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At the Reason Rally

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73 Responses

  1. Mike Gene says:

    PZ Myers celebrates the “big tent” of the Gnus:

    I have complaints about a few of the speakers, but that’s to be expected: in a large and diverse and growing movement like this, there are bound to be differences of opinion. Don’t worry about it. The one thing most of us are united in is agreement that reason and evidence and rational policy making must rule our country — celebrate that in common with your fellow godless folk. But don’t be shy about arguing, because that’s what we do.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/03/22/reason-rally/

    But hold on. If this movement is indeed united in is agreement about the importance of reason and evidence, the very first place to demonstrate that is in their choice of speakers.
    But that is not the case. According to the Hemant Mehta, who runs The Friendly Atheist blog, the choice of speakers is all about getting attention.

    But surprisingly, Mehta’s argument is that the documented sexism of some of the biggest speakers is just not a big deal! As he puts it, “Yes, Bill Maher and Penn Jillette have their faults, but they amplify our way of thinking more than just about anyone else.” Therefore, it is still worth having them speak because “we need big-name celebrities to attend.” He goes on to comment:

    “You can argue that the Rally needs higher “standards,” but you’re missing the point. This isn’t just about us. This isn’t just about spreading science and atheism. This is about drawing attention to our movement. This is about getting media attention.”

    http://www.reasonsforgod.org/2012/03/defending-sexism-at-the-reason-rally/

    So the end justifies the means. The Gnus are willing to abandon their supposed commitment to reason and evidence for the purpose of making a sale!

    Is there anything about the Gnu movement that does not collapse into hypocrisy?

  2. ogtracy says:

    I hope you guys say how it went at the end.

  3. Karla says:

    ThinkingChristian, as an attendee how many people can you estimate were there as participants in the rally?

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    I heard a Park Service estimate of 20,000.

  5. Victoria says:

    @Tom
    how much of the event was ‘reasoned discourse’ and how much was ‘rhetoric’?

  6. Victoria says:

    Actually, I’d like to know what happened regarding Westboro Baptist Church

  7. G. Kyle Essary says:

    Most estimates I’ve read say it was between 8-10,000 attending. That’s considerably less than the expected 30,000. Was there bad weather or something?

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    It was raining about half the day, and it wasn’t very warm out.

    I didn’t see Westboro Church. They were there, but I was not very mobile. I hadn’t mentioned this before the rally, but it was just last Tuesday that the doctor authorized me to start putting weight on my left foot (I had surgery on Feb. 16 for a torn tendon). For a full day outside on the Mall, I used a wheelchair; even crutches would have been tough for that long of a day. So it was hard getting around.

    As far as I know Westboro did not cause a ruckus. I haven’t read any media reports on them.

    As far as reasoned discourse vs. rhetoric, I suggest you go to the library and pick up Orwell’s 1984. Double-speak was the strategy of the day. I’ll have a lot more to say about that. I’ll also have a lot more to say about their pre-rally assurances that this was not going to be an anti-religion rally. That was (I’m going to be as charitable as I can) either a blazing lie or a commitment they put no effort whatsoever into keeping. I understand USAToday has put out the word on what Dawkins said, so you can read it there.

  9. Holopupenko says:

    Atheism is a lie… so you were expecting something better from those who are (to whatever extent willfully) liars? They serve the father of lies… with the latter, ironically, hardly needing to lift a finger. You’re expecting more from those who denigrate their own nature and hence dignity by darkening their souls to Truth through a direct and intentional violation of the First Commandment? You’re expecting more from those who preach scientism, ehem, pseudo-philosophically? You’re expecting more from those who intentionally flee Love and embrace bigotry and hatred, and who hold a pessimistic notion of the efficacy reason?

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    Holopupenko, what I was or was not expecting is not the point. I knew what it would be like there. I am not so much interested in pointing fingers at obvious errors as in finding ways effectively to rescue people from them. Every person there was (and is) a real human for whom Christ died. My knowledge of Christ is by his grace alone. I would be there among them if not for his graciously calling me.

    I have grave concerns about this group’s deceitful rhetoric and co-opting words falsely for their strategy of unreason. But I hope I will not forget that God loved them regardless of that.

  11. Victoria says:

    @Tom
    Amen to that

  12. Holopupenko says:

    The questions were rhetorical, Tom.

  13. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    Further to my previous comment, “finding ways effectively to rescue people from [obvious errors]” presupposes you actually do point those errors out to atheists. (Christian charity notwithstanding, of course.)

    Regarding “the gracious calling me,” the difference between you and atheists is that they WILLFULLY either disregard or blatantly and intentionally REJECT grace. The latter is a much more important thing to “have grave concerns about” than their errors… although clearly the latter spur the former.

    Finally, the following is an incorrect claim on your part and actually reduces you to little more than a puppet who reacts to an “externalist” view of God: My knowledge of Christ is by [H]is [G]race alone. You MUST be able to cooperate with His Grace, i.e., you must ACCEPT His Grace to be saved and hence to have “knowledge of Christ.” (Actually, I think you may have meant faith [trust]…) God cannot rape your nature to force you into faith and knowing Him (He can’t do it “alone”–you have to respond with your own fiat “Thy will be done”): as part of your nature you have the capacity for free will which, damage wrought by sin against the capacity for reason notwithstanding, is still capable of–and hence responsible for–the choice you make. You cannot be “utterly depraved” except in relative comparison to Him. If you were truly “utterly depraved” by your nature, you would indeed be a mere puppet in the hands of an externalist God… hence redemption and salvation (and hence the Cross itself!) would mean very little.

    Perhaps you now understand what scares and saddens me most about atheists is their intentional sin against the First Commandment, and what damage results against their capacity for reason (i.e., it blocks their ability to freely choose the Good as well as proximate goods), which in turn leads to a momentum-gaining avalanche of sins. They invariably choose evil because they’ve damaged their own souls to the point where they can no longer accept truth… and flee it in anger. The bonds and chains and bars of Hell are wrought here on Earth… and it’s very hard to abandon or destroy one’s own intricately manufactured works.

  14. Markita Lynda says:

    That must have been very early in the day. Here’s what it looked like later:

    * Reason Rally crowd from the stage

    * Reason Rally crowd from the ground

  15. Doug says:

    @Markita,
    The time-stamp on the post was 9:56am. So, yes: early in the day.

    …interesting that the crowd is about as unichroma as the… Tea Party rallies…

  16. OverlappingMagisteria says:

    Sorry to spill over the comments to this post, but you closed the comment section on this page after dismissing me as someone who is just embarassing myself and I never got a chance to respond to that. Which I find unfair.

    You said I was embarassing myself and should listen to the Glenn Peoples talk. The thing is, even if I was embarassing myself in terms of what I said about Philo and company, that was a point that was only tangential to my main argument. It was made in a footnote. You made no response to the main portion of my argument; that just because many people believed something, doesn’t make it true.My other arguments were ignored as well. Don’t think that dismissing a minor point of mine with a snide ad hominem does anything to refute the resst of what I said. I trust that your readers wouldn’t be fooled by that either.

    It’s ironic, because in a post that was about sharing “true reaon,” I don’t think I ever questioned the evidence you presented (aside from my little footnote) and only criticised your reasoning in how you interpreted the evidence.
    Thank you for spending the time discussing with me and others yesterday. I’ll leave you alone now, sinse closing a thread makes it clear that you no longer want to discuss.

