How (Not) to Make the Best Case for God & Jesus

Mark DriscollMark Driscoll is the edgy pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. He tends to make his fellow fundamentalists angry because of his insistence on being “relevant” and willingness to use swear words. But in spite of a hipper veneer, he’s still one of them. He believes women shouldn’t be pastors, that homosexuality is a sin against God, that the Bible was inspired by God, that Jesus is God and rose from the dead, and he’s even a staunch Calvinist, which means he believes God predestines some people to be Christians and they have no choice in the matter (and those who are unchosen have no choice but to go to hell).

I give that quick introduction in case you didn’t know anything about Mark the Cussing Pastor (as he was so dubbed in Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz).

Making the Case

Driscoll is now blogging occasionally at Newsweek’s On Faith blog. One of his recent articles is on how to make the best case for God to skeptics. This is an excerpt from his answer:

So, as Christians, our aim is not to convince people of some god in general, but to introduce them to Jesus in particular….

Helpful to this end is using the evidence for a personal Creator who handcrafted our world for human life by explaining the principles of intelligent design and such things as the fine-tuning argument and the argument for irreducible complexity….

It is also important that people learn to understand how God speaks uniquely and authoritatively through the Bible. Acts that can aid in this include giving away Bibles (along with helpful Christian books) as gifts for people to simply read, bringing people to church to listen to the Bible preached, inviting people to small groups and classes to ask their questions about the Bible, and recommending good podcasts that would bring the Bible into the daily rhythm of their commutes, exercise workouts, and the like….

On a more practical level, acts of truly selfless compassion–done not for fame, notoriety, or to merit God’s approval, but done out of love for someone–help to reveal a small measure of God’s loving, merciful, compassionate nature.

Those methods lead up to telling the unbeliever about Jesus, who Driscoll believes is so amazing that just hearing his story can convert us poor sinners (at least the ones who are chosen, of course).

In other words, Driscoll is saying the best way to convince skeptics is:

  1. Give evidence of God by using the argument for intelligent design.
  2. Help others read and learn about the Bible.
  3. Show compassion.
  4. Tell people about Jesus.

Breaking it down into points makes it a lot easier to see what what poor advice this is for convincing skeptics.

Bad Advice

First, skeptics are not convinced by the intelligent design argument because it’s bullshit. It’s an argument from ignorance — it stems from ignorance about evolution, and it labels anything we don’t have the answer to as “GOD OF THE BIBLE.” The intelligent design argument will make no headway against an educated skeptic. This was once an important and convincing argument — before Darwin. Strike one.

Driscoll says that reading the Bible helps convince skeptics. Yet for many of us, studying the Bible is what lead us away from Christianity. For instance, there are no reasons to think any of the miracles in the Bible happened. You’ve got Noah’s Ark where all of earth’s millions of species — plus all the millions of dead ones in the fossil record — fit two by two on a boat, along with a year’s worth of food. Ax heads float, people rise from the dead, the sun stops in the sky (meaning the earth stopped rotating), water turns to wine, people walk on water. It’s typical mythic history, but not historical events. Then on top of all the miracles, there are the contradictions, the scribal insertions, the historical errors, and the fact that the earliest gospel about Jesus was written generations after Jesus died by an anonymous author. It’s not a reliable book to base belief about a deity or a religion. Strike two.

Then Driscoll says showing compassion can help convince skeptics. This is nonsense. There are Christians who are jerks and there are Christians who are nice — neither have anything to do with the historical claims of Christianity. Strike three.

Notice that everything Driscoll has said so far could apply equally to any religion or cult. These are common methods of converting someone to a cult — convince them of your deity, teach them about your holy book, and be nice to them.

The only one that is specific to Christianity is telling people about Jesus. But the problem is, where does that information come from? How do we know it is true? What evidence is there for his miracles and resurrection? The earliest source talking about the life of Jesus is an anonymous gospel written around 70AD  — generations after Jesus had died. I repeat, that’s the earliest source. The next gospel (“Matthew”) is based on Mark and also anonymous.

Why should we trust these gospels, when their entire purpose is to convert others? These writers had every incentive to make Jesus look miraculous to compete with the other Messiahs and gods. It’s playing a game of telephone with people who think burning animals make gods happy and demons make people sick. After a week, the stories would be inflated. After 40 years, people are raising from the dead and walking on water.

Driscoll is a disappointment. His advice will not inform people to convince skeptics — and perhaps that will further the cause of skepticism. With any luck, some fundamentalists will wake up and realize that if this is the best way to convince skeptics, maybe they’re not right after all — maybe they’re involved in a cult.

One can hope.

  • wazza

    The problem is that to a fundamentalist, this makes sense. They’ve been told again and again that Jesus is the most amazing person ever, so of course hearing about him will convince people. They’ve been told that Intelligent Design explains things better than evolution, so of course it’ll provide evidence for god. And they’ve been told god is the source of all mercy and love, so it’s got to be proof. When they read the bible, they aren’t seeing the inaccuracies and contradictions, they’re seeing sublimity, and the most inspirational book ever written. It’s what they’ve been told to see, and so they see it. Not because they’re mindless sheep; I’m inspired by the Hubble Deep Field because my upbringing has caused me to see it as something exceptional and wonderful. The same way I can’t see how anyone can fail to be inspired by the fact of evolution, they can’t see how anyone could fail to be inspired by the Word of God.

  • Francesc

    “the sun stops in the sky (meaning the earth stopped rotating)”
    I don’t agree with that sentence. In the Bible, the sun stops in the sky because the sun stops revolving around the earth. Ya know, geocentric universe…

    • wazza

      and pi is 3!

    • Daniel Florien

      My point is that if the event really happened like believers think, it means the earth must have stopped rotating, because the universe isn’t geocentric.

      • Yoav

        The universe used to be geocentric until god read copernicus and decided that the heliocentric model is much cooler so he just changed it. Which mean the babble is historicly accurate and is by no means contradicted by the real world.

      • http://twitter.com/dlkfox wasserkind

        lol

  • http://redheadedskeptic.com Laura

    Mark Driscoll is old ideas and sexism in a shiny new package. In some ways, I think that makes him even worse. I have no respect for him. I can’t stand to watch/read him anymore because every time I do, an angry blog post somehow appears! ;)

  • http://redheadedskeptic.com Laura

    (And along with no women pastors, gays, etc, he also doesn’t believe that stay at home dads are worthy of respect, has no respect for women that I’ve seen–making comments about how pastor’s wives let themselves go and how his wife exists to serve his sexual needs and wait on him hand and foot, and he is the most entitled pastor I’ve ever seen. I thought my ex-husband was bad as far as expectations from the church; Mark makes him look like a saint. I think he is shallow, arrogant, and every time I read/watch anything he says, I am reminded of every bad memory I have from the church, which is a lot. So yeah, sorry for the rant.)

