“I Just Believe in One Less God Than You Do”: an Atheist Fallacy?

“I Just Believe in One Less God Than You Do”: an Atheist Fallacy? May 16, 2016

I like to study arguments on both sides of the God question. The idea behind “I just believe in one less god than you do” is that humanity has invented thousands of gods throughout history. The atheist and the Christian both reject these many gods, so rejecting gods by the truckload can’t be something the Christian would object to. Why then would the Christian criticize when the atheist rejects that one final god?

Some Christians aren’t impressed. To make sure atheists use only arguments that can be supported, let’s look at rebuttals from Christian authors.

1. You’re misusing the word “atheist.”

The first concern is that the word “atheist” is used too broadly. One form of the argument is, “We are all atheists with respect to other religions, and we atheists just take it one step further.”

The core problem is calling Christians (and others) atheists! …

It would be absurd for a Christian to see a Muslim and say “Oh, they’re an atheist!” For the Muslim is clearly not an atheist, rather, he/she is a theist! (Source)

Does this author propose to now turn on his heel and walk away, confident that he’s slapped down the challenge? Surely the point is obvious, and if it is stated incorrectly, he should correct it. To do otherwise is cowardly.

I’ve written about a similar problem, the (supposedly) self-defeating statement. I’m frustrated at apologists who point out a logical or technical error in a statement and then sit back, as if that were a proper rebuttal. Yes, sometimes it is, but it is at least uncharitable to not consider ways to correct it.

Let’s hope the arguments get stronger.

1b. There’s a big difference between an atheist and a theist

For a related angle, start with this well-known version of the argument from Stephen Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do.” Greg Koukl twisted it by imagining saying to a married man: “I contend that we are both bachelors. I am just married to one less woman than you.”

Someone is a “married man” whether he’s married to one woman or dozens. One’s bachelor status requires him to be married to zero, just like one’s atheist status requires one to accept zero gods.

Like argument #1, this is just a semantic argument. I agree with Koukl that the focus here is on the one (or few) woman you are married to, not the billions you’re not married to. His parallel to our statement is clear: the theist’s focus is on the one or more gods you believe in, not the myriad you don’t.

This handwaving does nothing to respond to the point that the Christian, like the atheist, happily denies the existence of all gods … but the Christian makes one exception. Why is the exception justified rather than special pleading? Doesn’t the Christian have the burden of proof to justify their position?

2. But pretty much everyone throughout history has believed in God!

Yeah, and pretty much everyone throughout history has believed in superstition. They might’ve seen evil spirits behind a death or a famine; they might’ve seen good spirits behind a military victory or good harvest. The longevity of those superstitions doesn’t mean that they’re correct or that we should privilege them in any way. And when we evaluate them, they don’t hold up. Does Christianity hold up any better?

While they differ on the specifics of what God is like … if everyone has some idea of God, then our question should be what is God really like, not does God exist. (Source)

In the first place, belief in god(s) has been widespread, not belief in God (Yahweh). And in the second, different religions can’t even agree on how many god(s) there are, what their names are, or how to placate them. The amount of harmony here is meager. Sorry—if you can’t agree on the fundamentals, that looks like just another superstition.

3. God is like a person about whom we have differing input. That’s no reason to doubt her existence.

This argument compares the world’s many competing religious views to the many competing views of a particular woman. Person A is married to her. Person B is her subordinate at work. Person C is an ex-boyfriend. Person D is a pen pal and has never met her. These and many other people know her in different ways and would have differing and perhaps even contradicting stories to tell, but an outsider wouldn’t conclude that she doesn’t exist.

This is true, but the analogy is poor. This is all commonplace. We know about people and about the many ways we can incompletely understand them. A claim about the supernatural (which has yet to be demonstrated) is a very different thing. “Suppose that a woman exists; now suppose that a god exists” doesn’t work.

A story about a woman that claims to be factual? The default is that that refers to an actual person. When that assumption turns out to be wrong, we have a man-bites-dog story, like the mysterious girlfriend of Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o. That is a bit closer to the god claim, but even there we’ve got a long way to go.

4. Christianity is real while the other religions from history were mere social conventions.

People did not really believe in Shu, Nut, Hercules, Baal, Wearisomu, Enki, Utu, Diana, and the like in the same way that people believe in Yahweh. Their belief was more of a social convention which included all the pressures that such a system demanded. Their gods were more “faddish” than anything else. (Source)

Remember how the god of the Old Testament changes. God was just a dude who walked in the Garden in the cool of the evening to chat with Adam and Eve, but later he said, “No one may see me and live.” God had to send out spies to get intelligence about the status of Sodom and Gomorrah, but now he’s omniscient. Who’s faddish now?

Their existence was rather fluid, changing and even morphing into other gods.

That reminds me of how the omniscient and unchanging Yahweh demanded rituals for the Hebrews to follow. Later, he threw out that rulebook and said that belief in the saving sacrifice of Jesus was the way to please him. You’d think he’d get it right the first time.

Continue with part 2.

“I don’t understand how you don’t believe in God.”
Well, you know how you don’t believe in Zeus?
Like that.
— Ricky Gervais

Image credit: Chris, flickr, CC

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  • Castilliano

    I love the “one less god” concept, have used it to good effect, and will use it again.
    But with some Christians it is a fallacy. There are Christians (mainly the anti-Harry Potter types) who live in a world chock full of magic & mayhem. Think Vineyard or Charismatics (et al).
    Did Baal exist? Yep, he was a demon posing as a god.
    Zeus? Ditto.
    Osiris? Ditto.
    These are the types that often think sins are conscious forces acting within us (more demons). Metaphors have been made manifest in their minds. Admittedly they’re the least likely we’d be having a reasonable discussion with, but they are out there.
    I highly suspect a relative of mine believes in all the gods, but I’d settle for her vaccinating her children or accepting that microwaves don’t destroy the food’s ‘chi’. The woo is strong in that one.
    Cheers.

    • Off topic: the cleverest incorporation of the Roman pantheon of gods into reality IMO was in the movie “Hancock.”

    • Yep, this has been an old tactic to explain pagan gods-just relabel them all demons. In Paradise Lost a lot of the angels who follow Satan and become demons have these names.

  • kraut2

    “Later, he threw out that rulebook and said that belief in the saving
    sacrifice of Jesus was the way to please him. You’d think he’d get it
    right the first time.”

    Not necessarily so…from another post of mine on patheos:

    http://debunkingchristianity.b
    “Jesus
    intended to draw the strongest possible distinction between the Jews,
    to whom alone he has been sent—“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the
    house of Israel”[14]—and the Gentile mongrels—“Do not give what is holy
    to dogs”[15]—which he generally avoids.[16]
    “The Jesus movement…did not show any inclination to reach out to Gentiles. The
    life of Jesus and the history of the Jerusalem church illustrate this.”[17]“It is quite clear from the hesitations of the Apostles in the first chapters of Acts that there was a firm tradition that Jesus had not ordered a mission to the Gentiles.”

    “There is no evidence whatsoever, apart from the tendentious
    writings of the later church, that Jesus ever conceived of himself as
    anything other than a Jew among Jews, seeking the fulfillment of
    Judaism—and, likely, the return of Jewish sovereignty in a Roman
    world.”[20]

    https://danielmiessler.com/blo

    http://www.ucg.org/bible-study…”So
    immediately we see that Jesus had no intention of destroying the law.
    He even tells us not to even think such a thing. Far from being
    antagonistic to the Old Testament Scriptures, He said He had come to
    fulfill “the Law and the Prophets” and proceeded to confirm their authority.
    “The Law and the Prophets” was a term commonly used for the Old Testament Scriptures (compare Matthew 7:12)”

    Sorry if this is a self quote. Take it as part of conceptual continuity….

    • Your link for Debunking Christianity is broken, just fwi.

  • Myna A.

    People did not really believe in […] in the same way that people believe in Yahweh. Their belief was more of a social convention which included all the pressures that such a system demanded.

    Well, it only goes to show there is perhaps one truism: There is nothing new under the sun.

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    You attack some fairly feeble objections and ignore the basic problem with the statement: it simply isn’t true.

    Traditional Christians (Catholics, for instance) accept that other monotheists (defining that term very broadly–I’d prefer to say “theists,” because it would include people like ancient Greek philosophers or modern Hindus who believe in a single supreme Deity but are not devotional “monotheists” at all) believe in the same God we do. You come closest to addressing this under point 3, but you focus on the question of whether God exists, which is not the point. The point is that we aren’t “atheists about Allah.” We believe that Allah exists. We just think Muslims have some mistaken ideas about Him. (To be fair, this is something that Christians argue about, and many conservative Protestants would disagree with my claim, as a famous recent case at Wheaton shows. But the Catholic Church is surely as good a candidate as any for a representative of mainstream Christianity, and the Catholic Church’s position on this is clear–Muslims “together with us adore the one, merciful God.”)

    Whether Christians are “atheists” with regard to gods who are not the supreme Creator and single source of all being is more complicated. In a devotional sense, we are–we are forbidden to worship such beings. But atheists usually seem to be using the term in an intellectual sense–denying the existence of such beings. And there is nothing at all about Christianity that requires us to do so. Early Christians believed that pagan gods existed, but that they were evil.

    When an atheist says “I’m just an atheist about one more god than you are” it’s hard for me to take anything else he/she says seriously. It’s on the level of “you obviously believe in God and are angry at Him” on the theist side.

    It may in fact be true of some Christians, such as fundamentalists. But it’s not true of me, and by and large it’s not true of Catholics or mainline Protestants.

    • Myna A.

      We just think Muslims have some mistaken ideas about Him.

      Interesting. Muslims say the same thing about Christianity. Sparkling Moon (do I have the name correct?), a follower of Islam who visits here now and again, has said as much many times. It’s kind of a “gentle persuasion” argument. Who could be right, I wonder? And why should either be right?

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        The point is that neither I nor the Muslim are “atheists about each other’s gods,” because neither of us worship a “god” but God.

        • Myna A.

          If you belong to a faith which adheres to the Trinity, you are wrong.

          Quran, 5:73 (Yusuf Ali), “They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.”

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Right. We disagree about God. But Muslims I’ve talked to have no problem saying that we worship the true God. They seem to think that what we call “God the Father” is the true God and we err by “associating partners” with Him.

        • Myna A.

          That’s part of the “gentle persuasion”.

        • adam

          “But Muslims I’ve talked to have no problem saying that we worship the true God.”

          Which points out the problem with YOUR ‘God’

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          There is no “our God” or “their God.”

          There is one God. People have different ideas about God, and some people don’t believe God exists. Some of those people are secular atheists; some are some kind of polytheists or Buddhists.

        • Otto

          People only have ideas about God….and they are all different. God is just a story we tell ourselves. Everybody’s story is different.

        • adam

          “There is one God.”

          NO there are MILLIONS of Gods.

          All from human IMAGINATION…

          For you, Muslims and Jews, you all worship the ‘God of Abraham’

          I understand what you mean though:
          God is the God of the Gaps in human understanding.
          So everyone IMAGINES that God based on their lack of understanding of the Gap.

        • Kodie

          Why do they have different ideas about “god”? They’re still just making stuff up, and then forcing those around them to conform to their favorite version of a superstition.

        • MR

          Sweet Jesus, the world has been made whole again. Welcome back, Kodie.

        • TheNuszAbides

          good to see you back!

        • Brian

          Atheism as a term used to be related to the god you were talking about, not all gods. A Christian would consider a pagan to be an atheist because they didn’t believe in Yahweh.

          So under that, “atheists about each other’s gods” works perfectly, conforming to the meaning of the term.

        • Kodie

          Even now, Christians seem to think atheists believe (their) god exists but denies him anyway.

        • adam

          “The point is that neither I nor the Muslim are “atheists about each
          other’s gods,” because neither of us worship a “god” but God.”

          Yes, you both have ‘faith’ in the “God of Abraham”,

    • epicurus

      In my days as an evangelical conservative protestant, I heard many times that the other gods did not exist, but instead were the devil or his minions performing miracles or signs to fool people into believing in the existence of those non existent gods. So Hindu’s or Mormons etc may actually be performing/ seeing miracles, but it’s all the devil’s work to fool them.
      After I stopped believing Christianity, I then came up with the, I suppose reductio absurdum argument that if the the devil is allowed to start and sustain false religions/gods, then perhaps Christianity is also one of his tricks. Maybe God is really just testing his chosen people, the Jews, to see if they will remain faithful to Him. Maybe Jesus and Paul were just some of the devil’s minions sent down to set up a system by talking big and performing miracles to start a church to try to woo the Jews away from the true religion of Judaism. Absurd? Maybe, but no more so than saying the devil has condemned billions to hell by maintaining phoney religions such as Hinduism.

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        “Evangelical conservative Protestants” say a lot of stuff that I don’t necessarily believe 🙂

        Also, It’s contradictory to say “did not exist but were the devil or his minions.”

        If pagan gods are devils (and I’m not saying they are, though some of them may be) they obviously exist (from a Christian point of view, I mean–not arguing about whether they really do exist but just about the implications of orthodox Christianity).

        Again, if “atheist” means “not worshiping” then the meme has some value. But if it means “disbelieving in the existence of” then it’s clueless.

        • Myna A.

          But if it means “disbelieving in the existence of” then it’s clueless.

          Being clueless to your point of view, do you mean? Do all minds hold the same criteria for believing? To believe or not believe? There are many who believe a conscious force in the universe exists, but has no relation to man-god stories whatsoever. There are many who believed and came to a different awareness and no longer believe. There are many who follow because the herd goes in that direction. There are many who fear not to believe. If there were to be a global disaster, what new story would arise from the ashes?

        • TheNuszAbides

          Being clueless to your point of view, do you mean?

          it seems that most of his efforts are to distinguish his rich historical tradition from what he figures (not always unjustifiably) most of us are used to seeing/hearing/challenging/mocking.

        • Brian

          Regarding the did not exist but were the devil: no, those other gods didn’t exist, any more than Captain Kirk actually exists because William Shatner pretended to be him.

        • Kodie

          Doesn’t occur to you that you are clueless?

      • The world we see around us, where we’re told that an all-good god exists and yet conditions suck for billions of people, is exactly what an evil god would do.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          A world created by an evil god would include sunsets? The music of Bach? Acts of kindness?

          I don’t think “created by an evil god” is even a coherent concept. But then, that’s because I believe that existence is in itself good, and you apparently don’t.

        • epicurus

          If not an evil god, then how about an incompetent, not all good, not all powerful, not all knowing god.

        • A world created by an evil god would include sunsets? The music of Bach? Acts of kindness?

          A world created by a good god would include childhood cancer? Tsunamis? Guinea worm?

          But to answer your question directly: that’s precisely what an evil god would do. Give your victims a little good. Give them a little hope. If they’re hopeless, then what more can you take away from them? But give them a little, and then they fall harder when you take it away.

          I don’t think “created by an evil god” is even a coherent concept. But then, that’s because I believe that existence is in itself good, and you apparently don’t.

          Read about Gnosticism, to take one worldview. They believe that the Demiurge that created our world was not particularly good—certainly not perfect.

        • Otto

          Give your victims a little good. Give them a little hope. If they’re hopeless, then what more can you take away from them?

          Reminds me of a line from one of my favorite book series.

          “This you have to understand. There’s only one way to hurt a man who’s lost everything. Give him back something broken.”

        • Based on my serious research from watching action films, I know that the thing you don’t want to do is take away everything from the good guy. With nothing to lose, he has nothing to protect and cares only about revenge on the bad guy.

        • TheNuszAbides

          smells like Covenant …

        • Otto

          You hit that one the head!

          A Covenant fan I hope.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i wasn’t thoroughly satisfied with the third ending, but the first two trilogies were definitely worth the trouble.

        • Otto

          Yeah I am 3 deep in the last group of books. They definitely have not been as good as the first 6. I really enjoy the Covenant character though and I do like hearing more about the back history of the Land. The 3rd book got a bit better and I will be interested in seeing how the last one plays out.

          I read Lord Foul’s Bane in 6th grade, 1979.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ya know I read the Thomas Covenant Chronicles back in 1981 as a 19 year old soldier on tour. The first three books. I’ve not heard mention of the white gold ring or the giant Saltheart Foamfollower in about 35 years. Flabbergasting stuff.

        • Otto

          Probably my all time favorites. My wedding ring is white gold…lol

        • MNb

          I read the First Chronicles some six years ago and thoroughly enjoyed them. But I never could get myself to read Gilden Fire and the Second Chronicles, even though I tried. It seems that the ambiguity and cynism are lacking, which made the First Chronicles stand out.
          Also I liked how Donaldson parodied The Lord of the Rings.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i don’t know how (possibly whimsy via an airport shop), but parents ended up with a copy of The Power That Preserves when i was still reading Asterix and Tintin (also late ’70s). i recognized the same cover style on copies of LFB and WGW when i first began shopping for brand new books around ’84. ran out of steam during The One Tree but came back after ‘cleansing’ the palate with the Belgariad and the first 8 or 9 Xanth books.

        • Otto

          I haven’t read any of his stuff besides Covenant. Would you recommend any worth reading?

        • TheNuszAbides

          actually the only other Donaldson i’ve read is the first ‘Gap’ book, which i’ve forgotten to follow up on.

        • Myna A.

          A world created by an evil god would include sunsets?

          Open a science book. God or no.

          Sulfur from volcanic ash and bombs from thousands of miles off can also make brilliant sunsets (and sunrises).

          The music of Bach?

          Don’t forget wind harps. Poetry. Drama. Sculpture. Painting. Human beings are highly innovative and magnificently creative and inspired by a great many things.

          But they also are inspired to design killing machines…that produce vivid sunrises and sunsets. Things are not always as they seem.

          Acts of kindness?

          Is a basic human trait of empathy, but can also be used for selfish reasons, an obligatory gesture or to manipulate.

          There are two sides to every coin. Such is the dilemma of adhering to a singular story. One becomes anxious to turn over the coin.

        • tsig

          A peson has an incurable nerve disease that causes each and every pain sensor to fire at max all the time.

          Unending pain is good?

        • MNb

          “A world created by an evil god would include sunsets? The music of Bach? Acts of kindness?”
          Why not? Especially as a world created by an omnivolent god apparently can contain atrocities for which there are no words? And of course you first have to show that those three things are “good” and/or “beautiful”.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_God_Challenge

        • adam

          “I don’t think “created by an evil god” is even a coherent concept.”

        • Greg G.

          But a world with unnecessary suffering makes the omnipotent benevolent god incoherent.

          A coherent idea is that the universe is indifferent and that humans find beauty where they can.

        • Kodie

          Those are just the kinds of shiny things to fool you.

        • WayneMan

          99% of all sea and land animals must brutally kill and eat some other poor creature to simply survive. So when that baby zebra is having it’s throat crushed by a lion, while a hyena is ripping off one of its legs, it can die happy knowing it is serving a loving gods blood and guts world design. NOT….

      • MNb

        Not absurd at all. In the end the devil also is a god.

    • Joe

      What of the non Abrahamic gods? Do you believe they exist?

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        Quite possibly. Depends what you mean.

        Of course I believe that what Hindus call “Brahman” exists.

        The various lesser deities of various traditions quite probably exist, but Christian doctrine is unaffected either way. What their relationship is to the one God I don’t claim to know.

        • Joe

          You might not have a grasp of Christian doctrine, if that is the case.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Why do you say this? And what “Christian doctrine”?

          Nothing I’m saying is contrary to, say, the teaching of the Catholic Church. I’m sure many conservative evangelicals would find it shocking. Indeed, one of my older students when I was a college professor at an evangelical school tried to get me fired because I said non-Christians weren’t necessarily going to hell.

          Are you sure you aren’t confusing the knee-jerk reactions of poorly educated Christians with “Christian doctrine”?

        • Joe

          “what “Christian doctrine”?

          Agreed, there are so many, it can get confusing. Are you saying the Catholic church agrees on the existence of other gods? Even one such as Zeus? Or Loki?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’m saying that their _existence_ is not a matter of great theological importance.

        • T-Paine

          Well…now it isn’t.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          It’s only an issue at all in the modern world.

          Early Christians generally assumed that the pagan “gods” did exist, but that they were evil demons.

        • T-Paine

          And… how do we explain the relatively rapid decline of non-Judaeo/Christian religions coinciding with Christianity being the official religion and later the only religion of the Roman Empire?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Several ways. Since Christianity had been rising for some time before that, it can’t be explained solely in terms of political power. Furthermore, pagan religions had been changing and becoming more otherworldly and mystical.

          Any explanation that doesn’t include a description of the important role played by coercive political power is inadequate. But so is any explanation that reduces the phenomenon to power and doesn’t discuss intellectual, cultural, and spiritual factors (by “spiritual” I mean people’s perceived spiritual means–I’m not making claims about spiritual reality here).

        • T-Paine

          Since Christianity had been rising for some time before that, it can’t be explained solely in terms of political power.

          And yet you do accept that fact that Christianity didn’t become the major religion of the empire until it was decreed by the emperor as the official cult of the empire – and therefore had it’s foot in the political door in receiving privileges and state sponsorship? And even more so when another emperor declared Christianity the sole religion of the empire – therefore banning all pagan faiths under pain of death or exile?

          Furthermore, pagan religions had been changing and becoming more otherworldly and mystical.

          You could say the same of Christianity – especially as they absorbed pagan holidays and customs to increase the appeal of worshipers of pagan faiths and gain more converts – and it worked. Pagans in the former western Empire had little transition from their pagan faith to the Christian faith – since they kept praying to their gods but called them saints instead, and kept observing the holidays and customs but called them christian.

        • adam

          “assumed that the pagan “gods” did exist, but that they were evil demons.”

          And they ASSUMED their superstitions were real.

        • Kodie

          And so what do you say happened to the evil demons that nobody really believes anymore?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Most people still believe in them. There’s no reason to think anything “happened to them.” Some of us are slow to assume that polytheistic religions can be simply reduced to “demonic deceptions,” but that’s because of our respect for other people’s beliefs and hardly further evidence that we’re “atheists about all religions but our own.” Many people have unthinkingly accepted an Enlightenment paradigm with regard to other religions, to be sure. But the majority of Christians today believe firmly in demons, and probably most Christians who live in places where there are still lots of polytheists still think that the “gods” of their neighbors are likely to be demons.

        • Kodie

          People used to think gods made the rain fall or demons made people sick. Some very thick believers still think natural disasters are messages and warnings, and that Jesus magically alters the outcome of a surgery. You can’t really claim that, for the most part, people still believe in them, since science adequately explains the weather and biology and medicine. You can’t study the effects of prayer or supernatural interference, it is wishful thinking.

          Sure, there are still some mysteries and obstacles that science can’t figure out how to study to get to an answer, but we are getting finer and finer detail, and still no god. Why do people go to wars over their beliefs, if they are all about the same god? I mean, do you attribute natural events to all the gods that anyone could believe in?

        • adam

          “And so what do you say happened to the evil demons that nobody really believes anymore?”

          Without ‘worshipers’ they die like all IMAGINARY characters.

        • Kodie

          That’s because they don’t exist either.

        • Rudy R

          Are you sure you aren’t confusing the knee-jerk reactions of poorly educated Christians with “Christian doctrine”?

          Would you add Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson to those poorly educated Christians?

        • Myna A.

          He would because those you list are Protestants. EWT is Catholic. There’s always that bit of tension. The fact that the listed persons either were or are crazy, well, that’s a cross of a different color even to mainstream Protestants, I’m sure.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I am not, at this point, formally Catholic–I go back and forth on whether to be received, mostly because of my support of women’s ordination (certainly the many reasons people on this forum can come up with for not trusting the Catholic Church as an institution play a role as well, even though I think a lot of the things said about Catholicism here are prejudiced and wildly unfair). Specifically, my wife is an Episcopal priest. Of course, Episcopalians are in many respects “liberal Catholics” (though that’s an over-generalization), and certainly aren’t fundamentalists! The other tradition I have some connection with is Methodism.

        • Are you also nontraditional in other areas? Abortion? SSM?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          More or less, yes. At least, I wouldn’t recognize any of them as of particular authority within the Christian intellectual tradition. Graham by far the most–he was a major public figure and is a man of integrity and generosity of spirit, as far as I can see. My family always had problems with the shallowness of his approach to evangelism (as if people could be eternally saved by believing a verse of Scripture). But he’s certainly someone whose historical impact I respect and who has functioned as an elder statesman within evangelicalism, mostly in good ways. Still, he’s hardly one of the great minds of the Christian tradition–that isn’t his contribution. Nor is he someone who has any particular ecclesiastical authority (but there I’m probably revealing my Catholic biases).

          The figure you mention for whom I have the next most respect would be Jerry Falwell. He had his good points, and he did bring fundamentalists out of radical sectarianism to some extent, although that involved in part making them more politically involved, which I’m only slightly less upset about than you probably are 🙂 But he’s a marginal figure in the broad Christian tradition. That’s pretty much by definition what fundamentalists are.

          Neither of the other two (Robertson and the younger Graham) strike me as particularly well educated in Christian doctrine, no. They both say some really goofy things from the standpoint of historic, mainstream Christianity.

        • Rudy R

          Those men you give favorable recognition represent the Christian doctrine of the majority of the Evangelical population in the US. The same ones who share the same doctrine as Robertson and Franklin Graham. The same ones who believe you go to Hell if you don’t accept Jesus as Savior. Who exactly are the poorly educated Christians, if you exclude the 94 million US Evangelicals?

          Incidentally, Robertson hosts the 700 Club, with an estimated yearly viewing audience of 360 million people. Do we exclude all those from the poorly educated as well?

        • Kodie

          Well, we’re talking about what people sincerely believe – what grown adults make up stories to conform to their idealistic representation of a document written by humans about gods that weren’t real. You are trying to defend one of those, while other versions appeal to other people, for the same reasons yours appeals to you. That doesn’t mean any of them are real. You believe yours just as sincerely as others believe theirs. Can you say any of you really believe in a real god, or just the fictional one you prefer?

        • Myna A.

          but Christian doctrine is unaffected either way

          Likewise, with all others. Their doctrine is unaffected as well. Nothing unique in that.

        • adam

          “What their relationship is to the one God I don’t claim to know.”

          Why dont you know?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Because, by the rules of evidence that _I_ recognize in religious matters (that’s to forestall the predictable “but none of it has any evidence”), I lack the evidence to have a firm opinion on the matter.

        • Susan

          The various lesser deities quite probably exist.

          Please show your work. What is a deity? What does it mean for one to exist? On what basis do you claim that they “quite probably exist”?

          Christian doctrine is unaffected either way.

          As are my Immaterial Snowflake Fairies (which, I’ll repeat are not a rhetorical trick.)

          What their relationship is the to the one God I don’t claim to know.

          “The one God” is meaningless.

          Better to say, “What their relationship is to my personal version of an incoherent, unevidenced Yahwehjesus claim I don’t claim to know.”

    • Since you’re so enthusiastic about those weak objections, I’m sure you’ll like the remaining ones that I’ll publish next time.

      We believe that Allah exists. We just think Muslims have some mistaken ideas about Him.

      Then it doesn’t sound like you think Allah exists. Sounds like you’re saying that Muslims worship someone about whom they’re very confused (like they’re worshiping Yahweh but misunderstand him or they’re worshiping some demon who falsely says that he’s the god Allah). In that case, Allah doesn’t exist.

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        So according to you, disagreement about God means “atheism” about the other person’s God, even though we both agree that we are disagreeing about the same one true God?

        At this point it sounds as if you are defining “atheism” for your own polemical convenience rather than in a reasonable way.

        I’m beginning to see why some of your interlocutors might have said some of the things you quote in the article.

        Here’s why I don’t think your approach holds up logically:

        Christians and Muslims agree on some things about God and disagree about others. You argue that the disagreements mean that we are “atheists” about each others “gods.”

        But this would have to mean that a person could be an “atheist about all gods” while affirming a basic, generic concept of theism that didn’t fit any of the specific claims made by any of the major religions.

        If there is common ground in our affirmation, and we both say that a Being who has certain characteristics exist, then it is pretty silly to say that we deny just as much about each other’s beliefs as an atheist does about both of our beliefs.

        That’s why this slogan is inaccurate and even dishonest, and why a decent and reasonable person such as you seem to be should not be using it.

        • So according to you, disagreement about God means “atheism” about the other person’s God, even though we both agree that we are disagreeing about the same one true God?

          When you say that the one true god has a certain set of attributes and the other guy says that the one true god has a different and, in some cases, incompatible set, then you’re not talking about the same thing.

          Or were you talking about point 1 above, that argued about the label “atheist”?

          But this would have to mean that a person could be an “atheist about all gods” while affirming a basic, generic concept of theism that didn’t fit any of the specific claims made by any of the major religions.

          He would not be an atheist with respect to the god he has in mind, just with all those gods that aren’t that. Just like you.

          Again, let me know if you’re raising point 1 above.

          If there is common ground in our affirmation, and we both say that a Being who has certain characteristics exist, then it is pretty silly to say that we deny just as much about each other’s beliefs as an atheist does about both of our beliefs.

          If your god has attributes A, B, and C, and the other guy’s has attributes A, X, and Y, then I find the “Yeah, but we both believe in the same being!” to be pretty weak. If it really is the same being, then you open a mountain of questions about how you or the other guy or both or your holy books are so confused.

        • When you say that the one true god has a certain set of attributes and the other guy says that the one true god has a different and, in some cases, incompatible set, then you’re not talking about the same thing.

          This is far more general than I think is reasonable. Is it wrong to say that Catholics and Anglicans believe in the same god? If somebody claims that Barack Obama is a Muslim and I claim that he is not, does that mean that we believe in separate and unrelated Barack Obamas? Can we not say that we believe different things about the same person?

          In the case of Muslims and Christians, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to say that they believe in the same god; they have mostly the same mythology, and one belief is a development of the other rather than arising independently.

          More generally, and at the risk of putting words in his mouth, I think EWT would say that non-Abrahamic ideas of a supreme god arose as a result of different groups of people separately inferring or intuiting the existence of the one true God. In this view, I think it does make some sense to say that these different religious groups all follow the same god. He’s basically doing a Christian version of interpretatio graeca.

        • This is CS Lewis’s “mere Christianity” idea. Let’s just focus on the overlap between the various denominations. The Catholics and Anglicans may have a decent amount of overlap (though the lack of overlap is still an indication to me that this is all made up). But Catholics and Islam? I agree that there is much common history, but in terms of tenets, I don’t see that much overlap.

          In the spirit of ecumenicalism, I can see trying to blur the lines and sing Kumbaya. (Or Jambalaya, as my spell checker suggests.) But I see good reason to argue that these are not the same god.

        • I agree that there is much common history, but in terms of tenets, I don’t see that much overlap.

          They both believe in an omniscient and omnipotent creator god, in angels, demons, Satan, Heaven, Hell, Judgement Day, and so on. They have pretty much their entire mythology in common. Muslims put an extra prophet in at the end, have a different Christology, and have some different rules for how to practise their religion. If that’s enough of a difference to say definitively that they are not the same god, then there’s several different gods just within the New Testament.

          But I see good reason to argue that these are not the same god.

          It depends on your criteria for fictional characters. Did Adam West and Michael Keaton play the same character, or different characters? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that their Batmans (Batmen?) were the same character played in different ways, and for similar reasons I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that Jehovah and Allah are the same character viewed in different ways.

        • I don’t know about there being several gods within the NT (let me know what you’re thinking of), but there are several in the OT–El, Yahweh in the pantheon, and Yahweh as the sole god, for example. And yes, they’re all different.

          I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that Jehovah and Allah are the same character viewed in different ways.

          I could argue it that way, though it’s easy to argue the opposite way as well.

        • I don’t know about there being several gods within the NT (let me know what you’re thinking of)

          If having different tenets about God means you’re talking about different gods, then Matthew’s God is different from John’s God is different from Paul’s God.

          but there are several in the OT–El, Yahweh in the pantheon, and Yahweh as the sole god, for example. And yes, they’re all different.

          Yes, in that they were originally separate characters, and were invented apart from each other. This doesn’t apply to the relationship between Jehovah and Allah, since they have a common origin.

          I could argue it that way, though it’s easy to argue the opposite way as well.

          Yes, it depends on how you define what constitutes the “same” character, or on the context of the conversation. So, given EWT’s beliefs, is it unreasonable for him to say that Muslims are worshipping the same god as he is, although they have some different opinions about God?

        • adam

          “Jehovah and Allah are the same character viewed in different ways.”

          Of course, they are the same God of Abraham…

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “there’s several different gods just within the New Testament.”

          No disagreement there.

          Batman is a fictional character of an existing IP. “God” is just a word we use in the English language for many characters we can find no real examples of, so who knows!

        • Greg G.

          Is it wrong to say that Catholics and Anglicans believe in the same god?

          Is the eternal ground of being the same god as the one who told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? Is it the same god that provided a ram to replace Isaac? Is the Abraham who didn’t kill Isaac the same Abraham who came down from the mountain alone?

          It all seems to come down to whether one person’s imaginary concept is the same as the next person’s imaginary concept.

        • When you look at the Documentary Hypothesis and untangle the interwoven stories, the differences are substantial.

        • It all seems to come down to whether one person’s imaginary concept is the same as the next person’s imaginary concept.

          I agree, and I think that, depending on context, saying that Jehovah and Allah are the same god and saying they are different gods can both be legitimate. It depends on what criteria you’re using for classification. So I don’t think it’s crazy for EWT to say that Muslims believe in the same god as him, but he thinks they’ve made a few errors about that god.

        • Greg G.

          I typed that before I saw your Batman analogy. In biology, there can be an objective measure when a species that reproduces by sex has separated from its mother species by reproductive compatibility. That doesn’t work as well for single-cell species.

          I think of Nicholaus who became Saint Nicholaus who became Santa Claus but Santa Claus is so different that I don’t think they could be the same character.

          I think Elohim and Yahweh may have evolved from the same character into a cosmic being and a being who interacted directly with earthlings but when they were recombined, a new concept was created of a cosmic being who interacts directly.

          I think the ground of being god of some Christians is hardly the same god of the Christian creationists which would likely be more like the god of the Muslim creationists.

        • Kodie

          If there’s someone up above who created the universe and who also counts all the hairs on everyone’s heads, everything else is just a story. They’d all be personal interpretations of the same thing. What they don’t seem to want to acknowledge is that perception is not indicative of a reality that anyone is up there. The same brain that makes tools and solves problems uses imagination that can create a beautiful piece of music, or shitty fanfic. Basically, the bible is fanfic about a fictional character from a myth.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Is the Abraham who didn’t kill Isaac the same Abraham who came down from the mountain alone?

          now that’s where a good changeling yarn would come in handy.

        • boneheadaudio

          What are your views on Thor, Zeus, Mithra, etc?

        • Joe

          I’ve already asked. He seems to think they exist, and that Catholics have no problem with that. That’s news to me.

        • MNb

          Not really – a modernized version of the “false gods” idea. It obviously doesn’t take away the main problem BobS formulated: why is EWT’s version the correct one? Or to put it in his own words:

          “We just think Muslims have some mistaken ideas about Him.”
          And those very same muslims think EWT has some mistaken ideas about Ar Rahman, Ar Rahim, Al Malik, etc. etc.
          So BobS’ question remains valid:

          “Why then would the Christian criticize when the atheist rejects that one final god?”
          Again in EWT’s own words: why then would EWT criticize when the atheist maintains that only one idea about god(s) is not mistaken – namely that there isn’t any god?
          Note that he carefully avoids to answer that one.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Well, it hasn’t been asked in these terms. Nor do I see the point of such a question. Obviously the reason to criticize it is that I don’t think it is true.

          The reason I object to the phrase under discussion (“atheist about all gods but one”) is that it shifts the issue from a yes/no answer to the question “is there a single source of all reality to which we can ascribe something analogous to intelligence, will, moral goodness, beauty, and other good qualities found in the world as we observe it?”) It pretends that the question is really “of the many superhuman beings in whom humans have believed, do any of them exist?” It builds on the entire reasonable point that if other cultures’ beliefs in superhuman beings were simply superstition and falsehood, exactly the same debunking methods could be applied to Christianity.

          It is therefore a matter of some importance for Christians to point out that we aren’t committed to any such set of beliefs at all. We may quite easily believe–indeed, I think we are required to believe–that all who speak of a single good and perfect source of reality are speaking of the same thing we are, and have some genuine contact with God. We may also believe–and, again, the Catholic Catechism points in that direction–that even those who worship lesser beings in a way that we consider erroneous may have some contact with that ultimate reality we call God. And we are certainly not required to believe that the various “gods” humans have believed in were nothing more than the product of the imagination–again, the most traditional view is that they are real but evil (which is of course not a particularly “sensitive” opinion in an interfaith context, and not one I’m particularly anxious to defend).

        • Kodie

          If they want different things, can they be the same being?

        • Otto

          Actually I am not sure the Catholic Church does have a problem with that. I believe that in order to get converts the Church spread the notion to the Norse myth pagans that their gods (Thor, Odin, etc.) were real but that the Christian God created them or something along those lines. In other words they just incorporated the pantheon into the Christian world view. Christianity is the Borg, they just assimilate other religions and cultures, it is a great marketing plan.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          One common approach, borrowed the Hellenistic philosopher Euhemerus, was to suggest that the “gods” were originally human beings who had been deified after their death. This was often combined with the idea that demons were now impersonating these humans. Early Christians made a lot of the claim that Zeus had a tomb in Crete (ironically, the phrase “in him we live and move and have our being” put into Paul’s mouth in Acts 17 is a quotation, transferred to the third person, from a hymn to Zeus explicitly rejecting that idea). Snorri Sturluson’s “Prose Edda,” written after the conversion of Iceland to Christianity and containing the most systematic account of Germanic mythology we have, uses this idea, claiming that the Aesir and the Vanir were originally two human tribes. I don’t find that the Edda maintains this idea consistently, though.

          Naturally I take the “assimilation” aspect of Christianity in a more positive sense–in the words of the Catholic Catechism, we “reject nothing that is true and holy” in other religions.

        • Otto

          I don’t know why it should be considered positive. People pulling garbage out of their hindquarters and disseminating as if it were true in order to trick people into accepting the Catholic worldview doesn’t seem like a positive thing to me. If the Church has to lie to spread its ‘truth’ it isn’t with much at all.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No lying involved.

        • Otto

          Oh there is plenty of lying, there is no reason to think Zues, Odin, etc. were real and there is absolutely no reason to incorporate them into the Christian world view except as a means to an end. It is deceitful and dishonest. Par for the course for the Catholic Church.

        • It’s no different from the view in Paradise Lost, or St Paul’s view in 1 Corinthians 10:20. The idea of pagan gods as beings that really exist, but are demons trying to fool people, isn’t new. As far as I know, the Catholic Church hasn’t ever declared such an opinion to be forbidden.

        • Joe

          Yet, that’s not representing those gods correctly. Zeus is the father of the gods, so to call him a demon in disguise is saying he doesn’t really exist.

        • Well you could present it that way, by saying that the Zeus that the Greeks believed in is a fictional character invented by a demon, and therefore doesn’t exist. But I think it’s worth distinguishing between this idea and the idea that the Greek gods were made up by humans, with no supernatural involvement.

          If a Christian claims that there was some demon appearing to the Greeks, claiming to be a god called Apollo, who is the source of the Apollo legends, then I don’t think it makes much sense to say that person is an atheist regarding Apollo, and that I just reject one more god than they do. If they think that the legends of other gods were inspired by real, genuinely supernatural and genuinely powerful beings, then that’s very different from what atheists usually believe.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t know if they exist (as beings distinct from God–some Greek philosophers used “Zeus” to mean “God”) or not. Again, it isn’t a matter of faith either way.

          The view that they exist and may not be wholly evil is certainly not a traditional view, and I would suggest it only very tentatively. It may be that they don’t exist, or at least that the beings who have sometimes been countered under that name were indeed, as the early Church thought, demons. My point is simply that Christian doctrine in no way requires anyone to have an opinion on whether such beings exist or not, only that if they exist they are created by God and should not be given the worship that is due only to God, and that if they set themselves up as rivals to God they are evil.

        • Kodie

          The myth you believe tells people to believe it by acknowledging other myths exist and not to believe them. It’s marketing. Those other gods people believe in are either not real or aren’t as strong, or are demons sent to fool people, of course believers who want you on board with their belief would say such a thing. You don’t believe in those gods, or you don’t believe they are THE god, no difference. You easily dismiss that they have any relevance, and you make up stories about the believers in those gods and how their belief is mistaken or foolish compared to yours. Don’t you think they are making up the same stories to their own believers about your particular belief?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          There is a difference–and, again, the capital letter has far more significance in monotheistic usage than you and other atheists seem to admit. The myths found in Hesiod’s Theogony do not ascribe to Zeus anything like the qualities Christians believe pertain to God. The Hesiodic Zeus, at least, is the product of several generations of divine procreation and conflict. He is clearly a being within the universe as a whole and not its creator.

          The Zeus of Cleanthes’ hymn, about half a millennium later, is quite different. This Zeus is recognizably what we mean by God. It would be false to say in any sense that Christians “don’t believe in Zeus” as defined by Cleanthes. Clearly we do. We don’t call that being “Zeus” because for us that calls up associations with the mythological being described in poetry such as that of Hesiod, and clearly _that_ being isn’t what we mean by God (whether he exists or not). But we believe in what Cleanthes describes as “Zeus” in that hymn: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/ebm/ebm10.htm

          To your last question: no, I don’t think they are making up the same stories, because I actually pay attention to the specifics of what other religions say, and I know many of the stories they tell (I wouldn’t say “make up,” because that’s too dismissive). Paul Griffiths’ _Christianity through Non-Christian Eyes_ is an excellent introductory reader in how representatives of the four non-Christian “major religions” explain Christianity.

          But probably you mean something like “the same sorts of stories” in a very vague and general sense: that members of all religions have some kind of account of why other people believe different things. That’s trivially true, and it’s true of all paradigms. Why is this particularly discrediting to religious paradigms?

          Take science, for instance. Modern Western science is a broad paradigm with many disagreements within it. Some of those disagreements go on for a long time without being resolved. On matters with practical importance, such as health and nutrition, a layperson gets the impression that scientists have no real consensus at all and keep shooting out various pronouncements based on the latest study which is then supposedly contradicted by another story. This is complicated by the fact that most of us access scientific knowledge through various popularizations, and many popularizers use scientific knowledge in conjunction with various other paradigms. So, for instance, the “paleolithic diet” makes a lot of claims that are probably scientifically questionable, but it also makes what seem like pretty solid claims that the “traditional” low-fat approach isn’t really based in good science at all. Then (sticking to health and nutrition) there are various paradigms that to one degree or another reject the mainstream scientific consensus altogether or supplement it with things that people on these forums like to call “woo.” There are ancient traditions such as Chinese medicine which form an alternative to Western science and nutrition for millions of people and contribute a great deal to the afore-mentioned “woo.” And so on.

          Or take evolution. Nearly half the people in the U.S. don’t believe in it. You and I probably agree that they are wrong–that they are ignoring real evidence and listening to specious arguments. But again, that’s our story about why other people disagree with us. It could be described in just as negative a way as you’re describing such stories in the case of religion–and creationist polemic takes just that approach, accusing evolutionists of smuggling in ideology in the form of science.

        • Kodie

          Science uses evidence, and you either understand it or you don’t. You’re trying to use that to compare why one’s beliefs can be true and the other beliefs false with regard to god or gods, which you have failed to demonstrate are anything but fictional in your or any other case. I don’t care about your monotheistic “usage”. What does “admitting” have to do with anything?

        • adam

          “The myths found in Hesiod’s Theogony do not ascribe to Zeus anything like the qualities Christians believe pertain to God. ”

          Of course it does:

          You just HAVE to be deceptive, to claim otherwise:

          http://www.greekmythology.com/Olympians/Zeus/zeus.html

        • adam

          “even though we both agree that we are disagreeing about the same one true God?”

          God of the Gaps…

          You both agree there is something you dont know.

          Mere ignorance.

        • Kodie

          Would you believe humans just aren’t really that smart? That’s where the scientific method tries really really hard to overcome the natural bias. Cultures anthropomorphize nature and believe they are chosen people, and appeal to the “force”. Your belief in a One True God is not different from the Muslims, or any tribe on any island throwing virgins into a volcano to appease the volcano gods.

    • I agree with you on this, for what it’s worth. However, I don’t think every belief in one god is the same, do you? It is also interesting to see that you say Christians believe other gods exist. Doesn’t that go against the core feature of monotheism?

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        Nope. Monotheism claims that
        1) there is one God who created everything.
        2) we should only worship this God.

        It does not deny that other “gods” exist, only that they should be worshiped. By definition, polytheists do not claim for “gods” what monotheists claim for God. It’s logically impossible to do so, because central to the monotheistic definition of God is the claim that God created everything that is not God. You can’t have several separate beings each of which created everything except itself (you can, of course, posit some kind of plurality within a unified divinity, as Christians indeed do).

        Early Christians believed that the pagan gods existed, and identified them with demons.

        I am agnostic about whether they exist and what sort of beings they are. The only points that are a matter of faith are that they, like all other beings in the universe that are not God, were created by God and that a right attitude to them (as to anything else) is ordered by our worship of God. (This is why traditional Christians, unlike Protestants, have no problem with venerating saints and angels, who by some possible definitions could be described as “gods.”)

        • adam

          ” The only points that are a matter of faith “

        • Cygnus

          In the US, the number of Christians in the lunatic asylum is higher than compared with people of other religions. That should be a lesson for Christian leaders to stop calling the US a “Christian Nation”

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Higher by proportion to their numbers, or higher in absolute terms? The former would, of course, to be expected. The latter wouldn’t bother me that much either, but I’d like to see evidence for it before assuming its truth.

        • Cygnus

          All I know is that if a lunatic is put in an asylum, either he/she says is whatever he/she believe is, or one member of the family says “the lunatic was born in a Christian family, therefore he/she is a Christian”

          So, those lunatics whose families considers the US a Christian State, can surely say that the number of Christian lunatics is higher that other religious lunatics.

          Can’t you assume truth from above about the number of Christians in the lunatic asylum? Surely, it depends on the state religion, but US is a secular state where Christian lunatics have a lot of faith that US is a Christian state, thus the higher number of their lunatics in the asylum.

        • Myna A.

          This is why traditional Christians, unlike Protestants

          What are traditional Christians v. Protestants? I sense an undercurrent of suppressed disdain (see third entry http://stewedrabbit.blogspot.com/). Are Protestants in error like Islam? Voodun incorporates Catholicism and Hoodoo incorporates Protestantism. Both summon the spirit world. Anglicanism tolerates Spiritualism. Catholicism tolerates Mary cults. Islam tolerates Sufism. The list goes on and on and is not ending anytime soon. The Buddhists may be right. The arguments for the gods, one or a thousand, are essentially meaningless.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          It’s not suppressed, and I don’t think it’s disdain (certainly it’s mild compared to the disdain many here feel for all forms of theism, and it has many of the same roots). It’s a considered historical and theological judgment that Protestantism altered the shape of Christianity quite drastically. And in talking to you guys, I see how catastrophic this has been. You don’t seem to recognize a historic Christian perspective–you’re startled by it and hint over and over again that I must be making it up.

          That doesn’t mean that I don’t think Protestantism is a valid form of Christianity–clearly it is, and I’m trying to find a way I can affirm what I take to be the fuller and more orthodox version of Christianity found in Protestantism without breaking with my Protestant brothers and sisters (women’s ordination is a particularly sore spot for me, because my wife is an Episcopal priest). But Protestantism is missing a whole lot.

          “Traditional Christianity” is of course a vague shorthand–I mean the historic mainstream of Christianity represented most fully by Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, and to varying degrees by varying forms of Protestantism. (I.e., insofar as Protestants accept the Trinity, they are “traditional Christians,” insofar as they reject the Real Presence and other traditional sacramental doctrines, they aren’t.) I’m trying to use a term that is concise and that is subject to as few theological disputes as possible (the term “orthodox” implies a value judgment, for instance).

        • Myna A.

          You don’t seem to recognize a historic Christian perspective

          There are some members here who have an extensive background in biblical scholarship and Christian history, so you’ve made an error in your assumption there. Maybe at some point one or two will decide to engage with you on this, or maybe not. It’s one of those wait and see type of things.

          you’re startled by it and hint over and over again that I must be making it up.

          I don’t see that at all.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Well, I have yet to see a lot of evidence that people on these forums are deeply acquainted with Christian _intellectual_ history. Many are very good at rattling off some of the more obvious atrocities in Christian history, if that’s what you call an “extensive background in Christian history.” I also don’t see a whole lot of Biblical scholarship, though clearly most people here know the Bible much better than they know the post-Biblical, premodern Christian tradition. But most of the references to the Bible seem very literalistic and the sort of thing one might learn in fundamentalist circles with very little exposure to mainstream Biblical scholarship at all.

        • Myna A.

          No, I am not speaking to past Christian atrocities, although it is wise not to dismiss them as an argument against theocracy. Perhaps you might go back and read some of Bob S.’s prior posts on topics that are of interest to you and read some of those discussions. Maybe 3 or 4 months ago, before a recent troll episode eclipsed a few of them.

          Some of what you reference is a matter of interpretation of historical record, details and documents and your perspective may differ from others. One man’s deity is another man’s fable, and I wouldn’t anticipate anyone seeing it through your own interpretation or vice versa.

        • Susan

          I have yet to see a lot of evidence that people on these forums are deeply acquainted with Christian _intellectual_ history.

          As far as I can tell, most christians aren’t familiar with “christian intellectual history”. Every christian response claims an error in our knowledge of “true” christianity.

          I’ve chased christians down countless rabbit holes for years and there is no there there. Just empty claims. I was indoctrinated by the RCC as a child and have found their answers lacking as well as the answers of christians who disagree with them.

