John Loftus Accuses Jim West of Hate Speech

In what will presumably be a major talking point in the blogosphere in coming days, John Loftus has accused Jim West of hate speech.

I suspect that the discussion of this topic on both Zwingli Redivivus and Debunking Christianity will get heated, and so let me offer this post’s comments section as a place for level-headed discussion of the broader issues as well as the details.  For instance, does adding “humor” as a category in a blog post always suffice to turn something that would otherwise be consider hateful or libelous into humor? What are the main issues, and what do you make of this turn of events in the biblioblogosphere?

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  • Gary

    Seems to be a nice coupling of OT Leviticus and modern, green earth, efficient heating and cooling.

  • Tom Verenna

    I know Jim and he doesn’t ‘hate’ much; but yes, certainly what he says can at times be construed as hateful.  Where the line is drawn is somewhere between satire and seriousness.  In context, lots of things are said on TV or on the radio or in movies which, out of context, would be considered hate speech.  But they are said within a context and those who get the context understand the humor.  Those who know Jim know he is really only teasing, and he doesn’t really want to see people burn.  Those like John Loftus, who seems to have a very rocky relationship with Jim, are of course going to read it as something depraved and disturbing. 

    I personally don’t see Jim’s comment as hateful, but that might be because I know Jim.  Still, perhaps in this charged cultural climate, Jim should be more careful about what he posts on his blog–which is public–and keep these sorts of remarks to those in private correspondence or on a closed list.  There is too great a risk these days for people with thin skins to be offended; these sorts of people shouldn’t be involved in anything where their opinions might be criticized, but while that might be true, they can still file a lawsuit.      

  • Ann

    There is another very heated argument going on among atheists about a comment Richard Dawkins posted on a popular atheist blog and feminist atheist blogger, Rebecca Watson.

    I only point this out because humor and any other finely tuned nuanced comment on the internet can turn ugly in a matter of moments without the benefit of face to face contact. I do not think that adding the category “humor” to one’s post gives enough of a heads-up about whether or not something is humorous or just tasteless. I think is an “ass saving” measure when someone knows a good shit storm is coming down the road. Provocative I’d say.

    I also think that these feuds should not be surprising since the biblical literalists will always feud with the biblical non-literalists and biblical literalists will especially feud with atheists. Some can further argue that the bible itself (and other religious scriptures) is “hate speech” against non-believers as its authors often speak of those who revile God as worthy of the fire or whose children will be dashed against rocks. Belief in the literal provocative “word” of God will itself produce such language and we shouldn’t be surprised that it does. 

    The question is; what to do about such blogs? Sue them? Fine them? What would an atheist wish be done? Would they wish that all debates cease? What are the parameters of acceptable language and when does the atheist cross it as well? I expect that these types of feuds will not cease as long as there are atheists and religionists on this planet. Pruning one’s reading material and staying away from each others’ blogs would be a good start. It’s kind of like staying out of a bar if you know you’re prone to alcoholism.  

  • Anonymous

    All atheists want is the same respect as human beings that women want from men, or African Americans want from Caucasians. Remember a few decades ago when jokes were made about “Pollacks”? It’s dehumanizing. No lawsuits are impending. That only comes into play when someone slanders another person, I think.

    Hate speech has it’s consequences. That’s why we don’t want it in a civil society. I ask that all fair-minded people to speak out against such things. If Verenna once again, in order to kowtow to Christian Bloggers, thinks otherwise he should realize that West thinks he is insane:

    Defend that shit all you want to, Tom, but this means YOU!

    • Tom Verenna

      It actually doesn’t mean me at all John.  But I appreciate you showing how generalizations are harmful.  I don’t think you chose the names of your books to earn respect.  

      • Anonymous

        “It actually doesn’t mean me at all John.”

        Really? Jim West was exegeting Psalms 14:1, his divine authority, and what he said does NOT apply to you?

        You are deluded.

        • Guest

          Tom is unfortunately prone to hero-worship.  Phil Davies when he’s spouting nonsense about metal codices, Jim West when he’s posting nonsense about burning atheists, . . . Tom will sadly defend any old tat when he wants to cosy up to the spouter of the tat.

        • Howard Mazzaferro

          @johnwloftus:disqus Just a note on your link. Jim West’s interpretation of Ps 14:1 is wrong. You are right that “fool” does not denote a person who is lacking in mental ability or insane, the word “fool,” as used in the Bible, generally refers to an individual who spurns reason and follows a morally insensible course out of harmony with God’s righteous standards. But this is not simply talking about human morals either. The word moral is defined as “concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong.” It should be obvious that what God says is the right thing to do is not always what man says is the right thing to do. So an atheist can certainly be moral according to the morals of man. However, for example, God says that preaching about Jesus and the kingdom of God is the right thing to do. Obviously, as an atheist, you’re not going to do this. So you are acting immoral or foolish in God’s eyes. But don’t think this only applies to atheists, many “Christians” who do not do this are also immoral and fools in God’s eyes. Because if they really believed in their hearts that God exists, they would do everything he said to do. To be moral in God’s eyes, means that you desire to have a relationship with God and to please him. You do not desire this, but you do have a desire to have relationships with people and to please some of them, so you act in a moral way that pleases people, but not necessarily God. So bottom line, when God calls you a fool, it does not mean you are a bad person, but a bad worshiper of God.

