The Bible Story Reboots. Have You Noticed? (2 of 2)

God in the Bible will make a covenant with his people, and you think that since he’s made the sale, the book will end. But then the Bible stories keep coming. In part 1, we saw how God made covenants with Noah and then Abraham. After each one, you’re ready to read The End or “And they lived happily ever after” or some other wrapup. Perhaps after the covenant with Abraham we’re finally finished?

Nope—God wants to reboot this story yet again.

The Bible, take three (Moses)

Abraham begets Isaac, who begets Jacob, who then begets twelve sons, one of whom is Joseph. Joseph is annoying, and his brothers sell him into slavery. Joseph winds up in Egypt, but you can’t keep God’s man down, and God makes Joseph the Pharaoh’s right-hand man. That’s a nice bit of luck, because famine forces Jacob and sons to Egypt.

Generations go by, with Jacob’s descendants happily living in Egypt, still divided into twelve tribes according to the lineage of Jacob’s sons. But somehow the Israelites go from being guests to slaves.

And then Moses is born. He goes from the child of slaves to member of the royal household when he’s found floating in a basket (as coincidentally happened to Sargon, the founder of the Akkadian Empire, centuries before).

Moses first hears from God through a burning bush. Now on a mission from God, Moses and his brother Aaron haggle with Pharaoh for the freedom of the Israelites. The ten plagues helped. Weighed down with gold and silver taken from the Egyptians, they’re off for a quick trip across the Sinai to Canaan that takes forty years.

At Mount Sinai, God tells the Israelites (Exodus 19), “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession,” and the people agree. One chapter later, God gives what’s popularly known as the Ten Commandments. The covenant is confirmed with sacrifices and blood sprinkled on the people (Exodus 24).

So we’re good?

Nope—we need lots more laws and rules. Moses is finally ready to return from Mount Sinai, but by this time the impatient and fearful Israelites (with Aaron’s help) have made a golden calf to comfort them. God wants to press the Big Reset Button in the Sky again, but Moses talks him out of it by referring to the perpetual Abrahamic covenant. (It must not have been that great a plan if God let himself be talked out of it.)

Moses smashes the stone tablets of the Law on the golden idol. The people are punished, and Moses goes back up for a duplicate set of Ten Commandments (which isn’t even close to being the same set), and that set is stored in the Ark of the Covenant.

There’s plenty more about the Mosaic covenant being a perpetual contract. The priesthood of Aaron’s descendants is “permanent” (Numbers 25:13, also Exodus 40:15), the Day of Atonement is a “lasting ordinance” (Leviticus 16:34), God says about the laws, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of Yahweh your God that I give you” (Deuteronomy 4:2), and so on.

Finally. Now we’re done, right?

The Bible, take four (Jesus)

You’d think that if Jesus were the point of God’s story, if he were the person necessary for people to avoid hell, Jesus would be in Genesis 1, and it wouldn’t take a bunch of reboots and irrelevant covenants to get here. As it is, the Old Testament becomes just long-winded throat clearing, and much of the New Testament must rationalize away the incompatibility.

We read in the Law, “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal” (Psalm 119:160). But God’s words aren’t particularly eternal according to the author of Hebrews, which weaves a legal case that Jesus was a priest “in the order of Melchizedek.” Since Abraham honored Melchizedek long before Moses, Jesus trumps the Levitical priesthood that was created from the Mosaic covenant. Or something.

This New Testament reboot upsets a lot of assumptions from before. What does it say about God that Jesus had to come down to straighten out his story? You’d think that an omniscient creator of the universe could convey things clearly. Here are a few things Jesus had to clarify.

  • The afterlife is no longer a vague existence in Sheol but is either bliss or torment, depending on your beliefs (or works).
  • God isn’t just a monotheistic Yahweh but has become a Trinity (in Christianity though not in the New Testament).
  • In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a number of corrections of the “You have heard it said . . . , but I tell you” form. Jesus redefines murder, adultery, divorce, the correct response to injustice, prayer, and so on, making one wonder why God needed to be corrected.
  • The “death” of Jesus is said to be the sacrifice to (literally) end all sacrifices. (Let’s ignore the fact that no provision in the Law is ever given to permit the sacrifice of a human; Jesus wasn’t burned, which was required for any sacrifice; Jesus wasn’t part of any tribe and so couldn’t hold the office of Levitical priest to offer a sacrifice; and Jesus wasn’t physically unblemished, as was required for any sacrifice.)
  • And that whole Chosen People thing for the Jews? No—Yahweh is now everyone’s god.

But surely this is the last reboot, right?

Nope—Islam was another reboot, and Mormonism was another. Christians can’t criticize reboots when their own religion is built on them.

What explains this?

There are at least three possible explanations for why we see these reboots in God’s instruction manual.

First, God kept changing his mind. This doesn’t put omniscient God in a good light if he kept forgetting the point or changing his mind.

Second, the fault is with the human scribes and keepers of the Bible, and if it had just been written and copied correctly, it would make sense. One wonders, then, why God would allow his message to become so muddled.

Third, God doesn’t exist, and the Bible is just the blog of a desert tribe from long ago. It’s no more accurate than the pre-scientific musings of hundreds of other religions.

I think this last interpretation paints the most dignified picture of God. Instead of a forgetful dolt or an inept manager, God was just the best explanation that one tribe could put together in a frightening and insecure time.

The problem with religions that have all the answers
is that they don’t allow questions.
— seen on the internet

.

Image via Gabriel White, CC license

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  • God in the Bible will make a covenant with his people, and you think that since he’s made the sale, the book will end.

    Why would one think this? If God wants what’s best for the Israelites, getting them a chunk of land is just the beginning. Or are you an adherent of Fukuyama, whereby once political liberalism is set up and consumerism is institutionalized, civilization has reached its zenith?

    After each one, you’re ready to read The End or “And they lived happily ever after” or some other wrapup.

    Yeah, and it’s never satisfying. No marriage actually works like that, no company ever works like that, science never works like that, etc. It’s as if reality is designed to constantly stretch us and challenge us to become more, and we resist it with all our might. Latest iteration: Seriously, The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Really Are Completely Understood (update with nice visualization). Or … can we imagine nothing better than WALL-E?

    But somehow the Israelites go from being guests to slaves.

    Kind of like how humans are increasingly under the sway of the machine or more accurately, instrumental rationality. Everyone constantly optimizing for efficiency has led to a globalized world where changing almost anything is incredibly complex and plenty of people get stepped on because hey, there’s no better way. We worshiped instrumental rationality, believing that if only humans had more power over reality, we could create utopia. Well, we have lots of power and what we’ve managed to do is bring about impending climate change—not to mention the background threat of nuclear war. It’s as if goodness is completely and utterly orthogonal to power. But no, that stupid collection of books couldn’t possibly be teaching such a lesson.

    (It must not have been that great a plan if God let himself be talked out of it.)

    Or there were two bona fide options:

         (1) current humans are too weak-willed to work with
         (2) at least one human has some balls

    In other words: there are two agents and what one of them does depends on the other. So much for deities always acting unilaterally, unfailingly imposing their wills in a top-down fashion.

    You’d think that if Jesus were the point of God’s story, if he were the person necessary for people to avoid hell, Jesus would be in Genesis 1, and it wouldn’t take a bunch of reboots and irrelevant covenants to get here.

    Why would one think this? Jesus said that the whole point of the Law was to teach one to love God and neighbor and actually, enemy too. Just like a massive number of prerequisites must be satisfied before someone can learn general relativity, I’d be willing to argue that a massive number of prerequisites had to be satisfied before humans could understand just who Jesus was and what he did. Even his disciples didn’t get it until after he [allegedly] rose from the dead. I wouldn’t be surprised if the secular occupation of Israel was crucial; the religious authorities focused on being ‘righteous’ while the secular authorities only cared about social order. When both conspire to execute someone who is obviously innocent and simultaneously release an insurrectionist who is a threat to both, we have the kind of flagrant contradictions that humans just might learn from. Maybe—and perhaps only a select few.

    This New Testament reboot upsets a lot of assumptions from before.

    Whose assumptions? We see in Jeremiah 7 that the people’s understanding of what ‘the temple of the LORD’ was had become deeply perverted (the ancient Hebrews invented ‘cheap forgiveness’ well before we did); why give much credence to what is built on such a terrible foundation?

    What does it say about God that Jesus had to come down to straighten out his story?

    Easy:

         OT: Perfection kills humans
         NT: humans kill Perfection

    Humans of course have tried the ‘benevolent dictator’ option plenty of times since; I’m not aware of it ever working. It is as if that is a lesson of the OT. At most, parents are benevolent dictators while their children are very young and still being formed. But that is not the ultimate desired state—it never was. The idea that a perfectly good/​wise/​powerful deity could be an effective benevolent dictator just seems false. And yet how many arguments against the existence of God are predicated upon that idea? As far as I can tell: a lot.

    So, one way to “show” people they’re wrong is to use power. But that’s in principle indistinguishable from “might makes right” and it also just doesn’t work. The other way is to let people carry out their “justice” and in the process, execute someone who is innocent. Then, only afterwards, there is a slight possibility that a few might recognize that they weren’t actually “righteous” or “just” after all. But without exhausting the top-down attempt to impose morality, I’m not sure that the bottom-up sacrifice is intelligible to humans. Some lessons depend on other lessons having been fully internalized. (Roman occupation would surely have convinced the Jews that “might does not make right”.)

    You’d think that an omniscient creator of the universe could convey things clearly.

    Based on … what empirical evidence? None? Zip? That’s what I thought.

    Christians can’t criticize reboots when their own religion is built on them.

    You sound like those philosophers of science who thought that there was One Final Description™, before Kuhn came along and ruined their party. As it turns out, paradigm shifts seem to be required stages in the learning process. To deny this is the most threatening kind of dogma, for it precludes further revolution in any kind of thought (scientific or otherwise).

    There are at least three possible explanations for why we see these reboots in God’s instruction manual.

    Fourth, humans can only learn a finite amount per unit time and it can only deviate from their current understanding by so much per step. Hmmm, where else does that pattern show up? Science? No, couldn’t be.

    • eric

      No marriage actually works like that, no company ever works like that, science never works like that, etc.

      True, when the beings doing them are humans. But we’re talking God here. If he doesn’t bring a happily ever after, you either have to explain that with “he can do it, but won’t” or “he can’t do it”. Which do you prefer to assert? Keeping in mind that if happily ever after can’t be done for humans, then that undermines most common conceptions of heaven.

      It’s as if reality is designed to constantly stretch us and challenge us to become more,

      This is again a solution which might make sense for a limited imperfect being, but makes no sense at all for an omnipotent being who wants us to be more. For that sort of being, [snaps fingers, we’re more] does just fine and involves a lot less suffering to the humans he supposedly loves. So again, are you saying he can’t [snaps fingers, we’re more], or are you saying he can, but won’t?

      • [OP]: After each one, you’re ready to read The End or “And they lived happily ever after” or some other wrapup.

        LB: Yeah, and it’s never satisfying. No marriage actually works like that, no company ever works like that, science never works like that, etc. It’s as if reality is designed to constantly stretch us and challenge us to become more, and we resist it with all our might.

        e: Right, but we’re talking God here. If he doesn’t bring a happily ever after, you either have to explain that with “he can do it, but won’t” or “he can’t do it”. Which do you prefer to assert?

        Neither. I think our idea of “lived happily ever after” is atrociously bad. Trying to understand God or what he would or not do based on atrociously bad ideas is pretty iffy business. I think God can work with pretty atrocious ideas just like science can progress on pretty terrible models, but if in fact we have much better ideas but are advancing a terrible one for some ideological reason, I expect nothing good to come of it. (If we present our best ideas and somehow the discussion leads to them becoming even better and then having some practical application in reality, that’s a different matter.)

        Keeping in mind that if happily ever after can’t be done for humans, then that undermines most common conceptions of heaven.

        I think the reason that the Bible says vanishingly little about heaven is that the humans at the time didn’t have the conceptual resources to understand what heaven would be like. I think we are a tiny bit better, but only a tiny bit. As I said above, we so often resist the call to “more” with all our might. Consumerism and comfort kthxbye.

        LB: It’s as if reality is designed to constantly stretch us and challenge us to become more, and we resist it with all our might.

        e: This is again a solution which might make sense for a limited imperfect being, but makes no sense at all for an omnipotent being who wants us to be more. For that sort of being, [snaps fingers, we’re more] does just fine and involves a lot less suffering to the humans he supposedly loves. So again, are you saying he can’t [snaps fingers, we’re more], or are you saying he can, but won’t?

        If God wants us to participate in making us who we are (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you”), he can’t snap his fingers to make it happen. Moreover, it is the height of irony that 21st century Western humans, who value ‘authenticity’, being ‘free from authority’, and ‘self-discovery’, should wish all that away and have God just do it for them.

        Now, suppose we poured every ounce of energy into making it hurt less to make the next increment of progress, whether it is scientific, social, personal, or spiritual (whatever that is). Suppose we did it again. And again. How long do you think it’d be before it hurt tremendously less than it does now? I think the answer is “really quickly” and if I’m right, then it’s actually not true that we desperately want to suffer less, except in the “wanting more is too hard no thanks I’ll take Peter Pan” sense. We all know that suffering a bit more now to admit truth about self and become disciplined can pay huge dividends, but somehow we apply that understanding extraordinarily sparsely. I think we love mediocrity so much that we’re willing to put up with a tremendous amount of suffering. I think we could choose differently, but that it would cost our pride and our accusations against God not being loving—in precisely the sense you mean with “supposedly loves”.

        One more thing, because some people have vastly more ability to decrease suffering than others. My pastor reported visiting Malawi Christians who lived just above the starvation line and who had experienced horrors in war. Much worse than I have experienced, and I’ll guess you as well. He asked one woman how she could believe in Jesus given her experiences. Her response was that it was her belief in Jesus which allowed her to survive them. When the blessed Westerner has more of a problem with evil than the African who is barely scraping by, I get awfully suspicious. Maybe our bitching and moaning about the problem of evil is a behavior similar to repressive desublimation and narcotizing dysfunction. Maybe we fault God for not doing what we think we could do. There’s a lot to unpack here, but I’ll stop for now.

        • eric

          I think our idea of “lived happily ever after” is atrociously bad…

          …I think the reason that the Bible says vanishingly little about heaven is that the humans at the time didn’t have the conceptual resources to understand what heaven would be like. I think we are a tiny bit better, but only a tiny bit.

          Then in what sense is a required action or belief for salvation just or merciful? You’re saying that we humans can’t comprehend what we’re buying. Okay, if we can’t, then it’s really horrible of God to punish us for not buying it, isn’t it?

          In fact, the whole theological edifice becomes a torture game if what you say is true. He first creates humans who can’t understand happiness or what heaven will be like, then punishes them for not doing what he asks in order to achieve it.

          If God wants us to participate in making us who we are (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you”), he can’t snap his fingers to make it happen.

          So, just to be clear, in your theology God doesn’t want to [snap fingers, make us better] then? He thinks the pros of having us participate in making us who we are outweigh the cons of the suffering that goes with it?

          Digging deeper into that opinion, it seems to also imply that God cannot (i.e. has not the power to) provide us with a way of ‘participating in making us who we are’ without our suffering. Is that also true?

        • Then in what sense is a required action or belief for salvation just or merciful?

          Belief in heaven is not a prerequisite. Trust in Jesus is the prerequisite.

          You’re saying that we humans can’t comprehend what we’re buying.

          We’re not buying anything. We can’t comprehend the awesomeness of what God wants to give us. We can catch glimpses and learn more.

          Okay, if we can’t, then it’s really horrible of God to punish us for not buying it, isn’t it?

          I hold more strongly to God being just + merciful than some accounting scheme which obviously benefits the ruling class. Oh, and the idea that “a finite offense against an infinite being merits infinite punishment” is an atrocious intensification of the Code of Hammurabi, which had harsher punishments if you harmed a noble than if you harmed a slave.

          In fact, the whole theological edifice becomes a torture game if what you say is true. He first creates humans who can’t understand happiness or what heaven will be like, then punishes them for not doing what he asks in order to achieve it.

          No that’s nonsense; we do plenty which prevents us from making things just a bit better. I could regale you with plenty of stupid that happens in science, which keeps scientific progress from being more than a crawl and which makes life as a scientist quite miserable at times. All because most people are practicing individualistic or tribalistic suffering-minimization schemes, combined with an absolutely pathetic imagination of what is possible. We proclaim our awesomeness while acting stupidly. As I said in my previous comment, when poor Africans who have suffered more than pretty much any American have less of a problem with suffering than your average American, something fishy is going on.

          So, just to be clear, in your theology God doesn’t want to [snap fingers, make us better] then? He thinks the pros of having us participate in making us who we are outweigh the cons of the suffering that goes with it?

          Yes, because the ultimate suffering is lack of intelligibility and true intelligibility comes from participation, not abstract just-so stories. Empirical evidence, yo.

          Digging deeper into that opinion, it seems to also imply that God cannot (i.e. has not the power to) provide us with a way of ‘participating in making us who we are’ without our suffering. Is that also true?

          In aggregate, we choose how much we want to suffer. God isn’t the one making that choice.

        • eric

          Belief in heaven is not a prerequisite. Trust in Jesus is the prerequisite

          If I’m supposed to trust in Jesus to to achieve salvation, and I don’t know what ‘salvation’ really means, then it’s unethical and cruel to punish me for not trusting in Jesus.

          Luke, trust in me, and you’ll get a bluuurgghh. No, I can’t explain what a bluuurgghh is, you can’t comprehend it. Now – is ‘trust in me to get a bluuurgghh’ a good enough reason to trust in me? And second, if I now punish you for not trusting in me, have I been fair to you?

          In aggregate, we choose how much we want to suffer. God isn’t the one making that choice.

          Are you saying humans cause our own cancers, volcanic eruptions, etc.?

          And are you suggesting some sort of collective theological punishment – i.e. that it is because of the sins of others that children are born with horrifying birth defects? You know most people consider collective punishment to be highly immoral right? A God that intentionally engages in it (and I’ll agree that in the OT, God does), isn’t even as moral as the US justice system.

        • If I’m supposed to trust in Jesus to to achieve salvation, and I don’t know what ‘salvation’ really means, then it’s unethical and cruel to punish me for not trusting in Jesus.

          Plenty of scientists sign up not knowing where it’ll take them. A good example is this:

              When we began this work, we thought about democracy in much the same way that most democratic citizens do. The gap we perceived between conventional democratic ideals and the all-too-visible realities was troubling precisely because we took the ideals seriously. Nevertheless, we believed that if the realities failed to match the ideals, we (and others seeking to vindicate contemporary democracy) still had intellectually powerful back-up defenses to bolster our convictions. Chapters 3 through 7 record the depressing failures of all those defensive positions. At that point, we knew that we had to start over from a completely different foundation, and the remainder of the book makes a start on that task. (Democracy for Realists, xiii–xiv)

          But I think they still have enough of an idea. Those who don’t probably aren’t ever actually scientists. (cf. Mt 7:21–23) I don’t see how salvation is critically different. BTW, C.S. Lewis deals with those who thought they knew what goodness was like in The Great Divorce.

          Luke, trust in me, and you’ll get a bluuurgghh.

          Disanalogous. I see nothing wrong with this:

          To move towards the good is to move in time and that movement may itself involve new understandings of what it is to move towards the good. (After Virtue, 176)

          Yes the idea of a paradigm shift might have scandalized some in Kuhn’s time, but they got over it. What’s so wrong with finding out that reality is a lot cooler than you previously thought? What’s so wrong with heaven being more awesome than you previously imagined?

          Are you saying humans cause our own cancers, volcanic eruptions, etc.?

          Animals know to flee volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. One possibility is that deformation/​crushing/​shearing of piezoelectric elements in rock generate microwave signals which some animals can pick up. Elephants rarely develop cancer, indicating that there are ways that humans could also avoid it. To what extent we could have done things better and how much earlier is a question we could explore, but I’m not sure how useful it is. It doesn’t seem difficult to think that God could provide warnings and point to helpful herbs and such for humans who are willing to listen.

          And are you suggesting some sort of collective theological punishment – i.e. that it is because of the sins of others that children are born with horrifying birth defects?

          It’s a sort of collective punishment when two civilizations decide to fight each other instead of do science together. Everyone loses on many levels. If you want to say it’s unfair that the leaders of the civilizations decide that war is best and then everyone suffers, then I’ll say your ethics/​morality is suitable for lala land and not much else. We can do things to benefit those who did not deserve it and we can do things to harm those who did not deserve it. Cain was wrong; I am my brother’s keeper. Those who deny this cause and/or fail to prevent a lot of harm in the world.

        • Kodie

          It also creates a preference for people who jump if they’re threatened or ignored, easily manipulated. Anyone who is not motivated by that popular strategy is outcast, even as we know now that authorities don’t always have any interest in us other than using us for their own gain. God promises to rescue us from his own assignment of us to hell, if we just do what he wants. He has spent thousands of years playing the disappointed parent, no results, occasional outbursts of rage, and still not gotten a clue that maybe morale was the ticket to winning favor. Some might say Jesus was the morale-booster – he loves you even when you fuck up!

          People still think of god as the powerful authority who gets to decide your fate, and fear his wrath. I mean, we all know a person who used to be our friend, or someone’s friend, and one single incident and you or someone you know was cut off. The threat of being socially shunned from god’s inner circle, the circle where all your friends and family will be, forever is so serious, especially when the threats begin now, not after you die. If you leave the church now, you will be cut off. If you speak out, no one will like you, and might even kill you, but will probably set you off on your own at least.

        • Kodie

          I have to disregard the bible, and consider the concept of god as a fictional parent trying to shape us. Some parents are fucking warped, some damaged themselves, and some adequate, and some nearly perfect. Why do adults need a fictional parent? Why does the bible need to show incremental social progress? There’s some seed of helpful psychological advice to all religions, as far as I can figure out. Hating a person secretly isn’t the same as murder, is it? But the effect of hating someone isn’t good for a person, either. Having premarital sex could for sure damage a woman’s prospects at being sold to her husband by her father, but nowadays, there’s really nothing wrong with it, and religions actively campaigning against birth control because they are concerned in a fake way about women having consensual sex with a partner who isn’t and won’t be her husband are out of place, because it’s not about what you do, but about what your culture will do about what you do. The bible does have some kind of end, and offers a package of ancient rules that applied to their culture, which people think is god’s word in law. Some of the ideas persist as good ideas for living an emotionally fulfilling life as opposed to a shallow life full of self-pity for mistakes you’ve made and problems you have, but there is nobody perfect enough to avoid struggling, and no god to help them stay on the good side of the struggle. It’s a fucking myth, a fucking metaphor, not a be-all and end-all authority. Parents can fuck us up or enrich us or do their best, or coast, and most people are lucky enough to make it to adulthood without any deep scars, but there’s another metaphor for inheriting the sins of our forebears. It’s only because these flawed assholes raise us, and we become like them despite ourselves, and rationalize we’re really not that terrible, aka “turned out fine”.

          The whole thing is just a myth, a story that humans invented that can be quite pointed in places, but only metaphorically. People who follow or judge others to this shitty book to the letter out of superstitious fear of the cosmic consequences are fucking nuts.

        • I have to disregard the bible, and consider the concept of god as a fictional parent trying to shape us.

          That’s fine; you raise your kids your way, I’ll raise my kids my way, and we’ll see which kids turn out less “warped”. My children will ultimately be required to face the brutal facts about reality and how terrible humans can be—including those who claim to be doing the best of things. I will teach them that since they are raised by a culture which thinks it’s rather more awesome than it is, they are probably infected with that in ways their parents cannot see and tell them about. I’m especially excited to have them figure out how much adult life is basically the horribleness of middle school hidden behind a paper-thin veneer. (I saw what Trump was doing pretty early on; I guess many people can’t see through their own veneer.)

          Why do adults need a fictional parent?

          I don’t think they do. I do think that the “adults” of our time could use more wisdom and backbone. I’m pretty sure that merely giving them more power over reality is not the way forward.

          Why does the bible need to show incremental social progress?

          Because we ourselves aren’t perfect, but we think we are, so a good example of progress could be educational. Why can’t our moral knowledge be as incomplete as our scientific knowledge? Maybe the answer is that nature isn’t “moral”, knowledge doesn’t get invented ex nihilo, so if there isn’t a source of wisdom outside of us, we’re it and we have reached as much perfection as we’ll ever get. Logic is a bitch, sometimes.

          Hating a person secretly isn’t the same as murder, is it?

          A probabilistically led to B. If you don’t realize that there was very little understanding of an inner psychological life in Jesus’ time, you might not realize how momentous Jesus’ claims were. Repeated thought does lead to action.

          People who follow or judge others to this shitty book to the letter out of superstitious fear of the cosmic consequences are fucking nuts.

          Those people also don’t realize that the Holy Spirit is the only way they can actually obey and so judging those who they think don’t have the HS is positively irrational. Furthermore, a careful reading of Mt 18:15–17 makes it clear that groups of Christians are supposed to be norming communities which anyone can exit at any time. Yeah that’s painful and such but the point is to be explicit about those norms and police them so that word is connected to deed. If you don’t want to participate in the norming community, don’t. But you will actually be choosing a different norming community instead, one which may not be explicit about the norms and may apply them partially and tolerate a ton of hypocrisy. If you prefer that, then have fun I guess. I prefer impartiality and word matching deed.

