Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)

I’m writing this post primarily for my own convenience. During my online journeys to r/atheism, “freethought” blogs, and beyond, I encounter the following arguments so frequently that it seems sensible to fact-check them all at once.

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The Claim: “Religion has been the primary cause of war and oppression throughout the history of mankind.”

photo source: http://radiomankc.blogspot.com/

The Truth: In their comprehensive Encyclopedia of Wars, Phillips and Axelrod document the recorded history of warfare. Of the 1,763 wars presented, a mere 7% involved a religious cause. When Islam is subtracted from the equation, that number drops to 3.2%.

In terms of casualties, religious wars account for only 2% of all people killed by warfare. This pales in comparison to the number of people who have been killed by secular dictators in the 20th century alone.

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The Claim: “Thanks to modern science, the days of religion are numbered. Humanity’s superstitious belief in miracles and sky gods will soon be replaced by an era of atheism and rationalism.”

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The Truth: Modern atheists typically appeal to science™ as the authoritative source of human knowledge, meaning, and morality. So it’s ironic that this particular claim directly contradicts current scientific projections.

The following are expected net gains/losses in religious adherents, worldwide, from 2010-2050:

Christianity: +1,066,944,000 (net gain)
Islam: +1,001,101,000 (net gain)
Hinduism: +316,288,000 (net gain)
Agnosticism: -1,995,000 (net loss)
Buddhism: +61,405,000 (net gain)
Atheism: -4,039,000 (net loss)

(source: World Religion Database)

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The Claim: “The dark ages were a time of ignorance and superstition, thanks to religion’s negative influence on scientific progress.”

DarkAges

The Truth: Atheist writer Tim O’Neill responds to this claim eloquently in his excellent review of “God’s Philosophers” 

“It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked up these strange ideas from websites and popular books. The assertions collapse as soon as you hit them with hard evidence. I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists – like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa – and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents usually scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.”

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The Claim: “Jesus was a mythical figure. The New Testament stole most of its stories from other ancient sources.”

loldaddy.com-1339110548

The Truth: These claims gained a lot of popularity thanks to the 2007 propaganda film “Zeitgeist” and its articulation of the Jesus myth hypothesis.

It turns out that the “facts” presented in the image above are almost entirely fabricated. I was able to refute most of them in about thirty minutes of searching on academic websites:

Horus

  • His mother (Isis) wasn’t a virgin. Isis married her brother (Osiris) and conceived Horus with him.
  • There’s no historical reference to a “star in the east,” or to Horus “walking on water.” Those are simply made up.
  • Horus was never crucified or resurrected. Actually, he never even died! The story is that he “merged” with the sun god, Ra.

Mithra

  • By most accounts, Mithra was born in either September or October.
  • There’s no historical account of Mithra having twelve disciples. That part is also made up.
  • Mithra wasn’t said to have been born of a virgin, but rather out of solid rock.
  • There’s no known record of a resurrection (or even of him having died).

Krishna

  • Krishna was from the royal family Mathura, and was the 8th son of Devaki and her husband Vasudeva.
  • There is no mention of a “star in the east” or a resurrection in the literature.
  • There are some references to him performing miracles, but that’s about it…

Dionysus

  • He wasn’t born of a virgin. His mother was Semele (a mortal), and his father was Zeus.
  • Dionysus died each winter and was resurrected in the spring. No mention of December 25.
  • There are plenty of references to Dionysus turning water into wine…but he was, after all, the Greek god of wine.

(Note: if any of the above is incomplete or inaccurate, please let me know.)

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375 thoughts on “Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)

  1. Useful and (partly) surprising, especially the first two (agnostics projected to decrease in the next few decades, I would not have guessed). I know you said it was mostly for you, but thanks for doing the work to assemble these!

    Playing devil’s advocate, for the first one, the best counterargument I can think of would be that a third, more sophisticated metric would be the most fair: Measuring wars not in terms of number of wars or absolute number of casualties, but in terms of number of casualties in proportion to the total population of the world at the time of each casualty (or of each war, or within a century, if more precision would be impracticable). The argument would be that these scales are by bad luck weighted unfairly against atheists, whose wars disproportionately fall at the end of the timeline, when the world population was much larger and there were a lot more people to kill. On the other hand, maybe the fact that half of the people who died in the Civil War (or whatever the actual particulars are) died from diseases or infections rather than from the initial trauma of their wounds makes it apples to oranges in any case.

    But I’m still really impressed to learn that the numbers we do have are as low as 7% and 2%.

    • Yeah, that’s a fair point. The better metric would probably be # of wars, rather than # of casualties, for that reason.

      I also think one could point to the fact that most of these “religious wars” also had non-religious geopolitical motivations. So in that regard, the 7% figure might even be a bit inflated. (see: http://jwwartick.com/2013/03/18/crusades-stark/)

    • I’m also concerned when it comes to the definition of what makes a war “religious”. If we’re being People-of-the-Book-centric, we think of religious wars as being motivators in the sense that the people running the wars want to convert the other side to their religion or (perhaps more importantly) to drive the other religion out. This is what we mean when we say wars are “motivated by religion”, but other cultures like the Romans and Greeks and I believe possibly the Shinto and various Indian cultures have all famously had “Gods of War” who gave, if not a reason, then at least a religious Justification for war. Religion may, then, not have been causing the war, but it was supporting it. Even the Bhagavad-Gita, often hailed by new-agers as this wonderful sacred text, is ultimately about Krishna trying to convince Arjuna that, no, no, no, it’s okay for you to kill your cousins because that’s what your caste is there for. And he uses religious/philosophical arguments to do so.

    • However, even though we now see war as a tragedy, the fact remains that during the religious wars, especially the crusades, participating in a war was quite honorable. Wars were not deemed tragic until the television brought documentaries to the public sometime around the Vietnamese war. So, the atheist wars have also mainly been ‘tragic’ wars, while the religious wars were ‘honorable’ wars in the mindset of the people at the time. So, the war argument itself was flawed to begin with, no matter the numbers behind it. It comes from a common misunderstanding of people’s mindsets in history, and therefore ignores human reaction to war at that time period.

      As for the oppression, I can see where atheists come from, if they put all religions together. Some religions are quite more oppressive than others, and some are even less oppressive than most of the atheists I’ve met. I mean, seriously? If you are really going to make an un-backed claim about religion being oppressive, than don’t try to force other people to see that, or you have become oppressive yourself and defeated your own argument.

    • Polypsyches, ancient polytheistic religions were rather different than the monotheistic religions we have today. The gods of these religions were personifications and/or explanations of different phenomena. So these cultures experienced the phenomenon of war. They knew the role chance plays in battle. Who decides which man in the formation gets hit by the arrow? What causes the wind to change in favor of one side or the other? Why do some men go into a frenzy when battle is joined while others freeze in cowardice? They had gods that controlled everything else, so there must be gods of war deciding all these factors too. They did not justify war, they just regulated it. Nobody ever fought a war for Ares, but if you were a Greek going to war you definitely wanted to get on his good side so he might help you or at least wouldn’t choose you to get shot/stabbed/hacked to death. Even the Trojan War as portrayed in the Illiad, despite the heavy involvement by the gods, cannot be considered a “religious war”. It was fought over a woman, according to the story. The poem is full of references to the gods empowering or possessing this warrior or another warrior or even fighting alongside the Greeks or the Trojans and cutting down scores of soldiers, but what this really describes is the shifting tides of battle and the acts of valor of particular soldiers. Actually, instead of the religion being the reason for wars, in the ancient polytheistic religions when gods were involved, they were actually choosing sides in mortal conflicts. Whereas in a “religious war” one side says “we’re fighting because we believe in this god and you believe in that god!”, in the ancient Greek religion the gods would say “I’m favoring this side because I like this guy and you like that guy!”

    • both metrics are useless. here is a question, how many human deaths in the modern era “involved” chemotherapy? I bet that number is higher than say those that involved serial killers. Yet somehow, any sane person would tell you that chemotherapy is of more benefit to humanity than serial killers. Using statistics to “prove” the validity of faith is antithetic to faith.

    • I’ve had that out with another bloke once when he claimed that the 20th century was not more violent than the previous 19 combined.

      You have a major problem when using proportions.

      1. proportion of population to number of people killed does not give you a measure for how murderous of an intent there was because unless they killed 100% of people, there were always more people to kill. – It’s like Uganda, millions of people (36M) and only 300k killed in an 8 year war. Called the worst of all african regimes not because of the proportion of population killed but the number of people killed. Proportion at best gives you a measure for how efficient the mechanisms of slaughter used were.

      2. Population numbers to fill proportions are a thumb suck at best when we talk ancient history.

    • For the net gains/losses in religious observance and atheism/agnosticism, I wonder whether they controlled for population, given that the populations of many developing countries (where religions may still be practiced more and passed down through generations) are increasing, while the populations of developed countries (where I would guess more of the world’s atheists and agnostics reside) are leveling off or decreasing. I couldn’t check in the World Religion Database because they needed you to sign in.

    • Those numbers aren’t that low, they just take out wars with religious undertones or armies raised on religious manipulation like the NAZI firmly believing they were doing God’s will for Europe.

    • so many fallacies.

      “2. Globally, the number of those claiming to be religious has dropped by 9 percent from 2005 to 2011, while the number of people identifying themselves as atheists has risen by 3 percent.

      3. Four countries have experienced a drop in religiosity in their populations that is greater than 20 percent between 2005 and 2012. France and Switzerland saw decreases of 21 percent, while Ireland’s number of faithful declined by 22 percent and Vietnam’s by 23 percent.”
      -Source: Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/most-religious-countries-least-religious_n_3640033.html#slide=more309858

      Zeitgiest suggests a lot of elements of christianity are borrowed from Paganism, which is true, such as the pagan practice to bring a pine tree or some kind of winter tree in for the winter solstice, what does that have to do with Jesus? Funny you decided to challenge a stupid meme instead of zeitgiest or some other researched and sourced piece of work. The dark ages were a time when most people were “serfs” or basically farmers with no way out. Religion provided them refuge and hope for something larger than their dismal lives, an “afterlife.” They could also buy salvation with money, so this gave the a church financial scheme, and a crowd-control mechanism; after all, desperate people with nothing to live for can be dangerous, how to keep them obedient? Give them something to live for. This is why there is a positive correlation between education/wealth and irreligion.
      I could go on but people will believe what serves them best even when proved wrong.
      Oh and one last thing, if you follow your parents religion you might want to question if religion is something you truly believe or a part of your culture, there was a time everyone believed the earth was flat, because their parents and people they trusted told them so.

    • Of course Megan’s last sentence isn’t a genetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy is making a claim related to origins (e.g. genetics, culture, …) when it is totally irrelevant. It is not irrelevant in this case. It’s very pertinent. People are mostly indoctrinated into their religion by their parents, and so one’s religion is heavily determined by one’s origin: geographically, culturally, region, district, family.

      That there exceptions, where people change religions or lose it entirely, does not falsify the general case.

      And the analogy with flat earth ideas isn’t too bad, since both it and religion are ideas passed on by authorities that didn’t have enough information to support the claims they were making. Both religion and flat earth ideas were reasonable for their times. Both are looking rather silly now. Thankfully people no longer support flat earth that much, so it is less dependent on origins of time and cultural assumed knowledge. But religion is still dependent on origins of time (of ancient texts), location, parental authority.

      In fact religious people often commit a great genetic fallacy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_fallacy#Argument_from_age_.28.22Wisdom_of_the_Ancients.22.29. Thatnks for reminding us of that.

    • famious quote I want to keep active: “…assertions without arguments to back them up are like spitballs: Anyone can make them; anyone can fling them; and while they can annoy their target, they draw no blood whatsoever.” Edward Feser

    • Meagan, you’re using Huffington Post as a source? Might as well use the Weekly World News, it’s the same level of “journalism”.

  2. Sort of funny how the bullet in the pic is for an AK-47–the round and gun built by anti-God communists that has matter-of-factly killed more people than any other weapon in the history of earth.

    • That’s a random statement. Just because someone invented it doesn’t mean that their beliefs are the reason why people use it to kill. Are you trying to say that people don’t kill each other in the name of religion with guns now? or that during the crusades, the person who invented the sword is to blame? smh. check yourself

    • Eze,
      I’m sorry if you thought a quick observation was meant to be some thorough explanation of something. Lighten up, your highness. The point that you should have realized is that non-religious people can be cruel–the numbers prove it, and the AK-47 represents that group as well as anything.

      …the “sword” thing was really, really, really smart.

    • Actually Mikhail Kalashnikov’s family was Anti-communist, labelled a Kulak and sent to Siberia from where he was conscripted into the Army. But good job on highlighting the intolerance of religion toward others with a conflicting ideology.

    • We Communists are not anti-god you twit…. and that’s not an AK-47 round, the diameter ratios can tell you that just by looking at it.

    • Soviets. Not the same thing as “communists”. Communism is a socio-economic and political form, probably not incompatible with Christianity (particularly considering the oft-used argument that Jesus was himself a proto-communist). The SOVIETS were the ones notoriously anti-religion (as was Marx).

    • @Jay “and that’s not an AK-47 round, the diameter ratios can tell you that just by looking at it.” You’re obviously some sort of ballistics expert or something? Look at the wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7.62%C3%9739mm The picture they use is identical to the one above (but then wikipedia is not infallible as we all know—maybe the people contributing to the article didn’t bother checking that their picture was really an AK-47??)

    • The truth does not need to be defended. It only requires evidence support. Accepting something as truth and then finding a way to rationalize it is not a good method.

    • I was initially surprised as well. It turns out, though, that even within western countries, the non-religious reproduce well below the replacement rate (2.1 children per couple, give or take)…and going forward it just isn’t enough to make up for those who “convert” to atheism later in life. I’d need to dig around a bit for the exact numbers. :)

    • Reading this, I was thinking about how the Bible predicts that in the last days, anyone who doesn’t worship the antichrist will be killed. So that’s a LOT less atheists!

    • To BJ Sullivan,
      It would be very interesting to see how many atheists would be willing to die for their beliefs, and how many are willing to fold and just go with the flow to live.

  3. Religious wars in History? Given that most rulers considered themselves as God, Sons of God, God’s representative on Earth, related to the Gods,etc, that realistic total would be upwards of 750,000,00 to 1,000,000,000 (1Bil). The facts of history are then devastingly clear. The argument that Communism & forms of modern atheistic regimes killing more people, genocide is genocide. Whether belief involves the supernatural or not, these ideologies were rising reactions to the beginning of the industrial age , following more examples of human enslavement that began with the conquerings & colonialization we witnessed in the 14th-15th centuries. Just the human death toll in the Americas after the arrival of Spaniards has been estimated as high as 100mil, eventual wars & struggles for independence followed.

    Its not to argue that Jesus or Christianity are false, or an imitations, but an outgrowth of an already existent continuum, the effects of the rise of an introspective philosophical revolution in the dawning of man’s self realization of his on “psyche” & his civilizations. Law & written codes come into being far earlier than Abrahams & mythological Moses or that Old Testement storytelling, more enlightened rulers like Cyrus the Messiah/King of Kings start to show on the scene around of 600bc onwards. When one cites the similarity of Mithra in the later Roman context, thats being intentionally obtuse as Christian & Islamic apologists act so childlike in their wonder-view of real history. The God “Mitra” goes back all the way to the Indic variation, later Indic/Persian rising out of the peacful Mohenjo-Daro & Harappan Indus river civilizations.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_Valley_Civilization#Religion

    Later offshoots to the Indo/Persian we find 2000-3000yrs later affecting most of what you call the “Old Testement” religion the Hebrews cobble together for unifying purposes with the scribes of around 600bc, for before that we find Judaism is a polytheism, 100’s of goddess figurines found right in Jersusalem. And your still left with the glaring fabrication of there being Hebrews & Moses enslaved by the Egyptians, which 90% of scholars today have pretty much seen for what it is, a pure borrowed fiction. The far older version of proto Indo/Persian God “Mitra” that passes down to King Cyrus is quite the benevolent God whos meaning literally translates into “Covenant”. Are learning yet? Those stories of the flood, baby in the reeds, genesis, prophecies, all long part of that ancient milieu.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitra

    Not learning yet? Ok, lets go further to when the OT is first being assembled in its most primitive form, which would be right around 600BC, not the rediculous 1400BC Moses dating. This is right when Cyrus the Great takes Babylon freeing many Hebrews and even finances the building of their 1rst temple. I say 1rst temple for thats what it truely was, going back to 1000BC Jerusalem was barely a cowtown, there was no 1rst Temple then, no King David or Solomon with 3,000 wives. From the King Cyrus era 600bc we get the powerful Zoroastrian / Persian/Mitra affects which gives you certain theologies & cosmologies the Hebrews did not have the sophistication to dream up themselves. The idea of attendent ANGELS serving one supreme GOD of LIGHT. SATAN & demons, lord of darkness and the idea of DUALITY which leads onto that great DAY of JUDGEMENT. And the RESURRECTION and SOULS in the AFTERLIFE in HEAVEN. This is what you get from both the Persian & the Egyptian, you’d think that MITRA meaning COVENANT would be a little clue for you Christians, but ignoring history is what you’re best at, along with Islamicist who copied you & the Jews.

    Moving onto Greek Hellene influence, forget Dionysis for a bit, forget Horus and just think about that beautiful introspection of thought that starts to take place simultaneously around 500bc. You have Confucious in China, Buddha in India and the Jain Sages.Saints that go back 22 generations before BUDDHA. Their entire philosophy is base on “Ahimsa” or non violence, this would date back to 1400bc easily from Buddha’s birth around the same time as Socrates. What do you see happening around 500BC that is to effect Palestine so heavily? It is the Hellene influence, of philosophy & mans deepening appreciation of a Divine harmony of Creation of which he starts to explore in his own self control, temperance, & contemplation. The Greeks were also very worldly too, but the fact is we have the GOLDEN VERSES of PYTHAGORAS that were so powerfully regarded from 500BC on, you can bet that Paul/Saul or even Jesus was quite aware of those beautiful verses were. All educated Hellenes, right down to Christian monks in Europe 2000yrs later marveled at those verses. Read them yourself, they contain just about all the essences of Christianity that was to follow.

    Golden Verses of Pythagoras

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Verses_of_Pythagoras

    Lets not forget to mention the Greek God of Healing ASCLEPIUS, who was resurrected after being punished for raising people from the dead and became a great popular cult with Temples that were highly valued in the Medditeranean. Do think Israel was just Hebrews playing with themselves? 1/2 of the Jewish population were Hellenists,dum dums! Also of note was the famous STAFF of ASCLEPIUS that has an entertwining SNAKE you see in medicine today, how coincidental the Hebrews fabricated story of Moses & his Staff of snakes, here’s your raising of the dead story ASCLEPIUS

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asclepius

    As for ISIS ,forget Horus, Christian apologists are such nimrods sometimes, this River Goddess becomes one of the most popular God cults after Asclepius in the all the Medditteranean when Jews are slaughtering Jews just before this Christ story begins. This isn’t the same old Egyptian God she has evolved as 1000yrs goes buy, she is regarded in an emerging new light, as men of the more common plane realize that all souls may find their ways to heaven, not just Pharoahs & priests. Surprise surprise, this is what Christians have done so much to try & destroy, but as you mock, so shall you be mocked. ISIS was a changed Goddess, she’s more powerful than Allah or Jawveh or Jesus “Father” God, on par as this Roman prayer to her goes .

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isis

    ISIS
    “I am nature, the universal Mother, mistress of all the elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen of the ocean, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are, my nod governs the shining heights of Heavens, the wholesome sea breezes. Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names … the Egyptians who excel in ancient learning and worship call me by my true name…Queen Isis.”

    No, Jesus was not original, all that wisdom was already in place, from the feeding of the multitudes to the Golden Rule, we see this plainly with another Jewish sage from Babylon is reknowned for the same wisdom Rabbi Hillel.

    • All cultures have a version of the “Golden Rule.” This is regardless of date and especially geography. I’m sure you are aware of that, but how would you account for it? Thanks.

    • The “golden rule” in the new testament was never the “Golden Rule” according to Jesus. It is one verse that is not even repeated. Our culture has just deemed that one “do unto others…” verse as the “Golden Rule”. Jesus never deemed it that. In fact the Golden Rule is more like Love God with all your heart mind and soul and love others as yourself….

    • Rumipoet, your argument falls apart from the beginning. Your claim that just because certain cultures have their kingship founded on divine right (not all, many had kingship based on need or skill on the battlefield), every war any king has waged is therefore a religious war, is just baffling in its simplicity. It is just -not by a long shot- enough to have ‘religious’ individuals (do me a favor and read up some stories about a number of kings, I contend that a lot of them might be ‘religious’ in name, but definitely not in their actions) participating or even starting a war, to suddenly make that war a religious one. Take the fighting in Northern Ireland for instance. That is NOT a religious war. It just so happens that Ireland was traditionally catholic, and England/Scotland traditionally Anglican. Now the British conquered Ireland, settled there, and the Irish fought back to regain their independence. A political independence, mind you, not a religious one. Because of the tradition behind each nation, fighters on one side roughly identified themselves as catholic, those from the other side as anglican. So what? The fight was about who would gain political control of Northern Ireland, not about the Virgin Mary or who is the rightful successor to Peter. So what religious war? You mention the Spanish, but if you would put in some effort to read a bit further, and actually study the history, you would know that there were people such as Bartolome de las Casas. When the debate of colonization was focused on religion, people like him prevailed. When it was focused on greed or pragmatism, or sheer power lust, religion was either shunned/silenced or selectively abused to justify themselves into taking whatever it was they wanted. So come again?

      And about your other arguments, in Flemish they have a saying ‘you heard the bell toll, but have no idea where the clapper is’, meaning that you heard something, but have not fully grasped the full extent of the history you’re presenting. Yes, certain elements overlap. But what if the Christian world view is correct? Bear with me and let’s think this true. In that view it is plausible that people who lost knowledge of God and the images He set up in his revealed word, would use some of those elements as well. The Kelts, for example, had a three headed god, Does that mean the Christians stole their idea of the trinity from them? Or perhaps the Celts were aware of a reality beyond the immediate visible? That argument is therefore invalid to use. On top of that, it focuses only on some elements that have nothing to do with the core itself of each of those religions. Talking about Isis, for a moment, since you gleefully brought her up, the Hebrews have been in Egypt as well, so can we now say that they contributed to this changed image of Isis? Or does that only work one way, according to your purposes?

    • You really like Wikipedia buddy, I hope that you do some more scholarly reading before you put all your eggs in the Wikipedia basket.

    • all you have observed is the universality of Christ’s teachings. seeing as God is everywhere and Jesus is God makes this a trivial observation.
      in the beginning was the word. read the start to the gospel of john
      Christ never claimed to be showing a new way, rather he came to show the way more clearly than ever before. Christ is the revelation of God to man, fully.

    • For any at all interested in evaluating Rumipoet’s claims, I suggest reading “The Bible Among the Myths” by John N. Oswalt, research professor of Old Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary.

      When you investigate each claim individually, you will see they don’t stand up. Also, the denial of the Bible’s historicity vis-a-vis Egyptian slavery and exodus is so similar to the denial of Luke’s historical details (like Pontius Pilate) — it’s an argument from the absence of evidence. In Pontius Pilate’s case, evidence has since been found. Not that long ago people said David and Solomon were legendary myths—then archeological evidence was found. How many times does that have to happen before we realize that the Bible is actually reliable in what it says about historical events even if you disagree with the religious causation/viewpoints.

      I would say it is surprising when we find evidence still existing from 3000 years ago. It’s not surprising to me in the least when huge swaths of history are missing from archeology. It doesn’t mean nothing was happening, but just that no trace was left behind. Saying that the OT was written around 600BC displays an ignorance of linguistics, history, archeology, etc. The Bible is unified, but not by being a fabrication from the 600’s. There are parts written in different languages. It’s not the sort of thing you’d write if you got a committee together to write the history of your people.

      When you read other histories of the times, you quickly note surprising differences: Biblical history includes many details of things totally omitted elsewhere like failures, and highlights more than just rulers. It also sharply criticizes most of it’s rulers, which was not in vogue in the historical literature department of the day.

    • “Also, the denial of the Bible’s historicity vis-a-vis Egyptian slavery and exodus is so similar to the denial of Luke’s historical details (like Pontius Pilate) — it’s an argument from the absence of evidence.” ITS NOT if there as evidence of the exodus then there would be no signs of Egypt flourishing during the 16th-15th centuries BC, instead we have a picture of a nation the exact opppsite of what the exodus events should have done to it

    • No offense but you should try using a more credible site next time. Wikipedia is not always the most reliable thing..

    • I love how many comment’s there are above telling Rumipoet to not use Wiki without actually showing how any of his points are invalid.

      I also can’t find any comments from these same people complaining about the original author barely using references for most of his points and not using any for his final one.

    • Rumipoet, the fact that you used Wikipedia for every source of information shows an inherent falsehood to your statements. Wikipedia is well known to be full of garbage and not worth an academic’s time, mainly due to its open source editing. Come back with some well researched material u might be taken a bit more seriously

    • observer,

      “Wikipedia is well known to be full of garbage”

      No it isn’t. It isn’t full of garbage, nor is it known to be full of garbage. It is mistakenly believed to be full of garbage by some people.

      Wiki contains plenty of information that is of a very good quality. Wiki does contain some garbage; of course it does. The thing is, some of the most garbage like content exists on pages on the historicity of Jesus. Try reading the Talk tab as well as the topic page and you’ll see that the most contentious are full of comments that point out the errors; and there’s often lots of editing and re-editing as the proponents of the page try to sneak in unsubstantiated garbage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Historical_Jesus

    • Dismissing someone who uses Wikipedia is a cheap trick by someone who doesn’t want to engage the actual argument – it’s a type of genetic fallacy, or poisoning the well, or something. Wikipedia is somewhat known for squelching conservative points of view, however, so there is a risk. But to say “you ruined your credibility for using Wikipedia” is just lazy and stupid. YOU sir ruined your credibility by using such a dodge. Grow freaking up.

    • You just said that a Hellenistic god Asclepius was the source for a story that takes place before the Greek culture had even come into existence. Check the dates of the manuscript evidence and you’ll find that The hebrew Moses and his staff event was recorded long before even the greek language was formed.

  4. So the idea i am imparting to you here,is the parallel & pre-existing stories that do get cobbled together by Hebrew scribes, but dont think for a moment these are being inspired by “God” anymore than Mohammed was hearing the voice of the Angel Gabriel or the Mormon Joseph Smith was being visited by the Angel Moroni in 1825 America. These stories were old as the hills aqs we used to say, by the time the Hebrews are even beginning to get civilized, they become this after being exposed to the Babylonian & the Persian, which in turn have roots all the way back to the Indus river civilizations & Gods & creation myths on mass timescales so vast that make the Bible look like nursery school. They were already looking at the cosmology of the universe in terms of billions of years, which would make Jehova look like a tiny midget. The idea is looking ourselves as part of a great continuum of evolving self awareness and yes, the Christ story is extremely touching, there were easily over 500 men called Jesus crucified at that time, Priests from the Temple, one was leading a pacifist movement up in Galilea. The gnostics that later Christians were to persecute & destroy for heresy have direct lineage back to the Persian Zoroastrians, theres was a self realization path thru self knowledge, later condemned by Augustine who himself borrows so heavily from the Platonists in his City of Light essays. Was there good influences being accummulated in that world centering around Christianity, sure, and many martyrs too. We have seen this before & since, and will again, its called revolution. Look at Islam that followed later and it also clamped down, for human numbers were growing larger, cities more complex. Science was begun with the first fire men lit in a cave 2mil yrs ago, religion too, its all a continuum.

    BTW, religious #s are growing by one metric,. but not in the higher halls of education or secular Europe, those numbers you have are pretty bogus. There is a melding of science, Evolution & religion now, check your local Vatican to see this. Though Catholics are as strange in some of their beliefs as any ancient Zoroastrian. But in time everything evolves, the one thing we know is change, more clarity, self knowledge , too bad there are so many of us, 2050 there will be more people over 60 than 15 & under,countries will not be able to handle the stress. And just like ancient Rome & its religion of empire Christianity, we have classes of super rich elites , same as it ever was.

    • So, tell me, then, if all of the things surrounding Christianity are made up, how in the universe everything came into being. I certainly am not keeping the universe running. You certainly aren’t. Who is, if not a Supreme Being? And if Joseph Smith didn’t chat with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, then the Angel Moroni, how did he obtain access to the records in the Hill Cumorah that had been buried there for centuries? And if not with heavenly aid, how did he translate them? He cannot have made it all up-the information contained within is too complex, too detailed, and too clear for a fiction novel or for him to have made it all up at his age and education level. Additionally, if as you seem to believe, there is no Heavenly Father or Satan, then what prompts us to choose the right or tempts us to make wrong decisions? What gives us exactly what we need when we need it when we don’t realize we need it necessarily? And how is it that you do not believe that there actually were things happening much earlier in history than 600BC? And yes, things do tend to follow a cyclic course where the morality of men is concerned, but that does not mean that everything is simply going around and around, as you claim. As such, in order for everything you say to be accurate and true, you have to literally go back in time and record everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, regardless of whether or not it refutes your argument here. And of course, you also need a way back and you need to go everywhere as well. Also, how in the universe would you know how big or small any cities were in those early eras? It’s not as though you have a telescope to the past pointed exactly at the areas…and I severely doubt Jerusalem was a tiny town in 1000BC. You see, the records indicate that there were many wars fought in that area after the Israelites escaped from bondage in Egypt. And no, Moses’ staff did not have a snake on it. It became a snake and then switched back to wood to prove to Pharaoh that Heavenly Father does have matchless power. The magicians made crude fakes by way of sleight of hand and bringing in their own snakes, but not really changing a wooden staff into a snake and back. And their snakes got eaten, too. Have you even read the entire Bible and the entire Book of Mormon? I doubt it. If you had, you’d find it a lot harder to criticize them.

    • As far as how the universe came into being, the most probable theory of our’s is something we call the Big-Bang. It is mere probability that our part of the universe is “running”. If you were to take 1,000,000,000,000(1T) 10-sided dice and drop them onto a flat landscape, I guarantee that you will find some neat coincidences. You might find your phone number, your date of birth, all sorts of weird stuff. Think of this as how the universe is “running”. The universe is incredibly vast, it is absolutely impossible for us to grasp how large it is. No matter how hard you try, it would be impossible to comprehend the size of the universe. The probability that at least one planet has the right “ingredients” for life is guaranteed, and I’m sure that earth isn’t the only planet.
      It took 1B (1,000,000,000) years for the first forms of life to develop on our planet. We call these “Simple Cells”, as they normally don’t have separate “cells” which hold their genetic makeup. They contain one “cell membrane” which contains all of their DNA and metabolites (and I think their proteins as well). As these cells evolved, we get a form of bacteria (I can’t remember the name at the moment). Algae is a great example of these bacterium.
      Within the next 1.5B (1,500,000,000) years, these cells evolved into complex cells. These complex cells grew vast in diversity and would be the ground-works for things like flowers, animals, fungii.
      Finally, after 1B (1,000,000,000) years of evolution, we arrived at the tipping point in cellular life; Multicellular Life. This was where multiple single-cell organisms would identify and interact with other single-cell organisms and create multi-cell organisms. This is the foundation of life.
      After about 400M (400,000,000) years, we see the first signs of animals. Surprisingly, it would appear that the first animals were actually quite complex. Much more complex than you or me. You could think of this like simple algebra. It’s very easy to create a solution, but the whole idea is to simplify, and create the simplest form of a solution.
      After this, about every 50M (50,000,000) years, we would have some sort of evolution in these lifeforms. The next 50M developed animals with bilateral symmetry.
      After this evolved Fish and proto-amphibiens, then land plants, then seeds and insects, then amphibians, then reptiles, then mammals, then birds, then flowers, then primates, and then Great Apes.
      Finally, about 2.5 Million (2,500,000) years ago, we had the Homo Sapien. I don’t need to explain the H^s (Homo Sapien).
      For the last ~200,000 years, we have been on this planet (Homo Sapien Sapien’s, or H^ss).
      Now I’m no expert on humans, but from what I understand, what separates us from Hs (homosapiens) is that we developed
      the ability to think about thought itself. This is where all of these questions arrive from. We don’t think and act in
      the same instance, they are two separate decisions. This ability to think has caused man great stress, in my opinion. :] (i’m trying to be light-hearted)
      As H^ss, and having this ability to think, we have come up with the idea of “Time”, which is an entirely man-made idea. It is our best way to explain the past, present, and future. To an outsider, there would be no past, and no future. The past merely changed to the present, to where we are now. The future is untold, but can be guided by our actions. Time is simply a construct of our minds as a way to explain things.
      We strive for explanations, because we are naturally thinking things. It’s our specialty. As we have evolved, we have developed different ways of thinking, and different parts of our brain. Part of our brain is used for decisions, part for memory, part for comprehension, etc. The part that makes decisions is where we have developed the judgmental part of our brain. From this part of our brain, we can determine Right from wrong.
      I’m not bashing any religion in any way, in-fact, I think religion has done some amazing things for humankind throughout our history. It has unified man, helped develop some sort of rules of ethic, and given many people purpose. In any belief throughout history you are going to see stumbles, but the truth is, it took those pitfalls to arrive where we are today, and I’m grateful for that. Without error, there is real growth, only stagnation.

  5. The oldest in that list of “Jesus” stories is from Ancient Egypt. I’ve always wondered if during the first occupation as slaves their ancient stories prophesying the coming of the Messiah had any influence on Egyptian mythology.

    • Akhenaten, the unruly Pharaoh who abandoned the polytheism of the day for a monotheistic worship of Aton (or the sun god Ra, who were equated), lived not that long after the moment tradition places Moses and the Exodus. That idea is not as far fetched as it might seem, Nixon… :)

    • It’s hard to really debate that point in anything but a purely theoretical ecumenical-religious context. There is no physical evidence, from what I understand, that the Hebrews ever were in Egypt, which makes it hard to justify calling such conjecture “academic”.
      But from a Christian or even Jewish perspective, that would make sense.