  • Triften

    An old friend of mine that I’ve interacted with on facebook is now a pastor and seems to be a bit of a Driscoll fan and had linked to a column where Driscoll was trying to claim that followers of the bible had an exclusive lock on morality. I agree with Laura that he’s the same ol’ crap in a new shiny package.

  • Bissrok

    Who is this Jesus character anyway? I wish more Christians would stop and explain it to me…

    • trj

      Jesus who? Is he in the publishing business or something?

  • http://larianlequella.com Larian LeQuella

    people walk on water

    What’s the big deal with that? I can do that with alarming regularity. Granted, it needs to be below 32F for a while.

  • lurker111

    The problem I have with predestination is that, if it’s true, then what’s the point of having any kind of discussion about religion in the first place? Pffft.

  • Erik

    “by explaining the principles of intelligent design and such things as the fine-tuning argument and the argument for irreducible complexity….”

    Oh. We didn’t see that one coming. Really.

  • http://www.dctouristsandlocals.wordpress.com DCtouristsANDlocals

    Did any of you write comments on the Newsweek blog post? I think we should…

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Helpful to this end is using the evidence for a personal Creator who handcrafted our world for human life by explaining the principles of intelligent design and such things as the fine-tuning argument and the argument for irreducible complexity….
    ..
    First, skeptics are not convinced by the intelligent design argument because it’s bullshit…

    I love it when someone hitches their religious or political argument to anti-science. Science can be verified. Evolution consistently has been verified. so if anti-science is part of their greater argument, that gives me an easy reason to reject the entire thing. It is a labor-saving maneuver.

    Here’s Michael Behe, under oath in a court of law, acknowledging that criticism of his definition of “irreducible complexity” is justified, and that he has not managed to repair it

    • Custador

      Ah, The Dover Trials. Schadenfreud for atheists.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelik stephy

    This makes my spidey sense go on red alert.

  • cello

    The thing with advancing the Bible as proof of Christianity is that of course they don’t show you the nasty verses. Duh. They trot out all the nice “turn the other cheek” verses. It is not until AFTER they have you hooked that you get to read the fine print.

    IMO Driscoll is a cult of personality that is so much a part of modern American evangelism. It is primarily about the pastor’s personality (with an appealing dose of controversy) that is a big draw. An updated version of the tent revival.

    It doesn’t matter that they are selling crap. It’s the sales pitch that matters, and they have that down pat.

  • nevermeant

    i posted a few foul-mouthed interjections to the driscoll-drivel on that article when it came out. he infuriates me! thanks for pointing this out. more logical non-believers need to speak out against this guy. he’s doing a lot of harm.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    I think the problem — with this advice, as well as pretty much every other aspect of Christian apologetics — is that it’s all based on their own subjective determinations of what is compelling, meaningful, and constitutes “proof” of Christianity. It serves more to reinforce belief among those who are already disposed to believe, and who are (likely) already involved in Christianity, than it would to convince those who don’t already subscribe to their beliefs.

    Take the “evidence for God” thing. Whether such a presentation is based on “intelligent design” or some other premise (aka the less-specific “Prime Mover”), it can only be predicated on the axiom that “evidence for God” exists. Not only is this not the case, it actually contradicts some Christian beliefs, including that belief in God ought to be based on faith and that faith rather clearly implies accepting something without proof (e.g. as defined in Hebrews 11:1).

    The next item, which assumes reading the Bible will “convince” people, is also predicated on the axiom that the scripture is somehow “magical” and influences belief merely by reading it. This axiom is mostly found in people who believe the Bible is literally God’s word, but it can also be present in people who merely find it “inspired.”

    As for showing compassion, this is an effective propaganda technique, no matter what ideas one is selling. It doesn’t even need to be religious belief. That said — as noted in the article — being compassionate does not grant one’s beliefs veracity. That has to be established objectively.

    And “telling people about Jesus,” inevitably leaves unanswered a much bigger, and more subtle, question: “Which Jesus?” There are nearly as many ideas about who Jesus was and what he did, as there are scholars discussing the matter. The foundation of those ideas varies immensely, too, including assumptions that Jesus definitely lived and did certain things; to assumptions that he existed, but that his own words and deeds (whatever they may have been) were later “enhanced” by followers; to assumptions that the figure now known as “Jesus” was a social construct built by a number of movements which may only have had a tiny kernel of truth to them; to assumptions that “Jesus” was a totally-fraudulent construct or “hoax.”

    There are some things about Jesus which are perhaps admirable (e.g. his teaching humility as a spiritual ideal). But what about the total package? When someone says they want to tell me about Jesus, they typically are not going to tell me about the teacher of humility and charity, but about the being who will judge me unworthy of salvation unless I believe he is actually God, arrived on earth in human form, got himself killed for humanity’s sake, and was resurrected. The humility and charity teaching are largely inconsequential next to that.

    The bottom line is that these apologetic tactics generally sound good to those who are already believers, but they don’t necessarily cut it among people who aren’t. And they certainly won’t work among those who’ve already been exposed to these tactics and know them for the propaganda tricks they are.

    • trj

      > “Not only is this not the case [ie. that “evidence for God” exists], it actually contradicts some Christian beliefs, including that belief in God ought to be based on faith and that faith rather clearly implies accepting something without proof…”

      In my experience, no Christians actually subscribe to this dualism. For lack of evidence they may tell you that it’s a matter of faith, but they’ll happily claim that God performs miracles or that he talks to them personally, which ought to prove his existence. Not to mention that according to the Bible God and Jesus used to perform miracles left and right, in plain sight of everybody.

      • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

        You’re absolutely correct that this is a dichotomy that modern Christians effectively do not bother to navigate. The basic axiom they subscribe to is that there IS evidence for God, and they use the insistence on “faith” merely as an excuse for why they can’t or won’t produce that evidence.

        That said, there have been attempts to reconcile these ideas. For example, the credo Certum est, quia impossibile or roughly “It’s certain because it’s impossible.” In other words, there ARE “reasons to believe in Jesus,” but because they’re unbelievable as they stand, no reasonable person would subscribe to them … except if Christianity were true. In a way then, the implication here is that there IS “evidence for God” but that it’s so absurd that, effectively, it does not on its face prove God exists; nevertheless, God must exist, because nothing else explains why people believe.

        (This “credo” actually began with Tertullian, IIRC, and arguably he did not intend it for this purpose. It emerged over time from this concept.)

