To be honest, I often find Google+ to be a waste of time because there aren’t very many good discussions. Occasionally though, something worthwhile pops up and I have to respond, but as I’ve said before, it isn’t easy to get into much depth and detail because of the format. Often, when that happens, I bring the claims here to dissect, but, of course, that means that whoever originated the argument and those who might otherwise want to take part, they are often excluded because they don’t want to leave Google+ and travel elsewhere.
Ah well. Here goes part 2 of my response to 10 arguments against Christianity that this apologist thinks aren’t true, but actually are completely accurate. I posted the first part a couple of days ago, you can find it here.
6. Christian’s only believe in Christianity because they were born in a Christian culture. If they’d been born in India they would have been Hindu instead.
This argument is appealing because it pretends to wholly dismiss people’s reasoning capabilities based on their environmental influences in childhood. The idea is that people in general are so intellectually near-sighted that they can’t see past their own upbringing, which, it would follow, would be an equally condemning commentary on atheism. But, this is a spurious claim.
Take the history of the Jewish people for example. Let us say that to ‘be’ Jewish, in the religious sense, is much more than a matter of cultural adherence. To be a Jewish believer is to have Judaism permeate one’s thinking and believing and interaction with the world. But is this the state of affairs with the majority of the Jewish people, whether in America, Europe, Israel, or wherever? One would have to be seriously out of touch to believe so. The same phenomenon is found within so-called Christian communities. Indeed, being born in a Jewish or Christian centric home today is more often a precursor that the child will grow up to abandon the faith of his or her family.
This is actually extremely true. People are much more likely to adopt the local religious customs than they are to adopt beliefs that are foreign to their cultures. This is especially the case because the majority of religious believers are indoctrinated into their faith by their parents, just as their parents were almost certainly indoctrinated into their beliefs as children. Certainly, someone can change religious beliefs as life goes on and would therefore pass along their new religious beliefs to their offspring, but religious beliefs, especially strong religious beliefs, tend to cluster for a reason.
And of course, the stronger those religious beliefs are in your culture, the more likely you are to remain that religion because questioning the dominant religion is less likely to be tolerated. You don’t find a lot of open Christians living in strongly Muslim cultures. I’m not saying it never happens, but the majority will remain Muslim because non-Muslims tend to be ostracized and even killed for their disbelief. Often, as our apologist notes, being born into a religious home is a good sign that children will abandon the religion. This is because there is no need for religion and as children are educated to see reality as it actually is, not as the religious wish it was, they wander away from the beliefs that their parents might hold. This is why a lot of fundamentalist and evangelical Christians are so dead set against a secular education. They know the facts will only destroy faith.
7. The gospel doesn’t make sense: God was mad at mankind because of sin so he decided to torture and kill his own Son so that he could appease his own pathological anger. God is the weirdo, not me.
This is actually a really good argument against certain Protestant sects (I’ve used it myself on numerous occasions), but it has no traction with the Orthodox Christian faith. The Orthodox have no concept of a God who needed appeasement in order to love His creation. The Father sacrificed His own Son in order to destroy death with His life; not to assuage His wrath, but to heal; not to protect mankind from His fury, but to unite mankind to His love. If the reader is interested to hear more on this topic follow this link for a fuller discussion.
But that doesn’t make any sense. If you have a supposedly all-loving, all-powerful, all-good deity, he doesn’t need to destroy death, he can just make it vanish. There is no sacrifice needed. In fact, since he supposedly knows all, why did he create death in the first place? Why does the Bible depict God as throwing temper tantrums? The very existence of wrath in a supposedly omnibenevolent deity makes no sense at all. It is an oxymoron. Besides, you’re still just making assertions about the character of God that you cannot possibly know. There is no way at all that you can know what God is actually like, what God thinks, what God wants, etc.
8. History is full of mother-child messiah cults, trinity godheads, and the like. Thus the Christian story is a myth like the rest.
This argument seems insurmountable on the surface, but is really a slow-pitch across the plate (if you don’t mind a baseball analogy). There is no arguing the fact that history is full of similar stories found in the Bible, and I won’t take the time to recount them here. But this fact should not be surprising in the least, indeed if history had no similar stories it would be reason for concern. Anything beautiful always has replicas. A counterfeit coin does not prove the non-existence of the authentic coin, it proves the exact opposite. A thousand U2 cover bands is not evidence that U2 is a myth.
Ah, but that doesn’t address the fact that some of these stories were told before the Biblical accounts. True. But imagine if the only story of a messianic virgin birth, death, and resurrection were contained in the New Testament. That, to me, would be odd. It would be odd because if all people everywhere had God as their Creator, yet the central event of human history—the game changing event of all the ages—the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ had never occurred to them, in at least some hazy form, they would have been completely cut off from the prime mysteries of human existence. It seems only natural that if the advent of Christ was real it would permeate through the consciousness of mankind on some level regardless of their place in history. One should expect to find mankind replicating these stories, found in their own visions and dreams, again and again throughout history. And indeed, that is what we find.
The fact remains that there simply isn’t any good evidence that these stories are actually true. You can argue all you want that you want it to be true, that doesn’t mean that it is objectively or demonstrably true and that’s really what’s important. In fact, having all of these elements pre-existing the Christian myth are a pretty good reason to doubt that this story is just a reimagining of pre-existing mythic elements. We see that happen throughout history, that stories get broken apart, mixed around and recombined into a new story. Just because you are emotionally invested in this particular story doesn’t excuse you from following reality.
But it really makes no sense to say that the advent of Christ would ripple through history, it is literally impossible for someone born today to affect people who lived hundreds of years ago, which is essentially what’s being claimed. These stories came up hundreds, sometimes thousands of years before Jesus supposedly lived. They were widespread and were well known in Israel before the supposed birth of Christ. Is it more rational to think that Jesus just so happened to fit into the exact same mold that everyone already believed, or that Jesus, if he existed at all, was mythologized with these pre-existing stories as tales of his teachings were passed down via word of mouth? Theists simply are not thinking rationally here.
9. The God of the Bible is evil. A God who allows so much suffering and death can be nothing but evil.
This criticism is voice in many different ways. For me, this is one of the most legitimate arguments against the existence of a good God. The fact that there is suffering and death is the strongest argument against the belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. If suffering and death exist it seems to suggest one of two things: (1) either God is love, but He is not all-powerful and cannot stop suffering and death, or (2) God is all-powerful, but He does not care for us.
I devoted a separate article addressing this problem, but let me deal here with the problem inherent in the criticism itself. The argument takes as its presupposition that good and evil are real; that there is an ultimate standard of good and evil that supersedes mere fanciful ‘ideas’ about what is good and evil at a given time in our ethical evolution, as it were. If there is not a real existence—an ontological reality—of good and evil, then the charge that God is evil because of this or that is really to say nothing more than, “I personally don’t like what I see in the world and therefore a good God cannot exist.” I like what C.S. Lewis said on a similar matter: “There is no sense in talking of ‘becoming better’ if better means simply ‘what we are becoming’—it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as ‘the place you have reached.’”
What is tricky for the atheist in these sorts of debates is to steer clear of words loaded with religious overtones. It’s weird for someone who does not believe in ultimate good and evil to condemn God as evil because He did not achieve their personal vision of good. So, the initial criticism is sound, but it is subversive to the atheist’s staging ground. If one is going to accept good and evil as realities, he is not in a position to fully reject God. Instead, he is more in a position to wrestle with the idea that God is good. This struggle is applauded in the Orthodox Church. After all, the very word God used for his people in the Old Testament—“Israel”—means to struggle with God.
I will admit that God’s character has nothing to do with God’s existence. God could be the biggest, most evil dick in existence, that has no bearing on whether or not God is actually real. It would have everything to do with whether God is worthy of worship, but existence has nothing to do with character. Hitler was a sadistic bastard but he was certainly real. But the problem of evil has nothing to do with God’s existence and everything to do with God’s claimed characteristics. You simply cannot have an omnibenevolent and omnipotent deity and have evil in the world. You can’t. It is logically inconsistent. It is an oxymoron. If God is capable of creating anything that can be evil, then God cannot be without evil. The Bible even says that God creates evil, thus invalidating the characteristics that Christians want to believe in. So regardless of whether or not God exists, and he is logically inconsistent based on the claimed characteristics that Christians assign, he certainly is not worthy of anyone’s worship. He is a monster, a sick, sadistic bastard that ought to be reviled, not revered.
10. Evolution has answered the question of where we came from. There is no need for ignorant ancient myths anymore.
This might be the most popular attempted smack-downs of religion in general today. It is found in many variations but the concept is fairly consistent and goes something like this: Science has brought us to a point where we no longer need mythology to understand the world, and any questions which remain will eventually be answered through future scientific breakthroughs. The main battle-ground where this criticism is seen today is in evolution vs. creationism debates.
Let me say upfront that there is perhaps no other subject that bores me more than evolution vs. creationism debates. I would rather watch paint dry. And when I’m not falling asleep through such debates I’m frustrated because usually both sides of the debate use large amounts of dishonesty in order to gain points rather than to gain the truth. The evolutionist has no commentary whatsoever on the existence of God, and the creationist usually suffers from profound confusion in their understanding of the first few chapters of Genesis.
So, without entering into the most pathetic debate of the ages, bereft of all intellectual profundity, I’ll only comment on the underlining idea that science has put Christianity out of the answer business. Science is fantastic if you want to know what gauge wire is compatible with a 20 amp electric charge, how agriculture works, what causes disease and how to cure it, and a million other things. But where the physical sciences are completely lacking is in those issues most important to human beings—the truly existential issues: what does it mean to be human, why are we here, what is valuable, what does it mean to love, to hate, what am I to do with guilt, grief, sorrow, what does it mean to succeed, is there any meaning and what does ‘meaning’ mean, and, of course, is there a God? etc, ad infinitum.
As far as where we come from, evolution has barely scratched the purely scientific surface of the matter. Even if the whole project of evolution as an account of our history was without serious objection, it would still not answer the problem of the origin of life, since the option of natural selection as an explanation is not available when considering how dead or inorganic matter becomes organic. Even more complicated is the matter of where matter came from. The ‘Big Bang’ is not an answer to origins but rather a description of the event by which everything came into being; i.e., it’s the description of a smoking gun, not the shooter.
To a certain degree, our apologist here is right. While we no longer need mythology to explain the basic facts about the world around us, a lot of believers don’t believe because they need reality explained, they believe because they want comfort and coddling that a belief in a magical man in the sky provides. Evolution isn’t a magic bullet that kills religion dead, most religions have no problem with evolution and the other natural sciences because their faith isn’t based on the real world, but on emotion.
That said though, there are plenty of Christians out there, particularly the evangelical and fundamentalist varieties, who fight tooth and nail against any modern scientific theory that seems to disagree with their theology. Their attacks on evolution are blind and mindless, they don’t really understand what they’re attacking because they really don’t care about reality, they only want to protect their own interpretation of theology. This needs to be strongly opposed because these people want to teach children mythology as though it was reality, which demonstrably it is not. If you can manage to work your theology around reality, that’s fine. If you have to try to tear down demonstrable reality to fit around your theology, hell no.
But the argument here that we just don’t know everything, therefore you can still stuff God into the gaps is a bit ridiculous as well. Every single gap we look into scientifically, we don’t find gods. Theists are running out of gaps to hide their gods in and over the years, theists have simply redefined their gods to be fundamentally undetectable as a means of keeping them away from science’s prying eyes. We still have no rational reason to think that gods are real. It’s a wholly emotional question for which no objective evidence exists, yet you have apologists, like this one, trying to explain their way around the complete and total lack of evidence that has presented itself for the existence of their gods. They say that someday, maybe, we will find evidence that gods exist. Great, then someday, maybe, it might be rational to believe in them. We don’t make decisions based on what we might find someday, we make decisions based on what evidence we have at hand right now. And right now, there simply isn’t any evidence for gods. We keep coming back to the undeniable fact that people believe in gods because it provides them emotional comfort, not because we have any good reason to think gods actually exist in the real world. So long as that is the case, so long as we have no objectively verifiable evidence for any gods, anywhere, it is still foolish and irrational to believe. I don’t care how much you wave your hands or make unjustified pronouncements, you believe for really illogical reasons. You might not care but in the scheme of things, it matters and you’re just not going to impress anyone who actually cares about what is real. Believers do not. That’s a problem.
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments if you think any of these explanations make any sense, or if it is just more desperate theological wishful thinking. I find people with “answers” to atheist objections all the time and they never rise above the level of “maybe, could be” hypothesizing in order to rescue their unsupported beliefs from the jaws of objective reality. They always fail, but when you point out that they fail, they have their fingers in their ears, their eyes clenched tightly shut, yelling “I can’t hear you!” They can’t rationally respond to the objections because, as I keep saying, they don’t care about reality, they care about emotional comfort. Sorry, nobody is impressed by that.
Every now and then, someone posts a long screed on one of the Google+ Atheism Communities I’m a member of. Usually, they’re nothing worth paying attention to but this time, I think this list of ten complaints about religious/irreligious debate is something I’d like to respond to. It was written by someone named Johnathan Peter Lauridsen and while this isn’t especially impressive, it does deserve a response. Because I’m actually presenting the bulk of his claims, I am going to split this into two posts, lest it become absurdly long, or more absurdly long than it already will be. Therefore, look for the first part today and the second in a couple of days.
So let’s get started.
1. There is no evidence for God’s existence.
There are a couple of problems with this line. Starting with the idea of ‘evidence,’ what exactly does one mean by evidence? What is sufficient evidence for one person is often not sufficient evidence for another. A court of law provides innumerable examples of how two parties can possess the same collection of data, the same power of logic and reasoning, yet argue for completely different interpretations of the data. The old saying is true: the facts do not determine the argument, the argument determines the facts.
When confronted with the charge that there is no evidence for God the Christian often does not know where to start with a rebuttal. It’s as G.K. Chesterton once said, asking a Christian to prove God’s existence is like asking someone to prove the existence of civilization. What is one to do but point and say, “look, there’s a chair, and there’s a building,” etc. How can one prove civilization by merely selecting a piece here and a piece there as sufficient proofs rather than having an experience of civilization as a whole?
