A Glimpse of the Garden

By way of Pandagon, I came across this incredible story from NPR’s This American Life, an hourlong report on, and interview with, the evangelical pastor Carlton Pearson.

Pearson was once one of the rising stars of the religious right: a hardcore Pentecostal preacher, head of an Oklahoma megachurch, a protege of Oral Roberts and a spokesman for George Bush’s faith-based initiatives who had the ear of the White House under three different presidents. He preached alongside Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson and other leading lights of the evangelical world, hosted his own show on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and founded Azusa, a wildly popular Christian festival that combined ministry and gospel music. He had it all, and could have kept it all, except for one thing: a rebellion of conscience which convinced him that the Christianity he was teaching was morally wrong. And for the sake of that conscience, he lost nearly everything.

I’ve written before about fervent believers who’ve become atheists, like the former Pentecostal preacher James Young (An Inspiring Story), or the religion reporter William Lobdell (Nothing Behind the Altar). Pearson hasn’t gone that far – he’s still a Christian, though he now holds a universalist view he calls “the gospel of inclusion”. But he’s eliminated eternal damnation from his theology, and even that small step towards freethought was enough to get him branded a heretic and earn the scorn and exclusion of his former colleagues and friends.

In his youth, Pearson was a fiery Pentecostal; he was hailed as a hero by his congregation after he exorcised demons out of his girlfriend at a revival meeting. Of these days, he said in the interview, “I expected demons. I saw them everywhere, so that was part of my life… The Devil was as present and as large as God. He had the people. He was ultimately going to get most of the people. Demons were all over, in the church, in the schools, in the neighborhoods. Everything was a devil. So if you believe it, you experience it.”

Pearson attended Oral Roberts University, where he joined the World Action Singers, a student choir that Roberts groomed to perform on the networks and other mainstream media. He became a friend and protege of Oral Roberts himself, who called Pearson his “black son”. He ultimately quit the group after battles with Roberts’ son Richard Roberts, though he and Oral remained close.

After leaving ORU, Pearson founded his own church, Higher Dimensions. Powered by his undisputed charisma, the church flourished and grew, reaching a membership of around 5,000. Other, still-influential megachurch preachers such as T.D. Jakes owe their success to Pearson’s initial mentoring.

The turning point came in the late 1990s. Pearson, until then, had preached a conventional evangelical theology – eternal damnation for sinners, hellfire and gnashing of teeth, and being born again in Jesus as the only way to be saved. But a small seed of doubt was growing in him, and eventually it began to bloom. In the interview, he describes his moment of epiphany while at home one night watching television, a news report about war and famine in Rwanda:

“I’m watching these little kids with swollen bellies, and it looks like their skin is stretched across their little skeletal remains, their hair is kind of red from malnutrition… the babies have got flies in the corners of their eyes and mouths, and they reach for their mother’s breast and the mother’s breast looks like a little pencil hanging there, and the baby’s reaching for the breast, there’s no milk…

“I said, ‘God, I don’t know how you could call yourself a loving, sovereign God and allow these people to suffer this way and just suck them right into Hell,’ which was my assumption.

“…The way the God of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is presented: he’s a monster. The God we’ve been preaching is a monster. He’s worse than Saddam, he’s worse than Osama bin Laden, he’s worse than Hitler, the way we’ve presented him. Because Hitler just burned six million Jews, but God’s going to burn at least six billion people, and burn them forever. He has this customized torture chamber, called Hell, where he’s going to torment, torture. Not for a few minutes or a few days or a few hours or a few weeks. Forever.”

Many Christian believers experience these flickers of conscience, but in Pearson’s case, they became a full-blown crisis of faith. Under the pressure, the content of his faith changed, and when he returned to his church, he brought a different message. Now he said the Bible was “not necessarily infallible or inerrant”, that there was no eternal damnation, and that Jesus’ sacrifice had redeemed all of humanity – Christians, atheists and everyone else – whether they believed in him or not.

Pearson’s new gospel received a frosty reception. Higher Dimensions’ congregation dwindled from 5,000 to just 200. The church’s other pastors resigned in protest. Oral Roberts University removed him from its board of regents, and influential evangelicals across the country denounced him. Pearson became persona non grata with his own friends and colleagues; to them, he says, it’s “like I died”. Even his parishioners – the ones who stayed – describe being accosted on the street or in the supermarket by friends or neighbors demanding to know why they were still attending a church that teaches such heresy.

Today Pearson is a minister in the United Church of Christ, using the rhythms and cadence of Pentecostalism to preach a new message of tolerance and unity. His preaching attracts a new crowd – more liberal, more gay-friendly – and slowly, attendance has begun to inch upward again.

Pearson’s story shows that the evangelical church, in its essence, is based on fear of Hell and not love of God. Had he preached that some other church was not strict enough – that God was withholding salvation from some group formerly believed to be saved – I doubt anyone would have batted an eye. But to widen the circle of the saved was, for his brethren, an intolerable heresy. Theirs is a theology that elevates wrath over mercy, punishment over grace, and judgment over love. One of Pearson’s associate pastors admits as much, candidly saying that teachings about eternal torment and the Rapture did far more to fill the pews than teaching about love and forgiveness ever will.

More than anything else, evangelicals are united and motivated by belief in Hell. Eternal torment lies at the heart of their faith; it defines their self-image and forms the lens through which they view the world. And there’s a reason for that: in their theology, God’s love is indiscriminate, but God’s salvation is highly selective. Their belief that they are saved and most people are not gives them a sense of privilege, of sanctification – a feeling that they possess something rare and precious. Taking Hell out of the equation directly threatens this belief – it threatens to make them no different from anyone else – which explains why the denunciations of Pearson by his fellow evangelicals were so swift and so vehement.

But despite its superficial advantage in motivating the flock, belief in hellfire more than loses out due to its horrendously evil implications. Carlton Pearson has glimpsed a better way – rejecting the moral absurdity of a God who permits innocent humans to suffer indescribably, then casts them into eternal damnation. He ought to take the next step and ask himself: why believe in a God that permits people, like those people in Rwanda, to suffer so terribly even during this life?

The answer that humans do this to themselves is too facile. Even if that is true, it would not excuse a deity with the power to help from the moral obligation of aiding the innocent. Pearson has already had the strength of conscience and the basic honesty to reject so many of the old, inadequate apologetics. Now he has the opportunity to go just a bit farther, to leave behind just a few more unnecessary beliefs, and follow many of his former colleagues into a better place: a garden of free thought and clear air, where all the supernaturalisms that plague us are finally left behind.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Valhar2000

    I wonder why no more people follow in this man’s footsteps; it must indeed be the fear of loosing their priviledge and social support. Perhaps they are right, and we are indeed sinners in need of betterment, and the humanist cause is a pipe-dream.

    God gives hope? HAH!

  • NoAstronomer

    One of Pearson’s associate pastors admits as much, candidly saying that teachings about eternal torment and the Rapture did far more to fill the pews than teaching about love and forgiveness ever will.

    I can’t help but feel that this is the theological equivalent of slasher porn. Some people just like to think about violence directed at other people.

  • DB Ellis


    Now he has the opportunity to go just a bit farther, to leave behind just a few more unnecessary beliefs, and follow many of his former colleagues into a better place: a garden of free thought and clear air, where all the supernaturalisms that plague us are finally left behind.

    When the only livelihood you’ve ever known or been trained for depends on it this step must be doubly difficult. In time, though, maybe he will. Many of us deconverted in increments. After I lost belief in christianity I still hopefully explored, for a couple of years, the many varieties of mysticism that have existed. From that of Plotinus to Taoism, Buddhism and many others. But, though all of that was appealing, I could see that there was no more reason to think it true than any other religious idea.

  • hb531

    I love the garden!

  • Vin

    Just another example of how the fundamentalist theology of my way or the highway works! According to them, even most Christians are burning in hell. I’m sure deep down inside the fundies are gleeful for it.

  • Brad

    I’m sure deep down inside the fundies are gleeful for it.

    I’m sure some secretly hate themselves, and maybe even God for it, actually. If the doctrine of hell, conventionally held, doesn’t cause reverberations of confusion, depression, and doubt under the surface, then I’d be quite surprised about basic human nature.

  • JS Thompson

    I saw this months ago and I was struck at how close he came to deconversion (to atheism). It really seemed sad. I agree with the previous comment that since the only thing he knows how to do is preach that is what he is going to do.

    I grew up in Tulsa and was infected by people connected to Oral Roberts University. I took a course and Tulsa Univ called New Testament survey. I became at least an agnostic after two weeks.

  • ex machina

    I think were going to see a lot of this kind of transformation in the religious world. I might like to see people abandon their beliefs completely, but I think that’s unlikely. Many people are unwilling to abandon spirituality, but I think they are willing to adjust their interpretation if they witness enough of the world.

  • Wayne Essel

    “Now he has the opportunity to go just a bit farther, to leave behind just a few more unnecessary beliefs, and follow many of his former colleagues into a better place: a garden of free thought and clear air, where all the supernaturalisms that plague us are finally left behind.”

    This part, in my opinion, is neither necessary nor desirable. Until humans stop experiencing synchronicities and other providential events that appear to be well beyond the realm of pure coincidence, most people will not give up hope that we are more than our physical bodies and have some hope of existence beyond this life.

    Retaining this hope does not interfere with living a rational, loving life. To work towards the erradication of this hope fosters annoyance. I personally would rather see both sides get to a point where they can guiltlessly choose either path and tolerate, and even support, the other path. Celebrate diversity and work together for the betterment of mankind.

    Regards,

    Wayne

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Ingrid and I heard this NPR piece as well, and were also very strongly affected by it. (It’s quite a story.) What really struck me about it wasn’t so much that the church leadership turned away from Pearson. That wasn’t surprising. What struck me was that his congregation turned away from him. When he stopped talking about Hell and started talking about a more loving, forgiving, inclusive God, his followers left him by the thousands. He had a sort of rueful sense of humor about it, saying, essentially, that the hell talk was what put the butts in the seats.

    And how sad is that?

    This is what Ingrid always points out about this story: These people were handed a chance to reject the hateful part of their religion. They were handed it on a silver platter. Their respected and beloved minister was offering it to them every week. And they said, “No, thanks.” They wanted to believe in hell. They wanted to believe in a God who tortured billions of people by holding them in a fire forever. It makes me sick and sad.

  • ex machina

    This is what Ingrid always points out about this story: These people were handed a chance to reject the hateful part of their religion. They were handed it on a silver platter. Their respected and beloved minister was offering it to them every week. And they said, “No, thanks.” They wanted to believe in hell. They wanted to believe in a God who tortured billions of people by holding them in a fire forever. It makes me sick and sad.

    Also, it makes an interesting bit of hypocrisy. Most of the more fundamental churches usually include some kind of submission to authority as part of their theology. The rules are handed down from on high, usually by way of a preacher, and it’s not your position to question, but to obey. And yet, here the congregants who left demonstrated that they did, in fact, have a sense of right and wrong that they developed internally, and chose to adhere to it.

  • Tom

    Commendable though Mr Perason’s partial conversion is, I find it rather depressing, though not terribly surprising, that an evangelical Christian, the sort of person who loves to expound at great length on such matters as morality, could evidently go such a long time without encountering the problem of evil. It’s a good illustration of an important aspect of fundamentalist thought, though – if there’s anything that could cast doubt on your faith that your supposedly perfect tenets don’t provide a ready answer to, the only defense is simply not to think about it at all.

  • Tom

    Retaining this hope does not interfere with living a rational, loving life.

    I disagree. Belief in the existence of anything undetectable or in the total absence of any evidence, such as continuation of sentience beyond death or a divine entity unbounded by the laws of reality, is an implicit rejection of rationality. Only compartmentalised thinking can allow such a situation, and that leaves a person semi-rational at best.

  • goyo

    In my old southern baptist church, we would always have a summer and winter revival, and the evangelist was rated on how much “fire and brimstone” he preached.
    Have any of you heard the old sermon about eternity in hell and how long eternity is by comparing it to an eagle flying by the earth and brushing it with his wingtip?
    I’ve probably heard that one a hundred times.

  • Polly

    I agree with Wayne Essel’s comment. Lots of people hold onto dumb ideas and myths about the real world that have nothing to do with religion. That will always be the case. I’m sure I hold some beliefs or assumptions that are either contradicted by fact, or are illogical. (some here might even point them out) No one, not even super smart atheists are perfectly rational. I’d settle for humanist believers who are tolerant and don’t RELY on the supernatural.

    Heck, maybe the species as a whole really CAN’T handle mortality.

    Have any of you heard the old sermon about eternity in hell and how long eternity is by comparing it to an eagle flying by the earth and brushing it with his wingtip?

    Huh? Never heard that. How does it go, if you don’t mind explaining?

  • cl

    I realize the context is the morality of eternal damnation and the problem of evil, but the part that didn’t make sense for me was Pearson’s epiphany moment as described by this line:

    “I said, ‘God, I don’t know how you could call yourself a loving, sovereign God and allow these people to suffer this way and just suck them right into Hell,’

    What’s unclear is the pastor’s justification for the a priori claim the people in the particular village he saw on television were going to hell.

    BTW, I’m perfectly familiar with the problem of evil and my question has nothing to do with such.

    Tom,

    Forgive me for this is tangential, but one criteria you used to define “the implicit rejection of rationality” was,

    Belief in the existence of anything undetectable..

    Then,

    1) Pre-1800, did believers in asteroids and plate tectonics implicitly reject rationality?

    or,

    2) Is falsifiability a relative construct absolutely worthless as a measure of relevance?

