Atheist Monument Critique: Founding Father Freethinkers

Atheist Monument Critique: Founding Father Freethinkers January 23, 2017

Read part 1 of this series on an American Atheist monument installed on public property in Florida as a protest against a Ten Commandments monument.

The back of the monument contains quotes by some founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Wiker (the Christian whose article I’ve been critiquing) responds:

The problem with the American Atheists using these quotes is that, while Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin were certainly Americans, they were certainly not atheists.

That’s debatable, but let’s let that go. Wiker continues:

They warmly approved of the moral doctrines that arose from Christianity. These moral doctrines were understood, by all three, to be essential to forming the character of the citizens for free government.

What moral doctrines are exclusively from Christianity? Good principles like “don’t murder” or “don’t steal” are hardly unique to Christianity or even to religion. (Admittedly, neither are stupid principles like Christianity’s support for slavery or genocide.) And basic principles that today we think are obvious like no slavery, no torture, non-coercive marriage, freedom from religion, democracy, and others that are listed in documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not from the Bible (more here).

Moral principles come from people and society. We don’t need to imagine the supernatural to explain them.

Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the first quote:

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”
— Thomas Jefferson

Wiker tries to handwave a response:

The first quote shows a confidence by Jefferson that the foundation of belief in God is rational, not that reason leads to atheism.

Wrong again. Why would Jefferson demand that we question the existence of God if he meant that belief in God is rational? How stupid does Wiker hope we are?

John Adams

He has no rebuttal to the Adams quote:

“It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [writing the Constitution] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of Heaven.”
— John Adams

Benjamin Franklin

Here’s the final atheist quote:

“When religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
— Benjamin Franklin

Wiker responds:

[This] is spoken against having an established church (as England had its own established church).

I’d say, “Nice try” except that this is quite a pathetic try. No, that’s not what Franklin is saying. He’s saying that any god so ephemeral that he won’t support his own religion isn’t much of a god.

But that does not prove that secular atheism invented the separation of church and state. . . . The separation of church and state is (like hospitals and universities) the invention of Christianity.

The Church must’ve forgotten its embrace of church/state separation during the period when the Pope had his own country, ordered Crusades, crowned emperors, and in general meddled in the political affairs of Europe. Or when kings imagined a divine right to rule. Or when Henry VIII took the role of head of the Church of England. The church was up to its well-appointed elbows in politics. (And Wiker claims too much when he declares that Christianity invented universities and hospitals.)

True, “atheism” didn’t invent separation of church and state, but let’s not pretend that Christianity did, either. Martin Luther’s doctrine of two kingdoms, for example, is hardly the First Amendment.

But focus on the positive. Wiker is so adamant that church/state separation a good thing that he wants to take credit for it. His claim of invention is wrong, but let’s instead focus on his celebration of church/state separation.

Not only are we on the same page, we’ve come full circle. The initial news story was of a county in Florida giving exclusive use of their property for a Christian message. Wiker’s support for church/state separation makes clear he would stand alongside American Atheists in demanding either no religious messages or free access for all.

Concluded here.

We do not err because truth is difficult to see.
It is visible at a glance.
We err because this is more comfortable.

— Alexander Solzhenitsyn

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 9/16/13.)

Image credit: Dave Muscato, CC


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  • MNb

    Exactly what I wanted to write. Even if we grant that Jefferson, Adams and Franklin were christians, that christianity invented state-church separation and that those moral doctrines came from christianity then still christian privilege in the public sector is unjustified; rather the opposite.
    How come apologists like Wiker are so silly?

    • eric

      My guess is all this palaver about the founders liking Christianity’s ‘moral doctrine’ is set-up for the conclusion that therefore 10C monuments are okay because they merely express historically American moral doctrine, and thus don’t count as establishing religion. Whereas Satanic Temple and atheist monuments don’t have the historically accepted moral chops, so they count as establishing religion.

      That’s been the line before, with others. It’s the old “well Moses is on the Supreme Court Fresco, therefore historically okay” argument.
      Its a shame the original Wiker article isn’t online any more. But given he thinks Darwin’s Origin of Species “screwed up the world” and he also wrote another book about how Liberalism is our state religion, I would not necessarily expect that his definition of ‘separation of church and state’ matched my definition of ‘separation of church and state.’ It might, but I wouldn’t count on it. My definition, for example, thinks its okay to teach evolution in public school science classes. But I doubt a guy who’s written three books specifically against Darwin and another that states the Origin of Species is one of the ten books that screwed up the world would agree with that.

      • “Never do anything for the first time”?

        • TheNuszAbides

          originality is the devil’s playground?

      • Jim Jones

        If the US system of law which starts with the Constitution is based on the 10 commandments, why does the First Amendment violate the first commandment?

      • Yes, the appeal to tradition fallacy strikes again.

    • How come apologists like Wiker are so silly?

      Because Trump’s truth-free zone was preceded by Christians for decades. Smart people who would tear his argument to pieces aren’t his target audience.

    • Dannorth

      It’s quite simple. They start with the conclusion they like and work their arguments backward from there.