  6. Pingback: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity | A disciple's study

  7. This reply is directed to rumipoet and Captain Black. I do not consider myself an historian but I am a Christian and have studied the Bible for some time. runipoet, you seem well versed in ancient history especially when it comes to mythology and have done a fine job telling Christians that everything we believe from the Bible is made up and most taken from the ancients. I to have been impressed with the crossover stories in history. Because I believe the Bible 100% my thinking is that all of the ancient religions and mystics borrowed from the Hebrew writers. Some such as Confucius, are believe received inspiration from the God we Christians and Hebrews serve. God does speak to those who seek Him. Much of what Confucius said and practiced was not from divine inspiration, but from a compassionate heart. Much of it was common sense.
    You may have heard that we Christians (I am referring to those of us who live by the teachings in the Bible and not because we attend a Christian church once -in-awhile or are bore into a “Christian family.”) talk about having a personal relationship with God and His son Jesus. No other religion can claim this for their god. I do have a personal relationship with the Father God. I talk with Him daily and have received the blessings of joy and peach that no other god or religion can give. You are going to insert that contemplation and gaining peace through nature is available, and it is but when the rubber meets the road that peace fails. The peace that only God can gives never fails.
    Now I would like to direct my words to Captain Black. Sir, I would be very careful defending the Book of Mormon as divinely inspired and given by an angel. Many so called historical accounts in that book have been proven false. The founder of Mormonism was a very questionable character. If you are a Mormon I am not trying to offend you. Perhaps you should do a little research on the religion and it’s founders.
    This may not be a very scholarly reply but it is one I felt needed to be made.

    • First of all, understand that unlike many non-Christians (I hesitate to call myself an Atheist) I don’t really have that much of a problem with the kind of Christianity thought to have been preached by Christ himself. “Golden rule,” whatever way you want to word it, a lot of what he says is very nice.
      The problem is when Christians act like they’re the only ones who get it right.
      On that note, when you say that no other religion boasts a personal relationship with their God(s), you are forgetting the household Gods of the Romans, the priestly casts of the Greeks and any number of other religions that do, in whatever way they choose, claim to have some direct correlation or relationship with their God. Jesus may be nicer than most, but other than that, what makes him special is only the fact that he is lonely in his one-God religion.
      That much is up for debate, though. All in all, if Christians actually practiced the peace-and-love approach that Jesus preached and forgot all the Old Testament “Our God demands that we slaughter your entire tribe” nonsense, it would be a pretty okay religion, as religions go.
      But you’re doing it wrong. I know this because first you say that you believe in the Bible 100% (which tells me you believe in its LITERAL truth, that the Earth is 6000 years old, that Elijah or whoever it was was sucked straight up into heaven and became an angel, that homosexuality is an abomination every bit as much as wearing clothes made of two different kinds of fabric, not to even mention of course the resurrection and subsequent salvation of Jesus Christ). And then you turn around and attack–yes, ATTACK–someone from a different religion for showing the exact same amount of religious fervor you have.
      Not that I’m defending Mormonism. I rolled my eyes when I got to that passage in Captain Black’s explanation, too, but I gotta tell you, reading your invective response made me LAUGH OUT LOUD. The fact that you can be so adamant about covering your own bases and then speak of “historical accounts” to refute someone else’s religion? I’m sorry, but you can’t have both. If you refer to the scientific approach to studying history to refute someone else, you can’t tell me that the Bible doesn’t have irreconcilable contradictions, inconsistencies and gaping, gaping lacunae. As I replied to an earlier comment, there is no HISTORICAL evidence that the Hebrews were ever in Egypt. There are Phillistine sources (historical sources) that insist that Goliath survived his encounter with David. And even in those four special Gospels that actually made it into the canonical New Testament (all of which, according to meticulous scientific philological research, have been dated to at least a few decades after the events they record, and one of which, John, could not have been written by someone who actually witnessed it) give very different accounts of both the order and the quality of the events they portray. So do us all a favor and make up your mind: either believe what you want to believe and let others do the same (I certainly won’t stop you) or apply the same scientific rigor to your own reasoning that you use to refute others’ religious leanings.

    • ““I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  8. Great work. I’d live to have references for where you got your info and stats from though. Is there a way you can list your sources? I’d love to read up more extensively. :) thanks again!

    • Which ones, specifically? I gave sources in the OP for all the points except #4 – since that required multiple sources.

  9. Hi I am a Christian and well bascially I agree that the dark ages where in every really stupid to call them Christian is an insult to all human beings this surely is an era everyone is ashamed of ?

    An true christianity totally depends on the supernatural power of God if you can not believe beyond what can be reasoned with the human mind or tested and evaluated from by humans it will never make sense or seem like an option.

    We all have a spirit we can commune with though

    • Hey, just a side note, you might want to use punctuation and edit your posts. Not using these makes a post seem poorly articulated and offensive. Just a side not though. I do agree with what I think you seem to be saying, about relying solely on God and what not.

    • A lot of professional historians are moving away from calling those times “Dark Ages” but they were VERY dark regardless. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t enjoy living in those times just do some research and read William Edward Hartpole Lecky “History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne”, especially Volume II, Chapter 4
      The Saints of the Desert. You learn how Christian morals and ideals pretty much destroyed generations of humans lives. Calling them “Dark Ages” is an understatement.

  10. I would add that Jesus Christ being born on the 25th of December is a misconception. The church just adopted the date. Great post!

    • It does conveniently fall very close to the Winter Solstice, making it the perfect point for the Roman Catholics to draw pagans in without messing up their pre-existing mojo too much.

    • Coming in late here, but I heard from a well respected Jesuit that that whole “Catholics stole Christmas from the pagans” thing was also a myth, although I am convinced the Church “converted” other traditions into Christian holy days. If I remember it right the emperor at the time was trying to squash this Christian nuisance of celebrating Jesus birth by moving up when they (Rome) practiced the Solen Victus (sp?) to coincide with the Christian practice.

    • yes that is right, until around 300ad there is no record of Christians celebrating Jesus birth. It was Constantine after his (questionable) conversion to Christianity, decided that uniformity across religions would ensure all the orgies took place at the same time. All were instructed to celebrate their gods” birthdays on December 25.

  11. As a biblical scholar, BS Biblical studies, Dip Ministry studies, there is a well established tradition of religions of all sorts borrowing from or taking from other local religious systems. This is also happening in the Christ literature on a very technical level. Please read the Sage from Galilee by David Fleuser. It covers some of this. A great example of this is how the serpent is evil in Genesis but was an early Palestinian deity. Not disagreeing with you just some food for thought.

  12. For God’s Sake (pun intended).
    everybody is arguing the historical credibility of a concept that should stand alone.

    The question to begin with was basically, is religion good or bad?. the answer, religion is good, the complication arises from human fault, and when that fault originates from a place of power.

    The next question, is there a supreme being?. for this we have to get a little more philosophical. due to our own skewed perspective, what we perceive as a being requires sentience, or sapience, although the later is a rather exclusive and arrogant term. but say, one acknowledges the life of a rock, it’s lot in the world and it’s changing nature, one can live ones whole life simply observing. then if a rock has life, so does the universe as a whole, and then you have your god, who is all powerful simply because it is in control of itself.

    The third, is the Christ Mythos credible? before looking at this it is important to note that there is more than one context in which this story can be considered and that is reflected in the fact that it was noted down by humans that had their own interpretations of events. the answer, no one knows for sure, but it’s a hell of a good story, and just because something may not have happened, it does not mean that there is nothing to be learn from the story. the ancients believed that by perceiving something to be true, by believing in it, you make it so. by believing the jesus was real we create a model to aspire to, and from that there may one day come a true jesus. there is merit in the idea, even if it is not based on fact, and by drawing it into one, we make a whole from many parts.

    Fourth, is the bible credible? no, it is full of historical inaccuracies, but ask the question is it right and the answer is very different, there is much figurative truth in the bible and the lessons found in it have value.

    finaly, i would like to add that for all the scholarly thought going into the topic of adoption of myth, as someone who loves mythology and its nature i would like to point out that isis was a goddess of magic and nature, and not a river goddess, you are thinking of her sister nepthys, Mitra is a very old god indeed and his story has evolved over time, so who can say the truth as to his nature is in question. there are certain numbers of importance in most cultures so groupings of 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,21,24,28,32,36 or 48 shouldn’t surprise anyone. and, to boot, due to the fact that there are infinite possibilities, jesus could have been just a very large number of coincidences, or, if it is the same god that has spoken to so many yet been interpreted so differently over the eons, then it should hardly be surprising that it would ask the same thing more than once, give the same instruction.

    now please, stop arguing and go be productive and useful denizens of the cosmos and i will endeavor to do the same.

    • ““I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” C.S. Lewis,”

  13. Thanks very much for the reassurance you have given us. In the end, it will come down to whether we are prepared to be considered fools for God. The true situation is that the one who believes in his heart that there is no God is the fool.

    • “The true situation is that the one who believes in his heart that there is no God is the fool.”

      How do you know that? Sounds like you’ve just plucked that out of thin air. These simplistic assertions don’t really tell us anything other than what YOU think, without telling us why you think it.

    • This is for Ron Murphy. The Bible says that the one who believes there is no God is a fool. Psalm 14:1

  14. I fell sorry for you because you live in lies. … All off this above is NOT true !! The Christ is only true Son of God all above are simply not correct information!! Issus Christ Son of Got please forgive the writer of this text because he do not know what he is doing!

  15. This is shameful picking of low hanging fruit. You don’t declare that ALL atheists make these claims, so I suppose that’s something; but instead you merely say that you “encounter the following arguments so frequently”. Well maybe that’s why you don’t understand secular atheist Humanism and sceptical arguments against religion. You’re following the wrong atheists.

    For each of these I could also say I encounter arguments frequently that make far more outrageous claims supporting religion – not least with the unsupported claim that there is God, but claims by religious simpletons that think atheists can’t be good and are in league with the devil.

    It’s fine to call out the dumb stuff. But is this really a rebuttal of anything that many atheists would not dismiss too? Perhaps the problem is the way you combine quite reasonable statements into more ridiculous ones. Many of the elements of the statements you make can be defended, as rumipoet does. But I think your phrasing to the supposed atheist claims are more duplicitous than that, so I’ll tackle each in turn.

    • There’s nothing “shameful” about the article. It’s a concise, well written rebuttal of common objections one hears about Christianity. I think you’re upset that he’s exploded arguments you’ve believed and probably used yourself.

    • What would you require to consider the claim that there is a God supported? Is the claim that there is not a God supported?

    • John Carpenter, It is shameful in that it misrepresents the case that most atheists put forward. It mixes claims to make them sound ridiculous. It’s low hanging fruit. It would be like me accusing Matt of the follies of Young earth Creationism.

    • 1. It is low hanging fruit, absolutely. But see, it’s not as if I refuse to engage with the *better* arguments against Christianity as well. I’ve written extensively in the past on the problem of evil, objections to fine tuning, etc.

      2. No, it wouldn’t be like you accusing me of the follies of YEC…because I’m not accusing anyone specifically of holding these beliefs. I’m responding to them in a *general sense*. There’s nothing shameful about correcting bad arguments. It does a favor to both sides.

      3. You’ve gone after “low hanging fruit” on your blog as well:

      “There is no such debate, only unsupported claims by YEC. They may think there is a debate, but the science demonstrates there is nothing to debate. And it would be a misrepresentation of science to liken these YEC claims to the legitimate debate within science about the precise age and cause of the formation.” http://ronmurp.net/2012/07/06/the-giants-balls-up/

    • The general points you make about low hanging fruit are fair. As I said there’s nothing wrong pointing out errors. But I gave a number of reason why the specific claims you quoted were problematic. And then there are issues like this: “So it’s ironic that this particular claim directly contradicts current scientific projections.” When what you linked to wasn’t ‘scientific projections’ but rather the opinions of a religiously oriented site that has been choosy in what it presenting.

  16. Take the first one: “Religion has been the primary cause of war and oppression throughout the history of mankind.”

    You kindly cited sources for your rebuttals. How about links to sources that make this claim. And I don’t mean sources that make a claim that religion has been the motivation in some wars, but the primary cause, throughout history.

    The statement is a little slippery anyway. It could mean any of the following, depending on how you take ‘primary’ and ‘throughout history':
    – Religion has caused most wars throughout history.
    – Religion has caused some wars, but most of the oppression. (oh yes, you forgot to rebut the ‘oppression’ bit).
    – There have been many wars and much oppression throughout history, but religion has been responsible for less than 50%, but of the many causes religion is the primary single cause.
    … and maybe more interpretations.

    You addressed numbers in your comments, but generally as time has gone on there have been both population increases and greater mechanised means of killing larger numbers. To do better one would first need to decide how to evaluate and weight various measures in order to come to any reasonable conclusion.

    But then it still remains complicated because in virtually every war there are mixed interests. So, a pope may instigate a religious crusade entirely for political power purposes, and may use religious belief as a means to stir up support. In such a case the main motive is political power, but it still doesn’t say much for religious truth that the masses can be so easily stirred to violence for their religion – which is one of the real arguments made against religion and non-religious dogmas.

    The recent Iraq wars were about many things, including oil and the associated control of the Middle East, the sales of arms in the US, with members of government having interests in the industrial machine, the conflict in politics between Middle East states and the West, mainly for political reasons, but with Islam being a common call to arms around the various disparate states in the Middle east.

    And so we come to the realistic criticism of religion, with respect to war. If religions are as good as they are supposed to be, if Islam is the religion of peace and Christianity is based on the love of our fellow man, should ANY wars be religion, done in the name of religion? When a power pope calls for a crusade why is not every Christian up in arms, not fighting the crusade but opposing it?

    The problem here is that even if we find a political basis for a conflict, the political difference can be based around religion. So, in Northern Ireland it is no surprise that the majority of Roman Catholics sided with the Irish Roman Catholic rebels against the protestant supporters of the United Kingdom. The split is virtually entirely on religious belief. And that and many other conflicts come about because of religion, because religion is divisive.

    Let’s address that other favourite: atheist regimes that were oppressive and like to start wars. The differences between National Socialist Fascists in Germany and the rest of Europe wasn’t religious. But neither was it because they believed in different atheisms. Of course many of the people on both sides where religious and some were atheists. It was an entirely political problem. And that other favourite of the religious in demonstrating how not all wars are religious, Communism, was an entirely political matter, and not, for example, atheist Communist states against religious Western states.

    This complete irrelevance of atheism is obvious, unless of course you can show a conflict that was entirely because of some atheist group or nation decided to attack some religious nation because the latter believed in God, or an example where two atheist forces warred because of their disagreements about which atheism was the one true atheism.

    So it is quite legitimate for atheists to point to the role religion has played in conflicts, when it should have no part in any conflict, if the goodness of God and believers is to be believed. It is, I agree, unreasonable, and plainly false, to claim that “Religion has been the primary cause of war and oppression throughout the history of mankind.” It is also unreasonable to make a claim that atheists make that claim, if you can’t find any respectable atheist sources that make that point. You should know better by now.

    I’ve got a better statistic. Count only wars which had a strong religious disagreement at their core – I mean where the difference in doctrine has been a significant factor that has identified the sides in the conflict. Count all these as R-Wars. Then, count all the wars where two sides where significantly their versions of atheism were the key difference, and count these as A-Wars.

    %R-Wars = 100 * R-Wars/(R-Wars + A-Wars) = 100%

    %A-Wars = 100 * A-Wars/(R-Wars + A-Wars) = 0%

    And please, don’t try to argue that any wars involving atheistic regimes were about atheism, because they never were. The Cold War, the Korean War, and any other conflicts involving atheist states were about Communism v Capitalist Western Democracy.

    • Atheism is essential to communism. Without atheism there is no communion and hence there are none of the atrocities associated with communism. Atheism has killed more people in the last century than all faiths put together over all time.

    • Atheistic “religious” wars were the communist revolutionary wars and the subsequent oppression of their own people. You mention earlier that oppression should be included, not just wars. Communist states have been far more oppressive of religion than “religious” states ever have been of minority religions. The Jews may have been an oppressed minority in the Western world, for centuries, but anyone of any religion has been forcibly oppressed both in the Soviet, Chinese, and Korean communist regimes. The Cuban regime has relaxed its stance a bit in Castro’s final years.

    • John Carpenter, Atheism may have been essential to the particular communism we witnessed in the 20th century, but in principle communism could be constructed without atheism – it isn’t that essential to many communist principles. Again, though atheism may have been needed for the particular communisms we witnessed it wasn’t the atheism that resulted in the killing. Atheism clearly is not responsible for the killing.

      Your argument is that because some system X contains feature Y then when killing occurs under X it is because of Y. In that case let X be Christianity and Y be Jesus. Jesus was essential for Christianity, therefore, by your argument, Jesus is responsible for all the burning at the stakes, the torture, and all other atrocities ever committed by religion.

      Of course there are atheists that don’t kill people, and there are Christians that don’t kill people.

      Can you see the fault of your logic?

  17. Next, “Thanks to modern science, the days of religion are numbered. …”

    There might actually be some truth in that; but it is conditional on science succeeding in convincing people of the critical methods of thinking, analysis and the value of the scientific method for acquiring knowledge about the universe.

    But what science also tells us is that human brains are not pure rational systems. Science tells us how fallible they are, how easily they are convinced or erroneous ideas. In fact an earlier and developing realisation of this has what has brought us the science we have now – a means of compensating for the flaws of our individual human capacity to sense the world and reason about it. It is science, and philosophy, and their earlier unified natural philosophy, that has been leading the way to better ways of understanding the world, and the wider universe. Ironically it is the religious that like to point out the fallibilities that remain in science, pointing out that science can’t prove anything, that scientific facts today may be overturned tomorrow. Well, all true enough, but the irony is that this is explained to use by people that believe stuff without proof or evidence, and in fact rely on that most bogus of methods of belief sustenance: faith.

    So, with this fallible human brain in mind, all it needs for science to be delayed in its enlightenment of the people of the world is that they are indoctrinated with religion and are limited in their capacity to think open mindedly, because of course their religious indoctrination insists faith is required to prevent such open minded thinking damaging your beliefs.

    And we can also add another factor that can contribute, though it’s difficult to determine to what extent: numbers, from various source. Poor uneducated families tend to have more children, which then go on to be uneducated indoctrinated believers. Poor education isn’t the only source of numbers. If the indoctrination is strong enough and the political indoctrination supports the belief, then the religious-political combination can promote high birth rates by various means. Anti-contraception and abstinence contribute to unwanted pregnancies, because of course many teens do not want to abstain, despite what they tell their parents; and of course anti-abortion leads to more births. In some religions, such as Islam, there is no particular barrier to contraception in family planning, but Islam encourages procreation. Some Christian sects in the US and Europe promote multiple children, such as the Quiverfull. In all these various factors will have different contributions, but overall it is true that secular atheist scientifically educated people aware of the problems of large populations, and with no religious proscription of birth control, and no religious prescription to procreate, do indeed have smaller families.

    It’s difficult to tell what the effect will be over time. It depends to some extent on the state of education. Though Christian and Islamic societies do well in universities it’s still difficult for them to remain isolated from secular atheist science and its arguments in the intellectual paucity of religion. We’ll just have to wait and see. Don’t expect New Atheism to slink away quietly, leaving the religious to do all the shouting.

    Your stats on projected numbers of believers to 2050 was interesting. You give the source website, but not a reference to the actual research you pulled the figures from. Do you have that? What are the projections based on, just birth rates? Do they account in any way for numbers leaving and joining a religion, leaving a religion for another or giving up on religion completely?

    • When we speak of “the end of religion” as brought about by science, how do we account for the fact that there are still plenty of scientists out there who practice religion? What we really mean is that it is the end of a particular unscientific understanding of religion as being the complete and utter belief in specific instances which can be disproven by science. But there is a distinct possibility this very fundamentalism in religion was caused specifically by the rise of scientific thinking.
      My real concern is, why are we even trying to put science on the same level as religion? They ask different questions. Science is designed to ask how the Universe works, and while Religion has plenty of answers to this, welcome or not, the main question Religion is designed to ask is Why? And Science doesn’t really care about the Why of the situation. Who caused the Big Bang? That’s still up for debate. And obviously, you won’t find the answers in the Bible, or the Bhagavad-Gita, in the Upanishads or the Zend Avesta, or even in the Book of Mormon, but you won’t even find the question in your average Science textbook.
      Who makes things happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Science has some answers for this, perhaps, but only on a superficial level because the ways that Science has of formulating those questions are still too vague for Science to calculate answers to them. “Coïncidence” is too vague to be satisfying and “Chaos” and “Complexity” theories are too complicated to digest, so we still need some kind of religion there.
      And finally, there’s the Ultimate Question: What’s next? What happens after we die? This question is so unScientific that even Science Fiction tries very hard not to go there. But the complete obliteration of the conscious mind after a mere eighty or even a hundred years is too terrifying, too psychologically crippling, for most people to accept. So if you’re going to argue that there can be “multiple Atheisms”, if you’re going to propose that Science accepts that there are answers we haven’t arrived at yet, you have to let people be religious, even if the current “organized” religions all have Scientific flaws, remember that “religion” is a concept broader than its specific constituents.

    • Matt, try reading the discussion on the Talk tab of that Wiki article. The tables aren’t as objective as one might think.

      Even so, there is a genuine biological problem. Human brains are evolved in an environment that didn’t specifically need perfect rational thinking. It is quite possible for humans to get by believing all sorts of nonsense, such as astrology, homeopathy. Most life on earth gets by without any significant rational capacity. It’s not a requirement for life. So there is no inevitable biological and evolutionary imperative that we are aware of that will ensure the success of reason over myth. That still doesn’t make the myths true. So we will likely muddle along with a mix for some time.

    • Polypsyches,

      This “Why?” question is an entirely bogus one that religion invents to avoid clashing with science.

      In order to ask ‘Why?’, as in what is the purpose, you need to first establish that there is a teleological entity that has some purpose. We have to figure out IF there is a God in order to ask the ‘Why?’ question. And of course religions cheat. They presuppose there is a God to put that question to without actually giving any evidence or reason for there being such a God.

      It’s like asking “Why do fairies like to dance?” – a totally pointless question if there are no fairies.

      You are ignoring the cosmological question: what caused our universe to come into existence? You are presuming you have the answer to that, and then asking ‘Why?’ of that presumed cause – God.

      This does not get you to pull the old non-overlapping magisteria trick.

    • Polypsyches

      “Who makes things happen?”

      Why presuppose someone does?

      “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

      Because they are components of a dynamic universe that does not care that they are good. It is clockwork. Atoms moving, physical events, chemical events. Some of those chemical events form complex biological process – life, humans. We are part of the complex clockwork. We like to feel we are in control, but that control is very localised and limited. That’s scary, so we like to think there is some grand overseeing parent looking after it all, and looking after us.

      So, what’s God’s answer to “Why do bad things happen to good people?” What story would you like to invent for that? Compare it to the many stories from all sorts of theologians, magicians, astrologers and other myth makers.

    • Polypsyches

      ““Complexity” theories are too complicated to digest, so we still need some kind of religion there.”

      No. You just have to be comfortable with not knowing stuff. Are we really so childish and dependent we need the comfort of myths to reassure us?

      “And finally, there’s the Ultimate Question: What’s next? What happens after we die?”

      Our bodies decay, with the help of other life forms; or our bodies are burned, so that what is left is ashes.

      “This question is so unScientific”

      Why?

      “But the complete obliteration of the conscious mind after a mere eighty or even a hundred years is too terrifying, too psychologically crippling, for most people to accept.”

      OK, so they make up stories, or mash-up some ancient ones.

      But note that there is a presumption there that the conscious mind is something distinct from the brain. There is no reason or evidence to show that this is so. All science so far shows that there is not.

      “Science accepts that there are answers we haven’t arrived at yet, you have to let people be religious”

      Or, they could just grow up.

  18. Next: “The dark ages were a time of ignorance and superstition, thanks to religion’s negative influence on scientific progress.”

    Of course this is nonsense, and I’d happily point that out to any atheist that is making that claim. I’m guessing there is at least a bit of convenient paraphrasing going on here, but still, I’d really appreciate it if you can point to a few atheists making this claim.

    Religion did have a slightly negative influence at times, and the Roman Catholic Church’s distaste for some science that seemed to oppose the doctrine of the time is common knowledge. But it would be far outweighed by all the good science that the many religious people did in exploring what they thought were God’s works. Who could discount Gregor Mendel’s contribution to genetics? Or Newton’s many explorations of God’s works?

    No, the notion is nonsense, as you state it, as you claim some atheists state it. New Atheists like Dawkins would be the first to say religious believers contributed to his field. So who are these atheists saying this?

    But, at least the first part is correct. But then we are still in such times to a great extent, and will be for some time, as your previous projection stats to 2050 show.

    Because of course those religions can’t all be right. And I don’t mean the rather basic detail-less theistic hypothesis that some intelligent entity started this particular universe – a plausible if unevidenced speculative idea. I mean of course the notion that a mortal man, Jesus, was divine, was resurrected, performed miracles etc. – ignorant superstition. Or how about Mohammed’s visitation from Gabriel and the messages insistence that the Christian story is a superstitious myth – is that actually the superstitions myth? Or maybe it’s the reincarnation of the Hindus that is the superstitious myth.

    I don’t know, but they all seem spooky to me. They are all certainly supported by ignorant arguments, for example: fine tuning, Kalam cosmological. At least some of them are supposedly supported by books that were written well after the times of the events.

    And they tend to rely on very ignorant presuppositions and arguments from scripture, and that craziest of all methods of belief, faith. How about this:

    Liar’s Bible

    This book was written by a truthful person and not a liar, honest.

    Believe anything the author of this book tells you.

    When your belief is challenged by reason and evidence, this is the work of a liar tempting you, so beware, and maintain your faith in this book and its author.

    Does that sound convincing? I hope not. But that’s essentially what every believer engages in when they claim the Bible Qur’an or other holy book informs them about their belief. Here’s one for God, with all the allegory and historical references and fantasy figures but one are removed:

    Simplified Bible

    God exists.

    This book contains the true and inerrant word of God.

    God requires that you have faith in Him, and in his words as contained in this book.

    When your belief is challenged by reason and evidence, this is the work of Satan tempting you, so beware, and maintain your faith.

    Does that sound convincing yet? Faith is irrational: http://ronmurp.net/2013/09/30/can-faith-ever-be-rational/.

  19. Next: “Jesus was a mythical figure. The New Testament stole most of its stories from other ancient sources.”

    There are three claims here that you are making:
    1) Atheists claim Jesus the mortal man is a myth.
    2) Atheists claim Jesus as a divine figure, as represented in the Bible, is a myth.
    3) The New Testament stole most of its stories from other ancient sources.
    4) The ‘meme’ image is representative of (3)

    For (1) and (2) there are both atheist and religious scholars that argue these points. Clearly there is a lot more going for (2) as a being a myth than (1). It seems clear that there was some significant rebel of that like back then, who had genuine followers, who passed down stories, and his name may well have been Jesus; but no real harm done if his name was something else. Even as a mortal rebel preacher this Jesus may have many facts about him invented so he is a good part myth, but there is enough to at least go with the working conclusion that he existed. The doubt about the existence of the detail of the mortal story of Jesus, doubts about facts about the man, simply adds a little weight to (2). It would be no support for the divine Jesus if we actually found some Roman letter of the times that reported his actions in detail.

    But (2) is clearly a problem for Christianity. There is nothing to support the supernatural claims, and plenty of contradictory information in other sources that early Christianity rejected.

    We can pretty much dismiss (4) as a precise statement of the similarities. These daft memes pop up all the time. I’ve no idea what crazy kind of jerk would invent inaccurate and unrepresentative memes, would you? :) There are enough similarities between the many fictions of the past, as rumipoet points out, without needing to rely on that particular image and its claims. So there’s plenty of truth in (3), though in most cases they are adapted and modified stories rather than the false ones in the meme image.

    But let’s really get to the laughable part of your rebuttal here.

    “His (Horus) mother (Isis) wasn’t a virgin. Isis married her brother (Osiris) and conceived Horus with him.”

    We’re talking about gods here you do realise. Gods you don’t believe in.

    If you’re going to object with what amounts to, “Stupid atheist meme, his mother wasn’t a virgin, she was a goddess who …” then you hardly provide your case with any greater credibility. Really, you are using the pregnancy of a mythical goddess to rebut what you see as false a claim about your mythically divine Jesus? It really doesn’t get any more ironic.

    • He is pointing out the “pregnancy of a mythical goddess” to point out that people who use this argument to say that Jesus’ story wasn’t unique are using arguments that aren’t supportable by real historical study.

    • Actually in this case I think we were talking about the suggestion that the Jesus story in the Bible is simply a mashing together of elements of those specific stories. If the claim (as in the silly meme image) is that the virgin birth element for example was pulled directly from the Horus story, and it’s NOT actually found in the Horus storey, well then that argument can be quite easily thrown out. It doesn’t matter whether EITHER story is true or mythic; the claim is simply about a similarity that isn’t there. Of course disproving that specific link doesn’t PROOVE anything else.

    • JR, the virgin birth of Jesus isn’t supported by historical study. There is a distinction between building a fair case for the existence of a man in a number of historic settings, but that’s quite different from establishing the authenticity of the theistic claims – not even most Christian scholars into the historicity go that far: http://wellspentjourney.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/devastating-arguments-against-christianity-courtesy-of-the-internet/#comment-3363.

      See last paragraph here: http://wellspentjourney.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/devastating-arguments-against-christianity-courtesy-of-the-internet/#comment-3361 You have to separate the historic settings from the fiction of the story.

    • ” It seems clear that there was some significant rebel of that like back then, who had genuine followers, who passed down stories, and his name may well have been Jesus”.

      Ron, you might like to read the ‘Complete Works of Flavius Josephus’ with regard to his historical descriptions of this ‘significant rebel’.

  20. Such violent agreement we got going here. Every document and collection of documents is manmade. Every single one. That does not deny “divine” inspiration from a higher consciousness. God, Brahman, or what have you can be summed up as the fundamental awareness of something bigger than yourself. Of course, one goes further into understanding that consciousness and thus a conscious body/entity can exist beyond a mere human body with a brain.

    http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/

    http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/

    Whether, its quantum physics, Tao de Ching, Zen, or Extended Heim Theory, it is already established that information and observation of information penetrates the very fundamental aspects of reality. Also, argument over legitimacy of documentation and/or originality does not contribute to wisdom, humility, or logical deduction. Plus, don’t relate oranges and apples, other than the fact that they’re fruit. Buddhism, I Ching, and Taoism are spiritual philosophies born of observations of nature and of/in man (phenomenon and observer–> quantum physics). Similarly, Hinduism what with its many Gods and Goddesses (all being encompassed with one entity) is paralleled by the classifications and abstractions of reality in modern science. My point: Nature has a duality and so does human understanding of Nature. Spiritual and emotional and general feeling of a higher ‘being’ or entity is constantly being supported by observation of nature (science–> quantum physics)
    (The Tao of Physics- Fritjof Capra)

    Even as a Christian, one must be acknowledge the limits of the Bible; not the message or the Word mind you, but the physical collection of documents put together by ancient scholars (Man) trying to portray and archive the philosophy of love, relationship, and forgiveness. The Bible (and other documents) use literary tools to convey wisdom to the readers, so some information is generalized and simplified, so as to be inaccurate for historical record keeping (what with human clumsiness), but precise enough to convey the Message inspired by the Holy Trinity.

    The fundamental understanding is there is the One Thing, the All One (Reality). We see this as the Universe (matter, body, Salt, the Son, etc.), we feel this as Spirit (soul, the Spirit, feelings, love, Sulfur, etc.), and we recognize the Order (mind, consciousness, the Father, etc.).

    One last thing, allow me to indulge our ability to understand, but inability to comprehend a higher being:
    “All things are are immersed in the shoreless ocean of Unity. The quality of oneness permeates everything, while there is nothing without it, there is nothing within it, as even communication or idea requires parts in relationship.Like light from the Sun, or gentle rain, the One is traditionally perceived as unconditional in its love, yes its majesty and mystery remains veiled, and beyond apprehension, for the One can only be understood by itself. As such, One is always alone, all one, and no thing can exist to describe it.” (Quadrivium-Miranda Lundy)

    Logically: “One is echoed in all things and treats all equally. Its stability among numbers is unique, one remaining one when multiplied or divided by itself, and one of anything is uniquely that one thing.” (Quadrivium- Miranda Lundy)

    Solvite corpora et coagulate spiritus.

    • You say, ” Every document and collection of documents is manmade. Every single one.” Nice assumption you can’t prove.
      The Bible says, “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:22).

  21. Intellectual arguments about religions are always interesting and divisive too but I don’t think that any one ever wins one or convinces the other side to change their minds. The main point of the ‘kingdom of God’ as read in the Bible is that God, the creator of all things loved his people (the world) so much that he sent his only son, Jesus Christ, who gave up his deity and took on human flesh to identify with us and pay the ultimate price in order to free us from our sin. And who ever, by faith believes that he is the son of God shall have life ever lasting. Blessed are those who believe in him even though they have not seen him. For without faith it is impossible to please God.

    • “The main point of the ‘kingdom of God’ as read in the Bible is that God, the creator of all things loved his people … blah blah blah

      How do you know that? From the Bible? I added and emphasised the last bit, not to be specifically insulting but to really drive home the point that if you don’t solve the first problem the rest is just verbiage.

      The source of the knowledge about God is the Bible. The Bible is a book written by humans. The Bible makes claims about God. Can’t you see how poor that is?

      Try the Liar’s Bible, and the Simplified Bible I provided earlier in a comment. This is precisely the way the Bible works.

      Oh, what about revelation? Well, the revelation is in the Bible, along with all other claims. The logic of believing such a book is so unbelievably poor.

