We Came To Share “True Reason” Materials

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And this was the first person I interacted with here: PZ Myers, one of the great illustrations of True Reason.

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Blake Anderson and I had a very pleasant talk with him. Blake invited him to his church again; Myers had already blogged on Blake’s earlier email invitation to him. He declined explaining that he liked to be polite in public but he could not be polite in church. He acknowledged we were being polite here. He asked, “Are they ridiculing you here?” We said they hadn’t been so far. He said, “They should be.”

I gave him a True Reason booklet, we shook hands and wished one another a great day.

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105 Responses to “ We Came To Share “True Reason” Materials ”

  1. Tom,

    If you see any “Christian protesters” with mean-spirited signs, why not take a few minutes to talk with them to see if they are really Christians? Ask them what church they attend, when they became a Christian, why they became a Christian, etc.

  2. “… the writer has been actuated by a conscientious desire to deepen and vivify our faith in the Christian system of truth, by showing that it does not rest *solely* on a special class of facts, but upon all the facts of nature and humanity; that its authority does not repose *alone* on the peculiar and supernatural events which transpired in Palestine, but also on the still broader foundations of the ideas and laws of the reason, and the common wants and instinctive yearnings of the human heart. It is his conviction that the course and constitution of nature, the whole current of history, and the entire development of human thought in the ages anterior to the advent of the Redeemer centre in, and can only be interpreted by, the purpose of redemption.”

    (B.F. Cocker, Christianity and Greek Philosophy)

  3. I’ve never been impressed with the claim (or even fact) that Myers is extremely polite in person and very different from his online persona. This usually gets billed as “See? He’s not so bad.”

    I’m pretty sure the proper word for it is “two-faced” or “cowardly”.

  4. @Holopupenko:

    You give us a Cocker, I will raise you a T. S. Eliot. From Ash Wednesday, fifth movement (you can read the whole poem here). At this point in time, and given my present mood and the specific season that approaches us, it just seems a more appropriate answer.

    If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
    If the unheard, unspoken
    Word is unspoken, unheard;
    Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
    The Word without a word, the Word within
    The world and for the world;
    And the light shone in darkness and
    Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
    About the centre of the silent Word.

    O my people, what have I done unto thee.

    Where shall the word be found, where will the word
    Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
    Not on the sea or on the islands, not
    On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
    For those who walk in darkness
    Both in the day time and in the night time
    The right time and the right place are not here
    No place of grace for those who avoid the face
    No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

    Will the veiled sister pray for
    Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
    Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
    Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
    In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
    For children at the gate
    Who will not go away and cannot pray:
    Pray for those who chose and oppose

    O my people, what have I done unto thee.

    Will the veiled sister between the slender
    Yew trees pray for those who offend her
    And are terrified and cannot surrender
    And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
    In the last desert before the last blue rocks
    The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
    Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

    O my people.

    In the Alphabetic series of the Desert Fathers, saying 25, Abba Anthony (This is the blessed Anthony the Great who lived up to 105) says, echoing words of the prophet Isaiah: “A time is coming when people will go insane. And when they see someone who is not insane, they will attack that person saying ‘You are crazy; you are not like us.'” Do we reason with insane men? Do we pray for insane men?

  5. I have met PZ Myers twice. He was nice to me on those occasions (he even invited me to the dinner afterward the second time), although, some of his followers were quite rude and I have seen videos of him being rude/unpleasant to other people.

  6. I just noticed I had left something out of the story. (It was hard to write on my iPhone there in the rain.) I have just now edited in the part where he asked if others were ridiculing us there.

    In that short interaction, PZ Myers was quite charming, quite polite and warm, and at the same time quite intentionally insulting and rude.

  7. @ crude

    I’m pretty sure the proper word for it is “two-faced” or “cowardly”.

    I would be fascinated if you could back up your snide remarks with some form of evidence.

    Or is this just what you “believe”?

    With respect to the question of “tone”: Does maintaining the tone of a conversation trump the content? Is there a politer way to tell people they are not just wrong, but dangerously so? Telling someone they are going to hell is a lot worse than anything I have ever heard coming from PZ.

  8. @theophontes777:

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

    I assume you neither believe in God nor in Hell. So why is telling that Someone who does not exist is going to send another someone to a place who does not exist if he does not follow some rules, which you probably believe are foolish and vacuous, laid out by said non-existent Someone, in a book, which I will assume that you also believe that is mostly made up of fables and about people who, in most cases anyway, also never existed?

  9. @ Tom Gilson

    Why is “believe” in scare quotes?

    It could be belief or outright lying. My conjecture is that crude believes this, in the absence (as yet, as far as I am aware) of evidence, rather than through any maliciousness.

    @ G. Rodrigues

    In my own case, you are correct.

    On the other hand it is a rather dreadful thing to wish, not because it is true or false, but that many people do take such things literally and may be very upset when people express such wishes. It would also be more honest if religious people said “I hate you.” or “I hate the ideas that you express.” rather than “You are going to hell.”

    (The whole concept of hell was invented to scare people into belief. It does do a lot of harm.)

  10. Is there a difference between belief and knowing? What if Crude has good evidence for this conclusion? What if it’s right here on this thread, in fact?

  11. You mean this good evidence?

    “He [PZ] declined explaining that he liked to be polite in public but he could not be polite in church. He acknowledged we were being polite here. He asked, “Are they ridiculing you here?” We said they hadn’t been so far. He said, “They should be.”

  12. @ G. Rodriques #11

    If I were to say to you “I hope you get savaged by a hungry shark today” then I’ve expressed my hope that you die in a gruesome way. You may not be anywhere near the ocean but the sentiment still remains. In the same way, a Christian telling me I’m going to Hell because I don’t believe in gods expresses a similar sentiment.

    Even worse are the folks who tell me with glee that they’ll be watching my Hellish suffering from Heaven. They’re not only showing their hatred for me but they’re being quite sadistic about it. And don’t fool yourself, these people do exist.

  13. Ambidexter, your logic fails miserably. The correct parallel would absolutely not be, “I hope you get savaged by a hungry shark today.” Where on earth do you get this perverse opinion that Christians hope you (or anyone else) would go to hell? Where? Where? Did you get it from here? Not a chance. Did you read it in to here? If you did, then it was by virtue of that time-honored but bigoted and detestable methodology called stereotyping.

    The correct parallel, if you’re wondering, would be “Be careful! You’re about to enter shark-infested waters! Don’t do that! Protect yourself from this danger!”

    I was strong with you in the first paragraph. That’s because it is just unbelievable and inexcusable that you would accuse anyone here of harboring the hope that you would die in a gruesome way. And yes, you are speaking of us; for we have said that those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ (not in “gods,” but in one definite God), are expressing “a similar sentiment.” What kind of monsters do you think you’re talking to here??? You are manifestly and utterly wrong to think that of us. Our purpose is precisely to help you avoid that death.

    If there is “a Christian,” some of “these people” who “do exist” who harbor such a hope, then I deplore their statements as much as I do what you have said.

  14. @theophontes 777:

    On the other hand it is a rather dreadful thing to wish, not because it is true or false, but that many people do take such things literally and may be very upset when people express such wishes.

    I am sorry, but what you say makes little sense to me. How can an atheist “take such things literally”? But before I proceed, two things:

    1. I do not know where you live, but where I live Christians threatening unbelievers with hell is an event about as rare as the sighting of black unicorns. In other words, methinks you are blowing out of proportions some isolated, relatively marginal practice.

    2. And just to preempt any misunderstandings, I do not condone such practice. Only God is the judge, so while warnings may be issued, judgments may not.

    Continuing.

    So, when said imaginary Christian says “You are going to hell” he is not expressing a future contingent, but rather a wish — he wishes that you go to hell. But this cannot be right, because said imaginary Christian is also warning you to repent of your ways, so clearly what he wishes is that you repent and thus *avoid* hell. What he is saying is that *if* you do not repent, you will go to hell.

