RFC from Atheists for Empirical Evidence That Refutes Biblical Claims

RFC: Request for Comment.
A belief should come from a reason, which should be derived from logic which should be based on evidence.

This article is intended as a fun exercise between Christian and Atheist teams. This article is a request for Comment from Atheists for items in the bible that are refuted by empirical evidence.

For example some things I can think of follow.

- Witches do not really exist
- No evidence of the Exodus
- No evidence of the sun and moon stopping as in Joshua 10
- No evidence of darkness during the crucifixion
- No corroboration that Many bodies of dead saints came out of their graves after the resurrection.
- Dubious evidence of Solomons Temple
- No evidence of the two great united Kingdoms of Israel and Judah

I heartily endorse you to get your friends to participate and take those evidence loving Christians to task!

In another article I'll compare this list with the other teams list and see what we get!

61 comments:

klas_klazon said...

This is how one Christian I encountered reasoned: abscence of evidence is not evidence of abscence, therefore I am as justified in believing that the proposition is true as I am in believing that it is false. What would you answer him?

Lee Randolph said...

HI Klas,
I'd say you should tell him there is mountain lion in his house, and when he doesn't find it tell him that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

That is a fallacy, obviously.

John W. Loftus said...

I like this.

No evidence for a universal flood and no stories about one found in the surrounding areas of the Saraha desert, and in large parts of Africa and central Asia.

No evidence the sun backed up in Hezekiah's day.

No evidence for Bethlehem's star which pointed to a specific house.

Unless the believer considers testimony alone as evidence, and they don't do this with any other claim or I could sell them an expensive piece of property in Arizona, there is no evidence for much of the Bible itself! Examples include: Baalam's ass that spoke, Lot's wife who turned into a pillar of salt, an axe head that floated, Elijah taken into the sky, and so forth.

That they claimed God exists is included, since all we have is their testimony that he acted in their history based on these kinds of miracles. And we have every reason to think ancient pre-scientific people didn't need evidence for their beliefs since the surrounding cultures believed in deities like Baal, Hathor, Ra, Zeus, Artemis, and Janus, without any evidence at all except superstitious story-telling.

I think you've got'em Lee. Good work!

Evan said...

Good evidence that lions would have attacked (some guy just tried to do it recently) someone in their den.

Good evidence that a human could not survive 3 days in the belly of a whale.

Good evidence that nobody comes back from death after putrefaction.

Good evidence that touching the skirt of a man's robe does not treat menorrhagia.

Good evidence that pigs don't spontaneously throw themselves into water.

Good evidence that food cannot be multiplied from 5 loaves and 2 fish to being enough to feed thousands of people.

Excellent evidence that no tower pre-scientifics could build would threaten God. Also excellent evidence that a ladder going up into heaven would induce asphyxia and little else.

Scientific explanations for language origins do not show the centrality of the plain of Shinar, nor do all languages appear to derive from a common ancestor at a single point in time (we have seen new languages develop, there is no reason to suspect that polynesians made it to polynesia from the plain of Shinar, etc).

Good evidence that sticks cannot be turned into snakes.

Good evidence that live bushes cannot speak or burn perpetually.

Excellent evidence that seas that have been dried by any mechanism leave behind mud or wet earth, not dry land.

Excellent evidence that nobody can speak and command a sea to part.

Good evidence that repeated shouting, marching and making of noise does not cause large rock walls to collapse.

Evan said...

One more -- there are repeated biblical statements that give word-for-word testimony about dreams of people who COULD NOT have been the author. Even if one accepts miracles, anyone's personal knowledge of the accuracy of dream recall should eliminate the possibility that any secondary source could give inerrant testimony with word-for-word veracity of someone else's dream. Thus, even a biblical literalist can not honestly accept such testimony as word-for-word true unless he assumes that God himself wrote the bible and used various amanuenses, yet even the most whacked-out snake handlers (AFAIK) no longer suggest this as the mechanism for biblical origin.

Pvblivs said...

Lee Randolf:

Okay, I don't really qualify as christian or atheist. I find the concept of absence of evidence / evidence of absence to be interesting. My own take on it is that absence of evidence becomes evidence of absence when evidence of presence could reasonably be expected. In the mountain lion example, he could expect to find evidence if one was really there. But I can give a different type of example. Suppose I tell you I have hidden blueprints for an impenitrable shield somewhere in the country (no, I don't really have such blueprints) you look for a while and don't find any evidence. Would that be evidence of absence?

The Dude said...

Christian salvation doctrine clearly stated in the bible dictates that in addition to good deeds, a "saved" follower must, above all else, choose to believe with no doubts. If one does not utilize the "free will" given to him by god and choose to believe, they will be banished to an eternity of hellish suffering upon death. No amount of good deeds over a lifetime will save a person if they do not choose to believe in the biblical god/Jesus.

The problem with this biblically-stated doctrine is that humans are naturally unable to choose to believe in anything, as belief is the result of biochemical/neurological processing of evidence in the human mind, and how information is processed is biologically unique to every individual. The way an individual processes information is absolutely out of their control - one cannot simply choose to accept evidence, it must be processed and evaluated by the brain, and the result of this processing is either non-belief or belief. Humans are born with specific genetic tendencies beyond their control that dictate how to process information, which can then nurtured or suppressed based on outside factors such as parenting, education, social influences - all of which are not within the control of the individual.

With this premise laid forth, the biblical requirement for salvation based on choosing to believe goes out the window, and thus in my mind dismisses the entire doctrine as jibberish.

AC

David Mazel said...

Will any of these bits of evidence be persuasive to someone who believes in miracles? Doesn't a belief in the possibility of miracles make it possible to explain away ANY evidence?

David Mazel

james said...

-It depends by what you mean by witches. There are people who practice witchcraft even if there is no supernatural element to it.
-Take a look at the December newsletter on the Reasonable faith website as William Lane Craig seems to think there could be evidence for the Exodus...
-Someone called Thallus mentions it going dark around Jesus' crucifixion

In fact none of them have been 'refuted by empirical evidence' - if so where is your empirical evidence that these things didn't happen? Otherwise all you have is a list of things Christians can't conclusively prove! Shouldn't you be coming up with three lists - one of things which are true, one of things where we don't know either way and one of things which (you think) have been proven false.

