Stephen Law’s 5 Morals To Guide Atheists & Believers In Debates

Stephen Law’s 5 Morals To Guide Atheists & Believers In Debates April 4, 2019

Editor’s Note: I’m thrilled that John Loftus, editor of the Debunking Christianity blog, where TCP member and The Rational Doubt Blog writer David Madison contributes, asked to contribute a post of his own here. Originally written for his blog in 2016, he thought it would be a worthy addition to our conversation on effective believer/non-believer communication.  I agree! /Linda LaScola, Editor

==============================

By John W. Loftus

You’ll find Dr. Stephen Law online all over the place.

He seems indefatigable in the goals of educating people and helping them escape from faith-based reasoning. Today I discovered he’s an active writer at the site for Center for Inquiry. What’s more I found his most recent essay to be something I agree with completely, where he offers five morals that should guide debates between atheists and believers. This is refreshing to me personally, having participated in daily discussions/debates with believers for ten years now. So here they are with my comments, along with a link to what he wrote from a forthcoming book chapter. His focus is on issues that might cause offense between us that could potentially shut down our debates, having atheists mostly in mind. [He uses the name “Peter” to refer to a Christian believer.]

  1. There’s a tendency among the religious to take offence at comparisons drawn by atheists between religious belief and other supernatural beliefs such as belief in ghosts, fairies, etc. No doubt some atheists do just want to belittle and bait the religious by making such comparisons. However, it seems to me that drawing such a comparison can be very appropriate. I certainly intend no offence by drawing it. I don’t think the religious should take offence.

The point of these comparisons is to express the need for hard cold evidence for all of these supernatural entities. The kind of evidence required to accept ghosts and fairies should be there for God. That’s all. Analogies like these are appropriate even if believers don’t like them. Please don’t take offense at them. We’re just being honest. You can take our honesty and pick it apart if you can. At least we put it out on the table.

Believers have comparisons that might seem equally offensive to atheists as well. They may say atheists cannot explain morals or consciousness until they can explain why rocks don’t have them, since life came from inanimate matter. I’m not offended when they say such ignorant things, if it’s what they believe. In appropriate circumstances they should be honest and say it, so we can have a discussion about it.

  1. Atheists should not suggest that religious folk are stupid. Unfortunately, many do. While there is some evidence that a lower IQ correlates with increased religiosity, the fact is that most popular religions – even the most absurd – can boast adherents at least as smart as myself. I count among my close friends Christians with impressive intellects. They aren’t fools.

I’ve gone on record as saying it takes a great deal of intelligence to be a Christian apologist, in that they are more intelligent than I am, since that’s what it takes to defend the indefensible. But more to the point, most religious believers are not stupid. Many of them are smarter than I am. I’m just better educated than most, that’s all, and the things that I know from being better educated lead me to say most believers are ignorant. Ignorant does not equal dumb. The smartest scientist in the world may not know that Plato was Aristotle’s teacher, or anything about the Nag Hammadi library, the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls, nor be able to read a dead language like Koine Greek. So he or she could be ignorant about many facts and yet recognized as one of the top intellectuals in the world.

This same point of Law’s should be recognized by believers. Atheists are not stupid either. Of course, many believers have a hard time with that one, since their faith convinces them God is as obvious as the nose on one’s face. For believers to admit this fact may be a problem, one that has been made into an argument by J.L. Schellenberg, that:

  • If there is a God, he is perfectly loving.
  • If a perfectly loving God exists, reasonable nonbelief does not occur.
  • Reasonable nonbelief occurs.
  • No perfectly loving God exists (from 2 and 3).
  • Hence, there is no God.
  1. I suggest honesty is the best policy. Christians who, like William Lane Craig, think the sin of rejecting God is so momentous that atheists deserve to burn in hell, ought not to attempt to hide that opinion for fear of causing offence. First off, most atheists have thick skins. We know we’re a highly distrusted minority. Secondly, I for one would much rather understand what my intellectual opponent really believes about me than have them disguise it. After all, if a Christian really believes that, as an atheist, I am hell-bound, they surely have a moral duty to warn me. I understand and appreciate that. I think we atheists should be similarly honest. I consider Christian belief of the sort defended by Peter to be pretty ludicrous: scarcely less ludicrous, in fact, than many other religious belief systems that Peter himself would probably find ludicrous (such as Mormonism and Scientology, for example). I think I should be honest about that, rather than disguise my opinions for fear of ‘causing offence’. For obvious reasons, dialogues between belief systems where the participants try to disguise their beliefs and deal in half-truths are unlikely to be helpful in terms of getting at the truth. Nor am I convinced such deceit is even the best policy when the aim is merely getting along. If Peter tells me he believes that, being an atheist, the depth of my moral depravity is so deep as to qualify me for eternal damnation, I’ll be a little shocked. But I’ll be happy to discuss that with him. If, on the other hand, he chooses to hide this assessment from me, then there is a good chance that I’ll nevertheless detect his attitude.

Again, spot on. I too think Christianity is ludicrous and a delusional belief system comparable to Scientology, and I have said so. This is a matter of honesty. No Christian needs to take offense at this in the same way as I’m not offended when they tell me I’m hell-bound.

  1. A little mockery and leg-pulling is, in some circumstances, entirely appropriate. No one should abandon a belief because others laugh at it. Nor should any religious person or atheist be mocked merely to cause them distress. However, while humour should not take the place of rigorous criticism, it can enhance the latter’s effectiveness by breaking the spell of deference and ‘respect’ that belief systems are capable of casting over us.

In Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, the small boy who points and laughs breaks the spell: he allows everyone else watching the naked Emperor to see how they have been duped, to recognise the absurdity of their situation.

Exactly! I’ve written a great deal on the use of ridicule. The flip side is that atheists should be able to take a little ridicule too. Again this is about honesty. What does each person think of the views of their opponent? Let’s put that on the table so we know how far we’re apart.

What are the circumstances that allow for ridicule? Dr. Keith Parsons takes a stab at that question. But I think every one of his rules has exceptions to them, especially if we just consider the venue. For instance, comedians can break all of his rules if they can get a laugh. No one holds comedians to those high standards. By contrast, consider a face-to-face personal discussion/debate. I have never ridiculed friends in person when discussing their faith nor do I think this is good to do, even if they are being unreasonable. Still, these rules are a good starting place for discussion. For my part, I defend those who ridicule or satirize ridiculous beliefs, although I don’t do it often at all, especially since I’m not so good at it myself.

  1. Atheists should understand the often good motives of those who evangelize. After all, Christian evangelists really are trying to save us atheists. The stakes couldn’t be higher. If I could only save someone from a dangerous fall by rudely grabbing them and shouting my warning in their face, I would. I will generally forgive those who strive, by behaving with similarly urgency, to save me from a fate literally worse than death. I certainly don’t expect the religious to keep their beliefs to themselves.

Yes, if you as an atheist are upset by proselytizing believers, then at least recognize they are just trying to do what their God commanded them to do, and that they probably care about you (I don’t know which motive takes precedence, especially those who bellow out “God hates fags”). The flip side is that believers need to recognize atheists also care. We care for the personal lives of believers, their families, their communities, their states, their countries, and the world as a whole. You can see this for yourselves in my anthology, Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails.

Here is the link to Dr. Law’s essay. Cheers, John Loftus

====================================

Bio:  John W. Loftus is a former Christian minister and apologist with M.A., M.Div., and Th.M. degrees in Philosophy, Theology, and the Philosophy of Religion, the last of which was earned under William Lane Craig. He is the author of Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity and The Outsider Test for Faith. He edited The Christian Delusion and The End of Christianity. He has also coauthored a book with Dr. Randal Rauser titled God or Godless? One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions. His website is Debunking Christianity.

>>>>>Photo Credits:  By Jyvogluweneronen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37898735; By Hans Tegner – copy at New York Public Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43544605; https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JNPF5IK/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1; By Mark Schierbecker – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48288113

 

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  • alwayspuzzled

    Thinking about #2. There are many different versions of the “They are stupid, therefore I must be right” argument on both sides of the atheist/Christian binary. Human nature being what it is, it is entirely possible that both sides of a binary are stupid and both sides are wrong. To rephrase Bohr, sometimes the opposite of one profound delusion is another profound delusion.

    • mason

      all the atheists I know are on the side of evidence backed by the sciences … all the believers I know are on the side of irrational belief with absolutist no scientific evidence: Hebrews 11:1 New King James Version (NKJV)
      “Now faith is the [a]substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/65f2091bad5b7f940e00bd2c1afb957a6da26411cfbd0c9a2346b0eb29c6051f.jpg

    • Linda_LaScola

      Perhaps if both were profound and both were delusions. But in the case of religious beliefs it’s a variable and often complex system of beliefs, holy books, leaders, denominations, rules, rewards and punishments. In the case of non-belief, it’s simply that — non belief.

  • mason

    My moral rule for debating theists is question, deride, even ridicule their absurd supernatural beliefs, but not them personally by addressing the belief. So much that religion has been and still is, and is used for today, deserves our finest contempt, even hatred. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/30b4458e2385894355ac06ccf4951a81f7f4ba0a49b5b1a6c173db609b7caea7.jpg

  • mason

    5. “Atheists should understand the often good motives of those who evangelize. After all, Christian evangelists really are trying to save us atheists. The stakes couldn’t be higher. If I could only save someone from a dangerous fall by rudely grabbing them and shouting my warning in their face, I would. I will generally forgive those who strive, by behaving with similarly urgency, to save me from a fate literally worse than death. I certainly don’t expect the religious to keep their beliefs to themselves.”

    This rule #5 is the classic attempt of making a silk purse out of a sows ear. I find nothing “good” in the motives of the Evangelicals who mentally abuse and traumatize millions of children annually in the USA. Absurd beliefs to not in any way ameliorate the terrible harm done by religious zealots, regardless of the brand. Those who practice female circumcision think they have good motives, as do the disgusting males with their good motives who rule polygamists compounds.

    I think we atheists understand all the motives of Evangelical types, but to even infer they are “good” in any sense, is a real twisting of the adjective.