Nearly everything the Christian lays eyes on is proof of God’s existence because he sees the ‘handiwork’ of God all around him in creation. But this is hardly sufficient evidence in the court of atheist opinion, a court which presupposes that only what can be apprehended by the senses rightly qualifies as evidence. For the Christian who believes in a transcendent God, he can offer no such evidence; to produce material evidence for God is, ironically, to disprove a transcendent God and cast out faith.
The second part of the line is equally short-sighted. What does one mean by ‘existence’? If one means, ‘that which has come into existence,’ then surely God does not exist because God never came into existence. He always was; He is eternal. This was a famous assessment of the matter by Soren Kierkegaard (dealing with the incarnation of Christ). The argument is a bit involved, so for times sakes I’ll just have to state it and leave it there.
This is a misunderstanding of what “evidence” is. It’s why I always specify “objective evidence”, that is, evidence which can be freely examined and evaluated without having to hold any belief in it or faith in the meaning thereof. It is, in fact, very easy to prove the existence of civilization, not just through its products but through a clear and demonstrable presentation of the evidence of society. You can show a direct and demonstrable causal link between a group of people living together in relative peace and harmony, and the products that they produce, both physical and ideological. You can point to real people producing real things, without any question as to who is actually doing it. You cannot do that with gods. You cannot produce any evidence to support a real, demonstrable god that exists in factual reality and anything that god supposedly does. One proposition is supported by the existence of objective evidence, the other is not. One is credible, the other is not. Chesterton is simply wrong. Now this theist fails because they cannot separate what they claim is proof of gods with what is demonstrably proof of gods. Nobody is really interested in what they claim, we’re only interested in what they can prove. I’m not impressed with Kierkegaard either in this case because eternal existence is, once again, a wholly manufactured characteristic of God that cannot be demonstrated to be actually so. This line of reasoning will not impress anyone who lacks the blind faith necessary to be a theist.
2. If God created the universe, who created God?
This is one of the more peculiar arguments I’ve ever come across. Those who use this charge as some sort of intellectual checkmate have simply failed to grasp what Christians understand as ‘eternal.’ Its like asking what blue smells like…In the same way blue does not have a smell God does not have a beginning.It is an argument usually levied once a theist posits that a ‘first cause’ or an ‘unmoved mover’ is required for the existence of the universe (a ‘necessary’ Being upon which all other things exist by way of contingency). Some atheists then shift the weight over to the theist saying, “Well then who created God?” What is a Christian to do but smile at such a question? God is the antecedent of all things in creation and is eternal. If God had a Creator then His Creator would be God. God is God precisely because He does not have a creator.
The actual argument presented by theists is that because there cannot be infinite regression, there had to be something that was a “first cause” and they arbitrarily define that as their god. Of course, it is all arbitrary, even if there does have to be a first cause, that doesn’t mean that first cause is any god, much less their particular one. Again, this is just an unjustified claim, based on nothing but faith, they have no way of demonstrating that their particular god even exists, much less has any of the characteristics they arbitrarily assign to it. The idea of a first cause is borne, not of evidence and reason, but of faith and wishful thinking. It makes assumptions about the world that simply cannot be rationally justified. This is even more true in the modern world where multiple universes seem more and more likely and once that becomes true, all of the previous assumptions that theists base this argument on disappear in a puff of logic. Causality may not be applicable outside of our particular universe. We just don’t know and because we don’t know, we cannot make any arguments based upon something that very well might not be true.
3. God is not all-powerful if there is something He cannot do. God cannot lie, therefore God is not all-powerful.
Not so fast. This argument would be fantastic—devastating maybe—if God was more of the ancient Greek god persuasion, where the gods themselves were subject to fate and limited to their specific roles in the cosmos. The Orthodox doctrine of God is much different. Christians (at least Orthodox Christians) view God’s ontology as subject to His perfect free-will. Why is He good? Because He wills to be good. Why does He not lie? Because He wills to be honest. Why does God exist as Trinity? Because He wills it. He could just as easily will to not exist. And yes, He could just as easily will to lie. The fact that He doesn’t is no commentary on whether He could.
(Note: Due to the immense amount of discussion that this point has raised, one clarifying statement is worth noting. An argument based on strict logical word games can render the idea ‘all-powerful,’ or ‘omnipotent’ self-defeating. When one considers the juvenile question, “Can God create a rock so big that He can’t lift it?” this point becomes clear. But in reality, such an argument winds up further solidifying what Christianity means by calling God all-powerful. For the Christian it simply means that all power and authority are God’s. Following the logical word game above forces the believer to make a redundant proclamation in order to remain consistent: “God cannot overpower Himself.” But this fact is anything but confounding, it merely stresses the point that there is no power greater than God, so much so that one is forced to pit God against Himself in order to find His equal.)
I’ve yet to see that particular formulation but I understand the sentiment. Again though, we can see that our apologist is simply assigning characteristics to God that they simply have no way of determining if they are accurate or not. Absolutely no characteristics that are typically understood as applying to the Christian God can actually be demonstrated because no one has ever actually proven the Christian God is real. Without direct observation, you cannot show that these claimed characteristics actually apply. Faith is not a substitute for fact.
About the only place I might agree are arguments which require God to be logically inconsistent or contradictory. The “rock so big” claims, etc. fall into this category. However, truth be told, if God is all-powerful and able to perform miracles, which are defined as supernatural violations of the laws of nature, then certainly he could do that because he could simply suspend logic entirely. You guys are the ones who choose to define your god this way, you need to be able to deal with it when said definition causes problems.
4. Believing in God is the same as believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
What I love about this well-worn atheist ‘argument’ is that it actually serves to demonstrate how vastly different a belief in God is to these myths and imaginations. When one honestly assesses the Judeo-Christian doctrine of God he will find multiple thousands of years of human testimony and religious development; he will find martyrs enduring the most horrific trauma in defense of the faith; he will find accounts in religious texts with historical and geographical corroboration; etc (these fact are of course not ‘proofs,’ but rather ‘evidences’ that elicit strong consideration). Pit this against tales of the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and Spaghetti Monsters and one finds the exact opposite: no testimony or religious refinement, no martyrs, no historical and geographical corroboration, etc. Instead, one finds myths created intentionally for children, for point making, or for whatever. It’s strawman argumentation at its worst.
Essentially it is. Oh sure, the details are different, but people believe things because they are indoctrinated to believe, not because they have evidence that what they believe is actually true in demonstrable reality. Granted, most kids outgrow these childish beliefs before they reach adulthood, unlike the religious who desperately cling to these unjustified and undemonstrated beliefs, often throughout their lives. That religion is a particularly pernicious mental virus is nothing to be proud of. Whether or not belief in gods has a longer history than belief in the Tooth Fairy says nothing about whether or not those beliefs are factually true. People have believed the earth is flat for longer than they’ve believed in the Christian God, that doesn’t stop flat earthism from being a completely false belief. Also, the fact that people are willing to die for false beliefs doesn’t make them any more true. A belief is true or false based on its claims, not its believers. The existence of God has not been demonstrated to be factually true. It doesn’t matter if every Christian on the planet is willing to die for the belief or not.
5. Christianity arose from an ancient and ignorant people who didn’t have science.
Indeed, those ancient, ignorant people who believed in the virgin birth of Christ must have believed it because they did not possess the knowledge of how babies were born. Goodness. The virgin birth of Christ was profound and of paramount concern to the ancients precisely because they understood that conception was impossible without intercourse. Ancient man considered the virgin birth miraculous, i.e., impossible without divine action (and at the time most people scorned the idea), and the same could be said with every miraculous story in Scripture.
Indeed ancient people did not have the Hubble telescope, but they were able to see the night sky in full array, something almost no modern person can claim (thanks to modern lighting which distorts our ability to see the full night sky). On average, ancient people lived much closer to nature and to the realities of life and death than many of us moderners.
In terms of a living relationship with these things the ancients were far more advanced than we are today, and this relationship is essentially the nature of religious inquiry. If people lack religious speculation today, maybe it is because they spend more time with their iphones and Macs then with nature. Maybe.
But the claim that Christianity was viable in the ancient world because it was endorsed by wide spread ignorance is a profoundly ignorant idea. Christianity arose in one of the most highly advanced civilizations in human history. The Roman Empire was not known for its stupidity. It was the epicenter of innovation and philosophical giants. I would wager that if a common person of today found himself in a philosophical debate with a common person of first century Alexandria, the moderner would be utterly humiliated in the exchange.
Factually, not just Christianity but all ancient religions did exactly this. I don’t know how anyone can disagree. They arose from ancient peoples who had no clue about modern science or the modern scientific method. That doesn’t mean they were completely ignorant of everything, but knowing where babies come from and knowing the details of human embryology are two entirely different things. Ancient peoples made observations about the world around them, but because they had no way of knowing what actually caused things to work, they invented stories. This is why there are so many god stories from around the world. It isn’t evidence that gods really exist, after all, different cultures didn’t all come up with the Christian God, they came up with their own gods with their own mythologies to explain similar observations that people made. Multiple gods were the norm, in fact, a single god was a latecomer to the theistic scene. Even the early Hebrews were polytheistic and elements like the trinity are direct callbacks to the polytheistic roots of Judeo-Christianity. The idea that just because ancient man were not complete savages, that they can be directly and favorably compared to modern scientifically-literate man is ludicrous on its face.
Just because ancient man could gaze at the sky doesn’t mean they understood what they were looking at. Ancient Hebrews, after all, believed in a flat earth, with the stars being suspended on a semi-spherical dome, above which existed the heavens. All of these concepts are completely false, the earth is not flat, it is not suspended on rocky pillars, the sky is not a dome and there are no heavens up there that we can see. The fact that modern religions have completely abandoned these ancient beliefs is evidence that even the religious know better today. The idea that God breathes life into babies is as absurd to most people today as the idea of souls will become in the future. These are simply indefensible in light of a modern scientific understanding of the world.
Rome might have been relatively advanced for its day, but compared to the modern day, Rome is incredibly primitive. It made some developments, but none that remotely compare to what we can do today, and none that have not been repeatedly improved upon in the many centuries between that day and this. The idea that somehow, ancient man knew more than modern man is absurd on its face. They were wrong on almost everything and even where they were on the right track, their knowledge was woefully incomplete. They might not have been complete savages but they certainly were not as knowledgeable about the world around them as we are today. That’s why we’re seeing right through claims of the supernatural today. It’s why more and more people are leaving the idea of religion behind. It just doesn’t make sense anymore. It isn’t necessary anymore. We have actual answers instead of invented platitudes. Religion is a dinosaur that deserves to go extinct.
At least that’s the claim made by someone who commented on one of my YouTube videos. He presented an article that supposedly demonstrates that yes, a god does exist, but in reading through it, he’s done nothing of the sort. As this wouldn’t make a good video, I’m going to respond to his article with one of my own here. I’m going to pull a few select portions to respond to, feel free to go and read his original short article for yourself. So let’s go through this bit by bit, shall we?
Actually science has already admitted the existence of a spaceless and timeless God on the very same day when science has declared that space and time in our universe are relative.
Um… no? Just because science acknowledges finite time and bounded but infinite space, that has no bearing on whether a god exists at all. Science does not acknowledge anything exists unless it is supported by objective evidence and gods simply have none.
This is because existence of a spaceless and timeless God implies the relativity of space and time.
It doesn’t matter what you think it implies, it only matters what is demonstrably real and gods simply are not.
So, if there is a God, then there is the presence of an everlasting state of spacelessness and timelessness in addition to our universe, because this God is everlastingly present with all his attributes.
*IF* there’s a God. If does not mean that it’s true. There isn’t a single shred of objective evidence whatsoever that any gods of any kind exist in factual reality. Just because you can invent the concept of a god, along with whatever characteristics you care to assign, doesn’t mean that god is actually real. But again, as I’ve pointed out time and time again, these are just attributes that are arbitrarily assigned to this imaginary god character. You have no way to demonstrate that any of them actually exist in reality.
He then goes into a long rambling diatribe about how the non-absolute nature of space and time somehow implies the existence of a god because, apparently, something has to be absolute. That’s a complete fallacy. Just because you want there to be an absolute something doesn’t mean that there is. We’re not talking about wishes and dreams, we’re talking about reality.
Whereas if there is no God, then in that case there will be no such state of spacelessness and timelessness in addition to our universe.
So what? What he’s doing here is called the “argument from consequences”, a logical fallacy whereby someone doesn’t like the potential consequences of a particular action or belief, therefore they declare that action or belief wrong. It doesn’t matter what you want to be true, all that matters is what’s actually true. Your own personal feelings don’t enter into it at all and the consequences of reality are irrelevant to whether reality exists in the first place.
I want to add one more point here. If anyone on this earth can show that despite the presence of an everlasting state of spacelessness and timelessness in addition to our universe space and time in our universe can still have absolute values, then let him/her show it. In that case we will also have to admit that there is no God.
That doesn’t even make any sense. Now I’m going to assume that English is not this guy’s first language and give some allowances for that, but regardless, just because you want reality to be a certain way, that doesn’t mean that reality is actually that way. Reality is what it is. God exists or does not exist, regardless of what rationalizations you wrap around it. The only means we have of discovering whether or not a god actually exists is with objective evidence and, so far at least, we haven’t discovered a single shred to corroborate the factual existence of any god. Until you can take a picture of God or produce some energy signature that can be defined as God or produce some other objective and demonstrable evidence that this God of yours is actually real, then nobody has any obligation to believe you.
This person, at least in this article, has shown no ability to demonstrate that their claims have any basis in reality. It’s all a bunch of hand-waving and word games, designed to trick those who don’t think critically into thinking there just might be a point. But for the rest of us, who actually examine the arguments and expect something demonstrable, we’re left shaking our heads at the ridiculous nature of these hyper-emotional and non-intellectual claims. There’s nothing here. Is there a god? Who knows. Will we accept that a god exists without demonstrable, objective evidence? Not a chance. And neither should you.
Oh look, the stupid religious patrol is out in force again. This time, a theist is trying to tell me that “meaning of language can be accurately discerned simply from the letters used in the word? By knowing letters you know meaning?” This is in reaction to my stating that the English-language prefix “a-” means “without”, therefore atheism is the state of being without a belief in gods. But no! Words don’t mean anything! He can just say they mean whatever the hell he wants.
