January 18, 2016

Sign at a “gay rights” protest at Federal Plaza, Chicago on November 15, 2008. Photo by Andrew Ciscel [Wikimedia Commons /  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license]* * *
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ExChristian.Net is a flourishing atheist site. Dave Van Allen was formerly the webmaster. I have an ongoing interest in demonstrating how these common “deconversion” stories of former Christians do not rationally explain why they or anyone else should forsake Christianity. The task is to “defeat the defeater” — as philosopher Alvin Plantinga might say.

If these are the reasons that atheists give for being an atheist and rejecting Christianity, and we can repeatedly show that they are insufficient for their purpose, then we can systematically demonstrate that whatever the basis for these deconversions are, they are not reasonable or rational, let alone compelling. Yet atheists often pride themselves on being greatly intellectual superior to gullible, rather dumb Christians (that is the tendency, anyway; I hasten to add that there are notable exceptions to the general manifest condescension). Dave’s “anti-testimony” story is posted on his site. I shall examine it with a fine-toothed comb. His words will be in blue.

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I find it absolutely fascinating that at the end of his “anti-testimony” Dave states:

None of this proves or disproves Christianity, I realize, but the purpose of this paper is to show the thinking processes that led to my de-conversion.

Huh?! (scratching head). Are you thinking what I am thinking? If such stories give no reason whatsoever to reject Christianity, then (not to be insulting), I humbly submit: what good are they at all? Who cares about someone’s purely subjective experience if it has no bearing on whether someone else should accept or reject Christianity? I appreciate the intellectual humility of admitting that it offers no disproof, but then, doesn’t that pretty much defeat its very purpose? It’s like one is saying, “here are the reasons why I am not a Christian, but there is no reason to accept my reasons as any reason to reject Christianity.” Rather self-defeating or at least intellectually meaningless, wouldn’t you think? It’s almost as if reason and fact truly don’t matter. All that matters is that some other human being has become an atheist and left Christianity. Actual reasons matter less than the bald fact that they have done so, so that others can have company and not feel alone in a dominant-theist society. Having expressed this disclaimer and puzzlement, nevertheless I press on.

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It is invariably a shock to Evangelical Christians to come across someone who has turned his or her back on the “faith was once delivered unto the saints.”

Usually, but not always. After all, the Bible often mentions those who will fall away from the faith.

Most believers will quickly dismiss an ex-Christian by piously pointing out that anyone who turns away from Christ was never a real believer.

Calvinists have to believe that because their system does not allow any other interpretation (i.e., the doctrine of perseverance of the saints). But the great majority of Christians now and throughout history (Catholics, Orthodox, Arminian and Wesleyan Protestants) are not Calvinists, and believe that one can truly be a Christian and fall away, lose grace, salvation, etc.

Or, as an insider might say it, “They were never born again.” There is Biblical support for the assertion. 1 John 2:19, which addressed the problem of First Century apostates, states that: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (KJV)

Of course, sometimes that is true. But it is not necessarily true in every case. I dispute the assertion that no real Christian can ever fall away (there is much biblical data about that).

(I’d like to point out here that the previous verse, verse 18, suggests that the writer also believed it was the end of history and that the Antichrist was about to appear. It seems that whoever penned 1 John was premature in announcing it to be the “last time.” He may have been mistaken in his quick judgments against those ancient infidels as well.)

This is an involved argument as to what “last times” means.

For those from a Calvinistic background, the fifth petal of TULIP uncompromisingly declares that those truly chosen by God for salvation will persevere in the faith. They will persevere in the faith because God will preserve them in the faith. Or, as a Baptist fundamentalist might express it: “Once saved always saved.” For fundies, a believer gone bad was just faking their salvation or is presently backslidden and will eventually return to the fold, with their tails between their legs.

If they are Calvinists, yes. Not all “fundamentalists” are, though, of course. Even most Baptists are not five-point Calvinists, although they agree with eternal security.

There are also a plethora of competing denominations that teach people can lose their salvation. To members of those denominations, a fellow believer who has fallen away might have really been saved at one time, but is now lost again. They believe it is possible to get saved, and lost, and saved again, many times, before a person’s allotted lifespan runs out.

True. The Catholic or Orthodox, however, would not say a person is “saved” over and over (even most Arminian Protestants, as I once was, would not speak in such terms) because we view salvation as more of a process that is only completed at death (or what Protestants would call “eschatological salvation” — i.e., the salvation of the future when one actually gets to heaven). Catholics would say such a person was in mortal sin, separated from God, out of God’s graces, etc.

The reason for this brief essay is to share my testimony about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and my repentance from that relationship. What follows may unnerve some of my closer associates and will likely alienate some of my good friends. I have absolutely no desire to alienate anyone since I have already spent years as a zealous evangelical Christian, alienating dozens and dozens of people in the name of Christ. However, it is only fair to those who know me to allow them a glimpse into where I am coming from, now.

Fair enough. I don’t deny this past experience. I don’t have to. But I am free to deny the reasoning that led to his rejection of Christianity, as inadequate and insufficient, because if that influences other people, and it is untrue and found wanting, then Christians (and especially apologists like myself) are duty-bound to expose its weaknesses and fallacies.

When I was very young, my parents attended a Presbyterian Church. I used to watch my father pray during the service. His eyes would close and his chin would rest against his chest. I wondered if he was asleep. At home, my mother would tell my brother and I Bible stories. I always had questions for her: “Why did God put the tree of knowledge in the garden since he knew what would happen?”

Well, so that human beings could exercise their free will and choose to obey God or disobey Him. I would ask the child back: “why do you presume to question God’s purposes for doing anything, or act as if we would or could or should understand everything that God does, in the first place?”

I also wondered whom Cain married, if dinosaurs were taken on the ark, and all kinds of things my mother could not answer.

The seeds of atheism, because a mother couldn’t answer every garden-variety objection of a bright kid . . . but of course, that is where the function of apologetics is very helpful.

My parents stopped regularly attending church when I was nine,

Much like my experience (I was ten).

but still sent my brother and me to Vacation Bible School during the summer. I was diligent to learn all the Bible lessons, stories and doctrines, earning multiple gold stars in each class. Though I do not remember it, my mother likes to tell a story that even when I was 5 years old, I would come home from Sunday School, gather the un-churched neighborhood kids together on our porch, and parrot all I had been taught that morning.

Zeal that later, unfortunately, was applied to atheist pursuits . . .

I was eleven years old in 1969.

Me too!

My grandmother was a staunch Baptist. In fact, she was one of the founding members of the First Baptist Church in Ashtabula Ohio, and was absolutely devoted to the place. The Church had hired an aggressive youth minister who wanted to see more young people attending services. His name was Norm, and he organized a youth rally which featured a movie produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The movie’s aim was the conversion of young people. My grandmother invited me to the meeting and of course I loved my Grandma, so I got a ride from my Dad and sat with her to watch the show. I don’t remember the title of the movie, but the basic plot centered on one of the male characters who accepts Christ and starts to tell his friends about it. One of his unbelieving friends makes terrible fun of the whole thing, mocks Christ, and mocks the threat of going to hell. The unbelieving friend ends is horribly killed up accidentally trapped in a burning barn toward the end of the film and dies horrifically, going straight to a Christless grave.

I am not sure how powerful of a flick it was, but it got to me.

As it should. The threat of hell is very real.

Before that movie, I knew about God and the Bible and Jesus, but now I realized I had no personal relationship with Christ, and I needed one. When the altar call was given to come forward and accept Christ, I did not go forward, but listened intently, memorizing the “sinner’s prayer.”

I had a very similar experience around the same time, at a Baptist church that my sister found out about, through a friend. It was short-lived, though, because it wasn’t followed-through with regular church attendance or Christian education. so I wasn’t particularly pious and shortly after got fascinated with the occult, the paranormal, and ESP, etc.

Later that night, in the dark and quiet of my room, I got down on my knees confessed my sins, repented as much as I knew how, and accepted Christ into my heart. It was a mind-altering experience for me. In my mind’s eye I visualized the Creator of all physically with me in the room. I felt overwhelmed with what I believed was a personal and direct manifestation of the LORD. I cried and cried. The emotional cleansing and reality of that moment has never left me, and as I write about it now, it comes alive once again.

I had that sort of experience in my evangelical conversion of 1977, when I was 18.

The very next morning, I started carrying a small New Testament to school with me. I was in the sixth grade, reading a KJV, and doing my best to understand what I could from its inspired pages. I began attending church that week, and became a regular customer at the local Christian Book Store. My paper route wages and tips found investment in books and comic book tracts by Jack Chick, which I read and distributed zealously.

Ignorant, anti-Catholic material; the very stereotype of fundamentalist know-nothingism . . .

After my twelfth birthday I was asked if I would like to be trained as a counselor for the new Billy Graham evangelistic movie entitled “For Pete’s Sake,” which was being sponsored by several local churches. The showings were to be at Shea’s Theater in downtown Ashtabula. I eagerly agreed and dutifully submitted myself to the counselor training by memorizing the required verses and receiving a certificate as a bona fide counselor. At the end of each night, a short salvation message was shared by one of the local pastors, followed by the traditional Billy Graham style altar call. During the course of the weekend, I was able to assist several young people from my own age group as they came forward to make decisions for Christ.

Good for him. God had mercy on his soul, insofar as he did these good works before falling away.

Following that crusade, I was excited. I began to do street evangelism on my own. I witnessed to other kids at school, and even led a fellow Boy Scout to the lord while on a week long Boy Scout camp. His name is Phil and is presently a pastor at an American Baptist Church outside of Youngstown Ohio.

Good fruits last. Becoming an atheist later on doesn’t undo the helpful things that were done while a Christian.

I started a junior high school Bible study group, and taught the others who joined how to lead others to Christ ala Billy Graham. (“The Romans Road” with some small variations, was what Billy recommended back then.) The early 1970’s saw the height of the Jesus People Movement in the US,

My brother Gerry got caught up in that, and this was a serious influence that later led to my conversion, after fighting it for six years.

so naturally I became involved with other non-denominational youth study groups held at various houses around town. I was introduced to CS Lewis, Watchman Nee and other famous Christian authors during this time. I drank every word written in those books like it was water. A prolific reader even in junior high I was insatiable for more and more information.

Good (though Watchman Nee has some questionable teachings).

Reggie Kirk, my Boy Scout Master, recognized my thirst for more spiritual enlightenment and invited me to his church, the local Assembly of God, where I learned I needed the Baptism in the Holy Spirit to be a complete Christian. I attended one Sunday night when, providentially, the topic being discussed was that very doctrine. I went forward during the altar call to receive the “Baptism” and kept those poor people there long after the service ended as I pleaded with the Almighty to grace me with the Holy Ghost and tongues. Finally, after two hours of eye watering, knee hardening prayer, and some helpful coaching from a woman who stood with me, I babbled a few syllables. Everyone pronounced proudly that I had indeed received the Holy Spirit. Now, as a full-fledged tongue-talking Jesus person, I went full steam into making a difference in the world for Christ.

He may or may not have spoken in tongues. There is a lot of fakery that goes on (I know, from attending an A/G church myself for four years, and other charismatic fellowships).

My parents, who at best were only nominally religious, viewed my obsessive enthrallment with church-stuff as disconcerting and worrisome. My mother, knowing I loved to read, decided to introduce me to her understanding of reality which was embodied in the writings of Edgar Cayce. My mother was a Reincarnationist. I rejected her teaching, witnessed to her unceasingly for the next 25 years about the love of Christ, and read everything published concerning the psychic Cayce.

Interesting . . . I would have probably tried to defend Cayce, in my occult-leaning period.

My grades suffered terribly in junior high, as I could not see any value to secular learning. I viewed the world as passing away, valueless compared with heavenly knowledge with eternal relevance.

That is a classic fundamentalist mindset, that is out of the mainstream of Christianity, and should never be equated with the latter (though many atheists collapse Christianity into know-nothing fundamentalism, so that it can be dismissed as “anti-intellectual” and “anti-science”). Billy Graham would never countenance such a view. He helped found the magazine Christianity Today, which is one of the leading vehicles of evangelical thinking and scholarship today.

As puberty became more influential in my thought processes, I struggled terribly with the hormonal demands of my body verses the tenets of the Church concerning any sort of sensual pleasure. Jesus taught that it is just as sinful to have any sort of lustful thought, as to actually act on any of them. I found adolescence very difficult on my thought life, finding myself in a perpetual war with guilt. I agonized over my sexuality, begging God to deliver me from temptation, to no avail. It was depressing.

No one is saying it is easy. But it is possible to abstain from immoral sexual activity with God’s help. I did it, and if I could, anyone could.

I began to distinguish myself in music during this time, receiving nothing but positive feedback on my performance. By the time I was 14, I was being hired to play trombone semi-professionally.

Lots of similarities there. I played trombone in a very good, nationally-known high school orchestra and band (Cass Technical High School in Detroit). I took lessons from the first chair in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, even before I got to high school, in order to get into the symphony band. That’s how high the requirements were!

It was fun. I had begun finding inconsistencies in the Bible when I noticed numerous contradictions between various number citations in the Old Testament.

Again, what makes him think that he knows better than scholars who have studied these things for years? This is a common motif in atheist deconversions. They know better than everyone else. They can see “obvious truths” that most Christians, in their naive gullibility, miss. That’s not to say that there are no biblical problems to be worked out. Of course there are many things that scholars debate and mull over. But that is no different from, for example, the scientific method. There are a host of difficulties and unexplained things in science, yet it doesn’t lead people to reject science because it doesn’t possess all answers to everything. So why should the Bible and Christianity be approached differently?

Then I was confused by the multiple conflicting details in the resurrection stories in the Gospels, as well as in Paul’s version. One of the biggest contradictions I could not rectify was whether or not Judas threw his money into the temple and hanged himself or bought a field and fell headlong into it.

Let’s examine this alleged contradiction:

Matthew 27:5-10 (RSV) And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” So they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

Acts 1:18 (Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.

Now, do these two descriptions necessarily formally contradict? No. For example, here is one way that the seeming discrepancy of the purchase of the field can be explained:

Regarding the “purchasing” of the “field”…both accounts are true. The temple rulers bought the plot of ground, like Matthew says. Acts does not contradict Matthew. Remember that the priests said, “it is not lawful to put them into the treasury”. In other words, they were not taking actual ‘receipt’ of the money, diverting it, instead, to purchase the plot of ground. Thus, in a ‘legal’ sense (?) since they were not taking ‘ownership’ of the money, it was still Judas’ money. And when Peter speaks of “wages of iniquity”, it is not that Judas bought the plot of ground…but that the money he had received to betray Jesus had bought it. The money was Judas’ “wages”…but he threw it back, and the priests weren’t accepting it. These “30 pieces” were like the proverbial “hot potato” BLOOD MONEY both parties were trying to get rid of. Technically it was still Judas’ money, which the priests used to purchase the plot of ground. Thus, in a legal sense, it could be said that Judas bought it, because it was ‘his money’ that bought it.

. . . And so, did Judas hang himself…or did he “fall headlong”? Both are obviously true. He hung himself. When did he fall headlong? Did the rope break? Or did his “entrails gush out” when others came along to cut him down from the tree (assuming he actually hung himself from a tree limb)…and he split open when he hit the ground? There is a lot of data the Bible doesn’t tell us. How tall was the tree? If he hung himself on a tall branch, it might not have been possible for somebody to hold the body while another cut the rope. So, if a single person went up and cut the rope, and the body fell a great distance to the ground (not gently), the chances might be good that the body would land, making a ‘mess’.

[ source ]

The supposed contradiction of the purchase is also clarified by looking at the Greek words involved, as another Christian site devoted to alleged biblical discrepancies explains:

Once we examine the original Greek, we see Matthew and Luke differentiate between terms of ownership. Matthew uses the word ajgoravzw (legal ownership) while Luke uses ktaomai (physical possession). In other words, Judas purchased the field in his name and was therefore the legal owner, but after his death, the priests obtained the field for communal use yet did not possess the legal rights to it. In layman’s terms, Judas purchased the field but the priest acquired the field after his death.

And Judas’ manner of death is speculated upon by another web page, without falling into necessary contradiction:

1. First, Judas tried to kill himself by hanging himself. And this is not always a successful way. Maybe he tried, and failed (as have many others who have tried to commit suicide by hanging). Then after some time, he threw himself off a cliff and fell upon some jagged rocks. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for people who commit suicide to have tried it before.

2. Judas could have tied a rope to a tree branch that extended over a cliff (after all, you have to get some space between your feet and the ground to hang yourself). In this situation, the rope/branch could have broke before or after death, and Judas plummeted to the ground and landed on some jagged rocks.
Certainly, these explanations are plausible, thus a contradiction has not been established.

MAT 27:5-8 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.” And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

First of all, notice that the text does not say that Judas died as a result of hanging. All it says is that he “went and hanged himself.” Luke however, in Acts, tells us that “and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.” This is a pretty clear indication (along with the other details given in Acts – Peter’s speech, the need to pick a new apostle, etc.) that at least after Judas’ fall, he was dead. So the whole concept that Matthew and Luke both recount Judas’ death is highly probable, but not clear cut. Therefore, if I were to take a radical exegetical approach here, I could invalidate your alleged contradiction that there are two different accounts of how Judas died.

Notice verse 5.”Then he…went and hanged himself.” Matthew does not say Judas died, does it? Should we assume he died as a result of the hanging?
What does Acts say? ACT 1:18 (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.

ACT 1:20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, And let no one live in it’; and, ‘Let another take his office.’
Here we may have a graphic explanation of Judas’ death. Of course, maybe someone can find some medical source somewhere that discusses the possibility of one having their entrails gush out after being burst open in the middle, and still survive. :)
So, my line of reasoning to dispel the contradiction myth re: the “two” accounts of Judas’ death is this. Matthew doesn’t necessarily explain how Judas died; he does say Judas “hanged himself”, but he didn’t specifically say Judas died in the hanging incident. However, Acts seems to show us his graphic demise. Therefore, there is no contradiction between Matthew and Acts re: Judas’ death.

We do know from Matthew that he did hang himself and Acts probably records his death. It is possible and plausible that he fell from the hanging and hit some rocks, thereby bursting open. However, Matthew did not say Judas died as a result of the hanging, did he? Most scholars believe he probably did, but….

One atheist I debated along these lines said… the Greek word “apagchw” (ie: hang oneself) is translated as a successful hanging. I replied, No you can’t only conclude this, although…this was a highly probable outcome. But Matthew does not state death as being a result. The Greek word is APAGCHO. Matthew 27:5 is it’s only occurrence in the New Testament. In the LXX (the Greek translation of the OT used at the time of Jesus), it’s only used in 2 Samuel 17:23 : “Now when Ahithophel saw that his advice was not followed, he saddled a donkey, and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then he put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died; and he was buried in his father’s tomb.” Notice that not only is it stated that Ahithophel “hanged himself” [Gr. LXX, APAGCHO], but it explicitly adds, “and died”. Here we have no doubt of the result. In Matthew, we are not explicitly told Judas died. Also, there is nothing in the Greek to suggest success or failure. It simply means “hang oneself”.

The same page discusses the aspect of the purchase:

Perhaps here, the following maxim holds — “He who does a thing by another, does it himself.” That is, yes it was the chief priests who actually bought the field, but Judas had furnished the occasion for its purchase. Thus, the verse in Acts could be employing a figure of speech where we attribute to the man himself any act which he has directly or indirectly procured to be done. After all, we attribute the “Clinton health care plan” to Bill Clinton, when in reality, it is a plan devised by others associated with Bill Clinton.

So we see that very plausible Christian explanations can be and have been advanced for these things. I doubt that young Dave sought these out. He merely asked questions of people who usually weren’t prepared to give an adequate defense and counter-explanation. Then Dave used their non-answer as a pretext for falsely supposing that no Christian could provide any plausible explanation, thus leading to the further unwarranted conclusion that the Bible was untrustworthy (hence, Christianity itself).

In stark contrast, here is Dave’s counter-“explanation” from the combox:

[T]he real point is that neither the writer of Matthew nor the writer of Luck actually saw any of it – it was all hearsay. It seems obvious that each writer merely tailored the details of the fable in order to demonize either the Jewish leaders or Judas, depending on the writer’s personal motive.

Besides, I’ve heard that worn out apologetic a hundred times, and for many a year I even tried to believe it. I’m ashamed to say I even preached it to others.

However, both stories cannot be true – period. Since there is some measure of inaccuracy in at least one of the stories, that would suggest that the Bible is not inerrant. If the Bible is not inerrant in even one sentence, then there is error, and that means it is NOT the word of a god.

. . . the evidence remains that Judas either hanged himself in a field he purchased, or he had a nasty fall in a field that someone else purchased. More than likely, neither story has a shred of truth in it and the writers of the two gospels simply felt that Judas needed to end up dead after his horrible “mortal” sin of kissing God on the lips.

You (be you atheist or Christian or something else) decide which is more reasoned and plausible, and which is mere dogmatic denial based on a preconceived bias.

Clearly, anyone could reject anything if they utilized such a “method” and refused to seek out the more informed proponents of said belief-system before finding it wanting. That is Mickey Mouse pseudo-intellectualism, not serious thought and seeking of truth. if Dave Van Allen conceded (today) that this is not a case of two obvious contradictions, then he would have to remove this objection from the collection of those that caused him to reject Christianity.

If the Christian could (speaking hypothetically for the moment) systematically debunk all of his similar objections, does that mean his deconversion is nullified and he would again become a Christian? Maybe so, but that is ultimately a matter of God’s grace and faith. Apologists can only remove the roadblocks of false objections. We can lead the horse to the stream and show that there are no unassailable hindrances in getting to the stream, but we can’t force the horse to drink.

I wrote to an evangelistic radio ministry out of Richmond Virginia, asking for direction about these apparent problems. I was only thirteen and they responded to my cry for help with a short note. Instead of an intellectually satisfying apologetic, they merely admonished that some things could only be answered through the eyes of faith. I pretty much got the same answer everywhere I went.

Exactly my point. But he did not seek enough answers. There are entire books written about such things, such as, for example, volumes by biblical scholars Gleason Archer and William Arndt. It’s even easier now with the Internet (I found the above explanations in short order via Google). Dave didn’t have that back then, but books existed in those days, way back in the 60s and 70s. But instead, young Dave settled for non-answers from fundamentalist types unacquainted with apologetics and an intellectual grounding for their faith.

Maybe he didn’t know any better then, and can be given some slack (he at least tried to get answers from someone) but he should now, especially after reading this (assuming he ever does). It’s a classic case, though, of the absence of apologetics, where it was crucial that it was present, in order to help a young zealous Christian harmonize faith and reason without contradiction or serious difficulty. It wasn’t there, and by his own admission, this led him to later reject Christianity.

This is why I do what I do. Apostasy can be avoided in part by an understanding of the reasons why we believe what we believe. That’s apologetics. It is extremely important in a Christian’s life. As the proverb goes: “the heart cannot accept what the mind believes to be false.”

Regardless, I continued to attend Baptist Church on Sunday mornings, Assembly of God on Sunday nights, and various home study groups during the week. Then, the summer before entering High School, the Baptist church hierarchy decided to fire the youth minister. He had held an all night youth rally event at the church. The geriatric power people in the church thought his tactics to lure young people to church were inappropriate, so they brought the issue to vote and that settled the matter. He was there one week and gone the next. During the same time period, the Pastor of the Assembly of God church was caught having an affair with one of the lady members. Both he and the woman were married to other people, so when the affair was discovered, he resigned and left the church. I still wonder how long that had been going on.

Sin and hypocrisy observed firsthand causes a lot of people to reject Christianity, but of course, such sad events offer not the slightest reason to reject Christianity. All it proves is that there is such a thing as a Christian who falls short, or fails to repent, or is a miserable example of what Christian ought to be; a hypocrite. All it proves is that the human heart is desperately wicked, in and of itself, and that we can only follow God and live righteously by His grace. Since people have a free will, they can simply choose to go their own way.

But that is scarcely any reason to blame God or Christianity as a system, because some people fail. I should think that it rather confirms the Christian system that already predicted the real possibility and factuality of these things in the real fallen world: the same belief-system that teaches that Christianity is a narrow way, while the way to destruction is broad and that one of Jesus’ own disciples betrayed Him. So why would any Christian (presumably knowing his Bible fairly well) be so surprised when this stuff happened, to cause them to lose faith? That makes no sense. But these decisions are often purely emotional, without any legitimate reason being brought to bear.

My growing dissatisfaction with the church’s inability to answer my Biblical questions, my budding musical career and the hypocritical church politics worked together to help me fall away from Christianity for a time.

None of which offers the slightest rationale to reject Christianity, as shown . . .

My grades in school improved immensely. I finished High School early, in the top 10% of the class. I auditioned for the Air Force Band, was accepted, and as soon as I turned seventeen, I left for basic training in San Antonio.

As the years went by, I continued to have an interest in the Bible, studying textual variants and translation problems. I had several years of revival, when I buried my questioning and simply emulated the faith of a little child, trusting that though I could not understand many things, God knew what he was doing.

Why is it that a thinker, in the top 10% of his class: a guy with a brain and a head on his shoulders, could not seek out plausible Christian answers given by scholars and apologists, and instead chose to “bury” his questioning and adopt the non-rational fideism that his fundamentalist surroundings apparently promulgated? He must take some of the blame in this.

One sees this dynamic over and over again in atheist deconversions: they recount horror stories of dreadful and miserably misinformed and underinformed Christians, and sinning hypocrites, and then use that as a pretext to reject Christianity, as if these experiences represented the whole sum of what true Christianity is. it’s bad thinking through and through. yet atheists so often pride themselves as being overwhelmingly superior in intellect to Christians. I respectfully suggest that there is plenty of fundamental work to be done in their own heads, before they start attacking Christianity as irrational and inconsistent.

Eventually, I would get a headache from such pious mind games and find myself drifting again. I spent years in and out of Charismatic meetings where healings were performed as well as Words of Knowledge, messages from God, and rousing sermons proclaiming the imminent return of Christ. The emotional feeling of those early charismatic events was like a drug high.

There are numerous excesses and problems in these circles as well, and they are not exactly known for solid biblical thinking. You get nuts running around saying, for example, that the Bible teaches that all people should be healed. I was refuting that way back in 1982.

During these up and down spiritual times, I swung between being fanatically zealous, to totally apostate.