    • Sophotroph

      One can do harm while imagining one is doing good. Many apologists might be slimy liars, but most people out proselytizing are either doing it out of social obligation to their church or because they really believe non-Christians are throwing their eternities away.

      The latter have good intentions, but are operating from flawed premises. They don’t know they’re causing harm.

      We can extend our understanding and compassion to them even if we don’t approve of their actions. They’re best seen as mislead rather than evil.

  • Mike Panic

    Telling me I will end up in hell for not obeying is INTIMIDATION. Contact your nearest prosecutor.

  • Ignorant Amos

    Coincidentally, I’ve just started reading Stephen Law’s “Believing Bullshit”….spppoooooooookkkkkkyyyyyyy

  • Graham Heron

    #5, honest evangelizers.
    IF the religious person is being honest with me AND themselves, I am happy to extend such characterisation to them
    I can then assume they don’t know the bible that well and we can forward the conversation.
    If they parrot a simple argument (e.g. kalam cosmological argument), happy to engage and point out issues.

    Once they show they are aware of the problems with the bible and/or their presented arguments, I know consider them to be dishonest people and treat them as such. The level of cognitive dissonance, motivated reasoning etc they have to do to accept their position demonstrates that.

    When you get the likes of WLC, Slick, Turek, Desouza etc, torturing words to make their case, they are so inherently dishonest I have no tolerance for them.

    • Thanks for your comment, and a BIG BIG THANKS to Linda for publishing my essay.

      We all have different perspectives on this issue and mine are not meant to tell others what to do, but are merely for consideration. I suspect how we deal with believers depends on factors like 1) how much religion has hurt us, 2) how much we know about the religion under examination, as well as 3) what we think of the apologists we are dealing with, 4) the kind of venue in which the discussion is taking place (i.e., person to person, comedy, lecture, online blog, podcast, vblog, or book), 5) the nature of our target audience, and 6) whether we think staunch believers can be convinced and consequently whether our goal is to convince them, or to convince others who are on their way out, or already out the door.

      Cheers

      • Ignorant Amos

        I tend to get a good bit of distance by pulling out the OTfF…it’s amazing how eventually one hears the sound of crickets. Hopefully it is due to the fact that there is some amount of deep pondering being done and rational contemplation necessitates the silence.

        Anyway, I’ve a number of your works and enjoy reading them immensely, they are also grand tools for citing. Thanks.

        • Thanks for saying this! You are not ignorant after all, Amos 😉

        • Any idea if The Outsider Test for Faith has gotten traction in academia? I worry that John is predicating too much on the idea that you can start with ‘pure reason’, then collect evidence and successfully interpret it, so that everything is always 100% logically derived from “the evidence” and that ‘pure reason’. Does something other than ‘pure reason’ sneak in? I know it’s standard for atheists to add something like: (1) there is an external world; (2) I can generally trust my senses. But is that really enough? Can we program an AI which successfully works off of only those and ‘pure reason’?

          Perhaps what the OTfF really does is pour acid on anything the people in dialogue don’t believe in common, what isn’t in the plausibility structure of all. This would be sort of like Hume thinking he had discovered universal human morality, when in fact he had merely done a parochial sampling that was better than most of his peers.

          • The last time Luke Breuer wrote something on his own blog was in June 2014: https://labreuer.wordpress.com/

            Breuer hijacks other people’s blogs. He’s a parasite. I eventually banned him since he wrote more comments than the rest of us combined. He left me no choice. He would’ve taken over my blog otherwise. He’s like a smelly fart you can’t get away from.

            On the OTF Breuer still refuses to grasp this simple concept.

            Here are the first few pages describing it from my book:

            http://www.debunking-christianity.com/2017/12/the-first-few-pages-from-outsider-test.html

            Here is my most recent defense of it:

            http://www.debunking-christianity.com/2018/11/the-conclusion-driven-arguments-of.html

            Since I don’t like beating my head against the wall, I’m not planning on wasting my time with him any further.

            Cheers

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yeah…I’ve had extensive experience with Luke Breuer at Outshine the Sun and Cross Examined. He got the hammer at both those blogs.

            He certainly has the ability to fuck up a thread with reams of crap he has retrieved from his database of guff that don’t usually support his position…every comment littered with lots of annoyingly time wasteful blue links.

            I eventually banned him since he wrote more comments than the rest of us combined.

            Something he complains about, but he has a different take on the reason why.

            I’m well prepared for his rabbit hole opening and thread wrecking abilities. But I appreciate that you are just giving the rest of the folk here the heads up.

          • Breuer hijacks other people’s blogs. He’s a parasite. I eventually banned him since he wrote more comments than the rest of us combined.

            This does not match the evidence. Here’s your claim for the first ban:

            JWL: I’m going to ban you for ignorance.You are not dealing with my arguments.

            I think that’s demonstrably false, but perhaps that’s a rabbit hole and people will accept your testimony instead of heeding the evidence like good scientists. Here’s the claim for your second ban:

            JWL: articulett, sir-russ has stopped coming here because of Luke’s nonsense. Shall we ban Luke?

            Since you had by then asked me to only leave five comments per day on DC and I obliged, the reason cannot possibly be that I was overwhelming people with too many comments. The empirical evidence does not match your claims, John.

            Now, until a Rational Doubt moderator says otherwise, I will apply a five comments per day restriction to RD as well. See you all tomorrow, unless the choice is to ban me for a reason other than writing lots and lots of comments.

            [Edit: added clarifying underline.]

          • Ignorant Amos

            How long were the five comments?

            He would’ve taken over my blog otherwise.

            That would suggest a measure of anticipation on John’s part.

          • Well I’ll guarantee you one thing Breuer, you were not banned because of your brilliant arguments or superior knowledge or brutal honesty at dealing the truth, if that’s what you imply. You were banned because of your obtuseness, obfuscationism and obstinence. I can only tolerate so much of that. If anything I tried really hard. But you were an almost complete waste of my time, just as you are now.

          • Well, perhaps I can merely serve to notify you of papers possibly relevant to OTfF of which you might be unaware. Have you come across Tomas Bogardus’ Nov 2013 The Problem of Contingency for Religious Belief? (20 ‘citations’) If you say that Bogardus’ argument is irrelevant to your own arguments (recall the reason for first banning me), I will be flummoxed, but you will of course see that as entirely predictable.

          • Philip Rand

            pssssssst….Luke… whatever you do….don’t mention the “hat”….

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well it certainly seems irrelevant to me.

            I was born into a Christian environment. It was solely a Protestant one. Church of Ireland, but we mixed freely with all other Protestant denominations. Had I been born a few hundred yards to the west, I’d have been born into a Christian environment that was solely Roman Catholic.

            I was raised in a segregated city that taught me that those Roman Catholics had the wrong knowledge and I had the correct knowledge. Whose is correct? Why? The OTfF is about looking at oneself as you would the others. To me the young Protestant, the wafer and wine actually turning into the body and blood of Jesus was bonkers. It’s the same today. But the belief in the Trinity nonsense, was not so much, though it is today.

            The thing is, we are all born as blank slates. So are beliefs are contingent on where and when we enter into this world, and to whom.

            The OTfF has nothing to do with the veracity of the individuals knowledge or beliefs. It’s about the ridiculousness of them if you can manage to look in as an outsider. The beliefs of a Mormon might well be true…I don’t think so, Mormons certainly think so…but to me, they are cloud cuckoo land crazy. They were that when I was an Anglican Christian, and they are still that today as an atheist. Because from both perspectives, I’ve been the outsider. The difference today is that I’m also the outsider to all the 45,000+ flavours of Christianity being touted, those beliefs look crackers to me too. Not so much when I was an insider though. Can they all be correct? Nope. Can they all be incorrect? Yep.

          • The OTfF has nothing to do with the veracity of the individuals knowledge or beliefs. It’s about the ridiculousness of them if you can manage to look in as an outsider.

            How about an outsider from 6000 years ago? As far as I can tell, the OTfF is just a short-cut version of Descartes’ radical doubt. It ends up wiping away all beliefs that aren’t shared by the two individuals, modulo those which can be rebuilt using the same mutual accepted means of reasoning. It’s Descartes’ radical doubt with common ground as epistemological freebie. Perhaps that common ground is implicitly understood as ‘neutral’, even though philosophers by now know that no such thing exists.

            A much more restrictive version of what I [perhaps incorrectly] understand to be the OTfF would be impartiality/​anti-hypocrisy: you don’t get to use different standards for evaluating those beliefs as evaluating your own beliefs. This can be taken some ways, but The Incommensurability of Scientific Theories is going to screw with you eventually. I would have a lot more respect for the anti-hypocrisy interpretation. But there’s a lot of friction between this interpretation and the one which privileges the epistemic powers of the emotion of ‘ridiculousness’.

            By the way, plenty of academics within one school of thought think that the theories of those in another school of thought are “ridiculous”. What does the OTfF say about this?

          • Philip Rand

            Yep John… you always try hard and that is a waste of time…. but, what happens is that you grab your six-guns… only to find that there are only two there, pilgrim..

            All hat no cattle (or is it All hat no van)… or are you riding a horse now? Goes with the hat and the six-guns.

          • Philip Rand

            John… I don’t like beating my head against the wall.… ah… it’s that six-gun thingy, isn’t it?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Any idea if The Outsider Test for Faith has gotten traction in academia?

            Bo Bennett PhD, the author of Logically Fallacious, suggests…

            “What Loftus is describing is the cornerstone of science: skepticism. Based on how you presented Loftus’ position (I have not read his work), I see nothing unique outside of good scientific inquiry.”

            https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/qa/Bo/LogicalFallacies/jV2l6tYy/The_Outsider_Test_For_Faith

            It has certainly been championed by a number of scholars. Contributing to John’s book, “The End of Christianity”

            Victor Stenger, Robert Price, Hector Avalos, Richard Carrier, Keith Parsons, David Eller, and Taner Edis.

            https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C4B2W54/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2

            Also by evangelical Christians that have seen the light, such as Daniel Florien…

            https://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2009/03/the-outsider-test-for-faith/

            The test is just common sense thinking.

            1) Rational people in distinct geographical locations around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and defend a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their upbringing and cultural heritage. This is the religious diversity thesis.