          • Anonymous

            I’m just catching up to this discussion.

            You are quite correct, Howard, that there is a difference between the morality of man and the morality of God.

            To extend the analogy, according to scripture:In the morality of man, human slavery is evil. In the morality of God, slavery is approved and regulated.

            In the morality of man, war crimes and genocide are immoral. In the morality of God, it is righteous to destroy every man, woman, and child of a nation when God commands it. Or to spare the virgin women for yourselves when God commands it.

            In the morality of man, all men and women are equal participants in society with a vote, a voice, and the ability to serve in public office. In the morality of God, a woman must keep silence in the assembly and is not permitted to teach a man.

            There are reasons that skeptics choose the morality of man.

            • Howard Mazzaferro

              There are a couple problems with your comment. If you do not mind, I will point them out for you.

              1. Let me slightly rephrase your statements to reflect a more truthful reading.

              To extend the analogy, according to scripture: In the morality of [some people and some countries], human slavery is evil. In the morality of God, slavery is approved and regulated.

              In the morality of [some people and some countries], war crimes and genocide are immoral. In the morality of God, it is righteous to destroy every man, woman, and child of a nation when God commands it. Or to spare the virgin women for yourselves when God commands it.

              In the morality of [some people and some countries], all men and women are equal participants in society with a vote, a voice, and the ability to serve in public office. In the morality of God, a woman must keep silence in the assembly and is not permitted to teach a man.

              2. It seems you are viewing these things in a modern sense as seen in the movies.

              In ancient times you were either rich or a slave, there was no McDonald’s back then where someone who was uneducated and from a poor family could support himself. Actually, and especially under God’s rule a slave was more like an employee, he didn’t receive a pay check, but was provided with a place to live and food. You might be right though, God should have not allowed slavery, so all these men and women could be free to wander around the wilderness and die from hunger. That would be the moral thing to do, right?

              Wars and genocide. Using the same logic, you would agree that today’s criminals should not be punished, but should be allowed to go free to continue to harm and corrupt other people? God governs nations, and it is within his prerogative as the creator of these nations to punish them for their crimes against God and man. If someone innocent dies in the process, God can bring them back to life, can man do that?

              If people would actually take the time to read the Bible and not merely read it looking for problems, they would see that a man is to have deep respect for women and to treat his wife as his own flesh. People would also see that God works by organization. The man is the head of the woman, just like the head of the man is Christ. Does this mean that man has a demeaning position? No, and neither does the woman. Should a guy that works in the mail room at IBM have authority over the CEO? By the way, Christians are not suppose to take part in politics. :-)

              • Anonymous

                “Actually, and especially under God’s rule a slave was more like an employee”

                Exodus 21:20-21  “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.”
                An employee?

                • Howard Mazzaferro

                  And just what would be your point here? Oh I get it, you seem to be confusing the modern idea of employee’s rights with what was going on 3,000 years ago. Just because this law was provided to cover such a circumstance, it does not mean it was the common practice of the period. But I suppose you are using this to show how lowly slaves were viewed because they were allowed to be beaten without punishment. Did you happen to read a few verses earlier in Ex 21:18-19 where it states a similar situation for any man, not just a slave?

                  • Beau Quilter

                    Exodus 21:18-19 “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.

                    Yep. Looks like “any man” gets a better deal than the slave.

                    Your view of ancient slavery sounds very familiar. A bit like something you might read in the “The Spectator” in 1859:

                    “The intelligent, christian slave-holder at the South is the best friend of the negro. He does not regard his bonds-men as mere chattel property, but as human beings to whom he owes duties … Here the honest black man is not only protected by the laws and public sentiment, but he is respected by the community as truly as if his skin were white … There is a vast deal of foolish talk about the delights of freedom and the hardships of slavery … But when the man, whatever his complexion, recognizes the fact that his lot is ordained of God, and cheerfully acquiesces, he becomes a free man in the only true sense. He then chooses to do and to bear what otherwise might be irksome and intolerable.”

                  • Beau Quilter

                    I would concede that most biblical verses about slavery are regulations that protect the slave to a certain extent from a master’s abuses (with an awful lot of bias for Hebrew slaves over foreign slaves). But your idea that ancient slavery was a  sort of employment, a protection for a certain class of people, doesn’t hold water. If slavery were simply an exchange of service for room and board, then why is the buying and selling of slaves involved? Why are they described, very specifically, as property? There was such a thing as a hired man – someone paid wages to serve, and there are separate biblical verses dealing with them. 

                    It seems clear that Old Testament treatments of war and slavery are exactly what one would expect of a warring bronze age society. 