        • Kodie

          I could take the bible as a long story about how humans changed over time and got more heart, but it’s not. It’s about the authority of their invisible overlord and how he turns people to salt if they don’t obey, or traps them in the belly of a whale so they have their little “time-out” and submit to their obligations. It’s about a group of people who thought slavery was wrong when they were enslaved, but ok when they could take slaves. It’s a piece of garbage.

        • Have you ever actually tried reading it as “It’s about the authority of their invisible overlord”? That works for like 1% of the entire OT. It’s even more problematic if this is true:

              A second sweeping difference between ancient Near Eastern royal inscriptions and biblical narrative concerns the role of the gods in the story. We think of the Bible as nothing if not a book of religious literature, a work that proclaims God’s works in the world of ancient Israel. But when the Bible is set against the royal inscriptions, an unexpected phenomenon catches our attention. The gods are everywhere present in the royal inscriptions, and explicitly so—much more than in biblical narrative. …
              Surprisingly, by contrast, we note that the Bible makes relatively little overt mention of God in its narratives about individuals and their lives. The Moses rescue narrative is a case in point: God is nowhere explicitly mentioned. … (Created Equal, 148–149)

        • Kodie

          I don’t know what this tangent has to do with what I said.

        • “It’s about the authority of their invisible overlord” is a terrible model of the text we have.

        • Kodie

          Try it from my perspective, or don’t.

        • I totally get how you could generalize from the Exodus and a few other things. I’m just curious about why you don’t give a shit about how poorly your model fits so much of the text.

        • Kodie

          Because of how humans behave when under the spell that the bible is a magical, special book. I don’t think you’re capable of viewing this from my perspective at all.

        • I am unwilling to cherry-pick and then universalize, so you might be sufficiently correct. Some might consider John Calvin’s “seed of religion” to be similar to the kind of haywire operation you describe, but somehow you get from that to “It’s about the authority of their invisible overlord”. This, when the Bible has YHWH being less active than the deities of contemporary nations.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It’s more than just a “few other things” though, isn’t it?

        • Most of the Tanakh involves Israel giving YHWH the middle finger. So much for his “authority”. The actual pattern is that if you don’t live within a fairly narrowly defined set of rules, your nation ultimately gets conquered. Those rules are moral/​religious in character. (It’s not clear there was an established distinction between ‘moral’ and ‘religious’ back then.) And for perhaps the first time, the character of the populace mattered as well as that of the leaders:

              To be sure, Mesopotamian cultures also believed that nature could be altered by the divine reaction to human behavior.[32] But the scrutinized behavior that would determine the future of the Mesopotamian state never had to do with the moral or spiritual fortitude of the population. Instead, disaster was explained as either a failure to satisfy the cultic demands of the gods, or a failure on the part of the king in the affairs of state. The covenantal theology of the Pentateuch, by contrast, places the onus on the moral and spiritual strength of the people at large.
              We are now in a position to see how this shift in ideology has such a profound impact on the Bible’s narrative focus. Because the course of events—all events, historical and natural—depends on Israel’s behavior, each member of the Israelite polity suddenly becomes endowed with great significance. The behavior of the whole of Israel is only as good as the sum of each of its members. Each Israelite will need to excel, morally and spiritually. Each person becomes endowed with a sense of responsibility unparalleled in the literatures of the ancient Near East.[33] (Created Equal, 141)

          I’ve been told that one of the reasons that Egypt didn’t manage to adopt a democracy is that the individuals would not/​could not become disciplined in the division-of-labor sense required for disciplining forces to come from within the individual (such that at most a harsh word is needed); as a result, the disciplining forces required for maintaining social order would have to come from outside the individual. When YHWH speaks of giving the Israelites a “new heart” (= “seat of the understanding”) in Jer 31:31–34 and Ezek 36:22–32, that means moving the “sources of normativity” from outside to inside. That’s a momentous and much-celebrated move; the Enlightenment couldn’t even exist without it.

          Until someone here distinguishes between:

          K: It’s about the authority of their invisible overlord

          K′: It’s about the authority of their invisible overlord Reason

          , I will be rather undisturbed by the bitching and moaning of the harshness of “You must obey!” Reality is exceedingly demanding of human beings; there are so many missteps we can make which end in death. Some of them are discernible in the near-term, but some are like generations-long slow poisons. Much of the OT can be understood simply as YHWH adjuring the Israelites to do what it takes to continue existing as a nation. Anyone who thinks that our own wills haven’t been massively shaped (in the way YHWH wanted to shape the Israelites’) ought to read Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Most of the Tanakh involves Israel giving YHWH the middle finger.

          Yeah…think about that. Then consider when it was written. Is the story to explain the events of the Israelites?

          So much for his “authority”.

          Exactly. It’s like they never took the stuff about this all powerful god thingie seriously. I mean, giving the finger to an entity that could frazzle yer arse for burning the wrong incense would seem somewhat irresponsible. Or perhaps the people knew nothing about such things at the time. Or maybe it was a case that they were powerless to do anything about their predicaments and blaming them on their misgivings was a way to get an impotent god of the hook.

          The actual pattern is that if you don’t live within a fairly narrowly defined set of rules, your nation ultimately gets conquered.

          Yeah, that’s the propaganda all right.

          Those rules are moral/​religious in character. (It’s not clear there was an established distinction between ‘moral’ and ‘religious’ back then.)

          Moral/religious/political…all the same thing.

          And for perhaps the first time, the character of the populace mattered as well as that of the leaders:

          So what…it is irrelevant for the world today…and has been for a long time.

          Your continuing reference to Rabbi’s thesis on the text in Created Equal is getting tedious. So what if it was a move away from what was going on elsewhere…it doesn’t mean the stupid bits are any less stupid. Or the bad bits any less bad. And as far as I can see, the ideas didn’t improve things much.

        • I mean, giving the finger to an entity that could frazzle yer arse for burning the wrong incense would seem somewhat irresponsible.

          You mean Numbers 16? The Israelites were cowed temporarily; just look at Deut 5:22–33. The cowed-ness lasted for less than 40 days. Golden bull calf time! The fear-of-power response just doesn’t seem to last that long in sufficiently many people. And YHWH doesn’t continue to evoke it (hmmm, why not?). For example, even though Elijah kicks ass on Mt Carmel, he gets a bounty on his head from Jezebel right after and ends up pwning her—oh wait, he had to run away. Where’s YHWH’s power, there?

          YHWH’s use of pwning-power is rather limited in time when one looks at the OT as a whole. It’s almost as if he is trying to draw back, to do this thing:

              A second sweeping difference between ancient Near Eastern royal inscriptions and biblical narrative concerns the role of the gods in the story. We think of the Bible as nothing if not a book of religious literature, a work that proclaims God’s works in the world of ancient Israel. But when the Bible is set against the royal inscriptions, an unexpected phenomenon catches our attention. The gods are everywhere present in the royal inscriptions, and explicitly so—much more than in biblical narrative. In the Sargon legend, Sargon describes the overt providence bestowed on him by the goddess Ishtar following his rescue by Aqqi: “Aqqi, drawer of water, set (me) to his orchard work / During my orchard work, Ishtar loved me / Fifty-five years I ruled as king.” As noted, a palpable experience of the gods and goddesses was a hallmark of the world the ancients inhabited. In royal narrative inscriptions, there is little development of character, because essentially, the fortunes of the king are solely a product of the providence of the gods, or of the king’s capacity to please them.
              Surprisingly, by contrast, we note that the Bible makes relatively little overt mention of God in its narratives about individuals and their lives. The Moses rescue narrative is a case in point: God is nowhere explicitly mentioned. Seemingly, the hand of God is here. But it is behind the scenes, and not explicitly mentioned.[65] The issue is not merely semantic but deeply theological. Imagine the text of Exodus 2 slightly modified to include some overt references to God to accentuate His role in the story, say, somewhere around verse 5, “And God sent the daughter of Pharaoh down to bathe by the river.” Were the text to make explicit what is only implicit, it would do so at great cost: the flood of divine presence in the story would drown out the possibility of seeing the characters’ actions as autonomous choices. Acts of heroism, the moves made after agonizing inner struggle, would all be nullified. Instead, protagonists would be viewed as props made to act, marionettes animated by a divine puppeteer.[66] At one and the same time, from the biblical perspective, God implicitly guides events, while all the while the agents who act do so in utter freedom. The handling of divine intervention in the affairs of individuals in biblical narratives bears out the maxim of the rabbinic sage Rabbi Akiva of the second century C.E., who said, “Everything is foreseen on high, yet free choice is given.”[67] A philosophical conundrum, it is an assumption that guides the poetics of biblical narrative.[68] (Created Equal, 148–149)

          The narrative you spin of the Bible excludes this as a possibility. Why?

          Your continuing reference to Rabbi’s thesis on the text in Created Equal is getting tedious. So what if it was a move away from what was going on elsewhere…it doesn’t mean the stupid bits are any less stupid. Or the bad bits any less bad. And as far as I can see, the ideas didn’t improve things much.

          I will stop referring when you start sufficiently acknowledging. You’ve made a start here, but you don’t seem to be able to value pushes in the right direction. Why?

        • Kodie

          Reality isn’t a person who picks and chooses who to punish and who to forgive. I think that’s the main difference. If you would pay attention to other Christians who post here, they eventually threaten us, almost without exception, that we better repent or whatever, or we’ll be on our knees begging god when we die and it’s too late.

        • Reality isn’t a person who picks and chooses who to punish and who to forgive.

          Look up what “impartial” means.

          If you would pay attention to other Christians who post here, they eventually threaten us, almost without exception, that we better repent or whatever, or we’ll be on our knees begging god when we die and it’s too late.

          If scientists had ignored the ultraviolet catastrophe and maybe one or two other things, the quantum revolution may never have happened. If scientists had ignored that Mercury doesn’t quite obey F = ma, general relativity might never have become well-accepted. The exceptions can be the most exciting parts of reality. Ignore or downplay them and you spit on science.

        • Kodie

          Are you saying that I will be sorry when I get to heaven and god judges me? Because that kind of shit is just people talking out their ass when they can’t argue what they believe, and then you bring up a tangent that has nothing to do with what I said.

        • Supposing that heaven and hell both exist, I have no idea which one you’d end up in, nor whether you’d be sorry or not. When you wrote “Reality isn’t a person who picks and chooses who to punish and who to forgive.”, I read that as indicating a standard human who is irrational and tribal: prone to over-punish infractions of the Other while happily turning a blind eye to infractions of the favored group. This is exactly what we don’t see in the OT or NT.

          There is another way to understand “person”, though: someone who judges according to context such that mitigating circumstances are taken into account. This is rather antithetical to how bureaucratic organizations tend to operate. The point there is to treat everyone “the same”—e.g. mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. Sometimes this route is chosen because the personal judgment has become too partial (e.g. in a racist fashion).

          It makes perfect sense that you would react badly to any sort of personal aspect of reality which merely favors the in-group over the out-group. As best I understand, that characterizes every deity other than YHWH in the Ancient Near East. But is it impossible that reality could be ‘personal’ in the good way? One would have to take Abraham Lincoln’s stance of humility: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” Humans never really want to think they’re firmly on the wrong side.

           
          P.S. Just to get this out of the way: If there is an afterlife, I suspect you will get “justice” based on an impartial application of how you lived out “justice”. That is, you will get your own standards applied to you, but with any and all hypocrisy and false introspection and false judgments stripped away. If you think such a process would be overall painful then maybe you should reevaluate how you treat people. If you think you’d come out largely in the clear, then do more of what you do and teach others to do it as well.

        • Kodie

          Why would there be justice? I take a lot of Christianity to be so metaphorical – when you die, you forget. When you do bad things, you should recognize that you can do better, and not feel sick with guilt, which wastes your life with self-pity. Give me anything that Christianity proposes, and why you think it helps you learn about a fictional character named god, which is the least helpful diversion. Humans aren’t altogether the worst. Everyone is good and bad, and wise and selfish, and generous and gullible about something.

          The bible is a tale about folks of a particular time and place that are like us and not like us. There’s no Jesus to take away our “sin,” there was no sacrifice to please god, that’s just a story.

        • K: Are you saying that I will be sorry when I get to heaven and god judges me?

          LB: P.S. Just to get this out of the way: If there is an afterlife, I suspect you will get “justice” based on an impartial application of how you lived out “justice”.

          K: Why would there be justice?

          I’m not saying there necessarily would be. You thought I’d be like the [apparently] standard Christian who visits CE; I described how I actually am. You can decide whether that well-matches, kinda-matches, or doesn’t-at-all-match said standard Christian.

          I take a lot of Christianity to be so metaphorical …

          As far as I can tell, such versions of Christianity quickly go extinct—after relatively few generations for most.

          When you do bad things, you should recognize that you can do better, and not feel sick with guilt, which wastes your life with self-pity.

          Yeah, I was a friend of a Christian who got lots of bad shit done to him, and then everyone got cheap forgiveness just like you describe here, just like is described in Jeremiah 7. Guess what? It fucks over the few, for the peace of the many. I think that’s a shitty way to treat humans, but perhaps you think it’s a great way—as long as those who suffer the consequences of the “bad things” are kept out of sight and out of mind. I hope you have some other way to actually fix what you fucking broke, but you’ve given no evidence of it so far.

          Give me anything that Christianity proposes, and why you think it helps you learn about a fictional character named god, which is the least helpful diversion.

          Sorry, I can’t quite make sense of that. You seem to be presupposing that God is fictional instead of letting it be either way, and I’m not sure how profitable it is to go down that route. You show especial weakness in your position if you require God to be fictional.

          Humans aren’t altogether the worst.

          Agreed.

          Everyone is good and bad, and wise and selfish, and generous and gullible about something.

          The less people admit this—

          If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? (The Gulag Archipelago)

          —the worse they are. Period.

          There’s no Jesus to take away our “sin,” there was no sacrifice to please god, that’s just a story.

          I see, so who gets to bear the results of the “bad things” we do?

        • Kodie

          As far as I can tell, such versions of Christianity quickly go extinct—after relatively few generations for most.

          I don’t care about versions of Christianity. I’m not even talking about Christianity, really.

          Guess what? It fucks over the few, for the peace of the many. I think that’s a shitty way to treat humans, but perhaps you think it’s a great way—as long as those who suffer the consequences of the “bad things” are kept out of sight and out of mind. I hope you have some other way to actually fix what you fucking broke, but you’ve given no evidence of it so far.

          Well, I find it curious that people who seem mostly to be Christian in some hardcore traditional way don’t like self-esteem! They don’t like kids getting awards or certificates for doing nothing special, just so they don’t feel like a failure. Sometimes, people feel terrible for too long over nothing, and they shouldn’t. Sometimes, you do something not so nice, and there’s no way to make it up to the victim, are you supposed to beat yourself up to the end of time? No. That’s quite a waste of your life. In the sense that Jesus loves you and forgives you your “sins”, to me, that’s quite metaphorical, but probably too many Christians take that too far, and use it as license to hate and judge. Jesus loves them no matter what, and they want to harass you because you’re awful. I’m just saying that it’s not a totally meaningless metaphor to me.

          K: Give me anything that Christianity proposes, and why you think it helps you learn about a fictional character named god, which is the least helpful diversion.

          LB: Sorry, I can’t quitemake sense of that. You seem to be presupposing that God is fictional instead of letting it be either way, and I’m not sure how profitable it is to go down that route. You show especial weakness in your position if you require God to be fictional.

          I’m just saying whatever you think the bible has to offer that points to god, I can tell you what it means in my perspective.

        • Well, I find it curious that people who seem mostly to be Christian in some hardcore traditional way don’t like self-esteem!

          Yes, yes, I’m aware of the self-hatred meme. For example, there’s the GiD post Evangelical Christianity and Low Self-Esteem. Too bad that Job 40:6–14 completely contradicts that, not to mention Abraham asking God about Sodom or Jacob wrestling with him. Yeah, just fuck the 7+1 “one who conquers” in Revelation. Basically, fuck anything in the Bible which doesn’t allow one class to dominate the rest. Yeah, that’s what Jesus meant by Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20. Amirite?

          They don’t like kids getting awards or certificates for doing nothing special, just so they don’t feel like a failure.

          I don’t like falsehood. Does that put me in their camp? Or are we teaching our kids that “awards” and “certificates” don’t mean jack shit? They do figure these things out, you know.

          Sometimes, people feel terrible for too long over nothing, and they shouldn’t.

          You’ve just completely ignored my point, that when we “do bad things”, we sometimes fuck other people over and then when we get that cheap forgiveness and just act as if nothing happened (oh sorry, we “recognize that [we] can do better”). As long as everyone is messed with about the same by said “bad things”, it’s ok. But when actually some people get more of the shit than others and yet we don’t fix what we broke, guess what happens? Roses and puppies? I don’t think so.

          Sometimes, you do something not so nice, and there’s no way to make it up to the victim, are you supposed to beat yourself up to the end of time?

          Ahhh, we just tell ourselves stories that we can’t fix what we broke. That’s a nice rationalization. While it gets told, some people get royally fucked up by other people. As one of those Tony Stark animated gifs has it: “Not a great plan.”

          but probably too many Christians take that too far, and use it as license to hate and judge.

          I have zero empirical evidence that Christians “hate and judge” any more or less than non-Christians. Do you? (I’d love to see how “hate and judge” are operationalized by scientists.)

          I’m just saying whatever you think the bible has to offer that points to god, I can tell you what it means in my perspective.

          Ok. But I’m more interested in prediction than static “what it means” which is indistinguishable from just-so story. People make up all sorts of shit about what means what.

        • Kodie

          I was comparing the certificates with Jesus’s forgiveness for doing nothing. If you think people can see through the lie of getting an award for nothing, then turn it around and say they are broken and dirty sinners who get an award even though they don’t deserve it…. see, I try to give you what I see, and you go off in another direction with it.

          I don’t know that Christians hate and judge any more or less than non-Christians at all. I know that they justify it with their magical book, their “objective” morality, they are threatening others with an imaginary rule they get from a book they idolize. That’s the main problem most of us here have with religion – people using their superstition to intimidate or punish others.

          The bible makes hardly any predictions, and I don’t know why you’re sticking with it.

        • I was comparing the certificates with Jesus’s forgiveness for doing nothing. If you think people can see through the lie of getting an award for nothing, then turn it around and say they are broken and dirty sinners who get an award even though they don’t deserve it…. see, I try to give you what I see, and you go off in another direction with it.

          Oh, fascinating. But salvation is predicated upon a kind of change—repentance. The thing is, repentance comes before works, although it is evidenced by works. Those who practice reformative justice instead of punitive justice understand that what you need to do is get the criminal to change his/her behavior and “success” is figuring out the minimum pain & suffering needed to get that. (Teaching people how they done fucked up is probably going to bring about at least some pain/​suffering. Being locked up surely incurs some. I’m not talking about whippings or whatever.) The Bible, however, goes a bit deeper than changing behavior; it gets at changing whom you trust and what you want. Here:

               behavior: someone can act sufficiently normal one day and then shoot a bunch of people the next
               heart: behavior flows from desire and so radical deviations become ever more rare

          So, your “forgiveness for doing nothing” is critically ambiguous. A change in heart is a true change, but in a sense it doesn’t involve “doing” anything. If you want to see a critique of cheap forgiveness (which matches your “certificates” perfectly), see Jeremiah 7. Hint: Jeremiah takes a massive dump on the idea that you can get forgiveness for being bad and then go out and be just as bad again, with zero repentance even pretended.

          If you want there to be fewer school shootings and other shootings, I suggest considering how a focus on behavior instead of heart will be forever ineffective. If we remove all the guns, angry people who are continually thwarted in their endeavors will find other ways to massacre innocents. Like mowing people down with vehicles. Are we going to ban vehicles? Put bollards everywhere? Require only autonomous vehicles? Or maybe we could deal with the actual fucking problem. But no, that violates the sovereignty of “100% subjective”.

          I don’t know that Christians hate and judge any more or less than non-Christians at all. I know that they justify it with their magical book, their “objective” morality, they are threatening others with an imaginary rule they get from a book they idolize. That’s the main problem most of us here have with religion – people using their superstition to intimidate or punish others.

          Do you think people do less intimidating and punishing when there isn’t a code in a holy book?

          The bible makes hardly any predictions, and I don’t know why you’re sticking with it.

          It is more honest about human nature and social nature than just about any scientific work I’ve encountered. Am I just supposed to ignore that?

        • Kodie

          It sounds like you’re advancing the No True Scotsman fallacy. I had this thought earlier this evening that I can’t believe we still have to explain to you. A Christian is anyone who truly believes they are saved by whatever magical mechanism they believe the part of the bible their church leader, or their self, has determined sufficient. That’s a true Christian, they truly believe. From the Christian point of view, you think a true Christian is someone who is doing it right, according to god.

          Have I cleared that up for you, at least?

          The book is not magical. It doesn’t contain any information you couldn’t get from another book, except what superstitions ancient people in a particular place practiced and suggested.

        • It sounds like you’re advancing the No True Scotsman fallacy.

          I’m happy to cluster Christians instead of declare one group “true”.

          A Christian is anyone who truly believes they are saved by whatever magical mechanism they believe the part of the bible their church leader, or their self, has determined sufficient.

          That’s the worst possible way to do science. Base it on the stories people tell themselves instead of the causal powers they manifest? That sounds terrible—aren’t you aware at how terrible people are at self-reporting?

          Have I cleared that up for you, at least?

          Have I?

          The book is not magical. It doesn’t contain any information you couldn’t get from another book, except what superstitions ancient people in a particular place practiced and suggested.

          How do I know whether this is true or false, other than going out and looking? And yet you seem so confident—I doubt you’ve really gone out and done the legwork required to know the underlined.

        • Kodie

          That’s the worst possible way to do science. Base it on the stories
          people tell themselves instead of the causal powers they manifest? That
          sounds terrible—aren’t you aware at how terrible people are at
          self-reporting?

          There is no other test one can perform unless you are god what a Christian fucking is. That’s maybe something you don’t fucking grok about this situation. You are just like them. You are self-reporting what you wish to believe, and shirking what you don’t. It’s apparent that you can’t see how ridiculous YOU ALL ARE from here.

          How do I know whether this is true or false, other than going out and
          looking? And yet you seem so confident—I doubt you’ve really gone out
          and done the legwork required to know the underlined.

          Like Levar Burton says, you don’t have to take my word for it. Read any other fucking book! (I paraphrase).

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIKAsGC1Iy8

        • There is no other test one can perform unless you are god what a Christian fucking is.

          That’s why I spoke of clustering them. Let’s not decide that any group is “true” or that any group is “false” from the outset. Actually, it’s a key doctrine in the social sciences to withhold such value judgments in the beginning. Let’s just see if one group is better at these things and has those weaknesses, another group is better at different things and has different weaknesses, etc. We might even find that many groups have strengths the other groups can use, and many groups have weaknesses the other groups can ameliorate.

          What I’m talking about is decomposing all self-identified Christians—about which you can only say “they self identify as Christians”—into groups which you can say more about. This is how science studies phenomena (in addition to cladistic work which assumes an evolutionary history). Science must dig below appearances. And it must dig below averages; my wife studies molecular motors which reshape chromatin (DNA) and guess what happens if she just takes averages? The same thing if you take the “average trajectory” of a ship which goes from the Atlantic to the Pacific: through Brazil.

          Christians aren’t a monolithic block and given that humans tend to be terrible at introspection (see The Unreliability of Naive Introspection and Perplexities of Consciousness), maybe we should include external characterization as well as internal characterization. You were willing to do this before:

          K: He wants us to hunt for one single post so he can deny his intent, but his intent is not needed. His effect on this blog should suffice.

          You are well-aware that sometimes what people claim, based on introspection, can be ignored. I’m not suggesting 100% ignoring introspection, but balancing it with external observation based not just appearances.

          You are just like them. You are self-reporting what you wish to believe, and shirking what you don’t.

          What’s a good example of what I’m “shirking”?

          Like Levar Burton says, you don’t have to take my word for it. Read any other fucking book! (I paraphrase).

          What book lays out “relational sin” remotely like Mt 5:23–24, Eph 4:25–27, and Mt 18:15–17? If you cannot show me, you do not know that it exists elsewhere.

        • Kodie

          As long as whatever any of you believe is “god”, an invisible humanistic agent interfering in your life and judging what you do and don’t do, you’re fucking looking in the wrong place. I think the bigger problem is your social struggles, because you don’t work nearly so hard to listen to and get to know people, you know those real, imperfect, somewhat powerful or not powerful visible and actual agents that can interfere in your life in positive or negative ways and judge you good or bad, in or out? And it’s funny, because you struggle fruitlessly almost to find your imaginary friend in yourself, closing off. Life can be hard, but I don’t really know what kind of answers you’re looking for that you need validation from PEOPLE. You don’t need me to perform your own studies, you just want to expose yourself to and impose yourself on others. Of course, it’s largely supposed you want attention and you love to be a martyr who gets all the abuse just for trying to make a little human contact and solve some of your puzzles together. That’s when you should go to the park with your chess pieces and sit down at one of those tables with the chess boards on it until someone sits down with you, and then try to talk about anything besides the bible unless they bring it up.

        • As long as whatever any of you believe is “god”, an invisible humanistic agent interfering in your life and judging what you do and don’t do, you’re fucking looking in the wrong place.