            2) Consequently, it seems very likely that adopting one’s religious faith is not merely a matter of independent rational judgment but is causally dependent on cultural conditions to an overwhelming degree. This is the religious dependency thesis.

            3) Hence the odds are highly likely that any given adopted religious faith is false.

            4) So the best way to test one’s adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider with the same level of skepticism used to evaluate other religious faiths. This expresses the OTF.

            As Bo Bennett puts it…

            The central problem with religious belief that is being described here is found in motivated reasoning. When one is highly motivated toward a conclusion, the reasoning process is severely hampered by the person’s inability to evaluate the strength of evidence. To a die-hard theist, a sunset is strong evidence for God. Christianity (most forms) creates this motivation through eternal paradise or eternal torture. A scientist, or anyone really interested in the truth, needs to be indifferent to the conclusion. With this indifference comes clarity and the ability to evaluate evidence in proportion to claims. We might be able to sum this up in the quote by Sagan who says, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” where those who engage in motivating reasoning go by the rule “as long as the extraordinary claim supports my conclusion, any level of evidence will do.”

            The OTfF nicely dovetails with a book I’ve just recently read, “The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture” by Dr. Darrel W. Ray PhD.

            It is reviewed here…

            http://intelligent-falling.blogspot.com/2010/03/god-virus-book-review.html

            It’s as an outsider to god belief that one can recognize the tropes religion uses to infect.

          • Ok, first screw the academics and let’s go with my objection.

            If OTfF is pragmatically wise, why would a budding psychologist should choose from one of the many schools of thought in psychology? The decision of “which one” seems to violate 2). Now perhaps you’ll say that probably every school of psychology in existence is false per 3), but the thing is that if we abandon all those schools of thought, we won’t make any progress toward what is true! I’m being mentored by a sociologist in his 70s and he says that you can carve up sociology this way:

            LB: [abridged:]
                (1) “it’s all structure”
                (2) “it’s only individuals”
                (3) “interpretive/​hermeneutic/​cultural”
                (4) “agency”

            If you want to characterize the social sciences as “not science” because of this that’s fine, but religion has to deal with even more complexity. To say that we should therefore declare all religious beliefs “almost certainly false” might be understood as precluding further exploration. That is obviously true when it comes to schools of thought in psychology and sociology. Or we could look at competing theories of what electricity and magnetism were; saying that each of them was “probably false” is of dubious usefulness when it comes to “What next steps should we take?” Yes, there is a good dose of philosophical pragmatism in my response, here.

             
            Second, here’s something which can be taken as academic criticism, but was published eight months after OTfF. Tomas Bogardus’ writes in the abstract:

            In this paper, I hope to solve a problem that’s as old as the hills: the problem of contingency for religious belief. Paradigmatic examples of this argument begin with a counterfactual premise: had we been born at a different time or in a difference place, we easily could have held different beliefs on religious topics. Ultimately, and perhaps by additional steps, we’re meant to reach the skeptical conclusion that very many of our religious beliefs do not amount to knowledge. I survey some historical examples of this argument, and I try to fill the gap between the counterfactual premise and the skeptical conclusion as forcefully as possible. I consider the following possibilities: there are no additional steps in the argument; or there are and they concern the alleged safety condition on knowledge, or the alleged non-accidentality condition on knowledge, or the unclarity produced by disagreement. On every possibility, the argument from the counterfactual premise to the conclusion of widespread skepticism is invalid. It seems, then, that there is no serious problem of contingency for religious belief. (The Problem of Contingency for Religious Belief)

            Given that that is published in Faith and Philosophy, which “is the journal of the Society of Christian Philosophers”, you’ll almost certainly want to see critical engagement. The 20 ‘citations’ provide some promise of that (OTfF has 8 ‘citations’, with only two† being scholarly). But I only mean to use the academics as cheat codes to accelerate discussions. And I realize that Google Scholar isn’t perfect with citations; I just like to try and not totally reinvent the wheel when dealing with arguments and ideas.

            Anyhow, one of the nice things in academia is it tends to organize itself so that topics get lumped into a small enough pot that once you say something and throw it into the pot, others will build on it however they can and criticize it however they can. In fact you have a responsibility to know what else is in the pot and preemptively deal with it. This hyper-specialization has weaknesses of course; I was really asking how Loftus has put his work out there for maximally robust criticism. site:debunking-christianity.com bogardus and … “Contingency for Religious” return zero results for exact matches, so I’m guessing Bogardus’ argument has escaped Loftus attention.

            † I’m dismissing A Manual for Creating Atheists as scholarly, given @disqus_qeyoCzlAiV:disqus’s comment. But feel free to push back, as always.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I’m toiling with your struggling to get to grips with the basics in all of this.

            It’s really quite not all that difficult.

            Do you believe that Mormons are justified in believing that their Temple Undergarments have supernatural properties? If not, why?

            Then apply the same skepticism to Christian supernatural claims.

            Do the same exercise with every supernatural claim, for every single religion that was and is, then honestly apply the same reasoning to the supernatural claims of Christianity. This isn’t rocket science, though as usual, you try to make it so.

            As for citations, I could give zero fucks about them. They are problematic when using them as a metric to justify the limits one can place on an argument in scholarly writing.

          • I’m toiling with your struggling to get to grips with the basics in all of this.

            I think I understand what is going on. You want the acid of the OTfF to be applied more narrowly than I think is rationally warranted. Does Loftus provide a rationale for why it should not be applied more widely, well outside of whatever he defines as ‘religion’?

            Do you believe that Mormons are justified in believing that their Temple Undergarments have supernatural properties? If not, why?

            Per the ideology of political liberalism, I’m not sure why I should care. I don’t have a deep need to go about the world disbelieving things. If someone tells me he was probed by aliens, I won’t care unless he demands I treat him differently as a result. I may choose to limit my participation with that person in society, but that is my right under the ideology of political liberalism.

            Then apply the same skepticism to Christian supernatural claims.

            You are forgetting my stance on Deut 12:32–13:5: I don’t see miracles as having evidential power. Neither did Queen Jezebel, given what she did after Elijah demonstrated miracle power on Mt. Carmel. I get that you might think this part of the narrative is unbelievable, that actual humans would fall down in fear in the face of such divine power. I disagree; I think the passage captures human psychology to a T.

            What I see as most miraculous in reality is how awesome people are at being undefeatably self-righteous. The only solution I see to that is letting the “righteous” carve their sins into the “guilty”. Then a subset—maybe strict subset—come around and realize it wasn’t the crucified’s sins which got carved. Some realize they engaged in scapegoating. Self-righteousness certainly cannot be cured with the sword, or the bullet, or the law.

            This isn’t rocket science, though as usual, you try to make it so.

            No, defeating self-righteousness is terrifically more difficult than rocket science. Rocket science doesn’t need to grapple with the full complexity of humans in society constantly deceiving each other and themselves. Quantum mechanics and general relativity are child’s play in comparison to human social dynamics.

            As for citations, I could give zero fucks about them.

            For discussions such as these, they are merely like cheat codes, to let others make arguments one can build off of (standing on the shoulders of giants), instead of having to reinvent all of the wheels.

      • ElizabetB.

        Wow, John… you completed a degree with William Lane Craig?!! Yikes That had to be tough!!!
        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/oct/20/richard-dawkins-william-lane-craig
        I appreciate so much your respectful approach to dialog… hats off!!

        • Thank you ElizabetB for your comment. BTW: I may have more hats than some women have shoes. -)

          • Philip Rand

            More hats, but no hats off… good one John!

            Keep it on…taking it off would be bad publicity for your new upcoming book on miracles.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Off-topic: This may interest readers of this blog

    In a world of know-it-alls, those who walk by faith tend to remain agnostic

    • Linda_LaScola

      Thanks, Thane. I recommend that others read it. It’s a very thoughtful piece by a clergyman who thinks we all are really agnostic no matter what our religious beliefs.

    • ElizabetB.

      Thanks, Thane… The thinking about “knowing” is reminding me of that saying that intrigued me as a kid —

      ” Men are four:
      He who knows not and knows not he knows not, he is a fool—shun him;
      He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is simple—teach him;
      He who knows and knows not he knows, he is asleep—wake him;
      He who knows and knows he knows, he is wise—follow him!
      Lady Burton—Life of Sir Richard Burton. Given as an Arabian Proverb.”

      The proverb is a little more optimistic about what we can know than the article is… though maybe the proverb is thinking of humanistic, not metaphysical, knowledge.

      I don’t think Prather is far off topic… all about knowing and thinking! Thanks

  • Robert Conner

    Why would Christians get their panties in a wad when atheists compare their supernatural beliefs to belief in ghosts? After all, Jesus’ apostles believed in ghosts: “When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.” (Matthew 14:26, NIV) So maybe they accepted the reality of the resurrection because they already believed in ghosts? But some who actually saw Jesus post mortem had reservations: “When they saw [Jesus], they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17, NIV) Did the disciples who saw Jesus after he came back from the dead have doubts because they didn’t believe in ghosts? Should the big brains in Christian apologetics start working on that question?

    I find I usually cause Christians the most offense when I quote their Buybull back to them.

    • It’s almost as if … ghosts were understood as specters which could hardly interact with reality. (A ghost walking on water was not much of a feat.) Whereas Jesus asked for some grub because he was hungry and that would demonstrate that he did not match the understanding of ghosts. Thomas worked the same logic when he wanted to stick his finger in the wounds. If it were a ghost, the empirical evidence would have been very different. I know of zero evidence that the disciples adjusted the category of ‘ghost’ to fit the contradictory evidence. Do you?

      • Ignorant Amos

        To counter an early Gnostic heretical belief about the substance of Jesus body perhaps?

        • What I know about the Gnostics, and much Greek thought, is that bodily resurrection would be an insult. But you seem to be adding something to that of which I’m unaware or only vaguely aware. Care to say more?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Are we to believe that in the story, Thomas would not have recognized it was Jesus to look at?

            The device has obviously some other purpose to solve.

            The Gnostic’s jumped on it.