  17. Mike Gene says:

    OM,

    Thank you for spending the time discussing with me and others yesterday. I’ll leave you alone now, sinse closing a thread makes it clear that you no longer want to discuss.

    I’ll discuss with ya, OM. Then again, if you would rather play martyr and run away, that’s your choice.

  18. Doug says:

    @OM,
    Ditto what Mike said. Discuss away. The thread closing was likely in response to the oh-so-ironic wave of irrational “guests” complaining about people crashing their party, when the True Reason folk were orders of magnitude more polite and reasonable during their Reason Rally visit. It was almost certainly not to be taken personally, as there are literally hundreds of threads on this site with good substantial conversations with people of every persuasion.

  19. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Mike Gene:

    Then again, if you would rather play martyr and run away, that’s your choice.

    “Martyr” is a word of Greek origin meaning witness. A martyr is willing to suffer persecution, ridicule and even death, rather than renounce his beliefs. Martyrs do not run away.

    note: I know you know this. Just as general information for any lurking Gnu’s.

  20. Tom Gilson says:

    OM,

    I’m sorry–I thought that when I said this in #77 it covered that, too:

    I think you misunderstood–or I misspoke–on people dying for their beliefs. Christianity is a religion of history, so that if its facts are false, they are not just philosophically or theologically false, they are historically false. If they are historically false, that means that the people who were there at the time would know them to be false, empirically. People do not die for beliefs that they know to be empirically false. Your references here are disanalogous to that.

    So believing does not make it true, of course. I would never suggest or affirm that, and I did not suggest or affirm it here, either. So your main argument had the distinct disadvantage of opposing a position that everyone opposes, and of missing the point of the argument I was making at the same time. I didn’t see anything there to comment on, to be honest; you said something on which we both agree.

    The point of what I wrote was not that believing makes it true, but that the disciples’ commitment to their position increases (by a large degree) the credibility of their eyewitness reports.

    Further, your examples are disanalogous, as I wrote yesterday and have repeated again above. The examples you gave were of people who reported that someone said something, something which they believed. That is the kind of thing on which it is easy to be deceived. Christianity, being an historical religion, is based on reports of seeing someone do something–rising from the grave and appearing among them to talk, eat, teach, etc.

    An eyewitness account of seeing/hearing Muhammad or Joseph Smith teach or produce what they called written scriptures is actually quite historically valuable, after all. It gives us great confidence that they taught and produced something that they called written scriptures. It says nothing at all for the truth or quality of those teachings or writings, of course, but it does say something for what happened.

    If the disciples’ testimony is credible, it too gives us real historical information on what happened: that Jesus rose from the dead. That’s not something on which an eyewitness can be fooled the same way that, say, someone like Brigham Young could be fooled about the veracity of the Book of Mormon.

    Bear in mind what this line of argument is about: the credibility of their testimony, which we have, according to the great majority of NT-era historians (including skeptics). They saw they saw Jesus alive after death. If they did, they have every reason to know it, and with a veracity far greater than a Brigham Young’s affirmation that the Book of Mormon came from the angel Moroni.

    So if their testimony is credible, then it is rational and plausible to accept that Jesus rose from the dead. That’s why the relevant point of discussion is the veracity of the testimony. Deny the testimony is credible if you think you can, but don’t get side-tracked into “believing doesn’t make it true.” A credible eyewitness’s believing makes that eyewitness’s report credible, reliable, believable, trustworthy. That’s what this is about.

    Do you see that distinction now?

    Tell you what. I’d like to open up this discussion once again, but not over the weekend. You’re free to talk all you want today. I’ll check in once in a while on whether the discussion policies are being followed, but other than that I probably won’t have much to say. It’s a holiday weekend and I have a family.

    On Monday, if all goes well and the Lord allows, I’ll open a new thread and get involved in it again myself.

  21. Mike Gene says:

    It is unlikely OM will turn up, as his confidence was simply a function of arguing with Tom when Tom’s attention was divided by a pack of Gnus reciting different talking points from the GnuDebate Handbook. PZ certainly knows how to employ the group think he nurtures over there. Anyway, OM’s attempt to take the high ground while banning himself is just an expression of the Gnu’s Martyr Complex.

  22. Markita Lynda says:

    Doug, if you’ll look closely at the crowd in the second link, you’ll see six black people in the first four rows of people counting from the camera. You are mistaken and may now apologize for your hasty judgement. Also, all accounts mentioned the diversity of the crowd for both race and sex.

    Now, on to my next point. Tom Gilson suggests that Christians don’t commonly gloat over the idea of atheists going to Hell. Au contraire, it’s quite common. Here’s an example: Portrait of a goddless jackass in hell. I only found this because the author was wittering on about 500 eye-witnesses to the gospels, when we know that the first one was written about 60 AD. Far from showing respect for other religions, he goes on to state that Muslims are stupid for believing in Mohamed. From the point of view of a former Christian, there’s not much to choose.

    Funny that no independent sources mentioned the Jerusalem’s Great Zombie Invasion of 33 A.D. “Matthew 27: 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”

  23. Markita Lynda says:

    I tried to post a link and it looks as if my comment evaporated. Here’s the disproof of your “Christians don’t do that” statement. They do, they did, they are notorious for it.

    I apologize if this becomes a duplicate but it’s not the same as the previous.

  24. Markita Lynda says:

    Doug, look at the second crowd picture again. within about four people deep from the camera, I count six black people. There are also some who might be oriental. And if you had read any of the accounts, you would have found that they consistently mentioned the diversity of the crowd for race, age, and sex. I’ll accept your apology now.

  25. Markita Lynda says:

    There’s plenty of evidence that there were Christians by the second century. There’s no solid evidence that there was a Christ, although there might have been.

    You do know that parts of the New Testament stating that Jesus announced himself to people or rose up into heaven are not in the oldest manuscripts, right?

  26. Tom Gilson says:

    Oh for heaven’s sake, Markita, you’ve been listening to way too many Internet atheists, i.e., atheists who enjoy spreading around long-debunked or never-credible “challenges” to Christianity, and who don’t read knowledgeable sources.

    No credible historian of that period doubts Jesus’ existence. Virtually all of them, skeptics included, know that he was crucified, that his disciples had post-crucifixion experiences that they took to be resurrection experiences, that his brother James had a turn-around in believing in him after his death, that Paul had a similar turnaround, that reports of his resurrection were circulating in Jerusalem within months of his death.

    Virtually every Bible has careful and well-researched footnotes indicating what is or is not in the oldest manuscripts. The parts you mentioned are not among the disputed sections.

    If you want more information, I recommend you listen to this and this.

  27. Victoria says:

    @Markita – like the longer ending to Mark’s gospel, for example?

    Yes, Christians scholars know about such things.
    see here
    http://www.bible-researcher.com/endmark.html, or

    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Early_Traditions.htm

    http://www.textexcavation.com/snapp/PDF/snappmark.pdf for an argument in its favour.

    However, the resurrection story is not dependent on Mark’s gospel, as we have 3 other gospels which talk about it, as well Paul’s references to Jesus’ post resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15.

    Textual Criticism of the New Testament manuscripts has allowed us to reconstruct the original text as it would have been in the 1st century with a great deal of confidence. Only 1% or so of the variant readings, such as Mark 16:9-20, are actually substantial, and even those do not alter core Christian teachings.