          Ummm, you might want to pay attention to λογίζεται τὸ κακόν in 1 Corinthians 13:5:

          It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (NIV)

          or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (ESV)

          Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; (KJV)

          I think these are all kind of shitty translations, because the phrase “λογίζεται τὸ κακόν” seems to indicate something like an accountant carefully measuring everything that is not perfect and characterizing the imperfection. So it’s kind of like the opposite of:

          Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

          So, the idea that God is constantly judging what is κακός (bad/​ugly/​evil/​not as it should be) doesn’t actually seem true. I think that’s actually what the accuser does—שָׂטָן. It would appear this is another major way you and I see God *very* differently. Please stop projecting your own understanding on me, Kodie. Otherwise you’ll be a hypocrite:

          K: … when people say you’re not self-aware, it means you’re not at all considerate of other people who visit this blog …

          Consider that I might be … different from you.

          I think the bigger problem is your social struggles, because you don’t work nearly so hard to listen to and get to know people, you know those real, imperfect, somewhat powerful or not powerful visible and actual agents that can interfere in your life in positive or negative ways and judge you good or bad, in or out?

          What is something you want to say to me that you think I haven’t been willing to hear? Let’s exclude obvious falsehoods like “NOBODY FUCKING LIKES YOU.” What is something about you that I haven’t been willing to hear?

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YxaaGgTQYM

        • Kodie

          K: … when people say you’re not self-aware, it means you’re not at all considerate of other people who visit this blog …

          LB: Consider that I might be … different from you.

          Consider that you don’t really seem to care if you paralyze all other discussions on this blog, so long as you get what you want. I don’t want to be part of the problem anymore.

        • I don’t want to be part of the problem anymore.

          After you confirm, I will never respond to you again until/​unless you email me (my email is in my Disqus profile) or I see you engaged in something I perceive as plausibly character assassination.

        • Consider that you don’t really seem to care if you paralyze all other discussions on this blog

          Because somehow when I use electrons, there aren’t enough for others. 😀

        • Kodie

          Leave it to you to not know how social things work… it’s not like machines.

          Bye Felicia.

        • And it’s funny, because you struggle fruitlessly almost to find your imaginary friend in yourself, closing off.

          Is this … an allusion to Westworld? It also reminds me of Unancestral Voice.

    • Jim Jones

      Define ‘god’.

      • See my (3) and surrounding conversation; nobody here wants me to repeat myself.

        • Jim Jones

          > (3) I don’t have a complete definition of God (nobody even has this of reality) . . .

          Here you go:

          Definition:

          “God is the ego projection of the self styled believer in the supposed being — with added super powers”.

          It’s impossible to attribute any effect from such a ‘god’ outside of its effect on the self described follower so it is irrelevant to everyone else.

        • Sounds like Creating God in your own image—a good model of some of the data. Establishing all is another matter—if indeed it can be done.

        • Jim Jones

          Feel free to offer an alternative definition.

        • Kodie

          Pretty much all religion, including yours, is emphasizing certain ideals, and then having some fantasy that if everyone else followed your preferential ideals, the world would be a much better place, and then pretending god wants us to follow you, and rejects us if we don’t.

        • Pretty much all or in fact every single bit? I might agree on the former, although I’d like to see a lot more empirical evidence before saying it with much of any confidence.

        • Kodie

          It’s the way it works.

    • Damien Priestly

      Ugh, I hope you don’t expect anyone read your 10+ paragraphs of claptrap as your response to a relatively uncomplicated OP…The original topic was God’s ridiculous biblical covenant do-overs…You have to bring in the issues of climate-change, nuclear war and Fukuyama??

      Don’t post if you can’t stay on topic !!

      • The OP is actually quite complicated; it relies on a host of “you’d think X” which is exceedingly dubious IMO. It’s like Dawkins’ The God Delusion, which is filled with “It’s reasonable to assume ___”. If one isn’t careful, the whole argument is won by stupid-ass presuppositions which disintegrate on a remotely focused investigation. But often to investigate the stupid, one does have to explore a little bit, to see how the stupid shows up more clearly as stupid when applied to some other part of reality.

        You’re welcome to just take one quote-response block; at most I have 3 paragraphs which follow something of Bob’s which I quoted.

        • Damien Priestly

          So bring in Dawkins where it doesn’t belong! …It shows you have nothing useful to offer. Then, you run off on tangents that don’t make sense. The point of the OP shows how ridiculous it is to believe in an idiot God who can’t get things right — and then has many do-overs. — But from you, this is a typical quote …

          -> ” ..to see how stupid shows up more clearly as stupid…”

          I rarely block posters…but you are getting there. — You literally have no argument except to throw in tons of Gish-Gallop …everything from the Higgs boson to consumerism…all having nothing to do with the OP. Lucky for you the Mod hasn’t sent you packing yet…I would rather have a more self-respecting troll to converse with…Get lost !!

        • It shows you have nothing useful to offer.

          I think it’s interesting that questioning why one would think the following things—

          [OP]: God in the Bible will make a covenant with his people, and you think that since he’s made the sale, the book will end.

          [OP]: You’d think that if Jesus were the point of God’s story, if he were the person necessary for people to avoid hell, Jesus would be in Genesis 1, and it wouldn’t take a bunch of reboots and irrelevant covenants to get here.

          [OP]: You’d think that an omniscient creator of the universe could convey things clearly.

          —constitutes “nothing useful to offer”. Trying to get people to accept things without argumentation seems awfully … fundamentalist.

          The point of the OP shows how ridiculous it is to believe in an idiot God who can’t get things right …

          Given ridiculous inputs, you get ridiculous outputs. AKA GIGO.

      • Damien Priestly

        Exactly !!

      • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

        Tell me about it. I never read the heaping piles of bullshit spewed by Luke Breuer directly. I only read the responses to him.

        And I love, love, love this GIF.

    • Kodie

      I think because this is supposed to be the story of who god is and what he wants, it would end, and that would be the end of that. Instead, it’s a story about people who create god over and over again to suit their cultural wants and needs.

      It’s a human book about humans by humans.

      • I might believe what you write if one or both of the following were false:

             (I) the Bible gets so much right about human nature
            (II) Enlightened humans get so much wrong about human nature

        In my experience, humans seem to desperately need to believe they are righteous. So for example, when NATO bombed a Serbian news station in 1999 it was the occasion for silence or slight praise, whereas when Muslims targeted a French new station in 2015, it was a horror of horrors and the whole world had to get enraged. I can multiply examples like Solomon multiplied wives. The end result is massive self-deception where we tell pretty stories about ourselves while conditions for e.g. the Great War fester. There is some slight hope for (II) when it comes to works like The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, but I’m not going to hold out much hope.

        • Kodie

          It’s a human book about humans by humans. There is some good advice in the bible, and there is terrible advice in the bible. There is fear, there is hubris, there are strict superstitions in the bible. How to get to heaven – it’s pretty easy but definitely difficult for the average human. It’s not about petty shit that people have to jump through hoops to avoid vengeance from the magical authority who judges their whole life after they die to see if they made any mistakes, it’s about peace of mind while you’re living, self-acceptance, generosity toward others, letting go of hatred, and shit like that. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people like you to think that it’s anything more than that, or that psychologically shifting your attitude comes from a magical being, or effects of adopting these habits indicate any such magical being. The bible isn’t a special book as it claims to be. Why idolize it? Almost every religion I am aware of contains these simple concepts, along with a list of chores that only seem to serve to indicate to others to which tribe one belongs.

        • It’s not about petty shit that people have to jump through hoops to avoid vengeance from the magical authority who judges their whole life after they die to see if they made any mistakes, it’s about peace of mind while you’re living, self-acceptance, generosity toward others, letting go of hatred, and shit like that. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people like you to think that it’s anything more than that …

          Because I’ve lived as a reject of society, someone for people to take shits on whenever they want, and thus I see through versions of religion which act as self-justification projects for the in-groups. And you don’t need ‘religion’ (if that requires ‘deity’) to do this horrible thing. The stuff you’ve indicated is, in my experience, pretty powerless to deal with the horrible. Instead, it’s a pretty story which works if you ignore all the people for whom it doesn’t work. As a famous American sociologist wrote:

          It is one of the more facetious illusions of liberal ideology that people will like each other better by getting to know each other. The opposite is the case, as a glance at the homicide data will show: Most murders are committed by close friends and relatives. The adage that good fences make good neighbors has a certain sociological validity. (A Far Glory, 38)

          I want the lion to lie down with the lamb (along with MLK Jr.) but I’m convinced it’s rather harder than you do (I think MLK Jr. is on my side on this one). Pretty much the only time I think of hell is when I see atheists whine about it. Well that, and the actual hells that humans create for each other—later constructing narratives of how those people deserved that hell and then conveniently writing the residents of hell out of the narrative so that they can be conveniently ignored.

          The bible isn’t a special book as it claims to be.

          I have no idea how you measure “special”. Suppose that the Bible says we self-deceive much more than most of academia believes. Suppose the Bible is actually right. Would that make it “special”?

          Why idolize it?

          I don’t know what you mean by “idolize”. I’m sure some Christians are into bibliolatry; I generally don’t model myself as one of them. Constant testing of it seems like a decent antidote to that. But perhaps you disagree.

          Almost every religion I am aware of contains these simple concepts, along with a list of chores that only seem to serve to indicate to others to which tribe one belongs.

          What other religion has the following progression:

               OT: Perfection kills humans
               NT: humans kill perfection

          ? I’m talking from an internal perspective of the religion, not your external perspective.

        • Kodie

          Leaning heavily on the bible for certain purposes in your life absolutely has nothing to do with god guiding or helping you. If it’s just your favorite book, your favorite pop psychologist, etc., that’s fine, I guess. It’s just Christians like to quote from it, are amazed at it, i.e. the reason they believe in god is because the advice works for them, and then buy the whole bag of garbage along with it, defending all kinds of horrible shit, just because it’s in that book along with the parts they like, because god. That’s what I mean by idolizing it.

        • Leaning heavily on the bible for certain purposes in your life absolutely has nothing to do with god guiding or helping you.

          Which is why I wrote to you 16 hours ago:

          K: Nope, the tests I’ve talked about and describe above do not constitute “evidence of God’s existence” if they corroborate what’s in the Bible. After all, the atheist can just say that wise people of old figured out some things.

          You can always carve out some finite chunk of what God did, apply Ockham’s razor, and find some theory that accounts for some of the data while the other appears purely random. And yes, an alternative is that God does not exist.

          If it’s just your favorite book, your favorite pop psychologist, etc., that’s fine, I guess.

          And if it helps me do science better with a group of people? If it gives me a differential advantage over other scientists? Is it still just a “favorite pop psychologist”?

          It’s just Christians like to quote from it, are amazed at it, i.e. the reason they believe in god is because the advice works for them, and then buy the whole bag of garbage along with it, defending all kinds of horrible shit, just because it’s in that book along with the parts they like, because god. That’s what I mean by idolizing it.

          Ahh, I see. So do they have to actually manifest any maladaption to reality (the kind of thing evolution would prune), do you just have to subjectively dislike it, or something else?

        • Kodie

          Are you saying that following the bible is creates a magical effect? I really don’t know have a problem choosing parts of the bible as a guide for living, as long as you’re not hurting other people or invoking god as the authority why they have to listen to anything you have to say.

          If you’re idolizing the bible, that is, invoking god as the author of the bible and crediting god or Jesus for anything, as though the bible is the only book you can get this information from, or you think there is some magical quality to following the bible, or some magical interference such as when you “test” the parts of the bible that you like and get good results, that god gives you those positive results because he approves of your behavior, or don’t recognize that humans across all cultures and religions and philosophies have offered similar advice for psychological well-being, and attributed it to various gods (sometimes), then you are idolizing your book because you think it connects you to something divine.

          I have likened religion to diets – people try and fail at all sorts of diets and exercise regimens, but once someone hits on a successful routine, they swear by it, and swear everyone else needs to try this, as though there is one single path to fitness, health, and weight loss that people who go on diets seek. Christianity, at its essence, can be ok for some people who don’t go overboard, confusing it with the only way, or picking up ugly and dangerous baggage written in the bible because it’s “the bible!”

        • Are you saying that following the bible is creates a magical effect?

          I don’t know what you mean by “magical effect”, in this context.

          … that god gives you those positive results because he approves of your behavior …

          I read the OT as teaching the Israelites about morality encoded in reality. Back then, they wouldn’t have understood a reality that operates 100% independent of deity. However, as I’ve excerpted several times to you by now, the OT has YHWH being much less active than the gods in contemporary material.

          … or don’t recognize that humans across all cultures and religions and philosophies have offered similar advice for psychological well-being …

          Of course there are similarities. Scientists don’t just hand-wave at similarities and say their job is done though; they look to see whether the differences are important. You know, like between humans being created out of the blood of a slain deity to be slaves of the gods, vs. humans being created in the image of God. Small differences like that. Maybe they’re all irrelevant?

          … then you are idolizing your book because you think it connects you to something divine.

          If I manage to use material in the Bible to do better science with a group of like-minded people than any other group of humans, what then? Would that be evidence of anything interesting, or would you find a way to explain that away, too?

          Christianity, at its essence, can be ok for some people who don’t go overboard, confusing it with the only way, or picking up ugly and dangerous baggage written in the bible because it’s “the bible!”

          John Calvin was also worried about people who went overboard; see his “seed of religion”. But by “go overboard”, do you really want religious people to keep the intensity of their desires in check, to not want too much?

        • Kodie

          I think you can’t even grasp what I’m talking about, because you keep saying something else.

        • You seem to have a very one-dimensional view of Christianity, as if you’ve experienced pretty much one kind that took the Bible seriously (vs. liberal Christianity), and have concluded that anyone who takes the Bible seriously is going to be like that. I’m going to push against such generalization. But I’m happy to acknowledge that there are a great number of people who call themselves “Christian” and act as you describe.

        • Kodie

          No, I think anyone who regards the bible as a magical source of knowledge or wisdom, i.e. god speaking to them, is mistaken. You want to say you don’t pick up the baggage in the bible like other Christians? Then you disregard a lot of the bible to get what you want out of it, therefore, it’s not magical, it’s just a book, not about god, but about humans, authored by humans.

        • No, I think anyone who regards the bible as a magical source of knowledge or wisdom, i.e. god speaking to them, is mistaken.

          I don’t know what you mean by “a magical source of knowledge or wisdom”. Are you talking about something like a book of incantations? The most unique thing about the Bible, as far as I can tell, is that it is unflattering to pretty much every party. I think that’s actual reality—none of us would find any of the others—or God—to be flattering if we somehow got perfect perception while our characters stay what they are. I’m not sure how “a magical source of knowledge or wisdom” would help us be less terrible to each other. On the contrary, “a magical source of knowledge or wisdom” seems like precisely the wrong thing to help us mature.

          You want to say you don’t pick up the baggage in the bible like other Christians?

          Here’s what one guy said who got rid of the “baggage”:

              Later Jefferson wrote even more extravagantly to William Short, his private secretary, about the execution of Louis XVI (“the expunging of that officer”). The logic of his words has rightly been described as closer to Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot than to Washington, Hamilton and Burke.

          The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood? My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it is now. (The Long Affair, 147)

          (A Free People’s Suicide, KL 766–72)

          I’d rather not be like him. Maybe the “baggage” is to remind us of who we were and who we could easily become again. Maybe if the pre-WWII Germans could have taken it seriously. Maybe everyone who imposed the harsh reparations on those Germans could have taken it seriously. Humans slip into brutality quite easily. You would blind us to this?!?!

          Then you disregard a lot of the bible to get what you want out of it, therefore, it’s not magical, it’s just a book, not about god, but about humans, authored by humans.

          What do I “disregard”? Please pick the best one or two examples.

        • Kodie

          I know you’re still not getting what I mean about a magical book of knowledge and wisdom. The bible is a folk tale, it’s about folks. Some folks are wise, and some folks are fucking paranoid.

          What I mean is, is there a god who authored the book, who tells you how to live your life, and judges your conformity, and pokes you once in a while, or alters your environment or places signs for you to follow, magically, or is it just a compilation of stories from another era, some of which sound familiar because we’re people, and some of which sound ludicrous because those people were making a lot of shit up to get by in life, all attributing certain events, coincidences, laws, and decisions they themselves made to this imaginary friend? Do you know what a superstition is OR NOT!!!!!

          You make your own life difficult by not understanding usual concepts, but I’m not sure I know any other ways to explain this to you.

        • What I mean is, is there a god who authored the book, who tells you how to live your life, and judges your conformity, and pokes you once in a while, or alters your environment or places signs for you to follow, magically …

          What’s the difference between said “magically” and nature simply having a kind of … “moral slant” to it? It’s dogma to say that nature doesn’t care about right vs. wrong, but evolutionarily that isn’t quite true. Now, the “right vs. wrong” that nature cares about might be rather twisted by our judgment—see for example the de facto eugenics in [some forms of] eusociality—but it’s at least a very different kind of “law” than F = ma.

          Do you know what a superstition is OR NOT!!!!!

          I take superstitions to generally decrease the fitness of believers of them, long-term. Do you disagree?

          You make your own life difficult by not understanding usual concepts …

          Ehhh, I’m extremely skeptical of the way people generally portray “usual concepts”. Given stuff like The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, I appear to be justified in thinking that way. Want another example? I said the following to Otto yesterday:

          LB: There’s an interesting paradox at play:

               (I) on the one hand, the atheist holds up scientific knowledge as the best kind
              (II) on the other hand, the atheist wants God to break the laws of nature as evidence

          In case it isn’t obvious, (II) is antithetical to the most highly valued thing. God is pretty much the naturalist’s Satan if he does (II). I suspect if God aids (I), humans will somehow manage to get all the credit. I hope I’m wrong with this analysis, but I’ve gotten no solid counter-indications so far.

          If I just accepted what atheists tell me at face value, I would have to assume there is no contradiction between (I) and (II). So apparently, I have to be “fucking paranoid”.

        • Kodie

          Is it morally wrong to step off the ledge? I’m not talking about suicide, I’m talking about the consequences of gravity. I don’t know that reality has a moral slant at all. Reality is pretty fucking brutal, and quite a lot of what can happen is caused by something other than a moral agent, unless you want to attribute those circumstances to your asshole god!

          If someone is walking on a mountain trail, and slips, god will pull them all the way down the mountain, hitting every jagged rock on the way until they land in a pile of guts. But is that immoral on the part of the hiker? What if the hiker wears a harness? There are acrobats who do freaky dances on the side of cliffs, wearing harnesses. If it is immoral to endanger yourself, and your own fault if you suffer consequences, but performing the simple feat of hiking without incident (other than amazing photos and an uplifting experience), what is moral or immoral about doing anything that might result in your own death?

          What if someone is driving on the mountain road, and you’re driving in the other direction, and they’re recklessly fast, and you swerve and drive off the mountain, and the other car is unaware, why should you suffer? You were following the rules, and the other driver never gets caught! It’s situations like that where people invent god to make sure their dog is dead when they get home and they eat bad cheese and get sick. Do they know why? They don’t learn that they were reckless and killed you, they learn nothing and feel the victim! But you know, there’s no guarantee. There’s almost not even anything other than coincidence where people do a bad thing they don’t realize and get their justice.

          Please explain what you mean that reality has a moral slant. Reality doesn’t have any moral slant.

        • Is it morally wrong to step off the ledge?

          Are you talking about the “hedge laws” the Scribes and/or Pharisees set up, which Jesus violated [seemingly] whenever he got a chance?

          I don’t know that reality has a moral slant at all.

          You’ve not read about how evolution favors development of certain kinds of morality?

          Reality is pretty fucking brutal, and quite a lot of what can happen is caused by something other than a moral agent, unless you want to attribute those circumstances to your asshole god!

          I find it really ironic that the argument from natural evil only really arose in intensity when humans gained a terrific ability to control and dominate nature.

          If it is immoral to endanger yourself, and your own fault if you suffer consequences, but performing the simple feat of hiking without incident (other than amazing photos and an uplifting experience), what is moral or immoral about doing anything that might result in your own death?

          I’ve gone hiking plenty of times and it’s pretty obvious when there is significant danger of serious bodily harm and when at most one could get some scrapes and bruises. Are you perchance blind, and thus unable to judge such things yourself?

          If it is immoral to endanger yourself, and your own fault if you suffer consequences, but performing the simple feat of hiking without incident (other than amazing photos and an uplifting experience), what is moral or immoral about doing anything that might result in your own death?

          Because we humans are social creatures, are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and we can both bless and curse those who don’t deserve either. Suck it up and deal. Adults know this stuff and have learned to stop bitching and moaning about it.

          You were following the rules, and the other driver never gets caught!

          Wait, life is unfair? Ya don’t say.

        • Kodie

          Well, morality is subjective, and there is an evolutionary advantage… that’s just how humans behave. That’s not how nature – YOUR GOD – behaves. Why would you claim that nature has a moral slant? Morality only helps you evolutionarily within your group, because you want to be accepted, and helps your reproductive chances.

          If you step off the ledge, you fall all the way down. That is a natural consequence to trying to defy gravity. I am going around some layers here and you didn’t fucking figure that out. You might wear a harness and not suffer, so is doing something to defy the law of gravity against moral law, if you’re supposed to otherwise suffer a certain consequence? Oh yeah, gravity isn’t morality.

          If you do something dangerous that endangers others, objectively, that should create a necessary punishment, but it doesn’t. It’s risky and sometimes accidents happen, but I see careless people who never get their comeuppance. I (barely) knew a guy in high school who fell off a mountain accidentally the summer before his senior year, and died, and I knew a guy in high school who was a horrible, possessive piece of crap, and he almost fell off a mountain, and I ended up dating him the rest of my senior year because of mistaken ideas of destiny and shit. That asshole still keeps trying to contact me every couple of years, even though I never write back. He’s on his 4th wife, and when they eventually break up because he’s an asshole, he will write to me again.

          Do you really think life is complex to the excruciating ends you keep going, or could it just be we’re animals, we’re social animals, maybe socializing is hard for you, and you keep complaining that searching for the pieces of the puzzle of your deity makes life more difficult for you. Do you think atheism is just too simple to be true?

        • Well, morality is subjective …

          Surely you believe that how humans behave is as determined by the laws of nature as the movement of the planets?

          That’s not how nature – YOUR GOD – behaves.

          Erm, humans are part of nature, yo. As are apes and the other super-social primates. I don’t understand why you seem to have implied that I think “God ≡ nature”; I’m not a Spinozan.

          Morality only helps you evolutionarily within your group, because you want to be accepted, and helps your reproductive chances.

          Hmmm, helping the homeless doesn’t seem to improve my reproductive chances—if anything, it damages them because any children I have will have to compete with more humans for limited resources. Putting that aside, I don’t really see how this makes morality any less deterministic, any less a pure result of the laws of nature “operating” on current quantum state. (We can shift to Carroll’s “unbreakable patterns” if you insist.)

          If you do something dangerous that endangers others, objectively, that should create a necessary punishment, but it doesn’t.

          From whence came that “should”? Let’s remember you think that religion just came from humans. How did humans get said idea of “should”? It doesn’t seem to make any evolutionary sense. Unless you mean that evolution will ultimately get us to the point of instant punishment—or much nearer? Maybe I can kinda-sorta squeeze your statement out of the evopsych reasoning in The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life—but it’d take a bit of work and I’m not sure I could do it.

          That asshole still keeps trying to contact me every couple of years, even though I never write back.

          Yikes, sorry to hear that.

          Do you really think life is complex to the excruciating ends you keep going, or could it just be we’re animals, we’re social animals, maybe socializing is hard for you, and you keep complaining that searching for the pieces of the puzzle of your deity makes life more difficult for you.

          I suspect that socializing IRL was hard for me (it isn’t anymore) and socializing with radically different people online is still hard for me (but our many running conversations shows it’s getting easier), because of the incredible amount of deception that goes on in social interactions. The Elephant in the Brain is helping me understand some of this, although I had derived a bunch of that by now. We humans are really, really fucking good at deception. Funnily enough, my wife and I just finished the Star Trek VOY episodes Equinox & Equinox, Part II, where deception plays a major role. The most deceptive being is the hologram doctor, who can have his ethics subroutines deleted with a few button presses. As a human watching the episode, the subtle changes in behavior seem rather obvious; that the crew didn’t pick up on them was a bit fake, although the stress of the situation mitigated that error. But the terribleness at detecting deception throughout the two episodes is a testament to how good humans are at detecting it.

          What I surmise is that I just didn’t learn much about deception from my family. I didn’t learn to constantly understand others’ actions through the lens of various kinds of deceptions they might be trying to pull off. I kept taking them at their literal word, and they used that as a tool to emotionally abuse me. Middle school was miserable. However, it did help me see what Trump was doing almost from the get-go. He was acting as one of the cool kids in middle school. The fact that so few Democrats saw that is still disturbing to me. The manipulative cool-kid thing _works_. Our society has not learned to punish it. Indeed, we happily promote psycopaths to CEO status and now (if not before—probably before, too) to President of the most powerful nation in the world. (see e.g. the Harvard Business Review article Why Bad Guys Win at Work)

          We humans thrive on deception. Unwittingly and at the cost of great suffering, I was very slow at learning this. For a long time, I actually believed most of what other people said about me and to me. And you surely know how many horrible things we humans say about each other and to each other. I have since learned that many of those things are supposed to either bounce off or only stick to some exterior persona. Now, I know I could make my life easier by shutting up and playing the deception game. I could probably get really good at it. What do you think I should do?

          Do you think atheism is just too simple to be true?

