181 thoughts on “Why Don’t Atheists Show More Curiosity About Their Own Beliefs? They have reason to wonder about their view of our God. But do they?

  1. Hmmm. I have wondered myself as I work closely with a self professed atheist and have asked him many questions, trying to understand how he believes as he does. He has not asked any questions regarding my belief so I had concluded that he must understand it perfectly and still rejects it. So, I am left to wonder because I believe it would not be humanly possible to understand God deeply and reject him.

  2. My experience is largely internet based and anecdotal. I have noticed that it is common for atheists to act as if they know more about Christianity than any believer ever. I believe I have even straight up asked some if they do think they know more and the general response was yes. A slight twist on this I have seen even more, and typically from the LGBT activist crowd (which does overlap a lot with atheists), is an absolute conviction that history of Christianity is bloody and tyrannical. This, for them, is an unquestioned fact, and also an unquestionable truth that everybody knows. They seem quite convinced that Christians have done a bang up job following the despicable god described by Cain.

  3. Tom Gilson,
    You ask how an atheist such as me could be so apparently incurious as to imply that Christians who don’t seem like bigoted theocrats or clueless about their religion–since they often attempt to follow Jesus and do good in the world–nevertheless worship the {hateful critical adjective deleted — see comment 5} deity portrayed in the Bible. You suggest this line of criticism of the biblical God raises a paradox.

    Actually, the paradox is pretty easily explained away, and there’s an interesting third option. Mind you, some Christians, especially many white evangelical American Trump-supporters aren’t easily described as Christ-like. But these are also low-information folks who don’t know much about the Bible. (Remember the 2010 Pew survey that found that on average, atheists and agnostics know more about religion than do Christians in the United States. So the presumption about who should be asking whom about the nature of the biblical god goes the other way around.)

    Again, there’s the Dunning-Kruger effect, so these loudest voices in the room, that is, many of the “evangelical” Christians might indeed consent to worshipping the {hateful critical adjective deleted} deity–they idolize Trump, after all–if only they cracked open the Bible once in a blue moon. Thus, some American Christians do indeed plainly fall into one or the other or both of those categories: their character isn’t much better than the {hateful critical adjective deleted} biblical god’s and/or they don’t know much about the Bible.

    But that’s not the most interesting explanation. First, though, let’s dispense with your minimization of the criticism that the biblical god is a thoroughly unpleasant character. After all, you say, I’m “not alone” in making this criticism, since “Richard Dawkins led the way in it in The God Delusion, and I’m sure others beat him to it, though not so famously.” None as famously as Richard Dawkins did, eh?

    How about Second Isaiah, in which the Old Testament emphasizes for the first time that God works in mysterious ways and that, by implication at least, God needn’t conform to human notions of morality? (See, for example, Isa.6:9-10; 40:10-31.)

    Or how about the Book of Job? In Job God is shown to be more powerful than just and even to have been corrupted by his omnipotence. Far from following any code of morality, Yahweh is caught gambling with an innocent man’s life: he has Job tortured after a petty wager with Satan, and Job’s conscience remains pure to the end even after God tries to terrify the man into submission, forcing God to atone by doubling Job’s fortune.

    Then there’s fatalistic Ecclesiastes, according to which God is incomprehensible rather than just or righteous, since God is author of “all things under the sun,” including human suffering. “In my vain life I have seen everything; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil-doing” (7:15). Backing up Job, the author of Ecclesiastes advocates a philosophical, Stoic approach to life rather than any headlong love for God.

    Let’s not forget Jesus who I suspect is more famous than Dawkins. Jesus criticized the Pharisees and by extension Judaism and the Tanakh for being too legalistic in their morality, for caring more about obedience to the law than about the need to soften their mindset regarding their fellow humans and especially foreigners and the downtrodden. (We’ll see in a moment why many Jews were driven to such legalism.)

    Paul also implicitly condemns the narrowness and tribalism of Judaism, by calling for a new religion to replace it. Faith in Christ sufficed for salvation, he said, and the Jewish Law was no longer needed even for Jews. This condemnation of Judaism culminated in the ugliness of the blood curse (Matt.27:24-25), of Jesus calling the Pharisees children of the devil (John 8:44), and of the Fourth Gospel’s going out of its way to blame Jews rather than Pilate for Jesus’s death.

    Then there was the Gnostic Christian condemnation of Judaism, such as Marcion’s identification of Yahweh with the tyrannical demiurge and his formation of the first Christian canon–without the blasphemous Old Testament. As we know from history, a different version of Christianity won the day, although the heretical Gnostic criticism of Yahweh endured for centuries.

    The Catholic, universal, or orthodox version of Christianity that prevailed maintained that the gods [God, actually — see the comment policy. Tom] of Judaism and of Christianity are one and the same, and so the Christian and Jewish scriptures were combined to form a single religious text. The trick of the Trinity doctrine was to both contrast the character of Jesus with that of his Father, with the Israelites’ creator God Yahweh, since otherwise there would have been no need for a New Testament or a new religion, and to affirm that these divine persons are nonetheless essentially the same being.

    Here, then, is the more interesting explanation for how decent people can worship the {hateful critical adjective deleted} deity portrayed in the Bible. It’s a bait and switch operation. Hook them with meek and mild, selfless Jesus, then hit them with the dark reality of monotheism: a transcendent, sexless God would be inscrutable (Isaiah), absolute power inevitably corrupts (Job, Marcion), and the believer should be skeptical and stoic rather than a blind lover of God (Ecclesiastes). After all, God’s {hateful critical adjectival noun deleted} persists in the New Testament, with the hell doctrine (infinite punishment for finite sins) which Christianity added to Judaism, so the Christian can’t avoid the switch by ignoring the Old Testament.

    We need only turn to the historical formation of Jewish monotheism to see why we shouldn’t be surprised by the biblical god’s [God’s] {hateful critical adjective deleted}character. Yahweh became the highest god [God] of the state religion by syncretism, by absorbing the qualities of the other gods of the ancient Near East. Thus, whereas the polytheistic religions depicted their versions of the storm god as defeating the chaos dragon, the Bible downplays or obscures that myth, by having God internalize the forces of chaos. So God only hovered over the face of the waters when he created the universe, instead of explicitly creating it from the carcass of the defeated chaos monster. And implicitly, God made the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve, which began the mystery of God’s justice. Also, evil or dangerous rival deities are demoted so that they play the role of an obedient angel, Satan, who rebels against the one true God.

    Different kingdoms elevated different gods in their pantheons to the highest position, and so there was conflict and competition between the various religions. When the Israelites became monotheists, Yahweh had to absorb the pettiness, hostility, and combativeness that were responsible for those conflicts. This is why Yahweh is a “jealous God” (Exodus 34:14) even though he’s supposed to be the only god that exists, because on the way to Jewish monotheism he absorbed the personalities of rival deities from the surrounding tribes and kingdoms.

    Moreover, the Old Testament was formed as part of the imposition of monotheism on the Israelites in the post-exilic period, after the Neo-Assyrian Empire conquered Israel and after the Babylonian captivity, when the Assyrian ideal of a world empire and the grandeur of Zoroastrianism evidently rubbed off on the captives. The priestly editors of the canonical Jewish scriptures promulgated monotheism by retroactively having Yahweh punish the Canaanites for their polytheism. Thus Yahweh is {hateful critical adjective deleted} with obedience and purity, to the point of being plainly {hateful critical adjective deleted}, because the editors molded the scriptures into object lessons.

    Their task wasn’t just to insist that there’s only one god [God]; the challenge, rather, was to demand monotheism in the context of predominant polytheism, and so the story of the Old Testament is almost entirely about punishment. Yahweh, therefore, is the {hateful critical adjective deleted} taskmaster, the jealous deity who scolds and punishes his followers for their lack of faith even though there aren’t supposed to be any other gods and an all-powerful god [God] should have nothing to fear and would be responsible for everything he’s made.

    That is, Yahweh (and thus the one God behind the Trinity that has his incarnation in Jesus preach hellfire) comes off as {hateful critical adjective deleted} in the full sense. The biblical God isn’t just vengeful; he’s also {hateful critical adjective deleted} and {hateful critical adjective deleted} (which were the grounds for the Gnostic criticism), and that’s because the priestly editors had to graft their monotheistic message into the older, polytheistic Hebrew texts. So in the Tanakh as it’s come down to us, there’s only one God but there are also lots of other gods, and the character Yahweh has to live out the madness of such conflicts with foreign deities that are supposed to be fictitious.

    Hence also the legalism of Pharisaic Judaism, since by the first century CE, Jews had been afflicted by the strictness of their monotheistic religion, by its obsession with purity and punishment for waywardness, and by the need to distinguish themselves from foreigners to avoid any appearance of backsliding into idolatry. They had to follow every letter of the law because, for the reasons I’ve laid out, their scriptures depicted the one true god as an all-seeing {hateful critical adjectival noun deleted} and taskmaster.

    Let’s turn now to the psychological question of how a decent Christian can accept such a religion. Again, there’s the bait and switch element of indoctrination, which should lead to some discomfort or cognitive dissonance in the believer. Plenty of Christians do ask too many questions and lose their faith, while most are baited (with the tales of saintly Jesus) at a young age, so they can’t abandon Christianity without effectively condemning their childhood and their parents. Hardly anyone would want to do that. In addition, there’s Stockholm syndrome, the condition in which victims make excuses for or even grow to admire their tormenter. If a battered wife can maintain that her vicious husband is really a good guy and can refuse to leave his side, Christians can summon the imagination to put the best face on their religion, especially when the Bible is full of poetry and ambiguous myths that can be endlessly reinterpreted.

    The harsh historical reality is as I’ve just laid it out, but if you’re looking to be a Christian, because you’ve been raised as one or you live in a Christian nation, you can always find excuses and apologies in the Bible’s poetic language. You can say the Bible is all about a progressive understanding of God’s nature, so that the Jews mistook God to be vengeful, but it turns out this same deity was loving and merciful like Jesus all along. This is how official Christianity made sense of the transition from Judaism to Christianity, by positing the Holy Spirit and an evolution of our knowledge of God.

    The problem with this theodicy, though, is that it refutes biblical literalism and inerrancy, and leaves the door open to Islam to continue that evolution. If we had to spend centuries learning what God’s like, because for some reason God couldn’t just reveal his nature to everyone once and for all, maybe we’re never done learning and so Christianity should be replaced with Islam, or Islam with some new religion. By contrast, if you want to take the Bible seriously as a basis for religious faith, you’re stuck with the monstrous god depicted on its pages.

    If only Jesus were a fresh, independent deity, as Marcion said, the Christian wouldn’t be saddled with the crude inculcation of Jewish monotheism in the Bible or with the Trinity. But as I said, the {hateful critical adjective/noun phrase deleted} speaks through Jesus too, especially in the doctrine of eternal punishment for nonbelievers. Jesus was merciful when he came the first time, but because he was scorned he’s expected to come again, whereupon he’ll be wrathful. Bait and switch. And one way or another, the Christian has to live with the disquieting discrepancies.

    Incidentally, if you’re confused about how Christians can live with their religion, I wonder how you explain how millions of Muslims live with theirs, given that in a Stream article you wrote that Islam “was founded in blood, conquest and rape, and continues to mandate death to gays.” I suppose you’d blame it on inadvertent devil worship? There are no literal demons or devils, though, so I’d naturalize the human weaknesses that are actually to blame for the grotesqueness of monotheism. As for how Jews stomach their religion, most do so by replacing theology with ethics, because of what they learned from the likes of Job and Ecclesiastes–not to mention all the injustices they suffered over the centuries. Tom Gilson,
    You ask how an atheist such as me could be so apparently incurious as to imply that Christians who don’t seem like bigoted theocrats or clueless about their religion–since they often attempt to follow Jesus and do good in the world–nevertheless worship the {hateful critical adjective deleted} deity portrayed in the Bible. You suggest this line of criticism of the biblical God raises a paradox.

    Actually, the paradox is pretty easily explained away, and there’s an interesting third option. Mind you, some Christians, especially many white evangelical American Trump-supporters aren’t easily described as Christ-like. But these are also low-information folks who don’t know much about the Bible. (Remember the 2010 Pew survey that found that on average, atheists and agnostics know more about religion than do Christians in the United States. So the presumption about who should be asking whom about the nature of the biblical god goes the other way around.)

    Again, there’s the Dunning-Kruger effect, so these loudest voices in the room, that is, many of the “evangelical” Christians might indeed consent to worshipping the {hateful critical adjective deleted} deity–they idolize Trump, after all–if only they cracked open the Bible once in a blue moon. Thus, some American Christians do indeed plainly fall into one or the other or both of those categories: their character isn’t much better than the {hateful critical adjective deleted} biblical god’s and/or they don’t know much about the Bible.

    But that’s not the most interesting explanation. First, though, let’s dispense with your minimization of the criticism that the biblical god is a thoroughly unpleasant character. After all, you say, I’m “not alone” in making this criticism, since “Richard Dawkins led the way in it in The God Delusion, and I’m sure others beat him to it, though not so famously.” None as famously as Richard Dawkins did, eh?

    How about Second Isaiah, in which the Old Testament emphasizes for the first time that God works in mysterious ways and that, by implication at least, God needn’t conform to human notions of morality? (See, for example, Isa.6:9-10; 40:10-31.)

    Or how about the Book of Job? In Job God is shown to be more powerful than just and even to have been corrupted by his omnipotence. Far from following any code of morality, Yahweh is caught gambling with an innocent man’s life: he has Job tortured after a petty wager with Satan, and Job’s conscience remains pure to the end even after God tries to terrify the man into submission, forcing God to atone by doubling Job’s fortune.

    Then there’s fatalistic Ecclesiastes, according to which God is incomprehensible rather than just or righteous, since God is author of “all things under the sun,” including human suffering. “In my vain life I have seen everything; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil-doing” (7:15). Backing up Job, the author of Ecclesiastes advocates a philosophical, Stoic approach to life rather than any headlong love for God.

    Let’s not forget Jesus who I suspect is more famous than Dawkins. Jesus criticized the Pharisees and by extension Judaism and the Tanakh for being too legalistic in their morality, for caring more about obedience to the law than about the need to soften their mindset regarding their fellow humans and especially foreigners and the downtrodden. (We’ll see in a moment why many Jews were driven to such legalism.)

    Paul also implicitly condemns the narrowness and tribalism of Judaism, by calling for a new religion to replace it. Faith in Christ sufficed for salvation, he said, and the Jewish Law was no longer needed even for Jews. This condemnation of Judaism culminated in the ugliness of the blood curse (Matt.27:24-25), of Jesus calling the Pharisees children of the devil (John 8:44), and of the Fourth Gospel’s going out of its way to blame Jews rather than Pilate for Jesus’s death.

    Then there was the Gnostic Christian condemnation of Judaism, such as Marcion’s identification of Yahweh with the tyrannical demiurge and his formation of the first Christian canon–without the blasphemous Old Testament. As we know from history, a different version of Christianity won the day, although the heretical Gnostic criticism of Yahweh endured for centuries.

    The Catholic, universal, or orthodox version of Christianity that prevailed maintained that the gods [God, actually — see the comment policy. Tom] of Judaism and of Christianity are one and the same, and so the Christian and Jewish scriptures were combined to form a single religious text. The trick of the Trinity doctrine was to both contrast the character of Jesus with that of his Father, with the Israelites’ creator God Yahweh, since otherwise there would have been no need for a New Testament or a new religion, and to affirm that these divine persons are nonetheless essentially the same being.

    Here, then, is the more interesting explanation for how decent people can worship the {hateful critical adjective deleted} deity portrayed in the Bible. It’s a bait and switch operation. Hook them with meek and mild, selfless Jesus, then hit them with the dark reality of monotheism: a transcendent, sexless God would be inscrutable (Isaiah), absolute power inevitably corrupts (Job, Marcion), and the believer should be skeptical and stoic rather than a blind lover of God (Ecclesiastes). After all, God’s {hateful critical adjectival noun deleted} persists in the New Testament, with the hell doctrine (infinite punishment for finite sins) which Christianity added to Judaism, so the Christian can’t avoid the switch by ignoring the Old Testament.

    We need only turn to the historical formation of Jewish monotheism to see why we shouldn’t be surprised by the biblical god’s [God’s] {hateful critical adjective deleted}character. Yahweh became the highest god [God] of the state religion by syncretism, by absorbing the qualities of the other gods of the ancient Near East. Thus, whereas the polytheistic religions depicted their versions of the storm god as defeating the chaos dragon, the Bible downplays or obscures that myth, by having God internalize the forces of chaos. So God only hovered over the face of the waters when he created the universe, instead of explicitly creating it from the carcass of the defeated chaos monster. And implicitly, God made the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve, which began the mystery of God’s justice. Also, evil or dangerous rival deities are demoted so that they play the role of an obedient angel, Satan, who rebels against the one true God.

    Different kingdoms elevated different gods in their pantheons to the highest position, and so there was conflict and competition between the various religions. When the Israelites became monotheists, Yahweh had to absorb the pettiness, hostility, and combativeness that were responsible for those conflicts. This is why Yahweh is a “jealous God” (Exodus 34:14) even though he’s supposed to be the only god that exists, because on the way to Jewish monotheism he absorbed the personalities of rival deities from the surrounding tribes and kingdoms.

    Moreover, the Old Testament was formed as part of the imposition of monotheism on the Israelites in the post-exilic period, after the Neo-Assyrian Empire conquered Israel and after the Babylonian captivity, when the Assyrian ideal of a world empire and the grandeur of Zoroastrianism evidently rubbed off on the captives. The priestly editors of the canonical Jewish scriptures promulgated monotheism by retroactively having Yahweh punish the Canaanites for their polytheism. Thus Yahweh is {hateful critical adjective deleted} with obedience and purity, to the point of being plainly {hateful critical adjective deleted}, because the editors molded the scriptures into object lessons.

    Their task wasn’t just to insist that there’s only one god [God]; the challenge, rather, was to demand monotheism in the context of predominant polytheism, and so the story of the Old Testament is almost entirely about punishment. Yahweh, therefore, is the {hateful critical adjective deleted} taskmaster, the jealous deity who scolds and punishes his followers for their lack of faith even though there aren’t supposed to be any other gods and an all-powerful god [God] should have nothing to fear and would be responsible for everything he’s made.

    That is, Yahweh (and thus the one God behind the Trinity that has his incarnation in Jesus preach hellfire) comes off as {hateful critical adjective deleted} in the full sense. The biblical God isn’t just vengeful; he’s also {hateful critical adjective deleted} and {hateful critical adjective deleted} (which were the grounds for the Gnostic criticism), and that’s because the priestly editors had to graft their monotheistic message into the older, polytheistic Hebrew texts. So in the Tanakh as it’s come down to us, there’s only one God but there are also lots of other gods, and the character Yahweh has to live out the madness of such conflicts with foreign deities that are supposed to be fictitious.

    Hence also the legalism of Pharisaic Judaism, since by the first century CE, Jews had been afflicted by the strictness of their monotheistic religion, by its obsession with purity and punishment for waywardness, and by the need to distinguish themselves from foreigners to avoid any appearance of backsliding into idolatry. They had to follow every letter of the law because, for the reasons I’ve laid out, their scriptures depicted the one true god as an all-seeing {hateful critical adjectival noun deleted} and taskmaster.

    Let’s turn now to the psychological question of how a decent Christian can accept such a religion. Again, there’s the bait and switch element of indoctrination, which should lead to some discomfort or cognitive dissonance in the believer. Plenty of Christians do ask too many questions and lose their faith, while most are baited (with the tales of saintly Jesus) at a young age, so they can’t abandon Christianity without effectively condemning their childhood and their parents. Hardly anyone would want to do that. In addition, there’s Stockholm syndrome, the condition in which victims make excuses for or even grow to admire their tormenter. If a battered wife can maintain that her vicious husband is really a good guy and can refuse to leave his side, Christians can summon the imagination to put the best face on their religion, especially when the Bible is full of poetry and ambiguous myths that can be endlessly reinterpreted.

    The harsh historical reality is as I’ve just laid it out, but if you’re looking to be a Christian, because you’ve been raised as one or you live in a Christian nation, you can always find excuses and apologies in the Bible’s poetic language. You can say the Bible is all about a progressive understanding of God’s nature, so that the Jews mistook God to be vengeful, but it turns out this same deity was loving and merciful like Jesus all along. This is how official Christianity made sense of the transition from Judaism to Christianity, by positing the Holy Spirit and an evolution of our knowledge of God.

    The problem with this theodicy, though, is that it refutes biblical literalism and inerrancy, and leaves the door open to Islam to continue that evolution. If we had to spend centuries learning what God’s like, because for some reason God couldn’t just reveal his nature to everyone once and for all, maybe we’re never done learning and so Christianity should be replaced with Islam, or Islam with some new religion. By contrast, if you want to take the Bible seriously as a basis for religious faith, you’re stuck with the monstrous god depicted on its pages.

    If only Jesus were a fresh, independent deity, as Marcion said, the Christian wouldn’t be saddled with the crude inculcation of Jewish monotheism in the Bible or with the Trinity. But as I said, the {hateful critical adjective/noun phrase deleted} speaks through Jesus too, especially in the doctrine of eternal punishment for nonbelievers. Jesus was merciful when he came the first time, but because he was scorned he’s expected to come again, whereupon he’ll be wrathful. Bait and switch. And one way or another, the Christian has to live with the disquieting discrepancies.

    Incidentally, if you’re confused about how Christians can live with their religion, I wonder how you explain how millions of Muslims live with theirs, given that in a Stream article you wrote that Islam “was founded in blood, conquest and rape, and continues to mandate death to gays.” I suppose you’d blame it on inadvertent devil worship? There are no literal demons or devils, though, so I’d naturalize the human weaknesses that are actually to blame for the grotesqueness of monotheism. As for how Jews stomach their religion, most do so by replacing theology with ethics, because of what they learned from the likes of Job and Ecclesiastes–not to mention all the injustices they suffered over the centuries.

  4. In all those 2100 words, Benjamin, you never once addressed the question I asked in this post. I wanted to know how you could think it possible that Christians down through the centuries, including some of the brightest philosophical and scientific intellects of all time, could have failed to notice all the things that you and Dawkins treat as if they were obvious.

    Here, then, is the more interesting explanation for how decent people can worship the {hateful, critical adjective deleted} deity portrayed in the Bible. It’s a bait and switch operation. Hook them with meek and mild, selfless Jesus, then hit them with the dark reality of monotheism: a transcendent, sexless God would be inscrutable (Isaiah), absolute power inevitably corrupts (Job, Marcion), and the believer should be skeptical and stoic rather than a blind lover of God (Ecclesiastes). After all, God’s {hateful, critical adjectival noun deleted} persists in the New Testament, with the hell doctrine (infinite punishment for finite sins) which Christianity added to Judaism, so the Christian can’t avoid the switch by ignoring the Old Testament.

    Do you honestly think none of us have ever thought through those kinds of problems? Do you honestly think there’s only one answer, and that you and Richard are the suppliers of that answer? Have you no interest in knowing any other possible answers — given that history makes it certain that bright, intelligent, caring, empathic people have searched for those answers?

