1. Biblical Problems/Issues2. Arguments for the existence of God3. Presuppositional Apologetics - specifically the transcendental argument for the existence of God (such as presented by Greg Bahnsen in his debate with Gordon Stein) and also foundationalism (Gordon Clark and Vincent Cheung).4. Historicity of JesusExplanation:This approach spans the apologetic camps: evidential, classical, and presuppositional. I also think it tends to be the most convincing for both atheists and Christians as far as what the arguments succeed or fail in accomplishing. I know John has done some extensive work with kalam, so maybe with #2 the focus could be more on moral argument (which I find to be very compelling) or the ontological argument (which few seem to write on these days except Van InWagen).I would also like to hear some DC opinions on objectivism, which I have seen defended by Robert B and also Dawson Bethrick. According to Dawson, anyone who isn't objectivist runs the risk of being deluded.
I'm one who would like to contend that the psychology of belief is the biggest issue and the root of our thoughts on a god. One point I'd like to make about this is the example of William lane Craig's admittance that nothing can shake his belief as long as he has the "inner witness of the Holy Spirit". If this is not a psychological matter, please correct me if I'm wrong.When we recognize the mental factor, the evidential bible problems can now be accepted as errant. But when there's disagreements on obvious issues, then it becomes a matter of the psychological affect. This brings us to the arguments for God's existence. Philosophy I think plays the major role here.The Historicity of Jesus, the History of the church, and the rest is thus, stimulating.
possibility of miracles? how about debunking of miracles?science of belief - brain science related to belief, evolution theories of why we believe so easilyhelp for those desiring to 'come out' - maybe a question and answer forum - a person who is losing faith and has a few things they are clinging to can ask for help explaining them away - my last refuge was prayer studies that have since been turned around - and part of that,support for people 'coming out' - what to expect, the emotions that can come up, how to talk to other about it, who to tell and who not to tell and why, how to resist getting all militant about it, other pitfalls of the recent atheist
David,Are you referring to objectivism or Objectivism?Because Objectivism is a fundamentalism of its own, and would certainly lower the overall credibility of this blog in the eyes of those we're trying to convince, as well as spark potential internal arguing amongst ourselves.
Phillip,Not familiar with the distinction, but I'm referring to Ayn Rand's objectivism as espoused by Dawson Bethrick over at www.bahnsenburner.blogspot.com
I'm with Andre on this. I'd like to see more about the psychology of religion. I think criticisms of religion have far more impact when philosophical arguments are supplemented with discussion of the psychology of religious belief, conversion and deconversion.I also think linking occasionally to well written deconversion stories, of which there are a lot on the web, is worthwhile. There could be fruitful discussion in the comments section on the particular process by which different individuals reach the conclusion that their religious beliefs were mistaken. And nothing is better for counteracting the preconceptions many believers have about deconversion than hearing a personal story.
I had to include in my vote one of the areas where I feel my knowledge is weakest; the history of the church. Plus, it never ceases to amaze me when you hear about what this church did to these people at a certain time period, etc. If god guides the church, then god is a maniac!
I'd like to see more discussion about how modern Christianity shapes politics, and how it probably harms the conservative message. Also I'd like to see more pictures of chimps in train engineer outfits.
David,That's the objectivism with a big "o". There are many conclusions Rand comes to which are unnecessary and extreme. Her arguments regarding epistemology and objective reality are well put, and her justification of individual rights and such are certainly going to be shared by any humanist.But she was convinced that since she believed in absolutes and the existence of knowable, objective truths, she claimed she had discovered them and that literally everyone else was wrong. According to her, if you are pro-democracy, pro-socialism, at all religious, empathetic, or a fan of modern art, then you are completely wrong and are foolish. Objectivism inherently does not respect the existence of differing viewpoints. It does not respect or acknowledge the role of the society or groups of people as a whole in determining one's behavior and worldview, or the importance of maintaining the harmony within a society. The perfect Objectivist country, as I have learned from one of the assistant secretaries for the Ayn Rand Institute in southern California, is a country where corporations are able to do absolutely whatever they want, the government does not help its people, and the military and police are privatized. In fact, the idea if "society" is anathema to an Objectivist, who sees the world as composed only of individuals, ignorantly refusing to acknowledge the necessary reality of societies and cultures.Objectivism is great in that it is humanistic, and affirms the knowability of our universe. It is deficient in that it then goes on to list a hundred arrogant conclusions that it insists are the only truths, no questions asked. It puts idealism and philosophy on a higher pedestal than what the realities of human life are (the value of altruism in societies, empathy's importance, etc), and then goes on to expect people to act as if those realities dont mean anything.It's in this way that Objectivism is a fundamentalist philosophy with resemblances to Christianity. It's also important to note how many people, after becoming Objectivists, begin to talk and think about nothing else and begin to get evangelical with it.
