When Religious Pandering Goes Too Far?

I’m used to politicians pandering to religious Americans.

There’s more of them, so there are more votes to be gained by speaking their “language.” That coupled with the fact that President Obama is a Christian just meant we could expect a lot of religious references in his speech in Tucson, Arizona yesterday.

I wasn’t disappointed:

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.

As Scripture tells us:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.

I’m sure a lot of you feel it’s too much. He shouldn’t have made any religious references at all and this was overkill.

But somehow, none of those passages fazed me. They went in one ear and out the other. I’m so used to hearing them by now, I feel almost immune to them.

Until I heard the President talk about Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl who died in the shooting. Obama spoke about her in some detail early in his speech, and then at the end of it, he said this:

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.

Ugh…

No. There are no rain puddles in heaven. Christina is not jumping in them. Hell, there’s not even a heaven in the first place.

I hate this idea that we have to create imaginary memories for people who die young, as if we couldn’t find anything happier to remember them by during their lifetimes. For all the joy Christina surely provided her family with during her life, Obama chose instead to invoke this fake scenario that I feel cheapens her memory.

I realize I’m probably overreacting. This was one line in a very long (and honestly beautiful) speech.

It just rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know if I’m alone in this.

  • Julie

    He’s only telling them what they want to hear.
    We just have to put up with it, unfortunately.

    I didn’t hear it, but reading it was bad enough. He used the whole thing excessively.

  • Robert L.

    I’m anti-religious but I don’t see anything wrong with using this image, at least not as part of rhetoric. Not really harmful, and there’s much better things to attack elsewhere than a speech using a nice, cute mental image of a little (dead) girl having fun in a non-existent heaven.

  • leeloo

    this may come off as insensitive, but i’m kinda disgusted about how big a deal they’re making over this 9 year olds death.
    there were other kids who were born on 9/11 too ..and i’m sure some of them have died. heck, there are kids younger than her that die every day ..but they aren’t being glorified like a hero. it just seems a bit odd to me /shrug. i am sorry she had to die though, sorry they all did.

  • Andrew

    I have to agree with Robert on this one. It’s just one small rhetorical flourish out of a larger speech. There are bigger things to get church/state separation issues to be annoyed about in the meantime.

  • http://www.savingthrowtodisbelieve.com Mandi

    I can’t say I was “bothered” by it. My reaction had more to do with realizing how much I’ve changed because the religious rhetoric he invoked did somewhat annoy me.

    But I don’t fault him for what he said. He’s a Christian. Yes, he was speaking from his office… but he wasn’t making policy. He was speaking from his heart about a tragedy. Anything less than what he said last night would have been a disappointment.

  • Claudia

    It was overkill on the religious front from my perspective too. On the other hand I can’t really bring myself to get to riled up about it. These are people mourning the dead. As fictional as I know their god to be, I can’t find it within myself to begrudge them finding comfort in such beliefs at this time.

    Christina was the daughter of Catholics. She was old enough so that she probably had some vague religious beliefs of her own. I’m just not strong enough to feel anything but heartbreak watching her parents, and letting them cling to a vision of their daughter happily romping in heaven seems to me the whitest of lies, given their situation.

    I do wish however that in addition to all the god-talk, Obama had given a nod to the millions of Americans who mourn without taking recourse to supernatural beliefs. He’s done so in the past. He also showed in this speech that he didn’t mind reaching out to minority groups (remember, he said wives, husbands and life-partners, almost certainly as outreach to GLBT couples). I would have really appreciated an acknowledgement of some sort of the way nonbelievers handle these trying times.

  • Ralf

    You are not overreacting.
    The speech was beautiful and nice and the audience liked it but it would have been better without the religious references.

  • Meyli

    Well, Christina comes from a Christian family, right? Those words would have comforted her family. Since he was speaking directly about her, I don’t think it was inappropriate for him to say she’s in heaven.

  • Alex

    Lets see what other professions would you feel comfortable with using all the god talk? A bridge engineer relying on the bible instead of his steel manual? A heart surgeon praying instead of turning on the heart/lung machine?

    Come on folks, Obama’s brain is turning to mush. How rational will his future decisions be? He is suppose to sound like a rational leader of the free world, not some preacher!

  • coyotenose

    I’m inclined to overlook it as normal eulogizing, but the cynic in me can’t help but wonder what Obama (and everyone else) would be saying if she belonged to an atheist family.

    Would they respect that in their comments and speeches? Talk about her in religious terms anyway? Or just overlook her the way the nation does when a young girl disappears who isn’t… ah, Nordic enough to make good copy.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Not to be too pedantic but Psalm 46 isn’t Scripture. The Book of Job is and what a revealing book it is regarding the character of God it is at that. God essentially takes a huge dump on Job’s life from on high, lets him wallow in misery for years and then makes it all up to him because he didn’t blame God for the troubles (even though it was him who caused them). Hardly the imagery that seems appropriate at the moment.

    If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.

    I hate these kinds of religious platitudes. They makes me want to take the speaker by the head and scream at them that they are deluding idiots. It is offensive to dismiss someone’s life in such a way by making an unverifiable claim about them. He didn’t know her and he shouldn’t be exploiting her memory for political gain. At best he should extend his condolences to her family for their loss and seek a way to ensure that their suffering is not repeated.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Well, Christina comes from a Christian family, right?

    Yes, but Gifford is Jewish, which is why all the Bible verses were OT.

  • J.

    What I don’t like about the appeal to religion in Obama’s speech is the absolution of Human responsibility. This wasn’t a natural disaster, and even if it were, it wouldn’t necessarily defy human understanding.

    Imagine a plane crash in which several passengers and crew were killed. Then imagine a lobby group actively preventing the NTSB & FAA from investigating the crash. Imagine there were a lobby which campaigned exclusively against finding whatever was wrong with the plane, and against fixing it. And imagine the lobby always got what it wanted.

    This tragedy, as did several other shootings, happened because of three elements.

    1) The NRA lobby’s insistence that any and all types of weapons should be legal to own, by some method or another. — thus the size of the clip used. — why so many victims.

    2) The lack of medical care and awareness or action, combined with a stigma against mental illness. — Preventing the gunman from getting the help he needed.

    3) And sorry folks – the rhetoric against the other side. (in this case democrats) which interpreted by the crazy was taken as an order to kill.

    Sure the Republicans can claim they never meant to say that, and they’re not responsible for the actions of the crazy. — But look to other cases. — The Dr. Tiller Assassination, or the attack on the Brookline MA clinics.

  • Brad

    Yeah, because nothing else that politicians say is rhetorical. I’m an atheist, and I can handle the fact that politicians turn words to their advantage.

    Get over it.

  • http://grahambinns.com gmb

    Speaking as an outsider, watching from across the pond:

    If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.

    This would only have bothered me if someone was saying it about my child / sibling / niece / whatever. I don’t fault Obama, as a Christian, for saying this of a girl of Christian parentage.

    As has been said up-thread, he wasn’t making policy, he was speaking from his heart. I think he’s allowed to fall back on his own personal beliefs when doing so.

  • Steve

    I agree with you, Hemant, there are non believers who don’t need a religious crutch, yes, it would have been nice to have seen an acknowledgement. I wish I could say this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the UK but unfortunately it does, witness two rampages last year, Raoul Moat killed his girlfriend and shotgiunned a policeman in the face, blinding him, Moat was killed in a stand off. Then there was a taxi driver in the northwest of England, Derrick Bird, who killed at least twelve people including his twin brother. He then killed himself.

    My condolences go the families of all who suffered in the US and UK.

  • Bob

    Obama’s use of scripture bothers me less than CNN’s Erick Erickson, who attested that the shooting was a reminder of the saving grace of Christ Jesus. (I believe his blog went on to spit at atheists.)

    But the sad truth is this: faith neither shields you from events like the Tucson shooting, nor inoculates you against wrong-doing. There have been numerous ‘lone wolf’ gunmen (including Jim David Adkisson and Scott Roeder) who have chosen to act on their ‘Christian’ beliefs by killing people.

    And while Obama is using talk of heaven to comfort, there are others using their faith and beliefs to justify their hateful rhetoric.

    I’m far more concerned with the latter than the former.

  • http://@stagendogs Stagendogs

    That rhetoric did annoyed me as much as you even if it was embedded in a beautiful speech, because I think of religion as something insane. I mean I don’t see good in falling apart from reality. I cant see good in sweeten the death of a child, specially the way this poor kid died. In a hands of a insane killer with poor reality contact. The danger here to me is to get to think the killer sent a girl to play with puppies in heaven… No! he cold blood murdered an little girl among others. And he private those people of the joy of being alive in this natural complex beautiful world. I still think believing in supernatural things makes more harm than good.

  • Joni

    I felt the exact same way you did, Hemant. The “as scripture tells us” part was irritating- I was thinking, “So??” but yes, the “jumping in puddles in heaven” at the end, did cheapen it all. It’s as if everything else he said was erased and now that’s the one sentence I’ll remember about her.

  • Daniel

    On one hand, I’m okay with a Christian comforting other Christians with Christian imagery.

    On the other, I find his line:
    “I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it.”

    to be a far more uplifting image than hopping in puddles.

  • Danielle

    This speech was truly beautiful, although I did roll my eyes a couple of times with the religious crap.