    Your answer to the “psychological question of how a decent Christian can accept such a religion” is, frankly, simplistic, failing to account for tons of relevant information. Not every Christian — or Christian thinker — was brought up in a Christian family or Christian culture.

    Your dismissal of the Old Testament is simplistic, failing to account for tons of relevant information — Jesus, for starters, and much of the New Testament which relies on the OT. Not to mention the continuity from OT to NT.

    Your history of the development of the doctrine of God is laughable. God didn’t “gamble” on Job, for example. But there are too many examples; I won’t even try to cover them all.

    Your dismissal of theodicy omits tons of relevant information, mostly by simplifying the way thinkers have actually explained the problem and provided answers. You also distort considerable information, for example,

    You can say the Bible is all about a progressive understanding of God’s nature, so that the Jews mistook God to be vengeful, but it turns out this same deity was loving and merciful like Jesus all along. This is how official Christianity made sense of the transition from Judaism to Christianity, by positing the Holy Spirit and an evolution of our knowledge of God.

    That explanation has the significant flaw of being false from start to finish. This isn’t how official Christianity “made sense” of anything. Yes, there’s progressive revelation, but it builds on prior revelation rather than replacing it as if it were false. The God of Jesus is holy and good, which includes his readiness to deal with sin. The God of Moses is loving and patient, in view of his continued redemptive work with a very stubborn and unfaithful Israel.

    Your “bait-and-switch” theory just fails to deal with an awful lot of the Christian reality it purports to explain. It’s simplistic and incurious from start to finish.

  5. Having answered you in some degree of substance, though not intending to try to match up to your thousands of words of discourse, I have yet one more thing to say.

    I do not run this blog to give a platform to persons who call the God I love the things that you have called him here. Your adjectives describing God are critical in the extreme, and filled with hatred toward him.

    I’ve put up with it for a while. I’ve even commented on your use of those terms. But I’ve decided now that I’ve had enough of it.

    I welcome substantive disagreement here, and I have done so far many years. I am quite sure it’s possible for you to express your position without displaying this kind of openly rude, uncivil hatred toward the God whom I (and other readers here) both worship and love. Or, if that isn’t possible for you to do, then you will not be welcome to comment here.

    Read my comment policy (also clearly visible in the sidebar) and you’ll see how I feel about it when persons denigrate God in even milder ways.

    Maybe you think that these descriptors are okay since you don’t think God exists. They’re still hateful, since they tar God’s worshipers with the same extreme fault, for accepting him as our God. Maybe you don’t mind being hateful toward Christians; or maybe it didn’t occur to you that was what you were doing. You can sort that out for yourself. Re-read the OP here if you have any trouble thinking it through.

    In my policy I reserve the right to delete comments. Because I am not offering this as a platform for such repeated, continuing hate toward God, I will be going in to your comment and replacing certain words with placeholders of my choice. If you don’t want me messing with your words that way, then I’ll just delete the whole comment instead. Those are your options. Let me know.

    I generally give warnings before banning commenters. This is your one and only such warning. No more platform here for you to speak of God that way.

  6. Incidentally, if you’re confused about how Christians can live with their religion, I wonder how you explain how millions of Muslims live with theirs,

    I didn’t say I was the one who was confused.

    As for Islam, they’ve got their doctrine of God, with which they have developed their various strands of theology and ethics, and which they’re responsible for. I have some understanding of that history, but not enough to pretend I can talk about it in the manner you’ve pretended to talk about Christian history. I wouldn’t dream of spouting ignorance that way.

  7. I have no problem with you censoring my post. Indeed, by doing so, you inadvertently remind us of an important reason why Christians in particular could have avoided dealing with the sort of harsh criticism I made, which is that for centuries, people who voiced doubts about God were persecuted, tortured, or killed as heretics or unbelievers. Now you have the power only to remove some words on the internet, but it’s not hard to see how average Christians could have remained comfortable in their faith if critics were forcibly silenced. So that’s one way some of the brightest Christian minds down through the ages “could have failed to notice” that harsh criticism of the Bible: for centuries, anti-Christian thoughts and writings were forbidden in Christian lands.

    But the reason I wrote at length as I did is to show that your question isn’t nearly as interesting as you seem to think it is. To pretend that you’re asking a pertinent question, you have to maintain that it’s only the likes of Dawkins and me who make that criticism of the Bible. Thus again you wonder how it’s possible that I could assume that Christians down through the ages “could have failed to notice all the things that you and Dawkins treat as if they were obvious.” And you ask, “Do you honestly think there’s only one answer, and that you and Richard are the suppliers of that answer?”

    But what if the criticism goes back to ancient Judaism itself, as I demonstrated? What if the criticism is implicit in Christianity’s departure from Judaism? All by itself, Gnosticism, the early Christian movement that was eventually deemed heretical, in part, for equating Yahweh with the demiurge, proves it’s not just the likes of Dawkins and me. So if that’s the case, it’s not a question of some random atheists’ “incuriosity.” Instead, you’re asking merely how it could be that one large group of people retains its beliefs even though that group is opposed by another group that’s harshly critical of those beliefs. You’re asking, in other words, merely how social conflict is possible. So if millions of Christians condemn Islam as a barbaric death cult, and millions of Muslims aren’t deaf or blind but are aware of that criticism, how could those Muslims persist in worshiping Allah and reading the Koran? Or if capitalist Americans condemned the Soviet Union on various grounds, calling it an evil empire, how was it possible for Russians to go on being communists? And you could ask the same question about any of the other billions of deep historical conflicts between groups or individuals.

    The question is like asking why the sky is blue. Plainly, two sides won’t agree if they don’t see the issues the same way. I interpret the Bible from my critical, historical, naturalistic viewpoint. Most Jews came to share similar doubts about the implications of monotheism, as is apparent from Job and Ecclesiastes and from the anti-theological attitude that’s been so prevalent in Judaism. Jews came to excel in professional fields because they set aside theological speculations and focused on this-worldly concerns. So the evolution of Judaism towards its current grounding in secularism shows how many “bright, intelligent, caring, empathic people have searched for those answers.” They saw that monotheism leads to mysticism and they chose not to waste their life wondering about the unknowable.

    Christians went in a different direction…

    Anyway, instead of asking a deep question, you seem to be using this line of questioning—which is actually a red herring and a diversion from the Nietzsche thread—as an excuse for me to confess my ignorance about Christianity, to give you an opportunity to witness for Christ. As you said, “And if any atheist actually wanted to know what Christians have thought on these matters, he or she would be most welcome to ask.”

    Instead of asking, I’ll be the Christian and you can be the nonbeliever:

    “Your rage against Christianity shows the hollowness of your naturalistic worldview. You’ve no spiritual bedrock to support your values, so your values are arbitrary, leaving you anxious about your ultimate fate and liable to lash out at any proven way of being happy. For two thousand years, Christians have spread the good news that God sent a light into the world to testify that all isn’t as dark as it might seem. We have a special purpose and that’s to live by principles that are older than nature, by the principles of God’s society. If Christ seems the opposite of Yahweh in certain respects, those differences show only that our knowledge of God is limited in this life, that the ancients needed metaphors to grasp a transcendent truth. That’s precisely why God chose to reveal himself in a new way, not just by inspiring the message of certain prophets, but by incarnating as a man. Jesus could have conquered the planet with God’s power to see into the heart of everyone he met, but what would that have accomplished? God isn’t a tyrant, contrary to how he may appear in the Old Testament to skeptics who don’t understand God’s plan. God protected the Jews by force and by commanding them to adhere to a stringent moral code, to nurture and spread the precious word of monotheism. There’s only one God and thus all people should be united in gratitude towards that maker. Instead of Christ superseding the Creator, the divine persons work together to redeem Creation.

    “Why should we be grateful rather than merely fearful of God’s power? Because of whom God revealed himself to be in the person of Jesus. Jesus showed that God loves us in spite of all our faults. He loves the sick, the weak, and the poor–and that’s all of us compared to God Almighty! Jesus’s life and death reassure us that God isn’t concerned only with justice. God is merciful and loving, and that’s the primary reason to be joyful in this world that’s fallen from sight of God. Our creator could have left us to our devices, to conduct our absurd, godless ventures in our vain attempt to be gods or in servitude to some idol. God could have left us to realize the truth all too late, which is that although we’re special creatures, our godlike freedom and creativity only testify to an awe-inspiring source without which we wither and die. Instead of abandoning us, the source of nature manifested as a healer and as a uniter. Christ’s message conquered the Roman Empire and much of the rest of the world, not primarily by force but because God saw what we all hunger for: the comfort of knowing that we don’t suffer for no reason, that our cries for help are heard, and that God has prepared an astonishing inheritance for us.

    “All we have to do to receive it is to show God that we want to be on his side, that we’re thankful he didn’t leave us to rot with the animals or to languish in a permanent state of godlessness when our consciousness reforms after our physical death. God needs us to prepare ourselves, in turn, to be fit for his gifts. He needs to know we can give up our delusory pride in our ability to go it alone out of spite or sadness that God’s not always there to hold our hand. God came part of the way towards us by showing with his incarnation as Jesus that he isn’t nearly as interested in our material success as he is in our spiritual orientation. Are we attracted to our supernatural source or merely to his passing handiwork? Do we confess that Jesus is our lord and saviour or do we stubbornly resist his message, because we think we find fault in some abstract theological argument? The nuts and bolts of the perennial debate between theists and atheists are irrelevant. What matters is the choice that remains to pick a side. Are you for God or for nature? Life everlasting or certain destruction?

    “I know you’re an atheist who thinks all this is claptrap. But there’s no scientist or philosopher living or dead who can reckon with the miracle of how intelligent life could have sprouted from the void. Either mindless nature somehow creates and sustains itself and life emerges from nature, or life is primary, and consciousness, reason, and love give birth to a universe of artifacts, to natural stars and planets as so many backdrops on which the drama of life can play out. Perhaps God seeded nature with the conditions for life to emerge and evolve because he wants to share the wonder of being alive with creatures, which is why we should be grateful. But whatever the divine reason, the naturalistic alternative is spiritually bankrupt and metaphysically incomplete. You can cite whatever logical arguments and scientific studies you like. The incompleteness and amorality of naturalism will still leave you with the choice to pick a side, to put your faith in some final answer to the question of what it means to be alive in this world. You’re responsible for that choice, so you should ensure it’s one you’d be willing to die for, because your life depends on it.”

    Your turn, Tom. Explain to me from a naturalistic standpoint why Christianity is garbage.

  8. Oh, my. You think you demonstrated something about ancient Judaism?

    Oh, my goodness. No, my friend, all you demonstrated was your lack of knowledge on the history.

  9. There’s so much here that needs saying. I won’t be able to cover it all. I remind you of the universal principle that it’s much easier to raise a question than to answer it.

    You didn’t demonstrate anything about the history of God and the Jews in your previous comment. You told a story, that’s all; and your story displayed ignorance of the use of vocabulary in the OT, as well as the crucial, determinative different es between the OT cosmogony and all others in all world literature. There are other, more accurate tellings of the account. Simply telling your preferred version, though, you must admit, “demonstrates” nothing except it’s a version you prefer.

    So the criticism doesn’t stand, as you say it does, going all the way back to Judaism.
    You can say what you will about the history of Christianity, and that, too, will be your preferred version. It’s very heavily biased toward the negative, and therefore highly distorted. Yes, we can find instances of the sort you refer to. I have read a lot of church history. I know myself, and that adds to the story: I know what we are all prone to. But I also know that sin and error do not constitute the whole reality, as you imply.

    Obviously social conflict is common. I merely wonder how atheists such as yourself can keep telling your own preferred versions with such hubris, acting as if they are the only conceivably true renditions, and as if Christians have never even considered the problems you raise.

    I’ve already answered you once regarding Islam. Apparently I need to continue. I know of (roughly) two types of people who criticize Islam for its violence: those who deal with Islam’s texts and history responsibly, and those who do not. The first group sometimes explains what they know when they are stating their criticisms, but not always, for it is not anecessary to say everything every time. Even when they say little, though, they avoid speaking carelessly.

    I offer no defense for those who do not know what they’re talking about. The worst, though, are those who spout misinformation as if they were assuredly right and assuredly knowledgeable. That is the worst, and it is what you do with respect to Christianity. I consider it indefensible.

    You are free to interpret the Bible from your “critical, historical, natural viewpoint” all you like, but if you spout misinformation, I am free to call you on it.

    Monotheism leads to mysticism? Really?? Not in evangelicalism.

    Your representation of a Christian’s questioning is so wide of the mark in the first paragraph, it deserves no answer. No Christian with any knowledge would speak of Christ seeming the “opposite of Yahweh.” That you could think so is one more sign of how much less you know than you think you do.

    Your second paragraph in that section is better, at least; and your third is about 80% there.

    I’ll answer your final challenge in a later comment. For now, though you have opportunity to recognize your story isn’t a “demonstration,” and your knowledge of Christianity isn’t what you think it is.

  10. I’m not suggesting this is anything like a complete answer to your challenge, but I do have a series underway at The Stream addressing some common atheist comp,aunts about Christianity.

    Do not be misled, though; I have interacted with,any naturalists. One of the best has been Tom Clark. There have been many, many others.

    Still your challenge is going to be difficult, because there are so many mistaken memes, so many misconceptions. Should I say that a naturalist thinks what you do about Yahweh? I’d be embarrassed to put such a thought in anyone’s mouth, even metaphorically speaking. It’s so wide of the mark, I hate to attribute it to anyone!

    Still I will give it a go. Later today.

  11. Yet I can’t help wondering about the value of this exercise at this point. I get that it’s very good to understand your opponent’s viewpoint before you criticize it. But why I should prove that I know what I’m talking about, when you have so clearly proven you do not?

    I really hate to interrupt the discussion on that. So I will prepare my answer to your challenge, but I will not post it until you’ve responded to what I’ve written here today. We’ve still got work to do on that before getting distracted from it by going off on a new tangent.

  12. Your vague references to mistakes in my earlier post mix up two things. There’s the claim that the criticism of Yahweh’s character goes back to Judaism, which I support by talking about Isaiah, Job, Ecclesiastes, and so on. Then there’s the historical explanation I offer of why we shouldn’t be surprised to find Yahweh’s character to be unpleasant and quite different from Jesus’s. You say my account of the “history” doesn’t demonstrate anything (even though you don’t specify where it goes wrong), and you conclude, “So the criticism doesn’t stand, as you say it does, going all the way back to Judaism.” That shows you didn’t understand the argument, which isn’t surprising since as the time stamps show on the posts, you took at most exactly 24 minutes to read the 2,100 words, think up your response, write it, and post it.

    So I don’t know what you’re asking me to defend. The account of monotheism’s origins in Judaism (how Yahweh absorbed the characteristics of other gods such as Baal and El and how those gods were demoted in the OT; the influence of Assyrian imperialism, the Babylonian captivity, and Zoroastrianism) is standard among critical scholars of the Bible. You can find the details in Mark Smith’s Origins of Biblical Monotheism, Baruch Levine’s “Assyrian Ideology and Israelite Monotheism,” James Anderson’s Monotheism and Yahweh’s Appropriation of Baal, and so on. As for the claim that monotheism was imposed on polytheists or that the Israelites and Judeans practiced polytheism while the Torah was being assembled in the post-exilic period, this is also the standard critical view after the collapse of the documentary hypothesis in the 1970s. As for the claim that this common critical (non-traditional or theological) account of the origins of Jewish monotheism explains the unpleasantness of God’s character as found in the OT, that’s my inference.

    In any case, that historical explanation is logically independent of the claim that the criticism of God’s character goes back to Judaism. The Book of Job is especially relevant there, since God’s amorality is only implicit in Isaiah’s saying that almighty God transcends our comprehension, whereas Yahweh’s unpleasantness is on full display in Job. (See Jack Miles’ God: A Biography for a good discussion of Job.) But as I made clear, I don’t have to go nearly as far back as Judaism to refute your preposterous minimization of the criticism. As I said, the Gnostic identification of Yahweh with the demiurge carries the full force of the criticism of Yahweh’s character. All by itself, the existence of Gnosticism shows this is no arbitrary projection of an atheist’s bad feelings or “hatred” of God. The Christian Gnostics literally regarded the God of the OT as evil and demonic. But Gnosticism was forcibly eliminated by the prevailing Church, which is why the Nag Hammadi library was buried for safekeeping.

    You wonder how “atheists such as yourself can keep telling your own preferred versions with such hubris, acting as if they are the only conceivably true renditions, and as if Christians have never even considered the problems you raise.”

    How is it hubristic to voice your opinion? When did I declare or imply that Christians have no answer to the claim that Yahweh is an unpleasant character? This red herring of yours was in response to an offhand comment I made in the Nietzsche thread, regarding the dignity of our species, where I said, “We’re supposed to have dominion over the planet because of our godlike attributes, but how should we expect godlike creatures to act in the world, given the Bible’s depiction of our maker? If the biblical God is a [insert some naughty allegations here], wouldn’t the specially-created children of such a deity be expected to make a mess of the planet, to squabble over territory, enslaving and exterminating billions of people, not to mention more recently, with factory farming, torturing and killing domesticated animals on the scale of an ongoing holocaust?”

    The point is: Where did I imply anywhere in that thread or this one that there’s no Christian response to my comments? It’s up to you or your readers to supply that response, though. Instead, you went off on this tangent about my alleged hubris and incuriosity. Once again, I don’t regard this line of questioning as serious, relevant, or particularly interesting.

    You say, my ‘representation of a Christian’s questioning is so wide of the mark in the first paragraph, it deserves no answer. No Christian with any knowledge would speak of Christ seeming the “opposite of Yahweh.” That you could think so is one more sign of how much less you know than you think you do.’

    Obviously, I was writing from a Christian viewpoint in opposition to an atheist (like me) who’s making the criticism of Yahweh’s character that I’d put forward. Remember that that was the exercise, to ask a Christian for the Christian’s viewpoint on whether Yahweh’s character is objectionable. You wanted me to ask you about it. Instead I asked myself. Do try to keep up, Tom. It seems you’ve got an itchy trigger finger, but I don’t think you appreciate how restrained I’m being in these comments on your blog.

    I know you were offended by my remarks about the OT God’s character. I’m afraid that amuses me greatly since I’m Jewish whereas you’re Christian. Can you not see the chutzpah involved in a Christian’s taking ownership of the Jewish scriptures and charging a Jewish critic of Judaism with hubris for daring to voice his concerns about Yahweh’s character? I mean, wow.

    If you’re going to take me up on the challenge to speak from an opposing viewpoint, I hope you’ll take this as it’s intended, as a real test of your ability to think without presuppositions. I’m not interested in reading any cut-and-paste selection of other people’s arguments. The question is how well you know both your opponent and the weaknesses of your worldview. As I’ve written on my blog, I think the existentialist’s argument for God’s existence is the best one, so I emphasized the need to take a leap of faith. I wonder how you’d argue against Christianity if you were a naturalistic philosopher.

  13. I didnt specify where your account went wrong because that was never my purpose here. My purpose was to point out that you seem way too incurious about your own beliefs.

    Even now you think you're holding your ground because I haven't rebutted you but you fsil to realize that telling a story, as you have done, doesn't constitute an argument that needs rebutting. Apparently you think that having a story is all it takes. It’s not.

    I could rebut it, but that would be missing the point. The point is, you are incredibly uber-confident without even any apparent awareness of the Christian’s perspective on that history. You missed it completely in your purported rendition of Christian belief. You really don't know what you think you know.

    I see you are well read, but that still doesn’t explain how you can feel so confident attacking historic Christian beliefs while displaying no awareness of the existence of historic Christian answers to those attacks.

    There is a standard answer on these questions among critical scholars. Granted. No news there. No one expects naturalists to adopt non-naturalist answers. What's amazing about their positions is how blazing easily one can take a theistic position and answer the same questions without violating either reason or evidence. There’s more than one possible answer.

    Until you show some curiosity about that, though, don't expect me to explain. Explanations are for people who care to know.

    What the Gnostics thought about God was not what the Christians thought. Does that surprise you? Gnosticism wasnt defeated by force; it lost the battle of ideas. The church that triumphed, triumphed because it won the battle of ideas. The Gnostic gospels were, and still are, obvious late in authorship and nothing like real accounts of the life of Jesus. ( And besides.)

    How is it hubristic to voice your opinion? Read the rest of the sentence you quoted in advance of that question. Did you imply there was no Christian response to your comments? Yes. Please re-read what you've written.

    Apparently you didn't make the purpose of your Christian-perspective exercise clear. You didn't explain that it was to misrepresent Christians’ views while speaking as if for them. Please feel free, though, to clarify further what that was all about.

    Itchy trigger finger? After the huge slander you felt so free to inflict on God and our faith? You've got to be kidding. You asked for a sharp response, and you're getting one.

    You can voice all the concerns you want about Yahweh’s character from your secular Jewish standpoint, but when you treat it as the one answer, or as the Christian answer, that's still hubris.

    No one can think without presuppositions. I can’t. You certainly haven’t. Yet you think you now the Christian perspective; but you do not.

    I know my opponents’ arguments, and we can talk about that when we're done talking about the rest of this. In the meantime, I won't change the subject. If you don't find that line of question interesting, you are not required to continue in it. Nor am I required to follow you into any other.

  14. I suspect you must think me unreasonable for not answering more of your questions. They’re not bad questions, and I don’t want to imply that they are. I’m just committed to remaining on one question at a time. And I’m just not going to rebut your story of the history of theology; one does not rebut stories.

    Nor does one rebut explanations for why “Yahweh’s character to be unpleasant and quite different from Jesus’s” without some evidence that either part of that is true. Neither the OT God nor Jesus is anywhere near so one-dimensional. What? Did you think such paper-thin characters could have fueled Western civilization for so long, and revolutionized the rest of the world as Christ is now?

  15. Reboot time.

    It occurs to me this discussion has ranged very far afield. You have written nearly 7,000 words here, Benjamin, about 10-12 percent of a decent-sized paperback book. You are nothing if not prolix. And yet so far the OP’s question remains.

    Let me remind you what that was, and even clarify a bit, since it seems not to have worked the first time around.

    Here on this blog, in a previous thread, you described God with some truly vile adjectives, apparently assuming you could use those descriptors as part of your argument, which implies your further assumption that they’re either common knowledge or unassailable fact.

    You did so on a Christian blog, where surely you must have known there would be contrary opinions, but you used no language like, “In my opinion,” or, “Though I acknowledge you’d probably disagree with this… “ or even, “In many scholars’ opinions.” You simply say, “given the Bible’s depiction of our maker,” and then off you go, with that as your authority, never once showing the slightest awareness that some people don’t see that as the Bible’s depiction of our maker.

    So I commented that this made you seem incurious regarding the history of Christian thought, and I noted some reasons a person might think it worth being more curious than that.

    But the key point remains: You treated your version of “the Bible’s depiction of our maker” as if it were settled fact. That either takes a lack of curiosity, or hubris, or perhaps mere undisguised contempt toward Christianity and its view of God. Is there a fourth option? You tell me. Or does one of the three actually fit?

    That’s the question I will remain on as we continue here. If we continue here. For it is only on that question — a clarified expansion of the OP’s question, but otherwise the very same question that we started with — that I intend to continue.

