She responded to me…

The person from earlier responded to me.

Thanks for your concern, JT, but I wasn’t really looking for your approval. (Just as I’m sure you weren’t looking for mine. :) Those things I listed DO support my beliefs! (SUPPORT my beliefs…faith is an action of the heart) And I’d be happy to defend my faith! I DO believe that God will soon “pop down and resolve the question forever.” Regarding my piece of “word salad”, my God is one of humility…what kind of God would He be if He created a bunch of robots that were programmed to follow Him? He chooses to allow us to choose Him. An amazing quality. Ashamedly, I admit that the reason for the low percentage of Christians in the world is due to the lack of bold christians that sit idle and never share the Word of God. (Any further on this topic and we get into calvanism so I’ll just stop there. :) Reading the bible does not show a desire to know God. I have read a few books of other religions as well, yet I have no desire to know their gods but only to be informed. I’m assuming this was also your desire? Knowing God is an action of the heart….reading His Word is an act of obedience that follows. When I opened my mind and my heart to Him, those feelings were no longer nebulous….the Holy Spirit is now loud and clear! It’s a comfort, a peace, and a quickening of my spirit that cannot be ignored. I see God’s hand in every detail of my life. I see how He uses the hardest times to teach me to pull strength from Him and grow me. Looking through my past, there are WAY too many “coincidences” for me to even consider the fact that God would not have woven each and every detail. Nothing is a coincidence.

The bible is the ultimate proof that supports my beliefs, the foundation actually. How does one debate the many, many prophecies in the old testament which have almost all come true and only one we’re still eagerly anticipating? Also, with the strong persecution of Christians during the time of the writings of the New Testament, why have we never seen any evidence from the Jews or Roman government to refute? Because it was fact. People are generally more threatened by lies, not fact. It was assembled and circulated during the lifetime of thousands of people who had actually seen Jesus’ miracles. No one from this time ever refuted the writings. There are thousands of known manuscripts (all languages) documenting the new testament, the earliest dating back to the second century. Sure, there are some changes in spelling and words and such, but the fact that they all agree further supports my beliefs. I urge you to dig into this deeper (if you care to) as there are many facts (and artifacts) to support this.

2 Peter 3:
“3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”

**Sorry to hijack your post, Michele!

I opened with…

I should start by asking if you have any responses to anything I said above or if you are just planning to move on as if nothing happened? This could be a good conversation instead of a good game of whack-a-mole for me.

I’ll have a response to you tomorrow.

So, for a rebuttal…

Those things I listed DO support my beliefs! (SUPPORT my beliefs…faith is an action of the heart)

No, they don’t.  They conflict with the god you described.  I explained why.  You haven’t explained where I missed anything, you just insisted those inaccurate facts and contradictory assertions did support your position.

And faith is an action of the heart?  That’s just word salad.  The heart pumps blood.

Can you explain to me how faith differs from gullibility?  It seems that faith is, as Sam Harris puts it, nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail.  For instance, nobody advances faith to defend their shoe size, or that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow.  It’s only when religious people lack evidence that faith is employed.

And I’d be happy to defend my faith!

Splendid.

I DO believe that God will soon “pop down and resolve the question forever.”

Fantastic.  But he hasn’t done it yet, which is kind of weird if he wants the question resolved now.  God either doesn’t want the question resolved or he is too incompetent to figure out how (hint: come down and resolve it).

Regarding my piece of “word salad”, my God is one of humility…

Who demands worship.  Kanye West is humble by comparison.

what kind of God would He be if He created a bunch of robots that were programmed to follow Him?

But any real choice must be an informed choice.  Confirming for me his existence and removing all the confusion from the world is trivial, and would not violate free will.  You may argue that it would obviously be the right choice to then follow god, but that would not mean we would have no choice, it would just mean the choice was a wise choice once properly informed.

What would we say to a doctor who told us he would not tell us how to get well since it would violate our free will?  The answer would be easy, “But I want to follow you!”

