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Boghossian’s “Manual for Creating Atheists”

Posted on Aug 3, 2013 by Tom Gilson

This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Peter Boghossian

Ebook compilation available

Peter Boghossian wants to create atheists. He calls faith a dangerous belief, a virus, a contagious pathology. He says (32:30 here), “When I speak to speak to somebody of faith, I view them as a person who really is mentally ill.” Yet ironically he considers it frightful that anyone would “medicalize” attitudes toward Islam through using the word “Islamophobia.”

That’s one of several oddities in the conversation you see below. Still it’s interesting. He has a book due for release not long from now, A Manual for Creating Atheists. In this video he tells us it’s not directly about God or atheism, but rather about epistemology, the philosophical study of knowledge, or the way we form our beliefs and opinions. He considers faith a false and dangerous epistemology that needs to be rooted out of society, and he believes when people give up faith as an epistemological approach, atheism will naturally follow.

He doesn’t go into further detail on his preferred epistemological approach in this conversation. (There are other videos out there in which he does, including the one I linked above; I’ll cover them soon.) What he reveals in this video is that faith is believing things we don’t know are true, or belief based on insufficient evidence, or so he thinks, anyway. He considers it dangerous (he uses that word a lot) to base beliefs on an ancient book. He used the Socratic method to challenge one Christian’s belief that God is required to explain the existence of the universe.

Here’s my take on this:

1. Boghossian is a dangerous man. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and there is true life only in him. Boghossian seeks to block people from that knowledge.

2. Nevertheless this book could do some good when it comes out. Christians in the West have been sloppy in their thinking. I expect a book like this could help us clarify what we believe and why, provided that churches teach an appropriate epistemology. Really, though, for those who know something about the basis for Christian belief, there’s nothing there to be afraid of. Nothing.

3. With that in mind, I wish the revised Kregel Publications edition of True Reason could be ready for release the same time as this book. Plans now are that it will come out early next year. The ebook is available now, of course. I’m confident that whatever Boghossian has to say in his manual, True Reason will provide epistemologically sound answers.

4. Whatever source Christians study from, if books like his wake up the sleeping intellectual power of the church, Boghossian may find the result more dangerous than he dreamed. He might find out that he can’t get away so easily with sloppy views of faith and reason.

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174 Responses to “ Boghossian’s “Manual for Creating Atheists” ”

  1. Leif says:

    You might want to please share that video that you posted, and this article, make it spread like a virus, email it to all your friends , speak about the urgency of it and about the need for everyone you email to also email their friends, tell them all to share it on twitter and on Facebook.

  2. David P says:

    Whilst I agree with the thrust of Boghossian’s argument, I don’t agree completely with his definition of faith: “pretending to know things you don’t know”.

    I think the word “pretending” makes it sound like a deliberate, and thereby immoral, act of deception on the part of the person of faith. I’d prefer “claiming to know things you don’t know”.

  3. Whether or not the book does well, we’ll see. I expected something from PZ Myer’s new book, but it appears to be a total dud. On the other hand, Zealot (just critiqued on my site) has come out of left field to be the Number One best-seller in the country.

    It seems to me that Peter does not know what Christians mean by faith, and does not want to know. As you may recall, I challenged him to debate on the meaning of faith. Despite all the nice things he says about humility and open discussion, he rebuffed me in a manner that struck me as presumptuous and rude:

    http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2012/09/peter-boghossian-sees-through-me.html

    This sort of passive-aggressive dance is, indeed, dangerous because it is deceptive. I expect he will fool lots of people.

  4. David P says:

    What do Christians mean by faith? Can you give a reasonably short definition?

  5. David P says:

    Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and there is true life only in him. Boghossian seeks to block people from that knowledge.

    You say this is knowledge, but how do you know it’s true? Could it be false?

  6. David: I’m not sure if you’re asking Tom, or me; he may like to give you his own definition, but I don’t think we’re too far apart! Here’s the definition Tim McGrew and I tentatively agreed upon, for the new edition of True Reason:

    “By faith, then, as a first approximation, we mean trusting, holding to, and acting on what one has good reason to believe is true, in the face of difficulties.”

    This is a definition we offered not just on our own, but in light of the Christian tradition in general. We then added:

    “In Chapter Ten, one of us (DM), explained that reason relies on four levels of faith for all the facts that it holds dear: faith in the mind, in the senses, in other people, and (the question at issue between theists and atheists) in God. These might be called the ‘four steps of faith.’”

    Like Tom, I look forward to seeing this book in print, where people can read its full arguments.

  7. Charles says:

    Faith isn’t an epistemology, at least not when described by either the Bible (consider Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 3:15) or by major Christian thinkers (for example the Reverend Bayes) or leaders (for example Luther, who drawing on the Bible, describes faithfulness to God like faithfulness to your husband or wife).

  8. David P says:

    Can you explain a bit more about how you determine what a “good reason” is to believe something true?

    Also, would you say then that faith is not about knowledge, but about personal, subjective belief? I.e. you will happily admit that the ideas could be false?

    That doesn’t fit my experience interacting with Christians on this blog!

  9. Charles says:

    David P, yes, it could be false. In 1 Corinthians 15 even Paul says that if Jesus is not raised from the dead his faith is in vain. But even in that same chapter he says there are hundreds still alive who saw it, and names several.

  10. Tommy says:

    Charles. Eyewitness Testimony has been proven not be 100% accurate. How many people have been sure they saw Bigfoot? DNA evidence has exonerated 311 + people in this country. 72% of those convictions came from “Eye Witness” testimony. Forgive me if I have a hard time believing a book written 2000 years ago names some names of people claiming to see the dead rise.

  11. David P says:

    Faith isn’t an epistemology

    I think this is pretty much Boghossian’s message. We don’t know things through faith.

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    No, Boghossian says it is an epistemology, and a failed one. He gets that wrong.

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    Tommy, could you please explain to us then, under what conditions eyewitness testimony is considered reliable, and under what conditions it is not? (If you don’t know the answer, then your comment is a stab in the dark.)

  14. Victoria says:

    @Tommy (and David_P – hi, BTW – how was the vacation?)
    I’d suggest you read J. Warner Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity before answering Tom’s question and applying your reasoning to the New Testament.

  15. David P says:

    No, Boghossian says it is an epistemology, and a failed one. He gets that wrong.

    Yes, he’s saying that faith is treated as an epistemology by some religious people. But it is not valid. And they are essentially deluded or pretending to know things when they don’t.

    In what way is he wrong?

  16. David P says:

    Hi Victoria, vacation was great!

    I’m not trying to debate the evidence or lack of it for Christianity. Nor is Boghossian, as I understand it. He’s just focusing on the problem of people pretending to “know” things through “faith”.

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you for that explanation, David P. You have accurately caught the error in what he was saying: there’s a difference between saying “faith is an epistemology” and “faith is treated as an epistemology.” So that is precisely the way in which he is wrong.

    Oh, and then there’s also the completely false, tendentious, and intellectually cowardly definition of faith that he deploys for his attacks. But that’s a preview of my next post; I haven’t covered that so far.

  18. David P says:

    I shall look forward to it!

  19. Charles says:

    Boghossian doesn’t go around saying “faith is treated as an epistemology”. He goes around saying it is one, and that therefore it should be eliminated.

    In that he’s making exactly the same error that, according to David P, he’s trying to get people to avoid. More than that, he’s teaching others to make it too.

  20. Charles says:

    Tommy, I’m not trying to convert you.

    Out of interest how many correct prosecutions are there with eyewitness testimony? It seems a bit meaningless unless you compare the number against the total prosecutions.

  21. David P says:

    Charles,

    I’d suggest that if you ask Christians why, for example, they believe that prayer is effective, some may cite evidence from scientific studies or provide you with anecdotal evidence and others may say “I just have faith”. For them, faith is an epistemology; it’s how they believe they know certain things.

    We can say it’s not actually an epistemology, they just treat it like one, but I think that’s just splitting hairs. The gist is the same.

    The real issue is how they arrived at the knowledge. Was it through reason and evidence or some other means? Are they freely willing to admit that it is their own view and they might be mistaken? Etc.

  22. David P says:

    I am quite willing to admit that I don’t know anything for sure and my views are only my opinions and I reserve the right to change my views based on new evidence or better thinking.

    For example, in a previous thread I said:

    I am not claiming absolutes, it is subjective hence all the “I” statements.

    and G. Rodrigues replied:

    Why should anyone other than yourself care about your *personal*, *subjective* *opinions*?

    This (rhetorical) question aptly summarizes my case. I rest it now.

    What I infer from his response is that G. Rodrigues believes that some people have access to impersonal, objective, incontrovertible facts. I have asked previously how and no-one gave me an answer, just questions.

    This kind of “knowledge” claim is I believe the kind of thing that Boghossian is trying to eradicate.

  23. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    Glad to hear that your vacation was a good one. We all need down time :)

    Inevitably, a discussion of what the Christian faith is, and what it is based on, will come down to the objective, historical evidence for it. There have been numerous discussions on this blog about that very thing. If you look in the archives and read through some of those threads, you’ll see what I mean See here: http://www.thinkingchristian.net/tag/faith/). I still recommend Cold Case Christianity to you, though – Wallace is a former police detective who specialized in resolving cold cases. He has a web site, here

  24. David P says:

    I don’t really want to get into a detailed debate on the evidence for Christianity, can we keep the conversation more general about how we get to know things?

    You mention “objective, historical evidence”. How do we become aware of it and make sense of it? Are our perceptions and judgments always right? Can we know anything for sure?

  25. Tommy says:

    Tom/Victoria/Charles Eye witness account coupled with scientific evidence gives us the best chance. I’ve listened to J Warner’s Wallace Synopsis about his book and the methodology he used. We can’t question those witnesses. Thee physical evidence is weak. The same evidence could be made for Elvis sightings. The reality it that of 311 cases that that were disproven by DNA 72% of them had people who SWORE they seen this person do something..those people could have possible passed a lie detector test..our eyes can fool us into believing things. Furthermore just because somebody say that somebody was there does not make it true. The fact is Wallace has not provided me with enough evidence.
    Speaking to the number of people found guilty with solely eyewitness accounts..I don’t have the exact numbers, but I would say that far more people have been convicted with eye witness testimony..but that proves nothing. All I stated was that Eye Witness testimony is not 100% which it is not.

  26. Victoria says:

    @Tommy
    If you didn’t actually read Wallace’s book, how can you possibly say ‘The fact is that Wallace has not given me enough evidence’? Sounds like you are just blowing smoke here.

  27. By our definition, faith is an essential basis for all epistemology. Without faith — in our minds, senses, people, and / or God — we can know nothing at all.

    I would also like to ask how many of those convicted “murderers” were also convicted, in part, on physical evidence. If there was physical evidence, and that proved mistaken, should we throw out science?

