11 Mar 2012

Now That He Can’t Respond, I Critique Christopher Hitchens

Religious 222 Comments

In the comments of last week’s post Major Freedom posted a quotation from Christopher Hitchens, criticizing the very structure of Christianity. I gave it a careful look because another commenter, AC, exclaimed that it was a great quote and should prove devastating to any Christian, but in particular a Biblical literalist. I have to say I find the first half of Hitchens’ assault comically bad, the second half much better. I promised the lads I would try to respond this week, so here goes… First the quotation from Hitchens:

Let’s say that the consensus is that our species, being the higher primates, Homo Sapiens, has been on the planet for at least 100,000 years, maybe more. Francis Collins says maybe 100,000. Richard Dawkins thinks maybe a quarter-of-a-million. I’ll take 100,000. In order to be a Christian, you have to believe that for 98,000 years, our species suffered and died, most of its children dying in childbirth, most other people having a life expectancy of about 25 years, dying of their teeth. Famine, struggle, bitterness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years. Heaven watches this with complete indifference. And then 2000 years ago, thinks “That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene,” and the best way to do this would be by condemning someone to a human sacrifice somewhere in the less literate parts of the Middle East. Don’t lets appeal to the Chinese, for example, where people can read and study evidence and have a civilization. Let’s go to the desert and have another revelation there.

This is nonsense. It can’t be believed by a thinking person. Why am I glad this is the case? To get to the point of the wrongness of Christianity, because I think the teachings of Christianity are immoral. The central one is the most immoral of all, and that is the one of vicarious redemption. You can throw your sins onto somebody else, vulgarly known as scapegoating. In fact, originating as scapegoating in the same area, the same desert. I can pay your debt if I love you. I can serve your term in prison if I love you very much. I can volunteer to do that. I can’t take your sins away, because I can’t abolish your responsibility, and I shouldn’t offer to do so. Your responsibility has to stay with you. There’s no vicarious redemption. There very probably, in fact, is no redemption at all. It’s just a part of wish-thinking, and I don’t think wish-thinking is good for people either. It even manages to pollute the central question, the word I just employed, the most important word of all: the word love, by making love compulsory, by saying you MUST love. You must love your neighbour as yourself, something you can’t actually do. You’ll always fall short, so you can always be found guilty. By saying you must love someone who you also must fear. That’s to say a supreme being, an eternal father, someone of whom you must be afraid, but you must love him, too. If you fail in this duty, you’re again a wretched sinner. This is not mentally or morally or intellectually healthy.

And that brings me to the final objection – I’ll condense it, Dr. Orlafsky – which is, this is a totalitarian system. If there was a God who could do these things and demand these things of us, and he was eternal and unchanging, we’d be living under a dictatorship from which there is no appeal, and one that can never change and one that knows our thoughts and can convict us of thought crime, and condemn us to eternal punishment for actions that we are condemned in advance to be taking. All this in the round, and I could say more, it’s an excellent thing that we have absolutely no reason to believe any of it to be true.

Now that we’ve read it in the full context, I’ll go through bit by bit:

Famine, struggle, bitterness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years. Heaven watches this with complete indifference. And then 2000 years ago, thinks “That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene,”…

What worldview is this? It certainly isn’t Christianity. A Bible-believing Christian thinks that God from the beginning sought a personal relationship with His children. He appeared to them personally many times, and sent numerous prophets and leaders such as Moses, Joshua, and David. He rescued them from slavery and delivered them a Promised Land. He gave them an excruciatingly precise list of rules for living, accompanied by draconian punishments. (Surely today’s atheists know this; they mock the rules every other day on Facebook.) Then finally, He sent His Son who summarized the essence or Spirit of those laws in His teachings. It wouldn’t have worked to send Jesus right away, because humanity wasn’t ready for him. The Old Testament had to come before the New Testament.

Hitchens could have said, “Why God would cater to one fickle group of humans, amidst all his other alleged ‘children,’ for such a long time–even according to the timeline of the Bible–is never explained. What a sadistic God, who coddles some of his children and condemns the rest to persecution or even genocide.” That would have at least had a passing relationship to what Christians actually believe. But instead Hitchens thought it would be easier to mock his opponent by attributing to him a worldview that no Christian believes.

This happens a lot. Suppose I actually were in a live debate with Paul Krugman and said, “Dr. Krugman, let me get this straight: According to you, the US government never had a responsibility to run a deficit–through wars, depressions, bank panics, etc.,–and then, in 2009, with the inauguration of The One, all of a sudden you wanted a $1.5 trillion deficit?” Now if I had said that, it wouldn’t render Keynesianism correct, but boy even my fellow Austrians would wonder what the heck I was doing.

And yet, when it comes to an atheist assault on Christianity, Hitchens can describe a worldview that has absolutely nothing to do with what his opponent believes, and his fans run around quoting it and wondering aloud how any Christian could possibly respond. Isn’t that odd?

Let’s move on:

And then 2000 years ago, thinks “That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene,” and the best way to do this would be by condemning someone to a human sacrifice somewhere in the less literate parts of the Middle East. Don’t lets appeal to the Chinese, for example, where people can read and study evidence and have a civilization. Let’s go to the desert and have another revelation there.

Here again, the more I read this particular passage, the more astounded I am. Is Hitchens now claiming that God screwed up by not getting the written word involved in His plan to spread His message? I’ll just point out that the best-selling book in human history came out of what Christians believe God did 2000 years ago.

OK, let’s not focus so much on that single word “literate.” Let’s be fair to Hitchens and distill his general point. He is saying that if God really wanted to convince people, He would have sent His Son to appear to much more credible people. After all, one of the main objections modern agnostics raise is, “How can I trust a bunch of stories written down by common folk 2000 years ago?” Here are some responses:

(1) Notice that it contradicts Hitchens’ first objection. Remember, Hitchens can’t understand why God allowed people to suffer for 98,000 years, before deciding to send Jesus. Then, a mere few sentences later, Hitchens can’t understand why God didn’t appear to people who could have credibly documented Jesus’ life and feats. So just notice that if God had satisfied Hitchens’ first objection–by appearing to Stone Age savages–then God couldn’t have satisfied Hitchens’ second objection. A lot of times these contradictory demands of what God ought to be doing are voiced by different atheists, but in this case they come from the same one, and in the same paragraph.

(2) In my “Landsburg vs. the LORD” post I tried to show how God has tapped on all sorts of mechanisms to reveal Himself to us, and the modern atheist systematically rules them all out of bounds. For example, here’s something that should be right up Hitchens’ alley: An alleged miracle occurring in the 20th century, with thousands of eyewitnesses, and even reporters (who could read and write!) present. Now does the modern atheist go and investigate these claims carefully, to see if there is a God after all? No, of course not. He knows that is obvious balderdash.

(3) There are plenty of “faith healings” reported all the time, today, in societies where people can read, write, and perform experiments to detect subatomic particles. Do today’s atheists spend a lot of time hunting down the doctors involved–who say “I have no explanation, it was a miracle that that guy’s tumor went away”–and making sure nothing miraculous actually occurred? Of course not. They know there’s no evidence of modern medical miracles, because science tells us these things don’t happen. (Note: I’m not even saying I personally believe in the “Miracle of the Sun” or a lot of the reports of faith healings, etc. But my point is that Hitchens and currently living atheists are fooling themselves if they think they would rationally believe in Christianity, if only Jesus had come in 1930 and performed His miracles then. No, people today would be dismissing the “myths” written down 80 years ago.)

Finally, let me address the part of Hitchens’ critique that I personally thought was very good (i.e. the most difficult to answer):

To get to the point of the wrongness of Christianity, because I think the teachings of Christianity are immoral. The central one is the most immoral of all, and that is the one of vicarious redemption. You can throw your sins onto somebody else, vulgarly known as scapegoating. In fact, originating as scapegoating in the same area, the same desert. I can pay your debt if I love you. I can serve your term in prison if I love you very much. I can volunteer to do that. I can’t take your sins away, because I can’t abolish your responsibility, and I shouldn’t offer to do so. Your responsibility has to stay with you. There’s no vicarious redemption. There very probably, in fact, is no redemption at all. It’s just a part of wish-thinking, and I don’t think wish-thinking is good for people either. It even manages to pollute the central question, the word I just employed, the most important word of all: the word love, by making love compulsory, by saying you MUST love. You must love your neighbour as yourself, something you can’t actually do. You’ll always fall short, so you can always be found guilty.

So to repeat, I think this final excerpt I’ve quoted is indeed a good critique of Christianity. I have trouble with it myself, and so do plenty of people who go to Sunday school every week. I don’t have a glib answer, but here are some observations:

==> Although it’s not an outright contradiction, Hitchens’ paragraph above does contain two objections that sort of cancel each other out. On the one hand, Hitchens is complaining that God demands the impossible of us. On the other hand, Hitchens complains that God allows Jesus to satisfy His demands on our behalf. So one way to interpret that is Hitchens’ approach: God is a tyrant who is impossible to please, and at the same time who is a moral monster and doesn’t hold people accountable for their actions. Or, we could interpret it the Christian way: God is infinitely just and so tells us the way to live a perfect life, but He is also merciful and knows we could never do it on our own. So, He became a man Himself in order to accomplish it on our behalf.

==> There’s a strain in Hitchens’ comments that I find quite often in the loud atheist camp, along the lines of, “If I took the Bible seriously, it would make God a monster. Therefore I don’t believe in Him.” Well, that’s actually not a very scientific approach, now is it? It’s akin to people rejecting quantum mechanics because they find it repugnant. I agree that it’s a challenge to Christians who claim their God is loving and good, if we could show that the Bible demonstrates God to be a sadistic tyrant. But very often I see atheists going further and thinking they’ve somehow demonstrated that there must be no God after all, since he “clearly” would have intervened in the 1940s.

==> If you are in a close relationship with someone–I’m thinking like a spouse or child–and that person truly does something wrong that hurts you, what is the best way to move forward? Assuming you want to maintain that relationship, the very best thing that can happen is that the person is really sorry about it and then…you both pretend that it never happened. If you don’t do that–if instead you carry the memory of that offense around for the rest of your life–then the relationship is irreparably harmed. If the person who wronged you can’t forget it, can’t “forgive him or herself,” then s/he will go through life wracked by guilt. That’s not “mentally or morally or intellectually healthy.” So if you at least understand what I am talking about here in a human context, then the doctrine of Christian redemption through Christ should be less foreign.

222 Responses to “Now That He Can’t Respond, I Critique Christopher Hitchens”

  1. Scott says:

    I really like this rebuttal of Hitchen’s book “god is not great.” Dr. Peterson shows one factual error after another in an entertaining manner. It starts off slow though.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKJjoWprzUI&t=3m10s

    • Steve says:

      Apart from attempting to discredit Hitchens by subtly insulting him, he really doesn’t do much to refute his arguments.

    • NateP says:

      Let’s amend the basic premise of Hitchens’ argument, so it truly comports with a mainstream Christian worldview, as Bob desires, but doesn’t even attempt to do.

      The Christian can CLAIM that God has manifested himself to mankind throughout the whole of human history, not just through Jesus. Fine. But the evidence of history shows that most of the OT is mythical, including all of Genesis, and most of the rest of the Pentateuch. All but the most conservative biblical scholars will assure you that Noah is fictional, Abraham is fictional, and Moses leading the Jews from Egypt has not a shred of historical evidence. So where is the first place where we can say we have EVEN SOME evidence of historicity?…probably with King David. David is conventionally dated to around 1000BC.

      Does changing Hitchens’ figure of “2000 years” to 3000 years really change much for the thrust of the argument? I’ll go one further. Let’s just grant (despite evidence) that Moses and his tales are true. Rabbinical tradition dates him no earlier than 1500 BC. But let’s say we can assume that the interaction with God was real and authentic in the time of Moses as well (I’m being quite generous to do so, by empirical and historical standards)…but for the sake of argument…that gives us 3500 years of God going out of his way to interact with humanity, in ways that modern humans can learn about and appropriate into believe. What is 3500 years out of 100,000 years (both generous estimates)? It’s 3.5%, meaning for 96.5% of the history of homo sapiens, Hitchens argument holds true. BOB, where’s your response to this actual issue?

      Or would you actually counter by saying, “No I refuse to believe that God’s interaction with mankind started somewhere in the middle of that history. I trust that God’s revelations of himself started at the same time that humanity started.”? If you are saying this, then your position is outright laughable. Why? Because such an assumption has no evidence to support it, and all the evidence of literary and archaeological evidence runs against it. Yes, humans have had beliefs in deities since as far back as we can research….but this does not argue for the revelation of Yahweh, or the Father of Jesus Christ, or whatever term you prefer to use for the Christian God. In fact, ancient religions argue against the revelation of a specific God called Yahweh. It doesn’t disprove that Yahweh is real, but it at least proves that Yahweh wasn’t being particularly clear about his identity during those eras, and he was allowing a ton of bloodshed over which territorial god was the true god. Couldn’t that have been avoided if Yahweh staged a “burning bush” moment many centuries earlier? Why did he wait until Moses to reveal his specific identity? THIS is the thrust of Hitchens’ argument. We could add a further element, and ask why did God wait until 2000 years ago to ATONE for sins if that was so critical? But that’s a corollary question. For now let’s stick with the burning bush as the proposed moment where Yahweh definitely revealed himself, in a way that could feasibly end the confusion that the rest of the world was dealing with. If we generously date the burning bush to 3500 years ago, how do account for the remaining NINETY-SIX PERCENT of human history???

  2. Gene Callahan says:

    I’ve only gotten through the first paragraph, but it is absolutely idiotic so far, and displays a kindergarten level of understanding of the subject he is addressing.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Gene, well, it gets better.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      What is “idiotic” about the first paragraph?

      • Gene Callahan says:

        One idiotic thing: The 98,000 years is a complete red herring. Even if total Biblical literalist thinks humans existed for thousands of years before Christ. It makes no difference to the problem exactly how many thousand!

        Another idiotic thing: Let’s say you are drowning in a rough sea. You call for help. I rush to put together the rescue team, prepare the lifeboat, radio the Coast Guard. Then, preparation done, I push out to sea. You respond, “Oh, gee, only now do you suddenly care about my plight!”

        The Christian view of the Old Testament is that it is a description of that preparatory period. This is absolutely standard stuff, held across every single Christian denomination I have ever encountered. It is taught in first year Sunday school. So Hitchens “critique” is at the level of, “Riiiight: if there earth was spinning, we would all be thrown off of it!”

        • Major_Freedom says:

          One idiotic thing: The 98,000 years is a complete red herring. Even if total Biblical literalist thinks humans existed for thousands of years before Christ. It makes no difference to the problem exactly how many thousand!

          Why not? Why does it not matter that 98,000 years passed before God intervened in the form of Jesus, or 98,000 less 1500 years before God intervened in the form of Moses, or 98,000 less 4000 years in the form of Noah? Max is 6000 BCE.

          If Hitchen’s argument is that such a long period of time requires a God to be indifferent for that long, then of course the length of time matters.

          Another idiotic thing: Let’s say you are drowning in a rough sea. You call for help. I rush to put together the rescue team, prepare the lifeboat, radio the Coast Guard. Then, preparation done, I push out to sea. You respond, “Oh, gee, only now do you suddenly care about my plight!”

          Is that your idiotic thing, or is that Hitchens’ idiotic thing? Because that’s not what Hitchens is saying. He is saying 98,000 years of people dying and suffering in rough seas before God intervenes and puts a stop to it and telling them what’s what so that they can avoid it, not single human life events like a person in rough seas being saved within their lifetime.

          The Christian view of the Old Testament is that it is a description of that preparatory period. This is absolutely standard stuff, held across every single Christian denomination I have ever encountered. It is taught in first year Sunday school. So Hitchens “critique” is at the level of, “Riiiight: if there earth was spinning, we would all be thrown off of it!”

          What you call the “preparatory period” is what Hitchens referred to as being incredibly long by human life standards, which is the standard you’re stuck with as a human. That’s many, many, MANY generations of people who were born and then died without having any knowledge of the Christian God. Sure, you can be slippery and say the OT God is still relevant, but that only gets you an additional 3500 years or so. That’s still over 90,000 years. You say the years don’t matter, but the length of time is Hitchens’ point. You can’t refute it by simply denying it is relevant. You have to address God waiting 98,000 years. Remember, Christians believe people can’t get into heaven without Jesus, so Christians have to explain why God would spend 98,000 years before making Jesus appear, and if you’re into the OT, then you have to explain why God waited 98,000 less 4,000 years.

          98,000 years is a lot longer and contains many more ABSENCES of being rescued, than someone in a rough sea being rescued within their lifetimes.

        • Chris says:

          “Preparatory period”? You sound like Stalin! Do you realize how callous this dismissal of all those years sounds?

    • Jim Matisi says:

      What a complete coward. Not only are the arguments infantile and base, but they don’t dispel the truth of Hitchens statements at all. It’s obvious why he would wait until one of the greatest thinkers of modern times passes away before presenting this drivel. Hitchens would have knocked him on his ear, but really, a response isn’t even necessary.

  3. joeftansey says:

    Hnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggggggg painful

    “What worldview is this? It certainly isn’t Christianity. A Bible-believing Christian thinks that God from the beginning sought a personal relationship with His children.”

    So your hypothesis has to be that for 90,000 years or something, God interacted with all of mankind in a meaningful way, but it just wasn’t written down until 2000 years ago? Talk about unfalsifiable…

    “It wouldn’t have worked to send Jesus right away, because humanity wasn’t ready for him.”

    ?!?!??!?!?!?!?!??!? THEY MURDERED HIM

    Okay. Whatever. Psychoanalyzing people who lived thousands of years in the past. Got it. Another unfalsifiable hypothesis.

    “The Old Testament had to come before the New Testament.”

    Okay. Unfalsifiable hypothesis #3. Please tell me how I would go about debunking this. Like what kind of logic or facts would convince you you’re wrong about this?

    “Is Hitchens now claiming that God screwed up by not getting the written word involved in His plan to spread His message?”

    No Bob. He’s saying that the Chinese would have been able to record events AS THEY HAPPENED instead of hundreds of years later through word of mouth, or whatever. He’s also saying that they had a better concept of what counts as evidence and would have been less likely to be duped.

    “Notice that it contradicts Hitchens’ first objection. Remember, Hitchens can’t understand why God allowed people to suffer for 98,000 years, before deciding to send Jesus. Then, a mere few sentences later, Hitchens can’t understand why God didn’t appear to people who could have credibly documented Jesus’ life and feats.”

    It’s an “Even If” argument. “Even if” you don’t buy his first objection, you can still buy his second though they may be mutually incompatible.

    “Now does the modern atheist go and investigate these claims carefully, to see if there is a God after all? No, of course not. He knows that is obvious balderdash.”

    This really has nothing to do with Hitchens’ claim about Christianity. You’re just bringing up an old argument you think you won so you can try to score an irrelevant victory. It does nothing to answer Hitchens’ complaint that god intervenes in a completely arbitrary and sub-optimal fashion.

    “No, people today would be dismissing the “myths” written down 80 years ago.)”

    And again, modern day miracles are a red herring, but I wonder what you’d say about the people who die horrible deaths because they rely on faith-based healing. Can that count as an anti-miracle? What would?

    Why is it that these little pieces of evidence count FOR the existence of God, but LITERALLY NOTHING can disprove him? For every person you see documenting a miracle, I bet there’s like 10,000 people dieing horribly for no reason. What if it were 100,000? 10^6?

    “Assuming you want to maintain that relationship, the very best thing that can happen is that the person is really sorry about it and then…you both pretend that it never happened.”

    But I can totally deal with all the times I lied and worked on Sunday. I’m a big boy. Most people aren’t murderers either, so they probably wouldn’t be wracked with guilt for dissing their parents when they were teenagers. This is a total non-issue for 99% of the human race.

    “If the person who wronged you can’t forget it, can’t “forgive him or herself,” then s/he will go through life wracked by guilt. That’s not “mentally or morally or intellectually healthy.””

    More unfalsifiable psychoanalysis… And if I found out there were a god who cared that I worked on the Sabbath, I would probably have permanent anxiety going through life knowing that the cosmos is that f*cking neurotic about how I live my life.

    And anyway, you didn’t rebut Hatchens’ argument. You basically just said “well it would damage the relationship with god if he didn’t forgive and forget”. But that’s utilitarian. The moral argument says that if you do something wrong, it’s all on you. So are you really saying God cares more about his (patronizing) relationship with us so much that he’s willing to mass-absolve human kind from moral responsibility?