          If ‘atheism’ ⇒ “no” to Are there laws which govern minds?, then I’m going to search for patterns for a while longer before I give up—especially since I’ve made such massive progress lately (see above on deception). If you mean something different by ‘atheism’, then I have no idea how to answer your question. A lot of atheists say that ‘atheism’ is just a simple lack of belief in any deity; if so, then yes it’s too simple to be true because there are discoverable laws of nature. 🙂

        • Kodie

          There’s way too much here. I start with the part where “should” comes into play…

          My idea is that if objective morality were like other laws like gravity, doing something bad should have a necessary consequence, but it doesn’t. I got here because you keep insisting that you test the passages of the bible you like for truth, utility, or whatever you think you’re doing with your remaining precious years left on the planet before you die forever, because you think there’s a treasure if you dig diligently enough.

          You’re getting some favorable results, or confirmation bias, from testing whatever you like about the bible, and that makes the bible true, and that makes god more likely to be real if you are satisfied with the results of the tests. But it sounds like you are also struggling and, as accused, not self-aware. Life on earth is difficult for Luke Breuer, so perhaps trying to make contact with your new best friend, who happens to be invisible but dishes out miscellaneous life skills, makes you feel like you’re productive. I contend that it wastes your fucking life, and our lives are all shortened as well by helping you through your struggle.

          We don’t all care to keep having this conversation, but you are eternally troubled by your beliefs that our beliefs must be challenged by whatever it is you think you’re doing, and do you ever gain any ground? Have you, in so many years, gotten any steps ahead in your quest?

        • My idea is that if objective morality were like other laws like gravity, doing something bad should have a necessary consequence, but it doesn’t.

          How could objective morality be both like laws like gravity, but not be just another force? My own answer is that there’d be some teleological component which is explicitly missing from the laws of nature [as currently formulated]. But a teleological law could have transient “violations” which get ironed out in time. That’s how it would be different from … mechanistic laws. Or am I missing something?

          I got here because you keep insisting that you test the passages of the bible you like for truth, utility, or whatever you think you’re doing with your remaining precious years left on the planet before you die forever, because you think there’s a treasure if you dig diligently enough.

          Erm, I’m also doing things like building tools for scientists:

          https://imgur.com/UuXcy0I

          https://github.com/labreuer/LeptonModule/tree/master/software/raspberrypi_video

          Are you so confident that my explorations into e.g. the Bible and what it says about human nature and social nature are guaranteed to be net drains on my doing stuff like the above? If so, from whence do you get such amazing confidence?

          You’re getting some favorable results, or confirmation bias, from testing whatever you like about the bible, and that makes the bible true, and that makes god more likely to be real if you are satisfied with the results of the tests.

          No to the underlined. And no to what follows. You’re employing atrocious logic. I wouldn’t even call it “logic”, myself.

          But it sounds like you are also struggling and, as accused, not self-aware.

          Ok.

          We don’t all care to keep having this conversation …

          See:

          S: Let’s all stop talking about him. It’s what he wants. It seems to be what he wants most.

          LB: Thank you, yes. It saddens me how incapable so many atheists seem to be at targeting only a person’s beliefs and not the person’s character.

          Maybe consider what Susan requested?

          Have you, in so many years, gotten any steps ahead in your quest?

          Yes. The huge discussion I had with Ignorant Amos about Deut 12:32–13:5 was a major step forward. My current conversation with @Ficino:disqus about “what would constitute evidence of God’s existence” is also very helpful. My conversation with you around “If there’s a god, the bible is a sad method of trying to communicate with humans.” could also be a major step forward—I’ve orbited the issue a few times with other atheists, but they’ve always run out of gas super-fast. My discussion with @Ryan_M1:disqus on Fitch’s paradox of knowability was fascinating and a huge step forward. I’ve never gotten a response like this before from an atheist:

          RM: Unless Bradley, or others, want to commit themselves to Plato’ Theory of Recollection, denying something seems necessary. Or perhaps we can reject the paradox as having something wrong with it, but not commit ourselves to saying exactly what’s wrong with it.

          Is this strategy a bad one? We see that gravity and relativity don’t mix well together, so we say something must be wrong, but we can’t pinpoint exactly what’s wrong. I think from this we see it is sometimes permissible to reject an argument without rejecting any premise explicitly not rejecting the argument as invalid.

          An appeal to mystery from an atheist? Holy shit. So yeah, I think I’ve advanced quite a few steps just in the past 12 months. Even in the last 4!

        • Kodie

          I’m pretty sure you are studying the bible to the exclusion of everything else, namely, the extremely plausible notion that it doesn’t contain anything special, which, if you test it, you arrive at a supernatural imaginary friend. You’re a human animal, you obviously missed the part of childhood where human animals begin socialization. I’m sorry if you were locked in a cage and homeschooled, but you sound weird. Maybe that didn’t happen to you, but when you try to fix yourself, try to “model” how other people are, that’s something people usually do when they’re young and don’t obsess over when they’re older. Not everyone fits in so well, but it’s healthy to get over it and stop being a chore.

        • Our basic thesis—that we are strategically blind to key aspects of our motives—has been around in some form or another for millennia. It’s been put forward not only by poets, playwrights, and philosophers, but also by countless wise old souls, at least when you catch them in private and in the right sort of mood. And yet the thesis still seems to us neglected in scholarly writings; you can read a mountain of books and still miss it. (The Elephant in the Brain, ix)

        • Kodie

          I think when you think you see god in normal things, you’re the delusional one.

        • Where have I said/​implied/​presupposed that I “see god in normal things”? I don’t ever recall doing so because I’m pretty sure I never have. I tend to have a bit of an adverse reaction to people doing that.

        • Greg G.

          I read the OT as teaching the Israelites about morality encoded in reality.

          Romans 7:5 (NRSV)5 While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

          Passions are caused by the law?

          Romans 7:6-7 (NRSV)6 But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. 7 What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

          Paul thinks the OT law was to identify sins. Why would one think coveting was sinful unless it was written down somewhere?

          Coveting is not inherently wrong. If it motivates one to steal, the stealing is wrong. If it motivates one to work for the desired things, it is a good thing.

          Basic morality is common knowledge wherever you go. It doesn’t need to be written down.

          When a person deals with known people, a cheater becomes known and people stop dealing with the person. It’s a bad idea to take advantage of people who know you because they learn from it. As population density increases, a person may be forced to deal with strangers. A stranger can cheat lots of strangers. So a law is needed to enforce punishment as “an ounce of prevention.”

          But the priest class can make up sins like coveting to supplement their income by making people pay for harmless things that people often do.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I read the OT as teaching the Israelites about morality encoded in reality. Back then, they wouldn’t have understood a reality that operates 100% independent of deity.

          Who cares…especially if it gets much of it wrong…or omits much that is important.

          However, as I’ve excerpted several times to you by now, the OT has YHWH being much less active than the gods in contemporary material.

          And you place a lot of importance on this for some reason.

          The Pirahã people of the Amazon have no concept of supreme being.

          According to Everett, the Pirahã have no concept of a supreme spirit or god, and they lost interest in Jesus when they discovered that Everett had never seen him. They require evidence based on personal experience for every claim made. However, they do believe in spirits that can sometimes take on the shape of things in the environment. These spirits can be jaguars, trees, or other visible, tangible things including people.(pp112,134–142) Everett reported one incident where the Pirahã said that “Xigagaí, one of the beings that lives above the clouds, was standing on a beach yelling at us, telling us that he would kill us if we go into the jungle.” Everett and his daughter could see nothing and yet the Pirahã insisted that Xigagaí was still on the beach.(ppxvi-xvii)

          They seem to have things sussed in the way you appear to want.

          Daniel Everett states that one of the strongest Pirahã values is no coercion; you simply don’t tell other people what to do. There appears to be no social hierarchy; the Pirahã have no formal leaders. Their social system can thus be labeled as primitive communism, in common with many other hunter-gatherer bands in the world, although rare in the Amazon because of a history of agriculture before Western contact (see history of the Amazon).

        • Who cares…especially if it gets much of it wrong…or omits much that is important.

          Science advances from ‘wrong’ → ‘less wrong’. You respect science. And yet you won’t accept that happening in any other domain?

          And you place a lot of importance on this for some reason.

          Yep; if you don’t judge the effect a text would have on a population in their context, you don’t understand the meaning of the text.

          The Pirahã people of the Amazon have no concept of supreme being.

          Irrelevant.

          They seem to have things sussed in the way you appear to want.

          Lack of exploring the world (e.g. science) goes against what I believe humans are designed for. I see no reason to believe that coercion is required to do science, although it is often used.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Science advances from ‘wrong’ → ‘less wrong’. You respect science. And yet you won’t accept that happening in any other domain?

          Yeah…but science doesn’t start from the premise of a perfect know everything, can do anything ahead of time position. So your analogy of OT and it’s alleged source, to science, is a false equivalence. The good stuff the OT teaches about morality doesn’t need to come from the mouth of a deity, and the bad or ridiculous stuff it teaches wouldn’t. Other cultures have had the same moralities from their gods.

          Yep; if you don’t judge the effect a text would have on a population in their context, you don’t understand the meaning of the text.

          The text’s effect on that population in their context AND for that time, is just that. We don’t need it today. And we ignore the majority of it as just that, something that is relevant for a particular population, in a particular place and time. The stuff that is relevant to us today, doesn’t need to come from a particular religious text or another. As for the meaning of that text. It interpreted differently by different folk to do all sorts of shit, both good and bad.

          Irrelevant.

          Ya think? The example of the Pirahã people demonstrates that there is no necessity to posit supreme beings in order to get by.

          Lack of exploring the world (e.g. science) goes against what I believe humans are designed for. I see no reason to believe that coercion is required to do science, although it is often used.

          Yet you punt to the OT as something special. How much “exploring” were the superstitious authors of the OT doing science…it doesn’t read that way to me with all the crazy in it.

          What do you mean by coercion? How does that jive with your anti-science Christian fraternity? They’d have us back in the Dark Ages if they had the power to do so, and they take their lead from the same set of texts you place upon a pedestal. Why are they wrong and you are right?

        • Yeah…but science doesn’t start from the premise of a perfect know everything, can do anything ahead of time position.

          I don’t see what that has to do with anything. God might know everything but we certainly don’t. God might not have to learn anything but we certainly do. God might not be wrong about everything but we certainly are—often.

          The good stuff the OT teaches about morality doesn’t need to come from the mouth of a deity …

          I never said it “need[s] to”, in the sense of having some logical proof or demonstration of vanishing probability of any alternative. However, I do find it interesting that we moderns, with all of our science and technology, remain so deluded about ourselves—especially when the Bible seems to get a lot more right than we do. I’m disinclined to merely hand-wave that away with “well there were wise people back then”. There have to be reasons why we moderns insist on remaining so self-deluded.

          Other cultures have had the same moralities from their gods.

          Same? I’ll accept “similar”, but sometimes the differences make all the difference—like humans being created in the image of God vs. as slaves of the gods.

          The text’s effect on that population in their context AND for that time, is just that. We don’t need it today.

          Ah, do we just need more power over reality (including other humans) and then everything will be A-OK?

          The stuff that is relevant to us today, doesn’t need to come from a particular religious text or another.

          Those moralities derived from “universals” don’t seem to be all that potent. It’s as if our particularities matter. Or do you think that the world will be a better place if people just do “what feels right”? Perhaps they need to all adopt what you think is “universal”?

          The example of the Pirahã people demonstrates that there is no necessity to posit supreme beings in order to get by.

          And that is relevant, why? Surely you aren’t attacking a straw man.

          Yet you punt to the OT as something special.

          Yes, it’s fabulously less deluded about human nature and societal nature than we are. To repeat:

          Our basic thesis—that we are strategically blind to key aspects of our motives—has been around in some form or another for millennia. It’s been put forward not only by poets, playwrights, and philosophers, but also by countless wise old souls, at least when you catch them in private and in the right sort of mood. And yet the thesis still seems to us neglected in scholarly writings; you can read a mountain of books and still miss it. (The Elephant in the Brain, ix)

          What gives?

          How much “exploring” were the superstitious authors of the OT doing science…it doesn’t read that way to me with all the crazy in it.

          I think they were struggling with the basics what, if you don’t get right, means your nation will never do much interesting science.

          What do you mean by coercion?

          That’s a complicated topic; I was trying to match the use in your excerpt. If you think I’ve got it wrong, then please elaborate on what you think is meant in that excerpt by ‘coercion’.

          How does that jive with your anti-science Christian fraternity?

          lulz

          They’d have us back in the Dark Ages if they had the power to do so, and they take their lead from the same set of texts you place upon a pedestal. Why are they wrong and you are right?

          That’s a massive tangent. Suffice it to say that scholars reject the conflict thesis.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I don’t see what that has to do with anything. God might know everything but we certainly don’t. God might not have to learn anything but we certainly do. God might not be wrong about everything but we certainly are—often.

          It was you that made the comparison of science vis a vis not accepting what happens in “other domains”. I pointed to another domain as God believe to show why at least one other domain, can’t be compared to you science progression from wrong to less wrong, when science gets things right of course. The god hypothesis doesn’t start from wrong to less wrong. Perfection can’t be wrong. Omniscience would know if it was going to be wrong and omnipotence would negate such a proposition.

          I don’t need to know everything, I only need to learn something, and God only needs to be wrong about one thing, in order to demonstrate it is non-existant. Btw, we are not wrong about everything…never…let alone often.

          Now, can you point to anything in the bible where God gets something wrong?

          Is it your assertion that God starts from wrong going to being less wrong?

          I never said it “need[s] to”, in the sense of having some logical proof or demonstration of vanishing probability of any alternative.

          I never said you did. I’m pointing out that is, that if no god is required, then the concept is superfluous to human morality. Other worldviews have managed okay without YahwehJesus.

          However, I do find it interesting that we moderns, with all of our science and technology, remain so deluded about ourselves—especially when the Bible seems to get a lot more right than we do.

          What the Bible gets right has come from humans. And I don’t see where the Bible gets so much more right than we do, and even if it did, what is wrong with it relegates that good to second position.

          I’m disinclined to merely hand-wave that away with “well there were wise people back then”. There have to be reasons why we moderns insist on remaining so self-deluded.

          Self-deluded about what? Are folk today any more or less self-deluded than our ancestors, or does it just manifest differently and is more noticeable now because of the nature of things around us? The folk back then were no wiser than the folk today, and they were every bit self-deluded.

          Self-delusion is an evolutionary trait apparently.

          How Our Delusions Keep Us Sane: The Psychology of Our Essential Self-Enhancement Bias

          The desire to see yourself as better than average and more competent, skilled, intelligent, and beautiful than you truly are is likely embedded in your psyche as a by-product of millions of years of forging ahead against the same odds of survival that have erased 99 percent of all species that once roamed this planet.

          https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/04/david-mcraney-self-enchancement-bias/

          But there is no doubt it has had a negative effect going forward.

          What we see around the world is that places that move away from superstitious beliefs tend to do well. While in those areas if fervent belief, things are a lot less rosy in the garden. Even within countries that holds.

          Same? I’ll accept “similar”, but sometimes the differences make all the difference…

          I’m not interested in the differences. Other religions can point to differences and claim superiority. I’m more interested in the things that are the same, or similar with a difference that is negligible to service you pedantic semantic sensibilities. I just need the one example, though there are more, for my point to stand. So I’ll point to the Ethics of Reciprocity. It is not original to Judaism and is older.

          http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc2.htm.

          …like humans being created in the image of God vs. as slaves of the gods.

          The littlest thing impresses you. The ancient Hebrews were every bit slaves of their god as anyone else at the time. The barbaric and very often ridiculous rules that had to be upheld so as not to upset their god is testament to that. But regardless of any of that…image of god, or slave to god, so what if the gods in question are imaginary?

          Ah, do we just need more power over reality (including other humans) and then everything will be A-OK?

          Whose pulling the non sequitur now?

          Those moralities derived from “universals” don’t seem to be all that potent. It’s as if our particularities matter. Or do you think that the world will be a better place if people just do “what feels right”? Perhaps they need to all adopt what you think is “universal”?

          As potent as those moralities placed in the mouths of deities and then laid out holy books. How did the human race manage to get by without these recent edicts? The majority of folk think killing others for no good reason is bad. We had this idea prior to Judaism, and even though according to the Judaic god killing others without good reason was bad, it still allowed exceptions for no good reason by todays standards. We don’t just do “what feels right”…at least no more than the Jews of the OT did, regardless of the rules.

        • Pofarmer

          God might know everything but we certainly don’t. God might not have to
          learn anything but we certainly do. God might not be wrong about
          everything but we certainly are—often.

          How does this even make any sense? How do you have an intelligence that senses and knows everything, apparently without a material existence? How do you have an intelligence that doesn’t have to learn, that automatically knows-everything? How do you have an intelligence that is never wrong, about anything, and is “immaterial.” ??????? How is any of this supposed to frickin work?

        • I pointed to another domain as God believe to show why at least one other domain, can’t be compared to you science progression from wrong to less wrong, when science gets things right of course. The god hypothesis doesn’t start from wrong to less wrong. Perfection can’t be wrong.

          You’re conflating God’s nature and our understanding of God. The latter can move from ‘wrong’ → ‘less wrong’. The same happens for humans getting to know other humans. Unless you’re an arrogant bastard, in which case you might never revise your opinion of someone else because you’re never wrong. The world could do with fewer such people.

          Btw, we are not wrong about everything…never…let alone often.

          If we were wrong about everything, wouldn’t we lose our tether to reality and thus have no recourse other than radical skepticism? As to your “often”; I find that rather dubious; why think that humans in 3000 will see reality more similarly to us, than we see humans in 1000? Furthermore, works like The Elephant in the Brain, Perplexities of Consciousness, Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government, and Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory seem to contest that “often”.

          Now, can you point to anything in the bible where God gets something wrong?

          I reject verbal plenary inspiration.

          Is it your assertion that God starts from wrong going to being less wrong?

          No. Our understanding of him certainly could, though.

          I’m pointing out that is, that if no god is required, then the concept is superfluous to human morality. Other worldviews have managed okay without YahwehJesus.

          Needs … for what? You pointed out the Pirahã, but they don’t do science. If you have sufficiently pathetic aspirations, you don’t “need” much at all.

          What the Bible gets right has come from humans.

          Given that you’ve provided zero way to distinguish “from humans” and “from humans+God”, your statement here is meaningless. Contrast this to F = GmM/r^2, which excludes virtually every conceivable observation we could make of reality. It predicts that everything happens in a very precise way. On the other hand, your “from humans” may well have nigh infinite flexibility. If so, that’s the antithesis of scientific reasoning.

          And I don’t see where the Bible gets so much more right than we do, and even if it did, what is wrong with it relegates that good to second position.

          It certainly militates against the majority of scholarship as described here:

          Our basic thesis—that we are strategically blind to key aspects of our motives—has been around in some form or another for millennia. It’s been put forward not only by poets, playwrights, and philosophers, but also by countless wise old souls, at least when you catch them in private and in the right sort of mood. And yet the thesis still seems to us neglected in scholarly writings; you can read a mountain of books and still miss it. (The Elephant in the Brain, ix)

          As to your complaints about what is bad, I say we humans need to be reminded about our previous selves because it’s really easy to regress. The twentieth century made that blindingly clear. Then again, some really are blind and thus cannot see it.

          Self-deluded about what? Are folk today any more or less self-deluded than our ancestors, or does it just manifest differently and is more noticeable now because of the nature of things around us? The folk back then were no wiser than the folk today, and they were every bit self-deluded.

          Take a gander at the four works I hyperlinked above; two are peer-reviewed papers, the other two are from university presses. If science were so awesome when it comes to domains where human agency matters, I would expect a very profound “less self-deluded than our ancestors”.

          Self-delusion is an evolutionary trait apparently.

          Cool reference. But don’t atheists like you claim we ought to purge absolutely ever single illusion and delusion from our beings? If not, which ones are “ok”? If so, then where is the empirical evidence of our making headway in this domain?

          What we see around the world is that places that move away from superstitious beliefs tend to do well.

          Does this take into account declining birthrates and what this means for those genetic populations as one predicts forward several to many generations? Evolutionarily speaking, declining birthrates, combined with high birthrates elsewhere, seems like it could bode well if/​when the few stop being able to sufficiently defend themselves against the many. Ebla sounds like it was pretty cool, and yet most people have never heard of it. If the same happens to those propounding their awesomeness in our day and age, how ought we judge them? Would “do well” really be the right description? This is all hypothetical of course—maybe they’ll develop an anti-aging cure which will let them live forever.

          I’m not interested in the differences.

          Then you’re being unscientific on this matter and we can ax this tangent.

          LB: …like humans being created in the image of God vs. as slaves of the gods.

          IA: The littlest thing impresses you.

          This surprised me; I shall note in my disqus_links.txt that you consider this difference a/​the “littlest thing”.

          The ancient Hebrews were every bit slaves of their god as anyone else at the time.

          This appears to be a rather bare assertion. And contradicted by stuff like:

              Israel’s sociopolitical egalitarian mode of life, involving an entire populace of formerly oppressed peoples, was unique in its explicitness and in its spatiotemporal effectiveness. Admittedly, two centuries is not a long period in terms of the millennia of ancient Near Eastern history, but the relevant point in my view is that we do not know of any other egalitarian structure that came into autonomous existence in historic times in that region. Obviously the base of the Israelite social revolution lay in the social unrest running as an undercurrent through the ancient Near East, surfacing only indirectly in literature and official documents that reflect the viewpoint of the rulers rather than of the ruled. Indeed, it was the concentrating and heightening in early Israel of forms of social conflict elsewhere diffused in the Near East that gives the necessary field of evidence for forming an historical-dialectical, causal and comparative model of Israel’s religion. This “concentration” and “heightening” of social conflict in early Israel is evident in the fact that only there, to our knowledge, did an egalitarian tribal life wrest control from imperial-feudal hands and succeed in establishing a sustained vocal alternative social order. In the case of Israel alone in the ancient Near East did the struggle of the antimorphemes of urban statism and egalitarian countryside issue for a time in such a clear and decisive provisional victory of the countryside over the city. (The Tribes of Yahweh, 593–594)

          Do you consider the above to qualify as “every bit slaves of their god as anyone else at the time”?

          But regardless of any of that…image of god, or slave to god, so what if the gods in question are imaginary?

          I think it’d be interesting to explore the difference between:

               (1) none of the gods being imaginary
               (2) some of the gods being imaginary
               (3) all of the gods being imaginary

          How would we tell the difference, from this remove from history? I’m not willing to say that people can believe just anything; that would provide a “no” answer to Are there laws which govern minds? and I don’t accept that.

          IA: The text’s effect on that population in their context AND for that time, is just that. We don’t need it today.

          LB: Ah, do we just need more power over reality (including other humans) and then everything will be A-OK?

          IA: Whose pulling the non sequitur now?

          You seem to be rather confident about what we don’t need today; I’m attempting to cast doubt on it by suggesting that we need more than scientific and technological knowledge, today.

          How did the human race manage to get by without these recent edicts? The majority of folk think killing others for no good reason is bad.

          Ummm, Hitler and the Hutus and everyone else who has committed genocide has had “reasons” they thought were “good” or at least, “necessary”. What was rather shocking in the 20th century was that the most Enlightened nation on the planet could quickly slip into genocidal activity. Maybe some absolute rules about not mass-murdering other humans would be a good thing. (The OT speaks more of expulsion than extermination, and yet the Germans felt a need to exterminate—they were indeed worse and I think that might be the point. Gotta crush evil, amirite?)

          We had this idea prior to Judaism, and even though according to the Judaic god killing others without good reason was bad …

          Oh do you mean like Hammurabi’s Code, where the penalty for killing a slave is one-third of a mina? According to this page, that’s 20 shekels or 2.4 months of wage labor.

          We don’t just do “what feels right”…at least no more than the Jews of the OT did, regardless of the rules.

          To the first half, I’m going to side with MacIntyre against you:

          For one way of framing my contention that morality is not what it once was is just to say that to a large degree people now think, talk, and act as if emotivism were true, no matter what their avowed theoretical standpoint might be. Emotivism has become embodied in our culture.

              What is the key to the social content of emotivism? It is the fact that emotivism entails the obliteration of any genuine distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations. (After Virtue, 22–23)

          To the second, at times you’re right: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6, 21:25) At times you’re wrong, like when Nehemiah convinced slaveowners to free their slaves (Neh 5). But if you’re “not interested in the differences” here as well, there’s not much more to say.

        • Kodie

          And yet so much of whatever the bible influences people to do is hide from science.

        • When you look at the total existence of Christians across spacetime, the picture looks rather different. Certain groups, however, do match what you say quite well.

        • Kodie

          Haven’t you seen Christians say “we’re not all like that”, or “that’s not a true Christian”, or “nobody can be an atheist if they were a true Christian in the first place”? It’s the deep emotional satisfaction of certainty that Christians across spacetime feel, with no distinction. Your religiosity resides in and is as compelling to you as some racist homophobic Creationist’s is. At least they are more faithful to that magical book, whereas you make a lot of tiptoeing rationalizations for testing the parts you like, and so far finding them adequately helpful or useful or true. Meanwhile, you also seem to be miserable to a certain extent, and I don’t know why the bible isn’t as helpful to you as you think it should be.

        • There’s a simple answer to No True Scotsman: cluster Christians by their causal powers, like science does. To your claim of “across spacetime”, I see no evidence or reasoning which supports such an extrapolation. I do believe you live around and maybe were raised among people who match your description. I’m shocked that you paint my testing scripture in a bad light. I will readjust those expectations. Any misery I put on display is due to a lack of knowledge and wisdom, but those limits are—thank God!—not fixed.