  • Alex, FCD

    What’s unclear is the pastor’s justification for the a priori claim the people in the particular village he saw on television were going to hell.

    They weren’t Christians, presumably, and in Pearson’s old theology all non-Christians deservedly burn.

  • cl

    Alex, FCD

    Well I mean that much is obvious. If the pastor (or anyone else) had a particular scripture proffered to support the conclusion, we could analyze it better.

    From everyday life: A homeless alcoholic sits on the streets begging. When a well-dressed and conservative looking family passes the man, their children react with natural human empathy and the little girl goes so far as to offer the man her leftover lunch. The father rebukes the girl because she “shouldn’t talk to strangers” and “those people are dangerous.” The man’s silent cries for help fall on deaf ears as the family piles into a brand new SUV with a Christian bumper sticker. A block or two down the street, some guy innocently into heavy metal who’s never really committed himself to Satan walks out of the record store in a Marilyn Manson T-shirt with the new Christian Death album, totally faded off the chronic joint he just smoked. Upon seeing the homeless man, this youth is genuinely troubled, so much so that he sits down for a second to observe the situation and ponder the enigma of the homeless. He decides that overall, the problem is far greater and more complex than he can help right now, but out of the compassion of his heart he smiles at the man, gives him a cigarette and chats momentarily in an attempt to uplift him, then goes on his way, and in an informal state of prayer, wishes sincerely towards God or the universe or whatever that things would swing around for the guy.

    Who was the Christian? As Russell aptly notes in WIANAC, What is a Christian? It is possible to be a Christian by one person’s definition of the word and it is equally possible to not be a Christian by another’s definition of the word. If the definition of the word Christian is assumed to be somebody who believes in God and goes to church, then by that definition there are a great many Christians around. However, if a Christian is defined as somebody who accepts and adheres to the teachings of Christ, then there are not that many Christians around. And besides, what type of Christian are you referring to? Protestant? Catholic? Liberal? Scientist?

  • TommyP

    Another wonderful post Ebon, Hell was probably the #1 thing that got me to question my faith in the beginning. At first I did kind of miss all the magic and demons in toys and everything. (I was a kid still when I left Christianity)

  • Jesse

    Part of the problem here is that Christians don’t consciously choose their beliefs arbitrarily. They think that the Bible is 100% literally true, and they pull their hope for heaven and the fear of hell from their unquestioning faith in the magic book.

    It takes a lot of mental gymnastics for a Bible believer to give up the fear in hell without losing the hope in heaven. Also problematic is the fact that giving up trust in the Bible would open the door to a world of fear and uncertainty, which would also threaten the immortality of their souls.

    Since I’m in Tulsa, I should go to Pearson’s church with my Christian friends in order to see what they think about it. They’ve been trying to get me to go to Higher Dimensions for a while anyway.

  • mikespeir

    Pre-1800, did believers in asteroids and plate tectonics implicitly reject rationality?

    I don’t understand why this question is being asked. Before there was any reason to believe in asteroids and plate tectonics it would have been irrational to believe in them. (Indeed, what would even have suggested their existence?) On the other hand, since the truth of both was confirmed it’s become irrational not to believe in them.

    Come on. Isn’t that obvious?

  • Jack

    I agree with Jesse on this one. . .I left my faith entirely several years ago (after years of being an evangelical). Part of my reason for leaving was the hell issue. I tried so hard to find a way to believe in the “good stuff” – heaven, a loving god, etc without believing in hell. Tried as I may, I could find no way to be intellectually consistent and believe in the “good stuff” without also having to believe in the hateful and intolerant stuff. I knew that they were all part of the same packaged deal.

    So in that sense I don’t really blame his congregation for leaving him after his change of thinking on what the bible is and about the issue of hell. Virtually all historic Christian confessions include the idea of hell because it is taught explicitly in the new testament – far more explicitly than the idea of the trinity, Christ’s divinity, or other “fundamental” christian concepts. Why should they continue to support a preacher who doesn’t believe the text that they claim to base their lives on?

    (Let me be clear – I don’t believe the bible anymore and wish these people would reject it outright. But in a sense the fundamentalists are more rational than theologically liberal christians. The fundamentalists realize that to reject large parts of the bible is to reject its divine inspiration, and to reject its divine inspiration is to undermine any sort of eternal hope based on its theology.)

  • Jennifer A. Burdoo

    I heard this on NPR. Fascinating. I wanted to sit in the car and hear the whole thing, but I had to get to work… Thanks for posting. Now I can look up his book.

  • S Emerson

    @ Cl,

    Your most recent comments raise an interesting distinction. I know that in the case of my family and my Christian friends, I am considered a non-Christian for two major reasons: I do not hold and have not professed a belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God or as a personal savior, and on the basis of available evidence I reject the existence of their God. Since this is the definition that almost every Christian I’ve ever met seems to favor (and I realize that doesn’t impute said definition to all Christians, or even a majority, though I suspect it would work for most), I guess that Pearson would say that the children in question have probably never asked Jesus Christ for forgiveness, and that the failure to meet that criterion alone would make them non-Christians.

    The dilemma you raise reminds me a bit of my father’s take on religion… his answer to your question would be that both individuals you mention are, if not Christian, then “saved.” He take a somewhat more Unitarian view of theology, believing that there is some sort of God, and that we all need to believe in this God in order to achieve salvation. When I ask him what he thinks we need to be saved from, he never really has an answer, and this I’ve always found mysterious (another conversation for Christmas I suppose.)

    At any rate, in my experience very few Christians would agree with this assesment. “Unless you’re a bible-believing Christian you’re no Christian at all” seems to be the general viewpoint.

    PS – Thanks as always for your comments Cl. I always find your contributions interesting and well-reasoned.

  • mikespeir

    Ebon,

    I’m mystified by how the comments are arranged. I just came on again and found that my last comment was pushed down a couple from where it first appeared. This isn’t the first time it’s happened. Could it be that, since I’m in the Central Time Zone, what’s 3:00 to me is logged as 4:00 on the east coast and someone, somewhere who squeaks in under 4:00, their time, is inserted before me? (But that doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?)

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    mikespeir,

    I’ve also noticed the comment lag at times. Perhaps it seemed a silly question, but here’s what I was getting at:

    Before there was any reason to believe in asteroids and plate tectonics it would have been irrational to believe in them.

    Then believing only what is rational excludes very real and very important realities, does it not?

    S Emerson,

    It does seem that everybody has their own idea of what a Christian is. As for the OP, I’m just wondering what verse exists in the New Testament that says the people Pearson saw in that particular village were going to hell. IOW, why did Pearson think that about the villagers?

    Thanks as always for your comments Cl. I always find your contributions interesting and well-reasoned.

    Thanks for the good words. While I’m definitely not beyond putting my own foot in my mouth, it’s hard to tell at times because quite a few people disagree with me around here for reasons completely unrelated to logic.

  • ex machina
    Before there was any reason to believe in asteroids and plate tectonics it would have been irrational to believe in them.

    Then believing only what is rational excludes very real and very important realities, does it not?

    It would, which seems like a big drawback, but it’s not as though one can’t hypothesize the existence of things that have yet to be proved, and then go about proving them. The big advantage is that it also excludes all the irrational things that are not part of reality.

  • Nes

    Mike, the only reason that I can think of is that some of the comments got held up for moderation. It’s happened to a few of mine. They’re not there when you submit, you refresh, you see other comments but not yours, then come back the next day and there you are, right where you should have been!

  • Leum
    Have any of you heard the old sermon about eternity in hell and how long eternity is by comparing it to an eagle flying by the earth and brushing it with his wingtip?

    Huh? Never heard that. How does it go, if you don’t mind explaining?

    I’m not familiar with that one exactly, but the similar one is that a bird flies to a mountain every hundred years carrying away a single grain of sand. After billions and billions of years the mountain has been worn to the ground and the sun hasn’t even begun to rise on the first day of eternity.

    It was reading that story (I think in one of Ingersoll’s speeches) that convinced me that even Heaven was undesirable simply because eternity is more terrifying than any horror in Hell or joy in Heaven.

    Back on topic, I first heard this story a few years ago, and it still resonates. Ultimately, you can’t think about the fire-and-brimstone hell without dropping it, going insane (as was beginning to happen to Pearson–what with feeling evil every time he didn’t evangelize someone), or having, as Ingersoll put it (roughly) “the conscience of a hyena.”

  • Christopher

    Greta,

    They wanted to believe in hell. They wanted to believe in a God who tortured billions of people by holding them in a fire forever. It makes me sick and sad.

    You’d be surprised by how reassuring this idea can be – the thought that those who don’t confrom to your mores and values will be punished does much to assure oneself of the “rightness” of their position. To be honest, I once relished this idea too; I took some of the sadistic edge off by convincing myself that those that burn deserved every minute of it for not upholding my ideals, but this position was hypocritical considering that (according to my old theology) I was no more wothy to escape the torment than anyone else.

    It wasn’t until I lost my belief in the idea of “free will” (the whole basis for Christian salvation) that I saw the concept of hell for what it is – a mind control device, intended to frighten people into accepting Christian beliefs without question.

  • S Emerson

    Cl,

    I understand the distinction you’re making more clearly now. As I see it (and if I remember the details of the Pearson story correctly) Pearson wasn’t breaking away from a scriptural fiat, but rather from a human one; that is, regardless of whether there is or isn’t any verse in the Bible that describe a god who would condemn African children who haven’t heard of Jesus to Hell, there certainly are Christians who believe in such a god, and these appear to be in part the kind of Christians who disagree with Pearson. The fact that Pearson separated from this viewpoint while still remaining a Christian would suggest to me that his problem is with a specific way of interpreting scripture rather than with scripture itself. So to answer your question, I think he came to the conclusion that the African children were going to Hell because, up to that moment, he believed those were the rules, as decreed by human interpretation of the Bible. He later decided that this human interpretation was incorrect and went in a different direction.

    I’m not trying to sidestep your question about whether scripture does or doesn’t support Pearson’s conclusions about Hell-bound children; I just think that since Pearson was breaking away from a particular Christian viewpoint and not from Christianity as a whole suggests that he was reacting not to scripture per se but to a particular belief about scripture.

  • Maynard

    cl,
    What is “innocently into heavy metal”? and how does that equate even slightly to someone who has “really committed himself to Satan”?

    And a “Marilyn Manson T-shirt with the new Christian Death album” means what? Are you judging books without opening the cover? And what’s your point on the “joint”? Ever tried it? If so, did it make you love lucifer????

    “Who was the Christian?” The dad was.
    Who was the head-banging, T-shirt wearing kid with the album? A humanist, a rational atheist maybe? Religion is not necessary for compassion.

    The most hateful, ugly (hearted), judgemental people I know claim to be Christian. And my “theory” is that they are so religious, because they have a need to ask for forgiveness.

  • mikespeir

    Then believing only what is rational excludes very real and very important realities, does it not?

    Sometimes I can’t believe you’re serious, cl. The obvious answer to this is what I’ve already said: there’s no reason to believe in these “realities” until we have strong evidence for them. Tell me, what would cause you to believe in something for which you have no evidence?

    Nes:

    Yeah, I’ve seen that, too, but elsewhere. My comments aren’t moderated here. The comment I was talking about had already appeared. Later, when I returned, it had moved down a couple of places. It’s no real problem, usually, but sometimes placement can be important.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Mike,
    It’s the other comments that get held up for moderation. All first time commenters are held in moderation until Ebon approves them. You will make comment 33 on a thread (let’s say 33 for a random number) but 2 other people have already commented earlier and not been approved because they are new. When Ebon comes around to approve, their comments will be placed in when the comments were made and your comment will slide down to 35th.

  • Stephen

    Strange how fundamentalists claim to understand the concept of an eternity of damnation, but are utterly unable to cope with 4500 million years of earth history.

  • mikespeir

    That makes sense, OMGF.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    OMGF is right – earlier comments being delayed for moderation is probably what’s going on there. I should look into setting it up so that comments are moved to the bottom of the thread when they’re approved.

  • Leum

    cl, yes, by only believing in stuff you have evidence for, you do end up being ignorant of very real, sometimes very important, things. But the alternative comes at too great a cost: you believe in things that are counter-factual. While I cannot imagine studying geology without plate tectonics, or biology without evolution, I know the confusion I’d have if I tried to study geology assuming a global flood or biology assuming no relation between the species would be even greater.

    Believing in things that aren’t true makes understanding what you actually have evidence for much harder than simple ignorance does.

  • john

    “I came across this incredible story”

    Not that incredible. This will happen at ever increasing rates. I have said before on this site that we are already in hell, and yes, mainstream Christianity rejects this at this time. Hell is the same as grave. This almost identical story happened to a minister near Chicago. He too lost his church when he rescinded his prior teaching and explained that we are in hell already.

    Ebon, your joy at seeing some evangelicals, like Pearson, turn to a more universalist Christianity is puzzling. God is alive and well, and He aims to bring all of humanity into Christ. Atheists, if there really are such people, will no longer be able to poke fun at seemingly bizarre, evil, or odd, Bible verses, for if it’s understood that we are in hell(grave) already, then the rest of The Bible falls apart on literal grounds. There go all of your vain attempts to undermine Christianity. I wouldn’t be so happy about this – you need to think about the implications.

    I do thank you for this article, because I heard about this preacher, but had no name untill now. If I can find his address, I will certainly mail him a nice long letter.

  • Leum

    john, we should always be happy when immoral beliefs are abandoned. If Christianity does undergo the transformation you suggest, that just means we shift our argument, it doesn’t hurt our case in the long run. Even if it did, it would be worth it for people to escape Christianity’s most immoral doctrine.