    But let us suppose for the sake of argument, that you are correct, that he is indeed expressing a wish. So this tells us something about the character of the person — he wishes you ill and expresses it in the most hyperbolical way available to a Christian: “you will go to hell”. For contrast, an atheist may express his hatred as “may you catch the leper, your testicles shrivel and your penis fall down and may you be sodomized by a toothless, syphilitic, aged gorilla with some pliers and a torch” or something like it, as atheism does not have Christianity’s imaginative resources available to build a complete language of insult and invective. And maybe in not such colorful words; maybe just the usual canards, or even just a barely understandable grunt or a show of the middle finger, but the intent is all the same. So our imaginary Christian is petty and mean. So what? For an atheist, the Christian’s wishful thinking *is* completely hollow. It is nothing. But now, let us look at say a P. Z. Myers or an R. Dawkins, that hate Christianity and want to destroy it, here in *this* world, in a reality you and I share, and the sooner the better. These threats are *not* hollow. So who is actually worse? And are you going to tell me that a Myers or a Dawkins are not petty and mean? That they do not harbor a deep-seated hatred of everything that smacks of Christianity? If they do not, they are sure doing a good job showing otherwise.

    It would also be more honest if religious people said “I hate you.” or “I hate the ideas that you express.” rather than “You are going to hell.”

    Wrong, it would be dishonest. Because he is not trying to express his hatred for your ideas. The Christian is effectively saying that you are wrong and if you do not get your act together you are going… well, you know where to.

  15. @ Tom Gilson # 13

    Is there a difference between belief and knowing?

    In a case such as “Will the sun rise tomorrow?” I could answer “Yes, I believe it will.”, and this statement will be consistent with our (scientific) knowledge of this likelyhood.

    If I where to ask you if hell exists and you answered “Yes, I believe it does”, your statement would be incongruent with everything we know about reality. There is no credible evidence whatsoever to show that hell exists. As much as you might wish it is true, it is simply not so.

    What if Crude has good evidence for this conclusion?

    Then crude should have no hesitation in sharing this knowledge with us.

    What if it’s right here on this thread, in fact?

    Wut? Someone has offered evidence that PZ is either “two faced” or “cowardly”? (The “”s indicate quotes, not scare quotes.)

    PZ is very consistent in attacking the foolishness of all religions. That he is polite to people (in spite of their delusions) does not make him “two faced” nor “cowardly”. Attacking people’s ideas is surely not as bad as personal attacks of people themselves.

  16. @ G. Rodrigues #17

    How can an atheist “take such things literally”?

    Do you really think that babies are born into their religions? One has babies that believe in Almighty Zeus from birth? They are natural born atheists.

    Or that children are not indoctinated to believe in whatever imaginary deity their own parents where indoctrinated into? They discover Shaka or YHWH or Wotan by themselves? No. They are indoctrinated, pure and simple. By filling their minds with like foolishness, one is robbing them of a true understanding of the world around them. This is at best irresponsible, at worst abusive. (Terrifying children with the threat of hell is not abusive?)

  17. Theophontes, you say,

    If I where to ask you if hell exists and you answered “Yes, I believe it does”, your statement would be incongruent with everything we know about reality. There is no credible evidence whatsoever to show that hell exists. As much as you might wish it is true, it is simply not so.

    With this I firmly disagree. It is not wishing that convinces me it is true, it is evidence. Your imperial “we” who have no evidence does not include those of us who recognize there is evidence.

    You have made an autobiographical statement that you do not think there is credible evidence for the existence of hell. Your opinion is duly noted.

    Crude would undoubtedly have no hesitation in showing you his evidence if that were the topic of conversation.

    PZ was smiling, warm, cheerful, and deeply insulting all at the same time. Maybe that’s not “two-faced” in the sense of saying one thing to one’s face and another behind one’s back. I don’t know a better term for it, though, when a person smiles while knifing you (metaphorically of course). If you have another word to suggest for it, I’ll be glad to hear what it is.

  18. Theophontes, all the best evidence from people who have studied the matter, and which is accepted by people who value science (do you???), is that no child becomes an atheist without being indoctrinated into it. Good science absolutely does not support your theory of natural-born atheists. A good imagination might support it, but a good imagination can support leprechauns, too.

    By filling their minds with foolishness, one is robbing them of a true understanding of the world around them. I agree. That’s why I taught my children about the reality of God in Jesus Christ.

  19. You go on,

    This is at best irresponsible, at worst abusive. (Terrifying children with the threat of hell is not abusive?)

    You’re displaying the same ignorance and/or disdain for science as Richard Dawkins. Is there empirical evidence that parents terrify children with the threat of hell? How many parents do that? How often?

    Is there empirical evidence that raising children to believe in Christ is in any way abusive to them? Where is the research to support that belief? You must know that a considerable scientific literature on abuse has been developed. Are you talking science or are you talking rank ignorant prejudice? (Is there a third option between those?)

  20. If I where to ask you if hell exists and you answered “Yes, I believe it does”, your statement would be incongruent with everything we know about reality.

    Despite your use of the Queen’s “we”, this statement doesn’t apply to everyone because knowledge isn’t distributed to everyone equally.

  21. @theophontes 777:

    Do you really think that babies are born into their religions? One has babies that believe in Almighty Zeus from birth? They are natural born atheists.

    Now you are just being silly. Babies are not born atheists or agnostics, in much the same way as they are not born Christians or with formed opinions about Lady Gaga or the appropriateness of tattoing your body.

    But let us grant for the sake of argument your silliness. How is teaching them Christianity, “robbing them of a true understanding of the world around them”? This is of course begging the question in favor of atheism. But *even* if I granted that Christianity is false, how and why is teaching them abusive? If it were so, there should be plenty of evidence around us of such intellectual harm. Care to give us the evidence? In other words, even if Christianity is false, why are its effects so deleterious as opposed to say, telling them to behave or else Santa will not give them gifts coming Christmas? Children eventually grow up and learn otherwise. Are they harmed in any way? Of course not. Now, I grant that some Christian parent’s education *may* have ill secondary effects, say, in the ability of people to reason cogently and validly (I do not know what your education was, but you do exhibit the symptoms judging by your posts here). So what is especially dangerous about Christianity? And where is the evidence for these grandiose claims?

  22. G.Rodrigues #17

    In other words, methinks you are blowing out of proportions some isolated, relatively marginal practice.

    Not at all. Hell was invented to scare people, particularly children, into the fold. No accident. If you do not think that hell is important to your religion, stop believing in it. (What good could it ever bring? And what evidence is there for it anyway?) The catholic church gave up on the entire concept of pergatory (another hurtfull, unproven concept). Why don’t you just drop the whole Hades hell fable?

    Only God is the judge, so while warnings may be issued, judgments may not.

    Aaah, Judgement House ™ now. (Interested lurkers can google “hell, Judgement House” for rather silly videos.)

    What he is saying is that *if* you do not repent, you will go to hell.

    Well thanks for telling me now. I renounced the holy ghost in my youth and so am going to hell no matter how much I repent. (Oh, wait… I am starting to buy into your imaginary hell cult.)

    “may you catch the leper, your testicles shrivel and your penis fall down and may you be sodomized by a toothless, syphilitic, aged gorilla with some pliers and a torch”

    That is rather droll.

    hate Christianity and want to destroy it,

    I cannot speak for either, but for myself: I do not hate your religion any more than any of the other thousands of made up religions out there. Yours is not special nor particularly convincing either. Bear in mind that none of the atheists we are discussing wish any pain on any person. We only wish to rid humanity of the delusions brought about by religion. Hell (hehe!), I would even settle for merely improving access to education and wait for the inevitable result.

    That they do not harbor a deep-seated hatred of everything that smacks of Christianity?

    Of course a deep seated avertion to ALL religions goes without saying. What we must clarify (at least in PZ and my case) is that we are very much humanists. I, personally, do not consider atheism as particularly important and do not wish harm on (living breathing… not corporations or ghosts) people. People deserve and have a right to a personal relationship with reality. If religion gets in the way, it must go.

    well, you know where to.

