I've Concluded That I Am Wrong!

Actually I've known this for a long long time. It's non-controversial and as sure as the odds can be. Let me explain

No one can be right about everything. No one. No one can write about the topics of God and the universe and be right about it all. No one can have a good grasp of theology, biblical studies, philosophy, science and history to claim he's correct about all of his conclusions in those areas. I know this. I know I am wrong about some things, maybe a great deal, who knows?

I want to know where I'm wrong. I don't think I'm wrong about my overall conclusion that Christian theism is delusional (or false, which is its dictionary definition) though, but I do know there are arguments I make that are wrong because the probability is that I cannot be right about everything. What's the likelihood of being right about everything given the vast terrain I write on? Very slim indeed. So, I am very interested in knowing where I am wrong since the odds are that I am. I would think a healthy skepticism is warranted here.

Christians, you too believe a great many things which depend on a great many arguments about God and the universe involving theology, biblical studies, philosophy, science and history. So I would expect being honest people that you too would think you were also wrong about some of your beliefs and some of the arguments you make, since the odds are that you are. That's why Debunking Christianity exists. It's a place for us all to learn. If you think you have all of the answers this isn't the place for you, on either side of this debate. Teach us and we will teach you. That we each think the other is wrong is assumed. You think that of us and we think that of you. But we can still learn from one another. Your job is to show us where we are wrong.

41 comments:

david said...

Very well said John!

So, I am very interested in knowing where I am wrong since the odds are that I am. I would think a healthy skepticism is warranted here.

Well there are two topics which I would like to be further explored/sharpened.

1. In your POE, you use the term 'internal critique' in a different way than anyone else who argues the POE. By internal problem, you seem to mean that its something outside of the worldview that causes tension inside the worldview ("God is supposed to have a reason for this suffering, but it sure doesn't seem very obvious in this situation"). There is no problem with an argument like this, except that people will not automatically understand your definition of internal critique. Traditionally, an internal critique is just a reductio. So anyways, just something you might want to clarify when you pose the POE. You aren't saying Christianity is internally inconsistent, but you're saying that Christians have to deal with the fact that a lot of suffering exists and God didn't tell us the reasons for every instance of it.

Secondly, the POE doesn't really work for Calvinists. Since they believe God is sovereign, then there can be no such thing as gratuitous evil. Therefore, your POE would only persuade them emotionally to question whether or not all this evil really has an explanation. An Arminian who uses the free will theodicy may be more affected by the argument, which is totally fine and probably ok with you since you despise Calvinists :)

2. The Outsider Test for Faith argument. Ok I've read this in your book and on the blog but I still can't quite reconstruct it without some ambiguity or vagueness.

John W. Loftus said...

David my latest thoughts about the internal critique can be found here. One thing is that as we test our arguments with those who disagree, we learn how to clarify them, which I was made to do there. I think I address Calvinists in it too.

As far as the Outsider Test goes I just might be presenting it at an upcoming regional meeting of the EPS in front of Christian scholars. There I will be better able to clarify it as they criticize it. Later on that, if it happens. But I look forward to criticism of that argumet as well.

Jon said...

Well, let me see if I can help. Wrong to think the evidence justifies the claim that Paul wrote I Cor. Wrong to think the evidence justifies the claim that Jesus was a historical person. You're just not skeptical enough. But still better than most.

John W. Loftus said...

Jon, I do believe Jesus was a real person and I do believe Paul wrote that letter and others. I could be wrong though. I stand in the middle in some ways. While you can think less of my skeptical skills if you want to, you should greatly appreciate that Christians will be much more apt to listen to me because I share these beliefs with them.

Dave said...

John, is there any contemporaneous evidence you can point me to that suggests Jesus existed, except in our minds? I don't need eye-witness accounts, but if those don't survive, what would lead you to conclude that such a person was real?

John W. Loftus said...

David my reasons can be found here for thnking Jesus was a real human being.

david said...

Dave,

Do you really think Jesus didn't exist...not even some guy who's friends got crazy after his death?

Jon said...

you should greatly appreciate that Christians will be much more apt to listen to me because I share these beliefs with them.

Interesting that you put it that way, John. My brother and I discuss this and he kind of falls in your camp. But when I press him on it he admits that there is a part of him that wants to believe Jesus is historical. Otherwise he'll be regarded as a kook, especially by Christians, and this way his opinions have more credibility in their eyes. He says this not at all to justify the belief that Jesus was a historical person, but more as an interesting thing that he recognizes about himself. Pure introspection. Do you feel a touch of that?

Of course I'm being tongue in cheek with my previous comments. You're pretty good at being skeptical, and you may be right about Jesus being historical. I don't have extremely high confidence in the claim that Jesus wasn't a historical person, but I find the discussion interesting anyway.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John,

I think that this was a rather honest post and one that I appreciate.

I know I am wrong about many things also but of one thing I'm certain...Jesus Is Lord!

Thanks. I enjoy discussing these issues and others with you.

John W. Loftus said...

No Jon, I really believe Jesus existed. I have no interest in believing anything to please anyone. It's just that since I do they may listen to me, that's all.

I am a freethinker. No amount of peer pressure will change that from either side. I believe what I do and I say what I believe.

I find peer pressure to be an interesting subject though. No doubt we're all influenced by people to believe or not. What I object to is conformity on either side. As a Christian unless we agreed on every minute detail we argued and separated ways. I have found this to be true among some skeptics as well. People believe what they do for reasons they can accept and that's all there is to it.

Harry McCall said...

David, the historical man named Joshua / Jesus existed as well as the hundreds of other of first century Palestine. The use of the name in Acts 13: 6 of the sorcerer whose surname was Barjesus proves this.