But god hasn’t allowed us to make an informed choice.  In fact, rather than resolve the question, god has created tons of confusion by hiding any good evidence for his existence.   Pointing out free will does not rescue him from this.  We could have the question of his existence resolved and still be able to choose to follow him.

He chooses to allow us to choose Him

He also chooses to mask evidence for his existence and to not resolve the question in order to make it a fair choice.  You don’t think scientists would love to turn up evidence for his existence?  You don’t think that proof would immediately fill the annals of peer review?  Many of us would follow god if only there were a good reason to believe he existed.  It’s the lack of evidence preventing it, not a misuse of free will.

Ashamedly, I admit that the reason for the low percentage of Christians in the world is due to the lack of bold christians that sit idle and never share the Word of God.

You sure it’s not because the claims of Christianity are utterly bizarre?  Guy rising from the dead?  Talking snake?  Dude walking on water?  Book full of rancid immorality and contradictions?

I suspect the reason there are not more Christians in the world is twofold.  The first reason is because we’re learning more about the world as we progress into the future, which destroys belief in myth.  If you don’t think this is the case, I offer the following challenge.

1.  Think of a question for which we once had a religious answer, but for which we now have a scientific answer.

This should be very easy.  A couple examples are the idea that demons cause sickness and the geocentric universe.

2.  Think of a question for which we once had a scientific answer, but for which we now have a religious answer.

I can think of nothing.  But this shouldn’t be the case if science weren’t steadily destroying religion (including yours).  We can only conclude that Christianity is incompatible with our growing knowledge.

The other reason is because religion is not determined my sound argument, but by cultural influence.  There’s a reason Buddhists are mostly in Asia, Hindus mostly in India, Muslims mostly in the Middle East, and Christians mostly in the West.  In these places, religion is taught to children who are hard-wired to trust adults.

Compare this to an idea like algebra which, though invented by Muslims, is universally accepted regardless of culture.  Same with astronomy, chemistry, etc.  Facts transcend culture.  Religions do not.

Reading the bible does not show a desire to know God. I have read a few books of other religions as well, yet I have no desire to know their gods but only to be informed.

You have just admitted to going in with a closed mind.  What if their holy book had made a better case than yours?

Let’s test that out.  If god didn’t exist, would you want to know?

I’m assuming this was also your desire?

You assume wrong.

Knowing God is an action of the heart….reading His Word is an act of obedience that follows.

So you have to believe before you read the bible?  Hrm…didn’t you put a bunch of bible passages at the end of your bit?  Why do that if reading his word is an act of obedience that follows accepting the conclusion?

Please take a moment to consider how ludicrous you sound.  Why believe in something before you know about it?  Why accept seemingly fairy-tale quality claims of people rising form the dead without any evidence?  This sounds like a recipe for being taken advantage of.

When I opened my mind and my heart to Him, those feelings were no longer nebulous….the Holy Spirit is now loud and clear!

You mean once you decided those feelings were god it became clear what the feelings were?  Fancy that.  What would you recommend I say to someone say this?

When I opened my mind and my heart to Him smurfs, those feelings were no longer nebulous….the Holy Spirit smurfs are now loud and clear!

It would be obvious that this person simply had some nebulous feelings and made a huge leap as to what caused them.  This person is really falling short of their potential and responsibilities.  This is how you sound to anybody who has not already reached the same conclusion about smurfs or holy spirits or what have you.  It seems far more likely that you’re making hasty conclusions than god is actually speaking to you.

And consider how many people could say the same thing you just said but for a different god.  Muslims will say that once their hearts were opened it was so clear.  Ditto for Hindus and for the followers of literally every other faith-based religion from now back through history.  For you to be right, literally each and every one of them, all just as sincere as you, must be wrong.  You must admit that people more often than not do not truly hear god’s voice confirming their beliefs, even when they think they do.  What keeps me from lumping you in with all the rest?  Only evidence can do that, and so far you haven’t provided any.

Lastly, by saying this you assert that my mind is closed to the idea of god’s existence.  It’s not.  I just want to make sure my methods for arriving at accurate beliefs are sound.  You don’t seem to share that concern, since you talk about believing before even evaluating the evidence.  Doesn’t that bother you in the least?

