Times/Harris Poll: 1/4th of Us Could Be Either Agnostic or Atheist

Source: The Nation [from the June 25, 2007 issue]

"We commonly hear that only a tiny percentage of Americans don't believe in God and that, as a Newsweek poll claimed this spring, 91 percent do. In fact, this is not true. How many unbelievers are there? The question is difficult to assess accurately because of the challenges of constructing survey questions that do not tap into the prevailing biases about religion."

"According to the American Religious Identification Survey, which interviewed more than 50,000 people, more than 29 million adults--one in seven Americans--declare themselves to be without religion. The more recent Baylor Religion Survey ("American Piety in the 21st Century") of more than 1,700 people, which bills itself as "the most extensive and sensitive study of religion ever conducted," calls for adjusting this number downward to exclude those who believe in a God but do not belong to a religion."

"Contrast this with a more recent and more nuanced Financial Times/Harris poll of Europeans and Americans that allowed respondents to declare agnosticism as well as atheism: 18 percent of the more than 2,000 American respondents chose one or the other, while 73 percent affirmed belief in God or a supreme being."

"A more general issue affects American surveys on religious beliefs, namely, the "social desirability effect," in which respondents are reluctant to give an unpopular answer in a society in which being religious is the norm. What happens when questions are framed to overcome this distortion? The FT/H poll tried to counteract it by allowing space not only for the customary "Not sure" but also for "Would prefer not to say"--and 6 percent of Americans chose this as their answer to the question of whether they believed in God or a supreme being. Add to this those who declared themselves as atheists or agnostics and, lo and behold, the possible sum of unbelievers is nearly one in four Americans."

"All this helps explain the popularity of the New Atheists--Americans as a whole may not be getting too much religion, but a significant constituency must be getting fed up with being routinely marginalized, ignored and insulted. After all, unbelievers are concentrated at the higher end of the educational scale--a recent Harris American poll shows that 31 percent of those with postgraduate education do not avow belief in God (compared with only 14 percent of those with a high school education or less). The percentage rises among professors and then again among professors at research universities, reaching 93 percent among members of the National Academy of Sciences. Unbelievers are to be found concentrated among those whose professional lives emphasize science or rationality and who also have developed a relatively high level of confidence in their own intellectual faculties. And they are frequently teachers or opinion-makers."

Thanks to Edward T. Babinski for finding this.

54 comments:

SteveJ said...

As long as you're on the topic of atheism, I have a question. Judging from this site, it seems that when one gives up the tenets of Christianity, the final philosophical resting place always seems to be flat-out atheism. Why is that? Doesn't anyone ever take a midway position? Are we stuck with only two options? After all, the doctrine of a Supreme Being doesn't seem to be dependent on traditional Christian belief, at least as far as I can see. Am I wrong?

Mark Plus said...

More evidence for a "Tollanizing" trend in the U.S.? As a character from the advanced Tollan civilization said in an early Stargate SG-1 episode said, "There was a time before reason and science when my ancestors believed in all manner of nonsense."

The growing visibility of nonbelief in the U.S. and other developed countries certainly throws into question claims that humans have "god genes" or other fringe-scientific conjectures to try to account for religious craziness. The social environment plays an enormous role in the incidence of religious beliefs and behaviors, and the trend in modern societies has made the propagation of religions more difficult even when people have the freedom to study and practice any religion they want.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Stevej,
I can't speak for everyone, but I don't believe in god but I won't say it can't exist. I know I get a little crabby and shoot out "god doesn't exist" every now and then, but the truth is I don't THINK he exists. I am aware that my position depends on the best information I have at the time. If I find "I AM" writing itself on my face while i'm shaving, I'll change my mind ;-)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Mark plus,
throws into question but doesn't cancel them.
The brain is built to fill in the gaps in its knowledge. it works with movies, music, the blind spot in your eye, anecdotes etc. I think that until people learn to curb this trait with some disciplined thinking, we'll always have superstition.

Benny said...

Hi SteveJ,

There are definitely people who believe in a supreme being but don't belong to any organized religion. Deists, for example. But you're right, it does appear that many people who begin by rejecting Christianity end up skeptical of supernatural beings in general.

This may or may not be necessary, but I want to clarify that not even "flat-out atheism" claims with 100% certainty that God does not exist. As far as I can tell, only people from the religious camp looking for a strawman to knock down will say this is what atheism is about. Most atheists, like myself, share Lee's position: while it's possible that supernatural beings may exist, the information we have right now simply does not support that belief.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

SteveJ: Very good question -- and my own position is a little stronger than Benny's or Lee's as far as a 'theistic' God goes -- feeling that if he did exist he would have made himself manifest by now. I always hold out the possibility of being wrong about anything -- even though I don't sound like I do when I write -- but I'm pretty strongly convinced on this one.

As for why this tends to be the 'resting place' partially it is selection-bias. People who 'come to rest' say, at Universalism-Unitarianism are less likely to be here than people on the ends of the spectrum.

I think its also that people from a strict Christian position -- the types that really believe that evolution is automatically atheistic, for example, or who accept 'biblical inerrancy' -- once they start to doubt, start questioning the whole system of belief. (This can be from either of two attitudes, either 'since I doubt X, I might as well question everything' or 'my belief system is crumbling, I have to grab on to the biggest thing around, i.e., God, to save myself.')

And since there is no reason other than the Bible to accept God -- because 'God is an answer without a question,' -- it is very easy for them to become atheists or agnostics.

lowendaction said...

I'm a new commenter here, so I hope I don't rehash a tired old subject here (and yes, I've read the faq's), but I do believe it is relevant to this post.

General question: Do you recognize a difference between the following: Christians (modern), religion, the church (modern), and christianity (as it is described and practiced in the New Testament)?

I see an aweful lot of lumping-together going on when these references are used. If we are to honestly discuss the "in's and out's" of Christianity, I believe we must first recognize, and respect, these terms as seperate entities. Then, and only then, can we begin to examine them on what I hope is a relatively non-biased platform.

The relevance to this post is that, even amongst the so-called christian community, people are unclear in their usage of said terms. I think if there was more clarity in this area, we might be able to look at more useful numbers.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Lowendaction:
Welcome to the group, and yes, they are good questions. I am particularly interested in your statement about 'christianity (as it is described and practiced in the New Testament)'

In fact (see Bart Ehrman's LOST CHRISTIANITIES) the range of pre-Nicean 'Christianities' was far greater than most current day Christians would find credible. There were, to name a few, the Ebionites who were 'Judaizers' and the Marcionites who so 'spurned all things Jewish' that he 'concluded that there must in fact be two Gods: the God of the Jews, as found in the Old Testament, and the God of Jesus, as found in the writings of Paul.'

There were the Apostolic Christians who held to a form of primitive 'communism' (not, of course, of the Marxian variety), the Gnostics who blended ideas from several religions, etc., etc.

Even today, most of the commenters here -- particularly the Christians -- have no concept of how different American Christianity is from that followed elsewhere in the world.

(To quote 'js' a comenter on an article on Triablogue attempting to savage Chris Tilling:
"Funny, it's the posturing of American evangelicals such as yourself that alienates most Christians around the world such as myself. Humility is not your strong point is it?

And yes, being Aussie, bluntness is one of ours.

js"

Positions such as Biblical inerrancy, creationism, and belief in the Rapture -- that invention of Darby in the 19th Century that was almost unheard of until LeHaye started his novels -- are positions of American Christianity that are looked on with scorn by Christians elsewhere.

The trouble is that most of us don't recognize such distinctions since we consider all of them variants on the same false tree, all based on Paul's ignorant -- in the literal sense -- misinterpretation of the teaching of the eccentric but always strictly Jewish teacher, Jesus.

lowendaction said...

prup - thanks for the insight.

Though I understand and respect your rejection of the universal fundamentals upon which most christianic beliefs are built, it is very difficult to stick with most atheistic based conversations when there are blunt statements being hurdled at that catch-all title: Christians or religion. I for one, tend to disassociate myself from such names as a form of identity.

I agree with you that much of the "problems" that fuel these kind of topics, are the direct result of a lazy and ignorant society (and that includes all faiths...and the those who obstain). I can honestly say, having been raised in a christian home, that it has only been fairly recent that I've begun to seriously question much of what has been ingrained in me(programmed if you will). This however does not automatically lead to a rejection of said beliefs. Just because one has been indoctrinated as a child, does not necessarily mean that one must be completely re-programmed.

Sorry...I tangenated there for a minute. Meanwhile, I will be reading with open ears, and welcome any and all opinions/experiences/information.

thanx

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Lowen:
A very nice comment. I agree that what you learn 'at your mother's knee' is not necessarily wrong -- or right. (My parents taught me that all prejudice was wrong, racial or religious or ethnic, and I believe that to this day, not because they said it, but because it is true.)

The trick is to think critically and skeptically -- which does not mean rejecting things out of hand, but testing them against the evidence, and sometimes against common sense. But you have to ask the right questions. Here, let me give you a couple to think about in relation to Christianity and the Bible.

1: If the 'slaughter of the innocents' happened as Matthew tells us, why did it happen? (And why didn't somebody else mention it, since many people hated Herod and would tell any story they could against him?) Yes, Herod was bloodthirsty and killed a lot of people, but he seems only to have killed people who could be threats to him. He was already 74 years old -- and was to die in that year. What threat was an infant who wouldn't even be bar-mitzvahed for 11 or 12 years?

2: If Matthew is right about the dead walking after the Crucifixion (27:58-59) why didn't anyone else notice this, not Josephus, not the rabbis of Jerusalem, and not the other evangelists?

3: If the Resurrection actually happened, and Jesus had a message for the world that this would be a confirmation of, why did he only appear before his disciples, whose testimony was bound to be dismissed as biased? Think how more powerful it would have been if he had appeared in front of the Sanhedrin -- "Hi! remember me?" Or Pilate. Pilate was someone with the ear of the Roman Emperor. Think how important his testimony would have been.

4: If the Bible is the "Word of God' why didn't he 'inspire' some Roman, Greek, or Israelite to come up with the idea of carved block printing -- which was well within the technology of the time -- and make sure that the words of the Book were preserved, instead of having it hand-copied for 1400 years, so badly that no two manuscripts agree?

Jason said...

Jim, you said, "The trick is to think critically and skeptically -- which does not mean rejecting things out of hand, but testing them against the evidence, and sometimes against common sense..." and the proceeded to ask four strange 'Why' questions.

I'm wondering what 'evidence' these questions are being tested against and what they're supposed to prove? There's reasonable skepticism and then there's being skeptical just for the sake of being skeptical....

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Jason:
"Strange" questions, indeed, though if you've been around for a while you've seen me bring three of them up repeatedly -- the Herod one is new.

But I like asking 'strange' questions -- because thew familiar ones are too familiar. So many of the discussions here are so repetitive that any of us who have been around for a while on either side could write both halves of them. We say the same things, and because they are so familiar, the other side doesn't actually listen -- and certainly isn't convinced.

But 'strange' questions can get people actually thinking about what has been said.