    And I agree, Daniel, that line was so much more uplifting then the hopping in puddles line.

    I still can’t understand why people fall back on religion, saying that God is just and for God to bless the surviving members of the family. I don’t understand how people can love this “god” who took away their daughter and still praise him.

  • Randy

    The NRA lobby’s insistence that any and all types of weapons should be legal to own, by some method or another. — thus the size of the clip used. — why so many victims.

    Yes, and we all know that the criminal element legally purchases their firearms. And we also know that the NRA pushes for mental health records be made available when screening a firearm purchase. We all know that right?

  • synergy

    leelo: You’re not the only one. I agree also, but there’s probably not many people saying it.

  • Joe

    I wish the President had not brought religion into the speech, but, hey, it’s what he believes and what many in the audience believe. It would have been nice, though, to recognize the other side. Oh well, you can’t please everybody, including religious and non-religious.

    Keep speaking your mind, Hemant. That’s your forte.

  • CHART

    Let it go.

    The horror of losing a child would cause most minds to snap and retreat into a world of fantasy. He’s only giving her parents and loved ones what they want, and probably what they *need* right now to even function.

    I don’t believe in God, or heaven. But if I lost a child like this (or in any way) I would probably be searching for some kind of afterlife based comfort for a while. Even though I knew better, I’d rest my mind in “just maybe”.

    Somethings human reason just cannot endure. For me, this would probably be one.

  • Arallyn

    I don’t know why people are acting like Obama’s speech was terribly pandering. Yeah, it had references it didn’t need, but given the amount of flak he gets for not bringing up “god” at every twist and turn in public, it seemed like a fair minimum.

    Now…Brewer, Napolitano, and the other guy…those were all ONLY about god and christianity (though Napolitanos was old testament) and jesus bullshit. THAT was much more bothering to me. There were damn near zero words not directly related to religion for them.

  • Deiloh

    If kids are getting a one way pass to puddle wonderland, why not let atheists eat the babies without all the condemnation? I just don’t get it.

  • pmsrhino

    You’re not alone in that feeling. My grandmother died the weekend before Christmas and I got so tired of my parents saying “I bet she’s happy to be walking around in the clouds and seeing all her old family. I bet she’ll be celebrating for a long time.” I didn’t mind the vague references, but every time they mentioned her running and jumping in heaven I just wanted to scream. I’m not sure why, the last few weeks have been a weird emotional rollercoaster for me (I’m still more or less a recent atheist and this is the first close relative to die for me so it’s tough all around), but I just wanted to remember her and not listen to made up bullshit that really did nothing but try to sugar coat our grief.

    Grief should be dealt with in a real and physical way, not with empty promises of clouds and angels. I’m still a bit touchy about all of it, I don’t think I’ve figured out a good way to deal with my grief and really don’t have anyone to turn to since most of the people I’m close with are religious, so maybe my opinion here doesn’t hold too much water…

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    I had hoped we were done electing preachers in chief. Such pandering demeans the office, already in a cesspool for many ages.

    As for the causes, I’m still waiting for more information better expert analysis, but then my media access is quite limited in the growing information segregation and I could have missed much as I did the speech.

  • AWayfaringStrainer

    I think the speech had less religion than there might of been, so I was generally ok with i for the most part. I actually liked

    If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.

    because it began with an “If”. So many others would start a conversation about heaven with “I know”. It also made me think “Well, of course., there are no rain puddles because there is no rain, but rain puddles might be good, so maybe rain is good, so maybe it rains all the time in heaven, but, wait, most people don’t like rain, so heaven must just be a metaphor.” I am sure the rest of the audience was thinking the same thing :-) .

    Actually, the part that most annoying was that stupid, canned ending

    May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.

    Why can God also bless the other countries and the other people? Why doesn’t he also bless the Shooter, who is one his own children? What the hell does all this mean?

    I want to hear someone end their speech with Dan Dennett’s words: Thank goodness to the medical staff and those that helped. I would have added:

    So that the events of the past week are not in vain, let’s come together to build a stronger nation; one where mutual respect is the guiding principle of all human interactions. Peace be with you.

  • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

    Randy – let’s say mental health records were a part of the gun purchase screen process (right now, background checks only check to see if you’ve been institutionalized or have shown some other psychological issue that is a threat to yourself or others – simply seeing a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist is not an issue on these background checks)?

    As far as I am aware (and if someone has other information, please correct me), the shooter never sought any form of psychiatric or other counseling for anything. So even if the background checks could somehow check for that (and can you imagine if there were a central database that every mental health professional had to keep up-to-date for their patients – how many people do you think would get help then, as if the numbers aren’t low enough), in this case this individual would have still “slipped by”.

    As far as anyone was aware, this guy was perfectly legal to buy a gun. He was obviously mentally competent enough to practice with it (according to some, it takes a lot of practice to be able to make that many hits on people in that amount of time, let alone that many kill shots – plus I have heard that a few of his friends had said he practiced at a range or elsewhere).

    I don’t think banning guns (or large clips) is the answer. I don’t think making any and all mental health care records a part of the screening process is the answer either (in fact, I see doing that as causing people to not seek mental health care an even worse problem than it already is).

    I don’t think there really is an answer. Maybe his friends and family could’ve seen something and tried to get help, but then again, he may have never have shown any signs of harm to himself or others before that day. Just because someone holds strange ideas and thoughts about government (or any other ideology – mainstream or not), doesn’t mean they should be barred from being able to purchase a firearm. That could lead to a very “slippery slope”, depending on who or what group (or ideology) was in power (should atheists be able to buy guns?)…

    Ultimately, we (all citizens – regardless of position or status) need to understand that if someone else wants to kill you, they will. No if’s, and’s, or but’s – that’s just how it is. Nothing you or anyone else can do will ever stop this (short of a brutal totalitarian regime, perhaps – and even then, there are ways). No one is really safe, all we can really do is be watchful, at best.

  • Margy

    I didn’t listen to the entire speech; Obama alienated me in the first sentence with these words:

    I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today…

    I have enormous sympathy for the victims and their families and friends, but I do not “kneel to pray” with them. After openly acknowledging atheists in the past, Obama caved this time. I am an American, too, and as a law-abiding, hard-working, taxpaying citizen for several decades, I was very disappointed. I know he gets political flak for mentioning us, but the more often he acknowledges our existence, the more acceptable and mainstream we will become–word by word, inch by inch.

    I also was dismayed by the tone of the so-called “memorial service.” It was more like a pep rally than a dignified remembrance, and I thought that the tone was inappropriate and even insulting to those who are grieving. The audience was whooping, hollering, whistling, and cheering. Maybe they needed to let off steam after such a tragedy–I don’t know. But it seemed disrespectful to me.

    I looked up the transcript of Obama’s remarks later and, like several previous posters, thought that this was well said:

    I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it.

    IMO, these were the most eloquent and memorable lines Obama spoke.

  • James

    My only question on this is what is has always been.
    How can we trust a leader who lies to himself and his people about the most fundamental truths of life. We die, we do not come back.
    Yet Obama lies about it constantly.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    Hemant, I heard it and was vaguely disgusted, but read what I said on the the question to Richard above: even committed atheists can move the words if it brings comfort to the truly bereft; you don’t say that the person is extinguished for your own integrity you use charty. In Obama’s case he is a Xian, therefore the imagery comes as second nature.

    If he used it in a political rally then he is below contempt, but here, to give comfort, lies can help

  • Emilie

    Hoverfrog,

    Why would you say that Psalm 46 is not scripture?

    Just curious.

    Also, if there is no God, then how can the book of Job be “…a revealing book regarding the character of God…?”

    (According to scripture, God does not torment Job from on high, he allows satan to torment Job).

  • Mihangel apYrs

    pmsrhino

    you weep. you mourn in the way that you need to, no-one here will judge you because all of us face the death of a loved person as best we can.

    And your views and opinion are as valid as anyone.

    My condolences for you loss, you will find comfort in due course

  • Randy

    Crush,
    Your correct about this particular shooter not being on the mental health radar so to speak. My intention on mentioning the NRA was to was to show they aren’t saying give guns to everyone. That particular push was after the Va Tech shooting. We just had a school shooting here in Omaha, the shooter was a detectives son and he used one of dad’s service weapons. He was in a situation that could have used friends or family to spot the situation. As you said, a slippery slope with no clear answer.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    To say that that poor little girl is playing in rain puddles in heaven is not true. It is a lie. Some people might consider it “comforting,” but we don’t know how much comfort it delivered. What we do know is that it was a blatant and deliberate distortion of the truth.

    The religious want all the rest of us to echo their lies back to them. If we refuse, they say we have no “respect.” But respect is not the issue. There is no heaven. This is a fact. The president of the United States should not feel obligated to lie through his teeth every time he gives a public talk. But, apparently, he does.

  • Gibbon

    Pick, pick, pick. The president tries to lead the nation through this darkness and how do you respond? By picking at his speech and complaining about any references and statements that you disagree with. Get over yourself.

  • Robert W.

    Roy,

    There is no heaven. This is a fact.

    Really? Have you died and observed this? Or is this your belief?

  • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

    Randy, I should’ve mentioned in my comment that I understood your intent; I guess I was concerned that others might not (as it was, I had to read your comment a couple of times to make sure I had your intent right).