It’s a comfort, a peace, and a quickening of my spirit that cannot be ignored.

…but which can easily be explained by psychology.  Remember, the same feelings of euphoria are echoed by people who connect them to different gods which we both agree do not exist.

I am currently in another discussion with a believer where I explain it this way.

A world in which lots of different people are feeling a bit of euphoria from time to time and calling it god would produce a world where there was tons of confusion about the nature of god.  This is precisely the world we see.  But if a god existed who really wanted to know us, this confusion makes no sense unless you’re talking about a god who values confusing us over a relationship with us, which you said in your first email was not the case.  Seriously, you and I could both come up with better plans for getting to know people than the one implemented by the god you describe.  Surely you don’t believe that you should be able to do better than god?

You must realize that human intuition is flawed.  It works most of the time, but there are some situations where it’s wrong, and even some when it’s guaranteed to be wrong.  Attached to this email is an image of a checkerboard.

Both the A and B squares on the board are the same color.  After you have confirmed this, they will still look different to you because of the way your brain is hard-wired to interpret color.  Yet, despite false sensory input, you can still establish the truth.  We must apply things like reason and science to get around the limitations of our cognition.  This is what I am asking you to do with the feelings you think confirm god’s existence.  I need you to compare them to all the other evidence rather than taking them at face value.

Compare the odds that the feelings to which you attribute your sense of god are just naturally occurring feelings produced by your brain against the odds that an even moderately intelligent god would use such a flimsy method of communication with someone he wanted to know.  Truly, if god wants a relationship with anybody, he has an awfully non-committal way of going about it.

Moving on…

I see how He uses the hardest times to teach me to pull strength from Him and grow me.

Then he is cruel.  God has no limitations.  He would have no need to use suffering to make you better.  He would only make you suffer if he wanted you to suffer.

What if someone walked up to you and shot you in the leg?  Would you feel gratitude for your newly acquired ability to do tricks in a wheel chair, or for your new found appreciation for the use of your legs once you were healed?  If not, why thank god for making you miserable when there was absolutely no need?

Looking through my past, there are WAY too many “coincidences” for me to even consider the fact that God would not have woven each and every detail. Nothing is a coincidence.

That’s just flat out wrong.

Your odds of dying in an airplane crash (if you’re flying one of the top 25 airlines) is 1 in 10.46 million.  Yet men, women, and children will die in plane crashes.  Either this is coincidence or your god is a greater villain than humanity’s most zealous psychopaths.

Things with a low chance of happening do happen…all the time.  Even if the odds of finding a $20 bill on the street were 1 in 10,000, if you live 10,000 days then the odds now favor you finding a $20 bill on the street at some point.  We live a long time with a lot of things happening all around us.  Low-probability things are bound to happen from time-to-time.  It’s not divine will, it’s just math.

As for your coincidences, human beings tend to see agency when there is none.  See the phenomenon of pareidolia.  This is a much more reasonable explanation for why you think you see agency when compared to the emptiness of all the other lines of evidence you’ve presented.

The bible is the ultimate proof that supports my beliefs, the foundation actually.

Wait, earlier didn’t you say that you need to accept the bible first, then read it?  If so, how does it support your beliefs, which were formed before reading it?

How does one debate the many, many prophecies in the old testament which have almost all come true and only one we’re still eagerly anticipating?

Like this.  It’s an article I wrote for Atheism Resource drawing material from my friend Kevin Sweet.

They haven’t almost all come true, that’s simply absurd.  And they don’t look anything like what a god would write.  The fact that so many of the prophecies in the OT are bogus or, when they are confirmed, are only confirmed in the bible and then only retroactively, makes me worry that you are regurgitating things you’ve not looked into independently, which is going to run you into trouble when you bump into somebody who has.

Also, with the strong persecution of Christians during the time of the writings of the New Testament, why have we never seen any evidence from the Jews or Roman government to refute? Because it was fact.

You missed an option: that Christianity was a small and inconsequential cult that didn’t draw any of their attention.