But all of these questions are powerful ones, so I'm more than glad to answer 'what they're supposed to prove.'

The two questions about Matthew, of course, first question the idea of 'Biblical inerrancy.' Most Christians don't hold this doctrine, but most of the Christians who post here DO hold it. So pointing out two stories whose improbability is so obvious brings this out.

But there's another thing it does. Christians have a habit of treating the Old Testament, much of which is demonstrably mythical, as historically accurate -- despite the lack of any evidence to support this. But when it comes to the New Testament, which takes place in historical times, and which includes several characters we do have substantial record of, such as Herod, Pontius Pilate, and others, they treat this as taking place in some pastoral Camelot. Reminding them that first-Century Jerusalem and Galillee were real places, that we know of them from other evidence, that we know how old Herod actually was, and when he died -- and that his whole career was based on his picking the 'right side' in the various turmoils of the Rome of the time, that he was involved with Octavius and Marc Antony and that Cleopatra was his deadly enemy -- all help remind believers of this.

(And as for the 'dead walking' verses in Matthew, let's face it, most Christians don't actually read or study the Bible. They only know the sections their ministers tell them about or write sermons about. Most of them have never confronted those two verses because they never came across them.)

As for the question about the Resurrection, I think this is a much more powerful demonstration that this is a myth than are the standard discussions. Arguing against miracles does no good in talking to people who believe that God does perform them. But pointing out that if the Resurrection happened, it was an incredibly stupid way of bringing it about can get through more completely.

As for the last point, about the failure to inspire printing, well, an all-knowing God knew how mangled the books of the Bible would get through the years of hand-transcription. He must have known the errors and changes that would creep in. If he could 'inspire' Paul so that he would be able top explain exactly what Jesus 'really meant' even though Paul never met the man or heard him preach, and even if, to an independent eye, his interpretation would have been considered horrifyingly wrong by the man himself, if a God could do this, why couldn't he inspire someone top come up with a technique that would have preserved the actual words oif the Bible -- and which, as i said, was well within the technology of the time.

Jason said...

Whether or not a story is improbable or stupid doesn’t say anything about Bible inerrancy.

1. Why did Herod kill all the babies? It’s right here, is it not?: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.” (Mat 2:16) As for what threat a baby would be to Herod, I think you’re missing the point. It wasn’t about Jesus vs. Herod, it was about the Jews vs. Herod. How much more difficult was Herod’s job going to be in spreading his ideologies and control if a huge group of people suddenly rallied together and refused to recognize Herod’s leadership?

2. “And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Mat 27:53) Not everyone noticed them because not everyone saw them. Isn’t that what the text says?

3: Come on now, do you really think that if a resurrected Christ had appeared to Pilate or the Sanhedrin that they would have dropped everyone and gone and told everyone they had just seen the resurrected saviour of the Jews? Think about this logically: Both wanted Jesus dead and they wanted him to stay dead because of their fear of a Jewish uprising. What part of their report do you think would have been unbiased?? Remember, the disciples were given the Holy Spirit gifts precisely as a means of verifying they were, in fact, ‘from’ Christ.

4: Are you saying that because God didn’t inspire someone to carve something that Scripture is inherently false? And which manuscripts are you referring to when you say ‘no two agree’?

As for the resurrection being stupid in how it was brought out, I fail to see how your argument can be as effective as you say it is:

You: The Bible’s description of the resurrection is stupid.
Bible: Jesus died and was raised.

Based on this, I don’t see reasonable grounds for Christians to start questioning the validity of Christ’s resurrection.

Regarding errors in the books of the Bible, which ones have done so much damage that they’ve changed entire Biblical doctrines? Correct, none of them have. Why do you think all the big religions out there have their own little ‘church inspired’ book to supplement the Bible? Because the doctrines they hold to be ‘divinely inspired’ are completely absent from Scripture and no amount of tampering, etc. has ever been able to intertwine them into the Bible. God's message is the same today as it was when it was originally written.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
1. I think what prup was saying was that herods actions are not able to be independently verified in any other historical documents.

2. How many is many? I think prups argument was that this can't be independently verified either. It would be pretty important if it could be.

3. You can't be serious. If Jesus appeared from the dead to Pilate or the sanhedren, they would have a hard time rationalizing that away as would I and I think all of us would fall on our face full of the spirit and break our noses if that were to happen.

4. I wouldn't say it was inherently false, but highly dubious. What would you have done if you were Jesus? I'd have got my posse to find someone that could take dictation and then told them make copies and 'spirit' them off somewhere to get hid or carved in stone, then I'd have made a monument that says "I am" in some material that could be chipped and studied but confounded scientists till I returned with the secret formula.

Uh, no, gods messages is not the same, there has been some redaction along the way.
Mark 16:9-20 is one that comes to mind.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Brian: Lee made some of my points, but my position is somewhat stronger. Since you have given your answers, let me see if I can get you to look at them and actually think about what you wrote.

Let's start with the Herod myth -- I'm being polite and not simply calling it a lie (and in fact it wasn't one because Matthew was writing a religious document, not a history).

Let's start with the meetings with Herod, and the dialogue Matthew invents. If it wasn't an invention where did he get it? Who was in the room to hear it?

It was common knowledge? So common that a tax collector in Galilee heard it? Then why didn't Josephus tell the story? Josephus wrote a lot about Herod, and one thing about Josephus, his style has been repeatedly described as 'gossipy.' If there was even a hint of this having happened, of a massacre like this, Josephus would have included it -- as he did many stories about Herod. But he doesn't mention it. He certainly doesn't mention dialogue between Herod and the Zoroastrian priests -- which is what 'magi' were.

"Tell me so I can worship him too?" If the story had any truth to it, the Zoroastrians might have had some idea that this child was to be 'worshipped.' (After all, the idea of the 'redeemer Son of God' was a Zoroastrian idea, and had no relevance to Judaism.)

Herod knew that, knew the 'anointed one,' the 'Messiah,' wasn't a spiritual figure but a political-military leader, a 'king' in the classic sense. (For a good idea of the Jewish idea of the Messiah, research Simon bar Kochba, who WAS accepted by the Messiah by much of Jerusalem, and who is quoted -- by Max Dimont -- as saying, "Lord, you need not help us but don't spoil it for us either.")

The Messiah was expected to be accompanied by a rabbi to testify to his Messiahship, not to be a spiritual leader.

Your comment about Herod's 'ideologies' is inexplicable. Herod had no 'ideology,' -- except for cooperation with Rome -- he already had his share of enemies among the Jews, and I repeat, he was an old man (70, not 74, as I said, he was born in 74 B.C.) and knew he would be dead before any child could grow up.

Again, the story -- which is attested to by no other Gospel, canonical or otherwise, except for the Protoevangelium of James has no historical evidence backing it, is out of character from what we know of Herod, would have been mentioned if it had happened -- the excuse some writers make that it only involved half a dozen children seems dubious at best -- and is simply a myth, like many of the stories in the Testaments.

(I'll get to the rest later, but this was written around a Mets game and a nap, so if there were any other comments, I've missed them.)

Jason said...

Lee,

1. Prup asked why Herod killed babies. It's right there in his question. Secondly, if Herod's actions can't be verified by another source, then logically speaking it also can't be verified they didn't happen. Ultimately, I don't see how this particular question is testing evidence or common sense.

2. How many is many indeed.

3. I'm very serious. If Jesus appeared to the Sanhedren or Pilate, what would you expect them to say to the people who had just finished demanding he be put to death? Neither defended Christ during his life for fear of the people and for fear of losing their authority. They didn't want Jesus to come back, and they definitely wouldn't have told the people if he had.

4. Weak. 'Dubious' isn't grounds for suddenly discounting the divinity of Scripture, neither is the opinion that there was a 'better way' to do it. The Bible was written by men who were inspired by God and the oldest manuscripts we have available today are virtually identical to any of the manuscripts the English Bibles are based on. What's the problem?

What do the those two verses in Mark do to any of the doctrines in Scripture? Take those verses out or keep them in and nothing changes. The message remains the same.

Jason said...

“Let's start with the meetings with Herod, and the dialogue Matthew invents. If it wasn't an invention where did he get it? Who was in the room to hear it?” Matthew was inspired by God, it didn’t need to be heard by anyone. This line of questioning isn’t going to get you anywhere ☺

"Then why didn't Josephus tell the story?" Because he didn’t.

"If there was even a hint of this having happened, of a massacre like this, Josephus would have included it -- as he did many stories about Herod. But he doesn't mention it. He certainly doesn't mention dialogue between Herod and the Zoroastrian priests -- which is what 'magi' were." And this is proof of what? If Josephus doesn’t confirm that a conversation or event ever took place then it didn’t happen? I know where you’re coming from it’s far from a convincing argument.

If the story had any truth to it, the Zoroastrians might have had some idea that this child was to be 'worshipped.' Might, might not. Who's to say?

"Herod had no 'ideology,' -- except for cooperation with Rome..." Which means he had an ideology.

"...he already had his share of enemies among the Jews, and I repeat, he was an old man (70, not 74, as I said, he was born in 74 B.C.) and knew he would be dead before any child could grow up." As I’ve already said, this wasn’t about Jesus growing up, this was about maintaining control over the Jews during his reign. If the Jews considered this new Messiah to be their king, Herod’s control over the Jews would be lost. On the other hand, one could also just as easily argue that Herod killed the babies out of sheer anger for being mocked since this is what the text in Matthew says.

“Again, the story -- which is attested to by no other Gospel, canonical or otherwise, except for the Protoevangelium of James has no historical evidence backing it…” And?

“…is out of character from what we know of Herod…” Er, he banished his wife and three year old child and ended up killing his own family…

I’d really love to think about the points you’re making but every single one of them is based on speculation. The likelihood of something happening or not happening doesn’t mean it did or did not happen. For example, the likelihood of the planet earth and life itself being created by an exploding cloud of gas is also unlikely but that doesn’t stop people from believing it.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Jason:
Again you are not answering my questions sensibly. (I really hope I get a chance to move on to my other three questions, but I got distracted by other perosnal matters earlier.) Let's look again at what you said and what i said.

First, just to get rid of one thing. If a Muslim quoted a story from the Qur'an, or a Zoroastrian from the Avesta, or a Mormon from the Book of Mormon, they would tell you just as certainly that these books were inspired by God. (In fact, the Muslim would tell you that an angel dictated the work to Mohammed, the Zoroastrian would tell you that God actually 'hand-delivered' the Avesta to Zoroaster.) You wouldn't accept this as proof -- why should I accept your statement that Matthew was 'inspired by God' any more readily. (And don't get off into which is the 'better religion.' I'll even grant you that Christianity is better than the others in most ways, but that doesn't mean that it was any more 'inspired by God than they were.')

Josephus wrote much about Herod. This is the sort of story he would have loved to tell. Saying he didn't write it 'because he didn't' means nothing.