Excuse me while I bang my head on the desk.
Of course, this is the same guy who wants everyone to accept that atheism is a conspiracy to fight against Christianity. Specifically Christianity. Only Christianity. Probably only his particular version of Christianity. But this is a guy who doesn’t understand how science works, or reason, or logic or pretty much anything else. I shouldn’t be surprised that he has no clue how language works either.
Unfortunately, this idiot isn’t alone because I’ve seen the same kind of thing time and time again, people pretending that they get to redefine the language any way they want, insist that everyone use their biased definitions so they can proclaim victory and leave the rest of us gnashing our teeth. Atheism isn’t a rejection of claims made by theists, it’s a positive claim that no gods exist and therefore must be proven! This is, as we all well know, just shifting the burden of proof because the theists can’t actually prove their side.
This guy also insists that belief in gods is natural and everyone does it, even people who have never been exposed to the idea. He’s convinced that because mankind came up with gods, that everyone is born believing in them because can’t understand the widespread existence of religion otherwise. I tried arguing that if someone was born and never had any exposure to any god ideas, not to the concept of gods, not to any religious books, not to anything religious in any way, shape or form, that they would remain an atheist for their entire lives, but he doesn’t buy it. Everyone is born knowing gods are real! If you claim he’s wrong and his arguments are unsupported, then you have to prove he’s wrong, he doesn’t have to prove himself right.
So back to smacking my forehead into the desk.
It really is pointless trying to have any kind of rational discussion with this guy but he pops up in the middle of every discussion there is, forcing people to either deal with his stupidity or ignore him and have him declare victory because we supposedly have no counter for his arguments. So far as I can tell, he has no understanding of any subject matter under the sun, he’s blatantly ignorant, but assumes that he’s an expert on everything and no amount of evidence presented will ever change his mind. It’s a complete waste of time. I probably ought to just put him on ignore and not bother.
It’s really hard to write some of these articles and stay remotely timely because of the tremendous lead time I often have. A while back now, a caller named Steven called The Atheist Experience and tried to make an argument from contingency. It was completely lame and more based on Matt Slick’s presuppositional nonsense, but after the call, which went absolutely nowhere, most figured it was just a random kook, at least until someone in the comments section found a website, by someone named Steven, published on the day after the call, which went into the same ridiculous “argument from contingency” nonsense. It’s been a while since I deconstructed one of these absurdly fallacious arguments, so strap in, it’s about to get weird.
Let’s keep in mind that nothing I’m going to say here is going to convince Steven or any other presuppositional wingnut that their views are wrong, any more than it’s possible to convince conspiracy theorists that their crazy ideas aren’t true. I wrote once about the crap that Matt Slick posts and he invited me to call into his talk show instead of simply addressing the issues in print. It’s pretty hard to do a Gish Gallop in print, which is typically what Matt Slick engages in. He just vanished into the woodwork when he realized that his shtick wouldn’t work on me.
And so, on to the lunacy that is the Argument from Contingency.
1) If something is contingent, then it derives its existence from something outside of itself.
Let’s look at the argument itself. If you go and look up the word “contingent”, you don’t find any definitions that really fit the usage here. The closest I was able to find among the myriad definitions was “dependent on or conditioned by something else”, there is nothing which states that any existence must be derived from something outside of itself. At best, Steven might be able to say he is unaware of anything that’s existence is derived from itself, that doesn’t prove that it must be so, only that he cannot think of any cases where it is so. I might be willing to agree to this odd usage of the term, just for the sake of argument, otherwise this will be a pretty short article.
2) The universe is contingent.
3) Therefore, the universe derives its existence from something outside of itself.
Given our momentary acceptance of the first point, this is true. However, what does it actually mean? Well, nothing. It doesn’t actually tell us anything about what this outside influence might have been, how it might have caused the existence of our universe, nor if it still exists. Anyone who has read the blog for any amount of time will know that I’m very big on drawing direct causal links. Theists leap around wildly, making claims they cannot demonstrate and arguing causes they are unable to support with anything remotely resembling evidence. They just hope they can slip these lapses in logic past the unaware viewer by mesmerizing them with big words. That is exactly what we will see as we continue.
To reiterate, if it’s possible that X could (have) fail(ed) to exist, then the reason for its existence is not contained within its own nature, and thus it must be contained in the existence of something else—and this thing would be where X derives its existence from.
This is just philosophical masturbation and where we start to see him slip in some of his unjustified concepts. While it is certainly possible that the universe could have failed to exist, as we will talk about in a moment, it simply asserts that there must be a reason for the universe to exist. Says who? Reason and purpose assume intent, something that he desperately wants to include, but since there is no reason to assert intent, he just shoves it in there while your eyes are glossing over. So far as we know, there is no inherent reason for the universe to exist, any more than there is an inherent reason for the rain to fall. There is a cause for it, but no reason for it.
So, the first thing we can ask is whether it is possible for the universe to have failed to exist. Here we might meet some resistance. First, what exactly is meant by the universe, and how do we know that we can conceive of it failing to exist? Well, by universe I simply mean “all matter, energy, and space-time,” and therefore this includes not only our observable universe, but any meta-universe(s), if you will. Subsequently, to say that we can conceive of matter, energy, and space-time not existing does not seem to bring forth any inherent difficulty. That is to say, there is no contradiction or incoherence in such a statement, and thus I see no claim for inconceivability that could be made here. (Note that something is said to be metaphysically possible if it is conceivable.)
This is really just a load of mumbo jumbo. Universe does not mean what he has defined it to mean, the proper definition for universe is only that which exists without our particular set of dimensions that we experience on a day to day basis. Anything that exists beyond the bounds of our universe is entirely unknown to us at present, hence we cannot make any claims or conclusions about it. The idea that we can imagine the universe not existing has no bearing on anything.
(a) How do we know that what the universe derives its existence from is God? There is nothing logically wrong with claiming that perhaps the universe derives its existence from something that is itself contingent. However, this only pushes the problem back a step further, for then this thing requires an account for its existence. The point here is that we must, at some point, admit of something which is non-contingent, that is, necessary—something that cannot fail to exist. This would be something whose nature contains the reason for its own existence, and whose nature we can contemplate while simultaneously contemplating its existence. This thing then just would be existence, that is, it would be pure existence, or pure being. And surely this is worthy of earning the name “God.”
He actually presents four arguments here, I’m simply going to address them all in one go because there are plenty of bald assertions here, all of them laughable. First, it asserts that there cannot be an unbroken chain of causality, that every effect must have a cause and that, in turn, must have another cause ad infinitem. Since such is impossible, he surmises that there must be some uncaused cause. Unfortunately, this is just a claim without support. Cause and effect are part of the physical laws of our universe. We have no way of knowing if they are inherent to all universes or to the multiverse as a whole, assuming such exists. Therefore, once we get out of our universe, cause and effect might not exist, doing away with his argument entirely. If there is no cause and effect, infinite regress becomes meaningless. If the multiverse is actually infinite, there can be an infinite line of cause and effect, again doing away with his argument. He’s simply asserting that because he is familiar with the physical laws of our universe, that all universes must be the same. We can make no such assumptions. We have experience only with a single example of a universe. The state of other potential or possible universes is wholly unknown, therefore any argument based upon an assumption must therefore be thrown out as unsupported.
Next, he simply asserts that there must be an “uncaused cause”, simply as his “get out of this illogical reasoning free” card. There’s no reason to think that there actually is one, he simply defines it into existence. Just because he can think of no other explanation, that doesn’t make his invented claim a reasonable explanation. That’s the epitome of the argument from ignorance. This is a common tactic among apologists, to simply wave their arms and pretend that by giving something a name, they make it real. Nothing could be further from the truth. Further, he names his non-contingent entity “God”, which is really meaningless. Why not call it “unicorn” or “leprechaun”, or “Fred” for that matter. Because he’s trying to smuggle his religious traditions into the equation while people are being distracted by the rest of his rhetoric. Even if he could prove that such a thing actually existed, which he hasn’t, that doesn’t make that thing God. It makes it a thing. To make his case for God credible, he’d first have to prove the thing existed, then he’d have to provide further evidence that that thing actually met the standards for being a god, then he’d have to go still further to show that the now supported god idea actually was best represented by his own personal beliefs about the Christian God. He’s done none of that. He’s using the old magician trick of misdirection, dazzling you with bullshit while trying to sneak the scam past you in his other hand.
Unfortunately, there are no end to con men with this exact tactic, selling all manner of snake oil. Presuppositional apologetics is just one of the new fad that presents nothing new but a load of horse crap and empty claims and relies on the gullibility of the listener to be hypnotized by the terminology. Don’t fall for it. There’s nothing substantive here. This is really why such shysters don’t want to operate in print, it gives people too long to dig through the words and find that there’s nothing actually there.
So in that, it’s really no different than any religion, isn’t it?
This is a weird one and an argument that, as usual, falls apart completely under even the most cursory evaluation, but hey, it’s religion, what do you expect? I ran into a theist whose main argument for the supernatural is that man cannot be 100% certain that the natural world is all that there is. Remember that “100% certain” bit because it’s important. He thinks that because we cannot trust our senses with 100% certainty, we cannot be absolutely positive that our views about the world are perfect in every way, that we have to allow that there are things that we cannot sense, therefore God.
No, I’m not kidding. I tried to engage him for a while until I realized it was a waste of time. Essentially, I pointed out that he couldn’t argue for the supernatural because he couldn’t even define what it was, the supernatural is inherently defined by what it isn’t (ie. it isn’t natural) and that, in the absence of evidence for anything supernatural, without even a singular example of something that is supernatural, it’s not even something that ought to be suggested as a possibility. That’s something else that I’m starting to point out more often, the idea that people who believe in irrational things can’t even show that these irrational things are a reasonable possibility, they cannot show that the characteristics they assign to God are valid, that the existence of ghosts and unicorns and leprechauns cannot be suggested by any objective evidence, essentially they’re just making something up because it appeals to them on an emotional level, when there’s no reason a rational person would even consider these ideas at all. Of course, he entirely ignored that bit and went back to his “you can’t be 100% certain that the natural world is all that there is, therefore the supernatural exists!” and I gave up.
Worse yet, this guy’s own arguments entirely do away with his belief in the supernatural. Like virtually all theists, this guy says his belief in God comes from personal experience. But he cannot be 100% certain of his own personal experience, doesn’t that call his belief into serious question? But of course, he’ll never acknowledge that because his own beliefs are held for emotional, not rational reasons and pointing that fact out to him is likely to elicit an emotional, not a rational response.
I find it strange to see so many minor variations on apologetics, people who will twist and turn ideas in the most absurd and ridiculous ways to put a personal spin on things. These ideas are typically very, very, very poor, yet when skeptics like me point out the weaknesses, we’re met with outrage and anger, often threats of physical violence, because these irrational believers don’t want to hear about their failures, they’re emotionally invested in being right, even if they’re wrong. This is why debating with theists and allowing them to spew their absurdity really doesn’t help anyone. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see how ridiculous theistic apologetics are to begin with and those without that common sense cannot be convinced that there are problems, no matter what you say.
By the time anyone reads this, Roger, our single Christian troll, could be long gone. While he is laughable, he’s also a good example of a failed apologetic tactic. I haven’t come up with a good name for it, although I am certainly open to suggestions. Essentially, the tactic is to continually ask for more and more and more evidence for a claim and when, inevitably, no more evidence can be given, the theist simply declares that because science can’t prove their claims, they don’t even have to try. The fact remains that science has given a ton of evidence and religion has given absolutely none.
And yes, Roger, if you’re reading this, we’ve all known that you’re engaging in fallacious debate tactics all along. You’re not fooling anyone.
It’s obvious that these apologists don’t actually have any evidence, or even understand what evidence is, they’re just trying to get away with not backing up their claims for as long as they possibly can. Their standard response is “but you haven’t proven…” and when it’s pointed out that they haven’t done a damn thing, they’ll say “yes, I presented this!” Of course, what they claim to have presented has been totally falsified and discredited but they’re not that interested because they think that holding out against the overwhelming mountains of evidence on the science side and refusing to accept that it proves it’s case somehow makes their entire lack of evidence justified.
But here’s the reality. Even if science doesn’t prove it’s case, that doesn’t mean that religion is any more justified. If science can’t prove, to your satisfaction, that the Big Bang happened, that doesn’t provide any more validation for creationism at all. The only way the religious case gets made is to actually make it and back it up with objective evidence. In that, this fallacy falls close to the “false dichotomy”.
The whole concept of “prove it to me! Prove it to me! Prove it to me! I’m not convinced, therefore I have no need to prove anything to you, I win!” is absurd but it’s also common among Christian apologists. We see it all the time and that’s one reason Christian apologetics are so absurd on their face. They pretend that they want fair treatment and equal time, yet they can’t bring equal evidence to the table. They can’t bring anything to the table other than blind faith and logical fallacy, yet they expect that to be enough and they’re wrong.
I think it all goes back to my 30-second debate technique. We can prove that nature exists. When are the theists going to prove that the supernatural exists? Hey Roger, if you want me to prove nature is real, come on over here and I’ll beat you over the head with a baseball bat until you either admit nature exists in the form of that bat, or you lose consciousness due to blunt force trauma. I can prove reality, now you prove the supernatural, using any technique of your liking that produces comparable results. Let us know when you can do that because until then, we’re not going to take your religious blabbering seriously.
And you shouldn’t take it seriously either, but we know you’ve got some problems upstairs.
Here we go again! This week, Fox News falls for a 4Chan hoax, or do they? Egypt outlaws unlicensed Imams and we wonder where you get an Imam license? Christian persecution, a new study shows it’s nonsense but the Christians probably don’t care. Pat Robertson encourages children not to involve the authorities in domestic abuse. Plus, we have a long discussion on where religious debates go wrong and why apologetics fail but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Give it a listen!
In my final (for the moment) answers to theist questions, I wanted to take on a couple of things that William Lane Craig said over at his website. This isn’t a list of questions per se, just a response to an argument that a theist suggests for Christians to use on atheists that, I guess, he thinks will convince them of anything whatsoever.
