This is Why It’s Worthwhile to Discuss Religion with Theists December 16, 2013

This is Why It’s Worthwhile to Discuss Religion with Theists

Neil Carter, like many of us, has had his share of debates and conversations with religious people. Is it worth it? When both sides appear to be forever-committed to their ideas, why bother trying to convince the other person s/he’s wrong?

He offers these five reasons for why he believes those conversations are worthwhile:

Yeah, it feels a lot like that

1. Because I’m an educator by profession, and I can’t resist the urge to make people think and question and defend what they believe.

2. Because while minds don’t change overnight (much less during the course of one conversation), you can plant seeds of doubt which in time grow into full-fledged skepticism.

3. Because some people are “fencesitters” or are still in transition out of a dogmatic ideology, so they benefit from listening in on these conversations.

4. Because sometimes it’s just fun, okay?

5. Because even if their minds never change, reasoning with them helps me process my own thoughts so I can root out and eliminate the many pockets of irrationality still left in my own thinking.

(He elaborates on each item on his site.)

Of all of those, #2 may be the most important. You probably won’t convince people God doesn’t exist overnight, but if you can throw some logic and reason in their direction, those strong arguments will forever fester in their minds and they won’t be able to shake it off. The rebuttals will stay with them when they attend church, when a communion wafer is put in their mouths, when prayer is offered as a solution for anything, and when people talk about the afterlife.

That’s always in the back of my mind when I write posts on this site — For the most part, I’m preaching to the choir, but I know there are some religious people reading who might be open to hearing a different perspective.

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  • In my humble opinion, Neil is one of the best voices to emerge from the atheist community in 2013. I am really enjoying his work, and I think it is great that you are giving him some love here.

  • Neko

    Neil Carter writes:

    First of all, I must clarify that by “religious people” I mean those people whose religious beliefs override all other faculties of reason.

    Then he should call them religious fundamentalists instead.

  • LDavidH

    You do realise that it can work both ways, don’t you? Talking to a Christian might sow seeds of doubts about atheism that will one day bloom and grow into full-fledged faith in God!! 🙂

  • Besides deconverting people, one can at least try to deflate the overconfident theocrat. Just knowing that there are formidable opposing views can change a theist’s attitude somewhat. They can believe whatever they want, but they need to understand that if they can’t prove it, they shouldn’t expect the rest of us to follow their religious code.

  • TychaBrahe

    But that’s not what fundamentalism means. Fundamentalism means a strict interpretation of the Bible, not the extent to which it controls one’s thinking on other issues.

    Isaac Newton would be called a fundamentalist today, although the term wasn’t in use during his lifetime. He actually spent more time philosophizing about angels and metaphysics than math and physics. But he didn’t think his Biblical views meant that “God did it,” was acceptable theory.

  • TychaBrahe

    Hemant, I know you read the Joe My God blog. If you do so religiously—ha ha—you may remember the Washington state volunteer on the issue of gay marriage legislation who wrote to Joe about one of his phone calls. The gentleman he spoke with said he’d had a change of heart on the subject of marriage, and would be voting for it. You see, he’d been reading some stuff around the Web that convinced him that gays were just people, too, and specifically cited the Joe My God blog.

    It’s really hard to maintain intolerant hatred toward people you know. Bashing religion is fairly unproductive, but reasoned discourse can open hearts and minds.

  • Neko

    Fundamentalism means a strict interpretation of the Bible, not the extent to which it controls one’s thinking on other issues.

    R. Joseph Hoffmann has a more expansive definition:

    To be a fundamentalist, you have to have a book. And you have to forget the book has a history.

  • Rain

    This actually happens every single time. Mostly because Christianity is so obvious. Many atheist professors have been converted by their students who are fed up with their atheist professors for example. Other times atheists will be walking on the beach and then look down and see two sets of foot prints. Sometimes Jesus takes their wheels.

  • LDavidH

    LOL 🙂 (But what does Jesus do with all those wheels?)

  • kashicat

    I came out of Christianity into atheism during the spring/summer of 1987. And as I look back on it now, I realize that the seeds that led to that flowering had been planted all along the way, for about a decade before that. No one who knew me would ever have expected me to stop being a staunch, devout, evangelical Christian. But those seeds were there, quietly growing without my even realizing it.

    So point #2 is really important and powerful.

  • Thomas Bennett

    There is another reason to engage. Debates are rarely for the purpose of changing your opponents mind, they’re done for the benefit of the audience. You may make no headway with a theist but it’s impossible to know how your argument will be received by spectators, assuming there are any.

    I am generally more apt to converse with a theist when there are others listening. I might win over the theist but if I don’t I might just give the others listening something to think about.

  • Brian K

    I’ve seen you comment here before, so it surprises me to see you say something as silly as “Christianity is so obvious”. Are you deliberately kicking a hornet’s nest, or is my sarcasm detector on the fritz again?

    Edit: Sarcasm detector appears to need time/caffeine to boot up in the morning. Disregard.

  • Brian K

    I like number 4. Lots of people I disagree with still make interesting arguments.

  • Jeff

    I will echo your comment. I think the /sarcasm font markup is missing.

  • Yes, the rough times when the beach showed only one set of footprints… that was because Jesus was riding on your back, causing those rough times. What a jerk!

  • invivoMark

    Oh hey, someone read my post on that other comment thread.

    (Kidding, of course – I’m under no illusion that I’m the first to think of any of these reasons, or that others could not come to the same conclusions independently.)

  • Neko

    Head for the repair shop.

  • SecularAmerican

    Talking to a Christian might sow seeds of doubts about atheism that will one day bloom and grow into full-fledged faith in God!! 🙂

    The opposite of atheism is not Christianity.

  • Malcolm Mclean

    That’s an accretion. The story was written by Mary Stevenson, a teenager, in 1936 or 1939 (I’ve seen both dates), but she didn’t copyright it, and it circulated as anonymous. However most people still accept it is just a story. I use it to demonstrate how tales attach to religious figures.

  • You have to react to the whole post, rather than just the sentence that immediately rubs raw. That way you avoid sarchasm.

  • /sarcasm defeats the purpose.

  • I keep #3 in mind when discussing religion. Oftentimes I tailor the message to the audience more so than then person I’m talking to.

  • indorri

    Sarcasm is implicit from being heavy handed on certain inane memes in Christianity.

  • Malcolm Mclean

    Most people read mainly material that reinforces their existing point of view. That’s true of atheists, Christians, and unrelated debates like Obamacare or global warming.
    But it’s nice when you get an exception. We think of “argument as warfare” because of our political system, where the side that wins the argument also gets the huge worldly benefit of holding power. But most debates aren’t actually like that. There’s often common ground. Atheists and Christians might find themselves in substantial agreement over Islam, for example.

  • David

    When people come to my house I normally do not engage in any form of discussion, I am usually trying to get rid of them. However, if these people have brought children along all bets are off.

  • Neil Carter

    Well, in a way, I addressed that possibility with #5, in that I always try to keep an open mind towards all perspectives, even those of faith. But imagine if you divided atheists into two camps, the first having grown up non-religioius by default and the second growing up religious but then leaving that religion because they thought things through for themselves. I have heard of people from the first group converting to Christianity, but have you ever heard of anyone from the second group *going back* to Christianity after having left it? I can’t think of any.

  • SeekerLancer

    I don’t really get why some people don’t think the discussion is worth having. Most of us were theists at one point, and then we heard something that made us start doubting. No you’re not going to change everyone’s mind, or even most people. Religion is too deeply ingrained into their life and worldview for that. But there are people out there who might at least start heading towards the right direction.

    The vast majority of atheists in the United States were once those people.

  • Malcolm McLean

    Essentially it’s a reactionary position. A fundamentalist identifies certain “fundamentals” or basics of his religion which cannot be compromised upon, agrees that they are under attack, and makes it his absolute priority to defend and insist on them.
    Fundamentalists are often also Biblical literalists, or where not they identify Biblical verses as containing the “fundamentals”. But it’s not necessary to have a sacred book to be a fundamentalist.

  • cary_w

    Hmmm…. I guess it’s based on my belief that we humans are inherently selfish and, if you really dig down, we pretty much do everything only for our own good, but I think #5 is the most important.

  • Guest

    You mean to tell me I shouldn’t trust Kirk Cameron?!

  • The Starship Maxima

    Nowhere in these “List of Reasons Talking To Those Bible Wavers IS A Good Idea” is it ever mentioned that…..perhaps they may be right. To be sure, the opposite lists, “Reasons to Talk To Those Evil Godless Atheists” is also missing that reason….because they may be right. Or at the very least “Those guys might be wrong, but they still have good points to make.

    Perhaps that’s why the discourse on so many divisive issues fail. Everyone goes in from the point that they’re right, “those guys” are wrong, but I want to make a show of politely listening.

    I used to feel the same way. But sometimes, listening to a gay rights activist, or an atheist, or a feminist, or a communist exposes me to FACTS I wouldn’t have encountered trapped among of Bible thumpers all quoting the same verses over and over.

    Simply because we disagree on what the facts mean, doesn’t mean we can’t still seek out the facts together.

  • Neil Carter

    These are hard lessons, I know. All a part of life’s Growing Pains.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Where would I fit? I’m a Biblical literalist (I really do think God made the Earth and the Universe in 6 days, or 144 hours) and I don’t compromise on Scriptural doctrine (homosexuality is wrong, so is polygamy, so is premarital sex, no exceptions).

    But when I call myself a fundie, people balk, saying a fundie would never actually fraternizes with “godless sodomites and unbelievers”.

  • Malcolm McLean

    Yes and no. Not everyone who doesn’t believe in God is what we would call an atheist, animists, for example, aren’t atheists, neither are Buddhists. Nor is the Hindu wise man who says “Gods are metaphors” necessarily expressing a non-Hindu position. Atheism only makes sense if you’ve been exposed to a Judaeo/Christian/Islamic worldview.

    But if you cease to be an atheist you don’t necessarily become a Christian. It’s quite common to become a Wiccan, a Hare Krishna follower, a believer in the historical inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

  • skeptical_inquirer

    I believe in keeping talking about it because if you surrender all the talking to the extremist theists, you might end up in some horrible dystopia like the one in The Handmaid’s Tale. Being quiet means that things just fester.

    It’s like any other issue. You might not change people’s minds immediately but women got the right to vote and (sadly) in various parts of the word including our own, that attacking women sexually is something to take seriously. Keeping silent does nothing to change things.

    We have to keep pointing out that inserting religion in textbooks will keep us back as a society among other things.

  • newavocation

    Being silent can also be seen as agreement. Of course assessing penalties for disagreeing is still a popular way the religious win arguments.

  • Anat

    Some Budhists are atheists, some are theists. There are those who are of the opinion that all the theistic and mystical elements of Budhism are the result of the corruption of the philosophy of Budha by people insisting on reading him theistically. Shrug. You give an example of a secular Hindu (who would then also be an atheistic Hindu).

  • Rationalist1

    I like point #2, planting the seed of doubt. I think it happens partially with our words but more with our example. Our subtle witnessing as atheists who are polite, intelligent, informed plus leading happy, good, productive lives helps dismantle many believers misconceptions of atheists.

  • baal

    But the supernatural is never the actual explanation for any explained mystery. That’s so true a tautology that you can even make bets with full certainty you’re right if the other persons position assumes a supernatural entity.