  28. Tom Gilson says:

    I should add that when I said the parts you mentioned were not in the disputed sections, Markita, what I meant was this. There are of course textually disputed sections of the Bible, but as Victoria said, the portion of the accounts you specified are attested elsewhere. Jesus’ ascension is in Acts 1, for example. It is strongly implied in John chapters 14 to 16. It’s in Ephesians 1 and 4, Romans 8, Colossians 3, Hebrews 1, 8, 10, and 12, and 1 Peter 3, all of which speak of Jesus at the right hand of the Father.

    You speak of Jesus’ announcing himself, which is ambiguous phrasing, but if you mean his announcing himself after his Resurrection, it’s at the end of each of the Gospels and in Acts 1 and 9, along with the book of Revelation.

    These are not textually disputed passages.

  29. Tom Gilson says:

    Markita, your “disproof” related to the passing away of Christopher Hitchens reveals something other than what you think it does. It reveals that you do not understand that empirical questions of proportion are not decided by single anecdotal examples.

    I can return further anecdotes your direction. There is my own response, and about seven others’ linked from the bottom of that page. These are anecdotal too, but I thought I’d at least register them as counter-anecdotes to your own.

    Only if you have done a proper sociological study can you pronounce on how often Christians gleefully rejoice over people going to hell. If you value science as a source of knowledge, as many atheists proclaim (and which I also value, I assure you), then for an empirical question like this one, you really ought to rely on proper empirical science before you claim to know something.

    For my part, I never, ever see this kind of gloating among the many real life Christians I know. It just doesn’t happen. So I’d like to see you conduct that empirical study, because I predict it would support my viewpoint much more than yours.

    Now I want you to know that even one such gleeful rejoicing is one too many, in my opinion. We’re all humans, we’re all in this thing together, and I do not want anyone to perish. If they choose to reject Christ, then they do, and they pay their own penalty, which is just. But it is not joyful.

  30. Tom Gilson says:

    As for the rising of the saints recorded in Matthew, that’s a passage whose meaning is disputed and whose effect on Christian doctrine is nil. It doesn’t matter. I have good friends who think it’s apocalyptic and therefore ahistorical, and others who think it really happened; and these groups agree on pretty much everything else related to matters of biblical teaching. It just doesn’t make any difference.

  31. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m curious whether you really did see someone “wittering on about 500 eye-witnesses to the gospels.” If so they were careless or misinformed.

    1 Corinthians 15:3-8 speaks of 500 eyewitnesses to the resurrection, not to the gospels.

  32. [cross posted from the closed thread. I may not be able to respond to all comments referred to me as I must go to work again. On a Sunday. Is should be stoned to death according to the bible, but we can all let that divine rule slide, can’t we?]

    @ Tom Gilson 20

    [evidence for hell] It is not wishing that convinces me it is true, it is evidence.

    I clicked your name by accident (or through the guidance of Dionysus?) and came to the “evidence” (notice scare quotes) that you claim:

    By the Holy Spirit’s confirmation
    By the evidence of history
    By the sense that Christianity makes

    These above claims could be made of the ancient Greek Gods, with equal validity. The original term atheoi referred to those upstart christians for not believing in The Gods.

    As a more contemporary example, you might look into the muslim belief that your Jesus did not die on a cross. This was confirmed by Allah. It is evidenced by history (The Holy Angel Gabriel and not hearsay of a few mere humans … as the christians claim.) And islam makes complete sense. Further, it remedies the deep flaws of previous prophets such as your own.

    PZ was smiling, warm, cheerful, and deeply insulting all at the same time.

    This is a rather verbose way to say “mocking”. That one can show respect for a person (in public) is not contradicted by having, and showing, no respect for the institutions of religion (in church).

    Good science absolutely does not support your theory of natural-born atheists.

    Citation please. And, assuming for an instant that children naturally and spontaneously invent gods (obviously not singular. There would be a plurality of agents ascribed: “The stone hurted me…”) – why should you think they will spontaneously believe in a particular imaginary sky god?

    That’s why I taught my children about the reality of God in Jesus Christ.

    I taught my child about the reality of the Easter Bunny. She outgrew it of her own accord and pointed out the human agency behind the chocolate eggs and the mysterious rabbit prints outside the front door.

    Is there empirical evidence that parents terrify children with the threat of hell? … etc

    You mention Richard Dawkins in this regard and still ask this question? He has made documentaries on precisely this issue. (These can be found on youtube.)

    Is there empirical evidence that raising children to believe in Christ is in any way abusive to them?

    However I respond you will deny its validity. Is teaching a child about the Easter Bunny abusive? No, I guess not. It is a life lesson in teaching a child not to be gullible and likely does no harm whatsoever.

    But religion goes beyond this. It teaches that gay people are inferior to straight people. It teaches that female children are inferior to male children. The bible teaches this. I do not know that you follow such practices, but if you do not, you are not following the bible but your own humanist principles.

  33. Allie says:

    I just want to add my voice to those who have had people flat out threaten them with hell. I grew up in a Calvinist church, where the existence of hell was never in doubt and the idea that people were created by God to go there was strongly believed. I have personally (to my shame) threatened people with hell and saw it done growing up. I’ve had my own parents threaten me with hell when I told them I was no longer a xian. It happens ALL THE TIME…to the point where it isn’t even remarkable. As some other commenter (sorry, didn’t catch the ‘nym) said–it is really a matter of privilege to deny that these things happen.

    As far as “empirical evidence” –according to the Pew Forum, 60% of xians believe in hell. Of those, most are from churches that teach a literal or semi-literal view of the Bible. For them, hell is a really real place that people are really going to go. They see it as a moral duty to tell people. That moral duty to tell can often extend to threats…or perhaps, it’s more correct to say that it definitely feels threatening to the one who is supposedly “condemned” to hellfire.

    Finally–someone else in the old thread claimed that the Westboro Church was invited to the Reason Rally, so we shouldn’t get mad that other proselytizers showed up. This is untrue. Nate Phelps, one of Fred Phelp’s children that escaped his household and his church, was invited to speak. His family showed up to protest. They were (to my knowledge) not invited. Their presence there, while amusing, was meant to scare Nate into submission. It was abusive in the extreme and it is a testament to Nate’s endurance and emotional strength that it backfired.

  34. SteveK says:

    theophontes 777

    It teaches that gay people are inferior to straight people. It teaches that female children are inferior to male children. The bible teaches this.

    Citation please.

    While we wait for your reply, I’m willing to bet that we will find that the Bible teaches that we were created for heterosexual relationships and that homosexual relationships are immoral. I’m willing to bet that the Bible teaches that all of us are made in the image of God and all are equally valuable.

    Let us know when you find the citations to support your claims.

  35. @ Tom Gilson

    But I didn’t bring up the topic of hell. Theophontes 77 did. He made some assertions and he ought to back them up. Some of them, by the way, are empirically false.

    I just dipped into the vast ocean of falsehoods that is religion and came up with one example. “Does hell exist?” is not even a valid question. It has the same probability as the likelihood of Russell’s celestial tea-pot or the Easter Bunny. We cannot ever disprove any of these things in a scientific sense. They are in fact not scientific questions because they quite simply cannot be falsified.

    My Imaginary Cat ™ is real. I can prove It exists by referring to literature that states it exists. Anyone who argues It does not exist is not theologically, not philosophically, but empirically wrong.

    [religious may attend secular public events] Think about it next time, please, okay?

    You make a valid point. The point was made without referring to a magical book. You should try this more often.

