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September 17, 2021

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . .

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 73 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 12-21-20: “I love people who can make cogent arguments against mine or point out data I hadn’t considered before. What I dislike (and ban) are $#&*%@s who . . . refuse to learn/adapt . . . ignore compelling arguments against their position, and so on.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, follow this link: “Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

I am responding to Bob’s post entitled, God’s life is hell (9-16-21; update of a post from 4-3-17).

We see problems as bad things because most of us have too many, but what if you have none? 

God has problems. He has to figure out how to save as many stubborn, unrepentant, rebellious, obstinate, stiff-necked, sin-loving, ignorance-obsessed humans with free will (like Bob) as possible, since we know from the Bible (His revelation) that He desires that none perish.

God could never be perplexed by anything,

That’s true.

and there’s nothing to exercise creativity on. There’s no pleasure in solving a problem, no thrill of an Aha! insight.

This is untrue. He does all He can to save every one of us, but because He gave us free will, the possibility always remains that we will reject His free offer of forgiveness, grace, and heaven. Hence, God’s challenge, and it still is one, even though He is all-powerful (i.e., to do all that is logically possible) and all-knowing. When anyone goes to hell, God knows (and knew from all eternity) that He did everything He could to save him or her: that sufficient grace and understanding was granted for that person’ to be saved, but they chose to reject God and spend eternity away from union with Him.

Not only does God have no problems, he doesn’t even have surprises. No matter what it is, he saw it coming. 

The first thing is false, the second true.

No matter what it is, the correct response is not only obvious but foreseen billions of years earlier. 

That is, from all eternity. And it wasn’t “foreseen”, because for God it wasn’t future; it was the eternal Now, outside of all time.

Not only can’t God wrestle with a problem, he can’t think a new thought or plan or regret or be surprised or get a joke or make a decision.

He doesn’t need to, because He’s not like us in that respect. Those things are good for us precisely because of our inherent limitations as finite creatures.

God’s ways are a heckuva lot more unlike our ways that you may have thought.

Yes, and a lot more different than Bob has thought, too, as I will show as I proceed.

But God’s calendar is packed, right? He’s granting prayers, weighing the consequences of people’s actions, satisfy his agenda by performing undetectable [only for Bob and atheists] miracles, tweaking evolution so it goes in the right direction, and so on. 

One might say He is busy, but since He has “all the ‘time’ in the world” to deal with any particular at all, He has no sense of being “busy” or “burdened”.  To follow C. S. Lewis’ analogy, He’s (somewhat) like the author who can take an entire week to come up with one great sentence from the mouth of one of his or her characters in a book, that will most effectively serve the plot.

God’s omniscience has consequences, and the God Christians have invented is as personable as a machine.

We couldn’t possibly have invented such a marvelous, benevolent Being (we’re neither that smart, nor creative). He had to reveal Himself to us; and He did. Bob sees Him as a “machine” (we who know Him don’t) because he is misinfortmed and carnal-minded, and doesn’t seek to learn and to be set free from his intellectual and spiritual bondage.

He knows every request and every human problem, now and in the future. Knowing the future, God could list his every action like this: “At time T1, do action A1; at T2, do A2,” and so on.

God experiences no “future” or “past” because He is entirely outside of time.

God is nothing more than that. Not only could he mindlessly carry out these actions, but God could be replaced by a universal wish-granting machine.

He could not, because He is free in a way that a machine can never be. It’s the same with people. We are essentially different from any machine because we have a soul, made in God’s image, and we are free to make our own decisions: up to and including acceptance or rejection of God. It’s Bob’s “god”: imagined out of an arbitrary, atheist mindset: constructed only to mock and deride. Well, that’s fine if Bob gets a charge out of  making up fairy-takes and then making fun of his own imaginary nonsense, but it forms no intellectual (let alone persuasive) argument at all.

We can imagine a conversation with God, but he couldn’t see it like we do. A conversation for him would be like stating lines in a play, all of which he’s memorized.

He makes Himself accessible to us, so that it’s possible to talk (and of course came to earth as a man to make it even easier). This is the common biblical theme of anthropopathism and anthropomorphism that I have brought up a hundred times in replying to Bob; but since he never reads my replies — or if he ever does, utterly ignores them — he never learns, and so keeps saying the same stupid and clueless things about God and Christianity over and over.

It’s true that God in the Old Testament has original conversations, gets surprised (example: he regretted making humanity before the flood), gets angry (such as his response to the golden calf), and so on, all of which makes sense only if he’s not omniscient. But how is this possible? God would’ve seen it all coming for 13.7 billion years.

That’s not true. It makes perfect sense once one understands anthropopathism and anthropomorphism. He at least has heard of one or both of these fifty-cent words because he actually mentioned the second word in one article (the first one, never). But he obviously never understands that these concepts answer his supposed “gotcha” questions for Christians that he specializes in and takes special glee in tossing out every day.

Christians have changed the properties of their unchanging God over time.

Monotheism has developed since Abraham, which is a self-consistent change of greater understanding, not the changing of one thing into something else entirely different.

What did God do all day before he created the universe? 

There was no such “day” for Him because He is outside of time. Everything He has done was done from all eternity and has no sense (in God’s “eyes”) of before or after.

If he created the universe, that admits that things weren’t perfect beforehand—if they were, changing things would make them less perfect. 

God is perfect, because He is self-existent and self-sufficient, and always has been. The universe isn’t perfect by virtue of being a created rather than eternal thing. But creation was good.

And if things were perfect after creating the universe, why wait so long for creating it?

God doesn’t wait for anything.

(And who’s going to say that this mess of a world is perfect?)

As we saw above, I didn’t say that. But the question is: what has caused all of the evident imperfections of the universe (chiefly, suffering and evil): God or human beings and demons?

Fourth-century church father Augustine told of someone who was asked what God was doing before he created the universe. The answer: “He was preparing hell for those prying into such deep subjects.”

Well, that’s Christian humor (and rather good at that!).

But pry we must. A popular Christian answer is to say that the Big Bang theory has a beginning for the universe (more precisely, this theory says that there’s a point in time before which science can’t take us yet). Therefore, God lived timelessly before he created the universe.

The Big Bang theory is what it is, and is perfectly consistent with creation ex nihilo, as taught in the Bible.

No, a timelessness God doesn’t solve anything. 

That’s right. It simply is. It’s “eternal reality.”

How could God create the universe if he’s outside time?

By willing it.

How could anyone create anything if you’re outside of time?!

By being inherently omnipotent. What He desires, comes to be, as long as it’s logically possible.

Creation is a process that can only operate within time.

According to whom? If the timeless Being can create time, then He can create a physical universe at the same “time” He creates time.

That’s also true for the decision to create.

How does that follow? It doesn’t.

A timeless god is a frozen, unchanging, and inert god. He makes no decisions, sees nothing, decides nothing, initiates nothing, and loves nothing.

Well, this is simply Bob’s imaginary “god”: that he pretends is the Christian / monotheistic God, but it isn’t. Neither the philosophical theistic God nor the biblical Jewish / Christian one is of this nature. He’s indeed timeless and unchanging, but none of the other listed things.

Christians have created a God who’s inert (when outside of time) and a soul-less robot whose hands are tied by his own omniscience (when time is proceeding). Christians should rethink the properties they invent for God.

Nonsense. We created nothing with regard to God. We accepted His revelation of Himself, either directly (Moses, Abraham et al and in each believer’s own experience of Him, and in Jesus, the incarnate God) or through His revelation, the Bible. Human theistic philosophy helped us to further grasp this one true God. But Bob’s tweaking, petulant silliness simply comes from his own vain and futile imaginings and has nothing to do with the Christian understanding of God.

Can you imagine anything more absurd
than an infinite intelligence in infinite nothing
wasting an eternity?
— Robert Ingersoll

I can’t. Blessedly, this is not the God we believe exists, so it has nothing to do with Christian belief. Great straw man, though! That’s been the atheist specialty from the beginning.

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Photo credit: EvgeniT (8-20-19) [Pixabay / Pixabay License]

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Summary: Anti-theist atheist Bob Seidensticker, addressing the issue of an omniscient God, creates an imaginary “god” & then proceeds to shoot the straw man down, thinking he is refuting Christianity.

July 12, 2021

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . .

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 72 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 12-21-20: “I love people who can make cogent arguments against mine or point out data I hadn’t considered before. What I dislike (and ban) are $#&*%@s who . . . refuse to learn/adapt . . . ignore compelling arguments against their position, and so on.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, follow this link: “Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

I am responding to Bob’s post entitled, “But Who Created God?” an Atheist Fallacy? (7-6-21; recycled from a paper dated 12-10-16). I made a similar response in my article, Seidensticker Folly #38: Eternal Universe vs. an Eternal God (4-16-20). Here I will be applying a different angle: the establishment of the notion of an eternal non-material entity (in some cases very much like God) strictly from non-Christian, and even non-theistic classic philosophy. If we can establish that, then we have a ready non-biblical answer to supply to atheists who are gleefully seeking to embarrass Christians with the (rather silly) “gotcha!” question of “Who created God?! Huh? Tell me!”

And the short answer is: “no one or nothing. And we don’t have to explain (on the spot, under the usual atheist polemical “pressure”) how God can exist eternally if indeed there are respectable philosophical analyses many hundreds of years old that establish the notion of an eternal immaterial entity that always existed. We say that the theistic, biblical God is such an entity and that He has a non-biblical philosophical justification, or at the very least a philosophical rationale that analogically goes a long way towards establishing the existence of such a God.”

In other words, “it ain’t just fairy tales or religion / theology, from the Bible.” It’s secular philosophy. And I would add, this view is significantly more rational, plausible, and sensible than the atheist view of “the universe began from no discernible cause out of nothing, for no known reason.” Now there is a view that is neither scientific, philosophical, plausible, or rational. Christians can easily turn the tables with regard to this sort of discussion. The atheist has far more to explain than we do. And (believe me) they usually take a pass when challenged in this way.

Bob wrote:

Sure, we can define God as “the uncreated creator of the universe” (or indeed anything) but if that definition is supposed to be an argument for this God, then you’re as disconnected from reality as the physicist.

Don’t pretend that you can sit back with your arms crossed as if you’ve justified your position in any way. Your religion may say that God was uncreated, but that is no answer in the real world. If “Who created God?” exposes an unsupported part of your argument, then come back after you have justified the claim that God was uncreated. Make it a conclusion, not a presupposition.

And before you say that the Bible confirms that God is eternal (for example, “The hope of eternal life, which God . . . promised before the beginning of time” from Titus 1:2), remember that “the Bible says so” is theology, not evidence.