Otherwise I'd like to see what your empirical evidence by which you refute these things is!

cory said...

Shouldn't you be coming up with three lists - one of things which are true, one of things where we don't know either way and one of things which (you think) have been proven false.

Why on earth would anyone try to prove a myth did NOT happen?

james said...

Why on earth would anyone try to prove a myth did NOT happen?

The blog entry claims that This article is a request for Comment from Atheists for items in the bible that are refuted by empirical evidence If you cannot refute the claims on your list with evidence then you have failed to meet the you're own criteria.

If we went through history asking for conclusive evidence before we believed something then we might as well throw out most of the history books in your local library. Isn't innocent until proven guilty?

james said...

As the Bible is a historical source then there is some evidence for everything in it. Some claims in the Bible may be better evidenced than others however you seem to be going along the line that 'if there's a tiny chance that it might not be true then it isn't true!

Graeme said...

The bible says aliens existed in 1 Peter 2:11 when they don't

Nazareth didn't exist in Jesus time

Jesus didn't exist

Harry McCall said...

James stated: As the Bible is a historical source then there is some evidence for everything in it. Some claims in the Bible may be better evidenced than others however you seem to be going along the line that 'if there's a tiny chance that it might not be true then it isn't true!
James, I would emphatically state (and I have this quote hanging on my office wall) that: Religion is a Parasite of History.

By your logic, if a tick has a dog’s blood in it, it must be a mammal also. All myths feed on history without which they would soon die.

M. Tully said...

The Bible assumes Jesus was a man.

Mathew 14:25 states that Jesus walked on water.

In order to walk on water the first step would require a near stationary person standing on one foot on the water.

To not break the surface tension of the water and sink, the mass of the object must be less than that given in the following equation:

m= ST / d l^2 g (where ST=surface tension, d = the density of the object, l= the perimeter of the surface of the object in contact with the fluid, and g is the gravitational constant.)

No matter what reasonable assumptions you make the answer will inevitably come up to be less than 15 grams (about a half of an once).

Note to Shygetz: yes I assumed STP and fresh water, but I also gave the Theists large flat feet.

M. Tully said...

James,

You wrote, "Isn't innocent until proven guilty?"

The answer is no. Not when you make an historical claim. The idea behind doing good history is everything requires corroboration and consistency. That is why the depth of and accuracy of post medieval history is so much more logically consistent and verifiable than the previous traditions.

M. Tully said...

"As the Bible is a historical source then there is some evidence for everything in it."

Actually, there is absolutely no evidence for either creation story in the Bible.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi pvblivs,
My own take on it is that absence of evidence becomes evidence of absence when evidence of presence could reasonably be expected.
exactly.
as stated its a fallacy.
its missing a qualifier the same way the following phrase is missing a qualifier.
"all birds can fly".
on the surface it seems correct, but its a hasty conclusion because it missing some qualifiers because penguins can't fly.

The argument from ignorance becomes an arugument from knowledge in terms of probability. He's welcome to cling stubbornly to the belief there is a mountain lion in his house all he wants. It could be actively hiding from him, etc.
There comes a point where a decision needs to be made, and pragmatic considerations come into play by gaining more importance.

Maybe there is a god and he's just hiding from us, giving atheists enough rope to hang themselves, but if he is, he is violating plenty of sound principles, some of them moral, in doing so and my mission lately is to point them out.

Lee Randolph said...

Hey the dude (ac)
stick around because this month i'm going to post at least two articles based on neuroscience research. The ones in progress are about the 'the problem of evil as a test and harmful effects of stress', 'the soul', and 'morality', 'traits that humans and animals share as it relates to the soul'.

In fact all this stuff I've been writing lately are geared to bust up my complex argument into smaller pieces and it all started with 'biological bases for behavior'.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi David Mazel,
I'm not interested in deconverting anyone.

I'm interested in reaching the person i used to be that knows something is wrong with religion, can't quite put a finger on it and has no one to talk to about it.

I leave it to the reader to decide.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi james,
witches,
what is the definition of a witch?

a witch called up samuels spirit. Add that to the definition of witch, and you can scratch off quite a few 'witches' from your list of witches.

james said...

Harry said:All myths feed on history without which they would soon die.
And on what grounds do you label Christianity as a myth? To prove it is a myth you'd have to show legendary development.

Tully said:The Bible assumes Jesus was a man.
The Bible assumes that Jesus was God incarnate. If everything in the Bible could be explained naturalistically then you'd no doubt be asking what my evidence for God was and why Christians worshipped Jesus when they don't worship you. You seem to be assuming that historians must go in with atheistic presuppositions rather than being open-minded. In other words your reasons for rejecting Jesus' miracles etc are philosophical rather than evidence based.

tully said:The idea behind doing good history is everything requires corroboration and consistency.
So everything Josephus writes, right down to every minor bit of detail, that can't be 100% verified we assume is definably false. That's news to me. Historians work on probabilities (i.e. how likely is this to be true) To say that something has 100% chance of not being true requires conclusive evidence.

Lee said:"all birds can fly".
on the surface it seems correct, but its a hasty conclusion because it missing some qualifiers because penguins can't fly.

But if I told you that I'm thinking of a bird you would have no evidence about whether the bird I'm thinking of can fly. Does that mean you have empirical evidence that the bird I'm thinking of definably can't fly. No - you cannot comment either way.

Lee said:Maybe there is a god and he's just hiding from us
Or maybe the bits of the Bible which there is good evidence for (such as the resurrection of Jesus) is evidence for God.

Hey the dude (ac)
stick around because this month i'm going to post at least two articles based on neuroscience research.

I can't wait*. If our decisions are simply electrical signals in our brain then, as the dude pointed out, evidence and reason is pointless. Atheists claim to base their beliefs on evidence etc and therefore atheism is false. QED & hooray for atheist philosophy and logic!