    I put the odds on gods existing at -0- or essentially identical to -0-. I find little value in trying to find what doesn’t exist (lacks evidence) these days.

  • baal

    I love sarcasm and irony best when it’s at least a little ambiguous on whether or not the person is sincere or joking.

  • Rationalist1

    Absolutely. David it could happen. But look how much “faith” non believers have in their position compared to theists. Most non believing parents I know do not teach non belief to their children even though childhood indoctrination is one of the best ways to perpetuate viewpoints to the next generation. Religious people always do.

    We’ll take our chances with discussion. We have nothing to fear.

  • bananafaced

    Preaching to the Choir can be good too! It could give someone (in the choir) a mental boost to go out and plant seeds among their theist friends…the Johnny Appleseed Effect.

  • Brian K

    Yeah, I caught it the second time through. Thing is, we often see people say stuff like this in complete earnestness. Funny how easily Christian apologetics turn into their own charicature.

  • When I was getting close to deconverting I wouldn’t have called into a show like The Atheist Experience but I watched a lot of their clips and heard the arguments for theism refuted over and over. If no one was out there willing to debate, I’d probably still be sitting on the fence. So thanks to all the atheists willing to take on the same tired long-disproven arguments, because there are many of us who were sheltered from any skeptical look at our faith until adulthood.

  • Rebecca

    Ummm… Atheism only makes sense if you’ve been exposed to a Judaeo-Christian (Islam is judaeo-christian, even recognises Jesus as a very important figure…) worldview?

    No. Atheists existed prior to Judaism’s propagation/expansion. Atheism is literally – (a) –
    without, (theism) belief in a deity (or deities). A religious
    worldview, you’re right – has been the default for most (if not all) of recorded human history – but it has nothing to do with any particular religion. Nor does atheism require religion at all to make sense – except in the tautological sense, in that if no-one believed in god, there would be no label for someone who didn’t believe in god(s).

    In fact, by strict definition, a ‘Hindu wise man’ claiming that ‘gods are metaphors’, who doesn’t believe in their ‘reality’ is at best a deist – but most likely actually an atheist – they just don’t choose to apply the label. They might be other things (‘spiritual’, etc), but atheism isn’t anything more than a lack of belief in god(s)

  • LOL. You’d be surprised at how many people find such syruppy crap moving. Seriously. *gag*

  • Poe’s Law. It was hard to catch as sarcasm because some of us hear or read things from theists almost every day that sound exactly like that.

  • Yes but some of read stacks of Christian or other religious material before deconverting. In fact I might still consider myself a Christian if I had not actually read the entire Bible (something that from countless discussions with Christians it is obvious that most have not done).

  • How fun for homosexuals that you are willing to demean yourself by socializing with people that you think are sinners going to hell.

  • As a member of the choir (most Sundays, because I am paid to be there as a section leader) can I just say that most of us are not paying attention and are just waiting for the next music cue. LOL

  • Art_Vandelay

    Where do you stand on shellfish?

  • The Starship Maxima

    Your prerogative. I look at it slightly differently; to me it precisely because of science that the “fantastic” IS possible.

    I guess this comes from my being a science fiction fan, which is exactly about how the “supernatural” can be explained simply as highly-advanced science. I believe it was Sir Arthur C. Clarke who said “Any technology that is sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.”

    Therefore, considering the wonders mankind can do with our limited and rudimentary knowledge, I see no reason a vastly superior intelligence could do the things mentioned in the Bible.

    I have no proof of such a thing, of course, but it’s a theory that doesn’t necessarily rely on “hocus-pocus” to function.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Actually, just believing in the central doctrine of Christianity demonstrates a willful surrender of your critical faculties.

  • This is simple. If the supernatural did indeed exist and interacted with the natural, then there would be some evidence of that in the natural world that would not be explainable by science. The sacred texts are full of actions that would be difficult to explain other than a supernatural explanation. We find no evidence of such in the modern world. Either their deities have abandoned us (see: Angels in America) or they never existed at all and such stories are exaggerations if not outright fabrications.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I LOVE shellfish. Assuming it’s prepared properly (meaning no curry).

  • I can see how it gets frustrating. Perhaps some people need to take a break after making the same argument against the cosmological argument or whatever theists are pushing this month and let someone else step up.

  • Trite as the example is, since he was raised in the Church of Ireland, fell away in his late teens, and famously re-converted, CS Lewis would appear to give an existence case. Contrariwise, conversions from highly religious upbringings to highly irreligious outcomes (even temporary) or vice versa are relatively rare; it thus seems unsurprising that double-conversions would be rare-squared.

    Nohow, Altemeyer and Hunsberger’s “Amazing Conversions” study (examining both sorts) noticed the two tended to look quite different psychologically. To oversimplify the trends indicated by their book, contemporary irreligious-to-religious shifts tended to be a relatively abrupt sort, associated with an emotional trauma, the presenting of a (religious) social support network, and a wholesale adoption of the dogma by someone with unusually high authoritarian follower (RWA) tendency; while the religious-to-irreligious shifts tended to happen over much longer time, resulting from protracted intellectual inquiry, and gradual rejection of dogma piece by piece, culminating in eventual disidentification by someone with an unusually low-RWA tendency.

    Given the contradictory tendency on RWA, this would indicate such full-blown double-switches would be even less common than rare-squared. On the other hand, RWA is at least somewhat environmental, which suggests a change in social pressure to conformity might play a factor. So, the most likely case to find a religious-to-irreligious-to-religious would seem to be someone of median-RWA tendencies, brought up in a religious household, sent off to college where exposure to new ideas causes them to fall away, sustain the irreligiosity through a relatively low-stress couple years in some environment encouraging conformity (say, equivalent of a classic 1950s type organization-man job), but then encounter some significant trauma (say, death of a close friend, or possibly loss of a job) which drives them back into religiosity for social support. Though the gradual nature of his re-transition suggests that it may take time to construct complex rationalizations to paper over the cracks of the previous shift, CS Lewis has elements of this trajectory; moderately religious family, some time in the British schools (to inculcate such submission), the emotional stress of WWI, followed by gradual reversion to religiosity.

    The likely sort of counterpart irreligious-to-religious-to-irreligious example would seem someone raised irreligious, who enters the military (environmentally inculcating authoritarian submission), converts (triggered by exposure to indoctrination sessions for getting out of barracks cleaning Sunday mornings), serves relatively uneventfully, goes off on the GI Bill to college, gets a PhD in sociology… and gradually rethinks that conversion. (Marrying outside the faith, to someone slightly but not particularly religious, might help reduce social costs to the final disidentification.) However, I’d expect these to be rarer — the prerequisite initial irreligious upbringing being scarcer.

    (All this neglects quasi-religious “conversions” to non-theist identities, which in the West seem to have fallen by the wayside since the decline of the Communist Party in that part of the world.)

    Regardless, either kind of double-switch seems to require conditions near “perfect storm” rarity. Far more common would be minor shifts in one direction or the other.

  • The Starship Maxima

    An oft-repeated, but inaccurate meme. First of all I don’t see myself as “demeaning” myself by socializing with others. Jesus remained holy while still keeping company with all sorts of people. My righteousness and wickedness are my own; and not contingent on the people around me.

    Next, “thinking they are sinners going to hell” is wrong on two levels. First, being gay, while I personally believe it to be a sin, is not something that automatically damns you to hell. If I’m reading my Bible correctly, there’ll probably be scores of homosexuals in heaven.

    More important than that; I am a sinner bound for hell outside of God’s grace. I’m not hanging out with people on a lower level, I am hanging out with my peers. A homosexual must make peace with her or his own Creator, as I must make peace with mine. That we have our own particular sins is just about irrelevant.

  • The Starship Maxima

    How so?

  • MNb

    To me #5 is the most important. I want my views well grounded.
    Next important one is that I’m curious how other people think, especially those who disagree. It may be my bias, but it’s my impression that only few christians are original.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I feel the same after repeatedly hearing atheists dismiss the gaps in their own theories with a “Whatever,” or some variation thereof.

  • Rebecca

    How do you get the idea that polygamy is wrong, if you’re a biblical literalist?

  • Pattrsn

    Atheist have theories? You mean like gravity?

  • Kingasaurus

    “Therefore, considering the wonders mankind can do with our limited and
    rudimentary knowledge, I see no reason a vastly superior intelligence
    could do the things mentioned in the Bible.”

    There’s also no reason that a “vastly superior intelligence” couldn’t do the miraculous things described in non-Biblical traditions.

    Did a “vastly superior intelligence” do the things the ancient Greeks described their “gods” as doing, or are you satisfied that those “gods” are just made up?

    Even if you think there might be a “vastly superior intelligence” it doesn’t mean it even does everything (or even anything) that any human being claims it did. Otherwise you’d never classify anything as a myth or a legend, and you’d have to throw up your hands and assume every ancient miracle story really happened because you can’t know otherwise.

    What’s more likely? That an actual super-advanced, disembodied mind did a “miracle”, or a human being just made up a story – something we’re really, really good at and can’t seem to help doing?

  • lolwut?

  • The Starship Maxima

    It is true, mankind does excel at making shit up. We also excel at treating our guesses as facts and dismissing things that fall too far out of the range of our experience.

  • Kingasaurus

    I guess I’m trying to figure out why you’re privileging the Bible and the desert god of one particular tribe of people as “real”, when everyone else is apparently just making stuff up.

    I see no reason to do that.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Because I read the Bible completely, not just snatching a verse our two out of context.

    Did God allow, at one time and in a specific situation, polygamy? Yes. However, the Bible is replete with several people including God stating that one woman should marry one man and that should be it, for life.

  • Pattrsn

    You know it’s Jesus because he takes a size 9.

  • I agree with you on that. But then the question is, how do we tell the difference between a right answer, and all the shit that we just made up? How do you have an effective reality check? “Feeling it in your heart” and “trusting one specific ancient book” are not good methods.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Well, there are other reasons I privilege the Bible. Many of them fall under “just because”.

    My statement isn’t meant as a rationale for why the Bible is provably correct. I can’t do that. It’s simply meant to show there are ways to reconcile it with reason and logic, if imperfectly.

  • The Starship Maxima

    In this you are COMPLETELY correct.

  • baal

    Eh, I’ve spent too much of my life at universities. The speed of light and energy density are pretty strong limits on a bunch of sci-fi. So too are there very real known limits like how cold you can get molecules or on how fast you can move in regular space. I don’t think we know everything but What we do know bounds what is theoretically possible.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Not quite. Gravity is a theory wherein most people, atheist or otherwise, will admit that they don’t know the full mechanics of how it works, though they grasp the general principle.

    Now, let’s take….abortion, for instance. Certain people will swear on a stack of Bibles (or whatever the rational humanist text equivalent would be) that life doesn’t begin at conception, even though every objective scientific research states otherwise.

  • Can you provide chapter and verse on that?

  • baal

    I thought you’d agreed to stop using the word “science” :(.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Because the idea that something omnipotent and omnibenevolent is incapable of forgiveness is absurd. Human beings forgive each other all the time without ever thinking about sacrificing their children in order to do it, let alone actually going through with it. Just to accept the idea that you require forgiveness simply for existing in the first place makes no sense but to go from there to “Thankfully the creator of everything killed his kid for me”? You’ve stopped thinking.

  • Neko

    You’re a creationist? You’re a fundie.

  • The Starship Maxima

    This is where we completely disagree. As our scienctific knowledge expands at an exponential rate, the limits of what we can and can’t do change seemingly on the hour.