    I think we’re both on the same page here; that’s not an issue. I have, though, heard the argument often about why his background check didn’t pick this up when he purchased the firearm; it seems many people don’t understand what a background check is when purchasing a firearm, and just what exactly prevents you being qualified for that purchase.

    Furthermore, some of them, when they -do- understand, want the background checks to be even more invasive, not understanding what such a change would possibly require to be implemented, nor what harm it could cause for those who are seeking mental health care…

  • Larry

    I consider such comments to be offering comfort to those who believe. On those occasions when I am able to visit, I always hold hands with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter as one of the adults (not me) say ‘thanks’ over the meal we are about to consume. Though they know I am a nonbeliever, it comforts them to think I might be affected and, if not, I am at least respectful of their beliefs. I don’t have a problem with it and do not see it as demeaning. I like the compassion shown when nonbelievers can overcome their position to offer comfort to another human being who just happens to believe differently.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    The more I think about this the angrier I get.

    The idea of heaven is not really about comfort.

    The Christian religion says that if you do the right things, when your time comes you won’t really die, you’ll keep living. The promise is that if you give yourself, body and soul, to the church, then the church will make sure that you don’t ever die.

    But they won’t. They can’t. It is not possible. it is a lie.

    So “heaven” is not just a comforting phrase for folks who are having a hard time. More importantly, it is a bald-faced lie about why you should participate in church activities and fill the collection plate and do everything the churchmen say. To endorse the idea of heaven is to endorse some of the most twisted and harmful claims of the Christian religion. It is hard to imagine that any amount of “comfort” can justify such reprehensible manipulations.

  • Robert W.

    Roy,

    The more I think about this the angrier I get.

    The idea of heaven is not really about comfort.

    The Christian religion says that if you do the right things, when your time comes you won’t really die, you’ll keep living. The promise is that if you give yourself, body and soul, to the church, then the church will make sure that you don’t ever die.

    But they won’t. They can’t. It is not possible. it is a lie.

    I see you really didn’t answer my question.

    As a Christian I can tell you that the idea of Heaven when you lose a loved one is extremely comforting and what you state as how you get there is completely adverse to the Christian faith.

  • Miguel

    It’s a nation of 300 million…. he needs to cater to all. At least he recognized the people who actually stopped the criminal and the doctors who saved Rep. Gifford instead of calling it a “god” “miracle” that saved her.

    Cut the guy some slack.

  • SecularLez

    I could have done without it.

    This inspires me to make a document on my computer outlining how I want my funeral done and I hope to inform my friends that I want absolutely no use of the word “god” “jesus” “the lord” etc at my funeral.

    I’m 20 and still live with my parents. My dad is aware of my atheism and he somewhat respects it. I would just hope that he respects my wishes when I’m dead.

  • Blacksheep

    Roy,

    It’s a a FACT that there is no heaven? Really? Wow! Most Christians (Or any people of faith) that I know struggle with their faith from time to time – but not you, huh? You’re 100% sure of yourself?

    I’m beginning to realize on this forum that (for the most part) atheists are the most sure-of-themselves people that I heve ever encountered. I’ve always been taught that it’s more intelligent to never be 100% certain of anything.

  • Price

    There is no Right and there is no Left. There are only those in Power and those without Power. The sooner non-believers figure out that there will never be a time that the government does not want anyone to NOT be religious, the sooner you can come back to reality. Religion teaches one to be submissive, to not ask important questions, and to accept, whole-heartedly, explanations from those in power as absolute Truth. You lie to yourselves every day when you think Obama, or any Democrat, is any different than any Republican. It is a show for those who take it seriously, and they are laughing at you all the while.

  • Elissa

    I live in Tucson, met Gabby Giffords on a few occasions, her office is down the street from my home and I’m an out, active atheist. I went to the Memorial Service yesterday and expected there would be god, jesus, faith, heaven references. I was able to go with Obama because his words were moving and heartfelt and I believe he was speaking directly to the victims and their families. However, I was thoroughly taken aback by Napolitano and Holder. They each got up and read Bible verses – that’s it, nothing else. I was dumbstruck – that was all they had to offer, really? As far as the “rally” atmosphere – you have to understand, we are all at a loss of what to do and how to respond to this unspeakable act of violence. Tucson is a big “small town” – we all know each other – way less than 6 degrees of separation here. When you’re in a crowd of 14,000 (in the arena) and another 12,000 or so (in the overflow stadium) there are not many other methods of showing appreciation for words, deeds, etc. than clapping and standing on your feet. We just needed to be with friends and neighbors to try to recapture the true nature of our community.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Robert W.: Do you think that being Christian makes you an authority on religion? It does not.

    If a friend of mine is having a psychotic episode, should I follow his advice when he describes why he has the disease and how I should treat it? No. He does not know what he is talking about.

    Since you have “drunk the Kool-Aid,” the rest of us have to be chary of everything you say. Religion is designed to make people say things that are not true. If it did not do this, it would not persist. Saying “I am a Christian” is like saying, “There is a set of lies that is more important to me than any truth.” You are a vector for this disease whose very function is to corrupt our understanding. Don’t lecture me on how to be rational.

  • Troglodyke

    I’m beginning to realize on this forum that (for the most part) atheists are the most sure-of-themselves people that I heve ever encountered. I’ve always been taught that it’s more intelligent to never be 100% certain of anything.

    Yeah, it’s a bit annoying. And I’m an atheist. :-) I try to not be that way.

    “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” — Bertrand Russell

  • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

    Price:

    Let us suppose what you are saying is true.

    Would it be possible to be a “believer”; someone who is “submissive”, someone who “doesn’t ask important questions”, and someone who “accepts, whole-heartedly, explanations from those in power as absolute Truth” – while still being one of “those in Power”?

    Or, are “those in Power” “non-believers” as well?

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Blacksheep: Did I claim to be sure about everything? Of course not. You are attacking a straw man.

  • redmulberry

    I’m not bothered by this as long as her parents believe that Christina is in heaven. And, apparently, that is what they believe.

    Compare this to the advice you gave to the atheist asked to do a religious reading at a funeral. It’s about providing comfort to the grieving. What’s important is whether the family finds comfort in it.

    (I would be very upset about it if the parents were non-believers.)

  • http://thomaswhitley.com Thomas Whitley

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a Christian (a liberal one) and I agree with you, Hemant, that the puddle/heaven image was a bit ridiculous. However, I also realize that it was a literary device, not an ontological statement about heaven. Further, as a strong proponent of freedom of/for/from religion, I fail to see how your disgust at his use of religion is any better than someone’s disgust at you presenting your views. Sure, he is on a national level, but that should not preclude him from presenting his religious views.

    He shouldn’t have made any religious references at all and this was overkill.

    Why should he not have made any religious references? You’re not religious, but he is. I’m fairly confident that you are a proponent of freedom from/of/for religion, so why say that he should refrain from religious language altogether?

  • http://sketchasaurus.wordpress.com Natasha

    Sorry, but I don’t think you’re being very friendly on this one, Atheist.

    Of course the president should keep his religious inclinations a private matter, and not let it affect his job or our country. But in this case he was speaking to the (mostly Christian) victims of a terrible tragedy. And for most of his audience, it was respectful and what they needed to hear. Would it have been better for him to quote some poetry or moving literature instead? Maybe. But he is a Christian, and the words he turned to were the words most Christians would turn to in that same situation.
    I don’t blame him for this one, he has never let his beliefs dictate his policies otherwise, so I’m going to respectfully let it slide.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Emilie

    Why would you say that Psalm 46 is not scripture?

    Because it isn’t in the Canon. It is supporting text. It doesn’t tell the story. I did say I was being pedantic.

    Also, if there is no God, then how can the book of Job be “…a revealing book regarding the character of God…?”

    Smeagol isn’t real either but Lord of the Rings is a revealing book regarding his character.

    (According to scripture, God does not torment Job from on high, he allows satan to torment Job).

    Satan is God’s servant. He instructs Satan to torment Job and withdraws his support. Job 1:12. It is basically a bet between them. God says that Job is loyal and Satan says that he is only loyal because of all the cool things that God gives him. Satan challenges God (that’s his task after all) to remove all the good things from Job’s life to see if he remains loyal. God agrees and Job suffers for it. I find it a wonderful story of human perseverance in the face of a fickle and uncaring universe.

    My point is that Job isn’t an appropriate story to be used to uplift the spirits of shocked mourners. It contains misery and suffering delivered from a deity (granted indirectly) who is trying to prove a point.

  • Michael

    Reminds me of the ending of Of Mice and Men, where George tells Lenny some lies to make him feel better right before shooting him.

    Only, in this case, Lenny is a relatively healthy population of people who will continue to live in those lies for some time. George probably believes the lies himself.

    Still, it invokes the same nauseous sadness in me.

  • Marsha in TN

    I didn’t get Napolitano and Holder reading the Bible verses either. Esp. Holder mentioning “Jesus Christ” when Gabby is Jewish. But I shouldn’t be surprised, Christians think no one exists in the religious world except them. For the most part the President’s speech was good, uplifting, but if we think the bible and god talk isn’t going to be there, we’re delusional.