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

    My feeling is, and correct me if I’m wrong, if you’ve gone through the process of becoming a skeptic, you’ve probably thought through all of those things in great detail (as Daniel briefly explains above). I think Christians naively assume that the reason skeptics are skeptics is because they’ve never “heard the Gospel” (or something like that), but that’s not the case at all.

    • trj

      It’s certainly the case that many evangelists will insist that you should read the Bible and pray to Jesus/God/The Holy Spirit, because this is sure to turn you into a believer (and if it fails you’re simply doing something wrong). They don’t seem to realize that many of us tried those things, and that this is actually the reason why we’re not believers.

    • Roger

      brgulker, you’re absolutely right. I find it amazing that some evangelicals assume that skeptics/atheists who are from and live in the United States would not be atheists/skeptics if only they heard the Gospel. Of course, in my experience, when you let an evangelical of this stripe know that you are, in fact, quite well versed in Protestant Christianity, said evangelical will assume that you’re just an apostate who doesn’t want to live a good life.

      • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

        said evangelical will assume that you’re just an apostate who doesn’t want to live a good life.

        Or worse, you are …. a liberal!

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

    I am SO ashamed of my home state….

  • http://susanthegreat.com Susan

    On their site under what they believes, it says…” man is totally depraved and of himself utterly unable to remedy his lost condition.” They why try? If you are “utterly unable” to affect a remedy, then what is even the point of being saved or giving your life to god?

    • http://redheadedskeptic.com Laura

      They mean that we can’t fix ourselves by ourselves; we need Jesus. Still ridiculous that everyone who has not said a little prayer is “totally depraved”, but that’s what they are trying to say.

  • http://susanthegreat.com Susan

    The Ballard Mars Hill Church is about a mile & 1/2 away from the current position of my butt on my vintage 1970s orange Naugahyde office chair. (Wow. Look at that. Spellcheck capitalizes naugahyde.) Every winter, the fremont arts council, a collections of aging hippies, wannabe artists, political activists, & other misfits organizes a vast & lush winter feast. In the summer we do a parade. There is a definite pagan flavor to the events which are held on THE SOLSTICES, those ancient markers of time which xmas co-opted. And the winter feast tends to have a lot of art like trees with incredible faces & other nature spirit stuff. Every winter we search for a bit, empty bldg to hold the feast. 3 years ago there was huge furor when we rented a warehouse from mars hill. Some said we should NEVER pay them rent money, as ehty’d only use it to strengthen their church, which of course is against gays, trannies, & various other of the kind of people who are inclined to dress in colorful clothing, don a flowered headdress, & romp about in candlelight on the longest night of the year. The other faction said, no, this is great – we’re totally profaning their space – getting pagan cooties everywhere – by having a midnight indoor bonfire around which people will dance wildly after throwing offerings to the spirits of the 4 directions. I really can se both sides of it, but I would rather have not paid them money. If nothing else, you could view their renting the space to us as a very whore-ish thing. They talk god, but are fine with us sacrificing goats in there as long as they get their money. (disclaimer – no goats were harmed in this hyperbole. I’m just making a point on the church’s amorial greediness. )

  • Walker

    i am a chrisitian, but i also think driscoll is a fucking idiot. i do agree with some of what he says, but he’s such a dick when he talks. there’s zero humility in his theology.

    so i have a question for you guys. are you annoyed at what driscoll says, or that he states it as fact and not opinion? if you and i were to have a conversation on intelligent design, but i came at it from the perspective of: “here’s what i believe. here’s why. but i’m totally open to the fact that i may be wrong. what do you believe?” would you have that conversation with me? knowing that at the end of it we’ll probably agree to disagree, is it possible to have a genuine discussion about this stuff that doesn’t end in shouting?

    • seabhag

      Walker, as someone who was raised in the Young Earth Creationist camp and who after studying the evidence for evolution and the age of the universe. I don’t ‘believe’ in evolution, or ‘believe’ that the age of the universe is ~14.5 billion years. I accept the evidence for them. The problem I’ve run into a lot of times with people who want to believe in ID is that they think that ‘truth’ must lay somewhere in between the two camps. The problem is that things like 2+2 =4 aren’t up for debate. 2+2=4. There isn’t another way to look at it without being wrong.

      Something similar happens when debating the creationist (ID) vs. evolution (science) thing. While there is ‘qualified’ debate in the biology community on how large a role natural selection, or genetic drift, etc, play; there isn’t a debate that evolution occurs. But the creationist I’ve encountered who don’t automatically claim evolution is a lie from Satan told through lying scientists who hate God, seem to think that there is *something* to debate. Yet neither they, nor the major proponents of ID, have actually done any experiments or provided any data which could be used *to* debate the two ideas. ID at its core says “Ah well, we don’t understand this right now so God (sorry, The Intelligent Designer) must of done it that way. We can’t figure it out naturally so might as well move on to other things.” It is a distinctly *anti-science* way to look at the world.

    • http://www.dctouristsandlocals.wordpress.com DCtouristsANDlocals

      It is difficult for a science-minded, fact-driven person to debate with someone else who is unaccepting of proven scientific facts (in this case, believing the theory of ID based on faith). Most arguments like this end in sayings like “it’s a mystery” when the creationist can’t refute a point, which is unacceptable to the scientific person. However, if you were open to being proven wrong and would accept that, I think it could be an interesting discussion.

    • cello

      >>if you and i were to have a conversation on intelligent design, but i came at it from the perspective of: “here’s what i believe. here’s why. but i’m totally open to the fact that i may be wrong. what do you believe?” would you have that conversation with me? <<

      I think I could respect the person if they at least noted that there is plenty of evidence supporting the other position and their position is, knowingly, despite that evidence. It's the people who don't recognize the evidence at all with whom conversation would be pointless.

    • http://redheadedskeptic.com Laura

      For me, it is definitely his “I am right, I know the mind of God better than any of you other morons” attitude, his attitude of “me first” and his attitude of “only families that look like mine are righteous.” Very self-righteous, selfish, and arrogant.

      I found that very frequently in the Baptist church, which is why I left it. (Not why I left Christianity completely, though.) Mark is all of those attitudes spoken even more loudly than most other ministers. I still have conversations with Christians and people of other faiths who take the approach of trying to learn from each other. I like having conversations like that. I don’t like conversations where the other person is only trying to convince me of their agenda, without bothering to listen or think about what I have to say. Which is definitely how Mark comes across. :)

    • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

      Re: “so i have a question for you guys. are you annoyed at what driscoll says, or that he states it as fact and not opinion?”