    In addition, did the juries or judges exonerate them based on DNA evidence alone — or as interpreted by human witnesses? If the latter, all Tommy is saying is that some kinds of human testimony are better than other kinds. He has not escaped the need for trusting what other people bare witness to, one inch.

  28. Tommy says:

    Victoria- I’m not blowing smoke. Wallace lays out his whole book in a 1hr 15 minue Pod-Cast. He has a show called “Stand to Reason” the show is all about his book where he is giving his best evidence which is not that good. Faith is simply believing without evidence

    From Dictionary.com
    noun

    “belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.”

    Faith is an unreliable process.

  29. Tom Gilson says:

    “Faith” as defined by the dictionary — in its second definition! — cannot be the whole story.

    Let me ask you this, Tommy. Suppose you were presented with evidence — evidence, mind you — that your conception of faith is not accurate to Christianity’s conception. Would you or would you not be open to admitting your conception was inaccurate in the context of Christianity? Would you or would you not change your mind?

    Are you you open to that or not?

  30. Tom Gilson says:

    P.S. I haven’t heard Jim’s podcast but I know there’s more in the book than he could lay out in 75 minutes.

    I think you know that too. Don’t you?

  31. Charles says:

    Tommy, you are arguing against eyewitness accounts being valid. I am just not going with you there. Tens of thousands of cases each year. A tiny fraction of these are overturned.

    The problem here is that we value the truth. We want to accept true beliefs, not just reject false ones.

    In your example, if you reject eyewitness testimony, tens of thousands of criminals walking the street despite the fact there were people literally watching them commit the crime.

  32. BillT says:

    So Tommy, what are your beliefs based on? If Christian belief is “claiming to know things you don’t know” as David P said, what are your beliefs based on? Why do you find them more reliable than theist beliefs. Could you give us some specific examples. How about you David? Care to tell us why your beliefs are any less just “claiming to know things you don’t know” than are ours.

  33. Charles says:

    Hi David P,

    I am a Christian. To be be epistemically justified in praying, I just need reason to think God exists and that he’s personal… Which there is. In fact, I think you are epistemically justified praying even when you don’t know the answer to these questions, but consider them even plausible.

    You say changing definitions makes no difference. How so? In one case faith is complementary to reason, the other view they are opposed. Jumping between the two is equivocation, a cheap rhetorical trick.

    When Boghossian go around saying *Christians* think of faith, and comes to a conclusion which is demonstrably incorrect, what does it say about his epistemology? Did he go look up what the Bible said? Obviously not, his view of faith makes absolutely no sense there. Did he look up what the church fathers said, or the reformers? No, again they directly contradict him. Or when the other David offers to debate him about it, what does he do? It’s to resort to insult.

    IMHO what he says isn’t relevant for Christians, but is more aimed at atheists. If they think that faith (by bogus definition) is opposed to reason, they reject God without ever even considering the issues.

  34. David P says:

    How about you David? Care to tell us why your beliefs are any less just “claiming to know things you don’t know” than are ours.

    The key word here is know.

    I do not claim to know anything. Everything is mentally, if not actually, prefixed with “I believe” or “In my view”. I freely admit I could be wrong. I try to base my thoughts in reason and evidence, and I change my mind frequently. Everything is a shade of gray.

    If there was physical evidence, and that proved mistaken, should we throw out science?

    No, of course not! That’s black and white thinking. All we are admitting is that mistakes are possible. Science is a method for discovering mistakes in our ideas about reality. If we can’t test our ideas, how can we have any confidence in them?

    In your example, if you reject eyewitness testimony, tens of thousands of criminals walking the street despite the fact there were people literally watching them commit the crime.

    Why reject it? That would also be black and white thinking. All we are saying is that eyewitness testimony is fallible. It may be reasonable to accept it, in some cases. For a conviction, we want to reach the point of “beyond reasonable doubt”.

    Eye witness testimony varies significantly in credibility. For example, testimony from people who have discussed the event tends to be much less reliable than testimony from people who have witnessed it independently and not met each other. Testimony from witnesses immediately after the event tends to be much more reliable than testimony a long time after the event. Our brains forget detail and are great at filling in gaps with invented ideas. For these reasons, police try to keep witnesses separate and interview then as soon as possible after the event.

    Why should anyone other than yourself care about your *personal*, *subjective* *opinions*?

    Because that’s all any of us have!

  35. David P says:

    Charles

    You don’t like Boghossian’s definition of faith and I see how it contradicts your own definition.

    But ignoring the word for a second, do you agree with the sentiment: that pretending to know things you don’t know is not to be admired?

  36. David P says:

    Actually, I want to clarify: I think it is possible to know some things, like 1 + 1 = 2, that are in the realm of abstractions. But, in terms of knowing things about reality, we are limited by our perceptions. I believe everything is an assumption and should retain a question mark against it.

    I get the impression that’s the underlying philosophy of this blog: that a thinking Christian is not an oxymoron and evidence and reason can be brought to bear on the Christian system of beliefs.

    But going from evidence and reason to certainty seems to me to be an unjustifiable leap. I’d like to see more acknowledgment from some people (e.g. G. Rodrigues) that, even if grounded in strong evidence, people’s beliefs are personal (subjective) judgments of the evidence and could always be wrong.

  37. Tom Gilson says:

    No, David, you know more than abstractions. Here are some non-abstractions that you know:

    Vacation was great!

    Science is a method for discovering mistakes in our ideas about reality.

    eyewitness testimony is fallible

    Eye witness testimony varies significantly in credibility

    Our brains forget detail and are great at filling in gaps with invented ideas. For these reasons, police try to keep witnesses separate and interview then as soon as possible after the event.

  38. JAD says:

    David P wrote:

    But going from evidence and reason to certainty seems to me to be an unjustifiable leap.

    When a jury reaches a verdict based on the evidence, are they making an unjustifiable leap? Is the standard for their verdict absolute certainty?

  39. Tom Gilson says:

    I think you’re mistaking knowledge for apodictic (infallible) certainty, David P. That’s not the kind of thing I mean when I say that I know something. I know that no one came last night and painted the bottom of the chair I’m sitting on. I know that the coffee I just used to make a pot to drink hasn’t been laced with strychnine. Could I be wrong? Is there a shade of gray on either of those? Certainly. Still, knowledge is knowledge if we have sound epistemic reasons to accept it as such.

    There are degrees of confidence, of course. I am more confident that my chair wasn’t painted underneath than I am that my car will work perfectly all the way through my next short drive. Still I know enough about my car that I use it regularly without giving a second thought to the possibility of a breakdown.

    I know that other drivers will stay on the side of the road they should be on; I couldn’t go anywhere without knowing that.

    Famously, Alvin Plantinga has discussed our knowledge that there are other minds besides our own. You do know that, don’t you? What’s your proof? Whatever you offer as proof, it could be assailed. You could be wrong. Still, you have no hesitancy saying you know your best friend has a mind. Did it ever occur to you to doubt it?

    All of that is called knowledge, even though it could conceivably be wrong. Complete skepticism with respect to knowledge is very, very close to being impossible existentially, and it’s incoherent logically.

    There are things I know with a very high degree of confidence: that the Bible presents (as far as it can be tested, which is quite far) an historically accurate picture of the events it records, that Christianity makes sense of reality in ways that no other belief system does, that I am not the man I want to be or should be, that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection are the kind of thing with power to explain how I can be lifted above what and who I am, that atheistic naturalism’s account of reality is self-referentially incoherent, and much more.

    Does that mean that I know there is a God who saves me in Christ? Yes, I’d say I know that, too. It’s the one explanation that makes sense of everything. I’m willing to use the word knowledge there, even though I realize I could be wrong. (I do realize that, you know.) But just as the word knowledge applies to my knowing that you have a mind, even though I can’t see it and I can’t “prove” it, I feel free applying the word knowledge to what I confidently take to be true about Christ and the Bible.

    I could be wrong. Obviously I am, if Boghossian is right. I think he’s wrong; and obviously he is, if I’m right.

    I could be wrong, but I’m confident enough to stake my life on it. And that’s where the word “faith” finally comes in. It’s not pretending to know something I don’t know (what a crock that is!). It’s being willing to take that crucial step from knowledge to commitment.

  40. David P says:

    All those things are abstractions and subjective. They are saying things about my interpretation of evidence I have perceived.

    “My vacation was great!” is a highly simplistic summing up (abstract labeling) for the various different feelings I perceived over the course of the week. It is not factual or objective. Someone else might think I wasted the week and point to the mosquitos and the humid weather and take a different view of the same reality.

    The same with the other statements. “Eyewitness testimony is fallible” is a statement of my belief drawn from the evidence I have gathered (directly and through other means – books, TV etc). I think the belief is very strong as there is a lot of evidence to support it. Enough that I think we could call it a fact. However, there is always a chance that it could be wrong. It’s not really a fact. It’s an assumption. Have you ever seen The Truman Show?

  41. Victoria says:

    @David, Tommy
    Let’s get down to details here. It seems that the reliability of eyewitness testimony, the interpretation of physical and documentary evidence should be examined on a case-by-case basis, then. This is what our legal system does, this is what historical scholars do.
    Rather than discussing vague generalities here, let’s consider the specific case of the New Testament documents – can you demonstrate and substantiate your assertions that this eyewitness testimony and documentary evidence is unreliable and therefore should not be trusted?

    @Tommy – if you take up this challenge, I expect reasoned, rational, well-thought out arguments, not what you have been doing so far, which is blowing smoke – you simply make bare assertions but don’t provide any real arguments to support them.

    @David
    We are not talking about mathematical certainty here, but the fuzzier line around where reasonable doubt and warranted trust can blur. Have you ever heard of Critical Realism? – it’s a technical term for ‘Common Sense’ – perhaps you should try a dose of that. After all, do you let less-than-certainty stop you from living your life and doing what you do every day?

  42. BillT says:

    “I do not claim to know anything.”

    And there you have it. The same person who can’t tell us that or much less why it’s wrong to torture children now tells us that he can’t know anything. Who could have seen that coming?

  43. Victoria says:

    @David
    Ah, but you did go on vacation, right? The weather was warm and humid, and the mosquitoes were out, right? How do you know all of this? How would you prove to our satisfaction, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you were on vacation? After all, it’s in the past now, so you have only your own memories, perhaps some physical evidence (photos maybe). Suppose in 100 years, your great-great-grandchildren find an old CD of the photos documenting your vacation – are they warranted in their conclusions that you were on a vacation in July 2013 at such-and-such-a-location?

  44. David P says:

    Of course I use common sense to live my life. I “know” things.

    But I am also strongly aware of my limitations and that some things I think I know may well be false. I don’t think that I know anything for certain nor can I be objective. Everything I know has come through my fallible senses and been processed by my fallible mind.