        • Kodie

          If you take god out of the bible and just follow all the rules, of course there will be different results from following this or that rule, socially or psychologically. Sometimes, it only depends what your locals agree to, so not eating pork or shellfish (it’s in the same part of the bible as homophobia), well, there’s probably some benefit or at least neutrality to never eating pork or shellfish that is not as neutral if you order people not to be gay. Of course it’s easy and works terrifically in a community where no one is gay, right, probably easier in a community where no one is gay than a community where someone gets a taste for bacon. That’s probably why Christians can eat pork and shellfish, because it’s impossible (and generally unnecessary) not to, but Buddhists don’t eat animals at all, I think. For me, it’s pretty simple to avoid gay sex because I’m not gay, and most people aren’t, so it’s pretty easy for a community to assume nobody else is gay if being so is the subject of ridicule and a significant but minor percentage of people have to struggle with lying vs. being homosexual in a community that forbids both. Is honesty better or worse, and what does better or worse mean?

          I’m not against testing scripture for utility, but it won’t get you access to god.

        • So … the answer to Are there laws which govern minds? is “no”? Not sure what else you’re trying to say.

        • Kodie

          I’m saying the bible isn’t any indication of laws that govern minds better than a biology book.

        • Can you give me an example of such a “biology book”?

        • Kodie

          Anything about evolution.

        • Why don’t you suggest to me a book about evolution that discusses, in any way, “laws which govern minds”? Remember, I’m the idiot theist who needs to be taught things.

        • Kodie

          I didn’t know you’re incapable of research.

        • It just sounded like you’d already done the research. After all, I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of books on evolution don’t deal much with “laws which govern minds”. Also, I’m suspicious of a lot of early evopsych; it seemed too easy to write just-so stories with no clear attempts to falsify. I’m not aware of the later stuff being much better, but I haven’t investigated it much.

          Now, perhaps you are just talking out of your ass when you wrote:

          K: I’m saying the bible isn’t any indication of laws that govern minds better than a biology book.

          ? Perhaps you don’t actually know that, based on any reading of any biology books?

        • Kodie

          I still don’t know what you mean by laws which govern minds, if it’s different than human behavior.

        • Weird; you seemed to, here:

          LB: So … the answer to Are there laws which govern minds? is “no”? Not sure what else you’re trying to say.

          K: I’m saying the bible isn’t any indication of laws that govern minds better than a biology book.

          I explain at the Philosophy.SE hyperlink, which I’ll reproduce explicitly: https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/8595/are-there-laws-which-govern-minds

        • Kodie

          Then the answer is no.

        • Greg G.

          Daniel Everett states that one of the strongest Pirahã values is no coercion; you simply don’t tell other people what to do.

          Perhaps they have substituted a game of Simon Xigagaí Says.

  • Kevin K

    I’m gonna go with 3.

    Partly because, as I’ve said with increasing regularity recently … magic ain’t real.

    • British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke formulated three adages that are known as Clarke’s three laws, of which the third law is the best known and most widely cited:

           1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
           2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
           3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “magic”, given 3.

      • RichardSRussell

        “Any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God.”—Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptic Society

        • Meaning … it is in principle impossible to provide evidence of God’s existence? I mean, we’re supposed to always apply Ockham’s razor in such situations, right?

        • RichardSRussell

          Meaning in practice that people are always ready, willing, and able to be snowed by gosh-golly flashing-light shows.

        • How would you answer my questions if you were to ignore such people? (John Calvin also had a somewhat similar category; see his “seed of religion”.)

        • RichardSRussell

          I would deny that the 1st question is coherent in the absence of a definition (or at minimum a description) of what you’re looking for.

          As to the 2nd question, Occam’s Razor is a useful guideline, not a hard-and-fast requirement. I find it to be a subset of the more general approach that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

        • RSR:

          Any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God.

          LB: Meaning … it is in principle impossible to provide evidence of God’s existence?

          RSR: I would deny that the 1st question is coherent in the absence of a definition (or at minimum a description) of what you’re looking for.

          Hmm; are you attributing incoherence to Michael Shermer, who first used the term ‘God’ in this discussion?

          As to the 2nd question, Occam’s Razor is a useful guideline, not a hard-and-fast requirement. I find it to be a subset of the more general approach that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

          In that case, I would suggest that “as simple as possible” is purpose-relative; I can understand my car very simply if I just need to drive it and it is in good operating condition; but if I want to repair it myself or understand how it really works, tremendously greater understanding is required. With regard to God understood as creator of our reality who is good, one purpose would be to use him as a vending machine to get me more of what I [think I] want; another would be to become a better person. What is “as simple as possible” when it comes to “how to become a better person”? And yet we have a problem here, because ostensibly a sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence would help me become a better person. So, I have no idea how Shermer’s “indistinguishable” can be refuted, if the standard is “as simple as possible”.

        • RichardSRussell

          (1) I’m attributing incoherence to the entire concept of “God”, regardless of who originated it.

          (2) As to understanding anything, there must first be a demonstration that there’s something to understand; apropos of which, see Point 1.

        • (1) Ok, there is incoherence in our understanding of reality, as can be seen by contrasting the predictions of QFT and GR near black hole event horizons. Does that mean said understanding is worthless? If your answer is “no”, then why do you require 100% coherence in attempts to understand God? From another angle, what is incoherent about an intelligent, wise, powerful being creating our reality? We can imagine humans doing so with digital, sentient, sapient beings. There is Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Argument. If the incoherence is merely in taking the limit to ∞, then how about we … not do that? Or rather, do it very carefully, as the scientific instrumentalists caution the scientific realists?

          (2) This is manifestly false; this can be seen in the announcement of the Higgs boson discovery, where great pains are taken to distinguish between seeing the Higgs boson because a description of the Higgs boson is encoded in the sophisticated statistical analysis, and seeing the Higgs boson because it’s actually out there. A more compact version is Avoiding the pitfalls of single particle cryo-electron microscopy: Einstein from noise. More and more, scientists are coming up with sophisticated descriptions of what they’re looking for before they are sure they found it. I’ve seen this happen with my wife’s biochemistry/​biophysics research: individual data traces are exceedingly noisy and there is a significant danger of seeing what ain’t there because it’s in your model.

        • RichardSRussell

          (1) You are confusing “incoherence” with “uncertainty”.

          incoherent (adj.) lacking coherence: such as
          a: lacking cohesion : loose
          b: lacking orderly continuity, arrangement, or relevance : inconsistent an incoherent essay
          c: lacking normal clarity or intelligibility in speech or thought incoherent with grief

          But at least with regard to quantum phenomena, we can see them in action, even if we can’t fully explain them. The concept of “God” is incoherent because nobody can point to a single thing worth examining, and nobody can even agree on what they’re supposed to be looking for, let alone defining it precisely enuf to know when they’ve found it.

          Look, if you want to contend “God is found in the laffter of children”, I’ll gladly agree that kids get the giggles. And if that’s your definition of God, OK, I’ll concede that it’s coherent and understandable and measurable. But who really believes that? It’s just a metaphor.

          (2) How is it manifestly false? In the absence of something to examine, you’re just inventing chimeras, weaving castles in the air, telling fairy tales. Surely you aren’t contending that all the actual subatomic particles and their interactions pointing to the existence of the Higgs field meant that the physicists who were looking for it had no basis whatsoever for their search?

          My point about coherence is that they had a description of what they were looking for, a good idea of how to find it, and ways of measuring it when they did. Who can seriously contend that the same can be said about God? It’s the ultimate unintelligible, indescribable concept. Even the Bible agrees that it’s the greatest mystery of all, essentially unknowable.

        • (1) You are incorrect on two counts. First, I was talking about QFT + GR (see The Final Contradiction). Second, whether an understanding refers to anything out in reality is a matter of empirical adequacy, not coherence. So feel free to show something incoherent about the idea that our reality could be a simulation run by intelligent aliens. Or … a flesh-and-blood reality created by a being who exists outside of that reality.

          (2) It was logically possible that all that work to find the Higgs boson could have failed. Physicists were quite prepared for that possibility. And yet, in the logically possible world where there is no Higgs boson, I doubt many if any physicists would have said that searching diligently for it was a waste of time. Nor would they say that the theory of the Higgs boson was a “castle in the air”. Your criterion fails when applied to scientific reasoning. Were you to weaken your criterion so it doesn’t fail that way, I suspect it wouldn’t do the work you intend it to do in this conversation. Shall we explore the matter?

          (3) I don’t have a complete definition of God (nobody even has this of reality), but I think I can address your “description of what they were looking for”, at least via a facet. I believe that God wants us to become better, both with respect to science-like competence but also with respect to goodness. The more we are self-deceived about ourselves, the harder it is to make progress here—believed falsehoods and refused-to-believe truths stymie progress in every domain of inquiry. The evidence indicates that we are really bad along both dimensions; see for example The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life and Perplexities of Consciousness. If I’m right about God, then surely he has provided ways out of this mess. Suppose that I can amass quite a few such ways. What exactly do you think that would demonstrate?

        • RichardSRussell

          I think it would demonstrate that you don’t need God at all — never have — and can get by just fine using your own brain, as long as you can get past being “self-deceived” about where your ideas come from.

        • Well yeah, I can always take ideas that were actually given to me (at least in part) and claim that they are ≈ 100% my own. Our “great man” theory of history basically does that. We pretend that Galileo was a giant among men, when actually there was a tremendous amount of preparatory work he relied on and if he didn’t build a telescope and observe the phases of Venus, someone else soon would have. The Babylon 5 episode Comes the Inquisitor is great—unsettling, but great—on this matter.

          If I do the above—and if humans collectively do the above—then it would appear that God’s only option is to stop giving knowledge, wisdom, or grace to us. He can still interact with the poor who are only religious because they’re poor (they’re generally more interested in a full stomach than believing it was all them), but he would have to let the humans who think they’re awesome exhaust the knowledge and wisdom given them and find out that actually they’re not an infinite source of the stuff—David Deutsch be damned.

          You seem to have adopted/​designed the perfect epistemology for prohibiting any evidence from convincing us that God wants to make us more than we currently are. There can be evidence of raw power, but we Moderns got into our pickle by amassing power without wisdom. Only the insane person keeps asking for more, expecting the result to be any different than it was before.

        • RichardSRussell

          You’re missing the point, Luke. You keep purporting to speak for what God wants or what God’s options are, when all these ideas originate in your own brain (perhaps planted there by other humans but certainly not by some imaginary being), no matter how much you pretend otherwise. God isn’t giving us any knowledge or wisdom or whatever “grace” might be; to the extent that we have any of it, we’ve earned it ourselves.

          If you think otherwise, please explain how “God” communicates with you to pass along this knowledge and wisdom. E-mail? Telephone? Text message? Postcards from Barcelona? Giant finger in the sky?

        • You keep purporting to speak for what God wants or what God’s options are …

          For one understanding of God I think is a plausible interpretation of the Bible as a whole, yes. You’re always welcome to question that interpretation. But you do have to obey the laws of logic, and I’ll have more issues the more you deviate from empirical reality as we know it in talking about what God “would” do. That is, if you cannot use claims of what God “would” do to make the world suck less, I will be awfully skeptical that those claims are worthy of consideration.

          God isn’t giving us any knowledge or wisdom or whatever “grace” might be; to the extent that we have any of it, we’ve earned it ourselves.

          That certainly is an option. But how do you know it’s true?

          If you think otherwise, please explain how “God” communicates with you to pass along this knowledge and wisdom. E-mail? Telephone? Text message? Postcards from Barcelona? Giant finger in the sky?

          Why is knowing the mechanism a prerequisite? We don’t even know how humans come up with hypotheses—else we’d have full-blown AI doing massive amounts of science for us. What would be important is having some sense of what ideas came from oneself and what ones didn’t. Or parts of ideas.

        • RichardSRussell

          Why is knowing the mechanism a prerequisite?

          Because you keep claiming you know what “God” wants. How?

          I can point you to classes I’ve taken, books I’ve read, shows I’ve watched, people I’ve talked to, etc. to explain where I got most of my ideas from. There is a mechanism. There is a method. What’s yours?

        • Because you keep claiming you know what “God” wants. How?

          No, I don’t “know”; see the first paragraph of my previous reply. How I’ve come up with the best understanding I can (which could be completely wrong) is a really long story. Part of it which might be unusual is that I try to take a “design perspective” on reality, with regard to how I think it was meant to operate, how it is broken, and how to make it a little less broken. To the extent that I can continue to apply and enhance that knowledge to make the world suck less, I have reason to think I’ve keyed in on something. It’s a very imperfect guess—befitting of a very finite being.

          LB: Why is knowing the mechanism a prerequisite? We don’t even know how humans come up with hypotheses—else we’d have full-blown AI doing massive amounts of science for us. What would be important is having some sense of what ideas came from oneself and what ones didn’t. Or parts of ideas.

          RSR: I can point you to classes I’ve taken, books I’ve read, shows I’ve watched, people I’ve talked to, etc. to explain where I got most of my ideas from. There is a mechanism. There is a method. What’s yours?

          The underlined, applied to myself and others. The result is of course susceptible to Shermer’s “indistinguishable”, but I could also be a sophisticated bot instead of a human. Now, for anything I learn and then apply in reality to good empirical result, we can always ask whether I somehow got it from other humans and just don’t realize it. Well, if we’ve not learned how to distinguish between what God says and what humans say (“you thought I was one like yourself”), one option is for God to largely stop speaking, and see if we can solve our problems on our own. I’ve been rather concerned with this as of late; I think we have a new trahison des clercs on our hands. When I strain to figure out what the missing pieces might be, sometimes I get clues which are plausibly from God. I’d obviously prefer a stronger signal and one which would piss off Joshua (Numbers 11:24—30), but preening arrogance seems to be the theme for the last N centuries. It’s nigh impossible to teach an arrogant person something new, except maybe through enough pain and suffering.

        • Kodie

          You’re admitting you don’t know how brains work, leaving room for “god” to communicate with you, transmitting new messages to your brain about how to think and what to think about. Holy shit, you are the most complicating person I’ve ever interacted with, probably. Of course you don’t think you’re the author of your own meandering thoughts.

        • You’re admitting you don’t know how brains work,

          Nobody does.

          leaving room for “god” to communicate with you,

          Yep, also telepathy. (I just find Star Trek‘s version of it reasonable; I don’t ever claim to have experienced it.)

          transmitting new messages to your brain about how to think and what to think about.

          That sounds like a pretty cool way for God to interact with us that doesn’t compromise our autonomy. I’m told that autonomy is really, really, really important. Violating it, so I’m told, is hyper-bad. Perhaps you disagree?

          Holy shit, you are the most complicating person I’ve ever interacted with, probably.

          Sorry, but I find the world to even be more complicated than I come across. I honestly don’t understand how you navigate it with the level of simplicity I see in what you write (combined with you saying that what I write is too complicated).

          Of course you don’t think you’re the author of your own meandering thoughts.

          Ummm … humans do mostly copying and imitation, and at best a tiny bit of innovation. We don’t so much stand on the shoulders of giants as on the shoulders of millions upon millions who have come before us. Pretending that it’s mostly “I” would be absurd arrogance.

        • Kodie

          See, this is a tangent. I wrote something I thought was straightforward and you start talking about other stuff.

        • Is every single part of my reply a “tangent”?

        • Kodie

          Weirdly linking posts I can still see. People know, to some extent, how brains work. I don’t know where you think your thoughts come from, but the weird thing is that you try really extra hard to figure out where god is coming from through his alleged texts, and you fuck up mine.

      • Greg G.

        Magic is indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced technology but is not technology.

        • Hey Greg, if you want to admit that the following distinction is legit—

          LB:
               (A) Having some clear criteria
                      for what constitutes “a case”.
               (B) Making “a case”.

          —I’d be happy to resume conversing. If you want to be convinced that it’s important to distinguish between (A) and (B), take a look at the Higgs boson announcement, where they detail how the crazy complex mathematical apparatus for analyzing the insane amount of particle data had to be rigorously checked to ensure that it would not see the Higgs boson in the noise. (cf Avoiding the pitfalls of single particle cryo-electron microscopy: Einstein from noise) See, to the extent that you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s easy to “see” it with the detection apparatus when you’re just seeing a reflection of the detection apparatus (which can be code as well as device). Edit: an example of this would be Creating God in your own image.

        • Greg G.

          Feel free to do as you please. I won’t stop you from not doing anything you do not want to do.

      • Kodie

        Meaning super powers, not actual powers. Who would have thought 50 years ago, you could turn off the lights by clapping your hands, but it’s not magic if you have the Clapper. It’s magic if you don’t have the Clapper.

        You get it now?

        • See the word “indistinguishable”. For a fun illustration, watch the Star Trek TNG episode Devil’s Due.

        • Kodie

          You skipped over the part where you have a relevant response. I mean, do you get what people mean by magic or not? I gave you an example.

        • It’s impossible for me to know whether the Clapper is hidden somewhere, if you are sufficiently technologically advanced over me. What that means is you can presuppose there is no magic, and that if you ever see something that appears to be magic, at most the person doing it is merely more technologically advanced than you. The “no magic” presupposition becomes unfalsifiable.

          On the other hand, it’s not hard to conceive of digital simulation where the sentient, sapient beings live in a reality with real psi powers or real magic. Isaac Asimov plays with the former rather extensively in his Foundation series. The one difference I can detect is whether the ultimate laws are personal or impersonal. But how can we possibly know that from scientific investigation? The whole premise of scientific research is that you evacuate yourself of anything uniquely you and become just like thousands or millions of other humans; you become like the lens in Galileo’s telescope, able to focus incoming light but otherwise being utterly transparent to it. If there’s no agency in the detection instrument, it’ll never detect agency (and identify it as such).

        • Kodie

          I’m not talking about a hidden clapper or some other smart home controls. I’m talking hypothetically about a magical person who can control electricity magically, like a superpower. Surely, you can imagine such a person and these powers that are not tied to the natural world?

        • When you say “natural world”, do you mean:

               (1) before quantum & general relativity
               (2) with quantum & general relativity
               (3) after quantum & general relativity

          ? After all, perhaps reality really works radically differently than we think it does. That’s why I talk about what I can “distinguish”, instead of what’s “really there”. The former assumes I’m a finite being with limited ability to know and see what’s going on; the latter assumes I’m basically God. So for example, I see nothing in our understanding of reality that prevents Star Trek-esque telepathy from happening. Perhaps you do.

        • Kodie

          Maybe someday, but you seem to have trouble grasping what I mean, like you’ve never seen a movie about superheroes, not like Batman, who does use technology like NCIS kind of shows pretend current technology can do things it can’t (so far), but like ok, Superman, he comes from another planet, or Spiderman got powers from being bitten by a radioactive spider, so these are all within “realistic” powers with a material explanation.

        • Just like none of the actors in the superhero movies actually had powers, anyone who appears to have such powers could always actually be using technology. Like Ardra in the Star Trek TNG episode Devil’s Due. You can never actually know whether it’s really magic.

          If I were to wager any guess, it’d be that people in ages past who had figured out science and technology were tempted to obscure it to concentrate that knowledge and power and thus rule over their fellow humans. So why not make it appear like magic—a la the Babylon 5 techno-mages. You can even sow some falsehood to make it really hard for anyone else to reproduce the science/​technology. Some people just have the gift, y’know?

        • Kodie

          I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of the suspension of disbelief?

          Then I think you’re just going to say maybe there are species of aliens that naturally have different abilities to fly than we do, but do you think Superman could fly in that body with just a cape? A bird or a bat or an insect can fly, some squirrels and other animals can almost fly. It’s not far-fetched except for his human form. Your idea of god is something with its own natural powers beyond what humans have, but you have no evidence.

        • I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of the suspension of disbelief?

          Is that where you make bridges out of disbelief and cable stays?

          Then I think you’re just going to say maybe there are species of aliens that naturally have different abilities to fly than we do, but do you think Superman could fly in that body with just a cape?

          I’m open to reality being extremely different from how we currently think it operates. What I take to be most valuable in naturalism is the insistence that there not be huge explanatory gaps in understanding reality better and better. That means in an important way, I’m going to insist we start with current understandings and get to anything sufficiently different by enough comprehensible steps that I don’t feel like I’ve entered the Twilight Zone. (I couldn’t get into Fringe, Warehouse 13, or Dr. Who. They were all much too “supernatural”. I can handle Babylon 5, The Orville, and Star Trek.)

          Your idea of god is something with its own natural powers beyond what humans have, but you have no evidence.

          Raw display of power is not evidence of a person but of a force.

        • Kodie

          God is describes as something like a person, so a person with strength to whip up the winds of a hurricane because he’s in a bad mood, but only during hurricane season.

        • So that tower that fell on people—is it because they were extra-bad sinners?

        • Kodie

          Of course not?

        • Good. So we can dispense with any thinking which presupposes such a ridiculous thing.

        • Kodie

          You’re the one pretending to test what the bible says.

        • How did you conclude it has only ever been “pretending”?

        • Ignorant Amos

          “Extra-bad sinners”?

          What demarcates a body as one of those, from another kind of sinner, or not a sinner at all?

          Were the circa quarter of a million deaths as a result of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami all “extra-bad sinners”? Were some just sinners caught up as collateral damage? What about the sinless?

        • Greg G.

          The conclusion to that parable (Luke 13:5) is “You will all die that way unless you repent.” Do hurricanes discriminate between repentant and unrepentant people?

        • Greg G.

          Or earthquakes near faults and tsunamis near coasts.

  • Bob Jase

    Lots of gods have come & gone, I wish I could see the last of them disappear but I’m too cynical to believe in humanity.

    • Jim Jones

      It’s just that America is a couple of generations behind other 1st world countries – plus it isn’t a 1st world country.

  • Bob White

    Perfect deity, perfect book…that needs thousands of more books to explain the perfection. /s

    • Jim Jones

      And the meanings are different in each language.

      • Bob White

        ‘sitz im leben’

  • Michael Neville

    I see this thread has become another chapter in the Luke Breuer saga. Too bad, there could have been some interesting conversations. Instead we’ll get Breuer dumping his little turds of sophistry and whining about how nobody respects him even though he’s done nothing to earn respect.

    • Agreed. I can see Luke having the potential to add interesting new ideas, but this doesn’t seem to work out in practice.

      • So questioning why you’d think the following—

        God in the Bible will make a covenant with his people, and you think that since he’s made the sale, the book will end.

        You’d think that if Jesus were the point of God’s story, if he were the person necessary for people to avoid hell, Jesus would be in Genesis 1, and it wouldn’t take a bunch of reboots and irrelevant covenants to get here.

        You’d think that an omniscient creator of the universe could convey things clearly.

        —cannot possibly “add interesting new ideas”?

        • Jim Jones
        • Kodie

          Because people wrote the bible?

        • That makes no sense; if you think people were using what “they’d think” to write the Bible, then the Bible would show what “you’d think”, unless the people changed radically in between. And it doesn’t seem like they have, when it comes to the relevant issues.

        • Kodie

          If god wrote the bible, it would be different than the culture, or it would seem we’re supposed to live backwards and primitive, except for the parts you like, which are also within the range of human concept.

        • If god wrote the bible,

          And you know this based on what empirical evidence? Or do you form beliefs not exclusively based on the empirical evidence?

        • Kodie

          It resembles an album of folk myths of a particular time and place. To one extent, people everywhere across all time have similarities, because we’re the same species, so some of the bible can be seen as timeless and placeless, but that doesn’t mean god wrote it. It means the people telling the stories were humans and imagined a god, imagined his likes and wants and emotional frailties. It reads like a superstition as though acting according to local custom puts you in god’s favor, or marks you as “wicked”.

          Humans making a society would like laws and organize social structure, so everyone followed the same mores, just like we have now, where cake bakers don’t want to serve a wedding of a gay couple and tell them to find another bakery, as though it’s that simple. They are attempting to force gay people back in the closet, so they can pretend to live in the world organized the way they want, just for example. This is their superstition – to behave in such a way so god doesn’t damn them later, but also to say, if everyone lived such a way, society would be organized to the preference of the Christian. There are other ways of organizing a society so that it runs well, like sexual freedom and no hang-ups about virginity or homosexuality.

          Some of the advice in the bible is decent for peace of mind, and may also pay in social benefits, but that’s not magical, that’s psychological and part of our make-up. That doesn’t mean there’s a god, but people still think if they do these things, god favors them, and everyone ought to follow this advice, not for its own sake, but because that good feeling means Jesus is smiling on them. That’s not how it works, you know, right?

        • K: If god wrote the bible, it would be different than the culture,

          LB: And you know this based on what empirical evidence? Or do you form beliefs not exclusively based on the empirical evidence?

          K: It resembles an album of folk myths of a particular time and place.