  • Jeremiah

    It bothers me, but for slightly different reasons I think. To me, unless you are a true blue believer, those kind of statements are kind of lame, half-hearted condolences. It is a hallmark, shrink-wrapped condolence like writing “So sorry for your loss.” on a card. Religion used like that is something to say without having to invest much thought or emotion into the actual act of supporting and consoling someone. Genuine concern is never easy and religious statements are usually more of a crutch for the people offering condolences rather than those in grief. Dealing with loss is hard, but helping someone else deal with loss is hard too and trite religious comments are a way to kind of half-ass it in my opinion. I guess if someone truly 100% believed all that stuff it might be comforting but I just can’t wrap my mind around the notion that people honestly believe in stuff like a literal heaven, but I guess that is why I am an atheist.

  • Blacksheep

    Roy,

    No, I’m commenting on exactly what you said, which was: “There is no heaven. This is a fact.”

    You are indeed saying that you are 100% sure of something, which in this case is that there is no heaven.

    No straw man at all. And the only one “attacking” is you.

  • DA

    I don’t really have a problem here. Obama has religious beliefs, and his speech comes from that worldview. When he puts it in legislation, that’ll be a problem for me.

    But yeah, Roy’s right in that heaven is a lie. I mean, you don’t have to be 100% certain, anymore than I had to be 100% certain to figure out that L. Ron Hubbard is lying. Is it somehow conceivable that the dude was telling the truth? Maybe, but there are no reasons to believe yes and plenty to believe no, and a motive yo lie, so a lie it is in my book. But I don’t see any practical reason for Obama to say all this to a bunch of upset, confused, and grieving people.

  • trixr4kids

    @Reginald Selkirk:

    Yes, but Gifford is Jewish, which is why all the Bible verses were OT

    Newsflash: Jews read the Bible. They wrote most of it (all but the sequel known as “The New Testament”).

    @CHART:

    I don’t believe in God, or heaven. But if I lost a child like this (or in any way) I would probably be searching for some kind of afterlife based comfort for a while. Even though I knew better, I’d rest my mind in “just maybe”.

    Somethings human reason just cannot endure. For me, this would probably be one

    Beautifully said.

    @Roy Sablosky:

    To say that that poor little girl is playing in rain puddles in heaven is not true. It is a lie.

    He didn’t say that. As another poster points out, he said “IF there are rain puddles in heaven….”

    It’s OK for a religious person to reference religion when discussing a momentous event. I’m not being called upon to agree with their worldview.

    Much of the religious content of the President’s speech worked fine as metaphor. As for the rest–well, fine, wince a little, and get over it.

    It was a fine and beautiful speech.

  • Darryl

    I was thinking, once Janet Napolitano and Eric Holder both read bible passages, that the President must have instructed them to do so. And, his use of the bible was also calculated. I think our President is using Christianity as the civil religion that it has so often been used as in our history.
    This is a Lincoln-esque thing to do. I was not bothered by it. The idea of puddles in Heaven is a happy wish in a make-believe better place that we can all indulge though we know that it’s not real. We can chalk this up to good rhetoric, appropriate to the occasion. The President made me proud, again.

  • Christopher

    The president was referring to ‘hopes’ written in regards to Christina Green when she was photographed for the book ‘Faces Of Hope’, based on children born on 9/11.

    “I hope you help those in need. I hope you know all the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rainbows.”

    The president added “and if there are rainbows in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today”

    Your misquotes were seriously starting to tick me off, as well as the lack of context. What puddles? His speech was very moving. Her hopes and dreams are gone. This beautiful projected future memory that will never be, gave some people comfort, and also made her loss more poignant (to me).

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Blacksheep: You asked, “You’re 100% sure of yourself?” I took this as an accusation of my being sure about everything I think. I guess I misunderstood; you’re only accusing me of being 100% sure that there is no heaven.

    Yes, I confess—I’m 100% sure. What makes you think otherwise?

  • lurker111

    Re the speech: I think the word you’re looking for is “cloying.”

  • sarah

    He must quell the “he is a muslim/atheist!” critics I guess. Ugh.

  • MIhangel apYrs

    If you go to their party you follow their rules. There’s a time for debate, and there’s a time when either you step away from the charade or you participate enough not to offend.

    Obama pulled all the touchstone issues out – “America”, “patriotism”, “god”, “heaven”, “in peace, splashing in puddles”

    YUK!!

    but is was a remembrance event, when people who were bereft (and all Xians) were being spoken to by the POTUS. Of course he used religious imagery and Xian pop-theology – it’s what they wanted, it’s what the country expected. He wasn’t going to say anything that could catch criticism from his opponents, he would press every button, and also try to be the “great healer”.

    I am surprised he didn’t bring his children; they could have sat beside him and cried for the USA

  • Gregory Marshall

    I literally stopped watching after 5 minutes and the fourth god reference. I couldn’t take it anymore. Especially him saying “god was there to heal” (or something like that). I was like, where was he when the bullets were flying? Taking a dump?

  • Blacksheep

    Roy,

    Like I said: 100% sure, wow!

    It has nothing to do with feeling otherwise – I’m comparing the fact that most people of faith have doubts mixed in with their beliefs with the certainty of your position.

    There are lots of reasons that I believe in God just as I’m sure there are lots of reasons you don’t believe. (I’m not asking you to review them all right here).

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    i hate it because he knows it’s all bullshit, lies. please, he was raised in an academic family, and was an academic at one of the least religious environments in the world. i seriously doubt he believes in ‘puddles in heaven.’ it pisses me off when politicians pander like this and if i were a believer i’d be insulted. his church going and political careers began at the same time, and he’s hardly a model xtian today. there is something quintessentially disgusting about having to watch someone you know isn’t a believer stand in front of a camera and pretend they are, just to be popular with the fairy tale crowd.

  • ACN

    @chicago dyke
    I agree with your assessment. I don’t think he believes any of it either.

  • Nordog

    Because it isn’t in the Canon. It is supporting text. It doesn’t tell the story. I did say I was being pedantic.

    The first 150 Psalms are included in the Canon of every version of Christian Bible of which I am aware.

    Did I miss something here?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Ugh. To me, this is the very worst type of religious pandering. It’s different from tossing out “God Bless America” during speeches because this is striking people at an emotional, vulnerable time. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought this memorial service was supposed for be for all the people affected by the tragedy. Yet the President (and I presume other speakers) felt perfectly comfortable assuming that everyone in the audience was not just a theist, but also a monotheist. And not just a monotheist, but someone who believed in (or at least found comforting) Christian afterlife mythology and imagery.

    If I had lost someone in the tragedy, I wouldn’t find the President mentioning a particular god relevant or meaningful, and I sure wouldn’t find mentioning the Christian afterlife comforting. On the contrary, I think the idea of heaven is childish and demeaning, and I find the inclusion of it in a ceremony meant for the entire community to be offensive. I don’t think I will ever attend a community memoral service for precisely this reason. They are typically filled to the brim with woo, and it makes me cringe and feel like an outsider instead of part of the community.

  • Emilie

    Nordog,

    I’m confused by the “Psalms aren’t a part of scriptures” comment too – I posted about it yesterday. I did a few google searches to check it out, can’t find anything, I also have the experience of the book being a part of every Christian Bible.

    Can Hoverfrog offer insight?

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Blacksheep: You are mixing things up. Everyone has things that they are 100% sure of. I know the sun will rise tomorrow. I know that snow is frozen water. Everyone knows these things with, for all practical purposes, total certainty.

    Religion is a separate issue. “Most people of faith have doubts mixed in with their beliefs” not because they have a healthy skepticism toward outlandish claims—if they had this, they would not be religious—but because they know in the back of their minds that these propositions cannot possibly be true. (Heaven, for example.)

    Yes, it’s good to have healthy skepticism with respect to what we think we know. But religious people do not have more of this than secular people. They have less of it—by definition. To pounce on the secularist for being too sure of his position is, if not a straw man, let’s call it grasping at straws.

  • Robert W.

    Roy,

    Religion is a separate issue. “Most people of faith have doubts mixed in with their beliefs” not because they have a healthy skepticism toward outlandish claims—if they had this, they would not be religious—but because they know in the back of their minds that these propositions cannot possibly be true. (Heaven, for example.)

    I agree with your earlier criticism of my comment when I purported to speak for all Christians. Fair enough. Then i see you doing this when you speak for people of faith. Like Blacksheep, I have plenty of reasons to believe and further would argue that they are very rational reasons. You obviously disagree. The point I was making which you have yet to answer without dodging it is your comment that there is no heaven- “its a fact”. If that is your belief great, but to say its a fact is something different. Even saying that it is a belief of which you are 100% sure, it is still a belief and not a fact.

    I for one belief with 100% certainty that there is God and Heaven, but would not go as far as to say that it is a fact that I have observed because i haven’t and there is an element of faith involved.

  • Robert W.

    Chicago Dyke,

    As a believer I can tell you that I don’t particularly like it when President Obama speaks of religion. Not because I don’t think it was perfectly appropriate in this setting or this speech, but because coming from him I don’t find it genuine and it seems forced. I may not have liked George Bush’s politics, but when he spoke of God and religion it was sincere (or at least appeared to be).