    • Drigan says:

      Why are you trying to falsify these things? They aren’t hypotheses, they’re simply Christian Truth. They aren’t meant to be falsifiable, but you have to know them if you are to understand the Christian world view. They are the bounds of the argument. You can argue outside these bounds, but to do so will be to disprove something other than Christianity. If you wish to argue against Christianity, you must argue within these bounds.

      “He’s saying that the Chinese would have been able to record events AS THEY HAPPENED instead of hundreds of years later through word of mouth, or whatever. He’s also saying that they had a better concept of what counts as evidence and would have been less likely to be duped. ”

      I can agree that the early parts of Genesis could be argued against this way, (I’m not sure that this is a necessary concession, but it hardly seems worth arguing to me) but by the time you get to Jacob and his sons, you should have reliable written evidence . . . Governments are really good at recording laws and edicts and such, and Joseph was kindof central to several of those from Egypt. Then there was a period spent in Egypt as slaves . . . after that point in time, everything was pretty reliably chronicled.

      If you care to dispute the veracity of those stories, no problem . . . they don’t have to be *literally* true until you get to the actual life of Jesus. (But you won’t understand Christian customs if you don’t at least understand the stories . . . Things like Jesus being called ‘The Lamb of God’, covenants, oaths, sacrifice, looking up to something raised on a pole for salvation, rooting evil out of your life, having ‘princes’ of your religion with one primary supplicant, giving mercy to those who ask for mercy rather than exterminating them . . . these are all explained in the OT, and their purpose is only revealed in the NT.)

      “For every person you see documenting a miracle, I bet there’s like 10,000 people dieing horribly for no reason.”

      The reason this doesn’t count to a Christian is because according to the Christian world view, *no one* lives or dies for no reason; even if they lived and died before Christ, or “without any revelation from God”. (Had to put that in quotes, because the Christian world view says that God is revealed in the hearts of all people, even if they choose to ignore it.) The *primary* reason anyone lives is to learn enough about themselves and God to determine if they wish to be with God (Heaven) or eternally separate themselves from God. (Hell) According to the Christian world view, Hell is not a place God sends you . . . where you have no choice in the matter, but rather a place where you *choose* to go (based on your actions and choices in this life) to get away from God. You don’t make this choice entirely at your death, but rather every moment of your life. If you always try to do as a loving father would want you to do, then I daresay you’ll get to Heaven and have a pretty painless judgment, regardless of whether you become Christian or not . . . but I also bet that if you did this, you would become a Christian.

      It all boils down to choice. Do we choose to serve truth, beauty and goodness that we don’t always understand and like, or do we choose to serve ourselves? If we always strive for the true, good and beautiful, we will not always do what *feels* right. Losing a friend because they choose to do what we know is wrong is painful. Submitting one’s will to proper authority is painful. That doesn’t make either one evil. If we choose to serve ourselves, we may enjoy particular instances of our life much more, but ultimately we’ll be poisoning things around us until we have nothing left that is untainted.

      It’s the difference between moderation and addiction. The person who takes things in moderation will never know the sheer elation of the addict, but will also never know the pain of sacrificing the good things in life because of the need for the fix.

      “But that’s utilitarian. The moral argument says that if you do something wrong, it’s all on you. So are you really saying God cares more about his (patronizing) relationship with us so much that he’s willing to mass-absolve human kind from moral responsibility?”

      While trying not to be too elitist, I have to agree with you. From what I understand, Dr. Murphy is a part of a subset of Christianity that hasn’t really been around for the full 2000 years since Christ. As such, he’s a bit more vulnerable to making arguments that haven’t been completely vetted. (I’m not claiming immunity to that for myself, but I do claim to know who has that immunity . . . getting them to weigh in on particular matters may be a different story.) According to older strains of Christianity (Copts, Orthodox, Catholics), God doesn’t ‘pretend’ but actually forgives. That’s why Jesus had to be 100% Human and 100% Divine; he had to bridge the infinite gap between God and Man, divine to forgive our transgressions, human to relate that forgiveness.

      Our transgressions matter, and their effects reverberate through space and time, affecting the lives of all those we touch. But when time ends, if we have attempted to make amends, and are truly sorry, the reverberations cease, even though their effects may last.

  4. zorkiv says:

    Dr. Murphy,

    I think you missed the point with regards to the first objection. Hitchens is addressing the theistic evolutionist’s views such as Francis Collins and the Biologos camp. You answered from a young earth perspective.

    A Christian that accepts evolution must honestly struggle with the fact that Homo Sapiens have been living and dieing for about 100,000 years. Yet the very events that you give as examples of God interacting “from the beginning” have occurred within the past 4000 years. That leaves a good chunk of time (96000 years) during which men were presumably living and dieing while God passively waited around for his big premiere with Israel (if we’re taking Abraham as a starting point).

    • Drigan says:

      As an evolutionary creationist, I really don’t see why you think that there was any time where God was passive. God says Bang, Universe starts in motion, God guides it, He cares for it, and here we are. Just because there was one society where God played a more obviously active role doesn’t mean that He was inactive elsewhere.

    • Logan says:

      After reading all the comments before this comment I thought they were all a lost cause.
      I recently watched the debate Turek v. Hitchens and I agree with the reply above. Everyone seems to be missing Hitchens point. The reason I so happen to come across this website was in search for reasonable response to the above mentioned claim by Hitchens. Yet, everyone is either intemperate, or simply missing Hitchens objection.
      Whats a Christians response to Hitchens objecting within the context in which it was asked?

  5. Dan says:

    “So your hypothesis has to be that for 90,000 years or something, God interacted with all of mankind in a meaningful way, but it just wasn’t written down until 2000 years ago? Talk about unfalsifiable…”

    I’m not sure what your complaint is here. First, the the writings of Moses are something like 3500 years old. Second, written language is somewhere between 6000 and 8000 years old (those numbers are off the top of my head so could be off but I think they are pretty close). Finally, should we see a written account of God before writing existed?

    BM: “It wouldn’t have worked to send Jesus right away, because humanity wasn’t ready for him.”

    J: “?!?!??!?!?!?!?!??!? THEY MURDERED HIM
    Okay. Whatever. Psychoanalyzing people who lived thousands of years in the past. Got it. Another unfalsifiable hypothesis.”

    Are you familiar with the prophecies that Christians believe Christ fulfilled from the Old Testament? You don’t have to do a lot of psychoanalyzing to realize that it might have been helpful to give people the will of God, prophecies for the coming of God on earth, etc. before you inact that plan. I’m not sure why it would be hard to believe that if God existed he might decide to build from the ground up.

    BM: “The Old Testament had to come before the New Testament.”
    Okay.

    J:Unfalsifiable hypothesis #3. Please tell me how I would go about debunking this. Like what kind of logic or facts would convince you you’re wrong about this?

    This just seems silly. Why would it make since to have the New Testament either before or without the Old Testament. I again turn you towards the prophecies that Christians believed Christ was fulfilling. Kind of hard to fulfill prophecies that nobody heard about.

    • Paul Schneible says:

      @Dan

      “First, the the writings of Moses are something like 3500 years old. Second, written language is somewhere between 6000 and 8000 years old (those numbers are off the top of my head so could be off but I think they are pretty close)”

      Yeah, Joe’s estimate was clearly pretty loose, but this point does not help you. There was, conservatively, a 2500 year period between when writing was invented and when there is any reference to the Judeo-Christian God. For thousands of years, and all over the world, people have been writing about all other sorts of “divine experiences” that are not compatible with the Christian God. But only one of primitive civilizations was having genuine encounters with the divine, and the other ancient religions are attributable to psychological and cultural explanations, right? It’s not a complicated argument: understand why you do not believe Muhammad was not God’s prophet and you will understand why I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

      “Finally, should we see a written account of God before writing existed?”

      No, Joe is saying that it’s BS to talk about what experiences humans had before there was an possibility of recording it. There’s no evidence for or against any such claims.

      “Are you familiar with the prophecies that Christians believe Christ fulfilled from the Old Testament? You don’t have to do a lot of psychoanalyzing to realize that it might have been helpful to give people the will of God, prophecies for the coming of God on earth, etc. before you inact that plan.”

      But God only gave that wisdom to a random tribe in the Middle East, along with a lot of other “wisdom” about not eating shellfish, killing witches, and why mutilating your penis is a great idea. He could have given it to a more advanced civilization like the Chinese, but for some reason he just really liked the Jews.

      And, of course, ancient prophecies couldn’t be self-fulfilling or retroactively altered. This only applies to the prophecies of every other religion.

      And how do you know what God’s motivations were at all? He’s omniscient, right? That’s how you deal with the needless, horrible suffering of innocent children, isn’t it: he has an incomprehensible divine plan.

      “J:Unfalsifiable hypothesis #3. Please tell me how I would go about debunking this. Like what kind of logic or facts would convince you you’re wrong about this?

      This just seems silly. Why would it make since to have the New Testament either before or without the Old Testament. I again turn you towards the prophecies that Christians believed Christ was fulfilling. Kind of hard to fulfill prophecies that nobody heard about.”

      He didn’t literally mean that the New Testament could come before the Old Testament. They would be named awfully strangely in that case, wouldn’t they?

      What he meant was that there is no possibility of supporting the original claim that, “It wouldn’t have worked to send Jesus right away, because humanity wasn’t ready for him.”

      Well, less than 100,000 people knew about the Old Testament by the time Jesus came around. Judaism was not a popular religion at the turn of the first millennium. I don’t know what the Old Testament did for the majority of humanity.

      And why should this even have to be so? Why did God have to do it a certain way? He’s God, he should have been able to do it any which way. Even if it was true, there’s no way we could know what humanity was “ready for” thousands of years ago.

      The key to these historical arguments is make them as vague and unfalsifiable as possible. If you expect an atheist to rebut your claims that certain historical “events” in your religion actually happened, you should be willing to address the historical claims of the thousands of other religions besides your own. Before you start with your story, you should give me a reason why I should be listening to you instead of the people who say I should be worshiping Allah, Shiva, the Master Juba, or whoever.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Paul Schneible wrote: No, Joe is saying that it’s BS to talk about what experiences humans had before there was an possibility of recording it. There’s no evidence for or against any such claims.

        Right, so you agree with Dan and me that Christopher Hitchens was engaging in total BS when he said that for the first 98,000 years, God was completely indifferent to what was happening on Earth?

        • Anonymouse says:

          “…Christopher Hitchens was engaging in total BS when he said that for the first 98,000 years, God was completely indifferent to what was happening on Earth…”

          The Christian view is that those who don’t believe in Jesus go to hell. So, what about all the people who lived and died in the 98,000 years before Jesus was allegedly born. Perhaps your god was not completely indifferent, but did it send all those people to hell?

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Anonymouse wrote:

            The Christian view is that those who don’t believe in Jesus go to hell. So, what about all the people who lived and died in the 98,000 years before Jesus was allegedly born. Perhaps your god was not completely indifferent, but did it send all those people to hell?

            Anonymouse, I am not claiming I have a solid grasp of how this works, but Jesus clearly implies that plenty of Old Testament giants are in heaven. For example the rich man without a name is burning in hell, and asks Abraham to warn his brothers (who are still alive) that they need to repent to avoid his fate. So Jesus’ story is talking about something else, but it’s interesting to note that Jesus took it for granted that Abraham was in heaven, even though he presumably never said, “I accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”

            • Anonymouse says:

              “…Jesus clearly implies that plenty of Old Testament giants are in heaven.”

              So, belief in Jesus was NOT necessary to get into heaven. Presumably, one could get into heaven through obedience to god. What function, then, did Jesus serve?

              • Matt Flipago says:

                Jesus was both the sacrifice and a necessity for the union of heaven. His dual nature was a necessity is a neccesity for communion with God.

                And obviously a teacher too. Most Christians believe that you do not need to know Jesus to get into heaven. Jesus is necessary for there to be a heaven though, even for the Immaculate Mary.

              • Anonymouse says:

                “Jesus was both the sacrifice and a necessity for the union of heaven. His dual nature was a necessity is a neccesity for communion with God.”

                Not according to Bob, who said, “plenty of Old Testament giants are in heaven”.

                “Most Christians believe that you do not need to know Jesus to get into heaven.”

                I like the sound of that, but Bob disagrees.

                “Jesus is necessary for there to be a heaven though”

                How could Jesus be necessary for there to be a heaven when there was a heaven before there was a Jesus?

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Anonymouse wrote:

                How could Jesus be necessary for there to be a heaven when there was a heaven before there was a Jesus?

                Anonymouse, I’m not sure what you mean here. If you’re saying, “Jesus didn’t even exist until the year 1 AD,” then that’s not the Christian view.

                Christians believe that Jesus is God. So therefore Jesus existed before anything else was created.

                And this isn’t simply a syllogism on my part, where I say, “Ah! The Trinity tells me Jesus equals God, and since God created everything, therefore I deduce that Jesus must have created everything.”

                No, I can go much further and quote to you, for example, the opening verses of the gospel of John which say:

                1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend[a] it.

                (In case it’s not clear, John is referring to Jesus here as the Word.)

                Jesus Himself–in a statement that struck the Jewish rulers as blasphemy–said that He had existed from the beginning (Jn 8: 48-59):

                57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
                58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
                59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple,[n] going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

                To be clear, I’m not here arguing, “Hey I can quote Bible passages at you, so therefore Christianity must be true! Can’t you guys read?!” That’s NOT what I’m saying.

                Rather, I am pointing out that your objection doesn’t work, because you have misconstrued the Christian position. And to show that, I’m quoting things from the gospel accounts (both from John, in this case) to show that this is pretty standard stuff.

              • Anonymouse says:

                “I am pointing out that your objection doesn’t work, because you have misconstrued the Christian position.”

                OK, that makes sense. But the broader point is that those who submitted to the will of god already got into heaven, so what function did flesh-Jesus serve?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Christians believe that Jesus is God. So therefore Jesus existed before anything else was created.

                If Jesus always existed, then how could he have been “BORN in Bethlehem”? How could he have been “crucified, DEAD and buried, and descended into hell, ROSE again on the third day”?

                Wouldn’t it be more accurate for the Christian to say that God always existed, and then introduced himself in the form of Jesus the man and Jesus the immortal spirit thereafter?

                This is consistent with both John 1 and John 8. John 8 for example can be interpreted as God speaking through Jesus, which then appears as Jesus saying “I have seen Abraham”. The “I” can be interpreted as God.

                Only if God is ONLY Jesus can I see your position making sense.

            • Anonymouse says:

              By the way, I just read the passage from Luke you linked to, and came across this:

              “[The rich man in hell] cried and said … ‘send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’”

              How do you square the above with your “Hell has nothing to do with torture” argument?

        • Paul Schneible says:

          Yes, I think that’s fair. Hitchens doesn’t have a basis for saying that God wasn’t involved in the lives of those people, and you don’t have a basis for saying that he does. Besides archeological evidence that isn’t very informative on this topic, we don’t have much of a basis to determine what people’s experiences were like tens of thousands of years ago.

          I think that Hitchens might have been assuming that Christians believe that God explicitly was not involved in human affairs until the time of the Old Testament. If that were the case, then it would raise some questions, but as you said I don’t think there is any reason Christians should have to accept that view.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Paul Schneible wrote:

        The key to these historical arguments is make them as vague and unfalsifiable as possible. If you expect an atheist to rebut your claims that certain historical “events” in your religion actually happened, you should be willing to address the historical claims of the thousands of other religions besides your own. Before you start with your story, you should give me a reason why I should be listening to you instead of the people who say I should be worshiping Allah, Shiva, the Master Juba, or whoever.

        I’ve tried doing that in the previous post, and somehow my argument was transformed by Major Freedom et al. into, “I picked Christianity because it was popular.”

        I have a very clear explanation for why I think Christianity is more plausible than, say, belief in Zeus. And I said I don’t know enough about Islam to say what I think about it. Buddhism, Confucianism, etc. could all very well be “true” in the sense that they hit upon elements of the divine, and ways of living properly, but of course I don’t think they have the complete picture since they omit Jesus.

        • Paul Schneible says:

          @ Bob Murphy

          I will look into your previous posts on historical evidence.

          I would not seriously debate with you that Christianity is not more plausible than ancient paganism. It obviously is more plausible. But the same cannot be said for many other religions: Islam, Buddhism, and Confucianism being good examples as you mentioned. You cannot simply reject them on the basis that they omit Jesus and you think that Jesus is essential. That would be like me rejecting them because they reject naturalism and I think naturalism is essential: it’s begging the very thing in question. Just as I have to have some justification for not believing in these religions to be an atheist, you need some justification for not believing in them to be a Christian. You’re not in a much better spot than I am: you have only one less religion to justify rejecting and there are thousands. So just as you can see why you don’t consider it particularly important to check all of those religions and make sure they’re not more plausible than what you currently believe, you can see why I feel the same why about your religion in particular. That’s the point I’m driving at.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Is it possible for someone to be an atheist and at the same time “hit upon elements of the divine”, yet not “outside” oneself, but fully “within” oneself, in the sense of while being aware of the same thing theists are talking about, the atheist interprets and understands it as a fully individualistic and natural phenomena, rather than a collective and supernatural phenomena?

          In other words, is it internally consistent for an individual to reject all deistic religions, but at the same time accept an individualistic, natural, internal immanence, that is understood not as any cognitive understanding of an external divinity, but rather as a recognized internal presence of a natural individual “spirit”, that is of such a nature as to be a moveable barrier in front of full understanding of the ego?

          I mean, if you believe in God, then that at least requires knowledge of the concept of God, and requires the concept of God to be internalized in some way. Since atheists can at least gather some understanding of what theists are talking about when they speak of God, the atheist must at least be able to recognize and understand, and thus internalize, everything the theist is talking about, with of course the sole exception of interpreting the information differently and making a different conclusion given the information.

          Well, doesn’t that appear as though the basic “elements of the divine” are really internal to everyone who merely thinks about the concept of God, including atheists who argue with theists? Everyone is at least wrestling with the idea of God, with some making one conclusion, and others making another conclusion.

          Isn’t it strange how so much rides on that conclusion for both parties!

          I think that atheists arguing with theists is really a collection of individuals arguing over the nature of their own egos, as are all other debates.

          Intentionally or unintentionally, theists conceive of their ego as existing in some external world outside themselves, and thus interpret their ego as “God”, and thus appear to the atheist as seemingly sacrificing themselves for a “higher”, “nobler” purpose than the ego-God, when in reality they’re not.

          Intentionally or unintentionally, atheists conceive of their ego as existing within themselves, and thus interpret their ego as “Me”, and thus appear to the theist as seemingly sacrificing God for a “lower”, “less noble” purpose than the God-ego, when in reality they’re not.

          I think an individual thinking about God is just the individual thinking about the nature of their own ego. Powerful (omnipotent God), knowledgeable (omniscient God), productive (creative God), having volition (acting God), these are all attributes of the ego. This is, I think, why atheists and theists appear so hard headed to each other and to moderate atheists and theists. Their egos are just more pronounced.

          • Drigan says:

            Until you started talking about ego, the answer was ‘yes.’ However, when a person willingly submits their will to another person as their guide to the spiritual, I have trouble viewing that as ego.

      • Dan says:

        “But God only gave that wisdom to a random tribe in the Middle East, along with a lot of other “wisdom” about not eating shellfish, killing witches, and why mutilating your penis is a great idea. He could have given it to a more advanced civilization like the Chinese, but for some reason he just really liked the Jews.”

        First, I’m not a follower of any religion. I have never been a follower of any religion. I just like pointing out bad arguments. Dr. Murphy is just a lot better at debating his position, in my opinion, so I don’t go after him. I also appreciate a lot of what Dr. Murphy has said on these Sunday posts because they have corrected some of my incorrect thinking regarding religion and have given me much to think about. I have yet to find this from the atheists although coming in I would have thought they had the better chance of swaying me.

        That said, I don’t find it surprising that Jesus was born where Judaism existed. If Christianity is true, yes, I would agree that God really liked the Jews. Jesus, after all, was Jewish.

        Also, are you under the impression that only those people born in some tribe, in the middle east, 2000 years ago know about Jesus? I didn’t realize that people in China didn’t know the message of Jesus. Wait, as I type this I realize I was not born in this small tribe you speak of but I know the message of Jesus. As I think further on the matter I realize that people across the globe are Christians so God apparently did spread his message around the world. It seems weird to criticize God for the delivery of His message when the Bible is the best selling book of all time and billions of people around the globe are Christians.

        “And, of course, ancient prophecies couldn’t be self-fulfilling or retroactively altered. This only applies to the prophecies of every other religion.”