    I believe that thinking this way is healthy and makes me more open to listen to others and perhaps to change my mind.

    This is particularly important when I take a view on a subject that is different from others. I try to make it clear that I understand that it is my interpretation of the evidence and may be wrong. That’s why I often write “In my view”, “I believe” etc. G. Rodrigues criticized these and asked who wants to listen to my opinions? What he doesn’t seem to appreciate is that everything he says is only his opinion – unless he is somehow infallible.

  45. Tom Gilson says:

    What G. Rodrigues is looking for isn’t someone with certainty and infallibility. What he’s looking for is for you to give reasons for what you believe, not just statements of subjective opinion.

    In your response to my last comments you focused on how knowledge could be fallible. I granted that. The Truman Show is just another example I could have given had I thought of it: an example of something I have a high degree of confidence isn’t going on in my life. In fact I know it isn’t. You know that for yourself, too, right?

    Anyway, I was wondering whether you had really read through the rest of what I wrote, and given it serious thought. I’d like to hear your response to that.

  46. David P says:

    Victoria,

    What evidence would be required to convince a jury beyond all reasonable doubt that someone actually walked on water and it wasn’t an illusion? I ask because a magician (Dynamo) in the UK recently walked on the Thames river in front of a hundred or so people. I’m not totally sure how he did it, but I don’t believe he actually walked on water. Do you?

  47. David P says:

    Tom, it’s OK because every time you write “I know”, I read “I believe”. I understand that for you, in your world view, in your context these are things you know. I think you also know that for others in different world views, some of the things you know, they don’t agree with -they know something else – i.e. it’s subjective.

  48. Charles says:

    David P,

    I think people have two epistemic duties, one is to believe true things. The other is to disbelieve untrue things.

    On one extreme are skeptic, be they skeptics of history denying the holocaust, of science denying global warming, or religious skeptics. The obvious problem with being too skeptical is that that, although they reject untrue beliefs, they also reject a lot of what is true.

    On the other extreme are gullible people. Their catch cry is, why if you don’t believe it, that you’re not open minded enough. Although they accept many true beliefs, they also believe many things which are untrue.

    We should value both.

    I don’t agree with your statement. A skeptic can deny pretty much anything and claim nobody knows (and therefore anyone clsiming to know pretty much anything is pretending). Everything, they might say, is a shade if grey, nothing is really known. Hey I don’t know if all the witnesses were lying, and my own senses and reason might be misleading me. See Tommy above going exactly this tack with eyewitness testimony. With that attitude you can deny anything, no matter what the strength of the reasons for it, and lack of lack of good arguments against.

    The consequnences are obvious, when Dawkins God Delusion quotes a holocaust denier approvingly for also denying Jesus existed, or 40% of British atheists saying that Jesus didnt exist. These errors, in my view come straight from an epistemology, extreme skepticism, that sees little cost in denying truth, or value in affirming the truth.

  49. David P says:

    Charles

    I think we are basically on the same page. I am not denying the holocaust or that I exist etc. I have significant reason to believe those things are true. I am not so skeptical as not to believe anything and I agree that would not be a useful way to approach life.

    What I do not think is wise, however, is to claim that I know anything about reality with absolute certainty because that to me is deluded and can lead me to stop listening or reconsidering my beliefs based on new evidence. Sometimes the beliefs I believe strongly are the ones that hold me back from new knowledge.

    So, my approach is to use my knowledge but never to be complacent and think I know things for sure. I try to be humble enough to allow assumptions to be questioned. Perhaps what I believe is not quite right. As I said before, this way of thinking is particularly useful when people disagree with me. That is an indicator that perhaps my beliefs are wrong. If I’m arrogant about my beliefs it’s much harder to change them.

  50. David P says:

    I think, in general, the difference between me and a Christian is where we draw the line for evidence of truth beyond reasonable doubt, especially for a supernatural claim. Randi has offered a million dollar prize for years for this and it remains unclaimed. Even if I witnessed a reincarnation myself I would find it extremely hard to believe. I would imagine that I had been deceived in some way. I have seen too many magic tricks.

  51. G. Rodrigues says:

    @David P:

    Even if I witnessed a reincarnation myself I would find it extremely hard to believe. I would imagine that I had been deceived in some way. I have seen too many magic tricks.

    Earlier you wrote:

    I believe that thinking this way is healthy and makes me more open to listen to others and perhaps to change my mind.

    Sure you are. And I am Santa Claus.

    Later edit: The irony is so delightful, that I do not resist quoting this whole paragraph:

    So, my approach is to use my knowledge but never to be complacent and think I know things for sure. I try to be humble enough to allow assumptions to be questioned. Perhaps what I believe is not quite right. As I said before, this way of thinking is particularly useful when people disagree with me. That is an indicator that perhaps my beliefs are wrong. If I’m arrogant about my beliefs it’s much harder to change them.

    There is a parable that Jesus tells about a Pharisee and a Tax Collector, whose theme (or one of themes) is, in modern words, self-delusion.

  52. SteveK says:

    I cannot get past his name. All I can think of is Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazzard.

  53. JAD says:

    David P,

    If you reject the supernatural a priori then I don’t see how you could ever discover the truth. Christian-theists believe that the reason anything at all exists is that an eternally existing transcendent personal mind (God) exists. (God is not only the creator but sustainer of the universe.) Only God can provide a sufficient ground or foundation for epistemology and morals. There is no reason for naturalistic evolution to equip us with minds that give us reliable information or knowledge about the world. For example, up until 400 years ago most educated people believed the earth, not the Sun was the center of the solar system. That seemed to be the common sense interpretation, but it was wrong. There is no reason on the basis of naturalistic evolution that we need accurate knowledge about the solar system or the universe. The only “goal” of evolution is the perpetuation of a biological species, and that is all we are.

  54. David P says:

    @G. Rodrigues

    It would have been ironic if I’d said “I am certain that resurrection cannot happen” but I didn’t say that did I?

    There is irony there, however, because what I wrote in the piece you quoted did sound arrogant and I was claiming not to be.

    Originally I wrote that post framed as suggestions to “you…” but I decided to edit it to replace all the mentions of “you” with “I” because I thought it might sound too preachy. Unfortunately, making those changes turned the post into something that made me sound full of myself. I hope I’m not really.

  55. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    On what evidence do you believe that Dynamo carried out this illusion? Did it actually occur? That is an objective, historical question. How did he manage it? That is a question of physics – different questions, different methods and criteria for answering them. You are confusing the two, and you don’t even know you are doing it.

    Look, you are continuing to talk in vague generalities here, and that is going nowhere. Why are you on a Christian blog giving us your opinion on matters of epistemology and belief, if not to call into question the basis for the Christian faith? Are you ever going to build a reasoned, substantiated, logical argument for anything here? You keep telling us that we might be wrong in our beliefs, and that you might be wrong in your beliefs, but you never get beyond this pseudo-intellectual skepticism of yours. You have yet to provide any arguments whatsoever to demonstrate that Christians are mistaken.

    Tom said

    There are things I know with a very high degree of confidence: that the Bible presents (as far as it can be tested, which is quite far) an historically accurate picture of the events it records, that Christianity makes sense of reality in ways that no other belief system does, that I am not the man I want to be or should be, that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection are the kind of thing with power to explain how I can be lifted above what and who I am, that atheistic naturalism’s account of reality is self-referentially incoherent, and much more.

    Let’s run with that – demonstrate to us how we are wrong in just the first item: that the Bible, and the New Testament in particular, is reliable history. Pick something, and let’s work through it.

  56. Victoria says:

    @David_P

    But I am also strongly aware of my limitations and that some things I think I know may well be false. I don’t think that I know anything for certain nor can I be objective. Everything I know has come through my fallible senses and been processed by my fallible mind.

    How would you determine if what you know is false?

  57. David P says:

    Victoria

    I’m not confusing the two. I just wasn’t bothering to ask the first question about whether he did it or not. There’s a YouTube video of it. It could be completely faked and blue-screened. I can’t discount that. Let’s imagine he did appear to do it.

    I believe it was an illusion, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe he has supernatural powers. What evidence would we need to collect to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that he did actually walk on water and it was not an illusion?

  58. David P says:

    How would you determine if what you know is false?

    I’d apply the scientific method.

  59. Tommy says:

    Tom,

    ‘Tommy. Suppose you were presented with evidence — evidence, mind you — that your conception of faith is not accurate to Christianity’s conception”

    Being a former Christian I can tell you that many people who call themselves “Christians” have different thoughts about what “Faith” means to them, I’m sure you version of it is different than what I was raised with.

    I’m sure Wallace’s book could not be gone over in 75 minutes, I’m not confused on that.

    Charles,
    I’m arguing that the greater the claim, the more evidence will be required. Being a cold case investigator for cases that in the 1970′s is a little different that something that may or may not have happened 2000 years ago, can’t we agreed? I think EyeWitness testimony is part of the case, but is not 100% reliable.

    Billt- My Great Grandfather was a Southern Baptist Minister, My Mother was Baptist, My Father was Catholic, he converted when I was young. I was raised in FourSquare Churches. The morals I was raised with. Al the ten commandments. Hatred for Gays and people who thought differently. Being told I was going to hell for my thoughts. Being told all other religions other than our sect of Christianity were wrong. Watching my parents be so gracious to our Mormon, Jehovia Witness, etc Friends then telling me how sad it was they were going to burn in hell. — That I would have to love a god more than my own dad and I would burn.. I started questioning at a young age, always believed until around 28. –

    So to answer your question a lot of my morals, what I feel is right or wrong I had to develop on my own. After Religion.

    Victoria,

    At this point I don’t have the time to provide the evidence you would require, let’s be honest, I could spend the next year putting something together and it’s not going to change the way you feel.
    I’m headed out to the river. I’ll see if I can find something you would deem not blowing smoke.

  60. Tom Gilson says:

    I have a friend, André Kole, who walks on water on stages all around the world. He explains that Jesus could have done it in exactly the same way he does — provided that Jesus traveled with a large truck full of equipment to enable the illusion.

    But here’s the thing: we don’t base our beliefs in Christ on reports of him walking on the water. It goes more like this:
    1. There are compelling historical reasons to believe that the gospel writers gave true reports of what they reported.
    2. There are compelling historical reasons to believe the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.
    3. There are thus compelling reasons to believe that Jesus is and was who the gospels claim him to be.
    4. Thus it is possible for Jesus to have had the ability to walk on water.
    5. The account of walking on water fits well within the overall framework of Jesus actions and messages.
    6. Thus also we have reason to believe the gospel writers were speaking truth when they gave that report.

    So the knowledge of Jesus’ walking on water is one we gain by the written testimony of reliable witnesses, accompanied with reasons to accept that this episode was possibly true.

