Response to the Third Deadly Question

Miraculously, I still stand.  Onward and upward to the third of the four questions atheists will not address.

Atheists and religious nut-cases read the Bible with extremely similar hermeneutics.. please explain. (ex: applying Israelite law code that to a non-Jew/Gentile follower of Jesus while totally disregarding Christ’s exposition of Old Testament law. OR taking a parable of Jesus way out of context to say we should kill people who disagree with us. Most atheists I’ve experienced handle the Bible in a more pick-and-choose way than almost any Christian I know who has studied his/her Bible.. and I agree that most claimed Christian don’t study their Bible. It seems disingenuous to tell people to not pick and choose from their religious text, but then to read the Bible in such a way that ignores any explanations to difficult texts, and they are difficult).

This is something atheists never tackle?  Really?  For the love of Loki on a raft, learn to google.

For the record, polling indicates that atheists on the whole know more about the various religions, like Christianity, than the adherents themselves.  So don’t try and paint atheists as the ignorant ones here.

And this is a fairly lofty expectation of you!  Not only must atheists read the bible in full (something most believers have not done) while taking the words on the page at their definitions, we must dedicate ourselves at least in some small way to the study of the various explanations for why the book seems psychotic in a lot of places.  Have you studied all the rationalizations for why the Koran seems to be a barbaric text representative of a time when we were ignorant of almost everything we currently know (not unlike the bible)?  If not, how could you expect this of us?  Just how much of our time should we be honestly expected to put into the book before we can say, “Kill people on a Saturday?  That’s a fucked up idea” and close the thing forever?  Surely god would realize that this would turn off most people with a functional cortex (after all, he made us that way) and chosen another, more effective way to go about it. 

Anyway, I do not believe atheists are confused about the bible, but even if I conceded that point you surely cannot blame us.  According to the World Christian Encyclopedia there are over 34,000 branches of Christianity all claiming to have made the correct inferences from scripture (so much for god not being the author of confusion, eh?).  You are asking me to believe that you have succeeded where virtually every other theologian throughout history has failed.  I don’t buy that.

Now you could try and blame all the Christians for slouching in their study and not applying the requisite amount of care to read god’s well-communicated message.  However, this makes absolutely no sense when you have a basis for comparison.  Compare the widespread confusion amongst people taking the bible seriously to any legitimate academic discipline like astronomy.  There are not various branches of astronomers, there are only astronomers.  The conclusions held in the field of astronomy are so undeniably supported by the evidence and are conveyed with such crystal clear composition that it could not be any other way.  And this is based solely on the communicative efforts of mortals.  Is it so wrong to expect god to be a better communicator than humans?  Even if I admitted that we didn’t get the bible right (or that you were for some reason the arbiter of whether or not we got it right), how can you blame us and not god?

You said it yourself: “It takes a lot of work to properly exegete a text.”  First, even the theological experts cannot agree on what many texts ‘properly’ mean, so I don’t give you any credit when you say you’ve properly managed it.  And that’s just the point: why is it hard?  If god wants to communicate his message without error, then the difficulty makes no sense (nor do all the errors).  If god wanted us to understand, why not make it easy?  You’re shooting yourself in the foot here.

For example, consider Mark 7 where Jesus clearly says that people should not wash their hands before eating.  Jesus clearly had no understanding of germ theory.  You may argue that Jesus meant something different than what he said, but by doing so you’ve made my point for me.  If Jesus really wanted people to wash their hands before they ate, surly he could see where the confusion would arise saying the opposite.  For instance, if I wanted an omelet for breakfast, I don’t tell the cook, “Hey, would you mind killing the next person who asks for salt?”

Perhaps Jesus could have said, “Ok look, there are little living things on you, so tiny you cannot see them.  Those, not demon possession, are what make you sick.  You can make sure you’re sick less often by washing your hands before you eat.”  Boom!  I just conveyed the idea in a more effective way than god.  If god exists and wants to communicate, my ability to do this makes zero sense.

