Reason Rally Organizer To Reasoning Christians: We Want No Dialogue

On March 12 I wrote an email to David Silverman, president of American Atheists. It was a message from the leader of one organization to another, on behalf of both our organizations.

I introduced myself as a leader of the True Reason initiative, which I described to him as “bringing Christians to the Reason Rally for respectful dialogue with atheists there.” I also mentioned that I was involved in producing the True Reason ebook. I proposed that we co-sponsor a debate between Richard Dawkins and William Lane Craig, While Dr. Dawkins was in the U.S. Mr. Silverman wrote back the following day. You can read the full text of both our emails on the True Reason Media page.

On that site you can also find a link to an invitation that the National Atheist Party had sent to the infamous Westboro Baptist hate group. The contents of that invitation stand in stand in sharp contrast to Mr. Silverman’s letter to me. On or before March 6, the National Atheist Party had told Westboro Baptist,

I am writing you today to invite you to a very special event…. Surely you would not want to miss history being made…. As an official Reason Rally sponsor, the National Atheist Party will be manning an information booth from which to promote our organization. Stop by and socialize if you have time…. Come on out and join the fun! We hope to see you there.

That message was sent to a hate group whose tactics and beliefs are rejected by the vast majority of Christians as much as by atheists or anyone else — a group that few would seriously expect to enhance reasoned dialogue between Christians and non-Christians.

A week later, the day after I sent him my message, Mr. Silverman wrote back to us, a group that has made strong commitments to quiet, respectful, non-disruptive, non-pushy, person-to-person conversations at this event. He said in part,

Make no mistake – you are not welcomed guests at the rally. We are not going to DC for ‘dialogue’ with people who believe ridiculous things – we are going to have fun with other like-minded people. Those who proselytize or interfere with our legal and well-deserved enjoyment will be escorted to the 1st Amendment pen by security, which will be plentiful, where you can stand with the Westborough [sic] Baptists and shout yourselves hoarse.

Spreading out among the crowd is not a substitute for a permit. Indeed, I will be meeting with the Parks Commission on Thursday to discuss how to handle your infiltrative permitless counter-protest.

You can read the entire text at the link given above.

A few observations:

1. The Reason Rally is being held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which is public land under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Everyone has equal right of access there.

2. Everything we are planning to do there is entirely permissible under Park regulations and the First Amendment. Nothing we are planning to do requires a permit, because we are explicitly not going to the Reason Rally to mount a counter-protest, but to engage in reasoned dialogue. To “proselytize” (his word, not ours) by way of quiet, respectful dialogue is perfectly legal; it is not grounds for being escorted away.

3. Mr. Silverman has nevertheless apparently interpreted our plans — respectful, person-to-person dialogue — as constituting interference and/or proselytizing, such as would lead to our being ejected to the “1st Amendment pen.” Now suppose some other Christian were there engaging in quiet, non-disruptive conversation with a rally attendee. Would Mr. Silverman say, “Are you with True Reason? Oh, you’re not? Then fine. Please continue.” That would not be consistent with the content of his message. From this it appears to me it is not True Reason that is unwelcome, it is what Silverman describes as “interfering” and “proselytizing,” or what others would call normal interactions between two persons who respectfully hold differing opinions. Thus Mr. Silverman’s warning quite believably applies to any Christian who might come to this public event on the National Mall.

4. Nothing in our history or documents gives any indication that we are going there to hold a counter-protest. There is another group being welcomed there, however, that has a well-known history of picketing and protesting.

5. Mr. Silverman’s statement, “We are not going to DC for ‘dialogue’ with people who believe ridiculous things,” is in one sense understandable in light of the purpose of the Reason Rally: it just isn’t what the Rally is for. It echoes, however, a much more broad and inclusive statement he recently made to CNN News. After being prompted with the question, “It sounds like you’re looking for a conversation…,” he answered, “Well they dismiss our [beliefs], and we dismiss theirs, and frankly we’re not looking for a conversation.” Reasoned dialogue between people who treat one another reasonably is nowhere in view here.

6. Virtually all of the Reason Rally’s sponsoring organizations emphasize how reasoned and reasoning they and their beliefs are. They consistently accuse religious believers of being opposed to reason. But through the National Atheist Party they are welcoming a group that is known primarily for hateful slogans and signs, while at the same time another organizer is threatening, with loaded language (“shout yourselves hoarse,” “infiltrative permitless”), to have security evict us from the primary event grounds, even though we are planning to come just for the purpose of promoting reason and dialogue. How reasonable is that? How does it promote reason?

We invite the Reason Rally organizers to a higher standard – to be reasonable in their dealings with others, and to be unafraid of reasoning with those who respectfully disagree with the secular position.

P.S. Needless to say, he declined the opportunity for a reasoned debate between Craig and Dawkins.

Comments

  1. Sault

    Is it reasonable to say that sometimes dialogue is appropriate and sometimes it isn’t?

    Similarly, does it make someone unreasonable to say that they don’t want dialogue at this point in time?

    Is it reasonable to go to a rally where your viewpoint is diametrically opposite to everyone else’s and expect people to want to have a dialogue?

    Is a Christian worship concert the best place to have a “dialogue” with non-believers? Is a Republican rally the best place to have a “dialogue” with Democrats?

    The answer is a rather reasonable “probably not”. Likewise, reasonably speaking, the Reason Rally.

    It is a rally, after all.

    It’s not respectful for Christians to go around proselytizing, but I know that it won’t stop them. It happens in every other aspect of our lives, so we should be used to it by now. *shrug*

    Mr. Silverman has nevertheless apparently interpreted our plans — respectful, person-to-person dialogue — as constituting interference and/or proselytizing,

    Which it what it is, and what it will be. More “proselytizing” than “interference”, but I have no doubt that there will be those who will do that, too.

  2. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Sault, did you see that Westboro Baptist was invited to “stop by and socialize”? Did you see what Silverman said in the CNN report about not wanting any conversation. Do you think he was concerned about common courtesy when he erected those billboards?

    You ask,

    Is it reasonable to say that sometimes dialogue is appropriate and sometimes it isn’t?

    Similarly, does it make someone unreasonable to say that they don’t want dialogue at this point in time?

    There are reasonable ways to say that, and there are unreasonable ways to say it. His saying he didn’t want dialogue was not unreasonable. He spoke for others besides himself, as if he had the right to do that. Now, read again what he wrote to see just how he said he would respond if we tried speaking with someone else there.

    Now to move to your questions about us: Is it reasonable for us to expect people to want to have a dialogue there? Statistically speaking, yes, we expect to find there will be some people who want to have a dialogue. We have made a firm public commitment that we will not press ourselves upon anybody else.

    Is a Christian worship concert the best place to have a “dialogue” with non-believers? Is a Republican rally the best place to have a “dialogue” with Democrats?

    I won’t speak for the political rally, but most people at a Christian worship concert would eagerly welcome dialogue there with non-believers.

    It does not appear to me that you have identified anything substantive to criticize so far.

  3. Pingback: Reason Rally Organizer To Reasoning Christians: We Want No Dialogue | WhyJesus

  4. BillT

    “It’s not respectful for Christians to go around proselytizing.”

    But it’s ok for you to proselytize others with your opinion that others should not proselytize. Hmmmm…

  5. Mike Gene

    Perhaps the National Atheist Party invited Westboro Baptist group because birds of a feather tend to flock together. For now there will be two groups of closed-minded zealots. I guess Coyne meant it when he wrote:

    What about the many of us who feel that the best thing for science—and humanity as a whole—is not respectful dialogue with evangelical Christians, but the eradication of evangelical Christianity?

    Anyway, if you’re going, sounds like there could be some interesting YouTube moments to be had.

  6. G. Kyle Essary

    Mike and Tom,
    It’s a psychological move on the part of the organizers and little more. The leaders don’t want discourse, but a reinforcement of stereotypes, which also closes them off from more intellectual challenges to their position.

    It’s similar to an apologetics conference organizing a debate with PZ Myers or Dan Barker. Neither represent much of an intellectual challenge to Christians, but they are public individuals who serve to reinforce the image that atheists are really closed minded bullies. Someone like Brad Monton is much more dangerous to Christians, because he calmly thinks through the Christian position and rejects it.

    This is that the Reason Rally is doing. They aren’t interested in discourse or intellectual engagement. That’s why they would scoff at an offer for Alister McGrath, John Lennox or Bill Craig to debate during the rally or to present an opposing view. It’s much easier to call them liars for Jesus and intellectual frauds, then it is to engage them. Furthermore, such a move would be detrimental to the psychological move they are making. You see, the intellectual believer who is actually fairly common in contemporary evangelical churches, is not the image of Christians that they want put before their faithful adherents. Presenting the image of your typical, kind, largely reasonable believer opens up the possibility that the other side may not just have sound arguments, but may actually be right.

    The psychological move that best reinforces an anti-Christian stereotype and shields their faithful from intellectual engagement is to invite the unintellectual fringe, even if they are an infinitesimally small portion of contemporary evangelicalism. This allows them to continue to call the real intellectuals by names and effectively ignore their work, while putting the radicals before the eyes of their atheist faithful, so that they spend their time focused on fighting the radicals on the fringes without ever addressing the real threat to their position, and most importantly never even open up themselves to the possibility that they could be incorrect.

  7. hidden101

    G. Kyle Essary,

    What part of “we do not want discourse” are you not understanding?

    Why is it so hard to just respect that? It’s like if I rang your doorbell early on a Saturday morning that you planned to sleep in on and wanted to talk to you about atheism. Then you ask me to leave but I persist. Wouldn’t that be extremely rude of me?

    We have no issue with anyone who wants to come and stand there with a sign without being disruptive to our rally, but if Christians are going to badger us with unwanted proselytizing, we will consider it hostile. We are merely asking religious persons to respect our wishes to be left alone to enjoy our rally. We do not want debate. That can be organized for another time.

  8. Crude

    Good job, Tom, and all those involved. The fact that these guys are so angry and threatening about your mere presence is all the evidence I need to know that, at least on this front, you all are doing the right thing.

    Keep at it.

  9. Blake

    G. Kyle Essary,

    Well said. that’s one of the reasons I believe it is so important for Christians to respond to the rally. To force the psychological pretense into the open. I think your analysis is spot on.

  10. G. Kyle Essary

    hidden101,
    An atheist festival? No problem. You can have as many as you would like to have. But don’t call it a “reason” rally unless you are wanting to discuss reason and rationality. And don’t pretend that you are promoting reason by silencing all other voices.

    I understand the desire to have a party with other believers of your worldview and dispel stereotypes, but I must say that the letter from Silverman and your response show that the “angry atheist” stereotype may not be far from the truth in many situations. As you well know, nobody from this site or True Reason intends to proselytize or disrupt. They just want an opportunity to discuss both perspectives with those at the rally who are actually interested in having an open mind. They may only be a few at this rally, but I believe that there would be some atheists interested in at least listening and maybe discussing opposing views, right?

    Your analogy fails on a number of fronts, but let me point out a few. Nobody is coming to your house, but all are going to the national lawn. You can keep your home as closed off from opposing views as you want, but in the spirit of American freedom, the national lawn is not a venue for closing off all perspectives but one. You are not trying to sleep in peacefully, but have a rally intended on promoting a particular worldview that has repercussions for the American way of life. You see those repercussions positively, and I do not. Why cut off public discussion? If your view is superior and you truly want to gain a place at the table and put your values forward as the website for the rally states, then why not show why your view is superior through calm, rational discourse? What are you afraid of?

  11. Mike Gene

    We are merely asking religious persons to respect our wishes to be left alone to enjoy our rally.

    Is that why Westboro Baptist was invited?

  12. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    We are merely asking religious persons to respect our wishes to be left alone to enjoy our rally.

    We have said every moment along the way that we will respect every person’s wishes to be left alone. We are doing persons the respect of not stereotyping you, however, which means that we are not assuming that each one of you is committed to thinking exactly the same thing about this. We believe some persons will want to talk, and others won’t, and that we can spend our time with those who want to talk.

  13. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Also, hidden101, you said,

    We have no issue with anyone who wants to come and stand there with a sign without being disruptive to our rally, but if Christians are going to badger us with unwanted proselytizing, we will consider it hostile. We are merely asking religious persons to respect our wishes to be left alone to enjoy our rally. We do not want debate. That can be organized for another time.

    Under Park rules as I understand them (and there are others in our group who know more about it than I) carrying a sign can mean “demonstrating,” which falls under more stringent regulations, and which we have promised anyway that we would not do.

    We have repeatedly said we will not press ourselves on anyone who does not want to talk. I think that’s synonymous with not badgering. If you personally do not want debate, we won’t debate you. If someone else wants it, I’m sure you won’t try to do their thinking for them, and I’m sure you won’t tell them they are breaking Rally regulations by talking with us.

  14. hidden101

    Tom,

    If that is your goal, then I truly don’t have any issue with your group showing up. If someone from your group approaches me and wants to talk about their differing views and I politely say “no thank you” and they respectfully disengage, then there’s nothing wrong with that. Afterall, the National Mall is public property, and more importantly, the place where all Americans come to freely express themselves. If members of your group show up and give me a smile, i will give a smile back and shake their hand. I would be glad to be on the Mall with them.

    Also, your belief that some will want to engage in discussion with you is accurate. If you find those willing people, I hope you have a lovely conversation. I brought my Christian friends to meet PZ Meyers, one of the speakers at the rally, and they had a very nice conversation, leaving my Christian friends feeling like they were respected and not treated like they were stupid by us “angry atheists”, as G Kyle Essary calls us.

    Now on to addressing his statements. Not wanting to discuss religion with religious people one day out of the year does not make us “angry”. We just want you to leave us alone to enjoy our festival. We are not claiming you are not allowed to share the National Mall with us, as it is public property where all are welcome. We are only asking you to not engage us in conversation about religion. We DO NOT want it on Saturday. We have those conversations plenty of other times and we would just like a day without it.