Unfortunately, it’s likely only the most ignorant of atheists, the ones who have not encountered apologists very often, who would not provide perfectly reasonable answers. Therefore I wanted to spend a couple of minutes addressing Luke’s questions and Dr. Craig’s responses, just to show how silly they really are.
The first part is a question for Dr. Craig from Luke and I’ll address those questions.
1) Q. What do you mean by (you don’t believe in God)
I mean exactly what it says. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in any gods. There are over 3000 gods that man has so-far invented for himself to worship, I don’t believe that any of those gods exist in the real world. This really isn’t a hard concept to understand, except for the religious who can’t quite get it through their heads that people actually don’t believe in things that are not demonstrated to actually exist.
2) Q. What reasons do you have to think that (there is no God)
This is where it starts to get dicey, especially once you realize that Luke has shifted the goal posts down field. The first question asks why atheists don’t believe in God. That’s a passive act. Now, he’s changed to why do atheists believe God doesn’t exist. That’s an active act. I do not think this is a subtle or innocent move on Luke’s part and reading the text under this question leaves me no alternative but to think this was done knowingly and purposely. There are many answers to this question, but the only one I have to present is the complete and total lack of objective evidence supporting the factual existence of any such god. Prove God is real, I’ll believe God is real. Fail to do so and I have no reason to take you or your claims seriously. Nothing more needs to be said.
Dr. Craig, to his credit, actually does point out the problems with Luke’s questions. Then he asks some of his own, aimed at Luke, which I will address now.
Questions to ask an atheist – What justification do you offer for the belief that “there is no God”?
I have no belief that there is no God, or gods. I simply do not find the claims of the religious to be convincing that there actually is any god(s) in existence, any more than I find the claims that unicorns, leprechauns, Santa Claus or honest politicians actually exist in reality. I do not reject the existence of gods in a vacuum, I reject the claims made by believers in gods as totally unsupported and irrational. If you people would do a better job and actually present objective evidence, maybe I wouldn’t find your claims so ridiculous.
Questions to ask an atheist – Why are you so defensive?
I have a feeling this is coming back to the “angry atheists” fallacy that Christians like to trot out, that anyone who would dare oppose Christianity or any other religion must be some kind of socially maladjusted loser, but of course, that’s totally unfounded. The only thing that some of us are angry at is the undeniable fact that the religious have caused harm to the society that we have to live in and we want them to stop hurting others. Beyond that, he claims that all of the scientists Luke mentioned were theists. First off, that’s not necessarily true, he soft-shoes around the fact that Darwin died an atheist, but the simple fact is, all of the scientists listed lived 150 years ago or more, at a time when being an atheist publically was particularly bad for your health. Whether they were believers or not, and some certainly were, they had to at least pretend to be believers in public or face financial ruin, social ostracism and possibly imprisonment or death. Of course, had Luke tried to use modern scientists, that wouldn’t have been an issue. The overwhelming majority of modern-day physical scientists are atheists. Why? Because it’s socially acceptable to admit being such today.
Questions to ask an atheist – Where’s the argument?
He finds that Luke is just making a series of statements and not an actual cohesive argument and I agree. Of course, Luke’s statements wouldn’t mean a thing to atheists because they largely deal with Christian beliefs and Biblical claims, all of which atheists reject as nonsensical. Unfortunately, lots of theists seem to think that everyone buys into the Bible and nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t care how morality plays out in the Bible (depending on which creation story you like best). Christians have yet to prove that the Bible is a historically valid book that presents factual reality in some demonstrable fashion. Therefore, the Bible and all of it’s stories, aside from those which can be verified independently, are totally invalid when debating an atheist. Luke had no argument, just a bunch of unfounded beliefs.
Questions to ask an atheist – What about your own sin?
Unfortunately, sin is a concept that is meaningless to atheists. If there is no reason to think gods are real, then how can sin, actions or beliefs that violate the dictates of the gods, have any meaning? Therefore any questions about sin, we can reject out of hand until some theist can show that it’s a valid concept.
Mostly, Craig does a good job addressing this particular theist, but Luke also states that any atheist who doesn’t answer his questions the way he thinks they ought to isn’t a “true atheist”. Sorry, we’re not the ones that are throwing around the “no true Scotsman” fallacy like it’s going out of fashion, that’s the position of the theist. There are no true atheists. An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in gods. The only way to be a bad atheist is to believe gods exist. It’s a definitional thing. Anyone who doesn’t believe in gods is an atheist. Anyone who believes in gods is a theist. You can’t be both, you can’t be neither. Sorry that Luke is such a dishonest douchebag. Amazingly, I think Craig actually gets most of his responses right on the money. I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.
While I think Luke would shit his pants if he ever encountered an educated and skilled atheist, to be honest, I don’t think Dr. Craig does any better. As I’ve shown in the past, he’s good at throwing around the philosophical masturbation but not so good at actually producing any real, demonstrable, testable evidence or any solid logical reasoning to support his claims. I have no idea why anyone respects him, I find his arguments to be among the worst in apologist-land.
Yeah, I know. Say what? But this is really where a lot of apologist arguments either started from or are most concisely described and a Catholic debate partner demanded that I handle these arguments because they absolutely prove God is real.
Of the five, I’ve already gone into detail on one argument, the Argument from the First Cause, and two others are basically modified restatements of the same sort of argument, the Unmoved Mover and the Argument from Contingency.
I will briefly examine those first two, only because they go to some strange places, and the last two, The Argument from Degree and the Teleological Argument because they deserve some deeper examination.
This argument suffers from the same inherent problem that the other cosmological arguments do, the fact that it makes an unjustifiable claim, that an infinite regress of movers is impossible. We just don’t know what physical laws are present in the larger multiverse that almost certainly exists beyond the boundaries of our own universe. As such, statement #3 above is completely unverifiable and thus, the argument, since it relies on that statement, fail.
Many things in the universe may either exist or not exist. Such things are called contingent beings.
It is impossible for everything in the universe to be contingent, for then there would be a time when nothing existed, and so nothing would exist now, since there would be nothing to bring anything into existence, which is clearly false.
Therefore, there must be a necessary being whose existence is not contingent on any other being or beings.
This being is whom we call God.
There’s so much wrong here it’s hard to know where to start. I recognize that the reason so many of these argument have problems is because they were originally formulated before we had modern knowledge about the universe. Back in the dark ages when Aquinas came up with it, they were pretty bloody ignorant of the way the world around them worked. We know better today. Unfortunately, you have theists who, even though they ought to know better, are so wrapped up in their fanatical religious beliefs, they’ve got no more sense than the 13th century apologists who came up with these now-wrong ideas. Once we recognize the primitive thinking present, we can do away with the whole concept of non-contingent beings because there simply is no evidence for them.
For the Argument from Degree, Wikipedia summarizes it thus:
Varying perfections of varying degrees may be found throughout the universe.
These degrees assume the existence of an ultimate standard of perfection.
Therefore, perfection must have a pinnacle.
This pinnacle is whom we call God.
In more modern terms, the argument can be summarized simplistically as “God is something for which no more perfect thing can be imagined”. However, I can certainly imagine an infinitely better God than the one in the Bible. Just give me an all-powerful entity that isn’t a fucking dick. Anyone who can’t come up with a better deity than the one that appears in the Bible or the Qu’ran or any other book suffers from a lack of imagination. But it’s really not hard to demolish this argument. Just imagining something doesn’t make it real. For example, I can claim that I can imagine the most perfect car conceivable. It flies, it’s free and it runs on air, among other characteristics. It is the most amazing automobile anyone has ever come up with. So where is this wonderful car? It doesn’t exist. It’s, a fantasy, just like God is. The ultimate perfection that anyone can imagine not only is not necessarily real, but it is virtually never real because the universe doesn’t operate perfectly. In fact, I can’t think of many natural, existing phenomena that I couldn’t improve on in short order. I could improve gravity, evolution and human physiology without breaking a sweat, all of them are real natural processes, yet none of them remotely approach any version of perfection I can imagine. That said, even if do come up with superior versions of all of these things, none of the superior versions I’ve invented actually exist.
Acting towards an end is characteristic of intelligence.
Therefore, there exists an intelligent being that guides all natural bodies towards their ends.
This being is whom we call God.
That’s all well and good except it’s laughably wrong. All natural bodies in the world do not act towards ends. The moon is a natural body. What end is it working toward? I can pick up a rock. What end is it working toward? If I drop that rock at the shoreline and leave it there, the wind and the waves will eventually reduce it to sand. Was that it’s goal, or is it something outside of it’s control that occurred to it? See, you can tell this is a faulty argument the second you read the words “act towards ends”. That implies a will and an intelligence to pursue that will. Obviously, rocks don’t have that. The moon doesn’t have that. The asteroid that exploded over Russia didn’t have that. Clearly, this is a fallacious argument when it starts off with a false claim, that things act towards ends, then acknowledges that falsehood by agreeing that non-intelligent objects are incapable of doing such. Then it tries to desperately rationalize away the first falsehood it made, therefore God.
Seriously? Are these people really that stupid?
The biggest problem and instant failure of all of these arguments is what I pointed out in my previous article, something I’ll call “the argument from assertion”. Every single one of them simply asserts specific characteristics belong to God, yet they cannot show that God even exists, much less that he demonstrably has any of these characteristics. I could just as easily assign any of these characteristics to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it’s just as likely to be real as God is, and then claim the FSM is the prime mover of the universe. Do we think apologists would be impressed? Then why should we be impressed when they do it?
Yet this is the problem that virtually all apologetic arguments for the existence of God have. They assert God can do this, God can do that, God is like this, God is like that, yet none of them can demonstrate that God even exists in the first place. If you cannot even show that God is real, how can you arbitrarily assign characteristics to God and expect them to stick? They wouldn’t accept if we assigned characteristics to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, they cannot have, no matter how much they might want it, special treatment for their own imaginary friend in the sky.
So no, the Quinque Viae fails, along with every other apologetic argument I’ve examined, and for most of the same reasons. Can’t theists come up with anything better?
** FAIR WARNING! This post is a MONSTER, it is fairly densely written and is extremely long. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! **
There are certainly a lot of religious frauds and crackpots running around the Internet, claiming that they’ve proven a particular religious viewpoint and often producing sad lists of “evidence” like what follows, lists which are easily shredded with even a modicum of critical evaluation. While I don’t know if he’s one of the worst, Peter Saunders is certainly one of the most vocal on Twitter. Tonight, I saw this list go sailing by, attached to a tweet, spammed across several atheist hashtags, I had to take a look and laugh at what I saw.
By all means, go read his original post, in fact, go poke around his site, it’s good for a giggle. Clearly he, like so many other theists, is desperately looking for some reason to believe these particular stories that they are already attached to, instead of searching for the truth wherever it may lie, that he searches out carefully tailored claims, many of which are simply untrue, to show that what he already believes is true, even if it demonstrably is not.
And so, without any more ado, here’s the latest list of “proof” that Christianity is true, according to the addled mind of Peter Saunders.
1.The uniqueness of Jesus Christ. The life, teaching, extraordinary claims and miracles of Jesus Christ as recorded by eyewitnesses are best explained by him being God incarnate: the creator and sustainer of the universe who took on human flesh.
The problem here, of course, is that the story of Jesus really isn’t unique by any means, you could only make such a claim if you were entirely ignorant of other so-called saviors. It’s a well known fact that, to put it nicely, there was a Messiah on every street corner at the time of Jesus and in the many years that have followed. In fact, if you examine many of the other well-known Messianic figures that would have been known in the area at the time, the parallels are quite striking.
Attis of Phrygia – Born of a virgin on December 25, he is both Divine Son and Father. He was crucified on a tree on Black Friday, descended into the underworld and was resurrected from the dead. His body was eaten by his followers.
Buddha – Visited the temple when he was 12, astonished all the teachers with his wisdom, fasted in the wilderness for 47 (as opposed to 40) days, began his public ministry at about the same time as Jesus (29 vs. 30 years)
Dionysus – Born of a virgin on December 25 and placed in a manger as the Holy Child. He traveled the land, doing miracles, including turning water into wine. He is recorded that he “rode in a triumphal procession on an ass.” He was killed, most likely by crucifixion or being hung on a tree, and rose again on March 25
Heracles – Son of a God, Hera tried to kill Heracles as an infant, he descends into Hades and returns, and is then taken bodily to “heaven”.
Horus – Born of a virgin, the “only begotten son of god”. His birth was heralded by a star and he was laid in a manger. His life was threatened as an infant, parents fled to Egypt to hide. Was baptized in a river at age 30. Performed many miracles like walking on water, healing the sick and raising the dead. Was crucified, sent to hell and rose from the dead after 3 days.
Krishna – Born of a virgin, called the Son of God, Savior and considered the second part of a trinity. Krishna, like Jesus, was of royal descent, both were visited upon their birth by wise men following a star, both had a king try to kill him in infancy and both had parents who fled to protect him. Mary and Joseph stayed in Muturea; Krishna’s parents stayed in Mathura. Both were god-men, without sin and performed many miracles including the curing of disease and the casting out of demons. Both had a last supper, both were crucified and both were resurrected.
Romulus – Born of a virgin, a darkness covered the earth at his death and he ascended into heaven.
Zarathustra – Born of a virgin and baptized in a river, he astounded wise men in his youth with his wisdom. He was tempted in the wilderness by the devil. He began his public ministry at age 30. He cast out demons and restored sight to the blind. Followers described him as “the Word made flesh”. Followers watch for a second coming.
All of these pre-dated Jesus and were well-known in Palestine at the time. It was a common practice in the ancient world to adopt characteristics from other surrounding religions to incorporate into your own tales and certainly, that was done in the Jesus story. You’d be hard pressed to find much that was actually original in the Jesus myth. Clearly, Jesus was nowhere remotely close to being unique, in fact it’s more likely that many elements of Jesus’ supposed life were just copied from other local “Messiahs”.
2.Jesus death and resurrection. All historical records are agreed on the facts that Jesus was killed, that his dead body disappeared, that the disciples claimed to have seen him alive and that the church grew rapidly in the belief that he had been resurrected. His actual bodily resurrection in space-time history remains the best explanation for these observations.