    • Oh, what about revelation? Well, the revelation is in the Bible, along with all other claims. The logic of believing such a book is so unbelievably poor.
      Exactly Ron! Faith is the opposite of logic.

    • You seem to have a very caricatured notion of the Christian concept of “faith”. I’ll be praying for you, Ron.

    • But, a more detailed response…

      More twisting of words. Irrational is not another way of saying crazy.

      Irrational merely means not being rational in some respect. Faith is by your own definition not appeal to reason. It is determination to believe without appeal to reason or evidence. Look at what one of your Christian commenters says in this very post – “Faith is the opposite of logic.” – i.e. faith is illogical, and to refuse to use logic, to deny what logic implies, is to be irrational.

      Again we have  a straw man erected: first, note atheist say faith is irrational; then equate being irrational with being crazy; then falsely claim this is what atheists mean by ‘irrational’. It isn’t the atheist saying faith = irrational = crazy, but Patrick.

      But, to use faith is crazy. It’s crazy because it leads otherwise rational people to crazy conflicting ideas.

      1) Faith provides truth.
      2) A Christian has faith that Jesus was divine – so, by 1, this is true.
      3) A Muslim has faith that Jesus was not divine – so, by 1, this is true.
      Contradiction.

      Both Christian and Muslim use faith. You cannot appeal to something above reason, because you would both be appealing to something above reason, and would still be contradicting each other.

      “If our faith is insane, one would expect that to manifest itself in visible ways. One would expect our lives to be chaotic, inconsistent, or disordered.”

      Well, no. Sometimes insane people can be quite rational in there presentation of their arguments. So a paranoid could give you very good reasoning around a false belief that someone is out to get him. But, of course in the case of religious believers the craziness does indeed manifest: you use reason and evidence in all aspects of your life, and yet for you invisible friend, that you want so much to affirm, you give up and resort to faith.

      “The funny thing is that people of faith have plenty of room in their lives for reason. It’s modern-day secularists and rationalists who have no room in their lives for faith. Which is the bigger box? Who, then, is being small-minded?”

      Extreme logic fail(losing faith in your ability to reason):

      Ways of affirming knowledge: X, Y.

      1) Person A uses only X.
      2) Person B uses X and Y.
      3) Therefore Matt-logic says B is more open and A more closed minded.

      Insert X=Reason, Y=Faith, and Matt is convinced above is a good argument.

      But what if X=Reason, Y= Tea Leaf Reading. And if B thinks Y is above and beyond X this means B uses Tea Leaves when reason does not suit his case. B picks reason when it affirms his case, but decides to use Tea Leaves when it does not. So, the very structure of your argument is useless. It has hidden sub-arguments that must show that particular X and Y satisfy 3.

      It is not faith that is crazy. Faith is merely irrational. It is the use of faith in this anti-logic, anti-reason way. Denying the usefulness of logic this way is top class crazy.

      Of course I would say using Reason and Evidence is more open minded. Evidence and reason are compatible. You can use evidence to provide reliable premises for your Reason. As you do in microbiology.

      But as your co-Christian points out, faith is the opposite of logic, and so the opposite of reason. If anything this makes reason and faith sound incompatible for seeking truth. Which indeed they are, because you never get any assurance of truth, you only get what you believed anyway:

      I believe X.
      If reason proves X then X is true.
      If reason does not prove X then believe X anyway, making X true.

      Make X any of the following: Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Astrology, Fairies, 2+2=5, … anything.

      This is atrociously bad reasoning Matt. The various proofs, such as the Kalam, Fine Tuning, were at least valid – they merely had poor premises that cause the arguments to be unsound and therefore useless. These others are pure fallacious drivel. Apologetics by appeal to bamboozling yourself. Apologetics by any possible means.

    • “But as your co-Christian points out, faith is the opposite of logic, and so the opposite of reason.”

      I reject that characterization of faith, as do most Christians, and as does Scripture. You seem to be seizing upon what one commenter said and pretending that it’s somehow representative of *my* views, and the views of Christians by and large.

    • Rather than pray for me try explaining your understanding of faith. And I didn’t just pick the one comment of faith being opposite to logic. I addressed the first post you linked to, on the straw man of faith being irrational being used to imply faith is crazy.

      Your statements implying faith is beyond rationality. What does that mean?

    • “I addressed the first post you linked to, on the straw man of faith being irrational being used to imply faith is crazy.”

      If one consistently bases one’s actions and life decisions on one’s faith (as I strive to)…then doesn’t it follow that their life would reflect the “irrationality” of those beliefs, if those beliefs are indeed irrational? If Scripture is as crazy as you seem to think, doesn’t it follow that someone like myself – who strives to live according to Scripture – would look like a crazy person?

    • “who gave up his deity”

      He cannot give up His Deity, Jesus Christ is God no matter what, He lowered Himself intentionally and went in as a human, however He is still God, He just chose not to use His power to demonstrate His love,

      who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” Phillipians 2:6-8

      “pay the ultimate price in order to free us from our sin”

      He didn’t pay for our sins, He was without sin, nowhere in the bible does it say Jesus Christ paid for other peoples sins, that is unjust and actually condemned by YHWH(The Father and The Son(Jesus Christ) and The Holy Spirit) Himself in Jeremiah 31:30 “”But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.” and Deuteronomy 24:16 – “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.”

      1 John 3 “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”

      So sin is lawbreaking/lawlessness, and in order to be saved we must follow the Law now what is the law?

      Matthew 7:12 “”In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this IS the Law and the Prophets.”

      Matthew 22:34-40 “4But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38“This is the great and foremost commandment. 39“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

      Matthew 5:42-48 “43“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

      So basically The Law is to Love others and Love YHWH(The Father and The Son and Holy Spirit) by obeying it(If you love Him and His Life, you’ll obey The Law of loving others)

      1 John 5:2-3 – “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. ”

      Remember, Lust is not a sin, http://savedbychrist94.blogspot.com/2013/04/lust-is-not-sin.html

      And Homosexuality is not a sin, http://savedbychrist94.blogspot.com/2013/04/homosexuality-is-not-sin-part-1.html

      Nor is Premarital Sex, sin is as demonstrated by scripture, harm

      All summed up via Romans 13:8-10

      Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves [a]his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love [b]does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

  22. I’m a firm believer in Christ and always have been, even when I wasn’t walking that way I knew the truth. But I find that in our search for “fact” we lose sight of the #1 source of guidance: the Bible. Although the argument is often made that the Bible itself is just a book and not of ANY historical value, that claim is indeed wrong. No other book can be historically proven more correct than the Bible, do some research and I’m not talking Wikipedia. Do some good hard looking and you will find that I’m not wrong.
    I have read into many religions and practices but never found any that came close to as factual as what I find in the Bible. And if the past isn’t enough look towards modern times and the prophecies in the Bible, again do some real research.
    And before you ask where my references are: if you don’t really want to look for yourself in depth there’s no point in listing any because you won’t look. I have laid out very basic topics to research and the answers are not hard to find and compare to current arguments.
    And another side note Jesus was not born on Dec 25. The Bible doesn’t give a date for His birth just how long He lived on earth. We as Christians decided to celebrate His birth then. Just a bit to chew on.

  23. “Religion has been the primary cause of war and oppression throughout the history of mankind.”

    “The Truth: In their comprehensive Encyclopedia of Wars, Phillips and Axelrod document the recorded history of warfare. Of the 1,763 wars presented, a mere 7% involved a religious cause. When Islam is subtracted from the equation, that number drops to 3.2%.”

    I think if you really look down to the reason of wars it is never about religion even if that would be the reasons to rally to the flag of war you will almost always find that it is about power, resources etc.

    European History/Religious Wars in Europe
    “During the period of 1525 until 1648, Europe was plagued by wars of religion. It is important to recognize, however, that while religion was given as the reason for war; there were many other reasons as well. These included land, money and economics, political power, natural resources, and more.

    These wars included the Peasants’ War of 1525 in the Holy Roman Empire, the Schmalkaldic War of the 1540s through 1555, an ongoing fight between the Holy Roman Empire and the Turks, the Reconquista of the Spanish versus Muslims, the Hussite rebellion, and missionaries and conquistadors versus Native Americans.”

    • It occurs to me, though, that a lot of this could be tied in to the basic structure of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly throughout the Middle Ages and into the Early Modern Period. How much of the Reformation was really about doctrine and how much of it was about breaking the political power of the Pope? When the Duke of Alva waged war on the Counts of Orange and Egmont and Hoorne, did any of them actually care that one was Catholic and the others Protestant? The latter three were probably just trying to break the Pope’s Monopoly on religion, and reclaim the lands he dedicated for his own subservients.

  24. While I admire your graphics and thoughtfulness, I have to point out the obvious and ask for sources, please. Your figures and extrapolation of data are completely without ANY cited sources. The position you hold has to be rooted in sound factual origin. Ironic that the thing (Science) many who support unquestioned and unchallenged organized religion (Christianity in particular) come to dismiss, is the very thing that can save them from the wolves in providing proof in their defense. As a Christian myself, I acknowledge all the disparities surrounding these borrowed stories. Parsing particulars doesn’t change the fact that indeed, some biblical scripture-especially for the Old Testament is borrowed and recycled. There are simply too many and they are too pronounced to be ignored. EVERY war since the beginning of civilization has one ideology (usually religious in nature) pinned against another. The Crusades were the bloodiest war in the history of mankind, Simply disagreeing and stating others have it wrong isn’t enough to assert a proper position. (I do apologize, I don’t seek to invalidate your positions, I simply ask that you cite your sources (outside the Bible) Well put together, though- indeed. :)

    • Aimee,
      “Your figures and extrapolation of data are completely without ANY cited sources”

      Matt cited numerous sources like the Encyclopedia of Wars and the World Religion Database. Did you see the links?

      “The Crusades were the bloodiest war in the history of mankind”

      Could you cite a source for the claim? I’ve never seen an estimated death toll for the Crusades higher than a few million. In contrast, WWII claimed about 50,000,000 lives.
      -Neil

  25. There is a spiritual book “A Course In Miracles” that correct Christianity and all religions about the true God, reality and creation. Do not judge how it came about but read and study the content of the book.

    What It Says

    “Nothing real can be threatened.
    Nothing unreal exists.
    Herein lies the peace of God.”

    This is how “A Course in Miracles” begins. It makes a fundamental distinction between the real and the unreal; between knowledge and perception. Knowledge is truth, under one law, the law of love or God. Truth is unalterable, eternal and unambiguous. It can be recognized, but it cannot be changed. It applies to everything that God created, and only what He created is real. It is beyond learning because it is beyond time and process. It has no opposite; no beginning and no end. It merely is.

    The world of perception, on the other hand, is the world of time, of change, of beginnings and endings. It is based on interpretation, not on facts. It is the world of birth and death, founded on the belief in scarcity, loss, separation and death. It is learned rather than given, selective in its perceptual emphases, unstable it its functioning, and inaccurate in its interpretations.

    From knowledge and perception respectively, two distinct thought systems arise which are opposite in every respect. In the realm of knowledge no thoughts exist apart from God, because God and His Creation share one Will. The world of perception, however, is made by the belief in opposites and separate wills, in perpetual conflict with each other and with God. What perception sees and hears appears to be real because it permits into awareness only what conforms to the wishes of the perceiver. This leads to a world of illusions, a world which needs constant defense precisely because it is not real.

    • “Nothing real can be threatened.
      Nothing unreal exists.
      Herein lies the peace of God.”

      that is just horrific..horrific logic…using flowery, academic language doesn’t negate your presupposition that God does exist, and thus negates any objective discourse on the subject matter

    • How do you know knowledge is truth? You are presupposing an epistemology(1) of epistemology(2). You are declaring you know what knowledge is. Can’t you see how ridiculous that is? This is why the philosophical Justified True Belief is nonsense too, in declaring for something to be known it must be true, but how can you know it is true if it is knowledge itself you are trying to establish. All theology depends upon a presupposition to: God. There’s simply no reason to presuppose these things.

  26. Imagine if people stopped spending so much time and energy debating religion and spent that time helping other people and making a positive impact in the world.

    • Unfortunately, we cannot carry out your program without adopting or assuming some answer to questions on which religious belief has a bearing. Who says what constitutes “a positive impact on the world”? What “helps other people” most (e.g. keeping them alive, protecting them from pain, teaching them to do good, training them to think carefully, leading them to peace with God, etc)?

  27. The Bible never said there are no other gods or spirit rulers. In fact it verifies it. I AM is the God of gods, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. What if all mythology has truth to it, but is skewed and fragmented because of our fallen nature?

    We live in an age where we can begin to see the big picture of civilization, and perhaps piece together the puzzle of a much bigger spiritual truth than we ever imagined.

    • If I remember correctly, he does say (in translation) not “I am God, worship me” but rather “I am YOUR God, YOU will hold no other Gods before me.” This does indeed imply that there are, in fact, other options out there, they just aren’t Hebrew in origin.

  28. Even if the last cartoon about Christianity echoing those myths had accurate details, as C.S. Lewis put in his essay “Myth Became Fact”: “We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. We must not be nervous about ‘parallels’ and ‘Pagan Christs’: they OUGHT to be there—it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t.”

    • So why not consider, with equal measure, that it is all nonsense from start to finish? What makes a believer fall for their particular story, rather than dismiss them all?

    • Thanks Sarah. I’ve read plenty of Lewis and find him totally bogus. I’ll take a look at you post and comment soon. Currently on a mobile device which isn’t great for commenting.

    • Hi Ron, if you find Lewis “totally bogus”, then you probably shouldn’t waste your time reading it, let alone taking your time to comment on it. I’ve engaged in plenty of conversations with people who have already very decided views about the Bible and Christianity, and found that they were not really curious and open to considering the veracity of those things after all, but just looking to argue for argument’s sake. Based on the little that you’ve said, I suspect you fall into the latter group, but I could very well be mistaken, so if you’re sincerely seeking out Truth and ask questions for that purpose, I would be very glad to engage you as best as I can. If you are asking questions to validate your own opinions, then I will have to pass. Thanks for understanding.

    • Did you actually read the post? It has specific statistics on the growth of religions and ideologies, facts about myths, lists of historical figures, etc. It sounds like you gave a reflexive response without bothering to read what you’re responding to.

  29. Just wanted to say that first i did not read all the responses (way to much)… so if I am repeating I apologize in advance. However, about the graphic showing Jesus is all the above… one point i would like to raise is that Jesus was not born on December 25th. This was put into place by the Emperor Constantine and was actually the celebration of the birth of another god, and Constantine just decided to place Jesus name on it… I guess for convenience… Jesus would have been born during the Jewish feast of Tabernacles, which falls in the September to early October range… Using simple biblical calculation of Priest rotations developed by King David in Chronicles, along with the time of Elizabeth , her husband being a priest, u can calculate accurately what time of the year he would have been serving in the temple by the order that he was from ( seek chronicles) also her pregnancy with John the Baptist, coinciding with Mary’s pregnancy of Jesus it will show that Jesus was born during this time of the year, and NOT on December 25th as the popular celebration says. Also, take into consideration in this that Jesus was born in a manger… it is not a barn as many people think, it is a Sukkoth… it was called a manger in Genesis, but we know them as sukkoth which would have been built all over Jerusalem and the surrounding areas by Jews during this time of the year, for again the Jewish celebration of Tabernacles… Well, I could go on but a simple search and an hour or less of research would answer the questions someone may have on this… Anyway… Next time Christmas comes around just remember it has nothing to do with Jesus birth, and as u can see above in the clip art is actually the pagan holiday of other pagan gods….

    • I like that you say “these are made up”, as if biblical myths are not. The resurrection? Really. Consider some of the other points made on here. How about not just the Christmas birth myth, but all aspects of Christianity that have various sources telling different stories. The question is not just why believe Christianity, against Islam for example, but why believe any of the Christian myths against any of the others. There is very little to suggest Jesus is anything other than some rebel who had a different god myth that the rest of the Jews.

  30. Adding to the discussion on the Dark Ages, you may want to look at a book called “How the Irish Saved Civilization.” The Church played a pretty central role on restoring literacy in the Dark Ages.

  31. In Interdisciplinary studies of Christianity and how we do Christian culture, we call this the mythopoeic proof. It’s kind of a coined term to describe what we also call “echoes and anticipations of the Christ event.” The idea holds that all of mythology and literature and religions point in some way to Christ. All truth is God’s truth no matter where it may be found or how deep it may be buried in non-truth. The world searches for and needs Christ, it just doesn’t know that it is Christ for whom they are searching. Maslow (yes, like the hierarchy of needs) who was an athiest even admits this in his book, Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. Very interesting stuff. How beautiful are the feet of those who carry the Good News.

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  33. Note that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, either (It was set to december 25th to better coincide with existing pagan celebrations). So, that’s a whole category removed from the last part.

  34. any religion, that claims to have an all loving, forgiving deity, but says that that deity requires a human sacrifice is an immoral religion. no matter what the historical records say. if god loves us all so much, and is not willing that any should perish, then he doesn’t need a sacrifice (especially a human sacrifice) in order to bestow forgiveness. also it is highly immoral to hold someone accountable for the wrong doing of another. if i were to kill my neighbor, is it right to punish my child for my crime? no of course not. besides, there is nothing that is worth an eternity of torture. if god didn’t want to grant people entry into heaven he could have just as easily erased their excistence instead of sending them to eternal torture. again another highly immoral act.

    i don’t believe in any of the supernatural claims of any religion or their holy books, nor do i believe in the any god, but even if there were a god (and this post is mainly christians so i am speaking of the christian god) he is extremely immoral and not worthy of praise or worship. and i haven’t even gotten into things like slavery and genocide and ethnic cleansing and infanticide yet. bottom line… if the bible is to believed then god is not to be worshiped, but hated and overthrown. he is not worthy of my praise or yours.

    so whether or not the bible is true, both are good reasons not to follow god.

    • at what point did i imply that people are inherantly good? i didn’t make that claim at all. i am just saying that god is immoral

    • You know, except that Christianity doesn’t require human sacrifices. And if you’d actually read the the Bible, you would know that God is not the immoral one, it’s those who turn away from God and turn to the devil who are immoralized by the devil. Nice try, bud.

    • There are a few assumptions you would have to make for your argument to be valid, but let’s see what we can do.

      First, we should assume that God is All Powerful. If He isn’t all powerful, then it seems likely that sanctifying Billions of people might not be something He’s able to do. But most Christians believe that He is all powerful so we shouldn’t have any problems assuming this for the sake of our argument.

      Secondly we might ask whether “All Powerful” requires one to be able to do anything that can be thought of; must an all-powerful being be able to create square circles, married bachelors, and rocks so heavy he can’t lift them? If you require Omnipotence to be defined like that you’re knocking it down before it even has a chance. Omnipotence is the ability to do ANYTHING. Impossible things are mostly not really thought of as “things” at all. Square circles can only be spoken about because of an accident of language, so an All-powerful being has no requirement to be able to create them. A “boulder so heavy that someone who can do anything can’t lift it” is likewise a non-thing. So, let’s not say that being All-Powerful requires the ability to do the impossible.

      You’ve already stated that this being must be All Loving, so that’s good. The question here would be, just how exactly is an All Loving being supposed to act? Assumedly an all loving being does everything it can for the good of those that it loves. This is how I imagine you are coming to the conclusion that an All Loving being would do everything it could to not send those it loves into an eternity of torment. Given that the qualification is that the All Loving being would do everything it COULD do, it’s hard to conclude that it would NEVER make some sort of sacrifice for the goal of saving everyone from eternal torment.

      I agree that it’s highly unlikely that that sacrifice would be a child sacrifice (in the strict sense), but that’s not something I think we need to worry about for this discussion. True, Jesus is called the “Son” of God, but we can’t forget that this is something of a metaphor. Normal Father-Son relationships are not exactly the same as Jesus to the first person of the trinity. We must remember that Jesus IS God. So the sacrifice we’re talking about in this case is SELF sacrifice, which seems perfectly in line with what an All-Loving being might do.

      Next we should ask whether a being that is both All Loving and All Powerful could have Sanctified billions of people and saved them from eternal torment without sacrificing himself. Well if such an act is impossible, then it’s clear that he could not have. So IS such an act impossible? With regards to saving them from eternal torment, I do believe that such an act is possible. But this is not problematic for me because I don’t believe that Hell means “eternal torment”. That whole discussion would cause such a side conversation that I don’t think it’s worth pursuing further. All I am going to say is that there is disagreement on the issue amongst Christians, and many would contend that there is very good justification for Eternal Torment given an All Loving, All Powerful God. But for the purposes of this, it does not create a problem for my position anyways.

      There still is an issue, of course. When Christ died on the cross, he was clearly sacrificing himself for SOME reason. Let’s adjust our example to ask this question: Could an All Powerful, All Loving being Sanctify billions of people and save them from eternal death (literally, not existing for eternity) without sacrificing himself?

      Let’s assume that God knows HOW to do this, and give him Omniscience. (That is, he knows everything). Now the answer to this question looks like it should be “probably”, which is why we need to make another qualification. Those billions of people are all sinners. The answer is not so simple now.
      Sin is not simply something God can just “Get over”. Remember that we said that the being we’re talking about is All loving. We must note that God’s “All Lovingness” (Omnibenevolence) arises from the fact that he is Wholly Good. This means that Evil and Sin are detested by God. He literally cannot stand in the presence of it. So to bring even one sinful human into his presence (there are a few logical leaps I’ve made here because this is starting to get really long. But if those leaps are your biggest concerns, then I’m happy. The answers are pretty simple) would entail that a being who cannot be in the presence of sin is in the presence of sin. This is impossible. Remember, not even an omnipotent being can do something impossible.
      So from this it should be clear that God can’t just take sinners into his presence. Somehow the sin has to be dealt with. How can that be done? Well first there needs to be justice. This is where God chose to freely sacrifice HIMSELF to take on everyone’s sin. How does the transfer of justice work? Unfortunately this is a question I don’t really know the answer to. The analogy often used is literally the payment of debt; it doesn’t really matter who writes the cheque as long as the money goes through, and God is the only one with a big enough bank account. There are definitely some more sophisticated answers that I haven’t read, but if you are truly interested in the answers then you should look for them (even if only to try to poke holes in them). As a seeker of truth it makes no sense to ignore any argument, and I try not to (though I don’t have nearly enough time to cover EVERY possible counter example here). But I digress.

      There is another interesting response to the question of whether God had to sacrifice himself. It’s possible that he didn’t have to at all; but that does not entail that it isn’t in line with his All-Loving character! Certainly the WAY it happened wasn’t necessary (A human male nailed to a cross). I see no reason to think he couldn’t have sacrificed himself as a Lion on a Stone Table. But the answer is right in the Bible: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). God knew that the most beautiful picture of love was self-sacrifice. There can be no possible picture of love greater than the greatest being in existence sacrificing himself for the love of very imperfect beings, some of whom even hate him. In this picture it doesn’t really matter if God “had” to die; He did it because it was a great good to do so.

      This was a very long response, I know. Longer than I thought it would be. I hope you’ve taken the time to read it, haha.

    • “Any religion, that claims to have an all loving, forgiving deity, but says that that deity requires a human sacrifice is an immoral religion.”

      You have completely missed the basis of the gospel. The bible very clearly states that Jesus is God. God sacrificed HIMSELF as a man (the Son) so that we humans can be forgiven for our anti-God nature and have a relationship with Him. It could only be God that took this sacrifice upon Himself because He is the only perfect being without fault. Hence why the Christian God is referred to as the holy trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God sacrificed Himself. How is that not loving?

    • I submit that the Christian religion is an attempt to get people to condemn themselves to some sort of Hell. God asks, “Shall I murder my child to save your worthless life?” If you say “Yes,” You obviously deserve what you get.

    • Nowhere in the bible does it say that God ASKED man if He should kill His son. What it does say is that God gave Himself as the sacrifice for human sin and that salvation is a gift to those who choose to believe that Jesus is Lord. I pray that people would read the bible before they give their opinion of it and spread untruth.

    • @ shipoopi, from the beginning — that’s when you assumed that people are good. By condemning God for requiring atonement for sin, you assume that either people aren’t sinful or that sin isn’t very serious — both assumptions are built on the presupposition that people are good.

      Again, examine your presuppositions and start over.

  35. PLEASE HELP, I read your article which was really good! However, I’m really stuck on two very, very simple and straight forward questions. So far no Christian has been able to explain it to me, I just get blank stares. So any info that you can supply to answer this would be very valuable

    1. What did Jesus do from age 22 to 30? Please don’t say he hid in a cave, we are talking about the son of God

    2. I have read that the ten commandments were contained in the older egyptian book of the dead. Could the scribes have borrowed the more important points out of the book of the dead?

    Looking forward to your prompt response to such simple questions!

    • 1. I guess you mean from age 12 to 30 and the answer is: We don’t know. Anyone who says otherwise is writing fiction. We can assume, from Him being well-known in his home region and being treated as the oldest son of Mary, that he lived and worked respectably with His family. Anything beyond that is sheer guess work.

      2. No. The Ten Commandments are part of the Lord’s Covenant with Israel and are intimately bound up with faith in the Lord (Yahweh). Unless a source can verifiably cite a reference showing clearly some kind of parallelism with some other text, like the book of the Dead, don’t believe them. The whole “Zietgeist” controversy proves that anti-christians will simply make claims up out of thin air.

    • 1. Jesus apprenticed as a carpenter. His public ministry did not start til age 30 so he lived quietly with his mother as a carpenter.
      2. The ten commandments were recorded in the pentatuch (1st 5 books of the bible and contained in the Jewish Torah as well). Authorship attributed to Moses and born out by much oral history of the Jewish people. Saying the apostles just made up the concept or copied it from another traditions document runs against the petagree of the 10 commandments and the accepted history of their origin.

    • The “simple questions” things suggests you are being facetious. I can hardly believe these two questions would be the most significant stumbling blocks; the reason you get blank stares is because nobody thinks those are very important questions. Why are they so significant to you? For the moment I’ll take you on face value.

      1. First, why 22 to 30? Why not 12 to 30? Or 0 to 30?
      Second, the fact that there aren’t any childhood / early adult stories about Jesus in the Bible (there are some obviously fictional ones in other literature) have actually been pointed to as a point in the Bible’s favor. The Biblical authors recorded what is important for us to know — with the exception of his birth narrative and the story at the temple when he was 12, they didn’t feel anything else was that important.

      Third, I personally think Jesus lived an ordinary life like the rest of us. It appears Joseph died early (since he isn’t mentioned during Jesus ministry, but the rest of Jesus’ family is), so it’s entirely possible as the oldest son that he was supporting the family until they could survive on their own. The Bible says, “he was tempted and tried in every way just as we are, yet without sin.” If he spent all his time doing miracles and traveling around preaching, I think it would have been hard to say he lived life like us.

      2. This is a link to the supposed “Egyptian 10 commandments” http://www.sacred-texts.com/egy/ebod/ebod37.htm . You will find some similarities, but the differences are far more extreme and important, starting with the fact that it is a recitation of the things someone has not done, rather than God commanding what shall or shall not be done. The question of “who borrowed from whom” is not something you’re going to figure out 3,000 years later. The question is, “Does the Bible show a decidedly different character from other religions that would point to it being divinely inspired vs. manmade?” Just because a manmade version of religion advocates some of the same practices as what we find in the Bible does not mean the Bible is manmade.

      I’ve read quite a few of the main texts of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, etc, and I see very distinct differences. I encourage you to do the same and judge for yourself.

      You might also want to read “The Bible Among the Myths” by John N. Oswalt, as he address this issue with much more depth than I could here.

  36. From my article

    http://www.wholereason.com/2011/01/atheist-atrocities.html

    How many killed?

    Salem Witch Trials (25)

    Crusades (10,000 to 100,000) – note that the Crusades were most likely a justified defensive war after 400 years of Muslim aggression, and were not used to spread Christianity or take revenge, but to free captured lands from Muslim oppression.

    Atheism (>100,000,000,000) – at the hands of the militant anti-religious atheists Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong

    (NOTE: I disagree with D’Souza that Hitler was atheist – he publicly claimed Christian faith, but in private conversations, derided the church and persecuted Christian dissenters like Deitrich Bonhoeffer. His actual ideology was more likely a mix of Darwinism, Arianism, and occultism.)

    • Did you say the death toll during the Crusades is only 10,000-100,000? That’s a serious estimation? Yikes.
      Try 1-5,000,000! The largest percentage of world’s population was killed in the name of God denominational differences, etc. than at ANY other point in human history. More Christians killed Muslims or Jews than vice-versa.

    • wow… where did you get these figures? they are not only wrong, but impossible. if there are only 7 billion people on the planet at the moment, how could any group of people kill 100 billion? Adolf Hitler was a professed christian, and with any other atheist that you claim commited mass genocide, did any of them do it as a result of their atheism? no, it was strictly for political reasons. and if you really think that at most only 100,000 people died during the crusades then you need to go and do some more research.

    • I believe 19 were killed the Salem Witchcraft trials.

      As for Nazism, it was based on Nietzschean philosophy which was plainly atheistic. But in that philosophy the “supermen” (who actually believe “God is dead”) can manipulate the masses by whatever means are necessary, including claiming to believe in God when they don’t in reality. Look into the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche to understand Hitler and Nazism.

    • I think you might have added at least three too many zeros — 100 billion?? Really? More than ten times the current world population, which is at it’s highest ever as far as we know?

    • Regardless of what anyone else says to this, even if it is true this is simply a bad argument against atheism! What people do (even what their beliefs make them do) says nothing about whether or not what what they believe is TRUE. If we started a war in the name of the Earth being round and killed 6 billion people, it wouldn’t make the Earth any less round (unless the bombs flattened it :P). I’m a Christian, and rest assured that when atheists try to use this argument it is just as fallacious, so don’t worry about that!

      Better arguments for theism include the Cosmological, Teleological, and Moral arguments. (Alvin Plantinga’s version of the Ontological argument is also interesting, but even he doesn’t think it’s the type of thing that would convince anyone of theism). Do some reading and research into these arguments and you should feel comforted. Newer formulations tend to be better (though this is a generality, not a rule). For the Cosmological argument look at William Lane Craig’s work on the Kalam version. For the Teleological argument ignore William Paley (unless you want some background) and go right to the argument from the Fine Tuning of the universe. As for the moral argument, I’m not actually aware of anything too contemporary. C.S. Lewis’s version (though popular-level) should suffice.

    • Luthan3

      It also helps with your arguments for God if you don’t stop reading as soon as you find one that fits your beliefs. Why don’t YOU try reading further. The arguments you cite are really bogus and DO NOT provide any proof of God at all.

      On the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Let’s generalise the KCA:

      P1 If X begins to exist it has a cause
      P2 X begins to exist
      C1 X has a cause

      Valid, so OK. But not SOUND, because it merely asserts P1, which isn’t certain, and P2, which isn’t certain either, when it comes to our universe or some other instances of X.

      There nothing that suggests that a natural non-teleological non-God eternal succession of universes come and go.

      We don’t even understand what causality is. It may just be an amazingly coincidental correlation. Causality is something our human minds use to understand how events occur in time and in relation to each other. We have not the slightest idea what is required to make universes, whether they can come and go spontaneously or not. All monotheistic religions are based on a rather simplistic presupposition that there must be a God to kick start our universe. And when asked, who created God, theists pluck another convenient assertion out of their rears: God is eternal, the first cause, blah de blah de blah.

      The fine tuning argument is another pile of crock. It is based on the presupposition that the universe is fine tuned because adjusting some of the constants we have found would mean stars wouldn’t form, or some other devastating consequence would prevent human life. Well, we have no idea what sort of ranges would work for the constants. It might be that in the physicis of universes coming into being that they ALWAYS form with just these constants. Or, it might be that universes come and go, some with constants like ours, some not – and in all those varieties of universes that come and god many of the variety of constants may result in intelligent life. We have no idea what other universes are out there, or how many there have been.

      Our view of outside this universe now is as ignorant as when theists told us the sun went around the earth. And then theological ideas were changed when we discovered the earth went round the sun and we lived in a solar system. Then we lived in a galaxy and thought that was all there was. And then we spotted similar galaxies and realised we lived in a universe.

      Your theism is based on ignorance, as are the arguments you employ to support it.

      It is laughable that there are believers like you making use of rational but poor arguments such as these, and at the same time you have theists such as Sodugal’s claim that Faith is the opposite of logic: http://wellspentjourney.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/devastating-arguments-against-christianity-courtesy-of-the-internet/#comment-3269

    • @Ron Murphy

      You are assuming a lot about what I know and don’t know and have read and haven’t read with regards to these arguments! I don’t have the time or patience to argue online, especially with someone so incredibly uncharitable. I am a graduate student studying philosophy, and I say this not to employ a uselessly fallacious appeal to authority, but to assure you that I have spent time looking at the arguments for and against God’s existence. I know the challenges the Kalam faces. I know the issues people have with both premises (and with the fact that the conclusion doesn’t actually even lead directly to “God exists”). But you have to realize that theists have responses to these criticisms, the literature runs deep, and the conversations are far from conclusively over.

      What I want to understand is why you are so vigilant in your beliefs. Do you have some sort of sense of duty to “good reason” and “science” that you honestly feel you must spread your message and deride all those who oppose you?

      I have looked into the issues and have concluded for myself that it seems like the case for Theism is better than that for Atheism. But I defend right reason, because I understand it’s more important than grasping at just anything that seems like it might support your position. I actually DEFENDED atheists in my last post. Having looked at the issues (including having taken a semester long seminar on the problem of evil) I know that atheists are not [all] irrational. There are some really good arguments on their side that are challenging. And there are some really intelligent atheist thinkers (some of whom I work very closely with). I really hope you’re able to see that there are also some incredibly intelligent theists.