          Sorry, that’s not an answer of how you know what the Bible would look like if God were involved. For example, you’ve given absolutely no reason to downplay that Genesis 1 is a powerful ideological attack in Enûma Eliš. Compare:

               (I) Enûma Eliš: humans are the slaves of the gods
              (II) Genesis 1: humans are created in the image of God

          One of those is empowering to humans; the other is not. Let’s run another comparison between Israelite religious texts and surrounding:

              A second sweeping difference between ancient Near Eastern royal inscriptions and biblical narrative concerns the role of the gods in the story. We think of the Bible as nothing if not a book of religious literature, a work that proclaims God’s works in the world of ancient Israel. But when the Bible is set against the royal inscriptions, an unexpected phenomenon catches our attention. The gods are everywhere present in the royal inscriptions, and explicitly so—much more than in biblical narrative. …
              Surprisingly, by contrast, we note that the Bible makes relatively little overt mention of God in its narratives about individuals and their lives. The Moses rescue narrative is a case in point: God is nowhere explicitly mentioned. … (Created Equal, 148–149)

          Attributing more action to the gods deprives the little guy of resources for fighting back. After all, surely the elite knows what’s behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain. By narrating it in terms of the gods waging war, it seems like something larger than life, which the little guy has no chance of defeating. It’d be like you vs. Iron Man. The Bible, in contrast, brings the level down rather quickly. Elijah’s magic win on Mt. Carmel doesn’t actually net him a victory; he has to run for his life right after! Elsewhere you wrote “It’s about the authority of their invisible overlord”; this couldn’t be further from the truth. (That generalization fits at most 1–2% of the textual evidence.)

          Some of the advice in the bible is decent for peace of mind, and may also pay in social benefits, but that’s not magical, that’s psychological and part of our make-up. That doesn’t mean there’s a god, but people still think if they do these things, god favors them, and everyone ought to follow this advice, not for its own sake, but because that good feeling means Jesus is smiling on them. That’s not how it works, you know, right?

          When one sibling suddenly gets interested in a toy because another sibling just started playing with it, did the desire of the second get determined by the desire of the first? If the advertisement has a cool-looking guy smoking and a teenage boy is tempted because he wants to be like the cool guy, what’s going on? I suspect that the number of people who pursue things “for its own sake” vs. to keep up with the Joneses is vanishingly small. You know our economy would collapse otherwise, right? I would rather those people want something because Jesus wants it rather than want a new car because oh my goodness the scenery in the advertisement!

          But yeah, merely because society can be ordered around one or more ostensible deities doesn’t mean they exist. That’s kind of the point of Genesis 1 containing “greater lamp” and “lesser lamp” rather than using the extant ancient Hebrew words “sun” and “moon”. The text is making fun of the sun and moon gods. Now, if God is a person instead of a force, we should somehow look for something agency-like instead of force-like. And society does have agency, as it is made of people. But you would want to see change, like society being tugged in some direction like scientific inquiry is tugged in some direction. Without change, without successful building on previous “truth”, the best explanation is probably “just-so story”.

        • Kodie

          The farther away from reality and the closer to superstition people get, the more wrong and dangerous their choices for themselves and society. You would rather someone hate gay people because Jesus wants them to, than want a new car? You’d rather vulnerable people get swept up into this cult because they desperately want to be loved by an invisible deity, than actually get the love and care they should have from their fellow humans, with no strings or myths attached?

        • The farther away from reality and the closer to superstition people get, the more wrong and dangerous their choices for themselves and society.

          Yeah, which is why the Jews still exist today, as a people. Or are you going to pretend that the persecution they got was because of “superstition” on their part?

          You would rather someone hate gay people because Jesus wants them to, than want a new car?

          Straw man.

          You’d rather vulnerable people get swept up into this cult because they desperately want to be loved by an invisible deity, than actually get the love and care they should have from their fellow humans, with no strings or myths attached?

          Haha, actual love? Over against your wishful thinking, I’m going to go with:

               • Putnam’s Bowling Alone statistics
               • the spike in single parenting
               • global poverty alleviation largely ignoring the importance of human relationships
               • the response to the Moynihan Report
               • the damage social media causes our teens

          One of us is definitely living a myth.

        • Kodie

          I seriously don’t think joining a cult is the answer to societal problems.

        • Dunno what you think I’m suggesting that constitutes “joining a cult”.

        • Kodie

          Support groups to figure out what god is trying to say in the bible. That’s what cults are.

    • Ficino

      I asked Luke Breuer several times to provide evidence or at least, an argument, for the contention that Christianity’s doctrines are true. LB refused. So I don’t read his stuff anymore.

      • Michael Neville

        I stopped reading LB when he insulted me and tried to make it my fault that I was insulted.

        Breuer remembers it differently. I’m sure he’ll whine that I misunderstood him and he’s actually as pure as driven snow and it was my fault I was insulted.

        • epeeist

          I stopped reading LB when he insulted me and tried to make it my fault that I was insulted.

          Snap!

        • I stopped reading LB when he insulted me and tried to make it my fault that I was insulted.

          Liar.

        • Michael Neville

          See, what did I tell you. LB cannot possibly the one at fault. It has to be my fault that he insulted me and of course he’s the poor, innocent victim.

          BTW, asshole, your link doesn’t work. Why am I not surprised that your attempt to rewrite reality is a failure in several ways?

        • It has to be my fault that he insulted me …

          I never said that and I don’t believe it.

          BTW, asshole, your link doesn’t work.

          What link? I underlined the bit which was a lie.

        • Michael Neville

          You remember your fuckup one way, I remember it another.

          By the way, Luke, do you know what I like about you? Not a fucking thing.

        • You remember your fuckup one way, I remember it another.

          One memory can be supported by textual evidence while the other cannot. I’ve given you many opportunities to show the underlined:

          MN: I stopped reading LB when he insulted me and tried to make it my fault that I was insulted.

          It is on the basis of your repeated failure to demonstrate the underlined while repeatedly making that claim that I have started calling you Liar.

        • Michael Neville

          Except for notifications, which unfortunately I can see, all of your posts read: Comment by Luke Breuer blocked.

        • Max Doubt

          “By the way, Luke, do you know what I like about you? Not a fucking thing.”

          I’ve come to find that defending claims that gods exist cannot be done honestly. When someone starts trying to support those claims, or claims about their bible being true or miracles actually happening, etc., it’s a forgone conclusion that they will eventually engage in dishonest arguments. Other than when god believers have simply chickened out and left conversations before they started lying, my observation has never failed to play out as expected. Luke doesn’t waver from the pattern.

        • Kodie

          Oh for fuck’s sake, I was there. Stop pretending to be innocent.

        • I never pretended to be innocent. I denied (and will continue to deny) the underlined, not the whole thing.

        • Kodie

          Because you’re dishonest.

      • epeeist

        My initial exposure to Luke was when he made a negative assessment of my character based on a quote mine from a single post of mine from the hundreds I had posted at Strange Notions. I gave up on him when it became obvious that his tactic when faced with things he is unable to find a counter to is to attempt to lead one down a maze of twisty and irrelevant references.

        • Jim Jones

          Maybe he’s obsessed with Zork?

        • epeeist

          I wondered if anyone would spot the reference, though I had the “Colossal Cave Adventure” in mind…

        • Greg G.

          I played that in the 80s. I remember walking home at 6 am after a session.

        • When I first heard of Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow” and the out-of-time element of it, I thought of my playing Civilization (V1) for many hours. Loads of fun.

        • I gave up on him when it became obvious that his tactic when faced with things he is unable to find a counter to is to attempt to lead one down a maze of twisty and irrelevant references.

          You are welcome to point to better ways to expose presuppositions which might be important to the topic being discussed. Otherwise, you support fundamentalism defined this way:

          Resistances to pluralism have been conventionally subsumed under the category of “fundamentalism.” I am uneasy about this term; it comes from a particular episode in the history of American Protestantism and is awkward when applied to other religious traditions (such as Islam). I will use it, because it has attained such wide currency, but I will define it more sharply: fundamentalism is any project to restore taken-for-grantedness in the individual’s consciousness and therefore, necessarily, in his or her social and/or political environment. Such a project can have both religious and secular forms; the former concerns us here. (The New Sociology of Knowledge, 41)

          I thought the atheists in this locale prided themselves of being skeptical and not merely taking things for granted. And so when someone writes:

          [OP]: God in the Bible will make a covenant with his people, and you think that since he’s made the sale, the book will end.

          [OP]: You’d think that if Jesus were the point of God’s story, if he were the person necessary for people to avoid hell, Jesus would be in Genesis 1, and it wouldn’t take a bunch of reboots and irrelevant covenants to get here.

          [OP]: You’d think that an omniscient creator of the universe could convey things clearly.

          —you’d think it would be acceptable to ask why one would think such things. Now, maybe I just don’t know how to ask that “why” in the socially accepted way.

        • epeeist

          I think you just made my point for me.

        • So all of the bits I quoted from the OP are “irrelevant”? I can only see three options:

               (1) they’re irrelevant
               (2) they’re not allowed to be questioned
               (3) they’re important for the OP’s point(s)

          If (2), then the saying is true here: “Scratch a skeptic, find a dogmatist.”

        • Greg G.

          epeeist said, “I gave up on him when it became obvious that his tactic when faced with things he is unable to find a counter to is to attempt to lead one down a maze of twisty and irrelevant references.” {http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2018/04/the-bible-story-reboots-have-you-noticed-2-of-2/#comment-3863731735 }

          Your response to him was the perfect example of his assessment. {http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2018/04/the-bible-story-reboots-have-you-noticed-2-of-2/#comment-3865831512 }

        • Pofarmer

          How can anyone be that un self aware

        • epeeist

          How can anyone be that un self aware

          Indeed, and how desperate he is to get people into conversation with him. As it is I see no reason to engage, as far as I am concerned he can go fuck himself.

        • Pofarmer

          Right there with you. It’s been proven worse than pointless, as he seems to get off on it and thinks he gets confirmation.

        • epeeist

          I see the site has now essentially descended into the “Luke Breuer Show”. It is a bit like a cockroach infestation.

        • Pofarmer

          I’ve never seen anyone who could derail not just the conversation but an entire site.

        • MR

          I wish Bob would just change the name of the blog and be done with it.

        • It amazes me that said comment constitutes “a maze of twisty and irrelevant references”. Apparently atheists don’t want their presuppositions to be questioned any more than Christians. 😀

        • Kodie

          Do you love to be difficult? I don’t mean challenging, but difficult.

        • No, it has made my life rather … difficult. But instead of people actually spelling things out—sometimes in onerous pedantic detail—they prefer doing exactly what you, @oldnewatheist:disqus, and @disqus_HOKynBthUD:disqus are doing. That is, having a chummy old time criticizing me for doing something but not with enough detail for me to see how I’m doing it. My only conclusion is that you’re in it for the laffs and little else. If there were other purposes, you’d act differently.

        • Kodie

          Did I or did I not tell you I didn’t seek to have this conversation? Aren’t you pestering me for more abuse?

        • You didn’t seek to have a conversation that you jumped into when I wasn’t having it with you? That makes … zero sense.

        • Kodie

          I told you I said all I wanted to talk about with you, but you kept pressing. Are you desperate for conversation?

        • No, I want to learn how to be less difficult but not less challenging.

        • Kodie

          Well, have you missed all the comments by people you’re not participating with, who are bummed out that when you’re here, the blog gets eaten by your agenda?

        • Well, have you missed all the comments by people you’re not participating with, who are bummed out that when you’re here, the blog gets eaten by your agenda?

          For example?

        • Kodie

          Epeeist, Susan, MR, Michael Neville? They are forced to defer to you, as I was until you chose me because you are desperate for a solution to your own fucking puzzle. This isn’t your blog, and when people say you’re not self-aware, it means you’re not at all considerate of other people who visit this blog, why they visit this blog, and the effect your incessant bullshit questions has on the posts of this blog such that the members who enjoy it here don’t have any outlet to participate. You have parasitic qualities that kill the blog.

        • Susan

          that kill the blog.

          That kill blogs. And evade all requests for support for the existence of Yahwehjesus.

          Sorry to interrupt. You are doing a great job, Kodie.

        • Epeeist, Susan, MR, Michael Neville? They are forced to defer to you, as I was until you chose me because you are desperate for a solution to your own fucking puzzle.

          Uhh dude, you got the epeeist one bass ackwards:

          e: I wouldn’t ordinarily bother responding to you but there are a number of people don’t accept Fitch’s reasoning.

          +

          e: I gave up on him when it became obvious that his tactic when faced with things he is unable to find a counter to is to attempt to lead one down a maze of twisty and irrelevant references.

          What I said to Susan long ago was basically the same:

          S: I don’t particularly want to engage YOU Luke Breuer.

          LB: The evidence indicates otherwise. Here, I’ll help you out: this will be my last comment to you (i) until you become interesting to me; or (ii) if I perceive you attempting character assassination.

          Similarly, to you:

          K: Silly fool theist

          LB: Hey, if you’re going to apply the “idiot filter” to what I write, I’m just going to respond to other people.

          I don’t know what you’re talking about wrt @michaelneville:disqus or MN—I don’t recall interacting with the latter. (I have interacted with MNb.)

          As it turns out, giving us both a timeout greatly improved my subsequent conversations with you and Susan. Are you saying it’s irrational/​immoral to do something that ends up in much better conversation after the fact?

          … when people say you’re not self-aware, it means you’re not at all considerate of other people who visit this blog …

          Uhhh … that would be others-aware, not self-aware.

          You have parasitic qualities that kill the blog.

          That makes no sense; if just you, Susan, and IA didn’t respond to me, I would probably have 1/100 the comments. It takes two to tango. You’ll notice that unlike you, I rarely respond to people I know have no intention of replying to me (like epeeist). Isn’t it actually rather rude to keep pestering someone who has made it clear [s]he has no interest in talking to you? (I always give specific conditions for what will reawaken my interest—unlike some people around here).

        • Kodie

          You don’t know Michael Neville, the guy you called dishonest, which you deny “the underlined”?

          I forgot to mention Pofarmer. They’re all talking about you like, leave. You are parasitic to this blog and endanger all other conversations that aren’t with you or about you. It’s like a fucking traffic jam every time you show up for the same old shit.

        • K: Epeeist, Susan, MR, Michael Neville? They are forced to defer to you, as I was until you chose me because you are desperate for a solution to your own fucking puzzle.

          LB: I don’t know what you’re talking about wrt @michaelneville:disqus or MN—I don’t recall interacting with the latter. (I have interacted with MNb.)

          K: You don’t know Michael Neville, the guy you called dishonest, which you deny “the underlined”?

          I don’t see how I have forced Neville to “defer” to me. I did insult him. I did not mean to and I never blamed him for being insulted. (cf. “I’m sorry you were offended by what I said” ← something I never said but is often said by shitty-ass humans) He is now a habitual liar for repeatedly claiming that I blamed him for being (feeling?) insulted.

          I forgot to mention Pofarmer.

          Where have I ignored Pofarmer or forced him to “defer” to me?

          It’s like a fucking traffic jam every time you show up for the same old shit.

          Weird; somehow only a few blog posts I’ve commented on in the last two weeks have jammed up. I guess you just ignore the evidence that doesn’t fit your conclusions?

        • Kodie

          LUKE BREUER, you DUMB FUCKING ASS. It’s a fucking fact that you clog up everything when you’re here, and then play dumb. Go fuck yourself now.

        • play dumb

          Liar.

        • Paul B. Lot

          … when people say you’re not self-aware, it means you’re not at all considerate of other people who visit this blog …

          Uhhh … that would be others-aware, not self-aware.

          Lol, no.

        • Sample1

          I remember the first time I took botany. I loved it. And, I failed the course miserably.

          I retook the class. The first day, the prof (who was an intimidating intellect) came right up to me and said something like, “why are you bothering to be here?” and I remained silent.

          I aced the class. Moral of the story: be quiet, listen and unlearn what didn’t work before.

          Mike

        • You had a really shitty professor. Let me tell you about an awesome professor. The class was Theory of Computation, where you prove all sorts of shit. As it turns out, the process of coming up with proofs is kind of magic. (See ε–δ proofs.) So there were a lot of mistakes made by students. What was awesome about this prof is that he’d hear something wrong, think for a second, and then come up with plausible reasons for why the student might have come up with the wrong idea. “Maybe if this were the case, then what you say would follow.” In effect, he fixed the brokenness but showed that this wasn’t actually the problem statement. I found it fantastically helpful in learning the material much more quickly than I would have otherwise.

          Your strategy seems to be to [attempt to] intensify brokenness (cf. λογίζεται τὸ κακόν) and perhaps laugh at it (perhaps let others laugh while you remain stoically silent). I don’t see how that does anything but make the world a worse place—unless you’re a certain kind of person I’d rather believe you aren’t. (Sufficient evidence can overcome my reticence, though.)

        • Sample1

          Luke, you said you wanted to learn how to be less difficult. I think that’s great. Your online persona is difficult. It forces many to ask why are you bothering to be here?

          That is not a good image to have online let alone anywhere if one is seeking prolonged interactions with strangers and friends. It just isn’t. Your comment to upvote ratio is likely a tiny bit of empirical evidence of that.

          I don’t know why you do what you do though I wouldn’t rule out Susan’s perception of “fighting evil” by way of derailing the global communication of atheists with public opinions.

          If you want to be less difficult, number one, you are going to have to find a way to stop people from arriving at the question, why are you bothering to be here?

          Perhaps a retreat in silence would help. Perhaps listening more and posting less would help. Perhaps replacing comments beginning with I with rephrasings of your interlocutors’ positions for clarity and proof that you are listening.

          Maybe you are brilliant and kind and if so my advice isn’t at all threatening or bothersome but the writing is on the wall. You are difficult, have a red flag ratio, and reliably attract oodles of people who wind up exasperated and angry with you.

          That is not a success anywhere. I hold out some hope that one day I’ll see a Luke who transcends that and puts his formidable endurance into discussions that attract people where happiness to see and be seen by others is your reward.

          Mike, atheist

        • Your online persona is difficult.

          I don’t deny that. I got a useful bit just recently:

          LB: Also, you’re not so bad in your good persona, Kodie. You seem to have at least two: one which is really nasty like discussed above, and one quite able to engage in interesting rational discussion.

          K: Begrudgingly. You seem completely unapologetic as long as anyone’s talking to you. You have no idea of my mood while doing so.

          LB: Have you ever indicated that you track my mood [with any competence whatsoever]? Or is this just a one-way thing, where Kodie gets catered to?

          I completely get that people like to have their moods tracked. But it’s hard for me to do that for others when I don’t see them doing that for me. We learn how to treat others based on how we are treated.

          Perhaps replacing comments beginning with I with rephrasings of your interlocutors’ positions for clarity and proof that you are listening.

          Would you be willing to show me where people do this to me which doesn’t qualify as and “idiot filter”? Again: we learn how to treat others based on how we are treated. So show me other people (and which other people) are successfully doing what you claim I should be doing. Surely this is a reasonable request?

        • Sample1

          We learn to treat others based on how we were treated.

          That’s fine for the good bits but portends terrible enslavement to suffering when held for the bad bits. I’d forgotten your quid pro quo worldview in that respect. It’s something Nelson Mandela was able to overcome. But one need not be him to recover from that. Baby steps.

          I feel like I’ve said all I’m able to muster right now in response to your desire to become less difficult. My professor, btw, was not problematic, I was. Her honest question remains with me all these years later and when I’m failing at something I love, I remember her words.

          Signing off,

          Mike

        • LB: We learn to treat others based on how we were treated.

          S1: That’s fine for the good bits but portends terrible enslavement to suffering when held for the bad bits. I’d forgotten your quid pro quo worldview in that respect. It’s something Nelson Mandela was able to overcome. But one need not be him to recover from that. Baby steps.

          Has it occurred to you that under subjective morality—the thing most people here hew to—the line between the “good” and “bad” bits is drawn differently by different people? So I can’t just use my line in how I choose which bits to imitate and which bits to ignore. If I do that, I get accused of e.g.:

          K: … you just want to expose yourself to and impose yourself on others.

          I feel like I’ve said all I’m able to muster right now in response to your desire to become less difficult.

          It would appear that you are participating in the fine art of presenting Kobayashi Maru scenarios for others and then enjoying when they inevitably fail.

          My professor, btw, was not problematic, I was. Her honest question remains with me all these years later and when I’m failing at something I love, I remember her words.

          I find it fascinating that what worked for you must [apparently] necessarily work for everyone else. Or at least for one other person who you clearly don’t understand very well at all. Who’s imposing himself/​herself on whom, again?

        • Kodie

          You are obsessed with protecting your beliefs, and ignore any attempts whatsoever to expose your own presuppositions, that’s why people don’t like communicating with you. You can’t debate honestly.

        • You are obsessed with protecting your beliefs,

          It seems pretty stupid for me to comment here if that is my goal. Shouldn’t I comment among Christians so we can have a giant circle jerk? And oh by the way, scientific inquiry indicates that we’re all obsessed in that way: Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government + Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory.

          and ignore any attempts whatsoever to expose your own presuppositions,

          I don’t know what you’re referring to; if you had a few examples where I can recall the context, that would help. Also, if you could show how folks on CE were allowing their own presuppositions to be examined, that would give me a model to emulate. As it stands, I’ve tried four times to examine why “you’d think” the following three things:

          [OP]: God in the Bible will make a covenant with his people, and you think that since he’s made the sale, the book will end.

          [OP]: You’d think that if Jesus were the point of God’s story, if he were the person necessary for people to avoid hell, Jesus would be in Genesis 1, and it wouldn’t take a bunch of reboots and irrelevant covenants to get here.

          [OP]: You’d think that an omniscient creator of the universe could convey things clearly.

          (#1, #2, #3, #4) Why don’t you show me or point me to a good example of letting presuppositions be examined?

          that’s why people don’t like communicating with you. You can’t debate honestly.

          From my perspective, the same accusation applies the other way. Furthermore, plenty of people do seem to be able to get at my presuppositions to their satisfaction and I don’t see how you’re having a problem with it. And oh by the way, asking for “evidence of God’s existence” is precisely the opposite of examining presuppositions.

        • Kodie

          It is stupid for you to keep commenting here. You learn nothing.

        • Susan

          My initial exposure to Luke was when he made a negative assessment of my character

          I remember it too clearly. He showed up at :Estranged Notions pretending that if he found enough evidence that Strange Notions had acted badly, then he would be our hero/martyr and call Brandon out on it.

          I begged him not to bother. As Brandon Vogt has demonstrated himself to be a lying liar who lies about his lies since the beginning of SN. And as Luke didn’t seem competent or genuinely interested in the situation.

          The first thing he did was drag up a negative comment one of the banned levelled against him at a completely different site, without showing a speck of evidence that she’d violated commenting policy at SN. Very soon after, he looked for “plausible” excuses for your banning.

          What he NEVER did, no matter how helpful Andrew G. and others were in providing data was look at the evidence. Brandon Vogt lied and lied and lied about his lies. He did not “warn” people. He did not “accidentally” delete a month’s worth of comments.

          He was dishonest from the get go about his intentions.

          He has never supported the existence of his imaginary deity and gets his panties in a knot when asked to do so.

          He is annoyed when asked to do so. Claims he is being set up to “fail”.

          I have seen the most patient and charitable people across many sites get fed up with his tactics, explain in thoughtful detail why and he turns that into martyrdom.

          He is not just a waste of commenting space.

          He is a massive waste of commenting space. A massive, exhausting waste of commenting space.

          Hey, Luke. If Yahwehjesus exists, define your claim and support it.

          Otherwise, just fuck right off. You’ve been despicable for far too long.

        • S: Let’s all stop talking about him. It’s what he wants. It seems to be what he wants most.

          LB: Thank you, yes. It saddens me how incapable so many atheists seem to be at targeting only a person’s beliefs and not the person’s character.

        • Susan

          It saddens me how incapable so many atheists seem to be at targetting only a person’s beliefs and not the person’s character

          I was pointing out your behaviour since the beginning. You failed at addressing even the most basic evidence on a very basic point. I don’t think you care a bit about evidence.

          You are fighting evil on the internet. Evidence means shit to you.

          To the extent that that reflects on your character, it simply shows that evidence meant nothing to you.

          And here you are trying to deflect onto “atheists” (i.e. people who don’t believe Yahwehjesus exists) the problems with your behaviour.

          The problems I have with your belief that Yahwehjesus exists are clear. You do not provide a single thing to support that belief.

          The problems with your behaviour are eviident.

          You do not add to conversations. Your are not “challenging”.

          I am about to block you.

          I hope you are banned soon. You are a liar for Jesus but that is secondary to being a liar for Luke.

        • S: Let’s all stop talking about him.

        • You had a 2-week forced vacation from commenting here. And now you’re back with no change.

          What do you think? Is there any reason to keep you around? If you have no plans to change your behavior, you can either leave or I’ll do it for you.

        • There has been fantastically less discussion about me. That’s not a change?

        • Kodie

          There are at least 5 different posters who are so fucking done with you they won’t say your name because they know you love the attention.

          And you haven’t changed, you’re just starved so that you’re trying to scrape up some discussion which you never resolve and repeat yourself for years and years to whomever will listen to you that you’re talking to me.

        • I think Otto got it right:

          O: I think many of us on CE have been treated poorly in our personal lives by religious people and religious authorities, and unfortunately that anger gets thrown around. I am just guessing at this though from what I have been able to glean from the comments, it would be and interesting topic to explore. I know frustrations I have had in my personal life with religion, where I have had to hold my tongue, will get released here at times. It is a safe space to respond to those frustrations.

          LB: I agree completely. James C. Scott discusses something which might be connected:

              Once attuned more closely to how power relations affected discourse among Malays, it was not long before I noticed how I measured my own words before those who had power over me in some significant way. And I observed that when I had to choke back responses that would not have been prudent, I often found someone to whom I could voice my unspoken thoughts. There seemed to be a nearly physical pressure behind this repressed speech. On those rare occasions on which my anger or indignation had overcome my discretion, I experienced a sense of elation despite the danger of retaliation. Only then did I fully appreciate why I might not be able to take the public conduct of those over whom I had power at face value. (Domination and the Arts of Resistance, ix–x)

          The thing is, what is your total impact on the world if you unleash the anger on the wrong person, or unleash more anger than a person “deserves”? If one claims that it’s unfair and then is unfair oneself …

          Also, you’re not so bad in your good persona, Kodie. You seem to have at least two: one which is really nasty like discussed above, and one quite able to engage in interesting rational discussion.