People are generally more threatened by lies, not fact.

Says who?  Which do you think frightens politicians and preachers more?

It was assembled and circulated during the lifetime of thousands of people who had actually seen Jesus’ miracles.

This is absolutely false.  There is no corroboration of any of Jesus’ miracles from any contemporary extra-biblical sources.  Go ahead, research this.  Please research this.  In fact, research all your claims from now on so you don’t wind up saying flagrantly wrong things with dead certainty.

And also, this really irks me.  In my original response to you I wrote…

The consensus of historians is that the first gospel, Mark, was written around 70 AD at the earliest.  Matthew and Luke, which gank about 60% and 90% of Mark verbatim, came later.

You didn’t respond with why you feel the historical experts are wrong, you just made another assertion that would be immediately cut down by the authorship dates of the gospels.  Do you see how I’m taking the time and care to both read and address exactly what you say?  This is a courtesy I am not being returned.  You are just spouting off a whole bunch of new stuff as though I had never even responded to you.  You have created a conversation where you expect me to be playing fair, but where you are unwilling to do so yourself.  This is awful behavior on your part.

And let’s talk about things that supposedly corroborate Jesus’ miracles.  The first historical mention of Jesus at all comes from Flavius Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews (Vol. XIII, Ch. III), a passage that even secular and biblical scholars alike (with a few fringe exceptions) concede is a forgery.  Consider how it would look if the first historical mention of Elvis came in the year 2035 and was a forgery.  And this is just for a musician.  You’re talking about a guy who supposedly had thousands of people witness his miracles.

It was you who said people are more afraid of lies than facts.  Well, you should really only fear lies if you’re the one telling them, because then you could get caught.  As for the lies of early Christians, you don’t generally have to forge passages in other people’s history books for people who had thousands of witnesses of their miracles.

Plenty of prominent historians were around that region, yet none of them noticed these miracles, Jesus, or his followers.  The thousands of witnesses are only recorded in the bible, which isn’t reliable due to the dating of the gospels (and various other contradictions and impossible claims).

What’s more, Matthew rips the content of Mark literally word-for-word 55% of the time (I was wrong in my previous response when I said 60%).  Luke does it 90% of the time.  Why would people, who were supposedly eye witnesses, need to plagiarize one another?

No one from this time ever refuted the writings.

And nobody corroborated them…because they weren’t around until later.

There are thousands of known manuscripts (all languages) documenting the new testament, the earliest dating back to the second century.

And this is your contemporary confirmation of Jesus’ miracles?

And what you’re talking about are scraps, not documents.  There are about 720 root texts for the NT, most of which are medieval and almost all of which are not even complete books, let alone complete bibles.  Of all of them, only 14 date before 200 AD and those could be most generously described as tatters.  P52 is the oldest and dates back to the middle of the second century.  It only has one intact word in Greek, not Aramaic (“kai” meaning “and”) and could fit on a space roughly the size of a credit card.  None of this is the contemporary, at-the-time documentation you’re talking about, nor are these “manuscripts” we can use to confirm hardly anything.

No other sources seem to have even heard of the gospels until well into the second century.  One of the earliest references to the gospels comes from Papias, Bishop of Heiropolis circa 135-140 AD.  He quotes from Matthew and Mark, but his quotes bear no resemblance to the Matthew and Mark in your bible.  So either we have no clue what document he was quoting, or the gospels were still under construction.  Either way, to say that things like this confirm your beliefs is to admit that your beliefs do not reflect the current bible and that your beliefs are on incredibly shaky ground.  Even shakier when you consider that you’re using these scraps, written by very superstitious people in one of the more illiterate parts of the world during an age of complete ignorance of everything we’ve discovered in the last 2,000 years, to confirm your beliefs that somebody once rose from the dead.  How does this seem even remotely reliable to you?

To say that a bunch of all-but-certainly allegorical literature is evidence that god exists rather than evidence that people can start and run a cult during ignorant times is a curiously big leap.

Sure, there are some changes in spelling and words and such, but the fact that they all agree further supports my beliefs.