      • Joe

        Also known as the Scalia Method.

  • eric

    I find his treatment of Jefferson the funniest. Does Wiker know Jefferson literally cut out (with a knife) all the miracle and supernatural bits from the New Testament because he thought they were false?

    Some other choice Jefferson quotes, from Wikipedia:

    Jefferson wrote that “Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God.” He called the writers of the New Testament “ignorant, unlettered men” who produced “superstitions, fanaticisms, and fabrications.” He called the Apostle Paul the “first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.” He dismissed the concept of the Trinity as “mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.” He believed that the clergy used religion as a “mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves” and that “in every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.” And he wrote in a letter to John Adams that “the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

    Now yeah, Jefferson liked much of the moral doctrine expressed in the NT. But he liked it despite it’s religious context, not because of it. The religious bits he considered completely irrational and he hoped that we, humanity, would jettison them within a few generations.

  • Jim Jones
  • Pofarmer

    Benjamin Franklin wanted to establish the first secular University in the U.S. He couldn’t get that done, so he was satisfied with establishing the first non-denominational college in the U.S. Which, I believe, was Duke.

    • Wikipedia: “Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present-day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892.[9] In 1924, tobacco and electric power industrialist James Buchanan Duke established The Duke Endowment”

      That would make it too late for Franklin, I believe.

    • Michael Murray

      Maybe the University of Pennsylvania ?

    • Michael Neville

      Duke was established in 1838, Franklin died 50 years earlier in 1788.

      EDIT I should have read further down, Bob posted on Duke’s establishment 19 hours before I did.

      • Pofarmer

        give a brother a break. I was on a cell phone going by memory and going back and forth between Andrew Dickson White and Benjamin Franklin and about 4 East Coast Universities. There’s only so much stuff I can contain in my noggin. LOL.

  • While none of them appear to have atheists, they also weren’t orthodox Christians. Franklin apparently was a deist, while Adams and Jefferson had openly criticized Christian doctrines as we see here. Jefferson appears to be saying that if belief in God is rational, then it can stand up to questioning (similarly to the churches not requiring government support quote).

    • Kevin K

      Adams was a Unitarian (aka, a heretic according to most established churches). Of course, Franklin was nominally a Quaker, but in his time in France he spent more time in the openly atheist salons than anywhere else. Jefferson edited the bible to get rid of anything that smacked of magic (all of Jesus’ alleged miracles, etc.), leaving behind the ethical teachings.

      • Jefferson was also a Unitarian, as I recall, and an Epicurean (a philosophy which rejected any creator, saying the gods had no interest in humanity). It’s possible Franklin and others might have been closet atheists, or leaned in that direction. Just going by his known writings however he was a self-described deist.

        • Pofarmer

          Also keep in mind WHEN we’re talking here. You’re some 80 years before “Origin of species”. You’re just at the beginning of Modern science. There really wasn’t a better answer than “Some God did it” for a lot of questions.

        • Well, there were already atheist philosophers (like the Baron d’Holbach) who gave other answers. Pretty much anything is better than saying “God did it” which is no real answer at all.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, there’s also Hume, of course. I still think, that with their outlook, these guys(the Founders) were working in what was pretty rarified air at the time.

        • Yes, they were a minority.

        • Percy Shelley’s “The Necessity of Atheism” (1811) got him expelled from Oxford. I haven’t read of any Western thinkers before this time who were atheists.

          I hadn’t heard of Baron d’Holbach (d. 1789). Thanks.

        • MNb
        • Ironically Shelley was a pantheist (atheism sometimes is defined as only in regards to the classical theist God).

          There were others, though less well known. David Hume and Jeremy Bentham also in the 1700s. In fact though, atheism seems to be old as civilization (or perhaps older, given how some foraging peoples apparently have no belief in gods). For instance, the first recorded atheists were the Carvaka philosophy in India more than two thousand years ago. In ancient Greece as well there were some atheists philosophers such as Diagoras of Melos. There is a good book about this, Battling the Gods.

        • Right. I certainly can’t fault these brilliant minds, decades before modern science, for assuming there must be a supernatural something.

    • Curiously, most of the fundamentalist apologetics arguments today are deist–Cosmological, Design, Transcendental, Ontological, and so on. They all point to some clockmaker but give no details that would help us identify the particulars of the god(s).

      • Rudy R

        That’s why I challenged Ameribear that empirical evidence is required to believe in a Christian god. What I got in return, though, was that he didn’t need empirical evidence to believe in a Christian god. Makes his pure reasoning for the existence of a god irrelevant, when all he really needs is faith.

      • eric

        Its not curious, it’s strategy. Deism is so much easier to defend than Christian theism because it makes so many less substantive claims. But I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of Christian apologists say the Apostles Creed on Sundays and just become “philosophical deists of convenience” on Mondays.

        • adam
        • Joe

          And sinners on Saturday evenings.