In this respect the Da Vinci Code was right since the Aramaic “Barjesus” means "Son of Jesus". So, did Jesus exist? Acts claims he had a son!

It’s the Christ-Jesus we feel NEVER existed whose theological appendages are totally useless today, but lives on only in the minds of Christian religionist.

John W. Loftus said...

District Harvey, there is no way you can be certain about that which you affirm is the case...none. I never said I was certain about that which I affirm. I only said "I don't think I'm wrong about my overall conclusion that Christian theism is delusional."

Now let's revise what you said to mean you are as sure as anything that Jesus is Lord." That too cannot be said. You simply cannot say, if you are honest, that you as as sure of that as you are that your mother exists, or that you like apple pie, or that you live in America. You see, those beliefs cannot be argued against. Where are the web sites dedicated to debunking such things? How many people would line up to debate you about them?

When it comes to religious beliefs the greatest amount of assurance we can muster is that the ones we reject are surely wrong. Name one. The rejection is the easy part. I reject Christianity as easily as you do Islam or Hinduism or Mormonism. The rejection is the easy part, and we all do it with the snap of our fingers, sometimes without even investigating them. You see it's easier to smell a rotten egg than it is to lay a good one.

Philosohpers know this all to well. When it comes to aguments about metaphysical freedom, for instance, its easy for one philosopher to criticize another's argument. The much tough thing to do is to put forth a positive case.

4stateatheist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John "Now let's revise what you said to mean you are as sure as anything that Jesus is Lord." That too cannot be said."

Yes it can John. In a world of uncertainties we can know God of a certainty. Do I know everything about him...NO...Am I certain that he exists...YES...How, partially because of a supernatural intervention of HIS presence in my life that we (you and I aka mankind) reduce to faith.

To me, faith is no more obscure, than turning the key to my car and expecting it to function properly or opening a window. I am not as if it were standing in a wishing well wanting something to be true.

Alas, the metaphysical naturalist cannot measure this, that's the disconnect in what I say and what you hear. The dimension of reality that we call faith is real to and for me.

1 Cor. 2:10-12~"10-But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11-For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12-Now, we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."

As I said, I am certain of at least that fact...Jesus is Lord!

I know I'm off the topic of where I believe you want to take the conversation but thanks for the indulgence.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Harry,

You also like to argue about the multiple Jesus theory giving way to the central belief that there were many people named Jesus, but you are often too disingenuous to the readers as it pertains to that.

Josephus himself was even very clear on which Jesus he was talking about when he refrenced Jesus in Antiquities 18.3.3/63 stating "didaskalos anthropon ton hedone talethe dechommenon" (a teacher of the people who receive the truth with pleasure) with didasko used to describe the specific activities of Jesus.

There is much more to draw this out but we have Jesus spicifically mentioned with both he and his activities meeting the criterion of multiple attestation...there was not doubt to Paul, those in Galilee or any of the Greeks or Jews encountered about which Jesus was being refrenced...your arguments to the contrary are totally without merit and highly unconvincing....

My father was named Harvey and I have a brother named Harvey...and there are probably millions more out there named Harvey but it's silly to equivocate over which one is writing this just because there are millions of others with the same name. That's simply sloppy historical work.

Later.

John W. Loftus said...

District Harvey, how certain are you that Paul wrote I Corinthians? How certain are you that your interpretation of that passage is correct? How certain are you that Paul was not a deluded man himself and that you should trust what he wrote? After all, Mohammed claimed God spoke to him too! And how certain are you that this experience you claim to have isn't self-generated due to wishful thinking? Lots of people claim such things as you do. I stand as a witness against such a testimony, you see.

What makes you certain isn't your experience or your investigation of the facts. What makes you certain is a psychological need to have faith. It's simply impossible for the evidence and your experience to lead you to certainty. No one in their right mind would claim to be certain about such things. You need to distinguish between the evidence and the level of certainty you have. the evidence, as judged by you, can only at best lead you to a 75% level of assurance (granting this to you). From where then comes the other 25%?

The bottom line is that you have acted upon faith so often you cannot distinguish between the probabilities of your faith from your God's demand for faith. You are simply obeying your God when you say you are certain, that's all.

Let me put it to you this way, and I would sincerely like an answer. You sin, correct? Daily, if I'm not mistaken, right. There are not only sins of omission, but you actually do wrong. If you were certain that your God exists you would not sin. That's my argument and here's two examples of what I mean: 1) If you knew with certainty that by crossing a line drawn in the sand you would get beaten to a pulp by a biker gang, would you do it? 2) If you loved your wife and another girl approached you to have sex with you in front of her would you do it?

I think the answer in both cases is an emphatic no, one case emphasizes punished for disobedience and the other emphasizes your love.

I think there is no way around this. You simply are not certain your God exists. Face it. be honest. No more crap. This is a debunking Christianity site. We will not let you get by so easily here. Think before you speak.

I'm going to make this an original post.

Cheers.

Russ said...

Mr. Loftus,

If I see any place where I think you are wrong - though I feel that wrong is far too strong a word in this regard - it is in your thinking that for having been a fundamentalist insider, you possess the necessary insight to influence a significant number of fundamentalists to rethink their faith.

As I pointed out in the thread, "The Bizzaro Beliefs of Christianity," in a comment to Harvey, fundamentalists misread and misattribute the world we live in exactly as they have been taught and encouraged to.

Now, we both know that through our ignorance that you and I both misread and misattribute reality, but unlike the fundamentalists we continually reduce our error rate by refining our model of the world as new data come in. The fundamentalists have, to their own detriment, vowed never to refine the model, either denying that new data are available or simply rejecting it.