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Robert W.: You seem to be unclear about what a fact is. If everything I see in the entire world supports the proposition and nothing contradicts it, that is when we call that proposition a fact. This is certainly the case with the nonexistence of heaven.

    If you have not observed God or heaven, then you do not know that they exist. In fact, you know that they do not exist. The idea that despite this knowledge you still believe in them is incoherent. There is a special mythology around the word ‘belief’, and you have been beguiled by it. In fact we don’t choose what to believe; we believe what experience tells us to. If I look out on the street and my car is not there, I believe that my car is not there. I cannot choose to believe that it is still there. That’s not how belief works. The idea that you can decide to believe in God or heaven is a myth.

    What you have in your mind with respect to God and heaven are not beliefs but slogans: strings of words that sound important and that have been memorized. “I believe in God” is such a slogan. You have heard it so many times that you believe it. That is, you believe that you believe in God. But this belief is false. You don’t believe in God. No one does, because it is impossible.

  • Robert W.

    Roy,

    I am very familiar with the term “fact”. I think you are misunderstanding the term “believe”. It is to have confidence that something is true or not despite not having absolute proof. I also know circular reasoning and flawed logic when I see it and that is what you doing.

    If everything I see in the entire world supports the proposition and nothing contradicts it, that is when we call that proposition a fact. This is certainly the case with the nonexistence of heaven.

    Is it your understanding that only things you can see are true and if you can’t see it it isn’t true? Things can be true even if you can’t see them with your own eyes. There is evidence of the existence of God and heaven that I believe to be true even though I haven’t seen God or Heaven with my own eyes.

    If you have not observed God or heaven, then you do not know that they exist. In fact, you know that they do not exist. The idea that despite this knowledge you still believe in them is incoherent.

    Actually I believe that God and Heaven are real despite the fact that I haven’t seen them based upon the evidence that I have. The fact that I believe despite not seeing is faith.

    In fact we don’t choose what to believe; we believe what experience tells us to.

    I contend that belief is a choice. Once you have been exposed to the information you are placed in the position to make a choice. Either you believe the information or you don’t. Either you accept that information as being true or you don’t. Either way you are making a choice.

  • Blacksheep

    Roy,

    It sounds like I’m not mixing things up at all. You just re-confirmed that you know there is no heaven with “total certainty.” That’s all I ever implied.

    And believe it or not, one can be religous and still have healthy skepticism.

    However, we believe that if God exists, than even outlandish claims can be true. That’s why we don’t “…know in the back of our mind that these propositions cannot be true.”

    That’s a supposition on your part.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Robert W.: You say, “Actually I believe that God and Heaven are real despite the fact that I haven’t seen them based upon the evidence that I have. The fact that I believe despite not seeing is faith.”

    As I take it, faith means believing without evidence. You seem to be saying that you believe without evidence—and that there really is evidence. But if there is evidence, you don’t need faith. So, is there evidence for God and heaven? (Can you show it to me?) Or do you believe without evidence? Which is it?

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Blacksheep: Yes, I know there is no heaven with (for all practical purposes) total certainty. You have not presented any reasons to think that this might be an error.

    Sure, “one can be religous and still have healthy skepticism”—about other things. But if you bring that healthy skepticism to bear on your religion, then very quickly you will have no religion.

    I’m not sure what the point is of saying that “if God exists, than [sic] even outlandish claims can be true.” One could respond: OK, that’s yet another reason to suppose that God does not exist. Or one could just say: that’s a mighty big if.

  • Nordog

    I believe my mother loves me in her heart, but I’ve never seen it and I can’t prove it to anyone.

  • Kayla

    So now some of you all-knowing atheists KNOW that President Obama is being fake when he makes religious references?

    Just wow. Psychic much?

    I haven’t watched the entire speech yet – been too busy, but gather that it has been well accepted by many people.

    If references to God hurt you all so much, I feel sorry for you since this is a majority Christian nation. You cannot get away from religious talk/imagery. Perhaps you should consider moving to Europe if you’re so sensitive.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Nordog: The example is misleading. There is plenty of very good evidence that your mother loves you. It is in how she behaves toward you day after day. There is nothing mysterious about this.

    For heaven, on the other hand, there is no evidence at all.

  • Nordog

    How do you know there is evidence that my mother loves me in her heart?

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Kayla: When I am exposed to the breathtaking ignorance and the casual, unreflective viciousness of people like you, I do contemplate moving to Europe. But then I think: No. They can go to hell.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Nordog: As I said, it is in how she behaves toward you. The things she says, the things she does. Facial expressions and body language. These are evidence. And if you don’t have this kind of evidence, then you don’t know that she loves you.

  • Blacksheep

    Roy,

    I’ll assume that you are a smart, sensitive person who obviously knows that when I say that believers can also be skeptics, I fully mean that they (and I) have brought that skeptecism to bear on their faith.

    I’ll say it differently: I have approached my faith with skepticism and have decided, for myself, that the case for God outweighs the case against him.

    It’s not your place to pass verdicts like “If you brought skepticism to bear on your religion you would quickly have no religion.”

    I accept that we disagree, why can’t you? I’m not saying to you, “it’s a fact that you are wrong.”

    My last point was in response to you calling certain claims of religion “outlandish.” (like heaven). I was simply pointing out that if God is real, (and all powerful), than the idea of him creating a heaven would not be outlandish at all. And since we believe that he exists, we have no problem accepting those things.

    A mighty big if? maybe, but that’s OK, life is filled with “ifs,” complexity, etc.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Chicago,

    please, he was raised in an academic family, and was an academic at one of the least religious environments in the world. i seriously doubt he believes in ‘puddles in heaven.’

    Well, he’s never pretended to be a conservative or evangelical Christian. He’s a member of the United Church of Christ, the most liberal denomination there is. I don’t doubt that he genuinely identifies as a progressive Christian and that he rejects of a lot (but probably not all) of the superstition that goes along with mainstream Christianity.

    However, I certainly agree with you that he doesn’t believe a lot of the mythology that goes along with Christianity, which makes it disappointing that he would choose to invoke heaven in his speech. In this excerpt from The Audacity of Hope, he has no problem talking about death, and his comments don’t mention puddles in heaven.

    I thought of Sasha asking me once what happened when we die – “I don’t want to die, Daddy,” she had added matter – of – factly – and I had hugged her and said, “You’ve got a long, long way before you have to worry about that,” which had seemed to satisfy her. I wondered whether I should have told her the truth, that I wasn’t sure what happens when we die, any more than I was sure of where the soul resides or what existed before the Big Bang. Walking up the stairs, though, I knew what I hoped for – that my mother was together in some way with those four little girls, capable in some fashion of embracing them, of finding joy in their spirits.

    He’s obviously more John Shelby Spong than Billy Graham. As he says, he hopes there is an afterlife of some sort, but I seriously doubt he believes Christina is jumping in puddles in heaven.

  • Robert W.

    Roy,

    As I take it, faith means believing without evidence. You seem to be saying that you believe without evidence—and that there really is evidence. But if there is evidence, you don’t need faith. So, is there evidence for God and heaven? (Can you show it to me?) Or do you believe without evidence? Which is it?

    Faith is believing without absolute evidence, not without any evidence. You exercise faith everyday based upon less then absolute evidence. For example, the next time you get on a plane you are doing so based in part on faith. You have evidence that planes are generally safe, that the pilot is trained and sober, and that the proper maintenance has been done, but you don’t know that for an absolute certainty. Yet you make a decision based upon faith to get on.

    That is like religious faith. There is evidence of God’s existence, that Jesus lived, died and rose again, etc. Yet I wasn’t there, nor have I died and experienced Heaven, so I believe based upon the evidence that I have and on faith, because this evidence is not absolute.

  • ACN

    Getting on a plane is nothing like believing their is an eternal soul that lives on after you die. Or that sometime two thousand years ago a person was resurrected after death.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Blacksheep: Not my place to “pass verdicts”? I do not have to respect such arbitrary bounds.

    Your statement, “I have approached my faith with skepticism and have decided, for myself, that the case for God outweighs the case against him,” makes no sense.

    There are no reasons to believe that any god exists. If you wish, go ahead and say that you believe in God “on faith” (which really means: because your neighbors insist on it). But don’t tell us that you have good reasons. That is false by definition. Propositions that have good reasons behind them are called scientific, or reasonable, or logical, or common-sense—they are not called religious. By definition, religious propositions are majestically independent of reasons.

    This idea that one can approach one’s faith skeptically is a lie, a diabolical trick invented by theologians, a device to keep smart people in the church. It gives the smart person a way to imagine that he is really thinking about his situation. It sequesters his skepticism and prevents it from causing any trouble. It has made a fool out of you.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Robert W.: I suspect that you are deliberately confusing the issue. Or maybe you are just “overthinking” this thing and need to take a break, go get some fresh air or something. Either way, your arguments have become terribly weak. I agree with ACN:

    Getting on a plane is nothing like believing their is an eternal soul that lives on after you die. Or that sometime two thousand years ago a person was resurrected after death.

  • Robert W.

    Roy,

    Robert W.: I suspect that you are deliberately confusing the issue. Or maybe you are just “overthinking” this thing and need to take a break, go get some fresh air or something. Either way, your arguments have become terribly weak. I agree with ACN:

    Roy, with all respect, you have presented nothing towards your argument. Explain how my analogy is wrong? You saying it is without explanation is much akin to you saying that there isn’t a God because there isn’t.

