The Role of Persuasion and Cognitive Bias in Your Church

This article discusses one of my typical Sundays at church and identifies elements of Principles of Persuasion and Cognitive Bias in it. It is intended to show that Religious Belief is induced and supported by common psychological devices of principles of persuasion and cognitive bias of the type that are used in Politics, Advertising and Marketing. The discussion of Politics, Advertising and Marketing is kept to a minimum because I believe that in those categories, the devices are self-evident. Any book on critical thinking will discuss the use of principles of persuasion in Politics, Advertising and Marketing but will skirt the issue with regard to Religion. To sustain a belief in something for which no evidence exists requires some type of reinforcement. These principles provide reinforcement. They can get you through your "Dark Night of the Soul".

As I moved around I chose my churches carefully. I picked a church that was closest to the kind I grew up with, the kind where the preacher said the kind of things I was used to hearing, and where the people believed the same way I did. I'd get up early on Sunday, eager to get to Bible Study (before I started teaching it). It was the same story I'd heard a hundred times before, but I was hearing it from someone else's perspective. The service followed and I led the singing. I'd stand up there waiting for the preachers cue as he told his formally educated version of a story I'd heard a hundred times before. He would speak with a range of emotion and used powerful imagery. People would be injecting the random "Amen" here and there as he made his points. Then the preacher would give me the cue and we'd sing the same songs we'd been singing in previous years, and people would be waving their hands in the air. Singing those songs loud and strong evoked such good feelings. We'd stop and bow our heads together and the preacher would lead us in a prayer.

He was always dressed professionally and had good hair cut. He was the nicest most likable guy you'd ever want to meet. He was so un-intimidating, so comforting. In fact everyone looked nice (some dressed to kill) and most were a pillar in the community.

We had a stained glass window, pictures of bible stories all over the church and a big Jesus on the cross. After the service we'd get together and talk about things such as how blessed we were. When we talked about things, there was a lot of speculation as we tried to understand how this or that must have come about. I guess you could say it was a little like gossip. That was fellowship, and fellowship was a very important part of the church experience. I miss it now. I always marveled at the loyalty, faith and sacrifice of my fellow church members. The lady that played the piano never stopped serving the community and was an inspiration to me. I wanted that kind of faith, and I strove to get it.

I am assuming my experience was typical of the average protestant Sunday. It was filled with elements of persuasion to keep the faith alive with a lack of evidence. Lets see how many elements of persuasion we can identify in the story above.

First, lets see what "factors of persuasion" and "Cognitive Bias" are. Some of them are in the list that follows.
- People "remember the hits and forget the misses". People are naturally terrible at perceiving and interpreting probabilistic data.
- People are naturally terrible at estimating probability.
- People like stories and are willing to give the teller of the story the benefit of the doubt about the truth of it.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from someone they like.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from an authority.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it fits with what they already believe or want to believe.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it is believed by the larger group.
- People are more likely to believe a story that is accompanied by symbols or imagery to include music.
- People will come to believe what they hear the more it is repeated to them.
- People will change their evidence based viewpoint if it contradicts the viewpoint of the group.
- People overestimate the degree of belief in others.
- People look for confirmation of what they already believe and disregard things that contradict.
- People are likely to use the precautionary principle as illustrated by Pascals Wager in minimizing risk.
- People fill in the gaps in information naturally. We fill in the missing details in stories, with the blind spot in the eye, movies, music etc.

So now, how does the list above relate to the story above it? I'm sure better examples can be found but this is the best I could do with the time I had.

- When thinking about prayer, they focus on the prayer that was answered rather than un-answered. There are more un-answered prayers than answered. (People "remember the hits and forget the misses”. People are naturally terrible at perceiving and interpreting probabilistic data.)

- Attributing coincidences to Divine Manipulation, for example, a woman in the news who was convinced that she was spared by God when a racing car went into the crowd and killed the people next to her. (People are naturally terrible at estimating probability)

- Jesus supposedly taught in parables and people make up analogies to explain religious concepts and scripture. When hearing a story that would normally be hard to believe, in the context of a sermon or being told by a fellow church member, the estimation of the likelihood of exaggeration is low. (People like stories and are willing to give the teller of the story the benefit of the doubt about the truth of it.)

- People don't expect that people they like, especially Christians, would lie to them. People don't suspect the story is being exaggerated. One reason is the belief that the teller is accountable to God and God knows everything. (People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from someone they like.)

- People don't expect their religious leader to try to lie to them or exaggerate. (People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from an authority.)

- When the preacher tells a story or uses an analogy, its going to fit what the listeners already believe. The Preacher wouldn’t use it if it didn’t. (People are more likely to believe a story if it fits with what they already believe or want to believe.)

- People are likely to believe that all these people can’t be wrong and since the belief has survived thousands of years, it is not likely to be false. The bandwagon fallacy. They assume they must be mistaken. Especially since it is a tenant of Christianity to blame people in any case there is a conflict with doctrine. (People are more likely to believe a story if it is believed by the larger group.)