Lee said:I'm not interested in deconverting anyone.
Good - because even the most open-minded Christian having doubts about their faith won't be converted by this blog entry.

Lee said:'m interested in reaching the person i used to be that knows something is wrong with religion, can't quite put a finger on it and has no one to talk to about it.
And I'm looking foward to the day when I meet the open-minded atheist who doesn't try undermining the historical evidence for Christianity with speculation and ignorance.

*for the debunking crap blog's parody of it

Evan said...

James,

You say that for the Bible to be shown to be a myth that there would have to be legendary development.

There is.

The Noachic flood is a direct descendant of the Utnapishtim story of the Gilgamesh epic. The story of Gideon is probably a reworking of the story of Leonidas and the Spartans. The story of Sampson is a retelling of Hercules. Yahweh is originally a known local storm deity from Palestine and was married to a Goddess named Asherah: he was also considered a sub-deity under the "most high" whose name was El or El Elyon. Yahweh and El Elyon were only conflated later.

Let me know how you deal with these particular examples before I get into the specifics of the Jesus story.

M. Tully said...

James,

You wrote, “So everything Josephus writes, right down to every minor bit of detail, that can't be 100% verified we assume is definably false.”

Way to straw man my comment into a false dichotomy.

No it is not a 100% or 0 % dilemma and you are correct when you say historians use probabilities. They are probabilities based on established rules of evidence that have themselves been established based on results.

For instance, if an historian comes across the recording an event, which was previously unknown, he would examine it for authenticity. Typical questions would be asked.

Who is claimed to have wrote it?

When was it claimed to have been written?

Can the above claims be corroborated through technical analysis of the document? Has the genealogy of the document been preserved?

If the above can be established it will then go through the excruciating process of source criticism. If it survives that then it is given tentative possible credibility. But, it still isn’t accepted as probably accurate. Not without corroboration from other sources.

So what if the historian finds a single source with dubious or unassigned authorship that can’t be dated or placed at the time or location of the event? Or strong textual evidence that document was written by an author of dubious accuracy? Or strong textual evidence that the document has been changed by later scribes? Then the evidence demands that it be given a low probability of accuracy.

And no, this isn’t applied whole cloth to a given author, given work, or even a given claim within a work.

But, don’t take my word for it. Authority on the subject is easy to find. It’s in the library. Peer reviewed historical journals contain the best picture of the historical record we have been able to achieve. If the historical evidence for biblical claims held up to historical scrutiny, they would be published as historical record. Some have, many haven’t. Those that haven’t have failed the historical test for probability.

Again, I couldn’t agree with you more about probabilities. But nowhere does equally possible equate with equally probable.

Trou said...

And on what grounds do you label Christianity as a myth?
james,
There is no evidence of a historical Jesus in the historical accounts of the day and there is evidence that the myth of Jesus (dying/resurrection god/man doing miracles while spouting parables a la mode with bits of sacred geometry) was a rerun of the religions that preceded it.
"The Bible assumes Jesus was a man." Mark doesn't mention the virgin birth nor the resurrection. Later gospels do so which indicates to me a development of myth not a recount of history.
"In other words your reasons for rejecting Jesus' miracles etc are philosophical rather than evidence based."
No, what does philosophy have to do with breaking the laws of physics? What evidence that miracles did happen is contained in accounts 50-100 years after the supposed event?
"tully said:The idea behind doing good history is everything requires corroboration and consistency."
You write, "So everything Josephus writes, right down to every minor bit of detail, that can't be 100% verified we assume is definably false."
You've drawn a false conclusion from tully's point. Josephus requires corroboration just as do the biblical accounts. The lack of mention of a Jesus by Josephus is not consistent with his thorough accounting of the times.
"But if I told you that I'm thinking of a bird you would have no evidence about whether the bird I'm thinking of can fly. Does that mean you have empirical evidence that the bird I'm thinking of definably can't fly. No - you cannot comment either way."
Way to change the logical point to one of mind reading. The point is that the lack of a historical mention of Jesus doesn't mean that he didn't exist although it seems silly to base a positive claim of existence on the fact that one can't prove that he didn't exist.
"Or maybe the bits of the Bible which there is good evidence for (such as the resurrection of Jesus) is evidence for God."
Where is there evidence for the resurrection? You seem to imply that there is.
"If our decisions are simply electrical signals in our brain then, as the dude pointed out, evidence and reason is pointless."
Why would evidence and reason be incompatible with an explanation of the workings of the mind as being a natural process? Better question to you is, why would one need to make up supernatural crap to explain the electrical signals in our brains that result in real thoughts and actions?
"And I'm looking forward to the day when I meet the open-minded atheist who doesn't try undermining the historical evidence for Christianity with speculation and ignorance."
I'm looking forward to the day when I meet an open minded Christian, period. Also, it's impossible to undermine historical evidence that doesn't exist.

Harry McCall said...

James stated: “And on what grounds do you label Christianity as a myth? To prove it is a myth you'd have to show legendary development.”

James, it called Synopsis of the Four Gospels by Kurt Aland and published by the United Bible Societies. All four Gospels are laid out in both their Greek text and English Text in parallel columns. You need “legendary development”; then read and compare. Here it is! PS. See some on my earlier post to the Gospels here at DC. Especially Dec. 4, 07 “How the New Testament Authors Created Many of Jesus’ Words and Actions

Shygetz said...

And on what grounds do you label Christianity as a myth? To prove it is a myth you'd have to show legendary development.


Example: The ending of the Gospel of Mark seems to have been added after the fact to add to the legend of Jesus' ressurrection. Look at the history of the Catholic Church to see well-documented legendary development of Christ and his saints (e.g. Virgin Mary being immaculately conceived).

The Bible assumes that Jesus was God incarnate.

Depends on who you ask. The Unitarians who existed in one form or another since the earliest days of the Church did not believe this.

So everything Josephus writes, right down to every minor bit of detail, that can't be 100% verified we assume is definably false. That's news to me. Historians work on probabilities (i.e. how likely is this to be true) To say that something has 100% chance of not being true requires conclusive evidence.

Strawman, false dichotomy.