        As far as I’m concerned they could all be wrong. Doesn’t change my point though. joeftansey was complaining because Dr. Murphy said “It wouldn’t have worked to send Jesus right away, because humanity wasn’t ready for him.” Well, a lot of people were following Jesus because they followed the Old Testament and believed Jesus was fulfilling the prophecies of the Messiah. Regardless, it is weird to criticize Christians in this manner considering the success of the religion. I mean if Christianity was some religion of a handful of followers then I would agree that attacking their God’s delivery of His message would be justifiable. But when billions of people around the world follow Christianity and their Bible is the best selling book of all time then it is a tough sale to say God screwed up on this matter.

        “What he meant was that there is no possibility of supporting the original claim that, “It wouldn’t have worked to send Jesus right away, because humanity wasn’t ready for him.”

        Well, less than 100,000 people knew about the Old Testament by the time Jesus came around. Judaism was not a popular religion at the turn of the first millennium. I don’t know what the Old Testament did for the majority of humanity.

        And why should this even have to be so? Why did God have to do it a certain way? He’s God, he should have been able to do it any which way. Even if it was true, there’s no way we could know what humanity was “ready for” thousands of years ago.”

        Well, we do know that the way it all played out sure seems like a success story. I mean we might as well start critiquing Michael Jordan on his workout routine during his playing days. Are you guys seriously going to argue against resounding success? Let it sink in, best selling book of all time. If I’m going to critique Christians it ain’t going to be on how they got the word out.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        “For thousands of years, and all over the world, people have been writing about all other sorts of “divine experiences” that are not compatible with the Christian God.”

        Nonsense. Aren’t there any intelligent atheists out there who actually know anything about theological history?

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Nonsense.

          Profound and enlightening response.

        • Ken B says:

          James, Varieties of Religious Experience.

          This is weak Gene: I refute your claim by citing one of the miost famous books of the 20th century.

    • joeftansey says:

      Dan,

      “I’m not sure what your complaint is here.”

      That Murphy is relying on an unfalsifiable hypothesis. Since there was no documentation, Murphy assumes that the god must have been intervening all that time. Don’t you see how abusive an argument that is?

      “Finally, should we see a written account of God before writing existed?”

      Pictographs are cool too. But see – like Paul points out, there’s still a very large margin here. Writing gets invented T-8000 years ago, but it isn’t for another 6000 years that we hear about how we shouldn’t eat pork. Isn’t that suspicious? Unfair? Arbitrary? Why do only the yews get to hear about this?

      “Are you familiar with the prophecies that Christians believe Christ fulfilled from the Old Testament? You don’t have to do a lot of psychoanalyzing to realize that it might have been helpful to give people the will of God, prophecies for the coming of God on earth, etc. before you inact that plan.”

      The point is that God waited hundreds of thousands of years to send his son to earth. And yet clearly Christians believe that human beings had been sinning basically since day one. You objecting that Jesus need to fulfill a prophecy really only bumps back the date a generation or so.

      And YES, you do have to do psychoanalysis. Bob’s claim is that “we weren’t ready” for the son of god. HOW DO YOU KNOW???? This is special pleading. Incredible mental gymnastics to rationalize the story.

      “I’m not sure why it would be hard to believe that if God existed he might decide to build from the ground up.”

      I thought jesus could perform miracles. Why would you need a prophecy? Wait don’t answer that. I like not knowing.

      “Why would it make since to have the New Testament either before or without the Old Testament.”

      I cannot understand this sentence.

      “again turn you towards the prophecies that Christians believed Christ was fulfilling. Kind of hard to fulfill prophecies that nobody heard about.”

      No. Bob said the old testament had to come before the new testament. So his hypothesis has to be that it was NECESSARY for the OT to psychologically precondition us somehow, and that all the rules got erased (because they’re metaphysical but not really) and replaced with the NT and then jk jk jk jk no more writings. Circumcision4lyfe bro.

      I’m pretty sure culture has changed way more in the last 300 years than it ever did during the bronze age. So where’s my new commandments telling me which websites are kosher?

      • Dan says:

        “That Murphy is relying on an unfalsifiable hypothesis. Since there was no documentation, Murphy assumes that the god must have been intervening all that time. Don’t you see how abusive an argument that is?”

        No, I don’t because if God exists He created our very existence. If Christians are correct then he sent prophets and came to earth in human form to die for all our sins. It’s only an unfalsifiable position if you believe the existence of God is unfalsifiable. If that is the case, fine, but stop demanding proof for what you will never acknowledge is proof.

        “Pictographs are cool too. But see – like Paul points out, there’s still a very large margin here. Writing gets invented T-8000 years ago, but it isn’t for another 6000 years that we hear about how we shouldn’t eat pork. Isn’t that suspicious? Unfair? Arbitrary? Why do only the yews get to hear about this?”

        Billions of people around the world are Christians. The bible is the best selling book of all time. More than Jews have heard of Jesus. If Christianity is right then God’s message being spread is a resounding success story.

        As I look over the rest of what you wrote it all boils down to you believing God didn’t spread his message the way you would have, so God doesn’t exist and Christians are stupid.

        • joeftansey says:

          “No, I don’t because if God exists He created our very existence. If Christians are correct then he sent prophets and came to earth in human form to die for all our sins. It’s only an unfalsifiable position if you believe the existence of God is unfalsifiable.”

          Right. I’m asking for independent evidence that doesn’t depend upon a prior opinion god’s existence. Bob has no independent evidence, and so this is really just a complete cop-out of the issue. In fact I’d say that Bob can use this technique on virtually ANY empirical issue atheists bring up.

          >>”Well, but I know cus I believe in God that fossils were put here by god or the devil to confuse us and test our faith, but the world is really 6000 years old”

          “Billions of people around the world are Christians. The bible is the best selling book of all time. More than Jews have heard of Jesus. If Christianity is right then God’s message being spread is a resounding success story. ”

          Red herring. The issue isn’t how many people heard about it 2000 years later, the issue is HOW it was recorded. Rather than do all the miraculous stuff in a culture that would actually record it as it happened and had a better sense of what counts as evidence, god apparently chose to do it in the middle of the desert where none of it would be written down for hundreds of years.

          Word of mouth is not normally the best way to preserve facts… see Beowulf.

          I also resent you counting billions of people as christians. Do you really think they all take their religion seriously? Christianity is literally the cheapest zero-downside intellectual position for most people. Economics alone can explain why christianity is so prevalent in modern society.

          “As I look over the rest of what you wrote it all boils down to you believing God didn’t spread his message the way you would have, so God doesn’t exist and Christians are stupid.”

          Lol. Except I gave reasons why god spread his message sub-optimally. Your counterargument is basically “well that’s just your opinion man”. That’s not really a rebuttal.

          • Dan says:

            “Red herring. The issue isn’t how many people heard about it 2000 years later, the issue is HOW it was recorded. Rather than do all the miraculous stuff in a culture that would actually record it as it happened and had a better sense of what counts as evidence, god apparently chose to do it in the middle of the desert where none of it would be written down for hundreds of years.”

            Come on, quit BSing people. You wouldn’t be a Christian if it started in China. This line of attack is stupid. If only Jesus was Chinese then I could take Chritianity seriously, puhleeze.

            “Lol. Except I gave reasons why god spread his message sub-optimally. Your counterargument is basically “well that’s just your opinion man”. That’s not really a rebuttal.”

            Best selling book of all time and billions of followers around the globe. Oh wait, that’s right, your opinion is that Christians are just blowing smoke and don’t really believe what they say. Man, these are just knock down arguments in favor of atheism. You should write a book.

            >>”Well, but I know cus I believe in God that fossils were put here by god or the devil to confuse us and test our faith, but the world is really 6000 years old”

            And,

            “Oh, and christians are stupid independently of whether christianity turns out to be true. Their methodology is… “hurdur faith” or “well where did the universe come from? Must have been that bronze age diety…”

            At least Bob is making an attempt to be empirical, sort of, maybe. But I like how the not-retarded christians think that they’re immune to atheist criticism just because they’re more sophisticated than the soccer moms who do it cus they were raised that way.”

            You have nothing of substance to say. All you accomplish is conclusively showing you have very little understanding of the subject matter at hand and that you seem to have a very low opinion of Christians.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Come on, quit BSing people. You wouldn’t be a Christian if it started in China.

              LOL, well now we know why you aren’t a Buddhist, and, by implication, why you didn’t rule out Christianity.

              Too funny.

              • Dan says:

                MF, what are you talking about? Try and comprehend the meaning of what I wrote before you go and spout off. If Jesus had been from China it would have no bearing on my opinion of Christianity. My point is joe keeps complaining that Christianity didn’t start out where he thought it should’ve started out so it obviously is untrue. That is an extremely weak position and he knows full well that if it did start where he thought it should have it wouldn’t change his overall view of Christianity.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                MF, what are you talking about?

                I mean you just made an argument for why one would not become a Christian, namely, if it originated in China.

                Try and comprehend the meaning of what I wrote before you go and spout off.

                If Jesus had been from China it would have no bearing on my opinion of Christianity. My point is joe keeps complaining that Christianity didn’t start out where he thought it should’ve started out so it obviously is untrue.

                But that is not what he said. He isn’t saying HE would believe it if it did originate in China, he is asking Christians why it appeared in some backwards desert tribe rather than in a place where evidence gathering and writing were at far higher levels.

                You’re just imagining joe to be arguing that he would believe it if only it started in China.

                That’s why I responded the way I did. YOU are the one who is thinking it shouldn’t be believed if it started in China. You’re just projecting that belief onto joe as if he believes it. Since he clearly didn’t say it, it must be coming from you, not him.

              • Dan says:

                “YOU are the one who is thinking it shouldn’t be believed if it started in China. You’re just projecting that belief onto joe as if he believes it. Since he clearly didn’t say it, it must be coming from you, not him.”

                MF, I specifically said the opposite of what you just accused me of saying. It’s boring debating you over how you misinterpret what I say.

                “He isn’t saying HE would believe it if it did originate in China, he is asking Christians why it appeared in some backwards desert tribe rather than in a place where evidence gathering and writing were at far higher levels.”

                What is the implication from asking why it appeared in the middle east instead of somewhere like China? To me, the implication is that since God didn’t start Christianity in the “right” place the story is obviously not true, and if He would’ve started it in the “right” place it would make it more believable for joe. But maybe He started it in the middle east because it fricking worked. And I don’t buy for a second that it would make one bit of difference to Joe’s overall view of Christianity if it did start in China instead of the middle east. I already know that nothing will make a difference for you and I strongly suspect the same is the case for Joe. Your Bill Nye the science guy routine is tiresome based on your admittance that science couldn’t change your opinion anyways.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                MF, I specifically said the opposite of what you just accused me of saying.

                Not in your first statement. You only specifically claimed to have said the opposite after I responded.

                It’s boring debating you over how you misinterpret what I say.

                You misunderstand. I know what you were trying to say, but what you are trying to say requires an assumption that I don’t think is true or relevant, namely, what joe would have or would not have done had Christianity originated in China.

                What he said does not require you to assume that he should believe in Christianity if it originated in China, in order for his criticism to “make sense.”

                He is saying it’s stupid for Christians to believe that the one true God should reveal himself where the Christian believes he did. He is not obligated to accept Christianity if it did originate in China.

                It’s not the single thing that should convert an atheist to Christianity if the thing were different.

                It’s like someone saying it’s stupid for believers of the flying spaghetti monster to believe that it was revealed through a joke letter, and then the believers of the flying spaghetti monster retorting “Oh please, you wouldn’t believe in it with us even if it were revealed in Fatima, or China, or some place other than a letter in some US university, so stop pretending that this is a knock down argument against the flying spaghetti monster.”

                What is the implication from asking why it appeared in the middle east instead of somewhere like China? To me, the implication is that since God didn’t start Christianity in the “right” place the story is obviously not true, and if He would’ve started it in the “right” place it would make it more believable for joe.

                No see, you turned a single criticism among many, into some sort of sole issue that makes or breaks it.

                But maybe He started it in the middle east because it fricking worked.

                Joe wasn’t talking about the SPREAD of Christianity after it already went through unreliable word of mouth advertising, he was talking about the origins and the accuracy thereof.

                And I don’t buy for a second that it would make one bit of difference to Joe’s overall view of Christianity if it did start in China instead of the middle east.

                It doesn’t have to, in order to be a valid criticism.

                I already know that nothing will make a difference for you and I strongly suspect the same is the case for Joe. Your Bill Nye the science guy routine is tiresome based on your admittance that science couldn’t change your opinion anyways.

                Science is what forms my judgment. You say “science couldn’t change my opinion” as if God is a scientifically valid concept and I am antagonistic against science. it’s the reverse. I know that you are antagonistic towards science, and that nothing I can present logically can ever convince you.

                What’s tiresome is your pretensions that you are an atheist.

            • joeftansey says:

              “Come on, quit BSing people. You wouldn’t be a Christian if it started in China. This line of attack is stupid. If only Jesus was Chinese then I could take Chritianity seriously, puhleeze.”

              Right because we have OTHER arguments against christianity. But this is just one of MANY arguments about why it’s so ridiculous to believe that there is an intelligent god – he chose one of the least reliable places on the globe to spread his message. He passed over literate people who knew about evidence etc living in China. Why? Who knows. Maybe christians have an incoherent theology.

              You don’t rebut this and are just saving face with red herrings at this point.

              “Best selling book of all time and billions of followers around the globe. ”

              God. Stop with the f*cking red herrings. The question we’re raising doesn’t have to do with the RAW PROPAGATION of Christianity, it has to do with the QUALITY. I.e., and I have said this about 3 times now, that having your legacy passed down by word of mouth for a couple hundred years before it is written down is not a particularly good way to preserve its accuracy.

              “You have nothing of substance to say. All you accomplish is conclusively showing you have very little understanding of the subject matter at hand and that you seem to have a very low opinion of Christians.”

              Just taking Bob to his logical conclusions. Of course, maybe he would go there himself if he ever got around to addressing my post instead of all the low hanging fruit like MF.

              Speaking of low hanging fruit… you only addressed minutia of my original post. Good job cherry picking what you thought were the weakest points and then concluding I had no substance!

              Zzzzzzzzz

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Just taking Bob to his logical conclusions. Of course, maybe he would go there himself if he ever got around to addressing my post instead of all the low hanging fruit like MF.

                Hey now, I might hang low, but that just means I have further to go up.

                I’m here all week folks, don’t forget to tip your waitress.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                That was the best comment you’ve ever left on a Sunday post, MF.

              • joeftansey says:

                To be fair I think most of what you write is okay and I see Bob replying to your weaker arguments.

              • Dan says:

                “Right because we have OTHER arguments against christianity. But this is just one of MANY arguments about why it’s so ridiculous to believe that there is an intelligent god – he chose one of the least reliable places on the globe to spread his message. He passed over literate people who knew about evidence etc living in China. Why? Who knows. Maybe christians have an incoherent theology.

                You don’t rebut this and are just saving face with red herrings at this point.”

                Ok, so we agree that it would have no bearing on your overall position of Christianity if it originated in somewhere like China instead of the Middle East. That’s what I figured was the case.

                Also I keep giving you a reason for why God might of started Christianity in the Middle East. Namely, it fricking worked. So starting Christianity in the Middle East led to billions of Christians around the world and the best selling book of all time and you’re mad that He didn’t start it in China? Even when you admit that it wouldn’t change your opinion of Christianity if it had started in China?

                It’s not a red herring to point out the success of Christianity when you are complaining about how the message got delivered. If you were complaining about Michael Jordan’s workout routine I would be pointing out that he is regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time.

                “God. Stop with the f*cking red herrings. The question we’re raising doesn’t have to do with the RAW PROPAGATION of Christianity, it has to do with the QUALITY. I.e., and I have said this about 3 times now, that having your legacy passed down by word of mouth for a couple hundred years before it is written down is not a particularly good way to preserve its accuracy.”

                A couple hundred years before it was written down? You do realize that Christians don’t agree that the Bible was written hundreds of years after Jesus died, right?

                Also if the Bible was written as it was happening it wouldn’t change your opinion. You know this and I know this. Are you trying to argue that if something is written down after the fact it is automatically not accurate? If not, just questioning the accuracy of the Bible based on it originating in the Middle East instead of China is not a good argument.

                “Speaking of low hanging fruit… you only addressed minutia of my original post. Good job cherry picking what you thought were the weakest points and then concluding I had no substance!”

                Oh sorry, I didn’t respond to a couple of your paragraphs. So here it goes.

                “Right. I’m asking for independent evidence that doesn’t depend upon a prior opinion god’s existence. Bob has no independent evidence, and so this is really just a complete cop-out of the issue. In fact I’d say that Bob can use this technique on virtually ANY empirical issue atheists bring up.”

                List evidence that you would accept that would prove God exists. Let’s not ask Christians to provide you evidence that you’ll never accept anyways.

                “Word of mouth is not normally the best way to preserve facts… see Beowulf. ”

                The Bible isn’t word of mouth… see the Bible.

                “I also resent you counting billions of people as christians. Do you really think they all take their religion seriously? Christianity is literally the cheapest zero-downside intellectual position for most people. Economics alone can explain why christianity is so prevalent in modern society. ”

                Was that supposed to prove that Christians are lying? I’m sure Christians resent you calling them liars.

                “Just taking Bob to his logical conclusions. Of course, maybe he would go there himself if he ever got around to addressing my post instead of all the low hanging fruit like MF.”

                Yeah, I can’t figure out why he isn’t debating you. Wait, I think when you said all Christians are stupid independently of whether Christianity is true and call most Christians retarded that it might have ended your chances for a debate. Nah, insulting the guy surely wouldn’t affect his desire to debate you.

                There, did I miss any other gems of substance?

              • joeftansey says:

                “Ok, so we agree that it would have no bearing on your overall position of Christianity if it originated in somewhere like China instead of the Middle East. That’s what I figured was the case.”

                Oh man, and this is supposed to be an economics blog. It would have no MARGINAL bearing on my position. But if it were the only argument remaining against christianity, then it would.

                And I don’t see what this has to do with anything. There’s a difference between what goes into my ultimate beliefs (non-topical) and how christians choose to phrase their theology. If their phrasing is bad I get to say it’s bad regardless of what implications that has for me.

                “Also I keep giving you a reason for why God might of started Christianity in the Middle East. Namely, it fricking worked. So starting Christianity in the Middle East led to billions of Christians around the world and the best selling book of all time and you’re mad that He didn’t start it in China? Even when you admit that it wouldn’t change your opinion of Christianity if it had started in China? ”

                Are you saying it “wouldn’t have worked” if he had started it elsewhere? What about if he had sent two prophets simultaneously? Done it a little later? Had made it so that jesus himself could write?

                No no no. Jesus can have superpowers but basic literacy? No thanks.

                “It’s not a red herring to point out the success of Christianity when you are complaining about how the message got delivered.”

                I am not complaining that it wasn’t delivered far and wide, I am claiming that it was documented very poorly. Do you have a rebuttal? No? My complaint stands.

                “Also if the Bible was written as it was happening it wouldn’t change your opinion. You know this and I know this. ”

                Again, red herring. This is not a debate about my overall belief structure. It is a debate about the coherency of Bob’s theology.

                “Oh sorry, I didn’t respond to a couple of your paragraphs. So here it goes.”

                No dude. No. You’re trolling. You didn’t respond to issues in the ORIGINAL POST. This is why I wrote ORIGINAL post. Christ.

                “List evidence that you would accept that would prove God exists.”

                HOLY SHIT RED HERRING. YOU ANSWER MY QUESTION WITH ANOTHER QUESTION? THAT’S NOT ADDRESSING IT!!!!!!!!

                Divine experience obviously is sufficient.

                “The Bible isn’t word of mouth… see the Bible.”

                Oh all the books with jesus in them were written down the day after? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_reliability_of_the_Gospels#Authorship_and_date

                “Was that supposed to prove that Christians are lying? I’m sure Christians resent you calling them liars.”

                Red herring. I don’t give a damn. Most christians don’t really care about their religion beyond whatever self satisfaction they can derive from it. Do they live meagerly and donate a large portion of their income to charity? No? Hmmmmmmmmmm

                “Wait, I think when you said all Christians are stupid independently of whether Christianity is true and call most Christians retarded that it might have ended your chances for a debate. Nah, insulting the guy surely wouldn’t affect his desire to debate you.”

                LOL yeah I said other christians are retarded. Not Bob. It’s a jump to think that Bob would be offended. But okay. Whatever bro.

                “There, did I miss any other gems of substance?”

                You can’t even get the paragraphs you’re supposed to be addressing right. Why in the hell would I want you to go back and pick up more? I just wanted to point out that you were, and still are, cherry picking. For no goddamn reason.

                Inb4 more red herrings.

              • Dan says:

                joe,

                Just out of curiosity, how old are you?

              • joeftansey says:

                “What’s a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this?”