So in the end, my response to this question is that it is unlikely that the bible communicates clearly and that we’re all just failing to read English, as you seem to imply.  I think it’s more likely that the bible is a muddled, poorly written book full of blatant contradictions and tall tales of physical impossibilities, and that thousands of sects of Christians have constructed their own elaborate (or simple) rationalizations for this in order to pass the thing off as consistent (because otherwise, god would be a huge moron at best).  If god wanted any sane person to take the bible and its claims seriously, he should have written the thing at least as well as scientists write their literature, or with half the eloquence of  J.K. Rowling.  Don’t ask me to accept that god means something other than what he says, or that the English words in the bible mean something different than their usual definitions, and don’t ask how I’d rationalize the contradictions in the damn thing. I think it’s a useless pile of ignorance and that the most productive use of it in that breadth of human history is as a paper weight.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Finney

    Er. Jesus didn’t teach not to wash your hands. Read it again. He criticized the Pharisees for taking their traditions and rituals as sacred and judging people who didn’t did what they did, when spiritually or morally they were really no better than anyone else. To which Jesus said, quoting Isaiah “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”

    A fundamentalist who knows no better would read Mark 7 the same way you did, and your own interpretation kind of proves the guy’s point. The question implies that atheists tend to read like biblical literalists. If the atheists I’ve met are representative, his point is spot-on.

    • Volizden

      Your the one that needs to re-read it, the fact that christ was criticizing their traditions aside, he basically said “so what if they dont wash their hands”.

      Also, if jesus was god, as christians proclaim, he would have said your right they need to clean them to stop the spread of disease, being as he would know about germs and how they spread, you know all knowing and such.

      • Finney

        There is nothing in the passage “aside” from the fact that Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees’ ritualistic belief that washing one’s hands prevents them from being morally and socially unclean. Jesus’ goal there is to show them that there’s more to right and wrong than external forms, and that your heart is what matters.

    • Dan L.

      A fundamentalist who knows no better would read Mark 7 the same way you did, and your own interpretation kind of proves the guy’s point. The question implies that atheists tend to read like biblical literalists. If the atheists I’ve met are representative, his point is spot-on.

      Why should we care? The Bible is for people who believe in God. I’m pretty sure that not reading all your deity’s fanfiction is the sane thing for people who don’t believe in him…oops, I mean Him. Why the heck is this even perceived as a criticism?

      It’s like a Brit getting in an American’s face over a game of cricket. “You don’t even know the ruuuuuules man.” That’s right: don’t know, don’t care, and it doesn’t matter.

      Why doesn’t it matter? Because 90% of Christians (conservatively) are even worse at it than we are. I don’t need to know the Bible to criticize mainstream religious belief because the Bible itself isn’t part of mainstream religious belief except as a symbol of hidden, special knowledge.

      • Finney

        It matters because you’re talking about it.

    • Aliasalpha

      Well I’m hardly an expert in the subject but it seems to me that atheists HAVE to counter the literal word of the bible because thats what it says in the book. All the individual apologetics are doing is trying to cover up the problems in the book and if you try to address those on an individual level, you’ll be rapidly drowned in a vat of fallacies, special pleading and outright lies.

      The bible is fundamental to every denomination of christianity and is also their greatest weak point, it makes tactical sense to attack it there since without that foundation, they have nothing left to base their lies on

  • Ubi Dubium

    #3, here we go:

    Again, false premise. You have not established that “Atheists and religious nut-cases read the Bible with extremely similar hermeneutics”.

    However, that being said, I’ll try to tackle this anyway. When we are discussing the bible with a “religious nut-case” who thinks that every word must be taken literally, we challenge them on that point. Since some parts of the bible directly contradict other parts of the bible, it is not possible to obey every directive it gives. So given their literal belief, how do they justify their inevitable cherry-picking?