But if I told you that I'm thinking of a bird you would have no evidence about whether the bird I'm thinking of can fly. Does that mean you have empirical evidence that the bird I'm thinking of definably can't fly. No - you cannot comment either way.

Non sequiter.

Or maybe the bits of the Bible which there is good evidence for (such as the resurrection of Jesus) is evidence for God.

Unevidenced declaration that is strongly disputed.

If our decisions are simply electrical signals in our brain then, as the dude pointed out, evidence and reason is pointless.

The dude did not point this out, and you are making a statement without evidence.

And I'm looking foward to the day when I meet the open-minded atheist who doesn't try undermining the historical evidence for Christianity with speculation and ignorance.

You did not list a single ignorant statement, nor a single unfounded speculation.

Do you ever make an actual argument, or is that your whole bag of tricks?

John W. Loftus said...

For a similar take on this same post see what I wrote here.

Anyone can believe almost anything. The probability of our beliefs must be settled by the evidence.

sacred slut said...

To prove it is a myth you'd have to show legendary development.

Don't forget the Apocrypha when dealing with this subject. Just because the early Church decided these stories were too far out to include in their Selected Myths does not mean they're not part of the Jesus Mythology.

Whether you accept them as "true" or not doesn't affect their status as part of the overall mythology.

GordonBlood said...

Sigh... I suppose I eel this entire episode mistaken. Yes the bible has myths in it. The bible has history in it as well. To say that the bible is either "ENTIRELY HISTORY" or "ENTIRELY MYTH" is a very poor treatment of the bible. As Bruce Metager put it, the bible contains myth, legend, poetry, metaphor and, of course, history.

james said...

Evan said:The Noachic flood is a direct descendant of the Utnapishtim story of the Gilgamesh epic.
It is true that most ancient cultures have a great flood story however couldn't this equally be taken as corroboration for the same historical event? How do you know the Noachic story descended from Gilgamesh rather than them both being rooted in the same bit of history?

Evan said:The story of Gideon is probably a reworking of the story of Leonidas and the Spartans.
The fact that even you admit it is only probable says a lot - i.e if even you aren't certain about this one then how can you expect someone less sceptical towards Christianity like me to take it seriously? Having taken a quick look at the story of Leonidas I can't see anything more than a passing resemblance.

The story of Sampson is a retelling of Hercules.
I can't find someone in the Bible called Sampson (I searched for their name on Biblegateway) If you mean Samson then I can't see any link between him and Hercules.

Evan says:Yahweh is originally a known local storm deity from Palestine and was married to a Goddess named Asherah: he was also considered a sub-deity under the "most high" whose name was El or El Elyon.
The only thing in common is the name, the other things you mention are simply a red herring. Yahweh is only 4 letters in Hebrew and seeing as they also spoke Hebrew in Palestine we end up with two religions having one word in common - this hardly counts as legendary development!

Let me know how you deal with these particular examples before I get into the specifics of the Jesus story.
I think you'll have an even harder time proving legendary development with the New Testament- if you insist on giving the usual culprits (e.g Mithras, Dionysus etc) then please back up your claims with primary sources that pre-date Christianity.

Seeing as most scholars date parts of the New Testament (e.g 1 Corinthians 15) to within 5 years of Jesus it seems that what we we know now is the same as what people at the time Jesus was alive believed about him. Thus there is no significant legendary development.

Way to straw man my comment into a false dichotomy.
You're the ones trying label everything in the Bible as defiantly true and defiantly false (i.e your to lists) - my use of Josephus was to act as an analogy to how you treat the Bible. You're right - approaching Josephus in such a way would be a false dichotomy and so is your approach to the Bible.

Typical questions would be asked.
Those can only be used positively - we can't say 'we don't know who wrote the source and therefore everything in it isn't true.' etc Imagine you wrote a diary and in 2000 years time a historian discovers it. All other evidence that you existed has been lost and some of the ink has faded leading to some some disputes over what the original diary said. Could the historian therefore conclude that everything in your diary is untrue unless it can be found in other sources? no. The point is that when all those criteria is met (as is the case for the synoptic gospels) we have very good evidence.

Tully said:If the historical evidence for biblical claims held up to historical scrutiny, they would be published as historical record.
I'm pretty sure that everything in the Bible has had something written on it by a historian somewhere. Take a look at minimalist and maximalist history and you'd find that your approach is not generally accepted by all historians.

trou:There is no evidence of a historical Jesus in the historical accounts of the day
The same could be said about most of the people who ever existed in the first century.

trou said:there is evidence that the myth of Jesus (dying/resurrection god/man doing miracles while spouting parables a la mode with bits of sacred geometry) was a rerun of the religions that preceded it.
That has been debunked time and time again ever since it was first suggested in the 19th century. Hardly any scholar accepts such nonsense nowadays - I would encourage you to stop reading atheist Internet sites and start reading books by credible historians. It amazes me how sceptics will question everything a Christian tells them and then believe everything they read on tinpot sceptic websites!

trou said:Mark doesn't mention the virgin birth nor the resurrection.
John also doesn't mention the virgin birth and that's the latest gospel so it could just be that it wasn't central to first century theology. As John doesn't mention it too there is no reason to assume it developed with time. You can't simply suggest that everything not mentioned in Mark can't be genuine. Mark does mention the resurrection - it's only the resurrection appearance to the disciples which was a later addition. Get your facts right. Also Paul's letters are earlier than Mark and they mention the resurrection.

trou:No, what does philosophy have to do with breaking the laws of physics?
The laws of physics state that energy cannot be created or destroyed and so the Big Bang theory breaks the laws of physics. Someone 1000 years ago would have thought that an aeroplane would break the laws of physics. It is your belief (backed up by no evidence) that the laws of physics can never be broken (even by a God)

trou said:What evidence that miracles did happen is contained in accounts 50-100 years after the supposed event?
The earlies evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is when Paul refers to an earlier church creed in 1 Corinthians 15 - many scholars date this to within 5 years of the event. Marks was almost certainly written earlier than 50 years after the events happened as were other parts of the New Testament. The fact you think the earlies account we might have is 50 years after the event shows how little reading around you've done.