            The gospel account implies that Thomas did not actually touch Jesus’s risen body; faith came to him through his awe at the savior’s presence. Professor Most shows how this recoiling from touch came to make Thomas the hero of many Gnostic texts that reject the flesh—even Jesus’s. Thus, the author follows the fortunes of Thomas through the apocryphal accounts that purportedly led the apostle as far as India, bringing his secret knowledge of the importance of the spiritual over the material to the faithful.

            https://muse.jhu.edu/article/195285/summary

            But did the author(s) of gJohn, and Luke for that matter, seek to demonstrate the contrary? The Doubting Thomas device was to demonstrate that Jesus was in fleshly body c/w crucifixion wounds? As opposed to the phantom one the Gnostics believed.

            https://www.patheos.com/blogs/troublerofisrael/2018/08/the-bible-doesnt-say-jesus-walked-through-walls/

            The question must be asked. Why were these conflicting beliefs and lengths gone to to counter them, if it was so obvious the gospel stories were accurate?

      • Robert Conner

        “I know of zero evidence that the disciples adjusted the category of ‘ghost’ to fit the contradictory evidence. Do you?”

        Yes, as a matter of fact.

        https://www.amazon.com/Apparitions-Jesus-Resurrection-Ghost-Story/dp/1942897162/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=apparitions+of+Jesus+conner&qid=1555617261&s=gateway&sr=8-1-spell

        • I did some digging and Robert Conner’s Apparitions of Jesus: The Resurrection as Ghost Story doesn’t show up in Google Scholar, my interlibrary loan system, or the UC Berkeley library. I did find an article, The Resurrection as Ghost Story, published in Journal of Religion & Psychical Research 2006. Google Scholar lists 1 ‘citation’†. Any idea why that is? The journal appears to have gone through multiple name changes with the publisher URL being Astrology, Spirituality, Psychics and Tarot Digest.

          So … I’m a little reticent to shell out $10 for the book and put the time into reading it. I’m sure he tells a good story, rather like Lee Strobel tells a good story in The Case for Christ. I’d be more interested in it if I could find academic engagement with Conner—nothing like a good cross examination by a fellow expert in the field who is incentivized to find errors. Let me know if you think I’m being unreasonable.

           
          † The single citation: “Psychotherapist’s spiritual experience with their clients in psychotherapy: A phenomenological inquiry”

          • Robert Conner
          • Ignorant Amos

            Welcome to Luke Breuer world….enjoy….NOT!

          • Thanks. What are atheists doing to document this:

            Conner knows his stuff, especially the linguistic side (he studied Greek and Hebrew at Western Kentucky University), although he doesn’t hold a position within academia, preferring the title of ‘independent researcher’, which does leave him, and therefore his ideas, rather outside the fold. It does, though, give him freedom to ruffle feathers and speak bluntly in a way that perhaps wouldn’t be tolerated from an academic insider. (magonia review of Apparitions of Jesus)

            ? As Mike noted, I used to be a young earth creationist. I am familiar with the conspiracy theory claims about how all “evolutionists” are denying evidence and holding to irrationally to ideology. I don’t know if the reviewers meant something that intense, but it seems like you’d need pretty good reasons to avoid going the scholarly route which gives you all the credibility associated with passing peer review. I’d like to hear a bit about that, if you’re willing.

            I’m happy to make a deal: if I get decent engagement on my first comment—where it doesn’t follow this pattern—then in exchange I’ll buy the book, read at least for a bit, respond, and we’ll go from there. Be warned that I am somewhat versed in the differences between Genesis and Enûma Eliš and that effective polemics need to work against contemporary material and differ only where it is important. The same actually happens with anything new: it is mostly clothed in the old. And so some subtlety is needed to say whether something really is new, or just a slight variation on the old. That is my stance and anyone will find it hard to convince me to deviate from it. (I know too much of the history of philosophy of science.)

          • Robert Conner

            I’m a writer. Buy it or don’t buy it. What do I care?

  • Raging Bee

    “Atheists should understand the often good motives of those who evangelize. After all, Christian evangelists really are trying to save us atheists.

    No, they’re not; they’re trying to bully others into supporting their tribe and their worldview, and many of them are OBVIOUSLY enjoying the feeling of superiority their belief, and their evangelical mission, give them.

    I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but that was long ago, and all those doubts have since gone.

    • Gotta love the ‘some’ ⇒ ‘all’ reasoning. Very scientific.

      • Sample1

        In the interest of breaking tribalism I agree with what you think you are pointing out. Maybe Bee will elaborate.

        I’m really surprised that you continue to remain a person of faith, a theist. Particularly when you were able to shed YEC and accept evolution.

        Something is keeping you as a believer and it can’t be hard-to-vary evidence for a deity otherwise you’d have published by now. 🙂

        Mike, excommunicated

        • Ignorant Amos

          The God Virus,

          • Sample1

            Read it.

            Mike, vaccinated

        • I explained my angle on the “evidence” thing in my first comment. But I fully expect any response to match @Ficino:disqus’s seven months ago: I am not allowed to question the framing of the issue. The framing is set in stone, just as much as Catholic dogma was in the high medieval era. This is one expectation I’d be happy to see violated.

          If you want to see one major reason I’m sticking with the faith, two atheists explain:

          Our basic thesis—that we are strategically blind to key aspects of our motives—has been around in some form or another for millennia. It’s been put forward not only by poets, playwrights, and philosophers, but also by countless wise old souls, at least when you catch them in private and in the right sort of mood. And yet the thesis still seems to us neglected in scholarly writings; you can read a mountain of books and still miss it. (The Elephant in the Brain, ix)

          They only scratch the surface, but they do a wonderful job of showing how the empirical evidence can be thrown out the window when it’s inconvenient to what humans wish to be the case. This shows up elsewhere in the de facto denial of the many-times-since repeated results of Converse 1964, documented in Electoral Democracy and Democracy for Realists. We humans don’t care one whit for the evidence in plenty of situations; all it has to do is threaten our pretty little ideas. I find that the authors in the Bible are more aware of this than any other authors I’ve found. Maybe there still is no God, but I think that if God is going to tell us things we need to know, we need to know this, more than anything else. We can figure out E = mc² on our own.

          • Raging Bee

            None of that adds up to a good reason for anyone to stick with a set of beliefs that are so wildly implausible, so contradictory to both the observable universe and the reasoning that explains it, and so packed with obvious insanity and dishonesty, as to be useless, at best, in real-world decision-making. Like the old song says, too many people have lied in the name of Christ for anyone to heed the call.

            I have supernatural beliefs of my own, and I don’t blame anyone else for theirs. But the minute I start making any sort of actual decision in any aspect of my life, all those beliefs simply go out the window because they’re OBVIOUSLY not a reliable basis for reasoning, drawing useful conclusions, or getting good or even decent results. And when evangelists try to tell me that adopting their supernatural beliefs will improve my life in any way, my own experience tells me they’re wrong — and the attitude they bring to such conversations tells me they’re really not interested in my own welfare. That leaves me with absolutely no reason to think they “mean well” or want to do anything really good. Most of them are just following orders to support their “tribe.”

          • But I don’t see my set of beliefs as wilder than other options out there. Just look at how the most Enlightened nation in the world went on to commit genocide. There were no [heeded?] warnings from scientists about this. There were a few about WWI, but those people were dismissed by the Enlightened. We humans thought we were the bee’s knees. (Sorry, couldn’t help it.) We gloried in our World Fairs where Homo sapiens who did not look like us were put in zoos. I doubt you have any really convincing accounting of how we managed to do all that. I have found no such accounting from the secular world, although The Elephant in the Brain is the smallest of starts.

            The “supernatural” I believe in wants us to face ourselves, rather than believe in delusions which result in mass death. The only thing that’s magical about that is humans are so fantastically good at flattering themselves with pretty stories; to break through such hubris and self-righteousness is miraculous. I’m not sure why I should throw this all out when it comes to making decisions in day-to-day life. I say that perhaps the biggest reason Jesus had to die is that we humans demanded it for our heinous version of “justice”: we carved our sins into his flesh thinking they were his sins, and only some of us admitted that we projected after he was raised from the dead. I do not see any other way to defeat self-righteousness: self-righteousness must inflict itself on true righteousness before it can see itself for what it is. What is most amazing about Christianity is that God would deal with our self-righteousness this way, rather than via smiting.

            But I know I’m a weird Christian. I think talking to atheists is valuable, as they have taught me much and continue to teach me much. (You taking so much of what I say as accusation is teaching me more; perhaps that is just me being an idiot, perhaps that matches how many Christians carry themselves, or perhaps I have much to figure out there.) I think evidence is valuable, and have been waging war with a Catholic over on Strange Notions on that very matter. I do buy much of the woo-woo in the Bible, but apparently I see the purpose as virtually the opposite of most Christians. The power-play version of Christianity you mentioned is very prominent. (Think evolution: who says the biggest demographics will be good or truthful? No, the biggest demographics are the ones best at reproducing.)

            And to your “just following orders”, I’ve been arguing against that with another Catholic. I say the Bible is exceedingly skeptical of authority in OT and NT. It is virtually a manual for how to oppose authority in a way that actually works—if *ahem* you’re willing to be one of the martyrs.

          • Raging Bee

            Just look at how the most Enlightened nation in the world went on to commit genocide.

            And while we’re at it, let’s also just look at how the most backward, authoritarian institutions in said nation used religious beliefs to encourage and justify that genocide.

            There were no [heeded?] warnings from scientists about this.

            There were PLENTY of warnings from the people who rightly feared becoming victims of this.

            What’s your point again…?

          • Ignorant Amos

            But I don’t see my set of beliefs as wilder than other options out there.

            Waoh!

            It’s wilder than some, less wilder than others. But therein lies the problem. You can’t see just how wild it is, because you’ve got the God Virus.

            When you were a YEC version, you were wilder, what was it that made you become less wilder?

          • Ignorant Amos

            And to your “just following orders”, I’ve been arguing against that with another Catholic. I say the Bible is exceedingly skeptical of authority in OT and NT. It is virtually a manual for how to oppose authority in a way that actually works—if *ahem* you’re willing to be one of the martyrs.

            It’s a cherry-picked Rorschach Test…you see what ya want. But ignore those bits that are a struggle.