      I’m less “annoyed with what he says,” than I am “that he states it as fact and not opinion” … AND that so many other Christian apologists like him have done so and continue to do so. If there is any annoyance, it’s in this point … the constant repetition of what are, when you get down to it, lies.

      It’s great that Driscoll has certain beliefs. He’s entitled to them, as are all other religious believers in the US. That’s what living in a free country is all about. But the fact is that having beliefs is NOT an entitlement to tell factual lies in defense of those beliefs.

      Unfortunately there’s this unstated axiom that many Americans live by, which says that sincerity of belief trumps veracity of statement. That is, if someone appears to be a genuine believer in what he thinks, it’s OK for him to tell verifiable lies in defense of his beliefs.

      I find it incredibly curious that people like Driscoll — and other ardent Christian apologists (not to mention the apologists for other religions) — have to resort to lying in order to support what they believe. One would think that, if his version of Christianity were true, this would not be required; he’d be able to produce objective and verifiable facts in support of it. But that he can’t, speaks volumes.

      And that we, as a culture, refuse to tell people to stop lying in order to support their beliefs, speaks volumes about our culture as a whole.

  • GeekGirl

    “It’s playing a game of telephone with people who think burning animals make gods happy and demons make people sick”

    Daniel, brilliant line, that cracked me up for the day!

  • http://www.smoochagator.com Emily

    Driscoll’s four step conversion plan is backwards and has three steps too many. I don’t think there’s any way for us to “prove” God’s existence other than loving our neighbor.

    • Custador

      That doesn’t actually prove anything though, does it? I mean, it makes you a pretty good neighbour if you really do that, but it doesn’t prove that God made you do it!

  • Peter N

    Hi Walker,

    Welcome to to the unruly world that is the comments thread on an atheist blog!

    You asked if anyone here would be willing to debate or discuss the merits of Intelligent Design without the conversation collapsing into a shouting match. I’m sure some would, and some wouldn’t.

    Thing is, ID has been around for a very long time — in one form or another, longer than modern science. In the 21st century it has no traction among biologists, but is held to only by people whose true agenda is advancing their religion, and/or by people who don’t know or won’t learn what the natural world truly has to teach us. It has been debunked ad nauseam in many places, most accessibly on popular science blogs like http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula, and many others. The Wikipedia article on Intelligent Design looks like a good place to start.

    ID is simply not science. It explains nothing, and predicts nothing. Following its principles have led to no practical discoveries. It’s politics and stealth evangelism.

    Let me ask you — do you really want to have this conversation? Maybe you are just learning about this controversy, but as I say, it’s been going for a long time. Scientists have heard the pro-ID arguments many times, and have dismantled all of them. Unfortunately for the IDers, science has all the facts and evidence on its side. All ID has is a list of questions that science has not definitively answered, assertions that there even is a debate about the merits of ID vs. natural selection (there isn’t, in scientific circles), and a habit of trying to change the subject when pressed for evidence (like demanding that a biologist justify the “big bang” theory of cosmology, which, of course, is not within the field of biology).

    I’m sure every atheist would commend you for being curious about this divisive issue, and I hope you find the information that will help you come to an informed opinion.

    • Custador

      I for one promise to be patient provided you don’t do what Jeff has been doing on this topic all day, i.e. ignoring every single fact that contradicts his world-view.

      Peter N is right. This is an unruly world we’re in ;-)

  • bilsemon

    I would love to know how long suffering Driscoll’s wife is. I’m betting she’d have stories to tell if they ever decided to split. How do young women fall for this misogynistic bs?

    • http://redheadedskeptic.com Laura

      We were raised in it. We’re taught that a “godly, righteous man” is better than a man who loves us. And a whole lot of other things. I could take all night to explain it. I used to be a Baptist minister’s wife. And I do tell all kinds of stories about it on my blog! Including the how I fell for it. :D

      • Custador

        Linky, please!

        • http://redheadedskeptic.com Laura

          Just click on my name. It’s redheadedskeptic.com

          Sorry, Daniel, I’m not trying to promote myself. :S

          • Custador

            Thanks Laura – didn’t spot the obvious there :)

    • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

      Re: Mark’s wife. They recently did a Q&A with Mark and his wife in front of the church, and it should still be up on their website. It’s regarding gender roles in Christian marriage.

      I know many, many women who believe as she does — it’s her role to be a supportive, submissive wife, and she and others feel very fulfilled in that role.

      I would also say that by all counts thus far, Mark is a very loving husband and father …

  • Kodie

    Did the skeptic ask for anyone to make a case for Jesus for them? Introduce them to Jesus in particular? Raise your hand if you don’t already know about Jesus.

    As for Intelligent Design vs. Evolution – it’s not a matter of opinion. Intelligent design, just like god, is invented by humans. Evolution is observable in a real scientific way that you can read about. Intelligent design amounts to, ‘wow, everything’s so complex, let’s call awe “proof” of a creator.’ It uses a lot of convincing language that is not at all scientific.

    To only see beauty and miracles is to dismiss a world of imperfection and catastrophe. I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but bad things happen too, and if you pray to a good-only god, you are remarkably ignorant over the poverty and strife confronted by millions every single day. If your god made DNA, he also made starvation; if your god made the f’in’ banana (clue: he didn’t; it was bred by humans to appear as we see in the supermarket today), why didn’t he make enough locally grown crops available to all the hungry people in the world, instead of Norman Borlaug going out to solve the world’s problems? God sure made some annoying bugs, like the flea – if the animals are for us, how do fleas serve us, as designed by your creator? When you are getting all dreamy over how industrious the bee is, or how beautiful the butterfly is, don’t forget to be in awe of the flea. They can jump really far, you know, like you want to look at the leap of a big cat whose hind legs like springs? Weak compared to the capabilities of the flea. And what else do they do? They crap flatworm eggs in your dog’s or cat’s fur, and they are really hard to get rid of, the fleas *and* the worms. God made that little nuisance, too, if you believe in that sort of thing. How come ID never seems to address the obvious flaws?

    Intelligent design is so feeble an explanation, it’s not even funny. It is not evidence of a creator, nor proof, nor an explanation of how we came from there to here. Evolution is not an opinion that merely differs from ID. Evolution is not an opinion, period. ID is an opinion, but it’s a fallacy that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, when they are disagreeing with researchable truth. You are saying the sky is cardboard and the grass is Thursday, and that you are entitled to your opinion. That’s how fictional ID is.