  16. WHY DON’T ATHEISTS SHOW MORE CURIOSITY ABOUT THEIR OWN BELIEFS?

    THEY HAVE REASON TO WONDER ABOUT THEIR VIEW OF OUR GOD. BUT DO THEY?

    Hi, I’m Len. Just found your blog via another site. Hope you don’t mind some comments 🙂

    Judging by your post, I’d say you have a somewhat distorted view of atheists. I’ve followed some of the discussion you’ve had with Benjamin Cain (in these comments) and that only reinforces my view.

    Atheists don’t believe in gods. Any gods. Whether or not you want your god to be capitalised doesn’t matter – either way, atheists don’t believe in him.

    That’s as far as it goes for atheists. Anything else (humanist, capitalist, anyother-ist), is something I else. Atheist means not believing in any gods.

    You may know people who say they are or used to be atheists because they wanted to rebel against God and enjoy sinning. But they aren’t /weren’t actually atheists because they still believed in your god, they just wanted to enjoy themselves. But they still believe.

    As for having a reason to wonder about our view of your god, no we don’t. Most of the atheists I know came to their conclusion through reading the bible. Not just the bits that you hear in church but all of it (as I did). Generally, our view of your god is that he’s a character in a not-very-well written story book. Yes, the KJV has some beautiful prose and some great poetry, but it’s inconsistent and contradictory. Not what you’d expect from the creator of the universe (all the apologetics handwaving aside). I’d be surprised that Christians actually remain with their church were it not (as Benjamin Cain points out) that they’ve been caught early – before their critical-thinking skills were sufficiently developed to be able to assess the stories they hear and see them as just that – stories.

    So why didn’t people question God in the past? Maybe the fact that dissent meant death in many times and places had something to do with it. That’s an over-simplification of course, but it paints the general picture. Also, people today have access to bibles in their own language – not only in Latin or as presented by their priests or other clergy. Now people can read the bible for themselves and see how it stands up to the real world.

    I’ll stop now – have to go feed my pets (cats & dogs) and prepare for New Year’s eve. Hope you have a great one and a happy & healthy 2019.

  17. Thanks for stopping by, Len.

    That’s all very interesting, but none of it addresses the specific question I asked Benjamin, and the specific reasons I asked it. I was already well aware of what you’ve said here, but this post wasn’t about any of that.

    Have a happy new year, too, and thank you again.

  18. Thanks for the reply. It’s strange – I was responding to the OP, not your discussion with Benjamin. Granted, I mentioned a few of the topics you discussed but I also specifically covered several points in the OP (eg, As for having a reason to wonder about our view of your god…).

    Maybe later 🙂

  19. My OP was about a discussion with Benjamin: a specific question, and specific reasons for asking it. I clarified it in my last comment to him, but it was definitely there in the OP. Did you read it?

  20. If you want to resolve the OP’s question, it’s very simple. In speaking ill of the personality of the OT God, I assumed you were aware of that criticism since it goes back at least to Gnosticism and isn’t just what new atheists like Dawkins say. What I didn’t assume, obviously, is that you agree with that criticism or that there’s no Christian response to it. So I assumed only that you were aware I was speaking from my atheistic perspective, not that that’s the only perspective that exists. There’s nothing whatsoever in my remarks that implies otherwise. You’re mistaking the bluntness of my language with hubris.

    If you disagreed with my characterization of Yahweh, all you had to do is say something like, “Your insults are biased, baseless, and refuted by the following, more reasonable characterization of Yahweh’s personality…” Instead you started an ad hominem thread about my alleged incuriosity and hubris, on the preposterous presumption that I’m unaware there’s such a thing as a Christian interpretation of everything.

    You said I’m “acting as if” mine is the only perspective. But you’re not aware of my actions; you’re dealing only with my written comments, so that’s an unfalsifiable, subjective standard for hubris which allows you to imagine what’s behind the language I used. I have a regular feature on my blog in which I write non-satirical dialogues from multiple perspectives, including from that of a conservative Christian (the feature’s called “Clash of Worldviews” and one of the Christian characters is named Lindsey Rowe). I read Plato as an undergraduate and so learned early on the importance of caring more about knowledge than opinion. By writing at length from a Christian perspective in the above comment #7, I’ve demonstrated I have more than a working knowledge of Christianity and thus don’t need to ask you for a theological explanation of how Yahweh relates to Jesus. It’s up to you what you want to say from your Christian perspective, just as it’s up to me what I say from my point of view. I don’t have to ask you what Christians would say about the matter. I know there’s a Christian take on it since I know that Christians exist! Moreover, I myself could supply various Christian answers to the question, whereas you have yet to show you can see matters from the opposing viewpoint.

    You move the goalposts when you say, “You can voice all the concerns you want about Yahweh’s character from your secular Jewish standpoint, but when you treat it as the one answer…that’s still hubris.”

    So now you’re opposed to anyone’s speaking as if he’s assuming his beliefs were true? There may be multiple answers but if there’s such a thing as truth, one answer will be distinguished by its being true, and that becomes “the one answer.” That, then, is a good way of silencing everyone, isn’t it? “Just make sure before you write anything that you’re not so arrogant as to assume that your beliefs are true (and thus that all opposing beliefs are false).” Has postmodern relativism rubbed off on you?

    Then you say that what you found baffling is that I was writing on a Christian blog but neglected to qualify my remarks with deferential or lily-livered hedges like “In my opinion” or “I’m sure you’ll disagree with this, but…” I didn’t add such hedges because I learned in university how to write well. An effective writer doesn’t stutter like a teenager who has to say “like” every five words. He takes it for granted that he’s offering only his take on the matter, as in his belief that X rather than not-X is true. What else would he be offering?

    You say, ‘But the key point remains: You treated your version of “the Bible’s depiction of our maker” as if it were settled fact.’

    Yeah, you got me: in writing that Yahweh’s a tyrant, I assumed that’s a settled fact for Christians who obviously look instead to gentle Jesus as revealing God’s character. Actually, it’s language like your reference to my “hateful” rhetoric against God (in your censoring of my comment #3) that implies that theism is a settled matter for atheists, since many Christians believe atheists are fools who presuppose God’s existence and only hate the God they secretly know exists. Thus, you wrote, “Your adjectives describing God are critical in the extreme, and filled with hatred toward him.” So that’s some more chutzpah from your side of the table.

    Yeah, I know, you walked it back by saying the comments were at least being hateful towards Christians. I suppose I didn’t expect the Christian faith around here would be as brittle as the self-esteem of the liberal snowflakes who need their safe spaces and who are mocked on The Stream. As Alan Eason there writes, ‘We live in crazy times. People are yearning for places of safety. We are so desperate for them that we invent them. We put signs up. We throw campus speakers out. We pad the playgrounds and we gag the writers. We hover over the children and we compensate the adults — you know — the ones someone accidentally “offended.” ’ Or as Heather Wilhelm writes about “leftist snowflakes”: “Cowardice might not be fun, but for some, self-pity — cowardice’s common companion — certainly is.” It’s almost as if Christians were susceptible to having a persecution complex…

    Plus, as I said, I was talking mainly about Judaism, and most Jews would be fine with that line of criticism. For example, I am, because Jewish monotheism taught me not to take seriously any personification of the transcendent source of nature. No graven images.

    You offer a few explanations of my egregious lack of etiquette: “That either takes a lack of curiosity, or hubris, or perhaps mere undisguised contempt toward Christianity and its view of God. Is there a fourth option?”

    Yeah, the fourth option is that I write well. I’m capable of saying what I mean and I respect the search for the truth and the listener’s capacity to argue in good faith. Your red herrings, personal attacks, and whining about “hateful language” are certainly beneath the dignity of any “thinking Christian.”

  21. You can excuse your lack of apparent awareness of alternate opinions as “bluntness.” You can excuse your actions here as not indicative of all your other actions. But you can’t get away with saying your narrative from a”Christian” perspective shows you have a working knowledge of how Yahweh relates to Jesus. That was just egregiously wrong, and a display of ignorance. Where do you even get this “gentle Jesus” trope from?

    I’m not opposed to you speaking as if you believe your actions are true. I’m opposed to you speaking as if we should accept it as the same, with no argument, with only a story and with “given that…”

    “Deferential” and “lily-livered” are straw men. I don’t ask for anything but the awareness that if you’re arguing on a Christian blog, you’d better make an argument, not just tell stories about what you believe.

    It’s as if you think this is a platform for your personal pronouncements. You really haven’t argued for a large part of what you’ve stated here. Do you see that? Good grief, not even I would do such a thing, and it’s my own blog! If you come in here disagreeing, without even offering reasons, I’m going to call you on it. You think the listener should argue in good faith; aren’t you a listener, too? Bare assertions, stories, and pronouncements are not arguments. Repeated as often as you have done, they come across as hubris instead.

    This isn’t about my self-esteem. It’s about refusing to let you label God in ridiculously, outrageously, slanderous extremes. Snowflake? You don’t know me. If I’m supposed to know all your body of writing, you outpght to know mine. I have limits, yes. I’ve defined them in my comments policy. Snowflake is nowhere to be found in there. Civility is. Your treatment of God was manifestly uncivil. And yes, hateful.

  22. Another way to approach this is to explore how our Non-Theist friends unpack the “metaphysical baggage” of Metaphysical Naturalism. Physics just isn’t convertible with ontology, just as timeless indifference v. the explanatory terminus of the 4D Block isn’t convertible with Timeless Self-Giving v. the Trinitarian Life. It’s all too often a bit muddied given that lack of self-accountability by our Non-Theist friends. That baggage has overlapping content with a few items:

    a. “…Science flourished in the Christianized mindset… but why…?” as per http://disq.us/p/1wfsvpm (…it’s a specific comment in the comment section…).

    b. Aristotle’s Revenge as per https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/12/coming-soon-aristotles-revenge.html

    Both a and b there outreach much of the baggage entailed by the unavoidable deflationary truth values which Metaphysical Naturalism finally, eventually, forces us to embrace in every arena. It’s not clear that there is not even one single vector which does NOT end in the pains of circularity, brute fact, or else the pains of the retorsion as per http://disq.us/p/1w3dmo7

    Other examples:

    a. “…The most egregious of naturalism’s deficiencies…” at http://disq.us/p/1upadt1

    b. “Reason Itself: The Parasite Upon Irrational Physical Events & The Colony of Memes In the Ecology of Cerebral Cortices” at http://disq.us/p/1mj0j0k

    c. “Quantum Foam Is So Nearly Nothing” at http://disq.us/p/1ubrjk9

    d. “Intentionality, Mental States, Searle, Networks, and Causal Backgrounds” at http://disq.us/p/1mj0his (…also at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/conjuring-teleology.html?showComment=1530728283473&m=1#c6793128858268607057 …).

    e. “Conjuring Teleology” is at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/conjuring-teleology.htmlis and the following excerpt:

    ….Hence to write many paragraphs about the scientific banishment of teleology from everywhere else in nature while insisting that teleology is real in the case of human beings, and then casually to insinuate that the history of that banishment gives hope that someday a scientific explanation of the teleology of human consciousness will also be possible…. to do that is something of a conjuring trick, a bit of sleight of hand. To appeal to an analogy I’ve used many times before, it’s like someone who has gotten rid of all the dirt in every room in the house by sweeping it under a particular rug, when asked how he’s now going to get rid of the dirt under the rug, responding: “Why, I’ll get rid of it the same way I got rid of the dirt in all the rooms, of course! That method worked in all those other cases — why wouldn’t it work in the one case of the dirt under the rug?” This only sounds plausible if you don’t think very carefully about what has just been said. The minute you do think about it, you see that in fact it’s absurd. Naturally, the past success of the sweep-it-under-the-rug method gives no reason whatsoever to think that that method offers hope of getting rid of the dirt under the rug itself. And by the same token, the past success of the treat-teleology-as-a-mere-projection-of-consciousness method gives no reason whatsoever to think that people using essentially the same method will succeed in explaining the teleology of consciousness itself…

    f. Atemporal, Temorpal, Eternalism, Presentism – at http://disq.us/p/1w4283r

    g. Eternalism, Presentism, Being, & Intermediates Between – T1 & T2 – at http://disq.us/p/1wtd2v3

    h. Eternalism/Presentism: My Past-Self & My Present-Self & My Future-Self – at http://disq.us/p/1w40gqv

    i. Infinite Time Sums To The Infinite Contingency – at http://disq.us/p/1xkc3tp

    j. The necessity of freedom: http://disq.us/p/1w4ue31

    k. A bit esoteric but…. https://www.metachristianity.com/atheism-world-flat-none-non-non-theist/

    Off Topic:

    Polytheism preceding Monotheism? So what? What preceded Polytheism? What preceded that? One’s lens is far too narrow. Besides, pinpointing epistemological timelines v. Who Said What First isn’t pinpointing ontology:
    a. http://disq.us/p/1yewf7v
    b. http://disq.us/p/1yh7bgt
    c. http://disq.us/p/1yewete

    ~

  23. Perhaps our Non-Theist friends also need to explore their own beliefs about the Christian Metaphysic. The common errors which Benjamin Cain is guilty of in this thread wrt Sinai are evidence that such self-exploration is demonstrably missing.

    “…if I believed about God what the atheist believes about God, I wouldn’t believe in God either. So to be induced to somehow change my mind about belief in God…. I would have to accept the atheist’s misunderstanding of what God is…” (J. Black)

    It’s not hard. Inventing Non-Christian premises and arguing against them “as-if” they are actual premises within the actual Christian Metaphysic is an easy correction to get oneself to do.

    Most of it seems to (pretty much always) begin and end in the pains of privation v. Sinai. Our Non-Theist friends too often cannot navigate the distinction between Regulating and Condoning as their entire analytic seems immune to both Eden and to the Far-Better between which the OT (…and the NT…) sandwiches Sinai. Such a simple thing but….. still.

    Conflating subnarrative for metanarrative is probably a thing-y which can be self-explored in such homework.

    Man’s knowledge of and interaction with the True, the Beautiful, the Good is constantly changing, but the Immutable Good never does change:

    a. http://disq.us/p/1wq6j96
    b. http://disq.us/p/1xr6yav

    It’s odd. Ranting against Sinai and the pains of privation v. the necessary means to moral excellence (which are not housed in Sinai according to the OT and the NT) really only sums to hating all of the things God hates. But then agreeing with Scripture’s metanarrative never can gain traction against that metanarrative…. very odd behavior indeed.

    a. https://twitter.com/M_Christianity/status/1076682330545311744
    b. https://twitter.com/M_Christianity/status/1076684153154949120

  24. It is most interesting that intellectual critics, such as Dawkins and Cain, so quickly resort to ridicule, insults, and oversimplification. In fact, Dawkins has called for the ridicule of those who embrace religious faith. Critics may justify this feebly as “criticism,” but it is simply ad hominem abuse, not intellectual criticism. I was amused that Cain attempted to link the Christian worldview with the administration of President Trump and then characterize Christians who might support him as low-information mutants. His dismissive elitisim is quite ugly, but he appears too unreflective to notice.
    So let’s see what a famous British philosopher has said about such nonsense.

    Antony Flew, a noted analytical philosopher and world-famous atheist, became a deist before his death (see his book, There Is a God). When I was in college, however, he was the go-to scholar for all things atheistic. In fact, his essay, “The Presumption of Atheism,” may be identified as the foundation of the New Atheism. If you have not read this essay, I urge you to do so. I give that link to you at the bottom.

    To the best of my knowledge, Flew did not become a Christian, but his change of opinion made him a target for Richard Dawkins and others, who found his new views unacceptable, a curious response that echoes Dr. Richard Lewontin’s phobia of the possibility of “a divine foot in the door.” But Flew responded with a blunt and well-reasoned rebuke to such critics in his review of Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. It is well worth reading.

    In the very first paragraph of his response, in fact, Flew challenges Dawkins, calling the evolutionary biologist a “secularist bigot.” Flew was never known for pulling punches, and I, personally, found his essay quite refreshing. I think his comments equally apply to Cain. What often passes for “criticism” of Christianity these days merely amounts to non-theistic bigotry. Here is the link to his to Flew’s response: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/12/001-documentation-a-reply-to-richard-dawkins?fbclid=IwAR2_CkQwq_s_JKxIBeYvUuOKjTvJL2FqgVaz7BxNA2-Mp1ndfzSwbOLxi8k

    “The Presumption of Atheism” by Antony Flew (a paper published in the 1970s):
    http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Flew-The-Presumption-of-Atheism.pdf

  25. Tom Gilson,
    I said my “Christian” comments “demonstrated I have more than a working knowledge of Christianity,” meaning that I have more than general knowledge of the religion. I’m not saying I know everything there is to know about Christianity since no one does, least of all a non-Christian. There’s no one Christian answer to any question of Christian theology. “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” comes from a Charles Wesley hymnal.

    You say, ‘I’m opposed to you speaking as if we should accept it as the same, with no argument, with only a story and with “given that…” ’

    But I did argue for it when questioned about it—at great length, remember? If you’re looking for stories, with plainly fictional characters and fantastic deeds, read the Bible. You see how easy it is to argue by assertion, like you do? I demonstrated that the criticism of Yahweh’s personality isn’t an arbitrary whim of new atheists, but ironically goes back to Job, Gnosticism, and so on. Then I gave you a logically independent explanation of why we should expect Yahweh’s character to be rigidly tyrannical (it’s due to the nature of syncretism in that part of the ancient world, etc), and I based that explanation on the standard critical historical account of the rise of Jewish monotheism. And I distinguished between assuming awareness of a criticism and assuming general agreement with it.

    It’s just baffling that you say I haven’t argued for my position, when I’ve done so at great length and you’ve argued here only by assertion. You’ve even conceded you “didnt specify where your account went wrong because that was never my purpose here,” and that “I suspect you must think me unreasonable for not answering more of your questions.” You say “Bare assertions, stories, and pronouncements are not arguments.” The thing is: you have to know what an argument is to be able to identify one. As I showed in comment #13, you mixed up those two, logically separate arguments and took at most only 24 minutes to digest that long post. Pearls before swine, I suppose.

    By the way, I just noticed that in your censored posting of my comment #3, you posted it twice.

  26. Benjamin, you still don’t get it.

    My complaint isn’t that you know nothing about Christianity. It’s that you presented your knowledge in the form of pronouncement. “Given that…” and all that.

    You say you assumed I was aware you were speaking from your atheistic perspective. Well, of course. But you still spoke in pronouncements, without even argument. If there is any argument, it begins with atheistic premises, which were their own pronouncements. In effect, then, while you may know of more historic Christian views on the things you spoke about, you completely failed to demonstrate such knowledge. You didn’t even demonstrate any interest in it.

    That’s why this post was about your lack of curiosity: Because you displayed none.

    “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” came from a hymn writer who would never have said that was all there was to say about Jesus. The next line is “Look upon a little child.” Hate to break it to you, but Christians don’t believe Jesus lived his whole life as a little child. [Note: error here, corrected in comment #31 below.] Yet you say that the OT Yahweh stands in contrast to the NT “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”!

    At that point, you display something a lot like gross ignorance of Christianity.

    Your interpretation of Job is one of many. Your reliance on Gnosticism is reliance on a view that has no credibility in historic Christianity (which was what I was writing about in the OP).

    You gave no logically independent explanation for Yahweh’s “rigidly tyrannical” character, because you based it on a story! This is where you do what I mentioned above: You make an argument, but you base it on unfounded premises. Your story of the history of monotheism is no basis for an argument.

    I actually copied that story and pasted it on Facebook as a case study in how to argue. The question I raised there was, “How does one rebut this?” I answered it this way: “It’s a trick question. One does not rebut it, because there’s nothing there to rebut. It’s a story, not an argument.”

    Now, if you’d given some reason to believe your story was the right story, I would have had something to rebut — which would have been easy. The henotheistic view you propose is easily explained from within the monotheistic Hebrew framework. That might have been an interesting thing to talk about, but I don’t rebut pronouncements. I think it’s more appropriate to call a “pronouncer” out for his hubris than to act as if he’s presented an argument worth responding to.

    No, you haven’t argued. You’ve done something that looks like argument, but you built it on stories, not evidence.

  27. David Richardson,
    I find it interesting that while you say I’m so quick to “resort to ridicule, insults, and oversimplification,” you go ahead in that same paragraph and write that my “dismissive elitisim is quite ugly, but he appears too unreflective to notice.” What happened to turning the other cheek? It seems my writing has made you angry, not just “amused” or else you wouldn’t have resorted to the lex talionis. But if there was nothing to my comments in these threads, if what I wrote is obviously false and you had nothing to fear, I don’t think you’d have been so easily provoked to match what you deem personal attacks with personal attacks. By the way, how do you square “oversimplification” with the length of my posts?

    You say, I “attempted to link the Christian worldview with the administration of President Trump and then characterize Christians who might support him as low-information mutants.”

    Let’s just contrast that characterization with what I actually wrote: “Mind you, some Christians, especially many white evangelical American Trump-supporters aren’t easily described as Christ-like. But these are also low-information folks who don’t know much about the Bible. (Remember the 2010 Pew survey that found that on average, atheists and agnostics know more about religion than do Christians in the United States. So the presumption about who should be asking whom about the nature of the biblical god goes the other way around.)”

    Where’s the attempt to link the whole Christian worldview to Trump? I specifically said “some Christians,” not all, and I didn’t even say all evangelicals. And where’s the reference to mutants? “Low-information voters,” which I alluded to, is a common term. There’s even a Wikipedia page on it. Notice by the way, the lack of argument by assertion in my post. I backed up the “low-information” charge by referring to the 2010 Pew survey. And you could back it up further and easily by pointing out that Trump’s supporters hang on his every word even though the president’s been shown to have lied thousands of times. When it comes to politics, his die hard supporters are interested in entertainment, trolling, and revenge, not in information or the facts. But politics isn’t allowed in these comment sections, so that’s enough of that.

  28. Correction on “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”

    I looked again at the hymn. It’s not about Jesus as a baby, and I got that part wrong. Nevertheless, Charles Wesley knew that Jesus as “gentle,” and as a lamb, is only part of the truth of Jesus Christ.

    We do not get our portrait of Jesus from short lines of short hymns, but from the entire presentation of the gospels. This still displays gross ignorance of Jesus and the gospels on your part.

  29. Interesting that you took David’s observation on your lack of reflectiveness as anger. Just a few words earlier he’d said he was “amused.” This isn’t what online anger looks like, Benjamin.

    Your own response is rather what projection looks like, sometimes, but I won’t go all the way there and state that as a strong conclusion. I don’t call things “anger” unless there’s real evidence for it. You believe in evidence, too, don’t you?

  30. Benjamin Cain wrote:

    “But these are also low-information folks who don’t know much about the Bible. (Remember the 2010 Pew survey that found that on average, atheists and agnostics know more about religion than do Christians in the United States. So the presumption about who should be asking whom about the nature of the biblical god goes the other way around.)”

    I read the Pew report on the questionnaire in 2010. It seems that there is now only a 15-question version of the survey (on which I scored 100% – I am an English Catholic btw).
    However, in that 15-question survey, only 20% (three) of the questions were about the Bible. Around half of the questions were on religions other than Christianity, and most were on the History and Geography of Religion (e.g. What is the main religion in Pakistan?).
    Why should a Protestant know anything about Catholicism or a Catholic Protestantism? Why should either know anything about Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam? Moreover, the results showed that White Evangelical Protestants scored more highly than Atheists (a point conveniently ignored by Cain).