From reading your "why i became an ATHEIST" it seems to me that you have never been in a sufficiently mentally vulnerable state that you would stoop to disregarding data relevant to the conduct of your life or giving you a better understanding of the world. I see you as having been willing to keep your head in the sand only while you were immersed in the fundamentalist community, quite likely only for the sake of your community. But, as your level of intellectual sophistication stretched those ties beyond their breaking point, it became apparent that you no longer felt grounded there and you no longer felt welcome. Just as there exist addiction-prone personalities, I think there are religious fundamentalism-prone personalities. Your book does not reflect that have ever had that personality type.

Even though you have experienced their mindset in the past, I think you have a rather limited capacity to pierce the fundamentalist's information impermeable shell. Notably, as you become more knowledgeable and present more sophisticated arguments, as your model of the world improves, I think you will be even less effective against the arbitrary fundamentalist layman. These people don't read Barna's polls. They don't read studies from social science journals. They don't read books with "atheist" in the title. Hell, they don't even read their Bibles. In short they read very little. Most don't care one bit about academic theological concerns and they accept whatever Harvey or some other pastor tells them. So, it seems to me that your books, your lectures, and this blog will have scant impact on your target audience.

If you tell them one thing and Harvey tells them something different, who will they believe? You let them know that of all Christian sects in the US the fundamentalists have the highest rate of domestic violence, divorce, and infant mortality, which, to me, should allow them to see that religion isn't doing them any favors, but Harvey can tell them to have faith and they'll plunk twenty dollars more into the offering plate instead of paying for healthcare or saving for their child's education.

I'll bet that fundamentalist clergy like Harvey are almost impregnable to anything you have to say. As I pointed out to Harvey in "The Bizzaro Beliefs of Christianity," he gets paid to misread and misattribute reality. Harvey misattributes his misreading of coincidence and medical misdiagnoses to miraculous intervention. Harvey gets paid to exorcise evil spirits, so he imagines them into existence in his own mind and inculcates them into the minds of credulous others. Through his own efforts he has created a market for exorcising nonexistent evil spirits. Harvey claims he has notebooks recording the particulars of his exorcisms, but, of course, they cannot be exposed to non-credulous examination. I think it would be very difficult to break down such a self-reinforcing scheme.

Yes, I know there's you, Barker, Templeton, Ehrmann and a few others of note who have left it behind but it's rare, and, more often than not the deconversion seems to follow on the heels of increased education level and it seems to be spontaneous, not induced by an outsider.

As I said Mr. Loftus, wrong is too strong a word, but I don't see how even with your fundamentalist past you can have a significant influence over the fundamentalist mind.

Wrong is not too strong when I say I hope I'm exactly that.

Dave said...

David wrote:

>Do you really think Jesus didn't exist...not even some guy who's friends got crazy after his death?<

No, I don't think there was a Jesus - nor do I think he had friends who got crazy after his death. No Jesus means no friends. Why assume the "friends" were real, anymore than you would assume Jesus was real?

There is no evidence for either Jesus or his contemporaneous followers. There is no contemporaneous evidence, and no scientific basis for believing the claims that Jesus could work magic - walking on water, casting demons into the bodies of pigs, raising the dead, etc.

In fact, all that we know from empirical observation says that such things can't happen. Why assume those extraordinary events are bogus, but think the people connected with them are real?

Do you assume Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were real, even if you reject the stories about them in the books in which they appear?

Certainly there were cool-acting kids like Tom and Huck who lived in the years before the Civil War. There likely were kids named Tom and Huck. However, the Tom and the Huck of "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" were not real people.

In the same sense, neither were Jesus nor Judas real, even though people with those names might have existed in the time the NT is concerned with.

Perhaps there was even a cult figure named Jesus about the time the Christian Jesus is said to have lived. But the historical Jesus, if one existed, was not the Christian Jesus. The "real" Jesus, if there was one, didn't heal the sick and raise the dead or kill fig trees.

Just as we can know there was no "real" Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, so we can know that there was not a "real" Jesus. No one named Huck Finn took a ride on a raft on the Mississippi with a slave named Jim. Huck Finn was and is imaginary. No one named Tom Sawyer tricked his friends into white washing a fence. Tom is an invention of the mind.

No one named Jesus raised the dead, or was himself risen from the dead. Those who think otherwise would love to know and like to think there was such a person, but there is no evidence to support their blind faith.

John W. Loftus said...

Russ said...If I see any place where I think you are wrong - though I feel that wrong is far too strong a word in this regard - it is in your thinking that for having been a fundamentalist insider, you possess the necessary insight to influence a significant number of fundamentalists to rethink their faith.

Exactly what are you proposing? Are you saying there is a better persepctive? Which one? Are you saying no perspective will help them? I disagree, otherwise you'll have to explain why people change their minds. I know of two Christians who have abandoned Christianity because of reading my book. There are probably others. Are you suggesting that what I do isn't worth it? Why not? Are you suggesting I should cease what I'm doing even if no one changes his mind? At the minimum I help encourage doubting Christians who are on the road to deconverting. I'm confused. Are you venting against the fundamentalist? Then why are you chiding me? Chide them.

david said...

Dave,

Since you only have assertions and no argument, I'll just finish this conversation by saying I disagree.

Dave said...

David said,

>Dave,

Since you only have assertions and no argument, I'll just finish this conversation by saying I disagree.<

And I'll finish mine by saying you've made an assertion - not me - that Jesus, and his followers existed. It's not up to me to disprove something you claim is true. Show me some evidence, educate me - I'm willing to read your words.

