was the “Son of God” (this was disagreed upon by most of the early Christians because many though he was simply a prophet), the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday, and the ideology of the Trinity was born.
The Council also voted on the canon that would ultimately become what we know as the Bible. The vote, according to Eusebius, was a vote by five. If five people had voted differently the Bible would contain more of the Apocrypha (the books that were voted against). The Nicean Creed was created and everyone left. Of course that was not the end of the conflict because the votes were so close that fighting persisted for years and even continues to this day. Constantine later converted to Christianity and helped to import Pagan beliefs and rituals into Christianity.
You really want the founder of Christianity? Look at Constantine, the Pagan emperor of Rome.
John Rebuttal #002:
Thank you for your response. I appreciate your time in answering my questions. Just to clear a couple of things up, I would like to explain why I made the statement, “I am not intimidated by atheism or afraid of it.” I said this because your site said that theists are intimidated by atheists. I just was stating my disagreement with this statement. There may be some who are afraid or intimidated, but most Christians like myself welcome questions about our faith. I definitely want to look at all the issues. I find that it helps me to understand why I believe what I believe.
Also, I noticed that you said that the supernatural would have to leave a “fingerprint” behind. I believe that God has done that. The Bible tells us that creation reveals his glory. Romans 1:18-20 explains how God has revealed himself through nature, but that man has misunderstood it and begun to worship the creation rather than the Creator. When I look around at the world, I cannot explain how else this incredible world could be here except by some divine creation. I have a hard time believing that everything exists because of an accident. How would you explain this world?
I also want to make a couple statements about Constantine and the Council of Nicea. I have done much studying of church history. I agree with you that Constantine was not exactly a great man. He had his problems. But as far as the Council of Nicea, the beliefs of the Christian faith did not originate here. That is the error that most people make. The doctrines and beliefs of Christianity were widely accepted from the time Christ left the earth and the apostles started their ministry. However, there were many heretical groups who began to try to influence false teaching in the church. The books of the Bible were already accepted by the church. But these heretical groups began to accept other books and leave out some of the canonized books of the Bible. The purpose of the Council of Nicea was to officially formulate the doctrine into writing and officially formulate the accepted canon of scripture.
I apologize if I appear to be proselytizing or evangelizing. I am simply trying to respond to the statements you made. I guess I have a tendency to go a little long sometimes. Would you please respond to these statements. I would like to continue dialogue with you. I am very interested in understanding the arguments for atheism. Thank you again for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Response to John #002:
Thanks again for your comments and non-evangelizing response. I don’t think I can emphasize enough how refreshing it is to receive comments and responses that do not attempt to proselytize or evangelize. Thanks again!
JOHN: “I said this because your site said that theists are intimidated by atheists.”
Yes, my site says that. I say that not because they should be, but because many are. I don’t think theists should be intimidated or afraid of atheists. I think a lot of the intimidation and/or fear comes from the misconceptions and myths about atheism and atheists (like that we are all Satanists or immoral).
JOHN: “The Bible tells us that creation reveals his glory. Romans 1:18-20 explains how God has revealed himself through nature, but that man has misunderstood it and begun to worship the creation rather than the Creator.”
Revealing one’s “glory” is not the same thing as leaving a fingerprint of one’s creative efforts. For example (I’ll work on the assumption that inference of design is correct for this analogy) if we look at a painting we can say, “Someone had to create this painting.” The problem then becomes identifying the painter. If the painter has left no signature then we can only speculate. Some will say that Picasso painted it and others will insist Michelangelo did the painting. Others will interject their ideas about who did or did not paint the picture. The bottom line is that we really won’t know until the painter identifies himself or herself.
Science does not attempt to justify the supernatural because it is beyond the scope of science, and honestly, beyond the knowledge of science (although that constantly changes). Science can only explain the world in a natural way and present that information to the general public. Science cannot dictate policy or ideology to the general public. It is the general public’s job to decide what to do with the information.
The last thing religion wants is for science to investigate its dogmas and theologies. What if science proves that God exists and they find out that it is Krishna or Allah? What if they prove a god exists and it turns out to be the god of Deism or Wicca? What if they prove that Jesus never existed or that he was buried instead of being placed in a tomb? Does religion really want science to delve into this area and take the risk of exposing ideologies as mythology? I know that if I were a theist I would not want science doing that.
JOHN: “How would you explain this world?”
I’m not really sure what you are looking for with this question. I have looked at the scientific evidence, the theories, and hypothesis and come to my own conclusion about the origins of the universe, the solar system, the Earth, and the life that lives upon it. I feel no need to attribute the Earth or the universe to a divine creator because natural explanations do not require one. As I said before, I base my conclusions on what we “do” know and not what we “do not” know.
JOHN: “But as far as the Council of Nicea, the beliefs of the Christian faith did not originate here. That is the error that most people make.”
Yes, the beliefs of the Christian faith originated prior to the Council of Nicea. The problem is that the dogmas and doctrines that Christianity currently holds were not firm and were not the common beliefs. Fighting amongst Christians was widespread and very bloody. If the beliefs and faiths were so secure there would have been no need for all this infighting to occur. Constantine was forced to convene the Council to get Christians to agree because the fighting was helping to ruin the Roman Empire. To this day the dogmas and doctrines are fought over and disagreed upon.