Expert on Plato and Neoplatonism Bernard Suzanne described Plato’s religious views:

“God” with a capital G . . . doesn’t exist in Plato, . . . Plato speaks of “the gods (hoi theoi), or “the god (ho theos)”, in some cases of “god”, but then in the same way we would talk of “man”, using the word as a generic name. He also speaks of “the divine (to theion)”.

Thus, if by “God” you mean the god of Christianity, Yahweh, the Holy Trinity and the like, there is none of it in Plato or Aristotle. However, if you are looking for “traces” in Plato and Aristotle of a concept that somehow anticipates this god, or if you want to know what is their stand as regards what we are used to call “religion”, this is another matter. . . .

I think Plato knew perfectly well that on such matters, it is impossible to give complete answers with human words. Thus, he tried to approach the question from different angles and give partial complementary (and not contradictory) answers, both negative (what gods are not, what we should not believe) and positive (what we may safely believe about gods and the divine, and questions of “origins” and “ends”).

In that respect, the answers he gives in the Timæus have to be “qualified” by the purpose of this dialogue: it purports to show man how he should look at the kosmos, that is “theorize” it (from theorein, which means in Greek “contemplate”), to find in it traces of an organizing “intelligence” . . . Plato himself repeats time and again that he does not state definite truths but tells only “likely myths”.

In it, you will find not “God”, but a “demiourgos“, that is a “worker” (etymologically, demiourgos means “one who works for the demos, that is for the people”), which is immortal by nature but works from a model and has to deal with anagkè, necessity. Though he does not seem to be the maker of “place (chôra)” and matter, he is the maker of time, “a moving image of eternity”, and of “lower” gods, that are only immortal by his will. These gods represent the immortal living creatures that are needed to have all sorts of creatures in the kosmos. They are the makers of man as the “host” of a divine soul (the logos) handed them by the demiourgos. But you will also read that the kosmos is often referred to as a “god”, endowed with a soul.

Plato (bet. 423-428-c. 347 BC), the ancient Greek philosopher, was not a theist (at least not in the way philosophers habitually use the term); he’s more like a pantheist or panentheist (in many respects like the view of Einstein and David Hume). R. Hackworth, in his paper, “Plato’s Theism” (The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Jan., 1936), Cambridge University Press) shows why Plato (even if a theist) believes things that Christian theists do not believe:

The problem is complicated at the outset by Plato’s very wide application of Theos [Greek for “God”] . . . many things are called ‘Gods’ or ‘divine’: the Demiurge is a Theos, so is the created Universe (Tim. 34B, 92C), so are the stars and planets (Tim. 40D) and the gods of popular theology (Tim. 40E), and the (possible) plurality of good souls in Laws X; the adjective Theios is commonly applied to the Forms . . .

S. Marc Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Washington, wrote in a course syllabus about Plato’s theory of forms:

  1. Characteristics of Forms

    1. A general metaphysical and epistemological theory. Central to all of Plato’s thought, but nowhere systematically argued for. Not stated in any one dialogue; we must cull from several (but principally Phaedo and Republic).
    2. A theory of postulated abstract objects, deriving from the Socratic “What is X?” question, which presupposes that there is a single correct answer to the “What is X?” question.
      1. The correct answer is not a matter of convention, of what we all (or most of us) think.
      2. What makes such an answer correct: it is an accurate description of an independent entity, a Form.
      3. Forms are thus mind-independent entities: their existence and nature is independent of our beliefs and judgments about them.
    3. The Phaedo contains an extended description of the characteristics and functions of the forms:
      • Unchangeable (78c10-d9)
      • Eternal (79d2)
      • Intelligible, not perceptible (79a1-5)
      • Divine (80a3, b1)
      • Incorporeal (passim)
      • Causes of being (“The one over the many”) (100c)
      • Are unqualifiedly what their instances are only with qualification (75b)
    4. Other dialogues fill out the picture: non-temporal (Tim. 37e-38a); non-spatial (Phaedr. 247c); they do not become, they simply are (Tim. 27d3-28a3).
    5. Phaedo 80b provides a good summary, listing all the attributes of Forms that souls also have: “divine, deathless, intelligible, uniform, indissoluble, always the same as itself.”

Thus, we have the notion of an eternal and unchangeable ideas, forms, immaterial entities (call them what we will) from one of the greatest philosophers of all time, who lived three-and-a-half centuries before Christ. This represents a philosophical basis for many Christian notions about God, but particularly His eternity, which is the topic under immediate consideration.

As a second example of a great philosopher who argues for eternal immaterial entities without reference to either theism per se or Christianity, I submit the founder of Neoplatonism: Plotinus (c. 205-270 AD). He never, by the way, made mention of Christianity in any of his writings. His views (i.e., having to do with our subject) are summed up by atheist and former Catholic Professor of Philosophy John Messerly:

The One – Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, godlike, totally transcendent One containing no division, multiplicity or distinction. The One is beyond all categories of being and non-being. The One isn’t a thing or a person; it isn’t the sum of all things; and it isn’t sentient or self-aware. But the One is the first principle; it is good; and nothing could exist without it. The One is the source of the world, but it doesn’t create the world by willful action. Instead, reality emanates from the One, as an outpouring or overflowing of its nature in an ongoing temporal process. In other words, the One reflects itself onto lower planes, but these reflections represent limits on the One’s perfection.

Nous – The first emanation from the One is Nous (Divine Mind, Logos, Thought, Reason, Intelligence.) This intelligence contemplates both the One, as well as its own thoughts, and Plotinus identifies Nous with the Platonic Forms (eide).

Soul – The second emanation brings soul, the creative power of which is divided into the upper aspect, World Soul, which remains in contact with Nous, and the lower aspect, identified with nature, which allows for individual human souls.

Matter – The third emanation results in matter, the lowest level of being, and is thus the least perfected level of the cosmos.

Mystical Experience – To experience the One is to be in an ecstatic union with it, a union Porphyry says that Plotinus achieved multiple times in his life. This union with the One is probably related to enlightenment and other concepts of mystical union common to many Eastern and Western traditions.

This Metaphysics – The concept of the One is similar to the concept of Brahman in Hinduism. It also has much in common with pantheism, the view that god and reality are identical. The idea that all reality is divine shows up throughout the history of philosophy and religion—most notably in the pantheism of Spinoza. The idea that nous contemplates Platonic ideas finds echoes in St. Augustine. And, no doubt, other parallels could be drawn between Plotinian metaphysics and other thinkers.

Here is another description of Plotinus’ idea of “the One”, from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (“Plotinus”): written by Lloyd P. Gerson, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto:

The One is the absolutely simple first principle of all. It is both ‘self-caused’ and the cause of being for everything else in the universe. There are, according to Plotinus, various ways of showing the necessity of positing such a principle. These are all rooted in the Pre-Socratic philosophical/scientific tradition. A central axiom of that tradition was the connecting of explanation with reductionism or the derivation of the complex from the simple. That is, ultimate explanations of phenomena and of contingent entities can only rest in what itself requires no explanation. If what is actually sought is the explanation for something that is in one way or another complex, what grounds the explanation will be simple relative to the observed complexity. Thus, what grounds an explanation must be different from the sorts of things explained by it. According to this line of reasoning, explanantia that are themselves complex, perhaps in some way different from the sort of complexity of the explananda, will be in need of other types of explanation. In addition, a plethora of explanatory principles will themselves be in need of explanation. Taken to its logical conclusion, the explanatory path must finally lead to that which is unique and absolutely uncomplex.

The One is such a principle. Plotinus found it in Plato’s Republic where it is named ‘the Idea of the Good’ and in his Parmenides where it is the subject of a series of deductions (137c ff.). The One or the Good, owing to its simplicity, is indescribable directly. We can only grasp it indirectly by deducing what it is not (see V 3. 14; VI 8; VI 9. 3). Even the names ‘One’ and ‘Good’ are fautes de mieux. Therefore, it is wrong to see the One as a principle of oneness or goodness, in the sense in which these are intelligible attributes. The name ‘One’ is least inappropriate because it best suggests absolute simplicity.

If the One is absolutely simple, how can it be the cause of the being of anything much less the cause of everything? The One is such a cause in the sense that it is virtually everything else (see III 8. 1; V 1. 7, 9; V 3. 15, 33; VI 9. 5, 36). This means that it stands to everything else as, for example, white light stands to the colors of the rainbow, or the way in which a properly functioning calculator may be said to contain all the answers to the questions that can be legitimately put to it. Similarly, an omniscient simple deity may be said to know virtually all that is knowable. In general, if A is virtually B, then A is both simpler in its existence than B and able to produce B.

Now, it’s not my present purpose to present (or even summarize) all the arguments that Plato and Plotinus made for their views under consideration. Readers may follow the “lead” of this article and pursue those as they wish. I’m simply trying to establish that serious, solid (non-Christian / non-theist) philosophical arguments exist — and certainly from many more renowned philosophers than just these two — for both the notion of eternity itself and eternal uncreated immaterial entities (analogous in many ways to the theistic and biblical God).

Some other famous philosophers who may be considered Platonists are Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), Kurt Gödel (1906-1978), Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), and Simone Weil (1909-1943).

Under the category of “Neoplatonist” we might classify the following eminent philosophers: Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Henri Bergson (1859-1941), W. V. O. Quine (1908-2000), Saul Kripke (1940- ), Alvin Plantinga (1932- ), Peter van Inwagen (1942- ), Nicholas Wolterstorff (1932- ), Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) (1927- ), Boethius (c. 477-524), St. Augustine (354-430), St. Anselm (c. 1034-1109), Origen (c. 184-c. 253), and St. Bonaventure (1221-1274).

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Photo credit: adonesFAO (8-4-17) [PixabayPixabay License]

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Summary: I construct an argument designed to answer the atheists’ polemical “gotcha!” question, “Who created God?” from secular, non-theist philosophy; in particular: Plato and Plotinus.

March 3, 2021

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . .

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 71 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 12-21-20: “I love people who can make cogent arguments against mine or point out data I hadn’t considered before. What I dislike (and ban) are $#&*%@s who . . . refuse to learn/adapt . . . ignore compelling arguments against their position, and so on.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: “Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

I am responding to Bob’s post entitled, “Why a Single Human Cell is Not a Baby” (3-1-21; recycled from a post of 9-14-16). The entire post consists of the graphic chart above, followed by “Any questions?”

The first thing one notices (well, if one is pro-life), is (for inexplicable reasons) the absence of DNA on this list of features of human beings (and non-features of a newly fertilized cell of a human being). There is, I submit, a very good reason for that. The DNA that a human being will utilize for his or her entire life is already present in this fertilized cell. And it seems to me that that, too, is a key element of the human and personal identity of a human being / person. It makes us unique and is our “code” or ultimate identifying mark. Science verifies this:

Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity. [Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29.]

Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual. [Bruce M. Carlson, Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

This is why pro-lifers believe that the newly fertilized egg or zygote is already (in essence) the person they will develop into after birth. The DNA (which determines so much) is present, and secondly, there is no other starting-point that isn’t completely arbitrary (and, I would add, scientifically and philosophically ludicrous, before we even get to religious belief and legal / societal “rights”). It’s the same person in the sense of inexorable development; just as an acorn may be said to not be an oak tree; yet every oak tree was once an acorn. In that sense, the acorn is an oak tree: just at a very early stage of development (a “baby oak tree” so to speak). Yet Seidensticker completely ignores DNA as any sort of important identifying human characteristic, which is immediately absurd.

The argument above is, “look at all these things that a single-cell human doesn’t possess! Therefore, how could anyone call this a human being? We do based on what I just explained: the only rational beginning-point of a new unique human being, and DNA, as well as the fact that all that this single cell needs is time to become everything that born human beings are or will be. It’s all there.

So people (perhaps knowing these things, at least upon reflection or being confronted with them), pivot over to an argument from viability: “it has to be able to live on its own.” But lots of born human beings can’t do that without help from other human beings. In fact, a born baby cannot, for a very long time (maybe two, three years old). Others are dependent on medicine or kidney dialysis, and so forth. Yet we don’t say they cease to be human beings because of that.

My central point in writing this article is to note that all of these traits in the chart above do apply to an eight-week-old embryo. So, even if we can’t convince the person who favors legal abortion that the single-celled human is a human being, entitled to the right to life, we ought to be able to convince them that (at least) an eight-week-old fetus is identifiably human and a person: by the same means that the chart above utilizes in order to argue that the single-celled fertilized zygote is not

The usual means of determining the end of life are heartbeat and brain waves, right? (especially the first, which can be immediately detected). Human embryos have beating hearts “four weeks after conception,” (28 days) according to the Mayo Clinic: “Pregnancy week by week“. According to neuroscientist Katrina Furth, “Fetal EEGs: Signals from the Dawn of Life”, brain waves have been detected at “45 days after conception” (just seven weeks and three days). So by the early 8th week from conception (which is usually called the tenth week of a pregnancy), both these features that determine death in hospitals and ambulances, are present in the human embryo.

By eight weeks after conception, as the pictures in the Mayo Clinic article demonstrate, a human embryo possesses all the outward characteristics from Seidensticker’s chart: arms, legs, hands, feet, eyes, ears, and skin (as well as nose, mouth, fingers, toes, elbows, and knees). So when do the internal systems (apart form the brain and heart, which we’ve covered above) begin?:

Liver: As far as I can make out from a very technical scientific description, this seems to be completely developed by eight weeks.

Stomach: the same resource on embryology [in a separate article] places the origin of the stomach in the “4th week”.

Intestines: the same article holds that the intestines also are present by the 4th week.

Nervous system: the article from Embryology.med on this topic states that this system is in place by the 8th week.

Circulatory system: the article, “Development of Blood Vessels and Fetal Circulation” states: “Circulation patterns are clearly established by the fourth week of embryonic life.”

That means that every characteristic in the above developmental chart is present in human embryos by eight weeks after conception. So the relevant and obvious question to ask Bob (who has ignored — in his intellectual profundity and glory and self-evident courage — my 71 previous critiques) and those who think like him is: “Why isn’t an eight-week-old human embryo a person (or a “baby”)?” If the chart supposedly proves that a single-celled human being right after fertilization is not a “baby” at that stage (lacking all those characteristics), then our analysis (using exactly the same criteria) proves that an eight-week-old fetus is a “baby”: since it has all of them: most notably, a heartbeat and brain waves: present at four weeks and 7 1/2 weeks.

***

Photo credit: Bob Seidensticker / Cross Examined [source page]

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Summary: Atheist and advocate of legal abortion Bob Seidensticker produced 14 characteristics (omitting DNA) that a newly fertilized single-cell lacks. All are, however, present by eight weeks.

***

February 2, 2021

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . .

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 70 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 12-21-20: “I love people who can make cogent arguments against mine or point out data I hadn’t considered before. What I dislike (and ban) are $#&*%@s who . . . refuse to learn/adapt . . . ignore compelling arguments against their position, and so on.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, follow this link: “Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

In his post, Defending 10 Atheist Arguments (4 of 5) (2-1-21), Bob opines:

*

7. What is God made of?

Atheist argument: “There is no evidence that spiritual energy exists, so we can conclude that psychics, ghosts, and gods are non-existent. Otherwise, God has nothing to be made of.”

Christian response: “Not this again. An immaterial being, by definition, is not made of material.”

My response: Not this again. You can’t just magic something into existence with a definition. Do you think “God is an immaterial being” is a spell that will create such a being?

Don’t waste our time with, “Well, God might exist” or “You haven’t proven he doesn’t exist.” God’s existence is the topic here, and you need to show it. Yes, I realize that the atheist is making the argument and you’re responding, but responses need evidence, too. Your response is no more compelling than “Because I said so.”

“I’m not going too quickly here, am I? God is not made of anything. God is spirit. God is spirit, but he’s not made of spiritual energy. He’s immaterial, so this is a straw man.”

God is not made of anything, least of all spiritual energy, but he’s made of spirit? Or he is spirit? Or something?

“Not made of anything”—that sounds like your rhetorical weapons. And it sounds like they’re loaded with not-evidence. This is the problem with just handwaving stuff into existence. Your embarrassing ad hoc arguments will mean you’ll no longer be able to sit at the adult table.

So God is not made of matter or (heaven forbid!) spiritual energy . . . but he’s made of something, right? You’re the expert—if not “spiritual energy,” then what? Don’t play Simon Says, just tell us. And whatever you say God is made of, show us that it exists. One atheist responded, “Can someone tell me what the word ‘spirit’ means without saying what it is not?”

How intensely ironic (the last sentence)! It’s our beloved atheist critics who are constantly informing us lowly, ignorant Christians that atheism itself is, alas, not a formulated position, but only the absence of a position (belief in God). It’s not a worldview, etc. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that. It’s not true (see just one reason of many, why I think it isn’t), but we hear it all the time.

Yet lo and behold, now we are immensely privileged enough to witness an atheist complain that we can’t define spirit in a way other than what it is not (matter). It’s precious and a double standard for the ages, for sure. We are “embarrassing” and can’t “sit at the adult table”: so sez Bible-Basher Bob (ever the charitable and fair-minded one), but atheists making the exact same sorts of arguments somehow are not. Maybe one day, some kind atheist will deign to explain to me what the profound logical difference is. Or some logically consistent one can save my sanity and patience alike by conceding that these “arguments” (i.e., actually, bald assertions) are dead wrong.

It’s one thing to challenge theists with producing arguments in favor of the existence of God (we’ve produced dozens; none are ever good enough for hard-core atheists); quite another to make the “argument” that a spiritual being (the very category or notion or hypothetical) is absurd. The latter is what is taking place above, but Bob, logically clueless as usual, couldn’t resist inappropriately mixing in a little of the first question, too (“You can’t just magic something into existence with a definition” / “God’s existence is the topic here” / “And whatever you say God is made of, show us that it exists”). The initial argument, that Bob himself framed (see above), had the following logical structure:

1) Spiritual energy is nonexistent.

2) Gods as well as ghosts consist of such spiritual energy.

3) Therefore, God cannot exist, since he is said to consist of a thing which itself doesn’t exist.

Or, more broadly, as a purely logical thought-experiment:

1) X is non-existent.

2) Y is allegedly entirely composed of X.

3) Therefore Y doesn’t exist.

One thing at a time . . . I am dealing with the question of spirit and the above formulation of Bob’s, not God’s existence per se. He may not be able to comprehend the difference, but I trust that the vast bulk of my readers can. I won’t play the game of bouncing back-and-forth between entirely distinct topics. That’s child’s play and not serious philosophical / theological / scientific discussion.

As usual, the atheist is merely assuming that certain things aren’t true; can’t possibly be true. They habitually do this with miracles and the supernatural. But this is blind faith and not reason. They also do it with the question of whether there is something other than matter. They are philosophical materialists and physicalists, as opposed to dualists. Well, most of them are. Some atheists (and in my opinion, the sharper and more thoughtful ones) are actually dualists. I always mention the brilliant atheist philosopher David Chalmers (four books with Oxford University Press and one with MIT) — who looks like he ought to be the lead singer of a rock band — as one prominent example. His Wikipedia page states about him:

Chalmers argues for an “explanatory gap” from the objective to the subjective, and criticizes physicalist explanations of mental experience, making him a dualist. Chalmers characterizes his view as “naturalistic dualism”: naturalistic because he believes mental states supervene “naturally” on physical systems (such as brains); dualist because he believes mental states are ontologically distinct from and not reducible to physical systems.

But now to the heart of my objection. I shall turn the table by using a scientific analogy (I love doing both things in my apologetics, so I’m having a grand ol’ time). Bob had a field day mocking Christians for believing that God is a spirit, immaterial, composed of spirit, which isn’t a physical thing (with atoms, etc.). Once again, Christians are made out to be anti-scientific ignoramuses, dummies, and imbeciles. It’s Bob’s constant methodology and what motivates him (and his legions of rah-rahing sycophants in his ranting, pathetic comboxes) to get out of bed every morning. I hope he had his fun. Now we shall have ours.

Please keep the above in mind as I make my argument now (as my entire argument is an analogy). Scientists are currently quite excited about new phenomena called dark energy and dark matter. The very notions have only made their appearance over the last 25-30 years or so. The term dark energy was coined by cosmologist Michael Turner in 1998: which is more recent than the life of this blog (1997). But — recent or not — it’s now widely accepted and represents the cutting edge and most fascinating field of study in cosmology and astronomy (superseding black holes). A NASA web page comments upon it as follows:

What Is Dark Energy? More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the universe’s expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest – everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the universe. Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn’t be called “normal” matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the universe.

One explanation for dark energy is that it is a property of space. Albert Einstein was the first person to realize that empty space is not nothing. Space has amazing properties, many of which are just beginning to be understood. The first property that Einstein discovered is that it is possible for more space to come into existence. Then one version of Einstein’s gravity theory, the version that contains a cosmological constant, makes a second prediction: “empty space” can possess its own energy. Because this energy is a property of space itself, it would not be diluted as space expands. As more space comes into existence, more of this energy-of-space would appear. . . .

Another explanation for how space acquires energy comes from the quantum theory of matter. In this theory, “empty space” is actually full of temporary (“virtual”) particles that continually form and then disappear. . . .