You did, after all, ask me what if "really" thought Jesus never existed, did you not? Yes, you did.

When I replied to your question, with my own analysis, the best you can do is to say nothing in return, which, from my experience in this sort of exchange, is typical for someone who prefers to operate on a system of blind faith, rather than reason.

david said...

Dave,

And I'll finish mine by saying you've made an assertion

I asked a single question in this post and made no such assertion. Do I get to play the game too and put assertions in your mouth? Here, try this one:

You think the universe came out nothing and that consciousness is terminated with the physical body.

If you are correct, then who cares that you are correct? You see no one will ever know for sure if you are because death turns those lights out for good. But if I'm right...oh you'll know trust me. ;)

You did, after all, ask me what if "really" thought Jesus never existed, did you not? Yes, you did.

Are you talking to yourself? You can scroll up in the thread to read it again if needed.

When I replied to your question, with my own analysis,

Haha, so we have arguments, assertions, and now analysis. Sounds very intellectual. Do you pickup girls by telling them you troll blogs and offer analyses?

Hmm lets break down your "analysis" into five points using your own words:

1. There is no evidence for either Jesus or his contemporaneous followers."
2. no scientific basis for believing the claims that Jesus could work magic - walking on water, casting demons into the bodies of pigs, raising the dead, etc.
3. neither were Jesus nor Judas real, even though people with those names might have existed in the time the NT is concerned with.
4. The "real" Jesus, if there was one, didn't heal the sick and raise the dead or kill fig trees.
5. No one named Jesus raised the dead, or was himself risen from the dead.


Wow that is some brilliant analysis! You really broke it down for us. ;)

the best you can do is to say nothing in return, which, from my experience in this sort of exchange, is typical for someone who prefers to operate on a system of blind faith, rather than reason.

Oh good is this more analysis or assertions? I can't really tell the difference.

Russ said...

Mr. Loftus, you said,
"Exactly what are you proposing? Are you saying there is a better persepctive? Which one? Are you saying no perspective will help them? I disagree, otherwise you'll have to explain why people change their minds. I know of two Christians who have abandoned Christianity because of reading my book. There are probably others. Are you suggesting that what I do isn't worth it? Why not? Are you suggesting I should cease what I'm doing even if no one changes his mind? At the minimum I help encourage doubting Christians who are on the road to deconverting. I'm confused. Are you venting against the fundamentalist? Then why are you chiding me? Chide them."

At the Columbia School of Journalism studies of blog comment content reveal that high question density, especially terse questions, is often a sign of anger and hostility. Your last comment response to me was also very angry and then the blogger, Thomas, on whose post I had commented, disappeared from the blog. You can be mad at me if you like, but it's completely unnecessary. Here, you seem like the high-profile Catholic psycho, Bill Donahue, manufacturing an affront where none is intended or implied.

What did I say: I don't think you can influence a significant number of fundamentalists to rethink their faith.

Putting aside your unwarranted inferences you make note that, "I know of two Christians who have abandoned Christianity because of reading my book. There are probably others."

Think this out, Mr. Loftus.

I said, "significant number" and you went ballistic while acknowledging two, possibly more. That is, two, possibly more. If you think "two, possibly more" after the effort that you have poured into your book and your blog over these many years is significant, then we just don't see eye to eye on this, but you needn't get yourself so riled up.

I think any number of converts above zero is commendable, but I don't think it's significant. Hell, there are probably quite a few fundamentalist churches that get two new born agains a month just from teenage pregnancies.

I'm bewildered that you would ask where others think you might be wrong, that is, you request other's opinions, and then when they respond honestly with their own opinion you read into it things like: "Are you suggesting that what I do isn't worth it? Why not? Are you suggesting I should cease what I'm doing even if no one changes his mind?" Nothing in what I wrote suggests anything of that sort and through an honest reading of my comment you should recognize that.

John W. Loftus said...

Russ said...If I see any place where I think you are wrong - though I feel that wrong is far too strong a word in this regard - it is in your thinking that for having been a fundamentalist insider, you possess the necessary insight to influence a significant number of fundamentalists to rethink their faith.

Russ, if I over-reacted I'm sorry. I know your intent was not to criticize but to be helpful. But exactly what are you proposing? What should I think? What did I say that provoked this helpful criticism? I had a hard time understanding where you think I'm wrong and why. Maybe you can try again. I'm not opposed to helpful criticism at all. I welcome it. But I do have a problem with someone who proposes something I cannot understand. it makes me thing said person doesn't know what he's proposing? Who is better than an insider to help Christians think through their beliefs? Answer that too, along with the other questions I asked.

Cheers.

Jason Long said...

People who are willing to admit that they hold only tentative conclusions based upon weight of evidence are thinking logically. People who say foolish things like "I know 100% that God is real" or "The Bible is the final authority on all matters" believe based upon environmental and internal pressure.

Dave said...

David,

Hey, I thought you were finished with our conversation.

You wrote, first quoting me:

>You did, after all, ask me what if "really" thought Jesus never existed, did you not? Yes, you did."<

And then you wrote:

>Are you talking to yourself? You can scroll up in the thread to read it again if needed.

OK, David, I just scrolled up and here is what I see:

>Do you really think Jesus didn't exist.<

Looks the same to me.

>Do you pickup girls by telling them you troll blogs and offer analyses?<

That's uncalled for, don't you think?

In discussing my "analysis," you didn't bother discussing the analogy I made that mentioned Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Instead, you referred only to my conclusions. My conclusions were not my analysis - I think you confused the two concept.