  • Chet

    Then believing only what is rational excludes very real and very important realities, does it not?

    Only while there’s no good reason to believe them. Prior to the evidence for asteroids and plate tectonics, the people who believed in them for bad reasons were right only by accident. And therefore surely they were wrong about a hundred – a thousand – other things.

    Being right by accident is no better than being wrong. Sure, you might save some time and skip all that difficult rational inqury by, say, believing six random impossible things before breakfast every morning; just by chance you’re bound to hit upon a truth that science as yet knows nothing about.

    The problem is that for every one of those, you’ll surely be verifiably wrong about a ten thousand more important things. Is it worth the price, as Leum asks? Surely not.

  • Tom

    Being right by accident is no better than being wrong.

    Hear, hear.

  • john

    Leum,

    “If Christianity does undergo the transformation you suggest, that just means we shift our argument,”

    Indeed

  • goyo

    Polly:
    It was a way of illustrating the duration of eternity in hell. If an eagle were to fly past the earth and his wingtip brushed the earth, think how long it would take before the earth was gone. This would be the start of eternity.
    Just like what Leum said.
    Like I said, the evangelists were there to scare us into the kingdom.
    John, are you really Dutch?

  • goyo

    cl:
    My sister and brother-in-law are southern baptist missionaries in the Sudan. They are there specifically because they believe those people are damned and bound for hell because they haven’t heard about jesus.
    As you’re bound to know, Southern Baptist theology is 5 point Calvinism. Good deeds have absolutely nothing to do with your salvation.

  • Kiefer

    goyo:

    In Fred Schepisi’s 1976 movie ‘The Devil’s Playground’, a Franciscan priest invites his congregation to imagine a metal sphere as large as the sun, brushed every 10,000 years by a sparrow’s wing…. The priest is played with relish by Australian novelist Tom Keneally, himself a lapsed seminarian.

    The sermon’s on Youtube, where some sad fundy has commented: ‘powerful speech! We miss it in our churches…American churches I mean!’

  • john

    Tom,
    “Commendable though Mr Perason’s partial conversion is, I find it rather depressing, though not terribly surprising, that an evangelical Christian, the sort of person who loves to expound at great length on such matters as morality, could evidently go such a long time without encountering the problem of evil. It’s a good illustration of an important aspect of fundamentalist thought, though – if there’s anything that could cast doubt on your faith that your supposedly perfect tenets don’t provide a ready answer to, the only defense is simply not to think about it at all.”

    What are you talking about? What partial conversion? Conversion to what? Mr. pearson is no closer to being an atheist than before “his moment of epiphany.” Mr. Pearson, in many ways, is now a stronger Christian than before – he only needs to study scripture on his own and throw out most of what he was taught at school. I think Mr. Pearson did a lot of thinking and just as importantly, praying. He is just beginning to understand. I would like to see Mr. Pearson dress plainly, live in a modest house or apartment and eschew the trappings of this world, but that time will come.

    Funny thing about perception. Ebon writes this article about “this incredible story,” and he sees a gain for atheism, whereas I see it as a gain for Christianity. I guess we see what we want to see – only time will tell.

  • Leum

    Ebon writes this article about “this incredible story,” and he sees a gain for atheism, whereas I see it as a gain for Christianity.

    That may not be a big difference. Rejection of false beliefs is, by definition, a victory for humanistic freethought (atheism is too broad a term), and if such a rejection brings someone close to your Christianity then it can be a victory for your side, too.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    That many people believe as Pearson used to or as goyo’s sister and brother-in-law still do doesn’t mean said beliefs are justifiable by scripture.

    john,

    Good response to Tom above.

    S Emerson,

    ..regardless of whether there is or isn’t any verse in the Bible that describe a god who would condemn African children who haven’t heard of Jesus to Hell, there certainly are Christians who believe in such a god, and these appear to be in part the kind of Christians who disagree with Pearson.

    Then who’s the Christian? At its root, the word Christian translates to Christ-like. In my mind, if Christ did not hold this belief, holding this belief or any other belief that Christ did not hold is not Christian.

    goyo,

    My sister and brother-in-law are southern baptist missionaries in the Sudan. They are there specifically because they believe those people are damned and bound for hell because they haven’t heard about jesus.

    I understand that many people believe such. Do you think Christ believed such?

    Maynard,

    Are you judging books without opening the cover?

    No, but that’s exactly what you did when you said the dad was the Christian. The purpose of my story was to encourage people to look beyond the cover.

    mikespeir,

    ..there’s no reason to believe in these “realities” until we have strong evidence for them.

    It’s interesting to me how many commenters offer these curious little dogmas and elevate them to the level of truth. That’s your opinion, but why do you expect me to adopt it? Do you agree or disagree that believing only what is rational excludes very real and very important realities?

    Leum,

    ..yes, by only believing in stuff you have evidence for, you do end up being ignorant of very real, sometimes very important, things.

    Okay, we can agree on that…

    But the alternative comes at too great a cost: you believe in things that are counter-factual.

    The alternative? Why the singular context? This is a slippery slope and false dichotomy rolled into one.

    Chet made a similar mistake:

    Prior to the evidence for asteroids and plate tectonics, the people who believed in them for bad reasons were right only by accident. And therefore surely they were wrong about a hundred – a thousand – other things.

    I find this silly. First off, who is being spoken of? Who is “they” in the above? More importantly, how would believing in asteroids or plate tectonics before their empirical confirmation lead to being wrong about a hundred or a thousand other things? This is a slippery slope, irrational argument.

    Again we’re offered these curious little dogmas instead of cogent arguments, for example:

    Being right by accident is no better than being wrong.

    I think accidentally choosing the correct freeway is much better than being wrong, and I reject this false, anti-pragmatic dogma.

  • Leum

    cl, what’s your alternative? How can you be sure that something you accept/believe is true without evidence? That seems to me to be a contradiction in terms.

    Yes, you’ll get the right freeway, but you won’t know how to do so again in the future. Choosing the wrong freeway is more likely to prompt you to read road maps so that you don’t chose in ignorance again.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Leum,

    How can you be sure that something you accept/believe is true without evidence? That seems to me to be a contradiction in terms.

    It is a contradiction in terms. Without evidence, one can’t be sure that something they accept or believe is true, and that’s not what I’m arguing.

    You and Chet have argued that if one believes in something without evidence, that they will also believe anywhere from one to hundreds to thousands of counterfactuals. Such is a false dichotomy, because believing in something for which there is no evidence can occur without believing in any counterfactuals. Such is a slippery slope because believing in something for which there is no evidence does not entail believing in one to hundreds to thousands of counterfactuals.

    Heading west on I-10 doesn’t guarantee I’m going surfing.

  • Chet

    I find this silly. First off, who is being spoken of? Who is “they” in the above?

    Um, what? You can’t follow the antecedent of a pronoun for longer than a sentence? Really?

    Are you a native speaker of English, cl? Between this and your difficulties in the other thread it doesn’t appear that you are. It’d be nice to know for sure so I could adapt my responses to your inexperience.

    The “they” being referred to were the people who believed in plate tectonics or asteroid impacts without any good evidence in favor of those positions. If they exist. I was assuming they were for purposes of argument.

    More importantly, how would believing in asteroids or plate tectonics before their empirical confirmation lead to being wrong about a hundred or a thousand other things?

    It simply stands to reason. Persons who have made it a habit to embrace belief on the basis of no good evidence in one area must surely be more likely to do the same in other areas. Why wouldn’t they?

    I mean we see it all the time – Christians who are creationists, Muslims who are anti-semites, political conservatives who believe Barack Obama isn’t a US citizen by birth.

    I think accidentally choosing the correct freeway is much better than being wrong, and I reject this false, anti-pragmatic dogma.

    Fair enough. You’ve already argued against cause and effect; why should I be surprised to see you arguing against grounding conclusions in evidence? You’ve chosen to embrace belief for bad reasons in your spirituality; no surprise to see it in your arguments, too.

  • Chet

    Such is a false dichotomy, because believing in something for which there is no evidence can occur without believing in any counterfactuals.

    That’s statistically impossible. For any given question the number of wrong answers is greater than the number of right answers. For instance if I ask you what the capitol of Nebraska is, and you did not base your answer on any good reason, you might select any one of the almost 20,000 American towns recorded by the US Census. Ergo you would have only a one in 20,000 chance of being right accidentally.

    And that’s a question where the answer set is fairly limited. Not every question is multiple-choice.

    It’s a simple argument, cl, unless you’re determined to be as obtuse as usual. The simple fact is that for any question the number of wrong answer far exceed the number of right ones – that’s why right answers to questions are so valuable – and if you’re arriving at answers by essentially random means – based on no good evidence – then the answer you stumble upon is far, far more likely to be wrong.

    I’m surprised an adult would need to have that explained to him, I guess.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    For FSM’s sake, Chet, don’t you ever tire of playing Denigrate The Theist?

    Um, what? You can’t follow the antecedent of a pronoun for longer than a sentence? Really? Are you a native speaker of English, cl? Between this and your difficulties in the other thread it doesn’t appear that you are.

    My my, what hostility! What bitterness! I don’t even know what to say. I’m long past that thread; I’m sorry you wish to live in the past. Why get emotional at me because you mistake slippery slope false dichotomies for cogent arguments then attempt unsuccessfully to pass them off as reason?

    You’ve chosen to embrace belief for bad reasons in your spirituality; no surprise to see it in your arguments, too.

    Now you claim to know why I’ve chosen to embrace whatever spiritual beliefs I embrace? Man, how do so many irrational, mind-reading telepathists end up on such a rational site as DA? Isn’t the basis of rational thought to reject that for which there is no evidence?

    First, calm down a second. Emotions are horrible obstacles to reason. Next, remember that I’m also a human being on planet Earth just going through life trying to find answers and do the right thing, a person probably much like yourself, a person who lives, loves, laughs, breathes, etc.

    Then, look very clearly at this hypocrisy: Here you stand, emotionally-controlled in arrogant and ignorant nakedness, criticizing me because you think I argue for belief without evidence, while your attack itself is without evidence! What evidence do you have that I’ve chosen to embrace belief for bad reasons in my spirituality? You don’t know what or why I believe. Why do you speak on that which you have no evidence for? IOW, why do you speak from ignorance? More importantly, why should I take appeals to logic and reason seriously from someone so willing to speak from ignorance?

    I’m surprised an adult would need to have that explained to him, I guess..

    I’m surprised you act as you do and then have the audacity to portray yourself as a reasonable adult. Although I’m unsure of your motivations, your comments suggest that logic and reason aren’t among them. In your eagerness to prejudge and denigrate me, you simply play yourself the fool by acting like an anti-intellectual child.

    At present I see no reason to engage in further conversation with you.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    cl, your tone is way too personal. Watch yourself.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Ebonmuse,

    Are you kidding? Chet is allowed to initiate personal, ad hominem attacks and directly insult me on the basis of past grudges and claims without evidence, and you say absolutely nothing – but when I equally denounce them you say I’m too personal?

    If you can’t see that such is a problem, you need to watch yourself.

  • mikespeir

    Do you agree or disagree that believing only what is rational excludes very real and very important realities?

    Tell you what, cl, why don’t you answer my question first. I’ll put it another way so the intent will be clearer: What is it that I should be believe in that I don’t have evidence for?

  • Chet

    My my, what hostility! What bitterness!

    Hostily? Bitterness? Don’t be oversensitive. It was a reasonable question in response to your inability to follow clear English. Did you, or did you not, ask who “they” was?

    First, calm down a second. Emotions are horrible obstacles to reason. Next, remember that I’m also a human being on planet Earth just going through life trying to find answers and do the right thing, a person probably much like yourself, a person who lives, loves, laughs, breathes, etc.

    Blah blah blah. A six-paragraph post about what a terrible human being I must be, and yet, absolutely nowhere in there did you actually address my argument. Here, allow me to repeat the gist of it, so you may have another chance:

    The simple fact is that for any question the number of wrong answer far exceed the number of right ones – that’s why right answers to questions are so valuable – and if you’re arriving at answers by essentially random means – based on no good evidence – then the answer you stumble upon is far, far more likely to be wrong.

    Stop being oversensitive and address the argument before you. Nobody gives a damn whether you’re being insulted on the Internet.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Chet is allowed to initiate personal, ad hominem attacks and directly insult me on the basis of past grudges and claims without evidence, and you say absolutely nothing – but when I equally denounce them you say I’m too personal?

    Chet’s comment, despite its snark, made a cogent and valid argument. Your comment was nothing but personal attacks and complaints about your hurt feelings. There is a difference.

    There’s a good rule I’ve heard in the past for internet debate: If someone has an attitude and a point, ignore their attitude and address their point. I advise all commenters here to abide by that guideline. This particularly applies when you provoke a debate in the first place. You should expect strong disagreement and sarcasm, and if you can’t get over that, then I suggest you reevaluate what you hope to achieve here.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    I scrolled over most of the comments, so I apologize in advance if I am repeating something someone else already wrote.

    The thing with the Bible thumpers and hell is that if there is no suffering or punishment for not believing what they believe, then from their perspective, what is the point of believing in it?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Ebonmuse,

    Please excuse the verbosity.

    If someone has an attitude and a point, ignore their attitude and address their point.

    Great suggestion. I came to a similar conclusion this morning. I said to myself, “Self, you can’t change the fact that some people are just determined to be (fill in the blank).”

    Chet’s comment, despite its snark, made a cogent and valid argument.

    Are you referring to this?