      Atheists have to learn (and most of the really intelligent ones already have) that the mark of an intellectual person isn’t being an atheist. There are some incredibly bone-headed atheists (just as there are way too many bone-headed theists). But for whatever reason the general attitude (at least online) is the “I’m enlightened because I know that there is no God, and everyone else is falling for it” attitude. I hope you can give up that attitude and start engaging in civilized conversation aimed at mutual understanding and (ideally) truth. Until then I will not continue to discuss with you.

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  38. Another point about the science in the middle ages…the church never discouraged science. The rift between science and church is a 20th century issue, not a medieval one. (Just learned this in a systematic theology course). Good information in a concise manner here, thanks!

    • That’s hysterical…..the church did NOT discourage Science???? How about Darwin? ALL scientists through-out history were met with vicious opposition from the Papacy and Christianity at large. The information given upon this blog, while packaged nicely, is skewed, incorrect and NOT properly cited (upon closer review) Unfortunately. I am a Christian but I acknowledge the flawed individuals and a flaw doctrine through out the history of Christianity- tilting Christ’s teachings and bending His will toward the benefit of certain anti-intellectual sensibilities. This is a gigantic flaw. I also acknowledge that reason and faith don’t necessarily coincide and having an open debate about the legitimacy of these remarks probably won’t go anywhere as it would appear some replace actual facts and evidence with their own faith. One example of this would be to deny the Holocaust or to be dismissive of it OR to say there wasn’t a religious pretext behind it There absolutely was. Atheists (Hitler proclaimed to be an atheist but that is highly disputed as he had the support of the Papacy and other religious figures) alone were not responsible for the extermination of those Jews. The Nazis believed God was on their side, and Italy joined in. EVEN IN AMERICA there was pronounced resentment of the Jews, not for their ethnicity, but instead for their religion. Matter of fact, I just learned of my thick Jewish ancestry a few years ago because it was kept secret. IN AMERICA. I am assuming that most here have taken a Western Civ course in college? Well if so, you would know that yes- indeed, more blood as been spilled in the name of someone’s God than for any other reason. And it’s tragic. Have a good day. :)

    • “The information given upon this blog, while packaged nicely, is skewed, incorrect and NOT properly cited.”

      I gave sources for all of my claims, with the exception of point #4 (because facts surrounding mythological figures are easy enough to just look up for oneself, as I did).

      “Well if so, you would know that yes- indeed, more blood as been spilled in the name of someone’s God than for any other reason.”

      citation?

    • Before the Roman Catholic church came to power in the middle ages, religion and science went hand in hand. The persecution of science at the church’s hands was done as a control measure. But when Darwin came out with his theory of evolution, many liberal theologians did in fact embrace it. The Bible does not explain creation and for many theologians Darwin supplied a plausible explanation. The church in more modern times has discouraged science but it was not always so. And even when they did rail against science many times it was because they felt a perceived threat to the very doctrine of the Bible. Christians have never been perfect, the church has never been perfect…but I am not an uneducated idiot. I have a BA in medieval history and close to finishing a Masters In Theology so I actually know what I am talking about, and religion has done a lot of terrible things to people throughout history. 9-11 was a religious war as well. But the fact is that it is more modernity that has made enemies of religion and science. Newton, who “discovered” gravity was a follower of Jesus as was Galileo. It was the CHURCH who excommunicated him. Not God. And that was the RC not a committed body of believers. There is a difference between a power hungry organization who uses “God and religion” to control the uneducated masses versus true theologians and followers of Jesus.

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  41. Of course- this is the large scale estimate, not just surrounding the Crusades, but the totality of lives lost in the name of God. It is sad to admit (Again, I am a Christian) but the truth is hard to accept.
    “From the birth of Popery in 606 to the present time, it is estimated by careful and credible historians, that more than fifty millions of the human family, have been slaughtered for the crime of heresy by popish persecutors, an average of more than forty thousand religious murders for every year of the existence of popery.”
    — “History of Romanism,” pp. 541, 542. New York: 1871.

    • I’m no fan of Catholicism but that quote is absurd and the source isn’t serious. 50 million deaths? That’s probably more than the entire population of Europe throughout the Middle ages.

  42. This article just goes to show that athiests have no clue what their talking about. First off, Christ wasn’t even born on December 25th, that’s just when the wise men came to him, so you can’t use that to say we’re stealing from other religions. Second: is the thought of God more ridiculous than the idea that man shares a similar bone structure with apes and therefore must have evolved from fish? No. Darwin himself said there is no absolute proof that evolution is true, it was just an idea he had; and there has been tons of evidence pointing to the fact that God is real. Third: the fact that athiests say the Bible doesn’t match up with history just goes to show that they know nothing about history at all. There is historical proof all over the place that proove that what the Bible says is true (i.e. seashells/clams found on the TOPS of mountains proove the flood). So to the athiests: please stop acting like you’re all-knowing, and realize that your ideas are even more close-minded and ridiculous than any other religion on the planet. Thank you.

    • You should qualify this by saying “Some” atheists. There are some very intelligent atheists who wouldn’t rely on such ridiculous arguments to justify their Atheism. I do agree that the Atheist attitude on the internet is somewhat annoying, while the general religious attitude tends to be merely defensive (unfortunately). It’s too bad. We all need to stop pointing fingers and making generalizations about each other. Engaging in civilized, intelligent conversation is best I think. Unfortunately I’ve lost hope that anyone will actually ever change their mind through internet conversation. Oh, I’m a Christian by the way, not an atheist.

    • are you talking about the fosillized sea shells or the ones that were washed up there by a really big wave cause if you believe shells are just lying on the top of mtns i can see why you might believe in a religion

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  44. If you put those 30 minutes into googling evolution facts from academic websites you’d drop the children’s stories in…….30 minutes

    • I do research in molecular genetics. Many well-known scientists are Christians, including the current director of the NIH, Francis Collins.

    • Evolution really doesn’t have much to say about Christianity. At best it calls into question the literal translation of one book of the Bible (Genesis). It has nothing to say about what the Bible teaches, and absolutely nothing to say about the existence of God in general.

    • Luthan3,

      Evolution describes how humans evolved from animals with much simpler brains, and further back from animals with no brains. Neuroscience, biology, chemistry, physics – in all these science there is never any evidence that would suggest non-material entities like minds or souls. There is nothing at all that EVER suggests anything about supernatural beings, the afterlife, or any of the spiritual stuff of Christianity. Against the immensity of all this science you have a book cobbled together that echoes many myths throughout the ages. Though they change their details to suit some local preferences and cultural environments they all are basically the same type of story. If this simplistic ‘book’ evidence you have for Christianity is good enough for you, then so should the evidence for Islam and Mormonism.

    • There’s no reason to suppose that evolution and belief in God are opposed to each other. You’ve simply assumed that. If you’d spend 30 minutes thinking about it, you’d know better.

  45. I didn’t read all of the comments, so I don’t know if this has already been said or not.

    I think the funniest thing for me is that all of these “Arguments” against Christianity are not only inaccurate, but fallacious as well.

    The one about War is somewhat like an Ad Hominem: it’s saying that because the believers do bad things, we ought not to trust their belief. But regardless of who believes something, or what they do, it has no effect on the belief itself! If a war was started in the name of the Earth being round, it wouldn’t make the Earth any less round.

    The second one – about religion disappearing – is simply a prediction about what people are going to come to believe. But regardless of WHAT people believe, the facts do not change! It says nothing at all about the issue itself.

    The issue of Scientific regress has the same problem as the religious wars Argument.

    Finally, the similarity of Horus, Mithra, Krishna, and Dionysus to Jesus is nothing but the genetic fallacy. The origin of a belief has nothing to do with the truth of that belief.

    I know that theists have some pretty bad arguments , but atheists should AT LEAST rely on the better arguments that are out there: the Problem of Evil, for example (challenging argument, though not unsolvable). Even appealing to a lack of evidence is better than these.

    I enjoyed this article. Interesting to hear the truth of some of these things!

    • Yes I can see you didn’t read all the comments. You should. The claims Matt put together are either bogus or he’s dug out the worst possible examples there could be of atheist statements. As I said in my earlier comment, it was low hanging fruit.

      But you make a good point: “The origin of a belief has nothing to do with the truth of that belief.”

      Quite right. That’s why the bible is such a pile of useless words.

      Proper atheism is nothing more than the appreciation that there is no good reason to believe all these religions, because their sources are so irrational. If you can bring yourself to read the comment I made on the Liar’s Bible. That’s how irrational belief in gods is, when based on holy books.

      You are also quite right in another way. It doesn’t matter how much belief someone has in their God, how much faith they have, if they are wrong they are wrong. That they do believe, no matter how much faith they have, is no testament to the correctness of what they believe.

      What they believe in needs evidence. The Liar’s Bible makes belief based on the Bible a joke. But Christians only have the Bible to get their beliefs.

    • @ Ron Murphy, You’re totally wrong. The issues dealt with here are the typical ones that atheists bring up, mindlessly parroting each other or their hero Dawkins. You’re upset that now they’ve been debunked.

    • @Ron Murphy

      “Proper atheism is nothing more than the appreciation that there is no good reason to believe all these religions, because their sources are so irrational.”

      This is exactly what I mean by the genetic fallacy. The origin of a belief has nothing to do with the truth (or falsity) of that belief. You can’t say “the Bible is a bogus source, therefore Christianity is false”. At most you could say “the Bible is a bogus source, therefore we have no reason to think Christianity is true”. It’s a subtle distinction, but the distinction is important. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume this is what you meant (It does seem in line with what you said, so it might be exactly what you meant). The problem with this is that it assumes that the Bible is the ONLY reason to think that Christianity is true.

      Getting more to your point of defending proper ATHEISM, the potential merit of any one religion has nothing to do with whether or not God exists full stop. Every current religion could be wrong and God could exist. Furthermore there are all sorts of arguments for God’s existence. I won’t defend them here, but do a quick google search and you’ll see what there is. Also look up William Lane Craig; he’s got a good summary of some of the best arguments if you watch his various debates.

      As for Christianity itself, we do rely on at least some of the Bible’s accuracy to support our faith, but fortunately the parts that we really need to be historically verified as accurate are pretty darn close to unanimity as you can get: namely the life, ministry, and death of Jesus. The ministry of Saint Paul is pretty confirmed as well.

      Anyways, that was rambling and not focused very well, but I’m tired and I’ve got to hold office hours now so I am stopping.

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  47. I’ve heard a similar argument from an atheist regarding the myths of Adapa and Inanna. After reading some summaries, it looks like the only similarity is being in the underworld for 3 days, which the number 3 was very common in religion (The three Greek gods Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon; the three Hindu gods Brahmā, Vishnu, and Shiva)

  48. The only problem I see with this article is that he doesn’t take into account the philosophical interpretations of all sacred writings, not just Jesus’ life as being mythos. (i.e. the Leviathan [the serpent of Eden] in Hebrew mythology being the same ideal represented in the Kundalini Serpent, the Jörmungandr, the Hydra Serpent & the Scylla Serpent; all representations of one ideal: ego). Or the interpretation of the Exodus of Egypt being an internal struggle out of personal bondage, “God” destroying the “gods” in our lives, the manna from heaven being spiritual revelations that sustain the soul which Paul references in Hebrews 11. There is an interpretation of the Q’ran that states “jihad” is an internal struggle, not an outward, physical violence. These interpretations are not new, either. The Ancient Egyptian Mystery Schools as well as the Gnostics were the first sects that began to spread these teachings, which crept their way into Christianity as well as the Celtic mythologies & later, the theosophy. Manly P. Hall & Helena Blavatsky are two reputible sources that cite the credibility this blog author seeks. As far as point #1, the entire history of Islam is filled with bloodshed. Most people don’t take these interpretations into account & that’s mainly my problem with Christian apologists in general. & nobody seems to be able to aptly interpret the numerous misogynistic passages in the Bible.

  49. I must admit I was unfamiliar with all of the scientists mentioned in Tim O’Neill’s response to the Dark Ages and science. So I had some fun on Wikipedia:

    Grosseteste – bishop who studied rainbows, light and astronomy, mathematics.
    Roger Bacon – friar who studied optics and calendar mathematics.
    John Peckham – archbishop who studied theology, astronomy and optics.
    Thomas Bradwardine – mathematician, physicist, archbishop of Canterbury. Also studied the phenomenon of memory.
    Walter Burley – Philosopher and logician who dabbled in physics.
    William Heytesbury – Another philosopher and logician who worked on kinematics (which is the study of motion between points or large bodies, so I’m guessing stars and planets) as well as divisibility, which is a rudimentary study of fundamental matter.
    Richard Swineshead – mathematician, natural philosopher, logician.
    John Dumbleton – natural philosophy, physics, logic and a rudimentary study of matter of the human beings.
    Jean Buridan – made the first contribution to our idea of inertia.
    Nicholas of Cusa – had some pretty radical ideas about astronomy and medicine, also a philosopher.

    Borderline/not really scientists:

    Nicole Oresme (a man): worked on a lot of fields: physics, astronomy, maths, astronomy, theology, philosophy. Concluded the heavens moved and the earth stood still, but presented some evidence to the contrary. He tried, that’s the important thing.
    Richard of Wallingford – good astronomer and horologist who also worked on astronomy. Nearly there.
    Magnus – a bishop and ‘alchemist’. May or may not have made/inherited the philosopher’s stone.
    Duns Scotus – not a scientist but an influential theologian and metaphysicist nonetheless.

    So nobody can argue that science was not taking place. The quality of science ranged from basic first steps to phenomenal advances.

    However, I think a proper discussion on the Dark Ages should focus on the cultural and social climate of the time and weigh up people’s general well-being, education and health. If we’re going to imply causation between the quality of life/knowledge at the time with the all encompassing presence of institutionalised Medieval Christianity, then we need to examine many more factors than a head count of scientists.

    • And M-W says this of religion:

      : the belief in a god or in a group of gods

      : an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods

      : an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

      “an interest, …, or and activity that is very important to a person or group”

      The ‘or’ suggests not only beliefs but interests and activities.

      That would include tennis, poker, porn, … , any job, any hobby.

      But I think the first two are what most people think of as religion. But there’s not logical reason why religions should be specifically theistic.

    • Show me where your opinion holds any weight or value in Buddhist philosophy. Have you been enlightened? Your pronouncements are invalid unless you have experienced an awakening. I think you are just another self-promoting windbag, living in darkness and ignorance. The God who doesn’t exist in Buddhism says: “Thou shalt STFU.”

    • If I were truly enlightened, I wouldn’t spend my day getting into arguments with strangers on the internet.

  50. I think Christian dogma did have an influence on the dark ages, but them being the only reason for such a massive decline is false. Roger Bacon (who I’ve been learning a little about lately) was actually imprisoned after the Pope died and another took his place. But it’s not quite sure why he was imprisoned. And scientist were allowed to work, but sometimes their ideas would be looked down upon. Other than that, everyone’s faulty view of Christianity (because having access to a Bible was very hard, thus a lot of stuff was made up) resulted in poor political decisions and maybe too biased a culture, but you’re still basically right. It’s just not like they didn’t have an influence at all though. But one might say that the fall of the Roman Empire had more to do with it, since a lot of their advances in science and engineering and math and etc. were lost. Just wanted to put in my 2 cents. Christian dogma did have negative influences on the culture perhaps and political decisions for sure, but I don’t know much about how it prevented scientific advancement. That might have even been more due to the Muslims preventing trade from the East and West, until the Khans took them out. Things just weren’t as organized or as easily obtainable I suppose. Oh something I forgot, geography actually was influenced a lot by Christian dogma. The world according to them is basically a circle with three oceans making the map a perfect cross, with Jerusalem in the middle. It greatly hindered geography. Also one could claim the Christian nation policy to convert a country before allying with it might be consider a reason the science didn’t advance faster, but then again there’s always trade, but actually that was hindered by Muslims, with a little about 100 year break because of the Khans. But this is ramble enough, the point is there was an influence, just not as big as everyone says, and more politically than scientifically. :) I’m Christian by the way. :)

    • First, unbiased historians don’t use the term “Dark Ages”. It’s a polemical term.

      Second, the collapse of the Roman Empire and the anarchy that followed was caused by the invasions of the barbarians. Anti-Christian propagandists call it the “Christian Dark Ages” to make it sound as if Christians caused it. But Christians were not responsible for it and the Roman era, with it’s gladiatorial games, infanticide, crucifixions, slavery, etc,, brutal.

      Third, Christians preserved learning and books and helped keep whatever order they could. The church was responsible for the return of learning and order later.

      Fourth, Christianity provided the values that made human rights and science possible.

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    • You’re wrong. Paul deals with this directly in 1 Corinthians 15. Resurrection, as illustrated by the Lord Jesus Himself, is the raising of the body. Resurrection is physical.

  52. What a cute article, the ignorant ‘claims’ (wherever they come from) are met with exactly the same kind of superficial ignorance (30 minutes of Google, and 1 (!!!!) source what a thorough research).

    So please, try again when you did your homework in a solid way and stop spreading religious propaganda until you’re done…

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  54. There will be wars and rumor of wars, religious or non-religious as well. Because men are ‘sinners’ , separated in nature (by their nature) since they are already dead unless born anew from “above” , though the still can commit acts not of His Love as long as in this life.. I had done the research regarding the myths and called it ‘back -plugging’. Taking Christ’s story and back-filling into myths for which in foundation there is very little known about them at all but a few statements but then ‘someone’ out there makes up an extension using the Life of Christ to de-validate it. That is what is known as ‘evil’. But took it a step further. Why are all the ‘religions’ or ‘seeking something or someone of ‘that’ which is outside of us all since pre-history of mankind sacrificing animals or people? How can that be when at those times people didn’t have a form of communication to know that someone else somewhere else in the globe was doing it at the same time?. What is it that humans need to make a sacrifice to and for, and for what purpose? Let the imagination stir and it’s not hard to figure out. ..and adds more weight to “It is Finished”. But then, why are all the other religions still doing animal sacrifices to this very day? Search, “Hindu Animal Sacrifices, “Buddhist Animal Sacrifices” “Jewish Animal Sacrifices”…there is more involved than mechanics and physical rituals involved in The Spirit, but the greater point to be made is that this was all prophesied ..and that as prophecy is being fulfilled people cannot see the forest for the trees, that too, has always been the case.

  55. So from what I’ve read here, religion and science haven’t been as mutually exclusive, historically, as many are led to believe. The ignorance of faith is spreading in uniform with the faithful multiplying. (Big surprise) And Jesus was just as an original fairy tale as many of his predecessors. You’ve managed to argue some mute points rather well. Does nothing for the argument of the existence of God or Jesus in any way, but an interesting read. Terrifying statistic about the lack of contreception among poor, uneducated nations suffering from mindless religious leadership as opposed to, say, condoms and medicine. None of the hundreds of Gods like you I suppose.

  56. Luthan3,

    You said, “Do some reading and research into these arguments and you should feel comforted.” Which presumes people commenting haven’t, which then makes this seem uncharitable: “You are assuming a lot about what I know and don’t know … someone so incredibly uncharitable.”

    “But you have to realize that theists have responses to these criticisms, the literature runs deep, and the conversations are far from conclusively over.”

    Then why do theists keep using the arguments in their simplistic easily criticised forms? You’d think, for example, that WLC would provide a more robust version. Of course these are offered as complete arguments, which they are; and as such they have a structure and premises. So, when you say “theists have responses to these criticisms” they must be additional arguments that support the premises, or evidence to support the premises, or different arguments. I’ve not seen the first two, and if it’s the latter then these criticised arguments should stop being offered and the different ones presented. If you have anything specific to add to support the KCA or Fine Tuning, where is it? From what I’ve experience it isn’t the case that “the literature runs deep”, but rather the literature runs shallow but voluminous. It’s a bit of a cop-out merely claiming that there is more supportive literature without being specific. If, as you say, you appreciate some of the faulty reasoning of theists you should surely realise that this move is used quite often.

    “What I want to understand is why you are so vigilant in your beliefs.”

    Isn’t mere interest sufficient? But it does indeed go further than that. Religions, to varying degrees in the doctrines of the religion, and in the interpretations of the religious, persecute people. It ranges from the UK C of E being the only organisation un-Christian enough to discriminate in employment against women and homosexuals, to the violent interpretations of Islam.

    And whether it’s a moderate rational peaceful law abiding fully democratic secular theist, or an Islamist bent on terror, the common foundation of faith as a means of holding beliefs means that the former cannot provide a justifiable criticism of the latter – faith is generally held to be above and beyond reason, so if the moderates faith is, then so is the terrorist’s, and not amount of reasoning from the moderate can be used against the terrorists, if the moderate relies on faith himself.

    So, I don’t’ spread my message to all those that ‘oppose’ me, because not all theists try to assert their beliefs, and not all ‘oppose’ me. I’ll happily engage with any theist, but I tend not to comment on theists blogs that are clear expressing personal belief. As a secular atheist I support personal belief, especially on matters where as humans we have no information – the beginnings of this universe or what lies outside it (however you want to interpret ‘outside’). I comment here (thanks to Matt’s patience) because Matt makes statements about public matters: homosexuality, marriage, abortion, atheists. He is interested in discourse, and so I engage.

    “it seems like the case for Theism is better than that for Atheism”

    What is that case? It can’t be that difficult to explain. If it is then it will, in all probability, be full of holes. I say this not as an insult to you, but as a comment on the capacity of humans to sustain complex arguments, particularly when they are mixed up with opinion, history, and the flowery language of religion.

    “the problem of evil” – I have yet to see anything that can support the theists claim that they can distinguish between a good god plus free will resulting in this world, and a mischievous god doing the same. Even the presumption of ‘evil’ requires the presupposition of a god for it to have the religious meaning it has. Any ‘evil’ we see performed by humans can just as easily be seen in terms of biological emotions: anger, gratuitous curiosity, vengeance, cruelty, greed, … There are entirely satisfactory explanations for ‘evil’ without presupposing a god. And, as I’m sure you’re aware, supposing there is a god requires the theist introduce other presuppositions to support it: free will, for one.

  57. Luthan3,

    “There are some really good arguments on their side”

    Can you give, or at least point, to one that supports God?

    “… there are also some incredibly intelligent theists.”

    Of course. But intelligence is a complex matter. And intelligent discourse requires clear arguments. Religious arguments are not clear because they inevitably turn back to flowery religious language: http://ronmurp.net/2010/06/19/spiritual-mumbo-jumbo-or-hypnosis/. And then there is presupposition. Presupposition will bypass all reason, especially if one has faith in the presupposition. The intelligent are not immune to presupposition. All the best scientists struggle with presuppositions and biases, and have to go to great lengths to limit their effect. Religion does not like falsificationism, but instead relies on affirmation. And if you would like to believe but do not yet believe, you can rely on praxis – by engaging in behaviour long enough it becomes habit and the brain can convince itself that what it is telling itself is true.

    “for whatever reason the general attitude (at least online) is the “I’m enlightened because I know that there is no God, and everyone else is falling for it” attitude.”

    Well, this is an example of misunderstanding atheists. I’m surprised at a philosopher falling for this – well I shouldn’t be, because they often do. The atheism is the working conclusion, not the premise of an argument. It isn’t the case that I’m intelligent because I’m an atheist, and your nt because you’re a theist. It’s not even a presumption of intelligence. The situation is this: there is NO evidence for the divinity for Jesus (the mortal man is a separate issue), other than claims in various gospels, not all of which are in the bible. NONE of the claims about the divinity of Jesus were recorded either at the time or by independent sources. THEREFORE any other ‘evidence’ you do provide (for his divinity) needs supporting. Now it’s no use appealing to God here, because the problem for a divine Jesus is even worse for God. They are all stories. All religious scholars rely on stories told by men. So, atheism is a working conclusion based on the lack of support for first a God, and then the divinity of Jesus. That’s all atheists are saying. We don’t generally start out as atheists and presume that is an intelligence indicator.

    “I hope you can give up that attitude and start engaging in civilized conversation aimed at mutual understanding and (ideally) truth.”

    That’s all I do. What in particular do you think was uncivilized about anything I’ve said?

    You might well write “and (ideally) truth”. This is part of the problem that philosophers face, and theologians. There is no access to truth. All valid arguments rely on premises, which in turn require valid arguments, for truth, for sound arguments. But humans do not have access to ‘ideal’ premises that stand there waiting for us to discover. All our premises are working ones (such as axioms in maths) that through empirical experience seem to work, or we make empirical observations of common states of the world and use those as tentative starting points. But at any time any particular premise might be challenged by more information. There is no access to absolute truth for humans, as far as we can tell.

    It all depends on evidence.

    Which brings us to this: “The origin of a belief has nothing to do with the truth (or falsity) of that belief.”

    And this: “At most you could say “the Bible is a bogus source, therefore we have no reason to think Christianity is true”.” – “I’ll … assume this is what you meant” – it is.

    Which is what I have been saying. The ‘irrationality’ I refer to is ‘faith’. Faith is not reason. Faith is belief without reason, though reason is often pegged on to hold up the faith – see later.

    “The problem with this is that it assumes that the Bible is the ONLY reason to think that Christianity is true.”

    That and some other gospels that were rejected – it basically is. Bear in mind here that “Christianity is true” is all about the divinity of Jesus. Nowhere other than in the bible (and other gospels) is this claimed. All subsequent claims rely on the Bible, and for some sects on the other gospels. And in turn, the very notion of a divine Jesus relies on divinity, which requires God being supported by evidence too. It is not.

    ANY example of a claim about revelation, where there is actually evidence of such a claim, could just as easily be attributed to natural brain processes. Unless you’d like to give specific examples you think do support revelation of the actual supernatural.

    “the potential merit of any one religion has nothing to do with whether or not God exists full stop.”

    But where the claims are conflicting and equally (un)supported by evidence it should make us suspicious about all of them.

    “Every current religion could be wrong and God could exist.”

    Agreed – and this is the thinking of most atheists. Even Dawkins, which many theists don’t seem to appreciate, even though he spells it out often enough. But all this does is give us two broad categories for causes for the existence of this universe: some sort of intelligent purposeful entity, or unpurposed natural clockwork. We have no evidence to support either.

    But, science over the last few centuries has been uncovering more and more about how the world works, and the clockwork model works just as well as invoking some intelligent purpose. We have no need to invent or presuppose some deity since natural explanations are sufficient. Note the simplicity here. Unless one is an out and out solipsist everyone believes in at least the material world – theists just think it was created by God. So, we have the material plus the supernatural. But just the material explanation is sufficient. The addition of the supernatural is unnecessary – until such time as there is evidence to support it.

    And note that, given the very many religions there have been, it looks like humans invent teleological explanations as a natural process of the brain. We even suffer from specific Pareidolia, visually, audibly, tactition, olfaction – because the brain recognises patterns that are similar. This wasn’t known for most of human history, so there we were seeing creatures, monsters, magic and gods everywhere we looked.

    Now, given all that, what seems most likely?

    (A) We have the presupposition that there are such entities, and yet when examined they don’t seem to materialise. So we provide ever more details explanations about why gods are not visible to us. Monotheism was a great trick to pull. It simplified the problem; and then all we had to do was keep pushing God back until he was totally out of sight, unavailable to the senses, except for convenient clues that are always recorded after the event and with no evidence present now (whenever that ‘now’ has been). Both the Gospels of the Bible and the Qur’an were written well after the events portrayed. We have no evidence the OT is anything other than made up, and probably a some time after the events they describe.
    (B) All natural explanations for the world, including the natural explanations of how human brains can invent non-existent entities. We know brains do this. We can recreate it in the lab. We can stimulate a brain and make it feel the real presence of a person next to them, even though the subject knows that person isn’t there. It can be switched on and off at will. There are many more examples.

    It seems far more rational to suppose (B) explains (A) than the other way round. The evidence for (B) can be repeated. For (A) it’s all stories and invisibility.

    Part of the problem is that to make any story at all credible it should be set in some historic time for which there are some records. So, the OT contains information about some well-known kings. This setting for a fiction is not evidence to support the fiction – any more than Scotland, trains and other factual data supports The 39 Steps. The filming of that movie has clear evidence for real settings in the real UK. It is a historical record of many facts about the UK in 1939 (or 1959 for a remake). It is not evidence that the story of intrigue was true. This seems to be lost on theists who appeal to credible historical facts – those facts do not support the supernatural, the divinity of Jesus, that Gabriel revealed the Qur’an to Mohammed. Is it so difficult to appreciate that fiction can be written alongside fact, and as such the historic facts do not support the fiction?

  58. Luthan3,

    “Furthermore there are all sorts of arguments for God’s existence.”

    But they are poor ones, and most rely on a presupposition that there is no good reason to presuppose. You as student of philosophy should know the logic of relying on presupposition is irrational.

    “I won’t defend them here, but do a quick google search and you’ll see what there is. Also look up William Lane Craig”

    Here we go again, around the same circle. WLC uses the KCA among others. It’s no good doing this (I’ll pick the KCA, as an example):

    Theist) WLC has arguments, like the KCA.

    Atheist) This is why the KCA is no use: unsupported premises.

    T) There are other responses.

    A) Then they are different arguments, or they are arguments that support the premises of the KCA, which is it?

    … diversionary explanations.

    T) Well, there are many arguments that support Christianity. Try WLC and the KCA. From which we can conclude there is a God. From which we can conclude God revealed the Bible … Christianity.

    A) Well, you still haven’t shown the KCA, or any other God arguments from WLC. And, none of those arguments tell us what sort of God it is, or whose. And the Bible is independently refutable as a reliable source, whether there is a God or not. Therefore, no, you have still not provided any reason to support Christianity.

    I’ve never had answers to this push. So, maybe you could provide some:
    a) Arguments that prove the premises of the KCA – If you haven’t got any then the KCA should really be given up.
    b) A different argument that is not one of he ones, like the KCA, that is part of an existing refuted list.

    The trouble is that theists do go around in circles, very long circles, and they keep providing ‘argument’ or ‘evidence’. When objections are made those objections may be answered with one or two more steps, but pretty soon one of the following happens:

    a) The theist distracts with an entirely different point and does not answer the last objections.

    b) They whine about how long this is taking and don’t have the time for it.

    c) They claim the response is out there, if only we looked, but when we look the responses consist of nothing more than what was said in the OP or in some comments.

    d) Eventually, on some other post they make the same original arguments and go round the circle again.

    There are a set of reasons for belief. There is only one that has no response:

    (F) “I choose to believe X and nothing you say will stop me. I call it having faith. Faith is beyond reason, so no reason can refute it.”

    Of course this is, by definition, irrational – it is the rejection of reason and an intent to believe no matter what. But, not wanting to appear irrational we then get:

    (R) “Of course there are other reasons why I believe, rational reasons, just Google WLC.”

    Which is of course precisely what they claimed they were not doing in the first statement. Alternatively, the appeals to reason (R) come first, and when they are challenged they revert to faith (F). Sometimes the faith bit is disguised – as Matt has, by appealing to ‘Love’ and other vague notions relating to belief.

  59. Luthan3,

    “As for Christianity itself, we do rely on at least some of the Bible’s accuracy to support our faith”

    Irrationally.

    You may rely on it for some facts about historical settings. We can leave the historicity of Jesus if you want. For the sake of argument I’ll accept he existed. But note that if evidence ever came to light that his historicity was fake then the whole religion is devastated. I mean the details of the historicity are suspect enough it should seriously worry Christians. But for now, let’s run with it.

    So, given that a factual mortal man Jesus may have existed, and given, from every novel ever set in a real setting it is clear that fiction and history can combine, it seems reasonable to rule out any appeal to historical facts in the bible for the divine claims that make Christianity a religion.

    With that, which bits of the Bible’s accuracy are you appealing to that support, specifically, the divine claims?

    “but fortunately the parts that we really need to be historically verified as accurate are pretty darn close to unanimity as you can get: namely the life, ministry, and death of Jesus. The ministry of Saint Paul is pretty confirmed as well.”

    I’ve just explained why these are irrelevant for the support of Christianity, but are essential for it. I hope you get the logic of that, but I’ll spell it out for anyone else that doesn’t.

    Here are two points about a man called Jesus:

    Divine Jesus needs Historic Jesus. No historic Jesus, no Christianity.

    BUT

    Historic Jesus says nothing to support a Divine Jesus.

    Here it is in simpler terms, about a shape:

    To be a square needs straight sides. Not curvy ones, for example.

    BUT
    Straight sides says nothing to support the shape being a square. It could be a triangle.

    “Anyways, that was rambling and not focused very well, but I’m tired and I’ve got to hold office hours now so I am stopping.”

    OK. But as a philosopher I presume you are keen on the intricacies of debate. And as a Christian you are keen on your belief being true. And as Christian philosopher you would be keen on supporting your Christian beliefs with philosophy. In that vain I’d be happy to take this further. You can email me if you wish at ronmurp-at-gmail-com. Unless that was another Christian brush-off – but I wouldn’t want to presume too much.

    The invitation is open to anyone.

    • @Ron Murphy

      I know you did a lot of work in putting together this response, but I’m not interested in arguing – mainly because rather than admit that you haven’t been exactly friendly in your responses you’ve spent pages and pages to try to prove me wrong when I never even offered an argument (just explanations – the only things I even provided which could be interpreted as conclusions [admittedly unsupported] were that certain things are rational to believe, not that they were true in any conclusive way). All I was trying to communicate – literally the only point – was that I’m a human being who prefers being treated with respect and not as though I’m “lesser than thou”. Discussions happen when two people are on the same level; internet flame wars happen when everyone tries to be superior. You pointed to me telling someone to read as proof that I was being uncharitable (at least that’s how I understood what you were saying), and maybe it could have come across as somewhat uncharitable, but it was genuinely done in an effort to help.

      Anyways, I’d be happy to discuss with you this in person. Seriously I would. I live in Toronto, Ontario, so if you decide you’d like a road trip (or if you just happen to live close) I would actually be happy to meet for coffee and continue this discussion. That way you could look at me in the eyes and see that I’m a human being with emotions and aspirations. That probably seems like a cop-out but I don’t know what to else to say. As a rule I avoid internet debates, I only usually comment to correct fallacious reasoning (usually from people who are making conclusions I AGREE with). I’ve never had it where I made a simple comment like that and got this type of response. (Granted, I commented a lot more on this thread than I normally would even when I do comment).