                    And no, in discussing the treatment of people as property, I’m not:

                    “confusing the modern idea of employee’s rights with what was going on 3,000 years ago.” 

                    I believe it was you who said that 3,000 years ago:

                    “a slave was more like an employee”

                    No. The concern here is definitely not employee rights. It’s human rights.

                  • Beau Quilter

                    One more bit of your bizarre logic I should point out. You said
                    “Wars and genocide. Using the same logic, you would agree that today’s criminals should not be punished, but should be allowed to go free to continue to harm and corrupt other people?”

                    An argument against genocide is an argument against capital punishment? 

                    By that logic, if you wanted to treat a murderer the way God treated the Amalekites, you would give a lethal injection to the murderer, his wife, his children, and the family dog.

                    • Howard Mazzaferro

                      As usual, I should have known better than to try and explain the difference between God and man to a person who thinks God should act and think like a man. If you don’t believe in God, that’s your choice, but to effectively argue your case, you need to have a full grasp of the opposing arguments, and you most assuredly do not. You also need to learn how an analogy works. The analogy of the criminal was merely to show that removing someone from the scene who is causing harm to others is a viable solution. I was not addressing whether it was moral for man to use capital punishment. But since you can not respond without twisting my meaning, refresh my memory again about the high morals of man as he wiped out entire families, parents, children, and yes even the family dog in his wars through out all history. Lets not forget about the lower species that apparently have no rights, and have been murdered to the point of extinction. You just got to love and admire the morals of the human family as it commits these crimes against humans and animals, then they turn around and call God a monster for doing the same thing, even though he has every right to because humans ARE his property, and he can do with them as he sees fit. Your view that humans are so all important is at the heart of Babylon, God’s enemy.

                    • Beau Quilter

                      Respectfully, Howard, my extension of your analogy was not a twisting of words, and I think you are smart enough to know that. You are being disingenuous to suggest that I don’t know how analogy works. 

                      I was clearly demonstrating that when you compare the decimation of the Amalekites to the simple punishment of a criminal, you miss the point of why genocide or any purposeful killing of innocents in wartime is immoral. 

                      I would never argue that mankind has not been guilty of atrocity throughout it’s history. I am pointing out that the God of the old testament shares this guilt; he has the appearance of a human invention reflecting the morality of the men who wrote about him. If there is a God, he shouldn’t think and act like a man; he should think and act better than a man. Perhaps his actions that appear immoral in our judgement, only have that appearance because they are beyond our understanding – the mystery of a higher being. But I think it’s more likely that they appear immoral because the old testament stories were invented by men, whose sense of morality rarely extended beyond their own tribe. As we try to overcome man’s tendency to commit atrocity (still today), the old testament does not help.

                      Despite our disagreements, Howard, I think you are an intelligent man. I don’t mind the trading of a few barbs in humor. (I think it has to be taken in humor, because we all know that real insults never convince anyone of anything). 

                    • Howard Mazzaferro

                      Yes, we are getting off topic, but I do want to respond to your last comment. I still feel you are wrong about my analogy. But the problem may be in my analogy, I already said what I was trying to point out, but the analogy was not a parallel analogy, in my analogy one man was equal to one nation. When you attempt to add things to the one man you leave the original analogy. Now a more parallel analogy would be when one nation feels another nation has committed some atrocities and decides to punish this nation with war, now your remarks are valid. Because in war, many innocent people and their children are murdered. This analogy addresses the moral implications of the punishment of war. I however was addressing why someone would be punished. Because of wrongdoing, two totally different subjects. Now that that is clear, I’ll just ask you outright.

                      We know that it is immoral for man to kill others, and there are many reasons why. Now the following is presented as if there really is a God and he created all things. Is it immoral for God to kill others or have men kill others under his command? If so why?

                      I think the issue revolves around the idea that life is a gift from God. He didn’t have to give anyone life, it was a gift. Does he have the right to take back this gift if it is not being used in the manner for which he gave it? That’s basically why it is wrong for man to kill, he is taking something that was not his to take, unless God, the owner, commands that it be taken. You say there were some innocent Amalekites. How many do you think cried out to YHWH to save them because they were innocent? Ps 83:6-18

                      But to even argue if God is immoral, you first have to believe God really exists and was responsible for the Bible. Otherwise, you are simply arguing that a non-existent being is being described by men in some book as being immoral. Quite a pointless endeavor. But I suppose your argument of God acting immoral in the pages of the Bible is suppose to add proof to your claim that he doesn’t exist. But for someone who does believe in God and the inspiration of the Bible, for many other reasons, this is nothing more than a misinterpretation of the evidence.

                      I think your best statement and one I agree with was, “Perhaps his actions that appear immoral in our judgement, only have that appearance because they are beyond our understanding – the mystery of a higher being.”