    What argument do you have that people of faith are merely deluding themselves other then you stating that as your opinion?

    Both Blacksheep and myself have shown you where your statement of a “fact” is nothing more then your opinion and you have not shown where we are wrong.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Robert W.: You ask what “argument” I have “that people of faith are merely deluding themselves.” The whole world is my evidence. Look everywhere. Where is there any sign of God, or of heaven? I have not seen the tiniest hint.

    To move this argument forward you have to show me something in the world that would prompt a reasonable person to say, “Oh, wow, I guess there might really be a Father-Creator of the Universe out there somewhere, who loves me, and will set me in lake of eternal fire if I don’t do what Pastor O’Reilly says I should do.”

    Show me something. I am a curious and reasonable person. If there is evidence of the existence of God or heaven I want very much to see it. It doesn’t even have to be 100% convincing. It just has to be real.

    You are making extraordinary claims and you have to supply the evidence.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    It just rubbed me the wrong way.

    And as the evangelical atheists so often tell us: we don’t have the right to not be offended.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Emilie and Nordog regarding Scripture. What makes the Canon of Scripture?

    1) Was the book written by a prophet of God?
    2) Was the writer authenticated by miracles to confirm his message?
    3) Does the book tell the truth about God, with no falsehood or contradiction?
    4) Does the book evince a divine capacity to transform lives?
    5) Was the book accepted as God’s Word by the people to whom it was first delivered?

    Psalms doesn’t fit. Honestly I’m sorry I even mentioned it. That’ll teach me for being a pedantic ass.

  • Robert W.

    Roy,

    Honestly I believe that this discussion would be a waste of time. I say this based upon what you have said here and particularly upon your repeated statements that anyone who believes in God is deluded and unreasonable. That type of close minded arrogance is not open to a thoughtful discussion on differences in opinion.

    I will point you to Ravi Zacherias, Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig,C. S. Lewis and other countless Christian apologists who are perfectly reasonable and not deluded brilliant individuals who believe in God and present perfectly rational, reasonable defenses for faith. If you have studied what they have had to say and you have rejected it then there is nothing more I can add.

    We view the world differently and things that I accept as evidence you most assuredly dismiss out of hand so we would get nowhere. My original point was and still is that when you say “fact” you are really meaning belief and opinion based upon what you accept as evidence or the lack thereof.

    If you understand a “fact” to be nothing more then you can see and observe, then you are severely limiting what others take as a provable “fact”. By your definition you can never prove an historical fact for example.

    I have enjoyed our conversation. If I have mis-characterized your position or argument then forgive me.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Andrew,

    And as the evangelical atheists so often tell us: we don’t have the right to not be offended.

    So that means we aren’t allowed to complain about things we find offensive? No one’s filing a lawsuit here. This was a public ceremony, ostensibly meant for the entire public. Yet the public is not made up only of theists, let alone made up entirely of Christians. The intended target of the attack was Jewish, making Christian afterlife imagery seem inappropriate, to say the least. How many other non-Christians were killed or directly affected by the tragedy? The speakers didn’t seem to care to find out, so eager were they to spout Bible verses.

    There are ways to have a secular public memorial service with poems and tributes and readings without referencing a particular deity or mentioning an afterlife. That seems more appropriate for a public ceremony. This was not a church service. If people wanted to talk about Christina jumping in puddles in heaven during her funeral mass, I would still find it sad and pathetic, but at least it would not have taken place at a public ceremony led by government officials. Not everyone who is grieving this tragedy is religious.

  • Robert W.

    Anna,

    If people wanted to talk about Christina jumping in puddles in heaven during her funeral mass, I would still find it sad and pathetic, but at least it would not have taken place at a public ceremony led by government officials.

    I find this curious. By invoking the idea of an afterlife and Heaven nobody is diminishing Christina’s life here on earth.

    I think it would be extremely sad from an atheist point of view without that hope that she lives on in an afterlife.

    Christian- “Christina lived a wonderful life that was cut too short by this senseless tragedy but her spirit lives on in heaven where she is happy and full of peace and joy.”

    Atheist- “‘Christina lived a wonderful life that was cut too short by this senseless tragedy but now she is simply gone.”

    The atheist view on this just seems much more sad to me.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    I find this curious. By invoking the idea of an afterlife and Heaven nobody is diminishing Christina’s life here on earth.

    I think it diminishes Christina’s life on earth to pretend that she isn’t really dead. Obviously, theists feel differently. If they didn’t, afterlife imagery wouldn’t be so popular.

    I think it would be extremely sad from an atheist point of view without that hope that she lives on in an afterlife.

    Well, I don’t find it extremely sad. That’s reality. I have never believed in an afterlife, so the idea of anyone being able to survive the death of the brain strikes me as ridiculous/childish/self-indulgent/pathetic, etc.

    The atheist view on this just seems much more sad to me.

    Well, that’s your perspective. Believing that Christina is frolicking in heaven with puppies may make some (not all) people happy, but is it true? I think it’s better to believe true things rather than false things, even if reality makes us uncomfortable. Christina’s death is tragic. In my opinion, pretending that she is in some wonderful paradise cheapens her life and diminishes her death.

  • Robert W.

    Anna,

    Well, that’s your perspective. Believing that Christina is frolicking in heaven with puppies may make some (not all) people happy, but is it true? I think it’s better to believe true things rather than false things, even if reality makes us uncomfortable.

    Christians belief this to be true so from that point of view it doesn’t just make them feel better it is what we believe to be happening because we have a soul that is eternal.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Robert W:

    Honestly I believe that this discussion would be a waste of time. I say this based upon what you have said here and particularly upon your repeated statements that anyone who believes in God is deluded and unreasonable. That type of close minded arrogance is not open to a thoughtful discussion on differences in opinion.

    You ignore my request for the tiniest bit of evidence for the existence of either God or heaven. Instead of engaging with this request you accuse me of “close minded arrogance”. Whether I am arrogant is bedside the point. You have no evidence for your assertions. Therefore, they are meaningless bluster. Therefore, I win the argument.

    I will point you to Ravi Zacherias, Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig,C. S. Lewis and other countless Christian apologists who are perfectly reasonable and not deluded brilliant individuals who believe in God and present perfectly rational, reasonable defenses for faith. If you have studied what they have had to say and you have rejected it then there is nothing more I can add.

    These are theologians. The admitted task of the theologian is to assume the truth of religious doctrines and come up with post hoc rationalizations for why we should believe them. A theologian is, by definition, a professional liar. And any of these men would run into the same problem that you have: there is not the smallest indication in the real world that the things they are assuming are true.

    We view the world differently and things that I accept as evidence you most assuredly dismiss out of hand so we would get nowhere. My original point was and still is that when you say “fact” you are really meaning belief and opinion based upon what you accept as evidence or the lack thereof.

    Misleading. We all know what constitutes real evidence for real phenomena. In one field of inquiry—religion—you pretend that there might be different criteria for truth than in every other field. This is a desperate, disingenuous, and self-defeating strategy.

    If you understand a “fact” to be nothing more then you can see and observe, then you are severely limiting what others take as a provable “fact”. By your definition you can never prove an historical fact for example.

    Misleading. Obviously, we are not limited to visual investigation. Nor are we disallowed from making inferences based on what we observe. Of course historical things can be known.

    So let’s recap. I said that there’s no heaven. You said, “You can’t know that.” I said, “Do you have even the tiniest bit of evidence that I’m wrong?” And you fell back on excuses and weasel-words. So I’m still waiting for the evidence.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Anna

    In my opinion, pretending that she is in some wonderful paradise cheapens her life and diminishes her death.

    Yes that is exactly it. That is what makes me so angry about the empty platitudes that many Christians offer in response to a death.

  • cheryl

    Eric Holder selecting a reading from a religious tract, and a totally sectarian one, seemed rather inappropriate.

    Reminded me of a fundamentalist minister colleague of mine, who, when we went out to eat, would start the meal by making an invocation to Jesus, and he didn’t care what religions, if any, we all were. But at least that minister’s paygrade was much lower than Eric Holder’s, nor was that minister in the business of upholding civil liberties, the 1st Amendment, etc.

  • Robert W.

    Roy,

    Your comment has proven my point. There is nothing I would offer that you would accept as evidence. For example, you say that historical facts can be proven yet I am sure you ignore the historical facts in the Bible.

    You don’t win an argument by saying everything you say is a lie and everything you show me isn’t evidence, now prove it.

    If I am wrong, then tell me what kind of evidence you would accept and not consider a lie and would consider helpful?

  • ACN

    What do you consider to be the historical facts of the bible?

  • Robert W.

    ACN,

    There are of course a lot of them covering the history of the Jewish people in the old Testament, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and the events of the rise of the early church as described in Acts.

  • Robert W.

    Roy,

    So let’s recap. I said that there’s no heaven. You said, “You can’t know that.” I said, “Do you have even the tiniest bit of evidence that I’m wrong?” And you fell back on excuses and weasel-words. So I’m still waiting for the evidence.

    Let’s not shift the burden of proof here. You claimed that it is a “fact” that there is no Heaven. I told you that you don’t know that, you believe it to be so. So since you are making the assertion that there is no Heaven as a fact, then the burden is on you to prove your assertion.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W. When you went to school did you learn about primary, secondary and tertiary forms of historical evidence?