No, they don’t.  The Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus, the oldest complete texts of the bible, date back to the fourth century and each has almost completely different books than the other.  And both have books that are different from your bible.  Even the second oldest set of Christian fragments (Egerton Papyrus 2, which dates to the end of the second century according the historical consensus) are from a completely unknown gospel.

Anybody saying they “all agree” is either telling a lie or has swallowed a lie.  I suspect, in your case, it’s the latter.  Personally, I prefer to disappoint people who are lying to me, which is why I tend to research important questions.  This should not only tell you a lot about the people who told you the lie, it should also tell you a lot about what they think of you.  You should work to inoculate yourself against untruths in the future, especially before boldly proclaiming them in public.  Research is a good antidote.

And for the cherry on top, the gospels even in our modern bibles don’t agree with each other.  That should tell you something.

I urge you to dig into this deeper (if you care to) as there are many facts (and artifacts) to support this.

By all means, tell me more about humility.

You have no clue what you’re talking about.  You have been factually wrong at every turn.  You have obviously done little or no research on this, but are repeating what you’ve been told in Sunday school.  Yet you find the temerity to suggest I’m the one who needs to dig further.

Well, I have dug into this.  I’ve spent the last decade of my life digging into it.  I deal with religion for a living, and I’ve seen the tactic of throwing out, “We have historical evidence” without providing a shred of it.  This is usually done by people trying to cow their opponents, and it is almost always done by people who haven’t researched any of this evidence they’ve been assured is out there.

It’s also strange of you to try this.  You came to the conclusion of the Christian god’s existence before reading the bible.  You told me so.  This means that the evidence you’re giving me isn’t the evidence that convinced you, it’s the evidence that you think should convince me.  This reeks of after-the-fact justification, not an honest attempt to follow the evidence to wherever it leads.

I’m not going to respond to most of the bible passages you threw out.  I don’t understand how people just don’t seem to get that quoting from a 2,000 year old myth-filled manual of propaganda designed to control people in one cult (OT) and to propagate a new cult (NT) has as little meaning to atheists as quoting Harry Potter for believable truth.  We wouldn’t expect them to pay any attention to quotes from the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita, but they expect us to fall all over ourselves because they quote from their book of myths.  This has always struck me as odd, and amazed me that they just cannot understand that.

I will however, make a note on your choice of scripture: one describing the punishment that awaits the damned.   Rather than rely on any good evidence you chose to threaten me.  You, and any other believer doing this, should be ashamed of themselves if they have an ounce of the moral fiber they claim.

Some will think you are being kind by trying to rescue me from hell.  But if you were really trying to rescue me from hell you’d be giving me some good reason to believe, not just telling me what would happen if I don’t.  Instead, you are threatening me.  You are saying I must accept what you say, despite not having a single good reason to do so, or suffer eternally.  This is evil.  This is not nice, it’s heinous to the extreme.  I almost want you to try and lecture me on morality now so I can laugh at the irony.

As I recently wrote:

When I was driving to the Reason Rally I couldn’t go 30 minutes without seeing a billboard threatening me with hell for disbelief.  There was a conspicuous absence of any billboard saying, “Come to our church, we have evidence!” Evidence, reason, winning honestly…these are not the weapons of faith.  Bullying, social consequences, and fear are their tools.

And you just proved my point.  What’s more, it should tell you something that such tactics are considered to be a noble way to serve god.  That god is a monster and, if you think threatening others is a way to show love, then so are you.

Anyway, it’s up to you to give me a decent reason to believe the bible is reliable before you expect me to eat up quotes from it.  So far you’ve given me prophecies (which are hella lame) and you’ve said I need to believe it first, then read the bible, which is a prescription for willful gullibility regardless of what subject you’re speaking about.

Bible passages aside, I’ve responded carefully to everything you’ve written, even though my first response to you was summarily (and rudely) ignored.  This leads me to believe that thus far only one of us is having this conversation in good faith (i.e., only one side appears to be listening and responding).  I hope, if you elect to respond, that you will fix this.