    Hades? Why do you not believe in the River Styx etc etc yadda, yadda?
    (I guess you realise Hades does not exist. Perhaps because – as is the case for hell – there is no evidence for either)

  23. Theophontes, you say to G. Rodrigues,

    G.Rodrigues #17

    In other words, methinks you are blowing out of proportions some isolated, relatively marginal practice.

    Not at all. Hell was invented to scare people, particularly children, into the fold. No accident. If you do not think that hell is important to your religion, stop believing in it. (What good could it ever bring? And what evidence is there for it anyway?) The catholic church gave up on the entire concept of pergatory (another hurtfull, unproven concept). Why don’t you just drop the whole Hades hell fable?

    Your first sentence here is pure imagination at work. You have a gift for the evidence-free assertion, have you noticed?

    Your second sentence here is a non sequitur. G. Rodrigues was saying that the practice of frightening children with hell is very uncommon. You conclude that means we don’t think hell is important. Surely you can see the chasm between the premise and the conclusion you drew from it! (You can, right?)

    So far you are doing a nice job of illustrating the thesis of True Reason. Thank you. Let’s continue.

    You poison the well with your line about “Judgement House.” Another fallacy.

    You display some astonishing ignorance with, “I would even settle for merely improving access to education and wait for the inevitable result.” Care to do some exploration into who have been the world’s greatest advocates for education?

    People deserve and have a right to a personal relationship with reality. If religion gets in the way, it must go.

    Absolutely 100% accurate. If atheism gets in the way, it too must go. There are all kinds of errors that could get in the way of a personal relationship with the real God through the real Jesus Christ.

  24. G. Rodrigues, have you noticed how he keeps saying we have no evidence?

    Have you noticed (I know you have) how many evidence-free claims he is making?

    Both of us have now asked you whether you give a whit about evidence, T777. It’s your turn now. I’ll also ask you if you care about reason, too. If you do, then it seems likely you would quit the logical fallacies, or at least admit you have some studying to do so you can get beyond them.

  25. Theophontes 777, Your comments are being allowed through immediately unless they contain certain key words, which are in the spam filter for reasons unrelated to anything you have said here.

  26. @ Tom

    The spam filter went hyperactive. I have released them from there.

    Fair enough. Some blogs are overly strict when it comes to critical comments, I am glad you have a more open policy. (*cough* Ken Ham, I am looking at you!*cough*)

  27. Now that I’ve been flagged on it, for the next hour or more I will keep on top of this so that your comments will be released immediately if stuck in the spam filter.

  28. My policy is that disagreements are absolutely welcome. I like it. Disagreeability (insults, cuss words, rambling wildly off topic, etc.) is not welcome, but I don’t see you going there at all.

  29. @theophontes 777:

    In other words, methinks you are blowing out of proportions some isolated, relatively marginal practice.

    Not at all. Hell was invented to scare people, particularly children, into the fold. No accident.

    Methinks there is a misunderstanding here. I said that the practice of threatening people with hell is, in my experience, virtually non-existent and you answer with that “Hell was invented to scare people”? Huh?

    And about your claim, can you please show us the evidence that “Hell was invented to scare people, particularly children, into the fold”?

    The catholic church gave up on the entire concept of pergatory (another hurtfull, unproven concept).

    First, it is purgatory not pergatory. Second, the Catholic Church “gave up” (to use your own words) the teaching on Limbo not Purgatory. You know, you would sound a tad more convincing, if you actually knew the first thing of what you are talking about.

    Why don’t you just drop the whole Hades hell fable?

    Hades is a word of Greek origin; and while it is use by the NT Greek-speaking writers, the *concept* is very different from that of Hell.

    Well thanks for telling me now. I renounced the holy ghost in my youth and so am going to hell no matter how much I repent.

    If you are going to Hell or not, I do not know, but your second sentence is demonstrably wrong in light of Christianity’s teachings.

    Bear in mind that none of the atheists we are discussing wish any pain on any person.

    And the imaginary Christian we have been discussing wishes you, in the worst case scenario, pain in some distant future, a future that for an atheist is a complete illusion and foolishness. So why all the fuss? Is your ego so fragile that you are traumatized by threats that you personally believe to be merely illusions? I confess I am really puzzled by this.

    We only wish to rid humanity of the delusions brought about by religion.

    I shiver and tremble trying to imagine to what lengths you are willing to go to “rid humanity of the delusions brought about by religion”. Either way, we will be here to fight.

    That they do not harbor a deep-seated hatred of everything that smacks of Christianity?

    Of course a deep seated avertion to ALL religions goes without saying. What we must clarify (at least in PZ and my case) is that we are very much humanists.

    And invoking the word “humanist” automatically makes you an all around good person, incapable of the same pettyness and meanness that you so loudly denounce, while at the same time, not even blinking at stooping to such derision of religious people as deluded fools and other epithets that will go unnamed. Right.

    @Tom Gilson:

    have you noticed how he keeps saying we have no evidence?

    Have you noticed (I know you have) how many evidence-free claims he is making?

    Yup. All he has is the usual bullying, and not even an entertaining one at that. Shrug shoulders.

  30. I have to wonder: was it a sense of entitlement that compelled you to promote your religion at what you knew was an atheist gathering? If so, have you examined why you feel your beliefs entitle you to invade the space of others in order to promote them? Have you thought about the reasons that might exist for others to feel that you are NOT entitled and are being , in fact, rude? And why do you think that your beliefs should be above ridicule in such a situation?

  31. @ Steven K.

    Despite your use of the Queen’s “we”, this statement doesn’t apply to everyone because knowledge isn’t distributed to everyone equally.

    I shall clarify. Not the Queen’s “We” but rather the (necessarily scientific) human extrasomatic knowledge that each and every one of us can refer to or add to or try to refute. There is no metaphysical aspect to this. And yes, unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to this vast body of knowledge.

    @ Tom

    for the next hour or more

    In answer to a previous question, I live in China. It is very late. I shall snooze … and revert.

  32. have you noticed how he keeps saying we have no evidence?

    Speaking of which, where is your evidence? Theophontes keeps accusing you of not having evidence. I would hope that your reply would take the form of “Actually here’s my evidence” rather than “Oh yea? Well neither do you!”

    Evidence for the existence of hell?

  33. 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. Not theologically, not philosophically, but empirically.

  34. I do not know where you live, but where I live Christians threatening unbelievers with hell is an event about as rare as the sighting of black unicorns. In other words, methinks you are blowing out of proportions some isolated, relatively marginal practice.

    If you don’t belong to the minority group that reports that sort of harassment, why on earth would you presume to know how often it happens to them?

    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.

    For us, it’s lie or have the potential in-law hate you. It’s lie or lose the job. It’s lie or risk being forever utilized as the token atheist in your U.S. History course.

    The fact that you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

  35. Deb, you ask a very funny question!

    I have to wonder: was it a sense of entitlement that compelled you to promote your religion at what you knew was an atheist gathering? If so, have you examined why you feel your beliefs entitle you to invade the space of others in order to promote them? Have you thought about the reasons that might exist for others to feel that you are NOT entitled and are being , in fact, rude? And why do you think that your beliefs should be above ridicule in such a situation?

    I’m chuckling. I’m almost laughing out loud. Seriously.

    Was it a sense of entitlement that led atheists to suppose they could conduct a meeting for the purpose of influencing public policy, at the base of the Washington Monument, and expect that no one would show up with another viewpoint?

    Does that happen in America?

    What kind of blindness would cause you or anyone else to think this would be any different from any other public policy-oriented event on outdoor public land in Washington????

    Think about it next time, please, okay?

  36. You also ask,

    And why do you think that your beliefs should be above ridicule in such a situation?

    And why do you think it’s not rude to ridicule another person? What kind of entitlement do you think you have for that?

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

  37. @Deb,

    was it a sense of entitlement that compelled you to promote your religion at what you knew was an atheist gathering?

    Actually, the comments and all the posts here have been quite explicit on this point. If the event advertised itself as “an atheist gathering” there would be no such felt compulsion. Instead, by advertising the event as a Reason Rally, folks who think highly of Reason become legitimate attendees. The fact that the event turned out to be the oh-so-predictable Ridicule Religion Rally isn’t the fault of those who actually took the advertising on good faith.

