Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bill Maher, Osama bin Laden, church and state, part 3

Continuing from last time, the rest of the dialogue up to this point.


Did Jesus rejoice when peter cut off the ear of Jesus' enemy in John 18? Arent Christians supposed to be modeling themselves after his behavior?

The reason I mentioned Iran was to again point out to you as a side note that not all Muslims are Arab. When you refer to the "Arab Muslim world" It doesn't include Iran, they are Persian, not Arab. I wasn't arguing about what they are or are not ruled by. Your summary of Islam's take on democracy is also a stereotype and inaccurate and I am certain that the people fighting for democracy right now in any number of Muslim countries would debate that with you. But you don't really seem like the kind of fellow who is up for debate.

I have talked about these issues with many people, I've gone to listen to Muslim Scholars speak on the subject. How does visiting a Muslim country and speaking with them not include myself in listening to a diverse group of opinions from Muslims? I would argue that you are the one that isn't acknowledging the diversity of the Muslim community. Again in 1.5 BILLION Muslims in the world you will most certainly find diversity. I haven't argued that all Muslims are peace loving people, my point was that your generalization of most or even many (whatever that word means) is inaccurate. I am glad you are finally conceding that because the people you are talking about are actually part of a small minority of very loud people, OBL was the leader of them.

Oh wow thanks for exposing me to your "diverse" opinion that the majority of ignorant Americans hold. I've nevvvver heard these arguments before. Actually in truth I've heard them so many times that I am practically yawning while I type. The more accurate description is that I am again being exposed to someone so stubborn and determined to be "right" that he has hardened his heart and is clouding his vision with so much hate that he can't see the truth.

The fact that you are walking into a Mosque thinking that people are lying to you speaks volumes about your delusional paranoia about Muslims. The truth is that the verse you are speaking about tells Muslims they may lie if their life is threatened, and that really only refers to telling someone if they are Muslim or not.

There are many many violent verses in the Bible. Verses that we choose to ignore. The Qur'an states what is allowable if Muslims are under threat. At the time the Qur'an was written they were under attack very often. It needs to be taken into context. This is the problem with dogma is that some interpret it in the same context that it was written in back in those times. It really isnt meant to be applied that way today. You can apply the same ideas to the Bible. It doesn't sound like your bias would allow anything close to a "fair reading".

I dont buy your "chronological order" bit. A lot of Muslims aren't even clear on the chronological order or the Qur'an and they have been studying it for years.

I also don't buy that you know Islam better than scholars who have devoted their life to studying it. Quite frankly, you don't know what you are talking about, but you would love to think you do. It sounds like you are even ignorant to the teachings of your own religion let alone the teachings of one you don't even follow and have a considerable bias against.

Also I am not an scholar of Islam so I won't be getting into the "doctrine of abrogation" or any other doctrines, nor the chronological order of the Qur'an. Seeing as their are scholars of the religion who aren't even completely clear on this matter. Your arrogance has clearly clouded your vision to make you believe you are more educated on these matters than you really are. That doesn't surprise me though, usually ignorance and arrogance go hand in hand.

I am not claiming to know all about the intricacies of Islam, these issues are still out for debate even among Muslim scholars... but just to expose your ignorant broad generalizations of the people of an entire religion and culture that you aren't even that familiar with.

And actually you are claiming to know their religion better than they do if you are claiming that the Taliban's interpretation of Islam is more accurate than that of a peace loving Muslim. That is some of the most arrogant condescending comments I've ever seen. You should be proud of yourself.

I've already heard the guilt by association game people like to accuse CAIR of a million times. It is so tired. A federal judge has already taken them off whatever list they were put on by GWB and found them guilty of nothing. People love to hate CAIR because they defend the rights of Muslims and that's about it. The judge acknowledged that the accusations of them being linked to Hamas was McCarthyism and guilt by association.

There is ZERO risk. Our constitution is written in such a way that entirely prevents any legislation based on religion to ever get through. Your paranoid fantasies just simply aren't true, if they were we would be at risk of being under canon law and jewish law and any other number of religious laws. You just sound paranoid and silly. It will never happen, especially when it is just a tiny minority of nutjobs trying to make it happen. We are more in danger of the Christian taliban located in the tea party of taking away our rights than we are of Muslims trying to.

Willful ignorance in action? Take a look in the mirror my friend. I am not the one hunting for information on biased conspiracy websites and claiming it is truth. Offer me something scholarly and I might take you seriously. Otherwise you just sound like a nutcase honestly. Just the fact that you are still trying to get me to read information off of xenophobic websites speaks volumes.

John Walker Lindh is not an organized effort to overthrow America. Get real. A few crazies does not an "organized network" make.

Yes but you are accusing "most" every Muslim of wanting America destroyed, which would make every Muslim not American. Glad you are the authority on that. Sickening.

"And the Bible ***also*** mentions rejoicing to some extent in the death of enemies of the faith. It's BOTH. "
I don't seem to recall Jesus doing both.

A naked assertian of some white girl that claims to have a muslim boyfriend????? seriously? you are pathetic. You want me to show evidence???? soooooo pathetic. Well here you go (then links me to who I guess is her boyfriend's Facebook page).
I bet you feel pretty proud of yourself

Btw you are so stubborn it's obvious that no matter what I said or what Jesus even said to you, you wouldn't believe it. So it's therefore a waste of my time and I won't be engaging you anymore. Good luck in life with the hardened heart you have, must make it life tough. Maybe someday me and my "Muslim boyfriend" can take an Islam class with you.


hi Angela,

Hope you had a good weekend. Thanks for your patience as I couldn't get to this before now.

--"Did Jesus rejoice when peter cut off the ear of Jesus' enemy in John 18? Arent Christians supposed to be modeling themselves after his behavior? "

No, Jesus didn't rejoice.
Peter is, however, not the government. That matters.

--"not all Muslims are Arab"

Yes, I'm well aware of that.

--". Your summary of Islam's take on democracy is also a stereotype and inaccurate"


--" But you don't really seem like the kind of fellow who is up for debate. "

That's funny, I thought we were debating right here.

--" I would argue that you are the one that isn't acknowledging the diversity of the Muslim community. "

Or maybe I've been discussing Islam as a religion, as a system of belief, rather than only discussing what this and that person believes.
The official position of a given system is not always the same as what most of its professing adherents believe.

--"I haven't argued that all Muslims are peace loving people"

And neither have I argued that all Muslims are bloodthirsty jihadis.

--"I am glad you are finally conceding that because the people you are talking about are actually part of a small minority of very loud people, OBL was the leader of them"

Yes, a "small minority" of 1.5 billion people!
And who are willing to live consistently with the teaching of the Qur'an. That's sufficiently concerning for me to bring up from time to time.

--"The fact that you are walking into a Mosque thinking that people are lying to you speaks volumes about your delusional paranoia about Muslims."

Qur’an 2:225 Allah will not hold you responsible for your mere utterance in an oath, but he will hold you responsible for that which your hearts gained (what your heart meant). And Allah is forgiving and forbearing.
According to one of Mohammad’s daughters, Umm Kalthoum, he told her that it is okay to lie in three cases: 1) A man with his wife that she will be pleased with him. 2) or at a time of war because war is deception. 3) or to make peace between people.

Wow, that's so funny! Actual exegesis of Islamic teaching!
As opposed to what you've been giving here - your opinion based on interactions with some modern Muslims. Congratulations and all that, but like I said, the teaching of the actual religion is pretty important.