    When talking to someone who does not take the bible literally, we challenge them in a different way. If some parts of the bible may be taken as metaphor, then they have resolved the “contradictions” problem, but created a new problem. How do they know which parts of their book are metaphor and which ones are to be believed as written? What standard do they use for telling which is which? How do they know that the whole thing is not just a metaphor?

    And I’m with JT: if he text is difficult, then god’s pretty lousy at communicating.

    • Finney

      “…but created a new problem. How do they know which parts of their book are metaphor and which ones are to be believed as written?”

      We could distinguish by use of literary genres and the elements that compose them. Like, for example, by noting where the use of motifs, stark contrasts (light-dark), and parallelisms figure dominantly in the text, etc.

      • Makoto

        @3.1 Finney – So, one needs to be a literary scholar to understand which parts of the Bible (Torah, Koran, etc, etc) are literal vs metaphor? If it is the word of god/God/gods, wouldn’t it have been easier to mark each section as “This is really what happened” vs “Hey, here’s a story to teach you something”, rather than hoping people can figure it out?

        Take Genesis, specifically creation. Is it metaphor, or story? A large number of people argue over this one, so apparently it isn’t clear. Why can’t they distinguish what it’s supposed to be using motifs, style, and such?

      • Ubi Dubium

        So our correct understanding of god’s eternal perfect book is dependent on how well we paid attention in literature class? If the eternal creator of the universe wanted me to know something in his book was a metaphor, I’d expect it to say “Hey this is a metaphor!”

        • Finney

          Perfect comprehension of God’s word will always be beyond reach of us finite things. But perfect comprehension of scripture isn’t its point. Scripture’s purpose is not primarily to give us facts but to prod us to action – to rebuke, to train, to correct in matters of spiritual growth. There must be a historical core to the Gospel stories and the O.T. history, but only so far as it aids in those functions that the Bible serves.

          • Ubi Dubium

            So nobody has or can have perfect comprehension, and as a result, we have thousands of different sects of christianity, each claiming that they know “god’s will” and each claiming that it’s something different. And each sect is endorsing different beliefs and different actions.

            For a supreme being, this is just incompetent.

      • Stacy Kennedy

        We could distinguish by use of literary genres and the elements that compose them. Like, for example, by noting where the use of motifs, stark contrasts (light-dark), and parallelisms figure dominantly in the text, etc

        Sure, OK. But I’d go further: to really understand as best we can what Biblical authors were trying to say we need textual and historical criticism. To figure out which of numerous different surviving early manuscript versions of a given verse is the “original”, we need textual criticism. To know whether those parts of the Bible which are presented as history (say, the accounts of the conquest of Canaan) really are historical, we need external evidence: historical context, archaeological evidence, comparison of the Bible’s accounts with surviving records from other nations, etc. Likewise, to understand why, for example, John’s gospel stresses the divinity of Jesus it helps to know the theological infighting that went on amongst various factions within early Christianity.

        To get a clue about the different, often contradictory strands that were at some point redacted together in various books of the Bible (which helps a lot in making sense of them), the Documentary Hypothesis (OT) and Document Hypothesis (NT) are helpful.

        If you don’t want to read like a Biblical literalist, well and good. But reading a bunch of ancient books (the Bible is not one book) in translation and trying to figure out what was said, what was meant, how it was understood at the time it was written, etc., is pretty damn difficult.

        There are atheists as well as believers doing this work, and plenty of atheist laypeople, like me, who enjoy learning about it.

        It’s all quite complicated, and few people, theist or atheist, are motivated to pursue it in much depth. Bottom line, though: the Bible’s a bunch of ancient books, and it looks nothing at all like the “Word of God”.

        • Finney

          “John’s gospel stresses the divinity of Jesus it helps to know the theological infighting that went on amongst various factions within early Christianity.”

          We’ll both probably take very different view points on most of this (esp. the D.H.), but what ultimately determines our conclusion is what we think “Word of God” means. And that’s a definition/semantics we’re bringing to our reading of the test, not really from the reading.