That’s the problem, there are no contemporary historical records that even mention Jesus, much less a crucifixion. There are no Roman records of Jesus whatsoever, even though we have very complete records for others that they put to death. Where Peter gets the idea that all historical records are agreed, I have no idea since there are no historical records whatsoever. If you talk to secular historians, that is, people who do history for a living and who are not religiously biased to accept these things by faith, you will find very few who accept the historicity of Jesus at all, certainly not based on the actual evidence at hand. Let’s look at some of the writings we do have that mention Jesus, shall we?
Flavius Josephus (37CE-100CE) – Josephus supposedly wrote, in his historical annals called Jewish Antiquities, the following:
“Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works; a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” (Antiquities XVIII 63f)
There are several problems with this, however. First and most obvious, Josephus was not born during the supposed lifetime of Jesus and therefore was not an eyewitness to any of the statements he makes. That makes him a second-hand source at best, just going by what he’s been told by others. Secondly, however, there is evidence that this was an early Christian forgery and Josephus didn’t actually write any of this. It doesn’t appear in any of the earliest copies of the manuscript, any that date to the time that Josephus was alive. There is no external mention of this passage in Josephus until late in the 4th century by Eusebius, using the writings of the great Christian apologist Origen, indicating that it did not exist until then. If Origen, who sought out such things, never mentioned it, it’s clear that it wasn’t around. Third, it simply does not flow linguistically or stylistically with the rest of the book. The difference in style between it and the paragraphs before and after is jarring, indicating it was written by someone else. Finally, it makes no logical sense for Josephus, a strict Orthodox Jewish priest of high position, to have made such claims about a supposed Messiah, one that the Jews had supposedly been waiting for since antiquity, and never again in his life mention anything about it again. There is no indication that Josephus was ever a follower of, or believer in, Jesus. These problems make this passage beyond credibility.
Suetonius (69CE-122CE) – There is a single mention that Christian apologists make a big deal about, but which clearly doesn’t mean what they want it to mean in context:
“Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome”. Life of Claudius (XXv.4)
At issue here is the name of Chrestus, who apologists claim was talking about Christ. Of course, that makes no sense. First off, Suetonius wrote in Latin and “Chrestus” is the proper Latin form for a Greek name. Suetonius spelled out Christians correctly elsewhere in his writings, proving that that wasn’t what he intended. Further, there’s no record of Jesus ever being in Rome, certainly not to instigate an uprising from the local Jews. And, of course, Suetonius wasn’t around when Jesus was, thus anything he might have had to say on the subject would be hearsay anyhow. It makes no sense whatsoever to think this is a credible reference to Jesus.
Tacitus (56CE-117CE) – The great Roman historian and politician wrote the following in his Annals:
“Consequently … Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations. Called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberias at the hands of the Procurator Pontius Pilatus, and a deadly superstition, thus checked for a moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but also in the City.” Annals (XV.44.2-8)
In this passage, Tacitus, who is also not an eyewitness to anything that Jesus supposedly did, is simply informing his Roman readers of the stories about Jesus. There is no reason to think that Tacitus actually did any research into the death of Jesus and plenty of evidence that he did not. For one thing, Pilate was not a Procurator, he was a Prefect and no Roman records would have referred to him as such. Much more likely, he was relating stories he had been told by early Christians. While many historians consider the passage legitimate, there are other questions about the validity of this account, it was never mentioned by Christian apologists until the 15th century, at a time that the only copy of Tacitus’ Annals was made 600 years after his death. Surely, if such a passage did exist earlier, it would have been made use of by many of the early Christian scholars, especially Origin and Eusebius.
Pliny the Younger (61CE-112CE) – Pliny was the provincial governor of Pontus and Bithynia, was concerned about early Christians who refused to worship the Emperor. He sent a letter which reads, in part:
“They also declared that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this: that they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately among themselves in honour of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery …”
Clearly, Pliny, who was the was asking Emperor Trajan what to do about the Christians living in Asia Minor, he certainly was not talking about Jesus and, as with all the others, lived far too late to have ever seen Jesus with his own eyes. No one is discounting the existence of Christians. The passage itself reveals that he is simply reporting information he got from the believers themselves, not historical fact.
Thallus (?) – We know very little about Thallus because his writings do not survive to this day. The only reference we have is a single passage from a book written by Julius Africanus around 221CE, in which he claims that Thallus recorded a darkness that fell across the land. However, since we cannot be certain of the source material, this is simply hearsay.
Talmud – Some Christian apologists claim that references to Yeshu in the Jewish Talmud actually refer to Jesus, but of course one only has to read the passages to find them absurd. The Talmud is very clear that Yeshu was a student of Jehoshua Ben-Perachia, that lived at least a century before the supposed time of Jesus. Others claim it may refer to Yeshu ben Pandera, a teacher who lived in the 2nd century BCE, certainly too early to be our Biblical Jesus.
The Acts of Pilate is a supposed official letter written by Pontius Pilate about the execution of Jesus but no one considers it valid. Virtually all experts consider it to be an early Christian forgery to discredit pagan criticism.
There are other sources but they are all as unreliable as the ones I’ve presented. Sorry, there just isn’t any credible extra-Biblical source material for the factual existence of Jesus.
3.The manuscript evidence for the New Testament. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are by far the best attested events in all antiquity in terms of the number of manuscripts recording them and the closeness in time of those hand-written records to the events they describe.
Certainly not, mostly because Christians are largely ignorant of how historical sciences work. So let’s look at this claim. There simply are no manuscripts written during the time of the life of Jesus and there isn’t a single independent eye-witness account of the life or works of Jesus, that’s something we tackled in the previous point. None of the people at any of his miracles penned a quick testimonial. Nobody who watched him die on a cross bothered to write it down. None of the many, many people who must have seen him after his supposed resurrection wrote a letter saying “hey, guess what I saw!” Such things simply do not exist, which is a major blow to the historicity claims of Christians. Historians operate by comparing multiple independent eyewitness accounts of events to determine if they agree on enough elements to consider the story reliable. For the longest time, historians discounted the Trojan War, recorded only in the writings of Homer, because it lacked significant literary or archaeological evidence. It was only after they found actual physical remains from the war itself that historians accepted that it had actually happened. Peter’s claims about the reliability of the New Testament is simply untrue. If you compare the writings of the Gospels, people who purported to have actually been at these events, you find an absurd amount of discrepancies.
Now I suppose that some of the early-life elements of Jesus, we can excuse these “eyewitnesses” for making errors since obviously, they weren’t there, but the story goes that the Bible was inspired by God and in Proverbs 30:5-6, it says “Every word of God is flawless,” which brings us back to the claims that are made in the Bible must, if the Bible is true, be without error. Yes, that’s circular, but it’s what many Christians believe.
So where do the anonymous Gospel writers differ in Jesus’ early life? It may strike you as nitpicking, but I’ll point out why it’s important in a moment. Matthew 2:14 says that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Egypt after his birth to escape the killing of the infant boys by Herod. Luke 2:39 says they went straight to Nazareth without an Egyptian stopover. That seems to be a rather important omission, especially considering that the distance between Nazareth and Egypt is 5,659 miles. That’s quite a long distance, especially in an age where everyone walked. It’s not like forgetting to mention a quick visit to the liquor store on the way somewhere.
So you ask, what difference does it make? Well, very little if the writers of Matthew and Luke are just people telling stories, there’s no reason why one ought to mention something and the other not. However, we’re talking about Godly inspiration here, God supposedly spoke through these two men and everything that these men said must, by definition, be without error. It seems odd that God would relay details to some men and forget to do so with others. In fact, only Matthew and Luke even mention the early life of Jesus, it seems to have completely slipped God’s mind when it came to Mark and John.
Let’s move to an event that all four writers reportedly attended then, the resurrection of Jesus. They simply cannot get their stories straight. How many women went to the sepulchre? How many angels were there? What were the women told to do? How and where did they meet Jesus? All of the gospels give different answers to these most basic of questions. If they can’t get the easy stuff right, how can we trust them on the difficult parts?
Matthew 28:1 says that there were two women who went to the sepulchre, in Mark 16:1 says three women went, Luke 24:10 said there was one, and John 20:1 says five or more. Every single Gospel differs, yet this is the easiest possible detail to get correct. If these four men can’t even count to five, they have no business writing a story down.
According to Matthew 28:1 it was dawn when the women went to the Sepulchre, but in John 20:1 they went before dawn, when it was still dark. So when was it?
Who was at the tomb when the women got there? Matthew 28:2 says there was an angel, Mark 16:5 says a young man, Luke 24:4 says there were two men, and finally John 20:12 says there were two angels. Now while I might be able to grant that the young men were actually angels in disguise, going sans wings and halos, we’re again left with a case of writers who can’t count.
Then we’re left to wonder how these people got into the tomb in the first place. Matthew 28:2 says that the angel rolled the stone from the entrance, but Luke 24:4 says the stone was already moved. So when did this miraculous event happen? Before or after the unspecified number of women showed up?
The Gospels don’t agree on where the angel(s) and/or men were either. Matthew 28:2 says that he was outside to open the tomb… but the other Gospels they are found inside the tomb.
In Matthew 28:8 the women run to tell the disciples about what they found at the tomb. But Mark 16:8 says they were too scared to tell anyone. Which was it?
Mary Magdalene saw Jesus and knew it was him in Matthew 28:9, but she didn’t know it was him in John 20:14, and never saw him, but was told by angels that he was alive in Luke 24:23. Again, we’re left with an undecipherable paradox, it’s simply not possible for someone to see another person and recognize them, to not recognize them, and not to see them at all.
Matthew 28:10 says Jesus told the disciples to go to Galilee, but in Luke 24:29 Jesus tells them to head to Jerusalem to be empowered “with power from on high”.
Again, I have to ask, if it is so utterly impossible for four men who were supposedly at the same event to relate the same story, even in the broad strokes, how can we trust anything that they have to say at all? Credible historians would reject the Bible as a general source of historical fact, in fact, credible historians do exactly that.
4.The uniqueness of the Bible. The uniqueness of the Bible in its continuity, circulation, translation, survival, teachings and influence along with its internal consistency despite consisting of 66 books written by over 40 authors on three continents over 1,500 years defies simple explanation and is fully consistent with its claim to be divine revelation.
This would be great if the Bible was actually internally consistent, which it is not. It would also be great if the Bible wasn’t purposely constructed by a religious organization with an agenda, which it was. The fact is, there were many, many more books than the 66 that made it into the Bible, some of them have been kept by Catholics in their Apocrypha. It’s not like some of these ideas weren’t referenced in the Bible, in fact, a huge number of these books were quoted or referenced in existing Biblical texts, such as:
Poets Epimenides and Aratus in his speech at Athens (Acts 17:28).
Acts of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:29)
Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41)
Acts of Uziah (2 Chronicles 26:22)
Book of Enoch (Jude 1:14)
Book of Gad the Seer (1 Chronicles 29:29)
Book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13, 2 Samuel 1:18)
Book of Jehu (2 Chronicles 20:34)
Book of Samuel the Seer (1 Chronicles 29:29)
Book of the Covenant (Exodus 24:7)
Book of the Law (of Moses?) (Joshia 1:8) [Same as Book of The Covenant? 2 Kings 23:2, 22:1]
Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numbers 21:14)
Book of Truth (Daniel 10:21)
Book of Life (Psalm 69:28)
Epistle from Laodicea to the Colossians (Colossians 4:16)
Epistle to Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:9)
Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:3)
Iddo Genealogies (2 Chronicles 12:15)
Jude, the Missing Epistle (Jude 1:3)
Letters to the synagogues in Damascus (Acts 9:2)
Nathan the Prophet (1 Chronicles 29:29, 2 Chronicles 9:29)
Nazarene Prophecy Source (Matthew 2:23)
Prophecy of Abijah (2 Chronicles 9:29)
Sayings of the Seers (2 Chronicles 33:19)
Shemaiah the Prophet (2 Chronicles 12:15)
Story of Prophet Iddo (2 Chronicles 13:22)
The Annals of King David (1 Chronicles 27:24)
Book of The Annals of the Kings of Judah (1 Kings 14:29)
book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah
Book of The Annals of King Solomon (1 Kings 11:41)
Book of The Annals of the Kings of Israel (1 Kings 15:31)
The Manner of the Kingdom (1 Samuel 10:25)
Thousand Songs of Solomon (1 Kings 4:32)
Visions of Iddo the Seer (2 Chronicles 9:29)
That’s just a small list of the books that we can directly reference from the Bible, the reality is, there are literally hundreds of books that were considered at the Council of Trent. These works have been semi-organized into various categories including the apocrypha/deuterocanonical writings and the pseudepigrapha. Of course, we must realize that the whole point of the Council of Trent was to simply build a Bible that the attendees agreed with. There are four criteria that were generally considered to determine if a book qualified to be in the New Testament:
Inspiration – church fathers wanted to only canonize writings that they thought were “inspired by God”, they certainly recognized that the books of the Bible were not the only inspired works. Inspiration was a necessity for inclusion, it was not a guarantee of inclusion and, of course, whether or not something is inspired is wholly subjective in the first place.
The Rule of Faith – this rule states that no book shall be accepted that varies from accepted scripture or that teaches false doctrines. In other words, it won’t be accepted if it disagrees with what the council already believes to be true, a purely fallacious and circular proposition.
Apostolic Authority – to be included, the book had to be written by an Apostle of Jesus or an immediate follower of an Apostle of Jesus. Of course, today we know that the writers of the Gospels, for instance, were never eyewitnesses of the actual person, if such existed, they are wholly anonymous authors writing under pseudonyms. Paul, of course, was never an Apostle, nor a direct follower of an Apostle, they made exceptions for those who pretended to have mysterious experiences.
Church Usage – once again, we have a circular criteria, they would not consider including a book in the Bible unless Christian churches already acknowledged it and were using it. In other words, they’re only going to consider things true that they already consider true.
It’s clear that the Bible didn’t just spring, fully formed, from the mouth of God, it was carefully constructed by a group of men who had an agenda. To then turn around and say “look how perfectly formed it is!” is quite hypocritical, it is the way it is because it was built that way.