Another explanation for dark energy is that it is a new kind of dynamical energy fluid or field, something that fills all of space but something whose effect on the expansion of the universe is the opposite of that of matter and normal energy. Some theorists have named this “quintessence,” after the fifth element of the Greek philosophers. But, if quintessence is the answer, we still don’t know what it is like, what it interacts with, or why it exists. So the mystery continues. (“Dark Energy, Dark Matter”, no date)

A similar National Geographic page adds in befuddlement:

Now that we see the expansion of the universe is accelerating, adding in dark energy as a cosmological constant could neatly explain how space-time is being stretched apart. But that explanation still leaves scientists clueless as to why the strange force exists in the first place.

So it’s considered to be 68% of the universe, yet it is almost a complete “mystery” and scientists are “clueless” about its origin. And “everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the universe.” So if this is true, it turns out that science in all its glory (the atheist’s epistemological “god” and religion) has been dealing with a mere 1/20th of all that there is in the universe.

Likewise, dark matter (thought to make up 27% of the universe) is “completely invisible to light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation, making dark matter impossible to detect with current instruments” (National Geographic). The EarthSky site adds to the collection of “duh!” comments from science on dark energy:

In this case, dark means unknown rather than literally dark, as is the case with dark matter. . . . Dark energy is one of the great unsolved mysteries of cosmology. . . . Dark energy does behave like Einstein’s anti-gravity force, but its nature and origin remain unknown. One of its greatest mysteries is why dark energy started to dominate the rate of expansion of the universe at a particular point in time billions of years after the Big Bang. If it exists now, why wasn’t it there all along?

And yet science is to be regarded as our final appeal, authority-wise? Some think dark energy is “a property of space.” Others think space is “full of temporary (‘virtual’) particles that continually form and then disappear.” Some appeal to Greek philosophy and call the mystery “quintessence.” How interesting. So we have this phenomenon, and it is serious science (which I am not doubting at all; sure, bring it on!). The admitted ignorance is extraordinary.

Yet all that is fine and dandy, while Christians are mocked and derided and considered simpletons simply because we have believed all along that God is an eternal spirit, Who created the world? What is the difference? I’d love for some atheist to tell me and come dialogue, but I know they are very averse to that: having just been banned again from Debunking Christianity because I had the gall to ask someone in the combox if Dr. David Madison (the big cheese on that site, along with John Loftus, who has ignored 23 of my critiques) should or would make any attempt to answer my 44 critiques of his anti-theist bilge, posing as supposed “arguments.”

Moreover, we see that Bob Seidensticker — after directly challenging me to make them — has ignored 70 (yes: seventy!) of my counter-replies, and that Jonathan MS Pearce has just decided to start ignoring my critiques (five or six unanswered now) as well, whereas just a few weeks ago he was gung-ho in debating me. How the mighty have fallen . . .  All four of these men are very prominent, influential, and “vocal” anti-theist atheists online. So any serious, point-by-point reply to this paper is highly unlikely, but it would be nice to engage in serious interaction on a matter like this (pun half-intended).

Lastly: if there is any reply at all, we’ll almost certainly be told that “dark energy is just now being investigated by science. Give it time; science always discovers and explains things in due course.” I don’t disagree all that much. Science does do that: though not as completely as the average atheist would make out (it being his or her religion and idol and [usually] sole epistemological guide).

But even if dark energy and dark matter are adequately, plausibly explained and much better understood by science in the near future, it makes no difference at all as to my present argument. The fact remains that conventionally understood matter makes up only 5% of the universe: so they tell us. Science has had up till very recently, literally nothing to tell us about 95% of the universe: all of which is other (spirit? energy?) than what we have known up till now as “matter”: with protons and neutrons and the whole nine yards.

And yet Christians (along with many reputable philosophers through the centuries, and virtually all religious views) are faulted for having believed that there is such a thing as a non-material Spirit-Creator, for 2000 years: following the ancient Israelites, who believed it for some 18 or more centuries before we did? Obviously, non-material entities or whatever we call them, have been a far more important aspect of the universe than we (least of all materialist atheists) had ever imagined.

And so God fits into this “new” schema very well, just as He fit into Big Bang cosmology, and even quantum mechanics, examined more closely, as well as something like irreducible complexity. Present-day scientific consensus is perfectly consistent with the biblical teaching of creation out of nothing too.  I think the Bible and Christianity are doing pretty darn good, in terms of being consistent with science, as the latter advances. It seems that Christianity understood things (derived from revelation, communicated by God) for 2000 years that science has only recently come to figure out.

Albert Einstein and most scientists in the 1940s believed in an eternal universe (steady state). Einstein initially opposed the findings of the originator of the Big Bang theory: a Catholic priest. Now virtually no scientist denies that the present universe had a beginning (although some posit prior universes, with no hard evidence). Christians had said that the universe came into existence (by God) from nothing all along. And now science seems to be confirming that non-material spirit or “energy” is awfully important in the scheme of the universe as well: to the tune of 68% of all that exists. Better late than never . . .

In closing, I’ll mention another debate that was going on long before dark energy was posited: the nature of light: is it a particle or a wave? This has to do with the question of possible non-physical entities as well (the very thing that Bob mercilessly mocked above). And so a scientific web page dealt with this question, throwing out several competing theories as to what light even is (all bolding in original):

Answer 1

[ . . .]

I’m not sure if I would call light matter or not, however. Certainly it can do some of the things you would think only traditional matter can do – like carry momentum and transfer it in a collision. But it certainly has some properties that are fundamentally different than the stuff that makes up traditional matter (things that are made of atoms).

Answer 2 Light is not matter. Light is just light — it has its own qualities. Light is made up of “things” called photons, and these photons can possess some of the properties of matter. For example, they are always moving, and when they move, they can exert a (usually very small) force on an object (just like moving matter can). But most of the time, light is just light. It is not matter as much as it is energy.

[Dave: how is this a whit different from Christians saying, “God is not matter. God is just God — He has His own qualities”?]

Answer 3

Light is a form of energy, not matter. Matter is made up of atoms. Light is actually electromagnetic radiation. . . .

Answer 4

This is a fun question. There are two main theories of thought about light. The first is that light is a photon and the second is that light is a wave. Neither theory has been proven wrong. It would seem that photons would be matter whereas the waves wouldn’t. It turns out that for both theories light isn’t matter. A photon is not matter because it has no mass. This is different from matter such as electrons and neutrons which have masses. I hope this helps.

Yep. Light ain’t matter, it seems pretty clear. Nor is 95% of the universe matter as we have known and loved it from our chemistry and physics classes (me, I had a chemistry set when I was 12). So the notion of a merely spiritual, immaterial God seems all the more possible and even likely, doesn’t it?: just based on what science tells us: before we even get to philosophy and religion.

Why then is Bob prattling on as if matter (good old-fashioned matter before we get to dark matter and dark energy) is all there is? He needs to crack open any scientific textbook written since Einstein and get up to speed before embarrassing himself (and atheists along with him) further. Who’s against science? Christians have nothing to fear from it at all. It has always confirmed — or has at least been harmonious with — our views, and today it is doing so more than ever.

***

Photo credit: AnandKz (8-11-17) [PixabayPixabay License]

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January 31, 2021

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18: “I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . .

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 69 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 12-21-20: “I love people who can make cogent arguments against mine or point out data I hadn’t considered before. What I dislike (and ban) are $#&*%@s who . . . refuse to learn/adapt . . . ignore compelling arguments against their position, and so on.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, follow this link: “Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

In his post, “Defending 10 Atheist Arguments (3 of 5)” (1-30-21). Bible-Basher Bob again beats the dead horse of a supposed “henotheism” taught in the Bible. Henotheism is a variant of polytheism (“many gods”), defined as “the worship of a single, overarching god while not denying the existence or possible existence of other lower deities” (Wikipedia). Bob — incredibly — claims that the Bible actually teaches this. I thoroughly corrected and refuted him twice, over two years ago now (I’ll provide those links below), but as we all know, he ignores all critiques from me (can’t be too careful!), and so goes on repeating the same tired, stupid, refuted claims (as if repeating a lie enough times magically makes it true).

In this effort, Bob is opposing Tim Barnett of the Protestant Stand to Reason apologetics ministry. Anyone but me (the one who provides a direct point-by-point rebuttal of his nonsense) . . . Bible-Basher Bob, ever the Bible expert (more than any Christian!) pontificates:

The Bible (at least part of it) imagines a world with multiple gods—not just the Israelites’ Yahweh, but Chemosh, Moloch, Marduk, Baal, and other ancient Mesopotamian deities. And these are (supposedly) real gods—the Bible isn’t saying, “Yahweh obviously exists, but those nutty Moabites worship their invented god Chemosh.” There were multiple choices for a god but no good reason to pick one as preferable over another.

If we’re taking the Bible as true, then these “other gods” were just as real as Yahweh. . . . 

The first Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” doesn’t say that there aren’t other gods or even that they mustn’t be worshipped! It simply says that Yahweh must be the primary god. . . . 

What is clear is that the Bible evolved over time.

The book of Isaiah was written in three parts, and this chapter is in the middle piece, written in the 6th century BCE. It’s true that verse claims God is the only god, but by this time, henotheism had been replaced by monotheism. The Bible evolved.

This claim of “biblical evolution” (in essential aspects, like the nature of God) is poppycock, and I have already refuted it:

Seidensticker Folly #20: An Evolving God in the OT? (God’s Omnipotence, Omniscience, & Omnipresence in Early Bible Books & Ancient Jewish Understanding) [9-18-18]

. . . The Bible itself says that Yahweh is just one of many gods. The Bible documents the evolution of the supernatural from henotheism to monotheism, which shows that Yahweh is no more real than any of the others.

These are all lies, and I have refuted them repeatedly:

Seidensticker Folly #19: Torah & OT Teach Polytheism? [9-18-18]

Loftus Atheist Error #8: Ancient Jews, “Body” of God, & Polytheism [9-10-19]

Do the OT & NT Teach Polytheism or Henotheism? [7-1-20]

The Bible Teaches That Other “Gods” are Imaginary [National Catholic Register, 7-10-20]

Once the Mosaic Law is established, monotheism (one God and one God only) is crystal clear, and remains so throughout the Bible:

Exodus 8:10 (RSV) . . there is no one like the LORD our God. (cf. 1 Chr 17:20; 2 Chr 6:14)

Deuteronomy 4:35, 39 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. . . . [39] . . . the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. (cf. Neh 9:6; 2 Sam 7:22; 1 Kgs 8:23; Is 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21-22; 46:9; 47:8; Hos 13:4)

Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; (cf. Mk 12:29; Jas 2:19)

Deuteronomy 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Psalm 83:18 Let them know that thou alone, whose name is the LORD, art the Most High over all the earth.