      But seriously, I WILL continue this discussion with you if you come to Toronto. That’s the only sufficient condition, however.

    • I’m also going to admit that perhaps from your vantage point you’ve been perfectly friendly. With your original few responses, however, I find that difficult to believe:

      “That’s why the bible is such a pile of useless words.” – Couldn’t you have expressed this in a way that’s a bit less antagonizing?

      “Your theism is based on ignorance, as are the arguments you employ to support it.” – Can you understand how this doesn’t seem very civil to someone reading it who has never met you and doesn’t know any of your intentions?

      “It is laughable that there are believers like you making use of rational but poor arguments such as these” – Most people don’t like being told that they’re being laughed at

      “The fine tuning argument is another pile of crock” – Perhaps if you had reworded it to say “The fining tuning argument is also problematic because…” I would have felt respected.

      My point is that reading your first few responses immediately caricaturized you in my head as a not very nice person, and made me continue to read what you had to say through that lens. It dawned on me that perhaps I came across the same way to you – even though I tried not to. But this is precisely why I avoid arguing on the internet like the plague. If you could see me, and if I could see you, we’d realize we’re both real people. Maybe you’d see that I’m a pretty good dude that you wouldn’t mind having a Pint with. And I’d see that you’re a decent guy yourself.

      Another really good reason for me to not argue on the internet is that it ALWAYS tends to happen when I’m procrastinating and should really be working on something else. Like right now. So I’ve got to run. Seriously if you come visit Toronto we’ll talk. Or if I am ever in your area I’ll hit you up; but as I said, I’m a student and not exactly bursting with cash and vacation time.

    • I thought all that was in keeping with Biblical language:

      Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, …
      Romans 1:21-22.

      And it’s not as if the ridicule of atheism is off bounds, as this whole post demonstrates.

      Interestingly this is an issue raised currently in the UK, about how easily, and conveniently, the religious can take offence. Here’s an example how the religious can be particular sensitive – though in this piece Christians come off rather well, which in the UK is probably because we’ve been making fun of pompous Bishops fr centuries: http://coelsblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/why-are-british-student-unions-imposing-islamic-rules/.

      There is another aspect to this too. As atheists we find that not pointing out the more ridiculous claims as being ridiculous submits the the theistic notion of how important their particular religion should be to everyone else. There’s not much you can say in the way of debunking this misinformed notion other than declaring it clearly. It really is the case that what a Christian sees as a god that deserves some respect is seen by atheists as no less comical than Mickey Mouse. Until theists come to understand that their views on their religion from the inside are not how it is seen from the outside.

      This isn’t a gratuitous contempt for the religious believer. It is a really important point. It’s the strong faith perspective from the inside that gives extremist Muslims the justification, they believe, to kill apostates and homosexuals. It really is no different than the mild and reasonable faith of moderate Christians who take offence at criticisms of their methods of belief and what they believe in.

      “That way you could look at me in the eyes and see that I’m a human being with emotions and aspirations.”

      Of course you are. Nothing I’ve said disputes that. I’m a human being too. And we know very well that humans are not infallible. We all succumb to biases, errors in logic, being convinced about something for which there is no evidence. This is not unique to theists, and atheists are not immune. But there are some arguments that are really simple to understand when not bulked out with religious rhetoric. It’s easy to show the errors in them. But they continue to be used.

  60. i would also mention that the Messiah could not have possibly been born on Dec25th as there were no sheep in the fields during hard winter. He never practiced pagan crap like Easter and always remembered the 7th day Sabbath and ate clean. All His Taught Ones practiced the Feast Days like Passover.

    You may also mention the actual cause of most genocidal murders: atheism backed by government.

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  62. Regarding religion and wars, it be interesting to know if those non religious wars had religious men cause the war. In other words, whether or not religion caused wars they sure didn’t prevent it. It applies to this you wrote “This pales in comparison to the number of people who have been killed by secular dictators in the 20th century alone.” Saddam Hussein was a secular dictator who led a secular government but was a Sunni Muslim and it didn’t prevent him from causing wars and misery. Same goes for Muammar Gaddafi. What about Ruhollah Khomeini who was deeply religious and led a modern theocracy? Religion is of little or no help when it comes to preventing wars and oppression.

    ““Thanks to modern science, the days of religion are numbered. Humanity’s superstitious belief in miracles and sky gods will soon be replaced by an era of atheism and rationalism.”

    It’s seem you revel in trying to debunk the silliest of claims. I don’t agree that monotheistic religions will ever be wiped off the face of the earth (I actually think they’ll expand) but I will respond to your response. Over 70% of professional philosophers are or lean towards atheism (http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl) and among elite scientist (members of the National Academy of Sciences) the percentages are about the same. So, among the most intelligent the trend at present is away from superstition and sky gods.

    Your debunking of this is interesting: “The dark ages were a time of ignorance and superstition, thanks to religion’s negative influence on scientific progress.”

    You quote an atheist writer, Tim O’Neill , who offers a list of “scientist”. One problem – none of them were scientist. Most were scholastic philosophers and the closest thing you get to a scientist is Roger Bacon but he was not one in the modern sense. Virtually all were religious so I don’t know why the Church would do anything to impede their studies. A curious omission from O’Neill’s list is Peter Abelard, although he was not oppressed for his studies (why would he or any other Medieval “scientist” since their studies were not in direct contradiction with Church dogma) but he was for his love affair with Héloïse. His genitals were mutilated. Although the Church did not order it they were not happy with the affair and did not nothing to protect him. Now, instead of quoting atheist writers regarding the Church and the Dark Ages lets quote historian William Edward Hartpole Lecky. He says ” There is, perhaps, no phase in the moral history of mankind, of a deeper or more painful interest than this ascetic epidemic. A hideous, sordid, and emaciated maniac, without knowledge, without patriotism, without natural affection, passing his life in a long routine of useless and atrocious self-torture, and quailing before the ghastly phantoms of his delirious brain, had become the ideal of the nations which had known the writings of Plato and Cicero and the lives of Socrates or Cato. For about two centuries, the hideous maceration of the body was regarded as the highest proof of excellence. St. Jerome declares, with a thrill of admiration, how he had seen a monk, who for thirty years had lived exclusively on a small portion of barley bread and of muddy water; another, who lived in a hole and never eat more than five figs for his daily repast; a third, who cut his hair only on Easter Sunday, who never washed his clothes, who never changed his tunic till it fell to pieces, who starved himself till his eyes grew dim, and his skin “like a pumice stone,”and whose merits, shown by these austerities, Homer himself would be unable to recount.”

    When the Church held its greatest sway it seems they didn’t prevent anybody from studying because they were content with letting the general population (who didn’t study anyways) bring about a self induced zombie apocalypse.

  63. Well written, I think a stronger argument regarding the dark ages is to look at the Islamic world at the time. The golden age of islam was encouraged by the religious and it all took place during the european dark ages. Those who claim religion hinders thought and science have a tendency to narrow their view to one area or time

    • Michael, was the cause of the Islamic golden age religion? I thought it was writing? Without narrowing the view of the time, what caused it’s decline? The *religious* crusades? Again, without narrowing are view of that time only lets expand it and look at our time, do you think Islam is encouraging a new golden age in the middle east?

  64. I want to point out a factual error Tim O’Neill makes and which you used to support your argument. O’Neill wrote “I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages.”

    He’s asking for only one so I point out one: Hypatia of Alexandria. She was killed, in the Middle Ages, by an angry Christian mob because they recognized her as the “pagan lady” who was learned in philosophy, mathematics and other subjects. So O’Neill’s contention is squarely refuted (let’s not forget O’Neill was also wrong in thinking scientist, as you did too, existed in the Middle Ages). Another example, though it came at the end of the Middle Ages was Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake by the Church precisely because his studies ran counter to its dogma.

    • http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/06/the-perniciously-persistent-myths-of-hypatia-and-the-great-library

      “[Hypatia] was, however, brutally murdered—and then dismembered—by a gang of Christian parabalani (a fraternity originally founded to care for the city’s poor); that much is true. This was not, however, because she was a woman (female intellectuals were not at all uncommon in the Eastern Empire, among either pagans or Christians), or because she was a scientist and philosopher (the scientific and philosophical class of Alexandria comprised pagans, Jews, and Christians, and there was no popular Christian prejudice against science or philosophy).

      And it was certainly not because she was perceived as an enemy of the Christian faith; she got on quite well with the educated Christians of Alexandria, numbered many among her friends and students, and was intellectually far closer to them than to the temple cultists of the lower city; and the frankest account of her murder was written by the Christian historian Socrates, who obviously admired her immensely. It seems likely that she died simply because she became inadvertently involved in a vicious political squabble between the city’s imperial prefect and the city’s patriarch, and some of the savages of the lower city decided to take matters into their own hands.”

  65. Unfortunately, really a lot of statements and assumptions in this writing are false. It’s a shame that you stand in the wrong light, trying to get others their as well. Your hubris is unhealthy for you.

  66. Matt, thanks for your reply.

    I’m well aware with what you say about female intellectuals in the time of Hypatia and I didn’t mean to imply she was killed because she was a female learned in many subjects but only that she – regardless of the fact she was well regarded by the Christian historian Socretes – was, by a Christian mob, because she was a pagan philosopher. I seriously doubt the Christians would have killed her if she was a Christian.

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  72. Considering the direction the comments have turned, a semi-relevant C.S. Lewis quote:‎ “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

    • “But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London.”

      That very statement is preloaded with the presupposition that there is an intended direction for evolution, as if there was some purpose to humans evolving to have the brains they have. There is no indication that this is the case.

      “But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else.”

      Quite right. But then he skips the “or anything else”, which encompasses theism. There is no direct reason to suppose anything. So, we start with the good work of Descartes and go from there: http://ronmurp.net/2010/05/03/contingency-of-knowledge/.

      Unfortunately Descartes makes the same mistake as Lewis in supposing God is necessary.

      Lewis, “Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

      This is utterly atrociously bad reasoning. The first part is false. It is not necessary to believe in God to believe that we can think. Note the slimy way he has moved from the question of the reliability of our reasoning to the actual possession of thought, let alone reasoning.

      Of course the evolutionary explanation is quite straight forward. We are evolved from creatures that did not have brains, to ones that had simple central nervous systems that controlled the organism’s movement in its surroundings, giving it advantage. The reasoning brains that we have are evolved to do that better; but there is no need for them to be reliable to any degree beyond basic survival. We did not evolve for the purpose of understanding how this universe was created, so our speculations on these issues are only as good as the evidence we can gather to support them. Our empiricism, our science, our reasoning and experiencing the world are all flawed and do not give us access to absolute truths.

      Science was developed to help overcome our basic limitations in sampling the world and reasoning about it. All the god stuff is pure invention with zero evidence to support it.

      I’m not sure why the religious puts such great store by Lewis. He was a flake who concocted some very fluffy but poor arguments. His use of language seems to be what persuades the religious, not the reasoning nature of it.

      Ironically it’s his unreliable and faulty reasoning that leads him to conclude that there must be a God in order to have any reasoning at all. Evolution explains why Lewis would come to such a dumb conclusion from such a bad argument: his brain didn’t evolve specifically to solve these reasoning problems.

    • “Lewis, “Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

      This is utterly atrociously bad reasoning. The first part is false. It is not necessary to believe in God to believe that we can think. Note the slimy way he has moved from the question of the reliability of our reasoning to the actual possession of thought, let alone reasoning.”

      I cannot say for sure, but from the context of the larger Lewis quote above, Lewis is not using the word “belief” (in reference to thought) to mean ‘belief in the existence of’, but rather belief as in trust or faith. That is to say, Lewis’s statement seems to be that unless one trusts God, one cannot trust thought, and therefore cannot use thought to mistrust in God. Seen in this way, Lewis’s reasoning is stronger than you give him credit for.

    • Matthew,

      Well, you may be right, because Lewis is typical or many religious writers in that he is ambiguous in his use of words, equivocating so often that one really has to break his writing down sentence by sentence to tease out what he is actually claiming.

      If you are right, then Lewis isn’t doing anything here of any use. Using your interpretation:

      1) unless I trust God, I cannot trust thought
      2) therefore I cannot use thought to mistrust in God

      But there is no reason to accept (1). There is no reason to suppose that trust in thought is dependent on a trust in God. His main premise is not shown, by any other reasoning or evidence. Nowhere does he demonstrate there is a god that we must put trust in.

      And the whole argument is hiding its own circularity. He is presupposing a god in order to convince us that we should believe in that god. He’s begging the question.

      1) unless I trust Santa, I cannot trust thought
      2) therefore I cannot use thought to mistrust in Santa

      That this argument can have any entity plugged into it demonstrates that it isn’t a good argument.

      Of course we do use thought to mistrust Santa: thought about evidence – the lack of it.

  73. I think it’s important to note that Jesus most likely wasn’t born on December 25, or even in December at all. He was more likely born in September. The reason we celebrate Christmas on December 25 is because the Roman Catholics wanted to replace a pagan holiday with a Christian one, which is why a lot of our Christmas traditions have pagan origins, ie. mistletoe, yule log. So to say that the Christian religion is copying other religions just based on the fact that some other ancient god was also born in December or on December 25 is just a bad argument in itself.

    • I don’t see anything wrong with claiming that one myth sits on top of the specific details of prior myths. They are all still myths. It’s not a concrete argument about the falsity of Christianity specifically, but the abundance of religious myths and the way they feed off each other and evolve is good evidence from which to infer they are all myths. For example, Muslims claim that Mohammed was the last true prophet. But Mormons could make the same claim about Joseph Smith. For Joseph Smith, and more recently Scientology’s Hubbard, we have more evidence about their lives to conclude that they were promoting myths. There is plenty of evidence about how the Christian story was concocted for religious and political purposes, particularly by Constantine. There is nothing special about the gospel authors to suppose they were anything other than ordinary men promoting yet one more myth. There is no direct evidence relating to Jesus, for or against. There is plenty of history from which to infer his Christ status is nothing but myth, even if Jesus the man existed.

  74. You have a good point and make a good argument but you would benefit from more accurate research. For example there is no such thing as the Christian Dark Ages. The Dark Ages refer to a time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Middle Ages some five hundred years later. They are called the Dark Ages because of the lack of historical records of that era. Thus the idea of “Dark” Ages.

    • The middle ages started some 500 years later? I have never heard of the beginning of the Middle Ages being in the 10th century. I’ve always heard and read that the Middle Ages began in 476 AD with the Fall of Rome, and the Dark Ages either as a synonym to Middle Ages, or a description of the beginning part of the Middle Ages because of the lack of advanced empires.

  75. OK. So not all wars are because of religion.

    And Christianity didn’t copy everything from earlier religions (although you could argue that December 25 fits nicely with the old winter solstice. Care to comment on that? Oh and Zoroaster was allegedly a virgin birth in some texts…)

    My question is about a loving God. My friend recently lost a child at the 9 month 4 day mark. Why does God allow that? It has caused a huge amount of suffering. Seriously a death of a baby. Randomness I can handle. But are you saying there was a God with a plan that included that?

    As Pauline Hanson (a racist Australian Politician) once said: “Please explain.”

    • The problems of suffering and the problem of evil, and the hiddenness of God are serious challenges. Worse, you have the ‘logical problem of evil,’ in which you could actually show that a good/almighty God is logically possible in such a world, but that fails to answer the ‘emotional problem of evil,’ which is acute in the death of a child. My good Christians friends lost their 2 year old in a drowning accident in their own pool.

      My answers (which I had to preach at their funeral):
      – There are no adequate answers
      – No other world view, however, can adequately answer these questions
      – Christianity tackles suffering realistically and head on, and does not avoid it
      – Christianity offers hope, whereas many other views (including atheism) can offer none.

      And while the atheist rejoinder is often “a false hope is not real hope,” they can not PROVE that the answers given in scripture are false, so in a sense, they’ve just chosen a view based on their own intuition and ‘logic,’ which is hardly overwhelmingly convincing, though it may seem so to them.

  76. Once Jesus Christ has been revealed in your heart, you KNOW the Truth and none of these arguments can make you disbelieve. He is real and He is alive.

  77. I find it laughable that someone would defend religious war with “we only killed 2 percent! The other guys killed so many more!”. Tell that to the men in Sinatra who were slaughtered by Sigurd I because they refused to be christened.

    I think the fact that god has allowed anyone, any single person, to kill in his name, is a fundamental disproof of the existence of someone who supposedly leads all believers by his Holy Spirit.

    People argue that god doesn’t intervene because he values the “free will” of an individual above all, more so than the suffering of millions, but what about those whose will is to do the will of god and yet he allows them to be misguided to the point of genocide?

    You can argue that it’s their own fault for being misguided, but aren’t we all imperfect? If a child misunderstands, isn’t it the responsibility of the parent to provide understanding? If I write a book on physics, aimed at 5 year olds, and it goes over their heads, is it their fault for not understanding or mine for not writing with my target audience in mind? If I leave my child unsupervised and he finds a gun in the house, takes it and runs around the neighborhood shooting pedestrians thinking he’s in GTA V, whose fault is that?

    To me, a belief in god requires holding God himself to a much lower standard than you would any real person.

  78. The resurrection bit regarding Horus probably came from his father; Osiris was the Egyptian god the underworld, and was resurrected (more or less; his manparts got eaten by a fish before they managed to reattach them) by the other gods after being dismembered.

  79. Thanx! Thats very helpful! And its funny you say Zietgiest because I watched it the other night!. The only other thing ive been arguing with my friends is creationism and the age of the earth. Why do we have fossils that are millions of years old? Why doesnt the bibke tell of dinosaurs in the book of genesis? Pkease help. Thats tge one thats really killing ne right now. Thank u!

    • The Bible doesn’t really talk about animals in Genesis…but some people might point to this passage in the book of Job:

      Job 40:15-24
      “Look at Behemoth,
      which I made along with you
      and which feeds on grass like an ox.
      16 What strength it has in its loins,
      what power in the muscles of its belly!
      17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
      the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
      18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
      its limbs like rods of iron.
      19 It ranks first among the works of God,
      yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
      20 The hills bring it their produce,
      and all the wild animals play nearby.
      21 Under the lotus plants it lies,
      hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
      22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
      the poplars by the stream surround it.
      23 A raging river does not alarm it;
      it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
      24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
      or trap it and pierce its nose?

      Regardless, I don’t think the Genesis account is by any means incompatible with an old Earth.

    • Because we have made erroneous assumptions with regards to dating, including soil deposition methods and rates, atomic decay rates, and other uniformitarian views.

      Q: Why do we have fossils that are ‘millions of years old’ that contain intact DNA and even tissue?

  80. Pingback: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet) | The Samuel H. Bolton Show

  81. I found it interesting that you chose not to dispel the erroneous beliefs about Jesus, particularly that he was born on December 25th– since you brought up the date so often.

  82. that so is a 7.62x39mm round. I have sent enough of them downrange and been on the receiving end of them enough to know. And the data in the Encyclopedia of War is solid. As to the nonsense with Mithra and Ganesh and such, I’ve taught world religions for enough of years and am familiar enough with other faiths to authoritatively shout ‘shenanigans’ on the Jesus is a copycat god argument.

    Someday atheists will come up with something that has the slightest whiff of truth. But their entire mindset is so limited that I doubt that will ever happen.
    I will continue to pray for them, though.

  83. Great Job!!! Normally the agnostic people forget to think about 2 guys of them that did something in the past : Hitler and Stalin. Both of them fought the religion and want to make rid of them… everybody knows what’s happened in term of died people. Without God all is permit

    • Your simplistic rhetoric is old and tired and misrepresents both religion and humanist atheism.

      Here’s a comparative assessment of the killing attributable to Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union:

      http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/mar/10/hitler-vs-stalin-who-killed-more/?pagination=false

      Here’s some information on a comparison with the Japanese:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_war_crimes#Crimes

      The Japanese were definitely religious. They believed their emperor was considered divine. Hitler and many Nazis were of varying degrees of religious belief.

      It’s difficult to say to what extent many Soviet political oppressors held onto their religious beliefs. It’s ironic that the religious now point to how religious Russians are, post-Soviet. Well, many religious Soviets must have been involved in killing fellow Soviets during the purges.

      Then, bear in mind that modern warfare and methods of control are far more effective than more ancient methods of the sword. And of course there are many more billions of people to kill now than there once were. Of course modern methods kill more people.

      Are you impressed by the religious persuasion of the Sunni and Shia Muslims that continue to blow each other up? Or perhaps you impressed by the religious credentials of both sides in Syria that invoke the blessings of Allah to help them behead their opponents. Or does it please you that the Western war on Iraq was perpetrated by explicitly religiously motivated politicians, Bush and Blair, and their religious staff? Or how about the many God fearing Christian US troops that were quite happy to kill ‘rag heads’?

      The numbers game is a stupid one. What is far more significant is that strong divisive beliefs cause conflict, whether they are religious or dogmatic political ones. Religious belief is particularly divisive in that it demonises and sets apart those that disagree with your religion as being sinners. It’s a small step to justify their being killed as agents of Satan.

      It’s generally the politically dogmatic and religiously motivated that want to suppress opposition to their systems of belief.

      This is why secular Humanist atheism is quite different:

      We support the freedom of ideas and the freedom of expression of ideas. That includes criticism of any idea, no matter who holds it or how strongly they hold it.
      We oppose laws that stifle criticism of ideas and beliefs. Blasphemy laws are opposed. Taking offence at criticism is of no interest. No belief is privileged to warrant any special protection.

      We support the freedom of belief. That includes your freedom to believe what we consider to be specifically religious nonsense. But we are free to criticise it as an intellectual position, and will actively oppose attempts by the religious to force their beliefs or the moral interpretation of their beliefs on the rest of us. In that sense we are prepared to support the rights of Christians when oppressed by Muslims, or the rights of Muslims when suppressed by Christians, even though we think they are both intellectually bankrupt in what they believe. We believe you are free to believe any stupid thing you wish, as long as you don’t use that belief system to oppress and coerce others.

      How on earth is that anything remotely like the work of Stalin, Hitler or the divine Japanese Empire? Aren’t the repressive and oppressive religious events of the Middle Ages far more like what Hitler, Stalin and Japan did? Wasn’t the war of Bush and Blair much like a Crusade?

    • Hi you have some lack of knwoledge. Hittler was an atheis and he wants to kill all the religions. Fact is that a lot of priest were inprisoned in Lager or arrested. The most famous is Massimiliano Kolbe, catholic priest that died in Auswizz. He was not there for turism.

      The Soviet people to other side were a pratical use ot eh theories of Engel and Marx and they told to the world that religions are oppium of the people. I live in Germany, full with Russian people that confirm me: during the Soviet they clossed all the church and sent to Siberia many people. They still belief people but in secret, they could not meet to pray but many did in secret.

      For an atheis is very simple to reach what the nazi or the soviet did. A belief believe that over him there is God, so all the people under God are at the same level, all are the same… For an atheis is different. There is not God, we are here for a casus. We are just a cell conglomerate… like a bird or a dog. But a man can not be equal a dog so the atheist start to compare , to measure because the logic that they have are strictly teid to numbers. So did Hitler and he started to measure the body of the differente races.

      I knew that you could speak about crusades but everytume it is the same : a that time there were people killing each other in Israel but also Francisco near Assisi cure the lepers or Sant Antonio in Padua doing the same. Both of them had and extremely poor life all for poor people. About the Guld war… you should read some books more… the war was not for religiuse reasons but for oil, as all the war that the US did in the last 30 years.

      I admire how you live : I can’t live without praying! And I can’t living thinking that when I’ll be dead there will be nothing after. How can you do it?

      A last question : how can you be sure that God does’nt exist?

    • Hitler’s allegiance is a perennial discussion – I think I’ve landed with this conclusion:
      – For political manipulation, he claimed Christianity and aligned with Luther’s ‘anti-semitism’
      – In reality, he was into a little occultism, but his primary world view was probably Darwinian-eugenics
      – He certainly did persecute Christians, esp. those who opposed him

    • The Nazis banned a lot of books. One of the first they banned was Darwin’s Origin of Species so, neither Hitler nor Eugenics were Darwinian.

      “Gott mit uns” (God on our side) was the inscription on every German soldiers belt buckle. 

      Atheists were a persecuted underclass in Hitler’s Germany and died alongside Jews in the concentration camps. 

      “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter.” – Adolph Hitler

      Google Hitler Christian quotes if you want to see tons of Hitlers other pro Christian sentiments in speeches and writings. 

      Hitler identified and behaved as a Christian. If you think genocide and other atrocities qualifies him as an atheist, then you obviously haven’t read the Bible very closely.

    • oreficemichele,

      The problem with tyrants is that they will persecute or kill anyone who gets in their way. Stalin was not averse to killing fellow atheists.

      And as you say, though the Soviets repressed religion that didn’t stop religious people being religious. There is no direct conflict between political communism and religion. It would be quite easy to be a socialist and a religious believer – many current socialists still believe in God.

      So, your main point that you were trying to make, that so many deaths were at the hands of atheists, is entirely misplaced.

      It is not the case that without God everything is permissible. Secular humanist atheists are just as capable of following their own moral guidelines as any theist. At least we are honest about where our morals come from: humans.

      Religious moral codes are invented by humans and then attributed to an imaginary God, which is very convenient when you want to dictate to others how they should behave without the need to justify your prescriptions with argument and evidence. You simply claim that God insists on the particular morals you support, and hey presto, you have a moral guide. How come all religious people have different moral opinions? How come all religious people pick and choose which of these supposed laws from God they are going to obey, and which they will insist that others obey?

      Being moral without God means you have to take the responsibility for your own moral conduct, and have to think about it a lot more, instead of being satisfied with ancient codes of conduct that no longer apply, or merely tweaking them to suit your personal view of which are acceptable today.

    • Ron, I think you misunderstand the Moral Argument for God – as WL Craig is famous for saying “It’s not a question of moral epistemology, but of ontology.” Meaning we can all use our reason and intuition to identify objective moral principles (assuming they exist), but we can’t intellectually affirm them as true without an external referent, i.e. God. Otherwise it’s your assumption/opinion against mine regarding what is right, or morals are merely a social convention, not an objective reality.

      So even the Bible would agree that everyone can to some extent determine what is morally right (and so all are justly held responsible for their deeds), but intellectually, the moral argument is that you have to either (a) justify objective morality by appeal to pre-existing moral laws akin to natural laws, (b) appeal to an external confirmation via revelation, i.e. God, or (c) affirm that there are no moral values.

    • dgsinclair,

      On WLC and the speculative metaphysics upon which he bases massive unjustified presuppositions:

      There is no evidence for any intelligence being the cause of the universe coming into existence. Our very understanding of beginnings depends on our understanding of causality, and we have no idea how of if causality applies to the business of universes. We don’t know if there’s just this one, or many. The Big Bang is thought to be the beginning, but there is no evidence that it is. It might only be a particular a transitional phase that could apply in many other scenarios. We don’t know anything at all really.

      So, before WLC starts telling us we need God to explain morality from that perspective, that’s a God of the gaps argument. But even if there was a beginning to our universe, and even if there was some intelligent intentional cause of it – massive unevidenced presuppositions as they are – there is nothing to tell us anything about that entity. If you want to suppose gods, then try stories about multiple gods; or hyper-natural hyper-gods that create super-natural supernatural-gods, one of which or a committee of which created our universe, as well as many others. Try this: http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/02/24/post-debate-reflections/.

      Basically, whatever your metaphysical presuppositions are, and they can take any form because it’s all speculation, there is nothing to link them to the many religions around the world. Judaism, Christianity and Islam just happen to be the remaining predominant religions that have survived from one particular region because they formed parts of powerful empires. Further east and west there were other religions, and some of them survive too. But they are all from times when we not only knew far less about the cosmos but were entirely mystified by the sun and the moon and their roles in our lives: fairly reliable agriculture, an empirical discipline, was built on what little was observed; but weather and climate systems being as chaotic as they are any deviation from expected patterns were interpreted as omens of angry gods. Just look at how difficult it is to convince people with current climate science, and then imagine how mystical it was then, with no science to speak of at all.

      You’ve been given a big clue. Scientology is a religion built in a technological age by a man that was known to be a rogue and when it was known that he was inventing a religion. But still people buy into it. How much easier it must have been to start religions in earlier times. Mormonism and the golden plates of Joseph Smith should be another clue: invented religions are persuasive!

      But the religious have already decided, and clues don’t dissuade them. WLC is a great orator, and very clever at what he does. He’s really good at not answering questions, or skipping over his presuppositions. Intelligence is not a safeguard against gullibility; it just makes you batter at supporting ridiculous claims with specious arguments and zero evidence; or passing off no evidence at all as positive evidence.
      Think about the word of the Bible, or the Quran. If some book contains words that assert that the book contains the word of God, how do you distinguish that from a book that is making the same assertions but is wrong? All Christian belief comes from the Bible. All other efforts are aimed at convincing religious people that the Bible is authentically the word of God, but it can’t be done. Try these: a Simplified Bible, and a Liar’s Bible: http://ronmurp.net/2013/09/30/can-faith-ever-be-rational/#SimpleBible

      So, WLC’s arguments don’t even get off the ground. You have to do a heck of a lot of convenient presupposing even convince yourself that there is any intelligent creator, but then to suppose some particular ancient ignorant story has the answers is a joke: believing books at their word, succumbing to abject gullibility, the heap of fallacies is so shameful.

    • dgsinclair,

      On morality:

      So, no, there is no evidence of any objective morality in the cosmological or divine sense at all. The only evidence we have of morality is right here among us humans. There are degrees of what looks like moral behaviour among some related species, and there are biological precursors of social morality of humans and some other primates in other animals. But evolution plus social development is all we have to go on.

      You really have to imagine what we would find acceptable morally if evolution had been slightly different. What if we’d evolved the male lion practice of when taking on a new mate we kill any cubs she has be another marriage. Sounds extreme? But relationships between children and new partners can be very stressful. What if a lion-like instinct had not survived as killing the children but insisting they leave home, young ones living with grandparents or aunties and uncles, older ones making their own way in the world. Sounds too extreme? But that’s what happens in some families.

      So, all the evidence is that in absolute objective terms, i.e. regarding gods or some law of physics, everything suggests there is no objective morality. Zero.

      The only objective evidence for morality is that it’s something biologically driven that humans have developed into a complex social system (many of them). It’s clear from the great variety of moral instincts we have that they are influenced by our empathy and sympathy (and many humans are not by nature especially empathetic or sympathetic).

      The error is in confusing the terms objective and subjective. As objective observable behaviour, humans tend to behave morally to a greater or lesser extent. As observable objective biology there are precursors to human morality to varying degrees in animals. It is objectively observable that there is a great deal of variety in human moral behaviour to the extent that we all have our subjective perspectives on it, as determined by a mix of our personal biology and social influences.

      That our morals are so influenced is evidenced from the way it changes, in our societies and in us as individuals. But once well engrained into us some moral perspectives are hard to change, and some take new generations that have missed the preconditioning of earlier ones. The changes in fashion are often given a moral perspective, and what is morally risky has moved up and down the female leg, from showing mere ankles, to shins and calfs, to knees to thighs, to butt cheeks. Victorian moral ire at the sight of a leg is laughable. That’s how flexible our morals are. That’s how dumb it is to even pretend they are objective. There is nothing more ridiculous that the Muslim burka which surpasses all earlier western dress codes for moral stupidity. And it’s always the women that have to do the covering up – the religious are prepared to give a tip of the hat to the genuine biological nature of our behaviour when it suits them, and male animalistic lust is often cited, but funnily our animal love is attributed to the beneficence of gods. Religion knows no bounds when it comes to moral invention.

      I see plenty of objective evidence for morality being a social development of biologically driven feelings, expressed in a context that is dictated by the predominant generations of the time. I see objective evidence that religious morality is dependent on where you were born, what sort of religion you belong to, who influences you in your life, what reading you do outside your religion, if any, and of course still heavily influenced by one’s own moral feelings. I see objective evidence that all the influences on each and every human makes the details of one’s morality a subjective outcome of those influences on top of a broader context of biology and dominant moral influences in one’s life. Most humans, but not all, feel it is bad to kill; but the variations on who, when, why we kill vary in time, place, and the morality of the predominant generations. So in some states in the US conservative religious values trump the more liberal religious values, and capital punishment is approved of. In more liberal states there may still be those that accept it, but they are not dominant in those states.

      Morality is objectively observable to be subjective in detail in a broader objective context of human biology and culture.

      Let me make it planer. If there were no humans then there would be no morality at all – only animal behaviour. Morality as we know it is a human invention. The variety of crazy religious beliefs on the matter should make that more obvious not less. But of course the religious have fixated brains that see only their religion as being right, so even that blindness to the variety of religious morality is lost on them; but it’s still observable as variations in human morality to those of us that look at all religions from the outside.

      The consequence of there being no god given or cosmological law based morality? Yes, we humans have to take the responsibility on our own shoulders and try to decide the best ways of behaving towards each other. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, there is variety. Yes, there are no easy rule books to follow. The religious rule books offered are inconsistent, internally, and compared to each other; and humans use them as they see fit anyway, so they are worse than useless; they are downright dangerous in the hands of crazy fundamentalists.

      Of course the religious have just as much right to invent moral beliefs as we atheists do. So, your moral arguments are just as valid, when considered in a human context. If the religious want to believe they come from some magic man, then fine. But the religious might as well be telling us Mickey Mouse informs their moral beliefs.

  84. Claim 1: Perhaps it’s true that religions don’t *cause* all the wars, but it’s hard to name an example where opposing religious beliefs did NOT serve to fan the flames of war.

    Claim 2: “No religion” is the fastest growing religious status around the world. Source: “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” conducted by WIN-Gallup International.

    Claim 3: There were no scientists burned at the stake in the Middle Ages because the word “scientist” didn’t exist until 1833. Before that, they were known as natural philosophers. It goes without saying that “The Dark Ages” were called that for good reason. It was not a period when rational, scientific ideas flourished.