        • Michael Neville

          “Many Christians sow their wild oats on Saturday and on Sunday pray for a crop failure.” –Anon

        • Pofarmer

          Speaking of which. I’ve written about the “Pray for X” group that came across my facebook feed. Well, it’s been a year, kid is still a quadrapalegic. He wrote a big post for the year anniversary. In it he wrote that before the crash, he had drank a fifth of whiskey and got in and drove, by himself. Said he was living “Way left of living right” and that he was closer to God than ever now. His parents also wrote a big post the next day about how wonderful God was and how strong their family was and blah, blah, blah. But the thing that struck me, is that this was a kid that had been brought up pretty well fundamentalist Baptists, his parents are part of a recent Church split going more Southern Baptist. But, anyway, this is one of the things that really bugs me about Christian parents. They teach reliance on God, and Jesus, and all that, but the don’t teach actual consequences of actions. I mean, I hope that I’ve taught my kids that getting falling down drunk and then driving is stupid and a good way to kill yourself or somebody else. Let’s teach kids about ACTUAL consequences of ACTUAL actions. I think this is the reason we see so much teen pregnancy in fundagelical states, to, their actions are removed from the consequences of those actions. The way we think matters.

        • adam

          ” their actions are removed from the consequences of those actions. The way we think matters.”

          Which is why faith in the unbelievable is so critical to religious power.

        • Machintelligence

          I suppose they could blame God (Jesus) for failing to take the wheel, or, alternatively, praise Him for sparing their son’s life in the crash (It’s a miracle!) Neither option makes sense to me.

        • TheNuszAbides

          and/or fear Him for wielding Bad Decision Making as an [incoherent] instrument of punishment.

        • I’m guessing they’ll say that they prayers were effective, because the guy is now a firm believer in Jeebus.

          That’s a great point about belief insulating them from the consequences of their actions. At Friendly Atheist today, I read about a new bill that will reduce abortion access so that women will think about the consequences of their actions. It’d be nice if these guys could be consistent.

        • Otto

          Their religion isn’t even internally consistent…you are asking a bit much Bob.

        • Pofarmer

          It gets even better on the abortion front.

          The House just passed a sweeping abortion funding ban. Here’s what it does.

        • What would Jesus do? He’d say, “Fuck the poor! I mean, seriously, how else are they going to learn their lesson?”

        • Pofarmer

          And they say it with such glee.

        • Greg G.

          Have you ever seen the Monty Python sketch where they are doing main in the street interviews about poverty?

        • That’s tough love! You could be in Trump’s cabinet.

        • Otto

          I think you bring up a great point, if the consequences of bad action are that you will make God mad it presents a problem. God does not feel real to a lot of people, especially younger people in say the 18-30 crowd (for obvious reasons), so the consequences don’t fell real either.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, think about it, these folks have been taught since kids that they will literally live forever. They have also been taught, at least in some instances, that “Life is a walking shadow”, so they don’t really value this life, and I think more than a few Fundagelical/Catholic kids ( I know a few do because I’ve worked with them) have pretty serious self image problems because of the things they’ve been taught. The whole, We’re all sinners, we’re groveling worms, and on , and on, and on, has to have an effect over time. And when you’ve been subjected to that literally your entire life?

        • Otto

          I can tell you from experience I had/have self image problems that stem at least partially from the Catholic Church and its messages.

        • Greg G.

          Your avatar looks marvelous and light as air.

        • And smokes a cigarette when the need arises.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Ditto Missouri Synod Lutheranism.

        • I listen to the Issues Etc. podcast, which is from them. Pretty fundamentalist.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Luckily I was buffered from the worst of it. Having a non-church father (as the research has indicated) probably helped.

          The church my mother attended was the same one whose (young, new) pastor was forbidden by the synod from participating in the Sandy Hook Massacre interfaith service on pain of censure.

        • I’d not heard of the Sandy Hook thing. Why did the Synod forbid that?

        • TheNuszAbides

          Having a non-church father (as the research has indicated) probably helped.

          i can easily imagine the moralizing-theist spin on such research. i remember my dad saying he was an atheist when i was fairly young, but since retirement he’s had a neighbor farmer ‘convince’ him that there’s ‘probably’ some kind of creatorish thingy. he’s always made weird political choices. (gives Reagan credit for anything ending the Cold War, voted for Tony Fucking Abbott)

        • eric

          As Jimmy Buffet once said: there’s a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning. 🙂

        • TheNuszAbides

          Saturday Night’s All Right For _____

        • Ignorant Amos

          Me’s quite partial to a wee bit of Elton Bog too.

        • The apologists make deist arguments, not acknowledging the huge gap from deism (which they hope to have proved) to Christianity.

        • sandy

          Exactly Bob. When one discusses the existence of a god one should first define which god we are talking about, which is fine. So if we agree it will be the christian god, what the bible has god saying and doing, eliminates him from the argument or the creator of the universe is a pretty sick evil dude.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Which Christian god though?

          The immaterial mind outside time and space, or the anthropomorphic big daddy god that answers prayers and dictates calamities in the weather?

          The multi-omni perfection…or the piece of shite in the OT.