Psalm 86:10 For thou art great and doest wondrous things, thou alone art God.

Isaiah 37:20 …thou alone art the LORD. (cf. 37:16)

Isaiah 43:10 …Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

Isaiah 44:8 …Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any. (cf. 44:6; 45:5-6, 21-22; 46:9; Mal 2:10)

And the Bible also explains beyond any doubt that the other “gods” being talked about are not real (only imagined to be by false worshipers). The Bible refers to them in the sense that they exist in other religious belief-systems: not because they exist in fact or reality. Obviously, these sorts of texts are saying that this is all these supposed “gods” are: wood and stone. They have no conscious existence. It’s classic idolatry: that the Jews were judged for again and again throughout the period of the Old Testament:

Genesis 31:19 . . . Rachel stole her father’s household gods.

Genesis 35:2, 4 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your garments; . . . [4] So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.

Exodus 20:23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.

Leviticus 19:4 Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 4:27-28 And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. [28] And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of men’s hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. (cf. 29:17; 1 Chr 16:26; Is 2:8, 20; 31:7; 37:19; 44:10, 15, 17; 46:6; Jer 1:16)

Deuteronomy 28:36 The LORD will bring you, and your king whom you set over you, to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known; and there you shall serve other gods, of wood and stone. (cf. 28:64: “other gods, of wood and stone”)

Deuteronomy 32:17 They sacrificed to demons which were no gods, . . .

2 Kings 19:15-19 And Hezeki’ah prayed before the LORD, and said: “O LORD the God of Israel, who art enthroned above the cherubim, thou art the God, thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. [16] Incline thy ear, O LORD, and hear; open thy eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennach’erib, which he has sent to mock the living God. [17] Of a truth, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, [18] and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone; therefore they were destroyed. [19] So now, O LORD our God, save us, I beseech thee, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou, O LORD, art God alone.” (cf. Is 37:19; 45:20)

2 Chronicles 13:9 . . . Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are no gods.

Psalm 40:4 . . . those who go astray after false gods!

Psalm 96:5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols; but the LORD made the heavens. (cf. 97:7; 115:4; 135:15)

Isaiah 37:19 …for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone.…

Isaiah 44:10 Who fashions a god or casts an image, that is profitable for nothing?

Isaiah 44:15 . . . he makes a god and worships it, he makes it a graven image and falls down before it.

Isaiah 44:17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol; and falls down to it and worships it; he prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for thou art my god!”

Isaiah 46:6 Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
then they fall down and worship!

Jeremiah 2:11  Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? . . .

Jeremiah 5:7 . . . Your children have forsaken me, and have sworn by those who are no gods. . . . (cf. 10:14)

Jeremiah 16:20 Can man make for himself gods? Such are no gods! (cf. 51:17)

The New Testament is no different. The existence of these “gods” is denied by St. Paul:

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” [5] For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth — as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords” — [6] yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Galatians 4:8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods;

Ephesians 4:5-6 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, [6] one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, . . .

Some also claim that St. John in the book of Revelation is a henotheist or polytheist. I don’t see how. The book of Revelation never includes the word “gods” a single time. Here’s what it teaches:

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

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Photo credit: God the Father, as typically presented with dramatic license in art (since in the Bible He is a spirit) [PixabayPixabay License]

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January 4, 2021

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 68 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 12-21-20: “I love people who can make cogent arguments against mine or point out data I hadn’t considered before. What I dislike (and ban) are $#&*%@s who . . . refuse to learn/adapt . . . ignore compelling arguments against their position, and so on.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

In his post, “Stupid Christian Argument #40: Interpret Difficult Passages in Light of Clear Ones” (1-2-21; update from 7-21-16), Bob wrote:

This argument is an attempt to wriggle away from Bible verses that make God or Christianity look bad or that contradict each other. “Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones” is advice from Josh McDowell’s New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (page 48).

McDowell makes clear that difficult isn’t actually the issue—it’s contradictions that are the problem.

Nice try. McDowell is talking about biblical passages difficult to interpret. That’s altogether different from an assertion that a contradiction is necessarily present. Bob simply blithely assumes that biblical contradictions are everywhere. Hence, he starts this ludicrous article out by writing, How can Christians maintain their belief when the Bible is full of contradictions . . .?” Imagine if I said that about atheism?: “How can atheists maintain their belief when atheism is full of self-contradictions?” I do actually believe that, and think I have demonstrated it many times, but simply saying it [to an atheist] is no argument in and of itself. It has to be proven.

And so Bible-Bashing Bob, of course, thinks he has demonstrated biblical contradictions times without number. And I myself have refuted his nonsense 68 times (this one being the 69th). Proof’s in the pudding. Any serious argument will be able to be defended against criticism. And so, of course, Bob defends his argu . . . . er, sorry, I misspoke. Bob never defends his arguments against my critiques. Does that suggest that they are strong and beyond refutation? No, not at all. Quite the contrary. Bob continues:

The mere existence of what McDowell euphemistically calls “difficult” passages is a problem that few apologists admit to. How could verses conflict in a book inspired by a perfect god, even if some argument could be found to harmonize them? If conflicting verses exist, doesn’t that make the Bible look like nothing more than a manmade book? How could God give humanity a book that was at all unclear or ambiguous? 

This is shallow, unreflective thinking. I can think of a number of sound, logical reasons why such a book would exist:

1. The Bible is a very lengthy, multi-faceted book by many authors, from long ago, with many literary genres (and in three languages), and cultural assumptions that are foreign to us.

2. The Bible purports to be revelation from an infinitely intelligent God. Thus (even though God simplifies it as much as possible), for us to think that it is an easy thing to immediately grasp and figure out, and would not have any number of “difficulties” for mere human beings to work through, is naive.

3. The Bible itself teaches that authoritative teachers are necessary to properly understand it:

Nehemiah 8:1-2, 7-8 (RSV) And all the people gathered . . . and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel. [2] And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding, . . . [7] . . . the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. [8] And they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly; and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading

Mark 4:33-34 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; [34] he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything

Acts 8:27-31 “And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship [28] and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. [29] And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’ [30] So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ [31] And he said, ‘How can I, unless some one guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”

2 Peter 1:20 “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” (cf. 2 Pet. 3:15-16)

Moses was told to teach the Hebrews the statutes and the decisions, not just read them to the people (Exod. 18:20). The Levitical priests interpreted the biblical injunctions (Deut. 17:11). Ezra, a priest and a scribe, taught the Jewish Law to Israel, and his authority was binding (Ezra 7:6, 10, 25-26).
*

4. All grand “theories” have components (“anomalies” / “difficulties”) that need to be worked out and explained. For example, scientific theories do not purport to perfectly explain everything. They often have large “mysterious” areas that have to be resolved.

Think of, for example, the “missing links” in evolution. That didn’t stop people from believing in it. Folks believed in gradual Darwinian evolution even though prominent paleontologist and philosopher of science Stephen Jay Gould famously noted that “gradualism was never read from the rocks.”

Even Einstein’s theories weren’t totally confirmed by scientific experiment at first (later they were). That a book like the Bible would have “difficulties” to work through should be perfectly obvious and unsurprising to all.

5. Many proposed “Bible difficulties” are based on illogical thinking or unfamiliarity with biblical genre, etc. Many alleged biblical “contradictions” simply aren’t so, by the rules of logic.

6. Christianity is not a simpleton’s religion. It can be grasped in its basics by the simple and less educated; the masses, but it is very deep the more it is studied and understood. Thus, we would expect the Bible not to be altogether simple. It has complexities, but we can better understand them through human study, just like anything else.

7. All complex documents have to be interpreted. When human beings start reading them, they start to disagree, so that there needs to be some sort of authoritative guide. In law (by analogy), that is the Supreme Court. The U.S. Constitution might be regarded as true and wonderful and sufficient, etc. But the fact remains that this abstract belief only lasts undisturbed as long as the first instance of case law in which two parties claim divergent interpretations of the Constitution. 

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Photo credit: jc_cards (4-17-11) [PixabayPixabay License]

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December 20, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 67 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 12-21-20: “I love people who can make cogent arguments against mine or point out data I hadn’t considered before. What I dislike (and ban) are $#&*%@s who . . . refuse to learn/adapt . . . ignore compelling arguments against their position, and so on.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

In his post, How Christianity Infantilizes Adults (12-20-13; update of a post from 1-13-12), Bob pontificated:

Reinterpreting events through a Christian lens can be comforting, and it patches holes in the Good Ship Christianity where reason leaks in. But this is simply a rationalization to support a presupposition, not an honest following of the evidence, and when you stop to think of what you’re actually saying, you’ll see that the reality you’ve invented not only makes no sense but is actually repulsive. . . . 

[F]or someone to become an adult, that person must grow up. We leave behind wishing wells, Santa Claus, fairies, and other false beliefs as we become independent. No longer are the necessities of life given to us; as adults, we must fend for ourselves—indeed, we want to fend for ourselves. The parent who sugarcoats reality or keeps the child dependent for too long is doing that child no favors.

Reality is better than delusion, happy though that delusion may be. Hearing the doctor say, “You’ll be just fine” feels a lot better than “You have cancer,” but if I really have cancer, which one allows me to take steps to improve my future?

Religion infantilizes adults and keeps them dependent. That’s a good thing for the 100-billion-dollar-a-year U.S. religion industry, but what is best for the individual—a pat on the head or reality?

I’ve dealt with this sort of patronizing, condescending, arrogant anti-Christian bigotry many times (see my Atheism and Philosophy & Science web pages), and it’s not my present purpose. Rather, I’d like to turn the tables, as I often do in my apologetics, and submit some of the many irrational fairy tales, held in blind faith, that atheists labor under. I will be using an accepted philosophical / logical form of argument known as a reductio ad absurdum. Unless this is understood before the following is read, it’ll never be properly comprehended. But in the second portion below I explain exactly what I was trying to accomplish, and how I reasoned.

*****

Matter essentially “becomes god” in the atheist / materialist view; it has the inherent ability to do everything by itself: a power that Christians believe God caused, by putting these potentialities and actual characteristics into matter and natural laws, as their ultimate Creator and ongoing Preserver and Sustainer. The atheist places extraordinary faith in matter – arguably far more faith than we place in God, because it is much more difficult to explain everything that god-matter does by science alone.

Indeed, this is a profound faith of the utmost non-rational, childlike kind. It is quite humorous, then, to observe the constant charge that we Christians are the ones who have a blind, “fairy tale,” gullible, faith, as opposed to self-described “rational, intellectual, sophisticated” atheists. Atheist belief is a kind of polytheistic idolatry of the crudest, most primitive sort, putting to shame the colorful worship of the ancient Babylonians, Philistines, Aztecs, and other groups.