                Yeahhhh you’re a troll Dan.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Dan wrote:

                Also I keep giving you a reason for why God might of started Christianity in the Middle East. Namely, it fricking worked.

                Just to jump in here and help Dan, let’s be clear on what’s happening:

                (1) Hitchens is saying, “The Christian worldview is silly, because even if we accepted for the sake of argument their position, it means that God is a fool who didn’t choose a very effective means of getting his message out. Since Christians believe God is all-knowing, it leads us to suspect that the whole position is BS.”

                (2) Dan and I point out that judged by any metric you want, Christianity has been the most effectively spread worldview in human history.

                (3) MF, joey, et al. come back and (I think) are saying something like, “Oh sure, it was effective in convincing Joe Sixpack, but it’s not very effective in persuading scientific guys like us or Hitchens. If God wanted to have a chance of persuading *us*, he wouldn’t have performed miracles in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, instead he would’ve appeared at the most recent meeting of the American Chemist Society and given the formula for cold fusion.”

                (4) Yet MF and a lot of these folks also admit that even if the Bible were literally true, they still wouldn’t believe in God.

                (5) Hence, per their own admission, God is acting very efficiently. He scooped up billions of believers (some perhaps tepid believers, to be sure) with his evangelism, and didn’t bother with that approach on people for whom it wouldn’t have worked.

                Now a broader idea: You guys keep saying, “Why didn’t God appear to the Chinese?” Well, does it matter that Christians were able to “conquer” Constantine and then Christianity was spread (not peacefully, to be sure) with the white man as he took over the world? In contrast, the Chinese retreated into relative isolation. So why isn’t this proof that God was able to see forward in time, and know that the highly improbable thing of appearing to a bunch of fishermen in the Middle East was actually the long-run formula for success?

                Or, better still, suppose God did what seemed to be foolish to demonstrate His omnipotence? In other words, yes, a regular, mortal guy sitting around trying to figure out how to spread his message would naturally pick the best orators, writers, etc. He would go to the seat of civilization and start there.

                But God, in a demonstration of His majesty, picks the weakest of vessels to accomplish His ends. Furthermore, many Christians would argue that the reason “Western civilization” supplanted the Chinese civilization is precisely because of the influence of Judeo-Christianity. I.e. you guys just take it for granted that Jesus appeared to a bunch of “savages” in the desert, and nowadays the descendants of those savages have the most developed societies in many respects.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ok, so we agree that it would have no bearing on your overall position of Christianity if it originated in somewhere like China instead of the Middle East. That’s what I figured was the case.

                You’re missing the point. The fact that there are other criticisms doesn’t minimize the importance of the “China instead of the middle east” criticism. It’s one among many.

                You say “it frickin worked.” But what is the “it” exactly? The name Christianity, the name Jesus? Or the stories that were spread primarily through word of mouth initially, which is highly unreliable, only to then be “set in writing” in literate parts of the world thereafter?

                If the standard is spreading what actually happened, by being introduced in a place where events can be closely scrutinized, tabulated, printed, and reprinted, then Christianity is a colossal failure of epic proportions.

                It would be like saying the spread of Newtonian rigid spacetime “frickin worked” just because a flawed theory (that Einstein later overturned) spread so widely.

              • joeftansey says:

                Bob,

                “(2) Dan and I point out that judged by any metric you want”

                What about the reliability metric that you and Dan never acknowledge?

                “(3) MF, joey, et al. come back and (I think) are saying something like, “Oh sure, it was effective in convincing Joe Sixpack, but it’s not very effective in persuading scientific guys like us or Hitchens. If God wanted to have a chance of persuading *us*, he wouldn’t have performed miracles in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, instead he would’ve appeared at the most recent meeting of the American Chemist Society and given the formula for cold fusion.””

                Or like, personally appeared to us. Or something. Just not word of mouth from the desert people. Okay?

                “(5) Hence, per their own admission, God is acting very efficiently. He scooped up billions of believers (some perhaps tepid believers, to be sure) with his evangelism, and didn’t bother with that approach on people for whom it wouldn’t have worked.”

                Really. Are you really going to argue that all the people who self ID as christian really take the religion seriously?

                And yes, I’m implying they shouldn’t be counted as successful christians. If they can’t even give a small portion of their income to charity, then it means they take cheeseburgers more seriously than their theology. That’s not christian.

                “Now a broader idea: You guys keep saying, “Why didn’t God appear to the Chinese?” Well, does it matter that Christians were able to “conquer” Constantine and then Christianity was spread (not peacefully, to be sure) with the white man as he took over the world?”

                Idk where it says in the bible that mass blind belief is superior to accurate belief.

                It’s also dishonest for you to say that Christianity wouldn’t have spread as much if it were started in another part of the world. Christianity would have been a massive cultural revolution for the Chinese – middle middle middle – I don’t see world events playing out identically for thousands of years (!!!).

                You yourself admit: “Furthermore, many Christians would argue that the reason “Western civilization” supplanted the Chinese civilization is precisely because of the influence of Judeo-Christianity.”

                So why couldn’t have God had his message spread in a more accurate way?

                And if you want a broader view, it’s worth asking why doesn’t just intervene in some obvious fashion every 20 years, or give everyone personal visions (like the ones in the bible…).

                “But God, in a demonstration of His majesty, picks the weakest of vessels to accomplish His ends.”

                This is totally and completely unfalsifiable. All you do is make up stories to go along with your theology that in some twisted way justify it. It’s all so ad hoc it makes me sick.

                Can I make up stories too? Oh, I do, but you all never seem to buy them. I guess it all comes back to my stories falsifying something you already know to be true, and no amount of storytelling will change your mind.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Well, does it matter that Christians were able to “conquer” Constantine and then Christianity was spread (not peacefully, to be sure) with the white man as he took over the world?

                No. For the same reason it doesn’t matter that communism swept eastern Europe, and Asia, almost half the world’s population, in the 20th century.

                In contrast, the Chinese retreated into relative isolation.

                Oh my, did you just make the same error that so many people make against Ron Paul in calling him an “isolationist” for wanting to eliminate US war mongering overseas?

                Do you honestly believe Christianity is a “success” if it is spread through war, and that it represents a superior situation than the introverted non-interventionist Buddhists in China?

                I almost cannot believe what I am reading.

                So why isn’t this proof that God was able to see forward in time, and know that the highly improbable thing of appearing to a bunch of fishermen in the Middle East was actually the long-run formula for success?

                Well, when you set the finish line to be the arbitrary time that is your lifetime, then sure, “the long run” does seem like Christianity “succeeded” as the world’s largest religion. However, what if we consider Christianity over time into the future? What if its relative size compared to other religions falls? What if Christianity ends up being the sole religion, but believed by a declining percentage of the population?

                You’re making very shaky claims here as to what constitutes a “success” of Christianity.

                Or, better still, suppose God did what seemed to be foolish to demonstrate His omnipotence? In other words, yes, a regular, mortal guy sitting around trying to figure out how to spread his message would naturally pick the best orators, writers, etc. He would go to the seat of civilization and start there.
                But God, in a demonstration of His majesty, picks the weakest of vessels to accomplish His ends.

                And throwing your own logic back at you, if God did choose a “strong” vessel to accomplish his ends, you’d be here saying God in his majesty picked a strong vessel!

                Furthermore, many Christians would argue that the reason “Western civilization” supplanted the Chinese civilization is precisely because of the influence of Judeo-Christianity.

                And many Christians would be half-right. It’s true that the spread of Christianity coincided with growing living standards, and “supplanting” of Chinese civilization (which by the way is expected by many economists to someday supplant western civilization). My interpretation of this is not any “proof” that Christianity is “true”, but rather the morals, ethics, and worldviews of Christians is very close to an individualistic ethic, which is a prerequisite to growing living standards. Christianity is a religion which is centered on the individual’s redemption, where each individual goes to either heaven or hell through his own worth, his own reality. That is very close to the individual private property ethic, which is conducive to economic growth.

                I.e. you guys just take it for granted that Jesus appeared to a bunch of “savages” in the desert, and nowadays the descendants of those savages have the most developed societies in many respects.

                Is that BECAUSE of, or DESPITE, Christianity appearing to a bunch of savages in the desert? You’re insinuating it was because, but why not despite? After all, if we were living in 1950, then a proud German communist could say to you that Marxist communism spread “because” it appeared in lower Germany.

                You’re taking it for granted that the spread of Christianity coincided with the spread of industrialization somehow shows a factual or moral truth of Christianity, that “everything worked out”.

                But that’s a cop out.

                It would have been even better if there was another religion that spread that was even closer to individualism and individual private property ethics than Christianity.

                Maybe the original Christianity was indeed like that, but because God was stupid enough to have introduced it in a desert, a huge opportunity was lost, the original theory was lost, word of mouth took over, and the world as it exists now is much WORSE than what COULD have existed had the original Christianity appeared in China.

                Have you even considered that possibility?

                You’re approaching all of this in a very desperate, “Christianity ROCKS! The bible is PERFECT!” way, rather than in a cool, calm and collected way.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                MF wrote: No. For the same reason it doesn’t matter that communism swept eastern Europe, and Asia, almost half the world’s population, in the 20th century.

                OK MF, so let’s make sure I understand you. If I’m ever debating a Marxist in public, in addition to my points about the calculation problem, the corrupting nature of raw power, the empirical record of starvation, etc. etc., you also think it would be good for me to say, “And anyway, Marx was an idiot! If he’s the genius you guys think he was, why didn’t he choose a better method of spreading his ideas?” ?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                OK MF, so let’s make sure I understand you. If I’m ever debating a Marxist in public, in addition to my points about the calculation problem, the corrupting nature of raw power, the empirical record of starvation, etc. etc., you also think it would be good for me to say, “And anyway, Marx was an idiot! If he’s the genius you guys think he was, why didn’t he choose a better method of spreading his ideas?”?

                I wouldn’t consider it a “good” thing to say, but I will certainly not hold it against you the way you and Dan are holding the China thing against Hitchens, such that I would say something similar that you and Dan are saying: “So what, are you saying that if Marx was indeed better at spreading his ideas, you’d accept it? Oh come on, it’s not like you would have become a Marxist if he only spread his ideas better. You’d still reject it.”

                I would also not hold it against you if then said “Of course I would still reject Marxism even if his method of delivery was perfect in my judgment, but that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize his method. It’s still terrible. If he’s so awesome as so many Marxists believe, then surely he wouldn’t have been that bad in his delivery.”

        • joeftansey says:

          Oh, and christians are stupid independently of whether christianity turns out to be true. Their methodology is… “hurdur faith” or “well where did the universe come from? Must have been that bronze age diety…”

          At least Bob is making an attempt to be empirical, sort of, maybe. But I like how the not-retarded christians think that they’re immune to atheist criticism just because they’re more sophisticated than the soccer moms who do it cus they were raised that way.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        “That Murphy is relying on an unfalsifiable hypothesis.”

        So what? You seemingly rely on the hypothesis:

        “Any good hypothesis must be falsifiable.”

        Of course, THAT is not falsifiable. At least Bob’s position isn’t self-contradictory!

        • joeftansey says:

          “So what? You seemingly rely on the hypothesis:

          “Any good hypothesis must be falsifiable.””

          Hypothesis = testable explanation. This is not a hypothesis in itself. It is the DEFINITION of a hypothesis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothesis

          Can’t test Bob’s archaeological aggregate psychoanalytics
          ???
          Not a hypothesis.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Hypothesis = testable explanation. This is not a hypothesis in itself. It is the DEFINITION of a hypothesis.

            Joe, you’re missing the point. You are not just making explicit the definition of a hypothesis. You are also making a normative judgment about falsifiable statements. You are quite clearly insinuating that only falsifiable propositions are valid scientific propositions, and that non-falsifiable propositions cannot tell us anything real about the world and should be dismissed/rejected/ignored.

            To define hypothesis is one thing, but to say that Murphy is wrong because he is invoking non-falsifiable statements, is quite another. Callahan is right to point out that you are contradicting yourself.

            If you say “Only falsifiable propositions tell us anything true about the real world”, then you have to ask what kind of a proposition that quoted proposition is. In order for that proposition to be consistent, it would of course have to be itself a falsifiable proposition, wouldn’t you agree? If it isn’t falsifiable, then you have advanced a non-falsifiable proposition as true, and thus the proposition “ONLY falsifiable propositions tell us anything true about the real world” must itself be false.

            While I certainly don’t share Callahan’s position that everything humans know must be grounded ultimately on faith (he seemingly hasn’t bothered to do what he is saying you should do, which is self-reflect on one’s own position, because if he did, then he would be compelled to admit that he can’t conclusively refute atheists as being wrong, because to be conclusively wrong requires grounding on an objective standard, which would of course contradict his own position that all knowledge is grounded on faith, and not objectivity), he is nevertheless correct to say your own professed position is contradictory.

            As long as you believe that ONLY falsifiable propositions tell us anything true about the real world, which is itself a non-falsifiable proposition that must be understood a priori, then you are advancing a logically inconsistent argument.

            Only if you admit that there exists non-falsifiable propositions that nevertheless say something true about the real world, can your position be internally consistent.

            • joeftansey says:

              No. You guys are reading between lines that aren’t there.

              I’m open to falsifiable statements, but not non-falsifiable hypotheses… since a hypothesis has to be testable by definition.

              But notice I never actually SAID Murphy was wrong, because it IS technically coherent for him to say “Oh yeah I know empirical facts by my theology, sorry Joe”, but I want him to come out and say it.

              I don’t think he will because he recognizes how abusive and unconvincing such a position is.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                No. You guys are reading between lines that aren’t there.

                No we’re not Joe. You are not just making a definition stipulation. You are also making a normative declaration on what constitutes valid propositions versus invalid propositions. You CRITICIZED Murphy for advancing a non-falsifiable proposition. But why is that a problem unless you hold non-falsifiable propositions as not capable of saying anything true about the real world?

                I’m open to falsifiable statements, but not non-falsifiable hypotheses… since a hypothesis has to be testable by definition.

                It doesn’t matter what definition you are using for a hypothesis. You can’t argue someone is wrong on the basis of definitions. I can define what you call the Sun to be “A body that orks”, and make a TRUE argument about it. You can’t say I am wrong by saying that “a body that orks” is not the “proper” definition of the Sun, and you will only hear arguments about the Sun if it is defined NOT as “a body that orks.”

                The point is that you can’t say Murphy or anyone is wrong about what they say solely because their statement is non-falsifiable. If you did that, then you would be tacitly arguing that only falsifiable statements say anything true about the real world. But that is itself a non-falsifiable proposition. The proposition that humans can only ever come to know what’s true about the real world through falsifiable argumentation only, contradicts itself.

                But notice I never actually SAID Murphy was wrong, because it IS technically coherent for him to say “Oh yeah I know empirical facts by my theology, sorry Joe”, but I want him to come out and say it.

                But that is not what you said. You said you had the following COMPLAINT about Murphy’s arguments:

                “Murphy is relying on an unfalsifiable hypothesis”

                If that is a “complaint”, then that means you must have a problem with non-falsifiable propositions as such.

                That is what Callahan addressed.

              • joeftansey says:

                “You are also making a normative declaration on what constitutes valid propositions versus invalid propositions.”

                No. I said he had some unfalsifiable hypotheses, and I said they were abusive. If Murphy really wants to bite the bullet, we’ll take it from there. But I don’t think he does.

                “You CRITICIZED Murphy for advancing a non-falsifiable proposition. But why is that a problem unless you hold non-falsifiable propositions as not capable of saying anything true about the real world?”

                The strategy is to get Murphy to clarify his position, and then attack his position. If he knows empirical events a priori, then that’s something I can attack him on. But I need him to SAY that first and calling attention to his total lack of ability to prove an empirical fact empirically gets me there.

                Thinking more than one move ahead I am.

                “It doesn’t matter what definition you are using for a hypothesis. You can’t argue someone is wrong on the basis of definitions.”

                I didn’t say Murphy was wrong. The world may very well have “not been ready” for the NT. But I’m realllllly interested to hear about Murphy’s thought process on this.

                “If that is a “complaint”, then that means you must have a problem with non-falsifiable propositions as such.”

                The way Murphy is arguing is super abusive and very unconvincing. But like I said, Murphy needs to clarify himself before I can ACTUALLY attack his position.

                “That is what Callahan addressed.”

                No. Callahan thought that I had an unfalsifiable hypothesis that unfalsifiable hypotheses are wrong.

                And he’s wrong.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                No. I said he had some unfalsifiable hypotheses, and I said they were abusive. If Murphy really wants to bite the bullet, we’ll take it from there. But I don’t think he does.

                You didn’t just say he had unfalsifiable statements, you COMPLAINED that he did. Why did you complain about that if it wasn’t the notion that unfalsifiable propositions can’t say anything true about the real world?

                The strategy is to get Murphy to clarify his position, and then attack his position. If he knows empirical events a priori, then that’s something I can attack him on. But I need him to SAY that first and calling attention to his total lack of ability to prove an empirical fact empirically gets me there.
                Thinking more than one move ahead I am.

                OK, fair enough, but Callahan and I are not addressing what you want out of Murphy, we are just addressing the fact that you complained Murphy is making unfalsifiable statements. You should not complain about that, for the reasons given above.

                No. Callahan thought that I had an unfalsifiable hypothesis that unfalsifiable hypotheses are wrong.

                So you’re now saying Murphy making an unfalsifiable proposition is no longer a “complaint” of yours?

              • joeftansey says:

                Complaint =/= an attempt to falsify. Never did I attempt to falsify that the world wasn’t “ready” for the NT. His technique is abusive and requires further clarification, which I an incredulous about. That’s ALL.

                I NEVER had an (unfalsifiable) hypothesis that unfalsifiable hypotheses were default false. Callahan is wrong.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Of course, THAT is not falsifiable.

          The rare time I agree with Callahan.

          At least Bob’s position isn’t self-contradictory!

          Actually it is. God is inherently a contradictory, or incoherent (depending on the discussion), concept.

          1. God is claimed as perfectly good and that God preceded the creation of the universe. But if God was the sole entity prior to the creation of the universe, then the event of creation would have been a change from an initially perfect state. This means imperfection was introduced, and thus God performed an imperfect action. Any entity that performs an imperfect action cannot be perfect. Thus God being claimed as perfectly good contradicts God preceding the creation of the universe.

          2. God is claimed as both omnipotent and omniscient. But omnipotence is inimical to omniscience. An entity that knows everything must know it’s own future. But if it knows its own future path, it cannot deviate from it, lest it not be it’s own future, thus requiring it to not know its own future. If it cannot deviate from it, it cannot be omnipotent. If it is omnipotent, then it can deviate from any future, but that means it cannot have a single future, and thus cannot be claimed to know its own future.

          3. Omnipotence itself is incoherent. The human mind cannot reconcile infinite ability, with infinite performance. It’s the age old conception of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. God cannot coherently be regarded as capable of transcending its own self, lest we lose a grasping of the conception of God. Anyone claiming to grasp God, directly or indirectly, invariably introduces identity, and identity introduces limitation, and limitation introduces lack of omnipotence.

          There are many more than these 3.

          • Drigan says:

            1.) No, the universe is not a *part* of God, therefore its imperfections don’t influence God’s perfections.

            2 and 3.) Omnipotency has limits. God has the *potential* to do any possible thing, that doesn’t mean He *will* do anything. Omni potence means infinite capacity for possible action, not infinite action. For instance, could God make Himself non-omnipotent? No. (Although Jesus is an interesting potential counterpoint to this . . . )

            • Major_Freedom says:

              1.) No, the universe is not a *part* of God, therefore its imperfections don’t influence God’s perfections.

              God preceded the universe and was all there is, so the creation of the universe MUST have come from God, and hence the universe must be a part of God.

              2 and 3.) Omnipotency has limits.

              Omnipotence is by definition unlimited (power).

              God has the *potential* to do any possible thing, that doesn’t mean He *will* do anything.

              A power that cannot be exercised lest a contradiction arise, is not a power to begin with.

              Omni potence means infinite capacity for possible action, not infinite action.

              How can one infer the attribute of omnipotence to a being that cannot logically act omnipotently lest a contradiction arise?

              • Drigan says:

                I’m a computer programmer, put me and a computer together in a room, and I can fill the computer’s hard drive with data. That data came from me; but is it me? No. The universe came from God, but is not God.

                “How can one infer the attribute of omnipotence to a being that cannot logically act omnipotently lest a contradiction arise?”

                Quite simply; that is the practical definition of omnipotence.

              • MamMoTh says:

                How much Viagra is needed to become omnipotent?