    The simple fact is that for any question the number of wrong answer far exceed the number of right ones – that’s why right answers to questions are so valuable – and if you’re arriving at answers by essentially random means – based on no good evidence – then the answer you stumble upon is far, far more likely to be wrong. (Chet)

    If so, that is a cogent and valid argument – unfortunately it’s also one I agree completely with – which renders it a strawman. I’m not arguing against the lack of wisdom in arriving at answers by random means. I’m arguing against silly little dogmas being presented as truths:

    Prior to the evidence for asteroids and plate tectonics, the people who believed in them for bad reasons were right only by accident. And therefore surely they were wrong about a hundred – a thousand – other things… Being right by accident is no better than being wrong. (Chet)

    ..the alternative comes at too great a cost: you believe in things that are counter-factual. (Leum)

    Instances exist where being right by accident is clearly better than being wrong. Yes or no?

    For example, if I’m getting chased by a tiger in a jungle, and I turn the wrong corner yet come upon a lake and dive in, such was better for my survival. Yes or no?

    Also, that believing in something undetectable necessarily entails 1, 100, or 1,000 other counterfactual beliefs is a textbook slippery slope argument. Nothing about holding one unfalsifiable belief in one area demands that an individual will accept 1, 100, or 1,000 counterfactuals elsewhere. Yes or no?

    Lastly, such is a false dichotomy, because believing in something for which there is no evidence can occur without believing in any counterfactuals. Clearly, there are more than two options. Yes or no?

    Your comment was nothing but personal attacks and complaints about your hurt feelings.

    You are correct in stating that in my last comment to Chet, I did not respond to Chet’s unreason with reason. Such was my error and I’ll admit I took the bait by responding similarly. However, you seem to argue that dissenting opinions deserve snark and sarcasm.

    As far as personal attacks, note that Chet started the trend (which does not absolve me of any responsibility):

    You can’t follow the antecedent of a pronoun for longer than a sentence? Really? Are you a native speaker of English, cl? Between this and your difficulties in the other thread it doesn’t appear that you are. It’d be nice to know for sure so I could adapt my responses to your inexperience… You’ve chosen to embrace belief for bad reasons in your spirituality;

    Will you really opine that any or all of that was merited, relevant or even cogent? Yes or no?

    Ironically, in the middle of insulting me for his perception that I ‘believe in things for bad reasons (ie, without evidence),’ Chet advanced a claim he has no evidence for. Yes or no?

    Presuming to know why I believe whatever I believe, insulting me for comments made in other threads… such is not reasoned or rational. How can Chet possibly know why I believe whatever I believe? I find so-called rationalists who appeal to telepathy peculiar.

    Lastly, it’s not as much about hurt feelings as simple losing patience over the eschewing of reason. I understand your justification for polemics, but I don’t have to agree. At any rate, my goal for being here is to have whatever argument I’m advancing proven wrong; not attacked, snarked and denigrated because someone doesn’t like, understand, or agree with me.

  • goyo

    cl:
    Get over yourself. Do you realize that in every thread you seem to get in an argument with someone over trivial things? Man, if you can’t stand the heat…

  • Chet

    Also, that believing in something undetectable necessarily entails 1, 100, or 1,000 other counterfactual beliefs is a textbook slippery slope argument.

    Er, I explained how it was not and you agreed. Now you’re reversing yourself?

    As far as personal attacks, note that Chet started the trend

    I’m sorry, where’s the attack? I simply asked if English was your first language. There’s only an attack there if you’re somehow prejudiced against foreign languages, which I am not. Interesting, though, that you perceived an attack in it. Doesn’t make you look good.

    How can Chet possibly know why I believe whatever I believe?

    The same way I can know anything in your mind – your actions and words betray them. It’s not mind-reading, just reasoning from the evidence.

    As I said before my argument stands on the table, and you’ve both accepted it and denied it in the same post. That adds up to a non-response. That’s multiple posts, now, where you’ve been non-responsive except to complain about shoddy you’re being treated on the internet.

    Did it ever occur to you that the two might be related? That my increasingly dim opinion of you stems from your continual evasions of relatively simple arguments?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    goyo,

    Do you realize that in every thread you seem to get in an argument with someone over trivial things?

    You’re cherry-picking, but I don’t mind. Yes, I’ve realized that many DA prefer to address trivial, irrational points. In fact, you repeat the pattern here, by offering more trivial criticisms when you could respond to what I’ve already asked you.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Chet,

    Interesting, though, that you perceived an attack in it. Doesn’t make you look good.

    To me it’s interesting that’s what you think I mainly offer as the attack. English professors have told me on occasion that my diction and vocabulary suffice, so when you make your little snarks in that respect, I’m not that worried.

    You presumed to know why I believe what I believe, then denounced my faith as based on ‘bad’ reasons, when you can have no possible idea of the things I’ve seen in my life that have affected my decisions. As I would have zero rational ground to stand on in a hypothetical assault on your non-theism, yours is equally an argument from prejudgment and assumption, *not* evidence.

    Did it ever occur to you that the two might be related? That my increasingly dim opinion of you stems from your continual evasions of relatively simple arguments?

    Certainly. Has it ever occurred to you that my dim opinion of your arguments (as opposed to you) *might possibly* be related to your own misunderstandings? For example, I said,

    ..that believing in something undetectable necessarily entails 1, 100, or 1,000 other counterfactual beliefs is a textbook slippery slope argument.

    you replied,

    Er, I explained how it was not and you agreed. Now you’re reversing yourself? As I said before my argument stands on the table, and you’ve both accepted it and denied it in the same post.

    You *did not* explain how it was not. I *have not* reversed myself, and I can only hope you’ll come to see a genuine oversight on your behalf.

    However, you *have* posed an argument summarized as, ‘Because they believed in one thing without evidence, they are far more likely to do it again.’ This may or may not be true in the majority of cases, but *does not* entail that whenever somebody believes in something undetectable, that they *must* end up believing in 100 or 1,000 other unfalsifiable constructs and/or counterfactuals.

    The proof I offer that your original statement I took issue with *is* a slippery slope argument is found by asking the following simple question: Is it possible that a person can believe in something undetectable, yet not believe in 100 or 1,000 counterfactuals? Yes or no?

  • Chet

    You presumed to know why I believe what I believe, then denounced my faith as based on ‘bad’ reasons, when you can have no possible idea of the things I’ve seen in my life that have affected my decisions.

    Again I still don’t understand why you’re avoiding my arguments with this irrelevant complaining. But let me address it. Did you, or did you not, say this:

    For FSM’s sake, Chet, don’t you ever tire of playing Denigrate The Theist?

    Who is that in reference to, if not yourself? So I know you’re a theist. And regardless of what your reasons are for being a theist, I know that good evidence for theism is not one of them, since there is no good evidence for theism.

    So simply by definition, and by your own report of theism, I can conclude that you believe in God on the basis of no good evidence. If you didn’t believe on the basis of no good evidence, you wouldn’t be a theist. QED.

    You *did not* explain how it was not.

    But I did. Allow me to repeat the argument:

    The simple fact is that for any question the number of wrong answer far exceed the number of right ones – that’s why right answers to questions are so valuable – and if you’re arriving at answers by essentially random means – based on no good evidence – then the answer you stumble upon is far, far more likely to be wrong.

    Nothing slippery-slope about it. Just as my last argument was not, in fact, circular in any way.

    You seem to have misapprehended your obligations here, if I can get meta for a second. You seem to be of the opinion that all you have to do is declare that I’ve committed a fallacy, and that’s all you need to do to hold up your end of the discussion.

    It’s not. We’re not playing “Gotcha”, we’re playing “defend your argument”, and if you’re going to make accusations of logical fallacies to attack my argument, it’s not sufficient to simply name the fallacy and leave it at that.

    Like a court of law, you actually have to prove I’m guilty of it. In three separate threads with me you’ve never made a single attempt to do that.

    Is it possible that a person can believe in something undetectable, yet not believe in 100 or 1,000 counterfactuals? Yes or no?

    Asked and answered. Either respond to the argument or admit you don’t have one. These evasions only make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, here.

  • Tom

    However, you *have* posed an argument summarized as, ‘Because they believed in one thing without evidence, they are far more likely to do it again.’ This may or may not be true in the majority of cases, but *does not* entail that whenever somebody believes in something undetectable, that they *must* end up believing in 100 or 1,000 other unfalsifiable constructs and/or counterfactuals.

    Only if you allow for people to be inconsistent in the way they formulate what they hold to be true, mostly rational but occasionally and arbitrarily irrational (it must surely be arbitrary, for how else could one decide what to believe out of the multitude of possible unproven, unevidenced assertions disallowed by rationalism?), and I’m pretty sure the unwritten consensus here is that we’re talking about the consistent application of rationalism – after all, how could one arrive at any conclusion about the validity of any given system based on the results of its inconsistent, essentially random application interspersed with results generated by some other means?

    Speaking more practically, what conceivable use is it to anyone to hold something irrational (which is to say unprovable) to be true, even given the fact that there’s a finite chance, however vanishingly small statistically, that it might be so? You might bring up your tiger example, and suggest that an irrational belief in the safety of a given path could save your life – but in the absence of any rational justification of that belief, a non-sentient random number generator could do just as well. The crucial point there is this: that the path turned out to be safe does not in turn mean the unjustified belief that led you to choose it had any inherent value; on the contrary, the irrational belief in the safety of one path had exactly the same value as it would for any other path, even if all the others happened to be deadly. It’s fundamental statistics; unless you have some rational means of knowing what lies on each particular path, any choice you make has an equal probability of saving your life, and so it would be meaningless to assign any value to your choice other the statistical potential of a random guess.

    Let’s return to your earlier assertion that it’s possible to believe in an irrational, unproven, unverified truth without believing any the vastly greater possible alternatives. Say, for the sake of argument, that you believe a die that has been thrown but you have not seen has come up 5, and that it has indeed done this. What would be your odds of being right? One in six – exactly the same as if you’d picked any other number on the die, regardless of whether you were right or not. Even if you were religiously convinced that the die lay with the 5 uppermost, if you asserted, without any evidence, that the odds of it being 5 were in fact 1, in the absence of any way to justify your tenet it would have absolutely no more or less value than that of some other person who believed absolutely, fervently, that it would be 4. That you happen to be right has no bearing on your irrational belief’s value, and thus its usefulness, until the box has been lifted, by which point it’s useless.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Is it possible that a person can believe in something undetectable, yet not believe in 100 or 1,000 counterfactuals? Yes or no?

    Yes, it is possible. It is also possible that a person can choose the winning lottery number on the first try by picking random numbers out of a hat. But in neither case is it likely, which brings us back to Chet’s argument: For every true proposition, there are millions of false propositions. If you choose your beliefs by a process that is not significantly truth-seeking – if you engage in the epistemological equivalent of picking numbers out of a hat – then you are vastly more likely to choose false beliefs than true ones. That is the point that Chet and others are making, and if you agree completely with it, as you’ve said you do, then I suggest that you are either confused or are inadvertently supporting the atheists.

    Now, to tie this back to the larger point: Reason and the scientific method are truth-seeking processes. Religious faith is not. Even theists should agree with this: after all, they themselves (in most cases) agree that of the thousands of religions that have ever been proposed by human beings, the vast majority are completely wrong. But this puts the theist in an awkward position: asserting that the method used by their fellow believers is untrustworthy in general, yet claiming that it just happens to produce reliable results in their own case. That looks a lot like special pleading, and it gives the atheist a natural retort: Since you agree that all other faiths are wrong, on what grounds should we consider yours to be any more likely?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Chet,

    So, since you see no good evidence for theism, all who disagree with you are wrong a priori, whether you’ve heard their life story or not? Whether you’ve ever even met them in person or not?

    You have absolutely zero evidence of what sequence of events led me to believe what I believe. Thus, you cannot assume as you do that I believe whatever I believe for bad reasons. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound like rationalism or reason to me.

    Speaking of avoiding arguments and misapprehending obligations, for the third time I must ask: Is it possible that a person can believe in something undetectable, yet not necessarily believe in 100 or 1,000 other counterfactuals? Yes or no?

    Have I not provided a clear example from nature where choosing the right answer on accident is better than being wrong? Yes or no?

  • john

    Emerson,

    Looking for a Bible verse to explain Pastor Pearson’s turn-around?

    Psa 139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

    God is in hell too. This is not direct proof that we are in hell already, but I do not want to go into a long discourse on an atheist site. The knowledge is built on precepts. Yes, this means that God is suffering the same as all of humanity. Jesus saw this before He was crucified when He said, “Father take this cup away from me.”

  • john

    Ebon,

    “Reason and the scientific method are truth-seeking processes.”

    I largely agree with this statement, but nevertheless had to suppress a chuckle when I read it. Humans, being humans, will often add leaven to supposed scientific inquiry.

    then you said “Religious faith is not” truth seeking. Perhaps this is true, especially from your vantage point. However, I believe their are a few people diligently searching the scriptures, and, combined with sincere prayer and pure heart, are finding the truth. Reverend Pearson is closer to the truth. Faith cannot be discerned using scientific methods – it is concerned with an unseen world that cannot be measured by instruments.

  • Tom

    You have absolutely zero evidence of what sequence of events led me to believe what I believe. Thus, you cannot assume as you do that I believe whatever I believe for bad reasons. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound like rationalism or reason to me.

    Then you don’t know what rationalism is. A fundamental principle is that a positive assertion, without empirical, statistical evidence or proof, must be assumed to be false, because it would be impossible to disprove, and the only other consistent stance is to believe anything and everything that can’t be disproved, which is impossible because plenty of unproven positive assertions are mutually exclusive (trivial example: believing in the existence of two different gods, one or both of whom are supposed to deny the existence of any other god). If you don’t give us evidence of what led to any positive assertions you make, a rationalist must assume them to be false, apart from agreeing on fundamental axioms from which to derive everything else.