    Also, you trying to pole holes in my analogy just shows you do not understand me. I’m merely trying to find the words to get through to you that I don’t want to debate you on religious matters. If we could both agree that there is something the other person could say that would change our minds about our worldviews, then I might agree, but we both know that is not the case. I am an ex-Christian, as are many people that will be attending, and we fully understand the religion from being with it for many years and studying it extensively. After that, I have completely made up my mind and there’s really no reason for you to try to convince me to come back to the religion. I’m very happy without it.

    If you can tell me that there is something I could possibly say to you that would make you atheist, then I might be willing to talk to you. But if you tell me there is nothing I can say that would change your mind, then that is not a discussion and I’m not willing to engage you as it would be a waste of my time and would only serve to have you try to convert me back to Christianity, which I already said I am not willing to do.

    I just want to have fun on Saturday and be around like minded people that I can relate to and identify with. All I am asking for is to be respected with that wish.

  15. hidden101

    G. Kyle Essary,

    Since you claim atheists do not want to have any discourse with Christians, I will offer you this- I will talk to you about religion on the terms that it is at a time when I am willing to do so. So please, if you would like to talk, I welcome your offer and would be glad to have a friendly discussion with you. Please understand that March 25th in Washington DC is not one of the times I am willing to discuss religion with you.

    Your church may be different, but there are many, many churches that would not be very welcoming if churchgoers were trying to enjoy a church service and atheists showed up and wanted to debate. I understand it is private property and the church would be well within their rights to eject the atheists from the property. I also understand the National Mall is public property and you have every right to be there. Since atheism is not a religion and because we do not have dedicated structures to meet with like-minded people as churchgoers do, most of us are only asking not to be bothered with unwelcome advances to speak about religion. Holding up a sign that says “talk to me about religion” in a non-confrontational way would be best. You will have takers, I promise you that, and you won’t be bothering people like me who do not wish to discuss your religion with you. Please know that some atheists will be “angry atheists” and might not be so nice to you. Some will be very pleasant and respectful because they understand you are a fellow human and not an enemy. Just as some Christians are very nice and respectful of atheists and some are mean and cruel. It’s a human thing- not a religious/atheism thing.

    To lighten the mood up a bit, I want to wish you all a great and peaceful day and I want to thank you for letting me say my piece.

  16. G. Kyle Essary

    I get what you are saying. As a Christian, I understand the importance of times for Christian fellowship. And no, in those times I don’t want a debate. In those times, I want to pray and eat and discuss with fellow believers.

    Now, I probably wouldnt call such an event a rally and put it in a public area, invite the media, etc. either. But I still get your point.

    Considering I don’t live in America, I won’t be at the event, but I hope you enjoy your day and if you do happen to see Tom and the gang, at least stop by and say hi, even if you don’t want a dialogue. Peace to you as well.

  17. hidden101

    Thank you for understanding my side of it. This rally is sort of akin to your Christian fellowship. It is especially important to us because we don’t get to organize like this regularly. I think it is very important for the atheists that have been disowned by their family for not sharing the family faith or ostracized by their community for simply holding different beliefs. It helps them feel not so alone and that there is a support group out there.

    Fortunately for me, I am not one of those people who had to deal with hardship due to my lack of belief, but there are some that have suffered immensely and I believe this rally will be therapeutic for them and that is the reason why many will not want to engage in religious discussions with members of the faith.

    If I do see Tom and the gang, I will welcome them to the event and wish them peace and goodwill. And hopefully they will find some nice atheists that will provide friendly and pleasant conversation and that both parties can take away something meaningful from the experience.

  18. hidden101

    Oh, I also wanted to clarify that David Silverman can be abrasive and I don’t always share his views or approve of his comments. I understand why it is confusing that he organized this rally and then asked religious folks to leave us alone. The best explanation I can come up with is that he just wants to show athiests can build a community and have fellowship just as religious people do and to show closet atheists that they are not alone. And statistically speaking, atheists are one of the most hated groups of people in America. Maybe the rally is trying to put us more in the public eye and show that we are not so bad and that we don’t hate religious people, we just disagree with their beliefs and want to raise awareness of our own views.

    I think the reason he said discussion is not welcome is because he wants the event to be fun and sometimes religious debate can turn ugly due so I think he wants to avoid the possibility of that happening.

    The other possibility is that he’s just being an idiot without a reason other than he holds a grudge against religious people. I don’t know. Like I said, he can be rather abrasive sometimes.

  19. NoxiousNan

    I know that Christians think William Lane Craig is some kind of brilliant, reasonable guy, but that is not how he is perceived at all by even the most inattentive atheists.

    The wished for debate will never happen, and you are just as much to benefit for that as atheists because Dawkins would put Craig to shame.

    If you want a reasoned debate as you say, you will have to find a more intelligent and reasonable person than Craig to do it. Craig’s laughable.

  20. JAD

    Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Suppose Christians were holding a rally on the mall this weekend. Would a Christian organizer ever say to atheists, who said they were going to attend the rally for the purpose of engaging in “respectful dialogue with attendees,” “Make no mistake – you are not welcomed guests at the rally.” Has anything like that ever happened? I think if Bible believing Christians did have a rally on the mall one of the purposes would to be to attract unbelievers and make them feel welcomed.

  21. Sault

    @ JAD

    “It’s not respectful for Christians to go around proselytizing.” (me)

    But it’s ok for you to proselytize others with your opinion that others should not proselytize. Hmmmm…

    Merriam-Webster, proselytize

    1 : to induce someone to convert to one’s faith
    2 : to recruit someone to join one’s party, institution, or cause

    A Christian going to the Reason Rally to attempt to have dialogues with “open minded people” for the purpose of possibly influencing that individual towards Christianity is proselytizing.

    Me telling you that proselytizing is disrespectful is not proselytizing. I don’t have a faith, I don’t have an institution, I don’t have a party, and I don’t have a “cause” that I’m trying to convert you towards. All I’m stating is that trying to convert other people to your ideology at this particular event is disrespectful.

  22. Pingback: christianoutreachnow.com - Reason Rally Organizer To Reasoning Christians: We Want No …

  23. BillT

    Sault,

    Do you really not see what you are doing?

    You believe it’s wrong for Christians to try to convert people to their beliefs. But you want to convert Christians to your belief that they should not try and convert people. Pot, kettle.

    And stop with the “I don’t have a faith, I don’t have an institution.” Everyone has beliefs. If you didn’t then why would you try and get others to agree with you about not proselytizing. Your belief that proselytizing is wrong (even if it’s only at this event) is a faith position just like it’s opposite number.

    What you’ve done is called a self-referential incoherence. You’ve disproved your position with your own words.
    .

  24. AgeOfReasonXXI

    ” There is another group being welcomed”

    yes, but the difference is that they were invited, your group were not, so you are not welcome.

    you seem really adamant to spoil other peoples’ party (given that they don’t want you there) for Christ

  25. AgeOfReasonXXI

    “Needless to say, he declined the opportunity for a reasoned debate between Craig and Dawkins.”

    did I mention that this[Craig] is a guy who claims no amount of evidence would convince him he’s wrong because the Holy Spirit in his heart assures him of his faith, insist in his ill-named book “Reasonable Faith”, where he discusses the “ministerial” role of reason, that Christians should be employ reason only as long as it serves faith, and basically admits he’d dismiss it if it goes against his faith– “if reason would turn against my faith so much the worse for reason!” For any person who values reason and intellectual honesty, to debate such a fundy is an insult. not to mention that Craig is also a disgraced genocide apologist who believes his God has the right and can, if he chooses to, kill every single person on this planet, since “God as the giver of life, can take life as he sees fit” (so much for Christianity having respect for human life) and Craig wouldn’t utter a single world of protest. so why debate a shameless anti-intellectual hack and “a nasty amoral excuse of a human being” (as PZ Mayers put it)?

  26. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    AOR,

    First, reason has not turned against Craig’s faith.

    Second, Dawkins relies so heavily upon identifiably fallacious arguments, appeals to emotion, and selective evidence, it just has to your own evidence-based belief values to accept his claim that he values reason. Similarly for P.Z. Myers.

    Your throw-away line, “‘since “God as the giver of life, can take life as he sees fit’ (so much for Christianity having respect for human life)” is equally devoid of respect for good thinking; for good thinking takes all relevant factors into account, which your quick answer does not do.

  27. BillT

    “yes, but the difference is that they were invited, your group were not, so you are not welcome.”

    It’s public gathering in a public place. If you didn’t want “non-believers” to attend you could have made it a private gathering in a private place. How hypocrtical is it to say you believe in reason, hold a public gathering in a public place and then tell some people they can’t attend. Can you explain the reasoning behind that?

  28. hidden101

    BillT,

    No one is telling religious persons they “can’t attend”. Silverman’s specific words were that anyone that wants to come to proselytize is “not welcome”.

    Think of the rally as a smaller group, say 10 people, hanging out in a public park. Let’s say a person walks up to the group and wants to talk to them about Jesus and the group states that it does not wish to engage in that conversation and that the person is “not welcome” in their group.

    That person still has every right to be in the public park. But remember, that person must respectfully disengage once the group tells this person they are “not welcome”. To fail to do so starts to get into “harassment” territory. When it gets to that point, police may intervene and remove the person.

    There’s nothing wrong with attempting to engage in dialogue, especially in a public place, as long as you respect the other party’s wishes to be left alone if they indicate they do not wish to speak to you about religion.

  29. BillT

    hidden,

    Ok. So you’re in maked dissagreement with Mr. Silverman. He said those coming with even the intent of a dialog aren’t welcome. You say people shouldn’t dialog if people ask them not to. Big difference.

  30. hidden101

    Bill,

    David Silverman does not speak for me as an atheist just because he happens to be another atheist. I welcome all people of any faith or no faith to stand beside me at the rally. I will say that I will not be willing to engage in any discussion with a religious person who is attempting to proselytize to me. That kind of thing is “not welcome” in my personal space. If someone attempts to do so and I ask them to please leave me alone and they persist, I will inform security that I feel I am being harassed.

    The reason many of us are unwilling to have the discussion on that day is because we have the discussion frequently at other times. Sometimes we would just like to have a break and have fellowship with like-minded people and enjoy ourselves. Another reason is because many of us are formerly Christian, so it’s not like we aren’t aware of your view (especially since it’s the majority view in the US). Remember, we left the faith for a reason and some of us have strong foundations for that reason.

  31. Sault

    “I believe that it is disrespectful for Christians to proselytize at the Reason Rally”. -me

    @ Bill T

    You believe it’s wrong for Christians to try to convert people to their beliefs. But you want to convert Christians to your belief that they should not try and convert people. Pot, kettle.

    To their faith, not belief!

    And stop with the “I don’t have a faith, I don’t have an institution.” Everyone has beliefs.

    Everyone has beliefs but not everyone has faith.

    Your belief that proselytizing is wrong (even if it’s only at this event) is a faith position just like it’s opposite number.

    Rather than repeat myself, let’s look at the dictionary to understand your mistake.

    Merriam-Webster, definition of faith :

    1a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions

    2a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust

    3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

    “I believe that it is disrespectful for Christians to proselytize at the Reason Rally”.

    Let’s see… am I displaying allegiance? No. Fidelity to promises? No. Sincerity of intentions? In a sense, I suppose, but the usage doesn’t really apply here. Belief in trust in and loyalty to God? No. Traditional doctrines? No. Complete trust? No. Believed with strong conviction, esp religious beliefs? No (I think it’s a reasonable statement to make, but I’m not going to be militant about it).

    So… a statement of belief, but not a statement of faith in any sense of the word, especially though regarding the supernatural. It is incorrect to label any and/or all beliefs being automatically synonymous with faith, because not all beliefs involve allegiance, God, or even very firm/strong convictions.

    Self-referential incoherence my heinie. This is the 2nd word definition fail within 10 posts!

  32. G. Kyle Essary

    AOR21,
    At least please attempt to read what someone says before you quote them as holding to a position that they do not hold. Your quotes on Craig concerning reason come from a Q&A on his website, and have a context. Here is the link for reference – http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5889

    Craig is clearly talking about a position he held in college, long before his first doctorate or even his first masters. He says that this position was a Kierkegaardian fideism that was not sustainable. Then he became familiar with scholarly work and realized that Christianity had a rational basis, and that these arguments could be reasonably demonstrated. Just two weeks later, he answered another question on this topic with a number of things that would cause him to disbelieve Christianity.

    Now, in the future, if you want to offer more substance than your ad hominems as you attempted to do with these quotes, at least put the quotes into a context that remotely resembles their original meaning. That’s a requirement of honesty in conversations. Quote mining just isn’t helpful.

  33. G. Kyle Essary

    Hidden,
    What do you think of Alain de Botton’s suggestion of a church for atheists? You seem to have a desire for this fellowship with other like minded people, but this is very different from the purpose of this rally as given by the organizers.

    They insist on doing it in a public place over loud speakers with hundreds of thousands of dollars of marketing and speaker fees for the “purpose…to advance secularism (in the broadest sense of the word) in society.”

    Do you see how from our perspective this appears to be two different views? It seems as though what you desire and what the rally offers are different, no?

  34. Doug

    Dawkins would put Craig to shame

    I find atheist demonstrations of evidence-free irrational faith to be so entertaining 🙂

  35. Allie

    It seems to me that the atheists who are trying to rationalize Mr. Silverman’s comments know for a fact that his comments prove that he is not as reasonable as he thinks he is and they are trying to cover it up. Sure there might just be a ‘reasonable’ atheist, but very few and far between. Skeptics of Christianity, by definition, are unreasonable, given that they reject the clear evidence given to them right before their very eyes.

    Atheists can go ahead and have their ‘Reason’ Rally, but we all know that it will not be celebrating reason by any means because it is apparently not about dialogue or civil debate, but about ‘fun’.

    I give two thumbs up for Doug’s comment above mine.

    On to another subject:

    Thank you, Tom, for sponsoring True Reason! I’m praying for hearts to be changed through sharing the ultimate Truth, the Gospel (and I hope to see some people in particular be humbled, or even humiliated (not in a disrespectful sense, but I think you know what I mean)by impacting them with the cold hard truth of the Gospel.