>f you are correct, then who cares that you are correct? You see no one will ever know for sure if you are because death turns those lights out for good. But if I'm right...oh you'll know trust me. ;)<

You've summarized, if you aren't aware of it, what is known as Pascal's Wager.

In a nutshell, the problem with your idea - that it's better to believe than not believe because of the potential consequences after death - is that there are so MANY different relgions, with their own belief systems from which to choose.

Even if I thought your idea has merit - and of course I don't - why should I put my faith in YOUR religion, over all the countless others that people put their faith in, just as ardently as you do yours?

david said...

Dave,

Hey, I thought you were finished with our conversation.

I was until you decided to use your last statement to pull the usual schoolyard tactics..i.e. saying I've made an assertion and then asking me to prove it to you.

In discussing my "analysis," you didn't bother discussing the analogy I made that mentioned Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Instead, you referred only to my conclusions. My conclusions were not my analysis - I think you confused the two concept.

Here is a hint. If the conclusion doesn't have any premises in front of it, then its a bald assertion. Your analogy is also based on unsubstantiated presuppositons. Not one bit of what you wrote should be considered analysis, because analysis "is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts to gain a better understanding of it." (Wiki)


In a nutshell, the problem with your idea - that it's better to believe than not believe because of the potential consequences after death - is that there are so MANY different relgions, with their own belief systems from which to choose.

Actually what I said wasn't Pascal's Wager and I've very aware of it. It was more sarcastic than anything else, but my point of humor was if atheism is true then who cares if its true. Besides, by the time you know for sure its true it definitely doesn't matter anymore assuming it is true. And sorting out which religions should be considered worthy of detailed attention is not a difficult task...the "but there are so many religions" claim is an armchair objection.


Even if I thought your idea has merit - and of course I don't - why should I put my faith in YOUR religion, over all the countless others that people put their faith in, just as ardently as you do yours?

Obviously I think there are arguments in favor of the theistic God and evidence in favor of Christianity's historical claims.

Dave said...

David wrote"

>Obviously I think there are arguments in favor of the theistic God and evidence in favor of Christianity's historical claims.<

Of course you do. Your arguments just don't happen to hold water.

>what I said wasn't Pascal's Wager and I've very aware of it. It was more sarcastic than anything else,<

Attempts at sarcasm, rather than making reasoned responses, do seem to be your strength. ;-)

You began our conversation by asking me, "Do you really think Jesus didn't exist...not even some guy who's friends got crazy after his death?"

I gave you my answer to your question and my reasons - not arguments - for my answer. Specifically, I said there is no contemporaneous evidence for the existence of Jesus, nor evidence for the claims for supernatural events surrounding your super-hero, which include the dead walking the streets of Jerusalem, the sun blotted out for hours, pigs sent jumping off a cliff by mind control, water turned into wine, etc.

And then I asked you a question: if you would put credence in the bible, with it's supernatural claims, anymore so than you would believe that Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were real.

In other words, I answered your question to me by breaking down my answer into smaller parts, Wiki-style: I commented on the unsubstantiated supernatural claims in the bible about Jesus, and the lack of contemporaneous evidence about him.

And I asked a question of you in return, about the believability of characters in books like "Tom Sawyer."

You see, David, you neither believe in the reality of Tom and Huck, nor in the reality of the stories told about them. So it is with me and the bible stories in which you believe: my point: I see no evidence for the reality of those stories (including stories about Jesus), in the same way I see no evidence for the reality of the stories in "Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

That you missed my point, and/or failed to mention it, doesn't surprise me.

>sorting out which religions should be considered worthy of detailed attention is not a difficult task.<

Not for you, of course, because you come to the question with a closed, rather than open mind.

>the "but there are so many religions" claim is an armchair objection<

Needlessly argumentative, as I could say the same thing about any of your comments.

david said...

Of course you do. Your arguments just don't happen to hold water.

There is an assertion. Now substantiate it or admit you're just a troll pretending to be a historian.

Dave said...

>There is an assertion. Now substantiate it<

David, as a friend of mine once said, for her faith is enough. I think, no matter what evidence, substantial or otherwise, I brought, you would find fault with it, or simply refuse to think about it.

I've offered you reasons why I think you're concept of reality is askew. You've yet to comment on any of my thoughts, other than to reject them out of hand.

You believe somethings, and you believe them with faith. I think you would admit you don't need evidence for your beliefs, whether or not evidence exists.

You believe Christ existed, you believe Christ withered a fig tree with a look, sent pigs over a cliff with a thought, that dead people walked the streets of Jerusalem, and that Jesus rose from the dead.

It's not up to me, you know, to disprove any of that. Those are, by any standards, extraordinary claims. No one has pulled off those feats since Jesus ascended to heaven. It's up to you to substantiate them, not me to substantiate the untruth of your beliefs.

Even so, at your request I've explained my position to you more than once, and given you examples of why I think there was never a Jesus, and certainly not a supernatural one, and why therefore you have an incorrect view of reality.

But I'm patient, so I'll restate what I've said to you before:

- No contemporaneous evidence exists about Jesuss: no written work, no oral tradition that comes from the time Jesus supposedly lived. We only have the Bible, written long after the events that supposedly occurred in the time of Jesus, to vouch for what it says happened.

- We have seen no supernatural phenomena performed by Jesus, such as written about in the Bible, since his supposed death and resurrection. We haven't seen demon-possessed people, for example, that Christ supposedly cured. There is no reason to suspect such events could have occurred long ago, other than the bible, written long after the fact, says such events occurred.

- There is much empirical evidence that disputes claims made in the Bible (about the age of the Earth, Noah's flood, Moses and his people wandering 40 years in the desert, etc).