  • Tom

    I made a mistake in my last post, and I apologise – it is not always the case that a positive assertion cannot be disproven in a bounded, finite system. The crux of the argument holds, however – with no evidence or logical derivation, one can neither prove nor disprove an assertion, but consistent, equal and impartial treatment of all plausible options, some of which will be contradictory (and I think I’m right in saying one can always find contradictory possible assertions), still requires that all are held false until such evidence is found.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Ebonmuse,

    Thank you for an honest ‘yes’ to at least one question. IYO, have I also provided a clear example from nature where choosing the right answer on accident is better than being wrong? Yes or no?

    Now,

    For every true proposition, there are millions of false propositions. If you choose your beliefs by a process that is not significantly truth-seeking – if you engage in the epistemological equivalent of picking numbers out of a hat – then you are vastly more likely to choose false beliefs than true ones.

    Correct. I agree completely without inadvertently agreeing with atheists. This in no way entails that somebody who believes in something undetectable must accept 100 or 1,000 other counterfactuals.

    From Wikipedia: “(slippery slope) …suggests that an action will initiate a chain of events culminating in an undesirable event later without establishing or quantifying the relevant contingencies… the term alternately refers to a non-fallacious argument that such undesirable events are rendered more probable.”

    Reason and the scientific method are truth-seeking processes. Religious faith is not.

    That religious faith is not a truth-seeking process is your opinion.

    Even theists should agree with this..

    So theists should agree with you telling them what to think on sole account of your subjective interpretation of theists?

    But this puts the theist in an awkward position: asserting that the method used by their fellow believers is untrustworthy in general, yet claiming that it just happens to produce reliable results in their own case. That looks a lot like special pleading, and it gives the atheist a natural retort: Since you agree that all other faiths are wrong, on what grounds should we consider yours to be any more likely?

    When have I ever agreed that all other faiths were wrong? I don’t ask you how babies taste because I don’t presume atheists eat babies.

    Tom,

    Chet said,

    Being right by accident is no better than being wrong.

    As worded, Chet’s dogma is anti-pragmatic to its core. I opine it is surely better to not be eaten by a tiger than to be eaten by a tiger.

    You said,

    You might bring up your tiger example, and suggest that an irrational belief in the safety of a given path could save your life – but in the absence of any rational justification of that belief, a non-sentient random number generator could do just as well. The crucial point there is this: that the path turned out to be safe does not in turn mean the unjustified belief that led you to choose it had any inherent value…

    Of course it doesn’t, but it does mean that I’m alive and not eaten, and to me, that is clearly better. So then, instances clearly exist where being right on accident is better than being wrong. Yes or no?

    If instead of unspecific dogma Chet would have made a well-reasoned and articulate argument like yours, perhaps we’d be discussing what verses in the Bible support Pearson’s former interpretations, which is what I wanted to discuss from the getgo, and still have not gotten a single answer to. Not one single answer.

    **Sorry to keep gassing on, but I just noticed you’ve responded to me again:

    A fundamental principle is that a positive assertion, without empirical, statistical evidence or proof, must be assumed to be false..

    Chet made the positive assertion that I believed for bad reasons. Yes or no?

    Chet does not know on what reason I’ve founded my belief. Yes or no?

    Therefore, Chet advances a positive assertion in the absence of empirical evidence or proof, hence, any rationalist should presume Chet’s argument is false until such evidence appears. Not trying to be rude, but what have I missed?

    ***Just noticed your third comment, and I feel it affirms the aforementioned progression.

    mikespeir,

    I apologize for leaving you hanging. I just noticed your last comment to me, and it seems the comment moderation got you again!

    Tell you what, cl, why don’t you answer my question first. I’ll put it another way so the intent will be clearer: What is it that I should be believe in that I don’t have evidence for?

    It’s beyond me to tell you what you should eat, think, wear, listen to, or believe in. I’ve attacked an argument you made with a direct question. What I think you should believe in has no bearing on why I think your argument is dogmatic.

    Do you agree or disagree that believing only what is rational excludes very real and very important realities?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    mikespeir,

    A better wording of my question would be, “Do you agree or disagree that believing only what is rational can exclude very real and very important realities?”

  • Tom

    Of course it doesn’t, but it does mean that I’m alive and not eaten, and to me, that is clearly better. So then, instances clearly exist where being right on accident is better than being wrong. Yes or no?

    Yes, such instances exist, but what exactly are you trying to prove by that? You agree in the same sentence that it doesn’t do anything at all to validate how you arrived at that situation. It’s not the end results we’re debating here, but the means of arriving at them.

    Chet made the positive assertion that I believed for bad reasons. Yes or no?

    No, that was effectively a negative assertion – a bad reason is one that’s false and should be discounted, so the statement is actually that you had no valid reason. It’s an easy mistake to make; try to think Boolean when you’re dealing with this stuff.

    Chet does not know on what reason I’ve founded my belief. Yes or no?

    Based on what I’ve seen here, or more accurately what I haven’t seen here, in the spirit of rational rigour, yes.

    Therefore, Chet advances a positive assertion in the absence of empirical evidence or proof, hence, any rationalist should presume Chet’s argument is false until such evidence appears.

    As covered above, the assertion is negative, and so should be considered true until evidence is provided. Incidentally, why don’t you? If it’s just a matter of privacy that’s fine and I respect it, but it’d be easier to avoid attempting telepathy, as you put it earlier and elsewhere, if you plainly told us your position in between asking questions of ours.

  • Chet

    So, since you see no good evidence for theism, all who disagree with you are wrong a priori, whether you’ve heard their life story or not? Whether you’ve ever even met them in person or not?

    Um, yes. I would have thought that would be obvious. If atheism is correct, then God does not exist for anybody, regardless of whatever life experiences you’ve had or if we’ve ever met or not.

    Indeed I can’t think of anything less relevant than actually meeting them in person. What could that possibly have to do with anything? If the rational, evidence-based case of theism is woefully insufficient – which it is – it literally makes no difference whatsoever what your personal life experiences are. They’re hallucinations, or dreams, or mistakes, or simple misunderstanding. Any one of countless ways to be wrong about something. It doesn’t matter which, specifically, because they’re all bad reasons for belief.

    You have absolutely zero evidence of what sequence of events led me to believe what I believe.

    Well, that’s not true. I know one thing about the sequence of events that led you to believe what you believe – it led you to believe in theism. I mean, you’ve said so. Ergo, I know that whatever that sequence was, it was not a sequence of good evidence leading to rational conclusions, because you arrived at the inherently counterfactual, irrational conclusion of theism.

    I mean, duh. I don’t need to know anything else about your beliefs but what you’ve told me to know that they’re not based on good evidence.

    Is it possible that a person can believe in something undetectable, yet not necessarily believe in 100 or 1,000 other counterfactuals? Yes or no?

    Asked and answered. Rather than repeat yourself a fourth time, why don’t you tell me what about the answer I’ve already given you didn’t understand?

    From Wikipedia: “(slippery slope) …suggests that an action will initiate a chain of events culminating in an undesirable event later without establishing or quantifying the relevant contingencies… the term alternately refers to a non-fallacious argument that such undesirable events are rendered more probable.”

    This is not the same thing as establishing that anyone here has committed the fallacy of the slippery slope. Feel free to try again.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Tom,

    It’s an easy mistake to make; try to think Boolean when you’re dealing with this stuff.

    What mistake do you charge me with? Thanks for the advice, but trust me, as a programmer for five years, I often think too Boolean. Why do you suppose I’ve asked over a half-dozen Yes/No questions now? A half-dozen more will follow..

    Yes, such instances exist, but what exactly are you trying to prove by that?

    That as worded, Chet’s argument was really false dogma. There are plenty of instances where being right on accident is better and preferable to being wrong. I agree, Ebonmuse agreed, now you agree. That’s it. No more, no less. The scope of Chet’s statement needed to be clarified. I don’t have to argue that irrational epistemology triumphs rationalism in order to illustrate this point. Yes or no?

    Then you don’t know what rationalism is.

    Might other options exist? Might we have a discrepancy in our definitions? To me, rationalism is the point of view that reason plays the main role in understanding and obtaining knowledge about the world we live in. Yes or no?

    ..that was effectively a negative assertion – a bad reason is one that’s false and should be discounted, so the statement is actually that you had no valid reason.

    You are using negative as a value judgment when I am using negative in a quantitative or Boolean manner. In philosophy and logic, when we say we cannot prove a negative assertion, we do not mean that we cannot prove a false assertion, rather, we mean we cannot prove the assertion that a thing does not exist. Yes or no?

    Conversely, a positive assertion would be tantamount to the assertion that something exists. Yes or no?

    Chet claimed he knew my evidence was bad (ie that no good evidence for theism exists) before ever even asking to hear it. Yes or no?

    So when under the pretense of rational thought, Chet responds with,

    And regardless of what your reasons are for being a theist, I know that good evidence for theism is not one of them, since there is no good evidence for theism.

    Has he not prejudged me? Yes or no?

    Is this not a direct confession that this man’s mind is currently completely closed? Yes or no?

    Now, when you defend Chet as rational, I believe I see why. Since rationalism entails the implicit rejection of that for which no evidence exists, Chet is acting rationally, by strict definition, because he has already decided that no good evidence for theism can exist. But Chet’s ‘rationalism’ in this case is predicated upon a debatable premise, so how truly rational is it?

    Tom, this is troublesome for many reasons. Again, under the pretense of rationalism, Chet asserts an unknowable premise. What kind of mortal can assert from sound reason that no good evidence for theism exists? One would need access to all available evidence to sustain such an assertion. Yes or no?

    The point is, as you concede, that neither Chet nor yourself know what sequence of events or reasons led me to believe what I believe, so the assumption that this sequence of events consists of bad reasons or no reasons is to pass judgment without evidence. Is passing judgment before the weighing of evidence a sound application of one’s rationalism? Yes or no?

    Now let’s address the human aspect: On a personal level, are you really defending Chet’s prejudgment of me as rational, when he’s never even asked what or why I believe what I believe? Yes or no?

    Incidentally, why don’t you? If it’s just a matter of privacy that’s fine and I respect it, but it’d be easier to avoid attempting telepathy, as you put it earlier and elsewhere, if you plainly told us your position in between asking questions of ours.

    My decision to withhold details that are irrelevant to the argument at hand does not grant anybody permission to prejudge me. When the argument at hand is, “Does any good evidence for theism exist,” maybe I’ll divulge a bit, but my particular belief system is irrelevant to the claims I’ve made in this thread. Furthermore, Chet has already denounced my reasons without even hearing them, so honestly, what would be the point IYO??

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Chet,

    If atheism is correct, then God does not exist for anybody, regardless of whatever life experiences you’ve had or if we’ve ever met or not.

    True. Such would be an objective claim. Problem is, Chet’s subjective opinion that no good evidence for theism exists does not entail the objective conclusion that atheism is correct. Same mistake some believers make: Subjective opinions that good evidence for God exists does not entail the objective conclusion God exists.

    I know one thing about the sequence of events that led you to believe what you believe – it led you to believe in theism.

    Does knowing where a particular sequence of events led somebody entail that you have >0 evidence of what any of those events were? Yes or no? If you know I’m in Los Angeles, are you justified in saying you know I stopped off in Baton Rouge, Dallas, or Phoenix? Yes or no?

    Asked and answered. Rather than repeat yourself a fourth time, why don’t you tell me what about the answer I’ve already given you didn’t understand?

    Not answered, averted. I’ve explained why I rejected the argument you offered, which was,

    The simple fact is that for any question the number of wrong answer far exceed the number of right ones – that’s why right answers to questions are so valuable – and if you’re arriving at answers by essentially random means – based on no good evidence – then the answer you stumble upon is far, far more likely to be wrong. Nothing slippery-slope about it.

    So essentially you offer an argument that such undesirable events are rendered more probable. Yes or no? And the definition of slippery slope also refers to a non-fallacious argument where such undesirable events are rendered more probable. Yes or no?

    This is not the same thing as establishing that anyone here has committed the fallacy of the slippery slope.

    Correct, and realize I don’t have to charge fallacy to charge slippery slope. Saying somebody uses slippery slope arguments is not saying they’ve committed the slippery slope fallacy. Do the words ‘fallacy of the slippery slope’ appear in any of my charges against you? Or are they words you’ve added? Read close and please answer honestly.

    That was the point of including a precise definition, notably that part about how slippery slope argumentation is not inherently fallacious. That’s why in the context of the slippery slope, I was very careful not to charge you with fallacy, because although there is nothing inherently fallacious about your argument, it is a textbook slippery slope argument, and by no means an acceptable answer to,

    Is it possible that a person can believe in something undetectable, yet not believe in 100 or 1,000 counterfactuals? Yes or no?

    If I’ve missed something, feel free to respond with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ followed by an explanation. I suspect you’ll dance around this one indefinitely, even though Ebonmuse and Tom have both answered yes.

    You’ve already stated that literally nothing I can say will persuade you. At this point, I’m mainly interesting in seeing what’s worse to you – disagreeing with your fellow atheists or agreeing with me – but even that’s getting old and I wouldn’t want Ebonmuse to close another comment session on our behalf.

    On that note,

    I know that whatever that sequence was, it was not a sequence of good evidence leading to rational conclusions, because you arrived at the inherently counterfactual, irrational conclusion of theism.

    Hey, if you want to frame the debate such that theism is irrational a priori, then we’re no longer having a debate and that’s all the better for me because I can now return to my original position of asking if anyone knows what scriptures support the idea that anyone who’s never heard of Jesus goes to hell, or what the biblical definition of Christian is.