          There are as many different gods of Christianity as there are Christians and the thing is a shape shifting chameleon.

          Hence igtheism.

        • sandy

          Yes Amos, or which christian sect of the 45,000 are we talking about? For that matter, what copied and edited bible version are we going to go by? Just too many holes in the argument that the christian god is THE god and creator of the universe and is obviously man made.

      • sdorman

        I think the Ontological and Moral arguments for God would, if true, show more then a God who creates the world then sits idly by doing nothing. The God of these arguments would be Goodness itself and the ultimate authority. This would not be a God who isn’t concerned or active with man. Also, there is the resurrection of Jesus argument, if true, would give lots of details about God. It is as follows,

        1. There are three established facts about Jesus:

        a. His empty tomb
        b. His post-mortem appearances
        c. The origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection

        2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

        3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that God exits.

        4. Therefore, God (Christian) exists.

        • adam

          ” The God of these arguments would be Goodness itself and the ultimate authority.”

        • adam

          1. There are three established facts about Jesus:

          a. His empty tomb

          No, this is a story, not a fact.

          b. Same with appearances – just a story

          c. Another story

          2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

          MAGIC is NEVER the best explanation for ANYTHING but ILLUSION.

          “3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that God exits.”

          But which God?

          “4. Therefore, God (Christian) exists. ”

          Then so does Spiderman

        • Sam

          I see Zalmoxis has a cross

        • Andrea Fitzgerald

          Not established facts, purely myths.

        • Greg G.

          1.   There are three established facts about Jesus:
          a.   His empty tomb

          The story about the tomb is based on Isaiah 53:9: “They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich.”

          b.   His post-mortem appearances
          c.   The origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection

          That comes from a misreading of 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul repeats that it is “according to the scriptures” that Cephas, the twelve, the 500, James, and himself read about it in the OT scriptures. The “died” part comes from Isaiah 53:5, the “tomb” part comes from Isaiah 53:9, and the “raised three days later” comes from Hosea 6:2.

          2.   The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

          Since #1 is based on OT readings, the hypothesis that “Jesus was raised from the dead” is a made up account.

          3.   The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that God exits.

          It is another example that shows that people make stuff up about gods.

          4.   Therefore, God (Christian) exists.

          Nope. Is that your best argument? Are you going to try your second best argument?

        • Pofarmer

          Dude has a funny idea of “established facts.”

          Does he realize that it’s an established fact that John Smith had a magic hat and seer stones?

        • Michael Neville

          I think you mean Joseph Smith. I’m particularly impressed with how he got a bunch of witnesses to attest to seeing something that they actually never saw. It takes an exceptionally skilled bullshit artist to pull that sort of thing off.

          “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool Mom!”

        • sandy

          Or he could of just paid them!?

        • TheNuszAbides

          I think you mean Joseph Smith.

          nah, he was clearly referring to JoJo Shmiddy.

          I’m particularly impressed with how he got a bunch of witnesses to …

          i’m vaguely impressed that one of them went on record confirming that the trumped-up witness statement he signed was not literally true.

        • Joe

          1. None of those are established facts.

        • koseighty

          What most Christians don’t understand is that the stories in the Bible are the claim, NOT evidence.

          We’re going to need to see an autopsy report on the body, signed affidavits from family swearing to the identity of the deceased, a bill of sale on the tomb, sworn affidavits from those who put the body there as well as those that discovered it empty, and so on.

          So far, all we have is a story. And like most of the stories in the Bible, it doesn’t seem to stand to scrutiny.

        • Michael Neville

          Got any evidence besides that collection of myths, fables and lies called the Bible to support your “established facts”?

        • Why is goodness or love always injected into the argument? If you’ve made a convincing deist argument, where would those come in?

          If you’ve simply made the argument for a clockmaker, who knows if he’s benevolent or if he gives a hoot about humans?

          Your argument at the bottom fails. Search “resurrection” for some of my posts responding to this.

        • eric

          Why is goodness or love always injected into the argument?

          In fairness, that’s what the Ontological argument is about; asserting God must have some perfect quality to count as God, and then saying that if it doesn’t exist, it’s not perfect, so therefore God must exist. So it makes sense if one is going to talk about the ontological argument to discuss some quality of God you think he has; the argument is all about those qualities.

          One of the big flaws in the ontological argument is, as Pofarmer implies, that there are many other ‘perfect qualities’ that work just as well in the argument. Perfect evil. Perfect uncaring. Perfect blueness. Selecting ‘goodness’ as the basis and not some other quality appears to be a type of circular reasoning: theologically assuming the God you are trying to prove. (The other main flaw, AIUI, is that many philosophers consider it more of a syntactical/tautological word game rather than sound logic.)

        • Pofarmer

          AIUI, is that many philosophers consider it more of a syntactical/tautological word game rather than sound logic,

          It’s just defining your God into existence. We could play that game all day.

        • asserting God must have some perfect quality to count as God, and then saying that if it doesn’t exist, it’s not perfect, so therefore God must exist.