    (PZ did not ask, “are they ridiculing your beliefs?” He asked if they were ridiculing us.)

    How very sloppy of him. Therefore YHWH?

    @ G.Rodrigues

    I am sorry, where is your evidence that I belong to such a “minority group”?

    You have completely misrepresented what Katie said.

    Religion talk is dirty talk, and Christianity is basically fighting a battle for cultural survival.

    I note this with relish. Every dying religion goes through this before being consigned to history.

    Oh, and good job in demeaning Katie’s experience of religious intolerance. Next we shall be subjected to the likes of: “Jesus was crucified! That invalidates all human suffering, evah!”

    @ Nea 52

    Would you accept my typing out the pertinent paragraphs or do you need photographs to believe me?

    No credible evidence required. Give your comments chapter and verse numbers and all will be believed.

    @ Tom Gilson 53

    the empirically identifiable incompetence we have observed among atheists in their practice of reasoned discourse.

    Some atheists are poor speakers therefore YHWH?

    There is a huge gap between arguing against a poorly formulated argument against gods and proving your sky god of choice exists. (Yours can be lumped with all the hundreds of other sky-gods that have been invented through the ages. Nothing special, very derivative.)

  36. SteveK says:

    Tom: “Good science absolutely does not support your theory of natural-born atheists.”

    theophontes 777: “Citation please.”

    Here is one article about a recent scientific study. I haven’t been able to find the study itself.

  37. @ SteveK

    Citation please.

    Please don’t tell this to people like Santorum. They certainly do get their bigotry from their religion.

    Why is YHWH a god and not a goddess? Why does He (religious claim to masculinity not mine) instruct his supposed chosen people to rape women?

    Oh, citations, sorry:

    God addresses women: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing… Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16.

    WTF? Right there in the very start of the fable, the rot has started. How much clearer do you want? I am not going to spend my time schooling you in your own religious texts. Are you unaware of the above? Is your religion based on your ignorance of the bible?

    (If ever there was a book that undermines the fable of the “goodness” of YHWH it has to be the bible. It is an instruction manual for bigots.)

    [Uh oh. I am late for work. I hope you do not regard commenting here as work. The bible condemns us both to death in that case.]

  38. SteveK says:

    theophontes 777
    Your Genesis citation doesn’t not support your claim that the Bible teaches “female children are inferior to male children”. It says nothing about children (in the context you mean it), value or inferiority.

    When you get back from work, maybe you can try again.

  39. Tom Gilson says:

    Allie,

    The Westboro Church was invited by the National Atheist Party. The links to that information are clearly marked on the thread where this was discussed.

    The discussion of hell comes down to several considerations, including:
    1. Is it true?
    2. If it is true, what’s the best way to communicate it to different age groups, people at different stages of decision making, and so on?
    3. If it is true, how many Christians communicate it in unloving ways? For if it is true, then those who are at risk should be warned of the risk.

    I don’t know what the details of your experience were like. I assure you that I believe hell is a real danger for people who do not accept the reality of reality: that God loves us, that we have turned our backs on him, that God’s justice means that those who do that will experience the consequences of their choice forever, but that he has provided a way of rescue from that, which we celebrate this weekend.

    Since this is true (and I am quite convinced it is), there are times when I need to say it. There are times when I do not need to say it, too, and in fact in all my many years of blogging here I’ve probably mentioned it less than half a dozen times.

  40. Tom Gilson says:

    Theophontes,

    You speak of Santorum’s “bigotry,” then you draw mindless and stereotyped conclusions from a three-point outline I provide for a 60 minute talk. Look in the mirror, my friend.

    You have a bigoted conception of Christians as being stupid and unthinking. I am very well aware of the Muslims’ beliefs about the cross, which are not (where did you even get this from?) evidenced by history. I am not stupid. Islam does not make complete sense in the ways that I described in the talk. I am not stupid enough to make that mistake.

    You have the temerity to make up “false facts” like children are natural-born atheists; or the Muslim’s view of the cross is evidenced by history. Or, like the content of my talk being applicable to the Greek Gods. Or, like the Christian resurrection accounts being “hearsay.”

    You have the temerity to think that you understand theology well enough to conclude that Christians are only letting a divine rule concerning the Sabbath “slide.” We aren’t. You literally don’t know what you’re talking about. You assume we have no reasons, but you assume incorrectly.

    You say you are schooling me in my own religious texts, then you quote a passage that I could have told you from memory. Yanking it out of context, you draw the most bizarrely wrong interpretation from it I have ever heard, and you present it as the whole answer to the whole question.

    You give the clear impression that that you think only you and fellow atheists know anything, and that the libraries and libraries full of discussions on these things are stupider than you are. Admit it: you really think that every believer who has spent hours considering the meaning of these things, and battling these things out in his own mind and with others who disagree, even, is stupider than you are. But isn’t it more likely that you have just a surface understanding, distorted by lack of data, reflection, and study upon the topics on which you pontificate; and that they are not so stupid after all?

    Just because Richard Dawkins has made documentaries doesn’t make his anecdotes science, and it doesn’t make his claims true. He is wrong on the abuse issue, and he is unscientific about it as well.

    What I am saying in summary is that you are demonstrably wrong in many ways, and your confidence in your beliefs is based on a series of falsehoods. You throw documentable lies my direction and wonder if they will rattle my beliefs. The answer is no. False information spoken against my belief does not upset my belief.

    The fact that you believe falsehoods such as these, or that you’re willing to jump to conclusions the way you have (about my talk, for instance, or about Christian theology), ought to rattle you.

    Think about it!

  41. Tom Gilson says:

    Because of your repeated insults based in falsehoods, Theophontes, I am giving you fair warning to read the discussion policy.

  42. Mike Gene says:

    Theophontes,

    On the other thread, you asserted:

    Telling someone they are going to hell is a lot worse than anything I have ever heard coming from PZ.

    Here’s something from PZ:

    I traditionally celebrate my birthday by punching god-botherers in the forehead. Some of those people may have been victims of my fists, and are badly bruised. Others, more cunning, put the marks on their heads so that when they see me coming, they can say, “Hey, you already got me!” Either way, the appropriate remark to individuals you see with these smudges is, “I’m sorry, I hope you get better soon.”

    There are alternative explanations. You can also say “Praise Odin” to them, and point them at the nearest monastery to sack and burn. Another possibility is that they’re credulous, brain-damaged nitwits, but I think it’s kinder to pretend they’ve been punched in the head by PZ Myers.

    His fans enjoyed the idea of PZ committing acts of violence against religious people:

    Generally I am not a violent person, but I’ll keep my eyes out for people to punch. Up here in New England, I’m sure there will be a nice concentration of credulous, brain-damaged nitwits.

    Here’s to many more years of punching god botherers in the face!

    Happy whacking day PZ. Hope it brings you much joy.
    (Have you considered a hammer? I hear they work well for such things.)

    Keep the rivers of blood flowing and the tradition alive, PZ! Happy Bloody Birthday!

    What is it with PZ and his acolytes that they enjoy the thought of committing acts of violence against other people?

  43. @ SteveK

    Here is one article about a recent scientific study. I haven’t been able to find the study itself.

    Thanks for the link. I am not unfamiliar with the issues raised in this article. (I did mention, for example the attribution of agency by children to inanimate objects, which is a common mistake amongst the superstitious too.) That children see their parents as superhuman is not particularly surprising. Absolute and unquestioning faith of a child in a parent makes evolutionary sense. It is better than the child learning – the hard way – what the parent tries to teach. At some stage though children need to grow up and start to think for themselves. An imaginary parent and unquestioning faith is rather inappropriate in an adult. Intellectual neoteny is not pretty.