  • Walker

    hey guys. seems like there is far less animosity towards me than i anticipated, which is awesome!

    as far as the ID vs. evolution thing, i was just using that as an example. the point i was trying to get across is that i’d like to see more open conversations that didn’t end in arguing. on all of the issues. and i’ll be the first to say that christians very quickly abandon the facts and act like douchebags. and i hate that. i just wish these conversations could be had in a peaceable way.

    to Peter N. do you believe that you can genuinely disprove God? it has always been my stance that there’s no definite proof that he exists, and no definite proof that he doesn’t. its all perspective. for me, its easier to believe that there’s a god than to believe we came from a big bang. for you its the opposite. but i’ve never had anyone scientifically PROVE that god doesn’t exist. its the big band THEORY. just like the existence of god, is a theory. theism makes more sense to me than the big bang. i believe science to be our study of god’s creation. you believe god to be a fairy tale for the non-scientific (i don’t mean to put words in your mouth. correct me if i’m wrong). i don’t think there’s any way to factually disprove either theory.

    –reading this back, it kind of comes of strong. i promise i don’t mean it that way. i am genuinely open to the idea that i’m wrong. and my point in writing all of that is to say that the reason i believe in god is because no one has ever given me any proof that he doesn’t exist. in the same way that i can’t prove that he does. theism just makes more sense for me personally. and i think if we enter these conversations peacefully, knowing that at the end of the day we’ll probably agree to disagree, they can be very healthy.

    thanks
    -walker

    • rA

      …as far as the ID vs. evolution thing…

      ID is creationism. Exactly the same thing. Search-and-replace.

      There is no argument, at least not among scientists. There are no competing theories. (“Magic man done it” is not a theory.) Evolution is a fact.

    • Elemenope

      The word “theory” in science means something very different from what the word “theory” means in normal parlance. The two are in no way equivalent.

    • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

      Re: “for me, its easier to believe that there’s a god than to believe we came from a big bang.”

      If you don’t mind a small suggestion, something to consider is that the Big Bang and human origins are not conflated. They are not the same thing. In fact, there are billions of years, during which a vast and literally innumberable number of events — large, small, and in-between — took place, between the moment the universe started, and when humanity first emerged on this planet. It’s not all one event, even if — from our perspective, looking back on it all — it appears to be that way.

      • vorjack

        It is kind of an odd thing to bring into the debate. There’s nothing necessarily atheistic about the Big Bang. In fact, I remember when the microwave background radiation was discovered there were a lot of articles published about how science and religion were now in agreement; there was a moment of creation.

        After all, the person who first broached the idea of the Big Bang was actually a Catholic priest. When the Steady State proponents were attacking the early Big Bang theory, they accused it of being thinly disguised religion.

        • Elemenope

          When the Steady State proponents were attacking the early Big Bang theory, they accused it of being thinly disguised religion.

          Ironically, back then it was, as a way of smuggling a point of origin or moment of creation back into astrophysics. It was only later that significant evidence piled up in favor of a big bang model over a steady state model.

        • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

          You’re right about it being an odd thing, but for some reason, religionists appear to conflate the Big Bang and human origins. It’s not just here and it’s not just that one commenter … I hear pretty much the same thing all the time. There must be some kind o apologetics machine out there that says something like this, and all their religionist sheep just suck it right up verbatim.

          • Elemenope

            It might have something to do with the fact that in their beliefs, the purpose of the creation of the universe was that there would be a place for humans to be. God created the universe and then a few days later created people to inhabit it, there is no serious temporal gap, the way there is indicated in modern scientific understanding.

    • trj

      The case for Big Bang is extremely well supported. If you want to make a case for a divine Creator you would do better to regard him as the instigator of the Big Bang than as a Creator of a fully formed universe/earth. There’s no evidence of the former, but the evidence is quite clearly against the latter.

    • MaryLynne

      Hi, Walker,

      I’m not Peter, but I’ll take a crack at it.

      You are right – no one can disprove God. However, it turns out that being unable to disprove something does not mean it exists.

      As an example of how not being able to disprove something does not mean it is real:
      Do you believe in Leprecauns? The little green men from Ireland that leave gold? No? Why not? Probably because you have no evidence that they are real. Also, any evidence you have seen can easily be explained in more reasonable way that the existence of Leprecauns.

      Let’s say most people around you believe in Leprecauns. They show you a book abour leprecauns. It was written a long time ago. Does that convince you? No – Anyone can write anything. It proves people have believed in them a long time, but not the existance of them. They say the grass is green because leprecauns paint it at night. Your grass is green – doesn’t that prove it? No – you know about photosynthesis, which is a more likely explanation. Let’s say you find a pile of gold on your lawn in the morning! Leprecauns do that. That proves it, right? Nope – there are other reasonable explanations. Even if you don’t know how it got there, you wouldn’t immediately start believing in leprecauns; you would explore other more likely explanations.

      Even though you cannot definitely prove that not one leprecaun lives somewhere in the hills of Ireland, based on your experience and the fact that any evidence offered doesn’t hold up, you don’t believe in leprecauns.

      So that’s where we stand. We cannot prove there is no God. However, we see no evidence that there is any God. Any evidence offered can be more reasonably and efficiently explained another way. Any explanation that includes God creates so many other problems that it is not reasonable (such as the problem of evil – why would a benevolent omnipotent God create humans that he knew would screw up and then he would have to sacrifice himself to appease himself in order to save them from the hell he was going to throw them into?)

      You say “the reason i believe in god is because no one has ever given me any proof that he doesn’t exist.” If that is really true, you might have a problen if you think about this, because then you might be obligated to believe in unicorns, Ra, Thor, pixies, etc. Can’t disprove any of them. When I was a person of faith the most honest thing I could have said was “I believe because I believe.” Belief isn’t based on evidence or the lack of.

      As a contrast – I don’t believe in evolution. I don’t think it is true independent of any evidence or lack of. We say “believe in evolution”, but that is kind of short hand for “accept evolution as the most reasonable explanation for what we see based on the evidence we have.” If credible, real evidence was presented that contradicted all the evidence for evolution, I would consider it and see how it fit. I would look and see if the new evidence answered questions and made predictions better than evolution.

      As far as the usefulness of these conversations – theoretically, it would be helpful and healthy. For me and I suspect others, it often doesn’t work out that way. Most people of faith are not honestly interested in hearing my viewpoint, they just want to prove me wrong. To be honest, hearing the whole story from a person of faith doesn’t help me at all, because it is very similiar to other Christians’ stories which I have already carefully considered and rejected for lack of evidence. Even in a very friendly conversation, we end up with “God’s ways are mysterious” or “You have to have faith,” which as someone mentioned isn’t that satisfactory for me.

      Anyway, congrats on hanging in there. There is a lot to learn about other viewpoints of faith, God and the Bible if you continue to be open-minded and interested.