That was a clear sign that something was radically wrong. As a Christian, he should have sought some serious pastoral counseling. Surely someone in his circles could direct him to apologetics books that would have dealt with his objections? There may be temperamental and psychological factors involved too (he doesn’t say, but the above description suggests the real possibility to me). If he was prone to cycles of depression, for example, then that is an independent problem that could not be blamed on Christianity.

I comforted myself on my lack of consistency by reasoning that at least I was not lukewarm. In the next few years I belonged to several different Baptist Churches and several different Charismatic Churches in succession.

Church-hopping is not conducive to a stable spiritual life. This is a huge problem in Protestant circles.

I was married, had a son, got divorced, remarried and had two more children. In my thirties, I finally hit bottom and decided I would simply dig in, buy books like crazy, and study until I got all my answers.

I’d love to see what orthodox Christian books (particularly of apologetics) he consulted, and on what basis he rejected their reasoning. We are what we read. If one decides to read a bunch of liberal Christian, or skeptical, or atheist books, then obviously they will tend to believe along those lines. This is why I always urge everyone to read different perspectives on a given issue: the best of each position, to rationally make up their minds, using their critical faculties. This is why I am so big on dialogue and amiable but serious and vigorous interaction between viewpoints.

My second wife and I were deeply involved in an English speaking Assembly of God church while living in Japan. We ran the music ministry, the bookstore and participated in English evangelism at a local Japanese speaking Assembly of God. Once again, my inquiring mind reared its ugly head and put me at odds with the church. For years I had accepted the Pentecostal teaching that all Christians must speak in tongues to demonstrate they had been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

This is unbiblical, of course (1 Corinthians 12:4-11,28-31 being the clearest biblical disproof of it) as I knew full well when I attended Assemblies of God myself. I never formally became a member precisely because I disagreed with this.

I had also accepted the harsh Arminianism preached there. As I began to study John Calvin, Matthew Henry, John Bunyan, Matthew Poole, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther and a host of other teachers from the past, I began to realize that there was a whole other gospel of which I was completely ignorant. I questioned the pastor of our AG church on some of these matters.

I don’t see how it is a different gospel. There are some disagreements within soteriology, but it is the same gospel, biblically-defined.

He did not answer any of my questions, assuring me that God would comfort my heart as to the truth of the Assemblies’ teachings in time.

Another pastor who didn’t have a clue about apologetics and how important it is. He failed in his duty to spread a faith that was intellectually solid and confident. This problem is sadly widespread in all Christian circles. That is one reason why Catholic apologetics has exploded in the last twenty years. People were so desperately hungry for reasoned answers to their questions . . .

He responded to my inquiry by removing my wife and I from all our leadership responsibilities until such time as we came to peace with the issues I brought up.

Typical . . . I was denounced from the pulpit too (and lied about publicly), when I dared to disagree on some excesses in my church.

He said if I were to remain in leadership with doubts on various Pentecostal doctrines, it would cause confusion for the congregation.

It is reasonable, I would say, that if Dave didn’t believe something that was part of the confession or creed at his church, that he could not in good conscience, be in leadership. If he didn’t accept their teaching on tongues, then he should have voluntarily refrained from any “leadership” positions. Isn’t that common sense? I didn’t engage in that personal contradiction because I didn’t become a member of a belief-system that I didn’t fully accept. That was the only honest thing I could do. But it looks like Dave didn’t do that. So in that particular sense some of the pastor’s reaction may have been fully justified.

Of course we were welcome to stay and attend the services, he said. We left the church that day.

Again, if he didn’t believe some of the doctrines, then the leadership can’t be blamed for pointing out that an Assemblies of God leader ought to fully accept the doctrinal statement of the Assemblies of God denomination.

I started a home Bible study where we studied such things as Romans 9, Ephesians 1, and other strikingly Calvinistic chapters, without forcing any dogmatic conclusions.

The beginning of lone ranger, unsupervised sectarianism, that often causes much harm and leads to heterodoxy . . . another huge problem in Protestant ranks. Dogma was starting to be minimized. That is the sure road to skepticism and possibly atheism. Dave’s story demonstrates the dangers involved in such a course.

It was well attended. I led that group into street evangelism in Japan, passing out tracts at train stations and other public areas. I wrote letters to Christian leaders all over the world, soliciting their input on various doctrinal issues and spent a small fortune on books, studying the reformed theologians who lived prior to this century’s “charismania”.

I’d love to see some of those now. I suspect that Dave had some false beliefs of his own (i.e., from a mainstream Protestant perspective). We don’t know because he doesn’t spell it out in detail.

I retired from the Air Force, left Japan and started over again in the town where I grew up. My parents and other relatives were apprehensive of my resettling near them, since they knew I was a religious fanatic. We attended, and even joined, several churches over the next few years, trying to settle in with the local evangelical, non-charismatic Christians.

More church-hopping. To me this suggests instability and inability to be submitted to spiritual authority. He wanted to go his own way.

We wanted to find acceptance, and learn sound doctrine. As I learned more, and leaned more toward the Reformed Faith, I was made aware that I was living in adultery with my present wife. This was because my previous marriage did not end with a scriptural divorce. One counselor advised me that I should leave my present wife and live celibate in order to obey Christ’s commands. Failure to leave my present wife was considered continuous adultery in this Reformed denomination. This made no sense to me.

If you were not truly divorced (and were truly married the first time) then it could possibly be the sin of adultery. Sounds like this church was trying to follow traditional Protestant moral (biblical) teachings on marriage. Catholics would say that perhaps the first marriage was invalid, thus freeing Dave to marry (for what would actually be the first time). It’s difficult to say without knowing more details.

Can one grievous sin be offset by committing another, I wondered? Should I really abandon my wife and two children because I blew it on my first marriage? I also discovered that any illusions I might have of ever being in any kind of leadership in any Reformed church, was out of the question. Divorce and remarriage was treated, except under the narrowest of scriptural scrutiny, as if it were more unforgivable than murder. The husband of one wife was the badge of acceptance required above all.

Marriage and divorce is a huge subject I can’t get into at the moment. But let’s grant for the sake of argument that this church was indeed wrong in what they stated. Would that be a reason to reject Christianity, because one church congregation got something wrong? Of course not (and clearly so).

Of course I still had questions. That, apparently, is a bad thing, as it did nothing but set me at odds with pastors and congregants alike.

More evidence that apologetics is desperately needed.

We finally found a Reformed Baptist Church in Pennsylvania, which accepted my past miscarriage of wedlock

Perhaps in Catholic circles it would have been a case of legitimate annulment.

and we attended for several months. Originally the church had been an Independent Baptist Church and quite Arminian in theology. They had made the switch to Calvinism in soteriology, but remained Darbyite in eschatology. The primary preoccupation they seemed to have was with such important topics as head coverings for women and hating homosexuals.

Did they truly “hate” homosexuals or simply oppose the sin of sodomy? I’d love to see their doctrinal statement.

If the pastor was questioned in private concerning even the smallest detail of his teaching, the next service would be laced with personalized rebuke and condemnation pointedly aimed at the doubting inquiries and directly at those mouthing them. We left that church too.

That is definitely excessive and an abuse of his office as pastor. It happens quite a lot. I experienced it myself.

We found another church some 35 miles away from our house that seemed promising. This church had been very charismatic originally, but had found deeper meaning in the teachings of R.J. Rushdooney. They had made a complete 180-degree turn toward Reconstructionism. I was totally unfamiliar with this brand of Christianity, so we stayed there for over three years.

This is an extreme variant of Calvinism.

In that time we experienced and were taught a whole new brand of Christianity.

Not new Christianity; just a brand of the sub-group of Calvinism.

Waving the Westminster Confession as the flag of truth we were encouraged to be filled with anger against sin, against worldly politicians, and to be fiercely aggressive political activists, so we might gain temporal power and obey Christ’s command to go into the entire world. “Discipling the Nations” was their clarion call. When the assistant pastor raised money to go and publicly support a civil war in a small African country, in the name of Christ, we finally knew it was time to leave that arena too. During the three years we were there, not one person became our friend. Everyone was too busy condemning pietism, marching and campaigning, and supposedly changing the world for Jesus.

Lots of faults and shortcomings can be found in any church group, I’m afraid. But if you don’t hang around long enough to make a difference, then can you really complain too loudly? There is the saying in response to the complaint that churches are filled with hypocrites: “there is always room for one more!” And there is Mark Twain’s famous utterance, “I wouldn’t be a member of any church that would have me as a member.” Dave was bouncing from one end of the theological spectrum of Protestantism to the other. To me this suggests a serious spiritual instability. All he seems to talk about is joining and leaving churches. How many did he attend?

Since leaving that church, I have spent the last couple of years reading other materials. Books by disillusioned Christians, pastors and others who find religion generally, and Christianity specifically, lacking in truth has become my books of choice.

So is it any wonder that he ended up atheist? How many solid Christian books did he read, I wonder? He seems to have never been grounded in a reasonable faith, so it is some big surprise that he was easy prey for atheist skepticism to snatch him out of whatever remaining non-intellectual faith he had?

I have come to accept my initial adolescent doubts about the Bible.

That were not insurmountable at all, as I illustrated by the Judas example . . .

It was not simply rebellion, but the seed of good common logic and sense.

Not if he didn’t properly explore the best Christian answers that could be obtained.

I no longer claim to have all, or many, of the answers to life as I once claimed when my fanaticism expanded to full bloom. Since I have had to accept the fact that my theology has been wrong time and again,

Exactly, and this is where the de facto relativism and ridiculous hyper-denominationalism of Protestantism must bear much blame, because it fosters such confusion.

even though I supposedly had the Holy Spirit guiding me,

He had conflicting denominations guiding him, as well as (hopefully) the Holy Spirit.

it is quite unlikely that I have ever been totally right on much.

That doesn’t follow. He may have gotten many things right, and others wrong. The Church and the Bible are the guides to Christians, to the right Christian faith and belief-system.

I have changed my foundational beliefs several times as my religious self-education has evolved. I can’t say that I am content to be stagnant even at this juncture of spiritual understanding – I reserve the right to once again change my mind. Surely, if God could make a mistake and repent of making man,

That’s not what the Bible teaches about God. It is a distortion. Mens’ mistakes are not God’s. That is the whole point of the free will of men. They are free to make mistakes and rebel. And they did!

I can acknowledge error and repent of making a god and any decisions about my belief in it.

And he can be convinced to return to Christianity if he is persuaded (through God’s grace) by efforts such as my own.

What do I believe now? Like I said, I am not sure. I suppose that makes me an agnostic. At this point, that is the most intellectually appealing position for my tortured thought processes. It allows me the freedom to keep an open mind while absorbing all the viewpoints without completely immersing myself in any of them. You might consider it an R&R; from mind control, or perhaps I simply want …………, a sabbatical.

Then there is hope of persuading Dave back into the Christian fold. I think he does sincerely seek truth. He just needs a bit of helpful guidance along the path.

* * *

That is what I said then, and for the most part I would not change a thing. However, as my mind has cleared from the constant programming or self brainwashing I willingly subjected myself to,

And whose fault was that? The fault of Christianity as a whole, or Dave’s and the flawed leaders who fostered such things?

I have upped the “Anti”, you might say. While I really cannot credit or blame anyone else for the positions on religion I have held, I find that much of the feedback I am receiving from this site implies that I have rejected Christ because of how people treated me. I regret I have written in such a way so as to mislead some on this point. Though I indeed was treated poorly by the bulk of Christians I know, I do not hate or dislike any of them. Neither did I leave the faith solely because of their behavior.

Good, because that would be no reason. I’ve seen no good reason at all, yet (as one would expect).

I endured trials like that for nearly 30 years, and though unpleasant, it did not discourage me from my commitment to Christ. I remained stalwart for years, reasoning, as many of the people who write me, that Christians may be imperfect, but they are forgiven, and Christ is not like them, and so on.

Very good.

The main point I had hoped to accomplish in reiterating a few of the unpleasant experiences I had with the “chosen few” was to show that there is nothing supernatural going on in the lives of Christians.

That doesn’t follow. Some folks sin, and this disproves the supernatural? Huh? What did I miss?

We are taught that the Holy Spirit is within us, transforming us, quickening us, destroying our sin nature, putting to death the “old man” and on and on ad-nauseam. The simple truth is: it is not true. Christians are absolutely no different than any one else.

How, then, would Dave explain, for example, the great success in Christian programs in prisons, and in quasi-Christian groups such as AA? People do change. I know hosts of people whose lives have fundamentally changed for the better because of becoming Christians. I know it from my own life, and from people like my brother Gerry, and many many others.

They do not have GOD ALMIGHTY in their bodies, making them into new creatures.

So sez Dave. He can’t disprove the claim. I thought he wasn’t dogmatic about things?

Oh, sure, many resist temptation and endeavor to live a pure, moral life, but their thoughts continue to trouble them, and have to be resisted until death. Anyone who claims otherwise is a lying fool.

Yes, of course. That is concupiscence. Any intelligent, honest Christian recognizes that.

Now, of course someone is going to give me one of the stock theological answers to this puzzle, such as, the sin nature will never be destroyed until death.

Well, what would Dave expect us to say?: that every Christian will be a perfect saint and goody two-shoes and to have the slightest temptations or fall into sin? He can’t have it both ways. He criticizes sinning Christians as hypocrites, but also wants to mock intelligent Christian analyses of temptation in the Christian life as “stock theological answers.” So (like any good dogmatist) he leaves us no chance of giving any serious answers except for his own agnostic ones.

Or they might say that we are never perfectly sanctified in this life.


There are plenty of well-rehearsed answers,

But he is not shown that they are wrong. He’s simply mocking now. That is not rational; it is merely emotional and subjective. This is very common amongst atheists. Their rejection of Christianity is far more emotional than rational. And that is why Dave stated at the end of his story that “None of this proves or disproves Christianity, I realize”. Exactly! Couldn’t have said it better myself.

all with supporting Bible verses, and interestingly, many of those bland explanations contradict one another, depending on the denominational bent of the various unharmonious voices.

So he sez, but he has the burden of rationally demonstrating it.

I readily admit that I have never been anything more than a layman. I have no official seminary or theological schooling to adorn my walls.

Me neither.

I have, however, read extensively from the writings of Charles Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, Matthew Poole, Matthew Henry, Adam Clarke, Martin Luther, John Calvin, R.C. Sproul, the historic Confessions of Faith, commentaries without number, The Sword of the Lord, Charisma Magazine, Bill Bright, Frank Morrison, Hendricks, etc.

I’ve read quite a bit, too.

Listing all my reading is possible,

Please do!

but I only mention the books I can see from my computer desk. If I were to go to the basement, I would recite dozens of other well known authors in Christendom. I owned a Dake Bible and I own an old Geneva Bible. I have a reprint of Tyndale’s original English New Testament. I was, and am, highly interested in the Christian faith. Does all this reading make me the authority? No of course not, but it was not only emotional dissatisfaction which led me to my present position.

I’ve seen nothing solid thus far that would lead anyone to reject Christianity. I’m still waiting. It’s always been this way with every deconversion story I have examined. They build my faith up every time.

The more I studied the Christian faith, its history, how it has mutated and evolved over time, I began to realize that I was not being intellectually honest with myself. How can “the truth once delivered” change so much over the course of 2000 years if GOD ALMIGHTY was running the show?

Human free will. How could Judas betray Jesus if GOD ALMIGHTY was running the show? How could Jesus be beaten and tortured and horribly executed if GOD ALMIGHTY was running the show? Etc. How could there be a hell if GOD ALMIGHTY was running the show? Does Dave think Christians haven’t pondered such elementary questions?

For example, Arminianism was heresy to Protestants when the Bible was published in English. Now it is the Calvinists who are held in disrepute.

Protestant internal disputes do not disprove Christianity. It only proves that Protestantism has a sectarian, relativistic tendency. Dave hasn’t even considered the truth claims of Catholicism as an alternate to that chaos.

Chances are that many of the Christians who read the mentions of Calvinism, eschatology, soteriology, etc., have no idea what I am talking about.

Sadly true.

That is another topic that contributed to my first suspicions that Xtianity is a false lie: the striking ignorance and loathing for learning that is rife in the Christian community.

How does that prove anything about Christianity? It only proves things about the deficiencies of the sub-groups that Dave moved around in.

Claiming to love god with all their hearts and souls, yet reading His Word, memorizing it, studying theology to better understand HIM, is quite beyond most, if not nearly all Christians.

Yet it is Christianity that teaches that human beings rebel against God and want to go their own way, and have itching ears, and are like sheep, and temptation, and concupiscence, and original sin, and that the world, the flesh, and the devil corrupts them, etc. All of this is amply explained in Christianity itself, so it comes as no surprise.

Finding anyone who understands the history of Christianity prior to Darby’s Dispensational gospel is nearly impossible.

That is a huge problem especially in Protestantism, but again, no disproof of anything.

I would try to strike up conversations about theological and historical topics that were churning in my mind only to find blank stares in the Christian’s faces to whom I would address myself. Now, that would be understandable if I were addressing novices, or baby believers, but the blankest stares would come from the pastors themselves. One pastor actually admitted to me that he found if very difficult to study the Word of God. He found study of theology very dry and boring and emphasized to me that Christ was relational, seeking a living relationship with his children, not living in dry books but living in beating hearts. Oh, how pious sounding!

And how scandalous . . . but that is a widespread attitude in charismatic and pietistic circles.

No doubt some reading this now have heard such tripe, and maybe some even heard their spirit bear witness to them that, yes that is true, Christ desires a relationship with us. To this nonsense I say that since Christ and his Dad are not talking in any other conventional way except through the words of Scripture in these last days, how is it I can hear His voice, unless I immerse myself in His WORDS? How is it I can say I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I love GOD more than all, I am being made into a new creation, and yet still find studying Christianity to be dull?

Dave is right.

The answer is simple of course. It is dull, and it is dead.

No, the people who say they don’t enjoy and learn from God’s Word are dull and dim-witted. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

There is no living Spirit indwelling believers, and only the compulsive, people like me, have the natural drive to totally focus on boring stuff.

So he sez. He has not proven this. Bare claims are unimpressive without substantiating evidence.

Finally, finding no answers to my questions, I read the books of such people as Thomas Paine, Mark Twain, Dan Barker, Charles Templeton, Austin Mills, James Randi, Richard Dawkins, and a host of others. I began to see that there was a whole world of Freethinking Ex-Christians, and NON-Christians out there, people who were fairly invisible to the general public, especially the Christian general public.

Just a note for the record: Mark Twain was not an atheist. Nor was Thomas Paine. He was a deist (as was philosopher David Hume, also often falsely thought to be an atheist):

The true Deist has but one Deity, and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavoring to imitate him in everything moral, scientifical, and mechanical.

My mind was opened to reality, and is continuing to be opened to reality, as the myths and gods of my youth are abandoned to be replaced by reason.

So now we come full circle (atheists and agnostic former Christians always do, so it seems). Christianity is a “myth” and opposed to “reality.” It is fundamentally opposed to “reason” by its very nature. Dave now adheres to “reason” rather than “myths and gods.” But since Dave himself was quick to add that “None of this proves or disproves Christianity,” why is he now writing as if it does? Fresh from complaining that his former pastors never provided answers to his probing questions, now he expects his readers to do the same exact thing? We must accept his mere preaching on his baseless authority (that of an admittedly intellectually unstable man who has waffled and shifted opinions for many years) without any reasoning or evidence?

We must find it compelling to hear him rant and rave now, at this late juncture, that Christianity is a myth and outside of reality, and opposed to reason itself, without being able to probe ourselves as to why he thinks this? Presumably his story was for that purpose, yet he denies that any of it “proves or disproves Christianity”. This inane self-contradiction is shot through the entire attempt at giving his story. Using his own proclaimed method, I am right to question it and demand further rational explanations for his current skepticism.

And we shall see how willing and able he is to provide to us what he demanded from other Christians when he was a Christian. so far, whenever I have examined any deconversion, it was met with the utmost scorn and hostility, not unlike that expressed by these pastors that Dave cited, who didn’t like anyone questioning them or their reasoning either. And so we shall see if Dave (like other former Christians I have critiqued) follows their example, or a different, higher model of open discussion of competing truth claims, that I have always advocated.

I do not consider myself an agnostic anymore, finding fence sitting untenable. I could say I am now an evil Atheist, or I could use the softer sounding title of Freethinker.

I’m so surprised that I fell off of my seat. How could this happen!?

For now I will simply call myself an Ex-Christian, though there is more to it than being an ex something or another. I no longer believe in any gods or goddesses, they are all primitive imaginings reflecting an escape from fear and ignorance. There are many things we do not know about the world and the universe at large, but not knowing the how’s or why’s of things does not predispose us to believing in a giant Sky Daddy, or Tri-Daddy, or whatever.

Right. And now Dave worships the wonderful goddess of Reason and his own brain, as if it were the end and arbiter of all things.

I want to see reasons for adopting such a viewpoint. I’ve seen not a single compelling one yet. He claims to be following reason now. Then let him demonstrate that with some solid rational arguments and so-called “freethinking.” But as G.K. Chesterton said, “freethinkers’ are often so “open-minded” that their brains fall out.

* * *


Dave provides further “reasons” for his admittedly non-reasonable, subjective deconversion in the combox (these are disconnected excerpts):

Christianity is just another man-made, phony cult – that’s all.

While touting itself as the answer to man’s ultimate questions, all it really does is enslave the mind.

Yes, of course. That’s why modern science began in a thoroughly Christian environment and why virtually all major fields of science were founded by Christians who were scientists, and many crucial discoveries were made by these Christian thinking men (Kelvin, Pascal, Boyle, Pasteur, Cuvier, Babbage, Rayleigh, Fleming, Maxwell, Mendel, da Vinci, Ray, Woodward, Steno, Davy, Linnaeus, Faraday, Kepler, Ramsay, Bacon, etc.; Isaac Newton being an Arian).

If you are trying to say there are good people who happen to be Christians, well then I completely agree. If what you are trying to say is that because there are good people who are Christians that Christianity is true, then I disagree.

Works both ways: “If you are trying to say there are bad people who happen to be Christians, well then I completely agree. If what you are trying to say is that because there are bad people who are Christians that Christianity is false, then I disagree.” Yet this comprises most of Dave’s fallacious reasoning for becoming an atheist. He proved himself, by analogy, that it is fallacious reasoning.

Christianity has condemned all human expression outside of its confining walls to a vague worthlessness.

Absolutely not. Some fundamentalist extremists such as Dave’s old buddies may do that, but they do not represent all of Christianity, by any stretch of the imagination. To the contrary, true biblical Christianity respects anything that is true, wherever it comes from. That’s what Paul did in Athens, in his sermon on Mars Hill. C.S. Lewis expresses this theme in his book The Abolition of Man, as does G.K. Chesterton in his Everlasting Man. Vatican II stressed it, etc. Dave shows his ignorance, in equating a corrupt, anti-intellectual portion of Christianity with the whole.

The Bible means what it means except when it doesn’t mean what it means, therefore this doesn’t mean what it means, it means whatever John says it means.

Get it, y’all?

Nope, I confess that I don’t.

Whenever Christians start asking questions, it’s nearly always to make some point or promote some private agenda.

I ask questions because I am applying the same method that Dave did, that led him out of Christianity. Should he not be subjected to the same scrutiny? Questioning is thinking. That’s why I am a socratic.

Science has not presented an adequate explanation for the beginning of the universe. At least, not to my mind it hasn’t. But then again, I don’t understand quite a few things that scientists have come up with. In fact, I don’t even fully comprehend how my car works, or what makes the Internet work. If I were to list all the things I don’t fully understand, or don’t even understand at all, the list, I fear, would be excessively long.

Why, then, does Dave reject Christianity because he doesn’t fully understand many aspects of it? This confirms an argument I made earlier.

How did this god create the universe? What method did he use? When, exactly, did the process begin? What materials were used. How were the materials materialized? Can we replicate any of this in a laboratory?

My assumption is that the answer for these, and any other salient questions, would be: “HIS ways are unknowable.”

How is that essentially different from a scientist honestly admitting that we don’t have a clue what caused the Big Bang or what existed before it, or how DNA or life itself evolved, or the mechanics of how and why gravity does what it does, or why light travels at the speed it does, and a host of other things that are dark mysteries in science? Why the double standard?

So, in other words, your answer to the question of how the universe began — “God did it” — is no more satisfying or explanatory than the answers from science that you’ve castigated.

To say “god did it” explains nothing. The beginning of the universe remains inscrutable — beyond our comprehension.

Exactly! Both require “faith” in things that cannot be proven, only assumed. Both include reason, but that reason cannot explain absolutely everything. If things in science can be “inscrutable” why not also some things in religion and about God?

when Christianity condemned the pursuit of science, viewing it as an attack on faith, many centuries of ignorant darkness, disease, and painful death resulted.

This is an extreme exaggeration, amounting to a virtual complete falsehood. If it weren’t for Christianity there would have been no science as we know it to begin with. The ancient Greeks didn’t originate modern science. Christians did. Even the notorious Galileo episode is a lot more complex than is made out, as I have written about, in three papers.

. . . ignorance is frequently the refuge of the religious.

How tolerant and unprejudiced to speak in such terms of entire classes of people: the vast majority of mankind.

In just a few sentences you’ve proclaimed to have the ultimate truth, attempted to goad and personally insult those who disagree with you, become angry and offended over constructive criticism , and defended mental laziness as if it were a virtue. Good job.

Obviously, then, Dave will do a far better job in responding to this honest critique.

As far as your comment about the church doing good things throughout history, you really need to take a church history course. Christianity caused the Dark Ages.

Right. Any fool even remotely acquainted with medieval history knows that what is called the “Dark Ages” was a result of barbarianism overrunning Christian environments, not the converse. This is abominably ignorant. Dave doesn’t have the slightest clue what he is talking about. Has he never read about, e.g., the pagan Vikings murdering monks and plundering monasteries? Is he unaware that these same monks were often responsible for maintaining the heritage of classical (i.e., non-Christian) learning, until the barbarians came in and swept that away? Does he not know that St. Thomas Aquinas was inspired philosophically by the pagan philosopher Aristotle, and that this synthesis caused a huge revival of learning in the 13th century? One could go on and on.