- Christianity relies on powerful imagery. Politicians and the Advertising and Marketing industry rely heavily on this as well. In the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion, the use of emotive language and imagery in general (known as the peripheral route in the ELM) is the easiest to use to persuade people. (People are more likely to believe a story that is accompanied by symbols or imagery to include music. )

- After a while, since it is repeated to you so much, you know the bible by heart. Think "sound bite". WWJD. (People will come to believe what they hear the more it is repeated to them.)

- If people start to question their beliefs, they are likely to believe they must be wrong. If they perceive things that contradict the bible, they will bend over backwards to reconcile it in their minds to mitigate the cognitive dissonance that results. This is called self-justification. (People will change their evidence based viewpoint if it contradicts the viewpoint of the group.)

- People are more likely to believe that other members of the church are more devout than they are. (People overestimate the degree of belief in others.)

- If the preacher started to preach from the perspective of another denomination it would make them uncomfortable. For example, Protestants would disregard a lot of what a Catholic priest taught. In another example, think about all those religious leaders that have been found genuinely guilty of abuse but are being defended by their congregation and the Church. They don’t want to believe the religious leader is guilty. (People look for confirmation of what they already believe and disregard things that contradict.)

- The Bible has a cryptic warning about the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Talk about a conversation killer. Be careful what you say about God. Make sure you do the right thing and get baptized and such so you can get into heaven. Why else would you believe the events in the bible except to avoid going to hell? Because you love God? How can you love something you can't comprehend, or touch, or see or hear? Precautionary principle, Cognitive Bias and Principles of Persuasion. (People are likely to use the precautionary principle as illustrated by Pascals Wager in minimizing risk.)

- In relaying stories that support belief or creating analogies to help explain how to view scripture or a religious concept, exaggeration is inevitable. (The listener and the teller fill in the gaps in information naturally and automatically, for example in stories, the blind spot in the eye, watching movies, listening to music, etc)


When there are good arguments on both sides and you don't have any evidence to make an inference based on Logic, then you always have your friends, family, church and culture to give you a feeling about the truth of an issue. This is the how the industry of marketing and advertising works as well as politics.

Does anyone just pick a church at random and make it their church home? No, they shop around and visit other churches till they find one that 'feels' right. Why does it feel right? The Holy Spirit, Satan or self? How do they know? They decide from the factors listed above. The decide based on the persuasive influences in their environment. Those persuasive influences reinforce their belief in things unseen, un-testable, un-detectable, and things that rely on "internal knowing".


REFERENCES

- Cialdini, Robert. 2001. Influence: Science and Practice. Boston. Allyn and Bacon.
- Gilovich, Thomas. 1991. How We Know What Isn't So. New York. The Free Press: A division of Macmillan, Inc.
- Okeefe, Daniel J. 1990. Persuasion Theory and Research. Newbury Park, California. Sage Publications.
- Social Judgment Theory
- Information-Integration Models of Attitude
- Cognitive Dissonance Theory
- Theory of Reasoned Action
- Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion.
- Cialdini's Six weapons of influence
- List of Cognitive Biases
- DC Article: Why Do Christians Believe?
- DC Article: From an Atheists Perspective
- ChangingMinds.org

Persuasion Videos from Debate Central.
- Speaking to Persuade
- Objects of Persusion
- Theories of Persuasion
- Strategies of Persuasion

30 comments:

exapologist said...

Very interesting article and links, Lee.

Donn said...

Fantastic article, best breakdown of that psychology I have read so far.

Thanks.

GordonBlood said...

I actually, more less, appreciated this article. I agree that people often allow their own bias's to overwhelm themselves and so will stick with what they are comfortable with rather than challenge that view-point. However, I find alot of the time people go too far in doing so, in the sense that they actually (wheter intentionally or not) give more credibility to the opposing viewpoint. As a Christian I simply think of how big a shock Christ's ressurection would have been to a 1st century Jew and; never mind Christ's scathing criticism of Judaism as it was practiced. Persons of all world-views should remember that human pride and over-confidence is the greatest illusion we face.

marie said...

GREAT and interesting post!

I agree, after going to church regularly for the first 20 years of my life, that was spot-on.

I think that too is why it can be kind of hard tojust totally leave the faith cold turkey--we have to undo these psychological controls and examine things from without

akakiwibear said...

Lee, that was interesting, but I fail to see your point. You have taken some psychology theory which seems perfectly reasonable and used it as a factual base to conclude that people attending church are essentially deluded. A non-sequitur if ever there was one

… BUT …

“People are more likely to believe a story if it fits with what they already believe or want to believe.”

Does this fit with what you have just done? You would not be trying to manipulate gullible atheists would you?

Or perhaps you are just providing the fodder for:
"People look for confirmation of what they already believe"

... "and disregard things that contradict." Well need I labour the point

Dan Marvin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Marvin said...