          • In one sense yes; do you think that WP: List of unsolved problems in physics discredits the field of physics? They cherry-pick the phenomena to study based on what they’re currently able to study. The more they study the currently tractable phenomena, the more they develop conceptual and physical tools which allows them to study a greater variety of phenomena. Why shouldn’t the same apply for studying a holy text? Not every contradiction is the end of the world either; the contradiction between GR and QFT near the event horizons of black holes didn’t explode physics. You do want some sort of empirical success to give you hope for the present project, which is exactly what I’ve claimed upthread.

            In the more Rorschach sense also yes: people’s interpretation of the Bible reveals much about them. It’s almost as if a big point of revelation is to reveal. I can give you Bible verses on this but I doubt that’d be beneficial. Suffice it to say that people are very good at hiding and being self-righteous; piercing the façades is not always easy. But there is an inherent problem with any tool which lets you pierce façades: the enemy can use the tool to learn how to build better façades. And so you get an arms race and if you cherry-pick from that, you can blame the tool for all the problems, not recognizing that you might be using the tool to see the problems as problems.

          • Ignorant Amos

            In one sense yes; do you think that WP: List of unsolved problems in physics discredits the field of physics?

            It’s a poor analogy.

            They cherry-pick the phenomena to study based on what they’re currently able to study. The more they study the currently tractable phenomena, the more they develop conceptual and physical tools which allows them to study a greater variety of phenomena. Why shouldn’t the same apply for studying a holy text?

            The unsolved problems in physics are holes. They are, “we don’t know the answer yet” gaps. The bits in the holy texts not being cherry picked today, are not holes. They are those bits that are problematic for believers in this day and age, so they are omitted when teaching scripture to children. So they don’t get a mention. The holes in our understanding of physics will be addressed when, as you say, we are at a place where we can.

            In the more Rorschach sense also yes: people’s interpretation of the Bible reveals much about them. It’s almost as if a big point of revelation is to reveal. I can give you Bible verses on this but I doubt that’d be beneficial. Suffice it to say that people are very good at hiding and being self-righteous; piercing the façades is not always easy. But there is an inherent problem with any tool which lets you pierce façades: the enemy can use the tool to learn how to build better façades. And so you get an arms race and if you cherry-pick from that, you can blame the tool for all the problems, not recognizing that you might be using the tool to see the problems as problems.

            The problem is that Christians present the Bible as the words and actions of YahwehJesus. And to varying degrees, the truth of that YahwehJesus. My problem here is that you are apologizing for the defects in a book that is at least supposedly inspired by God. Somewhere in all this, I don’t see perfection, omniscience, nor omnipotence.

            Yet you’d have no issues in seeing the same flaws in the scriptures of other faiths and using them as a cosh to bludgeon those religions.

          • It’s a poor analogy.

            If you’re not going to explain how, I don’t care what you call “poor”. [Edit: I guess you explain, below.]

            The unsolved problems in physics are holes.

            Sounds “Two Clouds” speech-esque to me—we have it pretty much all figured out folks, just mop-up work left!

            They are those bits that are problematic for believers in this day and age, so they are omitted when teaching scripture to children.

            Well the people who were most willing to stick with the religion but ditch the “problematic texts” are the ones who went on to commit genocide, and against the Jews no less. I had many good conversations with my old atheist boss, conversations which he told me he enjoyed. But he wanted the whole book of Leviticus thrown away and a major problem with that is that Leviticus is the first hint that humans scapegoat. That’s actually where we get the term from. The thing is, scapegoats at the time were, per scholar René Girard, guilty. All religions other than Judaism and Christianity served to legitimate the scapegoating mechanism, not unveil it for what it is. To want to remove the “problematic” passages is to remove the passages which attest to human terribleness. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. With slightly differently flavors, of course.

            So they don’t get a mention.

            Actually, that seems to more properly apply to our self-righteousness. See my excerpt from The Elephant in the Brain for starters. See, the evil is in the Other. We might have a few drops, but that’s not really a serious problem. The serious problem is Them.

            The problem is that Christians present the Bible as the words and actions of YahwehJesus.

            Sure. But that doesn’t really matter, because there’s always going to be a “text” that has “highest authority” in a culture. What’s worse is when the text is hidden instead of printed in an easily available book. Because then it’s a giant social game to (i) know what’s in the text; (ii) manipulate what’s in the text. I prefer out-in-the-open myself, but perhaps that’s because I’m very bad at the deceiving-others game. I am too transparent, they tell me. As if well-practiced deception is a noble attribute.

            My problem here is that you are apologizing for the defects in a book that is at least supposedly inspired by God.

            And you are making all sorts of assumptions about God in even framing the issue that way. The thing is, when humans try to be more like the God you’re presupposing, they become more and more horrible. Or so goes my experience. That makes me think; whether it makes you think is entirely up to you.

            Yet you’d have no issues in seeing the same flaws in the scriptures of other faiths and using them as a cosh to bludgeon those religions.

            [citation needed]

      • Raging Bee

        I’m describing what I’ve observed. And I’ve given that lot plenty of room to prove me wrong, and they haven’t taken me up on it.

        • I see, so you can point to me attempting to bully you into supporting my tribe and its worldview? But perhaps you would not say that I am an “evangelist”? Atheists seem pretty split on whether they think I’m that. Perhaps “evangelist”“trying to bully others into supporting their tribe and their worldview”? I’m wondering if I could possibly—in the sense of logical possibility—tell someone about Jesus but not “bully”. There is a lot of bullying going on, from all sides.

          • Raging Bee

            Ah yes, both-siderism to the rescue. Except it doesn’t work, since only one side are threatening eternal punishment in Hell for their opponents; and only one side are claiming to speak for an all-powerful superbeing whose word overrides all facts, reason, understanding and even basic and indispensable rules of right and wrong.

          • So … would you say that one side avails itself of a “bug” in human psychology while the other stays pure and refuses to engage in realpolitik? Another option is that the other side is still stuck in plenty of delusion; see my excerpt of The Elephant in the Brain. Maybe if atheists truly had a better understanding of psychology (which they could, by applying science rigorously), they’d have an advantage?

          • Raging Bee

            So … would you say that one side avails itself of a “bug” in human psychology while the other stays pure and refuses to engage in realpolitik?

            You tell me…DID I say anything like that? Or are you just blatantly misrepresenting what others say, like too many other Christian evangelists have been doing for as long as I can remember?

          • Erm, I wasn’t trying to be accusatory. The question is how the threat of Hell gains a psychological foothold. I see two options: either a faculty of the human brain is being misused, or there’s a bug, or it’s vestigial. Plenty of Enlightenment philosophes thought that the masses needed a kind of ‘religion’; you could see this as a belief that one must satisfy the buggy part with something innocuous.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Or are you just blatantly misrepresenting what others say,…

            I can vouch for that. Though LB will deny the blatantly bit.

          • I honestly want to know why “threatening eternal punishment in Hell” is something which would create imbalance between the sides; my guess was that this is due to “a “bug” in human psychology”. The atheist would surely laugh derisively at threats of Hell and say this weakens the other side. However on the whole, apparently @disqus_qeyoCzlAiV:disqus believes that the religious do more “bully others into supporting their tribe and their worldview”. I’m just trying to make sense of the Bee’s words a bit more systematically. I welcome alternatives, as anyone who has long discussed with me knows.

          • Raging Bee

            Yes, it’s a “bug” in human psychology — one which religious con-artists exploit to their own advantage, instead of working to correct it for the benefit of the people.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I honestly want to know why “threatening eternal punishment in Hell” is something which would create imbalance between the sides; my guess was that this is due to “a “bug” in human psychology”.

            What is the threat you perceive from the atheist side? Do you find lots of atheists pitching up on theists sites, or trudging door-to-door in order to preach this perceived threat? Is there anything remotely like a “repent or perish” sermon on the atheist side?

            The atheist would surely laugh derisively at threats of Hell and say this weakens the other side.

            Indeed. But that doesn’t prevent the theist threaten anyway. But the bigger problem is the using of this threat of guilt and fear to coerce the young already infected to not stray.

            However on the whole, apparently Raging Bee believes that the religious do more “bully others into supporting their tribe and their worldview”.

            Not only others, but those that are already infected with their particular variety of god virus. Not only was there the threat of eternal damnation, but there was the physical risk to the person in real time.

            Classical canon law viewed apostasy as distinct from heresy and schism. Apostasy a fide, defined as total repudiation of the Christian faith, was considered as different from a theological standpoint from heresy, but subject to the same penalty of death by fire by decretist jurists. The influential 13th century theologian Hostiensis recognized three types of apostasy. The first was conversion to another faith, which was considered traitorous and could bring confiscation of property or even the death penalty. The second and third, which was punishable by expulsion from home and imprisonment, consisted of breaking major commandments and breaking the vows of religious orders, respectively.

            You do know that death for apostasy isn’t a Muslim invention, right? It is biblical.

            I’m just trying to make sense of the Bee’s words a bit more systematically.

            You can’t. Because you blinded by your version of the god virus. Not until you recognise the bias influence, you are stuck with it.

            This is why the OTfF is so appropriate. Do you consider the threats made by the Islamic faith reasonable or rational? What about those Scientologists?

            If you think both sides are on some kind of equal footing, you are adding to the problem.

            https://www.salon.com/2012/07/14/religions_biggest_threats/

            I welcome alternatives, as anyone who has long discussed with me knows.

            Alternatives to what?

            Religions are already fudging the issue and trying to play down the threats from within. No longer is the eternity in Hell described as the graphical Hell a la Dante. Catholics are now trying to play it down as excommunication from God. Now that is laughable from an atheist perspective, so one has to wonder who it is aimed at. That’ll be those already infected, which isn’t much of a consolation if one is a genuine believer.

            https://i.pinimg.com/originals/79/38/79/7938794d7af8905684942f3f7b87bdd3.png

          • What is the threat you perceive from the atheist side?

            Claiming to value ‘evidence’ and ‘science’ and then only doing so selectively. The amount of denial—mostly implicit—I’ve seen of Descartes’ Error alone is extraordinary. (28,000 ‘citations’) It’s historically understandable, but only those who uncritically accept tradition should make that sort of error.