  38. ok, now I’m curious, what is this evidence you have for the existence of hell then?

  39. Thanks Tom. I scanned through the notes (not sure if I’ll have time to listen to it.) To be honest, I didn’t see anything in there that couldn’t be used as evidence toward any other religion. Sure, the apostles lives were changed. But so were many Mormon’s, Muslim’s, Scientolgist’s, etc.
    If you are going to cite the growth of the early church as evidence, then you can’t ignore Islam, which grew much faster than Christianity. Either way, it doesn’t really matter, because the popularity of an idea does not have bearing on its truth.
    And the “Christianity makes sense” seems to be a God of the Gaps argument. Sure, we may have some unanswered questions, but you have to provide evidence that God is the answer instead of just assuming that it is the default. It is easy to invent all sorts of hypothetical answers to satisfy our curiosity, but you need something to back it up instead of just assuming its right.
    There was also no mention of hell in the outline. Perhaps you went into it on the show? In either case, judging from the poor quality of evidence in the outline, I don’t think the show would be worth the time.

  40. Erik, for me that would be changing the subject, and there’s enough going on here already without adding something new into the mix. The topic someone brought up here was that of “scaring children with talk of hell.” That’s different. It was an empirically unsupported statement. So was the idea that Christian teaching is some kind of child abuse.

    The short answer to your question is that I have evidence for the existence and truth of God in Jesus Christ, and that he taught the existence of hell. I’m going to leave that as a short answer, because the full answer is a long answer and I don’t have time for it right now.

    And I’m not going to get bothered by anyone saying I’m ducking the issue. Not unless the people who actually brought up false and/or evidentially unsupported issues quit ducking theirs, first. Because the first burden lies upon those who make claims, not on those who respond to them.

  41. OM, I don’t use PowerPoint to do my talking for me. I use it to help the listeners keep a road map in mind. I don’t consider that poor quality; I consider that good presentation practice.

    You won’t get my talk by reading the notes. If you don’t want to listen to my talk, don’t accuse me of not presenting evidence.

  42. OM, I don’t use PowerPoint to do my talking for me. I use it to help the listeners keep a road map in mind. I don’t consider that poor quality; I consider that good presentation practice.

    I realize that and I do appreciate that you proved notes for your listeners. Its just that the road map had the same old tired arguments that I’ve heard far too many times before, and I pointed out above why a few of them are flawed. Should I really invest my time in hearing the same bad arguments again? And given that you thought they were good ones, that doesn’t give me much confidence that there might be something with any meat in there. True, there may be some amazing piece of evidence in there, but it doesn’t look like it to me.

    But I do take your criticism. I’ll try to listen to your talk sometime and get back to you.

  43. @Katie:

    If you don’t belong to the minority group that reports that sort of harassment, why on earth would you presume to know how often it happens to them?

    I am sorry, where is your evidence that I belong to such a “minority group”? There are what, 2000 million Christians worldwide? Surely it is not difficult to gather evidence to back up your claims.

    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.

  44. By the way, OM, this talk was a basic presentation that covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Some of it was in an area I consider important but do not specialize in myself, historical apologetics. The first 1/3 of it would have needed to fill the whole hour if I had been presenting it to a secular audience; don’t be surprised if it seems incomplete.

    I suggest you search my “evidences” topic category for more.

  45. Here from PZ’s blog

    where I live Christians threatening unbelievers with hell is an event about as rare as the sighting of black unicorns. In other words, methinks you are blowing out of proportions some isolated, relatively marginal practice.

    G. Rodrigues, all of the handouts given out by protesters at the Reason Rally boiled down to “turn or burn.” Would you accept my typing out the pertinent paragraphs or do you need photographs to believe me? If that doesn’t convince, I am also willing to actually mail you the printed evidence, along with a recording of the protesters outside the local clinic, who are also threatening hellfire not just to everyone who walks in, but to every woman who walks by.

    You might also look at the online comments aimed at public atheists — not just the famous ones, like Dawkins and even PZ, but children like Jessica Ahlquist, whose “crime” was to challenge an illegal banner at her school and win the open-and-shut court case. There are plenty of people commenting on the online news stories that she will and should burn in hell. You can see for yourself how many of those comments aren’t worried for her, but gloating.

    In short, Katie is correct. Because it is not said to you on a regular basis, because it may not even be said in your neck of the woods on a regular basis, is not proof that atheists aren’t constantly being told that they’re damned to hellfire.

    Furthermore, you can also see how many of those online commentors threaten Jessica physically. It doesn’t take long to do web searches to find out about many other cases of good believers running atheists out of town or vandalizing their houses.

    Look outside your community. Look at these things happening to atheists and others

    here in *this* world, in a reality you and I share

    Think about a 16-year-old girl needing bodyguards to go to her classes now that a judge agrees that the First Amendment also applies to her before you start talking about how “threatening” Dr. Myers was, please.

  46. Nea, the handouts I wrote, and for which I was responsible, had nothing to do with “turn or burn.” They had to do with the empirically identifiable incompetence we have observed among atheists in their practice of reasoned discourse.

  47. That said, I strongly deplore any threats made against anyone like Jessica Ahlquist. If someone runs into a situation like that in my community I will stand at the front of the crowd threatening her and tell them they’re wrong, they’re doing evil, and they had better stop it.

  48. @Nea:

    I do not know what you imagine you are refuting, so just read my posts again, please.

  49. Why Tom, how noble of you.

    So… did you, in fact, stand up to your fellow Christians when they made threats to Jessica Ahlquist? This can’t be the first you’ve heard of it.

  50. G. Rodrigues @ 1337: That is a serious comprehension fail on your part. Katie was specifically saying since you do NOT belong to a minority group (as atheists are categorized) you cannot possibly know what we (atheists) have been exposed to on a daily basis. You may wish to re-read her comment.

    You also fail in understanding when empirical data and anecdotal evidence are to be used. I have many instances myself of being accosted, either verbally or physically, by those who feel my atheism is a threat to their beliefs. Sadly, this falls under “anecdotal” because there is no formal documentation of these events, with controls and observations and what have you, because it is not feasible to follow strict laboratory measures in circumstances like this. In cases like mine, Katie’s, and many others, all you have to go on is anecdotal. This doesn’t make it any less real, something you should be familiar with when you speak of your faith, but in our cases the bruises and alienation are somewhat more real than your god.

    I would be curious to know where this “secularized” society you speak of is, especially one that you liken to North Korean treatment of Christians. (A note here: This is not “official” atheist doctrine, if such a thing existed. Religion in general [not just Christianity] is viewed by dictatorships as a threat to their rule. Most atheists feel no such threat because we aren’t in positions of power.) It is an INCREDIBLE stretch to compare what happens in North Korea to the “discomfort” you feel when talking about religion where you are and merely displays the level of entitlement you and many Christians seem to feel you deserve.

  51. I read a book that said everything in that book was truth. So I believed it. Why wouldn’t I, since my entire family believes it? And others believe it too…and they sought evidence for it to be true, which was nearly impossible to come by. But they want it to be true, so we’ll dig in the area where that book was written 1800 years ago until we find something that can be attributed to it. Good enough for me, even though no other books written during the time of my book mention much of anything that is in my book…well, other than this one other book likely altered hundreds of years ago by a believer of my book.

    My book tells the story of truths that happened 60-200 years prior to this story being written down in a different language than what was spoken in the actual area where my book’s story originates. You see, the people in the stories from my book were not very capable of writing or reading, but their ability to tell stories to each other for those 60 years was perfect and without untruthful embellishment. Surely my book still contains the absolute truth down to the quotation of what actually was seen and what was said in that other language 60 years before it was written down…because my book says so. So what if my book has been handled by thousands of other book believers that had abilities to modify and otherwise trim out any pieces of the book that didn’t appeal to them for any given reason over the next 1000 years after it was written? My book says that the words within are truth.