--"There are many many violent verses in the Bible."

Your ignorance of the Bible is very, very striking.
The Qur'an PREscribes violence, whereas the Bible RECORDS, DEscribes it. It's very different.

--" Verses that we choose to ignore. "

Well, verses whose context you've apparently ignored. I don't ignore them, not at all. It's just that I know what they mean.

--"I dont buy your "chronological order" bit. A lot of Muslims aren't even clear on the chronological order or the Qur'an and they have been studying it for years. "

Then the doctrine of abrogation is completely incoherent. You need to rethink.
The translator of the Qur'an I read certainly thought he knew. W/o a good reason to think otherwise, I figure he knows better than you.

Also, since you later said "Also I am not an scholar of Islam so I won't be getting into the 'doctrine of abrogation' or any other doctrines", how seriously should any reasonable person take this? Clearly you don't know what you're talking about, so your opinion is eminently dismissable.

--"I also don't buy that you know Islam better than scholars who have devoted their life to studying it. "

You mean like Muhsin Khan?
What you need to realise, and thus escape your naivete, is that "scholars" disagree on virtually everything. Playing scholar-pong gets no one anywhere a great deal of the time. There's at least a plausible reason why some of these scholars are unwilling to accept the violent Qur'anic teachings, just like numerous Biblical "scholars" neglect the passages in the Bible that make them uncomfy. It's b/c there's an agenda, and missing it for the sake of politically correct willful naivete (that would be you) is hardly commendable.

--" It sounds like you are even ignorant to the teachings of your own religion"

That's rich, from someone who didn't even know how to classify the violent passages of the Bible.
But OK, educate me - what am I ignorant about in biblical Christianity?

--"There is ZERO risk."

Except for the evidence I gave you. Your unwillingness to look at facts when they're right in front of you is astonishing.
Some risk, even if small, =/= zero.

--"John Walker Lindh is not an organized effort to overthrow America."

now you're moving the goalposts. That wasn't the original contention. Do try to pay attention.

--"Yes but you are accusing "most" every Muslim of wanting America destroyed"

Quote me.

--"And the Bible ***also*** mentions rejoicing to some extent in the death of enemies of the faith. It's BOTH. "
"I don't seem to recall Jesus doing both."

OK. And?

--" You want me to show evidence???? soooooo pathetic. Well here you go. "

And? How does this lend credibility to your claims?

--"Btw you are so stubborn it's obvious that no matter what I said or what Jesus even said to you,"

Believe me, the feeling is mutual, but the difference is that I can actually make sound arguments and you're having a great deal of difficulty in that area. You're good at emoting, though.

--"Good luck in life with the hardened heart you have"

How do you identify a hardened heart? What is the surrounding spiritual context of that?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bill Maher, Osama bin Laden, church and state, part 2

Continued from last time, another commenter decided to address me.

Ahem.. ok while you two are debating about scripture... I need to call out Rhology about something he said in his first comment.

"Bin Laden's entire mission in life was to destroy America, and he equated America with Christianity, b/c like most Muslims he never took the time to understand America.
The church did not kill OBL; America did. "

Bin Laden's mission wasn't against christianity, it was against America's foreign policy. And saying "like most Muslims he never took the time to understand America." is a generalization that many muslims I know would take offense to. (in fact, i kind of think its the other way around, America never takes the time to understand Muslims) I know Muslims born and raised in this country, does their religion make them less American than you and I? I also know muslims that immigrated here from other countries, and many of them understand and appreciate America more than we do. I just wanted to point out the problems with your broad generalizations.

Also, America may have killed OBL, but the church didnt just breathe a sigh of relief, they definitely celebrated it.

  Hi Angela! Nice talking to you.

--"Bin Laden's mission wasn't against christianity, it was against America's foreign policy."

Yes, but notice how he often referred to "the Crusaders". It is extremely common among Arab Muslims to equate America with "Christian Crusaders", leading to the conflation I mentioned.

--"generalization that many muslims I know would take offense to"

Well, I'm very glad to hear it.
But I've met far more that make that confusion than don't. And I've talked to quite a few.

--"I know Muslims born and raised in this country, does their religion make them less American than you and I?"

Depends totally on whether they want to destroy America and/or bring it under Sharia law. If so, then yes, it does make them less American. Just b/c you don't know any of them doesn't mean that some don't exist.

--"the church didnt just breathe a sigh of relief, they definitely celebrated it."

May I ask you to consider that you accused me of overgeneralisation but then overgeneralised for your own part?
I spoke out of my experience - most Muslims. Most Muslims I've talked to on this issue do make the confusion.
But "the church" in America did so? Some did, some didn't.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This is why exegesis of the Qur'an is often impossible

Surah 4:171 - O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, "Three"; desist - it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.
4:172 - Never would the Messiah disdain to be a servant of Allah , nor would the angels near [to Him]. And whoever disdains His worship and is arrogant - He will gather them to Himself all together.
4:173 - And as for those who believed and did righteous deeds, He will give them in full their rewards and grant them extra from His bounty. But as for those who disdained and were arrogant, He will punish them with a painful punishment, and they will not find for themselves besides Allah any protector or helper.
4:174 - O mankind, there has come to you a conclusive proof from your Lord, and We have sent down to you a clear light.
4:175 - So those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him - He will admit them to mercy from Himself and bounty and guide them to Himself on a straight path.
4:176 - They request from you a [legal] ruling. Say, "Allah gives you a ruling concerning one having neither descendants nor ascendants [as heirs]." If a man dies, leaving no child but [only] a sister, she will have half of what he left. And he inherits from her if she [dies and] has no child. But if there are two sisters [or more], they will have two-thirds of what he left. If there are both brothers and sisters, the male will have the share of two females. Allah makes clear to you [His law], lest you go astray. And Allah is Knowing of all things.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bill Maher, Osama bin Laden, church and state

A Facebook acquaintance challenges Christians to "try and refute this logic. Come on, I dare you", and then, irony of ironies, links to a Bill Maher video in which Maher tries to let us know that no true Christian would celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.
Bill Maher never met a logical argument he couldn't avoid, but it has led to a discussion worthy of recapitulating.


Maher is a joke. I am always disappointed to see people quoting him like he has ever had a good idea.
The Bible has numerous examples of celebrating the death of evil men who persecute the people of God, and Jesus inspired the Bible. Bin Laden's entire mission in life was to destroy America, and he equated America with Christianity, b/c like most Muslims he never took the time to understand America.
The church did not kill OBL; America did.

Maher's logic has some soundness to it; too bad he never took the time to properly define the objects of his talk. He's shadowboxing.

Rhology, as usual, I disagree. Perhaps the Bible contains examples of the people of God celebrating the death of the wicked, but God explicitly condemns this, even in the Old Testament. God is consistent throughout in his contempt for this sort of behavior. As usual, lots of people in the Bible do things that are contrary to the will of God, like celebrating the death of their enemies. But if they did, they were wrong. “As surely as I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live" (Ezekiel 18:23). There are lot of other verses. But I think you get the point. Maher is spot on, like him or not.

Rhology:  He condemns SOME of them, and in others He is in fact the voice of celebration and festivity.
So what shall we conclude? The rightness of such celebration is dependent on something other than the brute fact of celebrating/not celebrating.

He is consistent, but not in the way you're thinking. Rather, He's consistent with respect to the types of people who died and the motivations for celebrating.
Maybe engage some of the texts I'm discussing.

Maybe you could provide some texts for me to engage.