trou said:The lack of mention of a Jesus by Josephus is not consistent with his thorough accounting of the times.
Most scholars believe that Jesus was mentioned in passing by Josephus (albeit some later Christian scribe took offence at Jesus being called a 'wise man' and added to what Josephus wrote) Please read up on these things if you're going to make such claims.

trou said: The point is that the lack of a historical mention of Jesus doesn't mean that he didn't exist
And that's my point - you have not proven the claims on your list to be false using empirical evidence. In other words the blog entry is misleading. In reality there is plenty of evidence that Jesus existed and hardly any historian really doubts this.

trou said:Where is there evidence for the resurrection? You seem to imply that there is.
The majority of New Testament scholars believe that:

1)Jesus was crucified and died
2)His tomb was found empty soon afterwards
3)Various people at different times claimed to have seen Jesus risen from the dead.

Before dismissing those three facts please do some background reading to find out why most scholars accept them.
What is the best explanation of those three facts?

trou said:Better question to you is, why would one need to make up supernatural crap to explain the electrical signals in our brains that result in real thoughts and actions?
Because if our brains are no more than advanced computers then we have as much free will as a computer. Hence considering a spiritual dimension makes more sense. I was not saying that's all our thoughts are - the dude said that's all our thoughts are.

trou said:Also, it's impossible to undermine historical evidence that doesn't exist.
You mean the evidence that never gets mentioned in atheist 'how to' books?

Harry said:James, it called Synopsis of the Four Gospels by Kurt Aland and published by the United Bible Societies.
I'll look out for it and add it to my list of books I need to read. In return, I'd recommend Fabricating Jesus by Craig a. Evans which goes through why the Christian view of Jesus is based upon the best evidence

Harry said:All four Gospels are laid out in both their Greek text and English Text in parallel columns. You need “legendary development”; then read and compare.
I'm not talking about the 1% of the New Testament which is in dispute - I'm talking about central Christian beliefs. The encyclopaedia Britannica says, "The techniques used in textual studies of ancient manuscripts are the same whether they deal with secular, philosophical, or religious texts. New Testament textual criticism, however, operates under unique conditions because of an abundance of manuscripts and the rather short gap between the time of original writing and the extant manuscripts, shorter than that of the Old Testament.
Compared with other ancient manuscripts, the text of the New Testament is dependable and consistent" ("biblical literature." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Deluxe Edition. (2007).)

Look at the history of the Catholic Church to see well-documented legendary development of Christ and his saints (e.g. Virgin Mary being immaculately conceived).

Good job I'm not a catholic then. I'm talking about what the bible teaches and what I believe.

Shygetz saidStrawman, false dichotomy.
How is it a strawman? How aren't your two lists (with the descriptions you've given them) not false dichotomies?

Shygetz said:Non sequiter.
Exactly - your claim that anything which doesn't meet your ideal list for a historical source didn't happen is a non sequitur

Shygetz said:The dude did not point this out, and you are making a statement without evidence
In the dude's own words:
The problem with this biblically-stated doctrine is that humans are naturally unable to choose to believe in anything
My point was that if we can't choose to believe in anything then your blog is a waste of time.

Shygetz said: You did not list a single ignorant statement, nor a single unfounded speculation.
The fact that everything on your list is 'it might not be true' is evidence for my concluding statement. What I said is that I have concluded after reading your blog and other atheist writings.

John Loftus said:
Anyone can believe almost anything. The probability of our beliefs must be settled by the evidence.

Were William Lane Craig's lectures on the historicity of Christianity on a Monday morning and you slept through them all? Otherwise you know perfectly well that there is evidence for Christianity.

sacred slut said:Don't forget the Apocrypha when dealing with this subject. Just because the early Church decided these stories were too far out to include in their Selected Myths does not mean they're not part of the Jesus Mythology.
Why should we accept the secondary century and later gospels etc over the first century New Testament? I'd recommend you read the same book I recommended Harry: Fabricating Jesus by Craig a. Evans.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi James,
Otherwise you know perfectly well that there is evidence for Christianity.
then why don't you go over to the other article, the one for christian teams and get busy adding it.

Trou said...

jamie,
From the looks of it you seem to be impervious to reason or fact.
You have it all figured out and there's no need for me to waste my energy on you. And yet...
Since I could pick any of your comments to criticize I will pick your Alpha and Omega comments.
Your First:
Evan said, "The Noachic flood is a direct descendant of the Utnapishtim story of the Gilgamesh epic."
james asked, "How do you know the Noachic story descended from Gilgamesh rather than them both being rooted in the same bit of history?"
The key to that answer, my unlearned friend, is mentioned in Evan's statement. "The Noachic flood is a direct descendant of".
The Gilgamesh Epic preceded the myth of Noah. Simple.
Your last comment:
"Why should we accept the secondary century and later gospels etc over the first century New Testament?"
There is a lot you are assuming in that statement. You seem to think that the gospel story as you believe it came first with later heretical agnostic books coming later. Not so correct. I'll let you read up on it. By the way, also read "Gnostic Paul" by Elaine Pagels (a well respected scholar) who gives commentary on all of Paul's writings (not the forged ones found at the back of your Bible) from a gnosic viewpoint. Due to evidence from Nag Hammadi there is reason to think that Paul was Gnostic. He was championed by the Gnostics such as the Valentinians as one and yet the orthodox considered him antignostic. Yet, better to read for yourself and make up your own mind.

james said...

lee said: then why don't you go over to the other article, the one for christian teams and get busy adding it.
Because what you're doing is coming up with a list of things that even the most atheistic and sceptical people in the world accept and then comparing it to a list of everything that might not be true. But what will these two lists prove? That if you go in denying miracles can happen you throw out all the miracles in the Bible? That you lot reject more of the Bible than you accept? Most historical sources from ancient history mention more things which can't conclusively be verified than can and so this is simply a childish game you're playing. Seeing as someone has even suggested Jesus not existing has been proven wrong with empirical evidence then it shows what a joke your game is.

trou said:The key to that answer, my unlearned friend, is mentioned in Evan's statement. "The Noachic flood is a direct descendant of".
The Gilgamesh Epic preceded the myth of Noah. Simple.