    [your link]It set out to establish whether belief in divine beings and an afterlife were ideas simply learned from society or integral to human nature.

    If you would like to read a good book on the development of the divine, check out Sir James Fraser’s “The Golden Bough” (Link here.) What comes out very clearly is that there are indeed many common strands running through the rank superstitions of the world. He also describes the evolution from mere superstition, to the more religious tendencies built up upon these.

    With regard to belief in the afterlife, this is something we share with many of our ape relatives (and some more distant cousins too). Social apes, like ourselves, seem to have a very hard time dealing with the reality of the death of a loved one. (Example here.)

    I understand that children are susceptible to all manner of maladies, some physical some psychological. I do not doubt they can easily succumb to superstitions. But surely you agree that they cannot have any inherent religion?

    Don’t get me wrong. I find religions extremely interesting. (Alhough I find the religious sensibility in a adult human to be a bug and not a feature.)

  44. G. Rodrigues says:

    @theophontes 777:

    You have completely misrepresented what Katie said.

    Yes, I misread one of her sentences but I did not “completely misrepresented” what Katie said. If Tom Gilson ever reopens the other thread I will apologise to her there for the misunderstanding. And as a matter of fact, my response, even after being pointed out the misreading, is still pretty much the same.

    Oh, and good job in demeaning Katie’s experience of religious intolerance.

    Now this is just a lie.

    note: I do not know how long I have been commenting in this blog (a year?), but as far as I can recall this is the first time I point out a flat out lie.

  45. @ SteveK

    When you get back from work, maybe you can try again.

    The general context was child abuse, misogyny and hatred of gay people. Perhaps finding those first two horrible things committed in one go(ie in parallel) is not as easy as finding examples of serial hate.

    Finding child abuse is easy: Hosea 13:16 suggests dashing kids to death on the ground. (Psalms 137:9 indicates it is more fun to smash their heads on rocks.)

    Misogyny, easy: 1Timothy 2:11-15 or Job 14:1-4 or Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (So many examples that one might as well read the whole bible.)

    Combining child abuse with misogyny is (as you noted) not as easy: Judges 21:10-24 Not only is it OK to rape young virgins. One is encouraged to go out to kidnap and rape if there are not enough young victims left over for everyone. (You could also argue that the term “young virgins” somehow does not include children?)

    On a more mundane level: a male baby is not the same as a girl baby (the mother of a girl is twice as unclean!): Leviticus 12: 1-8 Do the maths.

  46. @ G. Rodrigues

    In the interests of tone and to prove I am not completely evil, I shall ammend my previous comment as follows: completely misrepresented

    my response, even after being pointed out the misreading, is still pretty much the same.

    Your answer did seem to be parallel, but 180 degrees off course.

    [theophontes:] Oh, and good job in demeaning Katie’s experience of religious intolerance.

    [G. Rodrigues] Now this is just a lie.

    Not at all. I shall quote your own comments, that were demeaning of Katie’s experience:

    (one example: in North Korea they are dispatched to labor camps, some are shot, etc. Next to this, your complains are utter chicken feed) [my emphasis]

    Nice one G. Rodrigues. You feel good about yourself demeaning Katie’s experiences because, somewhere else, someone else had a worse experience?

    Instead of apologising to her for this, you prefer to call me a liar. Your self-absorbed privilege – it is showing.

  47. Mike Gene says:

    Theophontes:

    Nice one G. Rodrigues. You feel good about yourself demeaning Katie’s experiences because, somewhere else, someone else had a worse experience?

    LOL! That’s precisely what Richard Dawkins did to Rebecca Watson over at PZ’s blog. Theophontes, can you provide the link where you called out Dawkins and demanded an apology from him?

    Also, why are you ignoring that fact that Myers likes to joke about committing acts of violence against religious people?

  48. G. Rodrigues says:

    @theophontes 777:

    You feel good about yourself demeaning Katie’s experiences because, somewhere else, someone else had a worse experience?

    Pull the quote out context as much as you like and spin it any way you want, it is still a lie to say that I demeaned Katie’s experiences.

    Instead of apologising to her for this, you prefer to call me a liar.

    There is a difference between pointing out a lie and calling someone a liar. I did the first.

    I do note that you do not address anywhere my arguments but my character. Hardly surprising given the following in post #35:

    Religion talk is dirty talk, and Christianity is basically fighting a battle for cultural survival.

    I note this with relish.

    You are fighting this battle with the only weapons you have; fair enough.

    Nevertheless, why are you addressing me at *all*? According to you, and just in post #46, I demean people’s experiences (when I am not simply misrepresenting them) to feel good about myself, I called you a liar and I am self-absorbed. Now, if I met such a person, I certainly would not engage in dialogue with him, so out of curiosity, why are you addressing me? Surely, even you can find better things to do with your time.

  49. @ Tom Gilson

    [hell]

    1. Is it true?

    No.

    2. If it is true …

    It is not.

    3. If it is true …

    Again, it is not.

    But in the interests of the discussion, let us accept, for argument only, that hell is literally true.

    Eternal gnashing of teeth (the expression comes from Homer and is far older than the bible) and sulphurous flames (also from Homer… *yawn*).

    What now? In my youth I renounced the holy ghost (in jest, no less). No matter what I do, I am destined to go to this hell of yours. There is no way out for me according to your holy book’s Mark 3:29. What do you advise?

    Perhaps I should cherish my life here on earth and work hard to improve my community and myself. Obviously it is pointless for me to read the bible, but get the most out of my short life by studying science. Once I die, I will go to hell, so this life is the only meaningfull one I shall ever have. I shall have to spend the time I have wisely and considerately. If I can free just a few people of outdated superstitions that poison lives, I’ll have done well. Exactly like a life of atheism.

    I assure you that I believe hell is a real danger for people who do not accept the reality of reality

    Are there any of the thousands of made up religions that don’t have some kind of punishment for failing to tow the line?

    Since this is true … I am quite convinced it is

    At least one of these expressions does not mean what you think that it does.

    Easter is an old pagan ceremony to celebrate the beginning of spring. In China we also have a celebration to end winter. Similar agricultural economies, similar rituals and superstitions.

  50. SteveK says:

    theophontes 777
    I suggest you read the verses you cited in the proper context. Try reading the entire chapter before & after each of those verses. Try thinking rather than emoting.

    Happy Easter. He is risen!

  51. SteveK says:

    In my youth I renounced the holy ghost (in jest, no less). No matter what I do, I am destined to go to this hell of yours. There is no way out for me according to your holy book’s Mark 3:29. What do you advise?

    I would advise that you seek help to rid yourself of your disordered thinking.

  52. Mike Gene says:

    Theophontes,

    No, and your point is what?

    So, were you afraid to criticize your leader?

    At least he is not serious.

    So it’s okay to joke about committing acts of violence against other people. Were you also laughing when Myers joked about committing acts of violence against his own students?

  53. Tom Gilson says:

    Theophontes,

    What is your purpose here?

    You keep throwing little smoke bombs in on this thread. They demand a moment’s attention. Otherwise they do nothing.

    The odd part is that it seems as if you think they’re sticks of dynamite.