Psalm 137:8-9 (RSV):

[8] O daughter of Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall he be who requites you
with what you have done to us!
[9] Happy shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!

Psalm 2:
1Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing?
2The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3“Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!”
4He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them.
5Then He will speak to them in His anger  And terrify them in His fury

Ps 7:9 O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds.

Ps 9:4-6

4For You have maintained my just cause;
         You have sat on the throne judging righteously.
5You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked;
         You have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins,
         And You have uprooted the cities;
         The very memory of them has perished.

Psalm 10:15Break the arm of the wicked and the evildoer, seek out his wickedness until You find none.

Ps 58:99Before your pots can feel the fire of thorns
         He will sweep them away with a whirlwind, the green and the burning alike.

10The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
         He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

11And men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
         Surely there is a God who judges on earth!”

Prov 11: 10When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, And when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.  11By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, But by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.

Good, I knew you would have no trouble finding them. Google is a wonderful thing. How did we ever use bible verses to prove opposite points before Google? It must have been a lot harder before. Well, two things. First, Jesus is unequivocal in the NT. He always condemned this sort of thing. And, since he was supposed to be God, or the son of God or something like that, I guess his opinion should take precedent. Right? Oh, and secondly: You just succeeded in illuminating one of many glaring contradictions found in the OT. Kill your enemies, or care for them? Who knows? Or maybe kill some of them and care for others. But if that were the case, why not just say so? Could it be that the OT supports both points of view because it was written by lots of different people with lots of different points of view? That would explain why God seems to condemn something in one verse and then condone it later. No fancy theological acrobatics needed.

--"How did we ever use bible verses to prove opposite points before Google? It must have been a lot harder before."

Haha, to be sure. I guess we actually had to use our brains and memory back then. :-D
The book of Hebrews is all about this - the author says several times "It says somewhere" and then quotes the Old Testament. But it stands to reason - he knew it said it but didn't have any verses or chapters to identify the reference. One of those funny things.

--"First, Jesus is unequivocal in the NT. He always condemned this sort of thing"


--" I guess his opinion should take precedent. Right?"

Properly understood, quite so. He is the final authority.

--"Kill your enemies, or care for them? Who knows?"

I know, and I know that it depends on the context.
Life is complex. Unlike the biased skeptic, I recognise that the Bible can refer to numerous different aspects of numerous different topics in 2000 pages of 6-point font.


Friday, May 20, 2011

The Skeptic's Annotated Bible and an unproven contradiction

Fresh from the last post, which dealt with an alleged contradiction in the Bible, @AtheistOK tweeted the following to me:  Pick any five you like meaning, of course, that I should pick any 5 from the list to resolve.

Me: And if I do, what will you conclude? What's in it for me?
Him:  I thought you only argued for the sheer joy of disputation itself. It never actually convinces anyone, does it?
Me: Yes, it does convince people. Not incredibly biased folk such as those who take the SAB seriously, tho. And it's your move.
Him: Um, knight to queen's bishop 5
Me: Right, well, thanks for that. Unsure why you originally tweeted me, actually.
Him: I'm always unsure of that myself. I take it you aren't up explaining to ANY of the 31 Biblical contradictions, then?
Him: You can choose any five you want, I don't really care which. I doubt you can deal with any of them.
Him: Come to think of it, Rho, just pick one to start off. We can get into the details better that way.

So, I guess I'll forge ahead.
Look, though, first let me echo what JP Holding has said about the Skeptic's Annotated Bible:

Editorial commentary in the form of pictures and one-sentence comments are not arguments. SAB is the Internet equivalent to a brick wall scribbled with graffiti. It performs no analysis of the social background, the literary data, or context. It is merely "instant reaction" from an angry Skeptic, and that sort of arguing isn't arguing at all. We feel no more obliged to offer a response than they would feel obliged to respond to a preacher whose only argument was, "You're a sinner bound for hell!"...By estimate perhaps 40-50% of SAB's comments are either "argument by outrage" or places where SAB takes moral offense, usually against a cultural norm. Most of the rest are easily answered by links, and I would encourage readers to spend their time better reading other material on this site that, while answering SAB's claims, has nothing to do with them directly...Overall, almost none of SAB deserves detailed response and many cases require no more than a "So?" as a response.
Quite so.
Here's a great example. Is soteriology and the relationship between faith and works not a subject that's, you know, sort of wide and deep in the Bible?  Yet there you go!  Just throw it out there like a Catholic Answers stooge, as if context has no meaning or import. I myself have filled numerous pixels on this very topic, here, here, here, here, here, and here among many others.
I'm not saying consult with me; I'm saying consult with someone.

Here's another good example. The speaker isn't taken into account. The purpose, the context, the question asked, the surrounding situation; none of that is dealt with. None of the theology is explored, none of the prophetic portent of what it means to say that Elijah was to precede the Messiah. No exploration of the fact that John the Baptist was interested solely in pointing people to Jesus at all times, and to zero degree in any fascination with himself, or the fact that he was actually John the Baptist, not Elijah. Yet as the fulfillment, the antitype, of Elijah, it is also fair to call him Elijah.

But at AtheistOK's request, I picked out one that had me scratching my head for about an hour, so I'll delve into that one here.

Did Jesus baptise?
Yes - John 3:22
After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
No - John 4:2
Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.

So first, is it best to start off when reading an author with the presumption that he had zero short-term memory and had the intellect of a cricket? Did he simply totally forget what he wrote a few sentences above?  Why not assume the same thing of @AtheistOK?  He may protest, but that's OK - he's protesting because he doesn't remember what happened before. Fair's fair, right?

W. Hall Harris III makes an excellent point in his exegetical commentary:
So John’s disciples come to him troubled about an apparent contradiction in doctrine though the explicit problem they mention is that Jesus was baptizing and multitudes were coming to him. (Whether Jesus was or was not baptizing really wasn’t the issue though, and John knew that because he didn’t mention it in his reply. In 4:2 we are told that Jesus was not baptizing, but his disciples. That reference would seem to cover this incident as well, and so the disciples of John are just reporting what they have heard, or think they heard.)
Matthew Henry's relevant comments:
We read of Christ’s coming into Judea (ch. 3:22), after he had kept the feast at Jerusalem; and now he left Judea four months before harvest, as is said here (v. 35); so that it is computed that he staid in Judea about six months, to build upon the foundation John had laid there. We have no particular account of his sermons and miracles there, only in general, v. 1.I. That he made disciples; he prevailed with many to embrace his doctrine, and to follow him as a teacher come from God. His ministry was successful, notwithstanding the opposition it met with (Ps. 110:2, 3); mathetas poiei —it signifies the same with matheteuo —to disciples. Compare Gen. 12:5. The souls which they had gotten, which they had made (so the word is), which they hadmade proselytes. Note, It is Christ’s prerogative to make disciples, first to bring them to his foot, and then to form and fashion them to his will. Fit, non nascitur, Christianus—The Christian is made such, not born such. Tertullian.II. That he baptized those whom he made disciples, admitted them by washing them with water; not himself, but by the ministry of his disciples, v. 2
The preceding commentaries provide, in my estimation, the true meaning of the passage and a good deal of what we're supposed to take from it. That is, if we weren't so busy suppressing the truth about God that we know, for the sake of our evil desires.

Now, to prove a contradiction, the skeptic has to demonstrate that none of the proposed harmonisations to a given difficulty is sufficient. Any harmonisation that is possible means that no contradiction is provable from the standpoint of the modern reader of an old text. You weren't there, you don't know. I wasn't there either. I have a decent grasp on what is possible and what isn't possible, so though most everyone and even I might consider a certain event highly unlikely, weird stuff happens sometimes.