    Besides, my book has changed the lives of billions of people, most importantly the lives of those people in the stories written in my book. And the stories from my book have made the world massively better, which is not my opinion, but actual fact…can’t you see? It must be true. Even the scholars that all believe in my book say that my book is true…and there certainly is no conflict of interest in that. Pay no attention to the scholars that find my book to be full of stories that could not be true, for those scholars are wrong, because there are more of my scholars…and since more people believe in my book than do not, obviously this proves my book to be factual.

    Oh, and there is no way that life could be what it is today without my book. My book IS the story about how life came to be. It is not MY problem, but yours, if you don’t accept this. By the way, my book says that if you don’t believe the words within it, you will face severe consequences after your body ceases functioning. I highly suggest you fall in line and realize the truth that the truth is in my book of truths. Now go ahead and join my group and start paying your money to participate with my group of friends where we tell each other weekly how good we are because we know the truth, and we mock all the others that are obviously not as smart as us because they are saying our book is full of errors, missing information, conflicts with knowledge learned in the 1800 years since our book was written. They are clearly wrong to assume this because our book says so…besides, they will be suffering consequences soon for their failure to take our advice and trust our book.

    These poor nonbelievers of the truths in our book keep coming to us with false interpretations of our book said by larger groups that also believe our book, but those other groups are clearly not reading our book in the way that we read it. Of course, our way is the CORRECT way to read it. Those nonbelievers shouldn’t hold us to those interpretations for they are not the truth.

    I find it so hard to not laugh out loud at those who could be so blind to not see the truth in my book. The evidence is solid, and even if you do bring what you claim to be empirical evidence or rational arguments against my book, you are wrong. Your rationale is also full of fallacious thinking. Try again, poor soul. MY book is the truth.

  52. Tom Gibson @ 1352:

    Nea, the handouts I wrote, and for which I was responsible, had nothing to do with ‘turn or burn.’ They had to do with the empirically identifiable incompetence we have observed among atheists in their practice of reasoned discourse.

    Incompetence? Really? I find that wildly amusing as there has never ever yet been a reasoned empirically-backed argument supporting the existence of a supernatural being.

    Not. A. One.

    Do you not even see the plank in your own eye? Possibly the most apt bible quote around, and one frequently ignored by the faithful. (Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42)

  53. Yoink, I’m guessing (though your facts are so confused it is purely a guess) you’re trying to run some kind of parallel with the New Testament here.

    The facts in the NT were written down starting within about 20 years of the events, and the sources from which they draw go back to within 2 to 6 years of Jesus’ life. So you can see why I’m only guessing when I suppose you’re trying to draw a parallel with the NT. You say 60-200 years.

    Archaeological evidence routinely confirms the facts in this book, as do external documents, including those from hostile sources. Dozens of them. So you can see why I’m only guessing when I suppose you’re trying to draw a parallel with the NT. You say no contemporary documents support your book.

    Textual critics (i.e. people who actually know what they’re talking about) confirm that the NT documents we have today are identical to the originals in all matters of substance (there are non-substantive details in question). So you can see why I’m only guessing when I suppose you’re trying to draw a parallel with the NT. You say your book was altered by thousands for 1000 years after it was written.

    The Bible is not in conflict with knowledge acquired since it was written, except insofar as “knowledge” indicates that the world was formed by purely undirected natural processes (I believe in an old earth, not a young earth). So you can see why I’m only guessing when I suppose you’re trying to draw a parallel with the NT. You say your book is in conflict with recent knowledge.

    So here I am scratching my head about your comment. I’m trying to discover just what its relevance is to anything. I’m sure you invented your book out of thin air, for as far as I know, no book that fits the description of yours has ever been written.

    Why did you bother? Other than, perhaps, you are misinformed about the Bible, and you think you were writing about it.

    You weren’t.

  54. Maybe, Sir Craig, you could practice some competent reasoning of your own.

    I claimed that the New Atheists’ reasoning is not competent. I wrote that in that handout for a reason: it was a Reason Rally, and virtually every atheistic organization claims reason in their name, their motto, their aims and principles or whatever. New Atheism is staking a claim on reason, and the fact that they don’t reason competently is quite relevant.

    And now you contest me by telling me that my reasoning is weak in competence. Do you think that rebuts my position with respect to the New Atheists? Then you need a course in logic.

    Now as to your claim that “there has never yet been a reasoned empirically-backed argument supporting the existence of a supernatural being,” you are quite obviously wrong.

    Had you said no such argument had ever proved the existence of a supernatural being, you would have been on more solid ground. But there are multiple arguments—empirical, philosophical, and otherwise—that support the existence of such a being. New Atheists claims to the contrary are either uninformed and/or prejudiced beyond repair. Have you never heard of Leibniz? Plato? Aristotle? Are you unaware of the archaeological and documentary evidence for the Bible? Do you not know (how could you not know??) that God is still doing miracles of healing today, all over the world?

    So you have once again illustrated the point of True Reason.

  55. Yoink @59:

    Very, very good. Well said.

    Science is truly the only way of knowing. It is not rude to politely state the reality that all religion is based on myth, legend and story. Those myths might have some use, some spiritual value to the believer, and I respect that. But it doesn’t make them true. It doesn’t make them real.

    The one attempt at “evidence of Hell” given above was entire about subjective experience, not objective reality, with some tangential historical accuracies that only confirm related events, not supernatural occurrences. If believing in a literal Hell makes you a better person, or maybe prevents you from being a worse one, then go ahead and believe in the literal Hell. That’s your right. But that personal belief does not make it an objective reality. For it to be objective reality, you would need clear and convincing evidence that withstands scientific scrutiny… And that you do not have.

  56. But there are multiple arguments—empirical, philosophical, and otherwise—that support the existence of such a being

    Now, are you sure to understand what “empirical” means? And if so, please, could you provide 1 (one) empirical argument for the existence of god(s)?

    If you’re goal is to convert people to your “truth”, you do understand that such an argument could have proven very helpful during the last 2000 years?

  57. Erin,

    First, Yoink is empirically wrong about his book being like the Bible.

    Second, it is empirically (i.e. historically) unsupportable that the New Testaments accounts are myth or legend. And if you don’t get that conclusion through empirical or historical study, from where do you get them? You claim that science is the only way of knowing.

    Third, if indeed science is the only way of knowing, by what scientific method do you know that? In case that’s not obvious enough, what lab or field study can you perform that demonstrates that nothing can be known except through lab or field studies?

    Fourth, by what empirical method did you arrive at the conclusion that anyone (or at least any significant number of persons) believes in Hell because they think it makes them a better person?

    Fifth, by what empirical method did you arrive at the conclusion that anyone thinks that their personal belief makes these things objective reality?

    You know for anything you have said here to be objective reality, you would need clear and convincing evidence that withstands scientific scrutiny. And that you do not have.

    Do you see it? Is it not obvious? You are denying your own principles. I’m not asking you to believe in the Bible or any religion. That’s too far a jump from where you are. I’m only asking you to see for yourself that you are not living by your own standards of knowledge. You are making all kinds of knowledge statements, unsupported by empirical evidence, while claiming that there is no knowledge except for that which is supported empirically. That’s self-contradictory, and if you don’t open your eyes to it, it’s also blind. For your own sake, please don’t be blind. It will hurt you.

  58. tomfrog,

    One empirical argument? Miracles all over the world. My friend who was instantly healed of severe epilepsy, for one. Craig Branch who was cured of stomach cancer at the point of death. That’s two. Want more?

  59. P.S. The requirement for empirical arguments can be met; but if it is taken as an actual requirement, as in, the only acceptable arguments are empirical, then it is logically self-contradictory. I happen to be more at home with philosophical arguments than empirical ones. They are valid, too.

  60. So basically if someone is sick and suddenly becomes ok it is a miracle and is an empirical argument for god.

    And when people are perfectly fine and then suddenly die I guess that’s an empirical argument for the non-existence of god?

    If not how do you tell the difference?

    Or is the Xian logic only understandable by Xians?