"The lady that played the piano never stopped serving the community and was an inspiration to me. I wanted that kind of faith, and I strove to get it."

Were you asking God what you could "DO" to get that kind of faith? Remember there is nothing you can do to earn Heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

"If they perceive things that contradict the bible, they will bend over backwards to reconcile it in their minds to mitigate the cognitive dissonance that results. This is called self-justification." This method of interpretation is called an eisegesis method. Does this mean that eisegesis thinking is wrong, I would say yes because it is a capricious attitude. It may even be breaking the 2nd Commandment and making a god to suite yourself.

In a pot calling the kettle black scenario you also have your own mindsets. I can spin it to fit non believers also such as:

"People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from someone they like." Like Richard Dawkins

"People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from an authority." Like lets say, scientist!

"People are more likely to believe a story if it fits with what they already believe or want to believe." Like an atheist blogroll? Shall I go on?

Your presuppositions will not allow you to examine without bias the evidence that I present to you for God's existence.

Your presupposition is that there is no God; therefore, no matter what I might present to you to show His existence, you must interpret it in a manner consistent with your presupposition: namely, that there is no God. If I were to have a video tape of God coming down from heaven, you'd say it was a special effect. If I had a thousand eye-witnesses saying they saw Him, you'd say it was mass-hysteria. If I had Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament, you'd say they were forged, dated incorrectly, or not real prophecies. So, I cannot prove anything to you since your presupposition won't allow it. It is limited.

Your presupposition cannot allow you to rightly determine God's existence from evidence -- providing that there were factual proofs of His existence. Don't you see? If I DID have incontrovertible proof, your presupposition would force you to interpret the facts consistently with your presupposition and you would not be able to see the proof.

I must ask you, what kind of evidence would you accept that would prove God's existence? I must see what your presuppositions are and work either with them or against them.

written nice, just one sided

Lee Randolph said...

Hi akakiwibear and dan marvin,
nice attempt to turn the tables, but the fact remains that as long as there is no reliable evidence to support the existence of the supernatural or god, then there is no basis for its presumption. In other words, until there is positive evidence to show that god exists or supernatural things exist then all we are stuck with is the natural. The presumption for the natural as a base for reasoning is stronger than the presumption for the supernatural or god.

The data is there, interpret it as you wish. it all depends on your presumption, then your viewpoint. If your presumption is weak then so is the basis for your viewpoint, therefore your viewpoint is suspect.

akakiwibear said...

Lee, while you included me in your reply you did not address my point (nor part of Dan's) which suggests you were being hypocritical, a case of "the pot calling the kettle black".

If I were any more cynical than I am I might conclude that you attempted to dismiss the point by associating it with another which would generally receive uncritical acceptance from your atheist readers. In that case I would conclude that the pot was indeed calling the kettle black. But I hesitate to think that you would stoop so low.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi akakiwibear and Dan Marvin again,
I was trying to avoid a long drawn out response and use an economy of words, but I can see that I wasn't clear enough. I'll say what I said before using more words. See, when I complimented you both for your attempt 'to turn the tables' I was referring to your collective charges of hypocrisy.

You have taken some psychology theory which seems perfectly reasonable and used it as a factual base to conclude that people attending church are essentially deluded. A non-sequitur if ever there was one
non-sequitur huh? Show me why anyone should believe there is a god, then show me what differentiates your god from the Hindu, Jew, or Muslim, not to mention the other smaller religions. Once you do that, then you can justifiably call it a non-sequitur. If I had been talking about the Hindu church, I'm sure I would have avoided the charge of non-sequitur from you.

You charge that I am trying to manipulate gullible atheists, by having them believe me because it fits with what they already believe. I'm sure some will. But for others its food for thought. But tell me akakiwibear, what is church for if one of the reasons is not to keep people from backsliding? To what purpose is the encouragement in the bible to gather together if not to strengthen the faith? The facts speak for themselves even if I stipulate that god exists. Nothing in the article changes except the point of view of the author. I could just as easily change about ten words and eliminate the atheist angle altogether and make it a page in a critical thinking book.


Lee, while you included me in your reply you did not address my point (nor part of Dan's) which suggests you were being hypocritical, a case of "the pot calling the kettle black".
I encourage you to read more carefully. The whole point of my first response to both of you was to address the hypocrisy issue. Think about it. What proof of gods existence is there, and which god is it? I stand as agnostic about god as I do that you own an audi. If you want to say that there is a god, show me. When you can, you will go down in history and you know it. Till then, your presumption that the Christian God exists is not as strong the presumption that he doesn’t. Like I said before, you have to show that there is a god and that he’s the one you think he is.


If I were any more cynical than I am I might conclude that you attempted to dismiss the point by associating it with another which would generally receive uncritical acceptance from your atheist readers. In that case I would conclude that the pot was indeed calling the kettle black. But I hesitate to think that you would stoop so low.
And I don’t know what the heck you think you were doing there. Trying to prevent me from thinking that you were accusing of stooping to hypocrisy?