          • quantheory

            Does that bother you? Some of these questions seem like they should have objective answers. Do you look for an objective method for finding them?

          • Stacy Kennedy

            what ultimately determines our conclusion is what we think “Word of God” means.

            Who is “our”? Conclusion about what? John’s theology? Surely the point should be to read to figure out what he was saying, not what you’d like him to have said. Often when reading translations of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of 2000 year old manuscripts, it isn’t possible to reach conclusions. Hypotheses and theories are more appropriate.

            Sheer disagreement about meanings happened a lot back then, when the gospels were being composed. And copyists often changed bits that clearly disagreed with whatever theology or bit of “history” they were promoting.

            Meanings certainly didn’t get any clearer over the ensuing centuries. As JT pointed out in the OT:

            According to the World Christian Encyclopedia there are over 34,000 branches of Christianity all claiming to have made the correct inferences from scripture (so much for god not being the author of confusion, eh?)….

            In fact, most Christian readings of the Bible are not rational, but rather rationalizations.

  • Cwayne

    In my opinion, there is no need to read a book that is supposedly written by folks that hung out with god’s son.
    Sorry. There are no gods, and there is better information elsewhere.

  • Cwayne

    Ubi Dubium reminds me of another true point. Commands from a ‘creator’ should not be so contradictory or so damn confusing, and badly communicated. I think telling 6 billion+ people how to behave is a pretty important thing to leave up to the imagination and the interpretation of a few.

  • Art Vandelay

    It’s so true. Even if I took a direct command from God to take any man who shares a bed with another man, throw them in a hole, and bludgeon them to death with rocks as a metaphor…isn’t it still a metaphor for hating the gay? How can anyone in their right mind interpret that to mean “love everyone equally?”

  • GenghisFaun

    Hello all religious people: This falls under what PZ Myers calls The Courtier’s Reply. Please read it and bugger off. Thanks in advance.

  • quantheory

    There’s a serious problem with this question. Firstly, about half of the atheists in the U.S. (depending on which surveys you believe) used to be believers. For all those people, their first exposure to the Bible (or other text) was likely a positive one. Certainly, in my case, I read the Bible a great deal before deconverting, and in retrospect I was way too easy on the text.

    There were three things that I noted about the Bible that I have never seen adequately addressed by any Christian (not that I haven’t seen several try and fail):

    1) The Bible clearly describes the worldview of a group of people who were not only pre-scientific, but who believed totally wrong things about their universe. Even if we accept that, e.g., the story of the Garden of Eden is supposed to be a parable (or metaphor, or whatever), nonetheless people believed in these stories as literal truth for thousands of years, and God put no apparent, serious effort into correcting that, or clearing up that misconception.

    At worst, God is a liar, either because scripture, according to the most straightforward literal interpretation that he must have known people would use, is false, or because the stories are literally true and he’s been fooling scientists with fake dinosaur bones and fake starlight. At best he humored the Israelites by playing along with the confused and simplified view of the world they already held, like someone who tells their child that babies are brought by the stork, or a Mall Santa. It would be bizarre and disrespectful for a deity to condescend to adult human beings, who, it turns out, can understand where humanity really came from just fine.

    Or we can note that maybe these stories were simply invented (and/or borrowed) by the Israelites, in which case there is no mystery here at all.

    2) There is nothing in the Bible that describes any kind of rational evidence or method for non-Christians to discover the truth of Christianity. There are the bits about True Christian prophets working miracles, which are plainly false. There’s also the bit about not testing God, which not only contradicts some of his supposed actions in the OT, but also is a transparent evasion. Imagine the teenager trying to get into a bar: “I don’t have to show you proof that I’m over 21, and it’s rude for you to even question me like that!”

    There are the prophecies, which are either self-fulfilling, or so vague they could mean any of a hundred things, or too obvious to be more convincing than educated guesses, or backdated “predictions” that were actually written after the events they describe and thus transparent fakes, or outright false statements.