Can there be any doubt, based on the nasty, smartass, self-righteous, arrogant attitudes of the “truly born again™” flocking here lately, that if a holy crusade were to be proclaimed in a new, improved, Christian America, there’d be plenty of volunteers joining “Christ’s holy soliders?”

This is truly sad. Religion is complete emotion — thought means little.

To all Anonymous Christian Nazis, I want you all to notice something. If you do a Google search for ex-Christian websites, you’ll come up with a few. Then if you do a Google search for Christian websites, count how many you come up with. Then, of those Christian websites, check how many allow comments to be made by dissenting voices. Hell, check how many allow any comments at all!

Then, ask yourself why.

More reason to expect that Dave will be more than willing to openly discuss my critique.

There must be another verse that says something to the effect that: No matter how ridiculous, illogical, stupid, and irrational, anything in this book seems, all of you who want to call yourselves Christians, and go to a wonderful place when you leave this life, must suspend all rational thought processes, turn your brains off to anything except the particular doctrine being promulgated by your particular sect.

Stick you fingers in your ears whenever anyone suggests to you that everything taught by your particular sect is not absolutely and positively the truth, and the very words of God, and repeat over and over. “I know that everything in the bible is true, because the bible tells me so”

Yes. Dave’s own brainwashed, anti-intellectual past projected onto Christians en masse. What compelling “reasoning” . . .

I was born in America, where Christianity is the dominant religion, Christianity is the religion that screwed with my thinking for so many years. That’s why.

I happen to think those other religions you mentioned are nonsense, but since I didn’t loose 30 years of my life following those idiotic religions, I don’t personally have any emotional or economic baggage associated with those religions. I have no reason to hate those religions. I do have a reason to hate Christianity.

By way of analogy: You can’t hate someone else’s ex-wife. But you can hate your own.

I.e., a warped version of Christianity that cannot be equated with the whole. Illogical . . . and it shows that emotionalism is in the forefront of Dave’s apostasy, not reason.

* * *

I look forward to Dave’s response. I don’t expect to get any response from him (and assuredly I won’t hold my breath), but I would be delighted to be pleasantly surprised that an atheist would, for once, rationally defend his reasons for leaving Christianity (or unreasonable facsimiles thereof).

Stay in touch! Like Biblical Evidence for Catholicism on Facebook:

December 17, 2015


Photo by “kummod” [public domain / Pixabay]

* * *

These occurred in the combox of my post, A Defense of Hell. Korou is an atheist who claims he would become a theist / Christian, if only there were any evidence at all for it. He believes there is none. I stated in the combox that I didn’t have time to debate further a very complex topic such as hell, but he kept making short replies, thus tempting me to come back with short counter-replies (you know how that goes, when one feels they have good answers, but little time to give them). We see below the results of this scenario: in no particular order. Other Christians in the thread did answer him at great length, for anyone who is interested. But in this instance, I gave “nutshell” arguments, which are good for people who possess relatively less knowledge about theology. My opponent’s words will be in blue. Some words in green come from a second atheist, Tacitus.

* * * * *

I’ve collected a bunch of scholarly articles about hell.

Thank you, I’m sure they’ll make interesting reading. I’ve just started with [William Lane] Craig and Bradley’s debate. Bradley does an excellent job of pointing out the illogical nature of Craig’s arguments about hell. I’m afraid, though, that no matter how many articles defending the existence of hell you collect they’re unlikely to help you; you still have to address the basic incongruity between a God you say is loving and the existence of hell. Such defenses as we’ve seen in this post and thread only serve, at best, to push the Christian’s difficulties a step back without resolving them.

Hell’s existence with a loving God is no less implausible than a prison’s existence, while there are many loving, merciful judges. The supposed fundamental contradiction simply isn’t there.

Which judge do you know of who would sentence a criminal to an infinite sentence? Which judge do you know of who would regard “I don’t want to be friends with you” as a crime?

* * *

In Christian thought, God is apparent by His creation (Romans 1). But in the next chapter, Paul appears to give a lot of slack to those who through no fault of their own, do not accept the “law” (by extension, the gospel). There is ignorance and there is obstinacy in the face of what one truly does know. I wrote about this distinction.

I’ve read your article and appreciate the conciliatory tone. But there seems to be some confusion. The people who honestly do not believe that God exists – me, Richard Dawkins and just about anyone else I’ve heard describe themselves as an atheist – they’ll be treated mercifully. Well, that’s fair enough. Kind of. But who are the other type of people? The obstinate people? These people who apparently know God exists but deny Him? I’ve never met or heard of anyone like them. How could anyone be like that? Who could honestly say “Yes, I know that God exists but I refuse to worship Him”?

Satanists, for one.

Are mostly atheists. They don’t actually believe in God, or Satan either.

I know some Catholic scholars will argue that a “sincerely seeking” Atheist can be saved from Hell, but is that most of them, or a vanishingly small number?

That (salvation of some atheists) has been my argument, too. But trying to determine numbers is simply a mind game. The point is that God knows each person’s heart and He is merciful. Only the ones who know for sure that He exists and reject Him anyway, will be damned for eternity. The free gift of salvation is open to all.

We don’t know how many are saved, but the suggestion from Jesus seems to be that a great number are damned, from His referring to the “narrow way” of salvation and the “broad road” of destruction, and the lack of faith on earth, etc. Scripture seems to imply a large proportion of the damned. From the history of human sin and rebellion against God and His revelation, that seems plausible.

Who are these people who know for sure that He exists and reject Him utterly? I’m not one, and have never met or heard of one. Perhaps you can quote a few people, or link to the websites of these strange individuals? I’m not an atheist like that, and have never heard of or met an atheist like that.

People can delude themselves sometimes, too. They may claim to be atheist, when in fact, they simply don’t want to be constrained by the moral system that God represents. I don’t feel a need to identify who is who. That’s for God to figure out.

Well if I were God, I’d be thinking: “Dear me, most of the human race have ended up in hell forever. I wish I’d thought that out more carefully. Surely there was something I could have done? Maybe if I hadn’t manifested myself just one time in a remote part of the ancient world things might have turned out better…?

Yes, He could have made us all robots who automatically always did right and believed in Him. I’m sure glad He didn’t. It’s cool being a free agent. And with freedom necessarily comes the possibility of making wrong choices and denying the God from Whom we all derive. Free is free. Even an omnipotent God can’t force a free person to make a free will choice, because that is logically impossible.

I’m afraid that’s a false dilemma. There’s plenty of room between the robots you describe and the world we see – a world in which, quite clearly, the vast majority of the human population innocently and sincerely chooses a path of goodness which leads to hell – sincere Muslims, sincere atheists, sincere Jews. The key point is this: if God is as described, then we must assume that this is the way he wants the world to be. Free will is a mathematical argument, but in the real world we know that it’s quite possible to steer people into making a decision we want them to without taking away their freedome of choice. God just obviously isn’t very good at it. 

If we assume that God exists, this is a huge problem. If we assume that He doesn’t, this is just what we would expect to see – a world of religions, all with the same amount of proof – which is to say none – and all of them claiming to be the one true faith.

So Moonies and nutcases like the wacko in Waco or Jim Jones have the exact same amount of evidence for their religion (“none”) as Catholics and Protestants do, huh? This does grave damage to your credibility as a rational debater.

Since you yourself just said that evidence and arguments count for nothingwhen compared to religious experiences you don’t have a leg to stand on when trying to convince an independent party that your religion is more valid than any other. Muslims, Jews, moonies or Catholics – all they have to do is say “I have sincere faith in my religious beliefs” and their arguments are suddenly just as valid as yours.

Sure Catholicism and Protestantism are different from the Moonies and other cults. They’re older, more respected, have more followers and don’t make such ridiculous demands upon their followers. None of this, however, means that they have any less proof than other religions, since all religions function the same way: by faith; and it is on this measurement that all religions are equally valid.

Saying that people come to faith in one usual way is not the same as saying “evidence and arguments count for nothing . . .” The arguments are fine; they just aren’t the way that people usually arrive at a decision to become a Christian. Other ways are the usual means. They help bolster and support faith in most cases. And this is true of apologetics generally.

Your reasoning is like saying, “the way I first discovered love of sweets was through the local Dairy Queen; therefore, cookies and cake and pudding bought at supermarkets count for nothing.”

This is clearly fallacious. The presence of one thing in many instances does nothing to discount the “validity” and goodness of the other.

Nor is this saying that all Christian sects are exactly the same: all having no evidence. That’s your cynical slant. It is not my position, and doesn’t follow from my position at all.

Because they’re not fine. If they were fine then people would be converting because of them. That’s the way that arguments work. Plenty of people do convert to Christianity; but not because of apologetic arguments. Why not? Because they’re not convincing.

You just keep confirming what I say while denying that you’re doing it. I give you credit for your honesty in doing so, but you’re undermining your own case. The apologetic arguments are supposed to provide evidence; they’re supposed to be “reasonable faith” as W.L. Craig titled his book; they’re supposed to be the “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” and “The Case for Faith”. But – by your own admission – they don’t work; people don’t read them and think “Hey, this evidence has changed my view and made me rethink things; I’d better become a Christian.” No, the people who read apologetics arguments are Christians already – and when they’ve read them, they think “Aha! I knew it! My faith is based on good arguments! Those atheists and skeptics were wrong!”

That’s what apologetics arguments are for; not to convert people, but to reassure them.

You have to say this because for you, reason is apparently the means by which anyone does anything. Lots of things are determined on a non-rational basis, such as choice of food, favorite colors for a room or clothes, picking a marriage partner, what determines the friends we pick out, the music we like, appreciation of nature or artistic beauty . . .

We don’t say that all of that is UNreasonable, simply because rationality is not the sole or primary determinant of those choices. It’s simply “other” than rationality. Matter of the heart or artistic taste are that. But I don’t see people running around chiding others for having a “blind faith” in Beethoven or the color blue or lovely sunsets or a preference for petite brunettes with big beautiful eyes (characteristics my wife has). We don’t call poets irrational simply for being poets. Yet poetry is a very subjective, often non-logical endeavor.

Likewise, religion is one of those things that function mostly on a basis of things other than reason and logic per se, while not necessarily (here’s where you go wrong) being illogical or unreasonable.

But because atheists are hyper-rational and often have a poor understanding of non-rational elements in life, they can’t grasp the point I am making; you can’t comprehend it. You can only see it as a plea for blind faith and irrationality.

It’s the same mentality that habitually leads atheists to say that Christians are anti-science merely because we also believe in God and think there are other epistemological considerations and ways of determining truth, like philosophy, and other philosophies besides the narrow atheist bubble-world of empiricism and logical positivism.

You’re a prisoner of your own false presuppositions. This is why I’ve always viewed atheism as mainly an intellectual disorder (lousy thinking) rather than a moral one (exceptionally wicked, evil people), though it could always possibly be a moral problem, too, in any given case.

I could also make your argument as applying to atheists, because the same dynamics apply. I would submit that most atheists don’t become so by virtue of cold, calculated logic. The reasons are usually highly subjective and emotional: they’re sick and tired of Christian rules, or they see Christians as hypocrites or sexually repressed or authoritarian or puritanical in a nauseating way, or they view them as opposed to science or reason. Many atheists are former fundamentalists, and one can see why they rejected that, since it is a urine-poor representation of authentic Christianity.

These are all primarily subjective and emotional reasonings; ones of passion and defensiveness and being fed up. And they are the reasons we observe times without number in atheist rhetoric. The “reasons” for your atheism are manifest in what you guys talk (and complain about). Atheists talk far more like disgruntled former employees or husbands / wives than dispassionate, objective philosophers.

And atheist reasonings and logical arguments are mostly accepted after the fact as well, just as Christian apologetics resonates far more with existing Christians than to non-Christians. This is how most people (theists and atheists alike) operate.

I can turn almost all of your arguments above analogically against you:

Plenty of people do convert to atheism; but not because of atheist arguments. Why not? Because they’re not convincing. [they are bolstered by them after the fact, to justify or rationalize their decision]

They don’t work; people don’t read them and think “Hey, this evidence has changed my view and made me rethink things; I’d better become an atheist.” [because in these matters, reason is not usually the primary cause]

The people who read atheist rhetoric and self-justification arguments are atheists already – and when they’ve read them, they think “Aha! I knew it! My rejection of religious faith is based on good arguments! Those Christians and other religious fanatics were wrong!”

That’s what atheist / anti-theist arguments are for; not to convert people to atheism, but to reassure atheists and make them smugly feel so intellectually and morally superior to Christians.

* * * 

Hell is terrible but justice demands it.

“You made the wrong choice, and justice demands that you suffer forever because of it.” Is that what you’re saying?

No. I would say that human beings are eternal, one way or the other. They can either end up eternally with God (for Whom they were made, and union with Whom is their greatest fulfillment) or without Him. God offers the free gift of mercy and salvation to all who will repent and accept it. No one need go to hell. But God honors the choices even of those who reject Him.

And once they’ve made that choice, they can never change it. Not a minute later, not a day later, not a trillion years later. “So what if you made the wrong choice? You had your chance. You should have been a Christian. Now, go to hell.”

The choice is made during one’s entire life. But even that is not enough for skeptics of God and Christianity: “Naw, 70 or so years ain’t long enough to allow us to make up our minds on the question of God.”

Of course, the false premise is always that God hasn’t manifested Himself enough so that the wise, intelligent, ultra-reasonable atheists can make a “rational” choice of following Him. Obviously, we deny that this is the case.

It would be a better case for God having manifested himself if we had more evidence for them than stories which were written down decades after they were purported to have happened.

You don’t need to be ultra-reasonable to regard the case for God as unproven. Common sense is quite enough.

Compared to the trillions and trillions of years we will live for, and then an eternity beyond that? and by the way, no, it is self-evident that 70 years is not enough time to make up our minds on the question of God – because most people don’t!

Ya lives yer life and ya makes yer choice . . . fer God or agin God . . .

And that’s always assuming that you live a rich, comfortable three-score-and-ten life with plenty of time for philosophical reflection… To borrow a phrase: I cannot for the life of me understand how someone could think that letting someone chosoe between heaven and hell and then NOT letting them change their mind if they made a mistake is either just or loving.

Okay, so you must also think (applying analogy) that a convicted murderer must get a chance to repent right after his sentencing to life in prison. He says he is sorry, so now he’s a free man, huh? I cannot for the life of me understand that. But it’s what you expect of God.

No, that’s what you expect of God. A person can be as vile as is humanly possible, and commit the worst atrocities imaginable; but if they repent and become a Christian God will take them to heaven. Right? What I would expect of a just and loving God is more or less what I’d expect of a just judge; punishment for actual wrongs committed in proportion to how grave they were. Which is why a God who sends souls to help forever is immoral, and talk of people sending themselves to Hell is nonsense.

* * * 

The atheist will always find fault with God. Ironies abound . . .

Quite a defense mechanism there! “If you don’t agree with me it means you haven’t thought it through properly.”

1. I would never make such a broad stupid statement like that. But this is stock atheist tired rhetoric. ZZZzzzzz . . . . (-_-) 

2. I do conclude in some cases that someone hasn’t thought through an issue adequately, but it is never merely because they disagree with me. In some cases it is true. It’s not necessarily a defense mechanism.

Nobody said those words, but they’re the truth of what Dave Armstrong says: “the atheist will always find fault with God.” Atheists are quite willing to be convinced of God’s existence; it’s just that the evidence for God is so very, very poor. Apologists can’t admit that, so they have to pretend that atheists are “hyper rational” or “over-skeptical” – forgetting that atheists are simply applying the same standards that Christians do themselves, to anything except God.

It’s just that no evidence is ever sufficient for them, because they labor under the false assumptions and “empirical-only” mindset of scientism and (yes) hyper-rationalism. Those are legitimate categories and intellectual shortcomings.

I’m an apologist, and I think the cumulative evidence is compelling. I don’t have to pretend anything. And atheist arguments are often very poor: above all when they attempt to do biblical exegesis, which is some of the worst I’ve ever seen.

But I understand that this is how you have to spin it. What choice do you have? You can’t just say, “I’m unconvinced”; no, you must go on to claim that we apologists are supposedly pretending and being hypocritically selective as regards evidence.

An atheist is quite capable of presenting their arguments poorly, and a flat-earther is quite capable of being a brilliant debater. But the heart of the issue is this: why do you believe what you believe? What evidence can you offer for it? And the evidence and arguments that apologists use are never convincing – except to people who are already predisposed to accept them.

Virtually no one comes to initial faith in Jesus or conversion to Christianity through apologetics (and I know this firsthand, due to my own 34-year apologetics efforts, as both a Protestant and Catholic). I didn’t, myself. In that sense, I agree with you.

It is an interior spiritual experience or awareness which is key. But that is where we will likely continue to disagree, because you’ll probably dismiss that, too, with a wave of the hand. This is what atheists do.

If you’re serious about possible conversion (you claim you are willing), I highly recommend that you get past standard apologetics and inquire about these sorts of far deeper analyses.

I recommend three writers who discuss it: Cardinal Newman (Essay on the Grammar of Assent: available online), Michael Polanyi, and Alvin Plantinga. William Alston is good, too.

I’ve even made it easy for atheists to read this great stuff, in my collection of scholarly links (one of many). See section 2.

* * *

I’m quite ready to abandon atheism and become a theist. I’ve just never seen any reason to as yet.

I’m quite ready to abandon theism and become an atheist. I’ve just never seen any reason to as yet.

And you aren’t going to. It’s theism which has the burden of proof. Which brings us back to the only important question we can ever ask: what is your best evidence for God’s existence?
And if you can’t answer that -well, there’s your reason for becoming an atheist.

Here are some of the best arguments I could find:

1) God: Historical Arguments (Copious Resources)

2) Atheism & Atheology (Copious Resources)

3) Science and Christianity (Copious Resources)

4) 15 Theistic Arguments (Copious Resources)

5) Teleological (Design) Argument for God (Resources)

6) Cosmological Argument for God (Resources)

7) Ontological Argument for God (Resources)

The usual atheist response after I present these, that I worked for several weeks compiling is (this has literally happened several times) [my sarcastic embellishment of real events]: “I can’t read all that! Can’t you summarize some of the best ones in slogans and soundbites, so my feeble mind with its short attention span can comprehend it?”

Sorry, I don’t do that. We’re not in kindergarten here. If an atheist asks for the best rational arguments we can give, I think I have collected a great deal of them, and they will have to spend serious time reading, if they are serious about an objective examination of the philosophical strength of the theist or Christian worldview.

My goal is to present the best evidence I can find. I don’t need to always personally argue some argument. Some scholar is gonna be able to do it way better than I am.

Atheist inquirers who weren’t serious in the first place will ignore and mock my links collections. Their goal is usually just to make Christians look stupid and supposedly make themselves look so intellectually superior.

More open-minded, serious ones, on the other hand, who have asked for some solid arguments, will look them over (and should thank me for saving them the trouble, collecting all these articles).

* * * 

If committing a crime is a free choice, then why are there so many more criminals from certain socioeconomic backgrounds than others? This is the flaw in the entire argument. Free will, in reality, is nothing of the sort. Yes, we make our own decisions, but they are heavily influenced by our circumstances, our background, our personality our genes, our upbringing — i.e. our inherent nature and our entire life’s experiences up to that point.

There is plenty of scientific evidence for how elusive the concept of free will is. Even the way a question is presented to you can heavily influence the decision you make in response. Any pollster can tell you that.

Yes, lots of different causes lead to human behavior, good or bad. I’ve always believed that (as a sociology major in college). This doesn’t prove, however, that determinism is true. For that to be true, you have to prove that there can be no free decision that is not predetermined by environment or genetics, etc. And that would be quite difficult if not impossible to do.

My argument doesn’t require the non-existence of free will. I make no claims to be an expert on philosophy or the latest scientific research into how the human mind works, but if you step back and look at the statistics as opposed to each individual case, you can clearly see, for example, the decision to stay out of trouble with the law can be easy for one group of people while it can be next to impossible for another. The difference, when you boil it down, is little more than accident of birth.

And when it comes to your religious faith as a adult, is there any greater determining factor than where you were born and raised? How else can one explain the fact that, say, 97.8% of all the citizens of Turkey are practicing Muslims?

If the existence and nature of God can be so clearly seen and we all have free will, then how did 72 million people out of 74 million get it so wrong?

Yep. Most people simply adopt the view of those around them. I never did that. I was a practical atheist in the late 60s and early 70s. Then I was an evangelical, which is very unpopular in secular circles; then a Catholic, which is even more unpopular.

I conformed to my upbringing at first, but then I didn’t: twice.

* * *

What no orthodox, biblical Christian can deny is that hell 1) will definitely have souls in it, 2) is irrevocable punishment, 3) is eternal, and 4) the choice of the person who winds up there; not God’s predestined choice from all eternity.

#1 through #3 refute universalism / Origenism and annihilationism, and #4, Calvinism, Luther (not Lutheranism), and predestinarian strains of fundamentalism.

November 5, 2015


Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011): one of the most famous of the “new atheists”; image by Surian Soosay (12-16-11) [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]

* * * * *

Alphabetical by Author



Atheist Demands for “Empirical” Proofs of God (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Atheism: More Rational & Scientific than Christianity? (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

On Critiquing Atheist “Deconversion” Stories (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

The Atheist Obsession with Insulting Christians (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Atheism: the Faith of “Atomism” (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

The Atheism of the Gaps (Stephen M. Barr, 1995)

The Presumptuousness of Atheism (Paul Copan, 1997)

Cosmology – A Religion for Atheists? [Hawking] (William Lane Craig)

Theistic Critiques Of Atheism (William Lane Craig, 2007)

Is Unbelief Culpable? (William Lane Craig, 2010)

Straw men and terracotta armies [atheists & the cosmological argument] (Edward Feser, 2009)

Grow up or shut up [atheists & the cosmological argument] (Edward Feser, 2011)

The road from atheism (Edward Feser, 2012)

Clarke on the stock caricature of First Cause arguments  [atheists & the cosmological argument] (Edward Feser, 2014)

Repressed Knowledge of God (+ Part II) (Edward Feser, 2015)

There’s no such thing as “natural atheology” (Edward Feser, 2015)

My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism: A Discussion between Antony Flew and Gary Habermas (2004)

Answer to an Atheist: Are Humans Nothing More Than Bodies? (Hank Hanegraaff, 2000)

Christianity and Pagan Literature (James Hannam, 2003)

Ten quick responses to atheist claims (John Lennox, 2014)

Atheists and the Quest for Objective Morality (Chad Meister, 2010)

God on the Brain (Angus Menuge, 2010)

Ghosts for the Atheist (Robert Velarde, 2009)

The Psychology of Atheism (Paul C. Vitz)



Secular Humanism and Christian Humanism: Seeking After Common Ground (Dave Armstrong and Sue Strandberg, 2001)

Can Atheists be Saved? Are They All “Evil”? (Dave Armstrong, 2003)

Constructive, Enjoyable Atheist-Christian Discussion Perfectly Possible (Dave Armstrong, 2007)

16 Atheists / Agnostics and Me: Sounds Like a Good Ratio! Further Adventures at an Atheist “Bible Study” Group (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Clarifications re: Atheist “Reductio” Paper (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

NT on God-Rejecters vs. Open-Minded Agnostics (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Legitimate Atheist Anger (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

My Enjoyable Dinner with Six Atheist Friends (Dave Armstrong, 2015)



Treatise on the Problem of Evil (Dave Armstrong, 2002)

Some Christian Replies to the Problem of Evil as Set Forth by Atheists (Dave Armstrong, 2006)

Dialogue #2 with an Atheist on the Problem of Evil (Dave Armstrong vs. “drunken tune”, 2006)

Dialogue #3 with an Atheist on the Problem of Evil (Dave Armstrong vs. John W. Loftus, 2006)

“Logical” Problem of Evil: Alvin Plantinga’s Decisive Refutation [Dave Armstrong, 2006]

Is the “Strong” Logical Argument From Evil Largely Discredited If Not Dead, Or Alive & Well? (Atheist Confusion) (Dave Armstrong, 2006)

Why Did a Perfect God Create an Imperfect World? (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

How Can God be Just and Ordain Evil? (John A. Battle, 1996)

The Connection-Building Theodicy (Robin Collins, 2012)

Debate: God, Morality, and Evil (William Lane Craig vs. Kai Nielsen, Feb. 1991)

Freedom and the Ability to Choose Evil (William Lane Craig, 2008)

Animal Suffering (William Lane Craig, 2009)

The “Evil god” Objection (William Lane Craig, 2011)

Problem of Evil without Objective Moral Values (William Lane Craig, 2011)

Molinism and the Soteriological Problem of Evil Once More (William Lane Craig, 2011)

On the Goodness of God (William Lane Craig, 2012)

The Problem of Evil Once More (William Lane Craig, 2012)

Gratuitous Evil and Moral Discernment (William Lane Craig, 2013)

God’s Permitting Natural Evil (William Lane Craig, 2013)

God’s Permitting Horrific Evils (William Lane Craig, 2014)

Law’s “evil-god challenge” (+ Part II) (Edward Feser, 2010-2011)

The Logical Problem of Evil: Mackie and Plantinga (Daniel Howard-Snyder)

How an Unsurpassable Being Can Create a Surpassable World (Daniel and Frances Howard-Snyder, 1994)

The Real Problem of No Best World (Frances and Daniel Howard-Snyder, 1996)

Transworld Sanctity and Plantinga’s Free Will Defense (Daniel Howard-Snyder & John O’Leary-Hawthorne, 1998)

Is Theism Compatible with Gratuitous Evil? (Daniel and Frances Howard-Snyder, 1999)

God, Evil, and Suffering (Daniel Howard-Snyder, 1999)

On Rowe’s Argument from Particular Horrors (Daniel Howard-Snyder, 2001)

Grounds for Belief in God Aside, Does Evil Make Atheism More Reasonable than Theism? (Daniel Howard-Snyder & Michael Bergmann, 2001)

Theodicy (Daniel Howard-Snyder, 2006)

The Magnitude, Duration, and Distribution of Evil: A Theodicy (Peter van Inwagen, 1988)

The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence (Peter van Inwagen, 1991)

Probability and Evil (Peter van Inwagen, 1997)

The Argument from Particular Horrendous Evils (Peter van Inwagen, 2001)

The Problem of Evil: Preliminaries (Robert C. Koons, 1998)