    The other odd part is how you ignore it so often (not every time, but often) when your ordnance is shown ineffective. An intellectually responsible person would say, “okay, I see how I got that wrong.” Simply to change the subject is a sign that you don’t care about learning, knowledge, or growth.

    And you keep on throwing in little smoke bombs, like “Easter is an old pagan ceremony to celebrate the beginning of spring.” Apparently you have not learned that where two things have completely different characteristics they are not identical, even if they share a couple features in common. And apparently you have no interest in the history of the Resurrection celebration. You’d rather blow smoke.

    Meanwhile you try to play a logic game of your own by saying I got one or the other of these wrong:

    “Since this is true … I am quite convinced it is”

    As logical complaints go this is quite silly. The first phrase is about the truth of the proposition, the second is an autobiographical statement made in view of the fact that not all persons are equally as convinced.

    Smoke wafts before the eyeballs; it dissipates; it proves meaningless.

    Now, do you have absolute assurance that you understand the meaning of the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”? If so, then you understand that far better than anything else from Scripture you have brought up here. I think you should take seriously the possibility of rescue from the hell you have seemingly resigned yourself to—even though you say “yawn” about it.

  54. Tom Gilson says:

    G. Rodrigues,

    If T77 is indeed lying about you, I want to know about it, but I don’t know where the discussion about Katie began. Could you help with that?

  55. Tom Gilson says:

    Theophontes, if you are banned from this site it will not be for disagreeing. It will be for being disagreeable.

    I have also in the past banned some people for being persistently boring, for doing things like the smoke-blowing you are doing here. This site is for genuine conversation. One sign of your interest in genuine discussion would be acknowledging that you don’t know everything you seem to think you know, in view of the very plain fact that you don’t know much about many of these things.

  56. SteveK says:

    theophontes 777

    If you would like to read a good book on the development of the divine, check out Sir James Fraser’s “The Golden Bough”

    I thought you wanted trustworthy citations rather than stories without any research data to back it up? Are you telling me that you value stories over research?

    But surely you agree that they cannot have any inherent religion?

    What does the data suggest? I gave you one citation where it suggests your statement here is false. Do you have a citation that suggests otherwise?

  57. Tom Gilson says:

    He might at least have mentioned the similar, much more recent, and much more philosophically developed Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett—which is equally as free of empirical data to support its just-so stories.

  58. Tom Gilson says:

    And Steve, before you let him drag you into the ridiculous question of whether babies have “inherent religion,” recall where this began: he claimed they were inherently atheist at birth. That claim is unsupported by science and by good sense. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing further to discuss. He’s wrong, it has been demonstrated, and there’s no point in letting him spin up side issues to confuse the fact that he’s wrong.

  59. @ Mike Gene

    Sorry, must last post was also supposed to be addressed to you.

    Others, more cunning, put the marks on their heads so that when they see me coming, they can say, “Hey, you already got me!”

    Sounds like an in-joke. I presume he is referring to some or other religious ritual that leaves a mark on the practitioners forehead (for example smearing ash, or from touching head one’s to floor while praying. In both cases to ingratiate oneself to ones deity and prove one’s piety to one’s lessers.) I cannot speak on his behalf but I could ask around if you really want to know.

    Generally I am not a violent person, but I’ll keep my eyes out for people to punch.

    Yup, probably another version of the same joke. Likely it is allegorical. (Unlike christians, many people use allegory to make a point. One will fail to understand if one takes it literally. (For example: The Attis Myth on which the story of Jesus was based, relates both to a religious ritual and uses allegory for the process of making bread and wine.)

    What is it with PZ and his acolytes that they enjoy the thought of committing acts of violence against other people?

    acolytes Please, the word is Myrmidons. Personally, I tend to be non-aggressive. I seriously doubt any of the other Myrmidons would consider violence to another person unless they themselves where first physically attacked. My take is that this exchange was part of a long running joke and should be seen in that context. (On the other hand there is no humour in the concept of hell… at least for christians. I think it is all a hoot.)

  60. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    The original thread is We came to share “true reason” materials. Katie’s post is #41. To which I responded in #50 saying (just the relevant portion):

    Your experiences may reflect your location or they reflect the fact that whenever someone asks you which church you attend – something that I’ve been asked by family of friends, job interviewers, professors, and a litany of other people for whom it was none of their business – you’re likely to have a neat, socially-respected answer.

    In much the same way as your experiences reflect the location and culture you live; so I repeat the question I made above, do you have any empirical hard data to back up your claims, or just more anecdotal episodes, which while tragic no doubt, prove nothing in themselves?

    And just so you know, I live in a highly, aggressively secularized society; the mere mention of God is, in a good case scenario, sufficient to raise eyebrows and the level of discomfort in the room. Religion talk is dirty talk, and Christianity is basically fighting a battle for cultural survival. I could also relay my share of stories of intolerance against Christians (one example: in North Korea they are dispatched to labor camps, some are shot, etc. Next to this, your complains are utter chicken feed), but as I said, I find this talk unproductive and of itself, without more detailed analysis, quite meaningless.

    theophontes 777 wants to make my parenthetical remark a demeaning of Katie’s experiences, which is simply not true. The whole paragraph makes this clear, as well as the paragraph before where I even use the adjective “tragic”. When I use the word “lie” I use it in the literal sense of “not true”. But English is not my primary language and it is my understanding that the word has a much stronger connotation, so my note on #44 of this thread on the very sparing use I make of it. Demeaning someone is something I truly deplore (and although this is not anyone’s business, in part it is because I have also been the target of such practice) and being charged with it unfairly rubs me the wrong way. theophontes 777 decided to press the matter a second time, so I called him out on it. The rest of his aspersions on my character — and that is all that his post consisted of — leave me quite indifferent.

  61. Tom Gilson says:

    Theophontes,

    You are so blamed confident in your unbelievable ignorance! This time it’s “Unlike christians, many people use allegory to make a point.”

    Do you have any idea what is the best selling English-language book in all history?

    Have you ever heard of C.S. Lewis? George MacDonald? Jesus Christ himself?

    You are spouting repeated rank ignorance, and yet you think you are smarter than we are. Look in the mirror, would you?

    Now, I am very confident there are topics on which you are indeed smarter than me or anyone else here. I’m confident you have your strengths. But you keep representing your knowledge of religion as if it were your strength, while you keep saying really, really wrong, false, uninformed and/or intentionally distorted things.

    I don’t often say this to a commenter here, but you have qualified for it:

    On the topics you are discussing here, you are abysmally ignorant. In your ignorance you consider yourself competent. You need to recognize the discrepancy.

    You need to give yourself the freedom to be wrong so that you can have the freedom to learn. Otherwise you are a permanent slave to your ignorance.

  62. Tom Gilson says:

    There is an alternative to the theory that you are ignorant: you might be intentionally distorting facts, which is called dishonesty.

  63. Mike Gene says:

    Theophontes,

    Do you have a reading comprehension problem? I am the one who told you it was a joke. I’m simply highlighting the simple empirical fact that Myers likes to joke about committing acts of violence against religious people. Not surprisingly, you rationalize it. As a Myrmidon, your response was not surprising.

    Look, it is only fitting that you would laugh at the idea of punching and kicking your “enemies” in the culture war. I have long thought the Gnu Movement is a hate movement. And in the context of hate, you’ll likely get much laughter joking about committing acts of violence against the other tribe.

  64. @ SteveK

    I suggest you read the verses you cited in the proper context.

    Rape and murder have a context? You should be doing PR for Assad…

    @ Mike Gene

    So, were you afraid to criticize your leader?