    There are of course a lot of them covering the history of the Jewish people in the old Testament

    Where? The OT contains mythology, not history.

    the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the New Testament

    There is no history in the Gospels. Where is your independent and supporting evidence of these supposed histories?

    and the events of the rise of the early church as described in Acts.

    That at least I agree with if you count a maximum of a five year period as a history of the early church. It contributes to the history of the early church.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    Christians belief this to be true so from that point of view it doesn’t just make them feel better it is what we believe to be happening because we have a soul that is eternal.

    Yes, I realize that. I wasn’t accusing them of being insincere. However, this discussion was kicked off by Obama’s remarks. Based on what he said in The Audacity of Hope, I strongly doubt he actually believes Christina is splashing in puddles in heaven. I also think it was inappropriate for politicians to reference Christian afterlife imagery during an event that was supposedly meant for the entire public. The entire public does not believe in the Christian afterlife. If it had happened at Christina’s funeral mass, I would still find it sad from my perspective as an atheist, but that sort of thing is to be expected at a private religious ceremony.

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    Yes I did. The historical events in the Old Testament are being proven as historical and not mythological through archeological discoveries. For example, for years people believed that King David was a mythical figure until archeological evidence proved that he was real.

    The Gospels contain the historical facts of Christ’s life, teaching, death and resurrection from eyewitnesses or those very close to eyewitnesses so they should be considered primary sources. Why discount them out of hand and require independent proof? Do you do that will all other eyewitness accounts of ancient historical documents?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Hoverfrog,

    Yes that is exactly it. That is what makes me so angry about the empty platitudes that many Christians offer in response to a death.

    The thing is, I don’t think the vast majority of them inwardly believe those platitudes. It’s a fantasy designed to comfort the bereaved. Atheists recognize this on a conscious level, but I think nearly everyone realizes it subconsciously. If they didn’t, the way our culture treats death would be vastly different.

    If people believed on every level that their deceased loved ones were in paradise and that they would be reunited someday, there wouldn’t be this visceral grief that accompanies death. Instead of tears, there would be joy. A funeral would be akin to a going away party. The murder of an innocent child would be cause for celebration because it would mean that she has escaped this terrible, fallen shadow world and has been welcomed into the warm, eternal embrace of a loving deity.

    Obviously, this is far from the way our culture treats death. Someone who does not deeply mourn the death of a loved one would be considered cold, unfeeling, and quite possibly out of their right mind. Even the deaths of elderly people are greeted with intense sadness. The fact that our society rightly treats death as a permanent form of separation leads me to the conclusion that everyone subconsciously realizes exactly what it means to die, but they simply can’t let it infiltrate their consciousness.

  • Robert W.

    Anna,

    The fact that our society rightly treats death as a permanent form of separation leads me to the conclusion that everyone subconsciously realizes exactly what it means to die, but they simply can’t let it infiltrate their consciousness.

    If you had a loved one that was going to be gone for a while, say for example on a tour of duty, wouldn’t you be sad that you wouldn’t be with them even knowing that you would see them again? From a Christian perspective we mourn the loss because we love that person and want them around, however we also have the peace and comfort that we will see them again.

    As for Obama’s comments, I agree with you that I don’t think he really believed them so i would have preferred he didn’t try. I do think that it was appropriate for the memorial service however, particularly because the victims by all accounts were religious and this was their memorial, not just the public’s.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    The historical events in the Old Testament are being proven as historical and not mythological through archeological discoveries.

    What a load of rubbish. However to give you some more rope I would ask that you provide evidence for this assertion.

    The Gospels contain the historical facts of Christ’s life, teaching, death and resurrection from eyewitnesses or those very close to eyewitnesses so they should be considered primary sources.

    Again what a load of rubbish. At least a generation passed before the purported events were written down. That isn’t “eyewitness accounts”, that’s hearsay.

    Why discount them out of hand and require independent proof? Do you do that will all other eyewitness accounts of ancient historical documents?

    Yes. Yes we do. That’s the point. There are standards of evidence that mythologies and hearsay don’t reach.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    If you had a loved one that was going to be gone for a while, say for example on a tour of duty, wouldn’t you be sad that you wouldn’t be with them even knowing that you would see them again?

    Given the inherent danger of army life, a tour of duty seems like a bad analogy. It would be much more akin to someone moving away after inheriting a beautiful mansion in some exotic location. Even if you knew you would not see the person again for a long time, there would not be any kind of intense grief or sadness. On the contrary, our society would consider it perfectly appropriate to treat it like a happy occasion. It would be fine to throw that person a going away party and wish them “bon voyage.” Sure, you might miss the person, but our culture treats that situation in an entirely different way than it treats death. That’s my point. If people actually believed the separation of death was temporary on a subconscious level, then our society’s behavior would be extremely different.

    From a Christian perspective we mourn the loss because we love that person and want them around, however we also have the peace and comfort that we will see them again.

    The evidence simply does not line up with your claim. Understand that I’m talking about society in general, not your particular denomination or sect. Death is treated as a permanent separation by the vast majority of people in society. The fact that no one sings songs of joy when a parent, sibling, or child dies is ample evidence that the two separations are not regarded as comparable.

    As for Obama’s comments, I agree with you that I don’t think he really believed them so i would have preferred he didn’t try. I do think that it was appropriate for the memorial service however, particularly because the victims by all accounts were religious and this was their memorial, not just the public’s.

    Really? All the victims were religious? That’s quite a presumption. Nineteen people were shot in this tragedy. Did you question each survivor? Did you survey all of the partners, parents, and siblings of the people who were shot and killed? I think it would be shocking if all of them were religious. We already know that not all of them were Christian. Giffords is Jewish. Christian afterlife imagery is certainly inappropriate in her case. One would assume that her loved ones were at the memorial, too.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    Robert W.:

    If I am wrong, then tell me what kind of evidence you would accept and not consider a lie and would consider helpful?

    You are evading the issue by talking about “kinds of evidence.” There is only one kind of evidence. If you tell a theologian, “Your wife is cheating on you,” he will immediately ask, “How do you know?” If you begin pontificating about different kinds of evidence, he will probably become irate. Such ideas are irrelevant to the burning question he needs to settle.

    Every time a human being dies, his or her personality seems to be permanently extinguished. We seem to lose touch with that person forever. So we have billions of data points that are consistent with the proposition that when people die, they’re dead, and that’s all she wrote.

    Where are the data that support the contrary position—that when people die they don’t really die? The question is very simple. Show me something that clearly implies that when we die we (or at least some of us) go to a special place and keep living. Where is this place? What is it like there? How many souls live there? Do they have the same names they had when they were on the Earth? And how do you know?

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    You can study Biblical archeology as well as I can. Let me give you this link:

    http://biblicalarcheology.net/?p=79

    Again what a load of rubbish. At least a generation passed before the purported events were written down. That isn’t “eyewitness accounts”, that’s hearsay.

    Rubbish. Scholars have dated the Gospels, particularly Mark far earlier then generations removed. Far earlier then other written accounts of events in ancient history that are accepted as being true by skeptics. As I have said before, the Bible is held to a much higher standard then other ancient writings by skeptics.

    Roy,

    You are evading the issue by talking about “kinds of evidence.” There is only one kind of evidence. If you tell a theologian, “Your wife is cheating on you,” he will immediately ask, “How do you know?” If you begin pontificating about different kinds of evidence, he will probably become irate. Such ideas are irrelevant to the burning question he needs to settle.

    This once again proves my point. Without saying it directly you are saying you will only accept evidence you can see with your own eyes. There is more then one type of evidence- there is evidence you observe yourself, there is evidence from eyewitness accounts, there is circumstantial evidence, there is archeological evidence, there is evidence from philosophical reasoning, there is written evidence from reliable sources.

    Every time a human being dies, his or her personality seems to be permanently extinguished. We seem to lose touch with that person forever. So we have billions of data points that are consistent with the proposition that when people die, they’re dead, and that’s all she wrote.

    Proof that the material world can’t see the supernatural is no proof that the supernatural doesn’t exist. Its just proof that you can’t see it.

    Anna,

    I may have over spoke to say that all of them were religious. At least we know that Rep. Giffords was Jewish. The Jewish faith believes in an afterlife and an eternal soul. The Judge was a catholic that went to mass everyday. Young Christina and her family were apparently Christians. Another was a pastor at a Church of Christ. Don’t know about the rest of them. So even if the rest were not people of faith, the mention of religious themes for those that were would seem to be appropriate

  • ACN

    Rubbish. Scholars have dated the Gospels, particularly Mark far earlier then generations removed. Far earlier then other written accounts of events in ancient history that are accepted as being true by skeptics. As I have said before, the Bible is held to a much higher standard then other ancient writings by skeptics.

    The general scholarly consensus for Mark is approx AD 70. Perhaps before, perhaps after the fall of Jerusalem. Given the mean life expectancy, it is about a generation or so removed from the events it purports to be discuss.