Tough-minded and Tender-hearted Responses to the Problem of Evil (Robert C. Koons, 1998)

The Free Will Defense (Robert C. Koons, 1998)

God’s Answer to Human Suffering (Peter Kreeft, 1986)

Evil (Peter Kreeft, 1988)

Does the savagery of predation in nature show that God either isn’t, or at least isn’t good-hearted? (Glenn Miller, 1999)

Theodicy (+ Part II / Part III / Part IV / Part V) (Glenn Miller, 2000)

Christian Theism and the Problem of Evil (Michael L. Peterson, 1978)

The Perfect Goodness of God (Alvin Plantinga, 1962)

The Probablistic Argument from Evil (Alvin Plantinga, 1978)

Degenerate Evidence and Rowe’s New Evidential Argument from Evil (Alvin Plantinga, 1998)

A New Free Will Defense (Alexander R. Pruss, 2002)

Limiting God to solve the problem of evil (Alexander R. Pruss, 2012)

The argument from partial theodicy (Alexander R. Pruss, 2015)

Why Does God Allow Suffering? (Lee Strobel, 2001)

The Problem of Observed Pain: A Study of C. S. Lewis on Suffering (Robert Walter Wall, 1983)



Dialogue w an Atheist on the “Problem of Good” (Dave Armstrong vs. Mike Hardie, 2001)



Friendly Discussion on Presuppositions and Basic Differences (Particularly, Hell), With an Agnostic (Dave Armstrong vs. Ed Babinski, 2005)

Dialogue on Hell and God’s Justice, Part II (Dave Armstrong, 2009)

Debate: Can a Loving God Send People to Hell? (William Lane Craig vs. Ray Bradley, 1994)

Bradley on Hell (William Lane Craig, 2007)

Do the Damned in Hell Accrue Further Punishment? (William Lane Craig, 2008)

Reasonable Damnation: How Jonathan Edwards Argued for the Rationality of Hell (Bruce W. Davidson, 1995)

Hell (Peter Kreeft, 1988)

What kind of a choice is THAT?!: “Love me or Burn”? (Glenn Miller)

A Traditionalist Response to John Stott’s Arguments for Annihilationism (Robert A. Peterson, 1994)

Fallacies in the Annihilationism Debate?  (Robert A. Peterson, 2007)

The Dark Side of Eternity: Hell as Eternal Conscious Punishment (Robert A. Peterson, 2007)



Why Isn’t the Evidence Clearer? (John A. Bloom, 1994)

The Argument from Divine Hiddenness (Daniel Howard-Snyder, 1996)

Hiddenness of God (Daniel Howard-Snyder, 2006)

Why Doesn’t God Make Christianity Clearer? (+ Part II / Part III / Part IV / Part V) (Glenn Miller, 2000)

Coercion and the Hiddenness of God (Michael J. Murray, 1993)



[see many links on my Inquisition, Crusades, and “Catholic Scandals” Index Page]



The Judgment of Nations: Biblical Passages and Commentary (Dave Armstrong, 2001)

Debate on the Supposed Irrationality and Immorality of the Psalms (+ Part II / Part III / Part IV) (Dave Armstrong vs. Ed Babinski, 2004)

Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart, or Positively Ordain Evil? (Dave Armstrong vs. “DagoodS”, 2006)

Reflections on Original Sin and God’s Prerogative to Judge and Kill as He Wills (Sometimes, Entire Nations) (Dave Armstrong, 2007)

“How Can God [in the OT] Order the Killing and Massacre of Innocents?” [Amalekites, etc.] (Dave Armstrong, 2007)

Did Moses (and God) Sin In Judging the Midianites (Numbers 31)? (+ Part II) (Dave Armstrong, 2008)

Difficulties in Understanding God’s Judgment on Heathen Nations (and other “Problem Passages” in the OT) (Dave Armstrong, 2009)

Jephthah’s Burnt Offering Sacrifice of His Daughter (Judges 11:30-40): Did God Command or Sanction It? (Dave Armstrong, 2009)

Exodus 20:5: God’s “Punishing” or Descendants “to the Third and Fourth Generation”: Proof of an “Unjust” God? (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Israel as God’s Agent of Judgment (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites: Divinely-Mandated Genocide or Corporate Capital Punishment? (Paul Copan)

Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? The New Atheists and Old Testament Ethics (Paul Copan)

Hateful, Vindictive Psalms? (Paul Copan, 2008)

Slaughter of the Canaanites (William Lane Craig, 2007)

The “Slaughter” of the Canaanites Re-visited (William Lane Craig, 2011)

Once More: The Slaughter of the Canaanites (William Lane Craig, 2013)

How Could a Good God Sanction the Stoning of a Disobedient Child? (Hank Hanegraaff, 2007)

Are Generational Curses Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff, 2008)

The Inspiration of the Hebrew Bible and the Morality of God’s Commands (Peter van Inwagen, 2010)

Killing the Canaanites: A Response to the New Atheism’s “Divine Genocide” Claims (Clay Jones, 2010)

OT Passages on what God considers worthy of ‘vengeance’ (Glenn Miller)

Is the God of the Bible morally repugnant? (Glenn Miller)

Is God Always Wrathful, Vengeful, Jealous, and Angry? (Glenn Miller, 2000)

Shouldn’t the butchering of the Amalekite children be considered war crimes? (Glenn Miller, 2001)

What about God’s cruelty against the Midianites? [Numbers 31] (Glenn Miller, 2001)

Is God harsh, unlovable, unloving, duplicitous? (Glenn Miller, 2003)

Why couldn’t Israel take in the Amalekites like they did foreign survivors in Deut 20? (Glenn Miller, 2006)

Was God being evil when He killed all the firstborn in Egypt? (Glenn Miller, 2009)

Did you overstate the case for Amalekites being accepted as immigrants into Israel? (Glenn Miller, 2010)

How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites? (Glenn Miller, 2013)



Jewish Recognition of Pope Pius XII’s Support

Exposing Hitler’s Pope and Its Author (William Doino, Jr.)

In Defence of Pius XII and His Aid to the Jews (Rabbi David Dalin)

The Tragic Heroism of Pope Pius XII (George W. Rutler)

The Catholic Church and the Nazis (website)

Pope Pius XI [not Pius XII] and the Nazis (Jimmy Akin)

Hitler and Christianity (Edward Bartlett-Jones, 2009)

Was Hitler a Christian? (Dinesh D’Souza)

Pope Pius XII and the Jews (Sr. Margherita Marchione)

Nazi Policy and the Catholic Church (Karol Jozef Gajewski)

Nazis and Church Locked Horns Early (Zenit)

Hitler’s Pope? (Donald Devine)

Pius XII, co-conspirator in tyrannicide (George Weigel)

Cornwell’s Cheap Shot at Pius XII (Peter Gumpel)

Did Pius XII Remain Silent? (Fr. William Saunders)

Goldhagen v. Pius XII (Ronald Rychlak)

Blaming the Wartime Pope (Kenneth L. Woodward)

800,000 Saved by Pius XII’s Silence (Donald DeMarco)

Pope Pius XII’s Good Fight (Michael Coren)



Critique of Atheist John W. Loftus’ “Deconversion” Story (Dave Armstrong, 2006)

Atheist John Loftus Reacts to My Analysis of His “Deconversion” (Dave Armstrong, 2006)

John Loftus’ Deconversion & Feuds w Atheists (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

What Michael Behe actually wrote in Time [about Richard Dawkins] (Michael J. Behe, 2007)

Richard Dawkins’ Argument for Atheism in The God Delusion (William Lane Craig, 2007)

Dawkins’ “Central Argument” Once More (William Lane Craig, 2008)

Dawkins’ Delusion (William Lane Craig, 2008)

Has Hawking Eliminated God? (William Lane Craig, 2011)

Curiosity With Stephen Hawking (William Lane Craig, 2011)

The New Philistinism (Edward Feser, 2010)

A clue for Jerry Coyne (Edward Feser, 2011)

Why can’t these guys stay on topic? Or read? [Jerry Coyne] (Edward Feser, 2015)

Red herrings don’t go to heaven either [Jerry Coyne] (Edward Feser, 2015)

From Rage to Faith: Peter Hitchens’ The Rage Against God (Joseph E. Gorra, 2011)

The Plight of the New Atheism: A Critique (Gary R. Habermas, 2008)

Village Atheists with Vengeance (C. Wayne Mayhall, 2007)



Dialogue on the Argument From Non-Belief (ANB) (Dave Armstrong vs. Steve Conifer & Dr. Ted Drange, 2003)

Reply to Atheist John Loftus’ “Outsider Test of Faith” Series (Dave Armstrong, 2007)



What about Those Who have Never Heard the Gospel? (Glenn Miller)

Did the Christians burn/destroy all the classical literature? (Glenn Miller, 1996)

How I would decide between conflicting revelations? (+ Part II) (Glenn Miller, 1997)



[see many links on my Inquisition, Crusades, and “Catholic Scandals” Index Page]



[see many links on my Inquisition, Crusades, and “Catholic Scandals” Index Page]



The issue of ‘slavery’ in the NT/Apostolic world (esp. Paul) (Glenn Miller,  1999)

Does God Condone Slavery in the Bible? (Glenn Miller, 2004)

Christianity and the Slavery Question (Arthur Rupprecht, 1963)

[see many more links on my Inquisition, Crusades, and “Catholic Scandals” Index Page]




The Possibility of Resurrection (Peter van Inwagen, 1978)

Resurrection (Peter van Inwagen, 1998)

The Case for Life After Death (Peter Kreeft)

Is there evidence for the existence of the “soul”? (Glenn Miller, 1997)

Is there evidence for the existence of “spirits” and some “spiritual dimension”? (Glenn Miller, 2001)



Women: The Data From the Life and Ministry of Jesus (Glenn Miller, 1996)

Women: The Data From the Historical Literature of the Apostolic Circle (Glenn Miller, 1996)

Women: The Data From the Monarchy Literature (Glenn Miller, 1996)

Women: The Data From the Divided Monarchy Literature (Glenn Miller, 1996)

“Why do men get all the glory in the bible? Why are women only minor characters?!” (Glenn Miller, 1997)

Are the laws in the OT about rape and virginity indicative of a God who is unfair to women? (Glenn Miller, 2001)

Does female “pain-prone” reproductive physiology indicate that God apparently hates women? (Glenn Miller, 2001)

Women in the Bible: Pushbacks, Objections, Stereotypes [22 Objections] (Glenn Miller, 2001)

Did God treat women’s bodies as property, in the “rape” of David’s concubines by Absalom? (Glenn Miller, 2001)

Women: The Data From the Pre-Monarchy Literature (Glenn Miller, 2004)

Women in the Bible and Early Church (Glenn Miller, 2004)

Women’s Roles in the Early Church (Glenn Miller, 2005)

“Why was Jesus so mean and insulting to the Canaanite woman?” (Glenn Miller, 2006)


Bad links last removed: 6-10-18



November 3, 2015


Daguerreotype of Charles Darwin from 1842 (age 33), with oldest son, William Erasmus Darwin [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

* * * * *



Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel, and Noah as Historical Figures (Dave Armstrong, 2008)

Fr. Robert Barron Denies that Adam Was a “Literal Figure” (Dave Armstrong, 2011)

Defending the Literal, Historical Adam of the Genesis Account (Dave Armstrong vs. Eric S. Giunta, 2011)

Adam & Eve of Genesis: Historical & the Primal Human Pair? (Dave Armstrong, 2013)

Only Ignoramuses Believe in Adam & Eve? (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Adam & Eve & Original Sin: Disproven by Science? (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Does Science Allow for a Literal Adam and Eve? (Dennis Bonnette)

Three Responses to a Darwinian’s Claims Against a Literal Adam and Eve (Dennis Bonnette; scroll down the page a little)

A Philosophical Critical Analysis of Recent Ape-Language Studies (Dennis Bonnette, 1993)

Must Human Evolution Contradict Genesis? (Dennis Bonnette, 2007)

Did Darwin Prove Genesis a Fairy Tale? (Dennis Bonnette, 2007)

Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? (Dennis Bonnette, 2014)

Time to Abandon the Genesis Story? (Dennis Bonnette, 2014)

Modern biology and original sin (+ Part II) (Edward Feser, 2011)

Monkey in your soul? (Edward Feser, 2011)

Knowing an Ape from Adam (Edward Feser, 2014)

Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice (Mike Flynn, 2011)

Adam was an Individual Man, From Whom the Whole Human Race Derives Its Origin (Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J., 1998)

Science, Theology, and Monogenesis (Kenneth W. Kemp, 2011)

Difficulties with Adam and Eve (Fr. Dwight Longenecker, 2013)

Is the Adam and Eve Story a Myth? (Fr. Dwight Longenecker, 2014)

No, Virginia, Science Hasn’t Debunked Adam (Lydia McGrew, 2014)

Adam, Eve, and the Hominid Fossil Record (Phil Porvaznik)




Old Habits Die Hard: The Atheist Fairy Tale of “Christianity vs. Science and Reason” (Dave Armstrong, 2007)

Surveys of Current Religious Beliefs of Scientists (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Reply to Atheist Scientist Jerry Coyne: Are Science and Religion Utterly Incompatible? (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato si: A Beautiful & Profoundly Wise Statement of Christian Environmentalism & Theology of Creation (Dave Armstrong, 2015)



Teaching intelligent design as religion or science? (William A. Dembski, 1996)

Fruitful Interchange or Polite Chitchat? The Dialogue Between Science and Theology (William A. Dembski & Stephen C. Myer, 1998)

Natural theology, natural science, and the philosophy of nature (Edward Feser, 2012)


Not the God of the Gaps, But the Whole Show [Higgs boson particle] (John Lennox, 2012)


Scientific Outlook: Its Sickness and Cure (Michael Polanyi, 1957)

Science and Reality (Michael Polanyi, 1967)

Why Scientists Must Believe in God: Divine Attributes of Scientific Law (Vern S. Poythress, 2003)


Christianity and the Scientific Enterprise (Charles Thaxton)





Early Protestant Hostility Towards Science (Dave Armstrong, 2004)

Galileo: The Myths and the Facts (Dave Armstrong, 2006)

Why the Galileo Case Doesn’t Disprove Catholic Infallibility  (Dave Armstrong vs. Ken Temple and Eric G., 2006)

Dialogue on the Galileo Fiasco and the State of Scientific and Astronomical Knowledge in 1633 (Dave Armstrong, 2006)

Did St. Thomas Aquinas Accept Astrology? (Dave Armstrong, 2006)

“Science vs. Religion” Chronicles: 16th-17th Century Astronomers’ Acceptance of Astrology (Dave Armstrong, 2006)

Richard Dawkins & Double Standards of the “Religion vs. Science” Mentality / Galileo Redux (Dave Armstrong, 2008)

Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Philip Melanchthon Wax Astronomical and Geocentric, Oppose Copernicus (Dave Armstrong, 2009)

In (Partial) Defense of William Jennings Bryan (Famous “Scopes Trial” of 1925) (Dave Armstrong, 2009)

The Galileo Fiasco & Catholic Infallibility (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Who Killed Lavoisier: “Father of Chemistry”? (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

“No One’s Perfect”: Scientific Errors of Galileo and 16th-17th Century Cosmologies (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Christianity: Crucial to the Origin of Science (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Christians or Theists Founded 115 Scientific Fields (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

33 Empiricist Christian Thinkers Before 1000 AD (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Christian Influence on Science: Master List of Scores of Bibliographical and Internet Resources (Links) (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Reflections on the Pseudo-Science & Ethics of Social Darwinism & Its Use as a Justification for the Nazi Holocaust (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Typical “Science vs. Catholicism” Criticisms (and Myths) from an Agnostic Scientist Refuted (Dave Armstrong, 2011)

John Calvin Assumes a Non-Spherical Earth & Severely Mocks Plato for Believing that the Earth is a Globe (Dave Armstrong, 2012)

Galileo, Bellarmine, & Scientific Method (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

My Claims re Piltdown Man & the Scopes Trial Twisted (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Simultaneously Dumb & Smart Christians, Atheists, & Scientists (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Atheist French, Soviet, & Chinese Executions of Scientists (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Catholics & Science #1: Hermann of Reichenau (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Catholics & Science #2: Adelard of Bath (Dave Armstrong, 2015)


Christianity and the Rise of Science  (James Hannam, 2002)



Revisiting Galileo, Astronomy, and the authority of the Bible (H. J. Lee, 2010)





Flood Geology, the (Global?) Flood, and Uniformitarianism (+ Part II) (Dave Armstrong vs. Kevin Rice, 2004)

Dialogue on Biblical Cosmology, Round One (Dave Armstrong vs. Matthew Green, 2006)

Atheist “Proof Texts” of an Alleged Flat-Earth Biblical Cosmology (Dave Armstrong vs. Ed Babinski, 2006)

Noah’s Flood & Catholicism: Basic Facts (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

Do Carnivores on the Ark Disprove Christianity? (Dave Armstrong, 2015)

The Star of Bethlehem (T. Michael Davis, 2007)

Biblical Creation and Science: A Review Article (Paul Elbert, 1996)

The Bible and Cosmology (R. Laird Harris, 1962)

Science and Scripture (Peter van Inwagen, 2010)


The Relevance of Scientific Thought to Scriptural Interpretation (G. Douglas Young, 1961)




The Catholic Perspective on Creation and Evolution / Charles Darwin’s Religious Beliefs: Some Thoughts (Dave Armstrong, 2009)

The Philosophical Impossibility of Darwinian Naturalistic Evolution (Dennis Bonnette, 2008)




Genesis and Evolution (Peter van Inwagen, 1993)

Darwinism and Theism (Phillip E. Johnson, 1992)


Augustine on the Creation Days (Louis Lavallee, 1989)

The Days of Creation: An Historical Survey of Interpretation (Jack P. Lewis, 1989)


Life’s Irreducible Structure (Michael Polanyi, 1968)

Theistic Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church (Phil Porvaznik)


[for articles on Intelligent Design, see the separate collection for the Teleological (Design) Argument]




What is Naturalism? (William P. Alston, n.d.)

A Scientific Case for the Soul (Robin Collins, 2011)


The Incompleteness of Scientific Naturalism (William A. Dembski, 1992)

The Act of Creation: Bridging Transcendence and Immanence (William A. Dembski, 1998)

Are We Spiritual Machines? (William A. Dembski, 1999)

Beguiled by scientism (Edward Feser, 2009)

Can We Know Anything if Naturalism is True? (Paul Gould, 2012)


Paradigm Shift: A Challenge to Naturalism (Gary R. Habermas, 1989)

Science and God’s Revelation in Nature (Carl F. H. Henry, 1960)

Response to Frederick Grinnell on Scientific Naturalism (Peter van Inwagen, 1992)

The Incompatibility of Naturalism and Scientific Realism (Robert C. Koons, 1998)

Is Methodological Naturalism Question-Begging? (Robert A. Larmer, 2003)

Against Materialism (Alvin Plantinga, 2006)

Materialism and Christian Belief (Alvin Plantinga, 2007)

A Blindfolded Watchmaker: The Arrival of the Fittest (David L. Wilcox, 1992)




Albert Einstein’s “Cosmic Religion” (Dave Armstrong, 2010)

Quantum Theology: Christianity and the New Physics (William E. Brown, 1990)




Bad links last removed: 6-12-18


October 27, 2015


Spiral galaxy NGC 1232 with NGC 1232A at lower left; photograph by European Southern Observatory (ESO): 12-31-97 [Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0 license]


Alphabetical by Author



Experimental Support for Regarding Functional Classes of Proteins to Be Highly Isolated from Each Other (+ Part II) (Michael J. Behe, 1992)

Response to K. John Morrow, Jr. on Immunology and Teleology (Michael J. Behe, 1992)

Darwin Under the Microscope (Michael J. Behe, 1996)

Evidence for Intelligent Design from Biochemistry (Michael J. Behe, 1996)

The Sterility of Darwinism (Michael J. Behe, 1997)

Michael Behe’s Response to Boston Review Critics (Michael J. Behe, 1997)

Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference (Michael J. Behe, 1998)

Irreducible Complexity and the Evolutionary Literature: Response to Critics (Michael J. Behe, 2000)

In Defense of the Irreducibility of the Blood Clotting Cascade (Michael J. Behe, 2000)

Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design: Response to Critics (Michael J. Behe, 2000)

A Mousetrap Defended: Response to Critics (Michael J. Behe, 2000)

“A True Acid Test”: Response to Ken Miller (Michael J. Behe, 2000)

Correspondence with Science Journals: Response to critics concerning peer-review (Michael J. Behe, 2000)

Comments on Ken Miller’s Reply to My Essays (Michael J. Behe, 2001)

Blind Evolution or Intelligent Design? (Michael J. Behe, 2002)

Answering Scientific Criticisms of Intelligent Design (Michael J. Behe, 2002)

Evidence for Design at the Foundation of Life (Michael J. Behe, 2002)

Irreducible Complexity is an Obstacle to Darwinism Even if Parts of a System have other Functions (Michael J. Behe, 2004)

“Intelligent Design” Challenges Evolutionary Theory (Michael J. Behe & Mark Ryland, 2004)

The Basis for a Design Theory of Origins (Michael J. Behe, 2005)

Michael Behe On The Theory of Irreducible Complexity (Michael J. Behe, 2006)

“The evolutionary puzzle becomes more complex at a higher level of cellular organization.” No kidding. (Michael J. Behe, 2007)

Neither sequence similarity nor common descent address a claim of Intelligent Design (Michael J. Behe, 2007)

Waiting Longer for Two Mutations (Michael J. Behe, 2009)

Reducible Versus Irreducible Systems and Darwinian Versus Non-Darwinian Processes (Michael J. Behe, 2009)

Nature Paper Reaches “Edge of Evolution” and Finds Darwinian Processes Lacking (Michael J. Behe, 2009)

Probability and Controversy: Response to Carl Zimmer and Joseph Thornton (Michael J. Behe, 2009)

God, Design, and Contingency in Nature (Michael J. Behe, 2009)

Misusing Protistan Examples to Propagate Myths About Intelligent Design (Michael J. Behe, 2010)

The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution: A reply to Jerry Coyne (Michael J. Behe, 2010)

More From Jerry Coyne (Michael J. Behe, 2010)

Even More From Jerry Coyne (Michael J. Behe, 2011)

Richard Lenski, “Evolvability,” and Tortuous Darwinian Pathways (Michael J. Behe, 2011)

“Irremediable Complexity” (Michael J. Behe, 2011)

At BioLogos, Confusion over the Meaning of “Irreducibly Complex” (Michael J. Behe, 2012)

“Close to a Miracle”: Unexpected Candor on the Origin of Proteins (Michael J. Behe, 2013)

Lenski’s Long-Term Evolution Experiment: 25 Years and Counting (Michael J. Behe, 2013)

From Thornton’s Lab, More Strong Experimental Support for a Limit to Darwinian Evolution (Michael J. Behe, 2014)

A Key Inference of The Edge of Evolution Has Now Been Experimentally Confirmed (Michael J. Behe, 2014)

Guide of the Perplexed: A Quick Reprise of The Edge of Evolution (Michael J. Behe, 2014)

The Edge of Evolution: Why Darwin’s Mechanism Is Self-Limiting (Michael J. Behe, 2014)

Finally, a Detailed, Stepwise Proposal for a Major Evolutionary Change? (Michael J. Behe, 2015)

“Resurrected” Flagella Were Just Unplugged (Michael J. Behe, 2015)

Kenneth Miller Steps on Darwin’s Achilles Heel (Michael J. Behe, 2015)

[see many more articles on Intelligent Design, by Michael J. Behe]

Darwin’s Black Box (Ray Bohlin, 1997)

Designed or Designoid (Walter L. Bradley, 1998)

The Designed ‘Just So’ Universe (Walter L. Bradley, 1999)


The Fine-Tuning Evidence is Convincing (Stenger’s Fallacies) (Robin Collins)

Modern Cosmology and Anthropic Fine-Tuning: Three Approaches (Robin Collins)

Universe or Multiverse? A Theistic Perspective (Robin Collins)

An Evaluation of William A. Dembski’s The Design Inference (Robin Collins, 1998)

A Critical Evaluation of the Intelligent Design Program: An Analysis and a Proposal (Robin Collins, 1998)

The Fine-Tuning Design Argument (Robin Collins, 1999)

Intelligent Design is Not Science But Metascience (Robin Collins, 2006)

The Case for Cosmic Design (Robin Collins, 2008)

The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability (Robin Collins, 2014)

Barrow and Tipler on the Anthropic Principle vs. Divine Design (William Lane Craig, 1988)

The Teleological Argument and the Anthropic Principle (William Lane Craig, 1990)

The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities (William Lane Craig, 1998)


Fine-tuning and Intelligent Life (William Lane Craig, 2010)

The Grand Design — Truth Or Fiction? (William Lane Craig, 2011)

Dr. Craig on Collins vs Dawkins on Design of Universe (William Lane Craig, 2013)

Is the Watchmaker Argument Still Valid? (William Lane Craig, 2014)

Is “Fine-Tuning” Question-Begging? (William Lane Craig, 2015)

Should Christians Accept Intelligent Design? (William Lane Craig, 2015)

Whatever Happened to Intelligent Design? (William Lane Craig, 2015)

Dr. Craig on Neil deGrasse Tyson vs. Intelligent Design (William Lane Craig, 2015)


Intelligent Design as a Theory of Information (William A. Dembski)

Science and Design (William A. Dembski, 1998)

The Intelligent Design Movement (William A. Dembski, 1998)

Why Evolutionary Algorithms Cannot Generate Specified Complexity (William A. Dembski, 1999)

Intelligent Design Coming Clean (William A. Dembski, 2000)

Intelligent Design is not Optimal Design (William A. Dembski, 2000)

Another Way to Detect Design? (William A. Dembski, 2000)

ID as a Theory of Technological Evolution (William A. Dembski, 2001)

Is Intelligent Design Testable? (William A. Dembski, 2001)

The Third Mode of Explanation: Detecting Evidence of Intelligent Design in the Sciences (William A. Dembski, 2002)

Does Evolution Even Have A Mechanism? (William A. Dembski, 2002)

Intelligent Design and Peer Review (William A. Dembski, 2003)

Still Spinning Just Fine: A Response to Ken Miller (William A. Dembski, 2003)

Design by Elimination or Design by Comparison (William A. Dembski, 2004)

Design Inference vs. Design Hypothesis (William A. Dembski, 2012)


In Defense of the Fine Tuning Design Argument (James Hannam, 2001)

Design Arguments for the Existence of God (Kenneth Himma, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

The Compatibility of Darwinism and Design (Peter van Inwagen, 2003)

Darwinism and Design (Peter van Inwagen, 2010)

Post-Agnostic Science: How Physics Is Reviving The Argument From Design (Robert C. Koons, 1998)

Do Anthropic Coincidences Require Explanation? (Robert C. Koons, 1998)

Swinburne’s Design Argument: Teleological Explanation and Simplicity (Robert C. Koons, 1998)

Critiques of the Design Argument: Mackie (Robert C. Koons, 1998)

Argument from Design (Peter Kreeft, 1988)


Testability, Likelihoods, and Design (Lydia McGrew)

Things God Can Do to Reveal Himself (Lydia McGrew, 2014)

Special agent intention as an explanation (Lydia McGrew, 2014)

I was a teenage demarcationist (Lydia McGrew, 2015)

Creation doesn’t have to be different (Lydia McGrew, 2015)


DNA and Other Designs (Stephen C. Meyer, 2000)

Designer Genes (Patricia A. Mondore & Robert J. Mondore, 1998)


DNA: The Message in the Message (Nancy R. Pearcey, 1996)

The Prospects for Natural Theology (Alvin Plantinga, 1991)

Programs, Bugs, DNA and a Design Argument (Alexander R. Pruss, 2004)

Altruism, Teleology and God (Alexander R. Pruss, 2005)

Teleological Arguments for God’s Existence (Del Ratzsch &  Jeffrey Koperski, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, rev. 2015)


DNA, Design, and the Origin of Life (Charles B. Thaxton, 1986)

In Pursuit of Intelligent Causes: Some Historical Background (Charles B. Thaxton, 1991)


Bad links last discarded: 6-12-18

October 27, 2015

Original title:  On Whether Atheism is Inherently More Rational and Scientific, and Less Dogmatic and Axiomatic Than Christianity
Joseph Stalin: card-carrying atheist, in 1902 at age 23. He stated: “You know, they are fooling us, there is no God… all this talk about God is sheer nonsense.” Scientific views? He supported the quack pseudo-“genetic” supposed “science” of Lysenkoism, and had scientists killed who rejected it and preferred mainstream genetics, founded by the Catholic monk Mendel. Pretty irrational, dogmatic, & unscientific . . .  [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
“drunkentune” (words in blue) and “beepbeepitsme” (words in green) offered responses to a similar posting of mine. “soulster”, a Christian (words in purple) made a “moderator-type” remark that may have been partially directed towards my arguments in this regard, and I responded in turn with a general defense of my arguments and perspective.
* * * * *

Why would an atheist consider the atom to be god especially as an atheist doesn’t believe in god or gods.