            Do you find lots of atheists pitching up on theists sites, or trudging door-to-door in order to preach this perceived threat? Is there anything remotely like a “repent or perish” sermon on the atheist side?

            They don’t have enough political power in the US to cause much damage. If Christians in America continue on their present course, I see a good chance of that changing, of people becoming more and more willing to vote for an openly atheistic president. The danger will take a different form from Christians: it will be pretended that social order can be predicated [almost entirely] upon facts alone. Stating a fact will mean you are in favor of the fact, which is somewhat already the case. That will make scientific inquiry harder than it is now, when it comes to politically charged issues. Non-individualistic values will be expunged per the propaganda, but they will be everywhere present with no words to properly characterize them for what they are. (I intend this to have virtually no relation with how most Christians in America use the term ‘values’. I’m talking about the domination of Rationalität over Wertrationalität.) That’s a ballsy prediction, but I think I can stand by it.

            But the bigger problem is the using of this threat of guilt and fear to coerce the young already infected to not stray.

            But something similar (of massive less current intensity due to current balance of political power) happens when atheists blow up fear over religion—like via the conflict thesis, disbelieved by scholars but believed by 70% of 18–23-year-olds in the US. Where do atheists cite peer-reviewed scientific studies showing exactly which religion causes the damage they say it causes—and causes it, vs. just being correlated with it? I can’t recall a single study being presented on this topic. If it isn’t standard for atheists to cite such peer-reviewed evidence, what am I to make of their stated values of ‘evidence’ and ‘science’? Atheists would be just as guilty of trying to provoke action without evidence as religionists.

            Not only was there the threat of eternal damnation, but there was the physical risk to the person in real time.

            That’s what always happens to politically relevant, non-dominant viewpoints (if not ethnic groups) in society. Where atheism is dominant, religion can be plenty threatened—just look at China. I know people who were at physical risk there because they practiced a Christianity which was not State-Approved. History is littered with examples of revolutions where the suppressed class became dominant, telling a good story while taking on the same roles and same political dynamics. We could choose not to repeat such history, but I see little self-awareness that this is such danger, on the part of the “righteous”. Being “righteous” is enough you see—the righteous don’t need science or evidence or any of that nonsense.

            You do know that death for apostasy isn’t a Muslim invention, right? It is biblical.

            You’ll have to cite specific passages; I’m aware of stuff like Deut 12:32–13:5, which you and I have wrangled over before. To curtail repetition, here’s what you wrote:

            IA: His complete misrepresentation of Deuteronomy 13 was a bit of a curve ball and for the sake of the lurkers I felt obliged to pull him on an obvious error. Then the rip tide got hold of me and dragged me under ffs.

            I say that the passage indicates that miracle-power is not to be considered evidence for or against YHWH. What was important was that nobody be permitted to draw them away from their chosen form of life, which included things like kings not being permitted to amass wealth or political alliances or military might, “that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers”. (Deut 17:14–20—yes, I know King David violated it) But apparently this is just an atrocious thing for Israel to want, and it couldn’t possibly be that the god a society worshiped back then was deeply intertwined with political and social realities—unlike the liberal West.

            Because you blinded by your version of the god virus.

            What should someone do when presented with a claim not supported by sufficient evidence? (Feel free to go by your definition of ‘sufficient’, not what you guess mine might be.)

            This is why the OTfF is so appropriate.

            I’ve already responded to your comment on the OTfF.

            Do you consider the threats made by the Islamic faith reasonable or rational? What about those Scientologists?

            If you think both sides are on some kind of equal footing, you are adding to the problem.

            That’s a weird question. The West has tried to impose Westernization on the Middle East in many ways. The Middle East generally doesn’t want it. (We can always ask who precisely doesn’t want it.) Pankaj Mishra argues in Age of Anger: A History of the Present that a good deal of terrorism is supported by Western-educated men in the Middle East who do not have the kind of opportunities you and I have; I’m inclined to believe him. (see also his 2016-12-08 article in The Guardian, Welcome to the age of anger) You have well-demonstrated the tendency to make value-statements with fact-language: the Middle East’s rejection of our values is characterized as “unreasonable” and “irrational”. This is of course part of the privilege of power: you get to define what counts as “rational”.

            The sides are not on equal footing if you measure by respect for scientific knowledge. They are on equal footing if you measure by humans trying to conform the world to a particular imagined reality. I think Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay The End of History? is a decent rendition of the liberal West’s “imagined reality”. I find it piss-poor and I think humans since have shown that they won’t accept it. Have you ever wondered why it’s important for social media to censor “terrorist” propaganda? Maybe we have little compelling to offer as an alternative to a significant swath of Americans if not Westerners. While evolution teaches that humans are inherently social beings, the dominant mode of thinking is hyper-individualistic, especially in America. We are ripe for the ideological picking.

            Religions The powerful are already always fudging the issue and trying to play down the threats from within.

            FTFY [Edit: Well ok Stalin is a counter-example, same with Kim Jong-un. I’m not including at least one of the ideal types. I’ll choose to be lazy this round.]

          • Ignorant Amos

            Claiming to value ‘evidence’ and ‘science’ and then only doing so selectively. The amount of denial—mostly implicit—I’ve seen of Descartes’ Error alone is extraordinary. (28,000 ‘citations’) It’s historically understandable, but only those who uncritically accept tradition should make that sort of error.

            Yeah, but what is the threat you perceive from the atheist side?

            They don’t have enough political power in the US to cause much damage…

            So where atheism is the prevalent position…

            Do you find lots of atheists pitching up on theists sites, or trudging door-to-door in order to preach this perceived threat? Is there anything remotely like a “repent or perish” sermon on the atheist side?

            But something similar (of massive less current intensity due to current balance of political power) happens when atheists blow up fear over religion—like via the conflict thesis, disbelieved by scholars but believed by 70% of 18–23-year-olds in the US.

            Disbelieved by some scholars.

            But hey, Christians are not pushing anti-science bunkum in the U.S. and elsewhere, are they now? A mean, they are not hell bent on getting creationism into the classroom. The RCC isn’t teaching that condom use doesn’t protect from HIV, because that would be anti-scientific and would support conflict thesis.

            There is no conflict between science and religion here in Northern Ireland where those in the top echelons of government are YEC’s who promote creationism in museums and at…

            https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/national-trust-in-giants-causeway-creationism-row-7917687.html

            …no conflict of science and religion there, no siree. //s

            You believe there is nothing anti-scientific about vast swathes of the Islamic world?

            Where do atheists cite peer-reviewed scientific studies showing exactly which religion causes the damage they say it causes—and causes it, vs. just being correlated with it?

            You do know that atheism is the answer to one question and one question only, right?

            Tell me. Who are the leading purveyors of climate change deniers?

            https://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q=climate+change+denial+and+christianity&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart

            I can’t recall a single study being presented on this topic. If it isn’t standard for atheists to cite such peer-reviewed evidence, what am I to make of their stated values of ‘evidence’ and ‘science’? Atheists would be just as guilty of trying to provoke action without evidence as religionists.

            Whaaa? It’s not my problem if you can recall whatever evidence you are expecting atheists to cite.

            Nothing that comment addresses my claim…nothing.

            “But the bigger problem is the using of this threat of guilt and fear to coerce the young already infected to not stray.”

            Try and stay focused…you are rabbit holing.

            You’ll have to cite specific passages; I’m aware of stuff like Deut 12:32–13:5, which you and I have wrangled over before. To curtail repetition, here’s what you wrote:

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

            Also let us look at Deuteronomy 17:3-5 “And he should go and worship other gods and bow down to them or to the sun or the moon or all the army of the heavens, …..and you must stone such one with stones and such one must die.”

          • Ignorant Amos
          • Ignorant Amos

            What should someone do when presented with a claim not supported by sufficient evidence? (Feel free to go by your definition of ‘sufficient’, not what you guess mine might be.)

            Sufficient, as in the amount, or sufficient, as in the quality to convince?

            See, this is how the god virus works. And why the OTfF is necessary. What one believer sees as sufficient for his own beliefs, a believer in a different religion doesn’t.

            What is this “sufficient” evidence that has you convinced you are following the correct path, what method do you use to justify your confidence in said evidence, that is different from those of the host of religions you reject and the evidence they see as sufficient to justify their confidence that they are on the correct path? Could they be right and you wrong? How would you know?

            That’s a weird question.

            What’s weird about it? And you spilled lot’s of ink not answering it. The question is in the context of the imaginary eternal damnation in Hell threats made by Christians.

            So, do you consider the threats made by the Islamic faith reasonable or rational? What about those Scientologists?

            It’s not that atheists are threatened by such nonsense, it’s that Christians believe the threat is genuine, so they should be just as afraid as they are at the prospect.

            Muslims believe infidels and evildoers will end up in Jahannam. Do you consider those threats reasonable or rational?

            Scientologists believe a whole different kettle of fish, but all amounts to the same process…fear and guilt.

            Scientology shares the goal of spiritual salvation that exists in many faiths such as Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. While the terms in which salvation is to be accomplished differ in Scientology, the spiritual goal of saving the soul is a commonality shared with many faiths.

            You don’t take such threats seriously, but never the less, they are sinister all the same. To those making them. And to those that believe them.

            FTFY

            Nah…that too, but my original comment stands.

            Too much “whataboutery”.

            “Look, over there, squirrels”

          • IA: Because you blinded by your version of the god virus.

            LB: What should someone do when presented with a claim not supported by sufficient evidence? (Feel free to go by your definition of ‘sufficient’, not what you guess mine might be.)

            IA: Sufficient, as in the amount, or sufficient, as in the quality to convince?

            It was another way of challenging you to fulfill the burden of proof. But I don’t want you to fulfill it according to what you think I require; your very assumption is that I have unreasonable requirements. An assumption that I’m not sure has itself been supported by the burden of proof, but once again, you have presupposed that I am unreliable. And so instead this is [apparently] a show we put on for others. I’d rather it not be just that, but I don’t know how to change things other than merely capitulate.

            And why the OTfF is necessary. What one believer sees as sufficient for his own beliefs, a believer in a different religion doesn’t.