A very ad hominem comment posted on Dawson Bethrick's blog that was met with much hostility:"Also, nix the whole Objectivism bullshit; real philosophers don't take it seriously for valid reasons. I was initially attracted to it in high school (like many fake high school intelligensia), but I abandoned it when I recognized it as the adolescent, sophomoric, pedestrian "philosophy" that it is. It's stupidly circular and poorly argued for; more often than not disguising assertion as argument.Ayn Rand is to philosophy as Lyndon Larouche is to politics. Objectivists are the Scientologists of philosophy and "Atlas Shrugged" is its "Dianetics" equivalent. They are the street preachers of philosophy. They as embarrassing to professional philosophers as the lone, dogged and obnoxious "9/11 Truther" is in a meeting of structural engineers or the token "Reiki healer" is at an NIH meeting. People usually give up Objectivism at about the same way others learn that their "Anime" (or "Manga") obsession is seriously lame and, usually, maturity dawns on them when they emerge from their parents' basements, throw away their "Ron Paul 08" signs and t-shirts, and attempt to become thinking adults and abandon their "high-school intelligensia" image. They stop asking "Who Is John Galt?" and start asking, "Who fucking cares?"There's a reason Peikoff is so damn lonely. More often than not, Objectivists are as insulated in their worldviews and their "apologetics" as the goddamn Calvinists."Well, both Objectivists and many religious apologists are "presuppositionalists" in that they take a strong, epistemically foundationalist approach to their worldviews that rely heavily on axiology and/or "necessarily presupposed" axioms and whatnot. Though, were I to choose, my sympathies are stronger with the former, but both approaches are more often than not seriously dogmatic, hostile, and circular.As to the conduct of this blog, I agree: - Excise Objectivism, - Exercise more anti-presuppositionalism (Bethrick's strength)
Yeah Mr. Ellis, good point about the deconversion stories. Again, even William Lane Craig admitted the power of the stories makes him wonder if he really could be wrong.I know people say these testimonies from both sides doesn't help much, but it does, and is a part of the accumulated case against Christianity. We cannot just say "everybody has a story to tell", and ignore the indication of truths and falseness within. One of the two beliefs system is wrong and one right, maybe neither is absolutely/completely right or wrong in every aspect, but in a general sense.Also a great deconversion story is more compelling than a conversion one, because of the similar affects of all the religions of the world, and people falling for them. Basically, we may live in a world of religions, but I don't think this is a religious universe, it's an "atheist universe".
I agree with andre, why does religion appeal to the masses? What is the phycology behind it? What makes it such a strong meme?
Also what explains the memetic of atheism ;)
Yup to david and andre... the psychology of belief and unbelief.I note that the poll gives strong emphasis to the Christian Bible and the historical Jesus, and I'm with that too.Abstract philosophy is cool. Non-christian traditions are cool. But I think sticking to the claims of Christianity suits me, along with psychology/sociology of belief.So, is Objectivism the basis of a sound world view when it finally gets around to discarding Rand's personal proclivities? Christianity can't seem to shed Paul's.
Everything that I agree with about objectivism is where its identical to humanism. Everything that I object to in objectivism (and there's a fair amount) is where it breaks with humanism.For me, humanism seems a clearly superior philosophy of life.
It seems as though a lot of people want to see a discussion of the historicity of Jesus. Will this do?