They believed that their silver amulets and wooden idols could make the sun shine or defeat an enemy or cause crops to flourish. The polytheistic materialist, on the other hand, is far more religious than that. He thinks that trillions of his atom-gods and their distant relatives, the cell-gods, can make absolutely everything in the universe occur, by their own power, possessed eternally either in full or (who knows how?) in inevitably unfolding potentiality.

One might call this Atomism (“belief that the atom is God”). Trillions of omnipotent, omniscient atoms can do absolutely everything that the Christian God can do, and for little or no reason that anyone can understand (i.e., why and how the atom-god came to possess such powers in the first place). The Atomist openly and unreservedly worships his trillions of gods, with the most perfect, trusting, non-rational faith imaginable. He or she is what sociologists call a “true believer.”

Oh, and we mustn’t forget the time-goddess. She is often invoked in worshipful, reverential, awe-inspiring terms as the be-all, end-all explanation for things inexplicable, as if by magic her very incantation rises to an explanatory level sufficient to shut up any silly Christian, who is foolish enough to believe in one God rather than trillions. The time-goddess is the highest in the ranks of the Atomist’s wonderfully varied hierarchy of gods (sort of the “Zeus” of Atomism). One might call this belief Temporalism.

Atomism is a strong, fortress-like faith. It is often said that it “must be” what it is. The Atomist reverses the error of the Gnostic heretics. They thought spirit was great and that matter was evil. Atomists think matter is great (and god) and spirit is not only “evil” (metaphorically speaking), but beyond that: non-existent. Atomists may and do differ on secondary issues, just as the various ancient polytheistic cultures differed on quibbling details (which god could do what, which material made for a better idol, etc.), but despite all, they inevitably came out on the side of polytheistic idolatry, with crude material gods, and against spiritual monotheism.

Within the Atomist faith-paradigm and bubble, everything, no matter how ludicrous or utterly unlikely, makes perfect sense. But for one outside their circle of religious faith, it may not (just to warn the devout, faithful Atomist that others of different, much more rational, faiths may not think such things as “obvious” as they do). The Atomist – ever-inventive and childlike – manages to believe any number of things, in faith, without the unnecessary addition of mere explanation. 

“Why” questions in the context of Atomism are senseless, because they can’t overcome the Impenetrable Fortress of blind faith that the Atomist possesses. The question, “Why do the atom-gods and cell-gods and the time-goddess exist and possess the extraordinary powers that they do?” is meaningless and ought not be put forth. It’s bad form, and impolite. We know how sensitive overly religious folk are.

Instead, we are asked to bow to the countless mysteries of Atomism in dumbstruck adoration and awed silence, like the Magi at the baby Jesus’ manger, offering our unquestioning “scientific” and “philosophical” allegiance like they offered gold and frankincense and myrrh. The very inquiry is senseless and “intrusive.” Mere rational examination is precluded from the outset.

In a certain remote and limited sense, we Christians (since we ourselves possess and value faith) stand in awe of such Pure Faith, with its sublime fideism and Absolute Trust in Design via trillions of atom-gods. It is, indeed, an ingenious, self-contained, even elegant system, admirable in its bold, brilliant intellectual audacity and innovation, if nothing else.

It may be (at least for certain sorts of childlike minds) an immensely enjoyable game to play, but like much of modern philosophy, at bottom it is hopelessly irrational, self-defeating, and ultimately incoherent. For that reason, the Christian must reject it, since we believe (very unlike the Atomist) that irrational and non-rational beliefs are untrue and unworthy of anyone’s allegiance.

Yet we can’t help — almost despite ourselves — recalling with fondness the wonders and fancies and fairy-tales of childhood. Atomists seek very hard to maintain those marvels, and perhaps that’s not all bad. We must be tolerant and open-minded. Atomists are (we might say) the “adult children” among us: like Peter Pan! Who can resist Peter Pan, after all? This (arguably) gives them their charm and appeal: evident in so many Christian discussion threads, where they suddenly enter and — seemingly oblivious to the existing discussion — start incongruously preaching their rather fantastic fideistic faith.

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Explanatory Note for the Above

The nature of my argument above is a humorous, sarcastic version of the fabled (or notorious) reductio ad absurdum argument (in logic). What the reductio is, can be read in the (very heavy, dry, philosophical) link I just provided, or the much more popular-level page about it on Wikipedia.

The reduction was designed to force atheists to concede, that they, too, exercise a profound faith in unproven axioms, just as Christians do. Reductio ad absurdum arguments often (but not necessarily, or by nature) involve generalization, non-literal statements, exaggeration, and overstatement to make the point.  All the atheist has to concede in accepting my reductio, is that they exercise every bit as much faith as any Christian, when it comes to the origin of the universe and the marvelous processes by which it came to be.

That’s it! That’s not even painful. They don’t have to give up atheism. This isn’t an argument against atheism per se. It’s a turn-the-tables argument against the notion that Christians are somehow uniquely gullible and subject to blind faith with no evidence. Bob the Bible-Basher milks that false assertion for all it’s worth (which ain’t much at all) in his paper on Christianity Infantiliz[ing] Adults.

Technically, this present paper of mine could (or should?) be described as a reductio ad absurdum argument that has elements of turning-the-tables, and heavy use of sarcasm, satire, and rhetorical exaggeration to make a point. Humor (of a tweaking / provocative sort) is fundamental to it. In the past, I have heard many boorish atheist statements (reacting to basically the same reductio arguments of mine) saying that “atheists don’t worship atoms as gods!” etc.: which showed a complete lack of grasp of the fundamentally humorous nature of my arguments.

Reductio ad absurdum (not necessarily or in essence, but often in practice) involves sarcastic exaggeration to make a point (as does the turn-the-tables methodology). This is an examination of what I believe atheism logically reduces to, even though no atheist would ever put it this way. Unless these sorts of basic characteristics of the piece are understood, it’ll never be grasped. It’s difficult for anyone to endure a strong critique of their view as it is. But it must always be realized that making arguments against positions is not “attacking” people. The equation of people with their beliefs is very common today, and is the death of good constructive discussion.

Nothing is more “magical” than believing that something came from nothing, for no reason, and created itself, with every conceivable power to endlessly create all that there is, and all because of the inherent capabilities of matter: for which we don’t have the slightest scientific or even rational explanation; therefore accept with the most blind faith imaginable: far more faith than Christians ever have exercised. The atheist has to explain (if he is curious about origins) how matter came to possess its remarkable powers by itself, with no outside source.

I don’t regard atheists as wicked or liars or “insane” simply because they are atheists. I see it as a flaw in thinking: the sincere acceptance of wrong premises and falsehoods. I have a post up where I say that atheists can quite possibly be saved (as atheists). But if so, it is because they haven’t truly known God. I don’t think atheists are stupid. They are usually quite intelligent and rational. But they are what we call hyper-rational: where reason is placed too high in the scheme of things. Reason ain’t all there is.

Of course this sort of argument will be felt by many atheists to be merely or simply insulting, because it is a hard-hitting reductio (and this is perhaps the hardest-hitting one in any of my voluminous writings), with use of sarcasm, and hits the atheist precisely where they are most vulnerable. So it comes off (to the extent that it is truly understood) as a low blow, and we see reactions in accordance with that falsely-perceived ” insult.” All reductio / turning the tables arguments are very hard for the recipient to receive. It requires a person who is very secure in their belief-system to take it and make a rational, non-emotion-based counter-reply.

Reductios involve rhetorical exaggeration. That’s why I keep saying that this mode of argument is often not understood. If one understands how the argument and the sub-idiom of language within it works, these things would not be issues, and the atheist who is offended would already understand that I’m not literally claiming all atheists are gullible children. Rather, I’m turning the tables on the usual atheist argument against us, saying in effect, “you wanna argue that we are gullible and infantile imbeciles? Well, here are some ways that such a description can just as easily be turned back on you.” In other words, you have a childlike faith that it came into existence somehow (since it is here now, and isn’t eternal, as far as scientists can tell); just not possibly by God.

My bottom line point in all this is that atheism requires as much faith as Christianity does (defined in this context as acceptance of unproven axioms or unknowns), specifically when we’re talking about theories of the origin of the universe. Since that is the case, the atheist should then be “intellectually humble” enough to acknowledge that this area is a level playing field, or a wash, as opposed to the usual hogwash about atheists being smart and scientific, and Christians against science and reason and with infantile beliefs consisting of idiotic fairy tales only.

If atheists didn’t falsely convince themselves that they have no faith (belief in unproven axioms) at all, then they wouldn’t get so angry when the obvious is pointed out (all thinkers accept unproven initial axioms, somewhere . . . ). I am not literally claiming above that atheists would consciously say they believed in “gods.” Of course they will not say that. My argument was that how they view atoms and cells, in effect, is every bit as “godlike” as what we say about our God. How atheists view matter is very much like how we view God’s creative aspects. And so, in the humorous reductio vein, that is expressed as “believing in atom-gods and cell-gods.” Atheists (generally speaking) need to lighten up! It’s satirical humor. Have they never read satire?; never watched Saturday Night Live or read the Harvard Lampoon or watched Monty Python

Both belief-systems entail evidence and faith. It’s untrue that Christianity is all faith, and atheism all rationality. Both systems have both. We have a lot more in common than either side usually realizes. Some Christians (a very small amount of those who are educated and “thinking” Christians) are fideists or anti-intellectual, but implying that all are or that it is a system of blind faith, pure and simple, is sheer foolishness and a straw man as high as Mt. Everest.

Atheists mock us for believing in God as the Creator [I’m not talking about creationism, but God as Creator, regardless of the method He may have used; which may have been evolution], as a silly, infantile fairy tale with supposedly no “evidence” whatsoever. But having ruled out God, how does the atheist explain the universe coming into being? Virtually all atheists I have discussed such things with, said “I don’t know.” Now if they say they don’t know, they still believe that the universe is here and came about somehow, so that is a sort of faith, just as ours is, unless they want to deny that the universe exists, or argue that it is eternal, contrary to presently accepted cosmology. My piece was a sarcastic treatment of what I believe are difficulties in materialism, and ironic similarities to some Christian beliefs, and also to those of ancient polytheists.

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Photo credit: Lalelu2000 (8-14-15) [Pixabay Pixabay License]

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December 10, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 66 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

In his post, “About Atheists’ Empty Worldview . . .” (12-9-20), Bible-Bashing Bob takes up this question:

Atheism’s Empty Soulis a recent article from Alan Shlemon of the Stand to Reason ministry. Shlemon tries to slap some sense into those hard-hearted atheists by showing the inevitable, grave consequences of their worldview. Shlemon informs us that the atheist worldview, seen correctly, is nihilism, the view that life is meaningless.