    It’s not that we suddenly discover gravity is bullshit; but we discover different levels of physics and methods to manipulate those physics. Thus, whereas walking on the Moon was once considered flatly impossible, we know look back on the Saturn V and say “That was cool, but oh so pedestrian. Our next models will blow it out the water.”

  • baal

    I can’t express this idea politely, words fail me so apologies in advance. You’re ignorant (mean you don’t know).

  • The Starship Maxima

    Mark 10:6-8: “But from the beginning of
    the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall
    leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, ‘and the two shall become
    one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Oh. Well, I am, then.

  • SecularAmerican

    But the supernatural is never the actual explanation for any explained mystery.

    I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Hm. Interesting.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Well, fortunately, this is a free country and you don’t have to socialize with whoever you don’t want to socialize with.

  • The Starship Maxima

    No offense taken. I’m ignorant on a great many things. It would be a bad day if I failed to take that into account.

  • Malcolm McLean

    To a Westerner, atheism (there is no God) and secularism (religion shouldn’t play a big role in political decision making and everyday life) go hand in hand. The more strongly you believe in one, the more strongly you’ll believe in the other.

    But that’s no so true outside of the West.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Where it is applicable I will use it.

  • LOL Typical Fundamentalist. You have no idea how condescending you sound. I’ll repeat my sarcastic retort: It must be such a joy for gay people to get to spend time with such a condescending asshole.

    But the funniest part is “if I’m reading my Bible correctly”. You don’t know. You can’t know. There are so many ways to read it that lead to contradictory conclusions and you can’t see the obvious problem with that.

  • Neko

    Why on earth are you a creationist? Genesis is allegorical!

  • Kingasaurus

    I agree.

    It’s clear it’s all based on the primitive idea of ancient blood magic. The only way for your god to not be angry with something you did was to sacrifice something – kill it and spill its blood.

    But human blood is more “magic” than animal blood, and a god’s blood is the most “magic” of all. So to fix the reason that the god is mad at everyone who ever lived is to spill the god’s blood. Problem permanently solved.

    There’s a lot of layers of supposedly sophisticated candy-coating on that over the centuries, but that’s basically it.

    What modern person would buy this if the idea was totally brand new and nobody had ever heard it before? Does it sound like it makes any sort of sense?

  • The Starship Maxima

    The gays I hang out with do enjoy my company and I theirs, so your sarcasm has no particular bearing on my reality.

    With that said, no, I don’t see how I’m being condescending. Perhaps you can explain it.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I take it on faith.

  • Pattrsn

    According to “every objective scientific research” life began about 4 billion years ago. I imagine you’d not find many atheists disagreeing with this.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Well, to be fair, the idea that you can be found guilty of something, but, through some sort of penance or retribution, avoid the proscribed punishment is an accepted part of our legal system.

  • LOL. “Whatever”. Yes, I hear scientists use that term to explain gaps in our current knowledge all the time.

    There are things we don’t know. Some we have yet to discover and some we may never know. Inserting a supernatural explanation is absurd, especially considering the number of times we’ve later discovered a natural explanation for the gap. It’s responsible to admit that there are things we don’t know. “God did it” is not a rational explanation.

  • Malcolm McLean

    The commonsense definition “an atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in God” is good enough for everyday speech, but not philosophically or historically. The line between deists and atheists is hard to draw, and one merged into the other.
    There’s not much difference between “there is no God” and “there might be something out there, but we can’t know it or communicate with it in any way”.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I wasn’t talking about when life on the Earth emerged. I mean when a unique human being’s life begins.

    Anyway, the accepted scientific theory is that life emerged 4 billion years ago, true. That theory relies on many educated guesses and outright assumptions, as near any evolutionary scientist will freely admit.

    Does that make it inaccurate? Of course not. But “best guess” and “empirical proof” are not the same thing.

  • If the Bible was suddenly revised by god again to state that polygamy was now not only acceptable, but the preferred family status, what would it take for you (or Christians in general) to accept this new revision as Biblical truth? Would Biblical literalists then go out and add more wives to their families? I’m asking this sincerely, not sarcastically. I’ve always wondered what happened back in the day as the Bible was going through its growing pains; like if people were “grandfathered” in under the old rules as exceptions to any new rules.

  • The Starship Maxima

    But…….what about “God did it through some rational, scientific means consistent with the real physical universe, using methods we just haven’t learned yet” ?

  • Artor

    I appreciate the exercise in logic and reason. Even if the needed recipients aren’t getting it, I am. I’ve gotten more practice & education in logic arguing against Xians on the internet than I ever did in school.

  • Kingasaurus

    Like i said, that’s candy-coating what’s really going on.

    You screw up, so you fix it by murdering an animal because the god wants you to spill its blood and then be pleased by the smell of the burning flesh.

    Just because it’s conceptually related to something like you doing “community service” for committing a crime doesn’t mean the analogy works.

    This is primitive stuff, like throwing a virgin into a volcano so the volcano god won’t be mad anymore. Again, it’s senseless.

  • Carol Lynn

    You never heard that stuff about blood sacrifice before? THAT is why it is said that you surrendered your critical faculties. That’s pretty basic stuff for anyone who has ever thought critically about biblical god-worship.

  • Neko

    But Genesis is literature produced at a time of limited scientific understanding. As a Christian you could embrace both Genesis and the best science on the origins of the universe. Many do.

  • The Starship Maxima

    A very interesting hypothetical. But the thing you have to consider is that Biblical literalists fail to meet the standards that are already in the Bible. So even God revising it wouldn’t necessarily change their behavior.

    Would some Christians, in an effort to be true to the Bible, add more wives? Yes. Some would do it because, hey, who can turn down multiple women?

    Some wouldn’t do it. They’d say, “Naw, I’m good with my one. More would mean more money, more headaches, and I don’t want to be bothered, even if it is God’s will.”

  • The Starship Maxima

    I’d like to think I do. I mean, c’mon, of COURSE I did evolution. You can’t really deny penicillin or vaccines or plant grafting you know.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I have. I don’t think I suggested I hadn’t. I just don’t take the same view of it.

  • The Starship Maxima

    The point I was trying to make is that when you leave it at “silly blood sacrifice” of course it sounds stupid.

    I’m suggesting their might be a context in which it not only makes sense, but resembles concepts we more readily accept.

  • Neko

    But you can’t believe the universe was made in 6 days on the one hand and on the other hand accept evolution and the reality-based age of the earth and the universe. They’re in conflict.

  • DavidMHart

    But so might talking to a Muslim, or a Hindu. Or for that matter, a Scientologist (not that the supernatural stuff that they believe in involves gods, strictly speaking, but it is firmly in the same ballpark area of implausibility). Are you comfortable admitting that, or do you think that Christianity has added levels of plausibility that those other religions don’t? In which case, why are those other religions still going strong? Surely they’d be crumbling in the face of Christianity’s superior evidence if it had superior evidence.

    But in reality, while Christianity and other religions often do convert people who came from what you might call an ‘apatheist’ background, or from other religions, in reality it is very rare for people well versed in the philosophical and evidential arguments against Christianity (let’s call these people ‘informed atheists’) to convert to Christianity, whereas it is not at all uncommon for people who come from a religious background to deconvert when presented with the case against their religion. It just usually takes some time, as point two in this article states. That is to say, religions can often claim new recruits from those who haven’t developed their critical thinking tools, or from those who were already inclined to believe in the supernatural, but they have a much harder time getting the allegiance of those whose baloney detectors are well calibrated, as you will have to admit if you try to draw a list of religious people who do not merely claim to have formerly been atheists, but who are actually on record as formerly having articulated good reasons for being atheists.

    This ought to worry religious people more than it seems to.

  • joey_in_NC

    No need for the sarcasm. It happens.

  • Neko

    He wasn’t being sarcastic.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Looked at the way most do, yes, they are in conflict. Here’s my view.

    If we take the Arthur C. Clarke view that the “fantastic” is simply rational science on a level we haven’t reached, I don’t see why a highly advanced being could speak the world in to existence. I mean voice recognition and voice activation are mundane aspects of everyday life now.

    As for the age of the Earth, I accept that my science’s best guess, they get 4 billion years. Most scientists freely admit there’s a lot of guessing and blank spots in that theory. In short, it could very well be wrong.

    And lastly, I tend to view evolution as further proof of an intelligent designer. It would make sense that God would create life to be able to adapt to a changing environment and thus survive for the long haul. Kinda like making computers that automatically download patches and updates.

  • Kingasaurus

    Let’s put it this way:

    We have a principle in societal interaction where if I render you a service, then you owe me something for that service. makes sense, right?

    Let’s say there’s an old story where one guy does another guy a favor, so the second guy repays the first guy by selling him the severed hands of his children.

    Just because paying something for services rendered is a principle that still makes sense, doesn’t mean the old story is any less primitive, retrograde or repugnant. And we shouldn’t try and polish such a story by claiming it came from some god who knows more than we do, or it’s tangentially related to something we still do.

  • joey_in_NC

    Oops, I guess my comment was meant for Rain.

  • The Starship Maxima

    It probably doesn’t worry us as much because this is your opinion and not any kind of empirical fact.

  • Rationalist1

    Studies of generational conversion rates favour non believers.

  • Carol Lynn

    Really? Then why comment simply, “Hm. Interesting.” as if it were a new idea to you? Had you said something more like, “Sorry. I don’t interpret it that way because….” I’d be more open to your having given the ideas some consideration before. If you’d actually given some reasons why you think that’s an unfair or inaccurate interpretation, that would be even better.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Hm. That is a really good point actually.

  • Sven2547

    Certain people will swear on a stack of Bibles … that life doesn’t begin at conception, even though every objective scientific research states otherwise.

    Objective scientific research does NOT say otherwise and I wish people like you would stop repeating that lie. The gametes that combine to form an embryo are living cells at every stage in the process.

  • I notice a distinct lack of “…and only one wife at a time” in that verse. You have to read that into your interpretation, because it isn’t stated specifically.

    But back in Genesis, we have this: (Gen 35 22-26)
    “Jacob had twelve sons. The sons of Leah were Reuben (Jacob’s oldest son), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Rachel’s slave Bilhah were Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Leah’s slave Zilpah were Gad and Asher.”

    That’s two wives and two concubines, and apparently this was OK by god. And how many wives did Solomon have? Can you find anything in the bible that says “In the days of old it was permissible for the Patriarchs to have many wives, but I command you not to do that any more” ?

  • Thanks for the response and being a good sport on here. But I’m still curious about the Biblical revisions and how current Christians would react. I imagine many, if not most, would be highly skeptical of any new purported changes, especially if those changes were severe 180s (such as God claiming gay marriage is now okay). It is probably the case that the Bible is now unchangeable.

    EDIT: I should add that it’s unchangeable in the sense that many Christians might not accept new changes due to probable lack of evidence that the changes came from God.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Really? Then why comment simply, “Hm. Interesting.” as if it were a new idea to you?

    Because I’m not in the habit of making comments based on how it would appear to someone else.

    The “Hm, interesting” is what I say when someone presents a good point, or even illustrates a point I’ve heard before in a really good way. It neither signifies agreement or disagreement.

    To answer why I think that’s inaccurate; like many things, the Bible, especially in the OT describes a time and a place different that the one we live in now. Buying and selling slaves, having concubines, and slaughtering goats were all accepted and normal aspects of everyday life.