Given that, one more point.  New Testament Koine Greek did not contain much punctuation, if any. No quotation marks, no periods, no question? marks, no parentheses.
Here's an example image of a manuscript copy from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.
Notice how there are English sentences in there, but they all bleed together in Greek.  Thus, when translating, the translators have to place English punctuation according to what works best in English, taking the Greek meaning into account. Obviously, it's difficult, but these guys are pros.

With respect to this passage, I believe that may very well be what happened: a slight oversight by translators. Here is the text as it appears in the modern NASB:
John 4:1Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2(although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.

Here is my proposed re-punctuation, with the changed punctuation marked in red boldface:
1Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that "Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were," 3He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.

There is no way to know from the Greek text whether this is the proper English-translated punctuation or not. I would hold that it very possibly is, and that the translators simply didn't consult the SAB during their translating. I know, it was a huge oversight to not consult a shallow skeptical website, but there you go.
The message transmitted to the Pharisees by those who were reporting about Jesus' and His disciples' activities was slightly mistaken. The messengers were wrong; perhaps they saw Jesus in the water and assumed He was baptising.  Perhaps they themselves heard about it secondhand and embellished the story a bit b/c they didn't like Jesus, or b/c they wanted to tell the Pharisees what they thought they wanted to hear.

Also, it is a continuing theme throughout the Gospels that Jesus explicitly conferred His authority on the disciples, to go out and do ministry as His shaluach, His apostoloi, His sent ones.  A messenger like that at that time, when he spoke, it was as the man himself speaking. Thus, when the disciples of the Lord baptised, it's as if He Himself was baptising for it was under His watch and with His authority, though He didn't physically immerse people with His own hands.

One thing for sure - God knows all the ins and the outs of this passage, and He knows far better than I, or the author of the SAB, or @AtheistOK.  Even if I didn't have an answer for this difficulty, that is not a sufficient reason to surrender my faith in Jesus or in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. Why?  B/c bottom line, atheism reduces to utter absurdity, and if everything is absurd, trying to find the truth that the Bible is errant is absurd.  Seeking truth is absurd. You found the truth? Meh. So what?

The Bible is shown to be true again:
1 Corinthians 15:16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied...32If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I keep a rule around here that when a skeptic claims there are contradictions in the Bible, I allow 5 chances to prove it. I figure that if s/he can't get it done with his/her favorite 5, there's no reason to look any further with that person - s/he has nothing to offer.
So, with that in mind, I asked one @BeMoreCynical for evidence of his assertion that the Bible has flaws. You'll note that I tried to cut him off at the pass by asking for actual flaws.  "The Bible commands something that I find morally reprehensible" is not a flaw unless you can prove that your moral standard is correct, something which no atheist can possibly do. Much less is "The Bible records an event I find morally reprehensible" a flaw, though many, many careless skeptics make exactly that contention, and all the time.

Anyway, then @piisalie responded1Chron 1.36 The Chronicler mistakes Timna for a son instead of a concubine. (Gen 36:12)?

The conversation has now lasted quite some time, mostly because piisalie and BeMoreCynical have demonstrated their inability to understand what a contradiction is.

Genesis 36: 9These then are the records of the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. 10These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz the son of Esau’s wife Adah, Reuel the son of Esau’s wife Basemath. 11The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho and Gatam and Kenaz. 12Timna was a concubine of Esau’s son Eliphaz and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These are the sons of Esau’s wife Adah. 13These are the sons of Reuel: Nahath and Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the sons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

1 Chronicles 1:34Abraham became the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel. 35The sons of Esau were Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam and Korah. 36The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zephi, Gatam, Kenaz, Timna and Amalek.

I responded to piisalie and BMC, and a selection from our conversation follows here:
Me:  There were 2 ppl named Timna.
piisalie: But you made it up. (Edit: BMC actually said that.)
Me: U have no idea whether I made it up. Did you have anything better, or was that your best shot?
piisalie: so you assert he had both a concubine and a son named Timna?
Me: You assert that Timna was 1 person, no proof. I assert they were 2 w/ same name. Neither have proof. No contradiction.
Me: Yes, kinda like how a guy could have a wife and a male friend named Pat, or Tracy.
piisalie: both verses cite the line of Eliphaz, one has Timna as a son, one has Timna as a concubine, neither has both...
Me:  I sometimes refer to my wife and in other contexts to my friend, sometimes not both.
piisalie: you know, that argument could make sense, if we weren't talking about sacred recorded geneologies...
Me: I don't take those genealogies as necessarily exhaustive.
piisalie: so a perfect God, wrote a perfect book, with incomplete blood lines, containing names/persons to be easily confused?
Me: Sry, didn't realise " @piisalie is confused" = "untrue or contradictory". Where is that definition written?
Me:  I blv the guy who was there, not the guy 6K yrs later claiming better knowledge
piisalie: Which guy was there? The author of Genesis, or Chronicles?
Me: Both are closer to it by far than u r. Do u *know* the auth of Chron didn't have other supplement info? No, u don't.

It's mind-boggling to me that this has taken so much interest in these two tweeters' minds. By necessity, for communication to be possible with anyone, we must begin with the presumption of harmonisation for texts and speech. Otherwise, we end up deconstructing everything, and in total absurdity, for any communication or text that advocates for rampant deconstruction assumes that it itself is exempt from the deconstruction it advocates, and we know nothing, ever.

How much more must this be the case for ancient documents, when we, the modern readers/critics, are so far removed from the events that took place! We have virtually no information about the minutiæ, the specific contexts, surrounding events, and surrounding people of these textual references. If you don't want to take the authors' word for it outside of some high standard of corroboration, then to be consistent, you must deny that you know much of anything about history, even modern history.

Besides all that, for the Christian who recognises that God is really, really smart, and @piisalie and @BeMoreCynical are of evidently average intelligence, we have to weigh the priorities.  Whom to believe?  The God Who cannot lie and Who has proven His reliability over and over again and indeed predicted Jesus' resurrection from the dead and then carried it out? Or some guys on Twitter who don't realise that sometimes people have the same name?

To prove a contradiction, there must be no possible harmonisation for the texts cited. I obviously don't know with certainty whether there were two people named Timna, since I wasn't there, but it is a perfectly reasonable solution to the proposed problem. Where a perfectly reasonable option exists, no contradiction does, and that's just the way it is. I'm sure this disappoints my skeptical friends, but my suggestion is to find a better example of "contradiction".

Finally, @piisalie said something I find to be contemptible and worthy of a serious amount of discredit:
  he'll just misquote me, and mock me on his blog like the last time :P

Anyone is welcome to look over the last time @piisalie and I had a blog discussion, and I challenge anyone to find where I misquoted him.  Whether I've engaged in mockery of him personally is open to discussion, but misquotation is a serious charge. But the thing is, when @piisalie is happy to falsely accuse me of misquotation, some third-rate blogger, what level of credibility should we lend to his accusations of contradiction?

Monday, May 16, 2011

This comment was too much for The Abortion Gang

Those familiar with the abolitionist movement and other things related to the practice of human abortion may recall the controversial billboards put up for a short time in Chicago (and other places by extension).

Images like these:

Unsurprisingly, these billboards caused no small stir among those who make it their business to take issue with facts that are inconvenient or damaging to the pro-abortion position. One Dennis Byrne from the Chicago Tribune figured this out and wrote about it, which prompted a response from a blog known as The Abortion Gang, in which "Kaitlyn" plays the race card early and often.