            This happens all the time in science whether within a given school of thought or outside. But somehow, that is irrelevant to the OTfF; the OTfF gets to be selectively applied. I see no rationale for this.

            What is this “sufficient” evidence that has you convinced you are following the correct path, what method do you use to justify your confidence in said evidence, that is different from those of the host of religions you reject and the evidence they see as sufficient to justify their confidence that they are on the correct path? Could they be right and you wrong? How would you know?

            I have never written up anything like what would constitute “sufficient”; on this page I wrote about our willfull self-blindness and added the bit about façades, but that is only a start. But on that example, it’d be easy for some scientist to correct the models of human psychology and social dynamics presented in the Bible—if in fact what’s in the Bible is as terrible as atheists keep telling me. (Yes there are some gems, but surely science has a better understanding of self-righteousness than the Bible.)

            If you want more than that, please provide what you consider “sufficient evidence” of your claim about me being blinded. You shouldn’t need an iota of extra evidence from me to support it and you should be able to account for any and all [apparently—so you’ll argue] contradictory evidence.

            What’s weird about it?

            You seem to be mixing facts and values in a way prohibited by my best guess at how you understand them.

            So, do you consider the threats made by the Islamic faith reasonable or rational? What about those Scientologists?

            I find the pure religious/​psychological dimension uninteresting at this point in time. Perhaps some day I will read up on Yuval Harari’s ‘imagined reality’ and then find them more interesting. I can imagine that they hook into human psychology in some really interesting ways that make it hard to apply a monolithic “irrational” or “unreasonable” to them. After all, apparently we’re wired with some primitive notions of justice and punishment.

            Scientologists believe a whole different kettle of fish, but all amounts to the same process…fear and guilt.

            In that case, I know that plenty in the secular world are operating in a world of intense fear with regard to what is acceptable to teach in schools dominated by an ideology closer to the Left than the Right. I see that as necessary if one wishes to impose some way of doing things with neither grace nor mercy. And ultimately, I believe the only way to drive out fear is via exposing self-righteousness for what it is. As best I understand, only the scapegoat mechanism unveiled for what it is, has the power to do that. So in lieu of this stuff, “fear and guilt” seem like the only empirical options. (That is subtly different from calling them ‘rational’ or ‘reasonable’.)

            Perhaps you think that I’m motivated in any way by a fear of Christian-Hell?

            Too much “whataboutery”.

            If we restrict the context to a Christianity-dominated country (so the US, but not France), then I agree to the technical definition of ‘whataboutery’. But then I might just restrict the discussion accordingly, because you don’t really know the character of a group of people unless you’ve seen them behave as top dogs. The French Revolution should be enough evidence for anyone about what can happen to those who worship at the altar of Rationality.

    • Sample1

      Often left unsaid but commonly present is the belief for the theist that a seemingly reasonable rebuttal from the atheist, one that might make them pause, is some kind of trick of a demon or jinn if chatting with Muslims. Remember, they tell each other, Satan too knows the Bible front and back, or some such rationalization.

      That mindset is usually impregnable (though somehow I escaped it) and when it’s uncovered, seems such a waste of time unless it helps lurkers.

      Mike, excommunicated summa cum laude.

      • Is the situation materially different when the roles are switched?

        • Raging Bee

          Yes, it is, because we don’t have a Devil to blame when someone says something we’re not ready for.

          • No, but you have “irrationality” and “emotionality” and “wishful thinking” and WP: List of cognitive biases. And you have Dawkins and Shermer speaking highly of a book which contains this:

            There is perhaps no greater contribution one could make to contain and perhaps even cure faith than removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness. The removal of religious exemptions from the DSM would enable academicians and clinicians to bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith, as well as on the ethical issues surrounding faith-based interventions. In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith. (A Manual for Creating Atheists, KL 3551–55)

            In case it’s not clear, that’s a scientific version of exorcism. The secular realm has it all. Different labels but that’s just par for the human course.

          • Raging Bee

            First, Calling me “biased” doesn’t refute any specific thing I’ve said; and it doesn’t really help much for someone to say “Yabbut you’re biased too!” after his own arguments have been shown to be demonstrably wrong. I don’t have to deny my side’s bias to see the other side’s bullshit.

            Second, Dawkins and Shermer are two of the most embarrassingly lame “thought leaders” the atheist movement has. They’re not exactly representative of the rest of us.

            And third, while I don’t consider “faith” itself to be a mental illness, it’s quite obvious that religious/magical/superstitious thought-patterns can easily mask, excuse, and even exacerbate many of the irrational thought-patterns that are indicative of mental illness; i.e., paranoia, delusions, belief in imaginary friends, hearing voices in one’s head, refusal/inability to deal with reality, etc. That passage you quoted isn’t quite as dead wrong as you seem to think it is.

          • First, Calling me “biased” doesn’t refute any specific thing I’ve said

            Erm, I wasn’t saying you’re biased. (But we all are.) I was drawing this comparison:

            S1: is some kind of trick of a demon or jinn if chatting with Muslims … Satan too knows the Bible front and back, or some such rationalization

            vs.

            LB: “irrationality” and “emotionality” and “wishful thinking” and WP: List of cognitive biases … [and “mental illness” which can be forcibly treated]

            Each side has ways of dismissing the Other, of saying that the Other is not following the way of thinking humans must, if he/she/they are to live well in reality and not threaten the tribe.

            Second, Dawkins and Shermer are two of the most embarrassingly lame “thought leaders” the atheist movement has. They’re not exactly representative of the rest of us.

            Glad to hear it! So maybe we can remove the parallel to exorcism—fortunately Christians are doing a lot less of that kind of exorcism as well these days.

            That passage you quoted isn’t quite as dead wrong as you seem to think it is.

            I made no value judgment. I don’t think all exorcism is bad, because I think there are a lot of thinking patterns which can appear to have a “life of their own”, and that it can be useful to disassociate them with the person’s identity and attack them. I’ve done this myself with a recent PhD who had been academically abused; a long-time faculty member thinks I shaved months off of his recovery time by defeating lies he was tempted to believe. I hope we can learn to do such things more and more scientifically, and I have no reason to think religion cannot turn pathological and need such careful, systematic understanding and treatment. How exactly the compulsion can work within a political philosophy of liberalism is open for question; I sense some changes afoot with our weak-ass cultural response to acts of terror.

          • Raging Bee

            Each side has ways of dismissing the Other, of saying that the Other is not following the way of thinking humans must, if he/she/they are to live well in reality and not threaten the tribe.

            That does not make both sides’ opinions equally (in)valid, nor does it mean one side can’t show the other to be clearly wrong and irrational.

          • Correct. I was pushing back against your “we don’t have a Devil to blame”. You do; your Devil merely has other names. And maybe the religious people aren’t as crazy when they say ‘Devil’; maybe they can be well-modeled as meaning ideas which threaten their culture, their way of life.

          • Raging Bee

            Your comment is just plain false. Our biases are not at all like the devils you imagine.

          • Are you all of a sudden an expert on what I imagine? I sense more “‘some’ ⇒ ‘all’ reasoning”. The most I’ve done with thinking about ‘devils’ or ‘unclean spirits’ is in terms of resilient thought-forms which punish people in various ways but resist the first several lines of attack. I wouldn’t be surprised if such thought-forms end up cutting biochemical/​neural ruts in the brain. I have dislodged some of them in others to wonderful effect; plenty I suspect are so entrenched that psychopharmacological artillery is easily the way to minimize suffering.

            If cultures past successfully dealt with such “resilient thought-forms” in more mystical ways and yet obtained some empirical success, I would respect that while pushing for better, suggesting that we do not fear “scientific revolutions”. For a concrete example of religious reasoning producing mundane empirical benefit, there is a culture somewhere (I can find the paper if you want) which allocated water to various farms through a religious ceremony. IIRC “water rights” were a very contentious issue (hello, California), and so the culture figured out a way to manage them which kept the peace. I think the result was even halfway intelligent by modern Western standards, but I would have to check the paper to be sure.

            Finally, if there is some sort of “supernatural power” going on which can bust up those thought-forms better than drugs and talk, only dogmatic bigots would reject it. But until I see such power at play, I need not believe or disbelieve in it. (Some apparently need to disbelieve in as many things as they can; I am not one of them.)

          • Ignorant Amos

            “The Relativity of Being Wrong” springs to mind.

            https://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm

        • Sample1

          Raging Bee has my answer. But I’d also add something to think about. I was already an atheist when I came across this hypothetical so I’m not sure how my former self would have replied. In steps you.

          If all the world’s accumulated information was wiped (think Men in Black) and human culture began anew, does this seem highly plausible? That throughout the twists and turns of a history refreshed, would Christianity rediscover the same tenets, manuals and explanations for existence as they have them today?

          Would you accord today’s hard-vary-explanations via the empirical disciplines the same level of plausibility?

          Mike, excommunicated
          Edit done.

          • Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I see here is a prejudice toward timeless, universal Platonic Forms over against the contingent creations of whatever agents participated in creating them. But in fact, most people see the laws of physics as instrumentally useful, not of ultimate value. It is curious to me to see ‘truth’ and ‘value’ on such opposite sides of the spectrum; it’s almost like Jonah fleeing Nineveh and God. The animus against creatio ex nihilo is ancient; neither Plato and Aristotle could tolerate it. Aristotle writes that “All change is by its nature an undoing. It is in time that all is engendered and destroyed…. One can see that time itself is the cause of destruction rather than of generation…. For change itself is an undoing; it is indeed only by accident a cause of generation and existence.” (Physics IV, 222 b., quoted on A Study of Hebrew Thought, 25)

            I myself think that the contingent, what humans create with their hands, is important and should be accorded truth-value. One of the ways that the Bible shows such respect is that YHWH almost always respects the integrity of creation, rather than using omnipotence like so many of us would. Was it important for Jesus to correct Ptolemaic astronomy? I think not; I’m with Bertrand Russell: too much science and technology before morality and ethics develop appropriately merely leads to tyranny. Russell: “Magna Carta would have never been won if John had possessed artillery.” (The Impact of Science on Society, 19) Think now of machine learning models trained on all the information an individual publishes, used to determine how one could alter his/her vote, perhaps by subtly changing his/her news feed under the guise of “personalized results”.