                      No, God doesn’t think like a man, but he has to communicate his ideas to man in a way a man can understand them. So yes, these things appear to have come from man’s thinking, but many of these also include underlying prophetic significance and a part of a grand theme that is slowly being revealed over time and is still going on. These are the things that make me believe in God, not the face value of the stories.

                    • Beau Quilter

                      Very good questions, Howard. I think you’re getting to the heart of the matter. Again, I think some of this is good discussion for James’ recent post on the events in Norway.

                      I’m not sure what you mean when you ask how many Amalekites cried out to YHWH. I doubt there were many, simply because most of the innocents would have cried out to the gods they knew (not likely knowing very much about the god of the Hebrews) or would have been too young to cry out to any god. 

                      You’re quite right that one’s viewpoint on the old testament hinges greatly on whether one believes in God. I do however, think that there are at least two other basic principles of belief that affect this viewpoint as well, and they are separate from the belief in God.

                      One is the belief that all scripture is inspired. This is a separate issue; there are many who believe in God (the Christian God or other gods), who nevertheless don’t believe that all Judeo-Christian scripture is inspired. And there are many variations on what the inspiration of a written text actually means.

                      The other is the belief that morality is defined as that which God commands or purposes, as opposed to a set of altruistic principles by which we make moral decisions. In the second case, these principles might be set down by God, or might be the result of humanity’s growing sense that the golden rule (or similar axioms) makes society better for everyone. I suppose you could combine these two beliefs, so that God lays down moral principles for man to follow, with the caveat that his own acts supersede these principles by definition.

                      “Otherwise, you are simply arguing that a non-existent being is being described by men in some book as being immoral. Quite a pointless endeavor.” 

                      Hardly a pointless endeavor when millions of people around the world make world-changing decisions based on their particular holy books. Whether I believe in God or not, my neighbors make choices about going to war, preserving the environment, stemming the national debt, and countless other important issues, based on their readings of scripture. 

                      I’ll let you have the last word (if you like). It may be time to move on. You and I seem to be the last ones left in this room.


                    • Howard Mazzaferro

                      Yes, I don’t want to drag this out forever either, but I feel compelled to respond because I feel my personal views are not totally being understood. So I will take the opportunity to have the last word.

                      As far as the Amalekites, a good explanation would take more room them I want to deal with right now for this comment, but basically, if the Bible is true and YHWH is the only true God, how can you say people are innocent when they cry out to other gods? They may have been innocent by man’s standards, but their parents and culture taught them to worship other gods and not the true God. Its hard to say what people back there actually knew, but it is entirely possible that YHWH made himself known to these nations. Ex 9:15-16

                      As far as the inspiration of the Bible, I think those people you mentioned are wrong. If someone believes God really exist, the issue of inspiration is pretty easily derived from logical deduction, unless God is playing games with us. If a (Christian) God really exists, he would know that the Bible is our main source of information for him and that people rely on it. If he didn’t inspire it in some fashion, then he doesn’t care what we believe or think about him. If he was involved with its production, would he allow it to contain gross misconceptions about him. What would be the point of going to the trouble of inspiring texts, only to let humans re-write them to suit their own needs? Again, if this happened, then God does not care. So basically, if God exists and he wants people to know him and do his will, he would have to provide us with the correct information. Does God allow the Bible to contain errors? Yes, but I feel most of these are from the copying process and they do not change the intended message of the Bible. To me, either the Bible is the complete true word of God, or it is a collection of religious writings from men that did not communicate with any god. I happen to choose the first because of many other reasons.

                      Morality is concerned with doing what is right. Who decides what is the right thing to do? Morality can have different authoritative levels. For example, is it moral to imprison a man in jail who has committed a crime? At least most societies says it is. How about if you catch someone burglarizing your house, would it still be moral if you imprisoned him in your basement for a couple of years? No, because under law, you do not have the right to punish criminals. So sometimes morality is determined by who is performing the act. In this case it is the government who set it in place. If God does exist, would he not have a set of morals as well, and wouldn’t these morals be contingent on who was performing the act? So in the same line of reasoning, couldn’t something be considered immoral if man does it, but moral if God does it, based on God’s set of morals and not some government or societies. Interestingly, this goes back to the tree of the knowledge of Good and bad, where man first rejected God’s set of morals and created his own apart from God.

                      I have to disagree with your last paragraph. First I meant that in a philosophical way. I do not think people get the sort of ideas you mentioned from religious writings. They get the ideas from other ways and read them back into their religious writings. A form of misinterpretation. If you misinterpreted a bomb disposal book and blew yourself up, was it the author’s fault?

                    • Beau Quilter

                      Incidentally, Howard, you and I have gotten way “off-topic” on this post, but I thought I’d point out that James now has a post on precisely this topic of atrocity and religion:


  • Ann

    Having read some of Jim West’s posts, it sounds to me like he’s deliberately baiting atheists to argue with him, kind of like Westboro Baptists and their hate filled funeral protests. As in the Dawkins debacle, just because someone’s got a “Dr.” in front of his name, it doesn’t mean he is immune to making an ass out of himself. 