- Even within singular religions, believers have a difficult time agreeing about what is true and what is blasphemous:

• Christians slaughtered and persecuted other Christians throughout Europe for centuries, each side claiming the other lacked true belief.
• In modern times, Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland killed each other, each side believing the other lacked true faith.
• Currently, Muslims manage to slaughter each other daily in Iraq and Afghanistan, accusing each other of an apostasy that deserves death. Muslims have slaughtered each other in Egypt, the Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

So, even trying to decide what constitutes following a religion can be and endeavor fraught with peril.

As far as I can tell, the best you've done, in offering your own beliefs or commenting on my thoughts, is this:

>Obviously I think there are arguments in favor of the theistic God and evidence in favor of Christianity's historical claims<

Can you elucidate those arguments? What is the evidence?

You've had a chance, yet again, to see what I think, in some detail. Do you have anything to put forth yourself?

david said...

There is an assertion. Now substantiate it<

David, as a friend of mine once said, for her faith is enough. I think, no matter what evidence, substantial or otherwise, I brought, you would find fault with it, or simply refuse to think about it.

Looks like you've wimped out on defending your assertion. And then after the fact you challenge me to argue for it. Such tactics.


You believe somethings, and you believe them with faith. I think you would admit you don't need evidence for your beliefs, whether or not evidence exists.

Nice try. I don't adhere to reformed epistemology. You apparently know alot about my beliefs though.


But I'm patient, so I'll restate what I've said to you before:

I'll simply offer the same assertions as you do, since fair is fair.


- No contemporaneous evidence exists about Jesuss[sic]: no written work, no oral tradition that comes from the time Jesus supposedly lived. We only have the Bible, written long after the events that supposedly occurred in the time of Jesus, to vouch for what it says happened.

Plenty of contemporaneous evidence exists about Jesus: both written and oral tradition that comes from the time Jesus actually lived (the first century). The 4 documents known as the Gospels were all written within the first century. Also the letter of Clementine was written around 95 AD, which mentions Jesus. Paul's letters contains several recorded oral traditions that were circulating about Jesus, such as the Carmen Christi in Philippians.

- We have seen no supernatural phenomena performed by Jesus, such as written about in the Bible, since his supposed death and resurrection. We haven't seen demon-possessed people, for example, that Christ supposedly cured. There is no reason to suspect such events could have occurred long ago, other than the bible, written long after the fact, says such events occurred.

Have you read the Bible?


- There is much empirical evidence that disputes claims made in the Bible (about the age of the Earth, Noah's flood, Moses and his people wandering 40 years in the desert, etc).

There is much empirical evidence that confirms claims made in the Bible. The flood of Noah was not necessarily universal, and the age of the Earth is not calculated by the list of generations given.


- Even within singular religions, believers have a difficult time agreeing about what is true and what is blasphemous:

Even within atheism, believers have a difficult time agreeing whether Jesus existed or not and what the best epistemic starting point is.



Can you elucidate those arguments? What is the evidence?

That depends on what you count as evidence.

There's the Kalam cosmological argument, the moral argument, the transcendental argument, just to name a few I particularly like. Pick one and I'll argue it for you, just for fun.

You've had a chance, yet again, to see what I think, in some detail. Do you have anything to put forth yourself?

Yes the above assertions in response to yours should suffice to demonstrate how easy assertions are.

Attempts at sarcasm, rather than making reasoned responses, do seem to be your strength. ;-)

Sorry Dave given your behavior on this blog I just don't take you very seriously, and I've yet to see any evidence that you're a "trained historian."

Dave said...

>I've yet to see any evidence that you're a "trained historian."<

There is now a long list of comments, so I'm not sure I claimed on this page to be "a trained historian." If I did make such a claim, it was A) on another DC web page, and B) not unexpectedly, you've misquoted me. I did write:

>I've been trained as a historian<

There's a difference, and a significant one, between what you say I wrote, and what I did write. That is, I was taught a variety of skills employed by professional historians: how to look at evidence, how to make a hypothesis about that evidence, and how to propose, in writing, arguments that favored my interpretation of history. I didn't just study historical events, I learned how to evaluate them.

I'm not employed as a full-time historian. However, in addition to being taught how to be an historian, I have earned some income over the years writing about historical events.

Whatever I wrote on DB, it's not necessary to be an historian, trained or otherwise, to come to the conclusion that belief in a god is a delusion.

Ex-ministers, attorneys, U.S. presidents, scientists, etc., have been atheists, and I've made no special claim that training as an historian gives me special insight into the nature of religious belief. In fact, my comment about being a historian was not specifically concerned with atheism.

It's doubtful, David, even if you were to believe I was a trained historian, that you would put any faith in what I say. So you are just grasping at straws when you criticize credentials to which I have not laid claim, rather than discussing the topic of this post, or my response to your original question to me.

>Plenty of contemporaneous evidence exists about Jesus: both written and oral tradition that comes from the time Jesus actually lived (the first century). The 4 documents known as the Gospels were all written within the first century. Also the letter of Clementine was written around 95 AD, which mentions Jesus.<

Look up, David, the meaning of contemporaneous. For some reason, true believers like to twist the meaning of words. "Within the first century" is the not the same as saying "contemporaneous." I.e., none of the documents you discuss were written at the time Christ supposedly lived and died.

Thus, your belief is based on faith - which is fine - but not contemporaneous evidence.