    Or even better: couldn’t your god prevent your friend from having severe epilepsy in the first place? Or was it just a test of himself for himself to see if he could cure it? (Evidently he fails miserably on a daily basis to cure a whole lot of people, many of whom very devout so I guess practicing might make sense, as long as you don’t claim he’s all powerful of course).

    Third, if indeed science is the only way of knowing, by what scientific method do you know that?

    Seriously? …. wow… so could you inform us of any other way of knowing what’s true about the world we live in? I didn’t say “believe”, I say “to know” (I’m afraid you will embark on some crazy argument about the lack of difference between those 2 but I may be wrong and if so, I apologize).

  61. It’s all fun and games until you start trying to prove historically that miracles happen. You can call the Bible historically accurate all you want in regard to a guy named Jesus existing, even though there are still critics with legitimate counter arguments to that claim (I’m not here to argue who has more scholars on their side, as it’s obvious that more scholars are going to dedicate their lives to the Bible theology if they find it to be compelling in the first place). You seem to assume that because you can line up all the pieces of pieces of original NT scraps to pull together a consensus on NT content that it follows that all accounts within that NT are plausible and in fact fully truthful. You’re willing to bet your life’s work to the idea that this document is proof that a man came to Earth as God-incarnate, performed miracles, died on a cross, then resurrected for the salvation and grace of all humanity. Historicity could never plausibly hold to this, leaving you with not evidence, but nothing more than pure faith…which I’m hoping you’re keen to admit.

  62. tomfrog,

    So basically if someone is sick and suddenly becomes ok it is a miracle and is an empirical argument for god.

    And when people are perfectly fine and then suddenly die I guess that’s an empirical argument for the non-existence of god?

    If not how do you tell the difference?

    If you don’t know, try giving it some more thought. It’s not that “Xian” logic is only understandable by Christians. It’s that logic in general requires some thinking. The logic of miracles should be accessible to all (if miracles happen, which you did not challenge in this comment of yours; you challenged their logic instead). It’s not that difficult, really. Give it a try, as I said.

    You answered my other question with a question. I’ll ask it again. If indeed science is the only way of knowing, by what scientific method do you know that? If you don’t have an answer to that, maybe you ought to re-think some things.

  63. Tom:
    I have just finished listening to your talk “Three Ways of Knowing.” Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

    The first way was entirely subjective: based on internal feelings. You yourself admitted that this could not be used to convince anyone but yourself.

    The second way contained what I thought was your best argument; that many people believed that Jesus resurrected soon after the claim that he did. Though I’m not a historian and don’t know how accurate that statement is*, even if it were entirely accurate, the fact that many people believe something does not make it true. For example, many believed that Joseph Smith was visited by an angel and they believed it soon after the supposed event. That does not make it true. The same could be said for Muhammad and his followers. I found it especially interesting that you were even aware during the talk that there were skeptics who knew these things and accepted them and were not convinced. Shouldn’t that be a clue that perhaps these arguments are not as good as you think they are?

    The third way was, as I wrote earlier, a God of the Gaps argument. Yes, humans have a greater mental capacity than other animals. This is one way in which we are superior to other animals. But why focus on intellect? Cheetahs are faster, blue whales are larger, ants are more prolific. Sure we are unique in our mental ability, but why is mental ability the yardstick? And even if we have no idea why humans are so smart, that would only show that we don’t have a current explanation for it. We don’t know. There is no logical connection from “I don’t know” to “therefore.”

    The original request was about evidence for hell. Hell was never mentioned once in the entire talk. I hope you realize that even if, hypothetically, Jesus did resurrect from the dead, that does not automatically mean that all of the words he said were true. He could have been mistaken, misinterpreted, mistranslated, or had statements misattributed to him.

    It seems that my original assessment from the outline provided was accurate. It was an interesting hour spent, but I think I could have spent it more productively.

    *It seems suspicious that the evidence of this relied on the writings of Paul, a believer who would of course be biased. It seems to conflict with the fact that there were numerous contemporary and unbiased historians (Philo of Alexadria, Justus of Tiberias, etc.) who wrote about the time and place but never mention Jesus.

  64. And you didn’t answer my questions at all.

    So I’ll repost just one: why in his name did your god allow your friend to have severe epilepsy in the first place? Was it just to be able to then perform a miracle? Isn’t that cruel to your friend?

    (EDIT: oops, I posted more than one, sorry)

    So to prove that science is the only way of knowing I guess we could try to see what we came to know thanks to science and what we came to know thanks to religion… that would be a way to know. And see, even without trying we can already see a pattern of science giving us so much knowledge and religion still waiting to give us one bit of it.

  65. I’d just like to note, as another piece of anecdotal evidence, that I have been repeatedly accosted by Christians making threats of Hell since my childhood. I grew up mortally terrified that other people would go there. After de-converting as an adult, I spent some time as a pagan, and a woman literally accosted me outside of my car to scream at me that, because of my bumper stickers, I was going to Hell. Since becoming an atheist, I’ve had several people on the bus that I ride threaten me with Hell when I’ve told them to stop talking to my five-year-old about God because that’s none of their business. One of them screamed at me in front of my daughter. There’s a preacher who regularly comes to my college campus and shouts at women that they are whores and they are going to Hell.

    Please, please do not tell me that Christians do not threaten people with Hell, particularly since they try to in front of my daughter, whom I am deliberately insulting from that particular belief due to its unique moral repugnance. Sure; they may not in some places, and some denominations may not believe in it at all, but here in Texas, in the heart of the Bible Belt, people love to threaten you with Hell.

  66. Yoink, you say,

    You seem to assume that because you can line up all the pieces of pieces of original NT scraps to pull together a consensus on NT content that it follows that all accounts within that NT are plausible and in fact fully truthful.

    What on earth is wrong with your empiricism? Do stereotypes count as evidence? Good grief.

    Your assumption here is wrong. See here, here, and here. All of those links are currently accessible on my home page. If you wanted to actually base your conclusions on evidence rather than stereotyping, you had every opportunity.

    Is stereotyping not frowned on in your circles? It is in mine.

  67. Sylphstorm, I’m sorry for your experiences. I have rarely seen anything of that nature. I do not deny that it happens, and I do not support it one bit as a way of interacting among humans. I do not think there is any empirical evidence at all that it represents Christianity in general, so I disagree with some other commenters’ perspectives on it here; but I would not for a moment question that it has happened to you, and I’m sorry.

  68. Oh, by the way:

    if miracles happen, which you did not challenge in this comment of yours

    I challenge it. What makes you say those thing are miracles rather than entirely natural?

  69. OM,

    Thank you for listening to the talk.

    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.

    My third way is not a God-of-the-Gaps argument. It is an inference to the best explanation, where naturalistic explanations, in my view (which I did not have time to develop fully that night) have really no possibility of coming through with an answer. If one takes it that there is nothing but nature in the form of matter and energy ruled by necessity and chance, then one has no resources with which to explain most of human experience. I’ve argued that frequently here; it would take some time to track it all down.

    I’m not worried about the request for evidence for hell. I didn’t bring it up. Someone else did.

    Your assessment of Paul as biased misses the fact that he was originally biased the opposite direction. This is a matter of historical scholarly consensus.

    Please listen to the Glenn Peoples talk if you want to know more about why Philo might not have mentioned Jesus. The fact is that Jesus received more external mention in extant documents than Julius Caesar.

  70. tomfrog, if you’re going to live up to your name and leap from one subject to another, I’m not following you there. Stick to the question you started with, and then we can go on to another one.

  71. Seems to me that we are still on the same subject of miracles.
    If this is an important argument for the truth of the Xian god than you won’t have any issue dealing with many questions on it.