    Claim 4: Any valid points the internet film Zeitgeist makes are overshadowed by some very shaky, dubious claims and it should never be cited as a credible source. However, even without referencing that film, it can be said to be true that outside of the pages of the Bible, there is zero evidence pointing to an actual historical figure of Jesus. http://bit.ly/JFO3eR

    • “It goes without saying that “The Dark Ages” were called that for good reason. It was not a period when rational, scientific ideas flourished.”

      With all due respect, rational, scientific ideas did not flourish until Catholics began introducing them. The RCC has always been a patron of science and research. Of that we can be certain.

      On Sun, Feb 23, 2014 at 4:44 PM, Well Spent Journey wrote:

      > Poejavlo commented: “Claim 1: Perhaps it’s true that religions don’t > *cause* all the wars, but it’s hard to name an example where opposing > religious beliefs did NOT serve to fan the flames of war. Claim 2: “No > religion” is the fastest growing religious status around the w” >

    • Claim 1 – Honestly, wars are fought in the name of ideologies of all kinds, and usually a politically bastardized version (except in the case of Islam, which has bastardism in its central tenets). And of course, atheistic and anti-religious regimes have killed more people than all religious wars combined.

      Claim 2 – “No religion” may be quickly growing statistically speaking in the west, but this is still a small percentage of the world population, and of course, most of these people aren’t being converted, just coming out to align with their existing unbelief. But it is a significant movement, for sure.

      Claim 3 – The Dark Ages were named so by anti-Catholic enlightenment historians, not because they were actually a time of intellectual and technological stultification brought on by religious tyranny. Just google ‘technology in the Middle Ages”.

      Claim 4 – This is a bogus claim for two reasons. First, there is some historic reference to Jesus outside of the Bible. Second, you can’t discount the Bible itself as a source of information. In fact, it is better attested to than extrabiblical documents of the time, by manuscript science, archaeology, and internal consistency.

    • Check out this article from Nature:

      http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2011/05/18/science-owes-much-to-both-christianity-and-the-middle-ages

      “Until the French Revolution, the Catholic Church was the leading sponsor of scientific research. Starting in the Middle Ages, it paid for priests, monks and friars to study at the universities. The church even insisted that science and mathematics should be a compulsory part of the syllabus. And after some debate, it accepted that Greek and Arabic natural philosophy were essential tools for defending the faith. By the seventeenth century, the Jesuit order had become the leading scientific organisation in Europe, publishing thousands of papers and spreading new discoveries around the world. The cathedrals themselves were designed to double up as astronomical observatories to allow ever more accurate determination of the calendar. And of course, modern genetics was founded by a future abbot growing peas in the monastic garden.”

    • Before or after they developed the entirety of Western Europe’s University system (And by extension the US’ university system)?

      On Sun, Feb 23, 2014 at 5:31 PM, Well Spent Journey wrote:

      > Poejavlo commented: “Intriguing! Please name some of these rational > scientific ideas first introduced by the Catholic Church.” >

    • Matt,

      The precursors of modern science are as ancient as human recorded history. When hunter gatherers figured out that by planting seeds methodically then could reap a harvest more efficiently than relying on dispersed natural growth humans where already figuring stuff out empirically. It is not the case that any specific religion can claim to be the originators of science.

      Christianity and Islam often lay claim to scientific advances as if that has anything to do with the content of the religious belief: God. It does not. Those religious believers contributed to advances in understanding this world may well have done so in the belief that they were trying to understand God’s works. That merely explains their motivation. It is not some back door evidence that there is God. All sorts of pagan beliefs were precursors to modern sciences. pagan humans performed basic astronomy, making use of their observations of the stars, planets, the sun and moon, and the consequential effects on the seasons.

      Wherever in history some power system happened to be dominating metaphysical belief it is quite natural to mistakenly attribute the organising and educational benefits of the system to the content of the belief system.

      I have no trouble attributing the motivation for the discoveries of Gregor Mendel to his religious beliefs, that in some way he thought he was discovering God’s work. Unfortunately many religious people today are not prepared to follow where such work leads. It has often been the case that what was thought to be God’s direct hand could be explained by natural cause and effect of a material world.

      It is highly hypocritical of religious people to make thse claims about the contributions of past religious heroes, while denying the consequences of their work. They cherry pick what science they want to believe in the same way they cherry pick what religious stuff they want to believe.

      While many Christians accept the general ideas of evolutionary biology they refuse to follow it through to its natural consequences. If humans evolved as science shows they did, then humans are a part of the material world. There is no evidence for a free willed mind, or a soul that survives death. There is nothing that can be attributable to the notion of ‘personhood’ in a zygote. The early cells are ‘potential’ persons. But then so is every atom of carbon you breath out, every atom of carbon you burn in fuels whether they be fossil fuels or manufactured fuels, every atom of carbon that you ingest. The gametes that come together at conception contain carbon atoms that were once something else.

      Critics of homeopathy and its notions of the memory of water can point to the countless number of animal and fish bladders that any drop of water might have passsed through: where is the memory of that? Where is the memory, in homeopathic medicine, of all the deseased bodies that the water has passed through or washed over? How many times has the water used in homeopathy passed through a suage plant and remembered that experience?

      The religious are as enamoured by their myths as cranks of many of the alternative medicines. Those that have extreme fundamental religious views, such as the literalist young earth creationists, are laughed at by their more moderate and ‘sophisticated’ fellow Christians and Muslims. But the difference is only in the degree to which they are prepared to challenge their own beliefs. It’s not the least bit impressive to tell us how much science some monk or other performed when his head was already filled with religious nonsense. It’s a triumph of human imagination and invention that many did not sit on the laurels of the religious dogma of their time but instead let their curiosity take them where it might lead them. It’s a testament to human curiosity that the church was not overly inhibited by fear for the loss of the dogma that enquiry might bring – though I suspect this was through ignorance more than design; as I’m sure that had they known the consequential challenge that much science brings to religious belief they would have put more effort into suppressing the science.

      And once it does dawn on the religious that their beliefs are being challenged they do make attempts to suppress opposition. It’s not just science they oppose, but any criticism. That’s why blasphemy is so popular as a means of squashing criticism. That’s why taking offence when one’s beliefs are questions is such a convenient card to play.

      That’s why faith is the fall-back position to take. Use reason and evidence in support of your religion. Use reason and evidence such time as reason and evidence is shown either to not support your belief or to actually oppose your belief. Then resort to faith. Faith is the religious equivalent of hearing something you don’t like, closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, not listening, not listening! Don’t want to hear it! Nothing you say will change my belief!” Example: http://i.imgur.com/VuyZ1HD.jpg

      While organisations of scholarly religion can take credit for the spread of education, they must also take the blame for all the harm done in their dogmatic and oppressive methods. You can’t have it both ways, telling us how good religion is while not accepting the damage that dogma and the irrational use of faith can do.

      It’s also hypocritical to try and pass off the works of Hitler and Stalin as if they are anything remotely like secular humanist atheism. Their autocratic systems were much more like religious systems.

      Religious dishonesty hiding behind the blinkers of dogma and faith.

  85. I am unaware of any contemporary historical reference to Jesus from the period. Not even the Bible is a contemporary source as the earliest parts of the New Testament were written by anonymous sources many decades after the events surrounding the alleged life of Jesus and the rest was written well in to the 2nd Century CE. Also, only a Christian apologist would try to argue that the Bible is “better attested to than extrabiblical documents of the time, by manuscript science, archaeology, and internal consistency.” You won’t find any non Christian source making those sorts of claims.

    As for pointing to Catholic Universities and general Catholic academics, I think that’s great! I am all for higher education, but I asked anyone here to name some of these specific rational scientific ideas first introduced by the Catholic Church. I am genuinely curious as to what they were.

    • Pretty sure it was finished being written within the lifetime of the eye witnesses. Alexander the Great’s biography didn’t get written for centuries, I think Jesus is doing good with a half century :)

      On Sun, Feb 23, 2014 at 7:18 PM, Well Spent Journey wrote:

      > Poejavlo commented: “I am unaware of any contemporary historical > reference to Jesus from the period. Not even the Bible is a contemporary > source as the earliest parts of the New Testament were written by anonymous > sources many decades after the events surrounding the alleged ” >

    • dpbj602 on February 23, 2014 at 7:10 pm
      Pretty sure it was finished being written within the lifetime of the eye witnesses. Alexander the Great’s biography didn’t get written for centuries, I think Jesus is doing good with a half century 

      Unlike Jesus, we have a great deal of evidence for Alexander the Great outside of his biography. 

      When Were the Gospels Written? A wide range of possible dates has been proposed over the years, running a full century from the 50’s all the way to the 150’s. Scholarship has fine-tuned this speculation somewhat. It’s long been accepted that the Gospels were written after Paul’s letters, which would put them after 58 CE. Furthermore, most mainstream scholars tend to place the earliest, Mark’s Gospel, in the mid 70’s, sometime just after the Jewish- Roman War (66 – 70). This is because Mark contains unmistakable allusions to various events of the revolt, including the destruction of the temple in the year 70.

      Who Wrote the Gospels? Tradition lists the four evangelists as: Matthew Levi, a tax collector and one of Jesus’ twelve disciples; John Mark, the apostle Peter’s interpreter; Luke, Paul’s personal physician (also said to have written Acts); and finally “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” traditionally insisted to be the apostle John, son of Zebedee, but this is sheer guesswork. Actually, all the author’s names are sheer guesswork (or pious fraud) – the titles “According to Matthew,” etc., were not added until late in the second century. All four Gospels were originally anonymous, none claim to be written by eyewitnesses, and all contain giveaways that they were written generations later, by well-educated Greek theologians, not illiterate Aramaic speakers.

      Source: Ten Beautiful Lies About Jesus by David Fitzgerald 

      http://bit.ly/JFO3eR

    • dpbj602 on February 23, 2014 at 7:10 pm
      Pretty sure it was finished being written within the lifetime of the eye witnesses. Alexander the Great’s biography didn’t get written for centuries, I think Jesus is doing good with a half century 

      ————–

      Unlike Jesus, we have a great deal of corroborating evidence from multiple, independent sources for Alexander the Great outside of any biography written about him. 

      When Were the Gospels Written? A wide range of possible dates has been proposed over the years, running a full century from the 50’s all the way to the 150’s. Scholarship has fine-tuned this speculation somewhat. It’s long been accepted that the Gospels were written after Paul’s letters, which would put them after 58 CE. Furthermore, most mainstream scholars tend to place the earliest, Mark’s Gospel, in the mid 70’s, sometime just after the Jewish- Roman War (66 – 70). This is because Mark contains unmistakable allusions to various events of the revolt, including the destruction of the temple in the year 70.

      Who Wrote the Gospels? Tradition lists the four evangelists as: Matthew Levi, a tax collector and one of Jesus’ twelve disciples; John Mark, the apostle Peter’s interpreter; Luke, Paul’s personal physician (also said to have written Acts); and finally “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” traditionally insisted to be the apostle John, son of Zebedee, but this is sheer guesswork. Actually, all the author’s names are sheer guesswork (or pious fraud) – the titles “According to Matthew,” etc., were not added until late in the second century. All four Gospels were originally anonymous, none claim to be written by eyewitnesses, and all contain giveaways that they were written generations later, by well-educated Greek theologians, not illiterate Aramaic speakers.

      Source: Ten Beautiful Lies About Jesus by David Fitzgerald 

      http://bit.ly/JFO3eR

    • Another point worth remembering when comparing other historical figures to Jesus…

      It would seem very unlikely that some great army did not spread its influence over the region attributed to Alexander’s army. But, what if the history was wrong about Alexander the Great himself? Suppose some really strong evidence turned up that showed he didn’t exist and that all the artefacts were about a mythical person used as a motivational figurehead? What would be the worse case scenario? It would be that some history would have to be re-written.

      What if the stories abut William Shakespeare not being the author of all those plays were true? What would be the worse case scenario? We’d still have the plays, so that wouldn’t be a problem. I doubt if the popularity of Stratford on Avon would diminish all that much.

      But what if Jesus was entirely a mythical persona invented by Christians? What if Jesus existed but was only a mortal man? The whole of Christianity would be living a lie. There’s plenty of reason to doubt many of the stories about the life of Jesus. Think about all those Roman Catholic communities that make such a big deal of the whet they think is a genuine virgin birth, what they think is a real miracle. The whole of this supposedly wonderful moral system would be based on lies – how ironic.

      No wonder the religious go to such extremes to convince themselves of the truth of their own religion. For you Roman Catholics, think about all those pious Muslims who are really convinced that Mohammed is the last true prophet and that Jesus was merely another mortal prophet. They are as convinced by their flaky history as you are by yours. They think yours is as fake as you think there’s is.

      Christians and Muslims really don’t get how ridiculous their apologetics looks. Always ready to equate particular tyrannical political systems with secular humanist atheism, just because one aspect of those systems included opposition to organised religions that compete in the control of the population. Always eager to push aside the endless divisiveness of religions that still today lead to death and destruction in the name of God. Always the religious warriors think God is on their side.

      Fortunately there are some religious people I know that are peaceful, loving, and fully acknowledge that secular humanist atheists are just as morally upstanding as they are. They know too that believing in God is no guarantee of good behaviour – that’s easy: just look to paedophile Roman Catholic priests and the Vatican cover ups; just look to the awful suffering and moral indignation imposed on young girls in Ireland that happen to become pregnant (not a surprising outcome in a religion that suppresses sex education and contraception).

      Secular humanist atheists acknowledge that awful things are done to humans by other humans, and what world view they have has very little to do with it. We’re not defending Stalin or any other atheist that does harm. But what we are doing is pointing out the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the religious when they pretend that their religion leads humans to be good, when in actuality it enables evil by giving them the excuse to persecute others that don’t live by their religion.

  86. Pingback: Arguments from Ed the Internet Atheist

  87. I don’t know if anyone has already noted this, but while Horus was never killed and resurrected, Osiris sort-of was. Also, the reason for associating Mithras with December 25 is his eventual connection with Sol Invictus, whose celebration was indeed around solstice. However, December 25th is likely a coincidence, as has been demonstrated by scholarship.

  88. One more thing to note, there is strong evidence to suggest that Christ was not born on December 25th either. The Christians moved their celebration of his birth to coincide with another popular holiday, perhaps as a means of masking their controversial beliefs by partying along with everyone else (although for different reasons).

  89. Reblogged this on Longing For Redemption and commented:
    The internet and the (post) modern age has made man increasingly skeptical and increasingly gullible at the same time. Should any claim be made in the name of “science,” it is rapidly accepted as fact. Science does benefit our world and has contributed greatly to society over the course of time, but labeling opinions with tag lines such as “scientific test/evidence shows…” does not automatically equate the truth. Science is always tentative and science is always biased by the worldview of empiricism and the opinions and experience of the individual scientist.

    In contrast, anything that is claimed in the name of religion is largely written off as nonsense, as the pervasive belief that humanity has moved beyond religion corrupts our ability to perceive and discern such claims.

    The particular blog in question here from “Well Spent Journey” does an excellent job fact checking many claim made against religion and present a more balanced set of evidence. I am new to this individuals blog, but from what I have viewed it seems both stimulating and professional. I’d recommend interacting with their blog yourself.

  90. That was awesome.

    I have encountered this sort of made up evidence in researching the origin of mankind too. Euhemerism is the idea that the gods of paganism were actually deified men. They named the concept after this guy Euhemerus. The only trouble with that idea is that Herodotus was a couple hundred years older than Euhemerus and he said the same thing. Pagan religion is just made up, using facts from history and embellishing the accounts. So when an atheist says that religion is man-made, in the case of paganism, they’re absolutely right.

  91. Do u have sources from where you found this information? I sent this to a friend who has watched zeitgeist and read on other things and he pointed out that you do not cite sources.

  92. You are very optimistic to believe that religion will exist at all forty years from now. It used to be that people just accepted what their parents tell them. How will people forty years from now rationalize the fact that their religious beliefs are completely different from other people’s religious beliefs? People of one religion believe they are right and all other religions are wrong so why can’t ALL religions be wrong? That is the the rational approach. Quite frankly, people who refuse to be rational and blindly follow the religion of their parents are going to be laughed at over the next few decades. Quite frankly, we already are laughing at you.

    You think religion isn’t the number one cause of war? Let’s see if there is any war forty years from now when religion is just a memory. There won’t be any reason for the sons and daughters of Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus to hate each other when they no longer believe in their parents’ nonsense.

    • It is not optimistic at all. There are MANY reasons why religion will always exist:

      1. Science and reason can not answer questions of meaning, morals, or ethics.

      2. Science and reason can not answer the need for hope in the face of suffering and death.

      3. The complexity and beauty of creation inspires awe, wonder, and transcendence. These clearly speak of a creator despite the rationalist’s hope to eventually be able to completely demystify it.

      4. There most likely is a God, and if that is true, reason and science can not obviate that truth, but in some sense, will have to confirm it or claim an inability to provide an answer.

      Communism thought that people could live without faith, but as it turns out, they can’t. It’s hardwired, and no amount of so-called evolution will change that. In fact, it looks like faith is beneficial to survival, and even though some atheists believe that the usefulness of that ‘adaptation’ may wane as science grows, that’s merely an interesting conjecture. At this point in time, the DATA seems to indicate that faith is, other things being equal, beneficial to survival.

  93. dgsinclair,

    There are reasons why religion will probably continue to exist in humans, but not necessarily so. And, of course, even if it does, that still does not mean the content of religious belief is true.

    Science can answer questions of meaning and morals. Meaning is a psychological disposition to have one’s life have value. And psychological dispositions are governed by our physical brains as they respond to our environment. If your religious environment tells you that you need meaning then I can see how a brain might respond as if that is a necessary fact of life. Much like a child simply ‘needs’ the latest fashion item. For those of us don’t have that desperate need satisfied by some parental authority figure we get by very well thank you. There is much that science cannot answer in very specific terms. But bear in mind that all answers from religion have never been real ones, and are instead just sophistry. Motality I’ve responded to in other comments. Religion adds only devisive judgementalism. The meaning a religious person gets from their religion is as imagined as the content of their religious belief.

    Science and reason can answer the need for hope in the face of suffering and death. This too is a psychological need that is related to our survival instinct. We have brains that have a greater predictive capacity than appears to be the case in other animals. Humans can construct mental scenarios that include two or more possible outcomes in what appears like a desparate situations: imagining both positive and negative outcomes; and our survival instinct drives us to wish for the positive. In situations where a positive outcome seems unlikely or impossible then what the religious are engaging in is wishful thinking that their magic man will save them or bring them out the other side of death into a more pleasant situation. It is likely true that this gives some comfort, but if there is no god then they may as well hope that Superman comes to their rescue – which might be just as comforting.

    Give Superman a try when you’re next trapped under rubble in an earthquake. Of course the religious won’t do that. They cheat. They really wish that rescuers will dig them out; but then will attribute that to God. There’s the misapplication of gratitude for you.

    Awe and wonder are also psychological effects caused by experiencing something outside our everyday experiences. It amounts to a shock to the brain, with a variety of feelings stimulated in automatic response systems. Awe and wonder is just a form of brain experience overload; heightened brain awareness.

    Transcendence is a mental illusion. There is no evidence that human minds transcend their brains in any sense other than in imagination.

    These clearly do not speak of a creator. Their only relationship is to an imagined creator that the gullible religious feel must be responsible because of their over active agency detection. A God of the gaps response: anything that wonderful must have a wonderful creator. That does not follow. All known complex systems form from the interaction of dynamic simple systems. See this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqFc4wriBvE Oscillators are everywhere, not least in the brain. They can form from collections of simple non-oscillatory components. Dynamic natural systems explain a lot more than you give credit for, and there is no need or evidence of any agent creator. Complexity comes from simplicity in keeping with the laws of thermodynamics.

    “There most likely is a God” – No there isn’t. Likelihood is an assessment of probabilities of some outcome being true in the face of some data. There is zero data available to us about the business of universe creation. Imagine I present an empty bag to you and you see me drop in 1 black ball and 9 white ones. You will be able to tell me how likely it is you can pull a black ball. Now imagine I present an apparently infinite bag, and not only do you not know if there is a black ball in it, you don’t know even if there are any balls in it at all; and you can’t even see the bottom of the bag; and all you see are shadows; and you say there probably is a black ball in there. This how convincing your assertion is.

    ” It’s hardwired, and no amount of so-called evolution will change that.”

    That statement suggests you know more about evolutionary mechanisms than a host of evolutionary biologists, who would have the good sense not to make such a strong prediction. But don’t forget that evolution isn’t directed. If human evolution continues under natural selection then there it might be possible for it to be selected out, if indeed it has some explicit genetic component. The problem is that gene expression masks a lot of genetic action so it’s really hard to tell if genes are explicitly responsible or if it’s a matter of gene expression in a historical cultural environment.

    But even so, none of that makes the content of religious belief true. Bear in mind how humans seem to respond to other changes in environment.

    Food is scarce, in evolutionary terms, and most species have to work hard to get it – it occupies a lot of their time. Combined sugars and fats in highly attractive packaging in virtually unlimited supply is not our natural environment for food; so now we tend towards being obese. We can’t help it and will need quite a lot of cultural adaptation of overcome the power of excess food over our older biological urges.

    Humans in wild and natural environments had to be good at detecting dangerous predators and competitors, as well as prey. Perhaps religion is just an over-indulgence in the supply of agency detection that occurs in humans that are encouraging agency belief by cultural religious means – a consequence of living in heavily populated cultures that in evolutionary terms is excessive. So perhaps we will have to figure out how to dampen down our false positive agency detection in the face of it being hyped into religious belief by excessive conditioning and indoctrination.

    “it looks like faith is beneficial to survival”

    Really? Not to many Afghans, Syrians, Egyptians, Sunni and Shia Muslims all over the world. It hasn’t looked to beneficial to many Christians over the millennia.

    “faith is, other things being equal, beneficial to survival”

    But other things aren’t equal are they. For every believer there’s another that believes something different. Whatever you think about people like Stalin, they never killed in the name of atheism, in the name of disbelief in some god. But when theists kill it is quite often in the name of their religion. So if anything, religion seems to echo the misrepresentations of evolutionary principles loved by theists: religion, survival of the fittest; religion, red in tooth and claw, cross and sickle. But where is your DATA to even show your conjecture is correct? All the atheists I know seem to benefiting from it well enough. precisely what DATA are you referring to?

    • Ron,

      Rather than answer you point by point, let me make some observations:

      Regarding science and meaning, I get that it’s all in your master narrative, and that context, whether it comes from an explicitly religious based answer to life, history and meaning (how and why are we here, what is the story of history and how I fit in it, what is worth doing), or from a humanist one (survival, enjoy what you have when you have it), can provide meaning.

      But the scientific approach to meaning reminds me of a doctor who is full of clinical knowledge, thinking that is all that is needed in medicine, when what is equally important is the human touch, the touch of personal interaction and love. This is just one reason why faith provides a better context than mere scientism.

      >> For those of us don’t have that desperate need satisfied by some parental authority figure we get by very well thank you.

      Being patronizing is not fair, or good argument, though it feels good ;p If you think that is the only or primary need met by faith, your assessment is shallow.

      >> In situations where a positive outcome seems unlikely or impossible then what the religious are engaging in is wishful thinking that their magic man will save them or bring them out the other side of death into a more pleasant situation.

      The problem here is that you feign positive knowledge when you have none. You would take away hope in your firm, unconfirmed position on the revealed claims regarding the afterlife. You are free to disbelieve them, but you have little or no proof. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

      Further, Christianity claims many ‘infallible’ historic proofs, including but not limited to the resurrection of Christ. I get why you might doubt such a claim, but the relative historicity of the rest of the New Testament ought to at least give a reasoned person pause, compared to the paucity of evidence against a life to come.

      >> Transcendence is a mental illusion. There is no evidence that human minds transcend their brains in any sense other than in imagination. These clearly do not speak of a creator. Their only relationship is to an imagined creator that the gullible religious feel must be responsible because of their over active agency detection.

      I’m sure we could argue about the reality or illusion of independent mind, but the scientific jury is still out, though I would argue that it may be leaning TOWARDS the evidence for mind intertwined with biology.

      Regarding the illusion of transcendance, I can only retort that if you think only agency detection is going on, you have fooled yourself, but not most others.

      >> “There most likely is a God” – No there isn’t. Likelihood is an assessment of probabilities of some outcome being true in the face of some data. There is zero data available to us about the business of universe creation.

      This is where you are mistaken. The classic philosophic arguments for the existence of God, not least of which is made by the father or probability theory, Blaise Pascal, show that only a fool would say there is no evidence for God.

      Wm Lane Craig has debated and argued at length about the probability of God’s existence, so I am sure I don’t need to repeat it here.

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-the-craig-tooley-debate

      >> “it looks like faith is beneficial to survival” Really? Not to many Afghans, Syrians, Egyptians, Sunni and Shia Muslims all over the world. It hasn’t looked to beneficial to many Christians over the millennia.

      Excellent point. This brings up the idea that some religions do NOT lead to life and prosoperity, hence, they are false or wicked. So there we would agree. But I would argue that if you survey the countries that are most propserous in wealth and human flourishing, the vast majority have in their history a Protestant revival. Also, studies done on the growth of culture and literacy (guns germs and steel aside), show that Christianity, in particular, Protestant Christianity, lead the pack. See Religion, innovation and economic progress – Part I http://www.wholereason.com/2008/06/religion-innovation-and-economic-progress-part-i.html

      Regarding the deaths of Christians, of course, being attacked by wicked atheists and other religionists does mean that religion, or ideology of any kind can be dangerous to your health. However, surveys consistently show greater longevity and happiness among the religious. So, happy fairy tale or not, it can be argued that it is beneficial. And for that reason, you won’t see it disappear EVER.

      >> Whatever you think about people like Stalin, they never killed in the name of atheism, in the name of disbelief in some god. But when theists kill it is quite often in the name of their religion.

      This is a classic evasion. You can’t have it both ways – if politicized religion must be held responsible, so must atheism, If not, then not. But I do think there is a distinction.

      1. Some religions, notably Islam, ARE violent and officially spread by the sword. To me, Islam is one of the worst ideologies out there.

      2. While atheism has no explicit tenet of violence or domination, in the real world laboratory of history, we see that when it gains the ascendancy, it quite easily metastasizes into autocracy, and that is, in my opinion, the normal progression it MUST necessarily take because it (a) removes any foundation for human rights and morals from a higher authoritative source, and therefore (b) always ends up justifying it’s own moral authority, and itself as needing to remove ‘opiate’ in order to ‘help’ humanity.

      3. Regarding Catholic ‘atrocities,’ I have and will argue that the Crusades were a justified, though unethically fought (as per the combat of that time) war against 400 years of Muslim aggression. See The Real History of the Crusades http://www.wholereason.com/2005/06/the-real-history-of-the-crusades.html

      4. Regarding the other atrocity, the Inquisition, D. James Kennedy said it well. “We as Protestants had no part in the Inquisition, and … frequently it was evangelical Protestants who were on the receiving end of the inquisition, and never on the giving end. We must understand the distinction between true Christians and nominal Christians, which even Jesus distinguished.” That is, you my blame institutional Christianity of the time (Catholicism), but not Christianity itself. In fact, true Christianity broke out of the Catholic church in the Protestant reformation.

      5. Regarding Hitler, of course, I just mention that if any ideology is to blame, it is his Darwinistic racial superiority framework. Yes, I know when Darwin’s book was published and that racial superiority theories and eugenics predate Hitler and Darwin, but that does not mean that the 3rd Reich did not heavily justify itself on the ‘scientific’ grounds of Darwin’s theory – it was a major contributor, and along with anti-theistic tendencies, it belongs more in the atheist camp than any other.

  94. I have found all this writing interesting. the meaning of war. we have externalized war because we are asleep to the war of our self developing being. The only war worth fighting is the one inside ourselves. we all know the truth, and we have fallen asleep to it. The essence of all knowledge speaks to this. So I offer to all to become quiet to their personality so your essence can evolve.

  95. dgsinclair,

    “what is equally important is the human touch”

    Yes, it is. Surprise: secular humanist atheists are ‘humanists’ – the clue is in the name. The other clue in the name, ‘atheist’ tells us that atheism is independent of humanism – there are many humanistic theists. Another name clue is ‘secular': freedom from religious persecution of preference by separation of church and state and the protection of freedom of belief.

    “This is just one reason why faith provides a better context than mere scientism.”

    Like the faith of Catholic priests that preents them from abusing children; the faith of Islamists that will behead blasphemers?

    And your use of the term scientism needs addressing. It’s a fake bogey man. Try Pinker: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114127/science-not-enemy-humanities

    “If you think that is the only or primary need met by faith, your assessment is shallow.”

    It’s just one, yes. But any need you feel is satisfied by faith can be just as easily be satisfied by atheist humanist means, for human related issues. But sure, there may be supernatural needs that atheist humanism will not satisfy. But nor will it satisfy the need for enjoying fantasies of all sorts. And I can’t help it if you feel that the pointing out the paternal nature of God is patronising, when so many theists explain that aspect of God to be so satisfying. God the father? Jesus the shepherd? The pope and priests as ‘father’?

    “The problem here is that you feign positive knowledge when you have none. ”

    I expressly do not feign positive knowledge about the origins of the universe or any associated entity that might make guarantees about some afterlife or offer hope for improvements in this life – unlike the religious who feign all sorts of knowledge. I will admit to making the positive assertion that there is no evidence for such an entity, and hence all hope based on such an entity is unsupported hope and is indistinguishable from false hope.

    “You would take away hope in your firm, unconfirmed position on the revealed claims regarding the afterlife.”

    I would hope to take away the hope that young Muslims have that there are 72 virgins waiting for them on completion of their suicide mission. And I would gladly take away the hope of many mean spirited Christians that explicitly express their hope that atheists burn in hell – the burning in hell doesn’t worry me, but that fact that such nut cases could be persuaded to help god out on this side by nudging atheists in that direct by an early death does.

    If you are making positive claims about something being revealed then the burden is on you to demonstrate what is revealed and how. Otherwise you cannot distinguish a supposed revelation from any illusion or delusion (depending on the nature of the revelation being claimed). What about the revelations to Mohammed that assure all Muslims that Jesus was a mortal prophet? Or how about Joseph Smith’s experience of a revelation? The problem is that there are many so called revelations, and so many concrete examples of delusion and illusion that there is no way for a 21st century person to have any confidence at all in the stories of first century Christians. So, what revelations?

    “You are free to disbelieve them, but you have little or no proof. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

    Absence of evidence that should be expected given the massive nature of the claims, and the equal presence or lack of evidence regarding countless other religious claims should be enough for the sceptical perspective to be the most rational one.

    “but the relative historicity of the rest of the New Testament ought to at least give a reasoned person pause”

    Seriously, there is scant evidence of anything other than one more religion being advanced by a group that believes it. There is no substantive historicity beyond stories written many years after the death of Jesus, even allowing his existence as a person. The historicity of a book is not the factual history of the stories in it. There is no doubt about the historicity of the Quran, but do you give credence to its stories and the revelation that is supposed to inspire it?

    “I would argue that it may be leaning TOWARDS the evidence for mind intertwined with biology.”

    There is zero evidence of the mind, as something separate, being anything that is independent or dependent on the brain. It is only the history of understandable unscientifically informed reasoning from subjective experience that has provided us with the very idea that there is a mind that is separate. It’s time to move on from that intuitive but erroneous feeling. We can see how flaky pure rationalism and subjective perspectives are on this by the extent to which the mind was not thought to be housed in the brain but rather the heart, by Aristotle and others. There is nothing pointing TOWARDS a separate mind, or soul, wherever it is supposed to reside. There is only the tick of a biologically mechanistic brain.

    Transcendence of out of body experience is well document to be an illusion. It can be induced easily enough. The probing of small groups of neurons can stimulate internal ‘voices’ that to the subject appear every mush as real as is caused by actual sounds. The brain’s own activity is known and documented to cause internal experiences as if they were externally caused. The feeling of the presence of another can be induced by the stimulation of the brain. Feelings of deep spirituality and communion with some other entity can be induced under controlled conditions. Of course I’m sceptical about claims that these experiences are anything at all to do with supernatural beings or means of a mind or soul transcending the human body. And of course people that experience them outside these controlled environments think otherwise – they are subjectively convincing experiences. That’s the nature of illusions and delusions.

  96. dgsinclair,

    On Pascal, I presume you mean his wager. Let me know if you meant something else.

    Pascal’s Wager is an error based on a presupposition. If there is a god that will reward those that believe and punish those that don’t, then that would be a good wager. But if you already know there is such a god there would be no need to wager, you would know. If you already knew there was no god it would be of no benefit to wager there is one. It is not a good reason to actually wager, and it is not a proof or any sort of support for god’s existence. It is a wager based on the presupposition that your unproven proposition that there is a god is actually true, and that he is the kind of god you are presupposing.

    Now, there is plenty of evidence that would confirm that god is a vindictive joker, if he exists at all, since he seems to enjoy so much cruelty in the world. How do you know he doesn’t enjoy cruelty, if we grant he does exist? Another presupposition? Who would want to win Pascal’s wager then?

    I wager that if there is a god then he has purposely given no sign of his existence. What he is doing is testing humanity. The rational sceptics that reject all religious belief he is going to reward by resurrecting them – he is pleased they are using the brains he endowed them with. The foolish theists who dream up and fall for all sorts of religions that have nothing to do with him will be discarded by him when he is ready. I mean really, the clue is in the number and variety of religions. Now the wager on no god looks much better.

    See, any presupposition about the existence of some entity and its nature can be turned into a wager that supports the type of entity you are presupposing. It is awful philosophy. It’s poor logic.