The Council of Nicea made it official that the Sabbath would move from Saturday to Sunday. To say that because some Christians already celebrated the Sabbath on Sunday before the Council of Nicea defines the Christian faith before the Council is begging the question and is irrelevant. To make an analogy, we don’t see the end of slavery 30 years before the Civil War; we look at the Civil War as the defining moment to the end of slavery in the United States. We can look back and identify those that helped create the environment to end slavery, but that does not take away from the impact of the Civil War.
JOHN: “The doctrines and beliefs of Christianity were widely accepted from the time Christ left the earth and the apostles started their ministry.”
That is hardly a true statement, especially considering that none of the original 12 apostles wrote anything to let us know that. The gospels were not written by the apostles, but by later contemporaries. Even the gospel writers disagree with each other on several key issues. The only information we have on the original apostles is what comes from the gospels writers themselves. I’ve always wondered why the betrayer of Jesus is named Judas, which happens to be “Jew”. Hmm…
JOHN: “However, there were many heretical groups who began to try to influence false teaching in the church.”
That applies, really, to anyone that wanted to create a church in the first place. Jesus made no mention of starting a new religion.
JOHN: “The books of the Bible were already accepted by the church.”
That is not a true or remotely accurate statement. There were over 500 books that were voted on by the Council of Nicea. According to Eusebius the vote was very close (by five votes), so I fail to see how you can say they were already accepted. The dispute raged beyond the Council of Nicea and required the convening of the Council of Trent (50 years later) to re-emphasize the canon and re-evaluate the decisions made at the Council of Nicea.
Even after the Council of Nicea there were many clergy that embraced the books that were not chosen and continued to fight. When Constantinople became “Christian City”, it was one of the bloodiest cities in world history because of fighting over the dogmas, doctrines, and Christian rule.
JOHN: “The purpose of the Council of Nicea was to officially formulate the doctrine into writing and officially formulate the accepted canon of scripture.”
The history writers of the time disagree with your statement, including Christian historian Eusebius and Alexander (who wrote about the disagreements over “Easter”). Historian Rick Chaimberlain writes,
CHAIMBERLIN: “Christians were no longer persecuted by the pagans. Instead, Christians persecuted others (including other Christians) with zeal and a vengeance that would shock the pagans. More Christians were killed (by other Christians!) in the first century after the Council of Nicea than had been killed by pagans in the century before Nicea.”
It was also during this time that the cross became the symbol of Christianity (Seymour, The Cross in Tradition, History, and Art, 1897, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, pp. 9-26.)
Many of the attending Bishops disagreed with the definition of “Son” when referring to Jesus. Constantine sent a letter to the dissenting Bishops requiring that they accept the agreements of the Council because they were “truly Divine injunction” and he forced this threat by persecuting dissidents and calling them “haters and enemies of truth and life, in league with destruction.”
With all the historical information available to indicate how the “agreement” was not that much of an agreement, I fail to see how you can arrive at the conclusion that the Council only made official what the church was already doing. History disagrees with you.
John Rebuttal #003:
Thanks again for replying. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain your points. I hope that you don’t get tired of me asking you questions. I feel that I am learning a lot about atheism. I agree with you about possible reasons that people may be afraid of atheists. I think it is lack of knowledge. People are often afraid of things they don’t know about.
I would like to make one statement though. I noticed that you said that people think that you are all Satanists or immoral. I am not passing any judgment on anybody, but I understand why people would think this. I don’t think that being an atheist makes a person immoral. I am sure that many atheists as well as people from other religions appear to be moral people. Some may even appear to be more moral than many Christians. The problem is that no one is moral in God’s eyes. We are all immoral to God, including myself and all Christians. Romans 3:23 says, “All sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is no one righteous in His eyes.
Often times people will object to this and say what about the good things that I do. I have wondered that, but the problem is that the good we do cannot measure up the holy standards of God. In fact Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” I believe this may be the reason make statements like that about atheists. The problem is that sometimes us theists forget to make these statements about ourselves. We are all in the same boat together. We are all sinners.
As far as people considering you to be a Satanists. I understand why people argue this. I do not believe that because you do not worship God that you worship Satan. In fact, I understand that you do not even believe that he exists. However, people make this argument because of what Jesus said in Matthew 12:30, “He who is not for Me is against Me and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Jesus said that there are only two sides. His side and the other, Satan’s side. I am not calling you a Satanist, but Jesus said if you are not serving Him, you are serving Satan. This is why I believe people make these claims about you. These are the claims people made against me before I became a Christian. I agree with them. I realize that I was serving Satan even though I did not know it.
Also, about God leaving fingerprints, I noticed your analogy about a painter. I agree that we cannot tell much about who created the universe, just like we cannot tell who created a painting without a signature. However, God’s revelation in nature was never intended to tell us much about Him. It was intended to show us that “Someone” exists. That is what nature does. In turn this points us to His other revelation, the Bible. This is where we find out who the “Painter” is. His signature is all over it.