    Now (re #46), what would it take to prove to a jury beyond all reasonable doubt that Jesus walked on water? First, a magician’s expert testimony showing that Jesus couldn’t have done it by trickery: if he appeared to walk on water, and if reliable witnesses in proper conditions agree that he walked on water, then he walked on water. If you read the accounts, you’ll find that the conditions were suitable. So the only question is whether the witnesses were reliable. I’ve addressed that in 1 through 6.

  61. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    And, as a trained scientist yourself(?) you know what ‘the scientific method’ is?.

    Seriously, with this \Everything I know has come through my fallible senses and been processed by my fallible mind.) as your epistemology?

  62. G. Rodrigues says:

    @David P:

    Originally I wrote that post framed as suggestions to “you…” but I decided to edit it to replace all the mentions of “you” with “I” because I thought it might sound too preachy. Unfortunately, making those changes turned the post into something that made me sound full of myself. I hope I’m not really.

    I am going to repeat myself. Read what you wrote. Again. You are more concerned with *appearances* (“it might sound”, “made me sound”) than with the *truth*. And you are misunderstanding the whole point anyway. The point is not about any putative flaw in your character, such as being “full of yourself” — although that could also be involved, it is just not the main point (*). Rather, the flaw is *intellectual*. The main point is that your whole stance is thouroughly i-rrational and un-livable; at every turn of phrase you are caught in self-contradiction, whether a performative one as pointed out above or not. The title of the blog is “Thinking Christian”. The owner, myself and the people you are discussing against (against in the broad sense) are Christians. Christians are soldiers in the service of Truth. But we are not allowed to kill you, and certainly not force-feed the truth into you. All we can do is appeal to your reasoning faculties in judging the evidence (**). But you seem unable and undesiring to use them; you make no arguments; you respond to none. How about taking Victoria’s advice? Seems as good a place to start as any other.

    (*) And from the Christian POV, it certainly is a moral problem as well. But the moral problem can only be enlightened, if the intellectual one is first.

    (**) Yeah, I know, there are more things we can do as Christians, but as far as the discussion proper with someone like David P, this is pretty much it.

  63. Tom Gilson says:

    Tommy, I just read this that you wrote:

    Billt- My Great Grandfather was a Southern Baptist Minister, My Mother was Baptist, My Father was Catholic, he converted when I was young. I was raised in FourSquare Churches. The morals I was raised with. Al the ten commandments. Hatred for Gays and people who thought differently. Being told I was going to hell for my thoughts. Being told all other religions other than our sect of Christianity were wrong. Watching my parents be so gracious to our Mormon, Jehovia Witness, etc Friends then telling me how sad it was they were going to burn in hell. — That I would have to love a god more than my own dad and I would burn.. I started questioning at a young age, always believed until around 28. –

    If you were taught hatred for gays and people who think differently, then your experience of Christianity wasn’t the real thing. If you didn’t think much of it, know that I don’t think much of it either. I’m not promoting that kind of belief at all.

    Even the emphasis on “going to hell” that you describe here seems worrisome to me, in context of the hatred you speak of.

    I’m very sorry for you that you had that kind of experience. There’s a better way of following Christ.

  64. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    Are you going to address the more important question I asked regarding the historical reliability of the NT here, or am I just wasting my Internet bandwidth?

    If that is too broad in scope for you, let’s just concentrate on alleged historical and geographical errors in the Gospels and Acts.

  65. David P says:

    And, as a trained scientist yourself(?) you know what ‘the scientific method’ is?.

    Yes, I know what the scientific method is.

    Seriously, with this “Everything I know has come through my fallible senses and been processed by my fallible mind.” as your epistemology?

    How do you think thoughts get into your head? Maybe you’ve never considered it?

  66. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    Just so we know something about each other, and so I don’t make unwarranted assumptions one way or the other…

    I have a PhD in physics, so I am a trained scientist. What are your qualifications?

    BTW, you still haven’t answered the question – how would you determine if a particular belief or something you know is false? Simply stating that you would apply the scientific method is NOT an argument, merely an unsubstantiated assertion. How does your fallible reasoning tell you that the ‘scientific method’ (whatever that may be) can make the distinction between true and false?

  67. David P says:

    Tom, I wasn’t actually talking about Jesus walking on water, but, since you’ve brought that up, I’m interested in who was the expert magician who testified that Jesus could not have done it by trickery? What were his qualifications to make the assessment? Did he explain how he came to his conclusion (e.g. outlining the possible ways he considered it could have been faked and explaining the evidence that showed it could not have happened that way)?

  68. David P says:

    Victoria

    I know, you already told me. I have a science-related degree, not that I need it to know the scientific method. It’s not complicated.

  69. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    A science-related degree … in what? Your evasiveness is not very encouraging.

    It’s not complicated. Now I’m sure you don’t know what you are talking about! Professional scientists and philosophers of science have been
    discussing the ‘scientific method’ for 200 years and still don’t have a clear, precise definition of any one ‘method’.

  70. David P says:

    In Computer Science. I also studied Physics.

    Explaining things is only hard when you get lost in the details and/or don’t know what you’re doing.

    I have no problem explaining the method I use, and indeed did so in an earlier comment (possibly in a different thread).

    It is much more worrying if you can’t describe it.

  71. Victoria says:

    Are we going to discuss the historical reliability of the NT or not?

  72. David P says:

    Sure, we will get there. Be patient. First can you answer my question: How does knowledge get into your head?

  73. Victoria says:

    @David_P

    I’m a critical realist, so I agree that my knowledge and experience of the objective real world of which I am a part comes to me through my senses and has to be processed by my finite and not infallible reason; that what I know is open to both expansion and correction. That was never an issue here – none of us disagree with that. However, finite and fallible does not mean completely useless. Critical Realism maintains that there is an objective external reality that exists independently of our knowledge and experience of it. We can know true and accurate things about it, though not exhaustively.

  74. David P says:

    Tom, sorry, I think I misunderstood your line of reasoning. You’re saying that to convince a modern day jury we’d need an expert but for the Bible, we only need to show that the resurrection is true and if we believe that then we might as well believe everything they say. I.e. your reasoning is that if a person or persons tell the truth about one thing then they will tell the truth about everything.

  75. David P says:

    @Victoria

    Excellent! What gave you the impression that I thought it was completely useless?! I have no idea where you got that from, but G. Rodrigues seems to have drawn the same conclusion. I’d be interested to know why because I would like to remedy that in future similar conversations.

  76. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    Tom is not saying that at all – he, and we, are saying that the same criteria and methodologies used by the historical sciences (which, BTW, are completely different from the operational sciences, such as Physics) can be used to evaluate the NT documents, has been used to evaluate the documents, and abductively, the NT documents and their contents are historically reliable and trustworthy enough to warrant the extrapolation of faith in Jesus Christ as the Risen Son of God/God Incarnate.

    There is an old anecdote about a physicist, a mathematician and a philosopher that goes”

    A physicist, a mathematician and a philosopher were given the following task to perform: You are standing at one end of a 20ft hallway. At the other end of the hallway is a table. On the table is a very expensive and very good bottle of wine. You can have the bottle of wine if you can obtain it by this algorithm (Zeno’s paradox): Walk half the remaining distance to the end of the hallway. Repeat until you get to the end.

    The mathematician thought about it for a bit, and then took out his pipe, lit it, and puffing away, said ‘Impossible’. The philosopher, meanwhile, was having epistemological difficulties: ‘How do we know that we can measure distances? How do we know that the table is a table and not something else….?’; and he pulled out a notebook and pen, and starting writing furiously. The physicist said: “Okay” – he proceeded to walk first 10ft, then 5ft, then 2.5ft, then 1.25ft. He stopped, and said, ‘Close enough’, and reached out and claimed the bottle of wine for himself.

  77. David P says:

    G. Rodrigues

    You are more concerned with *appearances* (“it might sound”, “made me sound”) than with the *truth*.

    I am concerned with understanding reality so I can create things I want to see in the world. Part of that is understanding how to relate to others in a way that does not attack or insult them because hurting people is something I want to avoid. It’s difficult sometimes to get the tone of a message right especially when the other person keeps belittling you.

    I have to remind myself that I am here to learn. And my current thinking may well be wrong. To that end, I would like to understand more about what you mean by this:

    And you are misunderstanding the whole point anyway. [T]he flaw is *intellectual*. The main point is that your whole stance is thoroughly i-rrational and un-livable; at every turn of phrase you are caught in self-contradiction, whether a performative one as pointed out above or not.

    Can you give some examples?

    Contrary to what you may think, I do respect you and I can tell you have considerable knowledge in this area. I am genuinely interested to learn from you.

  78. Tom Gilson says:

    David @67, if you’re asking who was the expert magician who testified that Jesus didn’t bring along a large truckload of illusion equipment that day (cf. #60), then this conversation has descended to a level of absurdity with which I refuse to cooperate.

    I’ll stay out of any further discussion until you let us all know the real status of this conversation.

  79. David P says:

    Tom

    Obviously not a truck, but could there not have been, say, a sand-bank some way out to sea covered by high-tide that he could have walked along? It doesn’t seem like an insane possibility does it?

    Do any parts of the Bible show skeptical thinking about Jesus’s miracles? (E.g. some explanation of why they could not have been tricks)

  80. Victoria says:

    Are you now trying to argue that people in Jesus’ day (and the NT authors in particular) believed He performed miracles because they didn’t understand the ‘laws of nature’? I sincerely hope not.

  81. David P says:

    the NT documents and their contents are historically reliable and trustworthy enough to warrant the extrapolation of faith in Jesus Christ as the Risen Son of God/God Incarnate.

    I understand that in terms of historical sciences they may be deemed reliable and trustworthy, but historical science deals typically with events that involve humans and natural phenomena. What makes you think that it can say anything rational about supernatural events?

  82. Victoria says:

    @David_P :
    You are not really Ray Ingles, are you?

    We have had precisely this discussion, including the silly cartoon about the sand-bar as an explanation? The Sea of Galilee is an inland lake that is too small for significant tidal action, BTW.

  83. Tom Gilson says:

    No, there couldn’t have been a sandbar. That’s an oldie, long ago debunked. It’s obvious from the account — have you read it? Do you know what you’re talking about?

    I’d tell you where to find it, but first I want to know whether you’re being intellectually lazy here. Go look it up.

    Do any parts of the Bible show skeptical thinking about Jesus’ miracles? Yes. More than once.

    I encourage you not to take my word for it, though. Read the original sources, in translation of course. Find out what you’re talking about. Don’t just fling questions our way when you could take responsibility for your own discoveries.

    Will you do that? You could start here (feel free to skip the first 17 verses). The four gospel accounts amount to no more than a few hours’ reading, for a slow- to average-speed reader. Or if you want to shorten your task, read Mark and John for two complementary views. John, who wrote quite some time after Mark, seems to have been filling in important details that Mark (and Matthew and Luke) did not include.