    • Bill

      “…and my point in writing all of that is to say that the reason i believe in god is because no one has ever given me any proof that he doesn’t exist.”

      Here’s the thing Walker – that’s a terrible reason to believe in anything. Proving a negative (ie the non-existence of something) with certainty is impossible. That something can always be under the one rock we didn’t look under (and it’s impossible to look under all of them), so the possibility of existence always exists.

      I’m guessing that you don’t use this kind of reasoning in any area of your life other than belief in God though. No one can give you “proof” that nargles don’t exist either. (After all there may be one under the rock we haven’t turned over yet). Do you believe in nargles? Of course not. Because they are fictional beings from a childrens book!

      Moreover, if I said you should believe in nargles because you can’t disprove their existence, you’d tell me that’s crazy, and if I’m going to make claims about the existence of such things I should back it up with evidence. That’s what most atheists do with god.

      We’ve examined the evidence for god’s existence and find it lacking. Further, we think that people who make claims about extrodinary super beings have the burden of showing evidence for such super beings.

      So where is your evidence?

      • http://www.vidlord.com VidLord

        Bill “We’ve examined the evidence for god’s existence and find it lacking. Further, we think that people who make claims about extrodinary super beings have the burden of showing evidence for such super beings.

        So where is your evidence?”

        What about when I was really, really sick – all of my organs shut down, and I prayed to God to help me to live? Within a day all of my organs started to function again, in the hospital (good doctor, advanced drugs etc) and God answered my prayer and saved my life??? What about that huh??? Dumb luck??? I don’t think so buddy boy. It was GOD and Jesus and he operated on me and saved my body. I saw Jesus doing it. That is enough evidence for me sir. Good day to you.

        • Seabhag

          That would be a post hoc ergo prompter hoc fallacy. Or. “Correlation does not equal causation”. Or. Just because something happened after something else. Does not mean it is caused by it. An example would be. I eat an ice cream cone which I rarely do. An hour later while I’m sitting on my front porch like usual I get hit by a drunk driver.. Getting hit by the drunk driver wasn’t caused by the ice cream cone. Now, if I was sitting inside the ice cream place and a drunk driver drove through the wall. . . There ‘would’ be a correlation in that case. (I wouldn’t have been hit had I not been sitting in the ice cream shop. but the ice cream cone didn’t cause the drunk driver to drive through the wall).

        • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

          Re: “Within a day all of my organs started to function again, in the hospital (good doctor, advanced drugs etc) and God answered my prayer and saved my life???”

          So … you admit you were in a hospital, in the care of “good doctors,” were given “advanced drugs,” and more … yet, you give God sole credit for having saved you? You give none to the hospital, doctors, or the drugs? They somehow did nothing for you at all?

          Re: “That is enough evidence for me sir.”

          Given the combative way in which you told your story, I’m sure it is. You show every sign of having made up your mind and do not appear to want to hear anything else. However, as I just pointed out — and as you admitted, yourself — there were more hands in your recovery than those of God and Jesus. You might think about giving a little credit to the rest of the folks who helped you when you needed it … and be grateful enough for it, to acknowledge their role. Instead, you make it look as though they were mere bystanders, while God and Jesus did all the work.

        • Bill

          “What about when I was really, really sick – all of my organs shut down, and I prayed to God to help me to live? Within a day all of my organs started to function again, in the hospital (good doctor, advanced drugs etc) and God answered my prayer and saved my life??? What about that huh??? Dumb luck??? I don’t think so buddy boy. It was GOD and Jesus and he operated on me and saved my body. I saw Jesus doing it. That is enough evidence for me sir. Good day to you.”

          This isn’t evidence for the existence of god. At best it’s evidence that you don’t know what caused your recovery.

          Also, I assume by your reference to jesus that you are a christian. (Either that or you just started randomly praying to supernatural figures out of desperation.) If that’s true, why were you praying to be saved at all? Shouldn’t you have gladly headed on to the next life? Eternal happiness with jesus in heaven and all that stuff?

          • Peter N

            My own take on it was, VidLord trusted Jesus to heal him. So what’s with the doctors and medications? Hedging his bets? A fall-back, in case Jesus didn’t come through for him? Is his faith weak, then? Isn’t that blasphemy?

    • Peter N

      First of all, to all UF readers, this message is going to get really long. I’ve been collecting my thoughts about faith and atheism for a while, and I’m thinking of starting a public access TV show on the topic, so Walker’s questions are a great opportunity for me to trot out my favorite arguments against faith, and check myself for snarkiness. So bear with me, steal any ideas you like (I stole most of them first), and skip the whole thing if you have better things to do!

      And I see that in the time I was writing this, several other UF commenters weighed in, often with the same points I was making, and expressed quite well.

      Hi again Walker,

      Again, I congratulate you on your tone of genuine intellectual humility, which I think is the best way to gain new knowledge.

      You touched on a lot of different areas, so if you don’t mind, I’ll pick your message apart piece by piece, and that way try not to miss anything.

      as far as the ID vs. evolution thing, i was just using that as an example. the point i was trying to get across is that i’d like to see more open conversations that didn’t end in arguing.

      That’s fine, and it’s actually a rather good example to use for how to apply logic and the scientific method, vs. statements of faith, to the study of the real world and real-world evidence. All the differences between faith and science can be studied this way.

      to Peter N. do you believe that you can genuinely disprove God? it has always been my stance that there’s no definite proof that he exists, and no definite proof that he doesn’t. its all perspective.

      In the first place, we must agree that it is never necessary to prove something does NOT exist. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim. Let’s make up a less cosmic example: I’m going to I say I sailed solo across the Pacific Ocean when I was 14. Go ahead, can you prove I didn’t? If you checked the newspapers for 1969 you wouldn’t find a word about it, but that doesn’t prove it COULDN’T have happened. I could claim almost anything, and unless it was logically impossible, like “the square root of zero is one million”, or “I live in a three-sided rectangle” (unless you changed the definitions of “three”, “side”, and “rectangle”), would you have to accept it until you could disprove it? (You: “these drugs just poofed into existence in my pocket because of quantum uncertainty.” Cop: “Okay, I guess I can’t disprove it — you’re free to go.”).

      I say again, the burden of proof is always on the one making an affirmative claim. It could be that the claim is so obvious (“the Earth is round”) that you feel shouldn’t HAVE to prove it, but those are the rules (and in fact, you could easily prove the Earth is round). Maybe it seems as self-evident to you that God exists as that the Earth is round (although in past ages the round Earth idea would have gotten you in a lot of trouble!). It is not obvious to me.