    So now on to my point. Cain equivocates on Bible and Religion and back to the Biblical God. This is due to incompetence or deceit (I can’t think of a third option). Knowing less about World Religions does not imply that Christians know less about the Bible. But then this is the sort of intellectual dishonesty I’ve come to expect from Atheists such as Dawkins and Cain. I can only assume that Cain is referring to Dawkins and Cain in his comment about “low-information folks”.

    John.

  31. “White Evangelical Protestants scored more highly than Atheists (a point conveniently ignored by Cain).”

    Clarification – I meant to say they scored more highly on Christianity.

  32. Tom Gilson,
    Numerous times now you’ve taken issue with my use of the expression “given that,” when I said in the Nietzsche thread, “We’re supposed to have dominion over the planet because of our godlike attributes, but how should we expect godlike creatures to act in the world, given the Bible’s depiction of our maker?” I was linking human irrationality to the apparent irrationality of the OT God. I’m aware the Bible says God is wise and compassionate, but the Bible also says that God’s ways are beyond our understanding and that God is jealous and wrathful.

    In any case, I was taking my views as given for me, not for everyone. That’s what “given” means in an argumentative context, as Dictionary.com points out: “assigned as a basis for calculation, reasoning, etc.” When I said, “given such and such,” I was saying that if we assume as much, here’s what follows; it’s a matter of taking something for granted for the sake of argument. Of course, you’re entitled to object and to put forward an opposing argument. Again, it goes without saying that a Christian wouldn’t agree with my characterizations. That’s what a debate is for. What’s supposed to happen is that the two sides present their opposing views. I did so, and you did less and less so as you derailed the discussion with this ad hominem, red herring thread.

    You say I should have been more curious to learn from Christians, but this isn’t a school and I’m not your student. If you think I’m missing out on some important knowledge, go ahead and say what it is. If you think I’m not worthy to learn from your majesty, go ahead and withhold your wisdom.

    Over and over again, you say the standard critical history of the formation of monotheism I alluded to in the comments is just a “story.” And you’ve clarified what you mean by that: “You make an argument, but you base it on unfounded premises. Your story of the history of monotheism is no basis for an argument.”

    So you’re using “story” as a weasel word, to drain the word of meaning by stretching its content beyond all utility so that when a critic charges the supernaturalist’s defense of the biblical narrative with being sheer fiction, that criticism too will lose its force. The naturalistic, syncretistic account of monotheism is standard in secular, scientific studies of the Bible. That account is an explanation, not a story, because it accounts for the evidence and adds to our understanding, without appealing to mysteries and miracles, and without trying merely to comfort, entertain, or instruct.

    You can find the premises and outlines of that explanation everywhere from Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible to the Anchor Bible Dictionary, not to mention Wikipedia. Here, for example, are some relevant passages from the former two.

    From Eerdmans (916-917): “With the inception of urbanization (ca. 5th millennium), Mesopotamian religion began to exhibit a tendency toward unification of the divine. Before the Akkadian empires Mesopotamia was comprised of a series of independent city-states, each centered around a temple complex with at least one patron god or goddess. These deities were organized in families along kingship lines. The glory of each divinity was manifest in the glory of the city and its temple; as one city gained political power and extended its sphere of influence, its patron deity was elevated to a position of prominence over deities of the subject cities and towns. The higher deity tended to take on the attributes of the lower subject deities…

    “The text of the OT is the product of a long and complex process of literary growth, and presents an idealized portrait of Israelite religious belief and practice. Any reconstruction of Israelite religion must, therefore, draw on the material remains of ancient Palestine as a balance to the biblical account. Inscriptions discovered at Kuntillet Ajrud/Horvat Teman and Khirbet el-Qom permit an association between Yahweh and the goddess Asherah, suggesting that Yahweh may have at one time been worshipped along with a female consort. Monotheism in Israel, at any rate, appears to have developed over a long period of time, beginning about the 10th century up until the end of the Babylonian Exile.

    “Early Israelite monotheism most likely began in the highlands as localized tribal religion in which each tribe worshipped its own patron deity. The ancestral narratives in Genesis presuppose this sort of tribal religion (e.g. Gen.24:27; 31:5, 53). With the centralization of the state under David and Solomon, there emerged certain advocates who elevated Yahweh as supreme God over all other divinities (including El, Asherah, and Baal), thus making Yahweh the “God of Israel.” The combination of religion with political might provided the monarchic state the means to exert further authority over the people, while continuing to tolerate the worship of other gods. Gradually the concept of covenant became an expression for the mutual relationship of blessedness between Yahweh and the monarchic state (1 Kgs.8; 2 Kgs.12 [cf.11:17]; Pss.2, 72, 89, 110). The continual fostering of literary activity in the royal court and temple was instrumental in promoting Yahweh as the God of the entire cosmos who possesses all the positive attributes previously associated with the traditional gods and goddesses. With the work of Second Isaiah toward the end of the Babylonian Exile, Israelite monotheism took on a more forceful form of expression.”

    And from Anchor:

    “When in the OT texts the form ‘Elohim” is used instead of ‘Yahweh” in this or similar ways, this mirrors different types of theological reflection, in an attempt to place one’s own tradition of faith and of the name of God in a context of an increasing challenge manifest through different religions and other divine names. The differentiation in the Priestly writing between ‘Elohim’ (= pre- [and extra- ?] Israelite) and ‘Yahweh’ (= genuinely Israelite) is only one attempt, in the crisis of Israel’s dispersion among the nations (in the Babylonian exile), to transform the faith in one primarily national Yahweh into a new form which tries in a conscious and an increased manner to incorporate into one’s own tradition the experience of the supranational and international…

    “Under these presuppositions of “Yahweh’s baalship’ it is not surprising that in the OT psalms Yahweh is worshipped with terminology similar to that used of the Canaanite Baal in the epics from Ugarit-Ras Shamra, that is, as the one ‘who rides on the clouds’ (Ps. 68:5; 104:3; Deut.33:26), who manifests himself in thunder and storm (e.g. Ps 18:14-15; 77:19). Behind Psalm 29 could be hidden an entire Canaanite hymn to Baal which was transposed into a hymn to Yahweh. This “baalization” of Yahweh should not be understood as if by it the specific Israelite tradition was abandoned; the epithet baal does not replace the divine name Yahweh. Rather, this entire development reflects the natural attempt of a young nation to learn from the cultural experience of older nations. This cultural religious process of learning had received an enormous impetus from the fact that David had established the capital of his kingdom in the ancient Canaanite-Jebusite city of Jerusalem, and that his son Solomon had erected there the royal palace and the Yahweh temple with the help of Phoenician builders. In doing so the Phoenicians were not just suppliers and workmen; rather, they conceived and erected the temple in Jerusalem as if they were building a Baal temple in their own homeland…” (IV, 1006-1007).

    “Perhaps in the time of Moses, as certain biblical references suggest, El was equated with Yahweh, who probably was originally the Midianite god of Mt. Sinai. Whereas the OT abominated Baal, it was happy to equate Yahweh with El, who was the supreme creator god noted for his wisdom, and was not associated with the fertility cult in the way that Baal was.

    “In his identification with El, Yahweh also appropriated ‘the sons of El,’ so that ‘the sons of God’ formed his heavenly court (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1). The notion that they were seventy in number lived on, since Deut 32:8 states that ‘the Most High…fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God’ (so LXX; 4QDeut), from which evolved in Jewish apocalyptic literature the notion of seventy guardian angels of the nations. Thus, as absolute monotheism took over from monolatry in Israel, those who had originally been in the pantheon of the gods were demoted to the status of angels.

    “In being equated with El, it is not surprising that in syncretistic circles Yahweh also appropriated El’s consort Athirat, or Asherah as she is known in the OT…

    “Although the OT condemns the Baal cult, it nevertheless adopts some of its motifs. Hosea, who is at pains to emphasize that Yahweh, not Baal, brings fertility to the land (Hos.2:10-Eng.2:8), applies the imagery of death and resurrection to Israel’s coming exile and restoration (Hos.5:14-6:3; 13:1-14:7)…

    “The OT also appropriates the motif of Baal’s conflict with Leviathan (also called ‘dragon,’ ‘twisting serpent’) and Yam and applies it to Yahweh. Sometimes the imagery is associated with the creation of the world (e.g. Ps 74:12-17), and this can also be demythologized so that it is simply a case of God’s controlling (rather than fighting with) the waters, as in Genesis 1. Sometimes the imagery is historicized, so that the sea becomes a term for the hostile nations (cf. Ps 144:7) and the dragon can symbolize a particular nation, such as Egypt or Babylon (e.g. Isa. 30:7; Jer.51:34). Again, the imagery can be projected into the future and eschatologized (cf. Isa.27:1; Daniel 7). A related theme to that of the divine victory over the waters is divine kingship. Just as Baal became king following his victory over Yam, so the OT associates Yahweh’s kingship with his defeat of the chaos waters (cf. Ps 74:12; 93:1-2). The name of Baal’s sacred mountain, Mt. Sapan, is applied to Mt. Zion, the seat of Yahweh’s dwelling in Ps 48:3–Eng 48:2, ‘the heights of Zaphon’ (cf. Isa 14:13). Moreover, the description of Yahweh’s manifestation in the thunderstorm tends to echo that of the storm god, Baal, and this is particularly striking in Psalm 29” (I, 835).

    “Israel had to learn how mysterious, unteachable, and beyond manipulation was its God.
    1. God beyond Human Measure. The psalmists know that God does not judge according to a strict pattern. God is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in merciful love…he does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities’ (Psalm 103:10; cf. Psalm 130:3; Exod.34:6-7). God does not act as humans do. Hosea recalls Israel’s long history of infidelity to God (11:1-9). But, despite centuries of disloyalty, God will not destroy Ephraim ‘for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come to destroy” (11:9)…

    “One of the elements of the ‘common theology’ of the ANE [Ancient Near East] that Israel shared with her neighbors was that the ‘high god’ rewards and punishes according to a strict pattern. The previous paragraph has shown that the true Israel did not accept this standard theology. Jeremiah and Job explicitly contest it. Jeremiah does so in his ‘confessions’…The beginning of his private debate with God may be rendered: ‘Just you are YHWH; even so I will argue with you; yes, there are cases I would like to discuss with you. Why do the wicked prosper?’ (12:1). God replies in two proverbs (12:5-6). God does not solve the tension between belief and reason for Jeremiah. He demands Jeremiah renounce any ultimate insight into the ‘why’ of life and that he give himself in complete trust to the will of God, known only by faith…

    “Israel, united and divided, was a monarchy for four-and-a-half centuries. The cult of YHWH was conducted in the temple built by the king. It was natural, then, that YHWH and king be linked. The cry, ‘Marduk is (has become) king,’ had been echoing for centuries in Mesopotamia. The cry ‘El is king,’ ‘Baal is (shall become) king,’ was echoing in Canaan where Israel lived. Baal had battled with the monster Yam (the sea); he had conquered; his temple was built; he had become king. But no, proclaimed Israel in polemic. It is YHWH, the God of Israel, who is king, not El or Baal…” (II, 1046-1047).

    “Royal ‘wrath’ is not necessarily a personal or idiosyncratic emotion but rather a programmatic orientation and, indeed, duty; it is a matter more of official policy than of private sentiment.

    “Because royal policy is often met with opposition and accompanied by (sometimes brutal) violence and warfare, one may infer that personal and emotional distemper is a factor. However, it may be that these references to royal ‘wrath’ actually served rhetorically not to humanize and familiarize the king by focusing on his emotionalism but rather to aggrandize and distance him by suggesting that royal policy is accountable to no factor other than the king himself (cf. Ezek.20:8-9, 13-14, 21-22). The wrath of the king is not to be viewed like the wrath of other mortals; it is not one of the vicissitudes of being human, it is one of the prerogatives of being king; it is not of the passion type, but of the pathos type…

    “To what extent was Yahweh viewed as a king programmatically extending divine rule–the fate of opponents being not a matter of personal enmity between them and Yahweh but a matter of Yahweh exercising the prerogatives of power in truly omnipotent fashion, i.e., without apology or explanation? On the one hand, there is no doubt that in those passages where Yahweh becomes angry at Israel for covenant violations, Yahweh is clearly portrayed as Israel’s equivalent to a ‘king.’ On the other hand, however, those passages which depict mythological creatures as the object of Yahweh’s ‘wrath’ also suggest that Yahweh’s wrath is a component not of emotion but rather of omnipotence (Job 26; Ps 89:5-13). God has a prerogative to act ‘in anger’ because, at creation, God was able to extend sovereignty over the powers of chaos (Job 9:4-13). Thus, in order to destroy all his enemies, God ‘in anger’ can deal with creation as a sovereign (Isa.30:27, 30).

    “In this regard, it is possible to suggest that the anthropopathic portrayals of Yahweh’s ‘wrath’ had the effect in ancient Israel not of ‘humanizing’ Israel’s god but rather just the opposite, of exalting Yahweh…In this sense, we can likewise speak of God’s omnipotence as entailing at least a certain type of ‘apathy’ (a ‘royal aloofness’), thereby necessitating, at least to some extent, a figurative interpretation of the anthropopathic language used of God” (VI, 995).

    Now if you want to call that sort of scholarship mere “story-telling,” which forms the backdrop for the premises in the arguments and explanations in those comments of mine, you’re obliged to do two things: define your use of the word “story,” and present your alternative, Christian account of Jewish monotheism’s origins in such a manner that your account doesn’t foul afoul of being a story even in your sense of that word. Meanwhile, I’ll go ahead and take as given–given for me and for anyone who goes along with my argument, needless to say–the difference between stories and scientific, naturalistic explanations.

    Regarding whether Jesus was only gentle, meek and mild, you seem to be forgetting that I said God’s bad side (to understate the matter) “persists in the New Testament, with the hell doctrine (infinite punishment for finite sins) which Christianity added to Judaism, so the Christian can’t avoid the switch by ignoring the Old Testament,” and that, “If only Jesus were a fresh, independent deity, as Marcion said, the Christian wouldn’t be saddled with the crude inculcation of Jewish monotheism in the Bible or with the Trinity. But as I said, [the bad side of God] speaks through Jesus too, especially in the doctrine of eternal punishment for nonbelievers. Jesus was merciful when he came the first time, but because he was scorned he’s expected to come again, whereupon he’ll be wrathful. Bait and switch.”

    So the contrast between Yahweh and Jesus is one of emphasis. The NT’s focus is on love and forgiveness, whereas the OT’s focus is on wrath, justice, and purity. The bait and switch operates in both sets of texts, because both divine persons display both the inhuman traits associated with human sovereigns (who are naturally corrupted by their absolute power) and the admirable traits we expect from a father figure or epic saviour. But overall, the NT functions as bait for both testaments, for the Christian, which is why most Christians can afford to be literalistic in their faith, whereas most Jews are secular, pragmatic, or mystical. Were Jews to be literalistic in their faith, they’d be forced to emulate Yahweh and so would repulse much of the rest of the world with their antisocial tendencies even more than they have done throughout history.

    You say, “The henotheistic view you propose is easily explained from within the monotheistic Hebrew framework.”

    If that monotheistic account appeals to the existence of God, though, it won’t be any sort of explanation, that is, it won’t be any exposition “made to clarify something and make it understandable” (as the dictionary says). The theistic narrative (dare I say story?) will mystify rather than illuminate, because that’s what religious miracles are supposed to do, to strike us with awe so that we bow down and grovel and live in fear of a transcendent power. That’s why it’s so ironic you’re calling the secular, syncretistic account a story rather than an argument or explanation.

  33. John EP,
    Yes, there’s a difference between knowing more about the Bible and knowing more about religions in general. The 2010 Pew survey indicated that atheists and agnostics know more about the Bible and Christianity than do Christians in general (6.7 vs 6.2 scores), and about world religions (7.5 vs 4.5). But white evangelical Christians got a higher score than atheists and agnostics regarding the Bible and Christianity (7.3 vs 6.7).

    I don’t think that sort of survey proves much of anything, though, which is why, if you look carefully at the conclusion I drew, the survey supports only the opposite sort of presumption than the one Tom Gilson was making, regarding whether the Christian should be seeking to learn from the nontheist or whether it should be the other way around. It’s also why I put the whole thing in brackets.

  34. Ben,

    Point out an error? I did. In fact it was repeated five times in one of my comments.

    Click Control-F and try a few buzz words. Then look for the high lighted thing-y’s. It’s really simple.

  35. Ben,

    If Hell is Bad (and you say it is), then you count Cosmic Fairness as Good — Yes?

    If “No” then you’re disingenuous on your own terms and irrelevant wrt Scripture’s terms. If “Yes” then why are you a Non-Theist given what’s required for Universals such as Moral Facts?

    I don’t expect you to be coherent in your analytic there, but perhaps you’ll surprise us.

  36. SC Brown,
    You said, “The common errors which Benjamin Cain is guilty of in this thread wrt Sinai are evidence that such self-exploration is demonstrably missing.” And you said, ‘Inventing Non-Christian premises and arguing against them “as-if” they are actual premises within the actual Christian Metaphysic is an easy correction to get oneself to do.’

    Where did I talk about Sinai (Moses?), except briefly after you made your comments (in my comment #37)? Where do I assume my premises and the Christian’s are identical? If you’re talking about when I was explicitly arguing from a Christian viewpoint (in comment #7), I don’t say anything there about Sinai.

    So instead of arguing by vague, largely unintelligible assertions (“conflating subnarrative for metanarrative,” etc), you could just identify where exactly I commit these “common errors.” Then you could say what exactly those errors are and why they’re errors.

    I’d say the doctrine of hell (infinite punishment for finite sins) makes no sense within the Christian worldview, which posits the justice of Yahweh and the mercy of Jesus. So no, the criticism of hell doesn’t commit the nontheist to affirming anything like some theistic notion of cosmic fairness.

  37. Well, Benjamin, I’ll accept now that when you said “given,” you meant, “given for me, not for everyone.” I don’t agree that it automatically means that; usually it refers to something both parties take as given, unless someone specifies it as “for the sake of argument.” But I’ll accept now that that was what you intended. (You’d have saved some trouble by saying it rather than assuming it.)

    You say I should have been more curious to learn from Christians, but this isn’t a school and I’m not your student.

    Nah, I didn’t say that. I said it was odd how uncurious you were about intellectual history. If you’re fine with being that way, I’m not going to put any “shoulds” on you. It’s your own life, your own decision.

    “Story” is no weasel word. You gave an account of how you think monotheism developed; you treated that story as the basis for an argument; yet you gave absolutely no reason to believe your story was true. It was indeed no more than a story. Sorry, but it’s no weaseling to say so.

    Now, finally, you bring us a long set of resources to support your story. Your comment this time reaches 3,000 words. (I said before that you were prolix.)

    Your quotation from the Eerdmans source doesn’t support your earlier statement that monotheism evolved out of henotheism. There were tribal deities, yes, and Yahweh was the Hebrew tribe’s deity. By no means, however, does that mean he “absorbed” their characteristics and qualities, as you said before. It doesn’t even mean he was in significant competition with them. Read Genesis 1, and see how that compares with other cosmogonies and myths. The textual evidence argues from the beginning for God as supreme, unique, the one Creator, the one true God.

    There was still competition among gods, even in the minds of the Hebrews, as the whole OT up the Exile reveals. But this was in the minds of the Hebrews, not in the ontological reality recorded by Moses, the prophets, and the other writers.

    Your Anchor source has the same problem: Its conclusions are explainable on pretty much the same terms. It’s no argument against Israelite religion that it was expressed in an ANE context, with some cultural similarities. And even Anchor speaks of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty — words that don’t fit at all with henotheism.

    But I won’t try to match your 3,000 words in point-for-point reply. It wouldn’t exactly be matching your words anyway. If you cut and paste a book chapter’s worth of borrowed arguments, I don’t feel the need to fisk it with my own words. Answers always take longer than challenges, and by the time I finished I’d have written three or four chapters of my own.

    Let’s just agree that now you have finally made an argument for your story, so now it’s finally more than story. And let’s agree that we interpret the history differently. Your version makes sense to you; I say it’s not the only possible version, and in fact I find that the evidence speaks to God as being the one God among the many gods.

    “Bait and switch” is loaded language. I’ll leave it at that.

    Finally,

    If that monotheistic account appeals to the existence of God, though, it won’t be any sort of explanation, that is, it won’t be any exposition “made to clarify something and make it understandable” (as the dictionary says).

    Really? Huh! Who know you couldn’t appeal to the existence of God when talking about monotheism?

  38. Can we please drop the canard of “infinite punishment for finite sins”. If a woman is raped once (a so called finite sin), when the act is over is the sin finished? Shouldn’t she just get over it, forget it and move on? Well perhaps with the right resources and help she can move somewhat forward but she carries that violation against her forever and always. The offense is not finite.
    So, #1 all sin is against God and is against Him always and forever. It is not “finite and forgotten”. And #2, no one will be punished in Hell for a sin in their past that God “should just get over.” They will be there infinitely because they will continue to sin against God for eternity because that is their nature.

  39. Good point.

    Also regarding explanation, is gravity an explanation for why things fall? Yes. Was it an explanation before gravity waves were first detected? Yes. Is it an explanation even in the absence of a theory unifying it with the other fundamental forces? Yes. Is it an explanation for people who don’t understand general relativity? Yes.

    Is God potentially an explanation even while some things about him remain unexplained or incomprehensible? I suspect you’d say no. Because “God” has the word “God” in it. That’s my cynicism coming out, I’ll admit.

    But then there must be some reason you think God is no explanation, given (I use that word advisedly) how commonly we call things explanations, even when they’re less than comprehensive.

  40. “Can we please drop the canard of “infinite punishment for finite sins”

    But it’s not only Robert’s explanation that shows this to be a canard. Benjamin Cain’s own words are proof of its falsity. Mr. Cain thinks infinite punishment for finite sins untenable “under a Christian worldview, which posits the justice of Yahweh and the mercy of Jesus.”

    Mr. Cain is quite rightly concerned with justice as is God. Mr. Cain has described and I gather believes that God is a “hateful critical adjectival noun” and a “hateful critical adjective”. And Mr. Cain is certainly entitled to his opinion. We all have free will and can make our own choices. Mr. Cain has made his quite emphatically.

    Now, given Mr. Cain is correct in believing that God is concerned with justice. Would a God who knows that Mr. Cain believes him to be a “hateful critical adjectival noun” and a “hateful critical adjective” require Mr. Cain to spend eternity with him. No, of course he would not. That would certainly be unjust.

    So, God will allow Mr. Cain (and anyone else who rejects him) to choose to live out his eternity without him. Mr. Cain should most certainly think this perfectly just and merciful. The only problem I see is one of semantics. As Christians, we understand that living out eternity outside of the presence of God is problematic. We sometimes refer to that as hell. So, understandably, Mr. Cain may think he’s being “sent to hell” or people are being punished by God.