          Right. I’m suggesting that love is the go-to attribute at the moment because it’s important from a Western standpoint. Is love what you think first about when you think of Allah? I’m guessing justice or control or something else would be the leading attribute for him. Maybe upholding tradition or courage or loyalty to your own would be other gods’ primary attributes. It’s not like there’s some objective standard that lists love at the top.

          (The other main flaw, AIUI, is that many philosophers consider it more of a syntactical/tautological word game rather than sound logic, an attempt to simply define a concept as existing.)

          Yes, I understand that it’s not highly thought of within philosopher circles—except by a few of the Christian ones.

        • TheNuszAbides

          who knows if he’s benevolent or if he gives a hoot about humans?

          but but but, our species has survived and stuff!

        • Pofarmer

          You’ve already gotten some good responses, but, what the hell.

          I think the Ontological and Moral arguments for God would, if true, show
          more then a God who creates the world then sits idly by doing nothing.

          Well, sure they would, but nobody has yet pulled it off.

          The God of these arguments would be Goodness itself and the ultimate authority.

          Not necessarily. Given the orders to genocide, torturing believers to test their faith, and killing everything on the planet save a select few, God could as easily be perfectly evil.

          Also, there is the resurrection of Jesus argument, if true, would give lots of details about God.

          Well, alrighty then.

          a. His empty tomb

          Yeah, except there is absolutely no evidence of said empty tomb until Constantines Mum appointed one in the 4th Century. There is no evidence or early history of tomb veneration at all. In the earliest writings which we have, the writings of Paul, it is never even mentioned.

          b. His post-mortem appearances

          Riigghhhttttt. To the same 12 disciples (which we also have zero historical evidence for) He could have appeared to the Sanhedrin, or Pontius Pilate. Now wouldn’t THAT have created a stir? But, yeah, nuthin.

          c. The origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection

          The problem is, we can’t even be sure there WERE any disciples of an early dude named Jesus. Paul never refers to them, only Apostles like him. And no one thinks that Paul met Jesus. Crap, another problem.

          2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

          Harry Potter defeated Voldemort is the best explanation for the trials of Harry Potter. Care to try again?

          3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that God exits.

          Well, maybe, I dunno, you’d have to flesh it out a little bit. But.

          4. Therefore, God (Christian) exists.

          Given 1-3 above, color me unimpressed.

          And do you really think that this is the best an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity could do? Impregnating a young girl to give birth to himself to make himself a sacrifice to himself for Sin that he allowed into the world in the first place? C’mon. The whole thing is just STTTUUUPPPIIIDDDD. Say it with me now. STUUUUPPPPIIIIIDDDDDDD. Doesn’t that feel better?

        • TheNuszAbides

          And no one thinks that Paul met Jesus.

          hyperbole, considering that (a) not everyone professes naturalism (b) hence profoundly different [and unarticulated] definitions of ‘met’ exist. but point taken, of course.

        • Rudy R

          Until “His post-mortem appearances” can be established as a fact, your best explanation will remain just a hypothesis.

        • Michael Murray

          I see others have disputed the facts but perhaps these are alternative facts :-). Even if we accept the facts there are much simpler explanations such as Jesus being either a time-traveller from the future or an alien visitor.

        • Pofarmer
        • Greg G.

          Despite what creationists would say, it has been said that if a fossil of a modern human was found in Cretaceous rock, it would be evidence of time travel from our future.

          But I think that if such a fossil was found, the time travelers would go back and retrieve the body before it fossilized and erasing the find from the time line.

          That is not to say we can infer that the fact that no modern human fossils are found in any strata older than a hundred thousand years is proof of time travel. Or is it?

        • Philmonomer

          The empty tomb is not an established fact. Indeed, Gary Habermas does not include it in his minimal facts argument.

          The only minimal facts are: 1) Jesus existed. 2) Jesus died. 3) People claimed Jesus had been risen from the dead. That’s not any sort of proof the Christian God exists.

          b. His post-mortem appearances
          c. The origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection

          2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

          3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that God exits.

          With regard to b., people believe they see wacky stuff all the time. That doesn’t make it true.

          With regard to 2., The best explanation is that people mistakenly believed they saw a resurrected Christ, and then others came to believe in those stories of his resurrection.

          (Are you a Catholic, do you believe the hundreds of sightings of Mary over the centuries? Or were they mistaken?)

        • Pofarmer

          The best explanation for c. might well be that people wrote stories of a resurrected Christ. People wrote and believed/beleive all kinds of cuckoo religious things.

        • Otto

          “The God of these arguments would be Goodness itself and the ultimate authority.”

          How exactly did you come to this conclusion or is it something you have just heard before and are now repeating?

          1. a) Not a fact. No one even knows where said tomb is. If the tomb was so important I would have thought they would have kept track of it.
          b) Not a fact. People may have claimed to have seen him, people claim to see Elvis after he died, does that make it a fact that they actually did?
          c) Yep, they believed it. People believe all sorts of crazy stuff, why should that be compelling?

          2) No it really isn’t, it isn’t even in the top 100

          3) The hypothesis “the earth is flat” entails the earth exists. Do you see the problem here?