To help you, here is a short list of items on the table for you.

1.  You responded to nothing in my first response to you.  Do you have any responses?

2.  Your answer to god not giving us any clear evidence he exists was that he gave us free will.  However, free will doesn’t necessitate us being ignorant about important facts.  How do you answer that?

3.  Facts seem to be destroying religion (remember my challenge about questions that once had a religious answer).  Doesn’t this seem odd of Christianity is true?

4.  You called me close-minded, even though it appears I know more about your faith than you do (don’t feel bad about this, I do this for a living).  But then you also implied you read the holy texts of other religions with a closed-mind.  Can you admit that there are other reasons, aside from being close-minded, that people would reject your religion.

4a.  Question: If god didn’t exist, would you want to know?

5.  Christianity seems to be more reliant on cultural influence than fact.  This is the opposite of the way real academic disciplines operate.  How do you account for this?

6.  Why are your “feelings of god” more likely to actually be god speaking to you than flaws in our psychology that cause us to assign agency to random things?

7.  Your description of god, as somebody who hurts you to teach you when he has no need of causing you harm, paints him as malicious.  Why don’t you think god’s malicious?

8.  All the examples you gave me of contemporary corroboration with the gospels were false.  There are none.  Can you admit that the miracles of the bible are only confirmed in the gospels and then centuries later through people ripping off the gospels?

9.  Why would eyewitnesses need to plagiarize each other?

10.  Why would anybody need to forge an entry in someone else’s history book for something as widely witnessed as you and the bible claim?

11.  Contrary to what you claim, the earliest sources for the bible arise well into the second century and do not at all agree with one another.  They do not even agree with the bible you own.  Can you admit this and, if so, what are the implications of this on Christianity’s truth?

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist Crommunist

    Fuckrist almight, JT. You put way more effort into this nonsense than I would have.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      It’s nonsense that comes up all the time. I wanted to create a place where people could take refutations to use on their own.

      • http://yetanotheratheist.com TerranRich

        And for doing so, you are, quite simply, the man.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

    One of the joys of meeting you in person is getting to read stuff like this in your voice and delivery. I really shouldn’t at work, though. Kanye cracked me up.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I noticed the same when I met PZ! I used to read his posts in a scream. Now I read them in a quiet, bemused-with-the-whole-world type of “PZ” voice.

      Not gonna lie though, your voice was pretty much what I read your posts in before meeting you. :P

  • sisu

    When I got to this part

    It was assembled and circulated during the lifetime of thousands of people who had actually seen Jesus’ miracles. No one from this time ever refuted the writings. There are thousands of known manuscripts (all languages) documenting the new testament, the earliest dating back to the second century.

    I thought, boy JT, you really need to FW that along to Carrier and see what he has to say to your correspondent. :) But you handled it nicely yourself, too!

  • Nepenthe

    Hmm… after I found $40 on the sidewalk, I didn’t worship God(s), I worshiped people who don’t keep their money in a billfold.

  • fastlane

    That’s the truly pathetic thing about this missive. Not a single thing said by this christbot is 1) original or 2) even remotely related to actual evidence.

    PRATTs (Points Refuted A Thousand Times) is all they got, but they ignore all the refutations, and move on. It’s more like a script than a conversation, which is why I gave up on most and now just point and laugh.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Yeah, one-on-one don’t waste your time.

      But if you can start stomping this stuff in a public forum, such that they start to worry about being revealed as thoroughly uninformed in front of a crowd, THEN I think we gain a lot by responding.

  • Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Easy prediction. If she responds it will be almost exactly like her response above. Completely ignoring both the substance and the points in your post here.

  • http://facebook.com/josiah.mannion BibleName

    You know that part of Boondock Saints right after Rocco smashes the psycho’s face repeatedly with a cue ball yelling “sick fuck!” and then Connor tells him, “Nicely done,”? That’s kind of what that felt like. Nicely done.

  • sqlrob

    The bible is the ultimate proof that supports my beliefs, the foundation actually.