          They all begin with their conclusion.

          What are you claiming and how do you support it?

        • Kodie

          All Christians think their Christianity is the right, most historical, most fully represented one. Maybe Christians don’t realize it’s just a story.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          In my case, at least, I don’t think that the word “just” is a very appropriate modifier for the word “story.” Everything is a story.

        • Kodie

          You haven’t done a good job of demonstrating that your beliefs aren’t in a fictional story. You seem to take for granted that it isn’t, but you’re sure that other versions of god, even versions of your own god, are, at the very least, mistaken if not fictional.

          That’s the point.

        • adam

          “That doesn’t mean that I don’t think Protestantism is a valid form of Christianity–clearly it is, and I’m trying to find a way I can affirm what I take to be the fuller and more orthodox version of Christianity found in Protestantism without breaking with my Protestant brothers and sister”

          Lots of people find a way to ignore the hatred that Protestantism is based on.

        • Well that’s new to me. I’ve always heard monotheism means “there is one god” period. Technically what you talk about here seems like what’s called “henotheism”, worship of one god, though acknowledging others do exist too. Here is a question however: if these other gods were created by God, why tolerate worship of them? The Ten Commandments forbid it, for instance, and God is described as “jealous”. On the saints and angels, how does this veneration differ from worship? That seems to be a beef for some Protestants-they regard this as idolatry. I recall that some of the early radical Protestants destroyed icons in the Catholic churches due to this belief.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          The problem, as in most of these discussions, is the vagueness of the term “a god.” Pretty consistently on these forums, I find atheists very interested in talking about “gods” but very slow to define what they think a “god” is in the first place.

          If you’re assuming that there’s a category called “gods” of which monotheists believe there to be only one member, then you aren’t going to understand monotheism very well. At least in its classic philosophical form, monotheism is the claim that there is a single source of all reality. By definition this is far more different from any other being who might be called a “god” than any such other being is from humans or rats or bacteria, because in the monotheistic paradigm all such beings are creatures of God.

          So when you ask “do you believe that other gods exist,” and I say “possibly,” what I mean is, “I believe that superhuman beings that are not God probably exist, and that some of them may well have been involved in inspiring and responding to human worship in various polytheistic traditions.” The traditional Christian view is that such beings are demons–fallen angels whose wills are fixed in evil and who are thus to be rejected altogether as deceivers and tempters. The tendency among modern Christians is to think that they were just products of human imagination, and atheists seem to assume for some reason that all Christians hold this latter view. It’s also possible that the “gods” are based on imperfect human perceptions of the one true God, or possibly on a perception of angelic activity to which divine honor was then paid which the true angels would find unwelcome, or perhaps on some mix of all the above possibilities. The possibility that they might exist and might have a “mixed” moral character rather like our own, which I admit I’m at least slightly open to and find imaginatively appealing (one of the basic differences between me and most atheists is that I’m quite willing to take imaginative appeal as evidence–certainly not proof, but evidence–of the truth of a given view about the nature of reality), is certainly not a traditional view (though one can find hints of it in Christian tradition here and there, particularly of course in the folk beliefs about elves and other such beings which some Christians tried to reconcile with Christianity in various ways). But I’m not sure that it actually contradicts any basic Christian teaching.

          So back to henotheism: from my perspective the difference between “henotheism” and “monotheism” is not “do the beings worshiped as ‘gods’ exist or not” but rather, “is God the member of a category called ‘gods,’ whether or not he’s the only member, or is God radically beyond all categories?” The latter view is the view of classic, traditional Christian monotheism (and I think also the view of other theistic traditions). Once you make that move, whether there are other beings who have been worshiped as “gods” is no longer a matter of prime importance.

          I never suggested that worship of other gods should be tolerated within Christianity (except in the form of “veneration” of saints and angels, if that’s what you are talking about). You’re right that Protestantism (particularly the Reformed tradition which is the ancestor of most forms of Protestantism today–Lutherans were less uptight about this, though they also looked dimly on asking saints to pray for you because they worried that it detracted from a focus on faith in Christ as the source of salvation) condemned such practices as idolatrous.

        • True, and there have been conceptions of god(s), which makes it difficult. Generally speaking, I and others seem to be mostly speaking about the Christian god, though there is variation on that too. Classical theism I believe is the actual theological term for it.

          I guess I’m just not sure your description of monotheism applies to all people who believe in one god. Do you think it applies to all deists and pantheists, for instance? Then would there be any contradiction to believe in just one god that does not match your criteria? I can’t see any.

          The possibilities that you discuss here seem to be different than saying they’re genuinely gods however. Believers in them do not believe they are demons, misidentified angels, and so on.

          Well, this all seems like a new definition of monotheism to me, though I’m hardly an expert.

          It seems that some Protestants opposed transubstantiation on similar grounds-that this would be an idol if Christ were actually present. My grandmother always refused to take any Communion at all, calling it “too Catholic” (the only religious sentiment that I ever heard from her, oddly enough).

          How do you differentiate veneration and worship?

        • The traditional Christian view is that such beings are demons–fallen angels whose wills are fixed in evil and who are thus to be rejected altogether as deceivers and tempters.

          But that’s just what an evil god in charge would have you believe, right? That the other guys are the bad ones.

          Remember how the snake in the Garden of Eden story was actually telling the truth? And he’s why we have our reasoning powers? You might want to reevaluate the story by swapping the bad and good roles of the central players.

        • TheNuszAbides

          he could just brush that off as Joy of Satan propaganda.

        • Myna A.

          At least in its classic philosophical form, monotheism is the claim that there is a single source of all reality.

          It is one thing to consider a conscious force behind the universe, it is another to give it a story; to anthropomorphize it with an ego-driven personality that so startlingly mirrors human attributes, foibles and agenda and then make excuses for its apparent limitations; give it flesh that reflects the gender and skin color in power; hold up the heaven/hell card as a bargaining tool against the inherent fear of death, kill and oppress and argue for it and on and on it goes.

          Simply because priests, philosophers, coenobites and scholars have occupied themselves with studying a story assumed to be true, does not make the story reality. It’s more a formula for ancient alien theories…which there is a topic about here at Cross Examined.

          I understand the human drive for meaning and attraction to allegory, but reject the vain assumption of man-gods.

        • MNb

          “The problem, as in most of these discussions, is the vagueness of the term “a god.” Pretty consistently on these forums, I find atheists very interested in talking about “gods” but very slow to define what they think a “god” is in the first place.”
          You’re the believer. So you tell us. I don’t like arguing against strawmen. As an atheist I at beforehand have only a vague idea what believers mean with “god”.
          Usually I assume it’s a supernatural, transcendental, immaterial entitiy that somehow interacts with our natural, material reality, like in “God loves Homo Sapiens”, “God created the Universe”, “God grounds math, morals” etc. As two believers already have a hard time to agree on what they mean with “God”, why would you expect atheists to do better?
          In my specific case “gods” and “your god” simply refer to that simple fact of disagreement among believers. If you feel like you can take it as “different ideas about God” or “different God image”. I don’t object.

        • That’s a helpful clarification. I didn’t feel like getting into it with Edwin where I propose a definition and then he grades it for me.

        • TheNuszAbides

          what choice do we who lack a Rich* Tradition have, other than to be schooled by the erudite, historic loan-sharks of Western Civ? the unflinching luminaries who burned an unknown variety of ~heretical~ writing because, apparently, their brilliant words weren’t enough to counter the threat. but of course if the source and grounding of ALL didn’t ~will~ those heresies to survive, they can’t have been both significant and non-terrible ideas … right?

          *i haven’t yet seen him squirm around the double/triple meaning on that; if i catch up with the last few weeks and it turns out no one tried it out, i might.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          The problem as I see it is the atheists’ failure to distinguish between the debate over the ultimate source of reality, which is a debate about God, and the relatively trivial debate over whether traditional beliefs about various superhuman beings are true. As David Hart argues here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/06/god-gods-and-fairies, only the former debate really concerns basic beliefs about the nature of the universe. That’s why I refer to the second debate (important as it may be) as relatively trivial (emphasis on relatively).

          One could draw a diagram in which one axis was belief in God and one axis was belief in “supernatural” beings, miracles, etc., and there would be at least some people in all four quadrants, though the “God but no gods” quadrant would be relatively sparsely populated with Deists and some modern liberal Christians.

          The reason I’m pressing atheists on the definition of a “god” is that atheists insist that the philosophical monotheistic concept of God is just one possible “god” among many. To know that, you would have to know what a “god” was. But clearly none of you really know that or think you need to know that.

        • Susan

          The reason I’m pressing atheists on the definition of a “god” is that atheists insist that the philosophical monotheistic concept of God is just one possible “god” among many. To know that, you would have to know what a “god” was. But clearly none of you really know that or think you need to know that.

          I’d prefer to leave the word out entirely. It can mean almost anything but when a theist makes claims about a god, they don’t like to define their terms and support those claims.

          What are you claiming and how do you support it?

        • Greg G.

          Why should anyone believe in imaginary things? If there is no evidence for something, it can only come in to the conversation from being imagined. What people in ancient times took for evidence for gods turned out to be misunderstandings. Why maintain belief in other people’s mistakes?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I find the claim that in the third sentence to be breathtakingly presumptuous and very poorly supported by evidence.

          But the point here is that it’s rather odd to make claims about whether a belief is true or not before you have bothered to get the terms of the belief correct in the first place.

        • Kodie

          Many, many, many theists have poorly explained what they mean, and it’s just hard to explain to you all how gullible you are to believe it at all, that what you personally believe is true is also a myth. There is no credible evidence to support any of it, and only comparison to others’ incredible belief systems and myth stories. Do you try to understand it from that perspective?

        • Myna A.

          To know that, you would have to know what a “god” was. But clearly none of you really know that or think you need to know that.

          So explain, since it appears you actually know. No “beliefs”, but actual knowledge. To state there IS a singular God or many gods, evidence beyond belief and faith must be presented that would be applicable to this moment as it would a million years ago. With belief, as with emotion, anything can be imagined. With actual knowledge, while still open to a measure of interpretation, would nonetheless be a crucial debate.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t find the concept of a “god” particularly coherent, which is why I’m not the one insisting on using it.

          I find the concept of “God” to be coherent and reasonable, whether or not it actually corresponds to reality. Perhaps, indeed, it’s just an artifact of our evolutionary drive to recognize patterns. But then, science depends on that drive as well, so discounting it seems counter-productive 🙂

          I have explained the bare bones of that concept a number of times now–a source of all reality (in some Christian Trinitarian accounts including itself, though that may be too abstruse to get into here, and I could simply say “all reality other than itself”) which possesses all the good qualities found in “creatures” (i.e., in all reality that is not God) to a perfect degree. Christians since the fourth century would say “to an infinite degree,” but I’m trying to keep the definition basic. The traditional Christian view would also say that God surpasses all categories of thought and can only be spoken of analogously or even, in some versions, negatively (by saying what God is not).

          So another way of stating the case is that theists believe that all reality we can explain and define is caused by a reality that we can’t, but from which all the things we can explain proceed and which they reflect in an imperfect and fractured way.

          But note that this isn’t “God of the gaps.” The thing that needs explaining is that we can explain things, not that we can’t. And the inexplicability of God is posited as a premise, not discovered empirically.

        • Susan

          I find the concept of “God” to be coherent and reasonable

          Then, what is it specifically? Put it in clear language.

          Perhaps, indeed, it’s just an artifact of our evolutionary drive to recognize patterns.

          No. It’s an ultimate claim about agency, and is usually an Abrahamic leap to claim their particular deity is an ultimate agent.

          My Immaterial Snowflake Fairies make the same leap but you claim they are rhetorical, though they are just the same random claim about agency that describe patterns.

          then, science depends on that drive as well,

          This is why “agent” is not the same as “patterns”. No. Science notes that in order to make predictions and statements about the world, we can test our understanding of “patterns” until they are no longer reliable. When they are unreliable in principle, then the scientific method will be unreliable as well, but this does not make your deity claim reliable.

          You have nothing so far. Just statements about claims christians make. No acknowledgement that christians make all kinds of contradicting claims, and that the axiom on which all their arguments are based is no better than the “evil eye”.

          You correct American christians. On what basis? (Mainstream christianity can mean almost anything, depending on which place and time you choose in history). That you all begin with a supernatural belief that you can’t defend? And if one accepts that belief, it just becomes a matter of bickering about your personal interpretations of the details.

          If you can’t establish your basis, then you are all free to make anything up. Its consistency with your interpretation of christianity might be interesting to you, but has nothing to do with its basis in reality.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Perhaps, indeed, it’s just an artifact of our evolutionary drive to recognize patterns.

          No. It’s an ultimate claim about agency, and is usually an Abrahamic leap to claim their particular deity is an ultimate agent.

          can’t be both?

        • Susan

          can’t be both?

          It could but Edwin seems to be equating observing with recognizing and patterns with agency.

          Some crucial, unjustified leaps.

        • TheNuszAbides

          true enough; obviously he doesn’t suppose it’s just said artifact.

        • I find the concept of “God” to be coherent and reasonable

          And you wouldn’t say that Yahweh is a god? In fact, one of many gods?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I would say that ancient Hebrews at some pre-canonical period no doubt thought of YHWH as one of many gods. By the time the Hebrew Scriptures were put in their final canonical form, YHWH was being spoken of in ways that implied that he was something quite radically different from the other “gods.” I see a process of development within the texts we have from a more anthropomorphic view of YHWH as a “god” to texts like “Second Isaiah” which seem to be claiming a quite different status for him. However, one of my best friends who is an OT scholar insists that it’s mostly people (like me) who aren’t specialists in the subject who take this “progressive revelation” view, and that the evidence doesn’t really support any such pattern of gradual development but rather a variety of different ways of talking about God which coexisted.

          At any rate, as I’m sure you know, Christian theology is not limited by the Old Testament. Nor, in the Catholic tradition at least, is it limited by a “literal” interpretation even of the NT.

          I’m not interested in defending the Biblical exegesis behind classical Christian orthodoxy here–it would be pointless, since the traditional Christian approach to interpreting the Bible rests on the beliefs that God exists, that God has inspired the Bible, and that God is guiding the Church in understanding the Bible. If you don’t share those beliefs, then you and I aren’t reading the same Bible at all. I don’t mean that we can’t discuss historical interpretations, but that you aren’t justified in assuming that because you (reading the Bible as an atheist) think the Bible says X, therefore Christian doctrine must make room for X.

        • I would say that ancient Hebrews at some pre-canonical period no doubt thought of YHWH as one of many gods.

          We agree. Doesn’t that make the OT just like any other mythological book, especially since it documents the evolution of their beliefs? The facts about the actual creator of the universe presumably wouldn’t change.

          I see a process of development within the texts we have from a more anthropomorphic view of YHWH as a “god” to texts like “Second Isaiah” which seem to be claiming a quite different status for him.

          Precisely. This is very damning evidence.

          However, one of my best friends who is an OT scholar insists that it’s mostly people (like me) who aren’t specialists in the subject who take this “progressive revelation” view, and that the evidence doesn’t really support any such pattern of gradual development but rather a variety of different ways of talking about God which coexisted.

          How is it possible that the omniscient creator of the universe was such a bungler when he tried to get his autobiography across?

          If you don’t share those beliefs, then you and I aren’t reading the same Bible at all.

          I’m doing my best to read it as a historian/anthropologist/scientist. I do a poor job. The last thing I’ll be doing, however, is reading it with the spectacles of faith in place. I want to follow the facts where they lead.

          I don’t mean that we can’t discuss historical interpretations, but that you aren’t justified in assuming that because you (reading the Bible as an atheist) think the Bible says X, therefore Christian doctrine must make room for X.

          I agree. Christians can say that they get whatever they want out of the Bible. Nevertheless, I will evaluate that claim as an outsider. “My tradition says so” will count for nothing.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          But it should count for something in determining what kinds of statements you make about what Christians believe. That’s all I’m saying.

          I don’t find the OT evidence damning at all. You assume something like a fundamentalist narrative (“God writing his autobiography,” which is not what I believe the Bible to be at all) and then point out, rightly, that it doesn’t hold up.

          Historical criticism strengthened my faith, because it helped me understand the Bible as a collection of human documents, and when I started taking it seriously in that way I began to see how it showed evidence of divine inspiration. Inspiration–and most other works of God–come through human processes rather than replacing them.

        • I don’t find the OT evidence damning at all.

          God portrays himself as part of a pantheon, and you’re cool with that? You’re very understanding.

          Historical criticism strengthened my faith, because it helped me understand the Bible as a collection of human documents

          Just like all the other religions? Oops—I would think that you’d want to remove yourself from that bin.

          Your position seems to be, “OK, I know that the Bible looks like just another manmade book of mythology, and Yahweh looks like just another invented deity. But (1) you can’t prove me wrong and (2) I’m going to believe anyway, regardless.” That’s fine, but that’s not much to brag about.

        • Myna A.

          But then, science depends on that drive as well, so discounting it seems counter-productive

          Again, I think you would find Rupert Sheldrake interesting.

          though that may be too abstruse to get into here

          Yea, we iz perty ignernt this side o’ the river.

          The traditional Christian view would also say
          that God surpasses all categories of thought and can only be spoken of analogously or even, in some versions, negatively (by saying what God is not).

          The key words here are traditional and view. A story oft’ told, a view oft’ held, sooner or later becomes an assumption of truth, although I understand that within some church sectors there is a slowly growing argument for pulling away from Pauline Christianity, which, speaking as one with no stake in it either way, is probably not a bad idea.

          Nevertheless, the story is still originating from the belief that Christianity is the ultimate gatekeeper. It’s not alone in this arrogance. Islam is equally guilty. If neither wasn’t as conceited, neither one would attempt to proselytize.

          all reality we can explain and define is caused by a reality that we can’t, but from which all the things we can explain proceed and which they reflect in an imperfect and fractured way.

          I detect shades of Malebranche in that, but it’s late so don’t hold me to it.

          And the inexplicability of God is posited as a premise, not discovered empirically.

          Honestly, I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is imposing the premise on the greater collective.

        • And the inexplicability of God is posited as a premise, not discovered empirically.

          Careful! That bastard Greg G. has probably got that word copyrighted as well.

          I haven’t had licensing fees this high since that ill-advised reference to Kleenex® brand tissues (a registered trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.).

        • Myna A.

          Oh shite!

        • I understand that within some church sectors there is a slowly growing argument for pulling away from Pauline Christianity, which, speaking as one with no stake in it either way, is probably not a bad idea.

          It does make sense to move more toward the supposed founder rather than the popularizer, but I hadn’t heard this. How are you seeing this change manifest?

        • Myna A.

          It does make sense to move more toward the supposed founder rather than the popularizer, but I hadn’t heard this. How are you seeing this change manifest?

          I cannot personally attest to seeing this change manifest, having not involved myself with Christianity for a very long time; however, I heard an interview on the radio recently with a former priest who spoke similarly to a book I read some time ago by Bishop John Shelby Spong (Why Christianity Must Change or Die c. 1998), and my thought was that it was good to know the discussion is still alive. While it doesn’t compel me to retrace those old Anglican roots, I appreciate the movement’s efforts. Here is the Wiki page on (now retired) Bishop Spong: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shelby_Spong

          I looked up the Bishop’s website and went to the partners page: http://johnshelbyspong.com/partner-organizations/

          One of the links, Faith Futures Foundation, is no longer extant, but I found their mission statement a very reasonable one:

          The FFF serves the growing network of people and communities engaged in the re-visioning of their spiritual traditions in the light of advances in the humanities and sciences.

          It is reminiscent of the Dalai Lama’s position that:

          If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.

        • adam

          “I find the concept of “God” to be coherent and reasonable, whether or not it actually corresponds to reality.”

          If it doesnt correspond to reality, which you’ve not demonstrated, it is ONLY reasonable to assume it is IMAGINARY.

        • adam

          “The problem as I see it is the atheists’ failure to distinguish between
          the debate over the ultimate source of reality, which is a debate about
          God, ”

          No, no ‘God’ has EVER been demonstrated to exist in reality, ONLY in the mind of it’s ‘believers’..

        • Thought2Much

          Oh, come on! Before the Flood, the waters above the firmament prevented people from getting cancer from the sun. After the Flood, when God opened up the firmament and dropped all of that water onto the earth below, people were exposed to the parts of the spectrum that caused cancer, which itself was only possible because it was part of God’s punishment of humanity after the Fall of Adam and Eve.

        • Greg G.

          Noah didn’t have to take lions, tigers, pumas, jaguars, and cheetahs, just one pair of urcats. The sun’s rays caused hyperevolution in all species then they all simultaneously evolved a way to stop evolution. Urkangaroos could hop all the way to Australia where they hyperevolved into koalas, the platypus, and emus.

          (It’s harder than you think to start with an actual claim of creationists and make it sound more ridiculous.)

        • Kodie

          The problem as I see it is the atheists’ failure to distinguish between the debate over the ultimate source of reality, which is a debate about God, and the relatively trivial debate over whether traditional beliefs about various superhuman beings are true.

          Um, you assume there is really a god, and it’s not trivial to question whether there is one or not.

        • Greg G.

          The atheists you are likely to meet online don’t accept the supernatural. The supernatural is defined as not natural which implies that it is conceived to be evidence-free which is a way to dodge having ones supernatural belief refuted by evidence.

          Since theists cannot define their evidence-free belief, it is not up to atheists to do so. If the theist’s belief is not evidence-free, it is up to them to provide it.

          Heck, whenever Bob posts an article debunking a particular argument for god, a couple of Christians will respond with “but that’s not my god” and they don’t agree on a specific god.

          Now there are some who have gods that actually exist but they can’t show they are gods. My favorite example is an Amazonian tribe that considers a tree frog to be a god.

          Atheists don’t believe there is any gods, whether someone has defined it or not, simply because there is no compelling evidence for the supernatural.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You keep defining things in ways that push the question back one step further. If by “the supernatural” you mean “that which can’t be explained scientifically,” then that’s fair enough. So a “god” or “angel” or whatever (still no work on distinguishing those things from each other, but probably that’s not particularly significant for you) would be a being whose properties couldn’t be explained scientifically (not couldn’t be explained now, but could never be so explained).

          I’m not sure that definition works very well, because from a traditional Christian perspective I don’t think there’s any reason to hang one’s hat on the claim that any being other than God, or any event other than initial creation (of the universe/multiverse as a whole, not of life or humanity) or the resurrection of Jesus transcends the possibility of scientific explanation. But possibly I’m going against Catholic teaching on this–arguably the Catholic Church has tied itself pretty tightly to the Thomistic understanding of angels, and arguably Thomistic angels are by definition beyond what we would now call scientific inquiry. (Earlier conceptions of angels might not be.)

          Certainly in a rough-and-ready way there does seem to be an identifiable category of the “supernatural” or “miraculous” or whatever. But I find that the more carefully try to define it, the harder it is to define.

        • Susan

          I find that the more carefully try to define it, the harder it is to define.

          Then, what are you talking about?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          God. About whom we can use the word “supernatural” in a clear way, because the God of classical theism is, by definition, outside the categories of observable reality and the source of that reality. It’s not necessarily clear that any being existing with the universe, even a “spiritual” being whose powers seemed miraculous to us, would be above and beyond some conceivable “nature” which perhaps we do not yet fully understand. But God by definition is.

          Of course, it may be that God does not exist. All I’m asking for, at this stage, is clarity about just what it is atheists are denying and theists are affirming.

        • Susan

          the God of classical theism is, by definition, outside the categories of observable reality and the source of that reality.

          Then what is it? How can you talk about it in any meaningful way?

          Yet… you are alluding to it being an immaterial agent (with no justification), you are suggesting that “source of reality” is a legitimate subject without defining the terms “source” or “reality” and without showing that, even if you bothered to be very clear about the definitions of those terms, that you have any authority to make statements about “source of reality” and that it’s OK to just go ahead and claim that Yahwehjeus is that ‘immaterial agent who is the source of reality’ should be called “God” because christians get to define everything without defining anything.

          Do you have any evidence for any of this?

        • Susan

          God.

          By which you mean a specific deity (Yahwehjesus), the one you believe exists and whom you claim is “supernatural” but you said that the harder you try to define “supernatural”, the harder it is to define.

          I asked you what you were talking about when you used the term and you pushed us right back to Level 1 and said “God”.

          What are you claiming and how can you support it?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I don’t mean a “specific deity.” I don’t know how many times I have to say that before you believe it.

          I believe certain things about God. But I believe that people who don’t believe those specific things may still believe in God.

          When “supernatural” is ascribed to God (the one case in which I think it does have a clear meaning) it means “above and beyond all phenomena that we observe and describe and measure and potentially control.” I’m slow to use the term of any being _other_ than God, because it seems possible to me in principle that all created beings might be explicable as part of “nature” (i.e., the whole complex of observable phenomena).

        • adam

          “But I believe that people who don’t believe those specific things may still believe in God.”

          In the same manner people believe in Santa Claus

        • Kodie

          Theist makes a claim, atheist asks, “how does that work?” Theist responds either with some long-winded diatribe amounting to “I don’t know, I just know that it does,” or a weak anecdote, demonstrating that they attribute statistical chance in their favor to a conscious invisible deity who loves them. The specifics you think make a meaningful difference are meaningless.

        • Greg G.

          Defining supernatural is only difficult if one tries to deny that it is other than simply not natural or the product of the natural. Theists use to make claims that turned out to be subject to investigation and those claims fell. Now supernaturalists are careful to make claims that cannot be tested.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          What is “natural”?

          As I would define it, all beings except God are “natural.”

          Other people, indeed, define it differently. C. S. Lewis, for instance, speaks of angels and demons and the human spirit (including reason and conscience) as “supernatural.”

          The claim in the last two sentences is the typical “heads I win/tails you lose” tactic that unfair polemicists of all stripes engage in.

          Atheists claim, inaccurately, that theology does not progress, does not interact with evidence, etc. When confronted with evidence that it does, they spin this as some kind of disingenuous attempt to avoid falsification.

          And in fact, serious theologians were careful about what sorts of claims they made long, long before the rise of modern science.

        • Susan

          What is “natural”? As I would define it, all beings except God are “natural.”

          That’s not a definition at all. You failed to define “natural” and simply asserted that whatever it is, that Yahwehjesus is not that.

        • Kodie

          Serious theologians? Look, there’s really no such thing other than someone who has a fascination with a particular fiction.

        • adam

          ” But I find that the more carefully try to define it, the harder it is to define.”

          Imaginary characters are like that….

        • WayneMan

          What you have failed to grasp, is for most atheist the god definition is irrelevant. Yes the strict definition says “Do not believe in God(s), but the reality is we do not believe in any supernatural entities. That includes God(s), Demons, Angels, Devils, or supernatural spirits of any kind. So if you want to quibble over a specific definition of your God(s) (earth creator, heavenly father, creator of the universe), it is pointless. All we need to know is, if it has a supernatural attribute, then it is fantasy to us.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I haven’t failed to grasp it. Bob makes a claim based on what he supposes theists to believe.

        • Susan

          I haven’t failed to grasp it.

          You have. You think your special, supernatural claim for which you cannot account and that relies on special pleading is… well… special.

          Bob makes a claim based on what he supposes theists to believe.

          Bob responded to arguments from actual theists to get a conversation going.

        • Kodie

          Yes, and you refuted it by allowing that many theists don’t discriminate, and are willing to believe any and all promoted fantasies, for the worst reasons. No, you don’t have a good reason to believe in only one god more than me, but you make it worse and say you believe in all of them.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Which theists?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You should ask Bob that question. He spoke as if Christians in general (he doesn’t seem too concerned with other theists) were the objects of his critique, and if he didn’t mean that he should restate the whole argument and acknowledge that he misstated it the first time (as we all often do–overgeneralizing is a common fault, and my frustration with Bob lies mostly in his refusal to admit that he needs to restate the case to apply only to some Christians–it’s not clear at this point whether or not they are a majority of all modern Western Christians–who deny any kind of validity to the language about and experience of the divine found in other religions).

          I have explained to you repeatedly that I speak for “traditional Christians,” and by that I mean the heirs of what Ehrman calls “proto-orthodoxy,” developed into full-blown orthodoxy by the Seven Councils and, in its fullest form, maintained by the Catholic and Orthodox traditions over against varying degrees of rejection by the different forms of Protestantism.

        • MNb

          “He spoke as if Christians in general.”
          Thumbrule: if an atheist writes “christians” he/she doesn’t automatically christians in general. That you are fond of the one big christian family idea doesn’t mean atheists make that error. If an atheist describes a christian idea that’s not yours his/her criticism is not for you.

          “I have explained to you repeatedly that I speak for “traditional Christians,””
          No, you haven’t explained anything. You just repeatedly claimed it. You haven’t been elected in free and secret elections as a spokesman for anyone. You may call your views “traditional christianity” if you like, but they remain just your views (and undoubtedly of many others), not of all christians. That means that my previous remark totally applies.

          “in its fullest form”
          As long as you don’t care to specify what you mean with full this remains empthy blabla, in this case to save your privilege as a self-declared spokesman. Btw this is something that makes you guilty of superbia. It remains funny how christians are incapable of putting into practice what Jesus preached – like humility.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          If I said “atheists believe in Marxism” you would be all over me. And you would be quite right, even though a fairly large proportion of atheists over the past hundred years or so have been Marxists.

          You are, again, working from an obvious double standard.

        • MNb

          If you wrote “marxists believe in dialectical materialism”, especially the version “stalinists/ maoists/ adherents of juche believe that Stalin/ Mao/ Kim-Il-Sung is the embodiment/ culmination of dialectical materialism” I would not be all over you at all, but totally agree, my dear champ of the strawman.
          Plus I never claimed that I am the spokeman of any atheist view but mine.

          You are, again, lying about my views and lying about what you yourself wrote about the importance of understanding the logical framework of others. You put exactly zero effort in it.
          Young Earth Creatinionist Ken Ham could learn a thing of two from you.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Right. Bob falsely claimed that Christians take the same view of other gods as atheism. I took this to be claim of the same nature as “Marxists believe in dialectical materialism,” especially when he referred to “Christian monotheism” as a reason for this alleged view.

          He was simply wrong about this. “Christian monotheism” does not require Christians to reject the existence of the beings whom other people worship as gods.

          I have no idea why you think I’m lying now. At this point it seems that “you are lying” is something you just punctuate your posts with for emphasis. It’s become meaningless since you are never able to substantiate your accusations.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Bob falsely claimed that Christians take the same view of other gods as atheism.

          Your a fucking liar.

          Christian’s don’t believe there are other gods. Whatever some fucked up Christian’s believe about the gods of other religions, it isn’t that they are gods, ergo, the argument is sound.

          Play your pedantic semantic shell game all you will, you are just a silly bore at this point and an object of piss extraction.

        • MNb

          “Bob falsely claimed ….”
          From the lying champ of the strawman I need a quote plus a link before I accept this.

          “you are never able to substantiate your accusations”
          Lie after lie.
          You lied that I want to keep IDiocy out of science class because atheism (short version). I want to keep IDiocy out of science class because it’s not science.
          You lied I brought up Judge Jones because I want government to suppress IDiocy. I brought up Judge Jones as an example of a christian who agrees with me that IDiocy is not science.
          You lied that I did not document my claim that IDiocy postulates supernatural explanations. I specifically and repeatedly mentioned the Wedge Document, which is easy to google.
          Every time you accuse me of a double standard you are lying, because every time you do it you intentionally misrepresent my views.
          Ignorant Amos also noticed that you’re a liar. A sophisticated liar, but a liar nonetheless.
          Lie: a statement that’s incorrect while the person who states it is fully aware that it’s incorrect. That’s the opposite of meaningless. Indeed, I’m going to remind you that you’re a liar as long as we meet on internet.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t recall saying that you wanted to keep ID out of science class because of your atheism. No doubt your atheism plays a role in shaping your attitude to ID, just as Behe’s theism plays a role in his reasons for accepting ID.

          You clearly do want the government to prevent ID from being taught in public schools as a possible alternative to the orthodox account. And obviously you brought up the Dover trial as evidence showing why that is the right thing to do.

          The Wedge Document does not say that ID theory itself is committed to supernatural explanations. The document proposes to use ID theory as part of a broader strategy for changing the culture. The DI’s explanation of the document may be found here: https://www.discovery.org/f/349

          I don’t intentionally misrepresent your views. If you think I am misrepresenting them, then the proper approach is to explain to me calmly and (if you can manage it) courteously how I am wrong.

          Since you aren’t interested in this kind of substantive exchange, I see little point in further discussion with you. Which is too bad, because I think your ideas are interesting.

        • WayneMan

          “You clearly do want the government to prevent ID from being taught in public schools as a possible alternative to the orthodox account.”

          Of course we don’t want ID taught as a science, because it is not a science. Under the ID communities definition, you could even claim that astrology is a science. (LOL) And of course DI will support it, because their mission is to support the stories in Genesis, and any evidence to the contrary, which they promptly ignore, would totally destroy their very reason for existence.

          Certainly micro evolution has been PROVEN in labs over and over again. The newly mapped DNA structure supports evolution. The fossil records and core earth samples support evolution. But no, we cannot demonstrate a fish turning into a mammal because that takes many many thousands of generations. It’s like printing “War And Peace” with the first word bright red, and gradually bright blue on the last word, and ID says they can’t see where a word actually went from red to blue, so it must be magic. No, macro evolution is just a very very slow process, with many false branches dying off because of natural selection (unfavorable changes for the existing environment).

        • Kodie

          The Wedge Document does not say that ID theory itself is committed to supernatural explanations. The document proposes to use ID theory as part of a broader strategy for changing the culture. The DI’s explanation of the document may be found here:

          That you don’t recognize lies right in front of your face says a lot. Uh, yeah, they want to change the culture – to a religious pack of dummies.

        • MNb

          “I don’t recall saying that ….”
          Given your dishonesty I didn’t expect you to, immediately confirmed by

          “No doubt your atheism plays a role ….”
          My attitude in this respect is the same as Kenneth Miller’s and Francis Collins’, practicising christians. As I already told you so a couple of times you’re lying once again.

          “You clearly do want the government to prevent ID from being taught in public schools”
          Nope. I want government to prevent ID from being taught in science class, incurable liar. I am a frigging teacher at a frigging (non-American) public school and have zero problem, if time permits, to allow discussion on religion (including ID) in class. It’s just not part of the curriculum. So such discussions won’t influence the grades of the pupils.
          The country where I live and work pays for religious schools. In return the government demands science (hence not ID) in science class. I don’t oppose that either.

          “The DI’s explanation of the document may be found here:”
          Typical that you don’t link to the Wedge Document itself. Why would that be? Hmmmm, think, think, think ….
          Ah, it would prove you dead wrong.

          “the proper approach is to explain to me calmly and (if you can manage it) courteously how I am wrong.”
          I did explain you how you are wrong. Dozens of times. Your demands “calmly and courteously” are tone troll “arguments”.

          “Which is too bad, because I think your ideas are interesting.”
          Yup. You’re a liar and a tone troll.

          http://ncse.com/creationism/general/wedge-document

          “this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science.”
          IDiots want science to preserve the theology that humans are made in the image of God.

          “the Center explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism [ie methodological naturalism] and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.”
          Took me five seconds. Man, are you a failure.
          I only noticed later that you’re busy backing down; first you demanded me to demonstrate that IDiocy allows supernatural explanations, later you weakened your position by claiming that the Intelligent Designer might be natural (of course conveniently omitting that Behe thought it very implausible). First you maintained the IDiocy is not theology, then you wrote that you’re not interested in the question whether IDiocy is science or not while the answer is crucial for my (and all scientists’) position.
          So do yourself a favour and stick to “no point in further discussion with you”. For once I totally agree. The only point is me having fun with you and it’s wearing down. Any answer you will provide I expect to be full of more lies and dishonest twists.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I haven’t backed down at all. I never demanded you to show that ID allows for supernatural explanations, only that it _requires_ them. It doesn’t.

          Now if I took a leaf from your book, I’d call you a liar at this point. But I don’t think you are a liar. I think you are hasty.

          I apologize for the remark about public schools, which read the American situation into yours. Since ID is mostly an issue in the States to my knowledge, I keep forgetting that you are not there. You’re right that I should have said “in science class,” since in your country, unlike the U.S., there are other venues in government-sponsored schools where such discussion can take place.

          I stand by the position, however, that ID itself purports to be a scientific theory (however bad a one it may be) and thus should be discussed in that context. Its religious implications should be discussed in a religious context (and, again, many traditional Christians, particularly the Thomists, are no friendlier to it on that side than you are on the scientific side). That doesn’t mean that I think schools ought to cover ID at all, necessarily, except in the unlikely event that it gains more mainstream acceptance in the scientific community. If you were teaching my children science, I would not think you were doing them any wrong by not exposing them to ID. In general my approach to education is “find qualified people and let them do their jobs without trying to police them ideologically,” although of course I recognize that in real life it isn’t that simple.

        • Kodie

          ID is not a scientific theory, since it demonstrates no scientific method of testing, experimenting and concluding.

          If you think ID is not theology, what do you think the I and the D refer to? YOUR creator mono-god. As in, here’s a bunch of stuff to look at, and how else can it be explained, it was designed by an intelligent being. That’s the end of the experiment – a baseless conclusion.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          ID, as a “scientific” theory, does not propose to say who or what the designer is. Behe was very clear about this in the Dover trial. His opinion that the designer is almost certainly what he would call “God” as a Christian is not presented as a scientific opinion or as part of ID itself. Again, the relationship is very similar to that between Darwinian evolution and atheism for atheists, with the major difference that many theists also embrace “orthodox” Darwinian evolution. And that is one of the factors that tells very heavily with me against ID. However, it doesn’t make ID “theology.”

          I agree that it is only a scientific theory in a broad sense of the word “scientific”–a theory that purports to explain the physical world. It does not fit “orthodox” scientific parameters.

        • adam

          “I agree that it is only a scientific theory in a broad sense of the word
          “scientific”–

          ID is pseudoscience not science in any sense.

          It ONLY tries to explain the physical world from a presupposition of MAGIC.

        • Susan

          I agree that it is only a scientific theory in a broad sense of the word “scientific”

          It is not a “scientific theory” in any sense.

          It is a political movement that does no actual science.

          You have to do science to develop scientific theories.

          Germ theory is an example.

          Einstein’s theories of relativity are other examples.

          Quantum theory.

          The theory of evolution.

          I could go on and on and on.

        • Kodie

          ID proposes guesses out of thin air and doesn’t have any way of testing them, but wants them taught as truth. On the other hand, science defeats ID not because it’s “orthodox”, but because ID is factually incorrect. And doesn’t care. People eat that shit up because it looks a lot like they’re doing science, and that’s the fault of those people being uneducated and fooled by pictures and authoritative claims. ID also poisons the idea of actual science, the scientific method, and how we know things via science by planting the idea, I mean, repeating their assertion over the top of what bullshit they’re selling that science is done by the government conspiratorial complex that wants to take religion away from believers, and shouldn’t be taught in school.

          Well, that just makes everyone too stupid to notice the difference there, doesn’t it? You among them. You, who are giving the ID proposal some credit for making their effort, which you don’t seem to disagree with, to change the culture. TO A PACK OF RELIGIOUS MORONS. It’s clear to us because we’re not taken in, we’re not immersed in that moronitude like you are. There is no good side in forcing the public to reject science in favor of a religious fiction that pretends to know anything about science.

        • Kodie

          In your very own words, you believe all the gods are the same one you believe in. You believe in a monotheistic creator, that’s the one, that’s the intelligence, that’s the designer. I can’t believe you thought about this at all, that you’re defending ID even if you don’t believe it, that you’re defending DI as an honest organization, that they made up some science looking bullshit, labeled it “Intelligent Design” and somehow, that’s not about god. YOUR GOD. The one you think all Christians have access to, evidenced from the creation around us, among other emotional triggers that you can’t make sense of any other way.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I believe there is one God who is not simply a “god” (a supernatural being), but the creator of all “gods” as well as all other beings there might be.

          Whether any given “god” worshiped by somebody else is a created being, a manifestation (however imperfectly understood from my perspective–and bear in mind that I think all understandings of God are imperfect) of the true God, or a delusion, is something that has to be ascertained by looking at the specific evidence in each case, and on which in most cases I’m happy to be uncommitted. But I am always going to lean toward the more charitable and respectful interpretations over the more dismissive or paranoid ones.

          I am “defending” ID because the claims you and others are making about it seem false to me. ID theorists distinguish between the “scientific” claims they are making about biological evidence for design and the philosophical/religious beliefs they have about the nature of the designer. You want to ignore this distinction because it suits your polemic. That isn’t a proof of your intelligence but of your prejudice.

          You need to work on your capacity for belief–and here I don’t mean belief in God, but in the possibility that people who disagree with you might actually be thinking about what they say.

          I have in fact thought quite a bit about ID on the religious side. Like Pope Francis, I want to make it clear that God is not a “demiurge”–not just some being more intelligent than we are who “designed” things. I also see the most powerful evidence for creation in the fact that natural laws and processes exist at all. The strongest theological argument against ID (which I think nicely matches the scientific argument against ID–again, as with ID, science and theology point in the same direction without being identical) is that it posits a “God of the gaps.” It has confused many people into thinking that traditional arguments for God from the “design” evident in the universe are the same thing Behe et al are talking about–things that allegedly can’t be explained by natural processes. That is not the traditional argument at all. When Aquinas deals with the objection to God’s existence founded on the claim that everything can be explained by natural causes, he doesn’t say, “no, actually some things can’t”; he says that the entire chain of natural causation itself is caused by God.

        • Susan

          ID theorists distinguish between the “scientific” claims they are making about biological evidence for design and the philosophical/religious beliefs they have about the nature of the designer.

          They don’t make scientific claims. They don’t do science. They took a creationist textbook and removed “creationism” and replaced it with “intelligent design”. Literally. Watch the video I linked. Nobody’s making that up.

          I also see the most powerful evidence for creation in the fact that natural laws and processes exist at all.

          What is a natural law? What is a natural process? Why is it any sort of evidence for creation? Damn it, Edwin. For ONCE, show your work.

          It has confused many people into thinking that traditional arguments for God are the same thing Behe et al are talking about

          It is the same thing. They hide it behind “aliens” but there is no evidence that aliens created the universe either. It is not being funded by people deeply invested in universe-creating aliens. Watch the video.

          When Aquinas deals with the objection to God’s existence founded on the claim that everything can be explained by natural causes, he doesn’t say, “no, actually some things can’t”; he says that the entire chain of natural causation itself is caused by God.

          Yes. We know. He sneaks that in out of nowhere and it’s completely unjustified.

          Also, most christians have never read Aquinas. Christianity did not take root in culture because everyone read Aquinas.

        • Kodie

          You’re being pedantic. You have stated that all (most of) the gods people believe in are actually that same ONE god, the creator – the “intelligent designer” some say. You just seem to be ignoring what one has to do with the other, and it’s dishonest.

          I think I and others are speaking English to you, linking articles and pointing out where it says this or that, and you are “claims… see false to me”. I don’t give a shit what seems false to you. It’s all right there in their own statement. They don’t do science, and they do want to make people stupid and fearful and pretend they are smart and better than everyone else. They don’t like the “atheist agenda” to teach science in schools and make their poor innocent little children leave the faith, so they stir up a “controversy” and pretend it’s not religious so they can get around the establishment clause in the 1st amendment. It might seem false to you because I call you on your stupidity. You don’t think you’re stupid enough to fall for it, but you are.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, those are not my very own words or my very own ideas.

          I believe that there is one God. I believe, quite separately and less fundamentally (i.e., it would change my view of the universe less if this were false), that there are various supernatural beings created by God. It seems highly probable that at least some of the experiences/traditions of “gods” found in human culture are based on encounters with such beings. Ultimately any genuine experience of beauty, truth, and goodness is an experience of God, always mediated in one form or another. That may be what you had in mind. In some cases “gods” may well be human conceptions of the true God. I also don’t rule out (though here I am less orthodox/traditional) the possibility that God might have revealed himself to people outside the Christian faith in ways that our paradigm just doesn’t equip us to understand.

          You don’t seem capable of recognizing that I don’t claim to know for sure what lies behind other people’s religious experience, nor do I think that forming such an opinion is central to my own beliefs. There are a host of possibilities, some of which seem more likely to me in some cases, others in others. (E.g., ISIS is pretty clearly driven largely either by demonic supernatural powers or by horribly mistaken human ideas; a great Sufi saint, on the other hand, who showed good fruit in his/her life and wrote powerfully about the love of God, is clearly not being moved by demonic forces. And of course these examples concern fellow monotheists, who formally believe in the same God I do.)

          As for ID–first of all, again you’re simply not recognizing the important distinction they make between ID theory itself, which they would claim is scientific, and the religious explanation they give to what they take to be an empirical observation.

          The theological problem I have with ID is the implication that God’s “design” is shown primarily in things that can’t be explained through natural processes. I believe in miracles, and it is quite possible that God did intervene in a remarkable way (whether actually suspending normal natural laws or simply causing something to happen that would be immensely improbable by those laws) to bring about the origins of life and the formation of basic cellular structures, and/or at other key moments in evolutionary history. But miracles are, by definition, highly unusual events and not the primary, normal means by which we detect God at work. God is to be found first and foremost in the regularities of nature. Again, that’s not some modern principle compelled by pressure from science–this is found in Aquinas. ID has, in my opinion, distorted people’s ideas of what we mean when we speak of God as the Creator, or perhaps more fairly exploited distorted ideas that were already prevalent.

        • Myna A.

          I also don’t rule out (though here I am less orthodox/traditional) the possibility that God might have revealed himself to people outside the Christian faith in ways that our paradigm just doesn’t equip us to
          understand.

          If religious faith held any sustained truth beyond its own precious story, it would have been equipped to understand. It wouldn’t have attempted to suppress differing perspectives, curiosity, any wonder beyond itself. It wouldn’t have tortured and burned alive a man like Giordano Bruno in the year 1600 and to this day refuse to be ashamed for it. https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/i_just_believe_in_one_less_god_than_you_do_an_atheist_fallacy_part_4/#comment-2702188666 The legacy of faith is restriction.

          God is to be found first and foremost in the regularities of nature. Again, that’s not some modern principle compelled by pressure from science–this is found in Aquinas.

          Aquinas can burn in Dante’s Inferno and his influence as well, for all I care. “God in nature” is a far more ancient concept than Aquinas’s limited 13th century Euro musings. It has always been and remains to be a basic principle of religious/spiritual traditions across the globe. It doesn’t even require “religion”. https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/i_just_believe_in_one_less_god_than_you_do_an_atheist_fallacy_part_4/#comment-2713621474

          The regularities of nature are being more understood each day by science. Those who try to prevent destruction in nature are deemed radicals. From space, the craters left by greedy mountain top blasting in the Appalachian chain appear as sores on the earth’s surface. The blasting is destroying the Eco-systyem of the entire area and the basic economic system of the people who live there. How much can we bet and win that these destroyers sit in church each and every Sunday praising Jesus for the money in their pocket.

          The theological problem I have with ID is the implication that God’s “design” is shown primarily in things that can’t be explained through natural processes.

          Only as far as we know, these things cannot be explained, although more can be explained through human psychology than not. Theology is a chain that binds, eventually to strangle.

        • Kodie

          You said in two paragraphs basically what I just said you said. I don’t really have time to wade through all the bullshit nuances you believe, i.e. there’s this one god that may speak to other cultures another way, and there may be demonic spirits fooling people, and there may be lesser beings that are experienced. I don’t give a shit, really. You speak out of all your orifices on this subject, and it’s almost fascinating how you sincerely believe all that crap is necessary and wonderful to describe the world and I don’t.

          ID has got you fooled into thinking it’s legitimate in any way. One of these days, I’m going to take any one of your posts and call you out on your many fallacies, line by line, but I am behind in my reading. I guess in summary, I think you are just a verbose idiot.

        • MNb

          I don’t care for your apologies. I only am interested if you will improve your manners, stop distorting my views and stop making all kind of unjustified assumptions on what you would like my views are.
          Coincidentally just this morning I had a short exchange with one of my favourite pupils, Jean Sawikarta (she gave me her explicit permission). She started with “Do you believe in God?” and finished it off with “That’s just your opinion”, just a bit condescending so that it’s charming – an impression reinforced by her open smile (that’s how she is) when I applauded her and reminded her of free speech.
          (her argument was mainly a childish version – she’s 15 – of the Cosmological argument: “who created X”?)

          “I never demanded you to show that ID allows for supernatural explanations, only that it _requires_ them.”
          You’re lying again. Moreover the quotes from the Wedge Document clearly show that the IDiots involved – and Behe is one of them – did require supernatural explanations. Indeed Behe backed down to “allows”, with the caveat that he thought those supernatural explanations are far more probable during the Dover trial. As we Dutch say you are looking for nails at low tide.

          But forget it. It doesn’t matter this time. My point was from the beginning: the synonym for the scientific method is methodological naturalism. That has been the case since 200+ years. Hence any theory that allows supernatural explanations is not a scientific theory. Hence IDiocy is not a scientific theory. You can stand tall as long as you like, this

          “ID itself purports to be a scientific theory (however bad a one it may be)”
          is dead wrong (because it allows for supernatural explanations) while this

          “and thus should be discussed in that context.”
          is a non-sequitur as far as school curriculum goes. There are all kinds of rejected scientific theories that don’t belong to it either.
          So shrug as far as the rest of your comment goes.