I agree with you that science cannot prove God. It is not supposed to. Science is the natural world. God is the supernatural. I do welcome the scientific attempts to explain theology. I believe that we are supposed to love God with “all our heart, mind, and soul.” I don’t want to believe without evidence. Yes there is faith, but there is also reasoning. I must believe in my heart and my head. I guess that is why I am studying other beliefs, like atheism. I am not afraid of having my beliefs challenged. I want to see all the evidence. If someone ever successfully proved Christianity false, I would really have to consider my beliefs, but at this point I find no such evidence. At this point, Christianity is the truth to me. That is why I believe.
As far as your argument about the Council of Nicea goes, I have not heard of some of the points you have brought up. I am going to have to study about it a little more. But I do know that celebrating the Sabbath on Sunday is not the only Christian dogma that was established before the Council. In fact, it doesn’t matter what day the Sabbath is on. But that is beside the point. The New Testament is full of letters from the apostles to churches. These churches were struggling with false teachers and heretical doctrine. The apostles wrote to warn the churches from falling always from the things that Jesus taught. People questioned things about the humanity of Christ, the relationship between faith and works, and things about the end of time. In fact many warn about false teachers and false “Christ’s” that have gone out into the world to deceive. This was going on during the time of the apostles and the Council of Nicea, and it is still going on today. There will forever be people who teach false things. Sometimes people become very hostile about it. I know that there we many fights about doctrine. I admit that the church has had it’s problems. It is not perfect. It never will be. Doctrine may go astray and people may sin, but Christ who is the head of the church will never be destroyed.
The people who wrote the gospels were not all apostles, but disciples of Christ. This argument has been made that no apostles wrote the gospels. However, John, an apostle of Jesus, testified that he was the one who witnessed these things. Matthew was another apostle. Luke and Mark were followers or disciples who were not considered apostles, but were there throughout Jesus’ ministry. These gospel writers do not disagree with each other. They simply report things from different perspective. Matthew wrote for the Jews. Mark wrote for the Romans and gentiles. Luke wrote to a general audience with the most detailed account. And John wrote to gentiles as well, not so much with a historical account, but with an attempt to show God’s grace as revealed in Jesus.
When you say Jesus’ betrayer is named Judas, are you saying that Judas means “Jew?” If so, I have never heard that, but I do find it very interesting. There is prophecy throughout the Old Testament that says that Jesus would be betrayed by one of His own. Judas was certainly one of His own. It also doesn’t surprise me that a Jew betrayed Him. After all, the Jews rejected Him. This was part of God’s plan of salvation. Because the Jews rejected Christ, salvation is offered to the gentiles (that is you and me). The Bible talks about this in Romans 9-11, mainly 11:11, where it says, “because of their transgression, salvation has come to the gentiles to make Israel envious. Frankly, I am glad that the Jews rejected Him. Without it, I would not have salvation offered to me. I am not saying that I am happy that Jesus had to suffer, but I am thankful that He chose to suffer for me.
I am sorry if I went a little long on this. Once again, I am not trying to attack you. I just wanted to present my case to your statements. Would please respond to these statements. If you have any evidence or reference points to your arguments that I could see, would you please let me know. Thanks for your time, and again, I look forward to hearing from you.
Response to JOHN #003:
JOHN: “The problem is that no one is moral in God’s eyes. We are all immoral to God, including myself and all Christians.”
I agree that theologically speaking, from a Pauline view anyway, everyone is “immoral”. However, I think the word immoral may be the incorrect word to use in this case. Paul was clear about peccatum originale (Original Sin) and how that was transferred to everyone after Adam blew it (even though there is no mention of it in Genesis). What Paul was trying to say was that we are all damned and not really “immoral” in the sense of the word that we know it.
When I hear the statement that all atheists are immoral, it never has anything to do with being immoral in God’s eyes. The statement is usually made to the effect, “How can you be moral if you don’t have a higher power to answer to?”
My answer can be simple or long-winded. I’ll give you the simple version first and see where it goes from there.
When someone does something good because “God is watching” they are not making a moral decision. They are doing something for a reward or to avoid punishment. When an atheist does something good it is because they want to. That doesn’t mean ulterior motives don’t exist, but what is more moral: doing it because you’re told to, want a reward, or afraid of punishment or doing it because it is the right thing to do?
JOHN: “The problem is that sometimes us theists forget to make these statements about ourselves. We are all in the same boat together. We are all sinners.”
The problem is that such doctrine did not exist until Paul distorted the story in Genesis and fabricated peccatum originale (Original Sin). Even St. Augustine had a hard time figuring out how to reconcile Paul’s “out there” interpretations with soul transference and the behavior of man.
Read the book of Genesis again (closely this time). Where is the apple? Where is Satan? Where does it say Satan is the serpent? Where is “Original Sin”? They are not there.