Warning: Contains disturbing images Killing kids for ChristAh, the love of Jesus is ever present amongst us.
I'm mostly delurking to point out that your poll currently adds up to 318% ... best guess is that it's miscalculating the number to divide by, as it undercounts the total number of votes.As for me, I'm very interested in the early history of the church. Mostly it gets glossed over or presented as some idyllic time of wonders.
What if the current John Loftus could meet and debate the old John Loftus?That would make for an interesting and funny series of articles!
Robert_B - Did you notice the last paragraph, and the Christians attempting to help and shelter the children that survive, and that Gary, Director of UK Charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, says: "It's an absolute scandal. Any Christian would look at the situation that is going on here and just be absolutely outraged that they were using the teachings of Jesus Christ to exploit and abuse innocent children."...
Heather, I think you know about where I stand: somewhere in between.I do sympathize with much of what you have to say, and admire your going out of your way to say it here, time and again.But I'm going to ask you a hard, loaded question. I just received an email from someone who passed something along about the horrors of Jesus' crucifixion, which yet again reminded me of Christians' tendency to only see the parts they wish to see.I don't think you and they can escape this:Jesus suffered, but ALSO commanded that stonings be carried out, for adultery, working on the Sabbath, etc. (I'm not wrong on this, so think carefully, before you try to correct me.)So, why don't you watch onehttp://www.apostatesofislam.com/media/stoning.htm#videoand imagine Jesus instigating and participating in it. Imagine that he orders you to join in.What would you do? (Thinking about something is the same as doing it, we're taught, don't forget.)I was still shuddering 18 hours after having watched what happened to these women (I think they were women, because they were buried only up to their chests). How did you feel? As the site tells its Muslim audience, watch and do not be disgusted. You MUST agree with this kind of punishment.You're not alone - I couldn't deal with it, either.
I would ask the atheists to not gloat too much.You can't tell people to NOT stone anyone else, if they1. can get away with it, 2. aren't bothered by their consciencesI guess nobody loves me, now. :(
ismellarat-could you please tell me where in the Bible it speaks about Jesus requesting people to stone others. Thanks. I will respond to your question after that...
ismellarat - The muslim faith and the Christian Faith are two totally different religions...I don't agree with the quran, or many things the muslim Faith says is good or okay...
Heather, I think you slipped up.Think about this:Jesus is God.God ordered such punishments to take place.Had Jesus been on the scene in those times, he would have set the example.Had he been asked later, he certainly couldn't have disagreed.For extra credit, can you also explain what motivated you to apparently try and distance Jesus from stonings?You don't believe that stonings are in and of themselves despicable - do you? (That would take some more explaining!)So, imagine again that Jesus had been at the scene, and commanded you to carry out this sentence on a woman, much like in the video.What would you have done?As you think in your heart, so are you, remember.The only available videos of stonings are by Muslims, so of course that's what I had to use, to demonstrate that all those words *really mean things*.But the point made at that site should also apply to Christians: God did command this be done to people (whether it applies now doesn't matter) - so why don't you agree, and say you would have been willing to do the same, had you been there?I've yet to hear a Christian say that they'd have willingly slowly bashed a woman's face in, had they been alive in those times.A medical professional should make vivid what happens during a stoning, just as there have been widely published medical descriptions of the crucifixion.We're all liberals now, I like to say. Some just don't like to admit it.
I'm sorry for taking such a hard-line approach with this.I still see much good in the church and we'd probably agree on many social issues, and in the hope that *something* good awaits us on the other side.But I've been on this "lower plateau" for several years, now.You might say that I just found it too hard to love both God and my neighbor at the same time.How can I wish the best for my neighbor, and at the same time wish something like stonings, eternal Hell, etc. on them?