The points are related,
- church supports a belief in a god that is mysterious, unseen, un-testable, unpredictable, etc ad nauseum
- the reason that god is mysterious, unseen, un-testable, unpredictable, etc ad nauseum could very well be that he doesn’t exist,
- And my stronger presumption that he doesn’t exist underlies all my claims in my article, which as you pointed out uses data that is “perfectly reasonable” therefore, the charge of hypocrisy is refuted because it is supported by a strong presumption and strong data.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dan marvin,
I didn't want you to feel left out.

Were you asking God what you could "DO" to get that kind of faith? Remember there is nothing you can do to earn Heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Read the FAQ. The link is at the top of the blog in the title area. Concentrate on the articles that address the charge that we didn’t try hard enough.

In a pot calling the kettle black scenario you also have your own mindsets. I can spin it to fit non believers also such as:
See my response to you in the previous comment.


If I had a thousand eye-witnesses saying they saw Him, you'd say it was mass-hysteria.
Try me. Oh, you don’t have a thousand witnesses, you say? Oh, you say, its because god doesn’t do tricks? Oh, you say, that it would undermine faith? Oh, I understand, its not self-justification.

If I had Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament, you'd say they were forged, dated incorrectly, or not real prophecies.
Fraud is a unfortunate part of human nature. Look at the events recently with the Jesus tomb, and all the crap surrounding the “the davinci code”.
Show me why its not fraud? Show me why alternate hypothesis fall on their face.

Your presupposition cannot allow you to rightly determine God's existence from evidence -- providing that there were factual proofs of His existence. Don't you see? If I DID have incontrovertible proof, your presupposition would force you to interpret the facts consistently with your presupposition and you would not be able to see the proof.
Dude, incontrovertible proof is well, incontrovertible. Show me some.

I must ask you, what kind of evidence would you accept that would prove God's existence? I must see what your presuppositions are and work either with them or against them.
Read the faq. But I’ll give you a hint. I got into a relationship with Jesus, it was pretty one sided. The closer I got and the more I learned the less I believed. Kind of like Mother Theresa. If your spouse started ignoring you and staying away from the house, you might think that you were abandoned. But if you never saw your spouse, heard the voice or touched the skin, you might start to think you were influenced to believe something that wasn’t true.

written nice, just one sided
thanks for the compliment.

Dan Marvin said...

"on the articles that address the charge that we didn’t try hard enough."

My point is that there is no "try hard enough" There is nothing you can do to "get more" Godly. To do so would imply that "you" are in charge, which you are not.

"If I had a thousand eye-witnesses saying they saw Him, you'd say it was mass-hysteria."
Try me.

OK The Bible! In the beginning (no pun intended) of Jesus' Crucifixion, there were some 500 witnesses that saw what they saw. They believed it enough to write it down and tell EVERYONE about it. They suffered persecution by mainstream society and so called church and most all (of the apostles) were tortured or beheaded for their belief.

"If I had Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament, you'd say they were forged, dated incorrectly, or not real prophecies." Fraud is a unfortunate part of human nature.

This my friend is exactly what I was talking about with your presupposition, you just proved my statement. It will not allow you to reason any other conclusion. Do you really think that 40-50 people collaborated over a period of 3000 years to pull off the most elaborate hoax ever? That God's Word was actually a joke or fraud? For what gain? Money? Do you think it would work all these years for just money? Let me guess your answer "it was mass-hysteria." Is that what your presupposition has led you to believe?

Understand that you are not alone, even Einstein had his own presupposition, he didn't want to believe that the universe had a beginning and he wanted to believe that it was stagnant and that gravity had a equal and opposite force to keep the balance which there was no evidence. He did not have the courage to see the evidence in front of him, he knew the truth but he didn't want to admit the Bible was right. Then others had the courage to at least admit that the universe had a beginning (big bang).

All along the Bible has said over 3000 years ago "In the beginning" and Einstein himself less then 100 years ago couldn't grasp it, so why should you be any different. Scientist 140 years ago used to bleed people (bloodletting) to cure them when all along the Bible said blood is life. (Leviticus 17:11). Scientist with presuppositions is dangerous just look at evolution theory in today's times.

"and all the crap surrounding the “the davinci code”. Show me why its not fraud?" The divinci code is crap and fraud, hypothetically even if it absolutely true, what does that have to do with "your" salvation. The divinci code will not keep you from hell but The Bible will.

"Dude, incontrovertible proof is well, incontrovertible. Show me some." So your saying, what God has done already is not enough for your needs? God must bow to your scrutiny? God wants us to love him by choice (free will) if he just forces you into belief then that isn't love is it. There are some things we must take on faith.