        • Kodie

          Begrudgingly. You seem completely unapologetic as long as anyone’s talking to you. You have no idea of my mood while doing so.

        • Have you ever indicated that you track my mood [with any competence whatsoever]? Or is this just a one-way thing, where Kodie gets catered to?

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          One of the last acts of Luke Breuer here was to fucking argue with me about who banned him, and why, from Godless in Dixie.

          That’s why Luke got fucking banned there. Because he’s a pedantic asshole.

          And you really, really have to be an asshole to get banned here at Cross Examined. So I still feel quite justified in my decision to ban ol’ Lukey Boy.

        • I don’t see a change. Bye.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Saves me a lifetime wading through the piles of LB dross I have backed up in order to find a snippet worth responding.

          A might treat meself to a wee tincture in celebration.

        • ildi

          He’s a good example of the failure of being an autodidact. “My wife is a scientist and I read a lot, therefore I’m applying scientific principles to my interpretation of the bible.” I can’t imagine any professor would give his stream-of-consciousness random-references outpourings a passing grade. Anybody who writes such long comments that “see more” pretty much always pops up just needs to start their own blog instead of hogging somebody else’s.

        • A dram or two might be appropriate if the wicked witch is dead.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Until the wicked witches next resurrection anyways.

        • Also, I’m talking quite a lot about what would constitute “evidence for God’s existence” with @Ficino:disqus; didn’t you want me to cover that topic?

        • Kodie

          Yeah, what dumb shit are you bringing to that conversation? Like every other theist, you think atheists are just on the wrong hunt and need to be steered toward your own personal delusion.

        • Do you seriously believe that miracle power and/or successful prediction have anything to do with goodness?

        • Kodie

          Do you think it has to do with god? That’s your wild goose chase, why are you trying to make it everyone else’s?

        • F: Miracles and fulfilled prophecy are two major categories of evidence that the Catholic Church is the true church, according to Vatican I.

        • Kodie

          Um, they’re full of shit? I’ve been over the Lourdes “miracles” with one previous poster, and their standards are pretty low to call something miracle. Maybe you’re also fooled?

        • And yet @Ficino:disqus seemed to think it was legit reasoning.

        • Pofarmer

          Maybe fooled?

        • epeeist

          I am about to block you.

          I have, the first user I have ever blocked.

        • Pofarmer

          I think we Enlightened humans thought we were teh awesome and so God
          decided to let us test that little hypothesis by withdrawing.

          from way up thread from he who shall not be named.

          Imagine the Horrors, if you will. We’ve abolished slavery(mostly). We’ve eradicated diseases, learned how to cure and treat some genetic conditions. Emancipated women and children from essentially forced labor. We’ve built cities and civilizations. We’ve reduced wars, reduced violence, reduced starvation. All after the horrors fo the Enlightenment. What a Jackass. When you’re working from a worldview that is that self loathing, and that flawed, I suppose this is what you get. We are miserable worms, destined for Hell.

        • You and I were going in some interesting places on the “evidence for God” thing, Susan. I actually pointed @Ficino:disqus to them:

          F: I’ve asked you several times for you to supply succinctly the evidence and/or arguments by which you think a skeptic should be convinced that the doctrines of Christianity are true

          You refuse to supply such.

          LB: I don’t think that’s on-topic for this blog post and I’m attempting to be more vigilant about that given … recent events. However, given that I’m discussing precisely this thing with Susan over on CE, feel free to engage me there. Some comments to get you started: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5.

          Since then, Ficino and I have had a great conversation. It started here:

          F: So far I think life makes more sense, to put it crudely, on the “shit happens” outlook than on the “God did it” outlook.

          LB: But can you give me any sort of sense of what would push you in the other direction? I don’t mean have everything make perfect sense, but instead just tilt the balance in the other direction. Even scientists know that a lot of shit doesn’t make sense while they strive to make more sense of reality.

          F: To push me in the other direction? Toward what? I think the Bible itself generates defeaters for Christianity. If the “other direction” is only toward a more generic form of theism, or toward some other religion, then perhaps three “pushers toward” might include: experience or experiences that yield beliefs that are properly basic [the experience would have to render moot the second-level issues of how to assess the experience]; robust patterns of answers to prayer, which involve effects that aren’t accounted for on natural causes; ditto for prophecy.

          And continued.

          Ignorant Amos and I had a wonderful conversation on whether Deut 12:32–13:5 means miracle power and fulfilled prophecy are evidence of just YHWH or no god at all. I was able to build on that with Ficino. (I just got notified that said comment is being responded to. People clearly want to talk about this stuff.)

          Finally, there’s the following test particle:

          IA: … believing in all that nonsense woo-woo as a remedy to sorting it out, isn’t, hasn’t, and won’t help find the answer either …

          LB: I suggest a wager, where Christians put up millions of $ and atheists put up millions of $, defining all the terms and betting that if the Christians actually make progress in “sorting it out”, all the money goes to a charity of their choice, and if they don’t make progress, all the money goes to a charity of the atheists’ choice. We can argue about history (e.g. Christianity’s contributions to egalitarianism), but it’s so easy to tell just about any story you want about history. Making things better going forward is an entirely different matter, and probably more valuable anyway. So, how do we really test this claim of yours, employing the highest standards of rigor and science?

          Here’s a concrete idea. Have there be an atheist foundation for trying to help out the homeless and a Christian foundation for doing the same. Let each be as open or closed with its empirical data and current running hypotheses. After some established time period, we could see which group has learned how to best help the homeless get homes and jobs (if mental health permits the latter). The whole deal is off if either side is sued for discrimination against religious/​non-religious belief. (There are bad actors out there who want to fuck everything up, including an effort like this one.)

          How does that sound? The Christian nutjobs y’all love shitting on can be as nutty as they want in trying to help the homeless; the atheist Brights can be as scientific as they want in trying to do the same. Somehow we come up with metrics of success and establish an independent trusted committee of judges. At the end, all the data and hypotheses and such get published. That way, no matter what happens, we come out of it with better tools for helping the homeless.

          Now, why wouldn’t that be at all interesting in the direction of (but not getting all the way to) “evidence of God’s existence”? Well, it would be if you’re applying Ockham’s razor so that any finite sequence of data points is always modeled at minimum complexity. Then you’ll always get a finite model out. I explore that in my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?, but some of you seem to have an allergy to logic, at least when it gets near certain things.

      • I asked Luke Breuer several times to provide evidence or at least, an argument, for the contention that Christianity’s doctrines are true. LB refused.

        That’s a delicious way to distort the truth. Other than when you asked me how to generate ‘ō’, this is when you first made your request:

        F: I often see you on the nonreligious channel of Patheos taking potshots at something written by a person of skeptical leanings.

        Do you have evidence that the doctrines of Christianity are true? Give us your best shot. The more succinct the expression, the more likely to be read.

        LB: Sorry, but I suspect you’ve set up the request so that it is utterly impossible to fill. I’ve been around this block many, many times. I’ve been set up to fail many times. I’m tired of it. If you want to proceed, demonstrate at least some understanding of my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?.

        You dropped out of that discussion, although you did reference it elsewhere:

        F: Yes, 15 hours ago I asked Luke Breuer if he had evidence that the doctrines of Christianity are true. I invited him in that case to present it. So far, he has posted a link to a website where he discusses a different question. Otherwise, the rest of what he wrote has not sought to answer the above question, while he refuses to present evidence for the truth of Christianity’s claims.

        If anyone refuses to actually engage this matter, it’s you. Your second attempt faltered very quickly:

        LB: Yep, whenever eyewitness testimony differs in court, it’s all thrown out.

        F: Still waiting for your proof or argument or whatever it is that Christianity is the truth.

        LB: Please show where I claimed to have “proof or argument”.

        Apparently, you were unable to show any such thing. Your third attempt was a deliberate derail and I refused to engage it. In your fourth attempt, I offered to engage you on the matter:

        F: I’ve asked you several times for you to supply succinctly the evidence and/or arguments by which you think a skeptic should be convinced that the doctrines of Christianity are true

        You refuse to supply such.

        LB: I don’t think that’s on-topic for this blog post and I’m attempting to be more vigilant about that given … recent events. However, given that I’m discussing precisely this thing with Susan over on CE, feel free to engage me there. Some comments to get you started: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5.

        Did you engage me in any of those places (in particular, off of SO which cares a lot more about derails than CE)? No. So the most honest way to describe the situation between us is this:

        F′: I asked Luke Breuer several times to provide evidence or at least, an argument, for the contention that Christianity’s doctrines are true. I plausibly set him up to fail via the presuppositions I hold. LB refused to continue without first ensuring I don’t hold such presuppositions.

        • Ficino

          I have no idea what SO or CE are. I take it you refer to some CE that is not Bob Seidensticker’s blog. I posed my questions here on Bob’s blog. You refused to answer but continue to post probing questions, or whatever you name them, of skeptical commentators. Your questions clearly aim to call into question or even oppose skeptics’ conclusions that the doctrines of Christianity do not warrant belief.

          You still refuse to offer any evidence or argument here on Bob’s blog for the truth of Christianity’s doctrines. It’s not complicated. If you don’t want to say, “you should believe Christianity because […],” that’s your right. But then I don’t see reason to engage you on this blog, because I don’t have the sense that you are forthright. If you think Christianity is the truth, why not just say why? If you are in doubt of its truth, cool.

        • I have no idea what SO or CE are. I take it you refer to some CE that is not Bob Seidensticker’s blog. I posed my questions here on Bob’s blog.

          That first hyperlinked “F:” links to https://…/crossexamined/…. I was indeed referring to Cross Examined and Secular Outpost.

          You refused to answer but continue to post probing questions, or whatever you name them, of skeptical commentators. Your questions clearly aim to call into question or even oppose skeptics’ conclusions that the doctrines of Christianity do not warrant belief.

          If I question presuppositions which hand the debate to you without a single shot being fired and you say that this would then undermine your argument, that is rather telling: your atheism is akin to presuppositional apologetics. I doubt all atheism is like that.

          You still refuse to offer any evidence or argument here on Bob’s blog for the truth of Christianity’s doctrines. It’s not complicated.

          Actually, it is slightly complicated. Even in science, what paradigm you adhere to determines (i) what is considered evidence in the first place; (ii) how it is evaluated. (See Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.) Furthermore, it is quite possible to “win” an argument via presuppositions—in which case evidence is 100% irrelevant. If I were cynical, I would just assume that you are arguing in this deviously presuppositional way and are chomping at the bit for me to advance any and all evidence so you could bat it away and get a little adrenaline boost each time. But I choose to believe that it is more probable you will let your presuppositions be examined. That belief can be swayed by further evidence.

          If you don’t want to say, “you should believe Christianity because […],” that’s your right. But then I don’t see reason to engage you on this blog, because I don’t have the sense that you are forthright.

          Your refusal to elucidate your presuppositions is another kind of refusal to be forthright. Are you unable or unwilling to lead by example? BTW, I am actually slowly working on a “Why I believe” article to guest post on Ron Garret’s blog, to be a sort of dual to his Why I believe in the Michelson-Morley experiment. Your elucidating your presuppositions would help me write that (because I need to characterize my audience to write well to it), but perhaps you’d prefer to wait on the sidelines until I have it posted. I can let you know when I do.

          If you think Christianity is the truth, why not just say why? If you are in doubt of its truth, cool.

          I think that Christianity is closer to the truth than anything else I’ve found. I constantly test it, to see if it keeps delivering the goods or ends up as a just-so story that fits the evidence well, but does not lead me into further [approximate] truth. But I also know that no philosophy has ever withstood sustained critique—no position is free of serious problems. It is only by going on the attack and not letting others examine your own position that one can avoid facing this truth. “Scratch a skeptic, find a dogmatist.”

        • Kodie

          I contantly test it

          How do you test it? You seem to excel at dodging direct pressure on it, as though you are intent on protecting it.

        • How do you test it?

          One example is to see what happens when people follow the commands in Mt 5:23–24, Eph 4:25–27, and Mt 18:15–17 (for more, see relational sin) and when they don’t. If you have a problem with someone and instead of having the balls to talk to him/her, instead gossip to everyone else around, is the end result better or worse than acting like an adult? So far, the evidence seems to be that acting like an adult is always the better route. I find it interesting that given that, it is not common wisdom that resolving problems ASAP with people, one-on-one if possible, is highly preferable.

          Another is to examine how people project their faults (sins) onto others, making themselves holy and righteous. We humans have a really hard time acknowledging that we’re wrong, whether it be moral or intellectual error. Taking the Bible seriously helps me understand the complexity and difficulty surrounding this matter; I’ve found that the childish simplicities [many of us?] learn when we’re young actively distort sound understanding. And yet, so much of the discourse on all levels during and after the 2016 US Presidential election show how utterly childish so much of the US population is. Now, I’m more in the understanding phase than the testing phase, but I’ll probably be managing a software team in the next year or three and then there will be plenty of opportunities for testing.

          You seem to excel at dodging direct pressure on it, as though you are intent on protecting it.

          Nope, the tests I’ve talked about and describe above do not constitute “evidence of God’s existence” if they corroborate what’s in the Bible. After all, the atheist can just say that wise people of old figured out some things. And yet, if I’m experiencing success in taking the Bible seriously—more success than what secular folks I know of are experiencing—wouldn’t it be positively irrational for me to switch from my method to theirs?

        • Kodie

          So you agree the bible does not offer magical advice.

        • Ficino

          I’m glad that you think that Christianity is closer to the truth than anything else you’ve found. From this I gather that you hesitate to pronounce with certainty that Christianity is the truth. So this line of Socratic Nichtwissen, we share.

          Otherwise, I don’t know if it’s profitable to continue. I asked you to state reasons why someone should/would/might be convinced of the truth of Christianity’s doctrines. You decline to state them. Instead, you divert into a demand that I state my presuppositions. I have very few, beyond the classical laws of thought and the conviction that sensory experience is a major source of our knowledge. We can know other things by logical inference. I cannot commit myself beyond that. I can’t prove false someone’s powerful experience, which that person thinks is a contact with the divine and which s/he thinks grounds beliefs that are properly basic. I see no reason to agree to the truth of propositions that such a person justifies by appeal to said experience.

          When I was in seminary, we were taught presuppositional apologetics – even, overall presuppositional thinking about life – a la Van Til. I don’t concern myself with “presuppositions” anymore and can’t establish which first principles count as “presuppositions” and which do not.

          Anyway, I am not interested in a diversion from my request for your reasons why we should believe, into a scenario where you probe my presuppositions. That’s a different question, not the question asked about reasons for Christianity’s being normative for humanity.

          I’m fine with it if you have no reasons or evidence to put forth. I don’t think I have time to devote to probing questions about presuppositions. If no reason why I should convert to Christianity this night, no sweat. I’m not even on deadline with my own work.

          Cheers, F

        • From this I gather that you hesitate to pronounce with certainty that Christianity is the truth.

          As far as I can tell, people hold certain plenty of things—”scratch a skeptic, find a dogmatist”—but they just claim that whatever it is they hold most strongly could possibly be falsified. The best one can hope for, as far as I can tell, is for someone to give a compelling answer to, “What’s the minimally different way things could appear if you’re wrong on this here belief of yours?” Thank you, Karl Popper.

          F: Do you have evidence that the doctrines of Christianity are true? Give us your best shot. The more succinct the expression, the more likely to be read.

          F: I asked you to state reasons why someone should/​would/​might be convinced of the truth of Christianity’s doctrines.

          Your original request is actually rather different from your current request. If I get to work with “reasons” and not just “evidence”, I can deal with situations where e.g. someone is using a telescope with a distorted lens such that seeing the phases of Venus is impossible. The analog here is an atrocious model of human nature; for a glimpse:

          Our basic thesis—that we are strategically blind to key aspects of our motives—has been around in some form or another for millennia. It’s been put forward not only by poets, playwrights, and philosophers, but also by countless wise old souls, at least when you catch them in private and in the right sort of mood. And yet the thesis still seems to us neglected in scholarly writings; you can read a mountain of books and still miss it. (The Elephant in the Brain, ix)

          Trying to see evidence of God acting—when God isn’t the only agent acting—is rather hard if your understanding of agents in general is rather bad. If a good chunk of understanding God is extrapolating from our self-knowledge, then the more errors in that self-knowledge, the more errors in the extrapolation. Indeed, if we’re trying to imagine the “greatest possible being”, those errors would be massively amplified. Garbage in, garbage out.

          So in order to see God acting, I say we first need to clean our own houses and see ourselves and other humans much better than we do. That doesn’t address your question directly, but surely it would be valuable to expunge ourselves of the pretty lies/​falsehoods we tell about ourselves for its own sake? Surely you would be ok with Christians focusing their energies in that direction? If the result is we clean those lenses and see something which doesn’t fit with extant understanding, we can have confidence that we’re seeing something out there instead of an artifact (∼ hallucination).

          Now, you’d start to get real evidence if Christians ended up being better than others at diagnosing and reversing the terrible which shows up in Elephant as well as Perplexities of Consciousness. I don’t think it’d be direct evidence of God existing, but it would be something in need of explanation. Why are these humans so different from those humans? Might a group of humans who hate all kinds of delusion and lying be able to do better science? I suspect so; I suspect getting one’s own house in order actually would improve scientific inquiry, even though the dogma is otherwise (having an affair shouldn’t damage one’s ability to do science, should it? maybe it’d even help!).

          What’s really good about the above is it matches what God seems to obviously want, as judged by the OT and NT. He seems to want people to be treated well much more than being “worshiped”. See for example Isaiah 58. Indeed, it’s not clear that YHWH ever liked to be worshiped if his people were not treating their own well. First things first. It’s as if worship is partly meant to increase the abilities of his people to love; this is useless if not damaging if they aren’t already using those abilities well. Not only is this good from a theological perspective, but it is hopefully good from the atheist’s perspective: less delusion and lying to self and others is always a good thing, right? So if some group of Christians somehow managed to do a bunch of the above that’d be a “win”, even if no God becomes apparent to them. Only those who benefit by people’s self-deceptions and beliefs in falsehoods would hate this plan. Surely no atheist who comments here benefits that way?

          That might be the best answer I have to offer; I’ll have to think about it over the next few months. The best evidence of God would be for him to do new things, but I don’t see how we are ready for new things. We can’t even live up to our self-proclaimed righteousness. We fall pitifully short of it. We pass the buck, in competition with Adam and Eve. We believe what ain’t so because it makes us feel better. Why would God give us more, when we use what we have already in such terrible ways? Well, maybe we can start doing much better and thus actually need God to give us further wisdom and knowledge.

        • Kodie

          Why do you think there’s a god rather than no god?

          You’re trying to sift out a lot of noise to figure out a puzzle that’s not really there. Is that a purposeful way to live?

        • Why do you think there’s a god rather than no god?

          I think the Bible’s existence makes more sense on God’s existence than God’s nonexistence. Admittedly, much of this is founded in intuition (based on some initial, small successes); that intuition requires extensive testing. Any beliefs I have are tentative, and can be falsified by God not fulfilling his side of the Hebrews 11:6 bargain. God promised a lot of cool shit in Genesis 15 and went through a suzerainty treaty ritual which means that if he doesn’t deliver, he gets killed. One way to interpret that is that he ought to be treated as if he’s nonexistent, if he doesn’t follow through on his promises. Now, different people will understand those promises differently and some will understand them to be de facto unfalsifiable. I try not to do that; whether I succeed or not is for those who watch me over time to judge—especially those who can see the results of the many tests I run. (It’s just too easy to retcon one’s predictions, so having others hear them beforehand and check after the experiment is run is crucial.)

          Do you think the above is an irrational way to operate?

          You’re trying to sift out a lot of noise to figure out a puzzle that’s not really there. Is that a purposeful way to live?

          First: Avoiding the pitfalls of single particle cryo-electron microscopy: Einstein from noise

          Second: You seem to have zero basis for claiming the underlined. In particular, you seem [to me] to be implying—with this comment and others—that the answer to Are there laws which govern minds? is “no”. I’m not going to accept that … “100% subjective hypothesis” until I an awful lot of work to try and find patterns. And if there are patterns, then maybe people can’t just make up whatever and find it arbitrarily motivating. Charles Taylor gets at this matter:

              And this brings us to the question of how to bring about the transformation [of oneself], however conceived. This raises the issue of what I have called “moral sources”.[33] What can strengthen our commitment or élan to the good or right? What are the things, the recognition of which, or the contemplation of which, or the contact with which, can infuse this strength in us?

              An issue arises in relation to all these sources. How do they strengthen us? Is it just that they trigger some highly positive reaction in us? Or do they really impart force? For believers, in relation to the religious sources just mentioned, clearly the latter is felt to be the case. But what is it with the inspirations from Nature and Art? When I am moved by Nature, is that just a fact about me (or less subjectively, about most human beings)? Or is there some force running through Nature which I am tapping into, opening myself to? When I am moved by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, clearly the force that I feel is that of the human spirit which is responsible for its creation. The case in this sense is analogous to my being inspired by a great human being, by Mandela for instance. But does something else stand behind this human achievement, as the words in the fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony suggest? (The Language Animal, 213–214)

          One thing I know for sure. If there are laws which govern minds and if there are beings out there—human or otherwise—who are attempting to use them to manipulate humans, one of their key strategies will be to sow doubt about the very existence of such laws. Asimov kept the Second Foundation cloaked in secrecy; I’ll bet the temples of old housed actual science and technology, which was presented as inaccessible magic to the populace. Going back to the mental version: only by supposing that the “100% subjective” is horseshit and by trying to find patterns can one oppose such total domination of the mind. Whoever wants to join me in this project is welcome.

        • Kodie

          I see no reason to expect a fictional character to keep promises made on his behalf in a myth. Seems delusional to wait on this concept.

          2nd: I don’t know what you mean by laws. There are certain behaviors that are pretty common, because we’re the same animal species. You seem to be looking elsewhere and getting bogged down with it. In many ways, you’re like the Christian I find the most fun – the code-seeker. You became invested in some small detail and its coincidence to reality, that you dove in and look for more, to what looks like a lot of frustration on your part that you follow yourself on so many wild goose chases, or rabbit holes, or what have you. Could it all be more simple than you want it to be?

        • I see no reason to expect a fictional character to keep promises made on his behalf in a myth.

          Assume your position and you don’t have to argue for anything. 😀

          2nd: I don’t know what you mean by laws.

          Anything which allows prediction of the future based on observation of the present.

          In many ways, you’re like the Christian I find the most fun – the code-seeker.

          Oh cool, so you know people like me who love to cite scientific studies and yet take the Bible seriously. Please, tell me of a few people you’ve come across who are like me. I have a really, really hard time finding such Christians. Somehow, you’ve had much better luck than I. If you really have found such people, I’ll pay you a finder’s fee—minimum $100/person. But the people you refer me to (i) must have sufficient free time to chat; (ii) must respect science, including the social sciences; (iii) must be relatively orthodox in their Christianity. So, wanna make some money? If the people are really like me, I’ll up that fee.

          You became invested in some small detail and its coincidence to reality,

          Ahahahaha, you think relational sin qualifies as “some small detail”. How adorable. Except it’s actually scary, because I’ve seen people’s lives fucking ruined by gossip and disobedience of the most basic “how to be a human instead of a monster” instructions.

          Could it all be more simple than you want it to be?

          In other words, the answer to Are there laws which govern minds? is “fuck no”?

        • Kodie

          Didn’t you assert that sociology was the most atheistic field of science? You are trying too hard to find some pattern that means god is in charge, when we’re just humans, and as I’ve already said before, several times, the bible has some popular appeal because people are now as they’ve ever been, but I’ve also said the bible is just a book and shouldn’t be idolized as though it’s sending readers a message they need to pay attention to and apply in their lives. Lots of books do that, because they’re about people and written by people who have eyes and ears and have families and live in communities. I don’t know what you are after, other than spinning and spinning obsessively.

        • Didn’t you assert that sociology was the most atheistic field of science?

          No, I was rather more specific:

          LB: sociology is mostly non-Christians; I think it might be the most secularized discipline

          More here.

          You are trying too hard to find some pattern that means god is in charge,

          No, actually I think God has largely abandoned humans in the West, after the pattern of 2 Thess 2:1–12. I think we Enlightened humans thought we were teh awesome and so God decided to let us test that little hypothesis by withdrawing. My favorite part of it is when atheists de facto presuppose that what humans most need in order to get out of their various messes is more power over reality (including humans). How many more decades do you think we should try that little strategy?

          when we’re just humans …

          Reminds me of one of Nigel Stanford’s songs:

          we’re just humans
          wanting craving
          so there can be no one to blame
          if our heart are fading

          (Everything Changed)

          We’re just evolved primates, so if we’re not up to the task … oh well. Grab me another beer, will ya?

          I don’t know what you are after, other than spinning and spinning obsessively.

          Less self-delusion and ever-increasing competence, knowledge, beauty, and goodness. Fuck the excuses of us “just being humans”. Anyone who wants to languish in mediocrity and delusion is welcome to get off the train and be pruned by natural selection. (Actually I’d rather they don’t, but it didn’t sound as good that way.)

        • Kodie

          Ok, so now it’s nihilism you’re trying to avoid?