    There are the scientific statements, which as I mentioned earlier are usually false and comport with what everyone “knew” back in that day.

    And there are the bits about personal experience, which are a) not available to everyone, b) not really verifiable, and c) found in every religion. I used to pray every day to God to set me on the right path, to guide and protect me. I was a sincere believer, with very little doubt. I interpreted fortuitous things that happened to me as God looking out for me. I was seriously considering going into the clergy, becoming some kind of missionary… and yet experienced no clear sign of God during my deconversion.

    If I was more self-centered, I would think that there was a God but he was somehow mad at me, or trying to teach me a lesson. But let’s be honest here. The straightforward, obvious explanation is that I was simply wrong at the outset, and that there was no God. Because there are so many different incompatible religious beliefs in the world, most people must follow the wrong religion. It is a logical necessity. So statistically speaking, most people’s religious beliefs are false. I just happened to be one of those, following the false beliefs of Christianity. It doesn’t take a deep and convoluted exegesis to figure that out.

    In fact, most Christian readings of the Bible are not rational, but rather rationalizations. In my experience, the more complex and sophisticated an interpretation of the Bible is, the more it diverges from the plain meaning that the text actually has conveyed to the vast majority of believers throughout its history, and the more it tends to rely on just making shit up that sounds good.

    A plain reading of the Bible suggests that it is not full of a bunch of mystical hidden meaning that’s way better than the clear meaning of the words. The people who try to explain away ridiculous passages by invoking the “metaphorical” nature of, say, the story of Noah, are not honest truth-seekers. Rather, they are searching for a way to preserve belief, even if that means insulating themselves from the reality of what their own books say. That’s why people say that religion and science are compatible. It’s not that Genesis and reality are compatible. It’s that people are so desperate to have both, that they will accept any complicated, far-fetched explanation of Genesis as long as it confirms their beliefs, rather than forcing them to reconsider those beliefs.

    I don’t mean to say that those people are being intentionally dishonest, though. Those explanations sounded good, even perfectly reasonable, to me, too, when all I wanted was “an explanation” of how the Bible could be right, rather than a sound basis for believing that such an explanation was not just speculative wishful thinking. When I started looking for the latter, apologists had nothing. Most of them couldn’t even acknowledge the seriousness of the question.

    3) All those terrible rules in the Old Testament. Let’s ignore the question of how Jesus may have modified them, or their interpretation, or execution, or whatever.

    Let’s look at just the Torah, as applied only to the Jews, only in the time and place where the events described were set. God still commanded (and directly performed) genocide, and the death penalty for unruly children, woman having extramarital sex, and male homosexuals. And all of the several thousand other things that atheists object to there. Even in that setting, I find it utterly repulsive for someone to say that God was in the right because, hey, he’s God, and so he’s always right just because.

    Clearly the morality espoused in the Bible is nothing like what I, or anyone I respect, actually thinks is moral. Nor does it make the least bit of sense. Why does God actually care that much about sex, for example? If I had somehow invented and been given control of an entire race of beings, even stupid and imperfect little me, I would have the good sense to give them useful information and guidelines, not random exhortations to kill people with the wrong mating habits for no reason. (Or as an overreaction to other people’s behavior, or just for symbolic reasons, or to trivially reduce STD risk, or for any of the half-assed other excuses that apologists have given.) It’s not only cruel, it’s an incompetent approach to morality.

    This is before we even get to the problem of hell in the New Testament. The fate of your immortal soul hinges on your being sufficiently gullible, self-effacing, and obedient? That’s a system only a psychopath could invent. Or a demon.