"The closer I got and the more I learned the less I believed." Now there is some faith, come on. "Kind of like Mother Theresa. If your spouse started ignoring you and staying away from the house, you might think that you were abandoned." Turn that around, what if your child kept doubting your authority, ignoring you (stays in sin) and staying away from you (in prayer), you might think that child doesn't love and honor you.

As I have said before on your blog: God’s word declares that this is God's plan of salvation; 1. Hear the WORD of God. 2. Believe that Jesus is the Messiah. 3. Repent of your ways that are contrary to God’s will. 4. Be Baptized INTO Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 5. Remain faithful to the Covenant you have made with God.

Are you keeping step 5 faithfully? Did you renege on your promise, is your word trustworthy? Do not be deceived!! 2 Thessalonians 2:8-11 and Romans 1:18-32 talks about how God reveals the wicked, if you choose to ignore the gospel and reject Jesus as Lord then He will harden your heart you will easily believe in satan’s lies and will have a reprobate mind such as Richard Dawkin, Dan Barker and all atheists alike do. (fromm my blog)

"The evidence from nature is that there is no active supernatural being in this world."

Bold and false statement friend. Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

"thanks for the compliment." Sure, you are a good writer but what good is it to gain the world only to lose your soul? Mark 8:36

For Him +†+,
Dan

akakiwibear said...

Lee, I still think you are dodging the point. I will try to simplify further.
I recognise that you hold your atheist position to be of more merit than my theist one. But that does not justify you using the same tactics you criticise religion for using.
As well as pots and kettles this appears to be a case of your chosen end justifying the means – we both know where that thinking leads.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi akakiwibear,
I am not intentionally dodging the point, I think I just don't understand you.
answers.com says that hipocrisy is
1. The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.
2. An act or instance of such falseness.

I don't think that church goers do not believe in what they are doing. I do not charge them with hypocrisy for that.
They go to reinforce their beliefs.

I wrote an article pointing that out. I am an atheist.

How does this fit the definition of hypocrisy?

Are you charging me with using the same strategy as the church goers? if that is the case, well, not guilty, because the intent is not to bolster the "belief" of atheists but to point out facts that are overlooked and glossed over in academia because it is a sacred cow. If atheists, agnostics, fence-sitters, etc, want to use it like a sermon, thats their prerogative, but it has nothing to do with the intent.

for example, in Josephs deconversion story, I used 1 thes. 5:4 ironically to make a point. That says nothing about the intent of the author of scripture. I used it how I saw fit.

At this point I charge you with a 'tu quoque' and heres a nice 'red herring' for lunch.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dan Marvin,
first off that "proof of god" you posted in another comment is so bad logically you should distance yourself from it. It is a classic slippery slope. By question 7, it has lumped together so many difficult and dissimilar concepts that anyone that stops at question seven and thinks about its implications can easily refute it.

now, you said
OK The Bible! In the beginning (no pun intended) of Jesus' Crucifixion, there were some 500 witnesses that saw what they saw. They believed it enough to write it down and tell EVERYONE about it.
Get a book on memory, or take a psychology course, I recommend this one (i think i fixed my link problem this time!)Psych 1 General Psychology from Berkely University. Concentrate on the perception and memory lectures. Then look up how long it took mark to write it down, if it was mark. Hint, over 30 years (and estimates are that in that period, life-spans averaged about that long). Thats a pretty long time for something so important as Jesus. I think the precedent is that as early as 500bce, people with important ideas wrote them down about the time they occurred to them (think Aristotle), and certainly in their lifetime. Mark is not an eyewitness account, and it likely suffers from the documented frailty of human memory. The concept of a holy man walking on water can be found in Buddhist texts. Not very impressive if we consider it is supposed to be 'god breathed'.

And the Old testament scriptures are suspiciously similar to Ugaritic texts praising and describing other gods, one of which lived in a pantheon of 70 or so named yahweh.

You should try to get closer to the original texts of the Bible.

Dan Marvin said...

You have heard of Julius Caesar and I am sure you believe that he existed right? Well there were 10 manuscripts of antiquity that explained who he was as we know him today. 10 that is it, in one language, everything we know today about him came from just those 10 manuscripts. Do you know how many manuscripts of antiquity about Jesus? Any guess?

The New Testament we have either in fragments or partials within 25 years, 40 years of events we have 5,400 partials or complete manuscripts in Greek (the original language) and 19,000 other
languages. You want a reliable book and you believe Julius Caesar existed? You can believe that Jesus existed and he did exactly what it says in the Bible because you have eye witness accounts that were willing to die for it.

You tell me you need more proof come on now.

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Joseph said...

Dan, there are also ancient manuscripts with stories about the Greek gods. Why don't you lump them in the same category as Julius Caesar, too? Just because something was written down and survived to the present day does not mean we should accept it uncritically. Or do you believe in the existence of Zeus, too?