If the Jews considered this 'new Messiah' to be their king, that was meaningless, since Jews did not treat infants as adults. They might have believed that he would 'grow up to be their king' but there is no evidence (not even in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) that they would have gathered around him. In fact, when he DID grow up, there were only a handful of followers who did follow him, he led no political movement, and never acted as a King or Messiah. He was a religious teacher and that is not what the Messiah was supposed to be.

So, again, there would have been no reason for Herod to kill this infant, or the other infants. Herod didn't give a s**t what happened to israel after he was dead, all he wanted to do was to maintain his Roman-backed power. This infant would not have been 'rallied around' until he was grown.

(I also point out that he had many much more current enemies to deal with -- and dealt with them well, mostly without killing them. He was, after all, if ruthless, by far the best king the Israelites ever had.)

My point about the other Gospels not mentioning this is that you'd think that they'd mention such an important story.

It is, to get to your point about 'speculation' equally 'speculation' that Joseph Smith didn't have an angel lead him to the brass plates, it is equally speculation that Mohammed didn't have an angel dictate the Qur'an to him. In both cases, the speculation has reason behind it, but it remains 'speculation.'

As for the unlikelihood of the 'of the planet earth and life itself being created by an exploding cloud of gas' well, that's not exactly what the theory is. You might investigate what people actually believe, and the evidence they have for believing it.

Meanwhile, I am asking you for the evidence you have for believing this even actually took place.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Jason:
And now to the other points.

You say -- in relation to the dead walking in Matthew -- "2. “And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Mat 27:53) Not everyone noticed them because not everyone saw them. Isn’t that what the text says?"

Yes, but people talk about unusual things, and meeting the dead walking was certainly *ahem* unusual. Is it possible that this story wouldn't have been on everybody's lips if it happened. (One resurrection that you claim happened was enough to start a whole religion, how much would a whole group of resurrections cause.) Josephus grew up in Jerusalem. He would have heard stories of this 'wondrous event' -- if it weren't just a myth. And again, what more powerful a story would the evangelists have had than this event that would have been known thoughout the city and the whole area. But they don't mention it.

Lee's response to you about how those who killed Jesus would have reacted can't be improved on. (I love the way Christians have it both ways, first seeing Jesus with this immense following, and then seeing him with no followers and hated by the people, whichever is most convenient and without even noticing the contradiction.)

As for Pilate and the Sanhedrin not defending Jesus because they had fear of the people, well, no. They didn't defend him because they didn't believe him. They saw him -- accurately -- as just another apocalyptic preacher predicting the end of the world -- well, in fact, Pilate never even knew who he was.

Again, how do you knwo these people were inspired by God and Zoroaster, Mohammed, and Joseph Smith weren't?

I didn't say the Bible's description was stupid. I said that if Jesus was resurrected and chose to appear only to his disciples, HE was stupid when there were better ways of getting his message heard -- two of which I gave.

The Bible says that Christ was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples, and no one else -- I won't get into all the contradictions of the story. This is as good a reason as any for disounting the Bible as being an accurate account of things.

The oldest manuscripts of the Bibvle are hardly identical to those we have today -- they differ in almost every particular, some in important ways some in minor ways. And why do you accept the selection of these books as being 'inspired' and reject the other Gospels, Epistles, Apocalypses and other books that equally were accepted by groups of Christians as authentic?


I do wish that Lowendaction, who was the person who the questions were originally written for, would join in on this discussion.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
1. you're right. It can't be "proved" it didn't happen. But as i understand it, generally speaking, in historical and scientific research, an item gains credibility with the more evidential support it has. The fact that this story only appears in scripture doesn't make it very plausible. Here's a silly example.
If bill tells tom that he thinks toms wife is cheating on him, should tom believe it or is he obligated to find corroboration somewhere else? I think he's obligated to find corroboration.

2. This has the same corroboration problem as the one before no matter how many 'many' is.

3. I don't think your position is reasonable. In principle the appearance of Jesus after his death should have validated his identity as a god and his teachings to them as it would have to the rest of the community and we probably wouldn't be having this discussion.

4. There is more redaction than that in the bible and you owe it to yourself to look into it. The truth will stand up to scrutiny. Speaking about just those two verses they corroborate the other resurrection stories and since Mark was the closest gospel to that time frame, the absence of that fact in the original Mark is odd since it has such importance. Isn't it? I highly recommend you look into the history of the bible and people that brought it together, the controversies behind it and the politics. I'm talking about going all the way back to beginnings. Some of the psalms in the bible are modified verses written for other gods that appeared in the library at Ugarit and predate them. Look into the canaanite mythology, and the history of canaanites and the 'israelites', look into the archeology related to the kingdoms of solomon and david.

Jason said...

Prup,

“Why should I accept your statement that Matthew was 'inspired by God' any more readily.” I’m not asking you accept it. I’m simply telling you how it is. You’re trying to disprove the divinity of what Matthew wrote by claiming he wasn’t around when everything happened and I’m explaining that a Christian’s defense will be that he was inspired.

“Josephus wrote much about Herod. This is the sort of story he would have loved to tell.” Unless you knew Josephus personally, this comment is based on speculation.

“If the Jews considered this 'new Messiah' to be their king, that was meaningless, since Jews did not treat infants as adults. They might have believed that he would 'grow up to be their king' but there is no evidence (not even in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) that they would have gathered around him" Really? Then what did the wise men mean when they said, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him”? (Mat 2:2) Also, Josiah was only eight when he began to reign (2 Kings 22:1) - where's the evidence the Israelites didn't treat him as king during his childhood years?

“In fact, when he DID grow up, there were only a handful of followers who did follow him, he led no political movement, and never acted as a King or Messiah. He was a religious teacher and that is not what the Messiah was supposed to be.” Irrelevant. We’re discussing the birth of Christ, not his adult life.

“This infant would not have been 'rallied around' until he was grown.” Mat 2:2 says otherwise.

“My point about the other Gospels not mentioning this is that you'd think that they'd mention such an important story.” What’s so important about it that it would need to be mentioned in all four gospels?

“As for the unlikelihood of the 'of the planet earth and life itself being created by an exploding cloud of gas' well, that's not exactly what the theory is. You might investigate what people actually believe, and the evidence they have for believing it.” It depends on what theory you believe. Science can’t even come to a consensus about how it all actually started. Anyhow, this is off topic. My point is that probabilities don’t determine whether or not an event occurs, only the chances for the event occurring. Therefore, the likelihood of something happening or not happening doesn’t mean it did or did not happen.

“Yes, but people talk about unusual things, and meeting the dead walking was certainly *ahem* unusual…Josephus grew up in Jerusalem. He would have heard stories of this 'wondrous event' -- if it weren't just a myth.” Conjecture. I can just as easily say that the dead people who arose told everyone they appeared to not to tell anyone about what they saw. Or I could say that the people who saw the resurrected people didn’t believe they were real and the only thing coming out of it would be a few ghost stories floating around. Or better yet, I could say people DID tell others about what they had seen but no one believed them à la Luke 24:11. Am I wrong? Prove it :)

“I love the way Christians have it both ways, first seeing Jesus with this immense following, and then seeing him with no followers and hated by the people, whichever is most convenient and without even noticing the contradiction.” What’s the contradiction?

“As for Pilate and the Sanhedrin not defending Jesus because they had fear of the people, well, no. They didn't defend him because they didn't believe him.” Not according to the Bible. The chief priests feared the people (Mat 22:26 and 26:5), as did Pilate (John 19:12), as did Herod (Mat 14:5). Fear of the people has always been a huge factor upon which leaders base their decisions. These people were no different.

“Again, how do you know these people were inspired by God and Zoroaster, Mohammed, and Joseph Smith weren't?” The ‘divinity’ of other religious texts isn’t what’s being discussed. The Gospel record is.

“The Bible says that Christ was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples, and no one else…” Wrong. John 20:18.

“The oldest manuscripts of the Bible are hardly identical to those we have today -- they differ in almost every particular, some in important ways some in minor ways.” Such as?

“And why do you accept the selection of these books as being 'inspired' and reject the other Gospels, Epistles, Apocalypses and other books that equally were accepted by groups of Christians as authentic?” I don’t remember ever mentioning I rejected the other gospels, etc.

Jason said...

Lee,

1. From a Christian point of view, the story doesn’t need credibility from other sources in order for it to be true.

2. It’s not a problem if the resurrected only appeared to the righteous believers. No corroboration would then be necessary.

3. In principle, you’re right: the appearance of Jesus after his death should have validated his identity. However, the enemies of Christ (the Pharisees, chief priests, etc.) had made it abundantly clear they didn’t believe Jesus was who he said he was. By suddenly doing an about face and telling their followers that Jesus was in fact the Messiah (the same one they had just helped put to death), they would have been torn limb to limb by the Jews or, at best, lost their extremely lucrative authoritative positions.

4. I’m not sure I quite understand your ‘original Mark’ point. Jesus’ resurrection had already been verified by the two angels in verse 6, the same event recorded in the other Gospels. I don’t see what the problem is here.

As for the rest of it, I’m not terribly interested in getting into the politics, etc. of the people who compiled the Bible, but thanks anyhow. :)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
I think I'll just pick on item 1 and drop the others because as I see it, the rest of the other items depend on what you just said about item 1.

In my analogy about bill and tom,
[If bill tells tom that he thinks toms wife is cheating on him, should tom believe it or is he obligated to find corroboration somewhere else? ]
from a christian viewpoint should tom look for corroboration before believing bill?

lowendaction said...

gentlemen - obviously there are some much larger brains at work here (and i mean that with the up most sincerity and respect) than I am willing or able to coin in on, so for now I will resign to just reading, absorbing and learning.

I would like to thank you for this forum and the thought provoking debates that you all bring. Hopefully I will find a topic that is more suited for my bible-light knowledge. And I make this confession with shame, for you have humbled me with your scriptual knowledge.

The one thing I would add however, is that we must be very careful when directly quoting english scripture, for I believe that much of our common translations are poor at best. Far to many christians (as well as the non variety) simply take the written english word as hard fact, when these interpretations (and that's often all one can do when translating not only words, but thoughts, meanings, and cultural relevancy) are one or a few persons feeble attempts at westernizing these ancient texts.

Thank you.

Jason said...

Lee,

I fail to see how your limited Bill/Tom scenario is relevant to the discussion on the divinity of Scripture.

If Tom believes that Bill's insight into Tom's wife was given directly by God, then no, there is no "obligation" to corroborate. It's the same reason why Mary and Hagar didn't need to double check with someone else about whether they were going to have a child as promised by God's angels. It's the same reason why people like Elijah didn't need to verify from a third party that he was, in fact, meant to follow God's instructions as delivered by one of His angels.

Lee Randolph said...

Jason,
it has to with trusting the source. Using ordinary examples, excluding any idealistic imaginings, How is Tom supposed to know that Bills insight comes from god? I think in a very real situation, Tom is not going to know and all he will have is bills word. Tom is going to have to look for signs (not miracles) and ask around. He is going to have to disregard the warning or look for corroboration. That is how the real world works.

It is foolish to blindly take anything for guaranteed. Would you tell your kids anything otherwise?