Quarks are possibly one of the basic building blocks of matter and I don’t know any scientists or atheists or consider them to be gods either.

Why do you ask questions that are already answered in the paper?

Let me repeat this because obviously it wasn’t understood the first time. Atheists do not believe in the existence of gods. So to pretend that atheists consider, atoms, quarks, George Bush, Richard Dawkins, or a little fluffy kitten god, might make a nice tu quoque fallacy, but that is about all.

You believe in precisely the same things that we believe God can do, except you project these powers onto the atom, as explained in my paper. Your polytheism exceeds that of the ancient cultures who worshiped amulets and slabs of stone.

The powers that you attribute to spiritless matter far exceed anything those ancient “gods” could supposedly do. I don’t see any difference at all. I say that you are much more religious and exercise almost infinitely more faith than the ancient Babylonians or even us Christians. And by the way, my argument is what is known in logic as a reductio ad absurdum. If you don’t like it, overcome it by reasoned refutation. That would be a nice change.

Oh, I see, it is the semantic argument from the liberal interpretation of god. Where god gets to be an atom if you say so. 

Tsk stk – just the usual tu quoque fallacy. You might have well said – “Yes, I know we are silly for believing in a god, but look, you are silly also for believing that atoms exist.”

Really – quite a poor argument I must say. When you have to loosely define what “god” is, in order to try and make atheists look like god worshippers, you must be really embarrassed about your delusion, is all I can say.

And by the way, when I start demanding “under atom” on the moneys, or “in atom we trust” in the pledge, then I will do what most of you should have done 50 years ago – seen a psychiatrist.

That’s right. We’re all nuts. Then why waste time talking to us at all, pray tell? Why do you so many of you atheists spend tons of energy talking to lunatics (as if it would do any good)?

It’s good to hear from you again. Four questions, after skimming your paper:
1. Are you an “atheist” in relation to the Greek gods?
2. Are you an “atheist” in relation to the Muslim god?
3. Are you an “atheist” in relation to the Mormon god?
4. Are these “irrational” atheistic notions, as you say, “ridiculous and intellectually-suicidal at

worst and flimsy and unsubstantiated at best”, 

that you hold, denying the existence of the Greek, Muslim, and Mormon gods?

I’m not gonna answer your question-answer to my questions!

If you want to actually interact with my paper, fine, but I don’t see the point of going down a rabbit trail.

Oh, and I would recommend actually reading it, not just skimming.


I should add that my target in that paper is not non-belief in the Christian or theistic God, so much as it is what atheists do manage to believe, that I find essentially indistinguishable from gross polytheism, as argued in the paper.

In other words, it is your religious beliefs (the stuff you actually believe in faith) that I find intriguing and quite absurd, not your lack thereof (with regard to Christianity or some form of western theism).

Then your paper isn’t really targeting atheists and atheism – only the few atheists that express polytheistic language in relation to matter (as per your argument). You generalize the worldview of atheists by including other claims under the “atheist” label besides positive or negative atheism. The lack of faith in the existence of a god is not irrational; perhaps the beliefs of the atheists you quote are.

You are (presumably) an atheist in relation to the Greek Pantheon, Allah, and the Mormon god. That is not “blind faith” or “irrational” or “ridiculous and intellectually-suicidal at worst and flimsy and unsubstantiated at best.”

It’s common sense. 

Again, you completely miss the point. If you had actually read the paper and grasped the reductio argument I made there, it is a perfectly serious critique (incorporating provocative satirical humor) of what every atheist believes (indeed must believe – matter being all there is).

Clearly, neither you nor beepbeep have understood the very nature of the argument. You obviously think it is far less serious and ignorant than it actually is. It doesn’t rest upon you stating that you are a polytheist. Of course you don’t say that.

Rather, it is based on the attributes that you believe particles of matter inherently possess, that require no less faith (I would say much more faith) than the attributes we believe God possesses.

And so this is faith, and not a whit more reasonable than what we believe (again, I myself believe it is much less reasonable or plausible). You can hem and haw that you have no faith at all and that your outlook is entirely reasoned and logically airtight if you like, but it’s sheer nonsense.

The sooner the atheist recognizes this, then the better off they will be, epistemologically -speaking (because self-understanding is key to all understanding). Atheist-Christian discussion would then vastly improve, too, because you will cease laboring under the condescending illusion that y’all are so eminently rational and we are fundamentally irrational and gullible, and as if we are the only ones exercising faith or accepting things we can’t prove, whereas you supposedly are not.

It’s the residue of the dead philosophy of positivism, I reckon. It’ll take several more generations for atheists to get over that miserably failed thought-experiment.

Also, please read #36 above [indicated here by three asterisks]. You seem to have missed that, too, judging by your response, that #36 already dealt with. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Just wanted to say that some posts on this tread are getting dangerously close to a mocking tone. In the interest of keeping our ears open, we should be careful not to push people into defensiveness at which point listening becomes difficult if not impossible. Of course, this will require walking a knife edge of sorts since we must still be honest, which includes much evaluation and saying how we feel about things.

I’m feeling that this conversation is teetering on the edge about to fall into closing each other’s minds. Perhaps we can practice good listening skills by summarizing the other person’s objection or position, stating politely that we understand but disagree or where we think they missed us, and moving on to the exploration of other things if the conversation is just going round in circles.

Since we have very different views of the world in some areas, we should expect disagreements about the importance of certain pieces of evidence and the force of certain arguments, so none of that should be a surprise to anyone. There will likely be no single point where anyone stands or falls in this blog, or in the larger conversation it represents, so we are more faithful to ourselves and our readers by presenting the broadest picture possible.

For my part (inasmuch as [the above] would apply to me, if at all), I am simply turning the tables. The implication that Christians are somehow logically and intellectually deficient (and often, mentally ill) is standard, humdrum atheist modus operandi.

As long as that is the case, certainly it can’t be wrong for Christians to make arguments that atheist epistemology involves the same basic aspects of faith and induction that Christian epistemology entails.

Nor is it wrong for me to point out that my very argument is not being accurately portrayed in how it is described in replies.

It’s “mocking”, I suppose, insofar as the standard argumentative techniques of the reductio ad absurdum, analogy, or turning the tables are “mockery.” Much worse happens to us Christians all the time. My replies are, I think, quite mild compared to what Christians are routinely accused of.

To cite just one example above, drunkentune wrote:

“Science does not claim to have the ultimate truth, as many holy texts do. Science is a process, and I trust the process that attempts to uncover the truth because its results have been repeatedly verified by both skeptics and individuals disinterested in furthering a dogma.”

Now, the implication (subtle, but quite real and definite) is that Christians are either anti-science or irrational or dogmatic in the blind sense, or all of the above (or quantitatively much more so than atheists, at the least). This is common atheist polemic: they are the “scientific” ones, while we flounder around in gullible irrationality.

But it’s simply untrue. The materialist atheist is, I would argue, more dogmatic than the Christian. To show this is very simple. Take, for instance, the evolution / creation controversy.

The Christian can adopt either position (I have held both myself, at different times, as a Christian). But the atheist cannot possibly accept a creationist outlook in any way, shape, or form (even fairly secular Intelligent Design has to be derisively dismissed), because his dogma precludes it from the outset.

How about the question of spirit and matter, that has occupied philosophers for centuries? The materialist atheist (not all atheists are materialists, but most are) cannot accept the existence of spirit, because his materialist dogma forbids it. The Christian, of course, can, so his worldview is less dogmatic and less exclusive.

The materialist has the underlying dogma that science is pretty much the only path to truth (albeit constantly capable of being revised, but even so, it can give us much reliable truth about reality). Science, in turn, rules out (by definition) explanations involving non-material elements or aspects.

But that is pure dogma, and simplistic to boot. The Christian, on the other hand, recognizes that science is but one philosophy (roughly-speaking, empiricism): one which involves unproven axioms from the outset. To claim that it is the only way to arrive at truth is philosophically naive in the extreme.

The Christian is under no such constraints. Recognizing that science is but one species of philosophy, and that it can’t possibly exclude things that are beyond its purview (just as religion does not and cannot preclude science, because it is a separate inquiry), we can discuss and incorporate non-scientific avenues to truth.

But the atheist, by and large, cannot do that, because their dogma (generally-speaking, as throughout) confines them to one method, and then they labor under the illusion that this method is the be-all and end-all of reality (itself in turn reduced to materialism by most atheists).

All of that requires at least as much as, but arguably much more faith than any Christian exercises by believing in God and revelation. It entails dogma that has no shred of evidence suggesting that it is indubitably true, and that no one could possibly doubt it.

Blind faith? There is plenty in atheism. There are many faith-assumptions and axioms, just as in Christianity. The difference is that we honestly admit that we have faith and can’t and don’t know everything there is to know about reality.

In other words, Christianity allows a place for intellectual humility and the finiteness of human beings and our minds. But atheism tends to make out that people can figure everything out, and it is relatively simple, etc., etc., because we have the “god” of science to solve all problems and reach virtually all knowledge.

But most atheists are unwilling to admit that they accept any tenets or presuppositions that involve any leaps of faith or unproven assumptions. This is itself irrational, and philosophically naive.

And that is what I was driving at in my paper about “The Faith of Atomism.” Most atheists don’t dare to truly interact with it because it attacks their root assumptions at such a fundamental level, and they (like anyone else) don’t want to deal with that: it’s too frightening in its implications. Again, we Christians have our root assumptions attacked all the time (often gleefully so, with the “gotcha” attitude quite apparent), but atheists don’t like it so much when we do the same to them (minus the triumphalism and condescension and insinuations of mental and psychological abnormality).

It was that way when I first put out the paper some years ago and I see that nothing has changed: the reaction is precisely the same now (judging by drunken and beepbeep and their non-replies or non sequitur responses).

Nothing personal, I assure you. All I’m doing is responding to what Christians are constantly subjected to and making a reasoned, analogical, analytical critique of atheist presuppositions.

October 18, 2015

Original Title: Dialogue with an Atheist on the Galileo Fiasco and its Relation to Catholic Infallibility (vs. Jon Curry)
St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621); 16th. c. anonymous Italian painter [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

This exchange occurred in the combox (beginning with Jon’s first comment) for the related paper, “No One’s Perfect”: Scientific Errors of Galileo and 16th-17th Century Cosmologies Rescued From Obscurity. I felt that eventually the dialogue broke down into dialogue-killing wrangling about style, methodology, and minutiae, and so will omit those latter portions of the discussion from this new paper, to save readers from all that tedium. Anyone can read the whole thing in the combox if they wish. I’m not gonna change anything there. It is what it is. But editing is highly important in all good writing.

Jon, at length, ended it by stating, “we’re just not able to communicate.” That indeed seems to be the case, seeing how the debate ended up (spinning wheels in the mud, so to speak; both parties talking past each other). For my part, I freely and repeatedly admitted (after Jon complained) that I did go a bit overboard:

. . . one can always be more charitable, sure; of course. I am passionate about argument, I love it, and so I can get carried away at times. Some of it comes from frustration, if I feel I am repeating myself and it’s not getting through. But I am always disagreeing with arguments without trying to insult people. Sometimes the line can be fine, granted. And people have different sensitivities.

But I’m a “bulldog” in argument; there is no doubt about that. This offends some people. Different strokes for different folks. It may offend you. But I will basically be the way I am. I can’t somehow not be passionate about ideas. It’s just how I am. You have met me in person so I think you understand this at least to some degree. I have to be accepted for who I am, just as I try to do the same with you and everyone else. So I plead guilty as charged to excessive polemics and rhetoric . . . (8-6-10)

I’ve admitted polemical excess. I’m not perfect. Never claimed to be. My points about the actual arguments back and forth still stand, regardless of how poorly I may have conducted myself, in your eyes. Like you say, there are facts in play here that need to be dealt with. (8-6-10)

I am happy to take my share of the blame. If I had any idea we’d be in this present rut I would have tried my utmost to temper my usual enthusiastic passion for debate and used less strong language (that seems to have set you off down this path). (8-6-10)

But my genuine love of ideas and debate and aggressive style and sometimes over-the-top rhetoric or polemics are by no means the entire reason why it ended as it did. There are logical and linguistic and historical issues in play, too. I exasperated Jon but (from where I sit) he also frustrated me to no end by not dealing with all of my arguments and at the end deciding to talk subjectively about the discussion and stylistic issues rather than about Galileo and the substantive theological and philosophical matters. I stated: “I thought the dialogue started out well, and I was enjoying it back when we were actually discussing the issue” and referred to “the initial fun and stimulation of this dialogue.” Readers may judge. I present the dialogue, as always (i.e., minus the drudgery at the end), for the purpose of allowing open-minded thinkers to read both sides of a dispute and make up their own minds where the actual truth lies.

Jon’s words will be in blue.

* * * * *

I don’t see the relevance of showing that Galileo and others made mistakes. What do you expect of 17th century scientists? None of this absolves Rome though. I have a brief description of the relevant facts, often obscured by RC apologists, at the following link.

I’ll take a look at your paper as soon as I can set aside a chunk of time. Thanks for alerting me to it.

The point is not merely to note that scientists make mistakes (a thing anyone with a lick of sense knows) — as if that is some big revelation [no pun intended] –, but rather, that Christians are not the only ones who make mistakes (specifically with the Galileo incident in mind) and that there are many aspects to the Galileo affair that many are unaware of.

In other words, this is an exercise of pointing out double standards of presentation, by presenting (fairly) certain facts of history. Catholics got some things wrong in 17th century cosmology? So did everyone else, etc. So why are we always discussed, and all this other stuff ignored and unknown?

That is my point, that I already expressed in the paper, so that there shouldn’t be any mystery here as to what I think I am accomplishing by this post.

[from his linked paper] in this instance the church opposed demonstrable science because of their understanding of the Bible. This is an excellent example of some of the problems with religious thinking.

There’s nothing in this paper that I haven’t already dealt with in my several papers on Galileo.

To generalize from one instance where mistakes were made, to “religious thinking” is absurd. So one (non-infallible, non-magisterial) Catholic tribunal got it wrong. Why should it be such a big deal? Someone noted that this actually proves the fact that the Church is not opposed to science [originally, erroneously, “argument”]: since Galileo is the one “stock argument” trotted out ad nauseum (just as Popes Honorius, Vigilius, and Liberius are always trotted out to supposedly disprove papal infallibility).

Jon wouldn’t argue that Communism, Stalinism, Maoism, Naziism, eugenics, phrenology, astrology, alchemy, sterilization of black men, Piltdown and Nebraska Man, etc., were all indicative of “problems with atheist thinking” [so] that he has to waste time defending atheists against these charges, as if such a broad generalization can be made in the first place . . .

The overall historical picture has to be taken into account. It is for this reason that I am currently at work on my big project of “Christianity and Science”: to smash the prevalent myths, caricatures, half truths, outright lies and propaganda (Hitchens, Dawkins et al), and straw men.

[replying to a separate comment from someone else] And, as Thomas Kuhn and others have stated, St. Robert Bellarmine actually had the more sophisticated, “modern” conception of what scientific theory and hypothesis are: not dogmas, but provisional, and never absolutely proven. Hence, Newton could be overthrown by Einstein and Planck and Heisenberg, etc. Bellarmine didn’t consider heliocentrism proven beyond all doubt, and in that respect he was right. It was not solidly established, based on experiment, till the early 1800s. But ol’ Galileo thought it was, based on his erroneous view of tides.

In essence, then, it is a case where one non-magisterial tribunal of the Church was wrong about astronomy for (partially) the right reasons, and Galileo was partially right about astronomy for (partially) the wrong reasons.

We openly admit the mistakes we made, whereas the ones who want to keep throwing Galileo in our faces don’t seem willing to consider the larger picture and aspects where Galileo got it wrong (beyond just an arrogant attitude: to actual scientific facts).

So it is a double standard in the initial judgment, and a double standard in who is willing to honestly admit what real mistakes were made (as opposed to mythical fictions and legends that supposedly occurred).

The reason it’s a big deal is this. The RCC claims to be God’s representation on earth.

Oh my; this [i.e., his entire comment of the next several paragraphs] is a goldmine of logical fallacy and muddleheaded thinking. Here we go! So far so good; though we don’t make Christianity or saving faith exclusive to our ranks.

Failing to be subservient to that authority was done on pain of imprisonment (in Galileo’s case house arrest) or death.

Infallibility and the obedience of professed Catholics to the Church are two different things. The Church had the right and prerogative to penalize someone who wanted to, in effect, speak for the Church and impose dogmas onto the Church that were not yet proven even in scientific terms.

“Death” is merely a melodramatic flourish and can therefore be dismissed as a non sequitur.

I don’t understand what you are saying. A non-sequitur is a claim that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. What are the premises and what is the conclusion I’m drawing that doesn’t follow?

* * *

As I said in response a non-sequitur is a particular thing, and I want you to show how it applies to my claim. Don’t just make assertions of the commission of fallacies. Do the work and show what is a fallacy.

Galileo’s mild treatment after his house arrest (living in luxurious palaces, etc., and not prevented to do any of his scientific experiments) shows that the death penalty was hardly in play. So I have already answered by documenting that [elsewhere in the dialogue]. Therefore, to throw out the likelihood of his being executed is indeed a non sequitur. It was a melodramatic flourish rather than a serious argument based on the events of the time. That one word of yours contained a whole world of hostile, polemical assumptions and contra-Catholic stereotypes. And it is by no means the only instance of that in your arguments.

You did not even attempt to justify your charge of non-sequitur, though the assertions that I’m guilty of fallacies remain.

Now I have. You’ll simply disagree, so what was accomplished?

Just looking at this exchange, can you understand the difficulty I’m having responding to what you say? Your first reply is a vague claim regarding a fallacy. How am I supposed to reply to that? Where is the fallacy? Is Dave3 giving the answer? The death penalty wasn’t in play in Galileo’s case? Isn’t that exactly what I initially said? The fact is I put that statement in parenthesis in hopes of preventing you from going down a rabbit trail as if I was suggesting that the death penalty was in play in this specific instance. It didn’t even matter. You still attribute that view to me and accuse me of a fallacy to boot. . . .

And by the way an error in fact is not a fallacy. This is another problem that is exacerbating the communication barrier here. Your charge against me is a charge of a fallacy, but based on Dave3 it sounds like you’re accusing me of an error (I think?). That’s not the same thing as a fallacy. Take a look at the exchange here. A charge of non sequitur is a charge that I’ve made an argument that draws a conclusion that doesn’t follow from the premises. That’s a pretty basic thing. So what would be helpful is if you listed the supposed premises that define my argument and then show how the conclusion violates the logical form. Or you could withdraw the charge of fallacy, which is what I think you should do.

“Death” was an exceedingly rare penalty (this is why I stated that your introducing this motif was “merely a melodramatic flourish.” I misunderstood, thinking that you were implying that it was a possibility in Galileo’s case. But even though you weren’t intending that meaning, it still qualifies, in my opinion, as a non sequitur insofar as we were talking about Galileo and the aspect of infallibility.

Secondly, you neglected throughout your complaining about this assertion of mine to recognize that there is more than one meaning for non sequitur. There is the definition of a fallacy in logic (that you used), but there is also a more common, everyday usage (I never stated I was using the strict logical definition). For example, at (World English Dictionary), the first definition is:

1. a statement having little or no relevance to what preceded it

Then your more specific definition is given second:

2. logic a conclusion that does not follow from the premises

I was using it in the first sense (bringing it up had no relevance to the discussion at hand). I would argue that this is made clear by context, and especially by my later clarification. But you were stuck on that one definition and hung up on it, and so missed the point. Likewise, the Cultural Dictionary on the same page (as its only definition), states:

A thought that does not logically follow what has just been said: “We had been discussing plumbing, so her remark about astrology was a real non sequitur.”

Merriam-Webster online does exactly the same. It gives the logical definition first, then the one I used:

a statement (as a response) that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said

* * *

As for the house arrest, I noted the nature of it in my most recent paper on Galileo:

In 1633 Galileo was ‘incarcerated’ in the palace of one Niccolini, the ambassador to the Vatican from Tuscany, who admired Galileo. He spent five months with Archbishop Piccolomini in Siena, and then lived in comfortable environments with friends for the rest of his life (although technically under ‘house arrest’). No evidence exists to prove that he was ever subjected to torture or even discomfort until his death nine years later.

Now, that was logical. If the RCC is God’s spokesperson and God is telling you one thing and you are affirming another, then you are defying God.

No; you are defying the Church, which speaks for God on this earth; it doesn’t follow that the Church never makes mistakes, as it did here. We claim different levels of authority for different things.

The Church had authority in the way that a parent has authority over a five-year-old child. Does that mean that parents are always, absolutely right in every instance of punishment or correction? No. Does it mean, then, that they should not have authority and that the child should not obey? No.

That’s why pain is warranted. We can’t have people defying God’s statements.

I have explained it in logical, rational terms. You are the one trying to caricature what happened, according to the usual stereotypes of skeptics who have used this incident for almost four centuries to mean far more than what it actually meant.

Well, the RCC wasn’t magisterial and infallible in this instance you say. I think reasonable people can see this as excuses. I mean, imagine you hire a guide to take you on a trip and he says that his guidance is infallible. You come to a fork in the road and you go left on his advice and find yourself at a dead end. As you retrace your steps your guide says “Well, my advice to go left was only being offered in my unofficial capacity.” Or you have a doctor that claims infallible powers and he issues prescriptions that lead to the death of his patients. “But I didn’t sign my name in the special way and I didn’t use the special paper. Those were my unofficial, non-magesterial pronouncements.” Wouldn’t we call this doctor a scam artist?

This is plain silly. It’s not an excuse at all; it is simply what it is. The non-Catholic skeptic and critic doesn’t determine the nature of Catholic belief with regard to infallibility; we do that. Here is the logic of it:

Catholic Church: Our belief is that the Church possesses infallibility in carefully defined circumstances: when something that has long been widely believed and has strong support in Scripture and Tradition, in the area of faith and morals, is declared to be infallible, by a pope, or an ecumenical council in harmony with a pope.

Skeptic Caricaturist: But I say that matters of science are included within the purview of infallibility!

Catholic Church: That’s irrelevant. You don’t change the reality of what a thing is by desiring that it be something else. It’s a straw man. The first rule of any sensible dialogue is to understand the position of one’s opponent.

Skeptic Caricaturist: But that is just a lame excuse, because you are embarrassed that the Galileo incident disproved the infallibility of the Church.

Catholic Church: How can it do that, since it had nothing directly to do with either the faith or morals?

Yes it did. It had to do with the accuracy of Scripture as interpreted by the RCC. Interpretation of Scripture is a matter related to faith. It’s fine to say the RCC is infallible only on matters of faith, but there are times when faith and science coincide. Science is nothing but a method of determining truth. If the truth is related to a Scriptural matter than faith and science will be interlinked. Saying that the RCC doesn’t get necessarily get it right in such cases is simply saying that the RCC doesn’t necessarily get it right in matters that can be checked. So why should we believe the RCC in matters that can’t be checked? Jesus said that if you can’t trust me on earthly matters, why should you trust me on heavenly matters. I agree.

* * *

Skeptic Caricaturist
: Well, it has to do with the doctrine of creation, which is part of the attributes of God, no?

Catholic Church: The discussion of heliocentrism vs. geocentrism (with both being wrong insofar as the earth or sun is thought to be at the center of the universe) are particular astronomical theories. Whether one or the other is true does not affect the doctrine that God created everything in the universe. But in any event, it has no bearing whatever on infallibility since the subject matter is outside of faith and morals, and the erroneous proclamations about heliocentrism were made by neither a pope nor an ecumenical council.

