Let’s answer some emails. First one comes from Bilbo (name changed to protect the sender).
I’m stuck on a point in a debate and was wondering your thoughts on it. I tapped my usual resources but got nothing, so I’m pulling out the big guns with asking you.
This person’s claim is that I (and others) don’t know the core meaning and message of the bible and wants us to guess what it it. He’s not saying what it is and wants our answer. I’m guessing he’ll move the goal posts no matter what we say, but he insists that he won’t since it’s the Truth (yeah, capital T).
I could make the similar claim of how he doesn’t know the core meaning of Hinduism, but I doubt he’ll see the parallel. I’m just trying to pin down where the failure in logic is.
Where I see this going is this person will then say if we don’t know the core meaning then we have no business debating it. Reminds me of how apologetics will tell you to read book after book because those address your argument. Or PZ Myer’s Courtier’s reply, not exactly sure how.Also, putting this in an email because I wanted to ask you if you had anyone I could debate via email. I was wondering that because you mentioned somewhere before that you get more email than you could possibly handle, and you’ve posted email exchanges from people debating. I’ll take some of those email challenges if you want to throw them my way (but not with this email address).
By the way, this is the Bilbo that you said “dropped the hammer” on some commenter about cheerleaders for Jesus or something. Thanks, that made my day.
Thanks for the email, Bilbo.
As for the nebulous “No True Christian” type arguments, I try a couple things. First, I tell them that words have meaning. Things like the biblical cure for leprosy and many, many other parts of the bible only begin to make sense if you start redefining words. Why would god make this a requirement if he wanted to communicate clearly?
Take Harry Potter for instance. Nobody will argue that Harry Potter approved of Delores Umbridge. The book is written with such clear composition that anybody arguing the contrary would be obviously wrong. Why couldn’t god have been as clear as any mortal author about how he feels about, say, gay people shacking up with each other? (As a note: I think god was perfectly clear about this, but many Christians resort to redefining words – see above)
You could argue that the bible was misinterpreted, but why would god want to make his perfect word look like the work of a bunch of mortals making mistakes and injecting their own personal biases into it…y’know, like every other holy book ever invented? Plenty of other holy books, that the Christian must admit are false, were made up by people, have all kinds of outlandish claims, purport to be delivering god’s message, and look precisely how we’d expect them to look if they were the product of human beings at a point in history that was ignorant of everything we know today. So clear, holy books can arise as the product of either deceitful or deluded humans, and can even be largely adopted. In fact, if Christianity is true, all religions (followed, on the whole, by most religious people) arose this way. Why couldn’t god be bothered to come down out of the clouds to hand us his so we’d know it was any different?
And what’s more, if the bible is mistranslated in all those horrible parts (and there are lots of them), one can only wonder why devout Christians, who surely had a vested interest in selling the good lord’s book, never misinterpreted it to make god look nicer.
So, in summation, I’d run all this past your friend and tell him that the 40,000 different sects of Christianity is a testament to the fact that the bible is a muddled book bursting at the seams with contradictions, and that “core” values in it is another redefinition of words. In this case it means “what my particular sect believes.”
Keep debating. This is how we change minds. *high five*