I bet you tell them not talk to strangers or get in the car etc, and I bet you would not advise them to 'go with the feeling of the holy spirit' would you?

My point is that this trusting in God only goes so far into the real world, it stops when it becomes obviously risky to follow it.

It doesn't hurt you to read the bible and believe, go to church on sunday, sing songs, socialize, talk about how the world needs saving and everyone should be like you. But when it gets right down to it, I bet you pray about it and take the answer you like best.

I bet you don't just depend on god or insight you get from prayers when it gets right down to it, I bet you still shop around, look for information, etc, because nothing else works quite as well.

The fact that the miracles in the bible can't be independently verified, Jesus's existence can't be independently verified, the eclipse at the crucifixion, the extended day, the dead walking, all that can't be verified when other less important historical events can should give you all cause to pause and think about why that is.

Jason said...

Christians already trust the source since the source is God. I think you’re trying to argue something that isn’t there.

The Tom and Bill scenario isn’t a suitable analogy because you’re working under the assumption that third-party evidence must exist before anything can be corroborated. From a Christian perspective, this isn’t the case with Scripture since God doesn’t need to be supported by anything else in order for it to be true. You can argue all you want about reality and real life ad nauseam, but nothing changes.

Risk is relative so I don’t see how or why you would consider following God to be risky. If someone wants to believe in God, and vice versa, what’s the harm?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
Christians already trust the source since the source is god.
Don't you see how circular that is? How do you know the source is god? Do some research into psalms found at ugarit. They weren't written to your god, but they are strikingly similar to the bible versus and they predate the scripture.

you may not be one of the 'harmful' christians, but the ones that meddle in politics are harmful. For example, the pope discourages contraception, that is irresponsible and ignorant. You may not care about the pope (which is another issue you all should think about, the divisions in the church), but a lot of people do, and some of them live in countries where birth control and preventing the spread of HIV can make positive difference in their lives. HIS SPIRIT IS GUIDING HIM TO FACILITATE THE SPREAD OF HIV.

think about that. This may affect someone you love someday. Then all you can do is pray about it. Good luck.

Jason said...

Of course it's circular, that's what I've been trying to explain. A Christian doesn't need a third-party to prove God, an atheist does. Therefore, from a Christian perspective, the events described in Matthew don't require corroboration.

As for the Pope and HIV...huh? First of all, what does this actually have to do with politics and second of all, since when was 'Christian meddling' a necessary ingredient for 'harmful politics'???

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
Of course it's circular, that's what I've been trying to explain. A Christian doesn't need a third-party to prove God, an atheist does. Therefore, from a Christian perspective, the events described in Matthew don't require corroboration.
Jason, circular reasoning is flawed reasoning. Circular arguments are flawed arguments. Generally a good argument or good reasoning depends on data, principles which are supported by the data that lead to a conclusion. Your data is dubious, and your principles while supported by one set of data, are not supported by others. In my view this is one reason why Christians can't nail down some firm theology that they all agree on. You should ask yourself why is it that so many christians that comment here contradict each other in what they say.

As for the Pope and HIV...huh? First of all, what does this actually have to do with politics and second of all, since when was 'Christian meddling' a necessary ingredient for 'harmful politics'???
No, Christian Meddling is not a necessary condition for harmful politics, but it is sufficient.
What this means is that, as I pointed out, christians can't even get their theology in one sock. When they get into politics, then they have the potential to do all sorts of silly things for dubious, not verifiable or non-falsifiable reasons, and in fact which contradict good data and principled reasoning. The HIV position of the pope is one. He is a very influential person, doing something silly. Our president got us into trouble with the Iraq war. I supported going into Iraq but now I don't anymore. No one will ever know the real reasons why we went in but the reasons for which I supported it were the alleged weapons of mass destruction. When I was a christian, I heard all sorts of preachers and even myself talking about the end times and tribulation and babylon. We all know Iraq used to be babylon. Newsweek had an article on Bush's "God Talk" and in an article in the Washington Post on July 2nd they described a series of meetings that Bush is having with scholars, philosophers, theologians etc. Michael Novak, a theologian who participated, says that Bush is focused on the nature of good and evil and sees himself as doing Gods work. Does that include trying to fulfil prophecy by hastening the coming of Jesus? The president of the most powerful country in the world needs to use principled reasoning that don't rely on data that can't be corroborated. WMD data was evidently dubious, and so is the Bible. I suspect that the presidents religious view colored the way he intepreted the dubious WMD data. I don't that is fair to the young people I see walking around, back from the war, missing arms, legs, eyes, etc.

As a parting thought, Bush seems to have vetoed the stem cell bill on his personal principles basing it on guidance from his advisors who hold a minority opinion on the issue. I think he is deliberately and deceptively using the term "Embryo" instead of the more correct term "blastocyst" because he knows that people won't associate humans with a microscopic ball of 150 cells, but they will associate humans with the image of the fetus, which the term embryo calls to mind. There are lots of people that he is indirectly harming by blocking stem cell research. Just like the pope when he discourages condom use in HIV ravaged countries.

I realize that this comment is way off topic so this is all that I have to say about that and I thank you for your dialogue. I'm going to move on and give you the last word. I'll see you in another article but I'll check back to see if you responded.

Jason said...

You state that no third-party evidence proves the validity of the Gospels, specifically the killing of babies by Herod. I’m explaining that a Christian doesn’t require third-party evidence to prove these stories because divinely inspired writings don’t require corroboration. I’m not sure what you’re struggling with…?

As for why Christians contradict each other in what they say, who cares? Scientists don’t agree about evolution but it’s not like people debunk science because scientists aren’t singing the same tune.

Politics is so amusing. Whose fault is it if a meddling Christian is sworn into office????

It's a shame really that the four questions posted in this topic have been quetly swept under the carpet. Seems like there's less of an appetite here to discuss Scripture then there is to rant about politics even when the topic is Scripture (your post is case in point).

Btsai said...

Hi Jason,

I’m explaining that a Christian doesn’t require third-party evidence to prove these stories because divinely inspired writings don’t require corroboration. I’m not sure what you’re struggling with…?

"I believe the bible (without 3rd party evidence) because it is divinely inspired, and I believe it is divinely inspired because the bible says so." I don't understand how you fail to see the circularity and faultiness of this reasoning. Also, just about every holy text claims it is divinely inspired. On what basis do you accept this claim from one holy text but reject all the others?

As for why Christians contradict each other in what they say, who cares? Scientists don’t agree about evolution but it’s not like people debunk science because scientists aren’t singing the same tune.

The difference is that science admits it is a human endeavor. It recognizes that it is the striving of imperfect humans seeking to improve their imperfect understanding of the world, and as such, it seldom, if ever, claims perfect/absolute knowledge. On the other hand, many Christians love to tell us that they have perfect/absolute knowledge gleaned from the bible or God himself. When these people start disagreeing with each other, well, one has to wonder if it really is the case that they all have "divinely inspired" knowledge.

Whose fault is it if a meddling Christian is sworn into office????

The people that voted him into office?

Seems like there's less of an appetite here to discuss Scripture then there is to rant about politics even when the topic is Scripture (your post is case in point).

I thought the topic was the Financial Times/Harris poll.

Jason said...

Btsai,

Christians don’t require evidence from a third-party to verify the divinity of the Gospels. Atheists, on the other hand do. What’s the problem?

"On what basis do you accept this claim from one holy text but reject all the others?" The “others” are rejected on the grounds they contradict Scripture. From a Christian perspective, the Bible is His Word and it’s infallible. Therefore, another text that makes claims that contradict the Bible must, by extension, be considered false by Christians.

"The difference is that science admits it is a human endeavor...and as such, it seldom, if ever, claims perfect/absolute knowledge." You’re aware that a Christian is as imperfect as a scientist, correct? If a Christian comes along claiming the Bible says Eve was created before man and you point out the verse showing that Eve was created after man, who’s to blame for the mistake, God or man? Catholics believe in Purgatory and the ever-virgin status of Mary. Can either be proved using the Bible? No. So who’s to blame for these false doctrines, God or man?

"Whose fault is it if a meddling Christian is sworn into office????" "The people that voted him into office?" Exactly. Therefore, if people hate Christians meddling in politics, stop voting them in!!!

"I thought the topic was the Financial Times/Harris poll." The topic I responded to and the subsequent discussion was regarding the four questions originally posted by Jim.

Btsai said...

Jason said,

Christians don’t require evidence from a third-party to verify the divinity of the Gospels... What’s the problem?

Still don't see how this is faulty reasoning? You believe that X is divinely inspired, and the only proof you think is needed is that X says so. Let's substitute "Book of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" (BFSM) for X. Then I could claim that I know the BFSM is divinely inspired, because the BFSM says so. And of course, no other proof is needed, because I "know" that the BFSM is divinely inspired. Would you say that this reasoning is sound?

In case it's still not clear, here's a link that explains your fallacy in a slightly more formal fashion (check out Example 1):

LINK

The “others” are rejected on the grounds they contradict Scripture. From a Christian perspective, the Bible is His Word and it’s infallible. Therefore, another text that makes claims that contradict the Bible must, by extension, be considered false by Christians.

Christianity is rejected on the grounds that it contradicts the BFSM. From a FSM-ist perspective, the BFSM is Its Word and it's infallible. Therefore, another text that makes claims that contradicts the BFSM must, by extension, be considered false by FSM-ists.

That sounds silly, doesn't it? That's exactly how it sounds to the rest of us when Christians employ that reasoning. I hate to resorting to the FSM, but at this point it seems like the best way to show you the absurdities in that reasoning.

Therefore, if people hate Christians meddling in politics, stop voting them in!!!

I didn't vote for Bush. And I won't be voting for anyone who won't respect the separation of church and state. However, I seem to be in the minority. So in addition to wielding my vote, I applaud people like Lee who publically point out the mistakes made when politicians forget the line between church and state. Is it your opinion that people like Lee and myself should just shut up and put up with the mistakes made by people we didn't vote for?

The topic I responded to and the subsequent discussion was regarding the four questions originally posted by Jim.

Questions raised in the comment thread rather than the opening post, so Lee's observation that things have drifted off-topic was true. And I see that both Jim and Lee spent some time interacting with you on those questions, before coming to a deadlock over the circular reasoning at the core of your comments. So I don't think your accusation of them trying to sweep those questions under the carpet is justified.

Jason said...

"...Would you say that this reasoning is sound?"

I think you’re missing the context of the discussion. It was originally stated, among other things, that because no one outside of Scripture had ever recorded Herod killing babies, then the Biblical account of the event must not be true. However, as I’ve already stated, this isn’t a reasonable or logical means of refuting the divinity of the Gospels since no third-party evidence is required to verify the account, especially considering the atheist position is based on an argument of silence. It’s certainly not sufficient enough to prove the Gospels aren’t inspired. Let’s put it this way: If Josephus didn’t record that Herod ever killed babies, who cares if Christians can’t provide a extra-Biblical evidence stating he did? What does this prove other then the fact that Josephus didn’t record the event?