Original Sin was born as a way to justify the death of Jesus on the cross. Without Original Sin, then Jesus died for naught. I honestly think that may be why there is such a resistance to the theory of evolution – because it nulls and voids the story of Adam & Eve and therefore the misguided doctrine of Original Sin.
JOHN: “However, people make this argument because of what Jesus said in Matthew 12:30, “He who is not for Me is against Me and he who does not gather with Me scatters.””
I know exactly where the argument comes from. The problem that I see is that the most Christians are “Cafeteria Christians”. They pick and choose what parts of the Bible they want to believe and ignore the rest. If everyone believed everything in the Bible and tried to live by it then most would be committed to an insane asylum within months.
When Christians use this verse in Matthew they are only looking for a means to justify their own personal beliefs. Jesus did not say that non-believers were in league with Satan. You can be “for” Jesus without recognizing his metaphysical state. Personally, I embrace much of the ethic of Jesus (even though it is borrowed from Eastern religions and therefore more fair to say that I embrace the ethic of Buddha) but I do not recognize the metaphysical (the Christ over the Jesus (Yeshua)). In this manner I am “for” Jesus and not against him. Jesus didn’t say that you had to believe he was the Son of God (which in correct Hebrew translation really means “god-like”) or that he died for our sins. Those were the words of Paul…
Islam recognized Jesus as a great prophet (they call him Saint Issa) and embraces his ethic. Therefore, Muslims are “for” Jesus and not against him. Even Jews recognize that Jesus was a teacher (even if he did distort the law).
JOHN: “His side and the other, Satan’s side. I am not calling you a Satanist, but Jesus said if you are not serving Him, you are serving Satan.”
He said that directly? Or are you interpreting “for” and “against” as God v. Satan?
What’s really funny about the whole thing is that Satan as a nemesis of God doesn’t exist until Paul (Paul screwed up a lot, didn’t he?). Satan was an envoy of God, an employee if you will, that carried out the will of God. Satan only appears three times in the OT and in each case he is carrying out God’s orders. He is not against God nor is he a fallen angel (where did that come from?).
When a Christian says that I’m a Satanist it clearly shows their lack of knowledge about the history of Christianity and knowledge about the very faith they profess. The Christian has more in common with the Satanist than an atheist. There are only two groups of people that have made Satan a God that is equal in strength to Yahweh… Christians and Satanists. Ironic, huh?
JOHN: “I realize that I was serving Satan even though I did not know it.”
How were you serving him? If you follow the true origins of Satan then followers of Satan are doing God’s work. If you follow the Pauline origin of Satan then you must have been doing some really bad things. Were you a murderer, child molester, rapist, or were you sacrificing babies on the altar of fire?
JOHN: “However, God’s revelation in nature was never intended to tell us much about Him.”
I disagree. The inventor of Judaism (the Jewish Mystics) clearly thought that Creation identified their God. The bases of many theological thoughts about God are founded in the account in Genesis. Omnipotence, the need to “rest”, and others are all sourced from Genesis.
JOHN: “In turn this points us to His other revelation, the Bible. This is where we find out who the “Painter” is. His signature is all over it.”
What about other revelations in other sacred texts? There are many that pre-date the Bible. Also, which God in Genesis created the universe? Genesis clearly identifies more than one God in the creation process. Perhaps it was Zeus, after all…
JOHN: “I don’t want to believe without evidence. Yes there is faith, but there is also reasoning.”
What evidence is there that God exists? The Bible? How many other texts out there make the same claims about other gods? How do you know you have the right one?
Nature (as you already discussed)? What if it was Allah, Zeus, Zoroaster, or Mithra? Sounds like more faith than reasoning to me.
JOHN: “I am not afraid of having my beliefs challenged.”
That makes you unique. Many Christians (certainly not all) are afraid to learn the history and origins of their faith. It was my pursuit of such knowledge that led me to atheism in the first place. It was actually reading the Bible (instead of listening to it at church) that led me to atheism.
JOHN: “If someone ever successfully proved Christianity false, I would really have to consider my beliefs, but at this point I find no such evidence.”
Christianity proves itself false in its doctrines, dogma, contradictions, theological fallacies, and inconsistencies. Christianity proves itself false by making claims that cannot be proven and insisting on claims that have been proven to be false (such as the global flood).
When most theists begin questioning they go through a denial and faith justification stage. Although they see evidence against their religious claims, they don’t really SEE it. There is faith justification that prevents the evidence from being seen as it truly should be. Creationism is the biggest example of that I can think of in our modern times. In past history one only need look at Geocentrism, Flat Earth, and others.
JOHN: “This was going on during the time of the apostles and the Council of Nicea, and it is still going on today.”
Granted. That is why there are over 35,000 sects of Christianity today. Each disagreeing with the other 34,999 sects. You would think that such a seemingly important message would be more clear-cut…
JOHN: “There will forever be people who teach false things.”
Of course the issue then becomes… how do you know? What if David Koresh was right and he was the Second Coming? Her certainly went out in a way similar to that described in Revelation. :-)
JOHN: “These gospel writers do not disagree with each other. They simply report things from different perspective.”
Apologetics and faith justification at its finest! Bravo!