    You need to be careful with this sort of claim, because you make it sound like there exists a complete manuscript of the gospel of mark from AD 70 that was used to copy precisely down the ages. This is unequivocally NOT the case. Scrolls and parchments suffer losses. Scribes make transcription errors such as incorporating liner notes from previous copies into the text. Powerful persons with agendas can add or delete large passages. Mark 16:8-20 comes to mind.

    We can, and should, hold documents and claims to standards of evidence in proportion to the magnitude of the claims they make. If you have specific issues examining how the bible is treated compared with documents that make equally fantastic claims, that is a point we can try to address.

  • ereador

    There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts….May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.

    Still hasn’t said anything. Prayers to nothing.

  • Robert W.

    ACN,

    The general scholarly consensus for Mark is approx AD 70. Perhaps before, perhaps after the fall of Jerusalem. Given the mean life expectancy, it is about a generation or so removed from the events it purports to be discuss.

    I think that is true on the time of Mark from what I understand. But I do think that in terms of ancient history this was a remarkable short period of time to record these events in writing. Most of the history at that time was passed down orally. So to write down these events in written form within 30 or so years of then occurring is remarkable.

    There is some scholarly debate on the book of Acts being written earlier but I don’t think there is a consensus of that.

    You need to be careful with this sort of claim, because you make it sound like there exists a complete manuscript of the gospel of mark from AD 70 that was used to copy precisely down the ages. This is unequivocally NOT the case. Scrolls and parchments suffer losses. Scribes make transcription errors such as incorporating liner notes from previous copies into the text. Powerful persons with agendas can add or delete large passages. Mark 16:8-20 comes to mind.

    Maybe, however there are literally thousands of pieces the New Testament and the Gospels available for study. There are also quotes from the gospels and Paul’s letters in very early church writings such that even without pieces of the original documents we can re create when they said.

    Here is an excellent article on this subject. It shows how the New Testament compares to other ancient documents that people take as genuine and accurate. What I find remarkable is that there are over 24,000 pieces of the New Testament from the ancient times available for study. Compare that to other histories and you will see how much more evidence we have.

    http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=30857&clcid=0×409

  • ACN

    Hmmm it looks like the link is broken/old? Retry?

  • ACN

    Also, is that number 24,000 what you get from adding the 5300 greek manuscripts of the NT, the 10,000 latin vulgates, and 9300 or so partial early manuscripts?

  • Robert W.

    ACN,

    my bad sorry.

    http://life.liegeman.org/historymaker/ntdocs2.html

    Yes I think that is where they get the 24,000 number from.

  • ACN

    Nifty link, it is certainly more interesting than the go.microsoft page :)

    Firstly, I want to press my first point from before there are 0 authographs of the new testament. The earliest nearly complete manuscript of the NT we have is from the mid 4th century.

    There are a couple of issues here that I’d like to address. I am pretty familiar with Geisler/McDowell’s argument here as I used to make it myself :)

    When paelographers and archaeologists use the word “manuscript” they mean “any part/fragment of a copy of a text”. To say that there are 5300 greek manuscripts is to say that there are 5300 documents that range in completeness from a handful of words to a full copy. Anything dated before the advent of printing in Europe is considered to be a manuscript, and the majority of manuscripts do not come from early history, they come from the 10th century+. There are less than 100 greek manuscripts that date to before the 5th century, around 400 that date to the 5th-10th century and the remaining 4800 or so come from after the 10th century. Moreover, what do the latin copies have to do with the original greek? Making more copies of original greek manuscripts in latin doesn’t add to the authenticity reliability or correctness of the original greek.

    But much of this is ado about nothing anyway. It is important when we ask “how reliable is the text itself?” but has nothing to say when we ask “how reliable is the content?” Suppose that I grant you that the current copies of the New Testament are reliable copies (that is to say, faithful to original). This does not say anything about the content of the original, only that the copies are close to the original. We know there is a huge distinction because of one fairly recent example.

    Consider the Book of Mormon. Neither of us think that its content is anything but hogwash. But the BoM was written in 1823 and we have published, printed copies from the 1830′s. Only a 7 year gap. Additionally, we have signed testimonies of 11 witnesses who claimed to see the golden tablets that Moroni inscribed the BoM on. We are 18 centuries closer to the founding of mormonism than the origin of christianity, there are millions of copies of the BoM in circulation and a thriving LDS church with billions in assets (in SLC alone I’d venture!). Almost every scholar thinks we have an extremely reliable copy of the 1830 BoM, but no one outside of the LDS church considers this stuff to be reliable content. Admittedly, there is a slight distinction here. The NT claims to be about that events that happened nearer to its composition in time, while the BoM claims divine inspiration to tell the tale of past events. I understand that the two scenarios aren’t exactly the same, but I’m using it to illustrate a point about the incongruence of “reliable text” vs. “reliable content”.

    Anyway, we have digressed quite a bit, but I think the original claim was by hoverfrog that:

    At least a generation passed before the purported events were written down. That isn’t “eyewitness accounts”, that’s hearsay.

    And given the life expectancies of the time, it sounds like we actually agree that about a generation passed before anyone wrote this stuff down in Mark at least. From what I’ve read about dating the other synoptic gospels, there are a handful of people who think that Luke predated Mark, but the general consensus is that Mark was the first and that the authors of Luke and Matthew were familiar with the content of Mark as they wrote their gospels. Do you hold a minority view on the dating of the other synoptics that would create more disagreement here?

  • Robert W.

    ACN,

    It is important when we ask “how reliable is the text itself?” but has nothing to say when we ask “how reliable is the content?” Suppose that I grant you that the current copies of the New Testament are reliable copies (that is to say, faithful to original). This does not say anything about the content of the original, only that the copies are close to the original. We know there is a huge distinction because of one fairly recent example.

    I agree that the reliability of the contents of the books is the important inquiry. I think the Bible stands on solid ground there as well. The reasons for that are too long for a post of this nature.

    As for the Book of Mormon, I do agree that it is not reliable for a couple of key reasons. One is the complete lack of archeological evidence to support its claims as well as the requirement to completely rewrite the known history of the America’s based upon the archeological evidence we do have. Secondly, and you alluded to this, the idea that this revelation was given to one man who translated it and then destroyed the tablets supposedly about history that took place thousands of years before. It is simply not in the same league a the Bible.

    I understand that the scholars with far more knowledge then me have dated Mark as the first Gospel around 50 to 60 AD give or take a little. Matthew and Luke were also written before 70 AD as were the letters from Paul which contain the same themes of the Gospel including reference to Jesus as the Messiah and the resurrection. Further, Acts was written prior to 70 Ad and contains the same message of the Gospel including the sermon from Peter in Chapter 2 which mentions both the crucifixion and the resurrection. So if those events were relayed by eyewitnesses or those reporting from eyewitnesses within less then a generation following Jesus’ death.

  • ACN

    I understand that the scholars with far more knowledge then me have dated Mark as the first Gospel around 50 to 60 AD give or take a little. Matthew and Luke were also written before 70 AD as were the letters from Paul which contain the same themes of the Gospel including reference to Jesus as the Messiah and the resurrection. Further, Acts was written prior to 70 Ad and contains the same message of the Gospel including the sermon from Peter in Chapter 2 which mentions both the crucifixion and the resurrection. So if those events were relayed by eyewitnesses or those reporting from eyewitnesses within less then a generation following Jesus’ death.

    Maybe you can give me more specific reasons why you think this, but I’ve read in several places that the scholarly consensus on Matthew is between 70 and 100, with an oldest possible boundary in 110 or so by independent writings of Ignatius of Antioch. I’ve heard minority opinions for pre-70 (60-65 usually) but from what I’ve read, this seems to be ad hoc to try and make Matthew’s writings about the destruction of Jerusalem appear prophetic.

    The one thing that seems convincing to me about the early dating of Acts is that it has no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem which would be sort of a strange omission given the other themes. That being said, there are at least two well known NT scholars, Eisenman and Macon, who argue that Acts was written in the very early 2nd century.

    Similarly, I’ve read that the consensus on Luke is between 75-100 rather than pre-70; and John was probably written around the turn of the 1st-2nd century.

    I agree that the reliability of the contents of the books is the important inquiry. I think the Bible stands on solid ground there as well. The reasons for that are too long for a post of this nature.

    I can sort of tell that this would be a primary point of disagreement :)

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    I may have over spoke to say that all of them were religious.

    Yes, you did. In fact, you have no idea how many of them were religious, or what beliefs their grieving friends and family members have. For each victim, there are dozens of bereaved people who may not find sectarian religious imagery comforting.

    At least we know that Rep. Giffords was Jewish. The Jewish faith believes in an afterlife and an eternal soul.

    Actually, Jewish thoughts on the afterlife are quite different from Christian ones. Among the most religious Jews, opinions vary widely, and a significant number do not believe in the heaven/hell imagery of Christianity.

    The Judge was a catholic that went to mass everyday. Young Christina and her family were apparently Christians. Another was a pastor at a Church of Christ.

    Then it would have been appropriate to mention heaven at their private memorial services, not at a public gathering meant for all the victims. There are ways to comfort the grief-stricken without bringing in beliefs that are not held by everyone in the audience.

    Don’t know about the rest of them. So even if the rest were not people of faith, the mention of religious themes for those that were would seem to be appropriate.

    No, it really isn’t. Asserting that victims are in a specific afterlife is extremely insensitive to people who do not believe in such things.