    I can’t respect that sort of God, or even consider an omniscient, omnipotent being with such an absurd personality remotely plausible. So how can I respect any theological system that takes the worship of such a being as a starting point?

    rant off

    • quantheory

      And just to re-iterate a point that most Christians seems to ignore:

      Even if God didn’t really mean all the bad bits, or if they were about metaphor or parable or accidents of history, he certainly didn’t prevent all those things from being attributed to him. Jesus either failed to make a point of saying “Don’t kill gay people.” or else he wasn’t very careful about making sure someone wrote it down and got it passed along. So we got to be tortured to death in increasingly inventive ways by Christian churches, for over a thousand years!

      Thanks, Jesus!

      • Ubi Dubium

        Jesus apparently wasn’t careful about making sure any of it got written down. If he had been, he’d have written it down himself, you’d think. And if god is so keen on our believing one particular book, why haven’t any of the original manuscripts survived? That would seem a pretty small miracle compared to flooding the world or making donkeys talk.

        Or – as I’ve said elsewhere – if this one freaking book is so important for the salvation of humanity, why doesn’t it just GROW ON TREES!

  • Gordon

    Actually a perfectly productive use of a bible is as a door stop – especially if you are in a hotel with a self closing door. In that case your gideon’s bible finally comes in handy!

    But maybe you need a paper weight more often.

  • quantheory

    Well, yes, that gets back to the problem of big, obvious miracles not happening anymore.

    From an evidential perspective, this is the single biggest problem with religion, right? Back when God was supposedly trying to get his message across, he intervened in the world all the time. Since he no longer does anything we can detect, it would seem that either he doesn’t really want us to know about him, or more likely that the stories in the Bible aren’t any more real than any other ancient legend about gods.

    • quantheory

      Oops, that was supposed to be a reply to Ubi @ 7.1.1 above.

  • dave cortesi

    While I agree with most of what JT said (and with quantheory), I also have to agree with Finney that JT did not answer the question as asked. The question — actually challenge — seems to be, “Most atheists I’ve experienced handle the Bible in a more pick-and-choose way than almost any Christian I know…” with the challenge being to explain or justify why those gloating atheists keep poking through the biblical soup and holding up one nasty bit or another and saying “neener-neener.”

    Instead of justifying it, JT simply demonstrated it: holding up (what seems to me a narrow and strained interpretation of) one passage and ridiculing it. However deserving of ridicule it may be, the general issue is not addressed.

    I think JT should try again on this one.

  • Finney

    Quan asks:
    “Does that bother you? Some of these questions seem like they should have objective answers. Do you look for an objective method for finding them?”

    That’s a good question. To some extent, the scripture says what its function is: to correct, to inspire and train in matters of righteousness and to become what they called “sons of glory”.

    Beyond that, the person who inspired the bible is also the person who enables us to sense confirm him. It’s a circular test, ultimately, because sense that God is speaking to one through a passage is validated only by the way the Bible says it can – through growing fruits of the Spirit and so on. The “fruits of the Spirit” in turn is only a gift of God if God in fact inspired the bible.

    But it’s important to note that this is circular only in the same way all foundations of knowledge are circular. We believe in the physical world by trusting our senses, but what basis is there for believing in our senses, if they depend for their existence on the physical world – the very thing to be validated? We believe in the validity our conscious experiences but there’s no way to independently confirm consciousness. And so on.

    • quantheory

      Well, if one adopts a coherentist view of justification, then it is reasonable to say that some things can be circularly justified. (Or more precisely, some ideas are so tightly linked, that you must accept all of them or deny all of them together.)

      So I can say something like “Most of my memories are consistent with each other and shore each other up. It’s possible that nearly all my memories are actually false. However, since they conform so closely to a single narrative, I can say that either most of them correspond roughly to experiences I’ve actually had, or that they are almost all wrong. In the latter case there is literally nothing I can do to figure things out, so pragmatically I’m going to proceed on the basis that my memories are real.”

      You can say the same about the senses, and the assumption that other people are conscious, and so on. In fact, this is roughly what my own view is as a pragmatist.