I left a comment which they published, Kaitlyn responded, and I replied, but strangely enough, they chose not to publish my 2nd comment. One can only guess as to their motivation, why they refuse to publish intelligent and rational critiques of their position.

Here is the comment I left, which was not published:

Hello Kaitlyn,

Thank you very much for the interaction. I appreciate your time.
Also, I'd like to clarify something from my previous comment - I wasn't necessarily referring to you personally as "O Powerful Helpful White Master"; it was illustrative to achieve my point that this view implicitly treats black people like children to be taken care of their entire lives. Obviously I have no idea of your ethnicity, just as you don't know anything about me. So I hope you'll understand it for what it was.
I also hope that, in the future, if you want to accuse someone of being racist as you accused me, you'll offer some evidence thereof. It's a serious charge, so one would hope that you have some reason to say it other than some sort of knee-jerk reaction to disagreement. It's as if you're intolerant of dissenting points of view. Are you?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Le Congrès, c'est moi

Anonymous said:

You have absolutely no right to force your sense of morality on another person, nor do you have any right to force what your religious beliefs are on anyone else. If you think you do, you are no better then opressive states and regimes that force their citizens to believe a certain religion/certain world view. we live in a free and open society, let's keep it that way, lets we want to turn into the next libya, egypt, china, north korea, etc etc etc. 

I replied:

1) How do you know?
2) If the 19C slaveowner said, "you have absolutely no right to force your sense of morality on another person, nor do you have any right to force what your religious beliefs are on anyone else," would you be on their side too, or on the slaves' side?
3) If my belief that kidnapping healthy 30 year old women for ransom money is morally reprehensible is religiously-motivated, will you allow me to make my argument, or will you use this same kind of biased language to shut me up?

And those are societies largely characterised by a LACK of respect for human life and rights. That's so funny.

Anonymous replied:

I know because it's in the first amendment to the constitution, bucko. Perhaps hou (sic) ought to read it. 

By the way, since you want to basically pretend to take the moral high ground by likening yourself to a slavery abolitionist, I'll play that game.

By forcing me to be an incubator, at detriment to my physical, emotional, and mental health, and to suffer painful labor and childbirth, YOU are enslaving MY body. It cuts both ways.

I replied:

Yes, and when it's over, it's over. The unwanted use of your body is over. 
You're just giving us arbitrary reasons why you don't want to. You'd rather kill the baby than inconvenience yourself, but that's not permissible.

The 1st Amendment reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

May I ask what in that text is relevant to the question I asked you?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Picking and choosing from history

A comment I left on John Bugay's post about the similarities between Orwellian visions of rewriting the past and the way Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy rewrite church history:

And that is precisely what the practice of bestowing the title "Church Father" and "Doctor of the Church" does as well - it artificially inflates the early author of Christendom to a more exalted status, such that now Rome (or Eastern Orthodoxy, which does this just as flagrantly) can appeal back to that man as support for its Sacred Apostolic Tradition.

In reality, if you want to know what early Christians believed, it's pretty hard since we have an infinitesimally small % of people writing compared to the total population of Christians at the time, and out of those writers an underwhelming % of their writings are extant. As Steve Hays likes to say: Show me the survey data.

All this illustrates the impossibility of any rational appeal to "tradition" to found a prescription for doctrine. We must stick with God's revealed Word, not what a modern organisation picks and chooses out of history.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Conversation with madmanfred -2

My response to madmanfred continues from the Abolitionist Society blog, after my original reply to him.

First of all, though, let me note that the numerous central challenges I made to his moral authority in the last post, namely:

-- May I ask what it is, and how you know that your moral position is better than someone else's, such that you feel freedom to tell us what to believe? That you get to correct others on issues of morality? Where's your badge?
--On what basis, then, do you disapprove? What is your moral standard by which you think you can judge others?
--You're setting yourself up as an authority, judging those who commit murder.
I lack faith in your moral authority. Please give evidence that you indeed have it, and that it is correct.

madmanfred did not answer.  You'll see below that I ask the same questions again a few times, and that's because mmf is trying to deal in oughts and shoulds, but he professes to be an atheist, and atheists need to present some reason to think that moral authority actually exists before any reasonable person should consider their moral positions and statements to have any worth or meaning.  So hopefully mmf will give us something solid to chew on in his next reply.

how is it that the sperm and egg don't have one, but after "fusion" the zygote has one?

B/c God creates humans, and when He creates them, He creates them physically and spiritually simultaneously.
It's a divine act of creation.  It wasn't there all along.

"The idea of ensoulment is nowhere to be found in the Bible. The concept of ensoulment is linked with other ideas such as 'quickening' which also are not found in the Bible."

Zygotes are not in the Bible either.

There are contra-biblical ideas and there are extra-biblical ideas. Zygote is the latter; ensoulment is the former.

"Possess(ing) the Image of God" does not appear in the Bible, anywhere.

It's in Genesis 1 and 9.

In Genesis, God creates man in his image, but I've always taken that to mean human beings look like God.

OK, but your poor interpretation of the Bible is hardly the standard of truth.

That doesn't explain how God can look like a zygote

Which is a great reason to reject your simplistic "humans look like God" 'interpretation' of the text.

"your demonstrated knowledge of Christian doctrine was lacking. To fail to let you know about it would do you and others a disservice."

Umm, no, unless 14 years of Christian eduction went down the drain.

It wouldn't be the 1st time.
Education and credentials don't impress me. Showing some substantive familiarity with the Bible does.
And the whole "I've always taken that to mean human beings look like God" inspires even less confidence in your knowledge. It's clear this is a sore spot for you, but clearly your inflated false confidence needs to be busted down quite a bit to arrive at reality.

And your position isn't worthwhile for critique. I honestly can't take you and your delusion of special knowledge seriously. You're a fantasy fan.

Anyone can read the arguments for themselves. You're like a child standing on your daddy's lap to yell at him and slap his face and tell him he has no power over you.
I'd like you to prove that the following things to which you yourself hold aren't delusions:
-evidence exists
-your cognitive faculties reliably produce true beliefs
-other minds exist
-the external world exists

Go for it.  Otherwise I'll just throw the same stuff at you and trumpet my victory like a 7 year old.

The only thing complex about Christianity its history.

And systematic theology. Again, you show no familiarity with it.

The slaves in the South couldn't have been as badly treated as you say, because the Spanish instituted slavery in South/Central America in the 16th century, and the Spanish were very Christian.

This is not even an argument.  I have no idea what you're trying to say.
And the Spanish weren't Christian - they were medieval Roman Catholics.

God is so opposed to slavery that you have to find passages between the ones that approve of it that mumble his opposition where you don't downright twist the meaning.

Where did I claim that God is "opposed to slavery"?  The truth is far more nuanced than you've allowed with this statement.  Prove you know something about the Bible by correctly characterising the Bible's position on slavery. Thanks.

"'Nor do we have any idea what percentage of slaves were treated that well for how much time. The doctor and teachers you site might have lived hundreds of years apart.'"

"Or they might not have." 

Oh, you've checked already? You know for a fact this evidence doesn't exist? I bet it does.

Your faith is remarkable, but naked assertions are countered by naked assertions.  You bet it does, eh?

evidence exists from that very time in the surrounding Christian world that the slavery in the antebellum South was hardly the worst in the world.

Tu quoques get you nowhere.