As to the Romans 1:20 text (a classic one that I used all the time in my sermons), can you really look at nature in all it's raw beauty AND brutality and get the God of the Bible out of it?? It's not all birds and bees, you know. There is an awful lot of physical and moral evil in the world around us. Why credit the good things to God and not the bad? If he is sovereign that means nothing happens without his permission, right? That means God gives permission for every birth defect and act of child molestation. I fail to see how the God of Christian theology matches up with the reality we see around us. Haven't you ever wondered why Christians need to do so much apologizing for God? If he is there, it should be self-evident without Christians having to say one word.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dan Marvin,
here is the rest of the comment that goes with the one in Josephs story.
.....
And, while I'm flattered that you are quoting my article, the way you are quoting it is meaningless. You might as well go find the original research and quote those papers too, at least you'll be using first-hand sources.

Honestly, I'll give you some ammunition,
copy an paste the following into a comment to me.
"Lee! DUH! God is real, and we go to church for fellowship, to praise, publicly profess our faith and strengthen it among other believers, we share the spirit, and it pervades among us all encouraging us and lifting us up in the spirit. Your article isn't telling us anything we didn't already know its just that you are trying to turn it around into a bad thing by presuming that the only purpose it serves is to reinforce a faith in something that doesn't exist. Sheesh, get a life."

I'll have a harder time dealing with that than the lame "ooh, ooh, look everybody Lee did it too!" All that shows is that you don't comprehend the point of the article.

Shygetz said...

The New Testament we have either in fragments or partials within 25 years, 40 years of events we have 5,400 partials or complete manuscripts in Greek (the original language) and 19,000 other
languages. You want a reliable book and you believe Julius Caesar existed? You can believe that Jesus existed and he did exactly what it says in the Bible because you have eye witness accounts that were willing to die for it.


OK, I know what each of the words mean, but put together like this they do not seem to be clear.

Are you saying that, within 40 years of the crucifiction, there were over 5400 manuscripts (or partial manuscripts) that you would accept as reliable in over 19000 languages? If so, please cite your source.

However, what I think you mean is that now, we have found a total of 5400 partials or manuscripts, and that some of these manuscripts may be based on a text originally written 25 years after the crucifixtion. In that case, while I would dispute that Mark was written 25 years after the crucifixtion, that's a minor quibble.

If you really want to go down this road, then I would state that the Koran, solely by your criteria, is a much more reliable document. And that we do not have the testimony of those 500 witnesses you claim; we have the writings of one person who claimed these witnesses, and who obviously was trying to spread a religion. I have seen for myself how Christians on a mission to spread the Word of God feel little compunction about bending the truth untill it snaps clean in two.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Dan:
I probably shouldn't, but you are such a tempting target. Just two points, though, I do have other things to do.

As far as the Bible goes, are you aware, have you ever read the arguments of every scholar who has examined the evidence, whether a believer or not, who does not start from a conclusion and then force the evidence into it? Do you know that they universally see the Pentateuch as an interwoven colection of four different sources, each with a different view of God?

But, more importantly, you say the following:
'"People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from an authority." Like lets say, scientist!'

Science doesa not 'argue from authority. No scientist says 'This is true because the Great Einstein -- or Darwin, or Bohr or Gould -- said it, so it must be so.'

What a scientist says is 'These specific experiments, or calculations, or observations were made, and therefore I conclude that this is the most likely reason they came out that way. I suggest you perform that same tests and see if your results match mine. If they do not, publish your results, and lets try and find out why there was a discrepancy.'

The misunderstanding -- sometimes willful ignorance -- believers have towards science amazes me. There are many cases of a scientist arguing a cherishede theory for years, then another scientist performs an experiment that proves the theory wrong, and the first scientist standing up at a meeting to be the first to announce his theory was wrong.

In fact, rather than being slavish followers of authority -- like believers -- the only way a scientist makes a name and reputation for himself is by proving an 'authority' wrong, by proving an accepted theory is wrong or, at least, incomplete. Someone who merely echoes other scietists' comclusions might make a good teacher, or writer on science, but he'll never get a name as a scientist.

Science is not a prayer meeting, it is a gunfight.

Dan Marvin said...

Shygetz said... Are you saying that, within 40 years of the Crucifixion, there were over 5400 manuscripts (or partial manuscripts) that you would accept as reliable in over 19000 languages? If so, please cite your source.

To be as accurate as possible here is what I found to be true. There are now more then 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Add over 10,000 Latin Vulgate and at least 9,300 other early versions (MSS) and we have more then 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today. No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and attestation.

more:
“…there are thousands more New Testament Greek manuscripts than any other ancient writing. The internal consistency of the New Testament documents is about 99.5% textually pure. That is an amazing accuracy. In addition there are over 19,000 in copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. The total supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000. “

Author, Date Written, Earliest Copy, Time Span, Copies (extent)
Secular Manuscripts:
Herodotus (History) 480 - 425 BC 900 AD 1,300 years 8
Thucydides (History) 460 - 400 BC 900 AD 1,300 years ?
Aristotle (Philosopher) 384 - 322 BC 1,100 AD 1,400 years 5
Caesar (History) 100 - 44 BC 900 AD 1,000 years 10
Pliny (History) 61 - 113 AD 850 AD 750 years 7
Suetonius (Roman History) 70 - 140 AD 950 AD 800 years ?
Tacitus (Greek History) 100 AD 1,100 AD 1,000 years 20

"If you really want to go down this road, then I would state that the Koran, solely by your criteria, is a much more reliable document."