  6. Michael says:

    I can’t speak for any other atheist, but personally, if I were convinced that every word of the Bible were literally, factually, true, I would reject it nonetheless. Of course this assumes that, for instance, Calvinism is wrong, and my rejecting or accepting it is a free-willed choice, which I don’t think is really compatible with an omnipotent, omniscient God. Ultimately, if God is omnipotent, sin does not have to exist in the first place. The “moral law” that many Christians seem to believe is not like the law of gravity, even though it is deemed “natural law”, but the difference could be erased. God could make it impossible to commit sin, such that every attempt will fail, even as attempts to violate gravity inevitably must. If this violates free will, then why not gravity? Does the fact that one cannot simply flap their wings to fly, no matter how much they attempt it, violate free will? Natural laws place limits on what can be chosen, and the same could be true in this case-but no. We are “created sick, and commanded to be sound.” Thus, I find Christianity to be repugnant, for this reason in addition to many others, including what Hitchens said.

    • Dan says:

      “We are “created sick, and commanded to be sound.” Thus, I find Christianity to be repugnant, for this reason in addition to many others, including what Hitchens said.”

      Do you find life repugnant? Also do you find laws against murder or rape repugnant? Should a mentally handicapped person be commanded to not murder people or should we give them a pass because they were created sick?

      • Michael says:

        “Do you find life repugnant?”

        Sometimes.

        “Also do you find laws against murder or rape repugnant?”

        Not on principle, but if the law were unjust in my view, it might be (making it nearly impossible to prove your innocence of rape, say).

        “Should a mentally handicapped person be commanded to not murder people or should we give them a pass because they were created sick?”

        Well the command is going to fall on dear ears when the person can’t understand. Laws already give them a pass if they lack competency. When I refer to “created sick” I’m talking about Original Sin anyway, not a disability of that sort. We’re born with Original Sin, it’s said, due to an offense that our ancestors committed (one easily prevented by God in the first place, but that’s another problem). I find the idea that you can be justly punished for what your ancestors unacceptable.

        • Dan says:

          Me: “Do you find life repugnant?”

          You: “Sometimes.”

          Could you explain further? When you say that you find it repugnant that the Christian God creates us sick and commands us to be sound, I’m not sure how that view could lead to any other conclusion than life is repugnant. Whether God exists or not we live in a world of sin. We also live in a world where we are commanded not to sin. Obviously, the definitions of what constitutes sin differ between people but it doesn’t change the fact that everywhere you go you are capable of sin and commanded not to.

          “Not on principle, but if the law were unjust in my view, it might be (making it nearly impossible to prove your innocence of rape, say).”

          So it would seem that you don’t necessarily have a problem with being commanded to be sound as long as it fits with your principles and views on justice. Correct me if I’m wrong about that.

          “I find the idea that you can be justly punished for what your ancestors unacceptable.”

          How does the Christian God punish us for what our ancestors have done? Does he not offer eternal life in heaven even to sinners? Also, what if Original Sin doesn’t mean what you believe it to mean? Theologians have pondered the meaning of Original Sin for a long time. For example, it could simply mean that before Adam and Eve none had sinned so there was no punishment for sinning. After they sinned and a punishment was now in place we are all bound to face the same punishment for sinning. Regardless of what Original Sin means I don’t understand the angst over it. I would if Christians believed that we were all doomed to hell because of Adam and Eve or if we sinned in any way but clearly that is not the message Jesus presented.

          • Michael says:

            Well, I find some aspects or periods of life repugnant, as I’m sure many people do. I can find unpleasant things exist in this world without saying it’s “sin” or believing we’re commanded not to do it. If, however, the Christian God exists, I conclude “we are created sick, and commanded to be sound.” I don’t believe it does, so that makes unpleasant parts of life less so for me.

            In terms of commanding to be sound, I’m referring to the concept of Original Sin, that we’re created fundamentally flawed, and yet told, in contrast, to not be. This demands the impossible. Now if, as I believe, we are the products of an unguided evolution, humans are still flawed but at least there is no God that could have made us better, but didn’t.

            Original Sin is punishing us for what our ancestors (in the Bible) supposedly did: eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. If you read my previous post, I’d made the point that God could have just not put it there to begin with, making an after-fact self-sacrifice unnecessary. Sin being in the world is God’s responsibility, not ours, being all-powerful. Blaming people on the level of children for touching what daddy God said not to touch is akin to blaming a child for drinking the bleach their parent negligently left out when someone else said “try it.”

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Michael wrote: I can’t speak for any other atheist, but personally, if I were convinced that every word of the Bible were literally, factually, true, I would reject it nonetheless.

      I appreciate the honesty Michael, but you can perhaps see why it’s pointless then for us to argue this stuff. I just hope you won’t (like Major Freedom) demand that I offer “scientific” evidence for my views when the above is actually your position.

      • Michael says:

        By “reject” I mean refuse to worship such a God, rather than “ignore the evidence.” One can believe something exists and not like it.

        • Anonymouse says:

          “By “reject” I mean refuse to worship such a God, rather than “ignore the evidence.” One can believe something exists and not like it.”

          Exactly. Why grovel before a tyrant? Even if the Murphian god did create the universe, it’s not automatically worthy of respect and love. And sending Mises and Rothbard to burn for eternity is certainly not worthy of respect or love.

          (And, Bob, before you remind us of your non-torture view of hell, I’d like to point out that you’ve already admitted on this page of a case where a rich man burns for eternity.)

          • Drigan says:

            Actually, it is precisely that we can choose to burn in hell for all eternity that prevents God from being a tyrant. Without Hell, there can be no free will; without free will, there is no point in our lives.

            • Anonymouse says:

              “Actually, it is precisely that we can choose to burn in hell for all eternity that prevents God from being a tyrant.”

              Your statement is devoid of logic. Only someone whose intellect is compromised by irrational faith could fail to apprehend the dissimilarity between the absence of belief and an informed decision to suffer for eternity.

              You may be surprised to learn that, in my religion, people who don’t believe in The Jigoman must spend eternity eating moldy cheese. And since you obviously don’t believe in The Jigoman, you have therefore “CHOSEN” to spend eternity eating moldy cheese.

              Utter nonsense, of course.

              • Drigan says:

                “Only someone whose intellect is compromised by irrational faith could fail to apprehend the dissimilarity between the absence of belief and an informed decision to suffer for eternity.”

                You attributed a belief to me that I never claimed, nor do I have. Belief in God in no way determines whether you will choose God or not. What it *does* do is causes people to spend more time trying to figure out whether they *want* to be with God or not, and thus they make a more informed decision upon their death. It would be like if someone is betrothed, the date is set, but they never speak to their future spouse. It would just work out more easily if you were to spend time with them first. In both cases, a marriage can work . . . but it might be easier if the people spend time learning about each other first.

                I’m not 100% certain how this works, but I believe it boils down to “we spend our lives preparing for the choice that we will make at the end of them.” That choice is then final. If you want a good view of how this works, read a short story by Steve Ray called “The Last Nightmare.” Easily googleable.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                You attributed a belief to me that I never claimed, nor do I have. Belief in God in no way determines whether you will choose God or not.

                It’s your belief that choosing to not believe is similar to, or the same as, the choice to suffer for eternity, that is being referred to.

                It would be like saying “it is precisely that we can choose to burn in hell for all eternity that prevents the Jigoman from being a tyrant.”

                You cannot see that not believing in the Jigoman is not the same thing, or is even related to, a choice to eat moldy cheese for eternity?

                If you say you don’t believe in the Jigoman, then is it justified for someone to accuse you of consciously choosing to eat moldy cheese for eternity by virtue of your disbelief?

                Now look again at what you said about choosing to not believe in God and the alleged concomitant choice to suffer for all eternity.

                What it *does* do is causes people to spend more time trying to figure out whether they *want* to be with God or not, and thus they make a more informed decision upon their death.

                Informed how? You mean the Jigoman bible?

                It would be like if someone is betrothed, the date is set, but they never speak to their future spouse. It would just work out more easily if you were to spend time with them first. In both cases, a marriage can work . . . but it might be easier if the people spend time learning about each other first.

                The difference is that a spouse can be observed, and proven to exist through empirical evidence.

              • Drigan says:

                “It’s your belief that choosing to not believe is similar to, or the same as, the choice to suffer for eternity, that is being referred to.”

                That’s not what I believe. I believe the lack of belief merely makes it more likely to choose not to be with God when they are exposed to God’s existence.

                “The difference is that a spouse can be observed, and proven to exist through empirical evidence.”

                Perhaps, perhaps not. It’s possible to not be introduced to someone, in which case there would be no empirical evidence. I was kindof assuming that was understood. Sorry for the miscommunication.

            • Anonymouse says:

              “You attributed a belief to me that I never claimed, nor do I have. Belief in God in no way determines whether you will choose God or not.”

              Fair enough, but I hope you can appreciate the irony here. Bob found his “truth” and you found yours. The only problem is they’re incompatible.

              There are a billion Christians and maybe a million versions of Christianity. Religion is much too arbitrary and subjective to be taken seriously. Truth is not a salad bar.

              • Drigan says:

                *shrugs* There are only a few claimants to Apostolic Succession. (Four that I can think of offhand, with the fourth being Anglicanism/Episcopalianism . . . but I don’t buy their claim since they teach things that the other three believe to be inherently evil.) I think Bob will move to one of the three eventually.

                It is precisely this splintering that you are referring to that disproves Protestant’s “Bible based” Christianity. If the Bible were sufficient to explain Christ, and were sufficiently easy to interpret, we wouldn’t have any disagreements, and we wouldn’t need a magisterium. I think Bob will come around to this way of thinking eventually.

                If you want to study Christianity, there are only four places you need to look. Nothing based on the Bible can be true if Apostolic succession is not. (How’s that for shooting down my fellow Christians?) ;-)

              • Anonymouse says:

                “It is precisely this splintering that you are referring to that disproves Protestant’s ‘Bible based’ Christianity. If the Bible were sufficient to explain Christ, and were sufficiently easy to interpret, we wouldn’t have any disagreements…”

                Amen.

                “Nothing based on the Bible can be true if Apostolic succession is not.”

                I like the sound of that.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      Ooh, Michael, you have “discovered” a “case” against God that has been well-known, discussed, and handled for centuries and centuries now! How original.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Known, discussed, and handled…but never satisfactorily answered without logical errors.

      • Michael says:

        I don’t claim that it’s original. What’s the devastating reply that I’m unaware of?

  7. MamMoTh says:

    An alleged miracle occurring in the 20th century, with thousands of eyewitnesses, and even reporters (who could read and write!) present.

    Give me a break with that miracle of the sun. Is this the only evidence we’ve got?

    http://www.tarxienparish.org/FatimaSun_13Oct1917.jpg

    Not even a picture of the alleged crowd? How come all those miracles are revealed to illiterate young shepherds, and never to scientists or University professors?

    Now does the modern atheist go and investigate these claims carefully, to see if there is a God after all?

    No need to, but some they do. There are reported miracles all the time, and you don’t need to be an atheist to realize they are either scams or delusions.

    He knows that is obvious balderdash.

    True.

    • Michael says:

      I love how you can’t even tell what’s supposed to be going on that’s “miraculous” in the picture, or non-miraculous for that matter.

    • Dan says:

      “There are reported miracles all the time, and you don’t need to be an atheist to realize they are either scams or delusions.”

      So you’ve determined that all miracles are either scams or delusions because you believe there are no such things as miracles. Were you just trying to be a living example of the very point Dr. Murphy was making?

      • MamMoTh says:

        That is the only valid point Murphy is making: most of us, atheists, don’t believe in such things as miracles. However, many of us have looked into some of the alleged miracles and we’ve only found delusions, scams and balderdash, which is quite telling after more than 2000 years.

        • Dan says:

          It’s not very telling if you rule out the possibility of miracles from the start.

          • MamMoTh says:

            The lack of credible evidence supporting miracles for more than 2000 years is quite telling.

            And when you look at them and only find scams, delusions and balderdash, you can safely conclude that’s all there is to it.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Why do you keep spewing this straw man as if the only way to reject miracles is without any logic or evidence?

            • Dan says:

              Why do you have such a reading comprehension problem?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Why do you never show this accusation through actual evidence?

              • MamMoTh says:

                Much more people died for denying it, much later.

                Is that evidence of some miracle?

            • Anonymouse says:

              “Why do you keep spewing this straw man as if the only way to reject miracles is without any logic or evidence?”

              It’s funny how they throw out a miracle, accuse atheists of not investigating it, and yet don’t even claim that the miracle is true.

              You’d think if the evidence for miracles was so compelling they’d actually be able to reference one they believed in.

              So, since they apparently can’t defend miracles based on they evidence, they’re forced to employ a second-best tactic, which is to accuse atheists of being unreasonable.

              That could potentially be a legitimate argument, but due to the example they use, their complaint amounts to “Why are you atheists so unreasonable as to not believe in something we don’t necessarily believe in either?”

              • Bob Murphy says:

                You’d think if the evidence for miracles was so compelling they’d actually be able to reference one they believed in.

                OK there were a bunch of people 2000 years ago who were willing to be murdered for their public proclamation that their teacher had come back from the dead. In light of that and a bunch of other evidence, I think that is evidence this guy came back from the dead. I believe in that miracle.

              • MamMoTh says:

                Much more people died for denying it, much later.

                Is that evidence of some miracle?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Much more people died for denying it, much later.

                Is that evidence of some miracle?

                It was evidence of the miracles and the religion THEY believed in, LOL.

              • Anonymouse says:

                “there were a bunch of people 2000 years ago who were willing to be murdered for their public proclamation that their teacher had come back from the dead.”

                Mammoth’s point is very good (I wish I had thought of it). Plenty of people with no direct knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection allegedly died for their belief in it. If that’s accurate, then willingness to die can not be a reliable indicator of knowledge or truth.

                The point I was going to make is that the evidence of a bunch of people in Portugal seeing something unusual is much better than the evidence that a bunch of people died 2000 years ago for holding certain beliefs.

                In the first case, we have pictures of people standing outside and looking at the sky. In the second case we have some words on a page.

              • Anonymouse says:

                Ah… I completely misinterpreted Mammoth’s point. The point I thought he was making was very good, though. *sheepish grin*

              • Michael says:

                @Bob Murphy: “OK there were a bunch of people 2000 years ago who were willing to be murdered for their public proclamation that their teacher had come back from the dead. In light of that and a bunch of other evidence, I think that is evidence this guy came back from the dead. I believe in that miracle.”

                I’m not sure which individuals “were willing to be murdered for their public proclamation that their teacher had come back from the dead” since apart from Judas, the Bible does not say how any of the Disciples died (and even then I know of no extra-Biblical evidence for Judas). There are various stories about their deaths (always through martyrdom of course) but no evidence to support those. Many religions have martyrs that can be pointed to, often within the life of their founder(s) or at least people who knew them. Unless we are saying they’re all equally valid, which isn’t the case here obviously, I find this to be lacking. I’m not sure what other evidence you refer to.

              • MamMoTh says:

                My point was that, if dying for something was some sort of evidence, then there is more evidence against Jesus than for.

                Not to mention that killing people who did not want to accept Jesus as their saviour, seems to be another failure of the infallible.

      • joeftansey says:

        We can’t rule out miracles because of induction. But we can go and rule out claimed miracles ex ante.

        Also, the simpsons predicted 9/11.

        http://www.cracked.com/article_18747_5-absurd-but-mind-blowing-pop-culture-conspiracy-theories.html

        “Holy shit! They’re totally using the towers to make the “11″ in 9/11! That’s not Photoshop, either. The clip is all over YouTube, go look.”

        Now, before you object, I’d like to point out that the “miracles” of religious books are frequently less… ornate… than this.

        • Dan says:

          “We can’t rule out miracles because of induction. But we can go and rule out claimed miracles ex ante.”

          So you can go and rule out claimed miracles before the event? If you meant after the fact then I agree. But if you meant that then I don’t know why you are responding to me. If you did mean ex ante then my response is the same as the one I gave to Mammoth.

          • joeftansey says:

            No I meant ex post. My bad.

      • zzk says:

        @Dan – a rational person should demand extraordinary evidence for extraordinary (low probability) claims. Like, any modern day miracles that rule out the possibility of mass hysteria and alternative deities. Judgement day a la Left Behind would probably be sufficient for me.

        • Dan says:

          What does that have to do with what I wrote? My complaint is that when someone excludes miracles as even being a possible explanation it should surprise nobody that they won’t be convinced miracles exist. You guys chiming in about evidence, extraordinary or otherwise, has nothing to do with what I was arguing.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Except the exclusion of miracles is based on evidence.

            Inclusion of miracles is based on faith.

            If I were in Fatima, and 10,000 people around me claimed to have seen a dancing Sun, then I won’t even go by my own observations either. I’d cross check both a dancing Sun and non-dancing Sun against other evidence, in addition to the very unreliable “staring at the Sun and burning my retinas” based observation.

            • Dan says:

              MF, you’ve already admitted that if there was scientifically reproducible evidence of God that you would still deny Him. I understand fully that you deny the very possibility of proving miracles or God. You are the perfect example of my point.

              • MamMoTh says:

                There can’t be any scientific evidence of God.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                MF, you’ve already admitted that if there was scientifically reproducible evidence of God that you would still deny Him.

                Dan, the alleged non-believer, I’ve already explained that my position that God is inherently contradictory does not preclude the believer from being obligated in presenting to himself and others reproducible empirical evidence, if the BELIEVER is going to claim God exists on a foundation of evidence.

                I understand fully that you deny the very possibility of proving miracles or God. You are the perfect example of my point.

                The exclusion of miracles based on evidence does not preclude me from being able to exclude God on the basis of logic.

                Your position is an exasperated desperation, not a forceful argument that is internally consistent. It’s like you’re saying the theist is free from having to provide valid empirical evidence to HIMSELF and others on the basis that little old atheist me rejects God on the basis of logic.

                It would be like me claiming I have evidence of the flying spaghetti monster, then when someone asks me for empirical evidence of it, I throw my hands in the air and say “Why should I? Those atheists over there are just going to say the flying spaghetti monster is internally illogical anyway, so I don’t have to provide any empirical evidence.”

              • Dan says:

                MF, I never say that Christians shouldn’t have to present evidence. I keep hammering away at the fact that trying to present evidence to you is pointless. You agree that evidence could not convince you but you strut around demanding it nonetheless. The part that cracks me up is you think this is perfectly reasonable. If you were saying that Christians should search for evidence of God before they accept Him but don’t bother trying to show it to me because I won’t accept it anyways then I wouldn’t even respond to you.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                MF, I never say that Christians shouldn’t have to present evidence.

                I never accused you of saying that.

                I keep hammering away at the fact that trying to present evidence to you is pointless.

                It’s pointless to me, yes, but it should NOT be pointless to the person who doesn’t reject God logically, and to others who are on the fence waiting for valid empirical evidence.

                You keep making it seem like if I personally reject God logically and that no observations can ever be made that proves it, that the believer who claims to have empirical evidence is somehow immune from presenting valid empirical evidence, such as reproducibility.

                I am not interested in your personal demeanor on what you do and do not consider to be “pointless” when debating me. It makes no difference to the reality that if Murphy is going to claim to have empirical evidence, then to himself and to others who do not reject God on a logical basis, he is OBLIGATED to provide more than personal anecdotes.

                You agree that evidence could not convince you but you strut around demanding it nonetheless.

                Oh I get it. You just have low self-esteem and you dislike those who “strut.”

                Here’s some advice. What I think about the concept of God should have absolutely no bearing on what constitutes valid empirical evidence for a theory, and what those who claim to have empirical evidence are scientifically obligated to show.

                Stop making this a story about me, and start focusing on the issue at hand, which is Murphy’s claim to having empirical evidence.

                If you think it is a “waste of time” for him to do so, then I will submit that deep down you don’t even believe in any of it yourself. If you truly thought empirical evidence exists, then you wouldn’t even listen to me, and you’d go out and prove God exists empirically and become the next prophet.

                The part that cracks me up is you think this is perfectly reasonable.

                The part that cracks me up is that you think the obligation for he who claims to have empirical evidence, somehow is lifted and thrown out the window, solely because there is one person who rejects God on a logical basis.

                If you were saying that Christians should search for evidence of God before they accept Him but don’t bother trying to show it to me because I won’t accept it anyways then I wouldn’t even respond to you.

                I don’t want them to respond to me personally. This isn’t about me being an almighty judge. I want them to respond to THEMSELVES and OTHERS who ask for empirical evidence. I am just here trying to set a minimum standard. I am not here trying to monopolize the position of judge and jury.

                Your fetishism on continually focusing on me, endlessly repeating that no empirical evidence can convince me, is starting to get a little creepy. I am just insisting on a minimum standard be met, I am not trying to bait believers into working hard believing they are going to succeed in convincing an atheist to turn Christian, only to be suddenly laughed at on the basis that it was all a rube anyway.