          To which I add that teachers at public schools in my country are required to remain neutral regarding religious matters. They can tell what their views are (like I did) and explain why, but never ever are allowed trying to convince pupils. In practice this means “don’t try to win the discussion”.
          Unsurprisingly only two weeks ago we received an instruction from the Ministry to remind us of this principle. It went so far to forbid prayer meetings during breaks, something I’m not happy with. Unsurprisingly it were some of your co-christians who abused it to proselytize. But you are oh so scared by the idea that atheist teachers might influence their pupils.
          I called you a piece of shit somewhere and have thus far precious little reason to withdraw these words.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’m not scared of the idea of atheist teachers influencing their pupils. Again, you make assumptions based on your prejudices and not on what I have actually said, and then call me a liar when I call you out on your misrepresentations. And you have the cheek to ask _me_ to improve my manners and stop misrepresenting you! I’m sure I have misrepresented you–that’s pretty much inevitable in any conversation between two people who don’t know each other well and have very different opinions. But when I have become aware of it, I have modified my statements and apologized. This you have persistently failed to do. You double down on the accusation of lying, which apparently has become your knee-jerk response when I say something you disagree with.

          And as I have said several times now, the “Wedge Document” is a statement of the broad agenda of the Discovery Institute, which _uses_ ID theory in order to provide what they believe to be a scientific challenge to dominant theories that reinforce materialism in our culture.

        • Kodie

          No, they understand that science bears an authority in the field of knowledge that directly contradicts their biblical beliefs, and that their bible stories are not attractive to people who will look to science for answers. ID is an entirely theological creation packaged as science to look like “science supports the bible”. That’s not a misrepresentation. ID comes from nowhere in reality. Nobody found out this stuff and then later discovered that it aligned with their religious beliefs.

          Also, it’s not a theory. In science, theory means something else where “hypothesis” would be a little more correct. ID is a “hypothesis” but the only “test” is “does it agree with the biblical teaching”, and then makes its conclusion at the beginning and the end, and then labels it a “theory”, like “evolution is just a theory” – total ignorance of what “theory” means in science, i.e. “conclusion” after the experimentation bears out the hypothesis. ID passes for science among the uneducated, which is how they’d rather run public schools – uneducate them, poison the well of how actual science is conducted, and attract members to their beliefs through non-science because they’re too ignorant to know the difference.

          Maybe you just aren’t that smart, you know. DI is “very smart” in the way you are fooled that their agenda is what they say it is, because they very carefully do not want to be rejected on the basis that they are teaching crap theology in public schools. They are very careful to go around the establishment clause in the 1st amendment by pretending that it’s not really about religion. You’re a fool, among millions of fools who can’t tell the difference and believe they wouldn’t lie to you.

        • Argus

          “”To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies”
          “To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God”

          From the Wedge Document – “theistic understanding”=supernatural. yes?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Yes–but you are failing to distinguish between ID theory itself and the overall cultural agenda. Of course ID theorists think that their view points toward God. And of course the Discovery folks are happy to use ID to further their broader goals. That does not mean that ID itself is simply “theology.” (One of the reasons I resist this move is that if it’s theology, I think it’s very bad theology. Poor ID isn’t really wanted by the mainstream representatives of either science _or_ theology.)

        • adam

          ” That does not mean that ID itself is simply “theology.””

          No that doesnt, but what they claim certainly is.

          It certainly isnt science

        • Kodie

          It’s theology, not science. It’s funny you can’t recognize ID as theology though. Like you reject it or something.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Yes, but the Wedge Document is not a statement of ID per se. It’s a statement of the larger cultural agenda of which ID is a part. That’s the key distinction people are missing in their rush to find a “smoking gun” that proves that “ID is theology.” And yet again, I have problems with it from a theological standpoint, so I don’t really want it defined as theology either 🙂

        • adam

          “that proves that “ID is theology.””

          ID is already theology

          Simple Definition of theology Merriam Webster

          : the study of religious faith, practice, and experience : the study of God and God’s relation to the world

          : a system of religious beliefs or ideas

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          ID theory itself has nothing to say directly about God. It has something to say about the alleged appearance of design in biological organisms.

        • adam

          There is no ID theory, as ID is not science.

          The ‘intelligence’ of ID is represented by their idea of “God”

        • WayneMan

          That is complete BS. Please tell us what the words intelligent design in this context mean, if not some sort of supernatural entity? Without a thinking god, the entire ID concept is meaningless.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Obviously it could be an alien intelligence. As you probably know, ID theorists are very fond of citing Francis Crick’s speculation about DNA somehow coming to earth from outer space. Certainly ID folks pretty uniformly think that this is not a very likely explanation and that the designer is in fact God. But they do distinguish between what the “scientific” theory claims and what they, as religious people, believe.

          I’ve pointed out previously that when I, as a more traditional theist, affirm that God is a mystery and cannot possibly be proven by scientific methods, I’m told that this is not a legitimate position. But apparently trying to formulate a scientific argument that will point to the likelihood of God’s existence is also illegitimate. Again, this demonstrates that you guys have simply rigged the argument against God. Heads you win, tails we lose. This isn’t critical thinking. This isn’t openness to evidence. This is just dogma and ideology, all the more noxious because it’s unacknowledged.

        • WayneMan

          But this is not correct. I would never say that a god is impossible. I would actually be delighted, but would have many many more questions as to the nature of this god that created such a cruel, horrible environment. What I do say is, because of the evidence against, and lack there of for, the probability of a god is very low, even extremely low.

        • adam

          “But they do distinguish between what the “scientific” theory claims and what they, as religious people, believe.”

          No they dont.

          They presuppose “God” exactly as religious people believe.

        • Susan

          when I, as a more traditional theist, affirm that God is a mystery and cannot possibly be proven by scientific methods

          But you make all kinds of claims about “God”. It’s just that when you’re asked to support those claims and can’t, that you tell us it’s a mystery.

          I’m told that this is not a legitimate position.

          No. You are asked how you distinguish your supernatural claim from other supernatural claims when none of you can provide evidence.

          apparently trying to formulate a scientific argument that will point to the likelihood of God’s existence is also illegitimate.

          It would be perfectly legitimate if you can do it. Instead, you refer to ID. What “scientific” argument have they provided? What experiments have they done? What are the results? (It’s very important that you answer this question.)

          You think demons cause disease, just that they use germs to do it. I think Immaterial Snowflake Fairies cause crystallization, just that they use chemical bonds to do it.

          For some reason, your claim should be taken seriously but mine is merely rhetorical.

          Heads you win, tails we lose.

          That’s hilarious and deeply disappointing ironic.

          This isn’t critical thinking.

          You ignored the whole, fucking Dover trial and most of the links people graciously provided.

          This isn’t openness to evidence.

          Like my requests for you to provide a way to distinguish a miracle from a non-miracle lacked “openness”.

          You haven’t even acknowledged that your strawman accusations (crucial to your narrative) were way off base.

          The irony (among many ironies) is that you have committed strawman after strawman after strawman because you won’t look at evidence.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I discussed the Dover trial at some length and showed that MNb was misinterpreting Behe on a number of points. Even if you think my interpretation is wrong, it’s rather bizarre to accuse me of disregarding the Dover trial when I wrote a long post going through MNb’s citations and refuting them point by point.

          When we (traditional Christians) say that God is a mystery, we don’t mean that we can say nothing about God. We mean that all our language is inadequate. I have said this several times, and as a former Catholic you ought to have known that already. Perhaps you did and are simply baiting me.

          I don’t know what strawman accusations you are talking about, unless you mean my initial claims about Bob’s post, which were sound claims and which I have solidly defended over and over, against repeated equivocations (on both the word “gods” and the word “reject”) by various people on this forum.

          If you cared–as I initially thought you did–about logical rigor and “showing your work” for its own sake and not simply as part of atheist propaganda, you would have been all over your fellow atheists for their equivocations and endless hedging of just what a “god” is and what it means to “reject” a “god.” No one has been able to make the case that Christians “reject all other gods” in the same sense that atheists “reject all gods.” This emperor really does have no clothes. I am confident that I have shown this to the satisfaction of fair-minded people. I regret that you do not appear to be among that number.

        • WayneMan

          Well, I am not into Scientology, but aliens could be possible. But that just begs the question where did they come from.

          You are correct, you cannot disprove or prove the supernatural. The only possible way to prove it is to produce it for examination (God, unicorn, fairy, demon, whatever). It is evidence against, and the lack of evidence for, that my logic sides against any supernatural.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          But in fact there is massive evidence for the supernatural. People report encounters with the supernatural all the time and have done so throughout human history. Take the Latoya Ammons case in Gary, Indiana, for instance: http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2014/01/25/the-disposession-of-latoya-ammons/4892553/. Yes, the Center for Skeptical Inquiry launched an investigation and provided naturalistic explanations for the phenomena: http://www.csicop.org/si/show/the_200_demons_house_a_skeptical_demonologists_report. But most of those explanations involved either casting doubt on the credibility of the witnesses or speculating about what might have caused the phenomena. Of course it’s possible that the skeptical explanations are true. It’s possible that every single reported case of the supernatural is a fake or an error. But to say simply “there is no evidence,” when debunkings such as the CSI investigation rely heavily on the prior assumption that supernatural events are impossible, is unwarranted.

          That is, from my perspective, quite different from the philosophical question of whether God exists.

        • WayneMan

          But none of them have been verified with actual evidence, and many found to be out right hoaxes. Many people in ancient Greece “claimed” they saw Zeus. You would think that with the plethora of supernatural claims, at least one case could have been undeniably verified, but none have. So on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being impossible), I put it at about a 1 or 2, which includes any gods or demons.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Your reference to Zeus brings us back to the original point of this whole discussion. Why do you think I would discount those claims to have seen Zeus? (Actually I think appearances of other gods were more common, but that doesn’t really matter to the point at hand.)

          We’re back to what “evidence” means. And I think part of the problem here is the difference between how scientists think and how historians think. For a historian, hearsay is evidence–to be examined critically, to be sure, but never irrelevant. Everything is evidence, in fact. It may not always be evidence of what it purports to be, but it’s all relevant.

        • WayneMan

          Yes, but hearsay is one of the most unreliable evidences available. Ask any judge or lawyer. Yes I want measurable testable evidence, before I can put much faith that it is real, otherwise every Bigfoot, Loch Ness, werewolf, unicorn, and alien sighting is valid evidence under your reasoning. That may be good enough for you, but not for me.

        • Greg G.

          Bigfoot, Loch Ness, werewolf, unicorn, and aliens exist. Would it make it easier for you to believe in them if I insisted that they are all invisible?

        • WayneMan

          Oh yes, now they all make sense.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          And this brings us back to the question of paradigms. The reason many of us dismiss a lot of reports of unusual events is that we have no paradigm in which they make sense. Provide that paradigm, and suddenly the evidence becomes much more persuasive.

        • MNb

          Worse.
          There is no reliable method to investigate the salto mortale from our concrete world (of which hearsay is part) to the divine world (to which your conclusions belong).

        • Myna A.

          Provide that paradigm, and suddenly the evidence becomes much more persuasive.

          Paradigms are a mirage, so all you can ultimately provide is a change of story. To quote Shakespeare, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Now, as paradigms may go, that is a genius one. The evidence of my own eyes yesterday can change on a dime tomorrow with new information today and on and on it goes. I close my eyes, my mind, to all that is possible, then I may as well become a religionist or a political lackey.

        • Kodie

          On what basis is the paradigm correct? You miss this detail every fucking time, Edwin. I can make up bullshit paradigms all damn day and night to rationalize things that don’t make sense to me, but that’s called insanity, usually. It’s only religion that presumes to make confident, authoritative rationales and how dare we call you insane!

        • Susan

          For a historian, hearsay is evidence–to be examined critically, to be sure, but never irrelevant. Everything is evidence, in fact. It may not always be evidence of what it purports to be, but it’s all relevant.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_method

          Also note that supernatural claims are not accepted in historical method.

          “Hearsay” is not sufficient evidence.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Your link says that “hearsay at further remove” is less reliable than an eyewitness or a second-hand account, which is obvious.

          I wasn’t using “hearsay” accurately anyway, and apologize for the confusion. In the Ammons case there are a number of eyewitness accounts as well as second-hand accounts. Of course they may be questioned. But they are evidence.

          Whether they are “sufficient” is a different matter.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yeah…70,000 eyewitness accounts say they seen the sun spinning, or dancing, or falling from the sky. They to are evidence…evidence of what though?

          http://www.miraclesceptic.com/solarmiracle.html

        • MNb

          Historians are scientists. That’s a false distinction you make here.

          “For a historian, hearsay is evidence”
          Yeah, but for what?
          That it actually happened or that people believed it happened? The two are not nearly the same.

          “Everything is evidence.”
          Same for what you call scientists. Another non-distinction.
          Read upon “Archimedes using mirrors to set Roman ships on fire.” It’s a very simple example.

          Your view on what historical research is seems very outdated. But so of course your view on what science is; that has been out of vogue since 200+ years.

        • Susan

          Your view on what historical research is seems very outdated. But so of course your view on what science is; that has been out of vogue since 200+ years.

          It’s what they teach Edwin in divinity school as a way to justify hearsay. I doubt he’s ever checked it against the methodology of historians.

          Just like I doubt he’s ever checked ID against real science.

          The irony of Edwin introducing himself by accusing the artlicle of strawmanning, compared to Edwin’s relentless reliance on strawman arguments is too much to bear.

          Especially after hundreds of comments where people have made valiant attempts at real “substantive discussion”.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Actually, I think the view that history is a kind of science has a better claim to be “outdated”–it was a common view in the 19th century, but I think would be less often espoused today. But perhaps I haven’t kept up with the most recent developments. Certainly scientists like Jared Diamond and Steven Pinker approach history as if it were science. But they do this precisely because they are scientists by training not historians.

          I’m not sure what your reference to Archimedes and the Roman ships is attempting to prove.

        • Kodie

          Doesn’t history try to record the truth as it happened actually, and not from the bias of nationalism or any other bias? I mean, we all learned the Christopher Columbus was an explorer, but in reality, America was already discovered, and he was kind of an asshole. Everyone is really fond of myths that tell the origin story, like the beginning of America, but it’s actually not true. Maybe the whole truth of some historical accounts will never be known, but we don’t serve ourselves any benefit as a species white-washing it to sound romantic.

        • Michael Neville

          Zeus seemed to get around, especially around the ladies. The boy could not keep it in his toga.

        • Susan

          But to say simply “there is no evidence,” when debunkings such as the CSI investigation rely heavily on the prior assumption that supernatural events are impossible, is unwarranted.

          They don’t. They simply see perfectly common natural explanations.

          Show me where they rely heavily on the prior assumption that supernatural events are impossible.

          I asked you how one would distinguish a “miracle” from a “non-miracle” and you provided nothing.

          You are doing the same when you refer to “supernatural events”, instead accusing others of a priori assumptions. This is getting tiring. It’s neither thoughtful nor honest.

          You are entirely unwilling to make a case for your beliefs but happy to endlessly correct people about them. I asked you hundreds of comments ago to support your beliefs and have asked you many times since.

          I’m still waiting.

          Instead you give us the travesty of ID (something many theists reject because it’s a big pile of lies) and Latoya Ammons (a case that many theists would find embarassing for you to bring up).

          As a matter of fact, our responses to those points would result in other theists accusing us of strawmanning.

          It just adds up to wanking. Something the RCC strongly disapproves of when it’s done literally and is mostly harmless but wholly embraces metaphorically when it comes to defending their indefensible claims.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Susan, I’m not going to play the game of trying to support my beliefs within your framework. I find it very weird that people on this forum and other atheist forums frequently seem to want theists to defend their beliefs _before_ the atheists will deign to try to describe those beliefs accurately.

          I never brought up ID as something I believed–I mentioned it briefly in the context of a discussion of why there is allegedly “no map of world science.” I was pointing out that in fact not everyone in the world accepts mainstream science, and that its triumph has social and political dimensions and isn’t just a matter of everyone peacefully accepting the obvious. This set MNb off into a fury, accusing me of lying.

          You are very interested in forcing me to provide a precise definition and defense of my beliefs, and very uninterested in actually getting right what it is I have said and what others have said. You have repeatedly now commented on discussions I’ve had with others in inaccurate ways. You have accused me groundlessly of a “straw-man” argument against Bob. You have now apparently assumed–in spite of my frequent statements to the contrary–that I accept ID.

          You are dissatisfied with the definition of miracles I gave you, because it doesn’t allow you to tell when you see a miracle. But I don’t think there is a paradigm-free way to do this. Why do you get to tell me what criteria a concept in my paradigm has to meet?

          The Latoya Ammons case is indeed a good example of this. Of course there are possible natural explanations. The CSI report struck me as extremely strained and speculative–the investigator seems to think that a trained nurse wouldn’t be able to tell if a child was jumping on his own power rather than being thrown against the wall, and that his grandmother was supporting his weight when he appeared to be walking on the ceiling. These are, of course, possible explanations. If there are no demonic powers in the world capable of doing the things ascribed to them in this case, then one would have to fall back on those explanations. Even if there are demonic powers, the natural explanations might still be true. But if you weren’t approaching the case with the _assumption_ that demonic powers don’t exist, the highly complex and ingenious explanations of the CSI investigator wouldn’t seem particularly convincing. I don’t find them particularly convincing.

          You are right that of course many theists would be embarrassed by the idea that the things that happened to the Ammons family were caused by demons. And of course, if you were to generalize and claim that all theists make the move I made in bringing up this case, you would be acting unfairly. Why would you need to do that, anyway? Overgeneralizing about people with whom we disagree is a common fault many of us fall into–I’ve been guilty of this too. Can’t we all try _not_ to do this and accept correction when people catch us doing it?

        • Kodie

          It’s not that anyone thinks you accept ID, it’s that you can’t see the flim-flam, and give them the benefit of the doubt for proposing something to compete with science. I did respond to you way back when you first started, and I don’t think you did respond to me. All your examples of “science” differing all over the globe aren’t examples of science. They are examples of pseudo-science, which is akin to religion. Not real, but cultural superstitions. Science is science, something you really don’t seem to comprehend, which is different from pseudo-scientific beliefs.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience

          The way you get so confused on this subject doesn’t bode well at all for your intellectual capacity to carry on a conversation worth anything.

        • Susan

          I’m not going to play the game of trying to support my beliefs within your framework.

          You keep alluding to the idea that the problem is with my framework but you never show that problem.

          Like you telling me I’m not “open” to miracles. I asked how an “open” person would be able to tell a miracle from a non-miracle and you responded with fog and offense.

          Me just asking you that question seems to shine an unfavourable light on my character, though it’s a perfectly honest effort to be “open” to your claims. If it’s not, what would “open” mean?

          How would I recognize evidence of miracles?

          What evidence do you accept? So far, it seems to be whatever supports the conclusion you begin with.

          This set MNb off into a fury, accusing me of lying.

          MNb is mostly amused. There was nothing furious about his comments

          You are very interested in forcing me to provide a precise definition and defense of my beliefs

          I asked you what you’re claiming and how you support it. That’s not forcing.

          and very uninterested in actually getting right what it is

          I would think that asking you what you’re claiming and how you support it is about as directly interested as a person could show themselves to be.

          I know what you believe. I explained it very early in the thread. You’re a classical theist who believes that a single immaterial agent plucked all of reality out of metaphysical nothingness and that the Yahwehjesus myth best describes the “Truth” of that agent and that you take other gods seriously as either contingent supernatural agents created by YahwehjesusGod who have fouled everything up or are whispers of YahwehjesusGod.

          If I missed something, spit it out. There are a handful of “christian paradigms” that I can’t take seriously. I’m not going to play whack-a-mole endlessly based on your assumption that I didn’t know about this particular mole (though I keep whacking it).

          All these many hundreds of comments here, you haven’t talked about your beliefs in any coherent sense. You haven’t shown a single clear model, let alone shown that you have any evidence to support it.

          So, how do you support it?

        • MNb

          Yawn. Ambiguous meaning of the word “evidence”.
          Evidence means empirical data. It’s you who has to warrant the salto mortale from our concrete world, where we find all evidence, to a divine world. You can’t even do it without using naturalistic terminology. That’s telling.
          So of course (yup, I disagree with Susan) CSI investigation not only heavily but totally relies on the prior exclusion of supernatural explanations. It’s not what scientific methods are made for.
          Develop your own methods of investigations – and also your own terminology – if you think supernatural events happen. Don’t plagiarize them from methodological naturalism aka the scientific method. Every time you do it you reinforce the naturalist hence atheist case.
          At the other hand if you happen to succeed in developing your own methods be sure all naturalists (philosophical and methodological ones) will pay close attention. Like this guy:

          http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2016/06/10/id-isnt-science-but-thats-the-least-of-its-problems/

        • Susan

          (yup, I disagree with Susan)

          Darn it! 🙂

          CSI investigation not only heavily but totally relies on the prior exclusion of supernatural explanations.

          I agree. You’re right. As does history. As does science.

          If you happen to succeed in developing your own methods, be sure to know that all naturalists will pay attention.

          Exactly.

        • Myna A.

          But in fact there is massive evidence for the supernatural

          No, there is not massive evidence for the supernatural; there is evidence of the anecdotal. I was raised with that stuff, and am well aware of the power of suggestion (even if only an internal one) and how it can manifest its own reality. It’s astonishing what the brain can conjure and give pattern and meaning to. Truly astonishing. In saying this, however, I have often wondered if the “super” is not more natural than we are able to know at this time.

          But if you want mystery, genuine mystery, an incredible one is the Voynich Manuscript:

          https://youtu.be/SQTzbk0qBpw

        • MNb

          Where I live thre is also massive evidence for the supernatural: bakrus, yorkas.
          They always are just gone when I arrive. I guess my unbelief is the best protection against supernatural entities.

        • Myna A.

          I guess my unbelief is the best protection against supernatural entities.

          Belief has everything to do with it…and the validation of said belief either from one’s own mind or from other minds holding a similar belief. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake did some interesting studies on intuition and collective memory, but then took his hypothesis into the realm of story and subsequently fell into old mythologies. He lost a lot of credibility in that fall.

          Intuition is a subject that interests me, but if taken too deeply into allegory, it cuts off further inquiry. I suppose what a religionist means by “supernatural” is entities, though, as it relates to a particular faith system rather than intuition as a spontaneous, but natural mechanism of navigating information, which is a more Jungian view and one I would take in higher regard.

        • MR

          No, there is not massive evidence for the supernatural…..

          It amazes me that you have to explain this to a 21st-century adult. It doesn’t help, of course, that depictions of the supernatural permeate our culture, what with all the movies and television shows on witches and vampires and evil spirits lurking in houses. Puh-lease. Maybe there is some hope in that zombies, a non-supernatural phenomena, are beginning to fill that genre.

          Still, our generation(s) are overlapping a time in which superstitions such as these had a strong hold on the imagination–and a time when you took people at their word when they said they “saw a ghost.” What with modern technology, I am hopeful that belief in these kinds of things in the future will only manifest itself at teenage girl sleepovers and teenage boy campfire tales.

          For now, though, so many of us have grown up believing that ghosts, Bigfoot, UFOs and God are real, that it’s hard to let go of those superstitions. Some of the old superstitions are beginning to fade already, though. People hardly talk anymore about black cats, the number 13 and open umbrellas indoors.

          I’ve mentioned before of a friend of mine, intelligent, head of the regional department for a medical-related firm, a believer in God, who tells the story of having owned a home in which some guy had died years before. One evening he had friends over when they heard a noise upstairs that seemed to go from one end of the house to the other. They all went upstairs and found nothing out of the ordinary. With wide-eyed belief he swears that it was the spirit of the dead guy. Now, I can easily come up with half a dozen plausible explanations, but his mind literally jumps from “an unexplained noise” to unquestionably, “it’s the dead guy.” Any attempt to suggest the noise had a plausible origin is met with, “No, no, no…, I’m positive it was the dead guy.” And just how does he know this? And why that dead guy and not some innocuous poltergeist or an angel or, you know, a raccoon. This is the [influence of] culture, sigh.

          And then, of course, there is my own ghost story where I learned a valuable lesson at an early age that the unexplained can have perfectly reasonable, if somewhat unexpected, explanations. But I won’t bore you with retelling that story.

          [edit^]

        • Greg G.

          People hardly talk anymore about black cats, the number 13 and open umbrellas indoors.

          When I was waiting at the school bus stop as a kid, a black cat ran across the road and a woman slammed on her brakes, turned around and went home.

        • Voynich is a great example.

        • Myna A.

          The end where René Zandbergen says: “For the time being, the Voynich manuscript remains what it has been for the last 600 years. It’s a hall of mirrors, reflecting each researcher’s own imagination, without ever allowing him a glimpse into its inner secrets.” …is perfect.

        • Pofarmer

          What there is evidence of is the same cognitive biases and cognitive functions being present in humans for quite some time and across pretty much all cultures. There are even names for them. Interesting story, though.

        • Kodie

          I think the idea that “it could be aliens” is a diversion. You can’t have a problem with their religion if the “theory” isn’t specific.

        • WayneMan

          Oh, Scientology is very specific and very whacked out, as one might expect when the genesis was from a science fiction writer.

        • Kodie

          I was thinking more that it was like AA isn’t “religious” when they talk about “higher power”. ID isn’t “religious” because the designer “could be aliens”.

        • Greg G.

          I agree but I think “diversion” is not quite a strong enough word for “could be aliens (wink wink, nudge nudge)”. It is a diversionary tactic to get around the Lemon Test.

        • Kodie

          And this has fooled the people who believe in it or people like Edwin who give them credit for trying. ID proponents never explicitly say it’s theology so they must not have an ulterior motive, and that’s just our bias against them.

        • Greg G.

          The ID proponents tried to tell the court that. They were lucky the were not brought up on perjury charges on that, too. The judge gave it a lot of consideration.

        • WayneMan

          Yes, you are right. However, I think the ID followers that believe aliens as opposed to a supernatural being (God) would be very slim. I personally would put aliens at a 2, where God is a 1 (on a 0 to 10 scale, 0 being impossible, 10 being proven).

        • Ignorant Amos

          Wow! Ya give God a 10% possibility? That’s a hell of a lot more generous than I would get anywhere near.

        • WayneMan

          Well, a 1 to me just means it is possible, but extremely unlikely (just slightly above impossible). 😉

        • Kodie

          You have no evidence. You have no reliable means of testing. You have no critical thinking abilities.

        • adam

          “I’ve pointed out previously that when I, as a more traditional theist,
          affirm that God is a mystery and cannot possibly be proven by scientific
          methods, I’m told that this is not a legitimate position.”

          It is called the “God of the Gaps”

          ” But apparently trying to formulate a scientific argument that will
          point to the likelihood of God’s existence is also illegitimate.”

          Trying is not succeeding.

          And you dont really appear to be trying anything except your own credibility and the patience of others.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, it isn’t called “God of the gaps.” God of the gaps means that there is some specific thing you invoke God to explain, which science could in principle explain but hasn’t yet.

        • adam

          It is exactly “God of the gaps”

          “I’ve pointed out previously that when I, as a more traditional theist, affirm that God is a mystery and cannot possibly be proven by scientific methods,”

          That which you cannot explain is your “God”

          the gap in your knowledge.

        • Greg G.

          I’ve pointed out previously that when I, as a more traditional theist, affirm that God is a mystery and cannot possibly be proven by scientific methods, I’m told that this is not a legitimate position.

          It is woo.

        • adam

          “It has something to say about the alleged appearance of design in biological organisms.”

          from a deity presupposition

          It aint science.

        • MNb

          “the Wedge Document is not a statement of ID per se”
          Of course not. The Wedge Document totally doesn’t contain the quote

          “We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

          http://ncse.com/creationism/general/wedge-document

          No, MNb has sneaked that into the text of that link.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXTopchIrNY

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Precisely–the DI is using ID as part of the “wedge” to overturn materialism. ID is the scientific part of the program, intended to make science friendlier to religion. I haven’t denied any of that. But that does not mean that ID is itself theology.

          Note: I’m using “scientific” above to mean “a theory about how physical reality works and what we can infer from empirical observation.” That is what ID is. That is also what astrology is/was, what Ayurvedic medicine is, and so on. I understand why mainstream or “orthodox” scientists would use the term in a narrower sense.

        • adam

          “I’m using “scientific” above to mean “a theory about how physical
          reality works and what we can infer from empirical observation.” That is
          what ID is.”

          No, that is NOT what ID is.

          And no amount of LYING will change that:

          Intelligent design (ID) is the pseudoscientific view[1][2]
          that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best
          explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”[3] Educators, philosophers, and the scientific community have demonstrated that ID is a religious argument, a form of creationism which lacks empirical support and offers no testable or tenable hypotheses.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          That wikipedia article is plainly rather biased 🙂

        • adam

          Sorry, but I’ve been reading your dishonesty already, and your ‘word’ carries no weight.

        • Kodie

          You’re not smart.

        • MNb

          And with “materialism” IDiots – see the Wedge Document – mean methodological naturalism” ie the scientific method.

          “ID is the scientific part of the program, intended to make science friendlier to religion. I haven’t denied any of that. But that does not mean that ID is itself theology.”
          Yup, it does. Theology is the critical study of the divine. IDocy does exactly that (though you can challenge the “critical” part, which would only add a reason to keep IDocy out of science class) by studying how we can observe the consequences of divine intervention in natural reality.
          Plus there is no scientific part of that program but combing scientific texts for quotes IDiots can twist. That’s all they do.

          “understand why mainstream or “orthodox” scientists would use the term in a narrower sense.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthodoxy

          “In the Christian sense the term means “conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church”.”
          The scientific equivalent would be “orthodox science is conforming to the way the ancient Greeks and Babylonians practiced it” – which specifically includes astrology – not coincidentally also science according to you. What you call mainstream science (a pleonasm – there is no other science than methodological naturalism) is modern as it only started about 200+ years ago. Calling methodological naturalism orthodox makes even less sense than calling liberation theology orthodox.
          The meaning you give the word science can oxidate at the lower end of my digestive system. From the beginning I have made clear that the scientific method means methodological naturalism, ie saying exactly nothing about supernatural explanations. Hence IDocy is not science.
          Dishonest apologists like you and your IDiot friends don’t get to redefine words just because it suits your political program. Here we have the reason I call you a piece of shit. With this stupid trick you try to prescribe how scientists and science teachers, so including me, which is why I take it personally, should do our jobs. You just have implied, just like according to you IDocy must be taught in biology class, astrology must be taught in physics class. My physics class. So in my specific case you also aspire to threaten one of the most important things that give my life meaning. Of course you have exactly zero power to do so, but that doesn’t make me any more forgiving.
          Piece of shit. ‘Cuz god – the one you call “God”. You can pat yourself on your shoulder, you are doing a fine job turning me into an antitheist.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          And again, you ascribe to me an opinion I explicitly repudiated. I have no interest in making ID or astrology or anything else be taught in science class. i think it makes sense that science classes should teach mainstream, orthodox science. If a qualified science teacher chose to teach ID as an option, I wouldn’t protest against that either.

          As for my use of the word “orthodox”–I’m using it to mean “according to the dominant paradigm within the broader category of a certain kind of inquiry.” I.e., orthodox theology is, as you say, theology that conforms (at a minimum) to the ancient creeds of the early “Catholic” Church. Roman Catholics and many Protestant groups would have a narrower definition (for RCs “orthodoxy” means “conformity to the entirety of official Church teaching” including later developments; similarly, for many Protestants it means “conformity to Biblical teaching as defined by our particular community”), but the one you cite is broadly accepted (the other groups would generally add to it, not take away from it).

          Out of the various ways of speaking about the significance of Jesus in early Christianity, one paradigm emerged as dominant and was further refined through later debates. This paradigm has certain basic ground rules and then a lot of disagreements about how to apply them.

          Similarly, out of the various kinds of inquiry into the physical world that were prevalent in the early modern period, a broad paradigm emerged characterized by certain ground rules including methodological naturalism. This is what you mean by “science” and I mean by “orthodox science.”

          I don’t have a problem with orthodox science. It’s clearly a very good paradigm for understanding the physical world.

        • MNb

          And again you’re a liar and again it hardly matters. So I didn’t read past your first two sentences.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          So you can say that I said the opposite of what I actually said, and I’m the liar?

          I’m sure you are a good and honest person in normal life, but your ideology is really leading you astray here.

        • MNb

          You’re boring.
          What you think of me can oxidate at the lower end of my digestive system.
          You’re not sure at all what I’m like in daily life. Quite stupid remark of you, whether “I’m sure” is another lie of yours or not.

        • Kodie

          The agenda is theological – ID is disguised as scientish, it wishes to re-educate or place doubt in actual science (you call “orthodox” for some reason, possibly to validate your “orthodox” beliefs somehow), by appearing as if it were as valid as science but reconciles with theological claims, that science does not. I don’t know how you can miss it, but you do reject it. It’s a contortion of scientific facts with theological assumptions so they can establish their religion at school. OF COURSE, they don’t wish to be figured out, but they were. They wouldn’t state obviously, “this is the science of god in the bible” if they wanted to be taken seriously as a subject to be taught in science classes in public schools. You’re just so dumb. There are tons of your other dummies who do take this as serious scientific research that blows actual science away, because science doesn’t align with their religious beliefs.

          What you still don’t get is that theology has to borrow and contort from other fields of knowledge because fairy superstitions are so obviously fake. We live in a world of scientific and technological information and progress, that they have to invent history (which you do take seriously) and science (which I think you’re on the fence of taking seriously) so “scholars” such as yourself think it doesn’t sound so fucking dumb, but you’re a fool for the “scholarly” packaging. That’s their agenda.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I take science seriously. I do not take science as the total explanation of everything.

          I call it “orthodox science” because calling it “real science” as you do begs the question.

          I note that when I do precisely this with regard to religion–speaking of “orthodox” or “traditional” Christianity, I am criticized for my arrogance and so on. Yet that same language is too _weak_ to describe your confidence that there is one paradigm in scientific matters that is obviously true and can never be questioned. (Yes, of course within the broad paradigm anything can be questioned, but the ground rules themselves can’t be.)

          I’m trying to use the fairest language I know. Yes, that’s also polemical language, because I think your confidence in science and your totalizing view of science as the Universal Paradigm are way overblown.

        • Kodie

          The science you’re describing seems to be imaginary. Science isn’t about proclaiming unchallengeable truths.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Again, I get that none of the specific claims made by specific scientific paradigms are unchallengeable. But as the ID issue shows, certain methodological issues _are_ unchallengeable It’s not so much about “proclaiming unchallangeable truths” but about using certain methods which are simply taken for granted because they constitute the scientific paradigm that provides the ground rules for the wonderful, self-critical, open-ended pursuit of truth that science is when it functions properly. (Like all human activities, it doesn’t always function properly, and I find many folks here rather lacking in acknowledgment of that to me fairly obvious fact.)

        • adam

          “But as the ID issue shows, certain methodological issues _are_ unchallengeable ”

          Really?
          Specifically WHICH issues are unchallengeable in Science?

          “but about using certain methods which are simply taken for granted because they constitute the scientific paradigm that provides the ground rules for the wonderful, self-critical, open-ended pursuit of truth that science is when it functions properly. ”

          So you mean using the methods that WORK and are REPRODUCIBLE by testing?

        • Kodie

          You religious people have no reliable method for knowing anything. I think science functions properly all the time, eventually. It is open to human error and corruption, but the fact that they publish methods that are meant to be repeated and repeatable, they are also subject to human scrutiny. The scientific consensus as Bob likes to refer to is not a big conspiracy that goes along with a scientific authority. They agree because they know what they’re reading (and you don’t, and I pretty much don’t), and it either checks out or it doesn’t. Now, maybe some scientists are constrained by their employer and are therefore corrupted and prohibited from going against, but not all scientists are. If something doesn’t check out, it will eventually be overturned by further experimentation and publication.

          Religion has nothing like that. It doesn’t “feel” right, then someone cooks up a new batch of bullshit, but nothing that really overturns the old bullshit in a meaningful way.

          This is where Bob tells you to look at a map of religions vs. a map of science.

        • adam

          “I take science seriously”

          No you take pseuoscience seriously, because that is what ID is on its BEST day.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I was not thinking of ID. I take ID sort-of seriously, but certainly not as seriously as I take mainstream, orthodox science.

        • adam

          Even if you take ID sort of seriously, that sounds like a denial of ‘orthodox science’. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5410324fabd7fc45c62144dc37cc8d9cfdbd567344a83cad524959ad05b2668e.jpg

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          If so, that just demonstrates, again, how narrow and dogmatic “orthodox science” is in your definition.

          As a Christian, I take other religious claims very seriously. My Christian faith does not prevent me from doing so–indeed, it encourages me to do so, because the basic Christian ethical principle (not unique to us, to be sure) is the Golden Rule, and this requires me to take other religions as seriously as I want them to take mine. That is, fundamentally, the issue I’m arguing in opposition to Bob in this whole discussion (that as a Christian I can and indeed must take other religions seriously in a way that atheists have trouble doing).

        • adam

          “If so, that just demonstrates, again, how narrow and dogmatic “orthodox science” is in your definition.”

          No, only to a narrow minded anti-science viewer.

          “As a Christian, I take other religious claims very seriously.”

          Since the vast majority of you belief in the same MAGIC of supernatural, that makes sense.

          ” in a way that atheists have trouble doing”

          Of course non-believers in the MAGIC of the supernatural need more than wishful thinking to believe.

        • Susan

          as a Christian I can and indeed must take other religions seriously in a way that atheists have trouble doing

          When I took my own faith seriously and asked questions, I got the same kind of answers that you sneer at (fundamentalist answers) and the same kind of meaningless, dodgy fog that you embrace an everything in between.

          It’s because I took those claims seriously, that I find myself in the position I’m in. I tried to take your claims seriously and was met with fog and no support for those claims. Don’t accuse me of not taking your claims “seriously”. Look at your inability to coherently define anything and your comfort in being unable to show your work.

          I’m an igtheist by the way.

        • WayneMan

          You are correct that the scientific method is not infallible, but is self correcting over time. Sometimes it may take years, but is designed to be challenged and tested over and over again. Scientist get acknowledged by proving their buddies wrong. All of science thought the Milky Way was everything, and any other opinions were laughed at, until Hubble collected the data that proved we were just a spec in an ocean of galaxies. The whole point of the scientific method is to find truth in our understanding of our environment, whatever that truth is.

          ID on the other hand got it genesis from Genesis (pardon the pun), which supposedly cannot be challenged (right or wrong). Religious organizations that push ID like DI and Answers In Genesis, have their entire structures built around the premise that Genesis is absolutely correct, and they just have to “find” data that can help support that. So their goal is not to find truth, but support Genesis. Any data to the contrary has to be ignored or spun, or their entire organization collapses. So no, ID in no way can be trusted as a science, but as a theology.

        • Argus

          From Wedge (Fiver Year Objectiv: “Mainline renewal movements begin to appropriate insights from design theory, and to repudiate theologies influenced by materialism.”

          Gee, it almost sounds like it’s identifying with theology.

          Also this: “Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

          “consonant with Christian and theistic convictions” means ID is theological in nature.

        • adam

          So Edwin is LYING

          I am shocked
          Shocked, I tell you.
          I am shocked to find that a theist is lying about ID.
          .
          .
          .
          .
          .
          Yet again…

        • Argus

          Yeah it seems he wants to have his theology and eat it too.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, it means that it’s _consonant_ with a particular theology. There’s a difference.

          And to the first part–note the distinction between the “renewal movements” that “appropriate insights from design theory” and “design theory” itself.

          Again: mainstream neo-Darwinian evolution is consonant with atheism, but is not itself atheism. For that matter, it’s consonant with a number of theologies, but again, is not itself theology.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You should ask Bob that question.

          I don’t need to, I understand what he is stating. You are the one attempting the weaselling terms to duke the issue. I would like you to define what you mean in a way a simpleton can understand.

          He spoke as if Christians in general (he doesn’t seem too concerned with other theists) were the objects of his critique, and if he didn’t mean that he should restate the whole argument and acknowledge that he misstated it the first time (as we all often do–overgeneralizing is a common fault, and my frustration with Bob lies mostly in his refusal to admit that he needs to restate the case to apply only to some Christians–it’s not clear at this point whether or not they are a majority of all modern Western Christians–who deny any kind of validity to the language about and experience of the divine found in other religions).

          You are the one over generalising the Christian as and when it suits.

          You are just not getting it at all. The generalisation is that almost all Christians believe in one God. There are a number of different Christian thoughts about the attributes of that one God, but that is not relevant.

          So saying that the atheist believes in one less god than the Christian works fine. You have not yet shown why it doesn’t.

          If you have a particular Christian in mind that doesn’t believe in the supreme being god above all others that is known as God, bring them on. Obviously that excludes atheist Christians who are already atheist by nature of course.

          Christians believe in a supreme being. From the first writer Paul. That’s a being supreme above all others. They call that supreme being the one true God.

          Some Christians, including you apparently, think that the god’s of other religions can be interpreted also as the one true God of your Christianity. You think this trick absolves you of falling in line with the argument, it doesn’t.

          The Hebrew Yahweh, the Christian God and the Muslim Allah, can be grouped as one god, but then the argument is stated as the atheist goes one god further than the Abrahamist. But it encompasses Christians so we are all good there.

          If you want to include other gods as this same one God, then the term will need revised for you specifically based on which gods you want to include as being the same god as your one true God. It’s nonsense of course, but I’m prepared to play along. The atheist still has the claim that they go one god further than you, because you still believe in one God supreme above all others…granted, by a number of names, but that matters not. As a self proclaimed Christian, you will still be encompassed by whatever name fits, so we are all good there.

          Unless you are claiming that there is more than one supreme being in charge, your position is stuffed.Are you claiming that you believe there is more than one supreme being commonly known by Christians as God?

          I have explained to you repeatedly that I speak for “traditional Christians,” and by that I mean the heirs of what Ehrman calls “proto-orthodoxy,” developed into full-blown orthodoxy by the Seven Councils and, in its fullest form, maintained by the Catholic and Orthodox traditions over against varying degrees of rejection by the different forms of Protestantism.

          And I have asked you to define what these “traditional Christians” believed about God, the one from the book.

          I’m pretty damn sure it is not in line with the argument you are attempting to make in refutation of Bob’s position.

          There was never one traditional Christianity, what part of that can’t you grasp. Not in Paul’s day, not during Ehrman’s proto-orthodox period, not during the seven council period, not ever. None of which matters to this issue of God.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’m getting it. I have explained over and over again that “believing in one God” has never meant “denying the existence of the supernatural beings whom other people worship as gods.” I have documented that during the formative centuries of Christianity–again, the period when, as Ehrman describes it, “proto-orthodoxy” was triumphing over other versions of Christianity and turning into “orthodoxy”–the standard view of other gods was that they were real but evil supernatural beings, which is not remotely the same thing as the “atheist” view.

          I grasp quite well that you are committed to denying the historical record of traditional Christianity, even when the scholar you yourself chose to cite solidly refutes you by speaking of a “proto-orthodoxy” that “won” the early battles over Christian identity.

        • WayneMan

          No you are not getting it at all. In relation to this topic,

          “I Just Believe in One Less God Than You Do”,

          simply replace the word God with supernatural entity. I don’t care if your religion has one God, 100 Gods, and/or angels, devils, and demons. As an atheist, I do not accept any of them, no matter how you want to count them up. The vast majority of religions reject all other supernatural entities, except those professed by their own “one true religion”. That is the whole point of the topic statement.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You’re equivocating on the word “reject.”

        • WayneMan

          OMG, you are just like Bill Clinton arguing over what the definition of “is” is, to avoid a question. You know what reject means in this context: reject = they do not accept other religion’s supernatural entities as truth. You will do about anything to avoid the actual topic.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          This is the actual topic. The claim is that theists are “atheists about all gods but one” and hence it should be an easy step to be an atheist about one more god. And that claim is not just wrong–it’s mind-blowingly clueless and silly.

          For the argument to have any force, the theist must be committed to treating apparent evidence for the supernatural in other religions the same way an atheist treats evidence for the supernatural in _all_ religions.

          And that just isn’t the case.

        • For the argument to have any force, the theist must be committed to treating apparent evidence for the supernatural in other religions the same way an atheist treats evidence for the supernatural in _all_ religions.

          Sounds like something we’ve discussed already but, if so, I’ve forgotten.

          I was talking to Christians just this weekend at the Reason Rally about Mormons. We were laughing together about the flaws in their arguments. We used identical arguments.

          So I’m missing the difference you’re talking about.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Of course we might find specific arguments flawed for the same reasons–and then you need to show that those specific Christians use those specific arguments, and then you will have made a point that those specific Christians need to listen to!

          I agree, actually, that “mainstream” or “orthodox” Christians often mock Mormons in ways that logically undercut their own beliefs.

          As I’ve said a number of times, I agree that the kind of argument you’re using (and the “outsider test” generally) can be extremely helpful in getting theists to think more critically.

          I once fell into this years ago in grad school, when I made some crack about Mormonism to an atheist colleague, who responded by remarking that all _sorts_ of things other people believed seemed strange to him. It was obvious what he meant, and I learned the lesson. I have tried not to forget it.

        • Kodie

          Yes, we’ve established that Christians such as yourself are open to believing any delusional idea anyone ever had, rather than rejecting them. On the other hand, we’ve also established, well, you established, that you do reject other beliefs than your own because “they don’t make sense” or yours “makes more sense,” and you’re open to cherry-picking, along with the idea that all these theists who are doin’ it wrong feel the same “something” you do, but either define it wrong or have something to teach you from which you can pick and choose and reject because of your emotions. You have yet to respond to my post about logical fallacies and why you’re wrong about everything, so I can assume you’d rather stay wrong than learn why you sound so unconvincing.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You didn’t substantiate your claim that I’ve fallen into logical fallacies, so there wasn’t much to respond to. And you were, ironically, yourself falling into the “argumentum ad auctoritatem” by plucking a list from a website.

          Many “logical fallacies” are fallacies only in certain contexts. In particular, they are fallacies if used as a form of deductive proof. But we all use some form of the “argumentum ad auctoritatem” and the “argumentum ad populum” in certain contexts. We all use “tu quoque” to point out inconsistencies in other people’s positions, and so on.

          Lists of logical fallacies are just handy ways to explain why certain things are illogical.

        • Kodie

          Sure, guard your confirmation bias with excuses. I was just trying to educate you about something you seem to be so ignorant about. Your fallacious reasons are too numerous to mention, a list seemed to be more handy.

        • WayneMan

          Do you believe in Hanuman, from the Hindu religion, as an real supernatural entity (yes or no)? If no how is your criteria any different than an atheist, who also does not believe in Hanuman? Unless you have absolute proof that Hanuman is not a real supernatural being,
          yet reject it as true, then you are doing the same thing an atheist does
          in regards to your favorite supernatural entities. It is just that
          simple. The point is, most believers reject all other religions supernatural entities simply because, it is not THEIR religion . If the answer if yes, you do believe that Hanuman is a real supernatural being, how do you reconcile that with your own religion. Saying Hanuman is some kind of demon is just a cop out, since all religions can say exactly the same thing about yours.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t know if Hanuman is a real supernatural entity, but there is nothing at all about my religion that requires me to believe he isn’t. If anything, being a Christian predisposes me to assume that the beliefs of non-Christians also point to something real. Furthermore, in the case of Hanuman at least one Hindu I’ve talked to (the only one I’ve had significant conversation with about Hanuman) saw Hanuman primarily as a symbol of the “true devotee” to the one God. I know that doesn’t speak for all Hindus by any means, but I certainly do not view that understanding of Hanuman the way an atheist would.

          And if I did say that Hanuman is a demon (which I don’t) it would not be a cop out. The question here is not what other religions say but what _atheists_ say. (And in fact Hinduism, at least, is much less likely to pull that kind of “demonizing” interpretation than Christianity–which for most people today is a point in favor of Hinduism!) Atheists do not think Hanuman is a demon. Hence, even those Christians who do think that are not remotely thinking of Hanuman the way atheists do.

          From my perspective, the _least_ likely possibility is that all the Hindu beliefs and practices centered on Hanuman are purely imaginary and have no supernatural referent.

        • From my perspective, the _least_ likely possibility is that all the Hindu beliefs and practices centered on Hanuman are purely imaginary and have no supernatural referent.

          Interesting. How about Scientology–there’s likely something supernatural behind that one as well? And Mormonism–there was a supernatural force guiding the writing of those books? If not, then why is there something supernatural behind Hinduism? Is there a rule by which you can tell?

        • Susan

          but there is nothing at all about my religion that requires me to believe he isn’t.

          This has nothing to do with you providing any sort of basis, model or evidence to demonstrate that he is “real”. Again, I don’t really care what your religion requires you to believe. I care about beliefs supporting themselves.

          I certainly do not view that understanding of Hanuman the way an atheist would.

          Of course not. But you might as well be an astrologer who is not required to believe that other forms of astrology arenecessarily wrong but that their existence somehow confirms your truest belief in astrology, though it falls short of the truest astrology that you adhere to.

          You have no models nor requirement to show your work. You have your beliefs. This doesn’t do a thing to address virtual particles on an event horizon. All you’ve had since you got here is your beliefs.
          Requests that you support them have been met with fog.

          From my perspective

          And why should your perspective count? I’m not saying it shouldn’t but you haven’t explained why it is.

          You think demons cause disease and suffering. Without showing that there is any connection to reality.

          the_least_likely possibility

          On what do you base your probabilities and possibilities? Show your work.

          If you can’t, then don’t use those terms.

        • WayneMan

          “From my perspective, the _least_ likely possibility is that all the Hindu beliefs and practices centered on Hanuman are purely imaginary and have no supernatural referent.”