The Bible has some 300 prophecies that came true that are provable by history. 135 prophecies came true in Daniel alone. Read Isaiah 53 1-12 below and you will see that it was written about Jesus and was written almost 700 years before Christ was even born. Not the Koran or any other book in the world can prophecy even once like the Bible did 300 times and that is evidence that it was written by God.

John W. Loftus said...

Dan are you really sure that OT prophecies points to Jesus? link.

Shygetz said...

The Bible has some 300 prophecies that came true that are provable by history.

Oh please. Show me. Show me the specific prophecies that came true at a rate beyond that of random chance. I can predict that, sometime in the future, the great nation of China will fall. When that happens (and history tells us it will happen, sooner or later), will I be heralded as a great prophet and holy man?

I certainly hope not!

And what of the prophecies not fulfilled (Ezekiel 37:26-28; Isaiah 43:5-6; Isaiah 2:4; Zechariah 14:9; etc.)? Why have you not counted the misses? Do the unfulfilled prophecies just get put off forever until they come true? If you run an infinite number of trials, the probability of any event occurring becomes 100%, so that's not really a prophecy at all.

Then, look at the tendency of NT writers to purposely alter the story to acclimate what they thought were OT prophecies. The most embarassing one is the virgin birth.

The idea of the Messiah being born of a virgin comes from Isaiah 7:14. The Hebrew word used is "alma", which actually means "young woman", and the verb used is present tense. The correct translation of the Hebrew is "Behold, the young woman is with child..."

However, due to an early Greek mistranslation, Christian theologians thought that the prophecy read that a virgin will conceive sometime in the future. "Behold, a virgin shall be with child..."

So, do the writings in the NT follow the real reading of the Hebrew prophecy (which could be used as a point in favor of being a true fulfillment of prophecy), or do they use the common misconception based on a false translation of the prophecy (which would be a HUGE strike against fulfillment of a true prophecy)?

Millions of statues of the "Virgin" Mary can attest to the results of this experiment. The incorrect yet popular translation was used, and we now have a virgin birth that occurred far after the prophecy, as opposed to a birth by a young woman that happened within 9 months of the prophecy.

Dan Marvin said...

John are you really sure that OT prophecies doesn't point to Jesus?

Counter link

Shygetz said...

Dan:

I have started looking at your list. Off the top of my head, the first one is the false "virgin" birth prophecy I just pointed out as beautiful evidence of the treachery of NT writers. Numbers 2-6 are contradicated by the conflicting geneologies in the gospels. Number 7 regarding the birth in Bethlehem is interesting, as the gospels have different reasoning as to how the birth in Bethlehem came to be (did Joseph and Mary live in Bethlehem then move to Nazareth, or did they live in Nazareth but travel to Bethlehem for a census that historical records say did not happen)?

8 is a repetition of 1; the virgin birth which is actually a count against Jesus. Now you're double-counting false prophecies? How hard up are you?

Prophecy 9 is not explained...seven sevens and sixty-two sevens? rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble? What does that have to do with a census and the Magi?

Prophecy 10 is not a prophecy; it is talking about Rachel's loss of Joseph into slavery, and is followed by God's promise that her children will return from the enemies' land. Joseph returned. The children Herod killed did not.

I looked at the first 10 prophecies YOU offered up as proof of your faith, and found 9 of them to be false and/or fabricated BASED SOLELY ON THE BIBLE, and one to be unintelligible. This says nothing of the fact that, even if they were internally consistent, they are attested to by no outside source. I could similarly state that the collected works of J.R.R. Tolkein are divinely inspired because he wrote of events yet to come, then later wrote of those events JUST AS HE PREVIOUSLY PROPHECIED!!!

I need go no further.

Shygetz said...

Prophecy 10 is not a prophecy; it is talking about Rachel's loss of Joseph into slavery, and is followed by God's promise that her children will return from the enemies' land. Joseph returned.

Of course, I meant to say Joseph's descendents returned...

Dan Marvin said...

Shygetz and crew,

Your presuppositions will not allow you to examine without bias the evidence that I present to you for the prophecies.

If I may continue, the entire Old Testament is a shadow prophesy to Jesus such as the crossing of the Red sea (water) is the baptism into the covenant of old as the water baptism of these times. The practice of shedding of lambs blood to "cover" sins and shedding of blood of the Lamb of God to "Forgive" sins. Putting the blood of a lamb on door to save first born, Lamb of God was firstborn who's blood was shed to save us all.