Or maybe Genesis was based on an earlier tradition which dates back to before Gilgamesh? Clearly Genesis is referring to something which happened long before the book was written and therefore was deffinatly based on an earlier tradition. To say that this earlier tradition was either Gilgamesh or something that originates from Gilgamesh is pure speculation. There were many flood storys which pre-date Genesis and almost certainly many more which have since been lost. Genesis could have been based on any one of those and so we have no idea about how true to the original Genesis is and when it dates back to. Moreover Gensis does not show an embellished version of Gilgamesh - i.e all they really have in common is a great flood. If there was a great flood then it makes sense that every culture would have its own flood story.

trou said:You seem to think that the gospel story as you believe it came first with later heretical agnostic books coming later.
Because virtual all scholars date the 'gnostic' gospels as second century and later and most scholars date the canonical gospels as first century. The encyclopaedia Britannica says:The only substantial sources for the life and message of Jesus are the Gospels of the New Testament, the earliest of which was Mark (written AD 60–80), followed by Matthew, Luke, and John (AD 75–90). Some additional evidence can be found in the letters of Paul, which were written beginning in AD 50 and are the earliest surviving Christian texts. There are, however, other sources that may have further information. Noncanonical sources, especially the apocryphal gospels, contain many sayings attributed to Jesus, as well as stories about him that are occasionally held to be “authentic.” Among these apocrypha, the Gospel of Thomas (written in the mid-2nd century AD) has attracted much attention. A “sayings” gospel (114 sayings attributed to Jesus, without narrative), it is grounded in Gnosticism, the philosophical and religious movement of the 2nd century AD that stressed the redemptive power of esoteric knowledge acquired by divine revelation. "Jesus Christ." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Deluxe Edition. (2008).

As the encyclopedia Britannica is a secular encyclopaedia with a good reputation it seems a good starting point.

Due to evidence from Nag Hammadi there is reason to think that Paul was Gnostic.

I'll look out for the book however having read everyone from Bart Erhman to Bruce Metzger on the subject this is certainly a minority opinion and I can't see any gnostic teachings in Paul's letters or any reason to assume 'Paul's letters' not in the Bible are more lilkly to be authentic.

Lee Randolph said...

james, is this righteous indignation I see? I would just like to point out that you are stereotypically shutting down dialog. This is a violation of rule one of the venerable "Rules for a Critical Discussion" and its poor sportsmanship.

You are basically just standing there in the middle of the playground shouting "No it's not!".

james said...

Lee said:james, is this righteous indignation I see?
I disagree with your approach to analysing the historical evidence for Christianity. Proving that the Bible is historically reliable is a complex subject which whole books have been written on and you're taking advantage of that. As it takes more effort to prove something than dismiss something you know that your list is going to be longer. In other words you give yourself the simple task of listing things you don't believe to be true and the Christians a much harder task of giving conclusive proof that even the most fundy atheist will accept. I could spend hours arguing for the historicity of the resurrection only for you to proudly randomly pick a Bible passage and add it to your list. Then you're going to somehow claim this is a major victory for atheism. My question is what do these two lists prove? You're doing the dishonest trick of disputing everything Christians believe on the grounds that you might catch them out on something.

Lee saidThis is a violation of rule one of the venerable "Rules for a Critical Discussion" and its poor sportsmanship.
Explain how I've violated the rules. In fact this blog entry violates rule 10 by being ambiguous as to what you mean by the phrase 'refuted by empirical evidence'.

Lee said:You are basically just standing there in the middle of the playground shouting "No it's not!".
I thought that this is what you were doing with the Bible.

The Dude said...

James quoted and said:

Shygetz said:The dude did not point this out, and you are making a statement without evidence
In the dude's own words:
The problem with this biblically-stated doctrine is that humans are naturally unable to choose to believe in anything My point was that if we can't choose to believe in anything then your blog is a waste of time.


James:

You're not looking into this deep enough. While one can most definitely choose what evidence to expose themselves to (and ultimately choose to subject their minds to the processing of the evidence), one cannot control or choose how their mind interprets (e.g., chemically processes)this information/evidence, and as a result, they have no control (or ability to "choose") how their belief is formed.

Not having the ability to choose to force ourselves to believe something, even in the face of uncontrollable perceptions of the evidence presented, doesn't mean we can't believe, it means simply that we can't make the conscious decision to go against our natural biochemical information processing that resulted in our conclusion of belief.

In other words, belief is an involuntary result of natural human biochemical processing and acceptance of evidence provided.

In a nutshell: one can make the conscious decision (or choice) to begin the processing of information in the form of evidence for a claim, but cannot control the biochemical processing of this evidence and force themselves to believe that it is true. Either you do or you don't, it's that easy.

My point: It is illogical, unjust, unfair, and far from "loving" of the biblical god to punish or reward humans based on the involuntary disability/ability to force themselves to believe. Therefore, this alone debunks the entire Christian doctrine of "you just have to believe" and you're IN!

james said...

the-dude said:You're not looking into this deep enough. While one can most definitely choose what evidence to expose themselves to
You can't have it both ways! If we have no control over how we analyse the evidence then we must have no control over whether we do analyse it! Otherwise my decision to go onto this blog was simply a chemical reaction in my brain and there is no point in me responding to your post as all I'll do is output the result of one big chemical reaction! How do you know that our decision to look at evidence is not a chemical reaction?

The-dude said:In other words, belief is an involuntary result of natural human biochemical processing and acceptance of evidence provided.
You can't have it both ways - either all my beliefs (even ones you share) are meaningless results of chemical reactions or none of them are.

The-dude:Either you do or you don't, it's that easy.
consciousness and freewill etc are still big unknowns in the world of science. Much (genuine) research is being done into how these relate to our brain.