  36. AgeOfReasonXXI

    G. Kyle Essary,

    “He says that this position was a Kierkegaardian fideism that was not sustainable. ”

    Craig writes that “believe because it’s absurd” is unsustainable, not the view that the Holy Spirit takes precedence over arguments, evidence and reason.

    the “so much worse for reason” part is in perfect agreement with what Craig writes about the “ministerial” role of reason in his book, where he states that the Holy Spirit trumps all evidence and arguments, and–by having a “magisterial” role–trumps reason itself in case reason happens to collide with faith.

    now that’s faith-ism (or fideism) defined. Of course Craig denies it by redefining what fideism means. He even criticizes Plantinga for entertaining the possibility that even a properly basic belief, such as belief in God, may be defeated by reason, and shown to be irrational, which is actually why he claim reason has a ministerial role: he says this must be the case if “unbelief is to be punished” and goes on to say that “even if a person is given no good reason to belief, and many good reasons not to belief”, that person is still morally culpable and guilty before God and must be punished (as a side note- in Craig’s universe that punishment is eternal torment in Hell with no chance of escape. In fact, Craig had gone so far as to claim he feels uneasy about the idea that the “damned” might be pardoned at some point and allowed to join the blessed in Heaven. One can almost picture Craig’s uneasiness at the prospect of someone like Einstein say– whom Craig believes is being in Hell at this very moments–might be allowed in Heaven; surely Einstein hasn’t accomplished anything in his lifetime which merits that! I mean P.Z. Myers and Richard Dawkins are actually being too kind in dealing with this creep)

    The bottom line is this: a person who champions himself as an intellectual, has made a career presenting arguments and evidence for God and is hailed as the foremost defender of Christian faith, admits that no argument or evidence could possibly convince him Christianity is false. So he holds a position identical to that of any fundamentalist–‘nothing can change my mind’.
    But what really gets to people is that while making it perfectly clear his mind is closed and he won’t follow the evidence (or reason) where it leads if it leads away form Jesus, this guy has the nerve to urge his fans to question the sincerity of non-believers if they don’t accept his arguments–“If I answer your objection would you become a Christian?”! Yet if that question is posed to him with respect to becoming an atheist, his answer would be “NO” (the Holy Spirit trumps all!). Just what kind of shamelessly unprincipled and hypocritical scumbag could stand up in a debate with Hitchens and say “If Mr. Hitchens is a man of good will, he’d follow the evidence where it leads, and all the evidence tonight are on the side of Christianity”, when by this definition, Craig himself is NOT a man of good will, since he won’t follow the evidence where it leads! In fact, Craig is so unique in this regard– that is, the top Christian apologist in an nothing but an anti-intellectual fundy and a hack who had “adopted insincerity as a structural principle” (to quote Robert M. Price on Craig’s apologetics)– that many atheist philosophers like M. Martin apparently think that Craig is simply being inconsistent here in that his evidentialism is hard to square with that “faith trumps all evidence” nonsense. They seem are unable to suppose even for a moment that a person regarded by Christians as a one of their foremost intellectuals, and is known for constantly debating atheists by appealing to reason, arguments and evidence, is in fact NOT an evidentialist(Craig had stated that on a couple of occasions, while of course denying he’s a presuppositionalist either), and holds the view that arguments and evidence are not the reason he’s a Christian and they are to be discarded if they happen to contradict and no longer “serve” the Christian faith.. And this fraud dares to demand atheists like Dawkins debate him? Add to that his “odiously unctuous, smug and self-satisfied tone of voice” and you can see why Dawkins calls Craig a disgusting person and why he, and Grayling, and Toynbee are right to refuse to give that disgraced hack a platform, even if ALL of his arguments are correct (btw, that’s why none of this is an ad-hominem fallacy– i never said that makes his argumets wrong. it’s simply exposing a charlatan and a fundy as such)
    If that’s not enough for you to see just what kind of individual one is dealing when it comes to “Two Citation” Craig, I don’t know what will.

  37. hidden101

    Allie,

    No one is trying to cover up anything about David Silverman. As I have said- he does not speak for me or any atheist; only for himself. We are not like Catholics. We don’t have a Pope. We don’t have any authority or structure because we are not a religion. We are just a bunch of people who don’t believe in deities. So what Mr Silverman says does not have to hold true for all of us.

    Also, I’m not sure how we are being unreasonable for not believing in a deity, specifically the Abrahamic deity. You say there is evidence, but I have yet to see any solid evidence that would make me believe the god of Judaism, Islam and Christianity is real or any other deity for that matter. A holy book written by men who claim to speak for god is not evidence enough for me. The only reason I was ever a Christian is because my family raised me to be one. Now that I am an adult, I don’t see enough evidence for it and until I do, I will remain atheist. For me to change my mind at this point, it would take god himself showing himself to me. No human can point to a book with texts from a very long time ago and tell me this deity exists. That is not evidence. It’s a book.

  38. Doug

    If that’s not enough for you to see just what kind of individual one is dealing [with]

    Don’t worry, AOR, you’ve given us more than enough nonsense to know just what kind of individual we’re dealing with.

  39. Doug

    For me to change my mind at this point, it would take god himself showing himself to me.

    How remarkably irrational! But perfectly consistent.

    Permit me to save you many wasted hours: the god-who-plays-by-your-rules does not exist. That’s right: your atheism is perfectly justified. Except that it has no bearing on the existence of the God-who-exists (and doesn’t play by your rules). Logic fail.

  40. JAD

    There is a difference between (A) believing that your position is more reasonable and (B)being able to demonstrate that your position is more reasonable. There is no doubt that the majority of atheists who will be attending the Reason Rally this weekend believe A. The problem is that without B, A is pure faith. That strikes me as being ironic.

  41. hidden101

    Doug,

    How is needing to see something to believe it “remarkably irrational”? when you learned to do addition in school, you knew 2+2=4 because you could take 2 apples and put them together with 2 more apples and see 4 apples.

    JAD,

    Is it not reasonable to say that deities may exist, but without empirical evidence, there’s no reason to concern myself with it and assume they probably don’t exist? We don’t have proof of unicorns or leprechauns, but you don’t go around wondering if they exist, do you? How is that unreasonable? It makes no sense to me.

  42. Doug

    @hidden,
    Excellent example: you’ve never seen the number two. Why do you believe in it? What makes you leap from “2 apples” to the generalization “the number two”? Do you see the number two? Or is the generalization something that you believe in without seeing it?
    NB: the numeral “2” is only a reference to “the number two”. So believing in “the number two” on the basis of seeing the numeral “2” is no more logical than believing in God on the basis of seeing the word “God”.
    Another point: you’ve never seen me. But you believe in my existence. Why is that?

  43. hidden101

    Doug,

    I don’t see you, but I see a person who claims their name is Doug who is sending me messages with a computer over the Internet. That is all I know about you. I am mostly sure you are a human, but you may be a computer programmed with AI. Even less likely, you could be some other form of life. You may even be the Abrahamic deity speaking to me through the computer.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I am 99.9% sure you are a human. But could I be wrong? Sure. Would it be unreasonable for me to assume otherwise? In my opinion, yes. This is an example of believing something without seeing it, but in this case it is irrelevant whether or not you are a human. In other words, it affects my life in no negative way and I enjoy speaking to you whether or not you are a Human named Doug or an alien from space. Ok, bad example. If you were an alien, that would be something I would be interested in knowing, but hopefully you get my point.

    On the other hand, if I am to live my life according to what a man told me that a deity told him, I would want to be pretty sure of it. I think life is precious and I want to live it to my full potential and I want to be a good person that others consider an example of morality. Without knowing for sure that this deity exists, I have no reason to live my life according to his holy book. And if I were to search the universe for a deity, where would I start? And if I were sure I found the Abrahamic deity, do I go with Judaism, Christianity or Islam? Suppose I choose Christianity. Which sect do I choose from there? And once I’ve found a sect, which sub-sect do I go with?

    You know, while we’re on the topic of choosing, I’ve traveled to quite a few places in the world and the one thing that strikes me very plainly is that the people in those other countries did not choose their religion. Their culture did. Keep that in mind the next time you feel confident that your religion is the right one.

    I am not 100% sure the Abrahamic does or does not exist. Keep in mind I also feel the same about Leprechauns or Thor and Zeus. Until I see reasonable evidence for any of those things I see no need to assume they are real, but I won’t count them out. On deities, our existence alone does not prove their existence.

  44. Doug

    @hidden,
    Thanks for the response.
    But the answer to many of your questions are implicit in your answers to mine…
    You don’t need to know that I have three children, or that my Grandfather escaped from Russia during the revolution and died in the Alberta coal mines. But if you want to know me, you could do that by talking to me. Similarly, when Jesus said “seek and you will find” he wasn’t suggesting an examination of the taxonomy of existing beliefs.
    But the fact is that you believe in a great many things without seeing them. Why the double standard for God?

  45. JAD

    hidden101,

    Is it not reasonable to say that deities may exist, but without empirical evidence, there’s no reason to concern myself with it and assume they probably don’t exist?

    I can think of a lot of evidence. For example, there is evidence that the universe had a transcendent cause.

  46. hidden101

    Doug,

    I don’t feel that it is a double standard. I believe cars are driven by engines because I was told that it is fact. If I wanted to be assured of that, I would open the hood of my car (furthermore, I could even learn how one worked and build one myself if I were so inclined).

    I cannot say the same for deities. Sure, there are books describing these deities, but how can I be sure it is fact if I can’t see the deity and have no way of doing so? I would like to assert that I don’t take everything I’m told as fact, not even by scientists. I am sure to always be skeptical and remember that our knowledge increases as time does. What we know today is more than we knew yesterday and we will know more tomorrow.

    Granted, there are many things I cannot see, but assume to be true. Gravity for one. We don’t know why larger mass pulls on smaller mass, but we observe it. Could new evidence lead to the discovery that gravity doesn’t exist at all and some other force causes us to stay firmly planted on our planet and our planet to rotate predictably around the sun? It is entirely possible. Is that possibility reason for me to assume the theory of gravity is false? Not exactly. Can I be skeptical and critical of the theory of gravity and still believe it is the best explanation we have for the behavior of falling objects? Definitely.

    Does that give you enough base to answer my questions?

    I do have one more question for you. I understand you are wondering why I do not believe in your deity specifically. Maybe I can help you understand my position with a similar question- Do you believe in Zeus? If not, why?

  47. hidden101

    JAD,

    Can you please explain? I am genuinely curious what can be offered as evidence. So far nothing I have seen has been convincing.

  48. emilyhasbooks

    Seek dialogue elsewhere. This is an event for those that support the separation of church and state, and for those that identify as non-theists. If you’re fine with having your face plastered in the media with labels of ‘sea of atheists’ great, I’ll be sure to tag you on my blog. This is NOT a place to spread the word of your “Lord” or pester us with whatever other ideologies you have. This is our celebration… why don’t you just go to church and let us be, or maybe next week, I’ll go infiltrate your church celebrations… sound fair? No? Then leave us alone.

  49. Doug

    @hidden,
    Actually, I’m wondering why you are incapable of seeing how illogical you are.
    You believe in logic. You believe in other minds. You believe in numbers. You don’t see them. You don’t demand to see them. You understand that they are not the “type of thing” that one needs to see. But you insist that God is the “type of thing” that you need to see. On what basis do you insist this? Is there any evidence that God is the “type of thing” one needs to see? Is there any claim that God is the “type of thing” one needs to see? Or is it simply a convenient demand from someone who is ideologically predisposed to dismiss God and would like to continue in the self-deception that his stance is “rational”?

  50. Martin Wagner

    Doug: If something is threatening me with an eternity of torture for not believing it exists, than I think it’s entirely rational to want hard evidence that it does.

    For the “True Reason” gang: In case you still don’t quite get it about the attitude you’re getting regarding the rally, let me explain. I’m one of the cohosts of The Atheist Experience, a weekly live call-in television show that plays locally on cable access and is streamed to a global audience online. We take calls from theists and atheists all over the world, and enjoy a good hearty debate and discussion.

    But after every show, we and our studio audience all head off to a local restaurant, and we tell our viewers specifically that these post-show gatherings are not a welcome venue for you to turn up and preach or proselytize to us. The dinners are a social meetup for atheists and atheist-friendly persons simply to relax, eat and wind down. If a theist wants to debate us, the call-in show is set up expressly for that purpose, and you can email us as well. Happily, we don’t get Christians making a nuisance of themselves at our post-show dinners, even though the restaurant, like the DC Mall, is a thoroughly public place they have a perfect right to take themselves to as customers.

    So what you’re basically being told is the same thing. The Reason Rally is an event to celebrate secularism and church/state separation, and it’s not where we want to have Jesus pushed on us. It’s not as if we aren’t getting that every day of our lives already.

    While it’s commendable that Mr. Gilson assures us his people won’t impose themselves on anyone who doesn’t welcome the attention, that only leaves the question of why you’re still coming. You’re coming, in all honesty, in the hopes of winning one, just one “lost soul” to Jesus. You’ve even published an e-book of rebuttals just for the occasion, in the hopes of arming your people against our arguments. But you aren’t taking into account that we’ve heard it all before, and that almost all of us were raised in one religious environment or another. So it isn’t through lack of hearing “the Word” that we’re unbelievers.

    If you want to dialogue with us, do it here online, or by contacting one of our many media outlets, or by arranging public debates, or what have you. We’d love to hear from you.

  51. hidden101

    Martin! Love your show!

    “So it isn’t through lack of hearing “the Word” that we’re unbelievers.”

    It is actually the inverse!

    Doug- I could ask you the same questions you are asking me with a substitution for a deity and they would still be perfectly logical. I do not feel my logic is in error in any way.

    For example- do you believe in unicorns? If the answer is no, then why not? Is faith in them alone a good enough reason to claim their existence is real? What if I told you they were real, but they were invisible? What evidence would you need to believe that statement?

    If you want an answer to why I do not believe in your deity, then please attempt to answer the question “why don’t you believe in Zeus?” and you will have the answer to your question without a need for me to explain myself.