                Find some friggin integrity why don’t you.

              • Dan says:

                Me: “MF, I never say that Christians shouldn’t have to present evidence.”

                MF: “I never accused you of saying that.”

                And later…

                MF: “The part that cracks me up is that you think the obligation for he who claims to have empirical evidence, somehow is lifted and thrown out the window, solely because there is one person who rejects God on a logical basis.”

                Find some friggin integrity why don’t you.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Dan, let’s be fair to MF. He said “I never accused you of saying that,” i.e. past tense. He didn’t say, “I will never accuse you of saying that.”

              • Dan says:

                Good point

  8. Anonymouse says:

    “An alleged miracle occurring in the 20th century, with thousands of eyewitnesses, and even reporters (who could read and write!) present. Now does the modern atheist go and investigate these claims carefully, to see if there is a God after all? No, of course not. He knows that is obvious balderdash.”

    Speaking of straw men…

    I’ve researched “The Miracle of the Sun”. Other atheists have. You’re falsely criticizing atheists for not investigating something you don’t even claim to believe in, and something you may not have even investigated yourself.

    But let’s take things a step further. You have failed to proclaim your faith in “The Miracle of the Sun”, and yet the evidence for that miracle is much greater than the evidence for the resurrection (or even existence) of Jesus. So, how can you have 100% faith in the existence and resurrection of Jesus and not have 100% faith in “The Miracle of the Sun”?

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      Agreed – even if we believe everything about the Miracle of the Sun, I’ve never quite understood why that should lead anyone to accept Jesus as their lord and savior.

      It always sounded like a UFO to me. Maybe it was real and God was trying to tell us he’s just an alien.

  9. AC says:

    Another weak Krugman analogy? Even if all the cool stuff in the Bible were true, you’re still not addressing Hitchens’ points. But again, why is your God of the Bible seemingly ignorant of the rest of the world and the rest of human history? It’s almost as if it were written by people of that time and place. God seems remarkably interested in the laws and culture of the Middle East at that time, of which the specifics have no relevance to others. You talk about examining evidence, but believing that the Bible is true requires extraordinary evidence — you haven’t given the slightest indication of meeting that burden of proof, other than you being convinced because of your personal relationship and because people in history really really believed it.

  10. Daniel Kuehn says:

    I think it’s William Lane Craig that had a good response to this “for 100,000 years” point. He noted that while the time-span before Christ was long (very good to see Craig accepts evolution), something like 98% of humans that ever lived were born AFTER Christ.

    The whole “illiterate people in the desert” thing holds more water with me simply because it raises the question of why I should believe this group of people over another group of people. So far as I can tell, Hinduism has about as much verification as Christianity. So why believe these smelly, ancient illiterates on the Jordan rather than the smelly, ancient illiterates on the Ganges? Or why believe any of them? That’s something I don’t feel like I have an answer to. It’s related to Hitchens’ point but I think it’s a somewhat stronger point.

    • Ken B says:

      Why is that a good response? A benevolent loving all powerful god would not allow even one person to be denied even the possibility of salvation. And an all knowing one wouldn’t forget.

  11. joshua says:

    “You must love your neighbour as yourself, something you can’t actually do. You’ll always fall short, so you can always be found guilty.”

    Maybe I’m just missing the full context but I don’t see this as being particularly difficult to answer. The whole point is that “you can’t actually” do it yourself, which is why The Holy Spirit dwells in you and helps to change you into a better person than you could be on your own. You can assert that there’s not actually a supernatural force changing Christians into better people (indeed, many of them seem intent on disproving such a notion, though there are also many other strongly changed lives out there), but the theological argument for such an entity is by no means a contradiction.

  12. Major_Freedom says:

    Famine, struggle, bitterness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years. Heaven watches this with complete indifference. And then 2000 years ago, thinks “That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene,”…

    What worldview is this? It certainly isn’t Christianity. A Bible-believing Christian thinks that God from the beginning sought a personal relationship with His children. He appeared to them personally many times, and sent numerous prophets and leaders such as Moses, Joshua, and David. He rescued them from slavery and delivered them a Promised Land. He gave them an excruciatingly precise list of rules for living, accompanied by draconian punishments. (Surely today’s atheists know this; they mock the rules every other day on Facebook.) Then finally, He sent His Son who summarized the essence or Spirit of those laws in His teachings. It wouldn’t have worked to send Jesus right away, because humanity wasn’t ready for him. The Old Testament had to come before the New Testament.

    I think you’ve missed the elephant in the room. He was clearly talking about the length of time that passed from the beginning of man (~100,000 years ago) to when the bible’s stories are claimed to have taken place (~4000 BCE). OK, if you are a Christian who believes a God intervened prior to Jesus, then substitute 96,500 years instead of 98,000, (~1500 BCE Moses appeared), or whatever. The point is that it is still a very long time. “Humanity wasn’t ready for him” is an obvious cop out. Nothing people did from 98,000 BCE to 4000 BCE is any different from what people did 4000 BCE to 0 AD that would justify a delay in Jesus’ appearance. Everything you say people did that supposedly justified a delay can easily be identified in subsequent time periods as well. Murder? Genocide? War? Worshipping “false” Gods? These are perennial human traits that have always existed in areas of the world.

    And notice that the bible only says stuff about the bad things people did in a small area of the middle east. No mention of the Incas in South America, Natives in North America, or tribal peoples in subsahara Africa, or Mongoloids in China, and the bad stuff they were doing.

    Hitchens could have said, “Why God would cater to one fickle group of humans, amidst all his other alleged ‘children,’ for such a long time–even according to the timeline of the Bible–is never explained. What a sadistic God, who coddles some of his children and condemns the rest to persecution or even genocide.” That would have at least had a passing relationship to what Christians actually believe. But instead Hitchens thought it would be easier to mock his opponent by attributing to him a worldview that no Christian believes.

    That is the gist of what Hitchens said. He was giving ballpark numbers. If you’re going to ding him because he said 98,000 years instead of, say, 96,000 years, as if that blows up his entire point, sounds to me like an excuse to not actually address the point. The fact that you didn’t answer the other point you said Hitchens should have made, with slightly different numbers, means you are not actually addressing the point he made. I mean, if he was 90,000 years off, then you’d have a point, but we’re talking about 98,000 years ago versus 96,000 years ago. It’s well within a 5% error for crying out loud. If you’re going to declare victory over that, by hand waving the rounding numbers away, then an honest person should say they don’t have an answer for it. An honest person should not say “Bah! No Christian believes it was 2,000 years ago, they say it was 4000 years ago! I mean come on, there was Moses! You’re straw manning Christians and so I don’t have to even address the gist of your point. Moving on then…”

    And then 2000 years ago, thinks “That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene,” and the best way to do this would be by condemning someone to a human sacrifice somewhere in the less literate parts of the Middle East. Don’t lets appeal to the Chinese, for example, where people can read and study evidence and have a civilization. Let’s go to the desert and have another revelation there.

    Here again, the more I read this particular passage, the more astounded I am. Is Hitchens now claiming that God screwed up by not getting the written word involved in His plan to spread His message? I’ll just point out that the best-selling book in human history came out of what Christians believe God did 2000 years ago.

    I know you addressed his general point below, but I just wanted to say that you’re making Hitchen’s point for him. The bible became the top selling book only after it reached the more literate parts of the world, such as England and western Europe. The point is why make the revelation in the less literate parts of the world, which resulted in very unreliable word of mouth story telling to pass on through the centuries, rather than places of the world where literacy and the scientific method were far more prevalent, and thus far more accuracy can be had.

    OK, let’s not focus so much on that single word “literate.” Let’s be fair to Hitchens and distill his general point. He is saying that if God really wanted to convince people, He would have sent His Son to appear to much more credible people. After all, one of the main objections modern agnostics raise is, “How can I trust a bunch of stories written down by common folk 2000 years ago?” Here are some responses:

    (1) Notice that it contradicts Hitchens’ first objection. Remember, Hitchens can’t understand why God allowed people to suffer for 98,000 years, before deciding to send Jesus. Then, a mere few sentences later, Hitchens can’t understand why God didn’t appear to people who could have credibly documented Jesus’ life and feats. So just notice that if God had satisfied Hitchens’ first objection–by appearing to Stone Age savages–then God couldn’t have satisfied Hitchens’ second objection. A lot of times these contradictory demands of what God ought to be doing are voiced by different atheists, but in this case they come from the same one, and in the same paragraph.

    Hitchens wasn’t saying God should have appeared sooner AND that God should have appeared to the more literate parts of the world. He is saying “OK, if Christians are saying God appeared 2000/4000 years ago, why the long wait?, and GIVEN the long wait, if Christians are saying God appeared in stone age savage lands, why there and not in more literate parts of the world?

    He is asking Christians to answer why the long wait, and given the long wait, why appear there are not some place else? Turning it around and saying Hitchens contradicted himself, as if merely asking Christians to address two questions is somehow an argumentative fallacy, is just shifting the burden of proof.

    You can’t anticipate Hitchen’s response before he makes it, and then say on the basis of that he contradicted himself.

    (2) In my “Landsburg vs. the LORD” post I tried to show how God has tapped on all sorts of mechanisms to reveal Himself to us, and the modern atheist systematically rules them all out of bounds. For example, here’s something that should be right up Hitchens’ alley: An alleged miracle occurring in the 20th century, with thousands of eyewitnesses, and even reporters (who could read and write!) present. Now does the modern atheist go and investigate these claims carefully, to see if there is a God after all? No, of course not. He knows that is obvious balderdash.

    The atheists did investigate it, and THEN found it was boulderdash. The atheist can point to the fact that nobody in the entire rest of the hemisphere reported seeing a dancing sun. No satellite imagery of the Sun showed a dancing Sun. A dancing Sun would have radically shifted the Earth’s orbit due to gravity changes and yet the evidence shows consistency with an undancing Sun, not a dancing Sun. You say atheists are merely a priori shrugging it off, but in actuality the atheist’s position that rules out a dancing Sun is empirical.

    (3) There are plenty of “faith healings” reported all the time, today, in societies where people can read, write, and perform experiments to detect subatomic particles. Do today’s atheists spend a lot of time hunting down the doctors involved–who say “I have no explanation, it was a miracle that that guy’s tumor went away”–and making sure nothing miraculous actually occurred? Of course not. They know there’s no evidence of modern medical miracles, because science tells us these things don’t happen. (Note: I’m not even saying I personally believe in the “Miracle of the Sun” or a lot of the reports of faith healings, etc. But my point is that Hitchens and currently living atheists are fooling themselves if they think they would rationally believe in Christianity, if only Jesus had come in 1930 and performed His miracles then. No, people today would be dismissing the “myths” written down 80 years ago.)

    Don’t look now but I think you might have just inadvertently admitted that the rational person cannot believe in Christianity.

    So to repeat, I think this final excerpt I’ve quoted is indeed a good critique of Christianity. I have trouble with it myself, and so do plenty of people who go to Sunday school every week. I don’t have a glib answer, but here are some observations:

    ==> Although it’s not an outright contradiction, Hitchens’ paragraph above does contain two objections that sort of cancel each other out. On the one hand, Hitchens is complaining that God demands the impossible of us. On the other hand, Hitchens complains that God allows Jesus to satisfy His demands on our behalf. So one way to interpret that is Hitchens’ approach: God is a tyrant who is impossible to please, and at the same time who is a moral monster and doesn’t hold people accountable for their actions. Or, we could interpret it the Christian way: God is infinitely just and so tells us the way to live a perfect life, but He is also merciful and knows we could never do it on our own. So, He became a man Himself in order to accomplish it on our behalf.

    Yet another example of “reaction formation.”

    ==> There’s a strain in Hitchens’ comments that I find quite often in the loud atheist camp, along the lines of, “If I took the Bible seriously, it would make God a monster. Therefore I don’t believe in Him.” Well, that’s actually not a very scientific approach, now is it? It’s akin to people rejecting quantum mechanics because they find it repugnant. I agree that it’s a challenge to Christians who claim their God is loving and good, if we could show that the Bible demonstrates God to be a sadistic tyrant. But very often I see atheists going further and thinking they’ve somehow demonstrated that there must be no God after all, since he “clearly” would have intervened in the 1940s.

    This is the only valid criticism you have made as far as I am concerned.

    ==> If you are in a close relationship with someone–I’m thinking like a spouse or child–and that person truly does something wrong that hurts you, what is the best way to move forward? Assuming you want to maintain that relationship, the very best thing that can happen is that the person is really sorry about it and then…you both pretend that it never happened. If you don’t do that–if instead you carry the memory of that offense around for the rest of your life–then the relationship is irreparably harmed. If the person who wronged you can’t forget it, can’t “forgive him or herself,” then s/he will go through life wracked by guilt. That’s not “mentally or morally or intellectually healthy.” So if you at least understand what I am talking about here in a human context, then the doctrine of Christian redemption through Christ should be less foreign.

    This is not vicarious redemption.

  13. John G. says:

    I find the word of Christ to be edifying and comforting.

    Now that I know about ‘directed history,’ I find the Old Testament to be repugnant, in many parts: all of the bloodthirsty, jealous, vengeful God stuff.

    There appears to be no historical Moses:
    http://individual.utoronto.ca/mfkolarcik/jesuit/herzog.html#auth

    Marcionism — Christianity without the O.T. — makes a lot of sense to me.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcionism

    Douglas Reed, in ‘The Controversy of Zion,’ — the first six chapters cover this element — thinks the O.T. is a creation of a group that wanted to control and use Jews in a quest for power. Seems plausible to me.
    http://www.iamthewitness.com/books/Douglas.Reed/Douglas.Reed_The.Controversy.of.Zion.pdf

    • Jonathan M.F. Catalán says:

      Douglas Reed, in ‘The Controversy of Zion,’ — the first six chapters cover this element — thinks the O.T. is a creation of a group that wanted to control and use Jews in a quest for power.

      That’s some peoples’ hypothesis when concerning all religion, not just Judaism.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        That’s right, Jonathan. There is a name for such people: “historical idiots.”

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Sublime argumentative force.

        • AC says:

          What do you call people who learn history from the Bible, which includes contradictory and obviously false stories?

  14. Bob Murphy says:

    BTW some people are complaining about my blanket statement that the atheist/agnostic hasn’t researched the alleged Miracle of the Sun, etc. So yes, I should have been more careful in that statement; I am quite sure that most atheists alive today have not researched the alleged Miracle of the Sun, and a bunch of claimed medical miracles. They don’t think it is worth their time, because their current understanding of science etc. leads them to reject such stories as impossible at the outset.

    • joeftansey says:

      I am quite sure that most THEISTS alive today have not researched the alleged Miracle of the Sun, and a bunch of claimed medical miracles. They don’t think it is worth their time, because their current understanding of A BOOK MOST OF THEM DON’T READ leads them to KNOW EMPIRICAL FACTS A PRIORI.

      FTFY

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Is it possible for a theist to reject the Miracle of the Sun on the basis of science?

      • Dan says:

        Yes.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          So then it must be possible for an atheist to reject the Miracle of the Sun on the basis of science as well, and all the talk about atheists rejecting the Miracle a priori, is a diversion that singles out unscientific atheists, while ignoring scientifically inclined atheists.

          • Dan says:

            Uh, did you read Dr. Murphy’s post? He said, “So yes, I should have been more careful in that statement; I am quite sure that most atheists alive today have not researched the alleged Miracle of the Sun, and a bunch of claimed medical miracles. They don’t think it is worth their time, because their current understanding of science etc. leads them to reject such stories as impossible at the outset.”

            He is calling out people like you. He never said that it was impossible for an atheist to reject the Miracle of the Sun or other claimed miracles on the basis of science.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              He is calling out people like you.

              Calling out people like me? That’s not like me. I did in fact research the Miracle of the Sun. I later found it to be bogus.

              I reject God on a logical basis, prior to any observing of events. That is far different from rejecting a dancing Sun prior to any observing of events.

              You are conflating the two as if they are the same thing. The only a priori position I have expressed is that I reject God on the basis of logic.

              You need to work on your reading comprehension.

              He never said that it was impossible for an atheist to reject the Miracle of the Sun or other claimed miracles on the basis of science.

              I never claimed he did say it was impossible! I just wanted to establish that an atheist can reject the Miracle of the Sun on the basis of evidence. You just WANT to insinuate that I reject such events a priori, when in reality those events are different from my a priori position regarding the concept of God.

  15. Chris says:

    “Famine, struggle, bitterness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years. Heaven watches this with complete indifference. And then 2000 years ago, thinks “That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene,”…”

    Then the review said:

    “What worldview is this? It certainly isn’t Christianity. A Bible-believing Christian thinks that God from the beginning sought a personal relationship with His children. He appeared to them personally many times, and sent numerous prophets and leaders such as Moses, Joshua, and David. ”

    I had to stop here. If this is the level of thought that went into this, then its not worth the continued reading. Humans in our present form have been around for 100,000 yrs at LEAST. Maybe more. If the Christian thinks this is NOT the case, then there is no point in going further as they reject science. If as Hitchens was trying to do, and give the benefit of the double that the Christian doe accept modern science his point is why did a loving god let his *special* creation suffer in ignorance for so long then finally intervene with a bloody human sacrifice that still has not reached all parts of the globe even today.

    But then thats the real issue here. The Bible is so full of obvious non truths its hard to have a discussion with humans who can think a snake can actually talk.

    I take it that this review must be a YEC? Scary indeed.

  16. PJB says:

    Although occasionally mildly interesting, these circular and endless and unprovable (one
    way or the other) debates on the verity of Muslim, Hindu,
    Christian, or any other belief – or against them – invariably and inescapably accomplish
    precisely NOTHING, and the only purpose they ultimately serve is to bore
    me to tears. People believe what they want to believe, despite any
    sort or lack of evidence, and these beliefs will NEVER be changed. Religious
    debate constitutes merely one giant waste of time – because there can
    NEVER be any resolution – again, one way or the other. Sooooooo…..
    why don’t people simply hold to their beliefs, do no harm to anyone, and, above ALL,
    stop attempting to convince those of dissimilar beliefs that their way is wrong.

    Therein lies the entire problem with religious cults – and they’re ALL cults – is that
    they cannot cease and desist from the need to solidify, in their own minds,
    the rightness of their own personal beliefs. If someone does not believe as
    another does, both parties are susceptible to allowing doubt creep into their thinking,
    whereas if two people believe the same way – well, there IS strength in numbers, and
    they feel better because of this mutual belief.

    Frankly, I’d rather read Batman comics, on the whole…

    • Ken B says:

      PJB: Not quite right. All extant religions make falsifiable claims about the world. All have been falsified. So discussing actual religions always has a point — the same point, refutation.

  17. Ken B says:

    ” I don’t have a glib answer,”

    Don’t sell yourself short.

    More detail. Of course it matters if there were people before the means of salvation became available. It means the all powerful, all good god created people and denied them even the chance of salvation. And it’s even worse than that. Salavation form what? from his wrath and punishment. which he could spare us all free gratis anyhoo. Your answer was plenty glib enough even for a connoisseur like me!

  18. Ken B says:

    Looking at the RSS feed I think I see the trick for generating comments. “Limbaugh called Jesus a slut’ would break records.

  19. Ken B says:

    ” Remember, Hitchens can’t understand why God allowed people to suffer for 98,000 years, before deciding to send Jesus. Then, a mere few sentences later, Hitchens can’t understand why God didn’t appear to people who could have credibly documented Jesus’ life and feats. So just notice that if God had satisfied Hitchens’ first objection–by appearing to Stone Age savages–then God couldn’t have satisfied Hitchens’ second objection.”

    This is wrong.
    1. Hitchens’s first objection makes a moral point that I have made in other comments here. You can tell it’s a moral point by ‘allowed’.
    2. There is no contradiction. Hitchens is saying that in your story god is culpable for not appearing earlier and he is inept for the way he appeared later.

  20. jaffray says:

    All of you are a band of wind makers!
    Having read all this drivel Having read Murphy
    one must conclude he discovered natural gas!!

  21. joeftansey says:

    Just a quick note: I keep hearing the argument that Christianity is the most popular religion and that this is significant because it means God was very successful in the way he chose to spread his message. But if you ever debate a Muslim, they will claim that their book is the unaltered word of god – that the Koran has been perfectly preserved since it was first written. This is not true of the bible.

    Is this not a more spectacular feat (if it is true)? Since Islam also has like a billion followers it would have been subject to just as much political pressure etc…

    I find it implausible that a deity would care more about just getting out his brand name than preserving his own text accurately. Is there a passage in the bible where god says “Yeah just get the word out but don’t worry about the details.”?