      But in fact, the proposition that God exists is a lot shakier than you think. Let me ask you: WHICH god do you mean? My ancestors had no concept of Yaweh of the Old Testament — they unquestioningly believed in Celtic and Germanic gods, I suppose. In fact, they probably had just as much reason to believe in Thor or whatever as the ancient Israelites had to believe in Yaweh — there were storms and plagues and invaders from foreign lands and good crops and bad crops, and if they prayed and sacrificed, sometimes they got the results they wanted. The people who used to live where I live presumeably believed in spirits of the trees and waters and their dead ancestors — but they had no more justification for their beliefs than the ancient Israelites had. Without some pretty good evidence, I don’t believe in ANY of those gods.

      Perhaps you will point out that the Israelites had prophets and divine manifestations — well, perhaps they did, but probably other ancient peoples had prophets also. What REALLY set them apart was that they had writing, and their stories were passed all the way down to us, more or less intact. To say that more accurately, the versions that were being told after centuries of trading stories around campfires, and picking up influences from other cultures in the region, those stories got written down. Something to consider is that the people doing the writing were the high priests at the temple of Jerusalem, and there’s some fascinating archaeology that strongly suggests that the belief in one, male, supreme god was by no means universal among their people (I recommend books by Biblical archaeologist William Dever on this subject).

      So by asking “[can you] genuinely disprove God?”, I would say, no, I can’t, but I don’t think I have to do so to make my case, and by the way I can cast some pretty good doubt on Yahweh of the Old Testament. How would you go about PROVING God?

      for me, its easier to believe that there’s a god than to believe we came from a big bang.

      Well, it may be that it’s easier for you to believe it, but you’re leaving out a lot of details and foundations to your to your belief. On what basis do you say “god” and not multiple gods? Why couldn’t it be our own descendants, who billions of years in the future will reach back in time and create the universe that ultimately will give rise to themselves? What if everything we think we perceive about the universe is an elaborate simulation inside a vast computer? My answer to all those questions is, “Each of those theories is consistent with my observations, but I have no reason to believe any one of them.” However, since the Enlightenment and the scientific method, we have replaced supernatural explanations with natural, scientific ones EVERY SINGLE TIME, and replaced natural explanations with supernatural ones NEVER. It’s easier for ME to believe that scientific cosmology will some day reveal the origin of the universe, than the high priests of Jerusalem somehow figured it out.

      you believe god to be a fairy tale for the non-scientific (i don’t mean to put words in your mouth. correct me if i’m wrong) That’s pretty much what I believe, although there are a lot of religious scientists, just to be fair.

      One more point — here’s something atheists don’t say enough: those people in the Bronze Age, they did all right. They were trying to make sense of the harsh world they inhabited, and with none of the tools of science (I don’t mean electron microscopes and petri dishes, I mean widespread literacy, controlled trials, publication and peer review, and freedom from dogma). They gave it their best effort. They were wrong about pretty much EVERYTHING, but at least they TRIED. Now today, we know so, so much better! We have the reliable, proven tools of science which so obviously work, and have changed our lives to an astounding degree. This is not a matter of opinion or “world view” — it’s undeniable that science WORKS (vaccines, anyone, or casting out demons?).

      What galls us atheists is that in the face of the mountain of evidence for naturalism, against the claims of faith, there are people (and I mean, millions of Americans who vote!) who fervently believe in stuff like the six-day Creation, Noah’s Ark, the resurrection of Jesus, etc. etc., with no more evidence than a very dubious book (a subject for another rant!) and the feeling of comfort it gives them.

      The old-timers of the Bible, at least they were doing the best they could to try to understand and control the natural world. The best we can do today is vastly better than what are today’s Biblical literalists are doing.

      Keep up the inquiry, Walker, and I have enjoyed sharpening my claws on your arguments and questions.

    • Daniel

      Walker,

      This doesn’t necessarily pertain directly to any of the topics on hand (so I’ll keep it brief), but it does have to do with your current perspective of having no strong evidence in either direction, just a vague sense of which feels more right.

      Many of us here were drawn to this blog because of our similar paths–basically, from your position of curiosity and honest inquisition to an understanding and appreciation of facts based on the physical reality around us (facts which don’t definitively disprove god–see above re: “burden of proof”– but rather give us more credible explanations for “phenomena” often ascribed to god).

      I’m sure while similar, our paths were not exactly in line, but the last step in mine was gaining a little more perspective into the psychology and sociology of religion, seeing how the every day actions, emotions, and beliefs of Christians around me were based more on internal motivations and instinctive pattern-seeking (rain after a rain dance, the Virgin Mary in a tortilla chip, miraculous faith healings, finding a prime parking spot while praying).

  • claidheamh mor

    But in spite of a hipper veneer, he’s still one of them.

    That he is!

    Notice that everything Driscoll has said so far could apply equally to any religion or cult. These are common methods of converting someone to a cult — convince them of your deity, teach them about your holy book, and be nice to them..

    Cult Studies expert Steven Hassan has a BITE method of assessing cults

  • Pingback: Mark Driscoll: Avatar is a “demonic, satanic film” | Unreasonable Faith

  • Greg Thompson

    People like Daniel Florien are so cute. They just lie and hope you don’t notice it.

    “The earliest source talking about the life of Jesus is an anonymous
    gospel written around 70AD — generations after Jesus had died. I
    repeat, that’s the earliest source.”

    How are we supposed to listen to a blogger who outright lies? Paul’s earliest writings occurred in the early 50s. Not to mention, this is quite an early record in regards to ancient history. The first records of Alexander the Great are 300+ years after his death. Also, you’ve got 11 sources outside the Bible writing that Jesus claimed to be resurrected and at least got everyone to believe him. If you’re historically responsible, you have to believe that either a) Jesus was exactly who he said he was or b) he got everyone to believe he was exactly who he said he was. He’s either the Son of God, or the greatest con man in history.

    • Troutbane

      Um, Paul didnt meet Jesus in life. Thats actually in the Bible. he claimed to meet Jesus after Jesus was said to have risen from the dead. This means Paul, BY HIS OWN ADMISSION, cannot be used as a first hand source of Jesus while he was alive.
      Also, all your non-Biblical sources (I am assuming since you didnt actually link or discuss which ones they are) are not actually first hand accounts. They are either a) writings by religious leaders who automatically have a bias, b) discussions after the fact about people calling themselves Christisn and what they believe, or c) people not actually talking about Jesus.
      Yes, there are no reliable first hand accounts of Jesus’s life. They just don’t exist, no matter how much you want them to be.

      For a breakdown:
      http://www.patheos.com/forums/unreasonablefaith/topic.php?id=1685&page=3#post-35016

      • Nox

        Also, Paul doesn’t really say anything about the life of Jesus.