    • Guest

      Jim only has “Dr.” in front of his name because he sent away for the certificate . . .

      • TruthOverfaith

        Jim West is apparently an adjunct professor at Quartz Hill School of Theology.

        Isn’t that kind of like being a professor at McDonald’s Hamburger University?

  • Anonymous

    Here’s another analogy for the obtuse Tom Verenna: What if the joke was about drowning gays and burning them?

    Sheesh, there are always some people on your side of the fence that you wish were on the other side.

    • Tom Verenna

      Grow some thicker skin, John.

      • Anonymous

        “Grow some thicker skin, John.”

        Yep, tell that to gays, women and people of color you idiot.

  • jason

    Noble aspirations, James, but it seems “level headed discussion” isn’t possible with this issue!

    • Anonymous

      I don’t care for anonymous “Guest” comments from anyone. But I’ve said what I wanted. Others can carry on.

      • Guest

        What kind of posts you care for doesn’t matter here, John.  You can only censor on your own blog.

        • Anonymous

          I have never censored any respectfully written comment, never. Jim West never publishes any of my comments, even the ones of late about this.

          • Guest

            Agreed.  West is a notorious censor.

  • Tom Verenna

    If I am called a ‘hero-worshipper’ for having friends, I’m okay with that.  At least I’m not a coward, hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.  

    • Guest

      No, you’re not a hero-worshipper for having friends.  As stated, you’re a hero-worshipper for defending, ad infinitum, nonsense spouted by your friends *because* it’s being said by your friends.  That’s classic hero-worship.

  • Tom Verenna

    Color it any way you want, you’re still a coward, ‘Guest’.

    • Guest

      And, sadly, you’re still a sycophant.

  • Michael Wilson

    Isn’t Jim protestant? I’m certain far more people were killed by the Catholic Church for protestant beliefs than atheism. Loftus’s hate speech bit is like me telling a black guy not to joke about Jim Crow because I was once turned away from a Denny’s for not wearing shoes and a shirt, so I take prejudice seriously.  How many people to day share a genuine identity with the people persecuted as heretics in the past? John’s outrage is comparable to people that thought it was just wrong to make fun of the crucifixion in “Life of Brian”.
    Anyhow, the days of witch burning are far behind us in the western world, and I don’t think Jim was thinking about his Central African readership. If John thinks that we are only around the corner from heretics being dunked in pools, I am reminded of those who think Obama care is Stalinism, and that the forces of the Anti-Christ are planning to stamp every one so no one can buy or sell without the mark of the Beast.  This is different from Joking about lynching and pogroms, the deadly persecution of blacks and Jews is in living memory, and in the case of the Jews, powerful forces are still working on finishing the job (but people still make holocaust jokes).

    • Anonymous

      “How many people to day share a genuine identity with the people persecuted as heretics in the past?”

      My great grand parents were tortured and forcibly ‘converted’ to Catholicism in pre-WW I Spain by the Inquisition – does that count for you?

    • Randall Morrison90

      Michael, if we are going to compare numbers kiled, you can’t beat the atheists.

      Practitioners of atheistically based philosophies killed 100 Million people in just the past century. 

      And they aren’t done yet, sport!

      As far as jokes, Lofuts is always ridiculing Christians.

      Who ya kiddin?

    • Randall Morrison90

      By the way, Michael, speaking of persecution of Jews, have you noticed the remarkable degree that denigration of Jews by the GNU ATHEISTS is simply ignored and excused.

      Its a remarkable phenomena.

  • Matt DeStefano

    Dr. McGrath, I think the most imporant issue is what you addressed here: “For instance, does adding “humor” as a category in a blog post always
    suffice to turn something that would otherwise be consider hateful
    or libelous into humor?”

    Of course it doesn’t. If West had posted the same thing about a certain race, sexual orientation, or gender… nobody would have found it funny despite him tagging it as “humor”. Why should this be any different with non-believers?

  • Sue

    There is an additional aspect to this that makes it “not funny.” I have read in the past, a purely speculative (fictional) and unpleasant comment about John Loftus’ character. Surely we are past assuming that atheists have lower moral standards than Christians.

    I know how extremely painful all this can be.

  • Sue

    I enjoy fun as much as anyone, so I hope Jim will continue to post truly funny content.

  • jmyerov

    For what it’s worth, I’m an atheist who thought West’s post was moderately funny. I prefer Swift, though.

  • Diogenes of Sinope

    I posted this comment on John’s blog:
    I won’t complain about it. If Carlin had said it as part of a bit mocking religious people, I would have laughed. In fact, I did laugh when I first read it, because it’s an absurd thing to say. I laugh at absurdity, whether intended or otherwise.

  • Randall Morrison90

    Its hilarious to see John Loftus talking about Hate Speech as he calls all Christians delusional, accuses them of being Liars for Jesus, and constantly throws out epithets.
    This, from a guy who is an admitted liar and even got caught faking a blog about J P Holding.
    I means, he just KILLS me.