    The New Testament specifically states that with Jesus’s arrival, there’s no need for such arcane measures. Thus I don’t believe in using those arcane beliefs, that the Bible has already stated are outmoded, as a basis for determining whether the Bible makes sense.

  • Neko

    Um, what? You believe both that the universe was made in 144 hours and that the Earth may be around 4 billion years old? What am I missing here.

  • But “silly blood sacrifice” is the entire basis for Christianity. Without it, the religion suffers a fundamental existence failure.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Admittedly I cannot. And yes, there is a degree of interpretation involved, though I generally try to shy from such a practice.

    I’m going off the fact that when God first created Adam, he didn’t make Eve, Jane, Linda, and Desiree as well for him. Just Eve.

    Secondly, the verse mentioned says and the TWO (not three, four, or five) shall become one. Combined with the fact that in the NT anytime marriage is used as a metaphor, it is the monogamous kind that is described. Seems to be the preferred method is monogamy.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    I agree that he was a bit sloppy using the term “religious people” to refer to that narrower segment of people. There are plenty of people who call themselves “religious” who do not fall into his category. “Fundamentalist” is closer, but as others have noted, is not perfect either.

  • The Starship Maxima

    No, I said, I believe that even though the Old Earth theory is the best that science has thus far come up with, it can still actually be wrong.

  • Neko


  • LDavidH

    Everybody teaches their beliefs to their children, through what you don’t do as much as through what you do. The difference (at least here in Europe) is that my children get to see Christianity practised at home, and lots of non-belief (practical atheism) around them, whereas my non-believing sister’s children never get to see Christianity in real life Who’s the most indoctrinated?.
    So yes, I “teach” my kids belief (although I’d prefer to say that I tell them about Jesus) because that’s part of who I am and what my life is about; you “teach” yours unbelief through the way you live your life. Nobody’s neutral; there is no neutral ground.

    But let the discussion continue; if we all genuinely seek the truth, we indeed have nothing to fear.

  • LDavidH

    I think you’ll find that most churches have people from church-going families who left as teenagers and then found their way back again; but maybe that wasn’t what you were thinking about?

  • Wait, if there is interpretation, what are you fundamental about?

  • Neko

    How old do you believe the Earth is?

  • Sandrilene

    You know the traditional Christian view was that life begins at quickening? This is when the foetus starts to move. ‘Quick’ used to mean alive.

  • Carol Lynn

    Of course you don’t. My reply still stands. This is still why people say you do not think critically. YMMV, of course.

  • Andy

    Agreed, I can personally attest to the #2 seeds of doubt. Some things just stick in your mind and germinate over time. Like when I still believed and argued with a friend that it took more faith to believe the big bang just “happened” than it did to believe God started the big bang. To which my friend pointed out that it was MORE unlikely that a god powerful enough to create the big bang just “happened’ to exist. Even though her point seems incredibly obvious now, I had never stopped to critically think about the creationist talking points I had been parroting.

  • Actually, there is a huge difference between the two.

  • The Starship Maxima

    How gracious, but I think I’m being as good a sport as the majority of the people here.

    There’s actually been discussion that the Bible was mistranslated when it said gay marriage was wrong. I can’t speak for all fundamentalists. I imagine if the Bible could be proven to be okay with gay relationships, many would ignore it and hold to their bigotry. Keep in mind they do this now, denying gays the right to marry or get paid the same for the same work, even though the Bible loudly denounces such practices.

    For myself, I’m skeptical because in all the years the Bible has been translated, and in all the languages, and in all the countries, nobody can find ONE version that contains these alleged translation errors.

    Consider, the Bible passed through societies in which homosexuality was “like, whatever” and still the Bible is against it.

  • And when did religion started caring about empirical facts?

  • The Starship Maxima

    I believe the Bible is literally true. There are parts of it beyond my understanding or ability to explain, but I think it is true down to the last semicolon.

    I apply as little “interpretation” as is possible.

  • Sure, yes.

  • The Starship Maxima

    (Shrug) I dunno. Some people have sat down with the Bible and counted out all the years. I haven’t.

    The age of the Earth is less relevant to my day-to-day life than the things in the Bible like “Don’t steal”, “Forgive your enemeis”, “Treat all fair, even those who don’t think like you” etc.

  • So when Genesis provides two different creation accounts, you—? What?

  • Wildcard

    Unless I’m mistaken he is saying there is a difference between the improbable and the impossible. Improbable is “it is very unlikely this can happen” impossible would be “unless the laws of physics as we know them are wrong this cannot happen”.

    Giant robots are improbable and their design flaws mean they’d be pretty much useless for combat, but a warp drive so far as we know is completely impossible. Your more likely to see Pacific Rim robots than The Enterprise.

  • Rationalist1

    I agree. Years ago when I was a believer a priest remarked that in a sermon one never knows what phrase or sentence in his homily would register with the listener, sometimes weeks, months or years later. He said it’s why he took great care in preparing his presentations.

    Having experienced my deconversion to atheism through the writings of D., D., H. and H, I agree.

  • Anat

    No, your god specifically supports divorce. Deuteronomy 24:1-3 supports divorce for two different situations: a woman committing adultery and a man hating his wife. Basically men can divorce their wives whenever. (They can’t remarry them afterwards. In Judaism divorce is more final and more complicated than marriage.) Women though, can’t initiate divorce. At best, they can convince or manipulate their husbands to want to divorce them.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I’m not aware that Genesis provides two different creation accounts.

  • Neko
  • Neil Carter

    No. I doubt that most people who just quit going to church for a season should be called “atheists.”

    And C.S. Lewis is a hard call. His autobiography doesn’t make him sound like he was very religious as a youth or a young man. I wouldn’t say he “thought his way out” of a personal faith like the second group I’m describing.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I’ve heard of it.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I will stop repeating the lie when you point to ANY evidence that states what you state.

  • The Starship Maxima

    And I’m saying that history has shown there are several ideas that educated people said were impossible, but we’ve since learned how to do them.

    With time and further mastery of technology, I don’t see why we can’t get the Enteprise AND giant Jaegers.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I can’t speak for “religion”. For myself, and the theists I know, we most CERTAINLY care about facts.

    The Bible encourages us to be seekers of the truth, not seekers of doctrine.

  • Anat

    There is one creation account where the primordial land is submerged in water, and living things are created plants first, followed by animals followed by a pair of humans. In the second account the primordial land is a desert until it gets watered, a male human is created first, then plants, then animals, then a female human is created from the male.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Very clever. I don’t know how claiming you have 90% of the puzzle counts the same as actually having 90% of the puzzle complete.

  • Since when? Paul taught that beliefs were true because they were true. If they were false, it meant their lives were wasted. Besides, the Bible can’t teach anything. It’s a book, not a person.

  • Rationalist1

    In my experience, a fact have to be in potential falsifiable. Pick any of your religious facts and explain what evidence could falsify it for you?

  • Isn’t that what Christianity does all the time? Make sweeping claims to knowledge that it can’t possibly possess.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Can someone point me to these two different accounts in Genesis?

  • Neko

    There’s no question the Bible condemns homosexuality, but “gay marriage,” a modern concept, is of course never mentioned. So any translation controversy concerning “gay marriage” in the Bible is laughable.

    Many Christians recognize that the abhorrence of homosexuality described in the Bible is specific to a time and culture, and is itself morally wrong.

  • Kingasaurus

    Genesis 1 is different from Genesis 2. The consensus of non-fundamentalist scholarship on the matter is it’s two different sources put together. The order of creation differs, among other things.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I admit “proving there’s no God” is probably not possible as long as we are mere mortals.

    Of course, there are many tenets of atheist theory that I can’t disprove either. I don’t have a time machine to go back 4 billion years and see life on Earth spontaneously appear out of nowhere. Barring a drastic change in medical science, none of us will live long enough to watch a horse evolve, over time, into a bald eagle, or whatever.

  • Wildcard

    Yes that is true. It just that educated people can make stupid guesses too. The “Nobody can get past the sound barrier” was people not really caring. Jaegers actually might be impossible given the mind thing, Gundams are impossible and the show never attempts to say otherwise, (“Gundaniam” anyone?) a Metal Gear might actually be possible if you give us a few decades though.

  • Carol Lynn

    Will a Pub Med research article do?

    I do not agree with all the conclusions of this author, but he clearly states that the gametes that combine are alive but that *human* life does not begin at conception. I am SURE that you will find a way to dismiss the article, but all you asked for is ANY evidence.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Yes, we do. And it’s just as wrong and disingenuous.

    Many Christians do claim to have empirical proof that is flatly impossible to have. I wasn’t there when God created the Universe, so I cannot possibly know for sure. I didn’t write the Bible so I cannot possibly prove beyond a doubt that it is true.

    The mistake is that Christians, based on my experience, are taught to have faith, and they take this to mean it’s okay to misrepresent your faith as undeniable objective fact.

    It’s not. It’s okay to say “I believe this, and for me it has worked remarkably well, but I could very well be wrong.” And it’s true. I can be wrong. It might be the Bible is bullshit and we’re all wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time a bunch of people believe something false.

  • Mike Hitchcock

    Beware the ‘backfire’ effect. I often come away from such conversations with my Christian friends convinced I have put froward a rational argument that completely destroys their position, only to have them thank me for reinforcing their faith!

  • Matt D

    Is the Qua’ran literally true? The I-Ching? The Torah? The Shruti? The Book of Mormon? The Gospel of Thomas? The Talmud?

    You stated you’ve determined the Bible is literally true. Fine. Than explain to me which of the passages, verses, people, places or things, from these other religions, convinced you the Bible is the one to follow.

  • Neko

    Well, you missed the point: the completed part of the puzzle is in no way a picture of a duck.

  • Carol Lynn

    And you still wonder why we think you don’t do the critical thinky-thing.

  • Kingasaurus

    “The New Testament specifically states that with Jesus’s arrival, there’s
    no need for such arcane measures. Thus I don’t believe in using those
    arcane beliefs, that the Bible has already stated are outmoded, as a
    basis for determining whether the Bible makes sense.”

    My whole point is the sacrifice of Jesus is just an extension of those “arcane measures.” Principally, the concept that for the god to stop being angry with you, you need to kill something and spill its blood, and that fixes things.

  • Malcolm McLean

    There is no God:
    This negation must be understood solely to affect a creative Deity. The hypothesis of a pervading Spirit co-eternal with the universe remains unshaken.

    Shelley: the necessity of atheism.

    He’s using the word “atheism” to describe a position most would understand as Deism. The two merge into each other, and there’s a series of gradual steps connecting them. Shelley is on the atheist side of the fuzzy line between them, but not quite 100% there.

  • But if that’s true, in what way are you a Biblical literalistic? Or did I misunderstand what you earlier said about your beliefs?

  • The Starship Maxima

    I did say that. Good point. Although it seems to me his assertion is that the presence of a brain truly denotes the beginning of human life, which is a compelling argument.

    This seems to be part of the personhood argument, which is not the same as saying a zygote isn’t a unique human and that it’s alive.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Only on an atheist website can you discuss the finer points of the feasibility of giant mechas! 🙂

  • The Starship Maxima

    I can’t. They might very well be true and the Bible false.

  • Okay, but all that tells me is that you read something somewhere that someone has written. I am not interested in a Wikipedia-style reply, but in your personal reply. Tell me what you think about it, tell me why, don’t just quote some random thing.