Something always seems to be off when someone tells me that I haven’t assembled the components of my worldview correctly, but that they’re happy to educate me about how that would look.

Bob is obviously oblivious to the extreme irony of his last sentence above: seeing that he expends tremendous energy daily seeking to poke holes in the Christian worldview: always seemingly believing that he knows more about the Bible and Christianity than almost all Christians do . . . 

Atheists, does “empty and devoid of meaning” sound like your life?

First of all, Shlemon’s article was much more about logical progression, as opposed to claiming “all / many atheists are in fact, nihilists.” He does, however, claim that “Several atheists who have been candid with me have told me life is ultimately empty and devoid of meaning.” That’s not insignificant and can’t be dismissed as of no relevance whatever. Those atheists did give that report about their life. But the gist of his argument (as it has been of mine throughout the years, as I will document below) is the following logical point:

That doesn’t mean they can’t feel happy, follow a set of morals, or believe their life is significant in some way. . . . 

Perhaps the most egregious consequence of naturalism is nihilism . . . 

Nihilism . . . flows logically from naturalism . . . [my italics]

Since it is primarily an argument about logical reductions or consequences, it follows that not all atheists in fact (for many and complex reasons) will report that they are nihilists or feel as if nihilism is the true state of affairs. Therefore, it’s irrelevant for Bob to appeal to atheist’s stated outlooks. The argument is much more subtle and nuanced than that. Bob does show that he kinda-sorta gets it by stating, “the atheist worldview, seen correctly, is nihilism . . .” And he actually (surprisingly) concedes the entire argument, too:

The key word here is “ultimately,” and, yes, an atheist’s life has no ultimate, cosmic, eternal, or objective meaning.

Very true, and this logically leads to the philosophy of nihilism. But Bob softens this by immediately adding: “But does the Christian’s? They claim their lives have ultimate meaning, of course, but they need to show their work.” That’s a separate discussion, of course, and I and many other apologists, theologians, and philosophers are more than happy to discuss it from where we sit. Right now the topic is whether atheism logically leads to nihilism. Bob even adds:

He says it’s fine to criticize a worldview by showing that it’s incoherent or contradictory internally, and I would add that it’s fine to show where a worldview collides with the facts of reality. 

We Christians readily agree on both counts, and assert that atheism massively suffers from both problems.

Show me that a sizeable fraction of atheists feel that life is meaningless. Nihilism certainly doesn’t describe my life philosophy. As with the “life [for an atheist] is ultimately empty and devoid of meaning” claim above, atheists should consider whether nihilism describes their lives. 

Here again, Bob falls into a mere sociological discussion of what is; as opposed to a logical / philosophical discussion of what conclusion arguably follows — as a matter of logical reduction or progression — from a particular set of premises. He’s confusing two different discussions.

I have written many times about this idea that atheism logically and consistently leads to nihilism. It’s what I believe, and have believed for as long as I can remember. Here are some of my thoughts on the topic from four of my articles;

I am talking about the ultimate logical implications of atheism, regardless of how one subjectively reacts to them. The very fact of objectivism and subjectivism (assuming one grants both as realities) allows the possibility that the atheist is not subjectively facing the objective logical implications of atheism (which I maintain are nihilism and despair).

People of all stripes do this all the time. We all are able to make it through life and be reasonably happy (at least on a surface, superficial level) because we are all masters at (the great majority of the time) not thinking about the truly important things in life. I do it; you do it, we all do. We all concentrate on this movie coming up, on that hot date, on the latest U2 or Van Morrison album (two of my favorites), on this new opportunity or hobby, etc. So the fact that most atheists are fairly happy, fulfilled people (like Christians or Buddhists or Zoroastrians or Druids) is of little relevance to my overall point in this discussion. (The “Problem of Good”: Great Dialogue with an Atheist: (the Flip Side of the Problem of Evil Argument Against Christianity) + the Nature of Meaningfulness in Atheism [Part Two] [vs. Mike Hardie], 6-5-01; this is, by the way, my very favorite dialogue out of the more than a thousand I’ve participated in)

I’ve devoted my life as a Christian apologist to showing that there are indeed many many such rational considerations, and that non-religious / atheist alternatives are ultimately irrational and incoherent (leading to existential despair and nihilism), . . . (Is Christianity Proof-Free Belief & “Ridiculous”?, 4-13-17)

I do contend (as a general proposition) that a serious Christian commitment will lead to a more fulfilled, purposeful, meaningful life than it would have been otherwise; also, that — again, as a general proposition –, atheism leads to less of those things, up to and including a nihilistic despair that the entire universe is ultimately meaningless. How that works out in specific cases is exceedingly complex, and there will be a million exceptions for a thousand reasons. That’s why I’m only speaking very broadly (i.e., sociologically). I’m not addressing individual cases (including Anthony Bourdain). (Social Science: Religion Leads to Lower Suicide Rates, 6-9-18)

I have contended for 37 years now, . . . that rejection of Christianity and God will lead in the end to despair, [ultimate] meaninglessness, and nihilism. It may take many years to finally hit home, because human beings are great at diversions and covering up, but it will end there.

It’s loving on our part to say this to non-believers. We have something to share with them: not out of felt superiority or spiritual arrogance or naivete, but out of love. We share about the blessings of God because we have experienced them ourselves, and want others to experience them, too: as many as possible.

I feel so much for people who are in despair, or struggling every day to get through life. I’ve been there. I deal with depression in my family every day and have, most of my life. I went through one very severe, clinical period of depression for six months in 1977. It was truly a period of hopeless, existential despair and agony and torment. I have never had it since (I became an evangelical Protestant and devoted my life to Christ as His disciple in the middle of it). But I’ve been constantly around it.

My entire family (six people) has struggled with serious depression at one time or another, and so I am very concerned about it. . . .

I think Christianity (yes, including all its moral teachings and precepts) clearly plays a role in providing hope and meaning. (Christianity, Depression, Peace, Comfort, Hope, & Joy, 6-9-18)

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Photo credit: Lars_Nissen (2-11-17) [PixabayPixabay License]

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December 9, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 65 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

In his post, Faith, the Other F-Word? (2 of 2) (11-25-20, and recycled, as so often, from an earlier one dated 7-13-16), Bible-Basher Bob states:

What does faith mean? Does it mean belief firmly grounded in evidence? That’s the definition in vogue among many conservative apologists (and discussed in part 1). But there’s another definition that is also popular.

Now, I’m happy and delighted to give Bob credit for at least noting in his first part that the Bible has passages about “evidential faith” or “reasonable faith” or faith and reason considered together as parts of the whole picture. But then he goes on to erroneously assert that there is another biblical motif that supposedly contradicts this:

Faith definition 2: belief held not primarily because of evidence and little shaken in the face of contrary evidence; that is, belief neither supported nor undercut by evidence. This would be a belief that can’t be shaken by a change in evidence (such as, “I won’t give up my faith in Jesus for any reason”). Evidence for one’s belief can be nonexistent, or it can actually oppose one’s belief (as in blind faith), or evidence can simply be insufficient to firmly ground the belief.

What he describes is blind faith, or technically, fideism, and there are indeed some Christians who espouse this. But they have never been in the mainstream, and (most importantly), I would contend that the Bible itself doesn’t teach it, as I have written about several times:

Atheist Myths: “Christianity vs. Science & Reason” (vs. “drunkentune”) [1-3-07]

Passionate Defense of Religious Truths: The Biblical Data [6-4-07]

The Certitude of Faith According to Cardinal Newman [9-30-08]

Dialogue on Reason & Faith, w Theological Liberal [1-19-10]

Christianity: Crucial to the Origin of Science [8-1-10]

Christians or Theists Founded 115 Scientific Fields [8-20-10]

Simultaneously Dumb & Smart Christians, Atheists, & Scientists [10-9-15]

Implicit (Extra-Empirical) Faith, According to John Henry Newman [12-18-15]

On Mystery & Reason in Theology [4-5-16]

Is Christianity Unfalsifiable? Is Empiricism the Only True Knowledge? [5-6-17]

Apologetics Doesn’t Mean Being Sorry for Your Faith [National Catholic Register, 6-6-17]

Reason, Science, & Logic Not the Exclusive Possessions of Atheists (7-24-17)

Dialogue with Atheist: Are Christians “Unscientific”? [5-27-19]

Apologetics = Anti-Faith or Absolute “Certainty”? (Or, “Does Christianity Reduce to Mere Philosophy or Rationalism?”) [7-5-20]

Seidensticker Folly #44: Historic Christianity & Science [8-29-20]

See many more articles along these lines on my Philosophy & Science and Catholic & General Christian Apologetics web pages.

Faith definition 2: belief held not primarily because of evidence and little shaken in the face of contrary evidence; that is, belief neither supported nor undercut by evidence. This would be a belief that can’t be shaken by a change in evidence (such as, “I won’t give up my faith in Jesus for any reason”). Evidence for one’s belief can be nonexistent, or it can actually oppose one’s belief (as in blind faith), or evidence can simply be insufficient to firmly ground the belief.

Again, let’s start with the Bible to find support for this evidence-less faith:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. . . . And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:1–6).

Then Jesus told [Doubting Thomas], “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20:29)

The Hebrews passage has no need of evidence, and the statement of Jesus celebrates those who believe despite a lack of evidence.

This reasoning takes insufficient account of the relevant data of context and of related cross-referenced verses. The author of Hebrews states: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1, RSV). This is one aspect of faith, which is different from reason but not opposed to it: neither logically nor in the biblical / Hebraic worldview.

Atheist scientists believe in things “not seen” just as every Christian does: for example, they believe in, for example, dark matter: at the moment a very mysterious thing indeed, yet scientists are sure it makes up “approximately 85% of the matter in the universe and about a quarter of its total mass–energy density” (Wikipedia). It “has not yet been observed directly.”

It’s deduced from other empirical evidence, but then that’s exactly how Christian faith is also. Scientists have not (and likely cannot ever) observe the moment of the Big Bang when the universe began. Yet they believe in it. They can have an “assurance”and “conviction of things not seen.” Therefore, this clause in Hebrews is not antithetical at all to reason or empirical observation. To make out that it is is simply illogical and an improper interpretation.   

“. . . whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists” (Heb 1:6). This may sound at first sight like blind, raw, unaccompanied faith, apart from reason, but it’s not so, either. St. Paul in Romans 1 grounds such faith in reason and observation:

Romans 1:19-20 (RSV) For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. [20] Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;

Hebrews 11:3 closely echoes the thought of Romans 1:19-20: “By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.” This is a primitive, basic form of the argument from design, or teleological argument: one of the classic theistic proofs. Even if one disagrees with it, they can’t deny that it is an argument of some sort of reason, and not merely blind faith. God revealed Himself in His creation. This is more than ever true today: the more we learn about the marvels of the universe and of the even more amazing microscopic world.