  72. My point at the beginning of that, though, is that raising children to believe in Hell is, in fact, abusive, because you are by default telling them that people that they love who are not “saved” are going to Hell. That is flatly terrifying to a child, and particularly to a child with a developed sense of empathy. Any rational and empathetic person would walk around in constant terror at the possibility of any human being ever ending up in such a place. I know that I did. My reasons for being an atheist are based in a lack of empirical evidence for the existence of any supernatural entities or forces, not in emotions, but I have to say that Hell was what drove me away from Christianity specifically as a religion. I would have ended up where I am regardless, even if I had been raised the kind of fluffy, good-hearted Christian that my in-laws are (and that my parents are gradually becoming), but my specific upbringing, in which Hell was very real, definitely made the entire religion unappealing. If there is one thing for which I am grateful, it is that my children will not grow up believing in the existence of a place for eternal punishment for their loved ones. It is directly abusive to inculcate a child with such fear.

  73. Sylphstorm,

    We had this discussion a few days ago here. I do not agree with terrifying children. I don’t think it’s right. I have had this conversation recently enough that I hope you can find it. I don’t want to replay it again so soon.

  74. Oh dear. “Empirically”. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. “Based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.” That does not mean personal experience that cannot be shared with other people.

    Tom Gilson, you are clearly a very intelligent person, and I respect what you are trying to do here on this website. You are sincere, but you are also sincerely wrong.

    In your different “Ways of Knowing” you fall afoul of many gaps of reasoning by allowing ways of knowing that cannot be externally verified. Feelings, or the tight logic of Christianity, is not enough to make things true. Believable, yes. Interesting, absolutely. But not true.

    Science is the only true way of knowing the world because it is the only one that could be recreated, from scratch, and be exactly like it is today. It is the only source of knowledge that is completely, purely objective. When a scientist creates a hypothesis, they don’t try to prove the hypothesis true; they try to prove it FALSE. And only by their constant failure (and the failure of countless others) to falsify the hypothesis does it then become a theory. And there is not a single item of scientific knowledge that is not subject to being re-tested and re-verified.

    Burn all the books in the world. Wipe the memories of every human being. Erase all the databanks. Start again in the stone age. And you know what will happen? Eventually, over time, through painstaking research and testing, science will come again to exactly the same place that it is today, because the laws of the universe are unchanging.

    However, in that same world, Christianity will never rise again. There is absolutely nothing objective about it. The only shared experience is subjective, and it requires the oral transmission of myth, legend and story to survive. New religions will of course rise up in this world; the capacity of the human brain to believe in things that aren’t real seems limitless.

    Now I have no doubt there is nothing I could possibly say that would convince you that I am right and you are wrong. And, again, I respect your right to believe in the things that you believe, I truly do. But I think it would be good for you to understand that nothing you believe in is ever held to the same level of scrutiny in your mind as a scientist holds scientific principles. The objective and dispassionate, detached way of looking at the world is clearly something you claim, but you do not succeed in achieving it.

    I am sure you will respond with a statement that it is me who is not looking at the world rationally, and there the argument will, by its nature, end. But it still will not change the fact that you are indeed wrong.

  75. You really seem to get off on making yourself sound superior to everybody. You are most certainly intelligent, as you have a spin for just about everything anyone throws at you. I guess that’s what makes you “good” at standing at rallies and street corners arguing with everyone. I’m sure that makes you feel happy with yourself.

    Your links are more of the same. Bible says the Bible is true. You seem keen to accept that a consensus of NT scholarship is empirically proving the content of NT is accurate. And you’re holding onto things like “why would Paul and James convert if it wasn’t true?” as if that has any value whatsoever to the truth claims. I’m sorry if my empiricism isn’t broad enough to accept such a ridiculous notion. Surely if you put someone dead in a tomb and find a few days later he’s not there anymore, that MUST prove he’s resurrected….why else would his followers say that he did?

    This goes back to my original point: even with something not being written down 20 years after the event, that is plenty enough time to doubt the accuracy of the recorded events; most certainly the parts that speak of miracles like resurrection. That’s 20 good years of telling and retelling of the story, and adding whatever liberties you must to the story to get your audience to believe you.

    I guess you can claim victory that another dumb atheist just doesn’t get it. I’m sure your parishioners will be ecstatic.

  76. Okay then, let’s start with the first one:

    Why did your god allow your friend to have severe epilepsy in the first place?

  77. You predicted correctly, Erin. You are wrong. You might do some study on logical positivism and why it died “the death of a thousand qualifications.” The quest to base all knowledge on nothing but empiricism was abandoned decades ago, except (based on my observation) among certain Internet atheists.

    You say,

    However, in that same world, Christianity will never rise again. There is absolutely nothing objective about it. The only shared experience is subjective, and it requires the oral transmission of myth, legend and story to survive. New religions will of course rise up in this world; the capacity of the human brain to believe in things that aren’t real seems limitless.

    You misunderstand the historical nature of Christianity. It is not in the first place a philosophy. It is the product of God’s specific actions and revelation in the world. Your thought experiment is a poor test of what God has actually done in history, or of what he would do if all the databanks are wiped clean. It is irrelevant to Christian belief. It might have something to do with your misunderstood version of Christian belief, which both you and I reject, but not with the real thing.

  78. The thing is, teaching a child about Hell at all would be the equivalent of terrorizing them with Hell, because any rational and empathetic human being who lacks the critical facilities to reject such a concept will be terrified at the thought of other people going there. Others’ suffering has never been an abstract to me. Perhaps I am unusually oriented, or perhaps it is that way that I was raised, but I see the same thing in my children, and I remember what it felt like to believe that a) Hell was real and b) people were going there. You don’t have to deliberately terrify them. The idea is terrifying enough to a child. That is abusive.

  79. It looks like PZ’s acolytes are here!

    Deb: I have to wonder: was it a sense of entitlement that compelled you to promote your religion at what you knew was an atheist gathering? If so, have you examined why you feel your beliefs entitle you to invade the space of others in order to promote them? Have you thought about the reasons that might exist for others to feel that you are NOT entitled and are being , in fact, rude? And why do you think that your beliefs should be above ridicule in such a situation?

    The ‘sense of entitlement’ exists only in Deb’s head. And once the Gnus invited westboro baptist church to their gathering, all of Deb’s complaints go swirling down the toilet. Look, the Gnu Movement is built on emotion and seeks to promote malicious stereotypes about Christians as part of the culture war. That explains why they embraced
    Westboro Baptist yet felt threatened by Tom and his friends.

  80. Oh for Pete’s sake, yoink. You started in #59 with a call to empirically based knowledge. I agree with that call 100% for empirically testable information. I think it’s a marvelous way to acquire reliable information about the world. It’s not the only way, but it is a very good one.

    It’s a good way, for example, to discern whether a certain person is standing on street corners and arguing with everyone. I suggest you use your empirical method on that piece of knowledge.

    Do I feel superior?

    I’m just trying to take a stand for what I understand to be true. So are you. If there was ever a piece of condescension, it was your comment #59.

    I’m not going to play that game, though. I’m going to stand with good arguments based on good historical, philosophical, and empirical evidences. And if they come across to you as superior-sounding, maybe you ought to take that seriously. Sometimes what sounds superior is superior. I’m talking about the arguments.

  81. 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.

    But they do die for beliefs that are false. I did not say that the people were liars. They most likely believed, but were believed in false things. People die for false beliefs all too often. And people of the time would not necessarily know it to be “empirically” false. Again, early Mormons did not know that Joseph Smith’s visit with the angel (a supposedly historical event) was false.

    The third way is a God of the Gaps argument. You are making a big assumption, without any justification, that there can be no natural explanation for why humans are smart. That is a HUGE assumption. You can believe that God is the best current explanation if you want. Just recognize that for the ancient Greeks, Zeus was the best current explanation for lightning. This is the same logic that you are using. That they were not knowledgeable enough to come up with electricity is the same thing as us not being knowledgeable enough to come up with X to explain our current unknowns.

    The fact is that Jesus received more external mention in extant documents than Julius Caesar.

    That number changes drastically if you are looking at contemporary sources, which is what we are interested in. If Jesus existed, and I personally think its likely that he did, he was a small fry who did not get much attention.