Okay, seriously… this argument of perspective v. contradictions is a major apologetic because theologians cannot get around the MAJOR contradictions. We’re not talking about whether the temperature was 50 or 55 degrees, whether it was partly cloudy or partly sunny, or even whether the time of day was noon or evening. We are talking about major contradictions.
If the gospel writers were aware of Jesus and worked with him (as you have proclaimed) then their knowledge of details should have been more acute.
For example, let’s look at the different accounts of the Resurrection story and ask yourself (and try to answer) the following questions (from Dan Barker’s article, “Leave No Stone Unturned”):
- Who were the women that visited the tomb?
- What time did the women visit the tomb?
- Was the tomb open when the women arrived?
- What was the purpose of the women visiting the tomb?
- Who was at the tomb when the women arrived?
- Where were the messengers at when the women arrived at the tomb?
- What did the messengers say to the women?
- Did the women tell anyone what happened?
- When did Mary first see Jesus after the resurrection?
- Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection?
- After the women at the tomb, whom did Jesus first appear to?
- Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples?
- What happened during that appearance?
- Did the disciples believe the two men?
- Did Jesus stay on Earth for a while?
- Where did Jesus ascend to Heaven?
JOHN: “Matthew wrote for the Jews. Mark wrote for the Romans and gentiles. Luke wrote to a general audience with the most detailed account. And John wrote to gentiles…”
That’s the whole point. Each of them wrote under a different social and cultural context. Each one had to make Jesus believable to their audience. This was done through adding saying that were never said, re-wording statements, and making things up to be convincing based on that culture. For example, almost every religion at the time had “healers” and it was not uncommon to find healer “offices” throughout the Roman Empire and especially in Rome itself. Talking to Romans about Jesus would have been unimpressive if he hadn’t been a “healer”. Did Paul make the healings up? That is certainly possible given the daunting task that Paul set himself upon.
JOHN: “When you say Jesus’ betrayer is named Judas, are you saying that Judas means “Jew?” If so, I have never heard that, but I do find it very interesting.”
That is correct. Judas literally means “Jew”. Coincidence or creative writing? My reasoning tells me that the gospel writers should have submitted the gospels to a creative writing contest and not a historical documentary.
JOHN: “It also doesn’t surprise me that a Jew betrayed Him. After all, the Jews rejected Him. This was part of God’s plan of salvation.”
Okay, for argument’s sake, let’s pretend this actually happened. (Okay… I’ll pretend it actually happened and you stay as you are.)
I’m still trying to figure out (some) Christians despise Jews so much for “killing Christ”. If it was part of God’s plan and the death of Jesus (as the Christ) was necessary in order to forgive the “Original Sin”, then should Christianity embrace Jews and Judaism for fulfilling the prophecy? The Jews were supposed to reject him. They had no choice. It was God’s plan… his plan of salvation.
Okay, back to reality… :-)
JOHN: “Because the Jews rejected Christ, salvation is offered to the gentiles (that is you and me).”
Let me get this straight. Jesus and others warn of “false prophets”. The Jews think Jesus is a false prophet (they are doing what they’ve been told by God in the OT) and because they reject Jesus as such, are passed over as the “chosen” and now the Gentiles are the “chosen people”. So the Jews are being persecuted for doing what God told them to do in the first place? Okay, I guess that sounds right.
Of course Jesus was helping the Gentiles before the Jews rejected him…
JOHN: “…because of their transgression, salvation has come to the gentiles to make Israel envious.”
Of course the Jews never have been and never will be jealous or envious. They still see Jesus as a teacher and self-proclaimed (read false) prophet.
JOHN: “Frankly, I am glad that the Jews rejected Him. Without it, I would not have salvation offered to me.”
Thank you! I have finally met a Christian that is honest enough to say this! Thank you, thank you, and thank you!
Do you know how hard it can be to get Christians to admit that? I usually receive negative remarks about Jews when it comes to Jesus-talk. As I said before, you are truly unique.
JOHN: “If you have any evidence or reference points to your arguments that I could see, would you please let me know.”
First, here are some links you might be interested in:
Second, here are some recommended books:
- Atheism: The Case Against God, by George H. Smith.
- Christ Myth, by Arthur Drews.
- Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, by C. Dennis McKinsey.
- Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, by Robert Funk, Roy Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar.
- How Do You Know It’s True?: Discovering the Difference Between Science and Superstition, by Hyman Ruchlis.
- Jesus Myth, by George Albert Wells.
- Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, by Dan Barker
- Macmillan Information NOW Encyclopedia of World Religions.
- Remedial Christianity: What Every Believer Should Know About the Faith, but Probably Doesn’t, by Paul Alan Laughlin, Glenna S. Jackson.
- Tales of the Rational: Skeptical Essays About Nature and Science, by Massimo Pigliucci.
- What Is Atheism? A Short Introduction, by Douglas E. Krueger.
That should keep you busy for a while, huh? :-)
Of course neither of those lists are comprehensive and are just “for starters”.