"Christianity is rejected on the grounds that it contradicts the BFSM. From a FSM-ist perspective, the BFSM is Its Word and it's infallible. Therefore, another text that makes claims that contradicts the BFSM must, by extension, be considered false by FSM-ists."

Er, okay. What does this have to do with Christianity rejecting other “holy texts”? The Bible is the root of Christianity. If a text contradicts Scripture, then by nature, from a Christian perspective, it’s false. Seems pretty straightforward, no?

"Is it your opinion that people like Lee and myself should just shut up and put up with the mistakes made by people we didn't vote for?"

It’s my opinion that if people have problems with Christians meddling in politics, they shouldn’t vote them into office. This would seem to be the most logical way to solve the meddling Christian problem.

"So I don't think your accusation of them trying to sweep those questions under the carpet is justified."

The circular reasoning deadlock was a byproduct of the discussion, not the discussion itself. I was originally interested in understanding what the confusion was about why Herod killed the babies in the Matthew account, trying to figure out why some think that Jesus didn’t appear to anyone other then his disciples after his resurrection, and also continuing the discussion about whether or not the Sanhedrin & Pilate didn’t defend Jesus because they didn’t believe him or because they feared the people. I was looking for closure on these topics and none was offered. I’d like to know why.

Btsai said...

Jason said,

I think you’re missing the context of the discussion.

And I think you just dodged my question. I'll ask it again. If someone said that they believe the Book of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is divinely inspired because the Book says so, and they say no other evidence is required, is that reasoning sound?

The Bible is the root of Christianity. If a text contradicts Scripture, then by nature, from a Christian perspective, it’s false. Seems pretty straightforward, no?

No, not straightforward. Quite circular, actually :) Tell me, if my only reason for stating that Christianity is false is because it contradicts my beloved Book of the FSM, which I believe is divinely inspired because it says it is, how would you convince me that I'm wrong?

It’s my opinion that if people have problems with Christians meddling in politics, they shouldn’t vote them into office. This would seem to be the most logical way to solve the meddling Christian problem.

You did read my previous comment, right, where I've already stated how I would not vote for "meddling Christians"? Again, please answer the question I posed to you earlier. Is it your opinion that people such as Lee and myself should not complain about mistakes made by people we didn't vote for?

Not being knowledgeable about Herod , Matthew, Sanhedrin, or Pilate, I'm afraid I cannot help you with those inquiries. But I would venture that the discussion on those topics died precisely because of the deadlock over circular reasoning. When two sides can't even agree on what constitutes sound reasoning, all they can do is talk past each other. Now, I would like some closure on my questions to you. Would you care to oblige?

Jason said...

"If someone said that they believe the Book of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is divinely inspired because the Book says so, and they say no other evidence is required, is that reasoning sound?"

No, it’s not sound reasoning but then it’s still not a relevant analogy because I’ve never been asked why I believe the Bible is inspired. The discussion, once again, is regarding a single event in the Gospel of Matthew.

If I said that a single event mentioned in the BFSM didn’t occur because history doesn’t mention anything about it, I’m not offering anything by way of counter-evidence proving the event in the BFSM isn’t divinely inspired. I’m simply making an observation. From the BFSM supporter’s point of view, he’s not obligated to defend his view with anything tangible because nothing tangible has been presented.

Therefore, it makes no difference if no extra-Biblical evidence has been found that proves Herod killed babies. Until actual evidence is presented, a Christian isn’t obligated to present any evidence of their own beyond stating their belief in the divinely inspired nature of the author.

"Tell me, if my only reason for stating that Christianity is false is because it contradicts my beloved Book of the FSM, which I believe is divinely inspired because it says it is, how would you convince me that I'm wrong?

Completely irrelevant. How I would convince you that you’re wrong has nothing to do with Christian perspectives. If a text contradicts Scripture, then by nature, from a Christian perspective, it’s false.

"Is it your opinion that people such as Lee and myself should not complain about mistakes made by people we didn't vote for?"

Whether or not you want to complain about mistakes made by people you didn’t vote for is completely up to you. My statement is still if people have problems with Christians meddling in politics, they shouldn’t vote them into office.

"But I would venture that the discussion on those topics died precisely because of the deadlock over circular reasoning."

I would say you’re venturing wrong. What does this statement have to do with circular reasoning: “The Bible says that Christ was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples, and no one else.” The Bible quite clearly says this statement is false (John 20:18). What’s the difficulty in admitting as such? “(The Jews) might have believed that he would 'grow up to be their king' but there is no evidence (not even in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) that they would have gathered around him." Matthew 2:2 and 2 Kings 22:1 disagree. Circular reasoning plays no part. “I love the way Christians have it both ways, first seeing Jesus with this immense following, and then seeing him with no followers and hated by the people, whichever is most convenient and without even noticing the contradiction.” What’s so difficult about being able to explain the contradiction? “The oldest manuscripts of the Bible are hardly identical to those we have today -- they differ in almost every particular, some in important ways some in minor ways.” I couldn't even get an example of how they're different. Why not?

Btsai said...

Jason admits,

No, it’s not sound reasoning but then it’s still not a relevant analogy because I’ve never been asked why I believe the Bible is inspired. The discussion, once again, is regarding a single event in the Gospel of Matthew.

I'm over-joyed that you finally admit that "I believe X is divinely inspired because X says so" is not sound reasoning. Progress! Dare I hope that you might recognize the circular and unsound reasoning in these comments of yours?

"Christians already trust the source since the source is God." - 4:49 PM, July 03, 2007

"I’m explaining that a Christian doesn’t require third-party evidence to prove these stories because divinely inspired writings don’t require corroboration." - 10:05 AM, July 06, 2007

"Christians don’t require evidence from a third-party to verify the divinity of the Gospels." - 11:32 PM, July 08, 2007

This is what I've been hounding you about all along. Your use of reasoning that even you admit is unsound. If you think our discussion has been about Matthew, Herod, et al., I suggest you re-read my comments.

Completely irrelevant. How I would convince you that you’re wrong has nothing to do with Christian perspectives. If a text contradicts Scripture, then by nature, from a Christian perspective, it’s false.

My example was intended to demonstrate to you that your reasoning "if I believe my holy text X, and Y contradicts X, Y must be wrong" can be used by a believer of ANY religion to "prove" that all other religions are wrong. In other words, under your reasoning, a FSM-ist is perfectly justified in his rejection of Christianity. If you have no problems with this consequence of your "reasoning", cool.

Whether or not you want to complain about mistakes made by people you didn’t vote for is completely up to you. My statement is still if people have problems with Christians meddling in politics, they shouldn’t vote them into office.

Boy, I'm glad I have your permission to complain :) Once again, I'll point out that your voting suggestion is redundant given that I (surprisingly enough) already thought of it on my own (11:35 AM, July 09, 2007). But thanks anyway.

You don't think your exchange with Jim and Lee died over circuluar logic? Jim originally brought up his 4 "strange questions" in the context of encouraging people to think about the Bible, to try to measure it against evidence and common sense. In his own words:

"The trick is to think critically and skeptically -- which does not mean rejecting things out of hand, but testing them against the evidence, and sometimes against common sense. But you have to ask the right questions. Here, let me give you a couple to think about in relation to Christianity and the Bible." - 6:42 PM, June 28, 2007

You then entered the scene with the circular reasoning that the Bible need not be measured against evidence because it's divinely inspired. And how do Christians know that the Bible was divinely inspired? Oh, because the Bible says so. When someone employs circular thinking in a discussion about critical thinking, and refuses to see any no problem with the practice, it leaves little point to the discussion. Your last comment, days after Jim and Lee departed, is the first where you admit that circular reasoning is unsound!

The above is, of course, just my interpretation; you are welcome to stick to your own conclusions.

Jason said...

Dare I hope that you might recognize the circular and unsound reasoning in these comments of yours?

Tiresome. The claim was made Matthew isn’t inspired. The onus is on the accuser, not the Christian, to prove as such. Until evidence is presented that can be responded to, a Christian isn’t obligated to present any evidence of their own beyond stating their belief in the divinely inspired nature of the author. Therefore, the Christian response “God inspired the author so I believe it’s right” happily stands until tangible evidence is presented that proves Herod, etc. didn’t do what the Gospels said he did.

If you think our discussion has been about Matthew, Herod, et al., I suggest you re-read my comments.

1. Christians already trust the source since the source is God." - 4:49 PM, July 03, 2007 As stated in response to a comment made regarding the events recorded in Matthew.

2. I’m explaining that a Christian doesn’t require third-party evidence to prove these stories because divinely inspired writings don’t require corroboration. - 10:05 AM, July 06, 2007 A continuation of my point regarding the killing of babies by Herod.

3. Christians don’t require evidence from a third-party to verify the divinity of the Gospels. - 11:32 PM, July 08, 2007 As stated in response to a comment made regarding Herod killing babies.

What is it about these comments that is giving you confusion regarding their rather obvious Gospel context?

"My example was intended to demonstrate to you that your reasoning "if I believe my holy text X, and Y contradicts X, Y must be wrong" can be used by a believer of ANY religion to "prove" that all other religions are wrong."

No, that’s not what I said at all. My point was a rather simple one: From a Christian perspective, the Bible is His Word and it’s infallible. Therefore, another text that makes claims that contradict the Bible must, by extension, be considered false by Christians. Now, where do you read that I’m saying X,YX,Y is sufficient for anyone of any religion to prove that all other religions are wrong? Please, indulge me.

"Boy, I'm glad I have your permission to complain :) Once again, I'll point out that your voting suggestion is redundant given that I (surprisingly enough) already thought of it on my own (11:35 AM, July 09, 2007). But thanks anyway."

I wasn’t aware you thought you needed my permission to complain…? And I congratulate you that you thought of my voting suggestion on your own. In the conversation I was finishing up with Lee before you jumped in and decided to continue things, we hadn’t gotten there yet.

"You don't think your exchange with Jim and Lee died over circuluar logic? Jim originally brought up his 4 "strange questions" in the context of encouraging people to think about the Bible, to try to measure it against evidence and common sense."

Great. What evidence?

“You then entered the scene with the circular reasoning that the Bible need not be measured against evidence because it's divinely inspired.”
Actually, I entered the scene responding to Jim’s questions. Perhaps you missed this particular post and the half dozen after it…?

Now then, I’d like to know how, according to you, circular reasoning killed the topics off as listed below (original comment in italics, my response in non-italics):

1. “The Bible says that Christ was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples, and no one else.” This statement is false according to John 20:18.

2. “(The Jews) might have believed that he would 'grow up to be their king' but there is no evidence (not even in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) that they would have gathered around him." Matthew 2:2 and 2 Kings 22:1 disagree.

3. “I love the way Christians have it both ways, first seeing Jesus with this immense following, and then seeing him with no followers and hated by the people, whichever is most convenient and without even noticing the contradiction.” What’s the contradiction?

4. “The oldest manuscripts of the Bible are hardly identical to those we have today -- they differ in almost every particular, some in important ways some in minor ways.” For example?