    P.S.

    Does anyone know what scriptures support the idea that anyone who’s never heard of Jesus goes to hell, or what the biblical definition of a Christian is?

  • Tom

    Now, when you defend Chet as rational, I believe I see why. Since rationalism entails the implicit rejection of that for which no evidence exists, Chet is acting rationally, by strict definition, because he has already decided that no good evidence for theism can exist. But Chet’s ‘rationalism’ in this case is predicated upon a debatable premise, so how truly rational is it?

    Entirely rational. He’s not decided no evidence can exist; he’s assuming, since you haven’t shown him any, that it doesn’t. The only alternatives are to refuse to take a position in the absence of any evidence, which is of no practical use, or to believe what you say implicitly precisely because you give no evidence, which is just daft.

    You are using negative as a value judgment when I am using negative in a quantitative or Boolean manner. In philosophy and logic, when we say we cannot prove a negative assertion, we do not mean that we cannot prove a false assertion, rather, we mean we cannot prove the assertion that a thing does not exist. Yes or no?

    Yes. And the assertion above is that your evidence is bad, which is exactly equivalent to saying you do not have good evidence, that it does not exist, ie a negative assertion. What are the alternatives? If we define a positive as the existence of good, or valid, evidence, which is the requirement of the discussion, then bad evidence doesn’t qualify, so it’s a negative. To treat the assertion of bad evidence as a positive is to answer a different, irrelevant question.

    Conversely, a positive assertion would be tantamount to the assertion that something exists. Yes or no?

    Yes, but the above is a negative.

    Problem is, Chet’s subjective opinion that no good evidence for theism exists does not entail the objective conclusion that atheism is correct. Same mistake some believers make: Subjective opinions that good evidence for God exists does not entail the objective conclusion God exists.

    Not exactly true, and certainly not useful. As remarked earlier, the former (rationalist) conclusion, assuming the untruth of all positive theist assertions of existence in the total absence of evidence (which is not to assert that such evidence is unobtainable, per se, just to acknowledge that none has been found or presented for the purposes of the argument), gives an answer that at least is impartial and balanced, whereas any theist position of assuming the truth of a given stance in the absence of any evidence must assume the simultaneous disproof of all other possible theist stances, which is thoroughly impartial and inconsistent. Believing them all, despite mutual exclusivity, is impartial but insane, and refusing to take a stance (the agnostic approach) is practically useless – in your earlier example, akin to standing still while the tiger closes in and refusing to take a path at all.

    You’ve refused to provide any evidence for your beliefs, which you’re perfectly entitled to do, yet you seem to denounce us for not sharing them. What, then, would you have us do? You surely wouldn’t expect us to simply believe what you do based on nothing but bald assertion, and an agnostic position is useless and must be abandoned as soon as any relevant action is required – say if one had to make a moral decision upon which any of the countless religions happened to take a stance, or perhaps even a hypothetical but as yet unasserted, but potentially true, religion might take a stance. What else does that leave, in the absence of proof, but default disbelief?

  • mikespeir

    “Do you agree or disagree that believing only what is rational can exclude very real and very important realities?”

    Hypothetically, it could. Why should I think it ever does?

  • Valhar2000

    Mikespeir, I would say that beleiving only what is rational inevitably leads to the rejection (or rather, ignorance) of real and important realities. However, as others have explained, other forms of knowledge seeking that we know are even more likely to steer you clear of these realities, by distracting you with untrue beliefs, thus making it less likely that you will learn more and eventually embrace realities you once rejected. Hence, beleiving that which is rational is still the better option.

  • mikespeir

    I would agree, Valhar2000. But I’d still like cl to explain why I should ever accept as truth any proposition that lacks rational support.

  • ex machina

    Does anyone know what scriptures support the idea that anyone who’s never heard of Jesus goes to hell, or what the biblical definition of a Christian is?

    Yes.

    John 16:4 – “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

    Matthew 7:13-14 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.”

    So you’ve got to go “through Jesus” to get to the father and avoid hell. That doesn’t patently imply belief, and could just mean living a certain way, but:

    John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”

    And there it seems to be: “believes in him.” Not lives like him or, lives well, but belief is singled out as the way to heaven.

  • http://panicon4july.blogspot.com/ Will E.

    Oh, wow, thanks for the link on this church. I heard this NPR program several years ago and have been trying ever since to remember its name, because the story always stuck with me. I thought, and still do, that the reaction of the congregants was *precisely what one would expect.* What’s the point of belonging to a club that will let anyone become a member?

  • goyo

    cl:
    Ex machina provided you with a direct answer to your question above. The scriptures that missionaries use are the “great commission” located in the gospels and in acts.
    Now, there are specific answers to your questions.
    My question to you is: why?

  • goyo

    John:
    Stop preaching. When you start using words like “faith” and “prayer”, the discussion ceases.

  • Chet

    Problem is, Chet’s subjective opinion that no good evidence for theism exists does not entail the objective conclusion that atheism is correct.

    Well, wait now. Is that the debate we’re going to have? Whether it’s atheism or theism that is correct? To me the debate is over; it ended when it became obvious that theists could offer no intellectually compelling argument for the existence of gods, or why God or any other gods should be assumed to exist in the face of no evidence that they do.

    But, hey. Maybe you could be the first to have good evidence for God. I doubt it, though, or else you would have provided it.

    So I make no apologies for proceeding from the conclusion that atheism is true; atheism has already been proven true, to the extent that such a thing is provable. I guess you missed the debate but that’s no reason for me to act like it never happened.

    Does knowing where a particular sequence of events led somebody entail that you have >0 evidence of what any of those events were?

    Yes, obviously. Not a lot of evidence, but sufficient for certain conclusions. If the end result of your travel is Hawaii, for instance, I can assume you didn’t walk there.

    Correct, and realize I don’t have to charge fallacy to charge slippery slope. Saying somebody uses slippery slope arguments is not saying they’ve committed the slippery slope fallacy.

    LOL! Excuse me? So you’re not actually accusing my argument of being fallacious, just a non-fallacious “slippery-slope”?

    Truly there’s no limit to how disingenuous you can be, cl. You’ve been leveling the charge of “slippery slope” against my argument from the get-go; I’m supposed to believe you didn’t mean to suggest the argument was fallacious?

    Please don’t be insultingly dishonest. It’s clear from your remarks that, yes, you meant that my argument was fallacious. Here’s you, claiming that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises:

    Such is a slippery slope because believing in something for which there is no evidence does not entail believing in one to hundreds to thousands of counterfactuals.

    To say that the conclusion of an argument doesn’t follow from the premises is to say that an argument is a fallacy, because that’s what “fallacy” means. Indeed, the Wiki page you quoted from begins:

    In debate or rhetoric, the slippery slope is one of the classical informal fallacies.

    That’s in the material you chose to omit from your quote. By definition it’s a fallacy. There’s no such thing as a non-fallacious slippery slope (except, I suppose, a literal slope that has been made slippery, perhaps by snow or ice.)

    But even taking you at your most dishonest word for a moment; if you didn’t mean to accuse the argument of being fallacious, then what’s the relevance of it being a slippery-slope? Why is that a claim I should pay any attention to? Either the argument is fallacious or it is not. If you’re claiming something other than fallacy why is that a claim I should take seriously?

    You make absolutely no effort to address that problem, which is further evidence that you intended an accusation of fallacy all along. Obviously.

    Is it possible that a person can believe in something undetectable, yet not believe in 100 or 1,000 counterfactuals? Yes or no?

    Asked and answered. But in order to highlight your hopeless dishonesty, and because you seem somewhat confused, I’ll repeat my answer:

    That’s statistically impossible. For any given question the number of wrong answers is greater than the number of right answers. For instance if I ask you what the capitol of Nebraska is, and you did not base your answer on any good reason, you might select any one of the almost 20,000 American towns recorded by the US Census. Ergo you would have only a one in 20,000 chance of being right accidentally.
    And that’s a question where the answer set is fairly limited. Not every question is multiple-choice.

    To repeat myself: it’s a statistical impossibility.

    Has he not prejudged me? Yes or no?

    No. It was only after you identified as a theist that I came to that conclusion about you. I’ve post-judged you, in other words.

    And now I judge you guilty of dishonesty, quote-mining, and being disingenuous. Again, not by any preconception that I hold, but only after seeing you behave dishonestly, mine a quote from the wikipedia page (not providing a link to the page was a dead giveaway), and argue disingenuously.

    How tiresome, cl. You’ve behaved exactly like your usual theist. I find it continually illuminating that, as often as theists tell me there’s an honest, intellectual case for faith in God, they seem completely unable to provide anything but disingenuous horseshit.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    I made the points I wanted to make here, but I’ll take these:

    Tom,

    Entirely rational. He’s not decided no evidence can exist; he’s assuming, since you haven’t shown him any, that it doesn’t.

    This is true but again I have to ask: Did Chet clarify scope? Chet’s actual words:

    And regardless of what your reasons are for being a theist, I know that good evidence for theism is not one of them, since there is no good evidence for theism.

    He did not say, “I’ve seen no evidence” which may or may not be accurate; he said “there is no evidence.” Hence, I’m justified in my assertion that Chet has decided no evidence can exist. Furthermore, when Chet presumes that my reasons are unsound, he had crossed into invalidity. Chet’s lack of evidence has nothing to do with mine. So when he makes statements like these to me, they’re loaded with his experiences – not mine.

    There is a distinction, and such is my mistake. However, none of it justifies Chet insinuating that I believe for bad reasons, ie, no evidence.

    And the assertion above is that your evidence is bad..

    Correct. And since Chet has seen zero evidence as he’s confessed, on what evidence might he assume the same for me? Of course he can presume our life experiences are the same, but how conducive is that to anything?

    You’ve refused to provide any evidence for your beliefs, which you’re perfectly entitled to do, yet you seem to denounce us for not sharing them.

    Again you presume I’m here to share my beliefs. Look how Chet and other cranks around here come at me just for logical dissent! You expect me to share my innermost life details with them too??

    What, then, would you have us do?

    Nothing. We should all just have honest debate. You’ve already demonstrated that you understand what slippery slope and false dichotomies are, IMO.

    You surely wouldn’t expect us to simply believe what you do based on nothing but bald assertion,

    I’m not here to convert or advertise religion.

    mikespeir,</b

    Do you agree or disagree that believing only what is rational can exclude very real and very important realities?”

    Hypothetically, it could. Why should I think it ever does?

    You agreed. It’s not for me to say what you should think.

    I would agree, Valhar2000. But I’d still like cl to explain why I should ever accept as truth any proposition that lacks rational support.

    Again, t’s not for me to say what you should think.

    Valhar2000

    Hence, believing that which is rational is still the better option.

    Well, I’d say believing that which is rational is better when and only when the object we are seeking knowledge about is itself not amenable to empirical discovery.

    ex machina,

    Can you decide on that which you’ve not been proposed?

    goyo,

    Ex machina provided you with a direct answer to your question above.

    No, ex machina didn’t. To you I ask as well: Can you decide on that which you have not been proposed?

    My question to you is: why?

    Why what?

    Chet,

    To me the debate is over; it ended when it became obvious that theists could offer no intellectually compelling argument for the existence of gods, or why God or any other gods should be assumed to exist in the face of no evidence that they do.

    I know. You convinced me like five comments ago.

    Maybe you could be the first to have good evidence for God. I doubt it, though, or else you would have provided it.

    Starting from doubt indicates bias. Also, other reasons for my withholding exist than your assumption I have no good evidence. Again, as I’ve told Tom twice now, I’m not here to prove theism correct. I’m not here to tell people jack about my personal life.

    So you’re not actually accusing my argument of being fallacious, just a non-fallacious “slippery-slope”? Truly there’s no limit to how disingenuous you can be, cl.

    Yes, you’re quite correct. One can make slippery slope arguments that are not inherently fallacious or untrue. Is Wikipedia equally disingenuous or are you guilty of special pleading here? No quote-mine. And I didn’t include the link because, well, it’s a waste of time. Anyone can Google the term! I waste enough time trying to catch typos. I dealt with ‘quote-mining’ and ‘disingenuous’ but how have I been dishonest?

    That’s in the material you chose to omit from your quote. By definition it’s a fallacy. There’s no such thing as a non-fallacious slippery slope.

    Well, I tried my best and I’ll apologize. One occurrence in over 5,000 words. Over a dozen occurrences where ‘fallacy’ was not mentioned, and as for the latter part, you’re simply incorrect. Again, from Wikipedia: “the term slippery slope argument alternately refers to a non-fallacious argument that such undesirable events are rendered more probable. The fallacious sense of “slippery slope” is often used synonymous with continuum fallacy, in that it assumes there is no gray area and there must be a definite transition at a certain point from category A to category B.”

    Again, I took due effort to not charge you with fallacy, but slippery slope argument, and it seems from this definition you’re simply wrong.

    To repeat myself: it’s a statistical impossibility.

    This right here is what all of this started from. Your statement was slippery slope argumentation, and I figured you wouldn’t give a straight answer to this.

    It was only after you identified as a theist that I came to that conclusion about you.

    I’ve not charged you with prejudging my belief in God or gods. I’ve charge you with assuming the reasons for my belief are identical to yours; that’s the prejudgment.

    And now I judge you guilty of dishonesty, quote-mining, and being disingenuous.

    (cl extends stone)

    Would you like to be the first?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Man Chet you sure do know how to spin a web! You’re in deep here. Allow me to explain.

    Among many other unnecessary and impolite insults, you have quite rudely accused me of quote-mining. A reasonable definition of quote-mining is quoting only the part of somebody’s words that supports your own point, while ignoring other parts of their words that contradict your point. Yes or no?