John Rebuttal #004:
You said that you agree that we are all “immoral” from the Pauline view, but that this was not exactly what he implied. Yes, Paul did believe that all men were damned because of the Original Sin, but he also taught that man is immoral by his own sinful acts as well. The idea of Original Sin didn’t just begin with Paul either. This is the teaching found throughout the whole Bible. I understand that there is nowhere that this is clearly stated, but you can see this applied in the fact that after Adam sinned ALL men began to offer sacrifices. All men were born sinners. Adam was the only perfect man ever made, but he screwed it up and the whole race has continued in his sin ever since. Adam and Eve were both sinful. Two sinful people could not have produced a perfect seed, only a sinful seed. David realized this when he wrote “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me,” in Psalm 51:5. He knew just like the other writers of scripture from the Bible that He was sinful from birth because all men are under the curse of the Original Sin.
BLAIR: “Original Sin was born as a way to justify the death of Jesus on the cross.”
This is actually backwards. Jesus’ death on the cross was a way to justify sinners guilty of Original Sin and our own sin. God’s plan to crucify Jesus has been set since before the creation of the world. Man did not need to find a way to justify Jesus’ death. It happened the way God intended it. You can see this throughout scripture. I will give you a few examples.
- His forsaken cry Prophecy: Psalm 22:1 Fulfillment: Matthew 27:46
- Ridiculed by men Prophecy: Psalm 22:7-8 Fulfillment: Matthew 27:39,43
- Crucifixion Prophecy: Psalm 22:14 Fulfillment: Matthew 27:27-50, Mark 15:16-39, Luke 23:26-46, John 19:17-30
- Would thirst at time of death Prophecy: Psalm 22:15 Fulfillment: Matthew 27:18, Mark 15:36, John 19:28-29
- Hands and feet would be pierced Prophecy: Psalm 22:16 Fulfillment: John 20:25
- None of His bones would be broken Prophecy: Psalm 22:17 Fulfillment: John 19:33-36
- Soldiers would gamble for clothing Prophecy: Psalm 22:18 Fulfillment: John 19:24
- Resurrection Prophecy: Psalm 22:22 Fulfillment: Matthew 28:6
- No beauty or majesty Prophecy: Isaiah 53:2 Fulfillment: 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24
- Rejected by His own people Prophecy: Isaiah 53:3 Fulfillment: John 7:5, John 7:48
- Took on the sins of the world Prophecy: Isaiah 53:4 Fulfillment: Matthew 2:6
- Scourging and pierced Prophecy: Isaiah 53:5 Fulfillment: John 19:1,18,37
- Silent before accusers Prophecy: Isaiah 53:7 Fulfillment: Matthew 27:12-19, Mark 14:60-61
- Death Prophecy: Isaiah 53:8 Fulfillment: Luke 23:46
- Buried in rich man’s tomb Prophecy: Isaiah 53:9 Fulfillment: Matthew 27:57-60
- Crucified between thieves Prophecy: Isaiah 53:9 Fulfillment: Matthew 27:38
- Resurrection Prophecy: Isaiah 53:9 Fulfillment: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
- Bore the sins of the world Prophecy: Isaiah 53:11-12 Fulfillment: Matthew 2:6,27:46
- He will be exalted because of obedience Prophecy: Isaiah 53:11-12 Fulfillment: Philippians 2:6-11
- His side pierced Prophecy: Zechariah 12:10 Fulfillment: John 19:34
I apologize if I went a little long on this. I just wanted to give you a fair amount of evidence to show you that God planned Jesus’ death from the beginning. The list that I gave you is just the beginning. The Bible is full of many more prophecies about His life and death.
BLAIR: “How can you be moral if you don’t have a higher power to answer to?”
Would you agree that we all have a sense of what is moral whether or not we believe in God? I think we both notice when someone has wronged us or someone commits a horrible crime. We know when something is wrong. God has given every man sense of right and wrong. He has written His laws on our hearts. Granted some people distort this (this is also explain in the Bible), but for the most part all men can know what is moral and what is immoral. Whether you believe in God or not, you can still be moral or immoral. Some men may appear to be moral when compared to other men, but all are immoral when compared to God. I think this is a problem that many Christians make in judging you as immoral. If they are comparing you to themselves and calling you immoral, they are judging you improperly and guilty of sin. However, if they are comparing you to God’s standards and placing themselves in the same category when calling you immoral, then their analysis is justified. Christians aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. After all, we are still sinners. We do not have the right to judge you, but we do have the obligation to show you your need for salvation from your sins.
BLAIR: “…what is more moral: doing it because you’re told to, want a reward, or afraid of punishment or doing it because it is the right thing to do?”
I’m not sure if you understand why Christians seek to do good works (if we can even call them that–no one actually has ANY good works in God’s eyes). It is not for a reward or because we seek to avoid punishment. It is completely out of gratitude for being saved from our sins. God chooses to save man by His grace. Salvation is a free gift that cannot be earned or merited. I know that I do not deserve to be saved from my sins, but I do know that God has given me a gift in my salvation. Out of sheer gratitude, I seek to serve Him. I know that my good deeds aren’t going to get me anything. In fact, they sometimes cost me in this life. My good works are out of love and appreciation to my Savior, Jesus Christ.