The-dude said:It is illogical, unjust, unfair, and far from "loving" of the biblical god to punish or reward humans based on the involuntary disability/ability to force themselves to believe. Therefore, this alone debunks the entire Christian doctrine of "you just have to believe" and you're IN!
Until you've got the basics sorted then there is no point in looking at issues such as predestination. If you're really interested look at Romans 9:19

The Dude said...

Lee Randolph said:

stick around because this month i'm going to post at least two articles based on neuroscience research. The ones in progress are about the 'the problem of evil as a test and harmful effects of stress', 'the soul', and 'morality', 'traits that humans and animals share as it relates to the soul'.

In fact all this stuff I've been writing lately are geared to bust up my complex argument into smaller pieces and it all started with 'biological bases for behavior'.


Very looking forward to it. I think that the idea that humans form beliefs based on involuntary, natural information processing has the potential for undoing everything the Christian doctrine of salvation stands for. Proving that humans have no control over their minds coming to conclusions after information/evidence processing will be a huge step in debunking the biblical god's "believe or be punished" command as nothing more than, well, a myth.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi James,
First off, you are reading too much into this. This supposed to be "friendly competition". I fully expected there to be a slew of christains clamoring to input data into the christian RFC.

But since you mention the Resurrection,
here is an article I wrote on that very subject a while back.

As far as the 'not contributing yet yelling "no its not!" ', thats all you buddy. I made the playground and added the first 12 or so items.

You seem to be afraid that you don't have anything decent to add to the christian RFC regardless of what you said before.

anyway, thats all I have to say about that. The floor is yours.

Lee Randolph said...

the dude,
awesome point.
thanks for the contribution.

james said...

The-dude said:Proving that humans have no control over their minds coming to conclusions after information/evidence processing will be a huge step in debunking the biblical god's "believe or be punished" command as nothing more than, well, a myth.
It will no more impact to the doctrine than it will to anything. Otherwise we'll have people standing up in court saying that it isn't there fault they murdered their wife:it was just an inevitable result of a chemical reaction in their brain!

The Dude said...

James said:

the-dude said:You're not looking into this deep enough. While one can most definitely choose what evidence to expose themselves to
You can't have it both ways! If we have no control over how we analyse the evidence then we must have no control over whether we do analyse it! Otherwise my decision to go onto this blog was simply a chemical reaction in my brain and there is no point in me responding to your post as all I'll do is output the result of one big chemical reaction! How do you know that our decision to look at evidence is not a chemical reaction?


As I said, you're not going deep enough. You're saying that the choice to begin to analyze and the choice to force yourself HOW to analyze are one in the same. However, one can indeed choose to begin analyzing information, and a as a result can choose their actions upon the conclusion. But, one can't choose the conclusion that is the result of the processing of the information presented. Let me try and use an analogy to help you separate these concepts:

You make a claim to me in an email that you saw a pink mule with wings yesterday. I open my email software and see that I have an email from you. At this time, I have the option of choosing to read your email, which I do. By opening the email, I chose the action based on free will (the only case that "free will" is applicable in human behavior is the choosing of an action). By making this choice, I have chosen to begin the processing of the information in your email, and thereby have chosen that I will begin analyzing it. HOW I analyze the information is 100% out of my control, as is my conclusion. There are some actions that I can now choose based on the initial result of the involuntary processing of your information, but the initial conclusion is out of my control - that you didn't see a pink mule with wings. Some possible actions that I can choose are: investigate further either on my own or by asking you for more information, as your claim is merely a claim with no supporting evidence.

Things in the above analogy I have control over:

1) Opening my email software.
2) Reading the list of emails received.
3) Clicking your email.
4) Reading your email.
5) Starting to analyze the information presented in your email.

(note that all of choices above are actions that are the result of involuntary information processing)

Things in this scenario I have NO control over:

1) Neurological processing of the information presented in your email.

2) Conclusions that result from the processing of this information (involuntary).

3) Biological, environmental and educational conditions that I underwent from pre-birth until adulthood that resulted in the natural, involuntary neurological pathways I possess today.


James said:

The-dude:Either you do or you don't, it's that easy.
consciousness and freewill etc are still big unknowns in the world of science. Much (genuine) research is being done into how these relate to our brain.


So you're saying that we consciously make decisions and choices unconsciously? Again, this supports my point - if we are doing things unconsciously, then why are we to be held morally culpable for the result of unconscious information processing?

james said...

Lee said:This supposed to be "friendly competition".
I am happy to treat it as a bit of fun as long as we're all clear that it doesn't prove much.

I've looked at your article on the resurrection and I'd like to make a few points - firstly most sources in ancient history for an event are decades apart. There is nothing odd about this. Most scholars think that John was written independantly of the other gospels.

It is unlikely that Jesus survived the crucifixion - everything we know about the Romans suggests that they were organised and that their victims didn't survive. The bible also documents Jesus' side being pierced by a spear (which is not unheard of in the Roman world) It is also unlikely that someone who had been crucified could escape a Jewish tomb. You don't really analyse much of the other evidence for the empty tomb.

It is true that people suffer for Islam but isn't that evidence that they are sincere in their beliefs? They might be sincerely wrong but they aren't being dishonest and so the same can be said about the first Christians. Now take Paul, hardly anyone disputes that he wrote 1 Corinthians and yet in it he claims that he saw Jesus risen on the road to Damascus and other people (many of whom were still alive) have seen Jesus risen. As we've established that the first Christians were sincere in their beliefs it seems unlikely they lied. Therefore they were either mistaken (how were so many people mistaken?) or were telling the truth.

The Dude said...

James said:

the-dude said:Proving that humans have no control over their minds coming to conclusions after information/evidence processing will be a huge step in debunking the biblical god's "believe or be punished" command as nothing more than, well, a myth.
It will no more impact to the doctrine than it will to anything. Otherwise we'll have people standing up in court saying that it isn't there fault they murdered their wife:it was just an inevitable result of a chemical reaction in their brain!