          4) Garbage in, garbage out.

        • Especially since the evidence was written decades after the supposed events. That’s what passes for reliable history for Christians?

        • TheNuszAbides

          Not a fact. No one even knows where said tomb is. If the tomb was so
          important I would have thought they would have kept track of it.

          this is why anyone ever bringing it up is such a non-starter for me. we still know where Babylon was, ffs.
          actually, i’m amazed there aren’t more Empty-Tombers blaming this knowledge gap on [naturally nonspecific] Islamic [or even Roman] shenanigans.

        • Ignorant Amos

          1. There are three established facts about Jesus:

          Neither established nor facts. Hearsay accounts at best.

          a. His empty tomb

          What tomb? The earliest Christian texts mention no tomb. The empty tomb is a literary device in a much later text. But let’s presume a tomb and it was empty, why jump to the most ridiculous conclusion that it was empty because the dead body lying in it got up and walked off. Would that be an acceptable explanation in any other circumstance? Nope, it wouldn’t. You have to appeal to the supernatural for it to work, and to date, supernatural explanations have always been wrong.

          b. His post-mortem appearances

          To whom? According to the earliest Christian texts, these “appearances” where by way of revelations, aka visions, dreams, hallucinations. The later versions are theological literary devices, they are not records by anyone who was there at the time. Hearsay at very best.

          c. The origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection

          What’s the origin of Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, the Branch Davidians, etc., etc., etc. Gullible people are susceptible to all sorts of stories and believe them to be true. Christianity is on a very long list of woo-woo that has followers.

          2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

          Only if you are a bit simple and have no imagination. Any natural explanation is much more superior than the supernatural. A supernatural explanation has never been the best explanation for anything…ever…in human history…and that’s leaving aside that what you claim as facts, just aren’t facts, no matter how hard you try to force the issue.

          3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that God exits.

          A bit of a tautology me thinks. Let’s see…

          “The hypothesis “Space Ponies raised Jesus from the dead” entails that Space Ponies exits.”

          Yep…tautology indeed. Not to mention a bit circular.

          4. Therefore, God (Christian) exists.

          Nope…some other devious god could be pishing about for a bit of amusement…or even the the Devil…or as Michael Murray has stated…some time traveller or alien.

          Or it could just be the most obvious of explanation. It’s a lot of made up nonsense, just like very other religion man has invented.

        • Greg G.

          In Acts 26, Paul is defending himself in Agrippa’s court. In Acts 26:4-5, Paul appeals to the Jews as character witnesses. He proceeds to tell a story where he quotes Jesus speaking Aramaic while quoting Dionysus from Bacchae using the Greek idiom, “Why do you kick against the goads?” Do you suppose Jesus might return quoting Pulp Fiction? “Ima get medieval on your ass.”

          If the empty tomb was such a good argument, why didn’t Paul say to ask the Jews about the empty tomb when they interviewed them as character witnesses? Surely Peter or James would have been glad to tell about that.

  • sdorman

    “Moral principles come from people and society. We don’t need to imagine the supernatural to explain them.”

    This makes morality sound subjective and/or relative to a person(s) or society. Is this what you intended? Do you subscribe to moral relativism?

    • Joe

      I think he subscribes to a kind of naturalistic moral objectivity. Don’t quote me on that.

      That would be supported by the quote “Moral principles come from people and society. “.

      • epeeist

        That would be supported by the quote “Moral principles come from people and society. “.

        In other words they are inter-subjective.

        • Greg G.

          In other words they are inter-subjective.

          I have used that term a few times since you gave it to me.

        • Joe

          Yes, if you want to use that phrasing.

    • koseighty

      Of course morals are relative. They evolve as we do.

      We used to think owning other people was just a cracker jack idea. Most of us have grown past that.

    • Michael Neville

      How can morality be in any way, shape or form objective? There’s too much disagreement about what is or is not moral behavior. Catholic bishops see contraception as immoral, most other Westerners, including most Catholic laity, consider it moral. Pacifists think that all killing is immoral, soldiers have a different opinion. Intelligent, rational, well-meaning people have completely different views on the morality of abortion.

      If you think morality is objective then give an example of behavior that all people see as immoral. Be specific and justify your example.

    • Since “moral relativism” has been described in lots of nutty ways, let me be phrase it this way: I reject objective morality. And that’s simply because it’s pointed to and yet that claim is never backed up with evidence.

    • Otto

      You say “subscribe” like it is something people sign up for. It either is or it isn’t…and there is zero reason to think it is in any religious sense.

  • Otto

    The separation of church and state is (like hospitals and universities) the invention of Christianity.

    Well he is right in a backhanded way. The separation of Church and State in this country was certainly necessitated by Christianity.

    • TheNuszAbides

      indeed, ‘prompted’ would be more accurate than ‘invented’.

  • Pofarmer

    Can one of the math whiz types here help me out if there are any.