  84. David P says:

    Victoria

    I’m not saying anything. I am asking a question. Is there evidence of skeptical thinking about Jesus’s miracles in the Bible?

  85. Victoria says:

    @David_P (re #81) This goes back to my earlier question about the distinction between the reports of an occurrence of an event and explanations about how that event occurred – the physics, if you will.

    I understand that in terms of historical sciences they may be deemed reliable and trustworthy, but historical science deals typically with events that involve humans and natural phenomena. What makes you think that it can say anything rational about supernatural events?

    You have just slipped in a hidden premise here – the implicit assumption about natural phenomena. If an event occurred, it occurred. If one has no a priori commitment to metaphysical naturalism, then a potential supernatural efficient cause is not off the table.

  86. Tom Gilson says:

    While you’re reading, be aware of whether the possibility of trickery even obtains. The healing of the paralytic in Mark 2, for example, could only have been a trick with major advance planning and collusion, wherein the paralytic was quite healthy from the start. But these things happened in small communities where lies like that would have been denounced immediately. Even less likely was trickery in the raising of dead persons like Lazarus (John 11), the healing of the lepers (Luke somewhere, you can find it), or especially Jesus’ own resurrection.

    So let me put it to you this way: is there any place in your own background where you can identify skeptical thinking about your own skepticism, e.g., some actual investigation of your own skeptical imaginations?

  87. David P says:

    No, I’m not Ray Ingles and I haven’t seen any cartoons, but I’m glad I’m not the only one to think of it. I would love to know how this could possibly be debunked satisfactorily. It doesn’t require sand – could be hand-placed stones or some other underwater ledge – and doesn’t require the tide, just a bit of preparation. I can’t understand why you dismiss it so quickly. Surely it’s a more likely explanation than he actually walked on water? I know it’s mundane, but that’s the point.

  88. Tom Gilson says:

    Further re: the sandbar theory. But David, please read the original first, okay?

  89. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    You might want to look at John 20-21 – the famous Doubting Thomas incident :)

    and for some good analysis about the resurrection accounts….
    http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/Resurrectionarticlesinglefile.pdf

  90. Tom Gilson says:

    @74, David,

    Tom, sorry, I think I misunderstood your line of reasoning. You’re saying that to convince a modern day jury we’d need an expert but for the Bible, we only need to show that the resurrection is true and if we believe that then we might as well believe everything they say. I.e. your reasoning is that if a person or persons tell the truth about one thing then they will tell the truth about everything.

    No, I’m not saying that. I should have filled out #3 a little more. If we can conclude that Jesus was and is who the gospels claim he was, then we are concluding that he is God in the flesh. In that case, there’s nothing at all incredible about him walking on water, if he’s doing it for a reason that makes sense.

    Not only that, but there’s a sense in which your proposed version isn’t as preposterous as you make it out to be. If a person or persons tells the truth about one thing that is of a certain extremely extraordinary nature, then it’s not hard to suppose that they are telling the truth about something less extraordinary.

    Further, if their truth-telling about that extremely extraordinary something is the kind of thing that demonstrates their general trustworthiness and integrity, then it’s even more likely they are telling the truth about other things. Based on the record of their lives following Jesus’ death and resurrection, I think this is a fair conclusion. I’m not going to take the time to demonstrate that here, though, since I’m not sure it would get us further down the main track, and it would be a lot of work to pull all the material together.

  91. David P says:

    I cannot comprehend how people can claim that Jesus’s resurrection is proven fact.

    If we were to establish what type of evidence we’d need to see and the credibility and quality that evidence would need to take us to a point beyond reasonable doubt about a several-days-later resurrection in this modern age, it would be a very high bar to reach. We may be able to reach it, as we have a fairly advanced understanding these days of human physiology, the processes of death, multiple methods of confirming death etc.

    It may be unfortunate that that level of evidence was not available in biblical times, but that does not mean we should lower the bar! What possible rational justification is there for doing that?

  92. Tom Gilson says:

    Ummm…

    I hate to break it to you, but they knew “dead” then, too. It wasn’t subtle, in Jesus’ case.

    David, have you read the source documents?

    HAVE YOU?

    What business do you have interacting here out of ignorance, if you haven’t?

  93. David P says:

    How will reading the source documents help? The fact is that the kind of medical knowledge needed to prove the resurrection beyond reasonable doubt were nowhere near available at that time. At least, as far as I know, maybe I’m wrong and the Bible goes into detail about, say, brain stem death and the tracking of other vital statistics, heart cessation etc. in clinically-sound terms. I don’t remember hearing anything about that though.

  94. BillT says:

    So Tommy,

    So you got a lot of bad teaching as a kid. You’re not a kid anymore. But all that wasn’t about what I asked you. I asked you “…what are your beliefs based on? Why do you find them more reliable than theist beliefs. Could you give us some specific examples.” Just saying.

  95. Tom Gilson says:

    You poser, David.

    You’re playing games here. This blog is for thinking people. Do you want to think about the claims of Christianity? Then find out what they are.

    Read the documents.

    When you’ve done that, you’ll know how inane your question was about ancient “medical knowledge.”

    Read Mark. Read John. I gave you the links above. Read them with the attitude of finding out what they have to say.

    Come back when you’re done. And not before.

    I’m serious. I’m sorry to interrupt everyone else’s discussion with you, but until you show you care to learn something about what it is you’re talking about, I don’t think you belong on a thinking blog. Do you? (Don’t answer that now: just go read the source documents.)

  96. BillT says:

    David,

    Your request for evidences for the resurrection in #91 misses the point. The resurrection was a miracle. We all admit that. As a miracle it falls outside of the “human physiology, the processes of death, multiple methods of confirming death etc.”

    The question really isn’t just was there a resurrection. It’s whether there is a God. If there is a God the resurrection isn’t anything outside of what would be a completely reasonable act for a God who was able to create the universe “ex nihilo”.

  97. David P says:

    I hate to break it to you, but it is only recently that we (the developed countries at least) have all but stopped burying people alive.

    http://www.snopes.com/horrors/gruesome/buried.asp

  98. Tom Gilson says:

    You’re not breaking anything to us. What kind of idiots do you think we are?

    READ THE SOURCE DOCUMENTS.

    Don’t come back until you have.

  99. David P says:

    Tom,

    I don’t understand. What have I said that is factually incorrect? Where is the flaw in my reasoning?

  100. David P says:

    I don’t understand your reasoning; what do the source documents have to do with anything? Do they have any bearing on my reasoning about how rudimentary medical knowledge was in biblical times.

    Do you understand my logic? The source documents are only relevant if they demonstrate advanced medical knowledge. If they don’t then they are a red herring.

    If you don’t understand my logic please let me know and I will try to explain it better. If you do understand my logic please tell me where I have wrong assumptions. Don’t attack me.

  101. Tom Gilson says:

    David, the reason you don’t understand is because you have no clue of what you are ignorant of. It’s not a flaw of logic that you’re guilty of, it’s a persistent insistence on ignorance.

    I could fill you in further, but I think you as a thinking person ought to take responsibility to study a few short pages for yourself.

    GO READ THE SOURCE DOCUMENTS.

  102. Tom Gilson says:

    I hope you realize I’m serious. This is not a blog for people who refuse (refuse!) to learn what it is they’re talking about.

  103. David P says:

    Why don’t you just tell me what I’m ignorant of? I don’t want to read the source documents for the reason I described: they are irrelevant to my argument. What assumption am I making that is incorrect?

    I know that you probably don’t like this line of reasoning because it hits at one of your core beliefs, but if you are interested in thinking and reasoning then you need to engage with me on this. Tell me where I’m misguided. If you don’t want to, then I do understand and I will back off.

  104. Melissa says:

    David P,

    You are proposing a theory – that the eyewitnesses were mistaken about Jesus being dead in the first place, but you have not offered up any evidence from the source documents. You cannot just offer up other instances where people mistakenly declared someone dead, they are irrelevant unless you can show how the cases are similar.

  105. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m not attacking you, by the way. I’m urging you to be a better and more knowledgeable thinker. I’m refusing to participate in your refusal (so far) to go there. It’s because I don’t think it’s doing you a bit of good in your own quest for understanding.

    Does that not make sense to you?

  106. BillT says:

    And BTW David, I addressed your “advanced medical knowledge” issue above.

  107. David P says:

    Melissa

    No, I am saying effectively that there is insufficient evidence to “convict”. The evidence does not reach the level of “beyond reasonable doubt” and thus we must rationally reject it.

  108. Melissa says:

    David P,

    No, I am saying effectively that there is insufficient evidence to “convict”. The evidence does not reach the level of “beyond reasonable doubt” and thus we must rationally reject it.

    But you haven’t read the evidence.

  109. Tom Gilson says:

    David, you couldn’t be more wrong about my not liking your line of reasoning. Your line of reasoning is thoroughly lacking in knowledge. It’s no more threat to me than a puff of dust on a paper airplane.

    You say the source documents are irrelevant to your line of reasoning. How could you possibly know that???

    I’m not going to hold your hand. I’m calling on you to learn what you think you’re disputing, since obviously you don’t know.

    I hate to pull admin rank, but I’m serious: if you want to stay in conversation here, go read the source documents.

  110. Tom Gilson says:

    David @107: you can’t possibly think you can get away with telling us what the evidence can or cannot show, can you? You won’t read the evidence!

    Go read the source documents.

  111. David P says:

    BillT

    The question of whether there is a God is an interesting one. But let’s deal with one question at a time!

  112. Tom Gilson says:

    When I said I’m sorry to interrupt others’ conversations with you, David, what I meant was this: I’m interrupting those conversations.

    If your next comment here doesn’t display that you’re reading the source documents, with an intent to discover what they have to say for themselves, your comments will go into moderation.

    Go read the source documents. Please.

  113. David P says:

    I have read enough of the evidence and “know” enough about the medical capabilities at that time to “know” that the claims fall way short of the bar for “beyond reasonable doubt”.

    I am open to specific evidence to the contrary. But asking me to “read the source documents” is to my mind a smoke-screen. If you have evidence give me specifics. If not, well that’s fine too. I get the picture.

  114. BillT says:

    No David. Your entire line of reasoning is flawed. This isn’t about medical knowledge. That’s ludicrous. There isn’t “proof” for our point of view or yours. The idea that our “proof” doesn’t meet some standard and thus must be rejected is absurd. Your “proof” fails to meet that standard as well. We are all trying to reason to the best possible inference. Us and you, too.

  115. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    I asked you previously

    Are you now trying to argue that people in Jesus’ day (and the NT authors in particular) believed He performed miracles because they didn’t understand the ‘laws of nature’? I sincerely hope not.