There’s only one distinction that makes sense with regards to infallibility. If it’s offered in an official capacity it should be regarded as infallible. If not, then no.

Again, you exhibit the same foolish fallacy:

1) Catholic Church says infallibility means X and is applied to particular situations Y and Z (the Galileo affair not being either Y or Z).

2) Jon says no; infallibility actually means, or should mean (because he says so!) A, and should be applied to the particular situation of the Galileo affair, which he says is indeed within the category of Y and Z.

3) So the Church says that the Galileo affair is not an instance of Y and Z, but Jon says it is. The two positions contradict each other.

4) So who should reasonably determine where infallibility applies or doesn’t apply?

5) We say the Church obviously determines that, because it is the entity making the claim in the first place; therefore it is sensible that it defines the parameters of its own claimed authority.

6) Jon says he knows better than the Church about its own level of authority. He says every “official” Church decree must also be infallible, because, well, because he says so . . .

What I’m doing is using induction. In order to spot a phony I use certain techniques. If the fraudulent doctor claims his infallible prescriptions are only infallible when he uses the special paper (after his patients have died) I recognize this as a shyster’s method. He could respond as you do. “But Jon says that all prescriptions are infallible despite my own declaration that it only counts on special paper.” Well, yeah, I suppose that’s what he’d say since he’s been busted. What would you say to the doctor? If you treat him differently than the RCC ask yourself why.

* * *

Etc., etc. One either sees the self-evident illogical goofiness of such a position or they do not.

If “Thou art Peter” means infallible guidance for Peter and his successors I can understand that it might not mean he’s right in every action that he does. But he has to be right when he acts in his official capacity as a representative of Christ on earth, which is exactly what occurred in the case of Galileo.

No it ain’t. The pope didn’t even sign the decree. It was not an infallible statement. It wasn’t made by a pope or an ecumenical council in line with one. It didn’t have to do with faith and morals. There was simply a mistake made about the earth going around the sun. Big wow. Galileo made other mistakes, as I have documented, and was also over-dogmatic when he shouldn’t have been, according to the parameters of proper science.

There are only going to be few cases where the erroneous nature of the claims of the faithful are so strikingly demonstrated.

I suppose so, since this Galileo incident is always bandied about, as if it proves anything. All it proves is that some folks in the Church were incorrect about geocentrism and about the supposed teaching of it in Scripture.

Today the RCC has learned the important lesson.

I think the lesson was learned that dogmatic pronouncements about science and the interpretation of Scripture are excessive, yes.

The difference is that our mistakes are discussed forever and caricatured and distorted, but mistakes of either Galileo or science in general through the centuries are glossed-over, ignored, and it is pretended that there is this huge qualitative difference between our mistake here and any of the others.

The Pope is regarded as a guide, but he doesn’t act that way. He hangs back without leading at all on various questions until a consensus emerges and then he steps forward and pronounces the consensus correct.

For once you get something (partially) right (and you intend it to be a criticism LOL). That’s exactly how infallibility works. This is why, e.g., the Immaculate Conception and infallibility of the pope was proclaimed in the 19th century, and the Assumption of Mary in the 20th. Lots of deliberation there. In the meantime, there is lots of guidance, even at a lower level of infallibility (what is called the ordinary magisterium).

This is not how a real guide acts, but is how a wise arbiter would act. Let the disputing parties fight it out until they’ve exhausted themselves and come to conclusions themselves, then step forward and pronounce who’s right.

Again, we have the ludicrous situation of you (who scarcely even comprehends infallibility and how it works in the Catholic Church) acting as if you understand it better than we do.

In a sense that’s true. In the same way you might think that you understand better the workings of the chiropractor better than the committed acolyte. I don’t mean it as a put down, but just to say that since obviously I think you’re wrong about the RCC and infallibility I view you as more prone to accept their excuses and more blind to misleading nature of their rationalizations. Sometimes the outsider does see some aspects more clearly. That’s true in any situation. Suppose someone you know has a family feud. You might be more objective in evaluating it, whereas parties to the conflict might say “What do you know about it. I’m in the middle of it. I know more.” Maybe that’s the very reason you can’t evaluate it objectively.

* * *

Disagree if you must, but please do us the courtesy of at least attempting to correctly understand what our view is. As a former anti-Catholic Protestant, you obviously have a lot of that baggage left in your views.

So take evolution. The lesson of Galileo has been learned. The Pope isn’t going to step up and tell us who’s right, as you would think might be done of Christ really intended an infallible guide on the earth to resolve controversial disputes.

Evolution has nothing directly to do with the Catholic faith. It’s like you want it both ways. You don’t want the Church to proclaim about science, cuz it ain’t her purview, yet on the other hand you do. Which is it?

I wish she would actually because it would expose the true nature of the church. Again, evolution is related to faith. Go to any Christian book store and you’ll see. Origins of humanity are a matter of faith obviously. If we descended from ape like ancestors that is obviously relevant to God’s attitude towards us.

* * *

If we proclaim and do so wrongly (even if sub-infallibly), then that is distorted and used as anti-Catholic and anti-Christian propaganda for 400 years. If we don’t, then you go after infallibility, as if that has anything to do with matters of science.

Popes have, in fact, made statements about precisely those areas where evolution might intersect with Christian theology: in Humani Generis in 1950, Pope Pius XII stated that Catholics must believe in a primal human pair, and that God creates every individual soul. Beyond that we have the perfect freedom to believe in evolution (which doesn’t disprove God’s existence in the slightest). St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas both adhered to views that at the very least left open the possibility of transformationism.

He’s going to hang back until everyone’s pretty much on the same page. Maybe a few stragglers that don’t have sufficient influence. Then he’ll let us know the answer. He says nothing because he’s not really a leader and doesn’t even believe in his own infallibility.

A classic case study in relentless non sequitur . . . C’mon Jon. I know you can make a better argument than this (and I mean that as a compliment, not a put-down). You can do better. This is simply a poor, weak, fallacious argument on many levels.

How so? It’s an inductive argument. People that genuinely believe they are right and don’t make mistakes act in certain ways, and those ways seem very inconsistent, if not the opposite, of the way Popes, protected with the charism of infallibility act. Of course the Pope’s supposed gifts are slightly different, but there are still points of similarity. To evaluate how we should expect the Pope to act we can do nothing but consider analogous cases and contrast with the Pope’s behavior. That’s what I’m doing. It’s not a deductive argument, so I’m not pretending that the conclusions follow with necessity.

* * *

We are at an impasse, then, because you are denying that a=a (Catholic infallibility [i.e., our conception of what we mean by it and when it applies] is what it is). Since you have redefined Catholic notions at your whim and fancy, you’re fighting a straw man, and there is nowhere else to go with this. I can’t defend a phantom of your making. What I’m defending is the Catholic conception of infallibility.

We’re not discussing infallibility per se, but rather, whether the particular of the Galileo fiasco is related to it.

If we claimed to be infallible concerning absolutely everything, then your argument would have some force, but since we don’t, it has to be determined if the Galileo affair is within the purview of infallibility or not. It certainly is not (clearly so), yet you want it to be so badly (for polemical purposes), that you simply pretend that it is.

Even if I granted that it did indeed have to do with the faith, directly, there is still no “procedural” infallibility involved, as I have already explained, because this was not a solemn, binding decree made by a pope or by an ecumenical council in conjunction with a pope. Those are the conditions of infallibility; therefore, this situation does not fall into the category. Period. Case closed. It’s really not that complicated. It ain’t even toy rocket science. :-)

You can believe we’re merely “rationalizing” if you wish. I say you don’t understand what it is you are discussing, as indicated by the convenient, cynical redefinition of terms. This fails the most fundamental requirements of true, constructive dialogue (accurately comprehend the opponent’s view, so as to avoid straw men).

If infallibility is out of the picture, then it is merely a matter of a fallible decree by a non-infallible organ of the Catholic Church. They made a mistake. No one thought it was impossible for Catholics or even the Church to make a mistake in the first place (on the sub-infallible level). So it is much ado about nothing (i.e., in terms of ramifications for infallibility).

I think it was a serious mistake, that clearly had negative repercussions for years to come (it would be much better if it had never happened), but it has no bearing on the status of Catholic authority.

It’s one thing to assert:

1) X is erroneous because of A, B, and C.

. . . and then reject X on those grounds. But what you are doing is something different:

2) Pseudo-X (i.e., X as I arbitrarily redefine and distort it) is erroneous.

Since I don’t believe in Pseudo-X, I am under no intellectual obligation to defend it. In fact, it would literally be dishonest for me to do so, because I would be granting your false premise, and I can’t honestly do that.

Therefore, the discussion is at a dead-end until such time as you correctly understand what X (the Catholic doctrine of infallibility) is.

Nothing personal; I’m just being consistent with my own principles and belief-system and applying simple logic (primarily, a=a).

I agree that this is kind of an impasse. You are defending the doctor with the prescriptions that have caused death by saying that he didn’t use the special signature and special paper.

Again, you have misconstrued my argument. I’m not defending the decision to condemn Galileo in the slightest. I think it was wrongheaded and a serious error (though it continues to be poorly understood in its entirety).

My reply presupposes your assertion that all of this is a big deal and is somehow a knockout argument against the Catholic Church. It’s not. I’m not defending the thing itself, but rather, the cynical, erroneous conclusions drawn from it. And I am opposing double standards.

* * *

You say that you get to define what qualifies as an infallible prescription.

Every system is understood by its practitioners to be of a certain nature, yes (self-understanding and self-definition). That’s self-evident. Scientists resent outsiders coming in and telling them how to do their business. They see that as the height of presumptuousness, ignorance, and folly (and often it is: I mostly agree with them). Likewise, Catholics don’t care for outsiders coming in and claiming to understand our system and how it works when they clearly don’t, and won’t take the time to learn and get up to speed.

* * *

You can do that and logically evade the charge of error.

As I said, I’m not denying that an error was made, as I have said over and over again. I’m denying that this was a disproof of infallibility and other conclusions drawn from it that don’t follow at all.

* * *

When the decree was issued it was understood as coming from the Pope in his official capacity.

To some extent that was probably true. But that’s the distinction between authority and infallibility that I drew earlier. The former is a much larger category than the latter. They aren’t identical.

See the intro to Newton’s Principia and Galileo’s tract on the motion of comets. Kind of like patients confidently getting prescriptions filled imagining them to be infallible. Then when they aren’t the prior decrees die the death of a thousand qualifications. Is it logically possible that in fact they are right though they are acting like the phony doctor would? Sure. But the question is, is that a reasonable belief? Don’t confuse my claim with a claim that my position is conclusively demonstrated like some mathematical theorem. My claim is that this is a reasonable understanding of the facts. Can you at least understand how it looks to an outsider? Doesn’t it look like a phony doctor?

If you don’t understand the nature of Catholic ecclesiology (and some of the rationale for it, that is provided by apologetics), sure. In this respect you and the anti-Catholic Protestants you used to hang around are in almost exactly the same boat: neither will take the time to learn how Catholic ecclesiology works, and you won’t take the word of folks like myself (who defend the system as my occupation) that you don’t understand it. Because you don’t comprehend it, you can only view it as some sort of sleight-of-hand or casuistry (I love that word) in order to desperately uphold a fundamentally irrational and internally contradictory system.

You know full well when Christians are misrepresenting the thoughts and motivations of atheists. I know when Catholicism is being vastly misunderstood and caricatured.

You seem to not even comprehend the logic of the argument I am making. This suggests to me that the basis of your objection from the start is merely emotional rather than rational. You despise the Catholic system to such an extent that it is of no concern to you whether you accurately describe it, in order to shoot it down. And so you hold firm to your erroneous convictions, no matter what I say.

Unless you better understand the nature of infallibility, there is no possibility of further discussion. It’d be like trying to discuss geology with a guy who thinks the earth is flat. It can go nowhere because the starting assumption is so ludicrous and non-factual.

* * *

By your reasoning, why wasn’t Galileo a “phony” scientist when he asserted that the tides proved heliocentrism, or that astrology conveyed much truth, or that orbits were circular rather than elliptical, or that planets in orbit traveled at constant, rather than variable speeds, or that the entire universe went around the sun, that was at its center, or that comets were optical illusions, or that heliocentrism was “proven” in the early 17th century when there was as of yet no hard proof for that?

Why are there are these grand, melodramatic conclusions about the Catholic Church because of one error it made at one specific time (about cosmology and science, not theology or morals), but Galileo and other scientific whoppers that have occurred (in retrospect) get a huge pass and no criticism is directed towards those things?

Is that not Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee, as far as error is concerned? In fact, I would say that Galileo’s errors are more foolish, insofar as he was dogmatic from the epistemology of science, where that has no place. One expects religious bodies to be dogmatic by their very nature, because we claim to be conveying revealed truths of revelation. But dogma supposedly has no place in science (Thomas Kuhn and Stephen Jay Gould thought quite otherwise, insofar as how science is actually practiced).

It was simply erroneous for those in the Galileo tribunal to interpret the Bible as if it precluded either heliocentrism or a rotating earth. The Bible’s not a science book and it has to be interpreted according to the principles of phenomenological description and anthropomorphism and anthropopathism.

We do this ourselves, naturally, all the time, by saying “the sun rose at 5 AM” or “the stars moved across the sky.”

But I look at Galileo’s factual scientific errors and I give him a pass because he was early in the modern scientific scene. Science builds on the shoulders of past giants, and at that time there weren’t many “giants” in terms of modern scientific method. So one can excuse these things.

I go on to say that you ought to excuse the Church of that time on the very same basis, rather than going on and on about it. Logically, if you wish to do that (even on your fallacious basis), you should direct equal (if not more) ire at Galileo for his errors. You should criticize both equally, on roughly the same basis, or neither. But it is inconsistent to blast the Church and call us “phony,” etc., while giving Galileo a complete pass.

But you don’t and won’t do that because he opposed the big bad boogey man: the Church. Protestants act in much the same fashion when it comes to Luther. No matter how often he is wrong, he’s the Big Hero because he stood against Rome, the Beast (he used to be one of mine, too, so I understand that from the “inside”). So he is idealized and all his manifest faults are winked at, as of no consequence or import.

But (don’t get me wrong) I admire Luther in many ways, too, just as I do, Galileo . . .

I really don’t despise the RCC in the least. I’m very effusive in my praise of Catholic leadership in many areas, especially their vast efforts regarding human rights and what Hans Kung calls “the preferential option for the poor” emanating from Vatican II.

Okay; good. All the more reason to accurately understand our teaching on infallibility and all the more inexplicable that you don’t seem to be willing to do that, or accept any correction on it.

I do criticize what I see as immoral behavior as well, but I know that Catholicism is not all about child molestation, as some anti-theists might pretend.

Of course. That is a tiny percentage of priests: disproportionately of homosexual orientation (80% or so of the victims being young boys).

I admire much biblical teaching and regard it as morally challenging, despite some moral errors that were largely a product of the time they were written.


I’m just calling it the way that I see it with regards to infallibility.

That doesn’t dispense you from the responsibility of accurately portraying that which you critique, and defining it correctly.

Of course. My point though is that the charges that I’m drawing my conclusions because of hostility is completely false.

* * *

Nothing you’ve said is new to me. I’m well aware of the distinctions you make, how authority is not infallibility, how faith and morals are the purview as opposed to science, etc. These are actually distinctions I accept as reasonable. But I do not accept them as reasonable as applied to some specific cases.

Huh? Unless you respond to my arguments directly, I have no idea what you mean.

You confuse my unwillingness to accept the reasonableness of the applicability of these distinctions in this case with the view that I actually don’t comprehend the distinctions. Not true.

I’m happy to take you at your word. So then you make an exception in this case. But how and why would anyone do that?

I’m not making any exception. I’m applying a consistent standard. The church, via an inquisition called by the Pope, issued in it’s official capacity a ruling on a matter of faith (related to the interpretation of Scripture and position of our planet in the universe). The ruling was erroneous and so the RCC is not infallible.

Jeffrey A. Mirus, in his article, Galileo and the Magisterium: a Second Look, disabuses any fair-minded inquirer of these notions (his words in green):

[T]he sentence itself bears the signatures of seven of the ten judges; the Pope, in other words, did not officially endorse the decision (there was, of course, no reason why he should, since the Court was simply exercising its normal powers).

The decision states otherwise. It states that the earlier decision (found herewas “the declaration made by our Lord the Pope, and promulgated by the Sacred Congregation of the Index” that the Copernican view was contrary to Scripture and therefore cannot be defended or held.

You link to the 1633 decree, not the 1616 one. And I don’t find the words you cite from the 1633 decree, so you need to clarify what it is you are citing.

According to George Salmon writing in The Infallibility of the Church,

First of all, you are getting this stuff from a half-baked anti-Catholic tract. Salmon is exceedingly ignorant about Catholicism. I read his book when I was fighting against the Church, right before I converted. And I have read a book-length rebuttal of it, that blows it out of the water: The Church and Infallibility: A Reply to the Abridged “Salmon” (B.C. Butler)

He points out basic errors in Salmon such as the following:

# badly misrepresents Cardinal Newman on the First Vatican Council and papal infallibility;

# misrepresents Newman on the Immaculate Conception of Mary;

# misunderstanding of Catholic theology on infallibility;

# misuse of the Church Fathers on the Rule of Faith and “Bible reading”;

# misrepresentation of Cardinal Manning on “appeal to antiquity”;

# misunderstanding of the nature of the Church;

# confusion of “certainty” with infallibility;

# misreporting of the history of Vatican Council I;

Let’s note what’s actually happening here. You provide the writings of a Catholic apologist saying that the Pope did not officially endorse the decision nor promulgate it publicly. In response I provide a Protestant apologist saying the opposite.

He’s not just a “Protestant apologist,” but an anti-Catholic polemicist from 1888 with an axe to grind and a known record of shoddy misrepresentations (which even you grant is the case with Cardinal Newman). I have the right to reserve judgment on whether one is a lousy scholar or not. Salmon is. So my point is that you can find far better sources than him if you wish to make your arguments in this vein. Why do you rely on a guy like that? I, on the other hand, quoted a recent treatment by a Catholic scholar with a doctorate: Jeff Mirus.

The relevance of my response is obvious. What we have here is a disagreement on fact.”What we have here is a failure to communicate.” — prison guard in Cool Hand Luke (1967)

It doesn’t matter if Salmon in fact is Hitler. It doesn’t matter if he erred regarding Newman.

He is a lousy researcher. I’ve already shown this. He’s an ignoramus in his understanding of Catholic infallibility.

I’ve read Butler’s reply to Salmon. I concede that it does appear that he is wrong about Newman.

Then that should be sufficient to discredit him as a source. It’s not like there are no other arguments about Galileo you can draw from. There are hundreds of articles. But you choose Salmon?

But I can also say that in my opinion his rebuttal to the specific arguments about infallibility completely fail. That’s my opinion. You won’t agree. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. What matters is there is dispute about the factual claim made by your Catholic apologist. A rational response is to consider that factual claim and attempt to evaluate the truth of it. An irrational reply would be to point out other errors that you think the source is guilty of. That’s a fallacy in the technical sense. It is called a red herring.

It is relevant to point out that a particular appealed-to “expert” is sufficiently lousy so as to be discredited as a source. He’s incompetent. This is not simply the genetic fallacy. He has shown that he shouldn’t be taken seriously. An entire book was written about him. You have even read it and concede a major point (his treatment of Newman). I read his book, too, in 1990, as a Protestant who was quite willing to sop up all his anti-Catholic arguments. That was my big issue.

Once again, it doesn’t matter if Salmon was guilty of other errors. That is a red herring. What we have is a factual dispute.

He doesn’t even understand the basics of Catholic infallibility: Infallibility 0101. Therefore, he ought to be dismissed, let alone utilized as a main source to back up one’s views. We’re back to the denial that a=a again.

* * *

I used to argue almost exactly as you do when I was a Protestant. My big bugaboo was infallibility. I read Salmon and Kung and Dollinger. So I not only understand your view; I used to hold and passionately defend it, myself. But you have never been a Catholic, to my knowledge.

* * *

the Pope directed in 1633 that the sentence against Galileo be provided to all Apostolic Nuncios, and that it be read to professors and mathematicians, especially those in Florence that might be sympathetic to Galileo’s positions.

This supports my argument, not yours (more evidence of Salmon’s stupefied noncomprehension). Infallible decrees are binding on all the faithful: not just instructions to bishops and Catholic academics.

That decision includes the lines above, indicating that the earlier decision declaring the Copernican view “formally heretical” was the declaration “by our Lord the Pope.”

Again, you need to better document these words. I didn’t find those words. Perhaps I missed them. Here is what the link you provided, read:

“This Holy Tribunal being therefore of intention to proceed against the disorder and mischief thence resulting, which went on increasing to the prejudice of the Holy Faith, by command of His Holiness and of the Most Eminent Lords Cardinals of this supreme and universal Inquisition, the two propositions of the stability of the Sun and the motion of the Earth were by the theological Qualifiers qualified as follows:”

* * *

The conclusions to be drawn are perhaps obvious. First, the declaration that Galileo’s propositions were heretical was never published as a teaching of the Church, and it was never intended to be such.

Why doesn’t the decision of the Inquisition, ordered to be read publicly far and wide, which discusses the “formally heretical” nature of the Copernican views, qualify as a church teaching?

It’s not an infallible Church teaching that can never be overturned. That is the subject under consideration. The pope didn’t even sign it, so it can’t possibly be an instance of infallibility.

And if it’s not taught why are subsequent mathematicians writing intros talking about their obsequious obedience to the Pope in that they do not accept Copernicanism?

Because they followed the decree that was made. It doesn’t follow that it is infallible or couldn’t possibly be wrong.

Why isn’t 
this, which is later deemed to be “the declaration made by our Lord the Pope”I think that is distorted. Where did you get that line: from Salmon? It sounds exactly like something he might do: taking words out of context.

obviously in his official capacity as Pope and not as a private theologian church teaching?

He didn’t sign the 1633 declaration . . .

[Church decree of 1633] This Holy Tribunal being therefore of intention to proceed against the disorder and mischief thence resulting, which went on increasing to the prejudice of the Holy Faith, by command of His Holiness and of the Most Eminent Lords Cardinals of this supreme and universal Inquisition, the two propositions of the stability of the Sun and the motion of the Earth were by the theological Qualifiers qualified as follows:

The proposition that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scripture.

The proposition that the Earth is not the center of the world and immovable but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is equally absurd and false philosophically and theologically considered at least erroneous in faith.

* * *

It was intended and taken as the advice of certain theological experts who worked in the Holy Office, of value in a legal case, but hardly a norm of faith for the Church as a whole.

Not true. It was taken as church teaching as the intro to Principia demonstrates. It was promulgated by the Pope as church teaching.

Why would Newton (an Arian, and not even an orthodox Protestant, let alone a Catholic) be any sort of expert on Catholic infallibility? It’s true that this was the temporary opinion in Catholic circles, but it is simply not infallible. If you’re deriving inspiration from Salmon, then you follow his error of “misunderstanding of Catholic theology on infallibility.”

* * *

Second, as noted earlier, Pope Paul V did not endorse this theological opinion, but rather ordered in an in-house directive only that Galileo be commanded to stop holding and advancing his own opinion.

Just a blatant falsehood. Why would the Pope go out of his way to direct his people to ensure that the conclusion of the Inquisition be distributed far and wide if he didn’t endorse it?

Mirus meant that he didn’t formally endorse it, as an example of magisterial teaching. You have to interpret words in context.

* * *

This action, then, stemmed from a judgment of prudence about the promotion of ideas which could not be easily reconciled with Scripture.

Once again a blatant falsehood. Do the documents recommend prudence due to the difficult nature of Scripture interpretation, so we should proceed with caution? No. The claims regarding the movement of the earth are deemed false, contrary to Scripture and “formally heretical.”

The documents were in error. That is not in dispute. We disagree on the implications of the error, not on whether any error was made. Obviously there was one made.

* * *

Even as a private document, therefore, the declaration of heresy received no formal papal approval. Third, there is no evidence that Pope Urban VIII ever endorsed any public document which included the declaration of heresy, especially the sentence at Galileo’s trial. That no pope ever promulgated any condemnation of Galileo’s ideas removes the Galileo case entirely from discussions on the historical character of the Church’s teaching authority. It is clear, then, that not even the ordinary Magisterium has ever taught or promulgated the idea that the propositions of Copernican-Galilean astronomy are heretical or errors in faith. Thus it can in no way be claimed that ‘the Church’ has taught that such views are heretical. To make such a claim would require that we locate the teaching authority of the Church in those theologians who claim expertise, a mistake which many make today, but one which the Galileo case should, at long last, serve to correct.

* * *

Had the Pope been asked to rule on a question, say perhaps he was asked his personal opinion on the motion of planets, and off the cuff he just asserted that heliocentrism is false, then I would say that’s not a ruling in his official capacity, and as the question is stated it’s not being treated as a matter of faith (as the Galileo inquisition treated the question), so I would say in that case his error would not disprove RCC infallibility. You say it’s not a matter of faith, but I say it is. I say it was treated as a matter related to a proper interpretation of Scripture and that is a matter of faith. You say it doesn’t meet certain conditions (long held beliefs, supported by Scripture and tradition, ecumenical council in harmony with Pope, etc). All fine and I understand that is your view. I understand this is today’s claim by many RC apologists. But I see it as after the fact additions and qualifications installed to absolve the charge of error.

This is sheer nonsense, too. Notions of conciliar and papal infallibility had long since been believed by the Church: long before Galileo. For example, they were asserted in the debates with Martin Luther a hundred years earlier (Leipzig Disputation, 1519).

Moreover, a Doctor of the Church, St. Francis de Sales, in his book, The Catholic Controversy, completed in 1596 [again, 20 years before the Galileo controversy], remarkably anticipates the later fully-developed dogma of papal infallibility, as pronounced at the First Vatican Council in 1870 (that obviously drew from it in its language):

When he teaches the whole Church as shepherd, in general matters of faith and morals, then there is nothing but doctrine and truth. And in fact everything a king says is not a law or an edict, but that only which a king says as king and as a legislator. So everything the Pope says is not canon law or of legal obligation; he must mean to define and to lay down the law for the sheep, and he must keep the due order and form.