    • Drigan says:

      Actually, there’s a similar claim of inerrancy in Christianity. Jesus told Peter, “Upon you, I shall build my Church . . . the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” “I shall give you the keys to the gates of heaven.” and “What you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

      Keys at the time were a symbol of stewardship and authority. (Think “The mayor gave him the keys to the city.”) That position of stewardship would then be passed on.

      By most Christians (Catholics, Orthodox and Copts = 1.5 Billion Christians), this is taken to mean “God will not allow the Christian Church that is taught by successors of the Apostles to fall into error on matters of faith and morals.”

      The original 11 replaced Judas (with Matthias) after Judas betrayed Jesus, so they clearly believed that their group was meant to continue past Jesus’ death. (He’d already been crucified) Later, they added Paul, showing that they didn’t mean to keep their size at exactly 12. There are now (at least) three groups who validly claim direct spiritual descent from the original Apostles; the Copts, Orthodox, and Catholics.

      Interestingly, if you look for the theological differences between the three groups, as an outsider you will be *very* hard pressed to see them. (Heck, even as an insider I can barely tell them apart!) All three teach 7 sacraments, confession of sins, infant baptism, etc. One of the ‘big arguments’ between the Catholics and the Orthodox is (I kid you not) that the Orthodox say “The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father” and the Catholics say “The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.” (Technically, I’ve heard that Pope John Paul 2 admitted the Orthodox and Copts are correct . . . and the phrase ‘and the Son’ was just an early copying error . . . but . . . talk about splitting hairs! And this is *seriously* the *BIGGEST ISSUE*!!!)

      So most Christians *do* claim that they have an institution that infallibly teaches what God wants us to know in regards to faith and morals, and that scripture is not to be taken for personal interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20 “Know this, no passage of scripture is open to personal interpretation”) Also worth noting: most Christians *don’t* believe that this authority extends to scientific matters which are unrelated to spirituality. (i.e. Heliocentrism, evolution, earth age, etc. ) Islam does *not* actually have a centralized source for authoritative answers to moral questions. (Ok, so Christianity has three . . . but . . . they’ll all tell you the same thing anyhow, so why quibble over semantics?)

      • joeftansey says:

        It isn’t simply that the Koran itself claims it is unchanged since written, Muslims claim *independently* of what the Koran says about itself, it is unchanged since its original.

        • Drigan says:

          I’m not quite sure what your point is here . . . But I’ll try to address what I *think* you are getting at, which is “Islam is more verifiable than Christianity because the Koran is more ‘authentic’ than the Bible.”

          Christianity was originally formed without a New Testament. That came later. No Christian who understands the story of St. Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Philip sees an Ethiopian reading the scriptures, and asks if he understands them, Ethiopian responds, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”) would claim that it’s possible to understand the Bible without Apostolic Succession.

          Islam may have been a religion designed to be learned through reading. Christianity is a religion designed to be learned through teaching. The Bible is actually *not* as central to Christianity as the Church is. The Church compiled the Bible, and the Bible’s only authority is based on the Church’s claim that it is the word of God.

          The Church tells us that all things are useful for learning about God if viewed in the correct light. But also, that even the scriptures can be used to hide God if we view it in the wrong light. (Again, see 2 Peter 1:20)

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I find it implausible that a deity would care more about just getting out his brand name than preserving his own text accurately. Is there a passage in the bible where god says “Yeah just get the word out but don’t worry about the details.”?

      Guys, please can we have a fair debate here? Look, it was Christopher Hitchens who said he found Christianity implausible, because he thought even on its own terms, God would have used a better route to get the word out. So to answer that particular charge, I pointed out that the method God chose (assuming He exists and the Christians are basically right) was the most successful campaign in human history.

      Now you guys (particularly MF in citing Marxism) are trying to paint me as claiming, “Christianity is popular, therefore it’s right.” No, that’s not what I’m saying. Rather, I’m saying the opening objection of Hitchens in the quote for this post, is absurd. It would be akin to attacking Marxism for not doing a good job influencing academics.

      • joeftansey says:

        “Look, it was Christopher Hitchens who said he found Christianity implausible, because he thought even on its own terms, God would have used a better route to get the word out. So to answer that particular charge, I pointed out that the method God chose (assuming He exists and the Christians are basically right) was the most successful campaign in human history.”

        But you’re not answering his charge in full. He’s wondering why it wasn’t written down more accurately. You claiming it as the most “successful” campaign is blurring the goalposts. Does “success” mean getting as many people as possible to subscribe to the brand name? Or does success mean getting a text that is prima facie accurate?

        I think it means both…

        • Drigan says:

          It wasn’t necessary to write it down. Christianity is not about a book, it is about a man. The book wasn’t compiled until a long time after His death. The texts it was comprised of circulated for a time before it was compiled, but Christianity is not about the book known as the Bible. We can learn a *lot* about Christianity from the Bible. But if you don’t submit to the teaching of the successors of the Apostles, you cannot claim to speak for the Church. It is the Church that is infallible, not the book. The book is merely inerrant.

          • MamMoTh says:

            The Church is infallible? This is getting worse… Which Church by the way?

            • Ken B says:

              The Roman church claims the Pope is infallible. Will that do?

              • MamMoTh says:

                OK, but that’s only one church.

                And how can anyone claim the Pope or the Roman Catholic Church is infallible when it has failed so many times, and it’s still failing to acknowledge and take responsibility for all the harm done by the paedophiles it protects?

              • Drigan says:

                Mammoth, the pedophilia thing is a problem, but it is not really relevant. If I remember correctly, you claim to be a Christian. (If not, my apologies for misrepresenting you.) Jesus himself picked a guy to be one of His 12 that betrayed him. The Church is made up of sinners, we can’t expect to do better than Christ himself.

                The Church makes no claim of infallibility in its actions, merely its teachings. Just as Jesus told people to do what those in the chair of Moses said to do, but not necessarily follow their example, the Church should be obeyed. But you should do the best that *you* should do, not the worst of what you see.

                That said, Catholicism has lower percents of pedophiles than public schools, and most other religious denominations, so attacking it on these lines is a bit silly.

              • MamMoTh says:

                No, I don’t consider myself a Christian anymore, although I might still be officially one, unfortunately.

                So it is not the Church that is infallible but its teachings, the difference is huge.

                What’s the evidence to say there is a larger proportion of paedophiles in public education than in the Roman Catholic Church?

                I seriously doubt it, as teachers are not forced by any dogma into a life of celibacy and sexual repression.

              • anonymous says:

                I seriously doubt it, as teachers are not forced by any dogma into a life of celibacy and sexual repression.

                Apparently you’ve never taken typing class.

              • Drigan says:

                Quick note to Ken B: Catholics outside the Roman Rite claim the Pope is infallible about faith and morals, too. No need to limit it just to the Roman part of the Church.

                Mammoth:

                “I seriously doubt it, as teachers are not forced by any dogma into a life of celibacy and sexual repression.”

                You could say the same about marriage . . . you have to repress your sexuality with everyone but your spouse! How terrible!

                No one is forced into the priesthood. It’s not like the bishops go around ordaining random guys against their will. (Although it’s a pretty hilarious thought . . . drive by ordinations!)

                All that said, there is no dogma about celibacy, rather it’s a discipline. Dogmas cannot change, disciplines can. You may remember a time when Catholics didn’t eat meat on any Fridays, that was a discipline which has been relaxed so that now Catholics only abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. If the Pope wanted to change the discipline to be that any man could be a priest, I think he could change that tomorrow. ( . . . he might need some sort of coordination with the other Bishops, and of course, any bishop could overrule the pope within their own diocese on this matter by simply only ordaining men that *do* swear to celibacy.)

                Also worth noting, there *are* married priests. They are vastly in the minority, as the Roman Rite constitutes 90% of Catholicism, and nearly all Roman Rite priests are celibate. (As a wild guess, I would put it at 99.5%) Outside of Roman Catholicism, I think it’s common for Catholic priests to be able to be married. (although there are so few non-roman rite parishes around me that I have trouble gauging this.)

            • Drigan says:

              The Church founded upon Apostolic Succession. Elsewhere on this page, I’ve already discussed which Churches can validly claim this. Since their theology is all but indistinguishable from each other, and they all acknowledge the others’ claims of authentic Apostolic Succession, I would concede that all three are infallible *ON FAITH AND MORALS*.

      • Ken B says:

        Your complaint is right but your argument is wrong. You have not addressed Hitchen’s implication that god could have done a btter job faster. It took well over 1K years for christianity to become the biggest religion, still a minority one. Could he have done better starting in 1st century china? Or in the middle east AND china?

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Rather, I’m saying the opening objection of Hitchens in the quote for this post, is absurd. It would be akin to attacking Marxism for not doing a good job influencing academics.

        It would not be an absurd argument to make against a Marxist who believes Marx is perfect and infallible and his actions are all optimal “in the long run.”

        If a Marxist told me that Marx is perfect, and that everything he did was correct “in the long run”, then I will rightfully challenge that belief by pointing to the fact that Marx didn’t do it perfectly and made innumerable errors, such as getting himself exiled, and becoming financially dependent on Engels, and having his theory become popular not in lower Germany where he started, nor in Paris where he lived, nor in London where he wrote most of his economic works, nor in the US where industry was overtaking the UK, but rather in Soviet Russia and China, and later on North Korea and Cambodia. Yes, communism did sweep a large portion of the globe, but the crucial issue is that we can legitimately argue that it would have swept over MORE of the globe and become actually “successful” if Marx went about things far differently.

        Yes, this means one has to criticize God the way they criticize a man. Difficult for a theist to do, but not at all difficult for an atheist to do, which is probably why you consider criticizing God “absurd” and are jumping through hoops defending everything that happened as the reflection of what a perfect being would do.

        Since I think it’s all in your head anyway, what I think you are really saying is that it is “absurd” to criticize what you believe using human standards.

        Remember, Hitchens is responding to theists who say God is perfect and all wise. Pointing out that God would have to be stupid to start in the desert, rather than in China where literacy and science were at far higher levels, is not denying the “success” of Christianity spreading over the world in your standard, it is rather saying Christianity would have otherwise been more successful if God didn’t act imperfectly. Instead of only 2.2 billion in the world being Christian, instead of Christianity being only one of many religions, instead of Christianity being outnumbered by the combined total of the rest of all the world’s religions, Christianity might have been believed by everyone in the world, or at least become the sole religion.

        When I look at the spread of Christianity, I see MASSIVE imperfections, whereas you are anxiously defending these imperfections by desperately grasping at straws, like the bible being the top selling book and Christianity becoming the world’s largest single religion. Well woopdeedoo, the same thing can be said for whichever book was the top publication prior to the bible, and the same can be said for the world’s largest religion prior to Christianity becoming number one.

        Are you saying the Qu’ran will never overtake the bible in terms of sales? That Christianity will always be the number one religion? Religions come and go throughout the ages. Some last shorter, some last longer. But all religions have a shelf life.

        I mean, we can even say that even today, only 2.2 billion people out of a total 7 billion people are Christians. That’s an “F” in percentage terms.

        Moreover, the number of Christians are declining relative to the number of Muslims and other religions.

        Christianity is growing at 1.38%, Islam is growing at 1.84%. Does that mean the Christian God through Jesus is failing? Or is it succeeding because “it’s all the same God anyway”?

    • joeftansey says:

      DT –> OT –> Didn’t happen.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Or you could raise them to be Bible believers, and encourage them to read the whole book, especially the part where that stuff isn’t binding anymore. And if you are saying, “Why would that ever have been the rule?” then examining their culture at the time might shed some light. Do you find Eskimos to be savages because of what they did to their elderly?

      • AC says:

        I don’t worship the Eskimo Book of Rules

      • joeftansey says:

        The cultural argument is… very difficult to prove. How are we supposed to know what the optimal rape laws were?

        And if you’re open to cultural arguments, how come we haven’t gotten TheRules 3.0 yet? Surely the cultural change between now and 2000 years ago is greater than between the NT and OT?

      • Major_Freedom says:

        especially the part where that stuff isn’t binding anymore.

        Matthew 5:17 proves “that stuff” IS in fact binding.

        I know that you don’t want to bind yourself or your kids to it, but you’re choosing to do that because of extra-biblical morality, that holds the OT to be evil. You’re just ex post rationalizing away the OT.

        And if you are saying, “Why would that ever have been the rule?” then examining their culture at the time might shed some light.

        And what culture would that be? Worshipping “false” idols? Humans still do that depending on which religious sect you ask. Murder, rape, and theft? Humans are still doing that too. War, torture and pillaging? Check, check and check.

        There is no “culture” excuse for why the OT applied to humans back then, but not now. Everything “bad” humans did back then, there exists people today who are doing the same thing.

        Do you find Eskimos to be savages because of what they did to their elderly?

        Of course, which is why I won’t raise my children to believe in Eskimo lore either. Savage eskimo lore believers, savage bible believers.

        What you’re doing is the equivalent of someone denying the validity of the first half of Mises’ Human Action and calling it “no longer applicable”, but accepting the second half just because it has pro-free market arguments, even though the second half is built on and presupposes the first half.

        • Drigan says:

          You are correct, that stuff *is* still binding . . . mostly. It’s binding in the same way that telling someone who loves their life “Don’t jump off the bridge to drown yourself!” is binding. They aren’t going to break your rule anyhow. But at the same time, Jesus tells us that Captain Sparrow was right . . . the rules are more like guidelines. They exist to show us *generally* how a righteous person would behave. In specific instances, however, they can be bent. For instance, it is acceptable to do work that is necessary(like feeding livestock), or serves others (like tending the sick) on the Sabbath, even though it is “doing work.”

          It’s just not relevant to the average Christian who believes in the golden rule to be told “be fair to others.” To a Christian who follows the “Do unto others . . .” advice, it’s simply not relevant to worry about the proper way to stone someone, or precisely how much food they must give to a hungry man. They will do what they feel would be good for others to do for themselves.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            It’s binding in the same way that telling someone who loves their life “Don’t jump off the bridge to drown yourself!” is binding.

            Actually that would be a descriptive binding, as in a scientific necessity GIVEN the ends sought after, whereas the OT “law” is a moral binding.

            Hence, when you say:

            You are correct, that stuff *is* still binding . . . mostly.

            I cannot help but characterize that as an unjustified escape hatch.

            But at the same time, Jesus tells us that Captain Sparrow was right . . . the rules are more like guidelines. They exist to show us *generally* how a righteous person would behave. In specific instances, however, they can be bent. For instance, it is acceptable to do work that is necessary(like feeding livestock), or serves others (like tending the sick) on the Sabbath, even though it is “doing work.”

            Well, the bible shows Jesus being essentially indifferent/apologetic to his followers who picked and ate grain on the sabbath, and when the Pharisees criticized Jesus for allowing it to happen, Jesus responded that when people are hungry, they should be free to eat. His justification for that was pointing to the story of David. But he got the story of David all wrong because David was alone at the time, and it wasn’t Abiathar whom he took the bread, but Abimelech. Either Jesus made a mistake on purpose (which would make him dishonest….or to the Christian someone who “speaks in parables”), or those were the words of Mark, who frequently made mistakes, thus making the whole story suspect.

            In any event, the take away from this seems to be that whoever wrote that passage, believed that human needs/desires can legitimately usurp religious laws. If I lived back then, I might see myself becoming friends with that person.

            If we then ignore Matthew 5:17, and adopt this latter idea of sabbath for man rather than man for sabbath, then in my judgment, human morality trumps the entire bible, indeed all religion.

            It’s just not relevant to the average Christian who believes in the golden rule to be told “be fair to others.” To a Christian who follows the “Do unto others . . .” advice, it’s simply not relevant to worry about the proper way to stone someone, or precisely how much food they must give to a hungry man. They will do what they feel would be good for others to do for themselves.

            I really never liked that “do unto others…” rule, because what if someone is a masochist? If they followed that rule, then they’d become an absolute tyrant among men. “Do unto others…” presupposes that the person following that rule already has an existing morality that is inherently good already. But then that kind of just begs the question.

            I think the golden rule is an empty platitude.

            • Drigan says:

              “Actually that would be a descriptive binding, as in a scientific necessity GIVEN the ends sought after, whereas the OT “law” is a moral binding.”

              I think I must have not made myself clear: I meant that the person saying “don’t jump off the bridge” was a person in authority, and their word was binding upon the other person, but irrelevant because the other person wouldn’t have jumped anyhow.

              “If we then ignore Matthew 5:17, and adopt this latter idea of sabbath for man rather than man for sabbath, then in my judgment, human morality trumps the entire bible, indeed all religion.”

              I don’t see the logic that got you to morality trumping the Bible or religion, but I basically agree with you, provided you agree with the following: a moral person must follow where morality leads them for them to remain a moral person, and morality does not change merely because a person changes their mind.

              Basically, there is a difference between objective and subjective morality. The morality of a person doing something is subjective, the morality of the action is objective. If a person does not understand that something is immoral, and they do that thing, they have done nothing subjectively immoral. What they have done may be objectively immoral, and we can condemn the action, but we cannot condemn the person because we cannot know the degree to which they understood the morality of their action.

              I believe that Catholicism is the Church Christ started through the Apostles, that Christ is God, and that He protects The Church from teaching error. As such it would be immoral for me to leave it. If someone does not believe this through no fault of their own, then it is conceivably moral for them to leave. If, on the other hand, someone does not believe this because they have willfully avoided evidence that would lead them to believe as I believe, then they are guilty of a different form of immorality, which may or may not be as serious.

              I’m not really sure what your point is about Jesus and the story of David, but I’ll have to get around to looking it up. I can’t say that I’ve paid much attention to Abiathar and Abimelech.

              As for the golden rule, you have a valid point, but most Christians still acknowledge the 10 commandments as superseding the golden rule. As such, I don’t think it *really* ends up causing any mischief. Perhaps you are more imaginative than me?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I think I must have not made myself clear: I meant that the person saying “don’t jump off the bridge” was a person in authority, and their word was binding upon the other person, but irrelevant because the other person wouldn’t have jumped anyhow.

                What do you mean by “authority”? You seem to be presupposing a morality already of “X shalt obey authority Y”.

                How is Y’s command “binding” on X, and where did that binding come from?

                I don’t see the logic that got you to morality trumping the Bible or religion, but I basically agree with you, provided you agree with the following: a moral person must follow where morality leads them for them to remain a moral person, and morality does not change merely because a person changes their mind.

                Sure, I will agree, so long as you agree that morality has to ultimately be grounded on people’s ideas, for better or for worse.

                Basically, there is a difference between objective and subjective morality. The morality of a person doing something is subjective, the morality of the action is objective. If a person does not understand that something is immoral, and they do that thing, they have done nothing subjectively immoral. What they have done may be objectively immoral, and we can condemn the action, but we cannot condemn the person because we cannot know the degree to which they understood the morality of their action.

                I disagree. I don’t think it’s wrong to condemn the murderer or rapist who thought he was doing the good and moral thing.

                I believe that Catholicism is the Church Christ started through the Apostles, that Christ is God, and that He protects The Church from teaching error.

                I believe you’re wrong. Now what? How can we settle this disagreement, given that you conceive of there being an objective morality?

                As such it would be immoral for me to leave it. If someone does not believe this through no fault of their own, then it is conceivably moral for them to leave. If, on the other hand, someone does not believe this because they have willfully avoided evidence that would lead them to believe as I believe, then they are guilty of a different form of immorality, which may or may not be as serious.

                What evidence are you talking about? Will you accept the possibility that you are wilfully avoiding valid evidence, and elevating what is actually invalid evidence into the status of valid evidence?

                I’m not really sure what your point is about Jesus and the story of David, but I’ll have to get around to looking it up. I can’t say that I’ve paid much attention to Abiathar and Abimelech.

                The point is that I think it’s wrong for people to point to Jesus’ alleged reaction to his followers working on the sabbath because it’s either a mistake on Jesus’ part, or the person who wrote it made a mistake.

                As for the golden rule, you have a valid point, but most Christians still acknowledge the 10 commandments as superseding the golden rule. As such, I don’t think it *really* ends up causing any mischief. Perhaps you are more imaginative than me?

                If you’re Catholic, then chances are you’re a LOT more “creative” than me, LOL.

              • Drigan says:

                By authority, i meant any law maker, be it a religious or civil law.
                By ‘binding’ i mean that to avoid being an ‘outlaw’ the edict must be obeyed.

                I don’t agree that morality ultimately boils down to people’s ideas, but rather to ultimate truth. I don’t expect that you’ll agree with this, so it seems reasonable to agree to disagree on this point. And to be fair, I don’t think we are far apart on where this leads us.