Ismellrat-Okay, again...please show me in the Bible where God ordered stonings. I have not concentrated in the OT, so please share with me so I can read it. If your claim is that Muslims say God tells them too do it, well...that makes little difference to me. I am sure you realize that I don't beleive in that God. I can not fathom Jesus paricipating in a stoning. In the Bible, he encounters a woman who would meet "stoning" requirements...and yet he is kind to her and gives her advice. His goal is to save the outcasts...to help the unhelpable (is that a word?). I don't think Jesus would request me to be part of a stoning. (By the way I feel stoning someone is horribly wrong in all ways). If someone, today, claimed to be Jesus, asked me to stone an adulterer, I would first know they were not Jesus and then run other way...I don't feel that I am distance Jesus from stoning...I simlpy am trying to have the same information you do so that I can best answer your questions...
Stoning was part of Biblical Law, which was handed down to Moses.By God. God = Jesus.Just look up the verses mentioned by Wikipedia, for a quick reference.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StoningNobody who believes the Bible disputes that.They may try and dodge the implications by saying that that was part of the old covenant - but so what?God commanded that the Law be applied to that culture, had Jesus been there in person, he would have set the example in carrying it out, and had he been asked later, if stoning was a just punishment, according to God's (his own) Law in those times, he would have said yes.So if you are asked if this was a just punishment, you must say yes, AND if you had been actually living during those times, you would have had to agree with a real, flesh and blood person's slow, tortured execution in this manner.This kind of thing used to bug the hell out of me. I was just never the kind to just shoo unpleasant discoveries out of my mind.It does give me some comfort, though, knowing that almost no Christians believe the whole package, so how can anyone blame me for doing the same?Christians and their detractors really do have a lot in common...
Heather,I strongly suggest you read the Old Testament more thoroughly. It's the same god you worship, so you shouldn't have a problem with it. Keep in mind, when you do, how Jesus supposedly said he did not come to abolish the Law (Mosaic Law), and how "not one iota" of it would be taken out until the end of the world.And you do worship the same god (the god of Abraham) that Muslims worship. They just have a different take on how things are. And who are you to argue with them? If it's claimed that Gabriel talked to Muhammad on God's behalf, you'd be hypocritical to ignore that revelation while simultaneously accepting Moses' and Samuel's and Daniel's and Jesus' revelations as fact. Just be consistent if you want to be taken seriously.Why do you reject Muhammad's revelation but accept Moses'? What are you criteria?
Ok theres a lot of B.S. getting thrown around on this thread.The Muslim revelation is not accepted for several reasons. The Quran instructs believers to respect the "people of the book" (Jews and Christians), but do we find that happening in countries where Shari'ah law is instantiated? No. The Quran contradicts itself and the Bible, which destroys any credibility of being latter day revelation....aside from the fact that the Bible implies in Revelation that no one should add to or take away from.Also the interpretation of "one iota" to mean all Jewish law is retained in the new covenant is sophomoric at best.
ismellarat - Okay, I did some researching, and yes, many different things had a punishment of death or stoning. I believe that stoning being the preferred method may have had something to do with it being a community action and what was done in those times (I don't think death by lethal injection had been invented yet). I also think that a person would assume that someone would never commit the "crime" if the punishment was so horrible...but that doesn't always work, does it. Now, I don't think it does matter in the grand scheme of things...I see the OT as this is what we tried, and it didn't work, so Jesus was born to die and save us. "In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." Hebrews 8:13 My understaanding is that with the death of Jesus, it was in a sense the death of the first convenant. That is why I do not focus on the OT...while it has importance, and the Psalms are so uplifting I prefer the NT. I suppose I reject Muhammad because he is not Jesus. The only way to God is through His son Jesus. I believe that is true and if that makes me closed minded, I guess I better get some thick skin (I prefer to think of myself as a tolerable, open-minded person), I don't believe there is any other way to know God, but by Jesus, end of story. I know that opens me up for a huge amount of critism...but that just helps to thicken that skin! :)
Heather,Can you really afford to bet your eternal soul on that? The Qur'an plainly states that the Bible was corrupted early on, and that the Qur'an is perfect. If this is true, why would you not just take a leap of faith and believe it? We only live for so long, and eternity is forever, and Hell is too hot. The Qur'an clearly states that non-Muslims will go to Hell. Why not convert just to be on the safe side? And David, please explain how my interpretation is "sophomoric." The Law means the Law, and "not one iota" means "not one bit", so I'd say my interpretation is fairly on. If it's not, then please correct me, but don't just say "nuh-uh" and leave it at that.