You wrote:

>have you read the Bible?<

Did I not write:

>We have seen no supernatural phenomena performed by Jesus, such as written about in the Bible,<

So yes, I've read the Bible, including stories about sending pigs to their deaths with mind control, withering out-of-season fig trees, the dead wandering the streets of Jerusalem, lots of descriptions of who was born to whom, the close relationship between David and Jonathan, the suggestion to kill children who aren't respectful to their parents, lots of parables, psalms, exhortations, prayers, suggestions for the care and feeding of slaves, the rule that women shall not teach to men, specific requirements in order to be with Jesus in heaven, etc. So, yes, I've read and studied the Bible, OT and NT.

Apparently from your reading, you think the great flood was perhaps not so great as to cover the earth, and not deep enough to kill all humans. I wasn't aware you got to pick and choose what you believe, rather than stick to the words in the Bible.

Here's a quote you don't think is worded strongly enough to believe:

>And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh<

So all flesh doesn't mean all flesh? Are you suggesting that more people than Noah and his family survived?

What about this phrase:

>and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.<

Or how about this slightly different translation:

>And the waters have been very very mighty on the earth, and covered are all the high mountains which [are] under the whole heavens<

So all the high hills, or mountains, according to you, were NOT necessarily under the whole heaven, as stated in the Bible? Are you sure YOU'VE read the Bible, David?

>Even within atheism, believers have a difficult time agreeing whether Jesus existed or not and what the best epistemic starting point is.<

Again, you mistake the meaning of words. Atheists don't "believe" in the non-existence of God. There is an absence of belief in a god, which is what makes an atheist and atheist.

And whether or not someone named Jesus existed is an entirely different question from whether or not there is a god. An atheist may think - correctly or incorrectly - such a person as Jesus, minus his super-powers, existed, and still be an atheist. This is a point that is apparently beyond your ken.

Finally, arguments for the existence of God:

I'm gonna go out on a limb and opine you've never read "Why I am not a Christian," by Bertrand Russell. He rather succinctly deals with your "arguments." Have you read it? It's a lot shorter than wading through the Bible was for me.

The Kalam cosmological argument, or argument from first cause - that won't satisfy an atheist, who can always ask, to the assertion that there must be a first cause, who or what then created God.

I'm interested to know what the moral argument for the existence of God is, in your words. Would you explain that arguement? Take as few or as many words as you wish.

Dave said...

I'll give you the final word, David, if you wish.

david said...

Thus, your belief is based on faith - which is fine - but not contemporaneous evidence.

You once again flaunt that historiography is a foreign subject to you. Contemporaneous eyewitness testimony. Sheesh. And your standard for requiring contemporaneous written documentation is absurd given the period in question. Historians are glad to get something within 400 years in the ancient world.

So yes, I've read the Bible, including stories about sending pigs to their deaths with mind control, withering out-of-season fig trees, the dead wandering the streets of Jerusalem, lots of descriptions of who was born to whom, the close relationship between David and Jonathan, the suggestion to kill children who aren't respectful to their parents, lots of parables, psalms, exhortations, prayers, suggestions for the care and feeding of slaves, the rule that women shall not teach to men, specific requirements in order to be with Jesus in heaven, etc. So, yes, I've read and studied the Bible, OT and NT.

Somehow you missed the part about Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father and returning to judge the nations one day. If you were aware of this you would not have made such an asinine observation basically to the point of "well why isn't Jesus still healing people today?"

Apparently from your reading, you think the great flood was perhaps not so great as to cover the earth, and not deep enough to kill all humans. I wasn't aware you got to pick and choose what you believe, rather than stick to the words in the Bible.

You aren't aware of a lot of things Dave. The Hebrew word in question is ambiguous with respect to phenomenological intent. It could mean the whole earth, the whole "visible earth". etc.


So all flesh doesn't mean all flesh? Are you suggesting that more people than Noah and his family survived?

I can't believe you just now became aware of this position.


So all the high hills, or mountains, according to you, were NOT necessarily under the whole heaven, as stated in the Bible? Are you sure YOU'VE read the Bible, David?

Have you ever considered the author was describing something from his own viewpoint? Haha thats rhetorical because I know you haven't, otherwise you wouldn't be spewing your ignorance at me right now.


Again, you mistake the meaning of words. Atheists don't "believe" in the non-existence of God. There is an absence of belief in a god, which is what makes an atheist and atheist.

I referenced atheists with respect to their belief in Jesus' existence. Where did I mention belief in God? Do you posit some other form of knowledge than justified true belief? Again you just show aren't familiar with you own camp, because on this very blog there was a debate on the definition of "atheist." An absence of belief in God could be agnosticism depending on your epistemology. Some atheists actually believe in the non-existence of God. So I think your definition is simplistic.

And whether or not someone named Jesus existed is an entirely different question from whether or not there is a god.

Brilliant analysis! But atheism as a system of beliefs (which it is) can also have internal disagreements about where the evidence points.

An atheist may think - correctly or incorrectly - such a person as Jesus, minus his super-powers, existed, and still be an atheist. This is a point that is apparently beyond your ken.

Lol, you're not an atheist unless you believe Jesus didn't exist! Who said that? You like making up stuff.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and opine you've never read "Why I am not a Christian," by Bertrand Russell. He rather succinctly deals with your "arguments." Have you read it?

There you go assuming again. I was an atheist for quite some time and read many of the classics. Russell actually help convince me that Nihilism was ridiculous.

The Kalam cosmological argument, or argument from first cause - that won't satisfy an atheist, who can always ask, to the assertion that there must be a first cause, who or what then created God.

I'm rolling in the floor at your ignorance Dave. You should really give it a rest. Here is a hint, the Kalam is not the same as the classic cosmological argument. It is essentially this:

1. Whatever began to exist had a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.

You see, God didn't "begin to exist" because he's omnipresent. With respect to the classical argument, which you have attempted to refute. You obviously haven't studied it seriously enough to know the difference between a contingent and necessary being.