                “I don’t think it’s wrong to condemn the murderer or rapist who thought he was doing the good and moral thing.”

                Fair enough. I don’t think that a rapist could truly believe that they are doing a good and moral thing in that case, so it seems fair to call this immoral to me. That said, I don’t know the degree to which they understood their immorality, so I’ll probably withhold judgment moreso than you would, but I will definitely condemn the act, and would be willing to imprison such a character to protect the public at large. Again, I think we arrive at a very similar place.

                “I believe you’re wrong. Now what? How can we settle this disagreement, given that you conceive of there being an objective morality? ”

                Read the whole paragraph before responding next time please? We can settle this by waiting until we both die. I’m content with that.

                “What evidence are you talking about? Will you accept the possibility that you are wilfully avoiding valid evidence, and elevating what is actually invalid evidence into the status of valid evidence?”

                I’m not trying to convince you here, I’m merely explaining that I’ve heard and seen evidence that convinces me of the truth of Christianity, and more specifically Catholicism. If I were to reject this evidence without just cause, I would be morally culpable. You wouldn’t. You haven’t seen the same evidence I have, and if you did you might not believe it. Therefore, I can only tell you that *I* would be morally in the wrong to leave Catholicism.

                “If you’re Catholic, then chances are you’re a LOT more “creative” than me, LOL.”

                I’m 29, I have 3 kids 3.5 and under, we’ve been married for 4.5 years, and we’re . . . contemplating . . . our 4th . . . You can judge how creative we are. :D

              • Major_Freedom says:

                By authority, i meant any law maker, be it a religious or civil law.

                By ‘binding’ i mean that to avoid being an ‘outlaw’ the edict must be obeyed.

                So by binding in this sense, you’re just talking about brute force. One or more people “binds” another through force.

                But that is not how the OT is “binding” in the sense I used it. I meant “binding” in the sense of being cognitively applicable, legitimate, relevant, etc.

                I don’t agree that morality ultimately boils down to people’s ideas, but rather to ultimate truth.

                Ultimate truth cannot be known without a mind.

                I am not proposing idealism, or that the mind logically precedes the ultimate truth. Only that for MAN, morality ultimately boils down to ideas. It can’t go any further, for if it did, the mind would have to be abstracted away, which we cannot even comprehend.

                Fair enough. I don’t think that a rapist could truly believe that they are doing a good and moral thing in that case, so it seems fair to call this immoral to me.

                He could very much believe he’s doing a good and moral thing if he is a firm believer in the OT, which condones these types of behavior.

                We can settle this by waiting until we both die. I’m content with that.

                We could not settle anything if we’re dead.

                I’m not trying to convince you here, I’m merely explaining that I’ve heard and seen evidence that convinces me of the truth of Christianity, and more specifically Catholicism.

                What evidence are you talking about?

                If I were to reject this evidence without just cause, I would be morally culpable. You wouldn’t. You haven’t seen the same evidence I have, and if you did you might not believe it. Therefore, I can only tell you that *I* would be morally in the wrong to leave Catholicism.

                Ah, the old “I have some super secret evidence that you can only accept or deny, and if you deny, then you’re wrong” tactic.

              • Drigan says:

                “He could very much believe he’s doing a good and moral thing if he is a firm believer in the OT, which condones these types of behavior.”

                I think you’re misunderstanding the passage. In the time of the OT, a woman who was raped was doomed to a life of prostitution. No husband would take her, and there were very limited other options for work. This passage was actually meant as a means of making restitution for the rape. The rapist was wrong to have raped, but it would be more wrong to not then take care of the woman. I admit this looks *very* strange to our modern eyes, but it’s not condoning rape so much as prescribing something to lessen the harm rape does.

                “What evidence are you talking about?”
                “Ah, the old “I have some super secret evidence that you can only accept or deny, and if you deny, then you’re wrong” tactic.”

                No, I’m not saying you’re wrong for denying my evidence, I’m saying that I couldn’t present my evidence in a reasonable manner. There’s simply too much, and it would take too much time to explain . . . and even if I had years to explain it, I’d still have to gloss some over. Suffice it to say that *I* believe it, and I don’t expect you to believe me. Evidence is best collected firsthand, anyhow. If you want to win me over, you would have to prove that Christ didn’t start the Catholic Church, or that He was not who he claimed to be.

                I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to disengage before much longer . . . I’m spending a bit too much time here. :-/

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Drigan:

                I think you’re misunderstanding the passage. In the time of the OT, a woman who was raped was doomed to a life of prostitution. No husband would take her, and there were very limited other options for work.

                There’s no misunderstanding, Drigan. The person who wrote that Deuteronomy passage also must have believed that rather depraved “rule” about raped women as well, which only makes it doubly twisted.

                This passage was actually meant as a means of making restitution for the rape. The rapist was wrong to have raped, but it would be more wrong to not then take care of the woman. I admit this looks *very* strange to our modern eyes, but it’s not condoning rape so much as prescribing something to lessen the harm rape does.

                This is not about whether this passage condones rape, since it actually calls raping a young woman who is not engaged a “violation” (does that mean the bible holds it as OK to rape an older woman who is engaged??), but rather this passage is calling for the double victimization of rape victims. It says the rape victim SHALL marry her rapist.

                It doesn’t matter if the writer of the passage believed this to “lessen” the damage, the point is that this very belief is itself depraved and disturbing. Who else but a depraved individual would consider it a SOLUTION for a rape victim to be FORCED to marry her rapist?

                Stop thinking in terms of “modern eyes” and “old eyes.” There is only one set of eyes for humans. Forcing rape victims to marry their rapist is wrong today, it was wrong then, and it will always be wrong, regardless of positive law.

      • joeftansey says:

        Ulterior question – how bad would a rule in the OT have to be before you get suspicious?

        • Drigan says:

          In my case, I would have to not only not understand it myself, but there would have to be several Bishops who were unable to answer. I feel comfortable saying that you’d have to bring something pretty obscure for that to be the case.

          I admit to having trouble with the passage about killing all the women and children in the towns that oppose Israel . . . but even that can be shown to be more tolerant than average for the time. The verses that are key to this are Deuteronomy 20 verses 9-12. (To my knowledge, this is the first time open war is discussed in the Bible with the Israelites being the aggressors.) When the Israelites go to war, they first offer peace . . . unless the city belongs to a people that will virulently spread evil. (Granted, the surrendering city must then pay tribute, but presumably this wouldn’t be significantly worse than the city providing for its own defense.)

          In practical terms, it would be somewhat similar to God saying “kill all members of the german nazi party and russian communist party, for they have done great evil.” I would have trouble objecting too vehemently to such a thing. Also, remember that God would spare a city if it had 10 innocents in it. (As indicated by Abraham’s haggling with God.) This indicates to me that the towns that were destroyed were thoroughly corrupt.

          I have no problem with God casting judgment on a people, but leaving it to others to enact that judgment.

          To my knowledge, this is the worst type of passage in the Bible, and I am troubled by it, but ultimately OK with it. If you can come up with something worse, feel free to bring it up.

          • joeftansey says:

            “More tolerant than average for the time”

            Why is this a valid criterion?

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Escape hatch reasoning.

              By attaching a morality to a specific period of time, one can escape from it by claiming this is a different time.

              Notice how it leads to moral relativism. Even the person claiming to be able to escape from OT law on the basis of “those were different times”, could not defend his morality now, because it too would have to be applicable to a specific period of time only (if he is consistent). Tomorrow could call for a different morality. And then the day after there could be a different morality?

              What exactly would cause a change over from one moral age to another? This is where the escape hatch artist begs the question and defers to….the morality of the people at the time in question! Bwahaha!

              • Swazi says:

                No, it’s not about morality, but rather the social/cultural constructs of the time. A defiled virgin would have no prospects of marriage, and her family would lose out on a dowry. The policy described in Deuteronomy is form of social insurance (think about/research the standing of a single woman in that time). Nice try though,but ancient Israel was not structured as an individualistic society.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Swazi,

                The fact that the prevailing belief at the time was that rape victims were no longer “worthy”, just doubles the depravity of it.

                This passage is totally ignoring the woman’s wants. Forcing her to marry her rapist?

                It doesn’t matter if Israel wasn’t “individualistic” at the time. The whole point is that this belief is wrong from a standard OTHER than “the cultural norms at the time.”

                That’s what critiquing/analyzing the bible’s morality is all about.

            • joeftansey says:

              BUMP (with extension)

              The bible is less tolerant than average for modern times. Homosexaulity, adultery, pre-marital intercourse…

              • Drigan says:

                Tolerance is not a virtue. Perhaps I should have said “more understanding of the ‘other’” and you would have understood my meaning better?

                The three you mentioned and contraception all fall under the general category of “I want the pleasure without the responsibility.”

                Imagine a bulimic telling you that avoiding the consequences of overeating is their right. This is what I hear when someone tells me that any of those things is right.

              • joeftansey says:

                I’m pretty sure modern culture is more understanding than the NT. Like, we understand that homosexuals can be decent human beings and don’t need to be condemned.

                “Homosexuality” is not pleasure without responsibility. That you would even try to argue this is just unbelievably bigoted.

                Birth control isn’t pleasure without responsibility… Like I use birth control BECAUSE I’m responsible and want to have a child when we can provide the best possible home for it. But if you think I should just live in a sexless relationship (counter-biological) or otherwise have freaking 14 kids, well, I would consider both of those irresponsible.

                Adultery is just an extra-marital relationship, so I don’t see how you can say it’s irresponsible automatically. Sure it can be, but then I point to polygamous couples who seem to be able to manage it just fine.

                And I don’t know what’s wrong with “pleasure without responsibility”. I mean, you eat ice cream right? Or is that a sin…

                I don’t care if you have a mistaken analogy with bulimia for any of these things. Perfectly normal and moral human beings are homosexual, or use birth control, etc. So I’d say the NT isn’t really tolerant, nor is it understanding compared to modern norms.

            • Drigan says:

              “Why is this a valid criterion?”

              Christians believe that the OT was a preparation period for Christ and His message. If the people aren’t ready for the full message, then you would expect to see the people being moved along a bit at a time. This is a case of exactly that.

              Keep in mind, this is my example of something that’s very difficult for me in scripture, so I clearly don’t have a cut and dried answer; I’m looking into it. I’m sure you could come up with something that is more appropriate for yourself.

              “What exactly would cause a change over from one moral age to another? This is where the escape hatch artist begs the question and defers to….the morality of the people at the time in question! Bwahaha!”

              Well . . . if God physically came to impart wisdom and enter into a new kind of relationship with us, that’s as likely a thing to change one moral age to another as anything possibly could be, isn’t it?

              I guess it’s fair to say that I’m begging the question on the issue of morality, because I think the question is irrelevant . . . (My apologies for wasting your time entertaining the earlier line of reasoning; I didn’t realize how irrelevant it was until now.) The question that I think *is* important is “Was Christ who He said He was?” If I answer in the affirmative, then the next question is “What was the message, and who or what conveys the message?” If I say the Bible is both, then God is a pretty lousy conveyor of information, as there are thousands of strains of ‘Bible based’ Christianity, all with slightly different variations of the message. If I say that the Apostles and their successors convey the message, then I now have ground to believe the Bible, because it was dubbed ‘inerrant’ by the successors of the Apostles; but this doesn’t stop the Apostles from being the primary conveyors. Because of this, if I come to something that is difficult in the Bible, I can then go to the successors of the Apostles and ask for clarification.

              I’m pretty convinced that the Apostles *thought* they were telling the truth about Jesus . . . why else would they suffer torturous deaths that they could have avoided by recanting? I’m pretty certain that they were in a position to know whether they were telling the truth about His resurrection . . . it was pretty much that or several mass hallucinations, where Thomas first told them all they were crazy, then joins in the hallucination.

              From their own report, these guys don’t come off looking too good. One of their best friends betrays Jesus for money, Jesus’ second in command denies even knowing Jesus, and they all run away and hide together in a room because they don’t want to get killed like Jesus was. Yet a couple months later, they all go out and start preaching their message, leading to all except one dying horrific deaths rather than recanting the message.

              If I wanted to gain power by creating a religion on false pretenses, you can bet that I wouldn’t make myself look cowardly. And I *definitely* wouldn’t let someone peel my skin off rather than admit my lie. These guys were in a position to know about the resurrection, and they believed it happened. I’ve not been presented with anything nearly as convincing for any other religion . . . heck, not even for my own parentage. (I’m pretty sure I know who my parents are, but the evidence is much easier to fake than the evidence of torturous death.)

              If you wish to show that Christianity is false, I think you must start with the source. Show that Jesus or the Apostles were liars or lunatics. To do this, you must show that they were wrong about something relevant to Christianity itself. (Faith/Morals) The Abiathar thing may be a decent place to start, but it’s too easily attributed to scribal error, so I’d probably start somewhere else.

              • Ken B says:

                In short Drigan argues god can improve things incrementally. That is, there is no requirement an all powerful all good god would relieve unneccesary suffering quickly. He might be busy.

              • joeftansey says:

                Well the bible is less tolerant than the status quo. Does that mean the NT is outdated and we don’t have to follow it anymore?

              • Drigan says:

                “That is, there is no requirement an all powerful all good god would relieve unneccesary suffering quickly. He might be busy.”

                No, I would argue that seemingly unnecessary suffering has value which may not be immediately evident.

              • joeftansey says:

                Like children being born with horrible defects that cause them to die at a very early age.

                Note that the loving-god theory requires that the benefit outweighs the suffering.

                The more circuitous and less obvious the benefit is, the less likely it justifies horrible suffering of innocents.

    • Anonymous says:

      Major Freedom-

      You don’t seem to understand the historical context of that passage from Deuteronomy. If woman was raped, or otherwise defiled before she was betrothed, she would not be considered marriageable – which in turn would mean the loss of a dowry to her family. Requiring that a rapist marry his victim was a form of social insurance – for both the would-be spinster and her family. Nice try, though.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Anonymous,

        The historical context is irrelevant FOR THE RAPE VICTIM being compelled to marry her rapist.

        The fact that in addition to the marrying the rapist part, there is an additional “she would not be considered marriageable” part, only further adds to the depravity of it.

        You’re actually making Deuteronomy seem even worse when put into that context.

        Excellent try though.

        • joeftansey says:

          Wouldn’t it be easier to command “Don’t boycott people just cus they got raped?”

        • Swazi says:

          I think that the word rape is actually misused in the translation – it’s more like seduction.

          Here:

          http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0522.htm

          Try again – after you have validated your translation.

          • joeftansey says:

            Red herring. Woman has zero choice in the matter. Her family has zero choice. This is inexcusable.

            And if it really just is “seduction”, then there’s no reason to force a marriage. The woman would not be considered unmarriable.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              joeftansey wrote:

              And if it really just is “seduction”, then there’s no reason to force a marriage. The woman would not be considered unmarriable.

              I didn’t realize you were an expert on the social mores of the ancient Israelites. Have you seen what happens to women in Middle Eastern countries when they have sex before being married? You don’t think that might have been a big deal thousands of years ago for a group walking around the desert?

              • Anonymous says:

                Kind of a pointless dispute guys. RPM admits the bible is not a reliable source of morality. (He seems to think it a reliable history though.)

              • Ken B says:

                Bob is right in this last point. Seems irrelevant to the larger issue: is the bible a useful source of morality?

              • joeftansey says:

                I didn’t realize seduction was a euphamism for intercourse. Oh what gets lost in translation…

                Regardless, my previous objections on this issue still stand. But thanks for divebombing in to address the weakest of my tangential arguments.

              • Swazi says:

                You guys do understand the difference between morality and cultural mores, right???

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Yes. Were you afraid that if you just used two question marks, I wouldn’t answer?

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Swazi,

            Even that translation carries with it the same problem that exists in the NIV/KJV translation above.

            Notice verses 14-19, and especially verse 21.

            They all advocate an extra victimization of the woman who was raped / “seduced.”

            In 14-19, the women is to be forced to marry whoever raped / “seduced” her.

            In 21, the woman is to be stoned to death for not being a virgin.

            That is my point of bringing up Deuteronomy 22.

            Nice try on apologizing for it though.

      • joeftansey says:

        Wouldn’t it be better to just require the rapist to pay the dowry without marrying the woman?

        Wouldn’t it be easier to give the victim a say in the matter? 2/3rds majority vote from her family? Anything?

  22. Ken B says:

    Wow. I thought I was harsh. But I’ve never mocked believers as viciously as this:
    “OK there were a bunch of people 2000 years ago who were willing to be murdered for their public proclamation that their teacher had come back from the dead. … I think that is evidence this guy came back from the dead. ” I mean I get the point of the mockery. It’s like me saying that the 48 ‘Solar Temple’ deaths in canada and Switzerland are evidence the world really has ended. Brutal.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      It’s like me saying that the 48 ‘Solar Temple’ deaths in canada and Switzerland are evidence the world really has ended. Brutal.

      No silly, that’s just evidence there is a God. I mean who would really kill people, and who would kill themselves, if what they believe is all nonsense? Clearly they honestly believed in it, so they must be right.

      • Ken B says:

        MF: I think you miss the logic in RPM’s statement. The martyrs’ willingness to die is evidence for their belief; the solar templars believed the world as about to end, and it was 20 years ago. Evidence they were right, hence evidence the world has ended.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Ken B. wrote: MF: I think you miss the logic in RPM’s statement. The martyrs’ willingness to die is evidence for their belief…

          Ken B. you are joining a long-running (literally over the course of a year) discussion, so let me clarify since I didn’t spell out the whole argument on this latest comment: I am claiming that a bunch of people died for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead…who would have had firsthand knowledge if Jesus did that or not. That’s why I’m referring to Christian martyrs from 2000 years ago, as opposed to Chinese or North Korean Christians today who get persecuted for their beliefs. My claim is that I find it implausible people would be willing to die for something they know is a fraud.

          • Ken B says:

            @Bob
            Thanks for the clarification. I’d like to know one what basis you say they had first hand knowledge? All your sources are late. Mark is the earliest, and the versions of Mark which are earliest do not include 16:9 and onward. Even the most favorable-to-murphy versions of Mark mention ver few who could have first hand evidence.

            [For reasons vastly to involved for us to debate the critical consensus is the original Mark ends at 16:8 with "And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."
            (How this silence is known is a puzzle.)]

            And again Mark is late. Mark relates tales p[assed through 3 or 4 decades of oral history.

            As for your other point we know and can prove that christians falsified stories about christ. (Start with Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus). Let’s add it up: late contradictory sources based at best on tendentious oral traditionsl; evidence of tampering in the sources; dusbious assertions about mass psychology. This is thin enough it is not evidence.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          The martyrs’ willingness to die is evidence for their belief;

          And those later on who were killed en masse for NOT believing? Is that evidence they were right?

          Dying for a belief is not evidence for that belief.

  23. Ken B says:

    “That is, there is no requirement an all powerful all good god would relieve unneccesary suffering quickly. He might be busy.”

    No, I would argue that seemingly unnecessary suffering has value which may not be immediately evident.

    With faith all things are possible. TRANSLATION: You have refuted my logic but I don’t worry about logic.

    • nokidding says:

      “It wouldn’t have worked to send Jesus right away”

      Ah, but you are in such deep logical and factual trouble, trying to be a deity apologist, that the schedule of Jesus’s flight to Jerusalem on the 3rd rock from the sun is the least of your problems. Why even TRY to argue for the existence of imaginary stuff? The Good News: you don’t have to.

      But the title of this article is cute!!!

  24. Geoffrey Leigh says:

    Not wishing to enter into the pros and cons about the existence of God and as a student of theology the past forty years it is obvious to me that the writers herein do not understand the new testament because they do not understand that the new testament is written in a language known as the ‘Pesher”.
    Recommended reading ” The Book That Jesus Wrote” Johns Gospel by Barbara Thiering D.D. a Double Day Book 1998.
    This will enlighten that Jesus was not born of a physical virgin, did not die on the cross, was married, twice fathered children, never intended “Christianity” which was begun by the Apostle Paul formerly Saul of Tarsus who sold the lie to the Romans who created the most evil institution the world has ever known and is responsible for the ongoing murder of countless hundreds of thousand of individuals including the “The thirteenth-century Cathars slaughtered at Montségur in 1244″. And financing Hitler and post war along with Eva Peron smuggling thousands of Nazi War criminals to Argentina.

  25. Earl Brooks says:

    “Now that he can’t respond, I critique Christopher Hitchens”

    Not only are you ignorant, but worst of all you’re a coward.

  26. mark says:

    Why are you replying to someone who is dead and can’t defend him or give a reply? Not very Christian….

    • Adam Martin says:

      Because Hitchens would have disemboweled Murphy if he actually got the chance to rebut this argument, and Murphy definitely knows it.

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