    However, that’s not what’s going on. It’s Mr. Cain, who believes God a “hateful critical adjectival noun” and a “hateful critical adjective”, who has chosen to live out eternity without God and God will allow him to do so. Perfectly just and merciful is it not Mr. Cain. What you or I call that place is neither here nor there. For you it must certainly be your own personal paradise. For us, not so much. The choice however, Mr. Cain, was yours.

  41. RobertNotBob,
    You’ve mixed up infinitude with the potential for long-lasting consequences. I agree that a crime can have bad consequences that extend well after the act of the crime. As long as those consequences eventually become negligible, though, say tens or hundreds of years in the future, the crime as a whole, including all of its effects, will be finite. Long-lasting effects are finite as long as they’re not everlasting.

    Also, the more we focus on the effects of a bad action, the more diffuse the responsibility since that action will only be a partial cause of what happens in the future, especially if we’re talking about effects in the distant future. So to punish a rapist for all the problems suffered by the victim’s grandchildren might be unjust, since those problems will have various causes, including some the rapist has nothing to do with.

    The point is that even if we include all the bad consequences of a sin, the sinner is only ever partially responsible, which means his or her guilt is finite, not absolute or infinite. We shouldn’t confuse our freewill with omnipotence. You twist the badness of a sinner’s “nature” into a reason for infinite punishment, saying the sinner will continue to sin forever in hell. But that detracts from the biblical significance of Judgment Day. The New Testament clearly says hell is a punishment for sin judged on one momentous day, after Jesus returns to Earth.

    Also, Luke 16:19-31 makes it hard to see how sinning is possible in hell. The rich man’s great sin was living in luxury while beggars starved and suffered. Presumably, there would be no life of luxuries in the lake of fire. The rich man in hell looks up at Abraham and says he’s in torment and is reduced to begging for a drop of water. So if the rich man still sins while begging for mercy in hell, that would mean the beggar, Lazarus, sins in this life, in which case Lazarus wouldn’t deserve to go to heaven. Otherwise, the point of the parable is that sinners who are dominators in this life become the downtrodden victims in the next. The strong become weak, the aggressors become tormented, the joyful become the miserable, and so on. But you’re saying the sinning would remain constant, which would conflict with the asymmetries that are crucial to the NT’s statements on hell and divine judgment.

    Moreover, as soon as we blame our nature for our deeds, we’re no longer talking about freewill, since much of our nature was formed when we were children and our brain wasn’t fully developed. So once again, we’re only ever partly responsible for our nature. Indeed, God would have to be at least partly responsible for our nature, for creating the conditions for the environment in which our nature (or set of psychological tendencies) is formed. So to punish us for original sin or for God’s choice of creating this particular world would be unjust. Again, it’s the contrast between our fallibility and finitude and partial responsibility, on the one hand, with the absoluteness and irreversibility of divine judgment, on the other, that seems bizarre and unjust.

    Finally, you say, ‘all sin is against God and is against Him always and forever. It is not “finite and forgotten”.’

    If you’re saying sinners are punished for injuring God, and so the punishment must be everlasting because the injury is everlasting, God being eternal and infinite, there’s still the above problem that we’d only ever be partly to blame for that injury. Our freewill is greatly limited, unlike God’s which would be absolute. But you’ve also raised a problem for God’s omnipotence, since you’re implying that God’s creatures could injure God, and that even the slightest injury to God is all-important. This would make God’s omniscience into quite the vulnerability, since God would be like one of those tormented geniuses with an inability to forget anything. The slightest unpleasant memory becomes a scar for life. Would omniscience be more a curse than a blessing, in that case? Indeed, I think omnipotence would certainly be a curse, since as far as human experience shows, power inevitably corrupts, which is why in comparing God to a king, the OT often depicts God as tyrannical. The question, then, would be why we should expect perfect justice from a tormented tyrant?

  42. Benjamin,

    I think we ought to clarify purposes here: Who is seeking to prove what? You have taken the positive position that God is a tyrant. You also say that hell is unjust. If there is any proof to be made here, then, that proof is yours to supply.

    I do not think Christians have to prove that hell is just, in any case, for three reasons.

    First, any such proof would have to land here: “From the point of view of an infinite, eternal, perfectly holy, just, righteous, loving Creator God, hell is a just punishment for (at least) some persons’ actions during earthly life.” You can see the difficulty there, I hope: We don’t have the slightest hope of access to an infinite, eternal perfectly holy, just, righteous, loving Creator’s point of view. There is no such proof possible, even conceptually.

    Second, God has demonstrated that he is good and righteous, through the cross of Jesus Christ. For Christians that demonstration is more than satisfactory. Whether we can prove the same to you is really up to your own attitude toward sin, holiness, and justice, which is out of our control.

    Third, people’s views on justice differ, so that proof of justice is impossible even in many mundane matters. Is a short prison sentence for possession of marijuana just or unjust? Prove it. Are laws mandating such a sentence just or unjust? Prove it! It’s impossible.

    But you want to make a case that God is unjust. That’s on you, then. Show that you are correct.

    To do that, though, you cannot use answers such as,

    As long as those consequences eventually become negligible, though, say tens or hundreds of years in the future, the crime as a whole, including all of its effects, will be finite. Long-lasting effects are finite as long as they’re not everlasting.

    You can only use such answers if you say,

    In my opinion, As long as those consequences eventually become negligible, though, say tens or hundreds of years in the future, the crime as a whole, including all of its effects, will be finite. Long-lasting effects are finite as long as they’re not everlasting.

    Or if you prove that your statement is true, of course, which you aren’t even attempting to do.

    How do you know that effects dissipate, become diffuse, etc., in the mind of God? You don’t. You know the process by which that kind of thing happens among humans, but you know nothing of such processes in the mind of God.

    In fact, you have no inkling of the real long-term effects of sin. A woman gets beat up by her husband. She forgets about it over the course of decades. What else resulted from that broken relationship, though? Do you know? God can. You can’t.

    So what we have is your opinion. Let’s make sure that’s clear. It’s your opinion that hell is unjust. Duly noted, and thank you for letting us know.

    Now briefly (very) for the rest. You’ve misunderstood the rich man’s great sin, by the way, and there’s much I could say in answer to your freewill objection. Your previous attempts to show that you understand something about Christianity are pretty much all wiped out by your suggestion that we might even possibly teach that God could suffer injury. Your “tormented tyrant” supposition only proves it further. It’s actually a demonstration of my OP: You don’t know what Christianity teaches, and you don’t give a damn about it, either.

    But all of that’s secondary if we forget the purpose of this conversation: Who is trying to prove what? Can you prove hell is unjust? Or are you expecting Christians to prove hell can be just?

  43. at #46. It’s not their nature as in “they were created that way”. But it has become the way “they are”. I do not blame my nature for the sin I freely choose to do. The devil did not make me do it (to coin a phrase). I am fallen and sin against a perfect and holy God (but I have recognized this in me and I have repented and asked for forgiveness and I soldier on). They too have chosen to rebel against God but they continue to raise their fist against Him and will for eternity. As for the rich man and Lazarus, you stop reading too soon; finish the chapter. The rich man is still in rebellion. He gives no indication he is willing to repent. He just wants a sip of water to give him a break from his anguish. Notice Abraham tells him his brothers too have all the info they need to repent.
    As for the rapist and the victim, I am not talking of consequences to following generations. In the “relationship” between the R and V, the offense always exists. In my relationship with God my sin is always an offense to Him. To use terms like “unpleasant memory”, “scar for life”, or “tormented tyrant” in referring to God just shows you really don’t know a thing about Him.

  44. Bill T (#45),
    Your entire post is a strawman fallacy. I don’t believe God is a hateful tyrant, because I don’t believe the universe has a personal creator. What I was referring to throughout this thread is “God as depicted in the Bible” or, for short, “the biblical God.” For example, I asked, “We’re supposed to have dominion over the planet because of our godlike attributes, but how should we expect godlike creatures to act in the world, given the Bible’s depiction of our maker?” So what you’re doing is what Tom Gilson did, which is to assume that atheism is impossible, that the atheist secretly believes God exists and only hates the deity, thusly deserving hell for the rebellion and dishonesty. As I showed, that’s exactly like what Tom Gilson was accusing me of doing throughout this thread: taking it for granted that Christians accept an anti-Christian characterization of their God.

    In any case, your theodicy or progressive interpretation of hell ignores the plain statements on hell in the NT. The NT says hell is punishment for sin, so it’s not a matter merely of “Mr. Cain thinking” ‘he’s being “sent to hell” or people are being punished by God.’ You explicitly say, “However, that’s not what’s going on.”

    The parable of the sheep and the goats disagrees: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt.25:46). The Greek for “punishment” is “kolasin,” from “kolazo,” which means ‘properly, to dwarf, mutilate (curtail); used of punishing slaves to incapacitate them; hence, to punish (cause agony) to curtail (“dock/check,” Abbott-Smith), i.e. in a way that restrains (impedes, restricts)’ (Strong’s Concordance) or “to lop or prune, as trees and wings; to curb, check, restrain; to chastise, correct, punishment; to cause to be punished” (Thayer’s definition).

    What’s the punishment for, according to that parable? Is it to give sinners exactly what they want, namely departure from God? No, it’s because, “ ‘I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me’ ” (Matt.25:42-43).

    But to make sense of hell as a just punishment, you somehow have to come to believe the sinner wants to be there, because then the divine judgment can be squared with the Christian idea of a loving God. God’s only giving sinners what they crave and the notion of hell as torment or punishment is only subjective. In short, God creates two heavens, one for Christians, the other for nonbelievers, so the unrepentant sinners will love their eternity away from God. Hell will be their “personal paradise,” as you say. If they come to be tormented, realizing the full consequence of their “choice,” that will mean they’ve changed their mind, in which case you’d have to explain how God could be just and loving if he doesn’t remove souls from hell as soon as they feel any torment, as opposed to feeling the pleasure of being in a personal paradise. That interpretation of hell would then conflict with the biblical assertions that hell is eternal.

    Has the atheist “chosen to live out eternity without God”? Only in the same way you’ve “chosen” to live without any of the billions of gods you don’t believe in or in the same way you disregard the prospect of living with a fictional character such as Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter. So if someone said you hate Darth Vader, as opposed to hating a movie’s depiction of a fictional villain, wouldn’t you think a strawman fallacy had been perpetrated against you? Or if someone said to you, “By choosing to reject eternal life with Luke Skywalker, you’ve chosen to spend eternity with Darth Vader,” wouldn’t you deem that a gross perversion of what you’ve done in regard to Star Wars?

  45. Interesting rhetorical move here:

    Has the atheist “chosen to live out eternity without God”? Only in the same way you’ve “chosen” to live without any of the billions of gods you don’t believe in or in the same way you disregard the prospect of living with a fictional character such as Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter.

    This is true if the Christian God is unreal in the same way as those fictional characters. Otherwise the atheist has chosen to reject reality — his actual, infinite, true, loving, creator God. And that is a different matter altogether, wouldn’t you agree?

    So this premise in your argument is true if the conclusion is true; but you use the premise to argue toward that conclusion. Circular.

    I’ll let BillT handle the rest. I just found this interesting, in the midst of working on some other things.

  46. Another quick point, since your opening line seemed odd at first glance:

    Your entire post is a strawman fallacy. I don’t believe God is a hateful tyrant, because I don’t believe the universe has a personal creator. What I was referring to throughout this thread is “God as depicted in the Bible” or, for short, “the biblical God.”

    I took a closer look at it. BillT’s entire post wasn’t a strawman fallacy because he was answering you on exactly those terms.

    Pretty strange for you to chide him when he was doing exactly what you said he ought to have been doing.

  47. Benjamin,

    To start with, my response to you is not a strawman argument as Tom mentioned. You made the point that God is unjust for sending people to “infinite punishment for finite sins.” I addressed that issue. I answered that God gives everyone a choice to believe in him and accept his forgiveness and that those who chose not to believe in him and not accept his forgiveness are allowed to live their eternity without him. That addresses the issue of whether God is just.

    Also, I do not “assume that atheism is impossible”. I take you at your word that you “don’t believe the universe has a personal creator.” Further, I grant that you could be correct. That’s the point. We all are making choices about the existence of God. Some of us will be correct and some of us will not be. The fact is that there are ramifications for those choices. If there is no God, we who do believe in God will have wasted our lives, as you said, believing in a fiction. If there is a God, you who don’t believe will be allowed to live their eternity without him.

    As to your reference to the parable of the sheep and the goats. “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” is written from a Christian perspective and I addressed this in my prior post. Of course, we think that eternity outside of the presence if God is punishment. We believe we worship a loving, gracious, forgiving God and an eternity spent outside his presence would certainly be a punishment from our perspective. It’s a fair and just warning from believers to those who are not. If you chose not to believe that warning that’s fine but you were fairly warned.

    Here’s a bigger problem with your perspective. You don’t understand what the problem is or what the Bible says about it. You say that people are sent to “infinite punishment for finite sins.” However, you are ignoring central message of what the Bible says. People aren’t being punished for their sins. We are all sinners. Me as much or more as anyone. (And Tom is especially bad!) Why don’t I fear punishment. Because I am forgiven. The problem for people who reject God isn’t that they are sinners and that they’ll be punished for their sins. The problem is they are unforgiven sinners who rejected God’s gracious gift of forgiveness.

    You say “God’s only giving sinners what they crave and the notion of hell as torment or punishment is only subjective. In short, God creates two heavens, one for Christians, the other for nonbelievers, so the unrepentant sinners will love their eternity away from God. Hell will be their “personal paradise,” as you say.” I never said hell was subjective or that God creates two heavens. I said those who reject him are going just where they chose to go. There is nothing unjust about God allowing that. If it turns out not to be such a nice place, as I said above, they were fairly warned.

    You say “Has the atheist “chosen to live out eternity without God”? Only in the same way you’ve “chosen” to live without any of the billions of gods you don’t believe in or in the same way you disregard the prospect of living with a fictional character such as Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter.” Ok. Fair enough. However, the deciding factor here isn’t what I believe or what you believe. My beliefs don’t change reality and neither do yours. The deciding factor is which of us chose to believe what is true. I’m perfectly comfortable not believing in any of the billions of other gods or in disregarding the prospect of living with a fictional character such as Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter. Are you as confident with your choice? If so, what’s the problem.

  48. Tom Gilson (#42 and #44),
    I’d like to clarify some things for the last time before turning to a more important issue you raise in comment #44.

    “Given that” doesn’t mean “given for me, not for everyone,” as though we were talking about something subjective like taste in food or music. The phrase means “this is what I’m assuming in my arguments and it’s what you all should assume too.” Of course I knew I was writing in a Christian forum and so most readers here wouldn’t automatically accept my arguments. Thus, instead of just asserting a negative characterization of Yahweh’s personality as depicted in the Bible, I added “given that” as a better way of saying “In my opinion…”

    Your statement that “it was odd how uncurious you were about intellectual history” is baseless and preposterous ad hominem. Your OP alleges that atheists who criticize Yahweh’s personality must be incurious because they presume Christians are too ignorant about the Bible to renounce faith in that sort of deity, and so atheists must themselves be grossly ignorant of the history of Christian interpretation of the Bible. I’ve shown at length in my comments that that’s preposterous. The criticism of the Jewish scriptures goes well beyond new atheists, since it’s based in ancient Jewish mysticism, pragmatism, and secularism. And I’m well aware that many Christians are not ignorant of the Bible and have their own way of interpreting problematic biblical passages. There are plenty of psychological mechanisms and ulterior motives that could be operating there beyond mere ignorance. Moreover, I demonstrated that I can think like a Christian, whereas you didn’t show you can think like an anti-Christian.

    You mix up your points about the “story.” Remember that what you call a story was itself an argument supporting my negative characterizations of Yahweh. I showed that the criticism goes beyond new atheists and explained why we shouldn’t be surprised that the OT God has a certain personality, because of how monotheism historically emerged. You say I “treated that story as the basis for an argument; yet you gave absolutely no reason to believe your story was true.” But that historical account of monotheism’s development was the supporting argument, and it was meant to support not itself but the negative characterizations of Yahweh’s personality as that was depicted in the Bible.

    So now you want an argument to support that supporting argument, and then you’ll ask for another argument supporting that second argument, all while chastising me for the length of my comments. But that’s why I cited authoritative sources like Anchor and Eerdmans, to terminate that line of criticism. If my account is based on quality, standard OT scholarship, I don’t have to go any further. Certainly not in a mere blog’s comment section.

    You say regarding Genesis that “The textual evidence argues from the beginning for God as supreme, unique, the one Creator, the one true God.”

    But that assumes that Genesis in its current form was written earliest just because it comes first in the OT. That’s not how critical historians view the Bible. The origins of that text are indeed quite old, since the biblical text is based on the Babylonian creation myth (the Enuma Elis). However, the Torah as a whole was rewritten and edited in the Persian period only four or five hundred years BCE. Moreover, there’s polytheism in Genesis that slipped through the fingers of the Priestly redactors, as in 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” The next verse then contradicts that, saying, “So God created man in His own image.” That’s the sort of jumble I was talking about, because of how Jewish monotheism emerged from polytheism through syncretism and politics.

    But that’s enough of those red herrings. The more interesting issue you follow up on is whether theism qualifies as an explanation. Gravity wouldn’t serve as an explanation if no one understood the concept of gravity. Indeed, this is the position of quantum mechanics, which has led to the problem of interpreting that theory’s meaning. The crucial difference here is between a tool that works in achieving some purpose, regardless of whether anyone understands how the tool works, and an account that increases our understanding by explaining some ideas in terms of simpler ideas. The problem with pseudoscience, for example, is that a fake theory can only pile up obscurities to hide behind complexity that doesn’t shed light on the phenomenon or help organize our worldview by showing how our concepts should be connected.

    Originally, animism and theism might have been protoscientific, as James Frazer contended. If the concept of God is taken literally, so that there’s no hiding behind mysteries, miracles, or mysticism, the idea that the universe was created by a superhuman person would make sense, as far as it goes, since this idea extends our knowledge of how intelligent, social creatures can use technology for creative purposes. The limitations of that literalistic explanation are obvious: living things originate from other living things, and we don’t know how life comes from nonlife, so that account raises the question of the superhumans’ origin. Do the gods have parents, and do those divine parents have parents, leading to an infinite regress? Polytheistic cosmology is limited because it doesn’t explain one set of concepts in simpler terms, but only posits more of what we’re already familiar with: the creativity and squabbles of intelligent, social beings.

    If we interpret the divine beings as transcending our comprehension—which was the Jewish innovation—the appeal to God loses its explanatory force, since it no longer clarifies as much as it humbles and terrifies. That suggests that monotheism and mysticism (as in the Eastern religions, for example) are more like working tools than like explanations that compete with scientific theories. This pragmatic interpretation of religions raises the question of the purpose served by the concept of a transcendent God, and there are numerous possible answers ranging from the protection of mass happiness, to population control, to political exploitation, to various diversions.

    What monotheism and mysticism should do is show the limit of our attempts to explain and to understand the world. Again, that’s the point that emerges from the Jewish scriptures. And on my blog I challenge naturalism with this “cosmicist,” Nietzschean interpretation of the upshot of science’s decentering of life within the universe. Christianity represents an attempt to bridge monotheism and polytheism, and I’d argue that that religion offers only pseudo-explanations, since it obscures more than it enlightens.

    Anyway, this is a big problem with the new literalistic religions: they lose their purpose by attempting to emulate science. Religious texts excel at being myths, that is, at telling a special kind of story. What they don’t do well at all is to enhance our understanding of how the world really works. The problem is that with the rise of science and scientism, many members of exoteric religions have forgotten what religion and myths are for. They want to control other people the way scientists and engineers control nature. These religionists use their stories not to improve their character or to learn why we should be humble and compassionate, but to exploit others’ weaknesses, to dominate out of arrogance, vanity, or resentment. In short, these secretly science-centered religions become spiritually bankrupt.

  49. Tom Gilson (#47),
    Regarding hell and the burden of proof, I think your first two points are fair. Indeed, your first point that Christians ultimately concede that God works in mysterious ways is precisely why monotheism doesn’t have explanatory power. That’s not to say monotheism has no power at all, since clearly religions have social, psychological, and political power, as I explained in my previous comment.

    As for your third point, about the nature of justice, there’s obviously been a lot of thought on that in the West, going back at least to Plato. One necessary condition of justice is fairness or balance, the giving back of the equivalent of what’s been received. No matter what anyone does on Earth, no matter how far the terrestrial consequences go, we’re dealing here with finitude. This world will end one way or another, even if it’s billions of years in the future. Billions of years still add up to a finite amount. (So you err in saying my statement that “Long-lasting effects are finite as long as they’re not everlasting” is only a matter of “opinion.” Rather, the statement is analytic. I was just defining the difference between the finite and the infinite, and applying the definition to the matter at hand.)

    But the NT explicitly says the punishment of sin is eternal and everlasting. To me, that’s a trace of the older Jewish way of thinking: the Christian idea of hell puts the Yahweh in Jesus, as it were.

    You can say the effects of sin don’t “dissipate, become diffuse, etc., in the mind of God,” but then you’re faced with the awkward theological implications I outlined. Are you saying God’s not powerful enough to forget about sin? Are you implying that our sins injure God, that the memory of sin is a permanent offense in God’s mind? Does God suffer as a result of our sin and is he doomed to suffer forever, which is why he must punish sinners forever?

    More importantly, if God doesn’t and can’t suffer at all from our sin, what’s the significance of his taking offense at sin? Granted, a compassionate God would be offended on behalf of the human people who suffer because of sin, but that would call only for finite punishments to match the finite harms done to finite creatures in a finite world. Also, why would God be so appalled by human sin when he’s the one who would have made us imperfect? He’d have made us fallible creatures (animals with certain godlike capacities), so isn’t it irrational and unjust to expect the impossible?

    The example of saintly Jesus is no help, since he was supposed to have been the only begotten Son of God. If we all had God rather than any human as one of our parents, presumably we could be perfectly moral (assuming for the sake of argument Jesus was perfect in that respect). Why, then, should Jesus be the model for human behaviour? Isn’t that like asking an ant to fly to the moon? Jesus was a man, but he was also supposed to have been God himself. No other human can say as much, according to Christianity, so it’s apples and oranges, Jesus and the rest of us.

    You can say that’s precisely God’s plan, to determine who’s fit to be adopted as his children in the heavenly kingdom, but that would amount to conceding the point that prior to the transformation from our animal nature to our new spiritual bodies, we’re not demigods so it’s plainly unjust to judge us as though we could be as perfect as God Almighty. If he’s judging us for the harms we do to ourselves and to each other, hell would have to be finite or rehabilitative to fit the magnitude of the crimes (even conceding that our sins can have very long-lasting harms). Just because God’s displeasure might be infinite (on behalf of the people who have suffered because of finite sins), that wouldn’t by itself justify infinite punishment of sin, unless God’s displeasure were an infinite injury to God. If God can’t suffer, because he’s omnipotent, his memory of sin or his attitude toward human immorality wouldn’t be one of the damages done by sin. No harm, no foul. No foul, no just punishment. If the harms are finite, so must be the punishment, so sin’s being against God would be a red herring if God can’t suffer.