  82. Here’s the thing, though: when you claim that your friend was magically healed of epilepsy, people are going to have a lot of questions. If someone told you that their friend was miraculously healed of infertility by Brighid, I doubt that you would uncritically accept that assertion, either. You can’t get angry at people for asking the same questions that you would ask if the tables were turned. Why did a God who had the power to heal epilepsy let it happen? And why did he decide to heal it? And do you have any evidence whatsoever that this happened other than your word? The odds that you are lying, misinformed, deceiving yourself, or mentally ill strongly outweigh the odds that God divinely healed someone. If you can’t see why people would think that, or why they wouldn’t say, “Oh, wow! God healed someone? I’ve never heard that one before! Praise Jesus!” then you are assuming that atheists are far more stupid than you. I assure you that we are not.

  83. tomfrog,

    You have to know that the question you have just asked cannot be answered flippantly, off the cuff, or quickly. So if you are looking for such a thing, don’t.

    I have about five chronic diseases myself. I have been crippled since November with a damaged tendon in my foot. I can walk a little bit, with an orthopedic boot on, as of a few days ago.

    These are not things to slough off as mere argument. If you want to have a serious conversation about it, I suggest you do some background reading in what Christians understand about these kinds of things. You could start by looking at the first half-dozen links here. That’s a bare beginning.

    The resources and answers exist, but not as a kind of gotcha game piece. Kapeesh?

  84. (EDIT) By “contemporary sources”, I meant contemporary to Jesus. In case that wasn’t clear.

  85. It’s dinnertime here. See you all later.

    OM, listen to the talk I recommended to you before you embarrass yourself any further, please.

    Sylphstorm, if you think Christians accept miracle accounts uncritically, you are quite misinformed. We aren’t stupid or credulous ourselves. In spite of your stereotype to the contrary. (Is stereotyping approved in your circle of friends? I thought not.)

  86. Tom, it is not fair to expect atheists not to ask the questions that you would ask of someone of another faith who made the same kind of claim. His question is not unfair; in fact, it’s probably not a “gotcha.” It isn’t when it comes from me, at least. I find it repulsive that Christians believe in a God that is the embodiment of love, but that permits people to suffer horribly, both in this life and in the next, for the unforgivable crime of not devoting their entire being to him. I find it horrifying. I want to know how you can believe in such a monster, because any all-powerful deity who would consider several hours on a cross to be the equivalent of countless children spending their formative years slowly dying of starvation before going to Hell for reaching the age of understanding without believing in Christ is a complete and total monster, devoid of any sense of love. Your deity is far more evil than any counterpoint your religious predecessors could come up with.

    It’s not a “gotcha” to ask why you believe that human suffering is inconsequential because God (supposedly; we’re supposed to take your word) healed one of your friends one time.

  87. Kapeesh?

    I’m sorry. You wanted me to ask you one question and now you want me to ask questions which are not “gotcha” questions?
    Are you going to qualify what we can ask you more or will you start being honest and defend your ideas?

    You said your friend being cured of his illness is a miracle by god.
    But when god-being-omnipotent becomes a problem you cannot defend (i.e. why did he make your friend sick) it’s just a gotcha question?

    Come on, I’m sure you can enlighten a poor godless person like me without avoiding the question and being condescending like you just were with the “kapeesh” thing.

  88. Tom, nice try. In no way am I inferring that your arguments are superior. Just your projection of yourself. True, my #59 post does reek of condescension…but there are many underlying points that are valid even if you want to squabble with me about 20 years or 60 years. You’ll never accept that anything could have happened in those years to embellish the story of whoever Jesus was for real vs what actually ended up in the scriptures. I guess that’s where we get off.

  89. Oh, Tom…you should have stopped while you were still behind. Now you are simply the ranting homeless guy on the corner, trying to push nonsense.

    First off, philosophy is not evidence: It is opinion. It may be supported by evidence, but it does not constitute evidence itself. Quoting philosophers is an appeal to authority, a logical fallacy. Aristotle had no direct evidence that anything in scripture ever took place and merely made conjectures based on his opinion and those of his fellow guessers. My proof for this statement? The fact that nothing in scripture has been found, short of some minor historical tidbits that are meaningless in a supernatural sense. Yes, Pharaoh existed. So did Caesar. Big whoop–mentions of these facts does not support a supernatural being. I have a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy chock full of factual statements–should I believe everything Douglas Adams wrote is true? Where’s my Babel Fish?

    Second, you can try to use semantics all you wish, but I clearly stated there has never been any evidence to support the existence of a supernatural being, ergo said existence has never been proved. All the philosophy in the world will not change that without some kind of evidence. And again, there has never been any empirical evidence to support the existence of a god. Empirical does not equal historical, unless history provides evidence, and again, it does not. Religion has existed for countless millennia, yes, but that’s all that can be said for that. Animistic beliefs far predate Abrahamic beliefs–why aren’t we still praying to sun gods? Because religion evolves as well, and todays beliefs will be tomorrow’s myths and legends, much like Zeus and Odin.

    As for miracles: Cite one. Cite one single miracle that actually qualifies as a miracle, and by that I mean something happening that is so profoundly outside the normal laws of physics (such as bullets turning into flowers in mid-flight) that no other explanation other than a supernatural means could be the possible answer. Don’t quote the Bible–there is no other corroborating evidence there. I mean something we can actually see, test, and verify to the point that we’ve exhausted all other possibilities and can only conclude, “Goddidit.” You can’t. It isn’t there.

    As for the “point” of your book–there isn’t one. Your mention of it here is simply a crass attempt at selling a load of snake oil, and is beneath contempt. A true debate does not devolve into a marketing pitch.

  90. And please don’t tell me that it’s because God wants us to help each other. If you’re a terrible person, and I tell you that I will start shooting random people until you help your fellow man, that does not make me a better person, even if you do so.

    This is much better explained by the fact that nature is brutal and we are all subject to it, whether through the material circumstances of our birth, the genetic circumstances of our birth, the emotional substance of our upbringing, or sheer chance of accidents as an adult. That is why it is our job to help one another–because this is the only life we have, and we are all that we have. Can’t we just love one another without a man in the sky pointing a gun at people?

  91. I have driven home for dinner. I am really rather amazed at how Sir Craig will use philosophy in an argument to show that philosophy should not be used in an argument. That’s nuts. It’s also nuts that he would say our book has no point. It’s one thing to say someone’s point is wrong; it’s another thing not even to see that there is one.

    I’m amazed that tomfrog would think that his question about the Problem of Evil would qualify as a specific question on the topic of miracles.

    I’m amazed that Sylphstorm would not recognize how his view of the Problem of Evil begs the question in favor of naturalism.

    I’m amazed that yoinks would excuse his own acknowledged condescending patronizing. I’m amazed that he would seem surprised that I would want to defend my position.

    I’m amazed at all the putative empiricists here who cannot see that the logical positivist quest died decades ago.

    I’m amazed at all the false facts being thrown about concerning the NT history and about God at work in the world today.

    I’m amazed that no one here cares to learn anything but what they thought they knew.

    Enough is enough.

  92. I deleted one final comment from Sylphstorm that I will now restore the best way I can, and answer:

    I’m amazed that a) you assume that all commenters are men and b) you refuse to give any thought whatsoever to why people would ask for evidence for your position, or call you out for your disregard to human suffering in general.

    People who won’t identify themselves on the Internet are hard to address properly. My apologies.

    People who think I have expressed disregard for human suffering in general, after I have posted a comment like the one in #94, are not honestly looking for evidence. They’re looking for gotchas. There’s no point pretending that you care what evidence I have offered or would offer in further conversation. There’s no point playing this gotcha game. It’s unbecoming of human beings. Take a look at yourself, would you, and see whether you’re proud of yourself for it?

  93. For those who want to follow this discussion further, I intend to re-open it on Monday but not before then. It is a holiday weekend, I have a family, and I have no intention of spending Saturday and Sunday in an Internet debate.

    Others might want to do that, though, and for them the discussion seems already to have moved over here. You’re welcome to continue it there.

    I may check in from time to time over the weekend to moderate discussion, but not to take part in arguments. But don’t worry, I’ll be very much involved in it again next week. Unless you solve it all between now and then! 🙂