    You didn’t give me a straight answer before, but now it becomes apparent that this is exactly what you are doing. Furthermore, if you actually took the time to read the Gospel narratives about Jesus’ crucifixion, you would discover, in fact, that John does provides details that are medically significant. Go and do what Tom told you to do – come back when you know what details I am referring to. If you are not going to do that, then why should we waste any more bandwidth on you?

  116. David P says:

    BillT

    I don’t think I said anything about proof. If I did then it was a mistake. I am not expecting you to prove anything 100%, but I do believe that to reach a level of “beyond reasonable doubt” would require a quality of evidence based on medical (and other) capabilities that were unavailable in biblical times.

    Which bit of this do you disagree with?

  117. Tom Gilson says:

    Asking you to read the information is a smoke screen? Asking you to have direct information of what you’re disputing is some kind of illicit rhetorical maneuver?

    Really?

    This is a blog for thinking people. I read material I disagree with all the time. I spent hours yesterday listening to Peter Boghossian, so I would know what I’m talking about concerning what he says. I wouldn’t dream of taking part in a conversation while refusing to learn what it’s about!

    To refuse to read a few short pages for a purpose like this is to be a fake thinker. This blog is not for people who make that kind of refusal. I’m going to put into effect what I notified you of a few minutes ago. Your comments will be sent to moderation.

    Please read the source documents.

  118. Tom Gilson says:

    And David, you’re an interesting interlocutor, whom I enjoy having discussions with. I hate doing what I just said I would be doing (and have now done). I haven’t done that with anyone here before, that is, not for any reason like this. I’m doing it in the hope that it will wake you up to something you seem to be unaware of.

    No one here is disturbed by your “line of reasoning,” because we all know it’s not based in relevant knowledge. I want you to care enough about yourself and about your participation here to pursue the relevant knowledge. I don’t want to hold your hand by giving it to you in bits and pieces. I’m urging you to learn what it is you think you’re disputing.

    Then I’ll be very happy to talk with you here again. I think I’m speaking for the others when I say that, too.

  119. David P says:

    Is this the bit you mean?

    when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out.

    They didn’t break his legs because they saw he was dead, so they only used their eyes? They didn’t feel his pulse? Had they broken his legs that would have given us more confidence he was dead.

    Look, it might be medically significant (though I’m not sure how water flowed out – maybe they pierced his bladder?) but it doesn’t get close to the standard of “beyond reasonable doubt”. Surely you agree with that? If this passage was in the Koran you wouldn’t say “right, well, it must have happened then!”

  120. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you! Please keep reading!

    Blood and water indicate the piercing of Jesus’ heart (see here). It was quite determinative.

    If you still think that Jesus might have survived all that, keep reading and see what happened in his interactions with people a few days later.

  121. Tom Gilson says:

    Concerning the breaking of his bones, see Psalm 34:20.

    Bone-breaking was quite common, to hasten death by crucifixion. It’s remarkable, in light of the Psalm, that it didn’t happen to Jesus. See also the rest of the paragraph you quoted from in John.

    I don’t think the prophetic connection there is solid enough to build an apologetic argument on it, but it’s at least interesting, and it helps explain why Jesus was pierced rather than broken.

    See also Zech. 12:10, which I believe the Jews considered to be Messianic even before Jesus came.

  122. SteveK says:

    David P.
    Victoria mentioned the book “Cold-Case Christianity”. I think you would like it because it deals with your many points of skepticism specifically and in a lot of detail.

    I’ll make you a deal. Buy the Kindle version on Amazon (currently $3.74), read it (the reader is free if you don’t have a Kindle) and I will pay for it myself. I’ll reimburse you via PayPal – but only after you’ve read it.

    Deal?

  123. BillT says:

    David,

    Can you provide evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” for your position?

  124. Tommy says:

    Tom,
    I get that response a lot “You were raised with the wrong christianity, my way is better” – Yet do you support gay marriage?

    I’ve found there is no “Better Way to Follow Christ” because following that line of reasoning forces me to suspend critical thinking.

    Billt –
    “So you got a lot of bad teaching as a kid.” – Again….The My Christianity was wrong…But I’m sure your way of believing in the right way.

    You’re not a kid anymore. But all that wasn’t about what I asked you. I asked you “…what are your beliefs based on? Why do you find them more reliable than theist beliefs. Could you give us some specific examples.”

    What my beliefs are based on a combination of beliefs handed down from my parents, some I’ve held on to, others have changed with my personal experiences, and a whole lot of reading. My degree is in Computer Science. The last couple years I’ve been fascinated with evolutionary biology and Astronomy.

    I went back and did a little more research about Wallace Wagner.

    He said “Every Explanation has liabilities, even the christian one.
    It requires a a resurrection is possible and if you’re willing to “jump that hurdle” everything else falls into place”

    I just cannot bring myself to believe in Supernatural Occurrences, not without the evidence.

    I’d also like to point out that Wallace is now a Evolution denier and there is far more documented proof for evolution than he has in his book. Has anybody challenged him to take his findings to James Randi? Has anybody peer Reviewed His book to try and see if his claim is Valid?

  125. BillT says:

    And David, I’ve already repeatedly addressed the your “medical” questions without the courtesy of a legitimate reply.

  126. BillT says:

    Tommy,

    I addressed the resurrection issue above in #96. It’s not really that big a hurdle by itself but does require some critical thinking about one’s overall understanding of the world and universe we live in. What about us, this world and the universe we live in makes sense on a purely naturalistic basis? Humor? Morality? Courage? Love? Empathy? Consciousness? Logic? Existence? Care to explain any of these in naturalistic terms?

  127. SteveK says:

    I just cannot bring myself to believe in Supernatural Occurrences, not without the evidence.

    Yet you are comfortable believing in natural occurrences without the evidence. Yes, other people have evidence for these natural occurrences because they were there, but not you. You regularly trust people you’ve never met – people that tell you amazing things about a microscopic world you’ve never seen. Why do you distrust people like Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, etc – people you’ve never met – when they tell you similarly amazing things about a spiritual world you’ve never seen?

  128. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    Yes, what BillT said . What is it that you are claiming here? That the better inference to an explanation of the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion is that He did not die at all? Or that the documentary evidence of the NT, along with everything we know from Roman history, is not sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus died?

    Either way, set forth your case – present your facts (along with scholarly references that we can also examine for ourselves, from NT scholars and historians), and show us with reasoned argument, that we are wrong.

  129. Yet Another Tom says:

    Much of the disagreement in this conversation seems to come from people’s differing assessments of the a priori likelihood that “supernatural” events are actually possible:

    If you take it as a given (or even just as likely as not) that there exists a supernatural agent who can modify our laws of physics at will, then when you make an observation that, on face value, appears to go against our known laws of physics (such as someone appearing to walk on water) then a supernatural explanation does seem to be the most plausible.

    If 2 people start with different prior estimates of the likelihood that such a supernatural agent actually exists, then they will necessarily disagree on the most plausible explanation for what caused the evidence that we can observe (in this case the evidence being the documents that together make up the Bible).

    My question is this: how can we reliably establish and agree upon an estimate of how likely it is that a supernatural agent, who can modify the laws of physics at will, actually exists?

  130. Victoria says:

    @David_P
    You can consider this article, from Biblical Archaeology Review.
    http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/a-tomb-in-jerusalem-reveals-the-history-of-crucifixion-and-roman-crucifixion-methods/

    I don’t know if you have access to it, since the digital library requires a subscriber account, so I’ll extract some relevant details that these scholars provide:

    The article refers to archaeological evidence of a crucified Jew:

    A Tomb in Jerusalem Reveals the History of Crucifixion and Roman Crucifixion Methods

    The tomb of Yehohanan contains first physical evidence of crucifixion in antiquity

    Biblical Archaeology Society Staff • 07/22/2011
    In the history of crucifixion, the death of Jesus of Nazareth stands out as the best-known example by far. Crucifixion in antiquity was actually a fairly common punishment, but there were no known physical remains from a crucifixion. Then, in 1968, archaeologist Vassilios Tzaferis excavated a Jerusalem tomb that contained the bones of a crucified man named Yehohanan. As Tzaferis reported in BAR (see below), the discovery demonstrated the brutal reality of Roman crucifixion methods in a way that written accounts never had before.

    The position of the crucified body may then be described as follows: The feet were joined almost parallel, both transfixed by the same nail at the heels, with the legs adjacent; the knees were doubled, the right one overlapping the left; the trunk was contorted and seated on a sedile; the upper limbs were stretched out, each stabbed by a nail in the forearm.

    The victim’s broken legs not only provided crucial evidence for the position on the cross, but they also provide evidence for a Palestinian variation of Roman crucifixion—at least as applied to Jews. Normally, the Romans left the crucified person undisturbed to die slowly of sheer physical exhaustion leading to asphyxia. However, Jewish tradition required burial on the day of execution. Therefore, in Palestine the executioner would break the legs of the crucified person in order to hasten his death and thus permit burial before nightfall. This practice, described in the Gospels in reference to the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus (John 19:18), has now been archaeologically confirmed.d Since the victim we excavated was a Jew, we may conclude that the executioners broke his legs on purpose in order to accelerate his death and allow his family to bury him before nightfall in accordance with Jewish custom.

    along with this footnote:

    In John 19:34, a lance is plunged into Jesus’ heart. This was not intended as the death blow but as a post mortem blow inflicted in order to testify to the victim’s death. Only after this testimonial was obtained was the body removed from the cross and handed over to the victim’s relatives for burial. The blow to the heart proved beyond doubt that the victim was indeed dead.

    Read the parallel accounts in Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:42-46, Luke 23:46-54, and John 19:30-35. Note how Mark’s account dovetails with John’s – Pilate confirmed with the centurion that Jesus was actually dead before releasing the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea, who is named as a follower of Jesus; John tells us how the centurion actually confirmed that Jesus was dead.

  131. Tom Gilson says:

    Tommy, I see you’ve brought up a new subject in #124: gay marriage. I thought we were talking about hatred against gays. If you want to change the subject, it would be up to you to show what connection the new topic has to the old one.

    But if you think opposition to gay marriage automatically and universally means hatred toward gays, let me ask you a question about that: do you see how that’s actually an instance of black-and-white judgmental thinking? Don’t you think it’s possible that the world is rather less simple and more interesting than that?

  132. Lothars Sohn says:

    To my mind, the best way to create MILITANT atheists (or antitheists) is to teach:

    1) that the Bible is the inerrant word of God
    2) that God ordered soldiers to kill babies during the conquest of Canaan
    3) that Calvanism is the Gospel, that God predetermined the greatest part of mankind to be thrown into the lake of fire.

    I know this sounds provocative, but the number of angry atheists will keep rising as long as those things are taught in evangelical churches.