In fact, I find one of the non-included books, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas to be quite entertaining. It is supposedly written by a childhood friend of Jesus who records the clear fact that Jesus was a real dick growing up. Found within that gospel is the following story:
3 The son of Annas the scholar, standing there with Jesus, took a willow branch and drained the water Jesus had collected. Jesus, however, saw what had happened and became angry, saying to him, “Damn you, you irreverent fool! What harm did the ponds of water do to you? From this moment you, too, will dry up like a tree, and you’ll never produce any leaves or root or bear fruit.”
In an instant, the boy had completely withered away, Then Jesus departed and left for the house of Joseph. The parents of the boy who had withered away picked him up and were carrying him out, sad because he was so young. And came to Joseph and accused him: “It’s your fault – your boy did this.”
4 Later he was going through the village again when a boy ran by and bumped him on the shoulder. Jesus got angry and said to him , “You won’t continue your journey.” And all of a sudden he fell down and died.
Some people saw what had happened and said “Where has this boy come from? Everything he says happens instantly!”
The parents of the dead boy came to Joseph and blamed him, saying, “Because you have such a boy, you cannot live with us in the village, or else teach him to bless and not curse. He’s killing our children!”
So according to one of the many unacceptable Gospels, Jesus murdered at least two other children when he was a boy. I wonder why this particular Gospel wasn’t included by the Council of Trent?
5.Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in Christ. The 39 books that make up the Old Testament contain several hundred references to the coming Messiah concerning his life, death and resurrection which were written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth but were fulfilled during his life and confirm his credentials as the promised Messiah.
While it is true that there are some references to a coming Messiah, there certainly aren’t as many as many Christian apologists pretend. That’s because they have combed the Old Testament for anything that they could make appear might apply to Jesus and claimed it was a reference, even when, if you read it in context, it clearly is not so. Certainly, there is no evidence that the Jews ever considered it to be a Messianic prophecy.
Perhaps the best known is Isaiah 7:14 which reads:
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Lots of apologists look at that as a prophecy of a coming Messiah but it’s certainly not what it is. In fact, this is an example of the author of Matthew trying to make up a prophecy where one doesn’t exist. If we simply go back to the passage in Isaiah and read it in context, we find it’s certainly not talking about some future Messiah, but of then current events. If you look at, say, Isaiah 7:10-16, it’s clear that this is part of a promise from God to King Ahaz, who is concerned that his kingdom is about to be overrun by two competing nations and God promises a child named Immanuel as a sign that God is with Ahaz and his people and promises that the child will still be an infant when the foreign kings are defeated. How then can it apply to Jesus, who wasn’t born until 700 years after the death of Ahaz? Clearly, it does not, Matthew got it wrong. Or did he? The fact is, Matthew was quite good at pouring over the Old Testament, taking words and phrases out of context and demanding they constituted an ancient prophecy when clearly, in context, they did not. We’ll revisit this in the next section.
6.Biblical prophecy fulfilled in history. The hundreds of predictive prophecies in the Old Testament and New Testaments about the fate of nations, empires and cities are consistent with supernatural revelation from a God outside the space-time continuum (Tyre, Sidon, Samaria, Gaza, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome, Israel).
Of course, most of these supposed prophecies occur only in the heads of the faithful. In order to be a demonstrable prophecy, a statement has to make a verifiable claim that such and such a thing happened at such and such a time, be demonstrably made prior to the time of the prophecy and the event cannot be something that the faithful simply caused to happen in order to fulfill the prophecy.
For instance, there are lots of precariously balancing rocks out there. If I announced that on June 5, 2013, a specific balancing rock would fall, then took a crew of people out on June 5 and pushed the rock off it’s perch, would that be a fulfilled prophecy? After all, I did accurately predict that it would happen, I just happen to have caused it’s fulfillment. Clearly, we need to put some limits on what we’re going to consider a prophecy and what we’re not. I can’t “prophesy” that last Thursday, someone will die, I already know that, it’s in the past. Prophecies also have to be specific. “Someday, someone will walk into a Baskin Robbins and order a vanilla ice cream cone” isn’t a valid prophecy, it’s too vague. No, you need a specific event to happen at a specific time and in a specific place, unlikely to happen by chance, such that no one can influence the sequence events to bring it about and purposely fulfill the prophecy in order to be credible. Unfortunately, there just isn’t anything like that in the Bible. Let’s look at one that gets bandied about quite a bit:
Isaiah 66:7-8 – “Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.”
Apologists say wow, Israel became a nation in a day in 1948, that’s proof that Biblical prophecies are true! Of course, that’s ridiculous, all nations are “brought forth in a moment”, the moment they declare their independence. The United States became a nation the minute we stated we were independent of England. Sure, we had to fight a war to back it up, but Israel has had to fight numerous wars over the past 60 years to back up their own independence. It cannot be a moment when the world recognizes their nationhood, there are still many nations that refuse to acknowledge Israel to this day. Clearly, this would not qualify as a prophecy. I’d need to see someone having a vision of specific events in the future, then writing down those specific events in detail such that it is nigh impossible to misidentify those events when they come to pass in order to qualify. Vague hand-waving and constant re-interpretation of mystic nonsense simply doesn’t do it.
7.The uniqueness of the Christian experience. The shared testimony of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by millions of people from diverse cultures, nations, personalities, professions and time periods is unparalleled by any other ideology and consistent with the existence of a God with a universal attraction to all kinds of human beings. Each testifies to finding peace, forgiveness, the power to change and new meaning, hope and purpose through Christ’s death and resurrection.
Sorry, Christianity just isn’t all that unique. In fact, I’d wager to say that all religious experiences are roughly equivalent in scope, if not in detail. Most religions make claims that their gods are with them, that they feel them and have experiences with them, that they feel their prayers are answered, etc. However, no matter how much some Christians want to call their religion a “relationship”, it makes no more sense than a small child claiming to have a “relationship” with the monsters under their bed. You cannot have a relationship with something you cannot even prove is real. To be honest, a Christian’s “relationship with Jesus” strikes me as little different than the unpopular guy who claims to have a beautiful girlfriend in Canada. They’re always talking about it but they can do nothing to prove it’s real.
8.The origin of the universe. Everything that began to exist has a cause and it is now virtually undisputed that the universe had a beginning. Any cause would have to be outside the material universe so would be timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal and all powerful – characteristics shared by the God of the Bible.
Note here that, like many apologists, Peter adds an unnecessary condition to his argument, then assigns this condition to his imaginary friend in the sky, simply to make him an exception to the rule. Truth be told, we have absolutely no examples of anything that does not “begin” to exist, it is a characteristic that is arbitrarily assigned to God in order to give him a “get out of reality free” card. In fact, if you look at the whole of Christian argumentation, we find that the whole concept of “supernatural” is equally meaningless, we have no reason to think that anything exists outside of the natural world. It’s all just a way to define your way to victory. Unfortunately, it causes more problems than solutions since anyone else who wants to use that tactic can do so. Why can’t we find Bigfoot? Because aliens dug thousands of miles of tunnels for the Bigfoot tribe to hide in! No evidence needed, just make something up! It explains anything from the Loch Ness Monster to alien anal-probers and it is not subject to rational evaluation or examination. In fact, any religion can do it. Why can’t we find any evidence for any gods? Just make up an explanation and claim it as truth! If Christians want people to take their magical imaginary land and undetectable deity seriously, shouldn’t all the other religions demand the same respect of their own beliefs? Of course, Christians won’t pay any attention, they have no interest in logic or reason, they take their stand on faith. However, faith is a meaningless concept. It doesn’t actually do anything useful. It is a position that one takes when one has no good reason for doing so.
9.The fine tuning of the universe. In order for the universe to come into being and allow intelligent life to exist, it required an astonishing series of ‘coincidences’ to have occurred. The probability that the six dimensionless constants (N, Epsilon, Omega, Lambda, Q & D) would be tuned in such a way as to allow this is infinitesimally small and the phenomenon is best explained by intelligent design.
Let’s be honest here, Peter really has no clue about any of the things he’s included on this list, he didn’t come up with any of it, he just
copied it off of another apologist website which probably did the same, repeated ad nauseum. He has no clue about quantum mechanics or any of the other disciplines that it would take for him to verify this information is true so I’ll save him the trouble of getting educated and just tell him it’s not true. Why is it not true? Because it starts with a fundamental flaw in it’s reasoning. “Intelligent life” isn’t what is being discussed here, it’s human life. In fact, without conditions on this planet being correct, none of the carbon-based organic lifeforms that currently exist here would exist. Peter and other apologists would seize on that statement as proof, but it really isn’t, simply because they understand the situation entirely ass-backwards. Christian apologists think that mankind was predestined to exist, thus they work all of their assumptions off of that idea. However, humanity was not predestined. We evolved to fit the universe that was here. Had the universe been different, the universe would have produced different lifeforms. It could have also produced no lifeforms, at which point in time, nobody would be around to argue this point. The reality is, were the universe different, it’s not hard to imagine a completely different form of life, perhaps based on silicon or flourine, with six arms and eight eyes, sitting on their form of the Internet arguing how amazing it is that the universe was so perfectly fine-tuned to support their form of life.
Humans are not very good at dealing with large numbers. If you talk about 100-1 odds or 1000-1 odds, people might follow along but once you start talking about 1,000,000-1 odds, people’s eyes glaze over. That is exactly the fact that apologists take advantage in by playing these number games. So let’s play along, shall we? Let’s look at you. Yes, you. The you that is there right now, reading this article, is statistically impossible. We can go back a mere 10 generations and realize that the only way you can come about is if the exact right people, all of your male ancestors, get together with the exact right people, all of your female ancestors, at the exact right time and place, having survived disease and accident and all manner of death, to procreate with that one specific person out of the entire planet that they were supposed to. Add to that the fact that, conservatively, a man ejaculates 40 million sperm at a time, only one carries the exact genetic material that is needed to produce you and it needs to meet with the one specific ovum, out of approximately 2,000,000 that a woman is born with. I’m not going to throw around huge numbers here, but the chances of that happening is astronomically small. Add to that the fact that approximately 70% of fertilized ova fail to implant and are flushed from the body. The chances of your ancestors accomplishing all of that are staggering.
Now remember that’s just one generation out of ten that has to get it all right.
And even assuming everything was perfect, ten male ancestors found ten female ancestors, they survived to have children and exactly the right sperm met exactly the right egg and the resulting fetus made it all the way to birth successfully, which is certainly no mean feat in and of itself. Once all of that’s done and you are born, in order to put you in precisely the place you are at right now, how many billions upon billions of events had to go exactly so in your life in order to put you where you are right this second, in front of a computer, reading these words, instead of, say, in the bathroom or dead. The chances against it all working out exactly right are beyond belief.
Yet there you are.
As much of a mind-blower as that is, consider the larger picture. The same thing had to happen for all 7 billion people currently alive on the planet! To get to this exact moment in time, the chances against it are utterly incalculable. But it all happened, didn’t it?
Of course, the rational among us would realize that none of us, where we are at the moment, was intended from the start, even 10 short generations ago. We are where we are because of the things in the past that led up to it. We are who we are because things happened the way they did. If things happened differently, we’d simply be different people. There was no planning, no goal, no intent to our existence.
The same is true of humanity as a whole. We are not the goal of reality, we are the result. The physical laws of the universe just so happen to permit life so life evolved. This planet that we inhabit just so happens to support carbon-based life so that’s what developed. We are the result of a long, long line of intertwined events that just so happened to produce us.
Aren’t we lucky?
10.Biological complexity. Whilst it is widely recognised that random gene mutation, genetic drift and natural selection can account for a degree of biological descent with modification (evolution) the mechanisms by which proteins, DNA, unicellular organisms and new body plans could have arisen remain unexplained. Blind chance and necessity alone are unable to account for the biological complexity that we observe on planet earth and these phenomena point to intelligent design.
As soon as you see someone mention “blind chance”, you know you’re talking to someone ignorant of evolution. As I pointed out above, chance is just not a mechanism that we can rely on, but it all depends on what one means when they say “chance”. If we look at DNA from a chemical standpoint, we understand that the four base pairs only combine in a certain way under optimal conditions. Thymine only combines with adenine, cytosine only combines with guanine. It’s not random and it’s not chance. It’s chemistry. However, sometimes things don’t work out as they ought to.
Imagine you are putting together a puzzle and you find that two pieces which clearly do not go together, judging by the picture on the face, happen to fit together anyhow. For some reason, the interlocking pieces happen to be the same size and shape, allowing them to be attached. This potentially gives rise to a mutation in the puzzle. There are many reasons for chemical mistakes to arise and I’m not going to go into them here, except to say this is where mutations originate in biological replication. They happen all the time statistically, although the overwhelming majority of genetic replication that goes on is without error, it happens so frequently and with so many millions of base pairs at once, that a mistake or two is going to creep in here and there.
I’m really not qualified to go into a deep discussion of genetics and evolution. Unfortunately, you get a lot of apologists who are equally unqualified, or let’s be honest, even more unqualified, who seem to think that “it seems to me” stories, based on ignorance and personal incredulity, qualify as a logical argument. I think it’s clear that a lot of apologists are simply ignorant of science and openly so, they don’t understand it and they don’t want to understand it, I think they recognize that science is inherently dangerous to their fantasy religious beliefs. Then you have the apologists who absolutely do understand science, they simply discard it out of hand because it disagrees with what they irrationally believe to be so. Either way, I think a short primer on how science works is in order.
First, an individual makes an observation. Science is always based on an observation, something that happens, something they find, something objective that can be examined by anyone. This is perhaps the greatest advantage of science, it starts off with reality, unlike faith, which cannot be independently verified in any way.
The individual then tries to come up for an explanation for that observation. Why did it happen? How did it occur? What is the process behind it? There may be many, many different hypotheses thought up at this time, it’s just a means of coming up with a lot of different ideas and possibilities that can be examined more closely down the line. At this point, there are no right or wrong answers because none of these are answers, just possibilities. The only requirement for a hypothesis at this stage is that it has the possibility of being verified and also that it has the possibility of being falsified. Being able to prove an idea wrong is at least as important as being able to support it. If there’s no possible way to prove that the idea is wrong, how can you ever hope to show that it’s right?