I'm interested to know what the moral argument for the existence of God is, in your words. Would you explain that arguement? Take as few or as many words as you wish.

I use the modus tollens:

1. If God doesn't exist, objective moral values don't exist.
2. Objective moral values exist
3. Therefore, God exists

Basically it tries to demonstrate that for one to say something is absolutely wrong regardless of who's in power, majority rule, subjective feelings, etc...they must admit that a morality which transcends man points to God as the moral lawgiver. Thats a rough summary, but it gets much more detailed than that.

Thanks for giving me the last word. See you on the next post we happen to both be interested in ;)

Cheers.

Theological Discourse said...

Loftus, you are not just wrong you are spectacularly wrong. I just finished reading your thesis titled 'the case against Christianity' posted over at the secular web and while I applaud you for some of your honest points there you are far more dishonest and illogical.

Nothing personal, it just seems that you are using the fact that you used to be a pastor and hoping people will refrain from asking you certain questions.

The fact that you admit you are wrong is not some sort of guarantee that Christians should admit they are wrong, i you don't believe me take your logic and apply it elsewhere. If mormons admit they're wrong should evolutionists in turn admit they're wrong?

John W. Loftus said...

Hey, TD, you could always engage me and show me where I'm wrong. Have at it. I'm reading.

david said...

TD,

If my reading of this post is correct, then what John is saying is this:

Given the broad number of topics involved in confirming or disconfirming such a behemoth of beliefs as Christianity, it is probable that somewhere along the way you will make a bad argument (either bad form or a false premise).

Since John makes a cumulative case argument, his conclusion about Christianity does not rest on any single one of them, so its acceptable if one of them happens to fail.

Basically for the Christian it just means having a little humility about their cognitive abilities. Especially some hyper-calvinists such as Gordon Clark and Vincent Cheung, tend to construct theological systems that they believe to be completely impervious to critique. I happen to think John's point is a good one.

Theological Discourse said...

You'll be engaged as soon as i am done with the critique on your thesis, it is quite lengthy and will be posted on my website for review once I am done with it.

To Dave:

Given the broad number of topics involved in confirming or dis confirming such a behemoth of beliefs as Christianity, it is probable that somewhere along the way you will make a bad argument (either bad form or a false premise).

Since John makes a cumulative case argument, his conclusion about Christianity does not rest on any single one of them, so its acceptable if one of them happens to fail.

you are basically using an appeal to probability. An appeal to probability assumes that becomes something could happen it inevitably will happen.

It is based upon an assumption of the worst case scenario, and like all assumptions is hardly proof. It might be probable that an argument is wrong but it is also probable that no arguments are wrong.

i hate to use wiki but due to time constraints its the best it got.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_probability


The appeal to probability is a logical fallacy. It assumes that because something could happen, it is inevitable that it will happen. This is flawed logic, regardless of the likelihood of the event in question. The fallacy is often used to exploit paranoia. While not considered a "true" fallacy by some (because it is rarely used by itself), the appeal to probability is a common trend in arguments, enough for many to consider it a fallacy of itself.


so your arguments is based on illogical reasoning and if it is an accurate of Loftus's which it seems to be, then his argument is also based on illogical reasoning as well

david said...

TD,

I did not assert that probability necessitates inevitability, so no such fallacy was committed.

Remember, human cognition is limited. If its even possible that one of your arguments could be incorrect (which you should grant without any reservation), then you should be humble and look at critiques honestly.

When you assume you can't be wrong, you don't approach the discussion with a productive mindset, right? Look at it as less of an argument, and more of an exhortation for the know-it-alls to cool it. ;)

Theological Discourse said...

Actually you did Dave!
Here is what you said:
Given the broad number of topics involved in confirming or dis confirming such a behemoth of beliefs as Christianity, it is probable that somewhere along the way you will make a bad argument (either bad form or a false premise).

You stated the following.

Because there is a broad amount of topics, it is probable we will make a bad argument.

furthermore by your logic i can state that because we make such broad claims there is a probability that all the arguments will be 100% valid.


Either way its an appeal to probability.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_probability


The operative term is "given a sufficiently large sample space". Virtually all events are considered for probability within a finite number of samples, and the chance that X will occur in a given finite space S is directly proportional to S. Given a finite number of events S, each of which is X or not X, a sample space Y = 2PrS exists where one possibility is that all events in S are not X. Therefore, P(X in Y) = (Y-1)/Y. Because Y-1/Y < 1 for all finite Y, P(X in Y) < 1 regardless of P(X) or Y. There is thus always a chance that X will not occur, and therefore, no proof that X will occur given its probability.

david said...

Theological Discourse:

You don't appear to comprehend the fallacy you're citing.

"It assumes that because something could happen, it is inevitable that it will happen"

Did I say that it was inevitable? No. I said it was probable.

Regardless, if there is a 80% chance of rain then pack an umbrella. Maybe you have your own theory own that, let me know how it works out for you. ;)

You said: Because there is a broad amount of topics, it is probable we will make a bad argument.

Yes, and that isn't an appeal to probability. Do you see why? Because probability doesn't imply inevitability. It's rather simple.

furthermore by your logic i can state that because we make such broad claims there is a probability that all the arguments will be 100% valid.

Are you serious? Do you understand the difference between something "being probable" and there "being a probability?"

Of course "there is a probability that all the arguments will be 100% valid," but the whole point is the probability is less than 50% according to this argument. I'm skeptical that you even understand what we're talking about so I won't waste our time.

Actually neither my example nor yours is an appeal to probability.