    But any sort of wager is a faulty one if you don’t have any data to go on at all. Note here that it is not a 50/50 wager. True, we don’t know which is the case, god or no god, so our knowledge is equally predictive of either case: 0/0. But 0/0 isn’t a good ratio to be betting on. And that is still a bet on our ignorance, not a bet on the likelihood of either case being right. If there is a god then the actual probability of there being a god is 100%. And if there isn’t a god then the probability of there being none is 100%.

    The mistake here is confusing probabilities we are used to, such as the toss of a coin and the roll of a dice, where we know the mechanistic effects that lead to a statistically significant but still unpredictable outcome – we have data, just indeterminate data. Pascal’s wager is like betting heads on a double headed coin if there is a god, or betting heads on a double tailed coin if there isn’t one. The outcome is not probabilistic, and without data our probabilistic estimate is worthless.

    Here are other criticisms:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager#Criticism

    Here again we have a common theistic device that has been ridiculed for the useless persuasive tool it is. Of course it’s only persuasive to those who believe, those already presupposing God and those already wagering on God, and then only the type of god that fits the wager. So it’s not really very good at convincing anyone of anything they didn’t already think.

  97. dgsinclair,

    On William Lane Craig (and his use of Alvin Plantiga)

    WLC’s points have been roundly refuted as arguments for god many times over. He simply repeats them at each debate, but the faithful never get round to responding to the criticisms.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/William_Lane_Craig:

    “Craig claims that religious faith must be supported by reason and logic or atheism will triumph. He has admitted multiple times that he will not change his faith no matter what the evidence points to, because he has “witnessed the Holy Spirit in his heart””

    Reason and logic should change one’s mind, if it is persuasive enough. But if WLC says he’ll never change his mind what can he mean when he says Christians must use logical and reason? Of course he means one must abuse logic and reason to twist it to fit one’s prior beliefs. Anyway, see the rationalwiki for many counters to WLC’s arguments.

    Most of WLC’s debates start with assertions we need not accept. So, a few of WLC’s lines from your link:

    “God provides the best explanation for the existence of abstract entities” – Why? He doesn’t say, he simply asserts this. He pretends to demonstrate it, but he doesn’t.

    “philosophers have noticed that there also appear to be abstract objects” – They have noticed? What philosophers have done is debated whether abstract objects have some ‘existence’ of any kind. Abstractions have only every been shown to ‘exist’ in the imaginations of humans. Humans have biological brains that build contextual relations between patterns acquired from experience: experiences collected from the external world and those internally generated by brain activity. That there is some brain concept does not assure us that these abstractions are anything other than brain effects. There is no requirement for some God to have anything to do with them. This is simple presupposition of a God, and then god of the gaps style attribution of responsibility for poorly understood concept of abstract entities.

    “These sorts of things seem to have a conceptual reality rather like ideas.” – Yes. They ‘seem’ to have a reality, but there is no evidence they do. They are merely ideas in biological brains. If the philosopher is already making the mistake of succumbing to Rationalism then it’s easy to see how they are misled into seeing abstractions as some sort of reality. It’s as flaky an idea as Plato’s forms.

    “And yet it’s obvious that they’re not just ideas in some human mind.” – It’s not at all obvious that this is the case – except to WLC who presupposes it is obvious in the way he presupposes his god.

    “So what is the metaphysical foundation for such abstract entities? The theist has a plausible answer for that question: they are grounded in the mind of God.”

    This is only plausible ONCE you have demonstrated that god is not merely a presupposition. This is yet more question begging:
    P1) Presuppose God
    P2) Note abstractions
    P3) Abstractions can be explained as being in the mind of God
    C1) Therefore God

    The conclusion is one of the essential premises. This is awfully poor philosophy. Let’s move to WLC’s view of Plantinga.

    “Alvin Plantinga, one of America’s foremost philosophers”

    He is not a foremost philosopher. He is a theologian. He is the antithesis of what a philosopher should be: the seeking of knowledge by subjecting all claims to knowledge to critical thought. He is a theologian that sits his poor philosophy atop of presuppositions, just as WLC does. Sure, I can see why theologians think he’s a cool philosopher. But it’s people like Plantinga that give philosophy such a bad name. If you’re interested I can give you examples that illustrate Plantinga’s feeble grasp of philosophy, logic and probability. There are philosophers that disown him and are embarrassed by his association with philosophy.

    Here’s one of his papers, resolutely refuted in various places:

    http://anti-matters.org/articles/75/public/75-68-1-PB.pdf

    Note in it he makes the mistake of the 50/50 presupposition of some belief being true, which is the error I referred to earlier with regard to the probability of there being a god. From this simple error he concludes that a collection of human beliefs being true by this argument is very small, if naturalism is true.

    “It seems plausible to think of numbers as dependent upon or even constituted by intellectual activity.”

    Why? They only ever occur as intellectual activity! When a human brain concocts the concept of an abstract entity, and then imagines that entity is somehow something different than a concept in that human mind, that whole process, including the imaginary external nature of abstractions, is going on in a human mind. They are never separate from human minds. This is like watching a cartoon and imagining the characters exist in the real world because you’ve seen Roger Rabbit. This is so laughable.

    “But there are too many of them to arise as a result of human intellectual activity.”

    This is a contradictory claim. To know that there are more numbers than any human deal with one would have to know that there is one more than any human ever dealt with, and by so dealing with one more than any other human had ever dealt with one would be shifting the bound of numbers any human had ever dealt with. Plantinga is playing games with the notion of infinity here. It is not a number. It is itself an abstraction that we conveniently use to represent very large numbers. There is debate about what it means. There is debate about whether or not it is a reality of any sort, or, for example with regard to integers, there is some really large but finite end to numbers that we just happen not to be able to reach.

    “We should therefore think of them as . . . the concepts of an unlimited mind: a divine mind.”

    Why? Even if we allow some of the above, that abstract numbers are real and beyond all human comprehension, all that says is that they are beyond human comprehension. It gives us no clue that there should be some entity that could comprehend them – and certainly no clue about god in religious terms.

    Plantinga’s argument is the same begging the question as WLC’s. It’s exactly the same logically (i.e. invalid). No wonder WLC is convinced by it.

    P1) Presuppose God
    P2) Note abstract numbers that are too many of them to arise as a result of human activity
    P3) They could exist in the mind of God
    C1) Therefore God

    “At the most abstract level, then, theism provides a plausible metaphysical foundation for the existence of abstract objects.”

    Only of you presuppose the God you presuppose anyway. This neither explains why you should presuppose a god in order to make the argument from god to god, by way of a large number of numbers or by the notion of abstract entities. It’s entirely bogus theology. It isn’t philosophy.

    That way lies plausibility of tooth fairies and Santa.

    “Typically, atheists have said that the universe is just eternal, and that’s all. But surely this is unreasonable.”

    No it is not unreasonable. It’s far more reasonable than imagining some creator specifically interested in us that created this universe for us. He’s so bad at universe creation he had to let it run for a few billion years before it could produce life, and then allowed life to go on through countless amounts of suffering at the hands of clumsy evolution, waiting for it to produce us, his chosen species, on this little rock. Look at the rest of the universe. What a waste.

    If you want to see what slick moves WLC tries to get away with here try Sean Carroll’s debate with him: http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/02/24/post-debate-reflections/

    • Ron,

      101. Regarding Craig, I think ad hominem attacks about what he believes is not the same as “refuting his arguments.” In fact, as I have written elsewhere, I think atheists entirely misunderstand what Craig is saying due to their bias against apriori intuitional belief (which they too may actually practice). I discussed what Craig is and is not saying in:

      Are you a Christian because of your experiences, or because of logic?

      http://www.wholereason.com/2009/12/are-you-a-christian-because-of-your-experiences-or-because-of-logic.html

      BTW, I agree with you that not everything Craig claims is reasoneable, and I disagree pretty seriously with Craig on his answer to the Demographic distrubution of faith problem, which I have discussed here http://www.wholereason.com/2013/08/divine-hiddenness-and-demographic-distribution.html

      However, I agree with him that atheists constantly conflate and misunderstand the difference between moral ontology and epistemology – we actually agree on the latter, but assert that atheism has no logical argument for the former, esp. if they eschew external referents for morality (sorry for all the big words there).

      102. I’m glad you mention presuppositions, since that’s where the arguments really are. However, I would say that we presuppose that intelligence is required for information (specified complexity), and that there must be a first cause, which, based on what we observe, must have the characteristics which we typically ascribe to God – personal agency, extreme intelligence, extreme power, and timelessness.

      103. I’m sorry you want to characterize Plantinga as a theologian first, and philosopher second. I understand why you might want to do that, based on his presuppositions, or givens. But he’s no slouch – I mean, he personally created the difinitive refutation of the Logical Problem of Evil, which anti-theists now admit he has settled. It is logically possible that an omni-good God and evil can co-exist.

      Of course, that does not dismiss the evidential problem of evil (any more than naturalism dismisses the evidential problem of free will, but I digress), and of course, while he showed that it was POSSIBLE, he did not show that it is PROBABLE.

      All that to say, I think your dismissal of his philosophic creds is wildly mistaken.

      104. “No it is not unreasonable. It’s far more reasonable than imagining some creator specifically interested in us that created this universe for us. He’s so bad at universe creation he had to let it run for a few billion years before it could produce life, and then allowed life to go on through countless amounts of suffering at the hands of clumsy evolution, waiting for it to produce us, his chosen species, on this little rock. Look at the rest of the universe. What a waste.”

      You’ve made a lot of unsubstantiated value judgments there which are worth discussing.

      a. The reason an eternal universe is unreasonable is because reason seems to indicate (to some of us :) that an actual infinite can not exist, and of course, the expansion of the universe seems to indicate a non-infinite beginning to time and space (unless you make the argument that we don’t know what existed before the singularity, which is an argument that contradicts what we CAN observe based on what we can not).

      b. Why is it unreasonable that a creator made what we see for us? Suffering aside (more on that later), the design and complexity of life on earth, and its relative rarity, speak to the unliklihood of chance doing anything so spectacularly complex and functional.

      c. Few billion years is an assumption that evolutionist uniformitarians impose on our universe. The fact that we don’t understand red shifts and other molecular and energy signatures indicates to me that there is very much room for YEC claims that the universe is much younger than we think. If you follow the astronomic news, you’ll know that we are discovering how little we know about space, light, and time, and have to create all kind of speculative entities like dark matter and ort clouds to explain why things don’t act like we think.

      d. Evolution is a bunch of hooey. But that’s not on topic ;)

      e. Why is the large universe a waste? Perhaps it is merely an extravagant expression of love and greatness that is meant to inspire awe. Perhaps the absece of life is meant to show us that abiogenesis and evolution are unreasonable. I think it’s funny that you have some underlying value system that would make you look at the grand universe and call it a waste. That’s just weird, but maybe I misunderstand.

      I listened to Carrol’s debate, and quite honestly, it got very esoteric, and to some extent, they talk past one another. I don’t they both fail to adequately address one another’s claims. And Carrol is often dismissive, which is a great hubris common to atheists, typically.

      BTW, enjoying the discussion.

      – Dan

  98. dgsinclair,

    “So, happy fairy tale or not, it can be argued that it is beneficial. And for that reason, you won’t see it disappear EVER.”

    There is no biological predisposition to not being deluded, true. It’s something humans have to work at. The natural state of human brains seems to be that they take on junk rather too easily. And placebo effects are well known too. This doesn’t do anything for the credibility of religious belief intellectually. It is a rejoicing in gullibility and ignorance. I’m sure many Islamists argue that belief in the teachings of Mohammed and the implementation of some final Caliphate will be beneficial too. Good luck explaining to them the YOUR particular faith is right and theirs wrong.

    “…we see that when it [atheism] gains the ascendancy, it quite easily metastasizes into autocracy”

    You have never seen a secular humanist atheist democracy, so until that is tried you are holding up dogmatic oppressive political systems as if they are representative of atheism generally. It’s only in the last few years that politicians have been prepared to admit they are atheists in the UK, and it’s an even greater risk in the USA.

    “in my opinion, the normal progression it MUST necessarily take because it (a) removes any foundation for human rights and morals from a higher authoritative source, and therefore (b) always ends up justifying it’s own moral authority, and itself as needing to remove ‘opiate’ in order to ‘help’ humanity.”

    While I agree that (a) and (b) are the case that is no reason to suppose the normal progression is to oppressive autocratic systems.

    Secular humanist atheists that are informed about our state of knowledge of the universe realise there is no easy empirical answer to our metaphysical questions about the origins of the universe. As such freedom of thought in metaphysics, and any religious belief that people may choose in that respect, is one of the fundamental freedoms we confer upon each other.

    “that does not mean that the 3rd Reich did not heavily justify itself on the ‘scientific’ grounds of Darwin’s theory”

    It justified its work on Darwin, on invalid unevidenced grounds. Eugenics was a speculative idea with nothing to commend it at the time. There is nothing in human behaviour that prevents someone taking a scientific theory and then making what they will of it, abusing it. Science itself is a developing system of methodologies that are intended to overcome our human fallibilities. But being performed and used by humans there is no guarantee that it will not be misunderstood. Faith in science is as bad as faith in religion. Faith is a big problem in that it encourages believers to hold steadfastly to their beliefs. Hitler (atheist or theist), like many theists, was looking for a theory he could shoehorn into his pre-formed ideology – much like WLC and Plantinga abusing philosophy and cosmology.

    But getting back to the principle of eugenics, do you have any opposition to the use of gene therapies to fix genetic problems? There is nothing particularly wrong with genetic engineering. What was wrong in 30’s Germany was that a completely unworkable notion of it was used as an excuse to implement what were preconceived dogmatic beliefs, about race and mental illness. That sounds more in the religious camp than the atheist camp.

    “it belongs more in the atheist camp than any other” – perspective.

    This is sloppy thinking. It again isn’t a prerequisite of being an atheist that something like eugenics be supported. Atheism is entirely about belief in gods – just one less than you, so if you’re going to argue on the basis of how close belief systems are then you are more in the atheist camp than is a Young Earth Creationist Islamist. But really, atheism is incidental to what were the faults of Hitler and Stalin.

    Eugenics has nothing to do with atheism. Eugenics has only a coincidental relation to Darwinian evolution: the mechanism one would need to employ for to implement a genetic based eugenics program has little to do with evolution. Intelligent Design proponents do not accept Darwinian, but they do understand genetics in the here and now, and can accept the effects a change to genetic system could have effects birth outcomes in a eugenics programme.

    Darwinism isn’t specifically atheistic – many religious people support Darwinism. It could be that there is a god that started life by the mechanism of evolution. That atheists tend not to presuppose a god (hence their atheism) happens to coincide with their acceptance of Darwinian evolution. Some theists do presuppose a God, and that also happens to coincide with their acceptance of Darwinian evolution.

    However, the number one reason why people do not accept Darwinian evolution is because of the extent to which it causes a problem for their religious beliefs. Note that in some cases this isn’t a direct causal connection. Young Earth Creationists oppose evolution because it, along with geology, tell us that we live on an old earth. Otherwise much of that uneducated lot wouldn’t give a damn about evolution: they may laugh at their (mistaken) notion that we are evolved from monkeys, but if it didn’t challenge their beliefs about the age of the earth they’d probably ignore it. Even the challenge to the Adam and Eve story alone may not be too much of a problem – that would be easy to ignore. Or, if an old earth was OK they could argue that Adam and Eve were around from the earth’s formation, but the fossil record is incomplete – as indeed evolutionists know it is.

    So again, you are citing coincidences not ’causes’ (both senses). Hitler did not do what he did in the cause of atheism, so his atheism did not cause his inhumane policies; and Darwinism wasn’t a particular cause that Hitler championed and didn’t cause his inhumane policies but was used to excuse them.

    But Catholics and Protestants burned each other at the stake solely for reasons of religious belief. Their religious cause caused their barbaric treatment of opponents.

  99. dgsinclair,

    By the way, I forgot to address the “No true Scotsman” fallacy inherent in your points 3 & 4, though I did mention both Protestants and Catholics burning each other. I was reminded by this:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2014/03/05/weird/

    To paraphrase another common idea: atheists believe one less crazy idea than any particular theist. The particular theist always finds reason why their particular understanding of their holy book is the right one.

    • RON,

      1. Complaining about lumping all people labeled “Christian” into one bucket is not a No True Scotsman technique – the differences between both the doctrinal content and power structures between Catholics, Protestants, and between liberal and conservative Protestants, is significant. To paint middle aged Catholicism as representative of scripture is to ignore the whole reason for the Protestant reformation.

      2. Protestants and Catholics fighting in Ireland merely shows that people can form ethnic and political entities out of any ideology. What matters is the content of the faith and it’s logical outcomes. What you describe there is only human nature, not religion.

      The reason this excuse can’t be made for atheist regimes is that I have outlined why that is the inevitable outcome of atheism (perhaps even humanistic atheism, though perhaps not!) – because it claims the right to define moral absolutes for itself. The founders of the US knew this was not so, and penned the famous phrase “We hold these truths to be SELF-EVIDENT (to the reasoned person), that all men… and are endowed BY THEIR CREATOR with certain inalienable rights.”

      3. The “We’re all atheists, I just believe in one less God” fallacy is a foolish argument to hide behind. It is equivocating on the definition of ‘atheist,’ which is binary. Atheism is about theism v. nontheism, not atheism v. Christianity v. Islam… There is NO sense in which a theist is an atheist, be he a Catholic, Protestant, or Islamic theist.

      4. “You have never seen a secular humanist atheist democracy, so until that is tried you are holding up dogmatic oppressive political systems as if they are representative of atheism generally.”

      True. But the weight of history so far is not in favor of it, though the Scandinavian countries may show some evidence (too bad they have a rich history of Protestantism, that messes up your baseline ;)

      5. “There is no biological predisposition to not being deluded, true. It’s something humans have to work at. The natural state of human brains seems to be that they take on junk rather too easily.”

      I think this argument is overly facile. On one side, we may look for patterns and intelligence in nature for protection. But we also have other pathways that, for example, form a baseline moral sense, or other intuitions, including that triggered when we view the transcendance of nature or space. To explain these away as spurious or merely survival-based is convenient if you want to support naturalism, but not sufficient to so breezily dismiss their data.

      I mean, even you must make use of some intuition when it comes to morals – sure, you could rationalize it post hoc, but if your culture justified slavery, or killing the unborn, you might sense something is wrong even if you have good arguments why it is just.

      We have thinking patterns that are both valuable and fallible, not to mention trainable.

      6. “While I agree that (a) and (b) are the case that is no reason to suppose the normal progression is to oppressive autocratic systems.”

      I think it is covered in the universal aphorism “ultimate power corrupts ultimately” – ideas like balance of powers, the inherent potential and corruptness of humankind, the role of limited government are all ideas firmly grounded in Christianity and the enlightenment (which was initially not secular – the American Englightenment was more secular).

      Without an external standard of morality (we hold these truths…god), I think that progression IS inevitable.

      7. “It justified its work on Darwin, on invalid unevidenced grounds. Eugenics was a speculative idea with nothing to commend it at the time. ”

      If you mean Darwinism is poorly evidenced, I agree ;)

      “There is nothing in human behaviour that prevents someone taking a scientific theory and then making what they will of it, abusing it.”

      Yes, but the relationship between Darwinism and social evil is quite another discussion. My only point was that Hitler was closer to darwinistic atheism than Christianity.

      8. “do you have any opposition to the use of gene therapies to fix genetic problems? There is nothing particularly wrong with genetic engineering.”

      Off topic! I have reservations about how little we know and the damage we can do. Kind of like nuclear energy.

      9. “Atheism is entirely about belief in gods ”

      This is where I think atheists and Darwinists are in an intellectual self deception. They want to divorce the impact and logical outcomes/applications, not to mention links with other views that share the same assumptions.

      While I agree that the abuse of an ideology does not implicate it, the fruits of believing, practicing, and linking the belief with other compatible ideologies is an important part of evalutating and understanding the value of an idea.

      10. “Darwinism isn’t specifically atheistic – many religious people support Darwinism.”

      True, there are even Christians who find Darwinism compatible with Biblical theology. I beg to differ on that, but smarter people than me have taken the compatiblist position.

      11. “However, the number one reason why people do not accept Darwinian evolution is because of the extent to which it causes a problem for their religious beliefs”

      Genetic fallacy, though you may be right about why people doubt Darwinism. Personally, I lost my faith in Christianity for a period, but never became a Darwinian – the evidence against it is too strong. My biochemistry degree made me more aware of the sophistry of Darwinian argumentation and data handling.

      12. “But Catholics and Protestants burned each other at the stake solely for reasons of religious belief. Their religious cause caused their barbaric treatment of opponents.”

      Again, the abuse of ideologies does not impugn them. However, numbers speak for themselves, and atheism has a lot to apologize for.

  100. dgsinclair

    1. The doctrinal differences between various religious sects may be significant to each in turn. But it is still the case that believers tend to think of their particular doctrine as the one true one. The way the one true Scotsman move is used is as follows

    a) Make broad claims about religious belief.
    b) Interlocutor picks up on a specific point.
    c) Theist complains that, well, that’s not the belief of the true religion: “No true Christian would believe X”; “That’s why Christians of type Y are true Christians”; “That’s why Muslims are mistaken, so using Islam against my religion doesn’t apply”

    In much of what I’m arguing I’m making specific points that conflict with the notion that any particular religion has access to information about the origins of the universe. The variety of invented belief is reasonable grounds to suspect all of it, and pretty much assures, without very good supporting evidence, that all varieties are wrong. To claim that well, all those others have it wrong, but mine is the true belief, is a form of the one true Scotsman fallacy.

    You don’t allow, for example, that atheism is merely about disbelief in God. I would never try to make the case that just because I’m a secular humanist atheist that all atheists are ‘good’ people, on the basis that some bad atheist isn’t a true atheist, or a true secular humanist atheist. More on atheism later.

    2. “merely shows that people can form ethnic and political entities out of any ideology”

    Yes. My argument is that the specific claims to truth of the various religions and their strong contradictory doctrines are divisive encouragement to such ethnic and political divisions. Religions are political systems, by their nature, in that they try to influence activities associated with the governance societies and nations.

    “because it claims the right to define moral absolutes for itself.”

    No it does not. It’s often stated, rightly, that atheists deny moral absolutes, so I think grossly misunderstanding what I’ve already said about morality. There is no evidence of any moral absolutes.

    Morality is ‘objective’ is the sense of being discoverable as references and behaviours held by humans to varying degrees: and the variation may be across cultures, across histories, or across the life-time of individuals, and may even change in pretty short time depending on mood. And of course there is a lot of uncertainty and indecision with regard to morality. So while it is objectively discoverable as human preference and behaviour, individual morality is subjective within that variable context. It is not absolute, and atheists generally do not make absolute moral statements but offer moral opinion based on the extent to which they have thought about moral problems.

    The founders of the US were being vague and diplomatic in their use of the term ‘creator’. Some of them were deists. Their self-evident truths are not at all self-evident in any strict sense. They may appear self-evident in the context of having reasoned that rights and freedoms are beneficial to the population at large; but this is merely used as what appears self-evident to them, in that context.

    Rights and freedoms are nothing more than conditions of mutual agreement that humans hold to, if they have the power to do so. It is the same sort of mistake to hold them to be some sort of absolutes as it is to think that morality has some absolute basis.

    Humans are animals that don’t like to be caged any more than any other animal does. This desire for freedom is probably rooted in the desire to roam to gather food and the desire to escape danger. The personal desire for rights and freedoms is nothing more than a political expression of that desire in the context where that desire is often denied expression. If all humans were naturally benign towards each other and had no personal traits of greed, then the political concepts of rights and freedom would probably not have emerged as strongly as it has.

    It was not at all self-evident to many societies in the past, or to some cultures now, that slavery was at all wrong. It only becomes apparently self-evident that it is wrong once we mutually agree, as large societies, to grant each other the rights and freedoms we want as individuals.

    Incidentally, there is nothing preventing an atheist being a dogmatic absolutist with regard to morality. He might, for example, think morality is a natural law of the universe, but simply believes there are no gods.

    Atheism and morality are independent variables. It just so happens that reason, empirical science, philosophy, leads many people to become atheists simply because there is no evidence for any god like entity and there is no supporting evidence and much counter evidence about the specific beliefs common in many religions. We are ‘empirical atheists’, for want of a better description – perhaps I should use it to make that distinction more often.

    “the inevitable outcome of atheism (perhaps even humanistic atheism, though perhaps not!)”

    You have nowhere shown the outcomes of atheism to be inevitably as bad as you describe them. You have no evidence for this and you have no theoretical perspective from which to argue the possibility. It is a mere assertion that comes out of the dogma that religion (one’s own religion of course) is the only way of being good; and that other religions, and atheism in particular, are routes to Hell and Damnation. Modern ‘sophisticated’ moderate theists dress this principle up to varying degrees – though not always successfully: Floods are judgment on society, say bishops LOL! Well, LOL if it weren’t such a pernicious divisive opinion.

    And you contradict your own point straight away: that you hold any uncertainty with regard to humanist atheism.

    You have simply made political claims about atheism, with an unwarranted assertion that atheism is inherently bad because of Stalin and the like. Atheism is not a political system but a metaphysical position, and not a certain one at that.

    Stalin was probably an a-fairyest, an a-unicornist, an a-paranormalist, … Whatever his personal beliefs in fact turn out to be there will be many beliefs that it turns out he does not hold. Are you as content to blame his a-fairyism or a-unicornism on his dogmatic oppressive political activities?

    While it is true that we tend to construct a dichotomy in these sorts of discussions, that leads to the wrong impression about atheism – and in particular about atheism based on empiricism and science. It is not an absolute atheism.

    Most ‘empirical atheists’ are not declaring any positive claim about the metaphysical status of the origins of this universe. What you do get is an observation that IN this universe all we see are material events, and all claims made about the paranormal or spiritual can be explained by examples with natural explanations themselves.

    When ‘empirical atheists’ object to theist claims about god they offer many possibilities that are equally possible, as speculative metaphysical positions:

    a) The god of the theists: some intelligent entity who is good and cares about humans. No evidence at all.

    b) An evil god who likes us to suffer; but since suffering is best experienced in opposition to comfort and kindness he torments us by letting some good stuff happen. He also torments us with ideas about an afterlife in heaven, and really enjoys seeing the disappointment in saints when they end up in hell with the sinners. One of his favourite tricks is to drop conflicting holly books on earth occasionally, by ‘revelation’ into the heads of authors. The clue is in the books: “This book is true” sort of claim, or even more obviously equivalent to “I am not a liar.” It’s a real laugh for this god that believers actually buy that line simply because the books also address some factual issues about human behaviour. The ultimate worthless self-help books.

    Zero evidence real for this god of course, but exactly the same amount of evidence as (a). This god, and all the others, are trumped up explanations that fit the facts, but each of these gods, by being untestable and all-explanatory, are actually worthless.

    c) An idiot god that invented arteries that clog, bugs that kill us, … need I go on with the poor ‘design’ trope? No evidence; but just as much as for (a).

    d) A committee of gods that are screwing things up, patching up, causing wars accidentally then intervening to stop them. Good hearted god, but a bunch of idiots even on the human scale.

    e) A hierarchy of gods: a hypernatural god that created supernatural gods that in turn all create natural universes. This hierarchy goes on as much as you like, but it puts paid to the one true cause, the uncaused cause, the prime mover.

    … and on we go.

    And then we get to the naturalistic possibilities, where there is no agency intestinally doing anything:

    f) All there is this universe and nothing else to explain.

    g) There is an outside to this universe, and it is distinguished from this universe in that this universe appears within it, spontaneously, with this universes specific laws and dimensions.

    h) From (g) there might be many universes.

    i) From (h) all universes have exactly the same laws, and the same apparent fine tuning. The superuniverse laws dictate that all natural universes are created with the same laws so this puts paid to the fine tuning argument for this universe, as the fine-tuned container for human life.

    j) From (i) but an alternative to (i): universes may have different laws taken from a subset. Think of this in terms of a solar system analogy: the ‘Goldilocks’ zone for planets with life varies according to the star and the planets in the system. Universe may vary in their constants, some combinations of which produce life. That too puts paid to fine tuning in the theistic sense.

    k) Other variations on multiverses…

    … and on we go.

    The ‘empiricist atheist’ has no idea which if any of these is the case. It may be that none of them is the case and some totally unexpected case applies, to the origins of universes.

    So, in that context the ‘empiricist atheist’ is making the claim that we don’t know, and that you don’t know either, because from all we do know you are just one more human. And we do know humans fall for illusions, delusions, mysteries, myths, conspiracies, fake medicines, get rich schemes, internet scams, …

    Theists are talking out their rears when they do claim to know. You are pretending to know so well you fool yourself.

    The ‘empiricist atheist’ is sceptical about all origins for the above reasons. The ‘empiricist atheist’ may favour some of the natural explanations because there are some theoretical or empirical maths and science that give some credence to some of them. But this isn’t a belief system, and our minds can be changed by the next piece of science that comes along.

    The ‘empiricist atheist’ does not make absolute moral assertions based on any of these metaphysical speculations. We do not assert that killing is wrong because the multiverse tells us so. We do not persecute people who do not believe in the multiverse. We do not cry ‘Offence!” when someone disputes our favourite theory (though that does happen occasionally in academia).

    The ‘empiricist atheist’ is more likely to form moral opinions based on reason and the empirical evidence of what makes a more comfortable life for most humans.

    3. The “We’re all atheists, I just believe in one less God” fallacy is a foolish argument to hide behind. It is equivocating on the definition of ‘atheist,’ which is binary.

    I agree it is an equivocation, a rhetorical move to make a point. Of course you are not an atheist. But referring back to comparison with a-fairyism, a-unicornism, you are an a-Roman-Catholic-ist, an a-deist, an a-Muslim.

    It is still the case that you are not a ‘theist’ with regard to most theisms, and therefore in the stricter use of the a- prefix, you are an a-theist with regard to other theisms.

    I hold to one less god than you do. While this is not a criticism of some god hypothesis (choose any of (a) to (e) above), it is a fair criticism of your particular belief in your particular religion, since yours has no more credible evidence for it than any other.

    4. “But the weight of history so far is not in favor of it [secular humanist atheist democracy]”

    And nor is it against it.

    “too bad [Scandinavian countries] have a rich history of Protestantism, that messes up your baseline ”

    Not at all. I accept fully that there is a progression of dogmatic belief, through less dogmatic belief, to sceptical theism, to atheistic theism (Pete Rollins), to ‘empirical atheism’. It’s a history of enlightenment that isn’t yet complete, and may well never be complete while humans have the fallible brains they do.

    I also accept all the contributions to science made by many theists – which occurred because humans are naturally curious about their world. It doesn’t matter if some of them thought they were discovering God’s works; though it is the case that their commitment to their belief often prevented them taking their ideas further. And of course some did take their ideas further and saw good reason to give up their beliefs and become atheists.

    I’m not sure how this is supposed to be messing up my baseline. My baseline isn’t the secular atheist humanism I’m supporting. The baseline we are working from is ignorant superstition and dogmatism and oppression, which religions have helped maintain and promote for much of their history.

    Of course theists can be secular and humanistic. But the use of faith is dangerous: a tool that religions promote to ensure their survival, often in the face of lack of or counter to evidence. It can too easily lead to the abuse of what might start out as reasonable humanist theistic principles.

    5. “But we also have other pathways that, for example, form a baseline moral sense”

    Yes. Biology is the ultimate baseline, and culture and society are the frameworks in which that is rationalised and formed into moral systems. That many have taken their agency detection too far and attributed moral ideas to some deity says nothing of the truth in those beliefs.

    The operation of the unconscious brain prevents the detailed origins of our ideas being known too us. That’s all intuition is: the output of some data that appears as if from nowhere into the conscious brain. There are many experiments that show that we can prime decisions, and the subject really does then rationalise their decision to being their own, or describes it as some intuition emerging from their beliefs.

    “or other intuitions, including that triggered when we view the transcendence of nature or space.”

    The ‘apparent’ viewing of transcendence. There is no evidence to support any real transcendence. The brain can be made, under controlled conditions, to have an out of body experience, and the subject fails to report correctly on what would be visible had they really been ‘out of body’. Give me some examples of claimed transcendence that is actually shown to be real transcendence of a mind out of a body.

    “but not sufficient to so breezily dismiss their data”

    What data? Do you have any verifiable examples at all?

    “I mean, even you must make use of some intuition when it comes to morals”

    Yes, or course. Where have I denied we use intuition? My quibble is with its reliability. We’re not too bad at intuitions about common events, though we get those wrong quite often too. It’s not difficult to set up social experiments where the subjects intuitions give them the wrong impression. I’m sure you’re aware of the many instances of trained police officers making intuitive leaps that have resulted in the death of innocent people. Human intuition is flaky. To try to apply it to metaphysics is way too flaky to build moral systems on your intuitions about gods.

    When I want the sum of 2 and 2 I instinctively say 4, rather than get some beans out and check it empirically. But that’s just stating what we know we have learned. When I have the intuitive feeling that killing is wrong it is based ultimately on my biological aversion to harming someone; but I don’t need to examine that feeling, or a mass of evolution and biology papers, to reason that this must be the case.

    I have some moral principles that I accept intuitively, until such time as I need to re-evaluate. I’m also aware of how my intuitions could change in the blink of an eye. I oppose capital punishment, but I’m not deluded enough to know that if someone harmed one of my kids my intuitions would flip to such an extent I’d have an instant change of heart. Thankfully, given the time to calm down I can reason about the problem and see that as much as capital punishment isn’t the answer for other victims it isn’t in my case either.

    The problem is that intuitions are not always predictable, and they are fast. That is helpful when there is little time for internal rational debate. Intuitions are useful. But they are still flaky nonetheless. Reason and evidence is more hard work – and that’s why the human species is taking so long to become enlightened by reason and evidence.

    “sure, you could rationalize it post hoc, but if your culture justified slavery”

    What? Your culture justified slavery too, because wherever you are in the world you will be part of a culture that once justified slavery. That applies the religious too.