  • LDavidH

    Yes, that’s why I didn’t include him; although I think his mother was “religious”, as everybody in Ireland would have been back then, and he did think it through to quite some extent. Both ways!
    Kudos anyway for actually having read his autobiography!

  • The Starship Maxima

    No, I’ve seen people make all sorts of assumptions that aren’t accurate, but they swear by them, nevertheless. I don’t wonder anymore.

  • Your mistake lies in thinking that Christians are interested in rational arguments. They are not. They often quite irrationally use them for other purposes.

  • Anat

    The first account starts in Genesis 1:1 and ends in Genesis 2:3 (the creation of shabbat is part of this account, and one of the main goals of the narrative). The second account starts at Genesis 2:4, with a ‘toledoth’ (roughly translated as ‘generations’), a line that is used in Genesis to start a new segment. This may have been the original beginning of Genesis before the other account got tacked in front of it. Properly the second creation account ends at the end of chapter 3.

  • Wildcard

    Clearly you’ve never been to Gamefaqs. Protip: Keeps it that way.

    X-men examples: Sentials are improbable and a stupid idea even in-universe, Mutants as they are known in that series are impossible.

  • Carol Lynn

    I said I disagreed with some of his conclusions and that you’d find a way to dismiss the article. Score! I must be clairvoyant!

  • The Starship Maxima

    Um, actually that’s not true. The consensus of people who study the Bible, whether fundamentalist or not, is that this more a turn of phrase, not a contradiction.

    It’s not that God made Adam first and then brought the animals, it’s simply that God brought the animals he’d already created to Adam for naming.

    That alleged contradiction, like the mistranslation of homosexuality, is not really espoused outside of anti-Christian circles.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I address this difference a few posts down.

  • The Starship Maxima

    No, you’re just able to intelligently assume my responses based on the evidence in front of you. Way better than clairvoyance if you ask me.

  • Rationalist1

    No, pick one fact and ask is there any evidence that can disprove it in your opinion. I’ll pick evolution. Finding fossilized mammals in the Pre-Cambrian would pretty well destroy it for me.

    For example, could you imagine evidence that would disprove the efficacy of prayer?

  • But if the Bible is literally true(as I believe you’ve said), then turn of phrase really means nothing.

  • The Starship Maxima

    The point I’m making is that I question yours and Myers assertion that you’ve made that much progress in completing the puzzle.

  • Kingasaurus

    “Anti-Christian circles”? You mean non-fundamentalist circles. The Documentary Hypothesis isn’t a new idea and it wasn’t invented by atheists.

    Again, you’re doing the typical fundamentalist harmonization. You’d never do that if we were talking about any book other than the bible, which people like you insist is “special’ and can’t be treated or analyzed like any other book written by humans. You wouldn’t feel the need if we were discussing the Babylonian myths or the Koran.

    The scholarly consensus is that The Flood story is two versions mashed together also, but you’d probably deny that too.

  • Carol Lynn

    Maybe you could give us some indications that you do do critical thinking, so we don’t have to assume you don’t? For someone who claims to be a ‘Biblical fundamentalist’ you seem remarkably ignorant of the Bible. Most thinking fundamentalists, when it is brought up, give a very detailed explanation for why the two accounts are not really incompatible, not a request for a citation that the two different creation accounts are actually in there.

  • Kingasaurus

    Well, you’re just wrong about that.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Neither. I believe the Bible is literally true and I proceed on that basis.

    It’s just that I’m upfront about making sure I call a fact a fact, and my personal beliefs, my personal beliefs. They MIGHT BE one and the same, but until such a time as we’re all standing before God, I cannot be dishonest and say I have “proof”.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Ah, I see your point. I think there’s a bit more to it than just “God angry, but God stop being angry if you kill something” but, yes, even I don’t fully understand the whole mechanism or reason behind the need for Jesus to die.

  • The Starship Maxima

    If you say so.

  • Neko

    On what basis do you question it? We’re surrounded by evidence that science reliably identifies properties of reality. There’s no evidence that the universe was created in six days; quite the contrary.

    You are reduced to special pleading.

  • Red-Star

    What about the narrative contradictions of The Bible? If there aren’t any can you tell me how Judas died.

  • Okay, so you have no “proof”. Do you at least have “evidence” that the Bible is literally true?

  • The Starship Maxima

    No, I mean “anti-Christian” as in, people who go into it looking for something to go “See? We told you it’s wrong.” and then promptly ignore it when someone presents valid reasons for why it might not be the case. Like you yourself are doing now.

    Additionally, you are wrong, I don’t treat the Bible as special. I seek to analyze and rigorous authenticate all statements. When someone says “Chick-Fil-A discriminates against gays,” I actually hold that statement against the facts. When I can’t find a single piece of evidence of discrimination in hiring, promoting, or serving gays, I say perhaps someone misunderstood.

    I do the same thing against other alleged Christians. When they say God destroyed Sodom because of homosexuality, I point out that the Bible says no such thing.

  • Neko

    There’s no mystery about this. It’s barbarism.

    Christianity has its moments of sublimity, but the orthodox view that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice who died for our sins is barbaric.

  • DavidMHart

    I think you meant to say “Citation needed”🙂

    Fair enough. The first thing to notice is that religions in general have been losing ground to non-religion in both the USA and Western Europe in recent generations (or at least, people willing to call themselves religious have been losing ground to those who describe themselves as having no religion). Rationalist1’s linkgives you one citation. There are othersif you google around. ‘No religion
    of course does not necessarily mean ‘informed atheist’, but it is the only demographic within which ‘informed atheists’ can exists – and as the religious demographic shrinks, it is not unreasonable to think that the traffic is flowing more strongly in one direction than the other. Hopefully I’ll have more time to do a thorough search in the near future.

    But I can think of several people who started out as either professional spreaders of Christianity, or at least, ambitious would-be spreaders of Christianity, who read up on their subject and came to the conclusion that it was untrue, and have since become vocal advocates for athiesm. People like Matt Dillahunty, John Corvino, Theresa McBain, John Loftus, not to mention a good many of the bloggers on this here network who may not have started out training as clergypersons, necessarily, but who were steeped in the religion of their upbringing, well enough to be fully conversant in the arguments those religions made. And of course, a few of the commenters on this very thread – just scroll down. What I am after is a comparable body of people who started out as ‘informed atheists’ and became religious later on as a result of being argued out of their non-belief. The only oene I can think of off the top of my head is Leah Libresco. There may be many others that I don’t know of – if you are aware of them, I’m sure you’ll let me know.

    But if you can’t – if, after having a good search around, the number of informed-religious-people-turned-atheist significantly exceeds the number of informed-atheists-turned-religious, then you would agree, I hope, that religious people ought to be more worried than they are.

  • Neko

    Biblical scholars don’t tend to be “anti-Christian.”

  • Pattrsn

    You see that’s the trouble with science, you pretty much have to accept it whole hog. Unlike the bible you don’t get to cherry pick whatever is convenient to what you’ve decided to be your personal ideology.

    And as far as when a unique human life begins conception is merely a stage, one of many, implantation or not being rejected by the hosts body is another, so is arousal or birth or the production of the original gamates. The decision to pick one over another is purely political

  • But you already believe the Bible is literally true, so any analysis or rigorous authentication effort you’re likely to make will be directed to justifying that belief. Confirmation bias doesn’t just magically strike “anti-Christians” only.

  • The Starship Maxima

    You make a number of assumptions I will now disabuse you of.

    I am not ignorant of the Bible. I’ve heard many of these statements thrown out before. I’ve already heard people who study these things respond to them. You mistake my giving someone an opportunity to present their case and not rush to assume their answer as me being ignorant. That in itself is ignorant, and untrue.

    Further, while I try to answer every statement, I don’t always the time or energy to get into the step-by-step reasons for why I see it the way I see it. Nor am I obligated to.

    If in your estimation that makes me not a critical thinker, then you may continue with that assumption.

  • Kingasaurus

    I do say so.

    We’re not talking about something on the fringes of science, like whether coffee is good for you or not, or something like that. This is more like coming upon the scene of a murder, and every piece of forensic evidence you have points to the next-door neighbor as the killer. Nothing you have says otherwise. It’s open and shut. Slam-dunk.

    Until someone like you comes along and says since we weren’t direct eyewitnesses to the murder, we need to entertain the idea that space-aliens committed the murder instead. We weren’t there at the time, right? Anything could have happened!

    This is how it looks when someone decides that an old book written by humans simply can’t be wrong “just because”. Such an attitude isn’t a reliable path to knowledge. It’s not being an intellectually honest broker – even if you think you are.

    There’s a reason the only significant political and societal objection to evolution come from people with fundamental religious objections. Don’t you find that suspicious? They have a vested, theological reason to not buy into it, no matter the evidence. Can’t you see that?

  • The Starship Maxima

    You aren’t very knowledgeable of properly practiced Christianity.

    We’d love it if we could cherry-pick. Like science, we have to take the whole Bible. Even the personally inconvenient parts.

  • That’s a good stance to hold. But I don’t see how that idea is compatible with biblical literalism.

  • Pattrsn

    Have you tried embracing Islam in your search for truth?

  • The Starship Maxima

    This is true. And I try to stay fully aware of that. Especially since Christians have a unique talent for confirmation bias.

  • DJFisher

    As a theist, I’ve pretty much given up debating atheists because of many of these reasons, but I may have to reconsider.

  • TychaBrahe

    I think this falls under the meme-phrase, “Words means things.”

    Fundamentalism comes from a series of books written at the beginning of the 20th century called “The Fundamentals.” Fundamentalists adhere to five principles as the foundation of Christianity:

    The Bible is inspired by God, and therefore inerrant.

    Jesus was born of a virgin. (Mary wasn’t, though. That’s a Catholic belief called the Immaculate Conception.)

    Jesus died to atone for the sins of man.

    He was then resurrected.

    The descriptions of miracles performed by him were historically accurate.

  • Kingasaurus

    “No, I mean “anti-Christian” as in, people who go into it looking for something to go “See? We told you it’s wrong.”

    Who, exactly? I assume you know what the Documentary Hypothesis is. i assume you think it was invented by people specifically trying to undermine Biblical authority? Where’d you hear that?

    Maybe they’re finding things “wrong” with the Bible (by your lights) because it IS wrong, and your current set of beliefs is mistaken and needs modification.

    The DH was hypothesized by scholars who are legitimately trying to find out how the text was put together, without presuming that the text was divinely inspired – like good historians should. They just treat it like any other ancient text, and see where the evidence leads. Which is proper. Some harmonizations are reasonable, some are just fundies trying to get out of a tight spot. (How did Judas die, again?)

  • The Starship Maxima

    I’ve only recently began studying it, since it has so many close parallels to the Scripture I follow.

  • Malcolm McLean

    If you’re going to talk about the historical development of atheism, really the best you can do is quote some early people who described themselves as atheists. Shelley was a famous poet and controversialist who lived in the late 18th / early 19th century. And what we see is that the early atheists weren’t clearly distinguished from Deists, it was a gradual development between the two.

    But that makes sense philosophically as well. A God who exists but doesn’t communicate is effectively the same as God who doesn’t exist.

  • onamission5

    If a process works just fine without the addition of invisible, omnipotent, inter-dimensional beings, and there is no evidence of such beings’ involvement in that process, why would anyone feel the need to add them?

  • Pattrsn

    Except you have to reject physics, biology and chemistry in order to deny the age of the universe and evolution. In other words cherry pick.