      But my senses and memories are wrong at least sometimes, and I can recognize that. I can learn that certain types of memories tend to not work very well. I can learn that certain optical illusions occur in certain situations. And so on. And that’s because I can check senses against each other, and against my memories of how I experienced things in the past in different states, and against other people’s assessments, and against my general mental model of the world.

      So if I were to take LSD, and I saw a giant purple turtle that no one else could see, I wouldn’t later believe that one had actually been there. But if I heard about a new discovery, or a genetic engineering experiment, that produced a giant purple turtle, then, once I’d convinced myself that it wasn’t a hoax or a piece of satire, I’d actually believe in it. Of course, it could all be a massive conspiracy, or the entire world could be a dream or illusion. But the first possibility is inconsistent with my other experiences of the world so far. And the second would require me to throw out so much of my worldview that I’d have literally no basis upon which to think or act to accomplish anything.

      That’s the direction from which I approach this “sense” of what God is trying to communicate (which I once believed I had actually experienced, and which I continued to experience less and less often after I left Christianity for a more deist perspective). It’s clearly not a sense that can be unambiguously verified by other people. Not everyone feels it. Those who do, don’t feel it in response to the same stimuli. Those who do feel it in similar situations, may interpret it in different ways. The God-sense also doesn’t provide anything that can be verified with my senses or memories of anything other than that sense itself.

      In this respect, it is less like an empirical sense (like eyesight), and more like an emotional sensation (like sadness, or conviction, or excitement). The feeling itself may be a real experience, but it’s not the type of experience that one usually relies on to provide knowledge of the world exterior to oneself.

      I can’t consider such a sense reliable unless it is possible to integrate that sense into the same coherent web of knowledge that I use to model other experiences.

      For example, I’ve had deja vu, which made certain situations seem familiar or expected when they were actually new. I could take these feelings to be accurate, and in fact a sign that I am subconsciously able to sense the future. This pair of beliefs, that deja vu is an accurate sense, and that I subconsciously remember events before they happen, are coherent with each other. But neither belief is verifiable, they introduce a huge new phenomenon (precognition) that is far beyond anything I have been able to verify, and I can readily reject them both, as one unit, since simpler explanations are at hand (the experience of deja vu is just a race condition in the brain, or a spotty memory).

      Again, we are back to the usual atheist request for evidence. It’s hard to credit justification that comes in the form of an unverifiable sense, which says different things to different people, and which is usually only accessible to people with a certain frame of mind (specifically, believers in the religion in question). An outsider needs something other than just that internal feeling, especially when it comes to a tradition as outlandish as most religions seem to be.

      (P.S.: Thanks for your response. I know I can be long-winded, but I enjoy thinking about and discussing this sort of thing.)

  • Raine

    I don’t see why cherry picking the bible is that much of an issue, its nearly 775k words and often times it only mentions things a few times. like homosexuality, its mentioned 7 times total. To analyze the biblical view on a topic in the bible you have to cherry pick it.

    Best of course to keep what is cherry picked in context which both parties often neglect to do.

    Simple fact is, which has already been mentioned. The bible at best is inconsistent and in many peoples opinions, including mine, contradictory.

    An all knowing, all powerful god who transcends time, ought to have been able to put together a book that doesn’t outright challenge itself, and actually if we take the catholic churches official stance on the NT it is “a collection of myths and fables” assembled after 330 CE. Which is exactly what most atheists seem to believe about it.

    Christian apologetics rationalize the bible as best they can. Which in my opinion is very poorly, I myself have had the opportunity to discuss apologetics with people like Lee Strobel, they spout bullshit like “well it doesn’t really mean what it says” “When mark said baptism he really meant someone who has immense faith.”, etc. But what would we expect they have a vested interest in deceiving people. its how they get their paychecks.

    Many non professional Christians argue the bible with claims like “I think its true because Jesus said so” “the bible never says to kill people it says to love them” or my favorite “if god isn’t real then who wrote the bible?” So I’m honestly convinced that most Christians have the minds of children. They will believe anything their pastors tell them.