BLAIR: “Jesus did not say that non-believers were in league with Satan. You can be “for” Jesus without recognizing his metaphysical state.”
This is a mistake that most of the world makes. You are not saved by simply believing Jesus’ teachings. You are saved by believing He was who He said He was and giving your life to Him. There are many people who embrace His teaching, but not Him. Jesus Himself tells us that on Judgment Day there will be many who claimed to have done things in His name, but that He will send them away telling them that He never knew them.
The problems with accepting Jesus as prophet as you say the Muslims do or as a great moral teacher as the Jews and Buddhists do (and apparently as you do) is that this is an impossible scenario. Jesus did not leave us any room to accept Him as a prophet of God or as a simple moral teacher. Basically, you have three options in believing in Jesus. He is either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. There is no middle ground. It doesn’t matter how many great things Jesus taught, if he was wrong about being the Son of God. If He lied or was insane when claiming this, then he is not a great moral teacher and definitely not a prophet of God.
The very character of Christ argues persuasively against His being a liar. He spoke of truth and virtue on every occasion. His life exemplified the very message He proclaimed. In fact, very few people will make this claim. The evidence is weighted heavily in favor of Christ being a paragon of truth and virtue rather than a liar. The consistent life and testimony of Christ make it clear as well that He was not a lunatic. A lunatic displays abnormalities and imbalance as part of his lifestyle. You may know some people like this. When we analyze the life of Christ we do not find inconsistencies and imbalance. To the contrary, we discover a man who is mentally sound and balanced. If Christ is neither a liar nor a lunatic, then He is who He claimed to be- Lord of all, the only way by which man can be saved. The objective data for the truth of Christianity comes from two sources- the Bible and the legal history of the Resurrection. When I say legal-history of the Resurrection, I mean the fact that no one ever disproved it. All someone ever had to do to disprove the Resurrection was produce a body. No one ever did. Cleary, the evidence points me to the fact that Jesus is Lord.
BLAIR: “Jesus didn’t say that you had to believe he was the Son of God (which in correct Hebrew translation really means “god-like”) or that he died for our sins.”
Jesus did say “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but through me” in John 14:6. He also said in John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” and in John 8:24 “I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” Jesus did claim to be the Son of God. In Hebrew culture, when a person described Himself as the son of someone, he was stating that he is in the order of that person. This is equivalent to making yourself equal with that person. This is what Jesus did.
Christ supported His case for deity by ascribing to himself various attributes of God. He claimed to be eternal (John 17:5) and omniscient (Matt. 18:20, 28:20). He also spoke of His sinless ness (John 8:46). His indirect claims included His acceptance of worship by men (Matt. 14:33, John 9:35-39, 20:27-29), His ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-11, Luke 7:48-50), and His claim that all men would face Him in judgment (John 5:24-28).
Christ clearly claimed to be the only way and His apostles affirmed this in their writings. Skeptics speculate that Christ could not have meant what the apostles understood Him to say. It is important that we understand that not only did his disciples hear him proclaim His exclusiveness and deity, but so did the critics of His day. Frequently when He made these dramatic claims, the Jews accused Him of blasphemy. In fact, this is what led to His crucifixion. The people who had Him crucified clearly understood what He was teaching. They correctly understood the implications of what He was saying, realizing that He was making himself to be an equal with God. Both His friends and His enemies recognized that He was claiming to be and God and the sole means to God.
BLAIR: “What’s really funny about the whole thing is that Satan as a nemesis of God doesn’t exist until Paul (Paul screwed up a lot, didn’t he?). Satan was an envoy of God, an employee if you will, that carried out the will of God. Satan only appears three times in the OT and in each case he is carrying out God’s orders. He is not against God nor is he a fallen angel (where did that come from?).”
Satan is seen throughout scripture, and He is not seen as doing God’s will. He also wasn’t invented by Paul. Much of the time we do not recognize things as Satan, but we can see his influence. One major example of Satan in the OT is seen in the book of Job. This book is believed to be the oldest in the Bible. Satan is seen as roaming around the earth looking for trouble. He ASKS God if He can do things against Job. God allows it, but this is in no way God’s will.
The fall of Satan is seen in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. These are both prophecies about the fall of men, but like much of scripture we see prophecies revealed about other things. In both passages we see the fall of Satan from his position as an angel to the being that we no him as today. These passages parallel the passages seen in Revelation.
BLAIR: “If you follow the true origins of Satan then followers of Satan are doing God’s work.”
What are the true origins of Satan? I have a tendency to follow the origins God has given in His written Word. After all, I figure He would know best. When we look at things in this light, nothing that followers of Satan do is glorifying to God. When I say that I was following Satan, I was doing things that were not glorifying to God. I did not physically commit some of the things that Paul mentions, but I did in my mind. Jesus tells us that if we even think a bad thought against our brother, we are guilty of murder. If we even look at a woman the wrong way, we are guilty of adultery. I have done all of these things. I am guilty of them all. This is why I am so thankful for God’s grace.