    A 99% *annual* effectiveness rate is 90% over 10 years, and only 78%
    over a woman’s fertile life. And that is only for these kinds of
    contraception where the normal use and ideal use converge. For
    something like the pill’s typical use (the most common type of
    contraception), that looks like 39% for 10 years and 9% for 25 years.

    I’m pretty sure that this isn’t right because the odds aren’t cumulative.

    • I’m not a math whiz, but I can offer some thoughts.

      A contraceptive that’s 99% effective over one year obviously won’t be 99% effective over a longer period.

      To see how you get the value for ten years, I think the better way is to invert things. 99% effective means a likelihood of 0.01 that you’ll get pregnant in one year. 0.01 × 10 = 0.10 chance for ten years. Inverting that back, you get 1 – 0.1 = .9 (that is, 90%) chance of not getting pregnant in 10 years.

      Was that your question?

      I can see that ideal vs. perfect use can be quite different.

      BTW, Valerie Tarico has written about the latest contraceptives that are far more effective than condoms and the Pill.

      • Pofarmer

        I don’t think it’s quite that simple, and a couple of studies bear that out. Think of a deck of cards. The chance of drawing the ace of spades is 1/52. Put it back in, reshuffle the deck, the chance is still 1/52, it never changes. Given perfect use on a contraceptive, I think it’s the same way, the odds reset every cycle. It’s not like s failure rate on electronics where it’s cumulative. Or the off a particular card hand given what you know is on the table. And yes, there are new methods that are essentially 100%.

        • Greg G.

          But the odds of drawing the Ace of Spades in ten tries is greater than it is for one try. Each try is one in 52, but ten tries still adds up to 10 in 52 chance or nearly one in five.

          If a hundred women a year have a 99% chance of not getting pregnant, one in a hundred will get pregnant. The next year, a woman has the same chance. The odds of being in the 99% every year for ten years is less than being in the 99% for one year.

        • eric

          if you’re reshuffling the deck each time, the odds of ace of spades in one draw is 1-(51/52) = 1.9%. The odds of ace of spades at least one time in 10 draws is 1-(51/52)^10 = 18%.
          For iterative draws, the way you need to calculate it is to find the chance of not drawing the ace (51/52) and multiplying it together the number of times you draw, then taking 1 – that number. That gives you the chance of drawing it once the chance of drawing it twice etc… all the way up to include the highly unlikely chance you draw the ace ten times in a row. The more intuitive math of 0.019 x 0.019 [repeat ten times]…. is actually just a calculation of the very last term; the odds of drawing the ace of spades 10 times in a row.

        • Suppose the chance of getting pregnant in 2017 because of the Pill is 0.01. And the chance in 2018 is the same. And so on.

          Now: what is the chance of getting pregnant in 10 years? It obviously goes higher than the single year value of 0.01. That’s what I was trying to calculate above. Am I focused on the right question?

          With your card example, 1/52 chance, then shuffle, then 1/52 chance is the same as 1/100 chance in 2017, then 1/100 chance in 2018.

          the odds reset every cycle.

          Yes, each year obviously has the same probability. But you’re likelier to get pregnant the more years you do it.

          (In re-examining my calculation, I see that I was too simplistic. Using my method, a 1% chance of getting pregnant in 1 year would mean a 100% chance over 100 years, which is obviously wrong. It’s been too long since that Probability class. I think you need to call in that math whiz. This seems quite elementary, but obviously elementary is too taxing for me.)

        • Speedwell

          Part of the reason it’s wrong is because of the way in which contraception fails when it fails. It is not random, like tossing a coin a hundred times. Contraceptive failure happens for reasons, such as the person’s individual biochemistry, anatomy, psychology, intelligence, sexual activity, and personality, the characteristics of the contraceptive itself (including manufacturing quality that can vary between brands and between uses), and many other things. It does not happen just because quantum forces caused the molecular bonds to just part by chance. It is perfectly possible for someone to never encounter a case of failure while the person next to them encounters many potential failure events per week.

          To take this to the point of near absurdity, what’s the effectiveness rate of contraception as implemented by someone who is not fertile, or who never has sex with a fertile man? It’s clearly not 90 percent over 10 years. Statistics are not perfect when applied to individual cases. It is true to say that the effective rate is 90 percent over 10 years when considering a large and representative study group. It is not exactly the case that my use of that contraceptive over 10 years will inevitably result in a 10 percent failure rate.

          If you need a trivial analogy, suppose I live in a town with a lazy mail carrier, and you live in the next town over with a conscientious one. All other things being equal, if the rate of misdelivered packages in our county is 10 percent over a period of time, it is not the case that 10 percent of my packages will be lost and also that 10 percent of your packages will be lost; it’s probably more like 1 percent of yours and 19 percent of mine.

        • TheNuszAbides

          bloody well put.

          All other things being equal

          ahhhh … the phrase so easily smuggled in, and so rarely unpacked, by those who ham-fistedly render statistics into ostensibly-more-palatable [or fear-mongering] factoids.
          i’m guessing Pofarmer was quoting from Catholic health ‘care’ literature.