    “You aren’t very knowledgeable of properly practiced Christianity.” Could be because everyone “properly” practices it in a different way, depending on which parts of the bible they emphasize. Do you prefer the mad pagan god of revenge and war of the OT? The loving peaceful forgive everyone god or the evil one who sends his creations to hell.

  • “We’d love it if we could cherry-pick. Like science, we have to take the whole Bible. Even the personally inconvenient parts.”

    And yet you eat shrimp, celebrate the Sabbath on the wrong day, and don’t stone disobedient children (at least I hope you don’t). Even though there are specific commandments about each of these.

    I don’t know anybody who actually follows the whole bible. (I don’t think it’s actually possible to do that.) Every believer cherry-picks and interprets to some extent. Even the ones who call themselves literalists.

  • KMR

    If you don’t mind me asking, what do you mean when you say “orthodox”? The belief of penal substitutionary atonement is certainly widespread in the protestant faiths but not in the Eastern Orthodox church.

  • TheNaturalist

    To focus on God vs. not God keeps the conversation in familiar territory for the theists, giving them the upper-hand and forcing you into their conceptual framework. Why do that?
    Best to frame the conversation as naturalistic vs. super-naturalistic worldviews. Discuss their religious beliefs from a naturalist perspective:
    How can you determine between those people who have received privileged information from some creator of the universe and those that are making it up?
    Why do you follow one religion and not another?
    If science was wrong, then technology such as your smart phone would not work. So how can you claim that science is wrong about evolution, the age of the universe etc.

  • Neko

    I’m aware of “The Fundamentals,” but “fundamentalism” no longer refers exclusively to this movement.

    I appreciate that words have meaning, but the usage and meaning of “fundamentalism” has changed over time; language changes.

  • Sven2547

    Let me see if I understand you correctly: you are asking me to provide evidence that sperm cells and egg cells are living cells, is that correct?

  • Neko

    Well, the Nicene Creed:

    Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And became incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man. He was also crucified for us, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was buried. And on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures.

  • Nox

    “However, the Bible is replete with several people including God stating that one woman should marry one man and that should be it, for life.”

    So reading the bible completely means not reading it at all and making up your own version of what you assume it says?

    The bible is replete with several people including god endorsing polygamy. Aside from one Jesus quote which, in context, is about something else, the bible is completely lacking anything close to “one woman should marry one man and that should be it, for life”.

  • Drakk

    properly practiced Christianity.

    We should do a logical fallacy drinking game..

  • Castilliano

    atheism= have no belief in god(s)
    (the difference is usually moot, but occasionally crucial)

    Other than that, I agree, there are many secular theists in other countries, but I know many in the U.S. too.

  • Nox

    According to a literal reading of Genesis 2 god created Eve after Adam. Taking this as a fact and going off it to see what interesting things we can extrapolate on our own and then claiming those extrapolations as being statements that literally are in the bible, we can clearly see that god’s original plan for humanity was not monogamous heterosexual marriage, but asexual reproduction.

  • Carol Lynn

    Do you expect you’ll be convinced enough to change?

  • Kingasaurus

    “I can’t. They might very well be true and the Bible false.”

    What method would you use to decide the question as reliably as possible?

  • Carol Lynn

    So you ADMIT that whatever evidence I cited, you’d dismiss it?

  • Drakk

    It has so far been the case that those “impossibilities” were actually simply engineering problems. It was thought impossible to go to the moon because of the inability to breathe, or the inability to move an object that fast. But those were soft limits imposed by lack of technology, not seemingly hard limits imposed by nature. The universe itself doesn’t seem to be built in a way that allows a person to arrive at a destination before a beam of light does, given the same starting point and time.

    I would tend to think that those who spoke of impossibilities did so from lack of imagination. There is a world of difference between that and claiming impossibility based on well-supported, successful theories that imply the said impossibilty. It’s the same difference as between the statements “I can’t do this hideously complicated integral” and “I can’t express pi as a ratio of integers”.

    There are some problems that can be solved with “MORE POWER!”. And there are some that can’t.

  • Carol Lynn

    That’s kind of backwards and disingenuous of you. I tend to assume that if someone expresses ignorance in a statement, it is because they don’t know something, not because they enjoy being able to say, “Ah ha! Gotcha! I knew that all along!” or maybe they just go google it once it comes up so they don’t look as ignorant as they did at first… It’s pretty hard to tell.

  • wialno28

    If you think that evolution claims that horses evolved into bald eagles, you seriously need to do some research. It’s fine to disagree with people, but creating straw men is really not appreciated.

  • Matt D

    Which of these reasons are you saying led you to “give up debating Atheists”?

  • Castilliano

    I think the difference is teaching non-belief vs. disbelief.
    And I think he’s saying atheist don’t teach disbelief, though they practice non-belief. But non-belief is a neutral position, letting the children explore, and teaching them how to explore and question.
    Lack of Jesus doesn’t equate with teaching non-belief, not really, and it definitely isn’t teaching disbelief.
    You seeing your beliefs as utterly true may be tweaking your perspective when seeing children not exposed to that “truth”, but in the U.S. that’s not an issue.

  • KMR

    Okay. I believe you’re referring to orthodox as meaning a long standing belief. Just for the record, many Christians are now rethinking substitutionary atonement mostly because it is impossible to rectify that and evolution. Whether they are going back to the beliefs of the first century church or simply evolving in order to survive is hard to say. But regardless the theory of penal substitutionary atonement is no longer a hook those who desire to disprove Christianity can hang their hat on.

  • Castilliano

    Maybe it’s because of the media (esp. Hemant), but I can think of many people with highly religious upbringings converting to atheism.

  • Guest

    Not happening with me. I require evidence, which Christianity sorely lacks.

  • Matt Bowyer

    That’s NOT how evolution works. A horse becoming a bald eagle will NEVER happen. Evolution DOESN’T work that way. It’s not like Pokémon where there’s a spectacular flash of light and all of a sudden a creature is completely changed.

  • Matt D

    “I can’t. They might very well be true and the Bible false.”

    I will keep this firmly in mind whenever you post about it.

  • Matt Bowyer

    You still have to show that “God” actually did it.

  • Pattrsn

    You know ignorance of the workings of evolution doesn’t bolster your argument as much as you think it does.

  • SJH

    What about this for a reason:
    It is important that we talk to others who disagree because I might be wrong to some degree if not completely. We should be interested in determining truth first and foremost and less concerned about proving that we are right.

  • Matt D

    I don’t see how that would work. After all, when anyone claims people live forever, and have it backed by zero evidence and wishful thinking, I question their commitment to honesty. The truth can be painful, but at least we learn something from it.

  • Neko

    Yes, I mean the ancient understanding of the crucifixion as atonement for sin, an idea first articulated by Paul (Gal 3:13, 2Cor 5:21).

    Just for the record, many Christians are now rethinking substitutionary atonement mostly because it is impossible to rectify that and evolution.

    Well, that’s a relief.

  • Neko

    OK, you get the best of both worlds, atheism and Christian art. I’m envious.

  • Neko


  • wialno28

    I can’t make judgments about you and your sister because I don’t know either of your families and I feel her version of what goes on is probably different from yours. That being said, I can truthfully state that all of the atheists I know IRL and most that I see in the online communities I participate in are freethinkers and raise their children to be critical thinkers as well. Freethinking parents teach their children about all of the religions/myths and let the children come to their own conclusions. That is pretty much the exact opposite of indoctrination.

  • You are friends with gay people? do you respect them enough to support equal rights under the law for them?

  • LOL They that god is just nature which is natural not supernatural. If that’s the best you’ve got then you should admit that you’ve lost the argument.

  • I can’t say that most of what I do in my current gig would count as “art” but I have had a few where we did Bach and Handel and other masterworks as part of a liturgical service. I found that most of the Christian art happens in secular venues (the symphonies and choral societies) but not always. A few Christians still uphold their grand tradition of music by the greatest of composers. Most, however, seem to be happy to toss that all out for the most insipid music I’ve ever heard. (Praise choruses, or as my dad calls them, 7-11 songs…they have 7 words and you sing them 11 times.)

  • No, it wasn’t god that stated it. It was Paul. Bit of a difference.

  • So god literally hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he wouldn’t free the Jews, so god could apparently kill all the firstborn children of Egypt for what, shits and giggles?

    And god literally inflicted tens of thousands with plague because they had the nerve to complain about him burning a few hundred folks alive because one person questioned him?

    How can you believe the bible is literal and still want to follow this ‘god’ character?

  • GuestT

    After a few months I’ve decided debating is not worthwile (yes, I know you don’t care). Theists you meet online (i.e. reddit) will probably have read pros and cons of theistic and atheistic arguments and won’t be swayed by anything you say because they have heard it already (and the opinion of their favourite apologist on the topic). Debating takes up time and energy, it’s just not worth it. Even if I knew for certain that I changed some minds I wouldn’t pick debating up again.

  • Mark 16:17
    And these signs shall
    follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall
    speak with new tongues;

    They shall take up
    serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they
    shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

    You claim you believe in god and that the bible is literally true. Why, therefore, are you wasting your time on a forum when there are, at this very moment, children dying in hospitals all over the world? Why are you not there, laying your hands upon them, so that they may recover?

  • Castilliano

    Framing the conversation is very important with theists.
    Here are some tactics I use outside of the actual arguments themselves:
    -Use the name of the god they worship. This allows for clearer separation between deistic & theistic arguments, and puts “God!”, usually Yahweh, on a level playing with Zeus, Allah, etc. rather than being some nebulous redefinable concept.

    -Frame “atheism” as the default, or neutral position. (Because it is; lack of belief is where everyone begins.)
    As well as putting the burden of proof where it belongs (on them), it allows you to pose atheism as a gateway or stepping stone away from theism’s veiled POV toward an active, moral belief system more in tune with reality, i.e. one that uses evidence and empathy rather than doctrine and often inhumane revelation.

    -Call theism what it is: myth & superstition. Or stories, if that’s too harsh.
    -Call the Bible what it is: “your holy text”, putting it on par with the other “holy texts” out there making different claims about reality.

    -Focus where you disagree by first framing where you do agree. As well as letting you avoid making strawman fallacies (and them too), it disconnects a lot of the collateral issues from being ‘theist’. Theists often put a lot of non-theist issues under the theist umbrella (family, civility, morality, and so forth) and many will use these against you, both distracting you from the myths and scoring emotional/rhetorical points with the audience. Sometimes it even puts you in a hole (reinforced by stereotypes) where you’re validating your worth (much less your view’s worth). Ex. We both believe in democracy, doing good to others, and children need nurturing adults, right? (If they’re argumentative there, then good luck, and do it for the audience.)

    -Acknowledge what is and isn’t good evidence. (This tangents into Peter Boghossian’s methods re: faith, which are worth Googling if you don’t know them.) Since almost all Christian evidence applies equally to other gods and religions, this will save you some time. Ex. “prayer works”, “holy text says”, “I feel it inside”, “This coincidence occurred”, “this guy performed miracles with witnesses”, etc, etc.
    This also clears out some clutter before moving on the myths.

    Hope those help you atheists, or maybe planted a seed elsewhere.
    Cheers. 🙂

  • Taneli Huuskonen

    I like your attitude.

  • Adam

    Well LDavidH, the only circumstance in which I would convert to Christianity is if someone offered me objective evidence for God’s existence, which no theist has offered me, so…..

  • baal

    See prior comments about energy density and other physical constraints of the real world.