          This is EXACTLY why I, as an atheist, reject Hanuman as well as the Christian God. You are simply talking in circles. You say there is nothing in your faith that says you must reject other religion’s supernatural entities, and yet accepting others would be impossible to rectify with your base religion. And you even admit yourself that you do not accept gods like Hanuman. Of the over 2 billion Christians, I would be amazed if you could find just 10 that actually believe any god of any other religion actually exists. They don’t accept them, can’t logically accept them, simply because it is not THEIR God, therefore imaginary. I imagine that very few Christians have any clue about Hindu gods (there are actually hundreds of Hindu gods), or any other religion’s gods, unless they happen to have a degree in religious studies. They simply reject them all as imaginary, because they don’t make sense in relation to their own religion. So again you are talking in complete circles to avoid the obvious, that atheists do indeed simply believe in one less God than Christians, because we see them all as imaginary.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I think you may have misread me.

          I said that the “atheist” view of Hanuman was, in my opinion, possible but the _least_ likely possibility.

        • WayneMan

          “From my perspective, the _least_ likely possibility is that all the Hindu beliefs and practices centered on Hanuman are purely imaginary and have no supernatural referent.”

          No, Read your own quote. It was even its own separate paragraph. There was no other way to take it.And as typical, you use some distraction to avoid answering any of the points. More circles…

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I said: “From my perspective, the _least_ likely possibility is that all the Hindu beliefs and practices centered on Hanuman are purely imaginary and have no supernatural referent.”

          Do I need to diagram that for you? “That all. . . are imaginary” is the predicate of “least likely possibility.”

          I also said that I could accept Hanuman as explained to me by the only Hindu I’ve talked to on the subject.

          You’re not responding to what I actually said at all but to what you insist I must say because it corresponds to your prejudices.

          Of course I don’t worship any gods other than the one God whom I know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I have never claimed otherwise.

          However, I do not view other religions the same way an atheist views all religions, because I believe there is one God to whom all religious beliefs (and indeed everything that truly exists) point in one way or another, and because I believe in a supernatural world that may well include created beings who are mistakenly worshiped by some people. I have a range of possibilities for interpreting supernatural claims from other religions. They include but are not limited to the possibility that these claims are simply mistaken.

        • WayneMan

          No, I don’t need a diagram. You need to proof read your stuff more carefully. Like I said you even broke that statement out into its own separate paragraph, and nowhere did it mention “atheists”. You screwed up, or are now flip flopping, and just won’t admit it.

          And OMG. Now you are doing what the Mormons do and essentially baptizing by proxy, so that THEIR poor incorrect notion of their God(s) is actually just YOUR God. Presto, they are all just worshiping YOUR God. Clever, but I don’t think they would agree with you. And, that does not work well at all for for religions like Hinduism, who have hundreds of Gods.

        • WayneMan

          That is exactly the case. You are certainly a rare exception, or are trying to spin reality.

        • 90Lew90

          Seemed pretty unequivocal to me…

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          “Reject” as in “don’t believe they exist” and “reject” as in “don’t worship them” are two different things entirely.

          Refusing to worship beings you believe do exist or may exist, and saying that they do not exist, are two completely different things. The fact that the word “reject” can be used for both of them is not a particularly telling point.

        • 90Lew90

          Are you saying you weren’t sure if by “reject” he meant “don’t believe they exist”? Really? I’ve yet to hear a priest acknowledge the existence of the Greek gods. Do you believe the Greek gods exist? If not, which gods, other than the one in your religion, do you suppose might exist? Those ones that exist but which you don’t worship?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’ve been over this many times. I’m saying that when pressed, Bob and his defenders say that Christians “reject” other gods in the sense of not worshiping them, but that at other times they speak as if they are claiming that Christians reject the existence of other gods.

          I don’t know why a priest would see the need to say anything one way or the other. Many modern Christians no doubt do casually assume that the Greek gods were just imaginary. For one thing, we usually learn about them in literature class. The focus on the Greek gods is thus rather misleading. (I agree that Christians ought to think harder even about the Greek gods, of course.) When confronted with “living” religious beliefs, you will find Christians more likely to go for supernatural explanations, with more conservative Christians saying that the “gods” are demonic and other Christians being open to some more positive interpretation (such as that they are partially mistaken ways of apprehending the true God, or even, for some Christians, equally valid ways of experiencing the same reality we do).

          I don’t know which “gods” exist and which don’t, for sure, but the more widely and persistently worshiped they are, the more they appear to affect people’s lives, the more credible the claims of supernatural phenomena associated with them, etc. the more likely I think it is that there’s something going on beyond just “humans making stuff up.” There are very, very few religions that I would reduce to that level (though this raises the question of whether the imagination is a vehicle of truth, as I believe it is). Scientology is the only one I’m fairly confident about. Mormonism maybe–I certainly find their historical claims unconvincing and I obviously have trouble with the claim that Joseph Smith really encountered angels, and much more with his supposed vision of the Trinity. But I would not simply dismiss Mormonism as nonsense–clearly it has some genuine spiritual intuitions and filled some genuine spiritual needs, and I take it seriously as a conversation partner.

        • 90Lew90

          Right, so basically you mean atheists shouldn’t say they believe in one less god than Christians, because some Christians believe other gods exist, but they’re demons etc. In making that point, you accept implicitly that you knew all along the sense in which “reject” was used — that being a rejection of the claim that other gods exist.
          Whatever of all that, none of this is very edifying is it. It beats me why you have trouble with Joseph Smith seeing whatever it was he claims to have seen but accept Paul’s tall tale without question.
          And to take the position that the atheist is wrong to say he believes in one less god than Christians because some batshit crazy Christians believe whatever they’re told and think other gods are really demons is pretty piss poor if you ask me.

        • adam

          ” It beats me why you have trouble with Joseph Smith seeing whatever it
          was he claims to have seen but accept Paul’s tall tale without question.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’m not sure what you mean by my “admitting that I know the sense in which reject was used.” My point is that it’s being used equivocally–in two different senses according to the convenience of the person using it. My response implies indeed that “reject” means “not believing they exist,” because that is what the parallel with atheism implies. But when I say that, I’m told that I’m playing word games and denying the obvious because of course Christians reject other gods–meaning that we don’t worship them. That’s what I mean by equivocation.

          And I am not basing my objection solely on the fact that many Christians historically (including nearly everyone in the early Church) have believed that pagan gods are demons. I have pointed out repeatedly that many Christians today, including myself, are open to much more positive interpretations that also allow for supernatural reality behind other religions’ objects of worship. Yet again, I repeat: Christians have a range of possibilities available to them, only one of which coincides with the one atheists are committed to. When you find Christians who indeed take an “atheist” attitude to all other gods, then by all means use this argument. But do not use it without serious qualification, and do not claim that “Christian monotheism” requires it.

        • Ignorant Amos

          But when I say that, I’m told that I’m playing word games and denying the obvious because of course Christians reject other gods–meaning that we don’t worship them. That’s what I mean by equivocation.

          Nope.

          For the umpteenth time. Christian’s don’t believe they exist as God/Creator of all things/Supreme Being.

          Whatever other kook beliefs certain Christians have about other religions gods, the fact remains, just as with atheists, they don’t believe any of them are gods.

          http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_othe1.htm

          If you believe any of them are gods, then say so and you can have your position. Not a Christian position, an EWT position, but then stop arguing for Christians.

          Most of us here were once Christians. Lew was a Catholic if I’m right in saying. None of us recognise this shit your pulling from our religious days.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          And once again, you shift definitions–now you are talking about God in the monotheistic sense. Bob specifically said he wasn’t talking about that.

          You need to pick a definition of “god” and stick to it. It would be nice if everyone I am discussing this with would agree with each other so I don’t have to fight several battles at the same time, with each of you accusing me of dishonesty if I respond to the other guy’s definition and not yours.

          I have laid out my arguments many times. You don’t want to listen. I am not going to keep repeating the same thing over and over again when you go back to the same equivocal use of the term “god” that I have taken apart repeatedly.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I have trouble with Joseph Smith’s account first of all, because it conflicts with the paradigm I already accept; secondly, because there are good reasons to think Smith unreliable; thirdly, because of his shifty subsequent behavior concerning the gold plates; and fourthly, because of the improbability and complete lack of evidential support for the alleged historical accounts revealed to him. (And before everyone goes nuts over my appeal to evidence, note that I’m appealing to it in a matter of history and archeology. My argument throughout has been precisely that within well-established paradigms we know what evidence means. In other words, I reject Mormonism not only because it conflicts with the theological paradigm I accept, but because it conflicts with the historical paradigm I accept.)

          As for Paul’s “tall tale”–I presume you mean the Damascus Road account. I don’t accept it without question. I don’t accept anything without question. I accept the basic claim (that Paul encountered the risen Jesus) as part of my faith, and I think the evidence we have (including Paul’s character as it comes through in his writings) makes that a reasonable choice (though certainly it does not compel assent).

          In the end, much as people on this forum hate to hear me say this, it does all come down to whether the paradigm makes sense as a whole. Does it answer the questions that you find important? Does it help explain things that bother you in other paradigms? Can it give a good account of why it differs from other paradigms? Are its epicycles manageable (i.e., are the explanations you have to come up with in order to deal with difficulties explanations you can accept with integrity?)? And so on. Specific evidential issues about specific claims are part of that big picture, but no one of them is likely to decide the matter all by itself.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Edwin’s a theology PhD that has been talking ballix for three weeks now.

          How’s it hangin’ anyhow big lad?

        • 90Lew90

          Ok thanks. Almost done with the programme. Will be on more in the next few weeks. Thanks for asking and hope you’re (all) well.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Good stuff!

        • Ignorant Amos

          –the standard view of other gods was that they were real but evil supernatural beings, which is not remotely the same thing as the “atheist” view.

          Holy fuck on a pogo stick!

          So they didn’t believe they were gods. Because Christian’s believe in just one god. So they believe in just one god more than the atheist.

          Who gives a fuck what else they believed about the not gods of other religions. It doesn’t matter, no matter how hard you squint at this nonsense, Christians believe in one more god than atheists. Give it up already.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Again, you’re equivocating on the words “believe in.”

          Can you be an atheist and believe that supernatural beings exist?

          If you can’t, then your argument is plainly false.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I grasp quite well that you are committed to denying the historical record of traditional Christianity, even when the scholar you yourself chose to cite solidly refutes you by speaking of a “proto-orthodoxy” that “won” the early battles over Christian identity.

          Apparently you don’t grasp it quite well. For all your alleged scholarship too.

          I don’t give two hoots for the proto-orthodox vis a vis orthodox Christianity distinction, that’s your particular hang-up. I cited Ehrman as an example of a scholar that pre fourth century was all fucked up with Christians believing all manner of shite about the godman Jesus. Call it Ehrman’s proto-orthodox Christianity if it gives you a hardon if you like.

          Orthodox Christianity just became the demarcation between what was considered heretical and not. It didn’t unify the non heretics under one banner like they all suddenly believed the one Christianity..

          So I ask you, when and what do you consider was this “traditional Christianity”? Try to be specific.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Actually he said that this diversity only lasted until the early third century, not the fourth.

          We were, if you recall, discussing a very specific issue: docetism. As Ehrman can inform you, docetism was one of the positions that “lost.”

          I use “traditional Christianity” as shorthand for “whatever is the historically dominant position on a particular issue.” I am not claiming that there is some absolutely unified and unanimous thing called “traditional Christianity.” I’m simply claiming that Catholicism and Orthodoxy, together, represent a discernible mainstream within Christianity, and that on any given issue a position officially held by Catholics, Orthodox, and many Protestants and/or taught by the major theologians of these traditions can reasonably be called “traditional.” Again, it’s shorthand. It’s shorthand you’re desperately invested in preventing me from using.

          What is at stake here for you? Why are you twisting and turning to deny what any historian of Christianity will tell you: that the vast majority of Christian churches for the vast majority of Christian history have said that Jesus was fully human?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Actually he said that this diversity only lasted until the early third century, not the fourth.

          For someone with a third level education your reading comprehension is shocking.

          What he actually said…and I quote…

          The main battles that we know about took place about 100 years after Jesus died and for the next, say, 50 or 70 years. The battles then dribbled on into the third century, and it’s during this period that people were formulating theological statements for their points of view. That formulation of theological views came to a head in the early fourth century, when the earliest Christian creeds were formulated.

          The proto-orthodox had won by the time of the Council of Nicea, and so the arguments at that point are on much more subtle points of theology. Everybody at the Council of Nicea would have agreed that these other groups were heretical.

          So what part of my comment …

          “I cited Ehrman as an example of a scholar that pre fourth century was all fucked up with Christians believing all manner of shite about the godman Jesus.”

          …doesn’t hold?

          We were, if you recall, discussing a very specific issue: docetism. As Ehrman can inform you, docetism was one of the positions that “lost.”

          No, no, no, we were not. You have made it so because it suits your argument, an argument I have not made. It is your straw man.

          We were, if you recall, discussing a very specific issue: That there never was one flavour of Christianity.

          It started here…

          https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/i_just_believe_in_one_less_god_than_you_do_an_atheist_fallacy_part_4/#comment-2701241597

          I used docetism, along with other early Christian woo-woo collectively, in a citation to support my assertion…here, read it again…

          Following the Apostolic Age, from the second century onwards, a number of controversies developed about how the human and divine are related within the person of Jesus. As of the second century, a number of different and opposing approaches developed among various groups. For example, Arianism did not endorse divinity, Ebionism argued Jesus was an ordinary mortal, while Gnosticism held docetic views which argued Christ was a spiritual being who only appeared to have a physical body. The resulting tensions led to schisms within the church in the second and third centuries, and ecumenical councils were convened in the fourth and fifth centuries to deal with the issues.

          It was YOU that focused in on the lowest hanging fruit that was docetism among the various early Christian beliefs. And nothing about what you say about it changes my position.

          As Ehrman can inform you, docetism was one of the positions that “lost.”

          So what…I already know. Just in case you forgot again, it was I that cited the Ehrman interview you were too lazy to listen to, so I had to follow up with a transcript of that interview.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          The post you linked to was a reply to my insisting that “we” should be allowed to tell you what we believe about Jesus. The conversation was already about docetism. I didn’t pick it because it was “low-hanging fruit.” I picked it because that is what we had been arguing about, and what the phrase “we believe” was referring to.

        • Ignorant Amos

          No Edwin….it really wasn’t.

          But if you can link to the comment in conversation that mentions Docetism prior to it being mentioned in the citation I made as one of a number of beliefs about Jesus which included Arianism and Ebionism, I will apologise unreservedly.

          Time to ante up Edwin.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I see now why we’ve been talking past each other. The post I keep referring to was this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2016/05/i-just-believe-in-one-less-god-than-you-do-an-atheist-fallacy-part-4/#comment-2699967597, in a separate conversation on the same subject the day before the one between you and me began. I apologize for mixing up the two conversations. When I said “what we believe” I had in mind what I had already defined the day before as what the “C/catholic” church of the second century (Ehrman’s “proto-orthodox”–I was just calling them what they called themselves) had said.

          So I did mention docetism before you did, and I was not picking it because it was “low-hanging fruit” but because it was the relevant issue to the question of Jesus’ suffering on the Cross. But of course if you hadn’t read the other conversation you wouldn’t know any of that.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I use “traditional Christianity” as shorthand for “whatever is the historically dominant position on a particular issue.”

          Right! Great…now that you decided to be more specific we know.

          So what then has that got to do with my claim that…

          There never has been one Christianity so I don’t understand your approach here.

          Out of curiosity, what do you believe was the “historically dominant position on a particular issue” during the first two centuries of the cult and why?

          I am not claiming that there is some absolutely unified and unanimous thing called “traditional Christianity.”

          Excellent stuff…so we agree. That was my original point before you went off on one about proto-orthodox and orthodox Christianity.

          I’m simply claiming that Catholicism and Orthodoxy, together, represent a discernible mainstream within Christianity, and that on any given issue a position officially held by Catholics, Orthodox, and many Protestants and/or taught by the major theologians of these traditions can reasonably be called “traditional.” Again, it’s shorthand.

          Fuck, boy but you love a straw man to beat on.

          Look Edwin, it seems to me that you are all over the place here. You are using words like “traditional”, “mainstream”, “orthodox”, etc., interchangeably and to mean all sorts of things depending on the particular comment.

          You made this comment…

          Yes, there were groups who held on to the “losing” ideas for centuries, but by the mid-3rd century (well before Constantine) a “mainstream” had emerged.

          Which I challenged by quoting an article citing Bauer.

          One of the discussions among scholars of early Christianity in the past century is to what extent it is appropriate to speak of “orthodoxy” and “heresy”. Higher criticism drastically altered the previous perception that heresy was a very rare exception to the orthodoxy. Bauer was particularly influential in the reconsideration of the historical model. During the 1970s, increasing focus on the effect of social, political and economic circumstances on the formation of early Christianity occurred as Bauer’s work found a wider audience. Some scholars argue against the increasing focus on heresies. A movement away from presuming the correctness or dominance of the orthodoxy is seen as understandable, in light of modern approaches. However, they feel that instead of an even and neutral approach to historical analysis that the heterodox sects are given an assumption of superiority over the orthodox (or Proto-orthodox) movement. The current debate is vigorous and broad. While it is difficult to summarize all current views, general statements may be made, remembering that such broad strokes will have exceptions in specific cases.

          Your view that by 250 CE there was a “mainstream” Christianity is not wholly supported. so you can imagine my surprise when you claimed to have actually read Bauer at grad school then proceeded to make this remark.

          You keep citing scholars who are talking about the second century to contradict my claim about the third century–a claim supported by Ehrman.

          I cited that piece as a proto-orthodox vis a vis an orthodox argument.

          Much of Ehrman’s writing has concentrated on various aspects of Walter Bauer’s thesis that Christianity was always diversified or at odds with itself. Ehrman is often considered a pioneer in connecting the history of the early church to textual variants within biblical manuscripts and in coining such terms as “Proto-orthodox Christianity.”

          Read sections “Post-apostolic period” & “Orthodoxy and heterodoxy” in…

          http://broom02.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Historiography%20of%20early%20Christianity&item_type=topic

          Now before we go any further, perhaps by “mainstream” here you mean another codeword for something else? Define your meaning and support your assertion. Your say-so isn’t enough.

          It’s shorthand you’re desperately invested in preventing me from using.

          I’ve already stated that it matters not a jot to my position. A position both Ehrman and Bauer seem to get behind and now which you now agree to also. But you just don’t get to through out terms you want to use willy nilly and not get challenged on them. just because you think you are above explaining yourself, that is a fallacious argument from authority.

          If you’d explained what you meant a week ago when first asked, we wouldn’t be here. You meant Christian traditions in common, not traditional Christianity, I get that now.

        • Pofarmer

          It seems by traditional, what’s his face simply means “popular”.

          I wonder how his views deal with things like Catharism, which was a pretty big movement relatively late, that only failed because it was violently suppressed?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catharism

        • Ignorant Amos

          It seems by traditional, what’s his face simply means “popular”.

          From what I can gather it’s what was “popular” at a certain time and place to be more accurate. Even a POV issue in some cases.

          I wonder how his views deal with things like Catharism, which was a pretty big movement relatively late, that only failed because it was violently suppressed?

          Ssssh! They were not “traditional” ya know?

          All joking aside, the violent suppression where the massacre by “traditional” Christians led by an Abbot who is famous for saying “Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own”, when asked how are we to differentiate between “traditional” Christians and those ones that lost out to orthodoxy a half dozen centuries earlier.

          In reading up on this issue, it would seem docetism is undergoing somewhat of a revival. The reason being that it better explains the evidence or lack thereof.

          Docetism has cropped up in a number of Christian belief systems, and even has some adherents still. The main reason that it keeps coming up, is that, in one form or another, it rationally answers the question, How could God be human? How could God have died? The Docetist answer, of course — whatever the reasoning might be — is that God never was human and never actually died.

          Of course if we count Muslims as docetic on the Jesus issue, then the “mainstream” view shifts dramatically.

          Certain other facets of Docetism are still alive and well within some of the world’s major religions, the primary one being Islam. The Docetic concept that God would not allow Jesus to die on the cross has been perpetuated in the Qu’ran itself in Surah 4:157–58, “they slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them”. The ever-popular Gospel of Barnabas plays into the common Muslim belief that Judas was crucified instead.

          But let’s drop that, in case Edwin thinks I’m promoting docetism again and goes off on one.

          Oh the fun to be had with these folk.

        • Ignorant Amos

          What is at stake here for you?

          Nothing at all. I don’t give a flying fuck. Your religious foibles about who believed what and when are your own when you keep them to yourself. But don’t make shit up. Or at least support your stupid terms with definitions so this nonsense can be avoided. And support your arguments with evidence, your supposed to be the scholar after all.

          Why are you twisting and turning to deny what any historian of Christianity will tell you: that the vast majority of Christian churches for the vast majority of Christian history have said that Jesus was fully human?

          Again with the straw man Moriarty.

          Where have I said that is not the case?

          Address the points I’m making, not the ones you want me to make in order to make yourself look clever. Because doing the latter just make you look like a tit.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          This conversation about Ehrman, etc., originated in a discussion of Jesus on the cross. Somebody (I don’t remember if it was you or not) claimed that Christians believe that Jesus was an “omnipotent mangod” and thus not “100% human.” I pointed out that traditionally Christians affirm that Jesus is 100% human and 100% divine and reject “docetism.” When challenged on what I meant by “traditional,” I pointed to the second-century controversy over docetism and said that the Christian group that all Christians today are descended from rejected docetism. You then cited Ehrman supposedly to show that I was wrong. I pointed out that Ehrman says the same thing I’m saying–that the controversies of the second century ended in the triumph of “proto-orthodoxy” which rejected, among other things, docetism.

          At no point did I ever claim that there was a uniform thing called “traditional Christianity” that had never changed in any respect. At no point did I ever claim that there was ever a time when “traditional Christianity” was the only game in town (even Ehrman’s “winning” didn’t mean that the other groups went away altogether, though some of them did–it meant that “proto-orthodox” Christianity emerged as the dominant group and became the ancestor of all current forms of Christianity). If you thought I was saying any of those things, you were not paying close attention to what I actually said, particularly to my carefully chosen language about the early “Catholic Church” (the term they themselves used) being the group that all Christians today are descended from. If you were not clear, you could have asked respectfully for clarification. This you did not do.

          Most recently, you accuse me of failing to interpret Ehrman correctly because I said that he said that the proto-orthodox won by the early third century. What he said, as you reminded me, was that the controversy “dribbled” into the third century but was over before Nicea. There was no sudden point at which the proto-orthodox “won.” But from Ehrman’s language of “dribbling” I gathered that he would agree that by fairly early in the third century it was becoming pretty clear that proto-orthodoxy was emerging as the dominant form of Christianity. Again, I may have read too much into his very general description.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Now you are just lying out yer arsehole.

          The good/bad thing about Disqus is that if one wants to, they can track back and find the original sub-thread.

          It started 12 days ago with a comment by Scooter at…

          https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/i_just_believe_in_one_less_god_than_you_do_an_atheist_fallacy_part_4/#comment-2696993446

          I entered it 10 days ago at…

          https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/i_just_believe_in_one_less_god_than_you_do_an_atheist_fallacy_part_4/#comment-2700781805

          None of it went the way you have imagined it…are you going senile? I think you might be.

          If you are going to resort to such unadulterated lies ya might as well just fuck away of as the weaselling waste of space toerag you have displayed yourself to be.

          You got yourself a whole new arse tore…but the commenting history is there for those that were not following it for them to decide.

          Edwin Woodruff Tait? I’ve shit’im.

        • Argus

          What is traditional Christianity? Ebionite (oldest)? Marcionite> Valentinians? ancient Catholicism? Vatican 2 Catholicism? Gnostics? Orthodox (Greek or Russian)? Protestantism? Anabaptist? Coptic?

          You get the picture.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I have explained a number of times. The Ebionites, Marcionites, and Gnostics “lost” the early debates over the shape of Christianity. You can argue that this “loss” had nothing to do with their relative truth, but that’s beside the point. As a matter of history they did lose. Catholicism and Orthodoxy thus are “traditional Christianity”–arguably the East has changed a bit less than the West, but it’s complicated.

          Insofar as “Vatican 2 Catholicism,” Protestantism, or Anabaptism differ from ideas and practices that were held for centuries by the Catholics and Orthodox, they aren’t “traditional.” Insofar as they do, they are.

          By “traditional” I mean, in other words, beliefs and practices that can be documented throughout centuries of Christian history, particularly those that go back before the Reformation. It is of course a relative term and a very broad one–some ideas are more traditional than others. I’m not claiming that it’s a tight category. But it’s a shorthand way of saying “this is not just my idea but shared by other Christians, and for a large proportion of the history of Christianity this idea would have been normative rather than the reverse.”

          You guys are making much heavier weather of this than the evidence warrants.

        • You can argue that this “loss” had nothing to do with their relative truth, but that’s beside the point.

          I haven’t been following this thread. Marcionites and Gnostics losing out may indeed be off topic here, but it’s certainly very relevant and very interesting to some point. That you dismiss the demiurge idea like we do is an accident of history, not a reliable foundation of truth.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          How would you show this dichotomy to be true? Of course there are all kinds of historical events that influence any intellectual development. The same is true for the history of science. But the fact that you think the history of theology can be reduced to “external” factors speaks, again, to your presuppositions.

        • there are all kinds of historical events that influence any intellectual development.

          Huh? There can be bumps in the road for science, or dead ends or detours. They’re pretty much irrelevant, as the evidence keeps pulling science to the truth. Not so with religion (my example of the Map of World Religions comes to mind). See the difference?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You don’t know this. You don’t know that the triumph of what we now call science was inevitable, any more than I know that the triumph of what I call orthodox Christianity was inevitable. And you don’t know that the triumph of “orthodoxy” over its rivals was just an accident. Your ideological presuppositions lead you to assume this, and to see as evidence for it what you would call “bumps in the road” in a scientific context.

          I’m not arguing that they are exactly the same. Yes, of course there’s a lot more room for doubt in matters of religion–it’s easier, given some basic paradigmatic ground rules, for a scientific theory to defeat its rivals.

          But in fact, as an orthodox Christian, I see the same basic pattern in religion as well, just in a less decisive way.

          And as I’ve pointed out several times now, there are large numbers of people (and more in some parts of the world than others, contra your “map” claim) who either remain unconvinced by orthodox science or who syncretize it with other explanations.

        • Greg G.

          If the evidence actually led us to the conclusion that a god existed, we would go there. But if the evidence that the god was not the god of any extant religion, I get the feeling the evidence would be rejected by the theists.

        • You don’t know that the triumph of what we now call science was inevitable

          I’m saying that science, whether temporarily pushed off track or not, tends to reach the truth because it follows the evidence. You could replay the history of science with lots of variations and, unless you tossed in a World War III, it’ll get to the same destination.

          any more than I know that the triumph of what I call orthodox Christianity was inevitable.

          There was nothing driving the evolution of Christianity to a single place in the same way that the quest for evidence does with science. The progress of science and the evolution of religion almost couldn’t be more different.

          But in fact, as an orthodox Christian, I see the same basic pattern in religion as well, just in a less decisive way.

          That is indeed how it should work, right? God gives enough clues (why it has to be clues and not just obvious facts is a question for another time, perhaps) to inevitably steer believers to the one correct view. In fact, we see the opposite.

          And as I’ve pointed out several times now, there are large numbers of people (and more in some parts of the world than others, contra your “map” claim) who either remain unconvinced by orthodox science or who syncretize it with other explanations.

          Who cares? Not the point. I’m talking about scientists. The Map of World Science is all green.

        • Greg G.

          1) there is one God who created everything.
          2) we should only worship this God.

          That is henotheism. The Christian Trinity concept is a way to squirm the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost into one but with Satan, angels, and demons, some of which are said to be more powerful than the gods of the Greek Pantheon or the Norse deities, it is polytheism or henotheism.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You can call it anything you like. I’m just telling you what the historic, mainstream Christian view is. And Christianity claims to be monotheistic and has usually been referred to as such. I don’t know what polemical points you think you’re scoring by redefining things. (I take such an accusation seriously from Muslims. From an atheist it’s nothing more than a petty word game.)

        • Susan

          I don’t know what polemical points you think you’re scoring by redefining things.

          Greg chose a term that precisely describes the position you seem to have taken. It’s not a redefinition.

          Henotheism (Greek ἑνας θεός henas theos “one god”) is the belief in and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities. The term was originally coined by Friedrich Schelling (1775–1854), and used by Friedrich Welcker to depict primordial monotheism among ancient Greeks.

          From an atheist, it’s nothing more than a petty word game.

          Examining deity claims is legitimate only when theists do it? How do you defend that position?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          It’s not about “examining claims,” but about refusing to allow theists to make their claims in the language that they prefer and have used for centuries.

          Theists do not believe that God is one god among others. That’s the point that you and other atheists simply refuse to acknowledge.

          In my more polemical and triumphalist moments, I really wonder if it’s because you fear at some level that if you simply described theistic belief accurately, you would start to find it plausible.

          I know that probably isn’t true, but the consistent refusal to allow theists to define their own terms and their own beliefs is really quite stunning.

        • Susan

          Theists do not believe that God is one god among others. That’s the point that you and other atheists simply refuse to acknowledge.

          I completely “acknowledge” that. That’s why they refer to “God” as though Yahwehjesus is the only reasonable candidate without doing any work to make that legitimate.

          the consistent refusal to allow theists to define their own terms and their own beliefs is really quite stunning.

          How does asking you (repeatedly at this point and you’ve ignored me) what you’re claiming and how you support it a refusal to allow theists to define their own terms and their own beliefs?

          I am asking you a very, very simple question.

          Please answer it.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’m claiming, in this discussion, that theists do not, in fact, disbelieve in “other gods” in the same way that atheists disbelieve in God and in “gods” (apparently without being too sure what it is they are disbelieving in). To be an atheist is to make a categorical claim about what kinds of things are and are not real. To be a theist (theist in the narrow sense of the term or monotheist in the broad philosophical sense) is to believe that there is a single source of all reality possessed of intellectual and moral perfections. This entails agreement with others who make this claim, whether they belong to one’s own religion or not, and it has no necessary implications about the existence of other sorts of superhuman beings.

          I am not making any claims, in this discussion, about whether God exists or whether “supernatural” beings exist. I am trying to establish just what it is that theists and atheists actually disagree about, as part of a long-term effort to create a climate in which some day maybe a theist and an atheist can have a meaningful conversation about which of them is right. That’s not the conversation I want to have here, however much people on the Patheos Atheist forums try to bait me into doing so (and sometimes I fall for the bait).

        • Susan

          I’m claiming, in this discussion, that theists do not, in fact, disbelieve in “other gods” in the same way that atheists disbelieve in God and in gods.

          All theists consider Zeus real? Tetzcatlipoca? All right. At least you’ve finally made a claim that can be substantially evaluated.

          Support it.

          To be an atheist is to make a categorical claim about what kinds of things are and are not real.

          No. To be an atheist is to say “I don’t believe you.” when you make a god claim. No good reason is provided to believe you. It all relies on allusive terminology and special pleading, as far as I can tell.

          A respectful consideration of that claim is to ask you what you mean when you claim “God” or “god” and to provide good reasons to accept the existence of either or both. To be accurate, when you say “God”, you mean Yahwehjesus.

          I am not making any claims, in this discussion, about whether God exists or whether “supernatural” beings exist.

          And I have explained repeatedly that until you define those terms, “God exists” and “supernatural beings exist” are meaningless statements and I have asked you clear and respectful questions on the subject. You haven’t answered them.

          That’s not the conversation I want to have here, however much people on the Patheos Atheist forums try to bait me into doing so (and sometimes I fall for the bait).

          What conversation would you like to have here? It’s not a trap. It’s basic. What are you claiming and how do you support it? Give me an example of any other subject where that question is some kind of dirty trick.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, when I say “God” in a philosophical discussion I don’t mean “Yahwehjesus” (not to mention that that isn’t an accurate or reasonable way to describe traditional Christian belief in the Trinity).

          I mean a perfect source of all reality, possessing the good qualities found in observable reality (evil, in traditional Christianity, being a privation and not a thing in and of itself).

          By “reality” I mean everything. And yes, with proper qualifications that includes God’s self. At least in the Western model (as found, say, in Augustine and Aquinas), that is one of the basic ways we talk about the Trinity–God causing his own being to exist eternally in an eternal and necessary act of knowledge and love. (I’ve tried to avoid getting into that in previous iterations of this discussion, partly because I’ve tried to avoid specifically Christian concepts when defining my concept of God over against atheism, but in some ways it makes the basic definition simpler.)

          Or one could just say “everything that does not exist eternally and without change in a state of perfection.”

          By “source” I mean that everything that exists derives from God and is in one way or another caused by God.

        • Greg G.

          What is your evidence?

        • MR

          I’ll see your skepticism and raise you unsubstantiated assertion.

        • Greg G.

          I am beginning to think that “mainstream” means versions of Xtianity that don’t embarrass the person using the term. It seems to me that both mainstream and non-mainstream Christians would reject EWT’s god for being derived from philosophy instead of from the Bible.

        • MR

          Certainly my former version of Christianity would. I would have seen his version as a denial of the true God. God, in our definition, is the God of the Bible (which seems like a firm definition to the believer, but as we’ve seen is as elusive as a bubble in the wallpaper which you can never seem to put your finger on), and you don’t get to redefine him to your liking (which, of course, is exactly what my church is doing) just because it puts you in opposition of seemingly rational, non-religiously enlightened or compassionate arguments. If you can’t embrace God as stated in His Word, you’re not really embracing God at all. Besides, those mainstream churches are all a bunch of wusses anyway.

        • Greg G.

          I’m sure you have heard the term “salad bar Christians”, then.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i was just wondering whether he was using ‘mainstream’ as synonymous with ‘original’; until he used ‘mainstream’ i’d been under the impression that his Rich Classicak/Historical Tradition model was thin on the ground (in the conceptions of individual self-identified Christians) these days (or at the very least in the USA). i [always] could be projecting but i also get a sense of struggling to eschew elitist posturing.

        • that isn’t an accurate or reasonable way to describe traditional Christian belief in the Trinity

          You could share an accurate and reasonable way to describe the Trinity. I’ve always found the Trinity to be particularly preposterous–the Athanasian Creed comes to mind, for example.

        • Myna A.

          And yes, with proper qualifications that includes God’s self.

          What are the proper qualifications? Is God a self? Wouldn’t there be an element of personification in that statement?

          …about refusing to allow theists to make their claims in the language that they prefer and have used for centuries.

          I can speak with ten different theists from ten different traditions and I will get ten different claims in the language they prefer. You do not speak for all theists. Your experience is not the experience of all theists. Yes, they agree there is a God, maybe even a central God among a round table of godlings. But, because another doesn’t agree with that position, doesn’t mean that they don’t understand what that position is.

          While you accuse participants on atheist forums of not allowing theists to, “make their claims in the language they prefer,” you fail to see that you are not allowing those same participants to scrutinize said language and to request that you support it. You seem to be under the impression that the theist be allowed particular privilege.

          Also, it is probably best not to assume everyone here is an atheist. Some may be agnostic. Some ignostic. Could be some of a Deist frame of mind as well. Hell, some could be of the Jedi persuasion. Who can say.

        • adam

          ” (not to mention that that isn’t an accurate or reasonable way to describe traditional Christian belief in the Trinity).”

          But there is:

        • Kodie

          And by necessity of the definition, there can be only one, and everyone has no evidence, just misguided perceptions driven by personal and cultural preferences, including yours.

        • adam

          “(evil, in traditional Christianity, being a privation and not a thing in and of itself).”

          And yet the christian “God” claims otherwise

        • Kodie

          You’re basically claiming that believers are open to any magical thinking, while atheists reject magical thinking.

        • Theists do not believe that God is one god among others. That’s the point that you and other atheists simply refuse to acknowledge.

          Yeah, I don’t. Explain this more. I assume you mean that lumping God in with the gods doesn’t work because God is different somehow, the odd man our.

          I know that probably isn’t true, but the consistent refusal to allow theists to define their own terms and their own beliefs is really quite stunning.

          Good for you—it isn’t true. And why demand that I define what “god” means (as you did before) when you insist on defining the terms? Go ahead—define your terms.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I am asking atheists to define the concept of a “god” because they are the ones insisting that that’s the important concept on which atheists and theists differ.

          I find it too vague a concept to be worth arguing about. It has several different possible usages. The main one for Christians would be “a being either created by God or imagined by humans to whom humans mistakenly give the honor that belongs to God alone.” Or it could be used more broadly as “any object of human worship” (that would be the only sense in which God is a “god,” but that doesn’t make any metaphysical claims–in that sense it is nonsensical to deny that “gods” exist, since for instance people might worship another human being or a mountain or the sun, all of which clearly exist.) Or it might mean, more positively than the first sense but more narrowly than the second, “a being created by God who shares in God’s likeness in some significant way and is worthy of honor for that reason.” In that way both humans and angels can be spoken of as “gods,” and kings are sometimes called “gods” in the Old Testament. The Orthodox tradition, in this last sense, speaks of humans “becoming gods,” sharing in the divine life through the gift of God’s grace.

        • I am asking atheists to define the concept of a “god” because they are the ones insisting that that’s the important concept on which atheists and theists differ.

          It’s important to you? Then propose a definition. Out of the blizzard of definitions that I’ve heard I don’t think there’s actually much difference. Atheists and theists differ on what? The definition of “god”? I doubt it.

          We can’t just open a dictionary? Or does that trample on your preferred definition?

          I find it too vague a concept to be worth arguing about.

          OK

        • Kodie

          Ok, so you define god as the maker of all things by your definition, “perfection” and I believe in one less god than you because nobody in the history of human life has been able to demonstrate that there is one, or any god. I’m sure you reject plenty of superstitions and call them that, or dismiss them easily as mistakes or foolishness, but you can’t see your own falls into that definition either.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Or it could be used more broadly as “any object of human worship” (that would be the only sense in which God is a “god,” but that doesn’t make any metaphysical claims–in that sense it is nonsensical to deny that “gods” exist, since for instance people might worship another human being or a mountain or the sun, all of which clearly exist.)

          that’s probably what makes relatively distinct terms like idol useful to those atheists who aren’t so durn foolish as to be overly broad in such a discussion.

        • WayneMan

          Obviously “any object of human worship” is way too broad, and could be your spouse, or a professor, or a slot machine. The only key attribute for most atheists is supernatural, which includes God, gods, demons, devil, angels, and spirits. That is all that matters in a basic discussion with atheists, related to theists versus atheist beliefs for any supernatural entities. It is just that simple. Define God anyway you want, but if one of the attributes is supernatural, it is fantasy to an atheist.

        • It’s not about “examining claims,” but about refusing to allow theists to make their claims in the language that they prefer and have used for centuries.

          The problem I have with this is that Christian monotheism seems to differ from polytheism only in its terminology. Beings with the properties of angels and saints would have been considered gods by the pagans (as you’ve acknowledged), and the idea of a single supreme being who is far superior to and fundamentally different from other “gods” isn’t too far from Stoicism.

          So doesn’t it make sense to use consistent terminology for this kind of belief? Christians might prefer to call it “monotheism”, but that word doesn’t seem to signify any real difference from beliefs that were common among Greek and Roman pagans.

        • adam

          ” but about refusing to allow theists to make their claims in the language propaganda that they prefer and have used for centuries.”

          FTFY

        • Greg G.

          Yes, it is nothing but word games about how many imaginary beings a sect believes in.

          Polls over the past two decades have consistently shown creationists in the 40% range and other Christians in the 45% range but the 45% is divided among varied groups. So even “mainstream” is a word game since there is no mainstream.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Historically, there is an identifiable mainstream of Christian thought. The short way to define it would be “Catholicism,” but depending on the issue it’s considerably broader than that. However, even if it were just Catholicism, Catholicism is clearly the historical mainstream of Christianity in terms of numbers, historical continuity over time, geographical extension, and the extent to which all other forms of Christianity have to deal with it and react to it (Orthodoxy would be the closest thing to an exception to this).

          You guys are really hung up on the contemporary American scene.

        • Greg G.

          but depending on the issue it’s considerably broader than that.

          That’s what I mean. Everybody uses it to mean their type of religion without realizing how divergent Christianity is. Is it creationism, Trinitarian, Unitarian? You want to include Catholicism with the Protestants who reject it.

          There might be a few common core beliefs that distinguish a Christian religion from a non-Christian religion but there would be few other beliefs held by a majority of Christians.

          American Christians are trying to practice their religion on others and not just on the US. If Christians kept their religion out of politics and education and kept it to themselves, nobody would care.

        • Kodie

          Catholicism may be the most popular, but it is not less ridiculous to believe.

        • adam

          “Catholicism is clearly the historical mainstream of Christianity in terms of numbers, historical continuity over time, geographical extension, and the extent to which all other forms of Christianity have to deal with it and react to it ”

          YAWWWWWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNNNNN

        • adam

          “Historically, there is an identifiable mainstream of Christian thought.”

          Absolutely

        • adam

          “And Christianity claims to be monotheistic and has usually been referred to as such. ”

          AGAIN ‘claims’

          Obviously untrue:

        • Greg G.

          But-but-but the early church went out of its way to insert verses into the New Testament to support the Trinity. I’m sure they discovered evidence of the Trinity that Christians had missed for three centuries.

        • Rudy R

          The only points that are a matter of faith…

          Ain’t that the truth!

        • WayneMan

          “It does not deny that other “gods” exist”

          It must be great to just make up definitions to fit your world view, but that does not really change the facts, right? Monotheism comes from the combination of the Greek prefixes monos-, “alone” or “single,” and theo-, “god.” By any standard definition:

          monotheism (ˈmɒnəʊθɪˌɪzəm)
          – the doctrine or belief that there is only one God.
          So no, it absolutely means ONLY ONE.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I notice an awful lot of dictionary prescriptivism on this forum. Dictionaries are not authorities that legislate how we must use language. Dictionaries are guides to how language is generally used. Language is defined by the communities that use it. That is “great,” in the sense that it’s how language actually works.

          In fact, in English-speaking monotheistic communities (primarily Christian, of course, but insofar as other communities use the word they also follow this usage), ever since capitalization conventions took their present form, the word “God” with the capital letter is used to mean the one supreme creator of everything. Very recently, some pagans have begun using the capital letter with the plural. This is a linguistic innovation, but again, language is defined by communities that use it, and they have every right to use that linguistic convention to express what they think needs expressing.

          That being the case, the dictionary definition you cite is tautological–by definition, if “God” means what monotheists use the term to mean, there is only one God. The usual convention is to use the lowercase with the plural to indicate that, by definition, if we are speaking of several “gods” we are speaking of something radically different from what monotheists mean by the word.

          Furthermore, the primary meaning of “God” for many people is “proper object of worship.” That is the sense in which monotheists say there is one God and polytheists say there are several. But of course that isn’t, in itself, a claim about existence at all, but about the proper _attitude_ to the being or beings in question.

          That is the source of the present confusion. When I say that monotheists don’t _necessarily_ deny the existence of the beings worshiped as gods by polytheists, I am not of course saying that monotheists consider such beings to be proper objects of worship.

          A further point: another linguistic innovation, parallel to the pagan use of “Gods” with the capital, is the atheist use of “god” with lowercase. But this is different from the other two usages in being specifically polemical. It doesn’t refer to anything you believe in but to what you don’t believe in. But this is a rather strange procedure if you are interested in clear communication and in discovering the truth (not at all strange if your goal is to obfuscate and express contempt). If other people believe in something, and you don’t believe in it, the normal procedure would surely be to follow the other people’s linguistic conventions and then say “I don’t believe in that.” Linguistic innovations change meaning. By saying “I don’t believe in god,” you are inventing something to disbelieve in. You aren’t addressing what theists mean by “God” at all.

          And by saying “I don’t believe in your god just as you don’t believe in other gods,” you are radically misrepresenting the nature of monotheist “disbelief in other gods.” Most monotheists–certainly most Christians–believe in a universe that includes various spiritual beings, to none of whom _except_ the supreme source of all being should be given that degree of honor to which we apply the term “worship” in its strict sense. That’s what we mean when we say “we only believe in one God.” We don’t “believe in” other gods in the sense that we don’t pay them divine honors. Christians do, in fact, mostly believe in the existence of superhuman spiritual beings. We certainly are required by our premises to believe certain things about these beings: such as that as with humans, all created beings either worship God or don’t, either have good moral character or bad; that no created being should be given the honor due to God; that any being who asks for such honor is displaying bad character (or possibly ignorance, if we can imagine a superhuman being to be ignorant of God’s existence); and other things that follow from that. But we are not committed to saying that people’s experiences of superhuman beings or “supernatural” reality are purely imaginary.

          Atheists are so committed. Hence, the purported similarity between how atheists view all purported objects of worship and how Christians view those of polytheists is fallacious. We share with polytheists belief in a universe of spiritual beings whose power and other qualities might well cause human beings to worship them, although we believe that such worship is mistaken and that beings who deliberately delude humans into paying them such worship are evil.

        • I notice an awful lot of dictionary prescriptivism on this forum. Dictionaries are not authorities that legislate how we must use language. Dictionaries are guides to how language is generally used.

          And if I rely on the dictionary of my community (http://www.merriam-webster.com/, for example), I’m on firm ground when I say what a word means. It may surprise you to learn that “god” is defined in that dictionary. You have an odd passion for ambiguity.

          ever since capitalization conventions took their present form, the word “God” with the capital letter is used to mean the one supreme creator of everything.

          And yet God is a god. Which is the subject of this post.

        • adam

          ” Dictionaries are not authorities that legislate how we must use language. ”

          Of course not, but it IS telling when people NEED to redefine words dishonestly to promote their own PROPAGANDA…

        • WayneMan

          Wow, what a lengthy defense for redefining a word. If anyone is free to redefine words to mean what they want, instead of how they are actually defined, then the whole language breaks down. Not sure why redefining monotheism is so important to you. It seems so random. However, the definition and the roots of the definition, clearly say one god.
          (mono = 1, not mono = 1 + whatever I want it to say)

        • adam

          “Not sure why redefining monotheism is so important to you.”

          Otherwise he has no other argument for his “God”

        • WayneMan

          Yes, he has posted the exact same redefinition of monotheism on a different thread, and refuses to acknowledge the roots of the word. Next he will redefine atheist and religion for us. Maybe I will redefine god to be Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god.

        • adam
        • Myna A.

          If anyone is free to redefine words to mean what they want, instead of how they are actually defined, then the whole language breaks down.

          ^^This!^^

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          It’s not “redefining.” It’s telling you what the historical meaning of monotheism as a religious/philosophical tradition is.

          But you aren’t interested in nuance or accuracy. You treat the dictionary as Holy Writ, to be interpreted “literally” (i.e., by whatever meaning first pops into your head when you read it).

          The equation between atheists and fundamentalists has never seemed clearer or more convincing.

          For about the hundredth time: until you define a “god,” you can’t possibly say what it it like to believe in one “god” or several “gods” or no “gods.”

          Monotheists believe in one God. We know what we mean by that. We know that no other “gods” are God.

          You don’t know what a “god” is, but you are quite sure that I’m wrong in saying that monotheism is about God and not about the existence or non-existence of beings who might be worshiped as “gods” by non-monotheists.

        • adam

          “It’s not “redefining.” It’s telling you what the historical meaning of monotheism as a religious/philosophical tradition is.”

        • WayneMan

          You are making a big deal out of something quite simple. Look it up in a dictionary. A god is a supernatural entity. Sure you can embellish with “creator of the universe”, or “controls the rain”, or “all powerful”, but the basic concept is still quite simple. I can assure you, based on no verifiable evidence, I do not believe and ANY supernatural ANYTHINGS, no matter how you want to redefine it.

        • The only way I can make sense of Edwin’s thinking is that he’s wrestling with “god” vs. “God” (that is, Yahweh). I don’t know why Yahweh is all that complicated, either–Wikipedia has plenty–but perhaps that explains some of the hand wringing.

        • Kodie

          We’ve been over this before. The name god has isn’t as important as that he is the only one. Edwin interprets a Catholic version called Yahweh as correct, but the ultimate source of all beauty/perfection/good/everything is a separate kind of being than the god of farming or the god of love (like Cupid) or the god of good travels. In Catholicism, those duties are delegated to saints.

        • Edwin is focused on God. The article was talking about gods. I think those two concepts is what Edwin was conflating.

        • Kodie

          This made me think about astrology, which has been very popular for a while. Some Christians must also believe the constellations tell their fortune in a way that is compatible with Christianity, other Christians probably dismiss them as kooky, and either false or harmless amusement, and some other Christians put them in the occult category, real but as a way for the devil to steal your soul.

        • WayneMan

          You are right. In fact (a funny story), if you take the way Ken Ham was trying to define science, so that his nonsense fits into “science”, then astrology would also have to be considered a “real science” under his definitions. I don’t think he realized this up front. LOL

        • WayneMan

          You seem to debate, just to hear yourself talk. The topic is

          “I Just Believe in One Less God Than You Do”: an Atheist Fallacy?”

          We all have a basic concept of what god and atheist means, and we can count. But you keep going into bazaar side debates about expending or redefining the common definitions of certain words, like a lawyer trying to confuse the jury with lots of meaningless, superfluous information. That does not somehow make your argument superior. In fact, I’m not even sure what your argument is anymore.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          My specific argument is most simply that if a “god” is any kind of supernatural being (as one person has suggested), then monotheists do generally believe that many such beings exist. So it’s not true that monotheists are “atheists about all gods but one.”

          My larger argument is that theism is not about “gods” at all (if “gods” are “any supernatural beings”) but about God, and that these are two completely different concepts. Until atheists recognize this, they can’t mount a serious argument against theism, at least in its classic form. We are simply talking past each other.