    Huh? I think the term “not even wrong” applies here.

    Were you also laughing when Myers joked about committing acts of violence against his own students?

    I am not aware of this. Were charges brought against him? (The rhetorical nature of your questions is painting a rather strange picture of me :'(

    The odd part is that it seems as if you think they’re sticks of dynamite.

    You know this how?

    And apparently you have no interest in the history of the Resurrection celebration.

    There are very numerous resurrection stories out there. Many of the early – so called – christian thinkers also realised this.

    The story of Attis is particularly interesting. When they were shown the similarities,to Jesus, they claimed that the devil had inverted the normal course of nature and planted the Attis stories earlier in history. (I am interested if you know of this? I could not make up such a crazy idea.)

    In spite of what you say I am quite fascinated by mythology.

    G. Rodrigues,
    If T77 is indeed lying about you, I want to know about it,

    Have you considered that it is G. Rodrigues who might be in the wrong? You can go through our comments in this regard. (The subtext appears to be “theophontes is an atheist and therefore in the wrong”. Tom, atheism is not that important to me so don’t be upset on that account. Rather just try to be fair to all involved in this issue.

    This site is for genuine conversation.

    Well just keep in mind that my points are not invalidated by my atheism. Discussing the colour of the pearly gates is not a “genuine conversation”. (Anyhow, what is the point of one hand clapping?)

    Are you telling me that you value stories over research?

    Religions ARE stories. (If your only other book is the bible, Frazer is indeed a good starting point. I trust no-one is calling him a liar.)

    What does the data suggest? I gave you one citation where it suggests your statement here is false. Do you have a citation that suggests otherwise?

    Your article gives examples of a very rudimentary form of superstition. (Which is something we humans share in common with a number of other apes. An example of which I linked to.) I don’t understand why you think this is somehow a good thing- in this day and age – and should not be outgrown as soon as possible.

    I also fail to see, should we have an ingrained religious sensibility, how this is equated to “therefore YHWH”? There is data for this?

    @ Tom Gilson

    Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett

    I have not read this, but have seen some of his videos. I was unaware that his work was being denounced by respectable scientists.

    That claim is unsupported by science and by good sense

    . Babies are described as “religious” because they are wrong?

    It might be comforting to think mommy has metaphysical powers, but science and common sense does not support this. I hardly think you can equate your religion with the baby’s misunderstandings. “Magic” or “superstition” might be a better description when a person is ascribing such powers to a person or object.

    I would be fascinated to hear that babies have the level of abstraction required to ascribe metaphysical powers to an imaginary being, who’s powers can be harnessed to it’s benefit by way of an intermediary priestess (in this case the mother).

  65. SteveK says:

    theophontes777,
    I won’t follow you down your unending list of distractions.

    I responded to your claims about everyone being born atheist, and you respond with distractions and stories that have nothing to do with your claim. Your claim is false. You’re wrong. Adjust your view of reality accordingly.

    Rape and murder do have context, but again I won’t be distracted from the point of my comment.

  66. Tom Gilson says:

    Theophontes 777,

    You’re not here for genuine discussion, are you. You’re accusing people here of affinity with Assad, you’re dismissing serious questions with answers like “not even wrong;” you dismiss matters of fact with “were charges brought against him?”

    You brush aside a metaphor with a plainly apparent meaning by asking, “you know this how?”

    You rely on so-called early resurrection stories with the same ignorance as has been identified earlier–for current scholarship gives no credence to the theory that the Jesus resurrection accounts can be traced to any other account or myth.

    You miss the point by a hundred miles when you say, “Well just keep in mind that my points are not invalidated by my atheism.” For no one here has suggested it is your atheism that invalidates your points. Your points are invalidated by the fact that most of them are factually in error.

    You miss the point badly here, too: “I also fail to see, should we have an ingrained religious sensibility, how this is equated to ‘therefore YHWH’? There is data for this?”

    Did anyone make that claim? No. You are very self-congratulatory for your ability to knock down a straw man.

    If you were unaware that Dennett’s work is filled with just-so stories and lacking in empirical support, then you are that much more ignorant.

    You miss the point here:

    . Babies are described as “religious” because they are wrong?

    The same straw man. The same self-congratulation. The point of the baby discussion is that you claimed babies are born atheist. We say they are not born atheist. We support the point. You run off and take it in a completely different direction, making it sound ridiculous, which it is (the direction you take it, that is). And then you present it as if it were a rebuttal to something we have said.

    What this amounts to is unending boredom. I don’t know why I should provide a platform for that. A blog should not be boring, in my opinion.

    You present your ignorance as if it were knowledgeable fact. You ignore corrections that are made, which is a clear indication of a person who will not learn. Your position is demonstrably as frozen in dogma as any I have ever seen in any religious person. The person who will not accept correction on matters of fact will never grow, never learn, never be very interesting to talk with. I don’t know why I should provide you a platform for that.

    You defend PZ Myers’ boorishness while attacking G. Rodrigues for what was not demeaning. In other words, damn the facts, you’ll support your people anyway. I don’t know why I should provide you a platform for that.

    You consistently miss the point, which results in us having to rescue the discussion from the tangents you try to take it on. I don’t see why I should provide you a platform for that.

    I don’t have any reason to provide you a platform. You won’t listen, won’t learn, won’t really discuss, won’t do what this blog is for in other words.

    Goodbye.

  67. Tom Gilson says:

    For the sake of those who did not take time to read through my last comment, I am no longer giving Theophontes 777 a platform for his (her?) errors, insults, boorishness, refusal to listen, missing the point, etc., so Theophontes 777 will not be back.

  68. Victoria says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that those who attempt to establish some sort of causal connection between Christianity and pagan mythology seem to neglect one thing:
    Christianity was born in the cultural and relgious milieu of Second Temple Judaism – the one environment least likely to adopt any syncretism with pagan nature religions. Whatever other failings the Jews of the 1st century may have had, idolatry was not one of them – they abhorred the mythologies of paganism.

    No 1st century Jew would make up the Christian story, precisely because it appears to have a superficial resemblence to the idea of a dying and rising god, a ‘corn king’ as C. S. Lewis calls it, unless he was absolutely convinced it really happened.

    See N. T. Wright’s page
    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_JIG.htm

    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Jesus_Resurrection.htm

    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Jesus_Self.htm

    for some discussion on this.

    C. S. Lewis makes this very clear in his essays in Mere Christianity, Miracles and God in the Dock.
    Lewis, a classical scholar, understood mythology very well, and he saw this very clearly (see his Myth Became Fact essay in particular).

  69. JAD says:

    theophontes777,

    There are very numerous resurrection stories out there. Many of the early – so called – christian thinkers also realised this.

    The story of Attis is particularly interesting. When they were shown the similarities,to Jesus, they claimed that the devil had inverted the normal course of nature and planted the Attis stories earlier in history. (I am interested if you know of this? I could not make up such a crazy idea.)

    In spite of what you say I am quite fascinated by mythology.

    Even though theophontes777 has been banned I thought the following article by Ronald Nash is a good response to the alleged similarities between Christianity and the so-called mystery religions. According to Nash:

    Many alleged similarities between Christianity and the mysteries are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated. Scholars often describe pagan rituals in language they borrow from Christianity. The careless use of language could lead one to speak of a “Last Supper” in Mithraism or a “baptism” in the cult of Isis. It is inexcusable nonsense to take the word “savior” with all of its New Testament connotations and apply it to Osiris or Attis as though they were savior-gods in any similar sense.
    http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/web/crj0169a.html

  70. Mike Gene says:

    Theophontes,

    Huh? I think the term “not even wrong” applies here.