  • Nox

    The person who first proposed the Documentary Hypothesis was a christian. Wellhausen wasn’t looking for something to go “See? We told you it’s wrong.” As a man whose christian faith survived his rejection of mosaic authorship, he was not looking to discredit christianity in any way. He was looking to better understand his book and that study took him face to face with details which changed how he saw that book.

    Those same details are something you can see for yourself.

    You just have to read the book for yourself.

    Most bible scholars today would not say it is possible to cleanly divide every word of the hexateuch into four authors, but there are completely verifiable strains of multiple authorship. You have different creation stories
    (with different details in a different order, and a suddenly different name for god), different flood stories, different stories about the sacrifice of Isaac, stories about Abraham being repeated as stories about Isaac, different versions of god’s commandments, different versions of how god delivered those commandments, plagiarized babylonian myths and Moses narrating his own death in the distant past tense.

    And that’s just the first few books of the old testament. If you take your own stated advice and do read the bible completely, and if you can get past what you expect the book to say and look at what it really says, you can see
    this confused story for yourself.

    You asked where the two creation accounts were, and then when told that the creation account in Genesis 2 gives a different order of events than the account in Genesis 1 you dismissed this as a turn of phrase. This suggests you do not really understand what the alleged problem here is, which suggests you have not read the first two chapters of your own holy book (where you would have seen these two accounts you say you are not aware of). This “turn of phrase” glosses over Day 1, does not mention anything from Day 2, contradicts the Genesis 1 account of Day 3, does not mention anything from Day 4, does not mention anything from Day 5, contradicts the Genesis 1 account of Day 6, and is placed immediately following the phrase “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made”.

    The issue is not simply that there are two tellings of the
    creation story. The bible repeats lots of stuff. That in itself tells us very little. But in the case of the first two chapters of Genesis those two accounts are in explicit disagreement with each other.

    In Genesis 1, god creates the heavens, the earth, and sunlight (Day 1), separates the water from the water (Day 2), creates dry land and plants (Day 3), creates the Sun (three days after creating sunlight), the Moon, and the stars (Day 4), creates whales and birds (Day 5), creates land animals, and later humans (“male and female created he them” Day 6). Genesis 1 ends with the end of the sixth day.

    Then Genesis 2 opens with Day 7 and god resting. Then we get the second creation account. No days are specifically mentioned but there are events mentioned, and those events and the order they are mentioned in calls into question the days in the previous chapter.

    Genesis 2:7 (12 verses before Genesis 2:19)
    And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

    Genesis 2:19 (12 verses after Genesis 2:7)
    And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

    And where is Eve this whole time?

    Genesis 2:20-22
    20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
    21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
    22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

    Wait a second I thought it said

    Genesis 1:27&31
    27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him;male and female created he them.
    31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

    Okay now I’m confused. How long was Adam in the garden naming animals before he got bored and horny and it occurred to god to make more humans?

    Were Adam and Eve both created on the sixth day after the other animals as we are told in Genesis 1:27?


    Did god create Adam, then rest for a day, then create a garden, then put Adam in the garden, then make a bunch of trees, then tell Adam not to eat from one of them (before he created Eve, slight oversight by god there), then create all the other animals, then have Adam name “every living creature”, then put Adam into “a deep sleep” for an unspecified amount of time, then take one of Adam’s ribs and then create Eve as we see in Genesis 2?

    If one phrasing is literally true the other cannot be.

  • Neko

    But…but..the black church!

  • We mean old atheists keep asking them questions they can’t answer and tend to know their bible better than they do.

  • I don’t know what’s actually typical of music in African American churches these days. I’m familiar with the older tradition mostly from tv and recordings and have listened to the recordings from the barrier islands off the Carolinas in which an even older tradition appears to have been preserved that dates back much longer (as much as an oral tradition can be said to have been preserved, obviously). That music of course is the basis for the blues, jazz, ragtime and all the musics that stem from or were influenced by such music which is at least half the western music after WW1 (and almost all the western music anyone cares to listen to) in some way or another. It is rather amazing that such a tradition could have such international influence, but there is something rather powerful about folk traditions (of all cultures) to express things that are essentially human.

  • God’s Starship

    Find some evidence to back up your hypothesis. Then we’ll talk. Otherwise we might as well be discussing flying monkeys.

  • God’s Starship

    Oh not this shit again..
    It states no such thing. It wasn’t true the last time you spewed this bullshit here. Congratulations on a successful thread hijacking. Now stop obsessing.

    Lunatic attention starved fundie nonsense.

  • God’s Starship

    “Barring a drastic change in medical science, none of us will live long enough to watch a horse evolve, over time, into a bald eagle, or whatever.”
    Sometimes debating is worthwhile because you come across funny crazy things like this.

  • Malcolm McLean

    King of kings, and lord of lords, hallelujah. (Repeat with variations 11 times).

  • Nox

    Fundamentalists are known for being closed minded, but that isn’t what the word means. Their desire to not have their fundamentals challenged often leads them to associate only with other fundamentalists, but this is an effect and also not what the word means.

    The liberal/fundamentalist spectrum is about whether you
    think the will of god changes over time.

    As science has uncovered more information many previously reasonable positions have become unreasonable in the face of new evidence. Some of these now unreasonable positions, such as geocentrism or six-day creation are stated as fact in the bible or have been previously endorsed by the church.

    Some believers have modified their beliefs to fit with what
    they understand of modern science. They sought to avoid the discrediting of their religion by swapping out some of the more obviously ridiculous elements. Some other believers saw this modification as a betrayal of their faith. They insisted that the word of god as previously believed could not be changed, and if it could it would be less special. These believers sought to avoid the discrediting of their religion by rejecting science and modern changes to doctrine. This second group, whose members may or may not associate with any godless sodomites, is what the word “fundamentalist” is originally intended to refer to.

  • Malcolm McLean

    You pray for sausages. A few minutes later, a man from Walls knocks on the door. Theyre doing a consumer survey. Care to take a free sample of sausages and fill out the questionnaire?
    When you ask, the survey was planned several months ago, they chose your neighbourhood because it was representative of Walls’s customers.
    So supernatural or not?

  • Neko

    Ooooh, you’re good.

  • Malcolm McLean

    The sentence “If the supernatural did indeed exist and interacted with the natural, then there would be some evidence of that in the natural world that would not be explainable by science” is itself totally inexplicable by science. We don;t know how to set about programming a computer to produce utterances like that.

    Of course you can say “it is possible to build such a computer, that;s just a reflection of our lack of knowledge”. But that’s pure assertion, and actually there are reasons to think that t’s a lot more complicated than that.

  • Neko

    The black churches I’ve attended (rarely, to be sure) were the quintessence of awesome. Great oratory, great music, great singing, great groove. One of the great art forms of our time, I’d venture.

  • baal

    Not. Was this some type of trick question?

  • God’s Starship

    And this is why you are a repulsive, ignorant bigot. You don’t care who your beliefs hurt or what kind of climate of hate and fear they create. You are truly dangerous, and you can’t even explain your actions beyond “durrr faith”. You’ve never had a thought that was truly your own.

  • Kingasaurus

    Of course it’s a trick question. If done right, sausages are always supernatural.

  • baal

    I can’t generally eat the food product known as sausages. :(. Either nitrites from curing or smoke flavoring would give me a migraine.

  • baal

    There is some surprising similarity between discussing flying monkeys and discussing god.

    Mostly the fact that both are purple and fly out of m

  • Kingasaurus


  • baal

    Or the Elder Gods?

  • Malcolm McLean

    No, not a trick.

    You could say it’s only supernatural if it’s contrary to nature.Or you could say it;s supernatural if it implies some sort of meaningful patterning to nature..

  • baal

    Um, not usually. So far as alternative sentences happen, it’s usually to get someone to rehab. Other ‘wacky’ punishments are generall “cruel and unusual” and barred by the 5th Amendment. Penance is right out. Retribution is not justice and has an uneasy place in the law.

  • baal

    There is no way that it could be supernatural. The facts as stated are a coincidence. Coincidence proves nothing and allows you to predict nothing.

  • God’s Starship

    See how baal trailed off and the end there? He was too close to the truth. God found him and smote him before he could finish typing!

  • At least they call back.

  • baal

    my ass.

    Them flying purple critters stopped by, picked me up and flew off. I came back later.

  • Malcolm McLean

    To you “Yahweh” is just a meaningless name.
    Hebrew doesn’t have the verb “to be” in the present. There’s a past and a future, but no state of being in the present. But the grammatical form would be “hove”. No-one actually knows what “Yahweh” means, but it’s obviously related in some way to the root “hove”. It means something like “I am”.
    By using a language neither you nor your listener understand, you can make anything sound arbitrary and ridiculous.

  • We could also program a computer to spit out word salad like your post. What nonsense!

  • Castilliano

    No, “Yahweh” is one name of the biblical god.
    (If you want to call that meaningless, be my guest.)
    Names do not have to have meaning to have use.

    Your argument is like saying I can’t call my buddy, Steve, “Steve” because I don’t know what the definition of “Steve” or “Steven” is. Or can’t call my buddy, Kenji, “Kenji” because I don’t speak Japanese. Which is to say, your argument has no substance.

    I have yet to meet a Christian who doesn’t know exactly who/what I’m referring to. In practice, nobody has ever been disgruntled by this except you, who should know better than to quibble about trivia.

    If there were communication issues, (or I met a quibbler such as yourself) I’d happily use “Elohim” if they preferred (or were Mormon) or even the name the biblical god gives himself, “Jealous”.
    Or will you argue using a god-given name is worthless too?

    Cheers, to all you non-quibblers that is

  • KMR

    It is somewhat since it”s a horrible concept and in my opinion the major problem with most mainstream Christian theologies.

  • guest

    I predict that, with an attitude like that, in ten years you’ll be an atheist.

  • guest

    There are certain attributes of god that modern science has made impossible. No-one can have perfect knowledge of the future, for example, because of the quantum uncertainty principle. And nothing can last forever, because entrophy is always increasing. Modern neuroscience also does away with the need for a soul, since everything we are is tied to our brain and can be altered when it is altered.

  • JA

    I don’t actually want to convince people to stop believing in their god(s). I just want them to understand why I don’t believe in them and why faith cannot supersede evidence and logic.

  • guest

    The theory of evolution doesn’t say that contempary animals will evolve into each other. Populations of horses might over time drift apart from each other and evolve into different species. Consider a miniture horse versus a shire horse. Now, it’s possible that a horse-like animal might evolve into some kind of flying predator, like how whales evolved from deer-like ancestors, but it wouldn’t actually be an eagle, even if it had features in common through covergent evolution.
    And even if the descendants of our present eagles start hunting on the ground more and more, and then start taking in berries with their prey, and then regain their forelimbs and start galloping over the hills, they wouldn’t actually be horses, just horse-like birds. Like an ostrich.

  • SeekerLancer

    And how exactly does giving up and saying “God did it” advance science and advance our understanding? With that line of reasoning we would have never gotten out of the dark ages.

    Curiosity is a good thing. It’s what granted you the developed, high-tech society you live in today. You said atheists (and by extension I assume you mean scientists because they’re not “atheist theories” they’re scientific theories) just give up and say whatever. That’s not true. Science continues to seek clearer answers. Saying “God did it” and leaving it at that is saying, “whatever.”

    Because we don’t currently have the answer for something doesn’t mean we’ll never have one. The only way to insure we won’t is by giving up the search.