  52. Doug

    If something is threatening me with an eternity of torture for not believing it exists, than I think it’s entirely rational to want hard evidence that it does.

    Leaving aside the strawman…. How is this claim different from the claim that “if I don’t like the implications of something then it is rational to shift the goalposts so that I can pretend to justify my denial of it”?

  53. BillT

    “The problem is that without B, A is pure faith.”

    Exactly. And not surprising given it’s been pretty conclusively demonstrated that it takes far more faith to be an atheist than a theist.

  54. Doug

    @hidden,
    wow — talk about evasion. Let’s take this slow (please answer as concisely as possible):
    “you insist that God is the “type of thing” that you need to see. On what basis do you insist this?”
    (btw, I’m happy to answer your questions if they are actually addressing the issue or if they are actually representing my position — the last number have been quite disconnected!)

  55. TCC

    Not sure if you know, the National Atheist Party has been criticized for inviting the WBC. So that’s a non-argument, frankly.

    I won’t be able to attend the RR, although I really would like to, but let me add my voice as well as saying that I would be pretty irritated to have a bunch of Christians, even ones that seem to want calm and polite conversation, follow nonbelievers to a rally that is meant to show solidarity for the numbers of us who often don’t feel comfortable telling people around us that we don’t believe because it would adversely affect our family relationships, our friendships, and our livelihoods, among other things. You see it as the desire for reasoned debate; we see it as just another attempt to push what you believe on us. This rally is not about you, so please, have some common decency and just let it be. There are many other ways you can have dialogue, and many atheists will be happy to have it with you, just not at the RR. I really don’t understand what’s so hard to swallow about that.

    (Dave Silverman is another story altogether; he has his moments where he can be a great spokesperson and moments where he’s not, but his point is valid whether or not you like the way he addressed you with it.)

  56. hidden101

    G. Kyle Essary,

    I forgot to answer your question. I do not believe atheists need a church because we are not a religion. Many of us do have gatherings to get that type of fellowship. To be honest, the only reason we even feel the need for a sense of community in the US is because there is such a large population of religious people which can make some of us feel alienated at times. Without religion, we would feel no need to gather specifically in the name of atheism.

  57. Martin Wagner

    Leaving aside the strawman…. How is this claim different from the claim that “if I don’t like the implications of something then it is rational to shift the goalposts so that I can pretend to justify my denial of it”?

    Doug, what on earth are you talking about? Perhaps there’s a part of the discussion with hidden101 you’re referring to here, but for my part, I’m not an unbeliever due to an appeal to consequences (though the whole hellfire thing isn’t exactly Christianity’s nicest selling point), but because I do not think there is sufficient evidence to justify belief. That’s pretty much it.

    And it’s not a “straw man” to bring up eternal punishment. It is, after all, right there in the scriptures.

  58. TCC

    You believe in logic. You believe in other minds. You believe in numbers. You don’t see them. You don’t demand to see them. You understand that they are not the “type of thing” that one needs to see. But you insist that God is the “type of thing” that you need to see. On what basis do you insist this?

    I’m not hidden, but I’ll take a crack at this.

    I would contend that the amount of things that the average person is willing to accept without “seeing” them (I prefer talking about empirical evidence, personally) is very small and can fit into a few groups (not exhaustive):

    1. Pure abstractions
    2. Conceptual descriptions of real-world behavior/action

    Numbers are purely abstract, and logic conceptualizes what we observe to be true (e.g. that things are not both X and not-X), in the same way that gravity and inertia are conceptualizations of what we observe as general principles. Other minds, insofar as they can be demonstrated to exist as a separate entity outside of a brain (which they presently can’t), are a concept that we develop upon introspection and observation of human behavior.

    What does not fit into the category of “things I do not need empirical evidence to believe”: personal beings. If you want to call God a purely abstract concept, then go right ahead, but I daresay that (if you’re a Christian) you’ve committed heresy. And I’m not exactly compelled by that argument, as I could call that abstract existential concept “universe” or “reality” without referring to a religious term.

  59. Doug

    @Martin

    right there in the scriptures

    then it should be easy for you to find it, and provide references?

    what on earth are you talking about

    It was simply a question of logic, that’s all: “How is this claim (viz, “If something is threatening me with an eternity of torture for not believing it exists, than I think it’s entirely rational to want hard evidence that it does.”) different from the claim that “if I don’t like the implications of something then it is rational to shift the goalposts so that I can pretend to justify my denial of it”? I’d like to know what your answer is, actually. (NB: I never claimed you were an unbeliever due to consequences)

  60. Martin Wagner

    John 3:18 and 3:36. Romans 14:23 among others.

    As for the other, where did I shift goalposts? Christians claim that if I do not believe in their God, I’m going to Hell. Okay then, give me some evidence this God exists.

    In what way is that an unreasonable request?

  61. hidden101

    “And not surprising given it’s been pretty conclusively demonstrated that it takes far more faith to be an atheist than a theist.”

    Come on, Bill. That makes no sense. If we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of the Abrahamic deity, then either position takes the same amount of faith. The difference is that I’m not claiming it is impossible for the Abrahamic deity to exist. I’m merely asserting that I have not seen sufficient evidence for it, therefore I have no reason to spend a significant amount of my time worrying about it. To understand what I mean, look at “Russell’s teapot”.

    Doug- I could say the same for you. You say you are happy to answer my questions, but you present caveats and conditions to do so that are irrelevant. There’s nothing stopping you from answering my question other than the fact that you wish to have your question answered first so you can lead me down a trail of logic that I don’t even agree with without ever addressing anything I ask you. It is an attempt to control the conversation and I don’t like it.

    I will answer your question, but if I do not receive any answers to my questions, this is no longer a discussion and I will have to take my ball and go home.

    The basis I insist your deity is something I have to see is the same basis for which I insist I must see a unicorn to believe it. According to your religion, your deity is a being, correct? The Bible asserts man was “created in God’s image”. Therefore, this deity must be a physical entity, correct? If I am wrong to assume this, then there is an error somewhere. Either in the Bible itself, or your understanding of it.

    Usually to believe a physical entity exists, I need to see it. If I cannot see it, there either must be a sufficient way to detect it, or other such evidence for it that would take away any reasonable doubt.

    Since you asked about numbers, I do not need to “believe” in numbers. They are not physical objects. They are representations of physical objects. They are a construct of the mind.

    Hopefully that is a sufficient answer. Please reciprocate by answering at least one of my answers. Preferably, the question “why do you not believe in Zeus?”.

    I do not mind if you have more questions after reading my answer, but if we never get to the point where you address any of my questions, then again, this is not a discussion and it would be futile to continue.

  62. Martin Wagner

    And not surprising given it’s been pretty conclusively demonstrated that it takes far more faith to be an atheist than a theist.

    BillT, please explain how this has been done.

    Really, guys, if bald, unsupported assertions like these are indicative of the level of “dialogue” you want to have with Reason Rally attendees, is it any wonder we’re less than enthusiastic?

  63. Doug

    @Martin,
    The “condemnation” is not in question.
    The strawman is your projected interpretation of that condemnation (i.e., “eternity of torture”).
    You don’t understand me: I am not claiming that you shifted the goalposts. I am asking a question of logic. But I was too flowery in the way I asked the question. Let me try again:
    You said:

    If something is threatening me with an eternity of torture for not believing it exists, than I think it’s entirely rational to want hard evidence that it does.

    I asked (now in a more rigorous form):
    It is clear that this fits the form: “if I do not like the implications of something, then it’s entirely rational to hold it to a much higher standard than I would hold things whose implications I prefer.” But that is not a correct usage of “rational”. Did you mean “understandable”?

  64. Doug

    @hidden,
    Your response to me is just so profoundly wrong on so many levels, that I’m at a loss where to begin.
    But that you should derive “God is a physical being” from “man was made in God’s image” represents a serious deficiency in both logic and imagination.
    But since you absolutely insist on asking irrelevant questions, I’ll answer: “I do not believe in Zeus because nobody on the planet currently believes in Zeus.” Satisfied?

  65. Robert O'Brien

    The wished for debate will never happen, and you are just as much to benefit for that as atheists because Dawkins would put Craig to shame.

    In the alternate universe where Spock sports a beard, perhaps, but not in this one. Dawkins criticisms of classical theism and Christianity are equal parts anemic and risible. Not only that, but Dawkins’ contributions to his own field appear to be minimal.

  66. Martin Wagner

    And not surprising given it’s been pretty conclusively demonstrated that it takes far more faith to be an atheist than a theist.

    If this is my interpretation of God’s condemnation, perhaps that’s because it’s one that’s been handed to me by churches, pastors, Sunday School classes, and Christian-influenced culture all my life.

    But perhaps other flavors of Christian (and why so many, if this is all one truth?) have different ways of interpreting what it meant by “condemnation.” Maybe Dante is out of fashion, and “condemnation” means something less violent and scary in belief circles these days.

    Fine then. Whatever. I will leave it to you guys to interpret your fables as you see fit. But at a baseline level, my question would be this: If I am to be “condemned” in some fashion for rejecting belief in the Christian God, why is it irrational to demand extremely rigorous evidence for the actual existence of this being? Because without it, I’d be basing my “belief” solely on fear of said “condemnation,” which doesn’t strike me as rational any way you slice it.

    Going by the maxim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, then yes, I do think being threatened with negative consequences for rejecting a claim (particularly one of a supernatural nature, where physical evidence has a nasty habit of being very elusive) entitles me to hold that claim to higher standards.

    And if rationality is defined as the exercise of reason (which is it), then yes, this is using it correctly.

  67. Sault

    @ BillT

    Exactly. And not surprising given it’s been pretty conclusively demonstrated that it takes far more faith to be an atheist than a theist.

    1. If faith is a virtue, then you should be an atheist, too.

    2. There’s this thing called a dictionary. You should read it sometime. As has many times been the case, I have even done the work for you. Since the discussion centers so much around “reason”… how about you display some and use your words properly?

    @ JAD –

    Prove that the universe had a transcendent cause.

    @ Martin –

    Love the show. Keep up the good work!

    @ Doug, JAD –

    Try to stop dodging the question. Do you believe in Zeus? Or Thor? If not, why not?

    In fact, regarding Thor, there’s a lot more evidence for his existence than Jesus’. He fought the ice giants for instance, and since there aren’t any ice giants left, that proves that he was successful.

    @ Doug –

    And it’s not a “straw man” to bring up eternal punishment. It is, after all, right there in the scriptures.

    then it should be easy for you to find it, and provide references?

    Its interesting how you pretend for the moment that hell doesn’t exist in scripture, yet in a different thread you actually recommended the CS Lewis Book “The Great Divorce” if someone wanted to “think clearly about hell”.

    Your recommendation came exactly one post after Victoria recommended a page for me about hell.

    Why the disingenuity? You are familiar with your Bible, are you not?

    NB: the numeral “2″ is only a reference to “the number two”. So believing in “the number two” on the basis of seeing the numeral “2″ is no more logical than believing in God on the basis of seeing the word “God”.

    Are you saying that God is in the same category as the number 2? What attributes does God share with the number two that He should be lumped into the same category an abstract number?

  68. Sault

    @ Doug

    But since you absolutely insist on asking irrelevant questions, I’ll answer: “I do not believe in Zeus because nobody on the planet currently believes in Zeus.” Satisfied?

    If I can find one person in the entire world who believes that Zeus exists, will you then believe in Zeus?

    More importantly (to me) – there are many people who (rightly) believe in Thor and his ability to protect us with his mighty hammer. Why don’t you believe in Thor?

  69. Robert O'Brien

    I, for one, am content to let the atheists have their Nuremberg Rally, although it is tempting to show up to expose their collective ignorance. Maybe next time! (Not all of us are as irenic as Mr. Gilson, you see.)

  70. Martin Wagner

    In point of fact, there are people today who worship Zeus and the ancient Greek gods.

    But choosing not to believe in something because you don’t think anyone else believes in it is still fallacious reasoning. A wise person proportions belief to the available evidence. If we are to separate true claims from false claims, we must have a reliable method for doing so. If there is any method better than having evidence to examine, I haven’t heard it.

  71. Doug

    @Sault,
    If I met someone who believed in Zeus, intellectual honesty demands that I would request from them to be told what kind of evidence that I might expect of Zeus.
    If I were to capriciously decide that I couldn’t believe in Zeus because he doesn’t appear in my basement wearing a bunny suit on the third of April, the Zeus-believer could legitimately accuse me of irrationality.

  72. Doug

    @Martin

    But choosing not to believe in something because you don’t think anyone else believes in it is still fallacious reasoning.

    What in the world made you leap to conclude that the answer to the question “Why don’t you believe in Zeus?” was an answer to the question “What reasons do you have not to believe in Zeus?” Goodness — this thread could be a homework assignment for Basic Logic.

  73. Doug

    @Sault,

    What attributes does God share with the number two that He should be lumped into the same category an abstract number?

    Finally! A sensible question!! Thank you, thank you! The attribute of necessity.

  74. Martin Wagner

    What in the world made you leap to conclude that the answer to the question “Why don’t you believe in Zeus?” was an answer to the question “What reasons do you have not to believe in Zeus?” Goodness — this thread could be a homework assignment for Basic Logic.

    I wish it were, as your concept of how it works baffles me. Please explain how slightly rewording the exact same question entirely alters its meaning. If you ask someone why they don’t believe a claim, are you not asking for their reasons?

  75. Martin Wagner

    If I met someone who believed in Zeus, intellectual honesty demands that I would request from them to be told what kind of evidence that I might expect of Zeus.

    Righty-o, you’re starting to get it.

    Now replace “Zeus” with “God” in your own sentence, and you’ll grasp what we’re asking you.

  76. Doug

    @Martin,
    Are you seriously unable to appreciate the distinction? Someone without exposure to an idea can surely be permitted to reference that lack of exposure as a reason “why they don’t accept that idea” without being accused of using the lack of exposure as a “reason to not accept the idea”?

  77. hidden101

    @Doug

    So now your strategy is claim my arguments are ridiculous without sufficient refutation, therefore you are right. Oh, also that I am devoid of logic (your understanding of logic seems to differ quite a bit from mine). I can see now that this is turning into a waste of time but I will continue for a little while longer before I tire of this.