Ah,so the price of freedom for a slave is his eye or a tooth, according to Exodus. In other words, you only have reason to free slaves if the master mutilates them

This is a tendentious mischaracterisation of the situation brought on by your neglect of the context.

Exo. 21:21 affirms that the master has the right to beat the slave to an inch of his life, as long as the slave remains alive for two days. and affirms that the master owns the slave "by right of purchase."

Exodus 21:20“If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. 21“If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.

I'd like to ask mmf:
1) You do realise that if a man does that and costs himself the slave's labor for the time of his recovery, he's hurting himself too, right?  And the slave can go free at Sabbath year.
2) And yet the slave was indeed sold into slavery to the master.  This law balances the master's responsibility to his slave and the slave's to his master.
3) What moral problem do you have with this?  How do you know your moral position is true?  I don't accept your position as Pope of Morality without some ID.

there are three Gods you worship, but you have to pretend you worship one because that one is the jealous God."
That was my description of the Trinity, Reducio ad Absurdum.

Reductia ad absurdum are supposed to arrive at the LOGICAL consequence of the position critiqued.  You've set up a strawman and thus failed badly.

The Trinity: It wasn't adopted as dogma until 325 ad.

Yes, but it's taught clearly in the Bible, which is really all that matters.

This "fact" was actually discovered by an Alexandrian Bishop's secretary, Athanasius.

No, it was revealed in the BIble and believed by Christians way before.
Read up on historical heresies - doctrine doesn't get systematised usually until the main consensus is challenged, at which point it becomes necessary to get specific and define stuff in detail.

But worshiping all three while claiming that they are one substance is meaningless

Naked assertion. Give me a reason to think so.

every Christian sect has stuck with the Trinity, including such wild offshoots as the Mormons.

????? The Mormons are possibly the most polytheistic religion in the world.  Once again you reveal ignorance.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

@DearThey criticises me

I got some feedback about my last post.  Not from the addressee, but maybe EricKincade will write back later; not everyone has tons of free time to converse on the blogosphere.
I'd like to deal with the replies from @DearThey, found here (to which tweet I asked for specifics) and then here.

@DearThey may indeed be willing to engage on a longer form than TwitLonger, so I welcome substantive interaction, as always. I would also like to offer my condolences to @DearThey on the poor health of his obviously beloved grandfather. Let me switch to addressing @DearThey (aka Julian Finn) directly.
Julian, death is an enemy, a horrible adversary that is coming for us all. For some, it comes at the end of a long and rich life like your grandfather and my step-grandfather who died 3 weeks ago. For others, it comes suddenly, without warning, after a long life, or a medium life, or a short life. And if atheism is true, it doesn't matter. Death is the way the natural order works, for life forms. Nobody will remember anything you've written in 1000 years. Will they remember you in 100 years? Perhaps. Will they who remember you in 100 years remember much of anything about you, and will they think of you except in passing once or twice a year, as memory fades, crowded out by other sad and happy memories and pressing concerns of life? Where will your accomplishments be then? Crumbled into dust.

This is the thing about the debate between atheism and Christianity - just b/c atheism reduces to utter, total, empty meaninglessness does not mean Christianity is true.  It simply means that, if atheism is true, it does not matter whether atheism is true. It may matter to you but so what? Personal fantasies don't exist in the real world, and that includes fairy tale ideas such as "meaning", "value", and "this matters".  No, it doesn't matter, and I challenge you to show me evidence it does.

Now, you seem not to understand what I mean by "atheism"; perhaps you missed my comment in my last post, so I repeat it here: atheism (by which I mean any system, such as naturalism or materialism, that is atheistic)...
You need to defend your own atheistIC worldview from my critiques and show how they don't apply.

You said:
But since atheism is merely a refusal to believe in extraordinary claims that carry no evidence, it's "truth" is not in question

That's a strange thing to say. Of course we can question whether the negation of a claim is true! We do so by examining whether the claim is true.
Surely you would not claim that we can't examine whether Holocaust deniers are correct in their denial?  After all, they could simply respond as you did: But since Holocaust Denial is merely a refusal to believe in extraordinary claims that carry no evidence, its "truth" is not in question.

You said:
Any argument stemming from the logical fallacy that atheism is some sort theory that can be proven or disproven

A little logic is a dangerous thing; you need more.  Specifically, here I'd like to know which law of logic was violated in considering atheism a sort of theory.

You said:
you seize upon his question regarding the existence of sin and, instead of answering it directly, you first take shots at the tired old chestnut of atheism lacking an objective morality

Tired old chestnuts can be tired and old b/c they've been beaten up so many times, b/c they keep picking fights with stronger, better opponents, and that's the case here. Please present your case for objective morality, on your atheistic worldview.
Warning - in the interest of saving everyone a lot of time, let me tell you in advance what I'll do once you do. I'll ask "Why should I or anyone else believe that?" In other words, I'll ask for evidence, and I'll ask for authority on your part to foist that on anyone and everyone else. Where are your morality badge, your Pope of Morality papal mitre and sceptre?  Who says? You? Who are you to tell anyone else what to do and what to believe?

Now, imagine that once you answer those questions, I ask them again. Do that about 5 times in your reply, and then let's see where we are.

You said:
then answer with a verbose equivalent of "we see as through a clear glass darkly,"

I honestly don't know what this means, so I'll have to ask you for a direct quote where you think I did so.

You said:
which is hilarious since the provable existence of sin must be of utmost import to all Christians

You may have forgotten that EricKincade granted from the beginning the Christian set of presuppositions. We don't claim sin is "provable" in the way you probably mean it, ie, scientifically and empirically. No big deal - plenty of things are unprovable by and inaccessible to empirical science, including the very existence of evidence and the very scientific method itself.
Rather, we believe in sin b/c we believe Jesus, and Jesus' central mission was to seek and save sinners. Our information is divine revelation, in the Bible and in the person of Jesus.

You said:
Arguing against the specifics of your opponents framed issues is the worst form of intellectual laze

That's precisely what EricKincade tried to do, so I appreciate that we can at least agree on his intellectual laziness.
But since a major part of philosophical discourse on the academic level is performed on precisely that level - arguing against the specifics of opponents' framed issues - I think I'm not very inclined to accept the word of some unpublished blogger on that kind of thing. At least, not w/o an argument, rather than the naked assertion you offered here.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

EricKincade of and his utter failure

One of my abolitionist friends wrote a reply to a letter to the local student paper, and it was published here.
One EricKincade of showed up to post quite a long series of replies in the combox, and so I'd like to engage with his points here, since getting comments published in their comboxes is sketchy and inconsistent, often with long delays from submission to publication.

For me, it's easy to see that all religions are man-made.

1) For me too, save one.
2) And of course, that one most certainly includes human interaction.
3) It's easy for me to see that atheism (by which I mean any system, such as naturalism or materialism, that is atheistic) is man-made.

Sin is a man-made concept as well.

Notice the naked assertions.  Hopefully this will not be the pattern.

people do good and bad things but where is the proof that sin actually exists?

He has written out the Christian definition from the beginning.
I simply ask: on atheism, people do things but where is the proof that good and bad actually exist?
Presuppositions are fundamental and essential in these kinds of questions. If Christianity is true, sin is lawlessness, breaking the law of the Creator. If atheism is true, there is no good or bad at all. Actions simply are.
There's no neutral ground on this kind of question. It's not as if "sin" or "good and bad" can be empirically tested by some scientific means. Asking for evidence for such comes dangerously close to a serious category error, and that is easily seen when one asks for the evidence that good and bad exist.  What does bad taste like? What is its molarity and atomic weight? Where is it found and what studies have been performed on it?