        Note that the statement you are trying to call a lie is not “first source mentioning Jesus” but “first source talking about the life of Jesus” which Paul doesn’t do. His letters are more concerned with what christians are supposed to do than who Jesus was.

        And as Troutbane mentioned, Paul was not a witness to the life of Jesus. According to Acts 9, his knowledge of Jesus came from a dream he had after Jesus was no longer on Earth. This man who reports very little of Jesus did not see the things he did report. So anything he wrote is either made up or hearsay.

        The earliest source mentioning Jesus at all would appear to be Paul’s epistle to the Galatians which was probably written around 54-55 AD. So the earliest source for Jesus’ existence was a letter from a man who never met Jesus that was written two decades after the estimated date of the crucifixion and mentions nothing about Jesus’ life beyond dying and rising (and even this is mentioned in terms which do not clearly portray this dying and rising as happening on Earth).

        The earliest known source which actually talks about the life of Jesus is even later than this, nearly as vague and riddled with elements of earlier myths. This document which never identifies its author is now known as The Gospel of Mark. The name was assigned to this formerly anonymous gospel by priestly decree, and it was declared to have been written by Marcus, the nephew of Barnabas, an early christian converted by Paul who Acts claims also never met Jesus. If it were written by this man (it wasn’t) who appears absolutely nowhere in any of the four canonical gospels, that would mean the first source talking about the life of Jesus was written by someone who got all of their information about Jesus from Paul, who in turn got all his information about Jesus from a dream.

        And this earliest source on the life of Jesus presents a very sparse biography. Most of the details of what christians now know as the gospel story come from even later sources.

        So the date isn’t even the whole problem, but yeah Mark was written in 70 AD or very shortly after. Which is around 40 years after the estimated date of Jesus’ death.

        So the statement “The earliest source talking about the life of Jesus is an anonymous gospel written around 70AD” is much truer than you gave it credit for.

        • Greg Thompson

          The author said, “What evidence is there for his miracles and resurrection?” So I pointed out that Paul, writing in the early 50s, confirms this in his letters (which he at least wrote 7). This can be traced back to within a couple years of Jesus’s death. Also, Paul was in contact with Peter and the other eyewitnesses, who would be Paul’s source on the life of Jesus. Paul also tells the readers of Corinthians to go talk to the people to whom Jesus appeared.

          You clearly take the latest possible dates in all of these sources from the most liberal of scholars, such as the dates of some of Paul’s letters. Just know that this is not a consensus, but it is certainly possible.

          Troutbane mentioned that these late church fathers were biased and therefore unreliable. Well, so are these secular scholars with these late dates, who need to have their worldview confirmed. And Josephus had a Jewish bias, and Tacitus had a Roman bias, etc etc. However, I don’t have a problem with this, as we all have biases. We must do our best to muddle through these and think critically.

          One last remark on the original post: the author attacks the fundamentalist view of the flood (which I can’t blame him, given how often we hear them these days) of the flood. Just know, reader of this post, that this is not the Biblical view of the flood. The Hebrew in the original text points to not a worldwide flood, but a regional flood, which is consistent with geological findings. Also, the contradictions the author listed aren’t really contradictions if one has an 8th grade level of interpreting literature.

          Good luck to both of you, Nox and Troutbane. I noticed that both of you know your stuff in the post that Troutbane linked. Keep at it.

          • Troutbane

            At best, Tacitus (born 56 AD) mentions that there was a group of people
            called Christians that existed. Pliny the Younger (born 61 AD) mentions
            that Christians believe in Christ. By the same logic, the mere mention of
            Hindus means Ganesh is real. Josephus
            (born 37 AD) is not considered an authentic source, and, even if he was so, he
            neither gives proof of miracles nor is he capable of relating a firsthand
            account of the resurrection. For shits
            and giggles, I’ll accept that some charismatic prophet named Jesus was executed
            by Romans in ~34 AD. But just because he
            existed doesn’t mean he rose from the dead and all that jazz.

            There are no reliable contemporary
            sources on Jesus’ life and the first person to write a “first hand”
            account didn’t do so until 70 AD. There is no con job, there are
            literally no non-religious sources that discuss the weird magic happenings that
            were supposed to have occurred at that time.
            Nobody else references that some Jewish guy wandered by and magicked up
            some healing other then the stories that passed orally by religious followers from
            one generation to the next. If you cannot
            understand why these stories are unreliable, then there is no point in this
            discussion. Even worse, the stories themselves
            contradict in quite obvious ways, but all this is brushed under the rug of apologetics.

            I’ll allow you to accept that the religious sources are valid when you can
            accept that all other religions around the world can use their religious
            writings as valid accounts of the miracles of Buddha, Muhammad, or Zoroaster. I’m gonna guess you won’t accept those even
            while expecting the rest of us to accept the writings of ancient Christians as
            proof of miracle. This is a logical
            fallacy called “special pleading”.

            I see you are no fan of academia, but you are incorrect in the reliability of
            historical information. Modern
            historians require multiple sources and weigh the information they do have on
            the potential for bias.

            So please, cite the non religious sources that reference Jesus’ miracles. You still have not done that. And the reason is they don’t exist. So thus we have what are in essence fables
            told about the founder of a religious cult that are retold generation after another
            and at some point, any changes that make is sound ”cool” are kept and labeled
            as “Truth”. It doesn’t make them
            true. It makes them stories.

          • Jesse Cooper

            In addition to what Troutbane says below, I’d like to add that even if Josephus is accepted as a reliable source, he mentions neither the resurrection nor that the disciples believed in the resurrection. So you have historical evidence for the death if you allow for Josephus, but not of the resurrection, and without the resurrection the death means nothing. The Romans crucified thousands of people; this Jew from Nazareth was no different than any of the others. So says history. The only reason to think otherwise is letting a collection of myths from two thousand years ago dictate your thinking, And if that’s the case, why are Jewish myths any more reliable or trustworthy than, say, Norse myths, or Islamic, or Native American?

      • Greg Thompson

        Never said Paul met him. I was just responding to the author of this post who said that the first account about the life of Jesus. So yes, if he meant the interactions of Jesus in early Palestine, Mark is the first source. But right before my quote, he said, “What evidence is there for his miracles and resurrection?” That would be Paul, in the early 50s, who mentions the oral creed which Bart Ehrman traces back to within a year or two of Jesus’s death.

        My non-biblical sources I was referring to were the non-Christian sources such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, etc.

        Also, you assume just because have biases that they are therefore not reliable. Not true. Everyone has biases, and if you used the same criteria for all of history, you could believe almost nothing.


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