    Let us assume my interpretation of the Bible is wrong and your deity is not a physical being. How do you know that? How do you know your interpretation is correct? I’m quite sure I could find some other Christians who would agree with me and we are all reading from the same source information. How do you determine who is correct?

    I would attempt to establish conditions in order to help come to conclusions for my arguments, but your track record of answering my questions has been less than great. I’ll give it a shot though, because without a baseline, we have nowhere to start and this discussion has no direction.

    In order for me to address your question about why I need to see things for them to exist I need you to establish how you know your deity is not a physical being. It would also be helpful if you could elaborate on the state of this deity. On what plane of existence does this being reside? Does it have color, texture, taste, smell, etc? In what ways can it be detected? If you can provide this information then I may be able to address your question more accurately. Obviously your understanding of this deity and my understanding of it differ. I am not surprised though. There are a myriad of sects within Christianity that hold vastly different beliefs. Wonder who is right…

    And no, your answer to why you do not believe in Zeus is not satisfactory. But it does lend quite a bit to my assertion that religion is cultural and that the only reason you are a Christian is because you weren’t born in an Islamic state. If you feel like believing in a specific deity because “everyone else does” is a good enough reason to do so, then I’m truly at a loss as to why you think I’m the illogical one here.

  78. Doug

    @Martin,

    you’ll grasp what we’re asking you

    It is such a shame that you are unable to grasp what I’m asking you! Namely, the intellectual honesty to look for the kind of evidence that a believer would expect of God, rather than this infantile “i want to see him”.

  79. Victoria

    @Martin
    So, then this brings us back to the question of what you would consider to be evidence for God? Well how about the evidence we have for Jesus of Nazareth, to start with?

    PS – Hi, nice to meet you 🙂

  80. Doug

    @hidden,
    Actually, I asked you earlier to respond with short responses. Now I must say: I will not respond to long posts.

  81. Martin Wagner

    Doug:

    Are you seriously unable to appreciate the distinction? Someone without exposure to an idea can surely be permitted to reference that lack of exposure as a reason “why they don’t accept that idea” without being accused of using the lack of exposure as a “reason to not accept the idea”?

    Oh, finally. You weren’t making it clear you were asking about the difference between implicit atheism and explicit atheism. There is indeed a distinction to be made between simply having never been exposed to an idea, and rejecting it based on having been exposed to it and evaluating it. But everyone attending Reason Rally will be someone who’s been exposed to religious claims. So what’s this got to do with you guys showing up at the Rally to “dialogue”?

    Robert O’Brien:

    I, for one, am content to let the atheists have their Nuremberg Rally, although it is tempting to show up to expose their collective ignorance. Maybe next time!

    Yay, Godwin’s Law! Well, I must say it’s always a delight to see what a “thinking Christian” “thinks” when he’s “thinking.”

    (PS: The Nazis were theists. I mean, if you really insist on going there with your thread derail.)

  82. hidden101

    What in the world made you leap to conclude that the answer to the question “Why don’t you believe in Zeus?” was an answer to the question “What reasons do you have not to believe in Zeus?”

    Ah, I see. So the conditions required for an argument to take place between us is that I must not leave any room for assumption at all? Not even reasonable assumptions.

    This basically amounts to playing games with me. Your strategy is to claim you didn’t make the assumption that me asking you why you don’t believe in Zeus could not possibly infer that I was wanting your reasons for not believing. “Because no one else currently living believes” is a reason and I got it out of you without asking the more specific question you thought I should have presented.

    You are being fallacious. You are pretending my logic is unsound because I left room (however small) in my question for assumption, despite the fact that you fully understand what I was asking for.

    I’m not willing to continue anymore. This is a waste of my time.

  83. Robert O'Brien

    Yay, Godwin’s Law! Well, I must say it’s always a delight to see what a “thinking Christian” “thinks” when he’s “thinking.”

    I stole that from Dawkins, actually (see his interview with Ted Haggard). I was using it in the colloquial sense of a propaganda rally.

    (PS: The Nazis were theists. I mean, if you really insist on going there with your thread derail.)

    Yes, most were theists of some sort. The Nazi leadership was not Christian, however.

  84. Martin Wagner

    Doug:

    It is such a shame that you are unable to grasp what I’m asking you! Namely, the intellectual honesty to look for the kind of evidence that a believer would expect of God, rather than this infantile “i want to see him”.

    Okay, now who’s strawmanning? Maybe someone else told you they wanted to see the clouds part and God to peek out and say hello like some Monty Python movie. But I never said this. All I ever ask any theist is for evidence, and all I ever expect them to give me is the evidence they find persuasive. It’s not as if they could give me anything else.

    As for physical evidence of a God’s existence, I do think that if Christianity’s claims are true — that our physical reality was created by this God — then physical manifestations of this God’s existence ought to be around somewhere. But I leave it to the theist to point out what he thinks those are.

    Victoria:

    So, then this brings us back to the question of what you would consider to be evidence for God? Well how about the evidence we have for Jesus of Nazareth, to start with?

    Nice to meet you too! While I’m not one of those atheists who categorically rejects the existence of a historical Jesus, I’d be very interested in seeing any evidence you might think exists confirming the specific supernatural claims associated with Jesus that appear in the Bible. One must also consider the centuries of ecclesiastical editing and revising that went into not only the New Testament canon, but other historical works (like Josephus) that purport to be evidence of Jesus.

    Do I think the gospel character of Jesus might have been inspired by an actual itinerant rabbi who angered the establishment? Sure, it could well have happened. Do I think we can get to the real person through nearly 2000 years of mythologizing about him? Not so much.

  85. BillT

    “look at “Russell’s teapot”.”

    “Russell’s teapot”? That’s suppose to be a serious argument? Everyone here has looked at “Russell’s teapot”. It’s laughable as a serious argument at all much less a argument that sheds light on the existance of God. Do you really have nothing better than that?

    That’s one of the big problems here. You bring nonesense like this and think you’ve brought something of note. You haven’t. This is the same sad stuff that Dawkins filled his book with that’s been debunked by at least a hundred authors and commentators. And then you think we should actually be impressed with it. Too much.

  86. Victoria

    @Martin

    A wise person proportions belief to the available evidence. If we are to separate true claims from false claims, we must have a reliable method for doing so. If there is any method better than having evidence to examine, I haven’t heard it.

    By available evidence, I’m going to assume that you mean not simply quantity but also quality. In physics, for example, Rutherford’s scattering experiment (alpha particles and gold foil) was a key result that forced physicists to abandon their current model of atomic structure, despite the fact that according to classical electrodynamics, the planetary model (negative charges orbiting a positive nucleus) is impossible – that’s how modern quantum theory got its start.

    Now, in the case of Christianity, we are dealing with forensic (historical) evidence, related to the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, and specifically His death, the empty tomb and His subsequent appearances over a period of 40 days afterwards, and the bold proclamation that God resurrected Him from the dead – something that the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem wished they could refute, but never did. There are plenty of scholarly works available that discuss this evidence and the objections to it.

    If the historical data is not good enough for you, then that is your loss and your problem.

  87. Doug

    what’s this got to do with you guys showing up at the Rally to “dialogue”

    Gee — thanks so much for paying attention :-p

  88. hidden101

    @Victoria

    Hi, Victoria. Good day to you.

    I’m not going to get into how much evidence we have for Jesus of Nazareth or if it is even sufficient, but let me clear something up- The atheist argument is based on natural vs. supernatural. Although it’s entirely possible Jesus did exist, it is irrelevant to our argument. We only claim that the supernatural stuff is false.

    Jesus may have been real, but when someone asserts he could walk on water, I must disagree. We’ve never witnessed and documented someone walking on water using a supernatural force. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but for me to believe it, I would require reasonable evidence for it. Also, for me to even consider the he was the son of Yaweh would require me to first hold the belief that Yaweh is real, which I do not. So we really don’t have a good starting point, do we?

  89. Sault

    @ Doug

    If I met someone who believed in Zeus, intellectual honesty demands that I would request from them to be told what kind of evidence that I might expect of Zeus.

    The only evidence that you need to know that Zeus exists is that Mons Olympus is cloudy (some days) and that books were written about him. Alternatively, you could accept the lack of ice giants as proof of Thor. Alternatively, you could accept the decline of pirates and increased global warming as evidence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    Let’s all welcome our new Greco-Nordic-Pastafarian friend!

    [re why God is in same category as the number 2]
    Finally! A sensible question!! Thank you, thank you! The attribute of necessity.

    We can exist without the number two. Any numbers at all, actually. Not a very good analogy, I’m afraid.

    On a different topic, if you don’t respond to long posts, should I intentionally abbreviate my response to your ID question above (re: mutations, human-chimps, etc)? I’d rather be complete, but if you want 1 or 2 paragraphs instead I can try to accommodate.

  90. Doug

    who’s strawmanning

    not me! if you were paying attention, you would know that my sub-thread started (#43) in response to hidden’s

    For me to change my mind at this point, it would take god himself showing himself to me.

    (#41)

  91. Martin Wagner

    I was using it in the colloquial sense of a propaganda rally.

    Just as long as you’re willing to use it whenever a megachurch opens its doors, then that’s cool.

    Yes, most were theists of some sort. The Nazi leadership was not Christian, however.

    Well, to whatever degree Hitler may or may not have been honest about trumpeting his Catholicism whenever he could, let’s just not stoop to throwing Nazis into the discussion, mkay? If you guys really want to “dialogue” with us, I’d suggest that’s a counterproductive way to start.

    “I have not tolerated an atheist in the ranks of the SS. Every member has a deep faith in God, in what my ancestors called in their language Waralda, the ancient one, the one who is mightier than we are.” —Heinrich Himmler

    “We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.” —ol’ Adolph hisself

  92. Robert O'Brien

    Not a very good analogy, I’m afraid.

    It is not an analogy, your lack of understanding concerning necessary beings notwithstanding.

  93. Pingback: Christian Carnival 423 (Maybe) | The Bible Archive

  94. Doug

    We can exist without the number two. Any numbers at all, actually. Not a very good analogy, I’m afraid.

    You missed the point. I did not say that God and numbers are identical. I did not say that numbers are necessary for our existence (although they may be!)

    should I intentionally abbreviate my response

    On the contrary, it would be an absolute honor to respond to a well-thought, logical, and evidence-rich comment, no matter its length!

  95. hidden101

    @Bill

    Perhaps you misunderstand the goal of the teapot scenario. It is attempting to establish that the existence of something unseen is possible, but without evidence of it and no viable way to collect evidence of it, there’s no reason to put much stock into it, much less build an entire life around it.

    What is so unreasonable about that?

    It’s like me telling you that I have a leprechaun in my pocket and that you must believe me without evidence because I cannot show you. If that scenario sounds ridiculous to you, it is because it should. If you have no way of collecting evidence for something, then you have no reason to believe it exists. That idea is what Russell’s teapot attempts to frame and I think it does a sufficient job of doing so.

    If you disagree, how about giving me reasons why instead of just claiming it’s a ridiculous argument and laughing at me? You won’t get very far with me that way.

  96. Martin Wagner

    Victoria:

    If the historical data is not good enough for you, then that is your loss and your problem.

    Victoria, I can’t very well be expected to study and evaluate the historical works you mention if all you want to do is insist they exist but won’t give me the actual references.

    You seem to be insisting that because there is historical data, I am under some obligation to accept it as a priori valid. But histories can be (and often are) inaccurate. So what are the verifiable, secular historical documents that confirm any of the supernatural claims surrounding Jesus?

  97. Victoria

    @hidden
    I think you have missed the point entirely, and for me to try to explain it to you would be pointless, as you have a priori excluded any possible supernatural explanations and any possible evidence that points to the supernatural. Remember that when you face God after shuffling off this mortal coil.

  98. Robert O'Brien

    “I have not tolerated an atheist in the ranks of the SS. Every member has a deep faith in God, in what my ancestors called in their language Waralda, the ancient one, the one who is mightier than we are.” —Heinrich Himmler

    See Martin Bormann, among others.

    “We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.” —ol’ Adolph hisself

    Journal entry of Goebbels:

    “The Führer is deeply religious, but deeply anti-Christian. He regards Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race. This can be seen in the similarity of religious rights. Both have no point of contact to the animal element, and thus, in the end, they will be destroyed.”

    And Hitler said of Julian the Apostate:

    “wie klar ein Mann wie Julian die Christen und das Christentum beurteilte”

    How clearly a man like Julian had judged the Christians and Christianity

    A Christian would not agree with Julian the Apostate’s criticisms of Christianity.

  99. Victoria

    @Martin
    Here you go…
    How about Craig Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels just for starters?

  100. Doug

    @Martin,

    How is God a “necessary being”

    Another sensible question! Good-oh!
    Necessary entities (as opposed to contingent ones) are not caused. In the same way that the number two and the law of non-contradiction exist in every possible universe.

  101. Victoria

    @Martin

    So what are the verifiable, secular historical documents that confirm any of the supernatural claims surrounding Jesus?

    So, you are deciding a priori what historical data you will consider, then.

  102. hidden101

    @Victoria

    “If the historical data is not good enough for you, then that is your loss and your problem.”

    On the contrary, it is YOUR problem. The ability of historical authority figures to determine where the body of Jesus went in no way lends to the claim that he ascended into heaven.

    You used the term “forensic”. There is nothing forensic about a body going missing and then claiming it must have gone to heaven. We have no records of what methods the Jews used to determine this. How is that considered forensic evidence?

  103. Martin Wagner

    Victoria: I’ll be happy to check out Blomberg’s book, thanks.

    Doug: Okay. But this still isn’t evidence your God actually exists. I mean, you can define God into existence by calling him a “necessary being.” But that doesn’t demonstrate God does exist, other than as a hypothetical construct.

  104. Robert O'Brien

    How is God a “necessary being”?

    From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    It is commonly accepted that there are two sorts of existent entities: those that exist but could have failed to exist, and those that could not have failed to exist. Entities of the first sort are contingent beings; entities of the second sort are necessary beings.