Thereafter though, the scientist starts looking at the various hypotheses with a critical eye. Which, if any, of these have evidence to back them up? How do these compare with established theories that may be related to the original observation? They see how the math lines up, how other observations and experiments verify or invalidate a hypothesis, until the scientist is satisfied that they have an explanation they are happy with, that is experimentally verifiable and falsifiable.
Next, they publish their idea in a peer-reviewed journal where many, many other scientists will examine their ideas, take them apart, put them back together, re-perform the same experiments over again, perform new experiments that the original scientist may not have thought of, etc. In other words, many other scientists will try their best to break the hypothesis proposed. It is only if it stands up to this, and many other tests of it’s validity, that it may become a scientific theory.
Scientific theories seem to confuse apologists. They are not just random guesses, as is often claimed, that would fall most closely at the hypothesis stage. A scientific theory is a highly verified set of statements that purports to accurately describe how an observation or process takes place. Let’s take the most misunderstood scientific theory, the Theory of Evolution. Evolution is a fact. It is widely observed in nature, we know for an absolute, undeniable fact that alleles do vary in frequency in nature. There’s no getting around that. The Theory of Evolution, however, is an explanation of how evolution occurs. It seeks to answer the “hows” and “whys”, it does not validate the fact, it just explains the fact.
As Stephen Jay Gould once said, “In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.” Theories are subject to change, that is one of their greatest strengths, even though apologists purport it to be a weakness. We learn new things every day, we will likely never know everything there is to know, thus we constantly need to integrate that new knowledge into the ideas we’ve had in the past. Science is a cumulative effort, it improves upon itself every day.
Religion, on the other hand, does not demonstrably improve. It does not seek new information. It does not change it’s beliefs based on new facts. In fact, it simply denies new facts if they disagree with what they already believe. Whereas science starts with an observation and works it’s way up to an understanding of reality, religion works backwards. It starts with a belief and works backwards, only looking for data that supports that belief and rejecting everything else out of hand. It doesn’t seek a better understanding of the world, it claims to already have it and is only seeking to validate the understanding, true or not, that it currently has.
That’s why religion sucks.
11.The rationality of the universe. The universe operates according to physical laws which are not merely regularities in nature but also mathematically precise, universal, ‘tied together’ and rationally intelligible. These phenomena point to the existence of what Einstein called ‘superior mind’, illimitable superior spirit’, ‘superior reasoning force’ and ‘mysterious force that moves the constellations’ and are fully consistent with the teachings of Christian theism.
It’s always amazing to see how badly apologists misquote scientists in a desperate attempt to make it look like the greatest minds of our time actually support their cause. Albert Einstein was a deist of sorts, in the sense that he labeled the natural universe “god”. He said, regarding his religious beliefs:
It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
Of course, most apologists ignore this, it gets in the way of their baseless claims, that simply won’t do. In fact, they’re very good at producing lists of well-known scientists who were also Christians, as though that validates Christianity. There certainly are some scientists who are Christians, even today, although they are by far the minority. However, most of the theist scientists they usually come up with lived in the distant past, most certainly before the day of Darwin, the point that I’d suggest makes religion unnecessary at answering that most burning question, where did we come from? Also, they fail to mention that these old-time scientists lived in a day when it was downright dangerous to admit publically that you didn’t believe in God. It could get you killed, it could get you censured, it could get you imprisoned and certainly, as so much of their pay was made by religious organizations and the universities were, with almost no exceptions, operated by the religious institutions, getting a paycheck or getting an education were difficult, if not impossible, if you didn’t pretend to be religious.
Now I certainly have no way of knowing which of those scientists were being honest about their faith and which were just playing along out of social necessity, it is interesting that in these oft-quoted lists, the overwhelming majority lived and died quite early. In fact, in a list that I found at random, of the 13 scientists they list, 11 did their major work in the time before Darwin.
Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)
Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1627)
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Robert Boyle (1791-1867)
Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
William Thomson Kelvin (1824-1907)
Max Planck (1858-1947)
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Of course, what they list about Einstein is patently untrue in light of his quote above. He never believed in the Christian God, he outright rejected belief in any personal deity whatsoever. To be honest, I suspect that had these men of science lived in the modern era, where there was no requirement to profess belief to get paid or to keep your head, it is unlikely that most of them would be professing Christians. The modern world just doesn’t leave many rational questions unanswered or much space for God to hide in ever-shrinking gaps.
12.The human mind. Human experience of free will, consciousness, self-awareness, conscience and a sense of meaning, purpose and destiny are all very difficult to explain within a purely materialist world view (ie. the belief that nothing exists apart from matter, chance and time). These phenomena point to, and are consistent with, a reality existing beyond the material world and are consistent with the biblical teaching that human beings are made in the image of God.
Actually, it’s not at all hard to explain and even if it were, that doesn’t give anyone license to just make shit up because they’d rather not admit that they don’t know. That’s the real problem with religion, it simply supplies “answers” to questions we may not currently be able to address, but it provides no means to demonstrate if those “answers” are actually true or not. I can do exactly the same thing, in fact, many years ago, I invented my own deity, dubbed “Bobo the Tree God”, to do just that. Bobo lived in my back yard at the time, he was a young oak tree that I planted outside the kitchen window. Bobo communicated with me telepathically and let me know his will, which I, in turn, passed on to the Christian apologists who were busy trying to convince me of the same thing with their God. For every “answer” that Christian apologists gave, I supplied an equally absurd “answer” from the mind of Bobo. They never bought into my answers and I never bought into theirs, no matter how many times I pointed out that both sets of “answers” had the same amount of evidence that they were so. Sadly, Bobo blew over in a windstorm and I cut him up with a chainsaw and had him recycled into mulch, except for two branches which I fashioned into a cross with a bit of twine. While Christians can claim their Messiah was crucified on a cross, my god actually *WAS* a cross. I doubt that would impress them either. Go figure.
13.The explanatory power of the Christian world view. The Christian theistic world view described by the parameters of creation, fall, redemption and consummation has considerable explanatory power in accounting for the existence of human complexity, creativity, love, suffering, disease, evil and hope.
The problem is, while you can just make up myths that primitive man might take as explanatory, none of it is backed up by any actual evidence. They’re just stories, not facts. If you examine the myths in detail, you find out how little they actually have in common with the scientifically verified facts about our universe. Let’s look at one of these claims, that the Christian theistic worldview has considerable explanatory power in accounting for disease. That’s funny, the Bible is chock full of cases where “disease” is caused by demon possession. In fact, right up until the Middle Ages, that was the common Christian assumption, that human disease was caused by evil spirits who got into your blood and the best way for curing people was to let copious amounts of that blood out, or to perform exorcisms and other magical rituals. The fact is, disease has nothing to do with any of that and it wasn’t religion that came to that conclusion, it was science. Religion really has no demonstrably true explanations for any of the things listed. It simply makes assertions which cannot be verified or validated and pretends it holds all the cards when, in fact, it’s not even sitting at the table.
14.The universality of spiritual belief and experience. The universal belief in, and experience of, a spiritual reality beyond the material world and in the existence of other intelligent beings in addition to human beings (gods, spirits, angels, demons, ghosts etc), along with the proliferation of different religions, is consistent with the Christian world view including the existence of a Devil whose intention is to deceive people into believing anything but the truth.
Or Christianity could be consistent with the worldview of any other religion with a devil-character, that is seeking to lead Christians astray from some other true god. Funny, they never think of that clear possibility. The belief certainly is not universal, as the quickly growing “nons” demographic shows. In fact, as I’ve suggested before, in most advanced nations, it’s more likely that religion fulfills a social function than a belief function, most people who claim to hold the belief are really not clear on what they’re supposed to believe, nor do they practice most of the rituals and ceremonies that their religious beliefs would seem to demand. They do it because they think it makes them look good to the neighbors. In fact, I’d suspect this is true in most countries and most religions, most people pretend to believe it, not because they’ve examined it and found it to be true, but because it’s what they’re expected to believe.
I would suggest there’s even evidence of this in the Bible if we look at the Ten Commandments story where Moses boogies up the side of a mountain to commune with God, the children of Israel, who have supposedly directly witnessed the awe and majesty of God, waste no time building a golden calf to bow down to the second Moses is out of sight. Why? Because they never really bought into the whole God thing in the first place. The second someone stops goading them, in this case Moses, they go off and do something else because belief and worship in God just doesn’t matter that much.
15.The moral law. The universality of moral beliefs and conscience, and the similarities of moral codes across times, continents and cultures, point to the existence of moral laws and a supernatural law giver. The moral laws outline in the Decalogue (ten commandments) encapasulate these principles of respect for life, marriage, property and truth and their observance leads to more stable and enduring societies. These observations are consistent with the existence of a moral God who has designed human society to operate according to moral norms and who reveals moral principles.
Except for the fact that there are no universal moral beliefs, this is something I’ve pointed out many times in the past and no matter how many times you repeat a falsehood, it will never become true. Of course, you can just look at the Bible and see all of the horrors supposedly visited upon man by this imaginary “moral” god. In fact, let’s be honest, the Bible displays God as a massive fuck-up. God creates this perfect world and puts two people in it. Almost immediately, they’re off eating fruit God didn’t want them to eat so he casts them out. Then the whole world becomes wicked so he sends a flood and kills almost all of the people and most of the animals, who really never did anything wrong. Then the Israelites piss him off again so he sends them into slavery in Egypt. When they get out, they wander around for 40 years, Moses goes up a mountain to talk to God and everyone starts worshipping a golden idol. Why can’t God ever get any of this right? What a pathetic loser.
16.Lives changed by Christian faith. The power of Christian faith and prayer to change behaviour and improve human functioning in restoring the lives of those suffering from addictions to drugs, alcohol, pornography and other enslaving activities or in reforming antisocial and criminal behaviour and strengthening marriages, families and societies is unparalleled.
This kind of claim always makes me shake my head at it’s absurdity. First off, it’s a disingenuous claim because it offers no evidence or even a significant definition of terms. I’m sure that any religion can claim, equally well, that it changes the lives of it’s adherents. What makes Christianity and better than Buddhism or Hinduism? Secondly though, it’s just blatantly false. If we look at prison entry statistics, for example, we find that Christianity is far over-represented in prison populations in relation to their percentage in the regular population. That means that Christians commit *MORE* crimes than non-Christians. Atheists, by way of comparison, are far under-represented, last time I looked were less than .5% of incarcerated criminals. Beyond that, Christianity has strengthened marriages? Seriously? More than 50% of all marriages end in divorce and Christian marriages fare far worse than pretty much any other group!
17.Christian reformation of society. The reformation of British society in the 19th century (and many similar phenomena elsewhere in the world throughout history) through such moves as the abolition of slavery, child labour, child prostitution, prison reform and the establishment of schools and hospitals through the work of Wilberforce, Booth, Fry, the Clapham Sect and others was largely the result of the evangelical revival of the 18th century and lends strong support to the existence of a redemptive supernatural God who changes and shapes human lives and societies.
To be honest, many of those things Peter wants to claim Christianity “reformed” were things that Christianity set up in the first place. While he does specifically mention England, he also makes reference to similar phenomenon elsewhere in the world and since I don’t really feel like running this by my best friend, who is a historian that specifically works on the British slave trade and would tell Peter he was full of bullshit, I’ll shift this to the U.S. instead. While there’s no question that there were some Christian groups involved in the abolition of the American slave trade, there’s no doubt whatsoever that many, many Christian groups were responsible for helping to set it up in the first place. In fact, the majority of U.S. racist organizations are specifically Christian and believe strongly that blacks are inferior based upon a particular reading of the Bible. I won’t even mention the Mormons, who are blatantly racist, because Peter would likely not accept them as Christian. Further, while we can certainly point to the involvement of Christians in some of the other causes he lists, that’s mostly because a majority of people in the United States claimed to be Christian at the time, it’s hardly surprising that many would be involved, although certainly, you cannot point to Christianity, as a philosophy, as being the major cause of any of these movements.
18.The work of Christian missions. The development of education, healthcare and societal reform in the developing world owes a great deal to the work of Christian missionaries motivate by the love of Christ who underwent great hardship and made great sacrifices to assist and empower those marginalised through ignorance, superstition or poverty. If Christianity were true we would expect it also to result in demonstrable good across nations and cultures.
Yet this is exactly what we don’t see. If you look at the nations where Christian missionaries have done the most work, especially those where Christianity has taken hold, you see things like Uganda, which is culturally ruled by Christianity and which said Christianity routinely murders unbelievers. The only thing you can really say that missionaries have done right is feeding the poor, something that is done as well or better by purely secular charities. You can’t even count education because all they’re doing is filling these poor, ignorant kids’ heads with religious garbage. It’s not so much education as indoctrination and that’s never a good idea.
19.The plausibility of Christian eschatology. The emergence of a one-world government under the leadership of an antichrist, antagonistic to God, based on the worship and pursuit of material things, strongly opposing Christian faith, dominating through economic control and resulting in massive environmental destruction seems increasingly plausible given recent historical experience and the current trajectory of world history.
That’s not plausibility, it’s inevitability. As the world becomes more and more intertwined, it seems likely that someday, a worldwide government will be set up. Of course, I find it rather silly that he claims that something that has not come to pass, something that isn’t even remotely close to coming to pass, somehow demonstrates that the Christian worldview is plausible. Of course, the most outrageous claim, that this supposed one-world government will be led by “an antichrist” (why not *THE* antichrist? Is Peter channeling Nostradamus here?) is wholly unsupported by anything but the most extreme and blind faith. Funny how he’s ascribing motivations to a government that may be decades or centuries away.
20.The phenomenon of Israel. The history, laws, influence and endurance of the nation of Israel through over 4,000 years of world history whilst world empires have come and gone, the maintenance of its national identity and central place in world affairs through war, persecution and holocaust, its recent restoration to Palestine and the educational and cultural achievements of its people are unparalleled but fully consistent with its special status as described in the biblical record and teaching of Jesus Christ.