We must not think that in everything and everywhere his judgment is infallible, but then only when he gives judgment on a matter of faith in questions necessary to the whole Church; for in particular cases which depend on human fact he can err, there is no doubt, though it is not for us to control him in these cases save with all reverence, submission, and discretion. Theologians have said, in a word, that he can err in questions of fact, not in questions of right; that he can err extra cathedram, outside the chair of Peter. that is, as a private individual, by writings and bad example.

But he cannot err when he is in cathedra, that is, when he intends to make an instruction and decree for the guidance of the whole Church, when he means to confirm his brethren as supreme pastor, and to conduct them into the pastures of the faith. For then it is not so much man who determines, resolves, and defines as it is the Blessed Holy Spirit by man, which Spirit, according to the promise made by Our Lord to the Apostles, teaches all truth to the Church.

(translated by Henry B. Mackey, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1989 from the 1886 publication [London and New York], 306-307; available online)

[later, I wrote (when the discussion had become bogged down in minutiae): “You claimed, e.g., that Catholics were rationalizing the Galileo affair after the fact. I appealed to the disputes with Luther and an important 1596 quotation about infallibility from St. Francis de Sales. This was completely ignored as if I had never written it.”]

Therefore, using this reasoning, as I and the Church do, can hardly be an example of “after the fact additions and qualifications installed to absolve the charge of error,” since it was already in place explicitly at least 20 years before Galileo, and in essence for hundreds of years before that, including in the Catholic response to Martin Luther’s arguments.

* * *

For instance, this view that these are the conditions required for infallibility is not a universally held view today as far as I know but more importantly it wasn’t universally held in the past. There have been a variety of views affirmed by devout RCC’s, including the Gallican view, which is that infallibility lies with the church diffusive and that the Pope is not an essential element of infallible proclamations. Some have held that it is councils alone. Some have held that it is the Pope alone. Today you offer your own view.

This is another fallacious argument with the same false premises we see repeated in your arguments:

1) The Catholic Church cannot reasonably determine its own beliefs with regard to authority and infallibility and determine what is orthodox and what is not. Or if it can do so, no one is able to figure out what the orthodox view is, anyway.

2) The outsider understands these better than the Church herself, and her apologists.

3) What the Church teaches is rendered uncertain merely by the presence of heretics and schismatics and those of erroneous sub-magisterial opinions through the centuries (in this case the Gallicans and conciliarists of the late Middle Ages).

Gallicanism was never taught as Catholic dogma. Period. Therefore, to bring up those who espouse it as if it were just one more acceptable opinion is utterly wrongheaded. I have written about this at great length contra the Presbyterian Polemicist and self-proclaimed [pseudo-]”scholar” Tim Enloe, who argued in exactly the same fashion, contending that conciliarism was as orthodox a view as the orthodox papal / conciliar: see the section “Infallibility and Conciliarism (Orthodox and Heretical)” on my Church web page, for more than 30 papers in conciliarism and infallibility.

* * *

The distinctions are one of two things. They are either reasonable distinctions or they are after the fact rationalizations. I draw the latter conclusion.

If you accept the large principle you have to establish why this becomes an exception to it. I still don’t think you have a case, even with these clarifications you make now.

But I can walk in your shoes and understand why you think they do apply. There’s no misunderstanding. I would put you in the boat with James White.

Right. We are two peas in a pod: White and I! LOL

Anybody that rejects his conclusions he dismisses as not understanding Christianity and not understanding his views. You know that’s false. A person can understand him and disagree with him.

If you truly do understand infallibility and how and when it applies (little of what you have argued thus far suggested to me that you do, but I am glad to cut you slack, based on the present comment), then why don’t you give us all a nice little synopsis of that, and then explain to us why you make the Galileo affair an exception to the rule. I look forward to it!

The Mormon prophets early on believed blacks were inferior and not destined for celestial heaven. Today they’ve retracted that view, and I suppose they layer the prior proclamations with various distinctions that mitigate the prophecy. A person can simultaneously understand the distinctions that disqualify the prior proclamation as erroneous and yet reject the distinctions as after the fact rationalizations.

Prophecy is a completely different ballgame than infallibility. Prophecy is much more like positive biblical inspiration, whereas infallibility is merely a protection from error in certain circumstances. Therefore, this analogy (though interesting) doesn’t really apply: a mistaken prophecy is a false prophecy and that calls into question the entire claim of having living prophets. The same is the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses (a group I have studied in some depth).

Do you misunderstand Mormonism, or do you understand it and reject the distinctions? Your distinctions may be more plausible than the Mormons and I can still rationally understand them and reject them as being reasonable.

If something was a purported prophecy and was later overturned, that is a huge problem, and I would agree with you if they tried to rationalize it away. But it is not analogous to Catholic infallibility.

* * *

So for instance last time I offered a silly after the fact distinction on a Mormon prophecy in order to illustrate the point that IN PRINCIPLE qualifications on prophetic/infallible utterances can be questioned by reasonable people that in fact do understand what prophecy/infallibility is. You reply to it as if I’m suggesting your qualifications are just as silly even though had you kept reading you’d have seen that this was not the point. And then when you did get to the point where I explained that I’m trying to demonstrate a principle, not show that your qualifications are equally silly, you reply but don’t even go back to correct your prior misunderstanding. It gives the impression that you aren’t really putting much thought into this.

If the analogy is so extremely exaggerated that even you renounce it as a one-on-one correspondence to catholic teaching, why make it in the first place? It has to have some semblance of analogy to work as an argument. I exaggerate to make a point a lot, too, but if I make an analogy I try to find something at least close to what I am comparing it to.

I absolutely disagree. I am challenging what I perceive to be a principle you have claimed. An infallible institution must be permitted to determine for themselves the conditions of infallibility, and questioning the validity of these conditions demonstrates some sort of lack of understanding about what infallibility is. If you really believe this then the conditions don’t matter. The conditions can be absolutely outrageous. So let’s apply an outrageous condition and see if you sustain the principle. You do not. It is practically essential that I use an outrageous condition in order to test your claim.

The Catholic claims are completely reasonable and sensible and self-consistent. One may disagree with them, of course (join the crowd), but they are not internally ludicrous. We are simply saying, “these are the conditions we claim for ourselves, where we say we are giving infallible decrees, under the special charism from God.”

I already made an argument that this was fundamentally different from Mormon prophetic claims (that you ignored). So I think my point stands. You uses a far-fetched Mormon example as an “analogy” to the Catholic principle of infallibility, admit yourself that it is exaggerated; yet now you want to argue that you could have done it no other way? The fact remains that it is not analogous. The argument fails. Period. I already showed, I think, how it did (it’s basically a case of apples and oranges).

What is so outrageous about a religious institution clarifying about when its statements are to be regarded as infallible or not? Scientists all the time (particular atheist ones) say stuff like, “evolution [even materialistically perceived] is a fact, and no thinking person can possibly deny it.” They think it is an indisputable matter of scientific fact. So why is it that a religious institution cannot make the same sort of claims from a religious perspective: “the Trinity and the incarnation and redemptive sacrifice of Jesus and the resurrection and the Immaculate Conception of Mary are dogmas and facts that no Catholic is allowed to dispute”??? The atheist thinks that is absurd, but it doesn’t follow that the underlying principle of asserting facts of religion is absurd in and of itself.

In the present dispute, I am showing you in many different ways that the Galileo decrees are simply not matters of infallibility, rightly-understood. You haven’t overthrown that at all.

Reductio ad absurdum (a technique I love myself, and use all the time) only works as an argument when you take the thing itself and show that it leads inexorably to absurd conclusions or results. You didn’t do that. You compared Catholic infallibility to Mormon prophecies about black men being inherently inferior. That is not only not a legitimate reductio; it is a completely inept analogy, since the two things are quite different from each other. The very fact that you view them as similar enough to attempt the analogy, shows once again that you have not yet understood infallibility. I asked you to repeat back to us, infallibility as you understand it. You didn’t do that. You haven’t shown that you understand the conditions under which it applies, in our system.

You’re trying to make a criticism of the internal contradictions of Catholic infallibility, but that can’t be done, either, if you don’t properly understand Catholic infallibility. And you can’t do it by making an illegitimate reductio to Mormonism.

Take a totally different subject. For instance Bush says that if you harbor terrorists you are just as guilty as the terrorists and bombing your country is a legitimate act. OK, if that’s the principle he wants to adhere to let’s put it to the test. Orlando Bosch is undisputably a terrorist. Involved in various terrorist atrocities in Cuba, including the bombing of a civilian airliner, he resides in Miami and isn’t being extradited to Cuba despite their requests. Doesn’t anybody think that entitles Cuba to bomb Washington? No. It’s an outrageous claim. So Bush doesn’t adhere to the principle. Using outrageous illustrations is exactly what tests whether or not you really adhere to the principles you claim to adhere to.

* * *

There are basically four choices here, in order of lesser to greater import damaging and implication:

1) The Church (or, I should say, a high-level tribunal in the Church) made a mistake in science (on a sub-infallible level). Since that is to be expected by definition (fallible entities make mistakes), then it is of no further consequence. Nor should it be all that notable, in light of Galileo’s many errors, and those of scientists through the centuries. People are generally fallible. It is only in rare instances that they are not.

2) In this mistake regarding Galileo, the Church showed that its claims to infallibility were bogus. That’s false, as I have been explaining, since the topic does not come under the purview of infallibility; nor was an infallible pronouncement made, according to the usual conditions where that occurs.

3) The Church showed by this act that it is inexorably anti-science. This is sheer nonsense, and I am demonstrating that by my present series on Christianity and science.

4) The Church proved that it can’t be trusted for anything, even in theology, if it could be so wrong about the sun supposedly going around the earth. This fails by the same reasoning that #1 does: science and theology being two ways of knowing with very different epistemological methods. Being wrong on one scientific matter at one time does not prove that the theological doctrines are untrue.

We are making a little progress, I think, and this is stimulating me to many thoughts, which I always appreciate in a dialogue opponent. In defending, we clarify quite a bit. Perhaps we can actually achieve a real dialogue if the encouraging trend continues. Please answer the request I asked of you: to explain infallibility as you understand it, and why Galileo is an exception to that.

* * *

Your assertions that these are the conditions and there is not some other set of conditions and you know because you’re Catholic is belied by the fact that other good and devout Catholics have seen things differently, many of whom were highly placed members of the institution, not layman as yourself.

Whether I am a layman or a bishop or a Doctor of the Church is irrelevant to the fact that a=a. The Catholic Church has set its rules and determined what is orthodox and what isn’t. I am simply pointing out what the teaching is. People can say all kinds of things. There are liberals and dissidents in virtually every Christian body: distorting and redefining what the particular communion historically and creedally believes.

I understand that you have your arguments for your view and other RC’s have their arguments for their own views as well. I interpret these various disagreements in large part to be efforts to absolve claims of error. Reject my opinion if you like, but don’t charge me with misunderstanding what is meant by infallibility just because I don’t think your assertions about when the conditions are met are necessarily reasonable or even agreed upon by Catholics historically.

I think your arguments are shot through with fallacies all through, as I believe I am demonstrating. Whether you truly understand or not is almost beside the point, with so much illogic going down. Just about the only coherent thread is that you have to disagree with me at every turn. :-)

I’m entitled to draw conclusions about what I think are reasonable distinctions and what I would expect to be reasonable behavior regardless.

You can’t redefine a thing in order to refute it, cuz then you ain’t refuting A but Pseudo / Straw Man “A”: a caricature of the real thing.

We’re told that Rome is infallible for various reasons, including the need to have a consistent interpretation of Scripture that doesn’t lead to heresy. In my mind if God really did intend to offer such an instrument he would let us know how we can tell when the instrument is being implemented (the fact that Catholics can’t agree is already an indication in my mind of the falsity of the claim).

Orthodox Catholics have an extraordinary amount of agreement, because we accept what the Church teaches. If one wants to reject that, then there is all kinds of disagreement, of course. The disagreement is precisely because the dissenter has rejected what all parties know is Catholic teaching (e.g., contraception, homosexuality, divorce, female “priests” and so forth. The dissenters know full well what the Church teaches. They are trying to change or redefine it. But the Catholic Church is not Anglicanism, where they play those games all the time.

Your claim that I don’t get to decide what is reasonable and Catholics must be permitted to define their own conditions for infallible proclamations is not reasonable. Consider an erroneous Mormon prophecy and the prophet after being proven wrong says “But I didn’t spin around 3 times after saying it, and that is a necessary condition.” I am entitled to render my own judgment about whether that is a reasonable distinction.

If you think what I have offered is equivalent to that silly scenario, it is more proof to me that you still aren’t grasping the fundamentals of the discussion and the nature of infallibility.

For you to object would be like a Mormon saying I have no right to object to the spinning criterion. Only they get to define conditions and if you don’t accept those conditions as reasonable you must not understand prophecy.

Of course, the analogy you use is completely silly, so this proves little. Straw men again.

No, I understand it perfectly. I reject the distinction as reasonable. I’m not saying I regard your distinctions as just as silly as a spinning criterion. I wouldn’t expect Mormons to offer such a silly criterion because it is transparently ridiculous. I would expect them to offer sophisticated qualifications. My point though is that in principle it is not unreasonable for me to make a judgment about whether I think the qualifications are after the fact rationalizations or legitimate distinctions.

So you exaggerated to make a point (good), but still have not offered a solid point that is the least bit persuasive.

The fact that I render that judgment is not proof that I fail to understand Mormon beliefs.

Just make a substantive argument, and that will show me that you do understand and simply disagree. But whether you understand or not, I reject your arguments on the grounds I have stated.

* * *

B. C. Butler in his refutation of Salmon writes the following:

But it is equally clear that these decrees do not conform to the conditions laid down by the Vatican Council for an ex cathedra definition of doctrine. First, because they do not define doctrine. Church law distinguishes between disciplinary and doctrinal decrees, and the doctrinal motives stated or implied in a disciplinary decree are not part of its formal intention. Secondly, these decrees, though approved by the Pope, were each a decree of a Congregation, not formally an act of the Pope, and even his approval could not make either of them into an ex cathedra definition.

I cannot therefore agree with Salmon that if the Pope did not speak infallibly in these decrees ‘it will be impossible to know that he ever speaks infallibly.’ On the contrary, the circumstances of the definition of the Immaculate Conception certainly conform to the Vatican Council’s conditions for an infallible definition, while those of the Galileo decrees certainly do not.

I found this great comment from an online forum (ironically, while searching for something else, that Aquinas stated):

Galileo never did come up with empirical proof. He proposed the motion of the tides as proof, but this was known to be bogus. Aquinas had mentioned the role of the moon in causing the tides; and Kepler had also shown that there was a connection. Galileo denounced these views as “occult.” (Just as he denounced Kepler’s ellipses.)

More damning, his “ultimate proof” contradicted his own inertial reasoning about the air and the arrow (apparently cribbed without attribution from Oresme). The oceans would also be moving toward the east and would also have inertia.

The required empirical proof came about in the late 1790s, when Guglielmini dropped balls from the tower of the University of Bologna, doing so indoors down the center of the spiral staircase, so wind would not intervene. A colleague in Germany replicated the experiment using a mineshaft. Both of them found the predicted eastward deflection. The earth was definitely spinning. In 1803, Calandrelli reported parallax in the star a-Lyrae and published. The earth was revolving around the sun. Note that these are direct manifestations of the two motions.

Settele put these discoveries in his new astronomy text, and took it to the Holy Office. The Office looked it over and said, “Yup, that’s the empirical proof that Bellarmine wanted, and they lifted the ban on teaching the method as empirical fact. Settele’s book came out in 1820.

From Catholic apologist Bertrand Conway:

In the trials of 1616 and 1633, the Popes order, but the Congregations act; it is they who pronounce the sentence. If, therefore, infallibility be an incommunicable prerogative, it is clear that their decisions cannot be infallible.

That these were not infallible pronouncements was recognized by many scholars and theologians of the time. Bellarmine, Caramuel, Descartes, Fromont, Gassendi, Riccioli, Tanner and others.

I found Salmon online at Internet Archive. It’s patently obvious that he doesn’t have the slightest idea what he is talking about, in the Galileo section (pp. 229 ff.), when he deals with infallibility issues. This is par for the course for Salmon: like how he also completely, embarrassingly butchers the viewpoints of Cardinal Newman (someone I happen to know a great deal about, as he was key to my own conversion).

The height of Salmon’s folly is perhaps his inane, ridiculous remark on p. 250:

That he did not speak infallibly then we need not dispute; but if he did not speak infallibly then, it will be impossible to know that he ever speaks infallibly.

Huh???!!!! So he sez the pope didn’t speak infallibly here (as I have been saying), but, that being the case, now no one can ever know when he does, and infalliblity crumbles nevertheless. It’s shockingly clueless “reasoning” even by Salmon’s already subterranean standards of proof and argumentation. He follows this up with another dazzling observation on p. 251:

With regard to the question when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, the only rational distinction is between his official and non-official utterances.

He doesn’t have the slightest idea what he is talking about. It’s breathtaking to behold.

* * *

I do not assert that Infallibility as understood by Catholics applies to an Inquisition like what Galileo was subjected to nor does my argument require this. What you need to do is this:

Jon claims RC’s believe X.

In fact RC’s believe Y.

Have you done that?

Yes. Several times.

This is a very straightforward thing. Put it down right now in response to this question. Show me the views I attribute to you and how they are inaccurate. Be very precise please. Vague assertions that I’m guilty of a straw man simply are not helpful. I believe you will find if you take the time to do this that you cannot show that I’ve attributed views to you that you don’t hold. I’m issuing you this challenge. Prove your assertion of straw man.

I’ve already done it in my previous comments. I’ve explained to you over and over how Catholic infallibility actually works.

With regards to the words you are having trouble finding, look for this: “in which certificate it is declared that you had not abjured and had not been punished but only that the declaration made by His Holiness and published by the Holy Congregation of the Index has been announced to you” I pulled mine from something at Google Books called “Decrees Concerning Galileo” or something like that. The translation was slightly different than what was at the link I provided. The meaning is the same.

Okay. The pope telling Galileo not to write about certain things in 1616 is not an infallible decree; sorry. As Dr. Mirus describes it, this is what occurred:

In any case, the next day the Pope (Paul V) was notified of their judgment. His response was simply to direct Cardinal Bellarmine to warn Galileo to abandon his opinion: failing that, to abstain from teaching or defending or even discussing it; failing that, to be imprisoned. Galileo, according to a report of Bellarmine on March 3rd, submitted.

If you want to learn what we believe about infallibility, you can read the Vatican I decree on that, or what the Catechism says, or the Catholic Encyclopedia article on infallibility.

So the declaration from 1633 asserts that the earlier declaration insisting that Copernicanism was “formally heretical” was via the Pope himself, so the assertions of the apologist you quote claiming that the claims were neither endorsed or promulgated by the Pope are directly contradicted by the very words found in Galileo’s condemnation.

We’re talking about the formalism of making an infallible decree, not all acknowledgment whatever. This is what you don’t seem to grasp. This is why the whole thing has no bearing whatever on Catholic authority. It was a mistake by a high-level body on a matter of science that didn’t affect infallibility in the slightest.

October 15, 2015


Alvin Plantinga (b. 1932): widely regarded as the greatest living Christian philosopher, in 2009. [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

* * * * *

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times from atheists and agnostics: “how can I believe in a ‘god’ without direct empirical evidence? Unless ‘he’ appears to me personally or rearranges — before my eyes — the Statue of Liberty into a giant sentence that reads ‘God exists’ then I have no reason whatever to believe in such a supposed deity.” It’s a bit of a mantra or sloganistic maxim, I guess. The atheist learns to say this 4,817,022 times, just as the TM practitioner says “om” over and over.

This is the first myth that many of them swallow uncritically: that empiricism is the only method to achieve high epistemological assurance; in effect, the only form of knowledge. What they think is a knockout punch and profound observation is demonstrably an utter falsehood. The usual atheist mantra also exhibits (I must say) considerable ignorance as to what has happened in the field of philosophy since World War II — with logical positivism essentially meeting an ignominious death. I have dealt with this preliminary consideration in several papers of mine:

God, Empiricism, & Atheist Demands for “Evidence”

Dialogue w Atheist on First Premises

Must Christianity be Empirically Falsifiable?

Atheists’ Unreasonable, Unrealistic Demands for Proof of God’s Existence 

On Whether Atheism is Inherently More Rational & Scientific, … Than Christianity

The Atheist Fairy Tale of “Christianity vs. Science and Reason”

Dawkins & Double Standards of the “Religion vs. Science” Mentality

Ten Common Atheist Claims About Science, God’s Existence, … Epistemology

Dialogue w/ Polymath Agnostic on Root Premises

Dialogue w Atheist About Miracles & Openness to Evidences and Proofs

I have argued (using the reductio ad absurdum technique and satire and sarcasm), that atheism utilizes even more faith, and acceptance of axioms (that are unproven by definition) than Christianity does:

Atheism: the Faith of “Atomism”

Clarifications re: Atheist “Reductio” Paper

Now, it is quite fair and reasonable for the agnostic or atheist, granting the above, to proceed to ask: “You’ve given a good critique of a tunnel-vision, philosophically and epistemologically naive, ’empiricism only’ view; but what is the basis of your non-empirical belief in God and Christianity?” This aspect is not something I have written much about, precisely because it is very deep waters, and others have done a far better job of explaining it than I could ever hope to do.

I did enjoy one great recent dialogue on “properly basic beliefs,” and took a shot at presenting a popular, layman’s version of the old ontological argument (one of the classic theistic arguments):

Dialogue w Agnostic: God as a “Properly Basic Belief”

“Armstrong Ontological Argument” for God’s Existence

Ontological Argument: Discussion w a Philosophy Grad Student 

The latter three posts are the closest I came to directly treating these topics of “non-empirical justification for Christian beliefs,” but they barely scratched the surface. The materials recommended below go into it in the greatest depth.

I haven’t dealt in depth with this issue, myself, mostly because Christians aren’t demanding it. People become Christians, by and large, for many reasons, but rarely is it the case that they do as a result of the conclusion of a complicated philosophical chain of reasoning, arguing for God’s existence. They do for reasons that they may not be able to personally articulate, but which are valid and able to be defended by philosophers. Philosophy of religion is the pastime or purview of atheists, agnostics, and apologetics- or philosophically-minded “egghead”-type Christians: the sort of stuff that occupies late-night discussion in dorms of Christian colleges. No one beyond those groups cares much about it.

Since apologists like myself have the task of meeting people (usually Christians, as it turns out) where they are at, and providing answers to roadblocks or stumbling-blocks to faith, I’ve been doing that, and these issues simply haven’t come up very much.

Now I am in a venue (Patheos) where atheists are much more prevalent, and are interacting with some of my stuff and that of other Christians who post on the site. So it is now coming up more often. Sheila Connolly, a friendly agnostic and former Christian who appears to me to be sincerely seeking to find answers to these sorts of important questions, has been pressing me to offer her something solid. Here are her own words:

The real debate between Christianity and atheism/agnosticism is about epistemology, not specific facts, but no one wants to talk about epistemology. They say empiricism is bad, but no one is able to explain how else we are supposed to know about anything, considering humans take in information only through our senses. I don’t know if people are at a loss for an argument or if they’re just bored with the topic, but they always bail when we hit epistemology, calling me “excessively skeptical” or “unwilling to believe.” I’m willing to believe, I just don’t see that these beliefs are justified.

If atheism is something you want to discuss (and you seem conflicted about it; you’ve posted a lot about it lately but I don’t think it’s your main area of expertise), then I really recommend you focus on epistemology. How are we to know the right thing to do is to believe on less evidence than would be acceptable in science or history? What are your methods for separating the true from the false, and do they really work in other cases at separating the true from the false?

I’ve been talking about epistemology all along. I have said (several times in comboxes in various atheist threads) that if you want to understand Christian epistemology and our rationale for belief in God, read Plantinga, Polanyi, and Cardinal Newman. I’ve already had a long dialogue with an agnostic about Plantinga and properly basic belief. Yet you say I have “bailed” from epistemological discussion. Empiricism is great, not “bad.” It’s just not all there is, and anyone who is more than a novice in philosophy knows that.

I read your post on Plantinga and commented there and elsewhere on your blog about the topic of basic beliefs, but no one answered my objections.

To repeat them: given that many intuitive beliefs turn out to be wrong — for instance, you might think you recognize a face in a crowd but it’s actually a stranger; or you think someone is watching you but no one is — how can you check these beliefs? In all other cases, you can consider questions like, “What sense-information leads to this belief? What predictions can I make based on this belief, and if I test them, will they come true?” But with God-belief, it is admitted not to come through the senses (unless we posit a sixth “God sense”) and no one is willing to predict anything based on it, or to test it. In short, I can understand how a person could *have* a basic belief, but I don’t see it as demonstrated that a person ought to *trust* a given basic belief.

My second question is, what should people do who do not have this experience? For me the existence of God is not a properly basic belief. So how do you expect me to move from nonbelief to belief? Why does God expect me to move from nonbelief to belief while neither providing empirical evidence nor providing an interior sense of his presence? And most of all, why do you bother with apologetics if it all comes down to basic beliefs? Those who have an interior experience of God will believe regardless of what you say, and for those who don’t, you acknowledge that you don’t have sufficient proof of any other kind.

I don’t read all your comments everywhere, because I don’t have time to read all of Patheos (does anyone??) but if you’d like to refer me to what you’ve written elsewhere, just drop a link. If you’ve got it, I’ll read it.

This particular thing I haven’t written much on (and certainly not in the depth it deserves and requires), which is why I keep appealing to Alvin Plantinga, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, and Michael Polanyi, who have done so.


Here is an article about Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) and “tacit knowledge”. The Polanyi Society collects a lot of materials about him, including many papers. Of particular interest for our present topic is Tacit Knowing: Its Bearing on Some Problems of Philosophy” and “Faith and Reason.” See also the Polanyi entry in the Philosophy Research Base, his books on Amazon, articles about him, and a biography.


Alvin Plantinga (b. 1932) is considered the leading Christian philosopher in the world. Most of his books (see them on Amazon) are available online for free (such as at Goodreads), and here is a long list of his papers, able to be read online. Of particular relevance to this discussion are his papers, “On ‘Proper Basicality'”, “Materialism and Christian Belief”, “Epistemic Justification”, and “The Foundations of Theism.” A second collection offers some more paper, including the enticing title, “Intellectual Sophistication and basic Belief in God.”   See also a great interview of Plantinga in The New York Times.