            So if there were different humans, I’m sure the Bible would reflect their differences. There would still be common themes, such as self-righteousness being the second-most powerful force in reality. Even this is apparently hard to see in the OT: “Unlike every other known instance of Jewish apocalyptic eschatology, the version held by Jesus and much of the early church viewed the hostile forces they struggled against as composed entirely of spiritual beings—not fellow human beings.[30]” (Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views, 10) Or take one of the most noble characters in Babylon 5, Delenn. In the aptly named two-parter “War Without End”, she characterizes evil as located in persons. I was very disappointed. Sadly, she apparently needs to spend some time in the gulag which straightened out Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The Bible would still contrast a world of grace and mercy with one where everyone always gets what they deserve.

            Does that answer your question? I also left some scattered comments over at SN‘s Stephen Colbert vs. Ricky Gervais: The Late Show Atheism Debate, which dealt with the same issue. I find it quite the interesting question.

          • Sample1

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I see here is a prejudice toward timeless, universal Platonic Forms over against the contingent creations of whatever agents participated in creating them.

            Definitely one way to approach the hypothetical, sure.

            But in fact, most people see the laws of physics as instrumentally useful, not of ultimate value.

            Yes, I understand this claim too.

            It is curious to me to see ‘truth’ and ‘value’ on such opposite sides of the spectrum; it’s almost like Jonah fleeing Nineveh and God.

            This might be a step too far for me to concede for I don’t see a naked metaphor here. That’s to say, I think we should do better at studying reality by presenting behavior without the baggage of myths. Myths may or may not help with personalizing the questions but that doesn’t mean the myths take on any fundamental existence. Map, territory carefulness is needed.

            The animus against creatio ex nihilo is ancient; neither Plato and Aristotle could tolerate it. Aristotle writes that “All change is by its nature an undoing. It is in time that all is engendered and destroyed….

            We’ve no good reason to think Aristotle’s conception of nothing is even remotely accurate and plenty of good reasons to say he was misguided. Explaining the concept of nothing is almost a self-refuting process. At some point of removing yet another aspect of something (particles, fields) to get to so-called nothing, we will need to remove even our own thoughts, ending the whole experiment before we get closer to whatever nothing might be. We are philosophically stuck. What we are forced, on the other hand, through science, is to get to a state of comparative simplicity, a quantum vacuum or neutral state of zero energy, which is either almost nothing or everything depending on how one chooses to look at it.

            It is in time that all is engendered and destroyed…. One can see that time itself is the cause of destruction rather than of generation…. For change itself is an undoing; it is indeed only by accident a cause of generation and existence.” (Physics IV, 222 b., quoted on A Study of Hebrew Thought, 25)

            Time isn’t fully understood by science. Is it fundamental, an illusion, emergent. Nobody knows. Instead we employ it in a utilitarian fashion when it’s convenient to do so.

            I myself think that the contingent, what humans create with there hands, is important and should be accorded truth-value.

            That’s fine, mostly no problem for me either except according it a “truth-value” is perhaps the danger, imo, you are ironically trying to avoid. I side with Miłosz on this when he wrote:

            When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever say he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.

            Science is the 60% here and faith is the 100%. But I do think that when you mention the contingent being important, you’re saying something meaningful and relatively uncontroversial. So with you there.

            One of the ways that the Bible shows such respect is that YHWH almost always respects the integrity of creation, rather than using omnipotence as many of us would.

            Or, what you’re describing is, at rock bottom, YHWH respects YHWH. A tautological deepity at best where best means ridiculous, imho. The rest of that paragraph and the next ventures away from simply considering the hypothetical into cynicism which, you’re free to make your own hypothetical about.

            Does that answer your question?

            Sure. It’s here that I need to clarify. I wasn’t looking so much for an answer but was rather asking for contemplation “something to think about” is how I began. The questions were essentially rhetorical. I do thank you for giving your take on where that contemplation led, for you.

            I find it quite the interesting question.

            Thank you.

            Mike, excommunicated is a fancy word for…

            Edit done.

          • In that case, I have a matter you are welcome to treat as rhetorical or not:

            LB: In the more Rorschach sense also yes: people’s interpretation of the Bible reveals much about them. It’s almost as if a big point of revelation is to reveal. I can give you Bible verses on this but I doubt that’d be beneficial. Suffice it to say that people are very good at hiding and being self-righteous; piercing the façades is not always easy. But there is an inherent problem with any tool which lets you pierce façades: the enemy can use the tool to learn how to build better façades. And so you get an arms race and if you cherry-pick from that, you can blame the tool for all the problems, not recognizing that you might be using the tool to see the problems as problems.

            Feel free to comment on the creating and piercing of façades. That “100%” Miłosz talks about sounds to me like it could be a façade.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for the offer. I’d start with this:

            In the more Rorschach sense also yes: people’s interpretation of the Bible reveals much about them. It’s almost as if a big point of revelation is to reveal

            How is this not a begging the question fallacy?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Do you disagree with “people’s interpretation of the Bible reveals much about them”? I thought that would be taken for granted by you. My next sentence, “It’s almost as if a big point of revelation is to reveal.”, was meant to have an explicit double-meaning. AFAIK it is generally understood as revealing God’s will as interpreted by a priestly caste for the people to unquestioningly obey, but it can also be understood as revealing the nature of the priestly caste.

          • Sample1

            I’m pretty sure I follow what you’re objecting to with Ignorant Amos (who is unfortunately banned here).

            I’d need good evidence of a God from you to take your claims/ideas seriously. That’s what I meant by begging the question. If I believed as you do, perhaps I’d start by praying to God to reveal what only He knows would convince me of His existence.

            Have you tried that?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • I’d need good evidence of a God from you to take your claims/ideas seriously. That’s what I meant by begging the question. If I believed as you do, perhaps I’d start by praying to God to reveal what only He knows would convince me of His existence.

            I’m not sure why God must exist for my Rorschach interpretation to make sense. If you make a huge deal of “as if a big point of”, note that “as if” can be understood technically according to Dennett’s intentional stance.

            Have you tried that?

            Yes, with my first comment. No bites. My abilities are greatly diminished when I have nobody with whom to dialogue; if it’s fair to call Hiro from the show Heroes a “parasite” when he had the superpower which only functions to enhance other superpowers, then I too am pretty much a “parasite”. It’s obnoxious, but I think I’ve mostly come to peace with it.

            … Ignorant Amos (who is unfortunately banned here).

            Banned on Rational Doubt? Since his last comment here, two hours ago?

          • Sample1

            My mistake, I must have lazily thought this discussion was on SN where many (most?) atheists were banned, like Ignorant Amos.

            If you are only claiming “revealing God’s will” in an anthropological, naturalistic sense (not claiming God actually has a will and exists) then no problems.

            Mike, excommunicated

  • … the need for hard cold evidence for all of these supernatural entities.

    Evidence such as the following from philosophy faculty @disqus_s4ylzQ9exo:disqus over at Secular Outpost:

    KP: The existence of God could be confirmed at any time in many different ways. If the image of the Eagle Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope had come with beautiful cursive writing saying “I, Yahweh, did this” then–ruling out a practical joke–that would do it. God could appear in all his Michaelangeloid glory and assure us that he does indeed exist. Something like the contest at Mt. Carmel between Elihah and the priests of Baal would also do it.

    ? Because that only shows you power. For all we know, the agent could be Loki, or Shadows. In my many hours talking to atheists about “evidence”, I haven’t found one which has permitted evidence of goodness. But if that is correct, then “evidence” cannot distinguish between God and Satan. Is it that “goodness” is only in the eye of the beholder? Or could it possibly be because we employ Cheeseburger ethics and are thus so unstable in the domain of personhood that we’re like randomly changing software which is supposed to help us assemble an image of a black hole? Well, of course black holes can’t be seen!

    BTW, I’m not calling for some return to Roman Catholic Christendom; at best that’d be like saying we should go back to Ptolemaic physics (which did a wonderful job of “saving the appearances”† for quite some time). I wager I have more and deeper criticisms of Christians than most. But I see extreme dangers in tying “evidence” to power; indeed I think that is a tool of power.

    † From Keith Parsons:

        For Ptolemy, the aim of astronomical theory was to provide a geometrical model of the heavens that would “save the appearances.” An astronomical model “saves the appearances” when its geometrical representation of the heavenly bodies accurately predicts their positions and movements. (It Started with Copernicus: Vital Questions about Science, chapter one)

  • Cynthia

    Shouldn’t we start with asking what is the purpose of a debate or discussion between a believer and atheist?

    I have lots of religious discussions with friends and colleagues of different faiths. These tend to focus on explaining to each other a bit about what we do and why we do it. The purpose is education, learning more about people around us and gaining knowledge that will help us understand them and respond appropriately to their needs. I’m part of a minority religion myself, and I’m also in an extremely multicultural, multifaith environment where Christianity is not the automatic default.

    It sounds like these debates, though, might be about something else – trying to convince someone else that their own system of beliefs/values is wrong and that yours is right. Some people genuinely enjoy these sort of debates, and if that’s the case, go for it. If not, the premise is fundamentally obnoxious. I’m not sure that these rules can really get around that. At some point, you need to clarify that you are both wanting to participate in a debate. Assuming that both parties are willing, there should be some understanding of whether either party is genuinely looking to explore their beliefs or change their mind, or if this is simply about badgering someone until you declare that you have “won”. [I love debating various things and I find religious discussions interesting….but I’m not really open to debating my beliefs and my refusal won’t be polite if someone tries to push it.]

    Along the same lines – that part about understanding that the other person means well and just wants to save your soul or save the world? No. Just no. Hell no. The fact that someone may think that they actions are justified in their own head means NOTHING in terms of the moral impact of their actions, and deserves absolutely no deference. None. I actually read it as “I might be particularly dangerous because I truly believe that my agenda is so correct and necessary that I’m willing to completely ignore your POV and might even be motivated to try to eradicate your beliefs and culture, and in extreme cases may even think that my beliefs are more important than your life”.