And Heather,You don't think there existed less barbaric means of execution (you also forget to explain why it was just of God to prescribe the death penalty for working on Saturdays)? You can't seriously compare stoning to death to death by lethal injection.And if the Old Testament was "what we tried" but it "didn't work," would that not be God's fault for coming up with a system that didn't work?
Philip - I suppose if all Muslims go to Heaven and all Christians go to hell, I guess I will be in good company. :) I have 100% Faith in the Christian God, in Jesus. I don't need anything else, anything different. In my mind, I relate what God does as what a parent does. If the people had not tried and failed at keeping sin from their life with all the regulations and rules, the significance of Jesus would not be nearly as profound. That one man would choose to die for me, and in such a way...well, it is amazing. I think with our own children, you don't want them to fail or make mistakes, but it really is a part of life, it makes them who they are as an adult...all the trials and errors, and they learn wonderful lessons, which makes success all that more wonderful when it is reached.
Phillip,Don't have time this week. There are volumes of scholarly exegesis on that passage. Check them and figure out for yourself.By the way, I gave the same amount of evidence you did ;)
Heather,You're saying that your god purposely set up every human to fail and go to Hell just to make going to Heaven all the more wonderful for the few that do. Dont you get it? If God had set things up right in the first place, no one would HAVE to be saved by Jesus. Your god, however, chose not to. Whose parents set their children up to fail miserably just to humiliate them and teach them lessons? Your comparison of God to a parent is an insult to the goodness of every kind parent. I honestly wonder if you think about what you write before you write it.
Philip - Do you have children? I do. I want them to succeed more than anything. I can talk until I am blue in the face, but until they experience many things, success and failures, on their own...well, my words don't mean much to them. I never set them up to fail. I guess I don't see the human race as a failure. I don't see God's creation as failure. Who are we to say what is cosmically right or wrong. What we as individuals see or experience is tiny compared to everything that happens and has happened since the beginning of time. How is it that we can say it is wrong, when we have no idea of what is yet to come?Oh, and thank you, I do think before I type...it just isn't the same thing you think. I honestly enjoy hearing others thoughts...I don't have to be "right" and neither to they, if we are in a discussion about God I have no problem with the fact you think He doesn't exist and yet I do think He exists...Isn't it possible to discuss without someone having to say "Oh, you are completely right and now I will change my own point of view"? I don't imagine that you will be doing that, and I know that I won't. But I do find your perspective interesting and thought provoking...
Here are the results:Biblical Issues/Problems 106 (40%) Possibility of Miracles 35 (13%) Science and the Bible 89 (33%) Problem of Evil 62 (23%) Arguments/ God’s Existence 88 (33%) Resurrection of Jesus 63 (23%) History of the Church 75 (28%) Psychology of Belief 90 (33%) Presuppositionalism 42 (15%) Historicity of Jesus 112 (42%) Current/ Social Issues 45 (16%) Video Debates 68 (25%)
Thankfully, discussion of Benny Hinn and Robert Tilton has been voted off the blog.I wonder, though -- if there is anything new under the sun, with respect to Biblical issues and the historical Jesus. Occasionally home historical corroboration will appear in sands where none was known before. But mostly corroboration is and will always be sketchy at best, and that doesn't deter anyone from believing what he thinks ought be so. Biblical science, at least, is patently falsifiable. And yet people still look up and consider that the lights rest upon a domed "firmament" like the planetarium at the science museum, which we like better as an IMAX theater.About the one comfort is knowing that again and again scientific knowledge trumps scriptural knowledge and both trump arcane "knowlege" in predicting what will be, given a set of facts. Could that have been said in the age of phlogiston and sponteneous generation?I'm interested in some of what John brings up about the paucity of evidence of a relationship between religiousity and social well being, and how we adjust as a people to the emergence of scientific knowledge as a worthy (based on Biblical criteria of reliable foresight) source of moral instruction.
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