          Your post, like many other replies I’ve gotten here, amounts to “don’t mess with my prejudices, please.” And perhaps I shouldn’t. When an attempt to use language precisely and to deal with these matters in sufficient detail and nuance is dismissed and mocked, probably it’s time to stop wasting my efforts.

          I keep getting sucked into these discussions because people on the atheism forum write posts that appear to be directed toward theists.

          But from the tone of the comments, I gather that this is an illusion–that Patheos atheist forums are really just about confirming the (un)faithful in the smug conviction of their own superiority. There’s no interest in actual dialogue with theists. When you won’t even acknowledge what traditional theism means by “God,” no conversation–and certainly no refutation of theism–can take place.

        • Kodie

          We’re not talking past each other. Your detail and nuance is but a distraction, and you ignore pointed comments and questions so you can keep pretending whatever you’re talking about is above us intellectually. Puh-lease.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t think it’s above you intellectually, but I think you have accepted a paradigm that makes traditional theism unintelligible to you.

          I am one person taking on pretty much a whole forum. I have tried not to ignore pointed questions, but I have also been accused of chasing down rabbit trails when I _do_ try to answer every question. Furthermore, I do in fact have other things to do with my life.

          Also, many of the questions amount to telling me to prove the existence of God. I’m not interested in having that discussion with you guys at this point, and have said so repeatedly. I remain flummoxed as to how rational people can claim that we must first establish whether God exists before we discuss what theists mean by the word “God.” It seems obvious to me that the proper order is to do it the other way round 🙂

        • Kodie

          I know you like to tell yourself stories, but I do not accept a paradigm blah blah blah. I have listened to hundreds if not thousands of you dummies and find none of your fairytales compelling to intelligent adults. I for the life of me can’t understand what kind of adults, what happened to you, believe any of this supernatural garbage.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Everyone accepts a paradigm of some sort. A paradigm is simply the working set of assumptions and ground rules that govern how you approach reality. So for instance, when you say “there is no evidence that any ‘gods’ exist,” you are assuming a bunch of things about what counts as “evidence.”

          When you are puzzled that other people believe things that you find garbage, it is usually wise to consider the possibility that your own prejudices are blinding you. And, of course, that goes for me as much as for you.

        • Kodie

          Efficiently interpreted as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You seem to think atheists just don’t put too much thought into it, but if we would, we’d arrive at the same conclusions you have. Come on, Edwin, don’t you just think some beliefs are patently silly?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I don’t think that if you put thought into it you would arrive at the same conclusions I have.

          It seems to me that most of the atheists on this forum _haven’t_ thought in a “meta” way about paradigms very much, but assume what I’d broadly call an “Enlightenment” paradigm as obviously the rational one. That doesn’t mean that you haven’t thought in general–I’m sure you have thought about many things much more than I have. And of course you may have thought about the ideas of people like Kuhn and MacIntyre and rejected them. Or even if you haven’t, you might reject them when you do think about them 🙂

          But even if you accepted the idea that we all have “paradigms” or (MacIntyre’s term) “traditions,” you wouldn’t necessarily accept mine.

          You are continually ascribing to me a contempt for other people’s views that I don’t in fact feel. I am on these forums precisely because I want to understand why people think in ways that don’t make sense to me. And insofar as I’m tempted to feel scorn for your views, it’s for your breezy dismissal of “religious” perspectives in general, and indeed of anything that doesn’t fit your own paradigm. (I.e., it’s contempt for contempt–which is still a very dangerous state of mind to be in.)

          I don’t feel dismissive toward atheists/agnostics in general at all, and I certainly don’t feel dismissive toward non-Christian religions.

        • In how many comments have you demanded a definition? Stop wasting time and give it to us.

        • WayneMan

          OK, your 1st point I now understand.

          “So it’s not true that monotheists are atheists about all gods but one.”

          OK, except
          1) You are ignoring or missing the whole point of this argument. It is not about numbers, but about theists rejecting the gods of all other faiths except their own (whatever the number), where as an atheist rejects all gods. Point being theists reject foreign gods just like atheists do, but somehow theists give their god a free pass with no more or less evidence than any other gods.
          2) Most main stream religions (Christianity, Islam) do just recognize just one “god” (monotheists), except Hinduism which has many.

          Your second point is still a loss.

          “My larger argument is that theism is not about “gods” at all (if “gods” are “any supernatural beings”) but about God, and that these are two completely different concepts.”

          I don’t get your point at all. It almost sounds like unless we are talking about “your approved God definition”, the conversation is not valid. No. The concept of a god is quite simple, as long as it refers to a supernatural entity, no matter how you embellish that supernatural entity. It matters not whether you mean a god, the God, holy gods, or the Creator God. An atheist does not buy “god” as a reality, no matter how you want to define it. Not sure why that is so hard to understand.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          But by your definition (bracketing the problems defining “supernatural”), angels and demons are “gods.” I’m sure you know that all the major monotheistic religions believe in the existence of angels and demons, at least in their traditional forms (some modern Christians would question the existence of such beings). Hence, by your definition there really are no monotheistic religions at all, which seems an odd way of defining the term (i.e., it becomes an empty set).

          Don’t you think that’s evidence that your categories need a bit of tweaking?

          The basic point here–which I’m sure I could have put more simply, since being clear is not, alas, one of my strong points–is that theists in fact do not (at least not necessarily–some may) reject the existence of other “gods” in the same way and by the same logic as atheists do.

          Suppose for instance that a Hindu tells me that his guru is an incarnation of Vishnu and works miracles.

          An atheist will be committed to believing that these claims have a “natural” explanation.

          A Christian will also be open to that possibility, but may also be open to the possibilities that:
          1. The phenomena are “supernatural” but are produced by demons; or
          2. The phenomena come from God but are being misinterpreted by the Hindu.

          An open-minded Christian might also be open to the possibility that:
          3. The phenomena come from God and are part of activity on God’s part that doesn’t form part of the Christian paradigm, since God is greater than any framework we have for understanding Him.

          Similarly, with regard to Vishnu himself, the atheist is committed to believing that Vishnu is wholly imaginary (or perhaps, if he is a very open-minded and imaginative atheist) that Vishnu is a powerful alien being. (If you think that’s ridiculous, fine–I’m just trying to be fair to your side.)

          A Christian, on the other hand, may believe that, but may also believe in a range of other options, such as that
          1. Vishnu is a flawed human construct based on natural knowledge of God;
          2. Vishnu is a demonic delusion to keep people from knowledge of the true God;
          3. Vishnu is the result of imperfect human memory of the time when they once worshiped the true God;
          4. Vishnu is the Hindu name for the true God.

          Hence, while Christians may indeed be as dismissive of other religious positions as atheists are of all religious positions, they don’t have to be. And even when they are, their reasons for doing so will be different. Hence, it is simply false to claim that Christians are somehow inconsistent for believing in God while disagreeing (in a more or less nuanced and respectful way, depending on the Christian) with other claims about God.

        • Kodie

          So you are refuting the premise of the article because Christians (the ones you agree with) are open to any and all magical supernatural horseshit.

        • WayneMan

          “Hence, by your definition there really are no monotheistic religions at
          all, which seems an odd way of defining the term (i.e., it becomes an
          empty set).”

          Not at all, because now you are trying to redefine angels and demons. All major religions believed these entities to be decedents of some god, not gods themselves. So monotheism still means one god. I just don’t get your point related to discussing religion with atheists. Atheists see all supernatural entities (gods, demons, devils, angels) as fold lore, not reality. None of those entities have ever been verified, nor any so called miracles. And no, most of us don’t believe some powerful alien put us here either, unless they are a Scientologist or Heavens Gate member (LOL).

          You really are not making much sense, with your “We must define God first.”. What you fail to comprehend is, to an atheists all supernatural entity beliefs do not reflect reality, no matter how a religion wants to define those entities. A particular definition of god(s), demon, angel, or devil is immaterial.

        • what traditional theism means by “God,”

          Don’t be shy. Tell us. I actually don’t know. I also don’t know what the big deal is or why you can’t just answer these vexing questions since you’re the only one who sees things correctly.

          “God” is a Christian concept. I would think that “traditional theism” would say, “Ask the Christian theologians.”

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’ve said repeatedly that the most basic concept of “God” is “the source of all being possessed of all good qualities.”

          Any “god” that did not create all reality except from himself/herself/itself, and any “god” that is morally imperfect, would not be God.

          And yes, before you point it out, that raises difficulties with regard to the descriptions of God’s words and actions in the Bible. There are two possible approaches for Jews and Christians: one is to insist that the words and actions in question don’t really show moral imperfection (or ignorance, which is a separate issue), and the other to say that the Biblical texts are anthropomorphic, literary accounts (full of metaphor and symbolism) of a reality that cannot be described literally. Traditionally Christians have resorted to some degree to both of these methods. I myself, and many modern Christians, have given up on arguing that a “literal” reading of the texts would not lead us to ascribe moral imperfection to God. (E.g., I don’t believe that God commanded the ancient Israelites to slaughter people wholesale.)

        • I’ve said repeatedly that the most basic concept of “God” is “the source of all being possessed of all good qualities.”

          And I think I’ve said repeatedly that we’re not talking about Yahweh. We’re talking about “gods.” Read the title.

          Any “god” that did not create all reality except from himself/herself/itself, and any “god” that is morally imperfect, would not be God.

          You’re saying that not all gods are Yahweh? Granted.

          that raises difficulties with regard to the descriptions of God’s words and actions in the Bible.

          Thank you.

          I myself, and many modern Christians, have given up on arguing that a “literal” reading of the texts would not lead us to ascribe moral imperfection to God. (E.g., I don’t believe that God commanded the ancient Israelites to slaughter people wholesale.)

          Good to hear. But then tell me: what good is the Bible if it’s an unreliable description of God? Why not just take the obvious step and say that it is just the mythology of those people, not actual history.

        • MR

          And yes, before you point it out, that raises difficulties with regard to the descriptions of God’s words and actions in the Bible. There are two possible approaches for Jews and Christians:

          There are three. They can also conclude that these are simply stories that are not real and that God doesn’t in fact exist.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Of course–I meant “for Jews and Christians as long as they remain Jews and Christians,” obviously.

        • MR

          Not exactly. It’s something more along the lines of “for Jews and Christians as long as they try to justify remaining Jews and Christians.” Perhaps you can phrase it more charitably, but there’s a nuance there that you’re not expressing. It’s a distinction that needs to be made. (As someone who’s been there and gone through that process.)

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Fair enough.

        • Myna A.

          Same story, brand new day. One must not be too self-enchanted. I think people understand what you are saying more than you imagine they do.

          Excerpt from the question:

          If Krishna created the world/universe, how was he born to a mother? https://www.quora.com/If-Krishna-created-the-world-universe-how-was-he-born-to-a-mother

          Commentor: Ankita Kanse (Hopefully, she will not mind)

          “In Hindu mythology, there is no concept of
          Monotheism. However, Brahma Vishnu Mahes trio is considered as most important and powerful Gods (Trimurti) Brahma is the God who created the world (Brahmanda).Vishnu is administrator of world and Mahesh is destroyer.

          Vishnu being the administrator and preserver of the world, he is responsible for establishing Dharma. For this purpose, he descends on Earth in different avtaras.

          What is an Avatar?

          Manifestation of deity in bodily form on Earth. Where Vishnu is immortal, Godly being, he descends on Earth in human form named Krishna. Avatar is only an intermediary between humans and supreme God.

          Why human form?

          1.To see how exactly various things on Earth happening. We can say he is on his on field work when he takes an Avatar,experiencing everything – the birth, childhood,parenthood, friendships, love, affection.

          2. He being a human, he can guide his devotees more effectively. Bhagvadgeeta is best example for this.

          3.We generally believe those things which we see from our eyes. Avtar or mere a story of avatar is one strategy to convince people about presence of God.”

        • Thought2Much

          “I think people understand what you are saying more than you imagine they do.”

          Pretty much. He just can’t accept that we dismiss his views as nothing but word games and mental masturbation instead of bowing down and worshiping him as a great philosophical mind.

        • TheNuszAbides

          that Patheos atheist forums are really just about confirming the (un)faithful in the smug conviction of their own superiority.

          sounds more like typical human tribalism than distinctive behavioral property of Patheos atheist forums.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Edwin is unaware of the Catholic site created to foster dialogue between Catholic Christians and atheists, except when the fire got too hot, the site owner took a machete to the membership and hacked the fuck out of those awkward atheists and their rational arguments.

          http://www.strangenotions.com

          Also the counter site.

          http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.co.uk

          Because some of those atheists just wouldn’t roll over and be quiet.

          Fuckin’ Catholic pricks.

        • TheNuszAbides

          well, to be fair, he can’t quite bring himself to join up so far. indicative of an active, relatively independent conscience.

        • Greg G.

          Monotheism means one god and only one god. There may be many kinds of theologies within monotheism just as there are many theologies within polytheism. The Norse polytheism is not Greek polytheism. Your god is not the next person’s god. Neither of you have any evidence that your god exists let alone evidence of characteristics.

      • Cygnus

        “I don’t think every belief in one god is the same”
        ===
        But if there are many beliefs in “one god”, how do you know those “every” beliefs are in “one god”?

        Even the most retard religious, theistic guy can say : “There is only one god, it is mine, so go ahead and have many beliefs, they are anyway in one god, mine”

        • I don’t get what you mean.

        • Cygnus

          You said something about “one god” in which many people have many beliefs. Let me rephrase your negation as an affirmation:
          “I think that every belief in one god is different” – Is that correct?

          Then: “Even the most retard religious, theistic guy can say : “There is only one god, it is mine, so go ahead and have many beliefs, they are anyway in one god, mine”, is understandable.

        • Well not every monotheism is different, but there are more than one. For instance, between Christianity and deism.

          They can say that. I’m not sure what your point is though. They would be wrong.

        • Cygnus

          “not every monotheism is different”
          ===
          Then it would be correct and more clearly to say “every polytheism is different” which is a banal observation.

        • Yes, that would be correct, and it is banal. However this was aimed at Edwin above, as he said all of the monotheists were similar enough to be lumped together by Christians. I don’t agree with that view.

        • Cygnus

          Well, I guess Edwin wanted to say that Christians can be lumped with those who promote monotheism. You disagreed with that?

        • They can all be lumped together under monotheism, but the conception of god that many have was different enough I don’t think it can be reconciled with Christianity. Many were deists, saying that god created things but does not actively intervene, or the pantheists which feel god is the same thing as nature. Christianity does not agree with those views, at least usually.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I didn’t say they are the same as Christianity, only that many Christians (including Catholics) would accept that other monotheists are speaking of the same reality we are speaking of when we say “God.” I recognize that many modern Christians, particularly Protestants (and also many Eastern Orthodox, though I think that in this they fail to follow the early Church as they generally claim to do), don’t hold this view and consider it too rationalistic and insufficiently Christocentric and Biblical. But it is the view I find implicitly in the New Testament (Acts 17 and Romans 1), and explicitly in early “Church Fathers” who acknowledged that Greek philosophers were speaking of the one true God.

        • I know, and some do appear similar (such as Platonism, from what I’ve gleaned of it). However, others are very different. Of course, maybe they didn’t mean those.

        • Cygnus

          It totally doesn’t matter that a monotheistic religion like Christianity doesn’t agree with monotheist principle of other religions, let’s say Muslimism.

          Christians still promote monotheism, or “one god” –theirs. The smoke and mirrors of many beliefs in “one god” doesn’t change the fact that Christians are monotheists.

          The Christianity disagreement with other monotheist religions is that in spite of so many Christianities beliefs, other monotheistic religions do not embrace Christianity’s “one god”

        • Sure it matters. It’s core to their disagreement.

          I never said it did.

          Yes, of course.

        • Cygnus

          ” It’s core to their disagreement.”
          ===
          I don’t care, it doesn’t matter to me. I believe one less God than Christian do. Christianity is a monotheist religion, that means believing less “one god”, there’s nothing to care about in regard to their quarrel about monotheism with other monotheists of whatever form of their belief is different than other forms of monotheism.

        • Yeah, but you said it didn’t matter to them, that’s my point.

        • Cygnus

          “but you said it didn’t matter to them, that’s my point.”
          ===
          Where did I say that? Maybe you interpreted it wrongly.

        • Yes I did, sorry.

        • Kodie

          I think he is saying, no matter what stories you create out of your own wishful thinking, personal or cultural preferences, they are all stories about the only god there can be. It doesn’t bother him that so many people can disagree on the fictions they create, because nobody knows god, nobody knows there is any god, but he believes there is one and only one. If one culture says god loves monogamous heterosexual marriage and hates abortion and birth control, these rules they say come from god only come from that culture and pretend to know what god wants, while another culture can promote sexual freedom and not have a problem with using birth control, because of what they want. Kind of like the Jews still avoid eating pork and shellfish, but Christians ignore that law or interpret the text to mean it doesn’t apply to them – it’s whatever you fucking want. God, in that way, can’t be defined, but he believes the differences are more cosmetic (he says “trivial”), while the matter of whether there is a god is also trivial, because he’s not going to see anything than what he wants to see.

        • That may be what he feels, I don’t know, but I disagree. If so it’s a convenient way of claiming everyone really believes the same one true god exists and ignoring anything which says the opposite.

        • Kodie

          You know how a lot of Christians (maybe even most) will say even atheists, deep down, believe in god, and only promote themselves above god because they want to be their own god? I think it’s like that – they assume all beliefs center around the same generic being who created all and makes the rules, while to a degree, whenever it is convenient, the details of those rules don’t matter so much, or admit that it’s eminently possible to be in error about those rules. Why is their god so difficult to perceive correctly?

        • Yes, that does seem to be the case for some. I just don’t buy it though. Like you said, if so the one true god seems to have a serious communication problem.

        • Kodie

          It doesn’t seem that long ago, possibly even tomorrow, that Christians felt free to demonize and marginalize other beliefs and believers as ooga-booga, foolish, weird, primitive, and/or doctrinally opposed to their values. It’s become more popular in the global community to have no choice but to accept that they share the planet with believers in something else, and so much come up with another way of explaining or finding ways to validate those other beliefs without actually accepting them as equally valid. They all believe in the same god, call it something else, believe he has made different rules for them to follow, while I consider them all, no matter how studious they are or intellectual they pretend they are, ooga-booga, foolish, weird, primitive, and definitely a lot of the time doctrinally opposed to my values. They don’t seem to recognize themselves.

        • Yeah, now many seem to become so ecumenical that it gets ridiculous. I call the argument from inconsistent revelation down on all this.

  • Tom

    This is probably the most in-depth response I’ve seen to the ‘one God further’ objection…

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/04/one-god-further-objection.html

    • Thanks. I’ll take a look.

      • Aram

        It’s apologetic nonsense.

        • My favorite kind!

        • Dys

          There’s another kind?

        • On the topic of favorites.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i assume that was aimed at the adjective and not the noun? there are assuredly many kinds of nonsense, but nonsensical is more or less the only kind of apologetics. 😉

    • tsig

      you can’t apply the argument to his god ‘case his god is special and a mystical triangle, besides you’all are poopy heads.

    • Aram

      Are you sharing this to show how dumb the author comes across? Or you do you honestly think he makes a point?

      • Cygnus

        I think katiehippie said it very well about fesser: “an intellectual masturbationist”, not dumb of course, yet not making a point.

      • TheNuszAbides

        the only qualifier being “in-depth”, i’ll guess it’s the latter.

    • katiehippie

      Gads, that guy is an intellectual masturbationist. Big words, convoluted sentences. If your theism is that hard to explain, give it up. occam’s razor

      • Otto

        Must be a Catholic

        • katiehippie

          Lutherans do it too.

    • MNb

      I stopped at the false Euclidean geometry analogy.

  • MNb

    ““I just believe in one less god than you do” is correct as an observation, but incorrect as an argument for “you are an atheist as well.” Again it’s a matter of proper definitions. Unbelievers (to include agnosts) don’t believe in any god; believers believe in at least one.
    You are totally correct that this answer doesn’t relieve believers from the obligation of believers (if they claim to be reasonable) to tell us why specifically that or those (god)s. The “best” answer I have met is “because the empty tomb”.

    • Brian

      Yeah, but the line is often delivered in response to a question like “why don’t you believe in the god I believe in?” Whether it’s literally a correct and universally applicable statement, the purpose of it is more akin to a thought experiment, I think.

    • I’m surprised that the empty tomb argument is compelling. I realize that you’re simply saying that this is the best of a poor set of arguments.

      Doesn’t “It’s all just a story, and you have the burden of proof to show that it’s history” answer it?

      • Philmonomer

        If I ever find the time, I’d love to read everything possible about “the empty tomb.” I think the most likely explanation is that Jesus was thrown in a mass grave (thus, no way to ever produce a body–although the whole idea of producing a body is sort of ridiculous to begin with), and then Joseph of Arimathea/empty tomb is just a story made up later.

        But I’d love to read everything humanely possible on it. It is, IMHO, the linchpin of the “minimal facts” argument for the resurrection. Without it, you just have Jesus’s death, and visions. Nothing compelling about that.

        • You can read my posts about Gary Habermas and the resurrection, which touches on this.

          As for the mass grave, that’s Bart Ehrman’s conclusion.

          As for producing the body, keep in mind that this was all written 40+ years after the supposed facts. That far from the events, the people in your story are merely actors who do what you want. “They didn’t produce the body so therefore the tomb must’ve been empty” is merely remaining within the story line. Mark writing in the early 70s would have no pushback from the real world when he makes the characters do whatever he wanted.

        • Philmonomer

          You can read my posts about Gary Habermas and the resurrection, which touches on this.

          Gary Habermas was on the Unbelievable radio show/podcast sometime last year (last summer?). He stated that he wasn’t using “the empty tomb” as a fact (anymore? just on that show?) because historians didn’t agree on it (although he noted something like 75 percent think the tomb was empty).

          Otherwise, I don’t remember anything particularly noteworthy about the exchange with Habermas–I even forgot who was on the other side (I think one of Brieley’s go-to lay atheists).

          As for the mass grave, that’s Bart Ehrman’s conclusion.

          I didn’t know that. I need to subscribe to his blog.

          As for producing the body, keep in mind that this was all written 40+ years after the supposed facts. That far from the events, the people in your story are merely actors who do what you want. “They didn’t produce the body so therefore the tomb must’ve been empty” is merely remaining within the story line. Mark writing in the early 70s would have no pushback from the real world when he makes the characters do whatever he wanted.

          Good point.

        • More on Habermas and the 75% here.

        • Greg G.

          I have copyrighted “blockqoute”.

        • I’ll just pay the cashier on the way out, if that’s OK.

        • Greg G.

          I have also copyrighted “blockauote”.

        • Herald Newman

          Dan Barker made a pretty good argument for why, even if the stories of Jesus’ resurrection started early, that nobody would have bothered to go “produce the body.”

          Excerpted from: https://ffrf.org/legacy/about/bybarker/rise.php

          “Also, it was at least seven weeks after the burial before the resurrection was first preached during Pentecost. By the time anyone might have cared to squelch the story, two or three months would have passed, and what happens to a dead body in that climate for that period of time? The body of Lazarus was “stinking” after only four days. If someone had had the gumption to locate and illegally dig up the decayed body of Jesus and parade it through the streets, would the disciples have believed the unrecognizable rotting skeleton was really their Lord and Savior? I don’t think so, any more than my grandmother would have been convinced she was deluded.”

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t think it’s true that because the narrative was written several decades later (I think Mark may have been written as early as the 60s, but of course there’s no way to be entirely sure–the main piece of evidence is the saying about “not one stone left on another”), therefore the actors are just “characters who do whatever you want.” Matthew, probably written later than Mark (I think the conventional date is around the 80s?), tells a story of the Jewish leaders claiming that the disciples stole the body. It’s not necessary to trust Matthew’s narrative of the Jewish leaders bribing the guards (how would he know this? did the early Christians have spies in the Temple? Well, maybe) to accept that his attempt at explaining how the story started indicates that such a story really was being told. And the most likely reason for Jewish leaders to be telling such a story is that they knew the tomb really had been found empty.

          30-40 years still leaves a lot of possible eyewitnesses running around. Furthermore, it’s quite possible to find in the narrative plenty of clues to the state of affairs decades earlier, through careful and critical reading.

          Naive skepticism (“it’s all just a lot of fiction”) is as damaging to accurate historical reconstruction as naive credulity, I think.

        • Greg G.

          The story of Mark seems to be based on some of Paul’s epistles, Hebrew scriptures mostly from the Septuagint, and Greek literature, primarily the Odyssey and the Iliad, and possibly some history like Josephus’ Jewish Wars. Nothing looks like eyewitness reports or oral traditions.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t think that most Biblical scholars agree with you there–nor do I, for that matter. Sure, some awareness of Greek literary tropes is present, but the genre that most scholars would compare Mark to is Hellenistic biography.

          I’m not sure what you think an ancient account that did look like eyewitness reporting or oral tradition would look like, if not this.

          It seems to me that you are starting with the desired conclusion and declaring by fiat that the evidence fits it (and to be fair, of course believers often do this too–it’s hard to avoid it on either side in an inquiry as charged with consequences as this one).

          If you’re at all in the “mythicist” camp, then you’re in a camp that is just as marginal to mainstream Biblical scholarship as inerrantist Christian scholarship is.

          The vast majority of scholars who study the Bible critically–and this includes many who have no commitment to anything like “orthodox” Christian belief–conclude that Mark _does_ contain historically valid material and _is_ based, if at considerable remove, on eyewitness accounts. I’m fairly persuaded by conservative (but still mainstream, in the sense of teaching at prestigious academic institutions, publishing with reputable publishers, etc.) scholars such as Richard Bauckham that the eyewitness accounts are much _closer_ to the present form of the text than the standard scholarly narrative holds. But even that narrative is very different form the picture you’re painting.

          That of course doesn’t prove you wrong. It is possible (though to my mind not very likely) that most critical scholars really are consciously or unconsciously in thrall to Christian presuppositions, even as they routinely dismiss traditional Christian interpretations and claims. Or they could just be wrong for some other reason. No possibility should be dismissed, insofar as time permits us to examine it!

        • Greg G.

          I am well aware of what American Bible scholars claim but I have seen their arguments. They are also aware of what happens when if one were to publish something favorable to mythicist as Thomas Brodie did. Many European scholars are open to the question. What happens to a university department in biblical studies that doesn’t shed someone who questions whether they are studying history or literature?

          Phone battery is about to die so I’m going to bed.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          What consequences did Brodie face _from the academy_? Except perhaps that his arguments weren’t found convincing. He was of course disciplined by his religious order, but that’s quite different. You’re arguing that the American scholarly _academy_ persecutes people for being mythicists, and I think that’s true only in the sense that the scientific community persecutes people for being creationists 🙂

        • Greg G.

          Brodie got retired from his teaching position.

          Tommy Thompson studied in Europe in the 1970s. The conclusion of his doctoral thesis was that Abraham and Moses were fictional legends from his study of the writings of various religions of the day. His thesis was rejected by Joseph Ratzinger, the now retired pope. Thompson had to complete his PhD in the US but he was not hired in the US. He has held a position in Denmark. The work of Israeli and Egyptian archaeology has upheld his conclusions.

          Mike Licona was fired for expressing a doubt that Matthew’s zombies were historical. There are places for creationists in religious scholarship.

        • TheNuszAbides

          did you have anything to add? ET doesn’t seem to know about faculty declarations of faith (not that i expect Brodie in particular required one).

        • Greg G.

          I did have more to add at the time.

        • I don’t think it’s true that because the narrative was written several decades later (I think Mark may have been written as early as the 60s, but of course there’s no way to be entirely sure

          The consensus is 70+ for Mark and later for the others. Not much different. But it doesn’t matter. Put Mark in the 30s and your problems remain.

          And the most likely reason for Jewish leaders to be telling such a story is that they knew the tomb really had been found empty.

          How do we know the Jewish leaders were saying this? Because of the gospels! The Jewish leaders were also just characters that Mark could move around as he chose. What’s to stop him?

          30-40 years still leaves a lot of possible eyewitnesses running around.

          The Naysayer Hypothesis (naysayers would’ve corrected a false story) is ridiculous.

          Naive skepticism (“it’s all just a lot of fiction”) is as damaging to accurate historical reconstruction as naive credulity, I think.

          What’s naïve? It’s not like it’s hard to sketch out a natural explanation for why the gospels say what they say.

        • And the most likely reason for Jewish leaders to be telling such a story is that they knew the tomb really had been found empty.

          Why couldn’t it be the case that the Jews didn’t know whether or not there was an empty tomb, and their claim about the disciples stealing the body was an entirely speculative hostile attempt to explain the origin of the resurrection story?

          Jewish anti-Christian polemics addressed the Christian virgin birth claim by claiming Jesus’ father was a Roman named Pantera, and therefore Jesus was a bastard. This doesn’t mean that Jewish leaders somehow knew that Joseph wasn’t really Jesus’ father. They were just taking the Christian claim that Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ real father, and creating a hostile version of that claim to attack Christianity with. Matthew’s account of the Jewish anti-Christian claim about the empty tomb looks like the same kind of thing to me; they’re again creating a hostile alternative explanation for one element of the Christian story.

          There’s no particular reason to think that the people creating these hostile stories were really thinking all that much about whether Joseph really wasn’t a blood relation of Jesus, or whether Jesus’ body really did go missing from a tomb. They’re just thinking up alternative explanations for Christian legends that make the Christians look bad.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          N. T. Wright’s _The Resurrection of the Son of God_ is probably the most thorough treatment of the subject from an orthodox Christian point of view (by “orthodox” here I just mean “believing that the resurrection really happened,” as opposed to someone like Dominic Crossan).

          I just finished reading it.

      • T-Paine

        I find it funny that there’s an “empty tomb” argument and not any “young man/two young men dressed in white inside the tomb/angel comes down from the sky frightening the posted roman soldier guards to a faint and the angel then rolling away the stone from the grave entrance and sitting on it” argument.

        Also, according to the gospel stories, no one actually witnessed the resurrection of Jesus. When the woman/women come to the tomb, the tomb was either already opened and Jesus already gone, or an angel comes down from the sky and rolls away the stone from the tomb entrance and sits on it and Jesus is already gone.

        • Otto

          ^^This^^

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          T. Paine, the reason there isn’t that kind of argument is that the claim about just what happened at the rolling away of the stone is not as plausible, by historical methods, as the claim that the tomb was found empty. It’s much more likely (bracketing all metaphysical questions about whether God exists and could raise someone from the dead) to be a legendary embellishment. It occurs in only one of the four Gospel accounts, and this one (Matthew) has a particularly obvious pattern of such embellishments.

          I think you may be assuming, as so many here do, that all believers are “Biblical literalists” committed to defending every detail of every bit of the narrative as historical.

        • I think you may be assuming, as so many here do, that all believers are “Biblical literalists” committed to defending every detail of every bit of the narrative as historical.

          T-Paine can speak for himself, but as for me, I realize that not all Christians are literalists. Nevertheless, it’s fun to rub Christians’ nose in biblical problems because, literalist or not, they’re all bound to take the Bible as an authoritative book.

        • T-Paine

          The “empty tomb” argument is an argument to support the claim that a man came back to life after being dead for three days. Is this claim more “plausible by historical methods” and less of a “legendary embellishment” than “an angel coming down from the sky and opening the tomb?” Why or Why not?

          And since you admit these stories have a pattern of embellishment, why take these stories seriously at all? Where do you stand on any of this?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          It’s more probable from a historical point of view because, just to give the first three reasons I can think of:

          1. it’s multiply attested
          2. a good case can be made that the texts that make the claim were pretty closely dependent on eyewitnesses (though that’s not an uncontested claim by any means). In contrast, Matthew’s story of the angel coming down couldn’t have had eyewitnesses other than the guards, and we know the guards weren’t supporting the Christian narrative of what happened.
          3. The story of the women discovering the tomb is unlikely to have been invented or to have developed as a legend, because in that case it would almost certainly have been ascribed to important male leaders of the early Christian community (and in fact, Luke and John _do_ get Peter and John to the tomb–this may in fact have happened, but it’s much more open to question). The angel coming down, on the other hand, is the sort of thing an early Christian would have imagined probably happened given the basic story of the women finding the tomb.

          I’m not saying that the angel coming down didn’t happen, and of course I’m not arguing that historically one can prove that the empty tomb or the resurrection happened. But they aren’t in the same category in terms of historical methodology at all–that shouldn’t be controversial.

          I don’t want to be snootier than I can help, and of course you may turn out to have a Ph.D. in some historical field and confound me. But your last remark is typical, in my experience, of folks who aren’t historically trained. They tend to assume that historical methodology is all about finding “reliable” sources and trusting them, while throwing out unreliable ones. But historians are trained to treat _all_ sources critically, though not of course with equal suspicion (among the four Gospels, Matthew is much more likely to embellish than Mark or Luke or perhaps, the speeches aside which are never going to be verbatim accounts in an ancient source, even John). And you don’t throw any source out automatically. You look at it critically and try to figure out what it can tell you, even if you don’t trust it farther than you can throw it.

          Ancient biographies typically contained such “embellishments” to make a point. It doesn’t mean that the account as a whole is fiction.

        • T-Paine

          It’s more probable from a historical point of view because, just to give the first three reasons I can think of:

          This is gonna be fun.

          1. it’s multiply attested

          Just like Big Foot, The Lochness Monster, Sightings of Elvis Presley, UFOs, and La Chupacabra.

          2. a good case can be made that the texts that make the claim were pretty closely dependent on eyewitnesses…

          Actually, there isn’t. But let’s move on…

          In contrast, Matthew’s story of the angel coming down couldn’t have had eyewitnesses other than the guards, and we know the guards weren’t supporting the Christian narrative of what happened.

          Actually Matthew 28: 1-10 contradicts your claim:

          Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

          So you see, according to Matthew, the women did witness the angel coming down from the sky, rolling back the stone and sitting on it, and frightening the guards to faint.

          I’m not saying that the angel coming down didn’t happen, and of course I’m not arguing that historically one can prove that the empty tomb or the resurrection happened. But they aren’t in the same category in terms of historical methodology at all–that shouldn’t be controversial.

          Except… They are in the same category of historical methodology – they’re both supernatural claims

          Question: Does does the claim that some women saw an angel with a face like lightning and clothing white as snow come down from the sky, rolling away a stone to the entrance of a tomb and sitting on it, causing the posted guards who are also witnessing this to fall faint and the claim that a man came back to life after being dead for 3 days and walked out of his tomb? The answer: They both defy the laws of nature and everything that we know about reality. They are both supernatural claims indistinguishable from all other supernatural claims of all other religions.

          They tend to assume that historical methodology is all about finding “reliable” sources and trusting them, while throwing out unreliable ones.

          It’s all about finding which sources are reliable and which aren’t. The ones with supernatural claims are put into the unreliable category and thus not trusting them as representing reality.

          Ancient biographies typically contained such “embellishments” to make a point. It doesn’t mean that the account as a whole is fiction.

          And what does an honest historian do? He/She dismissed any supernatural claims in a biography as unreliable and not representing reality. What would any of the gospels look like if you took out all the supernatural claims and left in the parts that could happen in reality? They would be so small that you could stick them behind a windshield wiper on people’s cars in the parking lot of your local supermarket. It would be just another “cool story, bro” tale.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I don’t grant that supernatural claims should be thrown out automatically, in any text. Of course many historians do so, but they do so because of their metaphysical commitments to naturalism.

          You’re right that I was harmonizing Matthew with the other Gospels, which say that the stone was already rolled away. I believe (though I’m no expert on the finer points of Greek grammar) that the aorist tense used here could be used in a “past perfect” sense–i.e., it could be saying that the earthquake had already happened. One translation, the NASB, renders it that way, although it’s a fairly conservative translation and may be motivated by a desire to harmonize.

          Either way–whether Matthew means to say that the earthquake happened then and there, or is explaining why the women found the tomb empty as described in the other Gospels–the story is unique to Matthew and (if intended as something that happened in front of the women) contradicts the other Gospels.

          So you’re right–if the aorist implies that the event happened in front of the women, then my point about the eyewitnesses is wrong. But in that case, the contradiction with the other Gospels would be a further reason to think that Matthew is here embellishing the story.

        • T-Paine

          No, I don’t grant that supernatural claims should be thrown out
          automatically, in any text. Of course many historians do so, but they do so because of their metaphysical commitments to naturalism.

          Now this is just plain daft. I don’t even you believe what you just typed here.

          So you’re right–if the aorist implies that the event happened in front
          of the women, then my point about the eyewitnesses is wrong. But in that
          case, the contradiction with the other Gospels would be a further
          reason to think that Matthew is here embellishing the story.

          All the gospels contradict each other. All of them.

          Mark
          When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do
          not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has
          risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And
          they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment
          had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

          Matthew
          Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

          Luke
          But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

          John
          Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus'[a] head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

          Now all four of these stories can’t be true – but they can all be false.

        • MNb

          Even if we maintain what the four stories have in common – ie the empty tomb – as a historical fact it still requires a salto mortale from our concrete world to the divine world to arrive at the Resurrection (thanks, Domela Nieuwenhuis). For instance – just to add, not to criticize – that salto mortale needs to be justified with some physics and biology. Apologists don’t want history to be science because science has to be consistent and hence historical hypotheses cannot violate well established theories of the natural sciences. The alternative is “everything goes”, including Archimedes having used mirrors to set Roman ships on fire. Just add “with some divine aid”.

        • MNb

          “Of course many historians do so, but they do so because of their metaphysical commitments to naturalism.”
          Because they prefer their historical research to be scientific.

        • MNb

          Nonsense. Many non-literalists think the empty tomb a compelling argument that christianity is the “correct” religion. WL Craig and Dutch apologist Emanuel Rutten are just two examples.
          You are really in love with your strawman, aren’t you?

      • MNb

        Or rather “why doesn’t some naturalistic explanation suffice?”
        Chris Hallquist has written extensively on the topic.

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2012/08/why-craigs-case-for-the-resurrection-is-dishonest/

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        No. I don’t think that’s good historical methodology at all. That’s certainly not how I would approach other such narratives in other contexts.

        One looks at the evidence, internal as well as external, and asks what the most probable explanation is. In cases like this it’s impossible to answer that question without bringing metaphysical assumptions into play. But if one does not start from the metaphysical assumption that the thing is impossible, the most probable explanation for the existence of the NT narratives is that the tomb was really empty and Jesus’ followers really encountered Jesus alive again.

        • One looks at the evidence, internal as well as external, and asks what the most probable explanation is. In cases like this it’s impossible to answer that question without bringing metaphysical assumptions into play.

          No, quite easy, actually. I read about someone who had an accident. I read about a claimed miraculous healing. I read about Jesus raised from the dead. These are all trivially easy to explain with natural explanations.

          That doesn’t mean that the natural explanation is the best (though I think they are), just that avoiding metaphysics is easy. You must go out of your way to pull it in.

          But if one does not start from the metaphysical assumption that the thing is impossible, the most probable explanation for the existence of the NT narratives is that the tomb was really empty and Jesus’ followers really encountered Jesus alive again.

          You can imagine my next challenge. I encourage you to respond to it.

        • Kodie

          Why would one start from the metaphysical assumption that the thing is possible?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You don’t have to. Just be honest about your metaphysical assumptions. Don’t play the dishonest game of saying “there’s no evidence Jesus rose from the dead” when what you really mean is “I’m metaphysically certain Jesus couldn’t have risen from the dead, so the evidence is irrelevant.”

        • adam

          “Don’t play the dishonest game of saying “there’s no evidence Jesus rose
          from the dead” when what you really mean is “I’m metaphysically certain
          Jesus couldn’t have risen from the dead, so the evidence is irrelevant.””

          No, what we mean is there is no scientific evidence of Jesus rising from the dead any more than with any of the other stories.

          So until you demonstrate that metaphysics demonstrates Jesus rose from the dead, you are just being deceptive.

          But what else can you do with a dishonest “God”?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          How would you have scientific evidence of a thing like that anyway? Your statement makes no sense.

          We do have _historical_ evidence for Jesus’ resurrection which we don’t have for these other cases (never mind that the claims aren’t the same anyway–Julius Proculus supposedly saw Romulus _in a vision_, not in the flesh).

        • adam

          “We do have _historical_ evidence for Jesus’ resurrection”

          REALLY?

          Please demonstrate.

          “How would you have scientific evidence of a thing like that anyway?”

          How can you NOT, and still believe?

        • Kodie

          Can I ask you what your instincts are, if you had just only now heard about Jesus resurrecting from the dead?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          That’s a good question and probably impossible to answer fairly, since everything about how I look at this is shaped by my Christian upbringing. I don’t think anyone approaches these things neutrally.

          However, I think the best answer would be that I’d say, “that sounds really weird and hard to fit into my paradigm, but given all the brilliant and interesting people who have believed it” (assuming that I was just getting acquainted with the Christian tradition and learning about its thinkers and writers) I’d be silly to dismiss it out of hand.

          That is certainly how I do in fact treat remarkable claims from other traditions that I have some reason to respect (the claims Tibetan Buddhists make for the Dalai Lama, say).

        • Kodie

          Fair enough, thanks for giving your honest answer. But anyway, you’d be foolish not to dismiss it as out of hand as any other tradition has created similar stories. Do you dismiss out of hand the brilliant and interesting people who have not fallen for it?

        • Kodie

          Whatever evidence you can provide is not convincing if you think about it. How do you accept other accounts of other religious characters rising from the dead? Do you just say, well Jesus did it, so it’s possible? I mean, the whole myth about the guy rests on his resurrection being singular and mysterious and miraculous – but there is no credible evidence that it’s anything but a fictional story. I can’t believe I have to keep inserting “fictional” when I describe it to you, because you get distracted when words aren’t just so.

    • Kodie

      It’s my understanding that there is a long tradition (maybe not so much in use more recently) that anyone who isn’t a Christian was an atheist. Maybe pagan, or heathen, or whatever. All the people who are in denial of their one Christian Monotheistic god are called atheists. When Christians claim they used to be an atheist, they mean in denial of that god they define as this one true god. They reject all other definitions, including that of other Christians, but when it comes down to it, they don’t really care if your Christian beliefs are interpreted differently. In certain circumstances, just saying you are a Christian is good enough, and either party assumes the differences that may be between them is unimportant. Often, we get Christians (including Edwin), if you read what he’s really saying, who think their beliefs are the predominant, and nobody really believes the silly uneducated beliefs. I.e., his beliefs are harmless so why don’t we just let Christians believe what they want to believe.

  • I agree it doesn’t refute this. Even so, we really shouldn’t call people atheists if they aren’t. First because it’s inaccurate, and second it confuses the term. This goes back a long time-the Roman pagans called Christians atheists, Christians called pagans atheists, etc. because they didn’t believe in their god(s). We witness the same thing happen as Einstein gets “claimed” as an atheist, even though he clearly held the belief in a pantheistic god. There is no reason we can’t make this criticism without such confusion and mislabeling. I also don’t want to be associated with people like this as “fellow atheists” purely on a personal level.

    • Cygnus

      Theists know that “atheist” was considered to be someone who believed in his/her claimed God or gods, BUT not in another “atheist” claim of God or gods.

      After the Age of Reason, people’s brains started to function again, after the Dark Ages of Christian totalitarianism, and found out thru science, that the claims of God, god are false, unsubstantiated and full of shit.

      Now, an “atheist” as we know nowadays, is someone who disbelieves theistic claims about existence of God, gods. But Christians still love “holy” wars, and if atheists just say that they have no a dog in their stupid religious fight, Christians just don’t like that.

      Christians have to stamp the new atheism as a religion, like the “old” one, so they could continue to have the pleasure sending people to the eternal discomfort, pleasure they enjoyed when they were a totalitarian religion.

      • Atheism in our sense was known then too. See Battling the Gods.

        • Cygnus

          Maybe, but not as large, profoundly and more intelligently expressed than it is now.

        • Not as large, no, but if you read that book it’s striking how ancient some of the arguments really are. Also many views held then have parallels we see today.

        • Cygnus

          I know, Antiquity evolved some incipient intelligence in many domains, Arts, Math, Physics and also a Philosophy that argued for absolutely no “God” item the process of thinking. Something resembling the “New Atheism” nowadays.

          But Christian totalitarianism tried unsuccessfully to burn or totally pervert Antiquity knowledge with a faith in one God, or as they call it “Christ”, from which the name of their religion comes.

          Fortunately, the thinking of Antiquity “resurrected” in the Age of Reason, after the unsuccessful attempt of Christianity to destroy all that knowledge it in the Dark Ages.

        • Yes, I know. Epicureanism may be the Greek philosophy closest to modern atheist views. Although they had gods, those might as well have just been aliens living on distant worlds who didn’t care at all about humans. Even before the Age of Reason, a lot of the Greek philosophies were revived with the Renaissance. Also, the Carvakas from India were very similar to the Epicureans, but explicitly atheist.

        • Cygnus

          ” Although they had gods…”
          ===
          Philosophers of Antiquity used “gods” as some items in their philosophical equations. Yes, it happened that they lived in a society where everybody believed in whatever god they pleased, but Philosophy uses god, gods or attributed names to them, not to affirm or deny the existence of those claimed god, gods.

          It was this Catholic priest Tomasso, who “found out” that when Philosophers of Antiquity talked about the items “god, gods” they referred to the God of his Pope, who started the Christian totalitarianism, thus imposing his theology as some kind of philosophy that is “Christian”, then divided Philosophy in “theistic” and “atheistic” philosophy. What a turd!

        • What do you mean by “items in their philosophical equations”?

          I’ve never heard of this.

        • Cygnus

          Philosophical equations or Propositional formula. God is an item in the below philosophical equation
          For example, an equation like

          1) “Morality is objective if either God exists or there is a moral law. Morality is objective only if people agree about what’s right and wrong. People don’t agree about what’s right and wrong.
          Therefore, neither God nor the moral law exist.”5
          O = Morality is objective.
          G = God exists.
          L = There is a moral law.
          A = People agree about what’s right and wrong.

          There’s a “God” item that can be put in a philosophical equation.
          My point is that when Philosophy mentions “God” it doesn’t have anything to do with its existence or not, just use it as it is, an abstraction that it is.

        • Oh, I see.

          That’s not true-a lot of philosophical arguments over whether God exists happen, and have for centuries.

        • Cygnus

          NO, it’s NOT about God exists or not, it is about how that item “God” works in a philosophical equation.

          There are a lot of abstract items, including “God”, but Philosophy doesn’t bother about existence or not existence of an abstract thing, BUT how “existence” or “non-existence” affects a philosophical question.

          An abstract object IS an object which does not exist at any particular time or place, but rather exists as a type of thing, i.e., an idea, or abstraction.

          That’s what I have a lot of trouble explaining to some guys here who say that “God doesn’t exist” still exists as an abstraction, something to mentally masturbate about.

        • Then what are the philosophical arguments over whether God exists about? So far as I know, those arguing for God do not claim he is something “abstract”.

          I don’t know what you mean by “God doesn’t exist” existing as an abstraction.

        • Cygnus

          Abstract things exists, they are creations of our minds. When an abstraction is created we don’t debate the existence or non-existence of that abstraction, we just use it to see if we can construct other abstractions that may be help in a way or another, practically or just as intellectual delight.

          The intellectual delight of analyzing “God” and/or putting it in practice belongs to the primitive humans thinking and practices.

          Primitive thinking still persist nowadays because some people do not understand what is an abstraction, they still debate if an abstract thing exists or doesn’t . “God exists” or “God doesn’t exists”, the “God” part of the philosophical equation expressed above exists as abstraction.

          I am not using “God” in my philosophical equations anymore, because no matter how “God” item is used, it is totally useless.

        • I don’t think anyone doubts that God exists at least as an abstraction. There is great dispute over whether God exists only as this however.

        • adam

          “There is great dispute over whether God exists only as this however.”

          Unfortunately:

        • I agree of course. Thankfully in that case they are removing legal exemptions for neglect by faith healing.

        • Cygnus

          God does not exist “at least” as an abstraction. God exist as an abstraction and used as an item in abstract thinking.

          Other than abstraction, God existence is in hallucinations, but then we are not rationalizing in this situation.

        • I agree, I’m just noting how other people do not.

          Hallucinations, like abstractions, are purely mental.

        • Cygnus

          “Hallucinations, like abstractions, are purely mental.”
          ===
          Yes, but there’s a big difference. Those who have hallucinations of God try to explain the material existence or non-existence of God.

          The abstract God used in philosophy, as an abstract item that it IS (no doubt there), gets in and out from philosophical equations but no philosopher is attracted to prove the abstract existence of God. The proving of abstract existence of God is the idiotic job of theologians wanna be “philosophers”, like Tomasso d’Aquino, or Plantinga nowadays

        • Most believers in God don’t think that he is material. This includes both people with hallucinations and philosophers. At the same time they also believe he’s more than a simple abstraction. It seems they think he is “being itself” (I’m not sure what that means).

        • Cygnus

          “Most believers in God don’t think that he is material.”
          ===
          Using “he” for God, that’s already making it material, and trying to believe in otherwise is like believing in an abstract dick. Same thing, but if you want me to use a “dick” in a philosophically equation, then my philosophy becomes too material 🙂

          I don’t care how people with hallucination believe the a “dick” is not material. I don’t have access to mental institutions.

          If you are not sure what something means, forget it. It doesn’t make sense anyway.

        • Only if you think gender is necessarily material. Anyway “he” seems more a term of convenience than anything. Saying “it” would be awkward. You make a mountain out of a molehill here. Not everyone who believes this is insane.

        • Cygnus

          “Saying “it” would be awkward”
          ===
          For who? Clearly not for me, I know that “it” IS abstract, otherwise would be material, which hasn’t been proven, even if you try to attach some imaginary balls to it and call it as “he”, or more insanely: “He”.

        • It’s just a term of convenience. This conversation is tiring-I think I’m going to quit it now.