Btsai said...

Jason,

So you readily state that when an FSM-ist says "I believe X is divinely inspired because X says so" it is not sound reasoning, but refuse to acknowledge your own use of that unsound reasoning? How disappointing. I thought we were actually getting somewhere. Unsound reasoning is unsound reasoning, regardless of the context or who is employing it. In other words, unsound reasoning does not magically become sound just because a Christian is using it.

The claim was made Matthew isn’t inspired. The onus is on the accuser, not the Christian, to prove as such. Until evidence is presented that can be responded to, a Christian isn’t obligated to present any evidence of their own beyond stating their belief in the divinely inspired nature of the author. Therefore, the Christian response “God inspired the author so I believe it’s right” happily stands until tangible evidence is presented that proves Herod, etc. didn’t do what the Gospels said he did.

What a hoot! When someone makes a positive claim, such as "I believe the bible is divinely inspired", the onus is on the *claimer* to justify that claim, not on the skeptic. And when you make a super-natural claim, you better have some extraordinary evidence.

Again, let's re-visit our friendly hypothetical FSM-ist to see why your idea is absurd. According to you, he is perfectly justified in his belief, until someone can disprove the existence of the FSM. If you want to insist that the onus is on the challenger, then you better get started disproving the existence of the FSM, else accept that the FSM-ist is as justified in his belief as you are in yours.

What is it about these comments that is giving you confusion regarding their rather obvious Gospel context?

I'll say it again: re-read my comments. Nowhere was I interested in or tried to engage you about the context. The context is irrelevant, because, again, unsound reasoning is unsound regardless of context.

No, that’s not what I said at all. My point was a rather simple one: From a Christian perspective, the Bible is His Word and it’s infallible. Therefore, another text that makes claims that contradict the Bible must, by extension, be considered false by Christians. Now, where do you read that I’m saying X,YX,Y is sufficient for anyone of any religion to prove that all other religions are wrong? Please, indulge me.

Still not getting it eh? I'll try to make it even clearer, then. You're saying that because a Christian believes his holy text the bible, if another text contradicts the bible, then that text must be wrong. Replace the bible with X, and "another text" with Y, and you have exactly the "if I believe my holy text X, and Y contradicts X, Y must be wrong" I attributed to you. Better?

To continue, according to you, a FSM-ist would be perfectly justified in denying everything that contradicts his Book of the FSM. Up to and including, like, every other religion. If you're still paying attention, this is how your "point" is sufficient for anyone of any religion to "prove" that all other religions are wrong.

Still waiting on your answer of whether you think the FSM-ist is perfectly justified in rejecting Christianity.

What evidence?

Precisely! The veracity of historical claims made by the bible should be judged by the degree of corroboration from other historical records. In the case of, say, biblical stories of Herod, what corroborating records do we have? Oh wait, I forgot, you still abide by your circular logic that no evidence is needed for biblical claims because it's divinely inspired, and that it's divinely inspired because it says it is. And you wonder how discussions get into deadlock over unsound reasoning.

Now then, I’d like to know how, according to you, circular reasoning killed the topics off as listed below...

No problem, I'll refresh your memory. Scroll up to Lee's post at 3:22 AM, July 02, 2007. That's where the two of you dropped the other topics and switched exclusively to talking about your circular justification of why the bible should be trusted.

Jason said...

So you readily state..."

I’m done responding to this analogy. You’re not religious. You don’t have a ‘holy text’. You’re not engaging me in a discussion regarding which of us is spiritually correct. Should you ever end up aligning yourself with a non-Biblical holy text, we can examine each other’s book and make unreasonable claims until the cows come home. Until then, the manner in which two religious groups want to refute the other’s holy book is really of no concern to you.

The claim was made that Matthew isn’t inspired. What tangible evidence can be offered proving this?

What a hoot! When someone makes a positive claim, such as "I believe the bible is divinely inspired", the onus is on the *claimer* to justify that claim, not on the skeptic.

The original claim was made by the skeptic. Go back and read the posts. “The trick is to think critically and skeptically -- which does not mean rejecting things out of hand, but testing them against the evidence, and sometimes against common sense… Here, let me give you a couple to think about…” The resulting comments consisted of questions and statements that deal with Bible inerrancy and claim the resurrection was a myth. No evidence was ever presented supporting this.

"Nowhere was I interested in or tried to engage you about the context. The context is irrelevant, because, again, unsound reasoning is unsound regardless of context."

Whether you were interested or not doesn’t concern me and unsound reasoning doesn’t change the context. You incorrectly stated that the context in which I was writing wasn’t regarding the Gospels or Herod. Admit as such and move on.

"Precisely! The veracity of historical claims made by the bible should be judged by the degree of corroboration from other historical records.."

What does a lack of historical evidence prove: That something didn’t happen or that history is silent concerning the supposed event?

No problem, I'll refresh your memory. Scroll up to Lee's post at 3:22 AM, July 02, 2007. That's where the two of you dropped the other topics and switched exclusively to talking about your circular justification of why the bible should be trusted."

I’m not asking you when we changed subjects. I’m asking you how circular reasoning killed off these topics:

1. “The Bible says that Christ was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples, and no one else.” According to John 20:18, is this statement true or false?

2. “(The Jews) might have believed that he would 'grow up to be their king' but there is no evidence (not even in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) that they would have gathered around him." Does Matthew 2:2 and 2 Kings 22:1 support or contradict this statement?

3. “I love the way Christians have it both ways, first seeing Jesus with this immense following, and then seeing him with no followers and hated by the people, whichever is most convenient and without even noticing the contradiction.” What’s the contradiction?

4. “The oldest manuscripts of the Bible are hardly identical to those we have today -- they differ in almost every particular, some in important ways some in minor ways.” For example?

If I tell you that the first king of Israel, according to the Bible, was King Johnny and you show me it was actually Saul, what would you say if I told you, “That’s just circular reasoning. This conversation is over”?

Btsai said...

I’m done responding to this analogy. You’re not religious. You don’t have a ‘holy text’. You’re not engaging me in a discussion regarding which of us is spiritually correct. Should you ever end up aligning yourself with a non-Biblical holy text, we can examine each other’s book and make unreasonable claims until the cows come home. Until then, the manner in which two religious groups want to refute the other’s holy book is really of no concern to you.

So if I'm not religious, I can't question whether you are spiritually correct? And you being religious gives you carte blanche to use what you admit is unsound reasoning? Can you say, special pleading?

The claim was made that Matthew isn’t inspired. What tangible evidence can be offered proving this?

The original claim was made by the skeptic... The resulting comments consisted of questions and statements that deal with Bible inerrancy and claim the resurrection was a myth. No evidence was ever presented supporting this.

What does a lack of historical evidence prove: That something didn’t happen or that history is silent concerning the supposed event?

Positive claim: Matthew was divinely inspired.
Negative claim: There's no reason to believe that Matthew was divinely inspired.

Positive claim: The Resurrection happened exactly as the Bible described.
Negative claim: There's no reason to believe that the Resurrection happened, let alone exactly as the Bible described.

Positive claim: The Bible's Herod baby-killing story is true.
Negative claim: There's no reason to believe that that story is true.

Let me introduce you to the concept of the burden of proof. In each instance above, the burden of proof is on you, the defender of the positive claims, to present evidence to support your claims, not the skeptic. An intro to objective reasoning, which talks about positive/negative claims near the middle.

You incorrectly stated that the context in which I was writing wasn’t regarding the Gospels or Herod. Admit as such and move on.

Yes, I will admit (as I did already in the "Eyewitness testimony and apologetics" thread) that I mistook your circular justification of the gospels for circular justification of the bible. I agree, let's move on. Back to the topic of your unsound reasoning.

I’m not asking you when we changed subjects. I’m asking you how circular reasoning killed off these topics:

You can keep copy/pasting those topics as much as you'd like, but I simply have no interest in them. I stated my interpretation that your previous discussion died over your use of circular logic only in an attempt to bring your attention to the consequences of employing unsound reasoning. What I'm interested in is, you guessed it, your unsound reasoning itself. Which has now grown to include not just circular logic, but also special pleading and shifting the burden of proof. Impressive :)

Btsai said...

Oh yeah, almost forgot. Still waiting on your answer of whether you think the FSM-ist is perfectly justified in rejecting Christianity. Because he would be perfectly justified to do so, using your reasoning from a FSM-ist perspective, right?

Jason said...

"So if I'm not religious, I can't question whether you are spiritually correct?"

That’s right, you’re not religious. You can’t question whether I’m spiritually correct since you’re not able to judge either way. As an unbeliever, on what grounds would you decide who is spiritually ‘right’ and who is spiritually ‘wrong’?

"Let me introduce you to the concept of the burden of proof. In each instance above, the burden of proof is on you, the defender of the positive claims, to present evidence to support your claims, not the skeptic."

You’re kidding. This whole forum dedicated to “debunking Christianity” – yes or no? The original assertion was that the Gospel of Matthew wasn't inspired because of the lack of historical evidence or reliable eyewitnesses. To use your fancy argument terms, this is an argument from a position of ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam) - a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is false only because it has not been proved true. Note: “logical fallacy”

I’d like answers to my questions now:
1. The claim was made that Matthew isn’t inspired. What tangible evidence can be offered proving this?

2. What does a lack of historical evidence prove: That something didn’t happen or that history is silent concerning the supposed event?

"You can keep copy/pasting those topics as much as you'd like, but I simply have no interest in them."

That's nice. Now tell me what ‘circular logic’ has to do with examining false statements and asking for more information?

1. “The Bible says that Christ was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples, and no one else.” According to John 20:18, is this statement true or false?

2. “(The Jews) might have believed that he would 'grow up to be their king' but there is no evidence (not even in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) that they would have gathered around him." Does Matthew 2:2 and 2 Kings 22:1 support or contradict this statement?

3. “I love the way Christians have it both ways, first seeing Jesus with this immense following, and then seeing him with no followers and hated by the people, whichever is most convenient and without even noticing the contradiction.” What’s the contradiction?

4. “The oldest manuscripts of the Bible are hardly identical to those we have today -- they differ in almost every particular, some in important ways some in minor ways.” For example?

Answer the question: If I tell you that the first king of Israel, according to the Bible, was King Johnny and you show me it was actually Saul, what would you say if I told you, “That’s just circular reasoning. This conversation is over”?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Btsai,
you have the patience of a saint.
;-)
I wish I could buy you a beer.

Btsai said...

Jason claims,

That’s right, you’re not religious. You can’t question whether I’m spiritually correct since you’re not able to judge either way. As an unbeliever, on what grounds would you decide who is spiritually ‘right’ and who is spiritually ‘wrong’?

I would judge based on whose ideas rest upon sound reasoning, and whose claims are supported by evidence. You know, the same criteria we use to judge ideas and claims in every walk of life. Folks like you who want to claim that religious ideas and claims should somehow be exempt from this scrutiny are guilty of, say it with me, special pleading.

You’re kidding. This whole forum dedicated to “debunking Christianity” – yes or no?