Lets take the Sabbath also in Genesis 2:2-3 "And God had finished on the seventh day his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it, because that on it he rested from all his work which God had created in making it."

He rested, not because he was tired but that the work was complete. Now we have a completion in Jesus and we are in His rest.

Hebrews 4:1 "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it."

Hebrews 4:9-11 "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
Jesus is the Sabbath, the completion, not a Saturday or Sunday. We are complete in Christ, nothing more is required for salvation it ends in Christ. Not a man made building and established hierarchy.

Are you ready to repent now?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dan,
First I want to note that instead of dealing with our evidence you keep parroting the old "your presupposition keep you from seeing..." yada, yada, yada that you apparently picked up from the article. Glad I could be of service in your ministry. The bible can be interpreted in many ways depending on your perspective.

I think you would consider yourself something of an expert in christianity, wouldn't you?

I think the average Jewish person knows more about their religion than I do, or you don't you? So when Jewish people say that Jesus wasn't the Messiah, I ask them why. They have some good reasons. The biggest is that he didn't meet the expectations that were 'prophesied' about him.
go figure, hmmmm. How is that possible? Could it be....Satan? or maybe, Cognitive Bias?

Jewish people are fed up with all this Jesus messiah nonsense so they have set up some sites to counter evangelicals and missionaries. Some of them are listed below.

- The anti-missionary gateway
- Links to Anti-missionary websites
- Messiah Truth: A Jewish Response to Missionary Groups

and just for fun, I threw in wikipedia ;-)
- Wikipedia - counter missionary

Jews have a problem, as I do, with a messiah that does stupid crap like the following.

Whats up with Mathew 16:28?

Jesus said that some of the deciples would not die until they saw him coming in his kingdom.

"Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here
who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in
His kingdom.” (NASB) Matt. 16:28

This doesn't seem to have happened. My Preacher said and Some Christian sites deal with the problem by saying that Jesus was referring to the event in Matt. 17:1-13 where both Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus.

If that were true, why does it only appear in Matthew and why is it so similar to what happened to Moses in the Old Testament when his face was 'shining'. (interesting note to anyone who wonders why sometimes Moses has horns )

In fact, a lot of what happened in the New Testament is similar to incidents in the Old Testament. They are called 'Typologies' by Folklore experts.

In any case, I can see what the Bible says, and I heard what my preacher said. What my preacher said is an interpretation, or a Speculation about what it meant. If my preacher is right, I would call that a "bait and switch" and that is commonly regarded as a cheat. If he is wrong, then Jesus's prophecy failed unless the Mormons are right and John is still alive. Most Christians don't believe that John is still alive, so that puts that option in the 'not likely' category. So now we are stuck either with a failed prophecy or a "bait and switch". This should be the definition of the word "Dilemma".

Shygetz said...

Your presuppositions will not allow you to examine without bias the evidence that I present to you for the prophecies.

That is where you fail. My lack of the necessary presupposition prevents me from twisting words and facts into supporting your foregone conclusion.

the entire Old Testament is a shadow prophesy to Jesus such as the crossing of the Red sea (water) is the baptism into the covenant of old as the water baptism of these times.

Really? So the Jews staying dry when they should have gotten wet foreshadowed the Christians having to dunk in a ritual bath?

The crossing of the Red Sea as prophecy better fits the time I crossed a floded out section of road by following closely in the wake of a truck in front of me. You're just pulling stuff out of the air.

Lets take the Sabbath ...He rested, not because he was tired but that the work was complete. Now we have a completion in Jesus and we are in His rest...Jesus is the Sabbath, the completion, not a Saturday or Sunday. We are complete in Christ, nothing more is required for salvation it ends in Christ. Not a man made building and established hierarchy.


Oh please! Crap like that would fail freshman English, and you're using it as evidence of deity? It's a better prophecy of me resting after I finished painting my bathroom; at least I really got to rest as opposed to "being in His rest" (what is your definition of "rest" in that phrase, anyway?)

Are you ready to repent now?

Are you serious? Honestly, do you think these arguments are the least bit persuasive? The "prophecies" you give here are terrible stretches to reach allegory, not prophecies at all. As I mentioned, they better "prophecize" events in my life than they do the Jesus story. Are you ready to bow down and worship me in trembling awe? I certainly hope not!

You give me a list of supposedly fulfilled prophecies. I take the first ten in that list and DESTROY them. Rather than argue, you bring up supposed allegory and flights of fancy as evidence?

Satire is dead. Dan Marvin helped kill it.

Jeffrey said...

I love how the Christians stopped defending their views on this post shortly after the topic switched to the what the Bible actually says...

Btw, I just found your blog this spring, and am interested in browsing the older posts. (I found this one off a link from the recent post on cognitive bias.) It would be convenient if you had a sidebar with links to older posts so I didn't have to just click "older posts" about once per month I want to go back.