  • SeekerLancer

    Then why are there hundreds of Christian denominations that all have different opinions on what the bible is telling them?

    Of course, I imagine you’ll say your version is the only Christianity that is “properly practiced.”

  • Gerry Mooney

    The egg and sperm are already living so I guess life begins well before conception!

  • Deconverts from highly religious/fundamentalist upbringings seems likely on the rough order of 3% of the total US population, which seems “rare”. But yes, given a US population of 300 million, even “rare” isn’t that hard to find lots of examples of.

    The main question, however, seemed to be about double-converts, growing up religious but then leaving that religion because they thought things through for themselves and going back to Christianity after having left it.

  • Neko

    It is. These events were so long ago!

    Who knows what it was about Jesus, but his followers obviously loved him enough to keep his memory alive, and well, here we are. I guess they believed Jesus was the Messiah and God controlled everything, therefore God must have willed Jesus’s horrific fate and that it was all full of meaning. It’s an atrocious story about God, but a moving one about humans.

  • Agreed.

  • Anat

    You did not address the ‘toledth’ part. Nor do you explain the difference in the initial state of the land, or the difference in the relationship between the man and the woman. There are also differences in the name of the deity and the character of the deity between the stories.

    In any case, your response assumes the two accounts are part of the same story and fanwanks a very forced reconciliation. (Yes, many traditionalists use such and similar fanwanks. Doesn’t make them anything better.) Meanwhile you are missing an insight into the thinking of the various authors and their respective cultural perspectives. It is your reading that takes away from the text and impoverishes it, not mine.

  • Anat

    It specifically and literally says that after creating the man God made animals from the earth. In verse 16 God places the man in the garden.In verse 18 God realizes the man was lonely, and therefore in verse 19 God creates animals from the ground. Whether the animals were created elsewhere and brought to the man or created in the garden matters not. What matters is that they were created because God perceived that the man was lonely.

  • Anat

    Hey, Harry Potter fans work just as hard to harmonize Rowling’s inconsistencies!

  • LDavidH

    I think atheists / free-thinkers are teaching “non-belief” to a certain extent: if you constantly impress children that you need physical, tangible scientifically verifiable proof for everything, you are teaching them that “faith” is irrelevant or useless.

    Now, I’m not one of those who think “faith” is valuable or meritorious in itself; faith is only as good as the thing/person you put your faith in (which is why I’m a Christian and not, say, a Hindu). I also don’t believe (!) in “blind faith”; there is plenty of evidence for Christianity if you’re willing to look.
    But if from childhood you’ve discarded the very possibility of trusting in something/somebody beyond the five senses, how can that not be called “teaching unbelief”?

  • Drakk

    > there is plenty of evidence for Christianity if you’re willing to look.

    Yeah, sure there is. I see Christians around me all the time.

    But that’s not what you meant to say. You meant to say you think there’s evidence that the claims made by Christianity are factually true.

    Uh huh. Let’s see it, then.

  • LDavidH

    “Freethinking parents teach their children about all of the religions/myths and let the children come to their own conclusions.”
    Yes – and in that case, when your kids see that you don’t treat any of them as relevant (because that’s the only possible conclusion your impartial teaching can lead to), what is the likelihood that they will follow in your footsteps and consider them all as equal – i.e equally useless? I would say around 99%…
    We teach our kids about Jesus, at school they learn about other religions in a very neutral way; most of their friends come from non-Christian homes. I would say they have a much better chance of actually coming to their own, independent conclusion than my sister’s kids. Indoctrination? No more than when parents who are Democrats tell their kids how good Obama is, or Republicans tell their kids that Obama is useless. Parents *always* influence their kids, both in politics, religion, use of money, etc etc. I do not think I have indoctrinated my kids any more than you yours!

  • Rebecca

    Since I’ve just completed a philosophy degree, I’m quite well aware of what an atheist is, and is not (amongst a number of other things).
    That definition is not a ‘commonsense definition’ at all – it is as textbook as they come. However, I will note that there are two ways of looking at atheism – and that is as a:
    1. lack of belief in a god(s) (passive atheism)

    2. disbelief in a god(s). (active atheism)

    While they look basically the same, and for most common purposes, they can be interchanged – there is a technical difference. Perhaps this is what you were alluding to? Never being exposed to, or thinking about any religious idea – passive; review of the ideas, and rejection of them – active. While personally, I find active atheism the more appropriate position (nothing should be disavowed without thought) – if someone was never exposed (however unlikely) to any religion, and simply sought out answers in appropriate ways, limiting their answers to the evidence – then their ‘atheism’ would not be ‘lesser’.

    I’m really not sure how you think animals not believing in god means anything. By strict definition, we don’t know if they have gods or demons. Who knows, humankind could be their image of the devil. I’ll simply say that for purposes here, it matters not. We can’t know everything – not now, and highly unlikely that we’ll ever be able to do so.

    However, as someone else pointed out – Buddhists can indeed be atheistic. Their way of life could be thought of as a ‘philosophy of life’, a way of living, rather than as a religion per se.

    There is a distinction between atheism and deism – and while that line may sometimes indeed be ‘fuzzy’ – there are pretty clear examples of each. We can debate the specifics, but…

  • LDavidH

    Well, the Christians you see around you are part of the evidence – I hope most of them could testify to the grace and power of God in their lives!

    Apart from that, I refer you to the literature I’m sure you’re already aware of: Lee Strobel’s books, C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, a new one I recently read: “Magnificent Obsession” (possibly not available in the US), Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”, Keller’s “The Reason for God” etc. The evidence is available; you just have to choose to study it.

    Although if you’re like so many other commenters here, you will want to specify exactly what counts as “proof”, excluding everything else we are offering as evidence. I’m not sure that’s going to be possible. Reality is rarely as simple as that…

  • Neko

    You’re overstating the case. All we ever said to our spawn was “We don’t believe in this God business. Count yourself lucky.”

  • Neko

    Apologetics is not evidence.

  • Drakk

    I hope most of them could testify to the grace and power of God in their lives!

    Every data point is evidence for something, but not for what you want it to be. Those testimonies are good evidence for the effects of religious belief on a person’s state of mind. They are not evidence for religious claims being accurate representations of physical reality. It is possible to have faith whether or not there really is a god.

    Aside from that, well done. The usual apologia which is utterly unconvincing because by evidence I mean (and have always meant) observable physical phenomena which is both likely under your theory and highly unlikely under competing theories. You want me to believe dead people can wake up in caves and push their way out? Show me a case of such occurring. No, not that one. You can’t use it as evidence for itself.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Your propensity for trolling remains unabated I see. As is your inability to back up your nonsense with anything approaching fact.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I don’t expect it. But then I don’t expect a lot of things that wind up happening to me.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Good one!

  • The Starship Maxima

    I’m glad someone does. 🙂

  • The Starship Maxima

    Is that an “evolutionary” prediction?? (wink)

  • LDavidH

    “observable physical phenomena” – an empty tomb? Jesus seen by hundreds of eye witnesses? I have no other evidence for Hitler, Julius Caesar or Charlemagne either – I can’t observe them, I can’t do tests on them, I can’t repeat them. So should I assume they never existed? I have no tangible evidence for the United States of America either, for that matter. I have seen satellite pictures (photoshopped?) and met people who claim to be Americans (deluded, obviously, especially as they all speak Engflish which is a European language).

    “You want me to believe dead people can wake up in caves and push their way out? ” Not at all. I certainly don’t believe that. But I do want you to consider that a supernatural being could bring a dead person back to life and move the stone away. If you’re going to disbelieve in the resurrection, at least make sure the story you reject is actually the story we believe!

    “You can’t use it as evidence for itself.” Why not? I’m the only evidence for myself; the first dinosaur bone was evidence of itself; the first lunar landing is evidence of man’s capability of landing on the Moon. So why can’t the first (and so far only) resurrection be evidence that God can resurrect dead people?

  • baal

    “Jesus seen by hundreds of eye witnesses?” As inferred from the bible? The rest of those noted historical figures have much more evidence of existance than one story book.

    Expecto Expeleramus!

  • Drakk

    an empty tomb? Jesus seen by hundreds of eye witnesses?

    I have no other evidence for Hitler, Julius Caesar or Charlemagne either

    Yes you do. Historical documents that make mention of these people, independently written and no plausible motive to be misleading, like birth or death certificates. Artifacts which mention them while being incidental to their existence (like Caesar’s name on coins or something). Contemporaries who are still alive (possibly) and can provide a recounting of their experiences. Documents authored by them. Photographs. The existence of these things is a physical phenomenon (loosely stated) that is likely only if the people they spoke of were real.

    I have no tangible evidence for the United States of America either […]

    Nor do I, having never been there. I accept its existence anyway, because there are other kinds of evidence other than “I saw it myself”. I have no reason to suppose a conspiracy of falsified evidence for the existence of the US, not to mention the probability of a conspiracy on that large a scale is vanishingly small given how many different things it would require.

    I do want you to consider that a supernatural being could bring a dead person back to life and move the stone away.

    No. Not until I’m convinced I should take seriously the probability that said event happened at all. Even if I did, why should I postulate a supernatural anything? It is surely not the most parsimonius explanation for events – suppose a person were publicly killed and then appeared to rise from his grave. Far more likely that body doubles were involved, than “magic”.

    I’m the only evidence for myself […]

    You don’t understand how evidence works, do you?

    Photographs of you are evidence for your existence because they are more likely to occur under the assumption that you exist (or, if you prefer, in universes where you exist) and far less likely under the assumption that you do not. So the same with documents that mention you, people’s ability to interact with you, so on, so on. Your existence is the hypothesis. The photographs, testimony, ability to interact with you are the evidence in support.

    Dinosaur bones are evidence of dinosaurs, because they are more likely to occur and to be seen if dinosaurs existed, and highly unlikely if they did not.

    So why can’t the first (and so far only) resurrection be evidence that God can resurrect dead people?

    Many many things are wrong with this statement. The first is that the occurrence of the event in question is not in evidence. The second is a generalisation from one point of data. A third is that what you present as a single event is actually a series of occurrences which may have easily understood, parsimonious explanations for each occurrence. The fourth, well…

  • Castilliano

    How? Easily. It may only be semantics, but ‘faith’ (as a tool toward knowledge) is not ‘belief’ (the knowledge itself).
    You even state faith is not valuable in itself. Then say Christianity has plenty of evidence. Well, then you shouldn’t worry if parents are teaching their children to use evidence. Right?

    And if you mean mumbo-jumbo evidence (i.e. prayer works, miracles happen, you can feel a presence), keep in mind all the other religions have that same evidence. All.

    It’s just funny you have such a clear eye for how faith, and perhaps mumbo-jumbo evidence, utterly fail with other people’s superstitions, but are valid when they support your own. Just sayin’, y’all ain’t that different.


  • Neko

    Now wait just a minute, evidence for Christianity being “true” and evidence that Jesus existed are two entirely different issues.

  • God’s Starship

    Like you care about facts. You think evolution is watching a horse turn into a bald eagle or whatever. Your definition of science might work in Bizarro’s World, but here your attention whoring clown show never ceases to amuse.

  • Discordia

    Oh? Like not being able to own slaves or sell your daughter to some dude as his personal sex-slave? And what about that animal sacrifice or how women are unclean are each month? Or how guys are supposed to get their sisters-in-law pregnant if their brother died without producing a child?

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