There are also a number of good You Tube videos of Dr. Plantinga on these questions, such as “Theism, Naturalism, and Reality” (+ Part 2), a Q & A on Science and Religion, a debate with Daniel Dennett on whether science and Christianity are compatible, another lecture on the same topic, and “An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.” PLantinga used to teach at my alma mater, Wayne State University in Detroit.


Cardinal Newman‘s 1870 book, Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (available online) is very dense and heavy, but if you want epistemology, it’ll fill you to the brim with that, and then some, till it’s coming out of your ears. It’s an extended philosophical treatment of the (mostly non-empirical) warrant or justification for Christian (and Catholic) belief, including his famous treatment of the “Illative Sense.” His arguments anticipated the “tacit knowledge” concept of Michael Polanyi by 80 years. I believe this work is one of the best treatments of philosophy of religion or Christian epistemology ever penned. It would challenge anyone and provide much intellectual stimulation, agree or disagree.


Another renowned Christian philosopher who writes about the basis for Christian experience and belief is the late William Alston (1921-2009). I had the pleasure to meet him once, when I hung out at the Wayne State Univ. Philosophy Club). He specializes in epistemology. Here is a brief biography describing his work, a more lengthy one,  and two of his papers: “Religious Experience and Religious Belief”, “What is Naturalism?”. See also his books on Amazon.

* * * * *

If Polanyi, Plantinga, Newman, and Alston don’t convince an atheist or agnostic (about anything), I certainly won’t come within a million miles of doing so (in which case, I’ll take a pass and Spend my valuable time doing something else). These sources, are, I believe, the very best ones I can recommend to atheists and agnostics, who are truly seeking to understand (not just shoot down) the rational and epistemological basis for Christian belief, and want to read the best Christian philosophical arguments to be had.


July 10, 2015


It’s satire folks; like Monty Python (four of the six members of the British comedy troupe above) [Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]




This came about as a result of an atheist responding to my paper, Why Atheists Are Far More Religious Than we Think. It occurred on a public Facebook page. His name will remain anonymous (unless he requests otherwise), but all the words are his, and will be in blue.
* * * * *

It really is just kind of semantic. The atheist, at least the scientifically minded one, would not starkly claim that there is no possible way that a god created the universe. We are simply saying that there is no more reason to believe a god created it than to believe it was created by the tooth fairy or a dragon.

Exactly my point in reverse. Thanks for verifying my reasoning. I was arguing that there is no more reason — and that it requires as much faith [which might be defined very broadly as a belief in unproven axioms] — to believe that atoms and cells can do the remarkable things they do by their own self-generated power (which came from . . . ?) than to believe that there is a spiritual entity called God that put it into them in creating them.

There is some reason to believe that there is a completely natural explanation as every single scientific inquiry that has ever been solved has been solve through a natural explanation, not a supernatural one, so that is where we are going to focus our efforts of explanation.

There is plenty that is unexplained at the presuppositional level, as my post gets into. No one really knows by what conceivable process life came from non-life. There are several theories bandied about, of course, but by no means any definitive answers. So it requires “faith.” You guys don’t know why life is here or how the big Bang could start a process that led to it (by what laws and mechanisms?), and so you know no more than we do. You have to believe in faith that the processes that brought about these remarkable things were completely natural , whereas we agree that they are largely natural but that the missing ingredient that explains origins is indeed God. You have faith in the remarkable inherent qualities of atoms. We have faith in God. One is no more plausible than the other in this basic “brass tacks” sense.

Many great philosophers and other thinkers have believed in God, based on various arguments, as well as internal experience or intuition, so the belief can’t be dismissed with a wave of the hand as mere fairy tales or on the level of a belief in unicorns, etc.

Might we be wrong in the end? Um… sure I guess. But most atheists would then put it to the theist: why your God and not another religion? Why not a tooth fairy? Why not a dragon?

And we say: “why atoms, that supposedly developed the power to create the entire universe by themselves?” Is that not an incredible blind faith? I would say that is more of a blind faith even than belief in tooth fairies or dragons as alleged possible agents of creation.

Bottom line: Jesus Christ. He revealed that God exists and what He is like. As an apologist I can give a host of reasons why I believe in God, Christianity, and Catholicism in particular. It’s like asking someone “why do you love your wife?” There are a host of reasons, and the usual immediate response is to hesitate, precisely because there are so many; you don’t know where to start in describing your feelings of love.

These are not questions (whatever one’s view is) that are given to short, sound-byte answers. It just doesn’t work that way. As I said, many great minds (arguably the vast majority of the best, most original ones) believed in God. Certainly atheists would have a hard time arguing that they were all gullible fools and anti-rational simpletons?. . .

There is no more reason for me to believe in that god than any of the hundreds upon hundreds of other gods that have made sense to their followers throughout time.

There certainly is. Christianity is based on historical argument. We can point to concrete things in history that happened, that confirm the existence of God. That’s already very different off the bat from the eastern religions. But most secularists / atheists / agnostics today are ignorant of the huge differences between religions, and tend to collapse them all into an irrational box.

So atheism being a religion is really just a word game. 

Not at all, as I carefully explained in the paper. To believe what you guys do about mere material atoms requires an extraordinary, quite childlike, non-rational faith.

Atheists believe that the origin of the universe most probably has a natural explanation simply because nothing… nothing else ever has had an explanation otherwise.

Sheer nonsense. What you have in effect done is worship matter rather than spirit (that we worship). Why one rather than the other? It’s completely arbitrary. You put all your faith in science, which is a variant of philosophy, that starts with unproven axioms just as every imaginable belief-system does. You have to believe that 1) the universe exists; 2) that matter follows discernible predictable laws (uniformitarianism); 3) that our senses can be trusted to accurately convey these laws and observations to us.

This is why modern science began in a thoroughly Christian culture (Europe in the Middle Ages) and why the founders and developers of virtually all scientific sub-fields were Christians or at least some sort of theist: because Christianity offered these necessary presuppositions, to start doing science. Hence, the Lutheran Kepler’s famous statement that the scientist was “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”

If anyone can claim credit for historic, foundational science, it is Christianity, not atheism. I wrote a whole book about it.

I have never met an atheist who didn’t say that if you showed them any actual evidence to the contrary that they wouldn’t change their mind. But no religion has yet done so. Not one. And that is the difference between atheism and a religion.

These are merely empty (and rather sweeping, dogmatic) claims. How do you know no religion has ever offered a rational answer to the sort of garden variety questions that atheists bring up? How much of religion have you studied? If you were once a Christian, what books of apologetics and philosophy of religion have you read? Have you read debates between Christian philosophers and atheists, etc.?

It’s always easy to make sweeping, dramatic claims (such as you have done) without backing them up.

My argument is of a different nature. I’m not saying that atheists are dummies or immoral, just because they are atheists, but rather, that the faith they claim that Christians exercise and they supposedly don’t, is a Grand Myth: that they, too, exercise faith, just as anyone does who believes in any worldview (including science, which is a form of philosophy called empiricism). It’s impossible not to start with some unproven axioms, and they are, well, unproven. That means they weren’t arrived at through observation or empirical evidence or even reason. They can’t be absolutely proven.

So there is no reason for atheists to look down their noses at the supposedly “gullible” or “childish” Christians on this score. There is equally no reason to claim that Christianity is allegedly inexorably opposed to scientific inquiry. It’s all atheist fairy tales and talking points, exhibiting a huge ignorance of the history of both science and philosophy.

Atheists (in my experience) are ready to change their mind for evidence.

And in my 34-year experience discussing things with atheists it is just the opposite: they are largely impervious to reason and fact if they go against their views already held in faith, without reason at the axiomatic level.

But there are atheists who have converted and become Christians by means of reason. I know several of them. I just haven’t seen it happen in my own experience. I’ve had several atheists tell me, though, that my books were key in convincing them to become theists and eventually Catholics.

If one changes their mind without evidence, what is to stop them from drifting from one religion to another to another every time someone presents them with a new perspective? 

I fully agree. Reason has to be exercised in any rational, plausible worldview, or it ain’t worth much.

What each religion is asking the atheist to do, is to take their un-evidenced word for it, but not the next person’s un-evidenced word for it.

That’s what an unsophisticated Christian might do: “just accept our beliefs with a blind faith” — but that is not the view of either the Bible or the Christians who devote themselves to rational defense of the faith (apologists like myself) or those who are philosophers of religion or theistic philosophers.

I literally have no reason to choose one religion over the next besides my own comfort with its message.

This clearly exhibits your non-acquaintance with the competing truth claims of various religions. Again, I ask you: what have you read of Christian apologetics? How much did you even understand the theology if you were once a Christian? Neither can a person cannot reject what they never understood, or fully understood, either. They are, instead, rejecting a caricature or straw man, which they proceed to pillory the rest of their lives if they are atheists.

I have shown this again and again in analyzing atheist “deconversion stories.” Soon I will be compiling a book about that, too, and how so many atheists vainly fancy themselves as such experts on the Bible, whereas they are in fact profoundly ignorant and don’t know the first thing about proper biblical hermeneutics or exegesis or the various literary genres in the Bible, etc., or the ancient Near Eastern (i.e., Mesopotamian) cultural background that is a crucial component of both Judaism and Christianity.

Moreover, I would point out that no message is more appealing (in one big sense) to human beings than atheism. You’re accountable to no higher being. You can do whatever you want or desire to do, including the usual sexual desires and freedoms that people so often seek after. You can go the hedonist route and live merely for pleasure, or have fun deriding Christians and having a sense of self-importance and superiority in so doing (I’ve met many atheists of that sort; but many are not).

In other words, it’s a wash. Human beings of whatever belief-system tend to follow what personally appeals to them. If you want to claim that this is the exclusive characteristic of Christians or all religious folk, it works the same way in criticizing atheism, so this “argument” proves nothing one way or the other.

The more honest atheists, such as Aldous Huxley, even freely admitted that they ditched religion precisely for the purpose of sexual freedom.

. . . which honestly Christianity’s message in the end comforts me in no way.

Exactly! But atheism does, and makes you feel good, which is what you accuse Christians of doing. You do the same thing that you have just derided. You choose it because it suits you. We believe, on the other hand, that we choose Christianity, not because it makes us feel wonderful and warm fuzzy happy, but because it’s true.

The great apologist G. K. Chesterton stated, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

It’s a difficult life, but I wouldn’t trade it and its joy and peace with anything. I’ve tried to seriously live the Christian life for now 38 years. It has never let me down. But it is not without suffering. Joy is deeper than suffering. This is why Christians have been willing to die as martyrs through the centuries. They weren’t trying to avoid suffering, but rather, hell.

This is what you have just revealed to us is how you approached the matter: based on your desires and the comfort-factor, not based on an objective, dispassionate search for metaphysical and/or moral truth. At least that is how it appears or sounds at first glance. I’m just going by your own words . . .

As for the different faiths, theists (of the Abrahamic vein) are fully convinced that there are no gods at all… except for their one god. Why is it completely rational for Christians, Muslims, Jews to discount every other god that people follow except for this one, but the atheist who believes in just one fewer gods is absolutely wrong?

Yes; that is the nature of monotheism, because we believe that this one God has revealed Himself. We do for various reasons, that can’t be briefly summarized, because there are so many of ’em.

It’s not that you believe in “just one fewer god” but that in so doing you have to explain the universe according to pure naturalism or materialism, and it just doesn’t make any sense and comes off sounding rather fantastic and irrational, when closely scrutinized, as I did in this paper.

You’re welcome to explain to all of us how these atoms managed to do all that they have supposedly done, by themselves, with no outside or spiritual or supernatural aid, as a result of an explosion 15 billion years ago (or however long ago it is believed to be now).

We’re waiting with baited breath. But no atheist has done so thus far, and I would bet good money that you will not be the first one. It’s such a mystery that atheists are now fond of postulating “multiverses” so that they can simply ignore their huge problem of explaining origins, and push it back to earlier universes that they are equally ignorant of, as to process and origin. Very convenient, isn’t it? If you can’t explain something, invent a completely arbitrary fairy tale, with no rational or empirical evidence whatsoever to back it up . . .

And we Christians get accused of “God of the gaps” with this sort of desperate avoidance analysis going on among materialist scientists? It’s a joke!

We are effectively living the same process with one minor tweak further. All religions have equal amounts of evidence (zero) so why one non-evident religion over the next? 

You are merely assuming what you are trying to prove here, which is circular reasoning. You have not provided any actual reasons for believing these things. You simply make bald assertions. And I can tell you from my own long study in apologetics that they are not true statements. I do have the papers and books that already contain my reasonings.

There may very well be a god/goddess/gods/goddesses,

If you truly believe that, you should assume an agnostic stance, rather than an atheist one (but it sounds like you self-identify with the latter).

but since he/she/it/they have elected to give no evidence to the empirical senses with which they created us,

Once again, you assume what you think you prove. There is all kinds of empirical evidence for Christianity. Jesus was an actual human person, identifiable in history. He performed miracles, which were witnessed. He rose from the dead and was seen by more than 500 eyewitnesses. There is an empty tomb that hasn’t been adequately expained. It was guarded by Roman soldiers, under the pain of death if they failed to guard it. We know that the tomb was empty, from hostile reports and theories that the body was stolen, etc. People were willing to die for this faith, etc. There is all sorts of hard evidence that has to be grappled with.

There is no way to know who it is without relying solely on personal subjective interpretation and heresay [sic] from supposed eyewitnesses from centuries ago in books which no one has any reason to believe other than faith in certain groups of human being who have supposedly preserve the integrity of these first hand accounts hundreds of years ago.

This is incredible “reasoning.” We rely on eyewitness and firsthand testimony for all historical accounts whatsoever. You don’t doubt those when it comes to the existence of Socrates or Alexander the Great or even Abraham Lincoln. But all of a sudden when religious faith is involved, all these people were gullible idiots, who made up a bunch of fairy tales, and then were willing to die for the fairy tales.

It makes no sense at all. What this amounts to is a huge double standard, where you accept history, except when anyone religious is the testifier or witness of what happened at a particular point. Then you dismiss it. That’s irrationally arbitrary, self-defeating, and bigoted.

The Bible has, time and again, been backed up, as to its extraordinary historical accuracy, whether through manuscripts (e.g., the Dead Sea Scrolls) or archaeology or textual analysis. It’s accurate. It reports history. But someone who denies the existence of miracles beforehand simply dismisses any miraculous account.

That’s not a strictly “rational” analysis. It’s not rational to arbitrarily choose to disbelieve that a miraculous event can ever happen, and so dismiss any such account because it doesn’t fit the arbitrary axiom already accepted for no good reason.

Many things in science would have been thought totally impossible or implausible before they were proven (e.g., quantum physics or black holes or relativity). Yet what was “impossible” because possible and even “proven” in the usual scientific fashion.

Why could not miracles be the same sort of thing? How can you or anyone else say in a blanket way that they could not ever possibly have happened? You cannot . . .

Unless someone has a “Damascus road” experience, personally, their faith isn’t in god anyway, 

At some point, experience must enter in, yes. We Christians claim to have various spiritual experiences that confirm our faith and beliefs. I have had several, myself. My life changed.

it’s in people: the person who wrote the Scripture they believe, the person who they passed it onto; the person they passed it on to; the person who passed it on to you. 

Every belief-system has an internal tradition and a heritage which has been passed on. There’s nothing new under the sun. You as an atheist argue the same way that atheists did 3,000 years ago. And that is because you all start from the implausible axiom that I have discussed in my paper. Because you have so little reason to back yourself up, you have to content yourselves with bashing Christianity, to make yourselves feel so intellectually superior to us. It just won’t fly.

It may with some construction worker in a bar or an old lady with purple tennis shoes, who don’t know apologetics or philosophy from a hole in the ground, but not with someone who is acquainted with those things, and how the atheist / secular mind works. I used to think in largely the same terms, and I was spoon-fed secularism in school.

If people want to say atheism is a religion, I guess thats fine if one wants define what one means by religion.

My argument in my paper was that it was not a whit more reasonable, nor does it require any less faith (defined as acceptance of unproven and unprovable axioms). You have not really overcome my actual argument at all. You’re just preaching . . . That’s usually what atheists do. Not always (I’ve had some extremely interesting and constructive dialogues with several atheists), but usually.

Just note the the faith in atheism is in a logical system, that has heretofore been the only system that has ever offered a correct answer to the way anything works. 

Where to begin? It’s not logical at all, as I think I have shown: not at the presuppositional, axiomatic level. It’s a profoundly faith-filled, arbitrary, implausible view. Secondly, atheism doesn’t own science. Quite the contrary: it was begun by Christians and completely dominated by them for hundreds of years. Even now, some 40-45% of scientists would identify as some sort of theist (as well as a probably lesser, but significant number of philosophers: many among the best ones). Yet atheists routinely assume that they are the reasonable ones and own science. It’s a lie.

What we Christians say is that science (or matter) is not all that there is. There are other forms of knowledge, and religious faith is real, and rational, and can be defended as such.

I don’t consider logic my “god” because I don’t believe in a god. 

I can see that, because from where I sit, you are not arguing very logically at all. Your belief-system is arbitrary and meaningless irrationality (which I would argue is what all atheism always logically reduces to).

I believe it’s a system through which we have found answers and has thus far been the only such system.

That’s simply not true. Science (begun and dominated by Christians), philosophy, and religion have all given us plenty of answers and solutions.

Is that faith? Sure? I guess? Sort of? But in a very different way. Semantics.

I think there are lots of word games that atheists play. I have offered what I believe is a solid, logical critique.

Nothing personal! Thanks for the dialogue.

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I don’t have time to argue all of these points you’ve laid out. But I will get to the meat of it. If you have actual evidence, feel free to share.

I have evidence all over my website. The most applicable to an atheist would be my web page on atheism. Then there is my book, Christian Worldview vs. Postmodernism. And my basic run-through of Christian apologetics, Mere Christian Apologetics.

If you don’t want to purchase any of those, or my book on science, linked above (available as low as $1.99), I’ll send you a PDF file of any of them for free.

And I repeat my original point. Yes… atheism is faith in the same way that your disbelief in the tooth fairy is faith. in the same way that your disbelief in the tooth fairy is a religion.

That makes no sense. I don’t spend my time proving that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist, as atheists do with God. My faith / religious belief isn’t merely a reactionary denial of what is believed not to exist at all, but rather, a positive, proactive assertion of something.

The tooth fairy (like Santa Claus or unicorns or the man in the moon or the Easter Bunny and all the other silly atheist “analogies” to God) has no historical or philosophical evidence in favor of it, as God does. No great philosophers or scientists or other great thinkers hold to belief in it. It truly is a mere fairy tale fit for small children only.

To compare that to the Judaeo-Christian God, or even the “philosopher’s God” (of say, someone like David Hume, who was not an atheist, as commonly believed) is instantly silly and a farce. But it’s garden-variety atheism, and used all the time for its mocking “value.”

Atheism is faith in precisely the way that I have argued that it is in my paper that you replied to: you (like anyone else who attempts to think seriously about reality) must accept unproven axioms. These cannot be argued for according to reason or evidence (empirical or otherwise).

The atheist has the special and extraordinary burden of being forced to believe that somehow something came from nothing, of its own power, and then exploded and produced all that is in the universe.

Present science tells us that the universe isn’t eternal (laws of thermodynamics). It’s running down. It began in an instant, in the Big Bang. That original “egg” somehow came from nothing whatsoever and came to possess the properties of reproduction, evolution, and creation of everything else.

For those of us who think that belief in God is a far better and more plausible explanation than that, it is (with all due respect) utterly absurd to accept such a ludicrous scenario. Any three-year-old knows that you can’t get something from nothing.

But every atheist must believe exactly that. They do it based on sheer blind faith and unwillingness to accept the rational alternative that an eternal creative spirit exists; an eternal intelligence.

Even those who aren’t theists know that something is out there; some kind of primal intelligence or organizing principle, to explain the wonders of the universe. Hence, Albert Einstein (a type of pantheist) wrote:

[T]he belief in the existence of basic all-embracing laws in Nature also rests on a sort of faith. All the same this faith has been largely justified so far by the success of scientific research. But, on the other hand, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe — a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

(To student Phyllis Right, who asked if scientists pray, January 24, 1936. Einstein Archive 42-601, 52-337; from Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann, Albert Einstein, the Human Side [Princeton Univ. Press, 1981], pp. 32-33)

It’s always fascinating to me to see how atheists attempt to respond to this particular argument, which I believe is of considerable force. Usually what we see is exactly the replies that my opponent gave above: little of substance: lots of bald assertions, contra-Christian or contra-theist “preaching” and studiously avoiding the central issue: how did something come from nothing and how did mere matter obtain all these remarkable powers that it now has?

It’s pretty much a blank at that point and a clear example of completely blind faith in the unprovable, non-rational (arguably anti-rational) starting premises of atheism.

Atheists in effect worship trillions of atom-gods and cell-gods: exactly as I contended in my paper. Virtually every power that the Christian attributes to God, the atheist applies to atoms and cells. It’s a profound faith indeed, based on no evidence whatsoever.

I think atheists are intelligent and thoughtful people. I am not claiming that they are generally irrational types of people. But I do say that with regard to the questions I bring up, the starting premises of atheism are quite irrational and unworthy of allegiance.

It’s also good for atheists to recognize that we Christians have some serious thinkers among us, too, and that we have “good arguments” on our side as well.

Again, you are misrepresenting me. Atheists do not claim that there is absolutely no way a deity could have done it. We claim that there is no more reason to believe it than any other extraordinary claim. If you listen to any talk by prominent atheists like Dawkins or Tyson, you will hear them repeatedly say they cannot disprove god. The reason you will not hear us taking apart tooth fairy theories is because no one is making them or trying to get them into scientific discussions. And no one said science is unique to atheists. It is unique to scientist[s], which happen to be theists and atheists. The problem is when either group gets to something they don’t understand and slaps creative answer to it rather than an observed one. In the theists’ case: god did it. And your assessment of my scrutiny of historical documenta is erroneous. if you think religious texts are the only ones atheistic historians scrutinize, then you aren’t accounting for the very first thing liberal universities teach when analyzing historical documents. The goal in any such analysis is to determine biases, limitations, and personal perspective rather than taking it at face value. Apologists however, have no other goal than to make the document/data/observations fit into a predesigned paradigm.

Thanks for your further thoughts. Now why don’t you also provide some solid, plausible answers to the basic questions that are your burden as an atheist?:

1) How did something come from nothing?

2) What caused this something from nothing, of its own power, to explode and produce all that is in the universe?

3) How did the original “egg” come to possess the remarkable properties of reproduction, evolution, and creation of everything else?

4) How did life (not to mention intelligence and rational self-consciousness) come from non-life, by purely materialistic processes, all inherent in the potentiality of the original “egg” that somehow came from nothing whatever?

We say “God” and that gets immediately dismissed as supposedly “unscientific” and/or good ol’ “God of the gaps.”

Fine. Having dismissed our proposed explanation, what is your alternate (or better) one? You haven’t told us. If you say you have no explanation or speculation at all, this strongly confirms my entire contention: you are operating in blind irrational faith: every bit as much as you say ours is, and arguably much more so.

After all, the universe is here (as all agree) and it had to be caused by something or Someone. Again, I reiterate my original argument, which stands unrefuted: we worship one Spirit-God, while you in effect worship trillions of atom-gods and cell-gods and the goddess Time: all of which can and do produce anything and everything in the universe (just like we say our God does!).

I don’t need to provide solid claims as I am not making the assertions you are claiming I am making. I am not saying something came from nothing. I’m saying with the evidence currently in our grasp, it would appear that the big bang happened, and that there is absolutely no reason to assume jesus christ or yahweh… or odin was responsible for it. Your arguments necessitate you to constantly build straw men. Is it possible a god did it? Maybe idk. But why without evidence assume it was god? Why believe god can always exist but not matter? My answer AGAIN to you is I don’t know. And thats where my atheist’s “faith” comes in. Since every other answered query in the history of humankind has been answered by science and reason, I’m thinking that this too will probably be answered by science and reason. Since every “proof” you have given so far for god is completely inconclusive, and exemplary of the very kind of non-science that make atheists skeptical of christian science, that reinforces my leanings that the answers will be natural rather than supernatural. I think most likely, if these questions are ever answered, it will increase our understanding of what is natural, rather than convince me of something supernatural. But who knows? And your claim that atheists “worship” atoms/cells/time is the ultimate straw man.

Well, it’s as good of a non-answer as I have ever gotten from an atheist. What else is new . . . ?

I haven’t given any “proofs” for God in this discussion. And that is because I’m challenging you to establish a rational basis for the presuppositions of your belief (per my paper that you replied to), and the present existence of the universe. You have not done so. But at least you are honest enough with yourself to not try to make a futile effort which would not bode well for your worldview. it’s best to refrain in that case.

As I have said repeatedly, the evidences, arguments, and reasons I can give for theism and Christianity are in my 49 books and 2,300+ papers on my blog. They can’t be summarized quickly. That is mere child’s play. Thoughtful worldviews must necessarily be scrutinized at length and with fairness and an open mind. I have offered to give you any of my books for free.

But you have to be willing to read them. “You can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” . . .

I think I’m done here. You have absolutely no interest in what I’m saying, provable by the fact that you cannot even describe my position. You are clearly set in your intellectual superiority as you have demonstrated by your assertion of yourself as a “sophisticated christian” as opposed to the thousands of other christians who don’t have the fluency with apologetics that you do. Your condescension and repeated misrepresentation of my arguments are going to be the bane of your apologetics, even before your confusion of reason with things that make sense to you.

One last thing, I just noticed:

“why believe god can always exist but not matter?”

The laws of thermodynamics tell us that the universe is running down; therefore very few believe anymore that it is eternal. It’s not eternal; it began with the Big Bang, as far as present science can determine. If it were eternal, it couldn’t have “begun.”

Belief in an eternal God is distinct from that, since God is spirit and not subject to the laws of physical nature.

May God bless you with all good things. I bear you no ill will; nor do I judge your motivations, as you have now judged mine.

I bear you no ill will either. And you can claim non-judgement all you want. But when you say things like “any three year old knows…” Or calling my responses “non-answers” show your true feelings.

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