  • admiralmattbar

    Isn’t there a difference between an infidel and a heretic?

  • Papalinton

    Dr McGrath
    “For instance, does adding “humor” as a category in a blog post always suffice to turn something that would otherwise be consider hateful or libelous into humor?”

    Having posted it, it seems you do deem it suffice.  Why would you otherwise, given the inextricable web of christian theism that pervades and automates your perspective? 

  • James F. McGrath

    @PapaLinton, can you clarify what you meant by your comment? It looks like some words either dropped out or got “autocorrected” and while it seems like you had something important to say, my best guesses at what you meant don’t seem to reflect my actual stance or things that I have written, and so rather than guess I thought I had better ask for clarification. Thanks in advance.

  • Ian

    Well, I didn’t much care for the tone of the comments and the ensuing argument. 

    But the original post was hateful, clearly. In the same way as it would be to post about how we should be throwing faggots on the fire [tag: humour]. Or how about burning the synagogues to get rid of all those christ-killers [tag: humour].

    Bigotry is offensive. Even more offensive is when someone uses the historic wrongs done to a group and posts it as humour.

    Seems pretty obvious that it is hate speech to me.

  • mark begemann

    mean, mean, mean.  everyone’s being mean.  am i mean to point that out?

  • Hambydammit

    Ummm….. Didn’t the words “Modest Proposal” give it away?  Historical literature, folks.

    You know… that really famous work by Jonathan Swift that every Westerner ought to have read in High School?  Where he proposed eating Irish children to alleviate poverty?You know… a modest proposal?  The two words that have become synonymous with outrageous solutions designed to help readers develop a more sensible and LESS drastic approach to a real problem? I hate to say, but anyone who didn’t get the incredibly obvious reference needs to bone up on their history.

    • Anonymous

      Yep. Why is it that because I don’t say all I know that idiots think I don’t know something, and then proceed to tell me I am wrong because of what they assume I don’t know? I taught a college Western Lit class where we discussed Swift’s proposal. I also am responding to Christian apologists who are using Swift to show that the Canaanite genocide texts are sarcasm.

      This does nothing to address comparable cases in which Jim West would say the same thing about blacks, gays, or “Pollocks.” This analogy does not work, for NO ONE in Swift’s day would think for a second, given the wildly horrendus nature of his proposal, that he was serious. And there was never a time when people actually ate babies in his culture either.

      Address the point, Hambydammit. Answer this question:Would it be hate speech if Jim West said the same thing against blacks, or gays, or Jews, given the violence perpetrated upon them? Why do you therefore think this is not hate speech against heretics like me when there has been a history of violence against us? Do you think people like me are fair game? Given that you are a non-believer, why are you being a proverbial Uncle Tom? Do I need to inform you about that term?

    • Anonymous

      Don’t worry, Hamby, everyone “gets” the reference; but referencing an intelligent humorist doesn’t make you intelligent or funny. West is no Swift.

      The difference is that Swift used the unmistakably unbelievable suggestion that the Irish should eat poor children. Nobody eats poor children to aid the economy. Nobody. The only reason it works as humor is that it is unbelievable. It doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, the silencing of heretics through drowning and burning has been common in the history of the world. And still occurs in many nations.Try “joking” that adulteresses should be burned. Not so funny. It happens.

      Swift would never have written a Modest Proposal about burning heretics. Why? He was living in Ireland – where heretics WERE burned!

  • Anonymous

    Dr. McGrath, what I actually think is going on here with Tom Verenna and Hambydammit is that they oppose me for thinking that Jesus existed. That’s it. I find it very strange that they will jump on me here for something they should embrace because of other reasons. It’s illustrative of the fact that sometimes the very people who claim to follow reason and evidence are just as emotional as believers. My claim is, was, and always will be that skeptics do not exhibit the qualities they claim to embrace, that many of them are just as prone to be unthinking and irrational as believers.

  • Guest

    A busted clock is correct twice a day.  Even Lofty is right once in a while.

  • Ian

    Wow, Howard, what a great attempt to justify slavery, genocide and bigotry.

    Priceless highlights: “In ancient times you were either rich or a slave” (bs), “If someone innocent dies in the process, God can bring them back to life” (wow, just wow), “man is to have deep respect for women and to treat his wife as his own flesh” (erm, yes, that’s exactly the point).

    In apologetics for obvious immorality like this, in trying to define evil as good, it is most obvious to normal folks the moral repugnancy of theodicies – Yahweh is simply irreconcilable with reasonable morality. 

    While religious folks abdicate the moral high ground, shouting that their fetid pit is actually “true morality”, or that human rights are actually just a cultural contingency, the rest of civilization can see it for what it is. An abhorent moral system.

    So more of this, please, Howard.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      Wow Ian, spoken like a true atheist! And if you think man’s morals are so high, then you are more clueless than I thought. By all means, feel free to fester in this cesspool of hate and ignorance you call a high moral society. As is obvious by your assessment of it, you view the concepts in the Bible through the eyes of pitiful and ignorant men. Its no surprise that you put man above God, you’re not the first to do so, and you will not be the last. If you were just ignorant of God’s will, we could discuss the issues, but in your case, you are actually fighting against God.