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        The claim that “after the Age of Reason people’s brains started to function again” just isn’t credible historically. It’s a claim that reveals great naivete about the intellectual history of the Middle Ages, and deep prejudices against people who see the world differently than you do.

        • Greg G.

          The greatest achievements of those times came when they started reading centuries old ancient Greek literature. That should show how far behind they had fallen by the 11th century or so.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          They never stopped reading it entirely, but certainly the discovery of Aristotle had a big impact in the 12th century (not all of it positive from our perspective–indeed, some scholars think that the 1277 condemnation of some Aristotelian ideas helped start late medieval folks on the road toward modern science).

          Certainly the early Middle Ages were a period of disorder and political chaos in Western Europe. Whether Christianity can be blamed for that, when by and large the Church was a force preserving order and preserving learning, is more questionable. I blame medieval Christians more for the ways they _did_ follow the Roman tradition (particularly in the use of violence) than for the ways they didn’t.

        • Cygnus

          I think you have to look harder to the damage Christians did to advanced cultures when they imposed their totalitarian religion, staring from Emperor Constantine on. Usually Catholics defend the the Middle Ages “knowledge”, but those are people who see the world differently, even than Christians do.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’m not sure what you mean by that. Catholics are, obviously, Christians, indeed the historically central tradition of Christianity.

          And I studied early Christianity with an ex-Christian who did a pretty good job of instilling a critical perspective in me (Liz Clark, at Duke).

          I think your picture of what happened in the Middle Ages is largely shaped by prejudice.

          The Middle Ages were in fact a period of great technological innovation, to the point that the historian of technology Lynn White blamed Christianity for modern environmental devastation, largely because he saw the Middle Ages as the root of modern technology. The ancient world, which had vast reserves of slave labor, didn’t innovate in the same way.

          But you said people didn’t use their minds. That just clearly isn’t true.

        • Kodie

          I’m not sure what you mean by that. Catholics are, obviously, Christians, indeed the historically central tradition of Christianity.

          I’m pretty sure that’s what Catholics tell themselves, and Protestants also tell themselves.

        • Cygnus

          “Catholics are, obviously, Christians” LOL! Tell that to Protestants when they were killed in the St. Bartholomew day massacre.

          Christian history starts when they got the totalitarian power in Europe and yes, they were Catholics.

          If you see Middle Ages through the Catholic eyes, it means you are prejudiced.

          “The Middle Ages were in fact a period of great technological innovation”. You mean those machinery Catholics used to torture the heretics?

          You are clearly a Catholic, not a Christian.

          I know, I am playing with your mind… Catholic,…Christian…Catholic…Christian…

        • The Middle Ages were in fact a period of great technological innovation

          I disagree.

          Take the technological innovation of the last two centuries and compare that with the most innovative two centuries in the Middle Ages.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          The relevant comparison here was with the ancient world.

          Modern Western civilization has created a myth of the “Middle Ages” which presents them as a period of “stagnation” between the “glories” of the ancient world and the feverish pace of change of the past 500 years. I think that most scholars of the medieval period would agree that that’s a caricature with little relationship to reality, which had much more to do with modern Europeans’ self-concept than with the evidence.

        • I repeat my challenge, which you ignored.

          If your point is merely that “Nothing was developed in the Middle Ages” is wrong, I agree with you. Nevertheless, not a heckuva lot happened compared with technology from 1800 on.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I didn’t ignore it–I explained that it was irrelevant, because I was addressing a post claiming that the Middle Ages were a step backward from the glories of ancient classical civilization.

          Of course the pace of technological and social change quickened greatly in the past 500 years, and especially in the past 200. That’s not a “challenge” to anything I said. (Whether these changes were entirely good, or partly good and partly bad, would be another question–but of course the pace of innovation has increased exponentially in recent centuries.)

        • Myna A.

          The ancient world, which had vast reserves of slave labor, didn’t innovate in the same way

          All is process. Hellenistic Greece was no stranger to mechanical engineering. Nor was ancient China. Nor was Rome. India. Etc. The evolution of automata and mechanical engineering is quite evident historically.

          The approach to the sciences and invention in the Medieval era (for both Islam and Christianity) was not, however, disengaged from a mythological worldview (Taqi-al-din wrote The Sublime Methods of Spiritual Machines in 1551, wherein he describes the steam engine and astronomers working together in Istanbul), but then you also have to consider the 15th century Renaissance outlier, Leonardo Da Vinci, who wrote: “Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.”

          Lynn White blamed Christianity for modern environmental devastation

          He may not have been that far off…(bad) stewards of the earth and all that.

        • TheNuszAbides

          the historian of technology Lynn White blamed Christianity for modern environmental devastation, largely because he saw the Middle Ages as the root of modern technology.

          http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/08/lynn-white-on-horse-stuff.html

          why would “the root” not be in an earlier period?

  • Tyler Willis

    The slogan “I just believe in…” makes the conclusion of the atheist out to be a belief.

    Is this statement accurate or does this kind of statement unwittingly promote the false idea that atheism is a belief?

    • “I just believe in zero gods” isn’t really a statement of belief. More of nonbelief, don’t you think?

      • Tyler Willis

        As true as that is, the word “believe” just muddies the water and gives the theist the ability to quote you directly and say that atheists “believe in”. You can attempt to explain as you have done here, but who can blame the theist for quoting you directly.

        You are voluntarily opening your own can of worms by using that word, and being asked to clean it up by explaining. I think it would be better to not voluntarily open up the can to being with.

        • adam

          ‘the word “believe” just muddies the water and gives the theist the ability to quote you directly”

          Maybe for some faiths, but for christianity, they already ‘know’ that atheists believe in their ‘God’, but are just in denial.

          “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible
          attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20 ESV).

          Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/do-atheists-really-believe-there-is-no-god/#ixzz48vuCgi8o

        • Cygnus

          “but for christianity, they already ‘know’ that atheists believe in their ‘God’
          ===
          And you believe that crap?

        • adam

          I believe that they believe it.

        • Cygnus

          I believe that you believe that they believe it.
          Do you believe that I believe that you believe that they believe it?

        • adam

          No, you are not convincing.

        • Cygnus

          Simply put, you don’t believe that I believe that you believe that they believe it. I didn’t try to convince, or make you believe anything.

          I was just asking. I don’t give a flying fuck what christians believe, it is crap what they believe. You just believe that they believe it.

        • adam

          ” I didn’t try to convince, or make you believe anything.”

          You should have if you wanted me to believe you.

        • Cygnus

          If I wanted you to believe me, should I have to convince you?

          But you already convinced me that you believe that crap, that “christianity, they already ‘know’ that atheists believe in their ‘God'”

          I don’t want to convince you that “”christianity, they already ‘know’ that atheists believe in their ‘God'” is crap, I just wanted to make sure that you believe that crap. So, I asked. Was that a problem?

        • adam

          “I don’t want to convince you that “”christianity, they already ‘know’ that atheists believe in their ‘God'” is crap,”

          Yes, you know its crap, I know it’s crap.
          They are the one’s deluded.

          “I just wanted to make sure that you believe that crap.”
          No, I believe that they believe it, and they dont believe it is crap, but the ‘Word of God’

        • Cygnus

          So basically you reported that you believe that christians believe crap? That’s something new I found about your beliefs, but that christians believe crap, that’s not news to me, and I don’ t have to believe that they believe crap.
          Take care of your beliefs 🙂

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Romans 1 isn’t talking about atheists, but about pagans. It is evidence for the point I’ve made a number of times already, that both pagans and Christians knew the difference between the one supreme God and lesser “gods,” and that Christians acknowledged that pagans did have some knowledge of the true God and faulted them for worshiping what they _knew_ to be lesser beings who were in an entirely different ontological category (not nonexistent but fallen creatures of the one God).

        • adam

          “Romans 1 isn’t talking about atheists, but about pagans. ”

          Of course it is talking about atheists of the christian ‘God’ https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8007c56a44b4a44438038c62c44d45d4e864057729950452c13a3526a7dcda99.jpg

        • Andrea Milioto

          That meme is great and so true.

        • The word “believe” is used to create an effective one-liner. If you want to rework the statement so that it addresses your concern, go ahead. If it’s clumsy and full of caveats, it’s lost its power.

        • Tyler Willis

          As a tool of communicative rhetoric, it’s powerful and effective. Sure.

          I was analyzing the statement the way you were doing here in this post, from a more rational point of view to see how it holds up under closer scrutiny.

        • Cygnus

          Christians believe that disbelief is a belief in disbelief.

        • MNb

          Hey, squeaking swan wrote something smart! Thumbs up.

        • Kodie

          “I believe in one less, i.e. zero gods,” interprets as “I don’t believe in any gods.”

      • Cygnus

        “I just believe in zero gods”
        ===
        Let use some logic because “zero” belong to logic, but “gods” doesn’t.

        If you claim 1 god, and I claim -1 god , the result is 0 gods. What’s the belief in “zero gods”? Maybe you believe that atheists believe 0 (zero) has some kind of property they “believe in” ?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Theists don’t claim “1 god.”

        • Cygnus

          “Theists don’t claim “1 god.”
          ===

          Actually NOT all theists claim 1 god. However, the trouble is with those theists who claim 1 god, AKA monotheists.

          “I believe in one god less than you” applies to monotheists when atheists are stalked, proselytized to, bothered. As you many know theists monotheists are Muslims with Allah, Christians with God-Christ, or Jews with Yahweh.

          Surely, Hindu can say: “but what about this one, but what about the other one…but, but what about this or that”, however they are not as terrorists, dangerous and repugnant as monotheists who try to impose their monotheist totalitarian religion.

          A nowadays atheist has a simple answer to those monotheists and their 1 god : “I believe in one god less than you”, or “Fuck off, I have not even one dog in your religious fight”.

    • adam

      “I just believe in…”

      One fewer god than you do.

      So if you believe in one, I believe in zero.

      • Tyler Willis

        I understand the intent of what’s being said. I’m questioning the intelligence of using the word “believe” when your just going to turn around and insist again and again that there is none.

        • adam

          Because the christian world view DEPENDS on ‘believe’.

        • Cygnus

          I think that Tyler is telling you that “believe” sounds crappy because the christian world view DEPENDS on ‘believe’, but fuck them, I don’t care what they believe.

        • Kodie

          Christians believe not at all in the thousands of other gods people of the world believe or have believed in. They don’t think very hard or weigh their merits, they simply dismiss them, don’t believe them, and don’t consider it a belief not to believe them, nor do they consider themselves in denial of the truths claimed of those religions and doctrines of those gods. Why make up a different “belief” to describe someone who doesn’t belief their own horseshit?

    • RichardSRussell

      It’s kind of like the 2 versions of the Golden Rule. The popular one says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A more subtle but probably preferable version reverses the polarity: “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do to you.” (Neither one of them deals well with masochism, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

      Largely agreeing with your basic point, I think the same kind of approach works here as well. Rather than say “You’re an atheist with respect to most gods; I just believe in one less than you.”, go with “You don’t believe in most gods; I don’t believe in any.”

  • Cygnus

    “I like to study arguments on both sides of the God question.”
    ===
    Nice beginning, but “both sides of God questions” argue about God, when if fact the atheist has one less God to question than theists have, yet you imply that an atheist is one side of those “both sides of the God question”. Too complicated?

    But then I think that you explain that an atheist fallacy happens when an atheists declared that they have one less God than theists have, yet are still questioning that one less God theists have.

    Do I understand correctly, from your post that the fallacy is a kind “division by zero”? Trying to divide zero, or by zero is a nonsense, so it is a fallacy to “God question” when God equal zero?

    • MNb

      Trying to divide (by) zero is not nonsense at all. See projective geometry. So no, once again you don’t understand correctly.

  • ningen

    It’s not a fallacy, it’s just a slightly misleading way of saying “We agree that there is insufficient reason for belief in all other gods. What we disagree on is that I think there is also insufficient reason for belief in God.”

    • I’m not sure why it’s misleading. The idea is that Christians are happy to dismiss gods, just like atheists. Why they handle that one last religion differently demands an explanation.

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        But we don’t “dismiss gods.” That’s simply a misrepresentation of what we do. Nor is theism fundamentally about “gods” anyway. Hence the significance of the fact that atheists can’t give a coherent explanation of what a “god” is in the first place.

        • Greg G.

          By following one religion, you reject every other religion. It’s the same issue. Every religion has the same lack of evidence as any other.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Actually no, the first sentence isn’t true. It’s not clear, for one thing, that there is a coherent thing called “religion.”

          Christianity, as I understand it, is in far sharper conflict with American nationalism than with Buddhism–yet the latter is usually called a religion (I know that many would disagree with that, but again that just points up the problems with the concept in the first place) and the former isn’t.

          Furthermore, “rejecting a religion” and “dismissing gods” are two different things.

          Atheists claim that all alleged encounters with a reality greater than the scientifically verifiable natural order (my best shot at nailing down the very slippery term “supernatural”) are simply mistakes.

          Theists, even very conservative Christians or Muslims or whatever, do not necessarily claim this about other people’s claims of such encounters. They may put a very negative spin on just what sorts of beings the “other” is encountering, or they may not. But either way, they allow for the possibility that something real is being experienced.

        • Susan

          Christianity, as I understand it, is in far sharper conflict with American nationalism than with Buddhism–yet the latter is usually called a religion

          Which christianity? Tell that to American churches.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Oh, I do–as often as anyone will listen to me 🙂

        • Susan

          I do–as often as anyone will listen to me:)

          Which christianity?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Any form of Trinitarian Christianity. If you mean “which do I belong to,” I have been a member of the Episcopal Church since 1998, but I also have ties to the United Methodist Church and have long considered becoming Catholic.

        • adam

          “and have long considered becoming Catholic.”

        • Susan

          Any form of Trinitarian Christianity.

          Except that of the people you are correcting. You and they can only argue the equivalent of “If Dracula and Frankenstein were playing poker…”

          You can make arguments based on the assumption that Yahwehjesus somehow explains everything that can ever be explained. You can do it for the flimsiest possible reasons and in the foggiest of terms. You can insist that hundreds of millions of years of natural selection were all about you. You can do it without providing an explanatory model or evidence that rescues it from the white noise of human thinking errors. But it doesn’t make it real.

          Only fellow yahwehjesusites will nod solemnly as though your first, key premise is a given. The rest of us explain very simply that you’ve done nothing to justify your premise. (You haven’t.)

          Explain any form of “Triinitarian Christianity” to me without diverting to vaguer and vaguer terminology…

          Like you did when I asked “Which christianity?” and you replied with “Any form of Trinitarian Christianity”.

        • Myna A.

          An up-vote x 10!

          You can insist that hundreds of millions of years of natural selection were all about you. You can do it without providing an explanatory model or evidence that rescues it from the white noise of human thinking errors.

          And that right there is worthy of uncorking a saved bottle of Da Vinci Chianti just to have read it.

        • Susan

          worthy of uncorking a saved bottle of Da Vinci Chianti

          Cheers! 🙂

        • You and they can only argue the equivalent of “If Dracula and Frankenstein were playing poker…”

          And what they actually say, “If God actually exists …,” is just about as ridiculous. It’s a bit like nails on a blackboard. Yes, of course, if you assume God then you can justify your crazy assumptions. But that’s the question, isn’t it? Why would you just assume the big question is true rather than justifying that it is?

        • Susan

          It’s a bit like nails on a blackboard.

          It’s a lot like nails on a blackboard.

        • Greg G.

          Actually no, the first sentence isn’t true. It’s not clear, for one thing, that there is a coherent thing called “religion.”

          Elsewhere you said it should be up to the theist what god they define so I substituted religion. You haven’t defined god and now you are trying to make religion indefinable.

          Furthermore, “rejecting a religion” and “dismissing gods” are two different things.

          Pretty much the same issue. You are rejecting all but one as real. None have actual evidence. Is there anything but a sense of visceral warmth?

          Theists, even very conservative Christians or Muslims or whatever, do not necessarily claim this about other people’s claims of such encounters. They may put a very negative spin on just what sorts of beings the “other” is encountering, or they may not. But either way, they allow for the possibility that something real is being experienced.

          Real or not, it cannot be evidence for any particular religious belief. If a person questions the next person’s religious experience, it discounts there own without realizing it brings their own into question either way.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I have several times defined my concept of God as a perfect source of all reality outside itself (or, in Christian Trinitarian terms, of itself as well–but perhaps that’s complicating things too much).

          I am quite consistently questioning whether there is a coherent, unified concept of “gods” or of “religion.” I am arguing, instead, that there is a coherent tradition of theism which posits a perfect source of all reality. Of course one can add all kinds of complexities to that basic definition, but that’s the core. Some “religions” reject this, others accept it. Some people hold to theism without being convinced of the truth of any particular religion, or hold to a syncretistic view drawn from many religions.

          I don’t see the logical force of saying that disagreeing with how another person interprets their experience discounts one’s own experience.

          The point is that there exists a body of data concerning purported human encounters with a reality people variously describe as sacred or supernatural or divine or spiritual. It is possible to explain away all such encounters in scientific terms and to claim that there is nothing to them beyond such explanations. In that case one is a “naturalistic” atheist.

          It is also possible to argue that they do in fact point to something real whose ultimate significance transcends scientific explanation (whether or not the experiences can be explained scientifically). In that case one will be some variant of what is called a “religious” or “spiritual” person.

          In the latter case, some hold to a single source of all reality, including “spiritual” experiences. This would be what I call “theism” or, in a broad sense, “monotheism” (I prefer “theism” to “monotheism” but have been told that that’s too broad a term). Others (“hard polytheists,” Buddhists–at least Theravada Buddhists) don’t.

          People who hold to the existence of God or of “spiritual reality” in some other sense do not need in any way to be embarrassed in discussions with atheists by the fact that they differ among themselves as to the nature of “spiritual reality” or of God. Their differences with each other are not of the same kind as their differences with atheists, and atheists should stop pretending that they are. (I think the case is clearer with regard to theism. But you guys insist on speaking of “gods” and other spiritual beings as part of what you deny, so I’m trying to accommodate you.)

        • Greg G.

          After i posted that, I came across some posts where you described such but I didn’t think they were older than my post.

          Buddhism got ideas from the Greeks and so did Christianity, and they may have influenced one another, so it is not surprising they are similar.

          I don’t see the logical force of saying that disagreeing with how another person interprets their experience discounts one’s own experience.

          If someone says they had a personal experience of a visit from a dead person or an angel while they were in bed but fully awake and we’re influenced to believe in their religion and that matches up very much like your religious experience with same message about your religion, you can’t honestly deny the authenticity of their experience without questioning your own. If you accept it, then it shows that type of religious experience is not a reliable method of obtaining religious truth which invalidates your own.

          I have heard that story from two people. I used to have waking dreams when I was young. About a third of people report these but usually they stop by the mid-30s. A person feels wide awake and very alert but are often paralyzed. But people who think it was a religious experience are reluctant to consider it a rather common phenomenon.

          NDEs would be another religious experience for some of various religions.

          People are atheist because of a lack of evidence for any gods or supernatural activity. You present an elaborate contrivance to avoid the possibility of evidence.

        • One epileptic patient refused to have the condition treated because that was her channel to God. She said, “If God chooses to speak through a disease to me, that’s fine.”

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I would say rather that atheists have adopted an elaborate contrivance to rule out of court any possible evidence. Your example above is a good one. You claim that if two people both have experiences that lead them to different religious conclusions, then it’s impossible that either of them is valid. But that is unreasonable. Two scientists have frequently used similar methods and come to different conclusions, and you don’t say that the scientific method is invalid. Yes, I grant of course that it’s easier in scientific methodology to redo the experiment and resolve the conflict. But the conflict may in fact go on for quite a long time. And given the nature of the reality allegedly addressed by religious experience, particularly in the classically “apophatic” understanding of God as transcending all categories we have, one would expect that reconciling differing results would be more complex and difficult. Indeed, if the apophatic understanding of God is the right one, it is possible that it might be impossible to reconcile differing understandings within our limited conceptual framework. I tend to think, for instance, that both classical theism and the Buddhist “no-self” doctrine are true, even though they seem to contradict each other (i.e., “no-self” seems to deny the possibility of “God” in the sense defined by theists). If God is, in fact, beyond our capacity to comprehend fully, then the Buddhist position might simply be an extreme form of “apophaticism,” denying the idolatrous constructs that we come up with. And at the same time, traditional Western theism might also be expressing something very real about God.

          It is also, of course, possible that one or both people are indeed mistaken. Experience is by no means proof. But it is evidence. There is all kinds of evidence. Science narrows down the rules of evidence in order to allow for certainty about regular physical processes, and it has achieved impressive results by doing so.

        • Greg G.

          I would say rather that atheists have adopted an elaborate contrivance to rule out of court any possible evidence.

          The rules for evidence are there for a reason.

          “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
            –Richard P. Feynman

          You claim that if two people both have experiences that lead them to different religious conclusions, then it’s impossible that either of them is valid.

          No, I didn’t. I said that it proves that it is an unreliable method to determine the veracity of either. Neither can claim that theirs is the more accurate claim. But if one was real, why did the other happen? It is then more reasonable to conclude that neither was a true supernatural event. Since people have waking dreams involving ghosts, kidnap by space aliens, human intruders, why would we consider visits by Hindu gods, angels or Jesus to be any different? A friend told me he was in bed but still awake and heard a crash. He called the police to report that someone had crashed a car into his living room. But when he went into his living room, nothing had happened. The police told him they get many calls like that. He was actually dreaming that he was awake.

          Two scientists have frequently used similar methods and come to different conclusions, and you don’t say that the scientific method is invalid. Yes, I grant of course that it’s easier in scientific methodology to redo the experiment and resolve the conflict. But the conflict may in fact go on for quite a long time. And given the nature of the reality allegedly addressed by religious experience, particularly in the classically “apophatic” understanding of God as transcending all categories we have, one would expect that reconciling differing results would be more complex and difficult.

          But each scientist calls it a hypothesis until an experiment can be done to eliminate one or the other. But the other is not proved by the experiment, it just becomes a possible stepping stone to further knowledge or it is eliminated in turn by the next experiment.

          And at the same time, traditional Western theism might also be expressing something very real about God.

          Or not. The hypothesis makes no specific claim that can be measured or evaluated. It’s like asking what shade of pink is the invisible pink unicorn. But it is worse because the hypothesis is evidence-free. It is based on nothing but speculation motivated by wishful thinking.

          It is also, of course, possible that one or both people are indeed mistaken. Experience is by no means proof. But it is evidence. There is all kinds of evidence. Science narrows down the rules of evidence in order to allow for certainty about regular physical processes, and it has achieved impressive results by doing so.

          You can say that some waking dreams are authentic supernatural experiences, but you are making claims without evidence. Are all waking dreams about angels real visits by angels or just some of them? How would you know? You could just as easily say that all coin flips are miracles that come down the opposite that they would have without a miracle. You could say that some coin flips are miracles. You would be cherry-picking your evidence.

          There were serious studies into extra-sensory perception back in the 60s or 70s. Parapsychologists ran tests and got positive results. When their studies were scrutinized, it was found that if a subject started off slow with a lot of misses, the data was discarded because “the subject wasn’t warmed up yet.” But they never discarded data when the subject was scoring above average. Naturally the scores were skewed. When the experiments were done without discardind any data, the best subjects scored no better than chance.

          If you are going to count waking dreams about Christian angels, you have to count Hindu gods and space aliens, too. You would have to score the results in a double-blind system. Collecting anecdotes from your Christian friends is not data.

        • Science narrows down the rules of evidence in order to allow for certainty about regular physical processes, and it has achieved impressive results by doing so.

          And unreproducible personal experience is one of the things that science’s rules of evidence discards.

        • Kodie

          It’s pretty obvious that religious people of all stripes attribute normal, natural events to a magical being, the creator of all being, or whatever. It is fiction they tell themselves because they don’t know or don’t care about the real explanation.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “I would say rather that atheists have adopted an elaborate contrivance to rule out of court any possible evidence.”

          There can be evidence for ANYTHING, but we only can come to so many conclusions from the available evidence or otherwise give ourselves license to just make up anything.

        • People who hold to the existence of God or of “spiritual reality” in some other sense do not need in any way to be embarrassed in discussions with atheists by the fact that they differ among themselves as to the nature of “spiritual reality” or of God. Their differences with each other are not of the same kind as their differences with atheists, and atheists should stop pretending that they are.

          I disagree. I think theists have much to be embarrassed about. Not only does Christianity have 45,000 denominations and counting, but the supernatural views of the other religions make it an even bigger tent. Think of the Venn diagram–the overlap is basically, “There is a supernatural.” They can’t even agree on the number of gods there, let alone their names or how to placate them.

        • adam

          ” that there is a coherent superstition based tradition of theism which posits a perfect source of all reality.”

          ftfy

          “I don’t see the logical force of saying that disagreeing with how
          another person interprets their experience discounts one’s own
          experience.”

          And why should it?
          The experience is real, the interpretation is supernatural.

          The experience isnt discounted, I have have the experiences MANY TIME.

          But of course the interpretation is based on superstition and propaganda.

        • adam

          ” that there is a coherent superstition based tradition of theism which posits a perfect source of all reality.”

          ftfy

          “I don’t see the logical force of saying that disagreeing with how another person interprets their experience discounts one’s own experience.”

          And why should it?
          The experience is real, the interpretation is supernatural.

          The experience isnt discounted, I have have the experiences MANY TIME.

          But of course the interpretation is based on superstition and propaganda..

        • Kodie

          No, you’re being pedantic.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          It’s called “careful use of language in order to have a substantive discussion.”

          What do you gain by using language sloppily?

        • Kodie

          We’re trying to get to a point here, and you’re personifying it, probably unintentionally. You make a lot of wind, is what I’m really precisely trying to say.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          The point is clearly erroneous. Christians and other monotheists are not committed to believing in the non-existence of supernatural beings other than the one God we worship. All the major monotheistic religions contain belief in such beings–angels, demons, djinn, etc. We just don’t give them the worship that we believe is due only to God.

          Hence, the claim that we deny the existence of all supernatural beings but one, you are misrepresenting us and firing away at a straw man of your own construction.

          Now if you want to define a “god” as something other than a “supernatural being,” that’s your move. I’m taking the definition I was recently given (after many entreaties).

        • Kodie

          That’s where you’re being pedantic. You pretty clearly look down on some others’ sincere beliefs, you simply consider them invalid and unimportant to your own worldview. That you perceive an actual god and assume they also perceive that same god, you don’t, pedantically disbelieve in “their god,” but you do disbelieve in their beliefs of what that god is or wants or how it behaves. Where some may think god makes it rain when he thinks it should rain, you almost certainly understand enough science to comprehend that it is not god who decides maybe it’s a good day for rain, but you almost certainly do believe that god did create what we call weather.

          You’re not committed to disbelieving another god because you think it’s the same god you believe in, so why would you disbelieve, how many of those gods do you disbelieve? You would say “zero.” You believe in all of them because they are in some form describing the same god you believe in. We fucking understand, ok? You’re not really making your point, but you’re proving Bob’s.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          So really Bob’s point is the entirely trite one that people believe what they believe and not something else?

          I fail to see what the point supposedly is here.

          And actually, I do not in any way dismiss the beliefs of people who think that some deity makes it rain. Multiple kinds of causation can work together.

          Enlightenment disdain for “superstition” is one of the great false steps of modern culture. This is the fundamental issue, I think. You guys are trading on the casual, unthinking ways in which many modern Christians accept Enlightenment presuppositions and apply them to all religions except their own. I get that many people do this. But it is in no way integral to theism, and indeed if anything the contrary is the case–to take seriously the claims of Christianity or any other major theistic tradition is to take seriously the possibility that other traditions are dealing with spiritual realities as well, even if we disagree on how to interpret those realities.

          Atheists, in contrast, are (at least as represented on this forum) committed to scorn and contempt toward _all_ supernatural claims. That is an extraordinary display of narrow-mindedness and prejudice. But go ahead. I should stop bothering you guys.

        • Kodie

          And actually, I do not in any way dismiss the beliefs of people who think that some deity makes it rain. Multiple kinds of causation can work together.

          Natural explanations pretty much cover it, and whatever dances or prayers or whatever you wish do not add or subtract anything.

          Supernatural claims are up to you to demonstrate evidence for. In the meantime, how can I believe them. Why should I believe something I don’t believe, any more than you don’t believe something you don’t believe? Why don’t you believe the things you don’t believe? How much thought and consideration do you put into trying? THAT is the point.

        • Atheists, in contrast, are (at least as represented on this forum) committed to scorn and contempt toward _all_ supernatural claims. That is an extraordinary display of narrow-mindedness and prejudice.

          Not sure where the prejudice charge comes from.

          When someone gives you a supernatural claim that’s outside Christianity, I’m initially skeptical. Could be true, of course, but I’m going to need a mountain of evidence to show me. Is this unreasonable? How would you respond in this situation–assume that it’s correct first, or would you be skeptical, too?

        • WayneMan

          Bob is correct. If I claim I have a pink unicorn in my barn, are you going to assume it is true, or maybe even possibly true, or are you going to demand I take you to the barn, let you pet it, take a sky ride. If you are honest, I believe the latter would be required from you in that case. Yet you see it as unfair, and closed minded, when atheists want that latter level of proof for all supernaturals. We see no reason to give religious claims a free pass, where most religious followers seem to have no issue with it.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          If you say you have a pink unicorn in your barn and that it behaves just like a normal animal, I will indeed think that.

          If you tell me that unicorns exist in another dimension and are only visible sometimes or to some people, I will be skeptical, of course, unless I have previous experience and/or a paradigm that makes your claim particularly plausible. But I certainly won’t dismiss it, and I won’t assume that a visit to your barn will resolve the issue. It will all depend on your character and on other matters of context.

        • Greg G.

          If you say you have a pink unicorn in your barn and that it behaves just like a normal animal, I will indeed think that.

          If WayneMan says he has a white horse in his barn, you might believe it because you know there are some people who have white horses and barns are often where horses are kept. If he says he has a pink unicorn, you should require evidence before you accept it. Otherwise, you are gullible.

          If I tell you that I have a 2011 Ford Fusion with less than 35,000 miles on it and it is worth a million dollars but I am willing to sell it for $600K, will you take me up on it? I can deliver it to you tomorrow if you are within a day’s drive from me but the mileage might be higher.

        • WayneMan

          “If you say you have a pink unicorn in your barn and that it behaves just like a normal animal, I will indeed think that.”

          I call BS on that response. You responded more honestly to a different post, where you said you would not believe it unless shown.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I meant, in the first sentence, “I will indeed think as you say, that if you can’t show me the animal you are pulling my leg.”

        • Greg G.

          Didn’t he mention that it is an invisible pink unicorn? If you can’t see it, it is proved to be invisible. We know it is pink by faith.

          If you ask and believe sincerely, an invisible pink unicorn will live in your barn.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I would then want to know how “pinkness” can be a property of an invisible creature. It might reveal itself to some and not to others.

          And again, this would strain my credulity a bit, but if the person was very trustworthy and I was confident he wasn’t joking, and if he provided me with some context to make sense of the belief (i.e., a narrative of the world within this made sense), I might or might not be open to belief, depending on the circumstances.

          That is to say, I am by no means committed to disbelief in unicorns or other beings who can only be observed under conditions that are not entirely under my control (e.g., they might be capable of choosing whether or not to let me observe them), and/or whose capacity to be observed depends on my frame of mind. I do not assume that this means that they are simply hallucinations or other delusions, although of course that’s possible.

        • Kodie

          You overestimate your capability to tell who is fooling you and whether they are telling the truth or just repeating a lie they believe with conviction, or just lying.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Nope. I’m quite aware that I could be fooled. But I would rather run the risk of being fooled than remain prisoner of an overly narrow paradigm, which incidentally fails to explain the aspects of life that most need explaining.

        • Kodie

          Prisoner? How more condescending can you be? What aspects of life do you need explanations for?

        • Kodie

          Still no answer.

        • MNb

          Well, thus far you haven’t explained anything, so this is a classical case of the pot and the kettle. Sure I can’t explain everything, but I rather adopt a view that explains several things.

        • Greg G.

          I would then want to know how “pinkness” can be a property of an invisible creature. It might reveal itself to some and not to others.

          I think pink requires it emit or reflect light at various wavelengths but more intensely at the red end of the spectrum. Invisible pink unicorns do that except it allows light in the visible spectrum to pass through. Maybe it is like a chameleon or an octopus that blends so well that it cannot be seen. We cannot be certain because they are difficult to study.

          And again, this would strain my credulity a bit, but if the person was very trustworthy and I was confident he wasn’t joking, and if he provided me with some context to make sense of the belief (i.e., a narrative of the world within this made sense), I might or might not be open to belief, depending on the circumstances.

          Right, but if the story was that an angel came through the bedroom wall while the person was still wide awake and alert but they were paralyzed during the conversation, I would be more likely to believe the untrusty person with a hole in the wall broken from the inside than the trustworthy person, as the story is consistent with a waking dream and people have been known to mistake the dream for a real experience.

          That is to say, I am by no means committed to disbelief in unicorns or other beings who can only be observed under conditions that are not entirely under my control (e.g., they might be capable of choosing whether or not to let me observe them), and/or whose capacity to be observed depends on my frame of mind. I do not assume that this means that they are simply hallucinations or other delusions, although of course that’s possible.

          I am not committed to disbelief in anything but I am skeptical of things that appear to be made up and evidence-free and, especially, evidence-proof.

        • MNb

          “this would strain my credulity a bit”
          And we’re back at “I just believe in one less god”. You haven’t written much about your god (the one you call God); only that He/She/It is the source of all being and provides perfect morals.
          That stretches my credulity more than a bit as
          1. no believer ever has managed to describe how “being the source of all being” actually works, suggesting that it’s just a meaningless statement;
          2. I never have encountered perfect morals.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “Atheists, in contrast, are (at least as represented on this forum) committed to scorn and contempt toward _all_ supernatural claims.”

          For many of us it began with trying to find good arguments and evidence to support those claims. It’s the remants of old shame in some us that you exemplify. The arguments you use are a word salad you can’t even get “God” to endorse or even acknowledge.

        • adam

          “I don’t see the logical force of saying that disagreeing with how another person interprets their experience discounts one’s own experience.”

          Well when one can’t validate their ‘experience’ with science and science better explains theses ‘experiences’, then you are being dishonest or delusional.

        • adam

          “It’s not clear, for one thing, that there is a coherent thing called “religion.””

          Actually it is very clear, you are just being DISHONEST.

          Simple Definition of religion – Merriam Webster
          : the belief in a god or in a group of gods
          : an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          The experiences are one sided. People claim they encountered the supernatural. The supernatural makes no such claims that it encountered people.

        • You don’t dismiss gods? Then explain what you do–not just you, but all Christians.

          Nor is theism fundamentally about “gods” anyway.

          You’ll have to explain that one. Gods are certainly in there somewhere.

          Hence the significance of the fact that atheists can’t give a coherent explanation of what a “god” is in the first place.

          Nope, not a one. It’s like how vampires can’t stand garlic.

          But we’re lucky to have you here. Rather than me try to define “god” and you telling me that I’m wrong and to try again, you do it. If this word is so confusing and ambiguous that people regularly trip over it, define it for us.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You aren’t making sense. Why should I define it when it has no importance for me and it has importance for you (apparently).

          I’m happy to take the definition someone else gave of a “supernatural being,” and shelve my (reasonable) cavils about the word “supernatural” as applied to any being other than God. By that definition Christians believe in the existence of many gods–we call them angels and demons.

          Is that straightforward enough for you?

        • Why should I define it

          … because you’ve had your knickers in a twist for days now because of the non-definition of the word “god”? Or is this a trick question?

          If you have a definition you’re burning to share, then do so. Or we can spend 5 seconds at any online dictionary and use that definition.

          I’m happy to take the definition someone else gave of a “supernatural being,” and shelve my (reasonable) cavils about the word “supernatural” as applied to any being other than God. By that definition Christians believe in the existence of many gods–we call them angels and demons.

          Zeus is a god, right? Quetzalcoatl? Xenu? All gods, right?

          And what’s the problem with “supernatural”? Yahweh and Zeus are both supernatural, are they not?

        • Thought2Much

          Edwin seems to think that if we can’t define his favorite thing the way he’s imagining in his own head, then we can’t deny that this favorite thing of his exists.

          This makes him what I call a fauxlosopher.

        • Greg G.

          Thumbs up for ” fauxlosopher”.

        • Thanks for expanding our vocabulary!

        • Thought2Much

          Here’s another one that I think may apply to what Edwin does: metabation.

        • OK, but I think it needs to sound dirtier. “Mental masturbation” sounds pretty dirty.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          The problem with “supernatural” is that from a monotheistic perspective everything that is not God is created by God, and it seems reasonable to define “nature” as “the sum total of everything created by God.” It is of course possible to divide creation into “supernatural” creation and “natural” creation. (C. S. Lewis, for instance, famously or infamously argued that not only angels and demons but also the human mind was “supernatural.”) But I’m dubious of the distinction. If angels, for instance, turned out to be beings who evolved biologically like us or could be explained scientifically in some other way, I don’t see that Christian faith would be substantially altered.

        • The problem with “supernatural” is that from a monotheistic perspective everything that is not God is created by God, and it seems reasonable to define “nature” as “the sum total of everything created by God.”

          The dictionary is your friend. I’ll bet it could help you with this little puzzle of how to define “supernatural.”

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          We might need to suit up in giant robots, though 😉

        • RichardSRussell

          Wait! You’re the guy who says that gods exist in the first place and you want us to define what you mean? Shouldn’t that be your job?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t think you will find me claiming that “gods exist,” precisely for that reason.

          I believe that God exists, which is an entirely different proposition. Atheists insist that my concept of “God” is really a subset of the broad concept of “gods,” and I have earnestly entreated many of you to tell me, in that case, what this broad concept is of which you think the concept I actually care about (“God”) is merely a subset.

          If by “gods” you mean “beings whose powers and capacities greatly surpass those of humans,” then yes, as a Christian I accept that such beings exist (angels and demons), although if they didn’t the basic tenets of my faith would not be radically different. How far the various stories about “gods” told in various cultures correspond to the behavior of real superhuman beings is a point on which I’m open-mindedly agnostic.

        • RichardSRussell

          Well, would you be willing to accept examples instead of a comprehensive definition? Examples would include:
          • Zeus (Greek)
          • Jupiter (Roman)
          • Odin (Norse)
          • Quetzlcoatl (Aztec)
          • Kokopelli (Hopi)
          • Gitche Manitou (Algonquian)
          • Ahura Mazda (Zoroastrian)
          • Osiris (Egyptian)
          • Brahma (Hindu)
          • Anansi (Ashanti)
          • Olorun (Yoruba)
          • Adad (Assyria)
          • Tammuz (Syria)
          • Attis (Phrygia)
          • Mithra (Persia)
          • Krishna (India)
          • Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarians)
          Almost all of these were credited by their adherents with having created the world, which surely would be a task worthy of a god, wouldn’t you agree? How many of these gods do you think actually exist?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          The only one I’m sure doesn’t exist is the “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” since it is a childish joke invented by atheists.

          Of the others, Ahura Mazda is clearly a description of God, the one God I believe in. Many of the others–most clearly Odin, Zeus in the Hesiodic account at least, and Adad and Tammuz, are clearly beings who exist within the universe alongside other beings. So if they exist (a point on which I have no religious belief one way or the other, although my personal inclination is to think that they probably aren’t mere figments of the imagination), they are beings created by God.

        • Kodie

          It’s not a childish joke, it’s satire. Your such a fool.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Some satire is effective. Ineffective satire that shows no understanding of what it claims to satirize is a childish joke.

        • Kodie

          You seem to think your god wasn’t the invention of men.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Obviously the idea of God is a human idea. I think there are good reasons to believe that it, and everything else that is true and beautiful, and we ourselves, are God’s invention first.

        • Michael Neville

          I think there are good reasons to believe that it, and everything else that is true and beautiful, and we ourselves, are God’s invention first.

          What are these reasons? As you’re doubtless aware, most atheists say “show us evidence that gods exist and we’ll believe in them.” Here’s your chance to convert us to theism.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I am not here to convert people to theism.

        • Michael Neville

          You had your chance, you declined.

        • MR

          I am not here to convert people to theism.

          =D Classic cop-out!

          “I have good reasons…, but I’m not going to tell you what they are…”

          =D Ha-ha-ha! What a gas!

        • adam

          Then you are doing a bang up job at not converting.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Of course. Has anyone ever come onto these forums and converted people to theism?

          I am trying hard to converse respectfully, but it’s difficult when people say disingenuous things like “this is your chance to convert me to theism.” We all know that’s not going to happen here and now. Deconversions don’t happen all at once. Conversions don’t happen all at once.

          In fact, I would consider it rude to try to convert people to theism on these forums. If you guys attack religion in ways that I consider to be unfair and fallacious, I think I have the right to respond. But general proselytism would I think be inappropriate, even if I were inclined to engage in it, which I’m really not. I am trying to address _specific_ misconceptions and misrepresentations. You and many other folks here seem determined to turn the discussion into a general showdown between theism and atheism. That was not my intention in getting involved in this discussion.

        • adam

          What you havent’ demonstrated is that your belief system is a reasonable and rational system to believe in.

        • Kodie

          If I understand what you’re trying to get across, and it’s not the first time I said so, a theist is anyone who is open to all magical thinking. You’re trying to defend your premise upon the idea that all gods are really the same god, or wait a second, mistaken concepts of a god that really aren’t any god. I mean, you reject volcano gods? Either you reject this as a primitive custom to throw a virgin into a volcano to appease the volcano god, because that’s a silly superstition, or you at least consider the volcano god real, if not the method of appeasing him. And just for shit’s sake, you don’t consider him a “god” because he’s not THE G-O-D, so you like to be pedantic about what may be called a god, but you heed its magical powers just the same, and feel something ceremonial may be offered by humans to satisfy the volcano god-dude, or a way to appeal to its humanity to suppress its anger.

          Tell us, please.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I have no problem referring to the volcano god as a “god,” because I distinguish between gods and God. However, I don’t see a terribly sharp distinction between “gods” and other superhuman beings, except for the kind of honor paid them.

          Of course, as a Christian, I think that sacrifice expresses profound truth which is fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus. The difference is that the true sacrifice is God’s offering of himself to us and for us, not something that we offer to appease an angry god.

        • Kodie

          There’s really no difference.

        • Kodie

          I find those reasons fallacious and appeals to emotion and ego and fear.

        • adam

          “Ineffective satire that shows no understanding of what it claims to satirize is a childish joke.”

          As it demonstrates the MAGICAL thinking/supernatural and contradictory statements about what it is.

          Then it IS effective…

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          It demonstrates it to those already convinced of it.

          To your meme: of course the challenge “prove that God doesn’t exist” is silly. One doesn’t have to prove a negative.

          I should probably be more sympathetic to frustration you guys feel with the silly arguments you hear from a lot of theists. I just wish you would come up with better arguments on your own side, instead of nonsense like this “one fewer god” business.

        • adam

          ” I just wish you would come up with better arguments on your own side, instead of nonsense like this “one fewer god” business.”

          It best demonstrates that theists dismiss gods all the time, they just dont apply the same rational thinking to their own god(s)

        • Michael Neville

          As I said previously, the Flying Spaghetti Monster was used to satirize intelligent design, which is Biblical literalist creationism with “god” replaced by “intelligent designer”. ID was invented by a lawyer named Phillip Johnson to get around the Constitutional prohibition of teaching religious mythology as science.

          Since then Pastafarianism has been taken to extremes but the initial idea was satire that worked because it did understand what it was satirizing. It worked so well it affected public policy in Kansas.

        • You believe in Ahura Mazda? So then you’re a Zoroastrian?

          If not, then don’t yank our chain by lying about whom you believe in.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I’m not a Zoroastrian. Ahura Mazda is the Zoroastrian term for God.

        • adam

          Just as EVERY God is a cultural or language term for God.

        • Ahura Mazda is the Zoroastrian term for one of the Zoroastrian gods. Don’t tell me you believe in him if you’re not going to also take on the mantle of being a Zoroastrian.

          What I presume you mean is that the Zoroastrians are well intentioned but a little confused, and what they think is Ahura Mazda is actually Yahweh. If that’s the case, you could’ve said that.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Zoroastrianism, like other religions, has taken a number of forms, but at least some forms of Zoroastrianism have described Ahura Mazda as uncreated. Certainly Zoroastrianism–at least in some of its forms–does ascribe the creation of “evil” beings to Ahriman, and that’s a major difference. But I would still find Ahura Mazda recognizable as the God I believe in. The only exception would be “Zurvanism,” which i believe no longer exists and which postulated a prior deity from whom both Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu proceeded.

          Evidence that I’m not just making an idiosyncratic judgment here is found in the fact that Islam has historically recognized Zoroastrians as “people of the Book” along with Christians and Jews–i.e., as fellow monotheists.

        • Michael Neville

          Actually the Flying Spaghetti Monster was invented in 2005 by Bobby Henderson in protest of a Kansas State Board of Education decision to give equal time to teaching Intelligent Design as an alternative evolution in biology classes. Henderson argued that his particular creation myth should also be an alternative. After Pastafarianism became widely known, the Board of Education voted against teaching intelligent design. So despite your sneer, there was a serious and successful reason for Henderson to invent his “god”.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The only one I’m sure doesn’t exist is the “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” since it is a childish joke invented by atheists.

          Oh deary me. And you think that makes much of a difference?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parody_religion

          As for the rest of your comment, you just don’t get the point at all, do you?

          Try taking John Loftus’ Outsider Test for Faith.

          As Richard Dawkins says…

          Though this idea has been voiced before, Loftus is the first to name it, rigorize it, and give it an extensive philosophical defense; moreover, by doing so, he is the first to cause a concerted apologetic to arise attempting to dodge it, to which he could then respond. The end result is one of the most effective and powerful arguments for atheism there is. It is, in effect, a covering argument that subsumes all other arguments for atheism into a common framework.

          http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/outsider-test-for-faith.html

          Dodge it is exactly what you are attempting here.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Of course I think it makes a huge difference.

          What point exactly are “parody religions” supposed to prove? Of course the parody religions look just like real religions to the _atheists_. But from a theistic perspective, that just confirms our impression that atheists are pretty clueless. The joke, as far as I’m concerned, is squarely on you for thinking that the “flying spaghetti monster” actually looks like “gods” people have actually believed in.

          I’m not dodging the “outsider test” at all. I take other religions in which I was not raised very seriously. I believe that it is entirely rational for people to take the religion in which they were raised as their default option, and I fully expect people raised in other religions/philosophies/paradigms to do so. Sometimes people come to the conclusion that their paradigm is unsatisfactory, and they experience a “conversion” to another paradigm. Many people in this discussion have experienced such a “conversion” away from Christianity to some sort of atheistic paradigm (I’m not arguing that “atheism” is a religion–I mean simply that you now have a paradigm that does not include a belief in God or in supernatural beings, and you find that paradigm more satisfactory than you did whatever kind of Christian paradigm you used to hold).

          I fail to see how any of this is supposed to be damning for Christianity or any other religion. Christianity has, after all, grown very largely through conversion from people who grew up in other paradigms. And while we could argue over just how much of that was due to coercion or subtler forms of political and social pressure, and how that compares to the reasons people have for converting to other paradigms, we should be able to agree that the causal role of such pressures in conversion to Christianity is greater than 0% but less than 100%. I.e., conversions to Christianity can’t be fully explained by such factors. This doesn’t prove Christianity true, but it means that for some people Christianity has in fact passed the “outsider test” with flying colors. (So have Islam, Buddhism, and naturalistic atheism or whatever Bob and other atheists here would like to call their paradigm.)

        • Of course the parody religions look just like real religions to the _atheists_. But from a theistic perspective, that just confirms our impression that atheists are pretty clueless.

          Said just like a clueless theist. You know what Poe’s Law says, right?

          You know people actually believe in Scientology, right? People actually believe the Mormon story that Joseph Smith dug up golden plates (but conveniently doesn’t have them anymore because the angel had to put them back in God’s library). These are ridiculous religions from the standpoint of we outsiders, but people really believe nonetheless.

        • I fail to see how any of this is supposed to be damning for Christianity or any other religion.

          Because, as you just admitted, people believe in the religion they were raised in because they were raised in it, not because it’s true. I’m sure many then learn more about their religion and convince themselves that their religion is based in fact, but this isn’t much of a correct-religion-finding algorithm if people in all religions conclude from it, “Yup! Just as I thought—my religion is correct.”

          Christianity has, after all, grown very largely through conversion from people who grew up in other paradigms.

          Read the latest international Pew study. Christianity gets very little of its growth from conversion. Most is from new Christians making more little Christians. If Christianity were an adults-only thing (like voting or driving), it would wither out within a few generations, like the Shakers.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Nothing like a bit of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias to shore up ones own ridiculous nonsense over all others, what?

        • Ignorant Amos

          What point exactly are “parody religions” supposed to prove?

          Well I did give you a link, but whatever.

          A parody religion or mock religion is a belief system that challenges spiritual convictions of others, often through humor, satire, or burlesque (literary ridicule). Often created to achieve a specific purpose related to another belief system, a parody religion can be a parody of several religions, sects, gurus, cults, or new religious movements at the same time or even a parody of no particular religion, instead parodying the concept of religious belief itself. In some parody religions, emphasis is on having fun and being a convenient excuse for pleasant social interaction among the like-minded (e.g., the Church of the SubGenius). Other parody religions target a specific religion, sect, cult, or new religious movement.

          One approach to parody religion aims to highlight deficiencies in particular pro-religious arguments — the thinking being that if a given argument can also be used to support a clear parody, then the original argument is clearly flawed. An example of this is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which parodies the equal time argument employed by intelligent design and Creationism.