    Really? You support your believe with a book so filled with contradictions it isn’t funny? And that’s ignoring where it doesn’t match with reality, just internal contradictions.

  • jacobfromlost

    I only read half before this comment (apologies if this was mentioned in the second half).

    There is this weird underlying assumption with some believers that you need faith to make a choice. This makes no sense, not even in regard to the myth. There are plenty of people in the myth who had conclusive evidence of god’s existence, and made choices to reject him anyway. There are other people in the myth who had conclusive evidence, and chose to ACCEPT him. There is a CHOICE involved in any case (and “evidence” in BOTH)!

    And in reality, having something demonstrated, verified, predictable, and falsifiable in no way stops a person from NOT CHOOSING to believe it.

    Case in point: when the doctor came in with test results to tell my father he had diabetes, he said, without missing a beat, “No I don’t.” lol The doctor handled it pretty well. She asked him his name, birthdate, etc, and when he confirmed, she said, “Yes, you do have diabetes.” It still took him a long time to accept it.

    And one final subtle point: is a choice REALLY a choice if is made “on faith”? Did the person who won the powerball jackpot really CHOOSE to win because they really, really believed they would win? Can you really be said to have made a CHOICE if you had no idea what you were choosing at the time? Maybe you can be said to have made a choice on bad information, or no information, but that isn’t quite the same thing as CHOOSING something by knowing what you are choosing. No one ever gets off of murder charges by saying the victim chose to drink that can of Pepsi I just happened to poison, even though they didn’t know I poisoned it, and therefore they chose to kill themselves.

  • Rory

    Man, you’ve got the patience of a saint. I read that kind of faux humble stupidity and it makes me grind my teeth. You have to wonder if these people have any ability to think critically even about other topics when they honestly think that kind of verbal diarrhea is supposed to be convincing. Too bad the creator of the universe couldn’t find some followers with brains.

  • Art Vandelay

    I’m sorry…did they really write “He chooses to allow us to choose Him?”

    My head hurts.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/Erulora Erulóra Maikalambe

      All I could think was “Help me help you!”

  • Art Vandelay

    Also, with the strong persecution of Christians during the time of the writings of the New Testament, why have we never seen any evidence from the Jews or Roman government to refute? Because it was fact.

    And then immediately…

    People are generally more threatened by lies, not fact.

    Didn’t they just make the case for Christianity being lies?

  • http://reasonrally.org Blenster

    I’m gonna develop a “man-crush” on you if you keep up this level of awesome JT. ;-P This is simply EPIC and I loved reading every bit (of your part). I appreciate why you do this; the bystanders are the real target as the theist isn’t likely to really engage you on the details. Still there is hope. I look forward to seeing what she does.

  • busterggi

    I am now thoroughly convinced that you are not the same JT as the psychic dog.

    No canine could be so eriudite. Or so patient.

    BTW, I have found $20 bills on two occassions – first almost thirty years ago while Christmas (!) shopping with my then wife and last summer when I went to pick up a prescription. The first occassion could be interpreted as evidence for the god Jesus but by that reasoning the second could be interpreted as evidence for the god Aesclepius.

  • david73

    This blog was very good but I still wonder why otherwise reasonable intelligent folk become believers. Is it social pressure, or the need to belong to the group? Perhaps we humanists have not provided the very human need to accept our life as an end in itself. I remember as a young man searching for some “meaning” to existence. I certainly enjoyed, as I still do,the visual arts, music and literature inspired by Christianity. But I slowly realized there was no supernatural force only the natural world; my life had no more absolute importance than the bacteria in my gut. As Montaigne said “Kings and philosophers defecate, and so do ladies.” So accepting the fact that we are animals is possibly the most difficult hurdle to overcome and presenting facts and figures in evidence may not be the best way to win support for a rationalist world view. I’ve still got more thinking to do on this score, but I hope readers will get my drift.

    • kagekiri

      Indoctrination, and laziness; those reasons stand out to me. Even smart adults can latch onto thinking that faith, humility, and sacrifice are noble.