    But as I’ve said, the fact that humans do rationalise poorly is well known, and all the more reason to apply the hard learned methodologies of empiricism and science to try to find out what is really going on in human brains, rather than relying on the rationalisations of ancient desert peoples who had no science and very little reasonable philosophy to go on.

    “We have thinking patterns that are both valuable and fallible, not to mention trainable.”

    Yes. But also gullible to stories that have no empirical foundation. Some humans are gullible enough to think that faith is a good idea. Here you are trying to make reasoned arguments about your belief, but when all arguments fail the religious resort to faith – the affirmation of what you believe because you want to believe it. It’s the epitome of irrational rationalisation in the face of lack of evidence and much counter evidence.

    6. “the role of limited government are all ideas firmly grounded in Christianity and the enlightenment (which was initially not secular – the American Enlightenment was more secular)”

    As above, the truth of origins and our mutual political agreements are independent variables. I accept that Christianity is more equitable in its beliefs than many other religions. I accept that there has been a progression in the West towards secularism, freedom of belief, human rights and freedoms, all because humans started to think about their effects on each other through some pretty awful periods.

    So, religions generally promote what we can call ‘goodness’. This is great. But you don’t need the supernatural and doctrinal beliefs for that. Religion uses faith as a method of affirming belief, and therein lies the danger it poses: divisiveness, various interpretations that allow the more dogmatic to assert their claims with just as much faith as the freedom loving peaceful believers.

    And not a jot of the supernatural stuff is shown to be true or needs to be true for me to agree with the positive statements you make about many, the majority, of religious believers.

    “Without an external standard of morality (we hold these truths…god), I think that progression IS inevitable.”

    I think it isn’t. Try the Pinker book: “The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes”

    Morality is independent of God belief, which is a poor show for God belief since it is supposed to be the high standard of morality. Even if there is an actual God of some sort, believing in him has not shown to be much use at all.

    Where we have a history of majority religious belief it is entirely bogus to take examples of good people and claim their goodness to be doesn’t to their belief. Quite the opposite: where a metaphysical story is available that has some prescriptions for goodness then good people will be drawn to it. As a twist on the Euthyphro dilemma, are people good because they follow their religion or do they follow their religion because they are good, when there is no alternative to their religion on the table?

    Atheists have been persecuted in history, as have people of various religious beliefs. But the atheists have been persecuted on all sides from all religions. Blasphemy laws exist and are enforced even today in some parts of the world. Atheism is by its nature a critique of belief in gods, and that criticism is deemed to blasphemous. Religions of various sorts have been power systems that have oppressed free thought – to think freely about variations on the one true religion, and even more so to think freely on the folly of religion.

    In this context it is no wonder that most good people to this time have been and continue to be religious. Religious culture by its very affirmative nature persuades young minds and perpetuates belief through indoctrination. The ideas become so fixed in brains that it is difficult to be free of them when embedded in a local believing culture.

    It’s no surprise that the internet age of the 90’s and 21sht century has allowed the spread of ideas, the formation of communities outside one’s own, the airing of ideas, and this has resulted in an increase in the vocalisation of doubt, the examination of alternative ideas, and the growth of atheism.

    The internet is available to the already numerous religious of course. On any blogging systems that allows it (Blogger and WordPress do) use the random blog option and you will find that blogs by believers far outweigh pretty much any other subject (possible exceptions: cats and baking), and atheist blogs are few and far between. Yet despite this dispersed nature of the atheist minority it is far more vocal now and is gaining ground all the time.

    In this context your assertions about the relative moral destinies of religion and atheism are misplaced. The resurgence of Islam should be a greater worry to you on that score.

    7 “My only point was that Hitler was closer to darwinistic atheism than Christianity.”

    And my response is that paedophile Catholic priests are closer to Christianity than any non-Christian. Muslim extremist are closer to Islam than any non-Muslim. My point is that your point of linking Hitler to Darwinism is specious.

    Atheism, Darwinism and Hitler are independent variables. Hitler used Darwinism for his political purposes. Hitler expressed metaphysical beliefs that suited his project. Hitler is totally irrelevant to the truth of atheism or the morality of atheism. Atheism is independent of morality.

    8. “Off topic!”

    No it isn’t. I was trying to ascertain your opinion of the manipulation of the genetic genome, of which the eugenics program was a blunt instrumental form of pre-DNA science, and was essentially pseudo-science. It was not Darwinian, since Darwin addressed biological natural selection and common descent and did not lay out pseudo-scientific programs for bettering the species. I wanted to figure out to what extent you were prepared to continue this specious argument linking atheism, Darwinism, Hitler, Stalin.

    If you agree there are some benefits to genetic engineering (for example, would you accept the change to the human genome if it could rid us of sickle cell syndrome?) then you have no principled objection to manipulation generally. We both have objections to the eugenics programmes of Hitler. But our objection then is to what he was doing with it, not with the Darwinian theory that it mistakenly used. Current gene therapy is an indirect result of following the ideas of Darwinian evolution: the search for the mechanism of evolution. Eugenics is an indirect result caused by misunderstanding Darwinism and trying to use it for justifying oppressive programmes.

    9. Atheism is entirely about belief in gods. It’s a metaphysical position, a denial that there is any evidence for gods.

    “They want to divorce the impact and logical outcomes/applications”

    Not at all. Your mistake is to continue to refer to the atheism of atheists as if that is all they are. As a secular humanist atheist my concerns are very much with regard to outcomes and applications.

    If the religious did not demand various privileges and try to impose their conclusions from their beliefs on those that don’t hold their beliefs, in other words if their belief was entirely metaphysical and personal, then I would have no objection to it. I support the freedom and right of theists to contemplate their origins and come up with any idea they like. Don’t confuse my intellectual disagreement on here for an attempt to supress religious thought. I do oppose much of the practice of religions.

    It is entirely because the activities of the religious in this world that atheists are so ‘strident’. And ‘strident’? What an ironic term for the theists to use, those that preach and cajole others to behaving as they think their god wishes.

    “the fruits of believing, practicing, and linking the belief with other compatible ideologies is an important part of evaluating and understanding the value of an idea.”

    Yes. Secular humanist. Try this: https://humanism.org.uk/

    Specifically try this: http://youtu.be/DZN8Ne1nmr4

    You don’t need to invent metaphysical myths.

    11. “Genetic fallacy”

    No it isn’t. http://wellspentjourney.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/devastating-arguments-against-christianity-courtesy-of-the-internet/#comment-3930

    The genetic fallacy is making a claim related to origins (e.g. genetics, culture, …) when it is totally irrelevant. It is not irrelevant in this case. It’s very pertinent. People are mostly indoctrinated into their religion by their parents, and so one’s religion is heavily determined by one’s origin: geographically, culturally, region, district, family. That in itself is enough to raise our sceptical intuition about the credibility of all those religions.

    Do you dispute that this child’s future beliefs are not almost guaranteed by his situation? http://lubpak.com/archives/307713

    Again I distinguish here between religions and some vague ‘origins of the universe’ hypothesis that might speculate on some agency. But of course once the whole credibility of any religion is put into question, then so too are its metaphysical claims, if they have no strong supportive evidence.

    12. “Again, the abuse of ideologies does not impugn them.”

    Generally I agree. And therefore neither does any good that the religious do corroborate their theistic ideologies. It all goes to show that humans invent their moral behaviour, just as you assert atheists do. Precisely.

    But in the case of religious ideologies specifically this abuse of them does disaffirm their benefits. They are not the good systems they try to be. They are not sufficient to ensure goodness. They may, by coercion and fear, cause the suppression of bad acts, just as secular laws does. But that doesn’t’ mean it has made people any more good in themselves.

    And, through the folly of the use of faith they can encourage bad acts because faith affirms the dogma, and affirms any mistaken interpretation of the original dogma. That’s the very nature of the problem we see now in Islam.

    Then you need to reconsider your linking of atheism and Stalin, particularly because his ideology only had atheism as a component. He wasn’t even abusing some ‘atheist ideology’ in his oppressions.

    Atheism is strictly only a metaphysical position. Atheist can be moral, but not because of their atheism but because of their other approaches to life: secularism that opposes the oppression of believers and non-believers alike by opposing state preferential favouring of one religion; humanism that values humans as humans, with all their evolved complexities, and not as play things of some deity.

    “However, numbers speak for themselves, and atheism has a lot to apologize for.”

    Atheism has nothing to apologise for. I’m surprised that after some of the points you have made you let yourself fall for this. Why should there be an apology for simply not being convinced by claims about gods? That’s all it’s about.

    Be more honest – you nearly got there with your doubts about your thoughts on secular humanist atheists. And so you should doubt this immorality of atheism trope. Secular humanist atheists are as opposed to Stalin as any theist – just not with regard to the presence of gods. Secular humanist atheists are in greater disagreement with Stalin than any oppressive religious system – with respect to the use of authority and power to control the population.

    The numbers game is nonsense. The extent of religious belief today is the result of an ignorant history and a continued ignorance in education.

    If the numbers game was at all convincing then Christianity would not have survived, because the numbers of Jews, Romans and people of varying other faiths would have convinced early Christians they were wrong. At any time in history the numbers are what they are because of the history to that point. You have no idea what lies ahead for the history of Christianity.

    • RON,

      201. “In much of what I’m arguing I’m making specific points that conflict with the notion that any particular religion has access to information about the origins of the universe. The variety of invented belief is reasonable grounds to suspect all of it, and pretty much assures, without very good supporting evidence, that all varieties are wrong.”

      I think we are crossing subjects here. I am defending Christianity against accusations of creating wars, and in this arena, we must discriminate between (a) abuse of an ideology (e.g. eugenics/Darwinism, witch hunts /Christianity), (b) logical outcomes of ideas (autocracy/atheism, rejecting medicine / divine healing), and explicit teaching (murder unbeievers/Islam, love your neighbor / Christianity).

      With regard to origins, I don’t make that same argument regarding Christianity – there are a lot of unknowns that far back. But regarding Cosmology, I’d say the Bible fares pretty well, certainly better than those that propose we’re on the back of a turtle.

      While I agree with your statement that they are all suspect, that does not logically mean that all are wrong, or that some are more right than others. I cover this mistake in

      Pascal’s Wager 2: debunking the ‘all religions are equally improbable’ ruse

      http://www.wholereason.com/2011/04/pascals-wager-part-ii-debunking-the-all-religions-are-equally-improbable-ruse.html

      202. “You don’t allow, for example, that atheism is merely about disbelief in God.”

      I do, and I understand that there may be more than one associated idea schema for establishing morals (relativism, desirism, humanism, etc.). HOWEVER, atheism does lend itself to certain associations over others for logical reasons, and atheists like to ignore that as if it’s not relevant. I think it is.

      203. “Religions are political systems, by their nature, in that they try to influence activities associated with the governance societies and nations.”

      I don’t think they are by definition. The idea of separation of Church and State is pretty well standard in Christianity, even though the Catholics since Constantine have violated that. Islam, however, sees no distinction, which is just one of the reasons it is not compatible with freedom.

      Regarding Church and state, may I recommend you see:

      Uneasy Neighbors – Church and State

      http://www.wholereason.com/2007/11/uneasy-neighbors-church-and-state.html

      Pilgrim writes that there are actually at least three distinct New Testament doctrines governing the Christian approach to government, not just one simplistic “all or nothing” approach (i.e. theocracy or secularism); submissive confidence, deep resistance, and critical distancing.

      I am all for secular governments, though I think we need to make the distinction between separation of church and state powers (valid) and separation of ethics, values, and state (in-valid). Sorry for so many self referential urls, but see:

      Four Stage Model for Creating Public Policy from Faith

      http://www.wholereason.com/2011/07/four-stage-model-for-creating-public-policy-from-faith.html

      Is applying a biblical worldview to public policy theocratic?

      http://www.wholereason.com/2005/10/is-applying-a-biblical-worldview-to-public-policy-theocratic.html

      More articles on this at

      http://www.wholereason.com/?s=separation

      204. “No it does not. It’s often stated, rightly, that atheists deny moral absolutes, so I think grossly misunderstanding what I’ve already said about morality. There is no evidence of any moral absolutes.”

      Which allows you to justify any value you want – say, the State over religious beliefs. Of course, some atheists like Sam Harris claim that there are moral absolutes, and that moral relativism is intellectual, if not actual suicide. I agree.

      205. “Morality is ‘objective’ is the sense of being discoverable as references and behaviors held by humans to varying degrees: and the variation may be across cultures, across histories, or across the life-time of individuals, and may even change in pretty short time depending on mood.”

      Our ability to progressively discover what leads to human flourshing (one way to define morality) is part of the process, but it does not mean that morality is subjective, nor purely situational. On the opposite side, I am not claiming that every situation has black and white, but many of the big ones (see 10 commandments ;) do.

      You might like these discussions:

      Legislating in the Moral Gray Zone

      http://www.wholereason.com/2010/11/legislating-in-the-moral-gray-zone.html

      Navigating Moral Gray Areas

      http://www.wholereason.com/2010/10/navigating-moral-gray-areas.html

      But again, your term ‘being discoverable’ is all about epistemology, which I would gather we agree on (though how you discover something subjective is confusing to me), but the ontology of such things is where atheistic moral subjectivism falls flat on its face, and where it leaves itself open to the inevitable slide to autocracy and cruelty by the force of it’s own eventual necessary god, reason and the state. How else can you protect society from superstition if not by making it illegal?

      206. “The founders of the US were being vague and diplomatic in their use of the term ‘creator’. Some of them were deists. Their self-evident truths are not at all self-evident in any strict sense. They may appear self-evident in the context of having reasoned that rights and freedoms are beneficial to the population at large; but this is merely used as what appears self-evident to them, in that context.”

      I doubt they meant it that way – self-evident, but only in our current context? Well then, perhaps slavery is alright after all, at least, in some contexts.

      I think they were being idealistic, not diplomatic. And realistic in stating that human rights do NOT come from the State (or the State Church), but from God. That way, they can not be removed by man either. They are deferring to a higher law in order to DEFY the powers that be, not just submit to them because ‘they have the power to do so.’

      207. “Atheism and morality are independent variables.”

      This dis-integrated world view is an escape hatch that needs to be plugged by someone who can articulate a cohesive world view that includes atheism. Stalin failed. Marx failed. And keeping your options open indefinitely is a form of retreat from reality if you ask me. Sure, more than one moral framework might fit with atheism, but all moral frameworks are not equal, as we are discussing.

      This purposeful avoidance of the implications and connections of atheism is one of my frustrations with the atheist thinkers of this age (Sam Harris aside) – I think it’s cowardly to avoid the implications of one’s view as if they exist in isolation.

      208. “You have nowhere shown the outcomes of atheism to be inevitably as bad as you describe them. You have no evidence for this and you have no theoretical perspective from which to argue the possibility.”

      I have described a mechanism by which we can explain the horrors of atheism we’ve seen in History – associated with the worst and greatest human casualties. Subjective moralism leads to deification of the state and those in power, and leads to justification of the use of force against religious and other opponents. The burden is now on your side, I think, to justify why we should give atheism any intellectual credence, esp. from the practical point of view.

      History is evidence. Sure, we can do more. But to say there is no evidence is to really be blind or deceptive, I think. Take your pick ;)

      209. “And you contradict your own point straight away: that you hold any uncertainty with regard to humanist atheism.”

      In the spirit of openness, I admit that the atheist regimes of history have not been humanist, but we have no other scaled up models of atheism, save perhaps the unbelieving societies of the Scandinavian countries – but as I mentioned, the difficulty there is that they are riding on the coattails of their Protestant histories.

      210. “Atheism is not a political system but a metaphysical position, and not a certain one at that.”

      As Reagan famously said, “there you go again.” Divorcing atheism from its impact and associations, allowing it to float ‘innocently’ in isolation from real life, is not how you evaluate such ideas – the idea that there is no God has huge implications for every field of knowledge and endeavor, even mathematics and astronomy!

      211. Regarding the suffering and current degrading state (not evolving) of the universe, the Christian worldview does provide answers (not to mention hope), even if you don’t like it – the creation is groaning under the weight of death introduced by man’s corrupt moral nature. Atheism’s answer? “It just is.”

      212. Regarding lack of evidence, there is none for the multiverse, it’s just a way for evolutionists to try to explain why the odds against life are so astronomical that what we observe is impossible without postulating something bigger. For them, God is not in the picture. I get it.

      213. “The ‘empiricist atheist’ is more likely to form moral opinions based on reason and the empirical evidence of what makes a more comfortable life for most humans.”

      Atheists have NO reasoning or empirical evidence for the existence of moral laws, they merely make some assumptions, and rely on standard intuitional epistemology followed by post hoc arguments. It’s nice and circular, and avoids the issue of ontology. It comes down to opinion v. opinion, and intuition v. intuition. The moral reasoning of atheists is what produces Stalins and PolPots every time, because morals are relative. Without an external referent authority, you have to depend on the goodness of man and ignore the fact that ultimate power currupts. It’s intellectual suicide to me.

      214. “it is a fair criticism of your particular belief in your particular religion, since yours has no more credible evidence for it than any other.”

      This is a popular canard among atheists. I address this in the aforementioned

      Pascal’s Wager 2: debunking the ‘all religions are equally improbable’ ruse

      http://www.wholereason.com/2011/04/pascals-wager-part-ii-debunking-the-all-religions-are-equally-improbable-ruse.html

      215. “I also accept all the contributions to science made by many theists – which occurred because humans are naturally curious about their world.”

      Well, that’s the first honest step to realizing that Christianity created the conditions within which science could actually be done.

      216. “Yes, or course. Where have I denied we use intuition? My quibble is with its reliability.”

      I agree. But intuition is part of our epistemologic tool kit, and with respect to morals, no amount of independent reasoning will produce them, let alone ground them precisely because they are not mere empirical things, but metaphysic. Which is why pure empiricism is an incomplete tool kit.

      217. “Here you are trying to make reasoned arguments about your belief, but when all arguments fail the religious resort to faith – the affirmation of what you believe because you want to believe it. ”

      No, I think you misunderstand faith. Faith is akin to ‘trust but verify.’ It’s reasoned faith, identifying trustworthy sources of information that can not yet be verified.

      218. “Try the Pinker book: “The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes”

      Morality is independent of God belief, which is a poor show for God belief since it is supposed to be the high standard of morality. Even if there is an actual God of some sort, believing in him has not shown to be much use at all.”

      I’ve seen Pinker’s book, interesting. However, I remind you that only in the Christian West did abolition take root – no other culture or ideology did that. Also, the valuation of human life in society can be tied to the spread of Christianity (as well as literacy).

      219. “the Euthyphro dilemma” is a false dilemma. Humans are good because they are made in the image of God and can recognize good. Humans also suppress good because they are corrupted by ‘sin’ and lack the ability to lift themselves out en masse without faith. Atheists in the west don’t believe that because they’ve lived in the relative safety and prosperity created by Christianity and the Enlightenment (which heavily supported the idea of progress, a good thing).

      220. “The resurgence of Islam should be a greater worry to you on that score.”

      It is, although atheistic communism, as we see in the current squabbles between China and its neighbors, or Russia and the Ukraine, or North/South Korea, is still a potent threat to humanity.

      But I do worry more about Islam, and consider atheists in the west to be much more peaceful and reasonable. It’s just atheism scaled up to public policy that worries me. But less than shariah, for sure.

      221. “If you agree there are some benefits to genetic engineering”

      I have a degree in the Biochemistry of genetics (B.S.) However, I do not take a stand against genetic engineering en toto. I think it is a powerful tool for good, but knowing humans, GATTACA is an ever present threat. Today, we use genetic screening to identify and kill 90% of Down’s syndrome fetuses. Have you ever read Algeny by the biotech gadfly Jeremy Rifkin? All these years later, his points stay with me – chimeras, polluted genomes, class segregation, all these are the real possible outcomes that we have to consider.

      I say proceed with extreme caution. But we won’t. Whatever is possible will eventually be done.

      222. I support the freedom and right of theists to contemplate their origins and come up with any idea they like.”

      Naturally. No argument. I’m not pushing anything, but I am debating that I have good reason to believe, as you do to not believe. Have you read Graham Oppy’s book Arguing About Gods? Classic.

      223. “Do you dispute that this child’s future beliefs are not almost guaranteed by his situation?”

      No, but I disagree with the logic that this necessarily makes any claims to truth wrong. Many people die for lack of modern medicine. That does not mean that modern medicine is not beneficial or right. Same with truth metaphysical.

      224. “And so you should doubt this immorality of atheism trope.”

      I don’t believe that atheism or atheists are immoral. I believe that without an external referent (God), atheism is at best limited to subjective morality, and when that is played out and given power at government levels (secular is different than atheist – I am all for a secular government power structure, even though morals and ethics certainly play a majority part in legislation), it has so far shown to be very susceptible (perhaps determinatively) to autocracy and abuse.

      225. “You have no idea what lies ahead for the history of Christianity.”

      True, although we can analyze trends. I find this one particularly interesting:

      Islam’s Worst Nightmare – Not America, but Christian China

      http://www.wholereason.com/2007/09/islams-worst-nightmare-not-america-but-christian-china.html

      I apologize for all the links, I don’t expect you to want to read them all. But they are my fuller arguments on these things. Cheers!

  101. This post, addressing art, (http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=7838) is relevent to some of the issues here too: genetic fallacy, numbers of Chirstians.

    “Salganik concluded that “small, random initial differences” were magnified by “social influence and cumulative advantage.” In short, chance was the decisive factor in the outcome.”

    “Lest it be thought that chance is the sole factor, Salganik found that quality does have some role in success—but much less than one might suspect. Based on additional experiments, he found that succeeding with a work of poor quality is rather hard but that once a certain basic level of quality is achieved, then success is primarily a matter of chance.”

    “In terms of the specific mechanism of artistic success, a group of people will as a matter of random chance decide that a work is good. The attention of this group will attract more attention and this process will continue. Those who are drawn by the attention seem to engage in the reasoning that the work must be good and special because all the other people seem to believe that it is good and special.”

    Tolstoy: “a work that pleases a certain circle of people is accepted as good, then it is believed by others to be special.”

    “Interestingly enough, the sort of “reasoning” that Salganik’s experiment seems to have shown is the Appeal to Popularity fallacy: this is the “reasoning” that because something is popular, it follows that it is good/correct. It also nicely matches the similar Bandwagon fallacy: that because something is winning, it follows that it is good/correct. Not surprisingly, this is grounded in the cognitive bias known as the Bandwagon Effect: people have a psychological tendency to align their thinking with other people. In the case of Salganik’s experiment, the participants aligned their thinking in terms of their aesthetic preference and thus created a bandwagon effect. The effect is rather like the stereotype of the avalanche: a small, random event can set off a massive tide. Given that the process of selection is essentially not a rational assessment of quality but rather driven by cognitive bias and (perhaps) fallacious reasoning it certainly makes sense that the outcomes would be decided largely by chance. The same, if his experiment extends by analogy, would seem to hold true of the larger world.”

    Now, replace ‘art’ with ‘religion’ and that pretty much nails it.

  102. Most interesting. And I listened to the video Zeigeist. Or however it is spelled. Never believed in that video. Just knew the devil has his counterfits and he is the father of lies.

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  106. There are a number of problems with the claims you’ve presented and the responses you provide above. I won’t go through a full run-down of what’s wrong with what you wrote (you’ll have to figure that out yourself), but I would like to comment on one claim you discussed.

    The Claim: “The dark ages were a time of ignorance and superstition, thanks to religion’s negative influence on scientific progress.”

    In your response, O’Neill provides a dozen or so “scientists” who lived in the Middle Ages and were not stifled by the church. What is not mentioned is the fact that every single one of the people he provided lived almost exclusively in the thirteenth and/or fourteenth century. What this means is that, on the graph, each “scientist” listed would fall between the last tick under the black region and the first tick in the gray region. A few, like Albertus Magnus and Robert Grosseteste, were born at the end of the twelfth century, so their life-spans would reach back a tiny bit past the tick that marks the thirteenth century. But that’s it. There’s no one on that list who came from the roughly 800 years prior to 1200 CE. If O’Neill considers it “amusing” that people try to “crowbar” Galileo into the Middle Ages, I consider it amusing that O’Neill tries to pigeonhole this small set of philosophers, theologians, rudimentary mathematicians and clock-makers of the early Renaissance into the category of scientists who lived during the Middle Ages. A few of them lived at the tail-end of the Late Middle Ages, at best.

    It also deserves mention that many of these people are Catholic saints™, a status which means that they likely never disagreed with the positions of Church. This is why they were “unmolested” by the authorities of the time; had they gone against the Church, they would have suffered the consequences (let’s not forget the Galileo, Hus and Tyndale of later times). Sure. I’ll concede that some of O’Neill’s scholars made contributions that would prove significant for the more critical thinkers of later centuries; Robert Grosseteste’s contribution to the scientific method comes to mind. Beyond this, though, it’s deceitful and just plain incorrect to characterize these men as “scientists” who lived in the Middle Ages.

    Looks like you didn’t fact-check your fact-check.

  107. We can argue all day about how religious people killed and non-religious people killed, but the fact of the matter is, not one of you on this board can proved that Jesus was real. You can’t pull out a historical document written by say, Josephus, and have any record of Jesus. Whether or not Jesus actually existed doesn’t matter to me. What matters is the ridiculous claims of the Bible, which was written by men, not god. Why didn’t god write the Bible rather than relying on fallible humans to write it? The same god you protest as love is also the same god that was a brutal tyrant in the Old Testament, ordering the death of men, women and children. Not only that, but god seemed to be quite active in killing himself back in those days. He murdered his first lot of children in the flood. God should have been remorseful and regretful for creating humans. He screwed up, not us. Where did evil come from if god is so good? How could evil even exist if your god has been holy before time ever started? You’ll have to admit, your beliefs just don’t add up. There most likely is no god. No one knows for sure. You can’t say you do and be truthful.

    • The reason Jesus matters to Matt and all Christians is that if he didn’t exist it totally blows their specific religion right out of the water. It’s totally devastating to Christianity to doubt his divinity, let alone the existence of a specific man. It’s a real problem that all the words attributed to Jesus were reported by others, most of which, if not all, were not present when Jesus was alive. There is no known record of any eye witness, only people making claims that there were eye witnesses. not much to build your religion on. Not much to build your whole life on – which is what Christians claim they do, when saying Christ ‘informs’ their whole life, their whole being.

      What if Julius Caesar didn’t exist, if he was a fiction of some Roman mythology and all records about him were fake? What if that came to light? No problem. Change our historical records and move on. The Caesar forgery would be an interesting historical matter in its own right.

      But lose Jesus and you lose the biggest religion on earth. Then, if Jesus is a myth he is also a myth of a significant prophet for Islam, which with winged horses and other stuff is already looking pretty silly. All of a sudden the mass of religious belief that dominates earth means nothing at all.

      So, darned right Christians will go out of their way to ‘prove’ Jesus existed. That’s all they need. The flaky miracle stuff merely needs to be a belief ‘hoped for’, as many ‘sophisticated’ theologians put it. The flaky miracle stuff never needed to be proved anyway – simply wave your hands around and rely on excessive credibility, and the convenient difficulty of proving something didn’t happen when there is no trace that it did.

    • If you think that Jesus is a myth you are sorely mistaken and in direct opposition of every serious ancient historian.

    • It should be noted, not sure if you’re aware Trevor you may be taking this as a given, but for those at home there is *possibly* a reference to Jesus in Josephus’ “Antiquities of the Jews”. I say possibly, because although the reference itself is clear, the origins of the reference are dubious at best.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

      There are a number of problems with the reference, such as the fact that in it he says things like “He was the Messiah” and “He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life,”, which, as a Jew, he would obviously never have said. Big red flag.

      It also uses language he doesn’t use elsewhere in his writings, and breaks the flow of the surrounding paragraphs. Also other historical writers of the period, who would have certainly had access to Josephus’ “Antiquities of the Jews”, and were actively looking for historical references to Jesus, fail to mention the passage.

      Most scholars (note whenever you read “most scholars” you have to remember, the vast majority of historical scholars are christian) agree that there was *probably* a small reference to Jesus somewhere in that passage, but what that original reference was is indistinguishable now due to the heavy doctoring that is certain to have occurred.

      The question then becomes, if the historical existence of Jesus was never in any doubt and was accepted as a historical fact, as many apologists & historians claim, why did anyone feel the need to make such an obvious falsification?

      Christians have a proven history of playing fast and loose with historical documents, doctoring existing manuscripts, inventing new ones, and burning things that challenged the status quo. If you consider that the church, at a time when it was the global superpower, punished disagreement with death, and prevented common people from even looking at the bible, had sole custody of the vast majority of our historical record for over a millennium, you have to accept the inevitability that there are facts that were hidden, details that were changed, and perhaps even alternate views which never saw the light of day.

  108. All the information seems to be appealing to the masses(sinners).
    But The Fact that Jesus is Different in all aspects(sinful nature).
    It is very much appealing to His Father and to those who closely follow him(in Righteousness).
    Jesus is The KING of Righteousness and He is Ruler over all.
    He cannot be compared to that which is of sinful nature. Awesome.

  109. None of these things are really arguments that are that heavily used. The first 3 are simply appeals to consequences, which do not directly address whether or not it is actually true. I suppose the fourth one does address the truth of it, but I would have to do more research on its claims. However, we do not need to claim that the Christ story borrows from other religious figures. We simply need to point out that miraculous claims require miraculous evidence, and there is no evidence to corroborate the bible’s claims about Jesus’ miracles. There is other evidence against christianity as well, such as the fact that the genesis account cannot possibly be literally true based on what we know know about the history of the universe and evolution. We could point out how there are in fact, errors in the bible, minor conflicts between different accounts of the same events seen in the gospels, such as the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb or the counts of soldiers in battle seen in the old testament. Or the fact that Noah’s flood clearly never happened. But even if the bible were all true and the christian God does exist, I still would not worship him because I believe the Christian God to be evil. The existence of Hell, the requirement of blood sacrifice, the fact that we are made with such horrendous defects that lead to cancer, mental degeneration, and physical deformity, the fact that god created an entire ecosystem based on survival by the death and consumption of prey by predators. If we are designed, we are incredibly poorly designed, and clearly not the work of an all-loving and perfect god.

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  112. I challenge you to read from the Bible daily for 7 days for at least 50 minutes uninterrupted & I guarantee you’ll experience something real & tangible & deeper than just a mental thing. Take the challenge buddy…won’t hurt.

    • I have spent a great deal of the bible, which is part of the reason I am not an Atheist. I don’t think “real and tangible” mean what you think they mean.

    • Why 7 days? Why 50 minutes uninterrupted? Is some magic going to happen? I have spent periods reading the bible, an hour or more at a time, for more than 7 days. And I have instances where I dip into it to see if what theists claim of it is really there. It’s a book. Not that well written in many parts – though the translation has some impact on its literary value. As whole it’s a very poor story that many theists don’t try to analyse as a whole but pick and choose from in order to fit their beliefs. It’s clearly cobbled together in order to try and make a complete statement, but the sources are so diverse that it does not succeed.

      If Roman Catholics accept this mess cobbled together by committees (“OK guys, which books should we include? What do we want our Christianity to be? If there is a God then he hasn’t made that clear so we better do the job for him.”) It’s history has no more credibility than the Book or Mormon or the Scientology story – all made up by men.

  113. “Mithra wasn’t said to have been born of a virgin, but rather out of solid rock.”

    Are you implying that rock wasn’t a virgin? You sir are impugning the honor of that rock!

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  115. This is what Jesus actually meant. Don’t listen or bow to any idolaters for He (Jesus Son Of God) is the only Truth.

    • Of course, his claims make him an idol, and therefore all Christians are idolaters – as are those Catholics that make such a fuss over the ‘virgin’ Mary.

      The whole fiction is so transparent.

      The claim, “Don’t worship others. I am the only Truth” is no different from a liar saying, “Don’t listen to others telling you I tell lies. I tell the truth. Honest.”

    • An Idol is a delusion, the worship of something that does not exist as deity
      Jesus is God
      Therefore Jesus is not a delusion
      Therefore Jesus is not an Idol

  116. Hello everyone. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments as many of them have been interesting and reasonable arguments for each particular view. I will go ahead and say that I am a Christian. I’m 17 years old. My goal is to become knowledgable not only in the faith I believe (Christianity), but also understand the perspectives and arguments of others who I might communicate with. I think if we all understood and were more knowledgable about each other’s perspectives/beliefs, we would get along a little better. Im interested in learning about the following: naturalism (atheism, agnosticism, and existentialism), pantheism (hinduism/taoism, buddhism, new age, and consciousness), theism (islam), spiritism & polytheism, and postmodernism.

    I’ve read in many places, including in the above comments, that many view Christians as ignorant people who force their belief upon others. While this is true in some cases, for as many ignorant and unrealistic Christians, there are just as many Christians who genuinely just want to open up and have a discussion without any negativity or pressing our beliefs upon those with differing opinions. All I kindly ask and wish for is that we could all just understand each other a little better. Even if I have a different belief of that of an atheist, I should not demean or talk down to him. We are all humans and we’re all looking for answers.

    Having said that, I would also ask if anyone has any recommendations of books to read. Maybe books that have influenced you in your particular belief. Any history books that cover the known and proven existence of the world. And also, anyone who could recommend books for a young Christian like myself would be greatly appreciated.

    I also have a question for all of those involved in this thread. I think this is a good question for all to ask themselves.

    1. Do you have hope, and if so, what is it based upon?

    Love and grace, Clayton

    • Hi Clayton,

      As far as books go, I highly recommend:

      CS Lewis (Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain)

      GK Chesterton (Heretics, Orthodoxy)

      William Lane Craig (Reasonable Faith)

      And for fiction, Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamaov) and Hugo (Les Miserables).

      All of the above have given me a really solid foundation for my Christian worldview.

      If you’re interested in dialogue between different worldviews, I’d recommend checking out the Debate God podcasts. Dozens of free debates between leading philosophers of different faiths.

      Best Regards,
      Well Spent Journey

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