Even Albert Einstein thought it was self-evident that there was design in the universe, brought about by some sort of “God” (in his own opinion, a pantheistic one, but still a notion far from atheism). And philosopher David Hume, who is thought to have demolished this theistic proof, accepted one form of the teleological argument. They’re basically expressing what Paul did in Romans 1.

So Hebrews 11 fits together with Romans 1 insofar as the former says that we “must believe that” God “exists” and the latter says that we can’t help believing this by simply observing the universe and the nearby material world. This is why the vast majority of people in the world and in world history have been religious. It’s the default position.” People have to unlearn it.

The rest of the Book of Hebrews is not at all averse to the world of observable reasons to believe in Jesus Christ and Christianity. It starts out with the incarnation of Jesus (chapter 1), then states that “God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit” (2:4). That’s observable stuff: like the miracles of Jesus and His resurrection and post-resurrection appearances. Even atheists call for wondrous miracles that they claim would theoretically prove His existence. Well, God has done that and continues to do so. But if the atheist doesn’t see it himself or herself, they refuse to believe it, and no amount of credible testimony can sway them.

Hebrews 13:6 refers to Jesus’ resurrection, which was compelling evidence for the more than 500 people who saw Him alive after He died: “the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus . . . Thus, there is no evidence that the Book of Hebrews, understood as a whole, has “no need of evidence.”

As for Doubting Thomas, this is no proof that Jesus was averse to such “apologetic” evidence, either, since (we must remember), Jesus decided to  appear after His death specifically to Him, in order to prove the point to him. His statement about faith does not wipe that out. He was simply making the point that there was enough evidence already to believe that He was the Messiah and God incarnate. There is the evidence tied into faith, and there is a demand for evidence that goes beyond what is necessary. Jesus was concerned with the latter. I wrote elsewhere about Doubting Thomas:

Christianity requires belief in a number of things difficult to grasp and accept, but we accept them based on the authority of revelation. Doubting Thomas didn’t believe that Jesus could rise from the dead, even though Our Lord had often predicted it in the presence of the disciples. He had to see it for himself.

It is striking how Jesus is merciful and understanding enough to appear for Thomas’ sake. He knew his faith was weak, and so He offered a little “extra” to help him along. Thomas had an overly empirical mindset (he had said he had to put his finger in Jesus’ side, then he would believe: John 20:25). So Jesus, condescending to the limitations of the overly skeptical mentality, allowed him to do that (20:27).

This results (rather dramatically) in Thomas calling Jesus “God”: one of the most remarkable instances of proclamation of the divinity of Jesus in the New Testament (20:28). But after all this, Jesus nevertheless says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (20:29). He came to Thomas because he was weak, but at the same time He made it clear that this would not be the norm, and that believers would have to exercise faith and not demand empirical proof.

And in another paper I observed:

He came back in one of His Resurrection appearances precisely to persuade Thomas. Thus, it is hardly a proof of supposed Christian “blind faith” to cite this story. Quite the contrary: the whole point of that story was to show that there is such a thing as excessive demands for proof (which Jesus and Paul talk about a lot), not that proof itself is unnecessary or frowned-upon.

The purpose of most of Jesus’ miracles (including, ultimately, His own Resurrection) was also to give testimony to His claims to be God, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of “blind faith” either, but rather, empirical evidence right before people’s eyes (much as atheists are constantly demanding today).

Dialoguing with an atheist about miracles, I stated:

Jesus performed miracles, too. But He also stated:

Matthew 12:38-40 (RSV): Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”  [39] But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. [40] For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Mark 8:12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? . . .”

The sign of Jonah was referring to His Resurrection. But of course, many refused to believe in Jesus even though they saw Him perform many miracles. They denied that they were from God:

Mark 3:22-26 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Be-el’zebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” [23] And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? [24] If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. [25] And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. [26] And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.

So these miracles you demand before you will believe, weren’t good enough for these people. They simply dismissed them, just as many dismissed the Resurrection when it happened, coming up with many idiotic theories to try to rationalize it away.

Jesus is not opposed to observable, empirical evidence at all. He stated that His Resurrection would be the prime example of this. He only condemns the excessive demands for proof all the time. It’s like one spouse in a happy marriage asking a million times if the spouse loves him or her. At some point we must believe in faith a thing that has been demonstrated over and over. That‘s what Jesus is saying. And so the New Testament sums up this attitude of Jesus in the following manner:

Acts 1:3 To them [the apostles] he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.

Jesus habitually used reason and logic in His discourses, including even socratic method. So did St. Paul. The New Testament describes him not just as preaching the gospel, but also as “arguing” with Jews and Greeks alike (Acts 17:2; 17; 18:4, 19; 19:9; 24:25). 

Of course, Bob isn’t swayed by any of the evidences for God, which is why he is an atheist:

[T]he data is in for God, and that hypothesis fails for lack of evidence, just like the leprechaun and Zeus hypotheses. . . . If God exists, he’d be happy to see me challenging empty Christian claims.

He challenges, makes manifestly ridiculous comparisons to Zeus and leprechauns, an apologist like me defends the Christian and biblical views, and then Bob ignores that, since he only wants to preach atheism, and has no interest whatsoever in interacting with Christian apologists unless he feels that he can make them look dumb and stupid. No dialogue ever really takes place. If he can’t answer particular challenges, on the other hand, he ignores and flees for the hills, as he has done with me for over two years: ignoring now 65 of my refutations of his fallacious, ignorant treatments.

I really don’t expect this time to be any different. So I ask: “which is more impressive and indicative of a robust confidence in the plausibility and reasonableness and factuality of one’s position: dealing with opposing views in great detail, point-by-point, and precisely showing how they fail and how one’s own viewpoint is superior, or preaching to the choir and ignoring anyone who dares to disagree?” Which of those two approaches suggests (oh, the irony!) blind faith more than the other?

Yes: it’s Bob‘s approach that has more blind faith than anything I believe or defend, because he puts himself into a bubble and allows no one who disagrees in: lest they show how ludicrous Bob’s beliefs are, after being closely scrutinized. That’s the very definition of the sociological “true believer”: impervious to any outside critique, and wrapped up in the pretense that in fact, there are none; that one’s own position is absolutely invulnerable to any imaginable criticism.

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Photo credit: The Incredulity of St Thomas, or The Rockox Triptych: central portion (bet. 1613 and 1615), by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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November 25, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 64 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

Today’s critique is a case study in a person who is utterly unwilling to be instructed (certainly not by one of us lowly, ignorant Christians!). I observed Bob railing about supposed unresolvable contradictions in Ten Commandments accounts in the Bible, in one of his comboxes. In this instance, a Christian (“Scooter”) was there trying to talk sense into Bob, who would have none of it. Undaunted, he simply kept up his pitiable anti-Bible polemics and rhetoric:

Read Exodus 34. This is Moses getting the second set of tablets (remember that he smashed the first set).

Ex. 34:28 says: “Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.”

After you’ve done that, tell us what you’ve found. (11-20-20)

ScooterI note that quite often your responses suffer from the “I’ve got my mind made up, don’t confuse me with the facts” syndrome. So I encourage you to read Deuteronomy 5 again that debunks the idea that there were 2 different sets of Commandments. (11-21-20)

As Greg noted, don’t whine to us about who has his mind made up.

Ex. 20 and 34 have two very different sets of 10 Commandments. Or is God’s holy word something that you don’t bother reading or understanding?

The Documentary Hypothesis very neatly explains this and other conflations of two stories in the Bible (Flood, Creation, and others). (11-21-20)

ScooterThe Documentary Hypothesis and the arguments that support it have been effectively demolished by scholars from many different theological perspectives and areas of expertise. Read Ex.34 verse one very carefully. (11-21-20)

[W]hen you read the 10 Cs in Ex. 34 and compare that with “the words that were on the first tables” in Ex. 20, you find two very different sets of commandments. (11-21-20)

Since you refuse to address my point about the 2 incompatible versions of the 10 Commandments in the same book of the Bible, I’ll assume that you agree that it’s a problem.

As for the Documentary Hypothesis, it has been tweaked, but the core idea is unchanged: the Pentateuch that we have is the mixing of a number of different traditions. If you want to attack this, give me a reference. (11-22-20)

Happy to oblige:

Documentary Theory of Biblical Authorship (JEPD): Dialogue [2-12-04]

Silent Night: A “Progressive” and “Enlightened” Reinterpretation [12-10-04; additionally edited for publication at National Catholic Register: 12-21-17]

Documentary Theory (Pentateuch): Critical Articles [6-21-10]

“Higher” Hapless Haranguing of Hypothetical Hittites (19th C.) [10-21-11; abridged 7-7-20]

C. S. Lewis Roundly Mocked the Documentary Hypothesis [10-6-19]

The Bible states:

Proverbs 1:22 (RSV) How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?

Proverbs 13:16 In everything a prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.

Proverbs 15:14 The mind of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

Proverbs 26:11 Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool that repeats his folly.

Sirach 21:18 Like a house that has vanished, so is wisdom to a fool; and the knowledge of the ignorant is unexamined talk.

2 Timothy 3:7 who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

This is Bob’s problem. He won’t accept any instruction or even clarification from Christians. He knows all. He knows better than Christians (even scholars) who have devoted their lives to studying and understanding the Bible. He thinks that he’s virtually infallible (judging by his constant words and actions), when it comes to the Bible and Christian theology, even though he himself at least honestly admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.” How impressive . . . 

I thoroughly refuted his “two contradictory sets of Ten Commandments” schtick over two years ago: Seidensticker Folly #16: Two Sets of Ten Commandments? A person who was confident of his positions and interested in open-minded, interactive dialogue would have welcomed such an opportunity.

But because Bob refuses to learn anything about the Bible (or read or respond to any of my 65 critiques), he simply repeats his same old stupid errors. He has no interest whatsoever in constructive dialogue. This is (to put it very mildly) not an impressive or constructive intellectual “place” to be. The true thinker is always willing to dialogue, be corrected, and learn. It’s the blind leading the blind. Bob offers up yet more slop on almost a daily basis, and his sycophants and cheerleaders sop it up, no matter how noxious or toxic his “stew” is.

All we Christian apologists can do is offer reasonable counter-explanations and refutations and shake our heads at the silliness and sheer impervious irrationality of what goes on on a regular basis at Cross Examined and many other anti-theist “bubble” venues like it (such as John Loftus’ Debunking Christianity site).

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Photo credit: paulbr75 (8-30-18) [PixabayPixabay License]

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