If God made man, then I have specific difficult questions that should be actually very easy to answer.

Alright, I'll be happy to engage them.
Remember - he's granting from the outset that God made man. So from here on out, as long as he's asking these questions, I'm standing on the Christian platform, with Christian presuppositions, to answer. No fair importing (or smuggling in) atheistic presuppositions.

If you are a Christian and you are afraid to read this, I submit that your religion is in the business of mind control.

Well, sort of. Jesus is Lord, and His lordship includes everything, including human thought. And well it should, for Jesus created humans, the capacity for thought, souls, and brains. Before I knew Jesus, my mind led me to death and destruction, exactly like Romans 8 says:
 5For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But now that God has given me a new heart, one that is pleased to know and love Jesus such that I have real life on Earth and eternal life forever after, why would I run after vain things such as self-fulfillment and the lusts (for money, pride, power, fame, money, sex, and other gratification) that previously controlled me?
See, it's not as if man is free and then submits himself to slavery to Jesus. No, man is a slave to something at all times - either to sin, death, and the devil, or to Jesus.  One or the other.  Eric won't recognise that, but remember that he granted Christian presuppositions in these questions already. He is a slave to sin, death, and the devil, but he won't admit it, and I don't expect him to outside of Jesus' influence in his life.

Your religion does not want you to think for yourself or question the truth claims your religion makes.

Sort of true that "my religion does not want me to think for myself" - my utmost desire is to be "destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Mostly false that "my religion" doesn't want me to question. Question away! That's what this whole blog is about, but there's a difference between questioning and stubborn doubt, when one has received the correct answer but doesn't like it at some level and so refuses it for selfish reasons.

Religious leaders and their followers typically claim that criticizing their beliefs are a social taboo.

1) I believe that is a foolish modus operandi, so I stand with Eric in critiquing this poorly-conceived practice.
2) The actions of some -ists hardly constitute conclusive proof that the -ism is false anymore than Stalin's murder of tens of millions of his own citizens prove atheism is false.

“Don't argue about religion, lest you offend someone.”

An argument much more prominently found in the mouths of the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center anymore, used to suppress the free speech of Christians. The irony is rich.

if I say that Zeus is my God, Christians laugh at this. However, when we change the word "Zeus" to "God", then all bets are off, now it's true. God is a real god.

1) Yes, quite. God is the real god: "For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens" (1 Chronicles 16:26).
Jonah 2:8 Those who regard vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.

2) Does Eric believe that counterfeit bills mean that real dollars don't exist?

The Christian proof that their belief is true is based on their faith.

Hardly. See my sidebar: "SOME GOOD ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM"
So far, we see that Eric has engaged some pretty poor representations of Christianity.  It's too bad; I know they're out there, but at the same time it would be great if Eric could engage some knowledgeable Christians and respond to them.

If all believers of all faiths are proving what they are saying is the absolute truth because of their faith, then isn't it obvious that all religions are false?

If all believers of all scientific theories are proving what they are saying is the absolute truth because of their faith, then isn't it obvious that all scientific theories are false?
Rather, it could be that one of them is true and the rest are false.

believers are simply saying that because I believe in something, this means it's true.

I haven't heard anyone say that in quite some time.

When adults have an invisible friend, we call this religion. Who is crazy? The adult with the invisible friend or the adult without an invisible friend?

1) Yet the Bible does not present God as an "invisible friend".  Not even close.  He is the Creator, the Uncaused Cause, the necessary being.
2) Crazy is a statistical anomaly. Atheists are far and away the minority throughout world history.
3) Crazy is thinking that nothing acted on nothing for no reason at no time and everything sprung out of nothing.
4) God is not only invisible. He has made Himself known visibly, in the person of Jesus Christ.  Just b/c Eric hasn't seen Jesus doesn't mean anything.

They can't come back from the dead tell us we were wrong. In religion, it's always later.

Christ came back from the dead to tell us we were wrong. In Christianity, it's already done.

Religion at its core divides people.

1) Yet atheism is responsible for more deaths in a much shorter time period than "religion".
2) Disagreement about all sorts of things divide people.
3) Is Eric sure that division is bad? How does he know?
4) This fulfills Jesus' prophecies quite well:
Matthew 10:34“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35“For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.
John 15:18“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

You have to believe to join.

1) Why would Eric want to join a church?  Is he complaining about that?
2) Does Eric oppose the academic elitist expulsion of, among others, intelligent design theorists from universities?  After all, you have to believe to join - that's what the Darwinian caste says.

why would anyone believe that an all wise god would create such an organization?

For the same reason He does anything - ultimately for His glory. To save a people for His own possession, to show His love and mercy to sinners.
Eric seems to be trying to correct God, but did he offer an argument, or just his own unsupported opinion?

why didn't their god have the foresight to inspire the writer's of the Bible so it would be filled with timeless morals and ethics which would apply to any culture in any time period of human history and written in such a way, that nobody could ever misinterpret the Bible?

He did, but without a specific argument from Eric as well as an alternative moral standard, I'm afraid this is merely vacuous chest-thumping.

why didn't their god simply write and publish the Bible himself?

Shrug. It pleased Him to incorporate human cooperation in the carrying-out of most everything.

And why don't religious texts have the wow factor one would expect from a god?

Only the biased God-hater can look at Jesus' life, death, and resurrection and come away saying "Meh. Show me something under a microscope; now THAT'S cool!"
Again, no argument. Eric is just expressing his bias.

Where are equal rights and human rights in the Bible?

1) Eric doesn't prove that equal rights or human rights are morally good. He just posits it, w/o argument.
2) Galatians 3:26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Why aren't slavery, racism, genocide, rape, war, religious terrorism, terrorism, the mutilation of children, child abuse, child labor and the repression of women's rights denounced as immoral in the Bible?

1) He hasn't read all the way to the end.  ALL sin and evil is denounced, and will be destroyed finally, when God decides.
That's the point of the Cross - if He gave us all justice, we'd all be in Hell.  Rather, He is working through this historical narrative so as to save some.
2) Notice how he assumes these things are bad, as if on atheism anything is objectively bad. He needs to make some argument, at some point, but hasn't so far.

first off, this is compulsory love. Is this such a wise thing to insist upon? What if you don't like your neighbor?

Luke 6:31“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33“If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34“If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

How do you love all your neighbors?

1) On atheism, love does not exist. I defy anyone to show me how it does and how it is meaningful in any way.
2) Not I, but Jesus in me. I can love b/c Jesus first loved me (1 John 4).

many people can't even love themselves or their loved ones. Divorce is 50%

Notice the incoherency to which he's descending at this point.  It's just a mishmash. Eric is a poor man's Eddie Tabash - ask tons of simpleminded questions in the apparent hope that the Christian can't possibly get to ALL of them.

I'm certain you don't agree with the Bible regarding many of its teachings about sex. And you shouldn't.

1) Again, no argument.
2) And yes, I do agree with all of it.
3) He goes on to mistake description/historical narrative with prescription/commendation. His neglect of the context is rivaled only by his ignorance.

The verses people misquote to condemn gay sex have nothing to do with homosexuality and here's why. Consider this single Biblical text that was used for centuries to condemn masturbation:

???? What remote relevance does this have?  Onan was having sex with a WOMAN, and pointedly refused to give his brother's family offspring, though that was his responsibility. Where is Eric going?