    Well, you come here to accuse G. Rodrigues of doing something that Dawkins did and want him to apologize. I figured that if you were standing on principle, rather than trolling, you would have done the same thing with Dawkins over at PZ’s blog. But you didn’t.

    I am not aware of this.

    Now you are.

    “Yet when asked how he reacts to creationists in his evolution course, Myers joked about being tempted to “kick them in the balls.”

    http://www.theaggie.org/2010/01/27/column-hate-in-the-name-of-science/

    Given that you defend this type of hate-inspired “humor,” let’s just say you don’t come here occupying any moral high ground.

  71. Mike Gene says:

    Victoria:

    It never ceases to amaze me that those who attempt to establish some sort of causal connection between Christianity and pagan mythology seem to neglect one thing: Christianity was born in the cultural and relgious milieu of Second Temple Judaism – the one environment least likely to adopt any syncretism with pagan nature religions. Whatever other failings the Jews of the 1st century may have had, idolatry was not one of them – they abhorred the mythologies of paganism.

    Agreed. According to Theophontes, it’s so obvious that the Jews of the 1st century patterned Jesus after this myth:

    Nana abandoned the baby (Attis). The infant was tended by a he-goat. As Attis grew, his long-haired beauty was godlike, and Agdistis as Cybele, then fell in love with him. But the foster parents of Attis sent him to Pessinos, where he was to wed the king’s daughter. According to some versions the King of Pessinos was Midas. Just as the marriage-song was being sung, Agdistis/Cybele appeared in her transcendent power, and Attis went mad and cut off his genitals. Attis’ father-in-law-to-be, the king who was giving his daughter in marriage, followed suit, prefiguring the self-castrating corybantes who devoted themselves to Cybele. But Agdistis repented and saw to it that the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay.[5]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attis

    The parallels are [cough] stunning.

  72. G. Rodrigues says:

    @JAD:

    As you rightly point out these similarities hardly have a leg to stand on; not just because such similarities are indeed only superficial and shallow, but also because the path of possible cultural influence is next to non-existent. But even if such similarities were more than superficial, so what? Pointing out similarities does not automatically translate into a truth judgment.

    C. S. Lewis defended that the Gospels fulfilled the glimpses of truth in the many pagan religions. Even the Church Fathers argued as much. It is a commonplace of literary criticism that the available store of myths — myths in the sense of literary criticism, that is, mythos, a structural organizing principle of literary form — is very small so it is hardly surprising that they recur over and over, whether it is in an icelandic saga or in a modernist novel. In his magisterial work Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye in his tentative conclusion has this to say:

    One element in our cultural tradition which is usually regarded as fantastic nonsense is the allegorical explanations of myths which bulk so large in medieval and Renaissance criticism and continue sporadically (e.g., Ruskin’s Queen of the Air) to our own time. The allegorization of myth is hampered by the assumption that the explanation “is” what the myth “means.” A myth being a centripetal structure of meaning, it can be made to mean an indefinite number of things, and it is more fruitful to study what in fact myths have been made to mean.

    This is an elementary but absolutely crucial point in literary criticism. A little later, he gives this illuminating example:

    It is not sufficient to use the text as a check on commentary, like a string tied to a kite, for one may develop a primary body of commentary around the obvious meaning, then a secondary body about the unconscious meaning, then a third body around the conventions and external relations of the poem, and so on indefinitely. This practice is not confined to modern critics, for the interpretation of Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue as Messianic also assumed that Virgil was “unconsciously” prophesying the Messiah. But the poet unconsciously meant the whole corpus of his possible commentary, and it is simpler merely to say that Virgil and Isaiah use the same type of imagery dealing with the myth of the hero’s birth, and that because of this similarity the Nativity Ode, for instance, is able to use both. This procedure helps to distribute the commentary, and prevents each poem from becoming a separate center of isolated scholarship.

    I submit that that all these peddlers of Jesus-myth stories are not just lousy at comparative religion, but absolutely dismal as literary critics.

    later edit: forgot to add another important point made by Frye. Still on the matter of pointing out how myths in*form* our narratives:

    Such an approach need not be distorted into a poetic determinism, for, as has been said, it would be silly to use a reductive rhetoric to try to prove that theology, metaphysics, law, the social sciences, or whichever one or group of these we happen to dislike, are based on “nothing but” metaphors or myths. Any such proof, if we are right, would have the same kind of basis itself. Criticisms of truth or adequacy, then, are mainly criticism of content, not form. Rousseau says that the original society of nature and reason has been overlaid by the corruptions of civilization, and that a sufficiently courageous revolutionary act could reestablish it. It is nothing either for or against this argument to say that it is informed by the myth of the sleeping beauty. But we cannot agree or disagree with Rousseau until we fully understand what he does say, and while of course we can understand him well enough without extracting the myth, there is much to be gained by extracting the myth if the myth is in fact, as we are suggesting here, the source of the coherence of his argument. Such a view of the relation of myth to argument would take us very close to Plato, for whom the ultimate acts of apprehension were either mathematical or mythical.

  73. Victoria says:

    Same goes for Mithraism.
    See here
    http://carm.org/christianity/bible/doesnt-religion-mithra-prove-christianity-false

    Think about it, the idea of a blood sacrifice and a covering for sin is found in the first three chapters of Genesis when God covered Adam and Eve with animals skins and prophesied the coming of the Messiah.

    Furthermore, those who wrote about Jesus in the New Testament were Jews (or under the instruction of Jews) who were devoted to the legitimacy and inspiration of the Old Testament scriptures and possessed a strong disdain for pagan religions. It would have been blasphemous for them to incorporate pagan sources into what they saw as the fulfillment of the sacred Old Testament scriptures concerning the Messiah. Also, since they were writing about Jesus, they were writing based upon what He taught: truth, love, honesty, integrity, etc. Why then would they lie and make up stories and suffer great persecution, hardships, ridicule, arrest, beatings, and death all for known lies and fabrications from paganism? It doesn’t make sense.

    At best, Mithraism only had some common themes with Christianity (and Judaism) which were recorded in both the Old and New Testaments. What is far more probable is that as Mithraism developed, it started to adopt Christian concepts.

    “Allegations of an early Christian dependence on Mithraism have been rejected on many grounds. Mithraism had no concept of the death and resurrection of its god and no place for any concept of rebirth — at least during its early stages…During the early stages of the cult, the notion of rebirth would have been foreign to its basic outlook…Moreover, Mithraism was basically a military cult. Therefore, one must be skeptical about suggestions that it appealed to nonmilitary people like the early Christians.”1

    What is more probable is that with the explosive nature of the Christian church in the 1st and 2nd century, other cult groups started to adapt themselves to take advantage of some of the teachings found in Christianity.

    “While there are several sources that suggest that Mithraism included a notion of rebirth, they are all post-Christian. The earliest…dates from the end of the second century A.D.”2

    Refs
    R. Nash, Christianity and the Hellenistic World as quoted in Norman Geisler, Baker’s Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999, p. 492.
    2. Bill Wilson, compiled by, The Best of Josh McDowell: A Ready Defense, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, p. 167

    or here
    http://www.frontline-apologetics.com/Mithras.html