    Lothar’s son – Lothars Sohn
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/

  133. David P says:

    Comment deleted at 7:43 am, EDT, per David’s request — Tom

    (Note: I did not see his request until 7:40 or so; I was reading comments here first. Thus G. Rodrigues had opportunity to respond first. I wrote a response myself, and I’ve deleted it in view of this deletion. I won’t do that for others except upon their request. I think David would want everyone to know he regrets having left that comment. I’ll let him check in below and say whatever else he wants to say.)

  134. Tom Gilson says:

    Lothars’s Sohn, welcome.

    Please search “God genocide Bible” on Google for my perspective on the Canaanite situation.

    The other topics you named haven’t really come up here. I think there are thoughtful perspective that could be brought to bear on them all. Not that God will change himself to please us, but that there is more information to be brought to bear on these topics.

  135. Lothars Sohn says:

    Tom, thanks for the reply.

    But this kind of begs the question: why should we believe that we can define God based on an allegedly inerrant Bible?

    To my mind, the following reasoning is extremely compelling:

    1) God is perfect, a much better parent than everyone of us
    2) Good human beings wouldn’t order soldiers to kill babies
    3) God wouldn’t that
    4) Yet it is said in Joshua’s books that he did
    5) Joshua’s book is no description of the true perfect Being, but just human thoughts about him deeply influenced by pagan religions.

    On my blog, I’m going to develop all these topics while showing one can still stay a Christian and view the Bible as an human tradition.

    Lothar’s son – Lothars Sohn
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/

  136. bigbird says:

    I know this sounds provocative, but the number of angry atheists will keep rising as long as those things are taught in evangelical churches.

    The number of angry irrational atheists perhaps.

    Why should an intelligent atheist care about people thinking a book is the inerrant word of a god they don’t believe exists?

    Why should they care about what God ordered when they don’t believe that God exists?

    And why get angry about a lake of fire that they don’t think exists?

    And finally why would any atheist care what’s taught in evangelical churches any more than what they care about what is taught in Buddhist monasteries or Islamic mosques? Or in university humanities departments?

  137. Tom Gilson says:

    bigbird, I think you’ve caught on to something here. There is some angry irrational atheism out there. It’s one thing to disagree, as Luthar’s Sohn seems to be doing; it’s another thing to get so upset over it.

    I find a lot of anger out there.

  138. Tom Gilson says:

    Lothar’s Sohn, I wish you well in your attempt to rewrite God’s revelation for him.

    We won’t pursue those topics here, though, since they are not the topic of this thread.

  139. bigbird says:

    I find a lot of anger out there.

    Yes. And it’s largely irrational. After all, if you believe that we evolved a religious gene or genes (because religious belief is almost ubiquitous) then religious people are just doing what their genes have programmed them to do. And in doing so, they are no doubt contributing to their survival. Why get angry about it? Maybe because religious people live longer and lead happier lives? :)

  140. David P says:

    Thanks Tom.

    I realized I’d been pulled into a debate that I had been trying to avoid. I don’t have a fully-formed case for my naturalistic worldview. All I can say is I find it useful. Clearly, you find your view useful too.

    I think there is probably truth in the biblical phrase “seek and ye shall find” – like when you have a new baby, and you suddenly start seeing babies everywhere – that is, if I look for signs of God, I’ll find them; if I only look for natural explanations I’ll only find them.

    Currently, I don’t feel a desire to go deeper into the “source documents”, as I’d prefer to try to create my own, though I can appreciate why you would encourage me to do so. Perhaps one day I will do that and “compare notes” so-to-speak.

  141. Tom Gilson says:

    Yet Another Tom @129: welcome to the conversation! I like the nom de blog you chose for yourself.

  142. author says:

    Bigbird asks,

    Why should an intelligent atheist care about people thinking a book is the inerrant word of a god they don’t believe exists?

    Because you vote.

  143. Victoria says:

    Interesting the way that thread ended.

  144. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    It’s best if you deleted my comment #135, if you please, as otherwise it will stick like a sore thumb in the thread.

  145. BSquibs says:

    I’m still a little confused by you can justify your own epistemology, David P.

    It seems to me that your view is self-refuting. You can’t know that you can’t know and so we are left with what you believe to be true – which I suggest is not a strong argument, at least not with compelling supporting evidence. Even when we talk about things we all take for granted – for example, 1 + 1 = 2 – it might be that you are actually a brain in a jar and a mad scientist has constructed a fake universe complete with bogus abstractions like 1 + 1 = 2. You can’t know this is not true and this means you are left sitting on top of a world-view fuelled by an infinite regress of self-doubt.

    I’m tempted to say (or I hope for your sake) that despite all that you have said the phrase “I believe/ I think” might on occasions really be short-hand for “this is true”. If not, and if I am correctly understanding your view, David, then a life lived fully embracing this second-guessing is a life lived in madness. I’m reminded of the character Joseph Grand in The Plague. He is in the process of writing a novel yet is unable to get beyond the first sentence. Instead, he keeps on writing and rewriting variations of the same line because he is unable to find perfection.

  146. David P says:

    @BSquibs

    I don’t know for certain that I’m not a brain in a jar, do you? As far as I am aware, we can’t be 100% certain about anything. I haven’t got any evidence that I am a brain in a jar, so that’s not a belief of mine.

    I make mental models consciously and subconsciously about the world, like I imagine you do, based on my perceptions and thinking. Some of my models have proven so reliably predictive that I don’t generally question them. I don’t worry about the sun coming up in the morning. I don’t worry about the road giving way underneath me. My life isn’t racked with doubt. That is a complete misunderstanding of what I’m saying.

    All I’m saying is that there is always some chance that you are wrong about reality. In many cases, it may be very, very unlikely, but it is always, at least theoretically, a possibility.

    When others believe something different to you, I think it’s particularly important to acknowledge that what you believe is your interpretation of the evidence and to acknowledge that you may be wrong. I think doing that makes it easier to change your mind, if necessary, based on new evidence. Would you not agree?

    I don’t think this idea is self-refuting. I strongly believe it is true, but I acknowledge that there is a chance it may be wrong. That seems to me to be fully aligned with the idea, and not contradictory.

  147. Tony Lloyd says:

    @DavidP

    It’s not self refuting at all. You are claiming something as true (that you do not know), not that you know something. As truth is not identical with knowledge there’s no conflict.

    I’d go further than your “everything you believe might be false”. I think (except for a few weird things I’ll get onto) everything you believe is false. To be true everything that a statement entails must be true, precisely, exactly and completely true. And our claims are just too broad, they entail too much, for nothing that they entail to be in the slightest bit wrong.

    So I used to be an absolute sceptic: we know nothing. But I am, disconcertingly, coming to the view that I do know somethings. I just can’t seem to figure out a way that I could not know statements of the form:

    - I am not sitting in front of a rhinoceros or am hallucinating

    I think I know this. I don’t know that I know it but, worryingly, I think I do know it!

  148. bigbird says:

    Because you vote.

    And so does everyone else. Including people who believe that the stars control their destiny, and who believe we’ve been visited by aliens.

    Doesn’t sound like a very rational reason to be angry to me.

  149. Melissa says:

    David P,

    All I’m saying is that there is always some chance that you are wrong about reality. In many cases, it may be very, very unlikely, but it is always, at least theoretically, a possibility.

    I think what is causing confusion here is that none of us disagree with this. It’s so obvious that we could be wrong that no one thought that was what you were arguing. Why do you think you need to press this point home when it has never been in contention?

  150. bigbird says:

    I am not sitting in front of a rhinoceros or am hallucinating

    I think I know this. I don’t know that I know it but, worryingly, I think I do know it!

    This is a common scenario in epistemology. It comes down to how we define knowledge.

    The skeptic is correct to say there is always the possibility of error – but this does not mean we have to admit to total ignorance. Instead, we can admit fallibility, but also claim we have justification for believing that we are not hallucinating. So we can use a definition of knowledge that is not one of certainty.

    There are other ways of dealing with skeptical arguments such as denying epistemic closure (e.g. Dretske).

  151. author says:

    Bigbird, the point is that in a democracy it is not unreasonable to care about the beliefs of your fellow citizens. Whether they believe they have been visited by aliens, or that they are privy to the desires of the creator of the universe, it is a legitimate cause for concern to everyone if that belief has the potential to influence the governance of the nation.

  152. bigbird says:

    Whether they believe they have been visited by aliens, or that they are privy to the desires of the creator of the universe, it is a legitimate cause for concern to everyone if that belief has the potential to influence the governance of the nation.

    Rather talking about a “legitimate cause for concern” your original post suggested Christians believing the Bible to be the inerrant word of God was cause for atheist anger and militancy.

    The first sounds reasonable, the second somewhat irrational.

  153. author says:

    your original post suggested Christians believing the Bible to be the inerrant word of God was cause for atheist anger and militancy.

    My original post was a straight answer to a direct question.

    You asked, “Why should an intelligent atheist care about people thinking a book is the inerrant word of a god they don’t believe exists?”

    I answered, “Because you vote.”

    That’s it, in its entirety. Which part do you think is “somewhat irrational”?

  154. bigbird says:

    My original post was a straight answer to a direct question.

    Actually, I was referring to #132, which I see now wasn’t your post. That’s where my direct question originates from. Sorry.

  155. author says:

    No problem, bigbird. Easy mistake to make.

  156. BillT says:

    “Because you vote.”

    And you don’t? Could anything speak more strongly to the illogic of atheism. The beliefs of Christians are a problem because they might believe in something based on faith but the beliefs of atheists aren’t a problem because they believe in something based on…? Actually, the answer is that atheists believe what they do based on faith as well. They have no more good reasons to believe God doesn’t exist than Christians do that He does (if not a good deal fewer). Yet, the logical blindness of atheism prevents them not only from seeing the tenuous basis for their own beliefs but makes them think the position they occupy is somehow intellectually superior. Well, we can say that if atheism lacks for something it certainly isn’t hubris.

  157. David P says:

    @BillT

    People have always invented explanations for things they see in the world, such as thunder. When you feel the violence coming from the sky, and you are an empathetic kind of a person, it’s almost inevitable you will connect that to anger of an invisible being. What are they angry about? Something you did presumably! And that is how superstitions start.

    Luckily some people are prepared to question those stories and actually try to see if there’s a natural explanation. The more natural explanations we find for previously supernatural experiences, the more we start to conclude (from the mounting evidence) that, hey, perhaps these supernatural explanations aren’t quite as reliable as all that. Some of us cling onto them though. And they vote. I think that’s what he meant.

  158. G. Rodrigues says:

    @David P:

    Luckily some people are prepared to question those stories and actually try to see if there’s a natural explanation. The more natural explanations we find for previously supernatural experiences, the more we start to conclude (from the mounting evidence) that, hey, perhaps these supernatural explanations aren’t quite as reliable as all that.