Israel might be more impressive were it not for the fact that everything that has happened to it since 1947 has been at the behest and hand-holding of the United States and England. Those nations felt guilty for not stopping the Holocaust faster and therefore, largely for religious reasons that had nothing to do with Judiasm, forcibly set up the nation of Israel and have had to constantly provide aid and support to keep it from being blasted off the map constantly. This is certainly not what we’d expect to see from a nation, favored by some magical God, it is, however, exactly what we would expect to see from a heavily Christian nation, the fundamentalists of which believe that Israel must exist as a nation in order to have the Jews killed and the nation destroyed in the end times. All Israel is to the American evangelical is the material component to their Summon Jesus spell. They have to keep it around and reasonably intact so the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse can ride into Jerusalem swinging swords. This is the kind of theistic fact forcing that is most laughable. God didn’t establish the modern nation of Israel, we did. God hasn’t kept it safe. We have. God hasn’t funded it. They’ve been our largest foreign aid recipient for decades. Frankly though, the nation of Israel hasn’t been very nice, they consistently violate international civil rights laws and UN mandates. I think they ought to be taken out.
Conclusion: I didn’t intend this post to be this long, but when you’re given source material that is this absurdly and ridiculously wrong, sometimes you just can’t help yourself. Unfortunately, this isn’t out of the ordinary, there are hundreds upon hundreds of Christian apologist websites out there with the same kind of absurd, irrational drivel, abject lies and utter ignorance. This is what happens when you start with a worldview that is not primarily concerned with the facts. Christians find something on a website and instead of verifying that it’s actually so, they pick it up verbatim and stick it on their own blogs, as though, just because they agree with it, it’s got to be so. That’s the failure of religion.
I’m sure that if Peter Saunders ever saw this post, he wouldn’t bother to read it, I’m sure the majority is above his head anyhow, he’d just condemn me to hell, call me a heretic, insist his beliefs are right and cling to them even more tightly. This isn’t about truth, it’s about making bullet points. They don’t expect the faithful to think much beyond the sentence or two that follows, they don’t want anyone to ask themselves if what’s said is actually so, according to theists, the devil is always in the details. That’s why they ignore the details. That’s also why it’s a good thing that there are a lot of dedicated, sometimes insanely so in my case, atheists and skeptics who keep holding their feet to the fire. Yes, I know they don’t care, but for the people looking on, for the people who actually care about reality, those are the people that we spend our time on, to show just how ridiculous religion actually is.
Let’s all keep working hard to inform the rational of the world.
It’s actually kind of funny how I find some of these things. I was actually looking for a picture for this post when I came across this post on another blog. The picture got me reading the article and now, even though it’s a couple of months late, I’m going to respond.
Now I will say, the original author of the piece does say that these are things that apologists should not do, I’m not going to disagree because that’s true. However, I don’t know that you can come up with any things that an apologist should do, that would work in an argument with someone who is well-versed in Christianity and Christian apologetics. One of the points of being an apologist in the first place is being able to defend one’s beliefs, hopefully in a rational manner. Is there anything whatsoever rational about Christianity? I don’t think so.
But let’s evaluate these pitfalls, shall we?
1. The foolish apologist speaks before listening. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.” Not only does he communicate to others that he couldn’t care less about what they have to say, but he also becomes unable to give a well informed answer. The wise apologist is patient, seeks to understand, and avoids monologue.
I can agree with that and it goes far beyond apologetics. You cannot have any kind of discussion on any topic if one side is going to monopolize the time and not let the other side talk. That’s Debating 101. However, if what Mr. Auten says here is true, then maybe there aren’t any good apologists anywhere because in all my years of debating, listening to debates, watching debates, I’ve yet to see any apologist fail to fall into criteria #2 above. All Christian apologists are unable to give well-informed answers because all Christian apologists approach their position on blind faith. I’ve never met any Christian apologist who can present objective evidence to support their claims. Certainly I’ve seen people who will claim to have become a Christian through rational means, but when you really discuss the meat of their claims, you find they’re guilty of all manner of logical fallacies, wishful thinking and, again, blind faith. And frankly, none of them care. They don’t care a whit what anyone has to say about their faith. If you point out their fallacies, they ignore them. So my question really is, does this disqualify all apologists, period?
2. The foolish apologist overstates his argument. The foolish apologist doesn’t have “good reasons.” Instead, he can prove it. He can show something beyond the shadow of a doubt. His arguments are presented with all confidence — and of course he can’t be wrong. Even when using good arguments, he exaggerates what they actually show. No modesty here, and people balk. The wise apologist argues confidently, yet with modesty.
That describes a fanatic, and again, I agree entirely. However, once again, I have to ask if there’s any such thing as a wise apologist because I haven’t seen any who argue confidently, except those who misplace their confidence in fanaticism. I’ve yet to see a Christian apologist ever admit that they can be wrong. Is it possible that God doesn’t exist? Nope, absolutely not! A lot of them are pleased as punch about their fanaticism as well. I recently had a debate with a fundamentalist Christian who finally admitted that he was both immature and insane, but he’ll never change his mind no matter what and nothing anyone says will ever make him question his beliefs. Lack of modesty? In spades. However, I haven’t seen any theists that I remember who aren’t supremely confident that their beliefs are true and they are incapable of being wrong.
3. The foolish apologist wants to win every point. When the conversation gets complex, he needs to make sure to correct every single error he sees with another person’s view. Never mind that his conversation partner is getting offended by his “attention to detail.” This apologist is the fallacy police, the fact-checker, and grammarian all-in-one. If he makes an error, back-pedaling is in order, with little or no admission of wrong. The wise apologist can discern what really matters in a conversation.
That’s just not my experience. Most apologists don’t want to get down into the details, or at the very least, there’s a level of detail beyond which they simply do not want to explore. The majority of apologists are relatively well-versed in apologetic ideas, but only because they support what the apologist already believes. If the atheist wants to examine what those ideas are based on, the apologist loses interest, especially if things don’t go their way. They make excuses and change the subject. Most apologists can quote the Bible until the cows come home, but if questioned about the origins of the Bible, what passages mean, etc., they really have no clue. The majority of their arsenal is only enough data to support what they want to be true, usually come up with by other people who wanted to specifically support their beliefs. None of these people followed the data to a rational conclusion, they started with an emotionally-comforting conclusion and then only dug deep enough to justify those pre-existing beliefs.
4. The foolish apologist chases red herrings. If the topic is the resurrection, just bring up evolution. The foolish apologist will happily hop down any bunny trail that appears. The conversation goes in all directions. He can’t make any progress in an argument because he can’t spot red herrings, distractions, and non-issues. In fact, he may often enjoy these deviations from focused dialogue, because he’s proud of his expertise in his own pet subject areas. The wise apologist knows how to stick to one point.
This is absurdly common. We see people who purport to be “professional apologists”, who use this as their main method of debate. They know they can’t defend their own beliefs so they have to resort to attacking everyone else’s, usually very badly and with virtually no evidence. Most apologists do chase red herrings because they get easily backed into a corner and have no other option but to try an end-run around their beliefs. Let’s not forget that red herrings are one of the mainstays of Christian debates. They named it the “Gish gallop” for a reason, throwing out so many absurd claims and unjustified arguments that the non-theist simply doesn’t have time to refute them all, then declaring victory. More professional apologists engage in these “failed techniques” and that leads the amateurs to do the same. It’s patently dishonest for any of them to pull.
5. The foolish apologist is proud of himself. He likes the fact that he knows terms that make the “novices” around him cock their heads. He secretly commends himself for reading more books in a month than most people do in a year. He enjoys the sound of his own voice, and thinks he does a pretty good job in an internet forum. Apologetics is his tool to show the world he can flex his intellectual muscle. He’s received his reward. The wise apologist humbles himself before God, and looks upon himself with sober judgment.
This is also just bad debate form, but very popular. Apologetics, indeed all debate, should not be a mechanism for making someone bigger in their britches. This is a problem, not just for theists, but for everyone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen atheists doing the same thing, trying to be a celebrity, trying to act important and smarter than everyone else. This isn’t a contest between theism and atheism, or between theists and atheists, it’s a contest of the truth. It’s a competition between two people, or groups of people, who make contradictory claims. Both of those claims cannot be true. The challenge is to figure out which, if any of them, is factually correct.
6. The foolish apologist seeks popularity. He enjoys the accolades of others, speaking to lots of people, being a big name. Name-dropping becomes a normal tool to show others just how connected he is to what’s happening in the scene. He doesn’t choose the lowly place. The wise apologist blooms where he is planted.
I can agree with this, hero worship tends to piss me off and it doesn’t matter what side it comes from. Someone raving about hanging out with Richard Dawkins or PZ Myers bores me to tears. I just don’t care. I don’t do hero worship. Unfortunately, there are far too many “heroes” who milk it and bask in the glory of their followers. Sorry, this is a debate. It’s not about who you know, it’s about what you know. Dropping names doesn’t impress me.
7. The foolish apologist neglects spiritual disciplines. He finds reading philosophy more interesting than reading the Bible, so he neglects the Bible. Prayer is seldom and rushed. In fact, prayer, meditation, Bible study, worship and fellowship take the back seat to study. The foolish apologist deceives himself that he is being spiritual, all the while drifting away. The wise apologist sits at the feet of Jesus.
That’s a hard one because most of the apologists I encounter know very little outside of the Bible. They can quote you chapter and verse for just about any argument but they have no clue what any of it actually means. They treat the Bible as their whole arsenal and when the debate leaves anything applicable to the Bible, they’re lost. As above in #4, the apologist will bring up evolution, but have no clue what evolution is all about. All they know is that it disagrees with what they believe about the Bible, therefore it must be wrong.
Most apologists claim to be spiritual, the problem is, they’re not rational. They’ve got beliefs they can’t back up, claims they can’t justify, and their entire argument rests on a book that they cannot demonstrate is worthwhile. They’re not concerned whether or not their beliefs are true, it’s just something they’re going to cling to, come hell or high water.
8. The foolish apologist has not love. He can speak in the tongues of philosophers and of theologians, but he has not love – he is only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. He has the gift of intellect and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge; his arguments can move mountains, but he has not love – he is nothing. He gives all his time and energy to study, and surrenders his finances to university degrees, but has not love – and has gained nothing. The wise apologist is motivated by love for God and love for others.
Honestly, I don’t know that has anything to do with anything. Love, as a primary driver, seems rather shallow to me. I don’t care if you love God or your friends or your dog, that has nothing to do with debate. In a debate, we’re there to get to the truth. We’re there to defend positions. Emotional attachment does not make reality. Unfortunately, that’s probably the biggest downfall of Christian apologetics, people are too attached to their beliefs to be able to examine them objectively and dispassionately. As fun as it might be watching a theist and an atheist debate, it’s hilarious to watch two theists with different religious views go after each other. They’re both doing exactly the same thing and they’re blind to the fact that their opponent is using the same arguments! “This theological worldview makes me feel good, therefore it’s right!” “You infidel! How dare you reject my theological worldview that gives me comfort!” It’s ridiculous.
What both sides ought to do, that they never will, is put aside their emotional attachment and just deal with the demonstrable facts. Put forward the data, examine the evidence, evaluate with logic and reason. Of course, neither side can do that because neither side has any evidence. All they have are the emotions. That’s why debates fail, because it’s just two people waving their dicks at each other, screaming “Mine is bigger!”
Dude, I’ve got a tape measure, we can settle this very easily. Oh yeah, can’t do that. Gotta have faith.
9. The foolish apologist isolates himself from others. He doesn’t need their input. He doesn’t appreciate correction. He has his own plans, his own agenda, and own personal ministry. He refuses to let iron sharpen iron. When he falls, he has no one to help him up. He’s accountable to himself only. The wise apologist surrounds himself with godly counsel and fellow laborers.
I’m not sure if this really works. A lot of the big apologists really are a cult of personality. They do surround themselves with others who have drunk the same Kool-aid that they have. They really never learn anything new from their followers because their followers never say anything new. It’s like Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. They’re both saying the same stupid crap.
10. The foolish apologist doesn’t do apologetics. He becomes an apologetics junkie; a consumer instead of an enlisted soldier. He does more talking about defending the faith than actually defending the faith. Debates are a spectator sport. He forgets that souls are in the balance and doesn’t even think of preaching the Gospel. The wise apologist wants to win others to Christ more than anything – and he uses apologetics as a tool to assist in this task.
The problem here is that debates specifically are not about preaching, but about proving. I would guess Mr. Auten doesn’t understand the purpose of debating, but he’d certainly not be alone. Most people treat debating like an attack dog instead of a discovery session. Theists cling desperately to their religion, insisting that they’re right and everyone else is wrong, all the while engaging in nothing but logical fallacies and debate faux paus. They’re not interested in the truth, they go into the debate already supremely convinced they have it. Their whole tactic is based around the pre-existing assumption that they’re right. I can’t tell you how many apologists I’ve seen who do exactly what Mr. Auten suggests, when they’re backed into a corner, all they can do is spew Bible verses, as though Bible verses are going to convince anyone that they’re right. They treat the Bible as a weapon, but unfortunately it’s a silly weapon when nobody you’re fighting against take it seriously. Perhaps the biggest problem with this is that it’s dishonest. It’s saying “Hey, the promise of a debate was just to get you in the door. Now that you’re here, I want to sell you Amway!” Bait and switch isn’t kosher as far as I’m concerned. First, prove your position is true, then if you want to talk about saving souls, I’m all for it. Just don’t mix up the order.
I know lots of Christians think they’re doing people a favor by telling them about Jesus, but you have to remember, lots of Muslims think they’re doing people a favor by telling them about Mohammed and lots of Scientologists think they’re doing people a favor by informing them about thetans. Everybody is trying to help everyone else, while thinking that everyone else has it wrong.
What you ought to be more concerned about at the end of the day is not how many people you’ve convinced you’re right, but whether or not you actually are right! Christians think the Muslims and Scientologists are wrong, but guess what? The Muslims and Scientologists think Christians are full of shit! And none of you have any better evidence that your beliefs are true than any of the others! If you’ve got a good reason to believe what you believe, great. Just make sure that “good reason” is better than “It makes me feel good”. The Muslims feel good about their beliefs, so do the Scientologists. All of you can’t be right. All of you can be wrong. Faith has no bearing on being right or wrong.
Maybe apologists should be a little more concerned about being rational than they are about making empty claims.