    Now here’s the funny thing: As evidence for your claim that I quote-mined, you offered the following:

    Indeed, the Wiki page you quoted from begins: In debate or rhetoric, the slippery slope is one of the classical informal fallacies. That’s in the material you chose to omit from your quote. (ital. orig)

    Sure, the page begins as such, but does the page state, “There’s no such thing as a non-fallacious slippery slope?” Does the page say, “All slippery slopes are fallacious?” Nope. Were there other words which came later in the definition that refute your claim? Yes.

    As a side note, originally, when I read the italicized words, I saw the words ‘your quote’ next, and I mistakenly thought that the italicized words you were quoting from Wikipedia were my words! That’s why in the spirit of peace I offered,

    Well, I tried my best and I’ll apologize. One occurrence in over 5,000 words.

    This suggests I’m genuine enough to give you the benefit of the doubt. You’re trying to say I charged you of fallacy all along, and as I said, it’s untrue. I was about to go to sleep and I was like, “You know, I don’t think that’s right. I don’t recall typing the word ‘fallacy’ in relation to Chet’s arguments…” so I went meticulously over my comments again. And guess what? When I initially defined slippery slope, I said,

    “From Wikipedia: “(slippery slope) …suggests that an action will initiate a chain of events culminating in an undesirable event later without establishing or quantifying the relevant contingencies… the term alternately refers to a non-fallacious argument that such undesirable events are rendered more probable.” (emph. mine)

    But yet you persist with the typical ‘Chet’s way or the highway’ response,

    There’s no such thing as a non-fallacious slippery slope..

    Since Wikipedia states that non-fallacious forms of slippery slope exist, when I quote them directly, it’s not a quote-mine, and incidentally, have you written Wikipedia yet to tell them they are wrong? If so, what was their response? If not, will you concede your long overdue errors here or elsewhere? It’s not that bad. I apologized to you when I wasn’t even wrong.

    I normally don’t bring one thread into another without good reason, but tonight in On Inerrancy you went off on me thus,

    As dishonestly as you’ve behaved in the other thread, cl, I’m surprised you still have the nerve to keep posting here. At any rate – I don’t talk to quote-miners.

    No dishonesty existed, and the latter half of this statement is also demonstrably irrational. At the time you wrote those words, you did believe I was a quote-miner, and yet you still talked to me! Tighten it up a bit. Your words directly contradict your actions even there and how can you expect to be taken seriously?!?!

    Look, I don’t know what’s got you so heated against me, especially after our first tango was a success, but the real funny thing is this: In your attempts to discredit me, you quoted only the first part of the Wikipedia definition, IOW, only the part that was relevant to your argument, and you did so when the remaining part of the Wikipedia definition undeniably refutes your claims! What happened?

    Who really quote-mined Wikipedia!?!?!?

  • mikespeir

    You agreed. It’s not for me to say what you should think.

    You seem to be trying very hard to influence what we all think.

    That said, I understand you would rather fight on defense. (Don’t we all prefer that?) However, if you don’t see it as critical that I share your faith, I don’t either. Nuff said.

  • ex machina

    Can you decide on that which you’ve not been proposed?

    goyo,

    Ex machina provided you with a direct answer to your question above.

    No, ex machina didn’t.

    What are you proposing? I’d appreciate it if you would expound on your argument so you can be understood. You’ve expressed a lot of displeasure with me and others when we incorrectly guess your argument, and the debate becomes about whether or not we guessed correctly, or what your argument really is, rather than the issue itself. Stating it in full will keep this from happening.

    Can I decide on what’s not been proposed? Technically, no. Although, if the proposition is about something you’ve already though about, and have decided against, you would have, in a way, decided. For example, you could ask me if I’d like to wear a pair of size 4 high heels, and, even though you’d never asked me before, I’ve already decided against woman’s clothing, as well as shoes that are too small. I’d already decided on general principles for my attire, and the issue was, essentially, decided without you ever needing to ask me.

    Further, you seem to be advocating the idea that if one is in ignorance, one hasn’t denied anything, and as such won’t go to hell. That sounds fair, but it’s not supported by scripture.

    It’s right there in what I’ve found: Jesus is the only way. The only rational implication for non-believers, whatever the reason, is that they to to hell. If there’s some third option, I don’t see scriptural proof for it. If you think they go elsewhere, your idea is not supported in scripture.

  • Chet

    Sorry, cl, but we won’t be talking any more. I do have standards, after all, and you simply don’t meet them.

  • goyo

    cl:
    you asked specifically about scriptural proof for missionaries and about people going to hell for not believing in jesus. We’ve answered your question, then you say we haven’t, without saying why.
    Stop playing games and tell us your reasoning for the question.
    Now the answer to your third question: no.
    But that’s not my problem is it? Since I’m an atheist I don’t care if anyone has heard of jesus or not.
    But that’s not what your good book says, is it?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    mikespeir,

    You seem to be trying very hard to influence what we all think. That said, I understand you would rather fight on defense. (Don’t we all prefer that?) However, if you don’t see it as critical that I share your faith, I don’t either.

    In the sense that I’m trying to get us all to abide by logical argumentation, sure, but I’m not fighting in defense of God, rather, clear logic. It is not critical to me if you share my faith, but such does not mean I don’t wish you or anyone else the best in their search for truth.

    ex machina,

    I do not offer this in condescension, but I apologize if I’ve gotten ahead of you. With John 16:4, Matthew 7:13-14 and John 3:16, you argued:

    And there it seems to be: “believes in him.” Not lives like him or, lives well, but belief is singled out as the way to heaven.

    Slippery sloper. That Jesus is alleged to be the only way does not logically entail that those who’ve never heard of Jesus perish eternally. Presumably, you’re a rationalist, right? How can one decide on that which one has not been proposed? If you are ignorant of the gospel, you don’t know of any Jesus that exists or existed, and if you don’t know of any Jesus that exists or existed, how might you accept or reject Jesus’ offer?

    You’ve expressed a lot of displeasure with me and others when we incorrectly guess your argument,

    I don’t express displeasure with you or them, just the non-reason of presuming we know where our opponent is going when other options exist. Tangentially, and in no effort to rehash the past but only to address your claim, when you charged me of making a “backhanded argument for the suppression of atheist speech” on sole account of my stated disapproval of the FFRF sign, I voiced displeasure with your slippery sloper, and that you would state it so presumably and confidently, in the lack of evidence. I’ve no displeasure with you as a person, or the fact that on occasion you’re bound to disagree with me. Same goes for the others I butt heads with here. I value your arguments of course, but as people rightly note of fundies, there is a point at which non-reason starts to get annoying. I am human so I’ll express my annoyance inevitably, but I do not mean to direct it towards you, Chet, OMGF, goyo, or anyone else for that matter.

    That sounds fair, but it’s not supported by scripture.

    I disagree, and I don’t feel you’ve shown such to be incompatible with scripture in the verses you cite. I’m open to further citations, however.

    goyo,

    Perhaps you should read more carefully?

    (cl) asked specifically about scriptural proof for missionaries and about people going to hell for not believing in jesus. (paren. & edit mine)

    I’ve asked for no scripture ‘about missionaries’ and even with my edit, your argument is strawman. I did ask specifically for verses which state or even suggest that those who die without hearing the gospel message go to hell.

    We’ve answered your question, then you say we haven’t, without saying why.

    Nobody’s answered the question, but a caricature of it, and I’ve explained why.

    Stop playing games and tell us your reasoning for the question.

    Speaking rhetorically, do you want me to light that smoke for you too?

    Now the answer to your third question: no. But that’s not my problem is it? Since I’m an atheist I don’t care if anyone has heard of jesus or not. But that’s not what your good book says, is it?

    Not quite following you there. Who are quoting? What question of mine are you answering negatively to? The third question I’ve asked in the thread? Third question I’ve asked of you?

    Chet,

    Sorry, cl, but we won’t be talking any more. I do have standards, after all, and you simply don’t meet them.

    But you’re still talking to me, and no offense, but I’m quite glad I don’t meet your standards for logical debate. If you want to allow what I perceive as such damning evidence to remain, it’s your own intellectual integrity that’s at stake and be my guest. For reasons unknown to me, in this thread, you replied to my criticism of your argument with blathering and ad hominem denigration. All I did was argue that you offered slippery slope, false dichotomy dogmas for logic, and you got all spun out about it, then accused me of dishonestly quote-mining, when you were the one who quote-mined and the proof is above!!!! Quite simply: Are there subsequent parts of Wikipedia’s definition of slippery slope that contradict your argument? Yes or No?

    You can cover your arse by talking to me only to say we’re not talking anymore, which is in itself amusing, but you’ve showed an aversion to Boolean logic thus far, and so when I ask another Yes/No question I don’t expect much but more dancing.

    But wait, it gets worse. A statistical impossibility is still possible, just unlikely, so you’ve answered my pertinent question affirmatively. That is to say, yes, you’ve conceded that although unlikely, it is possible that somebody might believe in something sans rational evidence, without entailing belief in 100 or 1,000 other counterfactuals or unfalsifiabilities. Since such is possible, your dogmatic, black-and-white statement omits some other shade of grey, and we’re right back where we started now, which was with me simply pointing out that such was slippery slope, false dichotomy argumentation. I never questioned the superiority of a rational epistemology; I questioned and do question all dogma presented as inviolable truth, be it religious or otherwise.

    Now, as for your other dogmatic axiom, will you concede yet that there are clearly instances in which it is better to be wrong on accident than consciously correct? Others have agreed with me there as well. Are they equally disingenuous? Equally dishonest? BTW, since you’ve claimed they are in error, have you written Wikipedia yet to tell them their definition of slippery slope is wrong?? If not, what explains this special pleading?

    Like Ebonmuse said, if you don’t want to talk to me, well, don’t talk to me. It’s better to abide by your word than to continue to contradict yourself by talking to me.

  • mikespeir

    It is not critical to me if you share my faith, but such does not mean I don’t wish you or anyone else the best in their search for truth.

    Lovely. Fine sentiment, that.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    mikespeir,

    Forgive me if I can ask this, but people run into trouble in online discussion because inflection and sarcasm are so easily obscured. I’m assuming you’re responding genuinely to my comment which I meant genuinely, but when you say,

    Lovely. Fine sentiment, that.

    I could also sense possible sarcasm. So that’s why I ask you instead of assume. I guess I’m just saying I hope we’re on the right foot and not at odds over nothing.

  • mikespeir

    It was sarcasm, cl. Sadly, sometimes, that’s the only way to respond.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    mikespeir,

    See, that’s what I don’t get.. Would you not be insulted if I was like, “Yes, it’s so critical that you think like me..” ?? IOW, what of what I said offended you? I do wish everyone the best in this, not that they believe or think like I do.

  • goyo

    cl:
    I enjoy participating in discussions like the next person, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to quit talking to you too. Your constant argumentative atttude and ridiculous parsing of words is exasperating.
    I find you very immature and frankly I’ve started ignoring your comments.
    Too bad, because I enjoy debating theists.

  • Polly

    Chet:

    Sorry, cl, but we won’t be talking any more.

    goyo:

    I enjoy participating in discussions like the next person, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to quit talking to you too.

    Yaaaay!

    And, I enjoy reading discussions betweeb atheists and theists as much as the next guy, but the victim-complex is becoming tedious.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    goyo,

    Wasn’t it you who said, “If you can’t stand the heat…” ? I take it you can’t stand the heat, then.

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to quit talking to you too.

    Hmm… maybe you really are afraid, I don’t know. But in my world, (x) does not equal (-x), so when you talk to me to say you’re not talking to me anymore, my left ear raises.

    I find you very immature

    Funny thing, ‘cuz I took it like a man in stride when you introduced yourself to me by calling me a pompous asshole. I could’ve pulled your victim complex too. Instead, as I do whenever I’m insulted, I said I would consider my actions to see if your charge may have contained truth.

    Your constant argumentative atttude..

    Perhaps I should adopt a more passive or mindless attitude, but then you’d probably just charge me with not being argumentative enough.

    ..and ridiculous parsing of words is exasperating.

    Well hell, let’s all just be imprecise under the pretense of rationalism and logic.

    I’ve started ignoring your comments.

    So do you typically respond to that which you ignore? Then, are not all such responses, by their very nature, responses from ignorance?

    ****

    Back on topic, did you have any verse in mind that supports the idea that those who’ve never heard of Jesus go to hell??

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    cl
    The Bible states that Jesus is the only way to get to salvation. The only way. If I can borrow a phrase from you in the other thread, what’s so hard to understand about that? Those that don’t accept Jesus have missed out on or passed up on the “only” way to salvation, as the Bible clearly states.

    And, your response above is just what I was talking about earlier. When someone chimes in to say that they would rather not discuss things with you anymore, it’s not some sort of logical fallacy to inform the other person, nor is it some sort of contradiction. If I say that I’m not talking to you anymore, it means that I’m giving you my final word on the matter. To take it in the sense that I’m both talking to you and not talking to you at the same time is to take the worst possible interpretation and apply it to the individual you are talking to. This is what people find exasperating.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    OMGF,

    I appreciate the tact in your rebuke (honestly). If possible, let’s just leave the off-topic part to a single comment each:

    To take it in the sense that I’m both talking to you and not talking to you at the same time is to take the worst possible interpretation and apply it to the individual you are talking to. This is what people find exasperating.

    Well, then I’ll have to consider that, but exasperating (to me) is denouncing someone, calling them an asshole, asking them questions, then getting butthurt and refusing to answer. That’s exasperating IMO.