    When theologians speak of God as First Cause, they do not mean what you think it means, that somehow God has to elbow its way to have a share in the causal cake, that He is another item in a universe of items explaining this or that natural phenomena. And this is not some modern invention, but is right there in the writings of the first Christians. Your view is just a puerile and ignorant view of God.

    It is true that some Christians do succumb to that temptation, but Christians are not Pagans and Animists. It is also true, that Christians have held God to be the (secondary) cause of certain phenomena, but these are *very special*, that is, they are either connected to His revelation (e.g. miracles), or then there are compelling reasons to hold such a divine fiat (e.g. special creation of man).

    My point is just that the idea you are selling is a complete fabrication of your ignorance. If you want to press it, you are in the wrong place and maybe you should go heckle someone else? Just a suggestion.

  159. BillT says:

    David, if you think you’ve offered a reply to my post that offers any real insight my only response would be to feel for you the same “empathy” you described above.

  160. David P says:

    I was actually addressing this:

    The beliefs of Christians are a problem because they might believe in something based on faith but the beliefs of atheists aren’t a problem because they believe in something based on…? Actually, the answer is that atheists believe what they do based on faith as well. They have no more good reasons to believe God doesn’t exist than Christians do that He does (if not a good deal fewer).

    I was trying to explain the evidence for non-belief in the supernatural. I wasn’t talking about Christian beliefs. I agree that those beliefs are much more elaborate than simple anthropomorphism / animism.

  161. author says:

    BillT, you seem to have missed the point quite completely.

    The question was why should an atheist care what a christian believes. Many atheists are of the opinion that a Christian believes, for epistemically questionable reasons, in things which are not true, which in turn leads them to conclusions with socio-political effects, many of them negative. The Christian thinks pretty much the same of the atheist.

    You appear to be saying that because both positions are based on “faith” (itself a questionable equivocation, but we’ll accept it for now), then it is illogical for either party to care about what the other one thinks.

    Are you a relativist, or just apathetic?

  162. BillT says:

    author,

    That might be a reasonable explanation if there wasn’t a concerted effort on the part of secularism to disqualify any religious thought from entering into any discussion in the public square. You seem to have no problem finding the idea that both positions are faith based. Would you continue to have no issue with giving up your right to have your faith based positions (i.e. any positions influenced by you faith based worldview) discussed in the public square?

  163. David P says:

    @BillT

    What is your definition of “faith” here?

  164. BillT says:

    David,

    Tom has provided reasonable examples.

  165. author says:

    @BillT
    Oh, I see. You’re not actually talking to me, or addressing what I’m saying, you’re arguing against a position you imagine I hold. Sorry, that’s kind of hard to engage with.

    FWIW, I do not think any position should be disqualified from being discussed in the public square.

  166. BillT says:

    author,

    Interesting you claiming I am the one “..arguing against a position you imagine I hold.” You claimed I thought that it’s “…illogical for either party to care about what the other one thinks.” which I never said or in any way implied. And it was also more than obvious I am neither “a relativist, or just apathetic.” You, on the other hand, stated that “…that a Christian believes, for epistemically questionable reasons, in things which are not true, which in turn leads them to conclusions with socio-political effects, many of them negative.” But I’m not justified in taking that and your statement “Because you vote.” as any reason to believe those statemens indicated a socio-political opposition to those who don’t share your views. Ok, whatever you say.

  167. author says:

    But I’m not justified in taking that and your statement “Because you vote.” as any reason to believe those statemens indicated a socio-political opposition to those who don’t share your views.

    LOL. Now you’re defending something which you imagine you said. I think I’d better leave you there, BillT.

  168. BillT says:

    author,

    So when you complained I was missing the point you made I was missing it by doing what? But now somehow I wan’t making the point that you said I made that missed yours. Wow, who’s missing the point now? But like I said, whatever you say.

  169. […] Boghossian’s “Manual for Creating Atheists” […]

  170. Tony says:

    “Boghossian is a dangerous man. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and there is true life only in him. Boghossian seeks to block people from that knowledge.”

    You make one statement without any real backup to it, then you quote a scripture which has about the same merit as reciting a nursery rhyme.

    You have proof Jesus is the way, truth, etc., etc.? Otherwise it’s unfair you even label that as “knowledge” to begin with. No one’s blocking your ability to spew forth fairy tales and have the gullible buy into it as “faith” and “virtue”. No one’s keeping you from believing in easily disproven nonsense.

    What this is attempting at doing is showing people who might be on the side of reason, how to reach out to people like you who arguably don’t think much about their beliefs, who don’t scrutinize the details, and perhaps allow them to internalize and rationalize WHY they believe what they do.

    I frankly am NOT that nice, being a former born again christian myself for 21 years, now identifying as humanist agnosticly-atheist, I don’t take kindly to the harm that faith and religion force upon us as a society. That and I don’t sugar coat things. Perhaps I shouldn’t be this way, but most of my youth spent believing in hogwash, having belief forced upon me growing up, then actually scrutinizing it all just to come up with the conclusion that it isn’t even internally consistent tends to make people just a little bit angry.

    “I expect a book like this could help us clarify what we believe and why”

    One point in your favor. I think that’s all the non-religious can really expect from the religious. As I came to atheism myself out of christianity, I often asked people what made them become an atheist? Typically it revolved around one simple thing, actually reading the bible. I don’t mean a few passages your pastor tells you to read, but the whole thing, and thinking about it. One of the “mantras” so to speak, in the atheist community about how people become atheists, is simply reading the bible. All those passages about rape, slavery, murder, those unsavory parts, read the context. See what a megalomaniac the Jehova character is and weigh all that against what we know is moral. Swiftly follow the apologetics and excuses, but if it were REALLY the moral high ground, or even true, there wouldn’t be a need for apologetics in the first place. And that’s what a lot of the devout fail to see.

    “I’m confident that whatever Boghossian has to say in his manual, True Reason will provide epistemologically sound answers.”

    I’m not familiar with that book, and admittingly I have yet to read Manual, as I have just gotten a copy of it myself. I will say one thing though, I have seen just about every argument possible from the believers’ side. None of it is rooted in sound reasoning or fact. All of it boils down to one of two things: Greed and/or Fear. Facts are not rooted in greed or fear. If anything under the faith umbrella did not fall into one or both of these categories, it wouldn’t be faith anymore, it would be fact. Remember that.

    As far as your last point goes, it is a nice sentiment for those that feel the same way as you, but in ~2,000+ years of your belief, this has hardly been the case. I doubt one book is going to encourage people to correct how they come about what they perceive as knowledge, when they arrive at their beliefs through greed or fear. You can’t squeeze blood from a stone.

  171. Tom Gilson says:

    No real backup to it, Tony? This was the introduction to an eleven-part series. You jumped to an incredibly premature conclusion there. That was just the beginning of your foolishness, however.

    When you said the verse I quoted had “about the same merit as reciting a nursery rhyme,” that you provided no real backup yourself.

    I have strong and persuasive evidence that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. I have well over a thousand blog posts here that include my reasons for thinking so. Your claim that it’s “easily disproven nonsense” is also lacking in backup.

    As for who is on the side of reason, I suggest you take a look at the True Reason excerpt online before you make statements that have no real backup.

    Now, after that statement, you moved from statements lacking backup to outright bigotry: for they are stereotyped, stating a conclusion about another person because of your beliefs about the group he belongs to, and completely disconnected from reality. If you were to study what I’ve written, my friend, you would find it is completely and manifestly false that I’m one of those you suppose exist “who don’t think much about their beliefs, who don’t scrutinize the details, and perhaps allow them to internalize and rationalize WHY they believe what they do.”

    It’s not true, it’s based on prejudice, and that’s enough to qualify it for stereotyping, which is of the essence of bigotry.

    Not to mention having no real backup.

    (Not to mention your apparent unawareness that “Christianity” is a proper noun, as is “Bible” in this context.)

    Speaking of context, I have indeed read the context of the Bible where it speaks of these negative things, and I have given them very extensive thought, in spite of what you wrote about me (without any real backup). Your opinion on those passage, Tony, is either (or both) uninformed and/or lacking in context: both the literary context, and the historical setting. If you want backup on that, you can find it by doing a search on my blog.

    As for this:

    None of it is rooted in sound reasoning or fact. All of it boils down to one of two things: Greed and/or Fear.

    I want to both laugh and cry. I want to laugh because it’s as false as false can be, and you’ve been snookered into accepting it in spite of reality. I want to cry because it’s so sad that you believe it.

    Here’s the summary, Tony: you think you understand something that you do not. You display ignorance and prejudice. You complain about my not providing backup, and you do so in spite of the eleven posts I wrote about Boghossian and the hundreds of others here, and then you proceed to spew hostile venom upon Christians without providing a speck of back up yourself for what you say.

    Do you realize what a fool that causes you to appear?

    (P.S. About proper nouns: you obviously didn’t read the discussion policy that’s linked above the combox. I suggest you do so before you write here again. I’m wide open to thoughtful debate and criticism (more thoughtful than what you’ve displayed here, that is), but I do have a pet peeve about those proper nouns.)

  172. Jacques says:

    I respectfully disagree with your first point ’1. Boghossian is a dangerous man. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and there is true life only in him. Boghossian seeks to block people from that knowledge.’

    If you need to reaffirm that something is true because it says so in a book, and is therefore knowledge…. then your epistemology is broken and unreliable. I’m a christian and can see this clearly.

  173. Tom Gilson says:

    Respectfully with you as well, Jacques, perhaps you can see something clearly here, but I don’t know what it is because you haven’t stated it clearly.

    I don’t “need to reaffirm that something is true because it says so in a book.” I don’t know what you mean by that, or why you say it. I affirmed not because “it says so in a book” but because it’s true and it’s of very great importance.

    I don’t say (nor did I imply it here) that “it says so in a book, and is therefore knowledge.” I wouldn’t claim that something is knowledge because it’s “in a book”! Goodness gracious, what are you implying here? No, there are far, far more reasons to consider this reliable knowledge than that it’s “in a book.”

    I do know, however, that “Christian” is a proper noun. Please see the comment guidelines.

  174. BillT says:

    “I often asked people what made them become an atheist? Typically it revolved around one simple thing, actually reading the bible.”

    Tony,

    From what I can gather what you really are saying is “Typically it revolved around one simple thing, actually reading the bible (poorly).” For even in your short post it couldn’t be more obvious that though you may have read the Bible, your have read it quite poorly and understood even more so.

    More telling is this. “I don’t mean a few passages your pastor tells you to read, but the whole thing…” I don’t know where you went to church but where I go to church we don’t read “a few passages your pastor tells you to read” We read the whole thing. And we don’t just “think about it” we study it carefully and seriously. I’m sorry for the church experience you seem to have had. I hope some day you get a chance to learn what the Bible really says.

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