    A God who, if He exists, could not have failed to exist is the sort of being I and other Christians argue for. (Other religionists might also argue for such a being, of course, and some who claim to be Christian, such as the Mormon/LDS Church, may not.)

  105. Martin Wagner

    Victoria:

    So, you are deciding a priori what historical data you will consider, then.

    Ah, we must be having some contest to see who can throw around the phrase “a priori” the most.

    Let me explain, Victoria. The Bible says lots of stuff about Jesus and all the magic he did. Fine, but we all know the Bible is a holy book, and lots of religions have those, and they all make wonderful claims about the magical things their gods and goddesses did too.

    So to confirm if any one of these religions — say, yours — is actually being truthful about these claims, I think it’s entirely sensible to get some confirmation from a neutral third party. In this case, yes, a secular account of Jesus’s life, one that isn’t trying to sell me on the idea of Jesus as a savior or messiah to whom I must devote my life in order to escape divine wrath, that actually confirms the miraculous stories of Jesus’s life would be something I’d like to see. Historical accounts that come strictly from church sources are likely to be just a little biased, you see.

    Think of it this way. Someone tells you he worships an invisible pegasus that lands in his garden every night and eats his plants. And when you ask him to prove it, all he hands you is a gold-leafed holy text titled “All Hail The Holy Hooves of the Divine Pegasus!” And perhaps a couple of pamphlets from other pegasus worshipers.

    You’d probably want something a little better.

  106. hidden101

    @ Victoria

    No, I have a posteriori concluded that the evidence for the supernatural is insufficient after reviewing it.

  107. hidden101

    @ Martin

    “Ah, we must be having some contest to see who can throw around the phrase “a priori” the most.”

    It does seem rather coached, doesn’t it?

  108. Robert O'Brien

    If that is your criteria, is there any reason why you shouldn’t treat the historical data for the Nordic religion as equally valid as the historical data for Jesus?

    Please situate Thor in a historical context for us. Please tether Odin’s loss of his eye at the well to a historical milieu.

  109. hidden101

    @ Victoria

    All the accepted evidence (either by you, me, or both of us) of Jesus aside, you still must prove to me he was the son of a deity as you claim.

    Before you can do that, you must first prove to me that this deity exists. You’re getting a little ahead of yourself here.

  110. Martin Wagner

    Robert:

    A God who, if He exists, could not have failed to exist is the sort of being I and other Christians argue for.

    Right, we’ve fielded a lot of these arguments on our show. The only problem with them is that while it’s possible to define a being into existence by applying such criteria to them, that’s still an entirely different matter from demonstrating that the being actually does exist in reality. Taking the example of the Law of Non-Contradiction: that’s an idea that describes an actual condition, but it can be verified by applying it to real-world examples. The law itself would be nothing without those applications. One must be careful not to confuse the map for the place.

  111. Doug

    No, I have a posteriori concluded that the evidence for the supernatural is insufficient after reviewing it.

    Oh. My. Goodness. I don’t know whether to be profoundly saddened or mightily entertained!!! 😀

  112. Sault

    @ Robert

    Please situate Thor in a historical context for us. Please tether Odin’s loss of his eye at the well to a historical milieu.

    Situate the Creation in a historical context. Please tether the Flood to a historical milieu.

  113. Victoria

    @Martin and hidden

    IF you are looking for historical documents, then the NT is all you are likely to get. Until the Spirit of God unhardens your hearts and cures you of the spiritual blindness you have clearly exhibited, then you have no hope, and you will remain in your unbelief. Good luck with that.

  114. hidden101

    @ Victoria

    “Good luck with that.”

    I’m not sure I’ll need it, but thanks.

  115. Doug

    @Martin/hidden,
    Let’s play hypothetical briefly.
    Just suppose (counter-factually, if you prefer!) that there was a supernatural cause to the existing universe. The image of a human being (lasting for a whif of time on a tiny planet in a second-tier galaxy) “concluding the evidence for the supernatural is insufficient” is (you have to admit) hilarious!
    On the other hand, just suppose (factually, if you insist!) that there was no supernatural cause to the existing universe. The image of a purposeless meat-computer “concluding the evidence for the supernatural is insufficient” with such gravitas to want to be taken seriously is equally hilarious!

  116. Sault

    @ Victoria

    Ah, yes. When all else fails, attack their character. Well done!

    Please answer, Victoria :

    If your criteria is historical data, and not a priori ruling out what data is acceptable and what isn’t, why haven’t you accepted the historical evidence for Zeus and Thor?

  117. hidden101

    By the way, if this is the sort of “dialogue” (smug sarcasm laced with the air of superiority) the True Reason initiative intends to bring to the Reason Rally, then it shouldn’t be hard to imagine why people like David Silverman say you “aren’t welcome”.

  118. Sault

    The image of a purposeless meat-computer “concluding the evidence for the supernatural is insufficient” with such gravitas to want to be taken seriously is equally hilarious!

    Hmm. Sounds like another argument from incredulity, with a touch of mischaracterization thrown in for good measure (purposeless, etc).

    Thankfully I have a large enough sense of humor to accommodate the possibility that I am *not* the center of the universe, that I am *not* necessarily all that special, and that I just *might* have to figure out my own purpose and my derive my own meaning while I live out my brief whiff of a life!

  119. JAD

    The atheists here keeping making what I call the white swan fallacy (also known as the inductive fallacy). The fallacy is that even if every swan that I observe or have ever observed is white I am not justified in claiming that all swans must be white. For example, I cannot claim that there can be no red swans, blue swans or yellow swans (the color of plumage of other species of birds) BTW a species of black swans was discovered in Australia in the 18th century.

    The point is there is no way to arrive at universals starting from just particulars. The problem for atheism is that it makes a universal claim: there is no God. But that is not the only problem. Because atheism cannot arrive at universals from empirical particulars it must abandon the concept of human rights which are based on universal moral claims. In other words, no universals; no human rights.

    So what can we conclude about the universe, life and human existence relying on just empirical evidence? Not much.

  120. Victoria

    @Sault
    Nobody is attacking anyone’s character here. Spiritual blindness and unbelief are conditions of the heart andn soul. Christians know this because we used to have the same conditions, until precisely what I said happened – the Spirit of God broke through our hardness of heart.

    Besides, it’s not as though any of you atheists are here hoping that just maybe Christianity is true and you are looking for a good reason to try it…quite the opposite, by your own admission.

    @hidden – I wasn’t being sarcastic

  121. hidden101

    @ Doug

    I don’t know how someone can conclude that because they do not know the origins of the universe or the purpose (as if one were even required) that it means the Abrahamic deity exists. It makes zero sense.

    Also, if you believe your deity is eternal, would it not be safe to assume the same could be said about the universe if your deity did not exist?

    We do not know everything there is to know about the universe or even how big it actually is. We also do not know if our known universe is one of many or infinite other universes. We also don’t know for sure how many dimensions exist. We don’t know how our universe began exactly, but we think we have a pretty good idea. But again, there’s a lot we don’t know and a lot we will probably never know.

    This isn’t a reason to conclude a specific deity exists. It fails logic.

    Religion has always had a role in explaining things we don’t understand. It is probably it’s main objective (although now it feels like it’s more about control). However, science has done a vastly better job. Your religion says the earth is flat. Science disagrees and with good reason.

  122. Sault

    @ JAD

    Because atheism cannot arrive at universals from empirical particulars it must abandon the concept of human rights which are based on universal moral claims. In other words, no universals; no human rights.

    I wasn’t aware that human rights *require* universals. “Human rights” can be derived without them. An example of this could be morality derived from evolutionary advantage.

    Unless, of course, you are defining “human rights” in a way that can only satisfied by requiring universals… in which case you are begging the question.

    Besides, it’s not as though any of you atheists are here hoping that just maybe Christianity is true and you are looking for a good reason to try it…quite the opposite, by your own admission.

    I remain skeptical. I don’t hate Christians, I’m not “rebellious” – I just don’t see sufficient evidence for Christianity to be reasonably believable.

    A great example of this is how you criticize us for “a priori” judging against the NT, while you (apparently) have “a priori” judged against the Graeco-Roman and Nordic texts, even though they fit the same requirements that you have offered – that they are “historical”.

    Or, on the other hand, that God must exist because He just has to exist.

  123. Doug

    @hidden,

    This isn’t a reason to conclude a specific deity exists.

    This is precisely the reason that it is so difficult to interact with you: especially your longer comments. You seem to see “the conclusion a specific deity exists” behind every conjunction and preposition. Don’t worry. When and if we arrive at the place where logical grounds for such a conclusion are available, we won’t be subtle about it. Until then, chill: reply to what we write, rather than what you’d prefer that we had written, pretty please?
    Oh, and cracks like your religion says the earth is flat are either purposely dishonest or profoundly ignorant.

  124. hidden101

    @ JAD

    “The problem for atheism is that it makes a universal claim: there is no God.”

    Some atheists fervently believe there is no deity of the Abrahamic variety. Some say it’s possible, but not very likely. I am of the latter school of thought as I’ve stated before.

    It’s not impossible, but I require sufficient evidence.

    Your example highlights exactly what I’m saying. If I say I’m open to the possibility that not all swans are white, then how have I made a mistake in my reasoning? All I am saying is that all the swans I’ve ever seen are white, but it’s entirely possible for you to find me a black swan and show it to me.

    To be blunt, it seems to me that religion is bringing me a white swan that had its feathers dyed black and saying “here’s your evidence!”.

  125. BillT

    hidden,

    I’m quite familiar with Russell’s teapot and all it’s supposed meaningfulness. It’s nonesense and your even using it at all shows a lack of seriousness. I would never use an argument for God where I hadn’t vetted it’s counter arguments. Why don’t you do the same.

    Google is you friend:

    “counter arguments to Russell’s teapot” (hint: copy and paste)(8,690 results 0.29 seconds.)

    Here’s an example if you can’t take the time to do it yourself.

    “The problem comes when they try to suggest, as philosopher William Vallicella says, “that belief in God (i.e., belief that God exists) is epistemically on a par with believing in a celestial teapot. Just as we have no reason to believe in celestial teapots, irate lunar unicorns (lunicorns?), flying spaghetti monsters, and the like, we have no reason to believe in God.”

    Vallicella points out the key problem with this thinking: we have all sorts of reasons for believing that God exists. True, atheists may not find them compelling. But so what? “The issue is whether a reasoned case can be made for theism, and the answer is in the affirmative,” says Vallicella. “Belief in God and in Russell’s teapot are therefore not on a par since there are no empirical or theoretical reasons for believing in his teapot.”

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/05/15/celestial-teapots-flying-spaghetti-monsters-and-other-silly-atheist-arguments/

  126. hidden101

    @ Bill

    More with the condescension. I grow weary of this. You will not win an argument by acting like my points are ridiculous and by treating me like a child with an inability to read.

    I have read the counter-arguments for anything I present as an argument. Please do not assume I have not and then proceed to treat me as a child who needs his hand held. I don’t agree with Vallicella for a very simple reason. I do not feel, in my personal opinion that applies only to me and me alone regardless of others who may share it, that there are empirical or theoretical reasons for believing in the Abrahamic deity. With that said, his statement explaining why your deity and the teapot are not on par fails in its logic simply because it is entirely possible to create a religion based on the teapot, however silly that may sound to you or I.

    I wish you all a good day. I have decided it is not worth my time to stay here and continue to be treated with disrespect.

  127. BillT

    “I do not feel, in my personal opinion that applies only to me and me alone regardless of others who may share it, that there are empirical or theoretical reason for believing in the Abrahamic deity. With that said, his statement explaining why your deity and the teapot are not on par fails in its logic simply because it is entirely possible to create a religion based on the teapot, however silly that may sound to you or I.”

    So you say the argument you make is silly, even to yourself but you use it anyway. Or in other words, you don’t reason very well. And that was the point to begin with.

  128. Victoria

    @Sault
    read Bulfinch’s ‘The Golden Age of Myth and Legend’ and then read the NT

  129. hidden101

    @ Bill

    There is no flaw in my reasoning merely because I said it sounds silly to base a religion on a teapot. It is equally silly to me that Christianity is based on a guy who claimed he was the son of a deity that had to die so that even filthy masturbators can get into heaven… and people believed him.

    My reasoning is quite sound when you look at it from my point of view. Not that you will.

    While we’re on the topic of reasoning and Jesus dying for sins, I fail to see what one has to do with the other. It’s like me saying I hit myself in the foot with a shovel for your mortgage. And I’M the one that has a problem with reasoning…

  130. G. Rodrigues

    @hidden101:

    (post #65)

    The Bible asserts man was “created in God’s image”. Therefore, this deity must be a physical entity, correct?

    No.

    If I am wrong to assume this, then there is an error somewhere. Either in the Bible itself, or your understanding of it.

    Yes, you are wrong and the error is a third hypothesis you have not contemplated: *your* understanding of the Bible is incorrect.

    Since you asked about numbers, I do not need to “believe” in numbers. They are not physical objects. They are representations of physical objects. They are a construct of the mind.

    Representations are “something” they are not nothing; if they are not nothing they exist in *some* sense so the questions Doug made apply. Your second assertion presumes a formalist conception of Mathematics. Care to show us the evidence for it?

    (post #81)

    Let us assume my interpretation of the Bible is wrong and your deity is not a physical being. How do you know that? How do you know your interpretation is correct?

    First, you are talking to us, not to these imaginary Christians who believe in the things imagined by you, so you have to address *our* conception of God and *our* arguments, in much the same way we have to address your particular brand of atheism.

    Second, note that there are several interpretations of QM. At the moment, it is impossible to decide which one is true. By your argument QM is wrong. Congratulations, you have just thrown overboard the most fundamental of physical theories.

  131. G. Rodrigues

    @Martin Wagner:

    (post #70)

    Going by the maxim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

    That maxim itself is a pretty extraordinary claim, so I am sure you have extraordinary evidence available. Care to show us?