    Regarding your claim that “Your previous attempts to show that you understand something about Christianity are pretty much all wiped out by your suggestion that we might even possibly teach that God could suffer injury,” I was merely trying to understand what Robert’s #43 post was saying, since he was comparing God to a raped woman. He asked rhetorically, “Shouldn’t she just get over it, forget it and move on?” even though the consequences of the crime might be long-lasting (but still finite, contrary to what he inferred), and then he used the same language with respect to God: ‘all sin is against God and is against Him always and forever. It is not “finite and forgotten”. And #2, no one will be punished in Hell for a sin in their past that God “should just get over.” ’

    What does it mean to go “against” God if can’t feel the slightest injury? And what does it mean to say God “can’t get over” sin if God can’t suffer in any way? In the rape victim’s case, she’s unable to get over the trauma, the harm done to her. If God can’t be traumatized, what can’t he get over? Where’s the analogy if God can’t suffer? Indeed, how can God be compassionate if he can’t empathize or feel bad on behalf of other people when they suffer, which would entail that God can suffer even if it’s only suffering from unpleasant emotions.

    By the way, your continual claim that I “don’t know what Christianity teaches” presupposes that there’s only one such set of teachings or one Christian religion, whereas there are a multitude of Christian sects and interpretations on every conceivable issue. So my talk of whether God can be injured was an attempt to understand Robert’s Christianity.

    You ask whether I can “prove” hell is unjust. Dude, get over yourself. This is a comment section on a blog, not a Ph.D. thesis.

  50. RobertNotBob (#48),
    Yes, an adult eventually helps define his nature as he develops, but he doesn’t do so from birth. Who’s responsible for setting up the environment in which we develop? Who included the serpent in Eden? Who made the heavens and the earth? Yeah, I’m afraid God would be largely responsible for all of our natures, for having created the world in which we develop and eventually act with limited freedom.

    If someone forever raises a fist against a mountain, and the mountain can’t suffer, because it’s a mountain and suffering is only for finite creatures, the raised fist does no harm to the mountain, so that act of raising a fist is irrelevant as a justification of hell’s eternal duration.

    The reason the rich man doesn’t repent in hell is because he knows doing so wouldn’t do him any good, because the sentence of hell on Judgment Day is supposed to be irreversible. The NT’s claim about hell isn’t that hell may or may not be everlasting, depending on whether the sinner finally repents–and of course suffering hellfire after death when God’s existence would be blindingly obvious would drive any sinner whatsoever to repent in a nanosecond. No, the NT doctrine is that hell is eternal. So knowing that that was his sentence, despite the necessarily finite harms following from his sins while on Earth, why would the rich man repent in hell to a God who wouldn’t be listening anymore?

    Have a look at my comment #54 for more on whether God can or should suffer. Remember that you’re the one who compared God to a raped woman who can’t get over the trauma, so you’re the one who led us down that rabbit hole. If you know so much about God, can you explain what it means to say God “can’t get over” human sin, given that God can’t suffer in any way even to the extent of having an unpleasant memory or suffering from empathy (feeling pain on other people’s behalf)? And can you explain how it’s possible to move “against” an immovable object?

  51. I need to get over myself? You’re the one who’s written almost 16,000 words on this thread (not including 3,200 recently on other threads) Just for perspective, at 250 words per page (as is average for a Ph.D. dissertation), your input on this page equals about 63 pages. You’re halfway there, given one researcher’s finding that the modal length of a dissertation is about 130 pages. If you’re not trying to make a point with all those words, what are you trying to do?

    You say,

    By the way, your continual claim that I “don’t know what Christianity teaches” presupposes that there’s only one such set of teachings or one Christian religion, whereas there are a multitude of Christian sects and interpretations on every conceivable issue.

    Let me specify: You don’t know much about the Christianity you’re ostensibly engaging with here, which is historic, orthodox, creedal Christianity. Sometimes I hone in further on my own specific evangelical beliefs, but usually I’m defending the Christianity of the centuries, of the great creeds. I don’t care what you know about heterodox doctrines. I don’t care if you can refute them. I’d rather you not send us off on squirrel trails over them. This blog is about historic, orthodox, creedal Christianity.

    If you understand that Christianity, you haven’t demonstrated it. And honestly, I have no problem with it when people don’t understand Christian beliefs. My problem with you is that you keep saying you do understand it, while demonstrating clearly you do not.

    You ask lots of questions. I have told you already, I am not going to try to match you word for word, much less answer-for-question, since answers take so many more words than questions. And I have no confidence you care about Christian answers, since you know it all already anyway.

    Show me I’m wrong and I might engage again.

  52. Cain asks whether it’s possible to move against an immovable object. Of course you can! But the effects of doing so would only backfire. You’d be running in your tracks and the immovable object would remain exactly as it was, since the mover would leave no impact.

    It’s the same with the sinner and God. The unsaved sinner’s rebellion harms only that person, not God, and that’s what hell is: the sinner’s self-injury, the backfiring of his life of futile rebellion against his maker.

  53. “John,”

    You’re a liar. No denying it; this one’s a smoking gun.

    I quote from Benjamin Cain here:

    So Gilson angrily accused me again of not understanding Christianity and refused to engage with me further unless I show him he’s wrong in thinking I don’t care about Christian answers. I’ve noticed that no one else has posted another comment in that thread, so Gilson has apparently shut down the thread. (To prove that that’s what he did, I tried posting a Christian-sounding comment under a different name and email address, and that comment, too, wasn’t uploaded.) Presumably, Gilson’s point is that only if I show him I’m open to receiving Christian answers in comments on one of his other articles might he deign to converse with me. But for now, he’s going home and he’s taking his ball with him, preventing the side conversations on hell with Bill T and Robert from going forward. Instead of admitting that that’s what he did, though, he leaves the thread with his challenge so that a reader might reasonably conclude that I proved incapable of meeting it and fled from the exchange (since Gilson has prevented me from posting anything else there).

    Your comment came from the same IP as this one from Benjamin. You’ve violated the discussion policy, “John,” (number 11 here) and for that you can expect your fake email address to be blocked from further commenting.

    Benjamin, several things.

    First, my previous comment to you wasn’t angry, as you said in your blog post. That’s not what anger looks like. Your accusation is what projection looks like sometimes, but that’s just a possibility; I won’t commit to an actual accusation, as you did with me.

    Second, I haven’t shut down the thread. If I had there’d be no comment box.

    Third, I didn’t prevent anyone from posting here. Every new commenter’s first comment is held in moderation until I see it and release it, which I did immediately upon seeing it. I went through my usual work routine upon opening up my computer, and that was first on the list. A few minutes later I came across this blog post of yours.

    Fourth, you have a lousy standard of proof if you think your comment from “John Hue” was proof I’d shut you off from any conversation here.

    Fifth, I don’t play the kind of shenanigans you accuse me of, letting readers think you wouldn’t respond to me.

    Sixth, Now that you’ve played your own shenanigans of this sort with me, I actually am going to block you from further commenting. You get one more chance to have the last word, and it will remain, provided it complies with the agreed discussion guidelines (see the sidebar for the link that’s always there, or click here for convenience. I still reserve the right to delete for cause, based on those guidelines. I reserve the right to let any comment stand, too, as I did with “John’s.” So write accordingly.

    Seventh, You jumped to a whole lot of conclusions based on false interpretations of very thin evidence. Do you like doing that?

    Eight, You can feel free to copy and paste this comment on your blog. You can even describe it as angry if you like. This time it’s true. But don’t enjoy it too much — I’ll be over it in a few minutes, and moving on to more interesting things.

  54. Yes, I wrote the “John Hue” comment. Did you wonder why I would bother to do that? It’s because my response to Bill T’s #52 comment didn’t go through, meaning it never appeared in your comment section even though I sent it three times yesterday and today. So I wanted to see if any comments were getting through. I’ve since posted that response to Bill T on my blog.

    If only the first comments from new posters are held in moderation, why wasn’t my response to Bill T posted? I gave you the benefit of the doubt and assumed you’d somehow shut down the whole thread, but if that’s not so, it looks more likely that you blocked me individually from posting. That would be shenanigans.

    I wrote the John Hue comment only after you’d apparently blocked my response to Bill T, so as usual you mix things up when you say, ‘you have a lousy standard of proof if you think your comment from “John Hue” was proof I’d shut you off from any conversation here.’

    But whatever. I don’t respect you as a thinker or as a Christian, so I’m done with you too. Congratulations on finding your pretext to ban me.

  55. Your comments yesterday inadvertently hit an automatic-delete flag. Early in my blogging career I was plagued with comments making rude, wrong, and disturbing references to female anatomy. So long, long ago I must have set one of those words as triggers for immediate comment deletion. I can’t post the trigger word here or it will delete again, so I’ll just make it close enough for you to recognize it: You wrote “pu$$y-footing,” and the system said, “There’s that word I can’t permit …”

    I didn’t block you, in other words. But I will now. Yes, I understand the frustration. I am sorry your posts were deleted. But I don’t think that constitutes adequate evidence for the sweepingly negative conclusions you reached about me.

    You’re welcome to respond one more time.

  56. How is it, then, that atheists can think they can make such strong, final pronouncements about our God — so firmly convinced, it appears as if they’re sure no one has any contrary answer — based on their own quick, off-the-cuff or (frequently) cut-and-paste assessments? How can they possibly be so uninterested in so much of the world’s history? How can they be so content with knowing (or at least acting as if they know) so little?

    Benjamin answered the major points of your question/post. But maybe you missed them?

    Atheists do not believe in gods – period.
    And why must they show reverence or deference to your god over and above any other deity such as Quetzalcoatl, for example?
    The average Christian has never read the bible in its entirety, and thus, has little understanding of it beyond what has been inculcated with from the knee/pulpit,
    I would consider that I was one of those average Christians – it was primarily cultural membership
    above anything else.
    If you inquire of a deconvert – and especially one who came from a more fundamental evangelical background/environment what was the turning point that caused them to give up their faith, I suspect the more likely response will be it was because they read the bible – all of it .

    Regards.
    Ark.

  57. Atheists do not believe in gods – period.

    I think we all understand that. The issue is whether that belief is well informed. In your post you criticize Christians for being uninformed and having little understanding of their beliefs. What? We shouldn’t be able to level the same criticisms towards atheists?

    Then you say that deconverts from Christianity are those who actually come to know the Bible. So, would it also hold true that deconverts from atheism would be those who became informed about their beliefs.

  58. @ BillT

    The issue is whether that belief is well informed.

    The lack of belief is all based upon evidence. or lack thereof.
    For example, the bible is absolutely riddled with error.
    Feel free, however, to present verifiable evidence. I would welcome discussing what ever you have.

    you criticize Christians for being uninformed and having little understanding of their beliefs.

    Most Christians I have encountered have been uninformed. If Christianity were reliant solely on evidence then there would be no need for faith.

    So, would it also hold true that deconverts from atheism would be those who became informed about their beliefs.

    I have not personally encountered any atheists who converted to Christianity or any other religion so it would be unfair for me to say.
    If you know of any, let’s look at their reasons.
    It would be fascinating, wouldn’t you agree?

  59. The lack of belief is all based upon evidence. or lack thereof.

    But you’ve made this claim without a shred of evidence.

    Most Christians I have encountered have been uninformed.

    And we should take this evidence free, anecdotal claim as proof of what exactly.

    I have not personally encountered any atheists who converted to Christianity or any other religion so it would be unfair for me to say.

    How convenient.

    If you know of any, let’s look at their reasons.

    Shall we start with Africa where over the last century the continent has gone from almost no Christians to being 50/60+% Christian. That’s over half a billion Christians currently. Or maybe we should discuss China where there are at least 150 million people who have converted to Christianity. Or maybe we can talk about the at least 15 million people in South Korea who have converted to Christianity. Here in America Evangelical Christianity has been growing steadily.

    I know you don’t live in all of those countries but that’s a lot of people converting. Certainly says a lot more about Christianity than your “I don’t know of any”. As for their reasons, the reason people convert to Christianize is pretty consistent historically. They believe it to be true.

  60. @ BillT

    But you’ve made this claim without a shred of evidence.

    You see, if you are going to be facetious then any meaningful dialogue becomes a complete waste of time.
    Furthermore, in the bible as you are commanded to make answer then your somewhat hand-waving sarcasm does nothing to engender any inclination on the behalf of the skeptic to take you seriously.

    If I say I have never encountered an atheist who converted to Christianity then I am telling the truth.
    Yes, I am aware of Anthony Flew’s claimed conversion to accepting deism, but I have never personally met or discussed with an atheist who converted to Christianity.
    But I have discussed with many who have deconverted.
    Why would I lie?

    With regard your Christian conversions:
    I said we could look at the reasons, and yet did not mention anything other than they believe, and simply attempted to make your point using a barrage of figures.

    Also, one has to wonder why you did not include Europe?
    Maybe it is because the evidence tells us quite clearly that Europe is steadily moving away from religion.

    Let’s try again, Bill.
    Start with this:
    Please provide some verifiable evidence to support your belief in the foundation claims of your faith.

  61. First of all you have stated that you have a belief about the existence of God. Yet, you haven’t given any reason why you so believe. Is that what we should infer, that you have no reasons for your beliefs. It’s what I suspect is true but you could dispel that. You did claim “The lack of belief is all based upon evidence. or lack thereof” yet when I suggested you provide some you accused me of being facetious. I don’t see why a request that you back up your statement is facetious in any way.

    And as far as someone else, besides the billion or so I already mentioned, who converted to Christianity from a secular belief system I could point to myself. Or my wife or any of a dozen people I can think of off the top of my head.

    Your question for me to provide some verifiable evidence is about an order of magnitude to large a question for a com box. There are enough books that answer this question to fill a library. Perhaps something a bit more specific that I could realistically address. For instance you said “For instance, the bible(sic) is absolutely riddled with error.” Could you give a reason why you believe this.

  62. Wrong I have a lack of belief. I am an atheist. Let’s not go round this silly ”mulberry bush,” please?
    It has been done to death.

    My lack of belief is because of a complete lack of evidence for the claims of Christians where it pertains to their belief and their faith.
    Maybe you are different?

    Again, I asked for you to provide verifiable evidence for the foundation claims of your faith.

    It’s a simple, straightforward request.
    You obviously believe you have such evidence so why not present it?
    How hard could that be?

  63. It’s a simple, straightforward request.
    You obviously believe you have such evidence so why not present it?
    How hard could that be?

    As I said (and you ignored) “Your question for me to provide some verifiable evidence is about an order of magnitude to large a question for a com box.” I even made a suggestion (which you also ignored).

    Glad to engage you on any question you may have but a open ended “provide some verifiable evidence” is just a dishonest approach to a discussion.

  64. I’ve had a hard week, traveling for what I thought would be my dad’s funeral. He lived through the crisis, but it took a lot out of the whole family. So for tonight I’ll give just some articles to browse. Several of them contain actual evidence, others discuss the nature of evidence and what it means to make a request such as you have made.

    On that note, I t’s self-evidently true that when you say “evidence” you don’t mean evidence in the usual sense of the word, but “evidence that would convince someone such as myself whose strong prior bias is to find alternative interpretations to explain it away.” That’s not an accurate understanding of the “evidence,” which is part of the reason your fulminations about it being a “simple, straightforward request” are disingenuous.

    Anyway, here is my quick offering in answer to your challenge. There are 65 articles here. If it seems orders of magnitude more than you wanted, don’t say BillT never warned you.

  65. Regarding the nature of “evidence,” on a normal, straightforward understanding of the term the existence of Christians in the first century is evidence for the truth of Christianity. Is it proof? No one could possibly think so, but then not every exhibit ever introduced in a court of law was proof, yet they still call it evidence, because the term was never meant to be synonymous with “proof.”

    You say there’s no evidence, but a claim like that is only possible if you take “evidence” to mean as I wrote just above: evidence that would convince someone such as yourself who approaches it with a strong bias toward explaining it in other ways.

    If I am correct in thinking that’s how you view “evidence” in this context, I will admit we have nothing to satisfy you. Christianity actually predicts that we would have nothing to satisfy the person who is strongly predisposed against believing. Read Pascal (not the Wager, the whole Pensees) and find out why, if you care to know.

    The point in short is that there remains a decision of heart and will in association with mind. The other point is that admission to heaven isn’t predicated on one’s access to the plethora of evidenc, or one’s mental capacity to evaluate it all.

    This is a feature of Christianity not favorably looked upon by the intellectually proud, but it is inherent to the faith. It depends more than anything else on one’s willingness to submit to God in humility.

    Did I say thereby that there is no evidence? Absolutely not! Only that access to the mountains of evidence is not the only route to knowledge of God. And also that you will not be denied the ability to explain the evidence, away if you’d rather not follow God through Jeusu Christ.

    There’s way more than enough evidence to support and justify faith intellectually. It does not compel it intellectually, because God never intended faith to be the product of intellectual compulsion.

  66. Oh, and by the way, you’ve also completely misconstrued the relation between faith, knowledge, and belief. That’s extremely common, so it’s understandable. Would you like to know how Christianity has historically understood the relation between those terms? There’s all kinds of evidence for what I would have to tell you, if you want to know, that is.

    I’ll be glad to point you in that direction if you’re interested. If you’re not interested in knowing, then be advised that your continued use of those terms is likely to be a continuation of your erreor.

  67. Arkenaten (#61) said,
    “The average Christian has never read the bible in its entirety, and thus, has little understanding of it”.

    I suspect it is true that “[t]he average Christian has never read the [B]ible in its entirety” but do YOU have any evidence to support this or was it merely assertion?
    However, even if it were true, it certainly would not follow that they have “little understanding of it”.

    John.

  68. Furthermore, in the bible as you are commanded to make answer

    Where in the Bible is that commanded? Does it mean Christians must dance to every skeptic’s every question? Does this mean you understand the Bible’s commands better than we do?

  69. @BillT

    Dishonest? How on earth can asking for verifiable evidence for a foundational claim of your faith be dishonest?
    But as you seem upset, let’s narrow it down, then.

    Provide verifiable evidence for just one of these.
    1.The biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth.
    2. The supposed burial tomb which is claimed to have been found empty.
    3.The claimed resurrection of the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth.
    Or, perhaps you prefer the Old Testament:
    Archaeological, or scientific evidence for one of these:
    1. Adam and Eve
    2. The Noachim Flood
    3. Captivity, Exodus, and Conquest.

  70. @Tom Gilson

    A quick flit through the link you provided shows we do indeed have a different understanding of evidence.,
    Let’s simply focus on one of Christianity’s primary foundational claims first, shall we?
    The claim of resurrection of the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth.

    If you feel you have demonstrable irrefutable historical evidence of this claim then please feel free to present it.
    However, before you start.
    Using the bible as your primary source does not count as evidence unless it can be corroborated externally.

  71. @ Tom

    Where in the Bible is that commanded? Does it mean Christians must dance to every skeptic’s every question? Does this mean you understand the Bible’s commands better than we do?

    Apologies. Not commanded. ”Always be ready to give an answer ….”
    I’m sure you know the bible well enough to know the book and verse, yes?

  72. @ John

    I was an average Christian and I never read it, though I ”knew” all the popular stories.
    None of those I grew up with – all of whom would have considered themselves Christian if only in the cultural sense – never read it as far as I am aware.
    My mother did, ( and still does) as she is devout.
    My online discussions have revealed similar patterns and based on the testimony of numerous deconverted Christians, many of whom were devout and fundamentalist, have told me their deconversion can be largely attributed to a thorough reading and study of the bible.
    I can ask several to come across and tell you themselves if you are not inclined to accept my word.

  73. Arkenaten,

    So, now that Tom has provided you with the answer to your question about the evidence we have for Christianity, I’m sure that when you’re done reading the 65 articles you may have some questions. Please do get back to us with them.

  74. Hi, Bill.
    Yes, I saw Tom’s response and as I mentioned in my follow up, I did quickly peruse the link.
    That really isn’t evidence, I’m afraid.
    Basically these are arguments and by and large cannot be corroborated or substantiated,

    But I have also left a follow up comment for you.
    Waiting to hear from you.
    Regards.

  75. Actually it’s always be ready to give an answer. Jesus demonstrated when to answer and when not to. If an interlocutor was very clearly adversarial, his answers were never oriented toward the question as presented, but toward the heart condition motivating the person to ask it. That is, when questioners were clearly seeking truth and understanding, he answered at length. When they were clearly trying to trap them, he refused to play their games.

    I don’t his wisdom to discern others’ hearts. So let me just come right out and ask you. Have you already decided no such evidence for the resurrection exists? If so, then there’s nothing to be gained by my repeating it, even if I’m convinced it does. Second, suppose I gave you new evidence of which you’d previously been unaware, and you found it gave very strong credence to the resurrection after all, such that you saw it as being far more likely than not. (There is no such thing as “demonstrable irrefutable historical evidence” for anything that happened anywhere near that long ago.) If you encountered that kind of persuasive information, what would you do with it? If nothing, then it’s probably just an empty intellectual game we’re playing here, and I’ve got other ways to use my time. If you think it would really matter to you, though, please do let me know.

  76. Additionally, relevant also to your conversation with BillT, your take on “evidence” still matters. You’ve said you disagree with mine. In what way?

    For example, you’ve asked BillT for verifiable evidence of the historical character Jesus. That’s trivially easy: the Bible verifiably mentions Jesus. Josephus, Pliny, Suetonius, Tacitus, and others verifiably mention Jesus. Each of these is evidence on any normal understanding of he term. They only fall short if the term is restricted to that which would persuade a person who held a previous contrary bias.

    So before you continue demanding evidence from either of us, would you at least define where the goalposts are? What does the word mean, in your opinion?

  77. Basically these are arguments and by and large cannot be corroborated or substantiated,

    All 65 articles? Wow! You assessed them all, and so quickly? And without even leaving a hint of it on my server logs?

    You’re amazing!

  78. In fact, Arkenaten, server logs show you clicking on the one link, but not opening any of the articles on that page, and also not clicking through to any other page to see what might the other 60 or so articles were even about.

    Try the truth next time.

    (There is a privacy policy linked from the sidebar here, by the way, and it clearly explains that I have access to this kind of information.)

  79. @ Tom

    Actually it’s always be ready to give an answer.

    Yes, from Peter. as I corrected and apologized for in my follow up comment before you posted this.
    Did you miss it?

    Have you already decided no such evidence for the resurrection exists?

    It is not my decision about whether there is evidence. There simply is no evidence, Tom.
    You have nothing ( that I am aware of) to corroborate the claim.
    And once again, using the text to ”prove” the text is not evidence. You know this, of course, I’m sure?
    However, rather than get angry and testy, if you truly feel you have evidence then present it, and we can discuss it.
    What have you got to lose but time?

  80. In fact, Arkenaten, server logs show you clicking on the one link, but not opening any of the articles on that page, and also not clicking through to any other page to see what might the other 60 or so articles were even about.

    Which is absolutely correct. I said I perused them. I never said I read them.
    And I always tell the truth. Why would I lie?