That's right, the forum is dedicated to debunking Christianity. From what I can see, it does so by prodding people to think critically about the claims made by Christianity, and see how ill-supported by evidence they are. I would think this is obvious by the nature of the topics raised at this forum. I don't see anyone trying to take on the impossible task of proving a negative. Only someone trying to shift the burden of proof would claim that.

The original assertion was that the Gospel of Matthew wasn't inspired because of the lack of historical evidence or reliable eyewitnesses. To use your fancy argument terms, this is an argument from a position of ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam) - a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is false only because it has not been proved true. Note: “logical fallacy”

Sneaky Jason! The assertion has never been "because of lack of evidence, Matthew is not divinely inspired". It's always been "because of lack of evidence, there's no reason to believe that Matthew is divinely inspired." The former is a logical fallacy. The latter is simple sound reasoning. It's a shame you are unable or unwilling to see the difference.

It's interesting you brought up the argument of ignorance. You are the one who's been claiming that biblical stories such as Matthew should be considered true until proven false. Sounds just like an argument from ignorance to me!

I’d like answers to my questions now:

Still trying to red-herring away from the topic of your unsound reasoning, I see.

You are free to hold any belief you want, and free to justify them to yourself using any unsound reasoning you fancy. And maybe unsound reasoning is acceptable among your colleagues who share your beliefs. But when people of different beliefs want to exchange and discuss ideas, the common coin is sound reasoning, free of logical fallacies. So if you want to have any meaningful discussions here, best to start learning how to employ sound reasoning. Until you do, don't expect much to come out of your attempts to engage others.

Btsai said...

Hi Lee,

Thanks for the compliment :) Though I'm afraid what you flatteringly call patience is really just pig-headed stubbornness. But I'll happily take the free drink! By the way, I was also Benny. But I have to use my Google account name now, under the new commenting system.

Jason said...

"I would judge based on whose ideas rest upon sound reasoning, and whose claims are supported by evidence. You know, the same criteria we use to judge ideas and claims in every walk of life."

Well, you learn something new everyday. As an atheist, how can you possibly think any religion is based on 'sound reasoning'? Is believing in a supernatural deity 'sound reasoning'? It’s like asking a vegetarian to judge a BBQ competition...ugh.

"Folks like you who want to claim that religious ideas and claims should somehow be exempt from this scrutiny are guilty of, say it with me, special pleading."

Where have I made the claim that 'religious ideas and claims should be exempt from this kind of scrutiny'? The only thing your so-called scrutiny has turned up is there's no evidence to support some of the events in the Gospels. I believe the term is ‘argumentum ad ignorantiam’....?

"From what I can see, it does so by prodding people to think critically about the claims made by Christianity, and see how ill-supported by evidence they are."

"Ill supported by evidence"?? Argumentum ad ignorantiam.

Here's a question: Is it or is it not possible to offer tangible evidence showing Matthew wasn't inspired. Forget the burden of proof and garbage like that. Simple question.

"The assertion has never been "because of lack of evidence, Matthew is not divinely inspired". It's always been "because of lack of evidence, there's no reason to believe that Matthew is divinely inspired." The former is a logical fallacy. The latter is simple sound reasoning."

Wrong. Both statements are based on the logical fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam since it's claimed that a premise is false only because it has not been proved true.

"It's interesting you brought up the argument of ignorance. You are the one who's been claiming that biblical stories such as Matthew should be considered true until proven false."

Where have I made this claim? I’ve been stating, time after time, that from a Christian perspective, extra-Biblical evidence isn’t required to prove the divinity of the Gospels. This seems to be causing you tremendous confusion.

To refresh your memory, all I want is to see the evidence that supposedly exists which proves the Gospels aren’t divinely inspired (evidence alluded to in the original four questions put forth by Jim). That’s all. Can you do that or not?

"Still trying to red-herring away from the topic of your unsound reasoning, I see."

And I see you’re still not willing to extend to me the same courtesy as I extended you. Do the questions intimidate you? I would have thought #1 and #2 would have been the easiest for you to answer. Even the last one should be pretty straightforward. Maybe you're a bit out of your league...?

"You are free to hold any belief you want, and free to justify them to yourself using any unsound reasoning you fancy."

I wasn’t aware I needed your permission to believe anything I wanted. Speaking of unsound reasoning, how sound is this criticism: “Jesus only appeared to his disciples after his resurrection – he appeared to no one else”?

"So if you want to have any meaningful discussions here, best to start learning how to employ sound reasoning. Until you do, don't expect much to come out of your attempts to engage others."

lol I have no expectations. You’re an atheist, after all. ;) An atheist brings up a few statements concerning the Bible (as if they're experts on Scriptural matters), the statements are revealed to be false, and poof, no more engaging. Typical.

Btsai said...

As an atheist, how can you possibly think any religion is based on 'sound reasoning'? Is believing in a supernatural deity 'sound reasoning'? It’s like asking a vegetarian to judge a BBQ competition...ugh.

Oh, so you're saying that religion should not be judged by reason, because religion cannot be built on on sound reasoning, interesting.

Where have I made the claim that 'religious ideas and claims should be exempt from this kind of scrutiny'?

Right up above, where you said religion cannot be judged by reason.

The only thing your so-called scrutiny has turned up is there's no evidence to support some of the events in the Gospels. I believe the term is ‘argumentum ad ignorantiam’....?

"Ill supported by evidence"?? Argumentum ad ignorantiam.

Wrong again. Observing that something is unsupported by evidence is just that, an observation, not an argument from ignorance. You should make sure you understand the term's definition before you try throwing it around.

Here's a question: Is it or is it not possible to offer tangible evidence showing Matthew wasn't inspired.

Another red herring? Another attempt to shift the burden of proof? I say yes to both.

Forget the burden of proof and garbage like that.

Are you asking me to forget all about sound reasoning and "garbage like that"? Play only by your special rules? Thanks but no thanks.

Both statements are based on the logical fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam since it's claimed that a premise is false only because it has not been proved true.

Still can't see the distinction between logical fallacy and sound skeptical position.

I’ve been stating, time after time, that from a Christian perspective, extra-Biblical evidence isn’t required to prove the divinity of the Gospels.

And I've been stating, time after time, that throwing in the phrase "from a Christian perspective" doesn't make an unsound argument magically sound. If a Christian says to himself, "I believe the gospels are divinely inspired because they say they are, no 3rd party evidence is needed", it's still circular reasoning. If a Christian says to himself, "I will accept the gospels as true until someone proves to me they are not", it's still an argument from ignorance.

To refresh your memory, all I want is to see the evidence that supposedly exists which proves the Gospels aren’t divinely inspired (evidence alluded to in the original four questions put forth by Jim). That’s all. Can you do that or not?

Still trying to off-load your burden of proof.

And I see you’re still not willing to extend to me the same courtesy as I extended you.

You mean your courtesy of repeatedly dodging questions like this one?

Still waiting on your answer of whether you think the FSM-ist is perfectly justified in rejecting Christianity. Because he would be perfectly justified to do so, using your reasoning from a FSM-ist perspective, right?

Maybe you're a bit out of your league...?

lol I have no expectations. You’re an atheist, after all. ;) An atheist brings up a few statements concerning the Bible (as if they're experts on Scriptural matters), the statements are revealed to be false, and poof, no more engaging. Typical.

Attempts at ad hominem?

Do you have anything meaningful to contribute, or do you intend to just keep up the showcasing of logical fallacies?

Joshua said...

Btsai,

You can't argue with people who have no grasp of the basic principles of logic and the requirements of burden of proof.

Rid yourself of this one before you pop a brain vessel.

Lego :)

Jason said...

"Oh, so you're saying that religion should not be judged by reason, because religion cannot be built on on sound reasoning, interesting."

From your perspective, is believing in a supernatural deity ‘sound reasoning’?

"Where have I made the claim that 'religious ideas and claims should be exempt from this kind of scrutiny'? Right up above, where you said religion cannot be judged by reason."

Quote me please because I must be missing it.

"Observing that something is unsupported by evidence is just that, an observation, not an argument from ignorance. You should make sure you understand the term's definition before you try throwing it around."

If it’s only an observation, how is it that you’ve reached a conclusion? You’ve observed the lack of evidence but you’ve concluded the lack of evidence disproves the divinity of the Gospels. True or false?

"Here's a question: Is it or is it not possible to offer tangible evidence showing Matthew wasn't inspired. Another red herring? Another attempt to shift the burden of proof? I say yes to both."

So it’s possible and not possible to offer tangible evidence showing Matthew wasn’t inspired. Explain please.

"Still can't see the distinction between logical fallacy and sound skeptical position."

That’s right, because there isn’t one. You’re claiming that a premise (the Gospels are inspired) is false only because it has not been proved true. Therefore, argumentum ad ignorantiam.

"And I've been stating, time after time, that throwing in the phrase "from a Christian perspective" doesn't make an unsound argument magically sound. If a Christian says to himself, "I believe the gospels are divinely inspired because they say they are, no 3rd party evidence is needed", it's still circular reasoning. If a Christian says to himself, "I will accept the gospels as true until someone proves to me they are not", it's still an argument from ignorance."

Why are you arguing the personal choices of a Christian? The decision to believe that the Gospels are inspired without extra Biblical evidence isn’t an argument, friend. It’s a simple statement that doesn’t involve anyone else. On the other hand, the atheist camp has decided the Gospels aren’t inspired and they offered non-evidence proving as such. Argumentum ad ignorantiam.

"Do you have anything meaningful to contribute, or do you intend to just keep up the showcasing of logical fallacies?"

You mean like your ad hominem bit? Lol

Let's talk about the burden of proof - "Outside a legal context, "burden of proof" means that someone suggesting a new theory or stating a claim must provide evidence to support it: it is not sufficient to say "you can't disprove this." Specifically, when anyone is making a bold claim, it is not someone else's responsibility to disprove the claim, but is rather the responsibility of the person who is making the bold claim to prove it." -wiki

This claim was put forward: The Gospels aren't inspired.

Therefore: Evidence must be presented proving the Gospels aren't inspired. Note: it is not someone else's responsibility to disprove the claim.

So, where's the evidence?

Btsai said...

Jason asks,

From your perspective, is believing in a supernatural deity ‘sound reasoning’?

No. You seem to see this as reason to exempt religious ideas and claims from scrutiny by reason. I see it as reason to reject religious ideas and claims.

You want to know where you said that religion should be exempt from reason?

Benny: "I would judge [which religion is more "spiritually correct"] based on whose ideas rest upon sound reasoning, and whose claims are supported by evidence. You know, the same criteria we use to judge ideas and claims in every walk of life. Folks like you who want to claim that religious ideas and claims should somehow be exempt from this scrutiny are guilty of, say it with me, special pleading." (10:34 AM, July 12, 2007)

Jason: "As an atheist, how can you possibly think any religion is based on 'sound reasoning'? Is believing in a supernatural deity 'sound reasoning'? It’s like asking a vegetarian to judge a BBQ competition...ugh." (11:52 PM, July 12, 2007)

So it’s possible and not possible to offer tangible evidence showing Matthew wasn’t inspired. Explain please.