        • Speedwell

          Thanks. Incidentally I’m still waiting for An Post to deliver the package I was disgruntledly waiting for when I wrote that post. 😀

        • TheNuszAbides

          to some extent, that’s a reasonable exercise for someone on The Pill: add a tiny ritual fortification like mumbling “reset to 99!” every time one is ingested [on schedule].

    • Otto

      Why is it annualized? I am not a math whiz either but it seems to me you are on to something with the card analogy. Your chances never change. Every time you roll the dice, draw a card your chances do not change. It does not matter. If it is 1 out of 100 chance… out of 100 chances the probability says you should hit once. But some people will hit more than one and some not at all.

      Do they mean if contraception is used ALL year it is 99% effective thereby out of 100 years 1 year will will be a failure?

      • Herald Newman

        > Why is it annualized?

        To give a rate that can be easily understood. It makes some assumptions about how often the person is having sex, because obviously the person can’t get pregnant without that little detail 🙂

        > Do they mean if contraception is used ALL year it is 99% effective thereby out of 100 years 1 year will will be a failure?

        Not quite. What they mean is that if 100 women correctly used the contraceptive method, and are sexually active, then within one year only one woman is expected to get pregnant.

    • MNb

      “99% *annual* effectiveness” is ill-defined. Taken literally it means that out of 100 women taking the pill one gets pregnant within a year on average. That’s simply incorrect.
      Now apply this to “9% for 25 years”. Does that mean that 81% of the women taking the pill during 25 years get pregnant? That’s not simply incorrect, that’s ridiculous.

      • My interpretation was that “99%” was just a placeholder. As I recall, condoms and the Pill are worse than that, and the best methods today are much better.

    • eric

      0.99^10 = 0.90, so that’s what the quoted source is doing. From that we can actually calculate that they are assuming a woman’s fertile life is about 24 years, presumably 16-40 or something like that. The 39% and 9% come from assuming a 91% effectiveness rate per year.

      I would bet (but don’t know) that the 91% is someone’s estimated rate of BC effectiveness when human error is added in. I.e. it’s the rate of BC failure when you add in the rate at which humans forget to take the pill or condom-users decide not to use a condom ‘just this once’. For social policy development, it’s important to know what that human error rate is, otherwise you’ll underestimate the number of unwanted pregnancies in the population. It should be noted, however, that the pro-abstinence crowd pretty much *never* considers this human error rate in their promotion of abstinence; if they did, they couldn’t call it 100% effective, because the ‘human error’ rate for abstinence would include all the times people who commit to abstinence fail at it and have sex. So anytime you see someone comparing ‘abstinence is 100% effective’ against ‘BC is only 91% effective’, they are comparing apples to oranges. IMO this is often an intentional deception; the pro-abstinence crowd wants to create a public perception of as big a difference as they can, so they count human failure as part of the failure of the BC method, but don’t count it as part of the failure of the abstinence method.

      • Ficino

        I didn’t know that, thanks.

      • TheNuszAbides

        good way of pointing out the fantasy-dichotomy of abstinence ‘education’. funny how falling back on “but they obviously weren’t doing it [right]!” so closely resembles their excuses for the existence of Untrue Christians, etc.

    • TheNuszAbides

      definitely deliberately misleading phrasing in the last sentence. best put by Speedwell so far, there are many ways to unpack “the odds [based on statistical masses] that you [relatively unique individual] will get pregnant”. the more “ifs” are built in to the calculation, the more precise the prediction, and the more statistical hairs are split. i’m guessing your excerpt is from literature to sway women from even bothering to try?

      if the last two %s were reached by study ‘in good faith’, they would essentially be calculating “how many of the women who (a) at some point get a prescription for The Pill, and (b) are filtered through [the wide array of variables touched on by Speedwell], become pregnant over a period of X years?” best-case-scenario spin usually has stuff like “if you never miss a day” built in, and, well, whatever you were quoting obviously relies on worst-case-scenario emphasis to make its point.

      … and of course, the more the variables are explicitly addressed, the more opportunities for the individual to pivot on “well obviously that one doesn’t/won’t apply to me“, etc.

      • Speedwell

        Yeah, I was thinking of this. Assuming it is really as simple as “this thing will fail and the woman will become pregnant a a result one percent of the time”, a fertile woman who has sex with a fertile man in 10 years of her fertile period might think this: “I have sex twice a week on average. Counting off days, we’ll call that an even hundred times a year. Statistically speaking, one of those times I have sex in that year will result in pregnancy. That means I can expect to become pregnant every year. If by chance it doesn’t happen in the first 100 tries, it is even more likely to happen at least once in 200, and even more in 300, and so forth. In 10 years, the chance of it happening is not 1 in 1000 tries, it is still 1 in 100. 1/100 times 1000 is 10.”

        I agree with you. It seems like this statistic best serves the agenda of people who want you to believe that any contraceptive use is futile, if you assume that a hard-and-fast statistic applies to every single use. In practice we know that is not so, if only because we know that contraceptives are usually effective over long periods of time. Statistical studies apply to groups, not to individuals.