          Of course the parody religions look just like real religions to the _atheists_. But from a theistic perspective, that just confirms our impression that atheists are pretty clueless.

          Spoooiiing!…am going through the meter’s here rightly.

          The joke, as far as I’m concerned, is squarely on you for thinking that the “flying spaghetti monster” actually looks like “gods” people have actually believed in.

          Too funny. What does the FSM deity look like? How do you know? What does the IPU look like? How do you know? What does Yahweh look like? What does Jesus look like? How do you know? What does any deity look like? How do you know? See a pattern here?

          I have no use for such contrivances, they are all of equal nonsense and non believability to me than any other of the plethora of deities proposed throughout human history.

          If you are referring to the imagined looks, then your head is still up yer arse.

          https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/f3/6e/7d/f36e7ddb075dff253efaeaf2363d35ec.jpg

          http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-svgN4qJC1kE/VEeuz3aWvwI/AAAAAAAABi4/_ZZxaVWOgH4/s1600/hine2.jpg

          http://www.costumesupercenter.com/images/SEO/resources/egyptiangods.jpg

        • adam

          “Christianity has, after all, grown very largely through conversion from people who grew up in other paradigms. ”

          Yes, through force and propaganda

        • Ignorant Amos

          I’m not dodging the “outsider test” at all. I take other religions in which I was not raised very seriously.

          Yeah, but taking them seriously is not the same as believing them to be true is it? If you believed other religions to be true then you’d be one of those other religions, or a heretic, but you don’t. For the same reasons you don’t believe them to be true, believers in those religions and none, don’t believe yours to be true either.

          I believe that it is entirely rational for people to take the religion in which they were raised as their default option, and I fully expect people raised in other religions/philosophies/paradigms to do so.

          Of course you do. A lot of us here also did. I was born into the world view of my parents, their parents and their parents, parents. But that could not have been the whole story could it? My back religious background is of sectarian Protestantism, but that couldn’t always have been. Someone’s beliefs were different from their parents somewhere along the path. That’s why there are 45,000+ different Christianity’s, many of them you appear not to believe in also. So as far as it goes, rationality appears to have bugger all to do with it. Something the we have all learned, hence atheism.

          Sometimes people come to the conclusion that their paradigm is unsatisfactory, and they experience a “conversion” to another paradigm. Many people in this discussion have experienced such a “conversion” away from Christianity to some sort of atheistic paradigm (I’m not arguing that “atheism” is a religion–I mean simply that you now have a paradigm that does not include a belief in God or in supernatural beings, and you find that paradigm more satisfactory than you did whatever kind of Christian paradigm you used to hold).

          Indeed…but the $64,000 question is why? If it so rational to follow in our parents footsteps, what was so convincing for the extreme paradigm shift? What do you think it was that was the clincher for all these educated rational individuals to up sticks and abandon their forefathers religion? Could it have been something akin to the OTfF do ya think? The realisation that the stuff perceived as nonsense in all other faiths is no more or less nonsense than my own? Other than the special privilege one gives their own faith of course.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I fail to see how any of this is supposed to be damning for Christianity or any other religion. Christianity has, after all, grown very largely through conversion from people who grew up in other paradigms. And while we could argue over just how much of that was due to coercion or subtler forms of political and social pressure, and how that compares to the reasons people have for converting to other paradigms, we should be able to agree that the causal role of such pressures in conversion to Christianity is greater than 0% but less than 100%. I.e., conversions to Christianity can’t be fully explained by such factors.

          This doesn’t prove Christianity true, but it means that for some people Christianity has in fact passed the “outsider test” with flying colors.

          Well first of all, you haven’t taken the test. The test can’t be passed unless you take it first. That you made such an inane comment just shows how disingenuous you are on this subject.

          (So have Islam, Buddhism, and naturalistic atheism or whatever Bob and other atheists here would like to call their paradigm.)

          More tripe. More than one paradigm (and I’m not convinced your use of the word paradigm is correct here) can pass the test. If one is correct, all others are not.

          It’s pretty simple.

          No matter how seriously you take Islam, if you don’t believe that Mo rode a flying horse to meet up with Gabriel in order to get the divine word of Allah, then it’s nonsense.

          No matter how seriously you take Mormonism, if you don’t believe Smith was given golden tablets by angels which required a magic had and seer stone spectacles to read, then it’s nonsense.

          No matter how seriously you take Scientology, if you don’t believe the universe is 76 trillion years old, 75 million years ago Xenu brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes, then it’s nonsense.

          The list of other religions that you don’t believe the nonsense about, whether you take them seriously or not, is extensive. The nonsense in your religion is viewed in exactly the same way as the nonsense you see in others by those other believers and none.

          If you are here claiming you don’t see any nonsense in other religions, you are lying.

          The tactic of claiming your God by any other name, is still your God, is also ridiculous.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I can be unpersuaded of a claim without considering it nonsense.

          I don’t take Scientology very seriously because, again, it appears to have been founded as a joke, although in the case of Scientology some people do seem to believe in it seriously.

          I’m not sure how one “takes” the “outsider test.” I took you to mean “seriously consider how one would think about Christianity if one had not been brought up as a Christian.”
          And why is it ridiculous to claim that God is still God even if people call him by a different name?

        • Ignorant Amos

          No, I can be unpersuaded of a claim without considering it nonsense.

          You are talking in riddles. No one here is buying it. What would make a claim be unpersuasive to you? You can fudge the argument by dancing around the words being used. If a claim is unpersuasive, then you don’t believe it to be true. The reasons why you don’t believe such claims as true are the reasons other religions and non believers are unpersuaded by Christian claims as true. I’m just honest enough to call it as I see it, nonsense…other synonyms apply…it won’t change the argument a single jot, so your game of semantics is just that, a game.

          I don’t take Scientology very seriously because, again, it appears to have been founded as a joke, although in the case of Scientology some people do seem to believe in it seriously.

          There is no one on this planet that knows whether Christianity was a joke in the same vein. The number of people that believes in Scientology as a serious belief system dwarf’s the number of folk that believed early Christianity in the same time period…60 years…even with the modern technological media communication that can informs anyone with a bit of nous just what crackpot nonsense it is. Some people? Numbers anywhere from 700,00 to several million depending on source, oh that Christianity had grown so it’s first 60 years.

          But I see you’ve already abandoned a previous definition of what constitutes being taken serious with religions.

          I’m not sure how one “takes” the “outsider test.” I took you to mean “seriously consider how one would think about Christianity if one had not been brought up as a Christian.”

          Well there’s a bit more to it than that. You’ve already made a start above with your attitude to Scientology and your remark about being unpersuaded by other religions claims.

          So the way you refute your own religion in three easy steps is this: first, think of your religious beliefs, and think of what you would think of them if you hadn’t been brought up with them. Second, some argument or other about how your religion is special is going to come to mind, and what you do then is ask yourself if you would find a similar argument convincing if it were presented in defense of some other religion. Third, move on to the next argument you think up, and repeat the process, and just keep repeating the process until you run out of arguments.

          This may not quite be all you need to do to see why your own religion is false, but I find that nine times out of ten, the arguments religious believers give to defend their religion can be refuted just by pointing out that they wouldn’t find that argument convincing if a member of any other religion gave it.

          Also, I can’t force anyone to adopt this perspective of trying to objectively evaluate their own religion. If you look at the Outsider Test for Faith, and think to yourself, “nah, and is going to stick with the religion I’ve got, whether or not I’ve got a good reason for sticking with it,” there isn’t much I can say to you. But I think there’s still one thing I can ask of you: please be understanding of atheists who don’t think very highly of your religion, because all they’re doing is looking at your religion the way you look at everybody else’s religion.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2012/05/the-outsider-test-for-faith-and-how-to-take-it/

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Yes, that’s what I thought the “outsider test” was. That is exactly what I and many other Christians have done. And the answer in my case was that of course I would have good reasons to remain a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Jew if I were born in those religions. There is no way to be sure whether or not I would find the arguments for Christianity’s unique truth persuasive if I were born in another religion. I certainly think that between Christianity and Islam, Christianity has by far the stronger claim. I think this after discounting as well as I can for my bias. But I’m quite aware that I can’t discount my bias entirely. (Also, much would depend on whether I’d been brought up in Sufi Islam–but if I had been brought up in more legalistic forms of Islam, I might well find my way to Sufism.) Between Christianity and Buddhism the case is quite different. I value the unique goods of Christianity too much to abandon it for Buddhism, but it’s quite likely that I would value the unique goods of Buddhism too much to abandon it for Christianity if I were brought up Buddhist. But all of this (and really the whole concept of the “outsider test”) is pretty pointless because we can’t abstract from all the influences that have formed us.

          Certainly my thinking about this has not come anywhere near refuting Christianity. So sorry, John Loftus, but your confidence is misplaced! Instead, thinking about my religion this way has made me much more modest in my claims about other religions being wrong. That is precisely why I find the “one fewer god” argument so exasperating.

          Of course, theoretically Christianity could have been made up by somebody as a joke, just as theoretically you could be Pope Francis.

          But there isn’t a shred of evidence for this, and all probability is against it.

          I’m not sure what “former definition” I am supposedly abandoning–was it the claim that I take seriously religions that significant numbers of people have believed in over a significant period of time? Of course you’re right that very early Christianity would not have merited being taken seriously by this standard any more than Scientology does, and in fact most people _didn’t_ take it seriously. (I think there were good reasons to take Christianity seriously in the first 60 years, but not its antiquity or universality.)

        • Daniel Stowens

          I do not want to enter into a discussion or argument about religion or religions or even god or gods. I think your own musings about applying reason to religious beliefs is inherently flawed, based as they are on the assertion that religious belief (an emotional state) can be treated as a logical element and, for the sake of the argument, assumed to be true. But your exasperation at the believe-in-one-fewer-gods-than-you is well-founded in logic and reason. In many mathematical settings the difference between 1 and 0 is not equivalent to the difference between 1 and any other number.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Of course I think it makes a huge difference.

          Why?

          I’m sure that the Jesus of the New Testament is a myth and didn’t exist.

          I’m sure that the flying horse that Mo rode to get the edicts of Islam off of the archangel Gabriel is a myth and didn’t exist.

          I’m sure that Sherlock Holmes living at 221b Baker Street is a myth didn’t exit.

          I’m sure that basalt columns at the Giants Causeway being a landbridge built by Fionn mac Cumhaill is a myth and didn’t exist.

          I’m sure that, yadda, yadda, yadda…ad nauseum

          I’m as sure of those things as you are that the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exist.

          See how this works yet?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’m sure you are sure of those things. I think you are quite clearly wrong except perhaps about Sherlock Holmes (even then, I wouldn’t affirm so confidently that there is no dimension of reality in which Sherlock Holmes is real). I don’t mean necessarily wrong to disbelieve in these things, but wrong to put them all in the same category. That speaks of ideological prejudice rather than careful consideration of evidence.

        • Ignorant Amos

          That speaks of ideological prejudice rather than careful consideration of evidence.

          You are too funny Edwin. If my example’s show one thing, it’s that I’m being anything but ideologically prejudiced. That’s exactly what you are being ya fool.

          So a big spoooing out to that irony…meters are popping here right, left and centre.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You do realize, don’t you, that there was no substance at all in this post?

          We can both claim that the other one is the prejudiced one until the cows come home.

          How about we substantiate our statements instead? I gave you a specific reason _why_ I thought you were prejudiced in that case, and you ignored it, because in your paradigm the theist always has to be the prejudiced one.

        • Greg G.

          The only one I’m sure doesn’t exist is the “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” since it is a childish joke invented by atheists.

          It seems that you are only willing to entertain the idea of the existence of a god if it was first mentioned by someone from a culture that didn’t know where the sun went at night.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I’m only willing to entertain the existence of a “god” if somebody has actually believed in him/her/it. We both know perfectly well that nobody actually believes in the FSM. Like a lot of atheist quips (including the one under discussion), it’s an elaborate exercise in missing the point.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Spoiiiing!

          Occasionally, a parody religion may offer ordination by mail or on-line at a nominal fee, seeking equal recognition for this clergy under freedom of religion provisions, including the 1st and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution. A few US states have permitted The Church of the Latter-Day Dude or Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster officiants to legally solemnise marriage. Parody religions also have sought the same reasonable accommodation legally afforded to mainstream religions, including religious-specific garb or headgear.

          Several religions that are classified as parody religions have a number of relatively serious followers who embrace the perceived absurdity of these religions as spiritually significant, a decidedly post-modern approach to religion. For instance, in Discordianism, it can be hard to tell whether even these “serious” followers are not just taking part in an even bigger joke. This joke, in turn, might be part of a greater path to enlightenment, and so on ad infinitum.

          Now I await the No True Scotsman to show up.

        • Greg G.

          No, I’m only willing to entertain the existence of a “god” if somebody has actually believed in him/her/it. We both know perfectly well that nobody actually believes in the FSM. Like a lot of atheist quips (including the one under discussion), it’s an elaborate exercise in missing the point.

          There was a time when nobody believed the earth was a spheroid. There was a time when nobody believed there were other galaxies. There was a time when nobody believed that tiny biological entities caused diseases.

          People have believed in many things that never existed. How many of us actually had a monster living under our beds?

          Other people’s beliefs seem like an arbitrary excuse to rationalize your own belief. Those people either had no evidence or the interpreted evidence incorrectly. Lightning is not really evidence for a lightning god.

          OTOH, consider that we live in a three dimensional universe moving through a cross-section of a dimension we call time. Each three dimensional particle is a cross-section of its four dimensional shape which would be essentially the path we perceive the particle taking in three dimensions. All the particles of our world intertwine like spaghetti noodles flying through the space-time continuum. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a better representation of the ground of all being than any religion’s beliefs.

        • MNb

          How do you know nobody actually believed in the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

          “We both know perfectly well that …..”
          No, I don’t. That’s one of the points – there is no way to decide if such a claim is correct or incorrect. Nice to see that you violate Matthew 7:1.
          You’re the one who refuses to recognize the points, because of your wishful thinking. You let human prejudice decide.

        • adam

          “No, I’m only willing to entertain the existence of a “god” if somebody has actually believed in him/her/it.”

        • MNb

          So you let fallible man decide that one particular god doesn’t exist. Impressive, especially as

          1. christianity and judaism like the theme of an unlikely character playing an important role to spread a divine message – if Moses could play that role, why not Bobby Henderson;
          2. there is no essential difference between depicting life as a Vale of Tears (a christian theme) and a childish joke.

          In short – you just presented a silly Ad Hoc argument.

        • Greg G.

          The only one I’m sure doesn’t exist is the “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” since it is a childish joke invented by atheists.

          Do you believe in Santa Claus? The character is based on a real person.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I believe in St. Nicholas, of course. The modern cultus of “Santa Claus” is largely a piece of bourgeois sentimentality which the adults who foist it on children know perfectly well to be imaginary. (“The only one” in the quote above was, of course, the only one of a particular list, on which Santa Claus did not figure. And before you ask, I have _less_ belief in the Tooth Fairy, unless someone can show me that it is part of an ancient tradition I didn’t know about. Although I did tell my daughter a long and involved series of stories about a tooth fairy, and nearly convinced myself.)

        • Kodie

          The only difference is that adults foist religion on children without knowing it is imaginary.

        • adam

          “I believe that God exists, which is an entirely different proposition.”

          Of course:

        • Kodie

          You attribute natural events, processes, or objects to an invisible magical being at the source of it all. That proposition is incoherent and you don’t demonstrate that it’s true. You meanwhile demonstrate that other believers, namely especially Protestants who are not “the mainstream” in our culture, are mistaken… but really not, since they share your monotheistic belief in the source of all beauty/perfection/good. They have just been taken in by a different version of the fictional story than you have. At no time have you (so far that I’ve been catching up on this thread and will get to part 2 eventually) defended your beliefs or described in which ways you pick apart at the specifics of another belief such that you don’t believe it.

          You are essentially building your own beliefs and presenting them as true/what you believe, but if there is any belief in the world that conflicts with yours, you don’t seem to feel the need to describe why you reject them all but not yours. Yours is “mainstream”, yours just makes more sense to you. You think if we just took the time to understand what your beliefs are, we’d agree they make sense. Sorry, they don’t. You are the poster child of this thread and the point it makes.

        • adam

          “You are essentially building your own beliefs and presenting them as
          true/what you believe, but if there is any belief in the world that
          conflicts with yours, you don’t seem to feel the need to describe why
          you reject them all but not yours. ”

          Mai oui!

          But how can it be any different with “Revealed Religion”?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I’m not trying to convince you that my beliefs are true. I’m trying to convince you to stop misrepresenting them. Do you think it’s OK to lie about what people believe as long as you are sure what they believe is wrong?

        • adam

          “Do you think it’s OK to lie about what people believe as long as you are sure what they believe is wrong?”

          So you can demonstrate that it is Kodie who is lying and not yourself?

        • Kodie

          I already told you in a very succinct post of mine, that we take your collective or individual word for what you believe, as incomplete as it is, and work with that. And by “you”, I mean, not only you, but every Christian who expresses their own personal version of their beliefs and perceptions. But instead of address that point, you ignored it to blather on about how you’re not talking about what “a god” is but “THE G-O-D.” You’re not getting it. You go on at length, but it’s not just you’re bad at explaining. It’s that there isn’t anything that a person can explain why their superstition isn’t a superstition.

        • Kodie

          Theists can’t give a coherent explanation of what a god is. We just take you at your (collective or individual) word, and work with that.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          We aren’t interested in explaining what “a god” is, because “a god” is not a significant term for us and is too vague to be worth defining.

          We are interested in explaining what we mean when we say “God.”

        • adam

          “We are interested in explaining what we mean when we say “God.””

          We already KNOW what you mean.

        • Kodie

          So what. We get it, you’re “different”. Your belief is more valid than any others. You reject all those other beliefs because they don’t line up in your mind. We’re not impressed, though you spend a lot of wind trying and failing to impress anyone that you’re any different than any other Christian, and denying that you are any kind of atheist with regard to other religious beliefs. Those “gods” may not be gods, they may or may not exist, Christians may or may not believe in them, but to you, that’s not what matters. What matters is you get to blow and blow and blow about how atheists just don’t understand how perfect imaginary beings work.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t think I’m different from “any other Christian.” I think that I have more education in Christian intellectual traditions than many people–no particular credit to me, since that just happens to be the field I specialized in. But what I’m saying is really pretty commonplace–it’s not some idiosyncratic notion of my own (except perhaps my willingness to speculate that pagan “gods” might be real created beings and not necessarily evil–that one is an oddity that I picked up from a fictional work of C. S. Lewis and have always been fascinated by).

          One would think that given the many posts here allegedly talking about theism, there would be some interest in actually understanding it–and understanding its classic traditions, not just what ex-Christian atheists may have been taught in Sunday School or what your obnoxious Christian neighbor tells you when he’s trying to save your soul.

          But clearly that isn’t the case, and any effort to explain those traditions is resented.

          So if you want to talk to yourselves and congratulate each other on how clever you are for rejecting things that educated theists don’t believe in the first place, fire away.

        • Kodie

          One would think that given the many posts here allegedly talking about theism, there would be some interest in actually understanding it–and understanding its classic traditions, not just what ex-Christian atheists may have been taught in Sunday School or what your obnoxious Christian neighbor tells you when he’s trying to save your soul.

          There, that’s 2 gods you are atheist about. Within the context of the article, you congratulate yourself on how clever you are for rejecting things that theists believe, simply by declaring yourself more “educated” than they are. You are educated in the art of bullshittology. You’re not educated by any part of this whole conversation on how educated others may be in figuring that out. You feel satisfied to think we just don’t listen and don’t understand some sense of “nuance” that you perceive is there, but we recognize is part of the same categorical bullshit.

        • Michael Neville

          I’ve tried to have a discussion with you about gods and actually gave several different examples of gods, all of which you dismissed with a sneering “that’s not MY god.” So instead of whining about how atheists won’t discuss your favorite, pet Supreme Being™, how about giving a distinct, definitive description of how this Supreme Being™ differs from the god we were taught in Sunday or any other day of the week school.

          On another topic, you might want to work on being a little less condescending and patronizing when you pontificate at us. You haven’t established a reputation here that justifies your condescension.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I am not sure which post you’re referring to and have not been able to find it. I certainly did not say “that’s not my god.” I may well have pointed out that none of the beings you are talking about (if you mentioned Zeus or Odin or whatever–the Hesiodic Zeus at least and not Cleanthes’ Zeus) was believed by his/her worshipers to be the sole creator of the universe, or something to that effect. Other alleged “gods” (including Cleanthes’ version of Zeus) are clearly ways of speaking about God. At other times it’s not entirely clear which is the case. But at no point do I, as a traditional theist, see the question as “my god” versus “other gods.”

          I apologize if I was sneering, but given the tone of most of the atheist posters toward theists I am not confident that any possible way in which I might speak would be met with anything but rudeness and vitriolic scorn. Hence, I’m afraid I will look to other interlocutors for reliable advice on how to communicate more respectfully.

        • Kodie

          At almost every point, you reject interpretations of your god, and every other god you don’t consider your god.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I reject the claim that there is a category of “gods” of which God, as I believe in God, is a member, yes.

        • Michael Neville

          How does your pet god differ from generic gods?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          By not being “my pet god,” for starters.

          And again, nobody has provided a better definition of “generic gods” than “supernatural beings in general.” I would prefer to restate “supernatural” as “superhuman,” since in my preferred terminology “nature” includes everything except the one source of all being (whom I and other theists call “God”).

          Such supernatural and superhuman beings differ from God inasmuch as none of them is the creator of the universe and none of them is possessed of all good qualities to an infinite degree. Only one being, logically, can fit this bill (if multiple beings did, they would be in some significant sense the same being–which is, of course, more or less what Christians claim about the Trinity–multiple “persons” but one “being”).

          It doesn’t apparently matter how many times I say “the word “God” applies to Hindu Brahman, the Greek philosophical supreme Deity including Cleanthes’ “Zeus,” and other examples from many cultures.” You guys are still going to insist that I must really be saying that only “my pet God” is real.

          You apparently want us to believe this very badly. But I’m afraid I, for one, can’t oblige you.

        • Michael Neville

          So Brahma is the one true god, along with Yahweh (yeah, suck it, that’s what I call him), Allah (who has somewhat different attributes than Yahweh), Mbombo (Bakuba mythology, vomited out the world when suffering a stomach ache), Atum (Egyptian, the underlying substance of the world, the deities and all things being made of his flesh or alternatively being his ka), Ptah (also Egyptian, the demiurge who existed before all other things, and by his willfulness, thought the world and gave it substance with his word), Neith (Egyptian goddess who wove the universe on her loom), and Viracocha (Incan, created the universe, time ((by commanding the Sun to move across the sky)) and civilization). Seems like creator gods are quite common.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “if multiple beings did, they would be in some significant sense the same being–which is, of course, more or less what Christians claim about the Trinity–multiple “persons” but one “being””

          Explain how that makes any sense at all. They would be “one being” because “well, if we could get people to believe the trinity…”?

        • Kodie

          You have repeatedly claimed at least consideration in some supernatural beings, while rejecting others, that other cultures behold as their own one true god, but you just don’t consider them “GOD”. You have also repeatedly tried to get out of proving the point in the article by rejecting interpretations of your own GOD, namely protestantism, because it’s not as traditional or mainstream as your own. I mean, you are the Christian the article is about.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Nope. I have never said that any “one true God” is “not God.”

          I have said that various deities who are _not claimed to be the one true God_ are in fact not the same thing as God. Which is pretty darned obvious.

          I have said that any non-Christian concept of God which covers the bases–a source of all being who is seen as morally perfect–is referring to the true God.

          Your insistence on saying that I say the exact opposite of what I really say is, charitably, an example of how hard it is to communicate across paradigms.

          I have also never said that Protestants don’t believe in the true God. (Also, there are many forms of Protestantism, such as classical Wesleyan theology, which I respect–my own theology is a blend of Wesleyanism and Catholicism and I have trouble deciding with which of those bodies I want to be identified, and as a result I’ve been Anglican for many years since that’s the middle road.) I have spoken as I did about Protestantism in order to make the point that you can’t generalize about Christianity as a whole based on modern American conservative Protestantism.

          Protestantism has many virtues, and of course there are many “Protestantisms.” But Protestantism, insofar as it differs from Catholicism and Orthodoxy, is not the mainstream of historic Christianity.

        • Michael Neville

          I have said that any non-Christian concept of God which covers the bases–a source of all being who is seen as morally perfect–is referring to the true God.

          Then the Christian god fails this test due to blatant immorality.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Or else, God did not actually do the things you claim he did.

          I fail to see why you would think that your interpretation of the Bible is authoritative over me. (I suppose this is an example of my “talking down.” But I don’t know a more respectful way to respond to someone who thinks he can tell me what my religion requires of me. To my way of thinking, that’s a deeply insulting thing to do, and my response is extremely mild and courteous given the gravity of the insult.)

        • Max Doubt

          “I fail to see why you would think that your interpretation of the Bible is authoritative over me.”

          It is, until objectively demonstrated otherwise, a compilation of several works of fiction, most of which are derivatives of earlier works. Nobody knows exactly who the authors, and more appropriately editors, were. Your interpretation of a particular work of fiction is no more or less authoritative than anyone else’s.

        • Michael Neville

          You’re the one who claims to have read the Bible in Proto-Indo-European (or whatever language it was written in). How can you tell me that Yahweh, as described in the Old Testament, is a benevolent god who “loves everyone” instead of a sadistic bully who kills people because he’s feeling cranky? Look, we may not have degrees in Bullshittology or whatever they’re calling divinity studies these days but we have read your religious propaganda. Yahweh is a thug who commands genocide, slavery, rape and individual killing. Unless you’re William Lane Craig, who hand-waves away Yahweh’s immorality by calling it moral, you’re stuck with a Middle Eastern tribal god who delights in killing and other obviously immoral behavior.

          And incidentally, here’s you telling me that I’m not describing your god, just like you claimed that you didn’t say.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          No goabeg is making any claims.

        • Kodie

          Straight up, you’re ignorant. What other cultures worship, you decide whether their “god” is the same as your god and they’re just mistaken, or if they are lesser beings not considered gods.

          Secondly, why is it so difficult for you, and every other theist on the planet, to decide? I mean, it’s not always apparent that there are choices. Those theists reject your interpretation, but you are torn between the claims of these men and the claims of those men. You repeatedly claim that protestantism doesn’t align with your particular preference for Catholicism because it’s not as “traditional”. This is you, a human being with a frail intellect, believing god exists despite how stupid it is, but thinking it is smart enough because you respect other believers and let them do the heavy lifting. You put all your eggs in the basket with the highest intellect without actually overcoming the impediment of superstitious belief entirely. And you think that is the superior position.

          Maybe it would be helpful, although be careful what I wish for, if other Christians were also posting on this thread besides you. Would you concur with their positions because they were close enough to your own magical thinking, or would you correct them and condescend to their idiotic portrayals of the modern American protestant?

        • MNb

          “a source of all being who is seen as morally perfect”
          Well well, finally we’re at something. How does that play out? Did your god (the one you call “God” – see, not all gods are supposed to be morally perfect, not even the ones who are supposed to be the source of all being) poof the entire shenanigan into existence? How did He/She/It do that? Which means did He/She/It use? Which procedures did He/She/It follow? On what exactly is your claim grounded that your god (the one you call “God”) is the source of all being?
          And how can we learn about these perfect morals? How did your god communicate them to us imperfect human beings? How do you know that those perfect morals come from your god and are not a product of your imperfect mind?
          In the meantime you nicely have validated BobS’ “I believe in one less god” (namely the one you call “God”, who is supposed to be the source of all being and is seen as morally perfect). I don’t believe in that one in quite similar ways I don’t believe in any other god (the ones made up by humans who aren’t supposed to be the source of all being and/or perfectly moral, like the hindu gods and the Flying Spaghetti Monster).
          Also note that “God is the source of all being” is an incoherent statement. God is supposed to be a being him/her/itself. So you wrote that your god (the one you call “God” and is supposed to etc.) is the source of him/ her /itself. But that’s not terribly relevant (yet).

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          He hasn’t explained how those other gods are not GoABeGs as well in their own mythologies.

        • adam

          “a source of all being who is seen as morally perfect–is referring to the true God.”

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          OK, but how? All those gods explain the same things your Ground of All Being God does. Also, none of them make their own claims about themselves. GoABeG is just another solely human-claimed god.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, they don’t.

          Zeus, according to Hesiod at least, was the product of a long process. He obviously doesn’t explain the existence of reality itself. He is part of reality. The same is true in most polytheistic mythologies.

          Another poster gave a list of “creator gods” in various ancient traditions. We’d have to walk through each one to determine whether it is what Christians would call a “creator”–i.e., one who creates the sum total of reality (other than the eternal creator himself). If it is, then obviously it is a description of God. If it isn’t, then it isn’t.

          I don’t know why it’s so hard for atheists to see that these are two different concepts: a superhuman being who exists within the universe and the creator of the entire universe. Ancient Greeks of the time of Hesiod did not claim for Zeus what we claim for God. And when Cleanthes does claim for Zeus what we do for God, many of us have no problem accepting that he’s talking about the same God we are.

        • Kodie

          I don’t know why it’s so hard for atheists to see that these are two different concepts: a superhuman being who exists within the universe and the creator of the entire universe. Ancient Greeks of the time of
          Hesiod did not claim for Zeus what we claim for God. And when Cleanthes does claim for Zeus what we do for God, many of us have no problem accepting that he’s talking about the same God we are.

          I imagine we’ve addressed it, but you haven’t been able to understand or respond to those comments.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          And the double standard strikes again: when I find you unclear, it’s my failure to understand. When you find me unclear, it’s my failure to express myself properly.

          This is not the way to have a substantive conversation. But perhaps that’s not what you’re interested in.

        • Kodie

          I’m not yanking your chain, man. I have seen dozens of responses in the past few days since I returned to this blog that have addressed specifically what you think you mean by differences, not just my posts. Either you address them or ignore them. I can’t believe you can honestly claim that atheists just aren’t grasping it. That’s intellectual dishonesty on your part.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          None of the responses seem to me to grasp what I’m saying. And I keep saying what I mean by “God” and people keep telling me I haven’t told them or I’ve been vague about it. Clearly we are all talking past each other here and should stop trying to assign blame to the other side.

        • Kodie

          Your god, as you describe him yourself, is just a compilation of anthropomorphic qualities with supernatural abilities, and you reject plenty of gods. We’re not talking past you, we’re talking straight to your dumb face. You have no evidence of this or any god, you have only the willingness to suppress your intelligence (if you had any to begin with – many humans really really don’t) to accept the fictional creation of other men, this anthropomorphic character, who answers questions you have to your satisfaction, but clearly not ours. Pretty much, “because god made it that way” is not a real answer. I didn’t get your answer to my question several days ago, so I have to project what many other Christians before you have answered. If you want to answer it yourself, you still can do that.

        • adam

          “Your god, as you describe him yourself, is just yourself

          FTFY

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I do not categorically deny the existence of any supernatural being believed in by a significant number of people.

          I do reject many beliefs about many supernatural beings, and indeed about God. About many other beliefs I suspend judgment.

        • Ignorant Amos

          “Human beings are the only creatures on Earth who claim a God, and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn’t got one. Does the world belong to no one but you?”

          Heard that in a movie tonight and thought of Edwin…of course Johnny Depp was talking to a lobster at the time, not that I think it matters of course.

        • adam

          “None of the responses seem to me to grasp what I’m saying. And I keep saying what I mean by “God” and people keep telling me I haven’t told them or I’ve been vague about it. Clearly we are all talking past each
          other here and should stop trying to assign blame to the other side.”

          Simple solution:

          Show us your reference material, by which you’ve learned about your “God”…

          So that we may understand what you mean.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          A few to get you started:
          The Bible (obviously)
          Irenaeus, Against Heresies
          Origen, On First Principles
          Athanasius, On the Incarnation
          Gregory Nazianzen, Theological Orations
          Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism and On Not Three Gods
          Augustine, Confessions, City of God, and On the Trinity
          Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
          Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God
          Anselm, Proslogion, Monologion, and Cur Deus Homo
          Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae and Summa Contra Gentiles
          Dante, Divine Comedy
          Piers Plowman
          Nicholas of Cusa, On Learned Ignorance
          Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
          The Book of Common Prayer
          The poetry of John Donne, George Herbert, and Henry Vaughan
          The hymns of Charles Wesley
          The poetry of Christopher Smart
          The writings of George MacDonald
          The poetry of Gerald Manley Hopkins
          The writings of C. S. Lewis
          The writings of Thomas Merton
          Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity
          The writings of Alexander Schmemann and George Florovsky

        • adam

          “The Bible (obviously)”

          But only the parts of it you like?

          Because it appears obvious that you dismiss parts whole cloth.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I don’t dismiss any of it. But I don’t interpret a good deal of it in what many people would call a “literal” way. Much of it I wrestle with, shout at, argue with, want to throw across the room. Those parts are probably just as valuable for me as the parts I find easier to love.

        • adam

          “But I don’t interpret a good deal of it in what many people would call a “literal” way.”

          It is a shame to have a so called ‘Owners Manual to God’ that is so contradictory and vague as to be it’s own best source of confusion.

          To me this is like aliens and crop circles.

          All this knowledge and power, and yet a stupid crop circle is the best they can do.

          Same with religion, if the Bible is the best that a god can do, I do not see it worthy of any kind of worship.

        • Ignorant Amos

          “If the Bible is God’s book, why didn’t he give it to everyone?”

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Well, I see things exactly the opposite way.
          The kind of plain message that you and the fundamentalists both profess to find more worthy of God would be, from my perspective, quite a disappointment.

          I find it entirely in keeping with reality as I observe it that ultimate truth would come in a roundabout, mysterious, confusing fashion. That’s what life is like. That’s what reality looks like.

          Of course, at this point we just have different intuitions no doubt based in our respective personalities as well as our relative experiences and educations.

        • adam

          “I find it entirely in keeping with reality as I observe it that ultimate truth would come in a roundabout, mysterious, confusing fashion. That’s what life is like. That’s what reality looks like.”

          Only for the ignorant, but then again:

        • adam

          So are all of these interpretations of the ‘Bible’?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          They all refer to the Bible and take it as authoritative, to be sure.

          But I think you may, as so many here do, be ascribing to me a conservative Protestant view of the Bible that I don’t hold.

        • Kodie

          Nobody is ascribing to you beliefs which you do not hold – that’s the point. You reject those beliefs, you reject the gods they describe. If someone tried to sell you their religion describing god that way, you would reject it. Wouldn’t you? You’re making the point of the article.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t reject the God described in conservative Protestantism. I think that conservative Protestantism has, at certain points, a warped understanding of God.

          Again, if the point of the article is simply “theists don’t agree with everything other theists say,” then it’s rather obvious but doesn’t prove anything to the discredit of theism that I can see.

          Theists’ reasons for rejecting some of the claims about the supernatural made by other theists are not the same as the reasons atheists have for rejecting all supernatural claims. At least, not in the case of theists who think carefully about what they believe.

          I find it both amusing and annoying that many people have accused me of “snobbishness” for saying that many Christians haven’t thought very carefully about their faith, when the “one fewer god” argument assumes that _no_ theists have thought very carefully about their faith. Somehow it’s bad for me to say of some what you say of all of us.

        • adam

          “They all refer to the Bible and take it as authoritative, to be sure.”

          So you cherry pick the cherry pickers.

          “But I think you may, as so many here do, be ascribing to me a conservative Protestant view of the Bible that I don’t hold.”

          Nope, this is what I see:

        • Who’s talking about God?? (I mean, besides you, of course.)

          And if you just have a thing for creator gods, take Marduk. He created our world. I’m sure if I weren’t so lazy I could find dozens more creator gods in other traditions.

          Then apply the question to just those gods. Better?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          If you’re not talking about God, then everything you wrote in your post is utterly irrelevant to theists.

          And Marduk did not, in fact, create the universe according to the myths we have about him. He was part of a council of gods, some of them apparently older than himself, to whom was deputed the task of waging war against beings who were _definitely_ older than himself.

          He “created our world,” according to the myths, in the sense that he defeated the forces of chaos and put things in the order that they have at the time of the myths. But that’s just one stage in a larger story.

          Of course the Biblical narrative of creation contradicts the Babylonian–Genesis 1 was probably written in direct opposition to the Marduk creation story. If your point is simply that people who believe in the supernatural and/or in a single ultimate God disagree with each other, then it’s an obvious point and to my mind an entirely trite one.

        • Kodie

          If you’re not talking about God, then everything you wrote in your post is utterly irrelevant to theists.

          In a fingers-in-the-ears, la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you kind of way.

        • adam

          “If your point is simply that people who believe in the supernatural and/or in a single ultimate God disagree with each other, then it’s an obvious point and to my mind an entirely trite one.”

          Trite?

          They are willing to commit mass murders based on their disagreements.

        • If you’re not talking about God, then everything you wrote in your post is utterly irrelevant to theists.

          Theists believe in gods. The title refers to “gods.” Yes, it’s relevant.

          And Marduk did not, in fact, create the universe according to the myths we have about him.

          He created our world. If given time, like Yahweh, maybe his myth would also have changed so that he created the entire universe as well. This whole “Nope—completely irrelevant to theists” thing doesn’t work. Maybe at some point you’ll actually address the post.

          He was part of a council of gods, some of them apparently older than himself, to whom was deputed the task of waging war against beings who were _definitely_ older than himself.

          Just trying to find some nit about other gods to declare that they’re completely, irrefutably unlike Yahweh? My suggestion: just say that only gods whose name starts with Y are believable.

          He “created our world,” according to the myths, in the sense that he defeated the forces of chaos and put things in the order that they have at the time of the myths. But that’s just one stage in a larger story.

          Yahweh was also part of a council of gods. Yahweh also defeated Rahab, the chaos (sea) monster.

          Of course the Biblical narrative of creation contradicts the Babylonian–Genesis 1 was probably written in direct opposition to the Marduk creation story.

          Not really. The Babylonian cosmology is exactly what we see in Gen. 1 and then later with the Noah story.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          It’s not a “nit” to say that Marduk is not the originator of the entire universe.

          Indeed, if monotheism had arisen from Marduk-worship, we might have a religion today that called the creator of the whole universe Marduk. The fact that it didn’t, even though the Babylonians were far more powerful than the Hebrews, is interesting. But counterfactuals are hard to argue about. What we know, in fact, is that the major monotheistic religions build on the Biblical account, not the Babylonian myths directly, and that these religions say that God created the entire universe. Furthermore, nowhere in the Bible is Yahweh spoken of as younger than or subsequent to any other force or being, as Marduk is.

          If you think this is a “nit,” then you simply aren’t attempting to understand theism and you’re in no position to argue against it.

        • I’m done. We’re now deep within “life’s too short” territory.

        • Susan

          We’re now deep within “life’s too short” territory.

          Welcome to classical theism. The most direct approach to it is to ask “What are you claiming and how can you support it?”

          They usually ignore you when you do that. (So far, Edwin’s been right on schedule) and keep pretending that you only address biblical literalists as though we hadn’t ever heard of or ever encountered any other sort of theist and they are here to finally enlighten us. Ironically, that position attacks a real strawman.

          It’s false that you (or all of us) are attacking strawmen. Your article was a direct response to actual christian responses to the “one less god” argument. Nowhere in the article did you claim that ALL christians respond like this. You simply addressed some christian responses.

          You and I and many others here have attempted to address Edwin’s actual argument and are given responses like:

          God “explains reality” in that we believe God to be the cause of all reality, himself embodying eternally all the good qualities that are found in created existence.

          Thousands and thousands of words and when you finally manage to pin him down on the subject, that’s all you’ll get. Impenetrable goo.

          Then, more accusations that we are attacking sola scriptura, not the “true” meaning of christianity.

          It’s a script they can’t hear through.

        • I persevere, hoping for that rare discussion where I learn something new. Edwin’s obsession with the (irrelevant) definition of “God” got old real fast.

        • Susan

          I persevere, hoping for that rare discussion where I learn something

          That’s why I keep showing up too. 🙂

          Edwin’s obsession with the (irrelevant) definition of “God” got old real fast.

          Too much Jell-O. Not enough hammers and nails.

          That’s their bread and butter.

          (I have a sick compulsion to mix metaphors. Ignore me.)

        • Susan

          He obviously doesn’t explain the existence of reality itself.

          No god does, including yours. You are claiming an unevidenced “supernatural” agent so whatever properties you claim it has, it looks like just another “god” to me.

          I explained that in another comment.

          I see and have acknowledged the distinction and it is a difference that makes no difference.

          ‘But my supernatural agent is infinity plus one. It’s beyond nature. It transcends nature. It explains all of nature but is not of nature.’

          *How does your supernatural agent explain reality?

          We have gotten further and further from the attempted rebuttals Bob tried to address in his argument. You should at least acknowledge that. “Christian” can mean so many things.

          I don’t believe any christian gods exist, including yours. You haven’t shown that there is any good reason to believe so. The best you’ve done is said that “divine revelation” might be real. You haven’t explained why.

          *Please answer this. It’s quite a claim.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          God “explains reality” in the sense that we believe God to be the cause of all reality, himself embodying eternally all the good qualities that are found in created existence. (You asked in another post what “being” was–and for the purposes of this discussion my answer is, “everything that exists.”)

          Whether you find this claim in the least convincing or even coherent is irrelevant. That’s not the point raised by Bob’s post. The question is whether, in fact, Christians are committed to claiming that one particular “god” exists while other gods for whom there is exactly the same kind of evidence (or lack of evidence) do not.

          Christians are not committed to claiming anything of the sort. No theists are. Hence the “one fewer god” argument is indeed a fallacy and atheists should stop using it.

          Christians and other theists claim that there is a source of all reality to which we may ascribe everything good found in the world as we experience it. If there are supernatural beings, then they too are either manifestations or creations of that one eternal source. (The distinction between a manifestation and a creation is, again, irrelevant for the present discussion.)

          Specific religious claims put specific limits on what these supernatural beings may be like, what their powers may be, how they are related to the one source of reality, and/or how that source has or has not manifested itself within creation. And of course religious people disagree with other religious people on these questions.

          People disagree with each other all the time about all sorts of things. Somehow this is supposed to be uniquely damning when it concerns God or the supernatural. The fact that Christians can’t (if they wanted to, which I don’t think we should) eliminate Islam and Buddhism by purely persuasive means is supposed to count, while the fact that adherents of mainstream Western science can’t eliminate creationism or Chinese medicine or Ayurveda by persuasion _doesn’t_ count. The fact that Christians disagree among themselves about Christology or sacramental theology or so on is supposed to be damning to Christianity, while the fact that scientists can’t come to a consensus on so basic and practical a matter as what kind of food it’s healthy to eat is not taken to refute the claims of science.

          The double standard is evidence throughout.

        • “Ah, but the Christian god is different–it’s the one that actually exists!”

          “No, you see, my god’s name starts with a Y.”

          “My god’s domain (at least in the most recent part of the myth) says that he created the entire universe, which makes him different than all the others.”

          You’re stuck with Merriam-Webster definition of god as “a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship.” Yahweh is a god. Sorry.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          By “require” do you (I don’t care what Merriam-Webster thinks, but what you think) mean “is the proper object of”? And by “worship” do you mean what the Catholic tradition would call “latria,” or do you mean any kind of honor?

        • No idea. I think you’re determined to complexify the issue.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’m determined to ask you to back up your straw-man defense of a particularly empty piece of atheist rhetoric. At this point you are refusing to do so. That is, of course, your choice. And you always have the freedom to ban me from your website.

        • Your approach to this problem frustrates me, but that’s hardly a ban-worthy offense. Perhaps in the future you’ll offer reactions from which I can learn. You’re worth keeping around, assuming you find the topics engaging enough.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It’s what the religious do.

          A couple of acronyms we used in the army, BBB & KISS.

          The religious prefer to “Bullshit Baffles Brains” instead of “Keep It Simple Stupid”.

        • Susan

          God “explains reality” in the sense that we believe God to be the cause of all reality, himself embodying eternally all the good qualities that are found in created existence

          What about that sentence constitutes any sort of explanation? It’s word salad. I’ve heard it a thousand times and it remains meaningless.

          Whether you find this claim in the least convincing or even coherent is irrelevant.

          It’s completely relevant when you suggested that your supernatural agent explains reality itself and do zero work to show that it’s any sort of explanation.

          Christians are not committed to claiming anything of the sort. No theists are.

          I know many theists who don’t believe any other gods exist, except for Satan. I know many theists who don’t believe Satan exists but is a metaphor, leaving them with only one supernatural agent that they take seriously.

          I’m not going down rabbit holes with you about what they are required to commit themselves to. This is an article about the fact that many christians don’t consider all the gods that humans have invented and worshiped over history to be real. If you do, you’re a christian who does. That doesn’t make the article an attack on a strawman. Many christians don’t. They are real. Not strawmen.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You make the claim of superior knowledge to those of us here that you believe we got from our days as Christians or from ill educated Christian neighbours evangelizing, but your own knowledge doesn’t appear to be all that when it gets down to the minutiae.

          Who is God?

          God is Yahweh or … https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/misc/name_god.cfm

          Yahweh was not always the big “I am”…

          The earliest Yahwistic traditions reveal that Yahweh was a bedouin war god from the deserts of Edom and of the surrounding regions. His essentially warlike characteristics are demonstated by his name, by cultic celebrations of his mighty deeds, and by his ark.

          Although Yahweh, the God the Israelites adopted, would one day become the supreme God of the land and eliminate his competition, initially he was just one of many competing “war and storm-gods;” as Prof. Erhard S. Gerstenberger writes on p.151 of Theologies of the Old Testament (emphasis added):

          Yahweh was not always God in Israel and at every social level. Rather, initially he belongs only to the storm and war gods like Baal, Anath, Hadad, Resheph and Chemosh…His original homeland was the southern regions of present-day Palestine and Jordan. Thus the regional and functional, cultural and social limitations of Yahweh should be beyond all doubt. The elaboration of ideas about Yahweh, e.g. as a guarantor of fertility, personal good fortune, head of a pantheon, creator of the world, judge of the world, etc. is gradual and only fully unfolds in the exilic/post-exilic age, always in connection with social and historical changes.

          Yahweh was not a creator god until he got a field promotion and all the other gods got the sack by one particular group of humans a long time ago in a far off land.

          The Israelites started out as polytheistic and Yahweh was not the head buck cat when they were.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_ancient_Israel_and_Judah#Religion

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You say all this as if it’s supposed to be surprising or shocking to me. I would quarrel with some of the claims made by your sources, which strike me as highly speculative and insufificiently supported by evidence. We have no direct evidence of “YHWH” functioning as a “storm and war god” alongside other gods who were in charge of other functions. Certainly we have evidence (both literary and archeological) for people worshiping YHWH alongside Ba’al, Ashtoreth, and Asherah. It’s quite possible that some people saw YHWH and Ba’al as having different functions, but that rather undercuts Gerstenberger’s argument, since he claims that Ba’al was also a “storm and war god.” In fact, I believe that in at least some texts (from Ugarit in particular) Ba’al is referred to as a fertility god, and many people have speculated that that was his function for those Israelites who worshiped him. Yet, as Gerstenberger points out, Ba’al was also referred to as a war god. In other words, these functions may not have been as neatly divided as he suggests. Certainly “El” was at some point syncretized with YHWH, but again we have no direct evidence I know of for YHWH and El ever being worshiped as distinct deities. (I.e., it might be that at one time people worshiped El and YHWH as distinct and then combined them, but it might also be that people who worshiped YHWH encountered people who worshiped El and said, “that’s the same god.”)

          At any rate, all of this is irrelevant to anything I’ve been saying. The form of Israelite religion that is authoritative for Christians (and even then authoritative only as subordinated to the fullerrevelation of God in Jesus testified to in the NT) is the canonical form. The prehistory of Israelite religion before the compilation of the canonical texts is certainly interesting and important, but you show your lack of understanding of my position if you think that I consider myself somehow bound to believe whatever it is likely that Israelites at some pre-canonical stage believed.

          Again, you’re confirming my impression that most folks on this forum build their idea of Christianity from encounters with fundamentalists and/or from a fundamentalist upbringing.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You say all this as if it’s supposed to be surprising or shocking to me.

          Academic. I know it shocks lots of Christians. I know that lots of Christians deny it, including Catholic Christians.

          While discussions on boards like these take the form of me entering a discourse with an interlocutor, there is a wider audience to be considered and neither I nor you know what they all know. So it is quite refreshing to get support from a clever theist that is aware and might educate the lesser knowledgeable. Cheers.

          I would quarrel with some of the claims made by your sources, which strike me as highly speculative and insufificiently supported by evidence.

          Which you are entitled to do, but then you have be specific on which claims are highly speculative and insufficiently supported by evidence. Your reasons why would be useful too.

          We have no direct evidence of “YHWH” functioning as a “storm and war god” alongside other gods who were in charge of other functions.

          Oh…you require direct evidence do ya? The worm is easily turned. What form would that “direct evidence” take that would please your highness?

          Certainly we have evidence (both literary and archeological) for people worshiping YHWH alongside Ba’al, Ashtoreth, and Asherah.

          Well that’ll do just fine for my purposes.

          At any rate, all of this is irrelevant to anything I’ve been saying. The form of Israelite religion that is authoritative for Christians (and even then authoritative only as subordinated to the fullerrevelation of God in Jesus testified to in the NT) is the canonical form.

          So a Christian characterisation of Yahweh is what you believe, not the actual Yahweh? Fine.

          The prehistory of Israelite religion before the compilation of the canonical texts is certainly interesting and important, but you show your lack of understanding of my position if you think that I consider myself somehow bound to believe whatever it is likely that Israelites at some pre-canonical stage believed.