    (post #115)

    Taking the example of the Law of Non-Contradiction: that’s an idea that describes an actual condition, but it can be verified by applying it to real-world examples. The law itself would be nothing without those applications.

    This is complete non-sense. There is no way to verify (or falsify if you are a Popperian) mathematical truths and these truths exist (in a sense I will not clarify) independently of the physical universe.

    note: on my view, mathematical objects are ontologically dependent on the existence of bare particulars, but this is a completely different ball of wax.

    One must be careful not to confuse the map for the place.

    Actually that is precisely what you are doing.

  132. BillT

    hidden,

    To start with you misinterpreted Vallicella’s argument. It’s because God and the teapot are epistemically dissimilar that the teapot argument fails. Whether “…it is entirely possible to create a religion based on the teapot…” is not at issue or Vallicella’s point. That’s some bad reasoning right there.

    Your sexual reference is too weird to comment on but that you don’t understand the elementary Christian concept of sin shows a startling lack of comprehension. You can’t take the time to understand even the basics but you expect to be taken seriously?

  133. G. Rodrigues

    @Sault:

    I have noticed that you have devolved to your original sub-rational level of comments. I will only answer one of your questions, because frankly, your moronic tone is nauseating.

    More importantly (to me) – there are many people who (rightly) believe in Thor and his ability to protect us with his mighty hammer. Why don’t you believe in Thor?

    1. There is overwhelming evidence to believe that Thor does not exist. Why? Because he is a *natural* being, and thus a member of the same natural order just like the rest of us, albeit with some magical oomph. Therefore all the knowledge we have gathered through millenia conspires to prove that he does not exist.

    2. All the arguments adduced for the existence of God, if sound, rule out Thor as The One True God.

    3. Even if he did exist, him being a *natural* being, he is just *a* god, not *The God* as understood by classical theism and the mainstream monotheistic religions, so he is not worthy of devotion.

    Same comments apply to Zeus, Russel’s Teapot, FSM, etc.

  134. Sault

    @ Victoria

    read Bulfinch’s ‘The Golden Age of Myth and Legend’ and then read the NT

    I’ve read Bulfinch and read the NT, multiple times. I’ve studied it (the NT) for years, both as a believer and a non-believer. The pertinent insight here is that it has given me is that there is precedent for the savior myth in the Judaeo-Christian culture.

    For you, I would suggest “When God Was a Woman”, by Merlin Stone.

    I would also highly, highly recommend Why Christianity Must Change or Die by John Shelby Spong.

    @ hidden, BillT

    While we’re on the topic of reasoning and Jesus dying for sins, I fail to see what one has to do with the other.

    Well, you have to accept the concept of blood sacrifice as legitimate first – that is, if one man can be punished in lieu of a family, a tribe, a city, etc. Then accept the concept of sin and condemnation, etc etc. You have to accept some things axiomatically to reason it all out.

  135. Robert O'Brien

    @Sault

    Situate the Creation in a historical context. Please tether the Flood to a historical milieu.

    The Creation occurred several billion years ago. As for the Flood, I am not solicitous about whether or not such an event actually occurred (I certainly do not think Christianity stands or falls with its historicity or lack thereof), although I think it is entirely possible that a large-scale, localized flood occurred and that Noah and his family escaped from it in the ark.

  136. G. Rodrigues

    @hidden101 (post #130):

    I am going to content myself to correct your mistakes.

    I don’t know how someone can conclude that because they do not know the origins of the universe or the purpose (as if one were even required) that it means the Abrahamic deity exists. It makes zero sense.

    It makes zero sense to you, I am sure, but since those are not the arguments anyway, what exactly is the problem?

    Also, if you believe your deity is eternal, would it not be safe to assume the same could be said about the universe if your deity did not exist?

    The universe could be eternal, yes (although all the available empirical evidence points to the contrary). But once again, there are these things called arguments that purport to show 1. the universe is not past-eternal, it had a beginning so it must have had a cause 2. even if the universe was eternal, it would still have to be cause and maintained in existence by God at every moment and in the here and now.

    There are several arguments in the theist’s arsenal (Plantinga collected more than 20), but the metaphysical ones are in my judgment the strongest. Now these arguments may be ultimately incorrect, but are you even aware of them?

    We do not know everything there is to know about the universe or even how big it actually is. We also do not know if our known universe is one of many or infinite other universes. We also don’t know for sure how many dimensions exist. We don’t know how our universe began exactly, but we think we have a pretty good idea. But again, there’s a lot we don’t know and a lot we will probably never know.

    Is this an atheism-of-the-gaps argument? Because all the (good) arguments that purport to show that God exists start from what we know and do not make appeals to ignorance.

    Religion has always had a role in explaining things we don’t understand. It is probably it’s main objective (although nowit feels like it’s more about control). However, science has done a vastly better job. Your religion says the earth is flat. Science disagrees and with good reason.

    There are five sentences, four are factual mistakes and the third one is mostly irrelevant because most of the questions, certainly the most important ones, that the existence of God is supposed to answer are not scientific questions.

  137. Robert O'Brien

    I would also highly, highly recommend Why Christianity Must Change or Die by John Shelby Spong.

    Spong is inept when it comes to theology and Biblical scholarship. I prefer “straight up” agnosticism or atheism to his flatulence any day.

    For example, according to Spong (if I recall his words correctly), Jesus was not raised physically from the dead but “raised into the meaning of God,” which is nonsensical babbling as far as I am concerned.

  138. BillT

    “Well, you have to accept the concept of blood sacrifice as legitimate first – that is, if one man can be punished in lieu of a family, a tribe, a city, etc. Then accept the concept of sin and condemnation, etc etc. You have to accept some things axiomatically to reason it all out.”

    Not true, actually. It’s really pretty simple. You go to your friend’s house and accidentally break his lamp. Now you could buy him a new one or he could tell you it’s ok he’ll get a new one or he could go without that lamp but somewhere/somehow the debt has to be paid.

    Sin creates a debt. When you harm someone by stealing or lying or whatever else you create a debt. That debt has to be paid. Would you like to add up all the people you have harmed and all the things you have done wrong and the pain that has caused and tell me who will pay your debt. I know who paid mine.

  139. JAD

    hidden101 @ #133,

    Your example highlights exactly what I’m saying. If I say I’m open to the possibility that not all swans are white, then how have I made a mistake in my reasoning? All I am saying is that all the swans I’ve ever seen are white, but it’s entirely possible for you to find me a black swan and show it to me.

    To be blunt, it seems to me that religion is bringing me a white swan that had its feathers dyed black and saying “here’s your evidence!”.

    My point, again, was that you cannot get to the claim that atheism is true “bottom up” from the empirical evidence alone. Neither can I arrive at my claim theism is true that way; so it’s pointless to make that kind of demand.

    Both atheism and theism begin by making assumptions about the world then interpret the evidence , “top down”, based on those assumptions. I am a theist because I believe that theism is the best interpretation.

    Here are some key questions to think about: What caused the universe to come into existence? What caused it to be fine-tuned for life, consciousness and intelligence? What is the cause of the prescriptive information that is necessary for living things to exist and function? What are consciousness and mind and how did they arise?

    Atheism/ naturalism/ materialism argue that natural causes are sufficient to answer all of these questions. Prove it.

  140. Sault

    @ G.R.

    I have noticed that you have devolved to your original sub-rational level of comments. I will only answer one of your questions, because frankly, your moronic tone is nauseating.

    Glad to meet you too, G. *chuckle* I’m sure that Victoria appreciates you coming to her rescue.

    1. Jesus was a natural being – a member of the natural order just like the rest of us, albeit with some magical oomph. Rather similar to Thor, except of course that Thor came first.

    Jesus was born when God impregnated a mortal woman… Thor was born when Odin impregnated a giantess. Odin walked the earth. God walked the earth (at least through the Garden of Eden). There are indeed similarities present! (Although Odin and Thor came before Yahweh and Jesus)

    2. All of the evidence for Thor, if sound, rule out God as the One True God. Unless, of course, you’re worshiping Odin and just don’t realize it. Loki is a very cunning trickster, and it would amuse him greatly to perpetuate that kind of a scam!

    3. So you take the philosophical position that monotheism is true. That’s nice. I mean, you’ve got your Triune God and everything, but of course that’s not polytheism.

    And, of course, it all presupposes that only a transcendent One True God ™ deserves your worship. Let me think… what was it called… Mariology? Gotta love that Catholicism!

    as understood by classical theism and the mainstream monotheistic religions,

    And did I hear an argumentum ad populum? I did!

  141. BillT

    Wow, we’ve got Thor, Odin, Loki and flying teapots that can form the basis for a religion (not to mention John Shelby Spong). When it comes to high level discourse you just can’t beat the anti-theist crowd.

  142. hidden101

    @ GR

    “The universe could be eternal, yes (although all the available empirical evidence points to the contrary). But once again, there are these things called arguments that purport to show 1. the universe is not past-eternal, it had a beginning so it must have had a cause”

    How do you know the universe had a beginning? Were you there to see it? The Big Bang theory does not claim the universe began at that moment. It claims the events of that singularity caused rapid expansion of the universe in a powerful explosion of immense energy which left it in the current state. Are you familiar with how black holes operate? Scientists believe they are the key to understanding how our universe could continually expand and contract for eternity. So yes, the spacetime we are familiar with had a beginning, but that is not to say the universe itself did.

    “2. even if the universe was eternal, it would still have to be cause and maintained in existence by God at every moment and in the here and now.”

    And you maintain this with what argument? You guys keep saying “my deity specifically is the only way this could work!” but it seems rather short-sighted to me for what should be obvious reasons but you have already arrived at the conclusion that your deity is the cause and reason for everything in existence and you’re not budging.

  143. Brimshack

    I’ve never been all that impressed with American Atheists. With each new leader, I keep hoping they will prove more responsible. I am continually disappointed.

  144. hidden101

    Um, Bill… I hate to break it to you, but the deities mentioned like Thor were deities in actual real religions. You can laugh and say other religions are silly but they are doing the same thing right back at you. Don’t forget that.

    I suspect that future civilizations will look back on Christianity and say “I can’t believe those ancient people believed that stuff!” just as you look at other ancient religions that came before Christianity and scoff at their validity.

  145. G. Rodrigues

    @Sault:

    I’m sure that Victoria appreciates you coming to her rescue.

    I do not know the woman, but I would not be in the least surprised if she could kick both our arses with her hands tied behind her back.

    1. Jesus was a natural being – a member of the natural order just like the rest of us, albeit with some magical oomph.

    I was talking of God, at the level of generic theism, not Christianity (that is why I mentioned the other monotheistic religions).

    2. All of the evidence for Thor, if sound, rule out God as the One True God.

    It is arguments that are sound, not evidence. And by all means, feel free to provide the evidence for the existence of Thor.

    3. So you take the philosophical position that monotheism is true. That’s nice. I mean, you’ve got your Triune God and everything, but of course that’s not polytheism.

    There is no contradiction because the doctrine of trinity does not say that there are three Gods but three persons in one God. Learn the difference.

    And, of course, it all presupposes that only a transcendent One True God ™ deserves your worship. Let me think… what was it called… Mariology? Gotta love that Catholicism!

    In Catholicism, the Virgin Mary is accorded veneration while worship is solely to God. To quote from a Catholic site:

    Adoration, or latria, is the worship reserved to God, who is praised and adored as the Supreme Being, infinitely perfect in every way. Veneration, or dulia, is the honor given to another person, who deserves such honor for his or her excellence in one area or another. Hyperdulia, which is a level of veneration given to one whose excellence exceeds that of all others, is given to Mary. We worship God fully aware that He is the Supreme Being and infinitely perfect, and this is latria. We honor the saints aware that they were virtuous Christians and enjoy glory in heaven, and this is dulia. We honor Mary aware that she is inferior to God, but God’s holiest creature, and this is hyperdulia. If dulia or hyperdulia is given, if Catholics are aware that Mary and the Saints are not God, then chances are, latria is not given. Ask a Catholic if he offers adoration to Mary, if he gives Mary latria the way he gives it to God. He will say no, of course, and the distinction between adoration and veneration is clear in his mind when he offers them to God and Mary, respectively.

    I should note that his is a blog poised at the level of “Mere Christianity” and you are bringing up a notable sore point of contention between Christians.

    as understood by classical theism and the mainstream monotheistic religions

    And did I hear an argumentum ad populum? I did!

    An argumentum ad populum is the fallacy of asserting something as true because the majority does. What I said is that only God as understood by classical theism is worthy of devotion. In other words, even if Thor appeared before me threatening to hammer me down lest I bow down before him and worship him, and even if I did out of cowardice, it would still be an *objective* fact that Thor is just *a* god not *The God*, whether or not the latter exists, and thus not worthy of worship.

    I responded to six objections, and you could not even get one of them, just one, right. Are there more ignorant stupid questions that need answering?

  146. JAD

    sault @ #131

    I wasn’t aware that human rights *require* universals. “Human rights” can be derived without them. An example of this could be morality derived from evolutionary advantage.

    Plato grounded his morality in a universal: a transcendent “Good.”

    For Plato to know reality was to know that which transcended [universals] individual particular things… We might typify Plato’s view that there is a Good in itself that is independent of own interests. We can distinguish between two kinds of actions. Those actions that we do because they serve some purpose for ourselves (eating healthily so that we do not becomes ill) and those that have intrinsic value. An action can only have intrinsic value because we will it out of respect for the Good, rather than from any motive that might benefit ourselves. The Good is universal and necessary for every moral action and is independent of the person who wills it. It does not matter who you are; the Good will be the same.

    What differentiates Plato’s position on ethics from, for example the relativism of the Sophists is the belief that this intrinsic Good is not just a Good for us, but is an ideal that transcends human nature. This is why for Plato the idea of Justice, which is a form like any other abstract idea, is the source of a critique of ethos and politics of the Athenian city. The first important break with the common sense attitude about ethics in Plato is the idea that morality is neither due to the natural world nor to divine intervention. Justice does not come about by chance or necessity, but from the very willingness to break radically from nature, and from a culture that believes that the source of justice to be found in nature (one of the forms of natural morality that Plato criticises is the idea that Thrasymachus puts forward in the Republic that ‘might is right’).
    http://www.arasite.org/WLnew/Greeks/ethicspanda.html

    Is discrimination based on race religion wrong? Is freedom of speech and conscience a right even in societies where it is suppressed? Is pedophilia wrong even in societies where it is permitted? In other words, are these moral values universal? Are they morally right or wrong regardless of time or culture.