    If you feel any of the articles specifically provide the evidence I am asking for then rather than getting all bent out of shape simply indicate which article you feel would the most beneficial and I’ll go read it. You have my word. No problems

  81. Just for starters on your first question Arkenaten. As Tom mentioned the historical Jesus is verified by a number of extra biblical sources. Further, it is the overwhelming opinion of historians and scholars both secular, skeptical and otherwise that the historical Jesus existed. This is such a widely accepted historical fact that for anyone to challenge it would require them to assume the burden of proof to disprove it. That you would be so unaware of this as to chose this as an opening question would certainly throw a bad light on your overall knowledge of this subject or any related subject.

  82. So before you continue demanding evidence from either of us, would you at least define where the goalposts are? What does the word mean, in your opinion?

    Sure, no problem at all.

    Those you have listed as identifying someone called Chrestus ( Tacitus etc) were not referring to the supposedly prophesized messiah and miracle-working, resurrected character featured in the anonymous gospels.

    This is the character, Jesus of Nazareth, whom you attribute divine characteristics, is the god you worship,and who you attribute the creation of the universe.
    None of those you listed would recognize the biblical character as described above.

    I have no real beef with the character who may or may not have been crucified for sedition under Pilate.

  83. @ Bill T

    Further, it is the overwhelming opinion of historians and scholars both secular, skeptical and otherwise that the historical Jesus existed.

    Excellent, Bill!
    Then it seems we are on the same page.
    A point of agreement. That makes a nice change.

    Now provide evidence for the character, Jesus of Nazareth as described in the bible.

  84. Did you miss it?

    No. I re-wrote but with different italics. Did you miss that?

    We can quibble over whether you’ve “decided” or not. You are convinced there is no evidence. There’s also no evidence that I’m angry or testy, by the way. I’m perfectly at ease with deciding it’s not worth my time carrying on a merely intellectual game. I do not have that much time available to lose.

  85. Which is absolutely correct. I said I perused them. I never said I read them.

    Definition “peruse” : “read (something), typically in a thorough or careful way.”

    But even if what you really meant was that you skimmed over them quickly, the evidence on my server logs indicates you looked at nothing but the summaries of the first several articles out of the 65. So if by “them,” you mean, “a tiny sample of them,” and if “skimmed over/(“perused”) means “looked at the first several sentences,” then you did not lie.

    I just posted a new article with an argument you’ve never seen before. It’s first thing on my home page now. I suggest you read the full Touchstone article; the summary there is merely that, a summary.

  86. We can quibble over whether you’ve “decided” or not. You are convinced there is no evidence.

    Whichever terminology you wish to assign, I’m fine with.
    It does not detract from the fact that there is no evidence to support the foundational claims of your faith.
    If you asked a paleontologist for evidence of a T-Rex he would show you.
    If you asked for fossil evidence to show which strata ir came from he would show you.
    Similarly you could ask a geologist about the age of the earth and why the Biblical Flood narrative is simply myth.
    Evidence. You would be right to ask for it and there is no reason why these scientists would balk at showing you the evidence.

    So once again, as you feel there is evidence for your claims , naturally, otherwise you would deconvert, why not simply present it?

    It isn’t that difficult to do, surely?

  87. I just posted a new article with an argument you’ve never seen before. It’s first thing on my home page now. I suggest you read the full Touchstone article; the summary there is merely that, a summary.

    Super! I shall go grab a coffee and read it.

  88. You still haven’t answered my question about the word “evidence”: What do you think it means? What kind of information counts as sufficient evidence to meet your challenge? What exactly is your problem with using the word in its normal sense, which I’ve described above in terms of legal proceedings?

    Here’s a longer presentation of the normal usage of the term.

    Evidence (E) is any information (I) such that the truth of some fact or event (F) is more probable given I than without.

    The suspect’s fingerprint at the homicide scene is information (I) that makes it more likely that (F) the suspect murdered the decedent; the fingerprint counts as evidence and (assuming all proper legal procedures were followed in obtaining it) would likely be introduced at trial as evidence. The defense attorney might argue, “There’s another reason her fingerprint was there.” Or he might argue, “There’s another explanation for this murder that makes better sense of all the other evidence.”

    The defense can call it weak evidence, bad evidence, inconclusive evidence, evidence that’s overwhelmed by other contrary evidence; but what the defense wouldn’t say is, “That’s not evidence.”

    So for example, the truth of Jesus Christ is more probable given the existence of the Bible than it would be if we had no such document at all. That means the Bible really is evidence for Jesus.

    But of course the strength of any evidence E varies according to the assurance of E’s truth, the directness of its association with F, the availability of alternative explanations for F, the prior probabilities for F with and without E, and so on. So you could obviously say, “That’s weak evidence, unclear evidence, biased evidence, unsupported evidence,” and so on; what you cannot sensibly say is, “That’s not evidence.”

    So here’s what I’m asking for in view of that. Suppose you still want to say the Bible “isn’t evidence.” That implies you’ve got some threshold in mind at which one could say, “Sure, the Bible is ‘evidence’ as ‘evidence’ is used technically; but it’s got so many problems as evidence, it fails to meet the threshold where I personally would call it that.” In that case, given your personal and idiosyncratic use of the term, it might not be “evidence” to you. But you ought to at least tell us where that threshold is. What does it take for evidence to count as “evidence” the way you use the term?

  89. Arkenaten,

    Of course, the evidence for “Jesus of Nazareth as described in the bible” (sic) (the Bible is a proper noun) comes from the Bible. Now, I gather from your prior comments (and Tom’s above post) that’s a non starter for you so if that is the case we can adjourn this here.

  90. Now provide evidence for the character, Jesus of Nazareth as described in the bible.

    So in light of my most recent comment, did you perhaps mean, “Now provide corroborating evidence for the character, Jesus of Nazareth as described in the bible”?

    That’s easy enough to do. But we at least deserve the courtesy of you telling us what you’re asking for.

    Meanwhile, I trust you’re reading the latest article I’ve produced to provide you some corroboration.

  91. And I trust, Arkenaten, that if you have comments on that article you’ll post them on that thread. It would be too confusing to deal with them here. Thanks. Besides which, BillT has already shown good reason to adjourn this discussion — although I’d still like you to recognize what “evidence” means in its non-idiosyncratic usage. You can also feel free to specify what you mean by it in your personal usage. That way we’ll at least know what we all mean when we say “evidence.”

  92. Wow ! So much to reply to.
    Evidence.

    Let’s clear this up once and for all, shall we?

    There is a story in the bible.
    It claims a character called Jesus of Nazareth is divine and was raised from the dead.

    That is a claim.

    Now, one can make an argument to justify this claim, but if all you have is the account in the bible – a text that is riddled with error I might add – then you do not have evidence.

    Simply because there is no way to verify it.
    You can’t really make a good argument for it either, but this is besides the point.

    The fossil record is an excellent example of evidence.
    Dinosaur bones are evidence of …well, dinosaurs of course!

    There is no evidence to support the biblical claim that the character, Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead.
    None.

    Now that I have cleared this point up we can move forward.

  93. You still haven’t defined a thing about how you understand the word “evidence.” No moving forward from there. There is evidence to support the claim, and as I’ve already explained in some detail, the Bible itself is evidence. It’s not all there is; in fact, there’s much, much more, but I’m sticking with the one for now, because one is all that’s needed for current purposes. That purpose (to remind you) is to clarify what “evidence” means.

    You don’t think the Bible is evidence at all, but as I’ve clearly explained, that is because you have devised an idiosyncratic usage of “evidence.” I’m asking you to explain the parameters around that idiosyncratic usage.

    Note what’s going on here, by the way. You’re telling us over and over again the Bible isn’t evidence. You’re repeating yourself; you’re not explaining or giving reasons. Meanwhile I’m explaining and giving reasons why your use of “evidence” is either incorrect or (charitably, mind you) idiosyncratic. But you’re ignoring my explanations and reasoning.

    Is this how you always reason? By ignoring explanations and reasoning? Do you even realize that’s what you’re doing?

    And this is all about something that should be completely non-controversial: the meaning of a word in English. If you evade this so carefully, can anyone count on you taking explanations, reasoning, or even evidence on more weighty matters seriously?

  94. There is no evidence to support the biblical claim that the character, Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead.
    None.

    Now that I have cleared this point up we can move forward.

    Or,

    Now that I have stated my position again, let’s agree that I’m right, okay? I mean, what more could you possibly need than that?

  95. Arkenaten (#77) said,

    “My online discussions have revealed similar patterns and based on the testimony of numerous deconverted Christians, many of whom were devout and fundamentalist, have told me their deconversion can be largely attributed to a thorough reading and study of the [B]ible.”

    So your “evidence” is anecdotal and hearsay, and from a tiny number of ex-Christians. Wow. You think hearsay is evidence when you say something but solid evidence is nothing when a Christian presents actual evidence.

    It seems you have no idea what evidence is. An account in the New Testament about Jesus IS evidence. How convincing the evidence is is up for you to debate but to say there is no evidence is a complete lack of understanding on your part about what evidence is.

    And you failed to address my comment about how not having read 100% of a book means that you understand 0% of it.

    You are doing nothing to dispel my opinion that all Atheists are anti-intellectual.

    John.

    P.S. Bible needs a capital “B”. I let it go once because I thought it was a typo on your part but it seems you like to mock by using lower case “b”. This is another example of your anti-intellectual approach.

  96. Now, one can make an argument to justify this claim, but if all you have is the account in the bible – a text that is riddled with error I might add – then you do not have evidence.

    So, I gather from your above we can adjourn this here. However, you have twice on this thread said the Bible is “riddled with error”. This is another evidence free assertion like some others you have made. Also, it isn’t true. From an historical and archaeological perspective, there have been no discoveries made that contradict anything written in the Bible. In fact, the Bible is considered the best and most important source text for academics studying the ANE.

  97. “Why don’t atheists show more curiosity about their own beliefs?”

    Given that, by definition, atheism denotes a lack of belief in gods, what exactly should atheists be curious about? It’s akin to asking people who don’t believe in unicorns why they don’t show more curiosity about their lack of belief in unicorns. The answer is self-evident: why would you devote time entertaining the tedious minutia of a proposition for which there is no empirical evidence?

  98. On Bible/bible — Yes, it is a proper noun in this context.

    You can leave it in lower case if (a) you don’t know standard English usage, (b) don’t care to show that you know standard English usage, or (c) want to stoop to using small jabs to denigrate the Bible.

    None of those options speaks well of you.

    There is a discussion policy, and I do enforce it. (See item 5 here.) This hasn’t risen to the point where I cared to do that yet, but I suppose it could.

  99. @ Bill

    So, I gather from your above we can adjourn this here. However, you have twice on this thread said the Bible is “riddled with error”. This is another evidence free assertion like some others you have made. Also, it isn’t true. From an historical and archaeological perspective, there have been no discoveries made that contradict anything written in the Bible.

    If you wish to end the dialogue then that’s fine by me.
    The Bible is riddled with error. Let’s look at some its erroneous text/claims.

    Off the top of my head:

    The Human Genome Project has dispelled any notion of an original couple as per the text in Genesis.
    The Noachian Flood is myth.
    The Pentateuch is claimed to be written by Moses: False.
    The Captivity, Exodus and Conquest as depicted in the Bible is recognised as a geo-political foundation myth. Archaeological evidence supports this. See Finkelstein/Dever.
    Also, Kenyon and the dating of Jericho. Her dating has been challenged but not refuted. ~
    The gospels are anonymous, and the traditional names attributed to them were likely added at the end of the second century.
    The Johanine comma is an interpolation. Fraudulent.
    The woman caught in adultery is an interpolation: Fraudulent
    Seven of the Epistles are pseudo-epigraphic.(Fake/ fraud)

    Is that enough to be going on with?

    Regards.
    Ark

  100. Do you realize that every one of those claims is the subject of scholarly controversy — and with strong arguments against them?

    Or should we just take your word for it that you’re right?

  101. Tom, I have read the post and addressed the main question posed at the top of your post. The reason I don’t believe is because theists cannot provide empirical evidence for the existence of their god(s).

    Moreover, the characteristics ascribed to the Christian God (all-perfect, all-powerful, all-loving, all-just, all-knowing, all-merciful, etc.) are not only logically incompatible, but entirely at odds with the actions of the God described within the Old Testament. If Christians are unaware of these things it can only be because they have not read their Bibles (because it’s kind of hard to miss the God-sanctioned commands to pillage and slaughter other tribes and nations), or because they have glossed over them and granted God a moral exemption for issuing those commands.

    Until those problems are resolved, there is little else to ponder.

  102. Thanks for sharing, Ron. I don’t believe you’ve grappled at all with the question as I unfolded it in the article. If you think you have, though, then that’s your privilege.

  103. Note what’s going on here, by the way. You’re telling us over and over again the Bible isn’t evidence. You’re repeating yourself; you’re not explaining or giving reasons

    The Bible is evidence of the Bible.
    Most of what is contained within its covers is historical fiction.

    Of course I have given reasons and examples.
    Dinosaurs , fossils, geology,archaeology.
    Verifiable , testable, evidence.

    Your examples are apologetic by nature and attempts to argue in lieu of evidence.
    I have had people try to tell me that the account in Corinthians of 500 witnesses was evidence!
    This is, of course, palpable nonsense , yet it is trotted out time and again.

    No genuine historian will countenance there is historical evidence for the resurrection of the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth.
    Would you give any credence to Muslim claims that Mohammed flew on a winged horse?
    Would you consider a written account evidence?

  104. Arkenaten,

    As Tom said there are two sides to all those issues and good evidence that none of them are errors. Things like the Gospels are anonymous border on the laughable.

    Also you, a priori, reject the Bible as evidence for a Biblical subject. Then you claim I’m the one ending the discussion. Pretty dishonest. How about this. I, a priori, reject everything you say about Christianity as false because you’re an atheist. Since you can say nothing valid you’re responsible for ending the discussion. Goose, gander?

  105. Do you realize that every one of those claims is the subject of scholarly controversy — and with strong arguments against them?

    Really?
    Let’s look at just two then, shall we?
    You seriously do not accept the scientific evidence that flatly refutes the Adam and Eve story in Genesis? Even though it was one of your own, Francis Collins who at one time lead the research.
    You believe there is scholarly controversy over the Biblical Flood story?
    You think Ken Ham has a case?
    Are you kidding !
    Wow!
    I think it prudent at this time to ask if you are by any chance a Young Earth Creationist?

  106. How so, Tom? You asked how Christians could perform all these good deeds over the centuries yet fail to notice the god they were following was evil, and I answered that they were either unaware of it, or they ignored it (and followed their own preferred moral conception of God), much in the same way that we dismiss/ignore the faults of others in our personal relationships.

  107. @Arkenaten #110

    What do you mean “the Bible is evidence of the Bible”? The Bible is a collection of 66/73+ documents many of which contain historical facts confirmed by independent sources and Archaeology.

    Again, you do not know what evidence is or what the Bible is.

    Mohammed? Mohammed is not in the Bible and is irrelevant to this duscussion. I would base any discussion of Mohammed on evidence just like anything else. For example, I am not an Atheist because there is very little remotely convincing evidence to support Atheism; at the same time there is a huge body of evidence confirming the truth of Theism.

    John.

  108. @BillT

    So, I gather from your above we can adjourn this here.

    Your words. Your assumption. And you know what they say about assuming don’t you?

    I, a priori, reject everything you say about Christianity as false because you’re an atheist. Since you can say nothing valid you’re responsible for ending the discussion. Goose, gander?

    Go for it. There is no law against rejecting something if you do not believe it.
    I reject pretty much everything Muslims say about their religion, and I’ll bet we agree on this. Likewise Hindusm. I mean really, a monkey god called Hanuman? Are these people serious!
    And Scientology as well I expect. Laugh a minute, right? Tom Cruise is a fine actor in my opinion but to believe in Scientology. That is really wacko off the wall stuff. Almost certifiable.

    So where are we at, Bill?
    You want to believe what you believe. Fine. Aside from a few proviso I have no real problem with that. Free country and all that.
    But if you want to convince me ( and others) – which surely was the thrust of the Tom’s post, to answer Benjamin Cain – then don’t you think you ought to do a better job?

  109. “Things like the Gospels are anonymous border on the laughable.” ~BillT

    Great. So what information do we have about the Gospel writers’ personal lives (date and place of birth, date and manner of death, names of family members, occupations and educational backgrounds, etc.)?

  110. @ John.

    The Bible is a collection of 66/73+ documents many of which contain historical facts confirmed by independent sources and Archaeology.

    Fair point. Let me amend. The bible is primarily geo-political myth/ historical fiction.

    Again, you do not know what evidence is or what the Bible is.

    Actually I do know what evidence is and I have already stated what the bible is.

    I raised Mohammed for you to see that Muslims will make almost exactly the same claims about Mohammed and the Qur’an as you do about Jesus of Nazareth and the Bible.

  111. Arkenaten @ #112

    1. Yes, there is new science contradicting the genomic research you’re relying on.

    2. The scholarly controversy over the Flood is among OT interpreters. There are many who believe it was a local or regional flood, not a global one.

  112. I answered that they were either unaware of it, or they ignored it (and followed their own preferred moral conception of God), much in the same way that we dismiss/ignore the faults of others in our personal relationships.

    You missed what I wrote in the post about those possibilities.

    Really, Ron, if you’re going to show up here, do us all a favor and show up with something to say.

  113. @Arkenaten #115

    Do you really need to be so rude about the world’s religions? It only says something about you.

    Hinduism – there is archaeological evidence that the battle described in the Bhagavad Gita and Mahabharat did take place several thousands of years ago.

    But don’t let facts get in the way of your firm, fixed beliefs.

    John.

  114. Actually I do know what evidence is and I have already stated what the bible is.

    Bible is a proper noun, and you are not displaying much good about yourself by not capitalizing it. All of the potential reasons for your misusing proper English grammar speak poorly of you. Do you like that in yourself?

    I search in vain for evidence that you know what evidence is. You’ve ignored or deflected everything we’ve said about the nature and definition of evidence. What you’ve provided instead has been repeated assertions, none of which is backed up by any supporting information, i.e., evidence.

    Bare assertions such as these are not arguments and they’re not evidence. They tell us what you think, but not why you think it.

    But hey, let’s enter them into evidence. We can agree — even stipulate — that it is your opinion that the Bible is not evidence, and that there is no evidence for the Bible. Now that we’ve agreed on that, is there any need for us to hear you tell it to us again? I think not.

  115. Yes, there is new science contradicting the genomic research you’re relying on.

    Excellent! I was not aware of this. I look forward to the (link?) evidence that I hope you will provide, yes?

    The scholarly controversy over the Flood is among OT interpreters. There are many who believe it was a local or regional flood, not a global one.

    While I am not familiar with the archaeological nitty gritty of the localized flood position I am aware of the proposal.
    My assertion was that the Biblical Flood story is nothing but myth.
    There is no dispute over this, unless one is a follower of the likes of Ken Ham.

    So, are you a Young Earth Creationist?

  116. The claims Muslims make about Mohammed and the Qu’ran are extremely different from the ones Christians make about Jesus and the Bible.

    For starters: Muslims claim the Qu’ran exists eternally. It was dictated to Mohammed; he had no personal role to play in its composition. It is not historically situated. Its truth depends on no historical corroboration, for it has been true from before the beginning of history.

    Mohammed was a man chosen by Allah; Allah could have chosen someone else, had it been his will. Mohammed’s role is that of Prophet. That Prophet could have lived in another time and had a completely different biography.

    None of this is remotely like what Christians say about the Bible. We say the Bible is a record of God’s dealings in actual history, so its truth is potentially verifiable or falsifiable in history. Jesus was not merely chosen; he is and was the Second Person of the Godhead from eternity. He is no mere spokesperson for God; he is God. He is no mere messenger of salvation, he accomplished salvation. This, too, all happened in history. The Bible was written by men whose life circumstances and personalities are visible in the words, though those words were guided by the Holy Spirit as well.

    That’s a very, very brief starting point of a summary of multiple different claims and doctrines. I mention none of it as fodder for you to contest whether or how they are true, but only to show that your claim of Christian/Muslim equivalence is false on the evidence of what the two religions’ claims actually are.

  117. @ Tom

    The claims Muslims make about Mohammed and the Qu’ran are extremely different from the ones Christians make about Jesus and the Bible.

    Apologies. I meant they feel about their beliefs and religion in much the same way as you do about your religion: Basically, that their book is the Word of God and is also the be all and end all.
    As you feel about the Bible and Christianity.
    I didn’t mean they were literally the same.
    I keep forgetting that I must be careful with the way I phrase things.
    My bad.

  118. @Arkenaten #125

    I have respect for other people be they Atheist, Hindu, Muslim, YEC, etc.

    Based on evidence, I conclude Atheism to be the least likely of the best-known worldviews.

    What was the point of your question?

    John.

  119. @ John

    Based on evidence, I conclude Atheism is the least likely of the best-known worldviews.

    Atheism isn’t a worldview.

  120. So where are we at, Bill?
    You want to believe what you believe. Fine. Aside from a few proviso I have no real problem with that. Free country and all that.
    But if you want to convince me ( and others) – which surely was the thrust of the Tom’s post, to answer Benjamin Cain – then don’t you think you ought to do a better job?

    We can agree — even stipulate — that it is your opinion that the Bible is not evidence, and that there is no evidence for the Bible. Now that we’ve agreed on that, is there any need for us to hear you tell it to us again? I think not.

    Again. Goose, gander?

  121. @ Tom

    My assertion is that it’s quite likely a description of a regional flood.

    Fair enough, although this is not how it reads in the Bible, and is not how most Christians have been brought up to believe. In fact, most would not likely be aware of the regional flood idea, especially as most would unlikely be aware about the story of Gilgamesh from where the biblical tale likely derives.

    So, are you a Young Earth Creationist?
    I’ve asked several times now. Is there a problem with answering?

  122. Well Tom, exactly what have I missed? Because your third option (asking Christians to explain their beliefs) frequently ends up in appeals to personal convictions, convoluted apologetic arguments, deflection and/or outright ridicule for being a non-believer.

    So since you invited the question, I’ll ask you directly:

    How do you reconcile the immoral actions attributed to the God of the OT with the all-loving God espoused by Christian theology?

  123. I’m not a young earth creationist.

    Is there a problem with you answering all my repeated questions about the meaning of the term “evidence”? Apart from what we were able to stipulate in comment #121, that is?

  124. Ron @133,

    I don’t have time to re-state it all, and I don’t have time to chase you all over the place answering questions about God’s morality. I don’t have any evidence you’d pay attention to an answer anyway. I’m not biting.

    You can look here for an extended answer to one facet of your question, but do not expect this to turn into a discussion on the validity of that answer. I don’t do tangents that way.

  125. @BillT

    We can agree — even stipulate — that it is your opinion that the Bible is not evidence, and that there is no evidence for the Bible. Now that we’ve agreed on that, is there any need for us to hear you tell it to us again? I think not.

    Everyone has an opinion about something.
    We are talking about evidence.
    You keep making claims about the bible – and in context the Resurrection – and have yet to provide any evidence to support such a claim.

    Do you doubt the evidence of Fossils?
    Are you willing to deny the evidence of gravity?

    I doubt many/most of the claims made in the bible.
    You claim there is evidence.
    Then show me. Demonstrate that your claims ARE evidence.

  126. @Ron #133

    Ron said, “How do you reconcile the immoral actions attributed to the God of the OT”.