    And, didn’t you just say in the other thread that people engage in ‘certain modes of speech’ when they aren’t necessarily speaking literally? Didn’t you think I was fully aware of what I was doing, and that such was the point of the nature of my response to goyo? Most people here denounce my claims through direct insult or ridicule. I prefer to take a different route when I denounce claims I feel deserve it.

    If I say that I’m not talking to you anymore, it means that I’m giving you my final word on the matter.

    Correct. What does it mean if you say it twice, like Chet? Did you give me your final word originally?

    As I said, I respect your tact, and we’ve been doing good lately. I don’t jump into people’s quips with you, so please, let me fight my own battles, the way I see fit, okay?

    Now —

    The Bible states that Jesus is the only way to get to salvation. The only way. If I can borrow a phrase from you in the other thread, what’s so hard to understand about that?

    Correct. And as I’ve stated, that Jesus is the only way does not entail that those who have never heard of Jesus go to hell. What can’t you understand about that? It’s quite simple. One must reject Jesus to accept hell. How might one reject what one has not been proposed? If you’ve never heard of Republicans or Democrats, can you make an informed vote for either? Yes or no?

    Now, what verse in the Bible supports goyo’s (or anyone else’s) notion that if you’ve never heard of Jesus, you go to hell? That would be everyone before roughly 2,000 years ago, right?

    If that’s the god you disbelieve in, then I’m an atheist, too.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    cl,

    As I said, I respect your tact, and we’ve been doing good lately. I don’t jump into people’s quips with you, so please, let me fight my own battles, the way I see fit, okay?

    OK, I was just trying to help you understand where they are coming from.

    That said:

    Correct. And as I’ve stated, that Jesus is the only way does not entail that those who have never heard of Jesus go to hell. What can’t you understand about that? It’s quite simple. One must reject Jesus to accept hell.

    I don’t understand it. The quote isn’t talking about rejecting Jesus to get to hell, it is talking about how to get to heaven. If one does not go through Jesus, one does not go to heaven. If one is ignorant of Jesus, how does one go about doing that?

    Now, what verse in the Bible supports goyo’s (or anyone else’s) notion that if you’ve never heard of Jesus, you go to hell? That would be everyone before roughly 2,000 years ago, right?

    The quote I gave you is sufficient. The only way to heaven is through Jesus. How does one do that if one is ignorant of Jesus.

    If that’s the god you disbelieve in, then I’m an atheist, too.

    Maybe now you see why we say that god is unjust, immoral, a bully, etc.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    OMGF,

    If your interpretation is correct, then Moses, Isaac, Abraham, Daniel, Isaiah, David, Solomon and ALL of the other Old Testament figures would ALL be in hell, correct? Yet scripture clearly indicates otherwise, and each of these people lived and died before Jesus ever walked the Earth.

    The only way to heaven is through Jesus.

    I believe that is a correct interpretation of scripture. I do not believe such entails that whoever has not heard of Jesus goes to hell.

    Those that don’t accept Jesus have missed out on or passed up on the “only” way to salvation, as the Bible clearly states.

    Again, I believe that is a correct interpretation of scripture, and this statement is not identical to the statement, “Those who have never heard of Jesus go to hell.”

    “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life…” John 3:35-36

    So clearly, hell results from rejecting Jesus, which is what we would expect in light of the verses you and others have offered, which state that salvation results from accepting Jesus, right?

    Accept is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

    # To receive willingly.

    # To give admittance or approval to.

    # To recognize as true, believe.

    # To make a favorable response to.

    # To agree to undertake.

    Acknowledgment of the concept, proposition or offer being accepted is a logical necessity, and predicated in each of these definitions. How can one accept that which one has not been offered? How can one accept that which one does not know exists?

    Reject is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

    # To refuse to accept, submit to, believe, or make use of.

    # To refuse to consider or grant; deny.

    # To refuse to recognize or give affection to (a person).

    # To discard as defective or useless; throw away.

    Acknowledgment of the concept being rejected is a logical necessity, and predicated in each of these definitions. How can one reject that which one has not been offered? How can one reject that which one does not know exists?

    Logically, how can one accept or reject something they don’t even know exists?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    cl,
    It clearly states that the “only” way to get to heaven is through Jesus. What you are claiming is that there is another way, which would violate the “only” part of it. According to the NT authors, if Jesus is the “only” way, then Moses, et al. are not in heaven right now, except that I think they claimed that god made an exception for them because they were somehow with Jesus or something like that due to being so holy. At least I’ve heard a similar explanation before, although I’m not quite clear on which verses they based it.

    Again, I believe that is a correct interpretation of scripture, and this statement is not identical to the statement, “Those who have never heard of Jesus go to hell.”

    Those who have never heard of Jesus have “missed out.”

    Lastly, to address John 3:35-36, it doesn’t say what happens to those who are simply ignorant of Jesus, so it’s difficult to say from this verse what happens to those who neither accept nor reject Jesus. The “only” verse, however, does make a claim that separates all people into two camps – those that are with Jesus and those that are not. So, I agree with you that one can not accept or reject an unknown entity, but I disagree that the Bible says they won’t go to hell since the “only” way is through Jesus. Ignorance would entail that one could not possibly have the relationship or worship or whatever of Jesus that is necessary to go “through Jesus.”

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    OMGF,

    Actually, I need to clarify that the following is not my argument:

    What you are claiming is that there is another way, which would violate the “only” part of it.

    I’m arguing the possibility that the ignorant get some sort of post-mortem chance to hear the gospel somehow, else they could neither accept nor reject it. Sounds crazed, but hear me out.

    I fully agree with what you and other commenters have noted around here, regarding the difficulty of drawing direct and explicit interpretations out of scripture. My rule is, if scripture is not explicit on something, I try not to state it. I feel, as you do, that we’re justified in that John 3:35-36 doesn’t say what happens to the ignorant. We agree that the Bible says Jesus = only way. We agree that there are certainly two camps. And it seems you see my logic over the impossibility of accepting or rejecting an unknown entity. So, all we have grounds to state is this: Of those that have heard and rejected, and of those that have heard and accepted, we know the drill.

    Okay, you hit the nail on the head right here in my book:

    ..to address John 3:35-36, it doesn’t say what happens to those who are simply ignorant of Jesus, so it’s difficult to say from this verse what happens to those who neither accept nor reject Jesus. (bold mine)

    At best, the ignorant are in a category whose eternal destiny is unstated. Hence, we do not have grounds to presume they go to hell in my manner of exegesis, because as we’ve noted, the verses don’t state anything explicit about the fate of the ignorant. So I’m saying nobody can say the ignorant go to hell, because scripture is silent on the issue.

    Not wanting to be accused of special pleading then, we must ask: “Well, cl, if scripture is silent on the ignorant, on what might you base your opinion that they might hear the gospel still?” There are verses which clearly state that the preaching of the gospel is occurring in the immaterial realm(s), for example 1 Peter 3:18-19. When Jesus dies and spent three days under, there was “preaching to spirits in prison” going on:

    “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,” (NASB)

    Such doesn’t undermine the Great Commission, and there’s no need to introduce ‘another way’ besides Jesus, so to speak. Now, I am not asking you or anyone to accept this as proof that Jesus was preaching to the ignorant, either, because we simply don’t have that much ground to stand on, as we’ve agreed.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    cl,

    We agree that there are certainly two camps. And it seems you see my logic over the impossibility of accepting or rejecting an unknown entity. So, all we have grounds to state is this: Of those that have heard and rejected, and of those that have heard and accepted, we know the drill.

    At best, the ignorant are in a category whose eternal destiny is unstated. Hence, we do not have grounds to presume they go to hell in my manner of exegesis, because as we’ve noted, the verses don’t state anything explicit about the fate of the ignorant. So I’m saying nobody can say the ignorant go to hell, because scripture is silent on the issue.

    I disagree. That part of my comment that you bolded was meant to counteract the argument that I felt you were making – that John 3:35-36 somehow means that only those that reject Jesus go to hell. What I see, instead, is something along the lines of this:

    Rules:
    1. You must be A in order to get X
    2. Those who are A will get X, those who are B will get Y
    3. X and Y are the only things that one can get

    From this, what happens to those who are C? From rule number 1, we can safely state that those who are C will not get X. From rule 3, we can see that those who do not get X will get Y. Rule 2 ends up being a delineation to show how one can get X or get Y. IOW, in the Bible, John 16:4 would be rule 1. John 3:35-36 would be rule 2. Rule 3 comes from the ideas that only heaven and hell exist for our eternal bliss/torment. I think it’s pretty clear that those who are ignorant of Jesus will go to hell, unless your interpretation of post-life gospel presentation is correct. This, however, presents a very unfair/unjust situation. Those who are ignorant of Jesus will die and then be presented with god who will lay out the gospel and ask them if they want to go to heaven or hell, while those of us who happen to be born in a place where we have heard of Jesus have to make these “choices” without having god as a personal tutor and/or even knowing if those “choices” exist at all?

  • MS (Quixote)

    OMGF/cl

    Not butting in on the argument, but though Scripture is not thorough on your subject, it is not silent. Romans 2:

    14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I was not aware/didn’t remember that particular passage. The problem I see with that is why do we need Jesus then? Why can’t we just be good people?

  • Ishryal

    cl

    One must reject Jesus to accept hell

    But neither does accepting Jesus alone get you to heaven. There’s a lot more you have to do to get to heaven. The bible may be not so fleshed out regarding what happens to the ignorant, but it’s very vocal about what you need to do to get there and what you can’t do. Accepting Jesus is just ONE part of going to heaven. And if you don’t do what is required, then you don’t get to heaven… so by the laws of god, if you don’t go to heaven, you go to hell.

    MS (Quixote)
    Romans 2 does not mention anything about the ignorant being saved. It’s a passage relating to the Jews… that even a Gentile who doesn’t know the law is in a better position to judge than a Jew that breaks the Law. It says nothing about going to heaven. Indeed, Romans 2:12 says specifically that those without the law will PERISH without the law… doesn’t say they will be saved. If they sin, they will perish. And we’re all born with sin are we not?

  • MS Quixote

    Ishryal,

    What’s clear from Romans 2 is that a provision exists: “the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)” Paul links this accusing and defending specifically with the judgment: “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ.”

    It’s true, as you point out, that those without the law can perish. Their thoughts would accuse them. But verse 12 does not make the claim that all without the law will perish. If there are those who respond to the light they are given, their consciences will defend them.

    This theme is developed in Romans by Paul. For instance, Abraham, the subject of Paul’s discourse in subsequent chapters, was not Jewish and lived before the law was given, yet he responded in faith and the atonement of Christ was ultimately applied to him. And while you are correct to lay the blame for perishing with sin and not a rejection of Christ, it is the application of the atoning work of Christ that removes sin.

    The same could be said for Adam, Seth, Noah, etc. I see no reason to assume this model would not apply to those who do not have access to Christ at any considered era, say, Native Americans, for example, or children in Africa.

  • Ishryal

    MS Quixote

    Thanks for the reply. I still don’t see it being a provision that those who are ignorant have a special get out jail free card. Romans, from what I read and understand, is more about emphasising that the Jews will be judged in the exact same way as the Gentiles, even those who are ignorant of the law. If this is so, then if god judges us based on all the other factors mentioned in the bible, then the ignorant are also judged accordingly. And if ‘ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’, and if our ‘sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear’, then the ignorant cannot do that one thing that is also important to go to heaven… repent. You can’t repent when you’re dead. Jesus Christ himself said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

    How do you reconcile those two verses? Where in the bible does it say that someone can repent after death?

  • MS (Quixote)

    How do you reconcile those two verses? Where in the bible does it say that someone can repent after death?

    Let me say first Ishryal, that if you are an atheist, you handle Scripture better than 90% of all atheists I’ve corresponded with in the past. Thanks for that; it’s refreshing.

    There’s no need to repent after death, though I like Lewis’s allegory “The Great Divorce” in which the afterlife is seen as integral with this life where choices are still available. The provision makes it possible now for those who have never heard of Christ to respond in faith in accordance with conscience.

    Again, Abraham is a great example. Paul goes on to explain that through faith, it was credited to Abraham as righteousness. What was credited to him? Christ’s atoning work, though it’s obvious he was a gentile, without the law, and ignorant specifically of Christ.

    So you’re right when you say the ignorant are judged accordingly and that there’s no get out of jail free card, but they’re judged according to the light they were given: those whose respond to that light are credited accordingly. Either way, salvation comes through the applied work of Christ, so your verse above “No one comes to the Father except through me” holds, and presents no inconsistency or contradiction.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    There’s no need to repent after death, though I like Lewis’s allegory “The Great Divorce” in which the afterlife is seen as integral with this life where choices are still available. The provision makes it possible now for those who have never heard of Christ to respond in faith in accordance with conscience.

    We know that torture is not an effective means of gaining true information.

  • MS (Quixote)

    We know that torture is not an effective means of gaining true information.

    I’m not quite certain of the connection, my friend.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    If one is in hell being tortured, it would be expected that the person would “come to Christ” in order to appease his tormentors. It was somewhat tongue in cheek.

  • MS (Quixote)

    I got you now. I’m a devoted admirer of the tongue and cheek method. Carry on :)

    Sure, a person being tortured would say anything to appease his tormenter. In “The Great Divorce” hell’s not solidified yet (if ever) and it’s reasoning not torture. You know already, though, that I agree with you that torture cannot be a component of hell.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    You know already, though, that I agree with you that torture cannot be a component of hell.

    Huh?

  • MS (Quixote)

    Maybe I should have said I agree with you that torture–as I think you are using the word–in hell would be unjust.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X