          Your position is a lie no matter what angle one looks at it…that’s the point.

          Again, you’re confirming my impression that most folks on this forum build their idea of Christianity from encounters with fundamentalists and/or from a fundamentalist upbringing.

          Again, you’re confirming my impression that you know very little about what it is that most folks on this forum build their idea of Christianity on. But if it is what makes you feel better, whack away til yer nose bleeds.

          There are as many definitions of gods as there are believers, hence theological non-cognitivism.

        • Michael Neville

          Some time ago I said to you that Yahweh, a name I use for Da Fada or whatever you want to call Daddy Gawd, was a thoroughly unpleasant and utterly immoral asshole of a god who killed people just because he could. I gave examples of this behavior. You replied that my description of a sadistic, narcissistic bully didn’t apply to your favorite deity.

          If you don’t want to pay attention to my recommendations on not talking down to atheists that’s your choice. I make suggestions which you can follow or ignore as you please.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Oh, I see.

          Well, first of all–do you seriously think that your first sentence is _not_ an example of “talking down”? Can you see why I don’t really think someone capable of writing that sentence is a good judge of how not to “talk down” to other people?

          Or is the convention on this forum that slangy insults and language dripping with venomous scorn is perfectly OK, but an attempt to communicate in a basically courteous way is taken as “condescension”?

          Would I be accepted as a nice guy if I insulted you outright, as you do to me?

          But leaving that aside, since debates about tone are almost always counterproductive, you were of course purporting to talk about the God I believe is revealed in the Bible. I had every right to say, as I did say, that I don’t recognize that description.

          Apparently it’s “sneering” of me to point out that your sneering description of my belief is inaccurate.

        • Michael Neville

          Well, first of all–do you seriously think that your first sentence is _not_ an example of “talking down”?

          No, I don’t. But if it pleases you to call it that then I won’t object. We’re all pals here and if that’s what it takes to make you happy I’m willing to oblige.

          Would I be accepted as a nice guy if I insulted you outright, as you do to me?

          I’m a retired Navy Chief. It takes a lot to insult me and I doubt you’re willing to put out the effort to find out how to do so.

          [Y]ou were of course purporting to talk about the God I believe is revealed in the Bible. I had every right to say, as I did say, that I don’t recognize that description.

          I have no problem with you saying that I’m not describing your god. What I do have a problem with is your refusal to show how the god I’m describing isn’t the “traditional Christian” god you claim to follow.

        • MNb

          “do you seriously think that your first sentence is _not_ an example of “talking down”?”
          Indeed, seriously. It’s an expression of how MN feels about Yahweh, a sentiment I have shared since some older teens of Youth for Christ explained me the atonement doctrine when I was 13 or 14. It’s typical for your intellectualism that you don’t even care.
          As you never have made clear what your god is like I can’t be sure yet if I have such negative feelings about him.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          It’s an expression of how he feels, but it’s directed to me as a purported description of what I believe.

          Of course I care. If I didn’t care about how many Christians have distorted the picture of God and how that has harmed people, I wouldn’t be here trying to articulate (however imperfectly) a very different understanding.

        • MNb

          Yeah, it’s so much more important that we atheists understand what the correct picture of your god is we don’t believe in than that those many christians get the picture correct.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          It’s the point at issue _here_. Until quite recently, I spent a lot more time arguing with my fellow Christians than with atheists. See, for instance, this thread from several years ago, in which I argue with a number of fellow Christians (mostly Catholics) on this very subject: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=612780 (I’m “Contarini”).

          But if you want to argue against Christianity as a whole–to disprove Christianity–then you need at the very least to tackle the historic, mainstream view. I would say that you need to tackle whatever view is strongest to refute, even if it’s a minority view. But perhaps that’s too rigorous a requirement. Certainly it’s a shoddy tactic to pick on some modern half-secularized Christians who don’t think about the relationship of their faith to other religions very carefully and treat them as if they represented Christianity as a whole.

        • Kodie

          What did you argue about?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          Everything imaginable, pretty much 🙂 I’m a very argumentative guy, as you will have noticed!

          But one of my main concerns has always been to argue against exactly the sorts of misunderstandings (or what I would consider misunderstandings) of Christian faith that atheists seize on in their polemic. In other words, I don’t think that atheists are simply making up the “straw men” they attack, most of the time. They are straw men when presented as arguments against Christianity as a whole. But Christians unquestionably do believe a lot of these things. You see that in the thread I linked to above. Clearly a lot of Christians make the same confusion about monotheism and “gods” that the atheists on this forum have been making. That doesn’t change the fact that logically it is a confusion and does not follow from any Christian doctrine.

        • Susan

          Clearly a lot of Christians make the same confusion about monotheism and “gods” that the atheists on this forum have been making.

          They disagree with you, you mean.

          That doesn’t change the fact that logically it is a confusion

          In what sense? They believe Yahwehjesus is real and the other gods are imaginary enough not be worth considering.

          does not follow from any Christian doctrine

          They are real christians with real beliefs. They are not strawmen.

          Much of the perpetuation of christian culture has depended on people taking their own god seriously while finding other gods mere superstitions.

        • Kodie

          You argue they are doing it wrong? According to who?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          According to me, obviously! But I’m informed by my study of the mainstream/Catholic Christian tradition, to which I seek to be faithful.

        • Kodie

          You’re not “informed”. I don’t disagree there is a doctrine to which you faithfully adhere, but I don’t see any information or way to verify it, compared to any other doctrine.

        • Myna A.

          If I didn’t care about how many Christians have distorted the picture of God and how that has harmed people, I wouldn’t be here trying to articulate (however imperfectly) a very different understanding.

          I agree insofar as Christians distort their “story of God” to fit the opinion of the day, but find your story entirely lacking as well. All you are sharing is a personalized viewpoint spiced with gracious tea and crumpet style academic theology as opposed to the rabid zealot or the dime store Christian following the herd of choice.

          The dilemma, as I see it, is that there is nothing compelling, philosophically, in Christianity. Its historical antics are abhorrent and its deity egotistical and violent. I was listening to Radio Lab on NPR today and an innate morality, empathy, can be observed in children as young as two years old. The rest is cultural.

        • MNb

          We don’t care about respect.
          We are interested in what you believe and why.
          You have provided close to zilch in this respect and instead you only whine how we atheists got it all wrong what you believe.
          That’s incredibly lame.

        • Max Doubt

          “… or what your obnoxious Christian neighbor tells you when he’s trying to save your soul.”

          Since you can’t objectively demonstrate that you are the one who is correct on issues where you and other Christians disagree, you should take note of the fact that you’re just another obnoxious Christian neighbor.

        • MNb

          “there would be some interest in actually understanding it”
          Once again – you’re not representative for christianity. That’s impossible given the innumerable different views. So if you want us to avoid strawmen you tell us what we are supposed to understand.

          “or what your obnoxious Christian neighbor tells you when he’s trying to save your soul.”
          And that obnoxious Christian neighbor says exactly the same about you. You two claim to worship the same god, to put your fate in the hands of the same Savior Lord Jesus Christ, to read the same Holy Scripture. Still you disagree about lots of stuff. Instead of trying to reach consensus you (that obnoxious christian neighbor is more honest in this respect than you) you prefer to tell us that we don’t believe the right stuff – we don’t believe the wrong stuff of that obnoxious christian neighbour. Combined with your careful avoidance of telling us what you actually do believe that’s lame. Unfortunately it’s also typical for intellectual christians like you – the people with ” more education in Christian intellectual traditions”. But all what you guys produce is just baked air.

        • Susan

          We aren’t interested in explaining what a “god” is.

          But you need to be if you’re going to show a distinction between your “God” and mere “god(s)”.

          “a god” is not a significant term for us and is too vague to be worth defining.

          As is “God” for us.

          What are you claiming and how do you support it?

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Implicit in the claim is that God is not intelligent enough to make the claims he is making, so he must humansplain.

        • Myna A.

          We are interested in explaining what we mean when we say “God.”

          Who are the We? Theists in the know? Your elitism often shows through your ego-writ. It’s a drag on your argument.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I see nothing whatever wrong with elitism in intellectual matters. Some people do understand their own tradition better than others. That doesn’t make them/us better people.

          And I find it a bit rich for you guys to accuse me of elitism, when you’re the ones who think that most people were essentially idiots about the basic questions of life until recently, and the majority still are.

          That doesn’t discredit your position. But atheism is an intrinsically elitist position. I believe that the vast majority of the human race are right in their instincts but that, as with anything else, only some people have thought through the logical issues carefully (and I’m by no means in the forefront of these–I’m not a philosopher and no doubt others could put the case much better than I have done).

        • Myna A.

          I see nothing whatever wrong with elitism in intellectual matters.

          Intellectual matters are always open to debate. If they weren’t, ideas would not evolve. There’s always a danger of centrism as well, and that is not good for anybody.

          Some people do understand their own tradition better than others.

          Some do understand a tradition, a problem, a little more clearly, but because any position is open to opposition by differing analysis of available information, then said tradition can never be conclusive, it can only be an idea some agree on and others don’t.

          when you’re the ones who think that most people were essentially idiots about the basic questions of life until recently, and the majority still are.

          I don’t see that, but if you do, then that is what you see. Which only goes to show that perspectives differ. (Edited to add: What I do see are others asking you direct questions that you appear consistently unwilling to address.) I think most are saying that the limitations of the past were born from lack of information and often prejudiced by superstition or the strength of story.

          instincts

          Instinct or questions open to the power of story? And I ask this as one who doesn’t discount a conscious force, but align more with Byron’s view: “There is something pagan in me that I cannot shake off. In short, I deny nothing, but doubt everything.”

          only some people have thought through the logical issues carefully

          Like you.

          It still appears as though you are insisting that if others would only understand your point of view, they could not help but reach the same conclusion. But perspectives differ because experience differs.

          But atheism is an intrinsically elitist position.

          As is the preference for tradition. Therefore, neither is immune in their preference. Who shall we appoint as seconds in the duel?

        • Michael Neville

          We’re having a duel? Can the weapons be sawed-off shotguns at three paces?

        • Myna A.
        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t think that elitism is a disqualifier. I’m just saying that atheists aren’t in a position to accuse theists of elitism.

          I think that in some sense everyone is an elitist in these matters, so it’s a pointless accusation (if it simply means “you think you are right and most other people are wrong”–given the diversity of opinion in the world, it’s statistically impossible not to believe this if you believe anything at all).

          I actually said, quite carefully, that I didn’t think I was particularly prominent among those who have “thought through the issues carefully.” And I was speaking there of fellow theists (who haven’t necessarily thought through the issues), not of atheists.

          I questioned my faith when I was a teenager, as so many do. I still question it. I have spent my whole adult life thinking about these issues. I don’t claim to have thought about them particularly well–I still have a lot to learn. But i have taken seriously the reasons not to believe, and I believe what I believe as a result of that (for instance, my rejection of a conservative view of Biblical inerrancy is directly due to having wrestled with the issues raised for God’s character by certain parts of the Biblical narrative).

          Hence, it’s hard not to start sounding elitist when a forum full of atheists persistently tells me that I must believe things I don’t or advises me to consider things that I have considered years ago, and consideration of which have shaped the views I now hold.

        • Kodie

          Being the only Christian in this conversation affords you the opportunity to pretend that your kind of Christian is the most intellectually superior kind. You have repeatedly defended your beliefs because they are “traditional” or more traditional than others, or because great intellects before you (and how do we know you’re competent to judge intellectual capacity) believed it so you would be foolish to reject it. I wonder if other Christians were trying to help you if you would go along generally, or be opposed on both sides?

          You are seriously pedantic and elitist, so one wonders if you’d hold other Christians to your high standards or just let them blather.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t think my kind of Christian is the most intellectually superior kind, except in the obvious and tautological sense that like all other sane human beings I believe that my views are correct (otherwise I would change them). There are alternatives to classical theism which I take very seriously: process theology, open theism, Barthianism, and in general various strands of modern Protestantism that see my kind of theism as insufficiently “Biblical” and too influenced by Greek philosophy. However, none of these theological traditions are fundamentalist, and most of the remarks about Christianity on Patheos atheist forums seem to be directed against fundamentalists or very conservative evangelicals. I am quite familiar with that world and I do in fact think that most of those folks don’t think very carefully about what they mean by the word “God,” and indeed are often quite hostile to careful and critical thought generally. The sort of religious culture that Neil Carter of “Godless in Dixie” has to deal with, for instance, is from my perspective genuinely toxic and suffocating. It is my general impression that atheists often (not always) come out of that kind of culture and react to it, assuming it to be mainstream Christianity.

          I work from the assumption that if you want to show any tradition to be false, you deal with the most intellectually serious forms of the tradition, and specifically with the form that presents the most difficulties for the particular argument you want to make. Otherwise you note that your argument does not in fact apply to the tradition as a whole but only to certain forms of it, and that other representatives of the tradition are your allies.

          If Bob and others who want to use the “atheist about one fewer god” argument would make a qualification like that, I’d have no problem with them. Of course many Christians do in fact fall into this fallacy. However, Bob and many other commenters here seem to think that the mere belief that people who differ with my concept of God are in some sense wrong constitutes “being atheists about all gods but one.” And I think that’s a rather strange way to extend the rhetoric. It seems to amount to using the fact that people think they are right as evidence that they are wrong.

        • Kodie

          There are thousands of versions of theism you reject on their premise. I mean, if a suffocating and toxic protestantism were the only game in town, you’d reject it, and interpret the text to come out closer to what you actually do believe. The god they describe is not YOUR GOD. You reject THEIR GOD.

          Meanwhile, you contend they are the “same” god, whether anyone describes that god accurately or not. But that’s not really what this blog post is about.

        • Rudy R

          That was a way-to-long “No True Scotsman” argument. No matter how intellectually superior you feel over your fellow Christians, you still believe in the same Magic Man. Now that you got that condescending comment off your chest, Susan asked you to clarify your definitions on being, natural and so forth. It would be refreshing to see a Christian respond to the questions posed on an atheist blog instead of choosing to practice theist debate points, which we’ve all heard before ad nauseum.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          How do we determine if the ideas you express exist outside of you and other humans who make the same claims? We so far have not entered into any arguments along the same lines with an actual “god”, so the claims seem to originate in only mundane people.

        • MNb

          “But i have taken seriously the reasons not to believe.”
          Could you give an example of such a reason not to believe?

          “consider things that I have considered years ago”
          Then you should have your answers ready. Alas thus far your main attempt has been to demonstrate that we attack strawmen. And you failed, simply because you’re not representative for even christians, which makes your “we Christians” very arrogant indeed.
          For instance you complained that we atheists don’t define “god”. I replied seriously to you on this very page but alas you thus far neglect it. That makes your complaints rather void. So I cannot help doubting the quality of your considerations.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I can’t keep track of every single response. If you’re the person who defined a “god” as a “supernatural being,” I have in fact been using that term since, and have pointed out that the claim “monotheists believe that only one god exists” is demonstrably false by that definition.

          However, I continue to have misgivings about the term “supernatural” applied to any being who is not God (i.e., not the transcendent Creator). If “supernatural” is in turn understood as “incapable of being explained scientifically,” then it’s a slippery concept, because of course what we can explain scientifically changes continually.

          To put it another way: if you could prove that “gods” or “angels” were “aliens” (i.e., beings from some other planet or some other dimension whose way of existing could be accounted for scientifically), it’s not clear you would actually have disproven anything about religious traditions in which these beliefs played an important role.

          Hesiod’s account of the Greek gods, and many similar mythical accounts in other traditions, describe the gods as the product of a process, sometimes involving sexual reproduction and sometimes some kind of asexual reproduction (like the cutting up of a primordial giant). It seems to me that this could quite easily be understood in modern terms to claim that “gods” are themselves the result of the evolutionary process, which would make them “natural” and not “supernatural.”

          Again, what I would call the classical theistic understanding of God is entirely different–God is seen as the ground and foundation of all process and in no way the result of a process.

        • MNb

          “of course what we can explain scientifically changes continually.”
          Of course? The key word is “can” here. You should add “in principle”. If you don’t exclude technological limits and such you fall for the god of the gaps. Indeed science in principle can explain everything within our natural reality. That hasn’t changed last 500 years or so.

          “if you could prove that “gods” or “angels” were “aliens””
          If.
          The way you describe “aliens” suggests that they belong to our natural reality and hence are not supernatural.
          Your objection is hence rather incoherent. It gets worse with

          “”gods” are themselves the result of the evolutionary process, which would make them “natural” and not “supernatural.””
          As soon as you have empirical evidence (ancient stories do not count) that gods procreate, have genes that mutate and that those genes are subject to natural selection it makes sense to say that they are “the result of the evolutionary process” and hence that they belong to our natural reality.

          Also thanks for not answering my questions and thus confirming our view of you. I’m all for second chances though, so here they are again.

          “But i have taken seriously the reasons not to believe.”
          Could you give an example of such a reason not to believe?

          “consider things that I have considered years ago”
          Then you should have your answers ready.

        • Myna A.

          having wrestled with the issues raised for God’s character

          I would argue that there contains a good element of personification in that struggle, and you certainly are not and have not been and will not be the only one to project when pondering the question. I would also posit that it imposes limitations on what is claimed as limitless. This, in my view, is where Buddhists hold the greater wisdom, in that the [God] debate is meaningless. It holds the door open for obedience to dogma and accusations of blasphemies and heresies and at some point aggression. One has to work with the reality one is given, any current of perceived conscious force notwithstanding. The rest is story.

          a forum full of atheists

          Yes, there are many atheists here. There are also, I imagine, agnostics, ignostics, perhaps some Deists and those who simply inquire, among others.

          or advises me to consider things that I have considered years ago

          Then state as much, in the king’s simple English, with standard definition, at the occurrence of any such advice that you feel you have already considered and reached your perspective. You are often not very clear and going off into shades of definition does not assist in that clarity.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I don’t understand why shades of definition are unhelpful, unless you want to make things simpler than they really are.

          Clarity has always been one of my problems, because I want to nuance everything. Of course, one is damned if one does and damned if one doesn’t in a hostile forum like this–if I didn’t nuance my statements would be torn to shreds, but if I do nuance then I’m mocked for doing so. But that’s what happens when one chooses to post on a forum largely hostile to one’s perspective. I think that generally atheists have been treated better on the main Christian forum I’ve spent time on (at Catholic Answers) than theists are here, but that’s quite likely perspective bias.

          I have found :Buddhism very helpful in making my concept of God more “apophatic” and less anthropomorphic. It is, from my perspective, the most serious alternative to :Christianity.

        • Susan

          I don’t understand why shades of definition are unhelpful

          Shades of definition are always helpful. What I find frustrating is when one vague term is replaced with vaguer terms.

          Of course, one is damned if one does and damned if one doesn’t in a hostile forum like this

          A few things:

          1) You are bound to get dogpiled when you show up in a forum like this because you are one of a very few theists participating at this point in the discussion. I can understand that that might feel like hostility. You have handled yourself well in terms of polite conduct but not very well at all in terms of clarifying and demonstrating your position.

          2) We are not strawmanning. One can only deal with one argument at a time. A huge number of christians make the argument that the article addresses. Take that up with them. The trouble with addressing “christian” arguments is that there are so many and they are so contradictory and so far, none of them are good. That includes the “intellectual” arguments. There is no “christian” argument. There are only people making claims and failing to support their claims (so far).

          3) The “intellectual” arguments aren’t impressive. They claim an immaterial agent (without basis) who created reality out of metaphysical nothingness (without basis) and who opted for (black holes mostly and) a planet that in the midst of a cold universe, decided that unimaginable, unredemptive suffering for sentient beings for hundreds of millions of years would be a good plan to save a few humans from something it pulled out of its metaphysical ear. None of the “intellectual” arguments acknowledge that. They look like mere rationalizations for old superstitious beliefs. Castles built on air.

          4) When they say “Ground of All Being”, they make a series of flawed arguments about “Being” and at the last minute substitute A “Being” without justification and that being randomly morphs into ridiculous claims like “the resurrection is the most plausible explanation” as though that made any sense at all.

          5) You haven’t defined “nature” so “supernatural” is so far meaningless. You haven’t defined “being” so “ground of all being” is so far meaningless. You haven’t defined “morality” so “perfectly moral” is so far meaningless.

          6) You have assumed that no one here has heard it all before, that they haven’t looked for the “there there” and found nothing, that they haven’t examined and done their best to understand “classical theism” and that your GOAB claims are no more impressive than Scooter’s claim that global warning is a political conspiracy and that “science” is useful only to the extent that it’s useful for supporting his claims.

          You believe an immaterial agent exists that is obsessed with black holes, radioactivity and beetles (on our tiny speck) and you think there is something “rational” about that ‘cuz “revelation”.

          You are offended that people find it no more convincing than belief in the evil eye.

          It’s not. There’s nothing hostile to you personally about that position.

          It’s just that you haven’t made a clear, well-defined claim that makes any sense.

        • Michael Neville

          who opted for (black holes mostly and) a planet that in the midst of a cold universe

          Well over 99.999…% of the universe is hard vacuum at 3K. Black holes are a small percentage of the matter/dark matter that makes up the incredibly tiny part of the universe that isn’t vacuum.

        • Susan

          Thanks Michael. “black holes mostly” is not what I meant but it is what I typed. It was late and I miswrote.

          That’s not an excuse, just an explanation. Thank you for correcting it for the record.

          I’ll edit my comment to reflect that correction.

        • Myna A.

          I don’t understand why shades of definition are unhelpful

          Because ambiguity creates an obstacle in a debate where points need to be understood clearly through a common thread of language.

          unless you want to make things simpler than they really are.

          You see, this is why I like the Dalai Lama. He is able to evoke contemplation of an idea or concept through a simple, clear sentence. Things really needn’t be that complex.

          Clarity has always been one of my problems, because I want to nuance everything

          Speaking as one who appreciates the nuance in the nature of things and the lure of extended metaphor, I can’t fault you; but again, one has to attempt some measure of clarity when wanting to interact in a discussion.

          if I didn’t nuance my statements would be torn to shreds, but if I do nuance then I’m mocked for doing so

          In order to be fully engaged in a controversial debate, one would have to take the risk of one’s stand being torn to shreds, but employing too much nuance in sharing one’s position is to risk being misunderstood. For example, Susan has asked you some straightforward questions, and you have thus far been unwilling to directly address them without ambiguity. That becomes a frustration.

          Buddhism…It is, from my perspective, the most serious alternative to :Christianity.

          If one is looking for alternatives, it’s as good as any, I suppose, and a bit more sane than most systems, in my view. Many Buddhist monks/teachers have been through a hell we can’t begin to imagine, as many people are, of any stripe, from either war torn or politically overrun places. I like hearing what they have to say, anyway.

        • MNb

          “I don’t understand why shades of definition are unhelpful,”
          Because you still don’t make clear what you’re talking about.

          “Clarity has always been one of my problems, because I want to nuance everything.”
          That might be an incorrect diagnosis. As long as you remain unclear there is precious little to nuance.

          “but if I do nuance then I’m mocked for doing so”
          Nope. You’re mocked for not making clear what you believe and why you believe it.

          You might take a look at Camels with Hammers to see what I man. Daniel Fincke nuances so much that he tends to repeat himself, but nobody can accuse him of being unclear.

        • Michael Neville

          You aren’t over-nuancing your god, you’re waffling about it. From what I can tell, your god is an amorphous, vague something which kick-started the Big Bang and then hangs around, doing ambiguous whatevers in a more or less unspecified but possibly supernatural manner while dropping hints that worship might or might not be appropriate depending on the needs, wants and desires of the putative worshiper.

        • Michael Neville

          when you’re the ones who think that most people were essentially idiots about the basic questions of life until recently

          We don’t think you’re idiots, we think you’re wrong. If you don’t understand the difference then you are an idiot.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          One poster said, “only after the Middle Ages did people start to use their minds.”

          I recognize that you aren’t responsible for that poster, but that’s the one I’ve perceived here. I’m happy to hear that I was wrong, though perhaps (to turn around the well-meaning advice you gave me) you might consider expressing yourself differently if you don’t want to give that impression.

        • Michael Neville

          One poster said, “only after the Middle Ages did people start to use their minds.”

          Whoever said that is either an idiot or ignorant. While I may not agree with Thomas Aquinas I readily admit that he was a genius, as were Abelard, Duns Scotus and Bonaventure, Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes, Confucius, Sun Tzu, Zhu Yan, the Brahmanic-Sanskritic scholastics, Mahavira and Gautauma Swami, and countless others.

        • MNb

          “only after the Middle Ages did people start to use their minds.”
          The vast majority of mankind has always been too busy surviving, to find something to eat and drink every single day. Using their minds for stuff like “is there a god?” was a waste of time for them, a superfluous luxury. That only changed recently.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I also wonder when were the first fantasy stories with god characters who were written to be understood as entertaining fictional characters and not representations of what “actual gods did” (like the Iliad and Odysey were) written. If we could determine when people understood that they could just make up gods and the supernatural for entertainment rather than “this is about a god/magic so it is a real account because they are real things always” I wonder if we could understand how believers can just swallow down religious texts as accurate accounts of real life (despite there also being modern examples of people just believing stuff with NO ORIGINAL SUPERNATURAL EVENT WHATSOEVER such as in cargo cults,Scientology, Later Day Saints, ESP, etc).

          In other words, when did fantasy literature gods/magic begin to be understood as something that could be written in our world with “real gods”? I’m betting that was a late development that early peoples couldn’t conceptualize, which made the “god”s of the rulers real to them.

        • MNb

          “you’re the ones who think that most people were essentially idiots about the basic questions of life until recently, and the majority still are.”
          Stupid trick – when you’re in the defense throw out some random attack.

          “But atheism is an intrinsically elitist position.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Unfortunately my atheist grandpa has died several decades ago. I would have loved to see his face when reading this. See, he left school at the age of 12 fpr work. He ended his career as a truck driver. In his village (called Hem) the pastor and the vicar belonged to the elite, in every single respect.

        • adam

          “”But atheism is an intrinsically elitist position.””

        • adam

          “”But atheism is an intrinsically elitist position.””.

        • adam

          “”But atheism is an intrinsically elitist position.””..

        • MNb

          And as two believers attach at least two different meanings to the word “God” whenever you write about “God” you just write about a god.
          Semantic games won’t help you out.

        • Velvetpage

          There are nearly one thousand different denominations just under the umbrella term “Baptist.” There are thousands of different Christian denominations, even if you discount the likelihood that many of the believers in them do not believe exactly what their denomination’s doctrines state.

          Tell me again why I should accept yours, or anyone’s, when Christians can’t get their own stories straight any better than that? I mean, I spend a lot of time trying to get stories straight among groups of children on a playground, and you’ve got them beat a million times over.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’m not trying to get anyone to accept any concept of God as true. I’m trying to get them to understand that the “we believe in one less God you do” remark is completely pointless and insulting to any educated theist. It only “works” on people who haven’t thought about their beliefs very carefully.

        • Last time I got an update from you, you were wrestling with the definition of “God.” I think you were scolding the atheists for not bothering to define it or not having the correct definition, or something.

          If we can take that question and flush it down the toilet, you’ll see that I’m talking about “gods.” Yes, Yahweh is a god.

          I love insulting theists as much as the next guy, but perhaps we can move forward now?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          No, I was objecting to the vagueness of the term “gods.” I have consistently given the minimal definition of the term “God” as “the source of all reality possessed of all the good qualities found in his creation.”

          I have since accepted, for the purposes of this discussion, that by “god” you mean “a supernatural being” and by “supernatural” you mean “surpassing the laws of nature as currently defined according to our scientific knowledge.” I’m not entirely happy with that definition, just as many folks here aren’t happy with my definition of the term “God.” But “god” is your preferred term, so you should get to define it.

          By this definition, the claim “atheists just believe in one fewer god” is plainly false. No monotheistic religion I know of claims that there is only one supernatural being. Certainly Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all traditionally have room for many supernatural beings who are believed to be created by God.

          I’m going to put my argument in one final form, and after that I’ll only respond to criticisms of that post, and only if they are relevant to the argument I’m making. I apologize for taking up so much of your comment section.

        • No, I was objecting to the vagueness of the term “gods.”

          The dictionary is your friend, remember?

          I have consistently given the minimal definition of the term “God” as “the source of all reality possessed of all the good qualities found in his creation.”

          Irrelevant. We’re talking about “gods.” You just determined to set up a smoke screen so you don’t have to address the actual argument? Yahweh is a god; that’s as far as you need to take it. No more whining about the definition of God, please. Or, if this is just an attempt to avoid the issue, just stop talking about this one, and we’ll get the message.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Swap god for supreme being if it makes you feel any better. Even most polytheisms have an alpha god.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          God isn’t an “alpha god.” That implies primacy among equals. God is something entirely different, because God is by definition uncreated, while (in a theist framework) everything else is created by God.

          I’m not trying to convince you. I’m telling you what dumb, crazy thing we theists believe in so you won’t confuse it with the dumb, crazy things we don’t believe in.

        • Michael Neville

          It only “works” on people who haven’t thought about their beliefs very carefully.

          The vast majority of Christians don’t follow your “traditional Christianity”. Instead they believe in Jesus as part of the Trinity along with Daddy and the Spook, which is a sufficient number of gods for them. Your snobbish attitude towards the great unwashed Christian plebs as being uneducated and therefore to be patronized is rather grating, especially since they can generally describe the god they worship, an act you appear incapable of doing despite your doctorate in Religious Thinkology.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I believe in the Trinity too, if that is what you are referring to by your scornful and patronizing language.

          And I find it extremely strange that you find fault with my “snobbish attitude” when your own attitude is far more scornful.

          You believe that all Christians believe stupid things.
          I believe that many Christians believe things that they haven’t thought through very carefully.

          I have repeatedly described the _minimal_ characteristics of God, as acknowledged by all theists of various religions, as a source of all being to which we ascribe all good qualities found in reality as we experience it.

          That is, of course, not an adequate description of what I believe about God as a Christian. It is a minimal description of what people need to believe in order to be talking recognizably about God.

        • adam

          “I believe in the Trinity too,”

          I thought you only believed in ONE ‘God’?

        • Michael Neville

          First, I’m scornful and patronizing because I made a recommendation to you which you rejected. If it’s acceptable for you to be condescending and patronizing then I can be also.

          There’s a difference between snobbish and scornful. You’re snobbish towards other Christians. I’m scornful towards you because of your snobbishness. I’m also annoyed because of your completely unjustified superiority to anyone who doesn’t agree with your rather incomprehensible definition of what “god” is.

          As I told you before, I don’t think that Christians are stupid, I think you (collective you) are wrong. While there are elaborate, beautifully constructed cloud castles full of different flavors of gods, there is no, as in ZERO, evidence that such gods exist. You claim the god you worship is the creator of all things including all other gods but we both know there’s no evidence that anything was created by a god. Ex nihilo nihil fit is jargon, not evidence.

          Furthermore, you repeated claim your god is good and dismiss the propaganda all other Christians accept which shows that the Christian god is a sadistic, narcissistic bully. You might believe that Jesus/Yahweh/The Spook is a good whatever it is but that’s not what the Bible says. I’ve read the Bible (in English, three times, three different translations, two different versions) and it says your god is a thug who kills people just because he can. You’ve denied this but have yet to explain this immorality away, something else I find annoying. Even Lane Craig has a half-assed (maybe only quarter-assed) explanation as to why the obviously immoral Yahweh is actually somehow moral.

          You’re obviously an intelligent, educated person. Ordinarily I enjoy discussing things with such people. You’re also patronizing, condescending, snobbish and a prig. These attributes do not endear you to me.

        • I have repeatedly described the _minimal_ characteristics of God, as acknowledged by all theists of various religions

          Why do other theists care how you define your god?

          You still seem to be having a problem with god vs. God. We’re talking about the former here.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          So how do you define a “god”? Do you accept the definition given by others on this forum, that a “god” is a “supernatural being”?

          If so, don’t you see that the “one fewer god” argument automatically fails, since all the major monotheistic religions speak of multiple supernatural beings (angels and demons)?

          This is highly relevant to the argument, because theists have the option of accepting the validity of supernatural experiences in other religions, while interpreting them within the frame of reference of their own religion. (Early Christians interpreting pagan “gods” as demons, for instance.) Thus, while atheists are committed to finding a naturalistic explanation for all supernatural phenomena, theists aren’t.

          Hence, accepting the premise (one you have not provided any evidence for, by the way) that the evidentiary basis for all claims of supernatural experience is equal, it would not in fact be true that the attitudes of theists toward such claims in other religions was the same as that of atheists.

        • So how do you define a “god”?

          I just gave the M-W definition: “a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship”

          don’t you see that the “one fewer god” argument automatically fails, since all the major monotheistic religions speak of multiple supernatural beings (angels and demons)?

          Don’t you see that you’re franticly trying to avoid facing the question? “Christians accept angels so therefore I don’t have to worry about your question” makes it look like you’re avoiding the issue.

          If you think the challenge is ill-formed, then show us how it could be correctly formed to avoid whatever concern is in your mind. And then respond to that.

          This is highly relevant to the argument, because theists have the option of accepting the validity of supernatural experiences in other religions, while interpreting them within the frame of reference of their own religion.

          The pagan says, “There’s a spirit in that tree.” Is there? Or is the pagan mistaken?

          Hence, accepting the premise (one you have not provided any evidence for, by the way) that the evidentiary basis for all claims of supernatural experience is equal

          Nope, that’s not part of the argument.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I think there probably is a spirit in the tree, yes. I certainly have no commitment to saying that there isn’t.
          And no, how am I avoiding facing the question? I was working with a definition I was given earlier that a “god” was any “supernatural being.” By that definition, angels and demons are highly relevant. It simply isn’t true that Christians or other monotheists believe in only one supernatural being. And that by necessity means that when confronted with claims about supernatural beings in other religions, we certainly do _not_ “disbelieve in them” in the same way the atheist does. The atheist is committed to explaining them away through “natural” means. The theist isn’t. We “disbelieve in them” in the sense that we don’t worship them, to be sure. But that’s a claim about the proper attitude to take to them, not about how to deal with alleged evidence for their existence.

          Hence, I’m not avoiding your claim at all. I’m refuting it, and you are refusing to respond to my refutation.

        • Greg G.

          Why does a god have to be the creator of the universe? If a god created the universe, why does it have to be only good, rather than sometimes good and sometimes evil, or completely evil, or simply indifferent?

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          A god doesn’t. God does.
          Same with goodness.
          When we posit the existence of God, we do so because we are seeking an ultimate cause of both the physical existence of the universe and the existence of values such as beauty, goodness, and truth. To say that we believe in God is to say that we believe that all these things have one common source which is itself morally perfect.

          That’s a definition, not an argument. God may not exist, but that’s what we mean when we ask the question whether God exists or not. That is entirely separate from the question of whether certain phenomena people have believed to be produced by a supernatural being (including those ascribed directly to God in the sense described above) are really produced by such a being or not.

        • Myna A.

          I believe in the Trinity too

          Devout Hindus do as well—Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh—the Trimurti, which predates the Christian Trinity. Now one could argue that a rose by any other name, and that would be one argument. Muslims claim their doctrine is a revelation that points out the errors in all other claims preceding said revelation. What to do? How could all those ulama be wrong?

          I believe that many Christians believe things that they haven’t thought through very carefully.

          Beliefs are like that, yes they are. What I hear you saying is that your particular contemplation and your academic studies and the essential conclusion you have reached thereby, somehow contain a deeper insight, a truth supported by elite theological consensus, comes into conflict with the ordinary Jane and Joe Wal Mart Christian who each walk blindly though the aisles without consideration of where the goods are coming from. That they do not understand the morals and ethics of what they participate in.

          To some extent, that’s probably true, but this leaves the door wide open to asking why said truth is so open to interpretation and dispute. Swiss cheese sold at Wal Mart may be considered inferior to the same cheese sold by nutrition advocates at Whole Foods, but in the end, it’s still a product called Swiss cheese and still filled with holes.

          On the other hand, you claim all theists agree there exists God. Whether it’s the Wal Mart variety or the Tiffany’s exclusive, I guess it doesn’t much matter if beneath it’s all the same deity, and a deity that only mere mortal men have contemplated over the millennia, to boot.

          The sun projects light. If you stare at that light with the naked eye long enough, it will burn your retinas out. That is an indisputable truth. No matter
          what card one plays, one eventually yields to the earth. That is an
          indisputable truth. The unbeliever is justified in asking you to present your indisputable truth. If you don’t have one that qualifies, if it is all something you simply deeply feel, then you have to ask yourself why it is so important to make the argument in its defense.

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          I’m not objecting to the “morals and ethics” of less educated Christians, though certainly in America many Christians do accept ethical principles I believe are horribly wrong (like their embrace of American nationalism, their callousness toward immigrants and the poor generally, and so on). I’m pointing out what should be obvious, that not everyone has thought through all the implications of what they believe. Furthermore, in American Protestantism, because of the glorification of individualism and anti-intellectualism, there are whole traditions of Christianity that are cut off from the best elements of Christian tradition and thus present a seriously distorted picture of Christianity.

          Clearly Christianity is not an indisputable truth. It is an interpretation of reality.

        • Myna A.

          Clearly Christianity is not an indisputable truth. It is an interpretation of reality.

          And there you have it. As long as the Christian interpretation of reality does not impede unbiased scientific research, disturb the greater collective, does not, as Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “…pick my pocket or break my leg” it makes no difference if one’s neighbor believes in “…one god or a thousand.”

          Furthermore, in American Protestantism, because of the glorification of
          individualism and anti-intellectualism, there are whole traditions of
          Christianity that are cut off from the best elements of Christian
          tradition and thus present a seriously distorted picture of
          Christianity.

          The media is a mighty hydra. It exists to give an impression. It’s a manufactured dumbing down, so to speak, but I’ve yet to hear much about mainstream Protestants demonstrating anti-intellectualism, though, or declaring intolerance as acceptable. I’ve heard a lot about fringe groups. I’ve seen a lot of televised evangelical balderdash under the Christian banner. We’ve all seen or heard the stories.

          Crazy will always be newsworthy in a culture enamored with the next new crazy and opinions assumed as facts over that crazy. If you listen to the BBC, the CBC, watch international news, the contrast with U.S. media is striking. PBS is really the only alternative in the U.S., or watching C-span where it is assumed you are able to make up your own damn mind on what you are viewing. I think there are a lot of noble people in journalism, it’s just that crazy overshadows the sincerity of their efforts.

          I am thinking you are saying that individualism, in your view, has run amok. Perhaps you are arguing for more cooperation. But if you are arguing for the latter, you have to define what one is cooperating with. And if one doesn’t agree, then what? Gentle persuasion? The firing squad? What? The wisdom might be in just walking away and like that American diamond, John Prine, once sang: “Throw away the TV. Eat a lot of peaches. Try to find Jesus on your own.”

        • Edwin Woodruff Tait

          You’re right that I was speaking of evangelical rather than mainline Protestantism. But then, that’s what most posters on these forums seem to have in mind too.

          I have a great fondness for mainline Protestantism, and have been torn between it and Catholicism for many years.

          I’m arguing for Christians recovering their traditions and seeing themselves in a more communal fashion. Of course most people, including most Christians, won’t listen. That’s OK. Those of us who have fallen in love with the riches of historic Christianity need to bear witness (non-coercively, of course, just to address a specter you raise in your post) and let the chips fall where they may.

        • Ignorant Amos

          But then, that’s what most posters on these forums seem to have in mind too.

          Another erroneous assertion borne out of ignorance.

        • Velvetpage

          Having been an educated theist in the past, of course it’s insulting. The problem with a debate between theists and atheists is that there’s no way to have it without each side offending the other, because we each believe the other is inherently wrong about their deepest-held tenets. I’m not setting out to insult anybody, but I know it’s likely to happen when I get into this kind of debate – which is why I don’t have this debate with people I need to get along with in other contexts.

          So leaving aside the issue of insult, the comparison works only if the theist is prepared to admit that they do not believe in many other variations on the god theme that have existed down through the millennia. If you have never prayed to Zeus and would think someone rather stupid for doing so, then you do not believe in Zeus. That’s pretty much how I feel now about believers in the Christian god.

        • MNb

          Because Disqus sucks (though not as badly as World Table) I only read your comment today. This is an interesting observation:

          “we each believe the other is inherently wrong about their deepest-held tenets.”
          The way I deal with it is

          1. I try to put some effort in my insults and appreciate it when others do; that prevents me from taking myself too seriously.
          2. I always realize this is just internet;
          3. when somebody manages to anger me I quit the discussion.

        • TheNuszAbides

          It only “works” on people who haven’t thought about their beliefs very carefully.

          if “works” includes “prompts them to think about their beliefs more carefully”, then maybe the scarequotes aren’t entirely justified.
          would you hazard a guess as to how many theists are ‘educated’ [in the theism with which they identify]?

        • WayneMan

          But the analogy fits. You do reject a belief in all other religion’s god(s) except your own. Atheist simply reject a belief in yours, as well as all others (the one less comment).

          And to TheNuszAbides comment about education, there was a CNN network survey a few years ago. They gave a generalized religious test to groups of various religious people, as well as atheists. The atheists as a group, scored higher than the religious groups.

        • Michael Neville

          Atheists can’t give a definitive definition of “gods” or “god” because theists’ definitions vary so widely. I’ve had discussions with Christians where “God” changed from a geezer with a white beard who found your car keys and obsessed about sex to a vague, deist deity who lurked in the background in almost the same sentence.

          Once you theists can decide what attributes your god or gods have then atheists will use them when discussing gods with you. Until then, don’t blame us for your lack of definitions or descriptions of the figments of your imaginations.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “theists can’t give a coherent explanation of what a “god” is in the first place.”

          The above statement is also true and explains the ‘why’ of your original statement.

  • Cygnus

    ““I Just Believe in One Less God Than You Do” is not a fallacy when applied to monotheists.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    None of the article presents any evidence for the existence of a god or goddess.

    • Greg G.

      Why would it?

  • Glenn Rittenhouse

    on point #1, an atheist simply does not believe in a god. If a christian does not believe in Zeus, they are an atheist with respect to that god. in that sense, we both share our non-belief. that is the sense with which i have always approached this argument. you dont believe. i dont believe. rinse repeat 5,000 times. at 5,001, we disagree. i do not see a conflict with this argument. remove the term atheist, and input belief, and it works.

  • WayneMan

    Yes, technically a believer is not an atheist, but the statement is an accurate analogy. A more accurate statement would be, “You reject all other gods as truth except your own. I just reject one more god than you as truth.”.

    • That’s an interesting phrasing, thanks.

      • Argus

        Perhaps it would be more semantically correct to say the Christian has an atheistic view on other god claims? That way we are talking about an adjective that applies to their view rather than stating they are this noun of an atheist.

  • Daniel Stowens

    For me, the main point of this essentially pointless statement is that it is grammatically wrong. In English, less is used for uncountable things like water or sand and FEWER is used for discrete, countable things like gods.

    • Greg G.

      In Americanese, the word “less” is more versatile.

    • That was my initial reaction as well, and I had a joke planned around that. Turns out that I was wrong. Less is also used for singular items and fewer for plural.

      Here’s a single rule that works: if the verb is is, use less (candy is, so less candy). If the verb is are, use fewer (M&Ms are; fewer M&Ms). “God is” so therefore “less god”; “Gods are” so therefore “fewer gods.”

      http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/less-versus-fewer

      • MR

        I almost sided with Mr. Stowens on this one, and wrote half a paragraph defending him, but then I thought I’d just turn to Steven Pinker’s, The Sense of Style in case I might be overreacting…:

        Like many dubious rules of usage, the less-fewer distinction has a smidgen of validity as a pointer of style…. but that does not mean that less is a grammatical error.

        He gives some examples:

        By this logic (countable vs. non), liquor store should refuse to sell beer to customers who are fewer than twenty-one years old, law-abiding motorists should drive at fewer than seventy miles an hour, and the poverty line should be defined by those make fewer than eleven thousand five hundred dollars a year. And once you master this distinction, well, that’s one fewer thing for you to worry about.

        My apologies, Bob, for doubting you.

        • Thanks, but keep vigilant for errors. I’m pretty good with rules like this but hardly perfect. Mssr. Richard S Russell is quick to point out this kind of thing. Half of his corrections are a simple error on my part and with the rest, I actually didn’t know that I’d made a mistake.

        • MR

          One fewer bell to answer
          One fewer egg to fry
          One fewer man to pick up after
          I should be happy
          But all I do is cry over perceived grammatical errors and sidestep the point….

        • GrandmascienCe

          10 items or fewer

        • Myna A.

          Geez, thanks for the ear-worm, MR… 🙁

        • Greg G.

          Let that be a less-on for us all.

        • Say, that is an improvement!

        • Max Doubt

          “One fewer bell to answer
          One fewer egg to fry”

          You must be old. 😉

        • MR

          You don’t listen to oldies?

        • Greg G.

          I was in the Dallas-Ft Worth area two weeks ago and tuned in an oldies station that was playing that new 1980s music. Always good to be in a rental car when the radio makes you barf.

        • MR

          I also listen to Bach. I must be really old!

        • Michael Neville

          There are rocks that are younger than that.

        • Kodie

          Some people were raised by old parents.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i have demonstrably above-average grammar sense but i never knew the “_____ and me/I” rule until a few years ago.

        • Greg G.

          There have been many songs that I have generally liked except for when they use “I” as an object in the lyrics. I think life would have been more enjoyable had I not known that.

        • No such rule comes to mind for me, so if it’s not too much trouble, share it with us.

        • TheNuszAbides

          use whichever would apply if you were referring only to yourself: e.g. “this is for you and me to share”* vs. “you and I will share this”. in my experience the passive form is a rare occurrence, and usually clunky/informal exchanges, so it’s no surprise “and I” is most often correct.
          (just found an interesting explanation on the site you linked to, under “you and i”)

          *i always have trouble thinking of examples rather than reacting to a ‘live test’; this phrasing might have other issues.

        • Kodie

          I hardly ever think it’s necessary to ignore the topic, call it pointless, in fact, just to be a grammar nazi, even if he was right. I could see a little value to the discussion if he corrected Bob’s grammatical error (which he didn’t create, but copied) in addition to posting a relevant comment to consider the topic worthwhile. As it is in this case, I couldn’t give less fucks.

      • Daniel Stowens

        Interesting grammar – I’m not sure it is different though. Uncountable things are grammatically singular and modified by less. Plural things by definition then are not uncountable and modified by fewer.

    • Kodie

      the main point of this essentially pointless statement

      I think you mean pointfewer.

      • Daniel Stowens

        You betcha, if the point is a discrete, singular object. But, of course, it might be some philosophical entity that’s not countable and then less is more… correct.

  • Rex Jamesson

    Good discussion, and indeed, the “one less god” argument will usually make people at least appreciate the position. Of course, as you’ve pointed out, it slightly overstates the cause, and the clever Christian who wants to shut down argument on a technicality can do so right there. Maybe a better opening statement (although with much less pizazz!) would be: “we both claim to have the right to be selective when we discard gods we don’t believe in. We both discard them with prejudice – that is, on the basis of evidence we have, we can discard them pretty much for good. So you tell me why you’ve rejected all the other gods with prejudice, and then I’ll tell you why I reject yours with prejudice.” (and of course if anybody takes that bait, all the things against OTHER gods and their holy writ can generally be applied equally against their own). Maybe that’s a kind of way of opening up the “outsider criteria” to somebody on the inside.

  • Argus

    Perhaps it would be more semantically correct to say the Christian has an atheistic view on other god claims?

    That way we are talking about an adjective that applies to their view rather than stating they are this noun of an atheist…

    • Sure, that might avoid the semantic niggling. Thanks for the suggestion.

      • Argus

        Or maybe even use the word non-believer as that detaches the sometimes vague understanding on their part as to what an atheist is.

        Example:

        Ath: I do not believe Thor exists. Do you agree?

        The: Yes I agree. I do not believe Thor exists.

        Ath: So it would be fair to say that we are both non-believers on Thor claims?

        The: That’s fair.

        Ath: Would it also be accurate to say that you do not believe that any non-Christian god exist?

        The: Yes.

        Ath: So, we agree – we are non-believers about every god except the Christian one. I am a non-believer in the case of the Christian god. We are both non-believers when it comes to 99% of all gods ever posited. Correct?

        • I was trying to use “we’re both atheists with respect to Thor” (or whoever). That qualifier seems to take care of things, but some of the Christian responses were of the niggling grammar type, “I’m an atheist?? How stupid is this guy?”

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yer fucked mate, good effort though, but egocentric wankers are almost always going to be egocentric wankers.

          Almost always?

          Space Ponies will be thee belief of the future…once I become a low life scum bag rotten enough to take advantage of the the gullible sheeple. Poor bastards.

          Alas, not me.

          Now, on to drinking malt Scotch and/or retire gracefully….lovingly gracefully…nah….lets just drink the uisge beatha and be done with it.

  • Aaron Young

    Within the context of “believing in a specific god”, which is a very narrow scope if you’re specifying which god, saying “this person is an atheist in regards to the god of the opposing faith” is true. The point of the argument is to demonstrate that they disbelieve in gods from all over the place, they know what it’s like to hear about someone’s chosen myth and shrug it off as being irrelevant without evidence. They do it to everybody else’s god. Being specific in no way invalidates the claim. They are not global atheists, disbelieving in ALL gods, but they are atheist in regard to specific gods.

    I don’t see how that argument has an invalid point, if you don’t nitpick over semantics.

  • Michiel De Jong

    It’s not “I Just Believe in One Less God Than You Do”, but it is “I Just Disbelieve in One More God Than You Do”. That is a major difference. Cause an atheïst doesn’t belief in other Gods.