      • Debi

        If I were an unbeliever, reading your post would convince me that that is the way i’d want to remain.  good job Howard.  keep working; i can see that your lifes work is to turn others away from the gospel.

        • Howard Mazzaferro

          I certainly would want to turn them away from your brand of gospel.

  • Gary

    I have to comment…David, as great as he was, committed a “sin” (my definition) by killing his lover’s husband. So is everything that David wrote correct, in God’s view? Moses and Aaron had a massive conflict that continued on between the Aaron’s followers and the Moses’ followers (Shiloh priests verses Aaron-Leviticus priests). Moses says kill all Midianites, yet his wife was a Midianite, and he payed the utmost respect to her father, a Medianite priest. Do you not see a conflict in the text? I firmly believe in the JEDP documentary hypothesis, which explains conflicts like this. You mean you do not?

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Gary, I’m not exactly sure how you are perceiving the conflicts in these accounts. You have proposed multiple accounts that may require multiple and various explanations. Without actually investigating the accounts you mentioned, I will say that in a lot of places, the Bible is merely reporting history whether good or bad. As for David, the Bible is reporting a portion of his life that he made serious sins against God. And it reports this because there are lessons to learn from the account. You asked, “So is everything that David wrote correct, in God’s view?” I’m not sure what that means, because they don’t always go together. For example when Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him for saying he was about to die, what was written was correct, because that’s what Peter actually said, but it was not correct in God’s view, because Jesus was going to die. Again, this was merely reporting the events of the time. And as such, when recording the history of men, even men of godly devotion, they are going to be wrong at times and make mistakes and do conflicting things. Why were such things written? (Romans 15:4) “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope. . .”

    It would seem we have different overall conceptions of the Bible as to how it was produced and what its purpose is, so it would be hard to examine individual passages without first defining these conceptions in some way.

  • Gary

    Howard, when you said “because that’s what Peter actually said, but it was not correct in God’s view”…I think that gets to my point. My only point is, if Peter was writing something, let’s say about theology, that ended up in the bible, I view that THAT, could possibly not be correct in God’s view. Perhaps the difference between what you and I believe about the bible is “did God actually direct the writing and compilation of the scriptures in the bible?” My guess is that you would say yes. My view is more that God told or inspired the writers, like a parent tells or instructs a child about a principle, but didn’t say, “go write this down quick, before you screw it up”. The writers, in writing their feelings down, were not instructed, and corrected, in real time while writing, by God (the earlier people in the bible probably couldn’t even write). So the writers interjected their own personal views in many cases. And after the fact, in many cases. Humans, as a rule, general screw up everything they do. I do not view the bible as something that God decided he’d personally start dictating, editing, and correcting as humans wrote scripture, at the Genesis 1 point in time. So maybe that makes me lie outside the norm in my beliefs. I try to interprete what I read by “what would Jesus say” about it. If written gospel was meant to be perfect in God’s eyes, I find it interesting that Jesus never felt the need to write down everything he said. Or come back to personally edit any misunderstandings between Mathew, Mark, and Luke, or other passages. Perhaps I view God as more a “hands-off parent”, instead of a “I have your entire life planned out and down-in-writing” parent. To show how weird my theology is, I’d say God is winging-it on his creation. Seems as though he was sorry he made humans at least one point in time. The whole Noah thing shows he wanted to start from scratch. So….no need for more discussions about specific scriptures. I was just curious about whether you believed in the documentary hypothesis, regardless of the things I mentioned about David, Moses, Aaron, etc.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Gary, no I do not accept the document theory. As I was explaining before, the Bible is composed of a variety of mixed writings. Some of it is reporting historical events in certain peoples lives. Some of it is direct communication from God. Some of it is inspiration and revelation. I will give a few examples.

    In the gospels, Jesus is basically the only one who speaks the truth of God. The majority of the events are a record of people’s reactions to Jesus and his words, including the disciples. Their words and actions are not inspired unless specifically stated.

    The Mosaic Laws are direct statements from God to Moses.

    The writings of the Prophets are probably the visions God had caused them to see, and they were written down a little later, not years or decades either, but close to the time of the visions.

    A good portion of Paul’s letters are interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures that were revealed to Paul by God’s spirit as it opened his mind to grasp the hidden meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures.

    Yes, I guess one of the major disagreements between us is how much God is involved with the Bible. Let me ask you a question you can ponder over for awhile. As you know, the accounts in the Bible concerning certain men such as Moses, Noah, and David contain only a small portion of their entire lives. Out of all the things they did in their lives, why are only these specific accounts found in the Bible?