BLAIR: “Genesis clearly identifies more than one God in the creation process.”
Here is our first glimpse at the Trinity. We see clearly one God who is the creator, but we see all three personal manifestations in the creation account. This is a hard concept to understand, but it is the clear teaching of the Bible. There is only one God. He manifests Himself in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
BLAIR: “What evidence is there that God exists? The Bible? How many other texts out there make the same claims about other gods? How do you know you have the right one?”
I have already explained that the evidence for the existence of God is seen in creation and the prophetic evidence of the Bible. No other religion that I have investigated can measure up to the internal evidence of the Bible. What evidence is there that God does not exist? What evidence is there that the Bible is not true?
BLAIR: “Many Christians (certainly not all) are afraid to learn the history and origins of their faith. It was my pursuit of such knowledge that led me to atheism in the first place. It was actually reading the Bible (instead of listening to it at church) that led me to atheism.”
There are many cases of people setting out to disprove Christianity that end up becoming Christians. Look at C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell. I guess it all depends on what evidence you are looking at or possibly biased to.
BLAIR: “What if David Koresh was right and he was the Second Coming? Her certainly went out in a way similar to that described in Revelation.”
The problem with David Koresh and many other is that they have not come in the manner that the Bible prophecies about. The Bible clearly identifies many signs that will occur before He comes back and that He will come down in the same manner that He ascended to heaven for all men to see. Also, the way David Koresh went out is the way that Satan is talked about going out in Revelation. Jesus never goes out. He reigns forever. This is what Revelation teaches us.
BLAIR: “This argument of perspective v. contradictions is a major apologetic because theologians cannot get around the MAJOR contradictions.”
This argument of contradictions is not valid. I will agree that there are many things that people mention as contradictions, but when investigated these are seen as different perspectives of the same story. Yes, some accounts do not give the same information. Yes, some accounts mention some people that other accounts do not. But no, these do not contradict. I realize that we will probably not agree on this. You think that I am refusing to accept your evidence. I think that you will not consider different perspectives. But I can assure you that every “contradiction” that you claim exists has an explanation. I would be glad to discuss these on a case by case basis with you if you like.
BLAIR: “Judas literally means “Jew”. Coincidence or creative writing? My reasoning tells me that the gospel writers should have submitted the gospels to a creative writing contest and not a historical documentary.”
It’s no that the Jews came up with this. God orchestrated all of this. You will see the meaning of names coming in to play throughout the entire Bible. This is not the only case in the Bible. God chose these people with these names to carry out His will time and time again. The names of the people have been symbolic in the role they played in God’s overall plan.
BLAIR: “Jesus and others warn of “false prophets”. The Jews think Jesus is a false prophet (they are doing what they’ve been told by God in the OT) and because they reject Jesus as such, are passed over as the “chosen” and now the Gentiles are the “chosen people”. So the Jews are being persecuted for doing what God told them to do in the first place?”
The problem with this argument is that Jesus was not a false prophet. He never made a false prophecy and in Him all prophecies were fulfilled. They are also still God’s chosen people. However, the OT teaches that in the last days (which began with the resurrection of Jesus) that God’s people will include the Gentiles. This is why today we see some Jews and some Gentiles saved just like in the time of Jesus and the apostles.
I would also like to clear up something. I am thankful that the Jews rejected Christ so that salvation was offered to me. I am not thankful to see any of the Jews being punished in hell. I do not wish that on anyone. But I am thankful that God’s plan was carried out just as he prophesied about. This is another step in confirming the truth of what I believe.
I did not respond back to John because of email address problems. I posted the email problems on the original debate page and asked John to get in touch with me. He did, but not because of my note: he thought I was ignoring him.
John Rebuttal #004 (Continued):
You haven’t responded to my last posting. What are your views on the many prophecies that I list concerning Jesus Christ? I realize that you will have a hard time accepting the Bible as God’s Word considering you do not believe in God, but you will have to consider the fact that the prophecies that were written in the Bible were written between 400 and 1500 years before Jesus was born. What are the chances of someone fulfilling all of these?
I do have another point that I would I would like for you to consider. Atheism claims that there is no God. This cannot be proven anymore than you can prove that God exists. The problem with atheism is that it is not a valid option. In order for atheism to be valid in claiming that there is no God, you would had to have seen all of the evidence in the universe. The only way to know for 100% sure that God does not exist is to see all the evidence. No one has done this. It most likely will never be done. The universe is too vast. Therefore, no one can claim that they know that God does not exist. You have to admit the possiblity that God DOES exist. Atheism has to accept that God does not exist based on faith. If there is the possibility that God exists, then you must consider the consequences of not believing in Him if He does exist. Have you considered the consequences of not believing in God if He does exist?
Let me know what you think. It’s good to open up this conversation again. Sorry that it has bee so long in the making. I have moved to a new state, started a new job, and had my first child (my wife actually had the baby). Look forward to hearing from you soon.
NOTE: I forgot all about this debate as new ones came in and I moved on to other things. At this point, there is no reason to respond to John, so he gets the last word.