For Jewish text writers, a man sleeping with another man was an abomination.

What a foolish and ignorant thing to say.  The Genesis 38 text even says why the Lord killed Onan! It's totally different than Eric's throwaway comment.

I always ask my Christian who I meet in this question: What year did science discover that it took a sperm and an egg for conception to occur?

I always reply to such bizarre questions with: What possible relevance does this have to whether Christianity is true?  Eric doesn't tell us.

Which is why everyone (who read the Bible or heard about this from the Bible) before 1843 thought that "spilling the seed" was killing someone.

I'd like Eric to name just one person who thought that.
Never mind "everyone". Just one name.  One.

What makes something moral?

Great question, on atheism. I'd love Eric to answer.
Here's Christianity's answer.

Something is typically moral when it increases the human well-being of others.

1) Typically? HOw does Eric know?
2) What is well-being but a circular self-reference?

On Heaven and hell - Once they die, they can't sin anymore

That is a speculation that is extrabiblical, and I'm free to reject it.  Where is Eric's argument?

The Bible proposes that finite sin equals infinite punishment. Where's the justice?

1) On atheism, justice does not exist.
2) Finite sin against an infinitely holy God is an infinite injustice.
3) The Bible doesn't tell us that the lost in Hell stop sinning. My guess is they keep sinning unto eternity, cursing God all the more now that God has removed His common grace that they had in life (and yet they even cursed God in this life).
4) God has poured out justice on Jesus on the Cross so that the repentant may escape justice and gain eternal life and grace. Eric doesn't seem to care about that, and that's as sad as it gets.

why does anyone have to go to hell?

B/c God is the Lord, He has a law, and He does not tolerate rebellion and lawlessness forever.

Why not come up with an entirely new religion that has no resemblance to any previous religion?

Why start over when the Old Testament religion was always intended to be fulfilled by Jesus?  Eric needs to read the Epistle to the Hebrews.

. Why would anyone want to believe in a religion or belief system which devalues our humanity?

1) I didn't want to believe in Jesus. I was given a new heart to believe. I hated the evidence and Jesus Himself, and now the evidence is far too substantial to dismiss.
2) B/c Jesus' salvation of sinners is that much better when they're wretched.  May Jesus be glorified!

John 3:26And they came to John (the Baptist) and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” 27John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28“You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30“He must increase, but I must decrease."

Nonreligious message - We get our morals from ourselves.

There are so many reasons why this is false and imaginary.

Science says, if we don't know, let's find out. Science says, if we don't know, we are okay with this. Religions says, we know. See the difference?

1) Science never says "we know"?
2) Where is Eric's argument that his way is better?  He never gave one.

Well, all of that and EricKincade has left us no better off. Just a massive bloviation of ignorance and poor reasoning.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Conversation with madmanfred

Over at the Abolitionist Society blog.

Hi mmf,

Please allow me to respond to some of the things you've said here.

atheists generally don't have to be told to do more homework about Christianity when talking to Christians.

I'm not sure it's an issue of "missing" something; rather, ASO and John Wesley noticed (as did I) that your demonstrated knowledge of Christian doctrine was lacking. To fail to let you know about it would do you and others a disservice.

it isn't like we're unbelievers because we don't know enough.

Well, in your case, I'm sorry, but we can't know whether that is true. You clearly don't know enough to properly critique our position.

Nor do we have any idea what percentage of slaves were treated that well for how much time. The doctor and teachers you site might have lived hundreds of years apart.

Or they might not have. I think all sides need to recognise where there's ignorance, and to speak nondogmatically in those cases. That includes your own accusations.
OTOH, it's important to remember that you have 1) law, and 2) how people actually behave. OT slavery had a much better situation in the case of 1) than the antebellum South, but we abolitionists know all too well that 2) is going to often turn out badly b/c people are sinners.

Sorry, pre-civil war slavery was exactly like the institution practiced under Christianity for 1800 years. 

That's just an assertion w/o an argument, even though evidence has been presented to demonstrate this is untrue. Please interact with the arguments already given.

The quotes you cite are hardly call for a massive uprising to free the slaves.

Did an abolitionist claim that they did call for that?

Ah,so the price of freedom for a slave is his eye or a tooth, according to Exodus. In other words, you only have reason to free slaves if the master mutilates them

This is a tendentious mischaracterisation of the situation brought on by your neglect of the context.

I don't see the general call to equalize the classes based on it

1) Who said anything about "equalising the classes"?
2) You apparently don't see it b/c you haven't yet engaged the biblical evidence we've brought fwd. Until you do, this convo can't move fwd.

NONE of these quotes are antislavery.

Then why were they such a self-consciously integral part of the abolitionists' destruction of slavery?

they weren't fighting atheists, heathens or Jews, they fought other Christians,

1) Simply taking the name "Christian" doesn't make you a Christian any more than saying "Moo, I'm a cow" makes you a cow. 
2) Christians can be wrong about stuff. 
3) Non-Christians who fake the name of Christ can also be wrong about stuff.
You're criticising the PEOPLE, and nobody here would argue that ppl aren't sinful. What you need to show is that our POSITION is wrong.

God freed his “chosen people” from Egypt and then immediately allowed them to take slaves of their own...he also didn't demand that Pharaoh free all of Egypt's slaves of any nationality.

Yes, that is correct. You seem to evince a moral problem with that. May I ask what it is, and how you know that your moral position is better than someone else's, such that you feel freedom to tell us what to believe? That you get to correct others on issues of morality? Where's your badge?

atheists did well in a survey

I'm afraid I don't see why anyone should care about that. We're not talking to all atheists right now; we're talking to YOU. THe fact that you have demonstrated an insufficient knowledge of CHristianity is undeniable, so appealing to this survey doesn't help that.

No, the Trinity is not complex. It's fiction. 

Naked assertion.

I could explain it in one sentence: there are three Gods you worship, but you have to pretend you worship one because that one is the jealous God. 

Would you like it if we willfully mischaracterised your position as being alchemy? That you believe that values turn into their opposites, that nonmoral matter produced moral beings, that nothing produced everything when nothing acted upon nothing, that you evolved from a rock?

I don't have to study its apologists anymore. I think I can write their books for them.

You're way down the road on your ego trip at this point, but you're way off. It's sad, really - your hatred of Jesus is showing so remarkably clearly. You can't even bring yourself to engage the proper position. One can only guess as to why, but it's clear you're very emotionally invested.

Please cite examples of this Christian thought and writing anytime by anyone prominent in Christianity.

We already did so from the Bible and you summarily dismissed it without an argument. Why would we think the next example would be met with anything but the same reaction?

. God also commanded his people during war to take female slaves and do exactly what Jefferson did.

If you mean rape them, that is 100% false, and I challenge you to show me where God commanded it, to Abraham or anyone else.
If you mean marry them, that is true. Marriage is an honorable state, no matter whether you as Self-Proclaimed Pope of Morality condemn it.

Whereas I could disapprove of him because I don't subscribe to the Bible as a moral guide. 

On what basis, then, do you disapprove? What is your moral standard by which you think you can judge others?

. I agree, too. Murder is immoral.

That's what I mean. You're setting yourself up as an authority, judging those who commit murder.
I lack faith in your moral authority. Please give evidence that you indeed have it, and that it is correct.

Certainly you know the Bible doesn't explain this, doesn't mention fetus' at people

Yes, it does, in Psalm 139 and Luke 1, among other places.

Nice talking to you.