    You are right, my view is that God has complete control of the contents of the Bible. I believe this because it makes perfect logical sense, let me explain. First, I don’t know what your position is, whether you are a believing Christian or a doubting historian, because the logic has a direct bearing on this information. I believe that Jesus is who the Bible portrays him to be, the divine son of God who lived in God’s presence in his pre-existent life, and also after his human death. As Jesus lived on the earth it is clear he had at least some or all the knowledge he had when in heaven. We also know that Jesus quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures on a number of occasions. There is no evidence of a drastically different set of Hebrew Scriptures before or after Jesus, so we can be reasonably sure that what we see in our Bible is what Jesus saw in his Scriptures. Now, since the pre-existent Jesus was an eyewitness to all the events reported in the Bible, you are suggesting that Jesus, who is described as “the truth” would have kept silent or not concerned himself with any glaring falsehood found in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, if someone does not believe Jesus was who he claimed to be, then this logic does not work, but if you do, you can not escape the logic. Simply put, someone who has been alive for the entire existence of the human race, and who possesses supernatural knowledge, would not be duped into believing Moses, Adam and Noah actually existed if they really didn’t exist. Therefore, your doubts about the contents of the Bible, are really doubts about who Jesus was, would that be accurate?

  • Gary

    “Therefore, your doubts about the contents of the Bible, are really doubts about who Jesus was, would that be accurate?” Nope. “you are suggesting that Jesus, who is described as “the truth” would have kept silent or not concerned himself with any glaring falsehood found in the Hebrew Scriptures” Yes. A parent wouldn’t correct the homework of his rather immature, and naive child. It would be irrelevant. A good parent would tell simple parables to get their point across. As they say, gentle correction. “the accounts in the Bible concerning certain men such as Moses, Noah, and David contain only a small portion of their entire lives. Out of all the things they did in their lives, why are only these specific accounts found in the Bible?” Because they didn’t write the accounts themselves.

  • Gary

    Howard, BTW, have you ever tried to tell a 3 year old, or a teenager, what to do? Usually it doesn’t work too well. They have to learn for themselves, otherwise they’ll continue to do whatever they want to do….with gusto. Isn’t that the reason we’re here, to use our brain to learn? Or maybe “evolve”? Sorry for the last comment. I am still thinking of the last blog on the matrix.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Gary, I think your analogy is way off the mark. At least for the topic at hand. Exactly what is the use of a Bible or a book of religious instructions when you don’t know if anything it contains is accurate? Unless I’m missing something, you’re basically saying I can go write up a crap load of things I think God wants us to know and it would be worthy of inclusion in the Bible, or at least on the same par with the biblical writings. I just really don’t get where you’re coming from.

    I also perceive a parent-child analogy in my theology, but it is not applied to the text or in any manner you are applying it. Mine involves one of the main themes of the Bible, and is related to how a parent might let a child run away from home, so they will realize that they are not capable of taking care of themselves, and of all the dangers out there, and that living at home under certain rules is not really so bad after all. This happened when Adam, the unruly child did not want to follow God’s rules and wanted to do things his own way. Well God allowed this for Adam and his descendants, and since the time of Adam, God has allowed man to do his own thing so he might realize after countless failures that God’s rule is really the best for man. And that is one of the main reasons for the Bible, it is a guide and instruction book for the ones who do realize the error of their ways and wish to be under God’s rule. So they need a rule book from God that is accurate so they can do what pleases God. These are the people who desire to do God’s will and not their own, they are on God’s side, why would God allow them to be deceived by giving them incorrect information when they desire the accurate information about God so they can do what God desires them to do? It would make no sense for God to be displeased with people for not doing his correct will if he never provided his correct will.

  • Gary

    Howard….I think we are at an impasse. Onward to other subjects.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Gary, If you wished to continue the discussion, maybe you could answer a few questions so I can have a better understanding of your position.

    1. Are you a Christian, if so, do you belong to a specific Christian religion?

    2. Who do you say Jesus is/was?

  • Gary

    Howard, “If you wished to continue the discussion”…I really don’t. I’ve said everything I can think of that would be worthwhile.
    “1. Are you a Christian”…yes. Currently a member of the Salvation Army church. They follow along pretty much Methodist or Wesleyan theology, although they don’t do the sacrament or baptisms…..not that they don’t believe in them…just historically being founded in the slums of England they found it inconvenient for the symbology. But I don’t look at it as a one-and-only church. I could just as easily go to a methodist or wesleyan church. I just happen to like their outreach to feeding the poor. Plus my wife likes it, so that’s where I am.
    “Who do you say Jesus is/was?” Son of God, part of the trinity. BUT, that does not mean I buy into the entire bible, especially the OT. As they say, good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness….to a certain extent. I don’t follow it blindly, since I consider I’ve been given a brain to sort out the details. And, as I said before, I buy into the documentary hypothesis for the bible’s authorship.

    I think I know where you stand, and I think you know where I stand. And I am OK with that. I don’t take on the mantle of trying to convince anybody of anything…I’m not really evangelic. But very liberal, as you can tell.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Gary, okay that is fine.