  147. G. Rodrigues

    @hidden101:

    How do you know the universe had a beginning?

    I said it already. To repeat myself:

    1. Philosophical arguments that show that the universe, and by universe here I mean the sum total of things physical, must have been past-finite and have a beginning.

    2. A combination of empirical evidence and physical reasoning (e.g. the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem), etc.

    I should note however that the argument from the origin of the universe, while a good one, is not in my judgment neither the most powerful nor the most important (for reasons I will not explain here), so if it turned out to be ultimately invalid, I would not be particularly bummed out.

    Were you there to see it?

    This is such a devastating objection that I really am at a loss on how to answer.

    The Big Bang theory does not claim the universe began at that moment. It claims the events of that singularity caused rapid expansion of the universe in a powerful explosion of immense energy which left it in the current state.

    You are incorrect on several counts. For what matters here is that the Big-Bang theory asserts that space-time has a boundary and so it had a beginning, or initial state.

    Are you familiar with how black holes operate?

    Yes.

    Scientists believe they are the key to understanding how our universe could continually expand and contract for eternity.

    Scientists, cosmologists more precisely, have literally dozens of theories, most of them not only do not have a single iota of experimental evidence, but it is even impossible in principle to empirically test them.

    So yes, the spacetime we are familiar with had a beginning, but that is not to say the universe itself did.

    So we agree on one thing. If you want to argue for ekpyrotic models, multiverse scenarios, Smolin’s evolutionary theory of black hole producing universes or what have you, by all means, show us the *empirical evidence*.

    2. even if the universe was eternal, it would still have to be cause and maintained in existence by God at every moment and in the here and now.

    And you maintain this with what argument?

    A series of metaphysical deductive arguments. Not going to explain them to you in a combox post, but if you want references I can provide them.

  148. Victoria

    I think C. S. Lewis stated the Christian position rather nicely in his essay Myth Became Fact (in God in the Dock, see here http://www.amazon.com/God-Dock-Essays-Theology-Ethics/dp/0802808689/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332378444&sr=1-1

    If I may quote a bit

    The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth[emphasis in original] comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate[emphasis in original]….
    we must not be nervous about parallels and pagan ‘Christs’ – they ought to be there…

    Now Lewis was a classicist – he understood classical mythology better than all of us here put together, and he made the transition from atheist to Christian, and one of our most eloquent apologists.
    His Mere Christianity and Miracles are still two of the best books on Christian thought ever written.

    To confuse the NT with classical mythology is to make a category mistake – they are not the same literary genre – the gospels and Acts are Greco-Roman historiography/biography (see here http://www.apologetics315.com/search?q=greco-roman+biography and here http://www.apologetics315.com/2010/04/essay-christianity-and-other-ancient.html#more)
    See also http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Eyewitnesses-Gospels-Eyewitness-Testimony/dp/0802863906/ref=pd_sim_b_1
    and N. T. Wright’s essays here http://www.ntwrightpage.com/

  149. Victoria

    @G. Rodrigues
    Thanks, big brother 🙂
    You may not know me now, but we can look forward to getting to know each other in God’s eternal kingdom; for now, you will always be in my thoughts and prayers.
    That goes for all my brothers and sisters in Christ in this blog, too 🙂

  150. TCC

    Going by the maxim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

    That maxim itself is a pretty extraordinary claim, so I am sure you have extraordinary evidence available. Care to show us?

    Can I take this to mean that you think the null hypothesis is “Extraordinary claims don’t require any substantial degree of evidence”? Because if so, I have an elevator to the moon that you simply must purchase immediately before your inability to consent makes it vanish forever.

  151. Navin Johnson

    You do understand, atheists do not enter churches on Sunday with the intent to “engage” people in atheism. That would be disrespectful.

    If a church was having an outdoor BBQ and get together, I still would not attend on the grounds of “engaging them” about atheism. Again that would be disrespectful.

    To bad being respectful is not one of the Christians 10 Commandments.

  152. asdf

    @TCC
    Haha, that’s great. G. R. didn’t go to the lengths of reasoning it out, but in effect, the word extraordinary here is simultaneously vague and insurmountably demanding. In other words, useless. As has been pointed out by critics, here and elsewhere, while this demand is often presented axiomatically, there is no consensus on what would constitute ‘extraordinary evidence’. Or for that reason, an extraordinary claim.

    So if you are suggesting, for example, that for every miracle G. Rodrigues believes in, that he perform or present an equally impressive miracle with you as captive audience, that he produce some vast web of conspiracy suppressing the story, one resonating throughout ages and empires, or something cripplingly specific that extraordinary evidence would consist of for you, G. Rodrigues is within his rights to call your extraordinary claim for extraordinary evidence exactly what it is.

  153. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Navin, I understand those things. I wish it weren’t true. We would prefer it if atheists would do that.

    You’re also making a false analogy. When I think of a church’s outdoor BBQ, I think of a few dozen to a few hundred people who know each other fairly well. The Reason Rally may have 30,000 attendees. Probabilistically, in a small gathering there is a small chance of finding a few people who will want to dialogue, but in a large gathering there is a much greater chance. We don’t think everyone there is going to think exactly the same way about this. In fact we’ve heard from some who say they’ll be interested to talk with us.

  154. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    TCC, you say,

    And yet science functions by ignoring any thought of the supernatural (indeed, to do so would defeat the purpose of science). Funny how people in such a world would then discard the supernatural as a part of the scientific process.

    Science does ignore the supernatural, yes, in the laboratory and in the field. What does that mean, though? It means that it defines its scope of inquiry that way. Its doing so means nothing else. It certainly doesn’t mean there’s any argument against God to be found there.

  155. hidden101

    @ GRScientists

    Scientists, cosmologists more precisely, have literally dozens of theories, most of them not only do not have a single iota of experimental evidence, but it is even impossible in principle to empirically test them.

    Ah, so in order for you to believe anything that is said about black holes by someone like Hawking, those claims must be backed up by empirical evidence. I see…

  156. Victoria

    @hidden
    Sorry, but even Hawking is subject to the court of empirical observation and experiment, no matter how elegant or compelling the mathematical model is. Gee, that is just good science 101 – are they not teaching this in science class anymore? I know they were 30 years ago when I earned my physics PhD.

  157. hidden101

    @ Victoria

    I never said he was not. I am trying to highlight my point that it’s hard to call something “truth” without evidence. The problem is that we disagree on a fundamental level what constitutes evidence. You say a man who claimed to be the son of a deity and a book composed of writings by men who claimed to speak for this deity are evidence of this deity. While those things may be offered as evidence, they don’t do anything to actually prove the claim.

    On the other hand, cosmologists make claims based on mathematical models (and you’re correct, some ARE rather compelling), and you shout “show me the empirical evidence!”

    How is this any different than asking for empirical evidence of the Abrahamic deity? I must say, I trust in mathematics much more than I do a Bible.

  158. G. Rodrigues

    @hidden101:

    Ah, so in order for you to believe anything that is said about black holes by someone like Hawking, those claims must be backed up by empirical evidence.

    So a *physical theory* is not subject, to employ the Freudian terminology, to the reality test? To empirical testing? Amazing.

    So tell us, why exactly do you believe in what S. Hawking says if he has no empirical evidence to back him up? And if that is the case, why exactly have you been harping all along against the supposed absence of empirical evidence for the supernatural? What is good for the goose is good for the gander and all that.

  159. Victoria

    @hidden
    And, as I said, the NT in particular, is all the evidence you are going to get for the historical core of Christianity. The authors were writing about things they had seen and heard and experienced – they were writing about real events, but they also wanted to explain the significance of these events. I’d suggest that you head over to http://www.apologetics315.com and check out then reference material there, especially the material on the NT itself.

    Christianity is evidence-based – our faith is anchored in the historical person and life of Jesus of Nazareth. Our faith is also mediated by the person and work of the Spirit of God – you cannot have this faith without Him. At some point, a person has to be willing to say “Okay, God, I’ll listen”.

    If you are not willing to come to God on His terms, why then you will not come at all, and you will remain in your unbelief.
    You keep asking us for our reasons for being Christians, but when we give you those reasons, you basically say that is not what you want to hear. Are you here because you really want to learn about the truths of Christianity, and become a Christian yourself?

    P.S. Read Edgar Andrews Who Made God? as well.

  160. hidden101

    @ GR

    I never said I “believe” what Hawking says about black holes to be absolute truth. How would I be able to make claims about the properties of black holes if I cannot test them as you have already stated?

    As Victoria pointed out- the mathematical model is compelling. The spiral of our own galaxy is curious. These are things that lend credence to Hawking’s claims. It is entirely possible that he is way off base. I am interested in reading about his theories, but I am not claiming they are all absolute truth.

    So how about a human soul? In what way can I understand that it is absolute truth that the human soul exists and behaves exactly the way you say?

  161. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Good point here:

    NT in particular, is all the evidence you are going to get for the historical core of Christianity.

    I want to head off a possible objection: “Why aren’t there any non-Christian sources to corroborate this? Why is it all biblical and biased?”

    I just want to ask anyone who might be tempted to go that direction to take this into account:

    The sources we have all say that Jesus performed miracles, rose from the dead, etc., and they all say that while actually believing that he did those things. That should come as no surprise.

    Documentary evidence for the truth of some historical event typically comes from sources who believe that the event happened. It’s unlikely you’ll find a source who would corroborate the truth of miracles (inc. the resurrection) who doesn’t think they happened. And if someone believes those things happened, then they might be a Matthew, a Mark, a Luke, or a John.

    So yes, all the sources who say the resurrection happened believe it happened. We don’t have any sources who say it happened but don’t believe it happened.

    What else would you expect?

  162. G. Rodrigues

    @hidden101:

    I must say, I trust in mathematics much more than I do a Bible.

    Being a mathematician I am always piqued by sentences like these. Do you know any mathematics? Consider the following three sentences:

    1. A topological space is compact Hausdorff iff every ultrafilter has a unique limit point.

    2. A topological space is compact Hausdorff iff every principal ideal has subnormal support.

    3. A topological space is compact Hausdorff iff every converging sequence has an accumulation point.

    Now one of the sentences is true, one is false and one is just gibberish. Can you spot them? Note also that mathematics is not a person that can be trusted; maybe what you want to say is that you trust mathematicians. And on what basis do you trust them? Suppose I say that you can cut up an orange in a finite number of pieces, move them around by translations and rotations, and upon reassembling the pieces end up with two oranges, would you believe me? Well, this is an informal rendering of a theorem, the so-called Banach-Tarski paradox. How would you assess this result? Or the existence of space-filling curves? Informally, a point-like microbe can pass through every point in a three-dimensional cube in a finite amount of time, which can be as small as you desire. How would you assess this result?

    On to your questions.

    As Victoria pointed out- the mathematical model is compelling.

    There is no empirical evidence available, so in what sense is the mathematical model compelling?

    So how about a human soul? In what way can I understand that it is absolute truth that the human soul exists and behaves exactly the way you say?

    You read the arguments that purport to prove its existence and properties and then make your own judgment.

  163. Marvin Grimm

    Was it an accident that Mr. Silverman referred to DR Dawkins but to MR Craig? I think it’s reasonable to assume this was intentional.

  164. David

    Well, I can’t say I blame him. As an atheist and MD resident, I look forward to the rally Saturday, and the opportunity to finally converse en masse with MY PEOPLE…after all, I spend most of my waking life surrounded by Christians. So, I deal with you people regularly. I am respectful, but I don’t like it. Saturday is my day. I have no problem with Christians being there as long as they are quiet and respectful, the way I am among them, but if they get loud and try to provoke people, as I fully expect them to, they should be disallowed from the premises or arrested. And why is it so alarming to hear the truth, that atheists don’t welcome you? Why on earth should they?!

  165. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    We have been saying all along that our group is committed to non-disruptive, non-interfering, quiet, person-to-person conversation.

    And don’t worry. If anyone gets overly loud or tries to provoke anyone, the Park Service rules are clear, they will be disallowed from the premises. (I’m pretty sure it takes more than that to get arrested.)

  166. Sault

    We have been saying all along that our group is committed to non-disruptive, non-interfering, quiet, person-to-person conversation.

    Oh, if only it would work out that way…

    It would be nice to have one day where we get to celebrate who we are and what we share in common and just relax. We won’t get it, of course, and it’ll be because Christians don’t give a damn.

    There will be three types of Christians there – the curious, the converters, and the condemners.

    It’s okay to be curious – that’s how many of us got started down the path of deconversion. Sadly, it’s the other two groups that will cause the problems. Groups like Tom’s will come with the intent to proselytize and “win souls for Jesus”. Pamphlets, handouts, “discussions”, loaded questions, attempts both subtle and not…. yeah, they’ll be there.

    The worst will be the d-bag condemners, the ones who will come in and just try to crap all over something good. You know – the “turn or burn” crowd, the crazies, the (E/e)vangelicals, the ones hopped up on Jesus juice… Hopefully we’ll be able to handle things and they won’t dampen the mood.

    Then again… maybe it’ll be good for us to be reminded that they do exist. It was a great move inviting the WBC, a good reminder of the thing that we least want to be like.

  167. Peter Byrom

    I have made a video commentary on this issue of Reason Rally endorsing The Westboro Baptists but rejecting Ratio Christi and William Lane Craig:

  168. Pingback: Balancing reason and sentiment [Reason Rally] « New Voices

  169. Robin Lionheart

    Silverman’s rebuff is pretty ironic in light of the NAP’s invitation to the Westboro Baptists.

    Sending them an invitation didn’t seem like a wise move to me. However, having the Westboro Baptists there did allow Nate Phelps (Fred Phelps’ estranged atheist son) to address them directly, which gave his speech more weight.

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