      Few people like to question their beliefs once they have them: I remember several times as a Christian in discussion about religion, I would get rid of doubtful discussion topics by thinking or saying “it doesn’t matter, I know I believe anyway”, and practiced the idea of casting out “evil” ideas and doubts out of my head in Jesus’ name.

      Hell, I even remember thanking God that I had born into a Christian upbringing (indoctrination), because I was pretty sure that if I hadn’t been, I’d never have converted. Seriously, talk about brain-washing…

      There are also verses which counter evidence, defame other scriptures, condemn “false” teachers who contradict what the Bible says (or make you doubt), devaluation of reason, condemnation of doubtful thinking, and so on, so a Christian can always dodge around almost anything thrown at their belief, as long as they assume the Bible is right. It’s a mental parasite.

      Besides being a system that makes you fear thinking too much about religion, it’s also laziness. I know I was constantly in existential crisis as a Christian, and lapped up all the Holy Spirit crap that my church preached and researched as much apologetics as I could to be totally justified in my beliefs (or at least to feel like it), but my more sister managed to pretty much stay Christian without any such struggles despite not believing all the crazy (but Biblical) crap our first church preached.

      When we talk about how I’m atheist, and I ask her some of the harder questions regarding justice and God’s goodness, she just says she really just hasn’t thought all of them through. Truth just doesn’t matter enough to get rid of the emotional aspects provided by a severely curated Christianity.

  • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

    Kind of gobsmacked by the piles of not even wrong history this person presents you with, especially since it all comes with a self-assured recommendation for you to “dig into this deeper”. The sputtering, mewling sounds issuing from my core only ceased when I read your masterful response. You are just full of awesome, JT.

  • slc1

    I didn’t have the patience to read the whole word salad submitted by Mr. Eberhard’s correspondent. However, here’s a question for her. Yeshua of Nazareth promised his followers that he would return while at least 1 of them was still alive. That was nearly 2000 years ago and I somehow doubt that any of them are still around. As Martin Gardner put it, the Galilean carpenter turned itinerant preacher was mistaken.

  • John Horstman

    But any real choice must be an informed choice. Confirming for me his existence and removing all the confusion from the world is trivial, and would not violate free will. You may argue that it would obviously be the right choice to then follow god, but that would not mean we would have no choice, it would just mean the choice was a wise choice once properly informed.

    I don’t even agree that following Yahweh would be a wise choice were he real. He’s a tyrant and an asshole. I’d oppose him at every opportunity, and I’d very much rather be ontologically negated or cast into Hell than follow his psychopathy.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com Ubi Dubium

    I have a couple of points to add about how wonderful and believable the gospels aren’t. First, if this was supposedly going to be “god’s perfect book” then why have none of the original manuscripts survived? As Bart Ehrman says, there are more differences between the surviving NT manuscripts than there are words in the NT. Any god who could do all the miracles written in that book should be capable of making sure that the originals survived so there would be no confusion about what they said. But we don’t have a single original manuscript.

    But even more pertinent than that – if Jesus was supposedly bringing humanity the most important message from god ever delivered, then why the heck didn’t he frikkin write it down himself? In Aramaic? Was this omniscient god illiterate? Too busy to preserve his words for posterity? I don’t recall even a single instance in any of the gospels where Jesus so much as calls for a scribe and says “This is important, write this down!”

    No, instead we have second-hand (Third-hand? Fourth-hand? More?)accounts written in Greek, so we have a big game of “telephone” with translation errors built in right from the beginning. A perfect god could certainly do a heckuva lot better than that.

    • Artor

      Christopher Moore’s book, Lamb; the gospel of Jesus Christ, according to his childhood pal, Biff, covers this point well. When Josh gets shitfaced off the wine he made for the wedding, he drunkenly pontificates, and tells Biff, “…so it is written. Go ahead Biff, write it down.”

      • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com Ubi Dubium

        Well yeah, if the bible included the “Gospel according to Biff” that would be a big improvement! I love that book.

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    I appreciate why you do this; the bystanders are the real target as the theist isn’t likely to really engage you on the details.

    JT’s response does massive splash damage, with a high crit rate!


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