    Your question is a “begging the question” fallacy (or a variation thereof).

    You need to ask a question which isn’t loaded if you expect an answer.

    John.

  127. @Tom

    I’m not a young earth creationist.

    Thank you. At least I am not dealing with a ”dinosaur hugger”. Thank goodness for that.

    Is there a problem with you answering all my repeated questions about the meaning of the term “evidence”? Apart from what we were able to stipulate in comment #121, that is?

    Re: evidence.
    I have explained what evidence is time and again and given numerous examples.
    To my mind, it really isn’t difficult so I am almost at a loss why you can’t seem to grasp it?
    It must be the way I am explaining it.
    Let me try to simplify it again.
    I hope this time you can understand what I write.

    Can you support any the foundational tenets of your faith with evidence other than claims made in the bible?

    See, simple.
    Evidence.
    Go for it.
    The floor is yours

  128. @John #137

    How am I begging the question? The God of the OT purportedly drowned the world, hailed fire and brimstone on the occupants of S&G and commanded the Hebrews to pillage and slaughter the Canaanites (to cite but a few examples). Do you consider those actions moral, or justified or congruent with the characteristics of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, all-merciful being?

  129. @Arkenaten #132

    Arkenaten said, “So, are you a Young Earth Creationist?
    I’ve asked several times now. Is there a problem with answering?”

    Tom has answered for his part but why are you obsessed with asking that question?

    For my part, I am not a YEC, nor am I a 4.6 milliard years person either. IMHO the alleged age of the Earth has been increased time and time again in an attempt to make Macro-Evolution seem less ridiculous (it still fails).

    RE #138 – you still don’t understand what evidence IS, and your shift-B keys are still faulty.

    Why are you here? As long as you are condescending and insulting of World Religions you are not going to convince anybody of anything.

    John.

  130. @Ron #139

    Ron said, “How am I begging the question?”

    A loaded question is a form of “begging the question” which is a fallacious form of argument. I suggest you read some basic Logic and Philosophy books.

    John.

  131. @John #141

    A loaded question assumes that which it asks:
    Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

    My question makes no such assumptions. I asked if the actions attributed to God were moral and justified.

    See. This goes to prove my point. Christians refuse to meet the challenging questions head on and resort to deflection.

  132. @Ron #142

    Ron said, “My question makes no such assumptions. I asked if the actions attributed to God were moral and justified.”

    You forgot what you wrote before. Let me remind you. Your question was question-begging:
    “How do you reconcile the immoral actions attributed to the God of the OT with the all-loving God espoused by Christian theology?”

    Ron said, “See. This goes to prove my point. Christians refuse to meet the challenging questions head on and resort to deflection.”

    Ron, you are the only one doing any deflecting. And then you either lied about what you said you’d said or just don’t understand how to communicate effectively —
    “I asked if the actions attributed to God were moral and justified.” – That question would have been fine but it’s not what you asked to begin with.

    John.

  133. Why are you here? As long as you are condescending and insulting of World Religions you are not going to convince anybody of anything.

    While you/your religion /its practitioners claim your god condemns non-believers to ”Hell” in whatever fashion you interpret and Muslims blow sh*t up while claiming to be a religion of peace and Scientologists are scammed, then maybe it is time non-believers stand up for those who are suckered into such beliefs?
    And especially kids.
    What say you, John? Don’t you reckon kids should be protected from those who would indoctrinate a Young Earth Creationist worldview where Dinosaurs and humans co existed?
    Or how about protecting young Muslim girls from genital mutilation in the name of ”faith”?
    So, what say you John? Are you on board or not?

  134. @John #143

    Yes, and I graciously rephrased the question (in comment #139) to overcome that objection. Will you now address my question? I’ll repeat it here for your convenience:

    The God of the OT purportedly drowned the world, hailed fire and brimstone on the occupants of S&G and commanded the Hebrews to pillage and slaughter the Canaanites (to cite but a few examples). Do you consider those actions moral, or justified or congruent with the characteristics of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, all-merciful being?

  135. @Arkenaten #144

    Arkenaten said, “While you/your religion /its practitioners claim your god condemns non-believers to ”Hell” in whatever fashion you interpret […]”
    If you don’t believe God or any created gods exist, why should this bother you?

    Arkenaten said, “[…] Muslims blow [stuff] up while claiming to be a religion of peace[…]” – perhaps you should be on Richard Dawkins’s Facebook page instead. Atheism is responsible for hundreds of millions of murders starting in a big way with around a million murdered in the name of Atheism & “Reason” during the French Revolution.

    Arkenaten said, “then maybe it is time non-believers stand up for those who are suckered into such beliefs?”
    There you go with arrogance and condescension in tandem. I, for one, have not been “suckered” into anything. I suggest you take a look at Atheism if you want to save anybody.

    Arkenaten said, “Don’t you reckon kids should be protected from those who would indoctrinate a Young Earth Creationist worldview where Dinosaurs and humans co existed?” – fallacious argument. See #141 above.

    Arkenaten said, “Or how about protecting young Muslim girls from genital mutilation in the name of ”faith”?”
    I don’t claim any expertise on Islam, but I think FGM is to do with culture not Islam. Sam Harris makes similar mistakes when trying to pass off cultural practices as religious practices. This is a Christian blog and your question would probably be better directed to a Muslim blog.

    But you missed the main point. Do you really think you will convince any Christian to change their religion to Atheism when you are so rude and condescending about Christianity in particular and world religions in general?

    John.

  136. Arkenaten at 138:

    Yes, I can support it with claims not made in the Bible. The Pilate inscription is support. The discovery of the Pool of Bethesda is support. Josephus’s two mentions of Jesus are support. The early growth of Christianity is well attested, and is support. The conversion of Saul/Paul of Tarsus is universally acknowledged among scholars, and is support. The historian Luke’s minute technical knowledge of local politics and geography in Acts is attested in at least 60 places, and supports his accuracy as a recorder of facts.

    That’s evidence. And for now I’m playing the game your way, by listing examples. Meanwhile I must point out that simply saying “The Bible isn’t evidence” doesn’t evidence any understanding on your part of what the term “evidence” means. It’s a statement about (your beliefs concerning) the Bible, not a statement about the nature of evidence. And I think you’re very confused about the nature of evidence; otherwise you wouldn’t doubt that there’s evidence for Jesus. There’s too much of it. I don’t mean, “evidence that would convince every skeptic that the whole gospel is true;” I just mean, “evidence.”

    I am frankly stunned that you aren’t seeing this yet. It’s not that hard.

  137. Arkenaten has been put on notice on another thread for violating an important comment standard: No persistently unproductive discussions. In his case he’s been repeating his personal opinions repeatedly without explaining why he believes what he believes, or why anyone should take it as more than personal opinion. He’s also been ignoring or perhaps incapable of/unwilling to understand what I wrote there. All of this is counter-productive to genuine discussion. I won’t have these pages clogged with anything but the real thing. It’s great for page-view statistics but lousy for genuine, interesting give-and-take discussion.

    I’ll enforce that here, too, if necessary.

  138. That’s evidence. And for now I’m playing the game your way, by listing examples.

    Excellent! Yes this is all evidence. Well done, Tom. And we make progress.
    Jerusalem is also mentioned in the bible and we know the city exists. Evidence.

    The account of a global flood is also mentioned in the bible yet there is no evidence.

    Now, once again, provide evidence for the biblical character, the miracle working, raised from the dead character Jesus of Nazareth.

  139. But you missed the main point. Do you really think you will convince any Christian to change their religion to Atheism

    No, John I didn’t miss any point. But please indicate where I wrote or even suggested that I was out to convince any Christian to ”change their religion” and become atheist?
    I would never be so arrogant.

  140. I am giving evidence for the accuracy of the accounts of Jesus.

    Evidence for his resurrection? Saul/Paul’s conversion, for starters. The growth of the church in the first century. The general accuracy of Luke as an historian, who also attested to the resurrection.

    That’s evidence, just like you requested. Already posted, in fact.

    I could share more, but you’re persistently, repeatedly, annoyingly ignoring any real discussion on what “evidence” even means.

    If you don’t see that way, at least do us the favor of saying, “You know, Tom, I don’t see that as evidence, yet obviously you do. We’re getting nowhere, so I’ll recognize we’re getting nowhere, and I’ll quit asking.”

    If not, I’ll enforce the productive-discussions standard here, too, as on the other thread.

  141. @Arkenaten #151

    So what are you trying to achieve if you don’t want Christians to convert to your religion? In the absence of a third option, it seems that your only intention is to be rude and argumentative for its own sake.

    John.

  142. @ John,
    I am an atheist. I do not ”have” a religion.

    The blog was referenced on another blog by someone called Kim. I popped over to have a read.
    I find the Christian religion fascinating.

  143. @ Tom

    Evidence for his resurrection? Saul/Paul’s conversion, for starters.

    Do you have any evidence for this claim other than what is written in the bible?

  144. @Arkenaten #154

    Arkenaten said, “I am an atheist.” Yes, so my assumption was correct.

    Arkenaten said, “[t]he blog was referenced on another blog by someone called Kim. I popped over to have a read. I find the Christian religion fascinating.”
    – so I ask again, what are you trying to achieve if not to convert Christians to Atheism?

    John.

  145. Arkenaten, earlier you said seven epistles were pseudepigrapha. Suppose for the sake of argument you’re right. Do you realize what that makes the rest of them?

  146. Yes of course I realise.
    The remaining seven epistles are regarded to have been written by the same hand.

  147. Comment deleted by siteowner for repetitive “This is not evidence.”

    Commenter is at immediate risk of being banned for repeated violation of comment policy.

  148. – so I ask again, what are you trying to achieve if not to convert Christians to Atheism?

    Achieve?
    I am fortunate that for now I have free time on my hands. I find the topic fascinating, and we are all having interesting dialogue in an open forum.

    Why on earth would you think I was trying to convert anyone?
    If we were discussing football teams would you think I was trying to convince you to support my team? Would it ever likely work?

    ”Achieve”. What a strange thing to say.

  149. @John #147

    God’s command to completely destroy the Amalekites — for a slight committed by their ancestors several centuries in the past, no less — are either moral or they aren’t. So I’m not sure why you directed me to make a book purchase in lieu of granting a simple yes or no answer based on your own opinions.

    Nonetheless, after parsing through the book reviews — both good and bad — it appears the author presents the same unconvincing reasons I’ve encountered elsewhere: special pleading that the people they killed were ‘really bad’ people, or that the morality of that era was different from our modern enlightenment values, or that God was constrained to pushing morality forward in a piecemeal fashion because they were incapable of grasping it all at once, and finally — that might makes right. (And on a side note, some of the negative reviews came from believers who questioned the soundness of the author’s theology and extra-biblical rationalizations.)

    Now let’s be honest: if someone presented similar justifications for the atrocities committed under the command of recent dictators (like Mao, or Stalin, or Hitler, or Pol Pot, or Pinochet, or Saddam), I doubt you’d need to consult outside opinions before rendering a moral judgement on their character.

    The fact that such books even exist attests to the fact that Christians struggle with the moral difficulties encountered while reading the scriptures.

    So, ultimately, the question isn’t “why don’t atheists ask what Christians have thought on these matters?” (because we have) — it’s “why do Christians keep regurgitating the same flimsy arguments in support of their beliefs?”

  150. Ben,

    After #41 the comment editor was fussy. Sorry for the delay.

    WRT Hell & Sinai, your entire body of premises redefined and then argued against the actual premises of the Christian Metaphysic. It’s not apparent (therefore) exactly what your critique is supposed to be zooming in on.

    Is it a moral vector or a logical vector which you think you’re addressing?

    Something else?

  151. @Ron #164

    Ron said, “God’s command to completely destroy the Amalekites — for a slight committed by their ancestors several centuries in the past, no less — are either moral or they aren’t. So I’m not sure why you directed me to make a book purchase in lieu of granting a simple yes or no answer based on your own opinions.”

    And there goes your dishonesty again, that is your one and only mention of the Amalekites so far. If you want my opinion, then – God has never done anything immoral.

    Ron said, “I’m not sure why you directed me to make a book purchase”.

    Because if you were GENUINELY interested in the answers to your questions, you would read that book (or similar ones).

    Ron said, “after parsing through the book reviews [… a]nd on a side note, some of the negative reviews came from believers who questioned the soundness of the author’s theology and extra-biblical rationalizations.”

    I am assuming you haven’t read the book then and don’t intend to do so? Instead you rely on anonymous “reviews” on Amazon by people you assume are qualified to to criticise Dr Copan (PhD Philosophy of Religion). I am guessing you have never done any university-level study. If you had, you’d know how to assess an online source for its veracity, accuracy, and usefulness. I could recommend more books to you but I suspect that would be pointless, you appear to have no interest in learning.

    Ron said, “[n]ow let’s be honest”.
    So far you have shown that you are nothing but dishonest.

    Ron said, “the question [… is] ‘why do Christians keep regurgitating the same flimsy arguments in support of their beliefs?'”

    OK, so here’s the challenge. Read Copan’s book and then come back here and prove to me that Copan’s arguments are not sound. Until you’ve done that, I’ve finished with you.

    John.

  152. @John #166

    “And there goes your dishonesty again, that is your one and only mention of the Amalekites so far.”

    How is citing a specific example of a command to go and slaughter another group of people dishonest? Have you not read 1 Samuel 15:2-3?

    “If you want my opinion, then – God has never done anything immoral.”

    Then by default you deem God’s sanctions to plunder and commit genocide as just and moral. Thanks for your candor.

  153. I am an atheist. I do not ”have” a religion.

    Atheism isn’t a worldview.

    I don’t want to take on Arkenaten now that he not here to defend himself but I thought these two statement are representative of a lot of what we have seen here from a secular viewpoint. Both are common oft repeated errors.

    As to whether atheism is a religion he’s “right” it isn’t. But that begs the real question. Atheism is a religious belief. It’s religious because it expresses a view on a religious subject (the existence of God). It’s a belief because it’s an opinion based of a personal evaluation of evidence that falls short of a provable fact.

    Again, the statement that “Atheism isn’t a worldview” is true. But that also begs the question. Atheism is a necessary part of a worldview just like theism is a necessary part of a worldview. The question of the existence of God is essential for any set of beliefs to rise to the level of being a worldview.

  154. Bill.T.,

    On #169 — Yes well put. One cannot make sense of the two words “examine” and “evidence” in the little phrase of “examine evidence” without bringing all sorts of concepts to the table. Such is definitely a worldview populated with all sorts of (often un-examined) assumptions.

    There are several problems with the claim “My A-Theism is “nothing-but” a lack of belief.” The premises behind that are reviewed at https://metachristianity.blogspot.com/2019/01/faith-non-theism-fallacy-of-non-theism.html

    PS: Off topic. I’m putting a few items together on Genesis and I recall a while back you had introduced into a discussion the fact that Cain in fact encountered lots of other folks upon leaving Eden. The context was God creating Adam and of course the fact that there were other folks running around is interesting. You had mentioned that and if you have anything you could point to then thank you in advance :-}

  155. scbrownlhrm

    It’s in Gen 4:14-16

    14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

    15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so[e]; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod,[f] east of Eden.

    These must be the most overlooked verses in the Bible. I really don’t understand how anyone could look at the plain language of these and come to some other conclusion that there were other people (at least homo sapiens?) in the world at this time.

    “and whoever finds me will kill me”, “anyone who kills “, “so that no one who found”.

    Who are these beings who would find Cain and kill Cain and who God protected Cain from but other people. And the fact that God gave Cain a mark to protect him would seem to indicate them to be sentient beings capable of recognizing and understanding the mark.

    On another note, this also defeats Arkenaten’s argument about the human genome showing we’re not descended from a single pair of humans. No, we’re not and the other people in these verses show why. And this doesn’t defeat the idea of an actual Adam and Eve. God could still have created them, as described in Genesis, in the midst of his evolving world.

  156. @Ron #167

    Ron, so far your dishonesty has appeared in every post. I will call you out for it every time you do it. You now say, “[h]ow is citing a specific example of a command to go and slaughter another group of people dishonest?” You were being dishonest before by claiming I refused to give my opinion on that question, and now you are doubling down by lying about me again. Stop it. You are not fooling anybody.

    Ron said, “[t]hen by default you deem God’s sanctions to plunder and commit genocide as just and moral.”

    You are question-begging again, and trying to present YOUR OPINION as fact. If you are trying to present yourself as uneducated, inflexible, and ill-informed then you are doing a good job of it. However, if you want to be taken seriously then I suggest you accept the challenge I gave you in #166. So far you have shown no interest at all in learning the subject. At the moment you sound like Dawkins’s understudy.

    John.

  157. @Tom Gilson #168

    In commanding the total destruction of the Amalekites, God violates the instructions previously given to Moses in Exodus 20:13, which effectively renders God’s moral edicts as subjective and whimsical, if not downright capricious (see 1 Samuel 28:18).

    Furthermore, to argue that “God is not subject to human standards” is to say that you subscribe to Divine Command Theory — i.e. that might makes right — which may be perfectly fine from God’s perspective. But then don’t call it morality, because it’s not; it’s just another way of saying “It’s my way or the highway.”

    And as David Ellis observed (comment #34), in mounting such an argument:

    “you lose the ability to consistently claim that religion X’s teachings about God are clearly wrong because they depict God as doing what no just God would.”

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2009/06/did-god-commit-genocide-in-the-bible/#comment-13856

  158. @John #172

    Merely re-posting your accusation of dishonesty doesn’t make it any more factual or true. Because I was soliciting your thoughts and opinions. But instead of granting me a direct and honest answer, you sent me to an Amazon book link and asked me to purchase Mr. Copan’s thoughts and opinions. Had that been my intent, I would have just done so without involving you.

    As to begging the question, there is no other alternative: if you believe that “God has never done anything immoral” then any edict issued by God (including a command to commit genocide) must be moral.

  159. @Ron #174

    Ron said, “[m]erely re-posting your accusation of dishonesty doesn’t make it any more factual or true.”

    Except that the evidence remains in the previous posts I referenced that you are a liar and you continue with your dishonesty. Try to kid yourself if you want but you remain a liar.

    John.

  160. @John #175

    It appears you’re more interested in attacking my character than discussing the topic at hand (God’s moral character), so I’ve lost interest and will bow out of our conversation.

  161. I agree with Ron on this part, John: I’m seeing character assassination going on. I don’t like that much myself. Stick with the issues. If you see a falsehood, call it that, but it takes rare and unusual circumstances to justify calling someone a liar when all you know about them is what they write on a blog.

    Ron, I apologize for not saying so sooner. I’m writing something else on a deadline, but I still should have jumped in anyway.

  162. Bill.T.,

    Thank you and agree. Quite helpful.

    Yes it’s surprising that our Non-Theist friends assert that covalent bonds sum to the various contours of the Adamic which continue existing after the body dies. Even hylemorphic dualism houses “that” and yet they suppose that ANY [physical history] of dirt-to-body can account for “that”.

    One must note “what it is” which Scripture is in fact “telling us about”, and that of course is the ontological history of “becoming” as it relates to Cosmos and to Conscious Observer. I think that is where our Non-Theist friends get tripped up :-}

    As in: Ontology? Well… so then…

    Is physics ontology?
    Is cosmology ontology?
    Is Mathematics ontology?

    Of course not. Neither is convertible with ontology and yet our Non-Theist friends insist the ontic referents populating Genesis’ ontological history of becoming wrt Cosmos & Conscious Observer ought land in physics, cosmology, or mathematics.

    The intriguing part is that there is no such thing there as “Allegory” or as “Metaphor” on the Christian’s part and yet there is just that within the Non-Theist’s attempt to locate such ontic referents in physics / cosmology.

    Think that through: given the non-convertibility of that which is Physics/Cosmology (…and QM / mathematics ….see http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/07/fallacies-physicists-fall-for.html …) for that which is Ontology we find that any Meta-Narative which is in fact constituted of ontological referents which land within Physics / Cosmology is in the end all the stuff of Allegory and of Metaphor, whereas, any Meta-Narrative which is in fact constituted of ontic-referents which land in that which is actually Ontic as per Being & Existence & Reason & (Etc.) is in the end a Communique which is anything but Allegory or Metaphor. Hence the term Divine Communique in some of the linked items here, which is what Scripture “is”.

    That’s nuanced but like your verses above its not that hard and yet people miss it all the time. And it actually comports with what we find in Scripture, and with what the baggage of Metaphysical Naturalism is revealing as we learn more about physics.

    We have now our Non-Theist friends and their Metaphor of Illusion v. Sean Carroll and the 4D Block in which Change is in fact illusion (and so on wrt “metanarrative” and “landing in metaphor / allegory” etc. It just pours out over on that side of the equation… contra the Christian side of it…).

    There too we find the Christian Metaphysic out-reaching even that, as per http://disq.us/p/1xdbs9l

    As for Genesis and Allegory? It’s actually the opposite:

    http://disq.us/p/1tem7fk
    http://disq.us/p/1te6iow
    http://disq.us/p/1m57bqz
    http://disq.us/p/1m4nx9h
    http://disq.us/p/1mi53x3

    Starting at https://twitter.com/M_Christianity/status/1077207336488525825 there’s a brief thread looking into those distinctions.

    Thank you again :-}

  163. Scripture’s© Singular® Metanarrative© & Its Thematic® Lines©

    A. Divine Command Theory = Reductio Ad Absurdum at http://disq.us/p/1z5us5a

    B. Amalekites? Conquest? Sinai? Condone? Moral Excellence? Means & Ends? at http://disq.us/p/1z50shs with a few items for context at http://disq.us/p/1z5th9q

    C. “Kill All That Breathes”?? “Divine Command Theory”?? at http://disq.us/p/1z5vlo5

    D. For the Half-Narrative: http://disq.us/p/1lrhj88 and http://disq.us/p/1wq4x70

    E. For the Full-Narrative: http://disq.us/p/1knyg3u

    F. Prototypical John Newton v. Everyman: http://disq.us/p/1kgunj1 and also at http://disq.us/p/1z7vifq

    G. For the Non-Theist who tries so hard to agree: http://disq.us/p/1kj2q0b

    H. “God Ought End Evil?” Ending Evil? Ending Privation?” at http://disq.us/p/1y85jdc

    I. The Four Overlapping Circles of Racism at http://disq.us/p/1z71xpg .

    J. Pastor Martin Luther King Jr. on Being, Non-Being, & The Summum Bonum Of Life at http://disq.us/p/1z49fop

    K. Shouting “Disagreement Exists!” Is Not An “Argument” at http://disq.us/p/1z72rat

    L. Non-Theism Cannot Find Moral Facts WRT Racism Or Anything Else:

    First – 3 Narratives: 1. http://disq.us/p/1mxt9q0 and 2. http://disq.us/p/1mxstu8 and 3. http://disq.us/p/1mxto3s

    Second – Context: a. http://disq.us/p/1z61v1f and b. http://disq.us/p/1wq43ok and c. http://disq.us/p/1y84cou and d. http://disq.us/p/1w6epee and e. http://disq.us/p/1w3l3fn and f. http://disq.us/p/1titjw1 and g. http://disq.us/p/1j5ioqb and h. http://disq.us/p/1sozwi7 and i. http://disq.us/p/1u9rudl

    End

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