My statement: "Another red herring? Another attempt to shift the burden of proof? I say yes to both."

Meaning: Your question is both a red herring and another attempt to shift the burden of proof.

You’ve observed the lack of evidence but you’ve concluded the lack of evidence disproves the divinity of the Gospels. True or false?

You’re claiming that a premise (the Gospels are inspired) is false only because it has not been proved true. Therefore, argumentum ad ignorantiam.

On the other hand, the atheist camp has decided the Gospels aren’t inspired and they offered non-evidence proving as such. Argumentum ad ignorantiam.

This claim was put forward: The Gospels aren't inspired.

Therefore: Evidence must be presented proving the Gospels aren't inspired.


Nowhere in this thread did an atheist state that the lack of evidence proves that the gospels are not divinely inspired. Instead, what we have been asking for from the beginning is evidence to support the Christian claim that the gospels are divinely inspired. You are still trying to shift the burden of proof.

Why are you arguing the personal choices of a Christian? The decision to believe that the Gospels are inspired without extra Biblical evidence isn’t an argument, friend. It’s a simple statement that doesn’t involve anyone else.

Ah, this is the heart of the matter. You believe that a Christian is justified to accept, a priori, the premise that the gospels are inspired without 3rd party evidence. As a friend puts it, this premise is your magical logic trump card, with which any Christian claim can be proven.

But when I pointed out that a FSM-ist can play his own version of this trump card to prove any FSM claim, you say that he would be guilty of unsound reasoning. Yet you continue to cling to this unsound reasoning yourself. You also refuse to acknowlege that under your reasoning, a FSM-ist is as justified in his rejection of Christianity as you are in your rejection of FSM doctrine.

When pressed to justify a Christian's a priori acceptance of your magical premise, you sputter and respond with a series of logical fallacies. Circular reasoning, arguments from ignorance, and ad hominem attacks (oh my!). You distort the skeptic's position to shift the burden of proof, and use special pleading to try to exempt religion from rational scrutiny, while denying making such statements.

As I understand it, the main point of this forum is to subject Christianity's premises to scrutiny by reason. It is pointless to debate someone like you, who chooses to accept Christianity's premises irrationally (in the sense of "without/devoid of reason"). I will follow in Jim and Lee's footsteps, and take my leave of you.

Jason said...

"No. You seem to see this as reason to exempt religious ideas and claims from scrutiny by reason. I see it as reason to reject religious ideas and claims."

Exactly. Back to the topic then, if believing in a supernatural deity isn’t sound reasoning (by your own admission), how can you judge which religion ‘uses sound reasoning’ (your words) as a means of determining who is ‘spiritually correct’? Right. By definition, you can’t. Therefore, as I said at the beginning of this, your BFSM analogy is irrelevant which is why I stopped responding to it.

"You want to know where you said that religion should be exempt from reason?"

Jason: "As an atheist, how can you possibly think any religion is based on 'sound reasoning'? Is believing in a supernatural deity 'sound reasoning'? It’s like asking a vegetarian to judge a BBQ competition...ugh."

Other then your original comment being false (you aren’t in a position to judge religions since you’ve already rejected them), where do you see the blanket statement “religion should be exempt from reason” in my comment?

"So it’s possible and not possible to offer tangible evidence showing Matthew wasn’t inspired. Explain please. My statement: "Another red herring? Another attempt to shift the burden of proof? I say yes to both."

Ah, my apologies. For some bizarre reason, I thought you were actually answering one of my questions! How silly of me! Let's try again (second time's a charm): You’ve observed the lack of evidence but you’ve concluded the lack of evidence disproves the divinity of the Gospels. True or false? This isn’t actually as tough as it looks. Pick one. After all, the whole basis for this discussion rests on this answer.

"Nowhere in this thread did an atheist state that the lack of evidence proves that the gospels are not divinely inspired."

Really? I could have sworn there was a reference to a "Why didn't anyone write about..." question early on in this post. Isn't the along the lines of 'lack of evidence'? Of more relevance though, the claim was made the Gospels aren’t inspired. As such, the burden of proof rests with the party making the claim, which in this case happens to be the atheist camp.

"Instead, what we have been asking for from the beginning is evidence to support the Christian claim that the gospels are divinely inspired. You are still trying to shift the burden of proof."

Firstly, the burden of proof rests with the party making the claim. This whole site is about atheists debunking Christianity, not Christianity debunking atheism. As such, the claims made here are anti-Christian & anti-Bible. Therefore, the burden of proof rests with the atheists.

Secondly, you're obviously confused. From the beginning people have been stating the Gospels aren't inspired. Hence the request for further evidence. I mean seriously, why can’t someone just answer whether or not it’s true Jesus only appeared to his disciples after his resurrection? Surely someone must know...?

"You believe that a Christian is justified to accept, a priori, the premise that the gospels are inspired without 3rd party evidence."

Christianity believes in a supernatural deity. Because of this, you automatically reject Christianity, its claims and its ideas. An FSM-ist believes in a holy book. Because of this, you automatically reject FMS-ism, its claims and its ideas. Your opinion of unsound reasoning is irrelevant since you’ve already rejected religion as a whole. Your FSM analogy is therefore pointless because by definition, you reject the plausibility of your own hypothetical situation.

And whether or not a Christian is justified to accept anything isn’t your call. You’re not a Christian. :)

"But when I pointed out that a FSM-ist can play his own version of this trump card to prove any FSM claim, you say that he would be guilty of unsound reasoning..."

You’ve already rejected Christianity and FSM on account of both being religions. You’re in no position to judge anything in terms of exchanges between the two parties.

“When pressed to justify a Christian's a priori acceptance of your magical premise, you sputter and respond with a series of logical fallacies.”

Since when is a Christian required to justify anything to an atheist? The claim was made that the Gospels aren’t inspired. Does evidence exist or not?

"As I understand it, the main point of this forum is to subject Christianity's premises to scrutiny by reason."

Scrutiny by reason? How is argumentum ad ignorantiam “scrutiny by reason”???

Ryan said...

In the interests of futility, utter untimeliness and perhaps boredom (idle hands and all that ;), I thought I'd add a comment to this thread since I found it so charming (well, until the end).

I must admit, that halfway through I thought Jason was playing the devil's advocate, with his position that...

Christians already trust the source since the source is God.

...which gave me quite a chuckle, as I had participated in a few theological discussions that devolved to a similar circular argument. Reading on I learned Jason was honestly taking that position, and made an incorrect definition of the logical fallacy argumentum ad ignoratiam to argue against Btsai. Since most of the meat of the discussion was on this topic, I thought it important to make a small correction. Before I do so though, I'd like to do Jason the courtesy of answering his questions:

I’d like answers to my questions now:
1. The claim was made that Matthew isn’t inspired. What tangible evidence can be offered proving this?

2. What does a lack of historical evidence prove: That something didn’t happen or that history is silent concerning the supposed event?


Answers:
1. None. It is not within the scope of human capacity to prove such a negative. Even raising Matthew from the dead and having him recant would not prove that he was not divinely inspired at the time of his writing. It would take Omniscience and omnipotence on my part to prove to you otherwise (firstly to have all possible knowledge, then the coercive power to force you to believe that I do). Seeing that no-one posting here has such power, they should have avoided trying to prove the human impossibility. Why they didn't honestly answer your question... I'd hazard to guess they didn't want to give you something you might consider a victory, even if it really would have been meaningless to the debate.

2. That history is silent concerning the supposed event, simply enough.

I also must commend you on your grasp of scripture, and of humbling the atheists who stubbornly tried to prove a negative without having all necessary knowledge at their disposal (shame shame ;). It made this thread all the more enjoyable to read.

Now back to that mis-definition of "agrumentum ad ignoratiam". The proper structure of the fallacy is not:

(argumentum ad ignorantiam) - a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is false only because it has not been proved true.

It is instead the reverse:

An appeal to ignorance proposes that we accept the truth of a proposition unless an opponent can prove otherwise. But, of course, the absence of evidence against a proposition is not enough to secure its truth. What we don't know could nevertheless be so.

i.e. "...fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is True only because it has not been proved False."

Whether or not you transposed the two booleans on purpose to confound your opponents, or whether it was a simple mistake I couldn't tell. But I was saddened that no-one quite corrected you. Btsai did say, that you were shifting the burden of proof, but the mis-definition was left standing uncorrected. Which led to further confusion, both using "argumentum ad ignoratiam" against each other, which at that point was uncomfortable to see, since I was no longer under the impression that Jason was playing the devils advocate, and was instead honestly trying to argue using faulty logic. The atheists were never trying to disprove Matthew's divine inspiration, they were trying to show that your belief in such was based on an argument from ignorance.

Which brings me to my last comment.

Jason, in his last post, was projecting a version of his own circular argument onto the atheists in the discussion. Namely that the atheists believed unequivocally and by definition that belief in deities cannot be based on sound reasoning. On multiple occasions in the thread, it was made clear that this was not the opinion held by the atheists:

Lee Randolph
"I can't speak for everyone, but I don't believe in god but I won't say it can't exist...I am aware that my position depends on the best information I have at the time..."

benny
"This may or may not be necessary, but I want to clarify that not even "flat-out atheism" claims with 100% certainty that God does not exist. As far as I can tell, only people from the religious camp looking for a strawman to knock down will say this is what atheism is about. Most atheists, like myself, share Lee's position: while it's possible that supernatural beings may exist, the information we have right now simply does not support that belief."

That is to say that, given evidence, these atheists would change their mind -- Which is why it entirely permissible and logically consistent for atheists like Btsai to judge Jason's logical reasoning for belief in a deity, or whether Matthew was divinely inspired. They have refused using "argumentum ad ignoratiam" for reason to believe in any deity, all it would take is sufficient evidence or logical argument to convince them to. Until that logical argument or evidence is presented to them, they take the logically consistent position not to believe.

Which is partly why atheists ask these questions in the first place - Is there a logically consistent reason to believe in a particular deity? That question must necessarily go to those who DO believe, since no atheist can answer that question positively and remain an atheist. The second part of why atheists typically ask these types of questions of believers is that for nearly all atheists raised in religious cultures, these questions are what ultimately led them their atheism. It was this logical line of questioning that brought them to non-belief. It may be their hope (on a website dedicated to debunking religion) that the seeds of these questions may lead others to the same vision of reality.

Of course, in order to convert believers to atheism via argument, everyone must agree to debate by the same rules (logic). I've always found that those confident enough to debate on the deist side of the equation will eventually refuse those rules just as Jason did, by holding to a belief with an admittedly unsound logical foundation. How to get around that problem when debating religion with believers is what I see to be the largest stumbling block in any such discussions.

Lastly, no-one was requiring a christian to justify anything to an Atheist - they were asking you to, so they might understand if your justification was logical - up to that point you had voluntarily given your justifications. In the end, the answer you gave us by your avoidance only leaves one conclusion - you hadn't thought it through that far.