        • I don’t necessarily want to avoid it; I would like to know if it is falsifiable.

        • Kodie

          Nihilism is a state of mind. If there’s no god, you make your life meaningful via illusion. I’m not going to right now say that’s invalid, just that it’s quite evident that humans can believe their life is meaningful without a god by making some shit up. Theists all over the world and across spacetime who do/did not believe in the same god you do, or the same cherry-picked rules you do found their lives meaningful.

          I’ve said this before to other Christians but you blocked me, so you probably didn’t see it, but the more I learn about animals, the better I feel and the more I know, and the more convinced there isn’t a god. Christians tend to know nothing about animals, and dismiss animals, or don’t think of humans as animals. Tell me right now if you’re that far behind reality.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I don’t know what you are after, other than spinning and spinning obsessively.

          Trying to rationalise the irrational?

        • Kodie

          I don’t just feel like he’s spinning, but using some material, something like a cotton candy machine (candy floss, is that what you call it?) or those things that turn a skein of yarn into a ball. Luke is at the center. He says he’s not about protecting his beliefs (at least not easily, and I agree) by being in the den of atheism, but throwing out insulation in every direction so people just get frustrated with him before he can be educated about anything accidentally denting his beliefs. This can’t be good for the environment but it saves on heating and cooling bills, so it’s fine.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHtGh8ida7k

        • Susan

          being in the den of atheism, but throwing out insulation in every direction so people just get frustrated with him before he can be educated about anything accidentally denting his beliefs.

          Creationist tactics.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2009/06/creationist-tactics/

          He’s not here to test his beliefs.

          He never has been.

          He is here to shit disturb.

        • Pofarmer

          at least it doesn’t appear he’s going to break up another forum.

        • Ignorant Amos

          He want’s to use scripture to alleviate evil in the here and now…and predict a utopian world if everyone got on board…but his scripture doesn’t do what he wants it to, just his unique interpretation of it. If the bullshit in his book hasn’t worked by now, it ain’t gonna. Humanity should start with a clean sheet and bin all the crap and begin afresh. But then LB wasn’t what he wanted us all to think he was, the crusader against all that is bad with our species. His fuckwit attitude to pro-choice was a massive chink in his armour just for starters.

          He was definitely draining to keep up with, I’m not a bit sorry he gone…it was frustrating not having the time to answer the parts of his Gish Gallop that I thought I had a decent retort to, and that can be every bit as frustrating as having to wade through walls of screed, or even TL;DR.

        • Ficino

          I endorse anyone’s thinking further about things, including my own thinking further.

          So far I think life makes more sense, to put it crudely, on the “shit happens” outlook than on the “God did it” outlook. And I don’t see a direction in yours above by which we could distinguish a world w/ no God from a world with God. While, without the God part, we have fewer intractable discrepancies to try to explain [away]. That’s my take; I can’t write a long piece documenting each assertion I’ve just made. There may be some ground of being out there or in here. I don’t see any positive reason to identify it with Yahweh.

        • So far I think life makes more sense, to put it crudely, on the “shit happens” outlook than on the “God did it” outlook.

          That’s fair enough; I think Christians are so disordered in their understanding of God (where is the foundation that gathers information on how to help the homeless from across the world and then disseminates it?) that they’re probably 100% at fault for said “more sense”.

          But can you give me any sort of sense of what would push you in the other direction? I don’t mean have everything make perfect sense, but instead just tilt the balance in the other direction. Even scientists know that a lot of shit doesn’t make sense while they strive to make more sense of reality. The lab studied in Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing up threw away 1/2 of its data IIRC.

          And I don’t see a direction in yours above by which we could distinguish a world w/ no God from a world with God.

          Let me share a possible aporia I discovered after writing my response above:

          LB: There’s an interesting paradox at play:

               (I) on the one hand, the atheist holds up scientific knowledge as the best kind
              (II) on the other hand, the atheist wants God to break the laws of nature as evidence

          In case it isn’t obvious, (II) is antithetical to the most highly valued thing. God is pretty much the naturalist’s Satan if he does (II). I suspect if God aids (I), humans will somehow manage to get all the credit. I hope I’m wrong with this analysis, but I’ve gotten no solid counter-indications so far.

          Does that make any sense, to you?

          While, without the God part, we have fewer intractable discrepancies to try to explain [away].

          Erm, that’s always an option if you declare more of reality “chaotic” or “without law”. If mental reality were truly 100% subjective, then the answer to Are there laws which govern minds? would be “no” and psychologists could retire (or find other jobs). Positing further order virtually always opens up more problems!

        • Ficino

          My original question had to do with evidence for belief that the doctrines of Christianity are true. You were unwilling to point to evidence, so then I scaled back to “reasons”.

          To push me in the other direction? Toward what? I think the Bible itself generates defeaters for Christianity. If the “other direction” is only toward a more generic form of theism, or toward some other religion, then perhaps three “pushers toward” might include: experience or experiences that yield beliefs that are properly basic [the experience would have to render moot the second-level issues of how to assess the experience]; robust patterns of answers to prayer, which involve effects that aren’t accounted for on natural causes; ditto for prophecy.

          I don’t think your (I) and (II) above constitute a paradox, and I don’t foresee that debate about them will be interesting. I don’t know whether you are trying to define God’s operations so that they will be undetectable, but if you are, then I see no reason to, shall we say, buy what Christian preachers/apologists are selling.

        • My original question had to do with evidence for belief that the doctrines of Christianity are true. You were unwilling to point to evidence, so then I scaled back to “reasons”.

          Correct; I wasn’t willing to hit “evidence” before doing some work on “reasons”. If people want to judge me irrational or intellectually dishonest or whatever because of that, I cannot stop them.

          F: So far I think life makes more sense, to put it crudely, on the “shit happens” outlook than on the “God did it” outlook.

          LB: But can you give me any sort of sense of what would push you in the other direction? I don’t mean have everything make perfect sense, but instead just tilt the balance in the other direction. Even scientists know that a lot of shit doesn’t make sense while they strive to make more sense of reality.

          F: To push me in the other direction? Toward what? I think the Bible itself generates defeaters for Christianity. If the “other direction” is only toward a more generic form of theism, or toward some other religion, then perhaps three “pushers toward” might include: experience or experiences that yield beliefs that are properly basic [the experience would have to render moot the second-level issues of how to assess the experience]; robust patterns of answers to prayer, which involve effects that aren’t accounted for on natural causes; ditto for prophecy.

          I understand the attitude whereby if you find one negative thing about a person or thing, you reject the whole shebang. I find it a generally unhelpful tactic, but I recognize that a lot of Christians unfortunately teach it, as if they’ve never read Heb 5:11–14. And I understand that a lot of Christians teach that the Bible especially has to be “100% perfect”, where “100% perfect” is judged by … woefully imperfect beings. And I understand that many Christians teach verbal plenary inspiration, whereby God robo-controlled the humans writing down scripture (and redacting it? and copying?). In my life however, I have determined that oftentimes, when I perceive fault outside of me, it actually is within. I recognize that this is not a common behavior, even though that internal check is required by Jesus in Mt 7:1–5.

          On answered prayer: what do you think is wise for God to do if humans only intend to use prayers to get more power over reality and others, instead of e.g. expanding their understanding of reality and learning how to be ever-better to their fellow humans (and non-humans!)? I’m positing a kind of closedness to arbitrary growth in knowledge, wisdom, excellence, goodness, and beauty. If it’s true that humans are closed in this way, do you think it’s wise for God to continue giving us more of what we want—that is, pouring accelerant on our [current] desires?

          On experiences: it may interest you to know that I don’t base any of my confidence that God probably exists on personal religious experience. A good theological case against too much trust in religious experiences can be made from 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul prioritizes communicable knowledge/​wisdom over private experience. It is as if … God wants us to bless others ever more intensely and understand creation ever more fully. Well, at least God as I understand him, through Paul and other authors of scripture. Experiences can help in this, but only so much if they are not communicable.

          On “effects that aren’t accounted for on natural causes”: why is this a good thing? Why is lack of understanding of reality a good way for us to believe in God? That sounds more like the temples of old, which I suspect housed science and technology cloaked in magical rhetoric in order to concentrate and control it. You see the attempt to control in Joshua’s reaction in Numbers 11:24–30; Moses on the other and wants knowledge/​wisdom to be available freely to all.

          On “prophecy”: do you want mere prediction of the future (the kind of thing one can bet on and make money), or something different? It seems to me that we humans might get better and better at predicting the future; if so, it seems plausible that some cabal could crack some puzzles and build an AI which does this exceedingly well. Would you then consider the AI to be godlike? I wouldn’t. Now, if “prophecy” were to somehow enhance human (and non-human) thriving, that would be a different matter. I could see the source of that increased thriving as being either God or an agent working according to God’s will. Then again, I would always be looking out on deviation from the course, for those who appeared to be good hombres who were actually bad hombres. (e.g. the 2009 TV series V)

          Thanks for your answer, by the way. Do you find it surprising that I might disagree with all of them? Perhaps you can now see that I didn’t want to jump directly to “evidence”; we may well evaluate it exceedingly differently!

          I don’t think your (I) and (II) above constitute a paradox …

          Evidence of a good god can render what we consider most valuable, worthless? At least help me see how that might be wrong—you’re welcome to claim the last word on the matter.

          I don’t know whether you are trying to define God’s operations so that they will be undetectable, but if you are, then I see no reason to, shall we say, buy what Christian preachers/​apologists are selling.

          See the competition I just suggested to Ignorant Amos (end of comment). Does that qualify as “undetectable”? I would like to think I’m on your side wrt those preachers/​apologists, but you may vehemently disagree.

        • Ficino

          Miracles and fulfilled prophecy are two major categories of evidence that the Catholic Church is the true church, according to Vatican I. So I mentioned those as possible “pushers toward” belief, though I reworded the miracle heading. I mentioned answered prayer separately because the NT makes promises about answered prayer. I started to realize that I was losing the grounds to keep believing in Christianity when I realized how these claims made by its proponents don’t stack up.

          I notice in some of your posts that you want to see the fault, not in evidence, but in ourselves, that we do not see what the evidence is claimed to evidence. Christians can stay a long time in what I think is a dysfunctional system by blaming outcomes on themselves, that they’re not doing it right or not doing it hard enough. No one in my experience ever becomes a complete sage; no one escapes charges of “you are prideful.” Your demand that the observer be pure before assessing evidence is in my view another strategy for insulating the religion against sober assessment. When am I ever going to satisfy theoretical demands that I look at the evidence with just the right eyes?

          But look at the religion’s pitch from the POV of a prospective buyer. Why should l buy the pitch? So far you still have provided nothing. What you have provided, as I understand what you’ve written, boils down to strategies for concluding that the claims of Christianity might in the end not be false. [I am being a bit rhetorical there but I hope the point is apparent.]

          Clearly, Christian faith is important to you. I’m not seeing grounds for affirming its peculiar doctrines as true.

          And back to the Bible, well, I have found more than one negative thing in it. More than two. More than three. More than… ??

        • Miracles and fulfilled prophecy are two major categories of evidence that the Catholic Church is the true church, according to Vatican I.

          Ok; they are two major categories of “irrelevant to understanding God’s character” according to Torah:

          “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 12:32–13:5)

          So when the Pharisees demand a sign—

          The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. (Mark 8:11–13)

          —we can read that as them looking for pretext to execute Jesus. For more, see J.H.H. Weiler’s 2010 First Things article The Trial of Jesus. So, exactly what am I supposed to deduce from miracles and fulfilled prophecy? Let’s recall this as well:

          Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. (Matthew 24:23–25)

          So again, what am I supposed to deduce from miracles and fulfilled prophecy?

          Now, we can ignore the Bible completely and just perform a brief philosophical treatment. What are miracles and fulfilled prophecy, but an indication that there is a power which is more powerful than you? Is anything else indicated? I’ve thought about this for a while and the answer appears to be: no. Miracles and fulfilled prophecy cannot indicate goodness. Do you agree, or disagree? If you agree, then how on earth are miracles and fulfilled prophecies supposed to be evidence that a good agent exists, rather than a powerful person (or maybe just force)?

          I’m going to pause there and see what you think; I started writing a response to the rest of your comment but I’m going to hold on to it for the time being.

        • Ficino

          from your opening move to torpedo Vatican I from the Torah, I conclude that you do not think the Roman Catholic Church teaches infallibly, in all the proper senses that we don’t need to parse. And why should anyone think his private interpretation of verses of the Torah overturns the teaching of an ecumenical council?
          See, this is a good example of disputes over stuff that is not in principle able to be adjudicated on any methodology available to all in common. You can say the fathers at Vatican I were “am ha eretz,” and who’s to prove you wrong?

          As far as goodness goes, classical theism tells us that perfections of God are not predicated univocally also of creatures. So it’s futile on that theory to look around at what would manifest goodness, in your or my eyes, and then judge claims about God. Read Brian Davies, if you haven’t yet done so.

          I wash my hands of these conventional representations. And again, you have not presented any strong, positive reason to think the doctrines peculiar to historic Christianity are true. From what I see of the world, I do not think a good agent (as I understand good) is the posited omni-everything unmoved mover/creator etc. of it.

          Luke, my sense from what you say about goodness is that as a human being, you have a sense of it. So do I/we skeptics. That’s a precious common ground. I am starting to think maybe you are a better man than the religion that you are trying to argue is not false.

        • See, this is a good example of disputes over stuff that is not in principle able to be adjudicated on any methodology available to all in common. You can say the fathers at Vatican I were “am ha eretz,” and who’s to prove you wrong?

          Did you miss this bit:

          LB: Now, we can ignore the Bible completely and just perform a brief philosophical treatment. What are miracles and fulfilled prophecy, but an indication that there is a power which is more powerful than you? Is anything else indicated? I’ve thought about this for a while and the answer appears to be: no. Miracles and fulfilled prophecy cannot indicate goodness. Do you agree, or disagree? If you agree, then how on earth are miracles and fulfilled prophecies supposed to be evidence that a good agent exists, rather than a powerful person (or maybe just force)?

          If not, what in that “is not in principle able to be adjudicated on any methodology available to all in common”?

        • Ficino

          No, I did not miss that bit.

          Since after all this time you offer no evidence/reason/argument to support the contention that the doctrines peculiar to Christianity are true (or even that classical theism is true), I am out. I will wait until such time as you present same.

          You may notice that many others on here have had the same reaction. I’m surprised that you continue playing the same game. No one else is playing.

        • You haven’t told me what would possibly convince you, except for things that I think make no sense. What am I supposed to do? I cannot convince someone I know so little about. I can say what convinces me to keep looking and researching, but it appears that isn’t enough for the likes of you. Somehow, this seems to mean I’m wrong. What the fuck?

    • Kevin K

      Ah, is that who it is. I blocked him a long-long-long time ago, in a galaxy far-far away. He just doesn’t have anything interesting to say, so I feel safe in ignoring him.

      The most-effective strategy I’ve found is to assiduously not feed the troll. Don’t reply to him at all, ever. Start a new thread with a new thought right above his screed(s), and completely ignore him if/when he tries to thread-jack.

      • Lark62

        Yes. I rarely block people. When I do it’s not because I disagree but because they are a waste of space.

        • Joe

          Another card-carrying member of the “blocked Luke Breuer” club here. He’s an absolute waste of time and effort who only sees things through his own lens. He was eviscerated int he same thread in which I finally lost patience with him, either here of on The Secular outpost and he disappeared for a while. I thought he was gone for good.

        • Kevin K

          I’m becoming less inclined to be tolerant of fools these days.

  • Lerk!

    “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession”

    That’s Yahweh’s escape clause from the covenant, at least, if you believe the Christians who don’t think Jesus is going to establish an Earthly kingdom. Israel didn’t keep their end of the bargain, and (somehow) the plan was never for an Earthly kingdom but a spiritual one, anyway. So Yahweh destroys Israel and he isn’t going to raise them up again. But the Evangelicals in England and the US managed to raise Israel up without Yahweh’s help, and they’re planning to get WWIII going any day now thinking that they’re helping Yahweh accomplish his plan.

  • Jim Jones

    > Second, the fault is with the human scribes and keepers of the Bible, and if it had just been written and copied correctly, it would make sense. One wonders, then, why God would allow his message to become so muddled.

    Then I began to see that not just the scribal text but the original text itself was a very human book. This stood very much at odds with how I had regarded the text in my late teens as a newly minted “born-again” Christian, convinced that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and that the biblical words themselves had come to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As I realized already in graduate school, even if God had inspired the original words, we don’t have the original words. So the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense irrelevant to the Bible as we have it, since the words God reputedly inspired had been changed and, in some cases, lost.

    Moreover, I came to think that my earlier views of inspiration were not only irrelevant, they were probably wrong. For the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place. Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them.

    Misquoting Jesus — Bart Ehrman

    • I read MJ and I don’t recall Ehrman showing a single doctrine changing in all the
      letter, word, and sentences changes/​ambiguities he presented. Humans are able to do a lot with conflicting observations; see my inclusion of Hubble’s original data in part 1 of 2.

      • Greg G.

        There are so many different doctrines derived from the Bible that the text doesn’t matter all that much. James clearly disagrees with Paul but most doctrines reconcile them anyway. Martin Luther rejected James because he saw the disagreement.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    I guess God forgot the rules he wrote on the 1st set of tablets and had to make up a new set of 10 commandments.

    • Kevin K

      Kinda like Joseph Smith had to reboot his Book of Mormon when he lost the first version.

      • I thought his wife stole it? I’m relying on my (imperfect) recollection of the authoritative source, South Park.

  • Ficino

    On Bob’s second Sacrifices OP, there is still a discussion of the papyrus fragment of Matthew, which the commentator These Things Were Written brought up as evidence that the gospels are historically accurate – in all they assert, as far as I understand TTWW. TTWW relies on what he says is scientific dating by palaeographical methods to put the time of writing at or before A.D. 60. That is a stupendous and not generally accepted date. I’m taking the liberty to post a few further comments here because that thread is already very long!

    ID: the papyrus fragment in question is P. Magdalen Greek 17/ P. Barcelona 1. The dual listing comes from the fact that three scraps of the same codex reside now in Oxford and two in Barcelona. In the standard NT papyrus inventories these are named P64 and P67.
    Thanks to ildi [hope I have your screen name right!] for figuring out that the mysterious papyrus so often mentioned by TTWW is this one.

    TTWW, without saying so, is relying on the dating proposed by Carsten Peter Thiede in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 105 (1995) 13-20. I just read Thiede’s article. Much of Thiede’s article is taken up with his correction of earlier wrong shelfmark numbers of the papyrus in Oxford, with the history of its finding and dating by others, and correction of some readings of the text that it offers. Interestingly, the scribe spelled Galilee wrongly in Greek as “Galeglaia” and not “Galilaia.” Thiede comments, “The scribe of Magdalen Gr. 17 was not averse to original decisions; even this mistake is, in a way, original.” The article closes with photos.

    When PMagd 17/Barc 1 was acquired at Luxor in 1901, it was dated to third century, and judgments based on the handwriting have varied by centuries. The consensus had been late second century to around 200.

    Comparison with letters forms from some Greek documents found at Qumran and Herculaneum (though he says little about those) lead Thiede to place PMagd before the Jewish revolt, on the theory that the Qumran papyri are at latest at same time as the revolt. Although scrolls were more common than codices at this time, Thiede gives some examples of late 1st century codices. He settles on a date that could be prior to 70; nothing, contrary to what TTWW said, is mentioned about A.D. 60 as terminus ante quem. But I emphasize: Thiede is not proposing a SECURE date. He begins his discussion of date with the statement that the consensus date of c. 200 “might be too late” (15).

    In 1996, however, Thiede had made further comparisons of PMagd 17 with a dated document, POxyrhynchus II.246, from A.D. 66. Thiede in a popularizing book in German co-authored with British journalist Michael D’Ancona (I don’t cite it here but I will for anyone interested) placed the Matthew fragment at the same time.

    In the next year, 1996, in the same journal (ZPE 113, 153-157)), Harald Vocke rejects Thiede’s (and d’Ancona’s) dating and points out that Thiede was not a professional papyrologist.

    Thiede’s claims have been rejected in more detail by two top papyrologists whom I mentioned earlier, Brent Nongbri and Roger Bagnall. See in detail, Bagnall’s Early Christian Books in Egypt (2009) 25-40.

    More as I come across it.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Fer feck sake….wish I’d seen this an hour ago…it would’ve saved me the time hoking about and posting this… https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/human_sacrifice_in_the_bible_2_of_2_61/#comment-3864230707

      Thanks to Greg for linking to your comment.

      • Ficino

        Good stuff you posted there, IAmos.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Not as well laid out as your own better articulated comment, but I can’t whine about TTWW’s lack of citation without citing what the experts really think, with links.

    • Ctharrot

      From RCR/TTWW’s website (with my comments in brackets):

      * * *

      It is so easy to dismiss altogether the testimony about Jesus in the Bible, by saying that these accounts were written long after they occurred, as modern apostate commentators [That’s us!] so often do today. [Actually, the passage of time between the miracles described and the earliest documents is only one of many reasons we don’t credit the Gospel narratives.] You will not hear these self-proclaimed experts of historical evidence make the same accusations against any other secular record for any other person of history. [Not remotely true.] Homer’s Iliad is documented by copies which are dated at least one thousand years after the events occurred, yet no one disputes their authenticity. [Not sure what’s meant by authenticity here. But we sure as heck dispute the contents’ verity, as does every classicist and historian of whom I know. Putting the gods and visions and giant hollow wooden horse aside, there’s not even a scholarly consensus that a Trojan War occurred as described, or that a single poet named Homer existed, blind or otherwise.] The account of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels of the New Testament, has today been proven to have been written as soon as 28 years after the events took place. [Not true.]

      One of the most stunning discoveries in the field of New Testament reliability came from an Egyptologist in the late 19th century by the name of Charles B. Huleatt. Three small fragments of papyrus from upper Egypt, found at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1901, contained twenty four lines from the gospel of Matthew Chapters 26:23 and 31. [If this discovery is so stunning, then why did RCR/TTWW refuse repeated requests to identify it?] Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede, the director of the Institute of Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn, Germany, discovered by a scanning laser microscope that these fragments were certainly from the original gospel of Matthew that was written while Matthew was still alive, about 60 A.D. [Thiede’s dating was optimistic, but not this categorical and unrestrained.] This is just 28 years after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. [Assumes facts not in evidence.] This means that the Gospel of Matthew that we have in our possession today was written by Matthew Himself, while he was still alive. [No, it doesn’t.]

      * * *

      I guess if RCR/TTWW wants agreement that the Bible and Homeric epics are roughly as reliable, I can accommodate him there. Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be much room for discussion.

      • Otto

        Yes I hate to admit it but he is right. We all accept that the Cyclops was a real creature based on the authenticity of the Iliad. We really do need to admit our hypocrisy. Shame on every one of us.

      • Ficino

        We have already refuted the contentions made by RCR.

        Good work hunting this down.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, but do you think that RCR cares? No. He’ll continue spewing the same crap.

  • Jim Dailey

    Bob
    Can you advise why you ban Luke Breuer?
    I don’t see where he violated any of the commenting rules.
    He provides a lot of thought-provoking comments, and some of the debates (particularly with Ficino and Ignorant Amos) are genuinely fascinating. (I would like epeeist to weigh in too since I find him interesting)
    If people don’t like what he says (he is off topic, or grating, or whatever) they are always free to ignore him/his comments.

    • Luke made many hundreds of comments here, so it’s not like he wasn’t given a chance. The complains were that he wouldn’t respond to questions or issues but would dance away from them and never admit that he had made a mistake or backed a faulty argument. I gave him several chances, clarifying what I’d like to see improved in his conversation, but he was unable to improve.

      He had the common trait of being unchangeable, and that is perhaps the worst trait of annoying commenters. I’m happy to help someone learn, pretty much regardless of whatever level they’re at, but if their goal is simply to defend an unchangeable position, I have little patience for that.

      I agree that ignoring comments form annoying people is an option, but he still caused clutter. The masses cried out in unison, and my heart was moved.

      • Greg G.

        What happened to RCR/TTWW?

        • Dunno. I didn’t ban him.

          My guess is that, try as we might, we couldn’t reach his intellectual level. Ah, well–maybe next time.

        • Greg G.

          Was it something I said? I didn’t see a parting shot. Must have caught a last second deal on a vacation in Croydon.

      • Susan

        he wouldn’t respond to questions or issues but would dance away from them and never admit that he had made a mistake or backed a faulty argument

        Sadly, this is what Jim has been doing.

        That he’s a fan of Luke is no surprise

    • Kodie

      I’m sure you think he’s a brilliant guy, and if you want to talk to him yourself, his email is in his disqus profile. He’s a giant pain in the ass, in total denial that he is. It’s not even just the things he says but how his presence eats the blog and nobody else gets a word in. Blocking him does no good, because readers still get their notifications about responses to him. After so many years, he will just attach himself to every thread on this blog and change the subject to whatever he wants to talk about, which has never changed or progressed. He doesn’t know how to behave socially, which is sad, but it’s hard to teach someone who can’t tell how disturbing his presence is to the balance of open conversation on this blog, and jokes that he’s using too many electrons that there’s not enough for everyone else. Because he either doesn’t get how social interactions work, or he doesn’t care, both of which are problematic. Another issue with Luke is that he blocks a lot of people he doesn’t deem worthy of his attention, posting hundreds of posts per day, so most interested posters have nothing to do. He sucks all the air out of the blog.