James, James...please see my most recent comment. It would be easy for a trained attorney to thwart anyone claiming that their ACTION was an involuntary chemical reaction. The anger that started the ball rolling was involuntary, as it began due to the natural, involuntary way that the murderer processes information. Let's use my list on your hypothetical situation:

Things which the murderer on trial can control:

1) Seeking out information about person he/she murdered.
2) Acting on the impulse of anger by seeking out the murder victim (the act of placing himself in the physical presence of the victim).
3) Acting on the impulse of anger by picking up and using the murder weapon.

Things for which the murderer has NO CONTROL over:

1) Biological, environmental and educational situations from pre-birth to adulthood that developed neurological tendencies to process information a specific way.
2) How he/she interpreted the information presented that resulted in the involuntary anger emotion.
3) Getting angry in the first place.

james said...

The-dude said:Things in the above analogy I have control over:
There is no more evidence that you decision to open the e-mail was not based on chemical reaction whilst your decision to believe it was.

The-dude said:So you're saying that we consciously make decisions and choices unconsciously?
No - I'm saying scientists don't know yet and that the jury is still out on this issue.

james said...

The dude saisIt would be easy for a trained attorney to thwart anyone claiming that their ACTION was an involuntary chemical reaction.
In which case God can thwart anyone who claims they rejected him because of chemical reactions in their brain.

The Dude said...

James said:

The-dude said:Things in the above analogy I have control over:
There is no more evidence that you decision to open the e-mail was not based on chemical reaction whilst your decision to believe it was.


Yes, my action to open an email is a chemical reaction, but it's AN ACTION that is voluntary. The action requires a chemical reaction to occur in order to send neurological signals to my body to perform the physical act, and the catalyst for this chemical reaction was in my full control. This is where action vs. reaction separate.

Actions are voluntary and are a result of free will.

Reactions are involuntary and are a result of biochemical/biological tendencies brought on by factors that are out of the control of the human individual.

The Dude said...

James said:

The dude saisIt would be easy for a trained attorney to thwart anyone claiming that their ACTION was an involuntary chemical reaction.
In which case God can thwart anyone who claims they rejected him because of chemical reactions in their brain.


According to your bible, he created us, so if he really thinks we should have control over this type of thing, he should be accountable for this flaw and change the rules.

james said...

the-dude said:the catalyst for this chemical reaction was in my full control.
then how do you know that the catalyst for you believing in God isn't in your control. You also haven't given any actual evidence to support your view - you've just stated what your view on the relationship between our brain and freewill is.

Lee Randolph said...

james,
you don't really have control over what you believe. Do you believe that Japan exists?

If yes, do you really think you could not believe if you wanted to?

james said...

Lee said:If yes, do you really think you could not believe if you wanted to?
That's not he point. Can we let Hitler off for his beliefs about the jews simply because he couldn't have changed them. You accept that we are responsible for our beliefs in any other context so why are we not be held responsible for our theological beliefs?

Lee Randolph said...

woah, there jesse, er, james,
I never took responsibility for my beliefs, I guess you took it for me!

When my ex was messing around on me I tried every way imaginable not to believe it, but in the end, I had to admit that it was true.

Now, if you don't mind, would you answer the question, please? japan, is it there or not?

Lee Randolph said...

and about hitler, I think we talk about hitler as much as god.
anyway...
Hitler should have been rehabilitated or locked up so that he couldn't do any more harm.

james said...

Ah - but you're simply going to your own experiences. Now I thought atheists criticised Christians for doing that. Atheists are critical when Christians ask the question 'is murder wrong?' and use your answer as proof for a universal moral law which God defines.

I also thought that you were also a Christian once and so aren't you proof that you can change your beliefs?

Lee Randolph said...

There is a certain quality to evidence, especially when it converges on a certain point and there is so much of it.

like japan, and like my ex. For christianity, the evidence didn't converge. In fact, I came to a hasty conclusion by being a christian. upon further reflection on the evidence which I dredged up through apologetics and bible study, and self education, my belief fell away.

Now, back to japan, is it there or not?

The Dude said...

James, I would like to request that you take this to a different thread. The entire purpose for this blog post is out the window, as it's now become a debate session. Anyone else agree?

james said...

like japan
Christian belief is more like saying 'I believe in Japan' rather than saying 'I believe Japan exists'. God has given us evidence for his existence so that evidence won't act as a barrier in coming to Him (but not so much people are forced into a relationship with Him) however belief in Him is more about trusting and loving Him.

People go to Hell because of their sin - not for believing God doesn't exist. People are saved from Hell by trusting in God. In other words everyone gets, at a minimum, what they deserve (i.e punishment for their sin). If some people get more than they deserve (i.e heaven) by trusting in God then how is that unfair?

I'm also curious as to why you appear to accept dualism, although I have no problem with that (i.e the belief that we aren't just robots) as most of the sceptics I've met claim that science suggests out brains are advanced computers running on chemical reactions and electrical signals.

In fact, I came to a hasty conclusion by being a christian. upon further reflection on the evidence which I dredged up through apologetics and bible study, and self education, my belief fell away.
I get the impression that you had a very weak understanding of Christian theology and apologetics before you became an atheist as you'd otherwise realise that when Christians talk about belief they don't mean simply believing God exists.

James, I would like to request that you take this to a different thread.
You point me in the direction of the thread.

Evan said...

James I just want to be clear with you that the flood is NOT the only correspondence between Utnapishtim and Noah.

Here are the correspondences:

1. A God tells Utnapishtim to build a boat, giving him the dimensions, and to take "the seed of all living things" onto the boat with him.

2. Utnapishtim builds the boat and takes his family aboard it.

3. After all are aboard the boat, a god sends rains that flood the whole earth.

4. After the flood mountains appear and the boat comes aground on the top of a mountain.

5. Utnapishtim first releases a dove, but the dove comes back with nothing.

6. Then he releases a Raven.

Is this really historical memory? There is no similar story from Egypt or Greece.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi James and The Dude,
I made a place to debate the topic of "Belief is not a choice".
Click here to go there.

james said...

@ evan: You have not shown that the Bible gives an elaborated version of the events and thus have not shown legendary development or that the Bible could have been based on an older source which wasn't Utnapishtim. If was a great local flood then the bit about Greece and Egypt is irrelevant.